A MelanieM Review: Cutting Out by Meredith Shayne


Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Cutting Out coverTransplanted Aussie Shane Cooper loves his job as a shearer and the home he’s made for himself in New Zealand.  For over 20 years Shane has climbed to the top to be recognized as one of New Zealand’s premier shearers in the Senior Division where the most experienced of them all compete.  Now 39, Shane has a house, good friends, and a life he loves.  He’s only missing out on having someone to share his passion for shearing and his life.

Lachlan “Lachie” Moore is an up and coming shearer.  Not yet good enough to compete in the Senior Division, he still loves to watch them shear, hoping to pick up on pointers to help him do a better job.  At 24, young, reckless and gay, Lachie spots the hot, older shearer immediately, and its not just for his skills at shearing sheep that catches Lachie’s gaze.  But Shane appears more than content to just look then act on the attraction each feels for the other.

Then the horrific Christchurch earthquake hits, and tragedy strikes Lachie’s family. Lachie deals with his traumatized family and takes up new responsibilities, ones that makes it impossible for Lachie to continue on with his dream of shearing as a profession.  A year later, a new opportunity arises for Lachie to pick up shearing once more if only he can find the confidence in himself that now he has lost.

The new job reunites Shane with Lachie, only now he finds the lad changed and uncertain.  Shane decides to help the struggling Lachie regain his skills and direction and the time together reignites old feelings between them.  But Lachie has secrets he is afraid to share with Shane and Shane’s seems to want more than Lachie can give.  What will it take to break up this barrier Lachie has created so both men can have what they so desperately desire?

I throughly enjoyed Cutting Out by Meredith Shayne.  I seem to be reading quite a few books lately from New Zealand and Australian authors and all of them make me want to get on a plane and go “walk about” down under.  Meredith Shayne’s story deals with professional shearers in New Zealand, a job that requires remarkable precision and care as well as speed if you are to make it to the top.  Handling large squirming animals and a pair of shears at the same time takes a passion and coordination that not every person has and Meredith Shayne takes us into the heart of these men and women and the almost vagabond life they lead going from farm to farm to shear large numbers of sheep at a time.

I particularly enjoyed the insight Shayne gives us into the different levels of shearers, from the junior divisions of shearers just learning their  profession (junior and senior refer not to the shearer’s age but experience) to the top Senior level and the sought after shearers that are asked to shear the top quality and much larger breed Merino sheep.  The author easily slides her information about the profession, from the “shearing teams” that tend to work together over and over again as well as the loosely aggregated bunch assembled at the last minute, into her story making it all feel as natural as their surroundings.  The camaraderie and the close community is strengthened by the bond of the Maori society that hovers like a benign parent over its members and families.

As the characters move from farm to farm and home locations, the reader is brought keenly home into the various cities and places of New Zealand, from Christchurch to Gisbourne, from the Queenstown Hill Time Walk to the Basket of Dreams statue.  I felt she made me really  see these place while also sending me to look up areas and places of interest in each town and park.  And again all this is neatly folded into the narrative in such a way that it enhances rather than impedes the flow of the plot and the character growth.

But those characters!  That’s the heart and joy of this story.  I loved the reticent, introspective Shane, older, more experienced at life and love at 39 he knows what he wants but isn’t sure about where he stands with others.  Shane has many facets to his personality and not all are compatible with the much younger Lachie’s 24 year old outlook that begins at cocky, free wheeling and exuberant.  Something that the devastating impact of the earthquake in Christchurch changes forever.  The author takes her time and theirs for the relationship to begin as a friendship and slowly turn into something deeper.  For some readers, this timeline will feel far too slow and unhurried, but I found it to be in keeping with the characters personalities and background the author has created for them.  And its makes the ending all that  much sweeter.

What did I wish had been enlarged?  Perhaps the Epilogue or the chapter preceding it.  I would have loved a little more of their life at the end and how it all came about.  But perhaps we can have that in another story, one that includes these characters and enlarges on others we meet inside this story.  I loved it enough that I hated to have it all end.  I think you will feel the same.  Looking for a new romance to read?  One with a spectacular setting and hot men to boot? Pick up Cutting Off and enter Meredith Shayne’s world of sheep shearers and their HEAs!  I absolutely recommend this to one and all!

Cover artist is from Mumson Designs.  They did a great job.  I love that cover and it works perfectly for one of the characters.

Note:  Use of Aussie/NZ English used.  There is also a wonderful vocabulary to refer to at the beginning!

Sales Links:  All Romance eBooks (ARe)  amazon    Cutting Out

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published October 11th 2014 by Bottom Drawer Publications

edition languageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Precious Metals by L.A. Witt


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Precious MetalsAs a provision inspector below the Chilkoot Pass during the Klondike Gold Rush, Constable Paul Benson of the North-West Mounted Police has seen it all. The monotony, the fights, starvation and even death that has come with the miners rushing to make their fortune in gold. But even as the masses of humanity crowd into camps, Paul has been able to keep himself emotionally separated from the madness and madmen around him.  Until the arrival of Joseph Starling in his life.

Joseph Starling appears in camp, practically dead.  Joseph and his two brothers had been among those mining gold up north but there the brothers met a familiar fate.  They were robbed, one brother killed and the youngest still in the clutches of the men who attacked them.  Now Joseph is on his way to find his brother and bring him safely home.

It’s to Paul that Joseph is brought to and its Paul’s plan Joseph will use to catch up to the robbers.  Only Paul never counted on going with Joseph on a journey that will change them both in ways they never expected.  From eight-legged mechs with minds of their own to crash-prone airships, this is a trip with no guarantees, for success and even coming out alive.

Just the cover and the title alone is enough to recall the wonderful steampunk universe L.A. Witt has created for this remarkable series.  The first novel, Noble Metals, firmly established a steampunk world where the Klondike Gold Rush includes steam driven 8-legged brass mechs, mechanical beasts of burden instead of horses or sleds, where the North-West Mounted Police patroled the borders and camps instead of the Royal Canadian Mounties, but the human frailties, greed, and despair remain firmly entrenched by the pursuit of gold.  I loved that story.  It was inventive, believable, and a terrific romance to boot.

Now comes Precious Metals and that treacherous, amazing world comes alive once more.  Using the same format of alternating points of view,  L.A. Witt takes the reader from perspective to perspective easily without jumbling her narrative.  The story opens with Paul Benson looking over the teeming mass of miners gathered to get permits and head north into the Yukon.  Immediately we realize that being a Mountie is not the passion for Paul that one would think, an aspect of this story both unusual and telling. Into his line of vision comes a tattered group of miners walking beside a worn mech, lying on top is Joseph.  From the minute Joseph wakes up in the make shift infirmary, his heartbreaking portion of the story unfolds and Precious Metals takes flight.

Joseph Starling stole my heart immediately.  There are so many facets to this character, loving and loyal brother, ingenious engineer, and courageous, intrepid explorer and that doesn’t even begin to cover it.  There is another surprise in store for the readers concerning Joseph that the cover happily does not give away.But this element of Joseph’s character and its part in the story adds not only depth but heart to this amazing journey. It’s Paul that I had to warm up to.  Paul Benson has his own decisions to make and he tends to need a lot of internal prodding to get moving forward.  But once he does, then the reader is sure to embrace his character as much as we do Joseph’s.

Oh, the descriptions of the arduous trail north that L. A. Witt treats us to!  Heavy snowfalls, avalanches, bone chilling, death causing temperatures, and always, always something worse waiting to happen just around the bend.  And the vivid, wonderful passages make us feel every exhausting, frozen, torturous inch of the trail north.  And did I mention that there are airships afloat as unreliable and crash prone as the mechs themselves?  By the end of the story I found it hard to believe that the journey itself only unfolds in a short time frame because we were in the trenches with Paul and Joseph,  For them, as well as us, the heightened danger and close proximity brings an understanding, though not love, that feels as real as the journey itself.

For unlike the couple in Noble Metals, here the attachment forms quickly, yet realistically.  Is it a case of instant love?  I think not, but certainly a romance with a future if the men have any say.  Yes, this is a HFN that is satisfying in a book that I loved perhaps more than the last.   I highly recommend Precious Metals and its predessor, Noble Metals.  Pick them both up today and begin your passage to Chilkoot Pass , the Klondike Gold Rush and the men who find themselves and love along the way!

Cover artist April Lee’s drawing is both lively and a little rough, a bluntness about it that adds to its charm in my opinion.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing       All Romance eBooks        amazon           Precious Metals

Book Details:

ebook, 150 pages
Published October 27th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
original titlePrecious Metals
edition languageEnglish

Book in the Metals steampunk universe can be read as stand alone novels:

Noble Metals

Previous Metals

A PaulB Review: Phoenix Heart (Stolen Elements #1) by A.L. Wilson


Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

Phoenix Heart coverAs Cyrus and Lorenz prepare to celebrate 70 years together, the vampire and his German doctor mate are recruited by a wizard and his talking koala to help prevent a demonic takeover of the earth. As they build their team, they must confront issues from the distant past and present dangers that could destroy their long relationship.

In the dying days of World War II, Cyrus the vampire sets about freeing the victims of German atrocities as the Allied forces close in. At one such laboratory, he meets Dr. Lorenz Meissner, the stereotypical blond German. Afraid of what would happen to him if captured, the doctor asks the vampire to end him. Cyrus, a diminutive African, is smitten by the doctor and tells him to come with him. As the bombs fall, Lorenz is injured. Cyrus gives Lorenz some of his blood to help heal the doctor so they both can escape.

Cyrus and Lorenz spend the next 70 years trying to right wrongs they find. From slave traders to mysterious deaths, they lend support where they can. As they investigate the latest death, they meet a deaf wizard who says Cyrus needs to lead a group of heroes to face a demon intent on destroying the world. In order to do this, Cyrus and his group must find the last remaining phoenix and free one of the original vampires who has been captured by minions of Astaroth, the demon intent on ruling the world. Astaroth also happens to be the grandmother of Lorenz’s lab assistant. During this time, Lorenz’s ability begins to manifest itself.

Spoilers alert: Continue reading