A MelanieM Review : The Left Hand of Calvus (Warriors of Rome #1) by Ann Gallagher

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Former gladiator Saevius is certain fortune’s smiling on him when a Pompeiian politician buys him to be his bodyguard. But then his new master, Laurea Calvus, orders Saevius to discover the gladiator with whom his wife is having an affair. In order to do that, Saevius must return to the arena, training alongside the very men on whom he’s spying. Worse, he’s now under the command of Drusus, a notoriously cruel—and yet strangely intriguing—lanista.

But Saevius’s ruse is the least of his worries. There’s more to the affair than a wife humiliating her prominent husband, and now Saevius is part of a dangerous game between dangerous men. He isn’t the only gladiator out to expose the Lady Verina’s transgressions, and her husband wants more than just the guilty man’s name.

When Saevius learns the truth about the affair, he’s left with no choice but to betray one of his masters: one he’s come to fear, one he’s come to respect, and both of whom could have him killed without repercussion. For the first time in his life, the most dangerous place for this gladiator isn’t the arena.

In The Left Hand Of Calvus Ann Gallagher has recreated the ancient city of Pompeii, complete with corrupt politicians, cheating wives, and the desperate, hard and often short lives of gladiators and the ludus. Gladiator Saevius’ fate changes when he’s sold as a bodyguard to Pompeiian Politician Laurea Calvus.  Thinking himself free of the fighting, it turns out that his new master, wants a spy within the ludus of the famed and infamous lanista Drusus.  To fulfill his master’s orders, it’s back into the arena as a gladiator that Saevius must go.

I loved how vividly alive Pompeii feels here, from the overcrowding, poverty, and  stench that arises in the poor section of the city to the behavior of the powerful  at every level of society and its impact on others (political, social, and even economic).  It gives the  story such a wonderfully rich foundation as well as framework for the story and characters.

It also gives most readers an additional point of reference because we are well aware of what awaits the citizens of Pompeii in the future adding a layer of urgency and poignancy.

For me  it’s less a romance and more a wonderful piece of historical fiction that happens to have an element of romance in it (if you are looking for sex you won’t find it here).  Much of the story revolves around a central mystery and two characters both pulling at Saevius for his  loyalty and control.  One is the politician that owns him and the other is the lanista Drusus who in a manner also “owns” him as Saevius fights for him in his ludus.  The more the gladiator finds out, the more confused he (and the reader) become because nothing is as it seems.

The author builds the suspense, there are many agonizing moments as Saevius often teeters on the brink of discovery.  And there is one masterful plot  twist at the  end that worked perfectly within the storyline and was still a stunner for the reader and the character.

My only slight hesitation here in giving this story five stars was that I wanted to see a little more development in the relationship between Saevius and Drusus.  I think that needed a little more time and depth.    However, all the other relationships, characters, and dynamics here were so well done that I read straight through until the story was complete.

Cover art: LA Witt.   I liked the cover but I seems very old fashioned, more like a college cover.

Sales Link: Universal Book Links

Book Details:

This title is part of the Warriors of Rome collection.

ebook, 175 pages
Published November 5th 2012 by Riptide Publishing (first published November 3rd 2012)
Original TitleThe Left Hand of Calvus
ISBN 193755161X (ISBN13: 9781937551612)
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/left-hand-calvus
SeriesWarriors of Rome #1
CharactersDrusus, Saivius settingPompeii (Italy)
Italy

Literary AwardsRainbow Award for Best Transgender Novel (2013)

Retro Review Tour – Ann Gallagher’s The Left Hand Of Calvus (excerpt and giveaway)

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Length: 52,500 words approx.
 
Blurb
 

Former gladiator Saevius is certain Fortune’s smiling on him when a Pompeiian politician buys him to be his bodyguard. That is until his new master, Laurea Calvus, orders Saevius to discover the gladiator with whom his wife is having a sordid affair. In order to do that, Saevius must return to the arena, training alongside the very men on whom he’s spying. Worse, he’s now under the command of Drusus, a notoriously cruel—and yet strangely intriguing—lanista.

But Saevius’s ruse is the least of his worries. There’s more to the affair than a wife humiliating her prominent husband, and now Saevius is part of a dangerous game between dangerous men. He isn’t the only gladiator out to expose the Lady Verina’s transgressions, and her husband wants more than just the guilty man’s name.

When Saevius learns the truth about the affair, he’s left with no choice but to betray a master: one he’s come to fear, one he’s come to respect, and either of whom could have him killed without repercussion.

For the first time in his life, the most dangerous place for this gladiator isn’t the arena.

March 26 – Drops Of Ink, Sarandipity Book Reviews, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
March 27 – MM Good Book Reviews
March 28 – Book Love, Dog-Eared Daydreams
March 29 – Padme’s Library
March 30 – The Book Corps, Velvet Panic, Bayou Book Junkie

Excerpt

So this is Pompeii. The prosperous city at the base of Vesuvius.

I’ve heard the tales about this place. Quiet. Warm. Near the sea. Until recently, with the rudis of freedom so close I could almost feel its wooden hilt in my hands, I had considered coming here to make my home once I was no longer a slave. That is until Fortune decided I should remain in bondage. I’d had perhaps three fights left, but now I, along with two other men from my familia gladiatori, are on our way to the Pompeiian politician who’s now our master.

In spite of the fact that I’d lost my chance at freedom, the rest of the men in the familia had been envious.

“A nobleman? In Pompeii?” One had slapped my arm. “You lucky bastard!”

“Agreed,” another had said. “You won’t be in the arena anymore, and if you’ve got to stay a slave, Saevius, you could do worse than to live out your days as some rich bastard’s bodyguard.”

A third had added, “Pompeii? I hear in that place, the wine they pour in noblemen’s houses tastes like the lips of Venus herself.”

The other men traveling with me had been thrilled by that notion. Me, I’m as enthusiastic about any woman’s lips, including Venus’s, as I am about spending the rest of my days a fucking slave, so I’d simply muttered, “I’ll be sure to give my regards to Bacchus.”

What servant drinks the same wine as his masters, I can hardly imagine. But never mind, because the wine here is probably no different from what flows in Rome. After all, Pompeii doesn’t seem much different from Rome, if you ask me. A great deal smaller, yes, and much less crowded. At least in this part of the city, though, it’s all the same terracotta roofs and limestone walls and, as we near the market, people dragging unruly livestock down stone streets past lumbering carts and clouds of buzzing flies. Smells like bread, sweat, fish, and dung, just like Rome, with chickens talking over the shouting bakers, fishmongers, butchers, and vintners while hammering and banging come from workshops behind shop fronts and booths. Perhaps I should have considered retiring to Herculaneum instead. Then again, if Pompeii isn’t in life what it is in stories, then Herculaneum likely isn’t the luxurious place it’s said to be either.

Not that I have a choice now. Pompeii is my home until I’m sold or I die. Or my new master sees fit to free me when I’m no longer of use to him.

Ectur, the monolith of a Parthian tasked with bringing the three of us down from Rome, leads us deeper into Pompeii’s stinking, bustling market. With every exhausted step, our chains rattle over the city’s noise. Though the streets are crowded, people move aside to let us pass. Some give us wary looks, standing between us and their wives and children. Even those struggling to move carts down these difficult roads stay out of our way. They’re especially wary of Ectur. We certainly look the part of gladiators—scarred, tanned brutes, all of us—and since Ectur’s unchained, people probably think he’s our lanista. No citizen with any sense wants near a lanista.

The market must be close to the Forum. All over the place, noblemen strut like cocks and sneer at slaves and citizens, just like every one I ever saw in Rome, as though the gods themselves should fear them. Would’ve liked to have met one of them in the arena during my fighting days; he’d have wept to the gods for mercy, and that pristine white toga would have been stained in shit before I’d fully raised my sword.

But, gods willing, my days in the arena are behind me forever.

Just beyond the market, where the streets fan out toward clusters of high-walled villas, Ectur approaches a squat, balding man in a tunic that’s far too clean to belong to a common laborer. The man’s attention is buried in a beeswax tablet resting on his arm, and he’s muttering to himself as he scratches something into it with a stylus.

He glances up at us, and I realize he only has one eye. Dropping his attention back to the tablet, he grumbles, “Thought you’d leave me waiting all bloody day.”

“Longer journey from Rome than it is from your master’s house,” Ectur mutters.

Without looking up, the one-eyed man says, “I’ll need to look at them before you leave. The Master Laurea will be unhappy if they are not up to his standards.”

Ectur stands straighter, narrowing his eyes. “Caius Blasius doesn’t deal in faulty goods.”

“Then he’ll not mind if I inspect his goods to be sure.” The one-eyed man gestures at us with his stylus. “Whereas I have a beating waiting if I bring to my master slaves who are not to his liking. So he’ll—” He stops abruptly, his eye widening. “Where is the fourth? Master Laurea specifically selected four men, not three.”

“The fourth fell ill. Terrible fever, and the medicus can’t say if he’ll live.” Ectur pulls a scroll from his belt and hands it to the one-eyed man. “Caius Blasius gives his word your master will be compensated.”

Glancing back and forth from the scroll to Ectur, the man sighs heavily. “The master will not be happy. It was the fourth in particular who interested him.”

Ectur sniffs with amusement. “That scrawny Phoenician is hardly worth the sestertii your master paid for him. An entertaining gladiator, maybe, but he’s worthless outside the arena.”

I can’t help a quiet laugh. It’s true enough; the idiot Phoenician is only alive—assuming he still is—because he’s less afraid of his opponents than he is of the punishment for being a coward on the sands. A man bred to be a bodyguard, he is not.

“The master selected his men for a reason,” the one-eyed man snaps at Ectur. He sighs and shakes his head. “Never mind, then. If he isn’t here, he isn’t here. The other three had best be in good condition.”

Ectur doesn’t respond. He folds his arms across his chest, watching with a scowl as the man with the stylus inspects us each in turn, tutting and muttering to himself in between jabbing us with his finger and etching something into the tablet. He pokes at scars and bruises, eyeing us when we flinch, and then checks our teeth and eyes. Since I was a child, I’ve been through more of these inspections than I can count, and still I have to force myself not to put both hands around his throat and show him I’m as fit and strong as a gladiator—or bodyguard, in this case—ought to be.

Finally, he grunts and slams shut the leather cover on the wax tablet. “They’re all well.”

“Good,” says the Parthian. “Give my regards to your master.”

“And yours.” The one-eyed man gestures sharply at us. “Come with me.”

Without a word from any of us, we follow the man. His legs are shorter than ours nearly by half, but he walks quickly, his gait fast and angry, and with heavy chains on our ankles, it’s a struggle to keep up with him. Ectur doesn’t come with us.

Soon, we will meet our new master.

By name, Junius Calvus Laurea isn’t unfamiliar to me. I’ve heard Caius Blasius mention him—usually with a scowl—and he’s apparently bought gladiators from my former master before. I don’t know his face, though, and I know nothing of the man whose life I will be sworn to guard. Only that he isn’t a lanista and my existence no longer includes the inside of an arena. Freedom may not be in my future, but Fortune be praised a thousand times over anyway.

The one-eyed servant leads us down a narrow road between the enormous villas lined up in ranks just inside the wall along the northern edge of the city. In spite of our chains, my fellow former gladiators and I exchange smiles. A villa instead of a ludus gladiatori? Indeed, this will be a new life. The existence of a bodyguard isn’t safe per se, but unless our master has an unusual number of enemies, we’ll protect him with our presence more often than our fighting skills. We’ll more likely die from boredom than a blade.

On our way out of Rome, we’d passed through the shadow of the nearly completed Colosseum. As the immense structure’s cool shade rested on my neck and shoulders, I’d whispered a prayer of thanks, in spite of the chains on my wrists and ankles, for my good fortune. Rumors abound about what’s planned for the Colosseum, and some say the games there will be far greater and more brutal than all the Ludi we’d barely survived at Circus Maximus. Another year or two, people say, and it will be complete. Perhaps I’ll never earn my rudis and the freedom that accompanies it now, but any gladiator should be grateful for the chance to serve a nobleman rather than set foot in that place.

We stop in front of one of the countless villas. There, two massive, heavily-armed guards push open the tall gates, and we walk inside. Our one-eyed guide takes us through the luxurious home to the garden in the back. Here, within the high walls covered in trailing ivy and in the shade of a massive cypress tree, servants and statues surround our new master.

As soon as I see him, I recognize the Master Laurea. I’ve seen him at the ludus before, watching us train and inspecting us the way his servant did today. I didn’t know at the time he was the one called Calvus Laurea, but I never forgot that face. Carved from cold stone, sharply angled, with intense blue eyes that always emphasize the smirk or scowl on his lips.

He lounges across a couch, cradling a polished cup in his hand as a servant fans away the day’s heat with enormous feathers. A large bodyguard stands behind Calvus Laurea, as does a black-eyed servant with a wine jug clutched to her chest.

The man who led us here stops us with a sharp gesture, and all three of us go to our knees, heads bowed.

The master gets up. His sandals scuff on the stone ground. “Stand, all of you.” As one, we rise to attention.

“I am Junius Cal—” His brow furrows. He looks from one of us to the next. Narrowing his eyes, he turns to the man who brought us. “There are three, Ataiun. Where is the fourth?”

The one-eyed servant bows his head. “My apologies, Dominus. There were only three. The fourth was stricken with fever and unable to travel.” He pulls out the scroll Ectur had given him. “His master sends this promise of compensation.”

Master Laurea scowls. “Very well. I suppose it will have to do.” He waves a hand at his servant. “See that it’s accounted for.” To us, he says, “I am Junius Calvus Laurea, and I am your new master.”

Once again, he looks at us each in turn. I try not to notice how his gaze keeps lingering on me longer than it does on the others, but his pauses are too conspicuous to ignore.

At last, he speaks: “You’re the one called Saevius, yes?”

I square my shoulders. “I am, Dominus.”

Without taking his eyes off me, he says to his servant, “Show the others to their quarters.” He gestures at me. “This one stays here.”

The men who accompanied me bow their heads sharply, and a moment later, they are gone.

Master Laurea steps closer to me, still looking me squarely in the eyes. “Welcome to Pompeii, Saevius,” he says with a slight smile. “You may call me Calvus.”

His request for familiarity sends ghostly spiders creeping up the length of my spine.

Without taking his eyes off mine, he snaps his fingers. “Bring us wine. Both of us.”

The servant holding the wine jug obeys immediately, and the spiders are more pronounced now, my breath barely moving as the woman pours two cups of wine. She hands one to our master, and then the other to me.

“Leave us,” Calvus says. “All of you.”

Gods, be with me . . .

In moments, I am alone with my new master, a cup of wine in my uncertain hand. Calvus brings his cup to his lips, pausing to say, “Drink, Saevius. I insist.”

I do. I can’t say if it tastes like the cunt of Venus, but it’s as sweet and rich as Pompeiian wines are said to be, if slightly soured by the churning in the pit of my stomach.

“You won’t be my bodyguard, Saevius,” Calvus says suddenly. “Not like the two who came with you.”

I suddenly can’t taste the wine on my tongue. With much effort, I swallow it. “Whatever you ask of me, Dominus.”

“I have two tasks for you, Saevius.” Something about the way he says my name, the way he keeps saying my name, sends more spiders wandering up and down my back and beneath my flesh. “One simple, one less so.”

I bow my head slightly. “I am here to serve, Dominus.”

“Calvus,” he says. “Call me Calvus.”

I slowly raise my head. “I am here to serve . . . Calvus.”

He grins. “Much better.”

He’s playing a game here. He has to be. What game it is, and what role I play, I can’t work out.

I take another drink of tasteless wine. “What are my duties?”

“There is a ludus gladiatori on the south side of the city.” The mention of a ludus twists something in my chest. Calvus continues, “Your first task is to present a gift to the lanista of that ludus. A gift of five hundred sestertii from Cassius, the city magistrate.” My skin crawls as an odd smile curls the corners of my new master’s mouth. “Cassius deeply regrets he could not present it himself, but”—the smile intensifies—“I promised I would take care of it for him.”

In spite of Calvus’s expression, relief cools my blood. Delivering monetary gifts instead of fighting other gladiators for the entertainment of a roaring crowd? Even if it means setting foot in a ludus again, I’ll be there only as a messenger, not a fighter in training.

Gods, I thank you. Again and again, I thank you.

“Let’s discuss your second task.” He tilts his head just so, like he’s looking for answers to questions he hasn’t yet asked. “Blasius spoke highly of you, Saevius. And your reputation precedes you all the way from Rome.” He raises his cup. “A tremendous fighter, but also a loyal servant.”

He’s quiet for a moment. It’s a silence I’m certain I’m supposed to fill, but I don’t know how.

“Thank you, Dominus,” is all I can think to say, and quickly correct it with, “Calvus. Thank you, Calvus.”

He lowers his wine cup. A different smile forms on his mouth, one that’s taut and unnerving. I’m less and less comfortable as the silence between us lingers.

At last, he speaks, and there’s something in his voice this time, an edge that prickles the back of my neck. “After you’ve delivered the money to the lanista, you will remain at the ludus.” His eyes narrow as one corner of his mouth lifts. “As an auctoratus.”

My heart beats faster. “Dominus, with respect, an auctoratus? I am not a citizen. I’m not even a freedman. How can I be an auctoratus if I am still—”

Calvus puts up a hand. “You will remain my slave, of course, but until such time as I tell you otherwise, you will live at the ludus. Train as a gladiator.” He inclines his head and lowers his voice. “To everyone but us and the gods, and according to the documents that will accompany you, you are a citizen voluntarily submitting to be owned by the ludus and its lanista. Am I understood?”

No. No, what are you asking me to do? And why?

But I nod anyway. “Yes, Dominus.”

He moves now, walking toward, then around me, circling me slowly as he continues speaking. “While you train and fight, you will keep your eyes and ears open. Listen and watch the men around you.”

I sweep my tongue across my dry lips. Every familia gladiatori is already rife with dangerous rivalries. To spy on my brothers within the ludus? Especially when I am the newest blood? I should cut my own throat now and be done with it.

“As an auctoratus,” he says, still walking around me, “you will be able to leave the ludus of your own free will, so long as you return and you don’t leave the city. When I wish to speak to you, I will contact you. Understood?”

“I . . . yes,” I say. “What am I looking for, Dominus? Er, Calvus?”

“You’re a gladiator, Saevius,” he says. “Surely you know how women feel about men like you?”

I nod again. Women were no strangers to the ludus where I trained before. Many of them married, plenty of them noble; my lanista took their money, the women cavorted with gladiators, and the husbands were never the wiser.

“A man of my stature cannot afford the embarrassment of a wife’s . . .” He pauses in both speech and step, wrinkling his nose. “Of a wife’s unsavory indiscretions. Especially with creatures so far below my station.” Calvus resumes his slow, unsettling walk around me. “And when word begins to spread of a woman doing these things, a husband, particularly a husband of my political and social stature, has little choice but to put a stop to it.” He steps into my sight and halts, looking me in the eye. “Which is where you come in, Saevius.”

Oh, dear sweet gods, help me . . .

“You will listen, and you will watch.” Calvus comes closer, eyes narrowing. “Learn the name of the man who keeps drawing my lady Verina into his bed. Am I clear, gladiator?”

In all my years in the arena, my heart has never pounded this hard. What woman doesn’t have slaves as lovers? Gladiators fuck married women as often as we fight amongst ourselves.

Unless Calvus thinks his wife isn’t involved with a slave. One of the freedmen working as trainers? Perhaps the lanista himself? Or one of the munerators renting fighters for some upcoming games? No citizen, especially not a public figure such as Calvus, tolerates that kind of insult from his wife, and for some, divorce isn’t nearly punishment enough.

Regardless of Calvus’s reasoning or what he plans to do once he knows the name of his wife’s lover, is there any place more dangerous for a man than the middle of games played between a wife and the husband she’s scorned?

“Am I clear, gladiator?”

I swallow hard. “Yes, Calvus.”

“Good.” He steps away and lifts his wine again. “I will have your papers drawn up tonight. Tomorrow morning, you will be taken to the ludus owned by the lanista Drusus.”

Drusus. Gods, any lanista but him. I silently beg the ground to open up beneath me. Drusus’s reputation extends beyond any reach Master Calvus could dream of his own doing. No gladiator who’s heard the stories about Drusus would ever volunteer to fight for him.

Calvus looks me up and down, his brow furrowing as he inspects my arms, one then the other. “These scars are . . .” He meets my eyes. “You’re left-handed, aren’t you?”

“I am.”

He grins. “Excellent. I’m sure Drusus will be doubly pleased with you.” The grin widens. “Perhaps I should have chosen you in the first place over that Phoenician. After all, a left-handed fighter like you belongs in the arena where he can make his lanista rich, yes?”

I resist the urge to avoid his eyes.

“You’ll be his left-handed moneymaker, and you’ll—” Calvus gives a quiet, bone-chilling laugh. “Well, I suppose in a way you’ll be my left hand, won’t you?”

“I suppose I will, Dominus,” I whisper.

Calvus puts his hand on my shoulder. The amusement leaves his expression. “Listen closely, gladiator. This is very important. The money you’re giving Drusus, the five hundred sestertii, is from the magistrate called Cassius. The same one who will be providing your auctoratus documents. Is that clear?”

My mouth goes dry as I nod.

“You will not mention me or our arrangement,” he says. “Not to anyone within the ludus under any circumstances. Understood?”

“Yes, Dominus.” I hesitate. “Calvus.”

“Be warned, Saevius. I do not tolerate treachery or dishonesty.” He leans in, lowering his voice so I’m certain no one but me and the gods can hear him, and he presses down hard on my shoulder. “Give me a single reason to believe you’re not doing precisely as I’ve ordered, or that you’ve breathed my name within the walls of the ludus, and I will see to it the magistrate asks Drusus if he received the full seven hundred sestertii. Am I understood?”

With much effort, I swallow. With even more, I nod. “Yes, Calvus.”

And silently, I beg the gods to send me back to Rome to fight in its Colosseum.

Ann Gallagher is the slightly more civilized alter ego of L.A. Witt, Lauren Gallagher, and Lori A. Witt. So she tells herself, anyway. When she isn’t wreaking havoc on Spain with her husband and trusty two-headed Brahma bull, she writes romances just like her wilder counterparts, but without all the heat. She is also far too mature to get involved in the petty battle between L.A. and Lauren, but she’s seriously going to get even with Lori for a certain incident that shall not be discussed publicly.

 

Website: http://www.gallagherwitt.com
E-mail: gallagherwitt@gmail.com
Twitter: @GallagherWitt
Blog: http://gallagherwitt.blogspot.com

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A Stella Review : Having Her Back by Ann Gallagher

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RATING 4,5 out of 5 stars

Trevor Larson is a Navy brat. He’s used to moving every few years, and thanks to social media, he can stay in touch with the friends he leaves behind. But shortly after he leaves Okinawa, his best friend, Brad Gray, cuts off contact and disappears.

Four years and two bases later, Brad resurfaces—and announces his family is coming to Trevor’s base in Spain. But a lot’s changed in four years, and Trevor is stunned to find out Brad is now Shannon. Their reunion isn’t quite what either of them had hoped for, but they quickly find their footing, both relieved to have each other back.

Except nothing is ever all sunshine and roses. The military is a small world, and there’s no keeping Shannon’s transition a secret. Parents warn their kids away from her. She can’t attend school on-base for fear of harassment or worse. And although her parents try to hide it, being ostracized by their only social circle while they’re thousands of miles from home is taking a toll on them too.

More and more, Shannon leans on Trevor. But she’s also drawn to him, and he’s drawn right back to her, feeling things he’s never felt for anyone before.

Trevor’s scared, though. Not of dating a trans girl. Not of damaging his chaplain father’s career or reputation. After finally getting his friend back, does he dare take things further and risk losing Shannon a second time?

Having Her Back was a lovely surprise, I adored the story from the start till the last words. The relationship bewtween Trevor and Shannon caught my heart, althought I’m not a huge fan of young adult books, this was a truly gem.

I’d like to make a little premise, this is not an MM novel, yes Shannon is a transgender character but she is a girl and the reader needs to approach this book like it is going to read an MF novel with important themes linked to the LGBTQ world.

Having Her Back was the first book I read by Ann Gallagher but having read title she wrote under other pseudonims, I knew this new release was well written, and the double POVs in this case were very well done and needed to understand both MCs’ minds.

This is not just a YA book, but a friends to lovers too, a trope I always enjoy. I loved how Trevor and Shannon found each other again four years later, but this time when they met, Trevor came face to face with Shannon and not the Brad he left behind. And after a misunderstanding, they realized nothing really changed, on the contrary little by little, Trevor will discover an attraction he wasn’t expecting at all. Beside them, an important net of friends and family ready to stand against the world and support Shannon and Trevor on their new lives.

Never title was more fitting than Having Her Back, it sums everything the story is about. And then there’s love, in every form it can be showed, there’s sweetness, a lot of misunderstandings but they are young characters so it’s normal, at the end a good believable story. I loved it so much and feel to recommend it.

The cover art by Lori Witt is adorable.

Sales Link:  Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 250 pages

Published May 19th 2017

ASIN B07172NXLP

Edition Language English

Review Tour – Ann Gallagher’s Having Her Back (giveaway)

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Length: 64,000 words approx
 
Blurb
 

Trevor Larson is a Navy brat. He’s used to moving every few years, and thanks to social media, he can stay in touch with the friends he leaves behind. But shortly after he leaves Okinawa, his best friend, Brad Gray, cuts off contact and disappears.

Four years and two bases later, Brad resurfaces—and announces his family is coming to Trevor’s base in Spain. But a lot’s changed in four years, and Trevor is stunned to find out Brad is now Shannon. Their reunion isn’t quite what either of them had hoped for, but they quickly find their footing, both relieved to have each other back.

Except nothing is ever all sunshine and roses. The military is a small world, and there’s no keeping Shannon’s transition a secret. Parents warn their kids away from her. She can’t attend school on-base for fear of harassment or worse. And although her parents try to hide it, being ostracized by their only social circle while they’re thousands of miles from home is taking a toll on them too.

More and more, Shannon leans on Trevor. But she’s also drawn to him, and he’s drawn right back to her, feeling things he’s never felt for anyone before.

Trevor’s scared, though. Not of dating a trans girl. Not of damaging his chaplain father’s career or reputation. After finally getting his friend back, does he dare take things further and risk losing her a second time?

August 28 – Cupcakes & Bookshelves, Au Boudoir Ecarlate
September 1 – Dog-Eared Daydreams
September 4 – Wicked Faerie’s Tales & Reviews, Sarandipity Book Reviews, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Bonkers About Books
September 6 – Making It Happen, A Page To Turn Reviews


Author Bio

Ann Gallagher is the slightly more civilized alter ego of L.A. Witt, Lauren Gallagher, and Lori A. Witt. So she tells herself, anyway. When she isn’t wreaking havoc on Spain with her husband and trusty two-headed Brahma bull, she writes romances just like her wilder counterparts, but without all the heat. She is also far too mature to get involved in the petty battle between L.A. and Lauren, but she’s seriously going to get even with Lori for a certain incident that shall not be discussed publicly.



Website: http://www.gallagherwitt.com
E-mail: gallagherwitt@gmail.com
Twitter: @GallagherWitt
Blog: http://gallagherwitt.blogspot.com

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

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sales Links:  Riptide  |  Amazon

Book Details:

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

Series:Bluewater Bay

In the Spotlight: All the Wrong Places (Bluewater Bay #14) by Ann Gallagher (giveaway)

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All The Wrong Places

All the Wrong Places (Bluewater Bay #14) by Ann Gallagher
R
iptide Publishing
Cover Art by L.C. Chase

Read an Excerpt/Buy It Here

Welcome to the Riptide Publishing/Ann Gallagher blog tour for All the Wrong Places, the latest installment in the Bluewater Bay series!

Blurb

Three cheating girlfriends in a row have given skateboarder Brennan Cross the same excuse: he wasn’t meeting their needs. Desperate and humiliated, he goes to the professionals at the local sex shop for advice.

Zafir Hamady, a sales clerk at Red Hot Bluewater, has an unusual theory: he doesn’t think Brennan is a bad lover. In fact, he doesn’t think Brennan is heterosexual. Or sexual at all, for that matter. He also can’t stop thinking about Brennan. But even if he’s right and Brennan really is asexual, that doesn’t mean Zafir has a chance. Brennan’s never dated a man, and Zafir’s never met anyone who’s game for a Muslim single father with a smart mouth and a GED.

Brennan’s always thought of himself as straight. But when sex is explicitly out of the mix, he finds himself drawn to Zafir for the qualities and interests they share. And Zafir can’t help enjoying Brennan’s company and the growing bond between Brennan and his son. They work well together, but with so many issues between them, doubts creep in, and Brennan’s struggle with his identity could push away the one person he didn’t know he could love.

 

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Giveaway Info


Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of two eBooks off my backlist

(excluding All The Wrong Places, but including books written as L.A. Witt or Lauren Gallagher) and a $10
Riptide Publishing store credit. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 20 th , and winners will be
announced on June 21 st . Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.  Be sure to leave your email address where you can be reached.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Author Bio

 

Ann Gallagher is the slightly more civilized alter ego of L.A. Witt, Lauren Gallagher, and Lori A. Witt. So she tells herself, anyway. When she isn’t wreaking havoc on Spain with her husband and trusty two-headed Brahma bull, she writes romances just like her wilder counterparts, but without all the heat. She is also far too mature to get involved in the petty battle between L.A. and Lauren, but she’s seriously going to get even with Lori for a certain incident that shall not be discussed publicly.

Connect with Ann:

Website: http://loriawitt.com
Author Blog: http://gallagherwitt.blogspot.com
Personal Blog: http://navywifeadventures.blogspot.
Twitter: @GallagherWitt
Facebook: http://facebook.com//L-A-Witt-MM-Fiction

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Bluewater Bay

Welcome to Bluewater Bay! This quiet little logging town on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula has been stagnating for decades, on the verge of ghost town status. Until a television crew moves in to film Wolf’s Landing, a soon-to-be cult hit based on the wildly successful shifter novels penned by local author Hunter Easton.

Wolf’s Landing’s success spawns everything from merchandise to movie talks, and Bluewater Bay explodes into a mecca for fans and tourists alike. The locals still aren’t quite sure what to make of all this—the town is rejuvenated, but at what cost? And the Hollywood-based production crew is out of their element in this small, mossy seaside locale. Needless to say, sparks fly.

This collaborative story world is brought to you by eleven award-winning, best-selling LGBTQ romance authors: L.A. Witt, L.B. Gregg, Z.A. Maxfield, Aleksandr Voinov, Heidi Belleau, Rachel Haimowitz, Anne Tenino, Amy Lane, SE Jakes, G.B. Gordon, and Jaime Samms. Each contemporary novel stands alone, but all are built around the town and the people of Bluewater Bay and the Wolf’s Landing media empire.

A Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Lead Me Not coverIsaac Morris strongly believes in spreading the word of the Lord as he firmly and loudly protests homosexuality at rallies organized by his church at any and all LGBTQ pride gatherings. Following in the footsteps of his father, the leader of the church which has a zero tolerance for that type of sexual deviant Sodomizer, he and his brothers are being groomed to take over the flock when, and if, his father retires. At one such protest, a gay man challenges him to prove that being homosexual is a choice. Stunned, Isaac begins to think through the possibilities of proving that one can choose to be homosexual and one can choose to come back to the Lord and be heterosexual again.

His twin sister, Ruth, encourages him and helps him to convince their father and older brothers that their plan is sound. Their nephew Griffin has been struggling with being gay and is due to be sent to a special camp as a last resort to save him. His father, Isaac’s brother John, supports the project in the hope that it will help Griffin see that he can become “normal” through a conscious decision to change. Ruth, a film major, and Isaac, a recently divorced man, have nothing to lose by setting up a house in Seattle to film a documentary while Isaac infiltrates the gay community to prove being gay is a choice. Motivated by the knowledge that he is helping Griffin and others like him, Isaac stifles his nausea at having to do this project. Focusing on the hope that he can help lead those sinners back to God, they move forward with their plan.

His first foray into attempting a hookup ends up with him being bashed in the alley behind the bar, CapitalOUT. Colton, one of the bartenders, accompanies the bouncers as they head into the alley to break up the fight and rescue the guy. It’s Colton who treats Isaac’s wounds and extends the hand of comfort, healing, and friendship to Isaac. And it’s Colton, whom Isaac turns to when he decides he needs some guidance before attempting this again. Colton is a sweet, quiet, confidant man who conveys a soft-spoken attitude and acceptance of the Lord’s way in most everything he does. Colton volunteers all his spare time at his church, a church which welcomes and supports LGBTQ members and provides a youth center for those teens who have been abandoned by their families.

Pastor Mike once saved Colton from the same fate, and Colton is firm about giving back to the church which saved his life. Over time, Isaac finally acknowledges that the church is based on love and respect for all who seek the Lord, and he has lengthy discussions and debates with the pastor about the sections of the Bible his father uses as a basis for his hatred of homosexuality. Pastor Mike shows Isaac a different interpretation and suggests that Isaac’s father is using the Bible for his own means to spread hatred, rather than love. (To clarify here, no one knows who Isaac’s father actually is.)

Isaac also discovers that he has feelings for Colton, feelings he never felt for his wife, and feelings which scare him. How can he come to care for a man? Is he really gay? Can he possibly go back when this film production is done? And can he break the heart of the wonderful man he’s come to care for? The decision is taken from his hands when his brothers discover his confidential video of his private thoughts about each situation he’s been thrown in. They also discover that he works now as a bartender at CaptialOUT, and they come storming in to pull him away— but not before revealing his secret to Colton— a secret which clearly devastates Colton and tears the couple apart before they ever have a chance to commit to each other.

This is an absolutely wonderful story. It’s long, and non-explicit, but that seems of little importance as it clearly shows the depth of love two men can have for each other. This story is not so much about the sexual attraction as it is about other things that attract one person to another. The beauty of the soul of a man, his goodness shining through, the buildup of trust between two people and yes, even the butterflies in the tummy when their gazes meet across a room.

What happens to Isaac and Colton and how the issues are resolved is both fascinating and engaging and I quickly reached the point where I didn’t want to put the book down. I highly recommend this story to all lovers of M/M romance, and especially to those who struggle with the arguments related to religion and homosexuality and the “word of God” in the Bible. I found the story quite educational and enlightening without feeling as if I were sitting at the foot of a preacher and being spoon-fed Bible studies. This story is also great because it can be shared with family members who prefer to read non-explicit romances or those who may be considered too young to read such stories. I can summarize by saying that when I finished the book, I was stunned by the powerful message and the depth of feeling conveyed to readers. Don’t hesitate to read this one.

~~~~~
Cover Art by L.C. Chase depicts two men, representing the MCs, standing against a background of a crowd of protesters holding up homophobic placards.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 415 pages
Expected publication: August 24th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
original title Lead Me Not
ISBN 1626492778 (ISBN13: 9781626492776)
edition language English
settingSeattle, Washington (United States)

Coffee Break Highlight: Ann Gallagher on Lead Me Not and Future Projects for Her and Her Alter Egos! (guest post and giveaway)

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Lead Me Not cover

Lead Me Not by Ann Gallagher
Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Cover Artist:  L. C. Chase
Sales Link:  Riptide Publishing

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Welcome to the Riptide Publishing/Ann Gallagher blog tour for Lead Me Not!

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice for a choice of two eBooks off my backlist (including books written as L.A. Witt and Lauren Gallagher, excluding Lead Me Not) and a $10 Riptide Publishing store credit. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on August 29. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. Entries. Don’t forget to leave your email so we can contact you if you win!  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter. Prizes provided by Riptide Publishing and the author.

***

So what’s next for Ann Gallagher & Co?

Lead Me Not prompted me to add a new pen name to my ever-growing roster. (I swear, I’m stopping at five. I do not need more. Please, please, no more…) So now that Ann Gallagher has one book out there, what’s next?

I honestly don’t know much more I’ll be writing in the Christian/inspirational genre (I simply haven’t come up with any additional ideas, though that’s not to say they won’t happen down the line), but I also don’t want Ann to be a one trick pony. So, chances are, she will be required to wear multiple hats just like my other names. This name will most likely be LGBTQ, focusing on sweet romances (not limited to Christian romances) and Young Adult.

And yes, I am expanding into YA next year. I have two YA romances in the works, and a third YA book that likely won’t be a romance.

Speaking of my herd of pen names, here’s what’s next for everyone else:

L.A. Witt is the busiest of the bunch. What He Left Behind (an erotic menage from Samhain Publishing) just came out, and Running With Scissors (a rock star romance) will be out on August 31st. Also in the offing, Rain Shadow (a new Bluewater Bay book) this fall, followed by If The Seas Catch Fire (erotic suspense with Mafia shenanigans) in November, and a kinky office romance called Not Safe For Work in December. And there are several co-written projects which will be announced as they’re completed.

Lauren Gallagher has a hetero release in October called The Virgin Cowboy Billionaire’s Secret Baby (yes, really), and a bisexual ménage called The Best Laid Plans, which is due out in February. Also in the works is Stuck Landing, the first lesbian book in the Bluewater Bay series.

Diana Fyre is working on two horror novels, which will be announced sometime in 2016.
And finally, Lori A. Witt is working on Mythos, a non-romance science fiction novel; a dystopian spec-fic story; and a sequel to The Tide of War.

There are a few other projects going on that will be announced in 2016, so stay tuned!

***

Lead Me Not cover

Blurb

Isaac Morris has devoted his life to preaching against the sin of homosexuality. But when his sister proposes a documentary to demonstrate once and for all that it’s a choice—with Isaac choosing to be gay as proof—he balks. Until he learns his nephew is headed down that perverted path. Isaac will do anything to convince the teenager he can choose to be straight . . . including his sister’s film.

When Isaac’s first foray into the gay lifestyle ends with a homophobic beating, he’s saved and cared for by Colton Roberts, a gentle, compassionate bartender with a cross around his neck. Colton challenges every one of Isaac’s deeply held beliefs about gay men. He was kicked out by homophobic parents, saved from the streets by a kind pastor, and is now a devout Christian. Colton’s sexuality has cost him dearly, but it also brought him to God.

As the two grow closer, everything Isaac knows about homosexuality, his faith, and himself is called into question. And if he’s been wrong all along, what does that mean for his ministry, his soul, his struggling nephew—and the man he never meant to love?

Lead Me Not is available August 24th from Riptide Publishing.

   About the Author and her many Identities!

Ann Gallagher is the slightly more civilized alter ego of  L.A. Witt,   Lauren Gallagher, and Lori A. Witt. So she tells herself, anyway. When she isn’t wreaking havoc on Spain with her husband and trusty two-headed Brahma bull, she writes romances just like her wilder counterparts, but without all the heat. She is also far too mature to get involved in the petty battle between L.A. and Lauren, but she’s seriously going to get even with Lori for a certain incident that shall not be discussed publicly.

Connect with Ann:

  • Website:  \n _blankhttp://loriawitt.com
  • Author Blog:   \n _blankhttp://gallagherwitt.blogspot.com
  • Personal Blog:   \n _blankhttp://navywifeadventures.blogspot.
  • Twitter: @GallagherWitt
  • Facebook:  http://facebook.com//L-A-Witt-MM-Fiction

[Our Barb the Zany Old Lady 5 Star Review follows]