In the Spotlight and Giveaway:Anyone but You by Brien Michaels

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Anyone but You by Brien Michaels

Riptide Publishing

Published December 9th 2019
Cover art: LC Chase

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing |

 

About Anyone But You

Murder is one hell of a drag.

Jack Kieza has a problem. He’s deeply attracted to men, but his homophobic family has left him too afraid to act on it. With his thirtieth birthday around the corner, his curiosity gets the best of him, and he finds himself at a gay club. After spending a fiery night with drag queen Sheila Saltue, everything changes. Especially when he discovers her alter ego: his boss, Ryan Swift.

Ryan knew he should’ve said no the second Jack approached him. Now he can’t stop himself from texting Jack every chance he gets. But Jack won’t let him take the wig off during sex, and being Sheila off-stage is wearing thin.

The more time they spend together, the more intense their feelings get, but Jack isn’t ready to date a man yet. When drag queens start turning up murdered, it forces Jack to reexamine his feelings, because what if Ryan is next? While Jack wants their burgeoning relationship to work, it would mean having to admit who he is to the world. And that’s an idea as frightening as death.

Available now from Riptide Publishing!


About Brien Michaels

Brien Michaels was hatched shortly before the turn of the century. He grew up in the DMV area and has been creating characters for as long as he can remember, starting with an imaginary friend named Farquad Beaverhausen. Before turning his considerably wicked imagination to writing, he was an actor, aspiring film student, movie theater concessionist, and the first human to enter the seventy-second dimension. Though it is unclear whether he made it back or if Farquad’s evil twin, Brad, has taken control of his body. He’s currently on the run from the Secret Police, who want to bring him in for questioning regarding the whereabouts of erotica authors L.A. Witt and Lauren Gallagher. If you encounter him, please contact his publishers immediately, as he likely should be chained to a desk writing and not out walking children in nature.

Twitter: @BrienMichaels


 

Giveaway

To celebrate this release, one lucky person will win a $10 gift card to Riptide. Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 14, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info! 

In the Spotlight Tour and Giveaway: Relationship Material by Jenya Keefe

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Relationship Material by Jenya Keefe

Riptide Publishing
Published August 5th 2019

Cover Art: L.C. Chase
Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Jenya Keefe here today on tour for her new release, Relationship Material. Welcome, Jenya.

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Hi, I’m Jenya Keefe. Welcome to my blog tour! I’ve been writing for my own pleasure for too many years to count, and now my first novel is being published by Riptide Publishing! It’s called Relationship Material, and I’m delighted to talk with you about it.

 

Relationship Material is about a guy who had a terrible childhood and suffered a violent assault when he was a teenager. He suffers from PTSD and chronic anxiety, and though he functions well enough in society, he doesn’t feel worthy of the love offered him. It’s about Portland, the love of a good dog, learning to be brave, and being open to joy.

 

About Relationship Material

It’s not always possible to meet in the middle.

Registered nurse Evan Doyle doesn’t consider himself fit for more than occasional hookups. He has a good life, but the emotional aftermath of a horrific crime makes him feel too damaged to date. So when his sister’s hot bestie, Malcolm Umbertini, comes on to him, he turns him down flat. Mal is Relationship Material: the kind who thinks in the long term. What would Evan do with a man like that?

As a prosecuting attorney, Mal’s learned how to read people, and he knows there’s more to Evan than meets the eye. Mal has faced his own hardships since his family kicked him out as a teen, and he respects Evan’s courage and emotional resilience. More than that, he wants Evan—in his bed and in his life. But can he weather another rejection?

Both wary, they agree to a no-strings fling. Mal knows that Evan wants things to stay casual, but he’s falling in love a little more with each encounter. With health, happiness, and bruised hearts on the line, Mal and Evan must risk everything for love.

Now available from Riptide Publishing!

About Jenya Keefe

Jenya Keefe was born in the South. She has an advanced degree in European history, and has spent much of her life working the kinds of jobs a history degree qualifies you for: gift shop employee, lumber grader, classifieds clerk, hot glass artist. She currently lives in the Seattle area, where she works at a library. She has always written stories. 

Website: www.jenyakeefe.com

Twitter: @JenyaKeefe

 

Pre-order Jenya’s next release, The Musician and the Monster, coming September 30th from Riptide Publishing!

 

Giveaway

To celebrate this release, Jenya is giving away a $15 gift card to Powell’s City of Books! Powell’s is an independent bookseller located in Portland, the setting for Relationship Material. Those not in Portland can shop online. Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on August 10, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Lindsey Byrd on Designing the World and her new release On The Subject Of Griffons (guest blog and giveaway)

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On the Subject of Griffons by Lindsey Byrd
Riptide Publishing

Cover Art: L.C. Chase
Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Lindsey Byrd here today on tour for her new novel, On the Subject of Griffons.  Welcome, Lindsey.

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Lindsey Byrd on Designing the World

 

When I first started writing this story, I had a general idea of what I wanted the country to look like. I knew its borders and its main cities and I could see it very clearly in my mind. While I was considering what to write for this blog tour, my best friend suggested I finally draw what I had seen so clearly in my mind. It didn’t take long, and the results are in the image above.

I marked out every main city or stop that the protagonists mention or travel to. The Trent empire and Ruug are both alluded to in various parts of the book, but they aren’t locations that our characters physically reach. As mentioned in a previous blog post – the long lakes are based off of the New York finger lakes, and you’re welcome to go back and look at the pictures posted there if you’d like another reference.

Actually drawing the map itself wasn’t too difficult. I have an idea of how I’d like to expand the universe so I knew in advance what features I wanted to add. Some of them, like the island in the middle of the Great Sea, aren’t referenced in this book at all. I’m still looking forward to sharing it somewhere down the line.

The map on this blog post, however, is not my original drawing. One of my closest friends took my original sketch and made it the fancy, beautiful, version you see here. She flushed out the detail on the image and made sure that the rivers and coastline made some form of logical sense, and everything you see on the map above is the highly rendered version of her imagination.

As we worked on it together, we discussed the future of this world. One of the other concerns I had, was not showing what I hadn’t planned out. To this end, there are many cities, names, or other kinds of locations I haven’t added to this version of the map. There are other stories there, and hopefully interest and intrigue will inspire future readers to wonder what those possibilities are. But for now, we made sure to keep everything as simple as possible. This is On the Subject of Griffons’ world. And hopefully in the future I’ll be able to share what goes on in all the blank spaces you can’t yet see.

If you enjoy reading this book, feel free to send me a message and let me know what you’d like to see in this world. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Blurb

They’ll do anything to save their children’s lives, even if it means working together.

Kera Montgomery is still mourning the sudden death of her husband, Morpheus, when her youngest son falls victim to a mysterious plague. With no medicinal cure, Kera must travel to the Long Lakes, where magical griffons capable of healing any ailment reside.

As an heiress unused to grueling travel, Kera struggles with the immense emotional and physical strain of her journey—one made more complex when she crosses paths with her husband’s former mistress, Aurora. Aurora’s daughter is afflicted with the same plague as Kera’s son, so despite their incendiary history, the two women agree to set aside their differences and travel together.

The road is fraught with dangers, both living and dead. Each night, old battlegrounds reanimate with ghosts who don’t know they’ve died, and murderous wraiths hunt for stray travelers caught out after dark. If Kera, Aurora, and their children are going to survive, they’ll need to confront the past that’s been haunting them since their journey began. And perhaps in the process, discover that old friends may not be as trustworthy as they once thought—and old enemies may become so much more.

Now available from Riptide Publishing and where ebooks are sold.

 

About Lindsey Byrd

Lindsey Byrd was brought up in upstate, downstate, and western New York. She is a budding historian of law, medieval, and women’s studies and often includes historical anecdotes or references within her works. Lindsey enjoys writing about complex and convoluted issues where finding the moral high-ground can be hard to do. She has a particular love for heroic villains and villainous heroes, as well as inverting and subverting tropes.

Twitter: twitter.com/TheLindseyByrd

Tumblr: tumblr.com/blog/lindseybyrd

Email: thelindseybyrd@gmail.com

Goodreads: goodreads.com/LindseyByrd

 

 

Giveaway

To celebrate this release, one lucky person will win a $25 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 1, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

A MelanieM Review: On the Subject of Griffons by Lindsey Byrd

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Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

They’ll do anything to save their children’s lives, even if it means working together.

Kera Montgomery is still mourning the sudden death of her husband, Morpheus, when her youngest son falls victim to a mysterious plague. With no medicinal cure, Kera must travel to the Long Lakes, where magical griffons capable of healing any ailment reside.

As an heiress unused to grueling travel, Kera struggles with the immense emotional and physical strain of her journey—one made more complex when she crosses paths with her husband’s former mistress, Aurora. Aurora’s daughter is afflicted with the same plague as Kera’s son, so despite their incendiary history, the two women agree to set aside their differences and travel together.

The road is fraught with dangers, both living and dead. Each night, old battlegrounds reanimate with ghosts who don’t know they’ve died, and murderous wraiths hunt for stray travelers caught out after dark. If Kera, Aurora, and their children are going to survive, they’ll need to confront the past that’s been haunting them since their journey began. And perhaps in the process, discover that old friends may not be as trustworthy as they once thought—and old enemies may become so much more.

On the Subject of Griffons by Lindsey Byrd is such an unexpectedly deep, and emotionally rich journey.  Not of one woman, although Kera Montgomery is the main character who undergoes the most personal growth and development.  So too does the woman who starts out as her adversary and the source of so much of her pain,Aurora., Kera’s deceased husband’s’ ex-mistress.

The writing and characterizations in this story are simply brilliant. Told from the perspective of the “Widow Montgomery”, she is at moments controlled, raw, open, distraught, and as the story moves forward comes a woman of strength, determination, and incredible bravery.  Someone able to go forward and love again, building a future for herself, others and more. But when it starts out she is a woman overwhelmed by the deceit of her husband, buried in grief by his loss, mired down by the weight of responsibility for the huge brood of children she has and and lack of control over his   own future which seems lay in the hands of her father and the bankers of the town which want to pressure her into selling them her home, Ivory Gates.  She’s barely  coping and we are made to feel every tear, every throbbing pressure headache, every lost to depression episode Keri is feeling.

Then the deadly sickness that is sweeping the town invaded her home and her smallest child falls critically ill.  And again, we are in Kera’s heart and head that just as we don’t believe this  woman can stand any further pain, humiliation, or despair, now her youngest child is going to die.  And we are weeping with her.   And raging with her over her feelings of inadequacy and helplessness and the anticipation of yet another crushing deep loss.

It’s rare that I get pulled so fully and deeply into such a character as Kera Montgomery because of, I suppose, her state and, like all others, outward impression of her at the beginning.  Kera inhabits a rigid society that gives women little choice as to their roles in life.  Nice women in society are wives and mothers.  The men manage things, money, estages, society,  and wars. When Kera’s husband, Mori dies in a duel disgraced, he leaves her a widow of 7 children and a large estate she never wanted, Ivory Gates, teetering with looming debts and no pension of her husband’s to use as income.  Bankers are at her door and no one is asking her what she wants to do but her father instead.    She’s feeling invisible, emotionally battered, once more in mourning and feeling betrayed by a husband she loved who never seemed to think about the consequences of his actions.

Grief, helplessness and depression have mired this woman down until her youngest son is struck down and will soon die if nothing is done. It’s that desperation that is the impetus for Kera to finally act, against society and for herself and her son.

To save him she must find a Griffin’s feather and they exist only in one part of the territory.  In the cruelest of ironies, the first person she encounters on the road is her husband’s mistress who’s daughter is critically ill with the same sickness.

The journey then becomes this incredible saga  of multiple complex story threads, magic, and redemption.  Kera must learn to get past her hatred of Aurora, her pain and need for understanding about the affair, there’s forgiveness and personal growth, and so much more than this review can begin to describe.  Really, these women are beyond amazing as is their road to saving their children and finding a new future together.

It is labeled as F/F but the heat level is low, limited to kissing and off scene sex that is not described.

If I had any issues its that it ended a little too pat but what came before was just too magnificent for me to really quibble about that.  The writing and characterizations are just that outstanding.

Honestly, if you love fantasy and some of the best womens characterizations I’ve read this year, pick up On the Subject of Griffons by Lindsey Byrd.  I highly recommend it.  It’s just a stunner of a story!

Cover art: L.C. Chase.  The cover is a little dark and it does fit parts of the story but it could easily be a contemporary fantasy which this is not.

Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook, 316 pages
Published May 27th 2019 by Riptide Publishing
Original Title On the Subject of Griffons
ISBN 139781626498822
Edition Language English

In the Spotlight Tour and Giveaway: Running Blind (Havoc #2) by S.E. Jakes

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Running Blind (Havoc #2) by S.E. Jakes
Riptide Publishing
Cover Art: L.C. Chase

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

About Running Blind

An ATF agent who lives for danger finds what he craves from an outlaw biker.

It’s impossible for a one-percenter motorcycle club member to simply walk away—and no one knows that better than undercover agent Bram, who’s almost killed for trying. His cover isn’t blown—yet—but it’s only a matter of time. The Heathens won’t be satisfied until he’s dead, so he decides to lay low and heal.

But when his younger brother’s disappearance throws a wrench into his plan, Bram ends up in Shades Run, a town ruled by the notorious Havoc MC. In less than twenty-four hours, Bram finds himself at the mercy of Sweet, Havoc’s president, as he throws himself into the undercover role of a lifetime: himself. A man who’s never belonged anywhere, and who will do anything to protect his younger brother.

When finding Linc seems impossible, Bram is torn between Sweet, Linc, and revealing his true identities . . . and there appears to be no way out. Once again, he risks it all trying to save it all. Only this time he’s got no backup to save him if he falls.

 

Running Blind is available from Riptide.
And don’t miss book one in the Havoc series, Running Wild!

About SE Jakes

SE Jakes writes m/m romance. She believes in happy endings and fighting for what you want in both fiction and real life. She lives in New York with her family, and most days, she can be found happily writing (in bed). No really…

SE Jakes is the alter ego of New York Times bestselling paranormal and romantic suspense author Stephanie Tyler.

Connect with SE:

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Running Blind, one lucky person will win an ecopy of Running Wild, the first book in the Havoc series! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on September 29, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

A Stella Release Day Review: No Way Out by Julie Lynn Hayes

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

Wyatt Findley is an up-and-coming artist, attending a prestigious art institute in St. Louis. His mentor, Lukas Callahan, has snagged a sweet house-sitting job for him in a gorgeous home in a well-to-do part of town. Wyatt can’t help but notice two men who live just across the street.

They make an odd couple, since there must be a good twenty years difference between them. And yet there is something about the younger man that calls to Wyatt.

Shylor Lind has been living with Randy Grant for fifteen years, ever since Grant hired Shy’s mother as his live-in housekeeper. But five years ago, their relationship changed when Shy’s mother sold him to Grant and took the money and ran. Since then, Randy has been training Shy to be his submissive, dominating him in every way. There is nothing Shy can do about the situation, and he has nowhere to go, no one to turn to.

And then Wyatt enters his life… and nothing will ever be the same, as Wyatt engages in a battle for Shy’s very soul.

No Way Out was not an easy book to read for me, it deals with some very sensible themes, not all readers can feel comfortable with them. So my advice is to read the blurb carefully, check the tags and when you have all the info, decide to give it a chance or not. Personally I picked the story because I loved the author when she wrote the Crescent Bay Chronicles Series and other titles too.

Although hard to read, I deeply enjoyed the novel, I found it well done and developed. I have to say I particularly liked the character of Wyatt, always so caring and mindful with Shy. Sure, he had no idea how to approach and relate with someone so clueless about everything that happens in the world like Shy, someone who had known nothing outside of his role as slave.

While I adored Wyatt, I had huge doubts on Shy and his personality. A couple of times i have to admit I was scared the author was going to make a huge mess. Because, let’s be honest, she chose to write about a complicated matter, I don’t think it was easy to define and give a life to a character so abused. I was really afraid I wasn’t able to feel him, instead his subtle strength flourished with the help of a gentle man.

At the end, with No Way Out I got a lovely story, sweet and simple yes, but so full of life and hope, so much hope. And now I am very curious to know what it will be of Shy, to see him one more time in the real life he missed for so many years.

The cover art by Christine Coffee is beautiful, it depicts the novel perfectly, all the colours, the lights and the darks, well balanced exactly how well balanced in the plot where all the scenes. I love it.

SALE LINKS  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

The author is donating 10% of the royalties from this book to No Kid Hungry. Visit https://www.nokidhungry.org/

ebook, 200 pages

Publication Date: August 28th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN13 9781640804982

Edition Language English

A Lucy Review: Detour (Transportation #1) by Reesa Herberth and Michelle Moore

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Ethan and Scott were best friends and boyfriends.  All through high school they planned on this amazing cross country trip.  They were going to see all the kitschy things together.  An all too common tragedy occurs senior year – Scott is killed by gunfire in a school shooting.  Ethan has to get out of his town because of the guilt he feels for still living and the sympathy/pity of people, even as he doesn’t want to do this trip alone.  So he hits the road, promising his parents he will call them and will not pick up hitchhiker’s who might take him to a murder cave and kill him.

He’s driving on a stormy night in the dark and nearly hits a hitchhiker.  Despite his parents’ warning, he can’t leave the man there in the rain, so he offers him a ride.  This is Nick and Nick is running away from a ton of bad things as well.  Namely, he just escaped an abusive pray-the-gay-away conversion camp as well as an abusive ex-boyfriend, Kyle.   Nick has a painful history and he knows what it’s like to grieve for someone, having lost his little brother to cancer.  He accepts the ride with Ethan and Ethan offers him the chance to be a part of his great adventure, seeing all the ridiculous roadside attractions they can see.

There is a moment when Nick admits he has no money to do the sights and Ethan tells him Scott’s parents had given him a large amount, probably what they were going to give Scott for graduation, and it just made me cry. There are so many shattered dreams here.   Ethan suffers from panic attacks, which Nick handles with care and kindness.  For his part, Ethan treats Nick with the same care and kindness.  The two of them can be snarky and funny and I thoroughly enjoyed.  The scene at the haunted train tracks just made me happy and made me think that they could learn to be happy again.

Nick has a seriously abusive ex-boyfriend in Kyle and feelings of betrayal by his parents after being sent to Camp Cornerstone, i.e. abusive conversion therapy.  He was able to walk away from the camp only because he turned eighteen.  Ethan’s gift to him really showed the sweetness of Ethan and the vulnerability of Nick.  “Eventually it became too much, got too close to the place inside him that wanted nothing more than to beg for any scrap of care he could get.”  Oh, Nick, you deserve so much. 

Ethan sends text messages to Scott and he’s very afraid he’s doing the trip wrong. “I don’t know if I want my life to happen without him.”  There is no shying away from all the emotional turmoil for these guys.  They have to work through it and though they have different issues, they are equally painful and hard to deal with.  Nick’s trip through Cornerstone is horrific and it is brought on by the abuse of Kyle.  And Kyle continues to be crazy, abusing, texting and going as far as to call Ethan’s parents, posing as Nick’s brother, to get information.  That’s probably the least of what he did but stalker, abuser and psycho cover it.  Add in that Nick doesn’t feel worthy of happiness sometimes.  He has his own survivor’s guilt. 

The book doesn’t pull its punches on dealing with some serious issues but it also conveys that these guys are young and they talk and act that way, even through stress and grief.  They are there for each other, through the biggest guitar and talking to the police, but they work through their grief and guilt on their own as well. Their conversations could be so emotional, other times so sweet and funny.  The “lie to me” made me want to cry sometimes. 

“But, mostly, I think we get so obsessed with missing someone, trying to stay connected with who they were as people.” That is so true and it was the lesson both of them needed to understand.  Ethan’s grasping that Scott was really, truly gone was just heartbreaking. “Scott would have changed.  He would have learned things, and seen things, and we’d both be different people now than we were when he died.  I think that was the ghost I was hoping to find.  The person Scott would have become.”  And that’s what you really can’t find, because that person will remain the same as you remember them while you continue to learn things, to grow and to change.   “Instead of keeping Scott’s memory alive, I was trying to get away from the person I was becoming without him.”

Both Nick and Scott, so young to be dealing with such things and yet they do, working their way through guilt and through grief, through fear, learning they can lean on each other.  I was pulling for these guys to get a little happiness.  The one thing I would have appreciated was an epilogue to show that they were still together, still happy and still working on it.

The cover art by Kanaxa light and fun. Which doesn’t exactly speak to the reality of the storyline.

SALE LINKS  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 339 pages

Published May 7th 2018 by Riptide Publishing

ISBN 1626497435 (ISBN13: 9781626497436)

Edition Language English

Cheryl Headford on Worldbuilding and her release Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden (guest post, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Title:  Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden

Author: Cheryl Headford

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: November 13, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 84700

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, gay, fairy, British humour, fantasy, abuse

Add to Goodreads

Worldbuilding by Cheryl Headford

I was born, brought up, and still live in the Welsh Valleys, surrounded by mountains, woods and fields. There are many “secret” places and everyone knows there are fairies everywhere and you have to keep part of your garden wild for them. The place where Draven has his unusual picnic is based on a place I used to go to a lot. It’s called Nant-Y-Gwyddon (roughly translates as Mountain Stream of the Druid (or knowledgeable one)) Very sadly, the last time I went there a flood had washed away the path and collapsed the tree that held up the side of the valley at that point. The stream is still running as far I know but there’s no way to get down to it or any bank to sit on if you could.

I’ve never been to the precise city where Keiron lives. I’m not sure it exists. However, it has all the things cities have, like Italian restaurants, parks and smog.

Through various circuitous routes, I’d been led to remember a lilac tree I had outside my window when I was growing up and that led to me thinking about the whole garden, and in particular the bushes at the end where the fairies lived. At the time (until I was 16) we had an outside toilet, at the end of quite a long garden path, and I will never forget running up and down it at night, with my lantern watching for fairy lights or goblins trying to trip me up with their long, knotty fingers.

That night, I had a dream about a fairy peeping out from those bushes into my old garden and watching a man. The fairy sneaked closer and closer but was never caught. The next day, I painted a picture of the fairy and wondered what would happen if he got caught. Of course, it was set in my old house, but not the place I used to live, which wasn’t a city. I will never live in a city because I am far more fey than human in that respect.

As far as plot was concerned that was pretty much as far as it got before I started to write. I had a very strong connection with Draven from the start, and I knew him very well from all the fairy stories, tales, memories, musings I have collected over my years of interest in fairies and folklore. Keiron, I came to know more slowly. As I am a pantser rather than a plotter, the rest pretty much wrote itself as I went along.

Synopsis

All Keiron wants is a quiet life. Fat chance with a boyfriend like Bren. But if he thought Bren complicated his life, that was nothing compared to the complications that begin when he opens the door to what he thinks is a naked boy claiming to be his slave.

Draven is a fairy with his sights set on the handsome human who keeps a wild place in the garden for fairies. When Draven slips through a fairy gate into the city, he sets in motion a series of events that binds him to Keiron forever, and just might be the end of him.

While Draven explores Keiron’s world with wide-eyed wonder, Keiron does everything he can to keep Draven’s at bay, until the only way to save Draven and bring him home is to step into a world that should exist only in children stories.

Excerpt

Fairies at the Bottom of the Garden
Cheryl Headford © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Keiron hurried home at the end of a very long day, anticipating some peace and quiet. He liked a quiet life, so what had possessed him to take on a boyfriend like Bren Donovan was anyone’s guess. Whatever else it might be, life with Bren was certainly not quiet, and it was slowly wearing Keiron out.

It was almost a relief Bren wouldn’t be staying at the flat that night. Although they were practically living together, Bren had his own place and sometimes felt the need to stay there. This was usually because a member of his family—or particularly flighty friend—was coming to stay. It wasn’t as if his family wasn’t aware of their relationship, but Bren was shy about “rubbing it in their faces”. Keiron didn’t understand because Bren’s mother seemed to like him a great deal and considered him to be a stabilising influence on her son.

Keiron was a conservative person and so different to Bren, they might as well live in different worlds. As for Bren’s friends, they were usually very like him—loud, messy, and irresponsible. Keiron couldn’t stand them. He was lucky if nothing got broken, and they always left the flat in a complete mess. If Bren wanted to live in a pigsty, so be it. He could do it in his own home.

This weekend, with the bank holiday, Bren was getting both. His friends were congregating on Saturday. Then his parents and sister were coming on Sunday, and staying through until Tuesday morning. Keiron had a Bren-free weekend and was looking forward to it.

If it hadn’t been for their differences on this point, they’d have moved in together a long time ago. Bren chafed for it, but Keiron couldn’t handle his flat descending into chaos, and it wasn’t even as if Bren helped tidy up afterwards. Keiron cringed at the thought of having that chaos and therefore stress every day.

Not only that, but Bren was the most jealous person Keiron had ever come across. Keiron was constantly accused of looking at other men, and God forbid he spoke to one. Bren was a firebrand, completely living up to his fiery red-headed Irish-descended promise. Sometimes it was exciting, even invigorating, yet at other times Keiron longed for the peace and stability he used to have before Bren burst in on him. Maybe at twenty-two, he was just getting old.

Keiron ordered takeaway and, while he waited for it to arrive, wandered down to the bottom of the garden, a beer in his hand, his hair damp from the bath. The sun was still high and warm enough for him to be wearing a thin T-shirt and shorts. The smell of a barbecue drifted over from a neighbouring garden and his mouth watered.

Savouring his drink, he sank onto the stone bench under the rose arbour. It afforded a good view of the whole garden. It was a big one. A long lawn stretched ahead of him to the decking immediately outside the house, where a large wooden table, a number of items of garden furniture, and a shiny silver gas barbecue sat.

Sometimes, he had Bren’s friends around for a barbecue. They weren’t so bad out here in the garden, although they made such a mess of the barbecue itself that it took him days to get it properly clean. He smiled to himself. Sometimes, living with Bren was like having a teenage son. Fortunately, Bren was very good at things he’d hate to think any son of his could do.

The lawn was bordered on either side by flower beds and bushes, which hid the wooden fences separating his garden from the ones on either side. To his left, screened from the arbour by a yew hedge, was a garden pool with a rock fountain and fat koi swimming under lily pads. There used to be more fish—before Bren’s friends found the pond. He pursed his lips at the thought.

To the right was a shrubbery. A large variety of plants made up a wild area of about thirty square feet. Bren loved it, of course. He’d burrowed into it and, within a week, had made a green cave right in the middle. He’d floored it with an old piece of carpet he’d found on a skip. It had taken a long time and a lot of carpet-cleaner to persuade Keiron to enter it, but he had to admit, making love outside under the bushes in the darkness was something he’d come to enjoy very much.

Bren had been surprised he had such a wild place in his neat garden, in his neat life. Perhaps it was the thing that sealed the deal with Bren, who’d been reluctant to get involved with someone so unlike himself, and likely to “cramp his style”.

“But why?” he’d asked. “It doesn’t seem like you to have a wild place like this. It’s so out of place—with the garden and with you. Why haven’t you ‘tamed’ it? Everything else in your life is tame. You’re the most vanilla person I know—except for this.”

They were in the “cave” at the time. It was dark but warm, and they were holding each other in the afterglow of amazing sex. Keiron had smiled lazily and sighed.

“My mother used to live out in the country somewhere when she was a child. My grandmother never took to city life. She told me once there was no room in a city for life, real life. Nowhere for roots to reach the earth. No place for the fairies.”

“Fairies?”

“Oh yes, she was very superstitious about fairies. Never had anything made of iron in the garden. Put out saucers of warm milk if there was a deep frost or snow. And always had a wild place in the garden—for the fairies.”

Bren had smiled at him. “I never thought you had any of that in you, Keiron. I guess there’s hope for you yet.”

Keiron had grinned and held Bren tightly in his arms.

Keiron smiled at the memory and took a drink of his beer. Something caught his eye, and he turned towards the shrubbery. He was sure he’d seen something move, shooting across his vision, behind the trees. He stared hard, but there was nothing there. It must have been a squirrel. He saw them now and again, scrabbling for nuts under the hazel tree or acorns from the enormous oak that overhung the garden from next door.

With a sigh, he settled back and took another drink. His stomach rumbled, and he glanced at his watch, wondering when his pizza would get there. The deliveryman was a regular, and if there was no answer at the door, he’d text to say he’d arrived. So Keiron could relax and not worry about—

There was definitely something there. It moved again. He’d seen it—a flash of white. A cat? Most of the neighbours had cats, and they liked to hang about in the shrubbery, waiting to pounce on unsuspecting birds. It had taken a lot of work to get rid of the smell of cat pee from the carpet.

Ah well. Although…something nagged at the back of his mind. It wasn’t a cat. It couldn’t have been a cat because it hadn’t looked like a cat. It had looked like a person. A small person with a pale pointed face. But it had only been a fraction of a second, a flash, an impression. It was nonsense, of course.

Maybe it was one of the fairies. He smiled.

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Meet the Author

Cheryl was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play. Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere. In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, bearded dragon and three cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art, with a healthy smattering of magic and mayhem.

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A Julia Review: Her Hometown Girl (Belladonna Ink #3) by Lorelie Brown

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

I had doubts before the Big Day—doesn’t everyone?—but I didn’t expect to find my fiancée banging the caterer’s assistant right before the ceremony. Especially because he’s a guy. And we’re lesbians. The proper sort of Southern Californian lesbians who invest in hedge funds and wear bedazzled wedding dresses and wouldn’t be caught dead in a Subaru.

But then I became a runaway bride, headed straight for Belladonna Ink to get the kind of tattoo I always wanted and my ex always called trashy. She didn’t approve of a lot of things I did. I think maybe she didn’t approve of who I am.

So I’m determined to be as much of myself as I can manage. Dating my tattoo artist? I’m in. Cai is smart, sexy, and mysterious. Exactly what I need for a rebound. She keeps herself guarded, but I understand—I’m holding on to secrets too. The kind of secrets that make a girl want to run home to Mom, even if home is Idaho. Maybe especially then. I just didn’t expect Cai to come with me.

I wonder what it would take to get her to stay forever.

Her Hometown Girl by Lorelie Brown is the 3rd novel in the Belladonna Ink series but from what I can tell the entries are largely standalone stories that don’t build up on each other. This is my first book from this author and I have a feeling it won’t be the last.

The story is told alternately through the eyes of the two protagonists, Tansy and Cai. What got me immediately hooked on this novel was those two characters and the way they are portrayed. They each are given a very distinct kind of voice and the author grants us a very intimate look into their personalities, tastes and inner as well as outer personal problems and fears. When I started with this novel, I was expecting a more light-hearted romance story but both the depth of the characters as well as the broached subjects surprised me (in a good way).

Tansy is only starting to recover from a both mentally and physically abusive relationship with her ex-fiancée. The author does a great job in portraying the marks that this has left on her and her struggle to find her own strength again. Even the smallest, seemingly most insignificant actions have a huge impact on her in this battered state of mind like how she panics when she messes up ordering drinks at a bar. It made her a very relatable character and I couldn’t help rooting for her and admiring her struggle against her own anxieties and fears (just like Cai does).

Cai appears at least on the outside to be the very opposite of Tansy. She seems like a strong, determined woman who knows what she wants and has her shit together. But as soon as we get to hear her own inner voice, we learn that she too has her own demons from her past to contend with. The two of them showcase how appearances can deceiving: how someone who appears weak and flustered (and maybe even thinks of themselves that way) can find a great strength within and how someone who seems tough and badass still carries the pain and scars from their past inside them.

The other characters were interesting and entertaining to read about as well – especially Tansy’s grandmother who was very inspiring to me.

The sex scenes are solely f/f and contain elements of submission and domination. They are hot, emotional and never meaningless. Each one feels like it adds to the characters and the development of their relationship. There’s just the right amount of them too – enough to keep things spicy but also not so many that the story might suffer from them. Warning: The book also contains a rape scene and further mentions of sexual as well as intense emotional abuse.

This novel really caught me by surprise about how much I got into it and felt for the characters. The subject of manipulation and abuse in a relationship is dealt with in an insightful manner as we get to see what kind of things it can do to a victim. I can recommend this book to anyone who is not looking for just a quick, steamy read about characters without any problems. I will definitely be looking into other works by this author as well.

The cover design by L. C. Chase is pretty and the soft tones with the pink sky suit particularly Tansy’s character rather well.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 243 pages

Published September 4, 2017

by Riptide Publishing

ISBN: 978-1-62649-646-0

Edition Language: English

A MelanieM Pre-Release Review: House of Cards (Porthkennack #4) by Garrett Leigh

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Calum Hardy’s life has unravelled. Reeling from the betrayal of a man he once loved, he boards a train heading south, with no real idea where he’s going except a world away from London.

Brix Lusmoore can hardly believe his eyes when he spots one of his oldest friends outside Truro station. He hasn’t seen Calum since he fled the capital himself four years ago, harbouring a life-changing secret. But despite the years of silence, their old bond remains, warm and true—and layered with simmering heat they’ve never forgotten.

Calum takes refuge with Brix and a job at his Porthkennack tattoo shop. Bit by bit, he rebuilds his life, but both men carry the ghosts of the past, and it will take more than a rekindled friendship and the magic of the Cornish coast to chase them away.

There’s a phrase that get’s uttered here whenever Brix or someone feels that a person has been charmed or perhaps conned even by a Lusmoore’s abilities to sway you over, they say “you’ve been Lusmoored”.  That I have by this place and people, this story. Everything about Garrett Leigh’s House of Cards resonates with me.  From the cornish seaside town of Porthkennack (mythically created for this series yet so believably alive), the harsh sea that calls to the residents, bringing them home, the characters Leigh created that I’ll not forget, or their love story that I’ll soon return to, House of Cards is one of those stories that I’ll always love.

In Calum Hardy and Brix Lusmoore, Leigh has created two damaged men that life tore apart and now ten years later throws back together just when each will need them the most.  On the surface, it’s Calum, so desperate for a life raft.  The author makes his pain, his feelings of low or no self esteem vivid, his vulnerability real and aching.  Years of  domestic abuse under the influence of his bullying, dominant boyfriend has reduced him to the point he’s turned everything over to him, finances, beloved tattoo shop…life choices to the event that breaks him and sends him fleeing.  Garrett has us with him every step of the way.

Switching perspectives, we get Brix Lusmoore, in demand tattoo artist and owner of his own shop in the village.  Brix is as full of complexities as they come, with the depth of the sea behind him.  I adore this man and his family.  The Lusmoores are an ancient Cornish family, their roots almost as old as the island rocks, some still carrying on the old ways that have served them so well in the past, ways not terribly legal.  It’s a fine line that Brix walks here with them.  Then there are the chooks, the rescue hens that are a vital element for the story and a tie for the villagers too.  A rescue line that works both ways for more than one person in this story.  Brix has his own pain and secrets to reveal as the title of the story indicates.

There is no quick romance here.  There can’t be under the circumstances.  Both men are too heavily damaged, too much needs to be revealed, too much healing needs to be done.  But it happens, quietly, beautifully and as it should.

The writing is so wonderful, the storytelling flows so naturally that it went by far too quickly in my eyes.  I could have stayed within this universe, within Porthkennack,  helping to rescue more chooks for many more stories.  A book you take to heart will make you feel that way.  House of Cards is one of those.  I highly recommend it!

Cover art by GD Leigh is gorgeous and perfect for the character and setting.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 249 pages
Published July 17th 2017 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleHouse of Cards
ISBN 1626495440 (ISBN13: 9781626495449)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesPorthkennack #4