A MelanieM Review: The Bucket List by R.J. Scott


Rating 4 stars out of 5

The Bucket List coverPopular soap actor Mark Wesley, 33,  is shocked when an assistant brings him a note from someone he hasn’t thought about in years.  It’s from the younger brother of his childhood best friend and he has come to find Mark to deliver some devastating news. News that makes Mark realize he has never dealt with his past and now he will never have a chance to make things right.

Jason Craig is grieving over the loss of his beloved older brother, Andrew.  Now Jason is on a mission to carry out all of Andrew’s last wishes, those Andrew wrote on his Bucket List.  It includes delivering a letter to his childhood friend, Mark Wesley, now a star in Hollywood.   But what was supposed to be a brief meeting turns into something more.

Mark is in the closet, in his personal life and in his job, but the attraction he feels towards Jason is unexpected and powerful.  So is the grief he feels at hearing that the man he thought of as his brother, Andrew,  has died.  Mark decides to help Jason finish Andrew’s Bucket list and the process brings them together in a way they never expected.    Along the way Mark must decide whether to stay in the closet or move forward a new future with Jason.

The Bucket List by RJ Scott is one of those sweet, lovely stories you will be keep thinking about days after you finished it.  Something about this story just resonates with you.  It’s not just the main characters, although they were layered and believable.  And it’s not just the present dilemma they find themselves dealing with…no, it’s their past, the memories, and the grief that R.J. Scott’s narrative delivers in such a way that it makes a powerful impression, rendering Mark, Jason, and Andrew’s family’s sorrow and regret both real and immediate.

What would you put on your Bucket List?  Who would you reach out to after death?  Those questions are just a few of the thoughts engendered by this thoughtful, sweet story.  I love how Mark and Jason work through some of their issues, with each other, their present and past,  while working their way day Andrew’s wish list.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself grabbing for a tissue or two or three throughout this story.  Because The Bucket List will pull a whole host of emotions and thoughts from each reader as they proceed through this story, regret, joy, sorry, and laughter.  It’s all there, along with love.

On a GR note said it was “originally a short unfinished blog story, readers of RJ’s blog insisted the story be expanded and finished and she listened to them.”  Even with the added length, I wish it had been longer.  These two went on quite a journey and I would love to see more of their lives after they returned.

I absolutely recommend The Bucket List by RJ Scott.  It heartwarming and thoughtful.  Its sweet, deep, and lovely.  Once more, R.J. Scott delivers a story for all readers to pickup and love.  Grab it up today!

Cover Artist Meredith Russell. I liked it but wish for something more.

Sales Links:  Love Lane Books    All Romance (ARe)      Amazon       Buy It Here

Book Details:

134 pages
Published January 28th 2015 by Love Lane Books Limited (first published January 26th 2015)
original titleThe Bucket List
edition languageEnglish
url http://rjscottauthor.blogspot.co.uk/

A BJ Review: Payback by John Inman


Rating:   2 stars out of 5

Payback cover

On the night of their fourth wedding anniversary, Tyler and Spence share a special evening before going out to take their dog for a walk in the park where a deadly gay bashing attack changes their life forever.

One reason I wanted to read this book was because it’s set in San Diego, where I lived for many years. Found myself in the mood to revisit, and the book didn’t disappoint in that respect. The trolley, the park, breweries, Coronado Bridge vistas and so many more little details had my imagination firmly planted back in my old stomping grounds.

The story begins with a steamy hot, yet also sweetly romantic scene between a couple so real I felt as if I could’ve known when I lived in the area. As Spence and Tyler celebrate their anniversary by exchanging specially made rings, their dog interrupts with a need to go out and they set off on a walk in the park. What comes next strikes with crushing, chest-constricting suddenness, shattering the almost idyllic happiness we’d just shared with them into fragmented ruins. It’s gut wrenching, heartrending, have-lots-of-tissues-handy reading for several chapters.

In the aftermath of the attack, Tyler is unconscious for a month and wakes to find himself alone in the world. Husband dead, dog missing, and apparently he has no family. After speaking with a police detective, Chris, and learning that they have no real leads on the attack, Tyler’s grief is rapidly overshadowed by intense anger that morphs into a desperate need for vengeance.

A short bout of agoraphobia, which he overcomes on his own in a matter of days, Tyler goes out and buys an illegal gun. His desire to own a gun didn’t surprise me much. Protection would be high on my list after such an attack. But why an illegal gun, unless he already had plans of how he was going to use it?

Up until then, the story was a tearjerker, but working for me. That shifted when Tyler gives in to his rage and goes out riding the trolley at night in bad parts of town carrying his illegal gun and ends up committing murder for which he feels no guilt. In fact, the murder seems to ease the rage inside him and make him feel better for a while. The only remorse comes some time later and is related to fear that his actions may have messed up the relationship between Chris, the detective assigned to his case, and himself.

Chris saw Tyler when he was brought in on the night of the attack, and reveals later that he fell in love from the first. As the story weaves on, Chris starts to creep me out. His sappiness and obsession with Tyler rubs me all wrong. Even more when clues began to make it clear to him that Tyler committed murder, and he chooses to ignore it. Later he goes further when he helps Tyler cover up the first murder in conjunction with another killing. Chris and Tyler actually discuss the cover up scheme while watching the man bleed to death.

Five months after the attack, and Chris has fallen for the grieving Tyler so deeply that he’s willing to go completely against his sworn duty. Five months and Tyler is so deeply in love with Chris that the detective has replaced Spence in Tyler’s thoughts and dreams.

The night of the cover up, Chris and Tyler make love for the first time–in the same bed that he and Spence had used to make sweet love the night of Spence’s death. They even use the same sexual position. Chris and Tyler declare their forever love, but it just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t hot or romantic. In fact, it broke my heart. Five short months and Spence, who the author made me love in that first scene, seems to be erased so completely.

On another note, I share my life with several dogs, so I usually enjoy doggie characters in my books. Franklin, Spence and Tyler’s dog, had the makings of a wonderful animal character initially. Unfortunately, it felt like he was a prop used to move things forward and then be forgotten when convenient. Near the end, he’d been repeatedly kicked with heavy boots while trying the help Tyler. He’s dripping urine on the floor, which makes me think possible kidney damage. Yet Tyler and Chris never take him to the vet to be checked out. My dog lover’s heart was left worried about him.

If some background on Chris and Tyler had been offered, it might have helped to understand them better. However, there’s only the barest hint of background on Tyler and next to none on Chris. This leaves me with many questions—one being why Chris fell for Tyler so hard and instantly when seeing him in the hospital.

The book’s rather reminiscent of a popular movie in which a woman goes vigilante after a similar attack scenario, except Tyler isn’t a vigilante. Rather it came across to me as if he just needed to take his anger out on someone. The idea that going out and looking for someone to hurt, even a bad person, in order to assuage rage over injustice done to you just wasn’t something I found ok.

Cover Artist: Maria Fanning
The cover perfectly captures the essence of this book including the setting (San Diego trolley instantly recognizable for me), the blood and violence, as well as the love. The couple walking with their dog in the park at the bottom, small, almost transparently dreamy as if they’re just a memory makes me tear up each time I look at it after having read the story.
Sales LInks:   Dreamspinner Press      All Romance (ARe)         Amazon       buy it here
Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: February 2nd 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
edition languageEnglish
url http://johninmanauthor.com

A Sammy Review: An Infatuation by Joe Cosentino


Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

“Is everything all right between you two boys?”
I refocused. “Why do you ask?”

“You two were like molecular bonds. The positive energy between you two was atomic. Now I rarely see you two together. What went wrong with my experiment?”

“I guess the atoms split.”

An Infatuation coverIn high school, Harold High is what you would call a nerd. He’s incredibly smart, loves books and poetry, but in the end, he’s mostly invisible in the chaotic world of youth. That is, until he gets to know Mario Ginetti. Mario’s the quarterback for the schools football team. He’s handsome and strong, but lacks in a lot of the departments that Harold excels in.

Perhaps that’s what makes them such an interesting match. Through tutoring sessions, they grow to know each other, and Harold finds himself in love with the out-of-reach star with a life far more tainted than it appears to be on the outside.

The story spans twenty years, through their time in high school, to accidental meetings, to a reunion, and finally to the end. It’s more a story of life and letting go than it is a story of love and holding on.

“But only for now. You see, Harold, these, our high school years, are their glory days.” She pointed to Barbara’s pink bag sitting next to her on the bench. “Their best days. Ever. Life will never be as good for them.” She grinned from ear to ear. “But for us. These are our hell years. We just need to survive them, so we can get the hell out of high school and move on to doing amazing things in the real world.”

I rested my arm on the back of the bench. “But the sun, the sky, the trees, the water, and the soil are all connected. When a leaf falls, it eventually merges with the water and the soil, and they nourish the trees, and the trees take in the sunlight, and are matted against the blue sky.”

Hannah had an answer for everything. “And what happens to everything on a dark, snowy day?”

I thought about it. “Everything disappears, except for the white snow and the grey sky.”

She pointed her finger at me as if I’d answered a question correctly in class. “Right. With each season, the landscape totally changes.”

It’s very hard for me to collect my feelings at this moment in time, with regards to An Infatuation. I’m completely mixed on so many levels and I’m not so sure it’s something that will become clearer over time. I’m thinking this just might be one of those books that leaves me wondering what I just read, and completely unsure of how I feel about it. Maybe that’s just how it is.

When I first requested this story (to review it), I somehow missed that it was a bittersweet endings story. Had I seen that, I may not have read it – but I did, and if conflicted emotions were dollars, I’d be rich.

The thing about this story is that the writing is pretty good for the most part. It has wittiness and some really lovely lines that are memorable. The author uses poetry and stories in a way that made me smile, and overall, it was a quick read.

But – and of course, there’s a but… I’m not so sure about certain things. For one, toward the end, Mario and Harold admit to seeing each other throughout the years in a way that resonated as an odd sort of stalking to me. Sure, Harold had similar actions in high school, but that made sense to me as a silly little love sick thing a child would do… not so much an adult.

Also, the ending didn’t really leave me satisfied. It more or less left me mystified (if you can’t tell). It was nice, but then again not. I really, really just don’t know.

There are also other things in the book that made me pause. For one, an attempted sexual assault occurs, and I was left very angry at the response to it. Sure, maybe it was realistic to the time period, but it still made me very unhappy. Additionally, in terms of Stuart, I don’t know how I’d feel having my husband have this constant fantasy going on that was a past fling. It’d just bother the crap out of me. He seems so cool and at ease with it, but it didn’t sit right with me.

Still, there are truths to aspects of this. Things don’t always work out, life happens and people drift apart for one reason or another. Marriages fail, the people you once knew become strangers, you question your direction in life. Times get hard, really hard. Those are all true. But how I feel about this? Well, I’m left just not knowing. Just another aspect of life, I suppose.

The cover art by Christie Caughie is nice, but perhaps too fun and light for this story. While the models on the cover may resemble main characters in the story, the vibe I get from the cover just doesn’t match the story. So it’s nice, but not right for this.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press     All Romance (ARe)    Amazon  Buy It Here

Book Details:

Expected publication: February 4th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
edition languageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Trowchester Blues (Trowchester Blues) by Alex Beecroft


Rating: 4.75 stars rounded up to 5 out of 5

Trowchester Blues coverAs a Metropolitan Police Officer Michael May has seen it all, including the worst people can do to each other,  and it’s getting to him.  When confronted by the monster who has tortured and murdered a number of young girls, Michael loses it and  assaults him.  The ramifications of an officer attacking “an alleged suspect” will be ignored only if Michael “retires”.  It’s an act he agrees with even if it destroys a part of him.

The recent death of his brutal father gives Michael a place to disappear to, the small quaint town of Trowchester.  He’s inherited his childhood home with all its damaging memories of his abusive father and frail mom, and the narrowboats moored at the shared dock behind the house.   Beset by memories, afraid of his own rage, Michael is lost until a chance meeting with the town’s antique book seller changes everything.

Fintan Hulme is now an honest man.  Five years ago that wasn’t the case.  Then Finn was a happy  high class London fence, specializing in rare books and object’s d’Art.  But then everything changed and Finn turned his back on his old life and criminal associates to open a antique book shop in Trowchester where he became a model citizen.

Until the past finds him once more and embroils him in a crime with far reaching consequences.

For Finn, falling in love with an ex-cop with anger management issues is the last thing he should be doing, only he can’t seem to help himself.  And Michael, unaware of Finn’s background, is just starting to trust his instincts and people once more.

When the past collides with the present, and criminals starting to appear around every corner,  can an ex-cop and ex-con pull together to save not only their relationship but their lives as well?

Trowchester Blues by Alex Beecroft is such an amazing story.  It hooked me in from the opening paragraphs and our heartbreaking introduction to burned out cop Michael May.  He and his partner, Jenny Smith (another well done character), enter a basement that contains the mutilated corpse of a young girl.  The descriptions are horrifying and the reactions of May and his partner human and unstandable. But for Michael May, its the final straw, the last act of a depraved monster that puts Michael’s rage at himself and society over the top.  It’s impact is visceral, the memories of it on the reader and May lingers throughout the story.

We get May’s frustration and anger at his inability to keep something like this from happening as well as the possibility that the murderer will get off with a light sentence and do it again.  But the years and Michael’s abusive past turns Michael into a vengeful attacker, something that no law enforcement agency can afford to have working for them.   The scenes within the Metropoliton Police Station and its Captain give Michael an  authentic background and an avenue for our empathy and feelings for this sad, lonely man.  And the darkness follows May and the story as the location changes to the village of Trowchester.

This story has so many layers to it and all the characters you will meet.  These are complicated people with varied pasts, intellect and skills.  Michael, Finn, and all the rest lead lives that will fascinate, and compel you on through adventures, events both glorious and disastrous in nature. It’s sexy, and hot.  Be prepared for a little kink but the reasoning and actions not only make sense but feel right for both men and their burgeoning relationship. It all works sublimely as a whole. Beecroft’s narrative is lively, magnetic in its ability to hold your attention, and gripping in its suspense and ability to surprise you.  I hated to put this book down.

Confession time.  I wanted Trowchester to be real even though I knew through the author’s notes it was fabricated for the story.  Trowchester felt alive, its aged streets and canals so imaginatively described that I felt as though I could see them.  And it was the perfect setting in which to meet Fintan Hulme, a beautifully realized former thief of intellectual and emotional depth.  What a perfect character, not just in his personal qualities,  the wonderful way in which the author constructed him.  Fintan has such dimension, including his love of books. That is especially conveyed through the shop he owns and has lovingly decorated. It in his passionate tirade delivered to an unfortunate and all important book owner.  Fintan is a puzzle, but one the reader will love to figure out.  We take him to heart and fear for him when his past finds him again. And his matchup with a fireplug of an ex-cop who is his intellectual and emotional match is a true wonder.

I loved everything about this story, including learning about the narrowboats (more googling to my delight), and antique books. I enjoyed Beecroft’s creation of a village where the economical vicissitudes have wrought  a revival that brings with it the world-weary sophisticates and gay tea shop owners but still has a dark side that exists along the docks.  The suspense and pain of discovery, the desolate past that mixes with a hopeful but shaky present for all involved here.  Even a “ghost” in need of help appears and grabs at our hearts.  And I realized that the last thing I wanted to do was see the end of this story.  I wanted Trowchester Blues to continue and enlarge, pulling in more of the characters we meet along the way to the resolution.

Lucky for us, we’re going to get it.  Alex Beecroft is not done with Trowchester yet.  Be still my heart.  There is more to come. Alex Beecroft has at least 2 more stories planned for 2015 in the Trowchester series and I can’t wait.  Until then, grab up this marvelous tale and make the acquaintance of two opposite yet equally compelling men and their journey towards love and a future together.  It’s a book you won’t want to put down and one you will happily pick up again and again while waiting for the next in the series.  It’s one of my highly recommended reads!

Cover Artist Lou Harper does an amazing job.  It’s perfect.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing    All Romance (ARe)  Amazon    Buy it here

Book Details:

ebook, 290 pages
Expected publication: February 9th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
edition languageEnglish
seriesTrowchester Blues

Books in the Trowchester series are:

  • Trowchester Blues (Trowchester #1) to be published February 9th, 2015
  • Blue Eyed Stranger (Trowchester Blues #2) to be published April 6, 2015 by Riptide
  • Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues #3) to be published July 27, 2015 by Riptide