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 Stella Review: Jingle Spell by Chris Ethan

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RATING 3 out of 5 stars

It’s the most horrible time of the year.
Smooches under mistletoes and tacky reindeer decorations.
Newly single, Davey has had enough of wasting his love and having his heart broken. Better to be single, he decides. No more dates. No more falling in love. No more dreaming of happy ever afters. Those are for movies.
He’s resolute.
And then Avery steps into his life, bringing care, compassion, and tenderness in his path.
Davey’s so tempted to hope again. But can an online date and a brief encounter turn into anything other than an ephemeral sexual encounter?
Is there a future for them? Will Avery stay? And most importantly, can Davey bear to offer up his heart to the season’s love—just one more time? 

Jingle Spell was the first book I read by this new to me author, Chris Ethan. I have to say I am a sucker for Christmas stories and the cover was too adorable to resist.

This is a very cute and simple novella, easy to read and light. A lovely way to spend a couple of hours before bedtime. Nothing complicated in the plot, just what I need in a holiday reading. Just two persons, Davey and Avery, who meet and find each other interesting,  and later realize something more could happen with a future together made of new memories (and pictures, you’ll understand if you will decide to read jingle Spell) could be built. And what conquered me was that I really was able to see them still together in the coming years.

I  recommend this new release by Chris Ethan, I will surely check the author’s other works.

The cover art by Ethereal Ealain is well done and so into the Christmas spirit and it fits the plot. I was gone as soon as I saw it.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 73 pages

Published December 7th 2016 by Dream Trek Imprint

ASIN B01N6BVH09

Edition Language English

An Alisa Review: Silent Night by Shawn Bailey

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

 

silent-night-by-shawn-baileySometimes it takes a little divine intervention to make someone see the error of their ways.

 

Hunter Beams is only eighteen years old but he’s tired of the world. Orphaned since birth, moved from one foster home to another and then gets fired from a minimum wage job just because he wouldn’t sleep with the boss. He is tired of getting bullied because of his sexuality. Nothing about him is normal not his size, his looks or his damn hair. Losing his job is the last straw. He is just going to end it all because he is just too damn tired of trying to survive.

 

Thirty year old Donte Womac has it all…a comfy townhouse in Chelsea, an active social life, a stable of cars and a cushy job. Then tragedy strikes and a young man lay dying in his arms. Then Donte discovers that all the money in the world can’t help a person who wants to kill himself.

 

This story was heartwarming and shows that when you meet the right person at the right time then everything will eventually work out.  Unfortunately Donte will have to help Hunter heal before they can really see if they are right for each other.  Hunter is so adorably sweet and innocent; he just hasn’t had an easy road in life and doesn’t see a reason to continue.  Donte will do anything to show Hunter that life is worth living, but doesn’t know what to do when Hunter doesn’t want him to spend his wealth on him and isn’t impressed by it.

 

This story is told from both characters’ points of view so we get to see them a bit more clearly.  They both come from such different backgrounds and Hunter doesn’t want to take from Donte, but really Donte is almost as innocent as Hunter is emotionally.  I loved both of these characters and how they interacted with each other and the side characters and in the end this book gave me the warm and fuzzy I was looking for when I went to read it.

 

Cover art is very nice and give great visuals for both of the characters.

 

Sales Links: MLR Press | Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

ebook, 150 pages

Published: December 15, 2016 by MLR Press

Edition Language: English

A VVivacious Advent Calendar Review: Ranger Station Haven (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by S.A. Stovall

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Rating: 4 Stars out of 5
 
ranger-station-haven-by-s-a-stovallCarter is a regular Christmas grump while Owen is the polar opposite. They are both federal park rangers who are spending their Christmas in the Voyageurs National Park Ranger Station when they get a call informing them about six children who are out in the woods with a storm headed their way.
 
As Carter and Owen rescue the kids, Owen gets badly injured. This Christmas is definitely not looking up for Owen but looks like the kids they rescued might just spread around enough holiday cheer to convince even Carter to join in on Christmas.
 
I liked this story. It was an established couple romance and I loved the familiarity and warmth of love these two characters shared. Also Owen and Carter took shape almost instantaneously making this story very appealing. This story focuses on Owen and Carter and sees them embark on a new journey in their life.
 
This story was a pretty unique Christmas story. I loved how Owen and Carter end up celebrating their Christmas with Justin, Casey, Crystal, Melissa, Luke and Edmund. I loved the kids, they were just so precious.
 
I adored Carter, the story is from his perspective and I loved how he left his grouchiness behind to make Christmas special and truly memorable for the kids and Owen.
 
This is a nice warm holiday read with a bit of twist what with a rescue operation on Christmas Eve followed by a very special Christmas morning.
 
Cover Art by Paul Richmond. I loved the cover.
Sales Links
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Book Details:
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ebook, 42 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635331927 (ISBN13: 9781635331929)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Saving Jason by K.C. Wells

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

saving-jason-by-kc-wellsI have to be very honest here—I most definitely chose to read this book because of the cover. I’m not often motivated by covers; I’m more likely to buy based on an author or blurb. In this case, I got it all: stunning cover; gorgeous silver fox; sweet, smart, sexy younger man; an author I love; and a story that fulfills its promise. Happy holidays to me!

David is a marketing exec at a large law firm. Constantly oversleeping, his favorite stop on the way to work is a coffee shop where he gets incredible bagels and perfect coffee, along with a good look at the shop’s silver-haired, sexy owner. When he is assigned the task of finding a homeless shelter his firm can adopt for promotion, he immediately thinks of his silver fox—the man who he’s seen passing coffee and a bagel to men who are apparently homeless. If his suspicion is correct, this is the man who can help.

Jason is a divorced father of one, and though he’s happy he finally came out to his family, he spends most of his time alone, not having gotten up the nerve to pursue another man. But this David guy is so cute and personable that he’s happy to accept the challenge of helping him and having something, and someone, new in his life.

Even after Jason introduces David to the staff at the shelter where he volunteers his time, the two find reasons to spend time together and quickly develop a friendship. Over the course of the few months between their initial meeting and the holiday season, they find that friendship has developed into a relationship, which from Jason’s perspective, fulfills his dreams of having a man in his life. The fact that it’s a younger man who is smart and sexy and kisses like there’s no tomorrow is a huge bonus.

Over time it’s noticeable to his staff and son and other friends that Jason is no longer the sad and lonely man he once was. And David couldn’t be happier than when he’s in Jason’s arms. Because their attraction developed slowly and didn’t leap into immediate sex, this story turned out to be even more enjoyable to me. Don’t get me wrong: there is sex—really good sex—but not until the latter part of the story. Slow burn romance is so delicious—it’s like letting an M&M melt in your mouth—you get more of the flavor one layer at a time. The fact that this story takes place in the holiday season is a bonus, especially if you read it now, but it is appropriate any time of the year.

My only problem with it is this: throughout the whole story I kept mixing up the characters in my mind. And I mean the whole story! I had to constantly stop and think about which character was doing which action, and it was all because of their names. I felt that Jason was the younger man and David the older one. Why? Because David is an “older” name that’s been around forever, and the name Jason has only been popular since the end of the 20th century and I associate it with younger persons. I admit that this could just be me, but it created a real problem for me so I have to mark this as 4.5 stars. Other than that, it’s a wonderful story of romance.

One last word on the cover by Meredith Russell—it fulfilled its promise, big time. The cover models actually look like the characters and the scene actually takes place. And the look in David’s eyes as he gazes at Jason is just so full of love and adoration it makes my heart tingle. Perfect!

Sales Links

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Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 117 pages
Published November 30th 2016 by Island Tales Press
ASINB01MYUL6EG
Edition LanguageEnglish

In the Holiday Spotlight: Interlude: First Noel (The Executive Office #1.5) by Tal Bauer (excerpt and giveaway)

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interlude-first-noel-by-tal-bauer

Title:  Interlude: First Noel

Series: The Executive Office, Book 1.5

Author: Tal Bauer

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 19. 2016

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 60800

Genre: Romance, holiday, contemporary, demisexual, gay

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Interlude-f

Synopsis

Before Ethan returns to DC…
Before he becomes Jack’s first gentleman…
Jack and Ethan share their first Christmas together.

Step back to Jack and Ethan’s first Christmas season and the tentative early months of their relationship under the world’s spotlight.

Three months into Ethan’s transfer-in-exile in Des Moines, Iowa, the pressures of dating Jack, the president of the United States, start to wear Ethan down. His weeks are measured by the days he works in Iowa, chasing counterfeiters and financial crimes, and the weekends he manages to steal with Jack back in DC. The media stalks his every move, he’s isolated by his coworkers, and loneliness hammers at his heart.

In DC, Jack tries to piece together a global alliance to take down the Caliphate, while the world seems focused on tearing apart his personal life. Hostility surrounds him from all corners of the globe, but a surprise offer from President Sergey Puchkov may pave the way for a tentative alliance…and perhaps the beginning of a friendship.

As Ethan finds himself in the middle of an investigation that rubs too deeply against his soul and Jack tries to balance leading the free world and keeping his and Ethan’s relationship going, the two men must face what their love has become…and where they are heading together.

Excerpt

Tal Bauer © 2016
All Rights Reserved

“Twenty-seven credit cards, thirty thousand in hundreds—all with the exact same serial number—a credit card reader and a laptop.” United States Secret Service Special Agent Blake Becker whistled, shaking his head, and glared at the two suspects in handcuffs sitting in the back of the Des Moines police cruiser. “We bagged another couple counterfeiters, huh?” He squinted at Ethan, snowflakes clinging to the ends of his eyelashes. Becker was twelve years younger than Ethan, and two years out of the training center at Rowley. He was an infant, compared to Ethan.

Ethan said nothing. Becker’s use of “we” was disingenuous. Ethan had put together the case after pulling files from three different states. He’d worked long, lonely hours in his cubicle, reading arrest records and statements until his eyeballs felt like they were bleeding. He’d tracked the washed bills, the counterfeit currency used in stores and banks across Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Built a timeline along one wall of his cube, tracking the rise of counterfeit bills in the tristate area. Connected the dots, leading them to bust this run down motel room and this raggedy team of counterfeiters.

And, when he’d presented his case to Shepherd, the Special Agent in Charge of the small Des Moines field office, Shepherd had assigned Blake Becker as the lead agent, over Ethan. Days later, after Becker filed the affidavit under his name, he and Ethan, along with the Des Moines police, broke down the door of the motel room their suspects were living in and arrested two men in their boxers and stained tank tops. One of the men had a mullet. The other had a greasy mustache and not much hair on the top of his head.

Two white news vans sloshed through the motel’s parking lot. Muddy snowmelt splattered the sides of the vans, arching away from salt-crusted tires. On top of both, satellite dishes and transmission poles collected fat snowflakes beneath the dreary sky. Red and blue police lights swirled, giving a splash of color to the monotonous Midwestern gloom.

Becker jerked his head toward the new arrivals. “Media is here. Shepherd wants you to book it. Doesn’t want you anywhere near the press.”

Nodding once, Ethan kept his head down and headed for his Secret Service car, a nondescript sedan issued to him by the Des Moines office. He tucked his face into his scarf and his hands in the pockets of his trench coat, not looking toward the news vans.

If there was one thing Shepherd hated more than Ethan, it was the media attention Ethan received. “Secret Service Seduction” “Who Really is the Boyfriend of the President of the United States.” “Boyfriend in Exile; Can Their Relationship Survive?” “What are the Presidential Boyfriend’s Duties?” “Secret Service Hiding One of Their Own?”

He slid into his car, slamming the door shut. Leaning back, he exhaled, watching for a moment as the news crews set up around the motel parking lot, peering at the Special Agents and police processing the scene.

Ethan grabbed a pair of sunglasses and a ball cap from the passenger seat before he started his car. The sunglasses turned the drab gray sky almost black, but he kept them on as he backed up, maneuvering out of the crowd of police vehicles.

One of the reporters spotted his car leaving. She waved to her cameraman and jogged across the snowmelt, her brown boots sticky with slush. He tried to speed up, but she made it to his driver’s side as he waited to turn onto the street.

“Mr. Reichenbach?” She knocked on the glass, and her cameramen scraped their news camera’s lens over his window. “Mr. Reichenbach, can you talk about your involvement with the Des Moines Secret Service? What are your official duties?”

His jaw clenched, and his fingers gripped the steering wheel. A few more seconds, a few passing cars, and he could peel out of there.

“How does it feel to be separated from the president? Are you and President Spiers still together? It’s been a while since you were both seen togeth―”

Finally, a break in the traffic. Ethan wanted to slam down on the accelerator, spin his wheels and spray the reporter with mud and snow. But he couldn’t. Everything―every single thing―he did was a reflection on Jack. A reflection on the president of the United States.

He revved his engine once, a warning, and then rolled forward. The camera squealed across his window, and the reporter pounded on the glass, repeating her questions, almost shouting.

And then, he was out of the parking lot, back on the main road. He floored it, speeding off as the news camera tracked him. A few blocks away, he ditched the sunglasses, throwing them into the passenger seat with a snarl.

Three months in exile. Three months of living in Des Moines, Iowa—away from Washington DC, his friends, and the love of his life: Jack Spiers, the president of the United States.

His head hit the sedan’s headrest again, and his fingers kneaded the steering wheel. Three months of counting the days―and sometimes the hours―until he could see Jack again. He lived for Friday evening through Sunday night, when he flew to DC, and the forty-eight hours at least, it was just him and Jack. If he squinted while he was there, it was almost like it had been before everything came out, when they were hiding what they’d become together, and when Ethan had been his Secret Service lead.

Day in and day out, they’d been at each other’s side. Inseparable…and sharing a scandalous secret.

But every weekend ended, and Sunday night came, and with it, another flight back to Des Moines.

Ethan glared at the clock in his dash. It was too early to go back to his apartment and do anything but bang around the empty walls and sulk, and too late to go back to work and expect to get anything done. Still, he turned for the office, heading back downtown. At the least, he could work out in the private gym for the agents assigned to the Federal Building. FBI, DEA, ATF, Secret Service, and Customs all shared one building.

And all the agents seemed to share the same wide-eyed, horrified distance from Ethan. He moved like a pariah, as though he’d been branded with a scarlet letter and anyone who came near him would suffer the same catastrophic fall from grace he had.

From the most prestigious posting in the Secret Service―protecting the president of the United States―to puzzling through counterfeiting investigations out of a tiny field office in the Midwest. And giving those investigations up to another agent, a junior agent, and running from the media.

He waited at the stoplight downtown, just before the turn into the Federal Building’s garage, listening to his wipers scrape snow off the window. The red traffic light blurred through the slush on his glass, tinting the inside of his sedan a dark crimson. Christmas lights stretched overhead, arching over the streets and between the buildings. Evergreen garlands clung to the streetlights, and LED wreaths hung at every intersection. Over the weekend, Christmas had descended, just days after Thanksgiving.

If he knew then what he knew now, would he do it all again? Make the same choices? Take the same risks? Kiss Jack―the president, his sworn duty, his job―and throw caution to the wind, going against his very bones, his dedication to his career and the Secret Service?

The wipers slid against the glass again, squeaking, and the light turned green. His tires slipped on the snow, skidding out briefly, but he slogged across the intersection and turned into the underground parking garage.

Of course he would. Those forty-eight hours each week with Jack made everything else worth it. Made bearable the isolation, the intrusive media, the sidelong glares and bitten off conversations that abruptly stopped in his presence.

How his toes would curl as they kissed. Jack’s smile, and the way his eyes lit up for Ethan alone. How Jack had looked at him when he burst into the Oval Office, gunfire cracking the air, taking out Jeff Gottschalk and Black Fox’s operatives. Like Ethan was his whole world, the sun rising in the sky just for him.

Ethan had never loved anyone like he loved Jack. And he’d never been loved by anyone the way Jack loved him. It was still new, just six months old, but that love had remade Ethan’s entire world. So far, he’d put up with anything. Everything. As long as Jack kept looking at him like that. Kept loving him like that.

But, it had been over two weeks since he’d last been with Jack. ‘Every weekend’ had turned into something else. Loneliness scratched at the base of his heart, and whispers of fear snaked down his bones.

Ethan wound through the underground garage and pulled into his assigned space, in the corner beneath the leaking air compressor and next to the dumpster that always smelled like stale piss.

Shepherd’s car was still in his space. Great. He’d probably already seen the news footage of him, playing over and over on the local stations before being picked up by the national news for prime-time replay. He’d be pissed. More than pissed.

Sighing, Ethan badged into the building and onto the elevator, punching the button for the Secret Service’s floor. When the elevator spat him out, he gave Agent Gibson a tight smile as he passed him.

Gibson didn’t smile back.

Ethan badged into the backdoor of the office, heading for his cube and his gym bag. On the way, he passed Shepherd’s open office door.

The TV hanging on the wall in his office was on, images of Ethan driving out of the motel parking lot playing on repeat as the news anchor droned on about how evasive he’d been, how he hadn’t answered any questions. About what his presence at the crime scene might mean. And, of course, wondering why he hadn’t been seen with the president, or in DC, in weeks. They were America’s most scandalous couple, perhaps the world’s. The question had been blaring from every radio, every gossip magazine, every late night talk show host, almost from the moment they’d been photographed kissing on the North Lawn. Were they still together?

Of course, the questions had gotten louder these past few weeks.

Shepherd’s glare fixed on Ethan. Shepherd pursed his lips as he perched on the edge of his desk, arms crossed over his slight pudge, a beer gut in the making. His tie was undone, the first few buttons loose.

Ethan grabbed his gym bag, slung it over his shoulder, and trudged to Shepherd’s door. “Sir, I left as soon as they arrived. She chased me down. I wasn’t trying to get in front of the cameras.”

Shepherd pinched the bridge of his nose. “What did I do to deserve you?”

Ethan stayed silent.

“Thanks to this―” Shepherd gestured to the TV. “—the US Attorney is going to have to answer a million questions about you from the whatever defense these guys cobble together. What you were doing there. Why you were involved.”

“I put the case together―”

“And then it was given to Becker. All of it. The entire thing. Your fingerprints were stripped from it.” Shepherd sighed again. “I don’t want some criminal defense attorney trying to drag the president into one of our cases. Asking about what kind of special favors you get, or what the president is interested in, or how you don’t play by the rules. We have to prove everything you do is one hundred and ten percent above board.”

“Everything I’ve done here has been completely legal―”

“It’s what you did before you got here.” Shepherd fixed Ethan with another hard glare. “It’s your character. The kinds of rules you break. A good defense attorney would rip you to shreds on the stand.”

Ethan’s chest felt like it caved in. “I have never compromised an investigation for any reason.”

“No.” Shepherd snorted. “You just compromised the president.”

Silence.

“Get out of here.” Shepherd waved Ethan away, dismissing him as he stood. “I don’t know what’s going on with you and the president, and I don’t want to know.” His hand cut through the air, before Ethan spoke. He jerked his chin to the TV, and the reporter musing about Ethan and Jack’s relationship being on the rocks, or worse. “But you’ve gotten grumpier these past few weeks. And that’s saying something.” Shepherd squinted at him. “Go do something about that. If the media is going to hound you everywhere, you don’t want them thinking you’re a half breath away from snapping. Don’t add fuel to the fire.”

Clearing his throat, Ethan nodded once while Shepherd shuffled papers on his desk, dropping a stack of manila folders into his drawer. “Sir, I have a question for you.”

Shepherd arched his eyebrows and grunted.

“I submitted my vacation request for the holidays, but you haven’t approved it yet. Is there a problem?” Ethan had lost vacation time in his demotion, and had used up what he did have flying back and forth to DC. He was scrapping the last days he had to put together a trip back east over Christmas. It wasn’t as long as he wanted, but it was what he had.

Shepherd barked out a harsh laugh, slamming a stack of papers down on his desk. “Why do you do this?”

“Sir?”

“Why do you pretend like you follow the rules? Like they even matter to you? You can break every rule we have and nothing will happen to you.”

“That’s not who I am,” Ethan growled. “I don’t act that way.”

“That’s exactly who you are. And exactly how you acted.”

Ethan’s frown deepened, turning to a scowl. “Sir, I don’t get any special treatment―”

“Of course you do!” Shepherd cried. His hands rose, and then he was shouting, pointing at Ethan as his face turned red. “Why do you even bother coming in? Why do you put up the pretense of being an agent? You’d make it easier for everyone if you just stopped pretending!”

“I’m not pretending!” Ethan roared. “I’m doing my job!”

Shepherd laughed, long and loud. “You stopped doing your job the moment you compromised yourself and the president!”

“I am still an agent―” Ethan seethed.

“You’re a Goddamn pain in my ass.” Shepherd cut him off. “And I have no clue why you’re still an agent. You shouldn’t be. You should have been forced to turn in your badge and your gun and got kicked out of the Service.”

Ethan’s jaw snapped shut, his teeth clicking together.

“Let me be perfectly clear. I don’t give a shit what you do. Come to work. Don’t come to work. Go on vacation for the entire month of December. Run away with the president and get drunk on some beach. I don’t give a shit. Just stop wasting my time, okay?”

Ethan nodded once. “Sir.”

“Get out of my office.”

His hand clenched around the strap of his duffel, and his teeth ground together, but he strode out of Shepherd’s office with his chin held high. Rage roared through him, deep in his veins.

There had better not be anyone in the gym downstairs. He had to get this out, pound it out into a punching bag until his knuckles split and he vomited in the corner. He had to get this out, because in three hours, Jack was going to call him on his computer, and he couldn’t face Jack like this. Not about to fly apart, quaking with too much fury and raw shame. It hurt, God, it hurt. But Jack couldn’t see that. He couldn’t ever see it.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Tal Bauer writes LGBT fiction and romance, bringing together a career in law enforcement, trauma medicine, and international humanitarian and disaster relief work to create dynamic, strong characters, intriguing plots, and unique, exotic locations. Tal’s stories weave together pulse-pounding adventure, cunning intrigue, and sweeping romance. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.

Pronouns: they/them

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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A Stella Advent Calendar Review Day 19: Resolutions (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by Emma Keene

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

resolutions-by-emma-keeneAs an advertising executive, it’s Logan’s job to sell people holiday cheer, and he’s good at what he does. But deep down, Logan hates everything about Christmas, so he worries that his crush on the hot baker who loves the holidays is a recipe for disaster.

Last year, Logan saw Ryan at a holiday party Ryan was catering, and the attraction was instant. In a drunken moment, Logan made it his New Year’s Resolution to ask the pastry chef out. But another year has slipped away, time is running out, and Logan’s assistant demands he collect on his resolution. Can Logan find the confidence that usually comes so easily to him? And if he does, will Ryan have any interest in spending the holidays with a man who doesn’t share his enthusiasm for the season?

Resolutions by Emma Keene surprised me, it was very romantic in my opinion. I so loved how, although the strong attraction both MCs felt since the first time they laid eyes on each other, they waited a whole year to act on it. Yep maybe a little too much, Logan should have moved on Ryan a little earlier, and of course they lose a year in their potential life together. Still I found this slow burn, their meetings and not so subtly looking for each other, so romantic, I was conquered. And just a kiss was worth as a hot sex scene.

One of my favorite stories of this year DSP Advent Calendar.

The cover art by Paul Richmond is awesome, nothing new cause I love everything he draws, I simply like his style.

Sales Links

        

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 33 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635331811 (ISBN13: 9781635331813)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug

Release Day Blitz for Ibizia on Ice by Gillian St. Kevern (excerpt and giveaway)

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ibiza-bannerTitle:  Ibiza on Ice

Series: For the Love of Christmas! Book 2

Author: Gillian St. Kevern

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: Dec 12

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 22600

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Skiing, Vacation

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IbizaonIce-f

Synopsis

Tired of being ridiculed as the man dumped in favour of an ugly Christmas sweater, Aston is determined to get revenge–by having his dream vacation at Ibiza’s hottest clubs! He’s even planned a social media campaign to make sure his ex, Dan, knows exactly what he’s missing.

When a snowstorm strikes, and Aston’s media campaign takes off before he does, he finds himself propositioned by his unwelcome roommate Mike: trade vacations, or Mike will out Aston as a fake. Desperate to save his reputation, Aston finds himself in Finland–and falling hard for a man with a sweater almost as terrible as Dan’s. Worse, Laaksonen cares as little about impressing people as Aston cares about being nice. Aston knows he has too much self-respect to fall for a man so hazardous to his reputation. But the long Polar Night poses the ultimate test to his Ibiza club dreams…

Excerpt

“What is Dan doing?” Aston frowned at his phone screen. “He saw the message. I know he saw the message. So where’s the reply?”

“He’s ignoring you.” Mike, Aston’s companion in the cupboard-like hotel room, didn’t even look up from his phone. There was not much to look at. The curtains were a faded geometric design that almost succeeded in making the stains look like part of the pattern, and there were cracks in the plaster ceiling. The carpet had given up on life altogether. Fortunately, their two twin beds took up most of the room, so they didn’t have to see much of the carpet at all.

If only the same could be said for Mike. Aston gave him a withering glare. The man had long, shaggy hair and wore a woollen jersey that—while thankfully bereft of hideous seasonal decorations—showed signs of being mended by hand. The overall impression was a university student who had never got around to graduating. Or even shaving. Mike was not Aston’s first choice to share a hotel room with, or even his second, third, or fourth. Unfortunately, the worst snowstorm in British history, cancelled flights, and a shortage of hotel rooms at Heathrow had led to Aston lowering his standards considerably. The only upside was that British Airways was footing the bill for the shared accommodation. “He’s not ignoring me.”

“Right.” Mike snickered. “Who could ignore knees like those?”

Of all the people Aston would have preferred to walk into the hotel room while he lay on his back on the carpet with his knees in the air, camera in hand, and laptop precariously balanced on the edge of his bed, Mike was the absolute last. He hadn’t offered to hold the laptop steady while Aston faked his beach photo, just leaned against the wall to watch, making disparaging comments. And when Aston had said ‘Do you mind?’ in his most cutting tone, Mike had simply grinned and said that he didn’t. “Shut up.”

“Why should I? This is as much my hotel room as it is yours, and to be perfectly honest, watching you fake beach photos was not how I wanted to spend my vacation.”

Aston sat up. “You’re not even going on a real vacation, just some crummy cut-price ski thing.”

“Hey, it was the best I could afford, and I’ve lost an entire day already. The group will have started without me. You, on the other hand, don’t need to play catch up in the clubs.”

Aston glanced uneasily at his computer. “At least Ibiza is a real vacation destination.”

“In summer, sure. It’s winter in Spain, you know.”

“Still warmer than here,” Aston shot back. “God, I want to be out of this country.”

“You’ve said. Repeatedly. If I didn’t know better, I’d think I was rooming with a desperate fugitive. What’s the deal?”

Aston blinked. Mike was unexpectedly sharp underneath that scruffy exterior. “I’ve been working towards this vacation for years, honing my beach body, spending every night I could out clubbing. Ibiza has some of the best clubs in the world! Space has this amazing—”

“No, I mean…there’s more to this than liking a good time. When the flight attendant told you there was no way you’d be flying to Ibiza today, you practically broke down. You asked about other flights, if there was any way you could detour.”

“I want to get to Ibiza as quickly as possible.”

“You offered to go to Ibiza via Shanghai.” Mike put his phone down, sitting up to look more closely at Aston. “That’s a detour of eight to ten hours.”

“I want to be on my way. I can’t stand all this waiting around.” Aston shrugged.

“So you’d rather be crammed into a tiny airline seat instead? Just relax. British Airways is footing the bill, and they offered us an upgrade on future flights.”

Aston smiled slightly. “Business class is enough to make anyone jealous.”

“There! What did I tell you?” Mike crossed his arms. “You’re obsessed with this ex of yours.”

“I am not.”

Aston’s phone beeped with his message alert. He snatched it up, only to see that it was a google notification. He sighed, dropping it onto the bed, and met Mike’s eyes. “That could have been an important message from British Airlines.”

“Sure. Just accept the fact that you were dumped—”

“I wasn’t dumped! If anyone was dumped, it was him!” Aston sucked in a short breath. “I gave him an ultimatum. Shape up or move out.”

“What? At Christmas? Harsh.”

“Christmas is just like any other time of the year, except that everyone loses their collective minds about it.” Aston stood from his bed. “Nothing special about it—just exceptionally good marketing.”

“Spoken like a true advertiser. But you’re not working now. Doesn’t the thought of Christmas coming give you a sort of anticipation, a sense of wonder, of excitement?”

“All Christmas has ever given me was a feeling of dread. It’s a fake holiday for fake people.”

“All right, all right, sorry I brought up your deeply rooted Santa trauma.” Mike mirrored Aston’s actions, standing up. “The airline gave us complimentary meal vouchers. Want to see if we can trade them in at the bar for drinks?”

Aston shook his head. “Pass.”

“What are you going to do, sit and stare at your phone? You can do that in the bar with a drink in hand. Come on.”

“Not feeling it.”

“And you call yourself a clubber?” Mike paused in the doorway, sticking his wallet into the back pocket of his paint-splattered jeans. “I tell you, there is something about you that just doesn’t add up… Maybe I should scan the papers while I’m in the bar. If I’m rooming with an escaped convict, I want to know about it.”

Not good. Not good at all. Aston gulped. “You are not— For Christ’s sake. Fine, I’ll come to the bar.” He picked up his phone, patting his pocket to check he had his wallet. “But don’t expect me to like it.”

“No,” Mike muttered. “That would be entirely too much.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon

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Meet the Author

Gillian St. Kevern is an author of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Originally from New Zealand, she currently lives in Japan and has visited over twenty different countries. Her writing is a celebration of the diverse people she meets.

As a chronic traveller, Gillian is interested in journeys rather than endings, writing characters that grow and change to achieve their happy ending. Her stories cross genres, time-periods and continents, taking readers along for an unforgettable ride.

Website | Facebook | Twitter |
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| eMail | Pinterest | Gillian’s Newsletter

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A Stella Advent Calendar Review Day 10: Traditions by Ann Anderson

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RATING 4,25 out of 5 stars

traditions-by-ann-andersonWhen Marcus and James started dating a few years ago, James invited Marcus home to spend the holidays with his close, Christmas-loving family. Marcus quickly realized once was enough, and since then, he’s stayed behind.

But this year will be different. Though the festivity and chaos make Marcus uncomfortable, he loves James, and he’s decided to put aside his unease so they can spend Christmas together—even if it means losing his hotel room to one of James’s siblings, braving the cold to go caroling, and battling the crowds so the children can visit Santa. It’ll all be worth it if Marcus can take his place in the family’s traditions—and maybe begin a new tradition for the two of them.

Traditions by Ann Anderson was my first book by this author and one of my favorite stories of this year DSP Advent Calendar. I love reading about established couples cause it can be easy to find a HEA but it’s harder to make it works during the years. It’s good to know how two people met and how they achieved their HEA, sometimes it’s better to know what happens later.

I liked Marcus and James’ story. James’ family is huge and a little too much in the Christmas mood, with too many lights to hang, too many carols to hear and sing and too many presents to gift. That is what scared Marcus the first Christmas he spent with them as James’ boyfriend, so much he avoided  joining them in the last years. But it’s a family full of love and this year Marcus has a plan he can act only with the help of James’ father.

A very good and sweet story. Plus I loved the ending, being a romantic at heart, it was a winner to me.

Highly recommended.

The cover art by Paul Richmond is simply amazing as everything he does.

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BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 35 pages

Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN 1635331722 (ISBN13: 9781635331721)

Edition Language English

E.J. Russell on Characters and their release ‘Clickbait’ by E.J. Russell (guest post and giveaway)

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Clickbait by E.J. Russell
R
iptide Publishing
Cover art by L.C. Chase

Read an Excerpt/Buy it Here

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have E.J. Russell here today talking about Gideon, one of the characters in Clickbait and the Geeklandia series.  Welcome, E.J.!

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Gideon: A Peek Before Clickbait

Clickbait is actually the second book in my Geeklandia series about a group of friends in Portland—roommates Charlie, Gideon, and Lindsay, their sidecar friend Toshiko—and their search for romance, wherein geeks pair with non-geeks, much to everyone’s astonishment. Gideon, one of the co-heroes of Clickbait, made his grand entrance in the first book, Lost in Geeklandia, where he helps his BFF Charlie overcome her gawkitude and land her man. (Charlie appears in Clickbait as well, as do Toshiko and Lindsay—who’s the sister of Gideon’s co-hero, Alex.)

This is a deleted scene from Lost in Geeklandia, where Gideon (in his Noel Coward-inspired red brocade dressing gown) tries to prep Charlie for her next interaction with her childhood friend and later nemesis, Daniel (whom Gideon refers to as He-man). She has thirty days to turn Daniel into her boyfriend or lose the chance at her dream job—and the clock is ticking.

Gideon tapped his fork on the empty Tupperware bowl. “Attention, please. Back to He-man. Tell me you at least managed a good-night kiss.”

Charlie’s cheeks heated as if she’d dry-roasted them along with the peanuts in the snack smorgasbord. “Of course I didn’t. We’re talking about Daniel Shawn. It would be easier for me to manage a good-night kiss from Chris Pine.”

“Charles, Charles, Charles. Whatever am I going to do with you? Stop thinking of him as a threat and think of him as an opportunity.” He popped off the barstool. “Let’s SWOT this.”

Lindsay stopped mashing avocado and wiped her forehead with the back of one wrist, her expression troubled. “I know you’re trying to help, Gideon, but do you really think it’s okay for Charlie to hit Daniel?”

He patted her cheek. “S-W-O-T, darling, not S-W-A-T. Strength, weakness, opportunity, threat. Standard management exercise, as Charles would know if she’d taken any business classes amid all the technobabble.”

“It’s hard to take you seriously as a management consultant when you’re dressed like Raul Julia as Gomez Addams,” Charlie grumbled.

“Gomez wore a smoking jacket, not a dressing gown. Stop focusing on inconsequentials.”

Gideon plucked the magnetized dry erase marker off the refrigerator and slashed a grid on the whiteboard they used for their grocery list. In giant letters, he scrawled an S and a W across the top row. “This represents your internal organization. Whatever you perceive as your own.” He added an O and a T down the left side. “This represents the Other. The outer world. Things you don’t control.”

“I’m not sure I control anything.”

“Stop it. See.” He pointed to each letter with the marker. “Strength. Weakness. Opportunity. Threat. Your weakness is this unaccountable need you have to hide your talents under a virtual bushel. Your strengths are legion, but when it comes to Daniel, you forget that you are a smart woman and act like a freaking moron.”

Charlie glared at him. “Don’t you have a hot date to get to?”

Gideon’s gaze flew to the clock above the sink. “God. I’m late. Only concern about your sex life could distract me from my own.” He smacked the marker back on the refrigerator. “Think about it. There’ll be a test later.”

He disappeared down the hall in a billow of red satin.

About Clickbait

After the disastrous ending of his first serious relationship, Gideon Wallace cultivated a protective—but fabulously shiny—outer shell to shield himself from Heartbreak 2.0. Besides, romance is so not a priority for him right now. All his web design prospects have inexplicably evaporated, and to save his fledgling business, he’s been compelled to take a hands-on hardware project—as in, his hands on screwdrivers, soldering irons, and needle-nosed pliers. God. Failure could actually be an option.

Journeyman electrician Alex Henning is ready to leave Gideon twisting in the wind after their run-ins both on and off the construction site. Except, like a fool, he takes pity on the guy and offers to help. Never mind that between coping with his dad’s dementia and clocking all the overtime he can finagle, he has zero room in his life for more complications.

Apparently, an office build-out can lay the foundation for a new relationship. Who knew? But before Alex can trust Gideon with the truth about his fragile family, he has to believe that Gideon’s capable of caring about more than appearances. And Gideon must learn that when it comes to the heart, it’s content—not presentation—that matters.

Now available from Riptide Publishing. http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/clickbait

About E.J. Russell

E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business-intelligence consultant. After her twin sons left for college and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class, she returned to her childhood love of writing fiction. Now she wonders why she ever thought an empty nest meant leisure.

E.J. lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, the only man on the planet who cares less about sports than she does. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

Connect with E.J.:

Website: ejrussell.com
Blog: ejrussell.com/bloggery/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/E.J.Russell.author
Twitter: twitter.com/ej_russell
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ejrussell/

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Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Clickbait, one lucky winner will receive $25 in Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 10, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!