A Caryn Advent Calendar Review: The Faller by Daniel de Lorne

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A historical set in Australia – why haven’t I read one of these before?  I have to admit that’s what caught me about the blurb on this one, and I loved the term “faller” instead of the North American “lumberjack” that I am used to.  The author did a great job of making me feel like I was right there in the jarrah forests, with men hewing railway sleepers from the mighty trees with only muscle and axe, living in primitive and dangerous conditions to support the booming timber industry.

The story starts with Charlie Young, skinny, short, and, yes, young, in the forest trying valiantly, and mostly failing, to cut railway sleepers with 4 other experienced fallers.  Working the forest was potentially a lucrative job, but the fallers got paid by the piece, so Charlie was in very real danger of running out of money and starving.  The best faller in the group was big, strong Jack Tapper, able to turn out perfect sleepers at a rate 2-3 times faster than the others.  Jack kept to himself, but his size, reputation, and mere presence intimidated all the men in the camp, and especially Charlie.

Even though Jack was exactly the sort of man that Charlie was most attracted to.

When all the men but Charlie and Jack went in to the town for a four day holiday around Christmas, Charlie found that Jack felt the same way he did, and knowing their time together alone was short, they made the best of it.  But the hyper-masculine nature of the timber industry in 1912 Australia was not a safe place at all to be gay, and hiding their connection proved to be a lot harder than Charlie thought it would be…

As is usual with short stories, I wanted more – more time to build the background, more time for the men to learn about each other and fall in love, and more time to develop the conflict that would give interest to the story.  But even in the constraints of a short story, I thought there was too much of Charlie’s inner monologue going on, which made the story move slowly.  The conflict and danger toward the end of the book was certainly very real – I don’t think the word homophobia could come close to adequately describing what could happen to a gay man in this setting – but somehow seemed superficial, and the resolution and ending seemed a bit too easy and abrupt.  Charlie’s immature decisions were consistent with his character, but I think the author made the bad guys a little too villainous, and it felt over the top.  Jack, on the other hand, was beautifully portrayed, with just the right amount of description and dialogue.  The historical details were really well done and clearly well researched though, and for me that made up for a lot of the areas I didn’t like.  Overall, I really enjoyed this, and I will look for more form this author.

Cover art by L.C. Chase doesn’t do justice to the historical aspects of the story, but the lumberjack is spot on.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 46 pages
Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644050453
Edition Language English

Love Holiday Stories? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Designer Holiday by Ari McKay! (giveaway)

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Length: 40,000 words approx.
 
Blurb
 

It’s never too late for a second chance at love… or is it?


Rayne Sadler left the tiny town of Holiday Pines and his childhood sweetheart, Emilio Rives, to make a name for himself in the world of interior design. For twelve years, he never looked back. Now he has the successful career he wanted, but no one to share his life.


Emilio isn’t happy when Rayne returns to Holiday Pines to renovate the local playhouse. The town wants to stimulate the failing tourist industry, but Emilio has no interest in reviving the ashes of his relationship with Rayne.


Yet shared memories and experiences are powerful things. As the playhouse is restored to its former glory, the friendship between Rayne and Emilio slowly returns as well, and their chemistry is as powerful as ever. Rayne has designs on Emilio’s heart, and he sets out to prove it. Will the magic of Christmas thaw Emilio’s heart, or will it remain as cold as mountain snow?

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.


Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.


McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.


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Release Blitz for The Selkie Prince’s Unexpected Omega (The Royal Alphas #3) by J.J. Masters (excerpt)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: The Selkie Prince’s Unexpected Omega

Series: The Royal Alphas, Book 3

Author: J.J. Masters

Publisher: Self-Published

Cover Artist: Megan Parker of EmCat Designs

Genre/s: Contemporary Romance (PNR/Gay/mpreg)

Length: 58 368 words/240 pages

It’s a standalone story within a series

Add on Goodreads

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US 

Amazon UK 

 

Blurb

An alpha claim. A possible heir. A Selkie prince whose mistake might just be what the fates intended.

Zale, the third alpha-born son of King Solomon, is concerned. His youngest brother, Caol, has been spending time with an unbonded omega. Being a responsible alpha, Zale feels it’s his duty to warn the omega Finn before he and Caol get into trouble. Especially since Finn had only been brought to the colony by their father in case his oldest brother’s fated mate couldn’t conceive. However, when Zale goes to Finn’s quarters to have a word with him, he isn’t expecting to discover what he does: the omega in the throes of oestrus and begging for an alpha’s assistance.

Finn has nowhere else to go. Not only unwanted by his own family, his previous alpha perished in a tragic accident. So for the past two years, the omega has relied on the King of the North’s generosity, even if it means he may end up as a surrogate for one of the alpha-born princes. Or even worse, the king’s sixth mate. But when the Prince Zale comes upon him during his heat, Finn demands relief from the alpha. Although afterward, has to live with the guilt. Now, he might not only be carrying the prince’s son, he may have very well ruined Zale’s chance to find his true fated mate…

Note: A 58k-plus word m/m shifter mpreg story, this is the third book in the Royal Alpha series. Due to the “knotty” times in this book, it is recommended for mature readers only. While it can be read as a standalone, it’s recommended to read the series in order. And, like all of my books, it has an HEA.

 

 

Excerpt

Zale’s jaw was tight and his teeth gritted as he waited in the hall outside of Finn’s quarters.

He knocked again. This time more loudly using the heel of his fist, since, apparently, his knuckles weren’t getting the job done.

The alpha-born prince was losing his patience, which he usually had an abundance of. Just not today. Especially since the visiting omega, Finn, had been seen sneaking off with Zale’s youngest brother Caol.

Which was dangerous.

Particularly since Caol was considered a Selkie slut. What humans would call a man-ho. He loved to rut with anyone who would let him, be it Selkie, human or hybrid. Most likely any male with a cock swinging between his legs.

Hell, he probably rutted with other species of shifters.

But even so, it brought Zale back to the problem at hand. He and his brothers had told their father, the King of the North, that he should send Finn away. Return the omega to his own colony. That he was no longer needed here at the Northern colony. But his father hadn’t listened.

No surprise there.

They all suspected that King Solomon had considered taking the omega for himself.

But a whole two years had passed since the King first brought Finn to the castle, so it made no sense for the unbonded male to remain. His father needed to shit or get off the pot. Either take Finn as his own to bear more sons or send the poor omega home so he could find an alpha of his very own.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a fated mate waiting for Finn anywhere. His supposed alpha had been killed and eaten by an orca during their bonding swim from what Zale understood.

None of them had ever asked Finn about it because neither Zale or his brothers wanted to know those cringe-worthy details and they also were inclined to avoid him since he was an unbonded male. Again, being around an unbonded omega could be dangerous.

However, Caol tended to be reckless. If the omega came into heat, Caol would most likely be the proud father of a future pup. Zale could just imagine how the king’s head would spin at that news.

So, Zale needed to nip whatever was going on between Finn and Caol in the bud. For his youngest brother’s sake and also for Finn’s. If the omega had the urge to rut, he could do so with some of the betas the king kept on hand for that purpose. Nothing stopped Finn from taking a beta lover, especially since his corona membrane was no longer intact.

But an alpha? No. He could not rut with an alpha that was not his mate.

That was against Selkie law.

Caol knew that. As did Finn.

Therefore, Zale was being a good older brother and trying to head off a disaster.

Or that’s what he told himself.

Yes, he was protecting not only Caol but this omega… who continued to live among a castle-full of alphas even though that was unsafe.

He stared at the heavy wood door and cursed. Why wasn’t Finn answering?

He leaned closer and shouted, “Finn! Are you in there? Open your door.”

Zale listened carefully. Nothing.

He was done knocking. He had announced his presence and now it was time to take the next step…

Into the omega’s quarters.

 

About the Author 

J.J. Masters is the alter-ego of a USA Today bestselling author who writes hot, gay romance filled with heart, humor and heat. J.J. became fascinated with mpreg romance as soon as she figured out what mpreg stood for. She loves to write about “knotty” men!

You can join JJ’s FB Group here: https://www.facebook.com/JJMastersAuthor/  or her newsletter here: https://bit.ly/2E2zcaB to keep up with exclusive content and news.

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A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Semper Fae (Endangered Fae #3) by Angel Martinez

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The is book three in the Endangered Fae series. While you could probably read this alone, it would be best if you started from book one. Having said that, this is the best book so far and shows what could have been possible in the first two books. This is just more fun and action packed, with layers. It also introduces many new characters. All of the sudden weird paranormal phenomena is happening all over. Human magic is different from fae magic, but they are connected. Just as the shifter fae start to get a magical illness, humans start turning into vampires and werewolves, or developing new powers. I love the idea that all of the legends and lore are real, and are now alive because the Veil is open again.

While this book still has a lot of Finn and Diego, Finn is sidelined a bit with an illness and Diego has bigger problems. The main romance is between Zach, the marine medic from book two, and Lugh. Zach is working as the head of Lugh’s security detail. Lugh is, of course, a shifter fae and part bull. This book is more explicitly bestial than the previous books. There is also an element of dubcon. They seem to find their footing at the end and know what works for them. There were two times in the book when something is a huge emotional deal, and all is quickly forgiven when someone is injured, once with Zach and his parents and once with Lugh and Zach. There could be a better way of working out these conflicts.

As mentioned there are several new characters but the main five are The Silver Adepts, a human coven: Kara, Nate, Brandon, Will, and Minky. Will has awful premonitions, so Minky tries writing to Diego for help, but he isn’t taking them seriously. They have a plan to kidnap him and things go horribly wrong. There was a hint of dragons in book two, so I was waiting for the dragons! Diego and Zach go to find them for help with knowledge about human magic. The dragon lord eventually comes to help train the coven in how to better access their magic. The final showdown and rescue mission, in fact much of the book, reminds me of a comic book. This is no bad thing.

Zach becomes the human Consul for the fae now that Diego is ill. The book leaves some of our characters in the Otherworld making it possible for future books to take place on either side of the Veil. There is now so much magic in the world, these stories could go anywhere or even have spin-offs, so I’ll have to wait and see where the series goes.

The cover art is by Emmy @ studioenp. All the covers in the series are eye catching and fit together.

Sales Links:  Pride Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published October 23rd 2018 by Pride Publishing (first published January 13th 2013)
ASINB07HQ4DXQQ
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesEndangered Fae #3

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Sometimes the best Christmas gift is knowing what you really want.

Rusty Baker is a rich, entitled, oblivious jock, and he might have stayed that way if he hadn’t become friends with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. When Oliver kisses him goodbye before Rusty leaves for college, Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.

But nothing can help Rusty survive a semester at Stanford, and he returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. But with Oliver’s love and the help of Oliver’s amazing family, Rusty realizes that failing college doesn’t mean he can’t pass real life with flying rainbow colors.

Nobody can built characters quite like Amy Lane and put them into situations that then quietly begin to tear the reader’s heart apart, piece by tiny little piece. Rusty Baker is one such character, improbbly so.  On the exterior, he’s would appear to have everything to succeed in life.  He’s  rich, a jock, with a father who is determined to see him into a great school and going places.   That’s the exterior.

It takes  meeting Oliver, not rich not a jock, to reveal the real Rusty Baker. The gentle, insecure, and gay person Rusty is.  There’s also more that becomes readily apparent to Oliver as he tutors Rusty through his classes in high school.  Rusty has a learning disability that never goes named here but is perfectly spelled out in the way he “feels” when he get overwhelmed by his classes, projects, or professors.  God, how you feel for him.

Throughout the story, and as you can imagine Rusty’s life, the damage done to him hasn’t been delivered through physical blows, damning smacks to the body, but in deadly featherlight cuts to the heart and psyche.  It’s been his father, his mother supporting the patriarch, behind the worst of them. Amy Lane, like a surgeon of phrases, uses her words to slice through Rusty and our hearts over and over at unexpected times, leaving all of us shattered.

I was not prepared for how much this book would hurt.

But for all the wounds, there is the healing balm of Oliver, Oliver’s Dad and his family, Rusty’s sister, and even Rusty’s college roommate who encircle this damaged young man, help him to heal, build him a new foundation of family, support, and love.

Oddly, enough I think of Oliver and Rusty snuggling with Peanut as one of my favorite scenes.  All happy and content, perfect Christmas.   For me, even with all the Amy Lane tears that fell, this was a holiday story to remember.  And treasure.

It’s one I highly recommend.

Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza.  Not a fan of this cover.  There is so much more the artist could have pulled from.  Indistinguishable from any other couple.  Nothing special that separates it out for this story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, Second Edition, 200 pages
Expected publication: December 7th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published December 7th 2013)
ASINB07JGXPM71
Edition Language English
Characters Oliver Campbell, Russell “Rusty” Calvin Baker setting California (United States)
El Dorado, California (United States)

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audio Review: P.S. I Spook You by S.E. Harmon and Noah Michael Levine (Narrator)

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

From the blurb: SA Rain Christiansen used to be the agency’s golden boy. It just takes one moment of weakness, one slight, tiny, itty-bitty paranormal sighting, and all of a sudden he’s the agency’s embarrassment. His boss gives him one last chance to redeem himself—go down to Brickell Bay, play nice with the local police, and leave the ghost sightings behind. Rain is determined to do exactly that, even if it kills him. Cold-case detective Daniel McKenna’s latest investigation is going nowhere fast. Five years earlier, high school student Amy Greene went missing after leaving her part-time job and was never seen again. Daniel is glad to finally have the FBI help that his department requested, even if it does come in the form of his ex. It doesn’t help that Rain is pretty sure he’s falling in love with Danny all over again—if he ever stopped. Add to that the frustration of seeing ghosts at every turn while he works a case that’s stalled in its tracks, and Rain is starting to wonder if second chances and happy endings are just for fairy tales.

This was a great story with an established couple who drifted apart and are thrown together by work circumstances, one reluctant medium—FBI SA Rain Christiansen, and cold-case detective Daniel McKenna, who still loves Rain but not his ability to see ghosts. 

The story has so much potential with more than one ghost making requests of Rain whose friends and former lover all seem to think he’s lost his mind. One cold case provides the main plot substance as Rain is visited by the victim’s ghost who leads him to her car hidden in the Everglades. Explain that to his boss and his lover? No way do they understand. There’s a lot of push-pull on the romance and plenty of suspects. Of course, Rain is the type of self-willed character who leaps before he looks, landing him in deep trouble. I liked the plot and the dynamic between Rain and Daniel, as well as Rain’s snarky, humorous attitude.

What pulled the story down a notch for me was the narration. When the speaker wasn’t identified in the dialogue, I couldn’t really tell who was speaking until I figured it out based on what was said. In other words, the narration wasn’t good. The narrator didn’t have enough distinction between the voices of the two MCs. He also mispronounced words, though that’s minor in comparison to the major issue of having two similar voices. I was frequently lost, and though I found the story interesting, I feel sad that I didn’t enjoy it as much as my friends who read the e-book seemed to. So, though I can recommend the story to those who enjoy a mix of romance and mystery, I don’t recommend the audio version.

The cover features two young men kissing in the upper pane while in the bottom pane of the cover a young girl stands with her back to the camera—a great representation of the missing girl.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible |

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, Unabridged, 9 pages
Published October 23rd 2018 by Tantor Audio (first published June 12th 2017)
Original Title P.S. I Spook You
Edition Language English setting Miami, Florida (United States)
Florida (United States)

An Alisa Review: The Last Prince by Shawn Bailey

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Empress Mun-Hee Yi is dying of cancer. And for the last twenty years she has been living in Manhattan, NY after seeking asylum for her and her four-year-old grandson Ji-Sung Yi since her husband and Ji-Sung’s parents were assassinated by her nephew Eun-So Yi in a coup to take over the throne.

Since learning about her illness, Ji-Sung has been helping his grandmother with her bucket list. There were just two things left. Number 99 is for them to return to their native land, and number 100 is that she wants to be buried beside her husband Emperor Si-Woo on the grounds of the Blue Palace. As luck would have it Eun-So Yi is executed for his crimes but Ji-Sung hopes number 100 won’t happen for a long, long time. Unbeknownst to him, Mun-Hee has another thing on her list…to see that her grandson find love and to settle down.

This was an okay story, though I’m not sure how I feel about a grandma setting up her grandson and pushing someone to him.  Ji-Sung is being thrown into the life he was meant to live but luckily has great people to support and help him.

The way this story was written didn’t allow much connection to the characters.  We do see parts of the story from different points of view it just seemed as if from a distance.  In the end I am not totally sure how I feel about Ji-Sung and Kyung-Soon’s relationship and how it seems to be hidden.

The cover art by Melody Pond is nice and gives a nice view of Ji-Sung’s new home.

Sales Links: MLR Books | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 11,000 pages

Published: October 25, 2018 by MLR Books

ISBN: 978-1-64122-2013

Edition Language: English

A Stella Advent Calendar Review: Trapped in the Valley of the Kings by Blue Jones

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

A Story from the Warmest Wishes: Dreamspinner Press 2018 Advent Calendar

Rival archaeologists Will and Jude slept together a year ago, on the night of the Summer Solstice at a dig in Stonehenge. But they were both wearing masks, so Jude has no idea it was Will he slept with, and Will’s been harboring a powerful, one-sided crush ever since.

Now they’re in Egypt, competing to find the lost tomb of Queen Nefertiti. Jude falls through a crack in the cave floor, and when Will reluctantly climbs down to help him, they find themselves in Nefertiti’s tomb, surrounded by archaeological treasures—where they must spend Christmas stranded by a sandstorm.

Will a few sultry hours stripped almost bare from the heat and sharing a bottle of whiskey sort out who should get credit for the discovery—and the real reason for the tension between them?

This was another short story from this year Dreamspinner Press’ Advent Calendar. I quite enjoyed it. It’s a super quick reading, interesting and cute. It left me with a goofy smile on my face. I’m going to be honest, I was able to know pretty much nothing about Will and Jude, apart from their jobs and the attraction they feel for each other. There is not even one second character, just these two men trapped in the tomb of Nefertiti. Still I found this short well done, very sweet and sexy; I loved seeing the MCs  tease each other and then finally be honest about their feelings.

I would so love to know more about Will and Jude, they totally deserve more words.

The cover art by L.C. Chase is not what I  like a cover to be, eye catching and fitting, this cover doesn’t have these qualities.

SALE LINKS  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 24 pages

Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN13 9781644050446

Edition Language English

Jaime Samms on Backyard Paradise and her new release Sunshine in the Dragon’s Heart by Jaime Samms

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Sunshine in the Dragon’s Heart by Jaime Samms
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art: Tiferet Designs

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | B&N

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Jaime Samms here today on tour with her latest novel, Sunshine in the Dragon’s Heart.  Welcome, Jaime.

This book has been such a joy to write. It really brought me back to some childhood places. I set it in what I call my “back yard”. In my head, I was once again wandering the acres of scrub forest that have overgrown the cow fields where my own mother used to drive the cows to the barn. They are by no means old growth, majestic or wonderous. They are poplar stands and aspen groves and dense, prickly pine and spruce stands. When I was a kid, there were also a ton of white-bark birch trees. A tiny creek runs through it and there is a hill near the back line of the property where blueberries grow thick and wild in the summer.

It’s not paradise. But as a kid growing up with that out the back door, it was my paradise. The squishy moss beds and the trickle of the creek were the backdrop for all my day dreams. And trust me, I had many, many day dreams.

I hope I shared some of my love of that place in this book. Life changes all the time, and some day, this might not be there any more, or might not be mine to visit whenever I want. So I had to do my best to preserve it however I could, and since words are my thing, that’s what I used this time.

Hopefully, Sunny and Emile can inhabit that spot in our imaginations for a long, long time.

Blurb:

When Sunny retires to the northern Ontario wilderness to mourn his parents’ deaths, he’s hoping the change of scenery will afford him some peace and quiet.

 

His hopes are soon spectacularly dashed.

 

In self-imposed exile, dragon Emile runs across the Fold between his dimension and Sunny’s—and right into Sunny’s arms. Centuries out of touch with human culture, bright, beautiful Emile incinerates any hope Sunny had for an ordinary existence. With dryads and water sprites coming to life all around them, Sunny can’t deny the magic Emile brings to his life—or his heart. But that same magic leads the unrelenting dragon who would keep Emile captive right to them. To save his love, Sunny will have to reach deep and find some magic of his own.

About the Author

Jaime has been published since the fall of 2008. Her Stories about men falling in love are the stories that she loves to read, so they are also the stories she loves to write.

 

Spare time, when it can be found rolled into a ball at the back of the dryer or cavorting with the dust bunnies in the corners, is spent crocheting, drawing, gardening (weather permitting, of course, since she is Canadian!), or watching movies. She has a day job which she loves, and two kids, and thankfully, wonderful husband who shoulders more than his fair share.

 

She graduated some time ago from college with a fine arts diploma, and a major in textile arts, which basically qualifies her to draw pictures and create things with string and fabric. One always needs an official slip of paper to fall back on after all . . .

 

 

Website: http://jaimesamms.com

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Twitter:https://twitter.com/#!/JaimeSamms

Amazon Author page: amazon.com/author/jaimesamms

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Blog Tour for The Stars May Rise and Fall by Estella Mirai (excerpt and giveaway)

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BLOG TOUR

Book Title: The Stars May Rise and Fall

An M/M retelling of Phantom of the Opera set in turn-of-the-millennium Japan

Author: Estella Mirai

Publisher: Self-published

Cover Artist: MiblArt

Genre/s: M/M romance, contemporary

Heat Rating: 2 flames

Length: 90 000 words/320 pages

It is a standalone story.

Add on Goodreads 

Blurb

Teru came to Tokyo with dreams of making it big in the glam-metal visual kei scene, but three years later, all he has to show for it is a head of hot pink hair and some skill with an eyeliner pencil. He may look the part, but he doesn’t sound it, and constant bickering among his bandmates has him worried about his future. When he finds a mysterious business card in his bag, he’s willing to take any help he can get.

Help comes in the form of Rei, a crippled, disfigured composer whose own career was ended by an accident before it had really begun. With Teru’s voice and looks, and Rei’s money and songwriting skills, both of their dreams seem about to come true – but a forbidden kiss and a late-night confession threaten to tear it all apart. Now Teru, who has spent most of his life denying his attraction to men, and Rei, who vowed long ago never to love again, must reconcile their feelings with their careers – and with their carefully constructed ideas of themselves.



THE STARS MAY RISE AND FALL is an M/M retelling of Phantom of the Opera, set in Tokyo at the turn of the millennium. It comes with a healthy dose of angst and a dollop of nostalgia, as well as an age-difference romance, a physically disabled love interest, and memorable characters who will stay with you long after the pages are closed.

Buy Links

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

Excerpt 

I can help you. Call me.

Teru ran his finger around the edge of the card. Maybe it had been a mistake. Should he call, and let whoever had left it know?

He opened the window and lit a cigarette. The smoke floated out into the muggy Tokyo night.

“This is stupid,” he said aloud. “It’s one in the morning. Whoever it is, they’re asleep.”

But Teru wasn’t asleep. His bandmates probably weren’t asleep either. If it was a musician who had left the card, one in the morning was better than one in the afternoon.

I can help you. Call me.

He picked up his phone and dialed.

It rang once, twice—and Teru cut the connection. This is stupid. But he didn’t feel stupid. He felt guilty, like he’d been doing something he shouldn’t.

He stubbed out the cigarette and walked across the room to the refrigerator. Nothing but a pack of noodles and a flat Diet Coke. Even though he’d already had a couple with the guys after the show, what Teru really needed was a beer.

On the other side of the room, the phone rang.

The floor was littered with clothes and magazines and Playstation controllers. Teru almost tripped as he lunged for the phone, and then only crouched there, watching it, with his nerves wrapped around his voice box like a snake. There was no name with the number, but Teru knew it by heart. He’d only been staring at it for the past hour.

The ringing stopped. An engine rumbled outside Teru’s window, and a train clattered over distant tracks. Upstairs, slippered feet padded across a tatami floor. The air was thick with an anticipation far from silence—but just as easily shattered by the trill of a different ring.

Teru’s fingers fumbled to open the text.

I heard you sing.

He stared, waiting for the words to sink in. They didn’t, though. They made no sense.

It had only been a mistake after all.

You’ve got the wrong number, he replied. This is Teru, the drummer for La Rose Verboten. I don’t sing.

And then: You should.

The phone rang again.

“Hello?”

“You have a beautiful voice.”

It wasn’t Yasu. It wasn’t anyone he knew.

“Hello?” Teru repeated. “Who is this?”

“A friend.” The voice was male, deep and effortlessly sensual in a way that Seika would have envied. It made Teru distinctly uncomfortable.

“Look,” Teru said. “I think you want Bara. I’m not the singer. I’m the drummer. The one with pink hair?”

“I heard you,” the man pressed. “In the dressing room. I can help you.”

In the dressing room? There’d been no one else in there.

“Is this some kind of joke?”

“Not at all.”

“What do you want?” Teru whispered.

“To teach you. To help you. Will you meet with me?”

Teru’s palms were sweaty, his face flushed. It was partly exhaustion, partly a lingering buzz… but it was more than that. He felt dirty. This was worse than what he felt with Seika—and it was just a voice on the goddamn phone.

“There’s a studio in Koenji,” he heard himself say.

“No!” the man snapped, and he took a sharp, hissing breath. “No studios. You may come to my apartment.”

“Your apartment?”

“Please. It is… difficult, for me to go out.”

“Um… okay.” What the hell did that mean?

“I live in Meguro,” the man said. “Near the live house. I can send you the address. If you’ll come.” There was a plea in his voice, a quiet desperation. Teru swallowed, hard.

“You want to give me singing lessons?”

“Yes.”

This was insane. “When?”

“Whenever you are free.”

Teru glanced at his calendar. June, 2000. Three years, almost to the day, since he had stepped off the night bus from Niigata. After all that time, he didn’t even have anything to lose.

About the Author

Estella Mirai lives just outside of Tokyo with her human family and a very spoiled lap cat. When she isn’t reading or writing, she works in editing and translation—which means that 99% percent of her day is usually words. In her minimal free time, she enjoys watching musicals, cooking (badly), and slaughtering power ballads at karaoke.

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