A MelanieM Review: Lessons in Playing a Murderous Tune (Cambridge Fellows #12.8) by Charlie Cochrane

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Orlando Coppersmith is called in to solve not one but two problems: a suspected murder and a mysterious violin. So why is he reluctant to take the case – is it because it came from the warden of his old college? Once more, it’s up to Jonty Stewart to get his partner through the challenge and employ their own, unique, way to finding a solution.

Well a clink of the bubbly to Charlie Cochrane!  The latest in the long running Cambridge Fellows series,Lessons in Playing a Murderous Tune (Cambridge Fellows #12.8 ) is a absolute delight of a mystery.  Even at 107 pages, its intriguing, all the clues scattered enough to tickle the brain and keep the reader truly puzzled, along with providing new astonishing bits of information about long established characters in this series, things I never would have guessed at! Nor am I giving away here.

In fact, I think the short length plays to the strength of the mystery.  Its concise, taut, pulling all the clues and players together in a swift and timely manner for a perfect Orlando and Jonty revelation!  Full of twists and as I love when it happens, helped along by some of my favorite other characters to Jonty’s father along with what we all know think of as (as Orlando would be shuddering as I type this), their very own Baker Street Irregulars, that very deeply wonderful group of scholars from St. Brides College.

As with every story, the relationship dynamics of Orlando and Jonty’s deep love for each other  is a strong element here, albeit a gentle one this time.  Here its Orlando’s need to prove himself to the college he’s returning to as a man but left as a boy.   Their interaction shows the depth of time together, the knowledge of each other and just how deep and strong their love has become through the years and series.  Gentle, heartening, and remarkable.

As are all the stories in this series and the couple at the heart.

But don’t take my word for it.  Pick them all up and read them in the order they were written, at least up to book number 11, then the timeline jumps around after that.  I highly recommend them all.

Cover art: Alex Beecroft.  Love this cover.  Perfect for the times and tone.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 107 pages
Published August 26th 2019 by The Right Chair Press
ASINB07VXWRMJ9
Series Cambridge Fellows #12.8
Characters Jonty Stewart, Orlando Coppersmith

Cambridge Fellows (all the books here at Goodreads)

A Free Dreamer Review:Kogitsune (Takamagahara Monogatari #1) by Xia Xia Lake

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

A coming of age story set in medieval Japan. A friendship between a young fox god and his human childhood friend is built on deception, but grows stronger and purer as it’s driven by common purpose. However, the vast differences of the worlds they live in can’t be ignored, as their relationship is frowned upon by both humans and spirits.

As Kogitsune’s feelings for his human friend turn from friendship to something deeper, he will learn that love can be all consuming and heartbreaking.

‘Kogitsune’ is a retelling of the famous Noh theater play ‘Kokaji’, a story about a swordsmith who requests the help of the Inari god to build a sword for emperor Ichijo (980-1011).

Read it here: https://xiaxiastorylake.com/2018/11/20/kogitsune/
Or download it from Smashwords for free: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/909645

Usually I don’t read short stories, but “Kogitsune” did not just tempt me with its blurb, but also with the promise of a real novel for the next part. I just couldn’t resist a historical fantasy novel set in medieval Japan and it was absolutely worth the time.

I love Japan, I love mythology in general, and I love fantasy and Kogitsune is a  combination of all three things. I’m somewhat familiar with Japanese folklore, but I’ve never heard of this play before. That didn’t stop me from fully enjoying this book. You don’t need to be an expert on all things Japanese to understand and enjoy this story, but you should probably be familiar with common Japanese terms and titles. The author did provide a link with explanations at the beginning of the story, though.

The story itself is incredibly romantic, beautiful and yet heartbreaking all at once. I don’t want to reveal any details about the plot, they would probably be a spoiler. So I’ll only say that I loved it.

Overall, the story felt a little bit short. But it definitely did it’s job. It made me curious to find out more and I happily read part two. If you’re curious too, give it a shot. It’s short and free, so there’s really nothing to lose.

The cover is cute and fits the story perfectly. I like it.

Find the story here.

Book details: ebook, 40 pages

Published November 20th 2018

A Free Dreamer Review: Shinigami (Takamagahara Monogatari #2) by Xia Xia Lake

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A coming-of-age love story between an orphan and the heir of the richest family in the Land of Yamato. The human world meets the yōkai in a power struggle for the fate of Fujiwara no Hirotsugu.

While he battles to find his own path, Hirotsugu finds solace in a boy who will become his secret friend, then his salvation, and then as they become adults together, the love of his life.

After the good first part of the series, I was really curious about the actual novel. And I was not disappointed.

Shinigami” is part two of the series, even though it’s set before the events of “Kogitsune”. You should read “Kogitsune” before you pick up this book. It’s a free short story, so there’s nothing to lose and it will definitely help you understand this book.

I’m not sure if the blurb quite does this amazing book justice. It sounds a little trivial, when this story is anything but. I probably wouldn’t call it a “coming-of-age love story” either, more like historical fantasy steeped in Japanese mythology with a healthy dash of heartbreaking romance.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Japan and it’s folklore and mythology.  After the very good first part, I had very high expectations of this second installment. And “Shinigami” did not just live up to them, it actually exceeded them.

I’m somewhat familiar with Japanese mythology, but not an expert by any means. There’s a dictionary at the end of the book, so you can always cross check if you don’t understand something. You should still be familiar with the most common Japanese titles, though. I actually felt like I now know more about Japan than I did before starting the book, but it never felt like the author was writing a lecture.

The romance itself is rather slow burn, since the book essentially starts with Hiro’s birth. So it takes a while for Hiro and Ryu to meet and it takes even longer for a romantic relationship to develop. But that allowed for a natural growth of their feelings and it was wonderful to witness it. There’s not a ton of sex either and it’s not very explicit, but it was definitely very sensual.

The setting of ancient Japan was extremely well written. The author clearly did a lot of research and knows what she’s writing about. I loved all the details and it made it all very real to me. It’s not always an easy read, so you might not want to read while half asleep. Unless you know your Japanese history and mythology in your sleep, then you’re all set. If not, it does require a bit of concentration, because it’s a rather complex story.

I was happy to get a background story for a few characters of the first part. Biko-san makes another appearance and he’s so adorable. I’m totally naming a cat after him, if I ever get one.

There were some very emotional moments, both happy and sad. It never felt sappy or over the top, though. The ending was both heartbreaking and wonderful and I’m eagerly awaiting part three. That one will be about a minor character who only got one scene in the entire book, but I’m still curious to learn more about him.

Overall, “Shinigami” is a truly brilliant book. If you love historical fantasy, Japanese mythology and folklore and don’t mind a slow-burn, non-traditional romance, you must read this series. One of my highlights of the year.

That cover. Oh my god. So cool. I love it. I’m totally having a fangirl moment just because of the cover. It’s perfect and makes me sad I don’t own a print version. It would look great in my bookshelf.

Book 2 – Shinigami 

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK 

 

Book details:

Kindle Edition,245 pages

Published October 1st 2019 (first published August 13th 2019)

Takamagahara Monogatari Series

Kogitsune

Shinigami

James Brock on Memories, His Time in Service and the Inspiration behind “Dog Tagged” by James Brock (guest blog, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Dog Tagged

Dog Tagged by James Brock        

As an overweight glasses wearing young gay man I joined the US Army in 1976 with no questions about my sexuality other than one on the entrance forms which asked you to check a box yes or no if you were a homosexual.

The recruiter signing me up, who was just trying to meet his quota, was set to take me no matter what.  I doubt if I had even checked the box about homosexuality with a bold check in the yes box that he would still have managed to send me on to basic training.

While my life had been in rural, remote America I had been around all races, and sexual orientations.  The only group I had not been around were other guys my age who were gay, and suddenly, despite that pesky question on the form, I found myself around meeting other young me who shared my sexual orientation.

Oh we did not sit and bond over gossip and swap kisses, we were kept far too busy for that, but there were certain moments during which something would click.

Oh. I’m not alone with this.

I remember clearly thinking this one afternoon at the range.  A group of us were waiting our turn to be called up to the firing line and not being supervised very carefully by the Drill Instructor who was supposed to be watching us.  Various conversations were going on and two guys were discussing a movie called Sparkle (the original, re made with no success some years back).  There were giggles and discussion of the dresses.  I knew the guys and wanted so badly to scoot over next to them and become a part of the talk but knew that by doing so I would be associated with them and that (girl talk), if I let myself be swayed.

Later in my service term I would happily and boldly hang out in the gay bars in the city near the base, by the time I separated I had a boyfriend off post.

Dog Tagged is a compilation of memories from my time in service and bits and pieces of stories I learned from other Gay and Lesbian service members I have talked with over the years.

It is without question that there were and are still Gay and Lesbian Drill Instructors.  Which is there this story begins, with that age old question of story tellers, What if…in this case the question is What if there was a D.I., happy with his sexuality but resigned to keeping his hands to himself over the course of his career (on post, that is), until he meets that irresistible force, the guy he cannot let go of.  The somewhere between love and obsession guy he loses his heart to, but unlike his heterosexual mates he cannot even declare his love.  No just because he outranks someone, but because their chosen career, the U.S. Army in this case, does not allow same sex relationships.

Well, in this case they do, but you cannot talk about it.

Or conveniently act on it.

Dog Tagged is a story of love and longing, lust and passion, angst, regret and finally love.

And hopefully, someday soon, a fully equality without question, for all.                  

 

___________

James Brock has a new MM Military Romance out: “Dog Tagged.”

Drill Sergeant Clay Norris has his military life running right on schedule. Career focused he appreciates that he joined up when his sexuality is at least acknowledged under Don’t Ask, Don’t tell, even if he doesn’t get to act on his urges as much as he likes.

In formation with his new trainee group he locks eyes with Chevrolet Banks and his life, their lives, are changed forever.

Dog Tagged is an insta love military romance based on real life incidents.

Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo


Giveaway

James is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour – enter via Rafflecopter:

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Excerpt

Dog Tagged meme

What also became clear to me in my short time with the fun, cute guy was that I had fallen so hard for Private Chevy Banks that I couldn’t get him out of my head even standing next to this walking hard-on.

I did let the hot salesman give me a quick kiss on the cheek in the changing room and tried to forget the warmth of his lips as I headed out to the clubs and got some dance and further drink on, always bearing in mind that I was an officer now and had some decorum to maintain.

Okay, all that means is that I got pretty wasted.

And that I danced with all comers. I was quickly stripped out of that cute little shirt salesman Evan had put me in, my training ripped body giving me pick of the litter. Not last call litter, not still breathing and leftover litter. Porn star guys (REAL porn star guys) were fighting over me, actual pushing and shoving, it was quite the scene, the knot of men who had surrounded this former Drill Instructor.

At some point I looked up to see the smiling face of Evan the clerk from the clothing store next to me, an arm thrown protectively thrown around my shoulder. His sweet smile was the brightest of the lot, I latched onto him like an octopus gripping a clam.

I have no idea how long the revelry went on or how I got back to the hotel.

Let alone what might have happened there.

The next morning I woke not feeling well at all. Slick with sweat, sick to my stomach I rolled my head on the pillow slowly, not knowing what kind of guy I was going to find next to me. Thankfully the pillow was empty, as was the bed, although the blankets were mussed enough to let me know someone had recently nested there. Carefully lifting myself I checked the floor and was relieved to see no other bodies in the room.

But at that moment the bathroom door opened and a figure came out.

Evan, blond and sunny, cute as the night before in tattered jean and a faded green t shirt with a cracked and worn logo on it stepped into the darkened room.

“Hey buster, didn’t think you’d be up for a while,” he said with a giggle in his voice.

Flopping down onto the chair across the room he slipped his feet into athletic shoes and laced them. “Or should I be calling you Lieutenant Buster?” he added with a nod toward my dress uniform hanging neatly in the closet.

“Just call me a time machine man, I wanna go back about twelve hours and start over again.” I sighed from the bed. “What the fuck happened….”

“What didn’t happen is the better question,” Even said evenly. “you were wined and dined, if you count the bag of Dorito’s you were given to strap on like a feed bag dining, given drinks and very nearly given drugs and taken to other clubs and there was talk of taking you to that skeezy bath house connected to the dance club, but you wouldn’t go anywhere without me once I had been spotted. You seemed to be quite taken with modest little moi and since I refused to go to that bathhouse everyone was trying to get you to go to I finally got you back here where there were more drinks and salty snacks then there was some crying….” he trailed off. “I’ve ordered room service for you; hope you don’t mind.”

“Wait. Wait, wait.” I said using a nearly Drill Sergeant size voice as the handsome young man stood, “I need the whole story.”

About that time there was a knock at the door; Evan let room service in, signing the check. “You are a good tipper, just so you know,” he grinned while pushing the tray of food over toward me on the bed then pouring coffee. He motioned for me to eat then sat back down. “I was going out anyway so when I closed up I came over to the club and there you were, gaily lit as a Christmas tree and surrounded by faeries more headstrong and stubborn than Tinkerbell all out to get a piece of the hottest man in the city. Not the bar, the city. And I’m not just saying that because I am the one who ended up sleeping with you.”

I guess I looked up at him like a deer in head lights.

“Stop, don’t flatter me. I’ve got it going on but I’m not ripped like you. Word was out that there was a military hottie on the hoof in the club and every muscle queen and gym bunny in town showed up to audition as your hook-up for the night. I think guys were flying in from LA and San Francisco trying to get to you,” the blond smiled.

“So you brought me back here and we….” I said, mouth full of egg. The food was going down smoother than I expected it would.

“I didn’t get in the way of your fun too much, I just kept an eye on you. Until they started to undress you and began offering you pills, powders and potions.”

I felt myself shudder and freeze.

“Don’t worry. I didn’t let them. I just brought you back here, where you insisted on another drink or ten. Then you got weepy and I held you and let you talk about a car until you fell asleep. I dunno, everyone has a kink or two, but I’ve never heard anyone rhapsodize about a vehicle the way you went on and on about your Chevy last night.”

I was really embarrassed then.

I let a silence settle between us before taking a sip of scalding hot coffee and replying.

“Not a car, a guy,” I whispered.

“I fell off a turnip truck but that was a long time ago,” he smirked while reaching over and snagging a crisp piece of bacon off my plate and began chewing on it, “I figured as much.” Evan said with true kindness in his voice. “I had a brother in the Army and knew you were just blowing off some steam. Those wolves would have eaten you and I like to think someone would have looked after my brother the same way. Nothing happened between us.”

“That would have been the best part of the night it sounds like,” I managed, no longer interested in the food.

“You were a hot mess, but I am very glad you are alright. Now I’ve gotta go to work. If you are in town for a while here is my card.” With that Evan produced a business card with his name, number and e mail on it. “Use it at will.” he slipped the card on the breakfast tray then slid his arms around my body, giving me a very nice hug.

“Leaving tomorrow, but some other time without question.”

Stopping at the closet on his way out he reached in and touched the sleeve of my dress uniform.

“Are you going over?”

“Soon.”

There was a slight pause before he broke his eyes form the uniform.

“Be safe. E mail and let me know how you are. Promise?”

“Promise, and thanks. Is your brother back?” there was a pause before Evan answered Yesin such a quiet way that I knew the way his brother had come home.

“I’m sorry,” was all I had time to say before the cute blond turned and gave me a wan smile and slipped out of the room.


Author Bio

James Brock is an Amazon number one best selling author, with fifteen M/M romance novels published and two family autobiographies.

Once upon a time he sold comedy to Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller, was published in every gay men’s magazine on the market (when there was a market, those dinosaurs were killed off by DVD, which were in turn eaten by streaming and on demand…), the Seattle Gay News and Seattle Standard and essays with the late great Alyson Publications.

James lives in Seattle.

Author Website: JamesBrockBooks.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/Men-Overboard-100109810041126/

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamesbrockbooks

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Love Fantasy and Mythology? Check out the Tour for Shinigami by Xia Xia Lake (excerpts)

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REVIEW TOUR

Book Title: Shinigami

Author: Xia Xia Lake

Publisher: Self Published

Release Date:  October 1, 2019  

Genre/s: LGBTQ fantasy, Gay fiction, Historical fiction (it’s NOT MM romance)

Trope/s:  Friends to Lovers

Themes: Mythology; gods; supernatural

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length: 71 440 words /220 pages 

Add on Goodreads

 

Nothing is what it seems.

Blurb

A coming of age love story between the heir of the richest family in the Land of Yamato and an orphan. The human world meets the yōkai world in a power struggle for the fate of Fujiwara no Hirotsugu. While he battles to find his own path in life, Hirotsugu finds solace in a boy who will first become his secret friend, then his salvation, then, as they become adults together, the love of his life. 

The story is set during the Nara period of ancient Japan and will expand over a period of 25 years (715-740).  

 

Buy Links

Book 1 – Kogitsune.

It’s a 40-page short story and is FREE on Smashwords.

 

Book 2 – Shinigami 

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK 

 

Excerpt

Chapter 1: Kagerō
Kagerō: The quivering appearance of the mist rising from the hot surface of the ground”

On the day Fujiwara no Hirotsugu was born, Mount Kasuga was covered in golden shimmering kagerō rising from the ground to cloak the mountain in mist. The uguisu sang from dusk until dawn, and a crane appeared in the palace garden and didn’t leave for five days.

It was late May, close to the final days of planting the rice. These were the days when finishing the paddy field work was paramount, lest next year’s crops be affected. Yet in celebration of Hirotsugu’s birth, his father, Umakai, sent an order to his bailiff to decree half a day off for all workers. Servants from the palace went down the mountain to offer rice, fish, and sake to the poor in Heijo-kyo.

Gifts poured through the gates for weeks, coming not only from the greatest families living in the land of Yamato, but also from as far away as Silla and Tang. Even the old Empress Genmei, who had no love for the Fujiwara clan, sent Hirotsugu a gift fit for royalty: a sword replica modeled after Kusanagi the Grass Slasher, the sacred imperial heirloom of the Yamato Emperors. Since it was forbidden for anyone except the reigning monarch and the High Priest of the Ise Grand Shrine to lay eyes on the real Kusanagi, no one could actually tell how good the replica was. But neither could they deny that the sword Hirotsugu received was of exceptional workmanship and extraordinary value.

The greatest gift of all came from Hirotsugu’s grandfather, Fujiwara no Fuhito. The leader of the Fujiwara clan made a secret pact with Crown Prince Obito that on the day Hirotsugu turned twenty, he would marry Princess Abe, Prince Obito’s firstborn child.

Upon Hirotsugu’s birth, the Fujiwara clan made great plans for his future, and I watched from my throne of skulls behind the kagerō veil and laughed and laughed and laughed.

 

SPRING

Chapter 2: Uguisu
Uguisu: The Japanese nightingale

In spring, nature was at its most beautiful at dawn, when Amaterasu’s robe touched the hills and dyed them red, and the blooming cherry trees turned a vibrant pink. Hanging from the eaves of every Fujiwara castle were tendrils of purple wisteria, their blooms awakening to welcome the Sun Goddess. The white clouds above resembled boughs of cherry flowers.

When night approached, the birdsong gently shifted from cheerful to forlorn. The uguisu went to sleep in its pot-shaped nest, and the brown-feathered night thrush—recently returned from wintering in Tenjiku—took its place and claimed the night. Now and then, a deer would call and a fawn would answer back.

The day Hirotsugu was born, a young god wandered up and down the high-forested slopes of Mount Kasuga, tired from the day he’d spent blessing the fields and the future harvest. He would have gone home to Mount Kurama in Kibune, but something was amiss with the yōkai living on Kasuga and he’d come to investigate.

At twilight, he found a group of kodama and an old kappa gathered underneath the budding leaves of a giant plum tree, transfixed by its beautiful red blossoms. When he entered the clearing, they were trying to touch the blossoms, but as soon as a hand came close, the tree would raise its branches out of reach.

“Don’t touch it,” the god commanded. His voice was calm, but it came like the snap of a whip and took them out of their reverie. “It’s a ghost tree. It’s not really here.”

The kodama stumbled backward, frightened.

“When did it appear?” the young god asked.

“This morning, Inari-sama,” the kappa answered. “When the baby was born.”

“Baby?” Inari frowned. “Come closer, child, don’t be afraid. Which baby do you speak of?”

 

About the Author 

Xia Xia Lake is an Otaku & Slytherin that used to cosplay at every comic con she attended, until a kid asked if he could take a picture with the “old lady.”

She decided a couple of years ago that she wanted to spend her free time writing stories and partying with vampires.

She lives in Transylvania with her fiancé and is a big fan of Romanian cuisine.

 

Author Links

Blog/Website  |  Twitter  |  Instagram

 Pinterest  |  Goodreads

 

 

Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts and reviews here

 

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Cover Reveal for Precariously Mated (D’Vaire Book 14) by Jessamyn Kingley

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COVER REVEAL

Book Title: Precariously Mated (D’Vaire, Book 14)

Author: Jessamyn Kingley

Cover Artist: LJ Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations

Release Date: October 24, 2019

Genre/s: M/M Urban Fantasy Romance

Trope/s: Fated Mates, Friends to Lovers

Themes: Friendship, Love, Self-Awareness 

Heat Rating: 3 flames    

A precarious road is no match for an enduring friendship of two strong hearts.

Blurb 

At the tender age of eighteen, Prince Niko Kyrkosdraconis finds himself at a dragon fair, trying his best to maintain his strict schedule of rituals that have followed him since birth, when Fate steps in. The appearance of two strangers alters the course of his life, and Niko sets upon an unforeseen path. Centuries later, Niko is doing whatever he can to pick up the pieces of his shattered world. Unsteady and uncertain, he struggles to place faith in both himself and those around him. Much to his surprise, he finds himself with a new best friend who he grows to trust like no one else before.

Royal Duke Costas Draconis is happy to be back with the men he calls family after ten years of caring for his irascible parents. Having a knack for money, he is once again entrusted with making the dragons prosperous. Costas is surrounded by loved ones and thriving on the outside, but deep inside he yearns for his mate. Then Niko comes into his life. Costas loves the time they spend together, especially their nightly talks on the roof deck, but he must constantly remind himself that the man is not for him.

Niko and Costas go to great lengths to hide their feelings for one another and everyone else, fearful that the future holds nothing but heartache. But things are never what they seem, and Fate will always have the last word, even when you doubt her. As the obstacles before them are slowly peeled back, will Costas and Niko find a way to call each other mate? The road ahead is precarious, and in the end, Fate will have her say, and only then can Niko and Costas prove that the strongest hearts will prevail.

About the Author

Jessamyn Kingley lives in Nevada where she begs the men in her head to tell her their amazing stories which she dutifully writes it all down in what has become a small mountain of notebooks. She falls in love with each couple and swears whatever book she wrote last is her absolute favorite.

Jessamyn is married and working toward remembering to start the dishwasher without being distracted by the scent of the magical detergent. For personal enjoyment, she aids in cat rescue while slashing and gashing her way through mobs in various MMORPGs. Caffeine is her very best friend and is only cast aside briefly for the sin better known as BBQ potato chips.

Visit her website

Follow her on Facebook

She loves to engage with readers there.

Other Links

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