June 2014 Summary of Reviews and June’s Best Covers


June header

flowers June







June 2014 Book Review Summary

S series
C contemporary
SF-science fiction
YA-young adult

Rating Scale: 1 to 5, 5 stars is outstanding

5 Star Rating:

Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny’s Lair by Amy Lane C,S
Cold Feet by Lee Brazil C, S*
Diego (Endangered Fae #2) by Angel Martinez F, S
Isle of Waves by Sue Brown C, S*
Swords, Sorcery and Sundry by Mina MacLeod, F, S*

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Apollo’s Curse by Brad Vance (4.25) F, SN
Cross & Crown by Abigail Roux (4.5) C, S
Duty to the Crown by Rebecca Cohen (4.25) H, S
Finn (Endangered Fae) by Angel Martinez (4.5) F, S
Let It Ride by L.C. Chase (4) C, S
Miles and the Magic Flute by Heidi Cullinan (4.25) F
Nothing But Smoke by Daisy Harris (4) C, S
Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon (4.25), C
The Actor and the Earl by Rebecca Cohen (4) H, S
The Dog Trainer by Owen Keehnen (4) C
Voodoo ‘n’ Vice by K.C. Burn (4.25) SF, S


3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Dinner At Home by Rick R. Reed, (3.75) C, S
Out of the Gate by E. M. Lynley (3.75) C

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:


*rounded up to 5 stars

Best Covers of April 2014


GranbyKnittingMenagerie[The]LGBlackbird Knitting in a Bunny's Lair coverCover_NothingButSmoke

Miles and the Magic Flute









Isle of Waves coverDinner at Home coverOutoftheGateLGLet It Ride cover







Photographic Covers and Non Photographic Covers:

Dinner At Home, cover by Reese Dante
Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny’s Lair, cover by Catt Ford
Granby Knitting Menagerie, cover by Catt Ford
Isle of Waves, cover by L.C. Chase
Let Ir Ride, cover by L.C. Chase
Miles and the Magic Flute, cover by Wilde City Press
Out of the Gate, cover by Reese Dante
Nothing But Smoke, cover by Kanaxa



ScatteredThoughts May Summary of Reviews and Best Covers of the Month

May 2014 Book Review SummaryMay in block letters

for ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords



*Key: S seriesC contemporary

SF-science fiction
YA-young adult

Rating Scale: 1 to 5, 5 stars is outstanding

What an incredible month. May was chock full of fantastic stories and outstanding covers.  Oh, that every month was as full of riches as this one.  There are standalones from new authors like Chase Potter, JK Hogan and Leona Carver. Saugatuck Summer, intense contemporary fiction from Amelia C. Gormley, is a must read. Plus Hostile Ground, a terrific team novel by Aleksandr Voinov and L.A.. Witt, that I  hope will become a series.  If you love to laugh and cry just a little, John Inman and David Pratt are well represented here with Spirit and Looking After Joey respectively. And many of my favorite series saw new releases this month.  SA McAuley’s Borders War series got a new story, so did Shira Anthony’s Mermen of Ea and the Pulp Friction 2014 group of authors keeps us entertained and glued to our seats with new releases all around.

There is plenty here for everyone, no matter what your favorite genres are.  Check them out, see what you missed, and add to your TBR pile!
5 Star Rating:

Daylight Again by SE Jakes C,S
Powerless by SA McAuley SF, S
Saugatuck Summer by Amelia C. Gormley, C

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Backburn by Laura Harner (4.75) C, S, PF 2014
Forever is Now by K. Vale (4) C, S
Hostile Ground by Aleksandr Voinov, LA Witt (4.75) C
Knight of Fire by S.J. Frost (4.25) F, S
I Survived Seattle by J.K. Hogan, (4) C, S
Into the Wind by Shira Anthony (4.75) F, S
Looking After Joey by David Pratt (4.25) F,
Love Comes Home by Andrew Grey (4), C, S
Moving Earth by TA Webb (4.5) C, S, PF 2014
No Ocean Too Deep by Leona Carver (4.5) F, S
One Night by RJ Scott, C (4), C
Spirit by John Inman (4.5 stars) C
Stealing the Wind by Shira Anthony (4.5) F, S
The Race for Second by Chase Potter (4.75) C
3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Clipped by Devon McCormack (3) SN, S
Double Takes by K.Vale (3.5) C, S

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

Best Covers of April 2014:

DaylightAgain_500x750HostileGround_500x750Looking After Joey coverNo Ocean Too Deep Carver_Cover







IntoWindStealing the Wind coverSaugatuckSummer_500x750Spirit cover






Clipped cover
Photographic Covers:
Daylight Again, Cover by L.C. Chase
Hostile Ground, Cover by L.C. Chase
Looking After Joey, cover by Wilde City Press

Non Photographic Covers:
Clipped, Wilde City Press
No Oceans Too Deep, Cover by Tanya Rehulak
Saugatuck Summer, Cover by L.C. Chase
Spirit, Cover by Reese Dante
Stealing the Wind, cover art by Anne Cain
Into the Wind, cover by Anne Cain



February 2014 Summary of Reviews and Best Covers of the Month



February 2014 Review Summary

S series
C contemporary
SF-science fiction
YA-young adult

Rating Scale: 1 to 5, 5 stars is outstanding

5 Star Rating:

Be My Valentine, Bobby Bryson by Geoffrey Knight C, short story
Lying With Scorpions by Aleksandr Voinov, S, SF
Of Last Resort by Megan Derr, S, F

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Battle of Will by Sasha L. Miller (4.5) F, S
Bloody Love Spats by Valentina Heart (4.25) S, SP
Ghosts of Bourbon Street by Rowen Speedwell (4) SP
Kept Tears by Jana Denardo (4), F
It’s All Geek To Me by J.L. Merrow (4.25) C
It’s Only Make Believe by Havan Fellows (4.25) C
Reviewing Life by Lara Brukz (4), S, C
Second Star to the Right by A.F. Henley (4.25) C
Strain by Amelia C. Gormley (4) S, SF
Succulent Dark by D. J. Manley (4.25), S, SP
The Experiment by Alicia Nordwell (4), S, SF
Where You Lead by Mary Calmes (4), C

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Cupcakes by Sean Michael (3.5) C
Jasper’s Mountain by John Inman (3.75), C
Pretty Poison by Kari Gregg (3.75) SP
The Prince and the Practitioner by Christian Baines,  (3) HR, SP

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

Nightfall by Jenna Byrnes (2.75) S, SP

1 to 1.75 Rating: None

Best Covers of February 2014

The Experiment coverWhere You Lead coverJasper's MountainKept Tears cover

ItsAllGeekToMe_600x900Pretty Poison coverBloody Love spats coverGhosts of Bourbon Street


Bloody Love Spats, Cover artist Maria Fanning
Ghosts of Bourbon Street, cover artist Jared Rackler
It’s All Geek To Me, cover art by LC Chase
Jasper’s Mountain, cover art by Reese Dante
Pretty Poison, cover art by Lou Harper
Kept Tears, cover by Paul Richmond
The Experiment, cover art by Christine Griffin
Where You Lead, cover art by Reese Dante

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best Covers of 2013


Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best Book Covers of 2013

What is a book without its cover? That’s a question that gets asked more frequently in this age of eBooks and ePublishing.  For myself and, I think, many others, book covers are still the marquee for an author’s story, the path to a book and the delights found inside. ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords loves, loves book covers and the artists that work so hard to bring the author’s stories to life. Whether it is through photography or illustration or any combination thereof, 2013 had outstanding covers in every genre.  There are series whose covers are always marvelous, rich in design and emotion.  There were stand alone novels whose covers drew you into the story and beyond.  Here are some of the covers in 2013 that made me gasp, made me laugh and made me wish I had a copy of it for my wall:

Outstanding Contemporary Novel Covers:

Fire Horse by Mickie B. Ashling, Cover by Anne Cain
Illuminations by Rowen Speedwell, Cover by LC Chase
Lost and Found by Z.A. Maxfield, Cover by LC Chase
Still by Mary Calmes, cover by Reese Dante
The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown, Cover by Christine Griffin
Venetian Mask by Kim Fielding, Cover by Shobana Appavu

Fire Horse coverIllumination cover


Still cover





The Sky Is Dead cover








Outstanding Historical Novel Covers:

On A Lee Shore by Elin Gregory, Cover by Mina Carter
Promises Made Under Fire by Charlie Cochrane, Cover by John Kicksee

On A Lee Shore cover

Promises Made Under Fire







Outstanding Humorous Cover:

Shy by John Inman, Cover art by Paul Richmond.
Too Stupid Too Live by Anne Tenino, Cover by LC Chase
When Dachshunds Ruled The Serengeti by Michael Murphy, Cover by Paul Richmond

Shy coverWhen Wiener Dogs Rule coverToo Stupid To Live cover







Outstanding Fantasy Cover:

Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon, Cover by Fiona Jayde
Goblins by Melanie Tushmore, Cover by  Ria Chantler
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft, Cover by Lou Harper

Goblins, Book 1

Too Many Fairy Princes

Faire Fugitive






Outstanding Paranormal/Supernatural Covers:

Creature Feature by Mary Calmes, Poppy Dennison, Cover by Paul Richmond
Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune, Cover by Paul Richmond, Kyle Thompson
Josh of the Damned by Andrea Speed, Cover by LC Chase
Strange Angels by Andrea Speed, Cover by LC Chase

Creature Feature cover

Into This River I Drown

Josh of the Damned The Final Checkout

Strange Angels cover







Outstanding Horror Cover:

The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin, Cover by Amy Morrison
The Beast Without by Christian Baines, Cover by David P. Reiter

Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men coverThe Beast Without cover






Outstanding Science Fiction Cover:

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean, Cover by Trace Edward Zaber
Freedom by Jay Kirkpatrick, Cover by Anne Cain
Mindscape by  Tal Valante, Cover by LC Chase

Aria of the Eclipse cover

Freedom cover







YA Cover Series:

Vampirism and You by Missouri Dalton. Guidebook Series, Covers by LC Chase
Necromancy and You by Missouri Dalton

Vampirism and You cover

Necromancy and You cover






Consistently Outstanding Series Covers:

Leopard’s Spots by Bailey Bradford, Covers by Posh Gosh

Infected Series by Andrea Speed, Cover artist Anne Cain

TimothyNischal Leopards Spots 9

Infected Undertow coverInfected Shift cover

Scattered Thoughts Best Book Covers of 2012

Once again its time to talk book covers and book cover design.  I have talked previously about my favorite covers from childhood and how the mere sight of a great cover in the window of a bookstore would draw me in like the scent of cheese to a mouse.  If the cover is the magnet the publisher and author uses to attract readers, there are certain principles of design that used to be taken into consideration to make that cover the one that grabs peoples attention, that yells look at me, that makes them want to know what that book is about.

For printed books, the designer has to look at several things such as book size, typographic palette (how blocks of text are located on a cover), book covers, book spines and fonts. With respect to eBooks, spines aren’t relevant, nor is book size, at least how it is normally used in the publisher world. It’s not the actual physical size that matters here with eBooks but that readers are often looking at a smaller graphic when choosing eBooks.  So now smaller has to make an even greater impact.  All the other design elements remain the same.  Book covers, whether for print or electronic books, must be compelling enough to make the reader to choose that book, to persuade the customer that what is inside is fascinating, marvelous stuff.

Another rule is that the book cover should match the book it is being designed for. Whether the design is simple or rich in detail, elegant or street tough, uses a cover model or an illustration, there should be no disconnect between the subject matter inside and out.  I can’t tell you how many times I thought nice cover but what does it have to do with the subject of the book? And it if is a book series, then all the covers should be similar enough to brand each book a part of a series, one glance tells you who the author is and what series you are reading (ex. Abigail Roux’s Cut & Run series with a singular object on the cover). A great book cover makes you anticipate, endows you with a need to discover.

On every review I write I also mention the covers and the cover artists.  There are always some cover artists who continue to turn out one enticing cover after another, there are some artists you  can identify just by looking at the style of the design or paintings on the cover (Paul Richmond, Posh Gosh). And then this year saw a new artist or two whose cover reached out with it’s compelling designs and emotional overtones.  This  year also saw a trend towards retro illustrations and design which I loved and others whose richness in color and detail left me gasping in delight.  It was hard to narrow the covers down as there were so many worthy of mention, so I did break it down into a few categories.

So here they are, Scattered Thoughts Best Covers of 2012(with apologies in advance for the formatting problems):

Historical Novels:

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch by Shelter Somerset/Artist Anne Cain

The Mystery of Ruby Lode by Scotty Cade / Artist Reese Dante

The Celestial by Barry Brennessel/ Artist Winterheart Designs

On the Trail to Moonlight Gulch2

The Mystery of Ruby Lode 2

The Celestial 2
















Contemporary Novels:

Acrobat by Mary Calmes/ Artist Anne Cain

Mine by Mary Calmes/Artist Anne Cain

Mourning Heaven by Amy Lane/Artist Paul Richmond

Sidecar by Amy Lane/Artist Shoshana Appavu

Time Gone By by Jan Suzukawa/Artist Anne Cain

Turkey in the Snow by Amy Lane/Artist Catt Ford

Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C/Artist Reese Dante


Mine 2

Mourning Heaven 2


Wake me up inside  2

Turkey in the Snow cover

Time Gone By cover

































Fantasy/Supernatural Novels:

The Ronin and The Fox by Cornelia Grey/Artist Nathie

A Token of Time by Ethan Day/Artist Winterheart Design


A Token of Time 2











Science Fiction Novels:

Burn by TJ Klune/Artist Catt Ford

Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature by Andrea Speed/Artist LC Chase

Riot Boy by Katey Hawthorne/Artist P.L. Nunn



Josh of the Damned TripleFeature2














Infected Series by Andrea Speed/ Artist Anne Cain

Knitting series by Amy Lane/Artist Catt Ford

Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford/Artist Posh Gosh

Lost Gods by Megan Derr/Artist London Burdon

Gilbert 2

Stone Rose 2

Infected Lesser Evils 2

How to Raise An Honest Rabbit cover














There were so many others I wished to include and I know you have your favorites too.  Write and let me know who you feel should have been on that list (King Perry, Fallout to name a few that came close).  Check out the individual reviews to see the covers in greater detail and read about the books they so beautifully covered!

Play It Again Charlie cover

Review of Hired Muscle by Hank Edwards

Rating: 4.25 stars

Life can be hard.  A fact that Barry gets as he waits tables in a restaurant located in a not so desirable part of Baltimore in 1941. Barry lives in a small rental room whose landlord often forgets the fix the heater, but he can walk to work, Enrique the owner is gay and hires young gay men to work as his staff. Hi boss is kind and watches over his waitstaff protectively, so Barry gets by.  One night a highly placed mobster Don Lombardo and his family come in to dine at the restaurant.  One of his guards, a hired muscle, is placed at a table in Barry’s section and Barry’s world is turned upside down.

The bodyguard’s name is Vinnie, a mountain of a man, intimidating, dark complexioned with a scar running across his cheek. But  he is gentle in his brief conversation with Barry and Barry is drawn to the man despite what his co workers caution.  Don Lombardo likes the restaurant and soon makes weekly appearances there as does Vinnie.  Before long a discrete romance has started between Vinnie and Barry.  But Vinnie is still a bodyguard with all the dangers of the job, no matter how much he wants to escape the life. And there is a new mobster in town looking to take over Don Lombardo’s territory.  As the two gangs clash, can Vinnie and Barry hope to keep their relationship and each other safe or will Vinnie be lost in the gang war.

Hired Muscle is such a winsome, well crafted story.  Hand Edwards packs a lot of emotion, historical detail, and wonderful characterization into 80 pages.  First, Hank Edwards sets the scene and atmosphere of Baltimore 1941, with references such as “like Esther Williams in a whirlpool” or a 1936 Lafayette which was a Nash Sedan and Barry listens to Jimmy Dorsey’s “Amapola” and Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Cocktail”. Edwards descriptions of the streets of Baltimore ring true as well.  I live not far from Baltimore, and you can find sections of the city there that still look much like they are described here in the book.

Edwards then does the atmosphere and setting he has created justice by giving us two strong, appealing characters for the reader to care about. Barry is young, gay, cautious and compassionate.  Vinnie is gentle, vulnerable, and appealing, a characterization that belies his hulking physicality. Their first interaction is quiet and yet so reflective of their respective characters that I felt I knew who they were in an instant. The author never forgets that it is 1941 and there can be no outward appearance of homosexuality in their relations.  So there are hidden notes, discrete assignations, and subtle glances to convey their feelings towards each other.  The author uses their dialog, equally sparse, to convey an emotionally charged situation in a manner perfect for the times and scene.

So the location and atmosphere is set and feels so very authentic from the very beginning,the characterizations terrific, and the dialog great. My quibble is with the “instant love” between the characters.  Both men are cautious men, which is realistic given the times, their sexuality and Vinnie’s occupation.  So is a case of love at first sight realistic?  I am not so sure.  I think the problem here is the length of story.  At 80 pages, the rush to love feels just that, rushed.  Had Edwards left their feelings at “I care about you and want to see where it goes” sort of thing, it would have been utterly believable, instead of “I love you”.  So Hired Muscle is a wonderful story at 80 pages.  I just wish I had more time with Vinnie and Barry to make their declaration of love seem as authentic as the rest of the story.  But don’t pass this up because of a small quibble.  I loved these two and hope that Edwards will bring them back for a sequel.  I think you will feel the same.

Cover: Cover artist Reese Dante does a great job with color and design, just wish the font color had not been red

Favorite Series Covers and Cover Artists!

Book covers have always fascinated me.  Some repel me, others draw me in immediately.  Think “ooh, shiny, pretty…” lol.  Others intrigue me by their content or graphic design, while others leave me “meh” or confused. When I think of series covers that are successful, all they have some of the same elements incorporated into their design.  The first being I can tell the books belong together at a glance, they have a cohesive design element consistent in every cover.  The fonts stay the same.  Each cover contains the same overall design with small changes that  don’t affect the overall picture they present to the reader.

So we are looking for consistency, cohesiveness, clarity and recognition.  Designs that convey a sense of connectedness between the books. Look over my choices and see if you agree with me. Many of my favorites series also have some of my favorite series covers. Yes, I have let quite a lot out but I need something for the next cover post, don’t I? Lets get started.

1. Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban, now being written by Abigail Roux,cover design by Mara McKinnon:Simple and elegant.  The central object, which is prominent in each storyline, is changed out with each book.  I can tell a Cut &Run book in a heartbeat.

2. Lost Gods series by Megan Derr, design by London Burden. Each cover is a map of the kingdom the story is set in.  The color is important as it is a prime element for each kingdom and its culture.  Blue for the kingdom of Kundou, a land to whom the sea is all important.  It’s people have hair in all shades of blue and green, the color of water.  The orange/red cover of Burning Bright is self explanatory and so on. Subtle, expressive, simple on the surface yet contains hidden meanings just like the books.

3. Sanctuary Series by RJ Scott, artist/cover design by Reese Dante.  Each cover depicts the two men who will be the novel’s romantic couple, usually one is a Sanctuary op.  The design stays the same with the men being switched out.  The models are  consistent with the descriptions of the men inside.  Reese Dante  does the fantastic design.

4. Dance With The Devil series by Megan Derr, design by London Burden.  Effective use of a simple graphic design where the object floating in the center of a black cover is switched out for each new book. Again the main element is important  to the storyline. Effective, elegant, and easy to recognize that the books belong together without having to resort to the publishers note.

4. Cambridge Fellows series by Charlie Cochrane, cover design by Scott Carpenter: All the covers have a lovely vintage feel to them, sepia toned with elements such as furniture, buildings and mens clothing from 1900’s included on the design. Unfortunately, the last cover from Samheim had a more modern looking model which threw off the design. The newest title in the series has a completely different look as it was published at the different company. Can you pick it out?

3.  Superpowered Love by Katey Hawthorne, artist P.L. Nunn:  Just wonderful art by PL Nunn, the covers really set the stage for the stories within.  I just love these.  Again while the content changes, the style is the same and makes the books easy to identify.

4. Infected series by Andrea Speed, art by Anne Cain, cover design by Mara McKinnon: These covers blow me away.  Intense, dramatic, with that hint of menace.  Outstanding.  They are offered to download at Andrea Speed’s website.  I grabbed them, you will want to as well. Andrea Speed’s website http://www.andreaspeed.com.

5. Cattle Valley Series by Carol Lynne, art by Anne Cain.  It doesn’t matter if it is Book 2, Book 12 or Book 23, you can tell it is a Cattle Valley book immediately due to the great design and artwork by the wonderful Anne Cain.  This series is branded, folks! Total E Bound does more of a series branding than any other publisher or so it seems to me.

6. Sci-Regency Series by JL Langley, cover by Anne Cain.  Sigh!  I love Anne Cain and her artwork.  Especially her cover for My Fair Captain.  That one is so drool worthy that I have to bring out the towels. Yeah, I know TMI!  But just look at that chest!  And the same goes for the other two books in the series, the last of which, My Regelence Rake, is to be released in October 2012.

7.  Leopard’s Spots series by Bailey Bradford, artwork by Posh Gosh. What a lush, rich group of covers,  They are like a feast for the eyes, I just don’t know where to look next.  The design pulls your eye around the cover, so nothing is missed.  Just superb.

So that’s my short  list. What is yours? Yes, I see the same artists over and over on covers I like.  Anne Cain, PL Nunn, Reese Dante, Posh Gosh and London Burden.  Lately I have also noticed Alessia Brio too.  I know I have missed so many great artists, help me fill in the blanks.  And don’t forget to leave a comment and be entered in the contest.

Review of Abstract Realism by Edward Kendricks

86 pages

Rating: 4 stars

Tonio, a renown painter of abstract realism, made the mistake of accepting an invitation for a movie date from a man he just met at a gallery opening.  The man’s jealous lover made sure Tonio never made that mistake again by savagely attacking him with a knife.  Now scarred and traumatized, Tonio rarely leaves his studio.  His only contact with the outside world consists of his sister, Jessie who is also his agent.  With a gallery opening a new show of his paintings, his sister finally talks him into attending the opening and go to the gallery party afterwards.

Jonam is also attending the gallery show.  He owns a close protection agency and had met Tonio by accident in a nearby park.  Tonio had been sketching people in the part and rejected Jonan’s efforts to talk to him. When Jonam attends the gallery show, Tonio does his best to avoid him. But Tonio’s attacker calls and threatens him just before the party. When her brother doesn’t show up for the party,  Jessie and Jonam show up at Tonio’s apartment and the find the man cowering in fear.  Jonam offers to protect Tonio and find out whose behind the threats.  Can Jonam find the attacker and free Tonio from the threats and fears?

The author packs a lot into 86 pages.  There is contemporary romance, mystery, the art world, a scarred artist, and lethal stalker.  Edward Kendricks did a great job with Tonio. Tonio is a believable character, traumatized by a brutal attack on him by unseen thugs.  The scars left behind are both physical and emotional.  I can believe that this character retreats into a shell and that his art changes direction with the brutality inflicted upon him.  That the attack was unexpected and undeserved only deepened the trauma left behind.  I did find it unrealistic that the police were not brought into this case especially given he was a well-known artist but PTS can make victims act illogically. Jonam was a tad less defined as a character.  Jonam was tall, good looking and efficient at his job. It wasn’t until the end of the story that I found out he was Swedish and that accounted for his name.  More of a backstory on Jonam early on would have helped. It was hard to get a feel for a connection between the two men when I could only get a handle on one of them.  The story seemed rushed at the end and the denouement resolved far too quickly for the buildup that preceded it.

Still Abstract Realism is a neat little short story that I enjoyed reading.  I look forward to more from Edward. Kendricks.

Cover: Cover Artist Reese Dante.  Cover is gorgeous.  Both models work for the characters inside the story.  Fonts are great.  Good job.

Review of Absent-Minded Astrophysicist by TN Tarrant

Rating: 4 stars

136 pages

Dr. Liam McGregor, child prodigy, astrophysicist, and all around brilliant mind is absent minded when it comes to everything outside of his lab except for his cat. He is constantly walking into doorknobs, desks and even people because his attention is so firmly tuned to space above.    Awkward around people and socially inept, Liam’s lonely and feels unattractive when he stops to think about it, which isn’t often.  Isolation has been his companion for far too long.  But a change may be coming in the very attractive form of the new head of security.

Jareth Manning is emerging from his own dark period.  His partner recently died, and his former employers tried to discredit him when they found out Jareth was gay.  Now he is starting over as the new head of security at Northwestern Institute for Interstellar Research.  It didn’t take him long to notice Dr. McGregor if only for the amount of ambulances called to the campus to attend to astrophysicist’s many accidents.  Jareth finds the astrophysicist cute, shy and very kind hearted.  When Liam is attacked by a colleague, it gives him the chance to get to know Liam better.  As both men grow closer, can Jareth get Liam to focus on what is before him…..a chance at love on earth.

This was such a cute story.  Liam McGregor was a lovely character.  I know we have seen the absent minded scientist before but Liam is a special edition to that category.  A little pudgy, with a heartbreaking background, I just fell in love with him.  TN Tarrant did a nice job with Jareth Manning as well.   Tall, gorgeous and a widower. Combine two lovely characters with two heartbreaking backstories and you get a short story with lots of heart. That’s Absent-minded Astrophysicist in a nutshell.

My only quibble here is that perhaps the author tried to fit too much into limited space.  I think she had material here for a much larger book and wish she had gone in that direction.  Her secondary characters include Dr. Forrester (head of the Institute) and his two partners.  They clearly deserve a story of their own.  Liam’s backstory left me with more questions than answers by the end of the book as did Jareth’s family who appeared out of nowhere.  As I said, I love the main characters and story.  I just think they got a little overwhelmed by too much information.

This is such a lovely little book.  Don’t let it pass you by.  I would love to see more of the characters she brought to life here.

Cover:  Same cover used for others in this series.  Cover artist is Reese Dante

Review of Frog by Mary Calmes

Rating: 4.75 stars

At 44, Weber Yates realizes that his age, talent and physical condition makes his dream of becoming a rodeo champion a remote possibility at best.  When a job on a ranch becomes available, Web figures he ought to grab the only job he is fit for. But first he must make a phone call to the man he loves, Cyrus Benning, a neurosurgeon in San Francisco.  Weber met the handsome surgeon while Cyrus was on vacation at a dude ranch where Weber was a seasonal employee.  Sparks flew and a one-time hookup turned into 3 years of phone calls, meetings between rodeos, short hookups, and arguments over pride and a future together.  Weber has always felt like the frog in their fairy tale relationship, but Cyrus has always seen the prince that is Weber under the rough cowboy image he projects.

Shivering in a phone booth outside of San Francisco, Weber reaches out one last time to Cyrus before beginning his life on a ranch up north. They had parted after another argument over their future together, something Weber has always regretted. Can both men find their way back to each other through obstacles built of pride and mismatched backgrounds?  Or will Cyrus finally convince Weber that they belong to each other and accept his place as prince of his heart?

Mary Calmes strengths as a writer are front and center in this heartwarming story of love, acceptance, and family.  I really love the fact that this is a story of two men in their forties, finding love later in life.  Weber Yates has some of the same qualities Mary Calmes has given her other main characters.  He is charismatic, a person who by personality alone brings people closer and resolves conflict.  He is beloved by children and animals without feeling at ease in upper class social situations. But Weber Yates with greater depths and layers. He is also a man who has seen his dreams die a hard, dusty death in the rodeo arena and realizes the pursuit of that dream has left him penniless, physically broken and alone. Insecure, and aware that he lacks education, Weber feels that pride is all he has left.  Tall, skinny, with red hair and bruised ribs, he is hardly the golden boy of some of Calmes other novels.  Those physical attributes fall to Cyrus Benning, the neurosurgeon who chanced upon his soulmate during a vacation in Texas.  Cyrus Benning is also a character with his own insecurities and needs, the “golden boy” image hiding his frustration over his inability to profess his love and need for the itinerant cowboy passing in and out of his life and heart.  Two complex men who are given one last chance to make their relationship work amid a family crisis and a job offer waiting for Weber in Alaska.

With Weber and Cyrus as the heart, Mary Calmes pulls more wonderful characters into the story.  Enter Carolyn Easton, Cyrus’ sister and her three young boys, Tristan, Pip and Micah – the family in crisis.  Carolyn’s husband has walked out on the family and took the nanny with him. She needs her brother and the stability he offers just when Cyrus wants only to concentrate on Weber.  The dialog and action between the boys has the real flavor of someone who is familiar with adolescent boys and their behavior.  The way in which Weber relates to them seems so very authentic as did their reaction to him. Carolyn is a wonderful portrait of a woman whose world has fallen to pieces and is too stressed out to find a way to put it back together by herself.  Bit by bit, Weber is pulled into a family who needs him and is strengthened by it.  All of the author’s gift at characterizations are evident in the people she has created for Frog.  Each and every one memorable in their own right. To borrow an overused phrase, I “heart” them all.

I loved this heartwarming tale.  Perfect?  No, there are a few places that some will say stretch the boundaries of belief, especially when it comes to Micah, a child whose voice was frozen by past trauma.  Did I mind it?  No.  This book left me smiling and feeling great.  So perhaps we can leave it with an almost perfect.  How about practically perfect in every way!  And we all know who said that don’t we? And I am never one to argue with her.

Cover: Artist Reese Dante.  That confused me a little.  Reese Dante usually has these lush covers yet this is simplicity itself.  I thought the handclasp was nice but how does a cowboy and neurosurgeon figure into that?  It gives you no idea of the story within nor does it relate to the title.  It could be just two guys at the beach? See?   Call me Confused.

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