A Lucy Review But by the Grace of Dog by AF Henley

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Thom Baron has been struggling with social anxiety his entire life. He’s taken the medications, gone to the therapists, followed the programs, and concluded his best life is a solitary one. When he comes across a dog in obvious need at his local market, it rekindles the desire to have some company around. It may come with a dishevelled coat, a notched ear, and a refusal to respond to anything but its given name “Ugly,” but it could still be a friend.

However, Thom’s new fur buddy has no such need to keep to itself and immediately befriends the man Thom has secretly coveted since he moved in — Justin, Thom’s gorgeous, bright-eyed neighbour. No matter how Thom tries to evade the man, the dog keeps drawing them back into each other’s lives, and it doesn’t take Thom long to recognize it’s simply pursuing the demands of Thom’s own heart. With the dog giving him the courage to try, Thom reaches out to return the love being offered.

Until a stranger shows up insisting the dog is his and demanding its immediate return … a loss Thom knows will take all of his efforts and newfound confidence with it.

Thom has serious social anxiety.  The man is incapable of even answering a question.  “Poorly developed social skills” was common.  “An Inability to interact” and “anxious” were high on the list.  “Arrogant” had been the one that bothered him the most and “socially disturbed” he considered one of the cleverest.”  He gets heart palpitations, hyperventilates, thinks of ways of being maimed or killed to avoid a situation, the works.  He has certain times he can go places, such as the Market,

It is here at the Market, in a search for strawberries, that he finds the dog named Ugly, smelly, dirty and locked in a cage under a table.  He can’t resist a kindred spirit and so ends up buying the dog. “The dog looked at Thom with the sad disinterest of something that knew it had absolutely no value and deserved no pity.”  He can’t bear to call it Ugly so calls it, Dog. This leads to him meeting up with his new neighbor, Justin.  I admit, I couldn’t figure out Justin’s patience with Thom.  Thom is rude to him, runs away, hides and avoids.  “That had gone absolutely horrible, not that he had ever expected the first forced conversation to go any other way.”  The anxiety is just crippling. 

But Justin is patient and persistent. “You don’t really like me too much.”   He says that to Thom and I felt badly for him.  Justin is aided by Dog, who often brings Thom into contact with Justin.  Thom gives a lot of credit to Dog for helping with the anxiety.  He can’t stay and hide, Dog needs food.  Dog needs the vet.  Dog needs to go out. 

Thom has had one relationship in his life and he hurt the person badly by being unable to be a good partner, unable to care enough.  So that has colored his actions and he can’t be with Justin or be close to Justin because it will end badly and Justin will be hurt.  “He was a vergin in almost every aspect of the word that one could imagine.”  He wants and he longs but he can’t do anything about it.

I will admit there was a point when I was SO disappointed with Justin.  I was rather like Thom at that moment.  “Don’t. I can’t believe you pretend like you understand, yet you stand her and talk like this.”  It wasn’t so much what Justin did but what he was saying. Justin’s “Then you’d keep going on and getting better without him, Thom” actually made me cringe because it showed Justin didn’t realize Thom had spent years hiding away, suffering and struggling with anxiety so strong it often left him physically ill.   “You’re supposed to be on my side, but no, you have to be Mister Nice Guy.”   Like Thom, I had to think about it and realize there really was no option.  But in the moment, I was so ticked at him.

There isn’t a lot of angst here and I did have the fleeting thought that Thom’s anxiety was a little too easily resolved but I definitely saw the benefits Dog had made for Thom.  I liked this cute story and I hope things continue to just get better and better for Thom and Justin.

Cover art, showing Thom and Justin holding hands with Dog front and center, was perfect for the story.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details

book, 126 pages
Published 2019 by JMS Books
Edition Language English

An Alisa Review : Hometown Christmas by Garrett Leigh

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Rating:  3 stars out of 5

 

Yani Nicolaou is sworn off love for good. After fleeing a bad break-up in London, the only blood, sweat, and tears he has left are for his gyro stall at the Christmas market. Rebound fling? No thanks. He’s sticking to one-night-stands.

 

Ex-army vet Gavin Richie has even less capacity for romance. Managing a homeless shelter while recovering from injury keeps him far too busy. So what if he’s often alone? He’s content being single, or so he thinks until a chance meeting lights a spark he can’t ignore.

 

Yani is the warmth and affection Gavin hadn’t known he was missing. As Christmas lights up the city, their lives entwine in more ways than one. Falling for each other is easy. Holding on is harder, unless a hometown Christmas proves their love can last longer than the festive season.

 

Unfortunately, I had some trouble getting through this book.  I will admit that I hadn’t read the books referenced at the end of the book where these two were first introduced but I’m not sure that really had anything to do with me struggling with this book except if the writing style was similar.

 

The last few books I have read by this author I loved but this one started out with the characters dancing around each other so much and just felt like it dragged.  I was glad that Gavin was able to figure out how to handle Yani and how Yani wanted to take care of Gavin the only way he knew how, by feeding him.

 

I had trouble connecting with these characters and I hate to say the strong english slang that was used made it hard for me to get into the book, I think that’s just due to my own preferences.  I liked that these two had people to support them but found the greatest support with each other.

 

I really like the cover art by Garrett Leigh and the simplicity of it.

 

Sales Links: Amazon

 

Book Details:

ebook, 165 pages

Published: November 21, 2019

Edition Language: English

A.F. Henley Blogging on Life as A Writer and the new release ‘But By the Grace of Dog by A.F. Henley’ (excerpt and giveaway)

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But By the Grace of Dog by A.F. Henley

ebook, 126 pages
Published 2019 by JMS Book
Sales Links:   JMS Books LLC | Amazon
GENRE: Gay Romance, Canadian novel, Contemporary
LENGTH: 49,400 words
RATING: flame rating 4 (contains some explicit sex scenes)

 

 

 

Hello all! Thank you very much for taking part in my blog tour for But by the Grace of Dog. I have to tell you, I’m excited beyond words to present this novel to you. It’s been a bit of a process for me. There was a point about a year and half ago where I had more of less convinced myself that I was done with writing. (Those other writers out there who are reading this are smiling at that, I know – as if a writer can somehow just turn off the words and choose to ignore them.) Then, as they tend to, this story showed up in my mind. When the words to that story started to come seemingly all on their own, I figured who was I to tell them no. Before I was even half done that novel, I knew it wasn’t just one story, but an entire series of them.

So, with a renewed, reinvigorated, and refreshed outlook, I completed the novel, started the second one in the series, submitted it, got an acceptance… and a couple of months after accepting the story, the publisher decided it was time to hang up their hats. I was devastated. Not just for this novel, or this series, but for my career in writing as a whole. This was, obviously, a sign, and I should have just given up when I said I was going to, it wasn’t meant to be, nobody really wanted me, and blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine. I tirelessly bemoaned these thoughts to close friends, and honestly, they are champs to have put up with me.

Unfortunately, or I guess that I should probably be saying fortunately, that second story refused to let me stop writing it. So, what was I to do? If the stories were going to keep insisting on their right to exist, and I wasn’t able to find a way to ignore them, I was going to have to grow a backbone and take some ownership of my writing career.

Spoiler alert: I did not do that.

In fact, I waited until another publisher reached out to me. And, of course, when that happened, I was pretty dumbstruck. After all, what an honour, right? How could I not follow up with that? Now this, I told myself, was truly the sign! This was what I was waiting for. Even if it was a sign that was completely opposing to what I had thought was the sign prior to that. Forward, on. Here we go. This is going to be the moment where everything turns around.

Well, not exactly. And by not exactly, I mean that didn’t work out at all.

At that point I was back to my two choices: give up or buck up. Honestly, I considered both. (Mostly because I can be a bit of a drama queen when things don’t go my way. Yes. A bit of one.) Then, I had a mutual tell me about JMS Books. I did a bit of poking around—some research that was mostly just me trying to peer undetected over top of walls and around corners—and was instantly intrigued by their covers, policies, and the owner’s seemingly unending energy and devotion. I mean, seriously. Un. Ending. Energy.

They welcomed But by the Grace of Dog with open arms, welcomed all my other little orphans in as well, and the rest, as the say, is history.

All this narrative is my way of leading into this – my journey with the novel isn’t all that different from the one my main character, Thom, faces in the novel. He too has to find a way to reach outside his comfort zone, not just for his own betterment, but for the sake of the things in his life that he holds dear. It can be tough. Especially when we’re dealing with all those little tricks our minds play on us in its attempt to keep us safe and comfy. They call it a comfort zone for a reason and the mind, consciously and subconsciously, is a master at keeping us in a known state.

Luckily, just as I did, Thom finds himself some friends that listen to him complain, who show him an alternative way when he insists that he can’t get over things, and holds his hand (or licks his face) when he’s convinced it’s time to quit. And that kind of love always helps.

Man + Dog + Neighbour = True Love (but does it equal a HEA?)

A huge thank you to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for me having me today, and just as big a thanks to you, again, for joining me. Please be sure to keep reading for a short exclusive excerpt and all the details for not just one, but two giveaways! All it takes is a comment here for a chance at one of the adorable keychains pictured below and a promo pack. Then, if you click through to the Rafflecopter, you’ll get yourself a second chance at a freebee, this one for a $25 credit to JMS Books!

All my love!

AF Henley ❤

Blurb

GENRE: Gay Erotic Romance, Canadian English

LENGTH: 49,400 words

RATING: contains some explicit sex scenes

NOTE: contains brief character thoughts about suicide

Thom Baron has been struggling with social anxiety his entire life. He’s taken the medications, gone to the therapists, followed the programs, and concluded his best life is a solitary one. When he comes across a dog in obvious need at his local market, it rekindles the desire to have some company around. It may come with a dishevelled coat, a notched ear, and a refusal to respond to anything but its given name “Ugly,” but it could still be a friend.

However, Thom’s new fur buddy has no such need to keep to itself and immediately befriends the man Thom has secretly coveted since he moved in — Justin, Thom’s gorgeous, bright-eyed neighbour. No matter how Thom tries to evade the man, the dog keeps drawing them back into each other’s lives, and it doesn’t take Thom long to recognize it’s simply pursuing the demands of Thom’s own heart. With the dog giving him the courage to try, Thom reaches out to return the love being offered.

Until a stranger shows up insisting the dog is his and demanding its immediate return … a loss Thom knows will take all of his efforts and newfound confidence with it.

Exclusive Excerpt

“Stop.” Thom’s voice caught and he had to try again. “Please stop. I can’t.”

Justin straightened, drying his hands on his shorts. “Or, we could not stop. Not yet, anyway. Let’s stop in half an hour if it doesn’t work out, okay? That’s fair, right? Besides, can’t isn’t won’t. Maybe if you want to, you might surprise yourself. Then, if you still can’t, at least we gave it a shot. Maybe next time you’ll be able to. Or the time after that. Or the time after that one again. Eventually I won’t be a stranger, and you won’t be anxious.”

There was a long pause while Thom processed, and Justin waited without saying another word. But one second before Thom was about to turn him down yet again, Justin added, “I’ll even help you finish washing your dog.”

Thom widened his eyes. “Oh, God, no, that would be even worse than a drink.”

Justin slapped both hands on his thighs. “Then it’s settled! A drink it is.”

“Okay, but even if I agreed, it’s like…” Thom motioned around, running out of steam and already sure he was going to have to give in, “mid-day!”

“But it’s a weekend,” Justin assured him. “The five o’clock rule doesn’t count on the weekend.” When Thom didn’t respond, Justin nodded. “All right then,” he said, tone gleeful. “So, do we do this at my place or yours?”

Thom sighed. “Better make it yours, I guess. Because I can assure you that if I get to my own door before you do, there is not only zero chance of you getting in, but also of me ever coming back out. Like, for the rest of my life.”

Justin’s eyes softened along with his smile. “It’s just a drink, Thom. I’m not going to judge you and I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want.”

“Except actually come for the drink in the first place.”

“Well,” Justin drew out the word, shrugging comically. “Yes, except that.”

“I’m soaking wet,” Thom said, waving at his clothes. “And muddy.”

“Patio furniture can be hosed off,” Justin countered.

Thom held his breath. He silently counted to five before letting it go. Surprisingly, his chest didn’t seem to be quite as tight when he ran out of air to exhale. “Well, I guess I don’t have a choice then, do I?”

“Always,” Justin said with another grin. “You can have your choice of red wine, white wine, or beer.” He looked positively delighted when the comment won him a smile. He pointed at the fence, Vanna White style. “After you.”

Thom sighed dramatically, reaching for Dog’s leash. “Fine. But we’re going the long way around.”

Giveaway

First, leave a comment on this post for a chance to win one of these adorable keychains, along with a promo pack. One winner per blog post. Second, check out the Rafflecopter link for a chance to win a $25 credit to JMS Books. One winner throughout the tour. All contests close December 9th.

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Check Out the Book Blast with Excerpt for Body Parts And Mind Games by Jude Tresswell

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BOOK BLAST

Book Title: Body Parts and Mind Games (County Durham Quad Book 4)

Publisher: Self published 

Release Date: November 4, 2019

Genre/s: Crime, LGBTQ

Trope/s: Sexual/asexual relationship; polyamorous relationship

Themes: Navigating ace/non-ace relationship; loyalty

Heat Rating: 2 flames

Length: 60 000 words/ 228 pages

It can be read alone, although it is 4th in the County Durham Quad series. Background information is provided for new readers.

Add on Goodreads

 

A crime to solve, a lover to save, and an ace-happy ending?

Blurb 

Organ trafficking, types of attraction and far-right nationalism are ingredients in this tale about Mike, Ross, Raith and Phil, a gay polyamorous quad who live in North-East England.

Phil is a surgeon in Warbridge Hospital. A patient’s organs are harvested illegally. Are Phil’s colleagues involved?

Detective Nick Seabrooke returns to Warbridge to ask Phil to aid the investigation. Agreeing endangers the quad in more ways than one. How will Nick, who is asexual, react to meeting the quad again? How will they react to him?

This is the fourth story in the County Durham Quad series. Background information is included for new readers. 

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US  |   Amazon UK

 

Excerpt 

From Chapter 2

“I hoped I’d never see him again.” Words that were being echoed three hundred miles away in London. Nick Seabrooke stood at the window of his flat and stared across rooftops to the dome of St Paul’s. He re-read Phil’s message. It was terse and to the point: Considered what you said. Will do it. Feel free to set a meeting up. Was it the answer he’d wanted? Yes, from one point of view. No, definitely not, from another. 

He’d hardly believed what he’d heard the previous Monday. Nick was a detective with the NCA, the agency responsible for criminal investigations that went beyond national borders. Money-laundering involving forgery was his normal remit. He’d met the quad when Raith had been chief suspect in a case and he had been a sergeant. Now he was an inspector. So, he’d answered the chief superintendent’s call, expecting to be briefed about a fraud or a forgery. Instead, he was told about organ trafficking. But although trade in body parts was a crime that cut across borders, it seemed well outside his area of expertise. He’d tried to tell the chief so. Yes, the chief knew that, but whoever had requested Nick’s involvement knew that he had liaised, successfully, with Tees, Tyne and Wear Constabulary the year before and, more importantly, knew that he’d worked closely with a surgeon at the hospital at the centre of the enquiry.

“This doctor, Philip Roberts,” the chief had said, “would he be involved in something like this?”

“I very much doubt it, sir,” Nick had answered promptly. “I think he’d feel that it was beneath his ability and beneath his dignity. He’s totally focused on his own niche. He developed this graphene-based colorectal repair procedure almost single-handedly. He pioneered the research. He carries out most of the ops. I can’t see him whipping out a kidney or cornea when no one’s looking. And he’s conscientious. The ethics would bother him.”

“Money?”

“More than he needs and, I’d say, not particularly materialistic.”

“Then contact him,” he’d been told. “See if he’ll work with you on this. We need a medic inside that hospital. Eyes and ears and a way for you to get in and use yours. You stayed at his house, didn’t you, when you were up there last year?”

“No, sir. I stayed with one of the artisans. In Tunhead though. All the houses are owned by Roberts and the men he lives with. They rent them out to arts and crafts personnel. They call the venture BOTWAC—the Beck on the Wear Arts Centre.”

“BOTWAC?”

“Yes.”

“Interesting sense of humour. Well, see if you can stay there again. It’ll give you some safe opportunities to talk with this doctor without being overheard, and he can teach you all you need to know about proctology.”

Nick knew the meaning of ‘proctology’, but he was focusing on ‘safe’. Safe for whom? The chief misinterpreted his concerned look and his silence, and began to explain proctology.

“Yes, I know, sir,” he said, interrupting, and then he’d been politely dismissed, and tomorrow he’d have to phone Phil. Shit! 

So that was what he’d done—phoned Phil, and now he had Phil’s answer. 

He closed Messages and, almost reluctantly, opened Gallery. Should he scroll to it—the photo that he’d taken in Raith’s studio that last time he had met the quad? The photo of a portrait of Mike. He hadn’t looked at it for months. …………

…………..  Mike had fascinated him, but he realised that he’d rarely even thought of County Durham, or Tunhead—or Mike—for weeks. He was over his crush or whatever it was. So it hadn’t been love. Couldn’t have been love. So, really, he should be able to bin the photo. It shouldn’t be a problem, should it? There was no good reason to keep it, was there? But, although he could resist opening the file, he couldn’t bring himself to press Delete. Couldn’t bring himself to execute that oh-so-final break-with-everything action. So, what did his reluctance, his cowardice, mean? Well, soon he’d have more than a photo in front of him. He’d have flesh and blood. It wouldn’t be so easy to avoid looking at the real thing. He wouldn’t be able to press a key and—abracadabra—delete Mike.

He was probably needlessly worrying. Professional concerns would dominate and there wouldn’t be time to give ex-inspector Michael Angells more than a quick hello and a passing thought. And, being the sensible man that he was, Nick picked up the folder marked Warbridge and re-read the chief’s background information.

 

About the Author 

I’m married, I’ve grown-up children, I’m asexual (although a different sort of ace from Nick) and I do enjoy writing stories that aren’t constrained by hetero-norms.

The plots are always stimulated by something on the news – in this instance, reading that, in 2020, organ donation will become the default position where I live and, also, reading that enforced organ harvesting is carried out in some countries. I enjoy writing funny dialogue as well as dealing with serious issues, though, and I hope that some of the quad’s interchanges will make readers smile. And regarding the extract, I didn’t know the meaning of ‘proctology’ when I saw the word in a review of Book 3! (The term ‘colorectal’ is more common in the UK.) I couldn’t resist including a reference to it.

 

Author Links

Blog/Website  |   Amazon Author Page for all works

YouTube link to audio version of the short asexual/ sexual story Scar Ghyll Levels – available on Amazon Kindle.

(Audio version contains 200 photos of scenery)

https://youtu.be/M6xSuQ9utWg

 

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

 

 

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Review Tour and Giveaway for Hometown Christmas by Garrett Leigh

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Length: 40,000 approx.
 
Cover Design: Black Jazz Design
 
Blurb
 

Yani Nicolaou is sworn off love for good. After fleeing a bad break-up in London, the only blood, sweat, and tears he has left are for his gyro stall at the Christmas market. Rebound fling? No thanks. He’s sticking to one-night-stands.


Ex-army vet Gavin Richie has even less capacity for romance. Managing a homeless shelter while recovering from injury keeps him far too busy. So what if he’s often alone? He’s content being single, or so he thinks until a chance meeting lights a spark he can’t ignore.


Yani is the warmth and affection Gavin hadn’t known he was missing. As Christmas lights up the city, their lives entwine in more ways than one. Falling for each other is easy. Holding on is harder, unless a hometown Christmas proves their love can last longer than the festive season.

 

Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer.


Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.


When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.


Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.


Website: http://www.garrettleigh.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/garrettleighauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Garrett_Leigh

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