A Stella Review: Still The One (The Best Gift #2) by Shawn Lane


RATING 3,75 out of 5 stars

Sequel to The Best Gift

Best friends Malcolm and Dusty have been together as a happy couple for five years. But now Malcolm’s budding career as a stage actor has taken an exciting turn, sending him across the country to Broadway, just as Dustin’s dream of being named Head Chef at the restaurant where he works is coming true.

As the distance tests their relationship, can their love and friendship survive? Can Malcolm find a way to prove to Dusty he’s still the one?

I read the first book in The Best Gift series by Shawn Lane around Christmas time, and although I enjoyed it, it wasn’t a huge success. Nonetheless when I saw this sequel, I wanted to give the author and the characters a second chance and I wasn’t disappointed at all, Still the One was a lovely reading.

What I found here was exactly what I was hoping to have in the first book, I finally felt the characters and saw how they were living their HEA. While The Best Gift seemed to me a little rushed, in this new short I learned more about Malcolm and Dusty, I saw them being truly in love and have a strong attraction, satisfied not just in their romance but in their jobs too. In fact both of them were living the jobs of their dreams. Then things changed and I saw them being scared of their future together.

I was pleasantly surprised with Still the One, well written and engaging, easy and quick to read, although a short story, it was well done. The chemistry between Malcolm and Dusty was pretty hot and the feelings real and clear. I will definitely look for more titles from the author.

The cover art is clean and simple and the colors works well together. I like it.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC  | Amazon


Kindle Edition, 46 pages

Published January 20th 2018 by JMS Books LLC (first published April 11th 2010)

ASIN B078L71T83

Series The Best Gift #2

Edition Language English

An Alisa Audiobook Review: The Long and Winding Road (Bear, Otter, and the Kid #4) by TJ Klune and Sean Crisden (Narrator)


Rating:  4 stars out of 5


Family is not always defined by blood. It’s defined by those who make us whole—those who make us who we are.


And here, at the end, Bear and Otter will be tested like they’ve never been before.


There’s a knock at the door from a little girl who has nowhere else to go.


There’s a phone ringing, bringing news they do not expect.


There’s a brother returning home after learning how to stand on his own.


As these moments converge, all of their lives will change forever.


Beginning in Bear, Otter, and the Kid and continuing in Who We Are and The Art of Breathing, TJ Klune has told a saga of family and brotherhood, of love and sacrifice. In this final chapter, the events of the past pave the long and winding road toward a future no one could have imagined.


This was a nice conclusion to this series.  Bear and Otter finally got the chance to do something for themselves after so many years of selflessness.  It was great to see everyone again and see how their stories continued.


It was easy to connect with the characters as we’ve been seeing them for years.  Which brings me to the one thing that I didn’t enjoy about this story, the first third of the book pretty much recapped the first three books and I guess I didn’t expect that; maybe a little but not to that extent.  I loved seeing Bear and Otter grow their family and really grow into their own some more.


Sean Crisden did a wonderful job narrating this story.  I was able to connect with the characters feel their emotions in his reading as he used different voices for the characters.  His voice changes so much you really get to see the differences with the characters even if I didn’t like the whiny quality to some of the voices he used..


Cover art by Paul Richmond is very nice and follows the basic pattern from the series.


Sales Links:  Audible | Amazon | iTunes


Audiobook Details:

Audiobook, 10 hrs 23 min
Published: December 19, 2017 (ebook first published August 11, 2017) by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language: English

Series: Bear, Otter and the Kid #4

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Friends and Lovers by Tinnean


Rating: 2 stars out of 5

This story is one that was originally written in 2009 and I doubt it’s ever been updated. Tinnean is an author I’ve enjoyed in the past so I jumped at the chance to read this, but I was very disappointed in the writing and in the storyline—almost from the first chapter.  The writing is choppy and it felt campy and disrespectful of gay men.  In fact, at times I wondered if this was written to be a parody of what a good story should be.  And that’s when I investigated and found out when this story was originally written.  I strongly suspect that there was no major revision to the original writing and that really shows here. 

My first surprise came from Tom Weber, described as a short, but muscular, leather daddy. Out of the blue, he decides he’s going to try bottoming and can’t think of anyone better to ask than his bestie, Jack, a straight man who was married three times, though he’s currently single.  Here’s the kicker—Jack immediately agrees.  And then—wait for it—once he does it, he starts planning their lives together—how he’s going to fix little things around the place, home improvements he can make, and more.  Umm, after one night?  And after being straight your whole life?  And that’s how the story goes from there on out.  Lots of strange reactions, lots of let’s try this, and let’s try that.  And never a negative reaction to any of it.

And then the author works back to fill in the story of their friendship over the years, especially during the times of his first marriage when Jack chose his new, Bible-banging wife over his best friend when she put her foot down and wouldn’t allow Tom in their lives.  And then we learn about what his life was like and the next two women he married—each time choosing the women over Tom.  So, I wondered, why on earth would Tom choose him to be his top?  This man abandoned him several times over the course of their supposed friendship.  Hmm, not much made sense here, at all. 

At this point, I discovered that I wasn’t even at the 50% mark.  Tom and Jack are now a couple and are on a vacation and making plans for their future.  I really think that should have been the end point of the story.  Honestly, it was more than enough for one book.  Adding more was overkill.   And in those latter pages, we got to see the two domestic partners as they navigated fatherhood and took on even more responsibility by allowing interns and then other “strays” to stay with them as they kept adding on to their new home, and on and on.  I finally came to suspect that the author wrote a number of short stories, or even a serial and then strung the stories together into a book. There were some very obvious errors in latter chapters that should have been corrected and weren’t.  I’m not happy that a reprint of an older story was presented to readers and that no one read it carefully for errors and inconsistencies. 

Suffice it to say I did not like this book.  I will be very surprised if my gay friends don’t find it campy and demeaning.  Giving it two stars is a stretch and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.


Cover art features a man in construction gear as the primary focus with a handsome, suited man in the background—thereby including both MCs in the cover art. Though I didn’t find it attractive or impressive, it was certainly better than the previous cover that featured two naked men with their hands covering their crotches. 

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details:

Published November 25th 2017 by JMS Books LLC (first published May 26th 2009)
Original TitleFriends and Lovers

R.L. Merrill on Writing, Research, and her new release Hurricane Reese (author interview)


Hurricane Reese by R.L. Merrill
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Kanaxa

 Buy Links:

 Dreamspinner eBook and  Paperback 


Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host R.L. Merrill here today on tour for Hurricane Reese. Welcome!


Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with R.L. Merrill

  • How much of yourself goes into a character?

A lot of me goes into characters, and a lot of people I know show up in aspects of characters. I also tend to have a “muse” for my characters, especially the musicians. I can hear them singing.

  • 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?

I put my characters in experiences I’ve never had before from time to time and so it’s fun to figure out how they’ll react to certain situations because they’re foreign to me. But I’ve also been quite candid with some of the things that have happened to me that have ended up in books.

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

I absolutely love research, but I don’t go crazy. I’ll do just enough to get the right feel into my stories. I don’t tend to write stories where there needs to be a ton of detail. With Hurricane Reese, I’d had experience with the issues involved, but I did talk to friends that are currently caring for their parents as well as a friend who is a nurse in a psychiatric care facility who deals mainly with patients experiencing dementia and Alzheimer’s.

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

I read a lot of Stephen King and Anne Rice as a teen, and I’ve only just become brave enough to dabble with horror and romance together. I loved Judy Blume as a kid and I think I was actually influenced by her tendency to put her characters in real-life situations and grow them as characters while they work out their issues. I’ve done a lot of that. In Hurricane Reese, I wanted to explore a man dealing with the care of his grandparent on his own. I have had a lot of experience with that in the past few years and it really changes you, often for the better. And life tends to go on around you when you are in the thick of it.

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?

Yes! The more personal the story, sometimes I find myself getting a little too into the murky waters and I need to work on something else or lose myself in some books for a few days. With this story, it was different. I loved these characters so much, I couldn’t bear to bring on the black moment. I took a couple of weeks off until I was ready to torture them. It sucked and I was really sad. I cried along with them. But then it makes me work faster toward the end so I can fix everything.

  • Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

I do like them and I write them, but I honestly don’t need them. I read books often that don’t have a happy ending and I actually don’t mind cliffhangers. I had to get past that when I started writing romance because my editor was like “Uh, you can’t do this. Your readers will hate you.” So I gave in. But someday… heh heh

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

I didn’t really, no. As a teen it was horror, and then in my twenties I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers. Patricia Cornwell, Tony Hillerman, Caleb Carr were devoured quickly. But then I got sick and I discovered J.R. Ward and Sherrilyn Kenyon and I was hooked on the darker romances with monsters and action and adventure. Sold! When I started writing, however, that’s not really what came out.

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

I can really only read ebooks now because I need to make the font gigantic in order to read and I love the portability. I read on my phone so I always have a book with me. I get way more reading done that way. You can also sneak books easier when they’re on a phone, you know, when you’re supposed to be doing other adult things? But young folks tend to prefer print so I don’t think they’ll be going away ever.

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

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

What’s next for you as an author?

  • If you write contemporary romance, is there such a thing as making a main character too “real”? 

I don’t think so. In fact, the more real the better for me. Yes, contemporary romance should be an escape and fantasy for the reader, but honestly, I like characters who are real and who have to deal with real-life issues.

  • Do you think you can bring too many faults into a character that eventually it becomes too flawed to become a love interest?

There are certain no nos for me as a reader. Cheating? I can’t go there. I don’t like love triangles much. So those things, while not necessarily character flaws, I don’t dig them. I can deal with some pretty damaged characters so I don’t know if a flaw necessarily makes someone unlovable. I tend to have hope and believe in redemption.

  • Ever drunk written a chapter and then read it the next day and still been happy with it?  Trust me there’s a whole world of us drunk writers dying to know.

I don’t drink anymore, so unless I’m drunk on chocolate and Diet Coke, probably not. I have had a drunk shopping experience that my husband has never let me forget. It involved a certain red and orange sundress. I did try to write whilst in the throes of ‘roid rage. I have frequently had to take steroids for my asthma, which leads to late night insanity, so yeah, I don’t recommend that.

  • If you could imagine the best possible place for you to write, where would that be and why?

I love to write around people. My favorite places have an all-you-can-drink soda fountain and good music. I have done some amazing writing at our #wordsonthepage retreats sponsored by the San Francisco Area Romance Writers of America group. We went to Fort Bragg, CA and stayed in an old bed and breakfast and I got like 14k written! And I’m headed to Grass Valley, CA in three weeks and I have lofty goals for this one too. But the next best thing is curling up in my bed or on my couch with my dog and cats. They are great writing assistants.

  • With so much going on in the world today, do you write to explain?  To get away?  To move past?  To wide our knowledge?  Why do you write?

When I started, it was to deal with an awful situation I’d found myself in. Then it was to deal with the death of my father. Then it morphed into a way to keep me sane while trying to work as a teacher and keep up with my two busy children. It was something that was mine. And now, it drives me, motivates me, and keeps me moving forward.

  • What’s next for you as a writer?

Hurricane Reese will be out 1/30, then I will release three anthology pieces in May and August. Other than that, I’m hoping Reese will become a series, I’m working on finishing some stories in my self-published worlds, and I’ll be attending RT Reno, RWA in Denver, and hopefully the Dreamspinner Workshop in September. I hope to get to meet more readers and authors in the coming months!

Thank you so much for having me and thanks for supporting stories of romance and hope!

—R.L. Merrill



Tony award-winning musician Reese Matheson’s life resembles a natural disaster, and caregiver Jude De La Torre is caught in the eye of the storm. Can the love these two opposites find together survive caring for an ornery octogenarian with wayward balls and a meddling family insistent upon tradition?


A public break-up is not what Reese expects upon returning from the successful run of his musical in London. All he wants to do is spend time with his beloved grandfather and musical mentor, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Reese knows he doesn’t have much time left before the elder Matheson doesn’t remember him. In classic “Hurricane Reese” form, he moves into the cottage by the sea, displacing Jude, the intriguing caregiver he’d hired two years before. When Grandpa proves too much for Reese to handle on his own, Jude comes to his rescue, taming Grandpa… and the Hurricane as well. Soon all Reese can think about is how to get Jude out of his scrubs and into his bed. Permanently. Will Hurricane Reese destroy everything in its wake, or will this gay odd couple learn to harmonize together?

Spotify Playlist Link: https://open.spotify.com/user/rlmerrillauthor/playlist/79BaPjDRZXUwVr5tPI9FNC

About the Author

Once upon a time… a teacher, tattoo collector, mom, and rock ’n’ roll kinda gal opened up a doc and started purging her demons. Several self-published books and a debut gay romance with Dreamspinner Press later, R.L. Merrill is still striving to find that perfect balance between real life and happily ever after. She writes stories set in the places she loves most, such as Hollywood, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Northern California—and Iowa. Ro also loves connecting with other authors online, at the annual Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, and chapter meetings for the Romance Writers of America, of which she’s been a member since 2014.

A sucker for underdogs, Ro has adopted a wide variety of pets including cats, dogs, rats, a snake and fish. Her love of horror is evident the moment you walk in her door and find yourself surrounded by decorative skulls and quirky artwork from around the world. You can find her lurking on social media where she loves connecting with readers, educating America’s youth, being a mom taxi to two busy kids, in the tattoo chair trying desperately to get that back piece finished, or head banging at a rock show near her home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Connect with Ro:

Website: http://www.rlmerrillauthor.com

Twitter: @rlmerrillauthor

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/rowritesrocknromance

And stay Tuned for more Rock ’n’ Romance.

Shira Anthony on Writing the Happily Ever After and her latest release Swann’s Revenge (author guest post, excerpt, and giveaway))


Swann’s Revenge by Shira Anthony
Dreamspinner Press
Dreamspun Desires
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

Buy Links:  

Dreamspinner Press |  Amazon |  Kobo |  Barnes & Noble iTunes 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Shira Anthony here today on tour for Swann’s Revenge.  Welcome, Shira!

Writing the Happily Ever After, Dreamspun-Style, by Shira Anthony

Thank you, Melanie and company, for hosting this stop on the Swann’s Revenge Book Tour! I’m so happy to share my third entry in the Dreamspun Desires line of romance-forward, tropey love stories from Dreamspinner Press. Be sure to read to the bottom of the post about how to enter to win a cool unisex leather heart bracelet to celebrate the book tour and read an excerpt from the story.

I’ve been a romance reader since as far back as I can remember. I don’t have nearly enough time to read anymore, but when I do, it’s almost always gay romance. But whether it’s gay, lesbian, or het romance, the elements are usually the same. That’s especially true for Dreamspun Desires books, which follow the old Harlequin/category-romance formulas and tropes.

For me, the best part of any romance is the HEA. I don’t write books without them, and I don’t read them either. If it’s a sad ending, it is so not for me! Even more so with the Dreamspun line, the HEA is key. But what does it take to end up with a truly satisfying HEA?

A great happily-ever-after is almost entirely dependent upon the tension the author creates.

I know you’ve stayed up reading late into the night because you have to know what happens. I definitely have! Why? Because you can’t stand leaving the two MCs hanging. You need to know that MC 1 is going to forgive MC 2 for not having told him something important. Or maybe it’s that MC 2 hasn’t told MC 1 how he feels. The thing that keeps you hanging—that keeps you reading even though you’re going to sleep through your next day—is tension. Pure and simple. And what do you get after the tension?

HEAs are all about resolution of tension between the main characters: the more powerful the tension, the sweeter the HEA.

In the Dreamspun line, you’re not going to find the all-out-angst you might in a more dramatic romance. But you will feel the tension build toward the resolution. And when that resolution comes? You’ll probably be smiling. Or letting out a long sigh.

Swann’s Revenge is no exception. When Graham and Dan meet, sparks fly. But both men have pasts that influence who they are and what they expect from a relationship. For Graham, who left behind his ugly-duckling high school self, his past is a secret he doesn’t have the courage to share. And that secret could spell the end of his fledgling relationship with Dan. That’s the tension that needs a HEA. And I guarantee you’ll get the HEA. I hope it’ll leave you smiling, too.

Happy reading, and don’t forget to comment on this post to be entered to win the cool unisex “Follow your heart” bracelet I’m giving away at the end of the tour! –Shira


Can a swan make peace with his ugly duckling past? 

Chubby geek Jimmy Zebulon’s heart broke the day his high school crush, Danny Parker, looked on as his teammates tormented Jimmy. Fifteen years later, Jimmy is long gone, and from his ashes has risen Graham Swann, a movie-star-handsome law firm owner. Graham thinks Jimmy and his past are long forgotten—until attorney Dan Parker shows up for his first day of work. 

Getting injured playing college ball was the best thing that ever happened to Dan. It turned his future in a better direction and allowed him to emerge from the closet that trapped him.

Graham wants to believe his childhood dream can come true, but he can’t bring himself to tell Dan who he really is—and their pasts might ruin any chance for a happily ever after….




“Terri tells me you’re from my neck of the woods,” Dan said and leaned back in his chair.

Graham met Dan’s gaze. The urge to shift in his seat passed as he reasserted control. “Oh? Where would that be?” He made it his practice never to divulge too much about himself. Even Terri, whom he’d met when they were both taking prep classes for the Tennessee bar examination, only knew so much. The past was best forgotten.

“Carletonville. My folks still live out there.” Dan chuckled. “They still go to all the football games at Merrill High.”

Graham pretended the name hadn’t made his stomach drop into his feet. The back of his neck felt cold and clammy. “How nice,” he said evenly. “Did you play?”

“I did. But that was a long time ago,” Dan said with a sigh and shake of his head. “A different lifetime.”

“I see.” Graham glanced at his watch. He needed to end this interview soon or he’d lose his composure.

Fortunately, Dan got the message and stood. “I’m probably keeping you from something. I’m sure we’ll have more time to chat later.”

“I’ll have my assistant set up a few hours for us to go over strategy tomorrow morning.” Graham smiled and added, “Good to have you aboard.”

“Thanks again.”

Graham watched Dan leave, all the while struggling to keep his discomfort from showing. Dan closed the door behind him and Graham let out a long breath. How had he missed it before?

The Invincible Danny Parker. North Carolina All- State Quarterback of the Year. Full ride at Carolina. NCAA All-America Quarterback. A shoo-in for the pros until he tore his ACL in his senior year and had to quit the game.

Graham thought he’d forgotten what it felt like to sit in the mud as half the football team looked on and laughed, but he’d been wrong. All his memories came barreling back, and with them the pain and humiliation of fifteen years before.

The day after, he’d quit the band. When his mother remarried in June, they moved to Memphis and he took his stepfather’s name. He grew nearly eight inches his senior year.  He put high school and the chubby kid behind him. In college, he learned he didn’t have asthma at all—he’d been allergic to the mold in the Carletonville apartment where he and his mother lived. He started to exercise. His roommate taught him to play racquetball and he started running regularly. He got into shape and learned to imitate the way the popular students dressed. He was accepted into a great law school and never looked back.

Fifteen years before, Jimmy Zebulon, the chubby kid with a face covered in zits, left Carletonville and never returned. Jimmy had moved on with his life. He’d banished the memories and the shame. He’d been absolutely fine.

Until now.


About the Author

About Shira: Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer in her last incarnation, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, i Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle. You can hear Shira singing “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca by clicking here: Shira’s Singing

Shira loves a great happily-ever-after and never writes a story without one. She’s happy to write what her muse tells her, whether it’s fantasy, sci fi, paranormal, or contemporary romance. She particularly loves writing series, because she thinks of her characters as old friends and she wants to visit them even after their stories are told.

In real life, Shira sang professionally for 14 years, and she currently works as a public sector attorney advocating for children. She’s happy to have made writing her second full-time job, even if it means she rarely has time to watch TV or go to the movies. Shira writes about the things she knows and loves, whether it’s music and musicians, the ocean, or the places she’s lived or traveled to. She spent her middle school years living in France, and tries to visit as often as she can.

Shira and her husband spend as many weekends as they can aboard their 35′ catamaran sailboat, Land’s Zen, at the Carolina Coast. Not only has sailing inspired her to write about pirates and mermen, her sailboat is her favorite place to write. And although the only mermen she’s found to date are in her own imagination, she keeps a sharp lookout for them when she’s on the water.


Remember don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway for this every cool bracelet:



In the Spotlight: La Famiglia (A Men of Gilead Novel) by Deanna Wadsworth


Title: La Famiglia
Series: A Men of Gilead Novel
Author: Deanna Wadsworth
Genre: M/M Romance Novel (standalone)
Release Date: January 23, 2018

Forrester Giordano comes from a huge, nosy Italian family, and with their homophobic jokes and slurs, he’s decided to stay in the closet. He finds respite in his bookstore in the quaint village of Gilead—where he has a huge crush on one of his customers, Kyle Benson.

Kyle is determined to live his dreams, and though life isn’t easy being deaf, one by one he’s making them come true. He’s scored a great job practicing law, bought a cute bungalow where he can finally have a big flower garden, and he has a dog he loves, Jasper. Now he just needs one thing to complete his happiness: a family of his own to make up for the one he never had.

Forrester and Kyle’s relationship starts off hot and heavy, and neither man can deny the depth of their connection. When Forrester’s little brother gets mixed up with their heroin-dealing cousin and his mother falls ill, Forrester has a decision to make—maybe the hardest of his life. For the first time, he’s found a man worth coming out for.

Unfortunately nothing ever goes according to plan with la famiglia.


“This is an amazing story in a series that just shines” – A Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

“Relatable and Real” – Amazon Review

“The best in the series….so far!” – Amazon Review


Deanna Wadsworth might be a bestselling erotica author, but she leads a pretty vanilla life in Ohio with her wonderful husband and a couple adorable cocker spaniels. She has been spinning tales and penning stories since childhood, and her first erotic novella was published in 2010. She has served multiple board positions at her local RWA chapter and is the current President 2017 for Rainbow Romance Writers of America. When she isn’t writing books or brainstorming with friends, you can find her making people gorgeous in a beauty salon. She loves music and dancing, and can often be seen hanging out on the sandbar in the muddy Maumee River or chilling with her hubby and a cocktail in their basement bar. In between all that fun, Deanna cherishes the quiet times when she can let her wildly active imagination have the full run of her mind. Her fascination with people and the interworkings of their relationships have always inspired her to write romance with spice and love without boundaries.