A MelanieM Release Day Review: Blossom of the Samurai (Sword and Silk Trilogy #3) by Sedonia Guillone


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

blossom-of-the-samurai-sword-and-silk-trilogy-3-by-sedonia-guilloneThe samurai’s only true master is his heart….

For seven years while training for his life as a samurai, Toho Morimasa has been away from Aoki, the beautiful actor who helped him to heal from the trauma of his parents’ brutal murders. Now, nightmares that Aoki is in trouble plague Toho’s sleep, and he makes the journey back from Edo to Kai, no longer wanting to be away from Aoki’s side. Once there, Toho meets the very real source of his nightmares and vows to honor and protect Aoki. When his beloved Aoki is brutally assaulted, will Aoki survive long enough to understand that the love Toho has for him is the love he too has been craving his whole life but doesn’t feel he deserves?

A Timeless Dreams title: While reaction to same-sex relationships throughout time and across cultures has not always been positive, these stories celebrate M/M love in a manner that may address, minimize, or ignore historical stigma.

Blossom of the Samurai ties up the stories of the three couples that make up the Sword and the Silk Trilogy by Sedonia Guillone and its such a lovely finish to this trilogy.

I’ve been reading her Samurai stories for years and started on this path with Flying Fish back in 2009 (it was rereleased by Dreamspinner Press in 2016).  Sedonia Guillone’s tales are gentle tales that move at a pace unusual for most stories, their narrative almost oriental in their flow and language at times.  Gentle and yet visited by the violence of the times, all the characters endure hardship to find their other half.  One samurai, the other an actor/courtesan, except in the second story which acts as a bridge to the first and third.

In Flying Fish, (a name for a traveling actor) its Genji Sakura and masterless samurai, the ronin Daisuke Minamoto, in Blind Love (Sword and Silk Trilogy #2) the couple is Hirata Morimasa and Anma Sho, leading to the final story with their foster son, Toho Morimasa and Aoki, the actor in Blossom of the Samurai.  All three couples (or 5/6ths of them make important appearances here).  It brings all their stories full circle, giving the reader further insight into Toho’s tale from Blind Love, and retribution for Hirata and Sho.

I’m hard-pressed to describe Guillone’s style of writing.  Soft, yet it has its share of sword  fights.  Flowery but able to recognize the harshness of life as it occurs to the  characters here.  And pain does come with a  swiftness that’s breathtaking even though we’ve been expecting it.  I love her layered characters and the way in which we are able to feel their deep connections to each other with a minimal amount of words as well as the inclusion of Japanese words and settings in an easy, informal manner.  It brings this era alive for the reader in a way I love.

However, I wish there was more to this story.  I wanted to know more about Toho and what was going to happen with Aoki and their life together.  I wanted more length, more of them.  It ended too soon.  At 112 pages (although that’s this author’s style too), that short length was not enough to bring this gorgeous tale to the fullness it deserved.  That’s my only qualm here.

If you love ancient Japan, and lovers in search of their soul mates, pick up Sedonia Guillone’s  Sword and Silk Trilogy.  I loved all the stories, ending with   Blossom of the Samurai.

Cover art by Reese Dante is lovely but not exactly spot on for all the characters.

Sales Links



Book Details:

ebook, 112 pages
Expected publication: February 15th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634775449 (ISBN13: 9781634775441)
Edition Language English

A Stella Release Day Review: Dating in Retrospect by Lila Leigh Hunter


RATING 3,75 out of 5 stars

datinginretrospectfs_v1Giving the commencement speech at his alma mater doesn’t fit Clay Keller’s meticulous schedule. As Chief Executive Officer of Travel Mogul—the largest travel connoisseur company on the West Coast—he has no time to get back in touch with his country roots. He left fifteen years ago without a second look, but a medical scare makes him change his mind about the speech and brings him face-to-face with his only regret.

Time always moves slower in Southeastern Iowa, and Aaron Grant loves it. He’s added solar farms to the Grant Lanes portfolio and has been teaching at the local university for a decade. The last thing he needs is to have his tenure application compromised by the return of his ex-boyfriend. If he had known who the commencement speaker would be, he would never have volunteered to be the administration liaison.

A proposal—to date for a year—will help them discover that time changes a person, even when everything else stays the same.

Clay has spent the last fifteen years in LA, he is now back to the town he grew up, the town he left so many years before to follow his dreams away from Iowa and away from Aaron, the boyfriend he left behind and  now wants to reconquer.

I have to admit I had some problems with Dating in Retrospect. I read  Tow Trucks & New Year’s Kisses a couple of months ago and liked it a lot, so I was very happy to have this new release on my Kindle. I think my big issues was with the MCs. I loathed Clay since the first time I saw him, he had the nerve to pretend fifteen years hadn’t passed, he acted like it was yesterday he and Aaron were together. The way he approached his ex-boyfriend was unbelievable, I truly wanted to slap him on the face and I didn’t understand why Aaron didn’t do it.

Then, going on with the reading, I started to love the story a lot. All the dates the couple found time for were very sweet and let me know them better. I followed them in the renewing of the love and desire they had for each other. I quite liked them both and I was able to see Clay from another point of view and I understand his attitude better. Plus the second characters were lovable too, especially Aaron’s dad, he was really a great man, the father all of us should have.

I’m a huge fan of “second chance at love” stories and adult characters. Although with some difficulties, I quite enjoyed Dating in Retrospect and can’t wait to read more by the author.

The cover art by L.C. Chase is adorable and well done. It caught my attention even before I read the blurb.

Sales Links




ebook, 107 pages

Expected publication: February 15th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN 1635333059 (ISBN13: 9781635333053)

Edition Language English

State of Love series

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: The New Wolf (Building the Pack #1) by RJ Scott


Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

the-new-wolfThis was an interesting twist on wolf shifter stories and the beginning of a trilogy that will be completed by two other authors, so it’s definitely not a standalone.

Veterinarian Josh Nolan and his partner, Connor Vincent, move to Black Creek, Vermont, after a shooting incident in their former location severely injured Connor, who was a cop in that city. Hired by the Sheriff’s Department in Black Creek, Connor finds life here a lot quieter than in the city so starts to look through cold-case files. What he discovers is a series of injuries, deaths, and disappearances in the late sixties to early seventies that were never solved, though they did abruptly end. But he’s cautioned by the sheriff to leave the mysteries alone.

One night, however, Josh is severely injured when he stops to help a large dog who was hit by a car. The driver disappeared, and as Josh was struggling to help the large animal that looked remarkably like a wolf, someone attacked him. Fortunately, Connor arrives on scene quickly to care for him, Josh having called him when he stopped to help the animal. Shortly afterward, the sheriff and a few deputies arrive, and by the time Josh gets treatment at the local hospital, he’s been convinced that he imagined some of what he saw and that the attack couldn’t have happened that way at all.

This sets the scene for most of the story, in which much of what occurs to Josh, and later to Connor, is covered up and secretive. Ultimately, we discover that there are indeed wolf shifters in the area, and that some of the principal “human” characters are wolves who are members of a fairly new pack.

I enjoyed the story, though it felt introductory and incomplete, since the “big, bad wolf” was not taken down in this installment in the series. The established couple, Josh and Connor, were good characters, but I didn’t feel the closeness that I anticipated. They certainly had their quiet times and their sexy times, but maybe it was because of what happens to Connor, and the distance that injury created, they didn’t feel as strong a couple as I would have liked.

Nevertheless, those who enjoy paranormal/shifter stories will likely enjoy this introductory look at what promises to be an interesting and exciting series.

Cover art by Meredith Russell depicts one of the characters front and center with the full moon in the background. A nice cover but not outstanding among all others which feature a cover model as opposed to artwork or other interesting symbolism.

Sales Links

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2jseies

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2jUYgGJ

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 78 pages
Published January 16th 2017 by Love Lane Books Ltd (first published August 1st 2013)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBuilding The Pack #1
CharactersJosh Nolan, Connor Vincent settingBlack Creek, Vermont (United States)

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Poppy’s Secret by Andrew Grey


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

poppys-secret-by-andrew-greyA second chance born of love.

Pat Corrigan and Edgerton “Edge” Winters were ready to start a family–or so Pat thought. At the last minute, Edge got cold feet and fled. Pat didn’t bother telling him the conception had already gone through and little Emma was on her way. He didn’t want a relationship based on obligation. He’d rather raise his daughter on his own.

Nine years later, Emma and her Poppy are doing fine. Edge isn’t. He realizes what he threw away by leaving, and he’s back to turn his life around and reclaim his family. It’ll take a lot to prove to Pat that he’s a new man, and even if Edge succeeds, the secret Pat has hidden for years might shatter their dreams all over again.

If you read the blurb, you know the whole story.  Its all there except for how Edge finds out the secret.  Luckily Andrew Grey has  done a fine job telling the story so that you don’t mind knowing what’s coming.

Its nine years after Edge has fled.  Pat and Emma have a full life together, even though its lacking in the romance department for Pat. Pat puts Emma first, something he never had growing up, giving her stability and a parent who’s  always there.  His complicated relationship with his mother who figures huge in this story is one of the reasons I appreciated Poppy’s Secret so.  There are so many layers and complicated family dynamics here and the author neatly intertwines them into his story, using the reality of the past to make various points without painting the mother as a monster or an abuser.  There’s a lot of grey (if you will excuse the pun) and a lot of forgiveness to be found in Poppy’s Secret.

Then Edge moves back into town.  The past literally arrives at Pat’s doorstep bringing with it all the feelings long buried as well as all the peril to his long fought for stability.  The author could have gone for the high drama (yes, there’s some) but instead he chooses the path of adulthood, talking, forgiveness and love.  Yes, there’s the believable anger and pain but how that’s incorporated into the story is another element I just adored.

Poppy’s Secret is  a wonderful, heartwarming story of two men and a child getting a second chance at love together and as a family.  It flows quickly, sweetly, and with all the heart you could want or hope for.  I highly recommend this story.  Need a ‘feel great’ sort of tale?  This one’s for you.

Cover art by Bree Archer is absolutely adorable and perfect for the characters and story.  I want to hug them both.


Sales Links



Book Details:

ebook, 190 pages
Expected publication: February 15th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitlePoppy’s Secret
Edition LanguageEnglish

TJ Nichols on Research, Writing, and ‘Warlock in Training’ (author interview and DSP Publications Guest Post)



Warlock in Training (Studies in Demonology #1) by T.J. Nichols
SP Publications
Cover Artist: Catt Ford

Available for Purchase at


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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host T.J. Nichols here today in our authors interview chair.  Welcome, T.J.!

~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with T.J. Nichols~

Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

I do a lot of research even though I write (mostly) urban fantasy. It could be simple things like the physical location of the story if I’m setting it in a place I’ve never been through to different poisons that were common in the Middle Ages, or even the different types of werewolf lore.

When creating Demonside (the realm where demons live in Warlock in training) I had to research how desert dwelling people survived in those harsh conditions. I had to look up the life cycle of desert plants and animals which are dependent on the rains when, or if, they come.

Research is one of those things that I do all the time, even if I don’t know where the knowledge is going to come in handy.

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

Definitely. I read mainly fantasy novel when growing up, and I love that escape to new worlds. These days I love creating those new worlds and mixing magic into our world.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

I like both as a reader and writer. Some stories need everything to be tied up with a bow and other stories need to be left undone. I’m generally happy as long as I think the couple has the chance to give being together a good shot. As a writer crafting the perfect ending can take a while. I try to know the last scene of the book by the time I’m ¼ of the way through writing the first draft. Sometimes I know that final image when I start plotting…then the trouble is working out how to get there. I must confess I’m not a fan of the ‘two years later epilogue’, I’ve never read one that’s made me love the story more (but I’ll read it if it’s there).

Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?

I didn’t discover romance novels until I was in my twenties. These days I read both. It all depends on what I want from a book (sometimes I want the happily ever after, sometimes I want the bigger world of an urban fantasy/fantasy, and sometimes I just want something I can read in 2 hours so I read a novella). I like the uplifting nature of romance novels and that love wins every time. Love should win and everyone should get their happily ever after, but that doesn’t happen in real life.

How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

I don’t think ebooks will go away. I love them. The convenience of having a library on my ereader is great. I still buy print books, usually it comes down to price and availability as to which format I buy (I live in Australia).

Do you have a favorite among your own stories?  And why?

I love all my stories but for different reasons. A Wolf’s Resistance is set in WW2 which is one of my favorite time periods so the research was really just reading for pleasure. Warlock in Training was just fun to write—not all stories are like that (I’m working on a novella at the moment which is like pulling teeth).

What’s next for you as an author?

I’m busy working on book 3 in the Studies in Demonology series (book 2 is with my crit partner at the moment). In September-ish Olivier (an Order of the Black Knights novel) will be out. If you haven’t checked out the Black Knights multi author series do, as it’s a mix of romantic suspense, past life repercussions and curses (some of my favorite things).



Angus Donohue doesn’t want to be a warlock. He believes draining demons for magic is evil, but it’s a dangerous opinion to have—his father is a powerful and well-connected warlock, and Angus is expected to follow the family tradition.

His only way out is to fail the demon summoning class. Failure means expulsion from the Warlock College. Despite Angus’s best efforts to fumble the summoning, it works. Although not the way anyone expects.

Angus’s demon, Saka, is a powerful mage with his own need for a warlock.

Saka wants to use Angus in a ritual to rebalance the magic that is being stripped from Demonside by warlocks. If Angus survives his demon’s desires and the perils of Demonside, he’ll have to face the Warlock College and their demands.

Angus must choose: obey the College and forget about Demonside or trust Saka and try to fix the damage before it’s too late. Whatever he does, he is in the middle of a war he isn’t qualified to fight.

About the Author

TJ Nichols is an avid runner and martial arts enthusiast who first started writing as child. Many years later while working as a civil designer TJ decided to pick up a pen and start writing again. Having grown up reading thrillers and fantasy novels it’s no surprise that mixing danger and magic comes so easily, writing urban fantasy allows TJ to bring magic to the everyday.

With two cats acting as supervisors TJ has gone from designing roads to building worlds and wouldn’t have it any other way. After traveling all over the world and Australia, TJ now lives in Perth, Western Australia.

Website: tjnichols-author.blogspot.com

Twitter: @TobyJNichols

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TJNichols.author/

Ebook: 978-1-63533-267-4

Print: 978-1-63533-266-7

In Our High Fantasy Showcase: The Shadow Mark (Lords of Davenia #2) by Mason Thomas (author interview)



The Shadow Mark (Lords of Davenia #2) by Mason Thomas
reamspinner Press
Cover Designer: Maria Fanning

Available for Purchase from



Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Mason Thomas here today to talk about writing, characters and his latest release, The Shadow Mark. Welcome, Mason.
~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interviews Mason Thomas~

How much of yourself goes into a character?

An intriguing question, and the answer isn’t easy to peg down since character development doesn’t always occur on a conscious level. It’s impossible to not put yourself into your characters to some extent since it is your own experiences that you draw from. You cannot escape your own brain, and little aspects of yourself are going to infiltrate your characters. None of my characters are ever “me” per se. They just tap into various facets of my personality.

At times, you need to be deliberate about it. To generate authentic reactions to the events in your story, you have to draw from your personal experiences and extrapolate what the feelings and responses would be. Auraq Greystone, the main character in The Shadow Mark, is the least like me in terms of personality. He’s brooding and ill-tempered, and isn’t into talking about his feelings. This made him a challenge to write—in a good way. I had to dig deep into some dark history at times to channel him properly.

I will say there are times however that a character comes onto the scene and I have no idea where he or she came from. They arrive fully formed and announce who they are with utter certainty. It’s as if they’ve already received an early draft and are merely showing up to perform their part, and I’m only there to record them in the scene. I’ve even tried to direct them, and say, no I’d like you to be more “this.”  They grin back at me, and then do what they’re going to do anyway, whether I like it or not.

Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?

You have to be mindful of that line, certainly. I’m very intentional when creating a character not use myself as a template. Like I said in the previous question, you can’t escape your thoughts and your own experiences, but characters also take on their own distinct traits and personalities through the writing process. They evolve their own identities, and you cannot fight against that.  You are not the character—you are only channeling them, recording their words and actions.

You also have to embrace the weaknesses and negative qualities of your characters. It’s good if your main character makes a mistake, or says the wrong thing, or makes a mess of something. Readers have to see that a character can fail. There’s a looming fear that bad behavior will make your character unlikeable, but what it can do is makes them believable—and if the reason behind the bad behavior fits their history or circumstances, it makes them sympathetic too.

Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

I enjoy the world building aspect of writing speculative fiction. I like the “sandbox” nature of being able to construct the world and establish the rules that exist within it.  I pull from real world events, cultures and experiences, but since the world is of your own design, there isn’t a danger of getting the facts wrong. You just have to make certain that your world make sense, and you don’t break your own rules. This means that much my research is for generating ideas.

Sadly, I cannot escape real research, however. Do I enjoy it? No. But it’s a necessary evil. Smaller details—like how a barrel is constructed, or how a mill works to grind flour—have to be right. A detail you’ve gotten wrong is an insipid little imp that can easily escape your notice if you’re not careful, and it can turn your reader against you if they catch it. Combat is the area that I probably invested the most time researching a topic. I’ve even taken longsword classes to learn how to move, and how the body feels and reacts during combat. That was my favorite kind of research. If you’ve never taken a sword-fighting class, it’s seriously fun and I recommend it for everyone.

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

The irony is I wasn’t always a great reader as a kid. I have a slow reading speed, and being ADHD, I had a difficult time remaining focused long enough on a book to finish it. I lost interest very easily. The very first novel I read on my own from cover to cover was The Hobbit. I was in sixth grade. I was instantly hooked. Something about the escapism of fantasy (and science fiction as well) and the notion of a completely different world, connected with my overactive brain and dynamic inner life like nothing ever had before. I’ve been obsessed with speculative fiction ever since.   

Today, I write the stories I wish had existed when I was growing up—fantasy adventures with gay heroes.


Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?

More the opposite. I use my own emotional connection to a story as a barometer. If I’m not feeling emotional as I write it, then it’s not connecting for some reason and I have to shelf it until I figure out what it’s missing. I’ve not yet reached a topic that cut too deeply, as it were, that it forced me to put it aside.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

This entirely depends on the story being told and the characters that occupy it.

Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?

I tend to not pick up novels that identify as “romance” alone. I choose the ones that overlap into speculative fiction. For me, as both a writer and a reader, I like it when the love story exists along with a larger context, and the two work in concert. The speculative elements shouldn’t be just a backdrop for the romance, but play a part in bringing the people together.  And speculative stories without a romance feel incomplete. The romance brings an authenticity to the story because connecting with others is a part of life that shouldn’t be ignored.

Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?

Hard to narrow this one down. I’ve been influenced by so many amazing writers over the years. Tolkien, of course, since he was my first introduction to speculative fiction. Anne McCaffrey, Brain Jacques, Piers Anthony and Stephen King to name a few more. Each of these authors has a magic about them that I’ve always revered—the ability to pull me so completely into their world. However, my primary influence as a writer has been Isaac Asimov, a writer from the golden age of science fiction. He was incredibly prolific, writing five-hundred books in his lifetime—but still took the time to type a personalized note to a thirteen-year-old fan boy who wrote him a letter with a pointless and annoying question. Twice.  I’ve always thought that was incredibly gracious of him. I have always been drawn to his intellect, and his humor, and his devotion to his craft. Many of his quotes are on my favorites list, but one quote has had a great impact on me as a writer: “I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing—to be clear.”

How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

Choosing a cover is terribly difficult and stressful for me. I want it to emote the tone of the book, I want it to be visually striking, and I want it to be sexy. I also want it to be original and stand out. That’s a lot of boxes I need it check off. I perseverate on the tiniest details, because once I’ve chosen the cover, it is forever connected to that work. I’m sure I drive the artist a little insane. Can you change the font? Can you move my name up just a little? Can you bring a little more color into it? I applaud their patience. 

The cover of The Shadow Mark, which was designed by Maria Fanning, is astounding and I couldn’t be happier with the result. It has everything I wanted. I think it exudes the strength of my main character, Auraq Greystone, it has a compelling look that draws you in, and it connects well to my previous cover as well.

Do you have a favorite among your own stories?  And why?

Short answer—no.  They are all deeply personal to me for different reasons, and to select one over another is impossible. If I’m not fully drawn in to my own story, I’m not compelled to write it and it doesn’t get finished. My favorite project tends to be the one I’m currently working on.

What’s next for you as an author?

Juggling quite a few projects right now. I’ve recently finished a new young adult fantasy novel that I’ve very excited about. It’s the first in what I hope to be a series, with multiple young LGBTQ characters. My goal for this was to create a world where the LGBTQ characters are admired and respected, and are the heroes of the kingdom.  I’m in the process of editing it now, and hope to send it out this summer. I’m writing another romance/fantasy that takes place in a different world than the Lords of Davenia series. I’m also in the planning stages of creating a sequel for Lord Mouse.


Auraq Greystone, once a military officer with a promising future, exists on the fringe of society. Accused of murder, Auraq is on the run from the ax—until two fugitives crash into his solitary life. One is a young man named Kane. The glowing marks on his arm pulse with an otherworldly power, and they have made him the target of a sinister organization called the Order of the Jackal. When the old man protecting Kane dies in an ambush, Auraq swears an oath to take his place.

But the runes are far more significant than they realize. They are a message from the shadow realm, a dark memory of the past—one holding evidence of a bloody massacre and its savage architect; one that will shake the kingdom to its foundation. Risking arrest and execution, Auraq fights to get Kane to the capital city where the cryptic marking can be unlocked.  And with assassins close on their trail, Auraq might never get the chance to show Kane what’s in his heart—or the way their journey together has changed him.

The Shadow Mark is an epic tale of magic, murder, conspiracy, betrayal, and—for the two men tasked with unraveling the mystery—love and redemption.


Mason Thomas AUTHOR BIO:

Mason Thomas began his writing journey at the age of thirteen when his personal hero, Isaac Asimov, took the time to respond to a letter he wrote him. He’s been writing stories ever since. Today he is ecstatic and grateful that there is a place at the speculative table for stories with strong gay protagonists.

Mason, by all accounts, is still a nerdy teenager, although his hairline and waistline indicate otherwise. When his fingers are not pounding furiously at a keyboard, they can usually be found holding a video-game controller, plucking away at an electric guitar, or shaking a twenty-sided die during a role-playing game. Mason will take any opportunity to play dress-up, whether through cosplay, Halloween, or a visit to a Renaissance Faire. He pays the bills by daring middle school students to actually like school and encouraging them to make a mess in his science classroom. He lives in Chicago with his endlessly patient husband, who has tolerated his geeky nonsense for nearly two decades, and two unruly cats who graciously allow Mason and his husband to share the same space with them.

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