A Julia Review: Ardulum: first Don by J.S. Fields

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Ardulum. The planet that vanishes. The planet that sleeps.

Neek makes a living piloting the dilapidated tramp transport, Mercy’s Pledge, and smuggling questionable goods across systems blessed with peace and prosperity. She gets by—but only just. In her dreams, she is still haunted by thoughts of Ardulum, the traveling planet that, long ago, visited her homeworld. The Ardulans brought with them agriculture, art, interstellar technology…and then disappeared without a trace, leaving Neek’s people to worship them as gods.

Neek does not believe—and has paid dearly for it with an exile from her home for her heretical views.

Yet, when the crew stumbles into an armed confrontation between the sheriffs of the Charted Systems and an unknown species, fate deals Neek an unexpected hand in the form of a slave girl—a child whose ability to telepathically manipulate cellulose is reminiscent of that of an Ardulan god. Forced to reconcile her beliefs, Neek chooses to protect her, but is the child the key to her salvation, or will she lead them all to their deaths?

Ardulum: First Don by J. S. Fields is the first entry in the “Ardulum”-series. Though I must say that I’m in general not a big reader of sci-fi, the plot for this caught my interest and in the end found myself rather enjoying this novel.

It is not difficult to see that quite a lot of work and thought went into world building here. The book features a wide diversity of different alien races all with their own very unique customs and habits, a well-thought-out system of political structures and quite creative but in the context of the story plausible technologies.

The characters and their plights easily grab your attention right away as well. For one there is Neek who is the only exile from her home planet in the entire galaxy. Torn between the wish to see her family again and the rejection of her government’s policies, her internal struggle becomes even worse when she comes face to face with living proof that there might be some truth to those myths she has been fighting against after all. Still, you get the feeling that despite her conflicts, she still holds on to a certain kindness and compassion that motivates her to protect an innocent child despite the ramifications for her own position and believes.

And then there is Emn, a slave girl who has been put through a lot of pain and trauma. I was rather intrigued by following events from her point of view and how she sees the world around her. The bond that forms between Neek and Emn feels very natural and real in my opinion. I especially loved their telepathic communications which at first consisted mainly of mental images before including words as well. Characters’ relationships in general were portrayed in a rather organic, relatable way. I also liked Neek’s interactions with others like her captain or her uncle.

The author really took the job of presenting different species on their own terms very seriously. For example, she uses unique pronouns when talking from the perspective of a certain species. Though it took some getting used to in the beginning, it soon wasn’t a problem anymore and it served to give the character a more distinct voice.

I would definitely recommend this series to fans of sci-fi and just anyone who enjoys a good read filled with issues of race and religion, political confrontations and some well-developed characters. If you are only looking for some hot and fast f/f-action though, this might not be for you. It takes quite a bit for the romance to pick up but what you get instead is well-worth it in my eyes.

The cover art by Natasha Snow is very beautiful. I especially like the colour composition and how the woman harmonizes lovely with the planets and stars.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 248 pages

Published February 27, 2017

by NineStar Press

ISBN: 978-1-945952-64-7

Edition Language: English

A MelanieM Review: The Valet by S.J. Foxx

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

After scandalising his family name, wealthy brat Hugo is kicked out of his parent’s home in NYC, and tossed into the English countryside. There, he must live with his extended family and learn what it means to be a “gentleman,” or be cut off and left without his inheritance.

Brattish, reckless, and out of control, it seems that Hugo may never learn his manners. That is, until he meets his match: a stoic, no-nonsense valet, Sebastian.

Hugo and Sebastian are swept up in a forbidden fling, and they play a game of power.

Can Sebastian get a handle on his master? Or will Hugo’s foolishness leave him penniless?

I enjoy historical fiction and that includes historical romance.  I love it when the author get an era factually correct and then draws me into it, making the times and characters come alive for me.  And I think for the most part S.J. Foxx did that in The Valet.  Set in 1900’s England,  Foxx gives you a very “Upstairs, Downstairs” world of the very rich in England into which tumbles an American cousin called Hugo.

Hugo is the very essence of entitlement and selfishness.  His deeds back home have gotten him banished to England and only if he “turns into an English gentleman”, leaving his caddish ways behind can he hope to return home and claim his own wealth.  Foxx does a great job in giving us Huge the Brat supreme, which he is for most of the story. Too much in my estimation because I absolutely disliked this character.  His personality and likability was so low that I had trouble seeing what attracted Sebastian to him.  If the author had made Hugo Sebastian’s ticket out of England instead of there being an actual emotional tie this book would have made far more sense to me.

So throwing the romance aspect aside because that didn’t work for me, what I thought was interesting (and wished had been enlarged) was “downstairs” or working person element here, including the one that shows  up towards the end of the story.  The imbalance of power and lack of rights is clearly demonstrated here.  Status and money rule and its impact on the lives is reflected accurately in this story.  However, I felt about the romance, this element of The Valet is well done and the writing carries with it emotional heft.

If you like historical fiction, then you might like The Valet as an addition to the stories you have read so far.  I thought the writing was well done, and the author’s take on the times clear and concise.

Cover art by Natasha Snow suits the story well.

Sales Links: 

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details:

ebook
Published October 30th 2017 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781947904125
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttps://ninestarpress.com/product/the-valet/

An Alisa Review: For Better or For Worse by Emery C. Walters

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Rating:  2 stars out of 5

 

It was just going to be a simple Spanish fabada bean and chorizo soup from his grandmother’s favorite recipe. Jake hoped for a nice meal and a better time with his widower father. His dad didn’t seem homophobic, but he just didn’t get that Jake was gay. A quiet dinner might clear the air.

 

But the trip to the supermarket was a disaster involving a bear and some sausage. Then his dad showed up accompanied by a health aide who isn’t quite what she seems. And the bear shows up, too.

 

Stress and rum piles up. Will Jake’s father get a new grandson? Does Jake have a bear in the kitchen and in the bedroom, too? Is this meal one big happy family gathering, or an even bigger disaster?

 

So, I went into this story thinking it would be a short, funny and romantic story, it was not.  This just felt like a big mess to me.  Jake seemed relaxed and calm about his dinner with his father and suddenly he’s inviting someone to join them but forgets to mention it to either.  This was a mess up of misunderstanding and “relationships” that didn’t add up either.  I’m not sure what seemed to push Jake to the bottom of the bottle but it couldn’t have been as new as it seemed for everything to happen the way it did.

 

The cover art by Written Ink Designs is a sweet picture of the characters cooking together, it just doesn’t go with the actual story.

 

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

ebook, 40 pages

Published: September 23, 2017 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781634864626

Edition Language: English

A VVivacious Review: Changing On The Fly: The Second Period Anthology – Various Authors

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Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

Changing on the Fly features four M/M stories about hockey players falling in love on – and off – the ice. It includes the following stories:

1. Head in the Game by Jeff Adams

Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 5

Roger Jacobson is having a hard time getting his head in the game following his disastrous breakup, when things start looking really bad he turns to his roots for help in the form of Coach Barker. What Roger wasn’t expecting was the distraction in the form of Dylan Barker. Can Roger fix his game and his heart?

This story didn’t have any impact on me. It is a nice little unassuming tale but it lacked the depth that makes a story memorable. It’s hard to pin-point what exactly didn’t work in this story because on the surface everything works. The story has a nice premise and the writing is good but nothing about this story left an impression.

In fact on second thought, I felt like things just weren’t hard enough, I don’t know, this story needs a little bit more fight in it. Personally, I was just never that invested in these characters for their story to mean something to me. Otherwise, it is a good read but extremely forgettable.

 

2. Second Chance at Love by Heather Lire

Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

Zach needs a break after the crazy couple of months that see his hockey career end and see him elected as Mayor of Holiday, Vermont. He ends up in Costa Rica ready for a relaxing vacation only to find out that he is sharing his beach house with Tony, his best friend from High School. Will this surprise reunion ignite something new between these two friends?

The one thing I have to mention in regards to this story is that it features no hockey in it, like at all, which was kind of weird and technically doesn’t even feature a hockey player. It features an ex-hockey player. I kind of picked up this anthology for the hockey so that was a bit of a disappointment but then I kind of reset my expectations because even the following story didn’t have much hockey in it.

This story does have my favourite troop friends-to-lovers but it really fails to develop on it. This story is very hot and heavy and I feel like the sexual development kind of occurs at the altar of everything else (like character and story development). So when things do happen they feel a little rushed, especially in regards to that Epilogue. I personally didn’t get to know the characters enough to know for sure that they would end up like they did in the epilogue.

Overall, this is a hot and heavy quickie but not much in the way of story development.

3. Rookie Moves by V L Locey

Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

Riley and Keiffer have made it despite all odds, but now Keiffer finds himself under the spotlight. Will Keiffer be able to get a hold of his life and be able to figure out what he wants to do with his life, or will he crumble under the media blizzard?

I liked this story quite a lot. In fact, I liked it so much that I read the prequel to this one as well after finishing this one.

Riley and Keiffer make an incredible couple. At times it is hard to imagine that such a couple could actually work but then you see them interact and they click so well together that you can’t figure out the doubts you had. Of course, at the core of their relationship is balance Riley has an insurmountable amount of power over Keiffer given that Keiffer is completely dependent on Riley for everything and as of yet can’t support himself and at times that power dynamic does err on the wrong side. If things unbalance even a bit this story could be a mess but for the most part, the author has the balance between these two figured out because these two need solid boundaries between pushing and demanding.

But on the whole, I loved this story as it follows Keiffer. We see him grow into himself and finally figure out what he wants to do with his life which coupled with the amazingness of Riley and Keiffer makes for one hell of a story.

4. Secrets by RJ Scott

Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

Benji is a skater on the Colchester Colts and he is used to being chirped on for his short height, especially from Avery Lester, the defenseman for the Carlisle Rush. When Benji makes a single inappropriate comment about Avery’s ass, it has an unexpected outcome. 

Avery comes to Benji for guidance, to figure out how to be a gay man in a hockey league, while Benji wants to help he also needs to guard his heart. Will Benji succeed or fail, miserably?

This story was my most favourite of the lot. I loved it, like so, so, so much.

God, it was amazing! I loved Benji and Avery so much, they like completely made my day. God these two were so adorable together and it was just so heartrending to have Benji trying to protect his heart but failing, so spectacularly. Like there was just something about Benji falling in love that had me so emotional.

Avery and Benji were amazing characters and I think the thing that really worked for their story was all that focus on hockey. Their story really tied in with Hockey as a concept and as a game and was used amazingly to further the plot.

God! This one was amazing, and I am not very good at expressing just how good it was but it was amazing. It is not only one of my most favourite stories from this anthology but this is like one of my most favourite stories ever.

 

Cover Art by Jen Needles which I really liked.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Charity Anthology\All proceeds from the anthology will be donated to a charity that supports inclusiveness in athletics.

The anthology will be available starting in October 4, 2017, for a limited time only.

ebook
Published October 4th 2017 by Gone Writing Publishing
ISBN139781370424719

Anna Butler Scarabs, Inspiration and her latest release The Jackal’s House ( Lancaster’s Luck #2) (guest post, excerpt, and giveaway)

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The Jackal’s House ( Lancaster’s Luck#2) by Anna Butler
Dreamspinner Press

Publication Date: 30 October 2017
Cover Artist: Reese Dante,Illustrator (Map): Margaret Warner

Buy Links

Dreamspinner Press ebook  |  Dreamspinner Press paperback

Amazon.com  |  Amazon.co.uk  |  Kobo  | Apple iBooks

Kobo 

B&N  

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is  happy to have Anna Butler here today on her tour for The Jackal’s House. Welcome, Anna.

✒︎

The Tickle Of Scarabs’ Feet by Anna Butler

You might have thought I got scarabs out of my system with the first Rafe and Ned book, The Gilded Scarab, but no, not quite. I couldn’t see how to set a book in Aegypt and not include the most mystical beetle of all somewhere. Scarabs are so quintessentially Egyptian, Rafe himself remarks, “I was fated to be haunted by the damned things.” So in The Jackal’s House I gave him a couple of experiences of my own where scarabs are concerned. One was rather sad, when my first ever live scarab ended up as a lizard’s lunch, so we won’t revisit that here. That’s rather too strong a reminder of how death is the prevailing characteristic of Ancient Egypt!

Instead, here’s something more heartwarming.

Years ago, in Sakkara, after walking around Djoser’s step pyramid and laying my hand on five thousand years given physical shape, after the cool of the Serapeum where bulls were once feted as gods and mummified like pharaohs, there was a tomb on the desert fringe. I don’t remember now whose tomb it was. Some Old Kingdom noble whose coloured statue still sat in the niche, the serdab, where once his family laid offerings of food and wine. In the doorway to his tomb, in a shallow depression in the sand, the scarabs ran and scuttled. They’re big and black. I was the only member of our group who picked one up and let it sit there, filling the palm of my hand. I’ll admit right now I was a little bit worried that it would bite—those beetles have big jaws. But it didn’t. It just sat there, quite patiently, waiting for me to be done playing. And when I set it down again, and tilted my hand to let it run off back onto the sand. I laughed. Maybe slightly from relief at being unbitten, but mostly because its legs and feet tickled the skin of my palm as it went.

I love beetles. They’re the gems of the insect world, their bodies showing an astonishing range of colour and pattern, often in rich,

jewel colours: ruby red, sapphire, a glorious emerald green. Admittedly, the dull black sacred scarabs of Egypt don’t quite fall into that category, but they have deserts and pyramids on their side instead. They’re emblematic of sand, the Nile, and skies that are the colour of beaten copper at noon—mysterious, a symbol of the romance of ancient Egypt. I can forgive them for being a little dull to look at.

I’m in poetic mood today, for some reason. My husband and I visited Egypt for our first wedding anniversary and now I’ve been writing about archaeological expeditions there, I’ve been thinking a lot about that trip to Egypt. So much of it is in my heart and memory, and certainly one highlight was a big black beetle that consented to sit on my hand for a moment.

You know, I’m not surprised that so much of my writing has a scarab running through it. Scarabs symbolise rebirth and new chances and starting again. Scarabs are about never giving in and how each morning the scarab lifts the disc of the sun up on its wide wings to signal the start of a new day.

That’s not a bad philosophy to live by. Or to write by.

And their feet tickle. You can’t ask better than that.

About The Book

Something is stalking the Aegyptian night and endangering the archaeologists excavating the mysterious temple ruins in Abydos. But is it a vengeful ancient spirit or a very modern conspiracy…

Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with Gallowglass First Heir, Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and when Rafe’s House encourages him to join Ned’s next archaeological expedition, he sees a chance for it to deepen further. Since all the Houses of the Britannic Imperium, Rafe’s included, view assassination as a convenient solution to most problems, he packs his aether pistol—just in case.

Trouble finds them in Abydos. Rafe and Ned begin to wonder if they’re facing opposition to the Temple of Seti being disturbed. What begins as tricks and pranks escalates to attacks and death, while the figure of the Dog—the jackal-headed god Anubis, ruler of death—casts a long shadow over the desert sands. Destruction follows in his wake as he returns to reclaim his place in Abydos. Can Rafe and Ned stand against both the god and House plots when the life of Ned’s son is on the line?

Genre: Steampunk adventure m/m romance
Wordcount: c111,600
Sequel to The Gilded Scarab

About The Series

The Gilded Scarab

The Jackal’s House

Lancaster’s Luck is set in a steampunk world where, at the turn of the 20th century, the eight powerful Convocation Houses are the de facto rulers of the Britannic Imperium. In this world of politics and assassins, a world powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston and where aeroships fill the skies, Captain Rafe Lancaster, late of Her Majesty’s Imperial Aero Corps, buys a coffee house in one of the little streets near the Britannic Museum in Bloomsbury.

So begins the romantic steampunk adventures which have Rafe, a member of Minor House Stravaigor, scrambling over Londinium’s rooftops on a sultry summer night or facing dire peril in the pitch dark of an Aegyptian night. And all the while, sharing the danger is the man he loves: Ned Winter, First Heir of Convocation House Gallowglass, the most powerful House in the entire Imperium.

Find out more about the Lancaster’s Luck books and the world of Rafe and Ned

Excerpt

We didn’t stay up late. It was barely ten when we headed up to our rooms on the second floor, trailed by Sam and Hugh. Todd was out at the aerodrome, keeping watch with his men over the Brunel.

“I’ll be glad to get back to the dig tomorrow,” Ned said. “Come and have a cigar and some brandy, Rafe.”

Which invitation I was quick to accept, as you might imagine. Hugh gave me a knowing grin and went off to his own room with nary a backward glance. Ned’s room, beside mine, overlooked the Ezbekieh Gardens. Sam had left the floor-to-ceiling windows open when we went down to dinner, the billowing muslin curtains filtering the sounds and smells of the Cairo night. The faint scent of woodsmoke and tarry aether rolled in as an autocar went by on its way to the Abdeen Palace where the Khedive held court.

Sam was suddenly the perfect servant. He brought Ned and me glasses of a fine champagne cognac and a box of fragrant cigars before moving on silent feet to close the window shutters against the night and light the lamp on a small table near the bed. The little screw-valve at the side of the globe squeaked as he turned it clockwise to open the pipe, the luminiferous aether hissing louder than a snake at the zoo when someone taps the glass sides of its terrarium. Sam adjusted each lamp to a warm glow inside the big glass globe by passing his hand over it. The lightning in the globe sprang into life, crackling and spitting as it followed his palm. He was careful not to make the room too bright, leaving thick dark shadows inhabiting the corners.

“I’ve locked the outer door, and I’ll sleep in there.” He nodded to a sort of anteroom that led to the main corridor. “I’ll close the door, but keep the noise down. I don’t want to hear nothing. G’night.”

It was difficult not to laugh. Dear Sam. I felt really quite mellow toward him, a sentiment he’d no doubt resent intensely. Ned grinned at me as soon as the door closed behind Sam, and dear Lord, but I just had to kiss him. Couldn’t help myself.

We took our time getting down to our skin. It wasn’t something to be rushed. Aesop’s tortoise had it almost right: less haste, more pleasure.

For a while I was content with kisses, Ned’s face so close that drowning in those hazel eyes was a real possibility. The touch of Ned’s tongue against mine had me making rather embarrassingly soft noises in the back of my throat. You know, getting lost for all eternity in those kisses, in the feel of Ned’s body pressed against mine… I couldn’t think of anything finer.

Our jackets were on the floor somewhere, long abandoned. Now all my attention was on tugging Ned’s shirt out from his trousers and running my hands up underneath it and over the heated skin beneath. Ned moaned and bucked his hips so hard that, laughing, I pulled my mouth from his. “Ah, you liked that, did you?”

Ned moistened his lips and pulled me in closer. “It wasn’t entirely disagreeable.”

Pfft!

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Enter the Rafflecoptor draw for

1st prize—$25 or equivalent Amazon gift card

2nd prize—a signed paperback of the first Lancaster’s Luck book, the Gilded Scarab.

Raffelcoptor code: Raffelcoptor link if can’t embed code: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/a6cd54479/?

About Anna

Anna was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She recently moved out of the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London to the rather slower environs of a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, where she lives with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo.

Piper’s Top Five NHL Defensemen and their release ‘​Off the Ice (Hat Trick #1) by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn ( tour and giveaway)

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Off the Ice (Hat Trick #1) by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn
Riptide Publishing
Cover art by

Read an Excerpt/Purchase it here at Riptide Publishing

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Piper Vaughn here today on her tour for Off the Ice.  Welcome, Piper!

Piper’s Top Five NHL Defensemen

Hi, all! Piper Vaughn, here! Thanks for having me today. In honor of Tristan Holt, who is one of the main characters in OFF THE ICE – and a defenseman for my and Avon Gale’s fictional hockey team, the Atlanta Venom – I’ve decided to talk a little bit about my five favorite NHL defensemen. If you’re an ice hockey fan and you haven’t heard of these guys, they’re all worth checking out! 😀

Colton Parayko, St. Louis Blues

If you’ve already read OFF THE ICE and saw the dedication, you won’t be surprised to see Colton Parayko as the first name on this list. Avon and I have been open about the fact that Parayko inspired our character, Tristan, and the plot for the book itself. In interviews Parayko comes across as a genuinely nice, bashful, and humble guy. He’s also an amazing defenseman! This is his third season with the Blues, and he’s known for being a playmaker and with every passing season, becoming a more offensive defenseman. He isn’t scoring a ton of goals himself, but he’s getting assists and helping his teammates score, which is crucial. This past off-season, he even signed an impressive 5-year contract extension with the Blues, proof of their faith in him and his developing skillset. I can only see him getting better from here! And his smile is to die for.

Jared Spurgeon, Minnesota Wild

I have a thing for height differences and short, feisty players, and Spurgeon, clocking in at 5’7” (or 5’9”, depending which site you look at) is the shortest d-man on this list. You won’t necessarily find him among the NHL’s top 25 defensemen, but in my opinion, he’s vastly underrated and he’s constantly proving that size isn’t indicative of skill. He’s not a high-scoring defenseman, but he’s consistently good and puts up some respectable numbers in terms of goals and assists. Beyond that, he’s good at creating plays that lead to offensive chances, even if he’s not notching assists on those goals. In other words, he’s helping his team score! I only expect his numbers to improve over the next few years.   

Brent Burns, San Jose Sharks

Burnzie is easily one of the top defensemen in the NHL and well-known for his skills as much as his impressive beard and his toothless grin. Burns is the ultimate offensive defenseman. He scores a lot of goals and notches even more assists. He’s also a goof, and I love his sense of humor. I’m a Sharks fan mostly because of him. Plus, I’ll never forget how supportive and awesome he was with his former teammate, John Scott, during the All-Star Game a couple of years ago. It was, hands down, the most memorable all-star game I’ll ever watch, and Burns was a big part of that.

Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild

When I think of Ryan Suter, one word that comes to mind is solid. If you know your hockey history, you’ll know Ryan Suter is the son of Bob Suter, who played as part of the “Miracle on Ice” team in the 1980 Olympic Games. Much like what I’ve read about his father, Suter loves hockey, his family, and is a humble and dedicated player. He’s a point-scorer, whether it’s goals or assists, and he’s a reliable offensive defenseman – evidenced by consistently solid numbers and his participation in the NHL’s All-Star Games three times in the last 5 seasons. He’s not a flashy player, but he’s definitely a difference maker, and I’ve liked him since I watched his episode of “Becoming Wild” a couple of seasons ago.

Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets

Werenski is the youngest d-man on this list. He’s only 20, but last year he led the NHL rookie defensemen in points. He made a huge impact on the Blue Jackets and was even nominated for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the rookie of the year. To no one’s surprise, last year’s winner was Auston Matthews, who is an incredible player, but it’s still impressive Werenski finished third in the voting! I love bb!players and seeing them do so well. He has an exciting future ahead of him, and I’m really looking forward to watching him develop.

And those are my top five, although it wasn’t easy to narrow it down. The league is filled with so many talented players, and I have a soft spot for defensemen and goalies… but the goalies I’ll save for another post. ;D

 In the Hat Trick series, love and hockey collide—and create enough heat to melt the ice. Join the players as they chase both the Stanley Cup and their own personal happily ever afters.

About Off the Ice

Tristan Holt is nothing if not pragmatic. Despite a flourishing career as a defenseman for the Atlanta Venom, Tristan knows he can’t play hockey forever. One day he’ll retire—if an injury doesn’t force him to hang up his skates first. His backup plan? Finishing his business degree. But he doesn’t count on a very inappropriate attraction to his standoffish sociology professor, Sebastian Cruz.

Sebastian is on the bottom rung of the Sociology Department at Georgia State. He has his sights set on tenure, and he can’t afford to be distracted, especially not by a sexy student with a body straight out of Sebastian’s dreams. No matter how much Tristan tempts him, that’s one line Sebastian won’t cross. At least not until summer classes end. After that, everything is fair game.

But Sebastian lives loud and proud, and Tristan is terrified of being the first out player in the NHL. Neither of them can afford to risk their hearts when they can’t imagine a happily ever after. The problem is, unlike hockey, when it comes to love, there are no rules.

Available now from Riptide Publishing. http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/off-the-ice

About Avon Gale

Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal Midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert, and will never say no to candy.

At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.

Connect with Avon:

Website: www.avongalewrites.com

Blog: www.avongalewrites.com/category/blog/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/avongalewrites

Twitter: @avongalewrites

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/avongalewrites/

Instagram: www.instagram.com/avongale/

 

About Piper Vaughn

Piper Vaughn wrote her first love story at eleven and never looked back. Since then, she’s known that writing in some form was exactly what she wanted to do. A reader at the core, Piper loves nothing more than getting lost in a great book—fantasy, young adult, romance, sci-fi, she loves them all (and has an over-two-thousand-book library to prove it!). She’s an avid tea drinker, a hockey fanatic, a vintage typewriter collector, and loves to travel so much she has “wanderlust” tattooed on her ankle and dozens of countries on her bucket list. Recently, she discovered the world of nail art and realized she’s pretty handy with a paintbrush—as long as it’s a miniature one.

  • As a bisexual and Latinx person, Piper takes great pride in her heritage. She grew up in an ethnically diverse neighborhood and strives to put faces and characters of every ethnicity in her stories, so her fictional worlds are as colorful as the real one. She currently resides in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband, son, and a cat that has Piper wrapped around her little paw. Above all, she believes that everyone needs a little true love in their life … even if it’s only in a book.

 

Connect with Piper:

Website: http://pipervaughn.com/

Blog: https://pipervaughn.wordpress.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pipervaughn

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pipervaughn

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pipervaughn7/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/piper.vaughn/

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Giveaway

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Love Historical Romance? Check Out the Latest Release The Valet by S.J. Foxx (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The Valet

Author: S.J. Foxx

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: October 30, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 50300

Genre: Historical, 1920s, historical, jazz age, class difference, high society, england, aristocracy

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Synopsis

After scandalising his family name, wealthy brat Hugo is kicked out of his parent’s home in NYC, and tossed into the English countryside. There, he must live with his extended family and learn what it means to be a “gentleman,” or be cut off and left without his inheritance.

Brattish, reckless, and out of control, it seems that Hugo may never learn his manners. That is, until he meets his match: a stoic, no-nonsense valet, Sebastian.

Hugo and Sebastian are swept up in a forbidden fling, and they play a game of power.

Can Sebastian get a handle on his master? Or will Hugo’s foolishness leave him penniless?

Excerpt

The Valet
S.J. Foxx © 2017
All Rights Reserved

One: Mahogany & Silk

The day was like smudged charcoal, and the sky poured with rain that hammered against a bottle green car roaring over the hills. In the back of the automobile, Hugo Bentley slumped lower in his seat, vastly unimpressed by his welcome to England. He pulled his fedora down over his face and closed his eyes against the waterlogged scenery.

Everything in this country, so he had heard, was miserable. From the stiff upper lip and cold shoulder the British were renowned for, right down to their lifeless taste in fashion.

The young man had left behind the buzz of New York City, where jazz filled the streets and pretty girls in cocktail bars wore feathers in their hair. He’d spent his nights in smoky halls with a cigar between his lips and a deck of cards in his hands. There he’d thrived amongst glitzy lights of Times Square, with wind in his hair as he hummed down the streets in the back of a Revere.

Life had been late nights and side-splitting laughter, with the occasional bottle of moonshine to pass around his circle of young educated men.

Unfortunately, Hugo’s hedonistic existence had been discovered by his enraged parents but only after it had been discovered by the press. The twenty-year-old heir to a steel business had been found in bed with the wife of his father’s business partner. A simple tip off to the papers had led to the devastation of the Bentley family’s hard-earned good name.

Sickened by the very sight of him, his parents had sent Hugo packing. They’d shooed him to the English countryside, where he could redeem himself under the watchful gaze of his aunt and uncle, Ethel and Henry Harrington. With their help, Hugo could learn a thing or two about being a gentleman.

With the bleak green backdrop of the moors replacing the distractions of a big city, his parents had decided it was the perfect location to stop Hugo from getting himself into trouble. This was his opportunity to fix things. He either straightened up his act, or he’d be cut off. He just prayed the Harringtons weren’t too awful.

Exhausted from his week-long trip, the lull of the motor and the drifting of his thoughts sent Hugo to sleep.

When he next woke, the sky had darkened into an indigo blue and the rain had subsided into a haze that made the air thick with a sticky moisture. He pushed his fedora back onto his head and turned his heavy-lidded gaze outside. The stark silhouette of Finchley Hall loomed in the distance, behind wrought-iron gates.

It was surrounded by endless green lands and a patch of woods that stretched out as far as the next village. It was a foreboding home with ivy garlands creeping up the pristine white walls. A great marble balcony overlooked the driveway with cascading steps that led to the front door, polished and black with a silver knocker in the shape of a lion’s head.

Potted trees, groomed to precision, were lined up like guardsmen alongside the gravel path. Hugo groaned and turned away. These were the types of homes that the prissiest, insanely wealthy people owned. Aunt Ethel had married well. He was certain her husband was going to be insufferable.

The car weaved around the stunning marble fountain, the soft sigh of the falling water a sweet song that resonated in the surrounding silence. They followed the gravel path and the car began to slow, tyres crunched over the stones until they stopped outside what was to be Hugo’s home for the next year.

On the flagstone threshold, a welcoming party waited to greet him.

“Welcome to Finchley Hall, sir,” a plump silver-haired man with a jolly face said as he opened the car door. Behind him stood servants. There were valets, footmen, and maids alike, lined up shoulder to shoulder like an army platoon, straight-faced and pristine. Hugo could only assume this man was their butler. Their commander in chief.

“Thanks,” Hugo replied flatly. Removing his hat, he ruffled up his sandy-blond curls and clambered out of the car with the help of a gloved hand, then turned his chin to observe the band of servants with interest.

Their uniforms were extravagant. The men wore white bow ties and beautifully tailored black tailcoats, with gleaming brass buttons. The valets wore forest green waistcoats, and the taller footmen wore grey. The maids were attired in simple black dresses and white aprons with ruffled edges, their hair pinned back into neat, simple buns.

The Harrington family appeared at the door then. First was Aunt Ethel, a mirror image of his mother, with copper curls all swept up into an elegant bun. She was a little thing with ivory skin and soft green eyes like his own. Her thin mouth pulled taut when she looked at her nephew.

“Hugo,” she said stiffly, as if the word tasted sour. She folded her arms across her chest and wrinkled her nose.

Hugo turned to look at her and glowered. Turning the rim of his hat around in his hands, he gingerly approached the grand prison. “Ethel,” he grumbled, equally unimpressed.

“Show some courtesy, boy.” Ah, and there was Uncle Henry, barrelling through the door shortly after his wife—a robust man who enjoyed one too many sweets. He had a hardened, weather-beaten face like tanned leather. The trenches had been hard on him.

“You’ve disgraced your family and gotten yourself into a damn mess, Hugo. We’ve been kind enough to take you into our home and this is how you greet my wife?” he scoffed.

“Henry, not out here on the balcony,” Ethel snapped. “The servants are listening. What is the matter with you?”

Hugo’s fingers tightened around the rim of the hat, and he straightened his back, drawing his shoulders in against his neck. This was the man who was supposed to help him become a gentleman? Goodness.

“Apologies, Uncle, Aunt Ethel. It’s been a long trip. Tiredness has gotten the better of me,” he said and pinched the bridge of his nose. He felt rather like a chastised infant.

“I won’t hear any excuses, Hugo. If we are to do this for you, you will show us the respect we deserve, or we’ll send you straight back home and you can forget about your damn future.” Uncle Henry’s big hands were turning white as they tightened around the balcony frame.

“Henry,” Ethel hissed.

“I understand. I meant no offence, honestly,” Hugo said. It was hard to try to keep his tone even, to keep the venom out of it. What a ridiculous overreaction.

His uncle looked back at him blankly, his gaze roaming across his clothes until his face wrinkled into a frown. “Funny choice of attire, no?” he grumbled, raising a brow, trying to change the subject, no doubt. Perhaps he could feel the beady eyes of his wife burning into his temple.

Hugo tugged at the sleeve of his mustard tweed travelling coat, grateful for the new direction of conversation. “Fashion is very different in New York, Uncle.”

“I’ll say!” Henry said, looking down at the hat he clutched to his chest too.

From the corner of his eye, Hugo caught the flickering expression of a servant, whose forehead creased and brows knit together, puckering up his face as though he’d bitten into a lemon. He was eyeing up his mustard tweed too.

Hugo met his gaze and the slightest hint of a smile lifted the footman’s mouth before he looked away.

“Hugo!”

His curly-haired cousin came bounding out of the door and hurried down the steps to greet him in the courtyard. She opened up her arms and wrapped them tightly around his shoulders, squeezing. Scrambling to try to reach, she pushed herself onto her tiptoes and planted a quick kiss on both of his cheeks.

“Dear Arabella.” Hugo gave her his best smile, rather cheered by the contrast in greeting. He took her by the shoulders and leaned back to get a good look at her. The only Harrington he’d previously met, she’d visited America with her maid a couple of times in the past. “Goodness, you shot up! You were the size of a bunny when we last met.”

“I’m a woman now.” She preened, giving a little twirl. Her coral dress fanned out, circling around her.

“You are not a woman until you find a suitable man willing to marry you,” huffed Aunt Ethel, shaking her head.

“I’m only sixteen, Mama! I don’t need to find a husband yet.”

Ethel only sighed. “Now, let us not dilly-dally outside, talking nonsense. Hugo has had a long trip. Edward will carry up your things, Hugo, and once you feel rested, we will introduce you formally to everybody else. For now, you only need to know Edward. He’ll be your valet for the duration of your stay, and Thompson, he’s in charge of the household staff.” Ethel gestured to the jolly-faced man who had greeted him.

Hugo’s gaze flickered back to that tall man with the mischievous smile, but it was the shorter man beside him who nodded his greeting.

Inside Finchley Hall, it smelled of polished wood and the greasy duck that was cooking away in the oven downstairs.

Chandeliers drenched in crystals hung from the wooden buttresses, and beneath them, a beautiful Persian rug filled the hallway floor space.

The grand staircase was carpeted in plush red, complemented by the wrought-iron banister, fashioned into curling roses that spiralled alongside the stairs.

Edward scurried up the stairs. He had a shock of blond hair, a button nose, and the mannerisms of a mouse. Edward showed him to his room without speaking a single word other than goodbye.

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Meet the Author

SJ hails from a quaint, modest town in the north of England. However, for the past three years, she has been swept up in the whirlwind of London life, where people don’t make eye contact. Admittedly, she only moved here for the theatre.

A self-confessed geek; lover of the history, travelling and musicals. SJ loves to spend her weekends in museums, wandering around antique bookshops, or finding new, quirky places to explore. She feels blessed to be from a multi-cultural background, with an Irish mother and an African father.

Soppy as she is, you can be sure to find light-hearted, fluffy books from this author, with just a light sprinkle of feels.

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