A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Sinders and Ash (The Pennymaker Tales #1) by Tara Lain


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Sinders and Ash coverA fairy tale for the grownups, this story is so sweet it will definitely leave a warm and fuzzy feeling in your heart.

Mark Sintorella, aka Sinders as he’s known among the housekeeping staff at the resort hotel where he works doing all the dirty janitorial work no one else wants to do, has a secret dream to go to school to formalize his training in fashion design. His couture designs are amazing, considering the fact that he’s never had formal training, but the only person he has available to model them is himself.

When he meets Carstairs Pennymaker, a cute little elf-like man who seems to take an inordinate interest in Mark and his designs, Carstairs convinces Mark to model his clothes as they stroll through the grounds of the hotel since there are many fashion designers and wealthy patrons present this week. But Mark will need to disguise himself as a woman and be introduced as Pennymaker’s niece, Mariel.

Ashford Armitage is about to turn twenty-five and his grandfather’s will, from which he stands to inherit millions of dollars, is hanging over his head like an axe. If he marries before age twenty-five, he will have the money; if he doesn’t, he’ll be left penniless. Ash is gay and doesn’t want to marry anyone, but he shows up at this luxury resort to scan the potential brides one more time before giving up. He spots a young woman he may be able to marry. She’s witty and banters beautifully with him, plus she doesn’t really want to marry either. Bitsy is sweet and if he has to pick someone, he’ll hold out for her. But when he spots Mariel, aka Mark, across the room, his heart is lost.

Thankfully, he doesn’t realize this is the same young man he had saved from an attack earlier that day. One of the young housekeeping staff was nearly raped by the lecherous sous chef until Mark intervened. He thought the guy, Mark, was a sweetheart, and the two hit it off really well, though Ash didn’t reveal his secret fully, just allowed some passionate embraces with Mark to speak for him.

There’s plenty of intrigue here, including a F/F romantic subplot, as the couples finally come to terms with who they are and what they want. But it’s not until the ball at the end of the weekend, where Mark’s family is hoping to meet his chosen bride, that things turn truly magical.

I really enjoyed this story. I know it’s not realistic, but I don’t care. It’s an adult fairy tale, and the beautiful young man dressed as a princess gets his HEA with his handsome young “prince.” It’s the fun of what happens along the way, watching the way they overcome their problems, enjoying the interference of Mr. Pennymaker, and appreciating the beauty and magic of the finale that will leave you with a wide smile on your face and a warm place in your heart. I highly recommend this to all of fans of fairy tale romance with a capital R.
Cover Art by Reese Dante depicts a gorgeous young man with long brown hair and a beautiful countenance. He’s exactly the way I would picture Sinders to look.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, Re-Release
Published October 14th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press(first published March 31st 2012)
original titleSinders and Ash
edition languageEnglish
url http://taralain.com/
seriesThe Pennymaker Tales #1
charactersMark “Sinders” Sintorella, Ashton “Ash” Armitage, Carstairs Pennymaker

A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Shadows Fall by J.K. Hogan


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Shadows Fall coverTitus McGinty is a natural-born chovihano, medium, witch, Shaman—a Romany who has the gift of seeing dead people everywhere he looks. To most people that may sound intriguing, but to Titus it’s a curse. Spirts don’t just hover, they reach out to him, speaking, calling or making eerie noises. Together, at any given moment, the cacophony is enough to drive him crazy, so he never leaves his home or his coffee shop, both warded to keep the spirits out, without his earbuds firmly in place as he listens to whatever music queues up next on his iPod.

Most spirits hover in the area where they lived or died, never leaving one place, but recently a quartet of females, all grotesquely maimed, are following him around, trying to get him to help them, and he knows there’s nothing he can do.

Homicide Detective Charlie Hale, closeted, handsome, and the type of guy Titus has a hard time resisting, shows up at the coffee shop Titus owns and slowly wins Titus over. The attraction is mutual, but it’s soon evident that Charlie has never acted on his desire for men until Titus rocks his world. The two act on their attraction, but Charlie is shocked when he finds out that Titus might be more than a material witness to a murder he’s recently discovered.

It’s not Titus’s fault that the spirit of a newly dead man leads him into the building where his body is lying shortly after he’s been murdered. The biggest issue is that he has the same markings as the four female spirits who have been haunting Titus and has now joined the others in their pursuit. Titus wants to help, but he also wants peace and quiet so he sends for his grandmother, the Shaman of their gypsy tribe and the only person who might be willing to help him figure out how to keep out the spirits he doesn’t want but communicate with those he does.

Between his grandmother showing up, and Titus’s discovery of that body, his life goes into chaos. Charlie is pressuring him to reveal how he found the body, Charlie’s cop partner is pressuring both of them by threatening to arrest Titus, and the spirits are threatening his sanity by continually trying to get him to understand something. By the time, the chaos is sorted, Titus is on the radar of the serial killer and may become the next victim before he can help Charlie solve the crime.

This is just a very brief summary of a story that was shockingly good. Shocking to me because I’ve never read this author’s work, and I’m not a huge fan of gruesome murder stories. However, this was very well-written, with rich detail and an intricate plotline that piqued my interest.

Both the primary and secondary characters were well-developed and captured my attention right from the beginning of the book. I like a story which engages me immediately, and this certainly did that. Titus was feisty and independent, yet so emotionally needy for close contact with another human being that when Charlie walked into his life, he soaked up the attention like a sponge. And Charlie, tough guy detective and closeted gay man, was so hard shell on the outside with a soft chewy center, i.e. tenderness on the inside, I found myself rooting for him to win Titus’s heart. Grandma Hester Faa was a hoot—picture Ester from the Golden Girls of yesteryear. She too was feisty and took no backtalk from anyone, particularly from some gaje cop who was sleeping in her grandson’s bed. Other support characters could easily constitute a recurring cast for future spinoffs from this story, and judging by the way the author ended the book, I’d say it’s highly likely there will be some.

Actually, the one thing that kept my rating from being five stars was the ending of the story. It felt rushed, with a few subplots left outstanding, including the fate of Titus’s missing employee, Titus’s own future standing with his family and grandmother—will it be closer now or go back to being estranged?—and Charlie’s relationship with his partner—a partner who was very on again-off again. I’m sure much of the reason things stand the way they are at the end of the story are to tie into a future book, however the transition wasn’t smooth and simply felt too rushed and incomplete.

I would recommend this to those who like a creepy mystery with a paranormal element along with some blood and gore all mixed in with their M/M romance. Throw in a little feisty granny and some mighty hawt sex scenes with a virginal cop, and you’ll likely really enjoy this one as much as I did.


The cover, designed by J.K. Hogan, is a photo depicting a young man, with dark hair and dark complexion with a background of a graffiti-marked underground tunnel. Once the story is complete, readers will understand the symbolism of the tunnel, and the young man is an attractive version of Titus McGinty.

Sales Links:  Wilde City Press  | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 329 pages
Published June 10th 2015 by Wilde City Press
ISBN13 9781925313246
edition language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Empty Nests (Nested Hearts #1) by Ada Maria Soto


Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Empty Nests coverThis is a sweet, slow burn romance between two men in their thirties, one a workaholic CFO of a tech company, and the other a man who’s been a father for more than half his life and has never enjoyed a relationship with a man, even though he’s always known he was gay.

Gabe Juarez is a gorgeous, Mexican-American, wealthy, and charming CFO who’s just been named most eligible bachelor for five years in a row. The problem is that he’s been out since he turned sixteen and no one seems willing to acknowledge he prefers men, or at least no one among the female vultures who salivate over him as potential husband material. But even if Gabe could find time in his busy schedule to devote to dating, the thought doesn’t really appeal to him, especially not after he was burned three years ago by a man who turned out to be the worst gold-digger of all.

When James Mason was fourteen he was caught kissing a boy, so he had sex with a girl in his class who said she was on the pill. Problem was she was only on it two days, so he found himself a father at fifteen. When he found out his girlfriend’s parents had arranged a shady adoption behind his back, he sued for custody and won. He managed to finish high school, parent Derek, work part time, go to a community college, and eventually take a position in the IT department at Berkley. He’s now the head of the tech support department and still working on a tight budget to pay the bills and save money for Derek’s college education.

When these two finally find time to get together, it’s sweet and simple, with just a few lunch dates at first, progressing to more intimate time together later. And when Gabe finds out James is a gay virgin, he’s willing to slow down as much as James needs. But can these two very different men really find a way to make a relationship work? Can Gabe in his high tech, jet-set world really settle down with James in his very simple, very plain lifestyle? And would Gabe want to take on Derek, James’s now seventeen-year-old son and fierce protector?

I loved this story not only for the story content but for the way it was written. The author clearly captured the social differences which impacted the dynamics between the MCs, as well as the loving and respectful father-son relationship between James and Derek. Gabe’s business partners and their families provided a great deal of unwanted advice to the workaholic bachelor, but their emotional support and concern for him came through loud and clear. The sweet, slow buildup of the romance, the even slower introduction of sexual experiences to the relationship, and the bond building between the men by the end of the story all made the story so much better than I had anticipated.

By the time I got to the end, I was fully invested in this couple and rooting for a happy ending. Unfortunately, the story is to be continued, so all I got was a HFN, but thankfully, it was that and not an angst-filled cliffhanger. I definitely plan to continue with their saga when the next book is released, and I certainly recommend this one to those who love slow burn M/M romances. Well-written, with engaging characters—both MCs and secondary— and a variety of social situations to which most of us can relate. Don’t miss your chance to read this one.

Cover Art by Paul Richmond features the back end view of two cars: the first a bright blue new model Tesla and the second a bright yellow old Volvo sporting bumper stickers: I love Little League; Baseball Dad; My Child is an Honor Roll Student; etc. These cars symbolize the MCs: the wealthy playboy Gabe Juarez, and the thirty-two-year-old single father of a teen, Paul Mason. The cars are the perfect representation of the differences between the two men featured in the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 214 pages
Published June 12th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
series Nested Hearts #1

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: When to Hold Them (A Bluewater Bay story) by G.B. Gordon


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5BWBlogo_Web

When to Hold Them coverDoran Callaghan is paying the ultimate price for his gambling addiction—jail, probation, and a reintegration program that lands him in the town of Bluewater Bay, working part time for the tourist bureau. Most of his work is behind the scenes working on their website, newsletter, and brochures. The office is only open for a few hours each weekend, so he and his coworker have a lot of flexibility in how they schedule the rest of their work week, but Doran manages to make sure he’s there every Sunday at noon because that’s when the gorgeous park ranger, Xavier Wagner, steps into the mini-market across the street. Every Sunday, like clockwork, the truck pulls up and out steps tall, dark, and handsome. Doran has to meet him. He just has to. So he scrapes together enough change to go across the street when the ranger is there. Unfortunately, his first impression—that of a tongue-tied kid—isn’t the best impression to leave on the man of his dreams.

Xavier Mayne doesn’t know what it is about the blond, good-looking kid, but he knows he’s attracted, and since he hasn’t felt that way in quite a while, the next time he sees him, he acts on that attraction and invites the young man out to eat. What they discover is that Doran has a submissive side, and Xavier has a strong compulsion to take charge. But he’s afraid that Doran just doesn’t know how to say no, and nothing about his behavior so far has shaken that belief.

Doran is afraid to share his history with Xavier because once he gets to know the big man, he’s hooked and he’s afraid Xavier will shun him if he knows the truth. He feels safe and secure with him and he loves the feelings he has when Xavier is near. But when they start to act on those feelings, Doran fails to make Xavier believe he can be trusted. Xavier has firm beliefs about truth and trust, and Doran is simply not living up to them. When a miscommunication sends Doran running to a gambling site, they nearly miss their chance at happiness. But when the loan shark Doran knew in the past shows up, it’s Xavier he turns to, and Xavier who is the only person Doran can truly trust.

I really enjoyed this story. It can definitely be read as a standalone since the only thing it has in common with the other stories in the series is the setting. It was emotionally compelling to watch Doran as he struggled with consequences of his life choices, and he finally accepted responsibility for his own actions. And it was equally compelling to watch Xavier as he came to terms with who he is as a gay man, a lover, and a potential Dom. The scene where the two declared their love for each other was completely unexpected and really terrific. Their love and their laughter expressed the joy to be found when one finds the other half of one’s soul.

This was my first story by this author, but it won’t be my last. I recommend this one to lovers of M/M romance, especially those who like an age-gap, early stage D/s relationship, angst, and those who simply can’t get enough of Bluewater Bay.

Cover Art by LC Chase beautifully depicts the two MCs wearing their cold weather gear and standing against a backdrop of gorgeous Mount Olympus in Washington State.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing –  All Romance (ARe) – Amazon   Buy It Here  [other sales links to come]

Book Details:

ebook, 221 pages
Expected publication: August 17th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
original titleWhen to Hold Them
edition languageEnglish
series Bluewater Bay #9

Bluewater Bay Universe….WolfsLanding_transparent

Welcome to Bluewater Bay! This quiet little logging town on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula has been stagnating for decades, on the verge of ghost town status. Until a television crew moves in to film Wolf’s Landing, a soon-to-be cult hit based on the wildly successful shifter novels penned by local author Hunter Easton.

Wolf’s Landing’s success spawns everything from merchandise to movie talks, and Bluewater Bay explodes into a mecca for fans and tourists alike. The locals still aren’t quite sure what to make of all this—the town is rejuvenated, but at what cost? And the Hollywood-based production crew is out of their element in this small, mossy seaside locale. Needless to say, sparks fly.

This collaborative story world is brought to you by eleven award-winning, best-selling LGBTQ romance authors: L.A. Witt, L.B. Gregg, Z.A. Maxfield, Aleksandr Voinov, Heidi Belleau, Rachel Haimowitz, Anne Tenino, Amy Lane, SE Jakes, G.B. Gordon, and Jaime Samms. Each contemporary novel stands alone, but all are built around the town and the people of Bluewater Bay and the Wolf’s Landing media empire.

Books in this Universe include with links to our reviews:

Starstruck (Bluewater Bay #1) by L.A. Witt
There’s Something About Ari (Bluewater Bay #2) by L.B. Gregg
Hell on Wheels (Bluewater Bay #3) by Z.A. Maxfield
Lone Wolf (Bluewater Bay #4) by Aleksandr Voinov
The Burnt Toast B&B (Bluewater Bay #5) by Heidi Belleau & Rachel Haimowitz
Lights, Camera, Cupid (A Bluewater Bay Valentine’s Day Anthology; Bluewater Bay #6)
Wedding Favors (Bluewater Bay, #7) by Anne Tenino
The Deep of the Sound (Bluewater Bay, #8) by Amy Lane – release date of June 15, 2015
When to Hold Them (Bluewater Bay, #9) by G.B. Gordon – release date of August 17, 2015
Christmas Comes to Bluewater Bay (The Bluewater Bay Series) by Deanna Edens Oct 2013 -charity story with proceeds going to the Michigan Humane Society (F/F)

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Light from the Dark by Mercy Celeste


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Light from the Dark coverI really like Mercy’s Celeste’s work so it’s not unusual for me to expect a good story from her, but this one is the best I’ve ever read! My first thoughts upon completion: awesome, complex, convoluted plot, extremely damaged yet loveable MCs, an intriguing mystery, amazing sex, and a story that will remain with me for quite a while.

The blurb doesn’t do justice to the full scope of this story, but in a nutshell—former US Marshal Micah Beasley, tired of living with the guilt and negative thoughts of the disaster his last job took, decides to accept a job offer as bodyguard for what he assumes is a spoiled rich kid who can’t (or won’t) leave his house. Thinking it will be a cakewalk, when asked what salary he’d like, he asks for a million dollars. Imagine his shock when he gets it!

Christopher (Kit) Auberon is all that’s left of the very wealthy and powerful Auberon family. Unable to speak, scarred from spending two years in prison for the attempted murder of his uncle, white-haired from that same imprisonment, he’s also a brilliant computer gamer. Loner doesn’t begin to describe his isolated existence, however.

Unfortunately, recent break-ins at his supposedly secure estate, coupled by escalating memories of a time when he was kidnapped as a child after seeing his parents killed, are sending Kit into a place in his mind from which he may never return.

The scope of the story is so huge that I need to break it down a bit to do justice to a review. Starting with the MCs—first, Micah Beasley, blond, muscular, with a scar that slices his face on one side, former US Marine, former US Marshal, not out to his family, burdened by guilt connected to his last case when his work partner, Heath, was killed along with the child they were protecting. Heath was also his lover, and Micah feels that if they hadn’t taken fifteen minutes for a quickie before picking up the little girl, she wouldn’t have been killed, Heath wouldn’t have died, and Micah might have some semblance of a career left. Instead, his affair with his married co-worker comes out in the investigation, and Micah is relieved of duty, retired quietly, and sent on his way. Stewing over all of this for over six months, he’s shocked when his name is suggested for the bodyguard position but realizes it might be just what he needs to join the living again.

Kit Auberon was only eight years old when he was kidnapped from the scene where both his parents were murdered and their home burned to the ground. When he later wanders into a convenience store, covered in blood, he’s unable to speak and has no memory of what happened or where he’s been. And if that isn’t bad enough, we learn that he has psychotic episodes in which he shuts down completely after exhibiting violent behavior. During one of these when he was only a young teen, he attacked his uncle with scissors and nearly killed him. His uncle refused to back off and Kit was sent to a horrible mental institution for two years during which he was physically and mentally abused. When he was finally released to the custody of his grandfather’s chosen guardians, his hair had turned completely white, he had scars all over his body, and he faced a long road back to recovery. The experiences this young man went through in the past and goes through in the present in this story, are heartbreaking and tragic. This reviewer came to love him, his strength of character, his will to continue to fight his demons, his brilliance in putting his intellect to work by creating computer games and tweaking artificial voice controls in order for him to communicate with those around him. He alternates between sign language and the computerized voice, and I found myself wishing I could be there to help him in some way.

Over the course of the first week that Micah is with Kit, Micah discovers that Kit is highly intelligent, sweet and innocent in regards to relationships, definitely a virgin, impotent, and someone with whom Micah could easily fall in love. In fact, he’s one of the only people Kit trusts in his inner circle, outside of the few household staff who have been with him most of his life, and Kit begins to have feelings for Micah as well. Kit’s nickname for Micah is Beastly, not because of the scar which slashes across his face, but because of his lion-hearted strength and his rough blond good looks and hairy body. The two develop a rapport that runs much deeper than either expected, and it’s Micah who is finally able to help Kit fight his darkness and find his way back to stability when their safe environment goes to hell in a handbasket.

The mystery surrounding the childhood kidnapping is eventually revealed in all its complex twists and turns, as is the time Kit spent in the psychiatric facility, and the details of Micah’s own past with the complex situation which led to his dismissal from the department. I swear I was going to get out my spreadsheet and plot a few graphs to help me get through the cast of characters and their relationships to each other, to Kit, and to the mystery itself. At the heart of the last few chapters of the story is the deep and abiding love that Micah has developed for “Chris”, and the mutual understanding and reliance upon each other as they battle their demons and ghosts, both past and present.

I can’t begin to express how very much I enjoyed this story. It’s much more than a simple M/M romance. It’s a journey of two men’s struggles to come out of the depths of despair and fight for stability and happiness in a situation which seems virtually hopeless. I highly recommend this one to lovers of M/M romance, mystery and intrigue, and those who want to have an opportunity to stretch their imaginations to new lengths. Don’t miss this one!

Cover Art by Reece Notley is a photo of a gruff-looking man in a suit as he holds the jacket closed, showing tension in every line of his body. This is a good representation of MC Micah Beasley and the tension under which he has been living.

Sales Links:       Amazon      Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 246 pages
Published March 6th 2015 by MJC PRess (first published March 5th 2015)
original titleLight from the Dark
edition languageEnglish
url https://mercyceleste.wordpress.com/

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review – Tempest (Playing the Fool #3) by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Tempest coverShakespeare buffs should love this series. As in the other two stories, quotes from “The Bard” abound and, in fact, the title of the story is an adaptation of The Tempest.

Henry Page, aka Sebastian Hanes, aka a hundred other aliases, is a Shakespeare buff. He and his twin sister Viola were raised by an alcoholic mother who was an actress and instilled a love of William Shakespeare in her children from a very early age. As this third story in the series opens, Henry is on the run and so is his boyfriend, FBI Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness Mac is being framed for murder and with nowhere else to go, they head for Altona, Indiana, where the series began. Altona, not the most well-known city in the world has a population consisting of Mac’s family, some goats, a few chickens, and maybe a handful of other people. Henry’s not happy about lying low at the McGuinness family farm (hence, his singing of Old MacDonald’s Farm on the way there), but they’ve got nowhere else to go, and he believes Viola will be safe there, a fact which makes him most cooperative.

Viola suffered a brain injury while trying to pull one of their mother’s boyfriends off of Henry as he was being raped when they were teens. In this book we learn something more about this man, JJ. <spoiler> The way the authors wove Mac’s and Henry’s stories together was both complex and compelling. Interesting to me as a reviewer and as someone who has read the past books, I felt like I was slowly unwrapping a gift and each layer brought a new surprise. In hindsight, it’s obvious that the authors plotted this series out before starting the first book, yet each story is a complete story in itself. Together, they make an incredibly interesting action adventure saga. As Henry jokes, the two of them together, aka “Mac and Cheese”, had enough going on in their lives to create a TV series about them, and now they seem to have enough material to make an epic motion picture.

Watching their relationship develop, and most especially, watching Henry come to the realization that he can indeed rely on Mac, that he loves him, and that he might have finally found a home with Mac, is incredibly fulfilling and I just literally couldn’t put the story down. If this had been a movie, I certainly would have watched between my fingers, like a little kid who can’t bear to see what’s going on, yet can’t leave the room either. The last chapters were a hair-raising adventure, super scary for more than just Mac and Henry, and highly riveting. A definite nail-biter, for sure.

The authors continue to relate to the world of William Shakespeare throughout the story, and I particularly enjoyed Mac’s realization that “everyone had their assigned part, and played it. All the world was a stage, after all, and it was just bursting at the seams with eager understudies.” He went on to speculate on the people who loved you and those you loved—those are the only people who mattered. It was clearly evident that he loved Henry, and when Henry finally admitted that he loved Mac, though it was mumbled, it was just perfect for them. And speaking of perfect, the ending of the story was exactly what will allow our guys to continue on in future stories if the authors want to take them further, but would be a fine place to end if they decide to do so.

I highly recommend this series. It got better with each book, and both characters are now on my list of favorite M/M characters and definitely on my most memorable couples list.
Cover Art by L.C. Chase depicts an open black umbrella on a red background, giving the same overall feel as the covers of the other books. In this case, use of an umbrella symbolizes both Henry’s fear of storms and the use of an umbrella to thwart one of the “bad guys” in the story. Nicely done.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing       All Romance (ARe)      Amazon    Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 205 pages
Expected publication: March 9th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
edition languageEnglish
seriesPlaying the Fool #3

Playing the Fool Series in the order they were written and should be read:

Henry And Mac Are Back in Action in Tempest (Playing the Fool #3) by Lisa Henry & J. A. Rock (Excerpt and Contest)


Tempest cover


STRW In The Spotlight Header

Lisa Henry and J. A. Rock’s series Playing the Fool is a Must Read, highly recommended series of stories here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.   Happily, we now have another book to add to this series.  It’s Tempest (Playing the Fool #3) !  The authors are here today with a special excerpt and a contest for all to enter.  Check it all out below and don’t forget to leave your email address in the body of your comment when entering the contest!  Let’s get started!

Welcome, Lisa Henry and J. A. Rock!


Hi! We’re Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock, the authors of TEMPEST. We’re touring the web taking about our influences, our processes, anything we can think about actually, and even giving you guys a sneak peak or two! And what would a blog tour be without a contest? Check out the details at the bottom of the post to see what you can win!

Today we’re sharing an excerpt from TEMPEST.  Here, Henry and Mac are on their way back to the city to get to the bottom of who’s framing Mac. Henry is as distracted, and distracting as always. Contains a bonus Skittles reference.

STRW Spotlight Book Excerpt


The next morning, Mac looked Henry up and down as he approached the truck. Refrained from shaking his head as Henry settled into the passenger seat. “I thought you’d be wearing a disguise.”

“Seriously?” Henry smoothed down his tie. “I am wearing a disguise. Look at me. I could be selling magazine subscriptions. Or Jesus. Or subscriptions to magazines that are exclusively about Jesus. White Jesus. Or maybe I’m on my way to a job interview at an accounting firm.” He flashed Mac a smile. “Yeah, I’ll bet that’s what I’m doing.”

Mac frowned at the pants. There was something both weirdly familiar and aesthetically disturbing about the houndstooth pattern.

“Are those my dad’s pants?”

“Circa 1974. Your dad wore ’em tight. This is his tie too.” “You’re really wearing a tie?”

“You like boys in ties.” Henry ran his fingers down the silk, in a gesture that would have been a hell of a lot sexier if Mac didn’t remember buying that tie for his dad one Father’s Day. “Look at you. Even in jeans something about you just screams cop.”

“I’m not a cop.”

“I know. But ‘something about you just screams authority figure who can deprive me of my freedom’ just doesn’t roll off the tongue in the same way, does it?”

“I guess not.” He stared at his parents’ house a little longer, then turned the ignition. The truck rumbled into life. “You ready for this?”

Henry pulled a packet of Skittles out of his pocket. “I’m always ready for a road trip.”

Of course he was.

They headed for Indianapolis.

Mac let Henry fiddle with the radio and spill candy and talk bullshit at a million miles an hour, because that was Henry. It was how he dealt with stress. If he talked fast enough, if he teased, if he didn’t stop, then he didn’t have to deal. Even a week ago Mac would have been irritated by that. Would have wanted to slap him around the back of the head for being so damn irritating. Like Energizer Bunny irritating. But not today.

Henry glanced out the window at the darkening sky. “Looks like rain.”

“Storm’s not supposed to hit until this evening.”

“Great. Let me get out my umbrella and tap shoes.” Henry changed the radio station again. Then suddenly slapped the radio knob, turning it off. “Can we stop for donuts, Mac?”

“Says the guy who just put away two omelets for breakfast.”

“Which is my protein requirement for the day. Now I need my sugar and frosting requirement for the day. Oh, and my milkshake requirement. Strawberry.” He jiggled his leg. “Definitely strawberry.”

“If we see somewhere, we’ll stop.”

Henry’s eyebrows shot up. “Are you serious? I don’t need to argue about this?”


Henry slumped back down in his seat. “Well, now I know you think we’re gonna die.”

Mac glanced sideways at him. “Maybe I’m just tired of arguing with you.”

“Or maybe you want me to finish these Skittles and put something else in my mouth. Want me to taste your rainbow ?” “Not while I’m driving, I don’t.” Flirty Henry was incorrigible. He was also deflecting again. One day, Mac decided, he would surprise the fuck out of both of them and say yes to whatever crazy suggestion fell out of those candy-stained lips.

“You’re so boring, Mac.”

“Shut up, Cheese.”

STRW Author BookSynopsis


Something wicked this way comes.

FBI Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness and con man Henry Page are on the run again. This time they’re headed back to where it all began: Altona, Indiana. Population: some goats. Henry’s not happy about lying low at the McGuinness family farm, but they’ve got nowhere else to go.

While Mac fights to clear his name and Henry struggles with whose side he’s really on, a ghost from the past threatens to destroy everything. And those aren’t the only storms on the radar. Cut off from both sides of the law, Mac and Henry must rely on their tenuous partnership to survive.

If Henry can convince himself to let Mac see the man behind the disguises, they’ll stand a chance of beating the forces that conspire against them. The course of true love never did run smooth, but for the two of them, it might be their only hope.
You can check out TEMPEST at Riptide.

Books in the Playing the Fool Series are -linked to Barb’s 5-star reviews:


STRW Spotlight Contest Header

The Giveaway: Thanks for following our tour! To celebrate our release, we’re giving away an awesome prize – an ebook copy of a novel of your choice from either of our back catalogs. We’re also giving away a $20 Riptide gift voucher, and some comfy items picked especially for you by Henry: a pillow shaped like a donut, and a pair of donut-themed socks.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a way for us to contact you, be it your email, your twitter, or a link to your facebook or goodreads account. Please put your email in the body of the comment, not just in email section of the comment form, because we won’t be able to see it otherwise! On March 20, 2015, we’ll draw a winner from all eligible comments! Be sure to follow the whole tour, because the more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win the prize!

Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Prizes provided by Riptide Publishing and the authors.



STRW Author Bio and Contacts


About the Authors

Lisa Henry

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 a log-suffering partner, too many cats, a dog, 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.

Connect with Lisa:

Blog:  http://www.lisahenryonline.blogspot.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LisaHenryOnline
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/LisaHenry

J.A. Rock

J.A. Rock has worked as a dog groomer, knife seller, haunted house zombie, standardized patient, cashier, census taker, state fair quilt hanger, and, for one less-than-magical evening, a server—and would much rather be writing about those jobs than doing them. A lover of m/m BDSM romance, J.A. lives mostly in West Virginia, and always with a beloved dog, Professor Anne.

Website:  http://www.jarockauthor.com/
Blog:  http://jarockauthor.blogspot.com/
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/jarockauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ja.rock.39

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Lights! Camera! Cupid! A Bluewater Bay Valentine’s Day Anthology


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5BWBlogo_Web

Cupid is visiting Bluewater Bay, and he’s leaving chaos in his wake.

Lights! Camera! Cupid! coverIt’s been my experience that anthologies generally have stories which are great, not so great, and middle of the road. In this one, that’s not true—they are almost all terrific. To help me come up with an overall rating, I’ve rated each individual story and decided to leave that rating so that readers can see which ones I thought were the best.

The stories are:

Just Another Day by L.A. Witt

Levi Pritchard hates Valentine’s Day. In fact, he absolutely abhors it, so when he comes home to find that his lover Carter Samuels (“Starstruck”) has bought him a rare DVD for his collection and is making Pasta Carbonara, his favorite meal, he knows he’s going to have to say something ,and that it will likely hurt Carter’s feelings. He does, and it does, and after a brief period of time out for both of them and a call by Levi to his friend Anna, he does the unexpected and sits down with Carter to explain why he hates the holiday then takes Carter upstairs for a very special Valentine surprise. Saying more here would spoil the surprise but readers will definitely love it as much as Carter does! 4.5 stars

Nascha by Amy Lane

It never ceases to amaze me that Amy Lane can create an entire story spanning over fifty years, sketch full characters with both a history and a future, stir in a little (or in this case a lot) of angst, and spit out a story that is full, rich, memorable, and creates a lump in my throat and a pain in my heart. If I had to assign one word to this story it would be depressing. Another would be complex. It’s a story about Nascha, an American Indian and gambler, who falls in love with his two best friends, Kitten and Rawlins, from the time they are teens. Though those two legally marry, in their hearts they are a part of him, and it’s Nascha who struggles to feel that he’s bound with them forever, especially when life circumstances stink and he ends up trying to raise his niece, then ultimately his grandnephews, one of who has Asberger’s.

I struggled to get into the story at first, especially since there are some M/F sex scenes at the beginning when the story is being established. Later when the reader is engaged in the plot, all of the scenes make sense but it is a very complex story for so few pages. But it works, and it’s one of the best of the anthology. 4.5 stars

No Easy Way by S.E. Jakes

Cary Teijan, a teacher who holds the interesting job of tutoring both the delinquents who keep getting suspended and the child actors from the Wolf’s Landing TV show being filmed in Bluewater Bay is shocked when he runs into Dylan James on the set. Dylan is the man he was so deeply in love with in high school who has recently returned after six years in the service, and he’s also the subject of the M/M romances Cary writes under a pen name, romances which are highly successful.

Dylan is back and he wants Cary with all the passion he felt years before, but Cary resists with that same degree of passion because Dylan walked away from him without a word, and Cary is finding it hard to forgive and forget. This story is lengthier than most others in the anthology and is both intriguing and exciting. The fun in watching Dylan go after Cary and watching Cary continually give in then run away makes for a great short story and fits perfectly with the Bluewater Bay stories previously released. 5 stars

Helping Hand by Anne Tenino

Lucas Wilder is the son and brother of lumberjacks who have lived and worked in the Bluewater Bay area for generations, but he’s not willing to follow the family footsteps into the logging business. He barely knows how to hold a saw! He’s just been accepted into a prestigious art school, and he’s terrified to tell his homophobic father that there’s now one more reason for his father to hate him. In fact, he gets so flustered that he spills the beans about being gay shortly after he announces his plans to attend college to study art. Thankfully, his best friend Audrey is there to help him through this fiasco as she’s been there for him throughout high school. Both are looking forward to leaving the town behind them forever when they go to college.

Gabriel Savage, lumberjack and best friend of Lucas’s brother Zach, spots Lucas walking home a few nights later and stops to give him a lift. He gives him more than that too—his first sexual experience as a gay man. To be honest, I’m not sure I get the point of this story. I’ve re-read the entire section of their hookup several times and I still don’t quite understand the point the author was trying to make so for me, this story wasn’t on the same level as the others. In fact, whether it was just supposed to be a quick hookup or whether Gabe truly wanted a lasting relationship with Lu, really doesn’t matter. Either way, the story lacked the spark and interest the others held and that’s very disappointing since I generally love Anne Tenino’s work. 3 stars

I’ll Be There by Z. A. Maxfield

This was a great story to cap the anthology as Nash Holly fights desperately to make his way to the Chicago area to be with Spencer Kepler (“Hell on Wheels”) on Valentine’s Day during the worst snow storm to hit the Midwest in years. It isn’t even so much that it’s Valentine’s Day as the fact that Spencer is so socially inept that he fears meeting the guest of honor at the fan convention he’s volunteered to attend—a woman who is dying of cancer. In a brief Skype session with Nash, Spencer reveals more about his feelings related to his own mother’s death from cancer than he even realized himself. Readers get to witness how Spencer acknowledges the past and, learning from it, deals with the present and waits hopefully to see if Nash can make it. And we get to witness Nash as he delves into his true feelings for Spencer and his gratitude for having Spencer in his life. Their love is greater than the sum of both parts and this story is perfect for their first Valentine’s Day together. 5 stars

If you’ve been reading the Bluewater Bay stories, you know they can each be read as a standalone, as can this anthology. However, readers of the stories will recognize the characters in the first and last stories of this anthology and that will only add to the enjoyment of the book. I recommend this one to all lovers of M/M romance and especially to those who enjoy the added spice of the Valentine’s Day holiday and all of the ways love can be expressed.

Cover art by L.C. Chase depicts a movie set clipboard with a faded out red background of two of the MCs looking at each other with stars in their eyes. Perfect for the stories inside.WolfsLanding_transparent

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing    All Romance (ARe)   Amazon   Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 226 pages
Published February 9th 2015 by Riptide (first published February 7th 2015)
edition languageEnglish
seriesBluewater Bay #6


Bluewater Bay series, one location, different authors (and all highly recommended by Barb and Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words:



Page and McGuinness Are Back in The Merchant of Death by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock! (contest)



Our Focus is On…



Page and McGuinness,  two of our favorites are back in another Playing the Fool novel!  For details about the story, Lisa Henry (one of our Down Under authors) and J. A. Rock are here to fill you  in.  It’s also a Barb the Zany Old Lady Highly Recommended Reads.  Find her review here!  Now onto The Merchant of Death!




Hi! We’re Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock, the authors of THE MERCHANT OF DEATH. We’re touring the web taking about our influences, our processes, anything we can think about actually, and even giving you guys a sneak peak or two! And what would a blog tour be without a contest? Check out the details at the bottom of the post to see what you can win!

Today’s post is all about merchandising!

One of the most fun things about Henry Page is that he is constantly coming up with crazy ideas. Or are they genius ideas? One of his ideas in THE MERCHANT OF DEATH is to create a TV and/or movie franchise based on himself and Ryan “Mac” McGuinness. It would be kind of an Odd Couple cop buddy bromance rom com crime caper. A lot like their lives, actually.

Henry’s not just relying on his “Mac and Cheese” script to pay for his private island in the Bahamas though. No, Henry’s a realist. He knows that it’s all going to come from merchandising. And while it might just start with the basics like lunchboxes and Pez dispensers, the sky’s the limit with merchandising. You can also go pretty damn low.

Yes, as low as Edward Cullen on your underpants. Actually, the scariest thing about these is probably that they sold really, really well.
You know what I really find difficult though? Sometimes when I’m baking and have to take hot things out of the oven, there’s no way to do it while at the same time expressing my love of the post-punk movement of the late 1970s. Until now:

But the ultimate in merchandising has to be these Royal Wedding condoms. One can only assume they were not authorised by the palace.
So really, there’s no crazy merchandising idea that Henry can possibly come up with that would be any more bizarre than anything that already exists in the real world.


All’s fair in love and war.

There’s something rotten in the state of Indiana. When con man Henry Page takes it upon himself to investigate the death of an elderly patient at a care facility, he does so in true Shakespearean tradition: dressed as a girl.

FBI Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness has more to worry about than Henry’s latest crazy idea. Someone is trying to send him a message—via a corpse with a couple of bullets in it. He needs to figure out who’s trying to set him up before he gets arrested, and he really doesn’t have time for Henry’s shenanigans. Then again, he’d probably be able to focus better if Henry didn’t look so damn distracting in a babydoll dress and a wig.

But when Mac discovers that Henry has been keeping a secret that connects the cases, he has to find a way to live on the right side of the law when he just might be in love with the wrong sort of man.

You can check out THE MERCHANT OF DEATH at Riptide.
The Giveaway: Thanks for following our tour! To celebrate our release, we’re giving away an awesome prize – an ebook copy of a novel of your choice from either of our back catalogs. We’re also giving away a $20 Riptide gift voucher, and Mac’s favorite coffee mug. What? It’s not like he’s supposed to be drinking coffee.

All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a way for us to contact you, be it your email, your twitter, or a link to your facebook or goodreads account. Please put your email in the body of the comment, not just in email section of the comment form, because we won’t be able to see it otherwise! On February 12, 2015, we’ll draw a winner from all eligible comments! Be sure to follow the whole tour, because the more comments you leave, the more chances you have to win the prize!

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: The Burnt Toast B & B by Heidi Belleau & Rachel Haimowitz


Rating: 5 stars out of 5:BWBlogo_Web

The Burnt Toast B & B coverI know I keep saying this but it bears repeating—I LOVE this series! This story, in which injured stuntman Ginsburg Sloan seeks shelter at the B&B run by Derrick Richards, a laid-off logger who is trying to make a go of the business he inherited from his parents, is right at the top of the list of outstanding books in this series.

Ginsberg is temporarily out of work after he broke his arm on the set of Wolf’s Landing, the TV show being shot in Bluewater Bay, Washington. In an effort to save money, he heads for the B&B with the worst reputation and therefore cheapest rates, and there he encounters not only Derrick but a smoke-filled kitchen with a fire blazing both in the oven and on the stovetop. Thankfully, Ginsberg knows his way around a fire extinguisher, even with one arm, and after putting out the fire, he takes the time to assess his soon-to-be landlord.

Derrick has been out of work as a logger and was trying his hand at running the B&B he inherited when his parents were killed in an accident several years ago. He’s come to the conclusion that his clumsy efforts in the kitchen, his inability to do the necessary home repairs, and his lack of funds to do anything else equals “get out of business”. But before he can do that, he’s now going to have to find a way to get this guy to vacate the premises. So Derrick sets out to make him leave but it backfires when Ginsberg jumps in to help out. He manages to help so much that Derrick finds himself getting back into the business and enjoying it, despite his inherent objections to doing feminine work such as cooking and cleaning.

As they work together, both he and Ginsberg find themselves attracted to one another. But Ginsberg is feisty and opposed to any outdated notions Derrick expresses about roles for women and men and he won’t tolerate Derrick’s comments on what makes a man masculine. Ginsberg is transgender but, as he explains to Derrick, that has no impact on his opposition to Derrick’s comments and actions. Derrick’s ideas are just plain stupid and outdated, and Ginsberg sets out to help Derrick leave the macho bull behind while making a go of the business. Derrick finds himself enjoying the work and spending all his free time fighting his desire for Ginsberg. He wants him desperately and starts to daydream about every facet of this man—his body, his personality, his kindness, his energy, and his courage. But at the same time, Derrick is still hiding behind his gruff persona and still negative about whether or not his business can succeed in the long run, and he’s firmly convinced that Ginsberg will be leaving by the time his cast comes off and he goes back to work.

He’s so convinced of this, in fact, that he torpedoes their relationship just as it’s starting. They’d spend an amazing night together after which Ginsberg had to get up and get out the door to work and while he was away, Derrick convinced himself that this just couldn’t last. So when Ginsberg came home and presented Derrick with a special gift, it backfired and Derrick blew up, shaming Ginsberg and forcing him away.

This is just a simplified explanation for a complex plot that has more facets than a brilliant-cut diamond. Secondary characters were outstanding, especially Derrick’s ex-boyfriend Jim, and the revisit with Carter and Levi was much appreciated. The way this story evolved, the growth and learning experiences for the MCs, the heartbreak and despair they suffered, and the maturity and change in Derrick’s outlook as the story evolved all combined to make this story amazing and memorable.

I highly recommend this series to all lovers of M/M romance. I am amazed that every author in the series, though very different, has brought us characters which make me smile and leave me with a warm and fuzzy place in my heart each and every time. Don’t hesitate to invest your time in this one.

Cover art by LC Chase depicts both the gorgeous Ginsberg, complete with the typical Hollywood sunglasses, and the rugged Derrick, arms crossed in one of his perpetual scowls, standing in front of the B&B.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing     All Romance (ARe)     Amazon          Buy it here

Book Details:

book, 225 pages
Expected publication: January 12th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
edition languageEnglish
seriesBluewater Bay #5

Bluewater Bay Series by book and author:WolfsLanding_transparent