A MelanieM Review: Short Stay (Love Lessons #3.5) by Heidi Cullinan

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5   ★★★★★

Short StayHot messes have a hard time with happily ever after.

Baz Acker and Elijah Prince have it all. They’re engaged, and their wedding is guaranteed to be a spectacle no event will ever top. So why are they hunkered down in a quiet corner of the Acker mansion, restless and edgy while they wait out the holidays?

When Baz suggests a road trip with Walter and Kelly to Las Vegas, it sounds like an ideal escape, but it turns out Vegas only amplifies their unease. Elijah can’t slough off the self-hating his parents programmed into him, and he worries how that will affect his marriage. Baz, crippled en route because of too much time spent in the car without rest, must face the truth that his wealth and influence can’t always counteract the limits his disability will put on his—and Elijah’s—life.

With help from their friends, a wily poker player, a take-no-prisoners drag queen, and a smooth-talking casino owner, they face the truth that happiness is a state of mind, not a destination where they book a stay. What happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas—it will follow them all the way down the aisle.

This novella was written for and by the request of Heidi’s Patreon readers. It is suggested but not required that you read at least Lonely Hearts before reading this book.

When I finished Short Stay I just couldn’t stop smiling, my heart felt so full and happy.  If, as Heidi says above this was written at the request of and for her Patreon readers, they must be overflowing with joy.

Short Stay takes engaged couple Baz Acker and Elijah Prince (Lonely Hearts (Love Lessons #3) off on a runaway trip to escape a Momzilla on groom plan overload and their own fears for themselves and their  future together.  And of course, the only logical place to run away in a time like this is to Las Vegas, a scary destination for a man with photophobia and another with an unease of crowds and new places.

But Heidi Cullinan immediately starts to enclose our shaky couple with a cushioning of characters, old friends and new, that will guide them safely to a happy solid relationship foundation and future.  Walter and Kelly (Love Lessons)  come along immediately as drivers of Baz’s Tesla on their road trip to Las Vegas (Baz can’t drive because of his poor vision due to the photophobia that was caused during the hate bashing when he was 16).

In Las Vegas, their hotel reservation turns out to be Herods and an introduction to a wonderful  group of fascinating and unforgettable characters, Ethan, Randy, Sam, Chenco, Mitch and more.  Its such a great combination of universes and its works to perfection.

The author’s amazing ability to dive into each character’s hearts, and pull us along into their journey as these broken men find the courage and trust in themselves in order to go forward never fails to bring me to tears. The author makes us understand the special requirements and needs for  living with photophobia, that life with a background as a child on the streets never vanishes, nor does the pain of that existence diminish with time.  The author gives the reader insight into these issues through Baz, Elijah, Randy and more.  We believe in them wholeheartedly, we want them to be happy and when it works out, just as the author plans, its beautiful, scary when their future seems shaky and heartwarming.  A wonderful 5-star story.

And true to form,  all other characters in the stories will show up as well.  Heidi Cullinan forgets no one.  I loved it.  And it will send me back to reread all the other stories too.  Bonus.

I loved Short Stay, I love all the Love Lessons stories. In fact I love Heidi Cullinan.  There you go.

I recommend them all.

Book Cover is perfect for the story and character.  Yep.  Loved it too.

Sales Links:  Amazon  “>Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Published May 24th 2016 by Heidi Cullinan
Original TitleShort Stay
ISBN139781311679758
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttp://www.heidicullinan.com/ShortStay
SeriesLove Lessons #3.5

 

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Beauty, Inc. (The Pennymaker Tales #3) by Tara Lain

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Beauty, Inc.My all-time favorite fairy tale is Beauty and the Beast, so I knew I would either love this story or hate it. The good news is I loved it!

As the story opens, Robert “Belle” Belleterre, who holds a doctorate degree in chemistry, is perfecting the packaging for his new skin care formula. He’s finally perfected a paraben-free formula for his father’s cosmetics company, but he needs to make sure the packaging keeps the product stable. Happy in his own little world of chemical formulas and lab work, and enjoying the nature and beauty of the Portand area, Belle suddenly finds himself being sent to work for his company’s competitor in dirty, crowded, bustling New York City.

Why? Because his father drinks too much, and his brothers care more for their bank accounts and flashy cars than they do for him. His father’s gambling addiction, fueled by alcohol, caused him to lose most of his company stock in a card game. The winner, Magnus Strong, CEO of Beauty, Inc. won it. But in exchange for letting his father keep the company, Magnus wants Belle, and he’s willing to give him the freedom to work on any projects that interest him at Beauty, Inc.

Magnus is not a typical romance character. In fact, in appearance, he’s downright homely, but his heart is as big as the great outdoors, and he’s smart and knows what he wants. He’s wanted Belle from the moment he first saw him, but knowing how ugly he is, he knew beautiful, sweet Belle would be repulsed, so he’s content to watch him from a distance.

What Magnus doesn’t know is that Belle was attracted to Magnus from the moment he saw him. Belle doesn’t see his flaws, and the more he gets to know just how caring and concerned Magnus is—not only in words, but in deeds—the more he wants to get close to the man. However, being a shy, awkward, socially inept chemist has its drawbacks, and Belle doesn’t know how to let Magnus know how he feels.

The cast of supporting characters in this story includes Mr. Pennymaker, the sprightly elf-like matchmaker we’ve met in past stories in this series; as well as Leroy, Belle’s gregarious driver; Judy, his devoted BFF; and both a household and a company full of characters that provide support to Belle, and ultimately to both Belle and Magnus, as they finally get past their fears and begin a romantic relationship. Of course, Belle’s dysfunctional family interferes once again as they try to bind Belle to their own company by lies and deceit during a time when Magnus is most vulnerable.

All in all, this story is definitely worthy of comparison to the original fairy tale. To borrow a term from a program I watched as a child, these stories created by the very sweet Tara Lain are “fractured fairy tales.” They show a nice twist on the old tales, but with modern MM romance characters—characters who are amazingly interesting and quite unforgettable. My favorite so far in the Pennymaker series, I highly recommend this one.

Cover art by Reese Dante.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 121 pages
Expected publication: June 8th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1623808901 (ISBN13: 9781623808907)
Edition Language English

A Lila Review: The Scholar’s Heart (Chronicles of Tournai #3) by Antonia Aquilante

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Rating: 4 stars out 5

the scholars heartYoungest son of a royal duke, Etan is a scholar at heart who juggles his work for the prince with his studies of the history and legends of Tournai, something of particular interest to him because he shares the magical Talent that runs in the royal bloodline. Etan’s peaceful world turns upside down when his best friend—the man he secretly loves—unexpectedly marries a woman. Though Tristan values his friendship with Etan and has always been attracted to him, he is a dutiful son, raised to shoulder responsibility for the family business one day. That day comes far sooner than anticipated, and he makes a deathbed promise to his father to marry the woman his father chose and become head of the company and family.

A year later, Tristan is a widower with an infant daughter and a mother who demands he marry again quickly—something Tristan resists. Circumstances throw Etan and Tristan together, and even as they succumb to the desires they’ve always harbored, Etan battles his feelings, wary of being cast aside again. When Tristan’s daughter is kidnapped, Etan and Tristan must come together to find her, find the person responsible, and support each other through the ordeal… and maybe beyond.

The Scholar’s Heart is a tale of fantasy and a love story that turns into love.  The prologue sets the pace for Etan’s and Tristan’s relationship. Our first look at how they interact showed us how much they meant to each other, even when they took the other for granted.

By the start of the actual story, Etan is heartbroken, and Tristan walks the line between loving his infant daughter and mourning his wife. It’s this event that brings Etan back into Tristan’s life and rekindles their relationship after almost a year apart. Their easy banter and camaraderie came back with ease.

After several awkward meetings and tribulations, the MCs agreed to explore their desires. Then, they fight their feelings for each other. Etan’s trying to figure out if getting his heart broken one more time is worth it, and Tristan has to fight his mother’s insistence to remarry and have more kids.

The author did an excellent job getting the reader to be part of the events surrounding Ethan and Tristan. I didn’t read the previous two books in this series and didn’t miss any important element. The main characters in book #1 & #2 are an integral part of this book, but we get enough information to know who they are and how they got together without getting spoilers from their full stories. The reader would only need to read them to satiate their curiosity.

Some of the story events were predictable or over the top, but overall, they worked to create a cohesive story. The extra POVs felt unnecessary when we get everything we needed from Etan and Tristan. The pacing was off in the middle of the story making it drag a bit, and the kidnapping mentioned in the blurb doesn’t happen until past the halfway point in the book. At least, the resolution didn’t occur immediately.  Even when I don’t think the reason behind it was strong enough to carry the story.

The combination of settings, the characters, writing style, and folklore makes an enjoyable read– filled with smexy scenes and romantic details. Definitely, a nice fantasy story with the potential for another book in the near future.

The beautiful cover by Anne Cain matches the essence of the previous books in the series and shows Tristan and Etan in an intimate moment during the story.

Sale Links: Dreamspinner | Amazon | ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 294 pages
Published: May 30, 2016, by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 9781634772631
Edition Language: English

Series:  Chronicles of Tournai
Book #1: The Prince’s Consort
Book #2: The Artist’s Masquerade
Book #3: The Scholar’s Heart

Need Another Love Lesson? Check Out Short Stay (Love Lessons #3.5) by Heidi Cullinan (author interview, excerpt and giveaway)

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Short Stay

Short Stay (Love Lessons #3.5) by Heidi Cullinan
R
elease Date May 24

Buy it at Amazon

 

 

 

Why Did You Write This Story?

I hadn’t planned on writing this story at all. I’d meant to write something for my Patreon readers as a Christmas present, but it got long and complicated, so I asked them what they wanted in a short story from a known character universe. They voted, and Baz and Elijah won, though Walter and Kelly were only one vote down, and the Special Delivery series characters had a strong showing too, so I decided what the heck, let’s include them all.

I meant the story to be short, but I don’t do short well. I was having too much fun playing with the characters and thinking of things to include I knew would delight my readers. I told them, as I wrote, that every time I got stuck I asked myself, “What would the readers want right now?” then tried to give it to them. I didn’t back down from anything cheesy, didn’t let any critical voices in my head.

The result was something I loved writing and my patrons loved reading. In truth all stories are written for readers, but this one really was. It wouldn’t have happened without them. It was designed with specific readers in mind, ones I’ve come to know and appreciate more deeply in the past six months. It felt exactly like it was meant to: a gift to readers I care very much about. And they enthusiastically let me share it with everyone else, so here we are.

You crossed the streams on this one big time, sending the Love Lessons characters into the Special Delivery characters’ world. Why did you do that?

It started as a lark. I’d meant for Baz and Elijah to go to Vegas in Lonely Hearts in an early draft, so I was eager to send them there now. And I thought, well, the Special Delivery characters have to say hi, since they live there. But I couldn’t resist sending them to Herod’s itself, and then everything snowballed. I should have known better. Randy always steals the show. But it’s okay, because he does it so well.

Will what happened in Short Stay become canon in either or both series?

Yes. It doesn’t change much in Special Delivery except now Randy wants a Tesla. For the Love Lessons series, though…well, I’m not giving any spoilers, but it changed a lot in what I had planned for the rest of the White House gang story arc. Which is fine, because shaking things up and making me scared always gives me good energy in a story.

What’s next in your production queue?

My muses have been fickle lately, and every time I make plans they thwart them. What I’m working on right now, for better or for worse, are two more after-HEA stories: Shelter the Sea, a novella in the Roosevelt series, and Enjoy the Dance, a short novel in the Dancing series. (Yes, Dance With Me is part of a series now.)

Shelter the Sea is still slightly amorphous, but essentially Emmet is trying to help a friend in trouble and doing a little more growing up in the process. Enjoy the Dance began as my attempt to chronicle what happened to Ed and Laurie between Dance With Me and when they appeared in Lonely Hearts, and how the radical change in the state of marriage equality affected them personally. We also find out what happened to Duon.

After that, I’m working on the next full novels in the Love Lessons, Roosevelt, and Clockwork Love series. As per usual I’m also working on several other things as well. What specifically comes next is difficult to say, but suffice it to say, something will float to the top.

Short Stay Playlist (https://open.spotify.com/user/12123422997/playlist/02r0maFAKwNHRxQEDDKpC5)

Short Stay (Love Lessons #3.5) by Heidi Cullinan

BlurbShort Stay Blog Tour

Hot messes have a hard time with happily ever after.

Baz Acker and Elijah Prince have it all. They’re engaged, and their wedding is guaranteed to be a spectacle no event will ever top. So why are they hunkered down in a quiet corner of the Acker mansion, restless and edgy while they wait out the holidays?

When Baz suggests a road trip with Walter and Kelly to Las Vegas, it sounds like an ideal escape, but it turns out Vegas only amplifies their unease. Elijah can’t slough off the self-hating his parents programmed into him, and he worries how that will affect his marriage. Baz, crippled en route because of too much time spent in the car without rest, must face the truth that his wealth and influence can’t always counteract the limits his disability will put on his—and Elijah’s—life.

With help from their friends, a wily poker player, a take-no-prisoners drag queen, and a smooth-talking casino owner, they face the truth that happiness is a state of mind, not a destination where they book a stay. What happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas—it will follow them all the way down the aisle.

 

Excerpt

Picking a Vegas Hotel

Elijah grinned wickedly and held up his phone. “Giles and Aaron are absolutely green that they didn’t get to come. They said they would have totally been our drivers.”

“They aren’t twenty-one.” Baz wiped his mouth with his napkin. “They wouldn’t be able to go to most bars, and they wouldn’t be allowed on the casino floor.”

Kelly wrinkled his nose. “I don’t know if I want to gamble.”

Walter nudged him. “You can do a few penny slots. Or be my arm candy while I play poker.”

Elijah flicked gently at the bridge of Baz’s glasses. “You should play poker. They’d just think your glasses were part of your schtick.”

Baz stifled a wince at how that small gesture made his eyes throb. “Craps is more my game.”

They talked nonstop for the last leg of their trip, imagining the adventures they were about to have, looking up possible excursions on their phones. Even Elijah began to get excited. “I had no idea there was so much to do. Now I wish we had more than a few days to stay.”

“I wish I didn’t have to get back to work.” Walter was driving, or rather he was behind the wheel while the Tesla situated itself precisely in the lane. “But alas, I do. Kelly and I both have to be in Minneapolis by the fourth.”

They came over the crest of a hill, and suddenly there it was: Las Vegas. The city sprawled across the desert, a throbbing oasis in a sea of sand. Great grids of brown dotted with tiny shapes of houses until the Strip erupted, framed by the mountains in the distance. It would have been more impressive at night with all the lights, but two in the afternoon wasn’t anything to sneeze at either.

Baz had programmed the hotel into the navigation, but Kelly rerouted them in a detour of the Strip with a stop at the famous sign. They couldn’t find a place to park, but plenty of other people were slowing down to get a glimpse. Kelly managed to snap a picture through the moonroof.

“Okay, let’s see this hotel,” Walter declared, and they were on to their final destination.

Baz had a little misgiving about his choice as they took in the grandeur of the casinos on the Strip. He wanted to impress Elijah without overwhelming him, a fine line Baz was still learning how to negotiate. The smaller casino had seemed so much more them, though he’d admit mostly he’d seen “ten rainbow flags” and “resident drag queen” and leapt. Plus their suite had a view of the Strip. It also had a hot tub, the photo of which had Baz already thinking about how he’d get busy in it. But the Strip casinos were varying degrees of awesome too. Super-kitschy, elegant, modern—everything was there. As they drove by Bellagio, Baz kicked himself, thinking he should have booked there. He almost had, but they hadn’t had a suite available, and the pictures of the lobby made Baz imagine Elijah bitching about being out of place.

He wanted this trip to be perfect. He wanted it to make Elijah relax and show him that no matter what, Baz would always make everything okay.

As they pulled up to Herod’s Poker Room and Casino, Baz began to feel a lot better about his choice for their accommodations. It was elegant in a more traditional, understated way. It reminded Baz a little bit from the outside of his mother’s favorite old hotel in St. Paul, both the architecture and the quiet dignity of the bell staff. It was nice without being imposing. Small enough, too, that Baz could flash some money and probably get some VIP treatment.

He felt pretty good about his choice before they got out of the car, but what sealed the deal was what he saw as he exited the Tesla and handed the keys to the valet. Along the side of the building, just under the overhang, hung the Nevada flag, the US flag, and four bright, proud rainbow flags. When Elijah spied them, he visibly relaxed.

Baz did too. This was going to fix everything. Elijah’s nerves, his quietness, his lack of faith that Baz could take care of him.

He was sure of it.

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In the Spotlight with Broken Soldier by Jamie Lynn Miller (excerpt and giveaway

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Title: Broken Soldier
Author: Jamie Lynn Miller
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: March 5, 2016
Sergeant Connor Finley and Sergeant Shawn Weller are dedicated soldiers working covert ops for Shadow Unit — a joint UK/US anti-terrorism task force.

Partners in the field and out, they had been through hell together for the last four years and made it through standing side by side. But when their latest undercover op to bring down an arms dealer plunges them into a world of drugs, sex and violence, Shawn must literally get in bed with the enemy in order to complete the mission. And Connor is forced to watch, helpless, as his partner is broken into pieces.
Will love be enough to put them both back together or will this be their final mission? WARNING: Contains scenes of drug use, graphic sex and realistic situations.




Connor cut himself off as Shawn let out an angry yell and swung a wild punch at him. Connor was forced to release Shawn’s wrist to avoid his partner’s fist, which would have caught him right in the face. He stumbled back a step, hitting the refrigerator, nearly losing his footing on the items strewn about on the floor. Just as he straightened up, Shawn grabbed a coffee mug off the counter and hurled it at Connor’s head. Connor dropped to a crouch and the mug smashed into the refrigerator.

Keeping low, Connor went at Shawn like an American football player, ducking under his partner’s arms and catching him around his middle. Shawn’s back hit the edge of the counter and both of them slid to the floor. Shawn’s fists began pummeling at Connor’s arms and chest as Connor got Shawn first onto his back then flipped over onto his stomach, straddling his waist. Shawn tried to buck him off, yelling angrily and Connor was amazed at the strength the desperate craving for the heroin gave him.
“Please, Connor, please,” Shawn pleaded with him, breathing hard. “I just need a little bit. Just a little and I’ll be fine…”
Connor quickly pulled the syringe out of his pocket and used his mouth to pull off the cap, which he spit out onto the floor.
He swallowed hard. “I’m so sorry, mate,” he said, voice rough, then injected Shawn with the sedative.
“I need it, Connor, I need it…” Shawn mumbled as his eyes closed moments later, succumbing to the effects of the sedative.
Connor slid off of Shawn’s body then, slumping against the counter next to him, his face in his hands, gutted to the core by what had just transpired. A lump formed in his throat as he lifted his head and looked at his partner, lying there unconscious. Shawn’s face was drawn, flushed and wet with sweat, battered and bruised with dark circles under his eyes that had looked at him with such pain and desperation.
Shawn was the strongest, bravest man Connor had ever known, now reduced to this broken soldier before him.
All because of duty and loyalty to his unit and his mission. For the first time Connor feared that Shawn had been shattered into too many pieces to ever be put back together again.
His chest constricted at the thought, the grief and anger inside him suddenly too much to contain any longer. He grabbed for Shawn’s hand and held on tight as he broke down, the first sob tearing through him. He cried for Shawn, who was fighting a battle he might not be able to win and he cried for the two of them, wondering how they’d survive if Shawn didn’t.
He cried until there was nothing left inside him, until his eyes ran dry and his throat burned. He gathered Shawn into his arms then and held him tight, wishing he could take his place, but instead willing every ounce of strength he had into him, the only thing he could do.

eBook copy of any backlist title



Jamie Lynn Miller has been writing fiction since childhood and decided to take the plunge and go pro in 2008, finding to her amazement that people truly enjoyed her love stories. She’s a romantic at heart, and her tales reflect the desire we all have to find “the one,” persevering through trials and heartache for that happy ending.

 

Jamie has a degree in fine arts and has spent the last twenty years working as a graphic designer, though she’d much rather be writing. She was born in Chicago and still lives there today with her husband and their two furry, four-footed children, er… cats.

 

If she’s not brainstorming story ideas, you can find Jamie at a sci-fi convention, in front of a furnace doing glass blowing, or on a mat twisted into a yoga pose.



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