A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: I’ve Got This (Joy Universe #1) by Louisa Masters


Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Derek Breyer is the director of one of the theme parks at Joy Universe, a park the author modeled after the infamous mouse park. He’s gorgeous, smart, personable, and career-driven. He also happens to be as nice as he looks, but when he meets the new dancer, direct from Broadway, Trav Jones takes an instant dislike to him. Derek seems too good to be true, and very much like the high school bullies Trav had to avoid in his teens.

When circumstances keep throwing them together, and Trav gives him a chance, Derek turns out to be the opposite of Trav’s original suppositions, and within a few weeks of dating and hanging out, they realize they are in love. Now a new problem arises: what happens after Derek’s contract expires midsummer?

I liked this story but, to be honest, the first person POV in present tense is something I really dislike. And to top it off, the author kept dropping asides from the character to the audience, i.e., me—the reader, and that totally turned me off and tuned me out. This happened more often toward the end of the story so by the last page I was happy to say goodbye to Joy Universe and its cast of characters.

The story itself is interesting as a murder occurs at the beginning along with a major disaster that strikes much of the cast of performers and Derek has to hustle to keep it all contained. As the story unfolds, the murder brings negative publicity to the park and Derek faces the loss of the job that is a part of his life. He may also lose Trav if he can’t open up to him emotionally. All that was well and good, but those times when the character speaks directly to the reader? No, just no. I don’t only dislike that—I hate it. So overall, though the romance was sweet, it was pretty much insta-love, the sex was off-page so those who like fade to black will be happy, and the situation is resolved enough at the end that all parties are happy.

The cover by Reese Dante features a head shot of a handsome blond man, exactly like the MC in the story. The light colors and the face of the man attracted me to the story and I wasn’t disappointed.

Sales Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo |  | Goodreads

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 195 pages
Published September 24th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644053256
Edition Language English

Shira Anthony on Life Aboard and an Exclusive Excerpt from The First Step (Coastal Carolina #1) ~ guest blog and excerpt


The First Step (Coastal Carolina #1) by Shira Anthony

Dreamspinner Press
Published September 17th 2019
Cover Artist: L.C. Chase

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press |  AmazonBarnes & Noble | ITunes | Kobo

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Shira Anthony on tour for her new release The First Step.  Welcome, Shira.



Life Aboard and an Exclusive Excerpt from The First Step

Thank you, Melanie and Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words, for hosting this stop on The First Step blog tour! The First Step is the first in my brand new series of gay romances set at the Carolina coast and featuring men who live and work near the water. Be sure to read to the end for an exclusive excerpt from the book.

Starting in December of this year, my husband and I will be living full-time on our beautiful catamaran sailboat, Prelude, named after one of the books in my Blue Notes series. I posted a tour of our boat on Facebook if you’d like to check her out: https://www.facebook.com/shira.anthony/videos/vb.100002261894384/1727557950662918/?type=3 She’s 38 feet long and nearly 24 feet wide, with a good size galley (kitchen), salon (boat living room), 2 heads (bathrooms), and 3 cabins. If you include the outside space in the cockpit, which has a table that seats 6, she’s bigger than the apartment I lived in years ago in New York City. But living aboard a boat presents lots of challenges, including lack of storage, constantly having to keep complicated mechanical systems working, not to mention keeping enough water and food aboard to live while you’re away from land.

Since one of the main characters in The First Step owns a sailboat and also works as an ocean pilot (he navigates the huge cargo ships into port for a living), I thought it might be fun to talk about life aboard a pleasure (cruising) boat. Half of you are probably thinking “no effing way would I live on a boat for years!” and the other half think it sounds like heaven.

To be honest, it’s somewhere in between for me. Yes, I love being on the water (as long as it isn’t too rough, since I get seasick sometimes), but I also love having my “stuff,” and the idea of giving up my apartment makes me pretty uneasy. There’s very little room on a boat for lots of clothes, especially for this clothes (and shoe) horse. Same goes for food. Our fridge is about as big as a large dorm fridge. Fortunately the freezer is a little bigger. But mostly you need to stock up as you go, which means cooking whatever you find locally.

And then there’s the toilet…. If you’ve ever been to Central America, you’ve probably been like me and grumbled at having to put toilet paper in a garbage can next to the toilet. Welcome to the world of the boat “head.” My husband’s least favorite thing is sticking his arm up to his elbow into the “hold”. Which holds what you might expect it would. Yuck! So we tend to steer clear of putting anything in the toilet that isn’t “natural.” And yes, you have to get someone to pump out the holding tank the same way you do on an RV.

When you’re on the water, it’s pretty ironic that conserving water is a huge issue. The problem is, of course, that there’s tons of salt water, but very little fresh. On land, especially in the US, we take an abundance of water for granted. But in many island nations like the Caribbean or Bahamas, fresh water can run upwards of a dollar a gallon, which when you think of how much water you use for just a shower, it gets really expensive, really quick. We have a water maker, which takes salt water and converts it to fresh, but it doesn’t make infinite water, so you have to conserve in everything you do. That means turning the shower off to soap up and turning it on again to rinse off. Same with doing dishes (I have a dishwasher – his name is Bob). It also means using ocean water to flush the heads.

Of course, most of the downsides of boating pale in comparison to the best part: being on the water. There’s nothing better than exploring the coast, meeting other boaters, and stepping back from the rat race to enjoy the beauty of the ocean. Our boat is my Zen place for writing, and I’m looking forward to writing many more stories about the coast. Who knows, maybe even a story about a writer who takes a few years off to sail?

Be sure to read on for an exclusive excerpt from the book. Happy reading! -Shira

Exclusive Excerpt:

The slight movement of the mainsail ceased and the fabric smoothed. Reed knew enough about sailing to appreciate just how well Justin controlled the boat, correcting in tiny increments to keep the sails full. Justin must have noticed him watching, because he asked, “Would you like to steer?”

Reed swallowed hard. “Are you sure?”

Justin scooted over. “Absolutely sure. It’s not like you can hit anything out here. You know the basics, right?”

Reed nodded and put his hands on the wheel. “Keep her pointing so that the sails don’t luff?”

“Yep. We can keep sailing on this tack until we’re ready to head back through the inlet, so that’s really all there is.” He put his hand reassuringly over Reed’s, causing Reed to momentarily lose his focus.

“Shit.” Reed adjusted the helm but overcompensated.

“Patience,” Justin said. “It takes the boat a couple of seconds to finish making the correction.”

“Got it.” Reed eased the wheel back a little and felt the boat pull against the wind, a familiar sensation he remembered from sailing as a kid. He laughed and glanced over at Justin, who beamed back at him.

“How many summers did you sail?”

“Two,” Reed replied. “Of course, the boats were a lot smaller than this one. So was my dad’s.”

“Once you understand the basics, the feel’s the same, big or small.” Justin watched him for a few minutes, then added, “You’re doing great.”

“Thanks.” He hadn’t expected Justin’s praise to feel so good. I didn’t expect any of this. He knew he needed to get back to interviewing Justin at some point, but he was having way too much fun to dampen the mood with lots of questions.

A comfortable silence settled between them as they sailed. The day was perfect, and the feel of the sleek boat under Reed’s hands made him remember what he’d felt like when he was a kid sailing with his dad. Good memories. Things had been simpler then, before he’d gone to middle school and stopped fitting in. The little kid in him wished his father could see him now. The adult in him wished his father was sitting in the cockpit with them, enjoying the ocean and the bright blue sky above.

“Thanks for inviting me,” Reed said after a while. “I’d forgotten how great it feels to sail. Last time I was on the water other than taking photos this past week was taking the Staten Island Ferry to some political rally.”

“Not exactly the same, is it?”

“Not exactly. Don’t get me wrong, I love New York Harbor on a sunny day.” He just didn’t have the time to enjoy it.

“One of these days I’m going to sail up to New York Harbor,” Justin said. “Take a few months off and head north.”

“Sounds amazing.” Reed imagined what it might be like to live aboard a boat for months at a time. The First Step wasn’t that much smaller than his high-rise studio apartment in Midtown.

Justin stretched his arms over his head and yawned.


Justin shrugged. “I had a tough time getting to sleep last night.”

“At least I wasn’t the only one.” If you only knew. Justin had featured prominently in his dreams, and it made for a very long night of tossing and turning.

“We’ll nap on the beach after lunch.” Justin took a sip from his soda and looked over his sunglasses at something in the distance.

“What do you see?”

Justin put a hand on the wheel. “Go look for yourself. Starboard, about two o’clock.” He gestured to the life vest belt pack Reed had been wearing earlier. “You’ll see better on the foredeck.”

“Okay.” Reed snapped the pack on and walked along the lifelines to the bow. He saw them a moment later—a pod of dolphins swimming a few hundred feet off the right side of the boat. One of the animals jumped out of the water and dove back down, showing its tail flukes. Reed gasped in happy surprise.

“Bottlenose dolphins,” Justin said from beside him.

Reed stared at him in surprise. “Who’s…?”

“Autopilot.” Justin showed Reed a small electronic device. “I rigged this baby so I could sit on the foredeck and steer. Came in handy the other day when I was fishing you out.”

“This is much more fun.” Reed nearly clapped with excitement as several dolphins began to swim alongside.

“If you head out to the Gulf Stream,” Justin said, “you’ll see spotted dolphins too.”

“Do you ever see whales out here?”

“Yep. Never seen one on this boat, though. We usually see them come November, but I had to steer around one last week near the Cape Fear Inlet.”

Reed wished he could have seen that too. “I’m jealous.”

“I have the best job.”

Reed had to force himself not to reach for his notebook—he didn’t want to give Justin an excuse to shut down again. Besides, this was a quote he’d remember without having to write it down.


A Coastal Carolina Novel

The first step is the hardest. After a scandal, New York political reporter Reed Barfield is lying low at the North Carolina coast, writing a story about the seafood industry. But it’s the harbor pilots on the Cape Fear River who capture his interest—men who jump across ten feet of open ocean to grab a rope ladder and guide huge container ships into port. Men like sexy but prickly Justin Vance. 

After surviving an abusive childhood and a tour in the Navy, Justin isn’t fazed by his dangerous job—it’s certainly easier to face than Reed’s annoying questions. Justin isn’t out at work, and he doesn’t need Reed digging into his personal life or his past. 

But Reed’s no stranger to using his considerable charm to get what he wants, and as he wears Justin down, they realize they have a lot in common—and that they like spending time together. Moving beyond that, though, will mean Justin confessing his sexuality and learning to trust Reed with his secrets—if Reed even decides to stay. Both men want a future together, but can they find the courage to take the first step?

About the Author

Author bio: Shira Anthony was a professional opera singer in her last incarnation, performing roles in such operas as Tosca, i Pagliacci, and La Traviata, among others. She’s given up TV for evenings spent with her laptop, and she never goes anywhere without a pile of unread M/M romance on her Kindle. You can hear Shira singing “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca by clicking here: Shira’s Singing

Shira loves a great happily-ever-after and never writes a story without one. She’s happy to write what her muse tells her, whether it’s fantasy, sci fi, paranormal, or contemporary romance. She particularly loves writing series, because she thinks of her characters as old friends and she wants to visit them even after their stories are told.

In real life, Shira sang professionally for 14 years, and she currently works as a public sector attorney advocating for children. She’s happy to have made writing her second full-time job, even if it means she rarely has time to watch TV or go to the movies. Shira writes about the things she knows and loves, whether it’s music and musicians, the ocean, or the places she’s lived or traveled to. She spent her middle school years living in France, and tries to visit as often as she can.

Shira and her husband spend as many weekends as they can aboard their 38′ catamaran sailboat, Prelude, at the Carolina Coast. Not only has sailing inspired her to write about pirates and mermen, her sailboat is her favorite place to write. And although the only mermen she’s found to date are in her own imagination, she keeps a sharp lookout for them when she’s on the water.

Shira Anthony: http://www.shiraanthony.com

Twitter: @WriterShira

Release Blitz and Giveaway for The Secrets We Keep by Rick R Reed



Length: 195 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Design: Reese Dante

Jasper Warren is a happy-go-lucky young man in spite of the tragedy that’s marred his life. He’s on a road to nowhere with his roommate, Lacy, whom he adores, and a dead-end retail job in Chicago.

And then everything changes in a single night. Though Jasper doesn’t know it, his road is going somewhere after all. This time when tragedy strikes, it brings with it Lacy’s older, wealthy, sexy uncle Rob. Despite the heart-wrenching circumstances, an immediate connection forms between the two men.

But the secrets between them test their attraction. Will their revelations destroy the bloom of new love… or encourage it to grow?


It’s always exciting for me, both as a writer and as a reader, when the two main lovers in a book first meet. In THE SECRETS WE KEEP, that first meeting is at a funeral home wake, for someone both men loved deeply (and for whom many of the secrets in the book are kept).


When he stepped out of the bathroom, someone was waiting for him. An older man.

Jasper tried to thread his way around the guy. “Did you want to go in?” Jasper gestured toward the open bathroom.

“No. I was waiting for you.” The guy eyed him. He was probably a good twenty years older than Jasper, but as inappropriate as it was at a time like this, Jasper couldn’t help noticing how sexy he was. Trim, a little on the short side, it was obvious, even in his impeccably tailored black suit, he was in very good, and very powerful, shape. Jasper was certain those weren’t shoulder pads testing the seams at the tops of his arms.

He had kind eyes. And they were the most amazing shade of pale gray. Jasper had seen a husky once with eyes like that; he couldn’t say he’d ever seen anything like it on a human being. Those eyes were mesmerizing, arresting, and chilling, framed in long, black lashes.

His hair was silver, shorn close on the sides with a bit more on top, spiked with some gel.

He wore a fashionable five-o’clock shadow that Jasper couldn’t deny he wanted to feel—either with his fingers or against his own smooth cheeks.

“For me?” Jasper smiled. “I’m sorry. Do I know you?”

He simply smiled enigmatically. “Probably not. But I bet I know you. You’re Jasper, Heather’s roommate, right?”

“Yeah. And you are?”

“I’m Robert. Robert Burroughs.” He extended his hand.

Jasper gripped the warm hand, slightly soft and a little damp. He didn’t take his eyes off Robert the whole time, and the “whole time” was much longer than the duration of a handshake for most guys. It sent a shiver through Jasper.

“Burroughs?” Jasper had a terrifying thought. What if this is her dad? Good Lord, I’m flirting with Lacy’s dad! At her funeral! The very thought caused beads of sweat to pop out on Jasper’s forehead. He held in a giddy burst of laughter. “Are you, um, related to Lacy? Er, Heather?”

Please don’t say you’re her father.

“I’m her uncle Rob. Did she never mention me?”

Jasper wracked his brain. One thing neither of them did much of was talk about their respective families. They liked to believe they were each other’s family now, “chosen family” was the term they used. The idea, the memory of this, brought a lump to Jasper’s throat, bringing home for real that his best friend was gone. “I’m not sure.”

“It’s okay if she didn’t. I hadn’t seen her in quite some time. My schedule doesn’t afford me much opportunity to see family, as much as I might want to.” He smiled, and Jasper noticed the sadness around his eyes despite it. Robert went on softly, “I wish I’d had one more chance to talk to her, to tell her how I loved her. I’m afraid she didn’t know.”

Jasper nodded. “Me too. If I could just talk to her one more time, maybe we wouldn’t be here.”

Robert cocked his head. “No?”

Jasper didn’t want to disabuse him of the notion that Lacy had not killed herself, if that was what he was choosing to believe. So he simply said, “Who knows?”

“Heather used to write sometimes, a long time ago. She’d shoot me a text, you know, a birthday emoji or a holiday one. We were close when she was a kid. I used to take her places with me whenever I could. Her parents never really got her, you know?”

“Oh, I know.”

“They were always trying to change her. Like, she was left-handed naturally, and they worked and worked and worked on getting her to use her right. They tried to get her to hang out with what they deemed the popular girls. They bought her American Girl dolls when all she wanted was a set of paints and a good book, preferably horror. I could stand here all day and tell you how little my brother and sister-in-law knew their girl. But I won’t.

“I just wish I’d stayed in better touch with her. Once my career took off, back when she was just becoming a teenybopper, I kind of got preoccupied and we lost touch.” He paused and Jasper noticed the tears standing in his incredible eyes. Unexpectedly, he laughed. “When she was a little girl, and I mean like three or four, she would sigh and say, ‘Woe is me.’ What little girl says that?”

“Lacy. It so figures.”

“You call her Lacy. Why?”

“That’s how she referred to herself. She was even thinking of legally changing her name. She hated Heather.”

Robert nodded. “I get that. I never thought of her as a Heather. I’m glad she found something else.” He glanced over his shoulder into the viewing room. “I wish they’d respected that.”

I do too. Jasper felt, suddenly, even sadder. For his own loss, sure, but more for Lacy’s loss. The rest of her life. She could have done so much. She could have been happy. He just knew it.

He placed his hand on Robert’s shoulder. “Look, I intended to stay longer, but I need to get out of here. This place is too oppressive. And it honestly feels like someone else is being waked, not the girl I know. So I’m gonna book. But it was nice to talk to you.”

Robert nodded. “Will you be at the funeral tomorrow morning?”

The funeral was set for one of Rogers Park’s Catholic churches. Then they’d fly the body back to California for burial in the family plot.

It was all wrong. All not what Lacy would have chosen.

Jasper shook his head. “No. I don’t think so. This isn’t her. I think I’ll just remember her as I knew her.”

Jasper turned away, feeling on the verge of tears. He didn’t want to cry in front of Lacy’s uncle—or anyone else gathered at the funeral home, for that matter.

As he reached the door, Robert’s voice stopped him.


He turned.

“Would you mind if I came with you? I need to get out of here too.”


Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed draws inspiration from the lives of gay men to craft stories that quicken the heartbeat, engage emotions, and keep the pages turning. Although he dabbles in horror, dark suspense, and comedy, his attention always returns to the power of love. He’s the award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction and is forever at work on yet another book. Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” You can find him at www.rickrreed.com or www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA with his beloved husband and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix.


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A MelanieM Review: Romancing the Rough Diamond (Romancing the… #4) by Clare London


Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Trust is the most precious jewel of all.

When Mayfair jewelers Starsmith Stones wins the commission for a gay royal wedding, CEO Joel Sterling is recommended to the brilliant young designer Matt Barth—only to discover Matt’s the man with whom he shared an anonymous and passionate kiss on the celebration night.

Disenchanted with the commercial jewelry industry, Matt nowadays prefers muddy archaeological digs to designing. Openly resentful of Starsmith’s hostile takeover of his family’s firm, he is horrified at the realization he’ll be working with the man who engineered that deal—but the opportunity to create something fabulous and unique for the royal couple is too tempting to refuse.

Working as a team reignites the spark between Joel and Matt. But when betrayal from within Starsmith threatens both the project and Joel’s confidence, will they have built enough trust to keep their newfound love as precious as the royal jewels?

I’m thoroughly enjoying Clare London’s Romancing The series and that extends to her latest release Romancing the Rough Diamond (Romancing the… #4). A wonderful combination of entertaining subject matter and romance plus great location, it was easy to read, the romance and relationship made all the more  interesting because of the main character’s professions and the jewelry at the heart of the story.

I liked the characters. CEO Joel Sterling, extremely capable, intelligent, with a love of the jewelry and the art behind it  Jewelry designer Matt Barth, artistic, hot headed, loyal, and highly moral, if judgemental.  A pair where the chemistry is calculated to burn hot.  Which it did.  I love the passages where they worked as a team to achieve the special commission.  That worked so well, highlighting the group dynamics and the entire process which I found fascinating. It broke down somewhat  later on over the whole “betrayal” element because that never seemed so  realistic

The lack of security measures, followup, etc. The accusations that occured never felt more than a unrealistic plot device unfortunately.  I could see it happening, just not that way.

What I was terribly interested in?  Another highly born couple.  I wanted their story and much, much , more of them.  They intrigued me and almost stole the story away.

As did Matt’s family and the archaeological dig at the farm.  I could have had more of that as well.  Especially Joel sloshing about in the mud in the fields and the excitement it drew from Matt.

So many great elements here.  The jewelry industry, another high couple, an archaeological dig, Matt’s family, and, Matt and Joel.   I just think they all sort of fought against each other because each needed more time and perhaps more of the story or another story altogether.  Not sure what I’m saying other than there was a feast of elements here that added to to being too much of a good thing.

Still a lovely romance to read.

Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza. It has some of the right elements and a great model for Matt. Still it’s lacking something.


Book Details:

ebook, 244 pages
Expected publication: September 17th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English
Series Romancing the… #4

An Alisa Review: Love You So Sweetly (Love You So Stories #4) by Tara Lain


Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Reading his future in a glass of sweet tea.

The youngest son of one of America’s richest families, Remy Merced is so busy trying to save his family company from collapse, he’s never taken time to figure out if he’s gay, much less if he’s happy. Then his meddling mama hires him an assistant who’s everything Remy thinks he doesn’t want. Cute Harper Treadwell, from rural Arkansas, is a brilliant business prodigy… and openly gay. His wit and charm could confirm Remy’s suspicions about his own sexuality almost instantly—if they weren’t both already partnered.

When Remy’s girlfriend and Harper’s boyfriend get a little too friendly, Remy finds that the path to happiness requires a long drive in an old Prius, a growing appreciation for small towns, and a whole lot of sweet tea. But before they can forge a future—they have to let go of the past.

I love how sweet these stories are and how they aren’t all so closely connected.  Remy keeps himself so busy that he hasn’t actually been able to spend the time to contemplate his life and if he is even happy with how it’s going, let along if he really wants women or not.  Harper was taken in by a smooth talking man and while it pushed him away from his hometown it did bring him into Remy’s life for the better.

I liked both of these characters, both of them were so innocent in different ways.  Harper was just so trusting and when that trust is broken I hated that he felt he had to run away.  Remy wants his family’s company to succeed and it was hard to see him re-evaluate his life when he meets Harper.  I liked that when the time came Remy was able to step up and then their brilliant minds were able to come up with the solution to both of their problems.

The cover art by Reese Dante is great and I love the visual of Harper and the sweet tea that was a bit of a catalyst for Remy.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 161 pages

Published: September 13, 2019 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN-13: 978-1-64405-568-7

Edition Language: English

Series: A Love You So Story

Tara Lain on Five Fabulous Facts about Love You So Sweetly and her new release the Love You So Sweetly (Love You So Stories #4) by Tara Lain


Love You So Sweetly (Love You So Stories #4) by Tara Lain

Dreamspinner Press
Publication: September 13th 2019
Cover Artist: Reese Dante

Book Links:
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45891332-love-you-so-sweetly
Kindles: https://amzn.to/2HEwNHu

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/love-you-so-sweetly

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-you-so-sweetly-tara-lain/1131798101?ean=9781644055687

iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/love-you-so-sweetly/id1463653860?mt=11&app=itunes

GooglePlay: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Tara_Lain_Love_You_So_Sweetly?id=s-CaDwAAQBAJ

Dreamspinner Press: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/love-you-so-sweetly-by-tara-lain-10756-b


Five Fabulous Facts About LOVE YOU SO SWEETLY

Hi! I’m Tara Lain and today I’m here to introduce my new book, LOVE YOU SO SWEETLY. Here are five facts about the book 

  1. LOVE YOU SO SWEETLY is the fourth book in my Love You So Series, but these books are very lightly connected, making them stand-alone. The main character, Remy Merced, was a minor character in Love You So Madly, but you don’t have to have read that book to understand who Remy is from page one of this book. Feel free to read these stories in any order.
  2. If you’ve read any of my books, you know I love the “opposites attract” trope, but this book outdoes itself. This story is rich boy/poor boy, big city/small town, sophisticated west coast/rural southern, in the closet/out and proud. See, it’s got it all!
  3. I always love happy-ever-after stories and most of my books have HEA endings, but these stories are really, really happy. If you’re looking for angst, try elsewhere. LOL.
  4. While I’m usually associated with the west coast, most often Southern California and now southern Oregon, I was actually born in Georgia. I left when I was a baby, but I think somehow the humidity, live oaks and Spanish moss crept into my spirit. Every now and then, I revisit my roots as I do in LOVE YOU SO SWEETLY.
  5. In real life, I love Pilates. I’ve taken Pilates classes from many different teachers and own my own Reformer, but I’ve never included a Pilates scene in a book – until now. In LOVE YOU SO SWEETLY, some of my fave scenes are in the company gym, with special emphasis on a Pilates class my two heroes both attend.

And that’s it for now. I hope you love my opposites-attract lovers! Hugs.

About Love You So Sweetly

Reading his future in a glass of sweet tea.

The youngest son of one of America’s richest families, Remy Merced is so busy trying to save his family company from collapse, he’s never taken time to figure out if he’s gay, much less if he’s happy. Then his meddling mama hires him an assistant who’s everything Remy thinks he doesn’t want. Cute Harper Treadwell, from rural Arkansas, is a brilliant business prodigy… and openly gay. His wit and charm could confirm Remy’s suspicions about his own sexuality almost instantly—if they weren’t both already partnered.

When Remy’s girlfriend and Harper’s boyfriend get a little too friendly, Remy finds that the path to happiness requires a long drive in an old Prius, a growing appreciation for small towns, and a whole lot of sweet tea. But before they can forge a future—they have to let go of the past.

Excerpt LOVE YOU SO SWEETLY — Dasher

But he and Felicity hadn’t had sex in weeks. Shouldn’t he have a set of horns that would put Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer to shame? Hell, he was in his twenties. Even if he was sleepwalking, shouldn’t he be ready to stick his cock in anything female that passed within five feet of him? Wasn’t that the way most guys felt? Shit, these questions haunted the back of his brain all the time while the front worried about the business. And it wasn’t like he didn’t know why it worried him.

He sipped coffee and glanced at John Jack, who was smiling at his wife with open lust. It’d be nice to have somebody he trusted to tell him straight if he was undersexed or asexual, or…. He sighed softly. But he and John Jack didn’t have that kind of relationship. John Jack was seven years older and was more a product of Arkansas than California. He put a lot of store in “being a man,” and Remy was scared of what John Jack would say if Remy tried to get personal. Remy worked all the time, so everyone he knew was associated with the company, and since Remy was the boss, who the hell was he going to tell his troubles to?

His mama’s voice came from the direction of the kitchen, telling Nigel she’d like some more ice cream.

Felicity turned to Remy and leaned in. “I’m going to make my excuses. I’m too tired.” She put a hand on his arm. “Sorry, dear.” She kissed his cheek, rose, said a fast goodbye to Trudy and John Jack, and was gone before Mama even made it into the room.

Remy had a pretty good idea he shouldn’t be smiling.

Giveaway: $10 Amazon Gift Card

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LINK: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b4c0001d416/?

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

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About the Series:

Book Links:
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45891332-love-you-so-sweetly
Kindles: https://amzn.to/2HEwNHu

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/love-you-so-sweetly

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-you-so-sweetly-tara-lain/1131798101?ean=9781644055687

iTunes: https://books.apple.com/us/book/love-you-so-sweetly/id1463653860?mt=11&app=itunes

GooglePlay: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Tara_Lain_Love_You_So_Sweetly?id=s-CaDwAAQBAJ

Dreamspinner Press: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/love-you-so-sweetly-by-tara-lain-10756-b

Series Information

Link above image to Amazon: https://amzn.to/2M0bb7O

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39509418-love-you-so-hard

Kindle: https://amzn.to/2Ekn197

Audible: https://amzn.to/2LZWDFr

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/love-you-so-hard

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-you-so-hard-tara-lain/1128265129?ean=2940159114952
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/love-you-so-hard/id1357837139?mt=11

Dreamspinner Press: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/love-you-so-madly-by-tara-lain-9634-b

Book Links:

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B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-you-so-madly-tara-lain/1128729869?ean=2940161525616
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/love-you-so-madly/id1383081348?mt=11

Dreamspinner Press: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/love-you-so-madly-by-tara-lain-9634-b

Book Links:
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Audible: https://amzn.to/2ZDY1YV

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iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/love-you-so-special/id1416432464?mt=11

Dreamspinner Press: https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/love-you-so-special-by-tara-lain-9894-b

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Hellion (415 Ink #3) by Rhys Ford


Rating:3.75 stars out of 5

This is the third book in the series featuring five brothers who own a tattoo shop together. The whole series has a strong theme of survival and friends as family, so they would have the best emotional impact if read in order, but there is so much recapping that it’s not necessary. This opposites attract story revolves around SFPD Detective Ruan Nicholls and tattoo artist Ivo Rogers. I have to admit I was looking forward to this pairing, so I enjoyed seeing how they first met. It’s not what happens plot wise that is the draw so much as exploring what happens when people put aside their learned behaviors of defense mechanisms and judgment.

While I like both of these characters, most of the words were spent re-weaving a world that was already built. A novel without a lot of plot could have really delved into getting to know Ruan’s partner Maite, or his friend and landlord Cranson, or his boss.

The prose is always beautiful and focused on observations: “There was a simple beauty in an older woman—a purity of the soul having settled down through life, a river-tumbled gemstone run smooth from its journey through the waters and over unforgiving rocks.” Yet, no one is explored with much depth, nor are any of the words used to layer in more information about the other brothers and move their story forward.

About 50% of the way in, it gets real as Ruan and Ivo connect, talking about their professions, which are their lives. Then it grabbed me by the throat and ripped my heart out. While this scene is powerfully emotional, it is a standout. Also, it is way too much, too early, for a couple barely dating who have seen each other a few times. It works because it’s what damaged people do: throw it all out there to see if the other person runs away. Ivo definitely gives Ruan one hell of a test when he shows up at the police station. My complaint is that Ruan don’t seem to lay himself bare as much as Ivo does, which means the reader doesn’t get to know him in the same way. Yes, the books are about the brotherhood, but the person each picks–their person–needs to be as fleshed out as they are. It gives you glimpses of Ivo’s and Ruan’s daily life and how they start to mesh them into one, but I didn’t live and breathe it.

To be fair, I have been really thinking hard about why I’m a little disappointed because I know fans of this series will love this. While I don’t like to compare books, it’s difficult when I just read Ramen Assassin by the same author and it’s just so much more entertaining. This gives a nice, romantic ending that I think will please everyone. There is a bit at the end dealing with James, so the audience knows whose romance is up next.

The cover art is by Reece Notley (reece@vitaenoir.com). The covers of the series are eye-catching with great models and have a unified look. This isn’t quite how I picture Ivo because of the hair.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, First, 240 pages
Expected publication: September 17th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English
Series 415 Ink #3

415 Ink Series




Rowan McAllister on Choosing Cover Art Work and her new release The Priest (Chronicles of the Riftlands #2)


The Priest (Chronicles of the Riftlands #2) by Rowan McAllister

Dreamspinner Press
Published September 10th 2019
Cover Art: Paul Richmond

Buy Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Barnes&Noble

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Rowan McAllister here today talking about writing, artwork, and her latest story in the Chronicles of the Riftlands series, The Priest. Welcome, Rowan.




Hi there!  Thanks for joining me on stop three of my blog tour! And a big thanks to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for hosting.

On this stop, I answer some interview questions that made me smile. I hope they make you smile too.

Ever drunk written a chapter and then read it the next day and still been happy with it?

Funny you should ask, LOL. The answer is, uh, mostly not. As it says in my bio, I’m a bit of a drinkie as well as a foodie. My hubby and I like to experiment with cocktails all the time, so there have been occasions when I’ve done a bit of drunk-writing, but not often. I’ve threatened it more often than I’ve done it. This is because I usually end up fixing most of it so it’s coherent when I’m sober again. But, I will say, a little alcohol can be a useful tool to get me past some of my hang-ups and out of my shell when necessary. I am by nature a reserved person, the product of a family of quiet, contemplative Michiganders- my husband coincidentally is the same way, also the product of Michiganders. A little booze goes a long way to loosening up some of that reserve, since ‘the feels’ is kind of why we’re here. No one wants to read about two people unable to share their feelings for an entire book, or sharing them in the most reserved, polite, and unimposing terms. Jane Austen aside, I think most modern audiences prefer a bit more meat with their potatoes, a bit more passion than a “I really am quite fond of you,” murmured from a respectful distance. When I need to write the passion, a little bourbon and ginger, gin and tonic, or vodka cocktail greases the wheels. But not too much, otherwise what seemed like a masterpiece through bourbon goggles the night before can look like a second-grade book report the next day. And I don’t think day-drinking is a habit I should probably get into. There are other hobbies that are a little easier on my waistline and my liver, because getting old sucks.

How do you choose your covers?

This particular question is timely since I almost had a cover redo for book one in this series so that we could go a different direction with book two’s cover. The scuttlebutt around the internets and the writing world is that drawn covers are out of fashion. Well, honestly, the hard, cold numbers support it too. On average, books with drawn covers don’t sell as well. As much as I love them, it’s hard to argue with numbers.

Now, I choose my covers to visually represent the feel of my books. I’m a visual artist of sorts on the side, mostly with fiber, so I definitely have opinions on the ‘look’ I want. I see it as an extension of the book itself. Like for my last historical, “We Met in Dreams”, the story was my deep dive into the over-the-top melodrama of the Victorian Gothic, so obviously, I had to have a gothic novel cover- i.e. our hero running away from a spooky house or castle. I don’t make the rules, people. That’s just how it had to be. Now, I didn’t include the white dress because it didn’t seem appropriate to my hero… but I wanted to.

For book one of the Chronicles of the Riftlands, The Wanderer, I chose a drawn cover because it fit the feel of the book so much better than the more intense, photo-realistic covers that are more popular now. The series is my homage to the fantasy novels of my youth and I still have a deep, abiding love for their quirky and unique drawn covers. I likened it to the animated version of the Hobbit from the 70’s vs the darker, live-action remakes of the 2000’s forward. Each has its appeal but the look of the 70’s version fit the feel of my work better.

But then, there the publisher and I were with the second book… and we all have to make a living. I tried with the newer, flashier concepts- with brooding men in black armor and demons with red eyes photoshopped in front of a desolated, fiery landscape. I really did. But they’re just not my style. Lucky for me, Paul Richmond took pity on me and drew the cover for book two, so I didn’t have to compromise this time. Isn’t it pretty? I may have to bow the pressures of the market someday, you know, to actually sell some books… but today is not that day!

What’s next for you as a writer?

The timing worked out that I’m actually just beginning to write book three of this series right when book two is being released. It helps put me in the mindset to talk about my new release since the juices are flowing in a fantasy direction. Between each chronicle in the series, I’m writing something else to keep my eyes fresh. About a month ago, I submitted a new contemporary for consideration that was a bit more of a struggle than I had originally anticipated and therefore took me much longer to finish than I’d planned. But sometimes the muse will not be tamed, and perhaps it will turn out to be a good thing promoting book two at the same time I’m writing book three after all.


The Priest..Chronicles of the Riftlands: Book Two

Brother Tasnerek, one of the infamous Thirty-Six stone bearers, is facing a dangerous crisis of faith after uncovering a secret that could shake the foundations of the Brotherhood of Harot. When Tas is sent to protect a tiny village on the edge of Rassa’s borders from Riftspawn, he struggles to resume his duties, risking his life and the lives of those around him.

Girik has always been an outsider, but to help his sick mother, he agrees to be the village’s offering in a painful ritual deemed necessary by the Brotherhood. But when the priest has a crisis of conscience, Girik offers his help to untangle a web of lies—even if it means getting closer than he ever imagined and committing sacrilege in the process.

With a monster lurking in the forest, a wandering mage mysteriously appearing, and more secrets awakening to unravel the truths of their world, Tas and Girik must make grave decisions. A life without danger seems a far-off hope, but love just might be theirs… if they survive.

About the Author

Rowan McAllister is an unapologetically romantic jack of all trades and a sucker for good food, good cocktails, rich fibers, a great beat, and anything else that indulges the senses. In addition to a continuing love affair with words, she likes to play with textiles, metal, wood, stone, and whatever other interesting scraps of life she can get her hands on. She lives in the woods, on the very edge of suburbia—where civilization drops off and nature takes over—sharing her home with her patient, loving, and grounded husband, three furry rescues, and a whole lot of books, booze, and fabric. Her chosen family is a madcap collection of people as diverse as her interests, all of whom act as her muses in so many ways, and she would be lost without them. Whether her stories have a historical, fantasy, or contemporary setting, they always feature characters who still believe in true love, happy endings, and the oft-underappreciated value of sarcasm.




Parker Williams on Writing and his new release ‘Stained Hearts (Links In the Chain #3)’


Stained Hearts (Links In the Chain #3) by Parker Williams

Dreamspinner Press
Published September 10th 2019
Cover Artist: Reese Dante

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Parker Williams today on tour for his new story Stained Hearts.  Welcome, Parker.




Have you ever put a story away, thinking it just didn’t work?  Then years/months/whatever later inspiration struck and you loved it?  Is there a title we would recognize if that happened?

I wrote several stories when I was younger, including one called ‘Free at Last’. It was the story of Grant Danek and Russell Studler, two teens who were embroiled in coming out and falling in love. Oh, and murder. When I was a teen, I loved the story, because of a character named ‘Aunt Helen’, who was Grant’s mother’s sister. When Grant’s parents died, she stepped in and became his guardian, and one of his best friends. She knew he was falling for Rusty, and she was totally cool with it. What she wasn’t cool with was someone killing a man on their doorstep.

I found it again not too long ago, and thought ‘oh, hell no’. I’ve learned a lot from many different people, and the story would need a complete rewrite if I ever wanted to do anything with it.

Though I do still love Grant and Rusty.


Have you ever had an issue in RL and worked it through by writing it out in a story?  Maybe how you thought you’d feel in a situation?

Yes! Several years ago, I was in a wicked car accident (cherry picker through my windshield). A year after that, Paul and I were rear-ended at a stoplight. Because of that, I wasn’t able to continue doing my job as a waiter (couldn’t carry heavy trays because of the strain on my back). Due to that, the hotel I worked at gave me a job as a cashier. I hated hated hated it. And what made it worse was Valerie Ricks, one of the servers. She was awful. Hateful, mean, spiteful. She made every day at work a chore, and I grew angrier with everyone because they wouldn’t do anything about her.

So I did.

I started thinking of ways she could ‘accidentally’ meet her end, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought of someone who could do those kinds of things. From my dislike of Valerie came Haven’s Creed and Haven’s War.

So, even though I still can’t stand her, I guess I kind of owe her a debt of thanks.


Ever drunk written a chapter and then read it the next day and still been happy with it?  Trust me there’s a whole world of us drunk writers dying to know.


Drunk? No. I don’t drink. On the other hand, the doctor had me on some pills that made me a drooling mess (think Homer Simpson). I did some writing, and in the morning when I woke up, I had absolutely no clue what the hell I had written. They weren’t even words, just strings of gibberish.

If you could imagine the best possible place for you to write, where would that be and why?

Last year KC Wells was in Milwaukee and she stayed at an Air B & B. The place was gorgeous, and I loved sitting at the dining table with her and working on one of the Secrets books. To me, that place would have been perfect as a writer’s getaway.


With so much going on in the world today, do you write to explain?  To get away? To move past? To widen our knowledge? Why do you write?


I write as an escape from the world around me. There is so much awful news that I like to sink into a story and let it take me away.

What’s next for you as a writer?

Oh, so much!

So Stained Hearts is this month, Secrets #4 (On the Same Page) with K.C. Wells is in December, and then next year I have a contemporary called ‘Family Matters’ in early 2020, and then a paranormal MPREG called ‘The Night Wolf’ later.

After that, KC and I are going to be working on Secrets #5 with a character we introduce in book four and a brand new one that is first seen in book 5.

I’m also working on book two of the Night Wolf saga. Funny thing about it. The series was supposed to be lighthearted fun, where a runaway wolf found refuge in a pack and fell for the Alpha. But… Yeah, always a but.

During a scene, the one guy said, ‘You know, it would be awesome if I ended up pregnant.’ And I said, ‘Seriously?”

Apparently he was very serious, because the next thing I knew, he was with child. Oh, and that lighthearted romp? Yeah, no. All of a sudden there’s a crazy Alpha who wants Sean (he’s the one who ran from the Alpha) back, and he’s willing to kill to get his way.

So, yeah. There’s that.



Can two hearts stained by past pain find healing together?

Tom Kotke held his husband of twenty-five years on the day he died and spent nearly a year adrift. Determined to force Tom back into the world, his family takes him to the Park View Diner, where he meets young stained-glass artist Aiden Dawson. For a brief moment, Tom doesn’t think about his deceased husband—a terrifying prospect.

Slowly, Aiden draws Tom out of his shell and helps him feel alive once more. But Tom isn’t the only one who’s suffered. Aiden fears no one sees beyond his wheelchair. Even if Tom can convince him he’s different, they’ll still have to overcome their age difference and a secret that could destroy their future together.

Word Count: 67,000

Book Categories: Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance, Hurt and Comfort, Loss and Redemption


There is a moment, just as twilight gives way to total darkness, when everything over the lake is still. It’s like the world is holding its breath, waiting to see what’s going to happen. It’s during this one, singular moment when I feel… free from the memories. Of course, like they always do, they surge back when I realize I can’t cling to that magical second any longer.
In October, Brian and I bought a cabin near Crivitz, Wisconsin. A quiet, peaceful tract of land where we could lie together and love each other as much as we could. I had a company come in to fix it up, so after we shared Thanksgiving dinner with our family, we could pack up our things from our home in Milwaukee and move into the cabin. The place was beautiful, but I don’t know how much of it Brian really saw. Each passing day he got weaker and weaker, and each day I wished I could freeze time.
When January came around, we went home to Milwaukee for a little while. Brian told me he wanted to go back and say goodbye to our friends and family. The trip was awful, what with my mother and father spending hours locked away with Brian, and him wanting some alone time with my brother, Robert, and his lover, Galen. After finally meeting with Lincoln and Noel, Brian also asked to go to Lincoln’s diner alone so he could sit and talk with Noel. It hurt me to have him away from me, but I understood his need to be by himself for a time. It still sucked.
I remember the night clearly. There was a haze over the lake, and the clouds obscured the moon. Around us, the night air filled with sounds, like the animals were doing whatever it took to make Brian happy. We sat there, holding hands in our little bit of paradise, where nothing bad could happen. Only… it could. Brian wanted to stay here because he didn’t intend his last days to be spent being fussed over by our friends and the family we’d created. The thought that they pitied him made his heart hurt, because Brian was the healer. He needed to make everyone else feel good. And now it was he who needed the healing, but we both knew it wasn’t going to come. The doctors had given him less than a year. He swore to me that he would prove them wrong, and he did. Being the fighter he was, Brian stretched it out to five. But every hourglass runs out eventually.
One night, just as twilight was giving way to total darkness, he reached for my hand.
“I love you.”
My throat seized. I knew what he was doing, but I wasn’t ready. Not yet. “I know.”
“You have to let me go.”
I jumped out of the chair and spun to face him. “How the hell do you expect me to do that? Since that first day in college, I have been in love with you.”
It was true. When this young Asian man knocked on the door to the dorm room, my tongue stopped working. He was so goddamn beautiful, it hurt to see him and not be able to touch his flawless skin. But that was 1993, and things were still kind of closeted. Hitting on your roommate was probably the stupidest thing you could do, despite what the porn videos said.
“I’m Brian Chen.”
His voice sent ripples of pleasure through me. I was hit hard by lust and longing, and the only thing I could think of was that it would be a very long four years.
“Hi. I’m Tom Kotke.”
He held out his hand, and after I took it, I was reluctant to let go. He smiled at me, showing off pearly-white teeth, with one just a little crooked. I wanted to kiss that mouth and let my tongue explore that tooth. I’d never had sex before, but right then I wanted to drop to my knees and show this man the pleasure one guy could give another. Or, at least what I’d seen in porn.
He chuckled. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Tom Kotke. Might I have my hand back?”
It was then I realized I still held his hand in mine. I let go of it, instantly regretting having done so. “I’m sorry.” I worried that now he’d think I was some kind of freak. “I’m not a weirdo.”
And saying that out loud seemed to prove the opposite.
He gave the barest of smiles. “No, I never thought that.”
And that was our first meeting. Over the next two months of livingtogether, Brian spent every night at home, in front of his laptop. Secretly I was grateful for that fact, because seeing him with another person would have hurt. It wasn’t too much longer before I had to admit to him that I was gay, because having him be uncomfortable around me was definitely not what I wanted.
“I figured that out when you held my hand that first day. If I’m honest, I wish I hadn’t said anything and you had continued.”
My heart beat a little faster. “You mean…?”
His grin slid into place, and my heart went pitter-pat. “Yes, Tom, I’m gay as well.”
And that sealed the deal for me. I was in love with him.
Before those memories could swamp me, a wheezed breath dragged me back to the here and now.
“I watched you every night, pen in your mouth, as you worked on one paper or another. I dragged you up to bed on nights when you told me you needed five more minutes. I sat in the audience as you stood up there, diploma in hand, and told our class that they were responsible for the world they were entering. That they had to choose kindness over money. And the day I asked you to marry me….”
“And I said no.”
I couldn’t swallow past the lump in my throat. “You said no.”
He quirked his artfully plucked eyebrow. “And why did I say no?” “Because you didn’t want me to have to choose between you and a career. You thought you were doing good by me.”
“And I was wrong. The day you slid that ring on my finger, I finally understood what it meant to be whole.”
“Right, and now you think I’m supposed to just let you go and move on? I won’t be whole anymore, so how the hell do you think I can pick up and forget you existed?”
“Sit down.”
He gave me a weak smile. “Tommy, sit down.”
When he called me Tommy, my knees wobbled. It was a nickname
that only he could use. I wouldn’t accept it from anyone else, not even my family. From him? My heart always thumped a little harder at hearing it in his soft voice, as his light brown eyes held me captive. I sat on the bench beside him, and he put a hand on my arm.
“I’m not saying you have to do it now, but you can’t keep living for me. I won’t be here in anything more than a memory. If you really want to honor that, then you need to live. You’ll have to do it for both of us. Take that trip and go parasailing like we always said we’d do. Trek across the desert on the back of those humped nightmares. Ride the scariest roller coaster in the world. Do that, and your heart will race harder than it’s ever done before.”
“No, it won’t.” I turned my hand over and wrapped our fingers together. “The day you said ‘I do’? Nothing will ever be more thrilling or terrifying than that.”
He coughed, his body shuddering. He reached up to cover his mouth. When he pulled his hand away, dots of blood coated his palm. The inevitable had finally happened, and I was about to lose my heart.
“It’s been twenty-five years, baby. The best anyone has ever had, but—”
“Shut up.” I leaned over and put my head on his shoulder. “Please. Just stop talking. Let’s sit here and enjoy the quiet.”
He laid his head against mine. “Okay.”
The moment was perfect. A reminder of why I loved him so very much. We sat there for an hour, and when the coughing started again, worse this time, I reached for my phone. He shook his head.
“Don’t. You’ve got to let me go. It’s time. I don’t have it in me to fight anymore.”
My heart broke, knowing what was coming. “But I can’t…. I don’t want to.”
“I know, but no one can stop time, and mine has come. You need to accept that.”
My eyes filled with tears, and I scrubbed a hand over them. “Do me a favor?”
“Anything, you know that.”
“Hold me, so I won’t be so afraid.”
God, my heart tore in two. “Okay.” I wrapped my arms around him, the body that had always been delicate but was now thin and fragile. He put his head on my chest, and his wheezing grew harsher.
“I’m always going to love you, Tommy. And if there’s an afterlife, I’ll be waiting for you in the park under the big oak tree. Will you look for me?” That was where we had our first date. Him sitting there, his face tilted up at the sun, looking so fucking gorgeous. “I swear, I won’t look for anything else.”
“Okay.” He coughed, harder than before. “I’m going to miss waking up and seeing your smile every morning.”
I squeezed him tighter. I no longer had words. In my mind, I was wishing I could die along with him, because being alone? I couldn’t see how that was possible. The man I clutched to me was my life.
“You’re going to be okay. You know that.”
I started to disagree but stopped myself. He needed it to be true. He didn’t want to die with the regret of leaving me alone. “I’ll be okay.” “Stop lying to me. You’ll cry, grieve, and try to hide away from people. When we went home, I told our family not to let you do it. They’re going to hound you. They’ll force you to go out and meet new people.” He reached up and put his hand on my chest. “And one day, I hope you’ll find love again, because there’s too much in your heart not to share it with—”
Harsh coughs wracked his slight frame, and I knew the time had come. “Rest. I’m going to be right here for you.”
“You always were. And when the time comes that you need comfort, you know where to look, right?”
“Sure.” I really had no idea, but I just needed him to be at peace. I’m not sure when Brian passed away, but the night had gone dark.
As if sensing my mourning, everything around us was still. Taking out my phone, I called the hospital and told them that he had died. They sent an ambulance, and the EMTs found me still cradling the body of my husband. A numbness sapped any strength I had, and I was grateful to the men who took me to the hospital, because I wouldn’t have been able to get there on my own.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of calls and letters, the funeral— Brian had asked to be cremated and wanted his ashes laid to rest in his favorite place in the whole world, Yellowstone National Park. He loved the beauty and tranquility of the place. Of course, I would follow his instructions to the letter, but I wasn’t prepared for what I found when I opened his urn. Brian was always so full of life. He personified grace and beauty in all things. And now? My husband was nothing but a white powder, like something I cleaned out of our fireplace. Upon seeing what was left of my Brian, I broke down in tears. Still, I sucked it up and did what he asked, burying his ashes beneath a tree that he’d carved our initials on decades ago.
Going home—to the house we had bought together a lifetime ago—was bittersweet. I could sense his presence everywhere, and more than once the memories of the life we shared overwhelmed me. Stupid things, like sitting down to watch a favorite TV show, became hollow and empty without him next to me. Going to bed, knowing his side would stay forever cool, had me moving out onto the couch. Not comfortable by any means, but still a damn sight better than rolling over to wrap my arm around him and finding him gone. Again.
One night, a few months in, a storm blew through Milwaukee. The power flickered several times, until it went out completely. I lit a candle in the living room and sat there, watching the lightning flash outside. A sense of melancholy washed over me, and I found myself on the verge of tears once more. I got up and went to the bookcase, where Brian and I had spent a lifetime gathering books from favored authors. I reached up and pulled out my personal favorite, Charlotte’s Web. Taking a seat on the couch once more, I opened the cover, and a piece of paper fluttered out and landed on my lap. I put the book aside, reached down, grabbed the paper, and unfolded it.
So since you’re reading this, I’ve got to assume that the cancer has finally won. We both knew it would, but I’m not ready to leave you to your own devices just yet.
Hot tears streaked my cheeks. It was as if a scab had been torn from a raw, painful wound that had never really healed. I needed his words more than I ever thought I could need something.
I’ve got so many things I’m sorry for. That we didn’t get to celebrate our silver anniversary comes to mind. I’d fully intended on surprising you with a trip to Mexico so we could go parasailing, but I’m guessing that never happened. Too bad. I was looking forward to soaring over the ocean with you.
I choked back a laugh. “Liar.”
Well, I hope that got a laugh out of you, because we both know I would have happily stood on the ground and waved at you, but no way in hell would you have gotten me up there. If God had meant for man to fly, he would have given us wings. 
I was never a believer in religion. Having seen too many times the way it was used to put pressure on people, I could never get behind the idea. Oh, I was spiritual, but that was only to the extent of empowering people. Still, if heaven did exist, Brian was up there, looking down on me, cursing the wings that he’d been given.
I don’t know how much time has passed, but knowing you as well as I do, I’m going to guess maybe a few months at best. I figured you’d go for Charlotte at some point, so that’s why I left this letter here for you to find. I just want you to know, no matter what happened or what will happen from this moment forward, my heart always belonged to you.
Maybe by now you’ve met someone—though I doubt it—and you’re happy. If that’s the case, then know you’ve done what I wanted. Don’t mourn me forever, Tommy. It’s not in your nature to be alone. I want—no, I need—you to go out and find someone special. If you won’t do it for you, do it for me.
He was crazy. He had to be. No one could replace him in my life. The thought of it was beyond insane. I glanced up at the picture on the wall of the two of us holding out a slice of wedding cake for the other to take a bite from. I frowned, trying to understand what in his mind made him think I could move on. A deep, shuddering sigh rolled out of me as I went back to his letter.
I can hear you arguing, you know. I’ve already said you’re not meant to be alone. You need someone to hold you at night so you can sleep. To wake up with you in the morning so the day is heralded with love. Please, Tommy, you need this. Maybe not now, but one day. Don’t shut yourself off, because it hurts me to think that so much love would be lost to the world.
Now, get back to reading. I’m sure Charlotte is waiting to whisk you away to a new world.
And remember, you’ve always been the only one to have my love. Brian.
I set the book on the table beside the couch and put my head in my hands. My heart ached, a battle of both sadness and joy warring for dominance. He was right—no one in the world knew me like he did. Almost a quarter of a century together had that effect on people. He could tell with nothing more than a glance when I needed him to hug me or when he needed to back off. He could make me laugh with a quirk of his brow or bring me to tears when he sang my favorite song, softly crooning in my ear, reminding me of our wedding, when he got up, grabbed the microphone, and belted out Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” in a rich, sonorous tenor.
When he finished, no one in the hall had a dry eye. He handed the mic over to someone and strode to me, our gazes locked. “How did I get so lucky?” His voice was thick with emotion. “If you were smart, you’d run off and have the life you’ve always dreamed of.”
I grabbed him by the back of his head, gripping his hair. “Funny thing about dreams is that as we grow up, we’re given new ones that let us know the others were just musings of a child’s mind. When I met you, everything I thought I needed went out the window, and you were the only thing left.”
He opened his mouth to say something, but I kissed him hard. I could feel the warmth of his tears as they mingled with mine. I knew that I would spend the rest of my life reminding him he was loved, and the thought had filled me with hope for my—our—future.
I stretched out on the couch and closed my eyes. I knew I’d dream of Brian, just like I had every night since he died. They always ended the same way, though: me curled up on the couch, clutching the small, sunflower-patterned pillow that Brian had made, with a hole in my heart that I knew would never heal.
All this talk about moving on? How in the hell was I supposed to do that without him? Hell, I hadn’t even realized what life could be like until I saw him, held him in my arms, had him under me. We were each other’s first and last, and that was perfectly fine with me.


Website: Parker Williams
Facebook: Parker Williams
Twitter: @ParkerWAuthor

A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Dead Man Stalking (Blood and Bone #1) by T.A. Moore


Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

This story features Agent Luke Bennett, aka Took, a member of the BITERs unit of the Anakim (vampire) police known as VINE. The reader is thrown into the action two years after Luke was Taken and turned. He’s been in therapy and is acting as a P.I. His case throws him in the path of his old commander Madoc, who wants him back at work, and is in love with him. It seems obvious to say Took has PTSD; he can’t remember the night he was taken and his fear seems to be getting worse instead of better, until he becomes consumed by this case and takes back his agency, literally and figuratively. As a former Cardinal for the Anakim, Madoc has always been a type of enforcer. He has a strength that Took finds and matches during the book. It switches between Took’s and Madoc’s POV. These are complex, three dimensional charcters. They have their blindspots, insecurities, and make mistakes; yet, both of these men can be cold, arrogant and prickly. For as much as these characters are not pleasant people, I loved them so much. Yes, the romance relies on the longer, off-page relationship in order to work, but the love scenes are hot (and bloody) and I love their working dynamic and banter.

I liked this new take on vampires, werewolves, and hunters. There was something called a Goat, but there wasn’t much detail about this species. I believe there may be other shifters, but that’s not explored in this book. While the political landscape is painted enough for this story to be successful, I wanted more, even if I think this book wasn’t quite the right time without info dumps that I wouldn’t want. There is also a weird shadow realm that is intriguing and terrifying, but not explained at all. The sorcerers are also not explained very much, but they are not capitalized like everyone else so I guess they are not considered born as their own species. There are times where the chapter or scene starts abruptly and I felt like I missed something until I kept reading and everything was explained: while this is a valid stylistic choice, I found it jarring. Although the secondary characters are all effectively utilized and would be great to build upon in other stories, I would have liked them a bit more concrete. (I did appreciate there wasn’t a formulaic meet these characters that will be the couple in the next book type of setup.) These may be minor things, but they did keep me from giving this a 5 star rating. It was a near thing because I loved everything else about this, so let’s talk about that. This is a book I will reread and be will on my best of the year list.

For those not familiar with this author, she always describes the scenes in stark details–gross, grimy, gory–but effective. This is brutal, as with any police case involving violence. I don’t want to give spoilers, but for trigger warnings and tags you might want to keep these in mind: child abuse, brainwashing, murder, child trafficking, kidnapping, and torture. I found this urban fantasy/police investigation mashup really effective; both the world and the case are interesting and well thought out. The action scenes are really well done. The world-building here is fantastically layered in throughout the book. There is information the reader gleans from the thoughts and instincts of the characters, suppressed memories, flashbacks, dialogue, and the actions and their consequences. All of the events and discoveries lead to logical conclusions, but not always the ones that I thought they would from the beginning, yet I never felt blindsided with too many plot twists. I liked the intricacies of the story that require thought. Now that this world is built, I want so many new cases to be written, but I am also content if they are not. The last sentence of this book was perfect. Don’t cheat, you have to read the whole thing.

The cover art is by Kanaxa. I didn’t love it, although it is striking and conveys violence and blood, which are main themes of the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 260 pages
Expected publication: September 10th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language English
Series Blood and Bone #1