New Release Blitz for Tea (A Cup of John #1) by Matthew J. Metzger (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Tea

Series: A Cup of John, Book One

Author: Matthew J. Metzger

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 7, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 76800

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, British, trans, gay, age gap, blue collar, disability, ableism, body dysphoria, PTSD/mental abuse/self-image issues, family issues, #ownvoices

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Synopsis

John only went into the cafe to have a brew and wait out the storm. He didn’t expect to find love at the same time.

And it really is love at first sight. Chris is like nobody John’s ever known, and John is caught from the start. All he wants, from that very first touch, is to never let go. But John is badly burned from his last relationship and in no fit state to try again. When Chris asks him out, he ought to say no.

But what if he says yes instead?

Excerpt

Tea
Matthew J. Metzger © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“Fark this,” Rhodri said, “fer the ace o’ farking spades.”

John grunted, busy watching a Facebook slanging match unfolding on his phone. It had started to snow, which—despite Sheffield getting snow on a regular basis in the winter—ensured everyone promptly forgot how cars worked.

A fact that Rhodri backed up by leaning out of the van window and bellowing, “Who taught yer to farking drive, yer daft cunt!” at a middle-aged man in a BMW.

John snorted, grinning, and squinted out of the slush-smeared windscreen. They were nearly at the high street.

“I can walk from here,” he said. “Turn around and use the ring road, if you don’t want to be here all night.”

“Fark the ring road,” Rhodri grumbled in his thick, garbled accent. “It’ll fark the suspension.”

“You mean it’s not already?”

Rhodri snarled a defence of his beloved, twenty-year-old death trap of a van, but John firmly stuck by his assertion as the rust bucket was hauled over to the side of the road, and the handbrake screeched like a banshee in an opera house.

“Monday for the renovation?” John asked as he curled his coat collar up.

“Yeah. Gazzer’s looking fer a spring sale.”

“Have a good weekend, then.”

“Fark off.”

John grinned and slammed the passenger door on the pseudo-affectionate dismissal. The day Rhodri Campbell started talking nice to his friends was the day hell froze over.

Mind you, John thought, squinting at the black sky, that might not be too far off.

He was supposed to meet his older sister for dinner, but she’d be at least another hour. Grimacing at the weather, John decided to find a café and settle in to wait out the snowstorm. Hunching his shoulders, he broke into a jog, aiming for the first sign he saw, and soon shouldered his massive bulk through the glass door of a tiny, heavenly warm coffee shop.

It was busy inside. Everyone else had had the same idea. The floor was crowded with shopping bags, a buggy thoroughly blocking one aisle. John’s absurd size earned him some dirty looks that were hastily wiped away when he glanced back. Even the barista, when he asked for a large tea, sighed and popped her gum like it would be an enormous bother to cover her wide-eyed stare. The prickle of unease rose under his skin, and he forced it back down.

“Keep the change,” John told her as he handed over three pounds and folded his arms to wait, knowing that—even in Sheffield—a man with biceps like the steel ropes on a suspension bridge was not going to be left waiting for long. Especially if he folded his arms.

That was when he messed up.

He stepped back to glance around for a table, and in doing so, bumped the one directly behind him. A cup banged. Someone swore. And John felt the hot flush of shame flood his face, even as he spun on his heel to try to fix the damage.

“I’m so sorry. I—”

“It’s all right. I think it missed me.”

“Here, let me get you another—what was it?”

And then the man looked up from patting down his jeans and T-shirt with a napkin and smiled right into John’s face.

And John just stopped.

Staring.

The way the man smiled was…breathtaking. Literally. The air caught in John’s chest, his lungs seizing for a brief moment, when a crooked smile spread across narrow features, creasing a pale face from good-looking into gorgeous. It was like the sun bursting over a still sea, like the car dashboard when the ignition was first turned in the dark. A sudden spark lit behind an attractive face to make it utterly beautiful, and John stared.

The stranger was tall and lean, with a halo of messy black curls that surrounded his face and threw the ethereal beauty of that smile into sharp relief. The smile itself was formed out of the most ridiculously kissable mouth John had ever seen. And the face. God. It blazed with the brilliance of that beam, and above it lay the burn of eyes the colour of an endless summer sky.

Damn.

“A mocha with peppermint and a double shot of espresso.”

“A…what?” John asked, still staring stupidly.

The man chuckled, and John died. His soul ascended into heaven on the back of that sound. Jesus. Holy goddamned Jesus.

“Just ask for Chris’s regular.”

“T-that’s you, then?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Um. John. Nice to—nice to meet you.”

The touch of his hand was like a cattle prod. John felt it all the way up to his brain, and the most inappropriate parts of his brain too. He had to learn how to breathe again. His heart was pounding. He wanted—desperately, stupidly, urgently—to reel Chris in and kiss him as if they were the only two people in the room.

He didn’t.

Obviously.

He let go and ducked back into line to ask for the guy’s regular. Tipped double. And when he took it back to the table, John knew for his own sanity and safety he should apologise once more, take his tea, and go.

Instead, he said, “Mind if I join you?” and instantly hated himself for it.

And then didn’t, when Chris smiled a little wider and said, “Please.”

“I am sorry about that. I’m not usually that clumsy.”

“Just an accident. It sounds busy in here.”

“It…is,” John said slowly and frowned.

Then it clicked. That brilliant blue was as vacant as a summer sky too. And he’d never once looked John quite in the eyes. John glanced about. There was a cane leaning up against the table. A glint of a gold medical bracelet around one thin wrist. And the way Chris slid his hand across the table, heels together and fingers spread, until he found the coffee cup…

“Are you sheltering from the weather too?”

“Uh, yeah,” John said, snapping out of his reverie. “It’s snowing. I’m supposed to meet my sister for dinner later, but I’m stupidly early, so…here I am.”

“Lucky me.”

John blinked.

“What?”

“Sorry, sorry.” Chris waved a hand. “Ignore me. Big important family dinner, is it?”

“No, not really. She probably just wants to have a whine about our mum. Mum’s—well, Mum.”

“Let’s pretend for a minute I don’t know your mum…”

John chuckled, ducking his head. “Mum’s…she loves us, she wants the best for us, but her best and our best doesn’t always mesh, you know?”

“Ah, one of those. Yes, I know.” Chris raised his cup in a saluting gesture. “To parents running interference.”

“She’s very practical,” John said. “Very—you know, we ought to all marry well-off, well-educated folks with careers and good ankles. And Nora—my sister—she’s cocked that up a bit.” Then he winced at his crass phrasing and started to apologise.

Chris talked right over it. “Cocked it up how?”

“Well, she’s currently divorcing her well-off, well-educated, well-ankled husband for a bloke who makes sandwiches.”

Chris snorted and laughed. The coffee cup wobbled dangerously before he set it down to put a hand over his mouth and laugh a little harder, and John curled his toes in his boots. A warm flush spread from head to toe. God, he wanted to touch that. Wanted to reach out and curl his fist into that wild hair and kiss him like the world was ending.

John wanted him.

“Well,” Chris said when he’d recovered, “if your sister has a voice anything like yours, then that’s the luckiest sandwich man in the world.”

“Uh—”

“What about you? Ditching your missus for the maid?”

John’s stomach twinged. “There’s no missus.”

“Or mister?”

What?

“I—no.”

“Sorry,” Chris said again. “I guess I’m being a little too hopeful.”

Hopeful? What?

“I—are you…flirting with me?”

“Yes.” Chris raised both eyebrows. “Don’t tell me that doesn’t happen often.”

“Well…it’s been a while,” John admitted. “And not usually in coffee shops.” Or from men. John wasn’t exactly good-looking, and in his experience, it was mostly women who were into the huge and hulking thing rather than men.

“Where does it usually happen? I could always try doing it there, if you like.”

John barked a startled laugh. “Er—well—clubs. Here’s—here’s nice though. Here’s fine.”

“I refuse to believe it doesn’t happen often.”

“It doesn’t.”

“Really? Hm. Local clubbers need to open their ears, then.”

“I—thank you?”

“I’m making you uncomfortab—”

“No,” John interrupted quickly. “I just—I’m…not used to this.”

Chris turned the coffee cup around in his hands, biting his lip.

“You sounded…I don’t know. You sounded like you saw something you liked. And I felt something when you shook my hand.”

“You…you don’t want to be trying me out,” John said carefully.

Chris smiled.

It wasn’t the bright, beautiful smile. It was a slow smirk, devious and dirty. And John’s cock swelled fiercely in his jeans. His dick didn’t care about Daniel and his damage. His dick just wanted to have that incredible body around it, and to hell with the risks. Oh, God. That was a dirty trick, and judging by the way Chris lounged in his chair, pure sex, he knew it.

“You have a voice,” Chris said, “like the hot afterburn of whiskey.”

“I—”

“Smooth, liquid, and so easy to bask in. Like being drunk and not caring.”

John swallowed again. He was half hard. Chris spoke so slow and soft, so very deliberately, that it was turning him on even though he wasn’t saying anything filthy at all.

“I’m a dumb idea,” John croaked.

“So am I.”

John wanted to look away. But he felt incapable of not looking. He was spellbound, completely captured by this stranger’s wide smile and fluttering hands. They were large hands, but thin. John wanted to call them spidery. Long fingers, but narrow palmed. He wondered wildly what they felt like. John’s hand were rough from his trade, but Chris had a completely smooth paleness to his skin tone, and his face was impossibly young, not weather-beaten and wind burnt. His hands, John decided, would be just as smooth. They would be cool, too, like refreshing water against John’s calluses.

And then they slid over the table and hooked casually over John’s thumb.

John’s heart hiccuped and clenched again, and the flood of pure want was so powerful that his vision flexed, like a fisheye lens homing in on this stunning man. He wanted to kiss him, hold his hand, say yes, something. And yet he felt paralysed—moths to flames, deer to headlights, whatever. He was caught.

“If you’re really not interested, then that’s fine,” Chris said. “But—”

“That’s definitely not it,” John muttered.

“So—you want to get dinner sometime?”

The smile softened into something sweeter. More hopeful. More—

John’s dick softened. Because his heart tightened, his stomach clenched, and his throat opened.

He should say no.

He was still a mess from Daniel, still wounded after nine whole months, still unable to so much as flirt on Grindr without questioning himself, his motives, how he came off. There was no way this was a good idea. Not with anyone, and least of all this brilliant, beautiful, blind guy.

After all, if Daniel were right—

If Daniel were right, if there had been any truth in the things he’d said, then John was the last person who should be going out to dinner with a blind man.

John should have said no.

But he said yes instead.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

Meet the Author

Matthew J. Metzger is an ace, trans author posing as a functional human being in the wilds of Yorkshire, England. Although mainly a writer of contemporary, working-class romance, he also strays into fantasy when the mood strikes. Whatever the genre, the focus is inevitably on queer characters and their relationships, be they familial, platonic, sexual, or romantic.

When not crunching numbers at his day job, or writing books by night, Matthew can be found tweeting from the gym, being used as a pillow by his cat, or trying to keep his website in some semblance of order.

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New Release Blitz for Love it Like You Stole It by Ki Brightly (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Love It Like You Stole It

Author: Ki Brightly

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 9, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 99400

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, blue-collar, mechanic, classic car love, age-gap, mobsters, crime, family drama

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Synopsis

Michael Levine is backed into a corner. He started tearing apart cars for the local mob with the best of intentions—to save up money to pay for his mechanic certifications and impress his crush and mentor, Ben. But Michael soon finds himself in way over his head. He knows stealing is wrong, but it’s only cars, and the insurance will pay to replace them, right? What started out as a small job to make some extra bucks soon turns into a nightmare he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to find his way out of.

Ben Jelen isn’t sure where his life is going. On the surface everything looks fine. He has a successful business, he’s raising his niece into a strong person, and he has a boyfriend most guys only dream of—sexy and rich. But nothing feels right. The only things that really keep Ben’s attention anymore are his classic Road Runner, his niece, and Michael—his Meeko. Ben took him under his wing forever ago, and their love of old cars and fast driving has forged a strong bond. Ben’s days don’t feel right if he doesn’t get to see Meeko at least once. But something seems drastically wrong in Meeko’s life, and Ben hopes he can put the pieces together to help him before it’s too late.

Excerpt

Love It Like You Stole It
Ki Brightly © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
BEN JELEN

“It’ll be a month, Bennet.”

I clutched the small silver bolt so hard it cut into my palm. The pain wasn’t enough to distract me. Rick’s bottom lip jutted out. It always did when he was on a roll. He crossed his heavy arms, eyes shadowed by his ball cap. With a sigh, I ignored my big brother, cutting my attention to the object of our current bitchfest. Vandi, his daughter, lounged nearby with tiny pots of fingernail polish out on the dusty, paperwork-covered desk.

“I’ll be good, Uncle Ben,” she chirped, her bow mouth turned up into a wide smile. She almost wasn’t a little girl anymore. It wasn’t long ago that I’d sit with her and do the painting. The sun cutting into the garage through the open bay door lit up her gold curls making them shine brightly. Her eyebrows furrowed in concentration as she dabbed a little brush covered in pink paint at her thumb. In her white summer dress, she couldn’t have looked more out of place.

I bent back over the motor of the beat-up, blue Ford Taurus and stared at it without seeing much of anything.

“It’s damned good money. They need mechanics for when the machinery goes down. If her mother hadn’t—”

“Rick,” I warned. Vandi’s head snapped up at the mention of her mom. I had no intention of mopping up tears today. He leaned a hip against the front quarter panel of the car and rested an elbow there, sending me a winning grin. It was the same bullshit one I used when trying to get my own way. “I’ve known you your whole life. That shit don’t fly.”

He chuckled, but his smile didn’t waver as he leaned in close, pushing his cap back with a thumb. I caught a whiff of the cologne I used and sighed. He’d raided my dresser again. Looking at him was like looking in a mirror—his brown eyes and long face with its blunted nose were just like mine, except mine was cocked a little to the left. He wiggled his eyebrows, and I blew out a hard breath.

“Those oil rigs are dangerous, and ask next time you steal my stuff.” I poked him on the shoulder with my ratchet as he shrugged, not at all bashful about his thievery.

“It’s a month on, three weeks off. And with the bonuses, I could be pulling in over a hundred grand next year. We can get the garage set up right, get more clients in…I won’t do it forever.”

I frowned and rubbed at my chest. He winced and scowled right back, like maybe he understood why I was upset. The idea of Rick being away for more than a few days made me nauseous. We’d always been a little too close, and it only got worse after Mom died. I sneaked a look at Vandi to see what she was thinking about all this, but she didn’t seem to be listening.

“I’m not sure it’s worth it,” I muttered. Shit. Money. We sure could use more of it.

A low humming started up from Vandi—a familiar song from the radio. “Check it out!” She flashed her pink fingernails at us. Rick turned and nodded at her.

“Real pretty, baby doll,” he said fast, not quite covering up the irritation in his tone. Her smile vanished.

I smacked his arm, but he was back to cajoling me with his half grin. I smacked him upside the head, sending his ball cap flying, but he ignored it and patted my cheek.

“I want this garage to get off the ground,” he said, “and so far, we’ve only been getting in about five or six people a week because we don’t have a lift. I had to send Mrs. Hopper to fucking Firestone because we didn’t have the right size tires.” He waved his hand toward the empty space stretching out behind us that practically begged to be filled with equipment. “We don’t have half the shit we need…”

“What if you’re out there in the middle of the ocean and there’s a hurricane or a blowout or—”

“Get back here you four-eyed fuck!” someone shrieked from outside. The low voice cracked on the swear word.

“What the hell…” I turned to look over my shoulder, and the bolt from the oil filter slipped from my fingers. With a ting, it disappeared into the abyss of hoses in the engine. “Shit.”

I slammed my ratchet down on the motor casing, and the air compressor at the rear of the work area chose that moment to kick on, filling the old cement-block garage with its chugging clatter. I strained my ears, but the voices outside were drowned out. “Turn that off, Rick.”

Nodding, he headed back to flip the switch. Vandi craned her neck forward to look out the wide door.

“He thinks he’s too good to talk to us. Mickey Mouse won’t open his mouth.” The bully’s voice dipped deeper on that last word, and an instinct for trouble sent me striding out the door into the gravel parking lot, past the few sad vehicles waiting for their turn in the repair shop.

Across the small side street, three teen boys surrounded another one on the sidewalk. He was hunched in on himself with his arms crossed protectively over his gut, his stance practically screaming, “Hammer me.” One of the boys—short, with a mean twist to his lips and a cheap buzz cut on his carrottop—smacked the glasses off his prey. Sparkling in the late afternoon sun, the lenses sailed in an arc and landed in the street.

“Should we do something?” Rick’s long shadow loomed near mine, arms crossed.

“Come on, hit ’em back,” I muttered, clenching my fists. “Protect yourself.”

Instead, the kid just rubbed at the bridge of his nose with one hand. He was coltish and stretched thin, like he’d grown too fast. But he was tall, and if he would throw a punch, he’d have reach. He didn’t move to defend himself or say a word, though, simply stared at his feet. I glanced at Rick, but when I looked back, the tall boy was shaking his head. Sunlight caught and glimmered on blue highlights in his black hair. The short asshole shoved him hard while the other guys circled, grunting out guttural encouragement that puffed up Mr. Attitude.

Outrage propelled me toward them at a fast clip.

“Ooooh, fuck,” Rick said on a chuckle.

I hadn’t planned on anything more than bitching out the bullies—until the short kid threw a hard jab. The tall one gasped and staggered back a step at the blow, but one of the kids in the circle shoved him upright so he could take more abuse. Wincing, the tall kid shook his head so hard he seemed to make himself dizzy. He staggered to the side but righted himself at the last second.

“You’re no better’n me—us.” The short kid hopped up and down imitating a wet chicken, darting his gaze around the circle. “You’re no better than us!” He screamed out a war whoop as he lunged forward to land the next punch. The tall kid took it on his left cheek and—pow!—crumpled to his knees.

“You little shits! Knock it off!” I ran toward them, hands pinwheeling, but had to slow down as a car shot by, going way too fast on the narrow street, separating me from the teenagers. Crunch. I winced and sighed as I jogged past the flattened glasses. No coming back from that.

The kids stilled as I approached—became panicked, malicious little statues. But when I stepped onto the sidewalk, fists balled up at my sides, my shadow fell across them, and the obnoxious brats scattered, helter-skelter—like I might actually chase them down and dish out a taste of their own medicine.

“You better run, you little pricks. Stay off my block!” I yelled after them. “I’m badder than you’ll ever be!”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Ki grew up in small-town nowhere pretending meteor showers were invading aliens, wild flowers were magic potions, and secret agents hid around every corner. (Ki probably read more than was healthy.) They had one amazing best friend, one endlessly-out-of-grasp “true love,” and a personal vendetta against normalcy.

College was a catapult out of that sleepy little hamlet into a slightly larger, more entertaining city—Erie, Pennsylvania.

In their adopted hometown they enjoy the sandy beaches, frigid winters, and a wonderful fancy water addiction. Ki shares life with two sweet Muses, their Sugar Plum, and two children. Every day with these wonderful people is full of adventure.

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New Release Blitz for Tomboy by Janelle Reston (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Tomboy

Author: Janelle Reston

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: March 19, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 17000

Genre: romance, historical, LGBT, Historical, lesbian, 1950’s, tomboy, student, blue collar, mechanic, NASA, scientist, friends to lovers

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Synopsis

Some kids’ heads are in the clouds. Harriet Little’s head is in outer space.

In 1950s America, everyone is expected to come out of a cookie-cutter mold. But Harriet prefers the people who don’t, like her communist-sympathizer father and her best friend Jackie, a tomboy who bucks the school dress code of skirts and blouses in favor of T-shirts and blue jeans. Harriet realizes she’s also different when she starts to swoon over Rosemary Clooney instead of Rock Hudson—and finds Sputnik and sci-fi more fascinating than sock hops.

Before long, Harriet is secretly dating the most popular girl in the school. But she soon learns that real love needs a stronger foundation than frilly dresses and feminine wiles.

Excerpt

Tomboy
Janelle Reston © 2018
All Rights Reserved

The first time I met Jackie, I thought she was a boy. Of course, she was only eight then, an age when most humans would still be fairly androgynous if our society didn’t have the habit of primping us up in clothes that point in one direction or the other.

Jackie was in straight-legged dungarees, a checkered button-down shirt, and a brown leather belt with crossed rifles embossed on the brass buckle. Her hair was short, trimmed above the ears.

“Who’s that new boy?” my friend Shelley whispered as we settled into our desks. It was the first day of fourth grade, and Mrs. Baumgartner had made folded-paper name placards for each seat so we’d know where to go. Shelley always sat right in front of me because our last names were next to each other in the alphabet. She was Kramer; I was Little.

I looked at the blond cherub in the front row. He—as I thought Jackie was at the time—had his gaze set toward the ceiling, eyes tracing the portraits of the US presidents that hung at the top of the wall. A cowlick stuck up from the back of his head. He reminded me of Dennis the Menace, the mischievous star of my new favorite cartoon strip, which had debuted in our local paper that summer. I liked the way Dennis talked back to adults but somehow never got in trouble for it. I wished I had the same courage.

Mrs. Baumgartner walked into the room. The class fell silent and we straightened in our chairs, facing her. “Good morning, class. I’m your teacher for this year, Mrs. Baumgartner.”

“Good morning, Mrs. Baumgartner,” we answered in unison. She spelled her name on the chalkboard in cursive and asked us to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Back then, the Pledge didn’t have the gist of a prayer like it does today; “under God” wasn’t added to “one nation indivisible” until three years later, after Eisenhower became president. I wiggled my toes around in my hand-me-down saddle shoes as we recited the words.

The trouble began when Mrs. Baumgartner started to take attendance. “Jacqueline Auglaize?”

“Here, Mrs. Baumgartner,” Dennis the Menace answered from the front row.

Mrs. Baumgartner narrowed her eyes. “New year at a new school, and we’re starting with the practical jokes already?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Will the real Jacqueline Auglaize please speak up? This is your only warning.” Mrs. Baumgartner’s eyes scanned the room. I craned my neck around. I hadn’t noticed any new girls in the classroom before our teacher’s arrival, but maybe I’d been distracted by the Dennis the Menace boy.

“I’m Jackie Auglaize, ma’am,” Dennis the Menace piped up again.

Mrs. Baumgartner’s face screwed up as if she’d accidentally sucked on a lemon. “What you are is on the way to the principal’s office, young man.”

“I’m not—”

“And a detention for talking back.”

Mrs. Baumgartner called on one of the other boys to escort the new, nameless student to his punishment. From chin to scalp, Dennis the Menace’s face turned red as a beet. His flushed ears looked almost purple against his pale hair.

Kids playing pranks didn’t blush like that.

“I think that really is a girl,” I whispered to Shelley. But if she heard, she didn’t respond. She knew better than to turn around in her seat when a teacher was already angry.

An hour later, Mrs. Baumgartner was quizzing us on our classroom rules when the school secretary appeared at the door. In tow was a student in a frilly cap-sleeved blouse, knee-length blue corduroy jumper with a flared skirt, lace-trimmed white bobby socks, a pair of shiny black Mary Janes—and short blonde hair.

The cowlick stood like a sentinel at the back of her scalp despite the hair polish that had clearly been combed through since we’d last seen her.

An audible gasp filled the classroom. Actually, it was multiple gasps, but they happened in such synchronization that they had the effect of a single, sustained note.

“Mrs. Baumgartner,” the secretary said, “Jacqueline Auglaize is ready to return to the classroom. We’ve explained the school dress code to her mother. The behavior of this morning won’t be repeated.”

“Thank you, Miss Hamilton. Welcome back, Jacqueline.”

Titters filled the room as Jacqueline walked toward her desk. Mrs. Baumgartner slapped her ruler against her desk. “Does anyone else want a detention?”

We went quiet. Detentions are never an auspicious way to start a new school year.

We spent the rest of the morning learning how to protect ourselves from atomic explosions. Mrs. Baumgartner said this knowledge could save us now that the Soviets had the bomb. “When an air raid siren goes off or you see a bright flash of light, duck and cover underneath a table or desk, inside a corridor, or next to a strong brick wall. Then pull your sweater or coat up to cover the back of your neck and head,” she explained.

We all squatted under our desks as instructed. My father said the Russians weren’t stupid enough to bomb us, that they loved the common people and wanted to protect us. But Mrs. Baumgartner seemed to think they were. She went on in excruciating detail about the things that could happen to us if we didn’t duck and cover. Glass from broken windows could fly in our faces, we could get a terrible sunburn from the blast; pieces of ceiling might drop on our heads. I wasn’t sure whom to believe about the bomb—my dad or Mrs. Baumgartner. I didn’t want to think about it. I shut out my teacher’s voice and stared at my scuffed saddle shoes, pondering how a boy could magically turn into a girl in the wink of an eye.

“She’s not a girl,” Shelley insisted as we walked out to morning recess. “Girls can’t have hair like that.”

“They can if they cut it.”

“But no mother would let a girl wear her hair so short.”

“The school wouldn’t let a boy wear a dress to class.”

Shelley must have been won over by my logic, because the next thing that came out of her mouth was, “Maybe she has a little brother who likes to stick gum in people’s hair.” Shelley’s brother had done that to her once, but since he only got it on the tail end of her braid, she hadn’t lost much length to the scissors when her mother cut it out. “Or she got lice. Yuck.”

I didn’t like the direction of Shelley’s last comment. As it was, the new girl was guaranteed to have very few friends after the morning’s clothing incident. If the lice rumor spread, she’d have no friends at all. I’d been new once too.

“She doesn’t look dirty,” I said. “Maybe her hair got caught in an escalator and they had to cut it off.” I was terrified of escalators. My mother had warned me never to play around on one or my clothes would get snagged between the steps and I’d be pulled in, then smashed as flat as a pancake. Back when she worked in a department store, before marrying my dad, she saw a lady get caught by the scarf in an escalator’s moving handrail, and it would have been death by strangling if an alert gentleman with a penknife hadn’t been nearby to free her. I still get a little on edge every time I step onto one.

We got in line to play hopscotch on a board a couple other girls had drawn earlier that morning. I looked around. The whole school was out on the playground, and it was harder than I would have expected to find a short-haired girl in a blue jumper. There were lots of blue corduroy jumpers darting around the swings and monkey bars and jungle gym. Wanamaker’s must have featured them in its back-to-school sale that year. My dress wasn’t new. It was a hand-me-down from my older sister, with a ribbon tie and a skirt made with less fabric than the newer fashions. Shelley and I had done a test run of our first-day outfits the previous week, and no matter how fast I spun around, my skirt failed to billow as dramatically as Shelley’s.

Still, I tried to make the skirt swing gracefully as I hopped down the squares. I had no desire to be dainty, but I liked the aesthetic of fabric twirling in the air. We went through the hopscotch line four times before I finally spotted Jackie. She was over by the fence, poking at the dirt with a stick. Alone.

That last bit was no surprise.

It took three more rounds of hopscotch before I worked up the nerve to go find out what she was doing.

“Where are you going?” Shelley called as I marched off.

I didn’t answer her, afraid I’d lose my momentum. It was risky talking to an outcast. On the one hand, it was the only way to turn her into not-an-outcast. On the other hand, it might turn me into one too.

“What are you doing?”

Jackie looked up. “Thinking about digging a hole to China.”

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Meet the Author

Janelle Reston lives in a northern lake town with her partner and their black cats. She loves watching Battlestar Galactica and queering gender. You can keep up with her at http://www.janellereston.com.

 

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A MelanieM Review: The Lure of Port Stephen by Sydney Blackburn

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Robbie Wales is young and starting a new job in a new town, on his own. Coming from a split family, he was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents and came out as a teen without a lot of fuss, but his father, whom he only saw infrequently, has never known. As an adult, he’s found he’s got a lot in common with his father, and they’re finally getting to know each other. He fears coming out to his father may jeopardize that.

Then he meets Raj Williams, the attractive man in the trailer next to his father’s in a seasonal RV park. Raj is handsome, sophisticated, yet loves to fish and watch silly Disney movies.

Raj finds Robbie equally interesting. But Robbie’s still in the closet, at least in Port Stephen, and Raj’s ex used that as an excuse to treat him as nothing more than a friend with benefits. He’s not interested in a repeat experience.

Robbie finally finds the courage to come out to his father, but was it all just for a summer fling?

The Lure of Port Stephen by Sydney Blackburn is in many ways like spending the day out on or by the water.  It’s a hot summer day read, sexy, sweet,  and a little steamy.  Its got fish.   Men that like to fish.  And have lots of sex.  Plus there’s a sweet coming out story and falling in love.  In other words, there’s a lot to like here.

Blackburn does a lovely job in the characterization of Raj and Robbie and their respective families.  Robbie, a machinist, is trying to reconnect with his Dad who lives in a trailer with his stepmother by the water.  He’s out to his mom and everyone else but not his Dad, and he’s still trying to figure out their relationship.  Robbie is young but still has a maturity about him that’s wonderful here.  He’s not ashamed to be gay, he’s just not sure of his place yet in his father’s life.  Then he meets the handsome, gay man who has the trailer lot next door to his dad’s for the summer, Raj Williams.  Down from Toronto, Raj has a work job that allows him to move around so he can enjoy his summer at Port Stephens.  Raj never figured on meeting Robbie.  A gay fling that turns into friendship and then more.

I found I started to engage in this romance more when they decided to become more serious about each other.  Up until then, while I enjoyed the characters, I wasn’t terribly invested in the romance.  After several events, especially (my favorites) the ones with Robbie’s dad, the story grew wings for me.  In fact, the scenes that resonated the most with me?  All the coming out ones, and the ones that followed. It includes those between Raj and Robbie’s dad, so funny and poignant.

I thought the ending was sweet if a little abrupt.  Maybe an epilogue wouldn’t have hurt here. but definitely more was needed.  Still I would recommend The Lure of Port Stephen by Sydney Blackburn as a sweet contemporary romance.

Cover art by Natasha Snow is beautiful and perfect for the story.

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Book Details:

ebook
Published May 22nd 2017 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781947139121

Sydney Blackburn on Writing and The Lure of Port Stephen by Sydney Blackburn (author guest post,excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The Lure of Port Stephen

Author: Sydney Blackburn

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 22, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 29900

Genre: Contemporary, sweet, blue collar, class difference, interracial, camping, fishing, coming out, Lake Erie, Canada

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Sydney Blackburn here today. Sydney is sharing a bit about writing her latest story, The Lure of Port Stephen.  Welcome, Sydney!

Writing The Lure of Port Stephen by Sydney Blackburn

I think all writers feel some degree of nerves knowing people are reading their work. Even when it’s my editor, I sometimes feel like, “oh my god, they’re *reading* that!”

With The Lure of Port Stephen, though, there’s an additional element of anxiety when it comes to readers. I wrote The Lure of Port Stephen while staying in the real village of Port Bruce, in a real RV park/marina not unlike the one in the story. The biggest difference is all of the people populating Port Stephen have no counterpart in the actual summer people of Port Bruce. They all know I’ve written the story and they’ve been dying for it to come out, but they keep expecting to see themselves in it, no matter how often I explain that they’re not there.

We moved back to the village for the summer on the twelfth. Although part of me remains convinced none of the summer people will actually buy it–I worry also that they will. My biggest fear? That they’ll read it, and project themselves into one of the characters and tell me, “But I’m not really like that!”  Granted, there’s no sexy twenty-something gay men in the real RV park, so there’s that.

I also gave the location internet service and reliable cell service in the book, neither of which really exist in this particular spot–all my internet necessities are met by hanging out in the bait shop for a few hours. Being without the distractions of the internet did help me focus on my writing. When I wasn’t at the beach or sitting out on the deck watching the ducks and herons in the creek.

Although it’s too soon to tell if my fears will come true or will be ungrounded, the fact that I’m anxious about it will probably be enough to keep me to my more fictional settings.

In future posts on this tour, I’ll talk more about Port Bruce, and even have some photos of locations that made it, unchanged, into the story!

Synopsis

Robbie Wales is young and starting a new job in a new town, on his own. Coming from a split family, he was raised by his mother and maternal grandparents and came out as a teen without a lot of fuss, but his father, whom he only saw infrequently, has never known. As an adult, he’s found he’s got a lot in common with his father, and they’re finally getting to know each other. He fears coming out to his father may jeopardize that.

Then he meets Raj Williams, the attractive man in the trailer next to his father’s in a seasonal RV park. Raj is handsome, sophisticated, yet loves to fish and watch silly Disney movies.

Raj finds Robbie equally interesting. But Robbie’s still in the closet, at least in Port Stephen, and Raj’s ex used that as an excuse to treat him as nothing more than a friend with benefits. He’s not interested in a repeat experience.

Robbie finally finds the courage to come out to his father, but was it all just for a summer fling?

Excerpt

The Lure of Port Stephen
Sydney Blackburn © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Robbie Wales rented a car Saturday morning to go down to his father’s trailer in Port Stephen. Alone—because he’d just moved to St. Albans and hadn’t had the opportunity to meet someone. Like Dad and Wanda had been nagging him about.

It would help if he could actually tell them the someone he hoped to meet was a guy. His mother knew, of course. But his parents had split when he was a baby, and he hadn’t spent more than a couple weeks a year with his father until he’d moved to Woodstock for his apprenticeship training. He’d never had a boyfriend serious enough to mention. Coming out seemed too important not to do in person, but the right time never seemed to come up.

He had to come out to them soon—he was twenty-two, and the more time he spent with them, the more obvious it would be—but he was worried. What if his father rejected him just when they were finally having a real relationship? But—new job, new apartment, new city—it was time.

St. Albans was only a twenty-minute drive away from the port. He could, in theory, hang out and fish during the day and go back to town at night. It wasn’t that he didn’t like sitting around their firepit, but listening to a bunch of people his parents’ age or older wasn’t his idea of a fun time. They wouldn’t miss him.

He pulled in beside the end of his parents’ trailer, leaving room for other vehicles in case the people in the small Prowler next door had friends coming up for the weekend too. Robbie grabbed his duffel and used the keys his father had given him last year to let himself in. The water and electric were already on, and the fridge was humming softly.

He dropped the duffel and went out to retrieve the case of beer he’d brought. Hard liquor would take up less fridge space, he mused. Too bad it made him stupid. He gave the neighbouring trailer a sidelong glance. Small propane grill, decorative urns spilling jewel-tone flowers, sun shelter, and a couple of fishing rods. Retired couple, he decided. Flowers had to be a woman’s touch.

Movement on one of the boats caught his eye, and he turned just in time to see a man—literally tall, dark, and handsome—strip his T-shirt off. There was nothing erotic in the motion—guy probably didn’t even know he was being watched—but Robbie’s mouth watered all the same at the unexpected vision.

He was lean, deeply tanned, and wearing shorts that were short enough to make Robbie wish they were even shorter. Nice legs. Nice everything.

As if sensing Robbie’s stare, the guy turned his head. Robbie blushed, glad he was too far away for it to be seen, and hurried to bring in the beer. That was a sight he’d never seen here before. Was he the son of the couple in the trailer?

One way to find out. Randomly chatting to strangers was a thing here, giving Robbie an excuse. He stuck six beers in the fridge and took two of his father’s, already cold, and hastily checked his look in the mirror. His sandy-brown hair was tousled from the drive, but there were no stains on his tank or rainbow-coloured board shorts. Good. Normal. He pulled his sunglasses down over his eyes and almost forgot the beer on his way out the door.

Walking along the waterfront, he tried to appear nonchalant, though he’d never been 100 percent certain of what that meant. As he strode out onto the dock, the guy raised his head. He looked even better up close. His hair was thick, dark, begging to be ruffled… Try not to drool, Rob. He didn’t have the words to describe the guy’s mouth—full lips he’d love to kiss, a pinkish-brown colour a little lighter than his nipples. Dark hair scattered across a gorgeous dark tan. Robbie licked his lips before he realized what he was doing.

Then Tall, Dark, and Handsome’s kissable lips pulled up into a smile, and long fingers with very pale fingernails shoved the sunglasses up over his hair. “Hey.”

“Hey.” Robbie handed him a beer. “You looked thirsty. Boat trouble?” he added quickly, squatting down to eye level. Tall, Dark, and Handsome had eyelashes like a woman’s—long, feathery, soft. And his eyes were amber, a little darker than the beer he’d accepted from Robbie.

“Thanks.” He pushed a hand behind his ear, and Robbie’s tongue slipped out to swipe his lower lip again.

The handsome stranger twisted the cap off the beer and tipped the bottle to his mouth, his long throat working as he swallowed once, twice.

Robbie let his gaze slide down the deeply tanned bare chest in front of him. Gay men, in his admittedly limited experience, tended to wax their chests. Trying to match the guys on billboards and magazines, he supposed. Handsome here had a sparse triangle of dark hair from below his collarbone across pecs with more definition than he’d initially thought. Gravity pulled a trickle of sweat down the narrow bit of hair in the center of his torso, one that disappeared… Robbie forced himself to not stare as if the guy was the first steak dinner he’d seen after months of bread and water.

Tall, Dark, and Handsome was glaring at the cables he’d uncovered that led to his motor. “It pulls to the left.”

pulled his shades down, hiding his eyes. “You know much about boats? You’d think I’d learn, owning one, but goddammit, I had it in for a thorough check in St. Albans before I put it in the water.”

“I know a little more about outboards than inboards,” Robbie said truthfully, “but I’d be happy to take a look.”

TDH waved vaguely toward the open panel. “Sure. Please.”

Robbie’s heart tripped a little at getting so close to his new fantasy man, and he nearly lost his balance getting into the boat—to his embarrassment. TDH’s steadying hand was hot and dry, and Robbie nearly jumped as his cock twitched.

“Fuck,” he said, before he could stop himself. His voice was hoarse, but he hoped TDH would think he was cursing his clumsiness and not his riotous imagination.

The smile on his face seemed sly and suggestive to Robbie, but he figured that was wishful thinking on his part. He smiled back and took a swig of his beer. Down, boy, he told his overeager cock. He set his bottle in a holder and turned around, kneeling to examine the innards exposed.

“Huh. Interesting,” he said, having no idea what he was looking for.

“Isn’t it, though.”

His voice was like a caress. You’re imagining things, Robert Eliot Wales. He leaned back to sit on his ass and reached up for his beer. He froze momentarily as TDH sat on one of the pedestal seats. He could almost—but not quite—see up the leg of his shorts. Stop looking.

He forced himself to raise his gaze all the way to the other man’s face. “Tell me exactly what it’s doing?”

“When I put it under full throttle, it pulls to the left. I don’t notice it on the creek, but out on the lake this morning, it pulled so hard it almost yanked the wheel out of my hands.” He ran a hand through his hair again.

Robbie knew he was staring, but he hoped it wasn’t too obvious behind his shades.

“First time I’ve been scared on the water.”

“Sounds like your trim is out of whack. Maybe you bumped something in the creek?”

“Maybe,” he said. “It seems rather shallow this year. So I have to take it out of the water?”

“Yeah, I think so. When my dad gets here, he’ll take a look. He knows a lot more…” Geez, he sounded like a teenager. “Robbie Wales,” he said, thrusting out a hand, more dirty now than it had been twenty minutes ago.

“Raj Williams,” he said, grabbing his hand and pulling him to his feet.

Raj. That explained the great tan. Even if he still had tan lines, his bare ass was probably a gorgeous honey gold…. He shook his head. “That’s my dad’s trailer.” Robbie jerked his head. “The Golden Falcon there.”

TDH—Raj—laughed. “Tell me that’s not your dad’s name.”

“What?”

“Wayne and Wanda Wales of Woodstock.” He snickered. “Say it ain’t so.”

Robbie chuckled at the awful alliteration. “It ain’t so,” he reassured him. “Wales is my mother’s name. Dad’s is Richardson. And Wanda kept her own name, Nichols. I take it you’ve met.”

“Neighbours. Your dad is very…sociable.”

“They say in Woodstock, if you don’t know Wayne Richardson, it’s not Wayne Richardson’s fault.”

“I can believe that.”

Neighbours. So… “Which trailer’s yours?”

“This one,” he said with a pleased nod toward the Prowler. “My company started a work-from-home initiative, and I talked them into paying for my Internet to work from here, instead.”

Ah. Straight and married then. Robbie nodded, trying not to show his disappointment. “Where is home when it’s not Port Stephen?”

“Toronto.”

Robbie felt his eyes widen. “My god, you must feel like you’re in redneck country.”

Raj laughed again, a warm, rich sound that Robbie liked very much. “Kind of,” he said. “Let’s go sit in the shade. My deck’s a little iffy; carpentry isn’t my forte. Along with boat mechanics,” he added ruefully. “I can refresh your beer.”

Eh, he could still fantasize, as long as he didn’t have to watch TDH kissing his no-doubt-pretty wife. “Sure. Thanks.”

The deck, which looked like freight pallets bound together, had an outdoor rug on it and two director-style chairs. Solar LED lights were strung across the canopy. The flowers in each corner were bright primary colours, so intense they almost seemed fake. Nestled against the trailer was an electric cooler. Robbie watched those shorts get a little shorter and tighter as Raj leaned over to grab two cold bottles. To his horror, a whimper came out of his throat before he could stop it.

He cleared his throat and spun to examine one of the flowerpots. “Nice flowers.”

“Thanks. My apartment is tiny without much in the way of a balcony. But I’ve always admired those perfectly landscaped little houses on the magazine covers. Clearly, I’m not a landscaper or a designer either, but it makes me happy—those ridiculously bright flowers.”

“Oh. So you’re not married?”

Raj smiled at him, an expression that seemed full of hidden meaning. “Haven’t met the right person yet. And you? Will you be bringing someone special down to share romantic evenings on the beach?”

Robbie blushed. “No.” He’d never put Port Stephen and romantic together in his head. “So, why here?”

“The fishing. And I can have this place for five months for the same price a month’s rent would cost me in Toronto.”

Robbie opened his mouth to ask another question but frowned. “You’re not paying rent in Toronto? Are you moving here, like, permanently?”

“Hell, no. Can you imagine going all the way to Bayham just for groceries every week in the winter? Do they even have a bar that doesn’t serve a Sunday brunch?” Raj laughed.

Robbie hadn’t realized before now sound could be a thing one wanted to roll in—or lick up.

“Don’t think so,” he managed to say.

“I sublet my apartment for the season, so until October first, it’s not actually mine. I still have a place to live at the end of the season but don’t have to pay the rent. I love it here”—he gestured toward his boat, or perhaps just the water in general—“but it would be nice to meet some people under forty and over twenty.”

Robbie opened his mouth to invite Raj along with him to St. Albans some night. “You met me.” He hadn’t meant to say that, but for some reason the idea of Raj meeting someone other than him made his stomach twist.

Raj smiled. “True…”

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Sydney Blackburn is a binary star system. Always a voracious reader, she began to write when she couldn’t find the stories she wanted to read. She likes candlelit dinners and long walks on the beach… Oh wait, wrong profile. She’s a snarky introvert and admits to having a past full of casual sex and dubious hookups, which she uses for her stories.

She likes word play and puns and science-y things. And green curry.

Her dislikes include talking on the phone, people trying to talk to her before she’s had coffee, and filling out the “about me” fields in social media.

Besides writing, she also designs book covers for poor people.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Tour Schedule

5/22 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

5/22 – The Novel Approach

5/23 – Erotica For All

5/23 – Out Of My Head

5/24 – Happily Ever Chapter

5/24 – A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

5/25 – Stories That Make You Smile

5/25 – Sharing Links and Wisdom

5/25 – Bayou Book Junkie

5/26 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews

5/26 – Divine Magazine

5/26 – Love Bytes Reviews

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