A MelanieM Review: Under Review by Meg Harding

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Nathan Barres has always loved hockey more than anything else, and as captain of his team the pressure is on to perform well. When a hook up with Felix Moore stirs feelings he’s not comfortable with, he flees the scene. He’s not expecting to see Felix ever again. So when an injury knocks him out at the start of a new season, he’s less than pleased to see the Winnipeg Wolves newest physical therapist is none other than his one night fling.

Time hasn’t dulled their chemistry, and Nathan’s feelings are back like they’d never left. When Felix proposes a way to burn through the energy between them, how is Nathan supposed to say no. It might be all fun and games to Felix, but Nathan needs to get whatever this is out of his system. Unrequited love? No, thank you.

I am always thrilled to find new hockey romance stories and the authors that write them and Under Review by Meg Harding fits the bill in both categories. With a new NHL season about the start, this is the perfect time to pick up and dive into the world of team captain Nathan Barres of the Winnipeg Wolves and his shaky, stumbling path to love and HEA with PT Felix Moore.

A must for me when reading any hockey romance is that the author gets hockey.  They need to understand the game, team dynamics, that goalies are generally a unique sort of human being, and, hopefully, when (not if , when) they include action on the ice, they make the game as exciting as it is in RL.   Why?  Because men who play hockey, no matter the level, well, they love this game with a passion.   Some have been on skates as soon as they could walk.  And the bests of  our hockey romance writers get that and it shows in their stories.  Thankfully, so does Meg Harding.

When Nathan is injured and can’t play?  It’s not that he’s pouting back in his house because he’s off the ice, not its because part of him is missing without the game and his team.  Harding is able to deliver that man, a full on intact layered personality and definitely someone we care about.  Nathan is full of jumbled emotions and thoughts, all of which we are privy to because he is our point of view for the story.  His is a strong if sometimes confused voice and it’s easy to identify with him.

Felix Moore, as seen through the eyes of Nathan, is a little bit more of a enigma.  We don’t always understand the thoughts processes behind his actions nor do we get a real feeling for his background.  We do get a fleeting recitation of a history but it’s not a substitute for a missing emotional foundation. However, I did like Felix with all his mixed signals.  Communication was not the strong point here for either man.  And I almost, ok, did want that second point of view here.  I would have loved to have seen Nathan at different times in this story through Felix’s eyes.

There are multiple strong secondary characters here, although I dislike calling them that, mostly Nathan’s teammates and their SO’s.  From Thor and his gf Lucy (what an amazing couple they  made, Renner, Sasha, and more.  They made a supporting family for both Nathan and Felix to start, work out issues, and finally have a relationship within their secure circle of friendship.

I have a list of hockey romances we recommend and now I have one more to add to our list.  I love it when that happens. Under Review by Meg Harding is well written, has great characters, exciting action on the ice and a wonderful ending.  Everything you would hope for in a contemporary hockey romance.  Pick it up and start reading today.

Cover art is disappointing as it lacks any discerning hockey features that would indicate that this is a hockey oriented storyline with hockey players. Just too generic.Meh.

Sales Links:  Amazon Kindle

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 155 pages
Published September 20th 2019 by Oceanside Press
ASINB07X82T3LF

A MelanieM Audio Review: Spencer Cohen (Spencer Cohen #1) by N.R. Walker and Joel Leslie (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Spencer Cohen is the guy who gets answers to relationship questions. Playing the role of the new lover, his job is to make his client’s ex realise one of two things: he doesn’t want to break up or he really does. Either way, his client gets answers.

The ex would either apologize and beg, or turn and walk. But in the end, Spencer’s client won. If he wanted his ex back and got him, it was great. If the guy walked away, then as hard it was for the client, he knew it was over. Regardless of the outcome, Spencer’s work was done.

Andrew Landon’s ex left him without so much as an explanation. But his sister can’t stand to see him miserable, so, much to Andrew’s dismay, they hire Spencer to be Andrew’s new boyfriend to get the ex back.

For Spencer, it is never personal. Merely a business transaction. No emotions, no strings, no complications.

Yeah right.

Even a blind man could see how this would end.

Ever since I read her Red Dirt Heart series, N.R. Walker is a must read for me.  So I really don’t understand how it is that I missed her Spencer Cohen series but it turned out to be an utter blessing that I did because that meant that I got to listen to this series in audio version for the first time and fall completely, totally under its spell due to the combination of N.R. Walker’s wonderful story and characters giving voice by the incomparable Joel Leslie.  Now and forever, it’s Joel’s voice and Australian accent as Spencer Cohen that I hear when these stories come back to me.   And they do.  Phrases.  Scenes.  Laughter and tears.

How else to explain to the tv installer (who I wasn’t happy with on his 2nd visit to my house) that I was bawling my eyes out over his incompetence but that Spencer was in the floor of his best friends tattoo shop heartbroken and so was I?  I was shattered and then,(as only N.R. Walker and it turns out Joel can to) put back together so perfectly, so precisely that I had to listen to that part over and over again.

Spencer and Andrew Landon become so much more than characters, they become real people, with voices and lives you believe in, problems you care about, and a relationship that neither wants to acknowledge.  But oh how we want them too.

How this story and these people got to me.  From the very first line I was pulled in and stayed there long after Joel was telling me the story had ended…until Spencer Cohen Book Two which picks up almost immediately after this one.

Spencer Cohen (Spencer Cohen #1) by N.R. Walker and Joel Leslie (Narrator) is a audio I want to hand out on street corners and gift to strangers and friends.  It’s hours of realness, friendship, romance, and love told through incredible writing of NR Walker and voiced by one of the best narrators out there, Joel Leslie.  I can’t think of a better recommendation.  And yes, more reviews to come for the remainder of the series….audio versions of course!

Cover art is perfect for Spencer and unusual enough to draw your eye to the cover. Love it.

Audio Sales Links:  Amazon | Audible | Audiobooks

Audio Details:

Audible Audio, Unabridged, 5 hours and 26 minutes
Published March 6th 2018 by Tantor Audio (first published February 18th 2016)
Original Title Spencer Cohen, Book One
ASINB079YYXKGH
Edition Language English
Series Spencer Cohen #1
setting Los Angeles, California (United States)
California (United States)

A Lucy Review : Puzzle Me This by Eli Easton

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Luke Schumaker designs computer games, working from his home. Every day he walks his dog in the woods nearby, never suspecting that someone who is completely smitten is watching. 

The watcher is Alex Shaw, and he too works from home, designing logic and crossword puzzles. Alex’s options are limited: he’s too shy to approach Luke and his wheelchair won’t let him follow into the woods. His solution? Secret messages for Luke in the crosswords he writes for the local paper. 

When Luke decodes them, romance begins, but then they face greater puzzles, like Alex’s interfering sister and what commitment to a man in a wheelchair really takes. And, most puzzling of all, how do you know if love is real?

First off, you have to suspend belief just a little with this in that Luke gets the first coded message straightaway and so is then tracking down how he got the paper and looking for new messages in the crosswords.  You also have to believe that Alex is allowed to turn in Monday’s crossword puzzle on Saturday or Sunday and it still gets published on Monday. In a national newspaper.  As a former newspaper nerd, the deadlines happen way before a day or two for stuff like that.

Alex really wants to meet Luke, who he sees through his window as Luke is taking his dog for a walk every morning.  He makes the crossword messages but really has no idea if they are working until he received a letter from Luke, asking for a meet up, through the editor of the paper.  Commence anxiety.  Now it was real. A real chance for joy. And a real chance for heartache.”  Sometimes you have to take a chance.

When they first meet, Luke thinks, “With his thick dark hair and hunky physique he was, in completely objective terms, hot. Or adorable. Maybe h’orable. He was worthy of coining a new word.”  Except when you say that, it is horrible.  So Luke better stick with video games and not word smithing.  But I loved that after they meet and Luke feels the connection between them, he takes some time to really think about what it would be like to have a relationship with someone in a wheelchair.  Someone who is a little unsure of his own attractiveness. “Did Alex think his company was so forgettable that it wasn’t worth accommodating something as simple as a wheelchair? Well, he’d soon learn what it meant to hang out with a game designer. When it came to logistics? Luke was a fucking god.”

And I loved this description of Alex’s reaction: “Alex was so happy he couldn’t sit still. He put on some music and danced his chair in the open spot in his living room, jerking the wheels back and forth like a DJ scrubbing a record, doing tight spins, and banging his head to the music. He was so freaking happy he felt ready to burst out of his skin.” Right there, you really start pulling for things to be easy and smooth for these guys. “It had been too long since he’d pushed his chair so far and at such a clip, but he’d wanted to impress Luke. It was foolish, but he wanted to show Luke he was fit and strong.”  And he is fit and strong.

Things are really going well, they become friends.  Luke hears the story of Alex’s scumbag former boyfriend and I was a little sad that Alex would have had an affair with a married man with kids.  He seems better than that. “I promised myself that I will never again be anyone’s pathetic little secret. The thing is, I knew better, even then. I knew it was wrong and bad and stupid. But at the time, I….”

Oh and let’s mention, the way Alex gets good at blowjobs?  Epic!

Of course, things just can’t continue on a perfect path. In this case the obstacle comes in the form of a party with Alex’s Wheels and Meals friends, where, “It made Luke feel more conscious of the whole handicapped thing than he’d ever felt with Alex before. Everyone else seemed to think it was a big deal that he and Alex were together. Maybe he was the clueless one; maybe it was.” The final push was Alex’s sister, Amy, who puts doubts in Luke’s head that start to eat away at his confidence in the relationship.  She does it with her brother’s heart in mind, but the result is the same.  Luke questions it all now.  When Alex says, I love you, Luke doesn’t say it back. “He loved Alex too. He did. But he thought about Amy’s warning and was afraid to say it, because she was right.” And so the downward shift begins.  This, combined with a push at work, really puts a knife into the relationship.  My heart was breaking for Alex. And Luke At one point I wanted to smack him, or maybe run him over with Alex’s chair. Oblivious to the point of nearly losing everything. Alex is something definitely worth keeping. How much courage did it take to do the puzzles in the first place? That man doesn’t give himself enough credit.

This is a lovely story that made me sorry when it was over.  I admit to being VERY angry at Luke for his selfishness.  Yes, I will call it selfishness because he acts as he does not out of concern for Alex or Alex’s feelings but because of how things affect him.  But he does pull his head out of his butt with a little help, so he was forgiven.  Overall, sweet and hopeful.

The cover art by Reese Dante is a little misleading – it shows two men and another in a wheelchair following someone.  This is not a foursome, it is just showing them twice, which didn’t work for me. 

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal LinkExclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited

Book Details:
Buy for $2.99 or try Kindle Unlimited to read over a million titles
Kindle Edition, 2nd edition, 120 pages
Published September 6th 2019 (first published October 1st 2013)
ASINB07XCWMZNN
Edition Language English
CharactersAlex Shaw, Luke Schumaker
settingState College, Pennsylvania (United States)
Pennsylvania (United States)

Review Tour and Giveaway for Puzzle Me This by Eli Easton

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal LinkExclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited
 
Cover Design: Reese Dante
 
Blurb
 

Luke Schumaker designs computer games, working from his home. Every day he walks his dog in the woods nearby, never suspecting that someone who is completely smitten is watching.


The watcher is Alex Shaw, and he too works from home, designing logic and crossword puzzles. Alex’s options are limited: he’s too shy to approach Luke and his wheelchair won’t let him follow into the woods. His solution? Secret messages for Luke in the crosswords he writes for the local paper.


When Luke decodes them, romance begins, but then they face greater puzzles, like Alex’s interfering sister and what commitment to a man in a wheelchair really takes. And, most puzzling of all, how do you know if love is real?

 

 

About Eli


Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has over 30 books published.


Eli has loved romance since her teens and she particular admires writers who can combine literary merit, genuine humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, bulldogs, cows, a cat, and lots of groundhogs.


In romance, Eli is best known for her Christmas stories because she’s a total Christmas sap. These include “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “Unwrapping Hank” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles”. Her “Howl at the Moon” series of paranormal romances featuring the town of Mad Creek and its dog shifters has been popular with readers. And her series of Amish-themed romances, Men of Lancaster County, has won genre awards.


Her website is www.elieaston.com
You can email her at eli@elieaston.com

 

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Blog Post and Giveaway for Bitter Heat (Heat of Love #3) by Leta Blake

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Thank you so much to Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words for having me here to today to talk about the third book in my Heat of Love series, Bitter Heat. This book features a damaged omega (Kerry) and an alpha who’s trying to prove himself (Janus). It has a lot of tenderness, hurt/comfort, and high stakes, but the happy ending is guaranteed.

When I started working on the Heat of Love series, various unconscious themes made themselves known almost from the start. The themes of gender, bodily autonomy, and reproductive rights have played through all three books thus far.

Recently, the first book in the series, Slow Heat, appeared on the Learning the Tropes podcast series (https://learningthetropes.podbean.com/e/slow-heat-by-leta-blake-episode-38/) which features Erin, a woman who is a romance-reading “veteran”, and Clayton, a man who’s a romance-reading “virgin”. I was deeply gratified to hear from them both that the intended themes of Slow Heat came through loud and clear. Especially for Clayton, who pronounced the important and visceral experience of imagining these reproductive conundrums on the male body as so profound that he thought the book should be taught in schools. (!!! Surely he was using hyperbole in that opinion, but perhaps not.) By the way, this podcast was hilarious and I highly recommend listening to it and subscribing to their future episodes!

Bitter Heat, the third in the Heat of Love series, continues the exploration of gender, bodily autonomy, and reproductive rights, but this time it takes the story out of the upper classes and into the poverty-stricken areas of the mountains. While the book, like the others, focuses on the effects of the fictional society on a small group of characters and doesn’t lack for steamy sex, it is also akin to the social novels of the of the nineteenth century in the way it calls out social problems of our current times by demonstrating the effect of those problems on a character’s individual life. And by posing questions in a fictional world that have real world applications.

In other words, yes, we have pregnant men in this book, and that might seem over-the-top, titillating, or disturbing depending on your point of view, but the effect of posing specific social questions on the male body can’t be underestimated.

What to expect from this book:

  • Pregnancy – this is the first of the main novels in this series to deal with a pregnant main character
  • Hurt/comfort – the main character of this book is in dire need of comfort
  • Angst – there is plenty of angst for those who love some good pain
  • Revisiting some older characters – namely we’ll see Caleb and Yosef, along with Janus as a main character
  • Reproductive anxiety – if you’re sensitive to issues regarding reproduction, please be aware going in that the fictional world set up in this book is oppressive in that regard

Should a reader have read the first two books in the series before diving into Bitter Heat? I’d say that Bitter Heat might be read as a stand-alone but would be best enjoyed if the first two books, Slow Heat and Alpha Heat, were read first.

 
Length: 110,000 words approx.



Cover Design: Dar Albert @ Wicked Strange Designs

Heat Of Love Series
 

Book #1 – Slow Heat – Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link

Book #2 – Alpha Heat – Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link
 
Blurb
 

A pregnant omega trapped in a desperate situation, an unattached alpha with a lot to prove, and an unexpected fall into love that could save them both.


Kerry Monkburn is contracted to a violent alpha in prison for brutal crimes. Now pregnant with the alpha’s child, he lives high in the mountains, far above the city that once lured him in with promises of a better life. Enduring bitterness and fear, Kerry flirts with putting an end to his life of darkness, but fate intervenes.


Janus Heelies has made mistakes in the past. In an effort to redeem himself, integrity has become the watchword for his future. Training as a nurse under the only doctor willing to take him on, Janus is resolute in his intentions: he will live cleanly in the mountains and avoid all inappropriate affairs. But he doesn’t anticipate the pull that Kerry exercises on his heart and mind.


As the question of Kerry’s future health and safety comes to an explosive head, only the intervention of fate will see these desperate men through to a happy ending.


This gay romance novel by Leta Blake is the third in the Heat of Love universe which began with Slow Heat. It’s 111,000 words, with a strong happy ending and a critically-acclaimed, non-shifter Omegaverse. It features alphas, betas, omegas, male pregnancy, mpreg, heat, and knotting. Content warning for a violent and oppressive society regarding reproductive rights.

 

Author of the bestselling book Smoky Mountain Dreams and the fan favorite Training Season, Leta Blake’s educational and professional background is in psychology and finance, respectively. However, her passion has always been for writing. She enjoys crafting romance stories and exploring the psyches of made up people. At home in the Southern U.S., Leta works hard at achieving balance between her day job, her writing, and her family.

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A Lucy Review : Of Autumn Leaves and New Beginnings by Nell Iris

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

At 47, Oren Walker isn’t looking for love. When he knocks on Pete Higgins’ door, all he wants is to thank him for helping his mom after she broke her femur. He never expected that one look at the man would make his knees weak and heart flutter.

Pete is happy, albeit a bit lonely, after divorcing his wife of twenty years and isn’t looking to replace her. But when Oren shows up, all grateful and handsome and in that fancy suit, the longing for the deep connection of a relationship flares up inside him.

As the leaves turn yellow, Oren and Pete spend a lot of time in honest conversations. Their attraction grows. Will the two men recognize the promise of new beginnings, and take the chance to find the happiness they both deserve?

This is a pretty short story (54 pages of actual content) telling the beginnings of Oren and Pete.  I really liked that these guys are older.  I loved that Oren is completely and unapologetically his mama’s boy.  He adores his mom and doesn’t care who knows.  I also appreciated  that “When every other gay guy in the country checks out asses or the front package, I drool over arms.”  I hear you, Oren.

The two meet when Oren goes over to thank Pete, Oren’s mom’s neighbor, for helping mom out when Oren wasn’t there.  Mom is on crutches and she’s stubborn and awesome.  Pete is a good neighbor and helps her out more than once.  The friendship between the two men evolves from the mom connection to being comfortable hanging out.  Pete is divorced with two older children and his ex-wife is the best.  No wicked witch here – she is supportive and great friends with Pete.

This isn’t slow burn so much as it becomes friends to lovers.  The sex here is off-page, which worked for me, as I felt the connection between them with their conversations and actions.  Oren questions his job with some nudges from Pete and Pete welcomes Oren into his family. 

The epilogue is as sweet as Pete and Oren themselves. 

Cover Art works for the character and the composition and colors make it beautiful and eye catching.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: September 21st 2019 by JMS Books LLC
ISBN1 39781646560325
Edition Language English

An Alisa Review: Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love by Kris T. Bethke

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

As it often does, the bad news comes in the middle of the night.

When attorney Ben Winters’s close friend takes a bad spill and ends up in the hospital, he flies across the country to be there for her. His instant attraction to her brother takes him by surprise.

Wanting Zack Anderson is easy; actually having him is a bad idea. While the two connect over concern for Zack’s sister, there are many reasons to fight the attraction brewing between them. Things heat up as Ben’s friend begins to show improvement, but the reasons not to get involved with the younger man remain the same — long distance relationships never work, and Ben doesn’t do one-night stands.

But there’s one powerful reason to give in: Ben has never wanted anyone more.

This was a nice story but almost felt too short.  When Jack’s sister and Ben’s friend gets hurt Ben arrives to help support Jack and see how his friend is doing in person.

I thought Jack and Ben were cute, first with Ben taking care of Jack and then Jack taking care of Ben.  I hated that it took them being apart for either of them to actually try and think of a way for them to be together.  I loved that Jack was able to see through Ben’s insecurities and show him that he can still find love.

I like the cover art by Written Ink Designs the scarf that Jack’s sister knitted.

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 22,281 words

Published: August 17, 2019 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781646560219

Edition Language: English

Release Blitz and Giveaway for Romancing the Rough Diamond (Romancing the… #4) by Clare London

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Length: 244 pages
 
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
 
Cover Design: Alexandria Corza
 
Blurb



Romancing The…


Trust is the most precious jewel of all.


When Mayfair jewelers Starsmith Stones wins the commission for a gay royal wedding, CEO Joel Sterling is recommended to the brilliant young designer Matt Barth—only to discover Matt’s the man with whom he shared an anonymous and passionate kiss on the celebration night.


Disenchanted with the commercial jewelry industry, Matt nowadays prefers muddy archaeological digs to designing. Openly resentful of Starsmith’s hostile takeover of his family’s firm, he is horrified at the realization he’ll be working with the man who engineered that deal—but the opportunity to create something fabulous and unique for the royal couple is too tempting to refuse.


Working as a team reignites the spark between Joel and Matt. But when betrayal from within Starsmith threatens both the project and Joel’s confidence, will they have built enough trust to keep their newfound love as precious as the royal jewels?

Clare London took her pen name from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fueled family home, she juggles her writing with her other day job as an accountant.


She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning novels and short stories published both online and in print. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic, and sexy characters.


All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!

 
 
 

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Release Blitz and Giveaway for The Secrets We Keep by Rick R Reed

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Length: 195 pages
 
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
 
Cover Design: Reese Dante
 
Blurb
 

Jasper Warren is a happy-go-lucky young man in spite of the tragedy that’s marred his life. He’s on a road to nowhere with his roommate, Lacy, whom he adores, and a dead-end retail job in Chicago.


And then everything changes in a single night. Though Jasper doesn’t know it, his road is going somewhere after all. This time when tragedy strikes, it brings with it Lacy’s older, wealthy, sexy uncle Rob. Despite the heart-wrenching circumstances, an immediate connection forms between the two men.


But the secrets between them test their attraction. Will their revelations destroy the bloom of new love… or encourage it to grow?

 
Excerpt
 

It’s always exciting for me, both as a writer and as a reader, when the two main lovers in a book first meet. In THE SECRETS WE KEEP, that first meeting is at a funeral home wake, for someone both men loved deeply (and for whom many of the secrets in the book are kept).

***



When he stepped out of the bathroom, someone was waiting for him. An older man.


Jasper tried to thread his way around the guy. “Did you want to go in?” Jasper gestured toward the open bathroom.


“No. I was waiting for you.” The guy eyed him. He was probably a good twenty years older than Jasper, but as inappropriate as it was at a time like this, Jasper couldn’t help noticing how sexy he was. Trim, a little on the short side, it was obvious, even in his impeccably tailored black suit, he was in very good, and very powerful, shape. Jasper was certain those weren’t shoulder pads testing the seams at the tops of his arms.


He had kind eyes. And they were the most amazing shade of pale gray. Jasper had seen a husky once with eyes like that; he couldn’t say he’d ever seen anything like it on a human being. Those eyes were mesmerizing, arresting, and chilling, framed in long, black lashes.


His hair was silver, shorn close on the sides with a bit more on top, spiked with some gel.


He wore a fashionable five-o’clock shadow that Jasper couldn’t deny he wanted to feel—either with his fingers or against his own smooth cheeks.


“For me?” Jasper smiled. “I’m sorry. Do I know you?”


He simply smiled enigmatically. “Probably not. But I bet I know you. You’re Jasper, Heather’s roommate, right?”


“Yeah. And you are?”


“I’m Robert. Robert Burroughs.” He extended his hand.


Jasper gripped the warm hand, slightly soft and a little damp. He didn’t take his eyes off Robert the whole time, and the “whole time” was much longer than the duration of a handshake for most guys. It sent a shiver through Jasper.


“Burroughs?” Jasper had a terrifying thought. What if this is her dad? Good Lord, I’m flirting with Lacy’s dad! At her funeral! The very thought caused beads of sweat to pop out on Jasper’s forehead. He held in a giddy burst of laughter. “Are you, um, related to Lacy? Er, Heather?”


Please don’t say you’re her father.


“I’m her uncle Rob. Did she never mention me?”


Jasper wracked his brain. One thing neither of them did much of was talk about their respective families. They liked to believe they were each other’s family now, “chosen family” was the term they used. The idea, the memory of this, brought a lump to Jasper’s throat, bringing home for real that his best friend was gone. “I’m not sure.”


“It’s okay if she didn’t. I hadn’t seen her in quite some time. My schedule doesn’t afford me much opportunity to see family, as much as I might want to.” He smiled, and Jasper noticed the sadness around his eyes despite it. Robert went on softly, “I wish I’d had one more chance to talk to her, to tell her how I loved her. I’m afraid she didn’t know.”


Jasper nodded. “Me too. If I could just talk to her one more time, maybe we wouldn’t be here.”


Robert cocked his head. “No?”


Jasper didn’t want to disabuse him of the notion that Lacy had not killed herself, if that was what he was choosing to believe. So he simply said, “Who knows?”


“Heather used to write sometimes, a long time ago. She’d shoot me a text, you know, a birthday emoji or a holiday one. We were close when she was a kid. I used to take her places with me whenever I could. Her parents never really got her, you know?”


“Oh, I know.”


“They were always trying to change her. Like, she was left-handed naturally, and they worked and worked and worked on getting her to use her right. They tried to get her to hang out with what they deemed the popular girls. They bought her American Girl dolls when all she wanted was a set of paints and a good book, preferably horror. I could stand here all day and tell you how little my brother and sister-in-law knew their girl. But I won’t.


“I just wish I’d stayed in better touch with her. Once my career took off, back when she was just becoming a teenybopper, I kind of got preoccupied and we lost touch.” He paused and Jasper noticed the tears standing in his incredible eyes. Unexpectedly, he laughed. “When she was a little girl, and I mean like three or four, she would sigh and say, ‘Woe is me.’ What little girl says that?”


“Lacy. It so figures.”


“You call her Lacy. Why?”


“That’s how she referred to herself. She was even thinking of legally changing her name. She hated Heather.”


Robert nodded. “I get that. I never thought of her as a Heather. I’m glad she found something else.” He glanced over his shoulder into the viewing room. “I wish they’d respected that.”


I do too. Jasper felt, suddenly, even sadder. For his own loss, sure, but more for Lacy’s loss. The rest of her life. She could have done so much. She could have been happy. He just knew it.


He placed his hand on Robert’s shoulder. “Look, I intended to stay longer, but I need to get out of here. This place is too oppressive. And it honestly feels like someone else is being waked, not the girl I know. So I’m gonna book. But it was nice to talk to you.”


Robert nodded. “Will you be at the funeral tomorrow morning?”


The funeral was set for one of Rogers Park’s Catholic churches. Then they’d fly the body back to California for burial in the family plot.


It was all wrong. All not what Lacy would have chosen.


Jasper shook his head. “No. I don’t think so. This isn’t her. I think I’ll just remember her as I knew her.”


Jasper turned away, feeling on the verge of tears. He didn’t want to cry in front of Lacy’s uncle—or anyone else gathered at the funeral home, for that matter.


As he reached the door, Robert’s voice stopped him.


“Jasper?”


He turned.


“Would you mind if I came with you? I need to get out of here too.”

 

Real Men. True Love.


Rick R. Reed draws inspiration from the lives of gay men to craft stories that quicken the heartbeat, engage emotions, and keep the pages turning. Although he dabbles in horror, dark suspense, and comedy, his attention always returns to the power of love. He’s the award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction and is forever at work on yet another book. Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” You can find him at www.rickrreed.com or www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA with his beloved husband and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix.


FIND RICK ONLINE

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Check Out KC Well’s Chatting about Covers and her new release Kel’s Keeper by KC Wells (guest blog and excerpt)

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Kel’s Keeper

KC Wells

M/M Romance, Daddy/boy, Age gap

Release Date: 09.01.19

Kel's Keeper Cover

Cover by Meredith Russell

Photographer by Ben Fink

Models: Adam Keith and Joe Ryan

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host KC Wells here today talking about her new release Kel’s Keeper and cover art. Welcome, KC!

✒︎

You can’t judge a book by its cover.

We’ve all heard that a thousand times, right?

Yet…

How many of us choose a book for precisely that?

As an author, that’s one very important piece of marketing right there. Because if readers don’t like a cover, they might not be willing to go any further.

So who judges a book by its cover? EVERYBODY.

That’s why I spend a lot of time looking for THE perfect cover.

Take the cover of Kel’s Keeper as a for instance.

I was on a stock photo site, looking for Daddies. And not having a lot of luck. Just then, a dear friend, author Wulf Francu Godgluck, messaged me. I shared the couple of photos I’d found by that point, neither of which made me go OOOH YEAH.

“Try this guy.” Wulf sent me a link to Ben Fink’s page on Instagram, and BAM. I was lost in a sea of gorgeous daddies and bears. I scrolled down, looking for the right one. And suddenly I was stopped by a familiar face.

Adam?

Yup, it was someone I’d met twice in the US, as we shared a mutual friend. And the guy with him was his partner, who I’d also met. Adam Keith and Joe Ryan.

I LOVED that photo. I messaged Ben Fink immediately, and his reply was pretty quick. He wanted to know more about the book. I could understand that. I sent him the blurb, and he asked me to call him. He was actually filming a commercial for McDonalds when we got to chat.

He liked the book idea, and he was happy for me to use the photo, as long as Adam and Joe were okay with it too.

You can guess the rest.

Why did I choose that photo? The way they looked at each other. The emotional connection that was so obvious. Last week, I got to meet up with them in London for a few hours, and they are such a lovely couple.

A few of my books have featured real-life couples on the covers: An Unlocked Heart, Trusting Thomas, and Make Me Soar were all by one man, Terry Cyr. I chose the photo for Step by Step because of the way they looked at each other. And as for the cover of On The Same Page, (Secrets #4) I love photographer Ron Amato’s work. I used one of his photos for the cover of Threepeat, and when I saw this photo, I fell in love with it instantly. It’s a good thing Parker Williams liked it too, right?

I’ve been really fortunate with my publisher. I’ve heard from so many authors who have been sent a draft of their cover and they’ve had little input in its creation. In my case, if I find a photo I like, I send it to the Art department at Dreamspinner, and they have never said, ‘Oh no, that’s awful.’

They’ve also contacted photographers to purchase the rights to photos that I had to have. (Think First. That photo was freaking PERFECT for the book.)

Of course, good photos cost money. I’ve paid anywhere from $50 to $600 for a photo, and believe me, that’s not expensive. For some of your favorite covers out there, we’re talking $1,000+.

But for the right cover? It’s SO worth it.

BLURB
When Kel Taylor’s life changes irrevocably, he finds himself alone in the world. He might have rebelled a little against his parents, but that didn’t mean he was ready to lose them. Unable to cope with his grief and feelings of guilt, he turns to booze, but before he hits rock bottom, someone dives into the murky waters to save him.

Luc Bryant watched Kel grow from the little kid whose football broke a pane in his greenhouse, into the sexy young man who sent heat racing through him. That was when Luc stopped watching and distanced himself, because he didn’t want to be that kind of a man. And that’s how things continued, until he saw to what depths the boy had sunk. Luc will be damned if he’ll let Kel kill himself. What Kel needs is a friend, and Luc’s shoulders are plenty big enough to bear his burdens.

Kel doesn’t need a friend. He needs a pair of strong arms to hold him, a broad chest to curl up against, someone to listen to him, someone who cares for him… and a whole lot more.
What he needs is a Daddy.
He just doesn’t know it yet.

A stand-alone book that contains an age gap relationship between a sexy daddy and a virgin.

Amazon US

Barnes and Noble

Kel's Keeper Teaser Rule 10Kel's Keeper Teaser Rule 9Kel's Keeper Teaser Rule 8promo post #3

EXCERPT

The time for worrying about Kel had long past. Luc had to do something.

After the funeral, he’d kept his promise and checked in on the boy regularly, and at first it had looked like Kel was coming through this. At least, Luc assumed he was. He didn’t get to see Kel all that much, but their brief conversations over the property boundary were proof that Kel was alive and well, if looking a little thin.

Then the conversations dwindled, as did the phone calls. Kel politely refused Luc’s invitations to eat with him. He refused Luc’s offers of assistance. And lately there had been far too many occasions when Kel didn’t answer his phone. No reply to texts. When Luc had ventured across to knock at the door, there had been no answer. Of course, he could have been out, but somehow Luc doubted that. When April gave way to May, Luc’s disquiet increased.

There were signs of life at the house next door, however. Walmart trucks came and went, and more than once, Luc dashed out to catch Kel before he closed the front door, but he was never fast enough.

Almost as though the boy was avoiding him, which if it were true, would be extremely ironic.

The day arrived when Luc wasn’t content to sit back anymore and wait for something to happen. It was time for the last resort—and that meant Christine’s spare key, the one he’d never gotten around to giving back to Kel. Thank God.

Luc grabbed it from the hook in the kitchen where he kept his keys, and went out of the house. Kel’s car was in the driveway, and judging by the state of the ground beneath it, Kel hadn’t moved it for a while. That only added to Luc’s sense of foreboding.

He went around to the front door, not bothering to ring the bell. After weeks of his knocks going unanswered, there seemed little point. Luc inserted the key into the lock, praying there wasn’t a chain attached on the other side. Thankfully, the door opened, and Luc stepped quietly into the silent interior. He peered into the sitting room, then the dining room, but there was no sign of Kel. When he entered the kitchen, the sight was enough to stop him in his tracks.

Dishes were piled high on every countertop. The dishwasher door was open, and Luc peeked inside. It was full of dirty dishes. The sink was full too, and the trash looked like it hadn’t been taken out for weeks.

Luc noted the pizza boxes and take-out cartons. At least he’s eating something. It was only when he took a closer look at one corner of the kitchen that the full extent of the situation hit him.

Bottles. Lots and lots of empty bottles. And most of it was the hard stuff, Luc was dismayed to see. There were empty cans and bottles of hard cider, and bottles of wine too. It appeared as if Kel had drunk his way through the contents of a bar.

Dear God, what state is he in, if he’s drunk all that?

Luc checked the rest of the first floor, but there was still no sign. He paused at the foot of the stairs, his nostrils flaring. The smell of stale alcohol was very noticeable. Luc mounted the stairs, his heart pounding. This is not good. This is way worse than I thought. Already he was kicking himself for not charging in sooner.

When he reached the door to Kel’s room, Luc paused, steeling himself for whatever lay beyond it, and praying fervently that the boy hadn’t choked to death on his own vomit. He pushed open the door and heaved an internal sigh of relief at the sight that awaited him.

Kel was in his bed, only the top of his head visible above the comforter, but he was clearly breathing. The room was in semidarkness, and the reek of alcohol was at its strongest, accompanied by the smell of stale sweat. Luc crossed the floor, put his hand to the lump beneath the covers, and gave Kel a light shake.

Nothing.

Luc gave him a stronger shake, and Kel’s groggy voice shattered the quiet. “Wha?”

“Kel,” Luc said urgently. “It’s Luc.”

“Go ’way.”

Like Luc was going to do that. “No, I’m not going anywhere. Remember?” He slowly drew back the comforter, only to have Kel seize it from him and pull it back over himself. Half-closed brown eyes regarded him with incredulity.

“How’d you get in here?”

“I have a key. You mom gave it to me. Remember, she asked me to check on the house?”

Kel propped himself up on his elbows, and the comforter slid lower, revealing…

Well, I certainly didn’t expect that.

Kel had a tattoo, a pattern of black swirls and spikes that covered his right shoulder, his pec and came halfway down his upper arm. There was also a lot more body hair than Luc had been prepared for. Before Luc could utter another word, Kel set his jaw. “I want it back, then I want you to leave.”

Luc slowly shook his head. “No. You need help.”

Kel’s eyes blazed, and he sat bolt upright. “You. Need. To. Go. Now.”

“And let you keep doing this to yourself? Kel, you’re better than this.”

Kel’s jaw dropped, then he snapped it shut. “You need to go,” he repeated through gritted teeth. “I don’t want you seeing me like this. I’m a pathetic excuse for a human being. Help me? You couldn’t help me. I’m a hopeless case. I’m worse than useless.”

Luc’s stomach turned over. What the fuck had happened? “I have no idea where all this is coming from,” he said, doing his best to keep his voice even. “I know you, Kel. You’re nothing like the person you just described.”

Kel stared up at him, a dazed look in his eyes, his mouth open. “Know me? You don’t know me! Even my parents didn’t know me!” His chest rose and fell rapidly, his breathing harsh and staccato. “If they did, they’d have shunned me for the abomination that I am.”

Abomination? “Kel, I—”

I was not a good son!” Kel yelled, the cords of his neck standing out. “And if they’d seen into my heart, they’d have been horrified. I went against their teachings.” He brought his left hand down hard on his right pec, wincing. “This. This would have given them so much pain, and I still had it done, knowing that.” His eyes glistened. “And there was worse than this. So many things I wanted to tell them, but I couldn’t, because they’d have been so damned disappointed in me. And now it’s too late. They’re never going to know what I’m really like. And I can’t bear that.” Tears spilled over his cheeks, his shoulders shook, and he sobbed.

Luc knew what he was seeing. In an instant, he sat on the bed, drew back the comforter, and pulled Kel into his lap, his arms around him. It was no surprise when the boy threw his arms around Luc’s neck and buried his face in Luc’s chest, his knees up to his chest, harsh sobs racking his body. “It’s okay,” Luc whispered. “Let it out. It’s all right to let it out, Kel.” Hot tears soaked into his shirt.

“I… can’t… stop… it from… hurting…” Kel choked out between sobs.

“It’s supposed to hurt.” Luc held onto him, one arm around his back, the other around his legs, cradling him, aware of the tremors that jolted through Kel’s frame. “This is grief. You’ve held on to your emotions so tightly, but now you have to let go.”

Kel’s sobs increased in volume and frequency, and Luc remained silent, gently rocking him in his arms, a weeping young man dressed only in his briefs, curled up against Luc’s chest and clinging to him. Luc’s arms were full to capacity: Kel might have been shorter than him, but he’d obviously been working out at some point. Little by little the tears subsided, and Kel’s breathing became less erratic. Luc brought his rocking to a halt, his nose buried in Kel’s hair. Finally, Kel moved gingerly, as though embarrassed by his position.

Luc let go, and Kel sat on the bed beside him. He sniffed, then wiped a hand across his eyes. “I’m sorry.”

“You have nothing to apologize for. If you knew how long I’ve been waiting for you to show some emotion over their deaths….” Luc stroked Kel’s hair. “It’s perfectly normal. And nothing to be embarrassed about. Although….” Luc wrinkled his nose.

Kel swallowed. “I guess I smell a bit ripe, huh?”

“Just a little,” Luc lied. “Nothing a good shower wouldn’t put right. If you think you can stay upright for that long. You might be a little shaky on your legs.” He stood, and held out a hand to Kel, who took it and pulled himself to his feet. Luc watched him anxiously. “Well?”

Kel expelled a long shuddering breath. “I can manage a shower.”

Luc nodded in approval. “And while you’re doing that, I’ll go downstairs and make you something to eat.” He cocked his head to one side. “That’s assuming there’s food in your kitchen. Edible food.”

Kel bit his lip. “Yeah, about that…”

Luc rolled his eyes. “Get washed. I’ll go to my place and raid the refrigerator. Take as long as you like.”

For the first time since Luc had entered his room, there was a flash of the old Kel. “Is that Luc-speak for ‘you stink’?”

Luc laughed. “Shower, dirty boy. Then I’ll feed you. And then… we can talk.” He felt a good deal lighter. That had been a cathartic moment, and while Kel still had a way to go, the outlook was hopeful.

What puzzled him were a couple of things Kel had said. At this point Luc wasn’t sure if he was going to leave them for now, or bring them out into the open. Because sooner or later, they had to talk about them.

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K.C. Wells started writing in 2012, although the idea of writing a novel had been in her head since she was a child. But after reading that first gay romance in 2009, she was hooked.

She now writes full time, and the line of men in her head, clamouring to tell their story, is getting longer and longer. If the frequent visits by plot bunnies are anything to go by, that’s not about to change anytime soon.

If you want to follow her exploits, you can sign up for her monthly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/cNKHlT

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