A MelanieM Review: The Unexpected Santa (The Sin Bin #5) by Dahlia Donovan


Ratings: 4.5 stars out of 5

When a rugby bad boy butts heads with a retired Marine, which alpha male becomes top dog?

Scottie Monk came out of the womb angry at the world. He’s selfish and bitter. “Bah humbug!” rolls off his tongue far easier than “Happy Christmas.”

Gray Baird has dedicated his life to public service as a Marine Corps officer and later as a police chief. The decorated hero finds it impossible to ignore autistic twins in desperate need of holiday spirit. He’ll be the grumpiest Santa in the world if it puts a smile their faces. And he’ll drag a reluctant Scottie along for the ride.

This December, Gray and Scottie collide while unexpectedly playing Santa.

The Unexpected Santa (The Sin Bin #5) by Dahlia Donovan is more like a prelude to the next story, a setup really,  to the much anticipated full blown clash that’s coming between Scottie Monk and Gray Baird in The Lion Tamer.

However, taken within that context?  It’s a wonderful anticipatory delight of a short story.  For all of the previous four novels, Scottie Monk’s atrocious behavior within the close group of ex rugby players has gone from extremely annoying to using hate language, stalking,  and throwing punches.  He’s constantly drunk and when sober, his behavior is sometimes even worse.  One by one his former teammates and friends are excluding him from their circle and events.  His  reaction is anger and self pity.

I’ve wondered what Dahlia Donovan was going to do with Scottie.  An unflattering character in the first book, he’s progressed to a horror of self indulgence and denial, certainly not someone a reader could connect with.  When we last saw him, he was being thrown out of a wedding by Gray Baird (laughing…yes love that  name).  The Unexpected Santa picks up directly after that incident.

The autistic twins in the story come from The Royal Marine (The Sin Bin #4, one of my favorites in the series.  They worked then for Akash Robinson, a baker. It’s he who is marrying his former marine, Hamish Ross, friend of Gray Baird.  Yes, the two groups are now deeply intertwined and no story within this series is a standalone.   Like a rich tapestry, the narrative threads run heavy through each tale and couple, twisting and twirling about, tugging the groups closer until they are forming a mesh of relationship dynamics that can’t really be separated out from one another.

Gray is a fascinating character, he has his hidden needs and has been wondering if he will fit in within this group and new location.  Once he sees Scottie Monk, Scottie’s pain, and his actions that seem a cry for stability as well as a cry for someone to take control of his life, well,  Gray responds to Scottie with his corresponding need to do just that. Yes, there will be hot kink involved…most likely in their story The Lion Tamer.  Again, this is just the beginning.

Here we start to see  just how badly messed up Scottie is and what has brought him to this state.  But it’s clear that for Scottie and Gray this is but the tantalizing first dance.  There are so many lovely scenes between Gray and the twins here, (they now work for Aled the Botanist).  The author contrasting the delicacy of paper cranes with the fragility of the twins.  In many ways it is a Christmas story.

The Unexpected Santa is a terrific Christmas prelude for all fans and readers of Dahlia Donovan’s The Sin Bin series.  It’s that delicious taste of what’s to come, combined with the sweetness and joy of the holiday season when the twins come into the picture.

I highly recommend this entire series.  I have listed them all at the bottom of the review.  Read them in the order they were written, enjoy the characters and the men they love.

Cover art by Claire Smith again works beautifully.  Love the coloration and the single snowflake that stands for the book.

Sales Links: Hot Tree Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Published November 11th 2017 by Hot Tree Publishing
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Sin Bin #5

The Sin Bin Series:

1. The Wanderer – BC & Graham

2. The Caretaker – Tens & Freddie

3. The Botanist (short story) – Aled & Wyatt

4. The Royal Marine – Hamish & Akash

5 The Unexpected Santa (short story) – Gray & Scottie

6. The Lion Tamer – Gray & Scottie

7. The Haka Ever After (short story) – Tens & Freddie

8. TBD – Zeb & Silus

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Dyeing to be Loved (Curl Up and Dye Mysteries #1) by Aimee Nicole Walker and Joel Leslie (Narrator)


Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

This story is divided into two parts.  In the prologue, Josh, aka Jazz, Roman, owner of a salon called Curl Up and Dye, witnesses a murder from across the road as he’s taking out the trash one night. Shocked, he immediately calls 9-1-1 to report the crime.  And then he swoons when Gabriel Wyatt, a tall, sexy, and handsome detective arrives on scene.  Though he’s ostensibly not attracted to Gabe, who is way too straight and too uninterested in the effeminate Jazz, it’s Gabe he calls when the murderer shows up a few nights later to take out the eyewitness—Jazz.   Nothing happens, other than animosity, between the two as the prologue, and an epilogue, ends before the actual story begins. 

Jazz has taken a comment Gabe made about Jazz being too femme to heart, and in the early pages of the story, he goes to great lengths to avoid the detective.  That one comment beautifully set up their antagonism, and it returns to haunt them throughout most of the book.  The two share a push and pull attraction as the mystery drama unfolds, even after they find their way to the bedroom.

Jazz is one of those guys who this reader loves to fall in love with—fierce, strong, full of pride and sass. Independent, he also forms strong friendships with those who are his family of the heart, and when one of them is murdered, he’s all-in to help solve the crime—even though he might have to work with Gabe.   

Gabe really likes Jazz, despite his first impression, and he can see what a strong and fiercely independent and loving soul lurks beneath Jazz’s antagonism toward him.  Watching this couple as they push and pull their way to romance is interesting, to say the least.

But it’s Joel Leslie’s narration that saved this book from being just an ordinary MM romance mystery.  The somewhat femme voice he used for Jazz and the deeper, sexy voice he used for Gabe made this a very enjoyable listening experience.

The beginning of the audiobook is a prologue in which a woman who sells potions and predicts future events is murdered.  It’s told from her POV and then is immediately followed by an epilogue.  I’m really not sure why the book was set up this way, and I found it very confusing to listen to in audiobook format. Perhaps if I also had the e-book available I could have looked that over to clear up the point of doing a prologue and epilogue before the main story, but without it, I was not on firm foundation when the main part of the story opened.

The mystery plot in this MM romance was good with lots of twists and turns and possibilities, however, the writing style and execution were poor. There were many adverbial and prepositional phrases out of place—in other words, the way the sentence was structured made the phrase modify the wrong thing or the wrong person.  In my opinion, it needed tighter editing.  I could also “hear” misplaced words and errors.  After all, the narrator can only perform what is on page and sloppy edits show up in audiobooks as well as in e-books. 

But, because of the entertaining narration, I do recommend this to lovers of a fun, sexy, light-hearted mystery romance, and I bumped it up a half star to acknowledge that it’s the audio edition I recommend.


The cover features a photo shot of two sexy men in an embrace.  Very attractive and definitely representative of the two MCs in this story. 

Sales Links:  Audible | Amazon

Book Details:

Audible Audio
Published November 7th 2017 by Aimee Nicole Walker (first published November 8th 2016)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesCurl Up and Dye Mysteries #1 settingOhio (United States)

An Alisa Advent Release Day Review: Poison Marked (2017 Advent Calendar Daily – Stocking Stuffers) by T.J. Nichol

Rating:  3 stars out of 5
Kill his lover or disobey his king and instigate civil war?
As the feared court poison master, Nikko is sworn to do as his king bids. As the lover of the king’s nephew, Lord Rodas, Nikko must hide his affection or risk being labeled a traitor and punished. A former thief who clawed his way into the palace from the filthy streets, Nikko longs to be deserving of Rodas’s love.
A respected war hero, Rodas is in a delicate political situation. He is not the kingdom’s natural heir, though many support his claim over the wastrel, Prince Fortin. The last thing Rodas wants is war. His highest ambition is for Nikko to openly wear the jewels he’s bestowed on him as a public declaration of their love.
Neither man is prepared for the king to order Nikko to poison Rodas during the solstice feast or for the deadly intrigue they’re plunged into, which exposes their affair and rocks the foundations of the kingdom.
This was a nice story, however as I thought when I first read the description it isn’t what one would think of as a Christmas story.  It is focused on the Solstice but doesn’t have the same feel.  I could feel Nikko’s pain of indecision and duty when he is ordered to kill his lover.  Rodas seems genuine but I didn’t really get a good feel for him.  I’m not a fan of the whole have to have an heir thing but I can have a lover also; it just feels too close to cheating to me but in the world they seem to live in it’s the best that  Nikko could hope for.
Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza.  Great cover….for anything but an Advent story.  Not sure how I feel about it.
Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook, 56 pages
Published: December 12, 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language: English

S.A. Stovall on Writing Influences, Characters Traits and her story ‘Thirty-One Days and Legos (Ranger Station Haven #2) (guest blog)


Thirty-One Days and Legos (Ranger Station Haven #2) by S.A. Stovall
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas

Available for Purchase at Dreamspinner Press  and Amazon


Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host S.A. Stovall here today.  Welcome, S.A., and thanks for answering our author questions!


Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with S.A. Stovall


Hello Internet! It’s me, SA Stovall, here to have an interview with the great STaRW team! Happy holidays, and remember to check out my romantic Christmas novella, Thirty-One Days and Legos!

What’s the wildest scene you’ve imagined and did it make it into a story?

I’m not sure what you mean by “wild” but if that means “craziest thing” then I once wrote a scene were a girl cuts her own heart out with a jagged dagger. It was a high fantasy novel, and the girl was immortal (so she wasn’t killing herself) but the pain was real, and the symbology was great.

I’m a lover of adventure and epic moments, so I could list a million instances, but that one still takes the cake as the wildest.

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

Two people played a major role in influences me as teenager: Stephen King and Robert A. Heinlein. I loved that Stephen King wrote in so many genres and with so many characters. My favorite parts of stories are the characters themselves, and while King seems to have a stock of similar character architypes that shows up in most of his books, I still love them all.

Heinlein, on the other hand, explored Mars and beyond, widening my imagination to places beyond Earth. He wove philosophy perfectly into his narrative, and I loved every instance. His characters were also very compelling—Jubal Hershaw is still my favorite.

I want to write memorable characters, like both King and Heinlein. I also want to write in every genre, and explore places far beyond Earth, be it fantasy or Alpha Centauri.

What traits do you find the most interesting in someone? Do you write them into your characters?

I find self-control, intelligence, and honor to be interesting traits. And I write them all the time into my characters! I love subplots of people trying to rein in bad habits (or their temper), and intelligent characters are among my favorite (Jubal Hershaw is a super genius lawyer, basically).

I know honorable characters aren’t always people’s favorite, but I think it takes a lot of stones to know what’s right and stick to it, even if it’s to their detriment. I admire that trait, so a lot of heroes are honorable people.

Have you ever put a story away, thinking it just didn’t work?  Then years/months/whatever later inspiration struck and you loved it?  Is there a title we would recognize if that happened?

Yes, several times. My latest novel, about a space mercenary, basically, was put on hold for quite some time. At first I thought I’d never get it to work, but now that it flows, I couldn’t be happier with it.

I’m sure you’ll see it sometime in the future! Stay tuned!

Have you ever had an issue in RL and worked it through by writing it out in a story?  Maybe how you thought you’d feel in a situation?

A lot of scenes and character interactions that happen in my novels have taken place in real life. I’ve had relationships, some unconventional, and I’ve lived in both terrible poverty and comfortable environments. I like rehashing some of the feelings I had in those moments—finding the right words is almost cathartic. Some memories are painful, but they help me write the scene from a genuine place.

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

Yes. Like I said, I read a lot of King and Heinlein, but I also remember the things I looked for when I was searching for books. I try to appease Teenage-Me when I pick plots and characters for books. “What would I want to read?” I ask. It’s helped out in more ways than one. More adventure! More memorable characters! More romance! More rivalries!

Great stuff.

What’s next for you as an author?

Thirty-One Days and Legos (a feel-good Christmas novella) released Dec. 11 and it’s the sequel to Ranger Station Haven! After that, I have Vice Enforcer, sequel to Vice City (my debut novel) and its more action-adventure with some m/m romance! Vice Enforcer releases April 3rd – I enjoyed writing both of them, so I’m super excited to share them with the world.

Keep an eye out for my next few stories! I hope to keep them coming throughout the years!


Blurb for Thirty-One Days and Legos

Park rangers Carter and Owen Williams have decided to expand their family and adopt two brothers—boys they rescued a year before when they tried to escape the foster system and flee to Canada. After completing their parenting classes, Carter, a reserved man who enjoys the simple life, swears he’ll be the best father possible. His patience is tested, however, when one brother adopts a cat out of the snowy Voyageurs National Park and the other brother refuses to talk about what’s bothering him.

Owen wants to make sure their first Christmas together is a special one, and he decides all of December should be a celebration. He has an activity planned for each of the thirty-one days, but none of them seem to go off without a hitch. The cat has fleas, the boys need to attend a court hearing, and Carter is more than a little overwhelmed.

But Carter is 100 percent determined to make his new family work. He just has no idea how….

About the Author

S.A. Stovall grew up in California’s central valley with a single mother and little brother. Despite no one in her family having a degree higher than a GED, she put herself through college (earning a BA in History), and then continued on to law school where she obtained her Juris Doctorate.

As a child, Stovall’s favorite novel was Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. The adventure on a deserted island opened her mind to ideas and realities she had never given thought before—and it was the moment Stovall realized that story telling (specifically fiction) became her passion. Anything that told a story, be it a movie, book, video game or comic, she had to experience. Now, as a professor and author, Stovall wants to add her voice to the myriad of stories in the world, and she hopes you enjoy.

You can contact her at the following addresses.

Twitter: @GameOverStation

Website: https://sastovallauthor.com/

Riptide Publishing Tour and Giveaway: Operation Green Card (Bluewater Bay #21) by G.B. Gordon


Operation Green Card (Bluewater Bay #21) by G.B. Gordon
Riptide Publishing
Cover art: L.C. Chase

Read an Excerpt/Buy it Here at Riptide Publishing

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host G.B. Gordon’s Operation Green Card tour.

About Operation Green Card

Arkady Izmaylov is a family man. He’s also gay. In Russia. His sister Natalya has been telling him to get out for years, but it’s only after an attack in the street that he finally concedes and says yes to her desperate plan of him marrying a stranger for a green card.

Jason Cooley was taught from birth that he’s no good to anyone. Then the military taught him he was good enough to save other lives, but that purpose got amputated along with his leg. He’s now working security at Wolf’s Landing and sending monthly checks to his ex for their daughter’s education. When Natalya asks him to marry her brother, Jason knows right away he’ll do it more for the mission than the money she’s offering. But when he actually meets Arkady, his mission turns complicated.

Jason quickly discovers he’s not as straight as he thought. He’s also the man of Arkady’s dreams. Arkady must convince Jason that he’s worth loving, and that Arkady won’t disappear from his life like everyone else. Because Arkady has always wanted a family of his own, and he’s not letting go of this one.

Available now from Riptide Publishing!

About Bluewater Bay

Welcome to Bluewater Bay! This quiet little logging town on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula has been stagnating for decades, on the verge of ghost town status. Until a television crew moves in to film Wolf’s Landing, a soon-to-be cult hit based on the wildly successful shifter novels penned by local author Hunter Easton.

Wolf’s Landing’s success spawns everything from merchandise to movie talks, and Bluewater Bay explodes into a mecca for fans and tourists alike. The locals still aren’t quite sure what to make of all this—the town is rejuvenated, but at what cost? And the Hollywood-based production crew is out of their element in this small, mossy seaside locale. Needless to say, sparks fly.

This collaborative story world is brought to you by eleven award-winning, best-selling LGBTQ romance authors: L.A. Witt, L.B. Gregg, Z.A. Maxfield,  Heidi Belleau, Rachel Haimowitz, Anne Tenino, Amy Lane, SE Jakes, G.B. Gordon, Jaime Samms and Ally Blue. Each contemporary novel stands alone, but all are built around the town and the people of Bluewater Bay and the Wolf’s Landing media empire.

Check it out at Riptide Publishing!

About GB Gordon

G.B.Gordon worked as a packer, landscaper, waiter, and coach before going back to school to major in linguistics and, at 35, switch to less backbreaking monetary pursuits like translating, editing, and writing.

Having lived in various parts of the world, Gordon is now happily ensconced in suburban Ontario with the best of all husbands.

Connect with Gordon:

Website and blog: gordon.kontext.ca

Twitter: @gb_gordon

Goodreads: goodreads.com/gbgordon


To celebrate the release of Operation Green Card, one lucky winner will receive a $10 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 16, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Blog Tour for Memory of Me (The Chronicles of Darius #12) by Jess Thomas (excerpt)




Book Title: Memory of Me (The Chronicles of Darius #12)

Author: Jess Thomas

Publisher: Self-Published

Cover Artist: Jess Thomas

Release Date: November 8th 2017

Genre: Gay Romance

Length: 101,506 words/353 Kindle pages



Darius thought he could make it through anything, he was strong and had an inner strength that could pull him through the various trials of his life. However, his strength is going to be put to the ultimate test. Will he be able to cope when he realizes the weapon of destruction could actually be the one thing he lives for? Sometimes the greatest love is the greatest pain.
For the first time, everyone understands the prophecy told so long ago that Darius would be the end of the everything. The loss of white energy would destroy not only him but those he loved and the places he protected. 

An ominous journey to beyond the here and now with two of the greatest powers of the universe is the only way to begin to right what has gone so sorely wrong.

Join Darius in his latest and most important adventure. The fate of so many not only depends on righting so many wrongs, but on understanding and forgiveness.

Memory of Me will thrill and excite you with its heart-rending story.



Buy Links ~ Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US 

Amazon UK

Goodreads Link



The creature followed behind us for some time, holding its head out as a gift, which if you look at it, is an important gift, just not one you really want. If I hadn’t been so stressed by that time, I would have realized he wanted his head back on. But I wasn’t thinking straight, my ashen complexion and trembling lips were a testimony to that.

“Go away,” Bunthar demanded, hitting his staff on the ground. Every time he did, several new cries hit the misty air.

“I’m not loving this,” I called out, trying to get away from the various creatures’ grasps.

“Well, I was,” Bunthar muttered sarcastically, “What about you, Trend?”

At the moment, Trend was pulling his cape back. He must really love his cape because I would have let them have it.

“I think I’ll vacation here,” Trend muttered before letting out several cuss words himself.


December 2

Tangents and Tissues 

Lily G Blunt

December 3

Stories That Make You Smile

December 4

Queer Sci Fi

December 5

MM Midnight Cafe

Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author 

The Blogger Girls

December 6  

Book Lovers 4Ever 

December 7

The Novel Approach  INTERVIEW

Louise Lyons 

December 8

The Way She Reads

December 9

MJ’s Book Blog and Reviews 

December 10

Gay Book Reviews  

December 11  

Bayou Book Junkie

Nell Iris

December 12

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words 

December 20

Drops of Ink  

About the Author

Jess Thomas was born in the mid-west and she has a natural love for nature and animals. A gentle creature born to loving parents who believed in seeing the world for all its beauty, she learned the imperfections in life were something to be treasured and seen as a learning experience. An artist from an early age, she went to art school where she got a degree in drawing and painting, photography, and in Art Education. In 2009 she laid down her paintbrush and she picked up writing and channeling her creative energy in a fresh direction. A new writer, she pours sensitivity and her love of the world she has created into her emotions and the characters who live there.

Social Media Link

Facebook Author Page

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions