A Free Dreamer Review: Strain (Strain #1) by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

In a world with little hope and no rules, the only thing they have to lose is themselves.

Rhys Cooper is a dead man. He’s spent years hiding from the virus that wiped out most of the human race, but an act of futile heroism has him counting down his remaining days. The timely arrival of superhuman soldiers offers some feeble hope–but only if Rhys can reconcile himself to doing what is necessary to take advantage of it.

Sergeant Darius Murrell has seen too much death and too little tenderness. His job is seeking out the infected to put them out of their misery, or sending the uninfected survivors to a safe haven where he and his fellow Juggernaut troops will never be welcomed. Rhys’s situation is different, though. Not only is there an improbable chance that Darius won’t have to put a bullet in Rhys’s head, but he has somehow managed to get under Darius’s skin.

The virus Rhys must infect himself with in order to survive is sexually transmitted, and optimizing his chance of exposure requires him to submit as often as possible to Darius–and the other soldiers. Though the boundaries of morality have shifted in this harsh new world, Darius and Rhys question whether their humanity is too high a price to pay for Rhys’s survival.

A warning before we begin: “Strain” is definitely not for the faint of heart. Aside from lots of explicit BDSM sex with dubious consent and big age gaps, you also find lots of explicit violence and gore and some scenes that would be considered rape under different circumstances.

At first I wasn’t sure if I would like this book. A disease that can only be cured by lots and lots of sex – that sounds a bit like an awfully cheap excuse for heaps and heaps of mindless sex, doesn’t it? Well, “Strain” was a big surprise in that regard. Sure, there’s heaps and heaps of sex. But the author did a great job at explaining everything and once you start, it all makes perfect sense. The whole thing is a clever part of world building that seemed very logical to me – not that I know all that much about medicine.

The world building was excellent and full of interesting details. It’s easy to get caught in this dark, dark future. Since the events of “Strain” aren’t too far into the future, you get a really good explanation for how we went from the world we know now to the world Amelia Gormley created. I’m a sucker for good world building and the author easily satisfied my curiosity.

Rhys’ reactions seemed very genuine to me. While he’s always been attracted to men, he’s never had the chance to explore his sexuality. He spent most of his life isolated from the rest of the world and years of homophobia from the extremely religious preacher and his power hungry son don’t exactly help him feel confident in his sexuality. So when he is forced to lose his virginity to a much older man that only has sex with him out of a sense of duty, he’s less than thrilled. But it’s his only chance at survival, so he doesn’t exactly have a choice. Rhys always remained true to himself; he didn’t just suddenly turn into a mindless sex maniac. The author painted a very convincing picture of his inner struggle and I found myself liking the boy from the start.

Darius was just as interesting. The whole thing isn’t exactly easy on him either. He tends to enjoy very kinky sex, but how could he do that to such a clueless boy? Not to mention he could easily hurt Rhys with his superior strength. He ends up feeling guilty because he just can’t keep his dominant side in check around the boy. And actually forming a real emotional connection terrifies him – if their wild plan doesn’t work out, he’ll be the one that will have to end his misery with a bullet.

The side characters were very well developed as well, with unique backstories and interesting behaviour.

Once Rhys actually started to accept his kinky side, the sex scenes got really hot. The author was very creative in that regard, coming up with lots of interesting little games.

The ending was a little predictable. My suspicions started around the middle of the book, but that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy every single page till the end. There was plenty of other plot to keep you occupied.

“Strain” is different. It’s dark, it’s kinky, there are some real concerns about consent and it is utterly brilliant and extremely addicting. If you’re in the mood for something dark and kinky with a brilliant plot, then go for it. Just beware of potential triggers.

The cover fits the story perfectly. It’s kind of creepy and makes you curious about the world.

Book details: Kindle Edition, 2. edition, 322 pages

Published April 20th 2018 first published February 15th 2014)

A Free Dreamer Review: Juggernaut (Strain #0.5) by Amelia Gormley

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

They helped destroy the world. Now they have to survive the new one.

For rentboy Nico Fernández, it’s a simple job: seduce a presidential advisor to help cement approval to launch Project Juggernaut. He’s done similar work for General Logan McClosky before, and manipulating people for his favorite client beats the hell out of being trafficked for slave wages in some corporate brothel.

Zach Houtman feels called to work with the most vulnerable outcasts of society. But his father, the Reverend Maurice Houtman, insists that Zach work for him instead as he runs for Senate. Zach reluctantly agrees, but is horrified to see his father leave behind Christ’s mandate of love and mercy to preach malicious zealotry and violence instead. Zach even starts to suspect his father is working with fundamentalist terrorists.

When Project Juggernaut accidentally unleashes a deadly plague that claims billions of lives, Nico and Zach are thrown together, each bearing a burden of guilt. With only each other for safety and solace, they must make their way through a new world, one where the handful of people left alive are willing to do anything—and kill anyone—to survive.

It’s no secret that I have a thing for dark, creepy and apocalyptic books. Juggernaut promised all that and more. And I’m happy to say that I was not disappointed in the least. In fact, I absolutely loved this book. It was brilliant.

I liked Nico from the start. He’s not the kind of poor, helpless rentboy in desperate need of a saviour we usually see in this genre. He’s in the business out of his own free will and he knows how to defend himself when the need arises.

At first, I was a bit concerned about whether I’d like Zach. I’m an atheist and I tend to dislike very religious characters in my books. I just find it very hard to relate to somebody whose main purpose in life seems to be in their faith. But Zach was a pleasant surprise. While his faith is very important to him, it’s not his defining character trait. He never judges people based on their faith or lack thereof. He never tries to play missionary. He just quietly tries to help in whichever way he can. If somebody finds solace in praying together, he’s happy to do so. If somebody doesn’t want to pray, then that’s fine too. I really liked his approach to religion.

Many m/m books that deal with religion in one way or another tend to portray it negatively: Bigots, zealots and generally unpleasant people. “Juggernaut” had both the negative example (Zach’s father is a real jerk) and positively (Zach’s approach is very tolerant). It was very interesting to see the conflict between Zach and his father and their different ideas of what being a good Christian means. It made for an interesting subplot.

The main plot focuses on survival. At times, it gets pretty violent and a bit gory. The tone is very dark. This is not a happy story, at all. The story is incredibly addicting and it was next to impossible to put the book down. There’s lots of action, but the romance is rather slow to unfold. Personally, I liked that. And it fit the circumstances. Zach led a very sheltered life so far and there’s just so much else going on in the lives of our MCs, there just isn’t all that much time for them to develop really romantic feelings for each other.

Nico is a Latino and he’s very conscious of what that means. So racism and inequality added another interesting layer to the plot.

The ending is rather open, but again, that just fit the whole story. I really want to know what happens next. In Nico’s and Zach’s lives and in the entire world.

Long story short, “Juggernaut” is utterly brilliant. If you like dark, apocalyptic stories with a bit of romance thrown in, then this book is a must.

I really like the cover. It’s delightfully dark and violent and fits the mood of the book perfectly.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 2 edition, 320 pages
Published April 20th 2018 (first published August 8th 2015)
Original TitleJuggernaut, A Strain Novel
ASINB07CJQBVFF
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesStrain 0.5
CharactersNico Fernández, Zach Houtman

An Ali Review: The Perfect Whore (Storm and Lightning #1) by Josephine Myles

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Being the object of everyone’s sexual fantasies ain’t all it’s cracked up to be…

On a mining colony planet a long way from Earth, bandit Jedd Lightning dreams of making enough money to get his ship spaceworthy again. During a robbery at a high-class brothel, he meets gorgeous alien rentboy Storm and is instantly smitten—but the heist goes south and Jedd has to high-tail it out of there with only half the loot.

Enslaved by a fierce Madam, Storm’s shapeshifting talents make him the most sought after whore on Talmak. He literally can’t stop himself becoming his client’s fantasy lover. Sick of enforced transformations, he wants to escape, but he’s closely guarded and has no experience of the unfamiliar city outside the brothel.

Storm is willing—and eager—to do anything to persuade Jedd to break him out of his gilded prison. Lucky for him the arrogant outlaw needs Storm’s help to free his crewmate, held as hostage by a vicious mob boss who wants Jedd to complete the theft he was hired for. Storm keeps blowing away Jedd’s expectations—but with both the law and the mob against them, they could end up with nowhere left to run.

This was a really unique story.  I’ve read a lot of this author’s books in the past but nothing like this.  Even the writing style seemed different.  I wasn’t sure what to think of this at first.  I didn’t care for Jedd until mid way through the book.  He was a bit obnoxious but he grew on me as the story progressed.  Storm was was engaging from the beginning.  I think my favorite part was the snarking at each other that they did.  There were some pretty funny exchanges between the two.
This is pretty fast paced and it ends with nothing resolved.  It is obvious that this is the first book in the series.  I know that is bothersome to some readers but I didn’t mind how it ended.  I’m curious as to how their story and relationship will progress.
My biggest complaint was I would have liked more world building.  We’re thrown into the middle of a world that’s not really explained.  I had a lot of unanswered questions.
 Overall though, it was a very enjoyable story and it was different which is always a positive thing for me.  I will definitely be reading the next book in the series.

This cover was done by Lou Harper and I like it.  I think it is a good representation of how the two MC’s are described and it perfectly captures the vibe of the story.

Sales Links:

Universal Buy Link

Book Details:
Kindle Edition, 201 pages
Published April 26th 2018
ASINB07C7H5ZBX
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesStorm and Lightning #1

Release Blitz for Machine Metal Magic by Hanna Dare

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Cover Design: Nastasha Snow
 
Length: 65,000 words approx.
 
Blurb



The galaxy’s a dangerous place. Best not to travel it alone.


It’s been over a century since the AIs rose up and attacked, driving humans from Earth and leaving them scattered across the galaxy. Humanity survives, but always fearful of the technology that allows them travel among the stars, never knowing when it may turn against them once more.


An interstellar fugitive.


For Jaime Bashir, born with the ability to communicate telepathically with computers, his gifts are more of a curse. They also make him a target. On the run, he finds himself among a starship crew, one transporting a mysterious cargo. Even more intriguing is Rylan, the muscled guard watching his every move. Jaime has no reason to trust him, but nowhere else to turn.


A disgraced ex-soldier.


Rylan Slate is looking to leave his past behind. Joining a crew of smugglers is one way to do it. But capturing Jaime is both an opportunity and a danger. He starts out as a prisoner, but then becomes something more, testing loyalties in ways Rylan never expected. Will regaining his honor mean betraying Jaime?

A writer-for-hire for more than ten years, Hanna Dare now writes what she loves to read: well-written, character-driven stories of men exploring their identities and discovering their own unique kind of happily ever aftersů usually through sexytimes.


Find Hanna on the internet enjoying pretty pictures, procrastination and caffeinated beverages!

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New Release Day Blitz – The California Dashwoods by Lisa Henry (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The California Dashwoods

Author: Lisa Henry

Publisher:  Self Published

Release Date: May 1, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 62 000

Genre: Romance

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Synopsis

Make a new future. Choose your true family. Know your own heart.

When Elliott Dashwood’s father dies, leaving his family virtually penniless, it’s up to Elliott to do what he’s always done: be the responsible one. Now isn’t the right time for any added complications. So what the hell is he doing hooking up with Ned Ferrars? It’s just a fling, right?

Elliott tries to put it behind him when the family makes a fresh start in California, and if he secretly hopes to hear from Ned again, nobody else needs to know. While his mom is slowly coming to terms with her grief, teenage Greta is more vulnerable than she’s letting on, and Marianne—romantic, reckless Marianne—seems determined to throw herself headfirst into a risky love affair. And when Elliott discovers the secret Ned’s been keeping, he realizes that Marianne isn’t the only one pinning her hopes on a fantasy.

All the Dashwoods can tell you that feelings are messy and heartbreak hurts. But Elliott has to figure out if he can stop being the sensible one for once, and if he’s willing to risk his heart on his own romance.

A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Excerpt

Chapter 1

His father’s hand was weightless. Elliott held it gently, rubbing his thumb over the loose, wrinkled skin of his knuckles. His father’s fingers were thin and fragile now, and scrubbed clean. Elliott had never seen his father’s fingers without paint under his nails.

“Elliott,” Henry Dashwood whispered, and Elliott lifted his blurry gaze. The smile on his father’s face was almost beatific, but that was probably down to the morphine.

“I’m here,” he said, his throat aching. “John’s here too, Dad.”

John Dashwood was seated on the other side of the bed, his hands folded in his lap. His jaw was clenched tight, and his gaze was fixed on some point just above Henry’s pillow.

Henry lifted his free hand and held it out toward John. John looked startled for a moment, and then reached out and took it gently.

“My boys,” Henry murmured. “My sons.”

They sat for a long moment as Henry drifted off into a doze, only the sound of his heart monitor punctuating the silence.

Elliott didn’t even realize Henry was awake again until he spoke.

“John,” he said. “John, promise me that you’ll look after your brother and your sisters.”

John seemed to recoil for a moment, and then he wet his lower lip with his tongue. “I will, Dad.” He met Elliott’s gaze and then looked down at their father again. “I promise.”

“Is Abby coming?” Henry asked, his voice faint.

“Mom’s on her way, Dad,” Elliott said. “She’s on her way with the girls.”

Henry passed away before they arrived.

***

Francesca Dashwood, John’s wife, arrived the day after Henry passed away. She organized the entire funeral, shoving Abby and her children aside as though Henry’s second marriage had been nothing more than a footnote in the Dashwood Family history. Norland Park was filled with a curious mix of mourners, well-wishers, and gawkers. Elliott, Abby, and Marianne suffered their attention, or lack thereof, with varying degrees of politeness. Greta, thirteen years old, locked herself in her bedroom and threatened to stab anyone who tried to drag her out again.

Three days after the funeral, the Naked Blue Lady vanished from her place above the fireplace, and that was when Elliott knew for certain that Francesca had made her move.

The Dashwood Family—always a capital F in Elliott’s mind, to distinguish it from the tiny offshoot that he considered actual family—had never forgiven Henry for running off with the help—Abby—and proceeding to prove their dire predictions wrong by living in wedded bliss with her for over twenty years before the cancer took him. Abby had never been interested in the Dashwood Family money. She’d signed the prenup the Family lawyers had asked her to. In exchange, the Family had allowed Henry to retain Norland Park and had provided him with a monthly allowance. Those, however, had only been guaranteed for as long as Henry lived.

And now, staring at the blank space above the fireplace where the Naked Blue Lady had hung, Elliott knew that he and his mother and his sisters were next to go.

“She’s evil,” Marianne announced. “She’s a horrible evil troll, and we should let Greta stab her.”

“She’s not evil,” Elliott began, and caught Marianne’s look. “Okay, so maybe she’s a little bit evil, but she’s also John’s wife, so can we try and be civil, please? Also, why does every scenario that anyone in this family comes up with always involve Greta stabbing someone?”

“Not every scenario,” Marianne said, her slight smile vanishing as she looked at the blank space above the fireplace. “Mom is going to be pissed.”

Right on cue, the French doors flung wide open and Abby Dashwood swept through in one of her trademark kaftans. She stopped when she reached the fireplace, and pressed a hand over her heart. “That bitch! Where’s my painting?”

Elliott exchanged a glance with Marianne, and together they stepped forward and put their arms around their mother.

“I’m fine!” Abby shook them off. “It’s fine!”

It clearly wasn’t fine. Their wonderful, vibrant mother had been badly shaken by their father’s death. She had never once allowed herself to believe that Henry wouldn’t go into remission.

You have to think positive,” she’d said a thousand times, and thought so positively herself that she had refused to even begin to entertain any thoughts to the contrary. “Positive thoughts are positive energy, and that’s what your father needs right now.”

Elliott wasn’t certain she’d actually come to terms with the fact that he was gone. Even though they’d all sat in the front row at the funeral, the Family on the left side of the chapel, and Abby and her children on the right side, with poor John constantly darting between both factions like some frazzled emissary, silently begging Elliott to please prevent Abby or the girls from making a scene.

“Mom,” Elliott said now. “Come upstairs.”

“Yes,” Abby said, and lifted her chin. “Yes, let’s go upstairs and pack our bags! I’m not staying in this house a minute longer!” She raised her voice for the benefit of any eavesdroppers. “We’re clearly not welcome here!”

Marianne met Elliott’s gaze.

“Mom,” Elliott said, “we don’t have anywhere else to go. We can’t just leave.”

“Oh, honey.” Abby smiled at him, her eyes shining with tears. She reached up and cradled his cheeks in her palms. “Of course we can! All we need is each other.”

And somewhere to stay. And jobs. And money for college for Marianne and school for Greta. And health insurance. And a million other things that their father’s savings would barely begin to cover. But Elliott didn’t have the heart to say any of that.

“We can’t go anywhere yet, Mom,” he said. “Not without a plan.”

“Oh, honey,” Abby said again, her smile softening. “You worry too much.”

Marianne twined her fingers through Abby’s and tugged her gently toward the stairs. “Come on, Mom. Let’s go and see if Greta’s stabbed anyone yet.”

Elliott watched them leave, and then headed down the hallway toward his father’s study.

Norland Park, outside of Provincetown, was the only home Elliott had ever known. It had seven bedrooms, a sunroom, and a large parlor that Henry had used as a studio. The house had been built in 1910 in the American Craftsman style, and purchased by the Dashwoods a little over a decade later when Alexander Dashwood made his first million in the burgeoning aeronautics industry. It had served as a summer house for the Family for generations. And now they clearly wanted it back.

Henry Dashwood’s study was on the ground floor beside his studio. The hallway smelled of his oil paints. Tears pricked Elliott’s eyes, and he wiped them away before he opened the study door.

John was sitting at Henry’s desk, flicking through paperwork. He looked up.

“Elliott,” he said, his expression suddenly guarded. “Is everything okay?”

“Mom’s pretty upset,” Elliott said. “The, um, the painting?”

John had the decency to look abashed. “Francesca felt it was confronting.”

A wave of grief rose up in Elliott. He could almost hear Henry’s voice. “Art is supposed to be confronting, Elliott. It’s supposed to make you uncomfortable! It’s supposed to challenge you, to shake you up, to make you feel!”

Which were all good points, but Elliott still didn’t feel he could invite his friends over with the Naked Blue Lady hanging over the fireplace. She was very, very blue, and she was very, very naked. She was also his mom. Elliott had been twelve at the time, and not sure how to explain to his friends that yes, that was his mother sitting spread-legged on that chair, and yes, that was her vulva.

“It meant a lot to them,” he said.

John’s mouth pressed into a thin line.

And yeah, the painting meant a lot to John too, didn’t it? It represented the moment Henry Dashwood had walked out of his life and away from all his responsibilities as a father and a husband to be with the college student he’d hired as John’s au pair for the summer. John wasn’t a bad guy, but he was never going to be able to put that betrayal aside. Elliott couldn’t blame him. Henry had been a wonderful father to Elliott and Marianne and Greta. They’d stolen that from John, in a way.

“There’s a little over ten thousand dollars in Dad’s savings account,” John said at last.

Elliott nodded. “It’s what he’d been putting aside, except there’s not even enough for Greta’s school fees, let alone Marianne’s college tuition.”

From the moment Henry had been diagnosed, he’d saved what he could from his monthly payments from the Dashwood family trust, but in the end it had been too little, too late. In the end he’d gone so quickly, and there were funeral costs, and taxes, and bills for the alternative treatments they’d tried when it was clear the chemo wasn’t working—bills the insurance hadn’t covered.

John sighed. “Elliott, I promised Dad I’d do what I could to help, but most of my assets are tied up in the corporation, or held in trust. I mean, the board isn’t going to . . .” He cleared his throat.

Elliott nodded, his eyes stinging again.

“I’ll see what I can do,” John said. “But Francesca wants the house.”

Elliott nodded again, and slipped outside before John could see him crying.

***

Greta’s bedroom overlooked the front entrance of Norland Park, and she’d taken to leaning out of her window like a particularly malevolent gargoyle and glaring at anyone who came or went. She was a pretty girl, usually, when she wasn’t plotting murder behind the curtain of her dark hair, but Elliott couldn’t blame her.

“Oh my God,” she exclaimed. “There’s another car coming, Elliott! Another one!”

Elliott couldn’t bring himself to care enough to climb off her bed and go and see.

“It’s like Francesca can’t even wait until she kicks us out to start filling the place with her awful friends! These ones are driving an Audi.” She leaned further out the window.

“Greta!” Elliott leapt off the bed and crossed to the window before she dived out of it. He wrapped an arm around her and looked down.

The black Audi was parked close to the front entrance of the house, and the two young men climbing out were both wearing blazers, khakis, and boat shoes.

“Oh, look! It’s the Brooks Brothers!” Greta exclaimed.

Greta had no volume control.

The young men looked up.

Elliott and Greta pushed back from the window at the same time, and landed in a heap on the bedroom floor.

Greta stared at Elliott wide-eyed, and he stared back.

Then, for the first time in what felt like weeks, they both started to laugh.

***

The Brooks Brothers, Elliott learned at dinner, were actually the Ferrars brothers. They were Francesca’s younger brothers, Ned and Robert, and they apparently did something in construction. By the looks of them, nothing at the dirty end of that business. The Ferrars family resemblance was clear. The brothers were both tall, blond, and good-looking in a way that had just as much to do with presentation as it did with genetics. Skincare lotions and hair products and designer clothing gave a glossy shine to the brothers’ otherwise ordinary exteriors. Elliott found himself glancing at Ned’s profile more than once during dinner. His nose was a little long for his face. His jaw was a little wonky. His ears stuck out a bit. Without that two-hundred-dollar haircut working for him, would he still be as handsome, or would the slightly awkward way he held himself be even more apparent?

Elliott had never had a two-hundred-dollar haircut in his life. His father might have grown up obscenely wealthy, but his mother hadn’t. Two hundred dollars for a haircut when there was a perfectly good pair of scissors lying around? Not on Abby’s watch. Even now Elliott’s dark hair was tousled and unruly. When it was wet after a shower, it hung in tendrils in his eyes and down the back of his neck. When it was dry he rubbed some wax through it, stood it on end, and let it do whatever the hell it wanted for the rest of the day.

And he was the most presentable of his side of the family. He’d heard Francesca telling Robert exactly that after the brothers had arrived, before conceding that he was also “the least objectionable.”

Not exactly high praise, then.

Elliott glanced at Ned again, and this time Ned caught his gaze and offered him a small smile. Elliott smiled back, a little embarrassed to have been seen looking, and stabbed a piece of carrot.

Dinner with the Family was an ordeal. And Elliott meant that in the most ancient judicial sense. At this point he would rather choose ordeal by fire and walk over red-hot plowshares than endure another round of stilted conversation and barely concealed barbs. In addition to John and Francesca and the Ferrars brothers, Great Uncle Montgomery had been in residence since the funeral. He hadn’t done much except wander around Norland Park poking his cane into the wainscoting and announcing the presence of dry rot, then making grumbled threats to sue Abby for failing to keep the house maintained while she was a tenant.

A tenant.

Aunt Cynthia and her husband, Aldous, had also been staying since the funeral. Elliott couldn’t decide if they were better or worse than Montgomery.

“Oh, such pretty children,” Aunt Cynthia had said the night she’d arrived. “They don’t look anything like Abby, do they?”

Aldous had grunted. “That girl’s got metal through her nose.”

Worse, probably. They were worse than Montgomery. Montgomery might complain about holes in the wainscoting, but at least he didn’t comment on the hole in Marianne’s nose.

With the arrival of the Ferrars brothers, it didn’t take long for conversation at dinner to turn to the fact that they now had more guests than available guest rooms.

“Well,” Francesca said, with a thin smile in Abby’s direction, “I’m sure that the children can share, can’t they?”

Abby narrowed her gaze. “Excuse me?”

“I think it’s only fair to offer guests a proper bedroom, isn’t it?” Francesca asked.

Elliott met John’s gaze. John glanced away.

Invited guests, yes,” Abby said. “But I didn’t invite them.” She grimaced in the direction of Ned and Robert. “No offense.”

They both mumbled something that sounded vaguely polite.

“Well, I just thought that Marianne and Greta could share,” Francesca pressed on. “That would free up a room.”

Abby drew a deep breath. “Excuse you. My daughters don’t have to—”

“Ned and Robert can have my room,” Elliott said, to head Abby’s diatribe off at the pass. Francesca looked smug, John looked relieved, and Abby looked like she had a hell of a lot more to say on the subject. “It’s fine. I don’t mind.”

Ned shot him a worried glance. “That’s really not necessary.”

“I don’t mind,” Elliott repeated.

In the awkward silence that settled over the dining room, Great Uncle Montgomery muttered about nonexistent mold spores, and Greta turned her steak knife over and over in her palm in a thoughtful manner that made Aunt Cynthia shuffle her chair a few inches further away.

Happy families.

***

Elliott trudged upstairs after dinner to grab some spare clothes and his laptop and phone. He dragged a duffel bag down from the back of his closet and shoved clothes into it. This was his room, but he had known since his father died that he wouldn’t be allowed to stay in it. The Family wanted them out of the house. It was a matter of when, not if.

Elliott slid his laptop into his bag, then zipped it up and slung it over his shoulder. He stared down at his rumpled bed, but fuck it. If the Ferrars brothers wanted clean sheets, they could find them for themselves. Elliott crossed to the door and wrenched it open, surprising Ned Ferrars.

He had a suitcase on wheels.

“Sorry,” Elliott said, and stepped outside his room.

“No, um, I’m sorry.” Ned pressed his lips together. A faint wrinkle appeared at the top of his nose, right between his drawn-together eyebrows. “For, um . . . for your loss, and for everything.”

Elliott’s heart skipped a beat. He didn’t think a single person associated with the Family in any way had stooped to offer him their sympathies. At the funeral, everyone gave their condolences to John, as though Abby and her children, even in that moment, were interlopers with no claim on Henry Dashwood.

He was our dad too.

“Thanks,” he murmured, his throat aching.

Ned nodded and wheeled his little suitcase into Elliott’s room. The door snicked shut behind him.

***

Henry’s studio was largely undisturbed. It smelled of oil paints and turpentine. Stacks of unfinished canvases leaned against the walls. Elliott set his duffel bag down on the old paint-spattered couch his dad used to take his naps on every afternoon. It still smelled faintly of weed.

He crossed to the wall and traced his shaking fingers down a canvas. The paint was laid on thick, in a choppy texture that read like Braille. He closed his eyes and could hear Henry’s voice.

“This is art, my boy! Art! Nothing matters more in the world!”

“Says the man living in a Cape Cod mansion!”

Henry’s laughter had filled the room, and then he’d grown uncharacteristically solemn.

“Alexander Dashwood used to fly kites, you know? He used to watch the birds, and fly kites. He wanted to soar. He had an artist’s soul as well, I think. What would he make of his descendants, hmm? Making their fortune by manufacturing military drones. All innovators become oppressors, given enough time.”

Elliott smiled, his chest aching, and lifted his fingers away from the canvas.

“Love you, Dad,” he whispered to the silent studio. “Miss you.”

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Meet the Author

Lisa likes to tell stories, mostly with hot guys and happily ever afters.

Lisa lives in tropical North Queensland, Australia. She doesn’t know why, because she hates the heat, but she suspects she’s too lazy to move. She spends half her time slaving away as a government minion, and the other half plotting her escape.

She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix-up between international school systems early in life. She studied History and English, neither of them very thoroughly.

She shares her house with too many cats, a green tree frog that swims in the toilet, and as many possums as can break in every night. This is not how she imagined life as a grown-up.

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An Alisa Review: Corked by Brigham Vaughn

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

 

Originally published as the “Wine Tasting Series”.

 

Corked” is an expanded re-release with new editing and over 8,000 words of additional content!

 

Sean Powell is having a terrible day. When he walks into Bistro Argent, ready to unwind over a glass of wine with the sommelier, he’s stunned to discover his friend has been replaced by a hot young guy with big ideas. Lucas Spencer is determined to liven up the staid and stodgy wine list, but his brash approach alienates the wine distributor during their first meeting.

 

There’s no avoiding each other though and the more they butt heads, the hotter the tension between them gets. As they work together and their relationship progresses, they have to figure out how to blend their professional frustration and personal attraction without risking their careers.

 

Lucas is eleven years younger than Sean, and despite their sizzling chemistry and compatibility, Sean can’t quite believe the feelings are mutual. A wine tasting trip to Traverse City, Michigan threatens their fledgling relationship. Sean’s insecurities rise to the surface as Lucas’s fears of losing Sean lead to jealousy.

 

Does the relationship have legs or will they find out it’s corked?

 

Man did these two start out on the wrong foot but eventually got past their initial hostility. Lucas wants to prove himself in his new dream job and Sean rubs him the wrong way at their first meeting. Sean is really good at making assumptions and he makes some of the wrong ones immediately.

 

I liked seeing these two navigate the portions of their relationship we were shown. Once they actually sat and talked like adults they found out common interests and goals. I liked that we got to see them get together, after they have settled a bit into the relationship and in the future when they are getting their HEA. Though these are separated into separate stories they flow together with only some time gaps in between.

 

I liked both of these characters, while they could seem a bit self-important at times they really have some deep insecurities and want someone to love them. Lucas works hard to show Sean how important he is to him. Sean has trouble voicing his feelings without any hostility and needs some reassurance and though they can push each other’s buttons make each other happy.

 

I really like the cover art and the visuals of the characters in their elements.

Buy Links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

 

Book Details:

ebook, 42,000 words

Published: April 28, 2018 by Brigham Vaughn

Edition Language: English

A Lucy Review: And The Beagle Makes Three by Geoffrey Knight

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Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

Stuart was married to Claire, someone he loved very much, and they had a son, Atticus (Atty).  Life was really good until the night Stu had to tell Claire his truth – he is gay.  It didn’t end well and now Stuart carries around so much guilt for what happened.  It’s been eleven months and they are coming up on the last weekend in autumn, a time they traditionally spent at Claire’s sister Bethany’s house at the lake.  Bethany, she raises my blood pressure. Stuart wanted to skip it all.  Bethany isn’t kind at the best of times and this will just be a reminder of who is missing.  But Atty forces the issue and off they go, with their dog, Digby.   The trip is just as awful as Stu was afraid it would be and maybe even a little worse.   Atty, Stuart and meddlesome Bethany (plus family) all have some adjusting and facing facts to do, all while dealing with something so painful.

The book begins with a class presentation by Atty.  His mom had been a videographer and when she died, her 8 mm camera went to Atty.  She had taught him how to edit and how to work with movies, so his presentation was a documentary.  The theme, The Story of My Life So Far, is a typical one for an eight-year-old’s classroom but Atty’s presentation was not typical.  After all, his mother died and he and his father are grieving.  Atty hasn’t cried, but he’s grieving nonetheless.   It shows in his presentation.

Mrs Duckworth, Stuart’s personal assistant.  I don’t even have words for this woman (and I originally gave the book 3.5 stars then had to raise it some just for her).  She is matronly and motherly.  She lectures Stuart about talking with food in his mouth, how he ties his tie and her quirk is ahhhh-mazing.   “I’m talking your ‘lingo’”.  Oh my, how I loved me some Mrs. Duckworth.  She lectures Stuart on being gay and “…made a point of educating myself on all things homosexual.” 

It should be noted that while there is a possible love interest in the person of Cain, this is definitely not a romance.  It is a journey of father and son, and extended family, through grief and being able to move forward.   The romance is very much in the beginning stage and we don’t even meet Cain until halfway through and he doesn’t show up again until nearly the end.  Because that isn’t what this book is about.

There were times when Atty didn’t talk like your average eight-year-old. I teach four to eight-year-olds and I’ve never heard one say “Duly noted.”   Or “perhaps”.  Even, “Thank you for an eventful weekend.”  He didn’t talk that way throughout the book, just at the end, which is probably why I noticed it there.

There are some hard truths that Aunt Bethany has to face as well.  Even after her epiphany, I didn’t like her.  She made some headway at the end but her theory that she was always trying to be perfect doesn’t jibe with the absolute meanness she shows, not only to Stuart and Atty but to her husband and children as well.  Hopefully, she had enough self-realization at the end to make a turnaround.

There was a twist I wasn’t expecting, although it made sense.  This was by turns sad and hopeful.   And when Mrs Duckworth was around, funny.  “Bare throat” indeed.  But mostly it was a hurting father and son sticking together.  And the beagle makes three. 

Cover art by Geoffrey Knight fits the book perfectly.  Stuart, Digby and Atticus, in the car on their road trip to the lake. 

Sales Links:

AMAZON US: https://amzn.to/2GPSbHi

AMAZON UK: https://amzn.to/2EAgBTz

Book Details:

Published April 12th 2018
Original TitleAnd the Beagle Makes Three
Edition LanguageEnglish

Release Blitz for Orderly Affair (Hearts & Health #6) by DJ Jamison (excerpt and giveaway)

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Length: 75,000 words approx.
 
Hearts & Health Series
 
 
Blurb
 

A hospital orderly explores his bisexuality with an adorably geeky lab tech, but can their sparks lead to love outside the closet?

When Ian Connolly installs a hookup app to explore his long-suppressed attraction to men, he doesn’t expect to connect with anyone he knows, especially not lab tech Callum Price. But from their first scorching encounter, he’s hooked.

Callum hasn’t had the best luck with love, and he’s suffocating under a pile of responsibilities. But when he sees an opportunity to blow off steam with Ian, he takes it. The man is smoking hot, big all over, and sweet as pie.

Their chemistry is off the charts, but a relationship is more challenging. Callum remains stubbornly self-reliant, while Ian tries too hard to be his rock. But if Ian can be honest with his family about loving a man, maybe Callum can admit his own truth: He wants a man he can count on, a man just like Ian.

 

Here’s an excerpt of an app hookup that serves as the catalyst for Ian and Callum’s relationship. Enjoy!

Excerpt


Callum Price swallowed hard, staring at Ian Connolly’s massive … everything.
The orderly was six-foot-four, compared with Callum’s modest five-foot-eight height. Broad and muscled, Ian could toss Callum across the room with very little effort. That sent a thrill of fear through his body and a frisson of excitement straight to his cock.You are one screwed up puppy.Callum knew the guy from the app might be someone he knew, but he never would have guessed him to be Ian “straight guy” Connolly.

He licked his lips and raked his eyes over Ian’s chest and stomach, too obscured by the loose scrub top to hint at the goodies beneath. “I didn’t know you were …”

“Me either,” Ian said. Then coughed with embarrassment. “I mean, I’m bi and just now exploring my … curiosity.”

“Bi or bi-curious? They’re not the same.”

“Are we really going to have a serious talk about sexuality in the john?”

Ian had a point. Callum’s pulse raced, sending all his blood south and muddying his thoughts, as he stared at BigBiGuy. Ian. He knew the hospital orderly only through a loosely organized group of hospital staffers who played basketball every now and then. They nodded and smiled hello in the halls, but their paths didn’t cross all that much.

Yet, here they were.

Callum had noticed Ian was a big guy; it would have been impossible to miss. But he’d filed him into the unavailable category with all the other straight men, and as a result, hadn’t fully appreciated the man’s body.

He wasn’t about to miss an opportunity to correct that mistake.

“Take off your shirt.”

 

DJ Jamison is the author of more than a dozen m/m romances, including the Ashe Sentinel series and the Hearts and Health series. She writes a variety of queer characters, from gay to bisexual to asexual, with a focus on telling love stories that are more about common ground than lust at first sight. DJ grew up in the Midwest in a working-class family, and those influences can be found in her writing through characters coping with real-life problems: money troubles, workplace drama, family conflicts and, of course, falling in love. DJ spent more than a decade in the newspaper industry before chasing her first dream to write fiction. She spent a lifetime reading before that, and continues to avidly devour her fellow authors’ books each night. She lives in Kansas with her husband, two sons, two fish and, regrettably, one snake.

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Release Blitz and Giveaway for As I Am by Melissa Collins

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As I Am by Melissa Collins is LIVE!
Grab your copy:
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Chase Hansen. Broke. College drop out. Male stripper.

My life wasn’t at all what I imagined it would be. I should have been finishing up college, interning with a well-respected business, partying with my friends. But instead, I was raising my seventeen year old brother, struggling to make ends meet. Love wasn’t even on my radar. Besides, what did I have to offer? A few crumpled singles pulled from my G-string? Defeated and exhausted, I knew I had zero chance of finding someone to love me just as I am.

Noah Carpenter. Angry. Betrayed. Doctor.

Just when I thought my life was going exactly as it should, everything turned upside down. With my final rotation in medical school complete, I finally achieved my lifelong dream of becoming a doctor. What I never expected was to catch the man of my dreams in our bed with the man of his. Beyond infuriated, I struggled to piece together the remnants of my life. Just when I’d decided to give up on love altogether, I found a man who loved me just as I am.

Cover design: Sommer Stein at Perfect Pear Creative Covers

Photography: Christopher John at CJC Photography

Models: Sam Wiles and Aaron Michael Bell

Join me on Facebook for a $50 Amazon gift card giveaway!
Melissa Collins Author Page

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Collins has always been a book worm. Studying Literature in college ensured that her nose was always stuck in a book. She followed her passion for reading to the most logical career choice: English teacher. Her hope was to share her passion for reading and the escapism of books to her students. Having spent more than a decade in front of a classroom, she can easily say that it’s been a dream.
Her passion for writing didn’t start until more recently. When she was home on maternity leave in early 2012, she read her first romance novel and her head filled with the passion, angst and laughter of the characters who she read about it. It wasn’t long before characters of her own took shape in her mind. Their lives took over Melissa’s brain and The Love Series was born.

Website | Amazon | Facebook | FB Reader Group | BookBub | Twitter | Goodreads | Pinterest

Also, now and leading up to release day, Melissa has put On Solid Ground (http://mybook.to/osg) on sale for FREE

Book Blast – Omega Required by Dessa Lux (excerpt)

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BOOK BLAST

Book Title: Omega Required

Author: Dessa Lux

Publisher: Self Published

Cover Artist: Morgan Wilcox

Genre/s: M/M Paranormal/Werewolf Romance (no mpreg onscreen)

Length: 136,000 words/430 pages

Release Date: April 4, 2018

Blurb

An alpha werewolf chasing his dream meets an omega fighting for his life in a strictly temporary marriage of convenience…

Alpha werewolf Beau Jeffries has been going it alone ever since he was cast out of his pack as a teenager for trying to help a human and endangering the pack’s secrets during the tumultuous years when the wider world was learning the truth about werewolves. He hasn’t lost his drive to help others, and he’s about to begin a prestigious medical residency–only to learn that, as the first werewolf the program has knowingly accepted, he’ll have to follow special rules, including the one that requires him to be married when he begins his residency.

Omega werewolf Roland Lea is just trying to survive. After escaping the last and worst in a string of abusive relationships that left him scarred and unable to conceive, he’s found safety in a refuge for homeless omegas. But despite the help he’s getting at the refuge, he just keeps getting sicker instead of better, further and further from being able to make it on his own. When he’s offered the opportunity to sign up with a mate-matching agency, he figures he has nothing to lose. No alpha is ever going to want an omega like him.

When Beau sees Roland’s profile, he knows at once what’s making the omega sick, and he’s determined to help. If he can persuade Roland to marry him, he can save Roland’s life while Roland helps him get through his residency. But will their hasty partnership be enough to bring them both through what’s ahead–and can temporary necessity lead to a forever love?

Excerpt

He did sleep a little, or at least his thoughts drifted into quiet blankness for a while. He came back to himself when the car’s front doors closed, leaving only him and Beau inside. Roland opened his eyes to find Beau’s face closer than he expected.

Close enough to kiss.

His breath caught, and he felt that dangerous little thrill of anticipation, when he should have known better, should have been far past wanting anything like that ever again.

Beau just smiled. “Ready for our wedding day?”

Roland looked toward the window, and beyond it, the uninformative front of the refuge. “They didn’t… plan something, did they? It’s not gonna be, like…”

A tumble of images played through his head, mostly human weddings he’d seen on TV and in movies, elaborate and protracted events that always involved someone being terribly humiliated or disappointed or otherwise reduced to tears.

“I think they know you well enough to know you won’t want anything huge and exhausting,” Beau said quietly. “I suspect there’s going to be cake, though. You think you might be able to eat a little cake?”

Roland bit his lip, and his stomach squirmed uneasily. “Do you have any more of those ginger candies?”

Beau smiled and brought one out of his pocket, unwrapping it before holding the candy to Roland’s lips. He closed his eyes and opened his mouth for it, and the first sharp bite of the ginger made his mouth water alarmingly and his eyes sting. Beau stayed steady at his side, keeping one arm around him all the time, and after another moment Roland said, “I guess we have to get out of the car eventually.”

“Not really where I’d pictured us living for the next few years,” Beau agreed, but he didn’t make any move to get Roland out of the car until Roland picked his head up and twisted toward the door.

When they got inside there was cake, and Susan and Ms. Dawson and Dr. Hanek who ran the refuge and was, as it turned out, both a registered officiant for weddings and a notary public. He had Beau and Roland sign the pre-nup first, getting it notarized and witnessed across several copies.

Which meant Roland had to write his name when he couldn’t read it.

“It’s okay, take your time,” Beau murmured, and laid his finger down on the page. “Right along there. Right above my finger. When you’re ready.”

Roland took a few breaths, trying to make his fingers fit comfortably around the pen, to remember the motions of signing his name. He couldn’t remember when he’d ever done it that meant anything, but it couldn’t be that hard. He’d learned cursive in school. He knew how to write his own name, and that was all it was, really. His own name, in cursive, saying that he agreed to be married to Beau with all these conditions.

He squinted at it when he was done; it looked a little crooked and wobbly, but that seemed to be his name. Roland Lea. He’d done it.

And then he had to do it three more times.

“I’ll put one of these on file here,” Dr. Hanek explained, “and send one to the state Omega Rights Initiative. They hold a lot of these types of documents, just to be on the safe side.”

“Of course,” Beau said easily. “And Roland will have his own copy to keep as well.”

One was duly put into an envelope for him, and Roland held it, along with his birth certificate, while they did the rest of the wedding formalities. It was all so calm and matter of fact, just sitting on a loveseat beside Beau in one of the refuge sitting rooms, with Susan and Ms. Dawson and Dr. Hanek gathered around on other chairs. Roland barely realized the questions he was answering were his wedding vows, even when he automatically responded, “I do.”

But then there was a tiny round of applause, and Roland turned to meet Beau’s eyes.

Beau raised his eyebrows, asking some silent question, and Roland nodded a little, and then—oh, oh—Beau dipped his head and touched his lips to Roland’s, soft and chaste. A kiss. Their first kiss.

They were married.

There was another paper to sign for that, but Beau let Roland sign along his finger again, and his hand didn’t shake any worse than the first four times.

“Excellent. We’ll put the appropriate date on this and send it in tomorrow to be filed, but you are now officially married. Congratulations, both of you.”

“Thanks,” Roland murmured, and then looked up at Beau, who squeezed him a little closer.

“We’ll eat some cake first,” Beau said. “Then we’ll figure out everything else.”

 

Buy Links – Available on KU

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About the Author

Dessa Lux is a librarian living in the Midwest, running on Diet Coke and Adderall. She’s a geek who loves reading and writing romance, including the fanfic kind, and you can tell her apart from the others of her kind because she does not own a cat.

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