A MelanieM Review: Deep Blues Goodbye (Altered States #1) by L.E. Harner, T.A. Webb


Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Deep Blues Goodbye coverWith one startling action, the world changed forever. Recently deceased NOPD Detective Travis Boudreaux was in the process of being mourned and buried when he had the bad taste to sit up at his own funeral.  Until that happened no one knew that vampires and werewolves had been living amongst them. Now two years later, the fight is on for civil rights for preternatural beings and most humans are on the bandwagon. Except whoever is killing vampires and would be vampires.

Since the death and return of his partner and almost love, Detective Sam Garrett has hated all things preternatural. Having your undead partner try to make you his first meal will do that to a guy. When Sam’s attitude gets the best of him on the job, Sam finds himself banished to the Paranormal Criminal Investigations Unit—the Odd Squad—under the oversight of Detective Danny Burkette.

Now it’s up to Burkette to work with Garrett by day and Boudreaux by night as they follow a trail of clues that leads from the historic cemeteries of New Orleans to the bayous of southern Louisiana. During the course of their investigations, both men come to the attention  of a Master vampire and the local werewolf pack Alpha.  If they aren’t careful, it won’t be just Boudreaux whose dead, but maybe even Sam as well.  Some lessons in life—and death—take longer to learn…and Sam and Travis find out that not all second chances are created equal.

Warning: This is an erotic urban fantasy. In this series the vampires don’t sparkle, werewolves kill, and the men sometimes have sex. With each other.

Deep Blues Goodbye (Altered States #1) by L.E. Harner and T.A. Webb deepens the amazing world building these authors are constructing for this series.  New Orleans, that rich feast of a city, is the perfect setting for supernatural beings  in love and evil schemes that are slow to unfold.  After that shocker at the end of Altered States, I eagerly grabed this up to see what had occurred only to find that two years had passed and the aftermath is viewed through the various perspective of the characters involved.  And yes, I was a little disappointed.  After all, what happened at the funeral was a stunner for all involved, including the now animated corpse of Travis Boudreaux.  But two years have passed since Travis was turned and now everyone has to deal with the fact that vampires, werewolves and more exist and live among them.  And not everyone is happy about that, including Sam.

I adore Sam, he’s a piece of cynical perfection and disappointment.  What happened to Travis altered Sam as well, especially since both men were so close to falling in love, if they hadn’t already.  But a vampire and fate intervenes and their new  relationship was destroyed…or so they think.  It soon becomes apparent that Sam has never gotten over Travis and that just adds onto the bitterness Sam already feels about the whole undead thing and his partner.  I loved the two of them together and their bonding extends past themselves and the pages to include the reader.  In fact, I so bought into their burgeoning love affair that  aspects of this story threw me off.

Without heading into spoiler territory, other supernaturals arrive to further complicate the current state of affairs and all their attention will be focusing on Sam.   We see Travis as he is trying to move forward with his undead life with not a whole lot of success.  We see Sam also trying to do the same, both are stalled and bitter.  Something has to occur to break the stasis and it’s a doozy.

As part of the events that happen,  a bonded pair will have some wild hot sex with one of our main characters.  Normally this doesn’t bother me, especially when the authors make a case for it to happen.  But here? Not an element I enjoyed.  I understood where the authors were going with it, but I so bought into Sam and Travis’ romance that this aspect never became palatable.  How a reader feels about this (it’s really not cheating) will likely foretell how they feel about this installment in the series.  Some readers will be asking if they can skip over this book (and yes, the third book sort of resolves this), but no *shakes finger*, unfortunately you can’t.

Think of each story as a building block essential to the whole construct.  Miss even one, and you miss key elements that not only enrich the series but deepen the mystery and suspense Harner and Webb are working hard to build.  So much of this story is worthy of your attention and commitment.  And, perhaps,  the few elements that bothered me won’t phase you in the least.  This is going to be one wild ride!

Another reason to start reading this series?  This year’s Pulp Friction 2015 gang situates all their interconnected series in the Altered States universe.  So its double or is that quadruple the fun for all!  So get started.  Each is a fast, wild, suspenseful tale…over before you know it.  However, don’t be astonished if it lingers on in the questions and clues left behind (and even more shockers).

Cover art by Laura Harner works for the series.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 120 pages
Published August 16th 2012 by Hot Corner Press
edition languageEnglish
seriesAltered States #1
charactersSam Garrett (Altered States), Travis Boudreaux

Books in the Altered States Series in the order they should be read:

  • Altered States (Altered States, #0.5)
  • Deep Blues Goodbye (Altered States, #1)
  • Deadly Shades of Gold (Altered States, #2)
  • Free Falling Crimson (Altered States, #3)


A MelanieM Review: Stolen Dreams by Sue Brown


Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5

Stolen Dreams coverFive years ago Morgan Conway cheated on the man he loved all his life and their relationship imploded.  Now Morgan, an up and coming assistant movie director has moved on.  Morgan is engaged to be married to a popular actor, his career is going well, and the coffee shop he owns is busier than ever.  All is good. Until Morgan hears that the man he loved and lost is back in town.  When he shows up at Morgan’s coffee shop, all the old feelings return, unfortunately there for everyone to see, including his fiancé.

Shae Delamere was crushed when Morgan cheated on him five years ago. But when his father falls ill, he returns home and seeks out Morgan once more.  Despite the fact that Morgan is engaged and Shae lives in Texas,  they realize they never stopped loving each other.  Their renewed friendship brings conflict on every side.  Morgan still has a fiance. And friends and families unite to pull them apart again. As old alliances come to light and long buried secrets threaten to rise up and destroy them once more, Morgan and Shae must decide to either forgive and move forward or let their dreams of being together be stolen away forever.

Stolen Dreams by Sue Brown is definitely a book that will arouse strong feelings in a reader, although probably not the feelings the author had hoped for.  I originally read this story back in 2012 when a now defunct press released it.  It wasn’t  until I was halfway through that I remembered the story…and why I didn’t much care for it then.  And still don’t today.

The story starts off promisingly enough.  Morgan is happy on all fronts.  He has a gorgeous fiance who adores him, a career as an assistant director that’s taking off, and a coffee shop he owns that is popular with the latte crowd.  All good.  The interaction with his friends and employees is funny, sharp and gives the reader a good impression of the character and the story just underway.   Then  Shae Delamere, his ex (ex best friend, ex boyhood friend, ex lover, ex everything) resurfaces in town, and everything starts to head south, including the plot.

The official reason that Shae has returned is that his father is ill but there is another hidden reason as well.  That is probably one of the biggest issues to surface in this story.  Its that everyone has secrets…Godzilla- sized,  huge secrets that either everyone knows about or is being kept from one of the main characters.  The idea that any sort of respectful, equal relationship is or can be had between any of the characters here is tossed out the window immediately.  They all constantly lie to each other (some because they are protecting a person, others because they detest a person, or everything in between).  They did so in the past, are doing so now, and you are never sure what is too keep any of them from continuing this pattern.  The only reason any of the secrets come to life is because someone accidentally “spills the coffee beans” as it were.

I kept wondering why Sue Brown, who writes such beautifully compassionate and relatable characters, would choose to plot an entire story around characters almost guaranteed to be off-putting and somewhat shabby in their behavior, especially towards those they say they love the most.  I am not talking about the element of cheating here (although I know that’s a red flag for some readers).  That doesn’t really bother me in a story if the author makes a good case for it and it feels plausible for the characters involved.  Did I ever get that feeling here? No.  The explanation behind the original cheating element felt contrived and shallow (kind of like the characters).

No, the poison goes far deeper into the foundation of the characters themselves as created by Brown.  Shae, the one character everyone is supposed to relate to, commit to and understand comes off as cowardly, manipulative, and self serving.  Ouch. And  he’s the saintly one.  I did feel sorry for Morgan who is apparently so fragile (not that it comes across) that he must constantly be protected from everyone and everything around him, including the truth about past events and peoples actions.   Even his best friends feel that they know what is better for him than Morgan does.  Every action, almost every relationship is built upon a foundation of deceit.  And when it starts to crack, is it because people are finally doing the right thing?  Being responsible or even kind?  Nope.  It’s because a light bulb finally goes off, someone gets a clue and then the explosions begin.  Not because the author ever decides that someone in the story takes a moral or responsible stand.  No, turns out they would have continued to hide or lie if they could get away with it.


The last issue I have with the story after all these have been dealt with?  The ginormous hidden secret is easily guessed at early on in the plot.  That pesky old secret/author plot device that everyone is hiding is so obvious that you wonder when all their intelligence took flight. And then you realize it happened back in the beginning of the story when Shae Delamere comes to town.

Heavier sigh.

By the end of the unrealistic happy ending, I was more than ready to wash my hands of Stolen Dreams and all the characters I found within.

And I hate to say that because I am a huge fan of Sue Brown.  In a way, its great to see how much she has evolved as a writer since 2012.  I can’t think of a recent story she has written lately that I haven’t loved.  And I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in her Isle of Wight series, a favorite of mine.  So if you are new to Sue Brown, you might want to give this a pass. Seek out instead The Sky Is Dead or any stories in her Isle of Wight series. If you are a fan of Sue Brown, then you might want to pick this up and give it a try.  I’ll leave that decision up to you.

Cover art by Brooke Albrecht.  It’s a nice cover but doesn’t speak to the characters or story within.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback   All Romance (ARe)   Amazon      Buy It here

Book Details:

ebook, Second Edition, 240 pages
Published January 30th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
(first published March 18th 2012)
original titleStolen Dreams
edition languageEnglish
url http://suebrownsstories.blogspot.com/

A Stella Review: Stones in the Road (Sugar Tree #2) by Nick Wilgus


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Stones in the Road coverSequel to Shaking the Sugar Tree

. When his snobbish future in-laws travel all the way from Boston to visit, wise-cracking Southerner Wiley Cantrell learns that gay marriage is not without its disadvantages. Occupied by concerns over the health of his special needs son Noah, a meth baby who was not expected to live and who is now on the cusp of puberty, the antics of Wiley’s outrageous would-be mother-in-law and severely conservative father-in-law strain his relationship with Jackson Ledbetter, a pediatric nurse who poses problems of his own. As their respective families meet and greet, each just as meddlesome and inflexible as the other, North meets South and the fireworks and cultural misunderstandings are plenty.

A tornado blows through the small Mississippi town where Wiley’s mother lives, wrecking his mother’s house and leaving their lives in disarray. Then Jackson’s secret drug addiction comes to light, and Wiley and Noah are devastated. With so many stones in the road, Wiley and Jackson find their dream of becoming a real family falling apart. Though Wiley relies on humor to cope, he’ll need something more to keep his happily ever after from slipping away.

Nick Wilgus made it again!

I can confess I was eager and at the same time scared to read Stones In The Road cause I loved the first one and I was afraid this second installment couldn’t live it up.

I was so wrong! This book is amazing, I loved it more that Shaking The Sugar Tree. This series will stay in my heart for long and I’m so happy to know there will be a third book. I was willing to beg for it. Let’s just hope to read it really soon.

The hard part with books like this one is writing a worthy review and I don’t even know where to start. I should simply say to buy this series and read it.

First, you have to be ready for some gun fire, tornado and pie throwing, but most of all you have to be ready for a story full of love (in every way love can be shown).

I know I’m an emotional person but it was really hard to read. At the end I was in my bed crying all the tears I had, trying to read more, listening to a twelve years old boy breaking my heart.

This is not a book to read when you’re looking for some fun and light reading, but surely it will not boring you for one second. There are no pauses, it’s a continuous of engaging and funny dialogues (sometimes incomprehensible to me since I’m Italian) and so addictive I can’t put the story down for a minute. Some dialogues between Noah and Wiley are hilarious, others heartbreaking. Everything is so real, sometimes it’s almost surreal. Every sentence is serious and at the same time full of humor.

This is exactly the kind of book I love to read, emotional, funny, heartbreaking, full of characters with a lot of background and a huge cast of great second characters. I discovered some dark sides of the (not so) perfect Jackson. I met Jack’s mom and I hated her during all the story and then at the end I loved her so much, because I understood she came to WiIey and his son to rescue all of them. I wanted to have her in my life.

Wiley is our usual Wiley and he is so full of guilt right now it was hard to just look at him in some parts and don’t hug him. He needs to deal with all his fears but his guilt for Noah’s disabilities brings him to almost lose himself and his son. But as Tonya said Wiley is the Superdad of the World. Till the end I asked to myself if Wiley would be able to forgive Jackson and first of all himself.

Shortly Stones In The Road is never boring, always entertaining and so well written I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended!

Cover artist Anne Cain.I liked the artist followed the idea chosen for the cover of the first book and most of all she followed this story. You can look at the cover and understand exactly what will happen in the book. Perfect but melancholic cause the three Mcs aren’t all together.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 350 pages
Published January 30th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com
seriesSugar Tree #2

Sugar Tree series
Shaking The Sugar Tree #1
Stones In The Road #2

A BJ Review: Song of the Navigator by Astrid Amara


Rating:   5 stars out of 5

Song of the NavigatorTover Duke is an improvisational navigator, one of only forty-two people in the universe who can move things (and people) across space using the power of his mind. Despite his ability and the glamour and wealth it brings him, his life is routine save for a few bright spots: his birds and his passion for Cruz Arcadio. On the day of his birthday celebration, Tover’s world changes irrevocably when he’s betrayed and kidnapped by none other than the man he loves.

This book isn’t for the faint of heart. There’s extreme violence, torture and betrayal. It’s harsh and hard to read in parts, BUT it’s also romantic, poignant and absolutely amazing.

Seldom outside of an epic fantasy series have I encountered such excellent world-building. From the DK station to the green and vibrant Carida, the settings are so vibrantly alive and peopled with characters so real that I felt like I could step right into the book and shake their hands (or punch them out as the case may be). Beautifully written. I loved Tover’s from the start, spoiled and aware of how special he was, of his tremendous worth, yet not really full of himself. Coming from a pampered lifestyle where he’s almost worshipped, I didn’t expect such strength from him. Tover’s never weak or whiny despite all that happens to him. The betrayal itself almost seems to wound him worse than the physical torment he’s subjected to.

I found myself hating Cruz right along with Tover, hating him with a fiery passion. What could redeem a man who could betray the one who’d trusted him enough to risk all to save his life? What indeed. Tover begins to understand that the safe world he thought he was living in may all be built on lies. Only then do we begin to get a picture of the real Cruz. By the end of this story, I adored both of these characters and would gladly embrace a second book with these characters.

I cannot recommend this book more highly to those who appreciate darker reads. It’s my first read by this author and definitely will not be my last.

In the afterward, the author indicates the possibility of stories set in this world eventually coming from two other authors as well, Ginn Hale and Nicole Kimberling. I’ll be crossing my fingers.

Cover Artist  Kanaxa. The cover wonderfully encompassing the elements of the story. The two very different figures standing isolated but touching amidst the backdrops of space and other worlds. Joined against huge odds. Best of all maybe is the embracing warmth of the colors, highlighting the passion and emotional arousal this story evokes.

Sales Links:  Available for preorder now at     Amazon         Buy It Here
Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 224 pages
Expected publication: May 26th 2015 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
url http://astridamara.com/portfolio/navigator

In The Spotlight: Served Hot (Portland Heat #1) by Annabeth Albert (excerpt and contest)


STRW In The Spotlight Header

Served Hot (Portland Heat #1)
by Annabeth Albert
Release Date: March 3, 2015
Goodreads Link

A Few Questions for Annabeth Albert

Question: What’s in your nightstand you don’t want anyone to see?
Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

Question: What’s your favorite meal?
Garlic Chicken Noodles at my favorite Thai place.

Hint:  Answers May Be Needed As Part of a Tour Contest!

STRW Author Bio and Contacts

About Author Annabeth Albert

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter.  In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two toddlers.

Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency

Where to find the author:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annabethalbert
Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/annabethalbertauthor
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/AnnabethAlbert

Publisher: Kensington Publishing/Lyrical Press
Cover Artist: Kensington Art Department

Sales:  Amazon   Barnes and Noble

STRW Author BookSynopsis

About Served Hot…

In Portland, Oregon, the only thing hotter than the coffee shops, restaurants, and bakeries are the hard-working men who serve it up—hot, fresh, and ready to go—with no reservations…

Robby is a self-employed barista with a busy coffee cart, a warm smile, and a major crush on one of his customers. David is a handsome finance director who works nearby, eats lunch by himself, and expects nothing but “the usual”—small vanilla latte—from the cute guy in the cart. But when David shows up for his first Portland Pride festival, Robby works up the nerve to take their slow-brewing relationship to the next level. David, however, is newly out and single, still grieving the loss of his longtime lover, and unsure if he’s ready to date again. Yet with every fresh latte, sweet exchange—and near hook-up—David and Robby go from simmering to steaming to piping hot. The question is: Will someone get burned?

First in the new Portland Heat series!

Categories: Contemporary, Erotica, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance

STRW Spotlight Book Excerpt
A little idea niggled at my brain—like an evil elf had tapped me on the shoulder. “You know, if you give me your card, I could call you if you leave your wallet behind again.”

There. His cheeks went dusky pink. I finally got a blush out of him, but hell if I could decipher what it meant. I could predict people’s taste in coffee, down to preferred syrup flavor, but I still sucked at decoding anything as complex as human emotions.Served Hot cover

“Ah. Um.” He did the nervous cough thing again.

“Never mind.” I wiped my hands on my apron. “I’d better get back.”

“Wait.” He opened the wallet, plucked out a white card with a blue logo, and offered it to me. His broad fingers brushed mine again as he handed it over. Another barely there touch, but I felt the charge all the way down my spine, like I’d chugged a triple shot.

My breath tripped with wishing he’d add a “call me anytime.” Brian would have. But David just stood there silently. Straighter than the Fremont Bridge and denser than a concrete pylon.

Pages or Words: 30,000 words

served hot teaser kiss

Tour Dates: March 3, 2015

Tour Stops: 

Parker Williams, 3 Chicks After Dark, Bayou Book Junkie, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, BFD Book Blog, Charley Descoteaux, Inked Rainbow Reads, MM Good Book Reviews, Andrew Q. Gordon, Hearts on Fire, Love Bytes, Amanda C. Stone, Molly Lolly, Prism Book Alliance, Queer Town Abbey, Christy Loves 2 Read, Emotion in Motion, Wake Up Your Wild Side, Cate Ashwood, Because Two Men Are Better Than One, Up All Night, Read All Day, Multitasking Mommas, Cathy Brockman Romances, Rainbow Gold Reviews, Fallen Angel Reviews, Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, Velvet Panic, My Fiction Nook, Foxylutely Book Reviews, The Hat Party


STRW Spotlight Contest Header

Contest: Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: $20 Amazon or Starbuck’s Gift Card of the Winner’s Choice. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Rafflecopter link and prizes provided by Pride Promotions.

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