A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Healing Glass (Gifted Guilds #1) by Jackie Keswick

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 Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

This is an intriguing fantasy novel about the political machinations amongst the Craft Guild. Most of the story revolves around a city made of glass that is suspended over the ocean. When the Craft Guild arrived and needed shelter they took it over, but the glass in the city is failing and no one knows why, or how to fix it. Between the need for Minel’s skills as the glass master, and the strange obsession Regent Wark has for him, Minel is unwittingly made into a pawn of the corrupt councillors. When Minel is taken strangely ill, his friend Captain Falcon tries to help him. He is not the only male craftor suffering from a lung evil and he must be pairbound to save his life. Regent Wark tries to force Minel to be pairbound by any means necessary, forcing Minel to flee the city.

I had my doubts–I thought this was just going to be an excuse that forced Minel into having sex with Falcon. I’m glad that was not the case; not because I would have minded that as a plot point per se, but that the rest of the book would have gone in a completely different vein. I would have missed reading what is there. Although sex does ease the symptoms of his illness, the author worked hard to remove concerns of dubious consent for the main characters. There are bleak references to dubcon/noncon for other characters (off page). It’s a tale of greed, power, sorrow, pain, and betrayal. Thankfully, the author makes the relationship between Minel and his warrior Falcon the touchstone, giving the book love, hope, and friendship. I enjoyed seeing flashbacks of moments of their friendship, while watching them carve out a future amongst all that life had to throw at them. With the way his character is described in the beginning, I worried how Minel would be able to be the mate of a warrior. The author crafts Minel’s character in a believable way throughout the story, showing how adapting to this new culture and way of life brings out the best in him. Falcon’s adjustments are there too: how to live with someone else, how to communicate effectively with a loved one, how to let go of pride if it’s in the way, and how to work through fear of danger for someone else. Minel too has to learn to bend his priorities to include others.

There are many layers to this story, spanning three generations. Warriors, craft masters, and merchants have different gifts (talent, magic) in general, with variety among individuals. Elements of spirituality are subtly incorporated here. This isn’t world building in the traditional science fiction sense–no description of flora or fauna, minimal history, and only the politics pertinent to the story. This novel is more focused on human factors and infrastructure for the city since the city is a main character. For an exciting change, all the female characters are strong, smart, and talented. It was easy to picture the world created here, without being overwhelmed by wordy descriptions of the terrain. The social commentary about personal choice and freedoms, political corruption for personal greed, people in power who don’t have the knowledge or skill to govern, and giving them free rein without proper oversight packs a wallop. Still, there are individual moments in this that are filled with joy and quite enchantingly described. With the way the warrior talents are used as a major plot point, I would have liked to have felt a little more of their brotherhood.

I think fans of the author’s Dornost stories will like this too. I hope there are other novels set in the Warriors’ Guild and Merchant Guild, or even more stories in the Craft Guild since this author likes to play in different timelines. I’d love to see more about talent and shapings, with some of the side characters involved; and more of the history of this world, which I expect will be layered in with other novels. I enjoyed this story and all of its characters.

The cover was done by Pavelle Art. It is perfect for this novel, depicting an important scene from the book.

Sale Links: iBooksAmazon | Nook

ebook, 229 pages
Published: May 13, 2019, by Jackie Keswick
ISBN: 9781386061410
Edition Language: English

Series: Gifted Guilds
Book #1: Healing Glass

Check Out the Release Blitz for Under the Jasmine Flowers by W.S. Long (excerpt)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Under the Jasmine Flowers

Author: W.S. Long

Publisher:  JMS Books

Cover Artist: Written Ink Design

Release Date: May 18, 2019

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance

Trope/s: Forced in the closet until he realizes he has to be out

Themes:  Coming out, forgiveness

Heat Rating:  3 flames

Length:  73 321 words/154 pages

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Buy Links

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Blurb

Jojo Arias, a Spanish-Filipino mestizo, didn’t expect to meet a U.S. Marine in a swank bar in the Philippines. But, Jojo can’t deny the electricity they have once he meets Adam. Although they come from different worlds, they struggle to keep their relationship private to protect Jojo’s status, and position as part of one of wealthiest and powerful in Filipino society.  Billions of dollars could be easily lost if his family business was jeopardized by Jojo’s secret. Jojo is pressured to abandon Adam and live a life in the closet. When the struggle to maintain their secret romance unravels, Jojo is left with a life-changing decision to leave his family, or to pursue his love.

 

Excerpt

James Joseph Garcia Arias savored the last few drops, then set the now empty pilsner down, right next to two other empty bottles of San Miguel beer. Despite the thick glass windows in the swank Makati bar that should have offered some soundproofing, Saturday Manila traffic passed noisily one floor below. The rumble of buses, cars honking, and steady stream of headlights never bored him. He preferred the noise of the city to the quiet stillness that his parents called home.

He glanced at his Patek Phillipe Nautilus watch his grandmother had given him. He texted Erwin. Ready. Barely a second or two passed, when his phone received the reply text. Be right there, boss. He sighed. He’d asked Erwin not to call him that for the longest time, but Erwin insisted. Jojo stood, fished out the right amount of pesos, plus a slightly larger gratuity than what was expected, then headed for the men’s room. A large group of Americans sat around the glass-tiled bar, laughing loudly. He guessed they were military, based on their crew cuts, hanging out to blow off steam. When he returned a few minutes later, after peeing an hour’s worth of beer, one of the military guys glanced up, and smiled at him. The man’s eyes followed Jojo.

Walk on by. Don’t stop.

He wanted to listen to the voice inside his head but he couldn’t. Maybe the alcohol made him less inhibited, maybe he was still reeling from the breakup with his fiancee and maybe he wanted to talk to someone who wasn’t an employee or a family member, or maybe because no one left in the bar knew him because the next thing he did was he stopped, inches away from the blond.

“Is this seat taken?” Jojo asked.

The stranger smiled more broadly and shook his head. “No.”

Jojo waited a second to see if the handsome man would say something else, but all the blond man did was smile even more. “American right?” Jojo asked.

“Yes.”

“I’m guessing you guys are U.S. military?”

“Marines, yeah. We’re sending one of our guys off, rotating from the Embassy here. My name’s Adam, by the way.” Adam offered his hand, which Jojo shook.

“James Arias, but my friends call me ‘Jojo’.”

Adam opened his mouth to say something but was interrupted by his friends who came over to meet Jojo. It didn’t take Jojo long to figure that Adam was probably the only sober one in the group, as the four other guys slurred their words, and often laughed uncontrollably at each other’s jokes. When Adam’s friends returned to their seats at the bar, Adam leaned in. “Your English is perfect, no trace of an accent, so I’m guessing you’re American too?”

“You’re partly right. I was born in America. My mother was a medical student in the U.S., and we lived in San Francisco but we moved back here after she got her degree.”

“So your mom’s a doctor?”

Jojo smiled. He wanted to tell Adam the whole long story of why his mother had never practiced medicine after she completed medical school because the family had seen no need of her working at a hospital or a clinic, and that these days her mother was busy hosting, or attending social and charitable events, but he thought the better of it and just answered simply. “Yeah, she is.”

“So you live here. . . I mean the Philippines?” Adam asked.

“Yes, I do.”

“I’m sorry I’m asking stupid questions because you don’t look Filipino. I hope I’m not offending you by saying that. Most Filipinos are short and very Asian looking. You look more like my Latino friends from Southern California and in a good way.”

Jojo laughed. “It’s probably the lighting, but my father and mother are both parts Spanish and Filipino so maybe that’s why my features are different than most.” Jojo’s cell phone vibrated. I’m downstairs, boss. Jojo palmed the phone for a second, aware that Adam was studying him. Erwin, something’s come up. Head back to the garage until I text you again.

“Girlfriend?”

Jojo shook his head without looking up from his phone.

“Boyfriend then?”

Jojo raised his head and laughed at the handsome man’s brazenness. He liked how Adam’s strong jawline, full lips and dark eyebrows peered at him, waiting on every word. Maybe it was the alcohol. He moved within earshot so that only the Marine could hear. “No, I haven’t had a boyfriend in a long time. But, I did just break up with my fiancée.”

“Is that why you were nursing several beers over in that corner after your friends left you?”

Jojo narrowed his eyes. “You’re very perceptive, Adam. Except they weren’t my friends, they were . . . co-workers.” Jojo almost said employees, but stopped himself. Maybe it was the Arias family tendency to be secretive, and not give out too much information, but here he was on a Saturday night in a bar, drinking, when he was usually still in the office poring over engineering details, building plans, and contract proposals.

“I’m sorry about the break up. You look torn up about it. I couldn’t help but notice earlier when we first arrived. Can I buy you a beer?”

Jojo smiled, then laughed without meaning to. The last time a guy had bought him a beer was in a dive bar right outside CalPoly, after an engineering final.

“What’s so funny?” Adam asked, as he chuckled along.

“It’s been a while since another guy offered to buy me a beer.”

“No worries. It looked like earlier you needed it. Did she break your heart?” Jojo faced toward the bar, away from Adam. Jojo didn’t say anything, but he wanted to respond.

Adam spoke again. “You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to.”

Jojo pondered Adam’s question as Adam’s friends got louder and louder on their end of the bar.

“Don’t worry about them,” Adam said as he pointed to his friends. “I’m the designated driver, and in about an hour they’ll all be sound asleep snoring in the government issued van I’m driving.”

So he’s brazen without alcohol.

Jojo faced Adam and breathed deeply. He couldn’t tell the color of Adam’s piercing eyes but Jojo couldn’t deny his own intense interest in the serviceman. Adam leaned in and prolonged his gaze. Jojo was mesmerized. Adam seemed genuinely concerned. And maybe he was wrong, but Adam appeared compassionate. “She asked me if I was ever going to marry her. If I loved her, and if we were only together because both our families wanted it. I had to tell her the truth, and that as much as I had feelings for her, I didn’t love her.”

“Ouch!” Then Adam smiled, his voice took on a tone of playfulness. “And you’re here, living and breathing with no scratch on you.”

“She is a very logical, rational person. That’s why I liked her when we first met. She was so completely different from the other girls my parents tried to set me up with.”

“You have a picture of her? I’m curious.”

Jojo nodded, fished out his phone, and scrolled through some pictures before showing a good one of his ex, Lani.

“Wow. She’s hot. Your parents had good taste if they thought she would be a good wife.”

One of Adam’s friends sauntered over and peered at Lani’s photo. “Dude, your girlfriend?”

“Ex,” Adam said. “That’s his ex.”

“How about giving me her number? She’s pretty.”

Jojo shook his head. If Lani, a black belt in tae kwon do, found out he’d ever given her number to someone, she’d probably roundhouse kick him in the head before he knew anything about it. “Sorry, I can’t do that.”

“Well, at least I tried,” the Marine said. “Hey, Adam, we’re thinking we should head on over to the bars downtown.”

“Downtown?” Adam asked.

“Ermita,” the man said.

Adam turned away so that only Jojo could see his face as he rolled his eyes.

“What do you say? For old time’s sake?” his friend asked. “You’re welcome to come along––’’

“––Jojo, my name’s, Jojo,” as they both shook hands.

“Mine’s Nate. Yeah, come along with us, I’m sure Adam won’t mind,” the Marine continued. “It’ll keep him company, and his mind off his ex-boyfriend he’s probably still pining after.”

Adam slouched. Adam’s reaction to his Marine buddy’s comment must have hit a chord and Jojo was compelled to find out more about Adam. Jojo hesitated for a moment. He wasn’t used to spontaneously accepting strangers offers to hang out, but Adam’s eyes beckoned him to say yes. Besides, maybe a few more hours out on the town would make him feel better for breaking up with Lani.

“If you’re sure I won’t be a fifth wheel, yeah, I’ll join you.”

Adam smiled. “Nate’s a little bit of a douche bag. So sorry about that.”

“Well, your friend’s had a little too much to drink.” Jojo leaned closer, sticking a hand in his pants pocket, his lips almost touching Adam’s ear, and whispered. “But to be honest, that scene is a little too, I’m trying to find the right words to say it––”

“––Red light? Yeah, I hate going down there.” Adam put his hand on top of Jojo’s wrist, squeezed it, and then removed it. The quick touch happened in a blink of an eye. “Do you have any other suggestions?”

Jojo didn’t say anything. He was shocked that Adam had just placed his hand on him, so casually, so friendly like. He couldn’t deny the electricity he felt when Adam touched him either. “If they’re looking for dancing women, there’s a club two blocks from here, more upscale but not so red light, as you say.”

“Well, lead the way, Jojo.” Adam smiled. “I’ll rustle them from the bar and we’ll follow you.” Adam stood and moved to where Nate and the other guys were huddled.

Jojo motioned to the bartender. “I’ll pay their tab.”

“Thanks, Mr. Arias. Shall I add it to your monthly bill?”

Jojo nodded. Before he could say anything else, Adam appeared at his elbow. Standing, he towered over Jojo by a few inches.

“The boys are cool checking out a new place. Thanks for the offer.”

“So who’s leaving that you’re having this party for?” Jojo asked.

“His name’s John.” Adam pointed him out. “He’s been stationed at the Embassy for more than three years now. Overdue for his new assignment back to San Diego.”

Jojo signed the chit the bartender handed him without even looking at the total bill.

“Hey, is that our bill? You shouldn’t have done that. What do we owe you?”

Jojo shook his head. “Don’t worry about it. I come here often enough that they actually give me a discount, and I’m glad to pay. Thanks for your service. All of you.”

Adam walked to where Nate stood, clapped him on the shoulder, and shouted something in his ear. All the guys around Nate, including John turned to Jojo and raised their glasses and beer bottles, some empty and others not so empty. “Thanks!” they shouted in unison.

Adam took two steps back to Jojo. “Now, they’ll follow you to the ends of the earth. Buying their drinks bought you some loyalty. Lead the way, fine sir!” Adam gestured with a bow, holding an invisible cap in his hands as his head followed the gesture.

Jojo laughed at the dramatic flourish and walked out of the bar, Adam right next to him as the other Marines followed them. As they took the steps down one level to the street, Jojo recognized the SUV parked on the side. “Hold on,” he said to Adam.

Jojo approached the Lexus with dark tinted windows. The whir of the window revealed Erwin’s face. “I didn’t go back to the garage, boss. They said I could just wait here until you were done, however long it lasted.”

“Well, we’re headed to my cousin’s VIP club down the block. You know the one. If you want to meet me there, that’s fine.” Jojo ignored his driver’s raised eyebrow. Jojo’s cousin, Tiny, owned a lounge with a rooftop bar.

Jojo hadn’t talked to Tiny in a week or so, since Tiny asked for a loan from Arias Holdings to help his deep in the red bar.

Tiny’s club had boxing on one floor, Ukrainian and Russian models on the second floor, and Filipino women, working as cocktail waitresses, dressed in Vietnamese ao dais whose skirts were mini-skirts rather than full length dresses. The male bartenders were all selectively picked for the discreet crowd. Cousin Tiny interviewed the entire bar and wait staff himself, making sure that they were attractive. The truth was, if they could flirt with Tiny and the head waitress, they were hired if they had a pretty face. Jojo didn’t care for the little people fighting in a small area that took up most of the dance floor, but his cousin assured him that he never exploited them, and that they were being paid handsomely to pretend to hit each other very hard.

The walk to the building where the lounge was didn’t take long. Security at the front recognized Jojo immediately. “They’re with me,” Jojo pointed to Adam and the Marines. The large security guard at the front, who Jojo guessed was probably part Samoan and part Filipino, was dressed in a heavy wool jacket and pants, nodded and then radioed the two equally large security guards by the door. They were shown to the marbled main floor of the building. As soon as they took the elevators, again escorted by another security guard, Adam and the Marines were quiet and didn’t say much. When they arrived at the final floor, loud music greeted them before the elevator doors opened.

 

About the Author

A military brat, who joined the military himself, W.S. Long now practices law during the day, but at night reads and writes male-male romance. When he’s not writing, W.S. Long travels and dreams of traveling far off distant lands with his mild-mannered college professor husband.

 

Author Links

Blog/Website

Twitter: @wslongauthor 

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Release Blitz for Surprise Groom (Marital Bliss #1) by DJ Jamison (excerpt and giveaway)

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal LinkExclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited
 
Length: 89,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Garrett Leigh @ Black Jazz Design
 
Blurb
 

Can two men fake their way to marital bliss?


Caleb Taylor is shocked to learn his family could lose Bliss Island Resort — their home and livelihood — unless he makes use of a clause to marry the child of investor Louis Chastain. Sofia Chastain is more like a sister than a love interest, and Caleb isn’t ready to sign over his future. But Sofia has a brother, and Caleb has a plan …


Julien Chastain was disowned at fifteen and has made a life as a go-go dancer in Miami, but he lives paycheck to paycheck. When his childhood friend proposes an outlandish marriage contract, he thinks he’s crazy. But it’s a chance at a future that’s tough to pass up.


Caleb and Julien must present themselves as an authentic couple for the legal loophole to work, but the lines between “fake” and “real” keep shifting as they navigate intimacy, public scrutiny, and sabotage.


Love isn’t part of the plan, but plans change. If they can outsmart Julien’s father and prove their love is worth more than a transaction, they just might find a true happily-ever-after.

 
Excerpt
 

“Should we kiss?” Caleb asked.


Julien gave him an arch look. “My answer to that question is always yes.”


Caleb chuckled awkwardly. “For the selfie, I meant.”


“Mm-hmm.” Julien managed to make skeptical sound sexy.


“Okay, shut up and put your lips on mine,” Caleb said.


“Oh, baby. Your dirty talk is off the charts.”


Caleb laughed. “Stop, I’m trying—”


Julien caught his mouth mid-word, shifting toward him as their lips clung. The feeling it evoked caught Caleb off-guard. They’d been joking around like friends, but the kiss didn’t feel friendly. It wasn’t erotic. No tongues plunging deep. But it was sweet. He had no idea kissing another man could feel that way.


In contrast to his soft lips, Julien’s hard chest pressed against Caleb’s shoulder. His right arm was behind Caleb, fingers brushing his neck, and his left hand slid down to just over Caleb’s upper chest. Their position was a little awkward, Caleb’s neck craned to the left, and he had his right arm outstretched for the selfie.


The kiss wasn’t getting his entire focus as he fumbled with the phone in his hand. Even with his attention divided, even with the very un-sexy circumstances of why they were doing this, the kiss felt real. Just as real as any he’d shared with a girlfriend. Maybe even more so. Julien had been the most important person in his life once. He couldn’t say the same for any of his short-lived girlfriends.


It took only seconds to break through Caleb’s self-delusion. His surety he wasn’t into men that way. He liked Julien’s lips on his.


Julien shifted, then slipped, and they were ripped apart by gravity as he nearly faceplanted in Caleb’s lap.


“Whoa!” Caleb said, catching Julien’s shoulder with one hand. “Trying for second base already? Or is that third? Not sure with guys.”


“I slipped! I had my arm braced behind you, and the pillow moved, or—”


“Suuure,” Caleb said. “I bet you say that to all the guys, huh?”


Julien pushed himself upright, his hand leaving a brand of warmth on Caleb’s thigh, before he pulled away. Grabbing the pillow behind his head, he smacked Caleb in the head. “Asshole.”


When Caleb finally stopped laughing, he noticed Julien didn’t look amused.


“I was kidding. I’m sure you’re much smoother when you’re actually trying to put the moves on someone.”


Julien flipped him off. “That picture better be worth it.”

 
Author Bio
 

DJ Jamison is the author of more than a dozen m/m romances, including the Ashe Sentinel series and the Hearts and Health series. She writes a variety of queer characters, from gay to bisexual to asexual, with a focus on telling love stories that are more about common ground than lust at first sight. DJ grew up in the Midwest in a working-class family, and those influences can be found in her writing through characters coping with real-life problems: money troubles, workplace drama, family conflicts and, of course, falling in love. DJ spent more than a decade in the newspaper industry before chasing her first dream to write fiction. She spent a lifetime reading before that, and continues to avidly devour her fellow authors’ books each night. She lives in Kansas with her husband, two sons, two fish and, regrettably, one snake.

 

 

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