A MelanieM Review: Then the Stars Fall by Brandon Witt

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Rating: 5 stars out of  5

Then the Stars Fall coverIn the four years since the death of his wife,  Travis Bennett has become a shell of the man he used to be.  Travis raises his three children, manages his business, and works as a ranch hand, his only companion his dog, Dunkyn. The hole inside Travis feels as deep and recent as the day she died, a situation that often leaves him depressed and unable to shake off the moods it leaves him in.

Fond memories of the small Ozark town of El Dorado Springs and the need to leave his broken relationship behind, find Wesley Ryan moving into his grandparents’ old home and temporarily taking over the local veterinary clinic while that owner goes on a much needed sabbatical.  But while the loving memories remain, the small town atmosphere isn’t exactly conducive to his colorful clothes and admittedly “gay” nature.  Wesley is feeling pretty lonely until Travis brings in his corgi for treatment.

Travis’ reaction to Wes’ recommendation of surgery is far beyond Wes’ expectations.  Travis is adamant that Dunkyn, his dog, be treated without surgery, something Wes knows the dog needs.  Wes is sure he will be seeing the duo again.  Travis, dog and all, is exactly the type of man Wesley goes for.  But with three kids and a beloved wife in the past,  Wes is sure he is straight.  Or is he?  Wes does know he came to El Dorado to get away from his man issues and he’s not looking for a relationship,, especially one with someone as complicated and loaded down with baggage as Travis Bennett.  Fate, however, has plans for Travis and Wesley whether they want it or not…

First that gorgeous cover and then the synopsis drew me to this book but it’s the story within that has  kept me thinking and repeatedly revising my overall connection to and perception of Then The Stars Fall by Brandon Witt.

So many elements about this story had me off balance right from the start.  The plot is situated in a small (pop 3000 plus) conservative town, El Dorado Springs, in  Missouri.  There some of the citizens, including main characters, think nothing of dropping words like  “faggot” and “retard” frequently into their conversations.  These offensive terms are thrown about so carelessly that I almost put the book down before I had gotten past the opening chapters.  That the main character, Travis Bennett, and his best friend are the main offenders made it worse.  Yes, they were called on it, by Caleb,Travis’ oldest son, but did it stop?  No.  And I was appalled that the author thought I would be able to connect with a man such as Travis.  But I did….eventually.  Because Travis for all his faults (and there are so many) comes across as a complex human being, a realistic work in progress, especially at age 42.  The world of pain, loss, and conflict in his background, combined with episodes of good deeds and even better behavior will have the reader flip flopping like a fish out of water in their opinions of this tormented man.

Next up his crude, loud and over the top best friend, Jason Baker, who spews such slurs,derogatory remarks, and unfair judgements with an equally unsettling ease that again I couldn’t believe we were supposed to like him.  Quite frankly, I was afraid that was never going to occur but it did as well. Between Jason and Travis the almost constant barrage of offensive terms and slurs almost derailed this story. Luckily, the author balanced such raw characters with ones that were easier to empathize with and enjoy.  Characters such as Wesley Ryan, Travis’ sister Wendy who I adored,, the Bennett children, and even the Corgis Dunkyn and Dolan, all lined up to pull the reader along the rippling narrative and keep us afloat until most of the people of the town combine to win us over.  Quirky, obstinate, surprising and recognizably human, the folks of El Dorado Springs continue to show new facets of their personalities each time they appear in the story.  And it’s these layers that will make the reader grow fond of the town and fonder of its people.

What else threw me off?  The constantly changing point of view.  After a while it felt more like the play Our Town than a novel.  Everyone gets a chance to chime in here, even Dunkyn the dog. I have to admit at times I thought him far more admirable than some of the others characters, but then Corgis are like that.  That large number of voices took some time getting adjusted to, but when you do, then this strange format enables the reader to get a real, intimate feel for El Dorado, its history, its present, and hopefully its future.  We get a sense of community and that’s necessary for the reader to achieve because this town is so much a  part of its people that it acts as just one more main character in a story full of them.

Looking back I can’t even remember when the shift of perspective started, when the affection I felt towards the characters and story outgrew my irritations until those faded away.  It was a slow changeover for me, and yes, for Wesley as well.  This is a town that takes a lot of getting used to.  In Brandon Witt’s Authors Notes, he writes about his childhood which prompted this story.  Here it is in his words:

I KNEW I would return to the world of The Shattered Door, the town I grew up in, one day. I wasn’t sure when or how, but then Travis and Wesley showed up, asking to be with Dunkyn and Dolan—or maybe it was the other way around. Shattered told the tale of the pain, fear, guilt, bullying, etc. that I felt growing up. However, there was another part during those years in El Dorado Springs. Lightning bugs. Thunderstorms. My grandpa’s buffalo. My chickens. Friends that I loved dearly. Simone’s Drive-in (if you’re ever driving on 54 and pass through El Do, you have to stop and get a burger. They’re perfect!). Despite the pain I felt a lot of the time, there was so much good, as well. So much beauty and love. I hope I was able to capture that aspect of El Do with Then the Stars Fall.

By the end of this story, Brandon Witt had really captured it all.  The joys, the hardship and pain, the gorgeous memories and the manner in which a town grows a part of you, no matter your age or location.  It was quite the emotional journey that Then the Stars Fell  and its characters took this reader on.  It constantly challenged me to think about the people, Wes and Travis’ romance, and the town as well as my own opinions and judgements.  It held me firm to the story until I was completely won over.  It’s a journey you shouldn’t miss.  Then the Stars Fell by Brandon Witt is one of Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words must reads of the year.  If Brandon Witt isn’t on your list of authors whose stories are automatic buys, he should be and this is just one more example why he belongs there.  Grab it up today!

Cover Artist:  Anne Cain.  What an astonishing cover.  So evocative of the farm and township of the story.  One of the best of the year.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback          All Romance (ARe)              amazon     Buy it Here

Book Details:

ebook, 350 pages
Published September 29th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1632162598 (ISBN13: 9781632162595)
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.brandonwitt.com/

In the Book Spotlight: The Superstar by Patricia Logan (book tour and contest)

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Book Name: The Superstar
Author Name: Patricia Logan

Author Bio:

Patricia Logan resides in Los Angeles, California along with her husband, four children, her grandchild and ever increasing number of cats. When not being stage mom, baking cookies, or scooping kitty litter, she writes steamy, award winning, gay erotic romance and tries to lead her readers on a journey of discovery with more than a little angst.

Author Contact:

Publisher:The Superstar Cover
Cover Artist: Jeff Adkins: http://www.jpadkinsdesigns.com
Sales Links: amazon

The Superstar Blurb:

Storm Ellison is the sexiest man on two legs. The gorgeous young star of “Trapped on an Island”, the hottest reality show on television, is instantly recognizable the moment he leaves his palatial mansion. Paparazzi follow him everywhere, leaving him no peace or privacy, selling his pictures to the tabloids, and cementing his reputation in the press as a slutty gay playboy. As Storm prepares to sign his first major movie deal, his manager decides he needs protection. What he doesn’t expect, is to be attracted to the cold bastard who’s now running his life.

Balthazar Grant, freelance bodyguard, is a huge, handsome, rough and ready former Marine, trained by the best, and willing to step between Storm and anyone stupid enough to come at him. Always stoic and serious, Taz lends a deadly presence to Storm’s entourage whenever he ventures out in public. Storm doesn’t want a bodyguard, much less one who won’t let him live his fast and loose lifestyle with impunity and he’s certainly not one to be dictated to by an overconfident Marine who has opinions about everything including who he should hook-up with.

When a deadly threat hits Storm’s world, he’s suddenly living his own reality show, only this one has an outcome which doesn’t involve being voted off an island. Will Storm wake up before it’s too late and will Taz be able to fight his attraction to the handsome young superstar while trying to convince him he’s in very real danger? The pair will soon learn that reality is stranger than fiction.

Categories: Contemporary, Fiction, M/M Romance

The Superstar Excerpt:

Jules grinned again. “You like Storm, Taz. You LIKE like him!” she raised her voice and Taz looked around to see who else could have overheard her.

“I like him fine, Jules; I work for the guy,” he replied, intentionally misunderstanding her.

“No, Taz, you are ‘in like’ with Storm,” she reiterated. She reached up and took hold of his sunglasses, dragging them off his face. “Look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t like Storm like that, big guy. Whoa, those are some dreamy eyes,” she sighed.

Taz felt embarrassed and exposed without his shades and hated the fact that she could see the very real truth in his eyes when all he wanted to do was deny it. He averted his gaze, staring out onto the dance floor only to regret it immediately when he noted Storm’s arms wrapped around the twink, his lips being plied by the smaller man’s as their lower bodies ground against each other to the beat of the music. The moment he saw them, he frowned.

“See? That’s what I’m talkin’ about, Taz. You can’t stand the way that other man touches Storm. You want him for yourself,” she said emphatically.

Words: 82,000

Tour Dates/Stops:

PSuperstarBadgeTour Dates/Stops: 

19-Nov

Multitasking Mommas

Michael Mandrake

My Fiction Nook

20-Nov

Tara Lain

Cate Ashwood

Parker Williams

21-Nov

Hearts on Fire

Love Bytes

Queer Town Abbey

Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

24-Nov

It’s Raining Men

Velvet Panic

Prism Book Alliance

25-Nov

BFD Book Blog

26-Nov

Inked Rainbow Reads

Molly Lolly

Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: E-book copy of ‘The Superstar’ by Patricia Logan. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Use the Rafflecopter link provided for the entry form and for all additional contest details.

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Enter the Wonderful World of Gabriel’s City by Laylah Hunter: Exclusive Excerpt, Great Giveaway and more!

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Hi, everyone, thanks for having me on this tour for Gabriel’s City! Don’t forget to leave a comment at the end of this post to win a chance at the ZOMG Smells giveaway!  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Spoiled young aristocrat Colin Harwood has always enjoyed flirting with danger, but he’s always been able to retreat to safety—until bad decisions and a chance encounter plunge him into a world far more savage than his own. Gabriel is an urban legend, famous in the underworld for his unpredictability and violence. He’s also a believer fairy tales, and quick to decide to the handsome stranger who came to his aid must be good luck. With few other options remaining, Colin will need to keep his wits about him to learn to survive in Gabriel’s City.

Gabriel’s City Blurb:GabrielsCity_200x300

For spoiled young aristocrat Colin Harwood, the port city of Casmile is a buffet of easy pleasures. But when he steps into a pub brawl to help a dangerously outnumbered young man, he is drawn into the seedy underbelly of the city the young man calls home.

Gabriel is a cutpurse and a knife for hire, practically an urban legend. His vision of Casmile is touched by a strange combination of faith and madness, driven by fairytale logic and a capacity for love that he often must suppress to survive. He’s always worked alone, but when a dashing dragon who calls himself Colin saves him in a bar fight, he pulls Colin into his world.

Gabriel’s city is nothing like the refined, socialite existence that bored Colin senseless. Colin finds adventure and excitement there—and maybe even love. But with his layers of finery stripped away, nothing remains to protect him from poverty or danger—except Gabriel. So he must choose: go back to the civilized young man he once was, or fly free as Gabriel’s dragon.

Title: Gabriel’s City
Author: Laylah Hunter
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: Imaliea
Genre/Sub-Genre: Historical, M/M Romance

About Laylah Hunter

Laylah Hunter is a third-gendered butch queer who writes true stories about imaginary people in worlds that never were. Most of hir work deals with queer characters, erotic themes, and the search for happy endings in unfavorable circumstances.
Hir mild-mannered alter ego lives in Seattle, at the mercy of the requisite cats and cultivating the requisite caffeine habit, and dreams of a day when telling stories will pay all the bills.

Connect with Laylah:

Website:  laylahhunter.com
Twitter:  @LaylahHunter
Goodreads:  goodreads.com/Laylah_Hunter

Laylah is Riptide’s Featured Author for November!

Giveaway! I have the good fortune to be friends with the charming people who run ZOMG Smells, who make, as their tagline says, “Fine nerdy scents for fine nerdy people.” They have created a set of perfume oil blends inspired by the characters of Gabriel’s City, and I’d like to give some away at the end of this tour! You’ll get seven 5-ml bottles, one of each of these scents, including a nice spectrum of masculine through feminine notes. Leave a comment that includes your email address to enter!

The Battle of Troll Bridge

There are a lot of stories embedded in the narrative of Gabriel’s City. Some of them are told in the book and others are only mentioned, because I’m pretty sure I can’t get away with pulling a Tolkein and interrupting the main story with folklore every few pages. But this one seemed like a good insight into the way Gabriel approaches the world, so here it is: his account of the Battle of Troll Bridge. It’s a bit gory. But only a bit.

“And if nothing more clever has come along, why, he must be living there still,” Colin finishes. It’s the way tales always end, nothing particularly interesting, but Gabriel sighs contentedly all the same. “Does that make it your turn?”

“Mmm. It does.” Gabriel leans back, looking up at the old stones of the bridge overhead, as if some cue is written there. “This was not so many years ago, maybe a handful, maybe less. It was a strange winter in Casmile that year—which means colder than this, but dry.”

Colin nods. He remembers the winter Gabriel’s talking about; there were barely any winter rains, and the next year’s harvest was poor.

“And there was a boy in the city who had the favor of the Lady, but not much else to speak of.”

How many people get to hear the tales of Gabriel’s exploits from his own mouth? “He must have had his wits about him,” Colin says.

Gabriel’s smile flickers knife-quick and disappears as if he’s pocketed it again. “Oh, always. The Lady wouldn’t love someone who couldn’t find his way back out of trouble.

“But times were hard, and the winter had been strange, so the boy had nothing to keep off the rain when one afternoon he was caught in it. He had no coin for taverns, but he was close by the river, so he darted down to take shelter beneath a bridge.”

He pauses there, and Colin thinks his arched brow might be prompting a response. “But the trouble with sheltering under a bridge is that you might run afoul of a troll.”

“It’s nearly guaranteed, in the winter,” Gabriel agrees. “The troll under this bridge was called Black Tom, and he was a nasty thing. Huge and hulking, snaggle-toothed and mean. This was his bridge, and he meant to share it with no-one.

“He said as much, in his booming growl, when the boy came tumbling down the bank to take shelter from the rain.

“It’s raining, the boy pointed out to him, and I don’t plan to stand out in it.”

“I bet he did.” Colin can imagine the way Gabriel would have sounded then, the petulant tone that means he’s only moments away from making someone bleed. “That can’t have pleased the troll.”

Gabriel shakes his head. “He wasn’t kind in the least, and nor was he clever.” His expression turns cold and guarded. “He said he couldn’t see why he’d want to let someone under his bridge who was too scrawny even to make a good meal.”

Colin feels a chill that has nothing to do with the stone at his back. He’d bet that wasn’t really the appetite Black Tom wanted to satisfy. The cold winter he remembers was four years ago; he was having his first polite fencing lessons that year, and Gabriel was already facing this. “What did you do?”

“The boy laughed at him. When your enemies are big and mean, it helps if they’re also angry, because then they forget whatever cleverness they had. Black Tom was easy to anger. He struck out at the boy, a vicious blow, but the boy was too quick for him, and dodged it. Again he tried, and again he missed. But as he reared back for a third strike, the boy slipped on a patch of wet moss and fell. The troll was on him in a moment, claws at his throat.”

Even though he knows how this story ended, Colin finds himself tense. “And then?”

“Then he’d made a terrible mistake.” The grim satisfaction in Gabriel’s tone makes Colin brace for the worst. “He’d forgotten to watch the boy’s hands, hadn’t he? And he had such a soft underbelly. So easy to cut up.”

“And then you pushed him into the river,” Colin says, hoping they can skip the rest of the killing.

“He lost his grip on the boy’s throat,” Gabriel goes on, undeterred. “And he tried to grab the knife, but he had always been too slow. It went up beneath his ribs, here, and then blood started running from his mouth, and even if you’re a troll, you’re done for then. The boy pushed him away as his strength failed, and then watched all the strength run out of him, until he was finally still.

“The boy had come there with the Lady’s favor, and he still had it. So he thanked her, and rolled Black Tom into the water, where She turned him to stone.”

“That’s—” But it would do no good to say that was impossible, would it? Colin bites his tongue.

“So the troll was defeated, and the boy had his shelter, and if nothing more wicked has come along, why,” Gabriel spreads his arms, taking in the scene, their place under the bridge, “perhaps he shelters there still.”