A BJ Review: Tracefinder: Contact (Tracefinder #1) by Kaje Harper

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Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

TracefinderWhat could an undercover cop and a drug lord’s pet psychic have in common?

Brian Kerr has spent years hiding behind a facade of mental slowness. His brother and sister got all three of them off the streets and into a cushy life, under the protection of a dangerous criminal. But to keep that safety, Brian has to use his Finding talent to track down the boss’s enemies. Although he pretends not to know what he’s really doing, each Find takes its toll, and he’s trapped in a life he hates, losing touch with his true self.

Nick Rugo’s job is to protect and serve the people of Minneapolis as an undercover cop. He isn’t closeted, but he isn’t out at work, and there’s a wild, angry side to him that he’s managed to keep hidden until now. When he’s assigned to bring Brian’s boss to justice, he intends to use anything and anyone it takes to do that.

Nick initially sees Brian as a pawn to be played in his case, but he keeps getting glimpses of a different man behind the slow, simpleminded mask. As the two men get to know each other, it becomes clear they share secrets, some of which might get them both killed.

A very usual contemporary with a paranormal twist and flawed characters of an entirely different type than I’m used to reading. This one set itself apart from most that I’ve read and stuck in my head (in a good way). Each and every character is interesting, multi-layered, and well-drawn, the pacing moved well, and there were even well-handled animal characters which is always a plus for me. This story unfolds slowly but it didn’t take long to discover that for those like me who love broken boys, this series promises to be a find indeed.

Not high on the heat meter and even the romance element is on the milder side, but that seems fitting given the characters in this story. Nick Rugo and Brian Kerr are worlds apart in many ways, but they share difficult childhoods that have left them trying hold themselves together by whatever means they can. Nick often deals by lashing out in physical violence such as bar fights, while Brian deals by hiding within himself behind the persona of a simpleton called Bry. But is Bry real or did Brian create him as a cover? Even Brian himself seems confused on that point.

The author rather leaves us guessing as to what exactly is wrong with Brian aside from severe dyslexia. How much of who he is (or pretends to be?) is the result of a defense mechanism he began in childhood? How slow/special needs is he really? That’s not immediately clear. Hell, it’s not even totally clear by the end. And I actually loved that. It kept me thinking and guessing and trying to piece things out.

In the end, I decided that regardless of how slow Brian might be, one thing is for sure, he’s far from stupid. His intelligence shines though to me in many ways. Devising an intricate ruse/cover (or even playing into it) and keeping it up over the long haul wouldn’t have been easy. I loved how sometimes Brian’s true intelligence would slip out in the things he said, and how adept he was at covering them up with quick thinking and acting. Also Brian certainly seemed to have a handle on good/bad and right/wrong–he continuously makes insightful and succinct judgments about those around him and his insights into the motivations of others showed a high degree of intuitiveness.

I applaud the author for tackling this rather different type of romance. At first I had a hard time seeing how these two could forge a relationship that would believably complement each other without being woefully uneven, without one being more of a caregiver. By the end of the book, the author had me believably seeing how these two men complemented each other, how each had needs that the other met, and that they were if not equal, at least moving towards it. I felt the sexy bits were skillfully handled and fitting for this couple.

Brian’s siblings, Lori and Damon, are also nuanced characters with complicated motivations that make them far from black/white, bad/good. I’m glad this will be a series because I there are so many questions still in my mind, so many things I’d love to explore and learn about all of them.

When I read a story, connecting to the characters is probably one of the most important things for me. I definitely got that here. I liked Nick, found Brian fascinating, and adored badass Damon. I hope there’ll be more of him in the book two.

The cover is eye-catching and hot. Love everything about it, the layout, the model, the black and white with just a flash of color, it’s perfect.

Sales Links:   Goodreads |  All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here
Book Details: 518 pages
Published January 9th, 2016 by Kaje Harper

A Stella Review: Haven’s Creed by Parker Williams

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RATING  3, 5 out of 5 stars

Havan's CreedAn act of violence destroys his family and ends the life he knows. To escape his haunted past, he joins the military, where, as a sniper, he is trained to kill with precision and detachment. When a covert organization offers him a new purpose, he becomes Haven, an operative devoted to protecting the innocent when he can and avenging them when he cannot.

After ten years of battling the evil in the world, the life no longer holds the attraction or meaning it once had, and he’s ready to walk away. Then he meets Samuel, a young man forced from the age of twelve to work as a sex slave. If ever a man had a need for Haven, it is this one.

Yet nothing about this growing relationship is one-sided. Sammy gives Haven a stability he’s never known, and Haven becomes the rock upon which Sammy knows he can depend.

When Sammy reveals something about the enemy Haven has been hunting for months, Sammy fears it will destroy what they’ve built and he’ll lose his home in Haven’s heart.

After a year I finally had a chance at reading a new book by Parker Williams. I have to admit as I read the blurb of Haven’s Creed, I was soon curious about it. I understood the story would have been something different from the usual fluffy romance I so love and so I wanted to give it a try.

What surprised me was how much I felt myself into the story, I found hard to put it down and I read it quickly. I liked the premise, the writing, the secondary characters and the development of the general story. That’s why I gave it a high rating, because  I liked it so much.

That said,  I had a lot of issues with Haven’s Creed, the most important one was that the book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, I was waiting for something different and when I understood I wasn’t getting it, I felt so disappointed.

First of all, be aware, this story is extremely hard and violent, and it could hurt the sensibility of people not used to these kinds of themes. I had been cautioned about them and I started this book knowing it wouldn’t be strictly a romance but I was still hoping to get some kind of love story, in any way possible. The problem for me is that Haven’s Creed IS a romance, meaning the romantic part shadowed the fiction sections greatly, turning it into a simple love story with some violent elements (and not the other way around). And when you approach a reading knowing you are going to get something and then actually got another thing, the frustration is almost certain.

Also this narrative letdown also brought about some issues with the main characters. I was confused about Sammy. I was not sure how someone who went through hell like he did, could be so strong and dominant and open with his sexuality in his relationship with Haven. Not being scared of a new man felt unrealistic and extreme. And I was confused about Haven too. From the moment he met Sammy, he became needy and emotional, he started making mistakes during his job. There was a very improbable and pointless change in his personality that almost depreciated the whole first part of the story. Really a shame.

I was ready for violence, abuses, gritty scenes and a lot of blood.  I was ready for it to be emotional. I wasn’t honestly waiting for a HEA and for me there was one between Sammy and Haven. I was hoping for a love story and I’m happy I got it. But in my opinion the author should have been bolder and pushed more versus what the story promised.

Although it left me with a lot of not so good feelings, I gave Haven’s Creed 3,5 stars because it deserves them. The author was able to keep me glued to his words till the end and I can’t ignore this.

The cover art by Laura Harner could have worked but I already saw this cover around for another book, so to me it’s nothing new.

Sales Links:  Smashwords | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon |

Book Details:

Published December 14th 2015
Kindle Edition, 256 pages
ASIN B0190XCAX2
Edition Language English

A Mika Review: Rustic Melody (Rustic #1) by Nic Starr

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Rustic MelodyAdam Chambers has never seen eye-to-eye with his father and is reluctant to take over the family’s property-development company. To clear his head and work out what he wants to do with the rest of his life, Adam leaves his responsibilities in the city and heads out to see the country.

He isn’t much closer to deciding what to do with his life when he arrives at one of Australia’s largest events, the Tamworth Country Music Festival, and meets Joey Callaway.

Since Joey’s father’s tragic death left Joey the family’s debt-ridden pub, Joey has struggled, desperate to turn the business around and give his mum the life she deserves. A break away from the pressures of running the pub is just what he needs, and a hook-up with Adam is the perfect way to forget about his troubles.

The one-night stand might just be an opening act. If Adam and Joey can follow the music in their hearts, perhaps they can heal each other and create a melody that will last a lifetime.

This was my first novel by Nic Starr, and it was okay for me. The writing was okay, and the story was just okay for me. It was kind of flat, and one noted. I did like the characters a lot, but I felt like the story was very predictable. Joey was such a sweet and innocent character. He had a lot of stuff on his shoulders. I did like how he stepped up for his family, and family was a big thing to him. To be 21 years old he was extremely unselfish. Not once did he feel like “whoa is me”. He wasn’t bitter, or resentful for having his life surrounded by his family needs.

I liked Adam as well, but Adam was stuck in fear caused by his father. I get wanting to have your family be proud of him and whereas Joey was unselfish, I felt like Adam doesn’t really know what he wants. I feel like his idea that he comes up with was Joey’s. He brought it up, honestly it feel like Adam is stuck in his life. It’s not a bad thing he’s 23 years old, he has a while to try to figure out his life. I do think they were sweet together, but I didn’t really feel any passion. Again, I just read through, no ups and downs for me. Emotionally it was flat. I would have to see more emotions and passion, or declarations from the characters. I think it was okay for a first in a series.

Cover Art by Book Cover by Design: This was a nice cover. The couple met by Adam playing so I appreciate the music as is.

Sales Links:

BUY IT ON

:: Amazon US :: Amazon UK :: Amazon AU ::

:: All Romance eBooks :: Kobo :: iTunes :: Barnes and Noble ::

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 174 pages
Expected publication: January 26th 2016
Original TitleRustic Melody
ASINB01A7ONMXU
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesRustic #1

In the Spotlight: Nic Starr’s Rustic Melody (guest blog and giveaway)

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RDB_Banner

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Nic Starr’s first book in her RUSTIC series titled RUSTIC MELODY is OUT today and she is here with us to tell you some more about it!

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Rustic Melody E-Book CoverTitle: Rustic Melody

Series: Rustic – Book One

Author: Nic Starr

Cover Artist: Kellie Dennis at Book Cover By Design

Length: 174 Pages

Release Date: January 26, 2016

Genre: M/M Romance, Gay Romance, Contemporary, Australian

Blurb: Follow the music in your heart

Adam Chambers has never seen eye-to-eye with his father and is reluctant to take over the family’s property-development company.  To clear his head and work out what he wants to do with the rest of his life, Adam leaves his responsibilities in the city and heads out to see the country.

He isn’t much closer to deciding what to do with his life when he arrives at one of Australia’s largest events, the Tamworth Country Music Festival, and meets Joey Callaway.

Since Joey’s father’s tragic death left Joey the family’s debt-ridden pub, Joey has struggled, desperate to turn the business around and give his mum the life she deserves. A break away from the pressures of running the pub is just what he needs, and a hook-up with Adam is the perfect way to forget about his troubles.

The one-night stand might just be an opening act. If Adam and Joey can follow the music in their hearts, perhaps they can heal each other and create a melody that will last a lifetime.

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EXCERPT

THRASHING MOTORBIKES through dry and dusty paddocks was dirty work. They returned to the hotel, exhausted but happy, hot and filthy.

Dust lined Joey’s nostrils and his mouth was parched despite the beer they’d enjoyed before heading home. Joey wanted nothing more than water—a big drink of the cold stuff and the refreshing spray of the shower. After a brief stop to quench their thirst from the kitchen tap, Joey followed Adam into his room, peeling his clothes off as he went. Adam did the same, tugging the black T-shirt over his head and tossing it to the floor. Adam’s jeans and boxer briefs soon followed.

“I should take you riding more often.” Joey slapped Adam’s naked arse when he bent to pull off his socks. “It’s a good excuse to get you naked in the middle of the afternoon.”

“Hey!” Adam protested and swung around to face him. “Oh!” Adam’s eyes widened as he took in Joey’s nakedness, and Joey felt his dick thicken under Adam’s gaze. Adam cleared his throat. “You don’t need an excuse. Anytime you want me naked, you just need to ask.”

“Promise?” Joey laughed.

“You bet.” Adam’s eyes darkened and he stepped closer to Joey, reached out, and placed his palm over Joey’s heart.

Joey was sure Adam would be able to feel the thump, thump.

Adam’s voice lowered. He leaned forward and spoke softly against Joey’s ear. “I swear you can have me naked any time you want.”

BUY IT ON

:: Amazon US :: Amazon UK :: Amazon AU ::

:: All Romance eBooks :: Kobo :: iTunes :: Barnes and Noble ::

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~ SERIES NOTES ~

Rustic Melody
Book #1
Release date 26th January 2016

Rustic Memory
Book #2
Release date 26th February 2016

Rustic Moment
Book #3
Expected release date 25th March 2016

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nic Starr - AVI - Red - Single StarNic Starr lives in Australia where she tries to squeeze as much into her busy life as possible. Balancing the demands of a corporate career with raising a family and writing can be challenging but she wouldn’t give it up for the world.

Always a reader, the lure of m/m romance was strong and she devoured hundreds of wonderful m/m romance books before eventually realising she had some stories of her own that needed to be told!

When not writing or reading, she loves to spend time with her family-an understanding husband and two beautiful daughters, and is often found indulging in her love of cooking and planning her dream home in the country.

You can find Nic on Facebook, Twitter and her blog. She’d love it if you stopped by to say hi.

:: Website & Blog :: Amazon Author Page :: Facebook :: Facebook Page ::

:: Facebook Group :: Twitter :: Pinterest :: Goodreads ::

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Happy Australia Day! Celebrate with Christian Baines’ ‘Puppet Boy’ and his take on Australian Antiheroes (guest post and giveaway)

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PuppetBoy

Puppet Boy by Christian Baines
Published by Bold Strokes Books
Goodreads Link

Sales Links: Amazon US

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Christian Baines back again to talk about his new release, Puppet Boy and writing Australian antihero characters.  Welcome, Christian, and happy Australia Day!

Australian Antiheroes by Christian Baines

Scheming bastards need love too. 

Thanks so much for having me back on the blog, Melanie. Always a great pleasure to be here and touch base with your readers! Before I start though, Puppet Boy’s main character, Eric, has a special Australia Day message he’d like to share with you all:

Happy Australia Day!

There. I said it. Now don’t tell me I never join in with things. Even a day that celebrates a nation so insecure it clings desperately to its forebears. A day that tries to ignore that this is a nation built on theft, colonisation, and slaughter. Oh, I know you foreigners think it’s cute. That Australia is awesome and sunny all the time, and that Aussies are all ridiculously sexy, and super nice. That we’re always surfing or drinking, when we’re not busy popping out baby Hugh Jackmans and Chris Hemsworths. That we treat all races equally and all love LGBT people and that every day in Sydney is Mardi Gras. That ours is a land of beauty, freedom, and equal opportunity at all.

I mean, sure. If that’s what the picture tells you to believe, then keep right on thinking it. Go on. Admire us. We did get our shit sorted on the whole gun thing, after all.

So let’s all say it again. Happy Australia Day! Enjoy your beach. Enjoy your barbecue. Enjoy that ‘authentic Aussie’ $8 meat pie ($12 if it’s kangaroo) you’re scarfing down at the Williamsburg organic market while trying to shield yourself from freezing New York winds. Try not to think of the blood of Indigenous nations as you smother it in tomato sau—pardon me. Ketchup. And enjoy your holiday.

Eric     

PS: That delicious Aussie flat white you’re drinking was invented in New Zealand.

Cheery, isn’t he?

Writing misanthropic characters isn’t easy. It isn’t that popular anymore either, particularly in gay fiction. The inherent optimism required in the romance genre makes it almost impossible, and in gay and MM fiction, romance is particularly dominant right now, sometimes to the point of giving readers false expectations when they pick up a non-romance book. There’s a pressure to be ‘gay positive.’ To show a world for LGBTs where everything ‘gets better’ despite the odds, depicting characters who deserve their HEA. Don’t be ambiguous. Don’t be bittersweet. Things that many people accept as a normal part of real life, yet won’t accept within the fantasy of a novel.

That’s a troubling idea for me. When we start to talk about characters in terms of what they deserve, we are inherently passing judgement on them, and this invariably limits the character.

When The Beast Without came out, a lot of readers remarked on the main character, Reylan’s cattiness, his apparent selfishness and arrogance, and other anti-social traits. Not to mention his rather dubious Blood Shade/vampire morality. For readers and critics who ‘got’ the book, this wasn’t a turn-off. It was simply there, part of what defined the character and gave him personality. Yet, Reylan also has a fiercely paternal streak, including a soft spot for lost kids/young supernaturals in trouble. Many of his friends, his servant, Brett, and his lover, are either former protégés, or lost souls he’s rescued. Reylan may pack an acid tongue, but ultimately, though he won’t admit it, he has a strong moral compass where the greater good is concerned. In the follow-up, The Orchard of Flesh, coming later this year, we get to see even more of that.

Then, there’s Eric.

I’m not going to tell anyone what to think of Eric. He’s a young man with a goal, an outspoken mind, and a social conscience, but also a decidedly skewed moral centre. He loves his girlfriend Mary, and has an obvious thing for young Middle Eastern men, to the point of keeping one tied up in his absent mother’s home theatre room. He’s caustic and cynical, but won’t spit venom at everyone he meets, and he seems to have no trouble making friends. There’s also the whole high-class rent boy thing – or maybe, as one character points out, he’s just worked out that sucking the right cock gets him taken to the opera.

A character like that doesn’t tend to fit the traditional romance archetypes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write one, or that he can’t be likeable, or that he doesn’t feel the need for love. Eric is in some ways Daria from the namesake MTV cartoon, by way of Frank Underwood from House of Cards. He calls out his world’s wrongs as he sees them, but he’s also not afraid to manipulate the hell out of those around him to get his way. Yet when you look closely at Daria and Frank, you see their vulnerabilities, and their need for human connection, even when it’s shrouded by misanthropy or arguably sociopathic behaviour.

Characters like this work when you can find the human in the monster, whether that monster is a Blood Shade/vampire, or just a young man with a goal and an enduring distrust of humanity. My favourite parts of Puppet Boy aren’t about the prisoner in Eric’s basement, or his escorting exploits, or his jerk of a music teacher. They’re the scenes where he connects with Julien, the transfer student who catches his eye. Where they talk about their inspirations and dreams for the future. Where Julien falls asleep on Eric’s chest. The scenes where we catch a glimpse of Eric’s vulnerability. Those are the scenes where I kind of fall in love with Eric and want to see him come out on top, even when his attitude annoys me. Even when his morals seem way off base.

Even when he’s making fun of my meat pie and flat white.

Happy (for what it’s worth) Australia Day!

About Puppet Boy

A school in turmoil over its senior play, a sly career as a teenage gigolo, an unpredictable girlfriend with damage of her own, and a dangerous housebreaker tied up downstairs. Any of these would make a great plot for budding filmmaker Eric’s first movie.PuppetBoy

Unfortunately, they’re his real life.

When Julien, a handsome wannabe actor, transfers to Eric’s class, he’s a distraction, a rival, and one complication too many. Yet Eric can’t stop thinking about him. Helped by Eric’s girlfriend, Mary, they embark on a project that dangerously crosses the line between filmmaking and reality. As the boys become close, Eric soon wants to cross other lines entirely. Does Julien feel the same way, or is Eric being used on the gleefully twisted path to fame?

Genre:  gay fiction, contemporary, romance, LGBTQIA fiction

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, Paperback available, 314 pages
Published November 16th 2015 by Bold Strokes Books
ASINB01784KP2I
Edition LanguageEnglish,settingSydney (Australia)

Christian Baines’ new novel, Puppet Boy is now available from Bold Strokes Books or on Amazon.

He will be signing copies at The Bookshop Darlinghurst in Sydney on January 30 at 11.30am, and reading at Hares and Hyenas in Melbourne on February 1 at 7.30pm.

About the Author

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Christian Baines

Born in Toowoomba, Queensland, Christian Baines has since lived in Brisbane, Sydney, and Toronto, earning an MA in creative writing at University of Technology, Sydney along the way. His musings on travel, theatre, and gay life have appeared in numerous publications in both Australia and Canada.

Dual passions for travel and mythology have sent him across the world in search of dark and entertaining stories. His first novel, The Beast Without, was released in 2013, followed by an erotic short story, The Prince and the Practitioner.

His second novel, Puppet Boy was released in late 2015.

Find Christian on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

  Giveaway

Enter to win a ebook copy of Puppet Boy by Christian Baines.  Must be 18 years of age or older.  Use the Rafflecopter link provided to enter.

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