A MelanieM Review: Semper Fi by Keira Andrews

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

 The war is over. The battle for love has just begun.

Semper Fi coverLittle did  Jim Bennett and Cal Cunningham know what the future had in store for them when they met abroad the train bound to South Carolina and the training ground for the Marines.  The time is 1942 and WWII is underway.  From that initial meeting, a strong bond was forged, one that would see them through the rigors and pain of Parris Island where they became Marines then across the ocean to the Pacific campaign where the horrors of Guadalcanal and Okinawa awaits them.  And through all the blood, tears and anguish, the bond grows from friendship to love at least for Cal, a love undeclared, buried and forbidden.

After the war, Cal stays connected to Jim from afar until Jim’s wife dies. Then Jim’s need for Cal’s help overrides Cal’s plan to stay away from the man he loves and he arrives at Jim’s farm thinking to stay just a short time.  But Jim is a man in pain, suffering from PTSD and with an orchard and two small children to care for.  The bonds between them snap back into place and the loves Cal holds for Jim is stronger than ever.  But what happens when Jim begins to see Cal in a new light? Soon their relationship starts to deepen in ways neither expected. Can they build a life together as a family and find happiness in a world that would condemn them?

With Veteran’s Day almost upon us, I can’t think of a more appropriate time to recommend you discover this poignant and heartwarming novel Semper Fi by Keira Andrews, author of A Forbidden Rumspringa.  A richly layered saga of a love that begins on board a rickety train bound for Parris Island in the year 1942, the story continues through the war years and ends in 1957.  All the social upheaval, all the National milestones that came with WWII, it’s all here, bound up in an intimate tale of the struggle for love and family.

From the moment we encounter these men on the train, we know that these men are remarkable.  These characters exude a vitality perfect for their ages while brimming over with an authenticity of the times and the impact that Pearl Harbor had upon the nation.  Young men were eager to enlist and serve their country, a naive enthusiasm that is quickly dispelled by their Drill Sargent and the rigors of boot camp at Parris Island.  Keira Andrews has done her research for the history and minutiae incorporated into the story are factual while overlaid by the emotions and physicality of their situation and the times.  We experience “the breaking down to build up” that goes on in boot camp.  It’s humiliations, pain, and hardship that have to come before the rewards that the men go through.  And throughout it all we feel the bonds growing into place between Jim and Cal.  This deep emotional attachment that forms soon includes the readers in its intimacy and scope which translates well when the story moves into 1948 and Jim’s small home town.The characters of Jim Bennett and Cal Cunningham, both from New York but separated by social status, wealth, and self knowledge, are men who will capture your heart with their struggles and journey towards a loving relationship that must always be secretive and unacknowledged by those around them.

The author has chosen an unusual format here. Each chapter includes two different time perspectives.  One in the “present” 1948 and Jim’s Clover Grove Orchard in upstate New York, then it returns to 1942 and the start of Jim and Cal’s relationship and journey through WWII.   I hate to call this a flashback because it doesn’t feel that way.  More a turn of a prism that incorporates the whole of someone’s life journey.  A twist of the crystal and another facet comes into the light before turning once more.  We start out in 1948 as Cal arrives at Jim’s farm.  Then its 1942 and they are meeting on a train to South Carolina and training camp.  Each chapter moves the story forward in each time frame.  Far from being disjointed, this format serves to bring balance and a deep sense of history to the scenes occurring in 1948.  The men in 1948 are still trying to deal with the devastating emotional and physical aftermath of the war.  The men of 1942 are so young in outlook and naivete, a viewpoint that is eroded by war time experiences full of blood, horror and death.  And the reader is there with them …on the beaches, in the sweltering jungles of the Pacific, and the pounding bombardments of artillery fire from both sides.  And it all happens so gradually, while interfaced with scenes from the present, that we don’t even realize at first that their pain and suffering has become ours as well.

Another important element of the times and story?  The need for homosexuals to stay hidden even as they search out like individuals in situation after situation plays out again and again here.  The desperation and hunger that is found in the darkness and anonymity for people like Cal comes across the pages with a realness that almost hurts.   Cal has always know he was “queer” and the implications that it has had on his upbringing and outlook.  Jim?  That’s a far more complex and hidden aspect of his personality, one he doesn’t deal well with.  For him, his feelings are a “sin”. Their situation is fraught with peril, full of subtle touches and emotional support and the joy of discovery and the pain that arrives as well makes this story one you won’t soon forget.

There is a mystery to unravel, believable children to win over, and always a relationship in flux between two characters we have come to love.  I can’t recommend this story enough.  With Semper Fi, Keira Andrews now has two books in Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words “Must Read” Top Lists of 2014. This story will tug at your heartstrings while making our past and the sacrifice of so many young men feel immediate and haunting.  Pick up both stories today and start your journey with this remarkable author.

Cover design by Dar Albert is as lovely and haunting as they story itself.  A top cover any way you look at it.

 

Sales Links:   All Romance eBooks             amazon             Semper Fi

Book Details:

ebook, 320 pages
Expected publication: November 11th 2014 by KA Books
ISBN139780993859854
edition languageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Billionaire with Benefits (Romancelandia #2) by Anne Tenino

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

 It’s just a friend thing.

BillionaireWithBenefits_400x600For fourteen years  Tierney Terrebonne’, of the Ambulance  Service owning Terrebonne family, has been in love with his best friend, Ian Kelly. Someone he thought was straight and therefore off limits.  But the truth was that his best friend was gay and in love with someone else.  That was a reality that Tierney couldn’t and didn’t handle very well.  Weighed down from years of emotional repression from his authoritative grandfather, Tierney has stayed firmly in the closet where his parents and brother prefers him to remain.  But the cost to Tierney results in a man losing his battles with alcohol abuse and a pattern of self destructive behavior that is costing him the few friends he has left.  Including the one he thinks he is still in love with.

Dalton Lehnart’s life has been one of rejection and rebounding, over and over again.  From parents that threw him away when he was outed in high school, to a series of wealthy, damaged, closeted, lying, cheating, no-good, cowardly men, who kept him…for a while, temporary has been Dalton’s middle name. But now Dalton has a job he likes, and good friends so things are looking up.  Then Tierney Terrebonne weaves into his boss’s office, reaking of booze and demands. Of course Dalton finds he’s immediately attracted to Tierney Terrebonne. Damaged men are his thing, right?

Somehow as Tierney tilts towards a complete meltdown, Dalton is there trying to save the man he sees underneath the posturing and self destructive alcohol-induced behavior.  When Tierney outs himself in the worst possible manner on the worst possible moment, the aftermath finds Tierney checking into rehab and Dalton is there with support.

Dalton soon finds out that timing is everything when the post rehab Tierney can’t  handle anything other than friendship, just when Dalton thinks they might have something more.  That should make it easy for Dalton to leave it at friendship, shouldn’t it?  But what if the safest thing for them both isn’t the best thing for both?  What happens when “just a friend thing” isn’t enough?

I love Anne Tenino.  Her characters have such heart and life to them that’s its almost impossible to leave them behind when the story is done.  I definitely felt that way about Sam and Ian Kelly from the first Romancelandia story, Too Stupid To Live (Romancelandia #1).  Sam was so endearing and hug worthy that he almost levitated off the pages.  Adding Ian Kelly to Sam brought about a romance that was funny, heartwarming, and real.  Luckily, for this story, both have large roles to play out here.  Why is that such an important aspect to Billionaire with Benefits?  Because without them and the character of Dalton Lehnart, this book would sink under the weight of Tierney Terrebonne, a character so problematic that living inside his head is painful and sad at best, irritating and prolonged at the worst.

The story switches pov from Tierney to Dalton and back, but for the most part, its Tierney’s head we live inside.  We are present for all his repressed thoughts and feelings, his sense of entitlement, his endless bouts with the bottle and feelings of insecurity.  We are there through all the countless drunks and sobering mornings, the meanness and the apologies (a pattern anyone familiar with substance abuse will recognize).  He, himself, understands that he is acting like a “douchebag”, a term I’m not fond of.  He’s an extraordinarily well written believable mess of a man, a character so well defined by his issues and past that he is both identifiable and authentic.  And he is the voice for the majority of this story.

How the reader handles that intimacy with such a exasperating character will figure into how well they enjoy or commit to this story.  For me, it felt like spending time with someone with a large substance abuse problem, a person I was not particularly fond of.  I didn’t start to appreciate Tierney until I was able to see him through the eyes of Dalton, a man with a weakness for damaged men with his own angst filled past to boot.  And even then,Dalton was far more the interesting and relatable personality.  Dalton I totally enjoyed, from his perspective on life to his attempts to be supportive while raising enough barriers to keep himself emotionally safe.  Of course, Dalton too is well written, so we can see  how that is going to work out for him.  I think had the time spent within this story been reversed, so that’s its Dalton’s voice we hear most of the time, my feelings about Billionaire with Benefits would be more positive and the rating higher.

The last element  that bothered me was the miracle of “rehab”.  Two weeks and an almost lifetime of alcohol abuse is dealt with successfully.  While a far more realistic approach to Tierney’s recovery and life as a recovering alcoholic would have required almost as many pages as it took him to get there, even a shortened version of the real thing would have made this aspect of the story more believable as Tierney becomes sober.

So again, what saved this story?  Apart from Dalton that is? The inclusion of Sam, lovely, light-hearted, romance story loving Sam.  And Ian of course.  Sam and Ian’s interaction with Dalton amused and informed (along with the romance novels Sam loves so well).  They added just the right type and tone of perspective on Tierney and Dalton that the reader required, and the balance of their relationship versus what was happening with Tierney and Dalton was a welcome relief.

Billionaire with Benefits seems to be along the same time line as Too Stupid Too Live, with some of the same events occuring in both.  This works so both stories can be read as stand alones or together to round out the time frame and relationships between all the reoccurring characters.  Next up is Miller’s story, one I have been waiting on.  I can’t wait to see Miller have his own HEA.  As for Billionaire with Benefits, some will love it, others not. I will leave it up to you as to whether it appears on your TBR list or not.

Cover artist: L.C. Chase.  Love that cover.  It’s adorable and lighthearted, far more so than this book. I only wished I liked the story inside half as well.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing   All Romance eBooks  amazon   Billionaire with Benefits

Book Details:

ebook, 415 pages
Published October 18th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
original titleBillionaire with Benefits (Romancelandia #2)
ISBN139781626491960
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/titles/billionaire-with-benefits
seriesRomancelandia #2
charactersTierney Terrebonne

Romancelandia Series, all can be read as standalones or together:

Too Stupid to Live (Romancelandia, #1)
Billionaire with Benefits (Romancelandia #2)

Head to New Zealand with Meredith Shayne’s Cutting Out! (book tour and contest)

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Cutting Out Tour Badge1

 

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Love Hot Men, Heartache, and HEA? Cutting Out by Meredith Shayne has it all and then some.  One of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Must Reads, this book has heart, substance, and a captivating setting as well.  But a country like New Zealand is not without its dangers, so Meredith Shayne is here today on tour to talk about “Living with Earthquakes”, a major component in Cutting Out.  We have an excerpt, and a contest you won’t want to miss out on!

Cutting Out by Meredith Shayne

 

Christchurch NZ – Living with Earthquakes

There have been several major earthquakes in Christchurch, New Zealand in the last 4 years, but the first two, a magnitude 7.1 quake that hit at 4.35am on Saturday, September 4th 2010, and a magnitude 6.3 quake that hit at 12.51pm on February 22nd 2011, were the most shocking. The first one because it was the first, and the second one because it was absolutely devastating to the city and its people.Blog Stop - Scattered Thoughts - Image 1

When you know that Christchurch was built on reclaimed swamp lands, you realise that no earthquake in the area is going to be a good thing, but I don’t think anyone thought that the impact would be quite so big. We don’t dwell on those kinds of things, do we? If we did, we’d never leave the house. On that day in February 2011, a lot of people who left their houses that morning never came home; 185 people were killed, and a lot of the city centre was destroyed, including the iconic Christchurch Cathedral. Here is a video of the immediate aftermath, and some visuals of what parts of the city are still like today (warning: video contains some disturbing images):

Video Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alC7JpUuDMI

For those of us who lived in other NZ cities, it was a stressful time, texting loved ones and waiting, waiting, waiting to hear from them via a phone network that was groaning under the weight of everyone trying to use it. That was nothing to what people in Christchurch were going through, of course; in the news over the following couple of days were a pair of siblings, a brother and sister, who sat vigil outside one of the collapsed buildings in the CBD, the building where their mother worked, waiting for news of her. They sat there for days, but it wasn’t good news. Their mum hadn’t survived.

But there were other stories on the news too. The university students, nicknamed the “student army”, who went round to people’s houses with shovels and wheelbarrows to dig the mud and muck that was sometimes feet deep out of people’s yards, the people who went from door to door checking that people who lived alone were all right, the millions of dollars that got donated. The Kiwi sense of humour that never goes away for long started to emerge, with competitions to see who could build the best backyard toilet (the “long drop”, essentially a hole in the ground with a seat over it):

Website Link:  http://www.showusyourlongdrop.co.nz/

Blog Stop - Scattered Thoughts - Image 2It’s been almost 4 years, and the city still has a long way to go. But there’s resilience too; I was there in April of this year, and I was struck by the effort that had gone in to making things more cheerful: the barriers keeping people away from derelict buildings decorated with mosaic flowers, the bright patterns on the walls surrounding the mangled cathedral, and the new shopping mall made entirely of brightly coloured shipping containers that’ll stand up to any quake. The city is not there yet, but it’ll get there.

 

 

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Bottom Drawer Publications is proud to present Cutting Out by Meredith Shayne, a contemporary mm romance based in New Zealand.

Book Details: NovelCutting Out cover
Genre: Contemporary MM Romance
Release Date: October 11, 2014

Cutting Out Blurb

A twenty-year veteran of the shearing shed, Aussie Shane Cooper loves his job, and the home he’s made for himself in New Zealand. If he’s a little lonely, he’s got good mates to keep his spirits up. When a hot, cocky young shearer named Lachlan Moore catches his eye at a competition, he’s content to look but not touch, knowing the young man is out of his league.
Lachie wouldn’t mind a piece of Shane, but the gorgeous gun shearer from Australia is soon forgotten when the Christchurch earthquake hits, and tragedy strikes Lachie’s family. Lachie deals with it the best he can, cutting himself off from all he knows. A year later and he’s back in the shearing shed, out of practice and lacking confidence. That Shane’s there to watch him flounder doesn’t help his nerves.

As Lachlan struggles to re-acclimatise, Shane can’t resist giving him a hand to get back on his feet. As they move from friends to something more, Shane finds himself wanting to know everything he can about Lachie. But Lachie’s got secrets he desperately wants to keep, and when things come to a head, those secrets might just mean the end of them before they’ve truly begun.

Buy Links:  Bottom Drawer Publications  amazon    iTunes    All Romance (ARe)

Barnes & Noble    Book Stand    Kobo        Smashwords

The e-book is available for sale for $5.99 via the BDP Digital Shop
and other online booksellers.

Release & Blog Tour Giveaway:  Paperback copy of Cutting Out, $10 BDP voucher and 3 x Cutting Out e-books!  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.  Use the link provided for the entry form and for additional contest details.
a Rafflecopter giveaway    or enter at    FB Giveaway   (same contest multiple ways to win)

Cutting Out coverFind Cutting Out on:  Goodreads,  on Bookalikes, and at  it’s Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words review, where it is a highly recommended read!

For more information:

  • Visit Bottom Drawer Publications ( www.bottomdrawerpublications.net) or contact them at:
  • Email:  mailto:bottomdrawerpub@gmail.com or  info@bottomdrawerpublications.net

 

About the Author  Meredith Shayne

A scientist in a past life, these days Meredith Shayne mainly uses her scientific training to poke holes in television pseudoscience. Originally from Australia, she moved to New Zealand to start a new life a few years ago and hasn’t regretted it for one minute, even if she frequently wishes that the New Zealand weather was a little better; if she’s forced, she’ll admit that the refreshing lack of animals that can kill you in New Zealand makes up for a little rain.

Meredith travels a lot, so much so that she has developed a shameful love of airplane food and knows her passport number by heart. When she is at home, she enjoys baking, horrible music from the 1980s, reality television, and gloating any time Australia thrashes the living daylights out of New Zealand on the sporting field.

  • Find Meredith at her website:  ../../../../Marketing-Promotion/Books/I’m Your Man/www.meredithshayne.com”

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