An Alisa Release Day Review: Camouflage by Jon Keys

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Rating:  3.5 stars out of 5

 

camouflagefs_v1Nash Gallo and Luke Meyers seem like complete opposites on the surface. Nash is a city boy from Atlanta, while Luke is a rancher from rural Oklahoma. Nash is covered in tattoos and piercings, while Luke is self-conscious about his muscular, hairy body. Luke doesn’t have much sexual experience with other men, while Nash has plenty to go around.

 

But both men are lonely, and neither of them has ever been in love.

 

They also both have secrets. For Luke, it’s his shame over an affair with a local closeted and married man, something Nash accepts. Will Luke be as tolerant of what Nash is hiding—his job as a prostitute back in Georgia?

 

A week-long vacation on Luke’s ranch and the idyllic landscapes surrounding it gives both men the chance to relax and explore the attraction growing between them. But can the budding relationship survive secrets and small-town prejudices? As they search for the place where their lives might intersect, Nash and Luke risk far worse than broken hearts.

 

This story seems that it would be complete opposites attract, but not quite.  Nash may seem like the epitome of city boy with the tattoos and piercings, but he grew up in a small town near an army base until he was forced to leave for being gay.  He loves the quietness of Luke’s ranch and the company of the unassuming rancher, but knows his time is limited before he has to go back to his life.

 

Nash and Luke have been video chatting for months and when Nash gets assaulted by his latest John he takes Luke’s offer of a place to stay as the perfect opportunity to get away and heal for awhile.  Luke will do anything for a friend, but can be the shyest person around and for all that Luke has been out forever he has never been on a date or anything for his small minded town to see.  Both of these characters need to heal, but need each other to grow.

 

We get to see both of these character’s points of view, which helps to know what the characters are thinking.  Luke is very open and tells Nash everything about his past and is amazed as Nash’s acceptance.  Nash is open about his youth, but keeps a tight lid on his life in Atlanta; he waits until just before he is to leave before he opens up to Luke about his life because he doesn’t want to see the man he loves look down on him.  I love that it takes the wisdom of and old woman for Nash to decide to not just give up but to fight for them.

 

Cover art by LC Chase gives great visuals of the characters for the story.

 

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages

Published: January 20, 2017 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN-13: 9781635332339

Edition Language: English

Jon Keys on his Characters Backgrounds and Camouflage, his latest release (author guest blog)

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Camouflage by Jon Keys
D
reamspinner Press

Cover Artist L.C. Chase

Available for Purchase at

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Also in Dreamspinner Press paperback

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Jon Keys today as he talks about his characters in his latest release, Camouflage.  Welcome, Jon!

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Introductions

Thanks so much for letting me visit on the release of my newest novel, Camouflage. This is my first contemporary story in a few years and after months of polishing, and help from the great editors at Dreamspinner Press, I’m thrilled with the final version.

I thought you would be interested in more of Luke’s background. Our cowboy has lived on the same ranch for most of his life and inherited it when his grandparents passed away five or six years ago. His parents died in a tragic automobile wreck when he was a toddler. He was so young his grandparents became the people he thought of as his parents. He’d also told them he was gay while he was a senior in high school. They were surprised. He didn’t act the way they imagined. He was so involved with his sports, and his livestock. But they adjusted to the idea and became his biggest supporters.

Chris, who has been his friend since they were toddlers, was the first person he came out to. It wasn’t a surprise to her though. He had stammered and stuttered through ten minutes of false starts before he’d got out “I’m gay”. Chris’s response? “Well yeah. So what? I wasn’t looking to date you.” They had the same interests, roping, livestock, things like that. But they had each other’s back, regardless.

Luke had a crush on one of his classmates in college too. He had it bad. Blake was about the same height as Luke, but without the muscles from wrestling. He always wore Wranglers that were tight enough to leave little to the imagination. His short blond hair and deep tan got Matt’s motor running. He crushed on Blake for several years and was the source of a lot of fantasies. But the reality was Blake belonged to a church with very narrow view of same-sex relationships. When they were juniors, Blake married a girl from his hometown and they drifted apart.

So there are a few more details about Luke, and more insight into how he got where he was. I hope you enjoy the story of Luke and Nash’s relationship.

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Blurb:

Nash Gallo and Luke Meyers seem like complete opposites on the surface. Nash is a city boy from Atlanta, while Luke is a rancher from rural Oklahoma. Nash is covered in tattoos and piercings, while Luke is self-conscious about his muscular, hairy body. Luke doesn’t have much sexual experience with other men, while Nash has plenty to go around.

But both men are lonely, and neither of them has ever been in love.

They also both have secrets. For Luke, it’s his shame over an affair with a local closeted and married man, something Nash accepts. Will Luke be as tolerant of what Nash is hiding—his job as a prostitute back in Georgia?

A week-long vacation on Luke’s ranch and the idyllic landscapes surrounding it gives both men the chance to relax and explore the attraction growing between them. But can the budding relationship survive secrets and small-town prejudices? As they search for the place where their lives might intersect, Nash and Luke risk far worse than broken hearts.

Author Bio

Jon Keys’ earliest memories revolve around books; with the first ones he can recall reading himself being “The Warlord of Mars” and anything with Tarzan. (The local library wasn’t particularly up to date.) But as puberty set in he started sneaking his mother’s romance magazines and added the world of romance and erotica to his mix of science fiction, fantasy, Native American, westerns and comic books.

A voracious reader for almost half a century, Jon has only recently begun creating his own flights of fiction for the entertainment of others. Born in the Southwest and now living in the Midwest, Jon has worked as a ranch hand, teacher, computer tech, roughneck, designer, retail clerk, welder, artist, and, yes, pool boy; with interests ranging from kayaking and hunting to painting and cooking, he draws from a wide range of life experiences to create written works that draw the reader in and wrap them in a good story.

Social Media:

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Excerpt from Camouflage

Nash watched Luke as they drove down the road toward town. He’d looked good at the airport, at least what Nash could remember before Luke ran through the pouring rain, but once he cleaned up he was outstanding. The pullover shirt tapered to his hips, and Nash licked his lips in appreciation. Even more importantly, he seems like a nice guy. Not that I’m a great judge.

“So what do you think?”

Nash jumped, afraid he’d been busted. But he realized the question wasn’t what he’d thought when Luke motioned at the scenery that rolled past.

“The house is cool. I mean, you have all that space to yourself. It’s so quiet too. I don’t know how I’m going to sleep without sirens and squealing brakes.”

Luke fixed his eyes on the road ahead, his knuckles white on the steering wheel. “Yeah. It’s quiet most of the time.”

“Sorry. I forgot how you got it.”

“It’s okay. I just miss them a lot.”

Nash reached over, patted Luke’s leg, and gave it a squeeze. “Sorry, but at least you had someone who loved you.”

Luke started to say something, but Nash interrupted, not wanting him to get too inquisitive. “So, we’re going for barbecue? I love pulled pork.”

“This might be more Texas barbecue than you’re used to. I always get the brisket.”

“And you like their fries, right?”

Luke glanced over at him. “How did you know that?”

“Oh I don’t know, maybe because you told me one night when we were chatting.”

Luke relaxed his grip on the wheel and a grin appeared. “Oh. Yeah, I guess I did.” He looked over to Nash and then refocused on the road. “Makes me wonder what else I’ve told you and forgot.”

Nash chuckled and twisted in the seat so he faced Luke. “Let’s see. You like corn dogs with mustard and ketchup, which is disgusting. You also like to rope, but you can’t help but worry about the calves sometimes. What else….”

“Okay, okay. You’ve made your point. Enough Luke stories. And why don’t I know any of your embarrassing habits?”

Nash’s relaxed moment faded and he turned back to the wall of trees they were driving through. “Nothing worth sharing. Especially nothing as cute as how you got the crescent-shaped scar on your butt.”

“There was nothing cute about that. The damn dog was trying to kill me.”

“It’s the owner’s fault. They make the dogs mean.”

“Whatever. The owner didn’t bite me.”

They drove the rest of the way in silence. The typical small-town business staples rolled past as they got closer to their destination. Looks familiar, a lifetime and a thousand miles ago.

“You hungry?” Luke asked.

Nash’s stomach picked that point to rumble. “From that sound you’d think I was about to starve.”

“Good, ’cause we’re there.” Luke turned into the parking lot as Nash checked out the low-slung building with its simple “BBQ” sign in front. As Luke searched for a parking spot, Nash inhaled the hickory-smoke-laden air. When they rounded the back of the place, Nash spotted the monstrous black behemoth filling the area with the scent of meats of every kind.

They found a place to park and made their way inside. Luke threaded his way to the counter with Nash close behind. A smiling woman with her blonde hair pulled back motioned them closer. “What sounds good tonight, Luke?” she asked.

“I think a couple of the sampler plates and two sweet teas.”

She looked knowingly at Nash. “And fries. He always has fries.”

Luke grinned and shrugged. “Guilty. They’re the best.”

The woman motioned toward an empty table. “Grab a seat and I’ll bring it out to you.”

A short time later Nash had both elbows propped on the table and was halfway through a side of ribs. “You were right. The hot barbecue sauce is killer.”

Luke swallowed the piece of brisket he was working on and looked at Nash. “Told you. The beans are great too. The place isn’t fancy, but it’s delicious food.”

Nash pulled off another rib and gnawed it like an ear of corn. The food was good, but he thought the company was better. Feeling a little ornery, he leaned closer to Luke, making smacking noises, knowing his face was smeared with sauce.

“Hey, what’d you think? Want some of this?”

With a nervous laugh, Luke glanced around them. “Knock it off, you goof. You’ve got barbecue all over you.”

Nash gathered up a few paper towels and wiped his face. After considering Luke, he leaned across the table. “You okay? If me teasing around is making you uncomfortable….”

“No, it’s okay. I don’t mind.”

“Then what’s making you so uptight?”

“They might think it’s more than friends out for barbecue. I haven’t really been out with anyone before.”

“You’ve never been on a date?”

“Not really. I went out a few times in college, but not since coming back.” Luke paused and glanced at Nash before he continued. “Yeah, nothing I’d call a date.

“You’ve been out of college for a while. How could you not date? I thought you were out.”

“Oh, they know, but you know little towns and all their crap. It’s—” Luke stopped, and his eyes locked on the business’s door as it swung open.

Nash wondered what was going on when a mass of people swept through the entrance. They all seemed loud and excited. He watched closely and turned to Luke. “What’s going on? Did everyone get their egg money at once?”

“The high school football game’s over. It’s more important than money, at least around here.”

Nash watched the crowd for a few more seconds before he shrugged. “Doesn’t take much to get some people worked up, I guess.”

“No, it doesn’t.” Luke glanced at the crowd again, and he went rigid.

Nash looked again but couldn’t see anything more than the same milling throng. “What’s wrong?”

“Not a big deal. You ready to go? We could stop for some ice cream at—”

Nash laid his hands on top of one of Luke’s. “You might as well tell me. I’m going to worm it out of you eventually anyway, even if it takes liquor.”

Luke sighed deeply. “I suppose. It’s not like I’ll be able to avoid him the whole time you’re here.”

Nash waited for Luke to continue, but he realized more information wasn’t going to happen soon if he didn’t help it along. So he gave it another shot. “He who? What’s going on? You know you can talk to me. Hell, if it’s making you nervous, text it to me.”

“Yeah, apparently I’m a blabbermouth around you. So, you might as well know. My sort of ex just walked in. Long story.”

“Your ex? I thought….”

“Like I said, it’s complicated. Do you mind if we go somewhere else for dessert?”

Nash considered saying something, then decided against it. Instead he looked over the people, trying to decide which one was Luke’s former lover. His curiosity got the best of him. “Which one?”

“The blond guy with the red shirt that says ‘Stillwell Indians.’”

Nash started chuckling. “You’re kidding me, right? They’re all wearing a red Indians jersey.”

“Him. The guy in the corner….”

Nash looked again, and this time immediately spotted who Luke must be talking about. Almost as tall as Nash, but with the build of a fading high school football star. He was at the center of the mob of men waiting by the door and talking loudly.

Nash glanced at Luke. “The big blond guy everyone seems to want to talk to?”

“Yeah. His name’s Bobby. Robert Doyle.”

A MelanieM Advent Calendar Review Day 21: Iced (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by Jon Keys

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

iced-by-jon-keysKeith Walker, a mall bookstore employee, is struggling to get through another miserable holiday season while trying to preserve a crumbling long-term relationship. One of his few comforts is his morning coffee made by a good-looking, younger barista. Austin Novak felt an attraction when Keith started frequenting the coffee shop, but he doesn’t think the older man has any interest in him or his graphic novel collection.

A Christmas week snowstorm buries the city and locks Keith’s car into its parking spot. Keith decides to show Austin his gratitude for helping free the car from the ice with a dinner invitation. The meal becomes complicated when Austin meets Keith’s boyfriend, Shawn, and things go downhill from there when Shawn announces he’s heading to Cancún with his coworkers. Keith is caught between keeping his boyfriend happy and keeping his job. But Keith might not need a plane ticket to find the happiness that’s been missing from his life.

Iced by Jon Keys is a well written holiday romance.  It flowed smoothly, the characters felt real as did some of the situations. So why didn’t I connect with it better?

It could be Keith and his awful floormat relationship with his existing boyfriend, Shawn.  We got to see exactly how badly Shawn treated Keith as well as how far Keith would go to ignore the sheer blatant cheating and humiliating behaviors he exhibited towards Keith, especially in front of Austin.  If I had been Austin, I would have been at the door in a heartbeat.  This wasn’t one red flag, it was a truckload.  Yes, the story worked its way through to a romance, but honestly?  It lost me here, and never recovered.

Others, I know are going to see it differently.  For them, the recovery, the meet again through the phone call, all of it will add up to a delightful holiday love story.  I guess it should have done it for me as well.

But it didn’t.  It’s that initial impression that got me and stayed with me.  I could never establish a real connection to their relationship after that.    See what you think and let me know.  I give it 3 stars because its so well written and thought out.   You take it from there.

Paul Richmond’s Series brand cover continues to  delight.

Sales Links

        

Book Details:

ebook, 47 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635331838 (ISBN13: 9781635331837)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Obsidian Moons (Obsidian #2) by Jon Keys

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

obsidian-moonsSequel to Obsidian Sun

After achieving the impossible and releasing their people from the Varas slavers, Anan and Terja, a spellweaver and spellspinner, start the arduous journey back to their homeland. A winter trek across the grasslands is dangerous enough, but the traitor, Xain, is tasked with recapturing the slaves, and failure will mean his death. As added insurance, the Varas High Regent hires a Triad of legendary Ubica assassins and assigns a full regiment of his personal guards, along with their captain, to the task. Their mission is clear: recapture the escaped Talac slaves destined for the Varas pleasure houses—and the bed of the High Regent—at any cost.

The newly freed Talac travel toward their homelands with the full knowledge they are likely being pursued. The flight westward is fraught with new and unexpected dangers as Anan and Terja struggle to save their tribe. The battle for shelter, food, and a way to defend themselves becomes an all-consuming task, but they are reminded by the avatars of their gods that all is not as it appears.

The sequel to the amazing fantasy epic Obsidian Sun (Obsidian #1), Obsidian Moons, enlarges on the peoples, cultures and religions of the world that Jon Keys started in his first story.  In Obsidian Sun, we met Anan, a spellweaver  and Terja a spellspinner of the Talac people and followed them on a tale of blood revenge and rescue while learning about their culture, their religion, their part of the world and yes, their enemy, the Varas, a frightening people.

Keys forgot nothing in building up his universe from the grasses and insects to the climates.  It was an jaw-dropping bit of artistry and the story laid on top of it was just as incredible.  Even more amazing for being his first published novel.

Now comes  Obsidian Moons.  How does it stand up?

Very well.

While I jumped into the first story immediately, this novel took a bit to get into.  Keys re-accounts some of the past history for readers unfamiliar with his tale (by no means should you skip the first story, this is not a standalone).  It felt denser, less forward moving in the narrative than the first. Of course the first started with a massacre, so that’s hard to top.

But while I was getting reacquainted with all the familiar characters, the wonderfully magical and fascinating like Anan, Terja and the Talac (even Xain, that traitor), Keys starts introducing his new elements here.  Again all marvelous additions to his world building.  Keys brings in other cultures, religions, magic even. Keys gives us a triad of contract assassins from Ubica to hunt the escaped Talac (a vocabulary is supplied in the front which is maybe not necessary but definitely worth checking out), and a wild mountain tribe Meke, a separated tribe that…well, that part of the story is better left to the saga, and more. Each addition comes fully established, down to the clothes they wear, the weapons they carry, and the deities they worship. All blended so smoothly into the narrative that its seamless.

While the enemy is hunting for the escaped Talac, we see the growth in both Anan and Terja, individually and in their relationship that was born out of a blood revenge oath.  Yes, there is multiple points of view here but it works and never feels too jumbled or too much to keep track of.  In fact, sometimes I wished for less because this is a scary, daunting, and pain-filled journey.   Not without cost of life.  Some of those voices will be lost.

It won’t take long to get back into this saga and these people as they are hunted across some of the harshest terrain this world has to offer.  Jon Keys brings it all vividly to life. Every snow bound  step, all the predators after them.  The loss of hope, and the hope found once more.  Its  an incredible story.  And it ends just as another journey is about to begin.  I can’t wait for that novel and that story too.

Jon Keys has an incredible saga here.  One you should put on your TBR list if you are a lover of fantasy.  Or of love and hope.  Its an amazing tale.  Start with Obsidian Sun and then come here to Obsidian Moons.  I highly recommend them both.

Cover Artist: Paul Richmond. I loved the first cover.  Found that one amazing.  This one doesn’t live up to that one’s standards imo.

Sales Links

        

 

 

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Expected publication: September 12th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634777182 (ISBN13: 9781634777186)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series Obsidian – add to your Goodreads shelf here:

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A MelanieM Review: Obsidian Sun by Jon Keys

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Differences must be put aside when vengeance becomes all-consuming.

ObsidianSunFSAnan, a spellweaver of the Talac people, returns from a hunting trip to find his village decimated, his mate dead, and everyone else captured by Varas slavers. The sole survivor is Terja, a young man without the velvet that covers most Talac, marking him as a spellspinner. Since Talac magic requires both a weaver and a spinner, Anan and Terja must move beyond their ingrained mistrust. All that remains is revenge and a desperate plan to rescue their tribesmen before they are sold to Varas pleasure houses. A goal Anan and Terja are willing to die for.

With the blessing of the Talac gods, they discover new and surprising ways to complement each other’s power. But as they race through terrain full of enemies and dangerous creatures to reach their people before they pass into Varas lands, they must take drastic steps to face the overwhelming odds against them. Understanding their connection might be their only hope.

What a wonderful debut novel from Jon Keys!  The story was imaginative, heartbreaking, layered and beautifully developed.  What a high mark to hit with your first book.  But first a sentence or two about the power of a book cover.  You see, it was that amazing Paul Richmond cover that caught my eye and made me want to  read the blurb.  Those eyes combined with the presence of skin marks and a web?  Mysterious and compelling.  I had to know more.  What I found matched that powerful  cover in every way.

Obsidian Sun by Jon Keys is a story told from multiple points of view (one of the only issues I have with the story).  We start with Anan, a spellweaver of the Talac people coming home from a hunt to carnage.   Anan’s village  has been raided by the Varas people, the dwellings burned, the people horribly murdered except for those younger members taken for the slavery trade and for their velvet skin.  Yes furred skin.  The Talac, a semi-nomadic tribe, is a clan of furred individuals, with the exception of the hairless spellspinners.  That marked velvet covering of their bodes makes them prized not only as sex slaves (it seems the Varas are addicted to sex with them) but they are skinned as well, various colors like golden velvet prized above all others.  These facts reveal themselves slowly as Anan goes about the gruesome and heartbreaking business of checking the bodies and readying himself for the “release  ritual”.  But he’s not the only one left alive, there is one more person hidden away . Terja, a young spellbinder.  Together they do what they know is required to release the souls of the dead and swear vengeance on the Varas traders.

Keys’ descriptions of Anan and Terja’s final sweep of their village and the scenes that follow are haunting, poignant, carrying a deep emotional impact that will stay with the reader.  Yes, it had me in tears. It also serves to bring us immediately into this amazing world and the cultures of the people that live there.

There are at least two distinct cultures at war here…that we know of.  But the one we immersed in completely, at first,  is that of the Talac people.  The Talac have several strata of tribes that make up the whole, that includes the Kuri tribes that follow the kuri animals much like some western American Indian tribes did the buffalo.  The author weaves many Native American tools and beliefs here into his story.  In one  scene, Anan and Terja cook a stew using the Eastern Woodland Indian method of putting a hot rock inside the  stew to cook from within inside of sitting a pot on the fire, handy when using bark containers inside of pottery.  Bark is lightweight and easy to transport, not so much a heavy clay pot, something very important if you are a nomadic tribe.  The use of native resources by Anan and Terja also echo the ways indigenous peoples all over the world use the land and animals around them.  Its an element that flows through this story and it gives their universe both a familiar yet alien feel to it.  This layering gives Obsidian Sun a realistic aspect to it that helps connect us to it and the characters.

That also brings us to spiders.  I love spiders, all of them.  Here the similarities also arise between spiders and the Talac.  You can divide spiders into 2 types of carapace types.  One is furred, some gorgeously so (like tarantulas and jumping spiders, which have all the colors of the rainbow and more patterns than you can imagine). Other’s have a hairless carapace that shines as though its been shellacked. Most orb weavers are of this type.  That mimics the two skin types of the Talac.  But it goes further with the Talac gods, and the  Twined Beings, First Weaver and First Spinner, avatars to the Gods.  They appear as  humongous  spiders.  Spiders and weaving form the weft and warp of this story.  From the religious rituals and cultures myths Jon Keys creates and then uses throughout his story to the weapons  and fighting styles,  Keys’ imagination and ability to translate those ideas into emotionally laden,  action packed scenes and storylines is stunning.  So is his love of and ability to use natural history to enliven and deepen his plot and characters.  Nothing is left to chance, even the spider silk is used much like the silk worms are here, right down to the technique required.  Really, its just amazing how well Keys meshes known natural history with his own creations.

There is a growing romance between Anan and Terja, brought on by need and circumstances that becomes something deeper and spiritual (and incredibly sexy).  Their hunt for vengeance is suspenseful,  and heart stopping, especially when they are in peril.

But there are other characters involved and that brings me to my only issue here.  There is far too many points of view.  Different characters , some of the kidnapped Kuri, others of slaves in residence, voice their perspectives of the action and their captivity.  This format of multiple povs only serves to take the momentum away from the developing relationship between Terja and Anan and cuts the reader off from the anticipation and suspense of the ongoing hunts for the traders and the slaves.  I understand why Jon Keys wanted us to see the “captives” side but there are other ways of establishing the terror they are undergoing while giving us the information he wanted to impart about the Varas people.  Too many voices muddy the narrative and that happened here.

Multiple perspectives aside, this is a powerful, layered saga, one I hope will continue.  The ending is a HFN, leaving so many options for a sequel to go forward.  I certainly hope that Jon Keys is already hard at work to give us one.

Obsidian Sun (a solstice event much like our solar eclipse) is a must read novel by Jon Keys!  If you love fantasy, mythology, natural history and imaginative world building combined with sex, love and adventure, then this is a story for you.  I  can’t wait to see what Jon Keys has in store for us next, hopefully a sequel!  Fingers crossed.

Cover art by Paul Richmond.  One of my favorite covers of the month, perhaps even the year.  This cover clearly demonstrates the power of a cover to entice you into reading a story by a picture alone.  Perfection.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback | All Romance |Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published July 10th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN13 9781634762922