A MelanieM Review: Challenge Me (With Me #4) by Kris Jacen

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Briar Mason joined the Army to find himself after he believed the lies that had gone around about his best friend, Carter, and his sister. He should have known that Carter wouldn’t do those things but family was family, right? He’ll find out who his real family is when he’s injured and sent back to the states.

Not-telling-you-my-first-name Randolph was about to hit ten years in the Army and had some amazing assignments but one had eluded him until now – Ranger School. Coming from being assigned to the Presidential Salute Battery was going to be the best thing for him since training was emphasized. Should be easy, right?

Briar and Randolph met when Briar had stopped to apologize to Carter and Randolph was in full-on protective mode. Can these two find a middle ground while challenging themselves and each other to be better?

Kris Jacen’s With Me series is, without a doubt, one of my favorite contemporary series.  Jacen brings her intimate knowledge of military life to create a first rate series about life, service to the country, and love.  Each story normally has a slightly different focus on a certain aspect within the military for it’s main characters.  Could be making it through BUD/S training, trying to decide when to retire, military family life, or here, what happens what a soldier is so badly injured during a tour of duty it ends his military service.  What happens to him next?  What happens to all those lost men and women?

The VA is under fire and in the news for mishandling the files of so many soldiers in need of treatment.  And as Jacen’s story states the parking lots have become the locations where too many soldiers has taken their lives.  In Briar and all other of this author’s soldiers, Jacen brings our current military situation and our soldiers, male and female, vividly and memorably to life.

What is so remarkable about her stories is the depth of feeling that is relayed from page to reader.  There’s so much emotion here.  We run the gamut, from fear, pride in one’s duty and unit, to anger and depression, to hope, recovery, romance, and love.  We get the full spectrum.  We also get the accuracy of detail as to what it’s like to service in the military, from both sides.  From the soldier’s perspective and that of their family.  Strong stuff indeed.

And that’s in every story.

Here we’re with Briar on a tough journey.  But he’s got a full team of support behind him, lucky Briar.  Two connected groups of soldiers, one older and some getting ready for retirement as of this story, and a younger group in transition that appear in all the stories.  Each character a strong and individual personality on its own. That also includes their wives, husbands, and children who have also made a huge impact on this reader.  And on Briar and Randolph.

Watching not only the romance unfold, but the various story threads is such a pleasure.  It’s almost impossible to separate out one from another because they are so tightly wound up in each other.  Much like the support that is given within this tightly cohesive unit of family and friends, that become family.  They simply are whatever each other needs for each other.  The understanding of the perils as well as the strengths come through crystal clear.

In the end Briar and Randolph have made major decisions and another story looks to  unfold.  I can’t wait.

If you love contemporary romance, heartwarming stories full of great characters and realistic situations and relationships, look no further than the With Me series and Challenge Me (With Me #4) by Kris Jacen.  I highly recommend them all.

Cover art by Kris Jacen.  I find this a very striking cover.  The half torso on the dark background draws your eye, the meaning clear once you dive into the story. Beautiful.

Sales Links: MLR Press |   Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 124 pages
Published August 31st 2018 by MLR Press
ASINB07H1N9QTR
SeriesWith Me #4

With Me Series
 
Book #1 – Wait For Me – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Explore With Me – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #3 – Learn With Me – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 – Challenge Me – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Need a New Story and Series to Love? Check out the Release Blitz and Giveaway for Step Up With Me (With Me #5) by Kris Jacen

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Buy Links:
 
Length: 45,000 words approx.
 
Publisher: MLR Press
 
With Me Series
 
Book #1 – Wait For Me – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Explore With Me – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #3 – Learn With Me – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 – Challenge Me – Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Blurb
 

Richard “Tank” Martin was a big boy from the start. Born weighing over 11 pounds, he didn’t stop growing. When he was in middle school, a football coach took him under his wing and finally explained to him the mystery of calories in, calories out and from then on it was all good for him. At least he thought. Being called to meet with his platoon sergeant and told that he was now part of the Army’s overweight program, sent him into a spin that only his crews can help him out of.


Dr. Jack Dillon thought his life was good and finally settled. Part of an active veterinarian practice, volunteering with a service dog organization, spoiling his sister’s triplets and training in sports jui-jitsu…the only this missing was a partner. He never thought that his world could be shattered with just a phone call even after being around his military friends.


Tank and Jack have been dancing around each other for months until Tank takes a chance and kisses Jack at their friends’ wedding moving their slow dance into a heated bump and grind. Can these two survive the changes coming their ways together or will all the changes break them apart?

 
About the Author



Kris Jacen grew up just north of Boston, Massachusetts, met her soldier in high school but didn’t marry him until almost ten years later. She moved around with him and their daughters (born in two different states thanks to the Army) for the first 19 years of their marriage (they celebrated their silver anniversary in 2018) before settling in western New York.


She has been the Editor in Chief and Formatting Director for ManLoveRomance Press and its imprints since January of 2008 and has never looked back. Working with the amazing authors at MLR has allowed her to both hone her editorial skills and indulge her inner fangirl. She also acts as editor, mentor and sounding-board for newcomers which lets her “pay-it-forward” and help authors realize their dreams.


You can find out more about Kris on her website www.krisjacen.com.


Giveaway

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Don’t MIss Out on Ithani by J. Scott Coatsworth! It marks the End of a Great SciFy Trilogy! (excerpt and giveaway)

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IthaniThe final MM sci fi book in J. Scott Coatsworth’s “Oberon Cycle” trilogy is out – “Ithani”!

Time is running out.

After saving the world twice, Xander, Jameson and friends plunge headlong into a new crisis. The ithani–the aliens who broke the world–have reawakened from their hundred millennia-long slumber. When Xander and Jameson disappear in a flash, an already fractured world is thrown into chaos.

The ithani plans, laid a hundred thousand years before, are finally coming to pass, and they threaten all life on Erro. Venin and Alix go on a desperate search for their missing and find more than they bargained for. And Quince, Robin and Jessa discover a secret as old as the skythane themselves.

Will alien technology, unexpected help from the distant past, destiny and some good old-fashioned firepower be enough to defeat an enemy with the power to split a world? The final battle of the epic science fiction adventure that began in Skythane will decide the fate of lander and skythane alike. And in the north, the ithani rise…

Oberon Cycle Trilogy

Ithani Buy Links

Dreamspinner eBook | Dreamspinner Paperback | Amazon eBook | Amazon Paperback | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads

Book 1: Skythane:

Dreamspinner eBook | Dreamspinner Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Amazon paperback | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads

Book Two: Lander:

Dreamspinner eBook | Dreamspinner Paperback | Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Google Play | Kobo | QueeRomance Ink | Goodreads


Giveaway

Scott is giving away a $50 Amazon gift card and ten copies of “The Stark Divide,” the first book in his other trilogy, Â his other trilogy, “Liminal Sky,” with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:

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Excerpt

Venin stood under the dome of the chapel, the waters of the Orn rushing past the small island to crash over the edge of the crater rim, where they fell a thousand meters to the broken city of Errian below.

The Erriani chapel was different from what he was used to back home. The Gaelani chapel in Gaelan had sat at the top of a tall pillar of stone, open to the night sky, a wide space of grass and trees that intertwined in a natural dome through which moonlight filtered down to make dappled shadows on the ground.

This chapel, instead, was a wonder of streaming sunlight, the columns a polished eggshell marble with glimmering seams of gold. Red creeper vines climbed up the columns, festooned with clusters of yellow flowers that gave off a sweet scent.

Both were bright and airy, but the Erriani chapel lay under a dome supported by fluted marble columns, a painted arch of daytime sky and the rose-colored sun blazing overhead.

The last time he’d gone to chapel had been with Tazim, before his untimely death.

Long before the troubles that roiled the world now.

Something drew him back. A need to reconnect with his past. To bridge the gap between then and now, between who he was and who he had become. Taz would have liked this place.

The chapel here had survived the attack, while much of Errian had not. The city below was a jumble of broken corrinder, the multistory plants that were the main building stock for the city. They would grow again, but the sight of the city’s beautiful white towers laid low struck him to the core.

So had Gaelan looked, after the flood.

Venin turned back to the chapel and unlaced his boots, baring his muscular calves before he approached the fountain that splashed at its center. The cool flagstone beneath his feet sent a shiver up his spine, and green moss filled the gaps between the stones.

Some builder whose name was lost to time had tapped into the river itself to make the fountain run, and the water leapt into the air with a manic energy around the golden statue of Erro, before falling back down to the pool.

Venin knelt at the fountain’s edge on one of the well-worn pads, laid his hands in the shallow water, and let his wings rest over himself, making a private place to pray.

Erro and Gael, spare us from danger and lift us up into the sky with your powerful wings. He gave Erro deference, being that this was his chapel, but he hoped Gael would hear him too. The god of his own people had been known to intervene in mortal affairs before, and if what Quince had told them about these ithaniwas true, they would need all the help they could get.

Venin’s wings warmed.

He looked up in astonishment to see the statue of Erro giving off an intense golden glow. His mouth dropped open, and he stood and stared at its beautiful male curves and muscles. Maybe the gods were answering him.

Venin reached up and touched the statue’s outstretched hand. The shock knocked him backward onto his ass, and he hit the ground hard, slamming into one of the marble columns.

Venin groaned, stunned, and reached back to feel his wings and spine. He seemed to be in one piece.

Taz would have laughed his ass off at the whole thing.

After a moment he sat up cautiously. He wrapped his arms around his legs and stared up at the statue, his chin on his knees.

The glow was gone.

Did I imagine it? He stood and felt the back of his head. A lump was already forming there. That’s gonna leave a mark.

Something had changed. Venin didn’t know what yet, but he was sure of that much.

He pulled his boots back on and laced them up. With one last suspicious glare at the statue, he turned and stepped out of the chapel, taking a deep breath of the moisture-laden air.

Then he leapt into the sky to soar down to the broken city.


Author Bio

Scott lives with his husband of twenty five years in a Sacramento suburb, in a cute little yellow house with a brick fireplace and two pink flamingoes out front.

He inhabits in the space between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into science fiction and fantasy by his mom at the tender age of nine, he quickly finished her entire library. But he soon began to wonder where all the queer people were.

After coming out at twenty three, he started writing the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Crown Books. If there weren’t many queer characters in his favorite genres, he would will them into existence, subverting them to his own ends. And if he was lucky enough, someone else would want to read them.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently than most – he makes connections between ideas that others don’t, and somehow does more in a day than most people manage in a week. Although born an introvert, he forced himself to reach outside himself, and learned to connect with others like him.

Scott’s stories subvert expectations that transform traditional science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something different and unexpected. He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark.

His romance and genre fiction writing brings a queer energy to his stories, filling them with love, beauty and power. He imagines how the world could be – in the process, he hopes to change the world, just a little.

Scott was recognized as one of the top new gay authors in the 2017 Rainbow Awards, and his debut novel “Skythane” received two awards and an honorable mention.

You can find him at Dreamspinner here, Goodreads here, on Amazon here, on QueeRomance Ink here, and on Facebook here.

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