Neve Wilder on Cracker Jacks and her new release Centre Of Gravity (Nook Island #1) by Neve Wilder (excerpt and giveaway)

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Neve Wilder here  today talking about her latest novel Center of Gravity and  Cracker Jacks! Welcome, Neve!

Thank you so much for having me today! So Cracker Jack—yes, the caramel popcorn stuff with the prize—is a thing in the beginning of this book, and I’m going to talk about how it ended up becoming this oddly appropriate symbol for their unfolding relationship in Center of Gravity.To be honest, the whole Cracker Jack idea just popped out when I was writing. I saw Rob, my grumpy accountant, standing at the window, and when I thought about what he was seeing outside, I saw Alex with a box of Cracker Jack in his hand, tossing bits in the air and catching them in his mouth. It was weirdly specific, so I ran with it, liking how the sight threw Rob off and cast him back into his own memories of baseball games and bleachers.

There’s a part in the book where they argue/flirt over the merits or lack thereof of Cracker Jack, with Rob dismissing the treat altogether as too sweet and the prize disappointing, and Alex disagreeing, saying that it’s all about the anticipation and that the prize doesn’t matter either way. It’s a really telling moment of their character—Rob’s grumbly pessimism to Alex’s persistent optimism.

Rob starts to pick up boxes of Cracker Jack to give to Alex, and this thoughtful gesture on his part signals that he’s more into Alex than he’ll admit. As their relationship progresses, Rob begins to realize that Alex might be right: it’s all about the journey. Though the prize in this case—their hard-won happily ever after—ain’t too shabby, either!

 
Excerpt from Center of Gravity. In this bit, Rob and Alex discuss the merits—or lack thereof—of Cracker Jack while Rob tries to rein in his attraction to Alex.
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Alex looked up at me again. I thought he might say more about my dad, but instead he tossed a Cracker Jack in my direction, calling out “Catch!”

I had to veer hard to the right to catch it, but I did. The caramel melted on contact and stuck to my teeth. He gave me one of those gleaming, sun-bright smiles. “By the skin of your teeth.”

I leaned over, snatching the box and shaking a few in my hand so I could return the favor. He caught it easily.

“The best part of this stuff was always the prize. They’re not really that good.”

“You’re wrong.” Alex tossed another kernel up in the air for me to catch. I threw up my hand and caught it midair. “The prize is always disappointing. But it’s all about the anticipation, that maybe someday the prize will be really good. Cracker Jack itself is decent.”

“How is that any different than what I just said?”

Alex shrugged. “It just is.” Then, fishing through the box, he pulled out the wrapped prize and tossed it in my direction. “Do the honors.”

I peeled the paper back to reveal a smiley face with a disembodied hand giving a giant thumbs up.

Alex laughed. “See, terrible. But admit that for a second you thought maybe it’d be something good.”

“Not even for a millisecond.” I smirked.

“So jaded.”

I slid the sticker from the backing and held it up on my finger. “It’s all yours, color whiz.” I leaned forward on my knees to stick it in the center of his T-shirt, fist bracing my weight to one side of Alex’s leg as I pushed the sticker into cotton. His chin angled down as he examined my handiwork, and then his eyes met mine, his grin fading. He licked his lips and I had to force a casual smile. Don’t mind me as I try to inhale you.

“Rob?”

First I was just relieved he didn’t call me Mr. Macomb, then came a strange mashup of anxiety and awareness that I was still hovering in his space. It was too damn tempting to stay in that pocket of air scented with his soap, his hair, his deodorant, the Cracker Jack-tinged sweetness of his breath.

“Yeah?” I forced myself back onto my own patch of carpet that smelled of dogs and age.

“Thanks for giving me this job. Seriously.”

I cut a dismissive wave at the liquid green-gold sincerity of his eyes. “Break my heart, why don’t ya.”

His sober expression gave way to another grin, this one mischievous. He was good at layering his expressions with nuance and, as with the paint chips, I was becoming more adept at discerning the undertones.

His brows bounced. “Give me a chance to.”

I tossed the empty box of Cracker Jack at him and stood. I needed him out of the house before I decided I needed him to stay.

“Go home,” I said, not unkindly.

Winslow grunted and huffed air, stretching out long against Alex’s leg and nuzzling his head against Alex’s thigh.

“And take this damn traitor dog with you.”

“Seriously?” he said, his hand sweeping over Winslow’s belly before he stood.

“No. He hasn’t made me miserable enough. Yet.”

 

Buy Links:Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2DTNP55

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2Rln8sB

Length: 98,000 words approx.
Cover Design:Jay Aheer
Blurb

When life comes apart at the seams, love is the only thread that can repair it.


Accountant Rob Macomb has a stable job that he’s good at and… that’s about it. A year of nothing but heartache leaves him seeking refuge from loneliness and grief behind spreadsheets, punishing daily runs, and the occasional anonymous tryst. He wants only to bury the past and focus on his career, but he has one last task to complete: pack up his parent’s quaint beachside house and put it on the market.
Alex Andrews is a budding artist with a penchant for Converse, Cracker Jack, and piercings. Family turmoil sidelines his dreams of finishing art school and building a career in three-dimensional design, and now he’s doing whatever he can to keep everyone afloat.When Alex shows up as a part of the moving crew hired to help Rob clean out the house, what should be a simple move becomes far more complex. Because it’s not the first time they’ve met, and their last encounter was memorable for all the wrong reasons.The attraction between them is undeniable and intense, but Rob’s hell-bent on pushing everyone away, and Alex is on the verge of spinning out of control. Can a grumpy accountant and a bootstrapping artist find their center of gravity together, or are they on a collision course to heartbreak?*An emotionally-charged, slow burn m/m romance featuring an age gap, hurt/comfort themes, and a hard-won happily ever after. This is the standalone first in the Nook Island, Georgia series.*

 

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words 5 star review here.

Neve Wilder lives in the dirty South, where the summers are hot and the winters are…sometimes cold. She is a mom to three rambunctious weebeasts who have joined forces in a mission to carpet the family home with toys and small items that really suck to step on at six in the morning.


She reads promiscuously, across multiple genres, but her favorite stories always contain an element of romance. Incidentally, this is also what she likes to write. Slow-burners with delicious tension? Yes. Whiplash-inducing page-turners, also yes. Down and dirty scorchers? Yes. And every flavor in between.


She believes David Bowie was the sexiest musician to ever live, and she’s always game to nerd out on anything from music to writing.


And finally, she believes that love conquers all. Except the heat index in July. Nothing can conquer that bastard.

Newsletter: You can keep up with Neve’s future projects by joining her newsletter, where you can instantly download the free Watch Me, Extracurricular Activities #1 short story. The series continues exclusively for newsletter subscribers. Subscribe here: readerlinks.com/l/320361

Author Page: readerlinks.com/l/320362
Facebook Readers’ Group: readerlinks.com/l/320364
Website: https://www.nevewilder.com
Goodreads: readerlinks.com/l/320363
Amazon Author Page: readerlinks.com/l/320389

Giveaway

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Rob Rosen on And God Belched (guest blog)

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And God Belched by Rob Rosen

MLR Press
Cover Art: Winterheart Designs

Sales Links:  MLR Press  | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Rob Rosen here today to talk about his latest release And God Belched, out from MLR Press.  Welcome, Rob!

🌎

 

Hello Readers! If you’re looking for a laugh, for some romance with a bit of heat, for a truly unique book, then I invite you to check out my twelfth (and, dare I say, best) novel, And God Belched, published by MLR Press.

Here’s a little bit about the book:

In this riotously funny romantic adventure, Randy and his younger brother, Craig, find themselves in a different universe, on a strange planet, desperately searching for Milo, a handsome stranger in imminent danger, all while being chased by the heavily armed local authorities. And that’s just the start of this epic journey. But what else does fate have in store for our brave heroes? And can one human save two worlds, the handsome alien he’s fallen in love with, his entire family, and a self-aware watch? Read on, dear Earthlings, to find out!

Feel free to pick up a copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/God-Belched-Rob-Rosen-ebook/dp/B078GG9L4P/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

And here’s an excerpt:

In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and God said, “let there be light,” and there was light.

Um, you know, sort of.

Actually, in the beginning, God belched out a universe—a big bang of a belch, in fact. It was, so it’s told elsewhere, an odoriferous, gaseous cloud of a rumbling belch. And like all good belches, it was followed by several smaller ones, each forming their own universes, which spread out and filled that above-mentioned void.

Ours was belch number four, the very last one. God had to pound his expansive chest to get that one out. “Oomph,” He said as our existence was made manifest, as out atoms spread outward, trailing those other far greater universes, just before that famous light was flicked on.

Click.

Picture, if you will, four bubbles floating through the blackness, turning end over end as they rapidly grew and expanded, as molecules collided and elements formed: hydrogen and helium and lithium—so that many years later we could have zeppelins and balloons and long-lasting batteries, and all because God was a bit gassy one day.

Anyway, that first belch, that first universe, went to the right; we veered leftward. Those other two, well, they’re not really pertinent to this story. So, for the sake of argument, let’s just say that one went up, the other down. Ta-ta, sister worlds. Live long and, um, prosper.

A year went by, two, then fourteen billion, give or take. I, too, was made manifest: Randy—both a name, namely mine, and an apt adjective. Made, in fact, by mom and dad, belching my way into the void on a cold January morning. Yep, just like it’s said, we truly are made in His image, at least in belching ability.

In any case, on that same January morning, in a universe far, far away—sort of, though, uh, not really—another baby boy was born: Milo. Well, that’s what I called him, anyway. Or at least would, at a time when those two universes happened to decide to play bumper cars together. In any case, his real name was close to a dozen letters long, strung together with nary a vowel to be had. I tried to pronounce it once, and was instantly stricken with a sore throat.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Back to me, Randy—the name, for the time being, not the adjective. I was born in San Francisco, the city by the bay, the city by the gays. I lived high upon a hill, one of the steepest in the city, sort of like a prince in a castle. Though our home was made of steel, not brick, not wood, not even stone. The architect was hoping to design a quake-proof house, or so the legend went. And like so many legends, such was not even close to the actual case, as it turned out. Anyway, we froze in the winter and melted when the sun poked through the endless fog. In other words, our house was wisely one of a kind.

“High upon a hill lives Prince Randy, clad in his ermine cape and golden crown, scepter raised in royal salute.” The story rolled off my mom’s tongue as she fed me Gerber’s mashed peas: my favorite.

FYI, the cape was my blankie, not ermine so much as polyester. The crown was a yellow bowl bought at Safeway. I still own said crown. Now I use it for cereal, as opposed to headwear. The scepter was my rattle. It was bequeathed to my younger brother a couple of years later. These days, I lift my cell phone in royal salute.

All the best and enjoy!

Rob Rosen

www.therobrosen.com

Author of the award-winning novels Sparkle: The Queerest Book You’ll Ever Love, Divas Las Vegas, Hot Lava, Southern Fried, Queerwolf, Vamp, Queens of the Apocalypse, Creature Comfort, Fate, Midlife Crisis, and Fierce, and editor of the anthologies Lust in Time, Men of the Manor, Best Gay Erotica 2015, and Best Gay Erotica of the Year, Volumes 1 and 2 and 3.

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Review here.

 

A MelanieM Release Day Review: The Valentine’s Day Resolution by Ava Hayden

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Huxley carries invisible scars from a near-fatal car accident. He sleepwalks through a job at his father’s company, marking time until he can quit and pursue his own dreams.

Everything changes the moment he makes eye contact with a stranger while riding to work. It’s as if he’s been shaken out of his stupor, and Huxley vows to find the man.

Thanks to a thieving ex-lover, Paul’s florist shop is on the brink of closing down. He needs to milk Valentine’s Day for all it’s worth—and the irony that a day dedicated to love might help undo the damage of a failed relationship is not lost on him.

When Huxley finds Paul at his shop, both men feel an instant attraction. Before long, they’re falling hard, but Huxley holds back. If Paul knew all the baggage he’s carrying, he might run.

Paul’s gut tells him Huxley is hiding something. Huxley looks like a keeper, but Paul can’t go through another disastrous romance.

When Valentine’s Day arrives, will they have anything to celebrate?

The Valentine’s Day Resolution by Ava Hayden was such a delight to read.  Not only did I fall in love with the characters but the way in which the author brought Huxley slowly back to life, small step by step in every part of his life made this story a real joy to read.  You can understand Huxley, a man bound by his past and his fears.  Several changes slowly start to pull Huxley out of his boxed in life and into something marvelous.    And these are small steps,  but ones to be cherished (not that he realizes the steps that he’s taking at the time).  But while Huxley’s still unaware that he’s moving forward, the reader and the people around him are and we/they are cheering him on.

Paul, the florist, is another gem of a character in a book full of them. Paul is trying to save his shop, yet when Huxley appears at the counter, something about the man makes Paul  want to trust again.  So the author gives us two men with fear ruling their lives in different ways.  How it is resolves and loves triumphs, quietly, movingly, is why I was sighing so happily as I finished the story.   So happy that I wanted to read it again.  So will you.  Consider this happily recommended!

Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza. The artist does a lovely job of bringing both characters to life.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 140 pages
Expected publication: August 2nd 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781635337013

A MelanieM Review: Safe in His Heart (Safe #2) by Renae Kaye

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Safe In His HeartAndrew and Paul learned about God and Jesus in different churches and realize their views of spirituality are worlds apart.

Andrew was raised Catholic and was told his homosexuality was a sin. For his entire life, he hid the truth. He married and had children to present a façade to the world—that of a straight man. It’s not until he has an affair with Paul, who shows him a different side of Jesus, that Andrew realizes he can be gay and still believe in God. Paul’s Jesus is one of acceptance and love, and in Paul’s church, being gay is not a problem.

For Paul and Andrew, falling in love is the easy part of their journey. They must make it through the fires of cheating, being discovered, Andrew’s wife leaving, the necessities of childcare and family life, the demands of their jobs, and working on their commitment to each other. Only then can they be safe in each other’s heart.

As I suspect for many, I was anticipating a different sort of followup story for one of my favorite Renae Kaye novels, Safe in His Arms (Safe, #1).  I knew that  Paul, best friend of Lon Taylor, had a love life to sort out and this would be that story.  The question?  Which way would Renae Kaye go in choices for Paul?  Well, she made the most difficult choice she could make, for Paul, her readers, and herself.  And the end result is a story that is at times makes it hard to connect with one or more of the main characters and their relationship, makes you think about religion, the foundation of marriage, cheating, trust, and so much more right up until the end.   I loved it.

That’s right.  I loved this story.  But its a hard won sort of love.  Not the easily, fell in love at first sight that I do with most of Renae Kaye’s stories.  This one made me work hard for it.

It starts right at the beginning with Andrew.  Closeted, married Andrew.  For many readers, that is a huge “no” right there.  But in real life?  Its a fact, as is much of the rest of the story.  Conservative, religious background.  Homosexuality made to be a sin that will land you in hell via church teachings enforced by a rigid family.  Not uncommon.  So for Kaye to bring Andrew to life with all his faults so vividly splayed out before us, messy, sort of cowardly but human…its understandable.  As the story wears on, he becomes someone we connect with as well.  We watch him fail, be miserable, and go forward.  Yep, human.  And his  relationship with his wife?  Equally complicated, full of layers too.

Paul too, (loved Paul in the first story) is not without his own issues as he recognizes.  But he also knows what and who he wants.  Its Andrew.  The author has the tricky problem of having Paul deal with not one issue but many….a closeted Andrew, a married, cheating Andrew, religious guilt, his own resolutions to live openly…that’s a lot of obstacles to tackle at one time for love.  And a novel.  But Paul  slowly works through them…with help, with no help…but we the readers are there with him each step of the way.

The story is told from two points of view and its necessary to bring every aspect of their lives into focus and examine its impact on themselves and their relationship such as it is.  This will include Andrew’s household, something which could have become problematic when the children and wife become involved.  Yet I think they added not only believability but balance.  You see why Andrew stayed married and why he married in the first place.  It works.

Will this story make readers happy?  I don’t know.  It depends on how you like your romance.  If you want your romance stories without cheating, without real life struggles and mess, self-inflicted wounds, then perhaps this isn’t the story for you. But if you like stories that challenge you to think about how hard it sometimes it to reach for love, to grab for happiness, and surmount some very real emotional obstacles, pick up Safe in His Heart (Safe #2) by Renae Kaye.  The writing is wonderful, the story difficult yet moving.  I recommend it as I do all Renae Kaye stories.

Cover Artist: Anna Sikorska has a nice cover but its sort of generic.  I know its supposed to be Paul but eh.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book  Details:

ebook, 270 pages
Published May 2nd 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 163477227X (ISBN13: 9781634772273)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series Safe with links to my reviews:

Safe In His Arms
Safe In His Heart

A MelanieM Review:Locked (Telluric Realm #1) by Anyta Sunday

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

LockedA curse threatens the Winter Kingdom.
A brother is turned to ice.
A rebel uprising is on the horizon.

Marble-maker Rye Cunnings is at the center of it all—and doesn’t know it.

He doesn’t know he’s the lost summer prince. Doesn’t know his blood can unlock Winter’s curse. Doesn’t know why the marbles he makes flutter with magic. All he thinks is that he’s crazy. That he sees things others don’t, like dragons and strange markings on his skin.

But when a dark dragon snatches away Rye’s only friend Milo, he is forced to face the crazy in his life and figure out a way to bring Milo back.

Help comes in the form of Cerdic Leit, a warrior who finds Rye to take him “home” to the Telluric Realm and their kind. All Rye has to do is follow him into Gatreau, the gateway to the four Telluric kingdoms, and all his questions will be answered.

In the hopes of saving Milo, Rye steps into this new and dangerous world. A world where he learns of the Tellurics and their Hansian foes. A world that is swept up in a bitter battle of justice and hate.

And a world that won’t let Rye leave again.

I adore a wonderful fantasy saga and Anyta Sunday’s latest novel, Locked, has all the markings of making it into my top  fantasy list.  Its the first in her new series, Telluric Realm, and it sets the ground work not only for her series universe, which includes multiple dimensions, but a cast of characters complete with dragons, kingdoms at war, lost princes and curses that will break your heart.

We jump into Rye’s life as he’s running, fleeing actually, towards the comfort of his marble shop, Marvels Marbles:

Rye Cunnings shivered and hoofed it down the cobblestone road, fixed on the slice of his marble store ahead. This was just another morning. Just another morning.

A drizzly dawn fingered through the low-hanging mist creeping along Bristol’s narrow streets. Lamppost lights flickered and blinked out, sucking their murky reflections from deep puddles. Rain hit Rye’s neck and face and the palm he pressed against his chest. The drops snaked down his sleeve and mixed with the blood at his wrist. It tingled, and Rye dabbed his cuff over the cut—a circle intersected with twelve loops.

A cut that he’d gouged out with his keys, following the shimmery pattern that had marked his skin for as long as he could remember.

 

Already, the author has told us so many things, there’s a  spooky pattern playing out in Rye’s life, he has an odd design on his wrist and his cuts the pattern repeatedly.  That’s just the opening paragraphs, the following ones just cement your curiosity about this haunted man, the incredible marbles he makes that give him so much peace and perhaps act as a balm in more ways than one.

The action starts in too.  Anyta Sunday is not content to “tell you” but picks up the pace of her narrative (which was already fast), to whip along at dragon flight speed.  There is plenty of action, oodles of subterfuge,  political bad history between the kingdoms, lost princes and other back history for the author to lay out.  Oh and romances as well. Three of them to be exact if I’m following the threads here, not just the main characters, which is a total delight.

But, a cautionary note, the romances are of the slow building type.  You can see it happening, the chemistry the  author has created between several couples in her story is delicious.  Its the wonderful dialogs, great scenes, that deliver in some cases (ok, more than one) the prickliness and snark, the huge misunderstandings and the betrayals, but the actual falling, verbally, in love?  The commitment and the kissing? Don’t expect to see here.  It will have to be won, and too much will have occurred between all of the characters here  for that to have happened.  Trusts need to be rebuilt, and in some cases, people will need to be…well never mind, laughing, I’ll let those bits to the story and storyteller.

As I said before this is a long tale, with a saga’s worth a world building to layout for the reader.  At times, it gets a bit bogged down under the weight but it quickly picks up steam again.  And, honestly, you need that information later on in the story and series.

Sunday’s descriptions of fights and action are tremendous, I see the action happening as though it was just in front of me.  There are more than a few white-knuckle moments here and they were outstanding in making me wonder at the outcome, for the book and our hero (even as I knew there was a sequel coming).

Only the ending left me a little hanging. It felt less complete  and more like a setup for the next story.  Its really the only reason this story didn’t get a 5 star rating.  But I suppose that as saga’s go, I’ll settle for that and eagerly await the next installment in the Telluric Realm.

I’ll leave you with a  dream that Rye constantly has:

 

He lay back, practiced emptying his mind, and tossed and turned toward sleep.

Then, like a heavy weight plunging into deep water, Rye sank into The Dream.

She was there again, standing in a narrow alley, a slip of light overhead and a black shaft gripped in her hand. She held herself straight, chin up, honeycomb hair spilling over her shoulders. With a flick of her wrist, the shaft extended to the length of a cane and she stilled, statuesque for a long moment, and then spun into a fluid dance, the sharp end of the shaft cutting easily into the ground.

From inside her coat she pulled a vial and poured a glittering fluid over the markings she’d made. She flipped the shaft to its bristly end and traced the glitter over the wreath of symbols at her feet.

She came close, filling his vision.

“Shhh,” she said softly. “He won’t get you.”

His vision blurred to a curtain of golden hair, then sharpened, and her figure shrank away. The edges of the dream warped, distorted. There was a flash of orange light, followed by the woman’s wretched, agonized scream.

The alley entrance darkened as a scaled body slunk past, and then swiveled…

Fierce black eyes glared at him through thick plumes of smoke. One massive ball of fire shot out and bounced back at him. The dragon reared back, wings shooting out, belly expanding. Its jaws parted, jetting out a mighty burst of flame…

Again, the fire bounced.

The ground shook as the animal slammed against the alley entrance and roared. Then he flew overhead, diving down toward them. Again, something blocked him. Over and over he tried, retreating and slamming, retreating and slamming, retreating. . .

The dream warbled again, jerky

Do I recommend this book?  Absolutely!  Its exciting, its adventurous, highly imaginative and kept me glued to my Kindle until it was over.  Just how I love my fantasy tales to be told.

 

Cover Design: Natasha Snow is lovely, with just a hint of the designs that cover Rye’s body.

Map Design: Renflowergrapx

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 330 pages
Published April 26th 2016
ASIN B01DX3EAZQ
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: Dormant Heart by Lane Swift

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Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

Dormant HeartAmateur photographer Josh Thornton is out but not so proud. He’s estranged from his family, his boyfriend dumped him, and his job at an estate agency is in jeopardy—especially after he crashes his boss’s car in the middle of nowhere on his way to Hartley Manor.

Callum Black works at the English country estate and lives there in an isolated cottage. Left mute by a childhood accident, he’s more comfortable in the company of animals than people. But when Josh—literally—crashes into his life with his camera and his friendship, Callum realizes his peaceful solitude has been more than a little lonely.

Josh’s affection for Callum deepens even as he’s consumed by doubts over Callum’s sexuality and whether Callum could ever love him. And Callum is haunted by the secret that stole his voice—a secret that keeps him tethered to Hartley Manor. When the past comes hurtling painfully back into the present, Josh and Callum have to overcome their fears and breathe life back into their dormant hearts in order to have a chance at their own picture-perfect future.

What a beautiful story.  Just as the cover is a feast for the eyes, one where you need to linger to appreciate all the details, Dormant Heart is a novel that unfolds with the pace and depth of a walk in the woods.  Its one in which each move forward should be treasured. Stop look around, admire the beauty of the narrative moment that the author is creating in words and scenes before going forward again.

The story is told from two perspectives, the first from Joshua’s, from the moment he is thrown, horribly, from his parents home to two years later when he meets Callum.  He’s funny, brave, enduring, a bit prickly and he’s feels fresh to me, loaded with his camera and a need to press forward with his life.  Blow after blow, and I mean fists in one case however briefly, to crushed bumpers, Joshua’s inner stamina makes him get up and persevere.  Joshua’s character is one that’s so easy to connect with because his voice is one that bubbles like a spring of hope around him, where with others that would have drained away.

Halfway through the story, Callum takes over, a device that might have derailed  another novel but works here.  Why?  Primarily because  Callum never speaks and here, inside his head he finally does.  We get to hear that voice no one else has heard since he was a young boy.  We hear his thoughts on Joshua, his appearance in his life, and what that interruption has meant to Callum emotionally and sexually.  Joshua is the wind blowing through Callum’s life and the effects are immediate and yet so natural as though Callum has been waiting for him.  Callum is calm on the surface, and nightmares from a childhood injury that has  taken his memory just underneath the calm.  There is so much to this character and Swift peals back the layers slowly, unfolding clues and letting us see Callum only after much effect and love.

Callum is the quiet, the observer to the constant motion of Joshua and together they make an impressive whole.  One slows the other down, and one speeds the other up.  Harmony achieved in pairing and novel. So do the characters that Lane Swift surrounds them with, especially the appealing Heather, daughter of the Lord of Hartley Manor and the sad, faded lord himself.

Yes, Joshua is the key to the memories return.  Those memories.  So shocking from a child’s standpoint and so damaging.  I think that’s where Lane Swift made her best decisions.  It was in keeping with realistic possibilities and repercussions on all involved.  Just a great job.  So why not a perfect score?

The ending…I think I wanted just a   little more resolution or pages to finally draw it out for me. And it felt a little rushed in comparison to the flow of the rest of the story. It was so close.

Lane Swift has written a gorgeous book in Dormant Heart, its one that awakened this reader’s heart for the story and characters and a certain glade with a mother fox and her kits still roam.  Love contemporary romance, and characters that speak to you?  A story that will hold your attention as well as your heartstrings?  Look no further than Dormant Heart by Lane Swift.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art by Anna Sikorska is one of my favorite covers of the year.  Gorgeous, sumptuous even, in content and color. Perfection in every way for the character and story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published February 10th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634768450
Edition Language English
URL

 

A MelanieM Review: Wolf, Becoming by Rory Ni Coileain ( A Release Day Redux)

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Wolf BecomingVolyk learns very young that he has to hide what he is—oboroten’, shape-shifter—after his father is killed and skinned by a hunter, and the pack that takes in his pregnant mother is hostile to his kind. When Volyk is ordered to fight the pack’s beta to prove his fitness, but instead obeys his hormones and tries to mount him, he’s declared an abomination and forced to flee.

Ilya, too, hides a secret. Being young and gay in modern Russia is dangerous, and he knows it. But the truth eventually gets out, and his brothers lure him into the forest to kill him. They’re stopped by Volyk, who hides the mortally wounded Ilya in his den. The only way to heal the human is to turn him into an oboroten’.

Unfortunately, Ilya’s gentle nature is ill-suited to the life of a wolf. But when Volyk’s old pack returns, seeking to take away Volyk’s magickal den, Ilya will have to embrace—truly become—the wolf Volyk made him to save both his mate’s life and his own.

Very few authors do primal, elemental characters like Rory Ni Coileain which is very good for this story full of such characters.  They feel steeped in Mother Russia and the ancient earth they trod on and the blood they easily spill.   It may take place in Modern Russia but the actions and dark emotions feel anything but.

Those hatreds and fears are timeless and the author makes us experience it through her story and the lives of characters of Volyk and Ilya.

I found Wolf, Becoming to be part old Grimm fairytale and part shifter romance,  with some horror story thrown in for good measure and it all kept me enthralled.

Volyk’s past is one we are tumbled into at the beginning of the story and its heartbreaking.  Nor does it get any better for him as a young kit.  For him life is one of loss, endurance, and pain.  Then a chance meeting with Ilya changes everything for both of them.  I love the language that Rory Ni Coileain employs in her narrative, somehow it seems old and modern at the same time, anchored in the past with Volyk and yet modern with Ilya, the freshness of the current times must coming from  him.

There are some things I would have loved to have seen enlarged on here, Marik is a formidable and evil character, one that this author does so well.  I’m torn between wanting to have more and less of him.  And definitely wanted more of Ilya and Volyk’s relationship.

As it is I can absolutely recommend Wolf, Becoming to all lovers of shifter romance and romance in general.  It kept me enthralled from the first page until the end and the storytelling was everything I expect was this wonderful author.

Cover art by Maria Fanning is beautiful and perfect for the characters.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: February 24th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634771405
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: The Fire King (The Evolin Series #3) by Kay Ellis

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The Fire KingSully is summoned back to Maestraad by the entity who took control of Tylan’s body when Tylan perished. This Fire King—now calling himself Okhela—offers Sully a bargain he cannot refuse: if, after six months, Sully fails to fall in love with him, Okhela will return Tylan. The trouble is, as much as Sully wants to hate Okhela, the Fire King rules with wisdom and generosity… and Sully cannot resist the attraction he feels toward the handsome king. Though his heart will always belong to Tylan, Sully gives in to his body’s demands.

But can Sully trust Okhela to keep his word? With assassins on the loose, can Sully keep the Fire King alive long enough to find out? With the future of the kingdom—as well as his heart—at stake, Sully must call upon old friends and new to protect the Fire King, who might hold the keys to both.

The Fire King was a novel that called out to me for several reasons.  A love severed, and a lover perished.  A chance with terrible odds to get that lover back, a fantasy and a new author.  How could I pass that up?

Kay Ellis did a wonderful job with this story, she held me spellbound throughout her story, balancing the need to lay out her world-building for the series and books to come with the powerful story of a lover with a mission of impossible odds that had to have our focus at all times.  The strength of this story is Sully.  A man whose heart will always belong to his lover,  the Fire King yet not the Fire King.  Someone the Fire King has stolen the body from and might still able able to give it back.  Its a complicated tale worthy of a fantasy series.

There is a fire entity that lives inside the rulers, its consumed Sully’s lover, Tylan, but says it can give him back.  What a pack.  All it wants is six months to see if it can make Sully fall in love with him, if not then Sully gets his lover back.  But nothing is ever that easy.  Especially when its someone else wearing his lover’s body.

Ellis gives us several astonishing perspectives here, and not enough, in my case, of the back history of the fire entity.  But maybe that’s coming in the future stories.  But this is a rich story, dramatic, romantic, and magical.  I couldn’t put it down. Also it has a horse character, Blackheart, that I loved as much as the rest.  Irresistible. Now I can’t wait for the next installment.  I wasn’t aware it was to be a series.  Who will it feature?  I am eagerly awaiting the next chapter.

Cover art by Paul Richmond.  I adore this cover.  Fiery, rich and so wonderful.  Its perfect in every way for the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published February 17th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781634768580
Edition LanguageEnglish

SeriesThe Evolin Series #3

A MelanieM Review: Life is a Stevie Wonder Song by V.L. Locey

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Life is a Stevie Wonder SongAuthors know that their muse is a fickle creature. Best-selling spy novelist Stephen Ramsey has been in a hate-hate relationship with his inspiration for months. When Stephen’s publisher lays a legal ultimatum upon him, with a rapidly approaching deadline, he knows he must do something to kick-start his creativity or face the unemployment line. His daughter comes up with a possible answer: a summer camp for the creative soul. With nothing to lose, Stephen packs up his laptop, phonograph and beloved record albums and heads from Greenwich Village to the Catskill Mountains.

There, among a horde of college students attending for extra credits, is Declan Pomeroy, a photographer of fey creatures who is twenty-two years younger than Stephen. The woods are a magical place, and he quickly finds himself falling under the spell of the free-spirited photographer. Confusion wars with desire inside Stephen as he succumbs to the feelings welling up inside. But, sadly, summer camp always has to end. Can a man who has just found himself really leave the person that makes his heart sing?

Nothing makes me happier then to discover a new (to me) author and a wonderful story.  V.L. Locey’s  Life is a Stevie Wonder Song did both.  Locey’s did so many things right in this story from the wonderful locations to the absolutely marvelous characterizations.  But the thing that stood out the most, almost immediately?  That her novelist Stephen Ramsey thought and spoke like a literate man.  I almost swooned over his words and thoughts, thinking, “Yes, I do believe this is a man of letters.”

I fell in love with Stephen Ramsey over and over again just through his thoughts and ability (V.L. Locey’s) to use the language.  He describes Declan as a “coquette” and its perfect.  Another time as Declan is pulling him along through the woods, Stephen thinks “For being so slender, he was a strong little tugboat.” And that says it all so beautifully.

Then there is Declan Pomeroy, photographer of fey creatures. Declan has the strength of a willow.  He bends, moves with all the etherial nature one would expect, yet the strength is there as well, deep rooted and firm.  I love Declan, he is surprising and magical. Both men are layered and believable, and I committed my feelings to both upon meeting them.

More interesting was the author’s handling not only of their age difference but of the author’s gradual awakening and acceptance to the fact that he is either bisexual or pansexual (I’m actually all for abandoning the GFY appellation).  I think it was done with a wonderful realism and recognition how they would deal with it in their relationship.  Very well done.  Better yet was Stephen’s dawning realization that he was attracted to Declan, the idea that he might be gay/bisexual, and what that meant for himself, his past marriages/relationships/daughter/ and his future.  Ah, denial.  That’s a phase many of us would recognize.  I love those scenes.

And here comes my only outright deplorable element in the story.  I can’t decide if the author did it on purpose and if so it really is outside of the character she had created but she has Stephen wondering if he is a “f####t”, a word I find so hateful that I refuse to use it here.   Up to this and after, this man is a liberal New Yorker, a man of letters, who uses the language as if he was born with a dictionary  in his mouth.  Then this?  No, I think this was used to shock by the author and was a huge misstep.  It was one of the reasons this story was just shy of a 5 star rating and that the ending seemed a little rushed.  I wanted so much more of their story.

Looking back, I find it hard to believe that this gem of a story is only 87 pages.  So much love and exploration of the human heart is to be found here.   Looking for a author to love and a story to take to heart?  Grab up Life is a Stevie Wonder Song by V.L. Locey and prepare to fall in love.  I highly  recommend it.

Cover artist Kris Norris has 1/3 of a good cover.  Stephen Ramsey is spot on, but the fey, slim Declan?  No where in sight or the wood that is so much a part of this story.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 87 pages
Published December 30th 2015 by Torquere Press
Edition LanguageEnglish

 

A MelanieM Review: Status Update (#gaymers 1) by Annabeth Albert

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Status UpdateAdrian Gottlieb is winning at life. He’s a successful video game designer with everything a man could ask for, including a warm comfy ride to Denver and a date for his sister’s wedding. But he finds himself in need of a total reboot when he’s left stranded at a snowy campground in Utah. Holiday plans? Epic fail.

That is until Noah Walters offers him shelter for the night and a reluctant cross-country ride. Nothing about the ultraconservative geoarchaeologist should attract Adrian, but once he discovers Noah’s hidden love for video games, the two connect on a new level. Soon, a quiet but undeniable chemistry sparks.

Something doesn’t add up, though. As the miles accumulate and time runs out, Noah must face the most difficult choice of his life. Meanwhile, Adrian must decide whether he’s ready to level up. Is their relationship status worth fighting for, or has this game ended before it’s even begun?

If Annabeth Albert hadn’t already made me a fan with her previous stories,  this is the one that would have sealed the deal.  Status Update, the first in a new #gaymer series, proves to be a sweet, sparkling romance, with filled with endearing characters that grab at your heart. That holds especially true of the main couple, both men are unusual, layered, and real.  Throw in two irrepressible dog characters like Pixel and Ulysses that are a perfect match for their owners and I was in love from the moment the story rolled out in that campground’s off leash dog area in Utah.

The Capitol Reef National Park campground in Southern Utah is a strange meeting place for these two men to collide. Adrian Gottlieb, successful video game designer is on his way to his sister’s wedding in a rented RV with a man he barely knows.  Noah Walters, a geoarcheologist, is holed up in his camper, his home away from home,  trying to finish his book that will get him tenure at his conservative bible college in Texas.   But in a wildly painful yet could be expected turn of events, Adrian, 25, and Pixel are left stranded in the campground until Noah offers not only refuge but an passage to Denver and Adrian’s sister’s wedding.

Sounds so simple, but the men and story are so complex.  Noah’s upbringing has left him firmly in the closet, His choice of profession and job has kept him there.  Noah realizes that to come out would be losing his teaching job, which he loves and any chance at tenure in a profession where jobs are scare.  That choice has also left him a virgin and celibate at the age of 35 and up until he meets Adrian, Noah has accepted the limitations of his life and its loneliness.

If for no other reason  that the character of Noah Walters, this book would garner high praise for its author.  He’s an adult, with a mature outlook on his life, taking responsibility for the choices he has  made.  He’s rueful, awkward, gruff, and intelligent.  I found him to be so remarkable and wonderful.  Add to that he put away his sexuality and committed to a path of celibacy for the sake of his profession, that extra bit of unexpected vulnerability just makes you ache for him and gives Noah that one more twist to his already different persona.

But then comes Adrian Gottlieb, a character who is on par with Noah in every respect.  He too is complex, full of his own layers and unexpected depth.  His success and commitment to the popular videogame, Space Villager, has left him little time for a social life, which also helps to explain the disaster that led their meeting. That adage that ‘appearances can be deceiving’ certainly applies to Adrian as Noah finds out almost immediately.  Both men, highly intelligent, find themselves oddly compatible, as are their dog companions. Their relationship within Noah’s small RV, their time on the road as their explore each other boundaries…sexual, personal, emotional,  takes the reader on such an a rewarding journey along with these men to Denver and the wedding that you hope it will never stop.

Then it does.

And the story gets better.  Because when their trip stops, decisions have to be made.  Its reality time.  And Annabeth Albert takes these two serious men, the slow, sometimes painful journey they have been on and completes it in the most wondrous, satisfactory way.  It makes sense,  its real, and not without a prick or two of regret.  So yes, its perfect.  Except for one little detail.

Space Villager does not exist.  How I wish it did.  There was this teaser as the end…just no… it does not exist.  But I won’t take away any stars for that disappointment.

Book Cover was a delight.  I  loved that the dogs were included.  Great job.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 195 pages
Expected publication: December 7th 2015 by Carina
original title Status Update
ISBN 1459290593 (ISBN13: 9781459290594)
series #gaymers #1