A MelanieM Release Day Review: Homebird by Amy Lane

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Rating : 5 stars out of 5

 

Crispin Henry isn’t an adventurer. He learned early on that the world is a frightening place and that home is rare and precious. If his friends didn’t drag him to sports games and ill-advised trips to Vegas, he wouldn’t get out at all—and his trip to Munich for Oktoberfest is no exception. But it’s there that he meets Luka Gabriel, and he learns to take a chance.

 

Luka is a free-spirited world traveler, working at Oktoberfest to feed his enchantment with new places and new people. His only possessions fit in his backpack, and he depends on the kindness of strangers for a place to sleep. Crispin should know better—but he takes Luka’s hand anyway, and together they turn three nights in Munich into the relationship neither of them has been brave enough to risk—and neither can let go of.

 

When Luka turns up on Crispin’s doorstep before the holiday season, Crispin takes him in on hope alone. Yes, he knows the odds are good Luka will flutter out of his life again and leave him bereft, but isn’t it worth it to see if Luka is a homebird after all?

Yes, I knew to grab that box of tissues beforehand.  Check!  Because it was going to be one of those Amy Lane stories and at Christmas too!  About two damaged men, both broken in much the  same way, yet convince by life that the way to mend themselves lay in vastly different and opposite directions for their hearts.   Kill me now. The tears already threatened to flow.

But I dived right in, because on this too big for arms outstretched journey, there’s so much laughter, enlightenment, and joy to be found as well as the pain and ache that goes with life and love.

And no one does that as well as Amy Lane.

I mean I had tea out my nose when reading that burrito drive through scene.  Priceless! Getting ahead of myself.

But it’s Crispin and Luka’s tentative path towards love and a home that will make this a comfort read for me over and over again.  And Crispin’s circle of friends who became Luka’s, well, they were mine almost immediately.  How  could you not love this diverse group of men whose layers continues to unfold revealing more and more depth throughout the book, more heart, more pain, more of everything.  I wanted to hold onto them all and never let any of them go.

The imagery the author uses here, from the birds in flight, to empty nests with bits of colored yarn sprinkled throughout a neighborhood are haunting.  They play with your mind and twist into your heart, just as they do in the story, becoming unforgettable.  Just as the men they are associated with.

I loved this story.  I think you will too.  It’s beautifully written.  It contains such feeling of family (whoever that may be), recovery, and finding the path home wherever and whoever that may be.

I highly recommend this.        And don’t forget to read the author’s forward.  I would love to see that photo!

Cover art: Reese Dante.  This cover is everything.  That’s Luka and the bird with a piece of yarn in its mouth is symbolic of an important part of the storyline.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: December 18th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781644050101
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Sometimes the best Christmas gift is knowing what you really want.

Rusty Baker is a rich, entitled, oblivious jock, and he might have stayed that way if he hadn’t become friends with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. When Oliver kisses him goodbye before Rusty leaves for college, Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.

But nothing can help Rusty survive a semester at Stanford, and he returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. But with Oliver’s love and the help of Oliver’s amazing family, Rusty realizes that failing college doesn’t mean he can’t pass real life with flying rainbow colors.

Nobody can built characters quite like Amy Lane and put them into situations that then quietly begin to tear the reader’s heart apart, piece by tiny little piece. Rusty Baker is one such character, improbbly so.  On the exterior, he’s would appear to have everything to succeed in life.  He’s  rich, a jock, with a father who is determined to see him into a great school and going places.   That’s the exterior.

It takes  meeting Oliver, not rich not a jock, to reveal the real Rusty Baker. The gentle, insecure, and gay person Rusty is.  There’s also more that becomes readily apparent to Oliver as he tutors Rusty through his classes in high school.  Rusty has a learning disability that never goes named here but is perfectly spelled out in the way he “feels” when he get overwhelmed by his classes, projects, or professors.  God, how you feel for him.

Throughout the story, and as you can imagine Rusty’s life, the damage done to him hasn’t been delivered through physical blows, damning smacks to the body, but in deadly featherlight cuts to the heart and psyche.  It’s been his father, his mother supporting the patriarch, behind the worst of them. Amy Lane, like a surgeon of phrases, uses her words to slice through Rusty and our hearts over and over at unexpected times, leaving all of us shattered.

I was not prepared for how much this book would hurt.

But for all the wounds, there is the healing balm of Oliver, Oliver’s Dad and his family, Rusty’s sister, and even Rusty’s college roommate who encircle this damaged young man, help him to heal, build him a new foundation of family, support, and love.

Oddly, enough I think of Oliver and Rusty snuggling with Peanut as one of my favorite scenes.  All happy and content, perfect Christmas.   For me, even with all the Amy Lane tears that fell, this was a holiday story to remember.  And treasure.

It’s one I highly recommend.

Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza.  Not a fan of this cover.  There is so much more the artist could have pulled from.  Indistinguishable from any other couple.  Nothing special that separates it out for this story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, Second Edition, 200 pages
Expected publication: December 7th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published December 7th 2013)
ASINB07JGXPM71
Edition Language English
Characters Oliver Campbell, Russell “Rusty” Calvin Baker setting California (United States)
El Dorado, California (United States)

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Hiding the Moon (Fish Out of Water #4) by Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Though this is the fourth book in the Fish Out of Water series featuring Ellery Cramer and Jackson Rivers, this could also be considered Racing for the Sun #2 as Sonny and Ace figure prominently in the story. In fact, Ellery and Jackson’s page time is mostly a repeat of their previous conversations and activities as they raced to bring down Karl Lacey, renegade colonel in A Few Good Fish. The difference is that we mostly hear them via the bugs planted by Lacey’s team and monitored by Lee Burton, friend of Ace Atchison and Sonny Daye (Racing for the Sun) and special ops division covert operator.

Only Amy Lane could get away with having characters named Burt and Ernie, or in this case, Lee Burton and Ernie Caulfield. When Lee takes an assignment to “hit” Ernie, he’s cautioned by his manager that the target doesn’t seem to fit the usual mold and he tells Lee to back off if he agrees. Not only does Lee agree after a few days of watching Ernie, he saves the young man’s life when Lacey’s team of hit men arrive to finish Ernie off. Sending five guys seems like overkill to Lee, and he quickly dispatches the three who have Ernie pinned in an alley. He gets Ernie to a safe place before beginning a new job—covert, of course—working for Corduroy, the organization housed with Lacey and his deranged group of “special” soldiers who Lacey is training as assassins. His job is to monitor the activities of a lawyer (Ellery) and his partner (Jackson) and to let Lacey know if they get further in their investigation of him.

In the meantime, he’s installed Ernie with Ace and Sonny. Ernie is a psychic and a beautiful character. Sweet and loveable, the guy wants the best for those around him but he can read their emotions like a book and Sonny is one explosive book. Over time, he comes to value Ace’s role in Sonny’s life and vice versa as he sees how one completes the other. He’s also growing to care for Burton who comes to see Ernie during the night, make love with him under the star-filled desert skies, and then head back into insanity to try to foil Lacey’s plans.

Amy Lane has given new life to Sonny and Ace with this story. I loved them when I first met them years ago, but I adore them now—even with the chaos that is Sonny’s brain. Ace is strong, inside and out, and loves his man wholeheartedly and that strength of character and love shines through. His ability to think on his feet, when he and Ellery have their adventure, just adds to the enjoyment of the story. Ellery and Jackson are just as sharp and fun to read as they always are. In Ernie, the author gives us a very different character. He’s sweet and innocent on the outside, but strong and complex on the inside. His ability to “see” the future or “read” others before the actual events occur and his acceptance of his gift make him totally endearing. And Lee, perhaps the strongest character of all, has great depth of character with a strength and fortitude to keep moving forward toward his objective, despite the odds. He’s intelligent, resourceful, and comes to love Ernie with all his heart. His quiet, soul-searching moments reveal more of his personality, adding to readers’ enjoyment.

Honestly, how Amy Lane juggled all those balls in the air at one time, without dropping any, and then gave us an outstanding and complex story is beyond my imagination. But she most definitely did it!

The cover by Reese Dante features a gorgeous black man staring at the night sky. This, of course, is Lee Burton, and it’s a wonderful representation of the core of the story as he and Ernie generally get their time together at night in the desert.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 216 pages
Expected publication: October 23rd 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Original Title Hiding the Moon
ISBN139781640809369
Edition Language English
Series Fish Out of Water #4

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Crocus (Bonfires #2) by Amy Lane and Nick J. Russo (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Saying “I love you” doesn’t guarantee peace or a happy ending.

High School Principal “Larx” Larkin was pretty sure he’d hit the jackpot when Deputy Sherriff Aaron George moved in with him, merging their two families as seamlessly as the chaos around them could possibly allow.

But when Larx’s pregnant daughter comes home unexpectedly and two of Larx’s students are put in danger, their tentative beginning comes crashing down around their ears.

Larx thought he was okay with the dangers of Aaron’s job, and Aaron thought he was okay with Larx’s daughter—who is not okay—but when their worst fears are almost realized, it puts their hearts and their lives to the test. Larx and Aaron have never wanted anything as badly as they want a life together. Will they be able to make it work when the world is working hard to keep them apart? (

 

I fell deeply in love with these character in Bonfire, the first story in this series.  Amy Lane made it so easy because, as it’s often the way with her contemporary romances, it’s an ensemble piece.  We don’t just have a couple to focus on, but, just as in life, Amy Lane gives us growing and grown children  on both sides to deal with, separate households, pets, jobs, and even coming out to mesh and deal with.  Life is messy.  Amy Lane gets it and writes the hell out of it.  Same goes for the complexities of family dynamics, let alone two.  Then throw in kids you end of taking in and making a part of a sort of paramecium ever growing family, extending  little  arms out into a community that needs it so badly.

Talk about a book I wasn’t ready to let go of.

Now comes Crocus.  And it’s everything I could have wanted and hoped for.  More even.

Our families are back, still adjusting to each other and all the events of Bonfires.  As with all families, there’s no downtime, no respite.  And  the first upset to deal with is a pregnant, and clinically depressed daughter returning to the households.  This whole element, from baby daddy (which has some wonderfully humorous and serious elements ala Amy Lane) is folded beautifully into the story, never overwhelming the many other themes here, including the foundation love story of Larx and Aaron, who center and ground each other as well as their expanding family.  Boy, are there other serious story threads!  Child abuse, PTSD, gang violence, substance living, just to name some of the issues the author deals with here. Yet all work together in one tapestry of a novel, weaving together so many threads that combine to become an incredible story.

There are new dramas and emergencies as you might expect with Larx’s job as Principal and Aaron’s in the Sheriff’s office.  New members are slowly melded into the combined Larkin/George family outfit and seamlessly into your heart.  Jaime, who I fell in love with immediately, his broken brother Berto, Elton (not the name you will remember him by)…all welcomed and loved, all understood and embraced.  Each and everyone not characters but people that stick with you, get under your skin, and remain in your memory of those that you care about and love.

That crocus poking its head up out of the snow, offering up its promise of new life and growth?  Of hope?  Perfect for this family and story.  How I love it and them so.

I read Bonfires but listened to Crocus.  Narrator Nick J. Russo did an amazing job with such a huge cast of characters. He switched effortlessly between ages, teenagers to men in the middle ages, genders, and accents even held no issues for him.  It felt like a number of people narrating this story instead of one, the flow was so even and the acting so excellent that I lost myself instantly in the story and forgot about everything else.  I highly recommend him as a narrator, not just here but in other audiobooks.

If you haven’t already read this series, start with Bonfires and then come to Crocus.  This is a beautifully written series, with fully realized characters…a true ensemble cast that’s unforgettable in every way.  I loved listening to the audiobook version.  It makes me want to experience Bonfires in the same format.  And yes I highly recommend them both.

Cover art:  Reese Dante.  I adore this cover.  The artwork combined with the title and imagery within the storyline is shear perfection.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Audible |

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 9 pages
Audible Audiobook
Listening Length: 8 hours and 32 minutes
Published September 11th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press LLC (first published April 17th 2018)
Original Title Crocus
ASIN B07H51CDSN
Edition Language English
Series Bonfires #2

Amy Lane on Deals with God, and her latest release ‘A Few Good Fish (Fish Out of Water #3)’ (author guest post)

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A Few Good Fish (Fish Out of Water #3) by Amy Lane
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art:  Reese Dante

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Amy Lane on tour for her newest release, A Few Good Fish (Fish Out of Water #3).  Welcome back, Amy!

 

Deals with God

By Amy Lane

We do this all the time.

“Oh please oh please oh please, let me make this flight and I shall never, ever, ever, stop for coffee on the way to the airport again!”

“Oh please oh please oh please, let me find that one shirt, the perfect shirt, for this occasion before it’s time to leave and I’ll do laundry all the time and fold it as soon as it’s out of the drier forever and ever amen!”

Or, more seriously,

“OH please. Please. Please, let this person be okay. I’ll do anything. Anything at all, please, just let them be okay.”

In book two, Red Fish, Dead Fish, Ellery made a deal with God. If Jackson came home alive after a harrowing night and a terrible day, Ellery would go to temple for a year.

Now, some people would take a look at their beloved and say, “Oh, thank you God, I know you know I didn’t really mean it and you gave him back anyway!”

But some people would follow through.

The only reason Ellery won Jackson in the first place is that he’s made of follow through.

The book opens up with Ellery trying to get to temple (and Jackson trying to convince him that nobody’s that excited about Jackson’s survival and worship is a terrible waste of a Saturday morning) and the question is brought up again.

“How much does God really care about the deals we make when we’re desperate and sad? Is he really going to hold us to that, or can we sort of shimmy out of it?”

Ellery shimmies out of nothing. 

Jackson whines and bitches and complains—but he always keeps his word.

So Jackson is forced to look at himself—hard—to see if he’s worth all this trouble. He’s never been worth trouble before—he’s mostly just been trouble. As far as he sees it, he’s cannon fodder, and that’s flesh and bone well spent.

But Ellery doesn’t see him that way.

The thought leaves him twitchy. Oh my God, he is made of hangups! He’s had to work his ass off to get over the injuries from the last book and he’s still not whole! He’s not eating, he’s not sleeping, and he can’t close his eyes without waking up in a sweat-wringing nightmare.

He can’t go out on the most basic run without risking his life.

And every day, every morning, when he and Ellery walk out the door, Ellery has to face the fact that Jackson might not come back.

So in the course of book three, Jackson has to make his own deals with God. 

Not the kind Ellery made—not the straight up trade. It’s more of the, “What do I have to do to make myself worth all this trouble,” variety or bargain.

And while we all know Ellery has essentially accepted him with all his glitches, what Jackson eventually decides to do is fix what he can, so he’s not such a burden to love.

Now we know where this is heading—eventually. In order for Jackson to truly fix himself, he needs to realize he’s worthy of love while still broken. But Jackson and Ellery have many more adventures to go, and nobody said Jackson was great at the emotional learning thing.

So we have the promise of that in future books—and boy is it a big job.

As Ellery has thought at the end of book one and book two and now book three—they have so much more to do.

Blurb

Fish Out of Water: Book Three

A tomcat, a psychopath, and a psychic walk into the desert to rescue the men they love…. Can everybody make it out with their skin intact?

PI Jackson Rivers and Defense Attorney Ellery Cramer have barely recovered from last November, when stopping a serial killer nearly destroyed Jackson in both body and spirit.

But their previous investigation poked a new danger with a stick, forcing Jackson and Ellery to leave town so they can meet the snake in its den.

Jackson Rivers grew up with the mean streets as a classroom and he learned a long time ago not to give a damn about his own life. But he gets a whole new education when the enemy takes Ellery. The man who pulled his shattered pieces from darkness and stitched them back together again is in trouble, and Jackson’s only chance to save him rests in the hands of fragile allies he barely knows.

It’s going to take a little bit of luck to get these Few Good Fish out alive!

 

Excerpt

“Sh….” Ellery slicked his hair back from his face and whispered to him as he collapsed limply, Ellery’s long limbs sheltering him from the cold outside their little bed.

“Sorry,” Jackson said, blinking hard, irritated at himself for losing sight of his plan. He was supposed to keep control, dammit. He was supposed to blow Ellery’s mind, not get swept away in the sexual tide himself!

“For what?” Ellery asked tenderly.

“Was trying to make it holy,” Jackson told him, lost enough to tell the truth.

Ellery struggled out from under him, pushing Jackson to his side while Ellery rolled over to face him. “Tell me this wasn’t!” he demanded.

Jackson grimaced. “Do you have to?” he asked. “I mean, if our sex is holy and shit, doesn’t that mean you don’t have to go?”

“Nobody is holding a gun to my head! Goddammit, Jackson, do you not get why I have to do this?”

“Aren’t you too late to go this week?” Jackson asked hopefully.

Ellery laughed, grim satisfaction in every syllable. “I set the alarm early so we could have breakfast.” He glanced over his shoulder. “And you know what? We still can.”

Jackson grimaced. Dammit. “But….”

Ellery’s expression softened, and he reached out to brush Jackson’s cheekbone with his fingertips. “Baby, why does this bother you so much?”

Jackson scowled. “Because if you’re thanking God for me, God’s going to show you what a mistake that is, and I like it here.”

With a groan and a heave, Ellery rolled off the bed. “There is no talking to you about this! Now get in the shower, and I’ll make pancakes. And no! You can’t wear jeans!”

“But you said I didn’t have to get out of the car!” Jackson hollered, finding a clean set of boxers in the dresser Ellery had set aside for him.

“I lied! You at least have to visit the outside, dammit!” Ellery grabbed his sleep pants and his sweatshirt from the folds of the covers and started dragging them on.

“But won’t I burst into fire?” Jackson asked, only partially kidding. His past… oh God. His past wasn’t checkered, it was chicken-pocked! “I mean, won’t you get kicked out and excommunicated if you show up with me next to you?”

“No, Jackson, they’ve got a big ol’ reformed-slut alarm that sounds as soon as you step foot on the ground, and then a force field shoots up, separating us and catapulting you to purgatory for the length of the service. After your first six visits, they give you the option of walking there on your own while a sorcerer whispers arcane words and tries to set me up with a doctor, because that’s just how Jews roll.”

Jackson stared at him, cheeks flushed with color, fine brown eyes sparkling with righteous anger, and like it usually did, the thing in his chest melted into a gooey little puddle.

“I can see your sarcasm is functioning well this morning. Isn’t that going to taint the pancakes?”

Ellery struggled to keep his mouth firm. “I can make my pancakes both strawberry and sarcastic. But if you want whipped cream, you’re going to have to shut up, get dressed, and let me have this. Understand?”

Jackson let out a sigh. “If I see anybody there in jeans, I’m not wearing slacks next time.”

“That, too, is understood.”

“And if anybody gives you shit about the gay—”

“We shall find a temple that has no shits to give. Also understood.”

“If you find someone there who’s better than me….” He scowled and stared at the picture of them Ellery had put up on the end table, Jackson looking uncomfortable in his best dinnerwear and Ellery smiling charmingly for his father, who was perhaps the dearest man Jackson had ever met. The picture had been taken outside Ellery’s parents’ house in Boston over Thanksgiving, and while Jackson could say for certain it had been a good time, every single memory he had seemed to be tempered with the stomach-churning anxiety he was dealing with now.

An Ellery Cramer and a Jackson Rivers did not make sense in any way, shape, or form. The longer they were together, the more Jackson looked for the chapped, palsied hand of fate to try to rip them apart. And every time Ellery said he was being ridiculous, Jackson had to walk away, because the fact was, he had almost died—twice—since the two of them had gotten together in the summer.

If that wasn’t God trying to tell Jackson the facts of life, Jackson didn’t know what was.

So Ellery going to temple out of some sort of weird deal he’d made with the big guy—on the one hand, it never hurt to suck up to the person in charge.

On the other hand, Jackson was a fan of the old Irish saying “May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”

In this case, he would just as soon nobody, God or devil, even knew he was on the planet. He’d had forces bigger than he was meddle in his life, and he had the layers of scar tissue to show he’d barely survived.

“If I find somebody who’s better than you,” Ellery snapped, bringing him to the present, “I’m not the one he’ll be hitting on.”

Jackson scowled at him. “You’re being stupid.”

Ellery’s thin lips curled up into a smile. “So are you.”

“Fine. Fine, I’ll go. I’ll even be a grown-up. But Ellery, those had better be some damned good pancakes.”

Ellery rolled his eyes and grabbed his robe, swanning out for his exit, singing “My pancakes bring all the boys to the yard…” as he went.

After he left the room, Jackson allowed himself a fond smile. God, he really was being ridiculous. Who over the age of twelve pitched this big a fit over church, or temple, or whatever?

But as he jumped in the shower and started to wash, he just couldn’t shake the unease that knotted in his stomach.

For much of his life, things like food, shelter, basic safety—things Ellery had taken for granted every day of his life—had been dreams to Jackson Rivers. Now, living with Ellery in his posh American River Drive house with cavernous rooms and real wood floors, Jackson had food and shelter and, God help him, emotional safety on a daily basis.

He was just waiting for God to stop helping him and rip it all away.

About the Author

Mother, knitter, author, wife, fur-baby wrangler, dreamer–Award winning writer Amy Lane writes romance because the voices in her head are real and she wants them to be happy at the end.

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: A Few Good Fish (Fish Out of Water #3) by Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Please tell me this isn’t the last book in this series! Amy Lane had not done an action adventure thriller before this series, but she certainly knocked it out of the ballpark when she matched up a wealthy, handsome, gay, high-powered defense attorney, Ellery Cramer, with the bisexual office PI, Jackson Rivers, who grew up virtually on the streets.

In this third installment, the committed couple planned to take a bit of time to allow Jackson to recover from their last encounter with the powerful rogue soldier, Colonel Lacey, who is apparently selecting certain soldiers to be brainwashed into being killing machines—assassins for hire. Unfortunately, quite by accident, a case falls into Ellery’s lap that is connected, and the two are off on an adventure again in an effort to clear a young nanny’s name in a hit-and-run investigation.

They didn’t know, however, that their every move was being monitored by Lacey and his cohorts through bugs placed in their phones, their vehicles, and in their home—including their bedroom, where the two allow their secrets and their desires free reign. Deciding to get this guy once and for all, they head toward San Diego, his base of operations, after securing their loved ones in safe houses with extra protection.

As unlikely as it might seem, they renew an acquaintance and end up working closely with Ace and Sonny from Racing for the Sun, a story I read quite a long time ago. Now that the author has tied the characters and the circumstances surrounding their meeting and eventual relationship together, I have to go back and read that one again. I need more of those two. And as an aside, I need more of their lodger, Lee Burton, and his new love interest, Ernie (yes—Ernie and Burt!). Both men are instrumental in the plot to get “the bad guys” in this story but their journey to happiness is just beginning so more, more, more, please.

This story has everything I love—super villains, kidnapping, injury, hospital vigils, strong characters, revisits with former MCs, romance, hot sex, supportive family and friends, surprises, explosions, and more. What’s not to like? And by the way, I do believe Lucy-Satan is my new all-time favorite secondary character. That’s Jackson’s pet name for Ellery’s mother. A strong personality, highly intelligent, a force of nature, intuitive, and able to present as a concerned and loving mother one moment and a stubborn attorney and businesswoman in the next. Seriously, it’s really nice to see multiple female characters important to the story who are strong and supportive, instead of nasty and twisted.

There were so many characters in this cast who deserve attention and kudos but not enough space on this page so I’ll just say that this story deserves attention not only for the high caliber of the adventure, but also of the characters—main, secondary, and pets.

Very highly recommended.

Cover Artist: Reese Dante.  Love these covers, brands the series with something that at first glance seems whimsical and then perilous with the fish trapped in the water bottle.  Perfect.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 290 pages
Expected publication: August 28th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleA Few Good Fish
ISBN139781640808164
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series Fish Out of Water:

Fish Out of Water

Red Fish, Dead Fish

A Few Good Fish

Hiding the Moon

A Lila Audiobook Review: Stand by Your Manny (The Mannies #3) by Amy Lane and Peter B. Brooke (narrator)

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Learning to trust and falling in love.Sammy Lowell has his hands full juggling his music, college, some pesky health problems, and making the uncles who raised him proud. He needs help fulfilling his after-school duties with his siblings. Nobody can be in two places at once—not even Sammy!

An injury puts Cooper Hoskins in a tough spot—if he can’t work, the foster sister he’s raising can’t eat. But years in the foster system have left Cooper short on trust, and opening up to accept help isn’t easy.

Luckily, family intervenes—Cooper needs a job so he can care for Felicity, and Sammy needs someone who can see past his illness to the wonderful things he has planned for his life. Each heals the damaged places in the other’s heart. But falling in love is a big responsibility for young men deep in family already. Can the two of them get past their fear of the immediate future to see forever with each other?

Stand by Your Manny brings another chapter to a series that stands aside from others due to the timespan between installments. It is necessary to read, at least, book one in this series to have a better understanding of the characters. It’s refreshing to see a young character turn into an intelligent young man between stories.

This is a story of discovering, not only of love but of what a family constitutes. Due to Cooper’s and Sammy’s age, it’s easy to think about this book as a YA story. We get to see how hard they worked to accept help without losing their independence. They become a team without realizing it, and shortly after, start a relationship based on honesty and innocence.

I enjoyed the UST in the story. It turns into part of the characters and their slow discoveries. The enjoyment of their new found relationship and their love for their families it’s an integral part of their path. We get to experience a range of emotions that felt real, not only for the characters but for the readers.

Getting to see the previous couples is an added bonus. They played a special part on Sammy’s and Cooper’s relationship and it’s exciting to see how much they have grown and learned about each other. I really love how Channing and Tino dealt with a growing Sammy. It was adorkable.

It was disappointing that John Solo was not the narrator of this story. He did an excellent job bringing the previous two books together. In this volume, we get Peter B. Brooke as the narrator. He adds that young tone to Sammy and Cooper without jeopardizing the previous characters we love.

The cover by Bree Archer follows the pattern of the series as well as the collection, giving us a peak of Sammy and his music room.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner | iTunes | Audible

Audiobook Details:

Narrator: Peter B. Brooke
Length: 6 hours 01 minutes
Published: July 17, 2018 (Audio Edition) by Dreamspinner Press
ASIN: B07FMF4BG4
Edition Language: English

Series: The Mannies
Book #1: The Virgin Manny
Book #2: Manny Get Your Guy
Book #3: Stand by your Manny 

Amy Lane on A Manny Survival Kit and her new release ‘ A Fool and His Manny (The Mannies #4)’ (guest post and excerpt)

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A Fool and His Manny (The Mannies #4) by Amy Lane 

Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art:  Bree Archer

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Amy Lane back today talking about one of our favorite stories this month.  Welcome, Amy!

 

A Manny Survival Kit

By Amy Lane

So in my last post, I admit that I was a sucktastic babysitter.  But after teaching for eighteen years–and being a parent for twenty-five—I have to admit, my childcaring skills have gotten better. 

As a promotional item for Romantic Times this year, I put together a couple big baskets—I called them Manny survival kids—and I thought I’d put together a list of things I’ve learned you need when you are caring for people who need you.

  • Food. Yeah, I don’t care if the kid is past bottle time or no longer a toddler. Your fifteen-year-old can turn to you in the middle of walking the dogs and say, “Do we have anything to eat?”
  • Drink. Water bottles. Everywhere.
  • Entertainment. Before we leave the house for more than a half-hour we ask, “Do you have a book? Your phone? Knitting? Anything to keep you occupied if I have to talk to people you don’t know about stuff you don’t care about?” For littler kids, you have a different list—Doll? Car? Stuffed animal? Game? Yo-Yo? Bag of picture books? But trust me—it fills the same need.
  • Tissues. For runny noses, runny eyes, and oh-my-God-what-is-that-bug-on-your-shirt!
  • Baby wipes. Yes, when the kid is in diapers, this is a must. But I always carry them in my purse, even if my kids are older. Sticky hands, sticky faces, weird stuff on their clothes—it will all show up.
  • Hand sanitizer. For you. Well, sometimes for them. But mostly for you.
  • A plan. Is the kid sassing you? Have a consequence. Are they whining? Have something that will coax them out of it. Do they not liking changing what they’re doing? Remind them five minutes before you’re going to leave a place that they have five minutes to wrap up their business. A plan—a thing you can tell a kid will happen next—will make your day so much easier to get through.
  • Books. No, not for them. For you. Because once they’re occupied, or watching cartoons, or doing homework, or asleep, you need a place to go in your head where you don’t have to worry about telling a kid they need to put down that unrecognizable animal because you promised their mother they wouldn’t have a disease when you got them home for lunch. Especially if you are their mother.
  • A bag. Because seriously, you need a bag to carry all that in,

So, yes.

You need to carry all that around because you never know when you need it.

But you also need a few things you can’t fit in the bag.

Compassion, intuitiveness, quick thinking, and a sense of humor.

Especially that last one.

And maybe an extra dose of compassion.

So there you go—all the things you need to carry around with you in order to care for yours—or other people’s—children.

Hopefully you can find all these things and more when you read my Mannies series.  I gave the guys all the things I frequently forgot in my first few years. Even the sense of humor.

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Blurb:

A Fool and His Manny

By Amy Lane

Dustin Robbins-Grayson was a surly adolescent when Quinlan Gregory started the nanny gig. After a rocky start, he grew into Quinlan’s friend and confidant—and a damned sexy man.

At twenty-one, Dusty sees how Quinlan sacrificed his own life and desires to care for Dusty’s family. He’s ready to claim Quinlan—he’s never met a kinder, more capable, more lovable man. Or a lonelier one. Quinlan has spent his life as the stranger on the edge of the photograph, but Dusty wants Quinlan to be the center of his world. First he has to convince Quinlan he’s an adult, their love is real, and Quinlan can be more than a friend and caregiver. Can he show Quin that he deserves to be both a man and a lover, and that in Dusty’s eyes, he’s never been “just the manny?”

Excerpt

Seven Years’ Distance

 

QUINLAN GREGORY’S body hurt. All of it. Every molecule.

He hauled the last suitcase out of the Lyft and paid the guy, then started carting his luggage—and his trumpet case—gingerly across the driveway, avoiding clots of dirt and tufts of grass on the concrete as he went.

Jacob had told him during his last phone call that the dog had gotten out and brutalized the new sod, but Quinlan hadn’t believed what a massacre it was until now. Anybody else would have disowned the ginger-haired mutt—aptly nicknamed Hellhound by Belinda, one of their daughters—but not Jacob and Nica Robbins-Grayson.

Quinlan’s bosses had a knack for picking up people and animals and giving them a home and then thanking them for all their help.

He should know—he’d been their manny for nearly seven years.

Their youngest, St. Peter (or, well, Peter, but Jacob and Nica insisted on calling him St. Peter in the hopes that God would be appeased and might not create a holy miracle and bless them with a seventh child) was seven this year, and Quinlan was wondering when they were going to let him go.

This job had been sort of a dream for a musician who traveled during the summer and took classes and worked night gigs in jazz bars the other nine months out of the year—but Quinlan’s last college tour had ended four days ago in a miasma of pain and dysentery, and he was twenty-seven years old.

It was high time he grew up, became an adult, stopped living in Jacob and Nica’s garage apartment, and found something responsible to do.

But first he wanted his snug little rooms, with the paneling Jacob had put in before he moved in, and the hardwood floors, and the rug Quin had bought in Vancouver, and the bed he’d put on layaway until Nica had bought it for him as a surprise when he’d come home from his summer tour the first time.

His fish tank.

The fuzzy blanket the kids had gotten him for his third Christmas with the Robbins-Graysons.

The pictures of him and the kids and the whole family at birthdays, graduations, and three weddings, including Sammy’s.

Oh, Sammy.

God. His home. It was his home, and he felt like crap on a cracker, and he needed his home.

He hauled the luggage up the stairs, both bags with his trumpet case under his arm, and was going to use the key but the knob twisted under his hand. Uh-oh—somebody must have left it open when they were feeding the fish. Maybe Dustin.

Dustin had been in his apartment. For a moment that shocked him out of his misery, even though the kids had been in and out of his apartment since the beginning, but then his stomach cramped again.

Well, no worries. The couch and television seemed unmolested, although there was a dirty dish and a coffee cup in the sink.

Quinlan set his luggage down, relieved beyond words. He worked out and ran—normally he was pretty strong, but after the stomach bug kept him hugging the toilet for four days, well, he was about done.

So ordinarily he would have noticed that the air conditioner was on, and someone was watching something in the bedroom, and every light and ceiling fan in the apartment was running.

But he was busy stripping his sweat-soaked shirt over his head, so it didn’t really hit him that somebody else was in the house until he opened the bedroom door and saw….

Oh God.

“Quin?” Dustin’s voice would hit him later—gravelly and breathy from passion.

What hit him first was the sight of the tall, muscular young man lying naked in his bed, cock in his hand, as Quinlan opened the door.

“Holy God, I’m sorry!” Quinlan shouted, slamming the door behind him. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Dusty. I’m sorry.”

“Jesus, Quin, what the fuck are you doing here?”

“Got sick.” Quinlan leaned against the door, weak and shaky. “Came home early. I’m sorry—I didn’t—wait.” Oh hell, he was really losing his touch. “Dustin Matthew Robbins-Grayson, were you jerking off in my bed?”

“Shut up!” Dustin shouted hotly, and Quinlan fought a flashback to those charming teenage years when the man currently naked in his room had been a Class 5 adolescent prick. “Shut up! I thought you were gone for five more days! How was I supposed to know?”

Quin’s head was swimming. “You weren’t,” he said, feeling dizzy and off balance and… oh hell, aroused. Dustin was twenty-one—not a child anymore—and the vision of him on the bed, legs spread, erect, abandoned to his own touch, was going to haunt Quin for possibly the rest of his life. “You weren’t supposed to know I was home. But what are you doing here?”

“Forget it,” Dustin muttered. “Look, just move away from the door. I’m dressed now. Pretend this didn’t happen. And—oh Jesus, if you tell my parents, I’m jumping off a bridge.”

Tell his parents? As. If.

“Dusty!” Quin cajoled, trying to inject humor into what, well, should have been a humorous situation. “Dusty, please. Man, I feel like shit, and it’s hotter than ass outside. Just… just let me shower and lie down on the bed and get some rest, and you can couch and tell me what you were doing here later, okay?”

“Quin….” Dustin’s voice held a familiar note—but one almost forgotten. Quin, you don’t get it. You’ll never understand.

And Quin found himself panicking. They’d been okay when he’d left, right? Well, they’d been changing—but they’d been okay. Dustin’s texts, his persistent, grown-up, take-me-as-I-am texts had been more than okay. They’d even had Quin dreaming… hoping… because Dustin had grown up. Right?

Oh dear God yes, he’s grown up. His chest has grown and his nipples have grown and his cock has grown….

Quinlan whimpered, because his head hurt and his heart was starting to hurt. Dustin was an adult now, and he made plenty of money working for his father at Jacob’s garage chain. He had resources. He really could flit out of Quinlan’s life like a butterfly.

“Dustin,” he begged, on about his last nerve, “please, man. Don’t rocket out of here like this. Just… just let me cool off and drink some water and we can talk. We were there, right? We were… we were doing okay, right? Don’t… don’t tell me we have to start from scratch again.”

“Would you?” Dustin asked suspiciously. “Start from scratch?”

“Well, yeah!” Quinlan said, exasperated. “Dustin, I’ve been part of your life for seven years. Do you think I want you to just take off and cut me out? Because I walked in on you… uh….” Masturbating in my bed? He made a sound then—a weak, sad one—and Dustin spoke, sounding like he’d made a decision.

“We’ll talk about what I was doing later.”

The doorknob turned, and Quinlan moved away so Dustin could open it.

For a moment they were face-to-face, Dustin with his straight brown hair parted on the side and swept over his forehead. He had hazel eyes—an odd combination of brown and gray—and a bold nose with a short jaw and strong chin. He’d been cute as a kid, but Quinlan had noticed in the past couple of years that he’d grown into a stunningly handsome man.

“You look like death, Q,” Dustin said, letting go of the defensiveness of being caught pants down, so to speak. And then… then he rocked Quinlan’s world. He reached out and grazed Quinlan’s cheek with the back of his knuckles. “I’m sorry I yelled. Go shower. I’ll get you an ice water, okay?”

Quinlan nodded weakly. “That’s sweet. Thanks—”

Dustin stopped him with—oh God—a finger across his lips. Unbidden, another moment flashed behind Quin’s eyes, of Dusty’s touch on his lips. “Not sweet,” Dustin whispered. “You know me better than anybody else in the world. You know what I’m not?”

Dustin had been rambunctious, hostile, precocious, and irritating. But according to the people who loved him best, he’d never been “sweet.”

Maybe. Quinlan had seen—in the last seven years, he’d seen the other parts of him, parts that even his parents might not have seen.

“I don’t buy the bad press,” Quin said, smiling slightly and pretending Dustin’s work-roughened finger on his chapped, tender lips wasn’t trying to light fires on a sweat-sodden peat bog. “Here—” He moved sideways and stayed leaning against the door. “I… I really have to clean up.” He’d thrown up on the plane. Twice. His muscles were already trembling from hauling his luggage up to the door.

Dustin stepped out of the room, wearing a T-shirt and cargo shorts, and looked him over critically. “All right,” he said, turning to take Quinlan’s elbow. “Let me run a bath. Let’s get you in some cool water, I’ll get you some Gatorade and some salt tablets, and let me call Mom.” He pulled Quinlan to the bathroom beyond the bedroom and sat him on the toilet before he ran the water.

Quin leaned back against the back of the commode and tried to ignore the cramping in his gut, now that the excitement was over.

“Yeah,” Dustin was saying as he ran the bath. “I, uh, actually had permission to be here—Mom and Dad thought you were going to be gone for another few days, and my apartment was getting recarpeted. I, uh—I mean, not that I didn’t like sleeping in your bed and all—”

He peeked up at Quinlan over his shoulder, looking coy and boyish—two words Quin had never associated with him. Ever. It took a moment to put together what he was actually saying.

Quinlan frowned. “You were… uh… thinking of… uh….” Oh God. No. Not now.

He slid off the seat and landed on his knees and lifted up the lid. As the cramps shook him and he heaved, he was aware of Dustin’s cool hand on his brow, of his strong arms and chest keeping Quinlan grounded.

“Jesus, Q, you’re in bad shape,” Dustin muttered. “Of all the shitty times…. Here.”

Quinlan wasn’t sure how it happened. He stopped heaving fluid, and as he was panting and recovering, Dustin, the kid he’d helped raise from puberty on, hefted him up, stripped him down, and set him in a lukewarm bath.

Not cold enough to make him shiver. Not hot enough to make him sweat.

He lay back against the tub and caught his breath, closing his eyes. “Thanks,” he mumbled.

“Don’t thank me yet,” Dustin muttered. “I’ll be right back with water and salt and some carbs—and my mom.”

“Oh Jesus. Your mom’s gonna see me naked?” Quinlan whined. He respected the holy hell out of Dustin’s mom. He sort of wanted to die just thinking about it.

“I’ll call Dad, then,” Dustin snapped. “Whatever. You look like shit, and I’m worried. And if you say I’m sweet, it’s my turn to puke.”

“But you are,” Quinlan murmured to Dustin’s retreating back. “I remember. You think I don’t remember how sweet you are?”

“Fuck off, Quin.”

But Quinlan’s eyes were closed, and he was drifting in the tepid water. Back, back, back, seven years ago, at the park wedding of Taylor Cochran and Brandon Grayson. Back to a warm, bright September day seven years ago, when the red dust of the foothills seemed to stain the very air, and Quinlan’s friend—Dustin’s cousin, Sammy Lowell—was looking happy, if not healthy, and very much in love.

And Quinlan was fighting off a terrible case of woe-is-me.

About the Author


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

A MelanieM Release Day Review: A Fool and His Manny (The Mannies #4) by Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Seeing the truth and falling in love.

Dustin Robbins-Grayson was a surly adolescent when Quinlan Gregory started the nanny gig. After a rocky start, he grew into Quinlan’s friend and confidant—and a damned sexy man.

At twenty-one, Dusty sees how Quinlan sacrificed his own life and desires to care for Dusty’s family. He’s ready to claim Quinlan—he’s never met a kinder, more capable, more lovable man. Or a lonelier one. Quinlan has spent his life as the stranger on the edge of the photograph, but Dusty wants Quinlan to be the center of his world. First he has to convince Quinlan he’s an adult, their love is real, and Quinlan can be more than a friend and caregiver. Can he show Quin that he deserves to be both a man and a lover, and that in Dusty’s eyes, he’s never been “just the manny?

Well, now I can say it. A Fool and His Manny (The Mannies #4) by Amy Lane is my absolute favorite in the Mannies series.  Yes, yes, I know I’ve said that before.  But this time its true.  This is my favorite story.  Reading this novel is like being enveloped is large, welcoming mommy arms or walking in the door home and getting the welcome you always dreamed about from the family you  always wanted.

And yes, this tale is exactly why I  blather on and on about the necessity of writing, and establishing an amazing cast of supporting or “secondary” characters.  Not that any characters here could  ever be called that. Nope.  From the smallest person, tyke or kitty, to the most imposing. No matter how much time they spend on the page, their impression they make as part of the extended family on Quinlan and the reader is indelible.    There is no way to measure that out be it Wainscott or Nutbar, Jacob or Keenan.  We need them all exactly as they are.

This is a story to make you cry and sooth your heart.  Often at once.  For Quinlan is a broken young man who happens to fall into the family that will adopt, accept, and love him. Permanently.  Here you get the entire progression.  From Quinlan in the band, to his acceptance as the manny on the edge of family life, to watching as he get’s slowly pulled into the middle without his knowledge, the love flowing over and around him, like a healing balm.

As Dusty grows up and waits for him to realize that as well.

I may just start crying all over again.  Damn book.  Amy Lane gets me every time here.

There’s so much more here to this story.  Babies, kitties, a serious illness, a crappy mom, lots of real life stuff going on and its all done beautifully in perfect Amy Lane fashion.

Trust me on this one.  Just pick this book up and watch a fragile young man heal and fall in love.

Of course, the whole extended  Robbins-Grayson family gets assembled in books 1 through 3 so you really need to read those as well to get acquainted with everyone.  They are just as outstanding plus you get to meet all the others first.  Win win.  I listed them all below.  Read the entire series.  It’s one I highly recommend.  Just don’t forget to keep that box of tissues handy!

The cover by Bree Archer, wasn’t exactly my idea of Dusty physically but the emotions come through.  The style brands the series perfectly.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 230 pages
Expected publication: July 17th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleA Fool and His Manny
ISBN139781640805040
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Mannies #4

ISBN139781640805040
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Mannies #4

The Virgin Manny

Manny Get Your Guy

Stand By Your Manny

A Fool and His Manny

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: A Fool and His Manny (The Mannies #4) by Amy Lane

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Rating 5 stars out of 5

In my opinion, this is the best of the Mannies series and one of my favorite Amy Lane stories.  As the author states in her promo, her work is divided into three flavors: alt universe, angst, and sunshine-yellow happy.  Well, color this one bright sunshine because it was one of those stories that grabbed me from the first chapter and pulled me through to the end when the very clueless Quinlan Gregory realizes just how very loveable and needed he is.

Quinlan was kicked out by his wealthy parents when he announced he was gay.  He had a feeling it would happen, so he had all his worldly goods packed and all his finances in order. In fact, the moment he left the house he changed all his passwords so his family couldn’t access his accounts or his trust fund.  Good thing too, because years later he found out they’d tried to access them immediately.

Quinlan is Sammy’s college friend and fellow musician, so naturally, kind-hearted Sammy sees being a manny for his aunt’s brood is the perfect job for Quin, and the timing is perfect since Taylor is getting married and leaving the position. Though he knows nothing about being a manny, he really wants to be a part of the world of this close-knit family—a world so far from the cold, lonely life he left behind. When he spots Dusty, the oldest, and boldest, of the kids, acting out and assuming the role of family troublemaker—Quin realizes he can definitely make a positive contribution to the Robbins-Grayson’s lives.

Time passes, and as Quin and Dusty become friends, Dusty bides his time to reach his goal of making Quinlan see him as an adult, an equal, and a mature responsible lover. There aren’t more than six years between them, but Dusty knows he’ll need to be in his twenties before he can actively pursue the man of his dreams.  So by the time he’s twenty-one, he starts to make his move, and though it takes more than one attempt, he’s finally in a position to help the kind, caring man when Quin comes home from summer band tour with a bad virus and virtually falls into Dusty’s open arms.

What follows is a courtship that made my heart melt. Dusty is the perfect mate for Quin and he sets out to prove it as Quin receives news his father has died and his mother is again attempting to access Quin’s money.

The most outstanding feature of this story is the character development and family interactions. These are real people in a large, happy family composed of those both born into, and folded into, their collective arms. Dusty’s character was a surprise on the one hand, but knowing his parents, it shouldn’t have been. He’s very much like his father in temperament and he’s goal-driven like his mother with an attitude that proves good things come to those who wait.

I laughed and I cried with Quin and Dusty, and I wallowed in the pure enjoyment of seeing where Channing and Tino are in their relationship, as well as where Sammy and Cooper are in theirs. Quin’s reaction to Sammy’s good news was spot-on and showed just what a wonderful friend and caring character he is.  There’s so much to this story, it’s hard to pick a favorite segment, and conversely, it’s almost impossible to pick something I didn’t like—other than the evil, cold-hearted woman who birthed Quin, of course. And to be honest, to make the story work, she needed to be exactly the way she was.

I wouldn’t recommend this book as a standalone, purely because of the interactions with the other characters in the series, but I would highly recommend it to those who’ve read the others, especially books one and three.  And to those who haven’t read them—start from the beginning and enjoy this whole series. It’s so worth it.

The cover by Bree Archer, in typical Dreampun Desires style, features a handsome young man, likely Dusty, set against a dark purple background.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 230 pages
Expected publication: July 17th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleA Fool and His Manny
ISBN139781640805040
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Mannies #4