Love Romance and Fantasy? Check out the Book Blast for Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1) by Isobel Starling (excerpt)

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BOOK BLAST

Book Title:  Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1)

Author: Isobel Starling

Publisher: Decent Fellows Press

Cover Artist: Valentine Pascadian (Lennel)

Genre/s:  Fantasy, M/M Romance

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length:103 600 words/ 556 pages

Release Date: February 15, 2019

Add on Goodreads

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

 

 

Blurb

After a traumatic event, Winter Aeling finds himself destitute and penniless in the backwater town of Mallowick.  He needs to travel to the city of Serein and impart grave news that will bring war to the Empire, but without a horse, money, and with not a soul willing to help him, he has no choice but to line up with the common folk seeking paid work on the harvest.  

As wagons roll into the market square and farmers choose day laborers, Winter is singled out for abuse by a brute of a farmer.  The only man who stands up for him is the farmer’s beguiling son, Adam, and on locking eyes with the swarthy young man Winter feels the immediate spark of attraction.

Winter soon realizes there is a reason he has been drawn to Blackdown Farm.  The farmer possesses a precious item that was stolen long ago from Winter’s family, and he determines to retrieve it.  He also cannot take his eyes off the farmer’s son, and as the young man opens up Winter can’t help wondering if Adam is just kind or his kind!

 

 

Excerpt

“Apple Boy” by Isobel Starling

CHAPTER 1

MARKET SQUARE

“You boy, aye, YOU.  Ain’t never seen ye round ‘ere before,” The farmer directed his bellow at me.  

It was sunrise, and at last, I’d found the courage to step out of my hiding place and join the common laborers who gathered in Mallowick market square.  We were waiting for the farmers’ carts to come by and choose their day workers.  I’d watched this ritual each morning for the past three days, peeking out from shadowed doorways, or while crouching behind barrels.  

It was harvest time, and it appeared to be routine for peasants to walk from the surrounding hamlets before dawn and assemble in the square to seek work on the farms.  There was wheat, barley, root vegetables, and tree fruits to be gathered before the weather turned. I was informed by a ruddy looking fellow in the tavern that anyone could get work on the harvest, and so, with my pride cut to ribbons and my pockets empty, I’d stepped out of the safety of my hiding place and joined the commoners.

“Does ye wants work or no’?  Look at me when I’m talkin’ to ye.  What’s yer name?” The burley farmer roared.  I looked up, stunned to be singled out from among all of these strapping men and hardy looking women, for I felt invisible.  Four carts had already passed and taken their pick of the young, strong peasants, but none of those farmers gave me a second glance.  I should have known something was afoot, for when this particular wagon turned up the women in the square shrank back into doorways, and men sidled away to lean against buildings.  On the side of the wagon, writ-large in bold off-white letters were the words BLACKDOWN FARM. There were around thirty of us left on view, like cattle.

I had never partaken in manual labor or any kind of work before.  I was a gentleman and far more familiar with spending my days relaxing, reading, attending social events in the city, or taking a horse for a gallop in the country.  But my life had changed since I’d become stranded here in the Pasturelands provincial town of Mallowick two weeks earlier.  Now I was living on my wits.  Each day was a fight for my life, and I’d sold all of my fine belongings, intending to pay for passage on the stagecoach from Mallowick to the city of Serein.  But I had not thought things through, and it did not happen that way.  My body’s needs took precedent. I’d become so ravenous, and therefore the meager coin I’d gathered from selling my finery was spent on what I could afford—basic rough barley bread and ale, just enough to stave off the gnawing pangs of hunger in my belly each day.  Now, I had no belongings, and the money was all but gone. I was no thief, and the only thing I had left to sell was my body. Looking like a wretch, I did not believe I could earn even a copper that way! Before I left on my travels, I was warned that the province of Erias had strict rules about men bedding other men and I did not want to tempt fate.  I was at a loss—hard labor or starvation were the only choices available to me. Gods, if my father could see how far I’d fallen in such a short time, he would be thoroughly ashamed.  I was living hand-to-mouth, and if I dared to seek out my reflection and observe my disreputable state of dress, I was sure I would see I was no longer a gentleman at all.

I assured myself that all would be well as soon as I could get to the city of Serein.  There I would attend my father’s depository and obtain funds from his account—as had been arranged, and then, I could find my way to my uncle’s residence and attend to a much grimmer business.  

So, with no other choice, I was here, standing in Mallowick market square with a bunch of rough-looking fellows and ruddy-faced women with just the ragged clothes I stood in to my name.  I wondered if my visage had taken on the same gaunt, starved, haunted look some of them wore.

“WELL?”  The farmer roared.

“Leave him be Pa; I think he’s a mute.  P… p… please don’t—” A swarthy young man urged, stepping to the farmers’ side.  The man appeared to be in his early twenties, with broad angular shoulders, slim hips, and wavy jaw-length hair that longingly reminded me of Montestein tea.  When the morning sunlight broke through the clouds and caressed him, the strands of his hair revealed all the shades of autumn.  It was beautiful.  His eyes were bright emerald green, and his skin bore the wind-burned tan of a man who spent his days working the land.  I met his gaze for a second that seemed to stop time, and I felt a flutter of longing erupt in my gut. I found myself mesmerized by him.  He appeared a little embarrassed, for himself or for me, I wasn’t quite sure. The farmer turned to his son.

“Shut that filthy mouth o’ yours, apple boy!” he spat.  His large meaty hands twitched.  He sneered and glared at his son in such a wicked way I knew it should have been followed up by a sharp slap.  I worried that the young man would endure further public humiliation at the hands of his father, but the farmer moved his disdainful glare back to me.  I shuddered with fear. I had a feeling that he was saving his son’s punishment for later—away from the prying eyes of the townsfolk. I did not like that thought, not one bit.  I did not know why the farmer was drawn to me, but he sized me up with a sweeping glance of consideration, then wrinkled his nose as if he’d sniffed a revolting stench—I hadn’t bathed in two weeks, so maybe I did smell a tad ripe!

“Is ye a mute?”

I shook my head.  I would say, if anything, I was deeply traumatized by the unfortunate circumstance I’d found myself in, but no, I was certainly not a mute.  I just wasn’t used to a lowly man speaking to me so roughly. Generally, men who dared to address me knew their betters and behaved appropriately.  But here in Mallowick, in the province of Erias, I was no better than a beggar on the street.  There was no one I could call on for favors, no one who, on hearing my family name, would loan me coin for the stagecoach or a horse to ride to the city and send word to my father.  

When I’d first arrived in Mallowick, telling the truth of my station had gotten me dragged down an alley where my finger and earrings were stolen, and I’d received a beating.  This farmer from Blackdown Farm had no idea who I was, and I would not make the same mistake again.

I took a breath and stepped out of line.  “Master Irwin Harding, sir. You may call me Win.”  I winced at hearing my own soft, well-spoken voice, with my accent, the clipped tongue of Thorn.  I had not used my real name and wished I had not used my true voice either.  The fact that I was the son of the Duke of Thorn meant nothing here.  Thorn was west of Erias, on the other side of the Silua Montis Mountain range, and I doubted any of these illiterate souls in Mallowick knew anything other than that folklore passed around by storytellers.

The farmer stepped to stand in front of me.  He was a big, bulky bastard of a man and stank of stale sweat and baccy.  He had a grizzled podgy face and thick dark hair shot with strands of silver pulled into an untidy tail.  The tension grew between us, and I worried I’d spoken out of turn. I looked down and watched my bare, filthy feet as if they held endless fascination.  I’d seen men like him before. He had hands like shovels, and I’m sure they’d done damage in their time. My father would have used a man like him well, probably as muscle to intimidate the city folk while the Royal Chancellor did the rounds collecting taxes.  

Afraid and sweating with anxiety, I glanced up and away, unable to look at the farmer directly and meet his fierce piggy eyes.  Instead, I looked left and caught the eye of his son. I felt another flutter of attraction. I was grateful for it because it dampened my fear a little.  The glance the farmers’ son sent me back was sheepish, apologetic. He shrugged and put a finger to his lips, signaling for me to hush. I’m sure now he knew what was coming.

Master, is it?”  The farmer gave a raspy malevolent chuckle.  “Well, well, well aren’t ye an uppity little scrote.  Such a pretty voice an’ all. Have your balls dropped yet, lad?”  

The townsmen men standing around me shuffled on their feet and snickered uncomfortably.  I could tell from the tentative laughter they were afraid of this man too. My chest tightened with fury, and I felt the flare of heat rush to color my cheeks.  If in Thorn I would have put this fellow in his place, but as directed by the farmers’ handsome son, I held my tongue.  

I dared to look up as the farmer scratched his grizzled chin and consider me.  It was then I saw it. A chill iced my bones. On his chubby right index finger, he wore a gold ring set with a large red gemstone that I was aghast to see held the intaglio engraving of a rose thorn—my family’s seal.  How had this disgusting Pasturelands farmer come upon my family’s ring?  Anger curdled my gut, but I forced myself to focus and fixed my features so as not to alert the man to what I was looking at.  That ring was more precious than I could say. It was not set with any common gemstone, oh no, the setting was Star-fall.  The legend was that mortal tools could not cut the rich-red Star-fall stone.  The gemstone was shaped by sorcery, and the power that carved into the gem was stored inside it as if the Star-fall was a reservoir for the magic.  It was illegal for any other than the Twin Kings of Osia to own Star-fall.  The king’s men had scoured the Empire to remove all traces of the priceless gem from common and aristocratic hands and possessing it was a death sentence.  Did this ruffian have any idea what he wore?

Not getting a rise from me, the farmer stepped yet closer and found out for himself if my balls had dropped.  He reached for my privates and squeezed.

Ahh, ye got some big stones de’re al’right, boy,” he said with a filthy sneer.

“Done any labourin’ before, lad?”  My eyes watered.  I shook my head and winced as the pressure on my most sensitive parts rose.  I wanted to shout and push him away, punch him in that bristly pug face. I’d trained in hand-to-hand combat and swordplay, but that was of little use to me now that I had no sword and was cast as naught but a commoner myself.  I stood frozen to the spot with fear, my cock, and balls in the hand of this brutish man. I was sure that clutching my nethers was not the best way to test if I would be a good apple picker.  

The farmer let go, stepped back, and looked me over again like he was sizing up a prize pig.  I wanted to keel over, hold my sensitive parts and howl, but, with my eyes watering, I kept my back ramrod straight and looked past the farmer, using his son’s regretful, pretty green eyes as my focus.  

I appeared to be a boy, but I am nineteen and about to make my majority.  I have a tall, willowy frame, and little muscle to show for my near twenty summers.  Weeks before, I was clothed in the silken garb of a lordling, but all I wore now were my stinky silk britches and a once-white linen shirt.  I’d even had to sell my fine leather boots. My flaxen hair hung loosely to my shoulders and was bedraggled. My mother had always told me my hair shone like a golden halo.  I guessed that was no longer the case. I had not seen my reflection in two weeks so I could only imagine how frightful I appeared to onlookers. My circumstance was terrible, but I refused to let it defeat me.  I was a son of Thorn, I was a gentleman, damn it, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to do to find my way to my destination and seek justice for all the ill-luck that had befallen me.  

“Right, scrote, up on the wagon,” the farmer declared.  “We can always do wit a few extra scurrier’s fer the windfalls.”

I had no idea what that actually meant, but strangely relieved to be selected, I nodded subserviently and then, ducking my head to avoid the farmers’ glare, I scurried to the wagon where I surreptitiously gave my aching intimate parts a gentle rub.  

I’d heard from a fellow in the tavern that harvesting wheat at Robinswood Farm was backbreaking, as was digging root vegetables at Windy Oakes Farm.  He advised that apple picking was easy work and if I could get employment at Weatherby’s or Blackdown Farm, they paid good coin.  He said the mistress at Blackdown was particularly well-liked and always gave laborers a bread and cheese luncheon with last season’s cider.  I was so hungry that bread and cheese sounded like a banquet. The fellow had neglected to tell me that the farmer was a brute!

The farmers’ son met me by the wagon and offered to help me aboard.  For a moment, from the look of consideration in his eyes, I thought he could see past the disheveled state of me to the gentleman I’d once been.  But that was ridiculous. The farmers’ son hopped up onto the back of the wagon with dexterous athleticism, and then offered me his hands. I took them without a thought.  His warm touch and the strength in those work-roughened fingers twisted my gut into uncomfortable knots. He fixed my gaze as he gripped both of my hands and tugged me up as easily as if he were lifting feather down.  He pulled me closed and pressed me to his hard chest.

“Don’t back chat him or it’ll be the worst fer you,” he whispered the warning to my ear.  Alarmed, I eased back from him and cautiously met his eye for a split second. In the look he gave me I saw that the warning was well-meant.  Bewildered, I nodded in thanks and understanding. I had no idea why this stranger was looking out for me, but the fact he was warmed my heart.  I choked back a tear. No one had looked out for me over these past weeks, and I had been so terribly lonely. I’d learned some hard life lessons on this leg of my journey, and I’d come to understand that here my title was irrelevant, and without money I was suddenly invisible; therefore small kindnesses meant more than I could say.

My adventure into the provinces had been made to appease my father for my supposed ‘lack of direction.’  I’d become bored with my easy life in Thorn, and not intending to marry; I’d told my father that in-light of my upcoming twentieth Bloomsday I wanted to tour the Empire.  If I were to one-day become Duke of Thorn, I needed to know a little of the politics of each province and so, pleased with my initiative and happy to be rid of me for a while, he’d set me on my way.  I’d toured the provinces of Terria, Corvay, and Reuss and then continued to the province of Osia, spending time in the capital city Altea, at the court of the Twin Kings, Kristoff, and Fabian Von Harte.  With this journey to Erias, I was to have the full set of provinces under my belt.  But fate was not on my side.

On benches affixed to either side of the farmers’ wagon sat fourteen men morosely staring at their bare, filthy feet, not a word of chatter between them.  They each owned a small pack of belongings and a wrapped blanket that each had stowed beneath the bench. At this moment they were better-off than me, for I did not even have a blanket to my name.  There was space for me and five more, totaling twenty men. The farmer chose from the remaining laborers with less consideration than I had been afforded.

“Right…  I’ll take Allin, Jed, Arthur, Bartram, and Matty, that’ll do me fer the week,” he hollered decisively.

The week?  I thought I’d promised myself for a hard day’s labor?  But then again, I considered the harvesters who were sitting in the wagon, and yes, they appeared to have prepared for an overnight stay.  Confused, I sat down as the other laborers were pulled up onto the wagon by their comrades, and then we shuffled along the benches until we were all seated.  I noticed the shoulders of the remaining men in the market square sag a little in apparent relief as if some mighty weight had lifted from them. I didn’t understand it.  I thought they’d wanted to work?

The farmers’ son clambered over into the front of the wagon.  His father climbed on, the man’s bulk shaking the timbers of the rickety wagon as he settled on the bench beside him.  The son handed his father the ribbons, which the farmer greedily snatched up, and then with a fearsome bellow of “Geddup” and a thunderous whip crack, the large mottled grey workhorse began its cumbersome trot down the main street and onto the dusty road to Blackdown Farm.

 

About the Author

Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland.  She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.

Isobel is currently working on her nineteenth book.  

“As You Wish” (Shatterproof Bond#1) narrated by Gary Furlong won the Audiobook Reviewer Award for Romance 2018.  It is the first M/M Romance audiobook to win a mainstream audiobook award.

 

Author Links

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Love Fantasy Fiction? Check out the Release Blitz for Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1) by Isobel Starling (excerpt)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title:  Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1)

Author: Isobel Starling

Publisher: Decent Fellows Press

Cover Artist: Valentine Pascadian (Lennel)

Genre/s:  Fantasy, M/M Romance

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length:103 600 words/ 556 pages

Release Date:  February 15, 2019

Add on Goodreads

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Blurb

After a traumatic event, Winter Aeling finds himself destitute and penniless in the backwater town of Mallowick.  He needs to travel to the city of Serein and impart grave news that will bring war to the Empire, but without a horse, money, and with not a soul willing to help him, he has no choice but to line up with the common folk seeking paid work on the harvest.  

As wagons roll into the market square and farmers choose day laborers, Winter is singled out for abuse by a brute of a farmer.  The only man who stands up for him is the farmer’s beguiling son, Adam, and on locking eyes with the swarthy young man Winter feels the immediate spark of attraction.

Winter soon realizes there is a reason he has been drawn to Blackdown Farm.  The farmer possesses a precious item that was stolen long ago from Winter’s family, and he determines to retrieve it.  He also cannot take his eyes off the farmer’s son, and as the young man opens up Winter can’t help wondering if Adam is just kind or his kind!

Excerpt

“Apple Boy” by Isobel Starling

CHAPTER 1

MARKET SQUARE

“You boy, aye, YOU.  Ain’t never seen ye round ‘ere before,” The farmer directed his bellow at me.  

It was sunrise, and at last, I’d found the courage to step out of my hiding place and join the common laborers who gathered in Mallowick market square.  We were waiting for the farmers’ carts to come by and choose their day workers.  I’d watched this ritual each morning for the past three days, peeking out from shadowed doorways, or while crouching behind barrels.  

It was harvest time, and it appeared to be routine for peasants to walk from the surrounding hamlets before dawn and assemble in the square to seek work on the farms.  There was wheat, barley, root vegetables, and tree fruits to be gathered before the weather turned. I was informed by a ruddy looking fellow in the tavern that anyone could get work on the harvest, and so, with my pride cut to ribbons and my pockets empty, I’d stepped out of the safety of my hiding place and joined the commoners.

“Does ye wants work or no’?  Look at me when I’m talkin’ to ye.  What’s yer name?” The burley farmer roared.  I looked up, stunned to be singled out from among all of these strapping men and hardy looking women, for I felt invisible.  Four carts had already passed and taken their pick of the young, strong peasants, but none of those farmers gave me a second glance.  I should have known something was afoot, for when this particular wagon turned up the women in the square shrank back into doorways, and men sidled away to lean against buildings.  On the side of the wagon, writ-large in bold off-white letters were the words BLACKDOWN FARM. There were around thirty of us left on view, like cattle.

I had never partaken in manual labor or any kind of work before.  I was a gentleman and far more familiar with spending my days relaxing, reading, attending social events in the city, or taking a horse for a gallop in the country.  But my life had changed since I’d become stranded here in the Pasturelands provincial town of Mallowick two weeks earlier.  Now I was living on my wits.  Each day was a fight for my life, and I’d sold all of my fine belongings, intending to pay for passage on the stagecoach from Mallowick to the city of Serein.  But I had not thought things through, and it did not happen that way.  My body’s needs took precedent. I’d become so ravenous, and therefore the meager coin I’d gathered from selling my finery was spent on what I could afford—basic rough barley bread and ale, just enough to stave off the gnawing pangs of hunger in my belly each day.  Now, I had no belongings, and the money was all but gone. I was no thief, and the only thing I had left to sell was my body. Looking like a wretch, I did not believe I could earn even a copper that way! Before I left on my travels, I was warned that the province of Erias had strict rules about men bedding other men and I did not want to tempt fate.  I was at a loss—hard labor or starvation were the only choices available to me. Gods, if my father could see how far I’d fallen in such a short time, he would be thoroughly ashamed.  I was living hand-to-mouth, and if I dared to seek out my reflection and observe my disreputable state of dress, I was sure I would see I was no longer a gentleman at all.

I assured myself that all would be well as soon as I could get to the city of Serein.  There I would attend my father’s depository and obtain funds from his account—as had been arranged, and then, I could find my way to my uncle’s residence and attend to a much grimmer business.  

So, with no other choice, I was here, standing in Mallowick market square with a bunch of rough-looking fellows and ruddy-faced women with just the ragged clothes I stood in to my name.  I wondered if my visage had taken on the same gaunt, starved, haunted look some of them wore.

“WELL?”  The farmer roared.

“Leave him be Pa; I think he’s a mute.  P… p… please don’t—” A swarthy young man urged, stepping to the farmers’ side.  The man appeared to be in his early twenties, with broad angular shoulders, slim hips, and wavy jaw-length hair that longingly reminded me of Montestein tea.  When the morning sunlight broke through the clouds and caressed him, the strands of his hair revealed all the shades of autumn.  It was beautiful.  His eyes were bright emerald green, and his skin bore the wind-burned tan of a man who spent his days working the land.  I met his gaze for a second that seemed to stop time, and I felt a flutter of longing erupt in my gut. I found myself mesmerized by him.  He appeared a little embarrassed, for himself or for me, I wasn’t quite sure. The farmer turned to his son.

“Shut that filthy mouth o’ yours, apple boy!” he spat.  His large meaty hands twitched.  He sneered and glared at his son in such a wicked way I knew it should have been followed up by a sharp slap.  I worried that the young man would endure further public humiliation at the hands of his father, but the farmer moved his disdainful glare back to me.  I shuddered with fear. I had a feeling that he was saving his son’s punishment for later—away from the prying eyes of the townsfolk. I did not like that thought, not one bit.  I did not know why the farmer was drawn to me, but he sized me up with a sweeping glance of consideration, then wrinkled his nose as if he’d sniffed a revolting stench—I hadn’t bathed in two weeks, so maybe I did smell a tad ripe!

“Is ye a mute?”

I shook my head.  I would say, if anything, I was deeply traumatized by the unfortunate circumstance I’d found myself in, but no, I was certainly not a mute.  I just wasn’t used to a lowly man speaking to me so roughly. Generally, men who dared to address me knew their betters and behaved appropriately.  But here in Mallowick, in the province of Erias, I was no better than a beggar on the street.  There was no one I could call on for favors, no one who, on hearing my family name, would loan me coin for the stagecoach or a horse to ride to the city and send word to my father.  

When I’d first arrived in Mallowick, telling the truth of my station had gotten me dragged down an alley where my finger and earrings were stolen, and I’d received a beating.  This farmer from Blackdown Farm had no idea who I was, and I would not make the same mistake again.

I took a breath and stepped out of line.  “Master Irwin Harding, sir. You may call me Win.”  I winced at hearing my own soft, well-spoken voice, with my accent, the clipped tongue of Thorn.  I had not used my real name and wished I had not used my true voice either.  The fact that I was the son of the Duke of Thorn meant nothing here.  Thorn was west of Erias, on the other side of the Silua Montis Mountain range, and I doubted any of these illiterate souls in Mallowick knew anything other than that folklore passed around by storytellers.

The farmer stepped to stand in front of me.  He was a big, bulky bastard of a man and stank of stale sweat and baccy.  He had a grizzled podgy face and thick dark hair shot with strands of silver pulled into an untidy tail.  The tension grew between us, and I worried I’d spoken out of turn. I looked down and watched my bare, filthy feet as if they held endless fascination.  I’d seen men like him before. He had hands like shovels, and I’m sure they’d done damage in their time. My father would have used a man like him well, probably as muscle to intimidate the city folk while the Royal Chancellor did the rounds collecting taxes.  

Afraid and sweating with anxiety, I glanced up and away, unable to look at the farmer directly and meet his fierce piggy eyes.  Instead, I looked left and caught the eye of his son. I felt another flutter of attraction. I was grateful for it because it dampened my fear a little.  The glance the farmers’ son sent me back was sheepish, apologetic. He shrugged and put a finger to his lips, signaling for me to hush. I’m sure now he knew what was coming.

Master, is it?”  The farmer gave a raspy malevolent chuckle.  “Well, well, well aren’t ye an uppity little scrote.  Such a pretty voice an’ all. Have your balls dropped yet, lad?”  

The townsmen men standing around me shuffled on their feet and snickered uncomfortably.  I could tell from the tentative laughter they were afraid of this man too. My chest tightened with fury, and I felt the flare of heat rush to color my cheeks.  If in Thorn I would have put this fellow in his place, but as directed by the farmers’ handsome son, I held my tongue.  

I dared to look up as the farmer scratched his grizzled chin and consider me.  It was then I saw it. A chill iced my bones. On his chubby right index finger, he wore a gold ring set with a large red gemstone that I was aghast to see held the intaglio engraving of a rose thorn—my family’s seal.  How had this disgusting Pasturelands farmer come upon my family’s ring?  Anger curdled my gut, but I forced myself to focus and fixed my features so as not to alert the man to what I was looking at.  That ring was more precious than I could say. It was not set with any common gemstone, oh no, the setting was Star-fall.  The legend was that mortal tools could not cut the rich-red Star-fall stone.  The gemstone was shaped by sorcery, and the power that carved into the gem was stored inside it as if the Star-fall was a reservoir for the magic.  It was illegal for any other than the Twin Kings of Osia to own Star-fall.  The king’s men had scoured the Empire to remove all traces of the priceless gem from common and aristocratic hands and possessing it was a death sentence.  Did this ruffian have any idea what he wore?

Not getting a rise from me, the farmer stepped yet closer and found out for himself if my balls had dropped.  He reached for my privates and squeezed.

Ahh, ye got some big stones de’re al’right, boy,” he said with a filthy sneer.

“Done any labourin’ before, lad?”  My eyes watered.  I shook my head and winced as the pressure on my most sensitive parts rose.  I wanted to shout and push him away, punch him in that bristly pug face. I’d trained in hand-to-hand combat and swordplay, but that was of little use to me now that I had no sword and was cast as naught but a commoner myself.  I stood frozen to the spot with fear, my cock, and balls in the hand of this brutish man. I was sure that clutching my nethers was not the best way to test if I would be a good apple picker.  

The farmer let go, stepped back, and looked me over again like he was sizing up a prize pig.  I wanted to keel over, hold my sensitive parts and howl, but, with my eyes watering, I kept my back ramrod straight and looked past the farmer, using his son’s regretful, pretty green eyes as my focus.  

I appeared to be a boy, but I am nineteen and about to make my majority.  I have a tall, willowy frame, and little muscle to show for my near twenty summers.  Weeks before, I was clothed in the silken garb of a lordling, but all I wore now were my stinky silk britches and a once-white linen shirt.  I’d even had to sell my fine leather boots. My flaxen hair hung loosely to my shoulders and was bedraggled. My mother had always told me my hair shone like a golden halo.  I guessed that was no longer the case. I had not seen my reflection in two weeks so I could only imagine how frightful I appeared to onlookers. My circumstance was terrible, but I refused to let it defeat me.  I was a son of Thorn, I was a gentleman, damn it, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to do to find my way to my destination and seek justice for all the ill-luck that had befallen me.  

“Right, scrote, up on the wagon,” the farmer declared.  “We can always do wit a few extra scurrier’s fer the windfalls.”

I had no idea what that actually meant, but strangely relieved to be selected, I nodded subserviently and then, ducking my head to avoid the farmers’ glare, I scurried to the wagon where I surreptitiously gave my aching intimate parts a gentle rub.  

I’d heard from a fellow in the tavern that harvesting wheat at Robinswood Farm was backbreaking, as was digging root vegetables at Windy Oakes Farm.  He advised that apple picking was easy work and if I could get employment at Weatherby’s or Blackdown Farm, they paid good coin.  He said the mistress at Blackdown was particularly well-liked and always gave laborers a bread and cheese luncheon with last season’s cider.  I was so hungry that bread and cheese sounded like a banquet. The fellow had neglected to tell me that the farmer was a brute!

The farmers’ son met me by the wagon and offered to help me aboard.  For a moment, from the look of consideration in his eyes, I thought he could see past the disheveled state of me to the gentleman I’d once been.  But that was ridiculous. The farmers’ son hopped up onto the back of the wagon with dexterous athleticism, and then offered me his hands. I took them without a thought.  His warm touch and the strength in those work-roughened fingers twisted my gut into uncomfortable knots. He fixed my gaze as he gripped both of my hands and tugged me up as easily as if he were lifting feather down.  He pulled me closed and pressed me to his hard chest.

“Don’t back chat him or it’ll be the worst fer you,” he whispered the warning to my ear.  Alarmed, I eased back from him and cautiously met his eye for a split second. In the look he gave me I saw that the warning was well-meant.  Bewildered, I nodded in thanks and understanding. I had no idea why this stranger was looking out for me, but the fact he was warmed my heart.  I choked back a tear. No one had looked out for me over these past weeks, and I had been so terribly lonely. I’d learned some hard life lessons on this leg of my journey, and I’d come to understand that here my title was irrelevant, and without money I was suddenly invisible; therefore small kindnesses meant more than I could say.

My adventure into the provinces had been made to appease my father for my supposed ‘lack of direction.’  I’d become bored with my easy life in Thorn, and not intending to marry; I’d told my father that in-light of my upcoming twentieth Bloomsday I wanted to tour the Empire.  If I were to one-day become Duke of Thorn, I needed to know a little of the politics of each province and so, pleased with my initiative and happy to be rid of me for a while, he’d set me on my way.  I’d toured the provinces of Terria, Corvay, and Reuss and then continued to the province of Osia, spending time in the capital city Altea, at the court of the Twin Kings, Kristoff, and Fabian Von Harte.  With this journey to Erias, I was to have the full set of provinces under my belt.  But fate was not on my side.

On benches affixed to either side of the farmers’ wagon sat fourteen men morosely staring at their bare, filthy feet, not a word of chatter between them.  They each owned a small pack of belongings and a wrapped blanket that each had stowed beneath the bench. At this moment they were better-off than me, for I did not even have a blanket to my name.  There was space for me and five more, totaling twenty men. The farmer chose from the remaining laborers with less consideration than I had been afforded.

“Right…  I’ll take Allin, Jed, Arthur, Bartram, and Matty, that’ll do me fer the week,” he hollered decisively.

The week?  I thought I’d promised myself for a hard day’s labor?  But then again, I considered the harvesters who were sitting in the wagon, and yes, they appeared to have prepared for an overnight stay.  Confused, I sat down as the other laborers were pulled up onto the wagon by their comrades, and then we shuffled along the benches until we were all seated.  I noticed the shoulders of the remaining men in the market square sag a little in apparent relief as if some mighty weight had lifted from them. I didn’t understand it.  I thought they’d wanted to work?

The farmers’ son clambered over into the front of the wagon.  His father climbed on, the man’s bulk shaking the timbers of the rickety wagon as he settled on the bench beside him.  The son handed his father the ribbons, which the farmer greedily snatched up, and then with a fearsome bellow of “Geddup” and a thunderous whip crack, the large mottled grey workhorse began its cumbersome trot down the main street and onto the dusty road to Blackdown Farm.

About the Author

Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland.  She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.

Isobel is currently working on her nineteenth book.  

“As You Wish” (Shatterproof Bond#1) narrated by Gary Furlong won the Audiobook Reviewer Award for Romance 2018.  It is the first M/M Romance audiobook to win a mainstream audiobook award.

Author Links

Blog/Website

Newsletter Sign up

Amazon Author Page

Decent Fellows Press

RELEASE BLITZ SCHEDULE

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Book Blast – The M/M Romance Christmas Box Set by Isobel Starling

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BOOK BLAST

Award-winning author Isobel Starling presents

The M/M Romance Christmas Box Set containing four funny, kinky seasonal romances

Book Title: The M/M Romance Christmas Box Set

Author: Isobel Starling

Publisher: Decent Fellows Press

Cover Artist: Isobel Starling

Genre/s: M/M Romance, comedy, puppy play

Heat Rating:  4 flames 

Length: 46,193 words/262 pages

This is two novellas and two short stories, all with a Christmas theme.

Add on Goodreads  

 

With the holidays approaching Isobel Starling presents

The M/M Romance Box Set 

containing four delightfully humorous and kinky seasonal romances.

This box set is available as an e-book;

you can read it free in Kindle Unlimited 

or listen to the exceptionally funny audiobook by award-winning narrator Gary Furlong.

 

The stories in the box set are:

Fred & Ginger
Chris Miller, a patisserie chef for Big Boy Cupcakes has to rush the last minute order of cock cupcakes for the party of a celebrity, but in his haste to deliver, he falls foul of an over-keen chocolate labrador named Fred, and his handsome owner…

The Christmas Bonus
The Investobank Christmas shindig at the Lorien Hotel puts Jake Walters, and the object of his lust in the same place at the same time… and it’s Christmas!

Daddy Christmas (Daddy Kink short story) NEW!
Ryan Sutherland, a side character from ‘Detective Fox and the Christmas Caper’ at last gets the happy ending he deserves.

Back Where He Belongs (M/M Puppy Play Novella)
Kier Campbell returns to Scotland from Australia to spend Christmas with his family. What he finds there is a gift that is worth more than money could buy.

 Please note: These stories are gay romance stories and contain graphic depictions of sex.

 

The total word count is approximately 46k, the audiobook is just over 4 hours long. These stories have all the Christmas feels to give you a warm glow inside.

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US


Amazon UK

 

Audiobook

 Listen to a sample here

Audible US

Audible UK

 

About the Author

Isobel Starling is an award-winning author of gay romance.  Isobel spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland.  She relocated to the UK, and faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.

The Shatterproof Bond series is an Amazon Gay Romance bestseller and has been translated into French, German and Italian.  

“As You Wish” (Shatterproof Bond #1), narrated by Gary Furlong, won the Audiobook Reviewer Award, Romance Category 2018. Isobel and Gary have produced ten audiobooks together, including whole Shatterproof Bond series.

Isobel will release the first book in her thrilling new fantasy series The Quiet Work in March 2019.

Please sign up to my newsletter here

 

Author Links

Blog/Website

Twitter: @isobel_starling

Goodreads

Amazon Author Page

 

Decent Fellows Press

 

BOOK BLAST SCHEDULE

 

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AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT and Giveaway for the Shatterproof Bond Series by Isobel Starling (excerpt and giveaway)

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AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT AND REVIEW TOUR

35515662

AS YOU WISH (Book #1)

1 wedding, 2 best men, one hell of a love story!
Declan Ramsay was to be best man at his brother’s wedding in Scotland, sharing best man duties with the bride’s gay kid brother Sam. The best men wouldn’t meet for the first time until a few days before the wedding, so communicated by email for more than a year.
But on meeting Sam Aiken, Declan is surprised to see he isn’t a kid at all, but a striking, athletic blond man with a wicked sense of humor. Declan is alarmed by the ferocious attraction he feels for Sam. And as the attraction is reciprocated, the events at Dunloch Castle change everything Declan has ever believed about himself.
But is Sam Aiken all he appears to be?

35176982

ILLUMINATE THE SHADOW (Book #2)

The thrilling, funny sequel to ‘As You Wish’.

“A Scotsman and an Englishman fall in love… After the most amazing week of his life, at Dunloch Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, in Scotland. The charming, mysterious Samuel Aiken has turned Declan Ramsay’s life upside down. Declan has experienced a remarkable change. He has come to terms with the fact he is bisexual, and he has fallen head-over-heels in love with his boss’s son Sam.

However, falling for his boss’s son was never going to be an easy path to happiness, mainly because the boss in question is multi-millionaire property tycoon and former MI5 operative, Sir James Aiken.

Sir James is repulsed by his son’s homosexuality, and so discovering that his employee Declan Ramsay- the man he installed to run his luxury property rental empire- is in a relationship with Sam, does not go down well.

The lovers cannot hide from the looming presence of Sir James Aiken for long! Soon enough James makes his move, and Declan finds out what he will have to endure to stay with Sam, and what he will have to give to feel worthy of Sam’s love.”

35293733

RETURN TO ZERO (Book #3)
The thrilling sequel to “As You Wish” and “Illuminate the Shadows”.

Pulled into a world of secrets and lies for the man he loves, Declan Ramsay’s life has changed immeasurably in the eight months since meeting, and falling for his boss’s son, Sam Aiken. Declan journey of personal discovery is about to take a darker turn, and for Sam, the world becomes more treacherous than he could ever have imagined.

Two agents are missing — presumed dead, while on a reconnaissance mission at an outdoor adventure centre in the Scottish Highlands. Sir James Aiken sends his son and Declan to follow the trail, and discover the fate of the agents.

As the mission offers his first chance to use the skills he learned on the MI6 training course in Morocco, Declan is keen to get started. However, Sir James sees to it that the seeds of doubt and discord have been sewn between the couple, as they begin their mission.

The journey to their Highland location, and the discoveries they make when they reach the G’wan Adventures centre, prove that Sir James Aiken has been less than honest with his son. Events in the Highlands force Sam and Declan to face their greatest fears, and understand what they both really want from life — and from each other.

Excerpt from “Return to Zero” (Shatterproof Bond #3) 

“SAM!  Are ye home?”  Declan hollered as he opened the front door.  “Sam?”

“In here.”  Sam’s distant voice filtered from the spare bedroom.  Declan was in a buoyant mood, at last, after weeks of waiting, he’d received a call from his boss.  He sauntered confidently towards the bedroom and knocked once before walking in.

“Why d’ye no’ pick up?  I’ve called ye, like, six times already!  James wants us in fera meet —” Declan stopped, and in the way,only Sam Aiken could do, the breath was stolenfrom his lungs.

Declan’s yoga mat was laid out in the centerof the large bedroom floor, and upon it, a shamelessly nude Sam Aiken was facing the tall antique mirror that rested against the wall. He was on his belly, his back bowed, and his palmspushing against the floor as his shoulders rose in the midst of the cobra pose.

Declan slumped to sit silently on the king-size bed and watch. He stared, bug-eyed and slack-jawedat all of that flawless pale skin, wrapped around an athletic, slim frame.  Declan adored how pliant and supple Sam was.  He reveledin the sight of corded muscles moving beneath the taut surface of the younger man’s skin, like the workings of a well-honedmachine.

Ignoring his voyeur, Sam pushed himself up from the cobra pose, so he sat back on his calves.  He closed his eyes and focused on his breath, and then, when he was ready, placed his palms flat on the mat, level with his knees.  Then, putting all of his weight on his hands, Sam drew his legs out to either side of his body, doing the splits, balancing solely on his hands.

Declan’s bearded jaw dropped open, and his heart skipped a beat at the impressive sight.  The mirror allowed Declan to observe Sam from many angles, and the view was exquisite. He knew there was a reason he was home early, but, whatever the hell it was, it could wait.

Sam aligned his legs and boughtthem up above his head, so he was in a handstand position, and there he stayed for a minute, his breath shallow and barely audible.  There was not one tremble in any of Sam’s muscles. It was awe inspiring.  Sam was the very picture of oneness—strength, control, balance, and agility.  The lines of Sam’s form were sinuous and erotic, and there was no stopping the hot, hot hunger that made Declan’s whole being shudder with need.

Sam’s spine arched back and with incredible discipline, his body bowed slowly, until the soles of his feet were placed firmly on the yoga mat, and Sam was in the crab position.  He was trying so desperately to focus on his ownbreath and to remain centered, but Declan was breathing heavily through his nose, like a stag readying for the rut, and even though Sam could not actuallysee him, Declan’s presence always came with the prickle of otherworldly electricity.  It reallywas like they were magnetized.

The sound of heavy breathing was doing things to Sam’s body that he just could not control.  His heart beat faster, beads of sweat littered his brow and formed on his chest, and his pale cock reddened, filled and rose majestically, providing an extra spectacle for his handsome observer.  Sam arched his spine to its capacityand inched to his toes and fingertips.  He stayed like that, his muscles clenched tight and his cockstanding straight as a flagpole awaiting its flag.  After a minute, he slowly unclenched his muscles and allowed his body to ease its way gently back to the mat.  Each movement still effortlessly controlled.

This naked yoga routine was on the list of the most erotic things that Declan had ever seen in his life.  And now that Sam was on his back, his eyes closed, with arms stretched above his head.  Declan decided that this was his opportunity to pounce.

© Isobel Starling 2016

31432691

COUNTERBLOW (Book #4)

After the devastating events in the Scottish Highlands, Sam and Declan have moved on to a new, deeper level in their romance. Their commitment to each other is unquestionable; however, there are plenty of questions that need answering about other aspects of their lives, and those who sought to end them.

Sam is trying his best to deal with the day to day frustrations of his injuries. He’s completely dependent on Declan for everything and hates the way the scales have tipped in their relationship. Although he’s officially on leave, Sam’s mind cannot stop replaying all that happened to him and questioning why, and who is behind it all.

Declan’s relief at having Sam home throws him into house-husband mode. He’s happy to take the reins and care for his partner, however, beneath the surface Declan cannot help but be drawn back to how he felt in the Highlands, and how they were betrayed by a man who was supposed to have their back. Declan had promised Sir James Aiken that he would pay if he hurt Sam, and now Declan has to decide how he can deliver his payback and put his and Sam’s world back on an even keel.

Catch up with the Shatterproof Bond series in Kindle Unlimited before

book #5 “Powder Burns” is released in the spring. 

Series Buy Links

Available on Kindle Unlimited, in Paperback, and on Audible.

Amazon US

 Amazon UK

Audible.com

Audible UK

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT AND REVIEW TOUR SCHEDULE

About the Author

Isobel’s novel “As You Wish” (Shatterproof Bond #1) is an Amazon Best Seller on Amazon.com and Amazon France. Nine novels into her writing career Isobel has just released The Shatterproof Bond box set which contains all three novels in the series, and the first book in the M/M Romantic Comedy mystery series “Dick and the Sidekick” -“Detective Fox and the Christmas Caper”.

“As You Wish” has been translated into French under the title “Comme Vous Voudrez”
The rest of the Shatterproof Bond novels will soon be available in French and German.

Find Isobel Starling here:

Facebook 

Twitter 

Website

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads 

~

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99 cents BOOK BLAST for As You Wish by Isobel Starling

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99c BOOK BLAST

Buy Links

Amazon US 

Amazon UK

AS YOU WISH (Book #1)

1 wedding, 2 best men, one hell of a love story!

Declan Ramsay was to be best man at his brother’s wedding in Scotland, sharing best man duties with the bride’s gay kid brother Sam. The best men wouldn’t meet for the first time until a few days before the wedding, so communicated by email for more than a year.

But on meeting Sam Aiken, Declan is surprised to see he isn’t a kid at all, but a striking, athletic blond man with a wicked sense of humor. Declan is alarmed by the ferocious attraction he feels for Sam. And as the attraction is reciprocated, the events at Dunloch Castle change everything Declan has ever believed about himself.
But is Sam Aiken all he appears to be?

About the Author

Isobel’s novel “As You Wish” (Shatterproof Bond #1) is an Amazon Best Seller on Amazon.com and Amazon France. Nine novels into her writing career Isobel has just released The Shatterproof Bond box set which contains all three novels in the series, and the first book in the M/M Romantic Comedy mystery series “Dick and the Sidekick” -“Detective Fox and the Christmas Caper”

“As You Wish” has been translated into French under the title “Comme Vous Voudrez”
The rest of the Shatterproof Bond novels will soon be available in French and German.

Find Isobel Starling here:

Facebook 

Twitter 

Website

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads 

~

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

BOOK BLAST for Sweet Thing by Isobel Starling (NSFW Excerpt)

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BOOK BLAST: OCTOBER 2 – 4

Book Title:  Sweet Thing

Author: Isobel Starling

Publisher:  Self Published

Book Release Date: September 8

Cover Artist: Isobel Starling

Length: Words: 83k words/No. of Pages: 237 pages

Genre:  Contemporary M/M Romance

Blurb

French male model Simeon Duchamp has a lot of explaining to do.
Two years after a breakdown Simeon is off drugs and booze and wants to stay that way.
On his road to reclaiming his life and modeling career, Sim first needs to apologize to the man he hurt the most -his ex-best friend and object of his unrequited affection Pieter Bayer. Pieter now has a long-term partner, artist Emily Raven, with whom he shares a baby son. Sim is amazed when Pieter accepts his apology, and invites him into his family.

Closeness to Pieter sees Simeon’s longing for his friend is rekindled. But then, when Simeon meets an attractive older man, Bastian Roth at an Art Exhibition, he realizes that there is a soul more broken than his, and Simeon feels compelled to help. Simeon’s connection with the troubled Bastian Roth turns his world upside down. He has to decide whether to allow himself to fall for the man who wants him or pine for the man he can never have.

***THIS BOOK CAN BE READ AS A STANDALONE***

Please note: This story contains graphic descriptions of gay sex.

Buy Links 

Available on KU

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Goodreads Link

 Excerpt (NSFW)

After three months as a patient at the Phoenix Clinic, the mask Simeon had worn of hedonistic, outrageous model dissolved with the drugs and alcohol that were purged from his system.  His camp, party boy façade hid a quieter, more introspective, sensitive young man—a man who felt everything too keenly, loved too deeply and could not cope with the pain of loss and rejection.

Sober for the first time since his late teens, Simeon was as fragile as a fledgling, bewildered by the colors, scents, and sounds of the big wide world.  He was unsure who the man that returned his stare in the bathroom mirror was.  Who was Simeon Duchamp without his mask, without the crutches of alcohol and drugs to give him the confidence to get through each day?

A gentle knock on the bedroom door startled Simeon from his introspection.  He looked away from the window toward the door to see his favorite young male nurse, Karl poke his head in.

“Your last session with Dr. Schroeder is in twenty minutes”, he informed. “One for the road?”  Karl’s brows waggled provocatively.  Simeon’s lips slid to a salacious smile.

“Lock the door.” he directed, swiftly moving to the bed.  Karl stepped into the room and as instructed he locked the door.  Simeon began by removing his t-shirt and then unbuttoning and sliding out of his jeans.  Karl kicked his soft soled white Croc clogs off, and the thin nurse’s uniform of white trousers and tunic shirt were discarded in seconds.  Simeon stood, his eyes appraising the slender, boyish form of the twenty-eight-year-old nurse.  Karl had offered a pleasing aside from the trauma of therapy.  He was Simeon’s type—blonde, blue-eyed, eager to please, and deliciously well-hung.  Karl approached and pulled Simeon into a deep, messy kiss.

At six foot, Simeon was taller than Karl’s five-foot-six, but what Karl lacked in height, he certainly made up for with his cock.  Simeon longed to devour all ten inches one last time before he left the clinic.  He ran his fingers through short-cropped blonde hair, his hard-on brushing urgently against Karl’s.  He then dragged the naked nurse to lie prone on the hospital bed.  Karl chuckled throatily.  Simeon clambered onto the bed, and long, willowy legs straddled his conquest so they were in the sixty-nine position, the head of his own erection directed at Karl’s willing mouth.

Sim took the man’s thickened, stout, uncut cock in hand and stroked, retracting the sheath of gossamer foreskin over the engorged head, and marveling at why Mother Nature had seen fit to bestow such a monster cock on such a slight man.  He smiled to himself and then directed the plump glans between his parted wet lips.  As much as Simeon would have loved to make a meal out of it, there was no time to play.  Simeon hummed with satisfaction, taking Karl down into his throat, the cock filling him to near gagging point.  Sim drew off, relaxed his muscles, and went back for more, working the cock between his lips like a porn star.  His self-esteem may have hit rock bottom, but with a dick in his mouth, there was at least one thing Simeon was sure he was still good at!

Karl offered preparatory licks and kisses to Simeon’s shaft before opening his warm, pliant mouth and swallowing him down.  The two young men writhed and rocked on the hospital bed, hands caressing desperately.

Simeon was enjoying the suction Karl’s mouth offered; his eyes rolled back in his head with the pleasure of being sucked and sucking in syncopation.  Simeon paused and used some of the saliva dribbling from his mouth to moisten his fingers.  Slowly, Sim eased a wet finger into Karl’s asshole and hooked up seeking his prostate.  The young man beneath him bucked and moaned, thrusting up into Simeon’s mouth, while nearly gagging on Sim’s cock.

When he had regained his faculties, Karl mirrored Sim’s action, giving Simeon the same intimate attention with his probing fingers.

They both pressed into each other’s holes, and their hips matched an undulating rhythm.  Fingers massaged deep inside, drawing mutual fevered moans of pleasure.  Simeon almost forgot he was still officially a patient in a Rehab Clinic until minutes later, when he and Karl spilled in warm bitter pulses down each other’s throats.

After a moment to catch their breaths, and final sensual kisses of thanks, both men dressed hurriedly.

“I cannot not be absent for too long.  I told the head nurse I was going for a bathroom break.” Karl admitted.  He made to leave the room, pausing only to blow a kiss to the effette young man with long dark hair sitting on the disheveled bed, licking the last of Karl’s spill from his lips.

Ten minutes later Karl returned.  “Dr. Schroeder is ready for you now Mr. Duchamp, and your car has arrived.”  He announced formally.

“Thank you, Karl; I’ll be out in a minute,” Simeon replied his soft camp French timbre sounding a little breathless as he rushed around packing the last of his belongings.  Karl nodded.

“And thank you for all of your… assistance during my stay Karl”, Sim added with a mischievous flash of his eyes and a grin.

“I wish you all the best with your continued recovery, Mr. Duchamp.”  Karl quirked a knowing smile and blew a kiss before closing the door.

©Isobel Starling 2017

 

About the Author

Born in Germany, Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland.  She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.

Isobel is currently working on her fifteenth book.  The Shatterproof Bond series is an Amazon Gay Romance bestseller and is being translated into French with Juno Publications, German with Deadsoft Verlag, and Italian with Quixote Edizioni.  The series is also available as audiobooks, narrated by Gary Furlong.

“Sweet Thing” will be translated into French by Rienes-Beaux Publishing, and Italian by Quixote Edizioni.

 

 

Social Media Links

Blog/Website 

Facebook

Twitter  

Goodreads  

Amazon Author Page

 

BOOK BLAST SCHEDULE

October 2

The Way She ReadsTangents and Tissues

Millsy Loves BooksThe Blogger Girls

MJ’s Book Blog and ReviewsWe Three Queens,  Lily G Blunt

October 3

Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents,  

MM Book Escape

Love Unchained Book Reviews, 

Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author,  

Beautiful Book Corner, 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words  

October 4

Zipper Rippers, A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

Megan’s Media Melange

Dirty Books Obsession,  Books Laid Bare Boys

October 23

Drops of Ink  

 

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An Alessandro Audiobook Review: As You Wish (Shatterproof Bond #1) by Isobel Starling and narrated by Gary Furlong

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Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

Narration Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

 

One wedding, two best men, one hell of a love story!

Declan Ramsay’s brother Oliver was marrying Annabelle Aiken at a fairytale castle on the banks of Loch Ness in Scotland. The bride and groom decided that Annabelle’s gay younger brother would share the best man duties with Declan. Declan had never met the kid who was to be his joint best man. Sam Aiken was abroad, working as an interpreter and finishing his studies. He wouldn’t meet Declan until a few days before the wedding, so the best men communicated and planned their speech by email for more than a year.

But on meeting Sam Aiken, Declan is surprised to realize the kid isn’t a kid at all, but a tall, blond, and athletic young man. Declan is sure he’s straight, so he’s alarmed by the ferocious attraction he feels for Sam. And as the attraction is reciprocated, the events at Dunloch Castle change everything Declan has ever believed about himself.

But, is Samuel Aiken all that he appears to be?

 

The story is about Samuel Aiken and Declan Ramsay, they have been in contact for almost a year now planning the wedding of Sams sister. They got along really nicely, up until the point where they meet in person. Declan doesn’t really like Samuel, or does he? During the course of the wedding, they get to know each other better. And there is an undeniable attraction between those two, but there are still some parts missing and things don’t really add up.

 

Oh well, my first thoughts after reading this book is that I’ve got mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed it for the most part, but it wasn’t something new or exciting… The whole theme with the wedding is quite a popular plot for M/M books, so its quite difficult to make it interesting and fresh. Usually when reading a book/listening to a book I finish it quite quickly, but this time it was not the case. It took me like 2 weeks to finish this book. I got through the first 3 hours rather quickly, but I couldn’t see anything happening.. so I just didn’t finish it quickly. Not necessarily because this book was bad or anything. It just didn’t catch me.. if you know what I mean.

 

The story of this book was okay, I guess. As I said above, the plot wasn’t something new, so I knew what to expect when I started this book.

I really liked the setting of the book, I love to read about some Scotsman.(Hehe) But I feel like this story had something missing.. I think there was quite a big elephant in the room, but it wasn’t really discussed until the end. There were some things that didn’t really add up and I think the author could’ve used the potential of this book better. I think there was something going on behind the scenes, that we didn’t get to know, maybe we will get to know it in the next one.

What I enjoyed about this book were the characters. The development of the relationship between the two main characters, went quite fast, but the MCs alone were lovely. I really liked the grumpy feeling I got from Declan.(he is this manly, grumpy guy who is generally not really satisfied with his life.) He shows that with his behaviour towards people. I think this could’ve been explored more thoroughly. On the other hand, I didn’t enjoy Sam that much… I think there was a huge portion of his character missing and I always got the feeling that he is holding something back. I don’t think that the side-characters are worth mentioning, they were nice, but not memorable.

I think there were a lot of plotholes in this story and questions unanswered.

 

Oh well, the writing.. this was something I felt was kind of lacking? Or confusing rather. This book is written in the third person point of view. We follow the characters as a spectator. The thing was that sometimes it was hard to tell which characters I was following. Maybe it would’ve been different if I had read this instead of listening to it, but sometimes I was just like “What’s going on?”. Also I find that the writing had a weird pace to it. Like the first half of the book was quite good in pace, but the end was so rushed. Not just the end, but like 40% of the book was just.. sex and little plot. Some things could’ve been explored more. I wished this book had a little bit more detail to it.

 

Oh my lord, the narration? It was soooo good, I really really loved it. Every character had his own voice. The narration speed was okay. I loved that Gary Furlong even added accents to the Scotsman. It just sounded very sexy. Even though I sometimes really needed to concentrate on what he was saying, because he even made the accent thicker, when it was described that way. Loved it!

I recommend this story to all people who are looking for a light, sweet read with not too much depth in the story and don’t expect a masterpiece.

 

The cover art is by the author herself – Isobel Starling. I think the cover is quite fitting, because it pictures something that really happens in the book.

 

Sales Links:  Audible | Amazon

 

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook
Published May 9th 2017 by Audible (first published October 5th 2015)
Original TitleAs You Wish
SeriesShatterproof Bond #1
CharactersDeclan Ramsay, Sir James Aiken, Annabelle Aiken, Oliver Ramsay, Sam Aiken settingLoch Ness, Scotland, 2015 (United Kingdom)
London, England, 2015 (United Kingdom)

Release Blitz – Return To Zero (Shatterproof Bond #2) – Isobel Starling (excerpt and giveaway)

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Release Blitz – Return To Zero (Shatterproof Bond #2) – Isobel Starling

 
Author: Isobel Starling
 
Release Date: June 6 2016
 
Price: £4.99/$4.99
 
Buy Links:
 
 
Length: 71,000 words
 
Previous Books In Series: 
 
Blurb:
 
Pulled into a world of secrets and lies for the man he loves, Declan Ramsay’s life has changed immeasurably in the eight months since meeting, and falling for his boss’s son, Sam Aiken.  Declan journey of personal discovery is about to take a darker turn, and for Sam, the world becomes more treacherous than he could ever have imagined.
 
Two agents are missing — presumed dead, while on a reconnaissance mission at an outdoor adventure centre in the Scottish Highlands.  Sir James Aiken sends his son and Declan to follow the trail, and discover the fate of the agents.
As the mission offers his first chance to use the skills he learned on the MI6 training course in Morocco, Declan is keen to get started. However, Sir James sees to it that the seeds of doubt and discord have been sewn between the couple, as they begin their mission.
 
The journey to their Highland location, and the discoveries they make when they reach the G’wan Adventures centre, prove that Sir James Aiken has been less than honest with his son.  Events in the Highlands force Sam and Declan to face their greatest fears, and understand what they both really want from life — and from each other.
 
Author Bio:
 
Inspiration strikes at the strangest of times. 
Born in Germany, Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art.  She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved it more than making art. 
 
Isobel’s first novel “Schonling” was a best seller in the GLBT-Bisexual genre on the ‘All Romance ebooks’ site.  She mainly writes M/M Romantic comedy thrillers and has just completed her sixth book.  Isobel has also signed French translation rights for novella “As You Wish”. 
 
Isobel adores the M/M genre and enjoys writing about wounded souls and the complexities of personal relationships.  Despite not having found proof yet, Isobel believes in love at first sight and endeavors to give her men a thrilling journey and a satisfying ending!
Social Media links

http://isobelstarling.wix.com/books
https://www.facebook.com/isobelstarling
https://twitter.com/isobel_starling
https://isobelstarling.wordpress.com

Excerpt from “Return to Zero” (Shatterproof Bond #2) By Isobel Starling


“Hullo,”


“Parcel for Samuel Aiken” The gruff male voice said. Declan peered at the CCTV image on the wall tablet screen of a courier wearing a Swift Co tabard.


“Hang on a minute” Declan replied “You expectin’ anythin Sam?” He hollered. He would not be fooled a second time. Sam sauntered out of the bedroom, bare
chested, with dark grey jersey pyjama trousers hugging his prominent hip bones.


“Let him in,” He directed, so Declan did as he was told and pressed the button to unlock the downstairs door. Sam and Declan stood either side of the closed front door, both on edge, expecting… something. Had James sent them a message at last?


They both startled and sniggered at each other, at hearing the hard thump on the front door. Sam took a quick look through the peep hole to see the courier — a grey haired, slightly obese Asian man in his early fifties, with Fred Flintstone stubble on his chubby face. He held a package the size of a shoe box, wrapped in brown paper and tied with string, in an old fashioned way. Sam opened the door, and was immediately knocked back by the scent of sweat and cigarettes. The man smelled like he had bathed in kebabs. If this was an attempted assassination, the courier’s armpits would surely do the job. The man shoved a clipboard in Sam’s direction. He browsed the delivery note attached. The ‘sender’ address box was empty.


“Where d’ya pick this up from mate? I weren’t expectin’ nuffink,” Sam said in a rangy East London accent.


“I picks up from the depot, and delivers. Don’t know nuffin’ abaht where vu packages comes from, not my business,”


“Well, it had better not be tickin’” Sam joked, his expression gormless. The courier snickered and put the box to his ear.


“Nah, prob’ly a pair of shoes, or somefink — nice surprise from your lady love?”


“Yeah, prob’ly,” Sam mimicked. He signed an illegible squiggle, took the box, and was immediately surprised by its lightness. “Cheers mate, have a good one,” he said, giving the clipboard back, and then closing the door.


Declan observed the wall mounted tablet screen as the courier left, and the main entrance door sealed behind him. He then opened the apartment front door and checked the hallway and staircase. Nothing had been left behind. Declan felt a little melodramatic and over cautious with his behaviour, but he had a strange gut feeling that something was afoot, something that would bring more sweeping changes to his life. He couldn’t put his finger on it. Declan had felt this tinge of something ever since coming back from Morocco, like he was still in a holding pattern, waiting for permission to land. Sam didn’t seem to be unduly concerned about James lack of contact, but the past few months had seen a huge shift in the way Declan lived his life, and his self-esteem. Long hidden memories had been uncovered by the ‘interview’, and the flashes of remembrance that Declan couldn’t dare talk about, made him feel unnerved and uncomfortable.


Sam sauntered into the kitchen and retrieved a pair of scissors from a drawer filled with miscellaneous kitchen implements. He put the box on the kitchen island worktop and cut the string. There was one branded Swift Co courier label on the front of the box, and no return address. Sam made an incision at the side of the brown wrapping paper, and then cut along one side, so as to keep the adhesive tape and any fingerprints or DNA that may have gotten stuck to it, intact. He slid out a cream coloured shoe-sized box. Sam looked curiously up at Declan, who stood silently beside with his arms folded.


“Would you like to do the honours?” Sam asked witheringly. Declan held his palms up in surrender,


“Nah, yer grand. I think The Amazing Sam’s got this one” he snickered.


The box displayed no visible wires, there was no ticking sound, and the box was feather-light. Sam thought that he would feel completely foolish about the cautious way he approached opening a package if it were empty, but he’d been trained to be cautious. He returned to the drawer filled with kitchen implements, and retrieved a pair of plastic barbeque tongs.


“You know I love you, right?” Sam said dramatically, as if they were to be his last words.


Declan shook his head at the ridiculousness of the charade and pursed his lips.


“On three. Ready?” Declan nodded,


“One…” Sam flicked the lid up and Declan reflexively stepped back covering his head with his arms.


“Ye said on three,” Declan whined, feeling like an idiot. Sam snickered with relief at the lack of fireworks. He used the tongs to remove a sheet of white tissue paper that covered the contents. When Sam saw what the box contained, he gasped and stepped back.


“What?” Declan said in alarm, seeing Sam’s complexion turn ghostly pale.


“Nothing” Sam flattened his expression and then reached to replace the lid. Declan stilled his hand, and took a look. The box held a noose made from red paracord rope. Just like the rope that had been secreted into his pocket at the Coburg Bar, nearly three months earlier.


“I’m going out. I’ve got to get this to the lab” Sam said coldly, his stare detached and light-years away.


Declan was suddenly overcome by a wave of frustration. “What the hell’s this about Sam? Jesus, I don’t even know where the fucking lab is!” he roared furiously.


Sam was shocked by the anger in Declan’s tone. He felt a prickle of guilt for behaving all ‘cloak and dagger’ with his partner — the one person he was supposed to trust. Declan had every right to know about the A.L.L lab and warehouse.


“Get dressed,” Sam directed, and then he turned and left the kitchen.
 

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