A MelanieM Review: Learn with Me (With Me #3) by Kris Jacen

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Josiah “Siah” Kent has always loved learning; now he’s living his dream of teaching children to love it too. After getting his degrees in New Orleans, he accepted a teaching position outside of Washington DC. What a better place to be able to teach and continue learning?

Sergeant Carter May joined the Army right out of high school. He’s always struggled to succeed in school but has found a place in the military but has dreamed of getting a college degree–he’d be the first in his family if he did. Being stationed with the Presidential Firing Battery at Arlington National Cemetery will give him the opportunity to take the chance, but will he risk failing?

A chance meeting years ago in New Orleans, had sparks flying between Siah and Carter. Another chance encounter between the ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, blow those sparks into a full flame. Can Siah and Carter find some common ground to learn more about each other and a possible future together?

The With Me series from Kris Jacen has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary reads.  It established itself with it’s insider knowledge of military life, what it takes to be a part of the military family (whether as part of the family unit or military one that becomes family), the emotional, physical, and mental upheavals that are to be faced, and the support one receives along the way.  Especially if you are lucky enough to be adopted by the Heptad.

Each story has been a favorite.  Until the next story arrives.  Then that’s my favorite.  And its happened again here.  One, I wanted Siah and Carter’s story immediately at the end of Explore with Me (With Me #2). I knew Siah had some growing up to do, which happens before the start of this story. So too Carter who had some tough decisions to make and he did.

Secondly?  The location.  Jacen based her  story in and around the DC Metro area.  While I’m in Maryland, Virginia is just as familiar for those of us who live here.  MD-DC-VA…its all the same really in one respect and the  places she mentions are near and dear to my heart.  Especially Arlington National Cemetery where quite a few family members are laid to rest and we visit every Memorial Day.

She’s right about the traditions and ceremonies bringing tears to your eyes during the story.  You will need several tissues, deservedly so.  Her descriptions are deeply moving as well as informative.

But Learn with Me (With Me #3) is special because of the characters and their romance.  Between Siah and Carter, each has had a past to rise above in some way and done it.  Perhaps they haven’t left it behind completely but they are dealing with it and moving forward.  They are different in size, energy, even background and yet in kindness, loyalty, and an ability to see the best in others, they are so alike.  Jacen did a remarkable job in creating these people and all the others here, including the Heptad (that group of soldiers whose stories are the series or whose support flows through the series).

These are layered portraits, and the people aren’t isolated but are surrounded by a family of friends, a community that adds support and a believability to their lives.  Whether its a school and afternoon classes (and a circle of support) for Siah (who is a black belt as well) or the base and unit for Carter (where both friends and enemies can be found), it all feels so real and authentic.

Kris Jacen uses the framework of a romance to bring modern military life vividly alive, whether its the fears children must face, the struggles of the family, the time away from home both spouses and family feel…its all here and intimate.  There’s also the tight knit community, the sense of belonging to something greater, and, yes, the service to country.

I’m already anticipating the next book in the series.  It’s going to deal with some serious issues her stories hasn’t addressed yet.  I can’t wait.

In the meantime, if you are new to the series, why not go to the beginning and start with Wait for Me (With Me #1) and work your way here.  I highly recommend all the stories, including this one Learn with Me by Kris Jacen.

Cover art by Jared Rackler.  I’m sort of over the bare torso thing but considering all Siah wanted to do when he first saw Carter was climb him like a tree this is pretty perfect.

Sales Links:  MLR Books | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 145 pages
Published May 22nd 2018 by MLR Press
ASINB07D8J548N
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesWith Me #3

A Caryn Review: Cinderella Boy by Kristina Meister

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Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I have been actively looking for books with non-binary characters, and so was very excited to read about a gender fluid person, especially one in high school, because I wanted to see their journey through that very difficult time of life.  And when I read the first chapter, I was thinking this was going to be a great book.  Unfortunately, it went downhill from there.

The book jumped right in to introducing Declan as gender fluid – his sister found him putting on her dress and shoes when he thought she was out for the evening.  He braced himself for ridicule and misery, and was thrilled when instead she was instantly supportive and worked with him to create Layla – his beautiful, confident, female alter ego.  They went to a party where Layla met Carter, the most popular guy in school, whom Declan had had a crush on for years.  Carter was smitten with Layla, and instantly started pursuing her.  Layla agreed to a few dates because she just couldn’t resist, but underneath Declan was trying to keep things casual because he didn’t like the lie, and didn’t want to hurt Carter, and his plan was to have some fun before Layla disappeared and the school year started.  The dates turned into anything but casual, and though physically they were somewhat restrained, conversation was always deep and meaningful (and much more mature than I would realistically expect a 16 and 18 year old to be).

At this point I started having my first niggles about the book.  Layla and Carter discussed the nature of love, in the context of Carter’s father having cheated on his mother for years before they divorced, and his mother still having trouble letting go.  Layla commented:

Because that’s the nature of the thing:  to care so much that it doesn’t matter if they ever reciprocate.  If you really feel that way, you can’t hurt them.  You just can’t.  And when they hurt you, you forget it right away.

Hmmm….  sounds like true love requires you to be a doormat, and to me very reminiscent of how battered women justify staying with abusive men.  There was more along that line, and I was getting pretty uncomfortable with it.  They discussed lying in relationships, Layla admitted that she was lying about something but wouldn’t admit what it was.  Carter insisted that he would accept any secret, even if Layla had killed someone – as long as there was a reason.  Yikes!

Layla disappeared right before school started, a little over a third of the way into the book.  After she had schooled all of Carter’s friends on how to treat women right, and demonstrated her superior skillz with her professional paintball rifle.  Oh, and after she and Carter declared their love to each other.  Declan showed up at school and made a splash from the start.  He had been going to a private school where he was bullied and beaten on a regular basis, and his defense had always been to strive for anonymity and inconspicuousness. At the new school, Carter and Declan’s sister Delia turned him into a sort of mascot for the non-popular crowd, and suddenly Declan was popular with everyone, with no bullying in sight.  And he managed to beat up the quarterback of his school’s major rival – which made me wonder why he was beaten up so regularly before when now he could kick the ass of guys twice his size – so everyone loved him.  Snap, bullying over, nothing to it.  The rest of the book involved Carter, Declan, and Delia standing up to the principal’s homophobia and bigotry, and concludes at the homecoming dance which Carter attends with Declan, both openly in love with each other.

By the last third of the book, I was sitting back and finding fault with everything.  Carter and Declan both waffled between uber-confident and meek and doubtful, to the point that they no longer seemed like separate characters.  There was a lot of pointless psychobabble on the nature of love, relationships, truth-telling, labels, bigotry, bullying, etc. with overly simplistic resolution of all their problems.  The dialogue was frequently ridiculous – even adults don’t talk that way, much less teenagers.  There were weird descriptions and misspelled words:  “The pack of dissenters had congealed beside the wheelchair ramp in their purposefully drab color pallet”.  (I hope she meant palette, and how did the pack congeal?).  Another good one – “her warm appearance belied a voice like an ordained opera singer that could strip flesh off the unabashed.”  WTF does that even mean?

In the end, I didn’t even care that Declan a champion of gender non-conforming people, or that Carter was the perfect man for whom gender didn’t even matter when it came to love.  There was so much potential for these characters, and I was so disappointed that the terrible writing ruined it all for me.

Cover art by Shayne Leighton is interesting, the model was androgynous in a way that I saw Declan

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 335 pages
Expected publication: July 2nd 2018 by Triton Books (an imprint of Riptide Publishing) (first published February 5th 2017)
Original TitleCinderella Boy
ISBN 1626497982 (ISBN13: 9781626497986)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Stella Review: Home Skillet (Culinary Kings #1) by Cate Ashwood & Sandra Damian

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RATING 2,5 out of 5 stars

Sometimes the only way to move forward… is to go back.

JAMES

I don’t know what’s more shocking—the sudden end to my marriage, or the fact that I’d married a woman at all. But now I’m broke and homeless, kicked out of my Upper West Side apartment while my ex-wife walks away with everything we’ve ever worked for.

So what’s an executive chef stripped of his dignity gonna do?

Go back to Jersey with his tail between his legs, that’s what.

BEN

I can’t say that spending a decade pining after my best friend was the best use of my time. While I’d pretty much become an expert at the whole unrequited love thing, I’d resigned myself to the fact that Jimmy and I were never gonna happen. But when Jimmy turned up on my doorstep in his hour of need, I jumped at the chance to offer him my bed—er, couch. I mean, what are friends for, right?

Now that he’s released from the shackles of matrimony, I can’t wait to show him exactly what he’s been missing out on all these years.

What I didn’t anticipate was him showing me that maybe I’d been missing out too.

There is nothing wrong with Home Skillet. The plot was interesting, the characters worked well together. There was a growth in the romance, a happy ending. The book is well written but I had no doubts because I know how well Cate can write. These are all the reasons why I gave the novel that (not so low as I meant) rating. I’ll be more than honest and say that I would probably put it on my DNF list if I didn’t have to review it. And I’m so sorry to say it because Cate Ashwood is one of my favorite authors, but I spent three weeks reading Home Skillet, I put it down and restarted it a couple of times and then just resigned myself to finish it in small doses.

Considering all the positive things I previously mentioned, I should have liked the novel but nope, it simply didn’t work to me. And the reason stays in the characters.  I loathed them from the start. Especially the first half of the book, I found both of them heartless, cold. I saw Jimmy taking advantage of Ben, after years spent ignoring his best friend and focused just on creating his success. I can’t like people who put their career before their feelings, and I couldn’t like Jimmy. Moreover I saw Ben spending the same years working a shit of a job and becoming a shallow person. I blamed Jimmy for this and I couldn’t overcome my dislike of him. Sure from a certain point in the story he gained points but it was too late to start enjoying the novel.

I will definitely read more from these authors and the next installment in the Culinary Kings series, this one was a huge disappointment for me.

The cover art by Cate Ashwood is well done but I can’t see Jimmy and Ben in the models on it.

SALE LINKS   Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 196 pages

Published May 31st 2018 by Kydala Publishing, Inc.

ASIN B07D9YHB2K

Edition Language English

A Lucy Review: From This Window by Diana Jean

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Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

This is the very short (41 pages) story of Lucas and Jeremy.  The story is told from the point of view of Lucas, a hermit who exists in his apartment watching out the window at people, making stories about them and writing notes in notebook after notebook “He had never really written before he came to this apartment, but he found himself drawn to the idea of creating lives for these perfect strangers.”  He doesn’t have a job and only goes out to the café in his building and that is where he comes across Jeremy, who works there part-time.  Despite Jeremy’s beautiful smile and persistent friendliness, Lucas is rude and sarcastic to him always.

Lucas watches Jeremy, as well, as he heads down to work.  He always stops at the department store across the street before his shift and the reason for that is sweet.  Sometimes I couldn’t figure out why Jeremy kept up his pursuit of Lucas when Lucas was so adamantly against it but I’m glad he did.

Lucas is also rude to his brother, Kyle, the one member of his family who hasn’t given up on him even though his parents pay the rent on the apartment but it is ultimately Kyle that precipitates Lucas going over to Jeremy’s for a party.  One that he refused to attend when he was invited but Kyle visiting on Christmas Eve changes things.

Had this story been longer it would have been a 4 star at least for me.  The feel of Lucas’ depression was realistic.  “Sometimes you wake up and think the effort it takes to get out of bed is impossible.  Or the effort to get into the car, drive to work and be there for hours.  And you find out the effort of doing anything is so great that you just do nothing.”  It is never specifically stated but depression seems likely.  Jeremy seems sometimes too perfect and here again I’d have liked a little more fleshing out of the character. 

The cover art, a drawing of two men at a table in front of a window to the city, was a little too fluffy for the feel of the story.  While it ends hopeful, there is a lot of sadness within Lucas.

Sales Links:  Less Than Three Press|   Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Published June 18th 2018 by Less Than Three Press (first published November 30th 2013)
ASINB07DVNWCYC
Edition LanguageEnglish

 

Kate Sherwood on Cheating, Romance and her new release All That Glitters (guest blog and giveaway)

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All That Glitters by Kate Sherwood

Dreamspinners Press

Cover Art: Adrian Nicholas

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Kate Sherwood here talking about All That Glitters, one of our favorite recent contemporary romances. Welcome, Kate.

The Romance Taboo by Kate Sherwood

I think I’ve gotten a bit spoiled writing m/m romance. I’ve gotten used to the greater freedom, the way readers are more open to different characterization. I’ve written drug-addicted prostitutes, asexual street kids and neurotic drama queens as romantic heroes in m/m – think I could get away with that in m/f? Probably not!

But I think I got a little cocky. (Cocky! Wow, what a useful word) I forgot that while m/m is more open than m/f, there are still some rules, and a few years ago I broke one of them in Chasing the Dragon. One of my characters cheated on the other.

It made sense to me, in terms of the character (drug-addicted prostitutes aren’t known for their good judgment or their sexual reserve) and the plot (the characters got together way too fast and I needed to show that their infatuation hadn’t solved all their problems). It was a good writing decision, in non-genre terms.

But I heard from quite a few romance readers who were really disappointed. Disgusted, even.

And I believe in the contract between authors and readers—I believe that authors have a responsibility to their readers and should work hard to meet expectations. But, but…

I also like pushing boundaries.

So after the last outing, the idea of cheating stayed with me. Is it ever acceptable for a romance novel to include cheating between the romantic leads?

Maybe if it was really long ago? And they broke up over it, for sure. And the one who was cheated on is still mad about it, but they were just kids at the time and the other character is so, so sorry… can it work for readers?

I sure hope so, because that’s the idea behind my new novel from Dreamspinner, All That Glitters. I’ve written a character who killed the other hero’s brother and I managed to get those two together without significant reader complaints (Mark of Cain). Surely I can help them work through some ancient history, no matter how painful it was?

I gave it a try. I hope it works for you guys!

About All That Glitters

No matter what he tells himself, wealthy NYC architect Liam has never been able to forget his first love, Ben. But as he approaches midlife and realizes something is missing, can he forgive himself for the worst mistake he ever made—the one that left a hole no amount of career success can fill? Or will fear keep him from the full life he really wants?

Liam and Ben were childhood sweethearts, then college boyfriends. But when Liam cheated on Ben, Ben forced himself to cut ties and move on. He’s still living in the small town where they grew up, teaching, but it’s not the life he imagined for himself as a younger man. Still, when Liam returns, he can’t risk his heart again. He certainly can’t allow himself to love Liam again after fighting so hard to get over him.

Neither man wants to let go of the past and face their apprehension at starting over. They don’t want to fall in love a second time—but sometimes love happens whether it’s wanted or not.

About the Author

Kate Sherwood started writing about the same time she got back on a horse after almost twenty years away from riding. She’d like to think she was too young for it to be a midlife crisis, but apparently she was ready for some changes!

Kate grew up near Toronto, Ontario (Canada) and went to school in Montreal, then Vancouver. But for the last decade or so she’s been a country girl. Sure, she misses some of the conveniences of the city, but living close to nature makes up for those lacks. She’s living in Ontario’s “cottage country”–other people save up their time and come to spend their vacations in her neighborhood, but she gets to live there all year round!

Since her first book was published in 2010, she’s kept herself busy with novels, novellas, and short stories in almost all the sub-genres of m/m romance. Contemporary, suspense, scifi or fantasy–the settings are just the backdrop for her characters to answer the important questions. How much can they share, and what do they need to keep? Can they bring themselves to trust someone, after being disappointed so many times? Are they brave enough to take a chance on love?

Kate’s books balance drama with humor, angst with optimism. They feature strong, damaged men who fight themselves harder than they fight anyone else. And, wherever possible, there are animals: horses, dogs, cats ferrets, squirrels… sometimes it’s easier to bond with a non-human, and most of Kate’s men need all the help they can get.

When she’s not writing as Kate Sherwood (m/m romance), there’s always Cate Cameron (m/f romance, YA romance) and Catherine Dale (everything else). There are so many stories just waiting to be discovered!

Social Media Links:

booklives.com (website and blog)

https://twitter.com/kate_sherwood

https://www.facebook.com/kate.sherwood.79

Kate Sherwood has brought a wonderful giveaway today.  She is offering one prize as the e-book copy of the current release, plus as a second prize one e-book copy from her Dreamspinner backlist to two lucky readers. The first reader chosen will get their choice of prizes, the second reader chosen will get the remaining prize.    Please leave your email address along with a comment for Kate.

Release Blitz for Discovery (Kinky in the City #3) by Quinn Ward (excerpt)

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 Discovery RDB Banner

DISCOVERY – KINKY IN THE CITY #3

QUINN WARD

M/M ROMANCE

RELEASE DATE: 06.26.18

Discovery Cover 

COVER DESIGN:  Marisa-Rose Wesley/ Cover Me Darling LLC

 

AMAZON US

AMAZON UK 

 

SYNOPSIS

Sex is a lot like pizza. It’s good, but you won’t die without it…

Matteo’s always known he was different. Seeing his older brothers falling in love shines a spotlight on his own lack of desire. Modeling age play gear was a way to prove he could make his own decisions, nothing more.

Levi didn’t realize what a challenge it’d be directing the photo shoot for a new website. When he sees Matteo struggling, he instinctively falls into the role he’d given up years earlier: Daddy.

When Matteo discovers a side of himself he never expected, will Levi be able to show him that not all love begins with sexual attraction?

Discovery is the third book in the Kinky in the City series, but can be read as a standalone novel.

 discovery teaser2

discovery teaser 3

 EXCERPT

I walked back over to Matteo and crouched in front of his chair, running my hands over his legs. “It’s okay if you’ve changed your mind. We don’t have to do anything.”

Matteo shook his head. “No, I want this. I need you to help me understand why it calmed me the other day.”

I took Teo’s hand in mine, lifting it to my lips, kissing the back of each of his fingers to show my gratitude that he was willing to trust me with this.

The set was any daddy’s dream, but it was too perfect, too clinical. I looked at my boy and noticed the way he worried his lip between his teeth. He wanted this but struggled to get into the right headspace.

“Sit.” I pointed at the small table and chairs at the edge of the set. “I’ll be right back.”

I rummaged through the totes, trying to find the underwear that’d taunted me all weekend. I couldn’t forget the way his face lit up when I pulled out the race car undies, then tried to hide his disappointment when I’d put them back in favor of a more sedate pair that I’d incorrectly assumed he’d like better. After finding them, I moved to the next tote, a clear vision of the scene I hoped to create forming in my mind. Piece by piece, I gathered everything Teo needed to let go of his adult worries and sink into little time.

“Come here, boy,” I directed him when I returned, my words carefully measured so there was no mistaking that it wasn’t a suggestion. “Time for us to get you dressed.”

He glanced back at the door leading to the apartment. “I thought we weren’t shooting yet.”

“We’re not, but if you’re up for it, this will help you more fully embrace your role,” I explained, holding out a hand to him, subtly placing the ball in his court. If he balked, we’d stop, but if he approached, I planned to show him how a good daddy helped his boy.

One tentative step in front of the other, Teo closed the distance between us. I patted my knee, inviting him to sit on my lap. His breathing was shallow and labored, as if anxiety was flooding his senses. “Relax, boy. You’re safe with me. I won’t do anything to violate your trust in me.”

“I’m… I don’t want to have sex with you.” The words would’ve been like a knife to the gut from anyone else, but I knew Teo wasn’t trying to shoot me down. Realizing what he’d said, he groaned loudly and buried his face in my chest. Unfortunately for him, that still left his bright red ears on display. “I mean… oh, my god, I didn’t mean I don’t want to have sex with you, I meant I don’t have sex with anyone. I know it’s messed up, but I don’t like it.”

crude

EXPLORATION (Book 1): https://amzn.to/2IWdfgu

CHALLENGE (Book 2): https://amzn.to/2kvwtyR

 

Quinn Logo 

 

Quinn Ward is a non-binary author of LGBT romance. Throughout everything, the one constant in their life has been writing. It’s the piece of them they’ve never questioned. It’s their safe harbor, sometimes their escape when the real world gets to be too much.

Website: http://quinnwardwrites.com

Author FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/quinnwardbooks/

Author FB Profile: https://www.facebook.com/quinnwardwrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/quinnwardwrites

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/quinnward76/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/quinnwardwrites/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17887674.Quinn_Ward

Amazon: http://amazon.com/author/quinnward

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Review Tour and Giveaway – That’s My Ethan by Tarian PS

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Length: 361 pages
 
Blurb



This is our story, mine and Ethan’s.
It is our story about two gay men, (well, one gay and one bi), beating the false pretenses that gay men can’t know love at first sight, let alone stay together, happily ever after. They are all wrong.


I’m not a gay married man, I’m a happily married gay man.


And I am going to prove it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


They met in college. Damir was a player in every sense of the word and proud of it– Ethan wanted nothing to do with the game; yet neither would deny the attraction they shared was too potent to resist. So what are two young men to do when the lines are too irresistible not to cross? A safeword.


It was a lifestyle structure that gave them the means to grow together, even as they struggled to understand it along the way. But what never wavered was who they’d set their goals to be with. Sometimes you just know. The challenge is making it possible.



June 18 – Bayou Book Junkie
June 19 – Cupcakes & Bookshelves, MM Midnight Cafe
June 20 – MM Good Book Reviews
June 25 – The Novel Approach, Archaeolibrarian
June 26 – Love Bytes
June 27 – Reading In Sarah’s Corner, Sarandipity, Love Unchained Book Reviews, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
June 28 – Joyfully Jay
June 29 – Mirrgold, Katie’s Book Corner, Tangents & Tissues



All About Tarian

(well, some of him)

As a long-haired, rock n roller and outdoorsy kind of guy, Tarian is proof there is life after a lifetime of being dead to themselves. Now, he lives, treating every day like an adventure and always with a smirk on his face.

He revels proudly to live outside the box and never canoes the main stream. Even when writing, he figures there’s plenty of extraordinary talented authors out there already taking care of that waterway. So, he enjoys venturing off, creating stories in places so few go… getting ensnared in scenarios that don’t conform to the comfort zones of familiarity. It’s what makes writing a pleasure for him.

When asked, why do you write, he responds, “I wrote a story I’ve always wanted to read. In the end, oh the places we will go.”

 
“Suddenly you’re ripped into being Alive. And Life is Pain, and Life is Suffering, and Life is Horror, but by god you’re alive and it is oh so Spectacular.”
 

Giveaway

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