Amy Lane on Making It Work and Crocus (Bonfires, #2) (author guest blog and tour)

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Crocus (Bonfires, #2)  by  Amy Lane
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art: Reese Dante

Sales Links:  AmazonDreamspinner Press |  Kobo 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have one of its favorite authors back to talk about one of its highly recommended series and stories Crocus, the second story in the Bonfires series from Amy Lane. Welcome, Amy.

♦︎

Making it Work

By Amy Lane

*Note—If you follow my blog, you know these people—ZoomBoy is my 14 YO son, Squish is my 12 YO daughter, Chicken is my 23 YO daughter and Big T is my 25 YO son. Mate is my long suffering mate.

So, Wednesday night was dance lessons. It’s always dance lessons, since Chicken was in dance and it’s in our blood by now. We’re coming up on recital and the kids missed some time for our trip back east, and they absolutely had to make dance lessons.

Wednesday night was also Open House, which I didn’t find out about until we were leaving for dance lessons, but dammit, recital, and ZoomBoy couldn’t have at least told me that this was why he had a minimum day which I also didn’t know about until I was packing to go to the gym and ZoomBoy texted me and said he needed a ride home which meant I didn’t go to the gym and I didn’t get a shower until one in the afternoon either!

So, dance lessons, and I might have wanted to go to Open House but Mate had a soccer meeting—his second this week, and he’s got practice with Squish Tuesday and Thursday as well. But in a week filled with helping Chicken with her sick cat and driving ZoomBoy to her nanny job so he can help with the little kids so she doesn’t lose her mind, and getting Big T so he can do laundry at our house so he doesn’t go broke, and needing to get the car serviced and my own cat to the vet and a dentist appointment, dance lessons are sort of the cherry on the sundae that is a typical week at our house.

So anyway—Mate calls up while I’m driving the kids and says, “I’ll come sit with you and chat while the kids are dancing.”

And my entire body lights up.

Because he’s been tired—he’s fallen asleep in front of the TV at ten twice this week.  I’ve been busy—I’ve crawled into bed after two a.m. a couple of times, and I’m a joy to be around without sleep as well. So, he’s going to drive across town to sit in a car with me for an hour and share a snack and talk about our week and—maybe—hold my hand and kiss my cheek.

So he can be with me.

And all those thoughts I’ve had about running away to join the circus so I can at least read a book backstage disappear. My Mate is going to be with me. That’s really all I’ve needed all week.

The primary complaint about Bonfires was that it was too “busy”—and I’m gonna tell you, Crocus is busier—but I can’t apologize. I mean, I’m a writer for a living—walking the dogs and going to the gym are the highs of my workweek and having a 4,000 word day just doesn’t have the thrill of having a kid go berserk in your class or tazing a perp as he crosses the street. But my days are full—full—and finding time to be with my Mate, to talk to the person who makes me light up inside and lets me know that I’m not alone on the ferocious hamster wheel of raising kids and having a productive life can be a brutal exercise in time management.

And, like I said, I’m a writer.

Larx and Aaron are a Sheriff’s Deputy and a high school principal, and their lives make mine look like I’m sitting still. (Well, I often am.)  And their kids are busy, even the grown ones, and they’re trying to be good parents and their ferocious hamster wheel is powered by giant feral mutant gerbils on speed.

So I can’t apologize for the busy-ness, or the lack of sleep or the terrible struggle to find an hour, or forty-five minutes, or a heartbeat alone with the love of your life—because that’s what life is at this stage in the game. That’s what a relationship is when your kids and your careers and your digestive track are all at a certain age and you have to put in double-time to take care of each and every one.

Crocus and Bonfires are going to be busy.

But hopefully, there will be moments–hushed moments in a parked car, tender moments in a bed, full-body moments under the sky—when the world falls away, and two people can touch soul deep, and two hearts can draw strength from each other to sustain themselves for the race that tomorrow brings.

Blurb

Bonfires: Book Two

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 Sheriff 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?

Excerpt

Larx’s phone, sitting on the table next to him, buzzed, and he was damned grateful.

Hello, Principal—are you being a good boy and getting your work done?

Larx groaned. Sort of. Olivia showed up on the doorstep this morning. Oh hell. He didn’t even want to ask Aaron about using his house.

Is she visiting for the weekend?

No.

The phone rang. “Are you kidding me?”

“Sorry, Aaron.” He sighed and sipped his tepid coffee, then took a deep breath. “I don’t know what’s going on. She came in talking a mile a minute, tripped over the dog—”

“Is Dozer okay?”

Larx had to laugh. “Your dog is fine, Aaron.”

“He’s your dog,” Aaron protested weakly. Yes, the puppy had been a gift for Larx when his oldest cat passed away, but Aaron—big, solid, strong—had apparently been waiting for Dozer for most of his life.

Larx wasn’t going to argue that the dog was definitely Aaron’s, but it was true. Dozer—a mixed breed somewhere between a Labrador retriever and a German shepherd—was fine with Larx, answered to him just as well as he did Aaron, appreciated the hell out of the full food bowl, gave plenty of sloppy, happy kisses, and pranced about on spindly legs and feet the size of dinner plates.

But when Aaron came home, Larx watched the dog melt, roll to his back, offer up his tummy in supplication, and beg for pets.

Larx couldn’t object or be jealous—he felt the same way. Except Larx wanted Aaron to pet more than his belly.

“That dog’s your soul mate from another life,” Larx said now, scratching Dozer behind the ears. “Yes, you are. Yes, you are. But you can’t have him. He’s mine.”

“Wow. Just wow.”

Larx chuckled, because the distraction had been welcome, but now… now grown-up things. “She’s asleep on the couch,” he said softly. “Aaron… she’s not sounding….” He took a big breath. His ex-wife had suffered from depression after a miscarriage, and he remembered coming home from work bringing dinner once so she didn’t have to cook or clean up because she’d been so sad. She’d yelled at him—didn’t he think she was capable of cleaning her own kitchen? Then she’d burst into tears for an hour, while Larx had fed the girls and tried to calm her down.

It had been like standing on the deck of a ship in a storm—and Larx had that same feeling now, with his daughter, when his children had always been the source of peace in his heart.

“Pregnancy?” Aaron asked hesitantly. They were so new. Larx hadn’t spoken about Alicia more than a handful of times. Nobody talked about depression or mental illness.

Nobody knew what to say.

“Yeah.” Larx didn’t want to talk about it right now. He just couldn’t.

“Baby….” Aaron’s voice dropped, and considering Larx had gotten him at work, where he had to be all tough and manly and shit, that meant he was worried.

“Later,” Larx said gruffly. “Just not, you know….”

“When the whole world can hear. I get it.” Aaron blew out a breath and then took the subject down a surprising path. “Larx, do you have a student named Candace Furman?”

Larx stared at the paperwork in his hand, shuffling back to where he was right before Olivia had knocked.

“Yeah. Not one of mine, but… huh.” He reached over to his laptop and accessed the school’s portal site. “Hm….”

“That’s informative. Want to tell me what you’re looking at?”

“It’s sort of privileged, Deputy. Want to tell me why you need to know?”

Aaron’s grunt told him he was being annoying, but Larx couldn’t help it. He didn’t want to just divulge information on a kid if it wasn’t necessary. It went against everything he’d ever stood for as a rebellious adolescent.

“I just got…. It was weird. We got a domestic call to her house—her parents answer, and it’s all great. ‘No, Officer, we have no idea why somebody would call in screaming or a fight in the snow.’ We take a look inside, house is okay—but really clean.”

“Like somebody just swept up all the pieces of all the things?” Larx hazarded.

“Yeah. Either that or just… unhealthily antiseptic. And Candace and her sister—”

“Shelley,” Larx supplied since he had the file open on his computer.

“Yeah. Anyway—the girls are fine. ‘Yessir. Nossir. It’s all okay, sir.’ But they’ve both got these… like, girl masks on?”

“Makeup?” Larx said, trying to picture it.

“No… like… face goop. Like… whatwazit? Mrs. Doubtfire stuck her face in the cake ’cause she didn’t have her makeup on?”

It took Larx a minute to process all that. “A facial,” he said, blinking hard because the movie was that old, and the antitrans messaging had been so strong that Larx forgot he too had been part of America who’d laughed their asses off at a man in a dress with flammable boobs.

“Yeah. That. And that shit could be hiding anything, right? Their eyes were red, but then, for all I know the facial goop did that. So I’m not sure if they’re hiding shiners or if their neighbors just got hold of some bad weed—”

“Did you knock on their door?” Larx asked. Between him and Aaron, they really did know most of the town. “Who’s their neighbor?”

“Couple of brothers,” Aaron said thoughtfully. “Just moved at Christmas. Youngest one goes to Colton High—”

“Jaime Benitez,” Larx said promptly. “Junior.” He pressed the right link and there was the master schedule. “He and Candace are in some classes together.”

Aaron grunted. “Well, the older brother had been lighting up pretty hard—but it doesn’t seem like Jaime’s the type to indulge.”

“You didn’t bust them?” Larx asked curiously. He’d done his share of weed in college—but Aaron had been off fighting and bleeding for his country when Larx was in college. This was something they’d never talked about.

“Hell,” Aaron muttered. “Unless they’re growing to distribute, it’s mostly legal. Not for minors, of course, but both boys were functional, polite, and their eyes were clear. Roberto—who’s twenty-one, by the way—actually produced a prescription for anxiety without being asked. I could have made a stink about it, but I couldn’t see the point.”

“I love you so hard,” Larx breathed. “Seriously. I can’t think of a sexual favor good enough for you. I’ll have to make something up.”

“I’m sorry?”

Larx couldn’t articulate it. It wasn’t that he’d smoke it now unless it was prescribed, and he didn’t want his kids—or his students—indulging without cause. But something about knowing Aaron, for all his law-and-order propensities, didn’t push rules just for the sake of there being rules made Larx even prouder of him.

“Just you’re a good guy. Jaime Benitez is getting good grades. He’s part of the local service clubs, including one where he tutors eighth graders in trouble. Nice boy.”

“In your class?” Aaron wanted to know.

“Senior year, like Kirby. Christiana is sort of—”

“Special,” Aaron said fondly. “Yeah. I know.”

Well, Larx’s youngest was the girl with the flower—her brightness and sparkle was coupled with a quiet good sense. Irresistible. She was also razor-sharp, which was why she was taking Larx’s class in her junior year.

“So what about Candace?” Aaron prompted.

Larx sighed. “She’s… well, she was a straight-A student, but no involvement in anything.”

“Nothing?”

Aaron might well be surprised. It was a small school in a small town. Activity involvement wasn’t mandatory, but if a kid wanted any sort of social life, being part of a club or a sport was pretty much the only thing going on after school.

“No—that’s odd. And that’s probably why I can’t place her. Her sister’s in grade school, so I wouldn’t know her. But Candace is just… not involved.”

“Was,” Aaron prompted, and Larx rested his chin on his fist and looked woefully at his paperwork. Ye gods, the pile wasn’t getting any smaller.

“Yeah. Was getting straight As. Is no longer. Is veering off into C and D territory. And I have in front of me, waiting for a signature, her very first referral for behavior.”

He stared at it, wondering how the pieces fit.

“What’d she do?” Aaron asked patiently.

“Well, it says she got to class late and then ran out a few minutes after the bell rang. It was her first-period class, and when she came back—looking pale—the teacher asked if she was okay. Apparently she laughed hysterically and told the teacher to fuck off.”

“Uh….”

Larx sighed. “Yeah. That’s why I’m up to my eyeballs in paperwork, Aaron—so I can look for kids like this and ask them what happened. I’m on it.”

“That’s my boy,” Aaron praised softly. “Good. Keep me in the loop, okay? I don’t know if the girls were being abused, and frankly I didn’t have enough evidence to so much as make them wash their faces. I don’t know the story behind the boys living together without parents, and I don’t know why one of them would be anxious enough to get a prescription for a ton of weed. These are things I would like to know before I go venturing in there with CPS and the DEA to make sure everything is kosher, you understand?”

“Got it, Deputy.” Larx looked at both kids’ files again and wondered at the puzzle. “Aaron, I’m serious. You’re a good man. These kids—there’s pieces missing here. Yanking them away from their homes, dragging them into the fray—I’m not sure if that’s the best thing here.”

Larx was starting to know Aaron’s grunts—this one was the respectful disagreement grunt. “Some stuff needs to see light, Mr. Larkin,” he chided gently. “If something’s festering in that girl’s life, it’s our job to make sure she’s okay.”

Of course.

“Roger that.” Larx tilted his head back and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Have you eaten?” Aaron asked.

“Uh….” He’d gotten a sandwich for Olivia, but he’d put off getting his own.

“Eat, Principal. Work on your paperwork. And maybe take a nap on the couch before I get there. Save up your strength.” He gave a chuckle that was absolutely filthy. “You’re going to need it.”

Larx whined. “But… but Olivia—”

“If hearing us have sex gives her reason to move out, more’s the better,” Aaron intoned darkly.

Oh shit. “She… uh… she sort of hinted… never mind.”

“My house. Yes. We’ll move her tomorrow.”

Larx groaned and rested his forehead on the paperwork on the table. “God. You’re the perfect man. Where’s the rub? Where’s the flaw? There’s got to be something here that makes me want to smack you—where is it?”

“Mmm….”

Oh yeah. That conversation they weren’t having because of all the conversations they were.

“Understood.” Larx sighed. “I’ll see you when you get home.”

“Eat, dammit.”

Larx smiled, reassured. “Sure. Take care of what’s mine.”

“Always do.”

“Love you.”

“Thanks for the info.”

Aaron signed off, and Larx’s text pinged thirty seconds later.

Love you too.

Yup. Too good to be true.

Larx’s worry about his daughter—and about Aaron’s input into the situation—doubled down in his chest.

Please, Olivia—please. Don’t make me choose between you two. Please.

About the Author

 

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

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Crocus (Bonfires #2) by Amy Lane

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The characters from Bonfires return and this time, their lives have finally settled down—or so they think.  But danger comes in many forms—mental, emotional, and physical—and the guys get a whammy from all sides.  Larx’s pregnant daughter, Olivia, comes home after ditching her boyfriend and dropping out of school. She begins a depression hibernation that isn’t broken until she has to step up and help said boyfriend who has shown up in town, been in an accident, and is now hospitalized.

Larx is dealing with a student who may be being molested in her home and that situation comes to a crisis at the same time he’s also helping Jamie, a young teen who’s living with his brother who was previously severely beaten and suffers from PTSD.  Unfortunately, paths cross in their neighborhood in the small town in California and when the girl’s stepbrother shows up with a gun and looks for her at the home of the kid with PTSD, Aaron arrives just in time to intervene and be injured in the line of duty. 

Larx honestly doesn’t know which way to turn when his lover is carried off in an ambulance, his young male student and his brother are traumatized by what went on in their home, and the girl who’d been hiding in the shack in their back yard takes off cross country in the middle of a major snowstorm. Could it get worse? You bet. Amy Lane weaves a complex tale of yours, mine, and ours that is definitely not The Brady Bunch. 

I love Larx!  I love his BFF, Yoshi!  Aaron!  And now Tane, Yoshi’s quiet and unassuming lover who steps up and helps the young man with the PTSD.  Olivia’s boyfriend is released from the hospital where he’d been suffering from a concussion, Jamie and his brother move in with them into Aaron’s old house, and the rest of the gang, including Kellan (Bonfires), who now lives with Larx, all manage to fit into Larx’s home and the chaos seems to have no end. 

I really enjoyed the underlying humor in many of the personal interactions, the strong and evident love between Larx and Aaron, the support for the young brothers, one of whom gave up everything to keep his baby brother from being enlisted by gangs, and the variety in the family drama.  Olivia’s depression and potential treatment was addressed, and even Aaron’s oldest daughter’s hostility was brought in when she was informed of her father’s injury and then abruptly cut off for the sake of everyone’s peace when she kept singing the same old tune. 

I suspect there may be at least one more book to come in this series as several threads remain unresolved.  Plus, if we are really lucky, we may get to attend a wedding between these two older men who captured my heart so completely in book one that I never want to see them disappear. 

I highly recommend this story. It’s full of action, adventure, drama, family issues, heartache, and of course, heartwarming interactions. 

~~~

The colorful and attractive cover by Reese Dante depicts a beautiful crocus that is symbolic of the storyline. Per the author, crocuses are tough enough to push their way through snow to give people “hope for a gentler moment in time.”

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 244 pages
Published April 17th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleCrocus
ISBN139781640806351
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Bonfires #2

A Lila Audiobook Review: Red Fish, Dead Fish ( Fish Out of Water #2) by Amy Lane and Greg Tremblay (Narrator)

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

What they say this book’s all about?

Two months ago Jackson Rivers got shot while trying to save Ellery Cramer’s life. Not only is Jackson still suffering from his wounds, the triggerman remains at large—and the body count is mounting.

Jackson and Ellery have been trying to track down Tim Owens since Jackson got out of the hospital, but Owens’s time as a member of the department makes the DA reluctant to turn over any stones. When Owens starts going after people Jackson knows, Ellery’s instincts hit red alert. Hurt in a scuffle with drug-dealing squatters and trying damned hard not to grieve for a childhood spent in hell, Jackson is weak and vulnerable when Owens strikes.

Jackson gets away, but the fallout from the encounter might kill him. It’s not doing Ellery any favors either. When a police detective is abducted—and Jackson and Ellery hold the key to finding her—Ellery finds out exactly what he’s made of. He’s not the corporate shark who believes in winning at all costs; he’s the frightened lover trying to keep the man he cares for from self-destructing in his own valor.

Red Fish, Dead Fish is even better than Fish Out of Water. I have forgotten that when Amy Lane goes for gritty and sad it’s always detailed and perfect. What Jackson endures in this second story takes off with the same intensity and suffering. Yes, it’s more than redeeming in the end, but he has to fight with everything he has to get to the other side, where Ellery is always waiting for him.

The author did an excellent job integrating this volume within the main story. We get to learn more about Jackson’s life, his fears, and the need he has to love and be love. Ellery is always there with him even when Jackson tries to push him aside. They have learned to work together and comfort each other better. There’s always an internal fight not to give the other too much but in the end, they always provided what the other needed.

There’s a large variety of secondary characters, new and old, that make the reader want to know more about their stories. Plus, in Amy Lane’s fashion, we get to see characters from her other books making small cameos in this book. It works and is always best to read the other books first; in this case, Racing for the Sun. There are also some bonus short stories at the end of the audiobook that are worth listening to. They bring all three books together.

I don’t think this series is over. The reader gets a complete story, but there’s always the possibility for more. Opened doors and new phycological adventures for Jackson and Ellery. This book was long and action-packed. Parts are cringeworthy and you get to suffer with the characters but in the end, it goes perfectly with the characters and their story.

Greg Tremblay brings the characters back to life without missing a step. They’re as strong and individual as on the first book, getting the reader submerged into the story within minutes.

The cover by Reese Dante matches the previous book with its clean lines and out of the ordinary elements. Still, quite literal, but it works one more time.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Narrator: Greg Tremblay
Length: 11 hours and 48 minutes

Published: March 2, 2018 (Audio Edition) by Dreamspinner Press
ASIN: B01LZQ0MBK

Edition Language: English

Series: Fish Out of Water
Book #1: Fish Out of Water
Book #2: Red Fish, Dead Fish

Amy Lane on Mommies, Mrs. Bobby’s Mom and her new release Bobby Green (author’s guest blog)

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Bobby Green (Johnnies #5) by Amy Lane
Dreamspinners Press
Cover Art: Anne Cain

Book Links: Amazon |  Dreamspinner Press  

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Amy Lane, here today on tour for her latest story in her Johnnies series, Bobbie Green.  Welcome, Amy.

Mrs. Bobby’s Mom

By Amy Lane

Okay, so my mother left when I was a kid and my dad raised me. It would be romantic to say “by himself” but the Goddess smiled on him hard, and he met my stepmom not long thereafter, so I did eventually learn that “Spanish rice” was NOT rice with ketchup and I never had to wear a “home cut shag” again. My point is, when all the feminists started freaking out about Disney movies because of the great animated mother-massacre (seriously—check out all the princess movies—where’s Mom?) I felt a little clueless.  I mean for me, that wasn’t really odd, was it? That was just representation.

But now I’m a mother with grown children, and as someone who just told her fourteen-year-old that no, for the sake of sweet baby jebus, washing your pits once a week was not good enough, and you had to get soap and water in there and blow armpit farts with a washrag or it by heaven didn’t count, I can assure you I’ve been educated in how much boys and girls need a good mom.

Which is something not one of my Johnnies boys have had.

I don’t even want to count the ways those boys lost their moms. (Suicide-1, emotional abuse-2, desertion-3, 4, 5, car wreck-6… and so on…) And as I wrote book five, I must have been feeling the lack of moms. As Bobby’s boss says, early on in the book as he realizes Bobby’s been one step away from homelessness for the last couple of weeks, “Jesus Christ, you all need mommies! Where are all the fucking mommies! I can’t be mommy to the whole damned company!”

And it’s not fair to ask him. After all, if you read Dex in Blue, you realize his own relationship with his mother is… well, just read it.

So, mommies. We didn’t have a lot of good ones, and, well, I felt like I needed to represent a little.

Bobby’s mom is sort of awesome. She collects craft supplies and downloads free cross-stitch patterns and dreams about far away worlds. She reads paperback romances and lives in her little tiny town and hopes—just hopes—that she can get her son to a place where he’s not vulnerable to people like his father ever again.

And when she finds out her son is gay, she cries a little, because he’s her only child, and she needs to let go of some of the things she’d hoped for him, including a wife and a traditional family. But she still loves him, and God knows, Reg needs her in a big way, so she’s going to deal.

And when she finds out he’s in porn… well, her reaction is understandable. But it’s not extreme. And it’s not violent. (She does threaten to beat him with a shoe, but he’s pretty sure she doesn’t mean it. He’s built like a tank. It would have to be a really big shoe.)  And she meets his friends, and his friends are kind. She meets the children in their lives, and she gets to hold babies—babies who don’t have the baggage her own kid had.

And she gets to be young again.

In short, Mrs. Bobby’s Mom is one of my better, subtler happy endings. She doesn’t meet the man of her dreams, no—but she does find some freedom. She gets to see her son happy. And she doesn’t do what so many of the moms in this series (and real life) do.

She doesn’t sacrifice her real relationship with her child for the sake of what she thinks it ought to be.

So no—I’m not Disney. I didn’t kill all the moms.

Because damn, moms—don’t we all deserve better than that?

Blurb

Johnnies: Book Five

Vern Roberts couldn’t wait to turn eighteen and get the hell out of Dogpatch, California. But city living is expensive, and he’s damned desperate when Dex from Johnnies spots him bussing tables.

As “Bobby,” he’s a natural at gay porn. Soon he’s surrounded by hot guys and sex for the taking, but it’s not just his girlfriend back in Dogpatch—or her blackmailing brother—that keeps him from taking it. It’s the sweet guy who held the lights for his first solo scene, who showed him decency, kindness, and a smile.

Reg Williams likes to think he’s too stupid to realize what a shitty hand life dealt him, but Bobby knows better. What Reg lacks in family, opportunity, education, and money, he makes up for in heart. One fumbling step at a time, they connect, not just in their hearts but in their bodies, where sex that’s not on camera, casual, or meaningless, becomes the most important thing in the world.

But Reg is hampered by an inescapable family burden, and he and Bobby will never fly unless he can find a way to manage it. Can he break the painful link to his unrealized childhood and grow into the love Bobby wants to give?

About the Author 

Amy Lane is a mother of two grown kids, two half-grown kids, two small dogs, and half-a-clowder of cats. A compulsive knitter who writes because she can’t silence the voices in her head, she adores fur-babies, knitting socks, and hawt menz, and she dislikes moths, cat boxes, and knuckleheaded macspazzmatrons. She is rarely found cooking, cleaning, or doing domestic chores, but she has been known to knit up an emergency hat/blanket/pair of socks for any occasion whatsoever or sometimes for no reason at all. Her award-winning writing has three flavors: twisty-purple alternative universe, angsty-orange contemporary, and sunshine-yellow happy. By necessity, she has learned to type like the wind. She’s been married for twenty-five-plus years to her beloved Mate and still believes in Twu Wuv, with a capital Twu and a capital Wuv, and she doesn’t see any reason at all for that to change.

An Ali Release Day Review: Bobby Green (Johnnies #5) by Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Vern Roberts couldn’t wait to turn eighteen and get the hell out of Dogpatch, California. But city living is expensive, and he’s damned desperate when Dex from Johnnies spots him bussing tables. 

As “Bobby,” he’s a natural at gay porn. Soon he’s surrounded by hot guys and sex for the taking, but it’s not just his girlfriend back in Dogpatch—or her blackmailing brother—that keeps him from taking it. It’s the sweet guy who held the lights for his first solo scene, who showed him decency, kindness, and a smile.

Reg Williams likes to think he’s too stupid to realize what a shitty hand life dealt him, but Bobby knows better. What Reg lacks in family, opportunity, education, and money, he makes up for in heart. One fumbling step at a time, they connect, not just in their hearts but in their bodies, where sex that’s not on camera, casual, or meaningless, becomes the most important thing in the world.

But Reg is hampered by an inescapable family burden, and he and Bobby will never fly unless he can find a way to manage it. Can he break the painful link to his unrealized childhood and grow into the love Bobby wants to give?
 
 
This is the fifth installment of this series and takes places at the same time the events of the first four books are taking place. There are references to things that are happening with the other characters and most of them have some role in this. The story starts with us meeting Vern/Bobby (his porn name & what I’m going to use for the rest of the review) who’s living an unhappy life in a bigoted small town. A chance to work construction in Sacramento helps him get out but when that quickly goes bad, Bobby is desperate to not have to go back. A chance meeting with Dex gives him the solution he needs and leads him to working at Johnnies where he meets and becomes friends with Reg.

I have to be honest and say I don’t remember Reg or Bobby at all from the other books (but it’s been years since I read the first three books in this series). Reg is a veteran porn star at Johnnies and he’s the good natured guy everyone is friends with (& friends w benefits with). At first Reg was presented as being slow intellectually and I wasn’t sure this book was going to work for me. Characters with cognitive delays can be dicey for me. If there’s any hint of a power imbalance between the two MC’s I’m out. Fortunately (for me) this is not how this plays out. I thought the author did a good job looking at how social issues effect one’s IQ and how emotional IQ is also a big part of how people present. Reg has a really difficult life. He’s been responsible for his mentally ill sister since he was 16 years old. She keeps him captive in his own home and he has no life outside porn and no friends other than the Johnnies guys. His meeting Bobby changes his perspective and challenges what he thought he wanted out of life.
These two start off as friends and it’s a really slow burn between them. I really liked that change up from most romance books. They spent months just hanging out and snuggling and talking. It takes them both awhile to even realize they’re in love. 

This book is pretty gritty and parts aren’t pretty at all. Reg’s sister has a very serious mental health issue and some of the scenes with her are pretty rough. She’s verbally and physically aggressive and poor Reg takes a ton of abuse. The situation Bobby is in in the first part of the book was also pretty difficult to read. There was one scene in particular where my stomach kind of knotted up for him. 

Something else I think is important to note is these two are not together-together for the first 50-60% of the book and they both sleep with other people, on and off the set. They weren’t at a commitment stage yet, and honestly the way things played out seemed very realistic. I personally didn’t have a problem with it, although I admit a few parts were a little sad, but I think it fit the plot in a very true to life manner. I mention it though as I know that dynamic is a big “no” for a lot of romance readers.
I had a lot of thoughts while reading this. It’s a pretty complex story line and one of the best books this author has written in years imo. She gave some great detail and thought to some complicated issues. I loved these two together and they way their relationship grew came to pass felt very realistic to me. This is very much not happy/fluffy Amy Lane so know that going in. As I’ve said, it’s very gritty and there’s more than one thing that may be of issue to some readers. Those of you who are like me though and love the grit and angst, this is a winner and you need to scoop it up asap.

This could be read as a standalone. There is a lot of interaction from the guys in the Johnnies group and all of them play at least a small role in this. Some (Dex, Kane and Ethan) play pretty big roles. You don’t have to read their books to be able to follow this one. You will spoiler yourself for multiple things from the first four books though. As someone who’s read all the books, I liked seeing the other guys and it was interesting to see them & their various issues from Reg & Bobby’s view points

This started a bit rough for me but ended up being my favorite in the series except for Chase in Shadows. These two are just fantastic together and watching them as they work through their problems (in life, not with each other) was really touching. They were perfect for each other & I was happy for them in the end like they were real people (#booknerd).
Cover:  This cover was done by Reese Dante and I like it a lot.  The cover fits perfectly with the prior books in the series and I thought the guys on the cover fit the descriptions of the MC’s really well.
Buy LInks:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
 Book Details:
ebook, First Edition, 350 pages
Expected publication: February 6th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640802575
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesJohnnies #5

An Ali Review: An Amy Lane Christmas by Amy Lane (bundle)

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Celebrate the season with Amy Lane’s own brand of holiday cheer. 

Enjoy five classic Amy Lane Christmas stories, imbued with her signature blend of humor, romance, and heart-warming satisfaction as businessmen, lawyers, accountants, and teachers all find love this December. 

Includes: 
If I Must 
Christmas with Danny Fit 
Puppy, Car, and Snow 
Turkey in the Snow 
Going Up!
This was a great collection of some of this author’s older stories.  There are five stories here or varying lengths, and it’s a nice selection.  This is a good read for people who are already fans of this author but it’s also a nice place to start for people who have not read her before.
If I Must was the first book in the bundle and actually ended up being my least favorite.  It’s a friends to lovers story about two roommates who finally admit to their feelings about each other.  I had a hard time seeing the attraction between the two MC’s. 
Christmas with Danny Fit was a lovely story that tackles the issue of body imagine.  Kit is slightly chubby and shy and awkward and he’s got a crush on his younger, hotter, office assistant Jesse.  Kit takes to watching Danny Fit exercise videos to try and change himself.  The story looks at how you can miss what’s right in front of you while looking for that “perfect” person.
Puppy, Car, and Snow was a very sweet story.  It’s actually the third book in a series of short stories but you would be fine reading this as a standalone.  This story is about them spending Christmas with Ryan’s family. 
Turkey in the Snow is another sweet story.  Hank has his four year old niece living with him due to her mother abandoning her.  He’s not much into flamboyant guys but when Justin, the daycare worker at his gym does a good deed for him, Hank changes his mind.  This was a bit insta-love but it was just right for a holiday story.
Going Up is told by Zach who is a lawyer who lives in the building’s penthouse.  He comes from a very well off and conservative family.  He is getting by but is overall not very happy with his life.  One day when the elevator breaks he meets Sean, who is his total opposite.  Sean makes Zach see life differently and then men falling for each other is another charming tale.
This bundle is Amy Lane at her sweetest.  If you’re looking for some holiday stories filled with sweetness and no angst these are a good choice.
This cover was done by Alexandria Corza and I think it is nicely done.  It’s visually attractive and catches the vibe of the stories. Cover Artist: Bundle Cover Art by Alexandria Corza. If I Must, Christmas with Danny Fit, Turkey in the Snow by Catt Ford. Puppy, Car, and Snow by Anne Cain. Going Up! by Aaron Anderson.
Sales Link:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon
Book Details:Kindle Edition, 323 pages
Published December 25th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB0781B8MJQ
Edition LanguageEnglish

 

An Alisa Audiobook Review: Freckles by Amy Lane and Nick J. Russo (Narrator)

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5

Carter Embree has always hoped to be rescued from his productive, tragically boring, and (slightly) ethically compromised life. But when an urchin at a grocery store shoves a bundle of fluff into his hands, Carter goes from rescuee to rescuer—and he needs a little help.

Sandy Corrigan, the vet tech who helps ease Carter into the world of dog ownership, first assumes that Carter is a crazy-pants client who just needs to relax. But as Sandy gets a glimpse into the funny, kind, sexy man under Carter’s mild-mannered exterior, he sees that with a little care and feeding, Carter might be Super-Pet Owner—and decent boyfriend material to boot.

But Carter needs to see himself as a hero first. As he says good-bye to his pristine house and hello to carpet treatments and dog walkers, he finds that there really is more to himself than a researching drudge without a backbone. A Carter Embree can rate a Sandy Corrigan. He can be supportive, he can be a hero, he can be a man who stands up for his principles!

He can be the owner of a small dog.

I love, love, loved it.  Carter has been slaving away at his job doing his best to have regular human contact but until he Is suddenly given his little ball of fur he realizes just how wrong his priorities were.  Sandy just adores animals and wants to help Carter see that taking care of a dog is something he can do.

We get to see both characters’ points of view which allows us to see the story through their eyes and connect with them more.  I loved how Sandy could see through Carter’s uptight appearance and to the man underneath and his and Alexis’s unwavering support for Carter to make some significant changes in his life.  Carter has never really had anyone care for his wants before and he is amazed when it happens with Sandy.

Nick J Russo did a wonderful job narrating this story.  I could just feel the characters’ emotions happy and sad while listening.  The different voices he used for the characters helped me keep up with what was going on.

I love the cover art by LC Chase and it is adorable and I love the visual of Freckles.

Sales Links:  Audible | Amazon | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook, 4 hrs 10 min

Published: December 4, 2017 (ebook first published November 14, 2016) by Riptide

Edition Language: English

Amy Lane on The Holiday Crafter’s Blues, and her release Regret Me Not (author guest blog and excerpt)

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

Buy Links:Dreamspinner PressAmazon  | Kobo iBooks  

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

✒︎

The Holiday Crafter’s Blues

By Amy Lane

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

She called it IT.

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

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

I’ve been a part of IT.

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

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

And terrible, terrible guilt on all sides.

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

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

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

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

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

Forget my gift at the gift exchange?

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

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

Who, embarrassingly enough couldn’t stop crying.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blurb

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

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

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

Excerpt

The Morning After….

 

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

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

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

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

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

Oh wow. Oh damn. What had he done?

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

 

Please don’t leave without saying goodbye—

 

—H

 

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

Aw, Hal—you deserve so very much more.

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

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

 

 

 

The Month Before

 

“SO YOU have the Lyft app, right?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he had to be honest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He had to make himself better.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crap. Whoever that was, he was right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, but—”

“Same time?”

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

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

Pierce glared at him—and switched the move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But not all of it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pierce grunted. “Kid—”

“Hal—”

“Like the computer?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Regret Me Not by Amy Lane

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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

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

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

Take two damaged, hurting men meeting a month before Christmas, needing recovery and someone to help them heal, thrown in an age difference, toxic parents and you get another heartwarming winner of a romance from Amy Lane.

Pierce Atwater is recovering from a car accident, about to be divorced and jobless.  He’s bitter, and sinking under the pain of his injuries and self-pity when sitting poolside, he meets Hal, a 23 year old college student, in the chair next to him.  Hal is gorgeous, outgoing, downright irrepressible and wants to help Pierce it seems.

Amy Lane starts to build a unique friendship between the men that turns into something more as Pierce’s attitude turns from bitterness and self-pity back into the “unicorn” he’s been for most of his life.  As he recovers, the story reveals more of Hal’s painful upbringing and current status.  It’s an emotional  seesaw with the balance tipping back and forth with each new revelation and sharing as they open up to each other.

The depth and authenticity that Amy Lane brings to her romances and storylines is something that I’ve always appreciated about her novels.  Her characters have a certain human fragility, yet solidness about them.  You wouldn’t be surprised to meet any of them walking down the road or sidewalk because their situations are easily ones that people you know could find themselves in.

The ending is a wonderful HFN with the promise of updates to come.  I can hardly wait.  I want to know more about Pierce and Hal’s adventures and what the future holds for them both.    Are you listening, Amy?  I hope so! Until then, I  absolutely recommend Regret Me Not.  A terrific read at this or any time of the year.

Cover artist: Reese Dante is wonderful.  Great for the characters.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 119 pages
Expected publication: December 4th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781635339956
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Familiar Angel by Amy Lane

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This was certainly a departure from what I normally read and most definitely a departure from stories I’ve read from Amy Lane, one of my favorite authors.  The main reason it’s a departure is that it’s fantasy-based and that’s not my favorite genre; there’s also a historical element, a lot of world-building, and a huge family dynamic with relationships out of the norm—it’s a family of the heart rather than a family of origin—so even understanding all those intertwining relationships took some time and concentration to get me into the rhythm of the story.  Was it a romance?  Well, there’s an MM romance within the book but I would hesitate to recommend this one to someone looking strictly for an MM romance because it’s only about 20% of the story, and actually, once the angel is in corporeal form, it’s only about 10%. 

But I digress.  Here’s the background:  A sorceress and a demon—Emma and Leonard—are ill-fated lovers and while being pursued/hunted, they take the time for the sorceress to prepare a spell to humanize the demon and to get them away from their pursuers. During the incantation, she looks across the clearing and sees three young boys who are running for their lives from Big Cass, a whoremaster, rapist, brothel-keeper.  She includes the boys—Harry, Edward, and Francis—in the spell and when the dust settles, the demon is now human, and she’s still alive but has given some of her power away to change the three boys to her familiars who are now able to assume cat form.  All have become immortal, though they will age very slowly over time. To the boys, the important thing is that they will be together and they’ve escaped Big Cass.  Then they discover both the safety they feel and the fun they can have in their cat forms and remain in those forms more often than not over the first year or so after they’ve been changed.

The family establishes itself in California and when the boys later hear of a group of young people being sold into slavery, they determine they are going to rescue them. Thus starts a hundred year plus journey during which the family specializes in finding, rescuing, and redirecting young women and men being trafficked.  Over time, Harry and the angel, Suriel, who is Heaven’s angel doomed to suffer for those bound against their will, become very close. In fact, almost from the beginning, Harry loves Suriel and Suriel loves Harry, so much so that he comes down from Heaven a few times over the years to save Harry’s life.  Each time, he suffers more when he returns to Heaven.  It’s a price he pays for helping Harry—a price he gladly pays. 

I’m not sure I’m doing justice to the world the author built here as it was complex so somewhat confusing to me, but I liked the fact that in the latter parts of the story, the characters recounted some of their adventures so it helped to put their view of the world and the events that brought them together into perspective. 

I wish there had been more time for Harry and Suriel on page. Though the depth of their love for one another was clear at the end, their earlier years together were told as flashbacks, and in some cases, assumptions, so the strength of their bond was not as apparent as it was in the last chapters.  And maybe Harry wasn’t quite as lovable a human as I would like.  I’m not sure. He spent a lot of time in his head and looking out for his brothers—a typical oldest child.  There is a nice setup for both brothers to have their stories: Edward, the middle brother, is apparently in love with a demon who has helped them off and on through the years; and Francis, the youngest brother is in love with the child born to Emma and Leonard who is now at college age and about to be sent off to Oxford.  I found it odd that though none of the rest of them are aging, the child of the sorceress and former demon grew and aged at a human pace up to this point.  Will that continue or will his progress slow so that he can keep pace with his lover, Francis, the youngest of the familiars who at this point is immortal?   Hmm, inquiring minds want to know. 

Overall, though, I did enjoy this story from the fertile imagination of Amy Lane. I do recommend it to those who enjoy angels and demons and the world they live in and to those who want to get in on the ground floor of what could turn out to be a long-term, engaging, and intriguing MM romance series.

Cover art by Reese Dante.  It works for the character and storyline.

Sales Links;  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: October 20th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN13 9781635339468
Edition Language English