A MelanieM Release Day Review: Vice Enforcer (Vice City #2) by S.A. Stovall

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Holding on to a life worth living can be hard when the nightmares of the past come knocking.
Eight months ago, Nicholas Pierce, ex-mob enforcer, faked his death and assumed a new identity to escape sadistic mob boss Jeremy Vice. With no contacts outside the underworld, Pierce finds work with a washed-up PI. It’s an easy enough gig—until investigating a human trafficking ring drags him back to his old stomping grounds.Miles Devonport, Pierce’s partner, is top of his class at the police academy while single-handedly holding his family together. But when one lieutenant questions Pierce’s past and his involvement in the investigation, Miles must put his future on the line to keep Pierce’s secrets.The situation becomes dire when it’s discovered the traffickers have connections to the Vice family. The lives of everyone Pierce cares about are in danger—not least of all his own, if Jeremy Vice learns he’s back from the dead. Pierce and Miles face a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels—one that will gladly destroy them to keep operating. As Pierce uses every dirty trick he learned from organized crime to protect the new life he’s building, he realizes that no matter how hard he tries, he might never escape his past.But he’s not going down without a fight.If you love noir, if you’re in love with hard men with even harder outlooks with little hope for a future, let alone love.  You know the ones I mean,  they’ve survived somehow the worst that life has thrown out them, they expect to see more.  They’ve been made so incredibly tough by their pasts, that the walls they have erected, inside and out might as well be titanium.  Except for the cracks they allow for certain people and in certain circumstances.  Take that man, put him in stories that fit him beautifully because they are dark and gritty.  The criminals are rank,  the corruption is deep and often elusive .  But hope can come from the most surprising places.  So can love.I fell in love with Pierce back in Vice City (Vice City, #1), a stunning introduction to the man and his lover,Miles Devonport.  Now in the equally intense, incredible sequel, Vice Enforcer (Vice City #2) ,  S.A. Stovall picks up shortly after the first one leaves off.  Supposedly mob enforcer Nicholas Pierce has  “died” and PI in training Percy Adams (much to Pierce’s dismay at the name) is alive and well and living with Miles in a rundown house in suburbia, along with visits from Miles’  brother and sister.  And it’s going exactly as well as you might expect.

Especially Pierce’s attempts to garden and talk to seedlings while dealing with Mile’s sullen siblings who clearly think that “Percy” is pulling their brother under.

Then everything goes further to hell while on a dubious PI training run with the older investigator who is running the program.  Stovall thrusts the reader and her characters immediately into a powerful action packed, fast paced scene because Shelby, the lead PI hasn’t been exactly straight with his trainees. And because Pierce isn’t who he seems to be (a naive PI in training),  knows the setup for what it is and figures out what’s coming, well…Pierce is both ready to flee and shoot depending upon the situation.

By now the reader’s skin is tingling, the hair’s slightly raised because the writing is so damn good that our apprehension levels are off the charts along with Pierce’s.  It stays that way through revelations about human trafficking, the reemergence of the Vice family and the mob, the threats to the new identity Pierce and Miles have established for him as well as keeping him safely dead in the eyes of the Vice family.  This is an intense, gritty story.  If it has its humorous moments, and it does, they too, border on the dry, wry, and the dark.  Consider the perspective and it makes sense.

Even the romance falls under the same lines.  No hearts and flowers here.  No, its more like that radish that refuses to die in Pierce’s garden.  It lives no matter what.  They have each other’s back…no matter what.  The sex is rough, the need for each other is there although Pierce might not always acknowledge it.  And while Miles would like a change in the sexual dynamics, something that Pierce’s past won’t allow, its a topic that  comes up.

There is so much here.  Wyatt, Mile’s supervisor  who is definitely in the closet. Shelby, the PI with the past.  The Vice family. Mile’s and his family.  Oh, yes and the Timo family that lives next door.  Everything gets pulled together in one magnificent tapestry that twists and turns, stuns and pulls at your heart.  And when it ends, you want not only another story but to reread the books one and two all over again.

This is a wowzer of a series. Vice Enforcer (Vice City #2) by S.A. Stovall is everything I could want in a sequel or even a standalone.  I highly recommend it and Vice City.  Both are must reads!

Cover art: Aaron Anderson.  What a great cover.  Perfect for this story and series.

Sales Links:  DSP Publications | Amazon
Book Details:
Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 259 pages
Published April 3rd 2018 by DSP Publications
Original TitleVice Enforcer
ASINB078JQJNF8
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesVice City #2

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: The Ballerino and the Biker (The Hedonist #1) by Rebecca James

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Morgan Wentworth has a dream of becoming a principal dancer with the Manhattan Ballet Company. He’s worked for it all his life, sacrificing friends, living away from family as he studied in Milan and now that he’s serving an apprenticeship with the famed company, his goal is near. His parents were killed two years before and though he’s the principal stockholder and sole beneficiary of the Wentworth Corporation, he delegates the day to day operations to a friend of his father’s. He’s not ready to give up the company but he’s also definitely not ready to give up his chance at ballet.

In the meantime, his only brother is killed. Rafe was in a motorcycle club and was killed in a bike accident while riding with the girlfriend of the rival club leader, a nasty guy who now is out for revenge. Since Rafe is dead, he’ll happily take out Rafe’s little brother, Morgan, instead. Rafe’s club sends Zeke to protect Morgan and get him to their stronghold where they can all watch over him. And for some reason, Zeke is attracted to the gorgeous ballet dancer—to his body, his personality, his intellect, his ambition, and his general sweetness. It takes some time, but eventually, Zeke realizes that the homophobic names his father called him when he was young weren’t so far from the mark. He’s bisexual and he’s happy to learn that it’s a real thing. He also realizes what a despicable fool his father was. 

In the interim, while their attraction is blooming, and sometimes taking a few steps backward, the rival motorcycle club has finally been blackmailed into forgetting about Morgan but now there’s someone else leaving scary notes and hang-up calls and following Morgan late at night in a dark-windowed SUV. And that’s not all—Zeke’s father comes back into his life and another older man, who seems to have a crush on Morgan, steps into his life as a friend and father figure. To be honest, there were a lot of subplots all floating around waiting to be wrapped up that were still unresolved at the 90% mark of the story. For me, the resolution of all these issues was a bit too pat, too rushed, and too unrealistic to warrant a high rating.

On the other hand, I enjoyed the characters themselves. The author did a great job with character development and laid a good foundation for this story and any future stories that involve this motorcycle club. Ultimately, I’m happy that Zeke and Morgan ended up together and I’m happy with the decision Morgan made about his ballet career and his role in the Wentworth Corp. There were a few too many issues left unaddressed in Zeke’s father’s subplot to suit me and the Morgan’s mentor storyline turned quite bizarre so that was not satisfying to me either. Overall, I liked the book, mostly due to the MCs, and I would recommend it to those who enjoy a sexy biker boy who has finally accepted his attraction to men, and to those like me who love stories about male dancers. Their form and grace and pure physicality are a definite plus and always something I enjoy reading.

~~~

Cover art by Reese Dante depicts a handsome man in an open leather jacket, showing a chest tattoo, and a background figure of a ballerina leaping into the air. It’s attractive and beautifully depicts the MCs of the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 186 pages
Published March 10th 2018 by Amazon Digital Services
Original TitleThe Ballerino and the Biker
ASINB07B6QDPG4
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Hedonist #1

A Caryn Review: Tested in Fire (Art Medium #2) by EJ Russell

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is book two in the Art Medium series.  In book one, The Artist’s Touch, Stefan Cobbe was possessed by the ghost Giacomo “Jeremiah” Arcoletti, but Luke Morganstern was able to rescue him, though Luke was seriously injured in the process.  In this installment, they’ve moved to Sarasota, Florida, where Luke’s art investigation company is based, and Stefan found a studio and is back to painting.  Life seems good.

Although the two men are committed to each other, Stefan is still struggling with the debt he incurred years ago by allowing himself to be completely dependent upon a boyfriend, and this time around, he wants to be able to stand on his own.  Luke just wants Stefan to be by his side, and doesn’t understand why Stefan won’t move in with him.  They can’t seem to get past this impasse, and and things only get worse when Luke is unexpectedly detained in Italy following up on a commission.  When he comes home, they have a fight, and then…

At first I wondered how these two men could be so unlucky as to run across the supernatural – and the evil side of it at that – twice in such quick succession, especially when they are now on the opposite side of the country.  Well, turns out it is more than just bad luck, and I will leave that comment as a teaser for you to learn about when you read the book!  Once again, spirits from the past are interfering in Stefan’s and Luke’s lives, and once again they have to rely on their connection with each other, and their love, in order to make it through alive.

I thought this was a wonderful continuation of the series, because the depth of Luke and Stefan’s love for each other was seriously challenged, and they truly rose to face it.  There was no hesitation in their defense of each other, and this time Stefan was the one to come to the rescue.  A good thing for both of them to realize how strong Stefan truly is, and how able to stand on his own, but unfortunately quite a blow to Luke who is left confused and ashamed by what has happened to him.

I am assuming that there will be at least a third book in the series at some point in the future (and hopefully more, I really love this couple!), but I think there will be a bit of a hiatus while things in the publishing world shake out.  However it happens, I will be eagerly looking forward to it!

Cover art by L.C. Chase is even better than the first book.  I like Luke’s (Giacomo’s?) expression as he holds the mask…

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing

Book Details:

ebook, 192 pages
Published April 2nd 2018 by Riptide Publishing (first published March 31st 2018)
Original TitleTested in Fire
ISBN 1626497575 (ISBN13: 9781626497573)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesArt Medium #2

New Release Blitz: Midnight Twist by Rian Durant (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Midnight Twist

Author: Rian Durant

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 2, 2018U

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 19700

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, fantasy, humor, demons

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Synopsis

Jaydon can’t afford to lose a bet he’s made, so when the sweet as sin Eluin offers him The Contract, it may be exactly what he needs. Or is it? Things get a little twisted with the cheeky demon being around.

The number of demons in Jaydon’s apartment grows, with Eluin’s big brother Eluel and his wayward lover Sam showing up. The couple is at a breaking point in their own on/off relationship and this time getting back together seems as probable as hell freezing over.

Excerpt

Midnight Twist
Rian Durant © 2018
All Rights Reserved

It all started with an espresso machine, even though I’d seen him drinking espresso only once in all the time we knew each other. Then he complained for three days that he hadn’t tasted such swill in his whole life. The fact that I’d made it for him with all my love didn’t cause him to show an ounce of tact.

I felt in my gut it was a tremendous mistake to enter the mall, but even if I’d tried to avoid it, I doubt he would’ve taken my opinion into account. He would’ve thrown a temper tantrum of magnificent proportions, which wasn’t a pretty sight. I’d been a witness and a victim of such antics once, only it was in front of a restaurant, which I hadn’t dared come close to ever since.

The glowing look in his eyes while we passed by the shop windows made my heart sink, because I couldn’t afford most of the things he stared at, especially with the plans we had for the rest of the week. My lovely boyfriend possessed a seductive appearance and a good heart, but his perceptions were terribly distorted due to eighteen years of systematic spoiling at the hands of his parents. He used to reassure me this wasn’t going to come between us since he was madly in love with me, but he couldn’t be further from the truth. After the ironic remarks I had been subjected to in the past few weeks, I knew I wasn’t going to get away with it.

I didn’t want to lose him, but it was clear that if I didn’t overcome my financial issues, his love for me would vanish into thin air together with his rebellious spirit, and he’d settle with any of the “appropriate partners” his parents tried to match him with. Once, one of his father’s business tycoon friends with his three hot lovers landed in front of my door and pounced on me, obviously not familiar with the appearance of his intended chosen one. I led a fierce battle using all means possible, which ended up being the shoehorn lying next to the shoes at the front door, in order to preserve my honor. Things deteriorated when Lyte came out of the bathroom in his short, sexy bathrobe to check why I was wreaking such havoc. We had to barricade the door and listen to a serenade for more than an hour before the police came to take them away.

I turned to Lyte with a smile, intending to remind him of that time the tycoon came calling, but when I caught his hand, he didn’t react at all. He had already seen it. He gazed at the window with an oblivious smile, and then raised his finger and pointed at it. A second later he issued a brief statement with a determination I’d rarely heard in the voice of another human being.

“I want it!”

At first, I couldn’t understand what the item in question was, wavering between a weird CD player, a hat rack, or Darth Vader’s helmet. But when the price tag next to it caught my attention, I shivered.

“You want an espresso machine? What do you need it for, sweetheart?”

“It will look great in the kitchen, don’t you think? The color scheme is the same, and besides, it’s so fancy with all these buttons!” He clapped. “You are going to buy it for me, love, won’t you?”

“But you don’t even drink coffee, sweetie.”

“It doesn’t matter. I can make tea in it. I mean, I’m sure it has such a function.”

I was positive it had a TV-watching function at least, judging by the price, which caused me severe trauma. I tried to sound as gentle and as reasonable as I could.

“We can’t buy it now, dear.”

His amazing blue eyes shot a quick malicious look at me, and he pouted. “So it wasn’t enough for you to turn me into a housewife, was it? Now you refuse to buy me this little sweet espresso machine. Did I understand you correctly?”

I didn’t know why he was always harping on it, given that there wasn’t an ounce of truth in his accusation, unless lying on the sofa with the remote control all day long was termed housekeeping these days. If it wasn’t for me, we would’ve both been dead by now because of the weird things he tried to cook a few times right after he’d moved in with me. I hardly let him do anything around the house, as I preferred to leave him enough free time to study. Week in, week out, he’d go to class to sit for some exams. There was a time when I suspected he was taking them in another way, not fit for a mixed audience, but he finally succeeded in persuading me in the opposite by quoting the declaration of human rights by heart.

I looked at him with regret and repeated to myself he wasn’t guilty in the least. His parents had driven him to this state of mind. I tried to hug him, which, naturally, I was denied.

“Are you really going to be mad at me over some stupid espresso machine?”

“It is not stupid!” he snapped. “You are stupid.”

I laughed, hoping he was joking like he sometimes did, but this time it was different. I suppose this was the proverbial last drop, so when we got home, he locked himself in his room without giving any explanation. After about an hour, he came out dragging his big red suitcase behind him.

“Eh? Sweetie pie…”

He hissed in my face like a kitten deprived of its food, with an expression showing me that if I breathed a word, anything I said would be used against me as he stomped past me, out the front door, slamming it behind him. Apparently, he’d realized there were two alternatives to obtaining his beloved espresso machine. One was to go back to his family, and after an enlightening reprimand on how he shouldn’t choose penniless partners like me, they would give it to him as a present. The other was to use his infinite charm and extort some other idiot with enough money into buying it for him.

I could get a credit card and buy the accursed gadget, but his leaving was a mixed blessing. I might’ve gotten him back, but next week he could decide he couldn’t live without some other splendid invention of modern science, and I couldn’t count on giving in and buying him every single thing he set his heart on.

Part of me wanted him back, but another part insisted that walking away was the best thing he’d ever done for me. We’d had great moments together, especially in the beginning, but to be honest, I’d wondered whether it wasn’t better we called it a day. Exhausted by all the thoughts swarming inside my head, I went to bed. The most difficult part was sleeping alone under the cold sheets after having someone to cuddle with for such a long time.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Rian is one of those who are both blessed and cursed by the insatiable desire to write. Short stories, sometimes longer stories and yeah, primarily M/M (you can insert more Ms if you like) romance stories.

Always having a plot in mind sometimes proves being hard when having a day time job but Rian manages them both for the time being, assisted by the
priceless support of her soul mate, large amounts of coffee and pure obstinacy.

What makes Rian smile is a sunny day, a beautiful flower, a piece of chocolate, a nice song, a good book and anything that could be the reason for that spark in the eyes, accompanied by the exclamation: “Oh my, I just saw something!”

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

 

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New Release Tour and Giveaway: Tested in Fire (Art Medium #2) by EJ Russell

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Tested in Fire (Art Medium #2) by E.J. Russell

Riptide Publishing
Cover Art: L.C. Chase

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

 

About Tested in Fire

 

Six months ago, Stefan Cobbe was at rock bottom: grief-stricken, guilt ridden, debt laden, artistically blocked, and living on charity in an isolated mountain cabin. But after reconciling with his first love, Luke, and moving to Sarasota with him, Stefan is preparing for his first major show. Yes, he still has debts, and no, Luke doesn’t understand Stefan’s desire for independence. But compared to last year? No contest.

 

Luke Morganstern ought to be happy. After all, his art-investigation business has recovered and he’s got his boyfriend back. But Stefan stubbornly refuses to move in with him or accept Luke’s financial help, and it’s really starting to bug him. Who knew that the biggest test of their relationship wouldn’t be time or distance, but his own insecurities? After Luke’s next job—a trip to Italy to retrieve a mysterious artifact—he plans to convince Stefan that it’s time to totally commit.

 

But when Luke returns, he changes, and Stefan begins to suspect that the person in Luke’s skin isn’t Luke at all. He can hardly go to the police and claim his lover is the victim of a supernatural hijacking though. He needs alternative help to find Luke and get him back, because he refuses to let anyone—or anything—come between them again.

About the Art Medium Series

 

Artists use all manner of materials to express their vision, to interpret the world around them, to affect the hearts and minds of their audience.

 

But what if the artist himself were the medium? And what if artistic inspiration weren’t the only force at work?

 

If painter Stefan Cobbe and art investigator Luke Morganstern don’t answer those questions fast, they stand to lose their reputations, their relationship—and their lives.

About E.J. Russell

 

E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business-intelligence consultant. After her twin sons left for college and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class, she returned to her childhood love of writing fiction. Now she wonders why she ever thought an empty nest meant leisure.

 

E.J. lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, the only man on the planet who cares less about sports than she does. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

 

Connect with E.J.:

 

Website: ejrussell.com

Blog: ejrussell.com/bloggery/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/E.J.Russell.author

Twitter: twitter.com/ej_russell

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ejrussell/

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of both books in the Art Medium series, E.J. is giving away a $25 Amazon credit and an ebook copy of both titles in the Legend Tripping series! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Contest closes at midnight, Eastern time, on April 7, 2017 and is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to leave your contact info!