A MelanieM Release Day Review: Sweet Clematis (Being(s) in Love #9) by R. Cooper


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Can a curse be a blessing?

Clematis works hard to embody every fairy stereotype. He can be a sulky prince or a submissive flirt, slutty and arrogant or silly and soft. He makes himself into whatever causes someone to want him. Combine that with beauty that’s incredible even for a fairy, and everyone wants him sooner or later… just not for long.

Well, everyone except the fairy Clematis secretly adores. But then, he’s never expected happily ever after, not when he’s spent years burying his emotions and making himself unlovable to push people away and protect his heart.

But his curse changes all that, and Clematis can no longer prevent his feelings from rising to the surface. He’s terrified that when his few friends see him for who he really is, they’ll abandon him, just like his parents did.

It’s hard to imagine friends who see past his act to the sweet person within, but maybe happiness has been in front of him the entire time, waiting for the real Clematis to break free and blossom.

So it’s not often a story has me sobbing by the first 18 pages, well, ok, not a story by R Cooper.  I adore R Cooper.  This author has a definite style and approach to  writing and their stories, especially this series.  It flows very naturally, with ebbs and eddies, long lovely narrative winding strolls through storied forests and a town occupied by humans and magical beings alike.  From the first novel, Some Kind of Magic, the author has been building an amazing universe and ever increasing,  always interlocked ,cast of characters.  And they flit, sometimes on gossamer wings or growl or stomp or what have you through each other’s stories, making appearances both large and small.

The romances take  time to come to fruition, slow like the seasons, but eventually, love and the couples find a way.  And it’s amazing.

But I don’t find myself sobbing in the first couple of chapter.  Nope, nuh uh.  But then again there’s no one quite like Clematis.

You see, Clematis has impacted just about every character, often badly, within this series. And we’ve always seen the ramifications of Clematis’ actions from the perspective of the other person/being’s life.

Until now.

Now we see the tragedy, the pain, the victim that is Clematis.  And I’m here to tell you that it’s shattering in R. Cooper’s totally quiet, disquieting way.

I spent most of this book reaching for tissues because just when I thought his gentle acceptance of  victimization,  of his state of awful existence for such a long period of time  had gotten to a point where I could see him working through issues and trying to see what those around him did, R Cooper delivers a blow, not with a strike of a hand, but with the cut of a narrative feather. One that goes so much more quickly straight to the heart.  To the reader and to the other characters finally getting a true picture of the fairy in their midst all this time.

What an incredible talent that exists in this writer!  In this one story, Cooper takes one character that has existed throughout all the series and now reveals Clematis to have been not the being represented at all, but a new truth uncovered.  And some of the beings from the other stories?  Well their actions don’t seem quite so shiny in retrospect given the new revelations here.

These aren’t novels where you can relay details because the plots are too complicated and linked with other beings and their stories.  Suffice it to say, the characters/beings are created so realistically that they come alive from the moment you meet them.  They shower glitter, shed fur, and weep tears that leave tracks that shine into your heart.

This is the ninth book.  I don’t know if there will be a tenth.  So many characters from all the stories appeared here that it almost felt as though the author was wrapping things up. Excerpt that, R Cooper style, they also stirred up things as well.  So your guess is as good as mine.

I love this series. Sweet Clematis (Being(s) in Love #9) by R. Cooper certainly shook things up in many ways.  I’m going to have to restock my  tissues, that’s for certain.

I will say it has a wonderfully happy ending for all the tears that was shed.  Just as I hoped for.

For those new to the Being(s) in Love series, I have no idea what to tell you.  Without the foundation of the other stories, you might be somewhat lost here, but it takes time to read all eight stories (which I adore) before getting here.  I do recommend you do that,  Just pick a lovely  spot, take you time, get comfy, and be prepared to go on a wonderful journey.  You’ll end up here.  For now.

Cover art: Paul Richmond.  Love this  cover but…somehow something is missing. Read the story and you will know what I’m talking about.  Because that’s not Clematis. Read and find out who it is.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 306 pages
Expected publication: November 27th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781640808188
Edition Language English
Series Being(s) in Love #9

A Boy and His Dragon

A Beginner’s Guide to Wooing Your Mate

Little Wolf

The Firebird and Other Stories

Frangipani and the Very Shiny Boy

A Dandelion for Tulip

All the Futures That Could Be

Treasure for Treasure

His Mossy Boy

Sweet Clematis


A MelanieM Review: The Burning Magus (Blue Unicorn #3) by Don Allmon


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

JT was a perfectly happy orc building cars in the Arizona desert until his old friend and sometimes lover Austin showed up and talked him into one last crime. Now “one last crime” has snowballed. With a new team of thieves—a supersoldier, a hacker, a driver, a graffiti artist, and a seafaring wizard—JT and Austin are determined to free an artificial intelligence from the dungeon of the Burning Magus.

For JT, this job is more than a prison break; it’s a do-over of The Job That Went Bad two years ago, the catastrophe in which JT lost his closest friend and then chose to abandon everything, even Austin. Maybe this time no one will die. Maybe this time JT can return to Arizona and bury his old life for good.

Except Austin won’t be buried. After two years alone, Austin knows he wants JT—not just as a partner in crime, but as the lover he always should have been. Maybe this time they won’t make the same mistakes, especially when it comes to each other.

With The Burning Magus, Don Allmon brings The Blue Unicorn trilogy to a close and does so in a manner  I’ve come to expect from this wildly imaginative author.

I’ve loved and been intrigued by the warped, bleak landscape of the universe that is the setting for this series.  The land and people contorted, twisted, and transformed into “otherness”…orcs, trolls, elves, and more.  History become fabricated, molded, and then worshiped along various lines as was self created religions.  Techno driven cultures, implants, wastelands of the environments and of the soul….nothing that Don Allmon forgot or left uncreated.

That included a trilogy arc of incredible cruelty, betrayal, revenge, loyalty, and love.  All done amidst cars, trucks, gadgetry,magic, and carnage.

Oh, and sex, lots and lots of sex.

All that continues here.

At the end I had to think.  It was as if the author, in his plotting of the final book, started picking up the proverbial narrative grab bag.  “I want that over there, and that, and that.”  You, there, honking big thing!,  I want you!”  And Allmon goes for the gusto with every nutso item the writer gets his hand on.  And then brings order to it    There’s an skillfully written suspenseful breakin scene!  Talk about action adventure right down to the techno spider thingy.  And a mad getaway.  Heroes in peril multiple times.  Bike chases, stolen cars, boats, AI’s who might be alive, and even Godzilla!

Did I mention tentacle sex? And dragons?

And for all this wonderful wild weirdness, Don Allmon doesn’t forget that what we as readers crave is the connectivity.  One character to another, the reader to the characters.  It’s all about the  emotions, the heart, the love.  That we also get.  Just when we need it the most.

If, at the end of the book, we’re left a little spent, exhausted.  Well, that’s to be expected.   Look at the path we’ve trodden together.  We’ve been shot at, abducted, lied to, wounded, lost our hope and found it again.  Along with love.  That’s a trip well spent.  A journey well taken and one I highly recommend.

Cover By: Simoné.  I love these covers by Simoné, they remain some of my favorite.  Perfect for the characters and storyline.  Fantastic!

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 219 pages
Published November 19th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
Original Title The Burning Magus
ISBN 139781626497559
Edition Language English
Series Blue Unicorn

The Glamour Thieves

Apocalypse Alley

The Burning Magus

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Late Fees (Pinx Video Mysteries, #3) by Marshall Thornton


Rating: 5 stars out of 5 (double for the recipe at the back of the story)


It’s Thanksgiving, 1992 and Noah Valentine is late picking his mother up from the airport. When he arrives he discovers that she’s made a friend on the flight whose also waiting for her son. When women’s son doesn’t show up, they eventually take the woman home for breakfast with neighbor’s Marc and Louis. Soon after, they learn that the woman’s son has overdosed—or has he?

Noah and his motley crew investigate over the holiday weekend; which includes a fabulous dinner, a chat with a male stripper, a tiny little burglary and some help from Detective Tall, Dark, and Delicious.

I can usually count on a Marshall Thornton story to be many things.  Always excellently written, beautifully researched if historic in nature, often heart wrenchingly poignant, gritty, and grounded authentically in whatever reality is going for current in that story. His characters are puzzle piece perfect for the story universes he creates. Realistic, believable, human and flawed.  His men have been sliced up by life, often by ex partners, and are in the process of re-assembling what’s left of themselves and their lives, if possible.  Through these men, we feel their pain, sadness, loss over dreams, rage, and even, a sense of irony at times.  Small flights of humor, a bit dry.

These stories and series (Boystown and Pinx Video) are incredible and in my opinion, must reads.  What I have never described one of those stories are is guffaw inducing or heartwarming or endearing. Nope, never thought those adjectives would find themselves into a Marshall Thornton review, especially one of his murder mystery novels.  Guess what?  All three apply here.

No one is more surprised than I am.

Late Fees (Pinx Video Mysteries, #3) by Marshall Thornton actually had me in tears of laughter at times!  All due to one character.  Angie Valentine, Noah’s mother.

Marshall Thornton has been awarded many literary prizes, and imo due many more.  But just for the creation of Angie Valentine, I would award him something special just for her alone!

She jumpstarts this story and Noah’s involvement in yet another murder mystery when she lands in LA on a visit to see her son.    On the plane she’s befriended (or the other way around) a woman, Joanne, also traveling to see her “gay son” Rod. They’ve hit it off swimmingly amidst drinks and perhaps some pharmaceuticals.  The memory Noah has of his mother Angie is not jiving with the woman he’s picking up late from the airport, along with Joanne. Lively, a little drunk or tipsy, this is a woman so full of life that strangers gravitate towards her. And she towards them.  Curious and outgoing…this woman is out for adventure!  But it’s her large heart that shepherds Joanne into Noah’s life and her’s.

Also into the lives of Noah’s neighbors downstairs, Marc and Louis, who are busy with decorating their space for the holidays and preparations for Thanksgiving for their small group of friends.  When Joanne’s son Rod is discovered dead, Angie invites her home with her and Noah…into Noah’s tiny condo.  Convinced that Rod wouldn’t take his own life, Angie, Noah, and the group is thrown back into a murder investigation with Angie finding out the truth about her son’s  past involvements for the first time.

Even as I write this I want to run back for my Kindle and start that story all over again.  The relationship between mother and son is tender, funny, complicated, and surprising.  With revelations on both sides,  it’s still Angie who keeps coming up with new layer after layer to herself that leaves Noah with his jaw on the floor while his friends just embrace the wonder that is this woman.  Trust me if I could have crawled into that novel, I would have too.    There is the scene in the leather bar The Hawk that is worth the price of this book alone!

As Noah, Angie, Marc, Louis and others investigate  the circumstances behind Rod’s death, Noah reaches out to Javier, Detective Javier O’Shea from previous mysteries.  That comes with it’s own problems and  emotional complexities for both men.  I love the dynamics that are being slowly played out between them, the tension and attraction never fades no matter the how long it’s been or the fact that Noah refuses to communicate truthfully with Javier.

Oh what a book!  Full of suspense, lots of twists and turns in the murder mystery but the heart of the story?  It’s in the relationships.  Between Rod and Joanne.  Angie and Noah.  Angie and well, everyone she comes into contact with and leaves better off.  And of course, Noah and his close family of friends at Thanksgiving.  It’s a cornucopia of emotions! We get a wealth of family of all types, love in every aspect, sadness, happiness, surprise, joy, and heartwarming sappiness too.  Did I forget to mention again the outright laughter?  Yes indeed, that as well.

There is another element, a huge one here in the series but as its not been disclosed in any of the blurbs I won’t do so in my reviews.  But I love the manner in which the author is dealing with it here, it’s just so well done.  Just as I would expect from Marshall Thornton.

I can’t let a review go by without mentioning some of the fun historically accurate elements folded effortlessly into this tale…a flyaway mention here and there.  Moonies in their yellow robes at the airport, Laserdisc players (shakes head), Sony Trinitron TVs, Sister Act on VHS (because someone didn’t have a Laserdisc player hooked up), the scandal of Sinead O’Connor on SNL…I hate to mention how many I actually remember.

I love this story, it’s my favorite so far in a series I love.  I will leave you with the words of a seemingly unflappable woman, who embraces it all, whether it’s everything a leather bar is showcasing or being questioned by an irate LAPD Homicide Detective.  Here’s an exchange between Noah and Angie at the end when she’s getting ready to leave for the airport:

“Mom, after this visit I don’t think I have any secrets left.”

“Well then I suggest that you get busy.


That’s her and their relationship in a nutshell.  Perfection.  So is this book.

If you need more incentive, there’s the Thanksgiving menu that the group dines on in the back.  Yes, you need that too!  Along with the pumpkin pie recipe.  *Throws up arms* Hows many more stars can I give this book?

Cover art by Marshall Thornton. Love that cover.  Works for branding the series and this story specifically.

Sales Link: Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 177 pages
Expected publication: November 10th 2018 by Kenmore Books
Edition Language English
Series A Pinx Video Mystery #3


Night Drop

Hidden Treasures

Late Fees

A MelanieM Review: Life In Union (Summit City #3) by Ethan Day


Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Over the past eight months, aspiring author Boone Daniels has seen his entire life turned upside down and inside out. Having survived a recent auto-accident and an impromptu proposal of marriage from his one-night-stand-turned-boyfriend, Wade Walker, Boone has finally moved to Summit City to begin a whole new chapter.

Having adapted to several big life-changes within a relatively short window of time, Boone has embraced the idea of spending the rest of his ‘forever’ with the man he loves. However, he quickly recognizes that it takes more than finding true love and relocating to make a house feel like a home.

As Boone and Wade merge their separate lives into a life in union, they’ll struggle to strike a balance between ‘the me’ and ‘the we’. With patience and perseverance, they’ll eventually say their I Do’s and get that happily-ever-after…after all.

Well, in the long awaited third book in the Summit City series by Ethan Day, Boone and Wade are back in Life in Union and it’s every adjective I could throw from my Oxford English at and more!  It’s  gut wrenchingly hilarious,  so totally spew worthy in sections that they need to come with their own warmings!   There is some head-scratching  perplexing actions, yes, some sniffling and close to outright bawling scenes of sappiness…because, hey…wedding.

And that means all the wedding prep where someone turns into a total Groomzilla….not saying whom…mind you…that would be spoilery. But if you know your Boone and Wade, chances are you’re already nodding knowingly.

Diving back into this book is like being invited to visit family and friends you haven’t seen for a while.  People may have enlarged their own families, you can’t quite remember all the kids names, and oh hey there Uncle mumble mumble mumble…but one hug, one (or a ton) of outright snarky,  outrageous remarks accompanied by a oversized glass of wine shoved into your hand and you remember exactly why you love these people and why you feel like you’re at home.

Summit City and all its inhabitants has felt like home since Sno Ho (first published, and my first reading in 2010).  I laughed until I cried and laughed some more.  None of that book was repeatable. That’s where city boy Boone Daniels comes to ski  village Summit City and meets Wade Walker, golden boy, Olympic medalist, and town hero. To this day, it’s one of my favorite stories.  Bran muffins have never been the same.  Then came Life in Fusion. It was a transitional story as much as Boone and Wade were a couple in transition themselves.  More serious, it had an element that shook up all the readers and fans of this couple.  But no matter the story, Ethan Day’s memorable characters stayed true to themselves, trying to adjust to a new relationship and the combining of two households.  That’s the stage we find them at here.

I love, love, Ethan Day’s ear and talent for dialog.  Each character’s personality flows out so quickly and revealingly from their mouths.  It can be Jackie (how I love Jackie and the corn kids) or Gabe or anyone actually here, one or two words, a sentence and bam!  We know who’s speaking.  A precise portrait has been created out of a conversation, a sparkling bit of snark!    Even words mumbled or mouthed round bits of stolen Halloween candy become priceless howlers between two friends on a Halloween night.  Loved that scene.

People all around Wade and Boone are at various stages in their lives and relationships, some are being launched, some being revealed, others off on new paths…this story is a swirl of love, family, friends, and celebrations of all sorts.

The characterizations are wonderful.  Real, over the top as only some people can be, fallible, fragile, loving, and oh , so sexy, especially when it comes to Boone and Wade who can’t keep their hands and whatever off each other.

Especially the whatever.

I loved this story with a passion.  I love this couple with that same passion too.  Ditto Jackie and her corn kids.  Hubby too.  In fact all of Summit City.  I may not want to live there but I certainly would want to visit often.

For those new to this series, you really need to read the first two stories.  I don’t consider this a standalone novel.  It rests firmly and beautifully on the foundation built by Sno Ho and Life In Fusion so please read those first before coming to read Life In Union.  I think I’m going to go start all over again with my journey with these two.  My heart could do with more love and laughter at the moment and this series has it in abundance.

Love contemporary romance with a rush of snark, laughter, and downright raunchy wonderful sex?  Well, this is the series, couple, and novel for you.

Cover art: Reese Dante.  Love this cover and it’s consistent with branding the series.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 257 pages
Published October 1st 2018 by Self Published
Edition Language English
Series Summit City #3

Sno Ho

Life in Fusion

A Summit City Christmas

Life In Union

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