A MelanieM Review: Dine with Me by Layla Reyne

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Life never tasted so good.

Miller Sykes’s meteoric rise to award-winning chef is the stuff of culinary dreams, but it’s all crashing down around him. He’s been given a diagnosis that could cost him something even more precious than his life: his sense of taste. Rather than risk the very thing that defines him, Miller embarks on a last tour of his favorite meals while he still can.

But there’s a catch: he needs a financial backer to make it happen, and he doesn’t want anyone to know he’s sick.

Dr. Clancy Rhodes has two weeks to come to terms with putting aside oncology to work at his father’s thriving plastic surgery practice. When the opportunity to travel with a Michelin-starred chef presents itself, the foodie in him can’t believe it. It doesn’t hurt that Miller’s rugged good looks are exactly Clancy’s cup of joe.

As Clancy and Miller travel from coast to coast and indulge in everything from dive bars to the most decadent of culinary experiences, they’re suddenly sharing a lot more than delicious meals. Sparks fly as they bond over their love of flavors and the pressures of great expectations. But when Miller’s health takes a turn for the worse, Clancy must convince him he’s more—so much more—than just his taste buds. And that together, they can win a battle that once seemed hopeless.

I love stories that mix food with romance.  The two just naturally go together, a exploration of the sensual, the ability to explore new cultures through new  tastes and dishes, just the spices alone can be so heady.  Just like falling in love itself.  They are, as they say, a perfect blend.

When the chef or in this case, the author, gets it right.

And here in Dine With Me by Layla Reyne, the author gets it word for word, recipe by recipe, and scene by scene splendidly right.

I am not familiar enough with this author’s stories to know if this is the exception or the rule, but I mean to find out.  From the layered characterizations that spoke to me to the  many restaurants and dishes served up throughout the novel that speaks of the author’s love and appreciation of food and the chef’s in the kitchens, everything about Dine With Me was a journey to delight in and remember.

The author can go to making your mouth water for truffles to having your heart wrench over the pain being felt by the characters,Miller Sykes especially.   Clancy and Mike, as well as sall the other people here are so well crafted they become alive, and you fall into their lives from the moment you meet them and begin their journey.

And oh what a trip that will be… no spoilers here…but trust that it’s one you would wish to take yourself.  It sounds as though the author was intimately familiar with each and every place and for that Im envious and happy for her.  Those descriptions of the dishes and food are rich, you can almost smell the aromas, taste the umami, and let the savory and salt undertones  melt in your mouth.  OK, bring a drool cloth.

That ending?  It was everything I wanted and more.  It made my heart overflow.  Just what I need in my contemporary love stories and maybe even more.

So yes, run , don’t walk and get Dine with Me by Layla Reyne.  I love this story and only wish I could have lingered a bit longer is only to savor in this couple’s happiness and taste more of that incredible food by proxy.

Cover art by Carina Press does everything but make that table twinkle.  Pull out a chair for me.

Sales Links: Carina Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: September 16th 2019 by Carina Press
ISBN 148805391X (ISBN13: 9781488053917)
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review :717 miles by Sophia Soames

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The calculated flying distance from Oslo to London is equal to 717 miles which is equal to 1153 km. If you want to go by car, the driving distance between Oslo and London is 1732.79 km. If you ride your car with an average speed of 112 kilometres/hour (70 miles/h), travel time will be 15 hours 28 minutes.

Adam Vik Solheim should not be in London. He’s not supposed to be anywhere near the British capital, because Adam Vik Solheim, age 19, is supposed to be on a beach in Bali. He is supposed to be on the first stop on an Asian backpacking trip of a lifetime. That was the plan. That is where he is supposed to be. Not here. Alone in a weird house in a strange city, being paid to look after some troubled 17-year-old.

Felix Haugland has to survive the final 3 weeks of school. Make it through 21 more days of hell. Then he is going to hide out in his room for the rest of the summer until he can figure out how to get his life back on track. Find a school far far away, where he can start over and not make mistakes.
He doesn’t need a flipping babysitter. He just doesn’t. His life is messed up enough as it is.

This is a New Adult story and is set in the UK where the age of consent is 16. Trigger warnings: Severe bullying and mature content.

Several things intrigued me about this novel when I first heard about it.  It mentioned a discussion about the age of consent in Europe, the disparity in school systems from the US, an odd family dynamic, and of course, two countries (England and Norway) that it’s primarily set in.  Plus to top it all off it deals seriously with the issue of bullying.  All from a author I had never read before.  With an absolutely stunning cover to boot!  Yes, I grabbed it up and will forever be grateful I did.

717 miles by Sophia Soames is that not to be missed novel that you want to review.  Unexpected, beautifully written, that carries such an emotional impact with it’s characters and storyline that days later they and it are still with you, lingering in your mind and heart, scenes and phrases tumbling over and over.

The title from from the distance from Adam’s home in Oslo to his new temporary position as an au pair in London, England.  It’s exactly 717 miles and as he leaves home for the first time he is feeling every bit of it.  It’s not a place he thought he would be but extremely poor decisions from both himself and his long-time group of childhood friends has cost him and them dearly.  I won’t go into it here, it’s a tale for the story and Adam to tell, and it will unfold in the novel.  It too has both it’s heartbreakingly funny and deadly serious moments.  Just like everything in this book.  So human, so real, and young.

The story is told from both Adam’s and Felix’ perspective, a format that works so well here.  Their initial impressions of each other is important as is their descriptions, so we see them through each others eyes.  And it’s how we see Felix’s relationship with his unusual mother, Birgit, an expressive wonderful single mother whose style of parenting is not everyone idea of parenting but as Adam comes to realize it works for Felix.

I don’t think I can even begin to do justice to the incredible characterizations here.  Not just the two young men but all the families, and friends.  Each and everyone is an exquisite portrait of a real person, oozing with life and vitality.  You want to crawl inside this book and meet each and everyone.  Be a part of this unique circle of people in both countries.

Which makes one of the major elements here all the more realistic and frightening.  You see Felix is being badly bullied in school.  Physically beaten bullied. There is violence.  So if this is a trigger be warned.  It also marks such a major difference in my understanding of the school systems in the way it was treated.  I do understand some of  the difference between the UK systems and their as a good friend of the families was a headmaster but here the lawyers would have been outside the door, the headmaster held accountable the first time a student landed in the hospital and the culprit identified.  The inaction by the school and headmaster, however, realistic, frustrated me and made my heart hurt not only for Felix but for all those existing outside the story if true.  Adam is there to be his friend and Felix need a friend and more.  This entire thread, especially when told from Felix’s side, will make you weep.  It will get worse, and then get better.  Just know that.

Then there is the slow burn relationship between Adam and Felix.  Slow to develop because at first Felix sees Adam as an adversary, someone to drive away as he had all the other “babysitters” his mother has employed.  But Adam has younger brothers he loves and he knows how to deal with someone who clearly needed him.  It’s wonderful watching it unfold before you.  The dialog, the scenes, they alternate from hilarious (Adam learning to navigate the London traffic) to the serious (pulling out exactly what’s happening to Felix) to the amazing (all the cooking and baking that Adam does.  We  watch the transition from both pov and we start to cherish both the relationship and the  young men.

And oh that ending!  Sob.  Yes, I loved that ending too.  This book!  I’m already itching to reread it soon.

When you finish a book you love, you sort of bask in the glow of a story and characters so well done that you are just so happy.  Happy for them, happy you found the story, and in this case happy I found this remarkable author. Yes, I highly recommend this story to everyone! Go, go, go, grab it up and start reading immediately.  It will be on my Best of 2019 list.

Cover Artist: Miriam Latu. The cover artist is a Norwegian artist who works in charcoal on paper.  That’s the unusual beauty behind the cover and it’s Norwegian models that fit the story so perfectly.  Honestly this novel just continues to give starting with the cover and a link to the artist’s studio.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Universal link

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Book Details:

ebook, 371 pages
Published April 30th 2019
ISBN139781092506168

A MelanieM Review : Under The Radar by Lillian Francis

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

It’s 1942 and after a sexual indiscretion, US Navy pilot Zachary MacKenzie is sent to serve in the Royal Navy’s submarine service—a shockingly harsh punishment for a man who loves to fly. The submarine is oppressive and frustrating for him, and he’s marked out from his peers, publicly by being American, and privately by his attraction to men.

The only bright spot is the company of his steward, sonar operator Gethin Llewelyn. Despite the differences of rank and background, they’re drawn to each other. Gethin’s integrity complements Zach’s casual joie de vivre, and soon the friendship develops into something much more.

As the threats of war increase, the submarine is plagued by potentially hostile vessels, and circumstances lead them to suspect there’s a spy amongst their own crew. Being forced even closer together as they work for the greater good reveals a new awareness, and Zach doesn’t know what is in more danger, the vessel under his charge or his heart.

I am a long time lover of historical novels, historical romance included, among them several stories of Lillian Francis.  So I knew I was in good hands historically speaking when it came to the era and details of naval mariner life found in Under The Radar by Lillian Francis.  As always the author ended up delivering so much more than I anticipated, astonishing me with new revelatory details about gay life from that time period, secret naval oddities and historic events that Francis folds effortlessly into her novel and romance, along with characters that show great growth and redemption.

It is the latter that had me most concerned and yet won me over the most. US Navy pilot Zachary MacKenzie is passionate about flying, his need for the sky almost as fierce as his need and passion for men, but homosexuality isn’t merely a sin, it’s against the law, ending careers and sending people to jail.  But Zachary has an arrogant, almost fearless streak that gets him in trouble time after time until one last scandal sees him bedding the wrong person and ending up with an enemy too powerful  for his friends and family to assuage.  It costs him his “sky and flying”.  He’s sent to serve in a submarine in England.

You would think he’d be more contrite but no.  The character of Zach barely acknowledges his part in all of it.  And I had a huge time connecting with him.  His attitude towards trying to seduce Gethin (a true innocent about his attraction towards men), his responsibilities on board, Zach was just too glib for me to like.  Especially in contrast to the realistic portraits of submariners on board and the life everyone was living there.  Luckily, the author proceeded to slowly have the character of Zachary MacKenzie undertake a much needed personal growth, his character changing as his relationship with Gethin turned from pursuit into friendship and his appreciation of the people and duties on boards shifted as well.

The life inside the small cramped “tin can” of a 40’s submarine is mind boggling.  The descriptions of how the men lived must have come from journals it feels so real and authentic.  That includes the fact that homosexuals serving in the navy (or later adopted outside military services) used a secret language called Polari to speak to one another, a sign of recognition and let each other safely know they knew you were  one of them.  Here the author uses it in a wonderful scene and it sent me scrambling to know more about a piece of history I’d never heard about. Astonishing to learn that the language has been in use worldwide from 1600 to 1970’s, until LGBT laws made the language less needed. And the use of stewards in a submarine! A place where headroom was scarce alone with personal space!  And the fact that carbon monoxide poisoning was a constant threat upon diving…well the facts of life on board just continued to amaze me.

So with such a rich, solid foundation and framework established with her history and naval and gay culture, Francis proceeds to give her readers a wonderful slow burn romance with elements of suspense and drama that keeps both the characters and reader deeply connected to the men and plot right up to the end.  It’s all the many interlocking relationships here, the friendships that add to the romance as well as to the structure and responsibilities needed to run the submarine. It’s such a tight knit community of men that spills from career into friendship and in this case (and others) into romance and love.

And at the end, I’d gone from not liking Zach very well to whole hearted admiration for the man he’d become.  That went for Gethin too.  What a journey this was, what a path both still had still ahead.

Under The Radar by Lillian Francis is such an incredible historic romance, one I absolutely recommend.  You  feel as though the era and these men come alive for you.    It’s a romance not to be missed!

Cover art: Tiferet Designs.  Love the sub emerging behind the character and the beards, which yes, many of the submariners had.  Its part of the story.  Wonderful cover.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 407 pages
Published April 14th 2019 by Finally Love Press
Original Title Under the Radar
ASINB07QMM3H8R

A MelanieM Review: No Quick Fix (Torus Intercession #1) by Mary Calmes

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

A retired SEAL is about to face his toughest assignment yet. As a nanny…

Fixer. Bodyguard. Advocate. Brann Calder is expected to play all these roles and more as a member of Torus Intercession, a security firm guaranteed to right what’s wrong. In the military, catastrophe was his specialty. Five months out of the service, Brann is still finding his way, so a new assignment might be just what he needs. Unless it includes two things sure to make a seasoned, battle-trained veteran nervous: life in a small town, and playing caretaker to two little girls.

Emery Dodd is drowning in the responsibility of single fatherhood. He’s picked up the pieces after losing his wife and is ready to move on now, hopeful that his engagement to a local patriarch’s daughter will not only enrich his community but will grant his daughters some stability too.

The only thing standing in Emery’s way is that he can’t he seem to keep his eyes—and hands—off the former soldier he’s hired to watch his girls until the wedding.

Emery’s future is riding on his upcoming nuptials, but being with Brann makes him and his family feel whole again. Too bad there’s no way for them to be together.

Or is there?

No Quick Fix (Torus Intercession #1) is the quintessential Mary Calmes story. It has all the elements I love about her stories and characters, including the main character.    I can sit back, giggle over the dialog (always snapping smart, cute, and connectible) and just sink into the romance that I know is about to happen.  Plus the kids, great wonderful kids.  And a dog named Winston.  Ok, that did it upteen times over.

Brann Calder is Mary Calmes’ archetype hero.  He’s gorgeous, great at everything he does, kids and animals adore him (so do readers), he has a bruised heart wanting recovery and needs someone to love him. And a home.  Here the author dumps him into a job that will give him all three if everything works out…which of course they will eventually.  Because with a Calmes book it’s the journey to the end we know that’s coming.  How will they get there?

And who does it involve?

In this case (well, it’s not unusual with her novels) it takes a small town or village, all of whom we get to know.  From the women of the baseball team, to the captain of the Vol Fire Department, the people at the dinner and bakery, and the Veterinarian’s, we get to meet and like or love them all.  And they in turn love Brann, take him right to heart.

But before that?  It’s a family that is in sore need of a change of direction and heart. Emery Dodd and his two daughters (and one Westie) have several problems.  One the loss of a mother and wife that still haunts the family.  Two, Emery has agreed to a business arranged marriage for the betterment of the town and his family, whether they like it or not.  And nothing should stand in the way of that marriage going forward so perhaps a bodyguard is needed. Enter Brann Calder and an explosion of possibilities and fireworks.

If you are not familiar with how the classic Calmes main character acts, than watching Calder “superhero” his way through the town almost on day one will engender more than a few eyerolls.   But if you’re a lover of Jory and Sam, a reader of Frog, or Timing, or Marshals or I could keep going, then you know that’s the classic Calmes main man in action.  And we love him and her for it.

Because as he’s performing all these acts of bravery or compassion or whatever they may be, he’s also learning that he’s been missing out on something in his life and now it’s staring him in the face at every level, furred (dog), child, and man.  And a town that clearly needs him.

I’m so hooked every time.  From the moment he tiredly exits a car and ends up staring into a child’s daunting glare.  I’m there with him, especially as he meets that challenge and heads into the next, cuss words and all.  He had me at “shit”.  And “awesome”.

Love that whole family.

Wow, I’m torn between wanting more of Brann and this town and more of the other men in the Torus group who clearly need their own HEA.  Mary, can’t I have both? lol

And yes, I highly recommend this story and the author.  When I have need of a comfort read, a hero and a romance, Mary Calmes’ stories have often saved the day.  Adding another now.

Cover art: Reese Dante.  Yes, that is Brann Calder to the core. Love it.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 289 pages
Published March 19th 2019
ASINB07PLJ65NT
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesTorus Intercession #1

A MelanieM Review: Echoes by LA Ashton

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

After one thousand years of listless eternity, Oskar is used to his particular brand of loneliness. But a long walk through middle America and a few chance encounters will lead him straight to a man he’d known to be long since dead―his childhood best friend, Aranck.

Being undead hasn’t stopped Aran from living life to the fullest. He has all the money and power his charm and business savvy could earn him, and plenty of friends. Lately, though, something seems to be missing. After a millennium, perhaps the world’s shine has worn off—and that’s when Oskar stumbles back into his life, reminding him of who he used to be.

Together the two vampires remember what it felt like to live, all the while navigating a conflict with the local pack of werewolves. A lot has changed in a thousand years, and only time will tell if those changes will bring Oskar and Aranck closer together, or ensure they remain apart.

It’s rare that a story with vampires and werewolves can offer up a new narrative slant on both but Echoes by L.A. Aston does, and with a story full of jaw dropping, mind spinning, never saw that coming stunning twists.  Do I love this story?  Why yes I do!

A thousand years weren’t enough to forget him.”

There are soooo many elements here to love.  First off, let’s start with the two main characters.  They have been separated for hundreds and hundreds  of years, each thinking the other has died.  One a Viking, the other an Algonquin Indian, both now over thousand years old.

Oh, my, the world building here is extraordinary.  Their backstory, which will slowly be revealed throughout the novel, intense scene after scene, as we get their history together, and then their years apart is rich in detail,  and  incredibly emotional. This along with the ability to connect  us intimately with the action and immediate reality of whatever is taking place.  Whether it be wonder or more like it, horror. and loss, makes us feel so much a part of their story that we can’t bring ourselves to put down the book.

Indeed, my Kindle was clasped tightly in hand until the story was done and then sometime after as I didn’t want to let them go.

And now the longing and feeling of ‘rightness” now that they have reconnected?  Just amazing.  Along with a slow burn and UST because, they never got around to that first kiss no matter how deep the love each carries for the other.

Plus one, Oskar, has been a wanderer and the other, Aranck/Aran, has been tied to one place as he’s now got his own District to control and a peace between vampires, humans and weres to keep in place.  An attack on a local pack threatens to undo all Aran has accomplished with his treaty.  But now with Oskar returned and at his side, as a sort of second-in-command, Aranck feels settled and alive again.

Told from a few perspectives, and beautifully done, because you are only hearing from a small number of voices (no spoilers), it enhances the story, the relationships , and the atmosphere the author is going for.

The author’s characters, all of them, from the main couple, to all the various secondary and sundry other personalities are all so well done.  They are all equally crafted with care, given depth, back histories, unique voices, and temperaments.  Doesn’t matter whether it’s a vampire bartender that “feels”  too human or a hot-headed were, you believe in them and their actions wholly for as long or as little time that they are on the page.

But the true story and power belongs to Oskar and Aranck.  Their history together, what they endured, their journey back to each other, and, their love.

Oh, yes, and, for that double dose of cherry on the top?  Several stunning twists as well.  I really hope that all the reviewers keep these under wraps, it would be a shame to spoil them for any reader.

I could read this over and over again.  And never get enough of this world and couple.

So of course, I had to write the author after I finished and ask if they had considered making this a series.   Because it’s just that amazing and there are just enough open possibilities at the end to support one, and the answer is yes.  Ashton is considering it.  So I’m holding my breath for more.   After reading this, I believe you will be too.

So yes, I highly recommend Echoes by L.A. Ashton to all lovers of supernatural romance and mystery fiction.  It’s purely fantastic.  You love vampires and werewolves?  This is for you.

Cover art: Natasha Snow.  Natasha Snow once again delivers on a  gorgeous and haunting cover that’s perfect for the story within.  Such an amazing artist.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published February 25th 2019 by Ninestar Press (first published September 19th 2017)
ISBN 139781950412082
Edition Language English

 

Blog Tour for The Stars May Rise and Fall by Estella Mirai (excerpt and giveaway)

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Book Title: The Stars May Rise and Fall

An M/M retelling of Phantom of the Opera set in turn-of-the-millennium Japan

Author: Estella Mirai

Publisher: Self-published

Cover Artist: MiblArt

Genre/s: M/M romance, contemporary

Heat Rating: 2 flames

Length: 90 000 words/320 pages

It is a standalone story.

Add on Goodreads 

Blurb

Teru came to Tokyo with dreams of making it big in the glam-metal visual kei scene, but three years later, all he has to show for it is a head of hot pink hair and some skill with an eyeliner pencil. He may look the part, but he doesn’t sound it, and constant bickering among his bandmates has him worried about his future. When he finds a mysterious business card in his bag, he’s willing to take any help he can get.

Help comes in the form of Rei, a crippled, disfigured composer whose own career was ended by an accident before it had really begun. With Teru’s voice and looks, and Rei’s money and songwriting skills, both of their dreams seem about to come true – but a forbidden kiss and a late-night confession threaten to tear it all apart. Now Teru, who has spent most of his life denying his attraction to men, and Rei, who vowed long ago never to love again, must reconcile their feelings with their careers – and with their carefully constructed ideas of themselves.



THE STARS MAY RISE AND FALL is an M/M retelling of Phantom of the Opera, set in Tokyo at the turn of the millennium. It comes with a healthy dose of angst and a dollop of nostalgia, as well as an age-difference romance, a physically disabled love interest, and memorable characters who will stay with you long after the pages are closed.

Buy Links

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

Excerpt 

I can help you. Call me.

Teru ran his finger around the edge of the card. Maybe it had been a mistake. Should he call, and let whoever had left it know?

He opened the window and lit a cigarette. The smoke floated out into the muggy Tokyo night.

“This is stupid,” he said aloud. “It’s one in the morning. Whoever it is, they’re asleep.”

But Teru wasn’t asleep. His bandmates probably weren’t asleep either. If it was a musician who had left the card, one in the morning was better than one in the afternoon.

I can help you. Call me.

He picked up his phone and dialed.

It rang once, twice—and Teru cut the connection. This is stupid. But he didn’t feel stupid. He felt guilty, like he’d been doing something he shouldn’t.

He stubbed out the cigarette and walked across the room to the refrigerator. Nothing but a pack of noodles and a flat Diet Coke. Even though he’d already had a couple with the guys after the show, what Teru really needed was a beer.

On the other side of the room, the phone rang.

The floor was littered with clothes and magazines and Playstation controllers. Teru almost tripped as he lunged for the phone, and then only crouched there, watching it, with his nerves wrapped around his voice box like a snake. There was no name with the number, but Teru knew it by heart. He’d only been staring at it for the past hour.

The ringing stopped. An engine rumbled outside Teru’s window, and a train clattered over distant tracks. Upstairs, slippered feet padded across a tatami floor. The air was thick with an anticipation far from silence—but just as easily shattered by the trill of a different ring.

Teru’s fingers fumbled to open the text.

I heard you sing.

He stared, waiting for the words to sink in. They didn’t, though. They made no sense.

It had only been a mistake after all.

You’ve got the wrong number, he replied. This is Teru, the drummer for La Rose Verboten. I don’t sing.

And then: You should.

The phone rang again.

“Hello?”

“You have a beautiful voice.”

It wasn’t Yasu. It wasn’t anyone he knew.

“Hello?” Teru repeated. “Who is this?”

“A friend.” The voice was male, deep and effortlessly sensual in a way that Seika would have envied. It made Teru distinctly uncomfortable.

“Look,” Teru said. “I think you want Bara. I’m not the singer. I’m the drummer. The one with pink hair?”

“I heard you,” the man pressed. “In the dressing room. I can help you.”

In the dressing room? There’d been no one else in there.

“Is this some kind of joke?”

“Not at all.”

“What do you want?” Teru whispered.

“To teach you. To help you. Will you meet with me?”

Teru’s palms were sweaty, his face flushed. It was partly exhaustion, partly a lingering buzz… but it was more than that. He felt dirty. This was worse than what he felt with Seika—and it was just a voice on the goddamn phone.

“There’s a studio in Koenji,” he heard himself say.

“No!” the man snapped, and he took a sharp, hissing breath. “No studios. You may come to my apartment.”

“Your apartment?”

“Please. It is… difficult, for me to go out.”

“Um… okay.” What the hell did that mean?

“I live in Meguro,” the man said. “Near the live house. I can send you the address. If you’ll come.” There was a plea in his voice, a quiet desperation. Teru swallowed, hard.

“You want to give me singing lessons?”

“Yes.”

This was insane. “When?”

“Whenever you are free.”

Teru glanced at his calendar. June, 2000. Three years, almost to the day, since he had stepped off the night bus from Niigata. After all that time, he didn’t even have anything to lose.

About the Author

Estella Mirai lives just outside of Tokyo with her human family and a very spoiled lap cat. When she isn’t reading or writing, she works in editing and translation—which means that 99% percent of her day is usually words. In her minimal free time, she enjoys watching musicals, cooking (badly), and slaughtering power ballads at karaoke.

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A MelanieM Release Day Review: The Quarterback’s Crush by John R. Petrie

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Dylan Porter needs a Hail Mary….

Because it’ll take a miracle for him to pass English and trig so he can stay on the football team, get a scholarship, and go away to college—where the distance from his friends and family will give him the confidence to finally tell them he’s gay. But flunking his classes will put a stop to all of his dreams.

Luckily there’s Tommy Peterson to help him. In Dylan’s eyes, Tommy’s perfect. Short, smart, and sexy, he checks every one of Dylan’s boxes, so it’s no surprise when Dylan falls head over heels. Too bad Tommy doesn’t seem to feel the same, and a pining Dylan accidentally outs himself to the team. Now Dylan has to deal with the fallout of his coming out to the team, his dad, and his coach while trying to score the ultimate touchdown—the love of Tommy Peterson.

It took me almost no time to fall totally under the spell of this endearing story and its amazing characters.  And it’s all due to the unique voice and personality of the main character, Dylan Porter.  You see, it’s his perspective that we see the story from and he’s an astonishing person!

As crafted by John R. Petrie in The Quarterback’s Crush, Dylan Porter is that amazingly elusive animal….a layered human being with the ability to surprise you over and over, not just the length of the story, but even several pages.  He’s not “peggable”.  What comes out of his mouth frustrates him,  makes him angry, or cry, but for the reader?  It makes you want to hug him, cheer him on,  support him, and in every respect do what’s necessary, because, damnit, this author has made us quickly believe in him.

The Quarterback’s Crush is a coming out tale from Harmony Ink Press but  its also so much more.  It deals with the stresses of senior life in high school (oh the joy and horror), the college entrance tests, prom, bullying, cliques, and more.  Normally those are topics we expect to get from a “nerds” pov,  and we do here.  But it’s also from a popular high school football player’s and his team.  They will surprise and delight you as well.  They certainly did me.

Tommy Peterson is the other side of the romantic equation (a sentence I think he would respond to).  He is as well put together as Dylan and a great match.  Did I wish to know more about Tommy’s story?  Yes, but honestly, this isn’t his story, It’s Dylan’s, and while I loved Tommy and wished for more, I wouldn’t to the detriment of Dylan’s voice.  So maybe a prequel with Tommy?

In fact, all the other characters here, Riley, Dylan’s best friend and the other  football players, Coach, father, have a certain stability and strength to them which only made this story more real and the relationships better defined.

The only thing that keeps this from a 5 star rating is that epilogue.  It was cute but I would rather have had more stories than something so full of teasers and questions.  Sort of a let down for me.  It could have ended without it and been a 5 star story in my opinion.

The Quarterback’s Crush is John R. Petrie‘s first published romance which amazes me.  It’s heartwarmingly wonderful, it’s characters endearing, and it’s storyline captivating.  I recommend it highly to all.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas.  I like the cover, although all the models seem more like college age than high school but the composition and characters are spot on.

Sales Links

Amazon (Kindle/Paper format) |  Dreamspinner Press  |  Harmony Ink Press  |  Barnes & Noble: 

 

 

Book Details:

ebook, 167 pages
Expected publication: September 4th 2018 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN139781640803909
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Recent Release Review: Galaxies and Oceans by N.R. Walker

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Seizing his one chance to escape, Ethan Hosking leaves his violent ex-boyfriend, leaves his entire life, and walks into the path of a raging bushfire. Desperate to start over, a new man named Aubrey Hobbs walks out of the fire-ravaged forest, alive and alone. With no ID and no money, nothing but his grandfather’s telescope, he goes where the Southern Cross leads him.

Patrick Carney is the resident lighthouse keeper in Hadley Cove, a small town on the remote Kangaroo Island off the coast of South Australia. After the tragic death of his lover four years ago, he lives a solitary life; just him, a tabby cat, the Indian and Southern Oceans, and a whole lot of loneliness. He’s content with his life until a stranger shows up in town and turns Patrick’s head.

Patrick never expected to be interested in anyone else.

Aubrey never expected to be happy.

Between Aubrey’s love of the stars and Patrick’s love of the ocean, these two fragile hearts must navigate new waters. If they can weather the storm of their pasts, they could very well have a love that eclipses everything.

Galaxies and Oceans by N.R. Walker was simply one of the most moving, heart felt romances I’ve read in a long time.  The combination of island, lighthouse, small town atmosphere, and memorable characters make this story one to carry in your heart for some time to come.

There’s also this almost intangible overlay of something magical, call it fate…call it the stars but N.R. Walker has cast a spell over her narrative so that this contemporary romance has a mystical feeling when the men need it the most.  Or perhaps when you least expect it, a touch of magic brushes over the story.

How these men need it and each other.  Walker has created two wounded souls in Patrick and Ethan.  Patrick lost his partner years ago to the sea and he has never recovered from the loss. Now he just goes about his life as the keeper of the local lighthouse at Hadley Cove, his romantic life nil. Ethan Hosking’s life has  gotten so dark, so full of despair and pain that he can’t see his way out until a fire and desperation points a way.  Using his grandfather’s telescope, it’s Aubrey Hobbs who walks out of the fire and eventually makes his way all the way to Hadley Cove and into Patrick’s life.

Walker’s ability to make us see the frailty of Ethan/Aubrey as he tries to ease his way into being a part of life at Hadley Cove is amazing.  You are there as Patrick slowly befriends the skittish new person in town, finds him a job, and in the  slow burn way, builds a trust that will allow the men to form a relationship and love.  And in turn, Ethan who now is truly becoming Aubrey teaches Patrick how to start to let go, grieve, and truly celebrate what he had with his first love.

Plus there’s all the secondary yet so important cast that is needed to shore up Aubrey’s recovery from his years of abuse into the person he’s becoming in Hadley Cove.  And the food that Patrick cooks  and serves up that’s simple but mouthwatering. The descriptions of the warmth of the hearth in the lighthouse and the cat that mourned and now accepts Aubrey.  It’s exemplary and all just means this book is beautifully written. Everything about this story will break your heart and put it back together again.

I just love it.  And it’s on my to be reread pile soon.  Yes, I highly recommend it.  I will leave you sighing and so happy for days after the book is done.

Cover art is perfect for the story. I wish I could have found the artist. Love it.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 313 pages
Published June 23rd 2018 by BlueHeart Press
Original TitleGalaxies and Oceans
ASINB07DZNX1LT
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Releases Day Review: All That Glitters by Kate Sherwood

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

No matter what he tells himself, wealthy NYC architect Liam has never been able to forget his first love, Ben. But as he approaches midlife and realizes something is missing, can he forgive himself for the worst mistake he ever made—the one that left a hole no amount of career success can fill? Or will fear keep him from the full life he really wants?

Liam and Ben were childhood sweethearts, then college boyfriends. But when Liam cheated on Ben, Ben forced himself to cut ties and move on. He’s still living in the small town where they grew up, teaching, but it’s not the life he imagined for himself as a younger man. Still, when Liam returns, he can’t risk his heart again. He certainly can’t allow himself to love Liam again after fighting so hard to get over him.

Neither man wants to let go of the past and face their apprehension at starting over. They don’t want to fall in love a second time—but sometimes love happens whether it’s wanted or not.

All That Glitters by Kate Sherwood is one of those books that I just submersed myself in from the very beginning and happily stayed that way, never wanting to emerge from the story , town of North Falls and warm company of characters Kate Sherwood created.

Instantly I knew everyone deserves an Uncle Calvin, best friends like Seth and his wife Dinah, and well, damn, everyone who populates North Falls including the deputy with her trooper car of authority.  I wanted to move into this town and wallow in its uniqueness and hometown warm glow.  By the end, I wanted to be one of them, quirks, history, and all.

It’s funny because in  one of my Sunday blogs, I had researched authors and articles who wrote down talking about how to write great romance stories.  One said don’t concentrate on secondary characters.  This story just proves how wrong that person was.  North Falls and all its townspeople, Uncle Calvin, Seth, Dinah….they make this story.  They show us the heart and foundation and history  where both  Ben and Liam came from.  Ben and LIam nee them not only to support them but to  supply the men with the weft and warp of this couple’s life tapestry.  Everyone plays major roles in these mens lives and the author weaves them in and out, with a richness of layers both fun, poignant, determined and deep.

The romance of two men who have always loved each other and now have a second chance at their HEA if only they can work through fear and other obstacles is realistic and moving.

The cheating is way in the past for those of you for whom its an issue.

Things I learned?  I so need to plan a baby shower (not a strong point of mine) because I need to play beer baby!!!! Thank you, Uncle Calvin!  I have never laughed so hard as during these scenes.  Maybe I’ll just can the baby shower and find a need to play beer baby on its own.  Along with some of the other twisted games he came up with.  Buy the book just for this.

Nope, when it domes down to it, this book is a treasure.  I laughed, sniffled a little, and outright loved this story.  The characters (man, oh, man, I need Uncle Calvin in my life), feel so real that it almost hurts to realize that I can’t go out and find them and North Falls on a road trip next week.

I highly recommend All That Glitters by Kate Sherwood.  For me, its everything, every word, every sentence, every paragraph,  every page.  Pick it up and get started today.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas.  I sort of like that cover but in a couple of ways it doesn’t represent the book or give the reader an idea of what they are getting into.  It could just as easily be something supernatural instead of contemporary.  Nice representation of Ben however.  Definitely no LIam and that would have helped to show both men on the cover as well as the town.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 206 pages
Expected publication: June 26th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640805255
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Release Day Review: BFF by K.C. Wells

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

I’m about to do something huge, and it could change… everything.

I met Matt in second grade, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. We went to the same schools, studied at the same college. When we both got jobs in the same town, we shared an apartment. And when my life took an unexpected turn, Matt was there for me. Every milestone in my life, he was there to share it. And what’s really amazing? After all these years, we’re still the best of friends.

Which brings me to this fragile, heart-stopping moment: I want to tell him I love him, really love him, but I’m scared to death of what he’ll say. If I’ve got this all wrong, I’ll lose him—forever.

I’m having a terrific contemporary fiction week! BFF by KC Wells is a warmhearted, feel good story of discovery, friendship, and love.  It’s  got a sort of tone to it that caught me off guard that I attribute to its format.  I almost had to read the   first couple of paragraphs twice to make sure  it was part of the story and not an author’s forward.  Well, it was an author’s forward.  But it  didn’t come from K.C. Wells but rather from David, our narrator of this story.

You see BFF is the coming of age, coming out story that charts two men’s friendship from their first meeting as second graders where they became the Dynamic Duo, through high school, all through roommates at college and after graduation as they start their various careers…always together.  As the best of friends.

But David is recounting it at the beginning of novel, he’s writing it all down as a story, complete with notes and reflections on his behavior towards Matt at the time (hindsight is everything).  It gives the book an immediate and intimate feel as his thoughts and feelings come tumbling out along with the memories.  Through David’s eyes, both Matt and their families come alive as does their long, blended history together.  If the two boys were always side by side so too were their parents (and siblings), matching them for support and love, even in the toughest of times.

Oddly I’m talking financially here.  This wonderful story has these families carry with them many of the strains most modern families do….job security, moving, eduction issues, and learning disabilities.  Even sex education and tolerance in the nicest of ways.  What it doesn’t have?  Extreme angst of any sort.  This is a gentle, moving story of a journey of a friendship and a deep love  towards a final revelation and HEA.

KC Wells really got to me.  Even when she had David remarking on his own dialog as a kid (too smart) in his story, to his interactions with Matt throughout the years, I was there with them, throughly invested in their relationship, their happiness.  That included their families.  I tell you I loved both sets of parents and when you read this story, you will too.

Honestly, that blurb gives you one idea of the plot line. But the story is so much more than that.  It’s bigger, warmer, decades in these mens lives and a touching, joyous journey to love.  Trust me, I really didn’t want to let them go.  I highly recommend this story.  It left me smiling and with a happy heart.  Doesn’t that sound like a grand afternoon?

Cover art:  Reese Dante.  This cover is perfect in every way.  That’s David and Matt and an importation location.  Love it.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: June 5th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640801004
Edition LanguageEnglish