A Stella Review: How to Heal (Lovestrong #5) by Susan Hawke

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RATING 3 out of 5 stars

Take one former bully, unable to forgive himself for the sins of his past…
Clark Danvers is a wild twenty-one year old who’s trying to prove he’s an adult. With a two-year degree in hand, he manages the family car dealership and seemingly parties by night. Given the amount of times he’s been pulled over for speeding by Deputy Rick Matthews, public opinion seems to be right. But what people don’t see are the scars he carries both inside and out. Scars from a past he can’t run away from and will never be able to atone for, no matter how many times he beats himself over it.

Add one no-nonsense cop who longs to be a Daddy for the right boy…
Jericho “Rick” Matthews never expects the bratty kid who gets on his last nerve to pull at his heartstrings. When he finds Clark battered and fighting for his life in a motel room, Rick’s Daddy mode is instantly engaged. Before he can think of anything else, he must first comfort this hurting boy.

To equal a pair of men who might just be what the other needs.
The two men who thought they couldn’t stand each other are drawn together after a date gone wrong. While Rick tenderly cares for Clark, he decides what this brat needs is a Daddy… someone to help him break free from the past and embrace the promise of many happy tomorrows.


This is the fifth book in the LOVESTRONG series about finding love and being yourself in a small town. Intended only for 18+ readers, this is an mm romance full of all the sweet feels you’d want from an S. Hawke book.

Note: Possible trigger warning for mentions of self-harm and a scene involving a man who’s consented to having himself tied up. What he didn’t agree to was being left that way for an entire weekend. This highly emotional scene is the catalyst to evoke “Daddy’s” protective mode in a tale filled with themes of hurt and comfort and the struggle of overcoming a difficult past.

I wasn’t sure how to rate How To Heal, at the end I settled with a 3 stars. First I have to say, please read the note at the end of the blurb, that scene was so hard for me to read, it broke my heart. Be aware of the trigger too.

Although a couple of things didn’t work with me, this new installment in the Lovestrong series was very well done, I enjoyed till the last chapter. Both Rick and Clark were men with a past, Clark’s one was a little heavier to accept and the young man so far didn’t make a good job at trying to forgive himself and the mistakes he made when he was fifteen years old. If you read the series and in particular How Not To Blend, you know what I’m talking about. Rick seemed to be the right person to be able to help Clark and build a future together. They were characters well defined, loveable, good at the heart.

That said, let’s talk about what didn’t work for me. Since this is part of a series, as often happens, I already met these characters, I ached for Clark because I saw how much he was abused too. I knew there was going to be some kind of redemption for him and I was happy to see some happy times were coming. I already met Rick too and then when I found him here in this new novel, I had trouble to recognise him, I felt him so different from what I already saw of him, it was almost like reading about a stranger-to-me character. Moreover, although I can understand the dynamic the author wanted to create, I think it was too much, too forced and to me it wasn’t ok at all. Clark was too childish, Rick too overbearing.

Still, I hope there will be more coming soon from Susan Hawke.

The cover art by Ana J Phoenix is simple, I can easily see Clark in the model, I like it.

Sales Links:  Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 277 pages

Published April 14th 2019

ASIN B07QRQFHSQ

Edition Language English

Series Lovestrong #5

A MelanieM Review: The Poison Within (Inspector Skaer #1) by Kasia Bacon

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Black clouds of xenophobia gather over Radvadur, the western province of the Empire. The political climate is strained and fragile. A surge of Nymph refugees has stirred widespread hostility towards non-humans. When the investigation of a gruesome triple murder linked to the refugee camp ensues, it takes Inspector Käyru Skaer and his lover, Count Ellydhar Finn-Jánn, along an unusual path, at the end of which a precious gift awaits.

Käyru and Elly are worlds apart in social standing, but they have found common ground in the bedroom—up against the wall and the stable doors, too. The arrangement between them ought to have been temporary and of no consequence. As their circumstances change, will they find the courage to risk their hearts?

Warning: Contains mentions of off page sexual assault.

Kasia Bacon’s novella Don’t Fight the Spark (Soldiers and Mercenaries #1) had included in the Author’s Book Notes a sentence or  two where the author indicated that she thought all readers should head to this story first for a better foundation on the  characters and then pick up Don’t Fight the Sparkk.  I hadn’t but wanted to rectify that as soon as possible.  Plus get a better look at Bacon’s Order Universe, which seems to be coming together much the way a quilter completes a quilt, one patch or in this case a story at a time.

Did I find that to be true? No.  Yes,The Poison Within (Inspector Skaer #1) by Kasia Bacon fills in some gaps nicely.  Like what and who is a Furia and who is that nymph meeting her at the end of Don’t Fight the Spark.  We get those answers here.  We also meet Käyru Skaer and his lover, Count Ellydhar Finn-Jánn here.  And if you play with the names and take into account their looks, then you have a long established couple in Don’t Fight the Spark.  However,  this couple here is practically at the first part of the path of their relationship, however the fact that they are an established couple given what we know from the other story.  There one is practically unrecognizable in some respects. their lives having changed drastically somewhere in between this story and that one.

Which sort of makes this all the more frustrating.  The author hands you both one section here towards the beginning of their story, and then  another towards the middle or whatever latter part, and leaves you missing huge gaps in between if you have read both books.  So I will say it’s hard for me to judge this strictly on it’s own merit.

I do find that the author has a wonderful way with her characterizations.  Layered, rich, and full of life, they are easy to connect with.  The same goes for the situations they find themselves in, in this case an unequal love affair,  officially unacknowledged due to the differences in social strata (The Count’s high birth and Käyru Skaer;s low).  Also the fact that the relationship between two men is tolerated only if it appears not to be serious.  All of which is placing incredible stress on them both while they try to investigate  a local crime.

You can see the author laying the groundwork for the other story and the events that will follow in the men’s relationship.  But it ends far too soon for me to feel any sense of completion, because of my additional knowledge past this story.  It just felt too short.

There is a nice amount of suspense and drama and the established relationship feels real between the two.

The world building here is good in sections.  That is for this section of the world the author does a great job of giving us a feel for the type of culture and political life that swirls around the people and this couple.  How restrictive and yes, poisonous it can be.

For the larger framework for the entire  world, its history, geography etc.  once again you need to consult the Glossary.  Something I’m divided about.  I need to read more about The Order Universe.  Perhaps the earlier books contain within them the foundations I’m seeking like the Elf/Human wars that were so devastating that left the humans on the losing end and rearranged everything.  Somewhere there’s a story that folds it all in, rather than resorts to a Glossary for a framework and grounding.  I appreciate a patchwork quilt of short stories but would love to see them attached to one overall cohesive novel that jump started it all.  I’m still in search of that one.

If you are a fan of The Order Universe, then this is one more short story you must add to the collection.  I will be following along to see how this couple got from here to Don’t Fight the Spark status.  Should be quite the ride.  I will be waiting.  If you love fantasy and a series, try The Order Universe.  You might find it as fascinating as I do.

Book Cover art is terrific.  Bloody wonderful.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

As of 14th December 2017, The Poison Within also includes a short bonus read titled A Late Bite to Eat

Kindle Edition, 51 pages
Published March 18th 2017
ASINB06XFGX3BT
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Inspector Skaer #1
CharactersInspector Käyru Skaer, Count Ellydhar Finn-Jánn or ‘Elly’
settingRadvadur

Love NonFiction and Romance? Check out the Blog Tour and Giveaway for SAINT UNSHAMED: A Gay Mormon’s Life Healing by Kerry Ashton

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BLOG TOUR

Book Title: SAINT UNSHAMED: A Gay Mormon’s Life 

Healing from the Shame of Religion, Rape, Conversion Therapy & Cancer

Author: Kerry Ashton             

Publisher: Lynn Wolf Enterprises

Cover Artist: Kerry Ashton

Release Date: April 17, 2019

Genres: A Gay Memoir featuring M/M Romance & some hard core sex

Tropes: Forbidden love, Rape, Mormon Religion

Themes: Coming out, Forgiveness, Overcoming Religion, Rape, Police Surveillance & Arrest, Conversion Therapy including Electric Shock Treatments, and a 16-year battle with rare cancer

Heat Rating:  5 flames

There are many erotic passages—most are hardcore, erotic and explicit passages, all M/M. Many deal with scenes of sexual humiliation, degradation, group scenes, S&M and/or the gay male leather scene.

Length: 120 000 words /348 pages incl. 14 pages of B&W photos from author’s private collection.

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“A TRIUMPHANT MEMOIR!”  Clarion Books

Blurb                       

The first paragraph of Kerry Ashton’s new memoir explains a lot: “I told this story once as fiction in the 1980s, but this time I tell the truth. I even tell the truth, in #MeToo fashion, about being violently raped by another man when I was 18, with a knife held to my throat—a secret I kept from everyone, including myself, for over 40 years. The rape, like other experiences I endured while a student at Brigham Young University, where I came out in the early 1970s, had a profound impact on my later life. But this story is not so much about my rape or my coming of age at BYU, as it is about the lifelong effects of shame itself, not only about how I internalized and inherited a wounding shame from my Mormon upbringing, but also how I eventually unshamed myself. It is about the journey of a lifetime, finding spiritual growth, self-discovery and healing along the way, while encountering many miraculous events that pushed me forward through darkness toward the light.”

Telling about his experiences during his four years at BYU—the rape, falling in love for the first time, police surveillance, harassment and arrest, while enduring three years of conversion therapy and electric shock treatments—provide the structure of Kerry’s memoir. But intermittently, the author shares memories from his childhood, growing up Mormon in Pocatello, Idaho, and later from his adulthood, as well as from his professional career as an actor and writer, both in L.A. and NYC, describing encounters with Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis and Julie Harris, while detailing his experiences with Tennessee Williams and his brief affair with Stephen Sondheim. Lastly, he talks about the 12 years he spent in therapy, about his 16-year battle with cancer, how he eventually rid himself of the shame internalized from his Mormon youth, sharing glimpses into his sexual journey from his innocent youth through S&M and the gay leather scene in mid-life to the loving monogamous relationship he now enjoys.

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Indie Bound

Excerpt                             

READ PART ONE  HERE

The Holy War, as I have come to think of it, began on a hot day in early September 1971, the day I left Pocatello to drive four hours south to Provo, Utah, to attend Brigham Young University. As in all wars, whether holy or unholy, it would not be without its casualties.

I spent the morning packing things in my ‘56 Chevrolet, parked in the spot on the lawn where our driveway would have been had my parents ever had the money to pave it. A yellow-and-bronze, two- door coupe with cream interior, a huge cream steering wheel, and black dashboard, the car had class, which is why I named it Oscar— after the Academy Awards I hoped to win one day.

As I packed Oscar full of boxes, Dad worked under the hood of the car. Once Oscar was filled with boxes, I sank down on our front lawn. Knowing this would be my last day at home, I tried to capture everything I saw and felt around me: The red of Mom’s roses framing our side porch, the hazy blue of the late morning sky, the large pine tree at the front of our corner lot, and the blue-grey crag of Scout Mountain in the distance, where I had always imagined Santa’s sleigh flew over on Christmas Eve.

Hearing Mom humming in the kitchen as she prepared lunch, everything seemed right in my Latter-Day-Saint world.

Getting up from the grass, I walked over to where Dad was still working under Oscar’s hood. “Everything look okay, Dad?” I asked.

“Oh, sure,” Dad replied in his folksy way. “I just wanted to make sure everything’s good with your car. I don’t want you stranded on the highway.”

Though I had fulfilled every church obligation, I was not the mechanic that Dad had hoped each of his three sons would become. I left mechanical jobs to Dad or to my two older brothers, both married by then.

“I love you, Dad,” I said suddenly. He stopped tinkering with the spark plugs and looked up at me. “I love you, too, son,” he replied, embracing me with a greasy hug.

Mom came out on the side porch just then. Wiping her hands on her apron, she called out to us, “Okay, you two! Lunch is ready!”

I washed my hands at the kitchen sink and let Dad wash his hands in the bathroom. Then I joined Mom at the kitchen table while we waited for Dad.

“Kerry Lynn,” she whispered, stroking my dark brown hair as she often did, “I don’t know what I’m going to do without you.”

Now a grown-up, or so I thought, I bristled at her calling me by both my given names as it sounded so girlish. But since it was my last day at home, I chose to ignore it.

“With all the kids married,” Mom continued, “and you going off to college, this house is going to feel awfully empty without you.”

“Maybe you and Dad will finally get some peace and quiet,” I kidded. “Maybe now you two can finally go on that second honeymoon you’ve talked about.”

“Maybe,” she said, laughing as she reached out to hold me. “I

love you, Kerry.” As she held me tight, I never wanted to let go. Once Dad joined us at the table, he said a blessing on the food, as we always did in our home.

After the blessing, we tore through the food. Mom had made some of my favorites: Her wonderful potato and egg salad, savory burgers with all the trimmings, and delicious corn-on-the-cob bought fresh from the farmer’s market.

After lunch, we went into the living room where Dad anointed my head with oil, laid his hands upon my head, and gave me a sacred Father’s Blessing—the blessing of a Melchizedek Priesthood Elder— warning me to be “mindful of the Adversary.”

Before I left that day, Dad took a photograph of me standing in front of Oscar. Barely 18 and dressed neatly, at 6’3” and 190 pounds, I was the very image of a conservative, clean-cut, LDS young man who loved his Mormon family, the LDS Church, and his Heavenly Father.

I arrived at Salt Lake City three hours later. From there, it took me another hour driving south on Interstate 15 before I arrived in the city of Provo.

Taking my first glimpse that day of Provo through Oscar’s wide windshield, I could see the white LDS Temple huddled against the Wasatch Mountains, its golden steeple gleaming in the late afternoon sun. Further north, Mount Timpanogos reached heavenward, while a sign at the main entrance to the BYU campus read: “The World Is Our Campus.” In reality, the campus became my world.

Driving north past the immense Cougar Stadium, and then into the foothills just beyond the BYU campus, then turning east and heading toward the mountains, I came to the huge Marriott Sports Arena under construction on my right, and stopped at the light. Once the light turned green, I made a left turn onto Sumac Avenue, climbing dramatically into the foothills, before pulling into the driveway in front of my new off-campus apartment.

About the Author

Raised in Pocatello, Idaho as a Mormon in the heart of Mormon Zion, Kerry attended BYU in the early 70s, where some of the most dramatic events recounted in his memoir took place.

Always interested in pursuing a career as both an actor and writer, Kerry wrote his first play, BUFFALO HEAD NICKELS at the age of 17, and published it at 18. Since then, he has published several works, among them most prominently THE WILDE SPIRIT, a one-man play with music, in which Ashton starred as Oscar Wilde, and also wrote the play’s book, music and lyrics. The play won Kerry critical acclaim for both his writing and performance, and three 1977 L.A. Civic Star Awards for Best Actor, Play and Direction. The play ran for three consecutive seasons in Provincetown, MA from 1990-1992, and was produced Off-Broadway in 1996, winning Kerry a National Award of Merit from ASCAP. The author now makes his home with his partner Victor Ramirez in South Florida. For more info, visit www.KerryAshton.com.

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