A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: Blueberry Boys by Vanessa North ~ Audiobook narrated by Tobias Silversmith

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Blueberry Boys audioWhen Connor Graham returns to the town where his lived with his uncle, mom, and brother, the last thing he expects is to meet a man who attracts him like a magnet. His uncle has passed away and Connor and his brother have inherited the family blueberry farm that has a tenant farmer working the land. The farmer is Jed Jones—a very shy, very sexy man with a severe stutter, making speech difficult for him.

But Jed’s stutter makes no difference to Connor as the two get to know each other. And though the brothers are selling the farm, Jed’s place is secure for at least the next two years due to his lease, so the sale isn’t an impediment to their attraction. What is an obstacle is Jed’s religious upbringing, his firm place in the closet, and the distance between the farm and Connor’s job as a well-known fashion photographer who is based in New York City but travels the globe.

With Jed’s permission, Connor decides to use the farm as the backdrop for his next fashion shoot, buying the men more time to get to know one another. It’s time well invested, but there’s an expiration date, and as they reach the end, Jed breaks it off with Connor. He’s not the type for a long distance relationship, and though Connor tries to make him see reason, he eventually returns to New York.

Circumstances combine to allow Jed to come out to his family and to reconcile his church’s teachings with his homosexuality and life goes on. Jed and Connor ultimately get together, and it’s likely not in the way many readers would expect, but it does leave the men with their HEA.

I was disappointed in this story, the first I’ve read from this author. It was a sweet tale, but I didn’t feel the spark. The romance between the two men was more of a sexual chemistry and less of a bonding of two hearts. To be fair, I don’t have the book to go back to revisit some of the scenes I felt were choppy or where there was a disconnect between the guys, so I can’t get into detail. This is an audiobook review, and that is too difficult to do.

The narrator, Tobias Silversmith, was a fast reader; so much so, that at times I had difficulty catching what he said. The story felt rushed, and I don’t know if it was the story as written, or if the speed was set by the pace of the narrator. But it wasn’t appealing. I didn’t hurry to get back to the story when I was occupied with other tasks, and I didn’t look forward to what the characters would do next. They were just waiting there for me to get back to them. I felt like there was not much happening in their lives anyway, so why not wait? Needless to say, I don’t recommend this in audiobook format.

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I loved the bright, colorful cover art by LC Chase that prominently features a spilled bucket of blueberries superimposed on a background of a farm field with two young men holding hands.

Sales Links:  Riptide PublishingAudible |Amazon

Audiobook Details:

Audible Audio, 5 pages, 4 hrs 22 mins
Published May 20th 2016 by Riptide Publishing (first published November 28th 2015)
Original TitleBlueberry Boys
ASINB01FWBX0PS
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Stella Review: Strange Bedfellows by Cardeno C

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Strange Bedfellows coverCan the billionaire son of a Democratic president build a family with the congressman son of a Republican senator? Forget politics, love makes strange bedfellows.

As the sole offspring of the Democratic United States president and his political operative wife, Trevor Moga was raised in an environment driven by the election cycle. During childhood, he fantasized about living in a made-for-television family, and as an adult, he rejected all things politics and built a highly successful career as far from his parents as possible.

Newly elected congressman Ford Hollingsworth is Republican royalty. The grandson of a revered governor and son of a respected senator, he was bred to value faith, family, and the goal of seeing a Hollingsworth in the White House.

When Trevor and Ford meet, sparks fly and a strong friendship is formed. But can the billionaire son of a Democratic president build a family with the congressman son of a Republican senator? Forget politics, love makes strange bedfellows.

Cardeno C will always have a  special spot in my heart. She was one of the first m/m authors I read and some of her books are in my “all time favorite” shelf. So you can imagine my enthusiasm every time she writes a new story. I enjoyed Strange Bedfellows even if I was a little hesitant. I always stay away from books about politics, most of all because I don’t live in the USA.  I ‘m not so sure if what I’m going to read it will match the reality of the current politics or not. Of course I made an exception for Cardeno, I couldn’t resist. And I didn’t regret my choice.  In a way the book was almost shallow (in a good sense), because it didn’t address political aspects, even if it is full of characters that breathed politics since their birth. To me it was better, definitely easier to follow a story otherwise too heavy and not very romantic. Giving the subject I wasn’t expecting something so light and easy, which I so appreciated. I read it in one stand and loved it.

The story between Ford, the 37 years old republican congressman, son of a democratic senator and Trevor, the 42 years old son of the democratic president of the USA was sweet, funny and sexy. A couple of things I particularly liked: first of all I loved how Trevor wasn’t once mad at Ford for being in the closet. He never pressed him to come out, he was always understanding and accepting of Ford’s fears and doubts. Then  there was Ford. He was my favorite character, so loyal to the family and to a career even when it interfered with his love life and forced him to be in the closet. He had duties and commitments that he couldn’t forget, especially with his father’s delicate health. But there was just one tiny problem, the situation between Ford and Trevor was not just a fling, a friends with benefit thing, they were in love with each other. How to solve it?

The title fit the story very well, cause the Strange Bedfellows is made of each time Ford and Trevor met at hotels to stay together, not to just have sex, but to talk, to know each other better and to Ford to discover how to be out in his family’s world. There are some funny moments too and an amazing HEA, in a true Cardeno’s style. I gave it just four stars cause although it was sweet, it lacked of hot parts and the ending seemed to me a little rushed, I would have preferred a couple of chapters more, not cause I’m greedy, but because it would have deserved more time to develop.

Shortly, if you’re a Cardeno fan you have to read Strange Bedfellows, I’m sure you will love it. If she is a new to you author, this story could be a lovely way to become addicted to her characters.

Cover art by Jay Aheer. What can I say about the cover? Not perfect or eye catching but well done. It is okay, nothing more.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 174 pages
Published June 26th 2015 by Smashwords Edition
ISBN139781942184300

A Stella Review: Moment of Impact by Karen Stivali

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Rating: 4,5 stars out of 5

1MomentofImpactCover-KarenStivaliOutside Collin Fitzpatrick’s dorm room is a dangerous place. Beyond his door the students of his small, conservative college think he’s straight, as does his Catholic family who’d disown him if they learned the truth. Inside, he’s safe with his incredibly sexy roommate Tanner D’Amico. Their room makes a perfect place to hide away and fall in love. The moment they cross the line from roommates to lovers, Collin becomes caught between their heavenly passionate encounters and the hellish reality that someone might find out and destroy everything. Tanner’s not used to being so confined, and wants to show the world how much he loves Collin. But Collin’s not sure he’s ready for the impact stepping outside will make.

“I didn’t mean to see Tanner D’Amico’s cock. I really didn’t.”

Let’s start this review at the same way the book does. I was laughing so hard but it’s true, everything started in that way.

Collin and Tanner are friends and roommates for two years. They secretly are in love with each other, but they both think the other is straight. Tanner has a girlfriend, Wendy, and they spend every Monday night having sex, while poor Collin pretends to sleeping in the bed and not listening to their lovemaking. Until one Monday night Collin realizes Tanner is alone.

Tanner has finally found the courage to approach Collin and see if his friend is so straight or maybe there’s a chance for them. He’s determined to be with Collin, but Collin needs to finally step out of his closet. And his closet is an heavy one, full of guilt versus his really Catholic mother. His fear will lead him to almost lose Tanner.

“You deserve better than that. I want you to have better than that. I want you to have everything.”

“I don’t want everything,” he said. My heart fluttered just from the sound of his voice, deep and rich and flowing around me like warm water. “I just want you.”

Discovering that love is stronger and has nothing to do with religions, will give Collin the strength to prove Tanner he’s “that” everything in the right moment of impact. His loss will be great and I hope his mother will be back to loving his son more than before she discovered he’s gay.

The last scene of the book is really emotional.

This book was a real gem to me. I fell in love with Collin and Tanner from the start and at the end of the book I think I fell in love with the author too. I particularly liked how she wrote this story, the words flowed so well, it was impossible to me to put it down for a moment. It was a quick and lovely reading, sweet as I like all of my books. I can’t wait for the second on in this series, Moment of Truth.

I haven’t given 5 stars cause Moment of Impact is part of a three books series, called Moments in Time. Each one of them is a novella and I think that maybe they could have been all put together in just one book. I hope this will be the right choice, cause I expect the second one to be as good as this first book.

I want to add something more. I’m always afraid when an author decides to deal with religious themes. Living in a city like Rome, you can feel the Catholicism in the air, regardless if you believe or not in something or someone. I don’t want to talk about what I believe in, but I can say that I understand and I ache for Collin, I honestly don’t see acceptance around me. I’m proud to live in my country but I feel it’s not ready to be the perfect (or at least the right) place for the LGBT people. It’s too deep in its beliefs. Still, I know, cause I want to believe, that my children will live in that perfect place. I’m not being naive, I’m realistic.

Cover art by Anna Sikorska: isn’t the cover model cute??

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press eBook      All Romance (ARe)   Amazon   Buy it here

Book details:
Published January 7th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ebook, 110 pages
ISBN13 9781632164780
Edition language: English

Review: Acting Out (Calm and Chaos #1) by Sharon Maria Bidwell

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Acting Out coverNicholas Sandford and Alexander Lasseter were friends for years before their mutual agent  partnered them in a film that would bring them success as actors and link them together in the public’s memory as the best of friends.  When renown director Robert King sends them a script that is almost guaranteed to give them the roles of their lives, only one of them is eager to accept.  The problem is that the script calls for Nick and Alex to  play friends who become lovers during the course of the film, including nudity and sex scenes.

Alex has always known that he was attracted to men but has kept that side of himself hidden from Nick.  Nick has always thought of himself as straight, although his dates with women are few and the number of relationships he has had is zero.  But to act in this film, Nick faces the condemnation of his family, his own fear of taking a role he wants dearly and the fact that if he turns down this role, Alex will go on to other films without him, leaving Nick and their friendship behind.

When Nick and Alex agree to act in the film, everything between them starts to change with just one kiss.  As fantasy turns into reality, Nick must face his own fears about his sexuality and come to an acceptance about himself as well as Alex in order for the men to move forward with their careers and romance.

Short review?  A stultifying well written story that follows two friends journey through endless self examination of their sexuality, their roles in their friendship to a final acceptance of their homosexualityp and love.  That’s the cliff notes review, the succinct version of what is to follow.  Oh that the author had done the same for her story.

Everything about this story should have made me feel so much stronger about the plot and characters than I actually do.  The plot is a terrific one…in theory.  It’s really one man’s introspective journey to self awareness and acceptance of his sexuality through the course of a film role and with help with his best friend/love interest.  It should be painful, dramatic, and finally fulfilling, yet this story is none of those things. Instead it feels drawn out, verbose, of only middling tension with characters that never rise to the reality and drama of the roles they are filming.

The first hint of issues with Acting Out arrives with Nick Standford,  The story starts out in Nick’s pov and immediately the reader is plunged into an almost endless stream of thoughts from Nick about his conflicting feelings about the role he is being asked to play, his friendship with Alex, thoughts about his family, Alex’s sister, the swan in the river….on and on it goes and we haven’t even reached page 4.  Just the appearance of Nick on a page means that a full blown dithering inner monologue is sure to follow.  How can a reader even begin to care about a character if even reading that character’s thoughts feels like a walk through a bog?  Here is Nick waiting for Alex to appear:

 The only good thing was their mutual agent, Alana Reynolds, wouldn’t be here. She of the overlong and straight blonde hair hanging like a curtain, swaying, seductive, invariably irritating Nick to hell. Whenever she looked at Alex, gone was the unsettling stare Nick paid her so well to use while representing him. Nick saw nothing hard, cold, or business-like when she skimmed that large frame. He’d never known Alana to gawk at anyone with a less than analytical eye, and the realisation that she did otherwise left him torn between gratitude not to be the object of her scrutiny and belligerence because she paid Alex such close attention. Around Alex, her expression came close to an open display of desire. For some reason, Nick didn’t like it.

He didn’t want to know whether Alex had seduced Alana, or she him. He was doubtful the two were having sex; still, he disliked the possibility. He could imagine those perfect bodies locking together too easily, but he tried not to. Imagining Alana naked was one thing, but considering what an attractive couple they made struck him as disturbing. Women could look at other women to say they were appealing, even beautiful. Men didn’t do that. They called each other “fit,” and it was too easy to gaze at Alex and see an extremely fit man, indeed. He didn’t feel comfortable admiring Alex; he never had, even though he had a case of justifiable envy. Those broad shoulders and muscular build, the square jaw and disarming grin… Nick swallowed, wanting an antacid. He touched his tie, fingered his lapel, and looked around, wondering if they’d have such a thing on the premises. Probably against Health and Safety. He should have been even more gracious to the serving girl, who would have no doubt given him anything he wanted.

That is one of Nick’s shorter moments, most of them are actually quite protracted in every way you can imagine. Alex Lassiter is a little better.  Alex is already comfortable with his sexuality although not out because of his profession.  He is one of those actors that get the action/suspense roles that command large sum salaries and huge box office returns unlike Nick who gets the lanky, brainy geeky roles.  The point of view switches back and forth between Alex and Nick, but honestly neither character comes across as realistic or particularly memorable. Nick constantly frets about his thoughts and emotions toward Alex and the film roles they are to play and the reader should be right there with him emotionally as he works through his inner conflicts.  Instead, the writing and descriptions, although well written and with a certain style, don’t even begin to bring an element of real passion and pain into the equation.  We just don’t get any real measure of  angst or mental anguish, just a mention of emotional discomfort and irritation.

One thing stood out for me in this very serious story and that is the lack of humor.  A touch of humor, self depreciating or otherwise can lift a scene up, enlivening it along with the characters.  And that element is missing along with any real drama or emotional highlights.   Or should I say emotional highlights that feel like emotional highlights.

From beginning to end neither the characters or the narrative serve to involve the reader emotionally in this story.  I can’t decide whether it is the constant musings on their sexuality and the possibilities of sexual attraction or the inner arguments as well as monologues that continue ad infinitum that serve to distance the reader from these characters.  But what ever the source, the reader will find themselves disconnected from this story and the men through the very same emotional channels which should be engaging their attention and that is such a shame as the story had real promise.  A promise it never delivered.

The Calm and Chaos part of the title is derived from two acting roles the men played in a film, their first together.  Colin Calm Cameron and Chandler Chaos Chance, two detectives, partners as well as friends.  That film and those roles sounded far more interesting than Acting Out, which is the first in a series.  For myself, I am leaving this series at the first book.  If you are a fan of this author, than you might consider reading this story, otherwise I would give it a pass.

Cover Design: Kelly Shorten is very nondescript, it could be for any story, not just this one.

Book Details:

ebook, 75,000 word count
Published June 8th 2012 by Musa Publishing

Review: Kick Start (Dangerous Ground #5) by Josh Lanyon

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Kick Start coverSpecial Agents Will Brandt and Taylor MacAllister have both left the DSS (Department of Diplomatic Security) after the events in Paris and now operate their own security agency.  But things are not going  particularly well for them, either in their business or relationship.  Will and Taylor’s business is lacking clients and they are running out of money to keep afloat.  Taylor isn’t happy that Will made the decision to quit and go out on their own without consulting him . Now it’s the Brandts that come calling and Will is expected home at his parents house as his younger brother isabout to ship out as a  Marine and wants to spend time with him.  The problem?  Will hasnt’ told his family that he is gay and that his partner, Taylor, is his partner is all ways.

This trip home promises to be anything but a happy visit home.   There is an “Cousin Dennis” staying with Will’s parents who isn’t his cousin and a past felon looking for revenge at Christmas time.  Could things get any worse?  Will and Taylor are about to find out while trying to save their business and their relationship.

Kick Start is the fifth book in the Dangerous Ground series by Josh Lanyon and the pairing of Taylor MacAllister and Will Brandt return in rare form in a story that finds the men on rocky ground, professionally and emotionally.  Since the first installment, Dangerous Ground, the road to love and a relationship has been a tumultuous one.  Special Agents and partners for the Department of Diplomatic Security, their friendship changes with one confession of love from Taylor who is then wounded hours later.  While Taylor has always known of his passion for his coworker, it took Will a much longer time to arrive at the same conclusion, both about his feelings towards Taylor and his sexuality.  Up and down, over but never quite out, these two men have doggedly pursued criminals with the same fervor they save for each other.   Now Josh Lanyon picks up their romance after the events of Dead Run (Dangerous Ground #4) and deepens the issues for these men by separating them (by their choice) from the agency they worked for and placing them on uncertain ground with a new company that’s floundering and trying to set the parameters for their personal relationship.  In Kick Start, these men have never been better.

Josh Lanyon returns to this series and his characters and infuses it with high energy and his trademark humor.  I have always been especially fond of Will and Taylor and have enjoyed watching their relationship deepen and grow despite all obstacles thrown at them including ones they have created themselves.  In Kick Start, Lanyon forces the men to confront the issues facing them, both about their floundering business as well as the problems surfacing in their romance.  And there is no better time for stress and reflection than visiting the in-laws, especially when they don’t know they are the in-laws.  Returning Will to the Brandt home, Lanyon affords the readers a glimpse into Will’s home life and his relationship with the town he grew up in as well as his younger brother.  I thought that the dynamics between Grant and Will were very authentically crafted.  Grant the younger brother forever in his famous older brother’s shadow, a little resentful as well as adoring.  And then he finds out that Will is gay, shattering his image of his brother and making him realize that there was an essential part of Will he never. The resultant sibling explosion feels real in every aspect as does Will’s talk with his father.

Added to the changed family dynamics and their own evolving relationship, Lanyon starts throwing in complication left and right, including a local family of ne’er–do–wells called the Dooleys who just insist on causing their own brand of trouble.  The author is clearly having fun with this surly,unkempt band of brothers:

One of the yahoos, dressed in woodland camo — complete with matching bandana — crawled out of the truck window and jumped to the ground.

“Is Brandt here?” he yelled. He was a big man. Some of it was muscle, some of it was flab, a lot of it was hair. Long black hair and long black beard. Altogether, it amounted to a sizeable and sturdy form.

Taylor relaxed. Not that he had really thought this was some country cousin branch of the mob come hunting Cousin Dennis, but life could be weird. He called back, “Nope. Anything I can do for you?”

“Who are you?”

“Who wants to know?”

The guy said impatiently, “I want to know.”

I’m Larry; this is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl. Taylor bit back an inappropriate smile. First rule of visiting the in-laws: No laughing at the local wild life.

“And you are —?”

“Going to kick your ass if you don’t tell me what I want to know!” The big man drew himself up as though readying for battle.

Really? Taylor sighed.

The weary sound carried in the sharp, crystalline air and Larry looked a little discomfited.

You know this is just not going to end well for the Dooleys, as nothing ever does.  It’s humorous and it contains media references that bring up sharp images that just snap  a portrait of the Dooleys immediately into place.  A lovely bit of character shorthand that Lanyon excels in.

Of course, there are gunshots, car chases and several inexplicable turn of events, including one very incompetent sleuth, that should carry over into the next novel in the series.  You will find yourself  reading along at a fast clip to keep up with all the action.  It’s that fast paced, full of snappy dialog, a couple of mysteries, and of course, the love between Will and Taylor that just grows better and better.  This is really my favorite of the series  to date.

If you are new to the series, go back to the beginning, Dangerous Ground, for your first introductions to  Will and Taylor at the start of their relationship.  For those fans of the series, I know you found Kick Start a welcome way to finish out 2013.  I can only hope that it won’t be as long a time before we see another Dangerous Ground story from this wonderful author.

Books in the Dangerous Ground series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that occur (the first four books preceded the start of my review blog):

Dangerous Ground (Dangerous Ground #1)
Old Poison (Dangerous Ground #2)
Blood Heat (Dangerous Ground #3)
Dead Run (Dangerous Ground, #4)
Kick Start (Dangerous Ground, #5)

Book Details:

ebook
Published November 30th 2013 by Just Joshin (first published November 29th 2013)
original title Kick Start
edition language English
series Dangerous Ground

Last Day at GRL and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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I am writing this in advance as today is my last day at GRL in Atlanta and my travel day home.  I hope I will have had time to post several pics and blogs of the event as it happened.  If, as I predict, not, then a followup blog will be coming shortly.

At any rate, it is going to be a great week here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.  Sarah Black is stopping by to discuss her latest release,, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari, the sequel to The General and The Horse-Lord, a favorite of mine.  If you enjoy great military characters written realistically and grounded deeply in the Marine ethos, then these stories are for you.

Also reviewed this week is her outstanding supernatural story, Wild Onion.  Sarah Black donated the proceeds of this story to her local food bank, a wonderful endeavor and a much needed one.  Anne Tenino is back with more of her boys from Alpha Theta Gamma in Good Boy and I have new stories hee by A.R. Moler and Jameson Dash.  Really there is something for everyone.

Here is the schedule for the week ahead:

Monday, Oct. 21:       Burning Now by A.R. Moler

Tuesday, Oct. 22:       Home Team by Jameson Dash

Wed., Oct. 23:             Wild Onions by Sarah Black

Thurs., Oct. 24:          Good Boy by Anne Tenino

Friday, Oct. 25:          Sarah Black Guest Blog and Book Giveaway

Sat., Oct., 26:             The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari by Sarah Black

Playing Ball Authors Stop By For A Chat and a Contest!

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PlayingBall_tourbannerScattered Thoughts is hosting those wonderful authors of the Playing Ball Anthology today and offering a chance to win a eBook and a print copy!  The link to the contest is at the end of the blog! So join me as I pull up a chair and welcome Marguerite Labbe, Kate McMurray,Shae Connor, and Kerry Freeman:

Playing Ball End of Blog Tour and Giveaway

I can’t believe this is the last day for the blog tour, what a whirlwind ride it’s been. The ladies and I thought we’d share some of our favorite positions in baseball (outside the bedroom ) and a few excerpts.

Marguerite: So any thoughts on your favorite positions in baseball?

Shae: Catcher. Those THIGHS. 😉

Marguerite: One of my closest friends would agree with you for that very same reason.

Kerry: I’m partial to 2nd basemen. They have strong arms for to throw with, and you know they must have good hips to pivot and throw like they do 😉

Shae: And first basemen are usually tall, with long arms and legs, agility, and a lot of flexibility…

Marguerite: I’ve always been a fan of 3rd base and 3rd basemen. *Sighs* I still miss Mike Lowell. It gets hot and intense in that corner.

Kate: I don’t have a favorite, though my baseball boyfriend Joe Mauer is a catcher, so make of that what you will. Maybe it’s the mask, like he’s hidden and then there’s the hotness reveal? Also, some catchers get manicures so that the pitcher can see the hand signal while staring at the catcher’s crotch. (Just saying.)

Shae: One of the catchers today (Cards?) had his fingernails painted shiny gold. What happened to using white tape?? LOL

Marguerite: Maybe it’s more eye-catching or a secret signal? I noticed it too. I think though, that my favorites are pitchers. I just love the intensity and the way they torque their bodies and of course the staring at crotches.

Playing Ball coverPlaying Ball
Shae Connor, Kate McMurray, Kerry Freeman, and Marguerite Labbe

Cover by Aaron Anderson
Published by Dreamspinner Press
270 pages

Buy at Dreamspinner,Buy at ARe,Buy at Amazon

Blurb:

Baseball—America’s favorite pastime—provides a field wide open for romance. A Home Field Advantage may not help when Toby must choose between the team he’s loved all his life and the man he could love for the rest of it. In 1927, Skip hides his sexuality to protect his career until he meets One Man to Remember. Ruben and Alan fell victim to a Wild Pitch, leaving them struggling with heartache and guilt, and now they’ve met again. And on One Last Road Trip, Jake retires and leaves baseball behind, hoping to reconnect with Mikko and get a second chance at love.

The anthology contains the following novellas with an excerpt behind them:

Home Field Advantage by Shae Connor

Toby MacMillan, grandson of Atlanta Braves owner Ray MacMillan, lives for baseball and loves his team. When he meets new team member Caleb Browning, an innocent welcome-to-the-big-leagues dinner leads to a not-so-innocent night together. Toby quickly calls things off, afraid of the ramifications of their tryst, but the two men develop a friendship that soon becomes more. After Caleb takes a fastball to the head, their budding romance hits the news—and Toby’s grandfather hits the roof. When Ray MacMillan demands Toby deny the relationship, Toby must choose between the team he’s loved all his life and the man he could love for the rest of it.

“Come up for a drink?”
All the warning bells in Toby’s mind went off at once, but none of them were enough to stop him from doing what he did next. He followed Caleb into the elevator, rode up to the sixteenth floor beside him in silence, and then followed him down the hall to his room.
Once inside, Caleb dropped his duffel on the dresser and moved toward the minibar, like he was actually going to make good on his nightcap offer. “Not sure what they have in here, but—”
Toby didn’t let him get any further. He took three long steps, reached up to wrap one hand behind Caleb’s neck, and kissed the words right out of his mouth.
Caleb’s lips were soft and dry, yielding easily to Toby’s insistent pressure and soon parting to allow Toby’s tongue inside. Caleb tasted like the mint he’d popped as they left the table downstairs, with a hint of sweetness from the tea he’d had with dinner and a deeper flavor of pure Caleb.
Toby wondered if he tasted like that everywhere.
Eager to find out, Toby slid his hands under the hem of Caleb’s T-shirt and pushed it up until it bunched under Caleb’s arms. Breaking reluctantly away from Caleb’s mouth, Toby bent to lick his nipple instead, hearing the hiss from above at the intimate touch. Caleb’s skin was saltier here, the remains of a long day of travel clinging to his body, and Toby took another, longer taste, wrapping his lips around the pebbling skin and sucking gently.
“Holy shit, Toby.”
Caleb shifted, and Toby saw his T-shirt go flying a second before Caleb grabbed Toby’s arms and turned them both, shoved Toby against the wall, and fell against him. Caleb sealed his mouth over Toby’s even as he worked his fingers under Toby’s shirt and let them roam across his skin. Toby kissed him back desperately, kneading at the strong muscles of Caleb’s back, muscles honed from years as an athlete who used his body well. Toby was no slouch, physically speaking, but he relished the few inches and couple dozen pounds Caleb had on him. Toby felt surrounded by Caleb but not overwhelmed, the give and take between them perfectly balanced.
After breaking the kiss, Caleb pushed at Toby’s shirt, and Toby raised his arms to let Caleb strip it away like he’d done with his own. Caleb wrapped one arm around Toby’s body to pull their chests together and used his free hand to cup Toby’s ass so he could grind his pelvis into Toby’s. Toby groaned as Caleb licked across his jaw to his ear, where Caleb breathed out, “Jesus fuck, you’re hot.”
Toby let out a strangled sound something like a laugh. “Nothing on you,” he managed, turning his head to capture Caleb’s mouth with his.

One Man to Remember by Kate McMurray

It’s 1927, and in New York City, Babe Ruth and the Yankees’ unstoppable batting lineup, Murderers’ Row, is all anyone can talk about. Across town, the Giants’ rookie infielder Skip Littlefield racks up hits, creating a streak to rival the Babe’s. Worried his secrets could get out, he avoids the spotlight, but he catches the attention of lauded sports reporter Walter Selby, a notorious dandy whose sexuality is an open secret. Skip reluctantly agrees to an interview, and mutual attraction is sparked. Skip can only hope the more charismatic stars will draw attention away from his romance with Walt. Otherwise, his career and everything he loves is at stake.

Walt leaned against the brick facade of a Times Square building and watched Babe Ruth get out of a cab. The Bambino was wearing a clean white suit with a matching fedora tilted at a jaunty angle. Walt always found the contradiction of Ruth—the expensive clothes on the odd, triangular body, with the craggy face that looked like it had been in too many bar brawls—to be quite interesting. But there were plenty of reporters in New York dying to follow Ruth around. Walt had another story to pursue.
The Penguin Club was around the corner. It wasn’t Walt’s favorite Times Square establishment. It was a little bland, but that was why he’d chosen it—it was safe. He couldn’t imagine a kid like Skip would do well in the sorts of places Walt really liked to go. He was skittish in the baseball stadium; Walt couldn’t imagine him calm in one of the racier clubs.
He pulled his fedora down over his eyes and slunk down Fifty-Sixth Street. The Penguin was a little off the beaten path—another reason Walt had chosen it—and tonight, Walt wanted to fade into the background a bit, to observe instead of be observed.
He spotted a figure walking down the street from Sixth Avenue and knew immediately it was Skip. He walked with a dancer’s grace, something Walt had noticed at the stadium. As he came closer, Walt saw he was wearing a brown suit a couple of seasons out of style and a battered bowler hat that didn’t really go with the suit. These were forgivable offenses, Walt decided, since he did look pretty great out of a baseball uniform.
“Why, Mr. Littlefield,” Walt said as Skip walked up to him. “You’re a real sheik outside of the ballpark.”
It was too dark to see if Skip was blushing, but Walt imagined from the way he ducked his head that he was.
“I’m still not really sure about this,” Skip said.
“One measly drink won’t do any harm.”
Walt gestured for Skip to follow him. He knew the password, although the door was being watched by a big six named Anthony, with whom Walt had once had a brief and tawdry affair. Luckily, they were still on good terms.
“How are ya, Walt?” Anthony greeted him.
“I’m just ducky. This is my friend John.”
Skip tilted his head, but then extended a hand to Anthony, who shook it.
Anthony said, “You boys can go on in. Although, Walt? If you’re looking for something to do later, Carmela’s performing at that little place off Forty-Third tonight.”
Walt nodded. He loved Carmela’s show, but he was sort of wishing this interview would go long enough for him to miss it. And he certainly knew better than to think Skip would be interested in a show like Carmela’s. “I’ll keep that in mind,” Walt said.
As Walt led Skip into the speakeasy, Skip said, “Who is Carmela?”
Walt chuckled. “Would it terrify you if I told you she is a female impersonator?”
Skip tilted his head again, as if he were taking that in. “Like a man in a dress?”
Walt nodded. “Carmela is in fact an Italian fella named Carmine who I’ve known for years. He’s… well, he’s something, to be sure. But his brother owns a bunch of the Times Square establishments, plus a few other places downtown, so he has plenty of performance venues.”
Skip seemed more intrigued by this than put off, which was not the reaction Walt had been expecting. “What does he do in his show?”
“Dances, tells jokes, that sort of thing. Like a one-man vaudeville act. Why do you ask? Do you want to see it?”
Skip shrugged. “Just wondering.”
What an interesting man Skip was turning out to be. The lack of literacy had given Walt pause back at the stadium. Walt’s handwriting wasn’t so abysmal that it couldn’t be deciphered, so Skip’s hesitancy over the words said a lot. But he still had found the place. Asking about school was on Walt’s agenda for this evening. He didn’t know much about Skip except that he was very attractive—he had a round face with a narrow nose and surprisingly plump lips atop that athletic body, and as he removed his hat, he displayed a thick head of wavy blond hair—and he played baseball as well as or better than many of the best ballplayers in the city. He was also, apparently, barely literate and intrigued by the idea of a show like Carmela’s. Walt was fascinated.

Wild Pitch by Marguerite Labbe

Ruben Martell fell in love with Alan Hartner during their years playing baseball. They stepped over the foul line once, but the encounter left them struggling with heartache and guilt, turning away from each other to focus on their families. Now retired from the majors, they run a batting cage together and coach rival Little League teams as they juggle fatherhood and being single again. Though Ruben has never given up hope that Alan might look at him as more than a friend, Alan seems determined to keep things the way they’ve always been. But long-buried feelings and desires have a way of resurfacing, and Ruben can’t wait forever.

The pop fly went straight up the center and was caught easily by the shortstop. Ruben came jogging forward as the end of the inning was called. “Didn’t get enough sleep last night, Alan?” he called teasingly, and Alan narrowed his eyes. Oh no, he was not going to be the only one who had a hard time concentrating today.
“Just remembering The Maltese Falcon,” Alan said, patting Ruben’s back as he came to an abrupt halt. “Makes it a little hard to stay focused.”
Ruben turned to look at him, his gaze hot and intense, and Alan knew he’d gotten under his skin. He was learning to recognize the little signals from Ruben that gave away his interest, like the way those eyes of his would darken even more, or the way he’d kind of lean in toward Alan. “Good movie,” Ruben said, after a minute examination of Alan’s face. “Good memories associated with it.”
“Good, hmm?” Alan let his gaze rake over Ruben and grinned wickedly as the other man shook his head in bemusement. “I can think of many other adjectives.”
Ruben leaned closer still and lowered his voice. “You’re a damn tease, Hartner. I never would’ve thought that of you.”
“Goes to show you don’t know everything about me yet.” Alan backed away toward his dugout with another grin, spreading his hands wide. “Kind of exciting, isn’t it?”

One Last Road Trip by Kerry Freeman

With the last game of his Major League Baseball career behind him, Jake Wilson hits the road. Years have passed, but he never got over the romance he shared with Mikko Niemi back in college. Finally, he’s ready to do something about it. He starts with some crucial visits to his ex-wife in New Mexico, his son in Oklahoma, and his daughter in Tennessee. But his true destination is Mikko’s home in Georgia, where he’s hoping to get a second chance at love.

It had been a lonely few months in Atlanta. Jake had gone from being a high school baseball star to just another hick jock. It didn’t matter that his test scores and grades would have gotten him into Georgia Tech regardless of the baseball scholarship. The smart kids looked down their noses at him. And the other jocks? Until Jake played a game and played it well, he was only a wannabe freshman. The first day of preseason training, it all started to turn around for him. He and the other freshman bonded over their mutual desire to prove they were worthy to wear the gold and white. They worked hard and cheered each other on. They quickly became favorites of the handful of regular practice spectators, who all seemed to have a soft spot for the awkward newcomers. One spectator stood out. Jake tried not to stare, but he couldn’t stop his surreptitious glances at the man. Jake had known since forever that he could be turned on by men as well as women, but this was different. The man’s square jaw and tight swimmer’s body made Jake have evil, evil thoughts, thoughts of things way beyond the frenzied hand and blow jobs he’d experienced with other equally frightened high school boys. Jake also had more tender thoughts, which he found slightly frightening. Every time the man brushed his hair from his eyes, Jake wondered if the hair was soft, how it would feel if he ran his fingers through it. He snuck enough glances to determine that the man’s almond-shaped eyes were a beautiful hazel, and, more often than not, those eyes were trained on Jake. Worst of all, Jake wanted to pull the man’s full bottom lip between his and find out how the man tasted. He had never kissed a man, but God, he wanted to kiss this one. After a few weeks of torture, Jake decided he’d had enough. He might make a fool of himself. He might even get his ass kicked. But he was going to talk to the man who’d been starring in his dreams. When practice was over, Jake hung back on the field, waiting for the other players to head toward the locker room and hopefully out of earshot. He’d noticed days before that the man would not leave right away; he’d linger, reading a book or relaxing on the bleachers. It was almost as if he were waiting for someone. Then again, Jake thought, that could be his own wishful thinking. As he walked, Jake brushed off his pants and straightened his cap. When the man looked up from his book to see Jake heading his way, his smile was unmistakable. Jake was sure he’d never seen a clearer invitation to come closer, and he struggled to keep his feet from speeding up. He needed to play this cool, keep his intentions a secret until he was sure they were welcome. “Hey.” Jake shoved his glove under his arm. “What you reading?” The man waved the small paperback. “Oh, this? To Kill A Mockingbird. I have been told it is a classic American novel. I like it so far.” Oh holy fuck, Jake thought. He has an accent on top of everything else. The man’s voice was cool and smooth, like a window in an air-conditioned room. It sent frissons cascading over Jake’s sweat-damp skin. Each word was clearly enunciated, crisp. Jake sat down, leaving a respectable distance between them. “It is. I read it in high school, and it’s pretty good.” The man folded the corner of a page and closed the book. “We read a few American novels in school in Finland, but not this one. I think I may recommend it to my teacher back home.” “Finland? How did you end up here?” “I wanted more sunshine and warmth. My family visited friends in Savannah once, and I fell in love with Georgia.” “Well, you definitely came to the right place for sunshine.” Jake was positive if he heard much more of the man’s accent, he would melt on the spot. “I’m Jake Wilson,” he said, holding out his hand. The man stared at Jake’s hand before finally shaking it. “I know,” he said. “I read about you in the student paper. My name is Mikko Niemi.”

To celebrate the release of PLAYING BALL, we’re giving away two great prizes:

Grand prize: A print copy of PLAYING BALL signed by all four authors, a unisex BBQ apron featuring hot athletes from Originals by Lauren (https://www.etsy.com/shop/OriginalsbyLauren), and swag from all four authors.

Runner-up prize: An ebook copy of PLAYING BALL and swag from all four authors.

The giveaway will run from 12AM Central on September 21, 2013 to 12AM Central on October 11, 2013.
To give an opportunity for the authors to get together to sign the book and gather swag, the winners will be picked and the prizes shipped after the end of GayRomLit 2013.

Rules:

You must be a resident of Earth, 18 years or older, who lives in a place where the viewing of adult material is legal. By entering the giveaway, you are indicating your agreement to the rules. Winners must provide a physical mailing address to receive their prizes. If a winner does not respond to the prize notification within 48 hours, the prize will be re-awarded.

Link to contest page: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/76e2bf6/

The Rank Few and their Rank View or When By The People and For The People Went Into the Dump and The Week Ahead In Reviews

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One of the many aspects that people either love or hate when living in the Washington DC Metro area is our constant bombardment of information of and about the Government.  The constant stream flows from our radios, tvs, cable, computers, phones, tablets, seemingly from the air itself.  It keeps us informed and aware of things happening in the government (whether we want to or not). I would even say that most of the people who live in this area work for the government or it has an impact on their work in some way.  Its Inside the Beltway at work and normally I kind of enjoy it.

Not now.

Now the government is shutdown and I am angry, and feeling helpless to make a difference in a situation that never should have happened in the first place.  This has effected me in so many ways, from the people I love, my family, my friends, acquaintances, all who are on furlough, those working and not getting paid, everyone who is impacted by this idiocy., including myself.

All those wondering how their mortgages will get paid, how will they put food on the table, or even get gas to bring them to the work they are not getting a paycheck for.    I see and hear it in the voices of cab drivers and food truck operators with no one to drive or feed,  hotels vacant because the tourists have gone home or have cancelled their trips.  From the front desk to those cleaning the rooms and hallways, and everyone else involved in the hospitality business, all are impacted, all are hurt.

What about those 30 children just admitted to a new cancer program at NIH, a last hope certainly and one that is frozen along with all the other protocols patients enrolled in specialty care need so desperately.  What about that person who needs a serious operation now.  It was scheduled then all leave was cancelled, no exclusions, no exemptions.  Who looks them in the face and tells them no? Even those hoping to get married or WWII veterans hoping to see their memorial? It’s certainly not the idiot Congress at the helm of this shutdown.

I, along with countless others, have called my representatives, Republican and Democrat, to voice my anger that the needs of the people who put them in office are being ignored, dismissed entirely because our views are not considered important.  The phone lines for all, especially the Republicans are constantly busy.  And when I did get through, I got a voice mail, saying all mailboxes were full.  No one is answering the phones on those offices.  But turn a camera in their direction, and they have time to expound on their importance and what they see as their own path to power and glory.

I am embarrassed that those people voted in to help their constituents have decided to help themselves instead.  The rank few with their rank view, those petulantly powerful, those gasbags of arrogance who should have been helping the government work has shut it down instead.  A fight was picked that they knew they wouldn’t win for the express purpose of shutting the government down.  They are confident that they will never have to come face to face with the millions they are hurting in the process.

And they are probably right.

Will they be visiting the people they made homeless?  Or those standing in line in the food banks?  Those in the hospital and those out of work because they lost their jobs or their businesses?  I don’t think so.  For these type of people its never their fault.  Their self-importance and arrogance overwhelms all else, leaving others to suffer for their selfishness and need for even more power.

The United States Constitution starts out as “We the People”, not We the Few and Powerful.  I think those Senators and Representatives who have shut down the government, need to be reminded who and what they represent.  They need to sit down and listen as someone reads to them the documents on which our nation and our freedoms are based.

Right before the signatures on the Constitution, the following paragraphs appear:

In all our deliberations on this subject, we kept steadily in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety–perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude than might have been otherwise expected; and thus, the Constitution which we now present is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.

That it will meet the full and entire approbation of every State is not, perhaps, to be expected; but each will, doubtless, consider, that had her interest alone been consulted, the consequences might have been particularly disagreeable or injurious to others; that it is liable to as few exceptions as could reasonably have been expected, we hope and believe; that it may promote the lasting welfare of that Country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish.

Where is their adherence to those words and feelings expressed above?  Lacking, tossed aside in favor of their own positions and small minded thoughts.

How sad,, how infuriating, and how un American.

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews:

Monday, Oct. 8:         Northern Star by Ethan Stone

Tuesday, Oct. 9:         Starry Knight by T.A. Webb

Wed., Oct. 10:             Enigma by Lloyd A. Meeker

Thurs., Oct. 11:           The Night Visitor by Ewan Creed

Friday, Oct. 12:           Guest Blog by Playing Ball Authors

Sat., Oct. 13:                Playing Ball Anthology

Review: Grime and Punishment (The Brothers Grime #1) by Z.A. Maxfield

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

JGrime and Punishment coverack Masterson was a firefighter until one massive blaze ended his career and put him on disability.  Needing a new career and a way to help people involved, Jack created The Brothers Grime, a biohazard cleanup company.  The Brothers Grime go to work at the crime scenes after the police and other agencies have cleared the site for clean up.  Jack’s company’s job is to help people move on from a traumatic event by physically cleaning up all  the mess left behind, the blood, the gore, everything.  Then one night, The Brothers Grime get a call that changes everything for Jack.  A man committed suicide at his cousin’s house and a clean up is needed.  The suicide?  One Nick Foasberg, former friend and more of Jack Masterson.

Jack’s memories of Nick are as traumatic as the accident that disabled him, perhaps more so.  A high school attack on Jack involved Nick and others,  an attack so savage it put Jack in the hospital for months and has had ramifications for Jack’s life ever since.  And Nick’s suicide brings them all back with a vengeance.  Further complicating things is Ryan Halloran, Nick’s cousin and owner of the house Nick was living in.  Ryan looks like Nick while acting nothing like him.  Nick’s life had been spiraling out of control for years as drugs and alcohol took control of his life.  Ryan, a nurse, had been trying to help Nick recover.

Nick’s suicide brings the men together.  And while Ryan only knows part of Nick’s past with Jack, the two men decide to gain closure and clean up Ryan’s house together.  As an attraction grows between them so does Jack’s guilt over a secret he is keeping hidden from Ryan.  Ryan has made Jack feel alive again after years of numbness and Jack doesn’t want to lose this chance at love.  Both men need to move beyond their involvement with Nick and their pasts before they can find love again with each other.

I love Z.A. Maxfield’s stories and Grime and Punishment is no exception.  In this first book in a new series, the author delves into the relatively unknown field of crime scene environmental cleanup, a fascinating aspect of the trauma crimes leave behind.  With that occupation as a foundation, Maxfield gives us a group of emotionally and physically wounded men around which to build her story and series.  I am sure I am not the only one who has not given a thought as to what happens when the police and medical examiners leave a scene.  Maxfield takes us there and shows us the people and companies that make a living cleaning up the tragedies that life brings.   The reality of these firms is both ugly and redeeming.  They descend upon the scene, jockeying to throw in their bids and grab up the job before anyone else and that often means talking to the victim or victims shortly after the trauma has occurred.  The manner in which that interaction is handled swings between sensitivity and rapaciousness.

For Maxfield’s character, Jack Masterson, this is not merely a job but a way in which he can help the victims move forward with their lives.  He has been on the both sides of this job and knows that he and his people can make a difference and not just a living.  Jack Masterson is one of the walking wounded.  Jack was traumatized early in life by an attack during high school brought on by someone he loved and trusted.  And that betrayal has caused Jack to emotionally withdraw from life.  Jack is a masterful creation, a complex personality whose frailties, his emotional and physical vulnerabilities make him an easily accessible character to identify and like.  And as he starts to change and become alive once more, the reader is so heavily invested in his emotional growth and rebirth that we feel we are there with him every step of the way.

Ryan also has many layers to him, a nurse drawn to the downtrodden and lost, he too must look closely at himself and his motives with regard to his relationships with Jack and Nick.  The build to a relationship between Ryan and Jack is slow and full of obstacles.  It is instead a very realistic portrait of two men wary of each other and their pasts who cautiously proceed forward together with no guarantees.  I loved this aspect of the story and look forward to much more of them and the series.

Of course, there are so many others to grab your attention.  Police officer Dave, so deeply in the closet he has built that he sees no way out,  Dave too was affected deeply by Jack’s past as was everyone Jack has remained close to.  The  Brothers Grime is full of people who care for Jack, whether it is Gabe, Jack’s cousin or the others that work with them.  All characters feel so alive that it is easy to entrust your affections to this diverse group of individuals and their various situations.

i love the way Maxfield has built her narrative here.  At the start, it seems slow, almost a little frozen, just as Jack is.  He is numb emotionally, physically hurting and so is everyone around him.  All are bogged down in life, frozen in status as the story starts and the narrative reflects that.  It’s mood is just as dark and deep as the characters at this stage in the story.  But as their emotional stasis breaks up and the characters move forward in their lives, then the narrative moves forward at a pace equal to the characters emotional rebirth and growth.  It becomes lively, and light in places, only to swoop downward at the first hint of returning troubles.  Really,  Grime and Punishment represents just a remarkable job of storytelling by the author.

I highly recommend this story and can’t wait for the next installment in the series.  This is a great introduction for those of you new to Z.A. Maxfield. And for those of you already fond of this author, here is a new story of hers to love.

Book Details:

ebook, 176 pages
Published May 7th 2013 by Loose Id (first published 2013)
original title
Grime and Punishment
ISBN13 9781623003111
edition language English
series The Brothers Grime

A Troubled Range (Range series #2) by Andrew Grey

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Rating: 4.5 stars

A Troubled RangeHaven Jessup has never understood the hatred between his father, Kent Jessup and Jefferson Holden who owns the ranch next to theirs.  The feud between the two men has been there all his life, but his father’s hatred for the Holdens has never been his.  One day as Haven is out checking his fences, a huge storm comes up and Dakota Holden is there to save his life and take him home to the  Holden ranch to dry off.  Once there, Haven meets Dakota’s partner Wally and Phillip Reardon, a friend of Dakota’s in for a visit.  Haven is afraid to admit even to himself that he likes men, he knows what his father’s reaction would be but inside the Holden ranch, Haven sees men in love with each other and not afraid to show it and for the first time, Haven starts to question the manner in which he lives his life.

Phillip Reardon has come to see his friends after being fired from his job in the city.  Phillip has never wanted to settle down romantically before but as he watches Dakota and Wally interact, he realizes that he wants that type of relationship for himself but where to find the man to spend the rest of his life with?  Phillip recognizes the inner turmoil he sees inside the shy, young rancher and works to help Haven accept himself.  As both men move forward into a new and hidden relationship, trouble arrives on the Holden ranch in terms of cut fences, rustled cattle, as somewhere someone with a secret agenda is threatening the Holden ranch and the safety of all who live on it.  How can a new relationship withstand the strain and stress of all the recent events and the knowledge that one day soon Phillip is going to leave to return to the city and Haven will be on his own once more?

The Range series continues to be a favorite series of mine by Andrew Grey, author of a number of wonderful series on a variety of subjects.  A Troubled Range continues the story started in A Shared Range, that of the men of the Holden ranch from father Jefferson Holden and his son, Dakota to the men who arrive there and find their little heaven on earth.  A Troubled Range brings the neighboring Jessup ranch into the story, as part of that family has been engaged with a feud with  Jefferson Holden for most of their lives.  Neither man will reveal the cause of the hatred they bear for each other to their sons but it impacts all around them.

The two families could not be more different, especially when it comes to the treatment of their  sons.  Jefferson Holden loves his son and accepts his son’s homosexuality with ease, welcoming his son’s partner into the family without hesitation.  Haven, on the other hand, cannot remember if his father has ever held him or told him that he loves him.  In fact, Haven has been treated more like a farm worker by his father than a son all of his life.  Andrew Grey is terrific at exposing a family’s discord and its effects upon the innocents caught in its path.  Kent Jessup is a hard man who has retreated from the physical work needed to be done while still managing to punish and hound his son about his disappointments in Haven on every aspect of his being.  We feel for Haven immediately as he continues to do his best for the ranch he loves,and  deal with his abusive father.  Then you add onto that emotional load the fact that Haven is gay and conflicted about his sexuality, and your heart goes out to the boy who doesn’t break but find the courage to reach out for more in life.

Phillip Reardon is the exact opposite of Haven.  He is a self assured city boy who has never settled down with one man nor had the  desire to do so. Then the loss of his job shakes up his complacency and makes him take a hard look at the lonely future ahead of him if he doesn’t change his ways.  Phillip likes Haven and is attracted to the young man with all the problems.  At first, Phillip just wants to help Haven as a friend as Haven works to accept his sexuality and then attraction deepens into something more.  But Phillip has to sort out his own internal baggage before he can make room for another in his heart.  Grey makes sure that all his characters reflect on their true natures and we get to watch as they sort themselves out.  It’s realistic, it’s emotional and it brings us so much closer to these wonderful characters and makes us understand who they really are.  Andrew Grey knows how to  deepen our connections to his characters and their stories and does so with a maestro’s touch.

A Troubled Range brings us storms on the prairie, heartbreaking moments of both pain and joy and ending with the deep satisifaction of two men finding true love at the end of the road.  As the characters are drawn from life, we see betrayal and loss that cuts to the core amidst the dynamics of two opposing western families.  What an amazing series that can bring together so many intense conflations, of battlefields both internal and physical and still manage to make them all fresh in each book of the series. Don’t pass any of these books by.

Cover art by Catt Ford, who continues to do a wonderful job with branding the series.

Here are the series in the order they were written and should be read:

A Shared Range (Range, #1)

A Troubled Range (Range, #2)

An Unsettled Range (Range, #3)

A Foreign Range (Range, #4)

An Isolated Range (Range, #5)

A Volatile Range (Range, #6) comes out next week, February 5th, 2013