In the Spotlight: Life on Pause by Erin McLellan (tour and giveaway)

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Life on Pause by Erin McLellan
Riptide Publishing
Cover artist: L.C. Chase

Read an Excerpt/Buy it here at Riptide Publishing

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Erin McLellan today on her Life on Pause tour.  Welcome, Erin.

✒︎

Welcome to the Life on Pause blog tour! Follow along as I stop off at several blogs this week to learn more about this small town m/m romance, which follows a nerdy museum worker and a high school choir teacher as they watch way too much sci-fi on Netflix, wear ridiculous historical costumes, and fall in love.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a $20 Riptide Publishing gift card!

About Life on Pause

Niles Longfellow is a nerd, and not the trendy type of nerd, either. He wears a historically accurate homesteader costume to work every day, has a total of one friend, and doesn’t know how to talk to guys. So when he gets a flat tire and the hottest hipster ever stops to help him, all Niles can think is that he’s wearing his stupid cowboy getup. Normally, Niles feels invisible to other men, but he’d take that invisibility any day over Rusty Adams seeing him in suede and fringe.

Rusty moved to Bison Hills to help his sister raise her daughter, and nothing is more important to him than that. He’s also fresh off a breakup, and isn’t prepared for anything complicated. But then he meets Niles. Rusty sees Niles as more than a clumsy, insecure guy in a costume. He sees a man who is funny, quirky, and unexpected.

Nothing about their connection is simple, though, especially the lies and insecurities between them. Niles doesn’t know if he can trust Rusty with his heart, and when Rusty’s sister decides to move away, Rusty doesn’t know if he can stay behind.

Available now from Riptide Publishing

About Erin McLellan

Erin McLellan writes contemporary romance, often set in the South or Midwest—particularly Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas—with characters that are complex, good-hearted, and sometimes a little quirky. Erin likes her stories to have a sexy spark and a happily ever after.

Erin has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in library and information studies from the University of Oklahoma. She has always enjoyed writing, but becoming a librarian and meeting enthusiastic romance readers helped her find her own writing passion. Now Erin cheerfully writes romance with characters across the LGBTQIA spectrum. A former public librarian, she still enjoys being surrounded by books and readers, but Erin hopes to find her stories on the shelves as well.

Originally from Oklahoma, she currently lives in Alaska with her husband, and spends her time dreaming up love stories set in the Great Plains. She is a lover of chocolate, college sports, antiquing, Dr Pepper, and binge-worthy TV shows.

Connect with Erin:

Website

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

 

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Life on Pause, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Riptide gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on November 4, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

An Ali Review: Country Boy (Hot Off the Ice #2) by AE Wasp

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Sometimes the toughest thing to have faith in is yourself. 

The first time Paul Dyson met Robbie Rhodes, they ended up naked in Robbie’s bed. The last time they met, on the ice the morning after, Paul punched Robbie in the face and called him something he’d rather not repeat. 

Two years later, they’re teammates on the Seattle Thunder hockey team. 

Being gay is wrong, unnatural, and there is no room for them in his world. Paul’s heard that his whole life. So when it hits him that he is gay, he does the only thing he can: he shoves himself so deep in the closet he would need a map to find his way out again. 

When the chance to fulfill his lifelong dream comes along, Paul can’t say no, even if it forces him to share hotel rooms with the only man he can’t resist. It doesn’t take long for Paul to give into temptation and find himself falling in love with his brilliant, caring teammate. 

But as much as he cares for Paul, Robbie is finding it harder and harder to justify hiding who he is. It goes against everything he was taught was right. He feels like he has a duty to come out to the public. He’d be the first out gay pro-hockey player. 

If Paul wants to be with Robbie, he will have to turn his back on his family and everything he’s believed in. If Robbie wants to be will Paul, he’ll have to do the same. 

It’s going to take them a lot of faith to find their way together in this shiny new world. 
This was a good second installment to the Hot Off of the Ice series.  We met Robbie in the first book.  He was a teammate of Bryce’s and attended the big Thanksgiving dinner.  This book starts a few months down the road and Paul has just been traded to Robbie’s team. 
These two have a history and it didn’t end well.  Their new beginning doesn’t start well either.  After some fighting, the coach tells them they better work out their differences or else.  This begins a hesitant truce.  But since they are the newest team members they end up having to room together while they’re on the road.  One thing leads to another and soon they can’t keep their hands off of each other.  
This book was much more serious than the first book in the series.  This starts as an enemies to lovers and turns into a hurt/comfort trope.  There are two main issues going on.  One is whether either or both of them want to come out and how that will effect their hockey career.  The other is the religiously oppressive home that Paul was raised in.  Being someone who was raised in the same type of home, my heart went out to Paul.  I could understand the internal struggles that he was trying to work through.  I felt these were realistically done and I liked the entire overall plot line.  
The only thing I didn’t not care for was a side plot with Paul’s dad.  I felt it added some unnecessary drama and I found the entire thing unbelievable.  I also found his dad’s quick turn around on his views unrealistic.  I wish the author would have left that entire part out of the book to be honest.
 
We see a decent amount of Bryce and Dakota as well as Jake and Nikki.  Both of which I enjoyed seeing again.  While this book is the second in the series it can be read fine as a standalone.  
 
Overall I really enjoyed this and I’m excited to have found a new series and a new author who I like a lot.  I will definitely be looking forward to more books in this series.
 
Cover Artist: Ana J. Phoenix I like the cover a lot.  The colors stand out and are eye catching and the models match the descriptions of the MC’s.  I think the cover is a good representation of the story and it flows well with the previous book in the series.
Sales Links:
Book Details:
Kindle Edition, 326 pages
Published September 21st 2017 by Kelpie Press
ASINB075BQ57YV
SeriesHot off the Ice #2

An Ali Review: City Boy (Hot Off the Ice #1) by AE Wasp

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Follow the money or follow your heart?

All Bryce Lowery knows how to do is play hockey. He’s been playing professionally since he was fifteen. Twenty years later, he’s rich, famous, tired, and alone. And possibly gay according to his ex-wife.

When a blown tire leads directly to mind-blowing sex with a motorcycle-riding white knight named Dakota, Bryce discovers he is most definitely gay. Now Bryce has a tough choice to make, follow the money to a new multimillion dollar contract, or follow his heart into the unknown?

All Dakota Ryan knows how to do is grow apples. Now at twenty-four, he faces losing both his home and his livelihood in one cruel twist of fate.

Then Bryce Lowery crashes into his life like the answer to all of Dakota’s prayers. He’s whispering promises to make all of Dakota’s wildest dreams come true. But Dakota knows better than to give his heart to someone who could leave, and if life has taught him anything, it’s that everyone leaves.

Dakota has a choice, sit back and wait for Bryce to decide his fate, or for the first time in his life, chose what he wants his future to be.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this book.  This was a new author for me and I only picked this book up because it was about hockey (I’m a giant hockey fan) and I found it on Kindle Unlimited.  Once I started the story I couldn’t put it down.  I was immediately drawn into the world of these two wonderful characters.  I liked both of them from the very beginning and I couldn’t wait to see how things worked out.
Bryce is questioning his sexuality when he meets Dakota and has in fact been married to a woman in the past.  I thought the author did a very good job with this plot theme and she stayed away from drama and stereotypes.  I felt like the way things played out for Bryce were realistic and thoughtfully done.  These two were really sweet together and their chemistry jumped off of the page.  There are enough plot points to keep the story moving at a good pace and to keep it interesting but it was low angst.  
 
One of my favorite aspects of the story was how Bryce’s mother and ex-wife were portrayed.  So often in the m/m genre the women, especially exs and moms, are often portrayed in very negative manners.  The author didn’t go there which I can’t say enough positive things about.  The ex was a nice, kind woman who only wanted the best for Bryce.  His mother, and all his family actually, were open to him coming out and they welcomed Dakota in to the family with open arms.  It was all really well done in my opinion.
 
When  I had the chance to review book for this blog, in preparation for book two, I did a re-read of this story.  It ended up standing the test of time.  I ended up loving it just as much the second time through.  This is going to go on my “best of” list for this year and I highly encourage people to check this book out.
 

Cover Artist: Ana J. Phoenix:  I like the cover a lot.  The colors stand out and are eye catching and the models match the descriptions of the MC’s.  I think the cover is a good representation of the story.

Sales Links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Goodreads

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 280 pages
Published June 29th 2017
ASIN B07339WG93
Edition Language English

It’s Hot Off The Ice! Blog Tour for City Boy and Country Boy (Hot Off the Ice #1 & 2) by A.E. Wasp (excerpt and giveaway)

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HOT OFF THE ICE

Meet the men of the Seattle Thunder.

They’re hot on and off the ice.

HOT OFF THE ICE

 NEW RELEASE

Book Title: Country Boy: Hot Off the Ice #2

Author:  A. E. Wasp

Cover Artist: Ana J. Phoenix

Release Date: September 21

Genre/s:  Contemporary Romance, gay romance, steamy, sports, hockey

Length: Words:   80K

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#2  Robbie & Paul

Blurb

Sometimes the toughest thing to have faith in is yourself.

The first time Paul Dyson met Robbie Rhodes, they ended up naked in Robbie’s bed. The last time they met, on the ice the morning after, Paul punched Robbie in the face and called him something he’d rather not repeat.

Two years later, they’re teammates on the Seattle Thunder hockey team.

Being gay is wrong, unnatural, and there is no room for them in his world. Paul’s heard that his whole life. So when it hits him that he is gay, he does the only thing he can: he shoves himself so deep in the closet he would need a map to find his way out again.

When the chance to fulfill his lifelong dream comes along, Paul can’t say no, even if it forces him to share hotel rooms with the only man he can’t resist. It doesn’t take long for Paul to give into temptation and find himself falling in love with his brilliant, caring teammate.

But as much as he cares for Paul, Robbie is finding it harder and harder to justify hiding who he is. It goes against everything he was taught was right. He feels like he has a duty to come out to the public. He’d be the first out gay pro-hockey player.

If Paul wants to be with Robbie, he will have to turn his back on his family and everything he’s believed in. If Robbie wants to be will Paul, he’ll have to do the same.

It’s going to take them a lot of faith to find their way together in this shiny new world.

Country Boy is a love story about figuring out who you are, who you want to be, and how to get there. It contains sweet hockey plays, a 1976 Corvette Stingray, fancy underwear, and the journey of a lifetime.

Excerpt from Country Boy

He took a slap shot at the empty net, raising his arms to an imaginary crowd and giving an almost silent cheer. Skating slowly to retrieve the puck, he said. “If we wanna make the show, we’ve got to be the best. We got to push harder and want it more.” He tossed the puck on the ice in front of Robbie. “Do you want it more?”

“More than who?” Robbie stared into his eyes, hands resting on the top of his stick.

“More than anyone else does. More than you want anything else. Do you want it that much?”

Their eyes met, glittering in the harsh shadows of the bare lamp light. Finally, Robbie nodded. “Yeah. I do.”

Paul tilted his head. “Then let’s get to work.”

They skated hard for some indeterminate length of time Paul knew he would never forget. The world had narrowed down to a frozen space of biting cold air, moon shadows, and the sounds of metal blades carving through the ice.

As they sped down the ice, Robbie right on Paul’s tail, an owl broke out of the trees, swooping low over Paul’s head with a swish of feathers and an eerie hooting. “Dang,” Paul said, throwing up his arms and ducking.

“Oh, crap,” Robbie yelped right before he crashed into Paul. Down they went in a tangle of arms and legs.

Robbie landed on top of Paul, knocking the air out of his lungs. Paul’s first thought was that the parka did a great job of insulating him from the cold. The second was that having Robbie laying on top of him felt really good.

Robbie started to push away, and, Paul moved without thought, wrapping his arms around Robbie.

Robbie stopped, raising onto his elbows to stare Paul in the eyes. His eyes were such a warm brown. Paul’s breathing grew heavy, and he felt Robbie’s chest pressing against his with each exhalation.

He licked his dry lips, and Robbie’s eyes dropped to his mouth, then back to his eyes. “Can I kiss you?” Robbie asked quietly.

Paul’s muscles tightened, and his breath caught.

Mistaking his silence for a no, Robbie blushed and tried to pull away. Paul grabbed Robbie’s coat awkwardly, fingers clumsy beneath the thick gloves, and pulled him back down.

Robbie’s lips were cold, but his breath was warm as he kissed Paul gently. He lifted his head to check Paul’s reaction.

Oh, Paul thought. Oh. He raised his head off the ice to reach Robbie’s mouth.

Robbie kissed him again, harder this time, pushing him back down to the ice.

Paul whimpered at the feel of Robbie’s lips on his. When Robbie’s tongue flicked against the seam of his mouth, he opened willingly, letting the heat in. Robbie’s thick gloves thumped to the ground as he pulled them off without breaking the kiss.

Robbie shifted on top of him as he explored Paul’s mouth, aligning their bodies in a way that made Paul’s eyes roll back in his head even as the ice numbed his ass through his jeans.

Skates scratching against the ice, Paul bent his knees, clamping his thighs against Robbie’s sides.

Robbie took what he wanted from Paul, tilting his head to the side with a hand, and encouraging Paul to open up with sharp nips to his lips.

He pushed Paul’s head back with pressure on his chin, his mouth moving down the column of Paul’s neck as best as he could through the protective barrier of outerwear.

Paul panted through his open mouth as Robbie set his teeth on Paul’s skin and sucked, tongue flicking against the pulse in Paul’s neck. “Oh, fuck,” he moaned, hips rising of their own accord as his body fought for some friction.

For most of a decade, he’d imagined what it would feel like to be held down by a man, to feel someone strong and hard pressing against him, matching their strength to his. His imagination had not come close to reality.

Robbie pushed up onto his arms, forcing his body down onto Paul’s rapidly growing erection. The place where his mouth had been was suddenly freezing in the cold air. Paul’s head to toe shudder threatened to throw Robbie off. “Oh, God, oh, God,” Paul groaned. “Don’t stop.”

Robbie leaned down for a long hard kiss that stole the air from Paul’s lungs. He smiled as he looked at Paul. “If we don’t go inside, we’re going to freeze to death, stick to the ice, and Mrs. Pierson is going to find our bodies in the morning.” He jumped up and held a hand out to Robbie.

Paul couldn’t process what was happening as he let himself be pulled up. Was that it? Was it over? Would the kissing stop when they got inside? Please don’t let it stop. He needed it so badly. Needed to shut off his brain, just for tonight. Please.

Robbie skated off the rink and headed towards the door. Paul followed him.

 

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Review of Country Boy here.

 

 

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Buy Links  

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Goodreads Link

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City Boy (Hot Off the Ice #1) by A.E. Wasp

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#1  Bryce & Dakota

Title: City Boy (Hot Off the Ice #1)

Author: A.E. Wasp

Cover Artist: Ana J. Phoenix

Publication Date: June 29, 2017

Genre/s:  Contemporary Romance, gay romance, steamy, sports, hockey

Print Length: 280 pages

Blurb

Follow the money or follow your heart? Either way, you lose.

When a blown tire leads directly to mind-blowing sex with a white knight named Dakota, pro-hockey player Bryce Lowery discovers he is most definitely gay.

Being with Dakota opens up a whole new world. Bryce can’t imagine life without him. But he refuses to be Bryce’s dirty little secret. If he wants to keep Dakota, he’s either going to have to come out publicly or retire and walk away from millions of dollars.

Bryce Lowery feels like the answer to all of Dakota’s prayers. But is Dakota willing to leave the only life he’s ever known only to be thrust into the spotlight as the boyfriend of the first out gay hockey player? Would their relationship even survive it? He’ll lose Bryce if doesn’t because Bryce will leave eventually. No one would turn down millions of dollars for a nobody with nothing.

City Boy is a first time gay, fish out of water, May/December love story with a happy ending. It features snarky siblings, a dirty-talking farmer, lots of food, and big choices. (No poultry was harmed in the making of this book.)

 

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Review of City Boy here.

Buy links – Available on KU

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Goodreads

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Meet the Author

Author Bio: A dreamer and an idealist, Amy writes about people finding connection in a world that can seem lonely and magic in a world than can seem all too mundane. She invites readers into her characters’ lives and worlds when they are their most vulnerable, their most human, living with the same hopes and fears we all have. An avid traveler who has lived in big cities and small towns in four different continents, Amy has found that time and distance are no barriers to love. She invites her readers to reach out and share how her characters have touched their lives or how the found families they have gathered around them have shaped their worlds.

Social Media Links

Blog/Website

Facebook Author Page

Twitter

Pinterest

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Rafflecopter Giveaway

WIN ONE OF THREE e-copies from A.E. Wasp’s Backlist

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Blog Tour Schedule

HOT OFF THE ICE SCHEDULE

SEPTEMBER 26

Millsy Loves Books 

Tangents and Tissues  

Zipper Rippers 

SEPTEMBER 27

Megan’s Media Melange  

Lily G Blunt

SEPTEMBER 28

Stories That Make You Smile

Love Bytes Reviews 

Louise Lyons 

Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews 

MM Good Book Reviews 

SEPTEMBER 29

Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author

SEPTEMBER 30

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words 

Bayou Book Junkie 

Beautiful Book Corner  

Books Laid Bare Boys  

My Fiction Nook 

A Polished Reader 

Alpha Book Club 

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

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Release Blitz for Without A Compass by Helen Juliet (excerpt and giveaway)

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Book Title: Without a Compass

Author: Helen Juliet

Publisher: Self Published

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Release Date: August 24 2017

Length: Words: 80K

Genre/s: Contemporary Romance, New Adult,

Fish Out of Water, Gay For You, First Time Gay, Opposites Attract

Blurb

Riley Anderson isn’t an outdoorsy guy. He’s a desk jockey, office by day and couch by night. So when his family insists on a camping trip for his father’s 50th birthday he’s hardly thrilled. Things only get worse when Kai shows up, too.

Kai Brandt’s more than eager to go camping with his best buddy, but his buddy’s little brother Riley is all grown up now, and hotter than hell. Kai’s willing to help him pitch more than just a tent… Which is weird, because Kai never swung that way before.

Events conspire to out Riley’s secret AND leave him stranded in Kai’s care for longer than they’d planned for. Trapped together in the wilderness, they’re going to have to face a few hard truths if they’re going to make it back to the world.

But even if they manage it, the experience will leave them forever changed.

Without a Compass is a steamy, standalone gay romance novel with a HEA and no cliffhanger.

Without A Compass

Excerpt

He’d only just managed to get his boxers on in time when the outer door swung inwards and let in a burst of light. For a moment he couldn’t see and he threw his hand up to shield his eyes. “Hello?” he squeaked.

“Oh, hey,” a deep voice replied.

Riley froze as the door swung back and he was left looking at a sweat-soaked Kai. His vest and very short shorts clung to his damp, muscular body. The vision it offered up made Riley gulp.

The tattoos on his arms appeared to gleam under the sheen of sweat from whatever workout he’d just completed. Amongst the varied designs, Riley could make out a bear and a skull surrounded by roses. The colours were muted. His artist had used subtle shades to create tone. The overall effect was powerful but not overwhelming.

Plus, it didn’t hurt that the arms carrying the decoration were huge and chiselled to perfection. Riley had almost died of happiness the couple of times Kai had casually draped one of them across his shoulders the night before.

He remembered where he was. He needed to do or say something before the moment stretched out any further and became weird.

His natural instinct was to snatch his towel up and cover his body. That would definitely make things awkward though. So Riley used all his self-control to merely pick it up as casually as he could and started drying off his hair. Just like you’re at the gym, he told himself.

“Morning,” he said brightly. “You go for a run too?”

Kai blinked a couple of times. It was obvious he was looking at Riley’s almost totally naked body and Riley tried his best not to shy away in shame. No, he wasn’t nearly as ripped as Kai was, but he knew he didn’t look too bad. This was probably awkward for Kai too, especially after last night. But if they could just move past it, it would be fine.

As if coming out of a daze, Kai shook his head and walked forward. His towel was slung over his shoulder and he had a simple all-in-one shower-gel-and-shampoo bottle clutched in his hand. “Oh yeah mate,” he said cheerfully, answering Riley’s question. “It’s beautiful around here. It would be rude not to go exploring.”

Riley chuckled and thankfully found himself dry enough to pull on his shorts. He felt slightly less vulnerable with that small amount of clothing protecting him.

“I had to sweat out the hangover. How are you feeling?”

He didn’t just mean after the alcohol. But he wondered if Kai would pretend nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He wouldn’t blame him if he did; in fact, it would probably be best for both of them if that’s how they moved forward.

“I’m good,” he said, stopping at the sink next to where Riley’s products were littered. “Can I borrow some of that?”

Riley nodded and offered up his toothpaste. Kai pulled a toothbrush from his back pocket and got to scrubbing.

As Kai was unable to talk for the moment, Riley applied his deodorant in increasingly awkward silence. He should think of something to say, something funny! Something that wasn’t ‘So, do you regret that kiss last night? Because I don’t.’

Instead, he chewed at his lips and began picking up his various tubes and tubs to collect them back into his wash kit.

“Whereabouts did you-”

“How did you-”

They both looked at each other, then laughed. Kai spat out his toothpaste and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “I was just wondering how you slept.”

“Oh, fine thanks, fine.” Riley paused as Kai began peeling off his vest. “Uh, you?”

Kai rubbed his face. He seemed a bit sheepish for some reason. Riley hardly noticed though as he was focusing extremely hard on not staring at his pectorals.

“Yeah, fine,” he grunted. But he offered up a smile that cancelled out whatever had bothered him.

Buy Links

Amazon Author Page

Goodreads Link

Author Page

Without A Compass

Meet the Author

Helen Juliet is an M/M author currently living and working in London. She’s been writing stories since she was young, and got her start publishing fanfiction of sites like Wattpad. Fifteen years and over a million words later, she discovered the world of M/M fiction and found it was just as good as the fanfiction she was reading. She fell head over heels in love with the genre and became determined to try her hand at a book herself. On December 31st, 2016, she rang in the new year by publishing her first original novel, and hasn’t looked back since.

Social Media Links:

Blog/Website

Facebook Author Page

Facebook Group – Helen Juliet Books  

Twitter

Giveaway 

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win one of five copies of A Ballad of Confetti, Cake and Catastrophes with swag.

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Release Blitz Schedule

WITHOUT A COMPASS SCHEDULE

August 24

Bookaholic & KindleTangents and TissuesDrops of Ink, Making it Happen

Diverse ReaderLouise LyonsLily G. Blunt 

August 25

Kimmers’ Erotic Book BanterThe Way She Reads

Love Unchained Book Reviews,

Millsy Loves BooksWe Three Queens, My Fiction Nook

August 26

Follow the ReaderSmokin’ Hot Reads Book BlogBayou Book Junkie

Sur l’étagère,  Gay Book ReviewsWe Like It Big Book Blog,

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue WordsValerie Ullmer

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

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Release Day Blitz for A Way with Words by Lane Hayes (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  A Way with Words

Series: A Way With Stories Series

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Self Pub

Release Date: June 22

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 24k approximately

Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance, Humor, New York City
Amazon- http://amzn.to/2sXx9mn

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

 

Tony De Luca is a simple guy. He works for his uncle’s Brooklyn-based construction firm. And he knows from experience that keeping his head down and doing his job is the best way to deal with the meddlesome family members he sees daily. They think he’s quiet and maybe a little awkward but the truth is more complicated. Tony has a secret he isn’t ready or willing to share. He’s an expert at avoiding familial scrutiny. At least he was until the sexy guitar player showed up.
Remy Nelson is a small-town, free-spirited guy looking for a new life in the big city. He stays busy playing his instrument on a busy Manhattan street corner during the day and bartending at night. Remy is more interested in finding steady employment than a mate, but he can’t deny his attraction to the dreamy construction worker with soulful eyes, a kind heart, and a unique way with words. Falling for Remy wasn’t what Tony expected, but keeping him will require courage. And an end to keeping secrets.

 

Excerpt

“Yeah, that’s no fun. But it’s good to make new friends.” He gave me a sideways grin. “Like us.”

“Yeah, except you make me sweat,” I admitted with a half chuckle. Then I added, “In a good way. I like you.”

Remy hummed softly and sidled closer to me, resting his thigh against mine. “I like you too, Tony. You make me smile.”

We stared at each other for a long moment. All those funny details came rushing at me. Things I never noticed about other people. The gorgeous halo of curls, the shape of his eyes, the freckle on his cheek and those luscious lips. The lone bulb above the back door illuminated him in a yellowish light that shouldn’t have been flattering but I had a feeling Remy would look good with a paper bag on his head. Wait. That didn’t make sense. I furrowed my brow and cocked my head just as Remy set his arm over my shoulder and pulled me forward.

My heart raced when the tips of our noses brushed and our breath commingled visibly in the cool air. With a courage I didn’t know I possessed, I angled my head and slowly touched my lips to his. Just a touch. He had room to pull away. Hell, he even had room to punch me if I got this totally wrong. But when he purred softly and licked the corner of my mouth, I knew we were on the same page.

I cradled the back of his head and gently threaded my fingers through his hair. I held him like he was a fragile flower or something. Then in my typical bull-in-a-china-store style, I plunged my tongue between his lips. Remy gasped at the onslaught but he didn’t miss a beat. He wrapped both of his arms around my neck, drawing me close as he glided his tongue over mine, twirling and sucking feverishly.

I didn’t know how long we made out on that stoop but I could have done it all damn night. He tasted incredible and he felt even better. I loved the way he pressed his chest against mine and those sexy noises he made drove me wild. I wanted more than we were able to do on a cigarette break. Much more.

We broke for air and eyed each other, looking for clues. Or maybe that was just me. I couldn’t be the one in charge of directing traffic here. I was out of my depth. He had to tell me what came next. I’d never figure it out on my own. Remy caressed my cheek and smiled before leaning in to nibble on my bottom lip.

“I have to go,” he whispered.

“Okay. I’ll see ya ’round.” My huskier than usual voice didn’t mesh with the casual vibe I was going for.

Remy pulled back with a smirk. “That’s all you’re going to say? “See ya”? Don’t you want my number or something?”

“Um yeah. Yeah, I do.” I pulled out my cell and handed it to him. “Put it in. My hands are shaking.”

This time when he smiled, I felt it deep inside me. The butterflies in my stomach fluttered like crazy but in a good way.

Available for Purchase at Amazon

Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in an almost empty nest.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Christi Snow on Romancing St. Louis and her latest release “Believe in the Wish’ (guest blog and giveaway)

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Title:  Believe in the Wish

Author: Christi Snow

Publisher:  Self-Published

Release Date: May 11, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: ~55,000 words

Genre: New Adult, enemies to lovers, forbidden love, twins, contemporary romance, mourning death

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Christi Snow here today talking about her latest novel, Believe in the Wish. Welcome, Christi.

✒︎

Romancing St. Louis by Christi Snow

I try to write most of my books in places that I’m familiar with, even though I may use made up town names…i.e. Snowcroft is based on a real New Mexico mountain tourist town where we lived when we were first married (many, many moons ago), but that wasn’t the name of it.

For Believe in the Wish, I chose to put the characters in St. Louis, specifically a cross between two of my favorite towns that are suburbs of St. Louis… Kirkwood and St. Charles. I love Kirkwood because it’s filled with the old, big houses like you see in Meet Me In St. Louis. It’s not hard to imagine the carriages driving down some of the roads in that modern-day quaint little town.

Although none of these huge mansions make an appearance in Believe in the Wish, the entire picturesque quality and cozy ambiance of the town does.

Before we moved to Texas when my husband retired from the military, we lived in another suburb of St. Louis…Belleville, Illinois. Our entire family fell in love with St. Louis. 

St. Louis is one of those perfect cities. It has tons of history…the Lewis and Clark expedition came through there, but the Mississippi has been a major waterway for this country the entire time people have lived here. 

When we lived there, they had pro football (Rams, who have since moved), pro hockey (St. Louis Blues), AND pro baseball teams (St. Louis Cardinals). It’s also the home of Budweiser, which means when friends and family come to town, you can go tour the plant and drink free beer. Double win. The same goes for kids theme parks like Grant’s Farm…seriously all kids parks like this should offer free ice-cold beer to parents.

St. Louis is a major city with all the amenities that go with it, but it never felt overwhelming or huge when we visited it. We regularly went into the city…for shopping, entertainment, festivals, and activities. We truly loved it there.

So when it came time for this book, St. Louis was an easy fit for location. Plus it offered lots of options for the tasks that Emma left Ethan and Hawk to do. 

My favorite scene is the two of them going up the Arch. Not only is that scene pivotal to the story…hello, first kiss…but it’s simply fun, because the Arch and the ability to travel up it is something unique to St. Louis. And I promise you, once you’ve gone on that little, weird roller coaster ride up the inside, you will never forget it. There are videos on YouTube about riding the tiny cars up to the top. It’s wild…and yes, sometimes a bit eerie and scary, but it’s an experience everyone should have.

I hope that you see a bit of the city I loved through this book, Believe in the Wish. While the romance is most definitely the focus, I thought the romance of St. Louis provided the perfect backdrop for two of my favorite men and their guardian angel.

Synopsis

I buried my twin sister six months after she found out she had cancer. Her funeral was three months ago. Today is our birthday and it started with delivery of letters from her.

It seems she didn’t trust me to move on after her death. She knows me too well. But how can I go on when my other half is just…gone? That’s not something I can recover from with a snap of my fingers. But I also can’t ignore her instructions even though I’d be perfectly content to cuddle up with my buddy, Johnnie Walker, and call it a year.

She has a list of things for me to do and there are rules attached.

There’s one major problem besides the fact it’s been three months since I left the house. I have to do all these things with her jerk of an ex, Hawk Simmons. He abandoned her shortly after she found out she was sick. If that wasn’t enough to make this a really bad idea, the fact that he makes an appearance in all my nighttime fantasies probably does.

I don’t think I can do this, but I owe it to my sister’s memory to try.

This is a stand-alone male/male contemporary romance novel.

Excerpt

Katya ended her call and promptly pushed the ‘away’ button for receiving phone calls. “I’m sorry. No more calls. They may not think so, but they can survive without me for an hour or so while we have our chat.”

Ethan’s stomach rolled over. That brought them to the question of the hour…chat about what? But he was almost afraid to ask at this point. Instead, he redirected. “Do you have your own firm, or do you work for someone else?”

She raised an eyebrow at him, but with a slight tilt of her head she must have seen something in his expression because she answered, “I own my own firm. When I graduated from law school, I went into a partnership that was later dissolved when I bought my partner out. It’s all mine now, which keeps me very busy.”

He grimaced. “And that’s further complicated by hermits like me who refuse to answer phone calls or mail deliveries. Sorry about that.”

“No.” She shook her head. “It’s time for you to stop apologizing. This is a hard time for you and that’s okay. To a certain extent, that’s the way it should be…”

She hesitated for a moment. “At least for a little while. You’re allowed to grieve. But Emma knew this would be an issue for you, so she made plans.”

“What kind of plans?”

Katya reached into her briefcase and pulled out a file. She reached inside and pulled out an envelope that she handed to him. On the front was his name, written in Emma’s handwriting. Suddenly it was hard to breathe.

“What is this?” he whispered.

“The first of your instructions. You need to open and read it.”

He didn’t want to. He didn’t know why, but he really didn’t want to. “I’d rather wait until I’m at home.” At his house, if he fell apart, he could do it without witnesses.

She shook her head kindly. “No, that won’t work. She was very specific in how she wanted this all to go. I need you to open it now.”

Ethan swallowed against the huge lump in his throat as he tried to find air to breathe. His heart pounded in his chest. Surely, everyone around them could hear that.

“It’s okay,” she said softly. “I promise.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.” He glanced up at her. “It’s never going to be okay again.” His voice cracked.

She lowered her lids, and her lips compressed into a tight line as if his grief was too much for her.

His hands shook as he turned the envelope over, lifting the sealed flap. It had to be his imagination, but he could have sworn that he smelled a faint whiff of the strawberry lotion Emma always liked to wear.

For just a moment, he shut his eyes and tried to calm down his emotions going haywire. He didn’t know whether to be angry that she’d done this to him, sad that she wasn’t here to tell him whatever information this letter held, or scared at whatever Emma had cooked up for him.

Throughout her life, she’d kept him hopping. As the exuberant, outgoing twin, she’d always dragged him into trouble when all he’d wanted to do was stay home. In that regard, this whole scheme of hers was very apropos.

He took a deep breath and pulled out the single sheet of paper and unfolded it. At the very first words on the paper, his eyes filled with tears.

Happy Birthday, baby brother.

He glanced up in disbelief at Katya. “It’s May fifteenth?”

At her silent nod, he gazed down at the paper in his hands, his eyes filling with tears. It was their twenty-fifth birthday. The first birthday he’d ever celebrated without her. She’d only been twenty-four when she’d died. How unfair was that? To her. To him. To the world that missed out on everything she had to offer it.
Emma’s handwriting wavered in front of his eyes, but he continued to read, not knowing what else to do. His other option—sobbing in the middle of the restaurant—would be mortifying.

I’m sorry I’m not there to go out partying with you. Remember when we were little and you didn’t want to share your birthday with me? Now you get your wish.

He’d been a horrible person. The tears overflowed his eyes. He’d made that wish more years than he even wanted to remember. How selfish was that? How could he have wished for a life without her in any way? She’d been his light.

Katya shoved a tissue into his hand.

Right. He was in public. Time to get it together.

My bad. It was probably too soon for a joke like that.

I love you, Ethan.

I know I didn’t say that enough—you know emotional displays and I didn’t mix—but beyond anything else that happens over the next few weeks, KNOW THAT. I love you, and if I could have figured out a way to stay, I would have…for you.

But God obviously had different plans for me, so now I’ll just have to content myself with being your guardian angel for the next seventy-five years. I’ll have your back, bro. I promise.

And in the interest of having your back, that’s why Katya is here.

I know you. You’re stubborn, and right now, I imagine that you’re more than a little sad. I get that, but that doesn’t mean you stop living. My death means you have to live twice as much because you have to do it enough for both of us. I’m counting on you.

But, again, I know you, so I’ve enlisted some help from my friends just to get you going.

Make a Wish, Ethan. Believe in it. It’s time to live.

~Emma

When Ethan finished reading, he took several deep breaths. The sobs had welled in his throat, and it was all he could just to hold them inside.

“You okay?” Katya asked.

“Yeah.” His voice sounded husky, but he’d managed to say the word, so he figured that for a win.

“Then it’s time for step two.”

He looked up just as she held a flaming lighter to the candle on top of a cupcake. She pushed it in front of him. “Make a wish and blow. All you have to do is believe.”

As he sat there, looking at the flickering candle, it occurred to him at just how sad this was. His twin was dead, and he was at some bizarre birthday celebration with someone he’d never even met before. Even from the grave, Emma was working to pull him out of his shell.

So he closed his eyes and blew as he made his wish.

I wish I wasn’t so alone.

But when he opened them, nothing had changed. He was still sitting in a restaurant with a woman he didn’t know, mourning the twin sister who’d died. Not that he expected a miracle, but Emma wanted him to believe.

Believe.

How was that even possible? She’d been the one who believed in the magic of things like wishes and fairy tales. What had that gotten her? She’d died before she’d even had the chance to live. What kind of magic could he possibly believe in with that kind of reality?

Purchase

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Meet the Author

As an avid reader her entire life, Christi Snow always dreamed of writing books that brought to others the kind of joy she felt when she read. But…she never did anything about it besides jot down a few ideas and sparse scenes.

When she turned 41, she decided it was time to go after her dream and started writing. Within four months, she’d written over 150,000 words and hasn’t stopped since.

She’s found her calling by writing about sexy, alpha heroes and smart, tough heroines falling in love and finding their passion. She’s truly living the dream and loving every minute of it.

Her tagline is… Passion and adventure on the road to Happily Ever After. She’s loving this adventure!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Google+ | Instagram

Tour Schedule

5/11 ~ Hearts on Fire Reviews

5/11 ~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

5/12 ~ MM Good Book Reviews

5/13 ~ Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents

5/14 ~ Dog-Eared Daydreams

5/15 ~ Happily Ever Chapter

5/16 ~ Two Chicks Obsessed with Books and Eye Candy

5/16 ~ MM Book Escape

5/17 ~ Book Reviews Janisf & Leisha

5/17 ~ BFD Book Blog

5/18 ~ Dirty Books Obsession

5/19 ~ Reviews for Book Lovers

5/19 ~ Love Bytes Reviews

5/20 ~ Bayou Book Junkie

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Cover Reveal for Hipster Brothel by K.A. Merikan

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Title:  Hipster Brothel

Author: K.A. Merikan

Publisher:  Acerbi&Villani ltd.

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Release Date:  24th of January 2017

Heat Level: 3

Pairing: M/M

Length: 50,000 words

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

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Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meet the Author

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

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

e-mail: kamerikan@gmail.com

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

K.A. Merikan’s author page: http://kamerikan.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KAMerikan

Twitter (run by Kat): https://twitter.com/KA_Merikan

Agnes Merikan’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/AgnesMerikan

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6150530.K_A_Merikan

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/KAMerikan/

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Let the Romance Heat Up with the Summer Lovin’ Anthology (giveaway and excerpts)

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Summer Lovin 1000x400

Title:  Summer Lovin’

Author: LJ Hamlin, Janelle Reston, Eric Thornton, Jessica Chase, A. M. Leibowitz, Sarah Hadley Brook

Publisher:  Torquere Press

Cover Artist: Kris Norris

Release Date:  7/20/2016

Heat Level: ranges from 1-4

Pairing: F/F and M/M

Length: 44,000

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, Gay Romance, Lesbian Romance, Anthology

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Summer Lovin Cover

Synopsis

Back in the 1950s, leather jackets, white t-shirts, and poodle skirts were the biggest styles, and going “parking” was all the rage. Summer flings were the thing to do, whether it be with the cute tomboy that caught your eye in school, your older brother’s friend, or the hot mechanic who fixes your car just right. In Summer Lovin’, love doesn’t only have to last the summer.

These six stories are penned by both seasoned scribes and new authors; the anthology provides readers with the perfect opportunity to explore offerings from their favorite storytellers as well as find a new favorite or two.

Containing F/F and M/M stories from authors LJ Hamlin, Janelle Reston, Eric Thornton, Jessica Chase, A. M. Leibowitz, Sarah Hadley Brook, Summer Lovin’ is sure to have something for fifties loving readers.

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Excerpt

 

“You okay, little man?”

Billy startled at the deep, husky voice near his ear and turned to see his new acquaintance leaning into the car, watching him closely. He swallowed and tried not to focus on the musky scent rolling off the dark haired stranger. Fighting the urge to lean in and breathe him in, Billy’s eyes swept over the chiseled jaw, dark stubble and, oh god, those full rosy lips, before rising back up to meet his gaze. Deep chocolate eyes peered into his green ones, searching for something. Wait… He asked something, right?

“Umm, what did you say?”

A smile spread across his face and Billy trembled. God, he was the sexiest man Billy had ever seen.

“I asked if you were okay,” he repeated slowly.

Billy’s eyebrows furrowed then, and he looked down at the keys in his hand, his mind trying to process something. His eyes widened at the memory and he turned his gaze back at the stranger. “Wait! Did you call me ‘little man’?” he asked, incensed.

The sexy man nodded.

Billy harrumphed, his irritation obvious.

“Give me your name and I’ll stop calling you that,” the greaser offered, still smiling. The dimple in his left cheek only upped his sexiness.

“William Hadley. Billy,” he whispered, his cheeks heating up. “And, I’m five eight,” he huffed. Why did he say that? Why did he care what this guy thought of him?

“Well, Billy,” he leaned in closer, letting his breath ghost across Billy’s face. “I’m Gene Milgram and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Gene,” Billy repeated, letting the name roll around on his tongue for a minute and swallowing hard when he realized Gene was still leaning into the car. “Um, I guess I need to call someone to tow it, huh? I wonder if there’s a pay phone anywhere near.”

Gene grinned. “Nope. But I can help you.”

Billy’s eyes widened. “You can? On a motorcycle?” He glanced back uncertainly at the small bike. “Um, yeah, I don’t think that’s strong enough to—”

Gene’s laughter rumbled out into the darkness and Billy looked him as if he was crazy. Did this guy seriously think a motorcycle could tow a big car?

“Sorry, Billy,” he chuckled. “No, I didn’t mean my bike. I own an auto shop and I just closed up a little while ago. Why don’t we just head back and get the tow truck and take care of things?”

“We?” Billy squeaked, glancing at the motorcycle again, his heart hammering in his chest.

Gene waggled his eyebrows at him, laughing. “Well, yeah, I can’t just leave you here in the dark. What if another opossum decides to pull something crazy again?”

Billy felt his face heat up. He knew Gene was just being friendly, but it had been a long time since another man had made him feel so off-kilter, even though he was sure Gene was straight. He looked back over his shoulder again and wrestled with his fear of motorcycles. Something told him that he could trust this man, though.

Sighing deeply, he finally nodded. Gene pulled the car door open and waited, his hand on the door handle. Once he climbed out, he felt a little lightheaded, swaying a little before Gene’s arm snaked around his waist, holding him close to his side.

“Whoa, there. You feeling dizzy?” Gene’s mouth was so close his breath caressed Billy’s neck, sending a shiver down his spine.

Billy nodded a little, feeling foolish. “My head hit the steering wheel, but my arms cushioned the blow. I think…I think I’m just a little dazed.”

Gene nodded his understanding and helped him up the short hill to his bike, parked on the side of the road. Billy startled when he saw it up close.

“That’s a 1947 Triumph Speed Twin! Is that a custom paint job?” Enthusiasm won out over his fear as he leaned in and traced his fingers along the seat.

Gene’s eyes widened in amazement and he finally let his arm slip away from Billy’s waist. “You know about bikes?”

“Yeah, a little. When I was a kid, I dreamed of owning one, but my mom always said they were too dangerous, of course. Then when I saw James Dean riding one, I decided to learn more about them. Last year, I finally decided to try taking a spin and I…I…” His face reddened and he looked at the ground. “I fell off the bike before I even started it,” he admitted.

Gene chuckled a little, but wisely kept his thoughts to himself.

Billy smiled, “Yeah, it wasn’t funny at the time, but…” He cleared his throat. “So, um, how do we do this?”

The greaser handed him the helmet. “Only got one and no way am I letting you ride without one.” He grinned. “You seem a little accident-prone to me.”

 

From “The Great Pretender” by Sarah Hadley Brook

Purchase

Torquere Press

Summer Lovin SquareMeet the Author

LJ Hamlin – L.J.Hamlin is a twenty something (getting older every day) writer, who has been writing all her life, mainly in notebooks no one else ever saw. But then she found M/M groups online and was encouraged by friends to share her stories. After a while (with a lot of pushing) she got brave enough to try getting published, so she could share with more people, and she hopes to never stop. LJ loves cats, and pretty much all animals, is a collector of many things, often weird, but most of all books.

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/L.j.hamlin91

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LjHamlin

Blog http://ljhamlinbooks.blogspot.com/

 

Janelle Reston – Janelle Reston is a pansexual powerhouse whose F/F and queer romance has appeared in numerous anthologies. Hobbies include watching The X-Files and making sexual innuendos. She lives in a northern lake town with her partner and their black cats.

Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/janellereston/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/janellereston

Tumblr: http://janellereston.tumblr.com

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/jreston

Goodreads link: http://www.goodreads.com/janellereston

 

Eric Thornton – Eric Thornton tends to write what comes to mind. You never know what could come from him next. He lives in the south with his spouse who supports his work.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eric.j.roberts.5

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/ericbkroberts/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Eric_Thornton_1

 

Jessica Chase – : Jessica Chase has been writing for what seems like her entire life, and finished her first short story at the age of five.  It wasn’t very good.  Since then, she’s improved a great deal, but writing has continued to be her passion.  She loves reading and enjoys exploring the worlds of others as well as creating her own and has been involved in several writing groups.  She writes all kinds of relationships and is always looking to write more, but M/M and F/F romance is something she is particularly fond of.  She enjoys fantasy and horror, and loves putting her own spin on the genres and creating interesting characters and worlds.  Jessica studied at Oxford University and fell in love with the city and its weird quirks and traditions.  She still reads anything she can get her hands on and spends her weekends wandering around various museums and old houses, walking through the countryside looking for inspiration, or sitting in the garden and playing with her pet tortoises.  She is lucky enough to have the support of some wonderful friends.

Website: http://chasestories.webs.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jessica.chase.96387

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jchasestories

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/jessicachasewri/

Other Social Media: http://JChaseStories.blogspot.co.uk

 

A.M. Leibowitz – A.M. Leibowitz is a queer spouse, parent, feminist, and book-lover falling somewhere on the Geek-Nerd Spectrum. Ze keeps warm through the long, cold western New York winters by writing about life, relationships, hope, and happy-for-now endings. Hir published fiction includes four novels as well as a number of short works, and hir stories have been included in anthologies from Supposed Crimes, Witty Bard, and Mischief Corner Books. In between noveling and editing, ze blogs coffee-fueled, quirky commentary on faith, culture, writing, books, and hir family.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amymitchell29

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/UnchainedFaith/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/amyunchained

Pinterest: https://twitter.com/amyunchained

Web site: http://amleibowitz.com

Goodreads link: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8544236.A_M_Leibowitz

 

Sarah Hadley Brook – Sarah Hadley Brook lives in the Midwest and is a mother of two wonderful young men. During the day, she works in the non-profit world, but reserves evenings for her hobby-turned-passion of writing, letting the characters she conjures up in her mind take the lead and show her where the story will go. When not working or writing, she can be found reading, working on dollhouses, trying her hand at new recipes, or watching old movies and musicals. She believes in “Happily Ever After” and strives to ensure her characters find their own happiness in love and life.

Website: www.sarahhadleybrookwrites.com

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Review: Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Christmas Kitsch coverOn the outside Rusty Baker might look like just another stereotypical football player, just one of many in his high school that looked as though they were popped out of a mold for tall, big, blond rich boys.  But on the inside Rusty is different, a difference that remains hidden until Oliver Campbell, small, dark and out Oliver Campbell, enrolls in his high school and sits next to Rusty in class. When one of the more brutish football players starts in on Oliver in class, Rusty is there to cut him off, making his protection of Oliver clear to all.  A close friendship is started, one Rusty doesn’t understand.  Because Rusty suffers from poor self esteem and thinks he is stupid. Rusty can’t understand why the cute and highly intelligent Oliver would want to be his friend.  Then the day before Rusty is to leave for Berkeley, Oliver kisses him and everything changes for them both.

The hardest thing Rusty ever had to do was leave Oliver behind going to a community college while Rusty left town for a school he knew he wasn’t ready for and couldn’t survive in.  Rusty is under a mountain of stress over everything, from grades to his sexuality and the pressure almost does him in. When Rusty returns home for Thanksgiving, it all explodes when his parents catch him kissing Oliver in the driveway and they kick him out, homeless at the holidays.

While Oliver and his dad may not have material wealth, they are rich in acceptance and love.  And with their support and Oliver’s love, Rusty just might make it through not only the holidays but the rest of his life.

In Rusty Baker Amy Lane has created one of the most luminous, heartbreaking characters I have ever read.  Ten pages into the story I started weeping over this glorious man child who has been made to feel stupid and inadequate for all his years, promptly forgetting that Rusty exists only in the pages of Christmas Kitsch and the fertile imagination of Amy Lane.  Told from Rusty’s point of view, his thoughts and feelings (as well as the manner in which Rusty voices his views that shows just how deep his lack of self esteem is) engage the reader so throughly that you forget about everything around you except for Rusty and his halting path through life.

Trust me when I say that just when you think that Rusty can’t break your heart anymore, then he says something  that seems innocuous on the surface but is so shattering in the truth that it reveals that you find yourself breaking down yet again, grabbing for that second box of tissues while realizing that you are only on page 60 or so of a 256 page story.  Rusty Baker is so incandescent in his innocence and beauty that I almost expected the pages to glow.  He is textured, and glorious and unforgettable in every way.

But Rusty can’t make it alone, either in life or in the story.  So the author has created a group of characters every bit as remarkable and amazing as Rusty himself, starting with Oliver Campbell.  Oliver really is Rusty’s polar opposite from quick intelligence to his physical exterior.  Oliver’s mixed race parentage is evident not only in his name but in his small stature, dark eyes and skin. Equally rich is the latin culture which overlays everything at home from his family’s food to their family rituals.  Oliver is highly intelligent, generous of spirit and out about his sexuality.  This is our and Rusty’s first introduction to Oliver:

Oliver showed up in early September of my senior year, slender, brown on brown on brown. Dark brown hair cut with long bangs around his narrow face, dark brown eyes with thick, thick lashes, and light brown skin. He slouched quietly in the back of Mr. Rochester’s English Literature class and eyed the rest of us with sort of a gentle amusement.

It’s that “gentle amusement” that draws Rusty in as well as Oliver’s acceptance of him no matter what  Rusty might say or the way he struggles with everything in his life.  Oliver is there to quietly shore Rusty up, giving him a look at families who love and support each other with a generosity Rusty has never had in his life.  There is a quiet glow to Oliver that is never outshown by Rusty, they complement each other perfectly. I love Oliver and Oliver’s amazing dad, Arturo, both so alive that I absolutely believed in them as a family.  And that goes for Estrella, Rusty’s housekeeper and surrogate mom, as well as Nicole, Rusty’s young sister just as starved for love and family as Rusty is.  Nicole’s fragility is slowly revealed to Rusty and the reader as she becomes more of a presence in Rusty’s life.  I know that sounds odd but when you read the story you realize just how compartmentalized Rusty’s family is and the impact of that structure upon the children.

OK, I realize I am doing it again, treating these characters as real people.   Amy Lane is a superb storyteller.  She creates worlds, situations and yes, characters that seem as real as any you might meet outside your door.  They are flawed, they bleed as well as breathe.  And when they hurt, you will hurt and bleed along with them.  And that’s because somewhere those characters crossed the line from paper personas to people we love and care for as though they are family.  I have the empty tissues boxes to prove it.

What characters seemed removed, incomplete and insubstantial?  Well, that would be Rusty’s mother and father.  And with  good reason, because they feel that way to Rusty.  His parents are cold, detached from family warmth and familial love, driven by their own ambition and control.  By the author creating characters so coldly ephemeral and disengaged from their children, it helps to establish Rusty’s viewpoint as ours and it helps to understand his upbringing as well as Nicole’s.

There is laughter to be found among the pages to go with the river of tears you will shed for this amazing boy crying out for love and understanding.  And the reader will celebrate the happiness that Rusty (and Oliver) find together after all the obstacles have been surmounted.  I found myself, exhausted, red faced and snotty, surrounded happily by empty boxes of tissues at 3am and promptly wanted to do it all over again.

If I had a minuscule quibble with this story, it would be with the title.  I would have loved it if the title would have been free of holiday references.  Why?  Because I am afraid that at any other time of the year readers unfamiliar with either Amy Lane or this story might relegate it to the Christmas story genre instead of “the must read at any time of year’ category it so deserves.  But that is a wispy sort of quibble, lacking any substance and disappearing as we speak.

I loved, loved Christmas Kitsch.  It is heartwarming as well as heartrending. It is as joyous as it is poignant! And I will read it again and again because that’s what I  do with comfort reads with characters who are real to me and dear to my heart.  I am sure you will feel the same, so grab it up and start reading.  Have that tissue box handy, you will need it.  And as a extra bonus you will be helping LGBT youth in need as well.  This is a Highly Recommended, Best of 2013 or any year.  Don’t pass it by!

Cover art by LC Chase is soft and lovely.

Special Note:

20% of all proceeds from this title are donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York, whose mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.” To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visithttp://www.aliforneycenter.org

Book Details:

256 pages
Expected publication: December 9th 2013 by Riptide Publishing (first published December 7th 2013)
ISBN13 9781626490864
edition language English
Riptide Publishing’s Home for the Holiday Series