A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Valor On The Move (Valor #1) by Keira Andrews

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

This love story between a President’s son who grew up in the White House and the Secret Service agent who was assigned to protect him in the last year of his father’s presidency was interesting, action-packed, and enjoyable, especially given the fact that May-December romance is one of my kinks.

I must admit, however, that even though that’s true, in this case the age gap also made me squirm a bit due to the younger man’s age. Shane is twice as old as Rafael Castillo, his protectee, who is nineteen as the story opens. And while I can see Rafa having a crush on Shane, it was more difficult to accept Shane’s crush on Rafa.

They spent a lot of time apart, though Rafa watched Shane from a distance and speculated on what it would be like to kiss him, or be held by him, or more. But the two didn’t spend more than a week or so in one-on-one conversations. Those took place while Rafa’s parents were away and he cooked for Shane in his upstairs kitchenette so they had some private time to talk for a while each night. Even so, their time together was brief.

There were plenty of opportunities for superficial interactions between the two and<spoiler> when Shane rescued Rafa from the kidnapping</spoiler> it was obvious they were definitely attracted to one another, but I never felt they were on equal footing. In hindsight, I realize I got emotionally involved with Rafa, but never with Shane, and that might be partly why I didn’t get them as a couple.

I also thought that the circumstances surrounding Shane’s and Rafa’s reunion in California after Rafa’s family was out of the White House were unrealistic. Without giving away spoilers, I’ll just say that Shane’s work circumstances and his travel plans seemed unlikely for someone so well established in his career. However, this is fiction and fiction is not fact, and those circumstances were necessary to give the men their HEA and move to the next story in the series. 

Rafa was a sweetheart, and the story was interesting, at times exciting, and ultimately satisfying.

In fact, one of my favorite scenes took place near the end of the story as Shane and Rafa were having fun surfing in California. It was evident they knew each other well, liked each other, and had something special in common. In short, it showed them on equal footing and was the moment when I thought of them as a couple, rather than as two individuals. On that happy note, I can say I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.

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The cover by Dar Albert depicts a man in a suit wearing sunglasses and holding his left hand to his ear while a younger man looks on in the background. The lower panel also depicts a photo of the White House. This cover cleverly tells the story of Shane, the Secret Service agent who protects Rafa, code name “Valor,” the President’s son.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 250 pages
Published September 9th 2015 by KA Books (first published September 7th 2015)
ISBN139780994092441
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesValor #1 settingWashington, D.C. (United States)

RELEASE BLITZ: Life Is A Stevie Wonder Song by V.L. Locey (excerpt and giveaway)

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Length: 87 pages
 
Cover Design: Sloan J Designs
 
Blurb
 

Authors know that their muse is a fickle creature. Best-selling spy novelist Steven Ramsey has been in a hate-hate relationship with his inspiration for months. When Steven’s publisher lays a legal ultimatum upon him, with a rapidly approaching deadline, he knows he must do something to kick-start his creativity or face the unemployment line. His daughter comes up with a possible answer: a summer camp for the creative soul. With nothing to lose, Steven packs up his laptop, phonograph, and beloved record albums and heads from Greenwich Village to the Catskill Mountains.

There, among a horde of college students attending for extra credits, is Declan Pomeroy, a photographer of fey creatures who is twenty-two years younger than Steven. The woods are a magical place, and he quickly finds himself falling under the spell of the free-spirited photographer. Confusion wars with desire as Steven succumbs to the feelings welling up inside. But, sadly, summer camp always must end. Can a man who has just found himself really leave the person that makes his heart sing?

 
Excerpt
 

I set my sights on the road. Someone called my name. I would know his singsong voice anywhere. I lifted a hand in greeting, my ugly ape feet glued to this fucking spot in the road. Declan bounded down the two stairs, racing toward me. My heart began to hammer behind my ribs. He ran across his freshly mowed lawn wearing a smile as big as the Catskills. I was not prepared for the leap he made at me. I caught him but just barely. He wrapped his arms and legs around me like some sort of invasive vine. His mouth smashed against mine. My knees grew rubbery as my prick roused in my shorts. I cupped his ass with both hands.

“I am so glad to see you,” he purred between kisses.

Someone back on the porch shouted. My grip on his backside lessened and he slid to the ground with a pout. “Come meet the guys. We were just talking about you.”

“You kids don’t want an old dinosaur breaking up your good times.”

“Just stop.” Declan grabbed my wrist and tugged me along in his wake. For being so slender, he was a strong little tugboat. The boys on the porch greeted me warmly. They were incredibly similar in style, which, I guess, reflects on the age. Conformity to the current trends is everything when you’re young. Each young man wore cargo shorts, low-cut tank tops, Nikes, sunglasses, and ball caps turned backward. Aside from hair coloring all four, and that included Declan—although his ankle bracelet and pink bandana ascot showed a modicum of individuality—were cookie-cutter young males. I was greeted with “Yo” and “‘Sup” after Declan introduced me.

He then steered me to the lone seat, a rough Adirondack chair exactly like the one on my porch. I sat. The guys fell back into their conversation about some video game. Declan sat down beside me, his dark head resting on my knee. I trembled violently inside at the gesture. All my bells and whistles were ringing, and yet these kids didn’t seem to pay any attention to the public display of affection. My hand was shaking when I placed it timidly on Declan’s head. His hair was soft as rabbit fur. He sighed blissfully at the contact. Talk flowed around me but I said little. If one did not know my avocation to be a wordsmith, they would think me mute.

About an hour passed. Declan had not moved an inch. My fingers now dallied with his hair. I had learned a great deal about this camp from simply listening. It was an open camp—obviously, since I had registered— but mostly college students used it to pick up an extra credit if they were in any of the arts programs. They had to write papers and turn them in before the fall semester began. If students from across the country did not fill all the bungalows, then they were offered to authors who couldn’t author anymore.

The troupe of artists, actors, and musicians slowly pushed into their skater shoes and ambled off. I was content to sit here forever, stroking Declan’s hair, but I had a few questions for my obsession.

“Why do you need extra credit?” I asked. A honeybee visited the red flowers in Declan’s clay pot. “Didn’t you graduate? You’re twenty-two, that should get you a bachelor’s degree in fine arts.”

His cheek laid on my bare thigh. I felt his heavy exhalation tickle the yellow hairs on my leg. My fingers continued combing.

“I’m a super senior,” he said without lifting his head from my leg.

“Do you get fries with that?”

 

V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, yoga, belly laughs, walking, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, a flock of assorted domestic fowl, and two Jersey steers.

When not writing spicy romances, she enjoys spending her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in hand. She can also be found online on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and GoodReads.

Website: http://vlloceyauthor.com/
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/pages/VL-Locey/124405447678452
Twitter- https://twitter.com/vllocey
Pinterest-http://www.pinterest.com/vllocey/
Goodreads- http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5807700.V_L_Locey
My blog- http://thoughtsfromayodelinggoatherder.blogspot.com/

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A Stella Review: Jace’s Trial (Trials in Abingdon #1) by J.M. Wolf

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RATING 2 out of 5 stars

 

Life is a trial full of obstacles that stand between you and your goals. Do you have the courage to face your own trial?

Jace Garrison was a musical prodigy at Juilliard ready to take the world by storm. Everything he could ever want out of life was unfolding right before his eyes, until everything came crashing down at once.
With his muse gone, along with everything he loved, will Jace find the courage to move on?

Former Navy SEAL Gerard Ramhart had always played by his family’s rules and traditions. Until he fell in love with Riley Garrison. Unfortunately, before Gerard had the courage to propose to the man he loved, Riley’s life was taken away. Gerard was left devastated, with only his memories of Riley and the pain of losing him to keep him going.

One year after Riley’s death, Gerard finally makes it to Riley’s hometown in Abingdon, Virginia and meets his son Jace for the very first time. Two men grieving over the loss they shared, and during their time of heartache, something blossoms. Can Gerard help Jace find the will to live the life he’s meant to have? And can Jace find his muse and accept his feelings for Gerard, despite the fact that Gerard once belonged to his father?

 

Jace’s Trial is the first book in the Trials in Abingdon series by a new to me author, JM Wolf. I was very curious about this novel, I read the blurb and found it intriguing and different from the usual plots. So I approached the reading with great enthusiasm. Still, from the beginning it was pretty clear the book wouldn’t have been a success to me. At first I wasn’t understanding quite well why, then I realized the story was going on with an unreality I can’t accept in contemporary romance.

Although I read the blurb and so I knew what I was going to read, the first part of the story laid the basis for a disaster. Shortly (and I’m not going to spoiler the book) what happened is Gerard lost his lover, Riley, and one year later he went to Jace’s home (Riley’s son) and the day after they went out for dinner, a dinner more than once called a date, and things soon turned into more intimate as should be between them, The same night Jace asked Gerard if a relationship was possible. Of course I knew a romance would happen between them but not like that. And without revealing too much, yes Gerard said no but he was a liar cause the signal in just that two days were there and Jace got them.

The fact the MCs had a sort of “lust at first sight” left me a little dubious. I could accept this from Jace POV but not from Gerard, especially whe the author let me know Jace was the spitting imagine of his father. That led me to believe he wasn’t actually interested in Jace’s person, but in Jace as a substitute of his dead lover. From that moment it was hard to me to find the his character real and believable. Plus the age difference was too evident, although I usually love it, in this case it didn’t work at all, maybe because I saw Jace and his vulnerability as something to protect or maybe because both of them were  too hurt to start a relationship.

I went on with the reading hoping something would change and made the story more real to my eyes. At the end it was a pain to finish Jace’s Trial, I can assure you I did it just because I had to review it for the blog, otherwise nope. And if you follow my reviews, you know I’m very easy to please, just give me some kind of romance and I’m a happy reader. But when there’s something that bothered me I struggle and it’s impossible to find positive elements to praise. I don’t think I will read the next installment in the series.

The cover art by Rue Volley is good, I like the style quite a lot.

Buy Links – Available on KU

Amazon Universal Link: Smarturl.it/JacesTrial

Amazon US  

Amazon UK 

BOOK DETAILS

TRIGGER WARNING:
This book contains content of physical and mental abuse, grieving, and bottled emotions.

* This is Book 1 in the series, but can be read as a standalone story- no cliffhangers.*

Kindle Edition, 300 pages

Published February 20th 2018 by Encompass Ink

ASIN B079YBP3BM

Edition Language English

Series Trials in Abingdon #1

Blog Tour Jace’s Trial by JM Wolf (excerpt and giveaway)

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BLOG TOUR

Book Title: Jace’s Trial (Trials in Abingdon Book One)

Author: JM Wolf

Publisher: Encompass Ink

Cover Artist: Rue Volley

Genre/s: May/December, Contemporary Romance, HEA,

Length: 87K Words/230 Pages

This is Book 1 in the series, but can be read as a standalone story.  No cliffhanger.

TRIGGER WARNING: This book contains content of physical and mental abuse, grieving, and bottled emotions.

Goodreads 

Blurb

Life is a trial full of obstacles that stand between you and your goals. Do you have the courage to face your own trial? 

Jace Garrison was a musical prodigy at Juilliard ready to take the world by storm. Everything he could ever want out of life was unfolding right before his eyes, until everything came crashing down at once. 

With his muse gone, along with everything he loved, will Jace find the courage to move on?

Former Navy SEAL Gerard Ramhart had always played by his family’s rules and traditions. Until he fell in love with Riley Garrison. Unfortunately, before Gerard had the courage to propose to the man he loved, Riley’s life was taken away. Gerard was left devastated, with only his memories of Riley and the pain of losing him to keep him going.

One year after Riley’s death, Gerard finally makes it to Riley’s hometown in Abingdon, Virginia and meets his son Jace for the very first time. Two men grieving over the loss they shared, and during their time of heartache, something blossoms. Can Gerard help Jace find the will to live the life he’s meant to have? And can Jace find his muse and accept his feelings for Gerard, despite the fact that Gerard once belonged to his father?

Buy Links – Available on KU

Amazon Universal Link: Smarturl.it/JacesTrial

Amazon US  

Amazon UK 

Excerpt

I don’t know what possessed me to do it, but I sat up on his lap, his arms falling to his sides, but he remained motionless. I stared in awe as I began trailing my fingers up his body, from his hip bones, trailing along his defined abdominal muscles, up his pectorals feeling the tuffs of chest hair tickling the skin of my fingers. I continued from his collarbone and up his neck until my palms rested on the man’s cheeks. Gerard stirred, but never woke.

I tilted my head slightly and marveled at the man that once held my father’s heart, but now was quickly beginning to worm his way into mine. I wished I knew an artist who would be able to capture Gerard’s face on paper perfectly so that I could look at it every night after his trip in Abingdon was over. I didn’t want to think of him leaving. I just wanted to revel in the stunning work of art that was Gerard Ramhart. All man, all muscle, and how I wanted him to be mine. I wasn’t afraid to admit it to myself anymore. I wanted him, so fucking bad; but would he ever be mine? Would I ever get to feel what it was like to be his? Would I ever know what it was like to have his lips on mine?

Instinctively, my thumbs began running along his dark thickly grown beard and then to his lips. I remembered that moment when he was stepping out of the shower, and we almost shared a kiss. Almost. I never stopped thinking about it, and the desire to kiss him at that moment was making my heart practically beat out of my chest.

As if my body had a mind of its own, I began leaning down, bringing myself closer to Gerard’s face. My face was inches away from his. I could feel his breath on my skin, and his full lips were close, oh so close. My heart was thundering so loud I was worried Gerard would hear it and wake up. This may have been my only chance to kiss him, and I didn’t want it to slip by. I got closer and was about to press my lips to his when Gerard’s eyes shot open.

Oh fuck, I was so screwed. I had no way to explain this. I pulled back some to looked into his startled eyes. I opened my mouth to try to say something, anything, but what the fuck could I say?

“I-I…Gerard, I’m –” my words were cut off immediately when his hand cupped the back of my head, and his free arm around my waist. Gerard pulled me down to him and embraced me in a deep soulful kiss.

I was taken aback by the sudden embrace, but not enough to pull away. When the initial shock wore off, I closed my eyes and gave back as much as Gerard was giving me. And holy fuck, was he giving me something that was literally stealing my breath away.

The kiss was not how I imagined it. I’d been kissed by many guys growing up, including Brett. I didn’t know if it would be possessive, rough and demanding like Brett’s or dull and lifeless like some of the casual flings I had to entertain my libido. I thought it would be simple but nice, like when Adam and I shared our first kiss, but it wasn’t. They all paled in comparison to the feel of Gerard’s lips on mine.

The kiss was heated, but not enough to devour me. It was filled with affection, longing, desire, wholesome. Gerard was kissing me as if he’d been waiting for centuries to do so, and now that he had me, he wanted to treasure the moment. He wanted to cherish me. I had never felt so desired by a man in all my life, and my eyes burned as if I would cry at the realization.

Was this how my father felt when he kissed Gerard? Was this how it felt to have someone kiss you like you were wanted? I couldn’t begin to comprehend how badly I wanted this moment, how much I needed it. Gerard was claiming me, and I wanted to be his.

About the Author  

JM Wolf never thought he would one day say that he’s a published M/M romance author. Having a poet for a mother and a sister who once ran a blog, it was only a matter of time before JM discovered his writing genes. In the beginning, his sole purpose in life was to be a singer/songwriter. Writing lyrics was the first step putting his thoughts onto paper. Even while singing, JM always found time to dabble with writing little short stories but never thought too much about it.

Once he reached adulthood, his music dreams left him, but not the feeling for writing down what was in his mind. However, that didn’t mean music no longer played a part in JM’s life. His debut book The Black Feather was inspired by one of his favorite songs. Whether lyrics or love stories, you will always find JM’s heart and soul in every word on paper.

JM Wolf lives in Chesapeake, VA with his husband and in-laws. When he’s not writing, you can always find him reading a good book, spending time with the love of his life, or jamming out to music. He didn’t pick the world of literature, the literary world picked him.

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A Stella Review: Mended With Gold by Lee Welch

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

A photographer with post-traumatic stress disorder falls for a comics artist on a wild New Zealand beach, but can he find true love when he feels so wounded by life?

Everything changed when the bomb exploded. Forty-five-year old, Alex Cox worked as an international photographer until a deadly explosion left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. Emotionally wounded, and desperate for a sense of safety, he’s run all the way to wild and remote Kahawai Bay, New Zealand.

Under the worst possible circumstances, Alex meets Joe, a shy young comics artist. Joe lets Alex into his playful, gentle world of comics, and soon Alex is falling for him, hard. Alex longs for more. Joe is reticent. But is it shyness? Or does Joe not want a much older lover with ‘issues’? Or is something else keeping them apart?

This is a tender and uplifting story about creativity, adversity, true love, and comics.

Mended With Gold is the first book I read by Lee Welch and I have to say it was a lovely surprise. I soon connected with the story and the characters, maybe because the author hit one of my weakness with these kind of souls like Alex and Joe. I love scarred characters, their pain makes them more real, troubled like we all are. I adore couples with an age difference and in some ways here it was evident Alex was more experienced than the younger Joe, but since life had not been easy on both of them, I later found them well matched and truly enjoyed the time I get to learn about their love.

Considering this is just a novella, I think the author developed quite well the characters and the plot, I found the setting particular and beautiful, that said to me Mended With Gold ended with a HFN and I would love to meet Alex and Joe again in a new book, and see them how they gained their HEA. I feel to recommend this story and I will definitely look for other works by the author.

The cover art by Melody Pond is lovely, clean and fitting. I like it.

Sales Links:  MLR Books | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 94 pages

Published November 17th 2017 by MLR Press

ASIN B077365FMD

Edition Language English

A Jeri Review: New Hand (Bluewater Bay #23) by L.A. Witt

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Rating: 4 Stars out of 5

This installment of the Bluewater Bay series was a great read. There were touches of serious, but a lot of fun as well.
Jesse was one of my favorite types of character. Broken on the inside but putting up a facade of strength. He was hurt one too many times and because of that he is wary. But he can’t stop flirting with the new bartender in town, Garrett. Even though Garrett is definitely older and closed off.
Jesse and Garrett had great chemistry. Their flirting banter was fun to read. But Jesse is scared to disclose his HIV status and Garrett is scared to lose another lover. With Garrett being older, the story really touched on his experiences of HIV in the 80’s and 90’s. Before the advances in medicine when he just watched friends die. He is open to understanding more- his head says HIV is no longer a death sentence, but his heart can’t forget his husband.
The story also touches on how many younger people are completely out of touch with HIV. Too many haven’t educated themselves as to the risks- or virtual non-risk- involved when you are with someone positive. I had heard that before (in real life) and was kind of shocked that so many of the younger generation (good god I sound old!) are so clueless.
Anyway, back to the story. There were excellent supporting characters, most of whom we had met in previous installments of this series. They absolutely added to the story and served and good wake up calls to both men.
If you are a fan of the Bluewater Bay series, or of L.A. Witt, definitely read this one.

Cover art by L.C. Chase who has done so many of the covers has once again captured the characters and done a great job here.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 399 pages
Published by Riptide Publishing (first published December 18th 2017)
ISBN139781626496941
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBluewater Bay #23

This title is part of the Bluewater Bay universe.

Review Tour – RJ Scott’s Love Happens Anyway (excerpt and giveaway)

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Length: 42,500 words approx.
 
Blurb
 

Hiring a boyfriend for Christmas; what could possibly go wrong?

Derek is facing yet another Christmas where his life feels out of control. He has a new career that doesn’t feel like his, and parents who would just love to see him settled down. All he needs is a temporary buffer for the parties he has to attend, and for his parents to leave him alone. Enter, Luke.

Luke is twenty-thousand dollars short for the renovations on Halligans; his family’s bar in New York’s Financial District. A favor for a buddy has him agreeing to play the part of boyfriend to a guy with more money than sense.

But when the spirit of Christmas works its magic on the two men, and they begin to fall for each other, Derek runs scared, and Luke needs space.

It doesn’t matter what obstacles you throw in the way of love, or how much you run in the other direction, because, when you’re least expecting it, whether you want it or not, love happens anyway.



December 6 – Xtreme Delusions, Valerie Ullmer, The Way She Reads, Gay Media Reviews
December 8 – Lelyana’s Book Blog
December 11 – Hearts On Fire Reviews, Millsy Loves Books, My Fiction Nook
December 13 – Mirrigold:Mutterings & Musings, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, BFD Book Blog, Nicole’s Book Musings, MM Good Book Reviews
December 15 – Jim’s Reading Room, Making It Happen, Padme’s Library, Sexy Erotic Xciting, Wicked Faerie’s Tales & Reviews
December 20 – Dog-Eared Daydreams, Book Lovers 4Ever, Au Boudoir Ecarlate, Wicked Reads
December 22 – A Book Lover’s Dream, Bayou Book Junkie

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Review here.  We absolutely recommend it!

Excerpt

I knew Marcus was six-two, just a little taller than me. I knew he had blue eyes, and dark hair with red tones in certain light. He had a brother, but they didn’t see each other much, being that his brother was in the Navy. His parents were retired in Florida, but they’d had Marcus and his brother Adam late in life. Marcus was twenty-nine, same as me with only a few months separating our birthdays, and he was a firefighter. Oh, and he was a good, kind man who was thoughtful all the time and treated me like a prince.

“That’s such a shame. Anyway, how are Marcus’ kittens?” Mom asked. I pulled myself back to what she was saying. It was never good to not pay full attention to anything Mom said, otherwise you’d end up agreeing to all kinds of things she’d throw at you when your defenses are down. I loved her dearly but she was sneaky like that.

Which is how I got myself into this mess with Marcus in the first place.

“They’re fine.”

“Did he find good homes for them?”

“Absolutely, the last of them went to a widowed grandmother in his apartment block.”

“Socks? The dark one?”

I glanced at my notes. “No, you remember Socks went to his uncle; Spider went to the old lady.”

“Oh yes, of course, although why someone would name a kitten Spider I don’t know.”

“There were spiders in the house where Marcus found the kittens.”

“I still don’t understand how there could be spiders in a burned-out house.”

Shit. “Spiders are hardy.”

“You said the house was razed to the ground, dear.”

Now I was losing the will to live. “Well, maybe the spider was outside. Mom, I need to go, Moira is at the door and she needs me to sign off on the new AbbaLister raisins account.”

“Of course dear, just, please tell Marcus he is welcome at any time. We so want to meet him and thought it’d be better at the house.”

“I will, I know he’s keen to meet you.”

“Oh good,” she said, and I knew I’d fucked up and somehow given her an opening. I’d never mentioned once that Marcus wanted to meet them, because that would just give them the impetus to take matters into their own hands. My worst fears were confirmed. “Oh, I’ve had the most wonderful idea.”

Oh God, what?

“Your dad and I are coming into the city on Monday; book us dinner on any night, or lunch, breakfast, anything. I want to meet this young man of yours and if it has to be in a restaurant then so be it.”

“I’m not sure—”

“Derek, he can’t be busy every night next week, and every lunchtime, goodness me, we’ll even take a quick coffee if that is all he can manage.”

Shit. Shit. And double shit.

“I’ll see what I can organize.” I kept my tone regretful, to at least give the impression I would try to organize them meeting Marcus, but that it would be unlikely.

We finished the call, and I replaced the handset in the cradle, fighting the urge to throw it against the wall, sit and cry at my desk, or maybe, less drastically, move to Montana and become a cowboy.

So many lies.

There was no Moira standing at my door. It was still closed and I’d lied to my mom.

There were no kittens, I made those up, and the spider story. The word spider came about because when I’d been talking to my mom about Marcus and the kittens, a tiny spider had crawled over my notes.

I closed the notebook in which I had the names of five kittens with their various characteristics listed.

Mom wanted to meet Marcus, any night, any lunch, anytime.

Which sucked big hairy balls.

Because that was another thing I had made up.

There was no Marcus either.

 

RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

mailto:rj@rjscott.co.uk
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Amy Lane on The Holiday Crafter’s Blues, and her release Regret Me Not (author guest blog and excerpt)

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Regret Me Not by Amy Lane
Dreamspinner Press
Cover art: Reese Dante

Buy Links:Dreamspinner PressAmazon  | Kobo iBooks  

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Amy Lane here talking about the holiday crafter’s blue and her new release Regret Me Not.  Welcome, Amy!

✒︎

The Holiday Crafter’s Blues

By Amy Lane

One of my first blogging idols was The Yarn Harlot, and she was one of the first people I know who put a name to this.

She called it IT.

As in, IT starts in September, if you’re lucky. For some people, the chosen few, IT starts in June.

Took me a few blogs to figure out what she was talking about, but when I did… oh, it hit me hard.

I’ve been a part of IT.

IT of course is the misbegotten idea that, hey! I can craft! I can knit/crochet/cross-stitch/quilt/sew! I shall make something for EVERY family member for EVERY holiday, and I will be known as the knitting/crocheting/crafting cousin/aunt/mother and nobody will ever be able to doubt my place in the holidays again!

Before any of you get any ideas about this, IT can only end in tears.

And terrible, terrible guilt on all sides.

I used to try to craft toys/clothes/whathaveyou for the kids, as well as knit or crochet something for all the members of my family every year. I would start in August, work feverishly for months, and still end up, shotgunning Supernatural for three nights straight while living on coffee and Christmas cookies so I could sustain the holiday pace needed to frolic with four children through on until blissful, peaceful December 26th.

The day we traditionally sit in the rubble of wrapping paper, play with our gifts and sleep like the dead.

One Christmas, I was really into it. I made the little kids these ADORABLE mittens, and my aunts and mom all got these really cool “Impossible yarn” wraps (easiest thing in the world involving Lion Brand Homespun and Dead Muppet of Your Choice—people loved them!) and there were hats and fingerless mitts in between.

I was into it, yes, but late. So late. So late that when Mate took three of the four kids into my aunt’s house to start the revels, I opted to finish a shawl in the minivan while ZoomBoy finished his nap. (It was a rule back then—let sleeping ZoomBoys lie. In fact, we have lots and lots of pictures on the blog of that kid asleep while dangling upside down from six different furniture items, because that’s just where he decided to nap.)

But oh, it would be worth it, I thought. Because I had done my filial duty, and I had showered all of my relatives with love and they would love me and they would appreciate me and they would…

Forget my gift at the gift exchange?

Well, apparently grandma had drawn my name, and she was right at that place where she went from Machiavellian manipulator of family (as are all good Italian grandmothers) to slightly confused elderly woman—and we were not ready for that. Grandma always dealt with her Christmas duties using grace and aplomb.

Except this time when she forgot her exchange gift, and I was the exhausted, addled recipient.

Who, embarrassingly enough couldn’t stop crying.

Yes, I know. It was stupid. I still maintain I didn’t do all that work for a great gift back—it’s not what I was thinking as I was working on stuff, and it’s not how I give gifts now. (Okay—when I was younger, yes, but sometime around the third kid I finally grew the hell up.)

But something about, oh, I don’t know, not sleeping for several weeks and stressing out over the deadline and, you know, four kids, full time job, writing…

Just caught up to me. I spent about an hour feeling like an idiot and trying to explain to everyone that I really wasn’t that fragile a snowflake while falling apart. My aunt ran and grabbed one of her presents—a very pretty green scarf that I still have today—and gave it to me, hoping I would calm down.

I did eventually—and I mean “calm down” in the broadest sense of the phrase. I stopped trying to make everybody all the things—in fact, I started making myself some as well. And I stopped trying to make them by a deadline. Now I just make them and send them to the recipient when they are done. Because a gift from the heart doesn’t have a deadline and it doesn’t have an obligation attached and it doesn’t have expectation of reciprocation.

It’s one of the crafter’s most important lessons.

It’s one of the gift giver’s most important lessons.

And it’s what I wanted for my boys, Pierce and Hal. That they give gifts from the heart. That what they say they mean. And that, if they love each other, their gifts don’t come from obligation, they come from wanting to see the other person happy, the end.

It’s one of my favorite holiday feelings – and it’s a lot harder to achieve than the perfect pair of mittens. 

Blurb

Pierce Atwater used to think he was a knight in shining armor, but then his life fell to crap. Now he has no job, no wife, no life—and is so full of self-pity he can’t even be decent to the one family member he’s still speaking to. He heads for Florida, where he’s got a month to pull his head out of his ass before he ruins his little sister’s Christmas.

Harold Justice Lombard the Fifth is at his own crossroads—he can keep being Hal, massage therapist in training, flamboyant and irrepressible to the bones, or he can let his parents rule his life. Hal takes one look at Pierce and decides they’re fellow unicorns out to make the world a better place. Pierce can’t reject Hal’s overtures of friendship, in spite of his misgivings about being too old and too pissed off to make a good friend.

As they experience everything from existential Looney Tunes to eternal trips to Target, Pierce becomes more dependent on Hal’s optimism to get him through the day. When Hal starts getting him through the nights too, Pierce must look inside for the knight he used to be—before Christmas becomes a doomsday deadline of heartbreak instead of a celebration of love.

Excerpt

The Morning After….

 

THE EVER-PRESENT shush of the sea echoed in his ears. Even before he was awake, Pierce Atwater knew that sound had haunted him in his dreams.

He yawned and stretched, the familiar aches of healing injuries pulling at his skin and muscles and the unfamiliar ache in his backside waking him up fully. Oh, hey. It had been a while since that happened.

With a heave, Pierce sat up entirely, getting his bearings. The beach house he’d lived in since Thanksgiving glowed as bright and gold as he remembered—too beautiful. Almost pristine.

His body, on the other hand—that felt well-used.

He turned and looked at the bed he’d just vacated, noting that it was rumpled and sex stained; lovemaking and sweat permeated the room.

Oh wow. Oh damn. What had he done?

A piece of paper—the ripped-off corner of a brown grocery bag—caught his attention on the other pillow of the king-sized bed.

 

Please don’t leave without saying goodbye—

 

—H

 

Pierce stared at the note, only marginally prepared for the giant ache that bloomed in his chest.

Aw, Hal—you deserve so very much more.

He looked around the room again, eyes falling on the clock radio. He was supposed to leave in an hour—he’d told his sister specifically that he’d be in Orlando by lunch so he could bake cookies with her kids.

He looked at the note again and tried hard to breathe.

 

 

 

The Month Before

 

“SO YOU have the Lyft app, right?”

“Yeah, Sasha—don’t worry about me, okay?” Pierce regarded his younger sister fondly. She was made to be a mother—even if she came into being one a little young.

Sasha bit her lip, trying not to argue. She’d been such a sweet kid growing up—never saying boo to either of their rather domineering parents. She’d gotten pregnant right out of high school, and even though Marshall had stepped up and married her and they’d both managed to get their degrees, their parents… well, they’d never let Sasha live down what a disappointment she’d been. Or—their words—what a slut either.

Pierce had hated them long before Sasha got pregnant, but the way they’d tried to destroy her for a simple human failing had sort of sealed the deal.

But parenthood had made Sasha—and Marshall—a great deal stronger than they’d been as feckless teenagers, and while Sasha wouldn’t argue with her beloved older brother, she would discuss things she disagreed with.

“Pierce, you almost died,” she said quietly, her thin face suddenly lost in the pallor of anxiety and the cloud of fine dark hair she could never keep back in a ponytail. “I mean… I refuse to see Mom and Dad over the holidays because they’re just… just….”

“Awful,” he supplied with feeling. Yeah. He’d resolved not to put up with awful anymore.

“Toxic,” she agreed, leaning back against her aging SUV. Darius and Abigail were sleeping in the back seat after playing out in the surf under Pierce’s supervision while Marshall and Sasha moved Pierce into the condo. Pierce had worried—he couldn’t move very well without the cane these days, and what did he know about kids and water?

But mostly what they’d wanted to do was run away from the waves and collect shells, and the one time Abigail had been knocked on her ass into the surf, Pierce had bent down and picked her up by the hand before the pain even registered.

The move had hurt—but it had given him some hope. His doctors kept assuring him that he could get most of his mobility back if he kept active and remembered his aqua regimen. Picking Abigail up and reassuring her that Uncle Pierce wouldn’t let her drown gave him some confidence that his body might someday be back up to par. And the condo had a pool, which was why he’d taken his best friend Derrick’s offer to let him use it over the winter months while Pierce got his life together. Pierce was definitely in a position to follow his doctor’s advice.

So now, looking at his sister and thinking about how much self-assurance she’d had to grow to push a little into Pierce’s state of mind, he couldn’t be mad at her.

And he had to be honest.

“I’ll be grumpy and pissed off and bitter,” he said, letting his mouth twist into a scowl of disdain for the land of the living. He’d been fighting it off since Sasha picked him up at the airport. “It’s a good thing you made me get the car app, because seriously, I may have let myself starve to death. As it is, the groceries are going to keep me going for a good long time.”

Sasha’s eyes grew big and bright, and he took her hand and squeezed.

“Don’t worry, sweetie. None of it is your fault. You would have let me stay at your place forever, and I was getting in your way. This is good. I’ll hang out here, find a little peace, and when I go back to Orlando, I’ll be up for getting my own apartment and getting out of your hair, okay?”

“I’d never kick you out, Pierce,” she said miserably. “You know that.” She wiped the back of her hand across her big brown eyes. “You just… you got out of the hospital and—”

“And I was an awful fucking bastard,” he said with feeling. Oh God. The defining moment for calling up Derrick to take him up on his offer was when he’d heard his father’s words coming out of his mouth, telling his sister she was useless because she couldn’t help him off the couch without pain. “Sasha, you deserve better than me. You deserve better, period. I’m not going to hang around you and get in your way again until I’m decent company for human beings, okay?”

Sasha shook her head, still crying. “You were in pain,” she whispered. “And you were sorry right after. And you’ve done so much for me, Pierce. I can forgive you for being mean once when you did so much for me….”

He remembered the night she’d shown up at his apartment, in tears, practically hysterical, because she’d told the parents about an impending Darius and had been read the riot act about what a fuckup she was.

He’d taken her in—let her stay with him for a couple of months until she and Marshall scraped up enough money for rent and a car. She’d gotten a job, and Pierce had paid her tuition as she made her way through school. She had a career now—one she could work from home as a developmental editor of a small press. Marshall had his degree in software engineering, and together they made a good living—good enough to afford a guest bedroom and to put Pierce up for a month after the accident.

Pierce squeezed her hand now. “You listen to me,” he said gruffly. “You don’t owe me a thing. You’re the only family I want to see—pretty much ever. So just let me work shit out in my own head, and I’ll come back for Christmas a whole new man, okay?”

“I like the one you are right now!” she said staunchly, and then she threw herself in his arms and held on tight. “Love you, big brother,” she whispered, and Marshall stood behind her, guiding her away.

“Love you too,” he said belatedly, and Marshall turned and shook his hand firmly.

“Come back when you promised, okay?” Marshall was just as slight as Sasha—two small, mild-mannered people getting along in a bright, brash world. Pierce had always fancied himself their champion knight—he couldn’t be that as he was.

He had to make himself better.

“Christmas Eve,” Pierce vowed. “Don’t worry, Marshall. Nobody likes being alone on Christmas.”

Marshall shrugged. “We wouldn’t be alone, Pierce. We just don’t want you to be.”

With that, the guy Pierce and Sasha’s parents had driven off their property with a baseball bat guided a disconsolate Sasha into the old vehicle and piloted it away.

As soon as they’d left the parking lot, Pierce allowed his shoulders to sag and dragged his sorry ass to the back door of the condo.

He crawled into bed and stayed there until he absolutely had to get up and pee the next morning.

 

 

STAYING IN bed for sixteen hours had consequences—he almost didn’t make it to the bathroom, he was so sore. After he’d taken care of business and washed down a granola bar, he realized he was going to have to be serious about that pool thing, or he really could end up curling into a ball and dying in a beach condo in Florida.

For a moment he contemplated it—he’d always been the kind of guy to consider all the angles—but eventually he decided he wouldn’t go quickly enough and managed a pair of board shorts and a T-shirt. As he walked through the tiled hall of the condo, he realized the tile was going to destroy his body almost as quickly as the inactivity, and made a mental note to buy some rubber mats at the very least, so he’d have some padding for his joints. Derrick had said to make himself at home—ergonomic home decorating was a go!

Just as soon as he got into the… ahhh… pool.

Heated, of course, and a perfect counterpoint to a cool day in the high fifties/low sixties. He’d set his phone on a lounge chair, playing something disgustingly upbeat and perky, and went about doing the exercises he and his physical therapist had worked on.

Actual physical motor activity really did have magical properties—it must have. He was working up a head of steam, the resistance and buoyancy of the water supporting his body as he used active stretching techniques, when a voice cut into his workout Zen.

“If you don’t straighten your back, you’ll be in a world of hurt!”

Crap. Whoever that was, he was right.

Pierce adjusted his form and then looked over his right shoulder, from whence the voice—deep and sharp and young—had issued.

“Thanks,” he said briefly, taking in the sprawled form of what looked to be a teenager wearing board shorts, a leopard-print bathrobe, and giant aviator sunglasses, lounging in one of the chaises. Dark hair, faintly sun streaked, was cut almost Boy Scout short around an adorable frat boy face. His hands were sort of a mess, loosely wrapped in gauze, but other than that, he was as untouched as a virgin’s dreams.

“Dude, what in the hell are you listening to? This shit.” The boy shuddered. “I’m saying. I bet you could work up a sweat if you had decent music.”

“It’s a mix,” Pierce said weakly, feeling old and slow. “I just hit an easy button, you kn—”

“I’ll get you a better sound,” the kid said, picking up the phone. “What’s your password?”

Pierce gave it to him and then stopped dead in the water and almost drowned. He was in the deep end, and he had to work to stay afloat and—

“Don’t spaz,” the kid said on a note of deep disgust. “My phone’s in the condo, and I could give a shit about your passwords. Jesus, if I was a hacker genius, I’d be someplace warm, you think?”

Pierce took a deep breath, and suddenly Katy Perry came blaring out of his phone. Well, okay, so everybody had heard this song; it did make him want to work harder. Pierce was calling it a win.

“Thanks,” he said again, panting now because he was moving faster.

The kid shrugged. “Don’t worry about it. You gonna be here tomorrow?”

“Yeah, but—”

“Same time?”

“Yeah.” ’Cause why not. Nothing better to do, right? No job, no wife, no life?

“Good. I’ll see you here with better music. Now stop doing that water walk thing and do a mountain climber—come on—I know you can.”

Pierce glared at him—and switched the move.

“There you go. Now follow my pace. You can go faster.” The kid started clapping, and Pierce struggled to keep up.

“I can’t… do… that…,” he gasped. He expected attitude back, because the kid had given him nothing but, and he was surprised when the clapping slowed.

“Sorry. You just look younger than this pace.”

Pierce had his back to the kid, but he had the sensation of a thorough visual once-over. He adjusted to the new pace and found his wind again. “Car accident,” he managed, trying not to be offended.

“Aw… aw hell. I’m sorry. I’m being an ass. I should just leave you to your workout.”

“No,” Pierce called out, stopping to tread water and cool down enough to talk. “Sorry—just… I was getting a workout. I suck doing this alone.” He kept his arms and legs moving and found the kid on the side of the pool again—he’d moved from where Pierce had first spotted him to stand right in front of the line Pierce was using to go back and forth.

“Yeah, well, being alone sort of sucks on all fronts,” the kid said philosophically. “I’ll try not to be an ass if you try to do a hard workout, how’s that?”

Pierce found himself nodding, even though he’d only come out to the pool out of what he deemed necessity. “Deal,” he panted.

“Okay, now back to mountain climbers. I’ll set the pace, and if it’s too fast, cry uncle.”

“Groovy,” Pierce breathed, positioning himself to go. “Now shoot.”

The kid put him through a decently difficult workout, adjusting for the things Pierce couldn’t do yet and pushing him hard in the stuff he could. After forty-five minutes, Pierce was starting to cramp up, though, and the kid had him stretch out.

Good stuff, really—the blue freedom of the water, the structure of the workout, and the congeniality of dealing with another human being without bitterness or backstory served as sort of a purge—some of the self-pity Pierce had wallowed in for the past sixteen hours was rinsed away.

But not all of it.

He was getting out of the pool when the damage in his calf and thigh screamed protest, and he groaned and grabbed on to the rail. The kid was right there, though, stepping into the water regardless of his pricey flip-flops and the hem of his leopard-print bathrobe.

“Uh-oh—overdid it. C’mon, let me help you to the hot tub. I’ll give you a rubdown, okay?”

“No,” Pierce grunted, suddenly aware of this kid. Lean and narrow but defined practically by muscle group, his body was a work of art, and Pierce didn’t even know if he was of age. And even if he was of age, he was too damned young for Pierce.

“No hot tub?” the kid asked sharply. “Or no gay guy touching you?”

Pierce’s face heated. “No hot teenager touching me?” he mumbled, limping toward the steamy goodness of the little spa and trying not to lean too much into the kid’s strong arms.

The youngster’s throaty chuckle didn’t reassure him in the least. “I’m twenty-three, old man, so cool your jets. Besides, I’m”—his voice dropped sadly, and the suddenly vulnerable look on his frat boy face made him look even younger—“well, I’d like to become a massage therapist, but I’ve only got half the coursework and hours done. Seriously, though, I’m halfway a professional, and I’m pretty good, so maybe let me work out the cramp in your leg?” He smiled winningly and used his free hand to lift his shades so he could bat a pair of admittedly limpid and arresting amber-brown eyes. “After all, I did work you over pretty hard.”

Pierce rolled his eyes at the double entendre, but as he reached for the rail of the hot tub, he had to concede that having his leg worked on would make the whole working-out thing feel like less of a mistake.

“Yeah, sure,” he muttered, taking the steps creakily one at a time. “Sure, you can squeeze my muscles till I scream.”

The kid chuckled again, inviting Pierce in on the laugh. “So you’re happy to let me rub one out on you?”

Pierce groaned. “God, kid, I can hardly walk. No sex jokes until I can make it out of the pool without collapsing.”

“So there can be sex jokes. Eventually. I just want to make sure.” Very gingerly the kid lowered Pierce until he was sitting. After he straightened, he scampered up the steps and pulled off his sodden robe, laying it out on the chaise to dry, and kicked off his ruined leather sandals.

“Oh geez.” Pierce thought of the massacre of perfectly good shoes and robe and was attacked by his conscience, which he’d assumed was dormant or dead. “Kid, I’m sorry about the clothes—”

“Don’t be.” He shrugged. “They’re my old man’s, and since he kicked me out of the house for Christmas, he can pretty much kiss off his super classy robe and huaraches, you hear me?”

Pierce wasn’t sure whether to chuckle or be horrified. “Just for Christmas?” he asked, making sure.

He lowered the sunglasses over his eyes again, probably to help him look insouciant when he was—in all likelihood—wounded. “Folks were having important political friends over. I’m a gay embarrassment, so I got the beach house. Last year they were in Europe, and I got the beach house with my boyfriend and we fucked like lemmings. No boyfriend this year.”

“The lemmings are safe?” Pierce asked, sympathies reluctantly stirred. Parents who judged their kids for sexual activity? He knew those assholes! Pierce and Sasha had grown up with their very own set.

Kid laughed, sounding young and happy instead of casual and cynical. Pierce liked the sound. “Here, let me rub your leg down—I promised.”

Pierce grunted. “Kid—”

“Hal—”

“Like the computer?”

Hal stared at him, unimpressed. “Oh dear, a Space Odyssey joke. I’ve never heard one of those, given that I’ve had this stupid name since birth. Now give me your leg.”

Pierce complied, startled by the venom. “Well, I could call you ‘Prince Hal,’ like—”

“King Henry the Fifth? Like in the Branagh movie?”

Pierce racked his brains, trying to remember. “I thought Branagh just did Hamlet,” he said, confused.

Hal gasped and wrapped his hands around Pierce’s ankle. “Heathen! How could you not know about the Branagh King Henry? He was young and still faithful and downright adorable!”

As he spoke, Hal worked his capable, agile fingers up Pierce’s leg—between that and the hot, bubbling water, Pierce’s entire body was melting like chocolate in the sun.

About the Author

Amy Lane has two grown children, two half-grown children, two cats, and two Chi-who-whats at large. She lives in a crumbling crapmansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and gay romance–and if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.

A MelanieM Review: Bull (Brawlers #3) by J.M. Dabney

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Welcome to Brawlers Bar…

They said men only get better with age, distinguished and all that BS, but Archer “Bulletproof” Woods hadn’t gotten better. At fifty-six he was still as much an asshole as he’d been in his twenties and thirties, hell, maybe he was worse. Being a bouncer at a bar called Brawlers suited him just fine and he even tolerated the rest of the crew who’d taken up residence in his house when they’d had nowhere else to go. He was big, growly and homely that kept the parade of men passing through Brawlers at arm’s length for the past decade. One night changed all that.

What he’d thought was happily ever after turned into a nearly five year nightmare. Gregory Charles appeared to have it all, a successful business, sophistication, and a perfect marriage. His friend and best employee, Landon, begged him to come out to a friend’s bar to celebrate Landon’s anniversary. What could it hurt? A night without contemplating the hell that would come down on him the moment he served his husband with divorce papers would do him good. That is until he met the brooding older man staring into a whiskey straight ignoring everyone around him.

Watching for trouble was his job and Gregory screamed mistake as soon as the long, lean and handsome man sat down beside him. But he also knew when someone was in over their head and Gregory needed someone to watch his back. That someone was Bull, only time would tell if he’d have to fight Gregory as much as the man after him.

Bull‘s story is the one I’ve been waiting for.  I’ve love the huge, hulking father figure ever since I became aware of the Brawlers and their extended family.  It’s Bull and his house whose been the home and focal point of so many of these stories.  And it’s been Bull who’s been such a steadying influence on those around him when everything felt like it was being destroyed for them.  Yet Bull was ever lonely, alpha among alphas, and you wanted to get the know the person called Bull.  In Bull (Brawlers #3) by J.M. Dabney I finally got that story.

The solitary man isn’t the one I was prepared to find.  He’s hardly anywhere close to the men he houses, although he  clearly understands them and the violence that drives them.  Instead Dabney gives us a man full of pain and loneliness, hating it, yet perhaps thinking that his time for something more has passed him by because of his age.  The sadness is overwhelming.  Then Gregory appears at Brawlers, helping to  celebrate Landon’s anniversary and a connection is made that changes everything.

Gregory is a complicated character (they all are here).  Explaining more about Gregory actually gives away too much of the the plot for my comfort, however, let’s just say trying to serve divorce papers to a husband isn’t always the easiest thing when the husband refuses to accept them.  This is a hurt/comfort story and deals with issues of domestic violence and control.

Bull’s situation (he’s divorced with a grown child he hasn’t seen in awhile) plus his age all determines the manner in which he views his actions towards Gregory and any possibility of a relationship.  Gregory’s own demons also need to be dealt with by Gregory himself and others.  Broken, bruised men are the heart of most of Dabney’s stories.  For most, life has made them hard and violent, but for some, it’s left it’s marks in other ways.

The relationship dynamics here make any romance unsure and slow as it should be.  I loved the struggle and the carefulness taken to ensure more pain wasn’t inflicted.   I like that there is an awareness of the age issue, it’s addressed, and they move forward. Was it a little rushed towards the end?  Perhaps, but the whole is darn near perfect.

I think Bull is one of my favorite Brawler books of the series.  Of course, I do love the whole series and the one that follows it.  I have them all listed below.  Check them all out and check them off as I review them.  I highly recommend them all.

Cover design by Winterheart Designs is perfect for Bull, how I love these covers.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 199 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by Hostile Whispers Press, LLC (first published 2017)
ASINB06Y2GHQPH
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBrawlers #3

  • Executioners – third series

A MelanieM Review: The Rhubarb Patch (Men of Gilead #1) by Deanna Wadsworth

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

 

City boy, sci-fi novelist, and recovering pushover Scott Howe doesn’t know what to expect when he inherits his grandmother’s house outside the quaint village of Gilead, Ohio—but it isn’t an enormous bald man in nothing but tighty-whities and orange rubber boots shouting at him to keep his weed whacker away from the rhubarb patch.

Scott has never met anyone like Phineas Robertson: homesteader, recluse… Republican. A tender—if unlikely—friendship grows over the summer while Phin and his schnauzer, Sister Mary Katherine, teach Scott about life in the country and the grandmother he never knew. Opposites attract, but widower Phin worries his secret will send Scott running faster than his politics, and Phin isn’t convinced he deserves a second chance at romance.

Scott is convinced—rural life, and his one-of-a-kind, older neighbor is the future he wants. Before he can settle in, his mother drops a bombshell that strains their already tenuous relationship, and a cousin who believes he is the rightful heir to the property puts Scott in danger. It’ll take a lot of compromises, and even dodging a few bullets before they’re out of the weeds, but nurturing something as special as true love always takes hard work.

I loved The Rhubarb Patch (Men of Gilead #1) by Deanna Wadsworth.  As a fan of the ‘slow burn’ and a narrative paced according to the storyline, this book sang to me like a katydid on a summer country night.  It was sweet, realistic, heartwarming, and loving.  Wadsworth has given us a beautifully written story full of characters with heart, dealing with loss, homophobia, warring relatives, and a mother whose maternal abilities leave much to be desired.  And all the people here feel true and layered, whether we like them or not, two legged or four legged.

And it all starts with a rhubarb patch.

Prepare to fall in love with the country here and the vegetables of the garden along with Scott as Phin educates his “City Mouse” in his newly acquired home and gardens.  As the men tentatively learn about each other (also as Scott learns about the grandmother he never knew, who was adored by Phin and the people of Gilead) and Phin starts to open up to Scott about his past and his loss, the reader is pulled into the growing intimacy of their shared lives and relationship and country living.  We watch and listen as Scott’s affection, then love for this small house/farm and neighbor develops and deepens.  And the same for Phin.  We laugh and are charmed by Sister Mary Katherine, Phin’s aging schnauzer.  And yes, made more than a little crazed by Scott’s dysfunctional mother, her homophobic boyfriend and attitudes towards Scott’s life.  But always the author keeps us actively engaged in the relationships, the town, and especially in Phin and Scott’s relationship as the seasons change and the gardens along with it.

There are several elements here that Wadsworth handles beautifully.  As they aren’t mentioned in the blurb, I won’t reveal them here.  But the manner in which it is revealed, handled as a part of their lives and connected to another character is smooth, intelligent, and believable.

When I finished the story, I was happy knowing I wasn’t done with the town of Gilead, this couple and the person who most likely will be getting their romance next.  You see I’d fallen just as deeply in love with them all as Scott had and now I  can’t wait for my next visit to come around.  I want to check in on them, see how everyone is doing and see how the next romance will develop…slowly….will be my guess.  I highly recommend you pick up this book and get reading before the next one comes out.

Cover Artist: Anne Cain.  What a great cover.  From the men, to the patch to   Sister Mary Katherine over in the corner waiting to steal some vegetables.  It’s perfect!

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 284 pages
Published July 24th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781635336627
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesMen of Gilead #1 settingOhio (United States