A MelanieM Review: Chasing Forever (This Time Forever #3) by Kelly Jensen

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Old wounds, new directions, and a forever worth chasing.

Malcolm Montgomery was a history teacher and track coach until an accident left him with two broken legs. He’ll recover, but life has knocked his feet out twice now. He’s not sure if he’s ready to try again, especially when it comes to love—and slick guys like Brian Kenway. Still, he needs help mentoring the school’s LGBTQ society, so he asks Brian to take some responsibility.

Brian has been hiding behind his reputation as a liar and a cheat for so long that he actually believes he’s that guy—until his nephew, Josh, turns up on his couch, tossed out for being gay. Brian has never considered being a father, but he knows all about being rejected by loved ones. Now Brian wants to be more: a partner for Mal and a role model for Josh.

But when Mal’s recovery is set back and the sad truth of Brian’s past is revealed, the forever they’ve been chasing seems even further from their grasps. It’ll take a rescue effort to revive their sense of worth and make Brian, Mal, and Josh into a family of their own.

If you haven’t found Kelly Jensen’s This Time Forever series, you seriously need to.  While each story uses a structure like a legacy home or lodge at its heart, it’s the author’s ability to create and bring to life a group of interlocked men of varying ages, often older than your usual contemporary romance, intelligent, each carrying more than their share of life’s baggage.  Some are easily more damaged than others, some emotionally, others physically, some both. Through the stories we’ve met several of the characters over and over through their complicated relationship dynamics with each other, as couples form and ex’s watch from the sidelines.

In Chasing Forever, one of those ex’s, Brian is someone we’ve “seen” through other characters perspectives and the view hasn’t been a pretty one.  Here Brian’s past is revealed, the truth of the man  peeled back, and he’s set on the path to redemption.  One reason? Mal “Malcolm” Montgomery, history teacher  and track coach who is trying to recover from a devastating hit and run accident.  Prior to the accident he was someone who defined himself by his physical ability…to run, to coach…to just do and now it’s a struggle to just walk.  In these two amazingly complicated and damaged men, Jensen brings about both redemption, recovery, hope, love, and, finally an emotionally triumphant future.  All done within a realistic, adult plot with the expectant struggles, arguments, and hurdles to overcome.  What a joy to read!

Threaded through this romance is the series foundation that features, in this case, not a family house or lodge but a bar that needs saving because the historic structure is slated to   be  sold to a developer in town.  This is an ongoing battle in this series, as the developer has made an appearance in a previous story and I expect to see them again  in future novels.  How it all plays out I will leave out to each reader to discover for themselves.  It too is a rich, multidimensional element of this story, just as I would have expected from someone who clearly loves her old structures as much as this author does.

In fact, there are several other floating storylines here that will capture your heart, along with the characters that go along with them.  There are no people here that I could honestly consider “supporting” cast because each feels so meaningful to the town and each other.

It’s like that with each and every story here.  For me they build on each other with their relationships, their place in the town, and in each other’s lives.  This is one series I would go around waving at people, recommending the hell out of it because it’s just that great.  Start with the first one and work your way here.  Get to know the town and its people.  Love them as I do.  Then you will know why I highly recommend this story, this series, and it’s author.  And do the same.

Cover Art:  Natasha Snow.  It matches the other novels in the series in style and element perfectly.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 333 pages
Published December 10th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 139781626498426
Edition Language English

Series This Time Forever 

Building Forever

Renewing Forever

Chasing Forever

A Chaos Moondrawn Release Day Review: The Spirit Key (Lock and Key #1) by Parker Williams

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

This starts with a long, detailed first person recap of the past from Scotty’s POV. After he died at age eight, he started seeing ghosts but didn’t tell anyone. This is really the crux of the whole book. By the time he was eighteen, it was overwhelming, unrelenting. The stress of everything made his family implode. Through it all his best friend Tim was always supportive, but it wasn’t enough and Scotty ran away. The farther he got from Milwaukee, the sparser the ghosts became so he lived his life normally for five years in Chicago until a visitation from Tim’s mom.

If you like the idea that there is one person meant to help the main character as they fullfill their destiny, then you might like this. There are parts of this book that remind me of me of Kris Bethke’s Requiem Inc. series (or even Mary Calmes’ Warders), although there are parts that are completely original and there is no organization that helps these ghosts cross over. In fact, the support team is not fully fleshed out. I think this is meant to set up a series, but for me this felt like the complete story.

There are several times when I feel the execution could have been better. Scotty is going home after five years when no one knew if he was even alive and Tim just throws them into a sex scene with power dynamics after a day? It was a hot scene, but the emotional impact could have been greater if they had a chance to build trust first; it doesn’t quite work as angry make-up sex either. Tim’s mood swings are jarring and confusing because this is in Scotty’s first person POV and he doesn’t know Tim is possessed, but the audience already knows from the blurb, so this is not quite successful. There is a scene where it is supposed to be first person, but Sophia talks to Scott, about Scott, as if talking to someone else, which is confusing. I am hoping that gets fixed before publication. Then, Scotty does the most colossally stupid thing, without consulting Tim, which endangers himself and breaks what little trust is left between them. I know these guys are in their twenties, but the bad judgements and lack of honesty between them is what causes all the anguish in the first place, although there is plenty of parental/adult bad judgment that contributes to the circumstances Scotty finds himself in. I think the author is showing everyone trying to do the best they can. Because of these story-framing choices, there are things that just seem to come out of nowhere…at least it’s told through dialogue and not narrative.

The book is at its best as Scotty actually tries to figure out why he sees ghosts and if he can help them. The flashes of the past Scotty sees are good additions to the story. As Scotty and Tim figure out who they are to each other and how they fit into this paranormal role, they also have to take care of themselves emotionally and physically, as well as each other. What they are doing, what is happening, is dangerous. Although this could have been frightening and quite atmospheric, the author doesn’t go this route so if you dislike horror, don’t worry. There are flashes of what the killer sees, but they are short and are only detailed enough to show his character. However, there is some violence that could be upsetting. The flashes of humor and love between Scotty and Tim are a nice counterbalance. Overall, the story is supposed to be about them but their whole lives are told through a recap and in their present Tim is not really Tim; this makes connecting with them a bit of a challenge. We are told they are best friends and in love, but only shown a few days of it when they are hurt, angry, and in danger. I liked so many ideas in this book, but I feel the way it was written constrained the story.

The cover art by Reese Dante captures the dark, tortured, paranormal feel well.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644051214
Edition Language English
Series Lock and Key #1

A Jeri Release Day Review: Ten (Love by Numbers #1) by Tia Fielding

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

 

This is a lovely hurt/comfort story that could have been super angsty given the material, but I don’t think it was.
Makai was exonerated of murder after spending 10 years in prison. He doesn’t want to go home, so he buys a cottage sight unseen in the town where his grandfather once lived and he had spent some time as a child.
Emil is still recovering after a brutal kidnapping 5 years earlier. Because his kidnapping was related to his father’s police work, the story was widespread. But in the little town they live in, the people are very protective of him.
Makai and Emil have two chance meetings and discover they would both like to at least explore more. But these guys are so so broken. Oddly enough they are able to come together and bond over a pregnant cat who adopted Makai as soon as he moved in and a precocious child who is gender fluid.
Makai is a gentle giant who is so attuned to Emil and his problems and wants to just take care of him and respect all of his boundaries. I feel like that a little bit came at the expense of Makai’s own issues. Most of the focus seemed to be on Emil. Which was ok because he seemed more damaged, but at the same time a little more attention could have been spent on Makai.
I absolutely loved Joie/Joy/Joey the gender fluid 5 year old. It was a nice way to introduce an identity we still aren’t seeing a lot of in books. I did notice that when they presented as a girl, the author used female pronouns. But when they presented as a boy they used they/them. That was a bit odd to me.
This story is very much about a relationship and two men coming to terms with not only what happened to each of them, but how to navigate loving someone within the parameters they set for themselves.
I have to say that in a lot of books, there is the conflict and then fairly soon after there is a happily ever after. In this story, this big conflict happens about 3/4 of the way in so then there is still a good amount of story after.
I liked the cover by Garrett Leigh and the feel of it represents Makai well but not really his looks. But it would still draw me in because if conveys the brokenness of the character.

Buy link:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon  

Book Details:
ebook, 218 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleTen
ISBN139781644051177
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttps://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/ten-by-tia-fielding-10088-b
SeriesLove by Numbers #1

A Lucy Review : Perfect Match by AG Meiers

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Secrets can derail even the most powerful attraction.

Logger Sven Larson has never found a man worth publicly coming out of the closet for. But his family has other plans. As a thirtieth birthday gift, his mother hires the online dating service Perfect Match to find Sven the love of his life. To say Sven isn’t thrilled is an understatement, but it’s too late to cancel, and Jayden Calver arrives.

Perfect Match’s success rate is unsurpassed, but they don’t come by it honestly: if a client can’t be matched, the agency uses a stand-in to fulfil their guarantee and protect their profit.

Tough luck has left Jayden in debt, and playing Perfect Match’s deceptive game is his only option. So he travels — sparkling toenails and all — to a remote camp deep in the mountains to meet Sven Larson and pretend to be his perfect match for a few days.

Sparks fly on first contact. But as the two men get closer, Sven grows more and more suspicious of Jayden, and Jayden struggles with guilt over his deceit. They both want a future together, but first they must find the courage to be honest with themselves and each other.

I will admit I was fully prepared to not like Jayden.   I thought he would have done something stupid and is now trying to cover for it by working for Perfect Match.  Which is sort of true.  His stupid thing was in a time of stress and I could see it happening and then things got worse, got really bad.  So being a Perfect Match liar was in fact a better choice.  He shows up wet, bedraggled, cold and a bit scared to meet Sven and turns out he’s meeting the whole family.  Who are pretty scary in their own right.   But he’s got to go through with it. 

So we get Sven, who didn’t want anything to do with this matchmaking but realizes it’s important to his mother, and Jayden, who is playing a part for the next ten days.   He plays it well but of course those darn feelings start to interfere with it being just a job.  I liked that they didn’t jump into bed in the first five minutes.  I even liked David, Sven’s ex-boyfriend who had some snarky, petty moments but then proves himself a decent friend.

The moment when the lies come to light and Sven and Jayden have the conversation was heartwrenching.  I felt bad for Jayden but I felt devastated for Sven.  “He’s gotten so wrapped up in his fantasies of him and Jayden together.  Happiness.  Something real.  A future.  He was such a fool.”

The whole of the scam behind Perfect Match makes you want to scream, knowing how they take advantage of people.  And yet, for Jayden it was a way out of a terrible situation.  But

I liked this very much, mainly because the connection between Sven and his family and Sven and Jayden made me care about them.  “…he’d always known he could count on his family, while Jayden had nobody.”  But it didn’t magically erase the hurt Sven felt and that seemed realistic.  It’s an interesting take on a “mail-order bride” sort of story.

The cover by LC Chase, showing Sven and Jayden, is pretty simple but fits the story.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing  | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published January 14th 2019 by Riptide Publishing
Original Title Perfect Match
ISBN 139781626498495
Edition Language English

Release Blitz and Giveaway for One-On-One (Cayuga Cougars #5) by V.L. Locey

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Buy Links:Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2DcQepb

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2AOxCdv

 
Length: 57,000 words approx.
 
 

Cayuga Cougars Series

Book #1 – Snap Shot – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Open Net – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #3 – Coach’s Challenge – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 – Overtime – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Blurb

The past few years have been a bit chaotic for Cougars new associate coach, Lancaster Hart. After an amiable divorce he began living his life as the gay man he’d kept closeted for far too long. With the recent move to Cayuga, he’s away from his support system and properly made sweet tea. Despite a roster filled with new friends and associates, he’s spending his nights alone.

As his team gears up to make a run at the Calder Cup, Lancaster discovers that not everything in upstate New York is wine, woodlands, and chilly conservative ideals. At a summer music festival, he first lays eyes on Townsend Harris, folksy/blues singer by night and mayoral office assistant by day. Lancaster is enraptured with the man’s powerful sultry voice. Also, Town just might be the most beautiful man he has seen in all his forty-one years.

The two hit it off at an informal meet and greet after the show, where they spend the night talking and sipping wine. One evening of conversation and an incendiary goodbye kiss leads them into a scorching love affair that might be exactly what Lancaster has been searching for his whole life. Can his team pull off professionally what he’s hoping to do privately as well? Or will capturing their dream evade both the Cougars and Lancaster?

V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, yoga, belly laughs, Dr. Who, Torchwood, walking, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, two Jersey steers and a flock of assorted domestic fowl.

When not writing lusty tales, she can be found enjoying her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in hand.

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Love a Bit of Horror? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Stalker/s by L.J. Hasbrouck (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Stalker/s

Author: L.J. Hasbrouck

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 14, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 113600

Genre: Horror, horror, new adult, gay, trans, post-apocalyptic, zombies, survival, island

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Brian Jameson doesn’t even get a chance to pick a college before a worldwide pandemic breaks out—and his home is Ground Zero. After losing his parents and sister in a whirlwind of devastation, Brian’s war-veteran grandfather takes him under his wing. But when desperate looters attack Brian’s new home, he and his grandfather must flee into a wintery Midwestern wasteland now populated by intelligent infected known as “Stalkers.”

These ghoulish creatures don’t shamble in hordes—they hide in the darkness waiting to strike, teeth bared in ghastly grins. And they laugh while they’re ripping you to shreds.

But with his grandfather’s training, Brian makes it to the home of his estranged childhood friends, twins Louis and Eva. And Brian gets a chance to experience something else he nearly missed: falling in love. Drawn to the determined—and ruthless—Louis, Brian escapes with him in search of an island paradise away from the relentless snow and infected.

But even if they make it there, it may not be the haven they’re hoping for.

Excerpt

Stalker/s
L.J. Hasbrouck © 2019
All Rights Reserved

12/19, Topeka, Kansas

Jameson Residence

1:06 a.m.

The light from Brian Jameson’s tablet danced across his face in varying degrees of intensity: somber blues, soothing greens, and sometimes the alarming tinge of blood-red. The show’s layered soundscape coursed through his earbuds. Drizzling rain enveloped the muted dialogue of two detectives, their shoes crunching against gravel as they hunted an elusive killer. Somewhere offscreen, a gun exploded. Brian’s pulse pounded so hard it blended with the strengthening downpour.

Jesus, I didn’t expect that.

Brian waited for the scene to change, for stunned gasps, for those dainty footsteps to accelerate into a frantic sprint, but the pair of detectives continued their discussion as if they were taking a stroll through a scenic garden.

Brian paused the video and plucked out his earbuds. Silence. Darkness. A small square of light with an image frozen in time tilted against his knees.

Am I going crazy? I swear I heard a gunshot.

Abrupt knocks shook his bedroom door. Brian’s tablet fell to the bed as he swiveled his legs over the edge, muscles tensed—

“Bri! I heard a buncha loud sounds an’ I’m scared!”

Brian clicked his lamp on and rushed to open the door for his younger sister, stumbling over a still-packed suitcase. After he ushered her in, he shut the door. His racing heart slowed as he gripped her fragile shoulders. We might have heard the same thing. Thunder, or maybe fireworks from the redneck neighbors.

“It’ll be okay, Becks. Tell me what happened.”

Becky’s thin eyebrows knit above glistening pale-blue eyes. “A boom woke me up an’ I ran to Mommy and Daddy’s room, but I heard another boom in there an’—”

“Wait—in their room?”

Becky nodded.

Brian jerked his cell phone from the charger. He pressed the “9” from the emergency screen, Becky’s fearful gaze locked on his. A whimper escaped her as footsteps creaked in the hall outside. Shadow sliced the sliver of light beneath the door.

Brian abandoned the phone to reach for the door lock—but someone twisted the knob before he could get to it. A sturdy figure burst in and knocked Brian back. Becky cried, “Daddy!” and flung her arms around their father’s stocky legs. Their mother pushed into the room after him, collapsing to her knees as their father slammed the door and locked it. Brian caught the glint of a gun wrapped in her shaking hand.

While his father paced the room, phone pressed to his ear and daughter wrapped around his legs, Brian guided his mother onto the edge of his bed. Her distant gaze frightened him—she seemed to be looking at something only she could see. A memory, perhaps, something keeping her from the present. Her auburn waves clung to her shoulders in sweat-matted strands. Blood spatter stained the pink and yellow flowers of a nightgown. It framed four crimson gashes gleaming from her porcelain chest.

In the background, Brian’s father spoke to a muffled dispatcher. “My kids are terrified, we’re locked in my son’s bedroom, and there’s a fucking dead guy on my bedroom floor! Why? My wife shot him, that’s why! All I know is I woke up to gunshots, my wife screaming, and some nut springing out of our closet. He scratched her—even tried to bite her! He was out of his mind, stank like…I dunno. I dunno. Can you hurry, please? I’m worried about my wife.”

Brian’s father slumped onto the bed and ran a hand through his close-cropped hair. Becky squeezed between their parents, tiny hands clutching their father’s flannel pajama sleeve while he listened to the dispatcher. His free hand curled into a fist above his bouncing knee, knuckles tightening to white.

Brian’s skin grew clammy. Tingly. He tuned out the sights and sounds around him until they became a blur and buzz, a spinning funhouse tunnel of disorientation. She shot him. This crazy guy that broke in. God, he could’ve come after me and Becks if she hadn’t…

Distracted by the motion of his mother setting the gun on his bedside table, Brian looked at her. He recognized a forced smile he’d seen many times before. “We’ll make it through this one step at a time. We always do.” She glanced down at the bloody slashes, then back up to Brian. “I know this looks nasty, but it’s only a couple of scratches. I’m okay. I promise.”

She pulled Becky to her, giving her the attention their father couldn’t. Despite his muscular build and booming voice, Brian’s father often wilted in stressful situations—like the time he lost his job at the Topeka mall and Brian and his mother found him foaming at the mouth with an empty pill bottle beside his outstretched hand.

Brian’s father lowered his phone and looked at his wife and children, scoffing. “We have to stay in here and wait for them, barricade the door. The dispatcher said we’ll be safe and that we shouldn’t disturb the scene. Can you believe that? They made it sound like you were more of a criminal than the asshole you shot, Ellen!”

“Joel, language.” Brian’s mother covered Becky’s ears. She rested her chin atop Becky’s head and lowered her hands to stroke Becky’s lank hair. Brian’s father sat beside them, staring at the thin blue carpet between his bouncing knees.

“Brian, move your desk in front of the door.”

Any other time, Brian might’ve found his father’s condescension infuriating, but he was happy to have a distraction from the questions stirring within him. He dragged the desk over to the door, hyper-aware and jittery like he’d had too much caffeine.

When he finished, Brian sank onto the foot of his bed. He swept his tablet away, certain he’d never want to finish the episode frozen within it, and curled a quaking hand around his mother’s shoulder. “Mom, tell me what happened. Please.”

She nodded, taking in measured breaths as she threaded her fingers through Becky’s auburn curls. Becky took after their mother both in appearance and spirit. Although Brian possessed the same golden-blond hair and tan complexion as his father, he’d also inherited his tendency toward escapism.

His mother kept him going. She kept them all going. Even though she’d been hurt, she still held her daughter to her, still gripped her husband’s hand in hers, still smiled at Brian.

“Someone must’ve broken in while we were at Nana and Poppa’s,” she whispered. “He hid in our closet, waited until we were asleep… I-I don’t know why he attacked me. But I…I had to protect my family, so I…”

She didn’t say anything else. Becky’s unbearable whimpering forced Brian to voice the panic bashing against his skull. “Who the hell was that guy? Was he some homeless guy that broke in to get out of the cold? Why would he hurt Mom?”

“Bri, if I told you what I saw, you and your sister would have nightmares.” Brian’s father finally looked up and met Brian’s gaze. “Your mother and I will already have them, I’m sure of it. All I know is it was self-defense: they’ll clear your mother, get her checked out at a hospital, and we can go back to normal.” His lips tightened into a strained smile. He’d been fighting to earn Brian’s trust back ever since they found him on that locker room floor, but the sacred trust built between parent and child had been shattered irrevocably.

Brian’s eyes fell from his father’s. They drifted into silence and awaited the police. His gut soured and every nerve in his body tingled until the tips of his toes and fingers felt numb. One second, he’d been watching a by-the-numbers police procedural, the next he might as well have been starring in an episode of his own.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Knowledge-seeking animal-lover, supporter of diversity, and OG Floridian. Lifelong gamer who grew up drawing Disney characters, whales, and dinosaurs. Proud INTJ (which I share with the likes of Hannibal Lecter, Batman, and Ellen Ripley).

Twitter | Tumblr

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Release Blitz for Pisces Floors Taurus (Signs of Love #4.5) by Anyta Sunday (excerpt and giveaway)

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Pisces Floors Taurus by Anyta Sunday

Series: Signs of Love #4.5

Publisher: self-published

Release Date (ebook only): January 15th

Length: 4500 words

Subgenre: short contemporary gay romance novella

Order it: https://books2read.com/pisces-floors-taurus

Book synopsis:

Vacation time – time to try something new…

Spend some more time with Zane and Beckett in this short & steamy follow up to “Pisces Hooks Taurus’” as they deepen their bond.

All proceeds of the first month of sales will go to charity. This story was previously posted in three installments in the “KU in the Korner” Facebook group.

Excerpt For Release Blitz:

Zane crushed Beckett into a smoldering kiss.

Beckett pulled back, chuckling. “Not tonight.

“But what a brilliant way to keep warm.”

“How romantic,” Beckett said, dryly.

Zane saluted him. “Totally right. My first time should be. I’ll continue offering romantic suggestions, Becky, and when the feels overwhelm you, you’re going to peg—”

“Not what you think it means.”

“Piston—”

“Good Lord.”

“Plunge? Whoa, where are you going?”

“To plunge off a bridge. Apparently once wasn’t enough.”

 

About Anyta Sunday:

A bit about me: I’m a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. I love to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love.

Some of my favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries.

I write a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy.

My books have been translated into German, Italian, French, and Thai.

Connect with Anyta Sunday:

Author website: http://www.anytasunday.com/

Author newsletter signup: http://www.anytasunday.com/newsletter-free-e-book/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anytasundaybooks

Twitter: https://twitter.com/anytasunday

Instagram: https://instagram.com/anytasunday

BookBub: https://bookbub.com/authors/anyta-sunday

 

 

Giveaway: To celebrate this release, Anyta Sunday is giving three lucky winners paperback copies of “Pisces Hooks Taurus” (shipping internationally)!

Code: a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/88d45f0381/

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Whiskey and Moonshine by Elizabeth Noble

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Drunk on love.

Like a well-aged whiskey, master distiller and old-money entrepreneur Malone Kensington is elegant and refined. Unfortunately he’s also a perfectionist who is more dedicated to the success of his generations-old company than his own love life.

That company needs a public spokesman.

What Colton Hale lacks in sophistication, he more than makes up for with the charisma that’s allowed him to survive on the street from a young age and charm his way into the lucrative—if overwhelming—public position at the Kensington Distillery. When Mal takes Colt under his wing, hoping to polish off his rough edges, opposites attract and a passionate romance blossoms despite the differences in age and background. But can it survive a Kensington Board of Directors who believe Colt is nothing but a gold digger and a kidnapper determined to profit from the love of Mal’s life—dead or alive?

I enjoyed Whiskey and Moonshine, a Dreamspun Desires title by Elizabeth Noble as I do most of her romances.  She created two wonderful main characters in Colton Hale and Mal Kensington, as well as including a age difference/economic level advantage to make it interesting.  On top of that?  The basis and foundation of Whiskey and Moonshine is a famous family held whiskey/moonshine distillery along the line of Jack Daniels so the reader gets some fascinating inside details on how whiskey is cured and stored.  I really could have used a little more of that.  But what we get is enough to provide an authentic “flavor” and framework for Mal and the Kensington Distillery.

I actually found the novel the strongest when it had  Colton working in the janitorial department and scanning the company boards for jobs to work his way up in a company and place he was clearly meant to be.  Touching, real, and given his background, easy to connect with his struggles to move forward.  And delight in a company that continued to accept him.

When the company chooses Colton to be the ‘face” of the distillery, then the novel moves into several new stages.  The romance stage and changes in dynamics for many of the relationships here, including Colton and Mal. We lose that intimate connection Colton was having with the  distillery oddly enough as he becomes it’s spokesperson and it removes him from the actual jobs itself.  Colton keeps saying he wants to learn the business but that’s impossible when your job is public relations and “the road”.  That’s one hole that never gets completely filled in this story.

The warm, loving relationship between Mal and Colton is lovely and sweetly based on complete truths on Colton’s background.  A nice changeup from other novels.  But it’s also a bit of a reality bump for me in the story.  I didn’t have issues with their relationship, not the age difference or anything else for that matter.  Mine was more of a corporate common sense one.  Colton had lived on the  streets for years, turning tricks and doing what he had to survive.  He told Mal and the people who hired him.  Admirable and truthful.  Hire him for lots of things.  But not the very public “face” of Kensington Distillery who appears on The Tonight Show for all his former johns to see.  I really don’t see that happening in RL, nor that he didn’t have even one charge for soliciting after all those years on the streets in Toledo for someone to find.  So that all that strike me as realistic?  Uh, no,  not really.  That strikes me as a public relations nightmare.

Does it come up? No.  Other things yes, this huge one no.  So there are things here you either  just pretend to overlook or they don’t matter to begin with, because you are enjoying the romance so.

And that’s ok, it’s a really sweet romance with some angst and drama in the wings.  It all gets sorted out in time for a HEA in the Smokies.  If you like contemporary romance, Elizabeth Noble, and the Dreamspun Desires line, then Whiskey and Moonshine is another story you will want to grab up.

Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza has done a fine job with the cover and story elements.  Great job.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

 

Book Details:

ebook, 238 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781640803824
Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audio Review :The Missing Ingredient by Brian Lancaster and Seb Yarrick (Narrator)

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Chef Marcus Vine is a busy man, running his own popular restaurant in the UK and opening another with an investment partner in New York. But he finds time to step in and help out when he realizes his former best friend’s family needs him. Raine died a year ago and her husband, Tom, is struggling to be everything to his two daughters. 

With Marcus’s help and support, their lives take a turn for the better. And along the way, Marcus’s feelings for Tom—unrequited love—take on a renewed life. And then one day, Tom confesses his attraction to Marcus. He’s not gay, of course. That’s reiterated a number of times. So much so, that this reviewer found it distasteful when they went from that declaration to a simple kiss to penetrative sex. If one isn’t gay, why not try frottage or fellatio first? It just felt wrong and rushed. 

And then, of course, when Tom realizes Marcus has feelings for him, he backs off, and Marcus finds out he’s seeing a woman. So we have the heartbreak action, and the crisis comes when one of the girls needs medical attention and Marcus saves the day. But is Tom grateful? Nope. Now we have the period of breaking off, cooling down, and then the finale with the grand sweeping gesture. And the ending was… There’s not really a way to describe it. Granted, I was listening to an audiobook, but it seemed really bizarre to me—definitely from the pages of an old-fashioned dime novel romance.

Granted all these stories are based on old tropes. And granted, audiobooks pass quickly and there’s no chance to reread sections for clarity, so I could be wrong in my assessment. However, I will say that Seb Yarrick did a nice job on the narration. With a very British accent, he brought authenticity to the feel of the story. But I’m not a fan of gay for you when the character refuses to identify as anything but straight, even after sex, so I can’t rate this higher than 3 stars. As it is, the 3 stars were mostly earned by the narrator.

The cover by Aaron Anderson is a typical Dreamspun cover, with the circle in the center that, in this case, features a handsome man in chef’s coat in front and a man in a bathtub in the background. That is definitely not a scene from the story, but at least the colors are bright and the guy is attractive.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | AmazonAudible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook, 5 pages
Published November 8th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press (first published August 7th 2018)
Edition Language English

An Alisa Review: You. Forever. Always. (The Underdogs #3) by KA Merikan

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

—Years of loving in secret. Now the secret’s out.—

Mage. Reasonable. Mature. In love with his best friend’s little brother.
Dawn. Painfully shy. Crazy talented. An anxious cinnamon roll in need of protection.

Mage has always been Dawn’s hero. He’s been there for him when Dawn was bullied, when Dawn came out, and when he joined The Underdogs. He’s also been Dawn’s first and only love—painfully unrequited, since Mage is straight. But that’s only for the better, because they’re bandmates, and Dawn’s brother is Mage’s best friend.

It would all be too intense, too complicated, too real.

But then one drunken kiss proves Mage might not be as straight as he seemed, and their whole world turns upside down. Even though Dawn craves Mage’s love so much his heart could burst, his shyness stands in the way of any future they could share.

While they have to keep their budding relationship under wraps and they prepare to sign a major record deal, Dawn’s anxiety gets out of control. Mage will have to choose between the success he’s always craved and the love of his life.

I have been looking forward to this book since I read the others last year but it didn’t work for me as the others did.  I found myself not liking the characters from the previous books when seeing their antics from a different perspective.

Dawn and Mage have known each other forever and don’t want to risk their friendship either.  Once the stress of admitting how they felt was passed most things seemed to fall into place and felt that the couple complications were pretty quickly resolved.

I felt for Dawn, Dusk and Mage would do their best to protect him but it seemed that much of his anxiety was swept under the rug and it took him actually passing out to get him the help he needs the most.  Mage seems like the most cautious person and is very caring.  I liked seeing him caring for Dawn but felt a lot of their relationship was skipped over.  I also wish that there would have been more of an ending showing the other couples too.

The cover art by Natasha Snow is nice and is similar in style to the others in the series.

Sales Link: Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 144 pages

Published: December 29, 2018 by K.A. Merikan

Edition Language: English

Series: The Underdogs #3