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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Release Blitz and Giveaway for It’s In My Blood (Criminal Delights: Obsession) by Sean Azinsalt

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal LinkExclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited
 
Length: 62,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Natasha Snow
 
Blurb
 

Death eventually comes for us all. But what if there’s a way for older people to regain their youth? To stay a step ahead of the grim reaper?


Turning 40 was the last straw for me. It’s practically 60 in gay years and I wasn’t ready for dentures yet, so I came to Youthology — a program that injects clients with blood transfusions from young, fit and healthy donors.


I chose Nick.


Handsome. Masculine. And more importantly, young.


I thought I hit the lottery, until my life started to change for the worst. Not even the top medical experts can explain what happened to me. From the moment Nick’s blood flooded into my veins, I stopped being me, and I became something new; something dangerous and deadly.


I became my donor.


His obsessions are mine now. His darkest desires, his dreams, his needs, and nightmares are all a part of me, and I don’t want to let them go.


I embrace them and the beautiful boy who haunts both of our dreams.


My blood pact was sealed the moment I entered Youthology.


I never thought I’d become a killer.


This book is part of CRIMINAL DELIGHTS. Each novel can be read as a standalone and contains a dark M/M romance.


Warning: These books are for adult readers who enjoy stories where lines between right and wrong get blurry. High heat, twisted and tantalizing, these are not for the fainthearted.

 

Author Bio


Sean Azinsalt is the pen name for Shane K Morton.


Shane lives in Studio City, CA with his husband Jody and their fur baby Slayer. His first novel, The Trouble With Off-Campus Housing was published in 2016. When not writing, Shane can be found at a film festival or performing cabaret somewhere in a dark dive bar in LA.


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Retro Review Tour for Made In Manhattan by Ana Newfolk (excerpt and giveaway)

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RETRO REVIEW TOUR

Book Title: Made In Manhattan

Author: Ana Newfolk

Publisher: Self-Published

Cover Artist: Rhys Athanasiadis-Lawrence, Ethereal Elain

Release Date: January 15, 2019

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance

Trope/s: Second chance

Heat Rating: 5 flames   

Length:  62 000 words

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Tagline: Lisbon and Manhattan are only a heartbeat apart

 

Blurb

Will they get a second chance to rekindle their love?

Isaac was kicked out by his family at a young age.

It took him years of hard work to become his own man. Now he’s helping the LGBTQ youth of Lisbon so they don’t have to go through the same.

Max has a long and troubled past.

An ER nurse in New York City who volunteers at the local Liberty center, he knows first hand what it’s like to lose your family and having to make it on your own.

A chance encounter between the two a year ago has them hoping for a happy ever after, if not for the distance between them, but when Isaac takes a temporary work placement in Manhattan, the two men have an opportunity to find what their love is made of.

Will they make it, or will life’s tests tear them apart for good?

Made In Manhattan is the fourth instalment in the Made In series by Ana Newfolk. It is a standalone gay romance novel with a HEA ending and no cliffhanger. Fair warning, there will be naked man-parts touching, a touch of angst, and the claws of an overprotective cat.

Made in Manhattan is 62k words and features the same main characters from Made In New York – A Christmas Short Story.

You don’t have to read it, but you may want to find out how Max and Isaac first met.

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

 

Excerpt

Max

Lisbon, June

“I missed you so much.”

Isaac pushed me away, his eyes tight and piercing.

“What do you mean, you missed me so much? If you’d missed me so much then why didn’t you—”

“Isaac.” I put my hands on either side of his face so he would have no choice but to hear me out. “Can we talk, please?”

Fate really was a bitch.

I didn’t dare break eye contact for fear this was all a dream.

The club was packed so when someone elbowed me as they were trying to get past the motion jolted me into action, and with one step forward I wrapped Isaac in my arms, my face burrowing in the space between his neck and shoulder, his mass of dark curls soft against my skin.

He froze for a moment but then his arms came around me. As his body relaxed into the embrace, I swear a sob came from his chest.

He smelled of fresh pine; manly, woody, and so familiar it was making me dizzy.

I wanted to stay with Isaac like this for as long as I possibly could, which turned out to be not long at all because I had to ruin the moment with those five words.

He let out a long breath as if he was reminding himself we were in a club surrounded by people, and sat down at the table. I wanted to sit next to him, but it would be easier to keep eye contact if we were facing each other.

It had taken two days last Christmas for Isaac to do what many had tried and failed. He’d unpeeled the many layers of protection I’d built around my heart before hopping on a plane to return to his home in Portugal.

Six months later and three thousand miles away from my home in New York, I found myself right back where I’d been on the night I’d saved him from a fire, feeling like I’d been punched in the gut.

Except this time it was worse because I already knew what those eyes looked like when he smiled, what those lips looked like when they were all plump from kissing, and what his mere presence could do to my heart.

I should have known this would happen. There hadn’t been a day since I’d booked my flight to Portugal that I hadn’t thought of him. If I was honest, there hadn’t been a single day since I last saw him that he hadn’t teased my thoughts.

The first time I’d looked into his eyes, after I’d saved him from the fire, he’d been barely conscious, sitting against me on the pavement outside the LGBT Youth Center. All I’d seen was his wild curly hair, but when I’d pushed it away from his face and seen him open his eyes, he’d literally taken my breath away.

The second time I’d had the chance to look into his eyes from a close distance I’d seen it all, and it had been just before he’d pulled me into a kiss on top of the Empire State Building.

 

 

About the Author

Ana Newfolk was born in Portugal where she grew up surrounded by sunshine and countryside.  She has always had a deep love of reading, and ever since she can remember her favorite presents and treats have always been books. She would often be found in her not-so-secret spot reading her favorite adventure books (when she was younger) and romance novels (when she discovered boys). At 20 years old she moved to the UK where she has lived since.

In 2015 Ana stumbled across her first MM romance novel by chance, and she was hooked. She loves reading about men falling in love, hard, fast and ever so sweetly. This new found love for LGBTQ+ romance has opened a new world for Ana, and in 2017 she decided to finally listen to the voices in her head and write them down.

In addition to the time she spends reading and writing Ana has a full-time job that involves meeting lots of people with interesting stories to tell. She also loves baking as much as she loves watching people eat what she creates, much to the delight of family, friends and work colleagues alike.

You can follow Ana on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or through her blog for up to date news of her book releases.

 

 

Social Media Links

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Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

 

 

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Looking for Your Next Romance? Check Out the New Release Blitz for A Cordial Agreement by Ryan Loveless (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: A Cordial Agreement

Author: Ryan Loveless

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: LC Chase

Ryan Loveless Artist: Alexandria Corza of Seeing Static

Release Date: May 17, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 118 pages

Genre: Romance, BDSM, age gap, gay, asexual, bisexual, contemporary, rich/poor

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Synopsis

Can a wealthy but frustrated CEO and a guilt-ridden stripper find what they need in a consensual, nonsexual whipping boy arrangement?

Billionaire mogul Grant Jessup, fifty-three, buries his sexual tastes and the reasons behind them—the stresses of his business empire and family. In contrast, Jim Sieber understands the regret that makes him seek pain and penance. As an asexual averse to erotic touch, Jim sets strict boundaries. But as the relationship evolves, Grant struggles to respect them, and both men realize for their association to continue and perhaps grow into real feelings, they’ll have to explore new ways to satisfy each other.

Excerpt

JIM SIEBER kept his attention on the television in front of him, pretending to be engrossed in the telenovela playing. He didn’t need to be fluent in Spanish to know Ricardo was in deep shit with Sofia. Occasionally he caught a glimpse of the bartender in his peripheral vision and doubled down on his TV viewing. Behind him, a steady slap of leather against bare skin pulled a rich, throaty holler from a man. Jim sat at the corner of the bar, loosely surrounding his double whiskey with his long fingers. He sensed a few stares, but people left him alone. He’d figured they would after his first time when a man had snaked his hand around Jim’s neck and called him boy. Jim had twisted the man’s thumb so far back he’d almost broken it. “Not your boy,” Jim had said, after he’d forced the man to his knees in pain. Evidently, word had gotten around. No one had approached since.

It was his own damn fault. He didn’t know why he’d come to an S&M club if he wasn’t going to get involved. He hadn’t come to watch. Hell, he wasn’t watching, not anything except the telenovela. The beatings going on behind him could have been happening on another planet. But he had to stop himself from flinching with every stroke he heard, and curled his fingers into his glass with every scream. He’d come here because he’d wondered if pain would make him forget. No, not forget. He’d come here because he’d wondered if pain would absolve him. Sure, he could have tried boxing or started a bar fight, but he didn’t want to be arrested, and his boss got huffy about facial injuries. A respectable S&M club had seemed like his best option. Except for the red flag that Jim hadn’t considered, and which had stopped him from taking action. As the subs walked past after their sessions, hugged against their Doms, he knew why he could never do that. Aftercare involved touching. It might turn sexual. Jim’s skin prickled at the thought, a march of ants that he couldn’t shake off.

So he stared at the television and talked to no one.

“Hey. Hey!” Jim jumped and blinked. The bartender was talking to him. He thumbed to a set of stairs leading up to a balcony and a single door. “Boss wants to see ya.”

“Boss?” Jim asked.

“Wouldn’t keep her waiting,” the bartender said.

Jim looked around, expecting to find some muscle waiting to haul him up, but he saw a clear path to the stairs. “Okay.” He considered his glass.

“I’ll keep it for you, if you want it later.” The bartender pulled it off the bar. So that settled it. Jim headed for the stairs. At the top, he knocked. The door flew open. A woman with an olive complexion and straight black hair reaching to the middle of her back beckoned him in. He’d expected leather, lace, and high heels. She wore smart black slacks and a maroon shirt tailored to hug her waist and not strain at her bust. The amount of cleavage on view from the two open buttonholes would have been acceptable in any corporate boardroom. Instead of heels, she wore what looked like bedroom slippers. Not the sexy kind, either. More like the “home alone with a Harlequin novel and a mug of hot chocolate” kind. He relaxed instantly. The image reminded him of many pleasant nights spent with his mother when he was a child. With almost nothing between her feet and the floor, the top of her head barely reached Jim’s nipples. As soon as she closed the door, the sounds from downstairs disappeared.

“Soundproofing?” Jim asked.

The woman smiled and extended her hand. “I couldn’t concentrate without it. I’m Tanya Wyatt. You can call me Tanya or Miss Wyatt, whichever you’re more comfortable with.”

“Jim Sieber.” He left the implication that she could likewise call him whatever she wished unsaid. They shook hands.

“Come sit down, Mr. Sieber. Take the seat of your choice.”

He followed her back to her desk. As she sat in her chair, he noticed his options—a straight-backed wooden chair or a pillow on the floor. He chose the chair. If Miss Wyatt noticed his fraction of a second of hesitation, she didn’t comment.

She folded her hands and made a serious expression.

He waited.

“Mr. Sieber, when a new person comes to the club and doesn’t engage in activities, whether that is actively, voyeuristically, or simply socially, for a week, we understand. This is a new experience for them, and we appreciate their need to acclimate at their own pace. Some people can take two or three weeks before they are ready to take the next step.”

Jim’s throat tightened. “So?”

“You have been coming for nine weeks, and aside from nearly breaking Henry’s hand, you haven’t spoken to anyone.”

“So, you called me up here because I haven’t made any friends?”

“I’ll put this bluntly. My staff and clients are starting to wonder if you’re police. Are you the police, Mr. Sieber?”

“No, ma’am, I’m not.”

“Then what can I do to help you achieve your goals here? Because unless you’re here to improve your Spanish, I’m guessing that you’re not getting what you need out of your visits.”

Jim wished he’d brought his drink along. He stared down at his hands, which had subconsciously assumed the position like they were gripping a glass. “It’s hard to explain.”

“I want to help you.”

On the cusp of voicing his needs, he felt stupid. “I should go. I’m sorry. I won’t come back.”

“Truffle?” Miss Wyatt asked. Jim blinked in surprise as she opened a box on her desk and offered a tray of cocoa-dusted chocolate drops to him.

“Thank you.” He took one and popped it in his mouth before he could think about it.

As he chewed, she spoke. “People come here for a variety of reasons. They aren’t all what you might suspect. So, if you’re thinking that you’re out of place because your reasons don’t match what you believe they should, believe me when I tell you that you are wrong. Look at me.” She gestured at herself. “I’m a heterosexual woman who owns and operates an exclusively male S&M club. What are my motivations? Why do I do this? I bet they aren’t what you think.”

Jim wasn’t sure if she wanted an answer. He stopped chewing to let the chocolate dissolve on his tongue.

“Delectable, isn’t it? A good friend goes to Belgium on business. He always brings me a box. He’s a considerate man. We won’t talk about his personal life.” She offered a bland smile that Jim interpreted as “I’m sure you know what I mean.”

“Is he a client here?” Jim asked.

“He’s a dear friend.” She smiled again. “Another?”

Jim shook his head. “No, thank you.”

“I’ll have one.” She closed her eyes as she chewed. Jim watched her jaw and throat move. She didn’t seem to be putting on a show. For a moment, he wondered if she’d forgotten him.

“I, um, I’m not sure I’m comfortable here.”

Miss Wyatt opened her eyes with the laziness of a cat waking. “In the office or in the club?”

“Here.” Jim gestured, taking in everything. “Everything’s so sexual. If you knew what I do for a living, you’d think I’m weird to say that, but….”

“But sexual is not what you want from your experience here,” she finished.

He nodded.

“So what do you want? Pain? You said not sexual, so I assume you don’t want pleasure?”

“Sex isn’t pleasurable for me.” He cringed. He hadn’t meant to share that.

“Mr. Sieber, if you’ve suffered a trauma and you’re here to work through it, I have to advise you against this. I can direct you to other resources—”

“I wasn’t traumatized. I’m not interested in sex. I don’t like… being touched like that. It makes me uncomfortable.” That put it mildly.

“Well. You might be the first asexual we’ve had here that I know of.”

“I don’t sign autographs.”

She laughed. “All right, you’ve explained why your goals aren’t sexual. Let’s talk about why you’re asking for pain. Are you a masochist?”

“No, ma’am.” He dug his heels into the carpet as she unraveled him.

“But you want to be hurt.”

She sounded sure. He glanced up, wondering if he should put up a front and demand to know why she’d jumped to that conclusion instead of asking if he sought to hurt someone. Her thoughtful expression shut him down. She looked ready to explain his life for him. And worse, she would be right.

“Yes,” he said, instead of the protest he’d halfheartedly intended. “I want to be hurt.” He said it aloud, slowly, to hear himself.

“Why?”

One look at Miss Wyatt told him she already knew why. She wanted him to say it.

“Because I deserve it.” He swallowed.

She kept eye contact and gave a small encouraging nod.

“Because I’m guilty of something and I… I want to be absolved.”

“Mr. Sieber, are you a fugitive?”

“No, nothing like that.” He realized what he sounded like, talking of guilt and absolution with such fervor.

He fell back in relief when her lips twitched into a smile. She reached across the desk. He grasped her hand.

“Mr. Sieber, I give you my word that I will match you to a client who will respect your boundaries. As for the absolution you desire, I’m afraid you’ll only find that if you’re willing to let yourself.”

“Thank you.” He began to shake with relief. He’d have what he needed soon. Everything would be okay.

“Now. Let’s go downstairs so I can introduce you properly to our bartender, Noel.” She pulled a pair of heels from beneath her desk and quickly swapped her slippers for them. “You have a lot of paperwork ahead of you, young man, and you’re going to need a soda to help your nerves.” He jumped when she touched his shoulder. “This is a big step.”

“I’m ready.” He stood up and walked to the door, where he waited for her. “Thank you, Miss Wyatt.”

THREE MONTHS Later:

Tanya Wyatt never failed to add excitement to his day, so Grant Jessup had allowed himself a rare nonbusiness lunch when she’d invited him out. Of course Rory had scowled at him. His leaving meant she needed to cancel a meeting on his account, but it was a one-on-one and it involved spreadsheets. Frankly, Grant was glad to be free of it. He still had heartburn and acid reflux from the day before after two acidic meals, one featuring citrus and the other tomato sauce. It had worsened overnight.

A new box of chocolate truffles sat on the table between Grant and Tanya. Grant had dutifully handed them over upon arrival, kicking off a conversation about his most recent European business trip. Then, when the waitress carried away their entree plates, Tanya slipped the truffles into her bag. Recognizing the significance of the action, Grant glanced around for eavesdropping ears.

“So, what’s the occasion?” he asked.

“There’s a young man I want you to meet. He started coming into the club about five months ago. I haven’t been able to match him yet. He’s breathtaking but asexual. He only wants to be beaten, but the Doms I’ve paired him with get handsy. It’s counterproductive to his needs.”

“So you think I could keep my hands off him?”

“You have a considerable amount of restraint. You are possibly my last hope. Plus, given what you’re currently looking for, I think he’d be a good match for you as well.”

Grant considered it. “How attractive?”

“Greek god.”

“Mercury or Hercules?”

“Narcissus.”

Grant arched an eyebrow as his heart clenched with a mix of youthful guilt and nostalgia. Tanya had touched a nerve she couldn’t possibly know about. Unless… she’d been to Grant’s home. She could easily have seen the painting of Narcissus that hung in Melanie’s former office. Melanie had left it and a number of other paintings behind after the divorce. Tanya might have guessed it belonged to Grant.

“You’d trust me to work out my frustration on his ass? I know how protective you are of your clients’ bottoms, Tanya.”

“Oh, you won’t touch him until you and I have spent at least forty hours together and I’m positive you know how to recognize when your temper isn’t in check.”

Grant gave a light snort. “Please. I didn’t get this rich by losing my cool.”

“That’s my point. You’re so good at hiding when you’re about to boil over that I wonder if you even know when you’ve reached the point before it’s too late. I’m not about to put a whip or any other implement in your hand before you’ve proven yourself to me, especially considering your reasons for doing this. You can keep your temper in business interactions, but you’re talking about family.”

Grant sighed. He didn’t care for Tanya’s methods, but he respected them, and if this plan worked out, it would meet a need he’d been looking to fill for a few years. “Fair enough. I suppose you’ll want to start this training the usual way.”

“Naturally.”

“You know, I think it’s hilarious how you’re protective of everyone’s ass but mine.”

“Darling, no Dom gets in my club without getting whipped by Miss Wyatt. You know that. If you can’t take it, there’s no reason I should let you dish it out.”

He sniffed. “I don’t see why one needs to give repeated proof. You’re a perverted woman.”

She grinned. “If you made yourself more of a regular, I wouldn’t have to keep reassuring myself.”

“Come on, Tanya. I can’t exactly be seen there, no matter how discreet you insist everyone is. My family is already in the tabloids more than I’d like.”

“I know. So, I’ll see you at mine at ten tonight?”

“Fine.” He dug into his pocket for a pillbox and pulled out an omeprazole tablet. “When do I meet this young man?”

“Heartburn or ulcer?” Tanya asked. She nodded at the tablet as Grant put it into his mouth and swallowed with a bit of water. It wouldn’t be as effective with food already in his stomach, but it was better than not taking it.

“Heartburn, but ulcer is around the corner I’m sure.”

“What does the doctor say?”

“Says I have too much stress in my life and I need to cut back.”

“Are you going to listen to him?”

He smiled. “Why do you think I take so many trips to Europe?”

“Grant, I know you take pride in your job, but—”

“It’s not a job. It’s a career. It’s the family business that I built on my father’s framework, so whatever you’re about to say, stop.”

Tanya put her hand up and changed the subject back. “He works at a strip club in upper Manhattan. I don’t want you to meet him yet, but you can send one of your spies to check him out.”

“And by ‘spy’ you mean Rory?”

She smiled. “I do. See you tonight, babe.”

Grant sighed, already anticipating the pain in his ass the evening would be.

Purchase

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Overdrive | Google Books

Meet the Author

Ryan Loveless is the author of numerous M/M romance novels and short stories. She is honored to be recognized as a Rainbow Book Award winner (several titles), an Epic eBook Awards finalist (In Me an Invincible Summer), and a Florida Author and Publisher Association bronze medalist (Ethan, the young adult adaptation of Ethan, Who Loved Carter). She lives in New York with her family, a sentence that brings her great joy to write.

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In Need of a New Fantasy? Check Out the Release Blitz for No Ordinary Drakeling (D’Vaire #12) by Jessamyn Kingley (excerpt and giveaway)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: No Ordinary Drakeling (D’Vaire, Book 12)

Author: Jessamyn Kingley

Publisher: Self-published

Cover Artist: LJ Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations

Release Date: May 16, 2019

Genre/s: M/M Urban Fantasy Romance

Trope/s: Fated Mates

Themes: Love, Courage

Heat Rating:  3 flames

Length:  97 670 words

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Blurb

Emperor Chrysander Draconis rules not only the dragons but the entire Council of Sorcery and Shifters. From the moment Fate selected him, he has devoted himself to ensuring his people thrive and prosper. His life revolves around duty; nothing stands in the way of his dedication to his job. One of the most prominent issues on Chrysander’s plate is the lack of hybrid drakelings that have survived the road from man to beast. When he receives word that one such rare soul is living in an obscure tribe, he races to help.

Ellery of the Fen-Lynthi elves is different from the rest of his people. He does not understand why his ears are shorter, why he stands taller than the others. Then his mother explains why the other children mock him and call him a mongrel: his father, a dragon, abandoned her the moment he learned of Ellery’s impending birth. With his mother’s often-fragile mental state, Ellery does not know if he can trust her words, but they are all he has. He spends his days ostracized, doing what he can to improve his lot.

Chrysander is overjoyed to find his mate among the Fen-Lynthi, but when it is confirmed that Ellery is half dragon, he is terrified Ellery will be ripped apart by the beast inside him. Regardless, Chrysander proceeds with their matebond ceremony, though he delays the event, believing duty demands they bypass elven tradition. This troubles Ellery, and he wonders if moving forward is what Chrysander truly wants. Their schedules present them with little opportunity to spend time together, which gives him further cause for worry. If that isn’t enough, Ellery is apprehensive over his new role as emperor. Chrysander and Ellery must confront their fears and learn to face the world as a united and loving front. In doing so, not only will they be able to defy the impossible, but they will change the world.

 

Buy Links

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

Excerpt

“I’m only trying to be realistic. We can’t ignore statistics, even if you are Chrysander’s mate,” Wesley stated.

“I am afraid I do not understand.”

“Ellery, what do you know about hybrids?” Chrysander asked, his voice warm with concern. Ellery liked his tone and wished they had a few moments alone to get to know one another, but for some reason Fate had paired him with a powerful man who had abundant responsibilities.

“Not much. My tribe did not interact with many people. I am the only hybrid I have ever heard of. I just know the other elves did not like that I was different. Is the Council the same way?”

“I won’t deny that there are those ignorant enough to think hybrids are somehow lesser than others, but they are very few. What Wesley’s referring to is survival rates for hybrids,” Chrysander stated, and his words were measured to Ellery’s ears, though he couldn’t discern why.

“What is the survival rate for hybrids?”

“In general, they’re quite high,” Damian revealed. “The ones who are half shifter almost always have a beast, though there are exceptions. However, the larger and more powerful the animal, the more trouble hybrids have surviving their first shift.”

“Dragons are very large,” Ellery observed.

“We’re also the strongest shifters,” Zane added quietly. “To date, no dragon hybrid has survived their first shift.”

Ellery let that tidbit of information settle into his mind. He reached down inside of himself where the entity inside him dwelled. It had always been a warm and inviting presence and at Zane’s words, all he felt was peace. A voice inside his head told him his dragon wouldn’t hurt him, and he decided to trust it. Just because no other hybrid had managed the feat did not mean Ellery was going to die. In fact, he refused to accept that it was his destiny. “How many dragon hybrids have there been?”

“Not many that we’ve known of, though hybrids in general are growing more common. Fate seems to be pairing more combinations of people than ever before,” Chrysander told him.

“How old are dragons when they shift for the first time?”

“Around one hundred,” Zane replied.

“So, my dragon is ready?”

“We’ll give you some time with a trainer but yes, you should be ready,” Chrysander assured him.

“I think we should wait until after Ellery’s shift for any of this. He can live here and concentrate on his beast. We’ll deal with the rest of the details afterward,” Wesley suggested.

“If that’s what Fate wanted, she wouldn’t have led him to Chrys until after his shift. The title is his,” Damian responded.

“I agree,” Chrysander said. Ellery found himself smiling. At least Chrysander appeared glad to have met him.

“Fine, but it’ll take at least six weeks to put together an appropriate mating ceremony,” Wesley argued.

“That’s fine, but everything else needs to be put into action immediately,” Chrysander replied, and Ellery grew irritated as his grin faded. No one was going to observe elven tradition or even ask him what he wanted, but he was now a dragon too. He needed to keep an open mind and learn about his other culture. This was his opportunity to put his life as an elf behind him and embrace dragonkind. He wanted to forget the isolation and sadness he’d endured and create something worthwhile that made him happy. But what he most required was to collect himself from the shock of his afternoon. There was a beast inside him ready to grow wings.…And even more astounding was the man he was going to share an eternity with. He was handsome, appeared kind, and Ellery welcomed the opportunity to discover more about him.

Ellery got to his feet. “Perhaps you could show me where I will be sleeping?”

“I’d be happy to,” Zane offered, and Ellery followed him out of the room. He wasn’t sure what his future held, but he wasn’t going to spend the next few weeks as if they were his last. The other hybrids may have failed, but Ellery was determined to make history.

 

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 at: www.jessamynkingley.com

Follow her on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/jessamynkingley

She loves to engage with readers there.

 

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Release Blitz for Let Me Show You by Becca Seymour (excerpt and giveaway)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Let Me Show You

Author: Becca Seymour

Publisher: Self-Published

Cover Artist: Claire Smith

Release Date: May 18, 2019

Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance

Tropes: small-town romance

Themes: bullying

Heat Rating:  4 flames

Length:  58 000 words

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Blurb

When a veterinarian and a construction worker connect, it takes mishaps, mistakes, and a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Rex to show them they’re made for each other.

Dr. Carter Falon is content living a quiet life in a small town caring for his animal patients. That doesn’t mean he’s not looking for a distraction. After finding himself precariously wedged… naked and at the mercy of a drop-dead gorgeous construction worker, Carter hires his savior to renovate his home.

When Tanner Grady’s best friend and new niece needed him, he uprooted and relocated without a second thought. His life has since been centered on work and spending time with his family, but when he comes to the rescue of a cute vet, Tanner finds he’s a lot more interested in the homeowner than the house he’s renovating. 

 

 

Excerpt

My eyes widened when they landed on his form. Damn, it wasn’t every day a client greeted me in the nude. Looking at the path between me and who I assumed to be Carter on the ground, I tried not to let my eyes linger for too long on his smooth expanse of skin. He was lightly toned, with a softness about him that was impossible to not notice, despite trying my hardest not to.

With a shake of my head, I calculated each step I took to get to his side. Once I made it safely to the top, the floorboards creaking under my booted feet, Carter angled himself to turn and look at me. Definitely pissed off and in pain, and perhaps a bit mortified too, a light blush covering his cheeks. His gaze roamed me from bottom to top before landing on my own. I quirked my brow in amusement and question while strategically ignoring how fucking pretty his brown eyes were. “So…?” I offered.

He sighed, and I watched in fascination as his Adam’s apple bobbed when he swallowed. “I rushed from the piece-of-crap shower when I heard the knock. My foot went through the board, and it’s stuck.” His pink cheeks turned crimson.

Unable to stay the small smile tugging at my lips, I grinned as I stepped closer. I took my time to get to him, wanting to help the guy out. The last thing he needed was me falling on my ass. Clearing my throat, I crouched down at his side, my focus now on his leg and foot.

The whole area was rotten and would need ripping out. But for the time being, I’d need to tear up the two surrounding boards to get his ankle free. “You have tried to get it out, right?” I felt like a jackass for asking, but it was always best to check first.

Carter huffed out a breath. “Yeah, I did. It’s wedged against something. I tried pulling it out, but it’s a no go. It’s tighter than a virgin ass.”

My gaze whipped to his. What the fuck? With lifted brows, I stared wide-eyed at him, drawing another blush from him.

“Shoot, sorry. That was inappropriate.” His eyes widened in horror. “I meant, it’s wedged. Erm. It’s just wedged tight, and—”

I grinned. “It’s all good. Give me a sec.” The poor guy looked like he wanted to join his foot in the space under the floorboards and curl over. He needed an out, and I needed to get some air in my lungs away from his intoxicating smell and firm thighs, which were impossible to ignore in such close proximity.

 

 

About the Author

Becca Seymour lives and breathes all things book related. Usually with at least three books being read and two WiPs being written at the same time, life is merrily hectic. She tends to do nothing by halves so happily seeks the craziness and busyness life offers. 

Living on her small property in Queensland with her human family as well as her animal family of cows, chooks, and dogs, Becca appreciates the beauty of the world around her and is a believer that love truly is love.

 

Author Links

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Tara Lain on My Bahian Cowboy and her new releases ‘Cowboys Don’t Samba (Cowboys Don’t #3)’ (author guest blog, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Cowboys Don’t Samba (Cowboys Don’t #3) by Tara Lain

Dreamspinner Press
Published May 14th 2019
Cover Artist: Reese Dante

Book Links:

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My Bahian Cowboy by Tara Lain

Hi. I’m so happy to be here today to announce the release of my new romance, COWBOYS DON’T SAMBA, the third book in my Cowboys Don’t series, but like all of them, a stand alone read if you want to start backwards. In this book, my bull rider hero, Maury Garcia, meets an amazing Brazilian bull-riding rookie and the rest is romance.

In fact, many of the bull riding champions of the world are from Brazil, so it gave me a wonderful opportunity to pay homage to this fascinating country I got to visit a couple years ago. I went to Brazil on a cruise ship and then ended my trip with a week in Rio. Rio is as fabulous as you can imagine, but I must confess that the real discovery for me on that trip was the enthralling and beautiful town of Salvador, the capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia. Salvador was the center of the Brazilian slave trade, a shocking commerce in human life that went on even longer than the U.S. This background has resulted in a rich Afro-Brazilian culture in the town of Salvador that completely enthralled me. It’s palpable, like the humidity and the lushness of the trees.

Salvador is the home of Candomble, a unique religion formed from an amalgam of African and European traditions. At the Afro-Brazilian Museum, I saw images of some of the Candomble orixas, the pervasive spirits or deities who protect the faithful and felt their lively and optimistic energy.  Candomble mixes wildly with Roman Catholicism in Bahia and Salvador is the home to an amazing church built by slaves over many, many years since they could only work in their spare time, which they had little of. Unlike so many European and American traditions that make the Catholic saints blond and blue-eyed, all the statues of saints in this church are black. Salvador is also a center for capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art that is astonishing to watch. It combines dance, acrobatics and martial forms in mind-boggling and gravity-defying ways.

Food is Bahia is drool-worthy. I tried moqueca, the seafood stew served with rice and flavored with coconut milk and palm oil. Of course, the drink to die for (and you may) is the caipirinha, a drink made with fresh lime, brown sugar, and a clear, rum-like liquor called cachaca, all poured over ice. It goes down smooth and packs a huge punch. I own some very expensive jewelry that was fueled by caipirinhas!

Bottom line is Salvador is an amazing place where I would happily have spent way more time. While it’s not a bull-riding center in Brazil, I stretched reality a bit and made my Brazilian cowboy a Bahian, which gave me an excuse to set a short scene there. I hope you’ll enjoy the trip to Salvador and COWBOYS DON’T SAMBA.

 

Intro:
When an American bull riding champion meets a Brazilian rookie the results are one hot samba.

Book Blurb:

Maury Garcia’s one of the greatest bull riders in the world—and one of the biggest liars. Can he turn forbidden love with a rodeo rookie into a lasting romance?

Ever since his brother was killed because he was gay, Maury’s worked to take his brother’s place as the bull rider, the provider, and the ideal of his family’s macho expectations. The only thing Maury’s ever done for himself is buy a secret ranch so he can get away from the responsibilities he’s chained himself to. Then he meets Tristão Silva, the younger brother of the one man who could rob Maury of his bull riding championship.

Tristão may be a world-class bull rider in his own right, but his kind, gentle nature and sexy samba hips make Maury long for something beyond his selfless, sexless life. The two men’s lives are worlds apart, even if they’re both buckling under family expectations. Will their future last beyond an eight-second ride?

Excerpt : Cowboys Don’t Samba by Tara Lain

Breathing. Breathing would be good.

Maury watched Xesús Silva swagger in the door, but he wasn’t alone. Behind him came another guy. Young. Dark hair, pale skin. And probably the most gorgeous human Maury’d ever seen. Not that he noticed guys’ looks all that much, but hell. This dude set new records in plain beautiful. He also resembled Silva, who was, after all, a pretty handsome man if you didn’t count his soul.

Silva made a straight line to the table where the Brazilians were sitting. Some of the men definitely didn’t look thrilled, but a couple of other guys hailed him. People moved aside, and someone pulled over two chairs.

Silva straddled the chair in that hypermacho way of his. The other guy? Holy crap. Poetry. Loose-hipped and graceful, he slid into the open chair and crossed his legs. Most of the Brazilians were squeaky clean-cut, but this dude’s inky hair hung down to his neck and curved around his ears. He was a little taller than usual for a bull rider and lean rather than the more compact build of a lot of the PBRA competitors. Of course, he looked young, so that might explain the lanky body.

“That’s the younger brother I told you about.” Earl helped himself to a french fry. “Haven’t seen him ride, but I hear good things.”

“Let’s drink up and get out of here. I, uh, need some sleep.” Maury pushed back his chair with a scrape.

“Uh, boss, it’s five fifteen.” Earl grabbed for his wallet in his hip pocket. “Let me pay the check.”

Maury stood and started toward the door. Just need to get out before I meet the asshole again.

“I hear it’s your birthday, Wetback.” Usually Silva was subtler, but he yelled this halfway across the room. “No wonder the judges felt like they had to let you cheat to beat me.”

Maury plastered on a smile and turned. “No one has to cheat to beat you, Silva. Little kids can do it.” He said it like a joke, and a few people laughed, but the serious competitors, especially the Brazilians, looked uneasy.

Silva stood at his chair. “I’ve got the baby that can beat you, Garcia.” He reached down, took the young man—younger—by the arm, and pulled him to his feet. “This is Tristão, and he can ride the butt off any bull and defeat a herd of American cowboys. He’s a Silva.”

Maury gave the young guy a direct gaze. Almost too much for his eyes to take. Like looking straight into the sun. “Hey, Tris, good to meet you. Welcome to American cowboying. Good luck with that whole winning thing.”

 

About the Author

Tara Lain believes in happy ever afters – and magic. Same thing. In fact, she says, she doesn’t believe, she knows. Tara shares this passion in her best-selling stories that star her unique, charismatic heroes — the beautiful boys of romance —  and adventurous heroines. Quarterbacks and cops, werewolves and witches, blue collar or billionaires, Tara’s characters, readers say, love deeply, resolve seemingly insurmountable differences, and ultimately live their lives authentically. After many years living in southern California, Tara, her soulmate honey and her soulmate dog decided they wanted less cars and more trees, prompting a move to Ashland, Oregon where Tara’s creating new stories and loving living in a small town with big culture. Likely a Gryffindor but possessed of Parseltongue, Tara loves animals of all kinds, diversity, open minds, coconut crunch ice cream from Zoeys, and her readers. She also loves to hear from you.   

 

Author Links:

Website:  http://taralain.com/

Blog: http://www.taralain.com/blog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/taralain

FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/taralain

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/tara-lain

Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2ICPcCZ

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4541791.Tara_Lain

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/taralain/

Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/255111391312743/

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Giveaway Item: $10 Amazon Gift Card

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Love Shifter Romances? Check Out the New Release Book Tour for “Once Upon A Wolf” by Hurri Cosmo (excerpt and giveaway)

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Hurri Cosmo has a new MM paranormal shifter tale out: Once Upon a Wolf.

Hawk is alone, hiding from the world, living in a tiny, rickety cabin his grandfather built. He has few supplies and fewer yet of the skills needed to survive on his own, but because of what he did, because of what his father caused him to do… well, there’s just no other choice.

But then one day “Ghost” shows up. A large lone wolf who begins to “take care of” Hawk. He brings him game, he protects him from predators, and he even pulls him from a raging river. He is Hawk’s only friend and Hawk begins to talk to ghost as if he is human and can understand.

Except Ghost isn’t human.

Yes, Ghost has filled a void in Hawk’s life, and he is very grateful, but he is a wolf and Hawk needs the company of a human. In fact, Hawk is desperately lonely, to the point he even tells Ghost he longs for the touch of a man, the first time he has ever said such a wicked thing out loud.

Then one full-moon night a large, beautiful naked man breaks into the cabin and grabs Hawk, looming over him like he wants to eat him alive. At first Hawk is terrified, but then he realizes the stranger has Ghost’s amazing golden eyes…

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Giveaway

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Excerpt

Once Upon A Wolf

Taking care of the man was proving to be a little more intense then Ghost first thought it would be. Comical, too. Feeding him was no challenge but keeping him from killing himself with his eagerness for life certainly was turning out to be.

His own readiness for something just out of reach every time he was with the man was also a huge trial. Something quite unusual had happened in the river this morning. Something unexplainable, even by Ghost’s standards. For a moment in time, a time of great desperation, he had been able to hang on to his human with more than just paws. He couldn’t see, the water and the situation too demanding for that. But Ghost had been able to wrap something around the man’s hips, and he knew his paws were not capable of that.

Something in his very being had changed in him ever since the human had come into his life.

He had always been attracted by the man’s aroma, always wanted to mix it with his own. His desire to taste him was overwhelming at times. Making the human his was easy enough since there had been no challenge, but it was claiming him that seemed impossible. If the human had been a wolf, Ghost would have mated with him. He didn’t care Hawk was very obviously a male of his species. How could it matter? Except, the fact Hawk was human, and Ghost was not, did.

However, there was something else that was just at the surface and with the full moon this very night, he was more aware of it than ever.

He could feel it. It was coming.

Tonight.

He loped into the woods, quickly finding and killing a fat rabbit. He then trotted it back to the cabin and laid it on the doorstep. He yipped and scratched at the door, but he heard no movement inside. Appeared the man was sleeping. Good. After this morning’s ordeal there was no doubt he needed it. But frustratingly, this door was proving to be a real problem. He had watched how the man opened it, with those marvelous hands of his. He lifted a paw to examine it. Similar. He also had fingers of a fashion. They weren’t long like the man’s, but he had claws, which he liked. Something the man didn’t have. Still, those fingers…

And he couldn’t help but think that was exactly what he had when he grabbed hold of the man in the river. Hands and fingers.

But it didn’t matter at the moment because, even if he had somehow, miraculously, sprouted hands this morning, they were gone now. And he had no idea how to get them back. Ghost jogged into the woods and gathered more game for the man, laying it all at his door. He would wait patiently for the man to wake up.

***

Hawk woke with a start. Had he heard something?

He threw his cover off, jumped to his feet and ran to the door. It wasn’t until he had flung the door open, expecting to find Ghost standing there, that he realized, not only was he well rested again but his feet no longer hurt. At all.

And there was quite the array of game lying at his feet. Seemed Ghost had already been and gone a number of times.

Hawk lifted one of his feet to examine the bottom. Once scratched and cut, now it appeared completely healed. He could still make out scabby scars but that was it. How could that be? It was only hours ago he had done the damage and these wounds seemed days old. He remembered how Ghost’s wounds, too, had given the impression of being days old once he had him in his cabin and near the fire. The large wolf had hardly needed his care. He recalled joking about Ghost’s magical skin. Was there something truly enchanted about Ghost? Could it be when he had licked Hawk’s wounds the wolf had not only stopped any kind of infection from taking hold, but also healed him like this?

Hawk pulled in a long breath as he examined his other foot and found the same thing. He could see where the cuts had been but that was it. Then, checking the minor scratches on his arms and legs and even thinking about the ant bite on his ass, he marveled that they were all completely healed. Was this proof magic existed? His father had believed in it. So did most of the townspeople. Not only did they believe in magic, but in monsters. Growing up, Hawk had witnessed more than a few times his father picking up his gun and heading out the door to meet up with any number of the townsmen, all crashing together into the dark woods after drinking themselves into false bravado and whipping themselves into a murderous frenzy. “Hunting the monsters,” he would sometimes yell out at Hawk if he caught him staring at him. Hawk never asked where he was going. Not when March was like that, all wild-eyed and smelling of liquor. He learned quickly asking his father anything in that state would as soon receive a fist to the face as it would an answer. If March offered up any kind of explanation, ever, Hawk knew to be content with it.

As far as hunting monsters, Hawk was never invited to go. “Too fucking stupid,” had been the reply, accompanied by a hard palm to the back of Hawk’s head when, one time, a friend of March’s had the audacity of asking why. “Don’t care if the dumb sonofabitch shoots himself, but I don’t want him shooting me!”

No, Hawk never went on those excursions into the deep wood where evidently the monsters lived, although it had been a favorite pastime with the men in town. However, Hawk thought those forays were more often about getting naked and drinking till dawn. Oh yes. He couldn’t help but hear the hushed stories. It was why Hawk wasn’t invited. No wives or kids. “Hunting monsters” was messy business and was no place for the squeamish. True enough since they were all old men, ugly and fat and wrinkly. But Hawk thought about the naked part anyway. He thought about it a lot. Especially these last several days because the moon was nearly full, and it was on these nights that the town’s menfolk would go about “protecting their village.”

Did he believe there were real monsters in the woods? Absolutely, but nothing more than the normal grizzly or black bear. However, he was beginning to believe in magic. All his wounds were healed, and he held the magic had to have come from the wolf. And now, because of that magic, running out to check on his traps was possible.


Author Bio

I live in Minnesota where I hold tight to the idea that here, where it’s cold a good part of the year, I won’t age as fast. Yep, I avoid the truth as much as I avoid mirrors. But one of the reasons I love writing is reality doesn’t always offer up a “happily ever after” and being able to take control of that is a powerful lure. Being a happy ending junkie, writing just makes them easier to find. Oh, I don’t mind “real life” and I do try to at least keep it in mind when I write my stories, but I truly love creating a wonderful couple, knowing they will fall in love and have their HEA. Every – single – time. And, of course, that is exactly the reason I love reading this genre, too. Give me a glass of red wine, some dark chocolate, and my computer, whether I’m reading or writing, and I’ll be entertained for hours. The fact I actually get paid to do it is Snickers bars on the frosting on the cake.

Author Website: http://hurricosmo.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/hurri.cosmo

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/OfficialHurriCosmo/

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

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6466687.Hurri_Cosmo

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/?s=hurri+cosmo&search_type=book_search

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Check Out the New Release Blitz for At the Trough by Adam Knight (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: At the Trough

Author: Adam Knight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: May 13, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 107200

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, lesbian sci-fi, futuristic, dystopia, education, conformity, teacher, student, secret meetings, forbidden book, mental illness

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Synopsis

In a future where schools have no teachers and no classrooms, Jennifer Calderon is the perfect student. Every day she watches her video modules, plays her edu games, and never misses an answer. Life is comfortable in the Plex, a mile-wide apartment building. Corporations and brand names surround her and satisfy her every want and need.

Then one day, her foul-mouthed, free-spirited, 90’s-kitsch-wearing girlfriend Melody disrupts everything. She introduces her to a cynical, burned-out former teacher, who teaches them the things no longer taught in school. Poetry. Critical thinking. Human connection.

But these lessons draw the attention of EduForce, the massive corporation with a stranglehold on education. When they show how far they are willing to go keep their customers obedient, Jennifer has to decide what is most important to her and how much she is willing to sacrifice for it.

Excerpt

At the Trough
Adam Knight © 2019
All Rights Reserved

One: Learning if Fun
“The brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine in response to certain stimuli. Eating candy, having sex, consuming drugs, even petting a dog can trigger a pleasure response. Video games, especially ones with bright lights, upbeat music, and facile accomplishments are especially potent, flooding the brain with a sense of reward. As such, they were the bane of teachers for many years. That is, until EduForce began to use these games in their products. The scourge of learning was being disguised as learning itself.”

—Charles Winston, The Trough, p. 114

Jennifer Calderón stared into the screen, slack-jawed and passive as the bright colors and shapes burst before her eyes. Her pupils traced letters and blocks as they bounced from one end of the sixty-inch screen to the next. She reached out and touched a word before it hit the bottom–GAMBOLED. The white letters lit up, neon-green, and the word whooshed across the screen to smash into another word—GAMBLED—and shatter into a shower of sparkles.

“Same-sounder found!” a chirpy electronic voice declared.

Dopamine squirted into Jennifer’s brain in happy little jets. A smile traced the corners of her lips. Learning was fun.

Jennifer flicked her eyes to the upper right-hand corner of the screen. The figure 23/25 quickened her pulse. Two more. Two more word pairs and she would earn the Same-Sounder Achievement.

A new word appeared at the bottom of her screen. ASCENT, it read. The friendly female voice read the word and definition. Bubbles with other vocabulary terms floated around the screen. Colors whirled before her eyes and electronic dance beats filled her ears as she searched for Same-Sounders. Then she saw it. The word, in white letters on a floating bubble, drifted toward the bottom. Jennifer’s finger jabbed at the screen. Pop! The word ASSENT exploded in fireworks. More music and chirpy voices.

“Same-sounder found,” the voice said. More dopamine gushed into Jennifer’s brain. Her eyes flicked up to the corner. 24/25.

CYMBAL.

Once more, Jennifer scanned the bubbles and blobs and cubes and tetrahedrons swirling in her vision. Her breath was shallow. More and more words poured onto the screen. In one moment after another, tiny subdivided fractions of seconds, Jennifer saw and rejected words she did not think made the same sound as “cymbal.” Her eyes, her brain, and her hands all had to work in unison. Each level of Same-Sounder Finder was faster, more complex, and more stimulating than the last.

Then she saw it. SYMBOL.

She thrust her finger out to the screen. The little magenta gem in which the word sat was zigzagging down the screen, and she almost missed it and pressed the word TUMBLE crossing its path. But the SYMBOL illuminated, exploded, and a fireworks finale showed on the screen. 25/25.

“Same-sounder found,” the voice declared, then louder and triumphantly, “Same-sounder achievement unlocked!”

Jennifer leaped and thrust her fists in the air as a fanfare of electronic tones rang through her bedroom. Not many students earned perfect scores on Same-Sounder Finder, but Jennifer did. She earned perfect scores on everything. She was twenty-three years old and finishing her last year of schooling, a year ahead of the usual schedule. Because of all the hours she put into learning, and because she never had to redo any of her modules, she had raced ahead of her peers, many of whom were still on Achievement Level 13 or 14. She was working on 15.

After the music died down, the screen went still. Jennifer’s head was still pounding. A headache was setting in, as was a twinge of crankiness. She left her bedroom and went to the kitchen where she poured herself a cup of coffee. Her mother always had a pot brewing, anything to keep her beloved daughter focused on school. Jennifer clogged the coffee with sugar and milk, stirred it, and took a gulp. Better. She freed a couple of aspirins from their foil pouches and swallowed them with the next mouthful of coffee. She returned to her room.

Jennifer slid her finger along the screen and opened it to a new frame, one summarizing her academic progress. Current Achievement Level: 14. 12 percent of the way to 15. 106 of 880 modules completed. Achievement Level Grade Point Average: 5.0/5.0.

Total Progress to Completion of all Achievement Levels: 97 percent. 12,845 of 13,215 modules completed.

And then there was the final number. The prized number, the number she had worked for since age three.

Aggregate Grade Point Average: 5.0/5.0

Every assignment Jennifer had ever done, from toddlerhood into now her mid-twenties, had been flawless. Missing just one question on one task would eradicate her record—The Perfect Five. There had been students with 5.0 GPAs before, but their scores came with asterisks. Usually the student had missed a smattering of questions throughout their education, resulting in a score that would round up to 5.0 in the ten-thousandths place. But Jennifer Calderón began each module on a knife’s edge, knowing one slip up would end her lunge at history. Each completed question nudged her progress toward earning Achievement Level 15, the equivalent of what was once her high school diploma. Thus far, however, all she had was poor digestion, headaches, sleep deprivation, and occasional interviews for the NewsFeed as her accomplishment became more improbable.

Jennifer left the score screen and opened a new frame to continue with a new module. She had done three Grammar Modules in a row and wished for a change, so she opened a Chemistry Module. It made no difference to her. She never understood students who had favorite subjects, who would put off Math or Writing as long as possible. She never understood procrastination. She simply worked until she was exhausted, every day, with no heed to the subject area. It was all the same to her.

To unlock the next series of edugames, she needed to watch the Chemistry vidlesson. At the opening screen, she was given a choice of several hundred different teachers to choose from. Each teacher had his or her own style. Some were brusque and businesslike, while others joked and kept the lesson light. Some had an air of wisdom and experience, while others were young and attractive. Some explained topics deliberately, but Jennifer returned to the same half-dozen teachers who explained briskly. Unlike many students, Jennifer always watched the vidlesson before the edugame. It was true “Learning Was Fun” but it was also true that “Hard Work Pays Off.” It’s so easy, she thought. They give you all of the answers right in the lesson.

Too easy. But the thought was fleeting, and she brushed it away.

Jennifer selected Mr. 85. She was not sure why the teachers did not have real names, but she did not dwell on it long. Mr. 85 was a favorite of hers because he spoke a little faster than other teachers. The content of what he said was the same—it had to be; the teachers were scripted—but he lingered a few seconds less on the examples and generally made his points and moved on. She wondered how many minutes of her educational life had been saved by Mr. 85’s expediency.

Her stomach rumbled. I should eat, she thought, but instead she touched the icon for the Chemistry video and sat on the edge of her bed. The video opened. It was six minutes. Damn. A long one.

The introduction music came up, a familiar, infectious jingle followed by a voiceover. “Chemistry—All You Need to Know. A lesson by the EduForce Corporation.” Then the camera fixed on Mr. 85. Mr. 85 was a middle-aged black man with graying hair. He never smiled. Jennifer kind of liked that. He stood in front of a display showing an elaborate chart with boxes. Each box had one or two letters inside.

“Good day, I am Mr. 85. Today we are going to learn all about Chemistry. As you remember from the Introduction to Chemistry lesson, Chemistry is the part of science that is chemicals. The chemicals have names and symbols. Today I will teach them to you.”

He stepped to the right and indicated the chart. Jennifer already knew she would have to rewatch this segment of the video. Maybe the whole thing. All those boxes and letters would be difficult to remember.

“This is called the Chemical Chart. It used to be called the ‘Periodic Table of the Elements,’ but let’s keep it simple. The Chemical Chart shows you a list of all the chemicals, called ‘elements,’ in the world. Little ones are on the top and big ones are on the bottom.

“Let’s look at some of them. The very top one is called ‘hydrogen.’ Its symbol is H. The next one is Helium. Its symbol is He.”

Mr. 85 pointed out about a dozen of the most common elements and their symbols. Aluminum. Carbon. Oxygen. Phosphorous. Jennifer repeated to herself everything Mr. 85 said.

“Next, we are going to look at what the elements do together,” he went on. “But first, you may be getting tired. Do you find your energy dragging after all this learning? If so, why not order a box of Perk-Eez? It’s the little yellow pill that keeps you shining bright!”

The video of Mr. 85 paused and was replaced with a new screen offering Jennifer the opportunity to order a box of Perk-Eez. She touched the “Yes, please!” button on the screen, and a message immediately appeared. “Thank you! Your delivery will arrive at your unit shortly. Your household account will be debited.” Perk-Eez were another reason Jennifer was on track to graduate two years early.

Mr. 85 returned.

“Now that you know some of the chemicals’ names, let’s look at what chemicals do. They like to be together. Sometimes the same kinds of chemicals get together. One oxygen and another oxygen will get together, and they make up the oxygen we breathe. If you have taken the Human Biology module, you know we breathe oxygen.”

The Chemical Chart was replaced with a graphic of two blue blobs with the letter “O” on them smooshing together.

“Sometimes different chemicals get together. A carbon and two oxygens get together and make up something called carbon dioxide. Yes, that’s right, carbon dioxide, the bad thing your grandparents put into the air that almost killed Earth!”

A new graphic with two blue blobs and a red blob with a “C” all clinging together replaced the old one.

“All kinds of chemicals get together. Let’s look at some combinations.”

The screen showed a series of different colored balls, all with different letters, making different combinations. Jennifer shook her head, trying to maintain focus. It was a lot of new information.

As the video neared completion, Mr. 85 folded his hands and stepped to the center of the screen again. Jennifer thought she almost detected a smile.

“I hope you have enjoyed this lesson on Chemistry. Please rewatch this video as many times as you like before going onto the edugames. My name is Mr. 85 and it has been a pleasure teaching you today. This has been an EduForce vidlesson. EduForce, making learning easy and fun since 2034.”

The video closed. Jennifer watched it again three times. After the second time, the doorbell rang. She accepted the delivery from SentiAid, the pharmacy delivery service. She tore open a foil packet and gobbled a couple of Perk-Eez. Almost instantly, even faster than after a cup of coffee, her brain and body were buzzy and alive.

All right, she thought. Let’s play some more edugames.

The Chemistry edugame was called “Elementastic!!!” She read the instruction screen, then the game began. After a countdown, two words appeared on the screen:

Iron Argon

Jennifer typed in FEAR. The letters Fe and Ar zoomed in from the left and right of the screen, collided in a burst of color, and formed the word “fear,” which dissolved into sparkles that floated up to the top of the screen.

Carbon Oxygen Oxygen Phosphorous

Easy, Jennifer thought. She typed COOP.

More collisions and explosions.

Tin Iodine Phosphorous

SNIP

Helium Aluminum Sulfur

HEALS

Jennifer fell into a rhythm, working faster and faster on each round. Her breathing became shallow. Her pulse quickened and her pupils dilated as the words came faster, exploded bigger and more colorfully, until finally a computerized voice—male this time—announced, “Activity Complete. Chemistry Achievement Unlocked!” and Jennifer lowered her hands, panting.

The voice continued, “To celebrate your achievement, how about downloading the new song from Tuliphead? The infectious single ‘Plex Lovin’’ is already breaking new—”

“Sure,” Jennifer said, and the advertisement stopped. Buying was the easiest way to make the ads go away.

Even as a small child, edugames had come easily to her. She watched the vidlessons, played the edugames, and thought little of it. She learned with carefree abandon. But when she reached the age of twelve or thirteen, she became aware she was doing something unusual. Of course, she did not have classmates to compare herself to, and she had few friends to ask, but she understood she was different. Other children made mistakes, even had to redo modules they had not mastered. She had wondered what mistakes were, to have the certainty of rightness yanked out from under you.

As she grew older, she became acutely aware of her achievement. At age fifteen, she received a request for a vid interview with a reporter. She had sheepishly declined, unsure of what to say and certain her mother would not have allowed it. But over the subsequent years, several more interview requests came to her, and she began to accept them. Each time she said the same things, that she was proud and studied a lot to do the best she could. That answer was only half true. She was proud of her grade but never had to study. She watched a vidlesson, played the edugame, then moved on to the next.

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Meet the Author

Born in upstate New York, Adam now lives in northern New Jersey with his wife, son, a neurotic dog and two cats. He teaches middle school English and writes science fiction, fantasy, and history, often in strange combinations. His stories and essays have been published in several anthologies and online magazines. Beyond writing and teaching, his interests include running and making improvements on his creaky old house.

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Love Fantasy Romance? Check Out the Release Blitz for Healing Glass by Jackie Keswick (excerpt and giveaway)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Healing Glass

Author: Jackie Keswick

Cover Artist: Pavelle Art

Release Date: May 13, 2019

Genre/s: Fantasy, M/M, Fantasy romance

Trope/s: friends to lovers, two against evil

Themes: fighting oppression, personal responsibility, love is stronger than tyranny, never piss off a man who has something to protect 😉

Heat Rating:  3 flames

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Blurb

A dying city.

An ancient, forgotten accord.

And two gifted men caught in a web of greed and dark magic.

Despite belonging to different guilds, glass master Minel and warrior captain Falcon are friends. Their duties keep them apart, but when Minel falls ill and chooses death rather than the only known cure, nothing can keep Falcon from his side.

As their friendship grows into more, old wrongs and one man’s machinations threaten the floating city and leave both Minel and Falcon fighting for their lives. Can they learn to combine their gifts to save the city and its magic, or will everything they know and love perish before their eyes?

Healing Glass is an LGBT fantasy adventure with its head in the clouds. If you like medieval backdrops, impressive world-building, three-dimensional characters and a touch of magic, then you’ll love Jackie Keswick’s socially-conscious adventure.

Buy Healing Glass to visit the floating city today!

 

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Excerpt

Half a mile above the surface, a deep, rumbling groan rattled through Favin’s bones and turned his guts to water. The elevator jerked and shuddered—long enough for Favin to wonder whether he’d left his errand too late—before it resumed its stately progress up towards the floating city.

The groans and jerks came more often these days, on almost every journey. Despite the trickle of ice-cold fear, Favin welcomed the noise and stuttering ascent. He’d raised the alarm weeks earlier, but no one had believed the word of a servant. No one but Councillor Teak, who now clung to the transparent wall on the far side of the elevator, face grey and eyes wide.

The City Council would believe Teak.

“Is… this… why you wanted me to accompany you?” Teak spoke louder than necessary in the tight confines of the chamber bearing them aloft.

“Yes, Councillor. I reported it several times, but—” Favin stopped, loath to criticise the council. “I felt you had to know what’s happening.”

Teak, resplendent in a well-cut black coat and lace cuffs under his scarlet robe of office, didn’t belong in an elevator filled with rows of stacked crates, bins of cloth, and rolls of parchment, even when Favin hadn’t packed the space as full as he usually did. The councillor didn’t need the experience of a full cargo run, of squeezing into a gap just large enough to get in and out of. Never mind that he wouldn’t have fit. The servants joked that were the councillor hollow, one of them could fit inside his frame with space to spare.

Teak enjoyed his food as much as he enjoyed his status and privileges, but he hadn’t lost all sense of his responsibilities. When Favin had asked for his help, he’d only grumbled a little before agreeing to investigate the matter. Now here he stood, pressed against the transparent wall, gaze riveted to the crate in front of him, not daring to look down.

Favin watched the sea and the sky over Teak’s shoulder, wishing—as always— that he could see the city as they made their way towards it. The freight elevators didn’t allow for such a view, and Favin’s work rarely left him the leisure to sit on the beach.

Four levels of squat glass tiers and elegant spires connected by sweeping stairs and graceful bridges, suspended high above the waves by a raft of near-invisible columns… the floating city had stood waiting at the edge of the ocean when the Craft Guild arrived in need of shelter. Nobody knew its builders. Nobody quite understood how it worked. The city kept its occupants warm and dry, the glass walls closing or receding depending on the weather. Fountains supplied water in every square, and in all the buildings. The middle tier of the city—a wide, level space between the double-story, flat-roofed dwellings of the lower level and the skyward-reaching spires of the top tier—had been given over to growing food. All other goods the inhabitants needed came via the trade guilds and the Merchant Guild. The craft masters could have anything that fit into one of the eight large elevators, whether it came by land or sea, while men like Favin ensured the goods arrived where they were needed.

The groan came again, more of a pained shriek now, like the death cry of a material used too long and too well, as an abrupt slip downward hurled both Teak and Favin to their knees.

Then the sounds stopped.

The downward movement stopped.

And the elevator resumed its unhurried climb.

Sweat pearled on Teak’s brow and upper lip by the time the transparent cabin reached its goal. “Can we… not use this elevator?” He stepped off the floating disk before he turned to ask.

“It will delay deliveries, Councillor.”

“How many journeys do you make in a day?”

“Some days as many as fifty.”

“And the noise and the… jerking… have been getting more frequent?”

“Yes. I’m told the other elevators show the same signs of trouble. And in the upper city, the glass is said to be weeping.”

“Weeping?”

“That’s what I’ve heard, Councillor. I’ve not seen it.”

“No, of course not.” Servants of Favin’s class had no access to the upper levels. “Thank you, Favin, for bringing this to my attention.”

Favin bowed to the councillor before he set about unloading the cargo into the hands of the waiting servants. The council would decide whether to shut down the elevator or keep it running. He’d done as much as he could do, given his station. He’d said his piece and had had a councillor listen.

He continued with his work, until words drifting through a half-open door stopped him on his way to deliver rolls of parchment and ink to the council chamber.

“Weeping is the only way to describe it, Wark. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“And you think it’s going to be a problem?” The clipped tones were the regent’s and Favin froze where he stood, listening.

“Of course, it’s a problem,” Teak argued. “Go and see for yourself if you don’t believe me. There’s liquid glass welling up out of the column and trickling down its length. What do you think will happen if the glass wears away doing that? Or if the whole column turns to liquid? Will it continue to support the upper level in that state, or will it run into the sea and disappear?”

“Calm yourself, Teak. I’m sure there’s no need for panic.”

“You would know, of course.” Teak said snidely. “But I say you should listen. There’s more than one of those weeping spots in the upper city. The freight elevators jerk and groan, and servants are buying out their contracts, happier to make a life elsewhere than work here.”

Then it is serious, Favin thought, glued to his spot. More serious than I knew.Positions with one of the three gifted guilds were hotly sought. Only the king’s court paid better wages, and with the high prices in the royal city and port of Allengi, those wages didn’t go nearly as far.

“We must deal with this, Wark. Before it is too late.”

“Repairs to the city’s fabric are the task of the glass master. I will make sure he attends to the problem.”

“Minel is an outstanding craft master.” Teak bristled as if he had heard something in Wark’s comment that Favin had not. Something he disagreed with. “Most sought after, despite his youth. His list of commissions is near endless and he earns—”

“There are no other glass masters in the guild. Minel is our only choice if we want to fix the problem you’ve brought to my attention.” Regent Wark sounded oddly gleeful.

“No. You can’t— What if—?”

“You can’t have it both ways, Teak. You can’t bring me a problem and then object when I solve it. Minel’s work and his designs pay a large part of the city’s debts. I’m not so stupid I’d interfere with that. But if the fabric of the city fails, all the money and favours we’re owed will be no use to us. It’s fortunate that Minel cares about nothing but making glass. He doesn’t have the stomach for confrontation. I think… I think this will work out very well. Minel will accept that we direct his work and we can add another treasure to our collection. I have waited long enough.”

 

About the Author

Jackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurring dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.

Jackie loves unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who don’t follow the rules when those rules are stupid. She blogs about English history and food, has a thing for green eyes, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat.

And she still hasn’t found the place where the bus stops.

For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops or recipes for traditional English food, you can find Jackie Keswick in all the usual places.

 

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Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win one of FIVE ebooks from Jackie Keswick’s  backlist.

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