Review: Saugatuck Summer (Saugatuck #1) by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

SaugatuckSummer_500x750Topher Carlisle likes to think of himself as fabulous. Topher knows he looks fabulous, now only if he felt that way on the inside.  He is turning twenty one and stands on the precipice of adulthood with life changing decisions rising up around him. Gay, gorgeous and of mixed race, Topher’s upbringing has been anything but normal.  Or happy.  Or safe. His mother is a drug dependent alcoholic whose mental health issues threatened his health and his sanity growing up.  His other relatives are little better, giving him support on their terms, which were both emotionally and physically abusive.  And while most people only see a flamboyantly gay, intelligent and perhaps superficial young man, the inner Topher is the one who continues to battle with his depression and thoughts of worthlessness.

Supporting himself through college on a swimming scholarship, Topher’s education might be cut short if he can’t get in condition to compete for the team in the fall and earn the money he needs for board.  Luckily for Topher, his BFF, Mo is bringing him with her to the family beach house on Lake Michigan.  A summer of swimming and, hopefully, part time work, should just do the trick if Topher can stick with the program, but that is something he rarely does.   And something totally unexpected and disasterous happens….his bestfriend’s father is handsome, closeted…and it turns out, available for an affair.  An affair that ruins everyones lives before the summer is over.

Now homeless, friendless and desperate Topher needs help in the worst way. And it comes in the shape of a artist named Jace who asks to paint his portrait and sees beyond the facade Topher has erected to protect himself from further pain.  And he just might be the answer to this young gay man’s prayers…if only Topher will give him a chance and let him in.

What?  Don’t recognize the book by the synopsis above?  Not even close to the blurb you read that starts out  “Hi, I’m Topher Carlisle: twenty-one, pretty, and fabulous”?  Not surprising because that light, somewhat comedic summary has little in common with the dark, heartrending story that is Saugatuck Summer.  Just like you, I was expecting a sort of coming of age story featuring one of those fabulous characters who burbles on in an almost stream of consciouness, missing an editor gate sort of inner monologue.  You know light, kind of frothy, with hints of angst here and there.  That is not, as I said, Saugatuck Summer.  What I got was darker, deeper, and totally involving featuring a mess of a main character who is not instantly likable.  All of which is much, much better than anything I had originally anticipated.

Instead of light romance, Gormley gives us Christopher “Topher” Carlisle, a chronic depressive who is half black, gay, and on the cusp of turning twenty one.  A traumatic event sent him into a downward spiral last year in college, turning him into a black hole of depression and making him unable to attend classes or stay in shape to swim.  We meet Topher as the summer starts.  His bestfriend, Mo, has invited Topher to stay with her and her family at the summer vacation home on Lake Michigan free of charge.  There Topher can swim himself back into shape and get a part-time job to help pay college expenses in the fall. Sounds great, right?  And it would be for anyone but Topher who is also self destructive and possesses of poor self image.  He is, as they say, his own worst enemy and proves it over and over again to himself to be certain.

Gormley establishes that the reasons why Topher acts the way he does are grounded in his abusive past which continues to haunt him as he cannot bring himself to cut all ties to his mother and his family.  The author doesn’t dump all the horror that is Topher’s family on the reader at once which is probably a good thing because the ghastly mess that is Topher’s family and upbringing is made more effective when it is revealed in segments of painful revelations as Topher relives scenes from his childhood and other memories that refuse to stay buried.  Topher himself is aware of his self destructive tendencies.  He is the product of years of therapy and doctor ordered medications that help with the depression.  But as the cause of most of his pain is only a phone call away, a complete breakdown is a possibility in any given stressful situation.  Over and over again, Gormley’s Topher will bring us to tears even as we want to give him a shake in frustration over his actions. We get it and him.  It will take a while to accept Topher as he is such a deeply flawed young man but when you do (and you will if you give him a chance), then his journey out of the darkness and into a reality where he just might find happiness is one you will wholly invest yourself in. You will love this young man and every step he takes, forward and back, are ones that you will take together.

Ah, yes, the cheating.  I know that for some of you, just the mention of cheating will have you crossing this off your TBR list.  And that the man who cheats is not only married but Topher’s best friend’s father might send the rest of you running for the proverbial door.  To all of you, please put that issue aside and read this story.  Brandon, the father, has his own demons to fight and he also is a flawed, impulsive human being.  Brandon knows that this affair will end badly but like Topher, he can’t help himself.   Again, Gormley provides a solid and realistic rationale for both men’s actions.  You don’t have to like what  they are doing, just understand that each man, or almost man in Topher’s case, has so many dark skeletons in their closet that it makes this jump into bed almost a given.  Everyone here is so authentically human, painfully so that no matter how awful their actions seems, you still end up empathizing with everyone who gets pulled into this mess.  And that includes the two main participants.

Gormley does an outstanding job with all her characters here.  Mo, the best friend betrayed by both her father and Topher, is a portrait of loyalty and heartbreak.   A married couple, Robin (an art gallery owner) and Geoff, his partner and tattoo artist, who turn out to be the grounded gay couple who helps save Topher by providing a framework of knowledge and friendship that Topher has never had before.   And finally Jace, the artist who sees deeply into the troubled Topher and still wants to pursue a relationship. Each and every one is a stunner of a character.  And their importance to this story and Topher is beautifully rendered in scenes that will make you laugh and cry and want to be a part of that village that starts to raise Topher up out of the hole made by his upbringing and family.

Is this an easy book to read?  No, not really.  But it is a wonderful one.  It will pull you in, involve you emotionally and mentally.  It will tear you up as you watch Topher breaking on the shoals of his illness and family history.  And finally it will move you to tears and happiness as Topher finds his way to love and a future.  Thankfully, Amelia C. Gormley realizes that there will never be an easy resolution to someone with Topher’s illnesses and past, only better ways to handle them with the right therapy and a balanced doctor proscribed plan of medication.  So the ending is marvelously conceived and wonderfully realistic.  I loved it as I did Topher and everyone else found within the covers of Saugatuck Summer.

Saugatuck Summer  is a book not to be missed.  It will be one to be remembered.  And Saugatuck Summer will be on my Best of 2014 list at the end of the year.

Cover artist is LC Chase.  That cover is beautifully deceptive.  You only think it shows a lovely peaceful beach scene but look at the gathering storm clouds and the portent is clear.  Just an amazing cover, one of the best of the year.

 

Of Special Note:  Be sure to check out the Saugatuck Summer soundtrack by singer/songwriter Casey Stratton .  This soundtrack is the soundtrack for Topher’s life.  Stratton’s music and lyrics are found throughout the story, linking events, memories and happenings together in a seamless strand of melody.  I found a new musician to love with this story.  Visit his website.  I think you will find the same.

Book Details:

ebook, 363 pages
Published May 19th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published May 17th 2014)
original titleSaugatuck Summer
ISBN139781626491168
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/
seriesSaugatuck #1

Buy Links:   Riptide Publishing               Amazon                         ARe

Memories, Memorials, and Memorial Day and the Week Ahead

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Memorial Day.  Two words that bring forth powerful emotions and memories of both of those from our past as well as our present.  We think of the past and those deceased while at the same time our memories are full of family celebrations, and the laughter and love that speaks of life itself.

I was thinking of both of those as I watched the film on the news of the inauguration ceremony of National September 11 Memorial & Museum in NYC.  The pictures brought forth a profound sadness as the cameras scanned over the survivors and their families as well as the exhibits, stopping here and there for closeups and personal stories.  A staircase that was the only avenue for some to freedom and life stands bone white, covered in ash.  Bent, blackened metal framework from parts of the structure from the towers loom upwards over the crowds within the museum, much like the towers they once helped support.  All chilling and stark reminders of that day and our national tragedy.

But for me it was the small items that were so poignant and personal that they made the pain and loss intimate and immediate once more.  A red bandana World Trade Center 9:11 Museaumfrom a young man who sacrificed his life to make sure others got down safely.  His mother was present,full of pride for her  son, as she stood next to his photograph and his red scarf now enclosed in glass. It was the scarf that the survivors he helped down that day remember him by.  Over and over again, a young man in a red bandana grabbed people, moving them towards safety and life.  The expression on her face, so full of love, loss, and grief, was visceral as she looked at the scarf.  Another survivor was there looking at the black, dusty shoes she donated that she wore that day as she walked down all those flights of steps. She ended up caring them as she ended up finally walking down in her bare feet because the pain of going down all those steps made wearing them impossible.  Small item after item, watches, cell phones, glasses, standing side by side next to the physically imposing and massive items from the World Trade Center bombings, like a fire truck and or large pieces of masonry from the Pentagon, yes that’s there too. And there is a wall of photographs of those that died that day.  Every race, every gender,, every age….all represented there.  Forever remembered, forever immortalized.

It made me think of another wall, one full of names on black marble.  Here in Washington, DC, where huge crowds will gather on this weekend to Vietnam Vet Memorialremember, to grieve and to celebrate lives now gone.  There will be Rolling Thunder, and parades, and the echoing refrain of Taps heard over Arlington Cemetery this weekend. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, my favorite of all Washington memorials, stands as one of our more  striking and haunting memorials. The pictures found there aren’t on the wall but will be left by loved ones, friends, family, and fellow soldiers who come to commune with the dead and their memories.  There, as well as in New York City, the memorials will help all of us remember and help to mitigate the grief left behind.  Powerful images, powerful emotions, and a powerful almost unimaginable amount of loss.

Take a moment this Memorial Weekend and remember.  Do something that will celebrate their life as well as remember their loss.

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Now for the week ahead here at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords:

  • Monday, May 26:        Love Comes Home by Andrew Grey
  • Tuesday, May 27:        Author Spotlight: Writing with Humor by John Inman
  • Wed., May 28:              Book Tour:  Sierra Cartwright’s Crave
  • Wed., May 28:              Hostile Ground by Aleksandr Voinov and LA Witt
  • Thursday, May 29:      Saugatuck Summer by Amelia C. Gormley
  • Thursday, May 29:      Clipped by Devon McCormack
  • Friday, May 30:           Moving Earth by T.A. Webb
  • Saturday, May 31:        Back Burn by Laura Harner
  • Saturday, May 31:        May Summary of Reviews/Best Covers

 

 

 

Vietnam Vet Memorial 2

 

 

Thoughts on Memorial Day…

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep – Mary Frye (1932)

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am in a thousand winds that blow;
I am the softly falling snow.

I am the gentle showers of rain;
I am the fields of ripening grain.
I am in the morning hush;
I am in the graceful rush.

Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.
I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.

I am the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

 

On Tour with Amelia C. Gormley and Saugatuck Summer (contest)

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Good morning all!  Amelia C. Gormley is here today talking about her latest release, Saugatuck Summer, a book that is truly an endeavor from the heart.

Good morning, Amelia!

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Hi, and welcome to the Saugatuck Summer blog tour! Thank you to Scattered Thoughts and Roque Words Reviews for hosting me today! SaugatuckSummer_150x300(2)

For those of you who have seen me talking about it on social media for the last nearly year and a half, you know that Saugatuck Summer was a labor of love far beyond what I would normally claim for one of my books. Of course I love them all, but Saugatuck Summer came from my very soul. Actually, I’m not certain it came from me at all.


Basically, here’s what happened: One day I was driving along, running errands, and Topher Carlisle whispered one line of dialogue in my ear. Just one. When I asked him what I was supposed to do with that, he promptly took over my brain for fifteen absolutely insane days and at the end I had the first draft of Saugatuck Summer.


Topher’s story of recovery, hope, making mistakes, and growing up just told itself, and the experience of being the conduit for that was at times grueling and heartbreaking, but also euphoric and wonderful. It was one of those experiences that, as a creator of some form of art, be it musical, visual, or literary, you have once or twice in a lifetime if you’re extraordinarily lucky, when you know you’re creating something magical. I’m not sure it will ever happen to me again, but I feel absolutely blessed that this book has come of it.


This week on the Saugatuck Summer blog tour, I’ll be sharing some bonus content from the book and a sneak peek at another upcoming book in the Saugatuck universe. I’ll also be having a heart-to-heart discussion with Marie Sexton about our experiences as adult children of alcoholics and how they translated into writing our ACOA characters from Saugatuck Summer and Family Man, giving you a peek at some of “Jace’s” art, and I’ll be sharing the  official Saugatuck Summer soundtrack from a brilliant singer/songwriter of my personal acquaintance, Casey Stratton.


And finally, all week long I’ll be asking trivia questions from Saugatuck Summer and this week’s blog tour articles, and each correct answer emailed to me offers you a chance to win your choice of any of my backlist titles!


So put on your sunscreen and let’s go!


Contest:    HOW TO WIN YOUR CHOICE OF ANY SINGLE BOOK FROM MY BACKLIST (all-in-one volumes not included):

Riptide Publishing Saugatuck Summer Book Tour:
At each stop along the blog tour I’ll be asking a trivia question from Saugatuck Summer. Yes, this means some familiarity with the book is required, whether you purchase a copy, have an ARC, or employ the Kindle or B&N lending programs. If you visit some of the other blog tour stops, you might also find the answer in some of the excerpts.


PLEASE DO NOT ANSWER IN THE COMMENTS. Instead, send the answer to me privately by using this contact form. Each response will enter you into the drawing and three winners will be picked. The more questions you answer, the more entries you get. You can choose from any of the following titles:
Inertia (Impulse, Book One)
Acceleration (Impulse, Book Two)
Velocity (Impulse, Book Three)

The Laird’s Forbidden Lover
An Inch at a Time (The Professor’s Rule #2)
Inch by Inch (The Professor’s Rule #3)

Every Inch of the Way (The Professor’s Rule #4)
To the Very Last Inch (The Professor’s Rule #5)
Strain

(Note:  Giving an Inch (The Professor’s Rule #1) is already available free at Riptide, and my pre-Saugatuck novella, The Field of Someone Else’s Dreams, is available for free at Amazon, All Romance eBooks, and elsewhere.)
Contest Rules and Prizes:  Again, please do not post your answer in the comments, but submit it to me privately.
To give people time to read and respond, the contest will remain open for one month after the release of Saugatuck Summer. It will close on June 19, and the drawing will be held on June 20.

Today’s Saugatuck Summer trivia question:
Chapter 16, what happens between Topher and Brendan to bring an end to their affair?

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SaugatuckSummer_500x750One summer can change everything.

Hi, I’m Topher Carlisle: twenty-one, pretty, and fabulous. At least, that’s what I keep telling myself. But let’s get real. Walking the fake-it-til-you-make-it road to independence and self-respect isn’t easy. Especially since my mom’s a deadbeat alcoholic, and most of my family expects me to turn out just as worthless. Oh, and I’m close to losing my college swimming scholarship, so let’s add “dropout” to the list.

My BFF has invited me to stay at her beach house on the shore of Lake Michigan. That’ll give me one summer to make money and figure out what I want to do with my life. So of course I decide to have an affair with my BFF’s married, closeted dad. Because that always works out.

Now I’m homeless, friendless, jobless. Worthless. Just like my family expects, right? Except there’s this great guy, Jace, who sees it differently. He’s got it all together in ways I can only dream of—he’s hot, creative, insightful, understanding. He seems to think I don’t give myself enough credit. And if I don’t watch out, I may start to believe him.
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Be sure to check out the Saugatuck Summer soundtrack by singer/songwriter Casey Stratton .

Author Bio: Amelia C. Gormley may seem like anyone else. But the truth is she sings in the shower, dances doing laundry, and writes blisteringly hot m/m erotic romance while her son is at school. When she’s not writing in her Pacific Northwest home, Amelia single-handedly juggles her husband, her son, their home, and the obstacles of life by turning into an everyday superhero. And that, she supposes, is just like anyone else.

You can contact Amelia on:

 

Books/Series:

In addition to the books/novellas listed above, check out Amelia C. Gormley’s author page at Riptide Publishing for more information and buy links for

Self-published Impulse Trilogy  (info at Amelia C. Gormley’s website)

The Professor’s Rule series, erotic novelettes co-written with Heidi Belleau and of course, at Riptide Publishing.

Saugatuck Summer, adult comtemporary fiction available now at Riptide Publishing.

 

Rain, Rain Go Away and the Week Ahead in Reviews, Author Guest Blogs and Contests

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bradley-blvdAnd it rained, and rained and rained……again we got over 3 to 4 inches of rain this weekend.  On top of about 5 to 6 inches a week or so ago. To say that everything around here is soggy is an understatement.  I swear I can hear the concrete squish when cars roll by.  There was a Canada goose standing on my roof, honking away a couple of days ago.  Probably thought my house was an island in the midst of all that water.  Crazy thing.  Problem was that it was Huntington VA floodingright!  What’s next?  Trout?

As I watch all the water swirl away, I kept thinking what a waste.  I wish there was a logical way to capture it al and maybe ship it out to California or Texas where it is needed.  Instead of a oil pipeline, perhaps a rainwater express to help alleviate some of our flooding and the drought that our new weather  patterns has brought to that area.  Rain barrels are great things…so are water catchments but I have standing water now in places that once was completely dry.  Is water gardening in my near future?  It’s looking that way….

I have a great schedule this week.  S.A. McAuley is stopping by to talk about her Borders War series and the next in the series, Powerless.  Katey Hawthorne is here with the next story in her Fairies series.  Amelia C. Gormley is taking us into summer with  her Saugatuck Summer. Plus I’ve discovered a new author for me, Leona Carver, who will be here talking about her writing and the inspiration behind No Oceans Too Deep.  Another new author for me is J.K. Hogan and I Survived Seattle. There are book giveaways connected to each author guest post and book tour so don’t miss out on a day here!  Oh, and a cover reveal by Amanda Young too!

I will finish the week up with  John Inman’s Spirit.  I just love this author’s stories and he will be here the following week with John Inman’s Writing with Humor and his growing up in a small town.

I also have two Winner Announcemenst.  Winner of S.J. Frost’s Knight of Fire is Midia.  Congratulations to Midia and my thanks to S.J. Frost for the guest blog and book donation and to all who stopped by and left comments. And Congratulations to MizEqualityPatricia, winner of the Kimber Vale’s contest for Double Takes.  Thank you, Kimber, for the guest post and great contest!

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The Week Ahead at ScatteredThoughts:

  • Monday, May 19:          Author Spotlight with SA McAuley and Powerless (Contest)
  • Monday, May 19, pm: Powerless by SA McAuley
  • Tuesday, May 20:         Author Spotlight:  Katey Hawthorne on Fairies
    Tuesday, May 20:          I Survived Seattle by J.K. Hogan
  • Wed., May 21:                Amelia C. Gormley’s Saugatuck Summer Book Tour/Contest
  • Wed., May 21 pm          Cover Reveal for Amanda Young’s GWM Wanted Novel
  • Thursday, May 22:       Author Spotlight on Leona Carver and No Oceans Too Deep (Contest)
  • Thursday, May 22:       Quick Stop: The Surgeon’s Apprentice by Richard Longfellow (Contest)
  • Friday, May 23:            No Oceans Too Deep by Leona Carver
  • Sat., May 24:                  Spirit by John Inman

 

Review: Strain by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Strain_500x750When a deadly virus is unleashed, it spreads and mutates quickly, wiping out most of the human race.  Rhys Cooper and his small family has escaped the virus and its consequences by living in a small compound under the rule of a puritanical preacher and his son.  But soon the zombie like plague victims discover them and all are killed except Rhys and Jacob, the preacher’s son.  They are rescued by a special militia corp, but not before Rhys and Jacob were exposed to the virus themselves.

Sergeant Darius Murrell  belongs to a group that used to be Army and nows roams the country looking for survivors.  They are also charged with finding and killing the people the virus has turned into cannibalistic murderers who spread the virus by various means including blood sprays.  When Darius and his unit find Rhys, he is covered in the blood of a revenant, their name for the infected.  Rhys and Jacob are surely infected themselves by their exposure to the revenants that killed the rest of their group.  When the militia’s medic comes up with a last ditch experiment that might save Rhys and Jacob’s lives, Rhys is begins to think that dying is preferable to the experiment the soldiers propose.

Xolani, the medic present, knows that her squad cannot return to base with the survivors in time to save them so Rhys and Jacob’s only hope is to be infected by another strain of the virus and that the combination might confer immunity. The problem? The virus needed is one that’s sexually transmitted, and the only means to obtain it is to sexually submit to the entire squad of soldiers as many times possible daily over a six-week time period.  At what cost is his survival, Rhys wonders.  Would he rather die than become the sexual plaything of a bunch of hardened soldiers?  And if Rhys chooses to try the experiment, will he be able to live with the memories and the humiliation afterwards?

Of all the thoughts that crowded into my mind after finishing this story, first and foremost is the one that said that Strain is a story people will either love or hate or even possibly hate to love.  The plot alone is one of such emotional impact that the blurb itself just might be a turn off that will leave some would be readers cold.  At its barest outline, you have a teenager who has just watched his family killed by revenants and is now forced to have sex with multiple partners and not yet once but as many times a day as his body can stand.  Throw in the fact that he is a virgin and I can almost see potential readers cringing in dismay, wanting to avoid any emotional involvement this story will demand.

This is not a story for the faint of heart or stomach.  It rears up and commands a reaction from its reader.  And gets it.  At almost 400 pages in length, the reader, once committed to the story, will find themselves on an emotional roller coaster that will include a range of responses, from disbelief to distain, hopefulness to despair, and even moments of hostility towards the author for putting Rhys through such torment for such a long duration.  But if you stick with this story, then it also had its own rewards.

Some of the issues that crop up at first glance are blatantly in your face huge. First, there is Rhys.  He is 19 and a virgin.  Raised in a religious sect environment, he has been abused, starved, and finally deprived of those he loves when they are killed by the revenants that infect him. And in order to live he must whore himself out to a group of unknown hardened soldiers, trusting that the experiment isn’t just a falsehood used to gain his services.  I defy any one out there to to deny the emotions that arise within themselves just by reading that description.

Secondly his rescuer, Darius, that Rhys comes to have feelings for, is 42 years of age.  Think of that difference in age, experience and outlook on sexuality and morals.  Once the reader adjusts and gets past those elements, more arrive to be dealt with.  Additional issues will depend upon how your tolerance and acceptance of the fact that the only method available to transmit the virus is near constant coitus, the more partners Rhys has the greater exposure to different variations of the strain he requires.  I will admit that I was skeptical of the science behind this experiment at the beginning.  Thoughts of injections, blood exchanges or other field methods that an army medic would have at their disposable, even on the go as this company is, rose up to make me question the plausibility that such extreme measures as they require of Rhys and Jacob.  But again, the author managed to answer all my questions, convincing me of the science behind it and the medic’s explanations as the story progresses.  All it takes is sticking with the story, even if you have to stumble past those sections that make you cringe.

Then there is the sexuality that prevails throughout the story.  It is crude, harsh, with elements of voyeurism, D/s, bdsm, and other kinks.  It is noncon, almost noncon, sprinkled with “boy”, dirty language, and the need for pain and humiliation.  That is most likely the biggest hurdle of them all.  Rhys and his initiation into sex by such a horrific requirement is the element that will give most people pause.  I think my take on the events and changes that occur within Rhys might vary from those found within.

Gormley takes Rhys from virgin to one who adjusts his morality to include casual sex among partners while still needing to have relations with someone who cares about him, all within a month’s time.  Towards the end he has adjusted his outlook to become more flexible in his thinking and morality.  Here is Darius’ take on Rhys somewhere in the middle of the story:

“Of course given the way that Rhys seemed to like a rough and dangerous edge to his sex, maybe it was time for that to change. Toby and Jie might be right up his alley.”

For me this is by far the largest issue here. My opinion is that if you take a 19-virgin who has been isolated from others and made to feel that sex is for procreation, including the idea that same sex feelings are a perversion, you have an almost fragile blank canvas in the person of Rhys. Then by  subjecting  him to constant near rape, you are practically hardwiring him to not only accept the role he has been made to play but also that casual rough sex and domination are the norm because he doesn’t have any other frame of reference.  It verges on Stockholm Syndrome in my opinion.  That odd lack of recognition that Darius and the group’s treatment of Rhys might have played a role in the formation of his sexual preferences makes this aspect of the story its biggest obstacle in my opinion.

So why stick with this story and why give it such a high rating?  Because for all those elements, and distasteful to some, storylines, Strain is a well written and absorbing novel.   The further into the novel the reader gets, the deeper the reader sinks emotionally. It grabs onto your heart or should I say Rhys does, and, refuses to let go.  Trust me when I say you will be sobbing at certain junctures within this story.  Rhys will break your heart over and over.  And not just because of his current situation either.

You will find yourself getting angry or disgusted at times during the narrative.  “Why should that happen to Rhys?  It’s all so unfair” you might find yourself saying, conveniently forgetting that Rhys and the injustice of his situation are the product of a fine imagination.  Truly despicable characters along with those that pull at your heartstrings come not from poorly layered constructs but from wonderful characterizations.  If at times you forget everything but the world the author has created, then that person, in this case, Amelia C. Gormley, has done their job and then some.

This is a HFN story.  Indeed given such a post apocalyptic world and constant peril, it is the only reasonable ending the author could apply.  For some people, Strain will be a difficult book to read, for others a complete joy and for still others, the wide array of strong elements pose just a mild discomfort, a small price to pay for such a complex and compelling tale.  Take a moment to think and make the decision for yourself.

This is how it all starts:

D eath smelled like old wooden pews whose varnish and cushions had become saturated with acrid layers of dust. It smelled like mildewing carpet rotting from rain that had leaked through a roof he’d never had the skill or resources to repair. The hymnals had long since been used for tinder, but the musty scent of old books—once so comforting but now vaguely nauseating—remained.

Cover Art by Kanaxa.  I think the cover fails to deliver any idea of the story or character within.  Rhys is rail thin, disheveled, a survivor.  The model here looks the very antithesis of Rhys Cooper.

Book Details:

ebook, 375 pages
Published February 17th 2014 by Riptide Publishing (first published February 15th 2014)
ISBN13 9781626490710
edition language English
 Book was received as an ARC through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Go Viral with Amelia Gormley’s Strain Blog Tour and Book Giveaway

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to have Amelia C. Gormley here today to introduce her latest release Strain and give us all the details for the terrific contest she has brought with her as part of the celebration!

Do you like DVD extras? Yeah? So do I. In fact, it’s entirely possible I’ve watched the appendices on the Lord of the Rings extended editions more times than I have the movies themselves.

So for the Strain blog tour, I’m going to try to make my posts a bit like the “behind-the-scenes/making-of” documentaries you Strain_150x300(2)might find on a good DVD. A lot of things the world-building and events that Strain depends on happen long before the events of the book itself, and while an in-depth recap of them during the course of Strain got in the way of the flow of the story, I find some of the back-story fascinating and hope you will as well.
Be sure to check the blog tour page at Riptide to see when each of these posts is scheduled.

Contest: Commenters at each stop along the way will be entered into a drawing for the chance to win one of three ebook copies of Impulse: The Complete Trilogy, the all-in-one edition of my novel-in-three parts. Please include your contact information, either email, Twitter, or Facebook. The Contest will be open until February 28th, with the winner being announced March 1—just in time for the release of Every Inch of the Way/To the Very Last Inch (The Professor’s Rule #4 and #5), the final two installments of my series with Heidi Belleau. So stay tuned for that as well!

Strain_500x750In a world with little hope and no rules, the only thing they have to lose is themselves.

Rhys Cooper is a dead man. Cut off from the world since childhood, he’s finally exposed to the lethal virus that wiped out most of the human race. Now his only hope for survival is infection by another strain that might provide immunity. But it’s sexually transmitted, and the degradation he feels at submitting to the entire squad of soldiers that rescued him eclipses any potential for pleasure—except with Darius, the squadron’s respected, capable leader.

Sergeant Darius Murrell has seen too much death and too little humanity. He’s spent a decade putting plague victims out of their misery and escorting survivors to a safe haven he can never enjoy. He’d rather help Rhys live than put him down, so when Rhys can’t reconcile himself to doing what’s necessary to survive, Darius is forced to save Rhys in spite of himself.

But with each passing day, it looks less and less likely that Rhys can be saved. And that means that Darius might soon have to put a bullet in the head of the one person in years who reminds him of what it means to be human.

Available in eBook and paperback at Riptide and other retailers.

About Amelia:
Amelia C. Gormley may seem like anyone else. But the truth is she sings in the shower, dances doing laundry, and writes blisteringly hot m/m erotic romance while her son is at school. When she’s not writing in her Pacific Northwest home, Amelia single-handedly juggles her husband, her son, their home, and the obstacles of life by turning into an everyday superhero. And that, she supposes, is just like anyone else

Her self-published novel-in-three-parts, Impulse (Inertia, Book One; Acceleration, Book Two; and Velocity, Book Three) can be found at most major online book retailers, and be sure to check Riptide for her latest releases, including her Highland historical, The Laird’s Forbidden Lover, the The Professor’s Rule series of erotic novelettes (co-written with Heidi Belleau), and Strain. Stay tuned for her upcoming Riptide releases, which include the final two books in The Professor’s Rule (coming the first week of March) and Saugatuck Summer, coming in May.

You can contact Amelia on

The Never Ending Winter Whine and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Winter trees longs

Yes, its still Winter!  White, white everywhere and not a drop of green to be seen.  We have snow, icicles and water in about every frozen variation there is and I am heartedly sick of it.  We finally saw a snow plow late last night.  It had to dodge a Prius and a small sedan of unknown origin whose owners thought their vehicles capable of navigating through over 19 inches of snow.  What were they thinking?  I do know they left their cars where they were stuck, one right in the middle of the street interchange until a neighbor helped them move it to the side of the street.  I do  know what the driver of the plow thought about that as he plowed DSCN4178_2them under a ton of snow last night.  That car was gone this morning and I was happy not to witness the amount of shoveling they had to do to release their  car from that cold embrace.

I have been throwing food out to the birds and wildlife as much as possible and my birdseed reserve is running dry.  Even the snowy owl that stopped in Washington, DC, in search of better weather has had a rough time of it.  She was hit by a Metro bus and ended up at a Wildlife hospital.  She is recovering and so shall we all.  It just doesn’t feel like that right now for either of us.

Hopefully I can get out to the stores tomorrow.  But of course, it has started snowing again.  Big, large fluffy white flakes.  Just the sort I love as a child or even an adult a few, ok more than a few, years back.   So I am beginning to feel like a Grinch these days as the snow mounts instead of melts.  Lasts night my favorite meteorologist forcasted temperatures in the 50’s and maybe even 60’s for next week.

Should I believe him?

Or does he just have a case of snow fever and a sick sense of humor.  Only time and the temperature will tell.

I have some wonderful books for you this week.  There is crippled werewolves, hardened mercenaries, the Fae and an American army vet, a lethal world virus and of course, a revised story from one of my favorite series, Blue Notes.  There are contests and guest author blogs.  Truly something for everyone.  Stay with me all week long.

The week ahead in reviews:

Monday, Feb. 17, 2014:         Kept Tears by Jana Denardo

Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014:        Lying with Scorpions by Aleksandr Voinov

Wed., Feb. 19, 2014:              Amelia Gormley’s Strain Book Tour and Contest

Thurs., Feb. 20, 2014:          Shira Anthony’s Blue Notes Release Tour and Contest

Friday, Feb. 21, 2014:            Strain by Amelia Gormley

Sat., Feb. 22, 2014:                Pretty Poison by Kari Gregg

Review: Velocity (Impulse #3) by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Detroit handyman Derrick Chance and his lover, Gavin Hayes’ relationship has come a long way since they first met but many obstacles loom on the horizon, each with the power to destroy what they have built and split them apart for good.  Gavin is still waiting for the results of his HIV test since he learned that his ex boyfriend may have given him the disease during one forced encounter between them.  Derrick is facing not only moving from the only home he has ever known but he has been outed to his local hockey team and someone is sending him threatening messages.

Already full of self doubt, Gavin’s insecurities bloom and his self worth plunges when his ex, Lukas, returns and wants to involve Gavin in his rehabilitation to Derrick’s consternation.  And the biggest issue?  Although Derrick has professed his love, Gavin has held back his declaration.  So many issues and the holidays are just around the corner.  Can Derrick and Gavin let go of their respective pasts and move forward into their future? Or will the past continue its hold and break them apart forever?

I am going to presume this is the last book in the Impulse series by Amelia C. Gormley and I think this is a wonderful way to see Derrick and Gavin out.  I did have a  few issues with this book but those will  be addressed last.  One constant in this series has been the wonderful characterizations the author brought to her stories.  From the moment we meet lonely Derrick Chance we realize that there is something very special about him.  Traumatic circumstances came together at a developmentally important stage of his young life that helped to isolate this man from the normal societal milestones.  Derrick was left to the care of aging grandparents who later passed away leaving him alone in their house, earning his living by repairing appliances as out of date as he is and doing minor house repairs for neighbors close by.  Here is a man caught in stasis and the author makes him not only relatable but endearing in his way.

Gavin is almost his opposite.  Experienced sexually and socially for all it did him, Gavin’s self image has been battered by an abusive ex to the point that he trusts no one, with the exception of one friend.  And for two books we have watched Gormley slowly bring these two men with their divergent backgrounds together in a way that has seemed not only realistic but true to the core of her characters personalities.  And while most of the battles fought were internal, the last book Acceleration ended with problems from the outside of the relationship starting to press in on the couple.

There are several main issues at work here and Gormley treats them all with sensitivity and compassion, from homophobia to conveying accurate knowledge and clinical histories of HIV and domestic violence .  First there is the problem of homophobia rearing its ugly head at Derrick’s local hockey team.  Now out to his teammates, someone within the team has been threatening Derrick, demanding he quit or suffer the consequences, following that up with destruction of personal property and more.  I loved the way the author dealt with this issue as she went in a direction different from most authors. Given that homosexuality and sports are in the headlines these days, the manner in which this was resolved felt authentic and timely.

Secondly, there is the subject of domestic violence and awareness of the victim mentality that those who have been subjected to DV carry within themselves.  This accounts for a larger portion of the story and again Gormley has done her homework, putting forth not only how domestic violence affects its victims but how it can manifest itself in their behavior and reactions to others.  Much of the information is imparted between conversations with Gavin and Hannah,a victim, as she relates her circumstances and following actions.  I applaud the author’s efforts to get this information accurate and out there but unfortunately, this element of the story came across as more of a information dump.   Also, Gavin’s interactions with his ex Lukas are drawn out too far.  He knows that Lukas is a liar and manipulator and yet he believes his story instead of Derrick’s?  While it might not be implausible (yes, we get it, Gavin has a DV victim mentality), as he reverses himself immediately it just doesn’t ring true with coupled with his other actions.

What does seem real and gritty and painful are the emotions that roll through Gavin with regard to his possible HIV status, his wavering about the test results, and his confusion about his future.  Gormley really seems to have a window into the thoughts processes of a person in this awful predicament and it comes across to the reader as painfully read in every aspect.  Then you hook DV with the possibility of HIV and have the same individual responsible and yes, there is a very good reason that Gavin is an emotional mess.

Another element that surprised me was the depths of pain and humiliation that Gavin requires to be sexually satisfied.  In one scene, Derrick supplies a huge amount of said bdsm elements to their sexual play without discussing it with Gavin first.  No setting of safe words or limitations, just moving right into the scene without too much preparation.  And this, I will admit, bothered me on a couple of levels.  At this point, Gavin has not trusted himself to tell Derrick he loves him or trusts Derrick to go with him to get his test results.  I had assumed, perhaps wrongly, that trust is a huge element in such sexual play and that if he did not trust Derrick in these other areas, than it must be lacking here too.  But after such thought and discussions, I can see Gavin separating his trust issues into compartments and that trusting Derrick sexually (and physically) was different from trusting him with his love and HIV status.  I just am not familiar enough with bdsm to be knowledgeable but it did bother me to a degree while I could still see why it was necessary to Gavin’s character.

There are some issues with editing, and I think that certainly some areas could have been streamlined and made more concise.  But in the end, Velocity is a wonder of a book and a marvelous way to complete Derrick and Gavin’s journey to a full partnership and loving relationship.  The ending was just perfection and it left me smiling long after I put down my Kindle. If this is your first time meeting Derrick and Gavin, go back to the beginning Inertia and see how it all began.  Then proceed immediately to Acceleration as their relationship and events  pick up speed and finally to Velocity where it all comes together with emotions on high.  I really cannot recommend this series enough.  Amelia C. Gormley is a amazing author and I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and their relationships:

Inertia (Implulse #1)

Acceleration (Impulse #2)

Velocity (Impulse #3)

Cover art by Kerry Chin.  I love these covers.  They are lush and different and just amazing.

March Came Roaring In Like a Lion and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Remember last March in Maryland?  The sun was shining over plants newly emerged from the ground,  our temperatures hovered in the high 70’s after experiencing absolutely no winter at all.  Birds were nesting, the butterflies were flying, and thoughts of picnics and outdoor barbecue dinners molded our grocery lists.  Even now I can bask in the memories….

Now switch to present day and the snow flurries I saw swirling around in clear defiance that it was March.  It was cold and dark clouds made sure the sun never made an appearance.  I stopped to look at the pansies with their smiling faces at Good Earth and thought “not in a million years am I hanging around outside to plant you so bugger off”,  channeling some Brits I know.  Those of you in the middle of huge snowstorms or still in recovery from the same are probably wanting to smack me over such piddling weather.  Me too.  I do realize it could be so much worse but this dang climate change has upped our expectations for March beyond all reasonability, hence the whining.

On the other hand, it does give me time to spend with plant catalogs, and go to a whine oops wine and cooking demonstration like I did  yesterday.  Had the weather been gorgeous, I would have been outside and missed a Mahi Mahi cooked in a buirre blanc sauce to die for, a lovely Coq au vin and a porc du rose, just a lovely 3 hours spent with nice people, great wines and food and a very funny Chef Read.  So highs and lows, cold and hot, one friend moves away and I get the chance to meet others. Life, the weather and changing climate keeps springing changes upon us whether (ha!) we are ready or not, usually mostly not.   Hmmmm,..rambling here again.

So where were we? Ah yes, the week ahead.  Hopefully that will see the Caps win, the Nats all heathly and happy in Florida, honestly don’t care what’s going on with the “Skins, and new recipes to try out.  I will be finishing up the Cambridge Fellows Mysteries series this week and it will be sad to say goodbye to Jonty and Orlando.  Look for a post full of Q & A with Charlie Cochrane to post the day following.  She was wonderful in answering all the questions that kept popping into my brain as I finished All Lessons Learned.  We have a mixed bag of new and familiar authors here, something for everyone I believe.  So here is the way it is scheduled so far:

Monday, March 4:                     Spot Me by Andrew Grey

Tuesday, March 5:                     Wake Me Up Inside by Cardeno C

Wed., March 6:                           Velocity by Amelia C. Gormley

Thursday, March 7:                    Lessons for Survivors by Charlie Cochrane

Friday, March 8:                         A Cambridge Fellows Q & A with Charlie Cochrane

Saturday, March 9:                     His Best Man by Treva Harte

So there it is, a really good week ahead.  Now if just those blasted snow clouds would go away I might just think about planting some pansies….

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Book Wishes for 2013 – Authors, are you Listening?

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Book Wishes for 2013:

While everyone has been busy making New Year’s resolutions, I have been thinking about what I would wish for 2013 in books.  Turns out I have quite a few wishes, some  I would like to share in hopes they reach an author’s ear or more…..

❋I wish that 2013 brings a new book from JL Langley, this one to feature Sterling and Rhys, her wolf shifters…boy have we been waiting for their story.

❋I wish that 2013 brings another book in the Knitting series from Amy Lane *cough Jeremy cough*

❋I wish that 2013 brings Roan, Dylan, Holden, and the rest back with a fervor because Andrea Speed is killing me with anticipation over what the virus is going to do to Roan next.

❋I wish that Josh Lanyon is relaxed and happy from his sabbatical and ready to unleash some new books on his adoring fans.

❋I wish that I finally have time to start and finish JP Barnaby‘s Lost Boy series.

❋I wish that when authors are describing human eyes, the term “orb” doesn’t even come to mind as a word choice.  Really, people, you are making me mental with this one.  No more “his adoring blue orbs”.  Do you hear how dumb that sounds?  Magical orbs, alien orbs, fine.  Human orbs, no. Emphatically, unwaveringly, absolutely no.  See my Vocabulary Gone Bad series.

❋Ditto man tits.

❋I wish to that Abigail Roux doesn’t hurt Ty and Zane too badly in her next Cut & Run series, but that probably won’t happen.

❋I wish to see fewer instances of “instalove”, more measured steps towards a romantic relationship.

❋I wish that 2013 brings new stories about the Roughstock gang (BA Tortuga) and see Sam further along in his recovery.

❋I wish that Mary Calmes gives us another story in her werepanther universe and Domin Thorne and Yuri, really love those two.

❋I wish that I start taking my time reading books I have been waiting for instead of rushing through them (and then having to start over).  Patience, I need more patience.

❋I wish that when authors put their characters through hell (rape, savage attacks etc), there is no instant recovery without any effects from the abuse.  If you are going to go there, then at least make what happens to these people realistic all the way through.  No brutal multiple rapes and then joyful snowmobiling through the countryside. This makes me crazy too.

❋I wish that Andrew Grey is as prolific as he was in 2012.  I need more  Range stories and Taste of Love series.

❋I wish that 2013 let’s me finish and write the rest of the reviews for Charlie Cochrane‘s outstanding Cambridge Fellows series, really I have no good excuse for this one, time just got away from me.

❋I wish that RJ Scott continues to write in her Sanctuary series, love those boys and TJ Klune brings back more bad poetry from the Kid as well as the Kid himself.

❋I wish to see less rushed endings and more complete backstories.

❋My wish for Sarah Black is for the Pacific Northwest to be as big a muse as the American southwest has been in the past.

❋I wish for more great m/m science fiction.

❋I wish for more in the Wick universe from Megan Derr.

❋I wish for anything new from Laura Baumbach.

❋I wish to see Tucker Springs explode with stories from many of my favorite authors (Marie Sexton, Heidi Cullinan and LA Witt).

❋I wish for more of the Bellingham Mysteries from Nicole Kimberling and Bellski stories from Astrid Amara.

❋I wish that 2013 let’s me discover more new authors I can’t live without.  Thank you, 2012 for RC Cooper, Amelia C. Gormley, Rodney Ross, Shira Anthony, Poppy Denison, Marguerite Labbe, Joel Skelton, Katey Hawthorne, Piper J. Vaughn, Cardeno C, Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane to name the ones that jump into my fogged brain this morning.

❋I wish to thank those authors whose stories I have been reading for sometimes for the continued enjoyment and hours of escape you have given me and so many other readers…..Ariel Tachna, Ethan Day, Anne Tenino, James Buchanan, SJ Frost, Josephine Myles, Willa Okati, Carole Cummings, Isabelle Rowan, Kate Steele, Lynn Lorenz, and so many others (again fogged brain from late night and Redskins game).

❋And a final wish for 2013 is for people to remember and rediscover the wonderful Home series by William Neale, an author who will truly be missed.

So that’s it, all my pathetic brain can spew out today.  I am sure there is much more trying to battle their way forward but they will have to wait.  A shout out to all the couples in Maryland that starting getting married at 12:01am this morning. Congratulations and a Happy New Year.  I will be leaving you all with a picture of Kirby in his New Year’s finest, please note the black leis, a nice touch don’t you think to go with his tiara?

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