A MelanieM Review: In Wild Lemon Groves by Selina Kray

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

A telltale knock on a quiet winter night is a sound no husband wants to hear.

Sébastien Osaki has spent the past three years surviving the loss of his beloved Henry. When Seb lands in Amalfi, Italy, for their would-have-been tenth-anniversary trip, he’s haunted by the memory of the man he loved. Following Henry’s notebook leads him to some breathtaking coastal views but also right back to his despair. Seb’s there to get his groove back, not let the past wrong-foot him at every turn.

Enter Andrea Sorrentino, chauffeur, part-time pet whisperer, a Bernini statue in a soccer tee and tight shorts. From the moment Andrea picks Seb up from the airport, he knows just how to soothe Seb’s case of the sulks. But Seb isn’t sure he’s ready for Mr. Right Now, let alone a potential Mr. Right, in a part of the world where all roads lead back to Henry.

Can sun, sea, and eating your weight in pasta mend a tragedy-stricken heart? Will wine-soaked Amalfi nights and long walks through lemon groves work their magic on Seb’s wounded soul? Or will he slink back into the shell of his grief once his grand Italian adventure is over?

Sometimes a story just resonates with you and In Wild Lemon Groves by Selina Kray did just that with me.  From the location to the characters everything about this book is staying with me, taking me back to places, scenes, and people.  Reading this story became an almost visceral experience, my mouth watering through meals of local seafood, pasta, bread, and the ever present Granita al limone, my muscles ache in memory of the tortuous climbs up and down ancient steep stairways Seb walks worthy of mountain goats, and my mind and heart are envious of the sea, night stars and view that Amalfi affords the fortunate that visit and live there.

And while I’m luxuriating in all things Amalfi, I’m also deep into the characters of Sébastien Osaki and Andrea Sorrentino.  Seb grabs at your heart immediately as the point of view of this story.  On a personal journey of grief, loss, and just maybe recovery, he’s gone to Amalfi with his husband’s Henry’s travel journal, retracing Henry’s steps as Henry’s requested.  Henry was a travel writer and although he had been there ten years earlier, this time they would have gone together.  Now three years after Henry’s death, Seb is trying to find a way to move forward.   It’s a realistic, and deeply moving portrait of a man who still mourns his husband and has been mired in grief.  And you love Seb, he’s intelligent, self  depreciating, and kind.

Andrea Sorrentino is equally well drawn.  Layered, he starts off a bit “typical local Italian” but the joke is on us. Because that’s exactly the role he is playing up for the tourists.  He’s exactly…well, I won’t spoil that little revelation for you. He’s lovely, multidimensional, and  someone we can all connect with (and do).

Also, theirs is not a instant love relationship which I absolutely appreciated.  This is a realistic HFN.  It has to be because although they recognize they want to see where their feelings go, too much is new and there is also much that needs to be settled for them both.  A mature and adult ending to a mature and adult story!  Be still my heart!  It does let me beg the author for a sequel, however, so we can see how Seb and Andrea are doing down the road.  Pretty please?

And not  just Seb because there’s a whole cast of characters to care for here, including the “girls”, three woman staying at the Villa who became Seb’s  friends, listening boards, drinking and cards buddies and everything else.  Plus Lucy the manager, Andrea’s family…well, I could go  on and on….and I wish the book had too.  How I adored this story!

If you love contemporary romance, do not let this one pass you by.  It’s HFN but join with me in asking the author for a sequel.  Seb and Andrea cry out for their HEA!  In the meantime, I highly recommend In Wild Lemon Groves by Selina Kray.

Cover Design: Tiferet Design.  The cover is simply beautiful and one of my favorites with  Seb in outline and the Amalfi coastline so vivid below.  Perfect.

Sales Link:  Amazon Kindle |  Universal Buy Link: books2read.com/WildLemonGroves

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 212 pages
Published February 8th 2018 by Selina Kray
ASINB079329DCF
Edition LanguageEnglish

Review Tour : In Wild Lemon Groves by Selina Kray (excerpt and giveaway)

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Universal Buy Link: books2read.com/WildLemonGroves
 
Length: 55,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Tiferet Design
 
Blurb
 

A telltale knock on a quiet winter night is a sound no husband wants to hear.


Sébastien Osaki has spent the past three years surviving the loss of his beloved Henry. When Seb lands in Amalfi, Italy, for their would-have-been tenth-anniversary trip, he’s haunted by the memory of the man he loved. Following Henry’s notebook leads him to some breathtaking coastal views but also right back to his despair. Seb’s there to get his groove back, not let the past wrong-foot him at every turn.


Enter Andrea Sorrentino, chauffeur, part-time pet whisperer, a Bernini statue in a soccer tee and tight shorts. From the moment Andrea picks Seb up from the airport, he knows just how to soothe Seb’s case of the sulks. But Seb isn’t sure he’s ready for Mr. Right Now, let alone a potential Mr. Right, in a part of the world where all roads lead back to Henry.


Can sun, sea, and eating your weight in pasta mend a tragedy-stricken heart? Will wine-soaked Amalfi nights and long walks through lemon groves work their magic on Seb’s wounded soul? Or will he slink back into the shell of his grief once his grand Italian adventure is over?

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words 5 star review here.

Excerpt
 

Scent of sea and palm,

Craggy and ancient, a world

Bathed in saffron

– #17, In Blue Solitudes, S. Wilson-Osaki


“A. S’okay.” Bleary eyed and bone weary, Sébastien stared at the sign for two minutes before it registered. He kept his distance, glanced around the bushel of sun-ripened cab drivers and chauffeurs waiting to squeeze every last euro out of their charges, but no.


This was him. Smile so bright it blinded, like glare off a windshield. Footballer’s frame decked in team colors and too-tight shorts. Face Bernini could have sculpted. Hair black as an oil slick, greased into a neat, perfect slope. His tortoiseshell eyes twinkled in Seb’s direction when he took a cautious step forward.


Signor S’okay?”


“Osaki. Yes.”


“Ah, Osokay.”


“Osaki. O-sak-i. Japanese.”


“You fly from Japan?”


“No. Canada. Montreal.”


Si, si, Signor Osaki. Sebastiano.”


Seb opened his mouth to correct him but nodded instead. “That’s me.”


“Andrea Sorrentino.” He thumped a hand on his chest. “You want I take your bag?”


“Uh…”


Before he could decide, the driver clacked down the handle on his extra-fee-heavy suitcase and hefted it under his arm like an unruly toddler. “Vieni, vieni.” He dove into the crowd before Seb could get his bearings.


Spotting the clean line to the exit, Seb set his own pace, his tipsy head still mired in a post-flight fugue. Thirty-two sleepless hours, plus a morning spent tracing and retracing his path through the labyrinthine halls of the Rome airport to make his connection, left him listless. With exhaustion but also nerves. What had he been thinking, shipping off to a country he’d never been to and where he didn’t speak the language?


The answer, of course, was Henry. Who should have been there, propping him up with his rock climber’s arms, but also with his wonderment, the kid-in-a-candy store way he’d seen the world. Henry had puffed all his energy and excitement and fire into Seb’s lead balloon and—in his latest impossible feat—made him fly.


Clutching his backpack like a life preserver, Seb practiced his deep breathing as he waded through the stream of travellers. More of a trickle, really, now that he was in the flow. One foot in front of the other, he reminded himself, looking for a focal point. A taut jean-clad ass, with a carefree swagger all its own, lured him the rest of the way. Seb staggered out of the airport terminal…


… into a whole new world. The hazy afternoon sun swaddled him like a warm blanket. Ripe with the scent of palm trees and petrol, the parking lot was more social gathering than frantic hub, with drivers chatting, smoking, and laughing as they waited for clueless travellers to wander by. Stoic mountains—silent sentries at the gate to paradise—shadowed the horizon, rings of mist crowning their crater heads.


Woozy with relief, Seb lowered his lids to half-mast and basked in the moment. This was Henry’s world. He was safe.


A hulking black SUV screeched to a halt in front of him, blocking the view. Before Seb could decide whether to be terrified or outraged, his driver slid open the side door, beckoning him into his luxury air-conditioned chariot. Too polite to give in to the urge to collapse across the seats and zonk out, Seb stumbled into the nearest chair. His hands shook as he fought with the seat belt. Something about that fateful click brought the reality back home—he was trapped in a jet-fuelled coffin with a man who could barely pronounce his name, soon to be zipping down a highway where speed limits weren’t even guidelines, thousands of miles from home, by a world-famous volcano that once scorched everything for miles—


Hand on his knee. There was a hand on his knee.


Signor Osakay? You want I get you espresso? Water? Food? Is no trouble.”


“No.” Seb shut his eyes, sucked in all the air he could. “I… I’m just tired. Didn’t sleep on the plane.” When he opened them again, he met soft eyes shimmering with kindness. His exhalation came easy. So did his smile. What was his name again? Andrea Sorrentino. A gentle name, full of music.


Granita al limone. Un momento.” A squeeze to Seb’s knee, and he hopped out the door.

 



February 8 – The Novel Approach
February 9 – Booklove
February 10 – Gay Book Reviews
February 12 – MM Good Book Reviews
February 13 – Hearts On Fire Reviews, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
February 14 – My Fiction Nook
February 16 – Love Bytes Reviews
February 17 – Open Mind For A Different View
February 19 – Mirrigold: Mutterings & Musings, Sarandipity Book Reviews

 

Author Bio

Selina Kray is the nom de plume of an author and English editor. Professionally she has covered all the artsy-fartsy bases, having worked in a bookstore, at a cinema, in children’s television, and in television distribution, up to her latest incarnation as a subtitle editor and grammar nerd (though she may have always been a grammar nerd). A self-proclaimed geek and pop culture junkie who sometimes manages to pry herself away from the review sites and gossip blogs to write fiction of her own, she is a voracious consumer of art with both a capital and lowercase A.


Selina’s aim is to write genre-spanning romances with intricate plots, complex characters, and lots of heart. Whether she has achieved this goal is for you, gentle readers, to decide. At present she is hard at work on future novels at home in Montreal, Quebec, with her wee corgi serving as both foot warmer and in-house critic.


If you’re interested in receiving Selina’s newsletter and being the first to know when new books are released, plus getting sneak peeks at upcoming novels, please sign up at her website: www.selinakray.net



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A MelanieM Review: Finders Keepers by N.R. Walker

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Needing a change of scene, Griffin Burke moves from Brisbane to Coolum Beach to start a new job. The beautiful white sand, aqua-coloured ocean, blue skies, and summer breezes are everything he longs for. What he finds is a mud-covered dog, lost and hungry, with a nametag and a phone number.

Dane Hughes is stuck in Surfers Paradise at a week-long work conference when he gets a phone call from his distraught mother. His dog, his fur baby, Wicket, has run away. Unable to leave and feeling helpless and miserable, he gets a text from a guy. “I think I found your dog…”

Griffin and Dane start talking, and Griffin agrees to look after Wicket until Dane can collect him. With a few days left before his new job starts, Griffin takes Wicket on some coastal adventures and sends Dane photos of their fun, and so the start of something new and kind of wonderful begins.

Griffin might have moved to Coolum in search of a new life, but what he finds is so much more. What he gets to keep just might take some four-legged help.

Ever see a cover and know immediately you must, must read that story?  That, without ever having to read the blurb, something (in this case an beyond adorable dog and his master) grabs you by your ever lovin’ romantic heart? Finders Keepers did that and then doubled down with a blurb that had me all blubbery.  As a dog owner, one of the worst fears is losing your dog…trust me.  So I could instantly transport myself into Dane Hughes’ shoes and emotional turmoil when he finds out that Wicket has escaped from his Mom’s house.  I teared up in empathy. Yep, NR Walker had me hooked before I even started the story.

Oh what a story Finders Keepers turned out to be!  The very definition of heartwarming, and romantic, and utterly real.   This is a book I will be sinking myself into over and over again.  I’ve definitely found myself a new comfort read in Finders Keepers and a new favorite couple or family, because that includes Wicket, a small dog with tons of personality.

The special wonder of this romance is the manner in which  NR Walker has it conducted.  Through a series of texts and pics between the men…the connection between them being Wicket, that irresistible canine cupid.  This format works for them and us as it intimately lets us into both  men’s lives and thoughts.  We get to know them as they get to know each other.  And their anticipation becomes ours as well when the time arrives to actually meet.  How my heart thumped wildly too.

One of the many things that I have always loved about NR Walker’s stories is her superb characterizations,  That continues here.  It’s not just Griffin Burke and Dane Hughes, two men who meet over a dog but understand each other on so many levels, including their jobs.  No it’s Bernice and K, who for me are also main characters.  Vibrant, real, by turns hilarious and poignant, these two memorable individuals almost cry out for their own story to be told.  I love them with equal enthusiasm.  Trust me you will too.

Finders Keepers can make you laugh, hiccup with nervous anticipation, sniffle with the thought of loss, and make your heart swell with the sheer amounts of love and happiness that bubble over throughout the story, especially at the end.  That’s what I call great storytelling and a wonderful romance.  I’ll be rereading this when I need a pickerupper.  But I highly recommend it now for everyone who hasn’t found it the first time.  You are in for a real treat!

Cover art: Humble .  I adore this  cover.  Eye catching, heartwarming!  A Hug in cover art.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Expected publication: February 2nd 2018 (first published January 31st 2018)
Original TitleFinders Keepers
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: On Davis Row by N.R. Walker

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Nearing the end of a suspended jail sentence should unlock a brighter future for CJ Davis, only the chip on his shoulder is as hard to shift as his bad reputation. Born into a family of career criminals who live down Davis Road, an address the cops have dubbed Davis Row, his name alone is like a rap sheet that makes optimism impossible.

Brand-new parole officer Noah Huxley is determined to see the good in men like CJ. After all, he knows firsthand that bad things can happen to good people. His colleagues mock his doe-eyed optimism, but Noah soon sees CJ’s bad attitude and bravado are weapons he uses to keep people at a distance.

Both men know one simple mistake can change a life forever. At first glance, they might seem to be polar opposites. Yet underneath, they’re not that different at all.

On Davis Row is another heartwarming, excellently written novel by N.R. Walker.  CJ Davis is born carrying a name that marks him as a criminal for the community that he lives in.  It doesn’t matter that he’s trying to escape all that name means or the people he comes from,  Just the  name itself brands him and beats him down.  He’s a Davis.  And  one small mistake costs him dearly and sends him off to prison where another would have gotten off.

Walker lets us into the heart and mind of  CJ the man who wanted hope and a future and found hell and a prison instead.  Now out he’s back working for the only man, outside of his Pops to offer him help and friendship, the man who runs the carshop where he worked growing up.  CJ is out but his situation is much the same. Until Noah Huxley comes into his life.

NR Walker’s stories are realistic and gritty as they can be hopeful and loving.  That’s a careful balance to maintain, especially with dealing with the subject matters here.  The author can’t gloss over the familial abuse, criminal family history, and prison past of CJ.  It haunts his every step.  Plus Noah’s work as a parole officer throws him up against the very prison system CJ just came out of and the man who sent him there.  You need to believe in the system and CJ’s family for CJ’s foundation to be real.   And it does.

But you also need the hope, the ability for a second chance for CJ to feel just as believable and NR Walker gives us that as well in the relationship that slowly builds up between Noah and CJ, despite all of CJ’s best defensive best efforts.

This is a marvelous story, just the type of NR Walker tale I love.  I just get so emotionally invested in these men and their HEA that when the end finally swoops in, it still manages to take me by surprise.  I’m overjoyed, sad to see another NR Walker story end, and start looking forward to another.

And yes, I highly recommend this one.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

29 pages
Published November 27th 2017

A MelanieM Review: A Viking For Yule by Jamie Fessenden

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

AFTER SAM’S GRANDFATHER nearly died in a blizzard one year ago, Sam has panic attacks in snow storms. So where does his friend Jackie propose they spend the holidays, as the last stop on their trip around the world?

Iceland. Of course.

But there’s more in Iceland than snow. When Arnar, a handsome Icelandic man, offers to escort Sam on a several-day tour of the beautiful countryside, they soon find themselves drawn to each other. But Arnar is firmly rooted in his native soil, and Sam has to return to the US in a week to care for his ailing grandfather.

Suddenly, yule can’t last nearly long enough.

A Viking for Yule by Jamie Fessenden is actually a sequel to the author’s very likable holiday story, A Cop for Christmas.  But honestly, this is the story I absolutely adore.  At the front?  It  absolutely redeems a wishy washy character so bland he threatened to fade into the snow in the first one.  That would be Sam.  Here he become a fully fleshed adult, someone we can finally connect with away from his Gramps.  We get to see the man,  watch how the gift of independence the trip lays upon him enables him to enjoy himself, the places and people, and grow as a person.  It’s not that Sam actually changes but more our acceptance of him and that’s a really great treat.

Next up is Arnar, the man who helps to act as Sam’s guide when Sam’s “Auntie Mame” and her dear friend take the time to make their own schedule.  Arnar, has his own issues having recently broken up with his partner. He’s not entirely happy to be involved with the “tourist” that his “aunt” has brought with her on her visit to see his mom.  I loved Arnar. He’s a man of depth and deep love of his country, a memorable character all around who sees something wonderful in Sam.

However, it’s Christmas time in Iceland and, while freezing, holiday celebrations are everywhere.  Which brings me to the third marvelous element of this story.  The author’s clear love and familiarity with Iceland.

This is as much a love story to Iceland as it is Sam and Arnar’s.  Sam and Arnar travel to many locations in Iceland, ones often famous for their Christmas markets, some for their geographical formations, and others for their religious significance. These travels are folded into the story with an ease that’s remarkable and a fondness that radiates from every scene.  Iceland is truly another main character here and it helps make the story.

Everything about A Viking for Yule is lovely. From the romance, the characters right to the ending, I just loved it.  You will too.  It’s not just for the holidays but one I could read any time of the year.

Cover Art by Reese Dante is perfect for the characters and storyline.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published November 29th 2017
ASIN B077TLWLZ4

NOTE: Though this novel includes characters from “A Cop for Christmas,” it is a standalone adventure. It isn’t necessary to read “A Cop for Christmas” first.

A MelanieM Advent Release Day Review: Welcome Home, Soldier by Deanna Wadsworth

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Clay and Daniel fell in love as enlisted men during Desert Shield, but Don’t Ask Don’t Tell meant they had to keep it secret. After Clay’s convoy was ambushed, PTSD changed him, and their relationship ended in a horrible fight on Christmas Eve.

Twenty-five years later, they’ve reconnected on Facebook, and Clay finds out Daniel will be alone on Christmas Eve. Impulsively, he sets out for Daniel’s hometown of Gilead, Ohio—where Daniel is now the mayor—to surprise him with a visit. But a blizzard strikes and Clay wrecks his car. All hope of seeing Daniel is lost—until a mysterious old man named Nick offers Clay a ride. The weight of past wounds and the scars of war might make their reunion awkward, but Clay is willing to take the risk to win back his lost love. Despite a lifetime of disappointing holidays, Clay hopes that this soldier is finally coming home for Christmas.

I don’t know if it  was the mood I was in or if I’m just such a sap for Christmas stories like these but Welcome Home, Soldier by Deanna Wadsworth  just hits all my buttons for Christmas stories. It has the second chance at love after a long period of time, a blizzard and a wonderful mystical element. Yes, even a dog.  I just loved it right down to that cover.

Two men love each other deeply as young men during the Army during Desert Shield.  It’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell but most importantly it’s the times and their youth, and then the changes in Clay when he’s the only one to survive an ambush of his  team.  They can’t survive as a  couple and  split up.  Now it’s twenty-five years later and Christmas Eve and they are about to reconnect.

Deanna Wadsworth has done a remarkable job in creating a story that manages to seem both  down to earth and yet at the same time wraps both of these older, worn men in some undefinable magical glow.  She gives you that awkwardness as they feel their way back towards each other as all those years apart, trying to see if there’s anything still there. It feels very real. But the author also manages to bring a Christmas magic to her story, a mystical element that makes anything possible, including the second chance at love for these two lonely men who have always loved each other.

Boy, was I sniffling away at parts, enjoying myself immensely.  Yes, this story was clearly written for me.   I just loved it.  Including that ending!  If you are just as sappy as I am, trust me Welcome Home, Soldier by Deanna Wadsworth is just the Christmas story for you.

Cover art by L.C. Chase is wonderful.  The artist captures them as young men before the breakup. But has the dog from the present times.  I just adore this cover.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 76 pages
Published December 1st 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640803022
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Advent Release Day Review: Red Popcorn Strings and Gumball Rings by Nell Iris

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Christmas is coming, and young couple Casey and Ellis are very much in love. Unfortunately, they’re also the definition of dirt poor, and they don’t have the money for nonessentials like decorations. Or a turkey. Or gifts. Between the recent death of Casey’s beloved momma and Ellis’s estrangement from his family, all they have is each other.

When Ellis finds the saddest-looking Christmas tree south of the Mason-Dixon Line thrown away outside his workplace and brings it home to Casey, things look up. Life is still a struggle, but wealth isn’t always measured in money, and what seems worthless to others is often invaluable to the people who love it.

Stories of poor people in love striving to find  gifts to give each other is a staple at this time of year, dating back to that classic story, The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry.  In Red Popcorn Strings and Gumball Rings Nell Iris takes that familiar, poignant theme into a tin can of a worn down trailer, home to Casey and Ellis and somehow, Iris makes it feel,  if not new, then remarkable again.

That Casey and Ellis are almost survival poor is obvious through the author’s descriptions without coming right out and saying they are close to starving.  Yet Ellis is the embodiment of the spirit of the season, ebullient even, with songs pouring out of him, long red hair swinging about his thin shoulders.  As we watch the joy of Ellis in the Christmas mood, we also get glimpses into the harshness of his upbringing and the pain of his past.  It explains so much about his current conditions even as his buoyant attitude lifts us into loving him and his outlook.

The arrival of Casey brings the love of Ellis’ life into the picture and will explain the rest of their history together.  It comes with a snips of recollections, small scenes, and a smattering of moments of reality clashing down on their heads.  We see that even Casey is hard-pressed to stay afloat financially for them both, yet his love is solid.  Nell Iris’ narrative and characters have both a believable grittiness to them and yet a glow as well.  You can feel that tiny trailer leaking any warmth they can cobble together,  that sad tree that Casey’s boss deemed unworthy now a star inside, making Ellis’ Christmas all the brighter.

I defy any of you not to be blowing into the  hankies by the dozen by now.  I was….because the story and the characters deserved it.  They caught at my heart.  I was committed to their happiness on whatever scale it was.  And boy, did I hope that all their futures may be bright.

Such a wonderful story.  Sniffle.

Red Popcorn Strings and Gumball Rings by Nell Iris is one Advent story I will be holding close to my heart this year.  So too the characters of Ellis and Casey.  I would love to see them back again in another story to see where they  are standing after the new year.Until then, here’s a story you definitely should pick up and add to your holiday TBR list!

Cover by Paul Richmond is the wonderful Advent Stocking Stuffer series cover, full of humor and good cheer.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published December 1st 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN13 9781640802940
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Watermelon Kisses by Freddy Mackay (Mischief holiday story)

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Rating: 5 stars plus out of 5

Life hasn’t been easy for Amir since he fled Iran after a brutal imprisonment. The trauma experienced at the hands of the guards left a dark spot on his soul. The one constant in his life since relocating to Chicago has been his lover—now husband—Esmail, whose steadfast love and support has soothed his wounded heart.

​But this Shab-e Yalda, Amir wants to be the one giving his husband something special, because even after the darkest nights, the sun will rise again.

Really, Watermelon Kisses by Freddy Mackay  is one of those stories that makes me want to run outside, grabbing people to say “have you read this story? You must read this story…”.  Because it’s so powerful, it’s message of hope and love so enduring and impactful that I want to send it out there as a holiday gift to everyone.

And it starts out so gently, and like the gentle ripples spreading across a lake, you have no idea of the power of the swift currents waiting for you just underneath the initial surface you see, waiting to sweep you emotionally under.

You first meet Amir when he’s shopping for Shab-e Yalda.  Freddy Mackay gives a description of the religious holiday and the dishes they eat at the back of the story.  Don’t miss those.  But they aren’t needed to read the story through…the first time. Or the second. Or even third. From the manner in which you meet him and the way he’s handling the shopping, you know that there’s something wrong.  But the revelations about Amir unfold slowly, heartbreakingly, with hints and then facts that will crush you… little peeks into his  past history and horrors over the course of the story.  At points I had to stop because I just   not have enough tissues nearby to go on.  But go on you must.  Because this beautiful story is about surviving the dark, waiting for the light, the sunrise to arrive bringing hope and love.

Mackay’s writing is exquisite.  Each word, each sentence is precisely right…forming a picture in your mind and heart of the past, present, and finally, what the future may hold for Amir and husband Esmail.  Waiting for the golden rays of the  sunrise to put them back together again reminded me of the ancient Japanese art of mending broken pottery with a special lacquer dusted with powdered gold. Called Kintsugi which means golden repair because you can see the seams of gold glinting in the cracks of the newly whole pottery,  the sun shining down on Amir and Esmail seemed to help seal and mend the broken man huddled in the darkness.  So powerful, so enduring….this is a story that you will want to reread often.  It will be in the top stories of 2017 for me and I want everyone to go out and read it immediately!  That’s how highly I recommend Watermelon Kisses by Freddy Mackay.

Cover art is wonderful containing an important element of the story but nothing can really do justice to this story.

Sales Links:  Mischief Corner Books | Amazon

Book Details:

First Expected publication: November 29th 2017 by Mischief Corner Books, LLC
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Ghost (Executioners #1) by JM Dabney

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Gideon Jane earned the name Ghost for his reclusive nature when he joined a group of guys in Powers, Georgia in a band called Executioners. It had been his way of settling into small town life after living in New York for the past twenty years. He loved the band and his small organic farm. What he didn’t love was being single, but it appeared it was his new reality. He didn’t want his ex back, although he did want something. What that was eluded him until the evening he walked into Nightingale’s Books.

Small town girl Harper Sage knew pain, and she’d lived with it—she had the scars both mental and physical to prove it. It would’ve been easier to hop in her car to find safety and anonymity, but Harper stayed to prove she was stronger than hurled fists and bruising prejudice. She found herself within the safety of a close-knit group of rough bikers and bar bouncers. That didn’t mean it was all perfect.

What’s a girl to do when she craves normalcy and acceptance: she just smiles. Choices are made, some with dire consequences and others that bring her closer to her dream. Will she make the right decision or finally discover escape is her best option?

Author Note: This book contains scenes of violence and descriptions of self-harm.

I was wavering about reading this story as I have a huge stack of books to read but something about that cover and synopsis reached out to me.  That and the fact that the times we live in has made it so important that people in the LGBTQIA spectrum be made to feel loved and normal and as part of society as everyone else. Ghost helps highlight the lives that many have been made to live as it has a main character who has been marginalized and abused for most of her life.

So I picked this up and dived into a world of pain, self abuse, recovery and love.  It’s a remarkable story, full of characters that have such staying power that I’m still mulling over how to write this review even now.  Told from Gideon’s (aka Ghost) and Harper’s perspective, an emotionally gripping, deeply moving story unfolds. From Harper, we see her pain, her self-harm, her journey from boy to woman and the trauma inflicted by others on her for that choice.  This story does contain graphic descriptions of violence as Harper chose to inflict harm on herself through bad choices in men, one horror of a man in particular.  The scenes are vivid and carry a huge emotional impact.  If this is a trigger for you be warned.  We are there inside Harper’s heart and mind, we feel how little she believes she deserves in life and how far to the ground her self esteem has fallen.  Prepare for your own heart to be as bruised and broken as Harper.

Then there’s Gideon Jane, known as Ghost because his presence around town is so fleeting.  He’s moved to this small town needing peace, quiet, friends and a new start after a long-term relationship destructed.  Gideon is beautiful and layered, moving solidly and quietly into Harper’s life like a balm, a wonderful large, perhaps chubby (his ex’s words) rock of a man.  He recognizes how wounded she is and how slowly he has to move, winning her trust inch by inch.  It’s done through communication and by actions, the reader falling in love with Gideon along with Harper.

J.M. Dabney has also chosen to have Harper not undergo gender reassignment surgery and Harper talks/muses about her emotional choice to live with body dysmorphic disorder and what it’s cost her.  Everything about this aspect of the story is handled realistically and with extreme sensitivity.  The scars that line Harper’s body are extensive.  How she views her body image and how that changes over the course of the story will bring tears to your eyes.

There is so many layers here.  The romance between Gideon and Harper is tender and slow moving as it should be.  There is the element of her abusive ex who is still around. Plus Dabney gives us a town of amazing characters whose stories we need to be told.  I hope that Joker’s story will be the second to arrive in this series.  As a character who pulled on my heart he was on a level with Harper with his angst and trauma filled past history.

The only reason Ghost did not reach a full 5 star rating is that I felt it wrapped up too quickly for everything that had gone on before. Had the author spread out the ending as she had the rest of the story, this novel would have reached perfection.  As it was it came amazingly close.

Ghost (Executioners #1) by JM Dabney is a deeply moving love story.  Its contemporary in it’s subject and timing.  But timeless in its message and beauty.  I highly recommend it but please heed the warnings.

Cover Design: Winterheart Design.  I love this cover.  It’s a perfect representation of Gideon and the story. Perfection!

Sales Links:  Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble PayHip | KOBO

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 157 pages
Published July 18th 2017 by Hostile Whispers Press, LLC
ASINB073WH7WFJ
URL https://www.jmdabneyauthor.com/executioners
SeriesExecutioners #1 settingGeorgia (United States)

Book Blitz & Giveaway Tour for JM Dabney’s Ghost (Executioners #1)

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Cover Design: Winterheart Design
 
Length: 40,000 words
 
Blurb
 

Gideon Jane earned the name Ghost for his reclusive nature when he joined a group of guys in Powers, Georgia in a band called Executioners. It had been his way of settling into small town life after living in New York for the past twenty years. He loved the band and his small organic farm. What he didn’t love was being single, but it appeared it was his new reality. He didn’t want his ex back, although he did want something. What that was eluded him until the evening he walked into Nightingale’s Books.

Small town girl Harper Sage knew pain, and she’d lived with it—she had the scars both mental and physical to prove it. It would’ve been easier to hop in her car to find safety and anonymity, but Harper stayed to prove she was stronger than hurled fists and bruising prejudice. She found herself within the safety of a close-knit group of rough bikers and bar bouncers. That didn’t mean it was all perfect.

What’s a girl to do when she craves normalcy and acceptance: she just smiles. Choices are made, some with dire consequences and others that bring her closer to her dream. Will she make the right decision or finally discover escape is her best option?

 

Author Bio

J.M. Dabney is a multi-genre author who writes mainly LGBT romance and fiction. She lives with a constant diverse cast of characters in her head. No matter their size, shape, race, etc. she lives for one purpose alone, and that’s to make sure she does them justice and give them the happily ever after they deserve. J.M. is dysfunction at its finest and she makes sure her characters are a beautiful kaleidoscope of crazy. There is nothing more she wants from telling her stories than to show that no matter the package the characters come in or the damage their pasts have done, that love is love. That normal is never normal and sometimes the so-called broken can still be amazing.



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