Published August 2016 by MLR Press
Original TitleThe Buckland-in-the-Vale and Sandstone Tor Gay Book Club (Inaugural Meeting)
Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Shiver me timbers! When Professor Wesley Coolidge accepts a summer job as a historical consultant to a pirate movie being filmed in North Carolina, the last person he expects to bump into is his soon-to-be-ex, movie star Sander Carson. Just like the flamboyant pirate he’s playing, Sander, aka Sam Carr, is used to getting what he wants, and he makes it clear he wants Wesley back in his life.
Sam acknowledges it’s his fault they split up. He lost Wesley when he left their life in New York City behind for a career in Hollywood. But Wesley has finally managed to put the pieces of his heart back together, and he isn’t interested in Sam and Wesley: The Sequel. Sam soon realizes that convincing Wesley to give their relationship a second chance will take much more than apologies and reminders of good times past. If he wants Wesley back, Sam will have to show Wesley that they really can sail into the sunset together—a real-life happily-ever-after that won’t end once the final credits roll.
Take Two by Shira Anthony is a different sort of story then the ones we’ve been reading lately from this author. Far from the action/adventure or fantasy epics of recent releases, this romance of lovers trying to find their way back (or at least one) to the magic that was once theirs brings me back to the tone of the Blue Notes series and the books where I found Shira Anthony.
Lovers reunited is a trope I adore, especially when its one lover trying to win back his true love. That the lovers here are older makes this story just a tad sweeter and more perfect. Sam knows he screwed up big time (how much he’s yet to realize) but he know he wants Wesley back. The story is all about Sam’s doing what it takes, physically rearranging things like schedules, growing emotionally, whatever, to get Wesley back. Things do not fall into place, although it seems as though its going to happen that way at first. Life is never so accommodating and Anthony is well aware of life’s foibles and whimsy.
Wesley too has a bit of relationship blinders on, ones that anyone whose had relationship issues or problems will recognize. Whether its with current relationships or ones in the past, the author realizes that the need to see what we want to see rather than what’s really occurring is a strong overriding emotion. Its an authentic need and a thread that runs throughout the story. And as we are pulled into Wesley’s turmoil of a life and his mixed-up inner emotions, we wonder what’s it going to take to bring Wesley to take his blinder’s off and …boom…we’ve fallen in love with both men and their problems.
Of course, it helps spectacularly that Shira Anthony has set her story on Bald Island, NC a place the author is intimately familiar with. A lifelong sailor herself along with her husband, the scenes on the water, in and around as well as on Bald Island are vividly and lovingly described because she feels that way about the place. It shows. I wanted to grab a plane, car or boat and head there myself. There’s a sea rescue too that’s as white knuckle as they come. Yes, that’s authentic as well.
I think that’s why this story reminded me so of the Blue Notes story. Where those were focused on the musical world that Anthony was a part of for so long, Take Two is surrounded by another element in Anthony’s life, that of sailing, the water, and North Carolina. Her deep love and knowledge of all three shines bright here as music does in the Blue Notes series. That made me hope that perhaps another series could be coming. There is a secondary couple here. I would love to see where their romance takes them. Plus the Barbary Pirates need exploring right?
Things I haven’t mentioned? History and pirates! Yes to both! I loved learning about the pirates of North Carolina and definitely wanted more, along with the humor that the author threw in to go along with it. There’s some wonderful giggling moments here, along with a few ‘laugh out loud’s too. Ah, me. Wonderful characters, lovers reunited, sexy scenes, sailboats, and pirates! Argh, me hearties! This romance was everything I wanted and more.
Cover art by L.C. Chase is missing several elements. I like the script. But where, oh where, is Bald Island, NC, the sailboats and the pirate ships?
ebook, 214 pages
Expected publication: September 9th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634773853 (ISBN13: 9781634773850)
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
What do you do when the body you wake up in isn’t yours?
Olly and Scott promised to be best friends forever. They grew up on the same street, went to the same school, and did everything together. But one hot summer night, teenage experimentation caused hurt feelings and confusion, and their friendship was destroyed.
Four years later they’re both eighteen years old and in their final term at school. Scott is a football star and Olly’s preparing for a main role in the school play. After a heated argument in the street—witnessed by their mysterious, elderly neighbor—they wake up the next morning stuck in each other’s bodies.
With no idea how to get back to normal, they have to co-operate in order to hide their secret. Spending time together rekindles their friendship, yet feelings run deeper for both of them. With the end of school fast approaching, the clock is ticking. Unless they discover how to change back, they could be stuck in the wrong bodies forever.
Olly and Scott haven’t spoken in years and when Scott speeds around a corner on his way home in his shiny new car, he scares Olly so much he falls from his bike, hurting him in the process. Instead of making up, however, the two have a heated argument, and Olly limps home, heartbroken that the guy he once thought he loved could be so mean.
What he doesn’t know is that Scott is equally sad about losing his friend and about the way they parted soon after an experimental kiss when they were fourteen. Scott doesn’t quite know why Olly turned away from him, not realizing that he broke Olly’s heart, but he accepts that it’s just the way it is, and it’s unlikely to change. Unfortunately for both boys, their elderly neighbor, Miss Wychwood, doesn’t see it as unchangeable, and she and her magic are about to turn the boys’ world upside down.
When they wake up the next morning, they discover just how upside down they are as Olly looks at Scott’s body in Scott’s mirror and Scott looks at Olly’s in his. Somehow, they’ve switched and both are in a panic to switch back. But this is the start of what, at first, is a forced closeness and later grows to renewed friendship and then ultimately to admitting their love for each other.
The story is lighthearted, sweet, humorous, and entertaining. I enjoyed the author’s writing style as much as I enjoyed the way the story unfolded. The characters were three dimensional, their parents realistic, and their schoolmates typical. What a great way to spend my reading time! I recommend this to all who enjoy a lighthearted young adult/new adult MM romance.
The cover by Garrett Leigh features a close-up of a cute young man against a bright blue background. It doesn’t tell the story, but it is attention-getting.
Kindle Edition, 170 pages
Expected publication: September 9th 2016 by Jaybird Press
Thanks so much, Melanie and Scattered Thoughts, for hosting the Take Two video tour! Throughout the tour, we’ll be making video stops on one of my favorite places at the North Carolina coast and the location for Take Two: Bald Head Island.
Take Two is a second chance at love story set during a movie shoot. It’s a sweet and sometimes funny story about love that won’t quit, and includes anachronistic pirates, silly dialogue, and general mayhem as action star Sander Carson, a.k.a. Sam Carr, tries to woo back his estranged husband, pirate expert and history professor Wesley Coolidge. You can find all the videos after they’re posted on my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6nv628KGwo&list=PLPthSb07JAMhidI3zIKcD6FLK5wTrnjV_
I hope you’ll enjoy this lighthearted romp and that you end up believing in second chances! The book is now available for preorder at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and all the usual suspects. -Shira
Shiver me timbers! When Professor Wesley Coolidge accepts a summer job as a historical consultant to a pirate movie being filmed in North Carolina, the last person he expects to bump into is his soon-to-be ex, movie star Sander Carson. Just like the flamboyant pirate he’s playing, Sander, aka Sam Carr, is used to getting what he wants, and he makes it clear he wants Wesley back in his life.
Sam acknowledges it’s his fault they split up. He lost Wesley when he left their life in New York City behind for a career in Hollywood. But Wesley has finally managed to put the pieces of his heart back together, and he isn’t interested in Sam and Wesley: The Sequel. Sam soon realizes that convincing Wesley to give their relationship a second chance will take much more than apologies and reminders of good times past. If he wants Wesley back, Sam will have to show Wesley that they really can sail into the sunset together–a real-life happily-ever-after that won’t end once the final credits roll.
The entire scene was surreal. Gorgeous boat, beautiful scenery, good wine, and me by my lonesome. In the grand scheme of life, it certainly wasn’t the worst outcome. Still, he wished he wasn’t alone.
He pulled his cellphone from his pocket and tapped the preset for Carl. If they couldn’t be together, at least Wes could describe the alternate universe he’d just stepped into for him. It took a few seconds for the call to connect, and Wes imagined the signal snaking its way down through Florida, then skimming the waves to the southwest, across the Gulf of Mexico, and over to Guatemala.
“This is Carl Stephens. I’m unavailable to take your call at the moment. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I’m able.”
Figures. Wes shook his head and disconnected the call. He’d catch Carl another time. He didn’t want Carl to feel guilty about the change in plans. It wasn’t as if he was suffering here in North Carolina anyhow. He replaced the phone in his pocket and glanced up at the fly bridge again. Why not? He’d never been particularly shy, and he figured he’d feel more comfortable hanging out with the crew instead of pretending to be some pampered Hollywood celebrity. He refilled his glass and headed up the stairs.
The fly bridge was every bit as Wes had expected. Sleek, with the newest instrumentation, radio, and radar. The seats and console were white, as was the rest of the yacht, and the panoramic view was impressive. The captain sat facing the console, only the top of his head visible over the high-backed leather chair.
“We aim to please,” the captain responded without turning around. His clipped British accent reminded Wes of a young Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. “Are the accommodations to your liking?”
“You mean the presidential suite? I only wish I could spend a month or two sailing the Caribbean in accommodations like that.” He sighed.
“I might be able to arrange that.” The captain spun his chair around so he faced Wes. Except he wasn’t a captain, and he wasn’t British at all—
“Sam?” Wes knew his jaw had just dropped to the deck.
Sam Carr—no, Sander Carson, Wes reminded himself—grinned back at him. It was too easy for forget that the Sam he’d married no longer existed. “That would be me.” The British accent was gone, replaced by a hint of a soft southern drawl. Well, at least that was authentic.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Wes demanded.
Sam appeared entirely nonplussed. “Is that any way to say hello to your husband?”
“Ex-husband,” Wes corrected.
“Not for another 46 days and seven hours.” Sam leaned back in the captain’s chair, causing the thin fabric of his T-shirt to stretch tight over the muscles of his chest. He looked better than Wes remembered. No doubt he had some expensive fitness coach he worked with every day to manage pecs like that. His bright blue eyes were as disarming as they’d always been, the hint of stubble on his strong jaw only made him look more attractive. Like a movie star. Which, of course, Sam—or Sander—was.
“You haven’t answered my question,” Wes said, trying to ignore the jab to his gut at the reminder that their divorce would soon be final. “Why are you here?”
“I had a few days off from shooting, and I thought I’d take her out for a spin. They delivered her last week, and I haven’t had a chance to—”
“Wait a minute. You mean she… this is your boat?”
“Yep. Bought and paid for,” Sam said with pride.
The pieces began to fall into place. Marv leaving suddenly. The shoot in North Carolina. Sam wouldn’t have had anything to do with Carl’s boss’s change in plans, but he’d have known whom to call to find out about Wes’s plans. And Jeffrey. Shit, he remembered where he’d heard that name before: Sam’s personal assistant.
Wes made a mental note to read his secretary, Viv, the riot act when he got back to New York. Which would be very soon, if he had anything to say about it. She didn’t usually handle the details of his personal life, but she had access to his Outlook calendar. Come to think of it, she’d been asking him a lot of questions about his personal life lately. And she’d always loved Sam.
Everyone loves Sam.
“This isn’t going to happen, Sammy,” he told Sam. “I’m outta here.”
“Contract?” Sam said as Wes turned to head downstairs.
“Contracts can be broken.”
“You never read the fine print, do you?” Sam was clearly enjoying this.
“What have you done?” Wes glared at Sam.
“I didn’t do anything. The studio’s attorneys, though….”
“You set me up.” Stating the obvious. Sam was a hell of a lot smarter than he appeared. And way more devious. “What do you want from me, Sam?”
Sam tilted his head to one side and rubbed his chin as if he were considering the question. “You haven’t figured that out yet?” he asked.
Wes wouldn’t dignify the question with a response.
“I want you, Wesley Warren Coolidge. What else?”
About Shira: Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer in her last incarnation, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle.
Shira is married with two children and two insane dogs, and when she’s not writing, she is usually in a courtroom trying to make the world safer for children. When she’s not working, she can be found at the Carolina coast aboard Land’s Zen, a 35’ catamaran sailboat, with her favorite sexy captain at the wheel.
Want to hear Shira sing? You can listen to an excerpt from a live recording of Shira performing Tosca on her website: http://www.shiraanthony.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/tosca-visse-darte-exceprt1.mp3
Where to find Shira:
The sound of music playing pulled Scott from a thick blanket of sleep into wakefulness. He lay curled on his side; his room was darker than usual, as though someone had come in and closed the blinds while he slept. His bed felt weird, softer than it should be, and it smelled different.
He sat up, blinking in confusion as he looked around. He took in the room, the details unclear in the half-light that crept around the edges of the blind, but it was enough for him to realise where he was.
The posters on the wall were new, but the layout hadn’t changed in four years.
What the fuck?
It wasn’t possible. Logic told Scott there was no way this could be happening.
He’d gone to sleep in his own bed—he hadn’t been drunk or high. So why the hell was he waking up in Olly’s room with no recollection of how he got there? And where the hell was Olly? The music that had woken him was coming from a phone on a docking station by the bed. He picked it up and pressed some buttons until it stopped. His brain was fogged with sleep and he couldn’t think clearly.
Scott got out of bed on shaky legs. His hip ached as though it was bruised.
Actually, his whole body felt weird. Perhaps he was sick? Maybe this was all some bizarre hallucination?
Pulling the cord to raise the blind, Scott flooded the room with light. He looked down at himself, only….
He closed his eyes and shook his head. When he opened them again, he still didn’t see himself. His body was too thin, his skin too pale, the hair on his legs darker than usual, and he definitely didn’t own any snug purple briefs like the ones he was currently wearing.
Stomach roiling with disbelief and terror, Scott turned to the full-length mirror on the wall and blinked.
Olly’s reflection stared back looking as horrified as Scott felt. Scott raised his hands to his face, and so did Olly in the mirror.
“This isn’t happening,” he said.
The voice was Olly’s too, softer and a little higher-pitched than Scott’s own.
It was the weirdest, most vivid dream Scott had ever had.
He pinched himself hard. “Ouch!”
Why wasn’t he waking up?
Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep!
Olly shot up, heart pounding at the shrill sound. He opened his eyes and blinked in the sunlight.
Ugh. Too bright.
He looked around wildly and closed his eyes again, refusing to believe what he saw. Obviously he wasn’t awake yet because he couldn’t be in Scott’s room. He hadn’t set foot in Scott’s house in years.
Olly cracked his eyes open again but still saw the white walls, the posters of Scott’s football heroes that Olly remembered from years ago, and the freakishly tidy desk that definitely wasn’t his.
The alarm clock by the bed was still making an awful racket, so he found the button to silence it.
“Scott?” he said hesitantly, then coughed.
What the fuck was wrong with his throat? His voice was deep and rough sounding. Oh God, no, please don’t let him be getting a cold. He couldn’t afford to lose his voice with all the play rehearsals coming up.
He pushed the duvet off and swung his legs around to get out of bed. He’d find
Scott and work out what the hell was going on. Maybe he had some weird amnesia after his accident yesterday, although he hadn’t hit his head. There had to be some explanation for why he was apparently in Scott’s bed rather than his own.
Then Olly looked down at his legs—and froze.
They were thicker and more muscular than they should be. Olly only dreamed of having legs like that. The hairs on them were light brown instead of dark, the skin more tanned. He looked at his hands, they were all wrong too, thicker and sturdier than they should be. He lifted one to run it through his hair, the way he often did in times of crisis.
“What the fuck?” No long floppy fringe falling in his eyes. Instead he found short-cropped hair and his ear piercings were gone.
Now convinced he was dreaming, because that was the only possible explanation, Olly got up to look in the mirror. Scott’s handsome face stared back at him, the mouth slack with surprise and the blue eyes wide.
Olly shook his head in disbelief. No way could this be happening. No way. This was the stuff of Hollywood movies, not reality. But cold, creeping panic rose in his gut, because apart from the fact that he appeared to be in the wrong body, everything else felt normal. Way too normal for it to be a dream.
“No,” he said loudly, putting his hands up and touching Scott’s nose, Scott’s cheekbones, Scott’s lips. He felt every brush of his fingertips. “Oh, Jesus Christ on a bike, this is not happening. No.”