An Alisa Review: Dish of the Day by Clare London

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Rating:  3 stars out of 5

 

Three men together. Diverse tastes … one common love.

 

Richie Morton’s sunk all his hopes and savings into a new restaurant in South London promoting British ingredients and recipes. Yet on opening night, it all seems to be heading for disaster. Lost ingredients, manic chefs, no sign of the customers … he’s in despair. And where are his best friends Craig and Ben, who’ve been helping him set up the new venture? The least they could offer is moral support.

 

When they do eventually step in, though, they offer support of a very different kind. They tell Richie some home truths — that he pushes himself too much, and must learn to share and trust his life with others. With them, specifically. And then, when Richie’s still unconvinced, they decide to let actions speak for their love instead. They’ll help him relax and dish up a caring, sexy, and far more intimate menu.

 

This was an interesting way to have an intervention.  Richie has pushed away almost all of his friends’ offers to help him.  They have both had enough of Richie trying to keep them at arm’s length and have an interesting way of showing him.

 

Richie is so absolutely confused by his friends’ antics when they finally show up on what he believes is opening night.  I loved that Ben and Craig care about Richie enough to do something drastic to prove it.  I could feel Richie’s confusion about what was going on but how great it was once he started to understand what was going on.  Their years of friendship have given them a pretty solid base to build on.

 

The cover art by Written Ink Designs is nice and gives a great visual of Richie’s intervention.

 

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

ebook, 55 pages

Published: September 16, 2017 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781634864381

Edition Language: English

A Karen Review: Between a Rock and a Hard Place (London Lads #5) by Clare London

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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

This is the fifth and final book in the London Lads series.  As with the others, it is a quick, short read, with a lot of humor, little angst, and a sweet – if predictable – happy ever after.

The timeline of this story was quite different: the entire thing takes place in a period of about 12 hours, while Garry is waiting in Glasgow airport to meet up with Will, who doesn’t show up until the very end of the book.  He has to endure the agony of uncomfortable chairs, overpriced airport food, incessant noise, and stressed out, rude travelers.  Most of the humor is about being stuck in an airport, a feeling that most of us can definitely sympathize with!

Garry and Will have been best friends for years, and though both men are gay, they haven’t ever dated.  They spend all their time with each other, to the point that their office mates assume they are a couple.  When Will is put up for promotion, Garry is thrilled for him, until he finds out the new job will be in New York.  Will has been in New York for several weeks, and is flying back to Glasgow to meet Garry for their traditional holiday with their university friends, and Garry is anxiously waiting for him at the airport, trying to figure out what he really feels for Will, and what he’s going to do about it.

Despite trying to mind his own business, Garry wakes from an uncomfortable nap to find 7 year old Emily and her older brother Max have decided to adopt him.  Garry doesn’t do kids, but they stick to him like burrs and he can’t shake them off.  For hours.  The kids almost seem like a figment of his imagination, or a bad dream, because they are shockingly intuitive at times, and as irritating as the rest of the airport at others.  They end up drawing him out of himself, and he talks about Will, and by the end of the long wait, he has finally managed to not only clarify how he feels about Will – he loves him and is in love with him – but has decided that he needs to man up and act on the feeling.  So all is prepared for a wonderful reunion when Will finally arrives.

I have enjoyed the stories, but I still think they would be much better combined into a single book, instead of separate short stories.  I don’t think they are worth the price individually, but as a compilation, I would have enjoyed them.

Cover art by Valerie Tibbs is OK, and fits with the rest of the series.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition, 61 pages
Published August 30th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press (first published October 10th 2010)
Original TitleBetween A Rock And A Hard Place
ISBN139781635335859
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesLondon Lads #5

Review Tour – Clare London’s Between A Rock and A Hard Place (A London Lads Story)

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Length: 19,598 words
 
Cover Design: Tibbs Design
 
 
London Lads Series
 
Chase The Ace (Book #1) Amazon US | Amazon UK | Dreamspinner
How The Other Half Lives (Book #2) Amazon US | Amazon UK | Dreamspinner
A Good Neighbour (Book #3)  Amazon US | Amazon UK  Dreamspinner 
Peepshow (Book #4)  Amazon US | Amazon UK | Dreamspinner
 
Blurb
 

Garry’s at the end of his tether. He’s waiting at Glasgow Airport to meet his friend Will, on their way to a holiday in a Scottish Highlands hotel. Now there’s a ten-hour delay to incoming flights, the seat in the lounge is more like an instrument of torture, and he’s beyond tired of airport food.


He’s also dreading having to apologise for the pass he recently made at Will, his colleague at a London bank, under the influence of too many beers and a long-held crush. Now Will’s been offered a new job offer on a continent thousands of miles away, Garry realises it may be the end of their close friendship—let alone anything more.


To add to Garry’s stress, he’s treated to the company of Emily and Max, two young people who think he needs educating in the ways of the world. Struggling with their well-meaning help and the startling mess from spilled ketchup and noxious-smelling sweets, he’s encouraged to re-examine how he feels about Will and to decide what kind of journey he’d really like them to take together.

Author Bio

Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant. Sheís written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say sheís just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, sheís happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.


Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.


All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!



Website: http://www.clarelondon.com
Blog: http://clarelondon.livejournal.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/clarelondon
Facebook chat: https://www.facebook.com/groups/clarelondoncalling/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/clare_london
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/clarelondon
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/clarelondon

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Release Blitz for Clare London’s Between A Rock & A Hard Place (A London Lads Story) ~ Excerpt and Giveaway

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Length: 19,598 words
 
Cover Design: Tibbs Design
 
 
London Lads Series
 
Chase The Ace (Book #1) Amazon US | Amazon UK | Dreamspinner
How The Other Half Lives (Book #2) Amazon US | Amazon UK | Dreamspinner
A Good Neighbour (Book #3)  Amazon US | Amazon UK  Dreamspinner 
Peepshow (Book #4)  Amazon US | Amazon UK | Dreamspinner
 
Blurb
 

Garry’s at the end of his tether. He’s waiting at Glasgow Airport to meet his friend Will, on their way to a holiday in a Scottish Highlands hotel. Now there’s a ten-hour delay to incoming flights, the seat in the lounge is more like an instrument of torture, and he’s beyond tired of airport food.

He’s also dreading having to apologise for the pass he recently made at Will, his colleague at a London bank, under the influence of too many beers and a long-held crush. Now Will’s been offered a new job offer on a continent thousands of miles away, Garry realises it may be the end of their close friendship—let alone anything more.

To add to Garry’s stress, he’s treated to the company of Emily and Max, two young people who think he needs educating in the ways of the world. Struggling with their well-meaning help and the startling mess from spilled ketchup and noxious-smelling sweets, he’s encouraged to re-examine how he feels about Will and to decide what kind of journey he’d really like them to take together.

Excerpt

Garry suspected he knew what tipped psychotics over the edge.

It wasn’t childhood trauma or thwarted world domination. Far from it! It was the agony of a plastic bucket chair digging into the back of your legs in the middle of a chaotic Arrivals lounge. Add to that the robotic monotone of the Glasgow Airport PA system offering “apologies for the inconvenience caused to those customers awaiting incoming flights from the USA,” and it was like salt rubbed into a wound.

He slumped back in the seat, his arms folded tightly across his chest. He could feel the scowl on his face etching into the muscles. There was noise everywhere—booming announcements over the speakers and the incomprehensible swell of people’s excited chatter. Kids shrieked, and suitcases rattled over the threadbare carpet. Rolling neon signs flashed up reminders to boarding gates, constant alerts to keep your bags beside you at all times, and then—almost as an afterthought—the price of the latest, must-have mobile phone package.

Airport lounges had to be one of the least comfortable places on earth. He hunched down farther, trying to nap. Like it’d be possible in this maelstrom. Bad mood, or what? He’d been up since the crack of dawn, maybe even before. He couldn’t exactly remember the time, as over the years he’d found that lack of sleep caused him, one, serious memory problems, two, to leave the house in an unmatched pair of socks, and, three, the unmitigated loss of his sense of humour.

He was jolted back to attention as a man hauling a heavy suitcase let it run over Garry’s feet. With a cry of pain, Garry wrenched his long legs back under his seat, but not before the wheels had left neat little tramlines over his boots. His toes felt bruised, and his mood teetered further toward homicidal. Luckily the perpetrator had taken a sharp left and vanished into the direction of the car hire franchises, else his suitcase—and probably his limbs—might have been scattered to the four winds.

Garry winced. So much for keeping your luggage with you at all times.

So… what was currently on his agenda? A too-early start; a wickedly uncomfortable waiting area; a psychotic bunch of fellow passengers. The bad omens were already stacking up. He’d arrived at Glasgow Airport rather travel-worn from his own flight from London Heathrow, preparing to meet up with his friend Will somewhere in amongst this mess of humanity.

Then he’d been greeted with the worst of news—a delay.

Ten hours? He felt like shouting it aloud, as in fact a few of the less self-disciplined airport visitors already had. What do they mean, incoming flights to Glasgow delayed ten fucking hours? He’d stumbled onto his own flight at some godforsaken hour of the morning to get to Scotland on time, only to find the connecting transatlantic airlines couldn’t meet the same punctuality. Ten hours! It was only late morning. Ten hours would take him on into the evening and a large part of the night. Ten hours of sitting on this seat, with nothing but overpriced airport snacks and the metallic xylophone tones of the airport announcer for company.

Okay, so yes, obviously, he was in a less than good mood.

But he had nowhere else to wait for Will. He couldn’t travel on to the Scottish hotel their mutual friend Allen had booked, because he didn’t know which one it was. Allen didn’t seem to be answering his mobile at the moment. Garry had tried seven times already, ever since the first announcements were made about the delay. And Garry knew that was the only number available, not just because Allen could be such a bloody control freak, but because Leonard—Allen’s husband—never even turned his phone on when he was travelling anywhere. Nor would Will be accessible, circling somewhere in the sky between the States and here. And if Garry left the airport to go anywhere else, he ran the risk of missing Will’s flight altogether. No, he knew he was effectively trapped between the proverbial rock and the hard place. In fact, he could feel the hard place biting into his arse right now, as he tried to get comfortable in his seat for the hundredth time.

Besides, what could he do but wait? He was here because his friend Will had specifically asked him to be.

His best friend, Will.

They were both flying in to Glasgow, ready to meet the rest of the gang. It was a long-held tradition, an annual holiday together in June, whatever their commitments for the rest of the year. Friends since university, there were around eight of them on any year’s trip, depending on who could get away from work. Allen was the self-appointed “manager” of it all, and this year he’d suggested they visit the Scottish Highlands, his own home turf. Garry had happily booked the time off, like he always did. He rarely had other plans that might conflict.

Allen always waxed lyrical about Scotland. Most of his multitudinous family had left the home country over the years, moving all over the world, making what sounded like starry marriages with entrepreneurs and lawyers. Even a Hollywood movie star in one case. But Allen had stayed, happy to find everything he needed right there—including the man he met and moved in with, several years ago. He and Leonard often made the trip north to the Highlands on their own. The hotel they stayed in had a fabulous view over Loch Lomond, and the highest star-ratings for food and comfort. And, this year, Allen and Leonard wanted to share it with their friends as well.

Everyone thought it was a great choice, including Will and Garry. Will in particular had always wanted to see more of Scotland. They both lived in London and spent a lot of their social time together, so they usually travelled the same route to the reunion holiday. This year, they’d arranged to fly to Glasgow, hire a car, then drive the rest of the way.

At least, that had been the original plan.

But the plans had changed, hadn’t they?

Author Bio

Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant. Sheís written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say sheís just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, sheís happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.

Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.

All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!



Website: http://www.clarelondon.com
Blog: http://clarelondon.livejournal.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/clarelondon
Facebook chat: https://www.facebook.com/groups/clarelondoncalling/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/clare_london
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/clarelondon
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/clarelondon

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A Caryn Review: Peepshow (London Lads #4) by Clare London

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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Another cute little installment in the London Lads series!  I can imagine the author coming up with the premise for this one, perhaps walking by a CCTV monitor and catching a glimpse of a cute man, and spinning off into a fantasy about that cute man…..

Ken is a film student who has taken a temporary night job monitoring the security cameras in an upscale shopping center.  It’s perfect, right?  Not much to do, plenty of time to study, easy money.  But the reality is that it is mind-numbingly boring, and he dreads walking in every day.  For entertainment, he started imagining stories and conversations for the people he saw on the screens, and the monitor of the yard behind the bistro became his favorite – waiters taking breaks, smoking, laughing, grousing, and rushing back into the restaurant.  He quickly identifies one waiter in particular he likes to watch, because he’s sexy and fit, but when the waiter looks right into the camera and winks, Ken becomes obsessed.

Ken has a close group of friends, but he’s the shy one of the bunch, and this night job gives him a good excuse to avoid being set up with blind dates.  Besides, after that wink, Waiter is now teasing, showing off, as if he knows someone is watching him.  Ken can’t help but be turned on, and continues to watch for Waiter avidly, though he is starting to feel a bit like a perverted voyeur.

And then, he meets Waiter in real life.  And Waiter knows that Ken’s been watching….

OK, for me, the book really should have ended right about there.  I was enjoying the tease and the mystery, and felt the reveal was too soon, too convenient, and really pretty anti-climactic.  And instead of just moving ahead with a date, there was all this unnecessary angst about how the teasing, and the voyeurism, would prevent them from trusting each other, blah, blah, blah.  I was thinking, hey, this is a short novella, there is no time for this kind of BS, just admit what you did, and that you enjoyed it!  Own it!  OK that was a bit of a spoiler, and I usually try to leave those out of my reviews, but I didn’t like this book as much as I have the others in the series.  It was enjoyable, until it wasn’t.  I thought about taking off a star, but since it truly was a 3 star read right up until that moment, I thought I’d let it stand.  I’ll still finish reading the series, but I am hoping that this was the low point, and the next one will be more fun.

I wasn’t as impressed with the cover art by Valerie Tibbs for this one.  The models seemed a bit older than I imagined Ken and Waiter, and there is nothing else to connect the art to the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 2nd edition, 63 pages
Published July 26th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press (first published June 23rd 2013)
ASIN B073R3Y9ZR
Edition Language English

An Alisa Audiobook Review: Romancing the Ugly Duckling by Clare London and Joel Leslie (Narrator)

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Rating:  3 stars out of 5

 

Ambitious fashionista Perry Goodwood lands the project of his dreams—track down a celebrity family’s missing brother in the Scottish Highlands and bring him back to London for a TV reality show. But first he must transform the rugged loner into a glamorous sophisticate.

 

Greg Ventura has no use for high fashion. He lives on the isolated island of North Uist to escape the reminder that he’s nowhere near as handsome as his gorgeous brothers and avoid the painful childhood memories of being bullied.

 

Greg wants nothing to do with city life, and Perry’s never been outside London. When Perry is stranded on North Uist, this conflict seems insurmountable. But Greg is captivated by the vivacious Perry, and Perry by both the island and his host. However, Perry’s one heartfelt wish remains: that ugly duckling Greg fulfill his potential as a swan.

 

This was a nice story and once the characters got over their own crap they had going on in their heads it was better.  Perry is sent to retrieve and transform Greg, however he is sent on his own and has no support from the agency.  Greg has successfully stayed far away from the limelight since he could move away and isn’t going to let anything drag him back.

 

I got see both of the characters’ points of view in this story so I knew how they were feeling for the most part but even Perry kept secrets I didn’t know about until close to the end.  I could see how uncertain Perry is with his future and his determination to do what he came to do but he quickly gets to see the real Greg and the beauty that his brothers don’t seem to see and wouldn’t change it for the world.  Greg is stubborn about changing anything in his life and it’s almost too late by the time he realizes that he actually wants the changes Perry has made in his life.

 

Joel Leslie did a nice job narrating this story.  I was able to keep track of the story and characters which is always nice.  However, I don’t think his narration is for me; this isn’t the first time I have listened to him and his over-exaggerated accents are just too much.  It took me a bit to get into the story at the beginning but once I pretty much ignored how he was saying it and just what he was saying I got into the story more.

 

Cover art by Bree Archer is great and follows the pattern for the series.

 

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press |   Audible | Amazon |  iTunes

 

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook, 7hrs 15min
Published: June 19, 2017 (ebook first published June 15, 2017) by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language: English

Series: Romancing The …

An Ali Audiobook Review: Chase the Ace (London Lads #1) by Clare London and Seb Yarrick (Narrator)

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Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Newly single in his late twenties, and bored with his quiet life in a London suburb, Daniel Cross soon discovers the lure of social media. Excited at the chance of tracking down his old mates from a schooldays sports club, he launches a personal quest to find out what kind of man each boy has become. 

Dan’s first mistake is chatting online to a complete stranger—friending the wrong Carson brother on Facebook. But Nick Carson isn’t offended and offers to accompany Dan on the trip to find the others. It’s the first step to friendship and something more for both of them. 

For Dan, the reunions with the “ Gang of Four” range from startling and heartening to disturbing. Nick’s company is a constant support, though neither of them are prepared for the exposure of personal secrets they’d thought long hidden. Dan begins to suspect he’s really looking for a direction in his own life—and the excitement and purpose he craves may be closer to home than a quest with its roots in a boyhood dream.
I found the plot of this a little confusing.  Not really in the way it was written but just overall.  Nothing that happened really made sense to me or seemed at all realistic.  I didn’t understand Daniel’s desire to see these guys from his past, I didn’t understand why Nick lied, I didn’t understand how a guy in his 20’s had such a poor understanding of social media, I didn’t understand why Daniel would go on a road trip with a stranger, the list goes on.  Once I decided to just let all that go and roll with the story, it got a little better.
I enjoyed the concept of the book and feel that if it had been a longer, more detailed story I probably would have enjoyed it more.  I would have liked to see more relationship development also.
This book was narrated by Seb Yarrick who was a new narrator for me.  I thought he did a really good job and I liked him a lot.  His narration definitely added to the story and he is a narrator I will definitely listen to again.
The cover was done by Valerie Tibbs of Tibbs Design.  I liked the cover a lot and I think it does a very good job of showing what the book is about.  It captures the plot and the vibe of the book perfectly.
Audiobook Details:
Listening Length: 2 hours and 55 minutes
Audible Audio
Published June 22nd 2017 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 16th 2012)
ASINB072W728TV
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesLondon Lads #1

Release Blitz for Peep Show (A London Lads Story) by Clare London (excerpt and giveaway)

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Length: 16,000 words
 
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
 
Blurb
 

Ever wanted to spy secretly on other people’s lives?


Ken doesn’t have a choice: his student summer job is manning the CCTV screens for the new central London shopping mall. But instead of spotting criminals or vandals, he becomes fascinated by a cute waiter from the local bistro who sneaks out to the backyard for his break—and plays sexy to the camera.


Is he an old friend, or just an anonymous exhibitionist? Should Ken be excited by this naughty peepshow, or will people think he’s a voyeuristic pervert? Poor Ken’s confused and thrilled in turn. It’s like living in one of the movies he’s studying at university. He knows the man can’t see him, yet Ken feels a connection of some kind. It all encourages Ken to continue with his guilt-ridden Waiter Watch.


Ken bears the suspense as long as he can, until a chance meeting and an abortive blind date provide the explanation to the secret assignations. But will this guide Ken to a real-life chance of romance?


First Edition published by Amber Quill Press/Amber Allure, 2013.

Excerpt


Ken had to admit he hated his job. With a passion. Or rather, with a slow-burning boredom and distaste. Passion implied some kind of energy—the agony and the ecstasy!—and Ken had none of that left after another night sitting in the small, stuffy room and gazing at a wall of screens.


He leaned back in his hard-backed chair, stretched, and yawned. A glance at the clock confirmed it was a good hour until his official break time, when the steroid-enhanced Tomas would reluctantly pause in strutting his security patrol around the shopping centre, and arrive to cover Ken’s post while he went for coffee and a sandwich. Then another two hours until the end of the shift at 2:00 a.m., when old Charlie would shuffle in for duty, complete with his tatty Aran cardigan, his Maeve Binchy paperback, and an oversized thermos of homemade vegetable soup, to take over from Ken until the offices opened.


Ken sighed. What a way to spend a Saturday night—or any night, for that matter.


Over three hours to go.


Over three hours….


He yawned again. The screens flickered and settled into a range of views from another angle. There was a bank of them, covering critical points around the shopping centre, and they were manned 24/7. Ken was one of those “manning” people. He was meant to watch the screens closely at all times. The centre was a small one, in Surbiton on the outskirts of London, and couldn’t compete with the massive retail complexes built off the M25 in Essex or central London’s Oxford Street. It was really just a dozen shops hanging out together under the same roof. But these were high-fashion, prestigious-designer stores, full of valuable goods and constantly at threat from thieves, vandals, and general abusers. Or so Ken’s summer-job employers, Safeguard Assured, would have people believe.


Ken thought it wouldn’t be so bad if he actually saw something. Look out, it’s beHIND you! He knew it was ludicrous to wish for theft, destruction, or general abuse—whatever that covered—but he’d been working here for over a month now, and he’d seen nothing untoward. Nothing at all. No fights, no malicious damage to the shops or the building, no tanks ramming through the night-time shutters, no intercontinental ballistic missiles shrieking in from the dark night skies above—only twenty-four hours left to protect historic London!—to destroy everything the population held dear….


Okay, so his mind was rambling again. His mum always said he had a vivid imagination. He’d chosen well when he took a media and film studies course at Kingston University, because he’d always spent far too much time imagining book and movie quotes around real-life events. Of course, Mum’s respect wasn’t always matched by the rest of the family—Dad said Ken lived in a fantasy world, and his teenage brother, Joe, said he was just a sad bloke. Ken sighed again. He knew he was pretty safe here in the control room—except, of course, from the intercontinental ballistic missile scenario—because he wasn’t expected to leap into personal action if he saw any crime taking place. There’d never been any training session for that, just a brief run-through of the screens and the logging in and out procedures, and a schedule of the night-time shifts. He’d been given a list of contact numbers if he needed help. From the way his boss had wrinkled his nose at that, Ken knew it wouldn’t be welcome if he called up his boss at a quarter to midnight to ask where the milk was for his tea. I’m sorry, caller, there’s no record of that number…. No, the contact numbers were for the duty security guards like Tomas, and also an emergency number to the local police station. That was if something went seriously wrong.


Which it never did.


No, of course he wasn’t inviting that missile again. But Ken hadn’t seen any action so far except people coming and going at the takeaways and late-night restaurants, which stayed open until the early hours of the morning. He swung aimlessly back and forth on his chair and opened another packet of cheesy snacks. He could feel the coating sticking to his teeth, but at least chewing it off helped to keep him awake. The Lord of the Rings paperback—three books in one, special offer!—had been last week’s additional incentive, but the boxed set of assorted crime thrillers he’d borrowed from Mum this week—murder, intrigue, and suspense from some of Britain’s finest!—hadn’t worked as effectively. Screen-watchers weren’t meant to spend their time with their head in a book—how would they see the incoming missile?—but it was about the only way to keep the boredom at bay.


“You should knit,” his mate Simon had suggested. Simon knitted, but not lumpy long scarves or hideously misshapen Christmas gloves like Ken’s gran. Si created cool beanie hats and cotton gilets and wonderful album cover designs on sweaters. He was studying textile design at the same university, with fellow students far more arty than Ken’s peers, judging by their clothing and the bold interior design of their rooms. Ken had tried knitting a hat once—you shouldn’t knock it until you’ve tried it, right?—and Mum was still using it as a tea cosy. She said the gaps down the side gave the steam somewhere to go. Ken hadn’t battled with knitting needles again—he was happier with a storyboard. Yet where had his first year of film studies taken him? Watching rain fall on the concrete pavement outside a shopping centre for hours at a time. There was irony there, somewhere.


He’d tried plenty of things to help pass the time. He played solitaire until he found himself almost homicidal when a three of clubs refused to reveal itself. The book of crosswords had been abandoned at page nine, after he’d expressed his frustration by inserting every obscene word he could think of, whether they fit the grid or not. And his songwriting attempts had never got any further than I woke up this morning before he started salivating for bacon sandwiches and brown sauce. He’d tried sketching out a storyboard for a film project of his own but, unfortunately, Charlie had caught sight of it one night, and now he kept suggesting Ken should remake a couple of Maeve Binchy’s classic stories. Charlie even suggested casting and the songs for the soundtrack. Much as he liked the old codger, Ken now found it less teeth-grinding to keep that work for the privacy of his own room. So he was back to nothing but the screens for distraction.


There was a small yard at the back of one of the restaurants where the waiters came out to smoke. It was plumb in the middle of Ken’s central screen. This one was a French bistro, which meant the prices were too high for his student pocket. Spare a coin for a sandwich, sir? He didn’t have sound as well as a view, but he watched the way the waiting staff nodded to each other, laughed, shared matches for the ciggies. There wasn’t much space to move around in the yard, because the wall between the restaurant and the next-door dry cleaners was covered almost entirely with huge, shoulder-high recycling and waste bins. The waiters leaned against the bins or scuffed their shoes on them. Sometimes the chef opened the door from the restaurant and yelled at them to get their arses back to work. Well, Ken couldn’t actually hear the words, but the chef’s face looked flushed and impatient—even in grainy black-and-white—and Ken’s imagination supplied the language. Although the waiters rolled their eyes and mimicked his gestures as soon as he turned his back, they usually stubbed out the cigarettes quickly and shuffled back indoors.


Sometimes Ken saw them leaving at the end of their shift from a gate at the farthest point of the yard. It was a shortcut back to the housing estate across the ring road. He had to imagine the gate, because it was out of view of the camera, but the waiters would tumble out of the back door with their coats on and backpacks slung over their shoulders, waving and joking with the new shift who were taking over. The place did breakfasts too. Didn’t it ever close?


He’d noticed a group of friends who seemed to work and travel everywhere together—a cluster of students like him, presumably, all dressed in similar hoodies and jeans; two men who were obviously a romantic couple; a mother and daughter who still had a smile for each other after a long night in the kitchen.


Ken grimaced. So it had come to this—he was getting familiar with the monochrome faces of people he’d never meet in real life, probably didn’t want to meet, and who probably wouldn’t want to meet him. He didn’t think of them as friends, did he? That’s what his other good mate Robbie said when Ken shared some of his stories at the pub. “You’re not mates with these people, Kenny. That’d be bloody weird.” Everyone around the table agreed with Robbie. In fact, Ken laughed and agreed too.


Because that’s not how it was. He preferred to consider the people caught on CCTV as his own private soap opera. Previously, on the Surbiton Spectrum Shopping Centre Security Channel…. The waiters at the restaurant. The foxes that came sniffing around the bins, arrogantly careless of anyone else. The police cars that periodically cruised the front of the centre. The fat man who ran the all-night grocer/newsagents, who took a break every now and then, drained a bottle of cola, and had a thorough scratch of his crotch through trousers shiny with wear. The young couple who stocked up the Moroccan café at weekends and who loitered in the service road behind the shop for a snogging session. The boy would have taken it further; Ken could see his eagerness—and bloody quick hands—but the girl was always looking over her shoulder in case someone caught them.


Yes, even outside shopping hours, there was a lot of activity in and around the centre. It wasn’t really what Ken was employed to watch out for, but he reckoned he could weave it into his film projects; he could let it inspire him. Everyone enjoyed people-watching, didn’t they? And his personal soap opera was benign. It wasn’t full of cliché gun battles or car chases. Only sometimes did he feel like a voyeur, but without the sexiness.


A waiter ambled out of the French bistro, and Ken’s attention darted back to that screen. The young man moved quickly—maybe he only had a few minutes’ break—and made for the far side of the yard. That corner was partially hidden by two of the largest bins and out of reach of the security lights. The only CCTV screen that covered it was one of the oldest and with the poorest picture. Sometimes one of the waiting staff would sneak behind these particular bins, and Ken assumed it was because they didn’t want to be seen, either by CCTV or from inside the restaurant. Was that what this man was doing? He had his back to Ken, hiding what he was up to. Was he smoking? Taking drugs? Ken had seen it on other evenings. Was he meant to report that kind of thing, or just crimes that involved damage to the centre itself? And how hypocritical would he be, when he’d smoked more than a few things in his time?


He peered more closely and wished there was a zoom feature. He didn’t like to touch the controls too much, since the time he’d fiddled with the brightness, messed up screens one to four, and spent three hours looking at static—I’m breaking up! I’m breaking up!—until Charlie arrived. The old man had shrugged at Ken’s apology, turned the control button to its fullest point, thumped somewhere under the desk, and the screens had all popped back into focus. Luckily, of course, the missile hadn’t arrived at that very time, though Ken rather thought there’d be other clues if the building were attacked from space.


The man in the yard turned his head, and Ken caught sight of his shadowed profile. He wasn’t smoking; he was sucking juice from a carton. A new employee? Ken didn’t think he’d noticed him before. Tall, lithe body in tight black trousers and a white shirt that stretched taut over his pecs, short-cropped dark hair, prominent but attractive nose. Ken couldn’t see his eyes because he was looking down at the carton, but the heavy lids were sexy. Even though the picture was blurred, Ken could tell that clearly enough. And the way the man’s lips tightened on the carton straw was…. Be still, my beating heart. Ken laughed at himself a little bitterly. His poor old dick hadn’t hardened that quickly for a long time. He shifted on the seat, trying to get comfortable again. He really needed to get back out in the dating game again. Oh wait, first he had to find the time to date, didn’t he? But if and when he did, this was just the kind of look he’d always liked, ever since school days, however shallow Mum would say it was to judge a book by its cover alone….


And then the guy turned towards the camera so that one side of his face eased out of the shadows—and he winked.


Huh? Ken leaned forwards in his chair, startled, but the moment was gone. The waiter turned on his heel, threw his empty carton into the bin, and sauntered back inside the restaurant.


 

Author Bio

Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant. She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.


Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.


All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!



Website: http://www.clarelondon.com
Blog: http://clarelondon.livejournal.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/clarelondon
Facebook chat: https://www.facebook.com/groups/clarelondoncalling/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/clare_london
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/clarelondon
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/clarelondon

 

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A MelanieM Release Day Review: Romancing the Ugly Duckling (Romancing the… #2) by Clare London

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Is this the makeover of a lifetime?

Ambitious fashionista Perry Goodwood lands the project of his dreams—track down a celebrity family’s missing brother in the Scottish Highlands and bring him back to London for a TV reality show. But first he must transform the rugged loner into a glamorous sophisticate.

Greg Ventura has no use for high fashion. He lives on the isolated island of North Uist to escape the reminder that he’s nowhere near as handsome as his gorgeous brothers and avoid the painful childhood memories of being bullied.

Greg wants nothing to do with city life, and Perry’s never been outside London. When Perry is stranded on North Uist, this conflict seems insurmountable. But Greg is captivated by the vivacious Perry, and Perry by both the island and his host. However, Perry’s one heartfelt wish remains: that ugly duckling Greg fulfill his potential as a swan.

Romancing the Ugly Duckling (Romancing the… #2) by Clare London is everything I look for in a contemporary romance and more.  Beautifully written, great characters, fantastic storytelling! I fell completely in love with every aspect of Clare London’s tale, from the characters to the location (especially the location) to the plot.  This is one of those stories I just wanted to add on a star or plus sign because the characters touched me so.

Told from both Perry and  Greg’s povs, the blurb doesn’t give the reader any idea of the bad situation Perry is in when given the assignment by his boss to track down the estranged brother of a popular “pop/media” family to bring him back into the fold for a TV reality show.  Perry is in a bad situation at home, due to an ex-boyfriend and the stress at work, the family is a challenge to work with and the place he must travel to?  An unknown factor to Perry.

Greg Ventura left family, his brothers and their bullying behind, preferring life on the isolated isle of North Uist.  There he’s made a life without tvs or media and even phone for the most part.  So it’s not surprising he’s unaware of the arrival on the island of one Perry Goodwood, there to bring him home and make him over.  But Perry’s arrived under the worst conditions, Greg’s not only what he not expected but he’s refusing all offers and Perry’s stuck.  It’s such a engaging situation and London makes it magical.

North Uist is a featured  player here along with all its inhabitants and local charm.  It pulls the reader in as thoroughly as it did Greg and it does Perry,  the landscape’s harsh beauty combining with the warm-hearted, enveloping nature of the villagers and the isolation provide a enchantment that serves as a solid foundation for story and romance.  I wanted to find a plane, then a ferry, and then immerse myself in life here as well.  It’s as real to me as anywhere I’ve ever visited and the pull here feels true.

With North Uist as the background, having two main characters such as Perry and Grey, well, the story becomes irresistible imo.  Greg has been so wounded by his family, his brothers specifically.  Constantly belittled and bullied, made to feel ugly and not wanted, that mindset became a permanent part of his emotional and mental state.  He’s withdrawn to the island, almost hiding thinking himself unworthy in so many ways, unable to see himself as others do.  That he has friends who look after him, trying to pull him into the meager social life of the isle is testament that they see him far more clearly than he sees himself.  Greg is a wonderfully constructed character and watching the layers peel away here is a true joy of this story.

Perry also is a bundle of pleasing depth.  Interested about everything, outgoing, he finds himself embracing the island and its people to his surprise.  And Greg too.  From Greg’s introduction (and his stone cottage and his dog) to Perry, we are both completely lost in their relationship.  Perry is intelligent, charming and perceptive.  He’s a great match for Greg, and for the island itself.  He  just has to figure that out.

But it’s not just the main characters, it’s all the other people you meet here.  From Bridie, Greg’s friend, Greg’s dog Rory, the people at the pub, Marty who gets the fresh scallops and so many others, you’ll feel like you’ve known these people for a lifetime.  You get tangled up in the lives of island, how it’s lived…how they share it together. It’s a strength here as well as the fear from the parents that all the young people will be lost to the mainland.  I don’t know…I just can’t say enough about this entire story.

Yes, I can.  I didn’t want it to end.  I could have happily stayed there, watching these men live out their lives among friends.  I wanted to see that too.  Leaving that place left me sort of heartbroken.  I wasn’t ready.  But I was so happy to have read it in the first place.  You will be too.  I’m putting Romancing the Ugly Duckling (Romancing the… #2) by Clare London on my highly recommended list.  Don’t miss this one!

Cover art by Bree Archer is perfect with the island in the back and Perry in the front.

Buy Links: Dreamspinner | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

ebook, Dreamspun Desires #36, 260 pages
Expected publication: June 15th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleRomancing the Ugly Duckling
ISBN139781635333879
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Romancing the… #2 settingScotland

Release Blitz and Review Tour for Clare London’s Romancing The Ugly Duckling (excerpt and giveaway)

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Length: 63,000 words
 
 
 
Blurb

 

Is this the makeover of a lifetime?


Ambitious fashionista Perry Goodwood lands the project of his dreams—track down a celebrity family’s missing brother in the Scottish Highlands and bring him back to London for a TV reality show. But first he must transform the rugged loner into a glamorous sophisticate.


Greg Ventura has no use for high fashion. He lives on the isolated island of North Uist to escape the reminder that he’s nowhere near as handsome as his gorgeous brothers and avoid the painful childhood memories of being bullied.


Greg wants nothing to do with city life, and Perry’s never been outside London. When Perry is stranded on North Uist, this conflict seems insurmountable. But Greg is captivated by the vivacious Perry, and Perry by both the island and his host. However, Perry’s one heartfelt wish remains: that ugly duckling Greg fulfill his potential as a swan.

Excerpt

After the meal, they settled in the living room again. Greg poured himself a glass of what he introduced as his homemade wine, but Perry politely declined a glass for himself. He couldn’t recall any decent wine he’d ever drunk being that particular shade of purple. He was definitely making a mental shopping list for when he could find somewhere civilized, and gin and tonic would come several steps above couscous on that.

Greg picked up a book and started reading. Perry waited a while—after deciding against asking what they could watch on the miniscule TV in the corner of the living room, with obvious dust settling on the controls—then coughed to get Greg’s attention. “Where do you need me tomorrow?”

Greg peered at him over the book. “What are you talking about?”

“Working together, remember? Um. What exactly do you do, apart from painting?”

Greg’s look was possibly sly, but that could have been due to the waning light outside the cottage.

“Sometimes I work in the Sea Bird restaurant.”

Perry thought he remembered seeing a sign to that place on his journey here in Dougie’s car. The building itself had been very small, more like a tea room, with a single light on in the front porch, and it didn’t look very open for business. But he’d go with the flow. “Are you a chef?”

Greg laughed. He seemed more relaxed tonight. “No, I think you’ve realized my cooking skills aren’t the best. And it’s not really big enough for a chef and full kitchen staff. I mean, it wouldn’t meet your London standards.”

“That has nothing to do with anything.”

“What?”

“My London… standards, experience, whatever you want to call it. I’m in Uist now, and I want to know what you do here.”

Greg was looking at him oddly. Was he, Perry, coming across as too bossy? God, this man was impossible to gauge properly.

“It’s more of a large dining room where friends can hang out.” Greg still sounded reasonably relaxed. “It’s owned by a couple of elderly sisters who are marvelous cooks, and we sometimes hire it out for a celebration. We’re not big on dinner parties here, you can imagine. I help out with serving when it’s busy. But mainly I provide the fish dishes, especially scallops.”

“You’re a fisherman?”

Greg nodded slowly, his gaze still on Perry. “Yes, you could say that. I’m a diver. I dive for scallops.”

“Can’t you just… I don’t know.” Buy them in a shop? “Don’t they have official suppliers?”

Greg frowned. “Hand-collected scallops are better. The sweeter ones are chosen, and the dish is more precious. Haven’t you ever tasted the difference?”

It pained Perry to admit weakness, but he did. “I’ve never had scallops in my life.”

Greg’s eyes narrowed. “I thought you lived in the center of the sophisticated city?”

“We can’t all afford posh restaurants,” Perry snapped back, then blushed at—yet again—having to admit shortcoming.

“Oh.” Greg blinked. “Well, you’ll see them in the raw when you come out in the boat tomorrow with me.”

“When I…? Tomorrow…? Boat?”

Greg smiled slowly. “Yes. The weather should be fine, so I’m driving west past Lochmaddy to one of my favorite coastal seawater lochs. I’ll pack some provisions so we can eat lunch there. You can help carry the equipment, then collect the scallops into boxes and keep watch for me.”

“We… I….” Perry was struggling for words. Worse, Greg seemed to realize it and find it highly amusing. “I’ve never been in one.”

“One what?”

“Boat. I’ve never been in a boat. Well, until the ferry two days ago.”

Greg nodded, also slowly. “That’s fine. You can stay here if you want.”

“No!” Perry’s cry was instinctive. Did this brute of a bloke think he, Perry, was a lightweight? “I will not! We made a deal.”

“Okay. Well, I hope Bridie brought a selection of decent waterproofs as well as your day clothes, because you’ll need them.”

“You said the weather should be fine….”

“Just in case,” Greg said ominously. He concentrated back on his book.

Perry sat silently for a long moment. In fact, everything was silent, inside the cottage and out, apart from the occasional call from a bird, and Greg turning a page. Perry wasn’t used to such quiet. Nor was he used to living in close quarters with a man who barely tolerated him, and actually wanted him to get lost. There was a small pile of paperbacks on the table beside Greg’s armchair, and Perry picked one up. He also wasn’t used to reading anthologies of horror stories, his preference being for romantic comedies and the occasional biography—but he supposed there was always a first time. Opening it to the first chapter, he bit back a sigh. At least he’d won this stage of the battle with Greg Ventura, and he had more time to convince him about the TV project.

But thinking about the trip out onto a likely freezing Scottish loch tomorrow, he wasn’t sure whether the price would be too much to pay.

Author Bio


Clare London took her pen name from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with her other day job as an accountant.


She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic, and sexy characters.


Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter three stage and plenty of other projects in mind… she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.