A MelanieM Review: Like the Night (Blood Bathory #1) by Ari McKay

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Evan St. John, a young fashion photographer running from the pain caused by the death of his younger sister, is thrilled when he is offered a job with House of Nadasdy, a leading fashion house in Paris. What he doesn’t know is that Elizabeth Nadasdy, the elegant and powerful owner, is a centuries-old vampire with a penchant for collecting beautiful people. To Evan’s horror, he is turned into one of her “children.” Unable to bear what he has become, Evan flees to New York and to his best friend, police officer Will Trask. For years, Evan has nursed an unrequited love for Will, but he also knows Will is the one person who might be able to help him. As Evan and Will try to deal with Evan’s condition, they are drawn into the world of the theriomorphs: shape-shifters who are guardians of life and the sworn enemies of vampires. Caught in an ancient war between two powerful supernatural forces, Evan and Will find they must choose sides — because if they are to have any chance of a future together, they must destroy Elizabeth Nadasdy before she destroys them.

Like the Night by Ari McKay is the first in the new Blood Bathory series the authors are creating.  And what a series it looks to be.  Starting out with the historic Elizabeth Bathory herself as the sublimely evil ancient vampire at the core of all misery here, McKay builds the universe out to include an ongoing war with Gaia herself and her soldiers, the theriomorphs against the vampires who would rule.  Caught in the middle are Evan St. John, a vampire turned against his will, and Will, a human police officer and Evan’s best friend who is about to find out that the world is much stranger than he ever believed.

The author gives us multiple points of view which works here to let us know how many people actually have their own agendas in this battle for conquest.  Hint, it’s not just the main characters.  So many manipulations going on here, so many secondary threads that will, of course, become major ones later on.

The romance between Evan and Will is one that needs major communication to move forward as well as some false (and hilarious) assumptions to be swept aside.  I liked the heat between them and they worked great as a couple.  One caveat is that Evan comes across as too much of the “weak pretty boy” here for someone who is a vampire.  He has one scene where he shows his vampire strength and the  rest of the time I feel that’s wasted making the theriomorphs look badass to his detriment.  Why not both?  Not using a vampire’s assets throws away a valuable weapon imo here.

Back to the theriomorphs and Gaia.  I absolutely love this element.  I hope its explored even more closely in the upcoming stories as the battle continues.

There are many great secondary characters, on both sides mind you.  I can’t wait to see what the next installment will bring.

If you love the supernatural, romance, vampires and shapeshifters, you can’t go wrong with Like the Night (Blood Bathory #1) by Ari McKay.  I highly recommend it for the great world building, wonderful characters, and a plot that grabs a hold of you right until the end.

Cover art: Lou Harper.  I like the cover but it’s not terribly representative of the characters, Evan is blond.

Sales Links: Universal Buy Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 2 edition, 352 pages
Published April 9th 2018 by Independent (first published July 2nd 2013)
Original TitleBlood Bathory: Like the Night
ASINB07BFMZ8L9
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBlood Bathory #1

A Lila Audiobook Review: Late in the Day (The Vault #2) by Mary Calmes and Greg Boudreaux (Narrator)

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

What they say this book’s all about?

Terrence Moss. Conrad Harris. Gold Team Leader. Darius Hawthorne. The Vault. Juggling all these names would bother some, but for Darius, it’s business as usual. When he closes a chapter in his life, he leaves a name—and the people associated with it—behind. He’s managed to keep a few colleagues, even fewer friends, and no companionship through his forty-plus years… but that’s now changing.

The newest chapter of his life is bringing serious change: a stable home, a recovered identity, an unlikely family, and now a chance encounter with the one man Darius ever loved: Efrem Lahm. The reasons they parted are still valid, and there’s no way they can trust each other. But Efrem has already decided he won’t let Darius go… and Darius will have to decide if he wants to take a chance with his heart this late in the day.

Late in the Day is a story of second chances and hard happily ever afters. It starts right into the action and personally, it took me a moment to make the connection between the end of the last book and the start of this one. One thing I didn’t like was the switch between the current moment and snippets of past events. By the time the characters moved back to the current timeline, I was ready to skip over.

Like many of the author’s stories, we have met Conrad before and we get to see many others helping us discover the events that shaped Conrad. Also, to learn how he fell in love with Efrem. Perhaps a bit far-fetched but it works in the end.

I did want more time with Conrad and Efrem. It seems as if we lost the majority of their love story within other books. Don’t get me wrong, they have great chemistry but I wanted them to show it, not having it be implied. It does end with a pretty wrapped up, sigh-worthy HEA.

And definitely, kudos to Mary Calmes for having characters over forty; getting closer to fifty. 🙂

As always, Greg Boudreaux did an excellent job bringing to life the new characters in this book and bringing the rest from the previous ones. It was easy to feel what the characters felt and this added to the listeners’ enjoyment.

The cover by Reese Dante has a lovely depiction of Conrad. The strength in his gaze shows through the book.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Narrator: Greg Boudreaux
Length: 5 hours and 41 minutes

Published: March 7, 2018 (Audio Edition) by Dreamspinner Press
ASIN: B07B86XWF8
Edition Language: English

Series: The Vault
Book #1: A Day Makes
Book #2: Late in the Day

An Alisa Audiobook Review: Getting His Man (Getting His Man #1) by B.G. Thomas and Kenneth Obi (Narrator)

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

A love story worthy of an old movie… with a new twist.

Artie needs a hero, a man like those he’s always revered in Golden Age films. His drug-dealing jerk of a roommate got him arrested, and since his savior isn’t likely to sweep in and save the day, Artie calls a bail bondsman.

August has always imagined himself a hero from a black-and-white movie, but he’s never found a man willing to let him play that role—at least not until he gets the call from Artie.

Both of their dreams might come true, but not before August must use his skills as a bounty hunter as well as a bondsman. Artie is on the run for his life, and August must protect him and help him clear his name. Only then can they both finally get their man.

I really enjoyed this story.  Artie is so adorably sweet and innocent but not at the same time, he just trusts easily and trying to make it on his own.  Artie is just what he has always wanted in a man but tries hard to keep some distance between them, at least at first.

These two were perfect for each other, down to the dream of dancing the night away with the right person.  I loved how they were both romantics at heart though August doesn’t outwardly show it as much but no matter how different they are in the end they want the same thing.  Part of Artie’s innocence is he can’t stand the thought of seeing anyone hurt and I could see how much he hurt himself when trying to keep August and his family safe.  August has a very determined personality and he uses it to help protect and guide Artie in just the way he needs.

Kenneth Obi did a great job narrating this story.  The voices he used for each character were perfect and helped me to connect with their personalities and emotions.  The different voices also helped with keeping track of the story.

Cover art by Bree Archer is perfect and I liked having a visual of August.

Sales Links:  Audible | Amazon |  iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook, 5hrs 52mins
Published March 7, 2018 (ebook first published December 15, 2017) by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language: English

Series: Getting His Man #1, Dreamspun Desires

A Lucy Review: Coming Out In The Art by J. Sanders

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Jacob Carlson is a medical transcriptionist who works at home, pretty much hiding out from the world except for his best friend, Chris, and his cat, Sebastian.  An accident in his senior year caused a fire to burn the right side of his face and body.  The reactions he got from his friends and still gets from uncaring people have turned his view of himself monstrous.   His one link to the outside world is Chris, an amazing and loyal friend from before the accident who works to make sure Jacob is not alone.  It is through Chris that he has a meeting with someone (Tristan) who makes him long.  “It’s just…he sometimes wonders what it would be like to have someone – other than a doctor or nurse – actually touch him.  Because they want to. Because they like him.  Because they want to make him feel good.”  This boy, he grabbed my heart.  He gives people the cold shoulder so they don’t have to deal with his face.  Sigh.

Tristan is on the Council for the Arts and a knows Chris.  It is at a party that Jacob reluctantly attends with Chris that Tristan shows he’s a good person.  He talks to Jacob even when Jacob is being pretty cold. When Jacob shows the scar, “…his ace in the hole”, Tristan just keeps talking about Jacob’s job and math and finally, art.  That’s where Jacob finally joins the conversation and the two of them begin on a journey of getting to know you and maybe getting to like you. 

Let’s put it right out there:  Jacob has scars from a fire.  He is not monstrous.  He is lonely and lovely.  The way the accident happened, the timing of it, just made my heart ache for him. He’s spent ten years hiding himself and it’s very difficult to change that, particularly when rude people react badly.   He’s now not sure how to act when someone might be interested. “The scarring from the accident makes him a freak and it’s ten times easier not to have to explain or deal with the pitying looks he gets.”  Notice, he says “makes him a freak”, not “makes him look like a freak.”  He’s so self-loathing.

When he and Tristan begin to be friends, Jacob opens up a little.  Sharing the how of the fire doesn’t make Tristan eye him with pity, just sympathy.  Their first kiss was perfect.   Tristan’s way of making Jacob feel important and his attitude that only Jacob’s opinion matters about Jacob was so vital to making Jacob feel better.  Not to say Tristan is always serious.  As they begin the “Tristan and Jacob Text Discussions of 2017 ™”, Jacob gets “Horseradish is a very underrated condiment or For some reason  I have always like the smell of gasoline.”

I’m sure somewhere Tristan has some flaws but I didn’t seem them.  Or maybe I did and didn’t care because I liked them both so much.   He sings Afternoon Delight (yes!) and is patient with people and kind.  He is kind when Jacob is so very brave and for the first time, takes his shirt off in front of another man, a man he cares about. “You humble me every time we’re together.  Your strength is so incredible.”  These two, they work.

I knew something was going to happen to mar Jacob’s happiness but when it happened it came from an area I wasn’t expecting and I was pretty pissed about it all.  People can suck.   Despite that, this is very low angst story.   I thoroughly appreciated that the characters, including Chris, were good people and I was pulling for them.  As a former medical transcriptionist, I could empathize with the unintelligible doctor voices too!  I would recommend this book without reservation.

The cover art, by Winterheart Designs, didn’t work wonders for me.  The model wasn’t Jacob, because there is no scar, yet I couldn’t see it being Tristan either.  The model is very brooding, while Tristan is known for “…the smile – wide and open and happy..”  The background is arty and perfect but then the title is difficult to read.  All in all, not really a fan of the cover.

Sales Link:  MLR Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published March 22nd 2018 by MLR Press
ISBN139781370547876

Blog Tour for Theoden: A New Haven Series Prequel by Nicholas Bella (character guest post,excerpt and giveaway)

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 Theoden Tour Banner

THEODEN

A New Haven Series Prequel

NICHOLAS BELLA

GAY HORROR

RELEASE DATE: 03.21.18

 Theoden Cover 

COVER DESIGN: JAY AHEER/ Simply Defined Art

COVER PHOTOGRAPHER: WANDER AGUIAR

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK

Theoden-customdesign-JayAheer2017-3Dbook2

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words gives a special welcome to Theoden, who decided to tell us a little bit about his story.

 A Word from Theoden…..

 

Since this is my book, I decided I’d be the one to make this guest post. For years, I’d been getting fan mail from the readers asking for my story. Now, normally, I don’t pander to humans, as they are beneath me. Being a vampire makes humans my prey, but I couldn’t help be a little bit flattered. Of course, humans would want to learn more about their vampire lord. Vampires, dragons, and werewolves, we fascinate them. Our powers leave them in awe and they give themselves to us on a regular basis because they know their place.

Anyway, I digress, after seeing the demand for my story, my history, I sat down with Nicholas and we decided to start from the beginning. My earliest memories being my childhood in the Church. The tale continued, detailing all of the significant events of my life that shaped my personality. The lessons I learned, I teach to my own sons, no matter how harsh. I do so, because I want them to be a great as I am, as they are an extension of me, as I am an extension of my Sire.

This book means a great deal to me, so I want your undivided attention when you read it. Put the kids to bed, make sure your mates are well satisfied and sleeping soundly, because once you open the book, you will not want to put it down. -Théoden.

 

BLURB

My name is Theoden, this is the story of my life. Apparently, there has been a huge demand for me to tell it. Normally, I do what I want, unless the command comes from my Sire, Ara. But, revealing the tale about how I became the powerful vampire Prince of the City is something I think I will enjoy telling. You’ll see my first mission for the church, my first kill, the life-changing moment when I lost my virginity, and how I chose my first son, all of the things that mean something to me, that made me the vampire I am. So, sit back, and give me all of your attention, as I want your eyes on me. Now, let’s begin.

Prepare to be entertained to new heights as Theoden delivers you a unique tale of his life from childhood to the vampire Master you know him to be.

Warning: This is a prequel to the highly erotic, extremely dark and twisted New Haven Series and the spin-off, Odin Chronicles. I can’t stress enough how strong the sexual, violent, and adult content is in this book. It will steam up your glasses, and melt your contact lenses. The temperature in the room will rise to unbearable degrees. Pearls will be clutched and you may utter the words: “Oh my God” several times while reading. You have been warned. For mature readers only.

theoden-bookmark3

EXCERPT

Once I was outside in the garden, I could no longer hold back, and I vomited blood onto a rose bush. But once it was out of my stomach, I felt better. For me, sex would never overflow, but blood could. Another lesson learned. I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand and, before I could take to the skies, three vampires appeared before me.

“Where do you herald from?” one of them asked me. He gripped a silver dagger in his hand a little more tightly as he waited for my reply.

I looked at each one them, gauging them and their positions to my own. I didn’t fear them because I knew just how powerful I was and I was confident in my training. This was the other part of my mission, one that Ara was certain I would encounter.

“From the Kingdom of Ara, my Father,”I declared proudly. Ara wanted me to do so, and in doing so, leave my mark.

“Is this a declaration of war?”the same vampire asked.

I shrugged. “I think not. I had an old debt to settle.”I gestured toward the rectory, and then to my clothes that were covered in the blood of my victims.

“You dare kill on our territory!”another vampire said.

“Breaching another vampire King’s territory without permission is punishable by death,”the first vampire said, then he advanced on me. He was fast, as fast as Nolan, and I had to react quickly before he could plunge the blade of his dagger into my chest. Thanks to my training with Tylendel, I knew the silver could not kill me, but it could weaken me, and that, I could not allow.

I grabbed his wrist just as the tip of the dagger pierced my flesh, burning my skin. I didn’t hesitate to take advantage of our close proximity. I sank my fangs deeply in his shoulder and injected as much venom as I could.

He cried out, and I pulled back. He released his grip on his dagger and staggered back. The other two vampires looked at him and glared in shock as his skin began to turn pale. Sweat poured from his pores as his veins began to protrude through his flesh, looking bright red against the nearly translucent skin.

I didn’t know the effect a dragon’s venom could have on a vampire and still didn’t know, as I was only half dragon. But its effect was deadly and looked to be extremely painful as the vampire had been rendered powerless against my bite until he died. I looked at the other two vampires and aimed my hand at the one who had not spoken a word, then conjured up my flames, releasing them in his direction.

The other vampire dashed out of the way, his sword drawn, but he stayed his position as he watched me burn his companion into a cinder. The vampire howled as he spun around in an attempt to extinguish the flames, but he couldn’t. I controlled them and only relinquished that control once he fell to the ground, motionless.  The last remaining vampire was thinking about fleeing or fighting, which was the only reason he was still there. In the end, he decided to flee, and I chased after him.

I was shocked that I had caught up to him because I could sense his aura and knew he was at least a century older than I was. I tackled him to the ground and he rolled over, scooting away from me.

Nicolas Bella Logo

About me? Hmmm, I’m just a person with a wild imagination and a love for words who was sitting around the house one day and said, “Why hasn’t anyone written a book like this before?”. As with every storyteller, I wanted to share mine with the world. I like my erotica dark, gritty, sexy… and even a little raunchy. I’m not afraid to go there and I hope you aren’t afraid to go there with me. When I’m not writing, I love watching movies and TV shows, clubbing, biking, and hanging out with family and friends. I love life.

I’d love to hear from you, feel free to send me a shout out!

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REVIEW TOUR – Like the Night (Blood Bathory #1) by Ari McKay (excerpt and giveaway)

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Cover Design: Lou Harper
 
Length: 123,737 words
 
Blurb
 

Evan St. John, a young fashion photographer running from the pain caused by the death of his younger sister, is thrilled when he is offered a job with House of Nadasdy, a leading fashion house in Paris. What he doesn’t know is that Elizabeth Nadasdy, the elegant and powerful owner, is a centuries-old vampire with a penchant for collecting beautiful people. To Evan’s horror, he is turned into one of her “children.”


Unable to bear what he has become, Evan flees to New York and to his best friend, police officer Will Trask. For years, Evan has nursed an unrequited love for Will, but he also knows Will is the one person who might be able to help him. As Evan and Will try to deal with Evan’s condition, they are drawn into the world of the theriomorphs: shape-shifters who are guardians of life and the sworn enemies of vampires. Caught in an ancient war between two powerful supernatural forces, Evan and Will find they must choose sides – because if they are to have any chance of a future together, they must destroy Elizabeth Nadasdy before she destroys them.

 

April 9 – MM Midnight Cafe
April 10 – Love Bytes
April 12 – Alpha Book Club
April 17 – The Novel Approach
April 19 – Diverse Reader

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words review here.

Excerpt
 

Will had always been protective of those he cared about, and Evan was no exception, especially since Evan’s attractive face, slender build and “out and proud” attitude had occasionally made him a target on campus. It had been that way since their freshman year, and it was no different now. It was ridiculous, perhaps, and no doubt part of that White Knight thing Evan had always teased him about, but Will couldn’t help it; it was just the way he was.


“You might as well ‘fess up now, because I’m going to get the story out of you one way or another. I’m not going to let anyone hurt you if I can do anything about it. We stick together, right?” Will’s tone grew serious. “I mean it, Evan. You know you can count on me. You’re my best friend.” It was still true, even though they hadn’t been face-to-face in years. No one had ever taken Evan’s place in his life; no one ever could.


“Even if I tell you I’ve been working for a vampire?” Evan asked softly. “I don’t mean that figuratively, either. I mean literally. She’s a monster. She’s killed her own models. She turns people into monsters like her.”


For a long moment, Will couldn’t do anything but stare at his friend, wondering if this was a joke and he was somehow missing the punch line. Evan’s blue eyes were haunted but guileless; the man was a lousy liar, at least when it came to Will, and there was too much pain in Evan’s gaze for it to be some elaborate trick. Whatever was really going on, Evan, at least, believed what he was saying, and that was the most horrifying part of it. Whatever had happened to Evan in the last few months had damaged him in a way that Will was afraid he wasn’t going to be able to fix.


It was painful to face the fact that his best friend had apparently suffered some sort of mental breakdown, and Will cursed himself for not having tried harder to get in contact when Evan’s communications had grown infrequent. Obviously Evan had been going through something terrible, and Will knew that he had to do whatever he could to get Evan the help he needed. Which meant making sure that Evan remained here for now, until Will could figure out how to get him to a doctor.


“Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying,” he replied, keeping his voice quiet and reassuring. “Elizabeth Nadasdy, the famous fashion designer, is a vampire who kills people. That makes sense, I suppose. Or at least it explains why the models all look as though they weigh five pounds.” His attempt at humor sounded hollow, but it was the best he could do at the moment. “And she’s after you?”


Evan leaned back away from Will. “You don’t believe me. You think I’m crazy.”


Will hated to see that look on Evan’s face, the question of sanity aside. “Evan, it’s not that I don’t want to believe you, all right? But you know how it sounds, don’t you?” He knew his tone was pleading. “Vampires don’t exist. I can tell you believe it, though, and that makes it hard, because I know you’d never lie to me. But how can I believe it? How can you believe it?” He reached out and touched Evan’s arm in mute appeal. “How?”


Evan met Will’s gaze, his expression steady and calm, no trace of madness lurking in his gaze. “I don’t just believe it. I know it. I know it because I’m one, too.”

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.


Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.


McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.


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Blog Tour for Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert (excerpt and giveaway)

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When a SEAL medic inherits three young children, he must battle to keep the family together and keep his long-held feelings for the man challenging him for custody at bay.

Squared Away

Series: Out of Uniform #5

Publisher: Carina Press

Release Date (Print & Ebook): April 16. Print, ebook, and audio all available.

Length (Print & Ebook): 80,000 words

Subgenre: m/m military romance

Includes: military romance, insta-family, hurt/comfort, angst, interracial, heroes-with-kids, gay romance, demisexual/gray ace hero, first time, loss, reunion, forced proximity

Links:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2ptQhFH

Paperback: http://amzn.to/2ptc00A

Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/Squared-Away-Audiobook/B07BGJ3FRF

iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/squared-away/id1326105516?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/squared-away-1

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/squared-away-annabeth-albert/1127659238?ean=9781335980809

Carina Press: https://www.carinapress.com/shop/books/9781335980809_squared-away.html

Synopsis:

In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.

Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.

As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.

What Annabeth Albert has to say about this book in her Out of Uniform series:

“I wanted to write a book about the nature of family and how loss and tragedy can shape family, mold it into something stronger, force growth and change. I’m enormously proud of SQUARED AWAY as a result because how I fell in love with this little family.”

“When Wizard first appeared in ON POINT as a secondary character, I was intrigued by him, but it wasn’t until I let myself get into his head that I really saw how complicated he was. I feel honored and privileged to have been able to tell his story.”

“No book gets written in a vacuum and this one is no different. I owe a huge debt on this book to my sensitivity readers who really encouraged me to dig deep.”

Praise for the series:

“Albert delivers a solid hurt/comfort story…” RT Book Reviews on SQUARED AWAY

“Mark and Isaiah’s budding relationship happens with sensitivity and steamy moments…” RT Book Reviews on SQUARED AWAY

“Annabeth Albert’s Out of Uniform series is a unique look at SEALs’ lives, showing us the insides of their hearts and homes and the love that drives them.” ~Layla Reyne, author of the Agents Irish and Whisky series.  

“Sexy, sweet and heartfelt, Annabeth Albert’s Out of Uniform series is a fresh take on Navy SEALs that will delight and entertain romance readers.” ~Layla Reyne, author of the Agents Irish and Whisky series.  

 Excerpts:

“I take it that’s a yes?”

“It’s always going to be a yes for more kissing.” Isaiah scooted closer. They’d done the massage and goodnight kiss routine a few more times, but he was careful to not press for it, to let it be Mark’s idea.

Mark gave him a fast but still electric kiss. “I was thinking about this when I was helping you outside earlier. It’s crazy how much I like touching and kissing you.”

“I love touching you too.” Isaiah trailed his fingers down Mark’s cheek. “You haven’t had that before?”

“Not really. I’ve had a lot of kisses that felt like getting my earlobe chewed by a cat or trying to kiss a salmon. Not awful but not ‘can’t wait to do it again’ either. Had some kisses I liked, but right as I was getting comfortable, the other person would try to take it to the next level. And that was always a disaster.”

“Even with your friend? The other medic?”

Mark shrugged and looked away. “He got huffy when I didn’t want to get naked after a few kisses. Called me a closet case.”

“I’m sorry.” Isaiah patted his leg, not sure what else to say. “You’re a great guy. You deserve all the good kisses—no fish or earlobe chewing allowed. And you deserve to go at your own pace. Always.”

“I feel guilty. Like I should be doing something more for you…”

“Hey now. I’m getting amazing kisses from a hot-as-fuck guy who also likes to massage me until I’m a pile of limp lettuce. Trust me. I’m not getting a shabby deal here. At all.” If anything, Isaiah felt guilty for how very much he was enjoying all this. “And add in yard work help and cleaning? Man, you’d be a lot of people’s idea of a dream date.”

“Good.” Mark leaned in for another, softer kiss. “Because I really like doing this.”

“Me too.” Isaiah tried to calm the thumping of his heart. Careful, he warned himself even as his long-comatose hope monster hefted itself up and did a dance. He couldn’t afford to go falling for Mark again, yet with each kiss, each tentative touch, he could feel his grip on his resolve weakening.

About Annabeth Albert:

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.  The #OutOfUniform series joins her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ  romance #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat and #PerfectHarmony series. To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: www.annabethalbert.com or connect with Annabeth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content and exclusive contests.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter.  In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two active children.

Connect with Annabeth:

Twitter | Facebook | Facebook Group | Newsletter | Instagram | Website

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Book Blitz – Five Dares by Eli Easton (excerpt and giveaway)

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Blurb

Andy Tyler has been the class daredevil since middle school. Over the years, he’s convinced his best friend, Jake Masterson, to perform some dangerous-looking stunts with him. But the dare they attempt on the night of their college graduation goes sideways. The firecrackers explode too soon and both of them end up with badly burned palms.

But hey, nothing gets the “terrible two-o” down for long, and they recuperate in style at Andy’s family cottage in Cape Cod. As the weeks go by, both Andy and Jake grow frustrated over the inability to use their hands for all sorts of daily activities—including getting off. So Andy begins a new series of dares that don’t just cross the friendship line, they obliterate it.

But what might be mere sexual relief to Andy is serious business to Jake, who only recently got over years of secret pining for his straight best friend. Inevitably, the burns heal, summer ends, and hearts are broken. To fix things, Andy will have to face the greatest dare of all.

Excerpt

 

The first few weeks at the cottage we had good weather and spent most of our time outside. Walter said our burns were coming along well. So far we’d avoided making things worse, which was a miracle. The burns were gnarly looking though, and painful when he rewrapped them.

My palms were the bright red of fresh blood. They looked like they’d been dipped in boiling water, with layers around the edge turning white and loose in spots. My hands alternated between a mild burning and piercing pain that went supernova anytime I accidentally clenched them or bumped them into something. Doing or lifting anything that required any pressure on the skin whatsoever was right out.

So by the time we’d been basking on the Nantucket Sound for two weeks, I was climbing the fucking walls.

“I’ve never been this damn horny in my life,” I complained to Jake, bitterly and sincerely.

It was almost noon, and we were sitting out on the dock like we usually did. It had been great hanging out together. We’d caught up on a lot of stuff we never seemed to get around to talking about during school—his upcoming new life. Harvard. Our mutual friends and exes. We’d told ghost stories. We’d taken long walks and kicked around a soccer ball for hours. We’d played poker on Jake’s tablet and consumed six seasons of The Walking Dead on the big-screen TV. It was nice having undivided Jake time, but I’d reached the point where frustration had me close to tears.

Not tears of boredom either. Sexually frustrated tears.

“Turn page,” Jake responded. He was reading on his Kindle.

“I’m not sure how that would help me get off,” I joked.

Jake snorted, but he didn’t rise to the bait.

I shifted in my chair. I wasn’t kidding. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d gone more than two days without an orgasm. Probably not since I’d figured out the magical wonderland that was my dick when I was eleven years old. I’d had a permanent semi for days now, and my loose, silky gym shorts—worn because I could get them up and down by myself if I scooched against a wall—were doing nothing to disguise it or help it go away.

I moved my bandaged hands onto the arms of the deck chair and looked down at myself. Even looking at my crotch made my dick grow under the silky blue fabric. It was like a hopeful puppy anticipating attention.

In my peripheral vision, I saw Jake glance at it too. He leaned forward in his chair, hunching toward the Kindle, which was propped on a little table in front of him. “Turn page.”

“You did not just read an entire page.” I smirked.

“Shut up, Mr. TMI.” Jake fake-read some more.

But I knew I had his attention. “Have you figured out a way to get off yet? Because I haven’t.”

“No,” he said in a distracted voice. Despite his blasé look, I knew there was no way he was absorbing a single word on that Kindle screen.

“Me neither. I tried humping the bed, but it didn’t work. Fucking mattress is so soft and lumpy.”

“Can you not give me the gory details?” Jake hunched further and stared at the Kindle.

“Rubbing against the tiles in the shower didn’t work. They’re too hard.”

He snorted. “What are you, the Goldilocks of self-love?”

I chuckled. “That’s me. I need something just right.” I used a filthy voice on the last bit.

Jake shifted uneasily but didn’t look at me. “Too bad Amber dumped you. Maybe you could call her and play the poor invalid card. She might be willing to drive down for a conjugal visit.”

“Nah. So not worth the bowing and scraping I’d have to do.”

I gave it a moment, trying to build up my nerve.

I hadn’t been kidding. I’d tried a half-dozen ways to get off, but nothing was working. So I’d put some serious brain power into figuring out a solution. I was good at working around obstacles, but the obvious answer—the thing I really wanted—involved Jake, and I wasn’t sure how he’d react.

Just thinking about it, I plumped up further, causing a definite tent in my shorts. I half expected Jake to tease me, something like, You could poke someone’s eye out with that thing.

But all he said was, “Turn page.”

“So . . . you haven’t gotten off since before the hospital?” I asked.

“No,” Jake said quickly. “And it’s not helping to talk about it, thank you very much. It’s like when you talk about having a tickle in your throat, it makes you want to cough.” His voice was tense. I saw his eyes flicker toward my shorts, though he didn’t turn his head and he continued to pretend to read.

My heart pounded. I felt exposed at the moment, my semi obscene, so I sat up and hunched forward too, elbows on my knees. I watched a ski boat go by. The roar of the motor was loud. I waited until it had passed. Then I swallowed and told myself it didn’t matter. It was no big deal to suggest it. And if he said no, it was no biggie. I could play it off as a joke. But it really didn’t feel that way.

“Speaking of a tickle in your throat . . . I have an idea about how we can get off.”

“You do?” Jake’s tone was fast and curious. Definitely interested.

“Yup.”

“Like what? Gonna have Walter install a Fleshlight in the shower?” He chuckled.

I huffed. “Yeah. You know my dad combs through every one of my credit card statements. No way am I ordering a Fleshlight. Not to mention the fact that I’d have to kill myself after asking Walter to install something like that.”

Walter, our nurse, was in his fifties, white, bald, and pudgy. He had a squeaky-clean fundamentalist thing going on and had mentioned “praying” for us several times. Ix-nay on asking Walter to mount a fuck tube in the shower.

“So what then, Oh Planinator?” Jake sat up from his slouch and looked at me.

Unable to meet his gaze, I studied the water. “Okay, so just hear me out before saying no.”

“Oh shit. You only say that when it’s really whacked.”

“Come on! I’m serious.”

Jake sighed, but I could swear there was a new tension in the air. He was no longer pretending to read his Kindle. He leaned back in his chair and waited. “Go on, then. Spit it out.”

I grinned and turned my head to look at him, raising an eyebrow. “That’s the goal, yeah.”

He kicked my leg lightly with his bare heel. “Just say it.”

“Okay. So. We can’t jerk off, right?” I held up my bandaged hands a little.

“Obviously.”

“Well, have you ever heard of guys who can, you know, suck their own dicks?”

There was a sharp inhale from Jake, but he kept his face blank. “Yeah. I can’t though. Not even a little bit.”

“I know. Me neither. So I thought . . .” Fuck. This was hard to say. Incredibly hard to say. But there was no point in beating around the bush. “Okay. So. What if we sucked each other, like, at the same time, and pretended we were doing ourselves? Sort of self-suck by proxy.”

I’d intended to keep a jokey tone during this, so I could claim I was teasing. But the words started tumbling out, and there was a hollow ringing in my ears. I honestly didn’t have the slightest fucking clue what my tone had been or how it must have sounded to Jake.

Next to me, he went deadly still. He stared down at his knees. There was a little frown behind his brow. He looked worried. Or disturbed. Or both concurrently.

I fought the urge to overexplain or justify. Play it cool. I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes as if soaking in the sun. “It would get the job done.” I shrugged.

“Did you honestly just ask me to suck you off?” Jake asked in a quiet voice.

“No. That’s not what I said. Don’t go all homophobic on me, bro. Look, we can’t use our hands at all. Fact. If you could suck yourself, you would—right? Fact. But you can’t. I’m in the same boat. So I’m thinking if we were end to end, we could close our eyes and pretend we’re doing ourselves. And we’d get off. And we wouldn’t have to get Walter or anyone else involved. It’s really the best solution.”

Jake was silent again for a long moment. “I’m not doing that.” His voice was firm, grim, like he meant it.

Honestly, I was surprised. And a little hurt.

“Fine,” I said. “It was just a suggestion. You got a better idea? Or do you want the worst case of blue balls ever? Because I’m about to crawl the fucking walls.”

“I’m not doing it,” he repeated adamantly.

“Yeah, I heard you the first time, Jake.”

In my peripheral vision, I could see he was stiff and tense, like he might bolt. But, finally, he relaxed. He leaned forward toward the Kindle. “Turn page,” he said, his voice tight.

“What if I dared you?” I asked, unable to let it go.

“Jesus, Andy, fuck off!” Jake snarled. He got up and stormed toward the cottage. We’d figured out that if we kicked the bottom of the screen door, it would bounce open for a second, long enough to get one foot in. He did this harder than necessary and went inside. I was so shocked, I let him go without a word.

Goddamn it. I’d known it would be risky to bring it up, but some part of me believed Jake would jump at the chance. Or, worst case, brush it off as a joke. I hadn’t expected anger. Jake had never told me to fuck off like that. Not that I could remember.

Shit.

Okay. Bad idea. Abort, abort. But it was too late to take it back.

About Eli

Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, an author of paranormal thrillers, a fan-fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a profound sleeper, Eli Easton is happy these days writing love stories.As an avid reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with her husband, three bulldogs, two cows, a cat, and a potbellied pig. She enjoys reading in all genres and, when she can be pried away from her iPad, hiking and biking.

Eli Easton has published 24 books in m/m romance since 2013. She won the Rainbow Award for Best Contemporary Romance in 2014 (The Mating of Michael) and in 2016 (A Second Harvest). Her Howl at the Moon series of humorous dog shifter romances have become fan favorites and placed in the Rainbow Awards and the Goodreads M/M Group Reader’s Choice awards. She is best known for romances with humor and a lot of heart.

Connect with Eli:
Website: elieaston.com
Facebook
Twitter: @EliEaston

 

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