A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Honour by A.F. Henley

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

This is an historical romance set in a fictionalized England circa the late 17th century (at my best guess, owing to the clothing), but the speech is fairly modern with reference to the subconscious mind. If the author had called the country anything but England, I would have called it fantasy. There isn’t too much world-building, just enough to get a sense of place. First, the reader is thrown into the pivotal action sequence of the book without knowing what is happening. It then flashes back to four months earlier and the story unfolds to explain how things got to that point. Emmett is a merchant’s son who cares for people, yet he also seems to have been indulged and not learned the hard lessons of life. He is said to have a head for numbers in business, but obviously not the skill for diplomacy and trade negotiations that his father has. When his father’s ship lands in order to trade, he has a disastrous meeting with Prince Andrewe. This sets up an enemies to lovers scenario for most of the rest of the book. While Emmett’s duty to protecting Aleyn’s virtue and trying to help him establish a living is admirable, possibly honorable, Emmett’s honor comes into question soon enough when everything doesn’t go his way.

The misunderstanding…where Emmett thinks his father has sold him to be a companion to the Prince is rather interesting to me. Did Emmett’s father want to get rid of him because he doesn’t think his son is right to take over the business one day? Did he think this experience would teach Emmett a lesson? Yet Emmett is as enamored with the Prince, as Andrewe seems to be with him, thus he becomes First Gentleman. This is not necessarily dubious consent…but the power imbalance is inescapable and used to salacious effect. Since this is Emmett’s point of view, it’s unclear whether he is an unreliable narrator because: he doesn’t understand interpersonal communications well enough, he is naive in the ways of court politics and intrigue, he lacks the life experience to deal with a real intimate relationship, or he is too swayed by his emotions rather than logic. Emmett willingly made himself a servant to the Crown, not understanding he was essentially making himself a slave, and then chafes at his lack of freedom.

Andrewe is completely uneven throughout the book, at times sweet and loving, only to turn vicious, cold, or distant. Lust can only allow Emmett to overlook the Prince’s behavior for so long, but the Prince isn’t the only problem and Emmett never takes any responsibility for their discord. At one point I did wonder if Andrew was mentally ill. Is he just unsure about how to behave in this relationship? Is he taking it out on Emmett, so that his parents will make him marry and produce an heir? Is he being mean and cruel on purpose to create distance to protect himself? Andrewe’s use of Aleyn against Emmett to keep him in line is repulsive. It’s also when Emmett finally loses his way and the lack of real communication and respect between them, causes dangerous circumstances to arise. This is where the book starts to go off the rails for me with the introduction of Thomas.

His dalliance with Thomas is not lust, more the rush of being able to be himself again–someone’s equal where he can say what he wants and do as he pleases. However, Thomas is not three dimensional enough to pull this plot off and it all falls flat. I was really enjoying this, even with all the questions I have about the other characters’ motivations, until I felt the author wrote Emmett into a box he couldn’t get out of. The whole last 20 percent of the book was completely unbelievable to me, and that was mainly down to not having the characters be more present and rounded out. All that sex and time spent with just Emmett and Andrewe made the plot suffer. The reader only sees the royal couple a handful of times and what is there in the characterizations doesn’t match from scene to scene. Did the King and Queen think Emmett would somehow tame Andrewe or make him easier to control? At one point the Queen threatens to get rid of Emmett, yet when the perfect time comes to do so, she shows mercy that is not warranted. In the end, even Emmett is contrary: the overindulgence and opulence he previously found so distasteful is in full force at the end, yet Emmett no longer minds. Even though Emmett is the central figure, the only consistent character is Aleyn, who on the cusp between boyhood and manhood, has a good reason to be inconsistent, yet seems to be the only one to actually understand what is happening and why. I’m left feeling really torn because so much of this was well done, but I had too many issues with the way the author chose to resolve the plot.

The cover design is by Written Ink Designs (written-ink.com). I admit to having no clue what the cover is about, maybe I missed a pertinent passage.

Sales Links:  AmazonJMS Books LLC

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, Second Edition
Published October 23rd 2019 by JMS Books LLC (first published February 6th 2013)
Original TitleHonour
ASINB07Z7F3YHL
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Lucy Review But by the Grace of Dog by AF Henley

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Thom Baron has been struggling with social anxiety his entire life. He’s taken the medications, gone to the therapists, followed the programs, and concluded his best life is a solitary one. When he comes across a dog in obvious need at his local market, it rekindles the desire to have some company around. It may come with a dishevelled coat, a notched ear, and a refusal to respond to anything but its given name “Ugly,” but it could still be a friend.

However, Thom’s new fur buddy has no such need to keep to itself and immediately befriends the man Thom has secretly coveted since he moved in — Justin, Thom’s gorgeous, bright-eyed neighbour. No matter how Thom tries to evade the man, the dog keeps drawing them back into each other’s lives, and it doesn’t take Thom long to recognize it’s simply pursuing the demands of Thom’s own heart. With the dog giving him the courage to try, Thom reaches out to return the love being offered.

Until a stranger shows up insisting the dog is his and demanding its immediate return … a loss Thom knows will take all of his efforts and newfound confidence with it.

Thom has serious social anxiety.  The man is incapable of even answering a question.  “Poorly developed social skills” was common.  “An Inability to interact” and “anxious” were high on the list.  “Arrogant” had been the one that bothered him the most and “socially disturbed” he considered one of the cleverest.”  He gets heart palpitations, hyperventilates, thinks of ways of being maimed or killed to avoid a situation, the works.  He has certain times he can go places, such as the Market,

It is here at the Market, in a search for strawberries, that he finds the dog named Ugly, smelly, dirty and locked in a cage under a table.  He can’t resist a kindred spirit and so ends up buying the dog. “The dog looked at Thom with the sad disinterest of something that knew it had absolutely no value and deserved no pity.”  He can’t bear to call it Ugly so calls it, Dog. This leads to him meeting up with his new neighbor, Justin.  I admit, I couldn’t figure out Justin’s patience with Thom.  Thom is rude to him, runs away, hides and avoids.  “That had gone absolutely horrible, not that he had ever expected the first forced conversation to go any other way.”  The anxiety is just crippling. 

But Justin is patient and persistent. “You don’t really like me too much.”   He says that to Thom and I felt badly for him.  Justin is aided by Dog, who often brings Thom into contact with Justin.  Thom gives a lot of credit to Dog for helping with the anxiety.  He can’t stay and hide, Dog needs food.  Dog needs the vet.  Dog needs to go out. 

Thom has had one relationship in his life and he hurt the person badly by being unable to be a good partner, unable to care enough.  So that has colored his actions and he can’t be with Justin or be close to Justin because it will end badly and Justin will be hurt.  “He was a vergin in almost every aspect of the word that one could imagine.”  He wants and he longs but he can’t do anything about it.

I will admit there was a point when I was SO disappointed with Justin.  I was rather like Thom at that moment.  “Don’t. I can’t believe you pretend like you understand, yet you stand her and talk like this.”  It wasn’t so much what Justin did but what he was saying. Justin’s “Then you’d keep going on and getting better without him, Thom” actually made me cringe because it showed Justin didn’t realize Thom had spent years hiding away, suffering and struggling with anxiety so strong it often left him physically ill.   “You’re supposed to be on my side, but no, you have to be Mister Nice Guy.”   Like Thom, I had to think about it and realize there really was no option.  But in the moment, I was so ticked at him.

There isn’t a lot of angst here and I did have the fleeting thought that Thom’s anxiety was a little too easily resolved but I definitely saw the benefits Dog had made for Thom.  I liked this cute story and I hope things continue to just get better and better for Thom and Justin.

Cover art, showing Thom and Justin holding hands with Dog front and center, was perfect for the story.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details

book, 126 pages
Published 2019 by JMS Books
Edition Language English

A.F. Henley Blogging on Life as A Writer and the new release ‘But By the Grace of Dog by A.F. Henley’ (excerpt and giveaway)

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But By the Grace of Dog by A.F. Henley

ebook, 126 pages
Published 2019 by JMS Book
Sales Links:   JMS Books LLC | Amazon
GENRE: Gay Romance, Canadian novel, Contemporary
LENGTH: 49,400 words
RATING: flame rating 4 (contains some explicit sex scenes)

 

 

 

Hello all! Thank you very much for taking part in my blog tour for But by the Grace of Dog. I have to tell you, I’m excited beyond words to present this novel to you. It’s been a bit of a process for me. There was a point about a year and half ago where I had more of less convinced myself that I was done with writing. (Those other writers out there who are reading this are smiling at that, I know – as if a writer can somehow just turn off the words and choose to ignore them.) Then, as they tend to, this story showed up in my mind. When the words to that story started to come seemingly all on their own, I figured who was I to tell them no. Before I was even half done that novel, I knew it wasn’t just one story, but an entire series of them.

So, with a renewed, reinvigorated, and refreshed outlook, I completed the novel, started the second one in the series, submitted it, got an acceptance… and a couple of months after accepting the story, the publisher decided it was time to hang up their hats. I was devastated. Not just for this novel, or this series, but for my career in writing as a whole. This was, obviously, a sign, and I should have just given up when I said I was going to, it wasn’t meant to be, nobody really wanted me, and blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine. I tirelessly bemoaned these thoughts to close friends, and honestly, they are champs to have put up with me.

Unfortunately, or I guess that I should probably be saying fortunately, that second story refused to let me stop writing it. So, what was I to do? If the stories were going to keep insisting on their right to exist, and I wasn’t able to find a way to ignore them, I was going to have to grow a backbone and take some ownership of my writing career.

Spoiler alert: I did not do that.

In fact, I waited until another publisher reached out to me. And, of course, when that happened, I was pretty dumbstruck. After all, what an honour, right? How could I not follow up with that? Now this, I told myself, was truly the sign! This was what I was waiting for. Even if it was a sign that was completely opposing to what I had thought was the sign prior to that. Forward, on. Here we go. This is going to be the moment where everything turns around.

Well, not exactly. And by not exactly, I mean that didn’t work out at all.

At that point I was back to my two choices: give up or buck up. Honestly, I considered both. (Mostly because I can be a bit of a drama queen when things don’t go my way. Yes. A bit of one.) Then, I had a mutual tell me about JMS Books. I did a bit of poking around—some research that was mostly just me trying to peer undetected over top of walls and around corners—and was instantly intrigued by their covers, policies, and the owner’s seemingly unending energy and devotion. I mean, seriously. Un. Ending. Energy.

They welcomed But by the Grace of Dog with open arms, welcomed all my other little orphans in as well, and the rest, as the say, is history.

All this narrative is my way of leading into this – my journey with the novel isn’t all that different from the one my main character, Thom, faces in the novel. He too has to find a way to reach outside his comfort zone, not just for his own betterment, but for the sake of the things in his life that he holds dear. It can be tough. Especially when we’re dealing with all those little tricks our minds play on us in its attempt to keep us safe and comfy. They call it a comfort zone for a reason and the mind, consciously and subconsciously, is a master at keeping us in a known state.

Luckily, just as I did, Thom finds himself some friends that listen to him complain, who show him an alternative way when he insists that he can’t get over things, and holds his hand (or licks his face) when he’s convinced it’s time to quit. And that kind of love always helps.

Man + Dog + Neighbour = True Love (but does it equal a HEA?)

A huge thank you to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for me having me today, and just as big a thanks to you, again, for joining me. Please be sure to keep reading for a short exclusive excerpt and all the details for not just one, but two giveaways! All it takes is a comment here for a chance at one of the adorable keychains pictured below and a promo pack. Then, if you click through to the Rafflecopter, you’ll get yourself a second chance at a freebee, this one for a $25 credit to JMS Books!

All my love!

AF Henley ❤

Blurb

GENRE: Gay Erotic Romance, Canadian English

LENGTH: 49,400 words

RATING: contains some explicit sex scenes

NOTE: contains brief character thoughts about suicide

Thom Baron has been struggling with social anxiety his entire life. He’s taken the medications, gone to the therapists, followed the programs, and concluded his best life is a solitary one. When he comes across a dog in obvious need at his local market, it rekindles the desire to have some company around. It may come with a dishevelled coat, a notched ear, and a refusal to respond to anything but its given name “Ugly,” but it could still be a friend.

However, Thom’s new fur buddy has no such need to keep to itself and immediately befriends the man Thom has secretly coveted since he moved in — Justin, Thom’s gorgeous, bright-eyed neighbour. No matter how Thom tries to evade the man, the dog keeps drawing them back into each other’s lives, and it doesn’t take Thom long to recognize it’s simply pursuing the demands of Thom’s own heart. With the dog giving him the courage to try, Thom reaches out to return the love being offered.

Until a stranger shows up insisting the dog is his and demanding its immediate return … a loss Thom knows will take all of his efforts and newfound confidence with it.

Exclusive Excerpt

“Stop.” Thom’s voice caught and he had to try again. “Please stop. I can’t.”

Justin straightened, drying his hands on his shorts. “Or, we could not stop. Not yet, anyway. Let’s stop in half an hour if it doesn’t work out, okay? That’s fair, right? Besides, can’t isn’t won’t. Maybe if you want to, you might surprise yourself. Then, if you still can’t, at least we gave it a shot. Maybe next time you’ll be able to. Or the time after that. Or the time after that one again. Eventually I won’t be a stranger, and you won’t be anxious.”

There was a long pause while Thom processed, and Justin waited without saying another word. But one second before Thom was about to turn him down yet again, Justin added, “I’ll even help you finish washing your dog.”

Thom widened his eyes. “Oh, God, no, that would be even worse than a drink.”

Justin slapped both hands on his thighs. “Then it’s settled! A drink it is.”

“Okay, but even if I agreed, it’s like…” Thom motioned around, running out of steam and already sure he was going to have to give in, “mid-day!”

“But it’s a weekend,” Justin assured him. “The five o’clock rule doesn’t count on the weekend.” When Thom didn’t respond, Justin nodded. “All right then,” he said, tone gleeful. “So, do we do this at my place or yours?”

Thom sighed. “Better make it yours, I guess. Because I can assure you that if I get to my own door before you do, there is not only zero chance of you getting in, but also of me ever coming back out. Like, for the rest of my life.”

Justin’s eyes softened along with his smile. “It’s just a drink, Thom. I’m not going to judge you and I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want.”

“Except actually come for the drink in the first place.”

“Well,” Justin drew out the word, shrugging comically. “Yes, except that.”

“I’m soaking wet,” Thom said, waving at his clothes. “And muddy.”

“Patio furniture can be hosed off,” Justin countered.

Thom held his breath. He silently counted to five before letting it go. Surprisingly, his chest didn’t seem to be quite as tight when he ran out of air to exhale. “Well, I guess I don’t have a choice then, do I?”

“Always,” Justin said with another grin. “You can have your choice of red wine, white wine, or beer.” He looked positively delighted when the comment won him a smile. He pointed at the fence, Vanna White style. “After you.”

Thom sighed dramatically, reaching for Dog’s leash. “Fine. But we’re going the long way around.”

Giveaway

First, leave a comment on this post for a chance to win one of these adorable keychains, along with a promo pack. One winner per blog post. Second, check out the Rafflecopter link for a chance to win a $25 credit to JMS Books. One winner throughout the tour. All contests close December 9th.

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An Alisa Review: Înflori by A.F. Henley

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Dustin gave up on being worthy of anyone’s affections a long time ago, drowning his problems in substance abuse and meaningless encounters. He has learned it’s better to avoid love altogether than risk the inevitable moment when it all comes crashing down.

Nicolae has neither eyesight nor excess, but he does have a wealth of family and intuition. He is nothing Dustin would have anticipated in a potential lover, but the more Dustin discovers, the more he finds himself willing to accept the risk … even if his conscience and the people in his life keep warning him away.

Okay, I spent most of this book wondering what the heck was going on.  Nicolae’s intuition is right on the money but it felt like he was playing with Dustin and Dustin was just left without knowing what was going on or what he needed to do.  They seem to develop a pretty solid relationship by the end but I felt like I missed all the important parts of their relationship.

The cover art by Written Ink Designs is nice but I don’t know how well it connects with the story.

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 47,314 words

Published: October 2, 2019 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781646561056

Edition Language: English

An Alisa Review: Wolf, en Garde (Wolf #2) by A.F. Henley

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

 

Three years ago, Lyle made a mistake that cost him his freedom, and almost his life. Now, sick to death of watching his father love the man that Lyle wanted, Lyle accepts an offer to leave Wolf, WY, behind and see what life in Washington, DC,. can do for him instead.

 

When Lyle comes across a seductive, attractive stranger with a fascinating yet terrifying view of humanity, he’s more than intrigued. It doesn’t take Lyle long to realize that Arius isn’t just playing games, though, and when Lyle runs across a secret in Arius’ lair he has no choice but to flee, even knowing his actions will enrage Arius.

 

On the run, with only a psychic’s second sight and his own instinct to help him, Lyle has nowhere to go but home. The only question is, will they have him when he shows up.

 

I enjoyed this story and was glad to see Lyle get the chance to have his own life.  Though in the end the story didn’t seem as settled and I felt like I was still missing something.

 

Lyle is still struggling with his father and Randy’s relationship and quickly accepts the opportunity to have the freedom he desire, though he quickly finds out that he can’t trust those around him completely, I was glad that he was able to go and look for Rafe when he knew there was something wrong, even if he didn’t know who or what he was looking for.

 

This story was mostly Lyle trying to and gaining his freedom but then realizing it isn’t quite what he wanted either.  I hated that this was also at the expense of Randy’s mother, though she brought it upon herself, I can’t believe that Randy’s father Henry stayed with such a manipulative person.  I am glad that Lyle found what he thought Randy was and was able to realize he was wrong before.

 

Once again I really like the cover art and it shows the perfect setting for the story.

 

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

ebook, 225 pages

Published: 2nd edition, September 11, 2019 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781646561018

Edition Language: English

An Alisa Review: Wolf, Wy by A.F. Henley

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

There’s nothing like a fresh start, and for Randy, still nursing wounds left by a cheating ex and harboring a deep mistrust for all things corporate, Wolf, Wyoming seems like the perfect place to start over. Secluded, quiet, and self-sufficient, Wolf is bound to not only inspire, but to bring Randy the peace he needs. The view’s not bad, either.

Vaughn O’Connell and his family are Randy’s only neighbors for miles, and while Randy knows it’s somewhat unlikely that a man with three kids is gay, it doesn’t hurt to look. When a misunderstanding brings Randy face to face with both Vaughn and his eighteen-year-old son, Lyle, Randy’s not sure what to feel about either of them.

But things are not what they appear in Wolf, and the closer Randy gets, the stranger the O’Connell family seems.

I really enjoyed this story, it’s one that has been on my tbr for a long time and I took the plunge to read it since it was being re-release and I am really glad I did.

Randy is trying to deal with his ex’s betrayal but also move on and figure out what he really wants to do.  Though I am not sure he ever really figured out what he wants to do he did find love along the way.  Vaughn is a secretive person and trying to protect his family but he can’t help his attraction to Randy and gives in even when he thinks he shouldn’t.

It was entertaining watching Randy trying to figure out the O’Connells but also constantly putting his foot in his mouth.  I liked getting glimpses of Vaughn’s thoughts in wolf form even if we didn’t get to see them often.  I could see him trying to push Randy away bit it never worked for very long.  I look forward to reading Lyle’s adventures next.

I really like the cover art and it shows the perfect setting for the story.

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 211 pages

Published: 2nd edition, September 4, 2019 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781646561001

Edition Language: English

A Wynter Review: Wolf, WY (Wolf #1) by A.F. Henley (A 2 Review Novel)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5      ★★★★★

Wolf, WY CoverThere’s nothing like a fresh start, and for Randy, still nursing wounds left by a cheating ex and harboring a deep mistrust for all things corporate, Wolf, Wyoming seems like the perfect place to start over. Secluded, quiet, and self-sufficient, Wolf is bound to not only inspire, but to bring Randy the peace he needs. The view’s not bad, either.

Vaughn O’Connell and his family are Randy’s only neighbors for miles, and while Randy knows it’s somewhat unlikely that a man with three kids is gay, it doesn’t hurt to look. When a misunderstanding brings Randy face to face with both Vaughn and his eighteen year old son, Lyle, Randy’s not sure what to feel about either of them.

But things are not what they appear in Wolf, and the closer Randy gets, the stranger the O’Connell family seems…

The beauty of this novel has two parts. The first was how easy it was to sink into the world of Wolf, WY. The second lies in the two story perspectives presented in every chapter. The first and most obvious perspective is Randy Connor through whose point-of-view we follow in the story. The second, less obvious one is of the wolves that the author shares at the beginning of every chapter in italics. It did such a beautiful job portraying the cold – emotionally and of-the-weather, as well as the loneliness and isolation of Wolf, WY and its inhabitants.

While I wished those italics parts were longer, Henley’s ability to convey so much in so little is, in and of itself, a thing of wonder. They are a very powerful depiction of, presumably, Vaughn – a man of few words but full of emotion from holding on and keeping in all the secrets that protected himself, his family, and his community. I can just imagine how he must’ve wrestled with the notion of sharing who and what he is (and Lyle) with Randy. For me, all of that made me ask many questions about Jackie (you’ll have to read to find out who that is, I’m afraid).

As much as I could ache (and cry) for the head of the O’Connell family, I couldn’t help laughing, groaning, and shaking my head at Randy Connor, an attorney who left all he knew behind in search of a fresh start. One of the best things about Henley’s stories is his knack for getting the main character’s introduction out of the way so the story could unfold without interruption. The prologue found (“stupid”) Randy buried in the middle of his dry and sarcastic introspection about life. The following chapters unfold the mystery of the O’Connell family and how Randy changes as a person – from an arrogant and egotistical city-brat to someone who realizes that there’s a lot more to being out in the country other than self-efficiency, and that running away can’t keep being the answer to his life’s problems.

As a lover of the winter season, I loved how Henley described Wolf, WY in the cold months: a rare and most beautiful place of a winter wonderland where snow danced and both the wolves and the winds howl in harmony with each other. There is ample warning though, and as Randy came to learn, the more beautiful winter became, the more likely it is to find fun ways of maiming a person, if it doesn’t succeed in killing you first.

I found the story predictable in some areas, but I think Henley did a good job in keeping the mystery going and left plenty of opportunity for some of the questions to be answered in a sequel. I like how several of the paranormal elements were kept simple while the author inserted his own creativity and kept the characters and the circumstances real. We didn’t have two characters who meet and immediately try to make things work. What seems like indecisiveness in Vaughn (along with his coldness and curt behavior) really drives home just how much the man struggles within himself – something that Randy didn’t, and couldn’t, understand. Many of us have been there ourselves, finding that one interesting and overly intriguing person who refuses to open up. In fact, such silence tends to annoy and frustrate some more than others, doesn’t it? It certainly frustrated Randy.

If nothing else, reading the book for the children is well worth it. Hannah and Isaac are positively adorable in this novel, so full of life and character, yet don’t let their young years deceive you. They can be quite the adults when the circumstance calls for it, much to Randy’s chagrin. It made me so proud and made my heart ache all in the same instance: children grow up entirely too fast. Faster in Wolf, WY, it would seem.

And per Henley’s usual arsenal, it does contain a couple of very hot, very erotic scenes.

This is the first time this author has published a book intended for a serial. I think the readers of this book are going to fall into two groups: the ones who absolutely love it (like me) and the ones who will absolutely hate it. I do recommend the book – highly, in fact – but if my personal experiences can be called upon to make a judgment about serials for those hesitant about this novel, sometimes reading Book 2 before Book 1 might be better. It’s worked for me before.

Thank you for reading! I hope you have yourselves a lovely Fall day! ❤

The cover artist for this novel is Raphael (Boys in Ink and Color), and I must say he did a splendid job. If I had been walking the aisle of a bookstore and strode right by a showcase with this novel on it, there would definitely be a pause in stride to pick it up. The wolf eyes just draws me in. On top of that is a snow covered landscape that suggests an adventure is about to happen, or is happening, and will involve at least a wolf.

Sales Links:  Less Than Three Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

  • Author: A. F. Henley
  • Length: ebook, 223 pages; kindle edition, 260 pages
  • Language: English
  • Series: Wolf, #1
  • Genre: Fantasy – Paranormal, M/M Fiction
  • Published: 1st edition October 21, 2015 by Less Than Three Press LLC
  • ISBN-13: 9781620046180
  • Digital ISBN: 9781620045398
  • Print ISBN: 9781620046197

Review: Second Star to the Right by A.F. Henley

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Second Star to the Right coverMason Lawrence should be happy.  He is incredibly wealthy, owns a successful company and his days are full with his business and his spare time is spent with friends and business associates.  But Mason is unhappy.  He has long held a crush on his best friend who is straight and very married.  Just spending time with him playing tennis is painful and his friend is beginning to notice a difference in the way Mason is treating him.  Something has to change and it arrives in a totally unexpected manner.

Out of concern for Mason’s lack of companionship, a friend tells Mason about a discrete escort service where Mason might find someone to spend his only vacation with.  Wary but desperate, Mason hires Jack, an outspoken, gorgeous escort to spend a week with him at his cabin in a lakeshore vacation property.  And at first, Jack is everything Mason could hope for.  He is funny, gregarious, blunt, and sexy.  A blond Peter Pan whose refusal to grow up endears him to Mason a man who has never really been a child.  Then their relationship of employer/employee starts to turn into one of friendship and then something a little more.  Can love be possible when one refuses to grow up and the other afraid of his own emotions?

The trope of rent boy/John love is a standard within the m/m genre.  Whether I enjoy a story with this plot is entirely up to how an individual author handles this topic and the twist they give to the rent boy in question.  A.F. Henley’s Second Star to the Right  and her character Jack are wonderfully endearing additions to this genre.  I have a fondness for prostitutes that make no excuses for the fact that they are, in their words “whores”.   Jack is unapologetically blunt about his tastes, his profession, and his expectations for the week ahead, much to Mason’s astonishment.  He is golden, sexy, and tall, everything that Mason wants and has never been able to have. And now that Jack is Mason’s for the week, Mason isn’t exactly sure what to do with him.

Henley makes Mason’s confusion and hesitation  both humorous and endearing when confronted with Jack’s direct manner and easy going sexuality.  Everything about Mason’s character is reflective of his personality.  He is small in stature, a fact he is uncomfortable with, comparing himself unfavorably with all he meets.  Shy and awkward, small and amenable, Mason is someone who has always been too old for his years, too responsible, too mature to enjoy childish games and pastimes.   Throw someone of that persona in a cabin for a week with a sexual adult Peter Pan and the mixture has bound to be entertaining, and a little explosive.

And while Jack is forcing Mason to open up and relax, Mason’s actions and gentle treatment of Jack is forcing Jack to reflex on his own life, including the fact that he is almost 30, an age too old for his profession.  How is a man who refuses to grow up going to live when he ages out of the only profession he has ever known?  By the time they (and the reader) have reached this stage in their relationship, both men have tumbled out of their complacency into a place of fear about their current status as well as the future.  Henley has made us care, through their interactions and past revelations, about these men. And now we teeter on the brink of self discovery along with them, full of anticipation and anxiety for the next step each man will take.  Will it be towards each other or away?

Of course, there is an emotional explosion and a denouement that offers a future for both Mason and Jack.  I think that if I had a quibble with this story, its with an ending that felt a little too abrupt for the  story that preceded it.  We get a week with Mason and Jack that feels realistic in the manner in which their relationship grows.  The arguments that come feel natural as well given each man’s emotional makeup and their present occupations.  I wish Henley had given us a little more of the events that follow upon their return to the city.  It would have made the epilogue that much more satisfactory by giving us the building blocks upon which that ending is built.

However, that issue aside, I did love Second Star to the Right.  I loved Mason and Jack in all their frailties, insecurities, and kindness, especially towards each other.  When you temper bluntness with compassion, sexuality with caring, then you have a recipe for a terrific love story and Henley has given that to us in Second Star to the Right.  I think you will enjoy it as much as I did. Consider it a highly recommended.

Cover by Aisha Akeju is simple in design but works for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: February 19th 2014 by Less Than Three Press LLC
original title Second Star to the Right
ISBN13 9781620043165
edition language English

Scattered Thoughts on the Super Bowl Team Names, Animals Cute and Fierce and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Osprey head VSwild mustangs fighting

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Its Super Bowl Sunday and for many of you  that means a day spent in front of a screen watching two teams play for the ultimate title in American football, the Superbowl Trophy and bragging rights (to say nothing of the ring and tons of  money).  This year, Super Bowl XLVIII (48) the battle is between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, ostensibly two teams named after animals.  I say that because are those animals the real deal?  Or are they fictional?  What if all NFL teams had to have real animal names?  Would the Seahawks and Broncos still be around?

If we look at last year’s Super Bowl winners, the Baltimore Ravens, the answer is clear.  Yep, Ravens exist and are forever associated with Bal’mer and Edger Allen Poe.  Ditto the Cincinnati Bengals, another animal that walks the planet, although in far fewer numbers each year.  Is the Cincinnati Extinct Bengals inconceivable?  Not really. Here are all the other  NFL Teams with animals in their names.  Can you fit the name to the city they are from (answers listed at the end, some may surprise you)?

Bears, Cardinals, Colts, Dolphins, Eagles, Falcons,Jaguars, Lions, Panthers, Rams.

But back to the Seahawks and Broncos.  There really is no such thing as a Seahawk.  There are Sea Eagles, of which our Bald Headed Eagle can be considered a member.  There is a Osprey, a raptor that is not exactly a hawk but its own genus within the Raptor order Acciptriformes. But an actual Seahawk?  No, not really, not outside a nickname. Now an Osprey is a pretty cool raptor, common here in Maryland (and in fact all of the U.S.).  I have watched Bald Eagles steal the fish right away from an Osprey pair on the Bay and had a tough time doing it. With that mask on their face and that fierce attitude, they are a force to be reckoned with.  So why not call themselves the Ospreys?  That would certainly make more sense to me and be accurate as well.

But the Broncos are no better with their name.  Broncos?  Google it and you know what comes up?  The NFL team the Broncos.  Now bucking broncos is a term used with rodeo horses.  But if the team was looking for a real animal (versus a animal sport) then they could have looked no further than the Mustang.  Wild mustangs are all over the  west.  A smaller tough wild horse, scrappy and resilient.  The Denver Mustangs?  That would have been cool, and a chance to help those herds being hunted off park land.  Hmm I wonder if ranchers around the Denver area had something to do with the name choice here?  Just saying…..

So if we were to stick to real animals, this Sunday’s game would be the Seattle Osprey vs the Denver Mustangs, a missed opportunity all around.  For education, for tie-ins with the WWF or some other conservation group.  Ah…well I can always look for the Ravens and Bears to return to glory and a chance at the Super Bowl rings once more….

For those of you who are not football enthusiasts, there are other animal bowls to choose from.  The Animal Planet has its Puppy Bowl and the Hallmark Channel is having its first ever Kitten Bowl.  Both feature puppies and kittens up for adoption and the ultimate in cuteness outside the new Anheuser-Busch Super Bowl Commercial, Puppy Love,  with puppies and Clydesdales.  But for all of you who look at these next four hours and think nap, I have a truly inspired animal bowl for you.  Nat Geo Wild has introduced this year its Fish Bowl.  Yep, a goldfish, in a fish bowl, for 4 hours, starting at 6pm.  See?  Something for everyone this year.

So what you are going to watch today?  Mislabeled Teams with large men? Puppies, Kitten or Fish?  Or something completely different?  Let me know.  I will be watching the Super Bowl commercials, reading and eating popcorn surrounded by snoozing terriers and a dancing African Grey.  Go Naked Mole Rats! I can dream, can’t I?

Now for this week’s reviews:

Monday, Feb. 3:   Second Star to the Right by A.F. Henley

Tuesday, Feb. 4:  Cupcakes by Sean Michael

Wed., Feb. 5:         Ghosts of Bourbon Street by Rowen Speedwell

Thurs., Feb. 6:      The Battle of Will by Sasha L. Miller

Friday, Feb. 7:      Frostbite Collection by Totally Bound Press

Friday, Feb. 8:      Reviewing Life by Lara Brukz

Football team name answers:   Chicago Bears,  Arizona (what no city wants them?) Cardinals,  Indianapolis (don’t even get me started) Colts,  Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars,  Detroit Lions,  Carolina (again what’s with the state? based in Charlotte) Panthers, St. Louis  (they get around) Rams.

Bowls to Watch:   Hallmark Channel’s Kitten Bowl, Animal Planet Puppy Bowl, and Nat Geo Wild’s Fish Bowl (ok the last keeps cracking me up).  Here is the link to the Fish Bowl App.Goldie the Fish Bowl fish

Puppy Kitten Bowl

September 2013 Summary of Reviews

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September and Fall

September 2013 Book Review Summary

What a wonderful month it was for books and reviews!  Most of the books I read fell into the 5 and 4 star category, a few into the  3 star and none below that.  Series predominated the ratings this time.  Most notably the series offerings from the Pulp Friction authors. There 3d-person-sit-pile-books-reading-book-26141531were new books in well established series such as Katey Hawthorne’s Superpowered Love series as well as followup stories and new series  from such talented authors such as Kendall McKenna (The Tameness of the Wolf series) and Aleksandr Voinov (Memory of Scorpions series).

Other new series includes Poppy Dennison’s Pack Partners , Cat Grant’s Bannon’s Gym) and Harper Kingsley’s Heroes and Villains series too.  My cup (and yours) runneth over with series, all promising more great stories featuring characters we have come to love. And believe it or not, October is starting the same way!  What a fall!

So grab a pen or notebook and jot down those books and authors you may have missed the first time around.  I have linked my review to each one listed.  Happy Reading!

5 Star Rating:

Crucify (Triple Threat #4) by L.E. Harner
Defiance (Triple Threat #3) by L.E. Harner
Re-entry Burn (Superpowered Love #5) by Katey Hawthorne (supernatural)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2) by L.E. Harner (contemporary)
Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1) by Aleksandr Voinov (fantasy)
Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2) by Kendall McKenna

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Accidental Alpha (Pack Partners #1) by Poppy Dennison (4.5 stars)(supernatural)
Black Dog (Bannon’s Gym #1) by Cat Grant (4.5 stars)(contemporary)
Blessed Curses by Madeleine Ribbon (4 stars) (fantasy)
City Knight (City Knight #1) by T.A. Webb (4 stars out of 5)(contemporary fiction)
Heroes and Villains (Heroes and Villains #1) by Harper Kingsley (4 stars)(supernatural)
Sonata by A.F. Henley (4.5 stars out of 5)(contemporary fiction)
Summer Lovin’ Anthology (4.75 stars out of 5) (contemporary)
The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft (4 stars)(historical)
Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1) by L.E. Harner (4.5 stars)(contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Coliseum Square by Lynn Lorenz (3.75 stars)(historical)
Roughstock: Blind Ride, Season One by BA Tortuga (3 stars) (contemporary)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating: none

1 to 1.75 Star Rating: none