A Stella Review: If the Fates Allow Holiday Anthology

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

During the holidays, anything is possible—a second chance, a promised future, an unexpected romance, a rekindled love, or a healed heart. Authors Killian B. Brewer, Lynn Charles, Erin Finnegan, Pene Henson, and Lilah Suzanne share their stories about the magic of the season.

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Gracious Living Magazine Says It Has to Be a Live Tree
By Killian B. Brewer
Determined to make his first Christmas with his new boyfriend magazine-perfect, Marcus seeks the advice of lovable busy bodies, the Do-Nothings Club. When he learns that his boyfriend, Hank, may have ordered a ring, Marcus’ attempts to transform his home into a winter wonderland get out of hand.

Shelved
By Lynn Charles
When library clerk Karina Ness meets a new patron, lonely business owner, Wesley Lloyd, she puts her own love life on hold and begins a holiday matchmaking mission to connect Wes with her uncle Tony.

Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille
By Erin Finnegan
As the one-year anniversary of his lover’s death rolls around on Christmas, Jack Volarde finds himself at their old haunt—a bar called the Casa Blanca, where a new bartender helps him open up about loss, and see brightness in a future that had grown dim.

True North
By Pene Henson
Shay Allen returns to her hometown in Montana for the holidays with her best friend Devon with the intent to return home to L.A. by New Year’s Eve. Instead, the weather traps them in the small town, but the there’s a bright spot: her old crush Milla is still in town.

Halfway Home
By Lilah Suzanne
Avery Puckett has begun to wonder if her life has become joyless. One night, fate intervenes in the form of a scraggly dog shivering and alone in a parking lot. Avery takes him to a nearby shelter called Halfway Home where she meets bright and beautiful Grace, who is determined to save the world one stray at a time.

I’m a fan of holiday stories and I’m a fan of this publisher o I soon jumped at the chance of having this collection of LGBT shorts on my hands. I have to say some titles worked better than others but it still was a pleasurable reading.

Gracious Living Magazine Says It Has to Be a Live Tree By Killian B. Brewer 5 stars

I was waiting for new works from this author since I read Lunch With The Do-Nothings At The Tammy Dinette on January and I was so happy to meet Marcus again here in this short. Marcusa has moved to Georgia six months ago, he’s now working at the Tammy Dinette. He got new friends, new job and a new lover, Hank, the hot mechanic. Since I adored the novel, I was over the moon the author filled my wish to know more about Marcus and his new life. I found them ready to spend their first Christmas together, but most of all, ready to take baby steps toward a real future side by side. And a little misunderstang added more spice to the plot. I loved it!

Shelved By Lynn Charles 3 stars

this is not the first story I read by this author and although I was able to see her amazing writing style, I didn’t loved Shelved as I loved the other books Lynn wrote. Maybe cause there is a “double story”, one with a ff couple and one with a MM couple. And I would have preferred to have just Wes and Tony romance, simply cause I’m more interested in mature MCs. That said, I liked this short story and the amazing people and athmosphere the author created.

Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille By Erin Finnegan 3,5 stars

This was the first time I read this author’s work and it was a surprise. To be honest, I’m actually not sure why, cause the writing was really good and intriguing, but I soon at troubles with the reading and I found myself pretty bored, I didn’t understand where the author was going to lead Jack. I was hoping something was going to happened and the story to take a new energy. And then I got an answer, and everything fell into the right place. It gave me hope and faith. A touching short about love and grief.

True North By Pene Henson 4 stars

I like the author writing and I was expecting this to be a FF story, it didn’t go exactly how I was hoping and fearing, the usual fake boyfriend clichè was ignored and the plot went versus the friends to lovers theme. I liked how both girls slowly approached each other after years of being apart. And I adored the ending, the promise of a plan to actually be together, gave the short some reality.

Halfway Home By Lilah Suzanne 3 stars

This short warmed my heart, if you are a dog lover, you can’t not like it and cheer for Avery to come out of her shell and open her life to Grace and to the world. I hoped for her to find some happiness and joy in the arms of a beautiful woman and in the sweet Rudy.

The cover art by CB Messer is adorable.

Sales Links:  Interlude Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook

Published December 1st 2017 by Interlude Press

ISBN13 9781945053481

Edition Language English

INTERLUDE TOUR If the Fates Allow Holiday Anthology (excerpts and giveaway)

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If the Fates Allow: A Holiday Anthology

from the Authors at Interlude Press, an LGBTQ Publisher

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host the tour for If the Fates Allow: A Holiday Anthology from Interlude Press.  If you love holiday stories, check out all the wonderful stories the authors have for you below, read the excerpts and don’t forget to enter the  giveaway at the bottom of the post!

SHELVEDLYNN CHARLES

Libraries are honored and respected institutions in our communities. From providing free literature for pleasure and information, to offering quiet work space and free Wi-Fi, a town’s library can be a sanctuary for anyone who wants or needs it.

In large metropolitan libraries, resources can seem limitless: musical scores; complete medical encyclopedia; drawers of historical maps; comic books; movies; books stretching in themes from fundamentalist Christianity to Paganism, from science fiction to horror to westerns to bodice ripping romance. Meeting rooms are available for community businesses, children have their own spaces where they can read, learn and engage their creativity. Some have cafes, most hold free classes for computer usage, job and careers, adult learning, or business and finance. The options seem as endless as the available materials. And their focus is on the entire community: young and old, rich and poor, all races, nationalities, sexual orientations and religions.

The Library Bill of Rights—yes, it’s a thing—requires it. It states that libraries should provide services for all people, present all points of view, challenge censorship, honor privacy of inquiry, and make the library and its full facilities available to all.

What happens, however, if you live in a smaller town, a conservative town? What happens when the administration who runs your library carries strong opinions about certain sectors of their own community? When they refuse to post a Pride display in June, or a collection of books celebrating Ramadan or Diwali? When even finding such books in circulation is difficult or downright impossible?

In “Shelved,” my short romance in the holiday anthology, If the Fates Allow, the story is told by Karina Ness, a library clerk who works in such a library. She has made it part of her mission at this small county library to diversify the catalog, to expand the offerings for her community who aren’t all white, straight, Protestant folk. She, and her new patron friend Wes, talk about the challenges of getting proper library materials when you’re not like “everyone else” in your community.

“Minions don’t have to provide résumés,” Karina explained. “We have to prove we can spell our names and recite the alphabet.”

Wes patted the seat next to him, and she took the invitation. “Not your dream job, I take it?”

“It’s a step. I was an annoying patron who wants to be an annoying librarian, so they gave me an opening.”

“You’re helpful, not annoying.”

“Well, you’re not the conservative circulation manager. Her, I annoy. Regularly. Because this is a library, not a Christian bookstore.”

“See, now. You proved it. You’re the kind of librarian I liked.”

“You were a library kid too?”

“I read like a fiend. Still do, but the books at school didn’t include many people that looked like me.”

“Sadly, they still don’t.”

“No. And once I was a teenager, I couldn’t find books that helped me understand why I thought boys were much cuter than girls.” He smiled. “No offense.”

“None taken. I mean, you’re wrong; girls are much cuter than boys.”

Wes smile broadened. “See? I needed librarians like you. Mom would take me up to the city library where they had more options. Once I could drive, I’d go and find the deepest stack and read everything I could.”

“Because you couldn’t take them home…”

“Nope. Especially with Dad.”

Which brings up another concern. Kids and teens want to see themselves in books—queer heroes fighting for a cause, boys who fall in love with boys, girls who think the girl in her math class is so incredibly hot, trans or enby kids who struggle to find their identity in our binary world. They don’t dare buy the books at the Scholastic Book Fair, or use allowance money to get them at the closest book store. Without a supportive family, bringing materials like that into their homes can be dangerous. Libraries are a safe haven to read, to steal away, to allow their imaginations run wild and to see themselves as their hero in their own story. And for kids in small towns, the haven isn’t as available if the books aren’t there.

In my story, having those types of books available might have made a huge difference to Karinas Uncle Tony, who didnt come to terms with his bisexuality until his 40s.

But it’s not hopeless. Karina Ness might be a fictional character, but she is in every town. Clerks and librarians like her regularly annoy acquisitions managers, some of whom would rather fill the shelves with Christian romance novels, and speak up for kids like Karina by doing what they can to get the materials in the hands of the readers who need them.

When I worked at my small county library, even though our situation was much like what Ive just mentioned, I quickly learned that if you request a book to be added to the circulation, a librarian will do their best to get it for you. Go equipped with titles or themes and talk to the people on the floor. If one person doesn’t seem helpful—or if she’s your Sunday School teacher or your next-door neighbor and you just cannot ask her—find someone else. If face to face isn’t something you’re comfortable with, even the smallest libraries have an online presence where you can make requests via email or an online form. I have never had a request rejected on premise of theme, character nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation. If the administration of that library isn’t interested in diversifying its circulation, then help them out by letting them know that their community wants it. Your on-the-floor librarian should be glad to help you. If not, ask another.

Characters like Karina are on staff all over the country. Libraries, big and small, are truly for everyone.

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Lynn Charles is an author of queer contemporary romance novels. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and daughter where a blind dog and his guardian cat rule the roost. She holds a bachelors degree in music education, worked at her county library, and absolutely never judged you for what books you checked out. Her novels Chefs Table (2014), Black Dust (2016)a finalist for the Foreword Review Indie Award in Romance, and Beneath the Stars (2017), can be found at Interlude Press, and most online book retailers. Keep up with Lynn at lynncharles.net.

IF THE FATES ALLOW  ~ SUMMARIES & AUTHORS

Gracious Living Magazine Says It Has to Be a Live Tree by Killian B. Brewer: Determined to make his first Christmas with his new boyfriend magazine-perfect, Marcus seeks the advice of lovable busy bodies, the Do-Nothings Club. When he learns that his boyfriend, Hank, may have ordered a ring, Marcus’ attempts to transform his home into a winter wonderland get out of hand.  Featuring the characters from Lunch With the Do-Nothings at the Tammy Dinette.

Killian B. Brewer lives in his life-long home of Georgia with his partner and their dog. He has written poetry and short fiction since he was knee-high to a grasshopper. Brewer earned a BA in English and does not use this degree in his job in the banking industry. He has a love of greasy diner food that borders on obsessive. Lunch with the Do-Nothings at the Tammy Dinette was published in January, 2017. His debut novel, The Rules of Ever After, is available from Duet Books, the young adult imprint of Interlude Press.

True North by Pene Henson: Shay Allen returns to her hometown in Montana for the holidays with her best friend Devon with the intent to return home to L.A. by New Year’s Eve. Instead, the weather traps them in the small town, but the there’s a bright spot: her old crush Milla is still in town.

Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Her first novel Into the Blue (Interlude Press, 2016) received a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Romance. Her second novel, Storm Season, was published by Interlude Press in 2017.

Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille by Erin Finnegan: As the one-year anniversary of his lover’s death rolls around on Christmas, Jack Volarde finds himself at their old haunt—a bar called the Casa Blanca, where a new bartender helps him open up about loss, and see brightness in a future that had grown dim.

Erin Finnegan is a former journalist and a winemaker who lives in the foothills outside Los Angeles. Her novel Luchador was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2016, and along with her 2014 debut novel, Sotto Voce, received both a Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year award and a PW starred review. 

Halfway Home by Lilah Suzanne: Avery Puckett has begun to wonder if her life has become joyless. One night, fate intervenes in the form of a scraggly dog shivering and alone in a parking lot. Avery takes him to a nearby shelter called Halfway Home where she meets bright and beautiful Grace, who is determined to save the world one stray at a time.

Lilah Suzanne has been writing actively since the sixth grade, when a literary magazine published her essay about an uncle who lost his life to AIDS. A freelance writer from North Carolina, she spends most of her time behind a computer screen, but on the rare occasion she ventures outside she enjoys museums, libraries, live concerts, and quiet walks in the woods. Lilah is the author of the Interlude Press books SpicePivot and Slip, and the Amazon bestselling Spotlight series: Broken Records, Burning Tracks and Blended Notes.

Shelved by Lynn Charles: When library clerk Karina Ness meets a new patron, lonely business owner, Wesley Lloyd, she puts her own love life on hold and begins a holiday matchmaking mission to connect Wes with her uncle Tony.

Lynn Charles’ love of writing dates to her childhood, when thoughts, dreams, frustrations, and joys poured onto the pages of journals and diaries. She lives in Central Ohio with her husband and adult children where a blind dog and his guardian cat rule the roost. When she’s not writing, Lynn can be found planning a trip to New York or strolling its streets daydreaming about retirement. Her novel Black Dust (2016) was named a finalist for a Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year award. Her other novels include Beneath the Stars (2017) and Chef’s Table (2014).

Excerpts

Gracious Living Magazine Says It Has to Be a Live Tree by Killian B. Brewer

Hank ran his hands down Marcus’s back and tucked them into Marcus’s back pockets. He pulled Marcus tight against his body. “So how was it today?”

“It was a good day, Baby.” The warmth of his boyfriend’s body soothed Marcus’s tired muscles, and he relaxed into the embrace. Marcus breathed in deeply at Hank’s collar bone. The smells of the home-cooked food reheating upstairs that lingered in Hank’s cotton shirt mixed with his cologne and filled Marcus with two types of hunger. He satisfied one by turning his face and placing his lips on Hank’s. The other man let out a low hum of pleasure as they kissed. Marcus pulled away slightly and looked into Hank’s eyes. “I’m going to want seconds of that later, but right now I’m starving.”

“Let’s get upstairs and get to rectifying that.” Hank stepped toward the stairs and pulled Marcus along behind him, only letting go of his hand when they reached the narrow stairway and had to ascend single file. “You can tell me all about how the dinner went. Was it a big crowd?”

“Big doesn’t even begin to describe it. I can’t count how many plates I fixed today.” Marcus concentrated on Hank’s backside, which was accented by worn spots on his tight blue jeans, as it bounced up the stairs ahead of him. The sight of Hank’s firm body inches away and the scents of food wafting from the apartment set Marcus’s two hungers warring inside him. As he clomped upward, a loud rumble from his stomach signaled which desire would win this time.

“Was that your stomach?” Hank paused on the stairs and turned to shoot Marcus a concerned look.

“Yeah,” Marcus’s answered as he pushed Hank up the stairs into the apartment, “we need to get some food into me.” Remembering the Do-Nothings admonition not to ruin Hank’s surprise, he added, “I’m so tired I can barely climb these stairs. I don’t think I can cook another thing today. Maybe we should just make a frozen pizza.”

Hank spun around and grabbed Marcus by both wrists. Excitement danced in his eyes, and he shook his shoulders. “I’ve got a surprise for you! I made us a whole Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey and everything!” He pulled Marcus into the apartment and gestured toward the folding table beside the kitchenette along the wall of the large, open loft. “You don’t have to cook any more today!”

The table was covered with a russet tablecloth and had orange tapers burning in the center of a spray of autumn leaves and berries. Two plates sat on brown placemats embroidered with yellow leaves that Marcus recognized from Helen’s kitchen table. He was sure the tablecloth, napkins, and centerpiece belonged to the Do-Nothings as well.

“Oh, Hank. It’s beautiful. You shouldn’t have.” Marcus turned and kissed Hank on the cheek. His stomach interrupted the kiss with a loud grumble. “But, clearly, I’m so glad you did.”

“I wanted to make our first Thanksgiving together a special night.” Hank beamed as he stepped over to the counter and pointed out bowls of food arrayed there. “And I made all your favorites. Cathead biscuits. Creamed corn. And look!” Hank picked one bowl and thrust it toward Marcus. “Real mashed potatoes. Not from a box!”

True North by Pene Henson

Milla Dalya. Shay stopped worrying about the crowd of neighbors and her mom introducing Devon as her girlfriend. She stopped breathing too.

“Old crush,” she’d said to Devon in the car. “Nothing important.” That might not have been the whole truth.

For the first six months of high school, Shay had been first on the school bus each morning. Halfway through freshman year Milla and her twin brother Luka and uncle Ilie had moved into the dilapidated horse ranch up the hill. From then on, Milla and Luka were first on the bus; Shay was second. The three of them rode twenty minutes around the mountain before collecting anyone else.

That first frosty day, Milla had smiled at Shay.

“Oh, no,” Shay had thought as she pulled off her thick gloves and shoved them in her backpack. Milla’s smile was sudden and waywardly infectious. It balanced the seriousness of the girl’s pale, freckled face and silvery eyes.

Shay had managed to smile back and sit four seats away. Not too close, not too far. That was the trip to school. On the way home, Milla had asked Shay’s name. By week two they were sitting at the front of the bus sharing Shay’s iPod and a set of earbuds. When the bus swung around the mountain, Shay’s black, puffy jacket pressed against Milla’s sky-blue one.

They weren’t friends exactly. Shay didn’t have friends. She spent any time that wasn’t a class training in the gym or on the football field. She had goals.

Anyway, they’d never shared a class or a lunch break. Milla was a year older and a grade above Shay. She was soft-spoken and horse-mad, but so were lots of girls in Big Timber. She was quickly surrounded by people. Shay understood that. Milla was pretty and seemed easy with herself—graceful. She fit.

They weren’t friends, but however many other kids Milla could have sat with on the bus, she always saved a seat for Shay. They were bus allies. They ignored Luka and his friends and their never-ending noise. With the help of her iPod, Shay took on the development of Milla’s musical palate. Now and then, between Aaliyah and Amerie, Milla talked about her horses and the farm. Shay talked about fishing and basketball.

They weren’t friends, but every time Shay took the court, home or away, she scanned the bleachers to find Milla among the spectators before the starting whistle blew. And most afternoons Shay would run up the hill beside her house, testing herself on its uneven slope. At the top she’d look down on Milla’s blue-roofed farmhouse. Sometimes she’d see Milla walk across to the stables.

She didn’t jog down the hill to visit. It was simply reassuring to see the place, always there under the huge, blue bowl of the sky.

The whole brief time they’d shared here in nowhere, Montana, every single time Shay had seen Milla, it was as if she was the only person in the room.

Last Call at the Casa Blanca Bar & Grille by Erin Finnegan

Taking a seat at the Casa Blanca was like stepping out of a time capsule in Morocco circa 1941, by way of Hollywood. Located on the ground floor of an aging hotel, it greeted patrons with the sound of big band music on the stereo and framed photos of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman on the walls. Cast on crimson and gold accents, the warm, dim lighting suggested a permanent midnight.

A comfortable oddity compared to its five-star competition up the hill, the Casa Blanca’s style was part homage to the classic film, part tequila bar. The owner insisted on a sense of classic style— no jeans or T-shirts for its bartenders, who wore crisp, white dress shirts and black slacks, though he capitulated on the bow ties when the bartenders rose up against wearing the constrictive neck ware.

Admittedly, the Casa Blanca hadn’t always been Jack’s idea of a great bar. It had been an acquired taste, born of devotion and a willingness to follow. To some, it came across as fashionably ironic: Kasbah décor-meets-Mexican restaurant to a soundtrack from the American songbook. Jack would protest that it was a hipster joint, would try to default to something fashionably modern atop Bunker Hill, an elegant spot with a view, but the Casa Blanca’s quirks and contradictions grew on him over time.

Like a fungus, he would say.

Like love, he would be admonished.

Maybe it became so much a part of his routine because it was where they had spent many of their best moments together, and a few of their worst.

The Casa Blanca was a habit born out of a relationship, a routine that died of unnatural causes one year ago.

Rattan fans swirled overhead, casting erratic shadows across the depths of the near-empty room. Televisions at opposite ends of the bar echoed the play-by-play of ESPN in hushed and reverent tones; the voice of the broadcast team usurped by Peggy Lee.

At the far corner, his back to the entrance, a solitary bartender wiped glasses while glancing at the game.

“You open?” Jack asked.

“So long as you’re thirsty,” he answered without so much as a glance in Jack’s direction, as if anticipating the interruption. “But the kitchen’s closed.”

“That’s all right,” Jack said. He made himself comfortable at a table a few feet from the bar and adjusted his chair to face the television. It might not have been sociable, but he wasn’t here for conversation.

A napkin floated to the table. A bowl of Chex Mix settled in front of his fingertips. “What are you drinking?”

Jack glanced at the bartender’s hands without looking up—the prominent veins hinted at athleticism and the nails were buffed to a soft sheen.

He drank beer at games, but beer was a drink for the sociable, to be consumed among friends. Whiskey had an appropriately solitary feel, but seemed out of place for a warm evening.

“Tequila,” he said. “Casa Dragones.”

“And here I had you figured for bourbon.”

Halfway Home by Lilah Suzanne

She drives to Grace’s house next, even more anxious than she was about staging Rudy’s escape. “Just be glad you don’t have to date,” she tells Rudy, scooping out a bite of drippy ice cream. “You’d be dead inside after a while of that too.” Avery holds out the ice cream lid for Rudy to lick. Can dogs eat ice cream? It’s probably fine. “See? Who doesn’t like vanilla ice cream, right? It’s like all other ice cream owes vanilla its existence. Rocky road. Cookie dough. Moose Tracks. Cookies and cream.” Rudy looks plaintively up at her, so she sets the now-empty carton down on the seat for him. “Okay, yeah. I’m stalling.”

Covering him with the blanket again, Avery cuts the engine, promising to be back quickly before the cold seeps in, then runs up Grace’s driveway before she chickens out. Grace answers with two of her dogs at her heels.

“Hi,” Avery says, clouds of steam puffing out as she speaks. “Sorry to drop by.”

“It’s okay, I’m glad you did.” Grace smiles, and Avery shivers.

“I um, had a weird, yet inspirational, talk with Santa. I mean not real Santa. I don’t think he’s real; you know what I—”

Grace laughs. “I get it, yeah.”

Avery exhales a cloudy breath. “Okay. The thing is, I’ve been settling for feeling nothing because it was safe, or I thought it was, but I don’t want to feel numb anymore. Even though my nose and fingers do actually feel numb right now.” She rubs at her nose. It’s so cold; she has to wrap this up and get back to Rudy. “I just wanted to tell you that I really, really like you a lot. Like I haven’t liked anyone as much as you… ever, actually. Yes, including the person I lived with because— because I was afraid to speak up and say how I really felt. But I’m not anymore. Grace, meeting you was fate. And I don’t even believe in fate, but I don’t know what else it could be. If you need time, then I can give you time. But this is real, and it’s worth the risk to me.” Avery turns and jogs down the steps, not giving Grace a chance to respond. She said what she had say, she did what she needed to do and she’s proud of that, whatever happens or doesn’t happen. “Merry Christmas, Grace.”

Grace calls her name, just once, soft and hesitant. Avery doesn’t turn. The timing isn’t right, and that’s okay. It will be. Avery tucks this moment away, an ember warm and steady in her chest: hope.

Shelved by Lynn Charles

He put the car in drive, cranked up the heat, and grinned. “Point the way!”

She chewed on her bottom lip as she gathered the courage to mention the daydreams that had kept her mind occupied that afternoon. “I’ve been thinking,” she said. She kept her eyes on the road ahead in case her next sentence flopped like a basket of rotten tomatoes. “You might like my Uncle Tony.”

Wes remained quiet; his finger, softly tapping to the music, never paused. “Huh. What’s so special about Uncle Tony?”

Karina dared a glance Wes’s way. He seemed cautiously interested. “Well, he’s… I mean, he’s—” She was not going to say Uncle Tony’s interest in men was the main impetus. That was absurd and wrong, but— “He was married to my Aunt Jodi.”

“Your Aunt Jodi.” Wes pulled up to a traffic light. “If he was married to your aunt—what makes you think he’d be interested in me?”

Karina rolled her eyes. “There are such things as bisexuals, you know.”

“I—I do know, yes. I’m sorry.” He looked at her with a pained smile. “I’m so out of the dating game that I—yes.” He continued to tap his steering wheel to the music. “You said ‘was’ married—is that why it’s past tense?”

“Yeah. He didn’t come to terms with it until later and… she wasn’t keen on the idea.”

“That’s a shame,” he said. “Thing is, I’m not too sure I’m keen on getting back in the dating game.”

“But it’s Christmas!”

“What does that have to do with—” Before taking off from the light, he shot a look at her. “Your love bomb and your Christmas spirit are still tangled.”

She ignored him; of course they were tangled. That was the point. “But, Wes… walks in the snow and packages with pretty bows and eggnog under the tree.”

“You know, some people like being alone at Christmas.”

“Oh, come on. No one likes it; they put up with it. You said you were my age when—look, it was a long time ago, and maybe it’s time—”

“How old do you think I am?”

“You’re forty-six. Turn right up here.”

“Huh. Someone did more than fix my résumé, I see.” The smile he’d been visibly fighting this entire conversation finally broke free.

“Look, Uncle Tony is lonely, and you seem—”

“Lonely?”

“Well. Yes? And I think he’d make you laugh, and he loved James and the Giant Peach as a kid too…” She lingered and hoped that revelation would spark the ultimate flame. When he didn’t flinch, she rushed on. “And he makes the most amazing pasticiotti that should never go unshared.”

Pasticiotti?”

“It’s these custard-filled pastry… pie… things, and they take forever and a day, and he destroys his kitchen and my waistline. He shoves them off on his clients because—” She stopped rambling. Wes was laughing, and they’d driven right by her house. She directed him around the block.

“Does Uncle Tony know you’re trying to hook him up with a failed businessman?”

Giveaway

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A Stella Review: Storm Season by Pene Henson

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

storm-season-900px-front-tumblrThe great outdoors isn’t so great for Sydney It-Girl Lien Hong. It’s too dark, too quiet, and she’s certain a giant spider is going to sneak into the tent she’s sharing with friends on her way to a New South Wales music festival. To make matters worse, she’s been separated from her companions and taken a bad fall. With a storm approaching, her rescue comes in the form of a striking wilderness ranger named Claudia Sokolov, whose isolated cabin, soulful voice and collection of guitars bely a complicated history. While they wait out the weather, the women find an undeniable connection—one that puts them both on new trajectories that last long after the storm has cleared.

I’ll be honest and say this new release by Pene Henson wasn’t easy to read as it was Into The Blue , which I easily adored. I had some little struggles with Storm Season from the beginning until the ending, and these were due to the use of the present tense as verbal form. It’s not my favorite and I too often have problems with it, this time too. It gave me troubles and it was hard to focus on the characters and not on the pure writing. But I didn’t give up and was rewarded. I can’t give Storm Season less than four stars, it put me in a good mood and the atmosphere I found myself in was the right one I want to have in my reads.

Storm Season is one of the few FF romances I read so far, I picked it just cause I loved the author’s previous work. And it was a comfirmation of my appreciation for her style. As soon as I was able to put aside my aversion for the present form, Lien and Claudia caught my attention, two person apparently so different from each other, the first a fashion blogger well known, the second a ranger who isolated herself for three years. But things aren’t exactly how they appear, Lien is not a superficial girl and Claudia is not just a ranger. After some days spent together in a cabin in the middle of a storm, where they will let themselves got to the attraction they have for each other, Lien returns in Sidney and Claudia needs to come back to her life before the years she spent in the wilderness. From this point the story changes and it starts a new part where these two girls will take their time to actually know each other and see if they have something important to explore.

I have to say, the first part, although well done and hot in some scenes, bored me a little, while the second part engaged me deeply. I loved see both girls focused on their lives and it was really beautiful to watch Claudia gain the confidence and passion she had for her true work career.

I liked all the characters, not just the main ones, the second characters played important roles, especially Beau, Lien’s bestfriend. I liked him and it was clear how much he cared for Lien and her happiness. I would love to read his and Annie’s story.

If you’re a FF lover, give Storm Season by Pene Henson a chance. It deserves it.

I like the cover art by CB Messer, simple and well done and  it totally fits the story.

Sales Links

Interlude Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 208 pages

Published February 2nd 2017 by Interlude Press

ASIN B01MU73GUH

Edition Language English

INTERLUDE PRESS TOUR: Storm Season by Pene Henson (excerpt and giveaway)

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Storm Season by Pene Henson
I
nterlude Press
Release Date: February 2, 2017

Available for Purchase at

Interlude Press

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Pene Henson here today.  Welcome, Pene!

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Today Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is very lucky to be interviewing Pene Henson author of Storm Season.

Hi Pene, thanks for stopping by today! Could you tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

I’m Australian, extroverted and hard to ruffle. Also I’m pretty tall, mostly lacking in sporting prowess, and way less funny than I’d like to be. I live with my wife and our two divinely awesome kids in Sydney, along with a ferociously loving cat. Right now it’s summer and the days are long and hot. We spend our weekends in the grassy backyard with friends and champagne, playing whatever sports are currently in season. It’s a good life. Though with work and writing, it’s sometimes busier than I’d like.

I grew up dreaming of being an astronaut or an experimental physicist. I love sciences and mechanics but I’d do a dreadful job of either of those things so fortunately surprised myself by developing a career in law and writing.

I’ve always written poetry and short fiction. I never really dreamed of a novel until I was writing one. It was delightful to build a whole world, the first in Hawaii and on the ocean, and fall in love with my own characters.  

Storm Season is my second novel. It’s set on the Australian East Coast, in land and in cities that I know well. Like my previous novel, it’s essentially a happy queer story. It’s a romance between a bubbly and adorable fashion blogger and a capable park ranger living alone in a remote cabin. As you’d imagine, these women have vastly different experiences. They think they have vastly different priorities. Trapped together by a storm, however, they uncover not just a deep attraction to one another but also all the ways they fit together. And then, of course, the storm breaks and they have to work out what will happen when they return to their ordinary lives. 

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Mostly I want to write stories that focus on queer characters falling in love, over and over. If I can do that, and continue writing stories that are mostly outside, then I’ll be happy. I want readers to be moved by the characters, and to see the beautiful world and new loves through their eyes. It sounds a little boring, I don’t want to move on. But every story is different because every character is different and their character dictates how things move forward and how they love. I just want to write romances that are happy and kind and moving and make one or two people feel less alone.

How many published books do you have? Can you tell us something about them?

So far, there’s only the two.

The first is called Into the Blue. The book’s set in a ramshackle blue beach house on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii. Its leads are young men, surfers and best friends, who’ve grown up on the ocean. They love one another as friends and have built a found family with three others in their home on the beach. Early in the book, one of them has the chance to head off on a world pro-surfing tour and the other tags along.

Time in new places, on new beaches, brings these friends to explore a physical relationship. It’s this perfect bubble of time, private hotels and cabins, gorgeous views interspersed by surfing competitions. Things only get real when they have to return home and work out how to be around one another.

The second is this one, Storm Season. In some ways it’s the same story. Two people with a deep connection and chemistry that they explore while away from real life. In this book, that perfect bubble away from the world is Lien and Claudie’s time trapped together in a cabin in a storm. Their connection might be new but they have time to develop it as the rain goes on and on outside. But just like Into the Blue, these women need to return to homes and jobs someday. Once they’re home they can learn what their connection means in real life.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Lien is this sort of sparkling, outgoing bundle of optimism and fashion. She’s kind of ridiculous and adorable. She’s confident of her ability to make people like her. She lives in Sydney and is surrounded by friends, she’s popular on social media, she’s successful as a journalist in her own light way. With all this going on, she keeps her head busy and her heart busy. Underneath that buzz, she’s kind and thoughtful, she apologizes too much, she wants to make the world better, and she cares too much what people think. The story watches her grow into herself a bit, not all the way, and gain confidence in herself without other people. This gives her room to be about more than just a busy social life and fashion blogging. However much she still loves her friends and her social life and fashion blogging!

Claudie is a wilderness ranger living alone in the middle of nowhere NSW. Unsurprisingly, she’s kind of reclusive and pretty cranky. She’s innately capable. She keeps her own company and plays guitars to the wildlife. She has history beyond that, of course. She’s a talented songwriter and full of charisma. She left her career as an up and coming indie rockstar in some pretty awful circumstances and she’s been hiding ever since. Time with Lien wakes her up a bit, shows her that there are possibilities out there that she’d forgotten. 

What are you working on at the moment? What’s it about?

I’ve just started working on a short that I hope to have published by late in the year. It’s an f/f romance about a pro-basketballer coming home to Montana, to wide open skies and odd small towns. It’s about remembering who you are, and it’s about falling back in love with an old crush. 

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

In the midst of deadlines I do, I use Pacemaker at pacemaker.press to give myself a chance of having word count goals that vary daily depending on my needs. With two young kids and a more than full time job I need all the help I can get.

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About Storm Season

The great outdoors isn’t so great for Sydney It-Girl Lien Hong. It’s too dark, too quiet, and there are spiders in the toilet of the cabin she is sharing with friends on the way to a New South Wales music festival. To make matters worse, she’s been separated from her companions and taken a bad fall. With a storm approaching, her rescue comes in the form of a striking wilderness ranger named Claudia Sokolov, whose isolated cabin, soulful voice and collection of guitars bely a complicated history. While they wait out the weather, the women find an undeniable connection—one that puts them both on new trajectories that last long after the storm has cleared.

 

Excerpt from Storm Season

 

Two weeks ago, Lien had to resign herself to coming up north in the first place. Now she’s resigning herself to going home to Sydney. Of course, not everything will be terrible. She’s pretty sure a shower with no line outside the door will change her life. She’ll have her local restaurants back, rather than dealing with her friends’ inconsistent cooking. She can’t wait for clean sheets and clean clothes and a full length mirror so she can feel like herself again. Also, there’ll be way fewer flies.

But Sydney also means she has no chance to bump into a gorgeous park ranger while grabbing groceries or walking to the train. Somehow Claudie’s had no last minute change of heart. Not that Lien was holding out hope but—damn it, Lien was completely holding out hope.

* * *

Lien’s focus is on Claudie. “You’re being unfair. I never thought of you as a cause,” she says. Her voice is choked.

“I only meant that you want to build my band for me. I need to do it for myself.”

“I never wanted that. I wanted to help. You could definitely use help.” Lien’s eyes glitter in the streetlight. She lifts her chin. “But more than that, I wanted to spend time with you, Claudie. Look, I had this whole plan to ask you to go on a date with me.” She swallows. “I didn’t want a cause. I was kind of hoping for a girlfriend.” Car headlights arc behind them. Lien goes on. “What I said up at the cabin? That I thought we could be something? Nothing changed for me. I still think we could work. But you don’t. You push me away if I come close. So I’m done. I’m not going to trail around after you trying to prove that I’m a different person from the one you made up in your head. I can’t make you believe this would work when you’ve already made up your mind that it won’t.”

She whirls around and strides away. She’s across the road in a break in the traffic before Claudie has time to think. Lien’s white dress reflects the green and red and white of the city lights. Her hair flies out behind her.

Claudie can’t breathe. The rest of the world keeps moving. Wind spirals in the trees that line the street. A few clouds tumble across the sky and block the moon. A siren wails in the distance.

Lien’s the opposite of what Claudie needs. She’s hectic. She’s interfering. She’ll move on. It’s taken months for Claudie to realize that none of that matters.

* * *

“Come out here,” calls Claudie from the deck.

Claudie’s leaning on the railing looking over the vast expanse of nothing. “Come and stand at the edge here,” she says. “It’s like the edge of the universe.”

It’s dark; there’s nothing out there. The world smells rich and wet. Lien holds herself still and looks out with the cabin lights behind her.

“Wait a sec,” says Claudie.

She steps back toward the house and reaches inside the cabin door. Everything goes dark.

“Hey—” Lien can’t see a thing. They haven’t had lights in days, and now Claudie’s turning them off. The blackness seems complete.

“You’re okay,” says Claudie. “It’ll take a moment for your eyes to adjust. I figured—It’s been raining so much. You haven’t had a clear night up here. I wanted to show you.” She moves beside Lien against the railing.

And as Lien’s eyes accustom themselves to the dark, the sky opens up above them. The Milky Way sweeps a path of light across the great black bowl. Around that the night extends from one clear horizon to the other, lit by a thousand layers of stars on stars, dazzling bright in the dark.

The universe goes on forever. It’s huge, and Lien’s tiny and breathless in front of it.

In that moment nothing is worth thinking about beyond that sky, nothing but the huge universe and Claudie’s hand, steady and close beside Lien’s on the railing, Claudie’s warm body so near. Lien twines her pinkie around Claudie’s. They stand under the stars, still and silent.

When Lien turns, Claudie’s cheekbones are traced in blue-white and her eyes reflect a thousand pinprick lights. She’s beautiful. She’s from a whole other world.

* * *

Storm Season will be published by Interlude Press on February 2, 2017. Connect with author Pene Henson at PeneHenson.com; on Facebook at facebook.com/penewrites and on Twitter at @penehenson.

About the Author

Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Into the Blue, her first novel, was published by Interlude Press in 2016 and received a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

Storm Season will be published by Interlude Press on February 2, 2017. Connect with author Pene Henson at PeneHenson.com; on Facebook at facebook.com/penewrites and on Twitter at @penehenson.

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In the Spotlight: Into the Blue by Pene Hanson (excerpt and giveaway)

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Into the Blue by Pene Henson
Release Date: July 7, 2016

Goodreads Link
Publisher: Interlude Press
Cover Artist: Colleen M. Good

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to be interviewing Pene Henson author of Into the Blue today. Hi Pene, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself, your background, and your current book.

  • What’s the easiest thing about writing?

The easiest part for me is knowing these characters’ hearts and thinking through how they would respond to the world and the things that happen around them. But generally there’s no bad side. 

I love the act of writing enough that my extremely early mornings don’t feel difficult. Not that the work of writing is always easy, but it’s always a joy.

  • Name one author (living or dead) you’d like to write with?

My friend Jo and I wrote a large number of stories together and I’d love to see what we will do if we commit to a novel. She’s a powerful and heart-breaking writer who knows all the odd little quirks of humanity, all the ways people fail others and come good anyway, and I suspect our joint novel will be more complicated than anything I could write alone. 

But she has no idea about tenses and point of view. So I’d be in charge of that.

  • Tell us about your cover and how it came about.

I could talk about this cover forever. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. When our art director, CB Messer, met with me about the cover she had read the book. She’s lived in Hawaii and so connected with the imagery and the subject matter. We instantly agreed on the visuals of that early morning light, the pale golds and shifting blues of surf at dawn. CB suggested we could focus the front cover on the power of the surf and the surfing competition or on the relationship between the characters and the sea. Honestly, either would have been gorgeous but I felt relationships are critical to the book. It’s a gentle book despite their sporting prowess. 

When she sent this drawing through, I loved it even more than I anticipated. I love the light in the sky and reflecting from the water. And the boys, waiting for the next wave, Ollie’s profile and Tai’s strong back visible and recognizably them. It’s the moment before a wave comes in, that waiting time before everything changes.

And then the back. With the warm sunlit deck of the Blue House and the five boards leaning together, one for each of the people living there.

CB is an exceptional artist and really captured the book.

  • Is this book part of a series? Do you have ideas that could make it into a series? If it is a series, tell us a little about it.

No, no it’s not and it was never intended to be. However (is there always a forever) I do have a story to tell about Hannah, who lives with Tai and Ollie. She’s a joy to me. Broad-shouldered and laid back. She’s in love with her best friend but I don’t know that’s going anywhere. I think she could have a whirlwind of a girlfriend who knocks her off her steady perch. And then Tai and Ollie and Sunny would be in the background.

  • Word association. Tell us the first thing that comes to mind when you read these words.

Ketchup – We still call it tomato sauce.

Flakes – Goldfish food

Elastic – Heart ❤

Timer – How to get kids to do anything faster

Google – where all my documents live

Now more about

Into the Blue by Pene Henson

Blurb

Tai Talagi and Ollie Birkstrom have been inseparable since they met as kids surfing the North Shore. Now they live with their best friends in a pulled-together family, sharing life and the saltwater in their veins. Tai’s spent years setting aside his feelings for Ollie, but when Ollie’s pro surfing aspirations come to fruition, their steady world shifts. Is the relationship worth risking everything for a chance at something terrifying and beautiful and altogether new?

 

Pages or Words: 236 pages, 72,600 words
Categories: Contemporary, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, New Adult, Romance

Excerpt

Across from them, one of the Brazilians plays guitar. Ollie doesn’t recognize the song even when a couple of others sing along. The beach is wider and the sand finer than on the North Shore, but every beach is a little like home. Ollie misses the Blue House; he misses the surf and the palms and the shoreline he knows so well. He misses Jaime and Sunny and Hannah. Still, though he’s as far from home as he’s ever been, Ollie’s comfortable. These are his people, too. He leans back on his arms and looks up into the dark.

He’s watched the night sky since he was a little kid, but down here in the Southern Hemisphere he doesn’t recognize the hundreds upon hundreds of stars. The Southern Cross is up there. Ollie tries to orient himself.

Tai shifts toward him, then looks up and follows Ollie’s gaze. The warmth of Tai’s body settles into Ollie’s heart, grounds him. Ollie leans into him a little, and their arms brush to the elbow. The contact simmers in the air between them.

Unexpectedly, Ollie knows what he wants. “Come back to the hotel,” he says quietly to Tai. He pitches his voice low. It hums across the tiny space between them. No one else can hear him over the pounding surf and the sound of the music. It’s easy to be bold in the dark of a beach where Ollie’s never been before. He’s shocked by that same boldness.

Buy the book

 

 

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Meet the Author

Pene Henson has gone from British boarding schools to New York City law firms. She now lives in Sydney, Australia, where she is an intellectual property lawyer and published poet who is deeply immersed in the city’s LGBTQIA community. She spends her spare time enjoying the outdoors and gazing at the ocean with her gorgeous wife and two unexpectedly exceptional sons. Into the Blue is her first novel.

Where to find the author:


Tour Dates & Stops:

7-Jul: Havan Fellows, Louise Lyons, Parker Williams

8-Jul: Outrageous Heroes, Unquietly Me, Dawn’s Reading Nook

11-Jul: Love Bytes, Kirsty Loves Books, Bayou Book Junkie

12-Jul: Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, MM Good Book Reviews, Butterfly-O-Meter

13-Jul: Oh My Shelves, Boys on the Brink Reviews

14-Jul: Molly Lolly, Happily Ever Chapter

15-Jul: Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, Sinfully Addicted to All Male Romance, Prism Book Alliance

18-Jul: MM Book Escape, Making It Happen, Velvet Panic, BFD Book Blog

19-Jul: Book Lovers 4Ever, My Fiction Nook, V’s Reads

20-Jul: A.M. Leibowitz, Alpha Book Club

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Giveaway

 

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