A Caryn Release Day Review: In Over Our Heads (Stories from the Shore #2) by CJane Elliott

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Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

I really, really expected to like this book, having enjoyed the first in the series, All the Way to Shore, and because I like this author.  Ugh, I hate to be disappointed.

I feel like this book had most of the tropes that are totally overdone, ineffective, and ultimately turn me off.  It was evident from the very beginning, and never got any better.

Anthony Vallen is the fabulous, campy cousin who was introduced in book one.  He’s been all about casual hookups, and though he believes in fairy tale endings for others, he has been avoiding getting emotionally involved since his first love – in highschool at age 17!!! – broke his heart.  OK, that’s annoying trope number one.  He’s now on the cusp of 30, and is going on a vacation in Key West with Marco and Jonathan and Sophia from the first book.  Marco and Jonathan are disgustingly sweet together – which was not how they are portrayed in the other book – and Anthony is feeling jealous of a relationship for the first time in his life.

The first night in Key West they go to a bar, and lo and behold, there is Walter Elkins, the boy who ran away from Anthony just after high school graduation and ruined him for any other man.  And not only does he own the bar, he is also the owner of the scuba diving business where they’ve booked their trips.  So there is no way they can really avoid each other.

The background is that Anthony almost drowned while swimming with Walter the summer after graduation, and that’s when Walter left him, with the words “I’m not good for you…I don’t want to hurt you anymore.”  And that would be annoying trope number two, especially when the excuse was so flimsy.  Yeah, yeah, turns out there was a traumatic event in Walter’s past (of course), but I was not convinced.  And when he goes on to continue to use that same excuse (with other misplaced responsibility issues) to avoid Anthony in Key West,  it just irritated me more.  Walter is supposedly a very successful businessman, who reinvented himself after he abandoned an equally successful career as a chemist, who used to be pathologically shy but is now friendly with and supported by all of the locals, and I just couldn’t reconcile that with a man who was so deeply insecure about Anthony.  To give her credit, the author tried to sell it, but I just wasn’t buying.  Anthony was only marginally better at communicating.

To top it all off, both men then go into TSTL (too stupid to live) mode when a hurricane strikes.  I may be a little more picky than average about that, since I live in Florida we know hurricanes, but going outside when winds are at peak is ridiculous.  If someone needed to be injured to move the plot along, that was not the way to do it – and to make it worse, several of the locals were happy to brave the winds along with them.  Just, no.  Annoying trope number three.

So this book was almost a total fail for me.  Anthony was childish and annoying, Walter was pathetic, and I didn’t like either one of them.  I didn’t really care if they got together or not.  I was happy to revisit Marco, Jonathan, and Sophia, and I did enjoy the new character introduced – Miles, pansexual, genderfluid, and likely to be the main character of the next book in the series.  So I will look forward to reading it when it comes out, and that is the only reason I gave this book 2 stars.

Cover art by L. C. Chase is again lovely, the underwater scene is appropriate, but the models – both in expression and looks – didn’t fit the characters as much as I would have liked.

Sales Links:

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 192 pages
Expected publication: October 16th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781635339819
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesStories from the Shore #2

A MelanieM Review: There You Are (Wild and Precious #2) by CJane Elliott

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

There You AreBisexual musician Cody Bellstrom is a free spirit, easygoing and unattached. On a cross-country trip, Cody befriends young Sandy Nixon and gets him safely to Portland and his uncle, Phineas MacDonald. Beautiful Phineas turns Cody’s life upside down, and Cody learns he’s not as unattached as he aspires to be. With the hard-won knowledge of what lies underneath his need to be free, Cody wins a chance at real freedom and true love.

Ever since his longtime lover Allen died, Phineas MacDonald has lived a circumscribed life. He stopped performing as fierce drag queen Phanny Hill and works part-time in a bookstore. Phineas never expected to find love again. But when sexy and caring Cody Bellstrom turns up, Phineas feels his orderly life slipping out of his control. Cody brings him alive again, but now Phineas must find the courage to let go of his grief over Allen and give love a second chance.

“And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.” –  Buckaroo Banzai, (and possibly Confucius)

A story whose author has one of my favorite quotes worked into her story’s tapestry has already won me over. Of course it doesn’t hurt that I thought highly of this story’s precursor too.  That would be Wild and Precious where we first met  Cody Bellstrom in Washington, DC, where things didn’t quite work out for him.  Now, he’s looking for a new start and he thinks he’s found it on the opposite coast…Portland to be exact.

In Wild and Precious, it was Mary Oliver’s poem,  ‘The Summer Day’, that wound through that story like a ribbon pulling it all together. In There You Are, its this quote that becomes not just the narrative device that moves through the story but a revelatory element for Cody as well at the end.  Its this special literary touch that really works for me in these two stories that helps elevate them as well.

This is also a story of multiple relationships and of letting go, that painful fact of life we’ve all dealt with.  Phineas must deal with his grief over his loss of Allen (something he hasn’t done), there is the blossoming new relationship with Cody which can’t move forward just yet, a new (fatherly) relationship with with his nephew Sandy and he must learn enough, become alive enough to bring back ‘Phanny Hill’, who has her own fierce inner voice here.  And if that ‘s not enough there is Cody, who has his own issues with the past that he has never looked at and will need to if he isn’t going to start running again and lose what he has always wanted.

I thought CJane Elliot did a remarkable job in getting the family dynamics right, the harsh as well as the tender.  I loved the confusion and support that flowed from Phineas, when the call came that would shake up his life as well as the wonderfully descriptive train ride that Cody and Sandy took west to Portland.

If I had anything I wish I could change, it would be to expand some sections of the story.  This is a huge tale and yet the author crammed it into 101 pages.  The section where Cody talked to the actor?  We needed more of a revelation.  So did the subsequent events.  Still, this is such a wonderful story, that it quite stands on its own.  You don’t need to read the first book to understand Cody and his history.  It serves only as a nice addendum to this story and lovely way to meet the strong lesbian couple who shows up here as Cody’s continued support and sounding board.

Looking for a story with a huge  heart and depth?  This book has enough for one double the length.  There You Are will intelligent, warm hearted and very well written. I highly recommend it.

Cover Artist: AngstyG.  I love the cover.  That one model especially works for Cody.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 122 pages
Published December 23rd 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634767039 (ISBN13: 9781634767033)
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: Wild and Precious (Wild and Precious #1) by CJane Elliott

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Wild and PreciousAspiring writer Brent Granger has good friends and a great job at an arts magazine in DC, but he’s batting zero in the arena of love. Brent begins to get a clue why things aren’t working with women from his strong attraction to his gorgeous, gay, and already attached boss, Graham Stoneford. When he sees a personal ad from a man that quotes his favorite poet, Brent decides to do something wild and answer.

Enter Cody Bellstrom, easygoing bisexual musician, who is happy to initiate Brent in the ways of gay sex. Brent now has a new problem: he realizes he’s gay and no one in his life knows it. Cody tires of hiding their relationship, but Brent finds it challenging to come out to family, friends, and especially to Graham. In the end, Brent must confront the truth of where—and with whom—his heart lies.

Wild and Precious by CJane Elliott is one of those books where I wanted to either issue no rating at all or multiple ratings for various elements because at 80 pages this author has done so many things right that the parts where that irritate or pull the story down just don’t count as much for me as they might with others.

First, I’m going to start with my largest possible author peril of them all, the location of Washington, DC.  CJane Elliot knows Washington, DC.  This story is crammed full of the right streets and locations (yes, I knew where they are/were) and I can’t tell  you how often that doesn’t happen. Jets land in Bethesda..not  Oh, the howlers I’ve read.  So to have an author get it right?  Bonus points! Handing out the gold stars now.

I like the use of a poem, The Summer Day by Mary Oliver, that’s a lovely touch and an element that will flow through the story. I very much thought the author did a thorough job with her characterizations given the short amount of story.  Brent was a treasure. I enjoyed Brent’s sexual awakening and his easy relationships with his boss and friends.  The same goes for Cody Bellstrom, the easy going musician and his two amazing women friends.  They were an especially strong couple.

Graham was the lesser of the three individuals, and that was due to his position in the story, an irritation for some (including me).  I think that will also impact how most readers will feel about the twisting relationships and who ended up with who.  Most readers go into a story with the expectation that the couple they meet first off is the couple they end with.  Is that a reasonable expectation?  Does love always work that way?  What happens when the answer is no and the people in question are better off that way?  An even more serious question.  Perhaps one not many romance readers want to answer.  I found the shift between relationships uneven and thought it hurt the story because of the imbalance.

At 80 pages, its worth taking a different look at how one man found his sexuality and true love…and sent another one his path to his own. Yes, there is a sequel to this book, There You Are by CJane Elliott.  Look for my review soon.  Yes, I loved it.

Cover Art by AngstyG.  I don’t know about the cover.  It screams politicians and teenagers to me for some reason instead of musicians and hip music writers.  Just doesn’t work.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 80 pages
Published December 31st 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1632165295 (ISBN13: 9781632165299)
Edition LanguageEnglish

SeriesWild and Precious 

  • Wild and Precious (Wild and Precious, #1)
  • There You Are (Wild and Precious #2)

A Wild Heart Gets A Chance at Love with CJane Elliott’s ‘There You Are’ (excerpt and giveaway)

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ThereYouAreFS

There You Are (Wild and Precious #2) by CJane Elliott
Release Date: December 23, 2015

Goodreads Link
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: AngstyG

Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing CJane Elliott, author of There You Are. Hi CJane, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

Hi there! Thank you for having me on the blog today to share about my new novella, There You Are, which is the second book in the Wild and Precious series. There You Are picks up the story of Cody Bellstrom where we left him in Wild and Precious. He moves to Portland, Oregon, and meets the man who is to become the love of his life, Phineas MacDonald. But they both have issues to work through before they can get to their happy ending.

By the way, those who have read my novella, Mercury In Retrograde, will recognize a cameo appearance of one of the main characters, Alex Harrison, toward the end of the book. It’s a short but key scene which proves to be a turning point for Cody.

  • Tell us something no one else knows about your characters.

Phineas sucked his thumb until he was five. Cody doesn’t mind Phineas’s oral fixation.

Cody started his music career with clarinet lessons at age six because his father was a jazz drummer who loved classic jazz music and wanted Cody to be the next Benny Goodman. Cody quit clarinet after his dad left them.

  • Have you ever written something that made you cry?

Many times! I tend toward writing angst so there’s a vein of melancholy running through most of my writing, even though my characters get to their happy ending. I don’t want to make it too easy on them, though!

  • Have you ever co-written with someone before?

No. It appeals to me from the standpoint of having someone else be involved in the writing. But that’s also why I’m leery of it, because what if we proved incompatible? What I’d really like to do is team up with some fellow writers and do an anthology of some kind.

  • What is the most difficult part of writing for you?

It’s different things at different times. These last few months the most difficult part has been continuing to write at all while working almost fulltime, preparing for the holidays, and preparing for this book release. Usually the most difficult part is starting something new, although I’ve been using outlines and other tools to create plot and characters ahead of time and that makes it easier.

  • Name your four most important food groups.

Pasta, chocolate, red wine, and coffee.

Thank you, CJane, that was perfect. Now more  about There You Are (Wild and Precious #2) by CJane Elliott

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Blurb

Bisexual musician Cody Bellstrom is a free spirit, easygoing and unattached. On a cross-country trip, Cody befriends young Sandy Nixon and gets him safely to Portland and his uncle, Phineas MacDonald. Beautiful Phineas turns Cody’s life upside down, and Cody learns he’s not as unattached as he aspires to be. With the hard-won knowledge of what lies underneath his need to be free, Cody wins a chance at real freedom and true love.

Ever since his longtime lover Allen died, Phineas MacDonald has lived a circumscribed life. He stopped performing as fierce drag queen Phanny Hill and works part-time in a bookstore. Phineas never expected to find love again. But when sexy and caring Cody Bellstrom turns up, Phineas feels his orderly life slipping out of his control. Cody brings him alive again, but now Phineas must find the courage to let go of his grief over Allen and give love a second chance.

 

Pages or Words: 33,000 words
Series should be read in order to best appreciate this book
Categories: Bisexual, Contemporary, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Romance

Excerpt:

“YOU SURE about this?” Bette’s pointed glance packed a world of meaning as she maneuvered the car through the DC traffic and Union Station came into view.

Cody shifted, touching the door handle to ready his escape. “Yes, I’m sure. Didn’t we go over this?” In excruciating detail, he added silently but didn’t dare say aloud. Not with the mood Bette was in.

“I’m giving you one more chance to come to your senses.” Bette pulled up outside the train station, frowning, and turned off the engine.

She looked so unhappy, Cody wanted to change his mind. I can’t, he thought.

Won’t, you mean, said the Bette in his head. He reached over and laid his hand on top of hers. “You’ll get along fine without me.”

“That’s not the point.” She nailed him with a baleful scowl. “We don’t want to get along without you. Dang you, Cody Bellstrom, you have no idea who you are to us.” At his puzzled expression, she turned away and stared stonily through the windshield.

“Well… I guess this is it.” Cody waited, but she didn’t respond. “I love you, girl, you know that, right? You and Aurora.” He meant it. He, Bette, and Aurora had been friends since they were college freshmen ten and a half years ago. Cody sometimes found it hard to believe that he’d known them since before Bette and Aurora had become a couple. It seemed like they’d been together forever.

A barely perceptible nod.

“Come on, Bette, don’t be mad. I’ll be back. I swear.”

“Sure you will.” She sighed and turned a softer face toward him. “Goddammit, you better. We love you. If you gotta do this, of course we can’t stop you. All we want is for you to be happy.”

A car honked behind them, and a uniformed officer motioned them to get moving.

“Shoot,” Bette muttered. “All right, babe. Get outta here.”

Cody leaned over and planted a kiss on her cheek. “I’ll text. And call. And Skype.”

“Okay. Send us a postcard from every stop, and take a picture of yourself in Powell’s Books when you get to Portland.”

“Will do.”

Cody opened the door and unfurled himself from the passenger seat, then hauled out his luggage, such as it was. He traveled light; always had. A knapsack, one rolling suitcase, and his guitar, and he was good to go.

He stood on the curb and waved as Bette pulled away, then strode into the station, his spirits lifting, while Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again” played on a loop in his mind.

WildAndPrecious_postcard_front_DSP

Aspiring writer Brent Granger has good friends and a great job at an arts magazine in DC, but he’s batting zero in the arena of love. Brent begins to get a clue why things aren’t working with women from his strong attraction to his gorgeous, gay, and already attached boss, Graham Stoneford. When he sees a personal ad from a man that quotes his favorite poet, Brent decides to do something wild and answer.

Enter Cody Bellstrom, easygoing bisexual musician, who is happy to initiate Brent in the ways of gay sex. Brent now has a new problem: he realizes he’s gay and no one in his life knows it. Cody tires of hiding their relationship, but Brent finds it challenging to come out to family, friends, and especially to Graham. In the end, Brent must confront the truth of where – and with whom – his heart lies.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press |  Amazon

Buy the book:

Dreamspinner |  ARe |  Amazon |  Apple |  Kobo |  Barne&Noble |  Google Play

 

Meet the author:

After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.

CJane is an ardent supporter of LGBTQ equality and is particularly fond of coming out stories.

In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her husband and son support her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.

Where to find the author:

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Tour Dates & Stops:

23-Dec

Book Lovers 4Ever, Louise Lyons, Joyfully Jay, The Hat Party

30-Dec

Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings, Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Love Bytes

6-Jan

Unquietly Me, Because Two Men Are Better Than One, A.M. Leibowitz

13-Jan

Havan Fellows, Two Chicks Obsessed With Books and Eye Candy, Divine Magazine, Jessie G. Books

20-Jan

Happily Ever Chapter, Bonkers About Books, My Fiction Nook, Prism Book Alliance

27-Jan

The Novel Approach, Alpha Book Club, Bayou Book Junkie

3-Feb

Molly Lolly, MM Good Book Reviews, Inked Rainbow Reads, Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

10-Feb

BFD Book Blog, TTC Books and More, Elisa – My Reviews and Ramblings, Up All Night, Read All Day

Final

Giveaway

Enter to win a Rafflecopter Prize: Any book from CJane’s backlist.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.  Link and prize   provided by the author and Pride Promotions.
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