A Lila Advent Calendar Review: Guess Who’s Coming to Karamu by Cy Blanca

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Grant Cary, a twenty-eight-year-old grad student, has let his Kwanzaa shopping go to the very last minute. In his rush to get home, he quite literally bumps into Will Sheritan, a fortysomething software developer, in the elevator. But luck favors (or curses) the adventurous, because their elevator shuts down due to a blackout. Grant and Will learn about each other’s pasts and find more than just a casual interest.

Will has never celebrated Kwanzaa, and he’s reluctant to enter into a relationship, but exploring a new tradition—with a new friend—might brighten his lonely holiday. And if Will accepts Grant’s invitation to join his family for the Karamu feast, Grant might get his Imani gift early.

Guess Who’s Coming to Karamu is an interesting story about a holiday I have never heard about before. I’m glad the author took the time to explain it but I would have loved to see the actual celebration scene between the two MCs.

The misunderstandings between Grant and Will were a little too many for my taste but they didn’t last more than a couple of silent minutes. I enjoyed how they explain things to each other and their willingness to learn.

Overall, it’s a nice holiday story with unique characters but an abrupt ending. I wanted a bit more of the start of their relationship

The cover by Brooke Albrecht follows the 2018 Advent Calendar | Warmest Wishes template. The picture within matches Grant.

Sale Link: Amazon | Nook | Dreamspinner

Book Details:
ebook, 25 pages
ISBN: 9781644050491
Published: December 1, 2018, by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language: English

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Stetsons and Stakeouts by BA Tortuga

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

 

Gianni Cesare is a DEA agent and rancher—who also happens to be a millionaire heir to an Italian count. Running a multiagency sting out of his East Texas ranch means he needs a new foreman… preferably someone a little wet behind the ears who won’t ask too many questions.

Gianni’s Aunt Jerilyn hires Bonner Fannin, a roughstock rider with zero ranch experience and a sister who’s pregnant with a violent biker’s twins. If that’s not bad enough, Bonner is pretending he and his sister are married to protect her and to help get him the job.

Gianni didn’t think Bonner was the marrying type during their torrid beach affair years ago, but he’s not sure if he has time to explore that thought now, as overrun as his ranch is with drug cartels, macho government agents, and local cops. Looks like Bonner and Gianni are both in over their heads, and they may have to band together during this adventure to swim rather than sink.

BA Tortuga has set a huge agenda for this story and at 292 pages almost gets it all in. The author is juggling so many plots threads here and just as big a cast of characters to go along with them.

It starts with Gianni Cesare who wears identities like people put on clothes.  He’s Italian count in his father’s side, Texas ranch royalty on his mama’s.  He’s also a DEA undercover agent and millionaire with his fingers in a number of agency “pots”, local and otherwise.  We enter the story just as a drug biker bustup is going south and it introduces us to Gianni, his partner, and associates.  Briefly, just enough to see their camaraderie and the fact they’ve been together a while. It also introduces the fact that whatever they have been working on includes drugs, highways, and Gianni’s ranch being run by his aunt.

Which brings in another group of characters and necessitates the hiring of Bonner, his storythread with his pregnant sister,  and the thug of a biker after her.  I will be truthful here.  I find the sister, her pregnancy the weak section here.  There is, for me at least, ample storyline without her and in the  end she just sort of fizzles away.  I found her whiny and unnecessary.  Surely BA could have found another way to bring these two together other than this sister. And doing an unnecessary injury to the aunt as well.  Nothing about this element ended up satisfactorily with me.

The duo of Sheriff Chris and badboy/vet Xavvy, IT mad guy Colt and medic Mason, even Gianni’s partner Alison, his parents and aunt as well as Bonner’s best friend.  They are all terribly interesting and engaging personalities and the story just doesn’t have time for them all.  Although it tries hard.  And that’s pretty much the issue here.  Each  character/couple has major elements in this novel and for a while get’s a narrative spotlight shone on them.  Just not enough because of the overall plot arc which gets a little murky.  If this is the first in a series, then this is all just the author laying the foundation for future stories to come.  Which I get.

But if this is a standalone, then we are left at the end of this novel with several characters just sort of fading away that had major page time, an aspect of the crime story that is never fully resolved, and a general feeling of “where’s my wrap up?”  And not just with the aunt, or the deputy, or some of the others in the team.  I was just left with a sense of incompleteness somehow. That’s not a feeling I expect in a BA Tortuga story.

Like I said this is a huge novel with a huge agenda and a cast to match.  Somehow I think something got lost here.  Maybe it’s that intimacy, that sense of “knowing” that this author is able to bring to her Texas characters that I never felt with “Gianni”.  He never rang true.  Bonner did, so did the others.  I don’t know.  My usual connection was never made and I missed that.

If you love BA Tortuga, I’m sure you have already grabbed this up.  If its action/adventure you crave, this has some of that as well.  I’m just not sure it all made as much sense as it should have.  I’ll leave that up to you.  Romance?  Check, it’s got that covered!

Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza.  I like the cover with the Stetson and badge.  Simple and yet, catches your eye and tells you about the character.  Like it.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 292 pages
Expected publication: December 11th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781640809154
Edition Language English

A Free Dreamer Advent Calendar Review: Tulsi Vivah by Anna Kaling

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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

The festival of Tulsi Vivah ushers in the Hindu wedding season and tears away the love of Kristopher’s life. Three years of passion and tenderness are reduced to a shameful skeleton in the closet as Arjuna submits to the marriage his parents have arranged for him. His family has never even heard Kristopher’s name.

The festival, a ritualistic wedding between the holy basil plant, Tulsi, and her eternal lover, Vishnu, is as much of a play-act as Arjuna’s upcoming nuptials, but he believes the wedding will honor his parents and please Vishnu. So why is his Tulsi plant—whose leaves heal and bless the devout, who is Vishnu’s representative on earth—dying? Arjuna tends to her with all the care of a concerned parent, but it might take more than his devotion to save her. She might need Kris, with his clever green-fingers—and maybe a revived Tulsi can heal two hearts.

I usually like neither short stories (they tend to feel unfinished to me) nor holiday stories (too fluffy), so Tulsi Vivah was a very pleasant surprise.

This isn’t really a Christmas story, it’s more about the Hindu holiday Tulsi Vivah. I’m an not an expert on Hinduism, but I do think I’m not completely clueless. Still, I’ve never heard of this holiday or the Goddess Tulasi. The author did a great job of explaining the holiday and I found it all very fascinating.

The romance was lovely, if a bit sad. It was obvious how hard the separation was on both Arjuna and Kris. It was heartbreaking, even if I could understand Arjuna’s decision. The two MCs showed a surprising amount of depth and growth, considering how short this book is. The ending felt perfect and quite realistic.

I really, really enjoyed this story. I haven’t seen all that many M/M books with a Hindu MC out there, so bonus points for an original idea. I hope there’ll be more stories like this to come from this very promising debut author.

If you’re looking for the usual Christmas fluff, however, then this story probably won’t make you happy.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas. Love this cover, just perfection. It’s just right for the character and story.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book details:

ebook, 56 pages

Published December 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press

Andrew Grey on Older Main Characters and his new release New Tricks (guest blog and excerpt)

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New Tricks by Andrew Grey

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas

Publisher: DreamSpinner Press

Release Date: Dec 11 2018

Book Links

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

DreamSpinner Press

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Andrew Grey on tour for his new release New Tricks. Welcome, Andrew!

✒︎
I recently turned 55 and as I have gotten a little older, I‘ve wanted to write stories about guys that are close to my own age.  I’m not denying that there isn’t something very intriguing about that flush of first love, or pretty amazing about a person discovering who they are and how love and happiness can fit in their lies.  But there is also something pretty amazing to discover that later in life, there is still the chance for someone to find true love.  I have been very blessed with a relationship that has lasted for the last 25 years.   But there are many men who don’t find that one person who is special for them until much later in life and I wanted to celebrate that.   That’s a good part of the reason why I wrote New Tricks. Whether we’re young or older, we can all get set in our ways and sometimes we all need to teach the old dog a few New Tricks.

Blurb/Synopsis

In matters of the heart, there’s no such thing as business as usual.

Thomas Stepford spent years building a very successful business and now at thirty-nine, he wants a quieter life. With his parents needing help, he decides to return home. He can’t get away from business completely and needs an assistant—but the man who is hired isn’t quite what he had in mind.

Brandon Wilson, the ink on his degree barely dry, needs a job, and his mother helps him get one as Mr. Stepford’s assistant. Thomas doesn’t seem to remember, but Brandon worked mowing the stunningly attractive older man’s lawn years ago. Thomas was Brandon’s teenage fantasy, and now he’s Brandon’s boss.

Thomas and Brandon are both determined to keep their relationship strictly business, but the old attraction is still there. They learn to work together even as the tension between them reaches the boiling point. But just as they start to surrender, Thomas’s old life in New York calls him. Even if he resists that pull, can their newfound relationship survive when Brandon receives the call of his dreams… from Hollywood?

Series: Standalone

Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance

Edition/Format: 1st Edition/Format ~ eBook & Print

)

Excerpt

Brandon stepped inside and his eyes watered. He blinked to try to keep his reaction at bay, but it didn’t do very much. The house had been closed up because of the air-conditioning, and the dog dander had had a chance to really build up. All Brandon could hope for was that he wasn’t inside too long and could get out before his reaction became too severe and he was reduced to a sneezing mess.

Mr. Stepford closed the door. “What’s this?” he asked, looking at the plate Brandon was carrying.

“My grandmother sent these over for your mom.” He was about to hand the plate to Mr. Stepford when he sneezed loudly.

The dogs yipped and the plate went flying out of his hands. Brandon groaned as the plastic wrap gave way and cookies flew in every direction. The plate shattered on the floor, and bits of cookie ended up everywhere.

What a way to make a first impression.

Brandon wanted to crawl under the sofa and hide, but that would only send his allergies into overdrive.

“Buddy, Clementine, go in the other room.” They ignored him, and Mr. Stepford scooped both dogs into his arms and went out back to let them outside.

Brandon sneezed again and wondered how he could clean up the mess he’d made.

“Look, I’m sorry.” He could feel the job that he’d thought he had slipping out of his grasp. “Let me help clean this up.” He sneezed again, the sound echoing through the house.

“It’s all right. Give me a minute.” Mr. Stepford got a trash can and threw everything, including the pieces of the plate, in it. Then he got out the vacuum, which only seemed to add more dust to the air. Brandon left the room and sat at the kitchen table until Mr. Stepford was done. “Okay. I’m going to guess that you’re allergic.”

Brandon nodded. He turned to where two small doggie faces peered in the sliding glass doors. “Sorry. I didn’t know or I’d have taken some medication.” The stuff made him sleepy as hell and dried him out to the point that he felt like a desert, but it got him through when he needed it.

“How about we go outside?” Mr. Stepford said.

Brandon couldn’t get out of the house fast enough.

Mr. Stepford let the dogs back in, and they left the house. Brandon took as deep a breath as he could, sneezing a few more times as his eyes began to clear. He knew it would take a while for the rest of his symptoms to dissipate.

“Marjorie said you would be over.”

“She told me that you wanted to meet me and that you’d go over the kinds of things you thought I’d be doing for you.” Thankfully they stopped on the sidewalk out in front of the house. This was a strange place to conduct an interview, but Brandon was grateful he could breathe once again. “I graduated with an MBA a few months ago. I’m a hard worker, and I know I can do whatever you need me to do.”

Brandon took a good look at Mr. Stepford and had to admit that he was even more attractive now. The years had been generous to him. There was the slightest hint of gray at the temples of his otherwise jet-black hair, and his eyes were as piercing as they had been. He was broader and seemed stronger, more solid, and definitely as hot as the Mr. Stepford he remembered.

“An MBA, that’s very good,” Mr. Stepford said. “But if you have that kind of degree, why do you want to be my assistant?” His deep brown eyes stared intensely at Brandon, who forced his mind to stay on track.

“Well… shoot…,” he demurred, then figured honesty was best. “I need a job. I got my degree and I did very well in school. Marjorie has all the details and that. Right now, I’m living with my grandmother, and I can’t keep sponging off her. She and your mom are friends, and I got the word that you needed some help, so I applied.”

“I see,” Mr. Stepford said skeptically.

Brandon knew he only had once chance to try to salvage this entire situation. “I had one job all through high school, and then when I left, I spent all four years of undergrad waiting tables. I work hard and I don’t change jobs on a whim. Learning the business world from the ground up is important, regardless of the title. If you want someone who will do their best to be a good assistant, then that’s me.” He shifted his weight from foot to foot, meeting Mr. Stepford’s gaze with his own until he was wracked by a sneeze and wanted to crawl in a hole somewhere. “Thank you for meeting with me.” Not extending his hand because he had just sneezed all over it, he went back to his car, knowing he’d blown that interview so sky-high, it was pathetic.

About the Author

Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation.

Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing)  He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Author Links

Amazon Author Page

Barnes and Noble Page

Dreamspinner Press

Facebook

Facebook Group All the Way with Andrew Grey

Goodreads

Twitter @andrewgreybooks

Website

For Other Works by Andrew Grey

(Please Be Sure To Stop by His Website to See All of His Works)

Cover Reveal for A Model Escort by Amanda Meuwissen

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Title: A Model Escort

Author: Amanda Meuwissen

Cover Artist: Bree Archer http://www.breearcher.com.

Dreamspinner Press

Release Date: March 5, 2019

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press eBook and  Paperback
Blurb:
What’s the value of love?
Shy data scientist Owen Quinn is brilliant at predictive models but clueless at romance. Fortunately, a new career allows him to start over hundreds of miles from the ex he would rather forget. But the opportunity might go to waste since this isn’t the kind of problem he knows how to solve. The truth is, he’s terrible at making the first move and wishes a connection didn’t have to revolve around sex.
Cal Mercer works for the Nick of Time Escort Service. He’s picky about his clients and has never accepted a regular who is looking for companionship over sex—but can the right client change his mind? And can real feelings develop while money is changing hands? Owen and Cal might get to the root of their true feelings… if their pasts don’t interfere.

Category: Contemporary, Dreamspun Desires

Pages: 225

About the Author
Amanda Meuwissen is a primarily gay romance writer, as well as Marketing Operations Manager for the software company Outsell. She has a Bachelor of Arts in a personally designed major from St. Olaf College in Creative Writing, and is an avid consumer of fiction through film, prose, and video games. As author of the paranormal romance trilogy The Incubus Saga, young adult novel Life as a Teenage Vampire, the novelette The Collector, and superhero duology Lovesick Gods and Lovesick Titans, Amanda regularly attends local comic conventions for fun and to meet with fans, where she will often be seen in costume as one of her favorite fictional characters. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, John, and their two cats, Helga and Sasha (no relation to the incubus of the same name), and can be found at www.amandameuwissen.com.

A Lila Advent Calendar Review: Boca Dreams by Scudder James Jr

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Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

You can’t correct the past.

Or can you?

Stephen’s not proud of who he was back in boarding school—spoiled and a player. Now, at the holiday reunion ten years later, he has a chance to show his former classmates who he really is: out and proud, devoted to helping others, and partnered with Victor.

Stephen understands why Victor, who grew up in a poor and abusive household, hates the rich kids at the reunion, but his attitude is ruining everything. Luckily Stephen bumps into Aaron, a former grunge rocker who has also changed. Stephen never forgot their one steamy night together.

With the help of three very unusual personifications of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, can Stephen revisit his mistakes and find the happiness that’s eluded him?

Boca Dreams is a non-traditional second chance story. More of a hope for a once missed opportunity; a what if with the one that got away.

I liked that Stephen was ready to show his classmates who he was but I’m not sure he went into it with the right mindset. It seems he had not changed much from that teen looking for acceptance. Victor read as a stereotype of a bitter man. It felt unnecessary to the story.

As someone that enjoyed high school. I love class reunion stories and I can see Stephen & Aaron as an item many years later. Unfortunately, their coming together didn’t feel feasible. The Scrooges part didn’t work for me. I  wanted a little less drama and a bit more reminiscence. The story does have a nice ending, though.

The cover by L.C. Chase follows the 2018 Advent Calendar | Warmest Wishes template. The picture within is pretty standard and I’m not sure if it is Stephen or Aaron.

Sale Link: Amazon | Nook | Dreamspinner

Book Details:
ebook, 42 pages
ASIN: 9781644050477
Published: December 1, 2018, by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language: English

 

First of Our Best of 2018 Lists. This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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First of Our Best of 2018 Lists

So this Sunday we are starting off with our first of our Best of 2018 lists.  First up is our reviewer Alisa with her Top Stories down to her Top Covers.  Yes, we have always shared our love of book covers here along with our appreciation of the various artists talents.  Lately we have had some new names appear doing absolutely incredible covers alongside the artists who represent the best in the industry.  So make sure you check out all the names to go along with the beautiful covers we put out there.  Maybe give us a few suggestions of your own.

Also relatively new are the narrators in the  audiobook Best of category.  I listen to more and more audiobooks every year and can’t stress the importance of a fabulous narrator.  They can make or break an audiobook.  Check out who Alisa has as her favorites below.  Do you have yours?

Each week we will roll out more lists…keep an eye out to see how our lists compare with yours.  Did you miss some books?  Did we agree on others?  Let me know!

 

From Alisa:

2018 Top Stories/Novels

Guarding His Melody by Victoria Sue

Blood for the Spilling by TJ Nichols

Promises Part 4 by AE Via

Elemental Magick by Jacki James

Us by Shaw Montgomery

Professor Adorkable by Edie Danford

Discovery by Quinn Ward

Expecting by Sarah Havan

After the Weekend by Silvia Violet

The Swap by Annabella Michaels

Best Audiobooks

Permanent Ink by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn, narrator Kirt Graves

Kairos by Mary Calmes, narrator Michael Fell

Freckles by Amy Lane, narrator Nick Russo

BFF by KC Wells, narrator Michael Mola

Pins and Needles by AJ Thomas, narrator Jason Riley

Best Series

Men of Meadowfall by Anna Wineheart

Studies in Demonology by TL Nichols

Promises by AE Via

Requiem Inc. by Kris T. Bethke

College of United Monsters by CB Archer

Cold Case Psychic by Pandora Pine

Enhanced World by Victoria Sue

The Accidental Master by MA Innes

Kink in the City by Quinn Ward

Strength by MA Innes

Best Covers

Blood for the Spilling by TJ Nichols, cover artist Catt Ford

Heart of a Redneck by Jodi Payne, cover artist Alexandria Corza

Edge of Living by HL Day, cover artist HL Day

Elemental Magick by Jacki James, cover artist Vicki Brostenianc

Expecting by Sarah Havan, cover artist Melissa Liban

 

Now here is this week at our blog.  We continue with more Advent Calendar stories, I have reviewed an incredible M/M historic romance today called The Bibliophile by Drew Marvin Frayne.  You really should check that out. The Yakuza Path series by Amy Tasukada is as far from a holiday saga as you can get.  But it’s brilliant, bloody, and a must read. Number 4 is out this week.  If you love holiday series, The Christmas Angel series is not to be missed, several of them are also on to be reviewed as well.  So much going on.  Don’t miss a day here.

 

Happy Reading!

This Week at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Sunday, December 9: ☃️

  • First of Our Best of 2018 Lists.
  • This Week At Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
  • Book Blast Love’s Trials by Janice Jarrell
  • A MelanieM Review: The Bibliophile by Drew Marvin Frayne
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Oz (Finding Home #1) by Lily Morton
  • An Alisa Advent Calendar Review: Holiday Island by A.D. Ellis

Monday, December 10:☃️

  • COVER REVEAL: Amanda Meuwissen’s A Model Escort
  • Release Blitz for Home For Christmas by RJ Scott
  • Review Tour for A Soldier’s Wish (A Christmas Angel Story) by NR Walker
  • Release Blitz Tour for  Trusting Jack by Ruby Moore
  • A Lila Advent Calendar Review: Boca Dreams by Scudder James Jr
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: A Soldier’s Wish (A Christmas Angel Story) by NR Walker
  • A Lucy Review : Under The Felt Mistletoe by Nell Iris
  • An Alisa Review: Mine for Christmas by AD Lawless

Tuesday, December 11: ☃️

  • PROMO Andrew Grey
  • Release Blitz  Tour – Old Acquaintance by Annabelle Jacobs
  • In the Spotlight Tour and Giveaway: Chasing Forever by Kelly Jensen
  • A MelanieM Release Day Review: Stetsons and Stakeouts by BA Tortuga
  • A Lucy Review : All I Want Is You by DJ Jamison
  • A Free Dreamer Advent Calendar Review: Tulsi Vivah by Anna Kaling
  • A Free Dreamer Release Day Review: Showers, Flowers, and Fangs by Aidan Wayne

Wednesday, December 12: ☃️

  • Review Tour – Jordan L Hawk – The Magician’s Angel
  • Review Tour – Old Acquaintance by Annabelle Jacobs
  • Review Tour – The Deafening Silence (The Yakuza Path #4) by Amy Tasukada
  • A MelanieM Review:The Deafening Silence (The Yakuza Path #4) by Amy Tasukada
  • A Lucy Review : Old Acquaintance by Annabelle Jacobs
  • A Lila Advent Calendar Review: Guess Who’s Coming to Karamu by Cy Blanca
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady :The Magician’s Angel (The Christmas Angel #3) by Jordan L. Hawk
  • An Alisa Review: Celebrations in the Season of Long Nights by Mere Rain, a”Escape From the Holidays” Collection from Mischief Corner Books

Thursday, December 13:  ☃️

  • Spells & Stardust Anthology Tour
  • HARMONY INK PROMO Aidan Wayne
  • Book Blast for Pain and Promise by Lazlo Thorn
  • Lessons in Cracking the Deadly Code by Charlie Cochrane Blog Tour
  • A Caryn Review: Vampire with Benefits (Supernatural Selection #2) by E.J. Russell
  • A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Blessed (The Matawapit Family #1) by Maggie Blackbird
  • A MelanieM Review: Spells & Stardust by J. Scott Coatsworth
  • An Alisa Advent Calendar Review: Death to Christmas Sweaters by LE Franks

Friday,  December 14:  ☃️

  • Review Tour –  Christmas Homecoming by LA Witt
  • PROMO BA Tortuga
  • Review Tour for Shrewd Angel (The Christmas Angel #6) by Anyta Sunday
  • Review Tour  for Rebellion by Naomi Aoki
  • An Ali Advent Calendar Review:The Night Sky Festival by S.A. Stovall
  • A Free Dreamer Review:  Rebellion by Naomi Aoki
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady: Christmas Homecoming (The Christmas Angel #4) by L.A. Witt
  • A Lucy Review: Shrewd Angel (The Christmas Angel #6)by Anyta Sunday

Saturday, December 15:  ☃️

  • Review Tour – Neve Wilder – Dedicated (Rhythm Of Love #1)
  • Tour for  Meik&Sebastian – Obsessed #4 by Quin Perin
  • Book Blast: Blessed (The Matawapit Family #1) by Maggie Blackbird
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Advent Calendar Review: Too Hot for Santa by Helena Stone
  • An Alisa Review: Meik&Sebastian – Obsessed #4 by Quin Perin
  • A MelanieM Review: Dedicated (Rhythm Of Love #1) by Neve Wilder
  • A Chaos Moondrawn Review: The Holiday Home Hotel (An Escape from the Holidays Story) by Lou Sylvre
  • A MelanieM Review:  Lessons in Cracking the Deadly Code (Cambridge Fellows #12.7by Charlie Cochrane

 

 

 

 

An Alisa Advent Calendar Review: Holiday Island by A.D. Ellis

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Rating:  3 stars out of 5

 

***No peacocks were harmed in the making of this story.

 

Rafa’s nautical skills are less than stellar. He’d rather be a full-time artist, but he has a duty to the family business and a fear of standing up to his father and brother.

 

Carpenter Lucas is determined to rebuild his business after a lover’s betrayal nearly destroyed it. But he runs into a snag when he misses the last boat to the job site.

 

Rafa offers to take him, but Rafa isn’t much of a sailor.

 

When they end up on the wrong island, fears for survival gradually give way to an appreciation of the beauty around them—and each other. Rafa insists a holiday miracle will save them, and he teases Lucas for being a Scrooge.

 

In the end, Rafa’s miracle might come from the last place he expects: inside himself.

 

This was a nice story.  Rafa and Lucas are stranded together and seem like people that wouldn’t have anything in common but they both need support from someone.  I liked them finding a common ground and affection for each other.  It was nice to see how supportive Lucas is a Rafa in the face of his family’s homophobia and they have a tentative plan to go forward.

 

Book Details:

ebook, 43 pages

Published: December 9, 2018 by Dreamspinner Press

Edition Language: English

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

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

Standard

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)