4.5 Stars, Genre Romance, Historical Romance, Kate McMurray, Paranormal, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Across the East River Bridge by Kate McMurray

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Title: Across the East River Bridge (2nd Edition)

Author: Kate McMurray

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 239 Pages

At a Glance: Across the East River Bridge, in its second go-round, is every bit as good now as it was in its original release.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: When historian Christopher Finnegan walks into a new museum in Brooklyn, he’s chagrined to learn its curator is his old academic rival, Troy Rafferty. Worse, Troy is convinced the museum is haunted and wants Finn’s help learning more about the ghosts. Finn and Troy have never gotten along and Finn wants to run screaming, but then Troy offers him an intriguing proposal: Troy will help Finn with a research project for his overbearing boss if Finn will help Troy solve a mystery involving two men who died in the building under mysterious circumstances in 1878.

Finn and Troy piece together the two men’s lives–and the quiet romance that grew between them–through diaries, newspaper clippings, and police reports. They’re both soon convinced the men were murdered. They’re also convinced the ghosts are real even Finn witnesses paranormal phenomena he can’t deny–and that they’re capable of affecting thoughts, feelings, and actions. When Finn and Troy start falling for each other despite years of animosity, Finn worries he’s being manipulated by the ghosts to stay with Troy and solve the case. Troy is convinced the love between them is real, but he’ll need to figure out how to get rid of the ghosts in order to prove it.

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Review: I first read Kate McMurray’s Across the East River Bridge back in September of 2012. A few years and more than a few hundred books later, when I chose to review it in its second edition release, I’ll confess that while I had the plot basics down, I clearly had forgotten some of the finer details that made it such a fantastic read—both the first time and now, the second. This book is many things rolled into one: an enemies-to-lovers story, a contemporary romance, a historical romance, a tragic romance, and then, to top it all off, there’s a paranormal mystery dating back to the 1870s that this author managed to finesse into a touching and sometimes intense read.

McMurray leads us into the story in modern day Brooklyn, where we learn that Christopher “Finn” Finnegan and Troy Rafferty have a history of their own—rivals from their college days, Finn has spent more than a decade loathing golden boy Troy for sabotaging his academic career by discrediting his dissertation research, which then resulted in Finn’s funding being pulled. Amongst the animosity that Finn still feels toward Troy all these years later is an undercurrent of sexual tension that’s been there between them from the start. And, added to it, there’s an intense frustration that Finn is still attracted to someone he hates so thoroughly—or tries to hate so thoroughly, at least. The setup for them working together, then, is a great foundation for the conflicted feelings Finn has throughout the book—how can he hate Troy and still want him so intensely? And how can Finn look inward in any sort of honest and rational way and continue to blame Troy for his failings? I have to say I felt a lot of frustration myself toward Finn throughout this book. His stubbornness and scapegoating of Troy makes it hard to excuse some of Finn’s actions and reactions, but a lot of that for me is because Kate McMurray makes Troy such a likeable and charming character. Where Troy may be intended to be Finn’s foil, it actually worked the other way around, and I liked the turning of the tables.

Where the author infuses this book with a terrible poignancy is in the historical research Finn and Troy delve into to uncover the mystery of Brill House, the museum of which Troy is now curator. There is a ghostly presence or two in Brill House that seems to lead directly to one-time owner Theodore Brill, and a border who eventually became Teddy’s lover, George Washington Cutler. Their story, of course, carries with it all the ingrained difficulties of the time in which these two men lived and loved. As Troy and Finn continue their investigation into Teddy and Wash’s deaths—an apparent murder/suicide—they uncover more questions than answers about the way in which the couple died. And, in the process, begin to agitate the spirits of the deceased as the ghosts become desperate for the truth of their deaths to be revealed. I 100% loved this aspect of the novel, not only from an emotional standpoint but from a writing standpoint as well. As Finn and Troy get closer to the truth, the more the tension and suspense escalate, and once the storyline reaches its climax, it plays out in true page-turner fashion.

Troy and Finn’s interactions throughout the story are part antagonistic, part full-on sexual, and their relationship builds from that as well as the eventual realization on Finn’s part that he’s going to have to give up the ghost, so to speak, and stop trying to make Troy the enemy. As feelings change and begin to look a lot like two men falling in love, the underlying question they can’t answer for sure is, how much is this metaphysical mystery manipulating them and their emotions. Finn’s not only skeptical about nearly every aspect of Troy’s theories on what happened to Teddy and Wash, but he’s so busy hanging on to the past that he can’t see what a great future Troy’s offering him, and I liked how these relationships contrasted—we see what a gift it is for Troy and Finn to be able to live together openly, a luxury that Teddy and Wash didn’t have. And, it may well have cost them their lives.

Across the East River Bridge, in its second go-round, is every bit as good now as it was in its original release. Whether you’ve read it before, or are considering reading it for the first time, I can say it’s a solid story that comes highly recommended.

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You can buy Across the East River Bridge here:

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5 Stars, Bey Deckard, Holiday Romance, M/M/M and More, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus by Bey Deckard

Small Gems

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Amazon

Title: Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus (Baal’s Heart 3.5)

Author: Bey Deckard

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 43 Pages

At a Glance: I loved this savory and sweet little morsel.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: A Baal’s Heart short, following the events in Fated: Blood and Redemption

Plagued by terrible dreams, Jon begins to distance himself from Baltsaros and Tom. Perhaps a little holiday cheer is just the thing to help the three of them find common ground again.

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Review: Well, this is a first. I never thought I’d use the words “sweet” and “Bey Deckard” together in a review, but here I am doing that very thing. Never say never…

Careened directly follows the events in this series’ Fated: Blood and Redemption, so if you’ve not read book three yet, this short holiday novella may not pack quite the same punch for you as it would knowing the full scope of events in that novel. Of course, though I say this story has a tinge of the sweet to it, it also offers just that much of the bitter to remind you that the alternate universe Captain Baltsaros, Tom, and Jon inhabit isn’t one without its dangers and grief and pain.

Jon is in a bad way after what happened to him in Sormaheine, the dark shadows of anger and regret following him through his days and nights as he tries to drink away the memories that dog him…though he can’t escape his sub-conscious and the nightmares that manipulate his thoughts and drive his depression. This is where the bitter tempers the sweet in this story, complements the storyline without overwhelming, and, in the end, makes the turnabout that much more satisfying.

Writing a convincing threesome is exactly what Bey Deckard has done. Believing in this threesome and the dynamics of that relationship is exactly what readers of this series are able to do because this author has created three men who just work, plain and simple, in spite of the challenges thrown their way. Crafting this short story to coincide with this verse’s version of a winter holiday is the perfect scenario to offer healing to Jon and begin a mending of the relationship between him and Baltsaros. There was, without a doubt, some truly romantic gestures in Careened, and, as has been the case all along, a Baal’s Heart book wouldn’t be a Baal’s Heart book without a wildly sexy scene or two to watch these three connect and command and show readers the bond they share.

I loved this savory and sweet little morsel. What a great interlude with these characters at a wonderful time of the year.

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You can buy Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus here:

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Giveaways, Sean Michael

Guest Post and Giveaway: The Three to Get Ready Blog Tour with Sean Michael

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We’re so please to have author Sean Michael with us on this Christmas Eve day on the tour for his latest release, Three to Get Ready. Enjoy Sean’s guest post, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win an e-copy of the book.

Good luck!

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Christmas Carols

I love Christmas Carols. They’re a part of the brightness that makes Christmas a happy time for me. The lights, the brightly wrapped gifts, and the carols.

I have many favorites. I do love the religious classics like We Three Kings, and O Come All Ye Faithful. In Exelsis Deo and Hark the Herald Angels Sing. (An aside – my father’s name is Harold and when I was younger, I used to think the song was Hark the Harold Angels Sing and that my father had angels who sang stashed somewhere).

I also love the more secular songs. Songs like Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells and White Christmas. Gospel songs like Go Tell It One the Mountain and Children Go Where I Send Thee.

I prefer the classic songs sung ‘properly’ with the classic tunes I grew up listening to. I enjoy new songs, too, and they have the added benefit of my not having expectations to how they are supposed to sound!

My all time favorite carol, though is the Huron Carol which was written in the 1600s in Canada by a missionary. The version I like best is sung by Tom Jackson. You can hear it on youtube:

‘Twas in the moon of winter-time
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wandering hunters heard the hymn:
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender Babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapp’d His beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high…
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory
On the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free,
O sons of Manitou,
The Holy Child of earth and heaven
Is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.
“Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.”

Sean

Smut fixes everything

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Three to Get ReadyBlurb: Single father Jack Jones is in dire need of a new nanny. His five year old son Nathan is legally blind, he has twin baby girls arriving in less than two months and the girl currently working for him is leaving at Thanksgiving to go home and continue her higher education. If Mannies Incorporated doesn’t come up with a viable candidate soon, he’s not sure what he’s going to do.

Dan Miller is on the hunt for a new job. He’s had some great placements with Mannies Incorporated, many as Manny to multiple birth families to get them over the hump. He even has experience with special needs children, so the job he’s interviewing for looks like it’s right up his alley.

When Dan arrives at Jack’s house, he discovers that this Jack Jones is his Jack Jones, the man he was in love with during college, and who broke up with Dan because Dan wanted children. Will Dan and Jack be able to put the past behind them and work together, or will their past keep them from having a future together?

Buy Links: Amazon || All Romance eBooks

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Sean MichaelAbout the Author: Often referred to as “Space Cowboy” and “Gangsta of Love” while still striving for the moniker of “Maurice,” Sean Michael spends his days surfing, smutting, organizing his immense gourd collection and fantasizing about one day retiring on a small secluded island peopled entirely by horseshoe crabs. While collecting vast amounts of vintage gay pulp novels and mood rings, Sean whiles away the hours between dropping the f-bomb and pursuing the kama sutra by channeling the long lost spirit of John Wayne and singing along with the soundtrack to “Chicago.”

A long-time writer of complicated haiku, currently Sean is attempting to learn the advanced arts of plate spinning and soap carving sex toys.

Barring any of that? He’ll stick with writing his stories, thanks, and rubbing pretty bodies together to see if they spark.

Where to find the authorFacebook || Facebook Author Page || Twitter: seanmichael09 || Website || Blog || Goodreads

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THE GIVEAWAY

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Tour Dates & Stops:

18-Dec: Inked Rainbow Reads, Gay Book Reviews, Mikky’s World of Books, Kirsty Loves Books, Dawn’s Reading Nook

21-Dec: Sassygirl Books

22-Dec: Open Skye Book Reviews, Divine Magazine, Book Lovers 4Ever, Foxylutely Book Reviews

23-Dec: Velvet Panic

24-Dec: Unquietly Me, The Novel Approach

25-Dec: Havan Fellows

28-Dec: Up All Night, Read All Day, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

29-Dec: MM Good Book Reviews, Prism Book Alliance

30-Dec: Bayou Book Junkie

31-Dec: Book Reviews, Rants, and Raves, The Hat Party

1-Jan: Happily Ever Chapter

4-Jan: QUEERcentric Books, Full Moon Dreaming

5-Jan: Making It Happen

6-Jan: Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings

7-Jan: Multitasking Mommas, 3 Chicks After Dark

8-Jan: Molly Lolly, A.M. Leibowitz

11-Jan: Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

12-Jan: Jessie G. Books

13-Jan: Bonkers About Books

14-Jan: Love Bytes, Alpha Book Club

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*Some residency restrictions may apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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Giveaways, Jon Michaelsen

Guest Post and Giveaway: Prince of the Sea by Jon Michaelsen

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We’re so pleased to welcome author Jon Michaelsen today to chat about his new novel Prince of the Sea. Enjoy this interview Jon put together with his friend Mark McNease, and then be sure to check out the giveaway. Just click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win an e-copy of the book.

Good Luck!

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Hello everyone! Thank you, Lisa, for providing me this wonderful opportunity to chat a little about my newest release, PRINCE of the SEA. But instead of me rambling on, I thought a wonderful way to share more details about the novella is to have an author friend who has read it, Mark McNease, author of the Kyle Callahan Mysteries, ask a few detailed questions related to the story. First the questions, then the blurb follows.

5 Questions for Jon Michaelsen about ‘Prince of the Sea’

1 – MM: ‘Prince of the Sea’ is described as a paranormal romance. What inspired you to write in that genre?

JM: I started penning stories early in life, but didn’t seriously consider getting them published until six years ago. Everything I’ve published to date has included a mystery or suspense/thriller theme with gay protagonists, sometimes interwoven with a little romance. Ironically, paranormal romance was never a genre I considered writing until a story began rumbling around in my thoughts a few years ago. I was spending a lot of time on the road alone traveling between Atlanta and Jacksonville, Florida, where my family lives close to the beach, visiting with my ailing grandmother. Being near the water was cathartic and inspiring, and after numerous road-trips, I’d worked through the story arc in my head. Eventually, I sat down to write the story following my grandmother’s death. In fact, Frances La Roche, the cantankerous old woman with a heart of gold featured in the story, is loosely based on my grandmother.  I consider the story paranormal romance versus m/m romance because it doesn’t necessarily follow the standard tropes of m/m and I don’t want anyone to come away disappointed thinking they’re getting something different. Of course, I had to throw a little mystery, suspense/thriller theme in, but the story does have a “HFN” ending.    

2 – MM: What came first for you – the story of the characters, or the story of Tybee Island? If they were symbiotic, how did they develop together?

JM: Tybee Island came first. In fact I went to a college in southern Georgia a couple hours from the coast, and spent many weekends on the shores of Tybee, which is about ten minutes east of Savannah. The island was very laid back and to this day undisturbed by over commercialization. The setting is symbolic as perhaps the only place in this country where such a story might happen. I’ve always wanted to feature the island as a setting, so when the idea for Prince of the Sea came to me, I knew that I could capture the essence of the quaint beach town from personal experience.     

3 – MM: How did Tybee Island (and its secrets) inspire you?

JM: Featuring Tybee Island in a story one day came from my love of the unspoiled coastal community. It’s such a quiet, magical islet which still holds a special place in my after all these years. Its secrets are of my own imagination, as is the subtle paranormal element of the story. However, the beautiful scenery, narrow streets, lighthouse, breakwater and giant pier are very real and integral to both the island and the story.

4 – MM: ‘Prince of the Sea’ is a novella. Was that a deliberate decision? Why a novella, as opposed to a novel?

JM: I’d first imagined the tale as a short story, but after several revisions, there seemed to be more about the characters to flush out and thus the novella length. There is definitely room for more expansion of the story, and I already have an idea for a sequel.  

5 – MM: I don’t want to give anything away, but the ending is hopeful. Did you plan that? And what did you learn from writing a paranormal romance?

JM: From the beginning, I envisioned the ending as originally written, with no intention of elaborating. However, as time has passed since I first wrote the story, I’ve perceived an idea for a sequel, so who knows. There most definitely could be more of Jonathan and Lucius to come.

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PrinceoftheSea_400x600_dpi150_MEDBlurbCan a broken heart find love at the bottom of the ocean?

Jonathan Lemke’s ten-year relationship has hit the skids. In a last ditch effort to salvage their partnership, to rekindle the passion they once shared together, he rents a beach house on the southern Georgia coast on a tiny island known as Tybee, a community that happens to be his birthplace that he’s not visited in over twenty years. A vacation, he thought would provide two weeks of paradise away from demanding careers and purge the longing he’d felt for more than a year now to return to his hometown.

But, the romantic surprise backfires and he soon finds himself alone when Paul chooses his career over Jonathan and rushes off to Chicago to woo a high-profile client, leaving Jonathan brokenhearted and alone. Dulling his pain with alcohol while sulking on the porch of the cottage facing the sea, Jonathan spots a swimmer, his head bobbing in the water. The man appears in trouble and fighting to stay above the surface, apparently caught in the riptide…

Jonathan races to the water’s edge. Shedding his shirt, shoes and slacks, diving headlong into the churning waves to offer aid, he too becomes entrapped the prevailing undertow. Battling to reach the surface, he soon tires and begins to lose consciousness, but not before something large and powerful slams into him from behind.

When he comes to, Jonathan realizes he’s surrounded by frantic beachcombers pulling him back from the water’s edge.  How did he get to shore?  What slammed into him and caused the “whoosh” sensation he felt before blacking out?

And what happened to the man struggling in the water?

Novella: 45,375 words
Genre: gay paranormal romance, mystery, suspense/thriller
Editor: Jerry L. Wheeler
Cover: Dawne Dominique

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THE GIVEAWAY

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*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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4.5 Stars, Felice Stevens, Giveaways, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Karen, Self-Published

Review and Giveaway: The Greatest Gift Blog Tour with Felice Stevens

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Title: The Greatest Gift (The Memories Series: Book 3)

Author:  Felice Stevens

Publisher: Self-Published

Page/Word Count: 86 Pages

At a Glance: You’ll smile through the tears as you watch this family grow into everything you hoped they would become.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb: After five years, Alex Stern and Rafe Hazelton have what seems to be the perfect marriage. Alex is entering his last years of residency and Rafe’s veterinary business is busier than ever. For Rafe, all that is missing is a child, but Alex, afraid of ending up to be a man like his father, isn’t as sure. He doesn’t want to make any mistakes.

When a new patient enters the hospital, Alex is drawn to the young, desperately ill single mother, who shares her fears for the future of her young son. Rafe worries about the toll on Alex becoming emotionally invested in a patient, yet he too can’t walk away once he meets the little boy, and together they vow to help in any way possible.

Families are not always born of blood— love is a gift no one can plan for. And sometimes from the darkest of tragedies, the brightest light will shine.

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Review: If you are going into this book hoping for, or thinking, you are going to get a sweet, fluffy romantic holiday story, this isn’t that book. There are many things in The Greatest Gift that are tough to read, and sad, and will completely break your heart.

But in this story, you will also find things throughout that are endearing, selfless, and sexy, as well as countless examples of absolute unconditional love. You’ll find yourself on this journey with Rafe and Alex, and all those around them, and will smile through the tears as you watch this family grow into everything you hoped they would become.

I love Alex and Rafe and love that we got to spend more time with them. The Greatest Gift really is a great gift from Felice Stevens this holiday season.

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THE GIVEAWAY

Enter for the chance to win an e-copy of One Step Further & The Greatest Gift

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Author BioAbout the Author: Felice Stevens has always been a romantic at heart. While life is tough, she believes there is a happy ending for everyone. She started reading traditional historical romances as a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until she picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that her interest in romance novels was renewed.

But somewhere along the way, her reading shifted to stories of men falling in love. Once she picked up her first gay romance, she became so enamored of the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion there was no turning back.

Felice lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Her day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. Although she practices law, she daydreams of a time when she can sit by a beach and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be some angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.

Social Media LinksTwitter || Pinterest || Goodreads || Instagram || Facebook Author Page || Newsletter

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*Some residency restrictions may apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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3 Stars, Ceci Thornton, Paranormal, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: Saved by the Shifter by Ceci Thornton

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Title: Saved by the Shifter

Author: Ceci Thornton

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 212 Pages

At a Glance: In spite of some niggles here and there, the action sequences in Saved by the Shifter made for some suspenseful reading.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Nate Palmer is desperate enough to try anything to find his missing niece…

Nate has cared for his niece Beth since she was a baby, and now the sixteen-year old has disappeared without a word. The only clue he has is a letter she left behind from her birth mother. He’d do anything to find her, even if it means turning to a down-on-his-luck private investigator working out of a store front in a strip mall—one with the ability to sniff out more clues.

Dexter Armstrong is a lone wolf looking to use his tracking skills to do some good…

Dexter had a pack once, but left, disgusted by their lack of appreciation for their gift. But business is bad and his roof is leaking. He’s just about ready to throw in the towel on that lonely life when Nate walks in the door, looking helpless and smelling delectable.

Together they will travel to the seediest parts of LA

Even as he’s focused on finding his niece, Nate can’t help but be drawn to Dexter’s powerful dominance. And Dexter becomes more and more certain that Nate’s his fated mate. Can their attraction survive the reveal of Dexter’s true nature? And can they both survive the supernatural perils that they will face in their quest to find Beth—and to find the kind of love and family both have been dreaming of?

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Review: When Nate Palmer’s older brother, Craig, was busted for selling drugs to an off-duty cop and sent to prison, Nate became sole caretaker of his niece Beth. Beth’s mother isn’t in the picture any longer, having fled to parts unknown years before, so Nate truly is Beth’s only hope at a normal life—and they’d gotten along well, too, until Beth hit the terrible teens. Now Beth has gone missing, Nate is beside himself with worry and fear, and his one hope of finding his niece and getting her back home safely seems to be Private Investigator Dexter Armstrong.

That’s the quick setup for Ceci Thornton’s Saved by the Shifter, a novel that taps into the shifter bonding trope, albeit only shallowly, to bring Nate and Dexter together as partners in sex as well as in tracking down Nate’s niece. As I’ve said any number of times before, sometimes the device works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. A lot depends on how well the author convinces me, after that initial spark of lust has struck, that the two guys have what it takes to be a couple. I liked Dexter and Nate, and though I had some quibbles over their initial meeting and the lack of exploration in what they have in common other than lust, the fact they go through hell and back with each other did help to make the bond somewhat more believable. There’s something to be said for not only going into battle together but then surviving.

While Saved by the Shifter is categorized as a Mystery, I have to say I felt Dexter’s role as a PI was pretty well in title only, made so by the simple lack of a true mystery in this plot. We don’t have to wait long to discover what happened to Beth, and Dexter isn’t even the one who searched for the clues to track her down, so we don’t get to see him at work much in that role. The information on Beth’s whereabouts is effectively dumped in his lap, which I felt was a bit of a let-down as I’d prepped myself for a good missing person investigation, but once I understood the storyline was more Urban Fantasy than an all-out Mystery, the positive becomes the author’s ability to write a tense and suspenseful action scene. Of course, Dexter’s shifter half comes in handy along the way too, as he’s fairly certain of the danger Beth is in before it’s confirmed, so that added to the tension in the storyline and made for some excitement during the book’s climactic scene.

There are several things that, overall, I felt could have been explored in greater detail in this book, much of it revolving around Dexter as a character. I think the potential for him to be more interesting and layered was missed in the lack of background details about him—we get a few facts, but to make him more interesting, knowing where he came from, who he came from, what he came from, what shifter mythology inspired his character, would have gone a long way to building interest in him as a supernatural character for me. Essentially, we get no world-building to speak of (which left me with some distracting questions during Beth’s rescue), and even more confusing for me, was a group of shifters that materialized and disappeared from the story and left me scratching my head—one moment they appear threatening, the next, they were there to cover Dexter’s back. There’s a history there that most definitely was missing, and I’d have loved to know more of it—why they were antagonists one moment, saviors the next. And while I’m on the subject of characters, here, I will say I liked the sweet reunion between Nate and Beth, and felt the affection between them was genuine and well portrayed.

In the end, though I feel the book could have used some more exposition, I liked Saved by the Shifter for what it was—a vehicle to bring two likable men together to form their own little pack.

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You can buy Saved by the Shifter here:

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4 Stars, Holiday Romance, Jay Northcote, Reviewed by Jules, Self-Published

Review: What Happens at Christmas by Jay Northcote

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Title: What Happens at Christmas

Author: Jay Northcote

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 113 Pages

At a Glance: Jay Northcote has another holiday winner here.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: When two friends pose as boyfriends, could what happens at Christmas turn into something more?

Justin is recently and unhappily single. Christmas is coming, and he doesn’t want to face his ex alone at their office party. So Sean—Justin’s best mate and long-time secret crush—volunteers to go with him and pretend to be his new flame.

Sean has always lusted after Justin from afar, but there’s never been a good opportunity to ask him for more than friendship. Posing as Justin’s boyfriend isn’t a chore, and if Justin wants to rebound onto him, Sean’s more than willing. At the party pretence and reality blur, and a kiss on the dance floor leads to a night of passion.

In the aftermath, they both assume it was a one-time thing until fate intervenes. Stuck together in London over the holidays, they give in to temptation again. But what happens at Christmas stays at Christmas… right?

Christmas Dividers

Review: So many delightful little bits in this story! It was easy to fall in love with Justin and Sean. As soon as I read the blurb for What Happens at Christmas I immediately snapped it up. Anyone who knows me, or follows my reviews at all, knows that friends-to-lovers stories are totally my thing. I love the level of comfort the characters have with each other, the level of trust, and that there is so much shared history. Maybe it’s because my husband and I have been together since we were nineteen – friends since we were fifteen – maybe I’m just a product of the formula…but, I know it works.

Justin and Sean were both extremely likeable, and the story was funny, charming, and sweet. It’s not a new idea – pretending to be dating, to piss off an ex at the office party – but it was well-done here. I also really liked that they were both in love with each other rather than it being a GFY situation, for example. To me that made it much more enjoyable; what they each thought was unrequited love was really just bad timing and poor communication.

Jay Northcote has such a light, easygoing style, and the guys are very sexy and fun together. That’s not to say that the book is without substance. Sean has a strained relationship with his father, and they are somewhat estranged. He is pretty troubled over that situation, and what he is going to do with himself now that he’s come back to England. Justin and Sean both have reservations about pursuing a relationship. They are extremely afraid of ruining their friendship, and unwilling to risk it, so they spend some time unhappily plodding along. In some books this can become a big stumbling block for me. You know those books? The “Just talk already!!!!” books? I didn’t feel that here, though. In this book it was more, “Awwww…these poor guys.” Their trepidation is more endearing than annoying.

Northcote has another holiday winner here. The guys had GREAT chemistry. The office party scene was tons of fun to read – it was VERY satisfying to watch the sleazy ex squirm – I imagine it also had to be fun to write! Super low angst, this one is perfect for when you need that feel-good read. I thoroughly enjoyed this easy-breezy Christmas novella.

TNA_Signature_Jules

 

 

 

 

You can buy What Happens at Christmas here:

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Amazon CA

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5 Stars, AJ Rose, Genre Romance, Horror, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lynn, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: Reaping Havoc by AJ Rose

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Title: Reaping Havoc

Author: AJ Rose

Publisher: The Grim Writer Press

Pages/Word Count: 282 Pages

At a Glance: The concept of this story is amazing. I loved the author’s take on the grim reaper mythology.

Reviewed By: Lynn

Blurb: No one asked Mitch Seeker if he wanted to be a grim reaper. He didn’t sign up for the rumors, the lack of friends, or the erratic schedule. He doesn’t want to go through life watching people die. Especially not a man he loves. Mitch’s solution is simple—don’t fall in love. He’ll never have to explain why he doesn’t age or why he’s around death so often. Most of all, he will never be a widower.

But when his head is turned by world-class skier Nate Koehn, Mitch believes he may have the answer. If the soul attached to Nate is any indication, Mitch has found himself another reaper, in which case, his undeniable feelings don’t have to be suppressed. However, the spectral tag-a-long is only the beginning of Nate’s burdens. After a catastrophic loss, Nate is no stranger to grief and the hole it leaves behind.

The question they both must answer is loud and clear: is the pain of losing love worse than the pain of never having loved at all?

Dividers

Review: After reading a couple books from this author, I realize they’re becoming an auto buy for me. As I’m always looking for new authors to read, I’m looking for fresh story ideas too. This one was everything I was searching for.

The concept of this story is amazing. Mitch is a grim reaper. He collects the souls of those who have just died, and makes sure they get to where they’re going in the afterlife. I loved the author’s take on the grim reaper mythology. Instead of just one, there are thousands all over the world, kind of like a police force for souls. They get their assignments via email, where and when it’ll happen, and off they go. And then we have Nate, the new guy in town looking to start fresh after a devastating tragedy that has turned his life upside down. Life and death are about to get very interesting for these two gentlemen.

I loved getting both Mitch and Nate’s perspectives throughout the entire story. We see Mitch struggling with his pre-ordained destiny, and the realization that he may have to live his long life alone because of what he is, which has him resenting everything about it. Nate, still reeling from the death of his twin sister, is trying to move on with his life and make it on his own. I adored both of these characters. Any story that involves grim reapers is bound to be a little gory—there’s a lot of death and sadness—but with these two, their comic relief and off color humor made it a little lighter.

I really liked getting the visual and insight of what happens after Mitch collects the souls of the recently departed. It was fascinating to me. I just have a picture in my head of human balloons trailing behind him—kinda funny and sad all at the same time. The author’s mad writing skills definitely shine through.

I’m really trying not to give away spoilers here. I’ve seen some reviews that just blurt out everything about the story. To me that’s just wrong. The only thing I’ll say here, without giving it all away, is this: souls linger when they have unfinished business to attend to. Mitch notices a tagalong soul with Nate. This leads Mitch into thinking Nate is a fellow reaper. When the truth comes to light, it’s at times funny and endearing, but also sad and heartbreaking. But like I said before, there is a lot of humor throughout the book. It definitely balances out the death and sadness, so kudos to the author for bringing some light to the darkness.

I can’t go any further without mentioning one particular secondary character. He really made the story and without him, something would have been missing—Mitch’s father Charles. I really enjoyed his conversations with his son. Without saying the words, the respect Mitch has for his father just oozed off the page. I loved seeing that. He was full of experience and enlightened us with the backstory of how his family and others came to be reapers. For me, he was truly a memorable character.

Have I mentioned that I read this book in one sitting? Well, I did. And yes, it was that good. But let me tell you something. I’ve never had so many emotions going in so many directions at the end of a book like I did with this one. During the course of reading, I watched these two characters struggle and overcome so many obstacles. At this point, I am so invested in what happens to them that I’m on the edge of my seat. Just when you think it’s going to end one way, it loops back around and ends totally different. I literally felt like I was beat up after I read the ending. For those who like a happily ever after—oh, you definitely get one. But be prepared to go on a heart flopping ride before you get there, and it’s oh-so worth it.

What I loved most about this book was the originality of the storyline. I really enjoyed the author’s take on heaven and hell, soul collecting, and what maybe happens after death. I hadn’t read anything like this before, so to me, it was fresh, new and exciting to read. The author’s writing, as always, is smooth and seamless.

I really can’t say enough about how much I loved this book. I consider it a must read. If not for the storyline, then for those two adorable characters. Highly recommended.

TNA_Signature_Lynn

 

 

 

 

You can buy Reaping Havoc here:

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5 Stars, Audio Book, Jay Bell, Narration Rating - 5 Stars, New Adult, Reviewed by Kathie, Self-Published, Young Adult

Audio Review: Something Like Lightning by Jay Bell – Narrated by Kevin R. Free

Audio Gem

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Something Like Lightning: Volume 5

Author: Jay Bell

Narrator: Kevin R. Free

Publisher: Self-Published

Run Time: 14 hours and 18 minutes

At a Glance: Jay Bell and Kevin R. Free are both talented craftsmen.  What a great combination!

Reviewed By: Kathie

Blurb: Never stop running. No matter how often life trips you up or how many times your enemies knock you down, just get up and keep on moving until you find where you belong.

Kelly Phillips has been out and proud since he was a young teenager, and thanks to the gay youth group he frequents, he’s never been short on friends or lovers. But when you have almost everything, it’s hard not to focus on what’s just out of reach: a best friend who would be Mr. Right if he wasn’t already Mr. Straight. Or that handsome athlete at school who would be easier to wrangle if not for his angel wings. And then there’s the guy who might be a perfect fit, maybe even a soul mate…if only he wasn’t convinced he didn’t need anyone. Kelly has always been good at running. Now he must learn to chase, which will test not only his endurance but the durability of his heart as well.

Dividers

Review: Jay Bell is an auto-buy author for me.  It started with Something like Summer (the eBook published in 2011, the audiobook released in May, 2013), and from that point on, I have read every word of the Something Like series, and have listened to just about all of them. Listening to a Something Like audio is not a small commitment.  Something Like Lightning is 14 hours and 18 minutes, and it’s not a skip-ahead kind of listen. Jay Bell mixes so many characters into his story that if you do try and fast forward, you will miss a plot twist or, in Kelly Phillips’ case, a new opportunity in his love life or career.

The title of this book, Something Like Lightning, really describes the whole feel of the book. Not only is Kelly quick to make decisions, quick to get mad, quick to make judgements, and quick to fall in love, but the other characters are also quick to make decisions: for example, Nathaniel is quick to leave and really, pretty quick to come back to Kelly. What I liked and hated about Kelly was his confidence in himself. Before the accident he was very self-absorbed, but after the accident, he needed that confidence to keep moving forward. What surprised me is that towards the end of the story, I truly liked Kelly and wanted him to have a happy ending. And Nathaniel, who I thought was kind of a hero to go find a hole to bury himself in… what a shortsighted jerk! I know, very strong words from me, but just read or listen to the book. Jay Bell is such a great writer that you become invested in his characters. The next book in the series, Something Like Thunder, is Nathaniel’s story.  I suppose I am going to learn to like him. But really, Jay Bell… Do I have too?

What a talent Kevin R Free has. He doesn’t just tell us a story, he uses his voice to pull us into the world of Jay Bell.  Would I recommend that you purchase this audio and invest 14 hours of your time listening?  You bet I would! Jay Bell and Kevin R. Free are both talented craftsmen.  What a great combination!

TNA_Signature_Kathie

 

 

 

 

You can buy Something Like Lightning here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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5 Stars, JP Kenwood, Literary Fiction, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Games of Rome by JP Kenwood

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Games of Rome (Dominus: Book Two)

Author: JP Kenwood

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 339 Pages

At a Glance: If you love a plotty and well written historical with plenty of intrigue and interesting characters, I can’t recommend this series enough.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: In this sequel to Dominus, Gaius Fabius Rufus, the victorious general of Rome’s brutal Dacian Wars, finds his loyalties and his affections pulled in different directions. Should he return to Rome and secure his claim to the imperial throne, or remain at his seaside villa and protect his pleasure slave, the fierce Dacian prince, Allerix? Retaliation for the murder of his beloved friend beckons him home, but his desire for justice could put both him and Allerix in mortal danger. As Gaius’s deceptions multiply, another tragedy strikes. Will the Lion of the Lucky IV Legion be forced to sacrifice his besotted heart to achieve his aspirations for supreme power?

Every moment since Allerix’s violent capture has tested the young prince’s fortitude and cunning. If he can kill the triumphant emperor who decimated his Dacian nation, revenge and immortality will be his glorious, everlasting rewards. But to realize his scheme for vengeance, he must deceive the Roman master whose body he lusts, the handsome, arrogant man whom he has grown to adore and admire. Can two former enemies—the conqueror and the conquered—find trust and true love, or are the consequences of war destined to tear them apart? Can Gaius and Allerix survive the perilous games of Rome?

Dominus is a plot-packed erotic m/m fantasy set in ancient Rome during the reign of Emperor Trajan (AD 98-117). Games of Rome is the second book in this alternative history saga—a tumultuous journey of forbidden love, humor, sex, friendship, political intrigue, deception, and murder.

Dividers

Review: I love when a book meets every one of my expectations. I love even more when a book exceeds them, and JP Kenwood’s Games of Rome does just that in every way. I was so impressed by the author’s Dominus, and now, that book’s sequel has proven Kenwood’s talent for solid storytelling, building beautiful settings, offering the perfect amount of historical context, creating engaging and layered characters, and tapping into readers’ emotions. I don’t mind admitting this book wrung a few tears from me either. When an author can accomplish that, forming those sorts of attachments between reader and characters, it makes the reading all the more rewarding.

Gaius Fabius Rufus, the Lion of the Lucky Fourth, is many things–Commander, war hero, husband, master, and friend and former lover of Lucius Petronius. Where this book exceeded my expectations is not only that the historical setting is portrayed in such a way that grounds the reader in what feels like an authentic Ancient Rome, but that the book also is a compelling mystery–both in the past and in modern day Rome. Lucius’s murder becomes a central focus of Games of Rome as we watch Gaius grieve, promise retribution, seek absolution while often seeming a walking contradiction–warm and tender one moment, cold and commanding the next, charming and sometimes cruel. Gaius is nothing if not a mercurial man whose arrogance seems to know no bounds–if I’m being honest, he isn’t always easy to like–but is tempered by that ability to charm. Where the book offers a bit of the unexpected, however, is in its supernatural elements. This was so unexpected that I wasn’t certain how I felt about it at first, but it was woven into the storyline in such a way that became integral to the plot, and now I can’t imagine how the story would have been better without it. As for the modern day mystery, this is being teased out in the tiniest of morsels, and this installment has only served to pique my interest even more. Archeology uncovers its share of secrets from the past, though it doesn’t always provide answers. There are definitely more questions than answers right now surrounding the pair of skeletons discovered at a dig site, and I haven’t a clue what JP Kenwood will reveal in further storylines. All I know for sure is that the author baited that hook and I’m hanging on gladly.

From the Emperor to clients to slaves, Gaius has a life filled with a variety of diverse people and experiences, all entrenched in the Ancient Roman culture and portrayed beautifully in these books. I don’t know much about this historical period but can say Kenwood seems to have not only an interest in but an affinity for the era. Ancient Rome dominated, it was the seat of some of the world’s most impressive art and architecture, and the Romans were responsible for many advancements in civilization at the time, but, to our sensibilities, it was also a barbaric time in which people sat in arenas and watched prisoners of war be eaten for sport. Slavery was commonplace – both household servants and pleasure slaves, male and female, owned by both Gaius and his wife, Marcia – and these books feature several prominent slaves in key roles. Sex, for Gauis, is a near sport in itself, where he can display his prowess and dominance and, with one slave in particular, his benevolence, and those moments of contradictory cruel tenderness come to the fore. Alle, a Dacian prince, war prize, and now, Gaius’s most prized possession, has captured his Dominus’s heart and has added another dimension of intrigue to the plot. Their relationship is fraught with complications and questions and potential hazards. Can either of these men manage not to betray each other? I can hardly see how it will be avoided and am anxious to see how their relationship progresses.

One of the more interesting characteristics of this series is Gaius’s marriage, as well as the social contradiction of men having sex with other men. There is no expectation of monogamy in the marriage as is certainly portrayed on Gaius’s part; nor is bisexuality strictly taboo. It was, however, unacceptable for men to engage in a sexual relationship with a peer. Same sex encounters were left strictly between slave and master, which is what adds such a poignant end note to Gaius and Lucius’s affair. I love that these books are informative but not in a textbook way. The author weaves these small details into the plot in a way that makes them all the more interesting, and, when it comes down to it, makes this series unique in the LGBT fiction genre.

If you love a plotty and well written historical with plenty of intrigue and interesting characters, I can’t recommend this series enough.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

 

You can buy Games of Rome here:

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4.5 Stars, Felice Stevens, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Karen, Self-Published

Review: Betting on Forever by Felice Stevens

Amazon

Amazon

TitleBetting on Forever (The Breakfast Club: Book Two)

Author:  Felice Stevens

Publisher: Self-Published

Page/Word Count:  231 Pages

At a GlanceIf you’re looking for a sweet and romantic book without a lot of angst or drama, just a nice story about two guys falling in love, then this book is for you.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb:  A weekend fling in Atlantic City couldn’t be more out of socially shy Zach Cohen’s comfort zone, but a bet with his best friends forces him to put aside the humiliation he’s hidden for years and step away from behind his computer screens and online world. When he meets Sam Stein, despite their spark, Zach expects nothing more than a night of passion and a kiss good-bye. Yet weeks later, he can’t keep the man out of his head.

After a split-second decision with tragic results ends his twenty-year police career at the same time as his relationship falls apart, Sam Stein is drifting through life. At his best friend’s urging, he agrees to a trip to Atlantic City to clear his head. What Sam doesn’t plan on is meeting Zach Cohen, whose sweet nature and honesty has him thinking maybe he could move forward, until Zach leaves him without explanation, reinforcing Sam’s belief that people can’t be trusted.

Well-meaning friends refuse to let Zach and Sam hide from each other, forcing them to realize their weekend was much more than a one-night stand. Before that can happen, Zach must come to terms with his past and stand up for his own independence, while Sam has to learn to take a chance and believe in himself and people again. All bets are off when dreams become reality, and forever doesn’t seem to be long enough.

Dividers

Review: When I read the first book in this series, Beyond the Surface, it was Zach’s story that I was looking forward to the most. I have a fondness for and can relate to those characters who are a little geeky, shy, and quiet; those who sit off to the side, observing and hoping not to be noticed.  Zach certainly fit that bill, and Sam did too, in some ways.

Things aren’t all sunshine and happiness throughout Betting on Forever. There were misunderstandings and issues that needed to be worked through, but they are dealt with without a whole lot of craziness. You can sit back and are able to enjoy some of the simple things going on between Zach and Sam while they are falling in love—we get to watch them stroll down the beach holding hands, laughing and joking and letting go while flying kites, or just relaxing at home. And it’s nice that the other characters in the series are still around, and we get updates on what’s going on with them without it taking over the story.

While I loved Zach’s story, and it was nice catching up with Julian and Nick, now I can’t wait for Marcus’s story to see how his HEA will work out. If you’re looking for a sweet and romantic book without a lot of angst or drama, just a nice story about two guys falling in love, then this book is for you.

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You can buy Betting on Forever here:

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5 Stars, Historical Romance, Jordan L. Hawk, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Paranormal, Reviewed by Jules, Self-Published

Release Day Review: Maelstrom by Jordan L. Hawk

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Amazon

Title: Maelstrom (Whyborne & Griffin: Book Seven)

Author: Jordan L. Hawk

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 268 Pages

At a Glance: Once again I am completely in awe of the talent and imaginative genius of Jordan L. Hawk.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Between his father’s sudden—and rather suspicious—generosity, and his own rash promise to help Christine plan her wedding, Percival Endicott Whyborne has quite enough to worry about. But when the donation of a mysterious codex to the Ladysmith Museum draws the attention of a murderous cult, Whyborne finds himself in a race against time to unlock its secrets first.

Griffin has a case of his own: the disappearance of an historic map, which quickly escalates to murder. Someone is sacrificing men in dark rituals—and all the clues lead back to the museum.

With their friends Christine and Iskander, Whyborne and Griffin must discover the cult’s true goal before it’s too late. For dark forces are afoot at the very heart of the museum, and they want more than Whyborne’s codex.

They want his life.

Dividers

Review: “Widdershins knows its own.”

Trying to write this review in any kind of linear fashion is proving to be impossible. I’m trying to stick to some kind of organized format, but my brain keeps jumping to the brilliance, the sheer brilliance, of chapter fifty-seven. Once again I am completely in awe of the talent and imaginative genius of Jordan L. Hawk. The entire book is extraordinary and mind-blowing – but chapter fifty-seven is indescribable. One thing I do know is that I don’t want to come down from this high; I want to wallow in this one for a bit. I truly think Maelstrom is my favorite of the series to date.

In this seventh book of the series, Widdershins, with its maelstrom of energy lying beneath the earth, is a hotspot for cultists far and wide, and our heroes once again find themselves smack in the midst of the goings on. The latest batch of books donated to the museum has brought all the crazies to the yard, and Whyborne and Griffin must, of course, work together to foil them before all is lost.

It should come as no surprise that one of the things I love most about Maelstrom is the continually growing relationship between Ival and Griffin. They are as in tune to each other as ever, and must draw on that closeness throughout the story. In parts of Hoarfrost, Griffin was in a rough place, and needed Whyborne to keep him from breaking apart – here, however, it is Whyborne who largely needs grounding and clarity. I love that turnabout and all of the different ways we get to see their love for each other. The tender, poignant moments toward the end (*cough* chapter fifty-seven *cough*) are magnified a hundredfold because of their ever-strengthening bond.

So, of course the love story is amazing…but you better believe that all the other Jordan L. Hawk trademarks are there as well. Action, peril, creepy creatures from the Outside, humor, and a razor sharp wit. Not to mention perhaps the hottest sex scene in the series yet. I actually thought my brain was going to explode. No joke.

I already mentioned the humor, but want to touch on it a bit more specifically. The magic of these books is obviously in the world building and the storytelling – but a part of that magic also has to do with the delivery. And Hawk nails the delivery every time. Whyborne has tons of great one-liners. Griffin has a new motor car, which is an endless source of comic relief. The wedding prep and talk that is peppered throughout the book is fabulous. And, I absolutely had to share this gem, from our dear Christine:

“We’re going to be married, damn it, and Whyborne is going to walk me down the aisle…It’s going to be perfect, even if I have to kill every one of these bastards myself!”

In short, Maelstrom is fantastic. I don’t know how the hell Hawk keeps making each book better than the last, but she does. She’s kept the series fresh through seven books, and I can’t wait to see what she has up her sleeve for the eighth! Coolest. Books. Ever.

TNA_Signature_Jules

 

 

 

 

You can buy Maelstrom here:

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4 Stars, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, M.A. Ray, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: The High King’s Will by M.A. Ray

Amazon

Amazon

Title: The High King’s Will (Steel for the Prince: Book One)

Author: M.A. Ray

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 185 Pages

At a Glance: The High King’s Will takes off on an exciting and action packed adventure.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: “The High King’s will crushes all before it. …Fare well, Eagle Eye Wormsbane. If you can.”

Eagle Eye’s world is full of magic. Fairies love him, and his only real friend is the resident unicorn, but since he killed the Worm of Shirith, nothing feels the same. When he collides with beautiful, broken Brother Fox a second time, he knows there’s no going back.

“I’m not in love with him. He needs help, that’s all.”

There’s no shortage of monsters in Fox’s life. The Worm was nothing compared to his own father, High King Beagar. When Eagle suggests an escape, Fox seizes the idea–and he wants Eagle with him.

“Damn propriety! I don’t want a servant! I want you to be my friend!”

The High King’s designs send Eagle and Fox across the sea to Rodansk, a land of summer sunshine at midnight and endless winter dark. Between the two, low-caste Eagle presents the bigger threat to Beagar’s power, and he didn’t even know it. Now that his Prince is giving him so much to lose, he won’t go down without a fight.

“Don’t be afraid. …I’m with you.”

Dividers

Review: Filled with magic, betrayal, danger, and mayhem—not to mention a couple of engaging heroes—M.A. Ray’s The High King’s Will sweeps readers along on an exciting high fantasy adventure. Digging into this story, I have to confess I wasn’t sure whether I was reading a fable or folk lore or a fairy tale. It turns out the answer is yes, I was reading a little bit of all those things, and I found this book to be a delightful tale with a New Adult feel.

Eagle Eye has just been named Wormsbane. He’s slain a dragon and saved the life of Brother Fox, the Crown Prince, but feels unworthy of the title that’s been bestowed upon him by the High King Beagar, certain that it wasn’t skill but luck that was with him that day. When the author introduces us to Eagle and Fox (whose names are what kept me wondering at the start of the book if I was reading a fable or maybe the re-imagining of a Native American folk tale), we don’t learn as much about the slaying as we do about the High King—namely that he’s never going to be up for father of the year. He’s abusive in some brutal and heinous ways, and as the story evolves, we see exactly why Fox is so eager to set off with Eagle to see the world when he has the opportunity.

What I didn’t understand for a good ways into this tale is exactly what sort of creatures Eagle and Fox are. I only knew for sure they weren’t at all human—it’s actually a bit difficult to get a good mental picture of what they do look like, at least for me—but the author does make sure we get a clear picture of this fairy tale world inhabited by trolls, dragons, fairies, elves, as well as humans, not to mention the magic and courage our heroes possess. The world-building along with my compassion for Fox and respect for Eagle made for some good binge reading.

As it turns out, the High King allowing Fox to set off on his adventure, accompanied by Eagle as his guard, wasn’t a rare kindness displayed by a father toward his son. There were much more sinister motives involved, and as the boys discover their journey is going to turn into a fight for survival, this story draws you in to all the danger they face, in the classic hero’s journey fashion. The action scenes are well written and fraught with tension, making for a brisk paced read.

Our young lovers have only just begun, and there are more than a few obstacles they’ll have to overcome, not the least of which is that Fox’s life is the stuff of nightmares and there are many things he’s done and had done to him he can’t put behind him. As the book draws to a close, we’re also left on the cusp of change for Eagle… Yes, the story ends in a cliffhanger, so what that change is remains to be seen. I’m looking so forward to book two to find out, and can only hope these boys will find a talisman of good fortune or that fate will throw some luck their way. Something tells me they’re going to need it.

I’m always excited to be introduced to new authors, and if the entire series lives up to the promise of The High King’s Will, M.A. Ray is one I’ll be paying close attention to.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

 

You can buy The High King’s Will here:

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Amazon UK

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4 Stars, Christina Lee, Genre Romance, Giveaways, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review and Giveaway: The Deepest Blue Blog Tour with Christina Lee

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Amazon

Title: The Deepest Blue (Roadmap to Your Heart: Book Two)

Author: Christina Lee

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 228 Pages

At a Glance: There’s just enough angst to go with the sweet to make The Deepest Blue a pleasant way to spend a few hours reading.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Rugged and conventional Callum Montgomery enjoys running Shady Pines hunting preserve, except for the secret that’s eating him alive. When his sister brings a date for a family wedding, he can’t stand the arrogant city slicker with the stick up his perfectly fine ass. He doesn’t understand his draw to Dean, who pushes his buttons at every turn, but he’d never dream of betraying his sibling over some lust fueled fantasy.

Handsome and conscientious Dean Abbott is a research assistant in his university’s biology lab. When his roommate, Cassie, begs him to be her pretend date in front of her meddling family, he begrudgingly agrees to help. He doesn’t anticipate being enchanted by the countryside, the colorful cast of characters, or her sexy and brooding straight brother.

When contempt turns to passion and leads to stolen moments in a sugar cane field, Callum can’t help longing for the kind of connection he believes he can never have. But not even the world’s most heart-melting kiss can bridge the vast philosophical differences between the men.

Dean’s return to his urban lifestyle leaves him restless, his mind continually wandering to the charming setting that spoke to something missing deep inside him. Because you can take the city boy out of the country but you can’t make him forget the intriguing man he left behind.

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Review: After running across Christina Lee’s The Darkest Flame on my Amazon recs, and One-Clicking it, I knew I wasn’t really taking much of a risk in accepting The Deepest Blue for review. I liked the author’s voice in The Darkest Flame—though I must admit I’d expected it to be a bit grittier since the story is set in and around an MC—but her characters Smoke and Vaughn were easy enough to root for through the drama and on to their happy ending. Now, having finished this second book in the series, I have to say if I had to pick a favorite of the two, it’d be no contest. The Deepest Blue wins.

At its heart, this book is a City Mouse/Country Mouse story, and has everything you might look for in an angsty genre romance: one man out and proud, the other deeply in the closet; two men on the opposite ends of the spectrum, socially. This is a true opposites attract story in almost every way. Dean Abbott is the college student, environmentalist, vegetarian city boy to Callum Montgomery’s small town rural guy. Callum helps run his family’s hunting preserve; he’s the brains behind the business, so before you go and think he’s a backwater hick, he’s most definitely not. He and Dean are an intellectual match, no question, and once Callum stops being so abrasive and decides Dean isn’t a half bad guy, we see how each of these men begin to open up to each other, and how they really do complement one another. They may have diametrically opposed views on what Callum’s family does for a living, but all that does is serve to ignite the spark Christina Lee lights between them.

The primary issue when these two meet and those sparks fly, however, is that Callum believes Dean is straight. And, why wouldn’t he? Dean is attending a family wedding at Shady Pine’s as his best friend and roommate Cassie’s date/maybe boyfriend. Cassie…who just so happens to be Callum’s sister.

The complication is all neatly served, and then the fun is in getting to watch the story unfold—through the friction, the secret Dean and Cassie are keeping, and most especially through the sexual tension that’s always thisclose to the surface between Dean and Callum. The story is told in alternating points of view, so we get both sides to their story, which I thought worked well given their situation. We don’t stand by and watch Callum struggle with his attraction to his sister’s “boyfriend,” we get a firsthand account of the fear he feels of someone in his family discovering his deepest, darkest secret. And the why of it is plain as well. We also get to experience Dean’s conflict—his wanting to be truthful with Callum because the attraction between them definitely goes both ways. I ended up really liking both of these guys, individually and as a couple.

As secondary characters go, Callum’s family was pretty great. I especially loved his younger brother Billie and would gladly read a novel with a grown up version of him in it somewhere down the line. He’s sweet and innocent and struggles with some physical limitations, and he stole every scene he was in. He’s the kind of kid you just want to hug the stuffing out of. What becomes evident quickly, something we see through Dean’s point-of-view, is that Callum underestimates just how wonderful his family truly is.

Overall, as contemporary genre romance goes, The Deepest Blue ticks all the relevant boxes in the category. Its characters are engaging, and there’s just enough angst to go with the sweet to make it a pleasant way to spend a few hours reading.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

 

You can buy The Deepest Blue here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

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(photo credit: Elaine M. Johnson)

(photo credit: Elaine M. Johnson)

Once upon a time, I lived in New York City and was a wardrobe stylist. I spent my days shopping for photo shoots, getting into cabs, eating amazing food, and drinking coffee at my favorite hangouts.

Now I live in the Midwest with my husband and son—my two favorite guys. I’ve been a clinical social worker and a special education teacher. But it wasn’t until I wrote a weekly column for the local newspaper that I realized I could turn the fairytales inside my head into the reality of writing fiction.

I’m addicted to lip gloss and salted caramel everything. I believes in true love and kissing, so writing romance novels has become a dream job.

I write Adult, New Adult, and M/M romance.  I also own a hand-stamped jewelry business, which requires me to stamp letters and/or words onto pieces of silver. They go hand-in-hand perfectly.

Visit my WEBSITE. Or my FACEBOOK author page. You can also find me on TWITTER.

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4 Stars, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, JL Merrow, Josephine Myles, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: Boys Who Go Bump in the Night by Josephine Myles and JL Merrow

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Boys Who Go Bump in the Night (Mad About the Brit Boys: Book Two)

Author: Josephine Myles and JL Merrow

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 84 Pages

At a Glance: Short stories and the supernatural and this pair of authors combine to make for some really good reading.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: When boy meets (supernatural) boy

Buckle up as two queens of British gay romance take you on a whistlestop tour of all things paranormal. Vampires, genies, ghosts, magicians and shifters all get their chance for a bit of boy on boy action, in five erotic stories that span the range from the humorous to the sublime.

Will you seek to make your fortune with magic and ritual, or pin your hopes on a genie’s power to grant wishes? Discover a shifty young man on a Scottish shoreline, meet a hapless garlic farmer who’s been turned into one of the undead–and if you dare to venture into the cellar, gird your loins for a horny ghost!

These stories have all been previously published, but are now available exclusively in this anthology.

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Review: Some authors you read no matter what: don’t care about the blurb, don’t care about the sub-genre, you just read them. Josephine Myles and JL Merrow happen to be two such authors for me. Combine this with my love of short stories, and Boys Who Go Bump in the Night was pretty much a guaranteed win.

Several of the stories in this anthology are short enough I might even call them flash fiction, but the common theme (besides the fact they’re all previously published) is that they share a paranormal/fantasy element, and some of them are just purely erotic and don’t play at being otherwise. JL Merrow starts the collection with Leeches and Layabouts, and the first thing that stands out is that the story is told with the author’s trademark sense of humor and gift for taking a fairly mundane human woe and turning it into a clever boy-meets-vampire story. A vampire who grows garlic? Yep. A human who loves living off of government assistance just a little too well. Yep. It’s the perfect marriage of need and want when Art interviews for a job with Crispin, who loves his garlic but can no longer eat it because, well…vampire. But ingenuity abounds, and Crispin gets both his man and his garlic fix.

A horny incubus in Something Queer, blood magic and stone circles in Sacrifice add to the mix of supernatural offered in this anthology, leading to the final two tales. JL Merrow’s Et in Orcadia is my absolute favorite of the five in the collection. It’s a story that blends the tragedy of lost love, the romanticism of man’s call to the sea, and a mysterious stranger who knows that call better than any human. But he also knows the allure of the land and the desire to comfort a man in his grief. A grief they both share. I loved the emotional intimacy of Runi and David’s story, brief though it was. It did a fantastic job of plucking at my sentimental heartstrings.

Finally, bookending the lighthearted beginning of Boys Who Go Bump in the Night is Josephine Myles’ One Last Wish, a fun and sweet little story about a poor genie who’s just tired of being imprisoned in his lamp for the past two hundred years. Scott is the lucky human to rub Xavier’s lamp just the right way—three wishes are his—but Scott ends up surprising Xavier with the way he chooses to use them. And then, well, they end up rubbing each other just the right way.

If you love one of these authors, or both of them, and love a good short story, I don’t think you can go wrong with this collection.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

 

You can buy Boys Who Go Bump in the Night here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon UK

Amazon DE

Amazon DE

Amazon CA

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

Amazon AU

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Giveaways, Keira Andrews

Guest Post and Giveaway: The If Only In My Dreams Blog Tour with Keira Andrews

Keira Banner

We’re so pleased to welcome author Keira Andrews back to The Novel Approach today on the tour for her new Holiday Romance, If Only In My Dreams. Enjoy Keira’s guest post, then be sure to leave a comment below answering Keira’s question, and you’ll automatically be entered for the chance to win an e-book from her backlist (**excl. If Only In My Dreams**).

Good luck!

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Thanks so much to TNA for having me here today to celebrate the holidays and my new romance, If Only in My Dreams. I don’t know about you, but I have certain movies I watch every holiday season without fail. Movies are such a part of tradition in my family, and Christmas is no exception.

Without further ado:

Top 5 holiday movies 

5. Die Hard: My favorite holiday action flick! Because amid all the heartwarming family movies, I need a bit of ass kicking and taking names. Not to mention deliciously evil Alan Rickman. :D

4. Elf: “You sit on a throne of lies” is the greatest single line in a holiday movie ever. I also adore Zooey Deschanel’s singing voice. So much to make you smile in this movie!

3. The Ref: Such a funny little movie with a terrific cast. The leads are fabulous, of course. Glynis Johns (who also appears in my #1 pick) steals the show as the mother-in-law from hell, and Christine Baranski is perfect, as always. (“Slipper socks—MEDIUM!”)

2. Bridget Jones’s Diary: Oh, Mark Darcy! *swoons* This movie begins and ends with the holidays (turkey curry buffet!), and has become a Christmas viewing tradition. I love every single thing about it.

1. While You Were Sleeping: As with my #2 pick, I love everything about this movie. It’s sweet and funny and utterly charming, and doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. An underrated holiday classic!

Which movie tops your holiday list? Let me know in the comments! And here’s a little bit about my new holiday romance. Wishing you and yours a healthy and happy holiday season!

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00058]Blurb: To be home for Christmas, they must bridge the distance between them.

Charlie Yates is desperate. For days. Charlie promised his little sister Ava he’d be home for her first holiday season since going into remission from leukemia. Now he’s stuck on the opposite coast and someone else grabbed the last rental car. Someone he hasn’t even spoken to in four years. Someone who broke his heart.

Gavin Bloomberg’s childhood friendship with Charlie ended overnight after a day of stolen kisses. With years of resentment between them, they don’t want to be in the same room together, let alone a car. But for Ava’s sake, Gavin agrees to share the rental and drive across the country together.

As they face unexpected bumps along the road, can Charlie and Gavin pave the way to a future together?

Read now: Amazon.com || Amazon global (should take you to your home store) || All Romance || B&N || iTunes || Kobo || Smashwords

Add on Goodreads

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Excerpt: “It’s an act of God.”

I forced a smile at the older woman behind the Sojourn Airways counter. “It’s probably not the time for a theological debate, but I’d say it’s more an act of Mother Nature.” I tried to laugh, and it limped out as a sad little ha-ha.

Her flat expression, pulled tight by her graying bun, didn’t so much as flicker. On her purple uniform vest was pinned a button that read: Customer service is our bag. No baggage service fees! “Sir, that’s the official airline designation for weather conditions that are beyond our control.”

“Right, gotcha. Look—” I checked her name tag. “Look, Susan, the thing is that I need to get on a flight to New York ASAP. JFK, LaGuardia, Newark—whichever. I’ll even take Philly if I have to.” I forced another smile. “I can always go for a cheesesteak.”

The grim line of Susan’s mouth was unchanging. “There are no flights in or out of SFO today. As I told you earlier, our system has already rebooked you.”

“For the twenty-sixth!”

“Yes.”

“But Christmas is the twenty-fifth!” The desperation I’d been trying to keep at bay with incredibly lame humor sank its claws into me with a mighty swipe.

“Is it? I had no idea.”

Well, at the very least it seemed Susan’s alien leaders had implanted a sarcasm chip even if they overlooked the compassion one. I inhaled deeply. “I realize this end-of-days-style fog has backed everything up, but you can’t rebook me for after Christmas! That’s ridiculous!” I thought of Ava’s round little face, streaked with tears as I’d left for college, and how I’d promised I’d be home for the holidays. “I have plans. I have to get on the next flight out. I have to.”

Susan tapped her computer, not even bothering to look at me now. “I didn’t rebook you, Mr. Yates. The airline did. All flights yesterday were canceled as well, and this is the busiest travel season.” She recited the lines in much the same manner as my mom reading out IKEA instructions as we put together the Billy bookshelf in my bedroom. “There are thousands and thousands of passengers ahead of you. The blizzard on the Eastern Seaboard had already contributed to a huge backlog before this fog set in.”

“But I promised my baby sister I’d be home.” I knew I was whining, and my voice wavered as my throat tightened.

Susan’s mouth turned down as she glanced at me. Her tone softened. “If there was anything I could do, I would do it.”

This unexpected sympathy made it worse somehow. I cleared my throat, the threat of imminent tears a horrifying possibility. Don’t do it, Charlie. Man up. “Okay. Thank you. Do you think I could get out on another airline?”

“I’m afraid they’re all in the same boat.”

“Standby?”

She shook her head and waved a hand at the mass of humanity clogging the terminal behind me. “Everyone has the same idea. As I mentioned, there were already dozens of flights canceled before yours. The twenty-sixth is the absolute earliest you’ll be able to get out, and that’s assuming this fog lifts soon and the rain stops. And if it doesn’t start snowing heavily on the East Coast again.”

With a nod, I shuffled away from the counter, dragging my huge, stupidly pink suitcase behind me. I might be a total homo and unashamed of it, but fuchsia was not a color I’d have chosen for my luggage. Ava had picked it with such delight that I hadn’t been able to say no. At least it had four wheels and was expandable, which was handy since it was stuffed with Christmas gifts.

I’d gotten Ava some old-school Transformers building sets and retro Star Wars action figures I’d hunted down. Princess Leia was her favorite, since even at eight, Ava had excellent taste and understood that the classic trilogy was superior like whoa. On eBay, I’d found Hoth Leia, original recipe double-bun Leia, and even a rare Cloud City Leia, along with a bad-ass Boba Fett.

Now Ava wouldn’t get any of it for Christmas morning. I wouldn’t be able to wake up with her at the ass-crack of dawn to open our stockings, then burst into our parents’ room to drag them out of bed because Christmas was way too much fun for sleeping.

A preteen standing by a pile of luggage whined, “It’s not fair!” to her parents, her arms crossed over her chest and tears in her eyes.

Snorting, I muttered, “Since when has life been fair?” Pretty freaking rarely in my estimation, and never when it came to Ava. I escaped into the nearest bathroom to splash water on my face and get my shit together. My cheeks puffed as I blew out a long breath and examined a fabulous new red spot on my chin in the mirror.

I’d gotten a haircut yesterday since my Aunt Wendy was going to do a group portrait for us by the tree with her fancy camera. This was a big Christmas for the Yates family, and now I wasn’t going to be there. I ran a hand over my thin brown hair, which curled at the ends if I didn’t keep it short. Ava’s did too, but it wasn’t quite long enough yet to curl fully.

We’d Skyped the other night, and she’d proudly run a brush through her couple inches of growing hair. She’d gained weight too, and I couldn’t wait to hold her and feel her solid and healthy in my arms.

I had to suck in a breath, the ache to see her and my parents again a hollow burn in my chest. I grimaced at my reflection. My eyes were already red from the prior night’s insomnia. I never slept well the night before taking a flight due to my paranoia that I’d miss my alarm somehow.

Ava and I had the same eyes: a deep, warm blue, easily bloodshot, and not good at hiding emotions. Our grandpa always said that even though we were ten years apart, we should have been twins.

I’m actually going to miss Christmas. I’m going to break my promise.

The fear that I’d been trying to keep at bay roared up, and I squeezed my eyes shut. I knew it had only been a dream, and that dreams weren’t prophecies or visions, or any of that shit. Yet I shuddered as I remembered the dream hospital I’d finally been able to reach after missing Christmas because I’d kept driving down the wrong roads, taking endless turns.

The dream—nightmare¬¬—doctor had said the relapse had happened too quickly, and there was nothing they could have done. My parents had already left because Ava was gone. I was too late. My baby sister was dead and I hadn’t been able to say goodbye. Choking down a swell of nausea, I closed my eyes and breathed in and out.

It was only a dream. She’s okay.

I splashed my face again, getting water all over my hoodie and not caring. Of course they were out of paper towels, so I wiped my hands on my jeans.

I aimlessly walked the terminal, squeezing between clumps of fellow dispirited would-be passengers and their mounds of baggage. My messenger bag tugged at my neck, and I impatiently adjusted it on my shoulder. It was Saturday morning, and school was out for kids, exams were over for college, and winter vacation was here. Too bad we’d apparently be spending it at San Francisco International Airport, or for me, back in my empty dorm.

Fa la la la la.

A bank of TVs blasted CNN, and I stopped to watch the anchor with suspiciously gleaming teeth put on his serious face beneath a swoop of perfectly coiffed hair. Pulsing red letters took up half the screen, screaming: WEATHER ALERT!

“We’ve just survived snowmageddon in the east, and now it’s the West Coast’s turn! Torrential rain has hit the Pacific Northwest, extending down into Northern California. And it’s FOGmageddon for San Francisco!”

I rolled my eyes. The media’s impulse to add “-mageddon” to otherwise non-threatening words needed to be taken out back and shot, along with “gate” suffixes. Watergate was a million years ago. Get over it, people.

The smug bastard on TV actually smiled. His name was probably Chip, or perhaps Blaine. “Along with the rain, the fog in San Francisco has reduced visibility to the extent that officials are advising folks to stay home. Forget pea soup—this stuff is molasses!”

With a sigh, I trudged on. Might as well catch the AirTrain to the BART station. The thought of hauling ass—and my giant suitcase—back to a ghost town campus was seriously depressing. I reminded myself this wouldn’t be the worst Christmas I’d ever had, but it was cold comfort. The last two yuletides jointly held that title, and I prayed they would never be defeated.

I found the AirTrain sign, along with another: Rental Car Center. I stopped in my tracks, barely avoiding getting rear-ended by a luggage cart and a man who muttered a curse as he wheeled around me. I called out an apology as I stared at the sign, my pulse increasing with a hum through my veins.

Was it possible? Could I make it back in time if I drove? There was rain and fog here and snow out there, but surely in the middle I could make up some time? If I powered through on Red Bull and Twizzlers, I could do it.

Yanking out my phone, I googled the driving time from San Francisco to Norwalk, Connecticut.

43 h (2,952.6 mi) via I-80 E

It was basically straight across the country through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and finally into Connecticut. Which sounded insanely exhausting, but was totally doable. Factoring in stops for eating and a few hours of sleep in the backseat here and there, I’d get there with time to spare. I could make it home for Christmas morning.

Adrenaline zinged through me with this new plan of action, and I hurried to the AirTrain platform. The loop through the terminals to the Car Rental Center was interminable, and I drummed my fingers on the plastic handle of my suitcase until the woman crammed between me and the door gave me an understandable death glare.

I practically dove down the concourse, dragging my suitcase along. Amazingly enough, there were hardly any people at all in the rental area, and I grinned as I approached the first counter. I wouldn’t even have to wait! This was clearly an amazing plan, and perhaps even an Act of God. It was meant to be.

NO VEHICLES AVAILABLE

I blinked at the sign. Okay, next counter. My heart sank a little when I saw a sold-out sign there too. Onto the next. And the next.

And the next.

Of course there were no lines. There were no damn cars left. I kept going just in case, but each rental company I passed was out of vehicles.

As I approached the last one—one of those cheap car places stuck in the back corner—my feet dragged and my shoulders slumped. For all of fifteen minutes, I’d thought Christmas and my promise to my sister could be saved.

As I neared Expedition Car Rental, my heart skipped a beat. I peered closer, scanning the area. There was no sign. There was no sign! In a burst of excitement I raced the rest of the way, barreling into the counter. The young woman behind it jerked her head up from her computer.

“Hi! Sorry to startle you. I need a car. Do you have a car?” I forced myself to take a calming breath and read her name tag. “Sorry, Sook-Yin. I really need a car.” I smiled what I hoped was my most charming smile, because I didn’t need Sook-Yin refusing my patronage on suspicion of me being on crack or meth or huffing the nitrous oxide from whipped cream bottles.

She tilted her head and gave me a regretful closed-lip smile. “I’m so sorry. I just rented our last vehicle.”

Panic and disappointment combined to make my mouth dry and chest tight. “Please. You have to have another one. I’m begging you. I will get down on my knees. I’ll pay extra. I’ll pay whatever you want. Please. I need a car. Or truck. SUV. Minivan. Motorcycle. Anything with wheels and an engine.”

“I’m very sorry.”

I dropped my head to the counter with a dull thunk. “I can’t believe this is happening. Please let me wake up in my dorm and realize this nightmare was just my subconscious being a bag of dicks as usual.”

Sook-Yin made a sound that might have been a stifled laugh, but her tone was sympathetic. “I really am sorry. Hold on, let me check our other area locations. You might get lucky.”

Other locations! I hadn’t even thought of that. I lifted my head and watched her type, holding my breath. Please, please, please, please

She sighed and tucked her dark hair behind her ear. “Nope. But I’ll check the other companies for you.”

My lungs burned as I waited, my hands in fists to stop from drumming my fingers on the counter. The CIA should forget waterboarding—watching someone else search for information on a computer when you’re dying to know the answer is pure torture. Sook-Yin tapped, her eyes scanning the screen, and my heart pounded. There had to be one freaking car left to rent in the Bay Area. There had to be. I’d go to Oakland. Jesus, I’d bus it to Modesto if I had to. Please, please, please, please

Then she gave me the head tilt/sad smile again, and I knew it was hopeless. She didn’t have to say it. I tried to smile back. “Thanks for checking. It was really nice of you.” My brain whirled. What about Greyhound? Sure, it was the busiest travel time of the year and the buses would be loaded with people who couldn’t get flights, but maybe. “I guess I’ll try the bus.”

She winced. “I’ve heard they’re overbooked. And there was that mechanic’s strike? There aren’t enough buses, apparently.”

“I guess the trains are sold out too.”

“Do you want me to check?” Her gaze shifted to something behind me, and she smiled. “Excuse me for a second. Ah, there you are,” she said to someone. “Did you find the Starbucks?”

“Yes, thank you. I’m caffeinated and ready to hit the road.”

My whole body seized. It couldn’t be. It was not possible.

Not. Possible.

I slowly turned and…wow. Gavin Bloomberg—still as annoyingly tall and hot as ever—was actually standing there in a fitted brown leather jacket with a blue travel mug in one hand and a little rolling gray suitcase resting by his suede Pumas. He blinked at me, and after a moment his lip curled.

“Charlie?” He appeared as horrified as I felt.

Of all the car rental places in all the freaking world… I concentrated on a civil tone. After all, we were eighteen and officially adults now. “Gavin.”

“Uh…hi.” He stared at me the way he might a piece of gum after walking around on it all day and prying it free from the bottom of his shoe, with little pebbles and a bunch of shit dried into it. He ran a hand through his thick, short hair, and even under dull fluorescents I couldn’t help but notice the rich auburn highlights. His sideburns were longer than when I’d last seen him at graduation in June.

I was weirdly struck by a memory of the summer we’d met, and how almost every day we’d stretch out in the sun by the pond, and he’d close his eyes while I watched his hair dry, the whole time aching to touch.

“Do you guys know each other?” Sook-Yin asked.

I nodded. “I guess. Not really. I mean, we went to high school together.” This was definitely a nightmare, but sadly I was all too awake. Time to evacuate. “Well, I should go.”

“Wait!” Sook-Yin’s face lit up. “Are you both trying to get to the same place? Maybe you could drive together?”

My brain was so dumbfounded at Gavin’s unexpected presence that I hadn’t even processed that he’d obviously rented a vehicle. Oh. My. God. Of course he’d snagged the last car. Of course. Because he got everything he wanted.

Gavin glanced between me and Sook-Yin. “I’m going back to Norwalk.”

“Me too. But we can’t…” I waved a hand between us.

Sook-Yin’s brow creased. “But it’s the perfect solution, isn’t it? I can add another driver to the contract. I’ll even waive the extra fee. You’re already paying more since you’re under twenty-five. Obviously it’s up to you, though.”

“Uh…” Gavin stared at her with dawning horror in his brown eyes.

I shared that horror. There was no way—no effing way!—Gavin Bloomberg and I could drive to Connecticut together. It was impossible. It was unthinkable. It was the worst idea ever.

But fuck me. It was my shot.

As much as I hated it, this was my way home for Christmas. Gavin and I could split the driving and gas, and we could totally make it for the twenty-fifth with tons of time to spare.

“I can’t…it’s…” Clutching his travel mug, Gavin stared at me.

“I promised Ava I’d be home for Christmas.”

The hard edges of Gavin’s gaze softened, and he exhaled. After a long moment, he nodded. “Then I guess we’d better get going.”

“I’m so glad this worked out. What a small world. Can you give me your license?” Sook-Yin started entering my info, apparently oblivious to the tension in the air. “Wait, do you two actually live on the same street?”

Gavin and I nodded silently.

“Wow, what are the odds?” Smiling, she printed off a new contract. “Do you go to the same school out here too?”

“No. He’s at USF and I’m at Stanford,” Gavin answered.

I blinked. He knew where I went? Mom’s voice echoed in my mind.

“Hon, guess who’s going to Frisco for college too?”

“Please don’t call it Frisco.” I rolled another T-shirt and squeezed it into my pink suitcase. “And no, who?”

“Your friend Gavin! Isn’t that wonderful? I’m so glad you’ll have someone from home out there with you.”

The fact that Gavin was most certainly not my friend—and had not been my friend since Pete Stiffler’s party at the beginning of ninth grade—had been lost on my mom. In her defense, her plate had been pretty fucking full the last few years, and I’d never even hinted at a problem.

“I just need you both to sign here, and initial here, here, and here.” Sook-Yin circled spots on the contract.

Gavin picked up the pen, passing it to me when he was finished. The plastic was warm from his fingers, and my stomach danced the way it used to when Gavin was close by. I felt fourteen again and hopelessly out of my depth.

After marking my last initial, I passed the contract back to Sook-Yin, who ripped off a copy and slid it into a narrow folder. She handed Gavin a key. “Here you go. It’s in spot C-thirty-seven, but since it’s the last car left, it won’t be hard to find. It’s a Jetta, but don’t worry, I only charged you economy class. Have a safe drive, and happy holidays!”

We smiled and thanked her, and I followed Gavin to the garage. In silence, we rode the elevator down, and in the subterranean concrete maze, the only sound was the rumbling drone of our suitcase wheels and the odd car driving by. The Jetta waited, navy blue and four-doored, boxy with its sedate and practical German engineering.

A man chewing gum approached from the little Expedition office, which was more like a shack. He wore coveralls and a baseball cap. “Got the last one, huh?”

I smiled tightly. “Yep.”

We inspected the car, circling it to make sure there were no dings or scratches. Gavin signed the form, and the guy started the engine. “Tank is full, and you’re ready to go. Have a good one.” He shuffled off.

Gavin popped the trunk and eyed my pink monstrosity. “Are you moving back or something?”

“No.” I stubbornly didn’t explain further and hefted up the suitcase.

After fitting in his little gray case, Gavin closed the trunk. “I guess I’ll drive first?”

“Sure.” It was all very civil and so freaking bizarre, oh my God.

I went around to the passenger side, buckling my belt and pushing the seat back for maximum leg room. I was only five-nine compared to Gavin’s ridiculous six-one, but I still liked to stretch out. Especially since we were going to be in this car for forty-three hours—and that was with clear weather and no traffic jams. I barely resisted the urge to whimper. Just getting out of the Bay Area took forever in good conditions, let alone FOGmageddon.

After adjusting the mirrors, Gavin backed up. Neither of us spoke as he navigated the winding levels of the garage, and at the exit he stuck the provided parking ticket into the machine. The mechanical arm jerked up to let us pass, and home had never felt so incredibly far away.

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Will Charlie and Gavin be able to put the past behind them and get home for Christmas? Find out in If Only in My Dreams, available now!

Keira AndrewsAbout the Author: After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal and fantasy fiction, and—although she loves delicious angst along the way—Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said, “The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

Where you can find Keira: Website || Newsletter || Twitter || Facebook || Goodreads || Amazon Author Page

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The Fine Print:

*Contest Closes at 11:59pm Pacific Time on Monday, December 7, 2015
*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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April Kelley, Giveaways

Excerpt and Giveaway: The Leave It All Blog Tour with April Kelley

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We’re so pleased to welcome author April Kelley and the Leave It All blog tour today. Enjoy the excerpt from the book, and then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below to enter for the chance to win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

Good luck!

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Leave it AllBlurb: Lucas just wanted to be a normal human being, but normal is highly over-rated.

Lucas Speck had been just some guy who worked at an office supply store and house-sat for his snowbird parents. He was nobody special. Or that’s what he thought before the headaches start and weird things start to happen to him. When people start chasing him his whole life gets turned upside down.

Bennett Somerset is a dragon shifter, who likes his quiet life in his quiet town. He isn’t looking for complications. He already has a family that defines the words, weird and crazy, to perfection. Good thing they live in a small town where nothing ever happens. That is until he smells the most delicious thing in the world and realizes it’s his mate. His little witch of a mate just made things way more complicated.

Book LinksGoodreads ǀ Website | Amazon ǀ Smashwords ǀ ARe

FREE on Kindle Unlimited, which means if you buy the book outside Amazon, you will also receive a free short story:

Dragon’s & Mistletoe

On a shopping trip to the mall with his brother-in-law, Lucas makes a bet he’s not one hundred percent sure he can win.

Christmas was Lucas’ favorite holiday and this year would be the best ever. Gone was his boring, less than stellar life. Now he had his dragon shifter mate and a family that actually liked to spend time with him. What more could he ask for?

Well, he wanted his mate to wear one of the ugliest Christmas Sweaters in the known universe. He had a hundred dollars riding on it. His mate could be as stubborn as a…well, a dragon, at times. He just might lose this bet, after all.

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Excerpt: Bennett came closer and sniffed the air. He jumped down next to Forrest and sniffed his hair and clothing. “You smell good.” Bennett’s cock got hard and he backed up, away from Forrest. “Why do you smell like that? Who have you been around?”

“New renter is all. It’s why I’m here actually.” His brother bounced around on the balls of his feet.

Bennett frowned and dismissed the wonderful smell. It was easy to do, especially when he moved away from Forrest. “Whatever it is, I said no.”

“But he needs a job and you need help. It looks like rag city threw up around here.”

That smell drifted to him again, but this time it hadn’t come second hand off Forrest. He turned and saw the most beautiful man Bennett had ever seen. Bennett’s cock hardened in his coverall and his eye changed. His dragon was pacing, wanting closer to their mate. Bennett stalked around Forrest, taking in deep breaths as he drew closer.

The cute little man took a step away from him then and his eyes widened. “Forrest,” the man said his brother’s name in a panic, which pissed Bennett’s dragon off.

Bennett growled out a warning to his brother to stay away from his mate.

“What is he? Oh, God, get him away from me before I freak the fuck out and lose my shit.” The man held a hand up in an attempt to stop him. “Seriously, dude. I don’t know what your problem is but I don’t always have control when I’m scared. Kinda like now. I don’t want to hurt you. I’m sure you’re a perfectly nice guy who just so happens to be looking at me like I’m a cheeseburger.”

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April KelleyAbout the Author: Living in Southwest Michigan, April resides with her husband and two kids. She has been an avid reader for several years. Ever since she wrote her first story at the age of ten, the characters in her head still won’t stop telling their stories. If April isn’t reading or writing, she can be found outside playing with the animals or taking a long walk in the woods. If you wish to contact her, email authoraprilkelley@gmail.com. Please visit her website at authoraprilkelley.com

Website ǀ Blog | Facebook ǀ Facebook Group ǀ Twitter ǀ Google+ ǀ Pinterest

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THE GIVEAWAY

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*Some residency restrictions may apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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Giveaways, Lynn Lorenz

Backlist Book Blast and Giveaway: In the Company of Men Series by Lynn Lorenz

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BLURBS

The Mercenary's TaleThe Mercenary’s Tale – Drake is a mercenary for hire. He values little other than his sword and his skill. Fighting his attraction to the young men he trains, he refuses to take any on.

When Ansel walks into his life, Drake breaks all his rules.

But life for mercenaries is hard, brutal and deadly.

Can Drake take a chance on finding the love he’s denied himself for so long?

Can he have a second chance?

Buy Links: Amazon || All Romance eBooks

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Jackson's PrideJackson’s Pride – Jackson has been called to attend his father, Lord Baymore. The man has never claimed Jackson as his son and Jackson believes this might be his father’s intent. He’s left the Duke of Marden’s employ to discover his destiny—to remain a nameless bastard or to claim his father’s name.

When Jackson stumbles across a man, stripped, beaten, and left in a field to die a slow death, Jackson rescues the man. After all, he’s guilty of the same thing—wanting a man.

Will Holcombe gambled and lost. His meeting with a young, willing man went horribly wrong, and now he must pay for it with his life.

Until a man walks up to him in a frozen field and cuts him down.

Jackson is like no one Will has ever met before—a man strong enough to stand with him, perhaps forever.

But Jackson’s on a mission. Will his pride blind him to what his life could be if he chose Will and not his father?

Or will his pride lead him to a fate worse than death?

Buy Links: Amazon || All Romance eBooks

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Beymore's HeirBaymore’s Heir – Duke Jackson of Baymore finally has all he’s ever wanted—his name, a title, and the man he loves by his side. Lord Will Holcombe couldn’t be happier. He’s Jackson’s lover, best friend, and manages all of Jackson’s affairs. For two years, their life together, although deadly if anyone knew of their forbidden love, has been perfect.

Until Jackson the day when decides the one thing he needs is an heir.

And the one person to find him a wife is Will.

Buy Links: Amazon || All Romance eBooks

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His Duke's GiftHis Duke’s Gift – In this Yuletide story, Duke Logan is preparing the keep for the holiday. Twelve nights of feasting and gift giving to those in his favor. Gifts must be made or bought. Once mercenary Drake struggles to think of just the right gift for his love and liege, and for their sons.

Something isn’t right. A stranger has arrived at the keep and Logan refuses to let Drake into his bedroom at night. Angry and frustrated, Drake fears Logan has lost his love for the mercenary.

When the Twelfth night arrives, and Drake has received no gift, he begins to think he might need to take his son and leave what has become his home.

Buy Links: Amazon || All Romance eBooks

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Silent LodgeSilent Lodge – Drake and Logan are worried about their friend and captain of the guard, Peter. After the death in childbirth of Peter’s wife, he’s a changed man. Unfocused, lonely, and devastated, Peter needs a new challenge, instead of going through the motions of living.

Logan sends Peter on a mission – to discover Duke Weathersby’s plans for invasion. Logan’s father has a small hunting lodge near the border of their lands, and it has a caretaker. Peter sets off alone, to make camp at the lodge and do some scouting.

But what he finds at the lodge just may be his future. Arvel is a fascinating young man. Red haired, deaf and mute from a fever as a child, he’s been living in the lodge and caring for it for years. It’s a safe haven for him. But he’s not alone. He has a protector, Gareth.

When Gareth, Arvel and Peter are together, sparks fly. Arvel belongs to Gareth, but he wants Peter too. Can Peter join their small family? And if he does, will he always be the third to their couple?

Buy Link: Amazon

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Excerpt from Silent Lodge: Arvel sighed, stretched, and opened his eyes. He looked around, saw Peter, and smiled. It lit his face and went to his eyes, a sincere joy that took his breath away.

Peter had returned to him.

Again, the little bird’s wings danced in his belly and sent a warm rush of happiness through Arvel.

He hushed them and told himself to not be a fool.

Of course Peter came back. He had to come back, but not for Arvel. He’d returned to sleep in the bed, to keep his horse, to eat his meals.

Time to get to work and stop his wild thoughts.

“Ho, Arvel.”

Arvel brought his hand to his mouth, head tilted.

“Aye, I’m hungry.”

Nodding, he hurried to the sideboard and began pulling vegetables and dried meat from the larder. He swept down a knife from the shelf and began chopping. Once done, he came back to the hearth, pushed the logs around with the poker, arranging the fire to cook over, then swung out the iron cook pot and took it to the table.

******

Peter sat  mesmerized by the dance, the lithe form swaying and gliding, moving to some unseen rhythm.

All the pieces were added to the pot, and then brought back to the fire, hung on the hook, and pushed over the flames.

Arvel went back to the table, brought out flour, and started making bread.

Peter relaxed, watching the younger man prepare the evening meal. Lost himself in the push and pull of Arvel’s hands on the dough, working it into the right consistency, twisting it and then kneading again. Peter lost track of the time; the lodge had no windows, only the front door and a side door that led to the stables.

Arvel finished kneading the bread, formed it into a loaf, and placed it on a wide, flat wooden paddle with a handle. Then he carried it to the side of the hearth. An oven had been built just to the side. He opened the door with the metal poker, slid the bread in, and jerked the paddle out. After shutting the door, he returned to the table to finish cleaning.

In no time, the bread’s smell and the aroma of the stew blended to fill the lodge and make Peter’s mouth water.

Arvel could cook, no doubt about that. And bake. And keep the lodge tidy, the stables clean and ready. Was there nothing the young caretaker couldn’t do?

Peter laughed. Arvel turned and caught him. His brow furrowed and head tilted.

“Pardon.” Peter stood and clapped Arvel on the shoulder. “You’re a right treat, Arvel.”

Arvel smiled, staring at Peter’s mouth.

Peter sobered and leaned in closer. “Is that how you do it? Do you see the words on my lips?” He reached out and touched Arvel’s mouth.

Arvel placed his hand over Peter’s, trapping it against Arvel’s lips, and nodded.

“So in a way, you can hear me.” Peter’s lips moved against Arvel’s fingers as he spoke. Arvel chuckled soundlessly and dropped his hand.

Peter let his hand linger for just a moment on those soft, pink lips, then removed it.

They stared at each other.

******

Little birds danced every time he looked into Peter’s eyes, just as with his Heart.

Arvel waited. It was best to wait; less painful also.

Peter leaned forward as Arvel’s lips parted. The birds took to the sky, rising up from his belly, through his throat.

Arvel swayed toward Peter, his lips parting, ready for the kiss.

Peter pulled back.

“My wife died.”

Arvel frowned and motioned at his mouth, making a circle that landed on his lips.

Slower, he said, “My wife died.”

Dead? Ah, there’s the source of his pain. So much pain in his bark-colored eyes. They matched his bark-colored hair. Peter reminded Arvel of a tree, strong limbs that would hold him safe and secure.

Arvel wanted to help Peter by taking away the pain. Wanted to make him feel happy and see him smile again. He liked when Peter smiled.

No doubt about it, Peter needed Arvel.

Arvel’s mouth formed a large circle, and his brows shot up. Then he frowned and stepped forward, encircling Peter’s waist. He leaned into Peter and squeezed, resting his head on Peter’s shoulder.

******

Peter’s breath caught, and he wrapped his arms around Arvel, holding the smaller man tight to him.

“I miss her so much,” Peter whispered. “So, so much.” His voice trembled, and he shook with the effort to keep the pain inside.

Arvel leaned back, looked up at him with tear-filled eyes as if he felt the same pain Peter felt, then nodded and buried his face against Peter again. He moved his arm up to Peter’s neck and clung to him.

Peter broke, coughing up great sobs, tremors shaking his body, as he held tight to the caretaker.

Arvel kneaded Peter’s shoulders, his neck, easing him, bringing him down from the tension-filled shudders, until Peter inhaled, exhaled, and steadied. He stepped back, releasing Peter, giving a shy smile, and wiping away his own tears.

Peter cupped Arvel’s face, ran his thumb over that plump bottom lip, then let him go.

“Shall we eat?” Peter gave the same signal he’d seen Arvel make before, fingers to his mouth.

Arvel grinned and nodded, then rushed to the table.

Peter pulled out the bench and sat, drying his face on his sleeve. He poured a goblet of water, drank it down, and poured another. Arvel placed the simmering pot of stew on the table and went back for the bread.

The hot loaf danced in his hands as he juggled it to the table, then speared it with the knife. Peter sliced it for them and took one piece as Arvel dished out the meal.

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Lynn, tell us something no one else knows about your characters.

I never find pictures of what I think they look like. I know some authors find pics and say, “Ohh, this is X!” I like to keep my physical descriptions a little vague and concentrate on their personalities.

So when the cover artist finds a picture of a guy, I’m like, “Hey, that looks like him!” because I don’t have his image set in my head, other than like hair color or eye color.

Have you ever had writer’s block? How did you overcome it? 

No. My motto is never sit down in front of a computer to write unless you know exactly what you’re going to write. I believe in thinking about a story, character, even a what if situation, and creating something from that first, then writing it down. So when I sit down to write, I write.

What I have experienced is disenchantment, sort of an ennui about writing. I believe when I get this way, it’s best to stay away, to do other things that refill the well of creativity. Sometimes it’s just catching up on my reading, or listening to music, or watching NetFlix. I take my mind off writing.

Inevitably, an idea hits me and I’m off again, thinking about a new book! And once I’ve thought through the story, the character, the what if, I’m off and writing.

What book you’ve written would you like to see made into a movie?

I guess to say all of them is sort of wrong, right? Actually, I’d love to see this series made into a BBC series – historical, costume, swashbuckling drama of these incredible gay men set in a deadly time, fighting for their love and lovers.

Do you work on an outline or plot or just let the story takes you where it wants to go? 

I use a method that allows me to loosely plot, yet still not feel tied down to a plot. Here’s a spoiler – my stories end in a happily ever after. So yeah, the two main characters will be together in the end. It’s a romance. We all know how it’s supposed to end. That’s not the point, is it?

The fun, the excitement, is in the telling of the tale – how do they do it? How do they survive the hardship of life and love? How do they start off enemies, or best friends, or total strangers, and get together?

I know the end, but since I know the character inside and out, his/her goals, motivations, and conflicts, the plot builds itself. I discover the one thing the character wants most in the world, and I take it from them. Then he/she has to fight to get it back.

Rapid fire questions:

1 – Favorite meal – a Parkway roast beef po’boy, mayo, plenty gravy, on French bread, a Barq’s rootbeer, and an orchid cream vanilla snow ball from Plum Street. (only to be had in New Orleans)

2 – Favorite color – I love chocolate brown.

3 – Favorite ice cream flavor – Blue Bell’s Pralines ‘n Cream, or their Southern Blackberry Cobbler, or their Strawberry ‘n Cream

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Author BioAbout the Author: Lynn Lorenz is an award-winning and best-selling author of over 30 gay romances. She lives in Texas, where she’s a fan of all things Texan, like Longhorns, big hair, and cowboys in tight jeans. She’s never met a comma she didn’t like, and enjoys editing and brainstorming with other writers. Lynn spends most of her time writing about hot sex with even hotter heroes, plot twists, werewolves, and medieval swashbucklers. She’s currently at work on her latest book, making herself giggle and blush, and avoiding all the housework.

Where to find the author: Website || Facebook || Twitter: @lynnlorenz

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THE GIVEAWAY

Enter for the chance to win one of two prizes: An e-copy of any book from any of Lynn’s series, or the Grand Prize — an e-copy of the entire In the Company of Men series

Good luck!

Rafflecopter Giveaway

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Tour Dates & Stops:

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*Some residency restrictions may apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law

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3.5 Stars, Eli Easton, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Jules, Self-Published

Review: Midwinter Night’s Dream by Eli Easton

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Midwinter Night’s Dream

Author: Eli Easton

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 121 Pages

At a GlanceI’m a massive Eli Easton fangirl, she knocks so many things out of the park, but this one left me wanting.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Micah is the hippest, most chill guy on campus. But when he gets the hottest kiss of his life from a cute guy during a game of ‘spin the bottle’, Micah’s cool turns into a puddle of anxious goo. Sure, Micah’s always been a little bi-curious, but he never thought he’d pursue a guy, much less a guy who doesn’t seem to be interested in getting caught.

Leo is passionate about two things: gay rights activism and acting. He stays focused and in control, and he never, ever, dates straight guys. When a chance spin of a bottle at a party has him locking lips with Micah Springfield, president of the Delts, dread-headed, serial-dating, straight Micah, Leo is determined to forget about it, no matter how incendiary the sparks or how gorgeous Micah may be.

Leo has bigger problems. His senior project is directing Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream just before the Christmas break. When his venue cancels at the last minute, Micah offers the use of his parent’s barn in rural Pennsylvania. Leo’s play may be saved, but what about his heart? Between Micah’s sweet lips, his family’s welcoming arms, and a devious bulldog who is determined to play Puck, Leo may find himself falling under the spell of Christmas magic.

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Review: Eli Easton’s Midwinter Night’s Dream was one of my most anticipated holiday reads this year. After falling in love with the Springfields in last year’s Unwrapping Hank, I couldn’t wait for Micah’s story. Smooth, mellow, cooler than the other side of the pillow Micah. Who would he be paired with? How would it all play out? Would we get to see much of Hank and Sloan? For the most part I was happy with the story, but I have to admit that this one had a few misses for me also.

The characters were a hit. I really do love Micah. I actually had a very dear friend in school who was (and still is) just like Micah. Got along with everyone, great to hang out with, gorgeous – the whole package. And, I thought Leo was a good match for Micah. The early spin-the-bottle scene, where the guys kiss for the first time, was super fun and smokin’ hot. These guys definitely had great chemistry! In fact, I loved Micah’s whole overall reaction to Leo. His fondness and admiration for him felt so genuine and really shone through. He was completely smitten with Leo; it was adorable.

The setting was another hit.  I love reading NA books, and always think the college settings are fun…but, in this case I’m talking about when the storyline takes us to Micah’s parents’ home. The Springfield farm at Christmas is so magical in my mind. I absolutely ate up Eli Easton’s descriptions of the barn, and the snowy fields, trees, etc., during the snow shoeing scene. I can so clearly picture the beauty. I also thought all of the play stuff was fun – the idea for Leo’s senior project was fantastic, and it was the perfect catalyst for bringing everything together.

There were absolutely many things to be enjoyed in this book, but, unfortunately, it’s time to talk about the misses, the biggest one being the ‘extra’ storyline with Leo’s best friend, Helen, and Micah’s almost-girlfriend, Yasmine. First of all, I have no issue whatsoever with F/F stories. If the addition of this bit into the book was a device for Eli to introduce Helen and Yas because she intends to write a lesbian story, that’s fine. I could see that intention. Furthermore, this has NOTHING to do with “not wanting girl-bits in my M/M books.” I simply thought it didn’t work here. It felt forced, or thrown in. Yas gave me whiplash with how quickly she goes from not quite getting that Micah doesn’t like her like that, to making out with Helen.

And, directly related to the above is the fact that I would have much rather had more page time with Micah and Leo. We simply just didn’t have enough of them together. The times that they were together were fantastic – Spin-the-bottle…fabulous snow-shoeing scene…hot barn sex – I wish there had been more. There were also two quick mentions of Micah having a possible submissive streak – when he melted into their first kiss, and then Leo later muses about it as well – that I SOOO wish would have been further explored.

I’m a massive Eli Easton fangirl, she knocks so many things out of the park, but this one left me wanting. Wanting more Micah and Leo time…more holiday time…definitely more out of the epilogue. It just felt like it wrapped up too darn quickly for how long it took them to get together. Do I still recommend it? Of course. I mean, Christmas novella! Awesome glimpses of Sloane and Hank! There’s still plenty of charm – it just wasn’t my favorite one of her stories.

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You can buy Midwinter Night’s Dream here:

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4.5 Stars, Annabelle Jacobs, Holiday Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Release Day Review: Magic & Mistletoe

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Amazon

Title: Magic & Mistletoe

Author: Annabelle Jacobs

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 114 Pages

At a Glance: Annabelle Jacobs has the recipe for holiday magic and romance all sewn up in a sweet little package in Magic & Mistletoe.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Christmas is Harry’s favourite time of the year, but it looks like he’ll be spending it alone. When it comes to the men he fancies, his luck is non-existent. Harry’s nerves always get the better of him—especially when he tries to talk to Andrew, the hot guy downstairs.

Everything changes when Harry meets a mysterious girl in the woods who professes to be a witch. He dismisses her claims, but when odd things start happening to him, he has to reconsider.

Andrew was attracted to Harry from the start, but their awkward encounters put him off. All goes well until Harry opens his mouth—and ruins it with his stupidity and silly comments. When Harry suddenly becomes more relaxed and they have a proper conversation, Andrew realises his first impression was wrong. As the days count down to December 25, they get swept up in the Christmas spirit and their relationship moves faster than either expected.

A little winter magic might have been the push they needed, but Harry worries that when it wears off, he’ll no longer be the man Andrew wants.

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Review: Harry has a problem with overstating the obvious. He gets tongue tied and has a tendency to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind—even if that thing makes him look like a bit of a git for pointing out stuff that doesn’t need pointing out. He’s gotten so tongue-tied around his sexy neighbor, and has managed a near perfect record of saying the wrong thing at the right time, that Andrew thinks Harry’s nothing but a big jerk. Which sucks for Harry because Andrew is a guy he’d really love to know better.

Annabelle Jacobs has the recipe for holiday magic and romance all sewn up in a sweet little package in Magic & Mistletoe, a title I couldn’t resist any more than I could its adorable cover. A walk through the woods with his friends brings Harry face to face with a woodland nymph who decides to take matters into her own hands where Harry’s concerned, and gives him the gift that keeps on giving—namely, the ability to keep his gob shut when he’s about to put his foot in it again.

Little coincidences, surprise favors, helpful nudges (a fortuitously placed mistletoe here and there) all serve to bring Harry and Andrew together. And then, of course, the magic isn’t only of the supernatural variety, if you catch my drift. It turns out that these two guys are pretty great together. But… is that because of Harry’s interfering helper? And if so, what possible hope does Harry have of keeping Andrew once the spell wears off and Harry goes back to being his usual tongue-tied self? This is where we get a little bit of angst in this otherwise feel-good holiday romance, just enough to give us a reason to cheer for the story’s happy ending.

It’s a good thing Christmas comes but once a year because I don’t think my heart could take being warmed so thoroughly the other twelve months. Magic & Mistletoe is another check mark in the winter romance win column, and a book that’s sure to bring you a little holiday cheer.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

 

You can buy Magic & Mistletoe here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon CA

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2 Stars, Abraham Steele, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Hidden Shifter by Abraham Steele

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Hidden Shifter (Fated Date Agency: Book Seven)

Author: Abraham Steele

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 249 Pages

At a Glance: Hidden Shifter is one of those books where I loved the premise but the follow-through suffered under a lack of backstory and knowledge of the -verse.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: “I’m sorry, Mr. Hillwell. Your fated mate is dead.”

Samuel Hillwell is in mourning for a man he’s never met. The handsome alpha waited too long to contact the Fated Date Agency. There was always a stock trade or a trip to Europe that seemed more important. His mate passed away just days before he reached out. As he goes into a downward spiral, questioning everything he’s based his life on, he can only wish he’d had one night with his deceased omega.

Caden Grey is on the run. After surgically altering his face and travelling across the country, the former kindergarten teacher still can’t stop looking over his shoulder for the people who want him dead. Now that he’s arrived in Clover Grove, he should finally be able to take a breath. But he’s just starting to get settled there when a dazzling man runs up to him. A man who knows Caden’s previous name.

Will Samuel figure out the truth about the tormented omega? And if he gets into Caden’s heart, will either of them be safe?

Hidden Shifter is Book 7 of the Fated Date Agency series. It also stands alone as a complete 200-page gay shifter romance novel with steamy content and male pregnancy.

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Review: Abraham Steele’s Hidden Shifter, book seven in the Fated Date Agency series, is billed as a standalone novel, and I accepted it to read/review under that assumption, so I’ll start by saying that even though this particular installment may feature a new couple in the series, I do feel like I must have missed out on some world-building by starting seven books in. Which, ultimately, was a real detriment to me as there were some things that just didn’t work because I didn’t have enough info going in.

The beginning of the story is great, filled with a lot of emotion and suspense, and I was completely invested in where the author was going with it—Samuel Hillwell finally carving out a niche of time in his otherwise work-aholic schedule to call the Fated Date Agency and find his true mate… Only to discover that the man who would have been his perfect other half had just died in a car crash. I empathized immediately with Samuel at being so close to opening a new chapter in his life, only to have it cruelly taken away, and I liked the emotional connection the author built there.

When we’re introduced to Caden Grey, a few things are obvious, not the least of which is that he’s not who we think he is, but that he’s also fleeing in terror from an unknown but credible threat. And I don’t think it’s revealing too much here, as the blurb does state that Caden Grey isn’t his real name, to say that fate is indeed playing a role in Caden’s life, as his cross-country exodus, with no fixed destination in mind, lands him practically on Samuel’s doorstep. And, even after plastic surgery, Caden can’t hide who he is from Samuel.

Unfortunately, this is also where the plot began to lose traction for me. The one true soul mate trope is a tried and true one, but sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. Where it didn’t work for me here, overall, isn’t in the speed with which Sam and Caden came together (I actually was dying for them to meet and then liked that the author kept us in a little bit of suspense once they did), but in that once they did get together, there wasn’t any significant amount of word count spent on making their relationship solid enough for me to invest in. There were some sexy moment, some sweet domestic moments, but overall there was so much outside angst going on in Caden’s life that him giving in to his and Samuel’s connection didn’t happen until circumstances forced him to commit to the idea of Sam as a full-fledged mate. Reading a romance and then not being able to invest in the romance part of it is a bit of a buzzkill, to say the least.

But where I felt my experience with this book suffered most, as I said at the outset, is in the world-building. There’s no background story here, so we don’t know anything at all about these shifters, their origins, their mythology, or why the gay omega shifters are the only males who can get pregnant and give birth. I honestly was at a loss here, and will say this—on a personal level, a dripping, self-lubricating anus didn’t conjure up any sort of appealing mental images for me. Juicy wet underwear calls to mind an inherently female eroticism, and while this anatomical detail may or may not be canon in the mpreg lexicon, readers do deserve some foundation to make this aspect of the story even slightly more palatable.

By the time the final deus ex machina is pulled out of the pocket of miracles in an effort to save Caden’s life, I was so distracted by all my unanswered questions that I think any resolution to the story would have been less than satisfying to me. The Alphas didn’t act all that alpha-like, and Caden, the Omega, wasn’t as submissive as one would expect an omega to be. In the end, the motivation for Caden’s flight wasn’t thoroughly fleshed out—we’re told why he ran but get no supporting details about why his wolf misbehaved; we’re told that humans are a factor, but there’s technically only one significant human in the entire storyline; and when the danger does arrive at Samuel’s doorstep, the motivation was not only a bit flimsy but the antagonist doesn’t come off as dangerous as much as he does spoiled and juvenile.

Hidden Shifter is one of those books where I loved the premise but the follow-through suffered under a lack of backstory and knowledge of the -verse. Your mileage, of course, may vary if you’re already familiar with the series.

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5 Stars, Genre Romance, Jocelyn Drake, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Maryann, Rinda Elliott, Self-Published

Review: Shiver by Jocelyn Drake and Rinda Elliott

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Title: Shiver (Unbreakable Bonds: Book One)

Authors: Jocelyn Drake and Rinda Elliott

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 301 Pages

At a Glance: I seriously think this will be an exciting series. It left me hungry for more!

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Lucas Vallois is always in control. He’s building an empire in the glittering city of Cincinnati and created his own family from his three close friends. The self-made millionaire has everything he wants within his tight grasp. But his world starts to crumble after he’s jumped by a trio of thugs late one night after leaving a club. The warning is clear—give up his new property venture or end up dead.

Caving to the demands of his friends, Lucas accepts the help of bodyguard, Andrei Hadeon, as he hunts for the source of this new threat. But as Lucas gets closer to uncovering the danger, he realizes the sexy Romanian bodyguard poses an even bigger risk to his carefully constructed world. Trapped by a need he never expected, Lucas must find a way to deny the shiver of longing he cannot control.

His brother. His warrior. His heart. Four friends. Unbreakable bonds.

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Review: In Shiver, we meet four interesting and somewhat mysterious men:  Lucas Vallois, businessman; Dr. Ashton “Snow” Frost; Ian Pierce, chef; and Rowe, security. Lucas and these men have a very unique bond, and they are all the family he has. We find that Lucas is the strength and the glue that holds them all together, and with these men he can let his guard down. He also has a dark dangerous side that no one can control.  Lucas is willing to invest his money in giving back to the run down parts of Cincinnati, but someone is making a great effort to stop him.

Rowe steps in and demands Lucas have a bodyguard, Andrei Hadeon, former professional martial arts fighter. Lucas is by no means happy with the bodyguard situation, or with Andrei. He doesn’t do dating, repeats, or straight men, but he does know that he wants Andrei. Andrei has some things to figure out about himself, and I thought the conversation that he and Ian had made him look at things more clearly. The chemistry between Lucas and Andrei leaps off the pages, not just physically but emotionally. They both struggle with whether they are right for each other. Their story doesn’t seem to end with a HEA, but they do agree to work on it.

And I can’t forget to mention Detective Hollis Banner. He’s a thorn in everyone’s side, especially Lucas’. He’s going to be one character who will rock the boat.

Shiver was a surprise, a fast paced page turner filled with danger, suspense, wild fight scenes, and a crazy descriptive car chase. And, was not without humor. Oh, and the passion will tug at your heart strings. Jocelyn Drake and Rinda Elliott are just amazing with the written word. I seriously think this will be an exciting series. It left me hungry for more!

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4.5 Stars, Avery Cockburn, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Play It Safe by Avery Cockburn

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Title: Play It Safe: A Glasgow Lads Story

Author: Avery Cockburn

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 65 Pages

At a Glance: I just keep loving on these boys so hard.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: In this followup story to Playing for Keeps, Fergus and John must overcome bad advice, broken headboards, and the Doppelgänger from Hell to find their forever bliss. A must-read for Glasgow Lads fans—and for new readers, a short ’n’ sweet intro to this hot new Scottish gay-romance series!

“Fancy a game of hide-and-seek?”

After living together for three months, Fergus Taylor and John Burns have come to love each other’s quirks, and the bond between them is starting to look permanent. But when John wants to take things to the next level, Fergus balks, haunted by the betrayals in his own past.

To overcome these fears, Fergus and John must embark on an epic journey, one that tests their faith, their trust, and their ability to keep a cool head in a hot, hot place.

Note: Like all Glasgow Lads books, Play It Safe may be read as a stand-alone story.

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Review: It’s no big secret how much love I have for Avery Cockburn’s Glasgow Lads. John and Fergus, Colin and Andrew (I have yet to read the prequel, Play On), both couples stole my heart in their respective books and never even tried to give it back. And I love that sometimes when that happens, when I get the couple’s HEA but wish there could still be just a wee bit more to the story, the author goes and gives me exactly what I want. That’s what Cockburn’s done for John and Fergus in Play It Safe.

First let me say that though this novella is billed as a standalone, I don’t feel as though I’d have experienced the fullest depth of love for it had I not had the boys’ backstory. Or, the likelihood is that I’d have liked it on a different level, because there’s no disputing it’s still heartwarming and sexy. John and Fergus’s beginning in Playing for Keeps hinged a good bit on trust issues—Fergus was short on trust because of a bad breakup; John didn’t do much to foster it because of a rather volatile secret he was keeping. The inability for Fergus to give of himself fully becomes the cornerstone upon which the author builds Play It Safe. Does Fergus trust John enough to take their relationship to the next level—a level that requires complete faith in a place where Fergus has been burned before? I thought they were there, but I was wrong, so that’s my roundabout way of saying that had I not had all the puzzle pieces in place, the story would have been perfectly lovely but maybe not as emotionally engaging as it was.

That said, I adore this little vignette. This is the true beginning to John and Fergus’s happily-ever-after, as they work through one final obstacle so they can start their future together. And I must say, they got a little creative in a fun and seductively suggestive way; playful, but there was also a good bit of tension of the non-sexual variety that gave the story an edge too, which does nothing but make the sweet part that much more gratifying once we get there.

If you haven’t read this series yet but are planning to, please don’t read this first. Read Playing for Keeps first. It’s so worth it, and then you can slip right into Play It Safe without a hiccup. Again, it’s so worth it and I’d bet you’ll want to anyway. I can say this with almost no reservations because Avery Cockburn has created all these new adult characters you can’t help but love, with all their charm and charisma just oozing off the pages. That’s how they get under your skin and worm their way into your heart, they’re just that loveable.

The conflict in this story is so real for Fergus, and John just keeps going on to prove how utterly wonderful he is. Fergus was afraid he may have given John enough rope to hang himself. John didn’t tighten the noose, though. He didn’t even come close. He just left the rope behind as a trail to lead Fergus back to him. And it was priceless.

I’m head over heels for this series and its characters. It’s one of my best discoveries of 2015, no question about it, and I’m hoping like crazy to hear more from Colin and Andrew, sooner rather than later.

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5 Stars, Genre Romance, Mercy Celeste, Reviewed by Karen, Self-Published

Review: Out of the Blues by Mercy Celeste

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TitleOut of the Blues

Author:  Mercy Celeste

Publisher: Self-Published

Page/Word Count:  219 Pages

At a Glance:  If you are already a fan of Mercy Celeste, you need this book. If you haven’t read her yet, I think this would be a wonderful place to start.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb: Whoever said you can’t go home again should change that to should not go home again. As in EVER!
Mason Foxworth swore on his grandmother’s bible never to return to the small Georgia town he sort of grew up in. And for eight years he’d succeeded in keeping that promise. Until his twin sister decided she needed to get married…back home…and she’d invited their parents. Wasn’t this going to be a just a fabulous weekend?
Since leaving the Marines, Kilby Adams rarely ever left his farm and now here he was in Georgia, as best man at his stepbrother’s wedding. Out of his comfort zone and with too many people that he doesn’t know Kilby has nothing to keep his mind off the past except the gorgeous brother of the bride.
And wouldn’t you just know it, there was only one room left at the Inn and Kilby would have to share it, with Mason, who was straight and….yeah, this was going to be one hell of a weekend.

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Review: Back in February I was gifted a book. It was one of Mercy Celeste’s books, and I loved it!  Since then, I have proceeded to buy every one of this author’s books that I could. I haven’t gotten them all yet, but I will get there. She is absolutely on my list of auto-buy authors.

I am usually not a huge fan of angst or tear-your-heart-out books—truthfully, I have enough tears in my real life and reading is my escape from that—but I can honestly say I have no problem picking up a book by Ms. Celeste, knowing it is going to rip me to shreds. The stories are really just that good, and Out of the Blues is no exception.

There is a lot of drama going on in this book, multiple difficult issues addressed, and crazy family to deal with, but it is done so wonderfully.  And, boy oh boy, can Mercy Celeste write some hot scenes. As much as I enjoyed all of the developments and the relationship between Mason and Kilby, the relationships they had with other characters were almost more enjoyable at times. The relationships with their siblings were sweet and made me even more grateful I am close to mine.

Then, when Mason’s dad shows up and he tells him about Cody, I was a hot mess. I was actually a hot mess through multiple parts of the book, but luckily I remembered to put my Kleenex next to me while I cuddled up on the couch for hours to read. I couldn’t seem to force myself to put this book down.

I don’t know what to say without giving away parts of the story, but really if you are already a fan of Mercy Celeste, you need this book. If you haven’t read her yet, I think this would be a wonderful place to start.

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