A MelanieM Review: The Monet Murders (The Art of Murder #2) by Josh Lanyon

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

 

All those late night conversations when Sam had maybe a drink too many or Jason was half falling asleep. All those playful, provocative comments about what they’d do when they finally met up again.

Well, here they were.

The last thing Jason West, an ambitious young FBI Special Agent with the Art Crimes Team, wants–or needs–is his uncertain and unacknowledged romantic relationship with irascible legendary Behavioral Analysis Unit Chief Sam Kennedy.

And it’s starting to feel like Sam is not thrilled with the idea either.

But personal feelings must be put aside when Sam requests Jason’s help to catch a deranged killer targeting wealthy, upscale art collectors. A killer whose calling card is a series of grotesque paintings depicting the murders.

Nothing I love better than diving back into a Josh Lanyon murder romance.  I love the tight writing, the skillfully constructed mysteries and the complex  relationships between the main characters.  It’s never, never an easy romance.  The obstacles between the men are often huge, sometimes or frequently of their own making, and by the end of the story, it can still be a question mark as to if they are together or will stay that way.  On top of dealing with their own issues and that of their personal dynamics, they have their cases and killers to deal with.  It’s just outstanding!

When The Monet Murders story picks up, the conflicted relationship of Jason West and Sam Kennedy, two FBI agents is again in an uncertain stage.  It doesn’t help that FBI Special Agent Jason West’s Art Crimes Unit is in Los Angeles and Sam Kennedy is in Quantico, VA in the Behavioral Analysis Unit as their Chief.  What it takes to bring them together again, at least physically is a murder or three, all starting with a phone call from Sam.

It kicks off with Jason at the special dedication gala of a museum wing for his grandfather.  We get another peek into the prestigious family background and makeup that belongs to Jason West.  More of that will be filled in later as the story progresses.  It’s a call to action and one that Jason eagerly answers as it means that he will be seeing Sam once more.

Lanyon gives us a crime scene under the Santa Monica pier that starts us off on the  Monet Murders and the reunion of Jason and Sam.  Needless to say nothing about that crime scene bodes well for the couple or for the case.  The LAPD called them in but some of the local cops aren’t happy about having the FBI there, it seems to tie in with another case Jason and  Sam are already working, but then again maybe not.  Muddied clues abound as does the relationship (or non relationship) between Jason and Sam.  The stress and tension is vivid, pouring off the page, a testament to the author’s ability to create just the perfect atmosphere for this scene and meeting.

A fake Monet, so poorly painted as  to be garish, ties more murders together.  As the investigation continues and Jason’s case opens up further leads to involve older crimes, I was just completely hooked.  I love the art elements here, and the mysteries (and side stories) were completely fascinating.  Woven in between the various investigations and detective work, is the romance and shaky relationship between Sam and Jason.  As before, the sex scenes between these two are combustible, making it even harder each time Sam pulls away.  How I love these two even as I want to throttle Sam.

There’s a scary island full of graveyards, some terrific action/suspense scenes to have you quaking as you read and enough plot twists and turns to keep the mystery lover satisfied.  The romance too had an ending that I just loved, although this is Josh Lanyon and her characters so you know I want to add a for now here.

The Monet Murders (The Art of Murder #2) by Josh Lanyon is a splendiferous book.  It left this reader satisfied on so many levels, the mystery lover adored the murder mysteries and how the case was solved, the romance lover can’t get enough of this couple, their convoluted relationship and their path to HEA or whatever they are going to end up with.  The Art of Murder series is ranking high on my all time favorites with just two stories so far so I can’t wait to see what book three brings.  I highly recommend them.

Cover by Johanna Ollila.  I like the cover with Monet’s Lilies painting on t-shirt.  Nice.

Sales Links

Amazon
Barnes & Noble

iBooks
Kobo
Smashwords
Books2Read

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 311 pages
Published May 25th 2017 by JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
ASINB01MYC6ZOZ
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series The Art of Murder :

A MelanieM Release Week Review: The Great North (A Legendary Love Book 1) by J. Scott Coatsworth

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

 

BOOK 1 in MCB’s House Line “A Legendary Love.”

Dwyn is a young man in the small, isolated town of Manicouga, son of the Minstor, who is betrothed to marry Kessa in a few weeks’ time.

Mael is shepherding the remains of his own village from the north, chased out by a terrible storm that destroyed Land’s End.

Both are trying to find their way in a post-apocalyptic world. When the two meet, their love and attraction may change the course of history.

In The Great North author J. Scott Coatsworth combines mythology, science fiction and romance and comes up with something quite wonderful.   Coatsworth, in an almost stunningly compact story for something of this scope,  provides us with detailed, and vivid world building.  With scenes past, present and future spread here in the story, we get glimpses into this post-apocalyptic world at differing stages.  From the use of small details throughout, we get accurate idea or pictures of where the characters are, filling things in with our own imaginations…none of it pretty of what might have happened to our world.

I really loved the characters down to their descriptions. It showed how quickly civilization had broken down so that even physical characteristics once again had become isolated into “islands” as had earlier gene types. The types of global disaster also drove the leftover population into self isolation with minimum communication with each other.  Coatsworth also worked the rationale for Dwyn village’s religion rejection of “same sex love” into a cautionary tale of birth rates and survival.  So many elements here that are woven into the story that capture the reader’s attention and imagination.

The romance between Mael and Dwyn is caught up is something huge, the mythology building here is as beautifully done as it the scientific groundwork the author laid down.  In fact the imagery and beauty of the cold is striking as it is fearsome, easy to see it both cutting and awe inspiring.  Just as it should be. I don’t really want to go into further details here other than I wish there was more to this part of the story.  However, this is only the beginning of the series.  I hope to find out more about what’s coming, what’s in store of the people there.

I love The Great North.  This whole series holds great promise.  I can’t wait to see where it goes.  But for now I leave you with how it all starts, a story I highly recommend.

“We celebrate Dwyn’s Day as a testament to true love and sacrifice. It’s a remembrance of the way things were and the way they’ve come to be. In the end, let it be a reminder that every one of us has the power to change the course of events through love.”

—Dillon Cooper, New Gods and Monsters, Twenty years After Dwyn

Cover Artist: Freddy MacKay does a good job with the character.

Sales Links:  Mischief Corner Books | Barnes & Noble |  Amazon |  Kobo | iBooks |  Goodreads 

Book Details:
Kindle Edition, 119 pages
Published June 14th 2017 by Mischief Corner Books, LLC
ASIN B07172TL6H

Release Blitz and Review Tour for Clare London’s Romancing The Ugly Duckling (excerpt and giveaway)

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Length: 63,000 words
 
 
 
Blurb

 

Is this the makeover of a lifetime?


Ambitious fashionista Perry Goodwood lands the project of his dreams—track down a celebrity family’s missing brother in the Scottish Highlands and bring him back to London for a TV reality show. But first he must transform the rugged loner into a glamorous sophisticate.


Greg Ventura has no use for high fashion. He lives on the isolated island of North Uist to escape the reminder that he’s nowhere near as handsome as his gorgeous brothers and avoid the painful childhood memories of being bullied.


Greg wants nothing to do with city life, and Perry’s never been outside London. When Perry is stranded on North Uist, this conflict seems insurmountable. But Greg is captivated by the vivacious Perry, and Perry by both the island and his host. However, Perry’s one heartfelt wish remains: that ugly duckling Greg fulfill his potential as a swan.

Excerpt

After the meal, they settled in the living room again. Greg poured himself a glass of what he introduced as his homemade wine, but Perry politely declined a glass for himself. He couldn’t recall any decent wine he’d ever drunk being that particular shade of purple. He was definitely making a mental shopping list for when he could find somewhere civilized, and gin and tonic would come several steps above couscous on that.

Greg picked up a book and started reading. Perry waited a while—after deciding against asking what they could watch on the miniscule TV in the corner of the living room, with obvious dust settling on the controls—then coughed to get Greg’s attention. “Where do you need me tomorrow?”

Greg peered at him over the book. “What are you talking about?”

“Working together, remember? Um. What exactly do you do, apart from painting?”

Greg’s look was possibly sly, but that could have been due to the waning light outside the cottage.

“Sometimes I work in the Sea Bird restaurant.”

Perry thought he remembered seeing a sign to that place on his journey here in Dougie’s car. The building itself had been very small, more like a tea room, with a single light on in the front porch, and it didn’t look very open for business. But he’d go with the flow. “Are you a chef?”

Greg laughed. He seemed more relaxed tonight. “No, I think you’ve realized my cooking skills aren’t the best. And it’s not really big enough for a chef and full kitchen staff. I mean, it wouldn’t meet your London standards.”

“That has nothing to do with anything.”

“What?”

“My London… standards, experience, whatever you want to call it. I’m in Uist now, and I want to know what you do here.”

Greg was looking at him oddly. Was he, Perry, coming across as too bossy? God, this man was impossible to gauge properly.

“It’s more of a large dining room where friends can hang out.” Greg still sounded reasonably relaxed. “It’s owned by a couple of elderly sisters who are marvelous cooks, and we sometimes hire it out for a celebration. We’re not big on dinner parties here, you can imagine. I help out with serving when it’s busy. But mainly I provide the fish dishes, especially scallops.”

“You’re a fisherman?”

Greg nodded slowly, his gaze still on Perry. “Yes, you could say that. I’m a diver. I dive for scallops.”

“Can’t you just… I don’t know.” Buy them in a shop? “Don’t they have official suppliers?”

Greg frowned. “Hand-collected scallops are better. The sweeter ones are chosen, and the dish is more precious. Haven’t you ever tasted the difference?”

It pained Perry to admit weakness, but he did. “I’ve never had scallops in my life.”

Greg’s eyes narrowed. “I thought you lived in the center of the sophisticated city?”

“We can’t all afford posh restaurants,” Perry snapped back, then blushed at—yet again—having to admit shortcoming.

“Oh.” Greg blinked. “Well, you’ll see them in the raw when you come out in the boat tomorrow with me.”

“When I…? Tomorrow…? Boat?”

Greg smiled slowly. “Yes. The weather should be fine, so I’m driving west past Lochmaddy to one of my favorite coastal seawater lochs. I’ll pack some provisions so we can eat lunch there. You can help carry the equipment, then collect the scallops into boxes and keep watch for me.”

“We… I….” Perry was struggling for words. Worse, Greg seemed to realize it and find it highly amusing. “I’ve never been in one.”

“One what?”

“Boat. I’ve never been in a boat. Well, until the ferry two days ago.”

Greg nodded, also slowly. “That’s fine. You can stay here if you want.”

“No!” Perry’s cry was instinctive. Did this brute of a bloke think he, Perry, was a lightweight? “I will not! We made a deal.”

“Okay. Well, I hope Bridie brought a selection of decent waterproofs as well as your day clothes, because you’ll need them.”

“You said the weather should be fine….”

“Just in case,” Greg said ominously. He concentrated back on his book.

Perry sat silently for a long moment. In fact, everything was silent, inside the cottage and out, apart from the occasional call from a bird, and Greg turning a page. Perry wasn’t used to such quiet. Nor was he used to living in close quarters with a man who barely tolerated him, and actually wanted him to get lost. There was a small pile of paperbacks on the table beside Greg’s armchair, and Perry picked one up. He also wasn’t used to reading anthologies of horror stories, his preference being for romantic comedies and the occasional biography—but he supposed there was always a first time. Opening it to the first chapter, he bit back a sigh. At least he’d won this stage of the battle with Greg Ventura, and he had more time to convince him about the TV project.

But thinking about the trip out onto a likely freezing Scottish loch tomorrow, he wasn’t sure whether the price would be too much to pay.

Author Bio


Clare London took her pen name from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with her other day job as an accountant.


She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic, and sexy characters.


Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter three stage and plenty of other projects in mind… she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.

A MelanieM Review: Stuff (The Bristol Collection #2) by Josephine Myles

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

When Mr. Glad Rags meets Mr. Riches, the result is flaming fun.

Tobias “Mas” Maslin doesn’t need much. A place of his own, weekends of clubbing, a rich boyfriend for love and support. Too bad his latest sugar daddy candidate turns out to be married with kids. Mas wants to be special, not someone’s dirty little secret.

When he loses his job and his flat on the same day, his worlds starts unraveling…until he stumbles across a vintage clothing shop. Now to convince the reclusive, eccentric owner he’s in dire need of a salesman.

Perry Cavendish-Fiennes set up Cabbages and Kinks solely to annoy his controlling father. Truth be told, he’d rather spend every spare moment on his true passion, art. When Mas comes flaming into his life talking nineteen to the dozen, he finds himself offering him a job and a place to live.

He should have listened to his instincts. The shop is already financially on the brink, and Mas’s flirting makes him feel things he’s never felt for a man. Yet Mas seems convinced they can make a go of it—in the shop, and together.

Warning: Contains an eccentric, bumbling Englishman, a gobby drama queen, fantastic retro clothing, scary fairies, exes springing out of the woodwork, and a well-aimed glass of bubbly. Written in brilliantly British English.

Stuff, the second in The Bristol Collection series, is a wonderful delightful romance from Josephine Myles.  I think the world of the first story Junk.  There Myles delved into the life of hoarder Jasper Richardson and the man who helped him clear the clutter from his life and house,Lewis Miller.  That was an intense story that covered a lot of emotional territory for Jasper and the reader, especially those unfamiliar with the mental illness of hoarding.  Myles did a spectacular job and delivered a sympathetic portrait of a man desperately in trouble that he needs professional help.  Jasper’s illness and recovery was necessarily the primary focus of that story.  It had to be and it worked.  Here romance, quirky wonderful romance is front and center!

It’s all about the stuff!  And Perry Cavendish-Fiennes has lots of it.  A store called Cabbages and Kinks that Mas (Tobias “Mas” Maslin) accidentally hastens into one awful day.  Mas is a oddly charming character we meet first off in Junk as a hookup turned friend to Jasper.  It’s odd but for all his flamboyance and non stop talking, there is something weirdly fragile about Mas.  Myles has given us someone who’s quirkiness and “living in the now” bravado is a shield we see through to the man we want to hold underneath.  It takes a while for Perry to see that, but come around he does.  Mas is great but Perry?  Totally a match for Mas.

Perry an owner of a vintage store he’s not sure he even wants to run, full of ‘stuff’, Perry is one off kilter surprise after another.  After that random encounter with Mas that becomes more,  we’re side by side with Mas as the layers peel away from Perry, doors are opened from the living quarters above the shop revealing new dimensions into the man who owns all the stuff and the shop itself.  Entranced?  Yes, Mas was and so was I.

This is not an easy  romance as both men have difficult pasts that come back to throw obstacles in the way of their love and happiness. Mas has made some really awful, or challenging choices in his past, including his ex.  Neither will let him go easily.  Perry too has things waiting to destroy his movement forward, including his own inexperience with relationships itself.  The wonder and joy is watching the men work they way to each other time and again, through each missed step, each action or nonaction taken from fear or lack of communication, only to eventually find that their need for each other is greater than anything else.  Myles makes us believe in them and their love for each other.

I also liked getting caught up again with Jasper and Lewis, a lovely touch that I hope continues in the next story. Yes, there’s another book to be had and I’m on my way there to Scrap (The Bristol Collection, #3).  I can hardly wait.  I love, love this series!   Josephine Myles is a wonderful writer.  Her stories are charming, her writing flows smoothly, effortlessly around characters you love spending time with, who settle themselves into your heart for a good long stay.  I absolutely recommend not only this story but the one that precedes it.  Next up Scrap!

Cover art by Lou Harper is just as charming as all the other in the series and just as effective as branding them as a group.

Sales Links  Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 433 pages
Published June 8th 2017 (first published May 27th 2014)

A MelanieM Recent Release Review: The Wounded Warrior (Rocking W #1) by B.A. Tortuga

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

 

When Luke’s lost everything, the only thing to do is head back home to the ranch and pray that he finds his way again.

When Navy SEAL Luke Blanchard comes back to Northeast Texas after a devastating injury, he feels like the whole world has gone dark. In a wheelchair and feeling worthless, Luke has no idea what to do, even as his twin brother Matt is determined to lift him up and help him heal.

Rory McConnell is a local prodigy, a real estate lawyer with a plan to buy up land before his bitter rival can collect it. When the Blanchard ranch goes into the red, he offers to buy out the debt. Luke backs his brother instead, but he doesn’t believe for a minute that Rory is a bad guy. No one that sexy and fun can be, right?

As Luke claws his way out of depression with a crazy idea to run a therapy ranch, he and Rory start to explore the need growing between them. Will Rory’s need for revenge against a man who damaged him forever come between them, or will it be the force which brings these two wounded men together for good?

Ya’ll know I love me some B.A. Tortuga (hoping to sound all B.A. Tortuga like and probably not succeeding very well) and The Wounded Warrior (Rocking W #1) is just another prime example why.  The first in a new series from Pride Publishing, the author delivers up another great story with two wounded men, each damaged in different but very deep ways, living in a hot, small Texas town she knows inside and out.

There’s been a lot of twins in B.A.’s stories recently, not sure why other than maybe she’s as intrigued by the twin dynamics just as we are.  In The Wounded Warrior, we have another twin set in Luke and Matt Blanchard.  Luke, the Navy SEAL, is The Wounded Warrior, returning home from a tour in a wheelchair, his world blown apart.  Matt is the brother trying to find the Luke he knows and loves buried under the PTSD, depression, and darkness Luke is existing in.  A horse trainer, Matt also rescues horses and other animals, and its to these injured, almost broken animals that Luke is drawn to.  Something Matt notices as well, as watches as horses and man start to heal each other.

The beauty of B.A. Tortuga’s writing is her ability to make us empathize so completely with her characters because she pulls us into their mindset and their emotions.  Told from multiple points of view, we completely get these men and we hurt for them.  For Matt in his inability at times to help his brother, his twin and for Luke, caught up in survivor’s guilt, his wheelchair and his feelings of inadequacy after being a SEAL.  Those two alone are superb but then there’s another damaged soul here and that’s Rory McConnell.

Rory McConnell is a local real estate lawyer with a past that’s haunting him to the point that his present is consumed with plans of revenge against those that hurt him.  The author will only slowly reveal Rory’s past to  Luke and the readers after a time, but we get hints enough to know that what’s coming will be horrific. The Rory we meet is determined, charming and driven to the point he makes the wrong impression on both Blanchard brothers, something he soon corrects.  Its important we understand Rory the man, damaged and a warrior in his own right, avenging a wrong against a criminal or criminals still at large. Watching these men connect, learn to trust, and love is such an out and out pleasure.  Its sweet, sexy and enough to make you reach for those boxes of tissues!

Along with all that?  You get B.A. Tortuga’s cast of characters, from the Blanchard “Momma and dad “Preacher”, both people to be reckoned with, to Lori, Luke’s amazing assistance, Avery the therapist, and so many more including the town’s people themselves.  Here’s a small sample of Rory taking Luke out to the local restaurant where everyone in town eats for lunch.  The flow of the chatter has the easy, down home feel I’ve heard in town’s across Georgia and Alabama too.  It’s as recognizable as it is authentic.  I love it and it’s another reason I read a Tortuga story:

“Something smells amazing,” Luke said.

“It”s meatloaf day.”

“You like meatloaf?” Luke was undecided. His mom’s had not been great, but after the army he wasn’t picky.

“I hate it. I am going to have a patty melt. Hey, Sue Ann, how goes it?”

Sue Ann Landers’ who had been one of Mark’s conquests back in the day, was obviously a rockabilly fanatic, the bright crimson beehive matching her cat-eye glasses exactly. “Faboo. The new girl is pregnant, cries at the drop of a hat and spilled an entire tray of drinks on Miss Hattie’s church group.”

“Wow. If I let her wait on us and don’t make her cry, do I get our pie for free?” Luke reckoned Rory couldn’t not make a deal. It must be in the man’s bones.

“You’re on.”

They ended up at a table in the back, out of the way. Bless her red head, Sue Ann didn’t want his chair messing up the flow, but that worked for Luke. Less gawking.

I could see that so clearly, right down to Miss Hattie’s church group and the fact that Sue Ann called her Miss Hattie.  Truth rolling out in every word.  Combine that with characters you hurt for and grow to love, a story that makes you cry and woop for joy? And then sets you up for other stories?  Yep, I’m not only all in but I’m anxiously waiting for the next in the series.  Can’t wait to see which Blanchard boys gets the next one, if indeed it’s one of them.  Plus there’s all the veterans coming to The Rocking W.  Well, I’ll leave that part of the story to the readers.  I highly recommend this to all of you.  Grab it up and start reading before the next one comes out.

Cover art by Posh Gosh works great for the storyline and characters.

Sales Links:  Pride Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 217 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Pride Publishing
ISBN139781786515551
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesRocking W #1

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray: Round One) by Bradley Lloyd

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Family is worth fighting for—and family doesn’t always mean blood.

No one knows what calamity poisoned the earth and decimated the human population, but living close to the toxic ground means illness and death. Justin is determined to keep his twin sister and younger brother from that fate—no matter what he has to do. To earn enough to keep his family safe in a high-rise, Justin enlists in a deadly sport called Shadow Fray. He quickly finds himself in over his head, especially when he is scheduled to face the most dangerous player.

Hale—who competes as Black Jim—knows he won’t be on top forever, despite his skills. He fights for a better life for his daughter, but his time is running out as Shadow Fray becomes increasingly lethal. Something about the newest fighter intrigues him, but does he dare defy his masters to investigate? Justin and Hale will clash in the ring, while beyond it the powerful elite and the crumbling world seem determined to keep them apart. If they can find common ground, they might have a chance to fight for their futures.

Shadow Fray (Shadow Fray: Round One) by Bradley Lloyd is a terrific story.  It’s just the sort of book that gets me thinking on so many levels and that’s due primarily to the excellent world building here.  Lloyd has created a future earth where a catastrophic event, now called The Thinning, has raised the water levels globally, sinking all coastal cities and lands, shattering governments, technologies and making the ground so  toxic that anyone who lives on the surface slowly dies, succumbing to a madness and “ground sickness”.  Those left, reformed into inland cities, mainly Chicago where the government is centered.  People live in the high rises left, the higher the floor the better (and the wealthier the people).  Some technologies were saved from the “before times”, so internet, mobile phones, TV (using only the old tapes of shows and movies stored, nothing new has been produced except Shadow Fray games, more on that soon), cars, trucks and even trains are running.   Farms are run again by the large companies like Exxon and DuPont on raised buildings and guarded by drones, as it everything else.   Some people (the Shutters) never leave their condos, the idea being make your living area and building self sufficient.

Women are few and highly regarded, the toxins in the ground having effected reproduction and gender ratio.  People wanting children have produced babies via utero experiments that turn out to be unis, children with both sexes.  They have the ability to choose a sex when older but are barren.  Most choose to be women another interesting element.  Homosexuality is not only not tolerated but outlawed as they are “non breeders” in a world with few children.  This is a hard, toxic world and for many it’s getting worse.

Lloyd makes us believe in this world because so many of the elements are only stages and layers away from what the scientists have been warning will happen with climate change.  The author folds fact with his imaginative world building and its works, horrifically, on so many levels.  In this book, we don’t get the answers as to why it has happened, but Lloyd says we will in the coming stories.

Then there is the Shadow Fray, a martial arts competition that deadly and underground.  Moved from location to location, with only the fighters and handlers in the know (supposedly), there is so much danger and mystery attached here, that the suspense just builds and builds with each chapter with no let up.  That’s because the more we find out about the Shadow Fray and who runs it, the worse it gets and the more mysteries pile up around it.  Amazing.

Then finally there is the forbidden romance between Hale and Justin.  That takes time to set up and become believable.  Remember it’s forbidden here so the men have to come to grips with their homosexuality too.  Every meeting, every touch?  Could be their last.  Plus each character is so beautifully written.  One at the top of his game, teetering on the brink of being pulled down.  The other?  Being pushed to the top of the very increasingly nasty pile.  And all around them are some of the most intriguing cast of secondary  characters you will want to meet from Justin’s twin sister to his non-speaking brother, to Gris and Hale’s tank thug brother too.  I could go on and on about the people here that match the world building.

Which brings me to the ending.  Argh!!!!

In this title, notice it says Round One (not so in other titles).  Well, it sort of ends like the ringing of a bell at the end of a fight.  Round One done.  No completion, nothing brought to an ending. It sort of halts with one character riding off.  To the next story that we are waiting for. Yes, its frustrating.  But I understand from the author it’s already at the publishers so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long.

The ending notwithstanding,  Shadow Fray is an excellent gritty, compelling story.  I can’t wait to dive into the second one.  Pick up this one if you love alternate universe’s, dystopian societies, mysteries and romance.  Meet you at the second book!

 

Cover art by  Anna Sikorska is amazing.  I love the details and the model.

Sales Links

Available for Purchase at

 

 

Book Details:

ebook, 284 pages
Expected publication: May 30th 2017 by DSP Publications
ISBN139781635333602
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesShadow Fray #1

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Farlough by Xavier Mayne

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Newly turned thirty, Cameron North is preparing himself to spend his life alone. When he inherits his great-aunt’s teashop on the remote island of Farlough, he returns for the first time in more than a dozen years to a place where memories—and demons—flit close to the surface of his mind. There he meets Gwyneth, a sassy barista who becomes his instant best friend—until Cam discovers she’s the wife of his first love, Matthias. She has only the best of intentions when she arranges a reunion between the two men, and it forces them to finally discuss why Cam left the island so long ago.

With his heart broken anew, Cam retreats to his great-aunt’s house—where he learns he is not alone. Someone—or something—has pledged an oath to look out for Cam, and as he investigates the presence, he uncovers wounds that both he and his mysterious guardian sought to escape by coming to Farlough. Now Cam must figure out how to heal them—and himself.

Oh, that synopsis….what a teaser!  I had no idea which way this story was going to go, there was even a hint that there might be an element of the supernatural here but no.  It’s simply a wonderful contemporary romance about putting the past to rest, finding out who you really are and coming home.

I absolutely need to contact Xavier Mayne to see if Farlough is real.  He made it so for me, it came alive on these pages.  I wanted to meet these people and come for the Solstice celebrations (not that it was for outsiders).  I wanted to ride the Ferry and meet everyone that lived, laughed and loved so well on this amazing island.  From the librarian to the Misters at the Tea Room and so many others, this place had my heart soon after I arrived along with Cam.

Cameron North, what a journey the author placed him on.  From lonely orphaned boy to lonely man (by choice), it’s not until he returns to Farlough that he’s able to make himself (along with another) whole again.  I won’t go into spoilers here but every time I thought the author might take a wrong zag with the storyline here, Mayne came through.  The relationship dynamics here are beautifully done, handled with adult care and sympathy.  I’m talking about Gwyneth (a wonderful character and powerhouse), Matthias, Cam’s first and only love and Gwyn’s loving husband.  This entire element is just so well done. Plus did I say how much I love Gwyneth and family?  Why, yes I do!  Duck included.

I should also mention Cam’s Aunt.  Although, physically missing from the story, the way in which the author has written it and her, she is as big a presence here as any of the characters and the island itself.  I felt as if I knew her too.  And mourned her loss along with everyone else.  That’s wonderful writing.

The other mystery person, the one left with the duty of Cam’s guardian?  I liked him too.  This is the only place where I wish there had been a little more “time” or length to let me get a real depth of feeling from these two. I did get it later in the story but not in the beginning where it said it began.  That’s my only quibble here.  Everything else is outstanding from the Misters (I couldn’t get enough of them, so adorable) to Ari, who is such a sparkling, snarky bird that he needs his own story.   I hope  Mayne is listening.

Need a new contemporary romance?  Here’s one I absolutely recommend!  Farlough by Xavier Mayne!  And if you’re listening, Xavier, contact me and let me know if Farlough is real or not.  Maybe I should just let it go.

 

Cover Artist: Reese Dante.  That cover is perfect for the story in every way.  I love it.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press |  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 250 pages
Published May 22nd 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleFarlough
ISBN 1635334691 (ISBN13: 9781635334692)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review Wave Goodbye to Charlie by Eric Arvin

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

2nd Edition

My name’s Charlie. I’m many things, though none of them having to do with any real talent. I’m a runaway, a hustler when I need to be, a ghost when I have to scare hoodlums away from my home, and a loner who maybe reads too much. But most of all, I’m the keeper of the carnival. That’s how I see myself. I look after the place ’cause even dying things need to be cared for. Maybe it’s illegal. Maybe that rusty metal fence around the carnival is supposed to keep me out too. Or maybe me and this place were meant to find each other. Truth is, I never felt at home anywhere but here, not even in all the foster families and orphanages I was placed in as a young shit. They don’t look for me no more, those places. I suspect I ran away so much they finally just said, “Fuck! Let him go.” I am a hangnail on society’s manicured middle finger. I’m older. One year past the age anyone gives a shit.

And this is my adventure…

I’d read Eric Arvin’s other incredible stories, including The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men, and Azrael and the Light Bringer but I had never gotten around to Wave Goodbye to Charlie.  With the passing of Eric Arvin, Dreamspinner Press is re-releaseing his novels, and it was the perfect time to pick it up and revisit the mind and imagination of a truly gifted man and author.

Once again the beauty and wild earthiness of Eric Arvin’s writing astounds me.  From the moment we meet Charlie, ambling along the road, voicing his thoughts about the trees and the dusty, grit of the surface, we know this character.  It’s in his speech and thought patterns.  It’s where he’s where’s he’s been, tricking himself out, and it’s in his final destination, the place he calls home, an abandoned carnival that just may not be all that empty.   Arvin brings us life lived at the margin of society in all it rawness and yes, tawdriness.  Yet, there’s something about Charlie so determined to live his life on his own terms, even if that means that his bed is a canoe from a rusted out ride, and his home does some peculiar things in the night. Charlie’s a hustler, a loner, and content to be on his own as a runaway.yet unusual enough to calmly accept the strange goings on around him.  That’s a whole lot of intriguing to start off with and Charlie just continues to pull you into his messy and strange life.

Wave Goodbye to Charlie becomes a journey for Charlie and the reader, an examination into the supernatural and the afterlife.  Reading through the story and passages, Charlie and the reader can pass from the mundane everyday occurrences to striking moments of terror and in Eric Arvin’s writing, it’s both beautiful and horrific,  illuminating and heartbreaking.  I find it hard to describe the moments of gut wrenching terror without having spoilers, just know there are some, not graphic but the feelings they engender will linger, until towards the end….when all start to be, not erased but transformed.

Leroy and Jimmy, Trent, Alfie, and  Nessa, all characters that are central to Charlie and his journey here.  Potential lovers, friends, a gay couple who consider him “their boy” and much more.  You will find yourself weeping with and for these people here, for tragedy and heartache is a commonality in this small misbegotten place and yet, together love binds them and moves them all forward, although not in a way you might expect.  Everyone you meet here feels incredibly real, both good and bad, as does the small town they all inhabit.  I expect this was a world Eric Arvin knew well because it lives and breathes here on these pages as do these people.  As to the rest?  Its anyone’s guess.  Again that mind of Arvin’s must have been a labyrinth of mythology, imagination and more, and unreal to navigate through if his stories are any indication.

I admit to being incredibly moved and needing to grab up tissues throughout this story.   So much of Wave Goodbye to Charlie still has me thinking, moved by the characters, their condition and their journey together.  This isn’t a romance, not in the traditional sense.   Maybe between Leroy and Jimmy, that’s true love at its finest, but for Charlie?  Well, you see….he was loved by more than he knew.   It took him a while to find that out.  Us too.  Pick up this book and take that journey.  Its an unforgettable one.

Cover Artist: John Coulthart.  This is  a perfect cover for this story in every way.  Read the book and find out why.

Sales Links

 

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition, 200 pages
Published April 3rd 2017 by Dreamspinner Press (first published October 8th 2014)
ISBN 1635338212 (ISBN13: 9781635338218)
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Micah Johnson Goes West (Get Out #2) by Sean Kennedy

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Sequel to The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson

On the outside, Micah Johnson seems to have everything. He is proving his worth on the field during his rookie year with his new professional football team, the Fremantle Dockers, but his personal life is a mess. Homesick, three thousand kilometres away from his family and friends on the other side of Australia, Micah isn’t coping. He’s using casual sex, alcohol, and drugs as crutches since he doesn’t feel comfortable approaching his foster family with his problems, and he’s left with nowhere to turn. It isn’t until he experiences a health scare and a friend is rocked by a personal tragedy that Micah realises he does have the strength to succeed at a new life in the West—but he has to learn to ask for help.

Sean Kennedy is a must go author for me.  He become one on the strength of his wonderful series Tigers and Devils. Its from that series that the complicated and sometimes self-destructive Micah Johnson sprang.  He was a compelling character in Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3) so it was amazing (and overjoyed Kennedy’s readers when he brought him back in the Get Out series.

What can I say?  Use every cliche you want but this series and character just keep getting better and better!  Micah Johnson’s propensity for trouble begins early in Tigers and Devils and stays with him all through the first two stories in Get Out.  But these things that steer him towards a predilection for self-destructive habits are ones I think  most people will recognize.  The ability to believe you can handle things yourself…until they blow up, closing yourself off from people who want to help you until its too late…and you’re a teenager to boot.   When he finally realizes he needs help?  Well, you are almost weeping for joy for him and those that love and support him.  Those are just the first couple of books you meet him in.

Then comes Micah Johnson Goes West (Get Out #2).  Micah’s world gets upended…again.  In a totally believable way.  The football draft!  And Micah gets all his worst fears and the best thing to ever happen to him all in one.

Sean Kennedy’s writing is just amazing.  I get lost in Micah’s story immediately.  Lost in his turmoil of emotions and the whirlwind of feelings whipping all around him.  Plus the author never loses sight of what’s happening to Micah’s all important support…his family, friends, and mentors, which include Dec and Simon from Tigers and Devils (yes, a wonderful series overflow occurs).

We also travel from Melbourne to Perth, a shock to the  system as well, in location and perhaps even in mentality.  Smaller, hot, isolated, the relocation to Perth is a shock to Micah’s system in every sense of the word.  Kennedy, however, supplied Micah with an incredible host family and mentor, a troubled younger brother Dane  to the host football player (an important part of this story) and a greater secondary cast to draw on for the next stories. The Mitchell household (Micah’s football foster family as it were) provides a wealth of storylines and  emotional support for everyone here.  Trust you, you will end up falling deeply in love with them as well. And don’t get me started on the Dockers organization and team! Loved them!

See?  One thing just leads to one more element but Kennedy ties them all together so perfectly, so naturally that the relationships, the work that it takes, the missed steps and yes, the forgiveness…well, it all seems right and very real.  And it made me want to get a jersey with Micah Johnson’s name and number on it!

Can you read it as a standalone?  I suppose so.  But read as part of this series and as even part of Tigers and Devils, you put the characters and their situations in context.  Its then becomes this incredible rich tapestry of lives, sports and cities that stays seated deep within your heart and continues to grow in scope with each story the author writes.  I need more of this series and as soon as possible.  So I hope Sean Kennedy is listening.

Oh and yes, I highly recommend this book, the previous book and Tigers and Devils.  So yes to the author too!

Cover art by Catt Ford is simple enough for Micah, the character. Would have loved some element of the Dockers there.

Sales Links  Harmony Ink Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 186 pages
Published April 4th 2017 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN 1635333644 (ISBN13: 9781635333640)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series Get Out 

  • The Ongoing Reformation of Micah Johnson (Get Out #1)
  • Micah Johnson Goes West (Get Out, #2)

Amy Lane on Writing, Personal Experience, the Saber Dance and her latest release ‘Bonfires’ (guest post)

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Bonfires by Amy Lane
D
reamspinner Press
Cover Artist:  Anne Cain

Purchase Links

✒︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Amy Lane here today talking about one of my recently highly recommended stories, Bonfires. Welcome, Amy.

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Saber Dance

By Amy Lane

When I was a kid, one year my dad made less than $1500 for the entire year. Yes, you read that right, we’re not missing a zero—or two.  Yeah, sure, it was the seventies, and they didn’t drug test the poor people before giving out food stamps, and we lived in a dump for $75 a month, but you got to admit, that’s cutting things a bit close.

My dad was smart though—at the time he was in school to become a respiratory therapist (because Work-Fare WORKS, dammit!) and he made his scant living at a pick-n-pull, but he knew how to stretch out a dollar. We planted a garden, because seeds were cheap, and he haunted the feed stores for fertilized eggs.  A hammer, some nails, a lightbulb, and BANG! Baby chickens—and whether they were roosters or hens, one way or another those critters would feed us for a year.  (One year it was roosters—twenty-three out of twenty-five of them. My dad called all of his friends over to become a chicken-killing assembly line, and we had a hell of a barbecue, but that’s another story.)

So livestock, I’ve had it.  As well as cats, for most of my life. And the thing with feeding the chickens (or the sheep or cats or dogs for that matter) is that there are feedbags left over. A long time ago, you used to be able to get some of the feed—or rice for that matter—in heavy duty cloth bags, but mostly they came in paper. 

All of those layers of paper, with all of those leftover grains of food.

You what likes leftover grains of food?

Mice. Mice like leftover grains of food.

I remember—more than once—the chicken coop or feedbag pile getting infested with mice, and the orgy of destruction that followed.

There is nothing as entertaining as a cat chasing mice, especially one who has not become completely domesticated and still has a strong stream of jaguar running through its veins. The thing is, cats are insanely well-crafted killing machines. Everything from curved claws to sharp teeth to lashing tail plays some part in the feline Saber Dance that is a cat getting down to business.

I know some people out there—people who have possibly never had to walk into a darkened chicken coop to collect eggs and try not to freak out at the scurry of little feet as they scuttle through the hay—feel terrible for the furry little rodents, and I do see their side.  I mean, my kids have kept mice and rats as pets, and on a one-on-one basis they can be amiable little creatures with adorable beady eyes and twitching whiskers.

They can also be cannibalistic nightmares who overrun chicken coops, devour crops (remember, those were dinner!) and scurry over your sandal-clad foot when you least expect them. And my heroes, the floofy kitties, were effectively getting rid of the little grain-stealing criminals.

I was a fan!  Hell—on the day of the Massive Rooster Roast, half the adults who were supposed to be plucking and gutting chickens were in the chicken coop watching Squinter, my cat, do his thing, because that animal was amazing. If you’ve never seen a cat going after a mouse with one paw while he’s got one under the other paw and a third in his mouth, you are missing a cat’s reason for being.

So the scene from Bonfires in which Larx is throwing the feedbags onto the burn pile, and the cats are eliminating the fleeing mice—that’s drawn from my memories as a child. I remember how necessary clearing out the garden was, how the feedbags (in Larx’s case, it was cat food) often harbored more than feed, and how the family cats actually shook off their mantles of sloth and somnolence and for once earned their keep.

The texture of the light, the sharpness of the air in the fall, and the gladiatorial drama of life and death enacted on the stage of the fall bonfire all inspired a tremendous anticipation in my chest.

Like falling in love when you’re pushing fifty, it’s a timeless spectacle that feels brand new.

About Bonfires

Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road.

Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last.

It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.

About the Author

Amy Lane exists happily with her noisy family in a crumbling suburban crapmansion, and equally happily with the surprisingly demanding voices who live in her head.

She loves cats, movies, yarn, pretty colors, pretty men, shiny things, and Twu Wuv, and despises house cleaning, low fat granola bars, and vainglorious prickweenies.

She can be found at her computer, dodging housework, or simultaneously reading, watching television, and knitting, because she likes to freak people out by proving it can be done.

Connect with Amy:

Website: greenshill.com

Blog: writerslane.blogspot.com

Twitter: @amymaclane

Facebook group: Amy Lane Anonymous

Goodreads: goodreads.com/amymaclane

Stops on the blog tour:


March 17 – MM Good Book Reviews

March 24 – Divine Magazine

March 27 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words  

March 27 – The Novel Approach

March 28 – Alpha Book Reviews

March 29 – Love Bytes

March 30 – Gay Book Reviews

March 31 – My Fiction Nook