A MelanieM Review: Heart of Clay by Lee Brazil

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5:

Heart-of-Clay-400x600Decades earlier a tragic accident separated two men who were always meant to be together.  Now the ghost of the man that died makes one more effort to bring the men he loved together as they were always meant to be.

Clayton Merk, accomplished, yet arrogant, businessman, has a reputation for one-night stands and being steadfastly anti-relationship, life choices that stem from a traumatic loss in high school. When he decides to return home—to the root of all his problems—he brings a co-worker with him as a buffer against the past. Even though he’s ready to lay old ghosts to rest, he certainly didn’t expect a literal ghost to lend a hand.

Brad Jorgensen, Clay’s former best friend, has also clung to the past in an unhealthy way. When Brad’s brother died in that car accident, he lost not only his brother but any chance he had to get together with Clay, the boy he secretly loved. Now Brad holds Clay responsible for everything that has gone wrong with his life, not the least of which is his cousin’s death decades earlier. At one time they’d been closer than brothers, but blame and anger are powerful weapons of destruction, and they’ve left Brad in a wasteland of self-doubt, hatred, and loneliness.

For decades Clay and Brad have remained apart, separated by loss, anger, bitterness and guilt.  The ghost at the heart of the problem has had enough. Bobby isn’t pleased with his cousin or his ex. Their refusal to let go of the past has kept him on a plane where he doesn’t belong and isn’t at home. He’s expended all his energy trying to get through to Brad, without success, but Clay’s return finally gives him a foot in the door…or out the door.
If he could just get the two stubborn men together.

I have loved ghost stories since I was a child and when combined with romance, they prove downright irresistible.  In Heart of Clay, Lee Brazil takes this trope and gives it his own twist by taking these two men decades past the accident that caused Bobby’s death and the schism in their lives.  Heart of Clay by Lee Brazil opens with Clay, a successful businessman, returning home to the farm he grew up on with his grandparents.  So powerful and traumatic are the memories he has of his time growing up there (and the strong bonds he built with the Jorgensen brothers from the farm next door), that Clay has stayed away rather than deal with his memories and issues.  Clay even brings along his assistant as a buffer although the man has other ideas about the trip.  Brazil makes us understand Clay, the shallow life he’s been leading and the importance of the farm, and grandparents to his formative years and well being.  Clay is clearly someone stuck in a pattern that not even he likes but the past is holding him there and he doesn’t know how to move forward.

Like two halves of the same whole, Clay’s arrival home after all this time sets off sparks everywhere, including next door, where Brad is still farming his family’s land.  Brad’s life is just as dry of life as Clay’s, albeit in another drastic manner.  If Clay’s life is a constant revolving door of anonymous men and no commitment, Brad’s has been one of alcohol abuse, anger and guilt.  The author is able to make Brad’s pain visceral as well as his deep love for the man he blames for his brother’s death.

Little by little, their combined past, happy and traumatic, is revealed to the reader. We get to “see” it from several perspectives, the idyllic life all three boys lead, their strong bond, and, for one, the feelings he kept hidden from the other two.  And then, of course, we have Bobby, our frustrated ghost.  Bobby’s just as stuck as the other two, all three lives shattered by one awful decision.

Bobby is just as real a character as the other two men, however ghostly he might be. His frustration and pain balanced by his continuing love for Clay and his brother, Brad.  He’s a great character and I only wish I had a little bit more of his life before it was ended.

It’s easy to understand how one moment, one bad decision can obliterate three lives, especially the one that caused Bobby’s death.  Equally, the reader will recognize someone wanting to fix the blame somewhere, anywhere than accept the situation as it really occurred.  Brazil offers lots of small truths in this story and that makes Heart of Clay feel familiar and layered.

If I had a quibble with this story, it would be that I wish sections had been enlarged with more memories, more of each man’s life in the interim.  There is a wealth of back history here, and the parts that we see are so intriguing that it makes us want to know more.  And Bobby’s hauntings?  More scenes of those as well.  Bobby’s cuts quite the supernatural presence here.

I so enjoyed Heart of Clay and think you will too.  Love romance with a mixture of the otherworldly?  Love the idea of ghosts and a little supernatural matchmaking?   Pick up Heart of Clay by Lee Brazil, I absolutely recommend it.

Cover art by Laura Harner.  It’s a nice cover but I could have used a little more of the supernatural element whether it was in the color or design.

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

Book Details:

ebook
Published April 1st 2015 by Smashwords Edition
ISBN139781310511295

A Stella Review: A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde

Standard

Rating 3 stars out of 5

A Boy Called CinOn the search for a cup of coffee before the guest lecture he’s giving, Tom spies a tired, half-frozen young man who looks even more need of coffee than him. On impulse, he buys the man a cup—but an attempt to strike up conversation ends in the young man walking off, seemingly put off by Tom Walford—the tabloids’ favourite billionaire—buying him coffee. But when he reappears in Tom’s lecture, all Tom knows is that he doesn’t want the man slipping away a second time.

Agreeing to dinner with a man he only knows from internet gossip columns isn’t the wisest decision Cin’s ever made, but he wants to like the infamous Tom Walford and he can’t do that if he doesn’t give the man a fair chance to be likeable. Which he is, almost frustratingly so, to the point Cin wishes maybe he hadn’t been so fair because he never had any intention of getting attached to Tom, who seems to come from a world far too different from his own for anything between them to last. Little does Cin know, they’ve got a lot more in common than he imagines—including their shared discomfort with their assigned genders, and all the complications that go with it.

A Boy Called Cin by Cecil Wilde is the story between Tom, a famous forty years old billionaire, genius of the tech industry and Cin, a twenty years old broke, smartass art student. They are attracted to each other from the first time they meet in the coffee shop of the campus where Tom works and Cin studies. Theirs will be a slow burn story, full of fears from both of them. Tom is basically a lonely man, apart from his sister Poppy. He is a mess, living a life he’s not comfortable with anymore.

“I have been so uncomfortable for so long without knowing how to fix it. I tried ignoring it, pretending it wasn’t there, and then when that didn’t work, I just tried hiding it. And then you came along and gave me a word for what I was feeling and took me seriously, and I don’t deserve any of it, because I’ve done absolutely nothing for you except annoy you.”

Tom finds in Cin the first person he can finally confide in and trust. Cin got him from the start, he is the only one to keep in mind Tom’s needs and feelings. I like how they are supportive of each other.

I can honestly say this is not my favorite book of the author. It was sweet, but not so sweet as the other two I read by Cecil, it was instructive to me (Cecil has the power to make me feel stupid every time I read one of their books). My problem with it was my impossibility to like the characters. Tom seems so young, so fragile, while Cin is too cynical for be just twenty. I don’t like my characters to be perfect, I love to read about damaged and normal persons just like us, but Tom and Cin were not for me. Especially the dialogues between them didn’t seem real at all.

As I already said in my review of Defying Convention, I loved how the author addressed various transgender issues, especially in this book. I liked the writing, even if I often have a hard time read a book written using the simple present. At the end I’m sorry, I’m a little disappointed by it. I was really hoping in something more.

Cover art by Aisha Akeju. Really well done, simple and different.

Sales Links:   Less Than Three Press (pre order )       All Romance (ARe)     Amazon      Buy It Here other links coming closer to  release

Book Details:

Published July 8th 2015 by Less Than Three Press
ebook, 169 pages
ISBN13 9781620045589
Edition language English

 

A Mika Review:  Breaking the Habit by J.P. Bowie

Standard

Rating: 3 stars out of 5 :

Breaking the Habit coverMike Peterson is determined to break the gambling habit that resulted in two failed marriages, no money, no job, plus almost getting himself and his brother killed when loan sharks came looking for their money. In addition, he’s recently been having some doubts about his own sexuality. When his gay brother suggests he get in touch with an old friend, recently out police officer Larry Bertoli, Mike is at first leery of the idea, and their first meeting isn’t exactly ideal.

They decide to meet again and this time more of what they are and what they could mean to one another is revealed during their time together. They begin a tentative friendship that graduates to a first, fumbling attempt at romance. Can they find the secure relationship they both want, or will Mike’s addiction and lack of self-esteem hinder what could possibly be salvation for both men?

Seriously, if I could take the entire cast of the book out to a field and shoot them I would. Is everyone selfish and hurtful in this book. I’m so happy it was only a 100 pages, I literally wanted to DNF at the first re-introductions of the main characters. Why?? I can’t say without spoiling it for you, but it’s ridiculous. I can’t look past that. I’m disgusted that the mother and brother actions, as though it was perfectly fine as long as Mike is getting his life together. How is that okay? Another thing was if the sister was okay with it, where was she during most of the story? Absent, that’s where she was. I don’t get it, you might as well as portrayed them as long lost class mates. And let’s not talk about the assassin type murder your brother’s boyfriend supposedly had done, based on your own gambling addictions. Isn’t he a journalist? Come on, I just found the story lacking on all fronts. The excessive usage of Lar, and Jer got on my last nerves. It’s only 2 damn syllables; you can say Larry and Jerry without being tired.

Then the insta-love, I dislike this trope because it doesn’t work well for me. They literally had 2 dates in a 2 week duration before the underwear was getting thrown around. Both were virgins, as well.  The romance part lacked for me as a story element. They were so over the top with everything. Let’s not mention the marriage proposal in a month’s time. I mean, Mike, you went from confused, to not knowing, to thinking about Larry, to being okay with identifying as a gay man? I think not, it felt totally unrealistic.

Cover Art by: Wild City Press, I don’t know who is suppose to be who. The descriptions I remember doesn’t suit with the cover models. Nice efforts with the dice though.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 100 pages
Published February 4th 2015 by Wilde City Press
ISBN139781925180947
edition language English

2 Author, 2 Book Spotlight! Jump Into Love with Lee Brazil and Havan Fellows (author interviews and contests)

Standard

STRW In The Spotlight Header

2 Authors, 2 Books

Authors Lee Brazil and Havan Fellows
Heart of Clay (Lee) and Chance at Trust (Havan)

HavanBanner300x250LeeBanner300x250

✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍✍

Our Q & A with Lee Brazil and Havan Fellows!!

The two of you have been friends and co-authors for some time now.  How does that longevity affect your writing and relationship?

Lee: Well, I’ve known Havan as long as I’ve been writing. She’s been the one I’ve bounced ideas off of for so long, it’s second nature. I feel a little like I’m trying to explain why the sky is blue. We just clicked… magic is as good an explanation as any. I think though, that it actually makes things easier, because we’re not afraid of stepping on each other’s toes with honest opinions.
Havan: Lee’s my constant. He’s the one that convinced me I could actually let other people read my writing…at the time I was just writing for my own entertainment. 🙂 And absolutely, we can be honest with each other which makes our writing all the better. 🙂

How do you all come up with a plot?  Simultaneously (yes, I’m sure magic is involved), separately or do you work on it together?

Lee: It seems like we start with a kernel, that just pops. When we wrote Christmas in His Heart together, we actually did an outline, building on each other’s thoughts and ideas, then we sat back, looked at it, and edited to make more sense. Then we wrote it, and it kind of did what it wanted anyway.
Havan: Yeah…Lee will say “What if…” and I’ll be like “Ooooh, yeah and then…” and let the domino effect take over. It’s funny, because he’s helped me overcome writer’s block on so many of my solo books that I could’ve sworn we’d written together before we technically did write together.

Does the separation of characters and writing come easily as well?

Lee: I’m not sure I understand this question, so stop me if I’m not answering it right. Writing isn’t always easy- but with Havan as a partner, it seems to go much more smoothly than when I try to struggle through on my own. Our characters…well, they’re different, but mesh well together, just like us.
Havan: Hmm…do you mean on our solo projects? I think everything goes easier when I work with Lee because two heads are always better than one – that’s not just a ménage thing. 😉 But even when we aren’t actually writing together we can still rely on each other whenever we need a sounding board. Plus, when it comes to Pulp Friction we very much are all up in each other’s um…business…including Laura Harner, Parker Williams, and Tom Webb’s business also. lol

Why do you like writing stories with other people?  

Lee: I think maybe it’s because I’m not as secure or confident in my own work as I ought to be. Having someone else to share the burden of creativity gives me moral and emotional support, as well as being just plain fun.
Havan: What Lee said…not to mention it’s always nice to share the workload with someone. But on the flip side I would have to be very careful in choosing a writing partner. They would have to be a friend first…then we can jump between the proverbial sheets together. *winks*

I will admit to being a big fan of both of you.  Your characters are all so different from each other, how do you keep familiarity from bleeding over into the writing, or does just the difference in personalities take care of that?

Lee: I think you got that one. Familiarity.
Havan: Oh I think the different personalities are the key.

Biggest question….what do you both have planned next?

Lee: Several upcoming projects, but the one I’m most excited about right now is the new Story Orgy project. We’re taking on superheroes, and it’s going to be a blast.
Havan: At this moment my next Pulp Friction story is in the second round of edits and I’m working on the second book in my Chance at Life trilogy. 🙂 Plus I’ll be starting the Story Orgy superhero book also…that one should be a hoot!

Release Date: Heart of Clay: April 1, 2015
Chance at Trust: April 7, 2015

STRW Author BookSynopsis

Heart-of-Clay-400x600

About Heart of Clay:

The ghost at the heart of the problem…

Clayton Merk, accomplished, yet arrogant, businessman, has a reputation for one-night stands and being steadfastly anti-relationship. When he decides to return home—to the root of all his problems—he brings a co-worker with him as a buffer against the past. Even though he’s ready to lay old ghosts to rest, he certainly didn’t expect a literal ghost to lend a hand.

Brad Jorgensen, Clay’s former best friend, has also clung to the past in an unhealthy way. He resents Clay for a lot of things, not the least of which is his cousin’s death decades earlier. At one time they’d been closer than brothers, but blame and anger are powerful weapons of destruction, and they’ve left Brad in a wasteland of self-doubt, hatred, and loneliness.

The ghost at the heart of the problem has had enough. Bobby isn’t pleased with his cousin or his ex. Their refusal to let go of the past has kept him on a plane where he doesn’t belong and isn’t at home. He’s expended all his energy trying to get through to Brad, without success, but Clay’s return finally gives him a foot in the door…or out the door.

If he could just get the two stubborn men together.

ChanceatTrust400x600

About Chance at Trust

The strength to walk away from an abusive long-term relationship proves Em is a survivor. But surviving isn’t necessarily living, and Em has created a life on a plateau of his own making, not even entertaining the idea of a new boyfriend. When he shows interest in a very sexy barista, his best friend sees a chance to open Em’s eyes to the possibilities in life.

Penn couldn’t help his double and triple take when the sexy man walked into his mother’s coffee shop. Priding himself on always remaining calm and collected in all situations, Penn is surprised by the strength of his attraction for this stranger. When the stranger’s loud-mouthed friend proposes a way for Penn to see Em again, he takes it.

While Em comes with baggage—his eyes tell a story of pain and distrust—Penn isn’t one to shy away from a challenge, especially when his heart is so quickly getting tied up in the equation, and he’s prepared to break through Em’s walls and give him a chance to trust.
Pages or Words: 28,000 (Heart of Clay) and 18,000 (Chance at Trust)

Categories: Both books: Contemporary, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance and Lee’s has a touch of paranormal.

STRW Spotlight Book Excerpt

Heart of Clay:

Seeing Clay there, sitting in the tall grass on the bench where they—he and his cousin Bobby—had first discovered him all those years earlier, sent Brad right over the edge. He’d been poised on that precipice all day, since he’d heard the rumors down at the gas station that not only had Clayton Merk come back to town to visit his grandparents at long last, but he’d brought a boyfriend with him.

Millie Atwatter seemed to take a great deal of venomous pleasure in sharing that little detail, even going so far as to describe the poor unfortunate soul—in her own words—though he couldn’t argue with that assessment.

Anyone who loved Clay Merk was destined for misfortune.

His grip tightened on the hedge trimmers he’d planned to use to cut back low hanging branches of the old tree. If he didn’t make some effort with the ancient tree, this whole corner of his field would be full of rotting peaches half the summer. It was therapeutic when nostalgia overcame him to come down here and trim back the new growth. Usually he spent the time pretending that every twig he snipped was Clayton Merk’s neck…

Brad Jorgenson counseled teens against violence, against acting on the spur of the moment, but it was all he could do not to swing at the man with the heavy clippers.

“You still holding a grudge, Brad? I earned that slot as valedictorian. Not my fault you bombed the chem two final.”

The flippant, deliberate obfuscation was too much. As if having a GPA of one one hundredth of one percent less than this man fifteen years ago were the worst of the things that lay between them? If he were honest, seeing Clay was too much. He flung the clippers aside and launched himself over the fence, lunging to knock Clay off the bench. He couldn’t even claim he acted in the heat of the moment. “Fuck you!”

And still…after all these years Clay was capable of making him do things, say things he normally wouldn’t!

His momentum carried them both over the back of the bench and into the tall grass, and Brad let his anger loose, the slow burning ember that had emerged from the ashes of his soul where he thought he’d buried it long ago.

Rolling and wrestling was tricky though, when Clay didn’t even bother to fight back. Eventually, his supposed opponent’s inertia sank through and Brad realized what he’d done. “I don’t give a damn about who graduated first in our class.” He lurched upright, propelling himself backward, glaring down at Clay, who pushed himself up on his elbows. “And that’s not what’s kept you from coming back here all these years either.”

A sneer twisted Clay’s full lips, “You think you kept me from coming back? Maybe you think I was afraid? You don’t know me, where I’ve been or what I’ve done. I had reason not to come around here, and it had nothing to do with you.”

The tiny kernel of truth in the barrage of lies stung. “Everyone in town knows what you’ve done and where you’ve gone, Clay.” And it wasn’t prison, which was where the majority of them thought he should have gone. “Your grandparents told us all of it. And I never presumed that your absence had anything to do with me, just as I knew your presence had nothing to do with me.”

His heart rate was slowing, cold sweat dampened his T-shirt. And with the fading of the heat, came the tangle of other emotions, disappointment, sorrow, grief. And lust, to his shame, reared its ugly head now as it had so long ago.

Clay Merk was even more sissified city boy now than he had been when he’d come out here all those years ago. His polo shirt had some kind of logo embroidered on it, but it stretched across broad shoulders and clung to thick muscles quite nicely, as did the knife-creased khaki shorts. He knew from their brief tussle that Clay was a little softer in the middle than he’d been as a high school athlete, but not enough to make him unattractive, not enough to counteract the effects of those deep blue eyes and that oh-so-tempting, lushly curved lower lip, damn it.

“You’re holding my grandparents’ gossip against me?” Clay sounded callous, scathing. “Well, the gossip goes two ways, you know.”

Chance at Trust Excerpt!

Em looked up and didn’t see Joss or the barista, Penn, anywhere. A pretty black-haired girl with streaks of platinum white running through her thick locks now manned the open cash register.

Boy, that was just perfect. Even if Em didn’t plan to trust a man again—ever, which meant no relationship with a sexy as hell barista—it would’ve been nice to at least not look like a complete ass. But god, that was the first man in forever to make his body stand up and take notice. The dull throb in his jeans proved his erection didn’t give a damn that he acted the moron, it just wanted a shot to climb that mountain.

He sighed to himself. A long time ago he made peace with the fact that he’d be single the remainder of his life. After his abusive relationship with David ended two years ago, he knew that was it. Taking solace in the fact that he never loved David and hadn’t suffered from physical abuse didn’t alleviate the pain he’d incurred on a regular basis.

Though physical abuse was horrible in and of itself, Em could attest that mental and verbal abuse could cripple a person just as surely as a destructive blow to one’s head…the only difference was that you didn’t have a pretty scar to prove to the nonbelievers that it ever happened.

Yeah, he faced the doubters when he first escaped from David’s clutches. There were no visible scars and no trips to the emergency room photographed and documented in a neat little manila folder somewhere—so he wasn’t really abused, right? Most people thought it probably just resided in his mind—he was too sensitive or touchy to deal with David’s strong personality.

Em snorted when he remembered how one therapist actually used air quotes when mentioning David’s “strong” personality. That was when he gave up on therapy altogether.

It didn’t matter that every time someone raised their voice around Em, he shuddered and flinched, or when someone looked at him funny, the first thought that would pop into his head was that they were making jokes about him, talking about him behind his back, laughing at the worthless being he was.

Who cared that he muttered apologies left and right for things that weren’t his fault? He’d been conditioned to immediately appease anyone he might’ve offended. It all came second nature to him. He didn’t even realize when he would do it.

But most people would say those scars weren’t real. They didn’t matter.

But they mattered to Em. They were real to him. They were debilitating in his everyday life.

And that was why he would never allow another man close to his heart again. He built up some good sturdy walls and he stayed safely locked behind them. No one would ever be in a position to hurt him again…because if you didn’t allow yourself to feel then the hurt couldn’t reach you.

HavanBadgeLeeBadge

✍✍✍✍✍✍

Sales Links:

Heart of Clay:   Amazon  All Romance (ARe)   Smashwords
Chance at Trust:   Amazon  All Romance (ARe)  Smashwords

STRW Author Bio and Contacts

Lee Brazil
Somewhere in a small town in up-state New York are a librarian and a second grade teacher to whom I owe my life. That might be a touch dramatic, but it’s nevertheless one hundred percent true.

Because they taught me the joy of reading, of escaping into worlds crafted of words.

Have you ever been nine years old and sure of nothing so much as that you don’t belong? Looked at the world from behind glasses, and wondered why you don’t fit?

Someone hands you a book, and then you turn the page and see… There you are, running from Injun Joe in a dark graveyard; there you are fencing with Athos; there you are…beneath the deep blue sea- marveling at exotic creatures with Captain Nemo.

I found myself between the pages of books, and that is why I write now. It’s why I taught English and literature for so many years, and it’s why my house contains more pounds of books than furniture.

If I’d had my way, I’d have been a fencer…or a starship captain, or a lawyer, or a detective solving crimes. But instead, I am a writer, and I’ve come to realize that’s the best thing in the world to be, because as a writer, I can be all those things and more.

If I hadn’t learned to value the stories between the pages, who knows what would have happened? Certainly not college…teaching…or writing.

Havan Fellows

I annoy, love, respect, scare, seduce, hurt, anger, infatuate, frustrate, flatter, envy, amuse and tolerate everyone. I just do it better in writing thanks to a little thing called…edits.

Okay no, seriously…I’m a simpleminded person who enjoys the escape from real life through a book. I write with the group Story Orgy and hope to continue doing so for a long time. I also am privileged to be with the Pulp Friction writers, creating intermingling books in a world all our own.

I recently took the drastic step of quitting my EDJ (evil day job) and am now living in the gorgeous desert in Arizona making a go at this writing stuff full time…and I can’t see me regretting this decision ever.

Just like every other red-blooded human—I get a little bouncy when I get mail (any kind too…email, comments, private messages…you wanna do it, do it with me *winks*). So feel free to drop me a line—whether it’s on my blog, twitter, Pinterest, or you track me down on Facebook or Google +…it’s easy to catch someone who wants to be caught.

Where to find the authors:

Lee Brazil:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lee.brazil
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/leebrazilauthor
Twitter: @leebrazil
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/leebrazil/

Havan Fellows:
Blog – http://havanshawthaven.blogspot.com
Email – havan.fellows@ymail.com
Twitter – @havanfellows
Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/havanfellows/
FaceBook – http://www.facebook.com/HavanFellowsauthor
Google + – https://plus.google.com/100539863028704367957/posts
Pulp Friction Love FB group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/369329926547263

Books Goodreads Link:  Heart of Clay     Chance at Trust
 Publisher: Heart of Clay: Lime Time Press, Chance at Trust: Appleton Publishing Avenue
Cover Artist: Laura Harner for both

 STRW Spotlight Contest Header

Contest:  Enter to win the Rafflecopter Prize: 2 – $10 ARe gift cards. Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Prizes and links provided by the authors and Pride Promotions.

Rafflecopter Code:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Dates & Stops:

20-Apr

Bike Book Reviews

Molly Lolly

21-Apr

the Twins: Talon ps & Princess so

Amanda C. Stone

22-Apr

MM Good Book Reviews

Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words

Cathy Brockman Romances

23-Apr

Cate Ashwood

BFD Book Blog

24-Apr

Iyana Jenna

Inked Rainbow Reads

Velvet Panic