A MelanieM Review: The Lies That Bind (Boystown #8) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

 

The eighth book of the best-selling Boystown Mystery Series begins with a phone call in the middle of the night. Private investigator Nick Nowak is pulled into the troubled world of freelance journalist, and all around pain-in-the-ass, Christian Baylor.

When Christian can’t stop lying about the corpse in his bathroom things slip slowly out of control. Meanwhile, Nick’s relationship with former priest Joseph Biernecki takes an unexpected turn and the Federal case against Jimmy English proceeds toward trial.

Here we are, into the eighth book in the Boystown series, and  as a result of all the events he has had to go through,the character of Nick Nowak is showing some real growth and changes in his life.

He’s running (when the unrelenting heat of the Chicago summer permits), he’s turned his new lakefront apartment into a home, has established routines with Mrs Harker on Sundays, Brian and his boyfriend. He’s even  deepening his own relationship with the ex priest Joseph, which is different than all the others he’s had before.  Yes, Nick Nowak has become monogamous, a circumstance that has surprised him and happened without him realizing it. Or talking about it with  Joseph.  Even Nick’s bank account is flush with money…an even rarer oddity.

So of course, things get snarled and messy for Nick just as he thinks he may have some things in his life figured out.

I think that if you haven’t especially emphasized with Nick before, perhaps because of his infidelities and outlook on sex, this is the story, that brings you over to Nick’s side.  It will be in Nick’s relationship with Joseph, their dynamics, their  new relationship fraught with surprises for them both.  How the dynamics in the relationship is handled by both men over the course of the story is important because, not only does it feel real, grounded in the reality of the way people handle changes in their romances and perceptions, but because it marks a maturity and growth not seen before.

All the while that is happening between Nick and Joseph, Nick is heavily involved in two cases. One that is a carry over from the previous stories involving Jimmy English and Owen’s law firm.  The other is new involving an old acquaintance…Christian Baylor.  A pain in Nick’s proverbial ass, former friend of sorts of Harker’s, and somewhat yellow journalist looking to up his game.

Both mysteries are creative and complex.  Jimmy English’s keeps evolving over the series of stories.  Everytime you think Nick and the reader has a handle on where it’s going, Marshall Thornton changes direction and victim/culprits.  Its compelling, dark, and a puzzle you can’t turn away from.  And its not  over here.  The end is not is sight yet which makes me happy.  Jimmy English himself is a character that I’ve come to be addicted to as well (not a healthy thing in these novels with their high body count).

So is the one with Christian and the body in the hallway.  With Nick and his cases, nothing is ever straightfordward.  There are layers of deceit, links to Nick or people he knows to deal with, and emotions dredged up that Nick somehow must learn to deal with.  Also physical danger and tons of suspense.

How I love these stories.  So many outstanding elements and all handled expertly!

One last note on one of those elements.  That would be the 80’s factor here.  Marshall Thornton’s use of topics and elements from that era to bring the fact that these stories and Nick live in the 1980’s vividly alive is done so well.  Here AIDS has progressed throughout the US as has the research into how it is spread.  People are starting to talk a little more knowledgeably about it but the fear about blood contamination is rising as well (how well I remember that phase). AIDS, its growth, has been a common factor throughout the series.  You can chart the first whispers of it beginning with book 1, the chills making those early books all the more memorable because you know where it will lead you.

Other 80’s elements are mind boggling.  The double floppy disk Wang computer system that’s long disappeared from memory, COMPAQs, the appearance of IMB systems and a huge brick like mobile phone costing $4,000.  Amazing.  There’s more of course, but those made honorable mention in my mind for this review.  Thornton handles all the aspects of that era, big and small with equal respect and importance.  From sports scores, to newspapers, tech equipments down to music and clothes wear….the research is impeccable.  And folded into the narrative just as it should, matter of factly and not as an historic statement.

Yes, I love this, yes, I  recommend it and all the others that go before and should be read in the order written.  One of my top books/series of the year.

Cover art by Marshall Thornton

Sales Link: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 244 pages
Published February 21st 2016 by Kenmore Books
ASINB019ZS0SHM
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #8

Series:

Boystown Bundle 1 – 3 – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 A Time For Secrets – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 Murder Book – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #6 From The Ashes – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #7 Bloodlines – Amazon US | Amazon UK (ON SALE for 99c)
Book #8 The Lies That Bind – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #9 Lucky Days – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #10 Gifts Given – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #11 Hearts Desire – Amazon US | Amazon UK (PREORDER

Release Blitz – Thief Of Hearts by Ruby Moone (excerpt and giveaway)

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Length: 72,000 words approx.
 
Blurb
 

It’s 1806 and aristocratic, bastard born jewel thief, David Lambert has few rules in his life. Never bed the staff, never bed a man more than once, and never kiss. In the space of one weekend, all his rules are shattered by a stunning, violet eyed footman with a secret.


Jeremy Naylor thought he had found the man of his dreams. Thought he had found the one person that might, just might, understand him. But in one shocking moment his dreams are destroyed, and he is forced to run for his life.


When Jeremy is flung into Newgate for a crime David committed, it’s a race against time to get him free and David is forced to face up to his past, his family, and accept that he might have a future if he has the courage to fight for it.

 
Excerpt
 

David hammered on the door of Charnley’s Grosvenor Street mansion and, finding the door unlocked, let himself in. He strode through the hallway, boot heels ringing on the marble floor, and was met by a flurry of agitated staff.


“Get me Charnley. Now.”


The butler emerged and addressed him in condescending tones, but David brushed him aside. “Where is he? Study?” he stalked across the hallway and headed for the study door with the staff flapping behind him. He threw open the door, but there was no-one inside.


“Charnley!” he bellowed. “Get out here now.”


The flurry of footmen was swiftly replaced by burly, determined looking grooms, so David pulled out a brace of pistols from the back of his breeches and aimed them.


“Hold it right there,” he said, and the men stopped. “I have no quarrel with you, but I will see Charnley. Anyone who tries to stop me will be shot. Those of you who know me know I will do it.” He raised the pistols and waited. No-one moved.


“So, where is he?”


“What in God’s name is going on?” Charnley appeared, leaning over the gallery balcony, then running lightly down the stairs wearing only his shirt sleeves and waistcoat. “Lambert, why are you causing ructions in my home? For God’s sake, man, put the pistols down.”


“First, call off your lap dogs.”


With a flick of a hand, the staff were dismissed, but David held onto the pistols. “Shall we?” he asked, nodding towards the study. He slammed the door shut behind them with his boot.


“Get him out. Whatever you want from me is yours, just get him out.”


Charnley frowned. “What the hell are you talking about?”


David stalked across the room, gun in hand and put the muzzle against Charnley’s chest. “You have until the count of three to tell me you will get him out. If you do not, I will shoot you and get him out myself.”


Charnley staggered back and held up both hands. “What … who are you talking about? Get who out of where?”


“One.”


“Lambert, I do not know what…”


“Two.”


“God… man will you … Oh Christ. Not Naylor?” A look of genuine shock on Charnley’s face surprised David.


“Three. Yes.” He pushed against Charnley’s chest.


“Yes, yes… of course I will help. Just put the fucking gun down.”


David lowered the pistol slowly, and Charnley backed away, one hand going to his throat. Sweat stood out on his brow.


“Get your coat, get down to Newgate, and undo whatever lies you told to put him in there. Now.”


Charnley lifted both hands. He was a little taller than David, and heavier having a few years on him, but he was treating him with a healthy respect. “Now, listen to me.”


“I’m listening. Get your coat.”


“David, I will do everything in my power to get Naylor out, but we have a serious problem here.”


“Which is?”


“He is not there because of anything that I did. I did not order his arrest.”

My name is Ruby Moone and I love books. All kinds of books. My weakness is for romance, and that can be any kind, but I am particularly fond of historical and paranormal. I decided to write gay romance after reading some fantastic books and falling in love with the genre, so am really thrilled to have my work published here. The day job takes up a lot of my time, but every other spare moment finds me writing or reading. I live in the north west of England with my husband who thinks that I live in two worlds. The real world and in the world in my head…he probably has a point!


Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/RubyMoone/?ref=bookmarks
Twitter – @RubyMooneWriter
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/rubymoone/

Giveaway

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What’s Made Your Favorite Books Magic? And This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Romance Do’s In Your Romance Novels.

What’s Made Your Favorite Books Magic?

 

Several books I finished this week just furthered my ideas as to what helps launch a romance novel above the mass of romance stories you read or will read over the course of a year or more.  One wasn’t terribly successful in the romance department in my opinion while succeeding wildly in almost every other aspect, while two others had an almost constricted romance that still managed to allow their main characters love shine through along with an unusual storyline that unfolded around them.

Why does one fail while others succeed?  What makes a well done romance novel?  Yes, yes, I know so much can be subjective.  I remember that one write’s advice that I repeated (and still think is awful) on concentrating only on the main characters and leaving secondary characters totally alone.  Insert roll of eyes here.  Because imo a well done supportive cast makes a novel…romance or not.  All of my favorite  stories mention a marvelously done secondary grouping of characters, almost or as memorable as the main ones.

For some authors, they use their stories as love notes to  locations, towns they visited or grew up in or in one instance (Basil, Switzerland) one they live now.  The result can be a superb blending of location, culture, and story.  For others, its some other element…tree planting, apple orchards, a trip to the Sun Temple and Machu Picchu.  This list is endless.  Then there is the fantastical…the marvelous blending of mythologies, cultures, gods, and beasts that can come about when imaginations soar and blend with romances.

All of the above have managed to come together for me in romances that became something splendid, magical…even when the book itself was contemporary or science fiction.  The author or authors wrote and their story spoke to something deep inside of us.

Stories and characters we remember.

What are those books that still speak to you now and why?  What’s so special about them?  I really want to know.

What Makes a Book Magic List Giveaway

So let’s make this official with a What Makes a Book Magic List Giveaway.  Send in your comments, it will run til the end of the month and we will giveaway 2 gift certificates to 2 lucky readers.  Leave your name and email address where you can be reached if chosen.

I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with.

 

Now for this week’s books and tours.

 

This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, July 15:

  • Smoke in the Mirror by Aimee Nicole Walker Release Blitz
  • Fireworks and Stolen Kisses by Angel Martinez and Freddy MacKay Tour
  • A MelanieM Review:Fireworks and Stolen Kisses (Lijun #1) by Angel Martinez and Freddy MacKay
  • Romance Do’s And This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Monday, July 16:

  • Drive Shaft by Geoffrey Knight Book Blast
  • Release Blitz – Thief Of Hearts by Ruby Moone
  • Review Tour – Riza Curtis’s The Dragon’s Thief
  • An Alisa Review:  The Dragon’s Thief by Riza Curtis
  • A Lucy Audiobook Review: Hearts and Flour By Tara Lain/ Ry Forest (narrator), Stephen Kurpis (narrator)
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: A Fool and His Manny (The Mannies #4) by Amy Lane
  • A MelanieM Review:The Wolf at Bay (Big Bad Wolf #2) by Charlie Adhara

Tuesday, July 17:

  • DSP Dreamspun Promo JS Harker on Soul Bond
  • DSP Promo Tia Fielding
  • Audio Tour for Unscripted Love by Aimee Nicole Walker
  • An Alisa Release Day Review: Soul Bond by JS Harker
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review: A Fool and His Manny (The Mannies #4) by Amy Lane
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review:  Soul Bond by JS Harker

Wednesday, July 18:

  • DSP Promo Rayna Vause
  • Release Blitz – Nothing Serious – Jay Northcote
  • Review Tour – Ari McKay – Knitting a Broken Heart Back Together
  • A Dangerous Dance by Davidson King Release Blitz
  • A Lucy Review: The Pet Stylist and The Playboy by Rebecca James
  • A MelanieM Review: The Lies That Bind (Boystown #8) by Marshall Thornton
  • A MelanieM Review: Knitting a Broken Heart Back Together by Ari McKay

Thursday, July 19:

  • In the Spotlight: Sink or Swim (Anchor Point series) by L.A. Witt
  • Blog Post – V.L. Locey – Lost In Indigo
  • DSP Publications Promo August Li
  • An Alisa Review: Tainted Life​ by ​Mel Gough
  • A MelanieM Review: Lucky Days (Boystown, #9) by Marshall Thornton
  • A MelanieM Review: Magic or Die (Inner Demons #1) by JP Jackson
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Beneath This Mask ( Enhanced World #3) by Victoria Sue and Nick J. Russo (Narrator)

Friday, July 20:

  • BOOK BLAST – Daisy, Yellow by Angelique Jurd
  • DSP Promo Hudson Lin
  • DSP Promo JL Merrow on Camwolf
  • A Lila Review: The Merchant’s Love (Chronicles of Tournai #6) by Antonia Aquilante
  • A Caryn Review Daisy, Yellow by Angelique Jurd
  • A MelanieM Review: A Trust to Follow (Wild Magics #1) by Diana Waters (
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Sink or Swim (Anchor Point #8) by L.A. Witt

Saturday, July 21:

  • Audio Tour for Someone to Call My Own by Aimee Nicole Walker
  • A MelanieM Review: Gifts Given (Boystown, #10) by Marshall Thornton

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Balefire (Whyborne & Griffin #10) by Jordan L. Hawk

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The saga of Whyborne and Griffin against the Fideles and the masters continues and Whyborne’s Endicott family members show up to enlist his help in taking back their ancestral manor from whoever has commandeered it.  That may be the Fideles as there’s a mysterious barrier surrounding the island that houses Balefire and no one has been able to get through.

Of course, Christine and Iskander come along to help and Whyborne’s mother, Heliabel, accompanies the group as the emissary of the ketoi.  The mission is more complex than simply getting through the barrier and all five of our favorite characters are needed for this one. 

Without going into a great deal of detail, I definitely want to salute the author for taking the time to patiently explain and re-explain all the confusing relationships between the Fideles, the maelstrom, the masters, and more. I don’t know if all the info has been present all along, but this time I was able to highlight key points as I went through the story and discovered that it made much more sense to me than it had previously. Added to that, there’s new information as to plans the maelstrom may have initiated hundreds of years before, including the reason Whyborne and Persephone, his twin sister, were conceived in the first place.

As ever, Griffin guards his love. (I will never stop loving the fact that he calls Ival “my dear.”) Griffin uses his shadow sight to help the group get through the barrier to the heart of the estate.  Iskander uses his knives and, of course, Christine uses her club and anything else she can get her hands on.  The group is, by now, a well-honed machine when they are on a mission.  Nevertheless, expect the unexpected.  Jordan Hawke has an unlimited and uncanny imagination and takes us places that are definitely not foreseen.   

As this story draws to a close, it appears Whyborne’s cousins, the Endicotts—at least those who still survive—will be coming to Widdershins and will be on hand when the series evolves to the final confrontation with the masters. In fact, there’s an underlying theme of family in this book as quite a few family threads are woven throughout the story, starting with Griffin’s brother working with him in his PI business, to Ival’s relationship with his mother and his father. There’s acknowledgement of Sanford’s actions before his death and time to bereave his loss, and there’s the fierce protectiveness for the Endicott family children who have been isolated at the manor.  And then there’s the family of the heart that includes Christine and Iskander and their relationship with Whyborne and Griffin. Without giving away any spoilers, one of my favorite scenes is when Christine points something out to Whyborne that is personal and feminine and totally flummoxes the sweet, innocent man. 

The author is laying the groundwork for the grand finale. Perhaps she’s been laying it all along and the family is the mortar to the bricks and blocks that have been laid in past books. Time will tell. On a minor note, the only thing I didn’t care for in this book was the slow start of the story—it didn’t have the early excitement of others in the series where the action adventure occurred almost from the start. Nevertheless, I very highly recommend this book. Note: at this point in the series, the book can’t be read as a standalone, so I very highly recommend readers begin immediately with Widdershins and don’t stop until caught up.  We all need to be on board in time for the grand finale!

~~~~

Cover by Lou Harper is outstanding and features Whyborne in the foreground with fire sizzling between his two hands.  In the dark cloudy background is his husband Griffin.  It’s very attention-getting and in keeping with others in the series.

Sales Links:AmazonAppleBarnes & NobleKoboScribdSmashwords!ndigoAngus & Robertson

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: July 13th 2018 by Jordan L. Hawk
ISBN139781941230312
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesWhyborne & Griffin #10

A MelanieM Review: Bloodlines (Boystown #7) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

WINNER LAMBDA AWARD GAY MYSTERY

In the seventh book of the best-selling Boystown Mystery series, Private Investigator Nick Nowak finds himself simultaneously working two cases for his new client, law firm Cooke, Babcock and Lackerby. A suburban dentist has been convicted of murdering her adulterous husband.

Nick is asked to interview witnesses for the penalty phase of the trial—and possibly find the dead man’s mistress. At the same time, he’s deeply involved in protecting Outfit underboss Jimmy English from a task force out to prosecute him for a crime he may not have committed. While juggling these cases Nick slowly begins to rebuild his personal life.

In Bloodlines, Nick Nowak is slowly putting his life back together after the shattering events of Murder Book.  He’s back in the investigative business and working for his friend Owen’s law  firm on several cases at once, one of which he has personal ties to.

On the home front?  Several things have shown him its more than time for him to find a new apartment,  issues with teenager Terry  arise and Mrs. Harker becomes an ever bigger part of Nick’s life.

Thornton’s ability to weave so many different emotional threads through his stories, keep them all vividly alive and connected at the right places to NIck and the reader, while pushing through not one but two murder/mystery cases?  Just amazing!

Plus in Nick’s awkward, “yeah, that’s not working well” sort of way, a romance or at least a burgeoning relationship is trying to take some baby steps.  Of course, with Nick, that means sex immediately. For the other person?  Not so much.  Which leads to issues and  some very frustrating times.

The cases that Nick is working on have very deep moral/philosophical questions behind them if one is the type to ask them (as Nick is).  One case involves the older mobster Jimmy English, who has always been good to Nick, and while he may not have committed this particular murder, has most certainly committed many others in his past.  And the other case?  A woman who refuses to talk about why she killed her philandering husband.  Owen wants Nick to find out anything that will make a jury more sympathetic.  Two muddy, convoluted cases, full of roadblocks, and craters before Nick can find any answers.

How each investigation unrolls won’t be discussed but they are compelling, moving, and the results of each astonishing.  One I guessed halfway through partially but it was only a half of what was to come.  As is with most of Nick’s investigations, Marshall Thornton uses his knowledge of human behavior, and gives us another Nick Nowak novel that contains both the bittersweetness of life and some hope for the future.

Thank the gods for the perspective of Nick Nowak.  His voice makes the series. It’s caustic, knowing, rueful, determined,  reasonably kind, and always human.  I can’t get enough of it.  Bloodlines, the path to his recovery, is a great example of that. Yes, I can see why it won the Lambda Literary Award but then I don’t see why the others didn’t.

I highly recommend this story and all the others in the series.  But read them in the order they were written.  None are stand alone stories and follow along the narrative order.

Cover art matches the others in the series and works emotionally.

Sales Link: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 194 pages
Published March 6th 2015 by Kenmore Books
ASINB00TCZK428
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #7
Literary Awards Lambda Literary Award for Gay Mystery (2016)

Series:

Boystown Bundle 1 – 3 – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 A Time For Secrets – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 Murder Book – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #6 From The Ashes – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #7 Bloodlines – Amazon US | Amazon UK (ON SALE for 99c)
Book #8 The Lies That Bind – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #9 Lucky Days – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #10 Gifts Given – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #11 Hearts Desire – Amazon US | Amazon UK (PREORDER

A MelanieM Review: From the Ashes (Boystown #6) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

It’s winter 1984. Private Investigator Nick Nowak has allowed his life to fall to pieces: He’s stopped taking cases, given up his apartment and taken a job as a bartender at a sleazy joint tucked under the El. All he wants to do is stay hidden and lick his wounds after the death of his lover, Detective Bert Harker.

But when the least likely person in the world shows up at the bar and asks him to take a new case, he finds himself investigating the very unsuspicious death of a priest. Nick is convinced he’s wasting his time until the clues begin to add up to something entirely unsuspected.

How does one come back from a self imposed mental and emotional death?  That’s the state that Nick Novak has put himself into after the devastating events of Murder Book (Boystown #5).  Shocked even by his own actions, Nick has given up his detection work, his apartment, and withdrawn from the few friends he had into a drunken isolation.

It takes the one person he leasts expects bringing him a case to finally draw him back into reevaluating his current affairs and where he thinks he can go from here.

Somebody needs to invent new adjectives for Marshall Thornton’s body of work. The ones we have just get overused because of novels like From the Ashes.  Words like “beautifully written, simply brilliant, and thought-provoking” are just not enough.

No, I’m not gushing.

Readers have been wondering what comes next for Nick.  How does he pick himself up?  Now we have our answer.  And it’s perfect.  Because it’s slow, punishing, and a surprise every step of the way.

Nothing is ever easy for this man. Life seems to just want to deliver the worst sort of  smackdown to him in every aspect of his life.  But eventually, up he gets.  Whether its his curiosity, or some ounce of self preservation, or determination not to let the “others” win…Nick somehow gets up and goes forward.

Thornton has always made us fall into step with this man.  Its not always been easy but we can’t help  ourselves.  Watching as Nick thinks or investigates his way through each murky, often seedy case is addictive.  So is watching the man work through his own issues past and  present (and there are many).  There are as many complications in Nick’s personal life as there are in his cases and often they overlap in surprising twisty ways.

That happens here again right from that start in the person who brings Nick the case that eventually jump starts his life again.  Of course, its going to get messy, dark, snarly, and bodies will appear.   But its also fundamentally about Nick’s loss and grieving.  It’s heartbreaking in so many ways.  Prepare yourself for that too.

Thornton uses Chicago’s many Catholic churches and parishes in this murder mystery and the fact that it’s parishioners often stayed with the  same parish and priest for years for Nick’s investigation.  It was fascinating and effective.  And I love the way the  entire story played out.

Thornton is a master at taking murder and suspense and weaving such heartfelt emotions throughout that at times you feel its so real, that Nick and the others are so much  flesh and blood, that it hurts in places to read on  (Murder Book is a prime example of that). That happens here too of course.

That we as readers have taken Nick into our hearts is due solely to Marshall Thornton, an author I love and highly recommend.  This book and series is but one place to start your introduction to him.

Yes, I highly recommend From the Ashes but its not a standalone.  It must be read in the order the books were written.  So start with the first collection and work your way here.  There’s also a terrific audiobook series, so start there if that’s more to your liking.

Cover art again is more about the emotions reflected inside and about branding the series.  I like the covers for the Pinx Video better.

Sales Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 198 pages
Published February 20th 2015 (first published December 1st 2013)
ASINB00R0HRH7A
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #6
Literary Awards Lambda Literary Award Nominee (2013)

Series:

Boystown Bundle 1 – 3 – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 A Time For Secrets – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 Murder Book – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #6 From The Ashes – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #7 Bloodlines – Amazon US | Amazon UK (ON SALE for 99c)
Book #8 The Lies That Bind – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #9 Lucky Days – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #10 Gifts Given – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #11 Hearts Desire – Amazon US | Amazon UK (PREORDER

A Free Dreamer Review: Armistice (The Amberlough Dossier #2) by Lara Elena Donnelly

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Armistice returns to Donnelly’s ravishing 1930s Art Deco-tinged fantasy world of Amberlough with a decadent, tumultuous mixture of sex, politics, and spies.

In a tropical country where shadowy political affairs lurk behind-the-scenes of its glamorous film industry, three people maneuver inside a high stakes game of statecraft and espionage:

Lillian, a reluctant diplomat serving a fascist nation,

Aristide, an expatriate film director running from lost love and a criminal past,

and Cordelia, a former cabaret stripper turned legendary revolutionary.

Each one harbors dangerous knowledge that can upturn a nation. When their fates collide, machinations are put into play, unexpected alliances are built, and long-held secrets are exposed. All is barreling towards an international revolt…and only the wiliest ones will be prepared for what comes next.

First things first: “Armistice” is NOT a stand-alone story. At all. If you haven’t read the first book yet, don’t read this review, as it contains spoilers for book 1.

While “Amberlough” was set in a world similar to Europe, “Armistice” is largely set in a world that’s similar to India. With significant differences, however. The society is mostly matriarchal. Not extremely so, but women are definitely the ones with more power. I always find that an interesting concept and love to explore matriarchal worlds. And once again, the author did not disappoint. The setting was extremely well developed, with lots of little details that made the atmosphere all the more real. As soon as I read the first sentence, I immediately fell into the setting and found it extremely hard to resurface.

The feel of this book is very different from the previous one. It’s still intense, but there’s less action and drama. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy this book any less than the first one, it’s just different, quieter somehow. Which is a weird thing to say about a story that features Cordelia Lehane… I loved getting to know her better. Lillian, Cyril’s sister, also made for a very interesting MC. We do get a bit more of Ari, but really, this book is all about the women.

Just like “Amberlough”, we get yet another cliffhanger ending. Endings are hard for me. It’s so easy to ruin an otherwise good book with a crappy ending. And usually I despise cliffhangers, especially if it’s not the first part of a series. But Lara Elena Donnelly writes perfect endings and I actually like her cliffhangers.

Honestly, there’s so much more to say about “Armistice” but somehow I lack the words to express just how awesome this series is. Like, seriously, these two books are among the best I’ve read in a very, very long time and I have a feeling the author might become one of my favourites. Read it. It’s so, so, so worth it. And I might just die from sheer anticipation till part 3 FINALLY gets released.

The cover is gorgeous and matches the first part perfectly. I might just buy book three as a paperback because I finally want one of these amazing covers in my physical bookshelf.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book details: ebook, 384 pages

Published May 15th 2018 by Tor Books

The Amberlough Dossier Series:

Amberlough

Armistice

Amnesty coming in 2019

A MelanieM Review: Murder Book (Boystown 5) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 5 plus  stars out of 5

 

In the second of the Boystown mysteries to be a finalist for the Lambda Award, it’s fall 1982 and Chicago is gripped by panic after five people die from poisoned Tylenol capsules. Amid the chaos, the Bughouse Slasher takes his eighth victim, this time striking close to private investigator Nick Nowak.

With the Chicago Police Department stretched to its limit, Nick takes matters into his own hands. But what will he do with the Bughouse Slasher once he finds him.

Just when you think you know how Marshall Thornton will break your heart, his characters and story twists and shatters it in ways you never expected.

That’s what happened in Murder Book, the fifth novel in Marshall Thornton’s Boystown series. In this story, the author lifts a horrific series of murders direct from the  80’s headlines, that of the Tylenol poisonings of 1982 in Chicago.  It changed the pharmaceutical industry and our nation but here Thornton uses it as a narrative framework wherein he place’s another murder investigation ongoing at the same time.  Each investigation has the same parameters.    There have been multiple murders. The race is on to catch the killer before they strike again. But there it stops.

The Tylenol poisoner is high profile.  The search has the backing of many agencies.  It’s victims range from a child to adults and its potential victims could be anyone.  The fear is overwhelming the population and the push to find the culprit enormous.  No expense is being spared.

Then there is the other one.  The smaller investigation.  One that has been all but  forgotten.  That of the Bughouse Slasher who’s targets are young gay men, often found on the streets.  Not victims that the Chicago PD or anyone is pushing to solve their murders especially.  Excerpt for the now ill, ex Det Harker and his lover Nick Novak who have become involved through previous events and Harker’s former  Slasher cases.

Starting from the very first page, everything has come home to Nick Novak.  Its like walking into a wound that’s still tearing open.  And that walking trauma is NIck as we start to live his life.  This story is shocking, heartbreaking, gritty and real.  It will bring together many of the people we have come to know in a relentless search for a killer.

There will be no spoilers here.  Just simply my endless admiration for the author who created such a character, and has stayed true to him, messy life, unbelievable pain, and struggles to continue.  It is unbelievably compelling reading.  Brilliant even to the point that even once through is not enough.

When someone asks you, what are the characters that have made an impact on you, Nick Novak, is on that list.  This story is among the reasons  why as is the series.

Start at the first collection and see why for yourself today.  I highly recommend them all.

Cover art works to brand the series and sets the tone for the story.

Sales Links:Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 184 pages
Published February 6th 2015 (first published April 4th 2013)
ASINB00R0HDAZS
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #5
Literary AwardsLambda Literary Award Nominee for Gay Mystery (2013)

Series:

Boystown Bundle 1 – 3 – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 A Time For Secrets – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 Murder Book – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #6 From The Ashes – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #7 Bloodlines – Amazon US | Amazon UK (ON SALE for 99c)
Book #8 The Lies That Bind – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #9 Lucky Days – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #10 Gifts Given – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #11 Hearts Desire – Amazon US | Amazon UK (PREORDER

A MelanieM Review: A Time For Secrets (Boystown #4) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

In the first full-length novel of the Boystown series, it’s late summer 1982 and private detective Nick Nowak is asked to find a retired gentleman’s long lost lover. Instead, he finds himself embroiled in a decades old murder connected to the man who wants to be Chicago’s next mayor.

Meanwhile, an ambitious young reporter develops a friendship with Nick’s lover Bert, making Nick wonder exactly where their relationship may be heading.

 

Nick Novak has never quite dealt with the traumatic assault that outed him to the  Chicago PD, cost him not only his job on the force but his lover who was violently beaten in the gay bashing. A tragedy where suspects were never arrested or looked for because the victims were homosexuals.  His lover blamed him for his closeted state and being part of the PD.  His guilt, his inability to protect the one he loved? And being the one not to face years of reconstructive surgery?  All took  its toll emotionally, professionally, and mentally.

Its why NIck is a PI, estranged from most of his family, and still not able to put his past completely to rest.

Now it comes home again when an elderly man asks Nick to find a lover he made a connection with long ago.  Turns out he also has a connection with Nick.  He was the one to call Chicago PD when he witnessed Nick and his lover being attacked, and perhaps kept them from being killed.  Nick’s past and this man’s are intertwined in ways Nick is just beginning to understand.

A Time For Secrets is a dark, gritty tale.  We’ve been moving deeper into this territory with each story as the 80’s progress.  Its 1982 now.  We’ve gone from a mention of a gay flu to a mysterious virus to GRID (gay-related immune deficiency) which Harker, Nick’s Chicago PD lover, was diagnosed with.  Now they are starting to call it  AIDS while searching for answers and, of course, preventative measures.  Yes, people are starting to think they should use condoms.

Nick is still very much Nick, who is trying to handle a lover who is probably dying (although no one is saying anything), his lover’s mother (who hates Nick and blames him for Harker’s illness), and his feelings towards both Harker and the idea of commitment. While it should be work that directs his attention away from the personal issues, this case continues to direct it back, as it pulls in his  family members with their ties to the police and his past.

Thornton’s writing is fast paced and smooth for all the intricacies of plot and heavy emotional heft of this story.  Parts of it will just plan old out and out hurt to read.  That’s because these characters and their plight have become or do feel so real over the course of this story.  It may be the 80’s, but bigotry and hate know no decade.  Nor does AIDS and impending loss.

This story and series makes it all believable, vivid, and immediate again.

As it does to corruption and politics.  Also so timely.

A Time For Secrets (Boystown #4) by Marshall Thornton is another brilliant story in the Boystown series.  There are ten books in all.  They are moving, dark, sometimes hard to read, and bring forth a character and perspective that’s not to be missed.  I highly recommend both this book and the entire series.

Cover art brands the series although would not be my pick for a cover.

Sales Link:  Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:Kindle Edition, 238 pages
Published January 23rd 2015 (first published March 30th 2012)
ASINB00R1OTW98
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #4

Series:

Boystown Bundle 1 – 3 – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 A Time For Secrets – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 Murder Book – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #6 From The Ashes – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #7 Bloodlines – Amazon US | Amazon UK (ON SALE for 99c)
Book #8 The Lies That Bind – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #9 Lucky Days – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #10 Gifts Given – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #11 Hearts Desire – Amazon US | Amazon UK (PREOR

Hello July. More On Romance Don’ts For You. This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Hello July.

More On Romance Don’ts For Readers

Welcome to July! The month that means the halfway point of summer, the week of the beginnings of many celebrations for Americans in the States and abroad as we celebrate our Independence Day on the 4th with fireworks and parades. and just a flood of people heading out for summer vacations (beach, mountains, tourist destinations) or good old staycations.

It’s also a time for tons of summer reading which is why I’m still talking about those  Romance Don’ts or at least one of the reasons.  I don’t know if you all caught Kate Sherwood’s blog last week here but she was talking about an early story of her’s where she had her mc’s cheat and the readers wrote in disgusted with her.  And she felt she had broken an unwritten bond with them. The title of her guest blog?  The Romance Taboo by Kate Sherwood.  You can find it here.   I was totally intrigued although not surprised.  Its something I’ve heard over and over myself.

Another reason I’m still inquiring?  That would be the Boystown series written by Marshall Thornton.  Several novels in this series have either won the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Mystery  or been a finalist.  And deservedly so.  But I wonder how many have started these stories and ended up with a DNF.  And the reason being that the main character,  PI Nick Nowak, rarely turns away from a hookup (underage the only exception), despite being in a relationship.  Yes, its the 80’s and gay sex/monogamy was admittedly looked at differently then.  But, and let me know if I’m wrong here, I get the feeling that context doesn’t come much into play when the  element is cheating with regards to the main character or couple.  it’s simply “no, not in my story”.

Which is a damn shame because these books and this series is simply brilliant.  I’ll be reviewing more of them this week. And  I’d like to know what I can possibly say to change readers minds.  For me this subject hasn’t been an issue.  Life is messy and its always been about how the author has handled the subject (as with any other element in their story).  But this is an emotional issue in RL and it carries over into our reading.  Can it ever be separated?  Not sure.  I hope you all will continue to chime in here.  I will be handing  out gift certificates next week.

And yes, I’ve been reading and loving everyone’s comments.  Here is what some of you have had to say on the subject:

On Readers Romance Don’ts:

H.B.

I think it depends on how the characters are portrayed. I can sometimes stand cheating characters but it has to be under certain circumstances (abuse, loveless marriage where spouse is cheating already, open relationship where both characters know and is okay with it). I really don’t like politically or religiously driven stories. Regarding sex scenes I like them enough just to spice up the read but not overtake the entire book. One every chapter is too excessive in my opinion I think maybe for a full length story I would like just maybe 2 to 4 sex scenes. Of course no sex scenes and more intimacy scenes are okay too. I think the one thing a book can’t come back from is if it kills off an important character (I’m going to exclude Andrea Speed’s Infected series from this even tho I didn’t complete the series I have plans to go back and read it after I heal from the lost of Paris). I once read a book where a main character in the earlier series was killed off in the sequel that featured new main characters. Luckily the series only had two books and there were no plans for more because I was completely turned off from it and resented that I had wasted time reading it.

Chris Tharrington

I can tolerate cheating if it advances the storyline while leading to the MCs having an HEA. Regarding sex scenes, I don’t need one every chapter. The first sex scene is the most important, because that sets the foundation for future exploration, especially if one character is primarily a top or bottom. The only things that turn me off in a book are domestic abuse, child abuse, rape, and mpreg storylines.

ashleyomelia

I agree. I hate it when they kill off the pets! [my pet peeve] I just finished reading a short story this morning where a cat got thrown of a building. I was so mad!
As for romance, I’m not sure. I do a lot of ghostwriting, and my clients are often very specific that they don’t want the main characters to have sexual involvement with anyone else. Must be a big rule!

Ami 

In terms of cheating. it depends on my mood — I mean, I’ve read when cheating happened, and I was okay with it as long as there’s SIGNIFICANT GROVELING happened in the book.

My romance No No are mostly about tropes… I don’t read Mpreg, I don’t read M/F/M or F/F/M. for example, rather than something in the plot.

I will have to tell you all I didn’t even mention last week one of my biggest bugaboos.  A  romance book where one of the MC was intensely involved with his own excrement. I believe that was my very first DNF story and it was years ago.  And yes, I found my limit on kink in that novel as well.  Another romance don’t for me.  So let’s hear from you all.  More on this cheating element and any other Romance Don’ts!

Lucky readers will be chosen next week to receive gift cards.  Now on this our week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.

This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, July 1:

  • RELEASE BLITZ – Leaning into Forever by Lane Hayes
  • Hello July. More On Romance Don’ts For You.
  • This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Monday, July 2:

  • Release Blitz for Nobody Else’s by Nell Iris
  • Release Blitz Badlands by Morgan Brice
  • Release Day Blitz Magic or Die (Inner Demons #1) by JP Jackson
  • A Lucy Review: Nobody Else’s by Nell Iris
  • An Alisa Review: Challenge (Kinky in the City #2) by Quinn Ward
  • A Jeri Review: Wash Out (Anchor Point #7) by LA Witt
  • A MelanieM Review:  A Time For Secrets (Boystown #4) by Marshall Thornton

Tuesday. July 3:

  • BLOG TOUR TIGHT QUARTERS by Annabeth Albert
  • DSP Promo Rhett Heath
  • Release Blitz  Play it by Ear by KM Neuhold
  • A VVivacious Release Day Review:  Stranger in a Foreign Land by Michael Murphy
  • A MelanieM Review: Tight Quarters (Out of Uniform #6) by Annabeth Albert
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review: From a Jack to a King by Scotty Cade
  • A Caryn Review: Finn (Endangered Fae #1) by Angel Martinez

Wednesday, July 4 (Happy Independence Day!) 🇺🇸

  • AUDIOBOOK TOUR – WITH A KICK Collection #1 by CLARE LONDON
  • Review Tour for  Rainbow Place (Rainbow Place #1) by Jay Northcote
  • REVIEW TOUR for Daniel (The Third Legacy) by RJ Scott
  • A Barb the  Zany Old Lady Review:  Daniel (The Third Legacy) by RJ Scott
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Rainbow Place (Rainbow Place #1) by Jay Northcote
  • An Alisa Audiobook Review: Treasure for Treasure (Being(s) in Love #7) by R. Cooper and Dominic Carlos (Narrator)
  • A Lucy Review: Play It By Ear by KM Neuhold

Thursday, July 5:

  • In the Spotlight Tour and Giveaway:  Cinderella Boy by Kristina Meister
  • BLOG TOUR fo My Crunchy Life by Mia Kerick
  • DSP Dreamspun Promo Michael Murphy on Stranger in a Foreign Land
  • A Free Dreamer Review: Armistice (The Amberlough Dossier #2) by Lara Elena Donnelly
  • A Lucy Audiobook Review: Bromantically Yours by K.C. Wells and Narrator: Daniel Henning
  • An Alisa Review:  That’s My Ethan by Tarian PS
  • A MelanieM Review: Murder Book (Boystown 5) by Marshall Thornton

Friday, July 6:

  • Cover Reveal for Curl Around My Heart by Londra Laine l
  • Review Tour and Giveaway for Stag and the Ash (The Rowan Harbor Cycle #5) by Sam Burns
  • Review Tour for Spark (North Star #1) by Posy Roberts
  • Blog Tour for  Magic or Die (Inner Demons, Book One) by JP Jackson
  • A Free Dreamer Review: Stag and The Ash (Rowan Harbor Cycle #5) by Sam Burns
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review: Knitting a Broken Heart Back Together by Ari McKay
  • A Stella Review: Spark (North Star #1) by Posy Roberts

Saturday, July 7:

  • BLITZ – Leaning Into the Look by Lane Hayes
  • Release Blitz for  Knitting a Broken Heart Back Together by Ari McKay
  • A MelanieM Review: From the Ashes (Boystown #6) by Marshall Thornton