A MelanieM Review: A Matter of Justice (Hong Kong Nights Book 3) by J.C. Long

Standard

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

The battle between the Dragons of the Eastern District and their bitter rivals, the Twisted Vipers, is reaching a dangerous point. The Anti-Gang Task Force is hard at work trying to bring down the Vipers. Tensions ratchet when Johnny Hwang guns down a prominent inspector on the task force, and Conroy Wong, Wei Tseng’s second-in-command is a witness. Now, to keep him safe long enough to locate a second witness and put Hwang behind bars, Conroy is forced into close quarters with Allen Hong, a man who once fought side by side with the Dragons until he turned his back on them by joining the police, betraying them. As sparks fly between them once more, the two men must put aside their differences and work together, because the Twisted Vipers aren’t going to let Hwang go down without a fight.

A Matter of Justice (Hong Kong Nights Book 3) by J.C. Long is a tense, complicated and terrific novel. Gritty and intense, it delves into the corrupt landscape of triads, gang wars and bought cops in Hong Kong.  Throw in a old wounded romance between a triad member and a detective and all the elements are there for one memorable story.  Which is exactly what Long gives you.

My only issue is that it took some time to remember who all the cast of characters were.  This is  definitely not a standalone novel and the importance characters and their relationship to each other almost needs a chart at the beginning if you haven’t just read books one and two in the series.  Without all the relationship dynamics being fresh in my mind, it took a while to get into the story, hence the lower rating.  But once it snapped  back into place, then the story took off and I sunk deeply into the drama and fast paced action of a gang war under way and a heinous crime boss who will let nothing stand in his way of revenge.

Conroy Wong and Allen Hong are the reunited couple at the center, one a triad member and one a cop. I loved the tension and anger here.  I did have some issues with the sex scenes. Again, another reason for the lower rating.  Not the angry sex, no that made perfect sense given their past relationship and how it ended.  But that old “no just use spit” thing that keeps cropping up now and again.  Please can we all agree that this is just exceedingly painful and needs to disappear? I mean how realistic is this?  Especially when there was still some lube left to use.  Nope, it stopped me during their sex scene and it should have stopped them.  So yes, another drop in the rating there.  Just my opinion.  Otherwise one hot couple.

J.C. Long brings us into Hong Kong with the food, the people, and the language.  There’s even a dictionary Long supplies for us at the back.  Very revealing, especially about some of the epitaphs hurled during the story.  It definitely sinks you into the city and the situation.

I recommend the series but for clarity purposes, read the stories close together.  It helps keeping all the people and their relationships fresh in your mind as many as they are.  But its one thrilling ride of a narrative and some wonderful couples.  I’m recommending them if you like action, law enforcement stories and in this case, lovers reunited.

Cover art: Natasha Snow is dramatic and works for the story and location.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 301 pages
Published February 26th 2018 by NineStar Press
ASINB079PL9FG6

Honk Kong Nights Series:

A Matter of Duty (Hong Kong Nights Book 1)

A Jeri Review: The Time of My Life by Nora Phoenix

Standard

Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

I really liked this book. Why? Because it was different.
Denver and Judah meet at open auditions for a fictional reality show (how’s that for an oxymoron!) similar to The Voice. They connect right away when Judah singles him out to sing along while they are waiting. But then kind of turns into a jerk.
Judah is deeply in the closet- so much so that he has been trying to ignore the fact that he is gay to hopefully win back the love and respect of his deeply religious family. Ironically, he wasn’t kicked out of the family for being gay, but because he didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps.
Denver is still getting over a horrible 3 year relationship that has turned into stalking. So they are both wary. But they are continually drawn to each other.
What was fun about this story is that it is told through the audition and filming process of the reality show. There is very little told outside of the show. Meaning the 1 and 2 month breaks the contestants get in between the different rounds. I thought that was really cool.
There were aspects of the book that I didn’t like so much. BUT the reason I didn’t like them is because I know quite a bit about the religion Judah came from. One town over from me is the biggest population of that religion outside of Brooklyn. So in my NJ grew up with this mind I often said “nope, nuh uh, wrong”. But again, 99.9% of the population wouldn’t blink an eye at those things. So I mention it, but I am not bringing my number of stars down because of it.
I did want to know how Judah got so into music- especially rock/classic rock- after living such a sheltered life. But that was never addressed.
And while I think some people might not love the ending- I thought it was absolutely perfect.
Cover art is perfect.
Sales Links: Amazon
Book Details:
Kindle Edition, 354 pages
Published February 8th 2018 by Nora Phoenix
Original Title The Time of My Life
ASIN B079Q914DH
Edition Language English

An Alisa Audiobook Review: Chief’s Mess (Anchor Point #3) by L.A. Witt and (Narrated by Nick J. Russo)

Standard

Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Anthony Talbot is in Anchor Point to visit family, but after two days of strife, he needs a break. A local gay bar is calling his name.

When Chief Noah Jackson sees that red head stroll into the club, he immediately wants him. They’re perfectly matched, and before long, they’re burning up the sheets. Noah can’t get enough. Anthony can’t stay in Oregon for long, but as soon as he leaves, he’s counting down the days until he can fly back for more. And between his increasingly frequent visits, there’s always phone sex, sexting, webcams . . . anything they can get.

But Noah’s got a carefully crafted façade, and Anthony can’t help noticing the slowly forming cracks. The scent of alcohol in the middle of the day. The extra drinks at dinner. The hint of red in his eyes. Anthony knows what it means. He doesn’t want to believe it, but he’s seen this before, and there’s no denying it. If Noah doesn’t get his downward spiral under control, he’s going to lose both his career and the first man he’s ever really loved.

I enjoyed this story just as much as I have the others in this series.  Anthony is stressed and visiting his sister’s ex-husband is not helping.  Noah has never had a lasting relationship and as they connect more and more Anthony is beginning to see why that may be.

At first I wasn’t sure about Anthony, mostly because I loved Clint from the last book and didn’t like his attitude towards him.  I know he was still angry about his sister being hurt but that didn’t make me feel better.  It was heartbreaking to see him hurting when he had to push Noah away but the support he got from Clint was the biggest surprise.  Noah always seems to have a drink in his hand when not at work and it’s his break from reality.  I hated seeing him not own up to his problem but as unfortunately is the case, it took hitting the ultimate low for him to make changes in his life and even Anthony can see that.

Nick Russo once again did a wonderful job narrating this story.  He always portrays the characters’ emotions makes it easy to connect with them.  The different voices he used for the characters helped me keep up with what was going on and get an idea of the characters personality some more.

I like the cover art by LC Chase and it continues follow the pattern for the series.

Sales Links:  Audible | Amazon | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook, 7 hrs 45 min
Published: January 30, 2018 (ebook first published June 19, 2017) by Riptide
Edition Language: English

Series: Anchor Point #3

Laura Lascarso on Writing, Pain, and her latest novel When Everything Is Blue (guest post, excerpt, and giveaway)

Standard

When Everything Is Blue by Laura Lascarso
Dreamspinner Press

Cover art designer: AngstyG, www.AngstyG.comhttps://www.facebook.com/Angstyg

Buy LInks:  Dreamspinner Press eBook:  and Paperback

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Laura Lascarso here today talking about writing, tragedy, and her latest novel When Everything is Blue.  Welcome, Laura.

♦︎

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Laura Lascarso

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

In a word, therapy, but here is the long answer…

I was fortunate to connect with Dreamspinner Press on my first M/M novella Andre In Flight. The responses from both the DSP team and readers gave me a real sense of purpose. I was considering what my next project would be when the Pulse shooting in Orlando happened.

Some of the feelings of rage and impotence I was feeling after that tragedy, I channelled into The Bravest Thing. My family was also dealing with the loss of my husband’s little brother to a drug overdose after battling addiction for many years, so some of my sadness over that personal tragedy also played a role in that story. All in all, it was pretty heavy.

After completing work on The Bravest Thing, I was pretty emotionally drained and needed a project that was a little more uplifting. Because I came from the young adult fiction world and not that of romance or fan fiction, I had a lot of catching up to do in terms of the genre and what readers want. (I only recently discovered the difference between an HEA and HFN!) By reading reviews of my stories and others, and reading several wonderful M/M romance novels by my contemporaries, I began to understand what romance readers like and dislike. I also learned there were all kinds of romance tropes to draw from, including one of my favorites, best-friends-to-lovers.

I’m also a regular lurker on Reddit where there are countless stories of young men falling for their straight best friends. All of them are so touching and sweet, and their sense of yearning is so palpable. Who hasn’t fallen in love with a friend only to find out their love is unreturned or in the best possible case, requited?

So, with that in mind I wrote When Everything Is Blue to be a kind of Oddessy of self-discovery with a host of colorful characters to act as Theo’s guides along the way. It was a real pleasure for me to write the relationship between Theo and his best friend Chris. If The Bravest Thing was an ice pick to the heart, I hope When Everything Is Blue will feel like a warm embrace with a bit of wish-fulfillment thrown in.

To answer this question of why I write fiction, my goal is to encourage empathy and understanding among my fellow human beings, as I believe stories have the power to heal and transform a society. I also like to provide a safe place for readers to hunker down and escape from the world, which can be unbearable at times. I think for myself, I use writing as a way to process the world and make sense of my own emotions through my characters. Despite my sometimes sad stories, writing is a real joy for me.

I’m including the first chapter of When Everything Is Blue to give you a feel for the story. If you like it, I encourage you to read more!

Blurb

Sometimes the people we need most aren’t bonded by blood but by something deeper.

When they were kids, golden boy Chris Mitcham rescued dweeby Theo Wooten from the neighborhood bullies and taught him how to “be cool.” Now, years later, Theo’s developed feelings for his best friend that “arise” at the most inopportune times. Theo hates lying to Chris, but in coming out, he might lose the one person who understands him best, a risk he’s not willing to take.

When a relationship with another young man goes south, Theo is forced to confront his own sexuality along with his growing attraction to Chris and the stunted, tenuous relationship Theo has with his father. Will Chris abandon Theo when he learns the truth, or will he stand by him in this tumultuous season of self-discovery? In this quirky coming-of-age romance, Theo’s path to manhood is fraught with several awkward firsts, a few haters, but also the tender comfort of an unexpected lover.

Excerpt from Chapter 1

Be Cool

Being horny and almost sixteen is the absolute worst.

Take it from me, Theodore Wooten III, resident expert in the spontaneous boner. The cause of my lovesickness: Christian Mitcham. The cure: hell if I know.

With his sun-bleached hair, warm brown eyes, and devil-may-care attitude, people gravitate to Chris like sugar ants on a soda can, me included. He’s been my best friend since sixth grade when some neighborhood punks held me down on the sidewalk and tried to spit in my eyes. Chris called them off and threatened to beat their asses even though he was outnumbered and outgunned. I guess they believed in his conviction. I know I did.

“Chris is back.”

My twin sister, Tabitha, rushes into my room, even though the door was mostly closed. When we moved into this apartment, the owner paid a contractor to split the master bedroom into two bedrooms, so that we could each have our own room. Tabs got the en suite bathroom, and I got the window. Considering the view overlooks Chris’s property, where he can often be found strutting around shirtless in the wild, it now seems like a fair trade.

“You’re supposed to knock,” I grumble. My gut is a brew of excitement and nerves at the knowledge that Chris is back. My feelings toward my best friend have become more complicated over the past year or so. I’d hoped a summer apart would simplify things.

“I did knock, Theo. You just didn’t hear me,” says Tabs, she of the last word.

I was watching some skate videos online with my cans on. The music was loud, but not that loud. I toss my tablet on the bed, stand, and stretch, delaying the inevitable.

“Oooh, he looks good,” Tabs says as she opens my window, piquing my interest even more. “Buff and tan. He’s been working out.”

“Probably just surfing.” A cloud of swampy Florida air envelops me as I steal a glance over her shoulder. She’s right. He’s even more godly than two months ago. Lucky bastard doesn’t even need to try. Ever since Chris turned thirteen, his muscles have been bursting out like microwave popcorn. He lifts a burger to his mouth and sprouts biceps, sits up in bed and boom, there are his abs. Meanwhile, I grow taller and lankier and have to deal with my mom telling me to stand up straight or I’m going to get scoliosis, which I’m pretty sure isn’t how that disease works, but it’s hard to argue with my mom when she thinks she’s right.

My sister calls down to Chris. He’s carrying a new surfboard—midnight blue, probably a gift from his dad. He glances up and lifts his free hand in a friendly wave.

My gut twists in a nausea-inducing way. The feelings are still there, the sharp knife of longing that slices down my sternum and scrambles my guts. I lift one hand in greeting and hope I’m far enough away so he can’t see anything unusual on my face.

“Come down,” Chris calls. “Bring your suits.”

I’m already wearing my board shorts and a T-shirt. Standard summer attire. We live close enough to the beach that I can bike or skate there, even though my mom hates me going through all the traffic. Sometimes I just go to skate along the sea wall and smell the ocean. It reminds me of Chris.

The twist in my stomach coils into a hard knot of anxiety at the thought of our reunion, but it’ll be weird if my sister goes and I don’t. Plus, I’ve missed him like crazy. I got so bored this summer, I was finally able to nail a nightmare flip on my skateboard. Something to add to my college applications.

“Be right down,” Tabs calls to Chris, then bounces out of my room like a happy Pikachu. My sister’s always been the cheerful, outgoing one. I’m slightly sour.

I glance back out the window to find Chris still looking up at me. Of course I’ll be down. As if there was ever a question. I always do what Chris tells me. And until recently, I’ve been happy to do it. I trust him to know what to do in just about any situation.

Me, not so much.

I trail behind Tabs across our driveways and through the gate into his backyard. He’s laid out on a lawn chair, shirtless of course. His hair’s gotten longer. He likes it that way, so he can tuck it behind his ears. He’s got a deep summer tan, and his abs are even more ripped than when he left for summer a couple of months ago. His sunglasses are reflective so I can’t see his eyes. I worry he can tell I’m checking him out, so I stare at the shrubbery instead.

“What is this, a race?” Chris rises from the lawn chair to give me our usual bro-hug. He means my height. I must have grown two inches over summer, but I didn’t realize the difference until I have to lean down a little to embrace him. I catch a whiff of his hair—a mixture of sunshine, salt spray, and coconut shampoo. His skin is warm and feels good in my palms—dangerously good.

Chris hugs my sister too and asks her if she highlighted her hair. She did. He tells her he likes it, and my sister’s smile cracks wide open. We have good teeth, my sister and I, bright white and straight thanks to orthodontia. Our dad’s a dentist and our mom’s a dental hygienist. Our smiles are the one trait people say we have in common, though they probably see a lot more of Tabs’s teeth than my own.

“I wish my hair was your color naturally.” Tabs tugs at Chris’s golden locks playfully, which draws another deep chuckle from him. I study the flecks of quartz in the concrete and try to ignore the fact that my sister is flirting with my best friend. And she’s doing a really good job of it.

“How have the waves been?” Chris asks, drawing me back into the conversation. He never lets me stray too far.

“A couple tropical depressions came through and kicked up the surf. We got a few good days down at the pier. Probably nothing like an average swell in Cali, though.”

Chris shrugs. “It was all right. Nothing too special. I kind of missed it here.”

He looks at me then with his mile-long gaze, and I wonder if he’s saying that he missed me or if it’s just my lovesick imagination trying to bridge the gap between friendship and something else.

“It was pretty boring.” I glance out at the chemically blue water. The summer has been drab and gray without Chris. Feels like the sun is just now breaking through.

“Learn any new tricks?” he asks, meaning skateboarding. I don’t usually surf too much without him.

“Yeah, a nightmare flip.”

“No way.”

“Yeah, landed primo a few times and almost sliced my balls in half.” I stop at the mention of my balls, feeling my whole face flame up, which is stupid because we’ve probably talked about our balls a million times before, so why is it so weird now?

“Ew, Theo, gross. No one wants to hear about your junk,” my sister says, saving me.

Chris chuckles. “Can’t wait to see it. The flip, that is.”

I feel intensely hot under the heft of his stare, like my body might spontaneously combust. Instead of saying something else weird, I drop my towel on a chair and take off my shirt, then dive into the water and start doing laps. I spent a lot of time swimming laps in Chris’s pool over the summer. I like being submerged.

When Chris and I met, he was in seventh grade and I was in sixth. At the time my mom, my sister, and I had just moved into the gardener’s cottage next door because my parents had recently separated. I told Chris they were getting back together—I was so sure of it. But I’ve realized since then we were only my dad’s starter family.

Chris told me about his own parents’ divorce and then, when it happened to me later that year, he was there to talk me through it. I’ve never met another person I connected with like that. It felt special from the beginning.

Kismet.

And then last year, I started noticing things more—Chris’s muscles for one, the texture of his skin—warm and golden like honey—the pucker of his lips when he’s thinking, his hands. His smell. I started imagining what it might be like to kiss him, and when we’d happen to touch, it made my body go completely bonkers. It got to the point where I couldn’t be in the same room with him without getting a hard-on. Then he left for California for the summer, and I hoped the feelings would pass.

But they haven’t, and I’m scared they won’t.

After about twenty laps, I climb out of the pool feeling a little more relaxed. There are snacks on one of the tables, probably brought out by Paloma, their housekeeper. I towel myself off and check out the spread. Chris lowers his sunglasses and looks me up and down, not even trying to hide it. I don’t know if it’s out of competition or appreciation.

“Been working out?” he asks in that bro-code way.

I flex my barely there biceps as a joke, but they’re not as puny as I remember. “Just swimming and mowing lawns. Got a jobby job.” I grab a grilled cheese sandwich off a plate. Paloma must have made it special for me, knowing they’re my favorite. There’s also cut celery and carrots for Tabs, who it seems is always on a diet, and chicken wings for Chris. He loves bar food—the greasier the better. He should weigh five hundred pounds, but he’s doesn’t. He’s perfect. Le sigh.

“Who you working for?” Chris asks. Beads of sweat have collected on his bare chest, drawing my eyes to the growing patch of rangy brown hair between his chiseled pecs. And, yeah, there it goes again. There must be some kind of pill I could take—the anti-Viagra—for when you want your dick to be cool.

“Theo?”

“A patient at my mom’s office,” I answer, glancing anywhere but at him. “Jack Lawson. Owns Lawson’s Lawns. He needed someone who can speak Spanish to the crew.”

My mom’s Puerto Rican, and she and I mostly spoke Spanish in the house while Tabs and I were growing up. Tabs understands it, but she hardly ever speaks it. She’s always trying to fit in, telling us to “act normal,” whatever that means. Half the people in South Florida speak Spanish, so it’s not even that uncommon.

“Saving up for college?” Chris asks.

I grin at that. Chris is always telling me not to worry about college, that I’ll get a scholarship with my grades and his parents will probably have to pay extra to get a university to take him. He’s always trying to even things out between us so that money isn’t an issue—him having it and me not. Even though my dad’s a dentist and comes from money, he’s working on his fifth kid with his third wife, which means the child support well is drying up fast.

“I’m trying to buy a car,” I remind him.

“What do you need a car for?” His sandy eyebrows draw together, giving him a stern appearance. He looks put out by it. He’s been giving me rides since he got his license last year. Sometimes I feel like I’m taking advantage of his generosity, and I don’t like it.

“You know, to get around. I’m getting my license soon.”

“I thought I was your ride.”

A bit of melted cheese gets stuck in my throat and I have a little coughing fit. Chris jumps up and slaps my back, though I’m not sure it helps. I recover pretty quickly but not before noticing the hesitation of his hand, his warm palm against my cold skin and a slight, reassuring rub that sends the exact wrong message to my dick.

“You going to let me drive your car, Theo?” Tabs calls, hitting me like an anvil to the head.

“Not without a license.” My sister has shown no interest in learning to drive. She only got her learner’s permit because my mom made her, and she hardly ever practices. I don’t understand how she can be so reliant on others. I hate asking people for things.

“You’re still going to ride with me to school, though, right?” Chris says, moistening his lips with his tongue, drawing my attention to the pink that stands out against his tanned skin. His jaw is smooth. No more soft, downy hair. He must have started shaving this summer. Makes me think I should too.

I shrug. “Or, you could ride with me.”

He looks pleased with the suggestion. “Hopefully you’ve gotten better at driving this summer.”

“Like you’re the expert, Curby.”

He throws his shirt at me and I throw it back, but not before catching a whiff of it. Ack. Sensory overload. I claim the lawn chair on the other side of my sister. Physical distance helps. I close my eyes and try to envision the perfect wave instead of imagining what Chris looks like naked. Unfortunately it morphs into what Chris would look like surfing the perfect wave while naked, so then I imagine my fingernails being pulled from their nail beds because only thoughts of physical torture seem to work in these situations.

Tabs sits up, hands the sunscreen to Chris, and asks him to do her back. Without waiting for a reply, she angles toward him and sweeps up her ponytail. Like it’s nothing.

I tell them I have to use the bathroom so I won’t have to watch the rub-a-thon. Inside, I say hello to Paloma and ask about her mother, who’s still recovering from a recent illness. They’re from the Dominican Republic, and I think she likes speaking Spanish to me. We catch up for a bit. Then I hang out for a while in the bathroom, wash my hands meticulously, and count to a hundred until I’m sure the sunscreening is over.

When I come back, they’ve traded places and Tabs is doing Chris’s shoulders. I can tell she’s enjoying it. Really working it in there with the palm of her hand and taking her time. Who wouldn’t? All that warm, teasing skin…. I don’t want to watch, but I can’t seem to look away, so I stand there trapped with a crampy feeling in my balls.

“You need sunscreen?” Chris asks.

I turn fifty shades of red and stammer, “No, I’m good.” The last thing I want is to sprout a hard-on while Chris rubs my back. Jesus, I hope this is just some weird hormonal thing. I’d take acne and voice cracks over impromptu erections any day.

“Brown people burn too,” Tabs says, our mother’s constant reminder.

“I’ll be all right,” I say tightly.

The three of us lounge around in the shallow end, soaking up the sun and our last few days of freedom before school starts. My sister gossips about what went on while Chris was away visiting his dad in California, which couples from school have broken up and who’s gotten back together, who’s cheated or been cheated on. Who’s pregnant or on drugs or in rehab. I tune her out and quietly float on a raft until I hear her start talking about our birthday.

“Guess who’s turning sixteen soon?” she says to Chris.

“Ummm, Theo?” he says with a smile on his face.

She punches his arm playfully. “And me.”

“Really, I thought you were at least seventeen by now.”

She shakes her head and laughs. It echoes across the water, and my twin-sense tells me she’s working up to something. My ears perk up.

“So, I was thinking…,” she says in that nasally voice she gets with my dad whenever she wants something.

“What were you thinking?” Chris asks, playing along.

“I was thinking maybe I could have my birthday party here.” She motions with her manicured hands at the pool and surrounding veranda.

“No,” I call from my inflatable island in the deep end. I hate it when she asks our dad for things. Asking Chris is, like, a million times worse.

Chris ignores me and says, “Will there be a lot of hot chicks here?”

I roll my eyes and groan at his predictability.

“A ton,” she says with this huge smile on her face, and I already know he’s going to give in to her. Everyone does. My sister’s a master at getting her way.

“Will you plan it without any help from me?” he asks.

“Of course I will.” She claps her hands together.

“Will you help clean up?”

“A thousand times yes!”

“One last question.” He glances over at me. “Will I be invited to this party?”

She laughs and strategically places one hand on his bare shoulder. Seeing her touch him like that gets me all moody and pissed. I hate feeling that way toward Chris. And my sister too. I wish I could stop it, or even better, rewind my biology back to when I didn’t have these feelings at all.

“You’ll be my guest of honor, Christian Mitcham,” she says dramatically.

Chris waggles his eyebrows at me. “And what about birthday boy over there, is he invited?”

Tabs turns and lowers her sunglasses, stares at me like I’m the mutant tail she just can’t seem to shake. “I guess so. It’s his birthday too.”

“I’m not going,” I announce. I hate birthday parties, especially joint ones with Tabs. I’m always on edge because she’s so uptight about me not making her look bad.

“You have to go, Theo,” Chris whines in a high-pitched voice and splashes me. “It’s your sweet sixteen.”

A car horn interrupts my everlasting groan.

“Oh, that’s Lizbeth,” my sister says, climbing up the stairs and quickly toweling off. She dons a slinky sundress over her bikini and grabs her bag. “Going shopping at the Gardens. Want to come with?” She directs the question at Chris, not me. My sister rarely asks me to do things with her and her friends. I’m too weird, she says. I don’t talk enough and when I do, I say strange things.

“I’ll stay here and catch up with Theo.” Chris smiles warmly at her. He has this amazing quality of making you feel special just with a smile.

“See ya, Tabs,” I call.

“Yeah,” she responds and saunters off with this swishy walk she does when she thinks somebody might be watching. She has a nice little body, and she knows it. Her sandals go clack-clack-clack on the concrete, and then she’s gone.

“Same old Tabs,” Chris says with a chuckle.

“Yep,” I agree, though I don’t find it at all amusing. She could have at least asked me about her birthday plans before springing it on Chris. I’d have said no—hell, no—which is probably why she didn’t. Maybe too I feel a little possessive over Chris. She has a ton of friends already. Does she have to add Chris to her collection?

“A party could be fun,” he says, trying to warm me up to it.

“I’ll be up there.” I point to my bedroom window.

“Like hell you will. If I have to put up with Tabs’s friends, you do too.”

I groan again even though I think Chris and Tabitha have both become immune to my resistance. The only thing I want to do on my birthday is go down to the DMV and get my license, then drive down A1A in my mom’s car with the windows down, unless I have my own car by then. I’ve got a few thousand saved up from a lifetime of being cheap, along with my pay from summer work. A car means freedom, independence, and not having to rely on Chris or my mom to cart my ass around town all the time.

Chris turns on me then with a mischievous grin, crosses the pool in two strides, and upsets my float, dumping me into the cold water. It’s a bit of a shock to the system. Even more so when he wraps one muscular arm around my neck and dunks me under just to show me he still can.

I come up with a full-body shiver and shake the water from my hair. “Had to get that out, huh?” I ask, hardly even annoyed.

“Got to make sure you still know who’s boss.” He punches my shoulder lightly.

Boss is my nickname for him, whenever he’s being pushy or trying hard to get his way, which is most of the time.

“So, what have you been up to?” Chris asks. “You hardly texted me at all this summer.”

He’s right about that. Mainly because it just made me miss him more. I did send him a few pictures, mostly of the beach and the waves, since that’s always been his favorite view.

“Nothing too exciting happened while you were gone. Didn’t seem like much worth mentioning.”

He scowls like he doesn’t believe me, though he should know nothing fun ever happens when he’s not around.

“I got a new board. Want to see it?” Chris has a lot of toys, but he gets super excited about his boards.

“I’m surprised you held out this long.”

“I figured Tabs wouldn’t be into it. Not the way you would.”

“Yeah, sure.”

We climb out of the pool and towel off. I follow Chris over to one of their outdoor sheds where he keeps his half-dozen surfboards, all quality-made, on wooden racks. If the boards don’t stand up to the test, Chris trades or sells them, which means his collection is always evolving to suit his style of surfing.

The floor is a concrete slab and the couple of dusty windows light the shed in a buttery yellow haze. I can’t see the color and design as well as if we were outside, so I run my hand along the edge of the board where it straddles two sawhorses. It’s a short board with a slightly upturned nose. The epoxy resin is smooth as glass, not a drop of wax on it. It’s probably never even been floated before.

“You haven’t used it yet,” I remark. Usually Chris takes them out his first day, or he arranges to test drive them before buying.

“This weekend. Taking a trip to Sebastian before school starts. You coming?”

I have nothing planned other than working with my lawn crew, which I can probably get covered for the weekend, but it’s hard enough keeping my junk in check when we’re alone. I don’t want the pressure of being around his ultrahetero friends or watching him make out with his squad of surfer girls.

“I don’t know, Boss. School starts on Monday.”

“Whaaat?” he whines and I shrug like What can I do about it? “Come on, T. I really want you to come with me. We haven’t hung out all summer.”

“I know, but….” I drift off, not knowing how to finish that thought without telling him the real reason—it’s too damn hard to be constantly tempted with something you can’t have.

“I’ll give you Lady Macbeth.” Chris grins slyly, sweetening the pot. Lady Macbeth is my favorite of his collection, a long board made by a local guy named Casper. We named her that because we’re convinced she’s suicidal. On good days that board can sail. On bad ones she drops me on my ass. I can relate to her temperament.

“I always get Lady Macbeth.”

“To have.” He crosses his arms over his broad chest, accentuating the swell of his biceps and the meat of his pecs.

Chris is always giving me stuff. Before I got too tall, he used to give me his old clothes. My bike used to be his, too, and a couple of my skateboards. He’s too generous, especially to me.

“That board’s worth, like, $500. Not including sentimental value.”

“It’s practically yours anyway. I never ride it.”

“So you’re telling me you want me to store it in my garage,” I say to mess with him. I don’t want him to think I’m using him for his stuff, part of why I started working this summer. To give back.

“No,” he says, getting a little flustered. It doesn’t happen often, but I do enjoy seeing Mr. Calm, Cool, and Collected squirm. “You can still store it here. You probably should. Don’t want to make the others jealous.”

“Ha,” I say as my eyes land on the ridgeline of his collarbone and the gold chain that rests there with a shark’s tooth attached. I found it way back when on the beach and gave it to him—biggest tooth we’d ever seen. Chris had it made into a necklace. The tooth belongs to a great white, he always tells people when they ask, the same shark that chomps on surfers up and down the coast. Not us, though. By wearing its tooth, it shows the sharks we’re one of them. Like most surfers, Chris is a bit superstitious.

I turn away so he won’t see my face and pretend to inspect Lady Macbeth. “She’s pretty dinged up, though.”

“You little shit.” He shoves me lightly. “You’re the one who dinged her.”

I smile. He’s so protective of his boards. “If I take her off your hands, she might not answer to you anymore.”

“She never did. I’d have sold her if it weren’t for you.” He lays his hand on the board’s edge and gives her an affectionate little squeeze. His ruddy golden hand with his sun-bleached nails, next to mine, so close they’re practically touching. Chris is always just an inch too far away.

“So, you’ll come to Sebastian with me?”

Is it my imagination, or is there some unspoken plea in his voice? I don’t know how I’m going to survive the weekend with him, much less my entire sophomore year. Lots of cold showers. But like most things with Chris, I don’t have the willpower to say no.

“Yeah, I’ll come. But I get shotgun.” I always get shotgun unless there’s a girl in the car, Hopefully he’s not bringing a girl with us.

“Damn, Theo, I go away for a summer and you’ve turned into a shark.”

I shake my head and nudge him lightly with my shoulder, my bare skin brushing against his. I glance over, and even though I can’t see them in this light, I know that’s where he collects his freckles, on the tops of his shoulders. I’ve spent way too much time memorizing them, but it’s partly his fault for never wearing a damn shirt.

“You know you always get what you want in the end,” I tell him. As if there was ever a question.

He smiles with an arrogance that only adds to his appeal. “Don’t make me work too hard.”

That deep, gravelly voice gets me every time. Feels like my heart is being rubbed over a cheese grater. I remind myself to breathe, then make up an excuse about something I need to do at home and walk back out of the shed with his fumes still in my nostrils and his voice humming in my head.

Our summer apart hasn’t changed a thing. If anything, it’s only gotten worse. I’m still hopelessly infatuated with my best friend.

My straight best friend.

 

About the Author

Laura Lascarso wants you to stay up way past your bedtime reading her stories. She aims to inspire more questions than answers in her fiction and believes in the power of storytelling to heal and transform a society. When not writing, Laura can be found screaming “finish” on the soccer fields, rewatching Veronica Mars, and trying to convince politicians that climate change is real. She lives in North Florida with her darling husband and two kids. She loves hearing from readers, and she’d be delighted to hear from you.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/lascarso

Twitter: @lauralascarso 

Giveaway

 Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Rafflecopter Giveaway Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/c9886b9d9/?
Embed: a Rafflecopter giveaway https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Jaclyn Quinn on Inspiration, Writing and her new release Hard To Let Go by (Blog Tour, excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

 Hard to Let Go Tour Banner

HARD TO LET GO

JACLYN QUINN

M/M ROMANCE

RELEASE DATE: 02.19.18

Hard to Let Go Cover 

 

Cover by Cate Ashwood Designs

Interior Design and Formatting by Flawless Touch Formatting

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Jaclyn Quinn here today talking about the inspiration behind writing her latest story Hard to Let Go.  Welcome, Jaclyn.

♦︎

I wrote Hard to Let Go so long ago, it’s hard to say if there was something that specifically inspired me. Music is a big influence for me, whether it be an entire song or just one line. I find myself wondering happened for those lyrics to be written. What was the story behind it?

I like stories where the MCs face their struggles, whatever they may be, and find love under all the layers. The hard part is trying to figure out where forgiveness is beneath all those layers. I wanted to write a story that dealt with difficult issues, but that also had a strong family feeling. There also needed to be humor, because that’s what real life is. There are moments during trying times where you find yourself laughing at something, whether it be a friend, a family member, or something unexpected. It’s the ups and downs of our emotions. So it was important for me to show the reason for Owen’s anger, but also show how he finally gets to a place where he can let that anger go. With Brody, I think he needed to forgive himself before he could truly love another person.

As for the family part of the story, I really just drew from my own life and experiences. My family is incredibly close. We have Sunday dinner as often as we can. Sometimes, our schedules don’t permit it, but we always pick right back up the next week. Our family dinner table is a lot like Owen’s. We’re loud, laugh a lot, and tease each other. We’ve also been known for an outdoor food fight or two. Ha ha

 

BLURB

Owen Richards lives a quiet life in his small hometown of Haven’s Cove. He has a rewarding life consisting of three very supportive—not to mention feisty—women, and a successful bakery that he owns and absolutely loves. Yet, Owen can’t seem to shake this emptiness inside or the intense feeling that something is missing. A sudden encounter with a man from his past, one he despises, turns his entire world upside down. When Owen finds himself attracted to that sexy man, he questions everything, including his sanity. After all, only an incredibly disturbed person would find that he can’t stop thinking about his high school bully.

Brody Walker never expected to return to Haven’s Cove. He’s made a life for himself in Boston where he can truly be the person he was always meant to be. But an unexpected call has Brody facing all the demons he’d left behind so long ago. Now, he’s faced with not only a difficult goodbye, but one long overdue apology to a man who is no longer that lanky kid from high school. The challenge is to convince the guy he’s changed—and also prove he’s worth taking a chance on.

When passions ignite, truths are exposed, changing beliefs these men have held on to for years. Faced with the knowledge that things aren’t always what they seem, will they choose to hold on to the incredible thing they’ve found…or is it easier to give in to the fear and let go?

Hard to Let Go Teaser 4

Hard to Let Go Teaser 3

 

EXCERPT

Brody nodded his head and let his aunt Nora lead him down the hall. Had this hallway always been so damn long? The walls were lined with pictures. There were Brody’s school pictures, holidays, and family photos of the three of them smiling.

It was a hall full of lies.

As he crossed the threshold into the room, it was like breaking through a thick wall. His chest hurt and every muscle in his body tensed. He didn’t know what he was expecting, but it wasn’t this. A hospital bed was against the soft blue wall to his right; an IV stand with a bag hanging from a hook at the top blocked his view of his mother’s face. The room had the same beige carpet he remembered, but his father’s desk was replaced with a big reclining chair. There was another chair in the room on the far side of the bed. A small table on wheels sat next to it and on it were tissues, a pair of glasses, and the last thing he expected to see—a framed picture of him from when he was little. Next to that was an oxygen tank with tubing connected to it. The tubing led up to where it hooked around her ears to hold the small prongs in place in her nose. There were no big machines, no sounds of incessant beeping.

Then it really hit him. She wasn’t there to get better; she was there to let go. Brody stepped softly into the room, afraid to disturb her, afraid to breathe too heavily and throw off the serenity of her room.

Brody’s heart was trying to beat its way out of his chest. He felt a light touch from his aunt on his back, as if she was telling him it was going to be okay—even though they both knew it wouldn’t be. He walked to the side of the bed cautiously, praying he didn’t upset her if she didn’t want him there. As he lowered himself into the chair, his breath caught, and he looked into his mom’s eyes for the first time in too long. Oh God, was that panic in her eyes? Pain? He didn’t want to cause her either in her final days.

“Brody? Honey, is it really you?” Her voice was so soft, but there was no mistaking the words as a tear slid down her cheek, and her eyes had a sudden light.

Just like that, Brody released the breath he’d been holding and let the tears fall down his face. “Yeah, Mom. It’s me. I’m here.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I have been an artist from a very young age. From drawing cartoon characters and evolving into portraits, making jewelry, photography, and now writing. I have an amazing support system in my family and friends and couldn’t be more grateful.

I live in central New Jersey, love summers at the Jersey Shore, rock music, wine, sexy men, and laughing a lot with my amazing friends and family. Sunday dinners at my parents’ house are crazy, hysterical and you can count on a movie quote…or ten…being thrown out. Insults between siblings is how we show our love for each other!

When I’m not creating, you can find me reading books from my favorite authors. I’m a hopeless romantic, starving for passionate characters and always craving that happy ending, whether in reading or in writing my own books.

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

GOODREADS

GIVEAWAY

a Rafflecopter giveaway

https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

MichelleSlagan---VibrantPromotionsLogo---FiveStarDesigns---150ppi

Release Blitz – Promise Me We’ll Be Okay by Nell Iris (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

 

 
 
Length: 27,000 words approx.
 
Publisher: JMS Books
 
Blurb
 

What do you do when your past comes knocking?

Six hundred and ninety-five days. That’s how long it’s been since Jude’s fiancé broke off their engagement. With the help of his brother and his all-encompassing love for music, Jude glued the broken pieces of his heart back together, but when his ex shows up on his doorstep late one evening, Jude fears it will fall apart again.

Two years ago, Vincent made a terrible mistake. He left the love of his life for stupid, ill-advised reasons. It took a traumatic event to bring what was truly important in his life into focus. Older and wiser, he’s now ready to do whatever it takes to win Jude back.

Their chemistry is as explosive as ever, but will they be able to work through the real issues? Can trust once broken be rebuilt?


Excerpt
 

I was still wide awake when someone knocked on my door half an hour later, and I knew who it was before I even got out of bed. Who else could it be at four in the morning but Vee?

I didn’t bother to turn on the lights or get dressed, and I opened the door in my boxers. My heart lurched at the sight of him. He still hadn’t shaved and he had black rings under his eyes. His usual confidence was nowhere to be seen. Usually, his presence took over the entire room, but today he looked as if he was trying to make himself smaller.

Without a word, I stepped aside and let him in. I grabbed his hand and led him to the den. “We’ll talk in the morning. You can sleep on the couch,” I said. “I’ll get some sheets.” I got some fresh linen from the closet and grabbed an extra blanket — he was always cold when he slept — and made up the sofa for him. He didn’t move from the spot where I’d let go of his hand, and he didn’t take his eyes off me.

“You gonna sleep in your clothes?” I asked.

He shook his head and peeled off his lavender V-neck sweater — probably cashmere — and flipped open the jeans’ button while I fluffed his pillows and spread out the cozy blanket. When he pulled down his pants, I had to avert my eyes. To stop myself from staring, I jogged to the kitchen and brought back a bottle of water for him.

He was tense when I returned as if he’d thought I’d gone to bed without saying goodnight. I didn’t like seeing him uncertain. He was a guy who was assured of himself. Never doubted himself or his intelligence. But he was never arrogant. No, he hid a kind and generous man behind his cocky smile. It was one of the things that had attracted me to him in the first place; all the different layers of his personality. The sides of him he only ever showed me.

“Go to bed,” I murmured and lifted the blanket in invitation. After a brief hesitation, he lay down and curled up on the couch. I tucked him in — pulling the blanket all the way up to his chin — and made sure it covered his naked toes, too.

I resisted leaning down and kissing him on the cheek. I managed to keep myself from ruffling his hair or touching the unfamiliar stubble to see if it was as silky as I imagined. And I didn’t beg him to take off his T-shirt so I could run my fingers through his treasure trail. I simply gave him a smile and said, “Sleep well Lovee.”

As soon as the old endearment slipped out I wished I could take it back. He, on the other hand, lit up, and for the first time since he’d knocked on my door yesterday, something looking a lot like hope shone from his eyes.

I whirled around and ran out. Dove under my covers, and buried my face in my pillow, not moving until my lungs screamed for oxygen.

Gasping for air, I tried to find a comfortable sleeping position. My questions had disappeared and been replaced with the image of him on my couch, all pleading eyes, and heartbreaking vulnerability.

I turned to the other side and fluffed my pillow, but it was too hot from my breathing into it, so I flipped it over. I rolled over on my back and flung my arm over my eyes. Then I tried to lie on my stomach with my arm tucked under the pillow, but it quickly went numb. It got too hot under the cover, so I threw it off and then it got too cold. I shivered and pulled it back up, but kept a leg outside.

After twisting in my bed for what felt like an eternity, I gave up. I sighed, stood, and padded back into the den. Vee looked up at me when I entered, as awake as I was. Tilting my head in the direction of my bedroom I said, “Bring your blanket.”

He scrambled off the couch and followed me. Tucked under my covers at a safe distance from him, I could finally fall asleep. The last thing I remembered before closing my eyes, was his sooty lashes fanned out on pale cheeks, and the snuffling sounds he made as he slept.

Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies’ room), loves music (and singing along but, let’s face it, she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (“Make it so”). She loves words, poetry, wine, and Sudoku, and absolutely adores elephants!

Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender, or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.

Nell is a forty-something bisexual Swedish woman, married to the love of her life, and a proud mama of a grown daughter. She left the Scandinavian cold and darkness for warmer and sunnier Malaysia a few years ago, and now spends her days writing, surfing the Internet, enjoying the heat, and eating good food. One day she decided to chase her lifelong dream of being a writer, sat down in front of her laptop, and wrote a story about two men falling in love.

Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angst, and wants to write diverse and different characters



Email contact@nelliris.com
Web www.nelliris.com
Twitter @nellirisauthor
Facebook page www.facebook.com/nellirisauthor
Facebook profile www.facebook.com/nell.iris.12
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/nelliris
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/nell_iris/
QueeRomance Ink https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/nell-iris/

 

Giveaway


a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions