A MelanieM Review: Head-on by John Inman

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Head-On coverAt 24 Gordon Stafford had it all. A rising career as a tv meteorologist, a loving family, a wide circle of friends…everything anyone could want. By 26, Gordon Stafford had lost it all. And all it took was the decision to drive home drunk from an awards ceremony. That decision shattered three mens lives immediately. For one man, the driver of the other car, it cost him his life. His passenger? Multiple injuries and the love of his life. And for Gordon, the driver that hit the other car head on, it cost him his career, his home, his friends, his self esteem…everything that had mattered to Gordon at the time.

Two years later, Gordon is a changed man. Consumed by guilt and shame, Gordon spends his days thinking about suicide and working at court appointed community service at Mama’s Soup Kitchen, the local shelter for the homeless. It’s there he meet’s Squirt, a young man barely surviving. At first meeting, Gordon realizes that Squirt is special. He seems shy and fragile. But when Squirt saves Gordon from a beating or worse from thugs under a nearby bridge, Gordon realizes that looks can be deceiving and that Squirt is much more than he appears.

From that moment on, Gordon finds a new meaning to his life. He rediscovers his will to live and perhaps even found love. And it’s all due to having Squirt in his life. But Gordon still needs to find forgiveness. Forgiveness for himself and the destruction he caused.  And that the forgiveness Gordon needs the most will come from the one person he least expects, the one closest to his heart.

Head-On is a huge departure from the comedic stories John Inman normally writes.  Unlike those novels which are full of laughter and humorous moments, Head-On naturally has little to none, which should  be expected given the nature of the plot and the gravity of the subject matter at the heart of this story.  With Head-On, John Inman demonstrates he has as deft a gift for writing characters full of pain and poor life choices as he does people with lives filled less with drama and more the search for romance.

The opening chapter of Head-On is astonishing for a number of reasons but the most important of them is that Inman pours us into the seat next to Gordon, first at the awards dinner as he consumes multiple congratulatory drinks and then in the passenger seat of his car as he makes that fateful decision to drive home drunk.  We’re in his head, and his thoughts could so easily be that of anyone who has taken one drink too many and decides to drive.  But this time Gordon’s poor judgement results in a fatal car crash that we catch in shocking glimpses just before Gordon passes out after the cars collide.  That one scene will stay with you for some time to come.

From there we move to Gordon’s life post crash, and here Inman pulls no punches, makes no excuses for Gordon who is mired in guilt and self loathing.  And yes, still drinking.  Inman’s realistic portrayal of  Gordon shows a man totally aware of the consequences of his actions, the life cut short, the destruction of families, someone who is living with a pain that has no balm.  Gordon exists in a prison of his own making.  And for those who get frustrated and angry when they hear of drunk drivers getting off with a so-called “slap of the wrist”, especially those whose actions caused the deaths of others, this feels like a window into the post accident life of one of those drivers who “got off lightly”.

Just the subject matter of drunk drivers is inflammatory.  That category covers the range from repeat offenders to those who make a one time bad decision when they decide they are sober enough to drive home. And while this book opens up the conversation about drunk drivers and asks the question “what is ample punishment for their deeds”, it remains focused on those drivers like Gordon.  For some, like Gordon, theu are their own warden, turning their lives into a sort of prison of their own making.  It’s a wretched life John Inman constructs for Gordon and it reeks of authenticity and despair.

Only Gordon’s court ordered community service at Mama’s Soup Kitchen provides a temporary relief to the cycle of drinking and hangovers that has become Gordon’s life.  Again, Inman brings Mama’s to life, from the kitchen preparations to the customers who line up for what might be their only meal of the day.  Inman gets the details exactly right, including all those homeless and down on their luck people who need a shelter like this so badly.

Squirt who appears to get a meal isn’t exactly homeless but he is clearly a person who has been damaged in more ways than are visible.  His mental faculties are simplistic while  still remaining that of an adult.  His is a lovely character, vulnerable and easy to connect to.  Which is exactly what Gordon does.  Squirt is  another lost soul and when he rescues Gordon from an attack, he ends up saving Gordon emotionally as well as physically.  Watching this relationship form is such a heartwarming element of this story.

The “revelatory” aspect of Head-On is not as surprising as one might expect.  But here it’s the journey to the “denouement” and not the revelation itself, that drives the story.  Its the twists and turns, the stops along the way as Squirt and Gordon try to figure out a way to move forward towards redemption and forgiveness that make this story such a memorable read.  Inman’s writing style works so beautifully here to bring us into Gordon’s thoughts and life.  And then it does the same for Squirt.  From wretchedness to hope, from personal darkness to atonement and light, this story works on every level.

I highly recommend this moving story.  With it John Inman moves into the ranks of authors who can move easily from one genre to the next, from angst to comedy and any combination thereof.  If he was not a “must read” author for you before, Head-On should bring John Inman into that circle for you now.  Don’t miss out on this remarkable story.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  Explosive and Emotional. Perfect for this story.

Sales Links:         Dreamspinner Press               All Romance eBooks (ARe)          Amazon              Head-On

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published July 9th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published July 8th 2014)
ISBN 1632160064 (ISBN13: 9781632160065)
edition languageEnglish

Book Blast: Adrian Smith’s Keep Me In Mind Book Tour (Contest)

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For the Book Blast today, ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords has Adrian J. Smith’s For by Grace.  Check out the blurb and excerpt!  Don’t forget to enter the contest where the prize is 2 books by Adrian J. Smith. Enter here or at the end of the post for the Rafflecopter Prize: Ebooks of ‘For by Grace’ and ‘Forever Burn’.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Book Name: For by Grace
Author Name: Adrian J. Smith

Author Bio:

Adrian J. Smith, or “AJ” as she is often called, is a part time writer with an epic imagination, sharp wit, and kind heart that gets her into a bit of trouble when it comes to taking in all the neighborhood stray cats. Being obsessed with science fiction, Smith often goes off on tangents about the space-time continuum. She is also a part time lunatic with a secretive past. It’s been rumored that she was once a spy for the government, but anyone who has gotten close enough to know the truth has never lived to tell the tale. When traveling around the world on various classified tasks, Smith requires the following be provided: buffalo jerky, mimosas, and eighty six pennies. This is all we know about the reclusive woman.

Author Contact:
Facebook

Cover FullTitle:  For by Grace by Adrian J. Smith
Cover Artist: Heidi DeCausemaker
Publisher: Supposed Crimes, LLC

Sales Link: Amazon USSmashwordsKobo
  Barnes & Noble

 For By Grace Blurb:

Being a Sheriff’s Deputy is not all about saving lives and arresting criminals, and each day Grace wonders if she’ll make it home. 

While kids at the schools Deputy Grace Halling visits see her as the knight in blue-cotton armor, people involved in the cases she is dispatched to have a different opinion. She has every confidence in her ability to do her job and arrest criminals. She easily takes down a knife-wielding woman and a drunken combatant teenager without hesitation. Everyone—victim, suspect, or witness—has a story to tell or to lie about, and Grace is never perturbed by their tales. 

That all changes when she looks down the barrel of a gun. She loses confidence in her ability as a deputy, she loses trust in herself and fellow officers, and she struggles to stay afloat as shift after shift passes. Grace cannot find her rhythm of being a deputy again. And when the Police Chaplain unexpectedly barges into her life, her personal and professional lives are flipped upside down. Grace struggles to find her even ground, worrying that the next time she stares a murderer in the face will be the last.

 For By Grace Excerpt:

Deputy Halling tensed her shoulders as her cruiser sped up—she was always ready for the next suspect. The truck was already four blocks ahead of her and did not look to be slowing down. She reached up and hit the mouthpiece of the radio at her shoulder, tilting her head as she spoke. “337—speeder on Hosmer and 126th, heading northbound. Red Ford Ranger, early model, plate is boy-boy-charles-seven-zero-nine. In pursuit.”

“10-4,” dispatch responded.

Hitting the gas, Grace got as close to the truck as possible. They weaved in and out of traffic, cars pulling over to the side and hitting their brakes as the driver either caught sight of the truck or heard her sirens. He blasted through a red light, horns beeping continuously at him as she drove to catch up.

Grace slammed on her brakes. She let out a quick breath as a black mustang came to a forceful stop, letting her drive past them. She picked up her speed, scanning the roadway ahead to try and see where the Ford had gone. Biting her lip, Grace cocked her head to the side, skimming the intersections to make sure everyone had stopped or was coming to a stop before she went through them. One car was too close of a call for her.

GraceBadgeTour Dates/Stops:
8/18: Prism Book Alliance
8/25: The Hat Party, Velvet PanicScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords
9/1: SA McAuley
9/8: Jade Crystal
9/15: Cate Ashwood
9/22: Fallen Angel Reviews
9/29: Hearts on Fire
10/6: My Fiction Nook
10/13: Wake Up Your Wild Side
10/20: Love Bytes, Regular Guys, Hot Romance
10/27: Parker Williams, Iyana Jenna
11/3: Dawn’s Reading Nook, Amanda C. Stone, LeAnn’s Book Reviews

 

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Rafflecopter Code: a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rafflecopter Prize: Ebook of ‘For by Grace’ and ‘Forever Burn’

Author Spotlight: Kimber Vale On Shooting Stars and a Hard Act To Follow! (contest)

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The Shooting Stars of Kimber Vale!

Hard Act To Follow coverDouble Takes (Shooting Stars #2) coverForever is Now cover

Kimber Vale is here today to talk about her latest release in her Shooting Stars series, Hard Act To Follow and offers a contest as well as the ABC’s of Romance, K.Vale style!

The ABCs of Romance: D is for Denial by Kimber Vale

Hi, y’all! Kimber Vale here with my ABCs of romance. Today I want to talk about the letter D. I had Dogs written on my list, but I’m pretty sure I’d had a few glasses of wine when I wrote that. Not that dogs can’t be an integral part of a romance; it’s just that you can have romance without dogs. I’m a perfect example. My hubs and I have a crazy romantic relationship sans dogs. In fact, we have two cats, a rabbit, and lots of fish. Oh, and three kids. Maybe it isn’t all that crazy romantic now that I think of it, but I’m pretty sure the wine helps.

So, D is for Denial in the sober light of day. I defy you to name me a romance novel that doesn’t include denial in some form. Heck, name any novel that doesn’t. Any short story, even. It’s the conflict that creates the tension—whether it’s a hero searching for that elusive McGuffin or a lover unable to have the person he or she wants for whatever reason—denial fuels the story. It makes us read on. In romance, it makes us sympathize with the characters, pine with them, root for them, and stick with them until all of the obstacles standing in the way of their love are overcome.

In my new release, Hard Act to Follow, denial is the name of the game. It takes Greg and Kyrie a good chunk of book before they’re honest with themselves and each other about their feelings. There is some major freakin’ denial going on for a while—hey, I’m a poet and I didn’t know it—and (I hope) that the two best friends refusing to act on their attraction makes the reader all the more invested in their romance. I know I was invested in getting them to the happy ending. 😉

 

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HATFbanner6Excerpt from Hard Act To Follow:

“How can you see with that thing?”

“Some sort of one-way fabric.” Kyr’s voice was muffled under the dome.

Greg peered into the black bunny eyes, but couldn’t make out anything.

“Here.” Kyrie pulled the head off and held it out to him. “See for yourself.”

“Yeah, I don’t…”

Kyrie cut Greg off by cramming the thing down over his face.

“Hah!” Kyrie smiled on the other side of a grayed layer. “Can you see me now?” He turned and shook his tail at him. “How many fingers am I holding up?” He turned back around, flashing four fingers that changed to five and then to…

“One and a half?”

“See. Told ya. All right, give me back my head. We’re ruining the magic of Easter for these poor kids.”

Greg took one more deep breath, inhaling the magic of Kyrie instead. It was something he could almost recreate between his herb garden and his pantry—cracked black pepper, ginger, and a hint of orange zest. It was probably cologne, but was always subtle enough to pass as his natural smell. It worked with his natural smell. Greg pulled the bulky helmet off, holding his breath in for an extra moment.

“I need help.” A preschooler Greg recognized tugged on Kyrie’s white leg fur.

“Let’s hop to it!” His voice belonged on a cartoon. Bending both arms at the elbows, paws together, he swung them comically in the direction of the egg conundrum in question and bounced away with more juice than the Energizer Bunny. Greg shook his head. Kyrie hiked the kid up on his shoulders to reach an egg resting in the crook of a gutter, and then swung him back to the ground in a graceful arc. It was easy to think of Kyr as slight and delicate just because he was short compared to Greg’s six feet. And though he probably only weighed a buck fifty-five soaking wet, he was all muscle thanks to youth, regular gym dates, and great genes.

Skinny washboard—that’s what Greg always thought when he saw him bare-chested on occasion: rare weekends at the Lis’ beach house, those two times Kyrie decided to change into a different shirt before they went out. That instance where he spilled beer on his lap while they were playing Call of Duty, and he stripped down to his underwear still battling the enemy the whole time. Greg had gotten his ass kicked that round, his gaze sliding sideways instead of focusing on the screen. He hadn’t trusted himself to stand up until Kyrie was dressed and he’d guilted his dick into calming the hell down.

Stop!

Kyrie was sixteen when Greg and Jazz met. Eighteen when Greg graduated with his law degree and tied the knot.

You taught him how to drive after he failed his freakin’ test the first time, for fuck’s sake!

Greg closed his eyes and tried to twine that memory with this awful longing—big brother becomes big boyfriend. I wish.

You are fucking sick. Just stop, Greg. Stop. Before you do something you can’t erase. Before you ruin the best thing in your life.
————-

HATFbanner4Hard Act To Follow Blurb:

Kyrie is an actor with a physical aversion to telling lies, a one-eyed cat, and horrible taste in men. His ex-brother-in-law and best friend, Greg, harbors a secret crush he can’t shake. After denying his feelings for Kyrie for too long, Greg finally gives in to desire one drunken night. Come the morning, the facts get twisted. Kyrie pretends he doesn’t remember a thing—a lie that eats him alive—and Greg can’t stop thinking about how he screwed up the best thing in his life.
Before they can clear the air, Kyrie follows his dreams to New York City, but could he also be running away?

A mistake from Kyrie’s past detonates their silence, and Greg is forced to confront the man he loves. Is their new truth strong enough to support a relationship, or are they doomed to crumble under old fears? Their friendship could evolve into something a million times stronger, but maybe Kyrie’s act is just too hard for Greg to follow.

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: August 18th 2014 by Liquid Silver Books
edition languageEnglish
seriesShooting Stars #3

Buy links:
Shooting Stars Series from Liquid Silver Books
Kimber’s Amazon page
All Romance eBooks
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
BeFunky_Stenciler_6Kimber Vale Bio:
K. Vale writes erotic romance of all stripes, from hot hetero to mouthwatering manlove. Find her MF work published under Kimber Vale. Come for the sex. Stay for the story.

Stalk Kimber on Facebook and Twitter @KimberVale, and check her site for updates, new releases, and freebies at her website linked below.

Contacts:

Website
Blog


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Kimber is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to celebrate her new release!
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