A MelanieM Review: This Is Not A Love Story by Suki Fleet

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

When fifteen-year-old Romeo’s mother leaves one day and doesn’t return, he finds himself homeless and trying to survive on the streets. Mute and terrified, his silence makes him vulnerable, and one night he is beaten by a gang of other kids, only to be rescued by a boy who pledges to take care of him.

Julian is barely two years older than Romeo. A runaway from an abusive home, he has had to make some difficult choices and sells himself on the street to survive. Taking care of Romeo changes him, gives him a purpose in life, gives him hope, and he tries to be strong and keep his troubles with drugs behind him. But living as they do is slowly destroying him, and he begins to doubt he can be strong enough.

This is the story of their struggle to find a way off the streets and stay together at all costs. But when events threaten to tear them apart, it is Romeo who must find the strength within himself to help Julian (and not let their love story turn into a Shakespearean tragedy)

There’s a lot that can be said about This Is Not A Love Story by Suki Fleet.  It’s a hurt/comfort story without a lot of comfort going on.  Reading the majority of this novel feels like poking at an open wound.  It’s that’s raw and incredibly painful. Not a story I could read without taking needed emotional “timeout” breaks.  Honestly, parts of this are so agonizing, I wondered if I wanted to continue.

So why the 5 stars?  Why read it at all?

Because it’s extraordinarily well written, with an eye towards making the reader feel almost at a cellular level what Suki Fleet’s  homeless teenagers are going through on a daily basis as anonymous, non people of the streets.  The humiliation, the deprivation, the starvation, and pain.  The exploitation and danger that exists for them and just the edge of survival each one walks is brought vividly and horrifically to life in the persons of Romeo and Julian, and others we meet.

Hope?  That doesn’t occur until late in the story.  Until then it’s sheer determination and love for each other that carries each young man through the darkest of times, and yes, they get plenty dark and gritty.

Told through the mind and heart of Romeo, an artistic mute who’s never without his drawing pad or Julian, his protector and the person he loves, we see the cost of that protection on Julian, on them both.  The way being homeless is eating away at them, the despair, their ragged physical state and the things they are willing to do to survive.  Each character is someone so vulnerable, so achingly young and discarded that the more you read, the more gut wrenching  the impact.

Not surprisingly the story contains elements of thoughts of suicide, drug use, rape, self harm, and abduction.  If any of these are triggers of yours, please take note.

After all that, the novel ends on a note of hope and happiness.  It’s truly needed after the darkness the characters and the readers have endured for most of the story.  It wasn’t quite enough to lift the heaviness of heart I felt after reading the book but held so much positivity for the future that I could leave it at that, hoping that the worse was finally behind them

I’m not sure this story is for everyone but for those that love a great contemporary novel with amazing characters and unforgettable plot ….and a journey that’s dark, gritty and full of pain.  This is a story for you.

Cover art with the dim backdrop of London and not so bright characters grimly hints at the tone of the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 453 pages
Published March 27th 2019 (first published March 22nd 2014)
Original Title This Is Not a Love Story
ASINB07Q47FFWM
SeriesLove Story Universe
CharactersRomeo Danilov, Julian Lavelle

A MelanieM Review: Arctic Sun (Frozen Hearts #1) by Annabeth Albert

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

 

Everything’s bigger in Alaska, especially the HEAs. Annabeth Albert kicks off the brand-new Frozen Hearts series with Arctic Sun, an opposites-attract romance between a rugged outdoorsman and a smoking hot former male model.

He’s built a quiet life for himself in Alaska. But it doesn’t stand a chance against the unrelenting pull of a man who’s everything he shouldn’t want.

Ex-military mountain man Griffin Barrett likes his solitude. It keeps him from falling back into old habits. Bad habits. He’s fought too hard for his sobriety to lose control now. However, his gig as a wildlife guide presents a new kind of temptation in superhot supermodel River Vale. Nothing the Alaskan wilderness has to offer has ever called to Griffin so badly. And that can only lead to trouble…

River has his own methods for coping. Chasing adventure means always moving forward. Nobody’s ever made him want to stand still—until Griffin. The rugged bush pilot is the very best kind of distraction, but the emotions he stirs up in River feel anything but casual, and he’s in no position to stay put.

With temptation lurking in close quarters, keeping even a shred of distance is a challenge neither’s willing to meet. And the closer Griffin gets to River, the easier it is to ignore every last reason he should run.

Arctic Sun is another successful contemporary romance from Annabeth Albert, one of my go to authors. This wonderful story manages to combine the breathtaking scenery and isolated landscape of Alaska with the romance between two  complicated, wounded men, highly different on the surface and yet so alike deep underneath.

With the state of Alaska as a third main character as well as a location, Albert also deals with some serious subject matter, also through her two main men.  While it’s obvious from the start that each man is struggling with some demon or demons, what they are exactly is a slower reveal.  The exact nature of what each man is battling is hinted at and given away in the synopsis so I don’t mind spelling it out here.  For Griffin Barrett, it’s sobriety and gambling.  For River, a eating disorder and a toxic way of life.  And neither one has exactly finished dealing with their addictions in a way that’s helping them move forward.  One is hiding and one is running.

Both away from themselves until they find each other in Alaska.  And Annabeth Albert brings us intimately into their journey and the larger than life wonder that is Alaska.

I loved the use of the photography group as a format for bringing Griffin out of his typical hermit like state and the other participants were great characters.  It let the model River slowly ease away to the real person underneath and I enjoyed that journey as much as Griffin.  And all the sights they took in. The locations and the beauty of Alaska is described in depth as is the joys of travels by aircraft of all sizes and type.  What I did think was underplayed was the long arctic nights and extreme cold as well as the distance between people and small towns. But that’s perhaps for another story as this is but the first in a series.

The complications, angst, and rediscovery here is saved for River and Griffin.  It’s one tough journey and a very rewarding one.  I loved the men and the HFN they received at the end.  It was realistic and heartwarming.  And I’m ready for more.

An Annabeth Albert story is a cause for joy.  The people are so real, the books so well written, that you just fall into them fully, connecting with the romance and their lives.    I highly recommend all her series and this story.  Pick them and this up and get started today.

Cover art is gorgeous with the seaplane and the mountains in the backdrop.

Buy now:
Harlequin: https://www.harlequin.com/shop/books/9781488051258_arctic-sun.html
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Arctic-Frozen-Hearts-Annabeth-Albert/dp/1335006885/
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/arctic-sun-annabeth-albert/1129705419
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/arctic-sun/id1438313132
kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ca/en/ebook/arctic-sun-1
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Annabeth_Albert_Arctic_Sun?id=G55zDwAAQBAJ
Audible: https://www.audible.com/pd/Arctic-Sun-Audiobook/1488206201

 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 384 pages
Published April 1st 2019 by Carina Press
ASINB07J3C79NH
Edition Language English
Series Frozen Hearts #1

Publisher’s Note: Arctic Sun deals with topics some readers may find difficult, including sobriety and eating disorders

Frozen Hearts Series

Arctic Sun

Arctic Wild  cpming June 3rd

Andy Gallo on Lambda Rising, old gayborhoods, and his new release Better Be Sure (guest post)

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Better Be Sure

Andy Gallo has a new contemporary MM romance out: Better Be Sure.

The Edge of Extinction?

Thank you, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for letting me come visit today.

For those of us old enough to remember, there was a time when the gay ‘areas’ of major cities were predominately gay; Castro in San Francisco, Oaklawn in Dallas, West Hollywood in L.A. Hillcrest in San Diego, Boystown in Chicago—I could go on, but you get the point. They had gay bars, restaurants, books stores, coffee houses, places had rainbow triangles to let you know they were gay friendly or gay owned.

In D.C. the area was ‘Dupont’—the area around Dupont Circle.  Lambda Rising (the gay book store) was there, ‘toy’ stores, a few gay bars, restaurants etc. But once that area became gentrified (meaning a lot of LGBT people moved into a dicey area and fixed it up), the ‘gayborhood moved. First to ‘P’ Street (which still has a strong presence) then further east to ‘Logan’ and now ‘Shaw.’ With each move, new ‘gay’ businesses sprung up, but not as many. Some remained enshrined in their old locations, others moved with the clientele and some—like Lambda Rising—closed up shop. 

The last—the demise of Lambda Rising— is something of a phenomenon (or perhaps better said, a tragedy to people of my generation.)

Greater acceptance of LGBT people brought with it a willingness to carry things we wanted. Soon Barnes and Noble carried our books and people could go to the closest book store instead of making a special drive into the heart of DC. Then Amazon sprang up and we could have it delivered to our homes.

In response to declining sales, Lambda Rising first closed its satellite stores in Baltimore MD. and Rehoboth Delaware. Then it closed its main location in DC. Oscar Wilde’s in NYC is gone. A Different Light in San Fran and L.A. is closed. Giovanni’s Room in Philly closed, but recently reopened in a slightly different configuration. But by and large, the stores are gone or going.  Part of it is obviously due to eBooks and Amazon’s ability to mail things to your home, but that only happened because Amazon carries our books in the first place.

Acceptance is great, and it is what we want, but the unexpected side effect is the loss of ‘our’ neighborhoods. For me, going Giovanni’s Room in Philly was a pilgrimage of sorts after I came out. I wanted to read books with positive gay characters. Mainstream bookstores had some, but only the newest or best sellers. Giovanni’s Room had hundreds. It also had ‘those’ magazines and books that you needed to keep in the bag until you were home – hey, they sold and helped pay the store’s rent.

Being a destination of sort meant people lingered once in the area. I know I did. I didn’t go that often, so I took advantage of the special trip. I went to the friendly coffee shop, maybe if it was later in the day, I’d meet friends for dinner at a LGBT owned restaurant and by that point, we’d go out to the bars/clubs. All because I was there.

Now, I order my books online for the most part, from LGBTQ publishers when able. There are no issues going to local restaurants as a couple. No one really cares – at least not in my area of the country. And because going to a gay bar is a trip all its own now, visits are much, much less frequent. (Having a child is also a huge reason not to go, but we cut back well before ‘lil q was born.)

It’s something of a double-edged sword. We want to be accepted and treated equal, but that equality means the ‘us’ only businesses we created to fill a need lost the ‘need’ they filled. Instead of being the only outlet, they became quant, quirky, something to do that was different. Sadly, that hasn’t proven to be a sustainable business model.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. One the one hand, how great would it be for our children’s children to read about ‘the good old days’ when gay book stores and businesses were common and ask, ‘why did you need those?’ If that happens, it means they didn’t know a world where marriage equality doesn’t exist. But for those of us who remember these places, they were our refugee from the less than accepting world we lived in.

This is somewhat reflected in Better Be Sure. The conflict isn’t Jack wants to take his boyfriend to the fraternity formal but is afraid his fraternity won’t accept him. They already know and don’t care. In fact, his brothers are pressing him to do it. Even his rival isn’t his enemy because Jack is gay. The problem is his date isn’t out of the closet and Jack can’t really understand why.

Homophobia absolutely still exists, and I don’t mean to suggest it’s been eradicated. There will always be some who don’t approve. But a lot of the trails have been blazed. There are fewer and fewer ‘firsts’ to be achieved. And much like the ‘mainstreaming’ of LGBTQ fiction, the conflicts in our books are inching toward the same ones found in general fiction.

I’m not sure yet how I feel about this new world. For now, I’m content to recognize it and see where it goes.

[Optional For The Tour Host]

In addition to the tour wide contest, at each stop on the blog tour, Anyta and I are giving away eBook copies of (Un)Masked) – which we co-wrote – and Leo Love Aries – the first book in Anyta’s Signs of Love series. To be eligible, leave a comment below and tell us something unique about your region that might be different from other places. We’ll pick one winner for each book*

  

  

*Readers are eligible to win one eBook during the tour and one of the three grand prizes.

 

Blurb:

When the stakes are this high, you better be sure you can win.

Jackson Murphy lost his parents to a boating accident, but they’re never far from his thoughts. He attends the same university as his parents, joined the same fraternity as his dad, and even lives in his father’s old room, along with his adopted brother Marcus. Life brightens when he meets the man of his dreams.

Edward Knowles trades full-time college for working during the day and community college at night when his father’s factory closes. He intends to stay deep in the closet to keep his job in heating and cooling. But Jack pushes all his buttons.

Jack’s college rival challenges him to bring a date to the upcoming dance. He goads Jack into accepting even though failure means he and Marcus will lose their room and Jack must leave the fraternity.

Jack is falling hard for Ed, but Ed will never agree to go the dance. Ed—not knowing the stakes of the wager—has also made it clear that Jack taking another man will end their romance.

With pressure from friends and enemies alike, will Jack hold on to his legacy… or his heart?

Dreamspinner | Amazon | Amazon NZ | Amazon UK | Amazon CAN | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes


Giveaway

Andy is giving away a $25 Dreamspinner gift certificate, two audio codes, and 3 $5 Amazon gift cards with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveawayhttps://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4756/?

We’re also giving away an eBook copy of (Un)Masked and one copy of Leo Loves Aries, by Anyta Sunday. Comment on the post below or a chance to win.


Excerpt

Jack’s phone buzzed, and he swatted the sound away. Too early in the damn morning. Another buzz. He drowsily pulled himself from sleep. Across the room, Marcus mumbled in his sleep.

Jack checked his phone, body surging to life at Ed’s name on the screen.

Ed: Morning!

Ed: Oh, crap, it’s probably still too early for you.

Jack couldn’t type back quick enough. Ed writing to him this early in the morning, that had to mean something, surely.

Jack: Nah, I’m totally awake. Why?

Ed: Just finished a job. Am close to Harrison….

Jack was already scrambling out of bed, messaging one-handed while he emptied his drawers for a clean shirt.

Jack: Send me your location. I’m in desperate need of caffeine. Bet you could use some too.

Ed sent a grinning dog and his location. Eighteen minutes later, Jack walked into the local Starbucks. He scanned the almost empty store and caught Ed’s broad shoulders at the counter.

Jack strode over and clapped the guy on the shoulder, giving it a lingering squeeze. “I have an eerie sense of déjà vu.”

Ed’s warm shoulder shook as he chuckled. “I haven’t mowed you down yet.”

“No, no, that you haven’t.” Their gazes snagged, and Ed definitely swallowed. Probably too early—in the day and their friendship—to tease.

Jack rocked back on his heels, dug his wallet out of his pocket, and ordered.

When they both had their drinks, they sank into armchairs in the corner of the room.

Ed’s gaze kept dipping to his chest, and Jack’s lips tipped up behind his mocha. “How was your morning job?”

“I was extremely motivated to get the job done quickly.”

Jack’s grin widened, and an ill-timed sip ended up rolling down his chin. He swiped it off. “Do you often have jobs close to Harrison?”

“Not as much as I’d like.” Ed rubbed his palm over the arm of the chair.

“I mean, a lot of the time I have to drive out farther.”

“Well, any time you’re nearby….” He raised his cup.

Ed glanced at his chest again. “I like the look.”

Jack followed the sweep of Ed’s hand and—fuck. His shirt was inside out. “Right. Of course.”

Ed leaned forward in his seat, amusement lighting his eyes as he took in the rest of him. Shivers skittered through Jack, and he held his breath. “I totally woke you, didn’t I?”

“Busted.”

The deep laugh Ed gave made it all worth it. “So you’re a high-ranking anchor in your fraternity?”

Jack snorted at the muff. From the way Ed stared at him, it was hard to tell if he’d done it on purpose or really had the term mixed up.

“We prefer to pronounce it ‘archon,’ but either way, I’m one of the fraternity leaders, yes.”

“Do you like it?”

“Which? Being in the fraternity or being an officer?”

“Both.”

Of course he’d want Jack to answer both. “Yeah, for the most part. I mean, there are a couple guys I wish weren’t my brothers, but that’s how it is.”

“How’d you pick that fraternity?”

“There wasn’t really any other option.”

Ed’s brow furrowed. “I thought Harrison had a lot of fraternities.”

“No, not like that.” Jack waved his hand and shook his head. “My dad, both of them were in Pi Kappa Phi. Marcus and I grew up hearing all the stories about their days in the house.”

“Wow, that’s cool.”

“Yeah, they met when they were freshmen and were friends until… well… until my parents died.” He thought he’d been ready to deal with the issue, but confronted with it, he froze.

Ed scooted up on his chair, leaning forward. “You okay, Jack?”

Jack rubbed the ring at the chain around his neck and drew in a calming breath. “Yeah. Yeah.”

Ed seemed to realize Jack needed a change in conversation, because he abruptly started telling Jack how his sister had woken him last night screaming murder. She’d gone to the bathroom at night, and when she walked back to her room, someone was in there, rustling the sheets.

Ed had launched into her room with a bat only to be confronted with their cat. The first time the cat decided not to be shy. In the middle of the night, rolling around Becky’s bed. They laughed so hard, they needed to make a cup of hot milk to settle down again.

“Sounds like you’re a good guy to have around… wayward cats.” And panicking… friends.

Ed sipped his coffee. “What about you?”

“I like to think I’m a good guy to have around too.”

“I’m sure you are.” Ed set his coffee down. “Look, about last night….”

Jack clasped his cup, muscles rigid. Here it was. “Yeah?”

Air blew into the café along with a group of rowdy hipster students toting stainless steel cups. Jack shuffled forward on the cushion to hear Ed better, but Ed’s gaze strayed toward group and his mouth flattened.

Jack cursed the interruption, but it was clear the moment had passed.

“What are your plans the rest of the day?” Ed asked instead.

“The rest of the day?”

Ed laughed, and Jack soaked it up.

“Class, bantering with Brittany—she’s awesome—frat meeting about the spring formal, messing around with the guys. Might squeeze some actual study in there.” A lot of study, actually.

“Messing around with the guys?”

That piqued your interest, did it? Jack smirked. “Play a bit of ball if the weather holds. Get out the PlayStation and hit the video games if it doesn’t.”

“What’s the spring formal?”

Jack groaned. “The bane of my life.”


Author Bio

Andy Gallo prefers mountains over the beach, coffee over tea, and regardless if you shake it or stir it, he isn’t drinking a martini. He remembers his “good old days” as filled with mullets, disco music, too-short shorts, and too-high socks. Thanks to good shredders and a lack of social media, there is no proof he ever descended into any of those evils.

Andy does not write about personal experiences and no living or deceased ex-boyfriends appear on the pages of his stories. He might subconsciously infuse his characters with some of their less noble qualities, but that is entirely coincidental even if their names are the same. And while Andy leaves the hard sci-fi/fantasy for his alter ego, Andrew, in his mind a touch of the supernatural never derailed a good relationship.

Married and living his own happy every after, Andy helps others find their happy endings in the pages of his stories. He and his husband of more than twenty years spend their days raising their daughter and rubbing elbows with other parents. Embracing his status as the gay dad, Andy sometimes has to remind others that one does want a hint of color even when chasing after their child.

Author Website: https://www.andygallo.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/andygalloauthor/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/92829509-andy-gallo

LOGO - Other Worlds Ink

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Ithani (The Oberon Cycle #3) by J. Scott Coatsworth

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Oberon Cycle: Book Three

Time is running out.  After saving the world twice, Xander, Jameson and friends plunge headlong into a new crisis. The ithani—the aliens who broke the world—have reawakened from their hundred millennia-long slumber. When Xander and Jameson disappear in a flash, an already fractured world is thrown into chaos.  The ithani plans, laid a hundred thousand years before, are finally coming to pass, and they threaten all life on Erro. Venin and Alix go on a desperate search for their missing and find more than they bargained for. And Quince, Robin and Jessa discover a secret as old as the skythane themselves.  Will alien technology, unexpected help from the distant past, destiny and some good old-fashioned firepower be enough to defeat an enemy with the ability to split a world? The final battle of the epic science fiction adventure that began in Skythane will decide the fate of lander and skythane alike. And in the north, the ithani rise….

After finishing the book, I knew writing this review was going to be frustrating.  Why?  Because it’s going to be hard to find the words to describe just how incredible Ithani, the final story in The Oberon Cycle truly isJ. Scott Coatsworth left himself quite the task in pulling together all the plot threads and overall monumental trilogy arc and bring them all to all rousing conclusion that not only is beautifully imaginative, but thoroughly satisfying.

But the author accomplished that task and then went further.  This book is magical in its reach and edifying in the joy and depth of its conclusion.  It stretches out past time and space,  it encompasses the past, present, and future with equal verve, heart-stopping action and suspense. It brings to many a deep abiding love in so many forms, a search for self and what that means and, oh, yes the astonishing winged aliens of several species.  Plus the probable end of not one but two worlds.  There are multiple cultures, languages, sciences to understand and embrace along with all the characters that Coatsworth has created.

It’s an absolute tour de force.

I am certainly not giving out any details.  Even now, thinking back on elements and tiny narrative jewels the author will deliver to the reader, I remain so grateful and stunned at the twists and turns he built into Ithani.  Ones that even now continue to astound and delight.  I’m a fan of Coatsworth’s science fiction series the Liminal Sky and, here we find a major storythread that links this trilogy to that one.  For a reader that is not familiar with the Liminal Sky Series, will they feel lost?  Not at all.  This element is beautifully explained and threaded into the plot line, it’s important and as vital as any element in the narrative.  But that it’s linked to another series altogether?  Only those who know and adore the Liminal Sky  will be dancing in dazed joy over this narrative inclusion.

That’s just the way this whole novel goes…like dancing lights above a lake.  It will entrance you, pull you in, leave you to wonder at it all.  And then make you want to take the journey all over again.

I highly recommend the entire Oberon Cycle trilogy, starting with Skythane, then to Lander, and finally to this magical, incredible conclusion Ithani.  It’s February and I already have an addition to my Best of 2019 list this year.  That would be Ithani and the Oberon Cycle.

Cover Artists: Anna Sikorska.  I love the drama and eyecatching colors of this cover.  Great job.

Sales Links:

Buy Now: Dreamspinner Press Buy Now: Amazon KindleBuy Now: AmazonBuy Now: Barnes and NobleBuy Now: KoboBuy Now: iBooks

Book Details:

Paperback and eBook 290 pages
Expected publication: February 19th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
ISBN 1644051125 (ISBN13: 9781644051122)Available on: February 19, 2019
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genres: Romance, Sci Fi
The Oberon Cycle:

Skythane

Lander

Ithani

Release Blitz for In Case You Missed It (#lovehim #3) by S.M. James (excerpt and giveaway)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: In Case You Missed It

Author: S. M. James

Publisher: May Books

Cover Artist: Story Styling Cover Designs

Genre/s: YA LGBT romance

Heat Rating: 1-2 flames

Length: 98 000 words/400 pages

It is a standalone story.

Release Date: February 12, 2019

Add on Goodreads

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

 

 

Blurb

Brooks is convinced his life is totally, one hundred percent happy. 

Until Darien tracks him down.

Darien was supposed to be the guy he kissed once and remembered forever, but now he’s back in Brooks’s life, with easy smiles and big ideas.

The first of which … show the homeschooled Brooks everything he’s missed out on. But as the pair work through a spring of playing catch up on life, it becomes obvious to Darien that Brooks has a secret. 

And as things heat up between them, Brooks’s secret might just be Darien’s worst fear.

Because Darien has always lived in the moment. 

But Brooks has always lived for the future he knows is inevitable. 

When life is set to tear them apart, will love be enough to keep them together?



All books in the #lovehim series are stand alones. The series number is the recommended reading order.

 

Excerpt

We cross the front of the school, head past the football field, and into the courtyard. It’s eerily quiet, with filtered sunlight and a soft breeze breaching the concrete quad.

Darien heads for a bench that runs along the base of an enormous tree and flops down onto it. I sit next to him and silence settles gently over my shoulders. The courtyard is surrounded by buildings on three sides, and I vaguely remember one of them as the science wing.

“So this is where you’d eat at breaks on a nice day. Cameron and Chels sit there, and some of the others here, and over there.” He points to an opposite bench. “We’d sit right here, of course. Since you’d be in all the nerd classes, we’d be inseparable over break.” He grips the back of the bench and leans into his hands, grinning over at me.

I swing a leg over the back of the bench so I’m facing him. “And you’d be such a shameless flirt, I’d have to find new friends to save you the embarrassment.”

“No point.” He shrugs. “I’d just follow you there too.”

The thing is, I believe him. I don’t know how anyone can be so effortless about how they feel. He doesn’t try to hide it, but he doesn’t push me either, and the fact he can be so unashamedly into me, makes me want to give him more.

But he’ll get over it. And I have to help him.

I lean away from him a little. “So, is there anyone here who’s caught your eye?”

“There’s this one guy …”

His tone makes me arch my eyebrow. “He wouldn’t be me, would he?”

“See? You’re too damn smart.”

I duck my head as I hold back a laugh. “Seriously though. Nothing is going to happen between us, so it’s okay if you find someone else.”

“Yeah, we’re not doing this.”

I frown. “What do you mean?”

“We’ve been over this, like, a thousand times. Jesus, Brooks, I get it. I just want to spend time with you, as friends, and I don’t need you trying to push me onto someone else.”

“Darien …” I reach for his arm and he shrugs me away. “I’m sorry.”

“Good. Now no more mentioning that shit, okay? My memory is fine, I can make my own damn decisions.”

“You’re right.” But how does he make the right decision when I’m keeping a huge part of myself from him? I take a couple of short breaths, the very real possibility of telling him, looming at the front of my thoughts.

“Here.” Darien finally takes off his backpack and unzips it. He’s packed a heap of food, some I haven’t seen before, and he slides away from me on the bench to set it out between us. “Dig in.”

Lunch is delicious, and I try some of everything. Darien talks me through some of the foods his mom made, like zelnik and tulumba, and it’s so damn good, I’d hang out with him just for the food. After a week of barely eating I don’t hold back, but I didn’t bring my enzyme tablets with me, so it’s close to pointless.

Darien takes some more photos after lunch as we explore the school. He fills me in on little bits and pieces about his first two weeks, and we wind up under the bleachers. He dives into his bag again and pulls out two cigarettes.

I give him a flat look. “Fuck no.”

He smirks. “Goodie two shoes.”

“Nope.” I shake my head, trying to think of how I can get him to put those freaking things away. “I just don’t see the point in sucking on something that can fucking kill you.” My words come out way harsher than I mean, but if he starts on one of those things, I’m leaving him here.

His dark eyebrows furrow, and something goes on behind his eyes that I can’t quite make out, but he just shrugs and grinds the smokes into the ground. “Thank the lord. Don’t think I could have stomached it, even for you.”

I relax a little, though I’m not sure I really believe the words.

He steps closer. “You know, there are other things people do under the bleachers …”

It takes me a second to catch up, and my focus automatically drops to his lips. My stomach is a riot as I try not to focus on how good our first kiss was, all those months ago.

Darien smirks and steps back, breaking my runaway thoughts. He pulls a marker from his bag. “We have to mark we were here, otherwise it doesn’t count.”

“That, I can do.” I take the marker from him and uncap it with a click. Reaching above my head, I hesitate a second, trying to figure out what to write. In the end, I go simple.

BL + DM.

“Those letters look good together,” Darien says. His voice is low and warm and reminds me of summer. His fingers slide down mine as he takes the marker from me.

He reaches up and his shirt pulls higher on his back, leaving this smooth strip of brown skin exposed. The pull to touch him is so strong. I need to feel his skin under my fingertips. It’s a physical battle to hold back, and just as I’m about to fold,

To reach,

To touch,

To give in to him, Darien finishes up, and steps back to survey his work. I blink a few times to try and lessen the fog in my head, then turn my focus up.

He’s drawn a heart around our initials.

 

 

 

About the Author 

S. M. James writes books for teens about squishy sweet characters.

While not writing, SM is a readaholic and Netflix addict who regularly lives on a sustainable diet of chocolate and coffee.

​​Unapologetically dishing out HEAs for LGBTQ characters.

 

Author Links

Blog/Website

Facebook

Instagram

Bookbub

Goodreads

 

Giveaway 

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2 x paperbacks (That Feeling When or To Be Honest) (International)

3 x eBooks (That Feeling When or To Be Honest) (International)

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A MelanieM Review: In Case You Missed It (#lovehim #3) by S.M. James

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5 (caution spoiler due to trigger)

Brooks is convinced his life is totally, one hundred percent happy.

Until Darien tracks him down.

Darien was supposed to be the guy he kissed once and remembered forever, but now he’s back in Brooks’s life, with easy smiles and big ideas.

The first of which … show the homeschooled Brooks everything he’s missed out on. But as the pair work through a spring of playing catch up on life, it becomes obvious to Darien that Brooks has a secret.

And as things heat up between them, Brooks’s secret might just be Darien’s worst fear.

Because Darien has always lived in the moment.

But Brooks has always lived for the future he knows is inevitable.

When life is set to tear them apart, will love be enough to keep them together?

Several things.  First, I haven’t read the other stories in this series and now I know I must.  Secondly, I haven’t made S.M. James an author on my auto scan list and now they are.  All based on the strength of this remarkable book.

That’s In Case You Missed It (#lovehim #3) by S.M. James a story of a first time deep love, a heartbreaking reality, and the ability to find hope and brightness where you might least expect it.   This story could have gone so many ways but the author took a subject matter, Cystic fibrosis, an inherited genetic disease that has no cure and gives it a face in Brooks

I debated saying something in my review about the issue with Brook’s because it’s not listed in the synopsis.  But this is something that could be a trigger for many people, especially those who have lost children or someone to terminal illnesses, not necessarily CF, and the subject matter is dealt with realistically and bluntly. CF is a disease without a cure  (and its natural progression of an early death) that Brook has lived with his entire life. No, the story, told from both Brooks and Darien’s povs, is how their relationship changes their outlook, on their lives, a relationship, and even their future together.

It starts with their meeting.  We are there in the mix, learning about each of them as they do each other.  The secret that is a barrier between them that will crumble as their feelings grow. It’s the effects upon Darien and the reader as we grapple with the knowledge upon revelation of exactly what all the coughing has meant, what Brook’s has been trying to hide behind his “asthma”.  Honestly, I have no words for the authenticity of the dynamics between Brooks and Darien, the beauty of the “realiness” that exists here, and the pain felt over the grim physical reality of Brook’s situation.

But S.M. James gives these young men and the readers so much more.  The depth of feeling and love, the incredible families and support, and an unexpected path for them both that the reader will love.  There is no cure for CF, not in real life and certainly not in this book.  But the joys and heart found here will carry you through, as it did me and find you laughing through the tears.  So much happiness , it will amaze you.

In Case You Missed It (#lovehim #3) by S.M. James just blew me away.  Beautifully written, incredible characters, heartwarming, heartbreaking plot, and an  great ending to remember.  I highly recommend it and it’s sending me running to grab up the rest of the series.  Never has a contemporary story flown by so quickly.

Cover Artist: Story Styling Cover Designs is nice but there is an even better artist’s rendering of the drawing used for the tour of the 2 characters that I loved even better..

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 400 pages
Expected publication: February 12th 2019
Edition Language English
Series#lovehim #3

A MelanieM Review: Away in a Manger by JC Owens

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Two men from vastly different backgrounds; one city, one country. They have loved each other for over fifteen years, but the balance of their relationship has always been skewed, with Nathan desperately attempting to make Malcolm content on the ranch, when his restlessness and creative soul drives him to explore the world outside. After all this time, the differences were beginning to create a divide that seemed inevitable. Sometimes, love was not enough.

Then Malcolm’s nephew goes missing and a storm brings Nathan to his knees…

Everything they have is suddenly on the brink of disaster.

It will take a Christmas miracle to show two men that everything they are, everything they need, is tied up in a love that deserves a second chance.

Away in a Manger by JC Owens is one of those short stories that not only seems like a much larger book but one that you wish would go on to fill a series.  In just 53 pages, J.C. Owens manages to create a world of characters that feel real right  down to the horses and dogs, a ranch that  comes vividly to life, and an established relationship between two men that solidifies and deepens before our eyes.

Oh, and a missing teenager finds his way to a new home.  At Christmas.  And you don’t want to roll your eyes but embrace the spirit, the love that flows from the story and all the “miracles” it contains.

There is a depth and reality to all the characters here, that includes the horses and the dogs that play big parts in this tale.  I want to spend more time with all of them.  This story and these people cry out for a series of books.  I hope the author is listening.  Until then, spread out your holiday reading to just one more story and pick up Away in a Manger by JC Owens.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art by Kris Jacen.  Just gorgeous and perfect for the story.

Sales Links:  MLR Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 53 pages
Published December 13th 2018 by MLR Press
ASINB07LCLWQ2J

 

A MelanieM Review: Prince of Air and Darkness (The Darkest Court #1) by M.A. Grant

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Phineas Smith has been cursed with a power no one could control.

Roark Lyne is his worst enemy and his only hope.

The only human student at Mather’s School of Magick, Phineas Smith has a target on his back. Born with the rare ability to tap into unlimited magick, he finds both Faerie Courts want his allegiance—and will do anything to get it.

They don’t realize he can’t levitate a feather, much less defend the Faerie Realm as it slips into civil war.

Unseelie Prince Roark Lyne, Phineas’s roommate—and self-proclaimed arch nemesis—is beautiful and brave and a pain in the ass. Phineas can’t begin to sort through their six years of sexual tension masquerading as mutual dislike. But Roark is also the only one able to help Finn tame his magick.

Trusting Roark’s mysterious motives may be foolish; not accepting his temporary protection would be deadly.

Caught in the middle of the impending war, Phineas and Roark forge a dangerous alliance. And as the walls between them crumble, Phineas realizes that Roark isn’t the monster he’d imagined. But their growing intimacy threatens to expose a secret that could either turn the tide of the war…or destroy them both.

As a lover of fantasy, I had two thoughts upon finishing this story.  First, I wanted to immediately tell Free Dreamer she had another story to read and secondly, I bemoaned the fact that I had to wait for the next book in the series to come out.  What a gripping story!  I can’t wait to see where this saga is going because if the next tale is anywhere half as amazing as Prince of Air and Darkness, then this series is going to be one whopping adventure!

There is several elements and a couple of twists I adore here with the Fae courts that the author plays with.  While not a twist, Grant’s Fae aren’t the lovely faeries you might expect.  Instead they harken back to the Fae of old Irish mythology.  Those you don’t make bargains with, with little use for humans other than as pets.  Cruel, manipulative, beautiful, and layered.  These are the Fae of M.A. Grant and I love them.  Furthermore, in most novels the Seelie of the Summer courts tend to sway towards the “good/light” side and the Unseelie of the Winter Court towards the “bad/dark” side, here the waters are murkier.  It’s more about balance and individuals, than black and white, good and evil.

Even the torture done might not have had all the ramifications known, even to those doling out the torture.

The ley lines too, which are a common element in fantasy tales, here get a special Grant treatment which I need much more of.

With all of this as a foundation and framework, the heart of the first story is the convoluted relationship between the Prince of Air and Darkness, one of the three sons of the Queen of the Unseelie,Roark Lyne, and a  magical human, Phineas Smith.  Phin is fighting hard to learn to control his power over the ley lines, something he must do to graduate.  If he doesn’t, the consequences are dire.  For himself and his family.  Mostly for himself.

I won’t go further because that ventures into areas that give away too much information.  This is such a complicated tale that twists back on itself, with layers upon layers of secrets, that it’s such a pleasure to read and discover it for yourself.  The characters are so well done, the writing tightly constructed, so full of elements that even as you are pulled along by the events, you want to stop and go  back to examine tiny bits and pieces strewn along the way.  But of course, the pace is quick, the action wild and exhilarating.

And it all leaves you wanting more.  From what I can tell, there’s two more stories in the works.  One at least for this year.  Maybe one for each brother of the Unseelie court. That would make sense to bring the balance back into place.  However many books there will be,  I will be waiting.  If you are a lover of fantasy fiction,  pick this one up and wait with me.  I highly recommend it. Prince of Air and Darkness (The Darkest Court #1) by M.A. Grant is just fantastic!

 Cover art by Carina Press art department.  I wish Carina Press would give credit to its artists but here I think parts of this cover is a miss because it’s ravens that play a major part in the story.

Sales Links:  Carina Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: February 25th 2019 by Carina Press
ASIN B07GB7WD2G
Edition Language English

Series The Darkest Court :

Prince of Air and Darkness

The Marked Prince – to be published

The Iron Crown – to be published

A MelanieM Review: Boy Next Door (Hot Off the Ice #5) by A. E. Wasp

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Hockey superstar Joey Luciano has always been good at being whatever people needed him to be. The fans want a good-looking fast-living party boy? Enter ‘the Looch,’ Joey’s carefully created public persona. But the cracks in his mask are starting to show, and he’s begun to lose touch with who he really is. It’s going to take someone who’s been there from the very beginning, to help him find his way home.

Coach Liam O’Reilly always had a very clear picture of what his life should look like. Falling in love with the infuriating, passionate, stubborn, and endlessly fascinating boy next door was not part of the plan. But when Liam’s carefully constructed life fell apart one Christmas Eve, Joey Luciano was there to pick up the pieces. Now Liam can’t stop wanting him.

The passion blazing between them on the ice and behind closed doors could leave both of them badly burned. But through the smoke, Liam can see glimpses of a future brighter than any he’d imagined, a future worth risking his career and reputation for, if only he is brave enough to reach for it.

But Joey’s got a secret he’s keeping from everyone. If it gets out, it could be the end of everything.

I really enjoyed the Boy Next Door (Hot Off the Ice #5) by A. E. Wasp.  It has so many elements I love in a contemporary romance, starting off with hockey players and hockey coaches in love combinations.  Or just a hockey element.  That always draws me in.  Wasp also has another aspect to this series and story I adore.  Large families that support the main characters!

Families easily identifiable by location (Boston), ethnicities (Irish and Italian), long association (neighbors), and even intertwined relationships.  This extended main cast is a huge factor in connecting the reader to the character of Joey Luciano (the Italian family) and Liam O’Reilly (the Irish one),  In a totally current and hilarious format, we often see the family members communicating with each other via group text.  It’s never overdone, totally funny, and very realistic.  It’s has the feel of family and truth.  And it brought these people and their lives right into my heart.

Joey, “the Looch” Luciano, is a 25 year old  with a lot of issues. On the outside, he’s let this “Looch” character he’s created take over his life (brash, outgoing to the  extreme that it seems like he’s hogging the media and outshining his teammates.  No one is happy with him, including himself.  On the inside it’s worse.  Wasp has created Joey as a insecure person, low self esteem to the point that he seeks approval from every source and everyone without asking himself why he needs it so.  This is an enormous issue, obviously.  Not his only one. On top of this Joey is dealing with the fact that he has loved Liam since he can remember, a love that he has never looked at what that meant.  Why?  Because he shrinks from being called gay or even bisexual.  Which imo is totally misused here with regards to Joey.

Joey is someone who has lacked self examination for most of his life and it’s not until he gets involved with Liam that he smacks into some hard realities for himself.  At about 51 percent, we get these musing from Joey…

“What did people see when they looked at him? Could they tell he was having sex with a guy? Probably not. He looked as normal as Paul and Robbie. And he wasn’t gay gay. If anything he was bisexual like Liam.”

There are so many flags in those sentences that show exactly how messed up Joey is over not only his sexuality but homosexuality in general.  Being gay isn’t “normal”?  He also has issues with femme versus masc. And as is worked out down the story, Joey really doesn’t enjoy sex with women, so no, not bisexual.  Yes, some of this flags get addressed, not as many as I wished but a lot.

There are so many broken layers to Joey, it’s just one right after enough. Panic attacks, health issues, and more that need to be seriously addressed. Are all given the depth of attention I would wish or deserve? Perhaps not but they aren’t blown off either. Believable, authentic cracks in this man.  Kudos to A.E. Wasp for creating such a character.

Liam is a strong character, older by 10 years than Joey.  I liked him and their relationship but honestly wondered if the author was going to use their hot, and admittedly kinky sex life as a bandaid for all of Joey’s deep problems.  Thankfully, the  answer is no.  Wasp let me wonder about that, while I enjoyed Joey and LIam working out their relationship and then gave me everything I hoped for in the ending of this story. That included my Washington Caps winning the Stanley Cup this year!  And therapy for Joey.  Win win.

The humor here had me cackling!  Whether it’s Knock Knock jokes or Liam’s younger brother Patrick trying to get Liam to switch out his posh furniture for a huge leather sectional that all the young hockey players can come over and watch TV on saying”

“It’s the traditional furnishings of our people!”

Well, this book and dialogue crackles with fun, the knowledge of what it is like to be young, in love, or a hockey player, or to just do dumb things.  And all of the above.

Yes, plenty of angst too.

If I also have a complaint, its the actual lack of hockey.

We get headlines, sports feeds,  but  little actual ice time.  These men are passionate about ice and hockey.  So where is the time on the ice?  Where is the sense of team?

We get little of that except towards the very end in the important game.  I wish so badly we had had lots more of that action throughout the story.  Then we could understand why Joey and Liam’s actions carried the weight of the love of ice behind them that they did.  I felt that was missing because we never really saw Joey on ice for the majority of the book.  We were told about it but never actually “felt” it through the character. And I felt that was a mistake.

But did I love this story?  Yes I did.  I thought the author did a tremendous job with the characters, actualizing a man on the brink of a life change for himself and letting us travel some of the journey with him.  Scary, messy, not totally complete, a work in progress as they say.  I think Joey would agree with that and be happy.  So would Liam and the rest of the two families.

I definitely look for more in this series.  I recommend this one for all lovers of contemporary romance and hockey and even a little love of spanking!

 

Cover art: Ana Phoenix.  Nice cover but doesn’t quite get the age difference.

Buy Links – Available in Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 462 pages
Published September 21st 2018
ASINB07HL6TTW9
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHot Off the Ice #5

 

A MelanieM Review: The Werewolf on Lowre Few Lane by Bryce Bentley-Tales

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Rating: 4 .5 stars out of 5

 

Thirteen-year-old Colton and his best friend Jade spend their free time investigating a local urban legend concerning an old abandoned house in their hometown in Ireland. The run-down building is said to be haunted and some of the things they’ve seen seem to confirm it.

Colton has a crush on foreign-exchange student, Dylan, who is visiting his aunt from America. But Dylan isn’t your average American kid, and soon Colton and his friends are embroiled in more than urban legend and must find a way to save everything they know and love.

If you’re a lover of those wonderful fantasy adventures that mixed youth, growing up with both the familiar and the unknown, where wardrobes turned into doors into scary, fabulous alternate worlds and a path that the heroes took on a fated journey?  Well, here’s a tale for you! The Werewolf on Lowre Few Lane by Bryce Bentley-Tales, the first story by this author, brings together an unlikely group of 13 and 14 year olds in a small town in Ireland. We  meet the first two misfits out where clearly they have no business being, spying on the local haunted house and getting thoroughly creeped out in the process when it starts to show evidence that perhaps things aren’t as normal there as they should be.

It’s Colton, half Irish half Asian with a mother from Singapore and a dad from Ireland, and one of his best friends Jade, a wonderfully brash,intelligent girl who’s a great match for the curious Colton, although their first attempts at being low key are both spot on for their age and laughingly normal.  Thomas of the bright red hair, and surprising depths and sweet Erin come a little later.  It’s on one dark night when they are out investigating that they meet Dylan, the American foreign exchange student staying with his Aunt who lives locally.just as

Ah, how the author has all the threads needed to start weaving a marvelous supernatural fantasy tapestry!  And he does!  What an adventure! From a pack of white wolves menacing the village and local boys gone missing to Colton needing to figure out issues within himself,  low self worth and insecurity to a group that shows realistic, heartwarming amounts of  individual growth while on an epic journey!  And yes, it’s also about family and love and what that truly means to each and every preteen and grownup involved here.

One element I absolutely appreciated?  That fact that both Colton’s and Dylan’s homosexualtiy wasn’t treated as a huge deal.  Of course, they do have much large things to face throughout most of the story, that feeling comfortable with who they are becomes much easier for all of them in the end.  Perspective and all.

Was the story perfect?  No.  I needed more worldbuilding and backhistory for Dylan and his side of the family.  I definitely needed more on Weredome. More, much more books and adventures there, please!  Just the tiny glimpses we got was enough to want to go sledding through the lands on romps wild and free with the folk there.  So I’m hoping the author has more planned for this merry  troop and that house on Lowre Few Lane.   One book clearly is not enough.

The Werewolf on Lowre Few Lane by Bryce Bentley-Tales is well written, full of endearing, believable characters on quests and into adventures that keep you glued to Kindle or whatever you happen to be reading the story on.  I loved it.

I definitely recommend this story for all lovers of YA  novels and fantasy/supernatural novels. Or just lovers of fantasy fiction who are young at heart.

Cover art: Natasha Snow.   I liked parts of this cover, especially where we seem to be looking through a doorway out into a snowy world.  I think maybe it’s the font giving me issues.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

ebook
Expected publication: October 29th 2018 by NineStar Press (first published July 9th 2018)
ISBN139781949340075
Edition LanguageEnglish