JL Merrow on May-December Romance and the latest release ‘Camwolf’ (guest post and giveaway)

Standard

Camwolf (Camwolf) by J.L. Merrow

Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art:

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host JL Merrow here today talking about her latest release at Dreamspinner Press, Camwolf.  Welcome, JL.

May-December Romance

Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m delighted to be here today as part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of Camwolf, my student/teacher werewolf romance set in my alma mater, Cambridge University.

To call Camwolf a May-December romance is perhaps slightly misleading. If we take the average male lifespan in the UK to be 79* then with Julian aged 19 and Nick aged 31, it’s more of an end-of-February/middle of April romance. But then that doesn’t quite trip off the tongue so well.

Age gaps have, historically, often been a feature of male/male relationships. Under the ancient Greek erastes/eromenos model, age gaps were expected: the whole point was for an experienced older man to take a younger man under his wing and show him the ropes**. Relationships between men of equal age were positively frowned-upon.

Studies have found that gay men are around three times as likely as straight couples to have a relationship with an age gap of 10 years or more. This is not to say, however, that they don’t face negative attitudes from their peers. The older partner can face criticism and assumptions he’s paying for the company, and the younger man may be told he’s got daddy issues and could do better.

Why, then, are age gap relationships so prevalent? Perhaps it’s because, once you’ve gone against perceived societal norms by coming out as gay, having an older/younger partner isn’t such a big deal. And it’s been suggested that some younger men seek out an older partner for much the same reasons as the ancient Greeks: when you’re growing up with a different sexuality from the majority of those around you, it can be reassuring to be with someone who’s been through it all before.

Ageism certainly hasn’t stopped celebrity couples such as Tom Daly and Dustin Lance Black (20 years age gap); Stephen Fry and Elliott Spencer (30 years); and Elton John and David Furnish (15 years) from getting hitched. And an age gap is no barrier to a relationship’s longevity: Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy (30 years gap) were together for 33 years, until Isherwood’s death. Noel Coward and Graham Payne (19 years) were together for a similar timespan, until Coward’s death. 

It all goes to show that love is love, and as long as both parties are consenting adults, shouldn’t we let them be the judge of what works in their relationship?

What I particularly enjoyed about writing Nick and Julian’s romance was the way their roles reverse from what might be expected. Yes, Julian is a student at Cambridge University, and Nick is a lecturer as well as the older partner, but on the subject of being a werewolf, it’s Julian who is the more experienced one. It’s Julian who has to teach Nick how to deal with his altered state—despite the fact that Nick is an alpha wolf, and Julian an omega.

In the circumstances, it’s perhaps not surprising that Nick struggles more than a little.

And that’s before a certain figure from Julian’s past turns up to set the wolf among the pigeons.

*Three years longer than in the US, apparently. But two years less than Switzerland. Moral: eat more chocolate; it’s good for you.

**Assuming they were into that kind of thing.

Blurb

A race to save his lover—by becoming his own worst nightmare.

Dr. Nick Sewell has it all. Good friends, a career as a Cambridge academic… and recently, a tendency to turn into a wolf every full moon.  When a new student arrives from Germany, Nick is horrified by his visceral attraction to the troubled youth—not to mention his violent jealousy when he sees Julian with another man. He’s floored to find out Julian is a werewolf too.

Unlike Nick, Julian has spent his life among other wolves, and in this subject, he’s the teacher and Nick the student. Nick struggles to adjust to this reversal of roles, especially since he’s an alpha and Julian a natural submissive. That dynamic just adds to the attraction smoldering between them, whether they’re in human form or wolf.

But Julian’s pack and the abuse he suffered isn’t far behind him, and it wants to reclaim him. For Nick to hold on to his lover, he’ll have to embrace the monster within.

Question: Book rec time: what’s your favourite May/December or student/teacher romance?

Giveaway: I’m offering a prize of a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift certificate to one lucky commenter on the tour, who will be randomly chosen on Wednesday 25th July. Good luck!

Available in ebook and paperback from Dreamspinner Press

Camwolf was previously published by Samhain, but has been completely re-edited and given a lovely new cover for this second edition by Dreamspinner Press.

About the Author

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. 

She writes (mostly) contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour.  Two of her novels have won Rainbow Awards for Romantic Comedy (Slam!, 2013 and Spun!, 2017) and several of her books have been EPIC Awards finalists, including Muscling Through, Relief Valve (the Plumber’s Mate Mysteries) and To Love a Traitor.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Crime Writers Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Find JL Merrow online at: https://jlmerrow.com/, on Twitter as @jlmerrow, and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jl.merrow

Spotlight on: Lock Nut (Plumber’s Mate Mysteries) by JL Merrow (giveaway)

Standard

Lock Nut (The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries #5) by J.L. Merrow
Riptide Publishing
Cover by: Christine Coffee

Sales LInks: Riptide Publishing

Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m delighted to be here today as part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of Lock Nut, the fifth of my MM mysteries in the Plumber’s Mate Mystery Series.  In Lock Nut, a simple hunt for a missing husband turns into a chase after a murderer when a body turns up in a local canal—and slightly psychic plumber Tom Paretski ends up with his face on TV as the prime suspect! Meanwhile, wedding bells are ringing all over the place…

 

About Lock Nut

 

Still waters run deadly.

 

Tom Paretski, plumber with a talent for finding hidden things, and his private investigator fiancé Phil Morrison have been hired to locate a runaway husband, Jonathan Parrot. The job seems simple enough—until their quarry turns up dead in a canal, and a photofit of Tom’s face is splashed all over the news, making him chief suspect.

 

The widow, petite ex–porn star Lilah Lovett, is convinced her husband was killed by his gay lover, but Tom and Phil aren’t so sure. Worried they may have precipitated Jonathan’s death, they’re determined to find the real killer. But with a web of incestuous ties linking the suspects, it’s hard to know who to trust. Especially when a second victim dies a gruesome death.

 

Meanwhile, with their wedding looming and them sharing a house now, Tom’s worried it may all be too much, too fast. The last thing he needs are the mixed messages Phil seems to be sending out. They’ll need to get back on the same track if they want to make it to their honeymoon together—and alive.

About The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries

 

A plumber with a hidden talent and an ex–school bully who’s trying to atone for his past. This unlikely crime-solving duo could be the worst thing that’s ever happened to the murderers of rural Hertfordshire, England.

 

All his life, cheeky plumber Tom Paretski’s had a sixth sense for finding hidden things. Mostly it’s brought him nothing but grief, but ever since tall, blond, and broody Phil Morrison stomped back into his life, Tom’s been using his psychic talents to track down killers. He’s shocked to find himself falling for the man he used to hate.

 

Phil’s an ex-cop turned private investigator who can’t forgive himself for the pain he caused Tom in their shared schooldays—especially his part in an accident which left Tom with a lasting limp. Finally able to face up to his feelings for Tom, Phil’s determined to make amends. Just as long as the murderers who won’t stop crossing their path don’t rob him of the chance to do so for good.

 

The path of their investigations may not run any smoother than their love life, but with the help (and hindrance) of a motley crew of friends and family—including the world’s campest campanologist and his ex–porn star lover—with any luck Tom and Phil will continue to get their man.

 

Publisher’s note: Each book in this series stands alone as a murder mystery, but the series as a whole follows Tom and Phil’s romantic journey from enemies to lovers, and beyond. It’s recommended, but not essential, to read the books in order.

About JL Merrow

 

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.

She writes (mostly) contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour.  Two of her novels have won Rainbow Awards for Romantic Comedy (Slam!, 2013 and Spun!, 2017) and several of her books have been EPIC Awards finalists, including Muscling Through, Relief Valve (the Plumber’s Mate Mysteries) and To Love a Traitor.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

 

Connect with JL:

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Lock Nut, JL is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on May 19, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

A MelanieM Review: One Under (Porthkennack #9) by J.L. Merrow

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

 

London Underground worker Mal Thomas is staying in Porthkennack to recover from a traumatic experience. Getting some more bad news from home is the last straw—until big, blond museum curator Jory Roscarrock steps up to offer some comfort.

A doctor of English Literature, Jory should be in a prestigious post at a top university. But a youthful indiscretion has led him to abandon academia to come back to his home town, Porthkennack, and the controlling family he’s never really felt a part of. He’s delighted to find a kindred spirit in the young Londoner.

But Jory’s family hurt Mal’s best friend deeply, and while Jory’s desperate to repair the damage, his own mistakes threaten to keep them apart. Meanwhile Mal’s torn between his feelings for Jory and his duty to his friend—and his fears that a failed relationship could be more than his shattered confidence can take.

The Porthkennack universe is one that I deeply love.  A seaside small town in Cornwall, with a long history of smuggling and sea bourne carnage in its past, it’s behind the facade of the pleasant shops, pubs, and yes, even a museum or two, the stories here show that some haven’t entirely left that way of life behind.  With each new tale, some historic, most not, the town’s people, the culture of the place, the “society’, and the dynamics continue to unfold.  Aren’t’ we lucky!

In One Under by JL Merrow, the angst driven characters are Mal Thomas and Dr. Jory Roscarrock, each with elements in their past their are trying to recover from and move past.  For Mal, his are far more recent.  A man committed suicide in front of the underground train he was driving and it’s left him traumatized, unable even to get into a car.    For Jory, it’s his family and their past.  From a father who committed suicide, a mother’s death, to older siblings who seem to hate him and relationships that don’t work out, his issues too seem buried in his past.

I love these men, especially Mal.  What a wounded soul he is.  And Jory too, a solid, intellectual giant who is so clueless at times you wish you could shake him.  I thought the characterizations were terrific.  Mal as the traumatized train driver suffering from PTSD was easily a sympathetic figure.  His “dithering about” his relationship with Jory over it’s impact on his best friend honestly irritated most of the time.  You wished the communication was far better between these two men.  However, taken into consideration the mental and emotional state of Mal, I kept coming back to the idea that anyone who was suffering from PTSD as bad as he was and in the shaky emotional frame of mind, wasn’t going to be making the most rational of decisions.  So yes, perhaps, Merrow was (whether I liked it or not) right on target here too.

Same goes for Jory, his relationship with his frankly appalling older siblings and his willingness to remain static in parts of his life.  Odd but again  given his weird background, perhaps not.  It takes these two men coming together to get them moving forward again in both of their lives,  first separately and then finally as a couple.

 

Cover by: Garrett Leigh.  The covers by Garrett Leigh are amazing.  From the composition to the color tone, she captures the heart of the characters and the location.  Love it.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 249 pages
Expected publication: March 19th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleOne Under
ISBN 1626496862 (ISBN13: 9781626496866)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Porthkennack #9

Tour and Giveaway: One Under by JL Merrow

Standard

One Under (Porthkennack #9) by J.L. Merrow

Riptide Publishing
Cover Art: Garrett Leigh

Purchase Links:  Riptide Publishing  | Amazon

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host JL Merrow here today to talk about her latest story, One Under. Welcome, JL.

✒︎

 

Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m delighted to be here today as part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of One Under, the second of my contemporary MM romances in the multi-author Porthkennack series. One Under features a romance between two characters readers of my first Porthkennack book, Wake Up Call will have already met: Mal Thomas and Jory Roscarrock—although you’d be forgiven for not recalling Jory’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance in Wake Up Call!

 

About One Under

 

London Underground worker Mal Thomas is staying in Porthkennack to recover from a traumatic experience. Getting more bad news from home is the last straw—until big, blond museum curator Jory Roscarrock steps up to offer some comfort.

 

As a doctor of English literature, Jory should be in a prestigious post at a top university. But a youthful indiscretion led him to abandon academia to come back to his hometown, Porthkennack, and the controlling family he’s never really felt a part of. He’s delighted to find a kindred spirit in Mal.

 

But Jory’s family hurt Mal’s best friend deeply, and while Jory is desperate to repair the damage, his own mistakes threaten to keep him and Mal apart. Meanwhile, Mal is torn between his feelings for Jory and his duty to his friend—and his fears that a failed relationship could be more than his shattered confidence can take. Jory must convince Mal it’s worth risking everything for their love.

 

About JL Merrow

 

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.

 

She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour. Her novella Muscling Through is a 2013 EPIC ebook Award finalist. She is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

 

Connect with JL:

Giveaway

 

To celebrate this release, one lucky winner will receive their choice of a book from JL’s backlist! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on March 24, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Spun! by JL Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

With friends like these . . .

An ill-advised encounter at the office party leaves David Greenlake jobless and homeless in one heady weekend. But he quickly begs work from his ex-boss and takes a room in Shamwell with easygoing postman Rory Deamer. David doesn’t mean to flirt with the recently divorced Rory—just like he doesn’t consciously decide to breathe. After all, Rory’s far too nice for him. And far too straight.

Rory finds his new lodger surprisingly fun to be with, and what’s more, David is a hit with Rory’s troubled children. But while Rory’s world may have turned upside down in the last few years, there’s one thing he’s sure of: he’s straight as a die. So he can’t be falling for David . . . can he?

Their friends and family think they know all the answers, and David’s office party hookup has his own plans for romance. Rory and David need to make up their minds and take a stand for what they really want—or their love could be over before it’s even begun.

Spun! by JL Merrow won the Rainbow Award for Best Romantic Comedy in 2017 and with this outstanding audiobook, should have won that category as well.  Mark Steadman has zoomed up my list of narrators I just love to listen too and this audiobook and series is a prime example why.

Mark Steadman’s lively and articulate narration makes JL Merrow’s comedy romance all bright and heartwarmingly alive!  It’s in his many voices that easily separate the characters for you and for all the sweeping inflections and yes, ear for regional “dialects” that brings this story into the 5 star status as a audiobook as well as a novel.

Oh this story!  I loved David back when he made his appearance in Out! along with his bear Gregory.  He’s such a kind and sympathetic soul and you wanted him to find someone who wanted him back for his wonderful, flamboyant, empathetic, self. Who knew he would find it in a postman?

That would be postman Rory Deamer, father to two, and soon to be having the surprise lodger of his life.  Spun! is a lovely slow burn of a romance which works because we get to watch these two men connect over their shared love of Dr. Who and the fact they both can’t cook, bonding, talking….I just loved it.

And David?  Well, we enjoyed his friendship with Mark’s daughter so it’s no surprise to see his interactions and relationships build with Rory’s kids here.  It’s as much a part of the story as their romance and it should be because they are forming a family.

There’s miscommunications and misunderstandings abounding everywhere towards the end.  Enough to  make you  want to crack some heads together.  But the sheer joy of this romance, the absolute “rightness” of Rory and David finding love with each other?  It’s perfect.  And just  one more  reason I love visiting Shamwell so.

I love this audiobook.  What a great way to  spend the hours!  Read it, listen to it!  In fact, grab up the whole audiobook collection!  I recommend them all.

Cover art: Natasha Snow.  These simple but eye catching covers work for the characters and series.

Audiobook Details:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon, Audible, iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook, Listening Time: 7 hrs. 44 min

Published November 29th 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published July 1st 2017)
Original TitleSpun!
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Shamwell Tales #4
Literary AwardsRainbow Award for Best Bisexual – Romantic Comedy & Suspence & Nominee for Best Bisexual Book (2017)

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Out! (The Shamwell Tales #3) by J.L. Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

When the costs are added up, will love land in the black?

Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.

His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.

Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.

Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax advisor clashes with Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.

Shamwell is a sleepy rural village in Hertfordshire, England, and a place I’ve grown to love over the course of four Shamwell Tales novels by J.L. Merrow.  Slipping into one of these stories is like visiting a small village full of people you instantly like, all intimately connected to one another, full of humor, past histories, human frailties, and tons of love.

As read by Mark Steadman, one of my favorite narrators, Out! comes alive, vibrant, as one again I fell into the story of Mark and Patrick’s rough road to romance and love.  I can close my eyes and forget that it’s just Mark Steadman, one person, narrating the story.  He swings so easily between characters and voices, creating nuances and dialects even from person to person.  And this story deserves a certain flair!  We are talking about the Shamwell Players as well you know.

We have humor (sometimes laugh out loud humor), tough subjects such as Mark Nugent dealing with the realization that he really doesn’t know his daughter, that he had unknowingly checked out of her life, that he was a closeted dad, well, closeted period.  So many issues to deal with, including a bitter ex wife.

Patrick Owen is someone I loved in the previous stories and wanted to have his story here.  He’s remarkable in that he’s personable, loving, and relatable.  As are all J.L. Merrow’s characters.  They have staying power.  We get involved in their lives in Shamwell, caught up in their romances and drama and hopefully their HEA’s.  The books are a true joy but in the audiobook version, Mark Steadman launches the story anew, bringing a vibrancy to the tale and the characters that make me feel that I’m hearing it for the first time.  It’s breathes a true believable romance that we connect with and people we love.

I absolutely recommend Out! (The Shamwell Tales #3) by J.L. Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator).  Both the story, the author and  the narrator!  Grab up the whole series!  You can’t go wrong.

Cover art by Natasha Snow is adorable and perfect.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Audible, Amazon, iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Time: 7 hrs. 51 min.

Published October 19th 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published January 19th 2016)
Original TitleOut!
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Shamwell Tales #3

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Played! (The Shamwell Tales #2) by J.L. Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

All the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart.

Tristan’s in Shamwell for one last summer of freedom before he joins the family firm in New York—no more farting around on stage, as his father puts it. But the classically trained actor can’t resist when members of the local amateur dramatics society beg him to take a role in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Especially as he’ll also be giving private acting lessons to gorgeous local handyman, Con, who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Tristan’s determined to get Con in his bed—not only is the man delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan’s success after a bet made with his drama school chum Amanda.

Con’s never dared to act before. A late-diagnosed dyslexic who had a hard time at school, he’s always been convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines—but with Tristan helping him, he might just be in with a chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken, and with Tristan due to leave the country in a matter of months, Con’s determined not to give in and start anything that’s bound to finish badly.

Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance of happiness.

Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave.

I’m a fan of both JL Merrow and her Shamwell Tales, the series that follows the lives and romances of this small English village and it’s little group of thespians.  Not familiar you say?  Well, Played! in audiobook format is a splendid way to make its acquaintance because a terrific story is further enhanced by the outstanding narration by Mark Steadman.

I easily sunk into the drama and every day lives of Tristan and Con with Mark Steadman’s voice casting a spell over the tale.  The narrator rose quickly to being the “voice’ of  everyone in the large cast of players as well as acting the various roles the characters/actors were playing (play inside a play) from Bottom to Puck, and giving them life as well.  I never had a difficulty distinguishing between characters, and indeed, often forgot I was listening to only one person narrating the story, Mark Steadman is that good.

And with Mark Steadman narrating, you can concentrate on the story of Tris and Con and their rocky path towards romance and love. Ah, Tris with his rich imperious father and full load of familial expectations, none of which seem particularly desirable to Tristan.  The death of his Gram, a house, and a cat lead Tris to Shamwell, the Shamwell Players and Con.  All of which starts to erode the strict goals his family has laid out for him,. Under the influence of Con and the people he’s meeting,  Tristan becomes the person he’s meant to be.

Con, a handyman, ends up with a remarkable amount of revelations for himself as well.  A learning disability has Con convinced he could never act until Tristan starts coaching him. The why’s behind that action I’ll leave up to the story.  There’s is mystery in Con’s background and an investigation to launch in the village.  Really, Played! has a cornucopia of elements and it makes for a lively, hopping plot!

Merrow’s characters have depth and a believability about them that makes it a delight to care for them and the outcome of their romance. Especially, when you want to give them a shake or two as you will Tristan!  The story just flows and the listening goes quickly.  You’ll find the book is over and your visit in Shamwell done before you are ready to leave.  At least I felt that way.  Luckily there are more Shamwell tales out there.  I hope they all end up as audiobooks with Mark Steadman as the narrator.  I can’t wait to listen.

I highly recommend this audiobook and all the Shamwell stories, ebook and otherwise.

Cover by: Natasha Snow is  perfect for Tristan.  Love the cover.

Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon |  Audible |  iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Time: 6 hrs., 58 min.

Audiobook
Published September 15th 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published June 30th 2015)
Original TitlePlayed!
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series The Shamwell Tales #2
setting England (United Kingdom

 

 

 

A Caryn Review: To Love a Traitor by JL Merrow

Standard

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This book is a great examples of why I love historicals.  Clearly this was well-researched, with no irritating anachronisms, and I felt like I was right there in inter-war England.  The language is so very appropriate – not only the dialogue, but the somewhat formal prose as well.  The attitudes towards women who had only recently been granted the right to vote, the general feeling of the public about the aftermath of the war and how veterans were regarded, the frequent references to the Spanish flu that ended up killing over a quarter of a million people in the UK – so many authentic details!  It was easy to completely immerse myself in the era, and in the story.  I’ve read several of Ms. Merrow’s contemporaries, and I really enjoyed them, and I feel doing such an excellent job at a historical just showcases her versatility as an author

The story is told from the point of view of Roger Cottingham.  He was a conscientious objector – “conchie” – who was imprisoned for a year at the beginning of the war and then went to work as a cryptographer in the Admiralty.  While there, his brother Hugh was killed on the front lines.  Hugh’s fiancée, Mabel, started hearing rumors after the Armistice that Hugh’s death might have been the result of treason, and Roger vowed to help her find the man/men responsible, and bring them to justice.

Enlisting the help of an old friend from the intelligence section of the Admiralty, Roger finds suspicious circumstances surrounding another officer in Hugh’s regiment, Captain Matthew Connaught.  Roger’s friend can investigate no further, but he did encourage Roger to do a little spying of his own, and set him up with the perfect cover:  George Johnson, who rented a room in the same house Matthew lived in.

Matthew actually was a rather simple character.  He is a veteran who lost his right arm, but managed to maintain a cheerful and optimistic attitude in spite of that.  He just exudes friendliness and integrity, and Roger can’t help but like and admire him – but what does this mean when he is supposed to be spying on Matthew and finding out his wartime secrets?  I loved the struggle Roger/George had trying to reconcile what he instinctively knew to be true – Matthew is a decent man who would never have betrayed his fellow brother-in-arms – with his desire to find out what really happened to Hugh when Matthew was the only clue he had.  Roger’s struggle only intensified when he realized that not only was Matthew also an invert (homosexual), but that they were attracted to each other.  Roger was also fundamentally an honest, forgiving, and peace-loving man, uncomfortable with the duplicity he had to maintain to continue his undercover role, and he spent a good part of the book grappling with those feelings.

The book is primarily character driven, rather than plot driven.  When the mystery was finally revealed, it really wasn’t a surprise to anyone – the characters or the reader.  Learning the different facets of Roger and Matthew as they traveled this journey towards a relationship was my whole enjoyment of the book.  The period details just made it all even better.  The only thing I didn’t like was that Matthew was a little too one-dimensional, but Roger almost made up for that.

Just for fun, check out this really interesting little tidbit of history that was briefly referenced in the book:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_feather.  I love learning new things when reading fiction!

The expression of the model used for the cover art by Written Ink Designs was just about perfect for how I imagined Roger would feel.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 200 pages
Published May 6th 2017 by JMS Books LLC (first published September 15th 2015)
ASINB06Y646324

A Stella Review: Angel by JL Merrow

Standard

RATING 4 out of 5 stars

How do you know if you’re one of the damned?

As a child, Don wanted to become a priest. Now a grown man mostly at ease with being gay, he’s left the Catholic Church and has chosen instead to help people through his work as a parole officer.

His strong faith is shaken when his latest assignment turns out to be Michael, a young man Don hasn’t seen since he took Michael to church as a child — and saw his parish priest cast Michael out of the church as a demon.

Meeting him as an adult re-ignites the obsession Don had with the boy he couldn’t save. But can Michael be saved at all? Or is the strangely compelling demon with a taste for risky sex as damned as he believes himself to be?

JL Merrow is an amazing writer, I’m a huge fan of her works. It seems I already missed this short when it was first released, I couldn’t miss it this second time.

The blurb tells you everything you need to know about the story, I read it and liked it. Angel is a super short story, well written, quick and engaging. Being so short there wasn’t really space for a lot of development in the romance part, to be honest pretty inexistent. But the author was great at showing me how deep Dan was into Michael, from the moment they met again twenty years later, Michael is everything Dan can think and dream of. From that moment Dan will go after him and try to save him.

I have to say I wish Angel was a little longer and I would have preferred to have Michael POV too. I was interested in the MCs and yes, I wanted more about them, about what happened all the years they were apart, and I wanted more of them together. For these reasons I was going to give this short just three stars, then the ending part blew me away. The last pages were really beautiful and emotional, the feel of acceptance, the feel of love mixed with fear, all of these filled my heart.

The cover art by Witten Ink Designs is well done, simple, clean and fitting.

Sales Links:   JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 34 pages

Published March 11th 2017 by JMS Books LLC (first published February 24th 2010)

ASIN B06X3TDMW5

Edition Language English

An Alisa Review: Tortoise Interruptus by JL Merrow

Standard

Rating:  3 stars out of 5

 

tortoise-interruptus-by-jl-merrowCursed by an impatient witch to turn into a tortoise at inopportune moments, Tip is horrified to find himself tortoise-napped by a customer at the Isle of Wight cafe where he works.

 

Things start to look up when Tip ends up very literally in the capable hands of drop-dead gorgeous Steve, but Tip soon begins to wonder just how far he can trust Steve, who turns out to have a close connection with his kidnapper. Tip’s attempts at a normal life — and love life — seem doomed to remain frustrated in more ways than one!

 

Inspired by a real-life incident. Yes, really.

 

What a sweet and funny story.  Tip has been dealing with the fact that he can turn into a tortoise at any time after he was cursed by a witch.  It has really put a damper on his ability to live his life since he never has more than a few minutes notice.

 

We see Tip’s complete frustration at his situation and knowing there is nothing he can do about it.  When he changes back right in front of Steve he can’t believe his luck that the handsome man would want him.  Steve doesn’t care about the curse and is willing to be patient if it gets in the way, which it like a breath of fresh air to Tip’s most recent dating experiences.

 

The cover art by Written Ink Designs is cute and catches your eye.

 

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

ebook, 33 pages

Published: January 28, 2017 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781634862851

Edition Language: English