A MelanieM Review: Lovers Leap by JL Merrow

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

LoversLeap_600x900If they looked, would they ever leap?

Good-looking, confident, and doted on by his widowed mum, Michael is used to thinking only of himself. Getting shoved off an Isle of Wight pier by an exasperated ex ought to come as a wake-up call—but then he meets Rufus and he’s right back to letting the little head take charge. Rufus is cute, keen, and gets under Michael’s skin in a disturbing way.

Would-be chef Rufus can’t believe his luck when a dripping wet dream of a man walks out of the sea on his birthday, especially when Michael ends up staying at the family B&B. Life is perfect—at least until Michael has to go home to the mainland.

Rufus can’t leave the island for reasons he’s entirely neglected to mention. And though Michael identifies as bi, breaking his mum’s heart by coming out and having an actual relationship with a guy has never been his plan. With both men determined to keep their secrets, a leap of faith could land them in deep water.

I just  love JL Merrow and her ability to deliver characters that, whether you adore them, look at them with a little dislike and (yes, contempt for some), always feel downright real and human.   In Lovers Leap, Merrow delivers just such a story full of characters that are almost guaranteed to put readers down on one side or the other.  I fall firmly down on the side that sees this as a story full of characters that I understood, believed in and even when I was less then fond of their actions, I accepted them once I got the back history and foundation upon which they were based.  That’s wonderful storytelling.

The character in conflict, for the reader, himself and Rufus?  Michael, the man who came from the sea…the reason for which is one that is startling and is probably the basis for many readers dislike.  His actions that follow don’t help.  But there is something, as Merrow has written him, that draws you in, a certain vulnerability that pays off the more the story unfolds.  There are some very serious issues for Michael to deal with, his sexuality, his faith and family, and some are deeply shattering as the story unfolds.  Especially when it comes to his mother.  All his prior arrogance and obnoxiousness in words and deeds?  Well, there are reasons and a basis for all of them and Merrow lays it out for us like a very sad banquet.

Rufus is not without deep issues himself.  They too start at home with a father and stepmother whose fragile relationship with each other and perhaps Rufus is keeping them all tied in a knot that might be choking them in the B & B in which they all work and live.

Lovers Leap is all about twin needs that speak to each other without Rufus and Michael realizing how much at first, and then slowing pulling towards each other, with humor, with heartbreak, with passion…in true English form on the Isle of Wight.  I even adored the best friend, and her surprise coupling.  Definitely could have used more of them.

If you like your main characters with flaws that you can handle, you know a little gruff, nothing too bad, certainly not obnoxious or bi, perhaps this isn’t your story.  But if you love layered characters, people who need to work on themselves, and relationships that need just that bit of luck as well as love?  Don’t let Lovers Leap pass you by.  I highly recommend it and can’t wait to see what the Isle of Wight inspires JL Merrow to write next.

Cover art by Lou Harper is well done and indicative of the characters and story. Loved it.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 202 pages
Published February 27th 2016 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleLovers Leap
ISBN 1626493820 (ISBN13: 9781626493827)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Love Cowboys? Love Cowboys In Love? Don’t Miss Letters from a Cowboy by Sue Brown! (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Letters From A Cowboy
Series: Morning Report
Author: Sue Brown
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh
Length: 154 Pages
Release Date: 10 June, 2015
Blurb: A Morning Report Story
Simon Wood arrives at Tamar Ranch looking for a job
after being fired from his last position for seducing the boss’s son. It
doesn’t take much for him to prove his skills with horses, so he’s taken on,
but soon he clashes hard with Chip Henson.
The animosity between them hides something very
different, but not for long. No matter how hard they try to resist their
attraction, eventually they give in to their need. They start leaving notes for
each other, and others notice and warn them to be more careful.
Fearful of discovery, Simon leaves Tamar Ranch to save
Chip’s job. When he learns that his departure sent Chip off the rails, he knows
he needs to risk everything and go back for him.

 

 

HE WAITED an hour by the mill before Chip showed.
The cowboy slid off his horse and into Simon’s waiting arms, his hat tumbling
off his head as Simon held on to him tightly. Simon pulled him into the shadow
of the mill, pleased that he could finally bury his chilly face in Chip’s neck,
his nostrils full of the strong, rich scent of his man.
“I thought you weren’t coming,” he managed
eventually. “Didn’t know if you’d get my note.”
“I nearly didn’t,” Chip said. “Lorne and Brad
were waiting for me with rifles before I left.”
“How did you get away?”
“Lofty and I jumped them and knocked ’em both out
before they could shoot me.”
Chip shuddered with the emotion, and Simon hung
on even tighter, aware of just how close he’d come to losing him.
“I love you, Henson,” Simon said gruffly, feeling
Chip dig his fingers almost painfully into Simon’s back. Simon relished the
pain. It reminded him they were both still alive.
“Love you too, Woody.”
Simon huffed into Chip’s neck at the nickname.
“Next time we go together.”
Chip pulled back to look at him. “Don’t be stupid.
We can’t take that risk.”
“I’m not leaving you again,” Simon insisted
stubbornly.
Chip stepped back and slid his hands down Simon’s
shoulders to grasp him around the upper arms. “Don’t, Simon. You know we can’t
risk anyone finding out about us. I only just escaped this time. Next time it
could be you, and I can’t have that.”
Simon stared at Chip, seeing the lines around his
brown eyes, carved deeper into Chip’s face in the year he’d known him. “And I’m
not gonna to spend my life wondering if you’re goin’ to turn up. We can’t be
together as lovers, but we can be together as friends.”
“What are you saying?”

“If keeping us safe means we stop fucking,
then….”

Chip pressed his lips together, then gave a short
nod. “Friends.”

Simon went to step away, but somehow he ended up
with his mouth mashed against Chip’s, his hands tangled in Chip’s hair, and
Chip’s erection a rigid line pressing into his hip.

The throaty noises Chip made as they kissed just
ramped up his excitement.

Simon growled deep in his throat and pushed Chip
against the mill wall. “Fuck, I’ve missed you so much.”

“Missed you too.” Chip hauled Simon down to kiss
him again.

“No lube,” Simon groaned.

“Ya got spit.” Chip’s hands were busy at Simon’s
flies.

“It’s gonna hurt.” Simon was just as busy, dragging
Chip’s jeans down his legs.

“Don’t care, not now. Just want you.” Chip turned
in Simon’s arms and placed his hands against the rough wall.

Simon pulled Chip’s ass toward him, bare and
beautiful, and all his. He ran his work-roughened hand over the tight asscheek.
“You’re so fucking beautiful.”

Chip laughed roughly. “You need to see the doc,
Woody. I ain’t beautiful.”

“You are to me. You’ll always be more beautiful
than any of them painted whores in the Drink.”

“Thanks, I think.” Chip gasped as Simon spat on
his fingers. “Hurry.”

Simon held Chip’s shoulder and slowly worked his
fingers into Chip’s ass. “Just you wait. I’m not gonna hurt you.” He withdrew
his fingers and spat on them again. He worked Chip until he was as prepared as
he could get him.

Chip smacked the wall as Simon pushed in.

God, he was so tight. Simon wanted to ram in
until he couldn’t go any farther, but he wouldn’t hurt Chip. “Too much?”

“Faster,” Chip gritted out. “I’m not gonna
break.”

Chip might not, but Simon felt he was about to
fly apart at the seams. He sank into Chip’s heat until he could rest against
Chip’s back. He breathed across Chip’s ear, feeling the man shiver.

“Don’t let me go,” Chip whispered.

Simon held him tighter. “I’m never gonna let you
go.”

“That’s all I needed to hear.”
Simon needed to move, but for a moment he just wanted
to stay exactly where he was, Chip’s body tight around him and Simon’s senses
full of his man.

 

 

 

 

 

Sue Brown is owned by her dog and two
children. When she isn’t following their orders, she can be found plotting at
her laptop. In fact she hides so she can plot and has gotten expert at ignoring
the orders.
Sue discovered M/M erotica at the
time she woke up to find two men kissing on her favorite television series. The
series was boring; the kissing was not. She may be late to the party, but she’s
made up for it since, writing fan fiction until she was brave enough to venture
out into the world of original fiction.

 

AUTHOR
LINKS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Email ID: suebrown.stories@gmail.com

 

Get a chance to win two signed paperbacks of ‘Letters
From A Cowboy’ or a package of Morning
Report
stories!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

Barb, A Zany Old Lady Review: Catch Me When I Fall by John Wiltshire

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Catch Me When I FallJake, a forest ranger and former Army Ranger, is shocked when what he thought was a meteor landed in his front yard. He was more shocked to discover that it wasn’t a meteor, but a man. In fact, it’s not really even a man—it’s an angel named Gabriel, not THE Gabriel, but it turns out to be Jake’s personal guardian angel, and he’s been kicked out of heaven for killing another angel in defense of a human—his human.

It seems Gabe loves Jake and, unfortunately, he let that be known up there so he’s gotten on the wrong side of the gates, so to speak. Actually, this is a great love story with both humor and angst and it caught me off-guard when I was expecting it to be very light and fluffy. It is, but it also has depth and character and becomes a gripping drama before it’s complete.

When Gabe forces Jake to remember an event that happened with a fellow soldier during the time he was deployed, an event in which the other soldier made a sexual advance and Jake rejected him, Jake starts to question his sexuality. Jake wants no part of being gay, no matter what—at least, that’s what he keeps saying. And even though it’s evident Gabriel is attracted to Jake, Jake refuses to acknowledge a reciprocal attraction.

Gabe arranges for Jono, the man who made the sexual overtures to Jake years before, to come to visit Jake for a hiking trip and to bring his boyfriend along with him. When the foursome hit the woods, things change, and Jake starts to see that his outsides haven’t matched his insides in a number of years. He is attracted to Jono, but it turns out that it’s Gabe he wants. And he can’t have him. Gabe has to go back. He’s inhabited the body of a young man who’s being kept in a dream state, and Gabe knows that’s wrong.

What happens and how it all works out makes this a story well worth reading. It’s fun. It’s heartbreaking, and it’s magical. I have to add a side note here about Bob, the dog. Gabe’s conversations with Bob were classic! Between those, his earlier conversation with a bear, and later conversations with other critters, I couldn’t stop smiling.

I’d recommend this story to all those who enjoy a visit from the angels and those who love to see true love overcome all obstacles—earthly and otherwise.

Cover art by Deanna Jamroz – I found the cover to be very bland and not representative of the story. It would have been much better if there were at least angel wings or a representation of the forest since Jake is a ranger. At the very least, Bob or the bear could have been pictured as they spoke to the angel.

Sales Links:   MLR Press LLC      All Romance (ARe)        Amazon       Buy it here

Book Details

ebook, 110 pages
Published October 2014 by MLR Press
ASINB00ODF2U2E
edition languageEnglish

Note:  John Wiltshire is a STRW Down Under Author.

A MelanieM Review: Finally Home (The Traveler and the Tourist #2) by Zee Kensington

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Finally Home coverBangkok, Thailand. 2011.  Seasoned traveler and noted cuisine writer Christopher J. Springer meets/rescues Marco Mineo at the airport.  Marco is making his first trip away from home and chose Thailand as his destination only to be overwhelmed upon his arrival.  Meeting Chris changed his life as the culinary author takes Marco under his wing, showing him the true Thailand over the next 10 days.  But it was more than that.  During that time, Chris and Marco became lovers, another first for Marco, a closeted gay at home.   When the time came for Marco to return home and Chris to journey on to his next destination, neither was prepared for how much it hurt to part and how deeply they would miss each other later on.

Los Angeles, CA.  Once home, Marco finds himself sliding back into a life that’s no longer enough to satisfy him.  He’s unhappy about working for his uncle, he’s throughly back in the closet because of his fears, and he’s missing Chris more than he ever thought possible.  Then he gets a text from Chris who is coming to L.A. and everything seems possible and scary once more.

Chris has traveled the world, free to go where he wants and hook up whenever it was possible with no strings attached.  But something changed in Thailand when he met Marco.  Now in Mexico, Chris finds his thoughts consumed with the young man back in L.A.  When his publisher cancels the third leg of his assignment and offers him a replacement city in the U.S., Chris jumps at the chance to see Marco again and chooses L.A.  The Marco he finds is a deeply unhappy one.  Chris understands Marco’s fears and hopes to help him slowly out of the closet.  But a family crisis pulls Chris away and Marco is left to decide what and who is important in his life.  His fears that keep him in the closet or his love of Chris?

I was reading the anthology Two Tickets to Paradise when I came across my first Zee Kensington story, Krung Thep, City of Angels.  That story blew me away.   From the moment Marco steps off the plane onto the runway at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok and meets Chris Springer, the author pulls us deep into the Thai culture, from the street food vendors to the back alleys of this mesmerizing city.  Her descriptions of the food  made my mouth water and the vivid imagery of the sights and sounds of Bangkok had me itching to catch the next plane out for my own adventure.  And the relationship that sprang up between Marco and Chris in that short story?  Believable and sort of magical.  It was one of my favorite stories in that anthology for good reason.  So imagine my joy in finding Finally Home, the sequel to that amazing story.  My only trepidation?  Would it measure up to the original I remembered so well?

Well, yes and no.  And no, primarily for just one reason.  That only the prologue takes place in Bangkok.  Here the author brings those readers unfamiliar with Marco and Chris up to date on the circumstances of their first meeting and the beginning of their relationship.  Readers, its not nearly enough.  Run, don’t walk and grab up that story.  It’s a must read.  But the prologue does a good job in bringing some of that initial magic home here.  Than this story really gets started in Los Angelos, Marco’s home.  Again, Zee Kensington applies her wonderful skills in bringing places and people to life.  For Marco comes (and lives) with his very close knit Italian family where the very idea of personal space is lost.  His mother is constantly fixing her son up on blind dates with women Marco has no intention of ever seeing again.  For reasons that will be revealed in the story, Marco has a very good reason for remaining in the closet at home. And his love for his family, which telegraphs beautifully in scene after scene , makes his fear realistic and at times overwhelming.  Helping Marco stay closeted is his uncertainty about his relationship with Chris.  He has so little experience that he’s afraid to ask Chris where they stand.  And again we get that too.

Kensington has chosen to make Chris nine years older than Marco.  It works as Chris has been traveling for years.  But while Chris is a seasoned world traveler, he is almost on the same level as Marco when it comes to commitment and relationships.  He too has had problems with his family over his homosexuality so Chris understands Marco’s fears of abandonment.  That’s a nice touch.  I thought the dynamics between Chris and Marco worked because Chris isn’t trying to push Marco further than he can accept, knowing it must be Marco’s decision.  There is also a nice playoff  between their ages, backgrounds, and yes, experience.  It works on all levels.

What did I miss?  The cultural and sensual experience that was Thailand.  Zee Kensington relayed that so well that I felt I was there.  The author’s stay there conveyed a vividness to the scenes and an immediacy to all Marco and Chris’s travels  that I remember today.  In its place are the street vendors of the less visited side of Los Angeles, the truck vendors and the East L.A. food scene.  It’s good but no replacement for the culinary banquet that was the first story.

What will the readers find frustrating?  The realistic give and take, the misunderstandings and the shaky course of  Chris and Marco’s relationship.  It’s a path strewn with obstacles, many of their own making and you will find yourself wanting to give each a shake or two.  But that’s because you have become so involved in their future together and  deeply connected to these characters along the way.  I so hope that this is not the end for Chris and Marco.  There are other places and culinary adventures awaiting them.  I wanted to see them together through Mexico and Kenya.  Perhaps later, one can always hope.  In the meantime, I will reread Krung Thep again and enjoy my taste of Bangkok and the beginnings of Chris and Marco’s journey to HEA.

I highly recommend Krung Thep, Finally Home and Zee Kensington to all lovers of food, travel, and hot men in love.  I can’t wait to see what this author has in store for us next.

Cover art:  Paul Richmond.  While I liked elements of this cover, the model for Chris is just too young.  That throws it off for me completely.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press     All Romance eBooks (ARe)   Amazon       Finally Home

 

Book Notes:  Sequel to Krung Thep, City of Angels
The Traveler and the Tourist: Book Two
Krung Thep, book one of the series, can be found in the Two Tickets to Paradise anthology.

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published August 29th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781627989077
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Traveler and the Tourist #2

 

Review: Encore (Blue Notes #5) by Shira Anthony

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Encore-BuildWhen teenagers Roger Nelson and John Fuchs  meet in the band room of Maryville’s Senior High School in 1971, they discovered they shared the same passion for music.  Roger Nelson with his violin and John Fuchs with his dream of conducting.  Each teenager came from different backgrounds and moved in different circles in high school, Roger Nelson, the “cool kid” popular with all crowds and John Fuchs, the stuttering, shy transfer from St. Barnaby’s, an expensive private school.  Brought together by music, they soon developed a deep friendship that made them inseparable.  Then it turned into something more.

John had always known he was gay so his love for Roger seemed natural and right. However, Roger’s attraction and love for John confused him, making him feel unsettled and insecure especially in the 70’s where homosexuality was still looked at with disgust and ignorance.  Together through college and graduation, John and Roger continue their secret romance despite growing opposition from Roger’s parents. Then two tragedies occur that immediately impact Roger and his family.  The ripples from those events serve to separate Roger and John, shattering their romance but not their love for each other.

For the next several decades, the men’s lives intersect only to  be pulled apart time and again.  When one more event brings them back together, will this be the encore they have been waiting for or will their last chance at love slip away forever?

Encore is Shira Anthony’s most ambitious and deeply layered Blue Notes story to date.  Over the course of the Blue Notes series, Anthony has been building a symphony of characters deeply involved in the world of music and their relationships.  Whether it was a pianist or conductor, violinist or opera singer, cellist or lawyer in the musical entertainment industry, Shira Anthony has introduced us to the men whose passions for music has driven their lives, loves, and careers. But those previous stories, for the most part,  have had a specific  short time span for the men and their love affairs.  Now in Encore, Anthony goes for the larger picture, not just a movement but the whole composition.  Here she strives for a symphony and achieves it.

Encore is a musical term derived from the French word “again”.  It is a repeat performance or an additional musical piece that occurs after the main piece or event concludes and it is the perfect term to apply to the on and off again relationship of Roger Nelson and John Fuchs, two characters introduced as a couple in previous novels.  Starting in 1971 and ending in 2006, Anthony creates a romance that encompasses a 35-year time frame.  It will see the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic, the fight for gays rights, and finally the beginnings of social acceptance of homosexuality.  Against such a historic and dramatic background, the author has created her most textured and multidimensional romance in this or any other series.

Even at the beginning of John and Roger’s relationship, each young man has their personalities already firmly in place.  John is already comfortable being gay, even in 1971.  The kids have already taken note of his “difference”, an aspect of his personality that will only deepen as John ages and finds his own style, totally comfortable in his skin and element.   And while John may stutter in emotional situations, his belief in himself and his music is unwavering.  I loved John.  I understood his behavior and his emotional outlook on life and his music because Anthony has made him so transparent and accessible even with all his layers.

Then there is Roger.  The wonderful, exasperating, heartbreaking Roger.

Roger Nelson inside is the antithesis of his outward appearance and behavior.  On the surface, Roger is all “coolness” and popularity, his easy nature and charm crossing high school and then college social circles.  But inside, he is a tumultuous mess.  Pressures from his parents, society, and their expectations for Roger’s future collide with his own dreams for himself and the resulting avalanche will derail everything Roger and John had planned for their lives together.  While all Roger’s friends and family is aware he loves music, none but John understand how crucial it is to Roger, that music and the violin are fundamental parts of Roger, as necessary to him as food and air. It’s that essential part of Roger that is lost or an aspect of it is lost.  And for the reader, it is important that we are able to connect with that feeling in order for us to really understand  Roger and his actions.  For Roger, the loss of music and his ability to play the violin is nothing less than the deepest wound to his soul, like losing an appendage.  The hole it leaves behind can never be forgotten or overlooked.  Roger too feels so real, a living, breathing walking gash of a man.  And, due to the author’s deep connection with her character and her ability to bring this man to life, Roger is also the character that will engender a wide spectrum of feelings from the readers.

Roger has the ability to become such a misunderstood character in this story if the reader doesn’t take the time to put him into perspective, both historically and emotionally.  John never had the pressures put on his that Roger has had throughout his life.  Nor has John had to deal with the worst thing that could possibly happen to himself and Roger.  That is the loss of their music, the destruction of all their hopes and dreams and that is exactly what happens to Roger early on in their story.  This loss guts Roger.  It takes his heart and shatters it, leaving Roger incapable of going forward with his life as a whole person.

I think that Shira Anthony captures that feeling, that crushing loss, and it’s resulting reverberations on someone’s emotions and behavior realistically and with great pain and insight.  The author has stated that in many respects “Roger” is her.  Roger, his  character, is her outlet to express the emotions and heartbreak she felt upon leaving her career as an opera singer behind.  And it shows in the realness, the pain, the constant turmoil and upheavals in his life that Roger finds himself going through.  She made me believe in Roger totally.

At times the reader will be frustrated with Roger’s  actions.  Trust me, I was.  But again, you need to keep in mind that the man going through the various stages in his life is a man bereft of his center, his heart.  Then Roger becomes someone who needs our compassion and empathy as well as our understanding.  I think so many of us can point to moments in our life when things went awry.  Maybe it was a slight altering of goals or a detour taken that we notice only in hindsight.  But for Roger and so many others, there are life shattering events and decisions that send them off on a journey they never expected or wanted.    Accident or warfare, a missed step or terrorism.  The why is sometimes less important  than what happens after.  And here, in Encore, Shira Anthony lays it all out for us as it takes Roger 35 years to come to grip with his eviscerating loss and his love for John.

As we watch Roger and John come together only to separate once again, I am reminded of the various acts in an opera.  Just as an opera has various acts, stages it must go through,  so is this book divided into different periods.  Each division moves the story forward, sometimes just a couple of years or so, sometimes a decade until we arrive at the last act and the highly satisfying encore.  This is an emotional journey, full of the cracks and crevasses that come over time and with two such diverse men at the center.  Have the tissues handy, you will need them. as this story has the ability to make you weep as well as smile.

I can’t say it enough, Encore is such a remarkable story.  It is definitely one of the best of 2013.  It is a symphony of emotions, its instruments the men Shira Anthony has created along with their deep love for music and each other.  Encore will have you calling for a repeat performance from this incredible author.  Brava, brava!

As with all her stories, here is the link to the playlist for Encore. http://www.shiraanthony.com/books/encore/#extras 

Cover art by Catt Ford.  This cover is perfection in every way, from the picture of the two men as boys to the branding that keeps it similar in look to the other Blue Notes covers.

Listed below are all the stories in the Blue Notes series.  The author has noted that she considers it a series of interrelated, classical music themed standalone novels that can be read in any order.

Knowing (Blue Notes, #0.5) a free read at Goodreads
Blue Notes (Blue Notes, #1)
The Melody Thief (Blue Notes, #2)
Aria (Blue Notes, #3)
Prelude (Blue Notes, #4) by Shira Anthony and Venona Keyes
Encore (Blue Notes, #5)
Symphony in Blue (Blue Notes, #4.5) Expected publication: December 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press

Book Details: