Review: Spice ‘n’ Solace (Galactic Alliance #1) by KC Burn

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Rating: 4.5 stars

Kaz Deinos knows what it feels to be an outsider, he’s been one all his life.  When his family cast him out at an early age due to his sexuality, he lived in the marginal sections of the space station making his living any way he could.  Now he is the owner of one of the only male oriented brothels on the station and he has worked hard to make sure the sex workers in his brothel are taken care of, paid well and never harassed by any client.  It has made him wealthy and his workers some of the most sought after by people of every station, including the most influential and important government figures.  But lately someone is trying to sabotage his business.  There have been rumors of illness at his place and several of his workers  have been ambushed and hurt.  When his business is placed in isolation due to another rumored sickness, Kaz must figure out what to do when his most famous client  has requested a escort for the evening and none can leave the brothel.

Jathan One Moon is one of the galaxies most famous negotiator as was his father before him.  His father negotiated the treaty that ended the war between the Ankylos and the human race.  A treaty that has to be renegotiated once a year, this time by him.  In addition to the treaty, Jathan One Moon is under pressure to  marry and have an heir to take over from him later in life.  But Jathan is gay and not inclined to satisfy the demands he marry.  Instead he is looking to ease some of his tension by a visit from escort from the brothel owned by Kaz Deinos.  While  Jathan has never met the man, his escorts are the best in the business and he is looking forward to this evening.

When Kaz goes over to Jathan’s suite to let him know that there will be a delay for an escort, he is mistaken for one by Jathan himself.  Kaz takes one look at Jathan One Moon and does something he has never done before, substitutes himself in his escorts place.  One night of passion turns into a week as the negotiations continue.  And both men are wondering how they are going to deal with being separated at the end, as their meetings are less and less about just a sexual connection and more about love.

I read and reviewed the second book in the series, Alien ‘n’ Outlaw, first and I am sorry I did that as the additional exposition you get here makes the second book much clearer, especially concerning the outbreak of the war between the races and why the mineral is so important to  Ankylos. Lesson learned.

That said, I enjoyed reading this book just as much as I did  Alien ‘n’ Outlaw.  Spice ‘n’ Solice introduces us to all the characters we meet in the second with one exception, and the author’s gift of giving the reader realistic characters and backgrounds continues here.  Kaz is beautiful and tough as he has had to be growning up in his religious, conservative family.  Only now is homosexuality being accepted on some of the more  traditional human outposts and Kaz has had to work hard to get his type of brothel and sex worker accepted and respected.  But we also get the idea that the isolation Kaz lives in it also a form of protection against emotional pain and the prospect of love.  Jathan One Moon is Kaz’s equal in everything but background and Burn is sure to make it obvious that their relationship may start off based in sex but deepens based on mental equality and mutual respect.  Yes, there is a huge secret between them, but Kaz is quick to understand that he must be honest with Jathan no matter the consequences.

The Ankylos, the two tiered  race,  is here as well.  I thought the idea of the worker bee/royalty set up intriguing as well as their hive mentality and communication.  And while there is nothing especially “outer spacey” about the space station, the descriptions of a huge city geared around hospitality and the ships that visit are well done.

As I said before, there is also something kind of goofy and endearing about this series.  I just like it and hope KC Burn intends to continue to give us  more installments.  I, for one, will be lined up to get them.

Spice ‘n’ Solice (Galactic Alliance #1)

Alien ‘n’ Outlaw (Galactic Alliance #2) read my review here.

Review: Second Chances (Cattle Valley #28) by Carol Lynne

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Rating: 3 stars

After a shotgun blast took off his arm, former Chicago police officer Robert “Oggie” Ogden moved to Cattle Valley to start life over again as a cattle rancher.  Then another opportunity came along, that of turning a portion of his ranch into a sanctuary for homeless and troubled GLBTQ youth.  With the help of  local philanthropist Asa Montgomery, Second Chance Ranch is about to complete its second dormitory and other facilities.  But accepting Asa’s help has also meant that Oggie has had to put up with Drake Smith, the head of security for Asa’s company.  Oggie hates that people think of him as disabled and refuses most of the offers of help sent his way, including Drake’s.

Drake Smith learned early in life that his small size made him an easy target for bullies as did his home life.  And to take on the bullies he learned to defend himself, becoming a skilled fighter.  But emotionally? That was something he found tougher to guard against the hurts inflicted by others.  So he gave up, withdrew, isolating himself within his  apartment and into his job.  Against his better judgement, Drake finds himself drawn to the taciturn Oggie and reaches out to him only to find himself and his overtures of assistance harshly rebuffed.

Only an emergency rescue of a young boy in Washington, DC brings these two men back together.  As they search for the missing boy, the sexual heat flares between them, burning down their barriers along the way.  Neither man is prepared for the feelings emerging from their encounter and pull back from each other.  When they land  back in Cattle Valley with the rescued young man, only time will tell if they will give each other the second chance at love.

Carol Lynne’s Cattle Valley series has really turned into a hit or miss reading adventure.  The last book I reviewed, Alone In A Crowd, was a return to the reason I loved this series and grabbed up each book as they were published.  Carol Lynne brought back her original characters in a long established relationship and gave us an intimate look into their changing dynamics with only scarce mentions of new characters to come. So I eagerly picked this book up, only to find that the author has returned to the form that made me eventually give up on Cattle Valley.  Here in Second Chances, the author has so many balls in the air that they are dropping figuratively all over the landscape and we are left with a grab bag of nonsensical characters and behaviors culled from the back of a psychiatry handbook.

Really, from the descriptions and back histories of the main characters here, Oggie and Drake, it looks like the author used the Mr. Potato Head method of character construction,  jamming in various characteristics into her people regardless of whether they fit or not.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  This is Drake Smith.  He is small statured (no problem), so preoccupied by threats to his safety (real or imagined) that he lives in a tiny apartment in Asa’s business complex with multiple locks on his door.He take a gun with him to answer any knocks on it.  Drake bases all his life’s decisions on “what would make his (dead) mother smile” but only eats Campbell soup because that’s all he and his mother ate.  Drake is a cutter. He self mutilates and then runs around on cutup feet like it is no problem. And after one episode, the cutting is never mentioned again.  It just disappears. Drake is ok with casual sex but won’t open his door without a gun? Huh.  And it just keep snow piling from there.  I get that Lynne wants us to find him a pained filled little man needing our sympathy but all she accomplishes is to make him out as a whacko with the Bate’s Motel in his background. Trust me it gets worse if you think that is harsh.  We will come back to him later.

Oggie is a little better.  I can see a cop having trouble leaving his life behind and having problems adjusting to his disability.  I get that, I do.  Oggie is more believable as someone who is afraid that pity lies behind offers of help.  He’s not too bad except when Drake gives him a compliment and his response is “F*&k, Drake, you turning me into some kind of damn woman or what?” Really? That’s what you come up with after muttering an endearment? I don’t know about you but I found that offensive to both men and women.

Then there is the matter of a little scene between the two men in the airplane on their way to DC.  Drake carries with him a small photograph album of pictures of him and his mother. He gives them to Oggie to help him better understand where Drake is coming from. Sweet, right?  The first picture shows a 5 year old Drake and a women with bandaged feet.  As he ages, his mother loses more and more limbs over time (to Diabetes),  First her feet, then her arms…year by year there is less and less of her. Another year, another limb.  And by then I am in tears.  Of laughter.  Not because of the very real possibility of amputation as the disease progresses.  No, I am in hysterics over the thought of what an SNL sketch this would make.  Definitely not the reaction I think Carol Lynne going for. But that just shows you how over the top this story got in making a grab for our emotions.

And finally there is Cullen “Little Man”, the boy they were sent to rescue.  Her characterization of this young man is the ultimate black mark against this book.  Cullen was a young prostitute on the streets of DC until Father Joseph (hopefully Episcopalian) talks him into the shelter he runs for GLBTQ youth.  But something happens and Cullen returns to the streets where he is abducted by his pimp and made to pay for trying to leave his stable.  It is inferred that this kid was gang raped i.e.,  tortured and “retrained” by multiple men. And when Oggie and Drake find Cullen, he is tied to a bed  barely breathing, bloody, beaten, raped and a W is carved into his forehead.  I don’t think it is a stretch for anyone to imagine the emotional and  psychological trauma this would inflict on this young man, to say nothing of the physical mess his body is in.  But is this handled responsibly after loading up this poor guy with one horrific event after another? No,  Cullen bounds back to normal almost immediately.  Nothing is said about the huge W on his forehead.  It’s as though nothing bad had really happened to him.  So how do you go there as an author and not address the very real problems brought up?  I don’t know and Carol Lynne has certainly not given us any answers.

There are smaller editing errors (Drake “unlocks” his apartment upon leaving) as well as an unrealistic case of “instant love”, all in 89 pages.   But there are so many larger issues here, that is the least of the book’s problems.

And finally there is the prospect of a romance on the horizon that even if Cullen turns out to be of legal age, leaves me kind of nauseous. So where do I go from here?  One terrific book is followed by one that is just this side of awful.  I will probably keep reading them.  At this point it is too late to stop and, like a carrot before the horse, there is always the promise of a return again to the form that made Cattle Valley I place I loved to visit.

Cover by Posh Gosh is perfection as usual.

Review of Cherish (Faith, Love & Devotion #4) by Tere Michaels

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Rating: 4.5 stars

It has taken several years, 5 to be exact, for New York City Vice Detective Evan Cerelli, his four children, and former Homicide Detective Matt Haight to come together as a couple and as a family.  And for the most part they have made it without the emotional fireworks and mental turmoil that marked the first year of their relationship.

Now Even is going to be promoted to Captain of his precinct, the first out gay captain on the force, Matt is a successful security advisor when he is not a wonderful house husband to the two kids, twins Danny and Elizabeth, still at home.  Katie and Miranda are off at college, and their friends seem happy.  Life is good.

But Thanksgiving is coming and bringing with it the family explosions they thought they had left in the past. When Evan accidentally learns his oldest daughter, Miranda, is thinking of getting married to her boyfriend of less than 3 months, he flies off in a rage and is met with equal anger from Miranda who still has problems accepting her father’s relationship with Matt. A temporary truce between them sees Evan inviting Miranda’s new boyfriend and his parents to Evan and Matt’s house for Thanksgiving.  Also coming for Thanksgiving is Helena, Evan’s partner on the force and her boyfriend, Shane, and second oldest daughter, Katie, who “wouldn’t miss the fireworks for anything.”

And before the turkey is even on the table,  emotional explosions are going off and everyone is included.  Matt and Evan first have to survive Thanksgiving with their family and friends, and each minute more is making that unlikely.

This is the fourth book in the Faith, Love & Devotion series by Tere Michaels and it is a series close to my heart.  We first met  Matt and Evan in the first book Faith & Fidelity, at the angst ridden beginnings of their relationship.  Then Evan was mourning the loss of his beloved wife and first and only person he has ever slept with.  In addition to his grief, he was trying to do his job as a police officer and fill in the void for his four kids left behind when his wife died.  Evan is full of pain, grief and overburdened by stress and doubts about his ability to  be a good father and step up to the plate.  Matt is a complete mess when the reader and Evan first encounter him.  Forced to resign from the police force he loves over behavior issues, he has become a bitter, disillusioned drunk, getting by as a security cop and on anonymous sex with women. But a conversation in a bar and the exchange of personal confidences leads to an unlikely friendship that eventually turns into a shattering love affair that forces each man to rethink his sexuality and  their acceptance of the fact that they love each other.  It is a tough road for Evan and Matt, especially Evan, who has the reactions of his children, former inlaws and police force to think about.

One of the things I cherish about this series is that Tere Michaels lets us in on the emotional fallout and oscillating feelings, including bouts of denial, that come with identity earthquakes. By that I mean the paradigm shifts that occur within a person when the most basic self knowledge is proven wrong.  And being gay or bisexual is a major shift for them both.  The author lets their relationship play out, not over one book but four stories, including this one.  The Evan/Matt relationship here is the strongest it has ever been (and that’s saying something) but even here it has its shaky moments, most of which come from the stress brought on by Miranda. Let me tell you, there are many times that I am as frustrated with Miranda as everyone else in her family.  I don’t like her behavior and think that Evan needs to get a grip when dealing with her.  But does that sound like I think of them as characters?  No it does not.  And that’s the beauty of these stories and these amazing characters, they might make you gnash your teeth and pull some hair, but they are never anything less than believable.

Michaels also takes into account how much alike fathers and their daughters can be as Evan and Miranda’s behavior is often a reflection of each other.  Matt too has aged and grown into his role as caregiver/second father to at least 3 of the kids, and his growth is as realistic and wry as can be.  Tere Michaels has a wonderful grip on relationship dynamics, not only between romantic partners but familial relationships too.  Siblings squabbles,  family arguments, and the small joys of an established bond are all found here in this latest addition to the series.

I also loved that it takes place over Thanksgiving and includes the family of Miranda’s boyfriend, which adds that unknown element so often present at Thanksgiving when multiple family groups, including strangers, are brought together and forced to engage each other on the most intimate of  American celebrations, the Thanksgiving dinner.  Expectations are perhaps unreasonably high for what we think this holiday with its traditions of being grateful and giving thanks will bring.  And that stress alone has blown up more turkeys than any fryer on the market. I will tell you that all ends well, at least temporarily for this wonderful family I have become so fond of.  If you are familiar with this story, you will love Cherish as I did.  If this series is new to you,  don’t start here.  Go back to the beginning to where it all started.  It makes the place they are at now all the more precious and rewarding.

And Tere Michaels?  I need more of another favorite couple here, that would be Jim and Griffon from Love & Loyalty (Faith, Love & Devotion #2).  Pretty please?  That would be a great Christmas gift for us all.

Here are the books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the history and couples involved:

Faith & Fidelity (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #1)

Love & Loyalty (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #2)

Duty & Devotion (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #3)

Cherish (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #4)

Cover art by Croco Designs.  The covers for this series are just average.  They really don’t relate to the stories within nor do they make any real attempt to have models that look like the characters. Grade C

Books available at Loose id, Amazon, and All Romance.

Review: A Slice of Love (Taste of Love #4) by Andrew Grey

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Rating: 4.5 stars

Coming from a military family with a General for a father, Marcus Wilson was the only child who marched to a different drummer.  Not only is Marcus gay but instead of following his siblings into service, Marcus opened his own bakery, A Slice of Heaven.  Owning his own bakery is his dream but going it alone without support is getting harder to hold onto it all.  Marcus has two wonderful helpers but in order to survive, he needs to expand his business.  And he’s so exhausted from working 24/7 that he doesn’t know how to make that happen.  All he knows is that he needs help and soon to save everything he has worked for.

Gregory Southland is finally back on his  feet and working again.  After being  diagnosed with HIV, he become too ill to work and support himself.  After his parents rejected him for being gay and his HIV status, he was saved by his ex-boyfriend and his partner who nursed him back to health. But Gregory’s current paycheck is not enough and he needs a second part-time job to help him pay his bills and starting building up his savings again. Then his ex-boyfriend Sebastian has a suggestion.  The baker across the street from Sebastian and Robert’s restaurant needs help with his bookkeeping and it just might be the perfect solution for them both.

When Gregory starts to work for Marcus, something wonderful starts to happen.  The instant attraction each felt for the other starts to deepen into something stronger, something that starts to feel a lot like love. And the bakery blossoms along with their relationship. When they help out a engaged couple in distress, their wedding cake business booms.  Even the distance between Marcus and his family starts to dwindle when Marcus’ stepmother needs a cake (and their involvement) to help out a young boy being discriminated against.  But for every two steps forward, something or someone appears to impede their progress.  Gregory’s past returns to threaten his new happiness and Marcus’ support for his stepmother’s cause imperiles his bakery’s newfound success.  Marcus and Gregory must believe in each other to help Marcus’ dream and their future come true.

What a wonderful, heartwarming story, perfect reading when you want that book that will fill you with happiness and hope.  In A Slice of Love, Andrew Grey gives us that and more.  The author gives us families built around the people closest to us, people not necessarily related by blood.  Grey then manages to bring together into the mixture families long estranged from each other and reunites them with their loved ones.  And what we end up with is a community of people connected by family, respect and love.

This is the fourth book in the Taste of Love series and the focus this time is on Marcus Wilson and Gregory Southland.  The lives of both men have been changed by contact with  HIV/AIDS.  For Marcus, he lost his best friend and business partner to the disease and now carries their dream forward by himself.  For Gregory, the impact is greater still as he is HIV positive now, a result of a bad decision.  But instead of highlighting the negative aspects of life lived with AIDS, Andrew Grey shows us that life does not stop with a diagnoses.  Gregory, once he is healthy again, has a romantic life and good career.  And just as realistically, the author includes Gregory’s drug regimen, as well as the care he takes to protect himself and others from casual transmission by body fluids.  Putting a face to HIV status is a wonderful way to help inform as well as promote the idea that an HIV positive person is not someone to treat as an outcast but rather someone who should be embraced for who they are and not the illness they carry.  And he did that here not just through the character of Gregory but through that of a little boy as well.

There are multiple relationships to be resolved here  and Andrew Grey manages it with a gentle hand and considerable skill.  It doesn’t matter whether it is the father/son bond that needs to be reestablished, or a shallow connection between stepmother and stepson that becomes strong through communication and generous gestures.  All manner of family ties and friendship are explored here along with that of  romantic love.  It also doesn’t hurt that it all revolves around a bakery and some sinfully delectable pastries and cakes.  I wanted to reach out and grab a piece of that carrot cake or snag a cinnamon rolls as it came out of the oven, the descriptions were so mouth watering good.

A Slide of Love is a wonderfully endearing addition to a heartwarming series you will return to time and again.  Tis the season for family, joy and love.  Pick this up and lose yourself in all three.

A Taste of Love series in the order they were written and the characters introduced:

A Taste of Love (Darryl Hansen and Billy Weaver)

A Serving of Love (Sebastian Franklin and Robert Fortier)

A  Helping of Love (Peter Christopoulos and Russ Baker)

A Slide of Love (Marcus Wilson and Gregory Southland)

Thanksgiving is Over, a Leftover Turkey Recipe and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Thanksgiving is over, the leftovers have been divvied out to family and friends, and the thought of cooking at the moment leaves me a little numb. On top of everything, I ended up the next day in an emergency care after hours clinic for a fever, sore throat and massive ear aches. So yeah, there’s that too that seems to go with the holidays.

Still the memories of family and good times are warm even if the leftover turkey isn’t and it leaves me plenty of time to read, review and knit a scarf or two as presents for the nieces.  The cold weather here in Maryland is bitter, the bird feeders stocked to the brim, and the terriers are snug in their (meaning my) bed.  If you need some books to fill your eStockings, here are some I definitely recommend:

Monday 11/26:                                Mourning Heaven by Amy Lane

Tuesday 11/27:                                A Slice of Love (Taste of Love #4) by Andrew Grey

Wednesday 1128:                           Cherish (Faith, Love, & Devotion, #4) by Tere Michaels

Thursday 11/29:                              Spice ‘n’ Solice by KC Burn

Friday 11/30:                                   Black Magic by Megan Derr

Saturday 12/1                                   Holiday Stories

Dad’s Leftover Turkey Pot Pie (from allrecipes.com)

Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Ready In: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Servings: 12

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups frozen peas and carrots
2 cups frozen green beans
1 cup sliced celery
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/3 cups milk
4 cups cubed cooked turkey meat – light
and dark meat mixed
4 (9 inch) unbaked pie crusts
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
2. Place the peas and carrots, green beans, and celery into a saucepan; cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer over medium-low heat until the celery is tender, about 8 minutes. Drain the vegetables in a colander set in the sink, and set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and cook the onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2/3 cup of flour, salt, black pepper, celery seed, onion powder, and Italian seasoning; slowly whisk in the chicken broth and milk until the mixture comes to a simmer and thickens. Remove from heat; stir the cooked vegetables and turkey meat into the filling until well combined.
4. Fit 2 pie crusts into the bottom of 2 9-inch pie dishes. Spoon half the filling into each pie crust, then top each pie with another crust. Pinch and roll the top and bottom crusts together at the edge of each pie to seal, and cut several small slits into the top of the pies with a sharp knife to release steam.
5. Bake in the preheated oven until the crusts are golden brown and the filling is bubbly, 30 to 35 minutes. If the crusts are browning too quickly, cover the pies with aluminum foil after about 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Review: The Legend of the Apache Kid by Sarah Black

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Rating: 4.75 stars

Dr. Raine Magrath is lazing about in a hotel hot tub when he sees young Apache Johnny Bravo and his grandfather by the side of the pool. Johnny is in town for his first film festival and to meet with a man about the independent film Johnny has made. When Johnny joins Raine in the hot tub, they make an immediate connection with each other and Raine asks Johnny to look him up in Taos if he ever visits.  Then Johnny and his grandfather disappear and it is another year before they meet again.

When Raine walked into The Peaceful Bean to get his morning coffee, he was surprised to see he knows the new guy behind the counter.  It was the Apache film maker he had met a year ago at the film festival.  Johnny Bravo was in Taos and it looked like he now lived here.  Johnny had gone home with his grandfather until the cancer killed him and then went looking for Raine.  The connection they felt at their first meeting is as strong as ever and getting stronger with each passing conversation.  And when Raine takes him home to the family ranch he shares with his father, he semi jokingly introduces Johnny as his new boyfriend, something that  becomes reality.  With the arrival of Johnny’s 8 year old cousin, Weasel, the men start to form a family, cemented by love of the land, history, family, and each other.

But Johnny has another love, film making.  He’s a genius at it and Hollywood is beckoning by the way of the Sundance Festival.  And when he begs Raine not to put any chains on him, Raine knows that for them to succeed, he must be prepared to let Johnny go and chase his dreams.  When Johnny heads off to the Sundance Film Festival, the welcome his film gets is overwhelming with offers to work out in Hollywood.  It’s everything he has dreamed about or is it? With Raine and his family missing him back in Taos, Johnny must decide where his dreams really lie.

OK, right off the start, I will tell you that I want to take a black marker and eradicate that awful blurb for this remarkable book.  Why?  One, Johnny is in no way an “airhead” bur rather someone focused more on the quality of film he makes and less on its marketability.  What a disservice the person who wrote that did to Sarah Black’s characters and this story.  *Shakes head*  Alright.  Rant over, now that I have gotten that off my  chest.  The Legend of the Apache Kid has all the qualities of the best of Sarah Black’s writing.  Her characters of all ages are so well crafted, so beautifully put together that I feel I have run across them in my travels out west for truly Sarah Black has one of the strongest regional voices for our western states that I can remember.

These people rise up from the pages of this book covered in the dust of their ancestors, history percolates through their bloodstream, and who they are is so strongly tied to the land they walk on that they are as much a part of the landscape as the weedy scrub sage, twisted juniper and alligator pine of Carson National Forest.  From their dialog to their rides (either horseback or truck) the characters exude authenticity of  location, the author’s love of the southwestern desert and the native american tribes who belong to it.  Sarah Black knows this land and its people intimately and it translates her love and knowledge into her stories, characters and locales.  If she has an old man talking and walking in her scene, then that character moves and sounds like an old man does. When the bored and sullen Weasel is left by himself for a few precious moments in his first introduction to Raine and Taos, he carves his initials into the shop’s small table because that what small sullen boys with a pocketknife do.  To write like this, your knowledge of people cannot be superficial.  You must have the ability to see beneath the surface, to get under their skin and somehow burrow into peoples thoughts and emotions to bring forth characters as real as these.

Equally remarkable is the dialog and narrative of the story. It is both weighted with emotion and yet as dry as the desert air. It is elegant in that spare western way rarely heard outside the region.  You could give me anonymous samples of writings, and I could pick out Sarah Black’s signature voice in an instant.  Although I dislike taking sentences out of context, this is one such example:

“He leaned forward and kissed me, light as a hummingbird on the side of my mouth. “Later, Raine.” He climbed out of the tub, grabbed his clothes, and pulled the old man’s jacket over his shoulders. The snow was falling on his hair, but he didn’t hurry, just followed the man, wet bare feet on frozen concrete. I closed my eyes so I didn’t have to watch him walk away.”

I put that out there, loving the feeling it evokes within me  and still feel I have not done this author justice because there is so much beauty to be found everywhere within this book.  There is the author’s considerable knowledge of the history and her appreciation for the differing Native American tribes and their cultures. In fact, her love for and curiosity about all cultures comes shining through each and every story.  A particular delight of mine is to see what new element of Americana she will bring into a book.  In Marathon Cowboys, it was bathtub Marys. Really I had no idea. Check them out.  Here it is the green Earthship homes built in communities out west.  Yes, I had to look them up and darn it if I can’t stop thinking about them and the need for green sustainable living ever since.  Sarah Black has given me a real itch to go out west and visit one to see  and experience them for myself.

So why not a 5 star rating?  Well, that would be the ending and really, I need to just give it up when it comes to Sarah Black.  If anyone reading this is already familiar with Sarah Black’s books, then you know what I am talking about.  The ending of the book just comes to a gradual stop.  There is no epilogue, more of a “this is where it needs to end naturally” sort of thing.  It’s not rushed, nor is it drawn out, it just is. In some of her stories it drives me crazy my need to know more is so great, in others it’s just fine because it is in tune with the story and characters.  And truth be told, she is never going to change that, so I just need to let it go.  And yes, it works here, it ends well and brings the story back around full circle. But damn it , I just wanted more. More of these characters, and more of their story and so will you once you read this. It enters your bloodstream as it did mine and won’t let you go. And you will be ok with that.  It’s a Sarah Black story after all.

Cover: Paul Richmond was the cover artist.  The colors he chose are perfect for the story as is the illustration.  The background graphic is the poster for Johnny’s film.

Read my review of Marathon Cowsboys here.

Read my review of Border Roads here.

Read by Author Spotlight on Sarah Black here.

When It Comes to Understanding People or Characters Is Music the Key? Thoughts on Novels and Playlists

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When you are reading a story and the characters within are people you can relate to or commiserate with, do you ever stop to wonder why these fictional people seem so authentic?  How has the author made them so real to you that you cry over their pain and  or laugh in shared joy when they do? For me an author accomplishes this goal by giving their creations the same mental and emotional makeup (for the most part) that every person is born with. The fictional characters must come complete with a backstory as well as the same emotions, thoughts and behavior that we would be able to relate to as well as understand.  If they lose someone or fall in love with someone, it should be in a manner that we not only recognize and empathize with. Another way is with descriptions of  the items the character keeps around them.  It might be many things such as clothing, cars or even pets but I think music is a huge component. Music is a shortcut to helping a reader understand who this character is in much the same manner as it would when looking through a collection of CD’s of someone we just met.

There you are with someone new in your life and you are at their place for the first time. You are checking them out either as a potential friend or romantic partner.  Do you remember what the first, ok second thing, you looked at?  Either surreptitiously or blatantly?  For most people, it’s their music (and then maybe their movies).  Maybe you take a sneak peak and flip through their albums as they are pouring some wine,  or scope out their cassettes (don’t give me that look) when they are warming up the fondue? Who hasn’t quickly perused someone’s CDs on the sly?  Yep, done all those and more.  Perhaps you casually ask if you can put some music on while the appetizers/dinner/breakfast (you slut!) is being prepared and ask where they keep their music?  Another popular and subtle approach.

It didn’t matter what method you employed, the goal was the same.  Checking out the songs they liked and the bands they followed to see if you meshed with each others tastes. It was and remains an instant glimpse into what makes a person tick.  And god forbid you find that Tiny Tim album, Chumbawumba, or more recently Whip My Hair by Willow Smith.  Because, once found, never forgotten.  And that chance of romance? Dead and gone.  Because while you might forgive a friend’s lapse in judgement, the same can’t be said when first contemplating a romp in bed with someone who has questionable taste in music, for god’s sake. I mean what other secrets are they hiding? Clown shoes?

It was so much easier in the past to excuse that odd Tiny Bubbles cassette or Leonard Nimoy’s sings Bilbo Baggins album.  They could always say a past roommate or old boyfriend/girlfriend left it when they moved out or even the dreaded “it was given to me as a gift” workhorse.  There was always the possibility that it might be true and you could, maybe, give them the benefit of the doubt until later.  Didn’t matter whether it was albums, 8 tracks, cassettes or CD’s, those excuses were valid.  These days how do you explain away the fact they exist on your iPod or MP3 player? Hmmm, yeah, that’s what I thought. Can’t.

So I was thrilled/intrigued to find some of the books I was reading this year had playlists attached to them.  And the more I investigated and the more I listened to the songs and bands the authors included, the brighter the wattage of the light bulb that clicked on above my head.  What a wonderful (and underused) avenue to flesh out your characters, to give them a human dimension or layer that would otherwise be missing!

One of your characters is lost in memory as he listens to a Bach Violin Sonata 2 in A minor and it brings him to tears (Shira Anthony’s Blue Notes).  How much richer is that scene if the music is available to the reader to listen to as the scene unfolds?  Then the meaning behind the described emotions jumps into clarity, and truly you are literally in tune with the person on the page.  Or maybe, if you are like me, when I started reading  Andrea Speed’s Infected series, I was clueless as to who These Arms Are Snakes were and what they sounded like.  How could I possibly get a grip on an important part of Roan’s internal makeup if I don’t understand his music? And boy is his music a definitive facet of who he is.  The chance of Hootie and the Blowfish on his iPod? Zero. Because that is not Roan. Whether Roan was listening to Ritualz’ Baba Vanga or The Twilight Sad’s A Million Ignorants, if I know the songs, the bands and the lyrics, then I can access more of the character’s thoughts and headspace, in this case Roan’s. Both Andrea Speed and Shira Anthony produce playlists for their novels, but so does Katey Hawthorne (Riot Boy, By The River among others) and Josh Lanyon (Fair Game, etc) to name a few.

To be sappy about it, music is the rhythm of our lives. We access important memories by it, people and places are associated with songs as are significant milestones in our lives. Feeling sad? We have go to songs for that.  Want to dance about the kitchen as you bake brownies or making a roadtrip to the beach?  We have songs for that too.  They leap to mind with all the familiarity of old friends and lovers, and yes, we have music we associate with them as well.  I know just reading this has brought some of yours out before you realized it. So why not the same for the characters they write about in stories we love to read?  In Sarah Black’s latest story The Legend of the Apache Kid, Johnny asks Raine McGrath if  “You know anybody who sings like a bird with broken wings?”  And Raine replies “Gram Parsons….You can hear his heart weeping in his voice.” Then you listen to Gram Parsons’ singing Wild Horses and you understand, not just the reference but also the men in the story (and author) who appreciates it.

And that brings me to my final point about music, playlists and characters, the authors and their appreciation of the music they use to enrich their characters.  The authors I have referenced here all have a deep connectivity to the music in their stories that reaches beyond their characters.  While I don’t know most of these authors personally, I can tell you that Shira Anthony comes from a musical family and background as a opera singer from reading her blog and author notes.  Andrea Speed often tweets the bands she is listening to with links so we can hear the new indie group that has snared her attention. Music is all over Josh Lanyon’s website and Katey Hawthorne sent me a CD of the music that snarled like a sentient ribbon through Riot Boy.  And Sarah Black? Well, just read a paragraph or two and you can feel the love of old cowboys, the dry heat of the American Southwest and the refrains of old country songs to be heard from pickups as they head down the highway.  And without ever having met them, I can tell you how central to their lives is the music that sings to them and through their stories, to us as well.

All of us have a soundtrack of our lives, a list that is perpetually being added to.  From the earliest of childhood lullabies to a song we may have listened to and connected with as late as five minutes ago.  So why not have your characters have the same, feel the same way as we do about our music?  How much more relatable or realistic is Roan, or Johnny or Jules when we can hear the music that accompanies their actions and thoughts?  How much easier is it to empathize with them if we can understand their songs? To me it’s the difference between Technicolor and watercolor.  There is a rhythm, a song to everything we do and are.  The crucial beat of our hearts or the frivolous flip flopping of sandals hitting the sidewalk, that’s us. So let us hear the soundtracks of the characters we love and love to read about.  We are richer for sharing their music and they are more memorable for having it.

Do you have favorite novels and characters who have music associated with them?   Drop me a comment, or link.  I am compiling a list and am sure I am missing authors and titles.

To listen to some of my favorite playlists by authors, see below:

Shira Anthony’s website.  Look under books extras for the playlists for each novel (and Youtubes links)

Andrea Speed’s Playlists for all of her novels, not just Infected series.

Andrea Speed Infected:Lesser Evils

Katey Hawthorne’s Superpowered Love website. Link for By The River playlist.

Josh Lanyon’s Fair Game  playlist,  Dead Run playlist

Review: Infected Lesser Evils #6 by Andrea Speed

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Rating: 4.75 stars

“In a world where a werecat virus has changed society, Roan McKichan, a born infected and ex-cop, works as a private detective trying to solve crimes involving other infecteds.”

When Roan gets a call from the police about a shifted Infected at Club Damage, that there are injured people, and the cat cornered in the club bathroom, he heads out to investigate and take down the cat.  But almost immediately Roan realizes there is a larger problem than just an infected cat on the loose.  The cat is dying and smells off, it has almost a chemical aroma to it.  Then another cat shifts out of  schedule and dies and then another.  The autopsy reveals a chemical in their bloodstream, a new drug that forces the Infected people to shift early and die.  Roan and the police force realize that someone has targeted all Infected’s and it’s up to Roan to find that person before they have a wave of cat deaths throughout the city.

Holden is also having a very bad day.  He is beaten up by one of his john’s and needs Roan’s help to get back to his condo.  But his john is not finished with him yet and an already anguished Roan takes on the role of an avenger something that is happening in greater frequency.  Because the infected population is not only being targeted by a drug pusher, a serial killer is hunting them down as well.  As Roan tries to find the supplier of the poisoned drugs and track the killer with Holden’s help, he also has to deal with increasing migraines and the fact that the lion just might be taking over.  It’s almost enough to make Roan want to die if the virus would let him.

Lesser Evils is the sixth book in the Infected series that remains one of my all time favorites.  This is quite simply a mesmerizing saga at every level starting with the central premise of an out of control virus. The virus is spreading throughout the human population with the disastrous effect of changing those infected into beings no longer completely human before killing them.  The origin of the virus is unknown, although the speculations include the most favored “secret government agency trying to build a super soldier” one.  But it could also include a feline virus not unlike the avian or swine bug run amuck.  I love the idea of a nebulous background for the virus although it remains to be seen if the author leaves it this  way or has something totally different planned for us and Roan.  Trust me, it would be just like Andrea Speed to have some utterly confounding explanation just lying in wait for us in future books.

The Infected series also includes some of my favorite characters, again starting with the heart of the series, Roan McKitchen.  He is an Infected child, born of an Infected mother instead of someone infected after birth.  Roan is also the only known child to not only survive but thrive with the virus inside of him.  But thriving physically is not the same as surviving emotionally or mentally and Roan continues to battle both his emotions and mental state as the virus mutates within him.  And it is this constantly changing state that Roan finds himself in that speaks to so many fundamental questions within us.  What does it mean to be human?  Is who we are internally, in our mind and soul tied to who we are physically?  If who you are physically is no longer within the realm of human specifications, does that outsider status remove you from the human condition and people all around you to the extent you can’t relate to them any more?  Question after important question is brought up but the answers are constantly evolving as is Roan.  I love the high level of complexity here and the fact that with each book, who and what Roan is becoming more bewildering and convoluted as well.

Just as there are no “reasonably” simple human beings, you won’t find them within these pages either.  This includes Holden Fox, another favorite. Holden started out as a high priced hooker but now seems to be evolving into Roan’s investigative partner and fellow vigilante when necessary. He is not just familiar with the dark underbelly of society, but is a top denizen there.  His outlook is a needed contrast to Dylan, Roan’s artist husband and part time bartender.  Dylan, another beautifully layered portrait, loves Roan and is trying to accept the changes he sees in him.  Dylan also is in the unpleasant role of being the one man who can never quite measure up to Roan’s true love, Paris Lehane and now must live with a ghost always present in their relationship. And then there are all the characters that circle around Roan, from the hockey players (Grey, Scott, Tank…all memorable) to Seb and Drop Kick, the police officers Roan works with.  There is no such thing as a cardboard character in a Andrea Speed novel.

Lesser Evils tackles several problems at once, much the same as the other stories.  One strand that is running through the last few books is that there seems to be a mysterious organization, perhaps one with white supremacists, that is targeting Infecteds, trying to wipe them out by various methods, in this case by poisoning a favored club drug.  Only those infected by the virus die and die horribly.  So Roan, the police, FBI and others are trying to track the source of the drug to its manufacturer in a race that also includes a antidote as more and more die on the streets.  In addition, someone is hunting the Infecteds like big game and the police with a couple of exceptions don’t seem to be taking this as seriously as they would if the serial killer was hunting “people”.  This infuriates Roan as he starts to feel like he must take the “savior” role he has always avoided.

As Andrea Speed pulls all these threads together, she also weaves Roan’s torment over his changing physical and mental state into the pattern as well.  The lion inside is coming out more and more and Roan is struggling with his emotions and temper to the point he thinks Dylan is in danger.  We feel his anger, the level of his depression and even his rage at those who remain unconcerned and removed from the plight of the Infected.  The author forces us to think about what makes us who we are as Roan loses the certainly we take for granted.  The virus also seems to be protecting him in startling ways even as it is morphing him into  something the world has never seen before.  And with increasing dread, we “hear” as the government starts to talk about making Infecteds register themselves, which sounds like a precursor to concentration camps, for their own good of course.  As I stated, so many elements are in play here, and the future for  all is becoming increasingly muddied. Especially for Roan, our most reluctant of heroes but for which race?

For even as Dylan reminds Roan that he is still human, and we know he is not, and Holden abjures Roan to renounce the human race and accept his non human status, Roan in his anguished, drugged state tries to find a median ground that probably does not exist.  And we are there with him for every angst ridden step he takes in the journey before him and the rest of the world.  And that is the cherry on top.  The tantalizing glimpses that Speed allows us to see along Roan’s path.  It’s these small windows that open up into a possible future for Roan and the other Infecteds that give me shivers and make me undeniably one of her biggest fans even when she leaves me and all the other readers hanging as she does here in Lesser Evils.  Yes, even as we find out the new mutations the virus has caused in Roan, it also has a debilitating effect on him that turns into a cliffhanger at the end.  *Head desk*.  Roan pulls out all the deepest emotions in the reader because he is so well crafted, that he becomes real to us which makes the cliffhanger at the end so frustrating because we need to know what happens next.  Sigh.

As I have commented on how much I dislike cliffhangers in other books, so that is the reason my head pounded when I found it here.  So as we wait for Dreamspinner Press to bring out the next in the series and for this situation with Roan in the hospital to be resolved, I will placate myself by going back to the beginning and starting to read the series all over again, looking for new clues I might have missed, and uncovering elements the author may have hidden away.  So even with the dreaded cliffhanger in place, grab this one up.  Or if you are new to the series, go back to the beginning and become acquainted with  one of the most complex and enthralling characters to cross a page.

Andrea Speed also compiles a playlist for each book.  They can be found at her website In Absentia. Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the saga:

Infected: Prey

Bloodlines

Life After Death

Freefall

Shift 

Lesser Evils

Cover: Cover by Anne Cain is just magnificent.  The cover art is available for download as screensavers at Andrea Speed’s website.

Review: The City War by Sam Starbuck

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Senator Marcus Brutus is finding it perilous times to be a Senator in Rome, especially one not lined up behind Caesar.  Caesar is making moves to get rid of the Republic and crown himself Emperor of Rome and that is something Marcus Brutus just  cannot abide.  Brutus has devoted his life as has his family to the Republic of Rome and to see it demolished under Caesar sickens him. When he retreats to his country estate with his brother-in-law and lover, Cassius, he knows that there are hard decisions to be made and soon if the Republic is to be saved.

Cassius has pulled his long time lover, Marcus, out of Rome for a purpose. There is a mutiny brewing in Rome and he is part of it.  Even his sister agrees that something must be done about Caesar and soon if the Republic is to survive.  Now to make Marcus Brutus understand how necessary is the course of action Cassius and others have planned, as well as the major role Brutus is to play. And he hopes their love is strong enough to survive what he intends to throw before it.

Tiresias claims to be an orphaned boy when he meets Brutus on the road to his country estate.  But looks can be deceiving especially when the boy looks as delectable as Tiresias.  Tiersias appears before Brutus on a gorgeous animal and states that all the horses that Brutus owns should look as good.  And of course, Marcus Brutus is hooked, hiring the young man and sending him on ahead to the estate.  In one move, Brutus has captured Tiresias’ heart and loyalty as Tiresias has captured his.

All three men will face the toughest decisions of their lives as Caesar’s ambitions start to cause even the sanest of Senators to think the unthinkable. Cassius will ask everything of the man he has loved since childhood.  Tiresias will follow Marcus Brutus back to Rome and perhaps his death.  And Marcus Brutus?  He faces the loss of everything he loves. The Republic of Rome, his lover Cassius, the young boy who idolizes him and even the man who protected him when others would have put him to death – Caesar himself.

If you love history, especially the era of ancient Rome, this is the book for you.  Sam Starbuck takes a well known historical fact, the assassination of Caesar and the well known “Et tu, Brutus?” and makes it all so relatable as well as the human actions that set it in motion.  This is the assassination as seen from Marcus Brutus’ anguished perspective and a needed reminder that there are always more than one way to look at history.  Sam Starbuck has done, as he relates in his blog, his research and it certainly shows.  He makes Rome and its countryside come alive again as well as the incidents some might know only from the dusty tomes of history.

Into the tale of deceit and conspiracy, Starbuck weaves the story of the romance between Cassius and Brutus, a long established affair that is even given support by their wives.  This is really not a far fetched idea as a well known quote about Caesar (from one of his many enemies) was that Caesar was a “husband to every wife and a wife to  every husband”, which meant that Caesar himself entertained men as well as women sexually.  Here homosexuality had not yet been demonized by Christianity and the taking of male lovers was almost a given, albeit with some strict behavioral guidelines.  And this includes the mentor/young man sexual relationship which is mentioned here with regard to two couples.  The first is Aristus, former tutor and publican, now old friend of Marcus Brutus the younger.  They have an established sexual relationship in which Aristus mentored  Brutus in the ways of homosexual love, which ended when Brutus was no longer his student (in every respect).  The second  relationship of a similar manner is that between Marcus Brutus and Tierisias. While certainly a deeper relationship emotionally, at least on Tiresias’ side, it is still in keeping with the older man benefactor/young student or recipient bond.  I never felt that their connection was deeper than that, at least on Brustus’ part.

And really that is the heart of my quibbles with this wonderful in every other respect story.  I loved The City War as an intimate look into the events leading up to the assassination of Caesar from the POV of the main conspirator.  But as a m/m romance, that is a much harder sell.  The long standing sexual affair between Cassius and Brutus has all the elements of two men who know each other intimately inside and out.  They have been through war campaigns together and lasted through their marriages, even to the sister of one of them. So I kept waiting to feel a equally intimate connection between them, one born of romantic love and not that of brothers in arms.  And I never felt it.  Or bought into it.  And I think that is perhaps far more realistic a take on their relationship than that of two men deeply in love with one another.

And that carries over to the relationship between Brutus and Tiresias. That is a relationship of unequals, as it has to be.  Roman society as well as Roman thought would not allow it to be anything else.  There is an equally surprising factor about Tiresias that I felt the author handled beautifully and with great respect.  This was so well done that I want to give Sam Starbuck a little extra kudos for the character and Tiresias’ back history.  Really, Tiresias is one of the most interesting characters you will meet between these pages.  Really, he is a lovely surprise that gives this already fascinating story a added dimension.

At 123 pages, The City War is a quick yet well researched look into one of history’s most infamous moments.  I thought Sam Starbuck did a wonderful job here and look forward to his next story.  This is part of the Warriors of Rome series from Riptide Publishing.  So if history, gladiators, Rome and everything in between is your thing, run out and pick this one up.  Continue on to the rest of the series and settle down for a great trip back in time to the golden age of Rome.

Guest Post by Sam Starbuck and Contest for The City War Blog Tour

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Sam Starbuck here to blog about his latest book, The City War, published by Riptide Publishing:

Hello everyone! I’m pleased to be hosted by Scattered Thoughts today as part of a blog tour for  The City War, my first novella to be released with Riptide Press.

This is the second part in a series of posts I’m doing about the process of writing historical romantic fiction, and how one gets from being a history nerd to a romance writer in a few easy steps; today’s entry is about the delicate dance of historical fiction. To thank you all for reading, I’m offering a chance to win $10 in credit with Riptide Publishing; every comment you leave on the post today and for the entire tour enters you to win!

Something that comes up frequently when people talk about writing historical fiction of any subset is the difficulty of Getting Everything Right. If you set a story in ancient Roman culture — as the Warriors of Rome series is — it’s easy to leave out things we’re aware don’t belong: microwaves, cellphones, pianos. It’s often harder to leave out things we don’t know don’t belong — did the ancient Romans have books, or only scrolls? Did they have plates and cups? Did they have toilet paper? (Yes, Yes, and No.)

It’s daunting, the idea of having to know a dead culture so well that you can create a whole world without screwing it up.

But it’s also fun.

One of the things I researched for The City War was the food served at feasts, particularly feasts for the nobility of the highly class-stratified culture of Rome. 

The servants brought in trays of apricots in sweet sauce and lentils imported from Egypt, roasted thrushes, goose livers in garum and oysters in cumin sauce.

“The servants brought in trays of apricots in sweet sauce and lentils imported from Egypt, roasted thrushes, goose livers in garum and oysters in cumin sauce. Cassius occasionally licked sweet apricot sauce off his thumb, glancing at Brutus with lowered eyelids to see if he noticed. Brutus saw that Aristus did, and the older man drank more wine than usual. Brutus just busied himself counteracting the heat of the cumin with bites of honey-soaked melon, and ignored them both as children. He was getting tired of Cassius’s air of mystery.

By the time the servants brought in the pig—small but well-cooked, and stuffed with tender laurices and fragrant spices—Brutus saw the horse-boy watching the dancers as well, crouched in a shadow behind a tall window that let the breeze pass from the outer yard into the triclinium.”

It sounds delicious and poetic, but sometimes that’s part of the trick of historical fiction; goose livers in garum seems luxurious, if slightly gross to our modern sensibilities, until you find out that garum is a sauce made from fish that’s been left to decay in the sun for days. “Stuffed with tender laurices” makes the mouth water — until you look it up, as one of my editors did, and realize that a laurice is the term for the unborn fetus of a rabbit, a delicacy in ancient Rome. But part of the joy of writing for this era in particular is the fierceness and the nearness to the food chain that even the upper classes were required by their limited technological means to engage in. It was an earthy time.

Historical fiction is about getting the world right, but also getting the sense of the world right. It’s important to understand the spirit of an era — and sometimes to temper it a little in places, particularly when writing romance, which I’m also addressing today over at  Well Read.

Bio: Sam Starbuck is a novelist and blogger living in Chicago because he enjoys trains, snow, and political scandals. By day, he manages operations for a research department at a large not-for-profit, and by night he is a pop-culture commentator, experimental cook, advocate for philanthropy, and writer of fiction. He holds two degrees in theatre, which haven’t done much for his career but were fun while they lasted. His love of ancient cultures and art crimes makes him a very strange conversationalist at parties. His novels include Nameless, Charitable Getting, and Trace, published independently, and The City War, published with Riptide Publishing. He blogs here, and you can check out his writerly accomplishments here.

The City War 

Blurb: Senator Marcus Brutus has spent his life serving Rome, but it’s difficult to be a patriot when the Republic, barely recovered from a civil war, is under threat by its own leader. Brutus’s one retreat is his country home, where he steals a few precious days now and then with Cassius, his brother-in-law and fellow soldier—and the one he loves above all others. But the sickness at the heart of Rome is spreading, and even Brutus’s nights with Cassius can’t erase the knowledge that Gaius Julius Caesar is slowly becoming a tyrant.

Cassius fears both Caesar’s intentions and Brutus’s interest in Tiresias, the villa’s newest servant. Tiresias claims to be the orphaned son of a minor noble, but his secrets run deeper, and only Brutus knows them all. Cassius, intent on protecting the Republic and his claim to Brutus, proposes a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. After all, if Brutus—loved and respected by all—supports it, it’s not murder, just politics.

Now Brutus must return to Rome and choose: not only between Cassius and Tiresias, but between preserving the fragile status quo of Rome and killing a man who would be emperor.

You can buy The City War or read an excerpt here at Riptide Publishing.

Thank was wonderful.  My review of The City War will be posted tomorrow and you won’t want to miss it. And don’t forget to enter your name in the contest.  Just leave a comment and you are entered into the contest to win $10 in credit at Riptide Publishing. The Winner of the contest will be announced at the end of the tour.

Good luck, everyone.  And my thanks to Sam Starbuck and Riptide Publishing for stopping by today.