A MelanieM Review: Gifts Given (Boystown #10) by Marshall Thornton


Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5

In the tenth installment of the award-winning Boystown Mysteries. it’s Christmas 1984, and Nick is busy juggling a couple of cases with his hectic personal life. Sugar Pilson has decided to marry and has asked him to check up on her fiancé. Meanwhile, he’s hired to investigate a shady financial planner at Peterson-Palmer.

When the two cases begin to have too much in common, Nick searches for the link. Only to find out that he himself might be the link.

In Gifts Given, Nick Nowak and his friends are heading towards Christmas.  Nick is fumbling to find a gift for Joseph, he lacks a steady source of  employment as he has given up working for Owen’s law firm and Jimmy English after the last disastrous series of events, and  Mrs Harker isn’t feeling well.

As with all things Nick, the old and familiar seem to circle back around as a previous employer has come to him with a case.  He wants Nick to investigate his current in house investigator and the financial planner there as well.  At the same time his friend/former client/Chicago socialite Sugar Pilson needs his services too.  It seems that she wants her current boyfriend investigated.  And, oh, yes, someone seems to be following her.

Yes, Nick has a full schedule and that doesn’t even include Christmas dinner, murderous attempts on his life, and more worries about his relationship with Joseph.

If I have to make a note, the overall tone here is somber, sad, and, while moving, as glum as I’ve seen Nick in a while.  Its as thought the hope I saw has just about flickered out by the end of the story, which is something I’m missing.  Not that this isn’t realistic or true to form for Nick or the circumstances he finds himself in.

Its just every now and again, I’d love to see Nick win, one or two.  Maybe just one.  Outright.  Life can give him that, right?

Instead, here,  with one complex turn and revelation after another, Nick ends  up delving deeper and deeper into a convoluted mystery that has it hooks into the past, Who’s I won’t reveal but clearly it will stretch into more than one story if my guesses are correct.

I’m “enjoying” just how all the puzzle pieces are fitting together, even if the end result might make my heart hurt. I suspect it will ache quite a lot.  Plus a villain slipped away…to reappear again in another story?

The writing is crisp, the storyline, dark and involved, the overall tone more emotional and heavy, reflective but then again Nick is changing.  His inner circle wider, including Ross who is HIV positive who lives with Nick and Joseph.  A group of friends, an ability to accept help and need people which is a far cry from the Nick we meet in the first story.  This is a far more vulnerable, open, and  older Nick.  One I fear for more,  one for whom the losses are coming.

As if  he hasn’t had enough.

But it ends with a wedding, such as it was.  A temporary calm that was a small gift that NIck accepted.

What a series.  I highly recommend them all.

Cover art by Marshall Thornton/

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 213 pages
Published November 17th 2017
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #10
Literary AwardsLambda Literary Award Nominee for Gay Mystery (2018)


Boystown Bundle 1 – 3 – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 A Time For Secrets – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 Murder Book – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #6 From The Ashes – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #7 Bloodlines – Amazon US | Amazon UK (ON SALE for 99c)
Book #8 The Lies That Bind – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #9 Lucky Days – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #10 Gifts Given – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #11 Hearts Desire – Amazon US | Amazon UK 

A MelanieM Pre-release Review: Love at First Hate (Porthkennack #11) by J.L. Merrow


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5


Bran Roscarrock has been living in the closet all his life. As heir to an expansive family legacy in the town of Porthkennack, old-fashioned ideals of respectability and duty were drummed into him since childhood, and he’s never dared to live—or love—openly.

Sam Ferreira, an old friend of Bran’s brother, Jory, is a disgraced academic desperate to leave his dead-end job. When Jory asks him to take over as curator of a planned exhibition on Edward of Woodstock, the fourteenth-century Black Prince, Sam leaps at the chance to do what he loves and make a fresh start.

But Bran’s funding the exhibition, and though sparks fly between the two men, they’re not all happy ones. Bran idolises Prince Edward as a hero, while Sam’s determined to present a balanced picture. With neither of them prepared to give ground, a hundred years of war seems all too possible. And if Bran finds out about Sam’s past, his future may not be bright, and their budding romance may be lost to history.

Bran Roscarrock has been a troublesome, complex character, along with his twin sister Bea, in all his appearances in JL Merrow’s previous Porthkennack stories.  Stern, righteous even in his belief about the Roscarrock position in the Porthkennack at the top of the  community and keeper of its  history, Bran has not been one that the reader sought to connect with.  Same with with his sister.  We knew there were reasons for their remoteness and often troubling behavior towards others (younger brother, Jory’s upbringing underneath them bordered on the horrible).  But the narrative walls remained high around these characters and the readers  feelings stood well back from any emotional connection.

Now with Love At First Hate, JL Merrow starts to bring all those narrative walls she has constructed over Bran and Bea the last two tales down and it’s an arduous journey.  Hundreds of years of Roscarrock upbringing and tradition stand in the way of both Bran and Bea’s freedom from their pasts,  and the stasis of their present behaviors.  They aren’t even aware of how totally mired in just how much the past has cost them until an attack on Bran brings a crashing halt to the routine of their lives.

That’s the startling introduction to this story.  An assault on Bran.  A shocking event that rattles the lives of everyone in the Roscarrock enclosed circle and without in Porthkennack, a clannish and tight-knit village culture that has existed for hundreds of years.  As chief landowner and landlord in town, Bran is not well liked for his policies of business first, people second or even third.  So the fact he can’t remember who attacked him, puts him at risk of another assault from any and everyone around him.

It also opens the door for a young historian to step into job of Curator of a project close to Bran’s heart.  That of an exhibition of the Black Prince.  Enter Dr. Sam Ferreira, someone with his own demons to fight and a past that follows him.  Sam is in need of a new start in life and Bran’s fight with the last curator has left the job open for Sam.  Because Jory is a friend, that let’s Sam glide right into the job he needs desperately and starts to love.

JL Merrow, understandably gets the every day inner workings of museums (see JL’s bio), their staff, the politics of the curating big exhibits and manages to make it all so lively, informative, and entertaining.  But even more, something I became totally invested in, was the passion and enthusiasm of the historians and Bran for their subject and era.  And the need to see it conveyed in a truthful and wide ranging manner for the public.  JL Merrow uses her characters arguing…madly, wonderfully, loudly…about the inclusivity of women, the poor, the middle class vs knights, the Black Prince perception, homosexuality, carnage vs taxation….just incredible well researched discussions…to illuminate her character’s personalities.  Merrow brings them closer together, makes them re-examine their own thought processes and emotions through the very way they look at the Black Prince’s exhibits and interpretations.  And in the journey through sifting out the “old” preformed ideas they  now realized were based on their pasts, the men become closer and find common  ground with each other.

It’s amazing to watch, it’s intimate and joyful in the change that occurs with Bran and yes, Sam as well.  In a way history was setting the men free of their pasts by loosing old preconceptions and providing paths for new ones.

As Bran and Sam hesitantly make their way through the Black Prince exhibit, others are also being affected. That includes Jory and Mal (and his son heir to Roscarrock), Bea who has been just as stock as her brother in that great grey rock of a hall of a house, bound by the sea and haunted by the ghosts of their parents.  So many lives get tossed about here, upset, and finally freed.

And yes, the mystery of Bran’s assault is solved as well.  I can’t help but feeling we haven’t seen the last of that one as well.

Love at First Hate demonstrates why JL Merrow and the Portthkennack series are a must buy for me.  The writing is superb, the characters are memorable (two characters who found redemption after being some of the least liked  people going), history made lively, vivid, and incredibly important in how its presented, and a whole HEA that made my heart sing.

Plus another visit to Porthkennack, a place that’s found a permanent spot deep in my heart.

There are 11 books now in the Porthkennack series, three of them by JL Merrow.  I have listed them below.  Real them all, I highly recommend them, starting with the first one and working your way here to Love at First Hate.

Cover art: Garrett Leigh @ Black Jazz Design.  That is a gorgeous design.  Both men work for Bran and Sam, plus that tone and design is great for the story and a place by the sea.  Love it.

Sales:  Riptide Publishing | Amazpm

Book Details:

ebook, 325 pages
Expected publication: September 3rd 2018 by Riptide Publishing
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Porthkennack #11

Connected stories by JL Merrow in this series:

Wake Up Call

One Under

Love at First Hate

A MelanieM Release Day Review: A Fool and His Manny (The Mannies #4) by Amy Lane


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Seeing the truth and falling in love.

Dustin Robbins-Grayson was a surly adolescent when Quinlan Gregory started the nanny gig. After a rocky start, he grew into Quinlan’s friend and confidant—and a damned sexy man.

At twenty-one, Dusty sees how Quinlan sacrificed his own life and desires to care for Dusty’s family. He’s ready to claim Quinlan—he’s never met a kinder, more capable, more lovable man. Or a lonelier one. Quinlan has spent his life as the stranger on the edge of the photograph, but Dusty wants Quinlan to be the center of his world. First he has to convince Quinlan he’s an adult, their love is real, and Quinlan can be more than a friend and caregiver. Can he show Quin that he deserves to be both a man and a lover, and that in Dusty’s eyes, he’s never been “just the manny?

Well, now I can say it. A Fool and His Manny (The Mannies #4) by Amy Lane is my absolute favorite in the Mannies series.  Yes, yes, I know I’ve said that before.  But this time its true.  This is my favorite story.  Reading this novel is like being enveloped is large, welcoming mommy arms or walking in the door home and getting the welcome you always dreamed about from the family you  always wanted.

And yes, this tale is exactly why I  blather on and on about the necessity of writing, and establishing an amazing cast of supporting or “secondary” characters.  Not that any characters here could  ever be called that. Nope.  From the smallest person, tyke or kitty, to the most imposing. No matter how much time they spend on the page, their impression they make as part of the extended family on Quinlan and the reader is indelible.    There is no way to measure that out be it Wainscott or Nutbar, Jacob or Keenan.  We need them all exactly as they are.

This is a story to make you cry and sooth your heart.  Often at once.  For Quinlan is a broken young man who happens to fall into the family that will adopt, accept, and love him. Permanently.  Here you get the entire progression.  From Quinlan in the band, to his acceptance as the manny on the edge of family life, to watching as he get’s slowly pulled into the middle without his knowledge, the love flowing over and around him, like a healing balm.

As Dusty grows up and waits for him to realize that as well.

I may just start crying all over again.  Damn book.  Amy Lane gets me every time here.

There’s so much more here to this story.  Babies, kitties, a serious illness, a crappy mom, lots of real life stuff going on and its all done beautifully in perfect Amy Lane fashion.

Trust me on this one.  Just pick this book up and watch a fragile young man heal and fall in love.

Of course, the whole extended  Robbins-Grayson family gets assembled in books 1 through 3 so you really need to read those as well to get acquainted with everyone.  They are just as outstanding plus you get to meet all the others first.  Win win.  I listed them all below.  Read the entire series.  It’s one I highly recommend.  Just don’t forget to keep that box of tissues handy!

The cover by Bree Archer, wasn’t exactly my idea of Dusty physically but the emotions come through.  The style brands the series perfectly.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 230 pages
Expected publication: July 17th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleA Fool and His Manny
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Mannies #4

Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Mannies #4

The Virgin Manny

Manny Get Your Guy

Stand By Your Manny

A Fool and His Manny

A MelanieM Review: Bloodlines (Boystown #7) by Marshall Thornton


Rating: 5 stars out of 5


In the seventh book of the best-selling Boystown Mystery series, Private Investigator Nick Nowak finds himself simultaneously working two cases for his new client, law firm Cooke, Babcock and Lackerby. A suburban dentist has been convicted of murdering her adulterous husband.

Nick is asked to interview witnesses for the penalty phase of the trial—and possibly find the dead man’s mistress. At the same time, he’s deeply involved in protecting Outfit underboss Jimmy English from a task force out to prosecute him for a crime he may not have committed. While juggling these cases Nick slowly begins to rebuild his personal life.

In Bloodlines, Nick Nowak is slowly putting his life back together after the shattering events of Murder Book.  He’s back in the investigative business and working for his friend Owen’s law  firm on several cases at once, one of which he has personal ties to.

On the home front?  Several things have shown him its more than time for him to find a new apartment,  issues with teenager Terry  arise and Mrs. Harker becomes an ever bigger part of Nick’s life.

Thornton’s ability to weave so many different emotional threads through his stories, keep them all vividly alive and connected at the right places to NIck and the reader, while pushing through not one but two murder/mystery cases?  Just amazing!

Plus in Nick’s awkward, “yeah, that’s not working well” sort of way, a romance or at least a burgeoning relationship is trying to take some baby steps.  Of course, with Nick, that means sex immediately. For the other person?  Not so much.  Which leads to issues and  some very frustrating times.

The cases that Nick is working on have very deep moral/philosophical questions behind them if one is the type to ask them (as Nick is).  One case involves the older mobster Jimmy English, who has always been good to Nick, and while he may not have committed this particular murder, has most certainly committed many others in his past.  And the other case?  A woman who refuses to talk about why she killed her philandering husband.  Owen wants Nick to find out anything that will make a jury more sympathetic.  Two muddy, convoluted cases, full of roadblocks, and craters before Nick can find any answers.

How each investigation unrolls won’t be discussed but they are compelling, moving, and the results of each astonishing.  One I guessed halfway through partially but it was only a half of what was to come.  As is with most of Nick’s investigations, Marshall Thornton uses his knowledge of human behavior, and gives us another Nick Nowak novel that contains both the bittersweetness of life and some hope for the future.

Thank the gods for the perspective of Nick Nowak.  His voice makes the series. It’s caustic, knowing, rueful, determined,  reasonably kind, and always human.  I can’t get enough of it.  Bloodlines, the path to his recovery, is a great example of that. Yes, I can see why it won the Lambda Literary Award but then I don’t see why the others didn’t.

I highly recommend this story and all the others in the series.  But read them in the order they were written.  None are stand alone stories and follow along the narrative order.

Cover art matches the others in the series and works emotionally.

Sales Link: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 194 pages
Published March 6th 2015 by Kenmore Books
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #7
Literary Awards Lambda Literary Award for Gay Mystery (2016)


Boystown Bundle 1 – 3 – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 A Time For Secrets – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 Murder Book – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #6 From The Ashes – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #7 Bloodlines – Amazon US | Amazon UK (ON SALE for 99c)
Book #8 The Lies That Bind – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #9 Lucky Days – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #10 Gifts Given – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #11 Hearts Desire – Amazon US | Amazon UK (PREORDER

A MelanieM Review: Tight Quarters (Out of Uniform #6) by Annabeth Albert


Rating: 5 stars out of 5


Petty Officer Bacon, a navy SEAL and ace sharpshooter, has been on the front lines of more than his fair share of dangerous ops. Yet when a minor injury relegates him to the beta team, he’s tasked with what may be his riskiest assignment yet: the silver fox journalist he’s babysitting is the hottest, most charismatic man he’s ever encountered.

Award-winning journalist Spencer Bryant may have been named one of Pride magazine’s most eligible bachelors of the year, but he’s not looking to change his relationship status. He’s a consummate professional who won’t risk his ethics or impeccable reputation by getting involved with a source. Even a sexy-as-hell military man. But while Spencer can resist his physical attraction to Bacon, he has less control over his emotions—especially when the mission goes sideways and the two men are trapped alone.

Getting out of the jungle alive turns out to be easy compared to facing the truth about their feelings for one another back in the real world. And whether or not they can build a future is a different story altogether.

As I seem to say with every Annabeth Albert series, with each story her Out of Uniform series just seems to evolve into ever deeply layered  plots and a enlarged group of characters that connect to her center cast of military personnel.  Here in Tight Quarters, Albert brings in that ever present and important figure, the journalist and embeds him into the beta team of sharpshooter Petty Officer Bacon.

I loved this idea and theme for many reasons, not the least of which these men and women (journalists who go to war) have always fascinated me.  So to have Albert create a main character with a passion for the truth and need for adrenaline that would carry him with the soldiers out into a mission?  Perfect, and yet, not have all the information at hand to understand that perhaps in this case he might be a detriment and an obstacle as well.  So the author brings both an immediate tension into the group on several levels with the introduction of journalist Spencer Bryant and it works superbly.

Another element that also puts the reader on alert?  The team is not a well oiled SEAL team but an unsettled one, trying to find a way to gell together. Under new leadership and uneasy with each other, inserting an outsider, an openly gay one, is highlighting the cracks in the unit now becoming wide crevasses.

The combination of military life and romance is a wonder once more in the hands of Albert.  She paints in intimate window into the lives, tensions, and team dynamics of Bacon’s SEAL team as it’s unity flounders in the face of homophobia, uncertainty, and lack of leadership.  And then adds in her journalist to which there’s an not an instant attraction between both men,  Bacon and Bryant but a slow burn?  Wonderful and full of angst.

I loved the hot romance between the men but what really worked for me was that Albert never forgot the reality of the situation the men kept find ing themselves in.  For one?  That it took a while for the journalist Bryant to understand exactly what an impediment he was to the SEAL team’s mission.  That in actuality he was Bacon’s mission during a portion of the story…a scary, gritty portion.  And how that might have adversely effected Bacon’s career and their lives should the mission go “south”.

Secondly, that their romance had to take second place to careers and events currently taking place and that they had to assure people (command, publishers) of timelines.  That also felt covered in authenticity.

Plus I always love having characters from previous stories pop up again as they do here. Adore that and getting caught up again with their lives.

In short?  I believed in this men. Their passions for what they did for a living, and for each other.  Albert’s writing carried me away from my real life into theirs, one fraught with danger,  suspense, rules, regulations, and lastly a romance for all to connect with.  I was investing emotionally with them at all times. Yep, hooked hard.


Cover art is hot and sexy and in keeping with branding the series.

Sales Links:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: July 9th 2018 by Carina Press
Original TitleTight Quarters
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesOut of Uniform


A MelanieM Review: Learn with Me (With Me #3) by Kris Jacen


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Josiah “Siah” Kent has always loved learning; now he’s living his dream of teaching children to love it too. After getting his degrees in New Orleans, he accepted a teaching position outside of Washington DC. What a better place to be able to teach and continue learning?

Sergeant Carter May joined the Army right out of high school. He’s always struggled to succeed in school but has found a place in the military but has dreamed of getting a college degree–he’d be the first in his family if he did. Being stationed with the Presidential Firing Battery at Arlington National Cemetery will give him the opportunity to take the chance, but will he risk failing?

A chance meeting years ago in New Orleans, had sparks flying between Siah and Carter. Another chance encounter between the ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, blow those sparks into a full flame. Can Siah and Carter find some common ground to learn more about each other and a possible future together?

The With Me series from Kris Jacen has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary reads.  It established itself with it’s insider knowledge of military life, what it takes to be a part of the military family (whether as part of the family unit or military one that becomes family), the emotional, physical, and mental upheavals that are to be faced, and the support one receives along the way.  Especially if you are lucky enough to be adopted by the Heptad.

Each story has been a favorite.  Until the next story arrives.  Then that’s my favorite.  And its happened again here.  One, I wanted Siah and Carter’s story immediately at the end of Explore with Me (With Me #2). I knew Siah had some growing up to do, which happens before the start of this story. So too Carter who had some tough decisions to make and he did.

Secondly?  The location.  Jacen based her  story in and around the DC Metro area.  While I’m in Maryland, Virginia is just as familiar for those of us who live here.  MD-DC-VA…its all the same really in one respect and the  places she mentions are near and dear to my heart.  Especially Arlington National Cemetery where quite a few family members are laid to rest and we visit every Memorial Day.

She’s right about the traditions and ceremonies bringing tears to your eyes during the story.  You will need several tissues, deservedly so.  Her descriptions are deeply moving as well as informative.

But Learn with Me (With Me #3) is special because of the characters and their romance.  Between Siah and Carter, each has had a past to rise above in some way and done it.  Perhaps they haven’t left it behind completely but they are dealing with it and moving forward.  They are different in size, energy, even background and yet in kindness, loyalty, and an ability to see the best in others, they are so alike.  Jacen did a remarkable job in creating these people and all the others here, including the Heptad (that group of soldiers whose stories are the series or whose support flows through the series).

These are layered portraits, and the people aren’t isolated but are surrounded by a family of friends, a community that adds support and a believability to their lives.  Whether its a school and afternoon classes (and a circle of support) for Siah (who is a black belt as well) or the base and unit for Carter (where both friends and enemies can be found), it all feels so real and authentic.

Kris Jacen uses the framework of a romance to bring modern military life vividly alive, whether its the fears children must face, the struggles of the family, the time away from home both spouses and family feel…its all here and intimate.  There’s also the tight knit community, the sense of belonging to something greater, and, yes, the service to country.

I’m already anticipating the next book in the series.  It’s going to deal with some serious issues her stories hasn’t addressed yet.  I can’t wait.

In the meantime, if you are new to the series, why not go to the beginning and start with Wait for Me (With Me #1) and work your way here.  I highly recommend all the stories, including this one Learn with Me by Kris Jacen.

Cover art by Jared Rackler.  I’m sort of over the bare torso thing but considering all Siah wanted to do when he first saw Carter was climb him like a tree this is pretty perfect.

Sales Links:  MLR Books | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 145 pages
Published May 22nd 2018 by MLR Press
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesWith Me #3

A MelanieM Review Replay: Forged in Fire (Asheville Arcana #2) by Ari McKay


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The magic touch.

Ever since Harlan Edgewood was bitten by a possessed werewolf, his monthly shifts have been agonizing. When he meets Whimsy Hickes—a mage who specializes in transformation—the attraction is mutual. But Harlan believes his curse is too great a burden to inflict on any romantic partner.

Fortunately, Whimsy thinks he can help.

When Harlan is provoked into an unexpected change, Whimsy uses his magic to help ease Harlan’s pain, but with an unexpected consequence. While he’s shifted, Harlan’s wolf claims Whimsy as his mate.

As they draw closer, suspicious events in the Asheville magical community escalate. Shifters are disappearing, others are murdered, and Harlan’s curse makes him an obvious target. It will take all of Whimsy’s magic to force back the rising evil—and if he fails, Harlan will lose not only his life, but his very soul.

Whimsy Hickes! Of all  of the character names that have leapt across the  pages I have read all these years, this is one of the ones I wish I could grab for myself.  Just the sheer charm of this name speaks to me.  As does the character himself.  I have adored  Whimsy since I met him in Out of the Ashes (Asheville Arcana #1).  Then he was dealing with the loss of his triad relationship when his friend and lover, half-elf Arden Gilmarin, finds true love with his mate werewolf Eli Hammond.  When their other third, the Vampire disappears in his research, it leaves Whimsy lonely and searching for something for himself in Forged in Fire (Asheville Arcana #2) by Ari McKay.

The Asheville Arcana series or maybe trilogy is so wonderful.  Layered over with multiple storylines that keep your attention glued to every sentence less you loose a clue or important element that will frame out the next action, McKay never forgets that its the people (or beings) that are the foundation here.  And I mean every character, not just the main ones.  Just terrific characterizations all around.

Both Whimsy and Harlan are looking for something….and find each other unexpectedly.  It’s the mate bond that shows them the way.  Each character is lovingly built up so that they feel alive, each detail, right down to the handmade candles that one makes and the other joyfully receives, gives us insight into them as people and as a couple.  I loved that and them.  And could see them so clearly in my mind that I felt I  was nearby, listening in as  a friend and happy for them.

Of course, there is an ongoing series storyline arc here with a great evil and that is carried through here with suspense and wonderful action.  I was holding my breath at parts to see how it would all shake out and how if any resolution would happen knowing the series was only as book two.  I wasn’t disappointed. The authors can write action as well as romance.  And of course, we still have a lonely vampire at large.  Can’t have that, can we?

So what have we got?  A terrific magical series with supernatural and fantasy characters that feel alive and so vivid that you will connect with them easily.  An evil so pervasive that it sends chills down your spine and make you fear for all involved.  And plenty of love and romance for all lovers of, well, love and romance.  Plus the name Whimsy Hickes. You know how I feel about that.

I can’t wait for the next story in this series.  Until then, if you are new to the Asheville Arcana series, pick up book one and find out what’s in store for you.  None of them are standalones.  Then read this one.  I highly recommend them both.

Cover art:  Aaron Anderson.  Love this  cover.  That’s my idea of Whimsy Hickes now absolutely.

Sales Links:     Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Expected publication: May 1st 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Asheville Arcana

Out of the Ashes (Asheville Arcana #1)

Forged in Fire (Asheville Arcana, #2)

A MelanieM Recent Release Review: Contraband Hearts (Porthkennack #10) by Alex Beecroft


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

His future depends on bringing the smuggler to justice. His heart demands to join him.

Customs officer Peregrine Dean is sent by his patron to investigate rumors of corruption in the Porthkennack customs house. There he is tasked by the local magistrate to bring down the villainous Tomas Quick, a smuggler with fingers in every pie in town. Fired with zeal and ambition, and struck to the core by his first glimpse of Tomas, Perry determines to stop at nothing until he has succeeded.

Tomas Quick is an honest thief—a criminal regarded by the town as their local Robin Hood. He’s also an arrogant man who relishes the challenge posed by someone as determined and intelligent as Perry. Both of them come to enjoy their cat-and-mouse rivalry a little too much.

But the eighteenth century is a perilous time for someone like Perry: a black man in England. Two have already disappeared from the wrecks of ships. Tomas and Perry must forsake their competition and learn to trust each other if they are to rescue them, or Perry may become the third victim.

Back to that historic seaside village of Porthkennack again we go in  Contraband Hearts (Porthkennack #10) by Alex Beecroft, one of my favorite ongoing series by multiple authors.  Only this time, we journey way back into Porthkennack’s history which is rife with smuggling, ship wrecks, profiteering, and in this case, it seems the mystery of the missing slaves who ought to be free men once they reach the shores of those rocky cliffs outside of their owners reach.  How I love this series and small complicated township, no matter where the story falls on its timeline.

Laid atop a maze of tunnels and small rooms dug into the ground that lead directly  to the caves and shoreline (read all the stories written for the series), Porthkennack only looks tidy, and, seemingly normal at first glance.  But the truth of Porthkennack often lies beneath the surface of things and people, as it has been shown from story to story, whether it be from Porthkennack’s convoluted and twisted past to it’s present, who’s ties to it’s past are almost iron clad.  Especially with its ancient families.

I love the historic stories and here Alex Beecroft has crafted one both timely and timeless.  Due to it’s location atop the perilous cliffs, riff with caves perfect for hiding smugglers and “misplaced” goods, Porthkennack’s citizens are a tightly knit village who survives based on cooperation, their wits, and floundering ships lost upon their shorelines.  Oh and wonderful harvests of fish too.  Beecroft builds this gritty, down to earth community with authenticity, heart, and verve.  At the top of Porthkennack is the Quick family who rules over all, leaving little for the township and most for themselves.  Tomas Quick, who’s relation to the family is uncertain is beloved by the town and not so by the local magistrate and Quick family.  Which is why Customs officer Peregrine Dean is sent to the seaside town.

Ah yes, the outsider sent to investigate corruption and smuggling.  In the 18th century.  Made all the more fascinating because Peregrine Dean is a black man who has never been a slave.  An Englishman with a mentor, he hopes for grand things for himself with the service.  So it’s with a certain zeal that he’s going to approach this  job.

Again, the characterization of Peregrine is perfect.  As is the shocks that await him. For in some respects,  Perry has been insulated away from the realities of what it actually feels like to be black and have your freedom taken away from you, to be considered a “product” to be traded and sold.   Beecroft works that element and the essence of the slave trade in here fluidly and subtly.  Plus you can see why that aspect of Peregrine’s personality fights so hard against what is before him.  Reality is a hard truth here for him to accept.  He has never seen himself as anything other than an Englishman and has thought that to be true mostly of others.  He is about to find out that the world outside of London is not as expected.

Tomas Quick is another wonderful character complete with mother and support of his community (equally made up of believable villagers and seafaring scoundrels as the reader will discover. Tomas has his own agenda here, along with established businesses.  His attraction to Peregrine (same sex attraction) and his acceptance of it is based on his mother’s attitude and background.  So the author’s case for their relationship is grounded and seems realistic.

There is also a delightful twist at the end that I throughly enjoyed!

Taking another journey to Porthkennack’s past for a romance, some mystery, considerable suspense and hijinks, and just plain grand storytelling makes me recommend Contraband Hearts (Porthkennack #10) by Alex Beecroft all the more.  I just adore this series and this book (and author) is just one more reason why.

Cover art:  L.C. Chase is exquisite.  This is  Peregrine Dean at his finest.  Love that cover.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

ebook, 270 pages
Published April 30th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626498040 (ISBN13: 9781626498044)
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: Masc (Femme #2) by Marshall Thornton


Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Lionel and Dog are back in this follow-up to the Lambda finalist, Femme. Almost six months have passed and, after taking an online quiz, Lionel believes their relationship is doomed because they have nothing in common. To save their future together, the pair joins a gay bowling league and discovers that Lionel is an excellent, if somewhat eccentric, bowler.

Meanwhile, Dog gets profiled in a work newsletter. He’s excited that he’s out at work, but doesn’t immediately realize that by fawning over Dog’s masculine nature the writer was also putting down all femme guys. Lionel takes it personally, which leads the to a crisis in their relationship. Attempting to make it up to Lionel, Dog makes a grand gesture—which backfires spectacularly.

Will the two manage to put things right? And will a night in jail, a morning of drag bingo, an afternoon of day drinking, and a month of moping make things better or worse?

I just loved Femme, the first story that introduced us to Lionel and Dog, and their road to love and a relationship.  I wish I just had this one to sail right into.  If Lionel is the femme of Femme, than Dog is the masc of MASC.  It’s so fitting that we now get Dog’s perspective in Masc (Femme #2) by Marshall Thornton as we pick up the timeline where Femme left off.

Well, we still get Lionel’s too.  Happily, Marshall Thornton gives his readers this story from both Lionel and Dog’s points of view.  But the focus is on Dog, the idea of a masculine “gay”,  how that definition impacts Dog and others around him, including his relationship with the femme Lionel.

There are so many things about not only MASC but this series that stay with me.

Thornton has created a cast of characters, starting with Lionel and Dog that I have taken to heart.  I fell in love with Lionel first, then Dog.  Here Dog’s vulnerability really stands out.  I keep thinking about Dog/Doug the person…yes, he seems somewhat naive in some respects, but I know people like that.  That earnestness, need to want to help or fix things is “real” and believable.  Which makes what comes later in the story even more heartbreaking.   Because the author uses something that occurs in real life and applies it to Dog.  And it’s not only extremely timely, it’s also upsetting and disturbing because the reactions are ones I’m sure others in his circumstances are receiving as well.

Trust this author to take this series and story and include such serious elements such as child abandonment (Lionel), parental loss, male gender roles, physical abuse, and sexual harassment into a story that includes sparkling dialog, glittering humor, heartwarming romance and love.  That includes Dog’s entire family and Lionel’s family of friends…both of which collide when Lionel joins Dog’s bowling team with surprising results.

The only thing that keeps this from a five star rating (which it will get anyway because I will round up) is that it’s not a standalone story.  MASC needs Femme to lean on just as Dog needs Lionel as his support.  Not that their communication issues get resolved until later in the story. That also feels very real in a new couple.   No,  much of who these two are and how they came together rests in the first story (a must read anyway in my eyes).

I intend to go back and read them one right after the other for my pure enjoyment.  Hopefully, this is not the last of Lionel and Dog.  But even if it is, I’m so thrilled to have made their acquaintance.  I want to go bowling with them, play bingo with them, and just spend more time with them.  It’s time well spent in laughter, love, and maybe a few sniffles too.  That’s life and this story is full of it.  And characters  who you will never want to let go.

Yes, I highly recommend them both.

Cover art: Marshall Thornton.  Love the bowling shoes!  Yes, they also make me think of the other pair not pictured!

Sales Links: Universal Buy Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 217 pages
Published April 28th 2018 by Kenmore Books
Edition Language English
Series Femme #2



A MelanieM Release Day Review: Ginger Snaps (Belladonna Arms #5) by John Inman


Rating: 5 stars out of 5


Even with a string of earthquakes jarring the tenants of the Belladonna Arms, rattling nerves and smashing dishes, life still manages to plod along as usual. Love pollen continues to fall, romances continue to flourish, and Arthur, the grand Pooh-bah in residence, continues to plan his upcoming wedding extravaganza.

In the midst of all this drama fall Gideon Chase and Reed Kelly, two redheaded losers at love who find themselves regrouping under the auspices of the most incorrigible matchmaker in heels.

Arthur sees hope for the two right away. He leases them adjoining apartments, then continually tweaks their budding friendship in the hope it will slip into love. Just as Arthur’s plans are coming along nicely, Reed’s past shows up to toss a monkey wrench into his and Gideon’s blossoming romance.

With Arthur’s wedding ceremony nigh, and Reed and Gideon on the verge of heartache yet again, Arthur faces one inescapable conclusion.

It will take more than love pollen to sort this mess out.

There’s is absolutely nothing better than to be home again in that faded six-story apartment building called The Belladonna Arms high atop a hill overlooking the ocean, a fabulous view of the city,  and new possibilities for love for all who arrive there.  For you see, it’s full of  love pollen  as each book has proved time and again.  Love pollen and cats.  Both figure large in each story.

John Inman has written so many incredible stories in many genres from contemporary romance to humor to the supernatural and horror.  But none has so captured my heart and left me wheezing from laughter or yes, sniffly from tears as his Belladonna Arms series and the oddball family that has sprung up in each apartment on every floor.  I thank John Inman every time each one/or couple makes an appearance in his stories.  And they do. In every one because they are a family that supports each other, no matter the occasion, in this case Arthur and Tom’s wedding (omg…the wedding dress).  The earth itself is having conniption fits over Arthur’s upcoming wedding as earthquakes galore are running through the area.  Through Inman’s vivid descriptions and our in depth knowledge and love or these characters we feel every quake and shimmy as if we were there.

The author really makes us a part of this family too.

From the moment heart hurt, homeless ginger haired Gideon Chase walks to see The Belladonna Arms because Ben  has told him he can get him a room there, we know Gideon is on a special journey.  One that starts with Arthur in all his drag  splendor waiting at the entrance, shifting boobs made of quinoa bags and all,  of The Belladonna Arms.  Then we move to red-haired Reed, his marriage, his decision not to live a lie, and again his arrival at The Belladonna Arms.  Two gingers, both hurting, now side by side neighbors.  Let the love pollen flow.

Lacking the necessities, all of the couples of the apartment building gather round Gideon to help him furbish his new home.  By chapter three, I’ve wrapped this book around my heart like a favorite comforter, so happy I feel to be back in their midst.  Then Gideon opens his door to two of my favorite kleptos, married couple Charlie and Bruce,  And it happens.  I’ll say the words.  Internet ballet lessons.

Ok, now I’m starting to wheeze here and the tears are streaming down my face.  I’m laughing so  hard that typing is a fail.

Brilliance.  The humor here will just grab at you when you least expect it.    This is just the first of many such scenes.

Of course, there’s plenty of poignancy too.  Reed has some powerful issues to work through and he’s not always as successful as one would hope at  first in finding his way.  Nothing here is ever easy.  But The Belladonna Arms family comes through again and again in the most amazing ways.  Inman finds paths that lifts everyone up, not just the main characters, but the secondary ones, that in other hands might have come out looking somewhat villainous, and that would have been   such a shame as well as unnecessary.

No one leaves The Belladonna Arms feeling unloved or a Belladonna Arms story feeling less that a bit dusted by love pollen yourself. I can’t help but wonder if a certain half naked flower boy will be featured in the next story.  Here’s hoping!

But until then I’m keeping myself warm with the laughter and love I find within the pages of Ginger Snaps (Belladonna Arms #5) by John Inman.     I know I will see Reed and Gideon again so this is but a seeya later.  And I keep bursting into giggles and outright laughter over the thoughts of Gorilla tape and cowboys hats and plie’s.  Truly my stomach hurts.  But not my heart.  John Inman has left that in excellent shape.

Now to wait for my next visit.  Until then I highly recommend you take a trip  to the Belladonna Arms yourself.  Meet everyone and fall in love.  Start at the beginning and work your way here.  Join in on the family fun.

Cover art: Aaron Anderson.  Normally I love Aaron Anderson’s work but I think this is a miss.  You have a story about gingers and you cut the top off the model so you miss out on the color of the hair?  Nope.  Plus the bandana really belongs to Charlie.  Fail all around.  Except that its done in the style that brands the series.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 240 pages
Published April 24th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleGinger Snaps
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series The Belladonna Arms #5