Lindsey Byrd on Designing the World and her new release On The Subject Of Griffons (guest blog and giveaway)

On the Subject of Griffons by Lindsey Byrd
Riptide Publishing

Cover Art: L.C. Chase
Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Lindsey Byrd here today on tour for her new novel, On the Subject of Griffons.  Welcome, Lindsey.


Lindsey Byrd on Designing the World


When I first started writing this story, I had a general idea of what I wanted the country to look like. I knew its borders and its main cities and I could see it very clearly in my mind. While I was considering what to write for this blog tour, my best friend suggested I finally draw what I had seen so clearly in my mind. It didn’t take long, and the results are in the image above.

I marked out every main city or stop that the protagonists mention or travel to. The Trent empire and Ruug are both alluded to in various parts of the book, but they aren’t locations that our characters physically reach. As mentioned in a previous blog post – the long lakes are based off of the New York finger lakes, and you’re welcome to go back and look at the pictures posted there if you’d like another reference.

Actually drawing the map itself wasn’t too difficult. I have an idea of how I’d like to expand the universe so I knew in advance what features I wanted to add. Some of them, like the island in the middle of the Great Sea, aren’t referenced in this book at all. I’m still looking forward to sharing it somewhere down the line.

The map on this blog post, however, is not my original drawing. One of my closest friends took my original sketch and made it the fancy, beautiful, version you see here. She flushed out the detail on the image and made sure that the rivers and coastline made some form of logical sense, and everything you see on the map above is the highly rendered version of her imagination.

As we worked on it together, we discussed the future of this world. One of the other concerns I had, was not showing what I hadn’t planned out. To this end, there are many cities, names, or other kinds of locations I haven’t added to this version of the map. There are other stories there, and hopefully interest and intrigue will inspire future readers to wonder what those possibilities are. But for now, we made sure to keep everything as simple as possible. This is On the Subject of Griffons’ world. And hopefully in the future I’ll be able to share what goes on in all the blank spaces you can’t yet see.

If you enjoy reading this book, feel free to send me a message and let me know what you’d like to see in this world. I’d love to hear what you have to say.


They’ll do anything to save their children’s lives, even if it means working together.

Kera Montgomery is still mourning the sudden death of her husband, Morpheus, when her youngest son falls victim to a mysterious plague. With no medicinal cure, Kera must travel to the Long Lakes, where magical griffons capable of healing any ailment reside.

As an heiress unused to grueling travel, Kera struggles with the immense emotional and physical strain of her journey—one made more complex when she crosses paths with her husband’s former mistress, Aurora. Aurora’s daughter is afflicted with the same plague as Kera’s son, so despite their incendiary history, the two women agree to set aside their differences and travel together.

The road is fraught with dangers, both living and dead. Each night, old battlegrounds reanimate with ghosts who don’t know they’ve died, and murderous wraiths hunt for stray travelers caught out after dark. If Kera, Aurora, and their children are going to survive, they’ll need to confront the past that’s been haunting them since their journey began. And perhaps in the process, discover that old friends may not be as trustworthy as they once thought—and old enemies may become so much more.

Now available from Riptide Publishing and where ebooks are sold.


About Lindsey Byrd

Lindsey Byrd was brought up in upstate, downstate, and western New York. She is a budding historian of law, medieval, and women’s studies and often includes historical anecdotes or references within her works. Lindsey enjoys writing about complex and convoluted issues where finding the moral high-ground can be hard to do. She has a particular love for heroic villains and villainous heroes, as well as inverting and subverting tropes.








To celebrate this release, one lucky person will win a $25 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 1, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

A MelanieM Review: On the Subject of Griffons by Lindsey Byrd

Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

They’ll do anything to save their children’s lives, even if it means working together.

Kera Montgomery is still mourning the sudden death of her husband, Morpheus, when her youngest son falls victim to a mysterious plague. With no medicinal cure, Kera must travel to the Long Lakes, where magical griffons capable of healing any ailment reside.

As an heiress unused to grueling travel, Kera struggles with the immense emotional and physical strain of her journey—one made more complex when she crosses paths with her husband’s former mistress, Aurora. Aurora’s daughter is afflicted with the same plague as Kera’s son, so despite their incendiary history, the two women agree to set aside their differences and travel together.

The road is fraught with dangers, both living and dead. Each night, old battlegrounds reanimate with ghosts who don’t know they’ve died, and murderous wraiths hunt for stray travelers caught out after dark. If Kera, Aurora, and their children are going to survive, they’ll need to confront the past that’s been haunting them since their journey began. And perhaps in the process, discover that old friends may not be as trustworthy as they once thought—and old enemies may become so much more.

On the Subject of Griffons by Lindsey Byrd is such an unexpectedly deep, and emotionally rich journey.  Not of one woman, although Kera Montgomery is the main character who undergoes the most personal growth and development.  So too does the woman who starts out as her adversary and the source of so much of her pain,Aurora., Kera’s deceased husband’s’ ex-mistress.

The writing and characterizations in this story are simply brilliant. Told from the perspective of the “Widow Montgomery”, she is at moments controlled, raw, open, distraught, and as the story moves forward comes a woman of strength, determination, and incredible bravery.  Someone able to go forward and love again, building a future for herself, others and more. But when it starts out she is a woman overwhelmed by the deceit of her husband, buried in grief by his loss, mired down by the weight of responsibility for the huge brood of children she has and and lack of control over his   own future which seems lay in the hands of her father and the bankers of the town which want to pressure her into selling them her home, Ivory Gates.  She’s barely  coping and we are made to feel every tear, every throbbing pressure headache, every lost to depression episode Keri is feeling.

Then the deadly sickness that is sweeping the town invaded her home and her smallest child falls critically ill.  And again, we are in Kera’s heart and head that just as we don’t believe this  woman can stand any further pain, humiliation, or despair, now her youngest child is going to die.  And we are weeping with her.   And raging with her over her feelings of inadequacy and helplessness and the anticipation of yet another crushing deep loss.

It’s rare that I get pulled so fully and deeply into such a character as Kera Montgomery because of, I suppose, her state and, like all others, outward impression of her at the beginning.  Kera inhabits a rigid society that gives women little choice as to their roles in life.  Nice women in society are wives and mothers.  The men manage things, money, estages, society,  and wars. When Kera’s husband, Mori dies in a duel disgraced, he leaves her a widow of 7 children and a large estate she never wanted, Ivory Gates, teetering with looming debts and no pension of her husband’s to use as income.  Bankers are at her door and no one is asking her what she wants to do but her father instead.    She’s feeling invisible, emotionally battered, once more in mourning and feeling betrayed by a husband she loved who never seemed to think about the consequences of his actions.

Grief, helplessness and depression have mired this woman down until her youngest son is struck down and will soon die if nothing is done. It’s that desperation that is the impetus for Kera to finally act, against society and for herself and her son.

To save him she must find a Griffin’s feather and they exist only in one part of the territory.  In the cruelest of ironies, the first person she encounters on the road is her husband’s mistress who’s daughter is critically ill with the same sickness.

The journey then becomes this incredible saga  of multiple complex story threads, magic, and redemption.  Kera must learn to get past her hatred of Aurora, her pain and need for understanding about the affair, there’s forgiveness and personal growth, and so much more than this review can begin to describe.  Really, these women are beyond amazing as is their road to saving their children and finding a new future together.

It is labeled as F/F but the heat level is low, limited to kissing and off scene sex that is not described.

If I had any issues its that it ended a little too pat but what came before was just too magnificent for me to really quibble about that.  The writing and characterizations are just that outstanding.

Honestly, if you love fantasy and some of the best womens characterizations I’ve read this year, pick up On the Subject of Griffons by Lindsey Byrd.  I highly recommend it.  It’s just a stunner of a story!

Cover art: L.C. Chase.  The cover is a little dark and it does fit parts of the story but it could easily be a contemporary fantasy which this is not.

Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook, 316 pages
Published May 27th 2019 by Riptide Publishing
Original Title On the Subject of Griffons
ISBN 139781626498822
Edition Language English

Release Blitz and Giveaway for You Forever Always by KA Merikan


Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK Exclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited.
Length: 50,000 word approx.
Cover Design: Natasha Snow
Underdogs Series 
Book #1 – Manic Pixie Dream Boy – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Just Here For The Pain – Amazon US | Amazon UK


—Years of loving in secret. Now the secret’s out.—

Mage. Reasonable. Mature. In love with his best friend’s little brother.
Dawn. Painfully shy. Crazy talented. An anxious cinnamon roll in need of protection.

Mage has always been Dawn’s hero. He’s been there for him when Dawn was bullied, when Dawn came out, and when he joined The Underdogs. He’s also been Dawn’s first and only love—painfully unrequited, since Mage is straight. But that’s only for the better, because they’re bandmates, and Dawn’s brother is Mage’s best friend.

It would all be too intense, too complicated, too real.

But then one drunken kiss proves Mage might not be as straight as he seemed, and their whole world turns upside down. Even though Dawn craves Mage’s love so much his heart could burst, his shyness stands in the way of any future they could share.

While they have to keep their budding relationship under wraps and they prepare to sign a major record deal, Dawn’s anxiety gets out of control. Mage will have to choose between the success he’s always craved and the love of his life.

Themes: rock band, bandmates romance, older brother’s best friend, coming out, bisexuality, first love, anxiety, compromise, music, secret love
Genre: Contemporary M/M Rocker Romance
Heat level: sweet, explicit scenes
Length: ~50,000 words (Can be read as standalone, HEA)

K.A. Merikan are a team of writers who try not to suck at adulting, with some success. Always eager to explore the murky waters of the weird and wonderful, K.A. Merikan don’t follow fixed formulas and want each of their books to be a surprise for those who choose to hop on for the ride.

K.A. Merikan have a few sweeter M/M romances as well, but they specialize in the dark, dirty, and dangerous side of M/M, full of bikers, bad boys, mafiosi, and scorching hot romance.



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In the Spotlight Tour and Giveaway: Surreal Estate by Jesi Lea Ryan

Surreal Estate by Jesi Lea Ryan
Riptide Publishing
Cover Art:  Lou Harper

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon



About Surreal Estate

Sasha Michaels is a psychic with an affinity for houses. And he’s homeless. Go figure. After months of sleeping rough, he stumbles upon an abandoned house, and the lonely place beckons him inside. He’s finally safe . . . until someone comes blundering in to his hideaway.

House-flipper Nick Cooper lost everything in the recession. Desperate to revive his business, he turns to a loan shark to fund his comeback project: flipping an abandoned house full of potential. But it turns out the house has an unexpected occupant.

Nick and Sasha make a deal: Sasha can stay in exchange for helping with the renovation. To both of their surprise, the closer they get to the loan shark’s due date, the stronger their feelings for each other grow. Problem is, Nick isn’t the only one with feelings for Sasha, and now the house doesn’t want to let Sasha go.

Now available from Riptide Publishing!


About Jesi Lea Ryan

USA Today bestselling author Jesi Lea Ryan grew up in the Mississippi River town of Dubuque, Iowa. She holds Bachelor’s degrees in creative writing and literature and a Master’s in business administration, along with an assortment of Associate’s degrees, certificates and designations, none of which have anything to do with writing books about psychics.

Jesi considers herself a well-rounded nerd. She loves studying British history, exploring foreign cities on Google Earth, watching TED talks, listening to true crime podcasts, floating in her pool, and reading or listening to books — approximately two hundred books a year in many different genres. The side effect of all this is that she’s the ideal person to have on your trivia team, or what a former co-worker called “a dump truck of knowledge.

Her biggest vice is procrastination. #TheStruggleIsReal

Jesi spent most of her adult life in Madison, Wisconsin, but now lives in Maricopa, Arizona, with her spouse and two exceptionally naughty kitties. Summers may be brutal, but at least she doesn’t have to shovel the heat off her driveway.


To celebrate the release of Surreal Estate, one lucky person will win a $20 Riptide gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 10, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

A Lila Review: Waiting for You (Lifesworn #1) by Megan Derr

Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Shanna has spent her whole life waiting—waiting to be old enough, waiting for the day she must pick a consort, waiting for a chance to finally overcome her despicable stepfather… and waiting for someone to finally banish the loneliness that comes with being a queen-in-waiting one step away from being murdered.

On the eve of the two-week event during which she must pick a consort from a bevy of suitors, two strangers arrive claiming to have been invited—though she knows full well they did not receive any such invitation. But the handsome, mischievous Prince Kallaar is too intriguing to resist, and his quiet bodyguard too compelling to ignore…

But she’s learned the hard way never to let anyone get too close, and on the verge of gaining true independence her stepfather will stop at nothing to see she never gets it.

Waiting For You is an interesting take on triad stories in a fantasy setting.  Between this and the fairy tale-like plot, it almost felt as a fae poly troupe. It starts directly into the action and we get to meet Shanna and learned about her life up to that moment. At the same time, we are introduced to other relevant characters in the story.

As with other stories by this author, the main characters’ sexuality is not an issue. In their world, they have a sort of implicit bisexuality that it’s natural and accepted. Which opens the door to a diverse group of consort prospects for Shanna. They come, by invitation, to take part of the two-week festivities and we learned enough about the candidates, their lands, and how they all would benefit from a marriage alliance—including the uninvited prince and his bodyguard.

I enjoyed the story, but the world-build and the characters’ connection wasn’t strong enough to carry the plot forward. It is a good introduction to the series and it’s probably going to get better in the next books, but at the moment is hard to see how they would work as a triad in the future. We will have to wait and see.

The cover by Natasha Snow is pretty, but similar to other covers by the artist. It has a fantasy feel but could be used for other genres as well.

Sale Links: NineStar | AmazonNook

ebook, 173 pages
Published: June 5, 2017, NineStar Press
ISBN: 9781947139169
Edition Language: English

Series: Lifesworn
Book #1: Waiting For You

Cover Reveal for Hipster Brothel by K.A. Merikan

Title:  Hipster Brothel

Author: K.A. Merikan

Publisher:  Acerbi&Villani ltd.

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Release Date:  24th of January 2017

Heat Level: 3

Pairing: M/M

Length: 50,000 words

Genre/Tags: Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance, M/M Romance, Hipsters, sex work, friends to lovers, bisexuality, post-break up issues, coming out, first time, alternative lifestyles, lumbersexual bear, commitment

Add to Goodreads


— The lumberjack of his dreams is now available for rent. —

Mr. B has always been a safe guy for Jo to crush on. He’s the cutest bearded lumber-god to salivate over. Add to that his friendly, outgoing personality, and Mr. B might just be the first guy Jo would be willing to kiss. Fortunately, Mr. B has been in a relationship for years, and Jo is no home-wrecker.

But when Mr. B breaks up with his partner and all of a sudden is single, available, and talks about his plans to be sexually adventurous, Jo isn’t so sure anymore if he has the guts to come out as bisexual.

After a sour breakup, Mr. B wants to show his ex that he’s independent, exciting, and can do very well without him. His best friend Jo is there to the rescue, and they come up with a great new business venture. One thing they lack to start their own line of artisanal boozy jams – money for the investment.

After a drunken brainstorming session, Mr. B finds a way to both gather the cash and show the middle finger to his ex. He will create a one of a kind Hipster Brothel – The Lumbersexual Experience – offering wood chopping lessons, pipe smoking, and a reclaimed wood bed where the magic would happen. It’s bound to be a success… if only Mr. B can go through with it, because the mixed signals from Jo are making him wonder if his best friend is as straight as he always seemed.

WARNING: Explicit content, strong language. A shameless amount of buzzwords. May cause second-hand embarrassment.

Meet the Author

K.A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are mistaken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite being over thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.


More information about ongoing projects, works in progress and publishing at:

K.A. Merikan’s author page:


Twitter (run by Kat):

Agnes Merikan’s Twitter:









Review: Changing Planes by Karenna Colcroft

Rating 2  stars out of 5

Changing PlanesOliver Sheehan is on his way from Boston to California to marry his long time fiance.  Theirs has been a bicoastal relationship but neither is getting any younger and both feel its time to marry and settle in one place.  Oliver is giving up everything to relocate, his beloved Boston, his friends and his job because of his fiance’s desire to remain in California with her family. Oliver is feeling  more than a little resentful and not as sure of this marriage as he ought to be.  Then he meets Colin Traynor, the flight attendant in his section and the sparks fly.

When Oliver tells his fiance of his doubts, Sophia responds with hers, plus the fact that she has fallen in love with her female coworker, all two days before the wedding. Oliver is angry, relieved and ready to return to Boston, but not without hooking up with Colin first.  A date leads to the men texting and then meeting in Boston.  But is Oliver really ready for a new committed relationship?  Colin doesn’t think so.  It’s up to Oliver to convince the man he wants that he is ready to commit to Colin for the rest of their lives.  Now is only Colin will believe him.

Sigh.  It’s a bad sign when I tell a reader that if they want to read a book, just read the blurb instead and leave it at that.  Such a disappointing story at just about every level.  Giving it a 2 star rating was actually kind and a stretch.  First you have the characters which are oddly unformed and weirdly dislikable.  Oliver is already dithering about the relationship on the plane, saying he loves Sophia in one breath and making declaimer statements about her and their relationship in the next.  Here he is on the plane:

They hadn’t agreed on much of it. She wanted a big wedding with all her family and friends. He had no family— at least none who spoke to him— and none of his so-called friends were willing to travel, so he wanted a small ceremony with only Sophia’s parents and siblings in attendance. She wanted a church wedding. He hadn’t set foot in a church since his parents’ church turned its collective back on him right after his parents threw him out.

Sophia had won all the arguments, including the one about which of them should have to relocate. Her entire family lived in either Sacramento or the Bay Area, and she refused to leave them. As far as she was concerned, the fact that Oliver had no relationship with his family meant he had no reason to stay in Boston. When he’d protested that his job was there, she’d reminded him there were more software technician opportunities in California than in Massachusetts. He’d finally caved, partly because he’d seen no way to win the argument, and partly because love meant giving things up for the other person’s benefit. And he loved Sophia. At least he thought he did.

He just wished he could be sure.

And it goes downhill from there.  Oliver starts flirting with Colin on the plane, not telling him that he’s getting married, then goes to meet his fiance, Sophia, another oddly flat character whose personality never arises above one dimension.  Interestingly enough, both of these characters are supposed to be bisexual, but neither shows any real feeling towards each other or the other gender.  They “say” the sex was hot and the author gives us an extended m/f sex scene to prove it.  However, it falls as flat and unsexy, and quite frankly unbelievable as is their statements.  I am not sure the author really understands what bisexuality means, because it comes across more like the mistaken “one step to gayness” that haunts so many other characterizations of this ilk instead of true bisexuality.  And between these wobbly characters and their treatment of the situation they are in, the reader finds themselves separated from any emotional connection to these people other than a mild disgust and disbelief.

After deciding to call things off two days before the wedding, this is how Sophia decides to tell Oliver she is in love with a women (and tell her conservative family and friends as well):

“What about the reception?” That was one of the most expensive parts of the wedding, judging by the bills and receipts Sophia had shown him. He’d cringed when he’d seen those, but she hadn’t seemed to think they were at all out of line.

“We could still do it.” Her face lit up. “We can have a cancellation party. Or better.” She hesitated again but didn’t appear as nervous. “A coming-out party.”

Oliver’s heart stopped for a second. She knew he didn’t want anyone to know about his encounters with guys in the past. How could she even suggest such a thing?

And her next words were:

“I didn’t mean you.”

That was a bigger bomb than her previous statement. Now Oliver didn’t try to come up with a response. He understood exactly what she meant, and it was too much of a mind-screw for him to think coherently.

“Say something,” she pleaded. “I didn’t mean to hide it from you. I should have told you when you told me about your past. I didn’t want to admit it to you. I didn’t want to admit it to anyone, but I should have. I haven’t been fair to either of us.”

By now, these characterizations are changing by the minute, think of a new personality trait and they assume it.  What they both come off as is closeted individuals, not realistic bisexuals.  In addition, both Sophia and Oliver are over 30 but it surely doesn’t show in their actions, all of which are colored by a layer of immaturity.   They both decide to invite Colin (after a chance meeting and phone call) and Sophia’s coworker to the reception/coming out party which leads to a disastrous scene with Colin jumping up and lecturing the families on tolerance.  Really?  A stranger jumps up and yells at the families who have been broadsided at a party to celebrate a wedding?   Just one mess after another.  I kept wondering what the author thinks a reader is going to do with all this?  Because the characters I felt compassion for were the friends and families, not any of the MCs blithely running roughshod over feelings and honest expectations.  *shakes head*

Colin is just as unformed and unappealing at Oliver.  Out and proud, he goes along with Oliver to the party knowing what’s coming.  Jumps into a relationship with him, while saying he won’t jump into a relationship with him, etc.  No, Colin is not believable either.  Here he is after Sophia has made her grand announcement to all:

This time, there were fewer insults, but the ones that occurred were still directed at Oliver, as he’d suspected. Somehow it was his fault his fiancée had become interested in a woman. “Excuse me.” Colin’s voice rose above the clamor, and everyone shut up and stared at him. He stood, and Oliver wished he could slide under the table. He had no idea what Colin was doing, and Colin had no idea what he was getting into by standing up to Sophia’s family. “I don’t know any of you, and you don’t know me, and it’s probably a good thing. You can’t turn someone gay. Or bisexual, depending on what Sophia considers herself. Those of you who are sitting here ranting about Oliver have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Oliver cringed. Sophia’s family didn’t take well to “outsiders” as it was, and Colin had probably just made enemies out of all of them. Even Sophia looked appalled.

The insults were along the lines of Oliver being a jerk.  Hmmmm.  Now play that scene over in your head (and that’s pretty much how it plays out in the story).   What would your reaction be?  I suspect that your sympathies will lie everywhere but with Sophia and Oliver as do mine.  Why does the author not see this?  This odd outlook permeates the story, furthering the disconnect with the reader from the plot, the characters, heck all of it.

Towards the end of the book, after a month of texting, Oliver decides he is in love and wants Colin to move in.  Keep in mind they really only had a day together in California, a month of texting, then a day in Boston.

Colin hadn’t said he would give up everything. They hadn’t even said they were going to move in together. His mind was jumping all around the conversation and not waiting for anything definite to be determined.

“You know, we keep saying we aren’t sure about this, but we’re talking as if we are.” Colin took a drink of coffee. “Let’s just say it, okay? We’re good together. I’ve felt it for a while now, and being here with you has proved it. Seeing you last thing last night and first thing this morning seemed more right than anything else in my life lately. We can change our minds if things do fall apart this week, but I want to be with you, Oliver.”

The elderly couple at the next table shot them sharp glances. Oliver glared at them until they went back to their eggs and bacon. This was Massachusetts. Same-sex marriage was legal, same-sex couples existed, and he didn’t care about the opinions of some random old folks he would never see again.

By this time, I am surprised I made it almost through all 196 pages, only to find Oliver still dithering around along with Colin.  I will let you all extrapolate the rest of the story from the bits I gave you and the blurb from the publisher.  The story does mercifully end and we get to leave these characters on the  pages of this book, soon to slip forever out of mind.

I have read at least two other stories by Karenna Colcroft, including Sensei.  That book had some promising ideas as well as intriguing characters in it whereas Changing Planes has neither.  If you wish to read a Karenna Colcroft story I would suggest you pick up that one and leave this where it belongs….on the shelf gathering dust bunnies.

Cover art by Mina Carter.  That cover is just adorable.  So unfortunate that the story inside doesn’t live up to it.

Book Details:

ebook, 196 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Loose Id
edition languageEn

Review of One Day at a Time by Dawn Douglas

Rating: 4 stars

Homeland Agent Pete Olivera is only on loan to the Evansville Police Department.  Temporary assignments mean going in doing the job and getting out, no emotional entanglements needed or wanted.  Then Officer Joseph West shoots a young boy in self defense and Olivera’s self isolation is compromised by his need to help Pete through the trauma he knows the young officer is going through. Olivera understands the crushing guilt and pain West is feeling because he has been there himself.

Olivera shows up on West’s doorstep and hauls Joe away to Olivera’s rustic cabin in an effect to help Joe comes to terms with the shooting.  Peter’s empathy for Joe starts to turn into a deeper emotion that Joe returns,  A single redemptive weekend has given the men a chance at a relationship and peace if only they will allow themselves to grab at it.

At 65 pages, Dawn Douglas gives us an intense glimpse into the traumatic beginnings of a relationship between two men working in law enforcement.  One, Pete Olivera, is a hardened experienced agent.  Olivera rose out of the Hispanic ghettos of Los Angeles, served in Afghanistan before returning to the States and working in Homeland Security.  A solitary man by choice, he is still able to recognize the depths of Joe’s pain and want to help.  Joseph West is younger with less experience and time on the force.  He has coached baseball teams made up of troubled kids and dreamed of working in the Gang unit of the Evansville PD.  When the youth he shoots in self defense turns out to be someone he once coached, the pain and guilt is trebled and he crumbles.  Dawn Douglas makes it all feel so real.  The portraits she paints of these two men are undeniably some of the most realistic short story characterizations I have read.  Joseph West’s pain is palpable and you can feel the weary wisdom that experience has given Pete Olivera. The cabin is the perfect location for West’s intervention and the descriptions of the rustic setting add the right amount of isolation and peace necessary for it to work.  The author gives us real men, the situation is one we read about daily in the papers, and makes their shared pain that brings them together understandable and easy to empathize with.

Douglas gets all the details right, including Pete’s remote cabin where he goes for peace and quiet whenever possible.  With every moment the men and Joe’s dog, Jack, share out in the woods they allow themselves to open up to each other and the possibility of a continuing relationship. Every hesitant step forward is so beautifully portrayed and always in keeping with the established personas.  No instant love, no overly romantic prose between the men, just authentic dialog and small moments that keep adding up page after page until we reach a totally satisfactory and believable end.  I kept flipping back and going over certain sections, admiring how the author brought character and scene together in a great cohesive portrait of pain and quilt absolved, if only temporarily.

This was the first story  I have read by Douglas. I am going to immediately seek out more.  I admire and recommend One Day At A Time  and can’t wait to see what she will do next.

Cover:  LC Chase is the artist for this remarkable cover.  The naked torsos are offset by the lovely painting of the cabin at the bottom of the cover.  Everything is just right.  Great job.

Review of The Man Trap by Lee Brazil

Rating 4.25 stars

Simon Harris has been watching the same guy come into his bookstore each week, buy a book and leave.  Not an unusual occurance in a bookstore but Simon recognizes him.  It’s Alexis Manetas, a former high school classmate Simon had been attracted to before graduation. Simon has always loudly proclaimed his bisexuality but never actually dated a man, just woman.  Now Alexis reappears and all those old feelings come back as well.

Alexis Manetas had a huge crush on Simon in high school, something Simon never really acknowledged.  After graduating from high school, both men moved on but Alexis never forgot his first love.  When his personal circumstances changed, Alexis searched for Simon, hoping to reconnect and finally start a relationship he had always hoped for.  With a little manipulation from Simon’s sister in law, Jeannie, the men are brought together.  As they become reacquainted, Alexis and Simon find their past attraction flaring into passion and their feelings for each other deepen.  But Simon has never had a relationship last past 6 months and Alexis has a  huge surprise in store for Simon in the shape of a small boy, Alexis’ son, Gregory.

Lee Brazil’s The Man Trap is a lovely warm hearted tale of love given a second chance with some very interesting nontypical twists. Brazil’s characters have that patina of realism that I appreciate in a story that we have seen told before.  Simon Harris is one of the more interesting characters here.  He is in his thirties and while he has been adamant about identifying as bisexual, he really hasn’t demonstrated that in real life, serial dating one woman after another.  None of his relationships has lasted longer than 6 months and he readily admits to being self centered and somewhat set in his ways.  This is not your warm and cuddly character pining over a lost love.  I appreciate Simon’s curmudgeonly ways.  It made his struggle towards a real relationship with Alexis seem even more authentic.  Alexis Manetas is a strongly appealing character too.  Brave enough to take a chance on reconnecting with Simon while never losing sight of his priorities.  I really  liked Alexis and found him every bit as charming as Simon.

The other way Brazil has strayed from the typical child inclusive plotline is that Simon doesn’t really care for children.  He doesn’t know how to behave around them,doesn’t relate to them and  never really wanted any of his own.  Getting involved with a man who has a child is not on his agenda, even if that man is Alexis.  This really strays from most of the books I have read lately where all the men involved want children and jump at the chance to have one in their lives.  It’s nice to have an author show the flip side of the coin so to speak.  I will let you read the story for yourself to see if Alexis and Gregory can sway Simon to their side but kudos for a nontypical character.

You also have a story involving two bisexual characters.  Some may see Simon as more of a “gay for you” persona as he has not really acted on his attractions to men but this is also not a strictly gay male romance but two men strongly attracted to, maybe even in love with each other since high school.  Whatever your take on this,bisexual or gay for you, Brazil makes it clear that each man has held the other close in their memories.  They are hot for each other and always have been.

Lee Brazil’s descriptions, whether they are of a balloon ride over the countryside (which I can attest the author got exactly right), to the wonderful romantic whisperings of love, “I’ve saved up a thousand kisses, thousands of experiences, I only want to share with you, Alexi” , will sweep you into the story and the lives of Simon and Alexis.  There is really no depths of angst or high drama, so if you are expecting any, you will be let down. But if you want a sweet tale of two men given a second chance at love, then this is the story for you.

Cover: I love the cover.  Cover artist is Victoria Miller.  The picture of the hot air balloon is especially nice.

Review of More Than Chemistry by Kate Sherwood

Rating: 4.25 stars

Jack Lawson is hot, successful, on his way to being a billionaire.  His problem?  He can’t forget that he grew up poor. Jack has spent his life becoming an uber successful businessman, CEO of a multinational company and acquiring all the trappings affluence brings.  Still he is not completely happy, something is missing.

Jack meets up with Noah Mercier, an old high school acquaintance, when Noah’s company makes a presentation for his firm.  Jack invites Noah out for further discussions about the ad campaign and discovers that Noah’s sister is none other than Haley Meredith, a well known movie star.  So while Jack is drawn to Noah both emotionally and physically, he thinks acquiring a movie star will finally demonstrate to all that he has arrived.  As Jack is bisexual, he believes transferring his affections from one sibling to the other should be simple and easy to accomplish. Now if he can only convince his heart….

What a wonderful story!  When you first meet Jack Lawson it is obvious he loves his success, revels in every aspect of it, and is gorgeous to boot.  And knows it. And uses it to his advantage in both his business and personal life.  In fact there seems to be no separation of the two for him.  His apparent shallowness is off-putting until Jack becomes reacquainted with Noah Mercier, and then the basis for his driven personality becomes apparent.  And Jack becomes both vulnerable and likable.

The character of Noah Mercier is immediately appealing so it is easy to see how Jack finds himself becoming drawn to him because the reader has gotten there first.  In fact, I find that Noah is more fully fleshed out than Jack himself as far as background goes.   Noah Mercier arrives with sister, family, hobbies, and vegetarian proclivities in tow.  It takes us longer to find out that Jack’s father was unable to support them and that being poor is a self image that Jack is still trying to erase with a vengeance.  I would love to have learned more about Jack’s background that has given him such a mission that he almost misses out on what is truly important in life.  Still, the main characters here are multilayered, likable, and easy to root for.

Kate Sherwood has not held back on the secondary characters either.  Both Haley Meredith and Claire, his assistant, are terrific creations on their own, Claire especially.  I wish the author had given Claire a last name as someone of her station and personality deserve.  I could picture and hear her so clearly did Claire’s voice speak to me.  Haley’s persona shown through even though we only had a glimpse or two of her.

My only other quibble here is that I would have loved to have had more of interaction between Jack and Noah.  From the scenes between them, I certainly could understand the attraction Jack felt towards Noah, but additional dialog would have cemented it for me. In all, I loved this story.

Kate Sherwood was a new author for me but after reading this short story, I will be searching out more books from her.

Cover:  I thought the cover was just fine, but to me it really didn’t speak for the story.  Plus the dark haired model with glasses did not embody Noah for me. Does not have that “nerdy” image I associate with him.