Z.A. Maxfield on Writing, Childhood Dreams and the new release Three Vlog Night (Plummet to Soar #3) (author guest blog and giveaway)

Standard

Three Vlog Night (Plummet to Soar #3) by Z.A. Maxfield

Dreamspinner Press
Published June 4th 2019
Cover Art; L.C. Chase

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Z.A. Maxfield here today to talk about the new novel Three Vlog Night! Welcome, ZAM!

✒︎

Hello, and thanks so much for allowing me to be here with you at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. It’s a privilege to share my new book, Three Vlog Night with your readers. I’m really proud of this one.  I hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

So… Here we are again. I think this is something like the thirty-seventh novel I’ve written! I can’t believe it! When I was a kid, if you’d told me I’d get to do this, I think I would have been even more impatient to grow up than I was. I’ve got my dream job, an awesome family, and a truly blessed life… I feel like I should pinch myself!

Since you were kind enough to provide me with some interview questions, I thought I’d pick the ones I don’t remember answering before. I love the chance to talk about the work, my past, and my process!

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

Oh, absolutely. I was in about the seventh grade when I discovered a little thing called “Romance.” My mother was a mystery reader, and my older sister was into Sci-Fi and Fantasy. And there I was, looking longingly at all the books which, in those days, often featured a half-naked woman running away from the ruins of a castle. The first two books I remember checking out over and over, were The Pink Dress, by Anne Alexander, and The Innocent Wayfaring, by Marchette Chute. The Pink Dress was a contemporary, and The Innocent Wayfaring was a medieval historical, I think. I read the covers off those books! They really set me on a course as far as my reading preferences, forever.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

Of course! Without an HFN or HEA, no book can be called a “romance”. Every writer in romance has made an unconscious pact with the reader: I’ll take you on an awful journey where you’ll, and cry, and kiss your hard-earned bucks goodbye, but don’t despair! Everything will come out right in the end. Romance writers who think they can let the reader down at the end of a book, beware the coming apocalypse. Or just label it literature, because the romance genre reader believes in you, and once you betray their trust, you will never earn it back. 

Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?

Oddly enough, I think my major influences were not genre fiction writers, but playwrights and screen writers. It was the poignant moments in plays like Harvey and The Children’s Hour, and films like Casablanca and When Harry Met Sally that generated those highly charged emotional moments which made me want to write. Script writers taught me how to leverage conflict, create strong internal and external character arcs, and use the “less is more” concept that makes tight writing work. 

How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

I love ebooks. The fact that I can carry a couple hundred of my favorite novels in one slim tablet to read on a plane is amazing to me. Also, as I get older, that being able to change the size of the type has value. My arms are definitely not long enough for me to read trade paperbacks without reading glasses, which I always seem to misplace or forget! Ebooks, for all their flaws, like piracy, easily plagiarizable formats, and sheer ease of dreck production, are spilled wine–no one can put them back into the bottle.

What’s next for you as an author?

After a couple of tough years, I now have the opportunity to set a brand new course for myself. I’ll be finishing up The Brothers Grime Series, and starting a series of cozy mystery novellas. I see myself straddling the line between mystery and romance, and writing more of the quirky characters, highly emotional, and sweet stories I’m known for. I see myself slowing down, and finding my stride, without outside influences. Stay tuned! You have no idea what I’ve got in store for you!

 

As for Three Vlog Night, here’s a blurb:

Ajax Fairchild’s online alter ego has caused him trouble before, but never like this. After multiple death threats, his loaded parents decide he needs an enforced digital vacation and the best bodyguard money can buy.

That would be Dmytro Kolisnychenko, former soldier, former hired muscle for the Ukrainian mob—until he lost his happy home life to an enemy with a homemade bomb. Now he wants only two things: to spend every precious second he can with his daughters, and to provide for them by protecting people who can’t protect themselves—even entitled little asshats like Ajax Fairchild.

But Ajax doesn’t fit into the spoiled little rich kid box as neatly as Dmytro would like. Dmytro doesn’t have time for a romantic dalliance, and Ajax is a client, albeit one with unexpected depths. With one coincidence after another driving them to the sleepy seaside town of St. Nacho’s and away from their planned safe house, they grow to trust each other and find that love follows trust. Now they must learn where the threat to Ajax is coming from and neutralize it… before it’s too late for their happily ever after.

Here’s an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Ajax Freedom. Your time on this earth is at an end. Prepare to meet the God you denigrate. Prepare to pay for your sins. Prepare for the coming bloodbath.

Death threats came hourly to Ajax Freedom via his website, but you wouldn’t know it from the slow, deliberate way he dressed. Like a stripper in reverse, he smirked at Dmytro, daring him to react to the bulge in the boxer briefs he wore beneath loose, soft jeans that hung open while he pulled a Henley on over his pale, well-muscled body. While he donned and zipped up a hooded sweatshirt.

Dmytro frowned into his phone. This was 2018. Did Ajax expect him to blush with maidenly modesty? Or offer some threat because despite the Ajax Freedom persona, the man behind the cavalierly bourgeois playboy was gay? The client was apparently dim.

That didn’t stop the shockwave of intense physical attraction Dmytro experienced when he first saw him. Dmytro hid his grimace and said, “It’s 7:57 p.m. Be ready to leave in three minutes.”

“All right.”

“All right,” Dmytro echoed uselessly. If Ajax was waiting for a single sign of disapproval or homophobia or whatever—nope. Ajax had been walking around in a state of undress since they’d finally lured him out of his room, and if Dmytro were going to react, he’d have done it by now. He had years of practice hiding his emotions from the most dangerous men in the world. This pampered boy-man should be no problem. Probably.

The two people Dmytro cared about most texted him bright messages of love and wonder and wished him safe travels, and if he messed up on the job, those two people didn’t eat.

Dmytro had to keep Ajax Freedom alive, so that made Ajax number three on his list of people to care about, if only until the job ended. Freedom could stay naked and swing from the chandeliers, flaunt himself in front of the men who protected him, or make crank calls to the White House for all Dmytro cared, so long as Dmytro got back to his girls intact.

He hid his smirk behind an impassive face to show that the display of pale, freckled skin wasn’t getting Ajax anywhere, even though it was extremely creamy and looked velvety soft. Plus… freckles. A particular kink, but nothing he couldn’t handle.

Ajax fussed noisily in the closet for a few seconds before turning to say, “Well? Are we going?”

Dmytro briefly lifted his gaze. “Has three minutes passed?”

With a huff, Ajax fussed in the closet some more. He muttered, “Suitcase, suitcase, sports bag, garment bag, messenger bag, backpack, laptop bag.”

“Nuh-uh,” Dmytro reminded him. “Laptop stays here.”

Ajax appeared aghast. “I thought you were just saying that to jerk me around.”

“When I jerk you around, it will be unmistakable. Leave the laptop.” Dmytro had cloned Ajax’s phone and pulled the batteries from it, disabled his desktop, and confiscated batteries for his laptop, his fitness tracker—anything that could be traced. They allowed the boy to keep his fancy dive watch but disabled its GPS. The rest of his many devices had been secured or would be stored. They’d checked his bags. “You’re on an enforced digital time-out. Think of it as chance to go old-school and read a physical book.”

Ajax frowned. “When was the last time you read a physical book?”

“None of your beeswax.”

“Fine.” Ajax handed over the bag.

“Please double-check you have everything.” Dmytro scrolled through the drawing his daughter Sasha sent of Mrs. Whatsit. It was wonderful, although he could hardly stand to look at it. She’d made Whatsit’s eyes glisten, and they seemed to follow him, no matter how he held his phone. He didn’t know about art. Something about shading and negative space? She was going to be a real artist someday, sophisticated and subtle.

With a sigh, Dmytro texted that yes, he’d watch A Wrinkle in Time with Sasha and Pen again when he returned, although children’s movies were going to destroy humanity. So much music and magic and mystery. You are more than you believe. Everyone hoped that was true, but no one actually was.

He eyed his client.

There was something intrinsically wrong with a job that took him away from his children to protect someone else’s. He was good at what he did, but his method never deviated. Get in, protect the client long enough to keep him alive while Iphicles neutralized any threats, and get home.

Pen’s drawing showed her love of geometric shapes and primary colors. There was nothing nuanced about Pen. He liked her drawings as much as her sister’s. They both showed promise, to him. With that his after supper three-minute check-in came to a close.

He immersed himself fully in the job when he put his phone away and checked the peephole. Peter stood by the elevators, keeping watch on the hall.

“Time to go.” When Dmytro moved, he moved quickly. He could spring from a twenty-minute power nap into a melee with no ramp-up time at all.

But now Ajax hesitated.

How Dmytro wished people wouldn’t dither. He picked up Ajax’s duffel and looped the shoulder straps over his neck. Next came the messenger bag, and finally the backpack and one of the suitcases. There was no point in arguing about the amount of luggage a client had. One simply found a way to carry it. Sometimes, if one had to, one carried the client as well.

“You take the wheeled Pullman. I’ve got the rest.”

Ajax dropped a hand on the handle as if he didn’t know how to work it. This man—this rather young man—seemed to be incapable of following basic commands.

He’d texted with his sister-in-law earlier. It’s a shame for his parents. There is nothing to do here but squat in the safe house and keep him from doing something stupid until Peter tracks down each of the threats. He has a bag of toys, I think.

Peter? she’d asked, but he was sure she meant it as a joke.

The boy.

Mitya. She could lecture him about anything. You must treat even a stupid client with respect and kindness.

Of course, he’d replied with some asperity. When have you known me to be unkind?

“I’ll take the Pullman too.” Dmytro took its handle. “When we leave the room, stay behind me.”

“Won’t it be easier if they just kill me now so you won’t bore me to death?”

“Don’t say that.” Dmytro concealed his irritation. “I’ll keep you safe.”

Freedom didn’t look reassured. “Who’ll keep you safe?”

“I keep myself safe.” He pocketed his phone and glanced both ways before turning to Ajax. “We’re going to pretend we’re mice. Be quiet as you can.”

“Okay.” Ajax held up a “wait” finger. “Just a sec.”

With a deep sigh, Dmytro closed and locked the door again. “This might be what I meant by do you have everything?”

“I have everything. I just need these too.” At the coat closet, Ajax wrapped a soft-looking scarf around his neck, tugged a slouchy beanie over his hair, and slid on a pair of sunglasses. With his trademark dark curly hair hidden and his face obscured, he didn’t look like the internet It Kid anymore. In spite of himself, Dmytro nodded his satisfaction.

“Better.” He checked his weapon, returned it to his holster, and gripped the door handle. Once he wrenched it open, he checked the hallway again. All clear. He moved with Ajax toward the elevators and Peter. The three got in together.

When the doors closed, he and Peter stepped in front of Ajax, keeping their bodies between him and the lobby. When they opened again, a reassuring nothing happened. Dmytro and Peter swept their client out the revolving door and to the curb, where Bartlomiej waited with the town car.

After suffering a head injury and seizure a few months before, Dmytro bitterly resented being unable to drive. He left the luggage for Peter and settled Ajax into the back seat. Then he got into the front on the passenger side with a huff.

“All right?” Dmytro greeted his colleague.

“All set.” Bartlomiej, whom everyone called Bartosz, sat behind the wheel with the engine running. “Don’t pout. You’ll be driving soon enough. In the meantime, you’ve got me. Enjoy.”

A few more months without a seizure and he could regain privileges. Until then, he did what he was told.

He rolled the window down and called to Peter. “Be well, brother.”

Peter waved before melting into the night.

“He left?” Ajax asked. “Why’d he leave? Where’d he go?”

Dmytro closed his window. “We’re a team. We split up when we need to. Peter’s going to neutralize your admirers, and I will go to the safe house with you.”

“Lucky me.” He didn’t sound like he felt lucky.

“Drive, Bartosz.”

“Bartosz,” Ajax addressed him. “Any chance we could hit a drive-through? I need something to drink. Which, I’ve gotta warn you now, will probably come right back up, because I get really carsick.”

“Perfect.” Could their day get worse? “Do you need to sit up front?”

“It won’t matter, unfortunately.”

“All right.” Bartosz nodded and said in Ukrainian, “He’s like you, my very special snowflake. Did you bring a patch?”

“Not this time.” When Bartosz started to snicker, Dmytro gave him a warning grunt. To Ajax he said, “Your lucky day. I have Meclizine. One tablet and you should be fine.” He handed a blister pack over the console, along with a bottled water. “Make sure to drink all of it. The medication will give you dry mouth.”

Dmytro popped a pill and cracked open a second water. Bartosz’s voice took on a teasing quality. “You’ll both be sound asleep before we get on the highway.”

“You have the directions?”

Bartosz gave him an eye roll. “Don’t worry.”

Dmytro glanced around at Ajax. Bundled up like that, he looked barely older than six-year-old Sasha. About as defenseless too. In his own language, he asked Bartosz, “What do you suppose makes someone want attention so badly they’ll do any repulsive thing to get it?”

Bartholomew shrugged. “He’s a good-looking boy. I could find a use for him.”

Dmytro tensed. “Don’t be that guy.”

“I’m teasing.”

Dmytro hoped so. Bartosz was a professional, after all.

Ajax hissed, “Speak English. You’re being so rude.”

“I told him I’d like a corn dog.” Bartosz glanced in the rearview. “Do you still want a drink?”

Ajax’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, please.”

“I’ll get you a corn dog.” Dmytro cuffed Bartosz for that. “For myself too. Jalapeño cheese peppers and a strawberry lemonade slush. And you’ll pay for all of us, Bartosz.”

“That’s ‘poppers,’” Ajax corrected.

“What is?”

“Jalapeño poppers,” he continued in his didactic tone, “are jalapeños stuffed with either cream cheese or cheddar, dipped in batter, and fried. They’re called ‘poppers.’”

“Thank you for educating me.” Dmytro had never been that certain about anything in his life. At twenty-two, he’d been a homeless thug with two lucky gifts: a mild form of genius with foreign languages and the ability to read very fast. He’d found himself a crime boss with a need for a translator with muscle and a passion for classic literature. The rest was history.

What did Ajax Freedom know about anything? He met Bartosz’s pleased glance before retrieving his phone from his pocket.

Good news, the client is probably not stupid, he texted Liv. He’s just a mudak. An asshole. Liv would understand.

Z.A. Maxfield is getting her kicks writing on Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga these days. She lives with her husband, three of her grown children, and dog of indeterminable variety named Dr. Watson. Despite the world we live in, she still believes in first love, second chances, and kissing in the rain.

Join ZAM’s group, ZAM-Nation HERE, or visit her website, like her page on Facebook, or contact her through Twitter.

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Z.A. Maxfield on Writing, Childhood Dreams and the new release Three Vlog Night (Plummet to Soar #3) (author guest blog and giveaway)

Standard

Three Vlog Night (Plummet to Soar #3) by Z.A. Maxfield

Dreamspinner Press
Published June 4th 2019
Cover Art; L.C. Chase

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Z.A. Maxfield here today to talk about the new novel Three Vlog Night! Welcome, ZAM!

✒︎

Hello, and thanks so much for allowing me to be here with you at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. It’s a privilege to share my new book, Three Vlog Night with your readers. I’m really proud of this one.  I hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

So… Here we are again. I think this is something like the thirty-seventh novel I’ve written! I can’t believe it! When I was a kid, if you’d told me I’d get to do this, I think I would have been even more impatient to grow up than I was. I’ve got my dream job, an awesome family, and a truly blessed life… I feel like I should pinch myself!

Since you were kind enough to provide me with some interview questions, I thought I’d pick the ones I don’t remember answering before. I love the chance to talk about the work, my past, and my process!

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?

Oh, absolutely. I was in about the seventh grade when I discovered a little thing called “Romance.” My mother was a mystery reader, and my older sister was into Sci-Fi and Fantasy. And there I was, looking longingly at all the books which, in those days, often featured a half-naked woman running away from the ruins of a castle. The first two books I remember checking out over and over, were The Pink Dress, by Anne Alexander, and The Innocent Wayfaring, by Marchette Chute. The Pink Dress was a contemporary, and The Innocent Wayfaring was a medieval historical, I think. I read the covers off those books! They really set me on a course as far as my reading preferences, forever.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?

Of course! Without an HFN or HEA, no book can be called a “romance”. Every writer in romance has made an unconscious pact with the reader: I’ll take you on an awful journey where you’ll, and cry, and kiss your hard-earned bucks goodbye, but don’t despair! Everything will come out right in the end. Romance writers who think they can let the reader down at the end of a book, beware the coming apocalypse. Or just label it literature, because the romance genre reader believes in you, and once you betray their trust, you will never earn it back. 

Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?

Oddly enough, I think my major influences were not genre fiction writers, but playwrights and screen writers. It was the poignant moments in plays like Harvey and The Children’s Hour, and films like Casablanca and When Harry Met Sally that generated those highly charged emotional moments which made me want to write. Script writers taught me how to leverage conflict, create strong internal and external character arcs, and use the “less is more” concept that makes tight writing work. 

How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

I love ebooks. The fact that I can carry a couple hundred of my favorite novels in one slim tablet to read on a plane is amazing to me. Also, as I get older, that being able to change the size of the type has value. My arms are definitely not long enough for me to read trade paperbacks without reading glasses, which I always seem to misplace or forget! Ebooks, for all their flaws, like piracy, easily plagiarizable formats, and sheer ease of dreck production, are spilled wine–no one can put them back into the bottle.

What’s next for you as an author?

After a couple of tough years, I now have the opportunity to set a brand new course for myself. I’ll be finishing up The Brothers Grime Series, and starting a series of cozy mystery novellas. I see myself straddling the line between mystery and romance, and writing more of the quirky characters, highly emotional, and sweet stories I’m known for. I see myself slowing down, and finding my stride, without outside influences. Stay tuned! You have no idea what I’ve got in store for you!

 

As for Three Vlog Night, here’s a blurb:

Ajax Fairchild’s online alter ego has caused him trouble before, but never like this. After multiple death threats, his loaded parents decide he needs an enforced digital vacation and the best bodyguard money can buy.

That would be Dmytro Kolisnychenko, former soldier, former hired muscle for the Ukrainian mob—until he lost his happy home life to an enemy with a homemade bomb. Now he wants only two things: to spend every precious second he can with his daughters, and to provide for them by protecting people who can’t protect themselves—even entitled little asshats like Ajax Fairchild.

But Ajax doesn’t fit into the spoiled little rich kid box as neatly as Dmytro would like. Dmytro doesn’t have time for a romantic dalliance, and Ajax is a client, albeit one with unexpected depths. With one coincidence after another driving them to the sleepy seaside town of St. Nacho’s and away from their planned safe house, they grow to trust each other and find that love follows trust. Now they must learn where the threat to Ajax is coming from and neutralize it… before it’s too late for their happily ever after.

Here’s an excerpt:

Chapter 1

Ajax Freedom. Your time on this earth is at an end. Prepare to meet the God you denigrate. Prepare to pay for your sins. Prepare for the coming bloodbath.

Death threats came hourly to Ajax Freedom via his website, but you wouldn’t know it from the slow, deliberate way he dressed. Like a stripper in reverse, he smirked at Dmytro, daring him to react to the bulge in the boxer briefs he wore beneath loose, soft jeans that hung open while he pulled a Henley on over his pale, well-muscled body. While he donned and zipped up a hooded sweatshirt.

Dmytro frowned into his phone. This was 2018. Did Ajax expect him to blush with maidenly modesty? Or offer some threat because despite the Ajax Freedom persona, the man behind the cavalierly bourgeois playboy was gay? The client was apparently dim.

That didn’t stop the shockwave of intense physical attraction Dmytro experienced when he first saw him. Dmytro hid his grimace and said, “It’s 7:57 p.m. Be ready to leave in three minutes.”

“All right.”

“All right,” Dmytro echoed uselessly. If Ajax was waiting for a single sign of disapproval or homophobia or whatever—nope. Ajax had been walking around in a state of undress since they’d finally lured him out of his room, and if Dmytro were going to react, he’d have done it by now. He had years of practice hiding his emotions from the most dangerous men in the world. This pampered boy-man should be no problem. Probably.

The two people Dmytro cared about most texted him bright messages of love and wonder and wished him safe travels, and if he messed up on the job, those two people didn’t eat.

Dmytro had to keep Ajax Freedom alive, so that made Ajax number three on his list of people to care about, if only until the job ended. Freedom could stay naked and swing from the chandeliers, flaunt himself in front of the men who protected him, or make crank calls to the White House for all Dmytro cared, so long as Dmytro got back to his girls intact.

He hid his smirk behind an impassive face to show that the display of pale, freckled skin wasn’t getting Ajax anywhere, even though it was extremely creamy and looked velvety soft. Plus… freckles. A particular kink, but nothing he couldn’t handle.

Ajax fussed noisily in the closet for a few seconds before turning to say, “Well? Are we going?”

Dmytro briefly lifted his gaze. “Has three minutes passed?”

With a huff, Ajax fussed in the closet some more. He muttered, “Suitcase, suitcase, sports bag, garment bag, messenger bag, backpack, laptop bag.”

“Nuh-uh,” Dmytro reminded him. “Laptop stays here.”

Ajax appeared aghast. “I thought you were just saying that to jerk me around.”

“When I jerk you around, it will be unmistakable. Leave the laptop.” Dmytro had cloned Ajax’s phone and pulled the batteries from it, disabled his desktop, and confiscated batteries for his laptop, his fitness tracker—anything that could be traced. They allowed the boy to keep his fancy dive watch but disabled its GPS. The rest of his many devices had been secured or would be stored. They’d checked his bags. “You’re on an enforced digital time-out. Think of it as chance to go old-school and read a physical book.”

Ajax frowned. “When was the last time you read a physical book?”

“None of your beeswax.”

“Fine.” Ajax handed over the bag.

“Please double-check you have everything.” Dmytro scrolled through the drawing his daughter Sasha sent of Mrs. Whatsit. It was wonderful, although he could hardly stand to look at it. She’d made Whatsit’s eyes glisten, and they seemed to follow him, no matter how he held his phone. He didn’t know about art. Something about shading and negative space? She was going to be a real artist someday, sophisticated and subtle.

With a sigh, Dmytro texted that yes, he’d watch A Wrinkle in Time with Sasha and Pen again when he returned, although children’s movies were going to destroy humanity. So much music and magic and mystery. You are more than you believe. Everyone hoped that was true, but no one actually was.

He eyed his client.

There was something intrinsically wrong with a job that took him away from his children to protect someone else’s. He was good at what he did, but his method never deviated. Get in, protect the client long enough to keep him alive while Iphicles neutralized any threats, and get home.

Pen’s drawing showed her love of geometric shapes and primary colors. There was nothing nuanced about Pen. He liked her drawings as much as her sister’s. They both showed promise, to him. With that his after supper three-minute check-in came to a close.

He immersed himself fully in the job when he put his phone away and checked the peephole. Peter stood by the elevators, keeping watch on the hall.

“Time to go.” When Dmytro moved, he moved quickly. He could spring from a twenty-minute power nap into a melee with no ramp-up time at all.

But now Ajax hesitated.

How Dmytro wished people wouldn’t dither. He picked up Ajax’s duffel and looped the shoulder straps over his neck. Next came the messenger bag, and finally the backpack and one of the suitcases. There was no point in arguing about the amount of luggage a client had. One simply found a way to carry it. Sometimes, if one had to, one carried the client as well.

“You take the wheeled Pullman. I’ve got the rest.”

Ajax dropped a hand on the handle as if he didn’t know how to work it. This man—this rather young man—seemed to be incapable of following basic commands.

He’d texted with his sister-in-law earlier. It’s a shame for his parents. There is nothing to do here but squat in the safe house and keep him from doing something stupid until Peter tracks down each of the threats. He has a bag of toys, I think.

Peter? she’d asked, but he was sure she meant it as a joke.

The boy.

Mitya. She could lecture him about anything. You must treat even a stupid client with respect and kindness.

Of course, he’d replied with some asperity. When have you known me to be unkind?

“I’ll take the Pullman too.” Dmytro took its handle. “When we leave the room, stay behind me.”

“Won’t it be easier if they just kill me now so you won’t bore me to death?”

“Don’t say that.” Dmytro concealed his irritation. “I’ll keep you safe.”

Freedom didn’t look reassured. “Who’ll keep you safe?”

“I keep myself safe.” He pocketed his phone and glanced both ways before turning to Ajax. “We’re going to pretend we’re mice. Be quiet as you can.”

“Okay.” Ajax held up a “wait” finger. “Just a sec.”

With a deep sigh, Dmytro closed and locked the door again. “This might be what I meant by do you have everything?”

“I have everything. I just need these too.” At the coat closet, Ajax wrapped a soft-looking scarf around his neck, tugged a slouchy beanie over his hair, and slid on a pair of sunglasses. With his trademark dark curly hair hidden and his face obscured, he didn’t look like the internet It Kid anymore. In spite of himself, Dmytro nodded his satisfaction.

“Better.” He checked his weapon, returned it to his holster, and gripped the door handle. Once he wrenched it open, he checked the hallway again. All clear. He moved with Ajax toward the elevators and Peter. The three got in together.

When the doors closed, he and Peter stepped in front of Ajax, keeping their bodies between him and the lobby. When they opened again, a reassuring nothing happened. Dmytro and Peter swept their client out the revolving door and to the curb, where Bartlomiej waited with the town car.

After suffering a head injury and seizure a few months before, Dmytro bitterly resented being unable to drive. He left the luggage for Peter and settled Ajax into the back seat. Then he got into the front on the passenger side with a huff.

“All right?” Dmytro greeted his colleague.

“All set.” Bartlomiej, whom everyone called Bartosz, sat behind the wheel with the engine running. “Don’t pout. You’ll be driving soon enough. In the meantime, you’ve got me. Enjoy.”

A few more months without a seizure and he could regain privileges. Until then, he did what he was told.

He rolled the window down and called to Peter. “Be well, brother.”

Peter waved before melting into the night.

“He left?” Ajax asked. “Why’d he leave? Where’d he go?”

Dmytro closed his window. “We’re a team. We split up when we need to. Peter’s going to neutralize your admirers, and I will go to the safe house with you.”

“Lucky me.” He didn’t sound like he felt lucky.

“Drive, Bartosz.”

“Bartosz,” Ajax addressed him. “Any chance we could hit a drive-through? I need something to drink. Which, I’ve gotta warn you now, will probably come right back up, because I get really carsick.”

“Perfect.” Could their day get worse? “Do you need to sit up front?”

“It won’t matter, unfortunately.”

“All right.” Bartosz nodded and said in Ukrainian, “He’s like you, my very special snowflake. Did you bring a patch?”

“Not this time.” When Bartosz started to snicker, Dmytro gave him a warning grunt. To Ajax he said, “Your lucky day. I have Meclizine. One tablet and you should be fine.” He handed a blister pack over the console, along with a bottled water. “Make sure to drink all of it. The medication will give you dry mouth.”

Dmytro popped a pill and cracked open a second water. Bartosz’s voice took on a teasing quality. “You’ll both be sound asleep before we get on the highway.”

“You have the directions?”

Bartosz gave him an eye roll. “Don’t worry.”

Dmytro glanced around at Ajax. Bundled up like that, he looked barely older than six-year-old Sasha. About as defenseless too. In his own language, he asked Bartosz, “What do you suppose makes someone want attention so badly they’ll do any repulsive thing to get it?”

Bartholomew shrugged. “He’s a good-looking boy. I could find a use for him.”

Dmytro tensed. “Don’t be that guy.”

“I’m teasing.”

Dmytro hoped so. Bartosz was a professional, after all.

Ajax hissed, “Speak English. You’re being so rude.”

“I told him I’d like a corn dog.” Bartosz glanced in the rearview. “Do you still want a drink?”

Ajax’s eyes narrowed. “Yes, please.”

“I’ll get you a corn dog.” Dmytro cuffed Bartosz for that. “For myself too. Jalapeño cheese peppers and a strawberry lemonade slush. And you’ll pay for all of us, Bartosz.”

“That’s ‘poppers,’” Ajax corrected.

“What is?”

“Jalapeño poppers,” he continued in his didactic tone, “are jalapeños stuffed with either cream cheese or cheddar, dipped in batter, and fried. They’re called ‘poppers.’”

“Thank you for educating me.” Dmytro had never been that certain about anything in his life. At twenty-two, he’d been a homeless thug with two lucky gifts: a mild form of genius with foreign languages and the ability to read very fast. He’d found himself a crime boss with a need for a translator with muscle and a passion for classic literature. The rest was history.

What did Ajax Freedom know about anything? He met Bartosz’s pleased glance before retrieving his phone from his pocket.

Good news, the client is probably not stupid, he texted Liv. He’s just a mudak. An asshole. Liv would understand.

Z.A. Maxfield is getting her kicks writing on Route 66 in Rancho Cucamonga these days. She lives with her husband, three of her grown children, and dog of indeterminable variety named Dr. Watson. Despite the world we live in, she still believes in first love, second chances, and kissing in the rain.

Join ZAM’s group, ZAM-Nation HERE, or visit her website, like her page on Facebook, or contact her through Twitter.

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It’s Here! Check Out the New Release Hawaii Five Uh-Oh (Plummet to Soar Series Bk #2 )by Z.A. Maxfield (excerpt and giveaway)

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The highly anticipated second installment in the Plummet to Soar Series is now available! 
Hawaii Five Uh-Oh 
(Plummet to Soar Series Bk #2)
by Z.A. Maxfield
 
Blurb:
Sarcastic cop Theo Hsu returns home to Hawai‘i after realizing he wants more from his life, and also, less. He hopes to reconnect with his past and make amends with his mother, who remarried a cool, distant man, leaving Theo unsure where he stands.
It doesn’t take him long to figure out where he wants to stand, though: right next to his childhood best friend, tattooed detective Koa Palapiti. Theo would like to upgrade their relationship, but Koa is putting out some seriously mixed signals. It’s a mystery Theo can’t let go, but just as they start to connect, kidnapping, murder, and a deadly game with international stakes get in the way. Koa wants to keep Theo out of it, and if it comes to a choice between him and Koa’s partner, Freddie Ortiz, Theo doesn’t like his chances.
But even if Koa wants to push him out of the investigation, and his life, Theo still has a few tricks up his sleeve. It’ll take all his special gifts, ingenuity, risk-taking, family ties—and even some kinky undercover work—to save the day… and the man he never should’ve let get away.
Available for purchase at
Excerpt 

“Theophilus Hsu.” A voice from behind him made him halt and turn. At the sight that greeted him, his heart sank.

“Kekoa Palapiti. Wow. Nice to see you. God. What a coincidence—” A horrible thought occurred to him. “Wait—”

“Your mother sent me to pick you up.” And just like that, paradise got lost. “She was worried she wouldn’t be up to lifting your baggage.”

Kekoa Lani Palapiti—next-door neighbor, childhood friend, and secret lifelong thirst trap made that sound like “psychological” baggage. As if he thought Theo had a lot of that particular thing.

Theo shrugged. Christ. “I can lift my own luggage. She could have called. I’d have taken a cab.”

“So next time tell her you got cash to throw away. Save me a trip.”

Theo turned away and swiped his card in the cart machine. “Next time.”

Theo knew his mother well enough to know she’d forced this meeting for the sake of expedience. Without it, who knew how long it would have taken him to get the nerve to talk to Koa. Still, it felt forced and ridiculous, and now they were both only going along because she wanted it and they loved her.

Aren’t we?

Koa helped him shoulder his bags onto the cart. His scent filled Theo’s nostrils with the smell of rain on taro leaves.

“Follow me.” Koa turned and started walking.

Theo had no choice but to grab the cart and follow.

On the way to the parking garage, he focused on Koa’s thick, broad shoulders, his narrow hips. His boy had grown up as fine as promised. Mom’s photographs didn’t do him justice, but then a photograph couldn’t convey the swagger of a born badass like Koa. He hadn’t lost that arrogance. If anything, he wore it like armor now.

“So, you didn’t like Big Lake?” he asked.

There was no easy answer for that. “Bear Lake was where I lived specifically, and… no. Not really. I liked some parts.”

“Like what?”

Since Koa seemed to ask for form’s sake, Theo didn’t actually have to oblige him with an answer. Nevertheless, he spoke truthfully. “It was pretty.” He’d enjoyed driving in the darkness along roads where the trees looked like ice-covered ghosts. “People are as nice as they say.”

“You’ll be joining the HPD?”

“Yep.” He’d applied to and been accepted by the Honolulu Police Department. It wasn’t a lateral move, but he’d move up quickly if he showed initiative. He didn’t care. New life, new dreams. He might not even stay on the force if he found something that he wanted to do more. He might go back to school….

“Te?”

Theo blinked and found they’d stopped at a pedestrian crossing. The sound of his old nickname slid over his spine, dazing him momentarily. Obviously Koa had asked a question and now he waited for an answer. “I’m sorry, I was lost in space or something.”

“I said, I was sorry about your dad. I meant to send a card, but you know how it is….”

“Likewise,” Theo offered, since Koa’s parents had both passed fairly recently, a few months apart. “I was really sorry to hear about your folks.”

Koa shrugged again.

Theo asked, “You still living in the Sugar Shack?”

“Where else?” A sly smile found Koa’s lips at the reminder. Whether it was the shared memory or evidence Theo still had some local knowledge, Koa thawed visibly on hearing their nickname for the odd wreck of a house the Palapitis had called home.

Theo let his thoughts out. “I’ma miss your mom, brah. Even more than the candy.”

They paused for a moment of silence for the woman whose homemade chocolates, caramels, fudge, and nut brittles were so completely off-the-charts delicious, her friends had forced her into business.

“Can’t bring Mom back,” Koa said. “Auntie Lala makes the candy now, she’s got Mom’s recipes. Been a while since I cooked sugar.”

“I can imagine.” A detective probably had little time to cook. “So. Work. Ma says you got your shield now? Must be good, huh?”

“What’s good?” Koa gave an eye roll. “You know how it is. There are bad guys everywhere, dirty money flows, but the economy sucks, and assholes think Hawai‘i is their private playground to shit on.”

The muscles in Koa’s jaw flexed. Mnh. You could open a coconut with a jaw like Koa’s.

“I see your new hobby is optimism. That’s so nice.”

Theo figured he’d see Koa again, but he wasn’t prepared for the jolt of desire that shot through him every time he got a fresh look at how well he’d turned out. He had tats and piercings and a sweet scruffy soul patch. A warm, if mostly hidden, grin.

Koa rubbed at his chin. “Sorry. Had a bad night. Caught a body.”

“And my mother still tapped you to haul me in? She is shameless.”

“What do you mean?” Koa frowned at him.

“She’s been bugging me about getting together with old friends. You know what?” He motioned between them. “I think this is a playdate.”

“I think she knew her car would flip over with all your crap.” He motioned for Theo to stay on the curb. “Wait here, I’ll come around and pick you up.”

“I can walk.”

“Don’t be an ass.” He slipped his Oakleys on. Same kind Theo wore, different color. Figured—they always had the same taste. “Wait here.”

Koa loped across the street and into a parking garage with such easy grace. He’d grown up sleek and fast and powerful. A detective with—if Theo’s mother’s few phone conversations were to be believed—a consistent, statistically high solve rate. His mother was fixated on making sure they got reacquainted, but he hadn’t realized how determined she was. He’d expected her to give him a day or two.

He and Koa were childhood friends. Blood brothers. Theo had been on the cusp of adolescence and ready to confess that, for him, the feelings went much deeper. He’d even started writing stories about two boys having adventures and sharing them with Koa as a way to let off that prepubescent steam, when his dad decided it wasn’t enough to just divorce his mom—the two of them had to leave the islands and start fresh somewhere else. Just the men.

He and Koa were strangers now. But he’d still call Kekoa Palapiti his first love.

Theo slipped his shades on and waited until Koa pulled up to the curb in a massive black SUV with tinted windows. Magnetic door signs read Ohana Sugar Magic and featured Auntie Lala’s smiling face. Together they threw his bags into the back. Koa let the SUV idle while Theo ditched the cart.

“I can’t believe you paid money for a cart.” Koa laughed at him when he returned and got in. “That’s, like… the uncoolest thing I think I’ve ever seen. Three suitcases that roll and you shell out for a cart. Buy a bungee cord.”

“You’re one to talk. Whose big bad SUV has his auntie Lala’s face on the doors? That’s some fierce shit, brah.”

“It is when Lala’s driving it with candy in the back.”

Theo let him have his fun. “Mom tells me there’s no Mrs. Palapiti.”

“My mother was Mrs. Palapiti. Until she passed.” He threw an inquisitive glance Theo’s way. “She’d give you a ration for bailing on your mom’s wedding. But I get why you didn’t go.”

“Do you?” Theo’s dad had been killed the week before the wedding. Nothing anyone could have done for him. Even so, Theo hadn’t been able to make himself go to his mother’s wedding while his dad was in the morgue—his body still evidence of a crime. By the time they’d laid him to rest, his mother was back from her honeymoon in Bali and it didn’t matter as much anymore. After that, he just kept putting off meeting his mother’s new family for one valid reason after another.

“Your mother understood,” Koa told him. “She doesn’t expect a person to grieve a certain way.”

Theo knew that. He wanted to point out that he knew his mother too, but he only asked, “What keeps you busy these days?”

“Work. Training. I dance because your mom would kill me if I stopped, but I don’t really have time now. Just charity shit when I can.”

“Mom says dance keeps her young. Something must.” At nearly sixty, his mother still looked to be in her midthirties. He hoped it was genetic. She loved hula and his dad had hated it. He said if Theo could learn to dance, he could learn to fight, and enrolled him in martial arts as soon as he could walk.

“It keeps me in shape.” Koa slid a glance Theo’s way. “You’re looking good. What keeps you in shape?”

“Subzero temperatures and Midwestern food.”

“Isn’t the food pretty calorie dense up there.”

“Not if you don’t like it.”

“You always were a picky eater.” Koa chuckled. “I guess you don’t surf much either.”

“You can surf the Lakes, you know.” Theo gave him the look he deserved for being an asshole. People did surf in the Great Lakes. But they were airheads who came from Norway or something. Their ancestors had probably mated with reindeer and polar bears. On their behalf, he pointed out, “The waves are best in winter.”

Koa glanced his way. “Pics or it didn’t happen.”

I never did it,” Theo admitted. “I’m saying it’s theoretically possible.”

Silence stretched out between them again. It was a long ride, and as Koa drove, Theo flew his hand out the window and marked the buildings he remembered. So much had changed. He’d changed.

When they pulled into Theo’s mother’s driveway, Koa turned to him. “I hope you don’t mind, I don’t have time to come in. Say hi to your mom.”

“Okay.” Disappointment warred with relief in Theo’s heart. Relief came out a winner. The last thing he needed was disinterested bystanders. “Pop the locks, I’ll just get my things from the back.”

He stepped down, went around, and hauled his things out. From the outside pocket of the lightest one, he pulled a signed copy of Plummet to Soar. He’d put it there to give to his mother because he’d assumed she’d pick him up. He had other gifts for her, so it didn’t matter.

“Hey, brother.” He smiled awkwardly and waved for Koa to roll down the window. “Present for you.”

“Mahalo. Really?” Surprised, he took it and gave it a quick perusal. “Hey, it’s autographed to you. You sure?”

Theo nodded. “That book changed a lot of things for me. I hope you enjoy it.”

Koa’s dark eyes—when he lifted his gaze—held some earnest question Theo couldn’t begin to answer. They widened. “I don’t suppose you ever figured out what happened at the end of that thing you were writing…?”

“You remember that shit?” He said the words like Sheesh, who remembers? As if he hadn’t just been thinking that very thing. Obviously now he understood what those ridiculous stories were, but at the time?

Looking back, Theo blushed with shame.

Koa gave his lower lip a quick nibble. Theo’s dick sat up and got ready to beg. Down, boy. “I think when last I read, our plucky heroes were in a Malay prison.” Koa glanced at him. “Sentenced for a crime they didn’t commit.”

“Tunneling their way to freedom.” Theo nodded. “One of those boys always got himself jammed up, and the other saved the day.”

“Well, you write what you know.” Koa was laughing at him.

Theo didn’t take lead and he wasn’t much of a follower. Sidekick was more his style. But in those stupid stories, he always, always saved the day. Maybe with Koa he’d wanted to try taking the lead….

Koa asked, “Wasn’t one of them about to be caned?”

“Yeah?” Theo admitted hoarsely. At the time, news stories of corporal punishment—as applied to dumb Westerners in places like Malaysia and Taiwan—had fired his imagination, for a lot of reasons. Some not so wholesome.

Koa snorted. “You dug writing that dark shit. The beatings. The extra, extra tight male bonding. Admit it.”

“Hell yeah.” Motherfucker. You went there. I cannot believe you went there the second you saw him again. “I never finished writing any of those. But there’s always time, you know?”

Koa glanced over again. This time, unmistakably, he checked Theo out. “Maybe you should.”

Holy mother. Had Koa just…?

Did he just…?

Koa’s SUV was well clear of his mother’s property before Theo had the words to respond.

Plummet To Soar Series
Plummet To Soar
Bk 2
 
 
Available for purchase at 
 
 
About The Author
Z. A. Maxfield started writing in 2007 on a dare from her children and never looked back.  Pathologically disorganized, and perennially optimistic, she writes as much as she can, reads as much as she dares, and enjoys her time with family and friends. Three things reverberate throughout all her stories: Unconditional love, redemption, and the belief that miracles happen when we least expect them.
If anyone asks her how a wife and mother of four can find time for a writing career, she’ll answer, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you give up housework.”
Readers can visit ZAM at her
 
 
Giveaway
 
 
 
 
 
 
Presented by

A Stella Review: Plummet to Soar by Z.A. Maxfield

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RATING 1 out of 5 stars

Feckless, luckless, and charming, Mackenzie Detweiler is the author of a self-help book one reviewer calls “the most misbegotten motivational tool since Mein Kampf.” He’s maneuvered himself into a career as a life coach, but more often than not, his advice is bad. Really bad.

It’s even getting people hurt… and Mackenzie sued.

It falls to Mackenzie’s long-suffering editor, JD Chambers, to deliver the bad news. He chooses to do so face-to-face—to see if the spark he senses between them is real when they’re together in the flesh. Unfortunately, a snowstorm, a case of nerves, a case of mistaken identity, and finally a murder get in the way of a potential enemies-to-lovers romance.

There are many, many people who have good reason to want Mackenzie dead. JD must find out which one is acting on it before it’s too late for both of them.

This new release by ZA Maxfield, one of my favorite authors, was a surprise, but not a good one. Honestly? I finished the story just because I had to review it, otherwise it would have ended in  my DFN shelf. I can’t even tell you how many times I started it, because at first I was so sure I was missing something that I started and restarted it to find what was going on and the right approach. It was a pain to reach the ending and I’m very sorry to say this, but I finally understood it wasn’t me, it was all the story’s fault, Plummet to Soar was a mess.

I don’t want to reveal details and spoiler your reading, as the book seems to be well loved. So if you think the blurb is interesting, go give it a chance. For my experience I don’t feel like recommending it but it’s just my taste. That said, no spoilers here, but really throughout the story too many elements were unrealistic and so fake I was just without words. There are some scenes (I said “some”, not one or a couple, some meaning several) that made no sense. From the beginning to the end. I can’t understand where the author wanted to bring the reader with this new release,  I couldn’t find romance or love or any feeling at all. A mess of plot, with the mystery part that not only left me dubious but puzzling about it.

I’m not a huge fan of mystery novels but I read quite a few of them really well done and I truly appreciated them. This was not the case. Let’s talk about the characters. Mackenzie and JD were pretty shallow, not even once I was able to feel a connection between them,  I wasn’t able to like them at all. There were several secondary characters and here too, in my opinion they were just thew in there to make up the numbers and nothing more.

This should have been a beautiful coral book, but it didn’t work at all. Plummet to Soar was confusing to me, hard to read, I don’t want to say it’s not well written, but to me too many names, nicknames, internal dialogues, then private phone chats, all of these created a chaotic tangle I wasn’t able to solve.

Still, I surely will be reading more from ZA Maxfield, I’m not going to give up on this author just cause this novel wasn’t what I was expecting.

The cover art by L.C. Chase is well done and fitting, I like the style and the colors. Lovely.

SALE LINKS   Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 200 pages

Published May 8th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN13 9781640803831

Edition Language English

Series Plummet to Soar #1

Z.A. Maxfield on Writing Romance and her new release ‘Plummet to Soar’ (author guest blog, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Plummet To Soar (Plummet to Soar #1) by Z.A. Maxfield
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art: L.C. Chase

Sales Link: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Z.A. Maxfield today on tour with Plummet To Soar, her latest release.  She’s brought an exclusive excerpt and giveaway for all our readers.  Enjoy.

♦︎

Hi, I’m Z.A. Maxfield! Thanks again for inviting me to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words to share my thoughts and talk about my latest book, Plummet to Soar!

I’m not sure I’ve ever been asked why I write. I’m often asked how I get my ideas or what my process is. How to get over writer’s block (I refuse to believe in it) and burnout (I failed to recognize it, until it was almost too late to save myself.)

But right now, I can’t remember anyone specifically asking why I write. Let me just put this out there — I write to change the world.

Maybe that sounds super-grandiose, but we’re supposed to aim for the moon, right? So we might fall among the stars…

When I was in college, I saw the film, “My Beautiful Launderette.” The story was different, and sexy and positive, even though life was so precarious for the characters. I found that story immensely compelling. I wanted the love affair to work out so badly my heart just ached for it. I looked for more stories like it, and was unable to find many books where LBGT characters got a happily-ever-after. Possibly, I didn’t know where to look, as there was no Amazon, or search engine optimization back then. I found–maybe–twenty that fit the criteria.

The lack of romance featuring LGBT protagonists still bothered me when I started writing for publication. I can’t say why, because I had no skin in the game. I lived in a traditional heterosexual marriage and my children were too young to date. It just seemed so stupidly unfair. Thirty years later, that feeling of isolation was still on my mind. What must that be like, I wondered…

God, was I ever naïve. I had no concept of my privilege. I had no idea what own voices, or diversity, or inclusion, or marginalized meant. I only wondered how it would feel to be a queer kid, looking for a book with a queer protagonist, where queer people can find love and don’t end up in a mental institution or dead.

Stories teach us, they comfort us, they take us places that would be impossible to visit without them. They give us whole new worlds to enjoy. They inform and interact with society in unexpected ways. They allow us to meet people we don’t know and get used to ideas we haven’t grown up with. Stories creep over the walls people put up between each other because human emotion is universal. Whether we’ve experienced something or not, a skilled author can create strong, unforgettable, and transformative emotions. That’s what I want to be, when I grow up. Who knows! I’m fifty-seven and it could happen any day now! 😀

Not all my ideas are awesome but fortunately, there are a geshmillion other writers out there trying to change the world with me. I am not alone in my endeavors. Whew!

But since you asked, I write because I believe people are more alike than they are different. I write because I believe that people are basically good. And I hope you’ll join with me and help change the world by telling your stories. Because the more often we strive for a world of peace, of plenty, of fairness, and kindness and decency, the more likely that world will become a reality.

Neil Gaimon said, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

 

 

Book Blurb:

Feckless, luckless, and charming, Mackenzie Detweiler is the author of a self-help book one reviewer calls “the most misbegotten motivational tool since Mein Kampf.” He’s maneuvered himself into a career as a life coach, but more often than not, his advice is bad. Really bad.

It’s even getting people hurt… and Mackenzie sued.

It falls to Mackenzie’s long-suffering editor, JD Chambers, to deliver the bad news. He chooses to do so face-to-face—to see if the spark he senses between them is real when they’re together in the flesh. Unfortunately, a snowstorm, a case of nerves, a case of mistaken identity, and finally a murder get in the way of a potential enemies-to-lovers romance.

There are many, many people who have good reason to want Mackenzie dead. JD must find out which one is acting on it before it’s too late for both of them.

Excerpt

Despite the white noise generated by the heater and the hum of someone’s television, silence threatened to overwhelm JD after Mac left. The room was nice—super-dated decor, traditional furniture. The linens, though, had that “international chain hotel” look—white on white with a colorful runner and fancy round bolsters to go with ample standard-size lumps for sleeping on. And right next door, lying on his back, among all those many pillows….

JD,

You can call me anything you want. You contracted the book, man. People have called me everything—Mac, Mackenzie, Z, and shit-for-brains.

I’ve never let anyone call me Kenzie.

Mac

Why’s that? Breathlessly curious about the odd new writer—the goofball his colleagues laughed at and jokingly called Humpty Dumbass behind his back—he switched to text.

Mac texted back, Dunno. I think I’ve been saving that one for someone who loves me.

JD thumbed, I love being inside your head during the journal entries. A long hesitation. Oh, God, was that too much? He always gave away too much, goddammit. He typed like lightning—I mean that’s how I felt when I first read it. I love these ideas, finding resilience. It resonates with me in a way I can’t really explain. I loved being in your head, reading words as you thought them. Wrote them.

My book is me, distilled. Maximum me. Call me Kenzie.

Like whisky, the words, the book, the man went to his head. All right, then, Kenzie.

JD loved their secret nicknames, loved knowing what it meant. He connected with Kenzie daily, over the minutiae of publishing his book and well beyond that, into late-night emails and intimate text conversations about the meaning of life. But while he coyly obscured all but a few details and kept his face, even his voice, hidden for no reason but his fear that if he broke the fantasy, he’d lose it, Kenzie was transparent. Since Kenzie Detweiler had become the single most important thing in his life, and since JD had nothing in his life to compare the experience to, he was ill equipped to handle such a thing.

Kenzie was made of minutiae, it turned out. He’d spent endless, generous time explaining how he saw the world and why he saw it that way and what it all meant.

Chambers Lighthouse Publishing published books by authors with whom JD had never spoken a single word. His name was on the door, but he had people for interacting with the authors. But the Lamplight line was his sole purview. He was its acquisitions editor and its executive editor.

Lamplight, started by his grandfather, put out almanacs, books of prayerful sentiment, and the journals of thoughtful, barely known but highly influential men. He’d kept his output to three or four titles per year. The authors were thought-provoking but never controversial—Norman Mailer and Truman Capote and Joan Didion need not apply.

His father changed all that, publishing astonishingly sexy memoirs and books by people who really set society’s hair on fire, becoming the enfant terrible of the legacy publishing world for about five minutes. And now, no matter how many pairs he tried, JD could fill neither man’s two-tone, lace-up, wing-tipped oxfords. Shortly after he took over, he vowed to publish books he liked, and people called him sir, or Mr. Chambers, or they got out of his way.

But not Kenzie, who called him JD.

Somewhere between the contract and the first marketing campaign, Douglas—oh, who was he kidding with the fake name and this ridiculous trip—Jacob Douglas Chambers IV—fell in love.

That Kenzie didn’t know who he was? Was both a godsend and a curse. A godsend because he could choose the perfect time for The Big Reveal, and a curse because if he was wrong about this? There was no perfect time.

He really expected Kenzie to know him. That was the thing. He told Kenzie that he was allergic to cameras, but who stops there? There were exactly five pictures of him online. One in a morning coat, top hat, and tails at a wedding, even. JD could have told Kenzie who he was at any time.

Why hadn’t he?

He’d foreseen the moment for so long. What was he protecting himself from? He’d developed a deep, unhealthy emotional attachment to the man who was taking a shower—if the running water was anything to go by—in the room adjacent. There was a gap under the connecting door, and every sound was amplified through it.

Kenzie, singing “Despacito.” The sexy slap of water on the tub floor. He didn’t dare take his imagination further than that. He’d believed in Mackenzie Detweiler, trusted his words, his thoughts, his heart.

And it seemed as though he’d been deluded, along with all the other saps who bought Mackenzie Detweiler’s spiel. But maybe that wasn’t fair, because even tonight, even in pain from an injury he got—not while following Kenzie’s very well-meaning advice, but Kenzie didn’t know that—right up until the moment he’d seen Kenzie face-to-face, JD wanted to believe that what they had was foreordained or somehow magical—celestial.

He wanted to believe there was some sort of there… there.

I’d ask your definition of freedom.

Kenzie always had a comeback. There was another reason not to get sucked into the happy complacency of letting someone else do his thinking for him. JD had tasted the Kool-Aid, siphoned a little to see how it felt, and then guzzled it. And when the unthinkable happened, and the scythe came too close to miss him, he didn’t have the revelations he’d been promised. He simply felt… pissed.

Yes. That was it. Pissed, because in no way did he believe Mac lied in the book. In Mac’s case a near-death experience solidified who he was. He seemed happy. Fulfilled and content. His weird personality traits and his inchoate yearnings had incubated—hatched into someone fierce and proud and unfailingly kind. JD would stake his life on the fact that Kenzie was legitimately happy.

JD was pissed because he felt goddamn nothing.

Stupid for hoping that, if he embraced the worst, his fears would go away.

Stupid for asking for more than he had when he was arguably the richest, luckiest person he knew.

Stupid for trying out any advice he got from a dumbass like Mac, who had turned out to be just another fucked-up human being after all—even if he was a delightful one.

They were all lucky no one had gotten killed. Yet.

Everyone from editorial to corporate had put in a word. Plummet was going to be pulled off the shelves the following Monday. Press releases had been written. Lawyers were on standby. And he had to tell Mac about that too.

Sorry. I’m the man you trusted with your career, and I’m here to pull the rug out.

It wasn’t right to keep it from him. Years back, they’d pulled a book on canning while the author reworked the section on food safety. Those things happened. But they wouldn’t offer Mac a chance to rewrite and rerelease. The ideas JD had embraced so fully only alarmed them after his ludicrous brush with death, though it had nothing to do with the book.

No. The board didn’t want anything to do with Mac anymore.

JD had argued at first. Thrown his weight around. What happened to him didn’t result from Plummet to Soar. All he’d done was attend a contentious co-op board meeting. Those were a bore but not normally dangerous. It wasn’t like he’d run with the bulls in Pamplona. No one could have foreseen his ex catching him in the parking garage alone.

JD absently rubbed his knee. And why, when his leg was broken on one side, did the other knee hurt so much? JD made a mental note to call his doctor and find out.

His eyes snapped open when the water shut off. From the other side of the door came the sound of more humming and rustling noises. Curiosity was killing JD truly. Killing him.

How did connecting doors in hotels work, anyway? Were there two doors or just one? It seemed kinda old-school—a knob, a dead bolt.

Is the lock engaged?

As though it heated before his eyes, the lock seemed to glow with some inner fire. The knob was the only thing he could focus on. God, his leg hurt. The buzz from the flight, from the bar, was fading. If he took a pain pill, it would knock him out too hard.

JD laid his cheek against the door and put his hand on the knob. Nope. Nope, Nope. Nope. The door between their rooms felt cool. He let go of the knob, as though it would brand him, but that was just more melodramatic bullshit. He could hear his mother’s voice telling him to get a grip on himself. Which, really, anyone who ever met him would have known that having a grip on himself was part of the goddamn problem.

Try the door.

It was almost as though the door were talking to him—or was that wishful thinking?

He wanted to try it anyway, and what was it they said about confirmation bias? You generally fall in with the data that supports what you already believe?

No. It wasn’t all a scam.

The doorknob turned in his hand. The door opened in his direction. He had to step back to get out of its way. And then he was standing there, staring at Kenzie Detweiler, who wore nothing but a towel.

 

About the Author

 

Z. A. Maxfield started writing in 2007 on a dare from her children and never looked back.  Pathologically disorganized, and perennially optimistic, she writes as much as she can, reads as much as she dares, and enjoys her time with family and friends. Three things reverberate throughout all her stories: Unconditional love, redemption, and the belief that miracles happen when we least expect them.

If anyone asks her how a wife and mother of four can find time for a writing career, she’ll answer, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you give up housework.”

Readers can visit ZAM at her Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon

Links:

Website: http://www.zamaxfield.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorZ.A.Maxfield
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ZAMaxfield

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/zamaxfield/?hl=en
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2738500.Z_A_Maxfield

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2fVPEzw

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An Alisa Audiobook Review: Hell on Wheels by ZA Maxfield and Narrated by Nick J. Russo

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

 

HellOnWheels_Audiobook (1)Nash is the reliable one in the Holly family, the guy everyone counts on to keep things going. His genius twin brother is off at university, so Nash runs the family’s auto repair business and cares for his partially-paralyzed little sister while his crackpot father invents. His life seems mapped out for the foreseeable future, however much that might chafe.

 

So when Wolf’s Landing actor Spencer Kepler-Constantine lands in his life, Nash is ready for a diversion. Spencer is in the middle of a very painful, very public divorce and isn’t ready for a relationship—not that Nash wants one. But they both need a friend, especially one with benefits.

As they grow closer, Nash starts to see his family in a whole new light. Do they really need him so badly? Or does he simply need to be needed? Then Spencer’s ex reappears with a grand romantic gesture, and Nash has to figure out what he wants—and how to get it—before Spencer’s gone for good.

 

Nash is content if not happy with his life; he spends his days working on cars and helps his father raise his sister.  He has resigned himself to his reality and doesn’t look for anymore than what he has.  When he meets Spencer he doesn’t know who he is at first, but is instantly attracted to the man.

 

This story was told from both characters’ points of view, which made understanding their thoughts a bit easier.  Nash needs to be needed and when he finds that he really isn’t everything is thrown out of whack, but he learns there are different ways to be needed.  While Spencer has to get over his relationship with his ex before he can really have one with Nash.

 

Nick Russo once again did a wonderful job narrating this story.  I could connect with the characters through the voices and emotions he portrayed.

 

Cover art by LC Chase is nice and follows the pattern for the series.

 

Sales Links:  Riptide | Audible | Amazon | iTunes

 

Audiobook Details:

Audiobook, 6 hrs 56 min
Published: July 20, 2016 (ebook first published December 1, 2014)
Edition Language: English

Series: A Bluewater Bay Story

A BJ Review: Lost and Found by Z. A Maxfield

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

LostAndFound_500x750Lost: one dog and two men in need of each other. Found: love.

RV resort security chief Ringo never believed in love at first sight . . . until he saw Gavin playing his sax on the beach for the tourists. But their on-again, off-again affair—even counting all the great makeup sex—doesn’t come close to the relationship he wants. All he really wants for Christmas is a commitment from Gavin.

Instead he discovers that Gavin has had surgery without telling him, so he lays down a relationship ultimatum while Gavin recuperates. Complicating matters even more, Gavin’s beloved dog Bird runs away, and Gavin blames Ringo for the disappearance.

While Ringo throws every resource he has into finding Bird, he learns deeper truths about Gavin—how hard it is for him to trust and how little faith he has in love. Maybe if Ringo can find Bird, he can salvage Gavin’s faith. Maybe this Christmas, they can all find each other.

(20% of all proceeds are donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York, whose mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.)


I loved this story for so many reasons, and it could have been a five star read for me. First, the setting in a Southern California RV resort was both unique and perfect. It not only shows a lot about the main character Gavin’s personality, but is a rather unique profession for the other MC to work there. And as someone who lives in SoCal and has a family member who actually lives in one of those down in near the beach. SCORE!

Adored both of the characters. They were original, flawed, a bit broken… they felt like real, ordinary guys just trying to make it. Ringo, with his big ethnic family and kind heart, was just so sweet. The way he kept giving Gavin chances rather than giving up on him, the way he looked inside to try and see why he was doing the things he did, the way he saw that the was hurting himself even when he was lashing out at Ringo. I adored how he thought things through and tried over and over rather than giving up on something, and the story of how that came to be a part of his personality from a childhood event felt right.

Gavin, also from an ethnic background but rather than growing up in a close and supportive big family, he’d been neglected and had a hard childhood. Now on his own except for his dog, Bird, he finds it hard to trust that someone can really care for him enough to stick with him and often pushed people away. Yes, he was a badly flawed character with anger management and trust issues that caused himself and others around him hurt. But that was only a part of him, and Ringo saw behind that to all the good and beautiful parts that he hid behind that. Well, these two together just worked for me. The unusual dynamic between them blew me away. The ending was beautiful, but still I would love to read more about them.

The one thing that kept the story from being a five for me was the way Bird was handled. I’m a complete dog person, I own quite a few, and I’d really wished that Bird had been more of a character from the start. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until close to the end that he actually came alive as a character on his own. Before that, he was just Gavin’s dog. In fact it was pretty far into the story before we are even told his breed, which is a chocolate lab, or given any real description of him. In the end, he does get to come alive, but it could have been so much more of a rich and emotional story if we’d been given more about him closer to the beginning. If he’d been a real character from the start.

I love the cover by L.C. Chase! It has the perfect feel for the story…capturing the California beach feel with the Hispanic character and his sax, even his attire is perfect as described. Cover scores a five out of five stars for me.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon


Book Details:  

ebook, 140 pages
Published December 2nd 2013 by Riptide Publishing (first published November 30th 2013)
ISBN 1626490856 (ISBN13: 9781626490857)
Edition Language English

A Stella Review: Crossing Borders (Crossing Borders #1) by Z.A. Maxfield

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Two dudes walk into a bookstore…

Crossing Borders coverTristan knows he’s got issues. His latest ex-girlfriend knows it too. He can’t blame her for dumping him—even though she gets her brother to do it for her. Since he can’t stop staring at said brother’s package, he figures it’s about time to put a label on those issues. He likes guys.

He heads to a local bookstore with what he’s sure is a foolproof plan to find someone to show him what he’s been missing. But who should crash his little adventure? Officer Michael Truax, who gave him a really expensive ticket back in high school for skateboarding without a helmet.

Michael has been trying to catch Tristan for years…to give him a second ticket. Suddenly faced with “Sparky”, all grown up and looking to get laid, Michael’s protective instinct kicks in—and presents him with an opportunity that’s hard to resist. After all, the kid must know what he’s getting into, so why not? 

But when a man with a plan connects with a man with a hunger, the result is nothing short of explosive.

Crossing Borders is the first book written by the talented ZA Maxfield in the 2007 and the first published work. This second edition by Samhain pub is not so different from the first one. I liked the author’s note at the start of the book, she was right, it was fun to see how things has changed in almost 10 years.

I didn’t read the first edition and I can tell you why. Honestly I didn’t like the old cover, at all. I know I’m a totally cover whore so I couldn’t pass the book anymore when I saw the amazing new one made  by Kanaxa. It’s simply beautiful or better, HE is beautiful. And I’m not going to talk about freckles or red hair, my truest weaknesses.

It was a while when I didn’t read a ZAM’s book, I forgot how well she can writes and creates amazing characters. And how hot too her stories are! I loved the chemistry between Tristan and Michael, or as they call each other, Sparky and Officer Helmet. Crossing Borders went straight to my fave shelf. It has everything I want in a story. First of all well defined characters. Tristan and Michael were perfect, their story was, i don’t know how to say better, almost dissected and told us in detail, just how a real relationship would have developed. They were adorable in their bickering, in their loveable loving.

The story was sweet too and if you have read other reviews I wrote you know I need my books to be sugary (this one just a little bit). There were some really hilarious parts, that lightened it even more. Moreover I enjoyed the second characters too a lot, especially their moms, supportive, caring and loving.

The age difference, which I love in my books, wasn’t so huge as I was expecting. Considering Tristan is so young, just 19 years old, it could have been more evident but I didn’t feel it at all.

What I loved more in the story was the feeling of belonging I got from the MCs even when they weren’t full aware of it yet. It kept me from put the book down for a minute.

There was some drama but no angst in the book; the only thing that bothered me a little was the part just before the ending, it ruffled something that was too smooth to upset to me, I could have done without easily. That’s why I haven’t give Crossing Borders a full five stars rating but it’s there, I am just being a nit picker! So highly recommended.

COVER ART by Kanaxa.I already said it was this cover that pushed me to finally read Crossing Borders but I want to add that I love her art style, especially in some m/m series she’s working on, like The Plumber’s Mate or The Shamwell Tales by JL Merrow, or the Love Lessons by Heidi Cullinan but most of all the Bend or Break by Amy Jo Cousins. I find them clean but always fitting the stories in their simplicity.\

Sales Links:  Samhain Publishing  |  All Romance (ARe)  |  Amazon  |  Buy It Here

BOOK DETAILS

Published August 4th 2015 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Kindle Edition, 271 pages
ASIN B00YE202W6
Edition Language English

previously published story, 2nd edition

A MelanieM Review: My Cowboy Promises (The Cowboys #4) by Z.A. Maxfield

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

A real man needs a real love…

My Cowboy Promises coverTo become the man he’s meant to be, one cowboy will have to be the man he never wanted anyone to know he was…

Ryder Dent is a true-blue cowboy. A devoted son, husband and father, but one who is living a costly lie. When they were both young, Ryder and his closest female friend Andy thought they’d found the perfect solution to both their problems—she was single and pregnant, and he was secretly gay—so they got married and raised Jonas together.

When Ryder gets hurt at a party, his son’s new pediatrician comes to the rescue. The connection between Ryder and Dr. Declan Winters is sudden, powerful, and undeniable. Ryder loves Andy and the family they’ve created together—but they both need more. Can they pursue their hearts’ desire without destroying the life they’ve built and losing the son they love?

I have come to love Z. A.. Maxfield’s Cowboy series, each story provides such an interesting group of characters and couples all loosely intwined.   And most are having to deal with issues of acceptance…of their themselves, sexuality, and their ability to love.  My Cowboy Promises, the 4th in the Cowboy series,  connection’s to the previous story is that the ranch that Tripp Triplehorn and Lucho Reyes went to work on is owned by a powerful, controlling rancher Sterling Chandler, father to Andrea, wife of Ryder Dent and mother to their son.  But as usual in a ZAM story, what you see on the surface is illusion, the reality and truth lies somewhere underneath for them all.

What an awful, stressful situation the readers get dumped into.  Ryder Dent saw his life’s (and father’s expectations) explode when, as a teenager getting ready to go to college, instead marries his best friend in high school, a girl pregnant with a rodeo star’s baby.  That the rodeo star wants nothing to do with either Andrea or the baby goes without question as she’s underage.  Instead Andrea turns to her best friend to save her and they marry to the dismay/disgust/condemnation of their parents and community. But these kids are hiding an even bigger secret…Ryder is gay and Andrea knew the truth before they got married.

Now its five years later, and while both love Jonas, their son, neither Ryder or Andrea is particularly happy.  Maxfield is able to let us intimately into Ryder and Andrea’s lives, see the stress and exhaustion both young people are going through as well as the continuing condemnation of parents and community they continue to live with.  All that while still trying to lead lives of courage and stability for their growing son.  It’s just feels all so real.  Ryder at 23 is just realizing the extent of his sacrifice. He’s lonely, he’s working at his father’s store shouldering all the responsibilities and duties but none of the recognition and gratitude one would hope for from his disapproving parent.  He shares a bed (platonically) with Andrea in the small house bought for them by her wealthy father who never lets them forget that fact or how much he despises his daughter’s choices.  Andrea too is beginning to hate their lifestyle. She’s always been a bit wild and talented and wants to sing as a career, something her father would never allow.  The only bright spot in their lives?  Jonas a boy everyone loves deeply.  But as Ryder is not his real father, that too becomes an intense source of pain and stress, especially now that the difference in their eye colors is being remarked on in town.

I think reading this story, delving into the lives of Ryder and Andrea, most of us will recognize the gritty authenticity of lives lived with the “quiet desperation” that Z. A. Maxfield presents us with here.  Dead-end jobs, disapproving parents, pressure to conform to small town values and expectations, along with any potential way out of their situation feeling almost impossible.  That theme has been a reliable source for books, songs and movies for ages and it always works because that scenario resonates with those listening, reading or watching it unfold.  And mostly because there is a part of us, all of us, somewhere inside those characters at one point in our lives.   How I understood these people and cared about them from page 1.

The status quo of their lives, already shaky, shatters completely when the town doctor retires and a new GP moves into his practice and house.  That would be Dr. Declan Winters, who has his own demons to exercise and naivete when it comes to small town pressure and disapproval.  Declan was a little more of a stretch for me.  I found it a little unrealistic, at first, that given he had met with the older town doctor, been filled in on the town’s prejudices and still thought the doctor was overstating the situation.  But maybe that’s because I am so familiar with small town life, something that “big city” folk  might find charming on the exterior until reality intrudes.  Perhaps Declan is not such a stretch after all.

Through dialog and scenes Maxfield brings this increasingly rocky situation to life.  We have a gay new doctor in town, one who is quick to recognize the attraction that Ryder feels towards him, an attraction that confounds him when he has to treat Ryder and find out the cause of the wound is an accident by Ryder’s son.  We understand it when he believes Ryder is straight, why not?  Everyone else does.  Then there is poor Ryder,dealing with his “gayness” for real for the first time in his life when he can’t get the good doctor out of his mind or nightly dreams.  It’s a situation where hurt feelings, expectation, and miscommunication abound.  Then throw in an unhappy wife, a son with questions and it gets downright explosive.  What a manner in which to examine your sexuality, come of age and come out as the person you truly are.  That’s the fight in front of Ryder for most of the story.

I think some readers will get a little frustrated with Ryder’s inability to “grow some spine” as his and Andrea’s father exclaim. But remember his age, the time and place of his youth.  He’s respectful and one accustomed to shouldering responsibilities for everything that comes his way. And he’s  young.  I found him to be the most real character here.  I understood him and his background supports beautifully his actions throughout the story.  Great job, ZAM.

There will be places you will need to bring out the tissues and other scemes as hot as the Texas sun.  Did I love this story?  You betcha!  In fact, I love the entire series and highly recommend them all.  But My Cowboy Promises?  This might be my favorite story yet of the series.  Grab it up today and decide for yourself.

Cover art by ?.  I* like the cover, in fact I like all the covers for this series, from the design to the color scheme.

Sales Links:    Penguin Publishing  –  All Romance (ARe)  –  Amazon     Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: June 16th 2015 by InterMix
ISBN139780698175037
edition languageEnglish
url http://zamaxfield.com/the-cowboys/
seriesThe Cowboys #4

The Cowboy Series Include:

A MelanieM Review: My Cowboy Homecoming (The Cowboys #3) by Z.A. Maxfield

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Rating:   4 stars out of 5

Love can heal the deepest wounds…

My Homecoming CowboyThe death of a brother and a father in prison bring a soldier home.  Sgt. Calvin Tripplehorn had every intention of making the army his career and never returning home.   But duty and obligation calls when he  receives notice that his brother has died, leaving his mother unable to cope.  However, returning home brings up all the old problems and issues that sent Tripp into the Army in the first place.

Tripp hates returning to his New Mexican home, a place where the name Tripplehorn means hate, pain, and general ill will, mostly due to his crazy father who burned people’s homes and businesses to the ground and destroyed lives all around him. It doesn’t help that one of the people who picks him up at the airport is gorgeous and flirty…that is until Tripp’s last name is mentioned.

Cowboy Lucho Reyes is returning to work at the J-Bar Ranch after an injury sent him to the town’s clinic.  On the way back they pick up a soldier returning home and Lucho thinks the gorgeous vet is everything he has been looking for.  Until he hears the soldier’s name.  Tripplehorn.  The family of drug dealing bigots who burned his family’s restaurant to the ground causing the death of the his grandfather.  He hates the Tripplehorns, they are nothing but trouble.  But there’s something different about Calvin.

In need of employment, Tripp is hired at the J-Bar Ranch, a dream he had as a child and now the home of a man Tripp finds irresistable, if only Lucho will give him a chance to prove he’s not his father’s son.

My Cowboy Homecoming is the third book in Z. A. Maxfield’s The Cowboys series.  And while it was the first I have read of the three books published, My Cowboy Homecoming was so endearing and enjoyable that it will send me back to read the first two stories to see what I have missed.

Having started here at the third book, I liked that I didn’t feel that I was lacking anything as far as background or information.  Z. A. Maxfield nicely filled in all the important details from the  previous stories and series foundation, so I was able to read and delve into the plot as it unfolded without feeling there were gaps missing in everyone’s back history.

There is so much to love here starting with the J-Bar Ranch itself, owned and operated by a gay couple, Speed Malloy and Crispin Carrasco, and another gay pairing, Jimmy Rafferty and Eddie as ranch hands.  It’s truly a different sort of place, complete with three-legged dogs and rescue horses in need of therapy and retraining.   That’s where Lucho’s injury comes in, while trying to help a newly arrived abused horse.  Element upon delightful element is added to help add dimension and realism to a story that has go much heart and pain packed into it.

The beginning is simple enough. A soldier arrives home after leaving the service so he can help out his family. But what follows is anything but simple.

Tripp is arriving home to see his mother, his brother has died, his father in prison and there is no one at the airport to welcome him or pick him up.  Immediately the atmosphere changes into something dark. He’s picked up by two ranch hands from the J-Bar as a favor but what starts off as a welcome helping hand turns bitter as soon as Tripp’s name is revealed.  From then on out, Z.A. Maxfield’s cowboy drama rolls out a series of past abuses and terrors delivered by the Tripplehorn men (Tripp excluded) upon the community.

It’s a horrific little journey into everyone’s past, including Lucho’s, and we start to see two different perspective on Tripp’s family and the dynamics that caused Tripp to flee into the Army.  Maxfield doesn’t dump all the pain and angst on the reader at once, instead it is doled out, the facts and emotions building up to a painful picture of an abusive, racist father who did his best to control his brood and wife and is still trying to do so from his prison  cell.

Tripp’s mother is a character most if not all readers will love to hate.  Her weakness is frustrating, her actions lamentable, and her inability to act on her own behalf or her son’s removes most of the compassion a reader is inclined to award her.  Men are her backbone and she has found another support system in her husband’s sleazy lawyer.  I think most of the reader’s frustration will stem from Tripp’s actions towards his mother.  A war seasoned veteran who turns so passive and ineffectual when it comes to interacting with his past and his mother.  This section of the story could easily turn off the reader if the author had not done such a great job in laying the foundation for this mother/son dynamic and using it for further actions down the road.  Great job all around.

The highlight of this story, of course, is the hot, sexy and actually sweet romance that springs up between Lucho and Tripp.  It’s one tough road to romance for both men, and the joy and heart of this story is watching them fall into love and work hard to make their relationship work.  It will involve Lucho’s family, one abused horse, and the support of those around them at the J-Bar Ranch.  Maxfield brought the characters from the previous stories (Malloy and Crispin, Jimmy and Eddie) into My Homecoming Cowboy so I am hopeful that any future stories will bring us up to date on Lucho and Tripp’ relationship.  Plus I want to know if Crispin succeeds in bringing ostriches onto the ranch!

Did I love this story?  You betcha!  Tripp and Lucho were so easy to take to heart and from the small interactions I saw between the other characters were enough to make me want to know their stories as well.

If you love your cowboys and romance, this is the story for you.  It’s probably even the series for you.   It has drama, angst, romance and animals whose characters are as quirky and endearing as the people they live with!  It’s one of my recommended reads!

Cover artist did a great job.  I love this cover.

Sales Links:  All Romance (ARe)         Amazon             Buy It here

Book Details:

ebook, InterMix eBook, 272 pages
Published December 2014 by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
ISBN139780698175020
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Cowboys #3