A MelanieM Release Day Review: Royal Rescue by A. Alex Logan

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

 

At age eighteen, when they become marriageable, all royal children in the Thousand Kingdoms must either go questing to rescue another royal or be hidden away to await rescue themselves. Some go the traditional route of princes rescuing princesses, but not all princes want to be rescuers…and some would rather rescue other princes.

Then there’s Prince Gerald, who has no interest in getting married at all. When he refuses to choose a role as either rescuer or rescuee, his royal parents choose for him and have him magicked away to a distant tower to await a spouse.

Gerald, however, is having none of it. He recruits his guardian dragon and a would-be rescuer and soon the trio is dashing to all corners of the united kingdoms on a quest to overturn the entire system.

Well, I just love this story!  New author and new fantasy story all in one.  Love it when that happens.  Especially when the author manages to take several standard fantasy elements and give them their own take.  Here Logan uses the familiar knight quest/damsel in distress/rescue as a major element, along with the dragon that guards the tower.  And promptly turns all said elements on their narrative heads to my total entertainment and joy.

It starts with Prince Gerald, who’s mothers, the Queens want him to get married.  That’s right the Queens.  In this world, the many kingdoms have apparently long come accustomed to various sexualities and their pairings.  Marriages made between men, women, gender fluid people…like Princex…all good and accepted.  But there’s one last huge area not understood or even thought of….that of being asexual.  That is Gerald and his current problem because he doesn’t want to get married and can’t seem to get anyone to listen to him to understand exactly why this is so deeply affecting him.  He doesn’t feel the way they do.  He doesn’t understand everyone being a “sexual” being nor does he want a sexual marriage and that’s want is being forced on him and whoever he marries.

Logan, using Gerald as our point of view, brings us into his heart, mind, and frustration over the lack of empathy and the poignancy of his situation.  Which only gets worse.  Then unexpectedly through Gerald’s kindness and intelligence, gets better.  For not only himself, but for several species that had been forced into servitude, including dragons, and wholes generations of new young royals coming of age.  In other words, Gerald and a small group of friends become heroes.

And it will start by Gerald saving himself.  Really, doesn’t get any better than that.

Logan does a superb job of world building, crafting the characters and creating the rigid political structures that have led to the situation all have found themselves in.  I found myself totally invested in every aspect of this story.  I was rooting for them all to succeed while admiring different aspects of the author’s storytelling.

There is a small group of royal friends and a sapient dragon, several quests of their own making, and a remarkable ending.  Yes, this is a character and troop of characters to root for.  Especially as I thought the author did an excellent job with bringing Gerald’s pain and frustration over his asexuality to light to those around him, including the readers.  What hurt and was perhaps realistic was still a matter of total understanding from those closest to Gerald at the end of his asexuality.  That he might not ever get all the approval or total acceptance he was hoping for.  That it would have to be enough…for now.

And it was.  You have to read the book to understand that.  There’s hope and Gerald was leaving to go where he wanted, on a path of his own making.  Sort of perfect.  Just like this story.

Yes, I definitely recommend this story for YA fantasy lovers or just lovers of fantasy.  There is no heat level as you can imagine.  But lots of adventure and plenty to cheer about.  Dragons and heroes or every sort!

Cover art: Natasha Snow.  I think Natasha Snow is just nailing her covers including this one.  Perfect from the dragon to the setting. Love it.

Sales links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: April 8th 2019 by NineStar Press
ISBN 139781950412419
Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: For a Good Time, Call (Bluewater Bay) by Anne Tenino and EJ Russell

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

It took me a while to get into this story because the authors took their time building the characters, their interactions, their backgrounds, and finally their attraction. But when I look back over the hours I spent reading this, I realized I enjoyed it overall, and there were points in the story where I couldn’t wait to get back to it if I had to put it down while doing daily activities.

If you are looking for a sexy romp, stop here, and don’t purchase this one. But if you are looking for a new perspective on sexuality, romance, friendship, and love, by all means, keep going and pick this up.

Seth Larson is a good-time party boy and king of one-night stands. Not interested in anything other than a hookup for most of his life, he’s shocked when the quiet, sexy Nate Albano, 37-year-old Special Effects Technician for the Wolf’s Landing TV show, turns him down cold after leading him on. Or at least, Seth thinks Nate’s been leading him on. It takes him a while to find out that Nate is so sweet and innocent of the sexual innuendos most guys thrive on that he didn’t even realize Seth was coming on to him until it was too late. No wonder Seth was shocked when he was looking for sex but was turned down flat! And Nate’s pretty embarrassed by that experience because he liked the guy and just can’t figure out how he misunderstood him.

Seth lives with his grandmother in the stately old mansion on Russell Hill where town founder Finnimore Larson established his estate. His family has lived there for generations, and Seth is employed by his father and uncle as the caretaker and all-around handyman in exchange for rent in the little apartment above the garage. When his grandmother wants to sell the place and move to senior living with her friends, Seth is fully supportive but the others, including his mother, are opposed to selling the house. Since they’re in charge of the estate and are supposed to be making decisions to care for the elderly woman, they have control. And Seth is determined to help his grandmother win her freedom from their oversight. Lots of family turmoil surrounding this issue ensues, but it’s sprinkled with some great humor.

Nate enjoys his job, though because of his erratic behavior as a result of past emotional upheaval in his life, he’s lucky to have been hired, even with a recommendation from Levi Pritchard. Looking at it as a new lease on his career, he’s dedicated and focused, and he and his best friend have come up with great ideas and even better execution for special effects for the show. He’s still grieving the loss of his former partner, Jorge, who left him three years before for another man—more so because he’s only ever had two relationships in his life. He’s gray asexual, so for him the relationship spark must come first. Even after Seth’s blunder, though, he realizes he does feel that spark of attraction with Seth, and he starts to wonder if he’s going to be lucky enough to get a third.

Seems hard to believe, given Seth’s history and reputation, but after they make amends from their first meeting, it’s very definite that they are indeed attracted to one another. Seth goes through pains to keep from offending Nate—so much so, that Nate starts to doubt Seth is even interested.

Once the storyline is established, the story moves along more quickly, but be prepared for the slower start while the groundwork is being laid. The authors did a great job piquing my interest throughout the story. Added to the romance is a potential murder mystery for the guys to solve. When the apparent weapon from Seth’s great grandfather’s murder is found, they take a genealogical trek through the Larson family tree, work on special effects to garner interest in the sale of the mansion, and visit with a few characters from past stories. Add in a feisty old lady and an extremely lovable dog and this became a book I couldn’t put down.

It’s not one of those mysteries readers can’t figure out, but the relationship issues sprinkled among the murder mystery and the plans for the house sale all combine to make this a different take on the usual romance. And when the men finally, finally get their act together, it warmed my heart.

Fans of Bluewater Bay will surely recognize the past characters and various locations highlighted and I’m sure they’ll enjoy this book, but so will others who are looking for a nice MM romance with an atypical couple. And no fear—this can definitely be read as a standalone.

Cover art by L.C. Chase does both a great job with the characters yet connecting it to the series.

Sales Links

Riptide Publishing

Book Details:

ebook, 358 pages
Published April 10th 2017 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleFor A Good Time, Call…
ISBN 1626495920 (ISBN13: 9781626495920)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Bluewater Bay #17

A Free Dreamer New Adult Review: Crush by Caitlin Ricci

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Rating: 4.5 stars  out of 5

crush-by-caitlin-ricciGoing to college gives eighteen-year-old Trey Porter a chance to experience the world beyond rural Alabama and his overbearing family. After staying in a motel due to a housing error at the school, Trey’s friend, Bryce, offers to let Trey stay with him. The fascination Trey feels with Bryce’s gorgeous, glamorous, and somewhat outrageous boyfriend, Co-Co, catches him totally off guard, because Trey’s never considered himself even remotely gay. At least that’s what he’s always believed. Trey prides himself on being tolerant, but it’s hard to handle the questions he faces about life and himself—and even harder to accept that there might be no simple answers.

This was my second book by Caitlin Ricci. She recommended it to me herself, after I’d complained about the lack of detail in “Running With the Pack”. At first, I was a bit hesitant because several reviewers mentioned crossdressing and trans themes, which I’m usually not so fond of. But I’m really grateful for the recommendation, because I absolutely loved this book.

Trey, Bryce and Co-Co are three wonderfully unusual people. “Normal is a setting in the laundry, nothing more” will probably stay a favourite quote of mine for a long time to come. And it’s a perfect summary of our three MCs. I really liked all three of them, though Trey seemed just a tad too innocent at times. His utter lack of understanding of any sort of sexual innuendo seemed a bit unrealistic to me, even if he is asexual.

The plot itself is on the slower side, without all that much action. But that worked wonderfully for the story Caitlin Ricci was trying to tell. There was some angst and Co-Co made for plenty of drama, but it was never over the top. Just like in “Running With the Pack”, Trey’s asexuality and Co-Co’s gender identity were portrayed in a very positive way. I really liked that.

Even though Trey is asexual, there were quite a few sex scenes. It was really interesting to find out how Bryce and Co-Co let Trey be part of their love-making, without him being part of the action itself. The sex scenes definitely worked to further the plot and weren’t just there for the fun of it. They were still hot, of course, but it didn’t devolve into simple porn.

The love between the three of them was obvious, without ever turning cheesy. The ending was simply perfect and so very romantic it almost had me tearing up a little.

Long story short: “Crush” is a wonderful coming of age story, with three pretty unusual MCs. While Trey occasionally seemed a bit too naïve, I still really liked all three of them.

Cover: The cover by Caitlin Ricci shows Trey lying in the grass, looking thoughtful. It’s simple and yet somehow brilliant.

Sales Links

Harmony Ink Press

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Book details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published November 26th 2015 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN 1634762711 (ISBN13: 9781634762717)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Free Dreamer Young Adult Release Day Review: Running with the Pack by A.M. Burns and Caitlin Ricci

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

running-with-the-packFinn is about to start his senior year of high school when he and his family move from Austin, Texas, to Woodland Park, Colorado. Everything is different—even the elevation—and Finn’s having a hard time getting used to his new home. Life takes a turn for the better when he meets Ivan Dubovasky at a farmers’ market. Finn finds not only a close new friend but a fulfilling volunteer position at the High Mountain Wolf and Wild Dog Center, which Ivan’s family runs. Before long Finn develops an affinity for the wolves under the center’s protection.

Things only get better for Finn when he starts a relationship with Ivan; and Ivan’s best friend, Adrian, who’s asexual, completes their small pack. But it all comes crashing down when the bully plaguing Adrian crosses the line and Adrian goes missing. Finn and Ivan are determined to bring their boyfriend home safe, but they might not be able to do it alone. Luckily there’s a special wolf ready to lend a paw.

For some reason, I fully expected this book to have werewolves. It took me a while to realize that the wolves were perfectly normal wolves and nobody was secretly a werewolf. That definitely didn’t stop me from fully enjoying “Running with the Pack”, though.

Reading this story was truly delightful. The MCs were adorable and were a perfect match. The angst level was pretty low and there wasn’t a whole lot of drama either, but I was never bored. I didn’t even realize I was essentially inhaling this book until I was almost done, just over 24 hours after I’d started it.

There are a lot of m/m books out there with a poly relationship. There also a few m/m books with an asexual character. But I’ve never seen both in one book, and neither in a YA story.

I loved how natural it was for Adrian, Finn and Ivan to become a trio. Adrian’s asexuality and the poly aspect of their relationship were portrayed in a very positive light and felt absolutely natural. There simply was no other way for either of them. They just fit. And I also loved that they started their relationship as a trio, rather than as a couple adding a third party.

It probably wouldn’t have hurt if they’d talked more about their relationship. But they are teenagers and relationship talk is hard for anybody, so it didn’t bother me too much. I did, however, feel like we were missing something from Finn’s past. The authors kept making implications about his old school and the reasons why his family decided to move so far away, but we never really got a good explanation. It just felt like there was more to the story than was being said.

Overall, “Running with the Pack” is a truly lovely YA story and definitely also suitable for younger readers. There is only one scene with sexual action and that happens completely off-page.

I would love to have a sequel where the three of them figure out how to be together in the long run. I’d especially love to find out how involved Adrian will get in the sexual part of their relationship. I don’t know if the authors are planning on writing a follow-up or leave this as a standalone, but I’m all for another visit with these three wonderful boys.

If you like YA, asexual MCs and/or poly relationships, then you should give this book a try. Chances are, you’ll be as charmed as me.

Cover: The cover by Bree Archer isn’t really to my tastes. It’s a bit cheesy, tbh.

Sales Links

Harmony Ink Press

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Book details:

ebook, 180 pages
Expected publication: September 8th 2016 by Harmony Ink Press
ISBN 1634770641 (ISBN13: 9781634770644)
Edition LanguageEnglish
URL

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: All the Wrong Places (Bluewater Bay #14) by Ann Gallagher

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

All The Wrong PlacesBrennan Cross can’t get past his girlfriend’s parting remarks. He caught her cheating with another guy and she blamed him. Him—because he failed to meet her sexual needs. And what’s worse is that she’s the third girlfriend in a row who had the same problem. He decides he needs professional help, so he goes where he expects to find someone who knows about sex—the Bluewater Bay sex store—Red Hot Bluewater. There he meets Zafir, a young Lebanese man, with long, dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, and an obvious desire to be helpful. After some conversation, Zafir poses the idea that Brennan might not be a bad lover; he might be asexual like Zafir.

After Zafir explains, Brennan finds himself more confused than ever and sets out to learn as much as he can about being asexual. Even though there’s an abundance of information, and misinformation, on the web, he finds that Zafir might indeed be right.

The two become friends, and Zafir allows himself to hope that there might be a place in Brennan’s heart for a Muslim single father with only a GED and no hope of a future career. Zafir took custody of his infant son when he was seventeen years old, and so far, the nine-year-old boy seems happy and well-adjusted. Zafir protects Tariq as much as he can, but he can’t protect him from a broken heart if this closeness he feels with Brennan falls through because Brennan has slowly become a part of Tariq’s life as well.

The biggest issue is Brennan’s doubt about his sexuality, especially when he realizes he loves Zafir but has no sexual desire for him. Advice from his ex-girlfriend seems to spin him around, and he’s headed for a collision with a broken heart and a broken relationship if he can’t come to accept Zafir’s love for him.

I loved this story. It was sweet and romantic, very informative, fun, humorous, heartwarming, and heartbreaking. When I find myself taking time between chapters to go back to savor the goodness of what has gone before, I know I have a winner in my hands, and that definitely happened here. The storytelling is superb, the pace perfect, and the romance just the thing to make my romantic heart swoon. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

~~~~~~~

Cover art by LC Chase depicts the two MCs: Brennan with his constant companion—a skateboard—and Zafir gazing off into the distance overlooking Bluewater Bay. This book is a part of the Bluewater Bay series but most certainly can be read as a standalone.

Sales Links:  Riptide  |  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published June 13th 2016 by Riptide (first published June 12th 2016)
Original TitleAll the Wrong Places
ISBN 1626494193 (ISBN13: 9781626494190)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series:Bluewater Bay

A Stella Review: How To Be A Normal Person by T.J. Klune

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Rating 5 stars out of 5           ★★★★★

How To Be A Normal Person coverGustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.

Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.

Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.

But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

This is my sixth book by TJ Klune, my sixth five stars review and I’m still amazed by this author’s work. Each time I read a new story of his is a fabulous journey, sometimes full of tears (BOATK series), other times full of laughters (The Lightning-Struck Heart). How to Be a Normal Person was the perfect balanced mix of emotional parts and unbelievably hilarious scenes. To me it was another amazing winner, since the first time I read about Harry S Truman, the albino ferret! Only Tj could have chosen a pet like Harry for our Grumpy Gus.

I’m not going to talk about the plot, TJ can write what he likes, I couldn’t care less because to me his creative mind is this fantastic place I want to know. I have no clue how he creates characters so unique and lovable. This time Gus won me over, I loved him through out the story. I  cheered him on through his journey in the discovery of a normality he thinks he doesn’t have and absolutely need to be with Casey. I so wanted to hug him and his friends, they gave me a warm sensation I needed so much.

Like all TJ’s books, there is a great cast of characters, I don’t like to define them as“secondary characters” because to me they felt like the main ones, all of them with a smart mouth, funny and supportive and perfect in their imperfections. The three queens were probably my favorite ones, the story would have been nothing without the lesbian/ sisters trio.

As I said I loved all of TJ’s books but I’m realizing he’s doing better with each new one he releases. He grows and improves and I have no idea what he wants to achieve. I always think he can’t do better than the book I’m currently reading and he duly contradicts me. And even though How To Be a Normal Person has the typical quality of Klune’s work, I think it’s really different from the previous novels, just a little over the top but not too extreme, no angst at all, maybe the right choice if you’re approaching this author for the first time. I’m going to re read it really soon to appreciate it better, I rush through it because I was too hungry and curious.

I just want to add, as you can read from the blurb, Casey, the other MC, is asexual. This was not my first time with this sexual orientation and to me not the better one cause it wasn’t addressed a lot, but still I think the author chose the perfect way to deal with it, most of all according to his style. There’s no sex in the story but please don’t let this be a reason to not give the book a chance. There was no need for sex, I got my steamy fix in other ways.

Maybe it’s not clear, but this is a highly recommended read, sweet, hilarious and emotional. I couldn’t ask for more.

Cover art by Reese Dante. It’s simply, fitting and FINALLY something different. I love it!

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 290 pages
Published October 16th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634765796
Edition Language English

AMAZON http://www.amazon.com/How-Be-Normal-Person-Klune-ebook/dp/B015VOHR0K

DSP 

A Stella Review: Beignets (Coffee Cake #2) by Michaela Grey

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Beignets coverMalachi Warren barely survived a series of assaults on his life. But survive he did, though not without baggage. Now, Malachi must pick up the pieces of his shattered life—the most important piece being his boyfriend, Bran Kendrick, who is dealing with problems of his own.

Stagnating at his job at a small-town café, Bran’s pride keeps him from asking Malachi—or anyone—for help. Desperate to do something, Malachi secretly pays a celebrity chef with a bakery in New Orleans to take on Bran as his apprentice.

As Malachi and Bran begin to make a new life in New Orleans, the specter of Malachi’s PTSD and the growing stress over the secret he hides from Bran threaten their relationship. Before it’s too late, Malachi must confront his past and face his fears about the future, all without losing himself—and Bran—in the process.

I read Coffee Cake, the first book in this Michaela Grey series, on June and it was a lovely surprise. I didn’t know there was a planned sequel and I was over the moon as soon as I saw Beignets. Being a sequel it really doesn’t work as a standalone,  you have to read the first one to better understand Beignets.

Bran and Malachi are together from six month. After being almost killed, Malachi isn’t sleeping well lately, tormented by a lot of nightmares and he’s not even drawing anymore. He is overload with panic attacks.  Sure Bran will leave him and all his problems behind, Malachi doesn’t know he is the best thing ever happened to Bran. It hurt to watch him be so insecure of himself. Trust me, the love they share is pure, brave and sweet. But Malachi and Bran are young, scared and with some not so light baggage on their shoulders, they are trying to solve their problems together and it’s beautiful and cute see Bran fuss over Malachi as a mother hen but sad too see how they cling to each other, because of the codependency between them is scary sometimes. They both need someone else to lean on.

First let me tell you what I didn’t like. I found the story to be too heavy because there are a LOT of scenes where Malachi is struggling with his panic attacks. They are without a doubt real but maybe in a book it is too much. I simply think the author overdid a little with these scenes. Luckly they are balanced with other parts, light, funny and sweet and I appreciated very them. ‘Beignets’ is interesting as ‘Coffee Cake’, well written and hard to put down, because I loved Malachi and Bran but the second characters too. I enjoyed how the story developed, their move to New Orleans where Bran could join a baker apprenticeship and most of all where they would find their serenity again and  a new family to lean on. This is a book full of love, full of real life struggles and full of hope.

I want to add a little more detail that I noted and liked it. I’m usually not a fan of single point of view, but Michaela Grey did a great job in this series. She used only Bran PoV in Coffee Cake and only the Malachi one in Beignets and in both novels I didn’t get the feeling of missing something, they were complete and well done in let me know what was in each character’s mind, with clear words and actions.

And if you’re like me and don’t live with just the spiritual love but need the sweaty one too, keep calm, you’ll get it. I particularly liked how Bran’s asexuality was never once ignored or lessened but perfectly enclosed in Malachi needs.

That said, sweet Michaela, can you work on Tristan and Callan story? Please?

Cover art by Aaron Anderson. This series’ covers simply rock! I loved the first one, colors and style were perfect. Same love for this one too. It conveys so much sweetness, in every way.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | All Romance (ARe)  | Amazon|  Buy It  Here

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published October 9th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634766326
Edition Language English

Coffe Cake series

Coffee Cake #1
Beignets #2

A MelanieM Review: Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues #3) by Alex Beecroft

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

BlueSteelChain_600x900At sixteen, Aidan Swift was swept off his feet by a rich older man who promised to take care of him for the rest of his life. But eight years later, his sugar daddy has turned from a prince into a beast. Trapped and terrified, Aidan snatches an hour’s respite at the Trowchester Museum.

Local archaeologist James Summers is in a failing long distance relationship with a rock star, and Aidan—nervous, bruised, and clearly in need of a champion—brings out all his white knight tendencies. When everything falls apart for Aidan, James saves him from certain death . . . and discovers a skeleton of another boy who wasn’t so lucky.

As Aidan recovers, James falls desperately in love. But though Aidan acts like an adoring boyfriend, he doesn’t seem to feel any sexual attraction at all. Meanwhile there are two angry exes on the horizon, one coming after them with the press and the other with a butcher’s knife. To be together, Aidan and James must conquer death, sex, and everyone’s preconceptions about the right way to love—even their own.

There are certain books you approach with definite expectations of what you will find with the characters and plot.  Sometimes those expectations are met, other times they aren’t.  But on those rare occasions, something else happens, a book doesn’t exceed your expectations, it blows them all to hell, widening your horizons and smacking you in the face with your assumptions.  That’s what occurred  with Alex Beecroft’s Blue Steel Chain, the 3rd book in the Trowchester  Blues series.

My love for the previous novels is apparent in the reviews I wrote and the author interview I conducted.  Alex Beecroft brought alive the small village of Trowchester, with its canals, long boats, antique bookshops, Morris Dancers, historic reinactors and characters of every type imaginable, every type except boring and uninspired. Up until now Beecroft has ushered me into her world with such amazing details such as musical instruments of antiquity I yearned to hear, dances I wanted to watch and a place I desperately wanted to be real.  Her characters, wounded, snarky, and amazing made me laugh, cry and nod my head in recognition and joy.   Then came Blue Steel Chain and everything went topsy turvy.

Where to start when everything is unexpected and sometimes hard to understand?

Blue Steel Chain is beautifully written and thought provoking.  And for me, it was also hard, emotionally, to digest at times.  At the heart of all the thoughts and feelings whirling around in my head is the character of Aidan Swift.  At sixteen, already thrown away by his family for his sexuality, he is fair prey for an older man hiding sick, abusive behaviors and deeds.  Now eight years later, Aidan is a perpetually frightened, submissive, abused young man.  Sometimes left chained and alone for hours as punishment, isolated from all around him, his state of mind is one of fear, chaos, an overwhelming need to please and much , much more.

Alex Beecroft makes Aiden so real your heart bleeds for him and your stomach churns during the scenes he has with his abuser.  Trust me, those are hard to take because we have quickly come to love Aiden so.  But Aiden has another secret.  He’s asexual.  That makes those scenes where he is being sexually abused even more problematic.  Why?  Because of the way he sees them.  I thought I understood what  asexuality meant.  Apparently not.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a character  (or author for that matter) recently that made me question my assumptions about sexuality and relationships as Aiden and Alex Beecroft have. We live in Aiden’s skin here.  Every moment, every thought that occurs from his  brief secret excursions away from the house where he is kept, out over the meadows, into the local museum where archaeologist James Summers is toiling over the latest batch of “finds” and having his own relationship issues.  Aiden’s brief moments of joy, his initial fear of Jamie, his curiosity and ,man,, this makes me want to cry again, his love of pottery and the art he was forced to abandon…we are there inside him, listening and weeping.  And hoping for a rescue.

Jamie too needs help. We’re let into his point of view as well, important in a story such as this one. His long term  relationship has diminished to the point that he rarely sees his “partner, and when he does, he dissolves into  a doormat for his rockstar lover to walk over. Jamie too is a believable human being, full of frailties, preoccupied with his bits and pieces of antiquity and his life in Trowchester.  It takes the arrival of Aiden in his life to shake up the status quo and get him moving again.  Jamie is not asexual but gay with a healthy appetite that’s been repressed by his current relationship and lover.

There are some incredibly scary scenes that involve characters from the previous stories who help Aiden escape and start a new life.  These moments in the novel are heart-stopping, white-knuckle, “wap your head against the wall” exciting and frustrating, all at the same time.  You know those bits where you are yelling at the actors on the scene to get moving?  Yep, that happens here.  But its what comes later that will blow your perceptions of romance and a relationship to bits.  Some will like it, some will love it and others won’t get it at all.  At times, I was all  three.

Ever think what it must be like to be asexual and love someone who is not?  What does it mean to be in a relationship when one partner loves sex and the other doesn’t?  How does that work?  If it does? Beecroft takes those questions and gives us some answers through the relationship dynamics between Jamie and Aiden.  At times I found myself shaking my head, thinking this can’t possibly work  But a conversation with a friend who is asexual basically confirmed that is does, more often than we think.

Can a relationship work when you must schedule times for sex because to do otherwise is an abuse of another’s wishes and needs?  Can a sexual being truly understand how an asexual person feels and act accordingly?  And visa versa?  These are all issues Alex Beecroft brings into her characters and storyline.  It made me rethink my own assumptions about relationships, what works, what doesn’t and  Steel Blue Chain has left me with even more questions and jumbled ideas, making me revaluate what I thought I knew about people, recovery and love. And did so through the character of a wounded,yet resilient young man called Aiden.

Blue Steel Chain came very close to a five star rating but a few things still bothered me at the end.   There was so much going on here that I thought the idea of all those years of abuse would leave mental, emotional scarring far wore than the physical marks Aiden wore from his time in captivity.  Yes, it was mentioned he was seeing a therapist, but it felt a little glossed over and not in keeping with the realism of the rest of the story.   Perhaps that would have made this a 600 page story, who knows?

Still, I find that Blue Steel Chain is the most ambitious and surprising of the three novels.  Is it my favorite? No. Is it the most remarkable?  Yes, I think so. Blue Steel Chain will challenge your perceptions of love and romance, it will make you rethink your definitions of love and long term happiness.  And it makes me yearn for more of this remarkable village, its incrediblely human and addicting inhabitants, and the stories they still have to tell.

Cover Art by Lou Harper.  I  like the branding, the tone and design works with all three stories but I’m just not sure that model works for any of the characters within.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | All  Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 250 pages
Published July 27th 2015 by Riptide Publishing (first published July 25th 2015)
original titleBlue Steel Chain
ISBN139781626492066
edition languageEnglish

Trowchester: it’s the fourth smallest city in Britain, and visitors sometimes think it hasn’t left the Middle Ages yet. There’s a Bronze Age barrow, a wide network of ley lines, the best tea shop in the county, and more morris dancers than you can shake a stick at. Trowchester attracts those who have been hurt and those who are looking for sanctuary from the modern world. But scratch the surface and there’s murder and mayhem aplenty. People come here to find love, but they’re forced to learn bravery first.

The release order of the Trowchester series is Trowchester Blues, Blue Eyed Stranger, and Blue Steel Chain, but you can start with withichever book catches your eye; they each stand alone. I highly recommend them all.

Trowchester Blues (A Trowchester Blues Novel)
Blue Eyed Stranger (A Trowchester Blues Novel)
Blue Steel Chain (A Trowchester Blues Novel)

Alex Beecroft Returns to Trowchester with Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues #3) A Stunning Novel! – giveaway

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Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues #3)
by Alex Beecroft

Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Cover Artist: Lou Harper

Sales Link: Riptide Publishing

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About Blue Steel Chain:

At sixteen, Aidan Swift was swept off his feet by a rich older man who promised to take care of him for the rest of his life. But eight years later, his sugar daddy has turned from a prince into a beast. Trapped and terrified, Aidan snatches an hour’s respite at the Trowchester Museum.

Local archaeologist James Huntley is in a failing long distance relationship with a rock star, and Aidan—nervous, bruised, and clearly in need of a champion—brings out all his white knight tendencies. When everything falls apart for Aidan, James saves him from certain death . . . and discovers a skeleton of another boy who wasn’t so lucky.

As Aidan recovers, James falls desperately in love. But though Aidan acts like an adoring boyfriend, he doesn’t seem to feel any sexual attraction at all. Meanwhile there are two angry exes on the horizon, one coming after them with the press and the other with a butcher’s knife. To be together, Aidan and James must conquer death, sex, and everyone’s preconceptions about the right way to love—even their own.

Blue Steel Chain by Alex Beecroft is available from Riptide Publishing on July 27.

About Author Alex Beecroft

Alex Beecroft is an English author best known for historical fiction, notably Age of Sail, featuring gay characters and romantic storylines. Her novels and shorter works include paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary fiction.

Beecroft won Linden Bay Romance’s (now Samhain Publishing) Starlight Writing Competition in 2007 with her first novel, Captain’s Surrender, making it her first published book. On the subject of writing gay romance, Beecroft has appeared in the Charleston City Paper, LA Weekly, the New Haven Advocate, the Baltimore City Paper, and The Other Paper. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association of the UK and an occasional reviewer for the blog  HYPERLINK “http://speakitsname.com/” \n _blankSpeak Its Name, which highlights historical gay fiction.

Alex was born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and grew up in the wild countryside of the English Peak District. She lives with her husband and two children in a little village near Cambridge and tries to avoid being mistaken for a tourist.

Alex is only intermittently present in the real world. She has led a Saxon shield wall into battle, toiled as a Georgian kitchen maid, and recently taken up an 800-year-old form of English folk dance, but she still hasn’t learned to operate a mobile phone.

She is represented by Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Literary Agency.

Connect with Alex:

Website:  “http://alexbeecroft.com/
Blog:  http://alexbeecroft.com/blog
Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/AlexBeecroftAuthor
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Alex_Beecroft
Goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/Alex_Beecroftt

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Giveaway:

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a signed paperback from Alex Beecroft’s backlist. (Any title which has a paperback edition, excluding Blue Steel Chain.) Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 25. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to add your email so we can contact you if you win!  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Trowchester Blues ( A Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words ★★★★★ Series)

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Trowchester Blues coverBlue eyed Stranger coverBlueSteelChain_600x900

 

 

 

 

Trowchester: it’s the fourth smallest city in Britain, and visitors sometimes think it hasn’t left the Middle Ages yet. There’s a Bronze Age barrow, a wide network of ley lines, the best tea shop in the county, and more morris dancers than you can shake a stick at. Trowchester attracts those who have been hurt and those who are looking for sanctuary from the modern world. But scratch the surface and there’s murder and mayhem aplenty. People come here to find love, but they’re forced to learn bravery first.

The release order of the Trowchester series is Trowchester Blues, Blue Eyed Stranger, and Blue Steel Chain, but you can start with withichever book catches your eye; they each stand alone.  We highly recommend them all.

– See more at Riptide Publishing’s Trowchester Blues  series page.

 

An Aurora YA Review: After I Wake by Emma Griffiths

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5:

After I Wake coverAward-winning teen poet Carter Rogers has made a lot of bad choices in her life, one of which led to losing her hand to frostbite. After a failed suicide attempt, Carter wakes up and takes a hard look at the person she’s become. As her disappointment over her botched effort fades, she begins to accept herself and look forward. Righting past wrongs won’t be easy, but armed with the support of her mother and her friends, and with a new perspective on life, Carter sets out to fix her relationships with the people she cares about and the world of poetry.

This book definitely deals with some sensitive topics, and it’s always hard to toe the line between writing about a sensitive topic and making it realistic to the characters without simply using what happens for shock value. I think this book does that very well. I always felt like all the characters, and Carter in particular, were very real, and none of them seemed to simply be going through something for the sake of the book or so that their problems could be nothing more than a plot device. They all had a lot of depth, and that’s what make the book interesting and enjoyable for me to read.

The author of this book has a very interesting style, and even within the first few pages and certainly the first few chapters you can really tell that the book is written in a different and fresh style that you wouldn’t see in many other books. There were times when, if you weren’t paying close enough attention, because there were a few jumps as far as the time went, it could be a little bit confusing. There were definitely sections where after I got a paragraph or so in, I had to go back because I was a little confused, but over all it was nice to see a different writing style.

After I Wake by Emma Griffiths was definitely a book that I really enjoyed reading and one that I feel can definitely relate to the lives of a lot of teenagers, and LGBT teenagers especially, right now.

Bree Archer is the cover artist. I really like this cover, despite the fact that photo-based covers are not always my favorites. Because the cover of this book is so simplistic, it looks a lot nicer and less generic than some covers I’ve seen that include real photos. It’s also just a really beautiful cover, and I like it a lot. It’s also very fitting as far as the tone of the book goes, in my opinion.

Sales Links:  Harmony Ink/DSP   –   All Romance (ARe)  –  Amazon    Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 180 pages, also in paperback
Published May 14th 2015 by Harmony Ink Press (first published May 14th 2005)
original titleAfter I Wake
ISBN139781634760317
edition languageEnglish