A Julia Review: Thaw (Seasons of Love #2) by Elyse Springer

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Abigail is content with her quiet life as a librarian. But when she’s invited to a high-profile charity auction, she finds herself dancing with one of the most beautiful women she’s ever met. Abby’s sure she’ll never see her again, but then Gabrielle calls and asks her on a date. And soon after, another.

Supermodel Gabrielle Levesque has a reputation as the Ice Queen—cold and untouchable—except she warms up whenever she’s with Abby. Only Abby isn’t interested in the heat between them; she’s asexual, and she’s worried that admitting as much to Gabrielle might spell the end of their blooming romance.

They’re two different women from two very different worlds, but Abby knows she can love Gabrielle. Her passion for books, travel, and theater prove there’s more to the Ice Queen than meets the eye.  But they’ll have to overcome Abby’s fears—and Gabrielle’s own threatening secrets—in order to find their way to love.

Despite Thaw by Elyse Springer being the second volume in the “Seasons of Love” series, it is still a complete standalone novel. Characters from the first volume “Whiteout” appear or are mentioned but it is not at all necessary to have read it to understand this entry. Although after getting to read this one, I am very tempted to pick up more from this series. The other two volumes are scheduled for release later this year with each one getting published in the respective season they represent.

The first thing that grabbed my attention was the main protagonist, Abigail, and how endearing and relatable I found her to be. The story is told in third-person from her point of view and I could not help but smile at the way she interacted with the world and people around her. Despite being rather introverted sometimes, she watches the people around her with care and interest as she strives to uncover the unique story behind each person. I could immediately relate to her love for books and stories and it made my heart warm to read how she slowly came out of her shell of insecurity (which she hid herself in partly out of worry that people would react badly to her sexual orientations) also thanks to the support of her friends.

Gabrielle was also a very captivating character right from the beginning. Just like Abigail you wish to know what secret or truth lies behind the rumours of the cruel “Ice Queen” who seems perfectly amiable for the most part. I very much enjoyed the fact that I found myself rooting for their relationship for the sake of both women: I wanted Abigail to find the kind of connection with another person she was hoping for and I was convinced that Abigail would be a positive influence and just what Gabrielle needed to turn her current way of life (with which seemed rather unfulfilling to her) around.

The narrative was well-paced and there was never a moment that felt superfluous. The environment was also described in just the right amount of detail to get a feeling for the atmosphere without becoming tedious. A minor point of critique was that a couple of times the characters reacted a bit too “oblivious” to situations that seemed quite predictable to me (like Abigail being surprised when she learned that she got photographed on her date with a famous model).

Nevertheless, I found myself being genuinely drawn in the by the characters and the development of their relationship. I will certainly be looking forward to reading more from this author.

The cover design by Natasha Snow is quite lovely and very fitting for the story from the open book to the contrasting types of landscape. What I also appreciated were the painted spring flowers decorating the chapter headings within the book itself, a very nice touch.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 222 pages

Published April 24, 2017

by Riptide Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-62649-513-5

Edition Language: English

A Stella Release Day Review: Olive Juice by TJ Klune

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RATING 3 unsure stars out of 5

It begins with a message that David cannot ignore:

I want to see you.

He agrees, and on a cold winter’s night, David and Phillip will come together to sift through the wreckage of the memory of a life no longer lived.

David is burdened, carrying with him the heavy guilt of the past six years upon his shoulders.

Phillip offers redemption.

I really have no idea what to say in this review, I can’t talk about the plot, cause the blurb tells you pretty much nothing and the story really needs to surprise the reader. As it surprised me, in a good or bad way? I picked Olive Juice and I didn’t even read the blurb, it’s a TJ Klune story, one of my favorite author so I couldn’t miss his new release, no matter what the story was about. Now that I just finished reading this novella, I honestly can’t say if it was a good surprise. I don’t even know how to rate it. I simply don’t know.

Olive Juice left me with a sour taste in my mouth as every story like this one would have done. I actually wanted to DFN it because I understood what was happening and I couldn’t stand that kind of feeling, the book deeply hurt me and not even the ending, not a HEA because the impossible would have need to happen to have a HEA, satisfied me. It couldn’t satisfy me. I can’t even say I’m happy for David and Phillip to be together again.

And now that I read the whole story, I’m a little dubious about the initial part, I feel cheated by the author for introduce me to Matteo and let me like him a lot and then nothing more. I don’t want to ask for his own book because I don’t want it to be related in any way with Olive Juice. This is surely and probably the only book by this author I will never reread in the future, I can’t take it.

I think I will settle on three stars simply cause, although it’s not the kind of book I love to read and I would never have picked it if the blurb was more explicit, Olive Juice is well done, too emotional and powerful, beautifully written. The author was great at putting me on the edge from the beginning and it was brave for choosing this theme.

The cover art by Reese Dante is lovely, I like it a lot.

Sales Links

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 121 pages

Publication date: April 26th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN 1635335027 (ISBN13: 9781635335026)

Edition Language English

A Kai Release Day Review: Kissing Lessons (Before… and After #2) by Susan Laine

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Merry and Boone have been best friends since kindergarten. Even though they were always together, they have differents personality. Boone was the experienced one and Merry was the socially awkward and inexperienced.In the end of the high school senior year, Merry had never been kissed and since he was going to the prom, he intended to kiss his prom date. The problem was: he didn’t know how to kiss and didn’t want to make a fool of himself. So it was better training it first, right? And who better than Boone to teach him how to kiss?
Although being surprised at first, Boone agreed to show Merry how to be a good kisser. They explored many styles of kisses and things became a little too good for them. What should be just a make-out lesson turned into something more intense and they just couldn’t forget about. A week later they decided to confront it and both admitted to wanting one more kissing lesson to see where it would take them. It turned out that how more they kissed more they realized what were there all along: They had feelings for each other.

Well, guys, I’m always up for a good and adorable male-male-young-adult, but this one was a disappointed to me. I couldn’t connect with the story. It was so limited and not developed. The main characters were the only character in the book. No one else really appeared and it bothered me that I couldn’t see them interacting with other people in other situations. We are talking about teenagers here; we should at least see a parent or a school interaction with friends, teachers or whatever.  The events in the entire book were almost the same and there was not a development at all.

Despite the sweetness, I had problems with the kissing lessons too. Actually, it was a bittersweet feeling. I mean, the beginner was really cute and adorable and I loved it, but then Boone needed to classify everything. Even when they were so carried away in the kiss, he would stop to classify it. I was bored after a while with this.

The only occasion they went out of Boone’s room, seems like they were alone even if they were at a prom. And even at the event, no one asked them anything. I mean, in a perfect place it wouldn’t be a surprise to see two guys together, but it was high school. It wouldn’t be strange to have, at least, a curious teenager asking about them or even just looking. After all, they were there as an out couple for the first time. Boone asked one little thing to one random girl and it was it: all the interaction with other people. And after that, it was like they were alone in the world. Felt so unrealistic.

Although I liked what I could see about the character’s personality, it wasn’t sufficiently developed to really connect and like them. There was no time or events in the story for it, unluckily.

The cover art by AngstyG is something I approved about this book. It’s a romantic and pretty cover with the two character represented in such a sweet moment. I really like it.

Sales Links

Book Details:

Kindle edition, 81 pages
Publication: April 26th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Series: Before… and After: Book Two

Characters
Merry, Boone

A Stella Release Day Review: Vodka & Handcuffs (Mary’s Boys #2) by Brandon Witt

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RATING 3,5 out of 5 stars

Vahin Arora, Hamburger Mary’s sexy bartender, plays the flirtatious role so well even his closest friends—his chosen family at Mary’s—don’t realize Vahin hasn’t had a hookup in months. Then Tall, Dark, and Handsome steps through the door, and Vahin’s libido races back to life.

Being a black cop on the Denver police force is no easy job—Marlon Barton can’t imagine adding being gay to the equation. And while Marlon loves his work as an officer, his life has taken a turn for the hellish because of his new partner, the nephew of a senator.

Fleeing his partner’s company one night, Marlon stumbles into Mary’s for the first time… and wakes up with a hangover in the bartender’s bed. The one-night stand heats up into a budding romance, but not without stress as Marlon’s partner’s actions threaten Vahin’s livelihood and Marlon’s future on the force. Can Vahin and Marlon face the challenges and hold on to the love, friendship, and family they’ve found?

I was so happy to have Vodka & Handcuffs in my hands, the previous book in the Mary’s Boy series, Nachos & Hash conquered me and I was so curious to see what I will get next. I’m sorry to say this new release was just an okay read and nothing more to me. And I am so used to have so much more from Brandon Witt books, that I’m disappointed.

It feels to me that everything I know about Vahin and Marlon I got it from the blurb, the story actually told me nothing else. And that’s the problem. It should have been more focused on the MCs together, how much they wanted each other, but I actually saw no connection between them, I wanted to know more about their past and the present they are living. Instead the story is focused on some nasty things that are happening with Marlon police partner, and even if this gave the story reality, it was at the expense of the main couple’s romance which was almost non-existent. And even the ending was just meh

As I said Vodka & Handcuffs was an okay reading, the book is well written like everything Brandon writes, there are some secondary characters I was so hoping to meet again, I saw Cody and was happy to know he was doing great. I saw ManDonna being fabulous as always. That’s why I gave the story 3,5 stars. Now, if I could have Zachary story right this second, I would be so happy.

The cover art by AngstyG follows the style of the cover of the previous book, it’s well done and fitting the story, I can easily picture Marlon and Vahin in the models on it, I like it.

Sales Links

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 112 pages

Expected publication: April 26th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN 1635334330 (ISBN13: 9781635334333)

Edition Language English

Series Mary’s Boy #2

In the Spotlight: Thaw (Seasons of Love #2) by Elyse Springer (guest post and giveaway)

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Thaw (Seasons of Love #2) by Elyse Springer
R
iptide Publishing
Cover by: Natasha Snow

Read an Excerpt/Buy It at Riptide Publishing

✒︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Elyse Springer today. Welcome, Elyse!

✒︎

 

Hello and welcome to the blog tour for Thaw! This F/F romance is the second in my “Seasons of Love” quartet, but stands alone– though readers of Whiteout may recognize some familiar faces. Thaw features an asexual librarian from Brooklyn, who meets an ice-cold super model from Canada, and I hope you’ll read on to learn more about Abby and Gabrielle’s romance.

Of course, don’t forget to drop a comment on this post… one lucky winner will get a $10 Amazon gift card!

Identities and Labels

The main character of Thaw, Abby, identifies as a biromantic sex-neutral asexual woman.

So what does that actually mean?

Let’s start with a ten second lesson on sexual vs. romantic attraction: who you want to buy roses for and who you wanna bang aren’t always the same. Love and sex may go hand-in-hand for many people, but your sexual attraction and romantic attraction may not always line up.

Let’s start with the easy one:

Asexual: Abby doesn’t experience sexual attraction. (Some asexual people do, of course! Gray Aces may experience sexual attraction; demisexuals can experience sexual attraction after establishing a close friend/romantic bond… wait, did I say this was the easy one?)

Biromantic: For Abby, this means she is romantically attracted to people of any gender.

Sex-Neutral: Some asexuals are sex-positive (meaning they often don’t mind, and maybe even enjoy, having sex) while others are sex-repulsed. Abby doesn’t have particularly strong feelings on sex either way.

Why do these labels matter?

Abby is not the defining example of asexuality! She is only one facet of a complex orientation, and her experiences in Thaw do not (and should not!) be held as the standard by which to define “asexuality”. But by understanding the labels she uses for herself, hopefully people will better understand the asexual spectrum and how beautifully diverse it is!

(Curious to know more? Cass Lennox has a great post about this: http://adanramie.com/fiction-and-the-asexual-character-by-cass-lennox-part-1/ )

About Thaw

Abigail is content with her quiet life as a librarian. But when she’s invited to a high-profile charity auction, she finds herself dancing with one of the most beautiful women she’s ever met. Abby’s sure she’ll never see her again, but then Gabrielle calls and asks her on a date. And soon after, another.

Supermodel Gabrielle Levesque has a reputation as the Ice Queen—cold and untouchable—except she warms up whenever she’s with Abby. Only Abby isn’t interested in the heat between them; she’s asexual, and she’s worried that admitting as much to Gabrielle might spell the end of their blooming romance.

They’re two different women from two very different worlds, but Abby knows she can love Gabrielle. Her passion for books, travel, and theater prove there’s more to the Ice Queen than meets the eye.  But they’ll have to overcome Abby’s fears—and Gabrielle’s own threatening secrets—in order to find their way to love.

Available now at Riptide Publishing. http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/thaw

About the Season of Love Universe

New York is the city that never sleeps: where everything can change in the blink of an eye, and where anything is possible—especially romance. In the bitter cold of winter or the impossible humidity of mid-summer, your own happily ever after might be right around the corner.

The people of New York come from all walks of life, and the relationships are just as diverse. So whether you’re a waiter or an aspiring actor, a banker or a model, falling in love can happen quicker than the seasons change.

Check out Seasons of Love! http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/universe/seasons-love

About Elyse Springer

Elyse is an author and world-traveler, whose unique life experiences have helped to shape the stories that she wants to tell. She writes romances with LGBTQ+ characters and relationships, and believes that every person deserves a Happily Ever After. When she’s not staring futilely at her computer screen, El spends her time adding stamps to her passport, catching up on her terrifying TBR list, and learning to be a better adult.

She’s always happy to chat with other readers, and you can find her online at:

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Thaw, one lucky winner will receive a $10 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 29, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

 

This title is part of the Seasons of Love: The Complete Collection collection. Check out the collection discount!

Cover Reveal for Ellery Mountain 1,2 & 3 by RJ Scott (giveaway)

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Out May 10 

Covers Designed by Meredith Russell

 

Rescuing cop Finn Ryan from a burning precinct was easy; it’s keeping him alive Max Harrison finds difficult.

Firefighter, Max Harrison, is running from the city and finds peace in the sleepy Smoky Mountains town of Ellery. Finn Ryan is one of only three cops in Ellery, and someone is out to hurt him. Can Max find the arsonist, and keep Finn alive?


How can Daniel convince the man he loves, to stay with him in Ellery?

Luke Fitzgerald left Ellery Mountain for college and vowed never to return, but with his father murdered, he has no choice but to return. Luke only goes home to sell off his share of the Ellery Mountain Cabins, but everything changes when he meets the son of the other owner.

Daniel Skylar is an ex-soldier who lives every day to the limit and sees a future in Luke. It doesn’t matter what Daniel says, or how much he needs Luke; Luke isn’t staying once everything is sold off. Surely Daniel can understand that?

Jason McInnery, hounded by the paparazzi after his brother’s death, runs to the one place where he hopes people will not sell him out. The place where he was born.

Hiding in the tourist cabins at Ellery Mountain Resort out of season he thinks he finally has room to breathe.

If only Kieran Dexter, a man ten years his junior, would stop fixing stuff and causing ripples in Jason’s peaceful space.

 

 

Author Bio

RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

mailto:rj@rjscott.co.uk

www.rjscott.co.uk/
www.facebook.com/author.rjscott?ref=ts&fref=ts
www.goodreads.com/author/show/3432558.R_J_Scott
twitter.com/Rjscott_author
www.librarything.com/author/scottrj

 Giveaway

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Review Tour – Starting From Scratch (Housemates #5) by Jay Northcote

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK 


Cover: Garrett Leigh


Length: 57,000 words


The Housemates Series is a collection of standalone stories set around a student house in Britain. Each book focuses on new characters, with themes of self-discovery and sexual awakening.



Helping Hand (Book #1) Amazon US | Amazon UK
Like A Lover (Book #2) Amazon US | Amazon UK
Practice Makes Perfect (Book #3) Amazon US | Amazon UK
Watching and Wanting (Book #4) Amazon US | Amazon UK


Blurb

Starting over isn’t easy, but Ben is ready to live his life as the man he was always meant to be.

Ben is transgender and back at university after hormone treatment and chest surgery. His new housemates have no idea about his history and Ben would prefer to keep it that way. He’s starting from scratch and his life is finally on track, except in the romance department. The idea of dating guys as a guy is exhilarating but terrifying, because if Ben wants a boyfriend he’ll have to disclose his secret.

Sid is drawn to Ben from the moment they meet. He normally gets what he wants—in the short term at least. Ben’s guarded at first, and Sid’s not used to guys rejecting his advances. He eventually charms his way through Ben’s defences and helps Ben on his journey of sexual awakening.

It doesn’t matter to Sid that Ben is trans. He’s attracted to the whole person, and isn’t worried about what is—or isn’t—in Ben’s pants. They’re good together, and both of them are falling hard and fast, but Ben’s insecurities keep getting in the way. If Sid can convince Ben he’s committed, will Ben finally be able to put his heart on the line?

Although this book is part of the Housemates series, it has new main characters, a satisfying happy ending, and can be read as a standalone.

 

 

Author Bio
 

Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England. He comes from a family of writers, but always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed him by. He spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content.

One day, Jay decided to try and write a short story—just to see if he could—and found it rather addictive. He hasn’t stopped writing since.

Jay writes contemporary romance about men who fall in love with other men. He has five books published by Dreamspinner Press, and also self-publishes under the imprint Jaybird Press. Many of his books are now available as audiobooks.

Jay is transgender and was formerly known as she/her.

www.jaynorthcote.com
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A Julia Review: Snap Shot (Cayuga Cougars #1) by V.L. Locey

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Mario McGarrity has been around the block – and rink – more than a few times.

He’s creeping up on retirement age, has some dings and dents, and says what’s on his mind. Not exactly what most would consider a luxury ride, but his beautiful Lila – the transgender woman who stole his heart – loves him like no other woman ever has despite a little rust here and there.

Everything is good – no, great – aside from the distance issue, until a surprise from Lila’s past crops up and moves in with her. Can Mario be the family man that Lila needs, or is this one game the old vet is unable to skate in?

Snap Shot is the first volume in a new series by author V. L. Locey revolving around a hockey team and their members’ romantic adventures. Although this is my first book by this author, she has written several other novels taking place in the same universe.

The story is told through the eyes of Mario McGarrity – or Seamus, as he is referred to by his lover Lila. I took an immediate liking to this grumpy, big-hearted half-Scottish, half-Italian man in no small part thanks to the author’s wonderfully humorous and fast-paced style of writing. Reading his inner thoughts and monologues (as well as his prayers/dialogues with Holy Mother Mary) was very entertaining.

Lila (or Madame Lila) is a truly lovely and endearing person and it is not hard to see why Mario has fallen for her the way he did. The way he describes all of her little habits and quirks in vivid detail make you realize how enraptured he is by her. Their relationship is one of the two main focuses of the story but there is little to no drama or confrontation there – they both love each other dearly and express that love freely and openly. The point of conflict stems largely from the second focus: the way Lila’s teenage son Langley suddenly enters Mario’s life with her.

Although I liked the way Langley’s relationship to Mario develops over time, I really wish he would have been flashed out a bit more as an individual rather than mostly being presented as just a “typical” teenager rebelling against his parents. We get to see brief glimpses of his personality and interests here and there but all in all he came off as a bit generic. This was rather surprising as the other characters felt much more lifelike. Arguably, this might have been intentional due to Mario’s narration and his perception of Lila’s son.

The characters accompanying the protagonists were all quite interesting and colourful. As far as I understand, some of them get to play bigger roles in other books by the author. My personal favourite was August, an adorable young hockey player who takes quite the shine to Mario.

The novel contains several sex scenes between Mario and Lila including the use of toys. They are all written in a very explicit way and there is certainly no shortage of erotic moments over the course of the book.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read and most of the characters felt quite real and likeable. The author maintained a quick-paced and snappy writing style that motivates you to keep on reading.

The cover art by Rêverie Design and Formatting seems a bit bland. Something more colourful and eye-catching would have been much more suitable for the dazzling Madame Lila in my opinion.

Sales Links

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2ocuqD3

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2ndEqMN

Book Details:

ebook, 198 pages

Published April 4, 2017

by Self Published

ASIN: B06Y2J6KZM

Edition Language: English

BLOG TOUR See My Words by Melanie Hansen

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Title:  See My Words

Series: Spectrum Nights, book 2

Author: Melanie Hansen

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 24

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 101300

Genre: Romance, angst, family drama, friends to lovers, hurt/comfort, model (ish), Photographer/photojournalist, reunited, step brothers

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Successful underwear model Scott Ashworth is lucky—his attack at the hands of an unknown assailant will leave no visible scars. His professional goals are still within reach, and best of all, his stepbrother Rylan Mahoney is back in his life, their teenage infatuation at last getting the chance to deepen into something more.

Thrown together by the circumstances of Scott’s injury, Rylan’s long-dormant feelings for him are quickly rekindled, though he’s haunted by the memory of Scott’s disappearance on the night of his eighteenth birthday and the six missing years that followed. Rylan pushes Scott for the truth, a firm believer in the maxim that secrets lose their power once they’re shared—but resurrecting old demons almost always comes with a price.

Before Scott knows it, his life is spiraling out of control, his toxic insecurities welling up to threaten the fragile relationship he’s building with Rylan. Learning to let go of the past and believe in himself will be Scott’s greatest challenge, or else he risks losing Rylan forever this time.

Excerpt

See My Words
Melanie Hansen © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Scott stared at the image. All three of his half-brothers were sitting at one of the bar’s high tables, Donna standing behind them with her arms around their shoulders. They were clustered close together, leaning on each other, beaming.

“Whoa, they’re so big. And they look really happy.”

“They are.”

“When was this taken?”

“Right before I moved out here. In fact, I stopped in Pace on the way just to see them.”

Scott tore his eyes away from the picture to stare at Rylan. “So you’re still in touch with them? With the boys?”

Rylan nodded. “I am, yeah. We’re friends on Facebook, and we text sometimes. They’re great kids.”

Scott was silent for a moment. “What about the baby? Cara? Is she—”

“Still with Heather? Yes.” Rylan’s voice was soft. “The picture you saw that first day in my apartment? That was the last time I saw them, when I went up to visit Cara before finals.”

“So you talk to—her? Heather, I mean.”

“Sometimes. Not often.” Rylan touched the scar on his cheek almost absently, and his eyes took on a haunted look. “When she and my dad split up, Scott, it was…ugly.”

Scott’s stomach roiled, and the puree he’d just drunk surged back into his throat. He grasped Rylan’s wrist, drawing his startled glance.

“Did Heather give you that scar?” he demanded. “That fucking bitch—”

Rylan gasped. “No!” he exclaimed. “She’s never, ever touched me.”

Scott released him, studying the scar before tracing it lightly with his thumb. It was high on Rylan’s cheekbone, small, but white and jagged.

“You can’t tell me that’s always been there, Ry. I would have noticed it before.” Would have noticed it back when he used to map every inch of Rylan’s face with his lips as they lay entangled together in his narrow bed. “Who did this?”

A pause. “My dad.”

The answer was so unexpected that Scott reared back in disbelief. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” he croaked. “Bob—hit you? Bob?” He couldn’t wrap his mind around it. Gentle Bob, who adored his son beyond reason, hit Rylan so hard he’d left a fucking scar? “What the hell happened?”

Rylan wrapped his arms around himself, hunching over. “While my dad was gone on one of his over-the-road jobs, Heather went out with her friends one night, got drunk, and brought home a man. But this time the dude didn’t fuck and run; he stayed for the weekend.”

“Holy shit. And your dad caught them.” Scott’s voice was hushed.

Rylan gave a jerky nod. “He walked in on them, in bed. I could hear them through the wall, and I’ll never forget the anguish in his voice as he demanded to know what exactly it was he was seeing. Heather was pleading with him, and the other guy was trying to tough it out. Lots of yelling, lots of crying—”

Rylan surged to his feet and started to pace. “The other dude finally left, and my dad and Heather kept fighting. I could hear them in the living room. I was gonna stay the fuck out of it until I heard Cara crying. So I went out there.”

Rylan’s chin trembled, but he pressed his lips together, breathing hard through his nose until he regained some control. “Heather was on the couch bawling, and Cara was wrapped around her leg. My dad was losing it, and when he saw me, he got up in my face. ‘Has this happened before, Rylan?’ I had no fucking clue what to say, and I guess my hesitation was his answer, because the next thing I knew, I was on the floor, my cheek on fire.”

He touched the scar, his eyes awash with the tears he was refusing to let fall. Scott ached to take him in his arms, but instead he jammed his hands in the loose pockets of his sweatpants, his fists clenched.

“My dad stood over me and screamed, ‘How many times? Why didn’t you tell me?’ He just kept saying that,” Rylan went on hollowly. “I had a cut on my cheek from a ring he was wearing. Blood was everywhere, dripping from my chin, getting in my mouth—” He licked his lips as if remembering the rusty taste on them. “—and all I could do was say, ‘I’m sorry, Dad.’”

“Jesus.” Scott’s curse was heartfelt.

“He was hurting, Scott, looking for someone to blame, and I was there. I was right there.”

“Why the fuck didn’t he blame the one who deserved to be blamed?” Scott snarled, taking his hands out of his pockets and slamming them down onto the couch cushions.

“He told me later that blaming her was too much like blaming himself, that he didn’t want to think about it being his fault. He wanted it to be someone else’s fault, even mine. After he hit me, he left and drove away. Heather helped me up, washed the blood off my face, and glued the gash shut with this liquid skin stuff she had. She wasn’t crying anymore, and she seemed really calm. It helped me calm down.”

His shoulders were so bunched and tense Scott couldn’t help but get up to put his hand on Rylan’s back, gratified when he seemed to take comfort in the soothing touch.

“What happened then?” he whispered, stroking the nape of Rylan’s neck with his thumb.

A quiver ran through Rylan’s body. “She put Cara to bed, and then we sat out on the porch together the rest of the night. Sometimes quiet, sometimes talking a little.” He heaved a sigh. “I think she really loved my dad, Scott, but for some reason couldn’t keep herself from sabotaging everything. She was devastated, but at the same time seemed almost relieved it was over, as weird as that sounds.”

When you don’t feel you deserve anything nice in your life, it scares you to death when you actually get it. It was a feeling Scott was all too familiar with, and he winced as an unwilling sympathy for Heather churned in his gut. He didn’t want to feel sorry for her, didn’t want to—understand her.

He shoved the thought away, concentrating instead on what Rylan was saying.

“We didn’t see my dad for about a week. Heather seemed okay on the outside, but I could tell she was slowly falling apart on the inside. I recognized the signs.” A shadow flitted over his face, and he clenched his hands into fists. “My own mom, you know? I couldn’t go through that again, and I felt so fucking helpless, so I went to Donna.”

Scott gave a quiet snort. “That woman is a force of nature.”

Rylan quirked his lips. “That she is. She drove over to the trailer, packed up the kids’ stuff, and took all four of them to her house. Told Heather they’d be safe until she got her shit together. She didn’t protest it, didn’t fight. When my dad came for me after a few more days, I left with him. Left her alone.”

“You’d done all you could, Ry. You know that, right?”

“I left without a backward glance,” Rylan said bluntly. “I was so fucking drained. By you, by her…”

Scott flinched, but Rylan went on, “My dad needed me. I walked away so I could save what was left of my strength for him.” His face was expressionless. “And for myself. I’d gotten a full scholarship to the University of Miami, but there was still a third of my senior year to go. I needed to concentrate on my grades and my own future. You were gone, the kids were safe with Donna, and there was nothing else I could do for Heather.”

The sun shimmered off the nearby buildings and bounced in through the windows, hurting Scott’s eyes and making him feel light-headed.

You should have been there, you stupid fuck.

As if reading his mind, Rylan murmured, “You being there wouldn’t have changed a thing, Scott. Heather would have still done what she did. You know that. It was only a matter of time.”

“But if I’d been there, maybe I could have deflected Bob’s anger onto me. Could have taken that blow for you, saved you that heartache at least.”

So much fucking heartache.

Rylan’s face softened. “It is what it is, Scott. Your mantra, remember?”

“Fuck mantras. I should have been there.” He slid his hand down to Rylan’s shoulder. “Were you and your dad okay, after what happened?”

“Yeah. He got us a tiny apartment not far from the school. It took a while, but we got everything sorted out. By the time he—died, we were more than okay.”

Scott relaxed a fraction. “Good,” he whispered hoarsely. “That’s good.”

Rylan patted Scott’s hand once before releasing him. “Ugh, I guess I’d better go take a shower, get ready for the club. There’s a big bachelorette party tonight, and Corey wants lots of pictures.”

“Yeah, okay.” Scott wiped a stray tear away with rough impatience. “If you need to go—”

“Can I take your car, or do you need it? I don’t mind taking the bus.”

Scott started to tell him to take the car, but the thought of the long, lonely night stretching before him made him say impulsively, “If you can wait a few minutes, I’ll drive you. Maybe stay for a drink.”

Rylan lifted an eyebrow. “Really? That’d be great. I know everyone would love to see you. People are always asking me how you’re doing.”

Scott didn’t know how true that was, given how silent his phone had been for the past three weeks, but he didn’t say anything, just headed for the shower. Afterward he pulled on a pair of jeans and an aqua-green silk T-shirt, standing in front of his full-length mirror and looking himself over, suddenly unsure.

“You’re beautiful as ever, Scott.” Rylan’s quiet voice came from the doorway.

“No. I don’t feel like myself at all.” Scott tugged at the loose material of his shirt, a shirt that used to mold itself to his ripped torso like it was painted on. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea. People don’t need to see—”

Rylan came behind him and put his hand on Scott’s shoulder. “You’ll be the most gorgeous man in the room. Trust me.”

Their eyes met in the mirror, and Scott gave him a shaky smile. “I think you’re biased.”

Rylan chuckled. “I’m a photographer. I can’t be biased.” His voice was gently teasing. “Don’t believe me?”

Scott shrugged, and Rylan reached out and threaded their fingers together. “The camera doesn’t lie, Scott. Let me show you.” He turned to walk out of the room, tugging Scott after him and making a quick stop to snag his camera from the couch before leading him to the balcony.

The sun was low in the sky now, bathing everything around them in a soft, golden glow.

The camera whirred, and Rylan glanced at the screen, making a few quick adjustments before starting to shoot in earnest. Scott lost himself in Rylan’s quiet directions, first leaning back against the railing and then turning to prop his elbows on it while he gazed into the distance.

“Here, come see.” Rylan beckoned to him, and Scott walked over to gaze down at the digital screen in awe. The waning light kissed his face, throwing his cheekbones into sharp relief, the light scruff on his chin emphasizing his full lips. The soft green of his T-shirt reflected the fading radiance of the sun and made his eyes stand out like jewels.

“No filter, Scott. Just you. And you’re fucking gorgeous.”

Scott quirked his lips in a rueful smile. “You probably think I’m the vainest son of a bitch you’ve ever met, don’t you?”

“Never. There’s nothing wrong with needing some reassurance, especially after the trauma you’ve been through.” Rylan held up the camera. “I can tell you you’re beautiful, but sometimes you just have to see the words. See what I see.”

The lump in Scott’s throat threatened to choke him. “Sweet Ry,” he whispered. “Thank you.”

They smiled at each other, and Scott leaned in. Rylan lifted his face for the kiss, his lips parted, but Scott turned his head so his mouth grazed Rylan’s temple instead.

“Let’s go to the club.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords

Meet the Author

Melanie Hansen has spent time in Texas and Florida prisons…for work. She’s been in a room with a 17-year-old mass murderer who was also one of the most soft-spoken and polite teenagers she’s ever met. After a 13-year career as a court reporter, she can tell many stories both hilarious and heartbreaking.

She grew up with an Air Force dad, and ended up marrying a Navy man. After living and working all over the country, she hopes to bring these rich and varied life experiences to her stories about people finding love amidst real-life struggles.

Melanie left the stressful world of the courtroom behind and now enjoys a rewarding career transcribing for a deaf student. She currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.

Website | Twitter | eMail

Tour Schedule

4/24 – Love Bytes

4/25 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

4/25 – Hoards Jumble

4/25 – Bayou Book Junkie

4/26 – Joyfully Jay

4/27 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews

4/27 – The Novel Approach

4/28 – Dirty Books Obsession

4/28 – MM Book Escape

4/28 – Happily Ever Chapter

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A MelanieM Review: Shelter the Sea (The Roosevelt #2) by Heidi Cullinan

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Some heroes wear capes. Some prefer sensory sacks.

Emmet Washington has never let the world define him, even though he, his boyfriend, Jeremey, and his friends aren’t considered “real” adults because of their disabilities. When the State of Iowa restructures its mental health system and puts the independent living facility where they live in jeopardy, Emmet refuses to be forced into substandard, privatized corporate care. With the help of Jeremey and their friends, he starts a local grassroots organization and fights every step of the way.

In addition to navigating his boyfriend’s increased depression and anxiety, Emmet has to make his autistic tics acceptable to politicians and donors, and he wonders if they’re raising awareness or putting their disabilities on display. When their campaign attracts the attention of the opposition’s powerful corporate lobbyist, Emmet relies on his skill with calculations and predictions and trusts he can save the day—for himself, his friends, and everyone with disabilities.

He only hopes there isn’t a variable in his formula he’s failed to foresee.

The Roosevelt series by Heidi Cullinan is unusual and quite wonderful to begin with. It’s about young men whose disabilities don’t allow them to live and mostly function in the “mean’, the normal world.  It’s almost guaranteed to make some people uncomfortable enough to not want to pick the books up and read them.  If so, they would be missing out on an astonishing jewel of a series and characters, no people so memorable and heroic I’ve already read this story twice.

The Roosevelt is a special needs living facility, home to Emmet Washington, a highly functioning autistic young man and his boyfriend Jeremey, who has severe anxiety and depression disorders, along with other disabled young adults.  The story alternates between Emmet’s and Jeremey’s pov, a powerful framework.  Cullinan’s strong and moving narrative allows you to delve into each young man’s mind and see how they live with their disabilities, how it affects speech, thinking and even emotions and connectivity to each other.  The commonplace adjustments they make, not only between themselves, but for others within The Roosevelt and visiting friends (this includes making signs that say “silent communication going on”),  well,  time and again, I found my  own preconceptions needing swift readjustments as I was swept more deeply into Emmet and Jeremey’s story and relationship.

There is so much to this  story that the author fits in, easily I must say, that enriches both the characters lives and the story, while letting the narrative progress and flow forward effortlessly.  I found myself learning about service dogs and sensory sacks, about ball pits and great companies but mostly I learned about love, the power of love from Emmet and Jeremey.  Oh, and The Roosevelt Blues Brothers!  I really wish somehow Heidi Cullinan had come up with a pic for that!

Such an extraordinary love story.  Honestly, I think this review is a failing me because I really don’t have the  words I’m searching for to describe how this book made me feel.  The laughter, the tears I shed, the hope it left me with, all the reassessing I’m doing about my preconceived thoughts about disabilities and group homes.  This book shook me up in a good way, in the way books should.

The story starts off with Emmet telling the reader that he accomplished his goals and this is the story of how he did it.  So right away, the tone is one of incredible hope.  That hope carries you through the book, even when things look realistically painful and down, right through to that heartwarming ending. For me, this story is well, perfect in its own way, right up to the title, Shelter the Sea, something that Emmet wants to do. How that works out?  Well, this is a book you should read to find out.  Its one of my Best of 2017.

Cover art is gorgeous and so pertinent to the story.  I love it.

Sales Links

Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo,  Smashwords

 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 190 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Heidi Cullinan
Original TitleShelter the Sea
ASINB06XYT6SNL
Edition LanguageEnglish
URL http://www.heidicullinan.com/shelterthesea
Series The Roosevelt #2
setting Iowa (United States)