Review: Poster Boy (Theta Alpha Gamma #5) by Anne Tenino

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Poster BoyGavin Jacques Gervaise aka “Jock” was a talented college hockey player being scouted by NHL teams when one indiscretion at a party changed everything. Outed by a picture that caught Jock in the middle of a sex act, he was kicked off his college hockey team by his homophobic coach and hounded by flyers sent around campus,  Now Jock has transferred from Avalon College to Calapooya College in Oregon.  His older brother, Tank, is enrolled there and a member of a Theta Alpha Gamma fraternity.  Jock had hoped for anonymity on this campus, but those hopes were dashed when Tank outed his brother again during a frat party organized to announce their new gay friendly status.  What Jock wants is a chance to explore his new found sexuality without a spotlight focused on him.  The man he chooses to be his first is Toby Moore.  Toby and Jock’s first night together is everything and more Jock could hope for.  It is also the only night Jock expects them to have because he still has so much and so many hookups to explore.  But things never have a way of turning out exactly as planned as Jock should know.

Toby Moore is having one of those years and not in a good way.  Toby’s thesis is barely underway when it should be almost completed. And all of  Toby’s friends and former dates have found happiness and their significant others, leaving Toby as the permanent third wheel.  A new hope for someone to fill the void is broken when Jock decides he only wants a one-night stand with Toby. When Toby needs an extension on his thesis, his professor agrees with a stipulation.  Toby must act as a resident chaperone for the Theta Alpha Gamma Student Study trip to Provence, a place that should be perfect for Toby to work on his thesis and get over the pain of rejection from Jock.

But Jock’s problems at Avalon have followed him to Calpooya when that infamous flyer resurfaces at his new campus.  The solution is for Jock to go with his TAG frat boys to France and let everything smooth over in his absence.  Only Jock didn’t realize Toby was going.  Nor did Toby see Jock’s name on his students list.  Now that fate and Toby’s advisor has thrown them together, how will Toby and Jock handle their deep attraction to one another now that they live together in romantic Provence?

Anne Tenino has said that Poster Boy marks the end of the Theta Alpha Gamma series, a series about a group of men I have come to love over five stories.  While I am sad to see this wonderful series end, Poster Boy ushers them out  in a truly outrageous and wonderful manner.   I love the idea of taking this ragtag company of overage underachieving adolescents, confused jocks (literally) as well as a major player who is ready for a commitment and sending them together to France.  It’s such a pleasure to sit back and read all the comedic mayhem and sometimes surprising romantic entanglements that ensue in Anne Tenino’s absorbing plot.

As the final story, Tenino brings all her main characters out to play here.  Sebastian and Brad, Paul and Trevor, Collin and Eric, they are all here, although in varying degrees of importance to this story.  And so many of her great secondary frat characters are in play as well, like Tank, Kyle and Jules.  But her final story is saved for Toby Moore, a character we have seen in many of the preceding stories and Jock Gervaise, who was introduced at the end of book four.  I love these two men, both of whom are at such pivotal points in their lives.  Toby is having to reevaluate so many important issues at the moment.  Previously commitment phobic, now watching all his friends find love has made Toby aware that he is ready for a permanent relationship as well.  And there are no takers lining up for the job.  And its not just his love life that’s stalled but his academic one too.  Pushed onward into his current course of study by his parents, Toby’s thesis has languished under a lack of inspiration and ambition to finish as he realizes that he doesn’t know what he actually wants to do next with his life.  Stymied by his indecision, Toby is that terrific character at that stage in life that everyone can identify with and no idea how to go forward.  Tenino has taken a character that might have been less than simpatico and given him the depth and complexity that brings us totally into his corner.

Jock also has arrived at a place in his life where he has to make some major decisions for himself.  Up to now the choices he has made have been ones he has not owned up to or choices that have been made for him by others, well meaning or otherwise.  New school, new acquaintances, new frat house and an older brother he has always idolized in place to support him, a new start all around.  But the past never stays buried and Jock’s past arrives to force him to finally deal with a situation of his own making.  And all these colliding problems and issues make Jock one angry and bitter, albeit gorgeous, young man.  That state of mind is never a great launching pad for new starts or great decisions.  Tenino’s Jock is one frustrating, uncertain, and irritable young man.  His is a journey that some readers will find hard to completely empathize with because his actions will make him seem like a bit of a jerk.  I felt that way at the beginning too.  But the more I thought about his character and the background Tenino has established for him, the more his actions made sense.  How does a young boy break out of rigid preconceived notions about himself and his future?  And what does he  replace it with when all he knows is his family’s conservative background?  Jock has had his foundations broken and doesn’t have a playbook on how to establish new ones.  Even his beloved older brother has acted in a manner that Jock has not counted on.  Anyone would be angry or act like a jerk and Jock does.

Even more than his actions, something more problematic is Jock’s attitude towards topping and bottoming and how that choice might define what makes a man.  Jock’s near constant mulling over of this idea drove me to distraction.  Enough I wanted to say when it went on ad infinitum.  But again, upon more reflection, Anne Tenino has gotten it exactly right.  What Jock is obsessing over is nothing less than trying to figure out what being gay means to him and how he looks at himself (and others).  It’s that primal “who am I?” question and Jock doesn’t have the answers or have them just yet.  Brad among others try to help Jock discover the answer but really only Jock can do that and finally does.Any how, back to Jock and his fumbling about,  when you have this big a problem on the brain, then it follows that its all you think about.  So yes, Tenino having Jock work his way through the process this way is very realistic.  And our frustrations with him are authentic as well.

And while Toby and Jock  are slowly finding their way to each other, the rest of the Theta Alpha Gamma delayed adolescents or as Toby calls them, maturity challenged individuals, are scouring the french countryside for beer terrorists, scaring nuns, trying to learn french and totally cracking us up in the process.  How I adore Danny, Gomer, Ricky, Julian, Turbo, and Noah. Each is adorable in his own right.  Tenino takes the reader and the boys out to visit some wonderful sites as part of the TAG independent study abroad program.  The boys visit Les Baux and Barbegal, letting the reader in on their adventures and the wonder of those historic sites.  I loved the various locations visited, the descriptions are so vivid and precise it felt like being there.  But hilarity and communal hijinks are never far away with this group and just their appearance in a scene is enough to make the laughter bubble up in anticipation.

Poster Boy really can’t be read as a stand alone novel which might be its only drawback for some readers. Its full of characters and situations introduced in the previous stories.  So to fully appreciate the TAG fraternity, its frat brothers and the journey they have been on together, the novels should be read in the order they were written.  In Poster Boy, Anne Tenino gives them all a wonderful send off, Toby and Jock as well as Sebastian and Brad ,our foundation couple.  The author sees them all on their merry way, including an unexpected future for Danny that I loved.  The narrative flowed along pretty quickly for 375 pages and it ends where it should for this series, back in Calpooya College and the new frat house.  I had so much fun with the Theta Alpha Gamma guys and loved watching each and every one find love and a happy future.

Goodbye, boys.  It’s been a true pleasure.  And its one I absolutely recommend to  all readers to discover for themselves. Happy Reading.

Cover art by LC Chase.  Love this cover, perfect for the character and story.

Book Details:

ebook, 375 pages
Expected publication: April 21st 2014 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626491304
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/poster-boy
seriesTheta Alpha Gamma

Books in this Series are:

Frat Boy and Toppy (Theta Alpha Gamma, #1)
Love, Hypothetically (Theta Alpha Gamma, #2)
Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma, #3)
Good Boy (Theta Alpha Gamma, #4)
Poster Boy (Theta Alpha Gamma,#5) final story

Go Back To the Frat with Anne Tenino and her Poster Boy (Giveaway)

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to have Anne Tenino back to talk about my favorite frat, the boys of Theta Alpha Gamma and her latest release, Poster Boy!  Welcome, Anne!
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Welcome to the Poster Boy Blog Tour! *confetti* 

As you may or may not know,  Poster Boy is the fifth in the  Theta Alpha Gamma series, and (at least as far as I’m able to be sure about such things) the last TAG book. No, no, don’t be sad, be happy—we’re gonna go out in style!

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Let’s discuss the nitty-gritty: the Blog Tour Giveaway. The prize package this time includes: one lovely “Theta Alpha Gamma Beer Terrorist Prize-Cache3Response Team” sweatshirt (I believe I have sizes M-XXL available, choice of two styles); one paperback copy of  Frat Boy and Toppy with the new cover art, signed and inscribed to the winner; a bar of soap I bought in Les Baux (was going to send olives from Sainte-Remy, but we ate them . . . sorry about that) and; of course, one penis crocheted by moi.

How does one win, you ask? By following the tour, collecting all the official “prize” words (posts will have them clearly marked), and using them as directed at the end of this post (it’s complicated).

Happy word hunting, and enjoy the tour (psssssst, this one is heavy on the cut scenes).

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Poster Boy buy link.

Poster BoyIt’s all fun and games until someone puts his heart out.

When Jock meets sexy grad student Toby at a frat party, things finally start looking up. After having been outed to his hockey team and then changing schools, he figures he’s due something good—like the sex he missed out on in the closet. Toby seems like a great place to start, and their night together is an awesome introduction to the fine art of hooking up.

Toby’s heart takes a bruising after the near-perfect experience with Jock leads to . . . nothing. He’s been left on the outside as his friends pair up into blissful coupledom, and he’s in danger of never completing (or starting) his thesis. Can’t something go right?

Then Toby’s coerced into chaperoning a Theta Alpha Gamma trip to France. Not that he’s complaining. What better place to finish his thesis and get over that frat boy? Except Jock’s outing is leaked to the press, making him an unwilling gay rights martyr, and he decides France is a great escape, too. It’s a break from reality for both guys, but they soon find their connection is as real as it gets.

* * *

When I first started working on  Poster Boy, the personality of Toby was pretty much set in stone—or at least the previous books in the series. Jock was less defined, but I thought I had a pretty good handle on him.

The road to writer’s block is paved with characters that don’t conform to expectations. It’s paved with some other stuff, too, like plots that careen out of control, but today we’re discussing characters—Jock specifically. The character who derailed this book for a couple of months.

He’s mentioned in  Frat Boy and Toppy as Tank’s little brother, although he’s unnamed in that book, and we don’t see or hear from him again until  Sweet Young Thang. Right up until he walked into the frat/dorm with his big brother, I thought he was going to be a happy-ish guy, even with the specter of having been outed hanging over his head. Here’s a very early character note on him (before I started writing SYT): “. . . his first experience in college got him totally burned. By end of book he should be showing some signs of his joyous, puppy dog ways.”

Yeah.

Then he actually entered the room and everything changed. He was pissed, I could see it in my head—angry flush to his cheeks, jaw hard and set, hands fisted in his jeans pockets, staring down the world. I tried to hang on to my vision of the Jock who would turn into the big, playful, puppy dog.

That lasted about ten paragraphs. You see, Jock shows up at  Theta Alpha Gamma a week into Calapooya College’s winter term after having been kicked off his college hockey team for being gay. That’s not the official reason he was booted off, but everyone knows it’s the real one. This is a snippet of the scene where I ultimately gave up trying to make him what I’d originally thought:

“How is you being gay pertinent?” Collin kept his voice calm

Jock lifted his head and looked Collin in the eye. That’s when it became clear that while the kid felt depressed and ashamed and maybe beaten, he also had a lot of anger. “There’s a lot of blood-letting in hockey, you know.”

It took Collin a few seconds to get it. “He thinks you’re a health risk?”

Jock clenched his jaw and nodded. Then he laughed shortly and looked away. “You can even see the other guy in the photo has a condom on.”

“That is the most fucking archaic attitude I think I’ve ever heard.” Kyle said, relatively calmly for him.

Jock shrugged, looking back at the floor. “He’s an archaic guy.”

“That’s illegal.” Kyle stood up straight again. “You can’t discriminate against someone because of their HIV status, and you certainly can’t discriminate against someone because of their potential status.”

“He said that he needed to know it was possible so he could take the necessary precautions, and that I’d endangered the team.” Jock’s voice had gone flat, and he took a long swallow of beer.

He’s angry over being exposed like he was—I had to write him that way, it would be ridiculous not to—but somehow I knew right then that once he’d worked through that anger, there wasn’t going to be a happy, bouncy dude underneath. He’s in a good place by the end of Poster Boy, sure, but for Jock, being happy looks more like not being a dick than greeting the world with a smile.

Now is when I should say something like, “In the future, if a character changes like this, I’ll . . .” blah-blah-blah. The reality is this happens every freaking time. Or, if my characters behave themselves, the plot decides to go wonky. It doesn’t matter what I do—everything is subject to change. And to be honest? I love it that way. I’d be bored if I knew every step they’re going to take. So, you know? I’m glad Jock took over and directed things.

In the end, it all worked out. He ended up being the guy he needed to be, and the guy Toby needed.

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Contest: For those of you playing to win the blog tour prize cache, here’s the word: swag.PosterBoy_150x300(1)

The word game—the rules are that I provide a bunch of words, and you have to create an ode to testicles. Hey, it’s fair—I gave you an ode to testicles in the book (well, part of one), you should give me one in return, using all the words from the tour. You may add any other words you need to, but it must include every word I gave out on the tour.

Of course, creative cheating might receive a pass from me . . .

At the end of the tour, send your ode to me at  anne @ annetenino.com and I will choose one lucky winner from all the entries I receive by paying one of my children some exorbitant amount to draw an ode out of a hat (or other handy receptacle). All masterpieces must be to me by May 4th, 2014 at midnight Pacific Daylight Time (GMT -7:00).

For a schedule of all tour stops, you can go here.

Oh, and:

*If the winner will be at GRL, GayRomance Northwest or the RT Booklover’s Convention, I’m also offering a lunch with me. And yes, I’ll pay. ;-)

* * *

Author Bio: Raised on a steady diet of Monty Python, classical music and the visual arts, Anne Tenino was—famously—the first patient diagnosed with Compulsive Romantic Disorder. Since that day, Anne has taken on conquering the M/M world through therapeutic writing. Finding out who those guys having sex in her head are and what to do with them has been extremely liberating.

Anne’s husband finds it liberating as well, although in a somewhat different way. Her two daughters are mildly confused by Anne’s need to twist Ken dolls into odd positions. However, other than occasionally stealing Ken1′s strap-on, they let Mom do her thing without interference.

Wondering what Anne does in her spare time? Mostly she lies on the couch, eats bonbons and shirks housework.

Check out what Anne’s up to now by visiting her at:

 

 

Review: Queens of the Apocalypse by Rob Rosen

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Queens of the Apocalypse coverFabulous drag queens Destiny St. James, Kit Kat, and Blondella Bombshell were making preparations for their first show of the evening when all hell broke loose and life on earth was forever changed.  Protected by the steel walls of their dressing room, formerly a meat locker in a converted old restaurant, the drag queens never saw the solar flares that reduced most of the earth’s population to zombies.  But once outside, the direness of their situation is soon made all too clear.  Zombies are everywhere and only a message left on Blondella’s cell phone indicates that other people might have made it through alive, including her boyfriend in New York City.

What ensues is no less than apocalyptic road trip across American, one that would include the remnants of the US Army, Cher and an armload of Bob Mackie costumes, a few bedazzlers and strangely enough, true love for all three.  Not even the destruction of civilization as we know is enough to keep these girls out of their Jimmy Choos (knockoffs) and red nail polish!  Watch out, zombies, the Queens of the Apocalypse are headed your way!

I love, LOVE Queens of the Apocalypse!  Just when I think I am all “zombied out” by all the zombie books, undead tv shows and movies, along comes this fabulous (what other word could possibly fit) novel by Rob Rosen and I am back in the zombie fan club.  Of course, no other zombie story that I am aware of has such flamboyant, totally impossible and outrageously lovable stars  like Destiny, Kit and Blondella!  Nothing gets these girls down, including world annihilation and solar flares.

Rob Rosen made me believe in and fall in love with these drag queens from the very start when we meet them in the process of getting made up for their evening show at the club.  The dialog between the girls in the dressing room is affectionately snarky and hilarious, while remaining down to earth and totally real.  Making notes as I read became impossible as the story and those fabulous girls kept me enthralled in their journey across country and life and death situations they encounter.  It’s that old ‘laughing through the tears” storyline, but mostly laughing even as the living dead surround them and their circumstance often seems hopeless.  But Rob is not interested in stereotypes, although some of the situations and scenes can be downright campy.  No, Rosen has delivered some confident, intelligent, and resilient individuals who persevere no matter how high the odds or zombies that are stacked against them.  Destiny, our narrator, Kit and Blondella just keep rising to the occasion when presented with new obtacles or surprises, like an undead Drag Queen friend of theirs, Creature and a wealth of SuperSoakers as artillery!  With wigs askew, makeup running, and cracked nails, these wonderful characters demonstrate compassion, and a largesse of heart that keeps this story poignant as well as comedic.  Because even with all the death and mayhem surrounding them, there are such great comedic episodes that will have you laughing till your cheeks hurt. And there are still those quiet moments of reflection and despair, often at night, where the frightening reality of exactly how slim their chances are of making it is driven home for them and for the reader.  This is such an amazing story.

Rob Rosen’s tightly told and layered narrative never falters or bogs down. Instead we and the Queens are moved along at a fast pace, just barely (and sometimes not at all) keeping ahead of the zombie hoards now roaming the city streets and countryside.  Voracious, stiff and groaning, the zombies here are both heartbreaking and scary.  And they never stop coming.  Rosen’s plan for them was as surprising a twist as all the other elements found here.  I loved it.  And Queen Creature too.  Because for all the quips and bon mots Destiny, Kit, Blondella throw out, underneath all that bravado is the heart-rending reality of a world forever traumatically changed. It’s a new reality where all everyone they knew has died and returned as zombies. Vanished as well is all the support and social structure people count on, that of the United States of America as most probably all other countries too.

And even though Rosen has created some wonderful companions/love interests for our heroines, the sad fact is none of our merry band of survivors can be sure that there are more like them out there.  So struggle on they do, with hope, love, and a great deal of attitude, they are drag queens after all.  But yes, love interests arrive and they are as interesting a lot as the drag queens they fall in love with.  There aren’t many characters here (as you can well imagine) but those still talking and walking are as layered and realistic a group as the main characters.

Queens of the Apocalypse is one novel that has it all.  It has humor, suspense, horror, romance, and an absolutely outstanding ending.  Its as if Rosen went through the literary pantry pulling everything off the shelves and tossing them into his author mixing bowl.  And what he came up with is a smashing fictional dish that satisfies everyones palate.  A goodly dose of guffaws is balanced with a bouquet of tears, a pinch of spice and snark to go with the softness and surprise of love found amongst the ruins of society.  Really I can’t wait to go back and read it all over again.

I highly recommend you put this on the top of your TBR stack if you aren’t already reading it now.  It is one of ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Best of 2014!

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  I certainly wish I knew the name of the artist behind this fabulous cover.  It’s utter perfection and almost too big in attitude to be reduced to the size of a cover.  I love this!

Book Details:

Published January 29th 2014 by Wilde City Press
ISBN139781925031775
edition languageEnglish
Buy Link:  Wilde City Press

Surprise Author Spotlight:Rob Rosen, author of Queens of the Apocalypse (contest)

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So for a great unexpected author guest post, Rob Rosen is stopping by today to talk about his latest release, the fabulous Queens of the Apocalypse!  My review follows Rob’s guest post, but I will tell you up front I adored this story.  And that incredible cover too! Rob is giving away one eBook copy of this terrific story.  To be entered to win, leave a comment and an email address in the body of the comment.  Contest closes 4/29!

Now, welcome Rob Roseon to ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords!

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spotlight on booksQueens of the Apocalypse cover

Hey, how come there are no drag queens vs. zombies novels out there, you ask? Well, you probably didn’t ask, but I did and realized that, lo and behold, I’d discovered a new sub-genre—um, maybe sub-sub and a little off to the left. In any case, I’m a fan of both zombies and drag queens, having written about both of them in a slew of my novels and short stories, so why not combine the two and see what happens? Hence Queens of the Apocalypse!

In fact, all my novels, the six prior to this one, have a drag queen minor character or two, but this is the first time I’ve ever made them the stars of my work. See, a drag queen can say or do anything and pretty much get away with it. Heck, they can say or do practically anything and get tipped for it. Now, add a whole bunch of drag queens, all of them fighting to save their padded asses, not to mention all of humanity, and one hell of a hysterically funny novel is born—or at least undead.

As for zombies, they’re so in the public eye these days, so vastly popular, that it was an easy decision to make them the bad guys. Bad and slow, in fact, though with mine, with the potential for humanity, which makes them different than most. Plus, I was able to create what I can only assume is the very first literary drag queen zombie heroine, and that’s really saying something special, for a writer I mean. In fact, I believe that with this novel I’ve created a whole zany bunch of unique characters, all of them dazzling and witty and certainly the type you don’t want to mess with—and live, or unlive, to tell about it. Add a little pathos, a ton of romance, a lesson learned or two, plus a surprise guest and a billion menacing zombies, and, voila, you have what amounts to my favorite work to date, Okay, so you can take that with a grain of salt, seeing as I say that about all my novels, but still. And then, to top it all off, I’ve included a spectacular foreword by none other than Sister Roma, as a sort of Drag Queen 101, just in case you needed a little refresher course.

So that’s my latest in a coffin-shaped nutshell. I hope you’re able to pick up a copy. Enjoy!

Rob

Contest Giveway:  Leave a comment with an email address in the body of the comment where we can get in touch with you.  Winner chosen by mysterious means will get an ebook copy of the fabulous Queens of the Apocalypse!  Contest ends 4/29.

Author Bio:

Rob Rosen is the author of the critically acclaimed novels, “Sparkle: The Queerest Book You’ll Ever Love”, the Lambda Literary Award Nominated “Divas Las Vegas”, which was the winner of the 2010 TLA Gaybies for Best Gay Fiction, “Hot Lava”, “Southern Fried”, the Lambda Literary Award Nominated “Queerwolf”, “Vamp”, and “Queens of the Apocalypse”. His short stories have appeared in more than 200 anthologies. You can find 20 of them in his erotic romance anthology, “Good & Hot”. He is also the editor of “Lust in Time: Erotic Romance Through the Ages”.

You can contact/follow Rob Rosen at:

Queens of the Apocalypse coverBook Details:

Published January 29th 2014 by Wilde City Press ISBN139781925031775 edition languageEnglish url http://www.wildecity.com/books/gay-mainstream/queens-of-the-apocalypse/#.UvLM9fldWSo

Buy Links:  Wilde City Press  ARe

Review: Haunted Halls by M. Raiya

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Haunted Halls coverEvan is away from home for the first time in his life as a freshman at Rove University.  He  should be excited about being independent and the prospect of meeting new people and making friends.  But  Evan is miserable.  Homesick and feeling more alone than he’s ever been, the only reason Evan is at Rove instead of a commuter college is due to his parents insistence.  Evan is trying but nothing is working.

Then Evan notices a young man sitting high above the courtyard where he is eating.  Long dark hair and lean, the student seems without fear as he leans far out over the ledge.  But at next glance the student is gone and Evan is left to wonder at exactly what he saw.  Then he spots him again when Evan walks down to the pond near the university.  The young man, Gabriel, warns Evan not to fall asleep on the rock,otherwise he might drown. Then with a smile, he vanishes once more.

Who Gabriel is Evan isn’t sure, he only knows that when he is at his most miserable and defeated, Gabriel  appears to talk and make him feel better at being away from home.  His classmates and some teachers say the university is haunted and that the ghost roams the campus at night, playing pranks and sometimes helping those in need.

Evan doesn’t believe in ghosts.  Maybe he should.

Haunted Halls by M Raiya is a sweet, unusual paranormal romance whose characters, especially that of Evan, are the real draw here.  Evan is that true homebody.  He adores his parents and the only place he wants to be is back home in his small town in Vermont.  But his parents worry about Evan limiting himself at this age so they send him off to Rove University hoping that this unwanted separation and independence will be good for him.  They extracted a promise that he will stay there a year.  If he toughs it out and still wants to come home after that then they will let him.  Such a normal situation and the parental concern is so very realistic.  I am a fan of this author and this set up is exactly the reason why.  A typical introverted teenager who is always on the outskirts of high school social circles and with very different interests from the popular kids is leery of the unknown that is Rove University. This starting point is one that almost everyone can relate to.  And then Even arrives at Rove and everything changes.

It’s hard to go into too much detail because of the chance of revealing story spoilers, but to say the least this is not exactly the ghost story  that you are expecting.  M Raiya has a few twists in store for the reader.  Just when you have anticipated the reveal, Raiya shows she have something very different in mind.  And that’s both the best and most frustrating aspect of this story.

Haunted Halls takes its name from the clever idea that a student marked through the words Hallowed on a plaque to change it to read Haunted Halls after the campus ghost that is said to haunt this university.  Raiya has two congruent plot threads going that will eventually converge as the story heads towards its dramatic resolution.  The first concerns Evan during the first weeks of his arrival at Rove.   Depressed and lonely, he is in a delicate mental and emotional place.  And that’s when he meets the mysterious Gabriel.  Each time Evan is at his lowest, the ever elusive Gabriel manages to appear, almost out of thin air, to bring Evan out of his dark place and make it better.  The second thread appears when Evan meets two students who are interested in the campus legends and together the three of them start to investigate in the ghostly appearances and past history of the university and town.  As the story draws down to a conclusion the closer the two threads become until they connect in one shattering moment.

I really loved this short story and only a couple of things kept it from being a perfect little gem.  The first is hard to explain but the reason behind Gabriel’s appearance and the ghostly rumors is one of the most interesting and least fleshed out elements of this story.  The fascinating idea behind it just begs for a deeper explanation for it as well as more plot time.  Raiya only gives out small bits of the past, the pivotal surprise at the heart of this story, and its nature.  So the idea is never framed out completely to the readers frustration, especially as it plays such an enormous role in its impact on all the major characters here.   One of the problems behind that lack of substance to this segment of the story is the word count.  The promise of this complicated story line would be hard to fulfill at a larger page count let alone 21,000 words.  And the fascinating concept here is such a great one that I wish Raiya had given it the spotlight in the story that it deserved.

But those issues aside, I throughly enjoyed Haunted Halls.  Growing up I grabbed up all the ghost stories I could find, and this short story brought back all those happy memories of romance, and ghosts and unlikely endings that would ever be my favorites.  It’s a quick, charming tale of love and the unexpected. Pick it up for a fun, fast read.

Cover art by Aisha Akeju who is quickly becoming one of my favorite new artists.  Great cover.  Its perfect for the story inside.

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: May 7th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original titleHaunted Halls
ISBN139781620043554

Buy Link at LT3 Press
edition languageEnglish

Now Cut that Out, Winner Announcements and the Week Ahead in Reviews, Author Guest Blogs, & Contests

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Now Cut That Out!!!! 

Once again we seem to be on the weather rollercoaster of all time here in the DC area (ok, so much of the country is there with us).  One day 80 degrees, the next day snow and sleet.  No really, that was us last week. The Cherry Blossoms popped out over night and record crowds packed the Tidal Basin to take in the pink beauty and monuments.

For about 2 to 3 days.

And then the snow and sleet and winds and freezing cold set in once more.  I  don’t have to tell you what happened to most of the blossoms do I?  Yep, history.  So now the temps have climbed back to the 50′s and all the plants I moved outside are back indoors until who knows when.

Like me.

Maybe by the end of June I will be able to go outside and plant in the gardens.  I have so many plants that didn’t make it through this winter.  Le sigh.  Maybe I will use this as an excuse to plan some new gardens.  I will have plenty of bare patches to fill that’s for sure.

Now on to the business at hand.  I have several winner announcements listed below, for Abigail Roux’s Ball & Chain book tour . S.J. Frost’s Vampire Prince tour, and Blaine D. Arden’s The Forester II Guest Blog/Contest:

 And the Winners Are……

Winners of the Ball & Chain Book Tour and Contest are:

Jessie Miller
Shannonn Vandermark
Melissa Crisp
Denise Smith

Kathy Latimer
Debra Guyette
Laurie Peterson
Cindi Clubbs,
Scarlett Camaj
Nicole Martens

Winner of SJ Frost’s  Vampire Prince,  tour is :  A.J.

Winner of Blaine D. Arden’s The Forester isblackasphodel

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Congratulations to all the winners.  My thanks goes out to everyone who participated as well as authors Abigail Roux and S.J. Frost for stopping by with such great posts and wonderful giveaways!

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Now on to the week ahead in Reviews, Author Guest Blogs and Contests:

Monday, 4/21:            Haunted Halls by M Raiya
Tuesday, 4/22:            Queens of the Apocalypse by Rob Rosen
Wed., 4/23:                  Back to the Frat with Anne Tenino and her Poster Boy (Contest)
Thursday, 4/24:          Poster Boy by Anne Tenino
Friday, 4/25:               To the Other Side by S.J. Frost
Sat., 4/26:                    Blown Kisses by Havan Fellows

Review: Floodgates by Mary Calmes

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Floodgates coverAll Tracy Brandt ever wanted was a happy life.  Instead what Tracy had was a complicated one.  Business partners with a man many consider to be a Russian thug, Tracy knows better, even when their offices are bombed and he barely escapes with his life.  Then there is Tracy’s love life.  He thought he and his lover were happy and committed, then Tracy found his lover in bed with another man and the relationship was shattered.  Or so Tracy thought.

But lately his ex,Breckin Alcott, has been trying to renew their relationship, something Tracy is sure he doesn’t want or does he? Then in the aftermath of the bombing, Tracy’s overprotective brother, DEA Agent Alexander Brandt, and his infuriating ex partner Cordell Nolan or Cord for short, show up at the hospital and things go from bad to worse.

For five years, Trace and Cord have been fighting the attraction between them.  For Cord, it never worked because Trace wanted a commitment, something Cord was unwilling or unable to give at the time.  For Trace, Cord was a player, a new man every night and that was something Trace would never be, just a one night stand.  So for five years its been an impasse.  Then Trace’s office gets bombed and Cord returns to help investigate and protect Tracy, a man Cord now wants to commit to for a future together.

When it appears that Trace is the target of an unknown assailant, not just the bombing, then Cord is determined to protect Trace at all costs. And if it means that they can finally break through the barriers that have been separating them, then nothing will stop Cord from finding who is behind the attacks on Trace so they can finally get their HEA.

I have loved Mary Calmes’ stories from the moment I read about Jory and Sam in A Matter of Time (both editions).  For myself, Calmes is a comfort read.  You know what to expect with her characters and dialog and you know how it will all end.  The pleasure is in getting to that expected denouement and whatever couples involved HEAs.  It is the comfort of the known, like the pleasure you have in a visit from an old friend.  Perfect stories for that old armchair and evening in the jammies and bunny slippers.

But sometimes even that is not enough when other parts of the story let you down and familiar characters fall flat instead of fizz with effervescence.  And that unfortunately is how Floodgates felt to me.

In Floodgates, Tracy is the Jory character and Sam is represented by Cord.  Not a problem at face value as we have seen this in her contemporary fiction before.  However, Tracy is that uber perfect character who never admits how hurt he is (physically or emotionally). Trace trusts everyone, including those people that clearly have the letter V on their foreheads for villain. He teases his ex who cheated on him and wonders why the man doesn’t think they are over.  The ex, Breckin, is such an unsavory cad that you want to dust him for stds just seeing a mention of him on the page.  But Trace is warm and welcoming each time they talk or meet or what have you.  Really, after pages of this, you wonder why anyone would find Tracy realistic in any way because he never comes across as a viable human being.

Cord  doesn’t suffer from the same characterization flaws that Trace does except that as an experienced detective, the mistakes made in the investigation and the “smack hand to the forehead” lack of any authentic police work, makes Cord as superficial a character as any of the others found here. And again there are an untold number of superficial characters to be found here.  Normally that is not a problem because the reader is so involved in the main characters journey to love and a relationship.  But when that founders, so does everything else like a domino chain effect.

And then there is Tracy’s business partner, Dimah Masir, a Russian who may or may not be a Russian mobster (first red herring alert).  Dimah also may or may not have a mobster brother (second red herring alert).  Tracy says he’s not but Dimah sure has plenty of henchmen running around and law enforcement officers who believe he’s a thug.  No matter.  After much is made of this connection, Dimah disappears entirely only to make an astonishingly unbelievable appearance almost at the end of the story.  The only reason for Dimah to be in this story is to either be served up as a rather inedible red herring or Calmes intends to bring him back for his own story.  Either way I did find him the most interesting element here so I was sorry to see him vanish.

And that brings me to the plot.  It just didn’t work.  At the beginning it appears that the bombing is connected to Dimah and his shady connections.  But when Calmes discards that element, then the detours and misdirections that follow make no sense whatsoever.  But perhaps the worst element is a villain that pops up out of nowhere, with little foundation laid for his role, and an arrow over his head that clearly marks him as the nut job to watch out for.  Which of course, no one does, including the DEA agent and an seasoned detective.  A 5 year old could figure out this character’s role in the plot.  Unfortunately almost everything about Floodgates is a jumbled mess, lacking complexity or coherency.

And that includes nitpicky little details like a Vermont shack used to “store syrup from the maple trees”.  Uh no.  In Vermont as in other maple syrup producing states, a sugar shack is where the maple sap is boiled down into syrup, a labor intensive process that happens only in the spring when the sap is rising.  And that process?  Makes it much more expensive than $6/bottle for high grade maple syrup.  A small mistake, true, but when the story is falling flat, it’s the small errors like this one that become highlighted in the narrative because your attention is everywhere but where it should be, which is on the plot.

For me, Floodgates is that Mary Calmes story that will never be reread or remembered.  For some, the issues listed above will not matter.  For them, its enough that it is a Mary Calmes romance.  Its predictability, characters, sweetness, and HEA is all they need to recommend it.  And that’s perfectly fine.  But for others, this may not be the romance for you.  There are other Mary Calmes stories I would recommend, including her wonderful supernatural series or other contemporary stories like Frog. If you are new to this author, I would start there. For everyone else, I will let you make up your own mind.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  What a spectacular cover, evocative and one of the best of the year.

Book Details:

ebook, 234 pages
Published March 3rd 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published March 2nd 2014)
ISBN 162798738X (ISBN13: 9781627987387)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Review: Bound to be a Groom by Megan Mulry

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

BoundToBeAGroom_500x750_0Badajoz, Spain – June 1808.  Anna Redondo has ambitions that stretch far beyond the cloistered walls of the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, the convent she grew up in.  Instead of feeling safe, Anna feels confined and suffocated by the quiet, contemplative life she lives just because she had been born out of an affair her married mother had with an Englishman.  Only her forbidden love for Patrizia “Pia” Velasquez Carvajal, another girl who has grown up with her within the convent walls, has kept her from rebelling against the nuns and the harsh Mother Superior who rules the convent.

Inexperienced and without means, Anna has decided that the path to freedom and a future together for her and Pia is for Anna to become a wealthy courtesan.  It would give them money and her the life of pleasure she has been dreaming about.  But first she needs to acquire the sexual skills that all courtesans have and for that she needs a teacher. Two weeks after leaving the convent, Anna attends the wedding of another girl from the convent. At the wedding party Anna spies the handsome Sebastian de Montizon, a wealthy hedonist who also happens to be discreet and kind.  Just the sort of man who would make the perfect teacher.

Sebastian de Montizon is a Spanish aristocrat of great charm and large forbidden desires.  Surprised to be approached by a seemingly prim and proper convent miss, he is even more astonished by her frankness and her seductive entreaty.  But no one could have prepared Sebastian to find in Anna a Master for his need for submission.  One marriage proposal later and Anna has found a husband and a new life.  After the honeymoon, they set off to for the convent to retrieve an unsuspecting Pia who has been waiting for her lover to send for her.

Patrizia “Pia” Velasquez Carvajal was an orphan abandoned at the convent.  Kind and gentle, tall and beautiful, Pia found a deep and abiding love with Anna. Bereft of her love and alone, Pia has been waiting for Anna to send for her but never did she think that Anna would marry and betray her love.  When the newly wed Sebastian and Anna de Montizon arrive at the convent to pick up Pia, she does not know what to expect.  All she knows is that her heart is breaking. The truth of their union and their reasons for retrieving Pia are beyond anything Pia could imagine as is the threesome they soon become.

But Sebastian has a past with another and more desires than the girls realize or satiate.  And that leads the three of them to London and Farleigh, the Duke of Mandeville.  Farleigh and Sebastian became lovers when Farleigh visited Spain as a British envoy two years prior.  Since then Farleigh has had many male lovers but none of them have made him forget the beautiful Spaniard he left behind, one who so eagerly submitted to his every whim and desire.

Now Sebastian has descended upon London with a beautiful Spanish wife and her gorgeous friend in tow.  The three of them seem to have a special bond between them, one that Farleigh soon grows jealous of.  As Farleigh gets reacquainted with Sebastian, the old flames of desire reignite.  But Farleigh never expected to find that the bonds that Sebastian had with Anna and Pia would open up to include him and that three would become four and complete.

Well, what a hot, erotic, absolutely marvelous romp this book turned out to be.  Bound to be a Groom by Megan Mulry is a first for me on a couple of levels.  It is my first novel by this author and it’s my first historic erotic polyamory story, and there’s a description I also never thought to write. Mulry’s characters complete abandon and joy that they take in the many, many sexual acts that occur here, as well as its location in England, might bring back some fond memories of  Tom Jones or other libertines of that era.  But instead of one character who enjoys life to the fullest, we have four who become partners, lovers and family to each other.

Bound to be a Groom is set against the backdrop of the Peninsular War (1808–1814) when Bonaparte invaded Spain and usurped the Spanish throne, making allies of the British and Spain. The ensuing political unrest and uprising by Spain is a perfect setting for the rebellion and emotional upheavals to come when a young convent miss, Anna Redondo, sets out to find a way for her and her lover Pia to be together outside the convent walls they were raised within.  Although the civil unrest and political intrigue of that time is used as a framework for Mulry’s plot, it only lightly intrudes here and there throughout the narrative that builds around four lusty gorgeous people and the polyamory bond they ultimately achieve. Lt.-Gen. Sir Arthur Wellesley, commander of the British expeditionary force, makes an appearance briefly during a ball to meet with Sebastian.  Sebastian acts as courier to bring details of the French movements in Spain to Wellesley.  Other than a few more mentions of Wellesley’s battles with the French army and the subsequent outcome, nothing more is made of this fascinating era. With such a dramatic backdrop I couldn’t help but think what a deeper element of intrigue would have on this group.

Instead the plot concentrates on the plans of Anna Redondo whose motives start out purely as a means to achieve her goal of a life with Pia and enough wealth to support them both.  Then her plans are hijacked almost immediately upon meeting Sebastian a sybarite who teaches Anna to enjoy male/female sex and who finds he lusts to submit to her domination. The sex scenes are explicit and totally sensual no matter what combination is in play at the time.  As Mulry adds to the foundation couple with her other main characters, the bonds of intimacy and love grow along with the kinks that are explored between them.  As it happily turns out, there are two doms, one male and one female to two submissives and how that is juggled emotionally as well as physically is another wonderful element here.  The emotional scenes between characters carry as much dramatic heft as the sexual ones do, another reason I enjoyed this story so.

Because as Mulry makes clear, there is more at stake than just sexual gratification.  There is the emotional commitment all four people make to each other that’s of the highest priority. Given the times and the need to be circumspect, the couples have to find a way to hide their bond in plain sight and the resolution is one that will satisfy everyone.

As for the sexual hijinks, well then there is surely a kink here to satisfy everyone.  Spanking and flogging, ties and other bdsm play.  Anna, Pia, Seabastian and Farleigh do it all, including D/s by both sexes.  And as I said before the sex scenes are explicit no what what gender is involved so for those readers who wish to read only certain gender combinations this might not be the story for you.

For me, the only drawbacks to Bound to be a Groom would be that perhaps the author included more details than was  necessary.  I liked some of the historic information here about the Peninsula War but it played such a minor role (a small incident then it disappears) that I felt its role in the story should have been a little more prominent.

And then there are certain “nitpicky” things that pop up that are certainly irrelevant to the story (and most readers) but drive me a little crazy.  At one point in the exerpt below Sebastian and his friend are showing off their riding skills in Feria.  It is just a throwaway fact but it stopped my reading cold.

 After the two caballeros had finished showing off, one of the grooms brought out another pair of quarter horses in need of exercise. They were skittish and excitable. Anna watched quietly as Sebastian dismounted and traded the reins of the horse he’d been riding for the more frantic of the two. Isabella was right after all: he was powerfully handsome. He rubbed his big, strong hand against the horse’s satiny chestnut coat, following the contours of the quivering muscles along the beast’s neck.

What line? The mention of the quarter horses rode by Sebastian and his friend, Javi in riding ring.  In 1808, the Quarter Horse, a truly American breed, was still evolving into the hugely popular horse breed we think of today.   It was a horse of the frontier and of Texas where its breed was standardized.  The breed or types of horse that Sebastian and his friend more likely to have been riding would have been the Andalusian (PRE) or an Andalusian-Thoroughbred-Arab crossbred horse which was common then and immensely popular for use throughout Spain.  An insignificant notation?  Yes, it is.  But it’s inclusion was unnecessary in my opinion as its effect was that I had to stop and think about the statement. Then because I found the mention peculiar, I stopped reading to research the idea of  there being American quarter horses in Feria instead of concentrating on what was happening between the couples on the page.

Another quibble was the use of Spanish  terms (not proper nouns which would have made sense) in the dialog between Spanish main characters. We know Pia, Anna, and Sebastian are all Spanish and would assume they are speaking in their native language.  So why sprinkle Spanish words throughout their conversations when all of their dialog is supposedly in Spanish?  Here are some examples:

From Sebastian: “billeted in my father’s castillo in 1788..” why not my father’s castle? or here where the switch off is doubly odd:

“He hustled her into the castle along with the sea of other guests. He knew the layout of the alcázar from several visits in his childhood.”

Castle and alcazar are one in the same (or in this case  exactly same place they were strolling through), not a proper name of a particular site.  Then in some cases, the english/Spanish tradeoff is just plain informative. Ex.

“If anyone glimpsed them talking, it would appear they were discussing something of little importance, the violinist or the membrillo that had been served after supper.”

I get that the author was trying to bring us more into the setting by sprinkling some Spanish vocabulary throughout but it ended up seeming more out of place than a subtle use of location and nationality.   With this type of usage  then Anna would have said “Stupido, stupido woman!” instead of Stupid, stupid woman! Which was the line (and definitely made more sense than mine). And then of course,  this sort of thing disappears all together.

Would this bother most people? No.  Would it interfere with their enjoyment of the book?  Absolutely not.   But for me, it just shows that even the most insignificant detail can trip up a reader as well as the break in continuity.

Those two minor issues aside, I throughly enjoyed this story.  Mulry’s characters were well drawn, the dialog seemingly keeping with the times and her erotic descriptions downright sensual in conveying the delight and passion of all the characters in the joy of sex and the emotional commitments they make to each other.  Each main character had enough flaws and strengths to them that they felt alive in their confusion, bravery, and total determination to make their goals and promises to each other work.  I liked that the women were just as strong as the men and of course, they all got their HEA.

My enjoyment of Bound to be a Groom is going to send me running off to see what else Megan Mulry has written.  If you enjoy erotic stories whose participants expand past the m/m boundaries, then this sassy, sexy polyamorous historic tale might just be the thing (for fling) for you.

Cover art by LC Chase includes that absolutely gorgeous torso but nothing about it says historic novel.

 

Book Details:

ebook, 192 pages
Published April 14th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
original titleBound to be a Groom
ISBN 1626491127 (ISBN13: 9781626491120)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/bound-t

Get Your Sexy on with Megan Mulry’s Bound to be a Groom Book Tour (Contest)

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to host best selling author Megan Mulry today to talk about her latest release Bound to be a Groom.  To celebrate her new book, Megan Mulry has also brought with her a giveaway of  truly “Brobdingnagian” proportions but I will let her tell you all about that.  Contest details will also be repeated at the bottom of today’s guest post.

Welcome, Megan Mulry!Bound2bGroom_150x300

I am thrilled to be touring around the blogosphere introducing everyone to my new book Bound to Be a Groom! I loved researching and writing this steamy story and can’t wait for readers to get their hands on it. Speaking of hands…while a reviewer was reading an advance copy of the book a few weeks ago, she bemoaned the fact that she had run out of double AA batteries. This led to a hilarious conversation on Twitter about the wide range of sex toys and vibrators at our disposal and my editor, to whom I defer on all things technical, said the Hitachi magic wandMagic Wand was the be-all-and-end-all of “personal massagers” (that’s the technical name, just in case you were wondering). It never runs out of batteries…because it plugs in!

So, of course I went online and bought one (which also involved research because there are cheap imitations galore…do not be fooled!). And holy hell! Okay. First of all, it is loud and heavy and enormous…there is no pretending you are just *whistles innocently* hanging out in bed with a good book. It’s more like shouting, “OKAY NOW I AM GOING TO PLUG IN THE BROBDINGNAGIAN VIBRATOR AND HAVE AN ORGASM!” Which is also fine. So, yeah, I tried it. Two times. And then I realized it was really an excellent, LITERAL, personal massager. I sit at a desk eight hours a day and have tons of muscle strain in my neck and shoulder. And the Hitachi is AMAZING for that shit. I’m not joking. Give me five minutes on low, right there at the base of my neck…and I’m ready to walk upstairs and have sex with my partner.

So to celebrate this rite of passage (I used a vibrator! Yay!) and save you the trouble of ever running out of AA batteries (You can too! Yay!), I’m giving away (a brand new lol!) official (do not accept cheap imitations!) HITACHI HV250R MAGIC WAND MASSAGER. This priceless (okay, it’s about $75) item will go to ONE lucky winner. The 2nd place winner will receive a $10 gift card from Riptide Publishing, and the 3rd place winner can choose any book from my backlist (excluding Bound to be a Groom).

Entries close at midnight, Eastern Time, on April 25, and winners will be chosen on April 27. Contest is valid worldwide. Good luck and thanks for being a part of the blog tour!

Excerpt: 
CHAPTER ONE

Badajoz, Spain – June 1808

Anna Redondo was unaccustomed to feeling at a disadvantage. It was not in her nature. She knew she’d been born on the wrong side of the blanket, but that had never prevented her from knowing her own mind. Having spent her first eighteen years within the walls of a convent might have limited her experience, but it had not curtailed her imagination.
And she could imagine all sorts of things with this man.

Regrettably, imagining would only take her so far; she needed to act. Taking a fortifying breath, she turned to face him.
“It’s going to be quite a long afternoon for those two, don’t you think?” she ventured, gesturing toward the bride and groom. Isabella and Javier were walking at the front of the wedding party with the bright morning sun, so particular to this part of southern Spain, glinting off the beautiful silks and polished leather of the aristocratic guests all around them.

“Pardon me?” Sebastian de Montizon asked, clearly surprised at the audacity of a polite young miss speaking to him so directly.
“They look miserable, don’t you think?” Anna mused. She had left the convent in Burgos two weeks ago and traveled to Badajoz in a carriage, chaperoned by one of the older nuns. Apparently, the short time away had already emboldened her.

Sebastian stared down at her as they walked, assessing her through hooded eyes while the clank and clop of horses and regal hardware around them seemed to fade. “I think they look blissfully happy. Whatever do you mean?”

But she suspected he knew what she meant and was only pretending to be confused by the demure front. “Of course they’re happy to be married,” she said brightly, then, in a lower voice, “but now they have to wait and wait until they can be alone . . . on their wedding night . . .

Over the past week, dignitaries and aristocrats from all parts of Spain and Portugal, and even a few from France and England, had filed into Badajoz. Sebastian had swept into the main hall shortly before supper three days ago, looking like he had spent the past month splitting his time between a bar and a brothel. His dark hair had been too long even by today’s liberal standards, and the scruff of his beard had looked untended. For the wedding, he had reacquainted himself with his valet, and he now looked like many of the other perfectly turned-out aristocrats. But there was still a look of something wild about him.
Anna’s first thought upon seeing him had been that he needed to be taken in hand . . . and that she’d be the one to do it
“What do you know of wedding nights, little convent girl?” He smiled and stood straighter as he kept walking alongside her through the winding cobbled streets. He clasped his strong hands confidently behind his back, as if he’d assessed her and seen all he needed to see of the little flower

Perfect. Think of me like that

“Nothing firsthand, of course. Only what I’ve imagined.”

That got his attention.

“Imagined?” His voice cracked.

She smiled at the small victory. Anna needed experience, and here was a man who obviously had it. She assumed he would be discreet—he was a devoted and loyal friend of Javier de la Mina, her friend’s new husband—so he wouldn’t betray Anna’s secrets. In short, he would suit.

Sebastian continued to look at her, and she felt her cheeks flush. The slightest narrowing of his eyes told her the rising color pleased him.

“I have a very vivid imagination,” she whispered with throaty promise. She licked her lower lip, tipping her face away from his, hoping it was just enough to make him want to dip his head to look longer. “And I know how it feels to postpone my own desire.” Finding her pace, she sallied forth into his stunned silence. “I think once you feel something, it’s easier to discern in others.” She paused for effect. “Do you agree?”

hen he nearly stumbled on a cobblestone she feared she’d gone too far. Neither she nor Pia had any experience with men, of course, but they’d convinced themselves that if they could make each other shudder and beg, surely a brutish man would succumb to far less.

It appeared they had been quite right. Sebastian looked as if he were about to make love to her reticule as it bounced back and forth against the apex of her thighs with each of her steps.She held it slightly away from her body. “Do you fancy my reticule?”

His eyes flew up to hers.

Spectacular eyes, she had to confess. They were just like Pia’s—that familiar greenish blue that made her think of the Caribbean Sea and the places the two of them had dreamt of spending their future. Places like Cartagena or Hispaniola, where she and Pia would live a quiet life of spinsterhood, disguising their passion for one another behind practical worsted dresses and massive studded doors that hid all manner of things.

“Such eyes . . .” She hadn’t meant to say it aloud, but the color reminded her so much of Pia. Regardless, Sebastian seemed to enjoy the attention. Useful information, she thought. He likes to be noticed.

His smile encouraged her to go on admiring him. It should have been irritating that he wanted his ego stroked—that such a gorgeous man seemed to crave endless praise—but Anna found it endearing. She was surprised to realize how much she liked the idea of Sebastian softening under her care, bending to her will. She wanted to stroke him.

“The blue of your eyes reminds me of—” She hesitated, then continued more carefully. “—places in the New World, places I’ve heard of but never seen.”

He looked interested then, and not merely in the flush of her cheeks or the moisture of her plump lower lip. “I was on my way there . . . before this transpired.” He said the last with an impatient toss of his gloved hand in the general direction of the bride and groom. She admired the way the kidskin molded to his strong fingers.

“Your hand is quite something, as well,” she said in a slightly rougher voice.

He smiled again, turning his hand this way and that, as if he’d never before taken a moment to look at it. “Really? I have two in fact.” He presented his left hand as evidence, then lifted his right forearm for her to rest her hand upon. “May I escort you into the alcázar, Lady Anna?”

“I’m no lady, I’m afraid. A lowly miss.”

He kept his arm extended. “The offer still stands . . . my dear Anna.”

And there it was. My. For a few minutes or hours or days, she would be his. He had knowledge and experience.

She needed both.

She placed her gloved hand on the fine fabric of his dark-green jacket, lightly at first, then with a grip borne of excitement as his muscles flexed and shifted beneath her fingertips. She was loath to admit that the low, throbbing heat between her legs was not entirely the result of conjuring her passion for Pia.

Chapter Two to Chapter Five  (Not safe for work, must be over 18 to read).

 

About Bound to be a Groom

BoundToBeAGroom_500x750_0Sometimes our wildest dreams come true.
In the tumultuous summer of 1808, Spain and England are close to war and four young lovers are close to ecstasy.
To carve out an independent life with the woman she loves, ANNA knows she must leave her quiet Spanish convent to become a courtesan. To gain experience, she sets her sights on . . .
SEBASTIAN, whose powerful, aristocratic confidence suits Anna’s mercenary goals. But his arrogance masks a craving for submission that Anna instinctively satisfies. Sebastian soon begs for her hand in marriage, even if it means sharing her with . . .
PIA, who trusts Anna completely—with her body and her future—until she learns of Anna’s hasty marriage. Pia questions their commitment to each other as they leave for London to meet . . .
FARLEIGH, the seemingly feckless duke who thinks he’s over Sebastian, the potent Spanish soldier he bedded two years ago.
What begins as a series of erotic escapades soon evolves into a deep, unbreakable bond. Two men and two women who yearn to explore are about to make their wildest dreams come true.

Riptide Pre-Order

Author Bio: Megan Mulry writes sexy, stylish, romantic fiction. Her first book, A Royal Pain, was an NPR Best Book of 2012 and USA Today bestseller. Before discovering her passion for romance novels, she worked in magazine publishing and finance. After many years in New York, Boston, London, and Chicago, she now lives with her family in Florida.

Contact/follow Megan Mulry at:

 Contest Details:  Megan Mulry is giving away the following:

magic wandOne HITACHI HV250R MAGIC WAND MASSAGER. This priceless (okay, it’s about $75) item will go to ONE lucky winner. The 2nd place winner will receive a $10 gift card from Riptide Publishing, and the 3rd place winner can choose any book from my backlist (excluding Bound to be a Groom).

Entries close at midnight, Eastern Time, on April 25, and winners will be chosen on April 27. Contest is valid worldwide. Good luck and thanks for being a part of the blog tour!

Must be over 18 to enter.  To enter click on the Rafflecopter Link below and follow the directions:

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Review: With Pride (Princes of the Blood #2) by Megan Derr

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

With PrideKristof never expected to have to take his brother’s place as betrothed to one of the King’s Princes of the Blood.  But when his older sister became ill, then the eldest son moved forward to take her place, leaving the youngest Kristoff to become the Duke of Stehlmore, and the only one left to marry a notorious Prince of the Blood.  All Kristof wanted was to continue his role as a Paladin and keep the borders of his mother’s kingdom safe but fate clearly has other ideas.

On the journey to Guldbrandsen. Kristoff and his company are attacked by goblins.  Overwhelmed, they are saved by the appearance of two Princes of the Blood.  Kristoff had never met a Prince of the Blood before and now he had two to thank for his rescue. But the two Princes could not be more different in appearance and demeanor.  One is courteous, handsome and tall.  And the other?  Well he is small enough to remind Kristoff of a piskie.  He is also arrogant, insulting, and rude.  And Kristoff can’t wait to be rid of him once they reach the castle.

Unfortunately, upon reaching castle grounds and his meeting with the King, Kristoff finds that the Prince he is to marry is none other than that tiny abomination that rescued him from the goblins.  Kristoff is unprepared for his new life at Guldbrandsen or for all the magical beings and demons that walk the hallways.  As a Paladin, he is overly sensitive to the presence of demons, but the pain he feels in the hallways of the castle or even standing next to his fiance is almost more than he can bear.

Then a demon plot is discovered that  could destroy not only Guldbrandsen but his mother’s kingdom of Stehlmore too. Every warrior, Prince and Paladin is need to find the culprit and save the lands. Kristoff is determined to honor the contract and not to shame his heritage or mother by his cowardly fear of the Princes, especially now that he is needed for the fight. But the pain and stress is increasing daily.  What is a Paladin to do?

I loved the first novel in the series, Of Last Resort.  That story launched us into a dark and tortured world still trying to recover from a centuries old war that shattered kingdoms and loosed all types of evil upon the lands.  Now such magical beings as giants, werewolves, trolls, goblins, necromancers, wraiths, and many other unworldly beings are assisting the humans to search out and  destroy the evil remnants of that war still looking to overthrow human rule. Of Last Resort  introduced us to the Princes of the Blood. Human but with the right amount of demon blood running in their veins through intermarriage, the few found that met the requirements were tested, and if successful were forever changed into Princes of the Blood, supernatural beings that feed on blood and helped protect the King and his realm. It was a powerful tale told mostly from the point of view of Raffe’ who became a Prince of the Blood and his lover Algrin.  Once at the end, the reader just needed to know more.  More about all the characters Megan Derr introduced us to in her story but also more of the ongoing quests to search out and destroy all the leftover demons and evil forces that still remain.

Now ordinarily we might expect the second story in the series to pick up where the first left off, but Megan Derr has something far different in mind for this series. The second story, With Pride, takes place prior to the events in Of Last Resort.  In the first story, Raffe’ meets Algrin, a Dragon, and his mated ,deeply in love friends, Hakon and Kristoff, a totally unlikely couple.   Hakon, a tiny, blond Prince of the Blood, couldn’t have looked any less a bloodthirsty demon if he had tried.  And Kristoff, his besotted husband?  A tall imposing Paladin that glowed with holy fervor!  How did such an improbable pair come about?  With Pride marvelously answers that question as it takes us back to their first disastrous meeting.

One of the first things that charmed me about this story is the change in perspective with regard to the Princes of the Blood.  Raffe’ looked forward to becoming a Prince in lieu of his brother who disappeared prior to the testing. For Raffe, being a Prince meant a release from a life and future he never wanted.  To be a Prince of the Blood if, big if, you passed the test, was the ultimate goal for Raffe, one he never felt he was good enough for.   Definitely not the case for Hakon and Kristoff, a pair of reluctant and bitter participants from the beginning.

Kristoff, again the first point of view here, loves his family, home, and ruling mother.  Kristoff is content with his role as a Paladin as well as that of a lessor son within his ruling family.  He is so happy with his status quo that he knows nothing of his older brother’s future role as fiance to a Prince of the Blood, only that they are somewhat monstrous and drink blood to live.  And as he  fights demons and monsters as a Paladin, his ignorance about  the Princes is not something he is curious to inspect further.  Until a sister’s illness means a shuffle in the expected futures of himself and his siblings.  Now he is the one to marry a Prince and he fears it like nothing else in his life.  Only his honor and that of his family keeps him from fleeing back to his kingdom.   Kristoff is full of complexities, including his belief that he is a coward and  is in constant pain due to an allergy to demons he is not aware of.

And then there is Hakon, your second pov.   Your and Kristoff’s first perception of him is that of a fierce yet supremely offensive mite.  He’s white blond, delicate, and super tiny.  Not one to inspire confidence on first contact.  Yet his overwhelmingly obnoxious demeanor more than makes up for a lack of height.  Like a noxious unassuming weed, there is much more to Hakon than is apparent.  To go into Hakon’s background is to spoil some of the best elements of this story but I will say that like Kristoff, Hakon too was an unwilling participant in this marriage as well as in the choice to be a Prince of the Blood.  By the time the book is halfway through, your opinion of Hakon and his of Kristoff will have done a complete changeover.  Yes, he’s not thrilled about Kristoff being his fiance either.  Misperceptions and misunderstandings abound throughout to our horror and delight.

A story rich in texture and with an almost encyclopedic wealth of details is a hallmark of a Megan Derr fantasy novel.  With Pride is another magical addition to the great fantasy reads that has come from this author.  Inside the pages we meet characters who must dig deep to find the best of themselves in order to triumph over overwhelming odds and almost certain destruction.  There is an abundance of pain, deaths of innocents, and treachery.  And to accompany that all, there will be glorious adventures, powerful battles, a dragon or two, dark magic, and of course, a troubled and tortured path to true love.

Ah, the romance.  Well, to be truthful there isn’t as much of it as I would have loved.  It takes some time for each character to overcome their assumptions and misperceptions about each other.  That’s a great thing because those are some toweringly poor judgements each one of them has made of each other.  And when they finally do get together it ends a little quickly without delivering a little more of a satisfying look at the future of Kristoff and Hakon.

Or least that’s what I thought at first.  Then I realized we already had that.  We just didn’t realize it at the time.  It’s in the first story Of Last Resort!  And that realization sent me running back to that novel and a fully married Hakon and Kristoff.  And its that little detail that made this story and it’s ending all the more gratifying.

Now I have two stories to reread while I am waiting for the author to release the third book in the series, In Despair (Princes of the Blood #3).  At the heart of this story is Prince Telmé Guldbrandsen and  Korin: descendant of the Reach of the House, heir to the High Priest of the Temple of the Sacred Three. In Despair works the series backward even further to the time where Prince Telme’ and Korin detest each other even while being betrothed since birth.  I can’t wait!  After the scenes of them  lovingly together and hauntingly apart in the first two tales, I am left deliciously in suspense as to their beginnings and romance.  It should be quite a tale!

All three books can be read in any order but it is quirky and totally amazing to watch the couples, romances and events move backward.  This and the first story are must reads for me.  If you are a lover of fantasy and m/m romance, they will be a must read for you too.  Consider With Pride one of Scattered Thoughts highly recommended stories and on our Best of 2014 lists.

Stories in the Princes of the Blood series are:

Of Last Resort (Princes of the Blood #1)
With Pride (Princes of the Blood #2)
In Despair (Princes of the Blood #3) expected release July 2014

Cover art by Aisha Akeju.  It really references a major plot of the story.  Dark and lovely.

Book Details:

ebook, LT3 Link
Expected publication: April 16th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original titleWith Pride
ISBN139781620043202
edition languageEnglish
seriesPrinces of Blood

Covers of the Books in the Series include:

In Despair coverWith PrideOf Last Resort cover

 

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