Love Contemporary Romances? Check out The Missing Ingredient by Brian Lancaster (exclusive excerpt)

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The Missing Ingredient by Brian Lancaster 

Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art:  Aaron Anderson

Sales Links:

Goodreads:                 The Missing Ingredient
Amazon:                     The Missing Ingredient
Dreamspinner Press:    The Missing Ingredient

Brian Lancaster stopped by on his tour for The Missing Ingredient and brought an exclusive except.  Check it out below!

Blurb:

Sometimes it takes losing everything to realise what you had all along.

Up-and-coming London chef Marcus is poised on the edge of success, but apart from the occasional casual encounter, the only men who seem to stick around are investors. His best friend Lorraine Bradford—Raine—and her family used to keep him grounded, but a horrible accident took her life and left Marcus’s godchildren without a mother.

But if the death throws Marcus’s life into turmoil, it’s far worse for her husband, Tom—especially since she died in a car with a strange man. Tom is consumed by grief, and he shuns the help of friends. Until almost a year later, that is, when Marcus stumbles upon Tom out with his daughters and sees how far Tom has fallen. So he steps in and, bit by bit, helps them to rebuild their world until their lives return to a semblance of normality.

Then the unexpected happens: Tom confesses he has romantic feelings for Marcus, and nothing can ever be the same.

Exclusive Excerpt:

“Marcus. We need to talk.”

When he saw Tom’s expression, his heart froze. He knew Tom well enough to know thoughts bubbled beneath the man’s surface, but he articulated nothing to allay Marcus’s fears. Now he worried that he had messed up again.

“Before you say anything,” said Marcus, hoping to preempt the cause of the conversation, his heart pounding, “I want to apologize. I should never have insisted on Katie riding that pony today. Going against Lorraine’s wishes. And it was unfair to put you in a position to force the decision.”

“I made that choice, not you. And I would do the same again. This is not about that.”

In an effort to bolster himself, Marcus folded his arms tightly. Tom’s steely expression said everything. This was not going to be an easy conversation, whatever the subject. Marcus felt a dryness in his throat.

“Is this about seeing women?”

“No. Well, yes. Partly.”

Maybe Tom could mask his expression, but the flinch of his eyes betrayed the difficulty he was having trying to articulate what he needed to say. Marcus knew he could make things easier if he wanted, but to hell with that. Why should he? Whatever the news, it was clearly not good. Without saying another word, Marcus stood his ground, glaring at Tom, arms folded even tighter, waiting for the other man to speak.

“We’re being unfair to you, Marcus. You’re doing far too much. Mum thinks we shouldn’t be relying on you so heavily. Should give you a chance to find your own life.”

“Moira said that?”

“Yes.”

“Meaning what, exactly? You don’t want me to see you and the girls anymore?”

“No, of course not. Well, perhaps not as much.”

“And how do the girls feel about that?”

“They’ll be fine.”

“And John?”

“What do you mean?”

“What does your father think about his wife’s brilliant suggestion?”

“That’s beside the point. The fact is I agree with her.”

And there it was. One card shown. Tom wanted him to back away. Unable to speak for a few seconds, Marcus was unprepared for how much that declaration hurt.

“This is my life, Tom. Mine to use how I want. Helping you and my goddaughters is my choice, always has been. Even when Raine was alive.”

“And you’ve been amazing. Truly. But having a female presence in their lives, even if it’s not their mother, could only be good for the girls.”

Another slip. Another card shown.

Marcus could not stop the disappointment showing in his face. Even though he thought he had done well nurturing the girls when Tom could not be there, having the soft touch of a caring woman in their lives someday in the future might be good for them. But not so soon. Maybe Tom sensed Marcus’s feelings, because he quickly added, “I haven’t seen anyone yet. Call me old- fashioned, but I can only hold feelings for one person at a time. Unlike my teammates at the club, I can’t just turn them on and off to suit.”

“What is this about, then?”

“I’m doing this for the girls.”

“So what?” said Marcus, surprised at the force of emotions that hit him. “My job here’s done, is that it? Thanks for playing, Uncle Marcus, but we don’t need you around so much anymore?”

“No, that’s not what I mean—” said Tom, shaking his head. “Why is this so hard for me?”

“Hard for you?” said Marcus. His eyes burned now, despite attempts to hold his emotions at bay. “If you really want me to back out of your lives, you at least owe me a truthful explanation. Who wants me to back away? Is it your mother?”

“No, Marcus. The decision is wholly mine.”

“But why?” he cried before clenching his jaw and stepping into Tom’s personal space, causing the bigger man to back away a step. “I love those girls. Like they’re my own. And I thought I was helping you. Thought I was making things better, making a difference.”

“You are. You have. But—”

“But what?”

“All right,” said Tom, gently pushing Marcus away from him. “The problem is mine, okay?”

“With what?”

“With you.”

“Me? I don’t understand.”

“I can’t be in the same room as you, Marcus. Not without—”
Marcus felt shame creep across his face and couldn’t bear the sudden pause, wanted to fill the silence. What the hell had he done to embarrass the man? Was this about him being gay? Was this about the woman at the water park who thought they were a couple?

“Without what? Come on, Tom,” said Marcus, his voice softening to a plea. “Tell me. I thought we were getting along much better now. What did I do?”

“You didn’t do—” said Tom, expelling a heavy breath and staring at the ground. Defeated, he leaned against the doorframe, put a hand to his hairline, and pushed a handful of hair back. “For fuck’s sake. Why is this so hard?”

“You need to tell me, Tom. Tell me what I did wrong. So I can try to fix it.”

“You didn’t do anything wrong. And there’s nothing to fix. You’ve just been… you. I know it sounds clichéd, but this is really about me, not you. Oh hell, how do I begin?” said Tom, his voice calming as his steady blue eyes met Marcus’s. “You’re right, we are getting along much better. But the problem is I’ve—oh shit—I’ve developed feelings for you, Marcus. Okay? Beyond brotherly affection. And it’s confusing the hell out of me. Six weeks ago you left to go traipsing around New York for almost a month. A whole bloody month. Left me trying and failing to do everything for the girls without my copilot. Without my best friend. Felt as though my arm had been amputated. And when you turned up at my mother’s house that Sunday you flew back, the moment I chanced to look up and spot you smiling that goofy bloody smile of yours…. Fuck. Something plowed right into me. Thought I’d been run over by an express train. I wanted to leap across the garden, wrap you in my arms, and kiss the life out of you. No matter who was watching. Wanted to throw you over my shoulder, haul you inside, and fuck you senseless. Until you promised never to leave again.

“That night I lay awake, disgusted at myself, wondering what the hell was wrong with me. I told myself that once you were back home for a while and things got back to normal, the feelings would go away. But it’s the opposite. Like they’ve been unleashed into the wild and now I can’t haul them back. Lately they’re never far from my thoughts. And whenever I see you, they hit me hard. And I’m sick with worry that I might act on them one day and scare you off forever. And I can’t let that happen, not again. But if you could just please be a little less present in our lives—in my life—I might be able to cope better when you’re around.”

Marcus hadn’t realized his mouth was hanging open until his own startled voice sounded. “Fuck, Tom.”

Marcus knew he should say something more, but words had abandoned him. Tom, his idea of an ideal man, fancied him? Him. Wanted to kiss him? To fuck him? Maybe this could have happened in one of his rare erotic dreams, but in real life?

 

About the Author

BRIAN LANCASTER is an author of gay romantic fiction in multiple genres, including contemporary, paranormal, fantasy, crime, mystery, and anything else his muse provides. Born in the sleepy South of England, the setting of many of his stories, he moved to Southeast Asia in 1998, where he shares a home with his longtime partner and two of the laziest cats on the planet.

Brian Lancaster once believed that writing gay romantic fiction would be easy and cathartic. He also believed in Santa Claus and the Jolly Green Giant. At least he still has fantasies about those two.

Born in the rural South of England in a town with its own clock tower and cricket pitch, he moved to Hong Kong in 1998. Life went from calm and curious to fast and furious. On the upside, the people he has since met provide inspiration for a whole new cast of characters in his stories. He also has his long-term, long-suffering partner and two cats to keep him grounded.

After winning two short story competitions in 2006 and being published in a compendium, he decided to dive into writing full- length novels. Diving proved to be easy; the challenge has been in treading water and trying to remain afloat. Cynical enough to be classed a curable romantic, he is not seeking an antidote. When not working or writing, he enjoys acting in community theater productions, composing music, hosting pub quizzes, and any socializing that involves Chardonnay. And for the record, he would like to remind all those self-righteous white wine drinkers that White Burgundy, Chablis, and Champagne are still essentially Chardonnays.

B.G. Thomas on Writing, Names and his latest novel ‘Getting His Man (Getting His Man #1)’ (guest post)

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Getting His Man (Getting His Man #1) by B.G. Thomas
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Bree Archer

BUY LINKS: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Amazon UK

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host B.G. Thomas here today to talk about many things including his latest release, Getting His Man.  Welcome, Ben.

✒︎

Hello Constant Readers!

My name, for those of you who don’t know me, is BG Thomas. But I prefer to be called Ben.

I wish I had gone with my first name when I started in this wonderful business, but it was a time where interviewers for jobs frequently Googled prospective employees, and I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. And sadly, if they saw that you wrote gay romance, they immediately jumped to the wrong idea and concluded that you wrote porn.

Geeze! One of my best friends introduced me to a group of his friends by telling them I wrote porn that made you cry and smile and…etc. I pulled him aside and asked him why he did that. “If I wrote heterosexual romances would you have told people I wrote porn?” He shamefaced told me no, and that he was sorry. But the kicker is—he is gay!

Things have changed enough that today I wouldn’t be concerned with a possible employer Googling me. Heck! I don’t care who knows what I do. And if they think I write porn, I don’t care. Except that if you are buying my new book, Getting His Man, or any of my books, for the sex, you’re going to be disappointed. Not that I don’t write good sex. I think I write hot sex. But it is also sweet, and doesn’t come into the story until the very right moment!

Here are some questions that Scattered Thoughts and Rouge Words asked me to answer. I hope you enjoy…!

STaRW: How much of yourself goes into a character?

Ben: Well, it depends on the character. Some yes, some no. For instance, in my new book, there is a lot of me in Artie. In fact, the whole part where he gets arrested for drug dealing could very well have happened to me. My first roommate was quite the druggie and blasted his music and when you walked into the apartment building, you could often smell the pot smoke downstairs. I was scared to death I would get arrested. I used the scenario and how I would have reacted if I actually would have gotten in trouble with the law. Then with the other character in the book, August, well I am no fearless bounty hunter! LOL! August is more of a dream man hero, or even the kind of man I wish I could be.

STaRW: Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?

Ben: Oh yes! Most of my novels take me two to four months to write. Winter Heart took me over a year. The main character, Wyatt, was very much a reflection of me and what I went through with an emotionally and mentally abusive ex-spouse. It kept bringing up so much hurt and pain I had to set it aside. But it was also cathartic and helped me work through it all, and heal as well!

STaRW: Do you like to write HFN or HEA? And why?

Ben: Again, it depends on the book. But I can tell you as the writer, pretty much any story I end with for a HFN? It is a HEA! The book just doesn’t go on long enough for the reader to know that for sure. That is why my characters are bound to show up in other books so readers can see that the lovers from one book are still happily together weeks, months, and even years later!  🙂

STaRW: Ever drunk written a chapter and then read it the next day and still been happy with it?  Trust me there’s a whole world of us drunk writers dying to know.

Ben: LOL! Would you believe it if I said, again, that it depends on the scene/book? See I have written scenes where my character got drunk or stoned or whatever and I got pretty darned tipsy to feel what they were feeling and wrote it from that angle. In another story was sort of a paranormal experience they were having. The “drunk” state helped me write the scene with that “feeling.” And I was surprised (and happy) how very little editing I had to do. And as some famous person once said, “Write drunk, edit sober!”

STaRW: If you could imagine the best possible place for you to write, where would that be and why?

Ben: A beach house. OMGosh yes! With lots of glass. And a big deck. I am a water baby and that connection to the sea would be unbelievable. A house that is not crammed up against the next house. Not a mile away mind you! Oh no. I am way too social an animal for that. I like people. So I’d want the ability to have privacy, but also to have coffee with a neighbor. And I wouldn’t mind if I had lots of gay neighbors. The commonality would be wonderful and a constant influence and inspiration.

 STaRW: With so much going on in the world today, do you write to explain?  To get away?  To move past?  To widen our knowledge?  Why do you write?

Ben: Yes. That is exactly what I do and why.

 STaRW: What’s next for you as a writer?

Ben: In several of my novels some of my characters have gone to a vegan restaurant called Café Namasté. I am finally writing the story about the man who owns that place. I am learning a lot. And it is going to be a book that explains, lets you get away, to move past and to widen your knowledge. And it is going to make you laugh and cry too. And get all gushy inside. And maybe turn you on too!

And there! I hope you liked my answers. Now here is the cover blurb of my new book!

GETTING HIS MAN

A love story worthy of an old movie… with a new twist.

Artie needs a hero, a man like those he’s always revered in Golden Age films. His drug-dealing jerk of a roommate got him arrested, and since his savior isn’t likely to sweep in and save the day, Artie calls a bail bondsman.

August has always imagined himself a hero from a black-and-white movie, but he’s never found a man willing to let him play that role—at least not until he gets the call from Artie.

Both of their dreams might come true, but not before August must use his skills as a bounty hunter as well as a bondsman. Artie is on the run for his life, and August must protect him and help him clear his name. Only then can they both finally get their man.

And hey, after you’re done reading it, I would love to hear what you think!

Love, Namasté, and Happy Holidays!

BG “Ben” Thomas

About the Author

B.G. Thomas lives in Kansas City with his husband of more than a decade and their fabulous dogs Sarah Jane and Oliver. He is blessed to have a lovely daughter as well as many extraordinary friends. He has a great passion for life.

B.G. loves romance, comedies, fantasy, science fiction, and even horror—as far as he is concerned, as long as the stories are character driven and entertaining, it doesn’t matter the genre. He has gone to literature conventions his entire adult life where he’s been lucky enough to meet many of his favorite writers. He has made up stories since he was a child; it is where he finds his joy.

In the nineties, he wrote for gay adult magazines but stopped because the editors wanted all sex without plot. “The sex is never as important as the characters,” he says. “Who cares what they are doing if we don’t care about them?” Excited about the growing male/male romance market, he began writing again. He submitted a novella and was thrilled when it was accepted in four days. Since then the romantic tales have poured out of him. “It’s like I’m somehow making up for a lifetime’s worth of story-telling!”

In 2015 he made an entry every day in his blog “365 Days of Silver,” where he found something every day to be grateful for. You can find it right here: https://365daysofsilver.wordpress.com/

“Leap, and the net will appear” is his personal philosophy and his message. “It is never too late,” he testifies. “Pursue your dreams. They will come true!”

Website/blog: bthomaswriter.wordpress.com

Down Under Author Showcase Continues and this Week’s Schedule

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DownUnder_January Is Banner

Down Under Author Showcase continues this week.  It’s been wonderful to have all these talented authors talking about their books, and their countries.

 

So far,  Christian Baines,  Nicki J. Markus (2), and Anne Barwell (3) have been featured.  Our Down Under Author Scavenger Hunt has begun, along with the individual giveaways, and Bottom Drawer Publications contest on the Down Under Page.  We are still looking for people who have vacationed in New Zealand and Australia who want to share their favorite places and moments with us this month.

kiwi and NZ country

Our Schedule This Week:AUS flag over country

 

Monday, January 5:

  • Down Under Featured Author: N.J. Nielsen
  • Down Under AUS/NZ Facts, Updates, and Contests
  • A Sammy Review: Rival Within by S.J. D. Peterson
  • A Mika Review: In Too Deep by Kate Sherwood
  • L.M. Somerton’s Investigating Love Book Tour and Contest

Tuesday, January 6:

  • Down Under AUS/NZ Facts, Updates, and Contests
  • Down Under Featured Author:  L.J. LaBarthe
  • A MelanieM Review: The Body on the Beach by L.J. LaBarthe
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Candy Man by Amy Lane
  • A MelanieM Review: Mythica by L. J. LaBarthe

Wednesday, January 7:

  • Down Under AUS/NZ Facts, Updates, and Contests
  • Down Under Featured Author: Michelle Rae
  • Cover Reveal: Jess Buffett “Always Been You”
  • Moment of Impact by Karen Stivali Book Blast
  • A Sammy Review: A Spartan Love by Kayla Jameth

Thursday, January 8:

  •  Down Under AUS/NZ Facts, Updates, and Contests
  • Down Under Featured Author:  Renae Kaye
  • A MelanieM Review:  Safe In His Arms by Renae Kaye
  • A MelanieM Review:  The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
  • A MelanieM Review:  The Blinding Light by Renae Kaye
  •  E. S. Skipper (false identification)book blast and contest—cancelled

Friday, January 9:

  • Down Under AUS/NZ Facts, Updates, and Contests
  • Down Under Featured Author: John Wiltshire
  • Review: Love is a Stranger by John Wiltshire
  • Mika Review: A Captive to His Wonder by Remmy Duchene
  • A Sammy Review: A Royal Affair by John Wiltshire

Saturday, January 10:

  • Down Under AUS/NZ Facts, Updates, and Contests
  • Down Under Featured Author: N. R. Walker
  • A MelanieM Review: Red Dirt Heart Series by N. R. Walker
  • A MelanieM Review:  Red Dirt Heart 4 by N. R. Walker
  • Sammy’s Review of Thomas Elkins series by NR Walker

 

New Reviewers!  Welcome to Stella and BJ, our new Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words reviewers!

Barb, the Zany Old Lady’s Best Book Covers of 2014

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Best Covers of 2014 copy

 

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Barb, the Zany Old Lady’s Best Book Covers of 2014

My favorite covers in order of favorites (though it’s hard to choose):

 

Grand Adventures coverDance coverIntoWindBAMF book cover

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Adventures by S.A. McAuley et al, Artist Paul Richmond
Dance by Teodora Kostova
Into the Wind by Shira Anthony, Anne Cain
BAMF by S.J.D. Peterson, Cover Artist Reese Dante

Something Like LIghtning coverThe art of BreathingTraining Session coverBlackbird Knitting in a Bunny's Lair cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something Like Lightning by Jay Bell, unknown
The Art of Breathing by T.J. Klune, artist Paul Richmond
Training Season by Leta Blake, unknown
Blackbird Knitting in a Bunny’s Lair by Amy Lane

 

Hell or High Water coverNecropolis cover
Hell & High Water by Charlie Cochet, artist L.C. Chase
Necropolis by Jordan L. Hawk, unknown

Review: The Choosing by Annabelle Jacobs

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

IThe Choosingn the shapeshifter village Eladir, all are shapeshifters regardless of gender.  But how they become shapeshifters differs dramatically for the boys.  Unlike the girls who are able to shift almost from birth with their animal already tattooed on their bodies, the boys have to wait until their 18th birthday or so when their fangs first drop and then must go through The Choosing in order to find out what animal they are, have the ability to shift and find a mate.  And what Jerath fears the most, at 19, is that his fangs will never drop and he will never have an animal spirit of his own let alone find someone to mate with.  On top of his insecurity about his lack of fangs is the fact that Jerath is attracted only to boys, not girls, and the ritual through which he is chosen depends upon his sexual union with a girl, something Jerath is not sure he can do.

The Choosing must only be performed at a full moon which is still some time away so Jerath and his best friend Serim spend their time running in the woods and discussing their hopes for the future.  While on just such an afternoon, the village Eladir is attacked by slave raiders who capture all the boys still unmarked as well as others.   Fearful and in need of help, Jerath and his best friend, Serim, head out cross country to the one place they hope will help them, a village and people known to them only through stories. Along the way, they meet Meren, a handsome warrior who is returning to the very village they seek.  The attraction between Meren and Jerath is immediate and deep.  But Meren is not a shapeshifter and his feelings towards sexual encounters is far more relaxed than the virginal Jerath’s.   With the full moon fast approaching, it is imperative that the prisoners be rescued or they will lose not only their freedom but the ability to shift forever.  Jerath needs Meren’s help but his own shifting moods and emotions are not helping, making the search harder as does the increasing depth of their attraction towards each other.  As the obstacles in their path mount up against them, will Jerath be able to save the prisoners and keep his heart from breaking?  Or will all be lost before the next full Moon?

The Choosing by Annabelle Jacobs brought about a myriad of emotions and thoughts about this book.  The author has painted a story that has a broad canvas with a far reaching story that covers religion, coming of age, and differing cultures, perhaps too large a canvas.  Jacobs has created a geographical universe bound together by a Goddess and the limitations of population upon a singular habitat.  There are several villages surrounded by Arachia Mountains whose four peaks protect the valley and the villages from being attacked “from the rear”.  The villages are surrounded by woods as well which are being cut down to make room for more families as each village contains three to four hundred people.  The villages are governed by the laws of the Goddess of the Woods.  Here is an excerpt that will explain it in village lore:

He listens to Serim sigh before she begins to recite the oldest of the forest laws. “When the moon is full, each and every boy who is of age shall choose a willing female. If the boy is deemed worthy, together they will consummate their union and invoke the spirits of the forest to bless the boy with their magic. Only then will his animal form be revealed.” The people of Eladir can shift their human form into that of one of the sacred beasts of legend: the lynx, tiger, black panther, and jaguar. These animals used to roam the forest when there were no villages here, so the village elders tell. It was by the Goddess’s goodwill that people were allowed to settle in the forest, and in return the villagers accepted her magical gift—the power to shift—and helped protect her animals whenever they were in danger.

By now some of the oddities in her world building should be popping up at you.  A confined habitat ruled by one Goddess that has given her people the ability to shift into animals to help protect her other animals and the woods.  The animals chosen just happen to be four large cat species that used to roam the woods the people now inhabit.  Hmmm, so what happened to those original cat populations?  And would you really chose large predators to protect deer, fish and bunnies? Perhaps not in my universe but it definitely happens within Jacobs’ world building.  Now add to that the fact that the villagers are growing in families. What happens to a habitat that becomes overcrowded? I think a Woods Goddess might have a problem with that.  And she did and she took care of it. By banishing another whole village from the woods and mountains because of overhunting.  That’s where Meren’s people comes in.  But no where it is addressed that Jerath’s villagers are rapidly deforesting said woods because of their own exploding populations, so the world building starts to break down even further.  I also wonder about a Goddess that has a finite range of influence because the raiders definitely aren’t Goddess worshiping people.  Now I have many, many more questions, observations about the incongruities in this author’s world building but by now there are so many piling up that its just not necessary.  It’s kind of neat, but all the elements just don’t add up to one cohesive universe in which to place her story.

The Choosing is Annabelle Jacobs’ take on the ritualized coming of age in fantasy stories.  I liked the fact that each gender has its own path with the females born with fangs and the ability to shift, their animal already identified by marks (really cool birthmarks not tattoos which are artificial), cat figures on their skin. Gender specific characteristics do occur in nature and I liked that she picked up on that. Then for some reason, the Goddess later decides the men should have the ability to shift as well and gifts them with the chance to choose a cat and shift through a ritual called The Choosing.  It includes male/female sex that brings the Goddess, a real presence, into the situation and lets her bless the joining.  But Jerath just happens to be gay and doesn’t want any f/m joining and doesn’t think he can apply himself as it were to the situation.  No worries, it turns out that when the time comes, he does too and the Goddess smiles on him.

And that large part of the story will leave most readers of m/m fiction frowning and wanting to leave this story behind. Because the m/f joining and the het sex does  take up most of the first part of the story.  Jacobs does handle it by saying it gives Jerath and his friend a deeper connection to each other (well, yes) while leaving them free to find their mates but I think more readers looking for primarily a m/m romance will be gone by that time.   Honestly, I felt this aspect of the story could have been made smaller and the romance between Jerath and Meren enlarged without hurting the plot but that is just my opinion.

The rest of the book is the hunt for the villagers taken by the raiders and the will they, won’t they romance of Jerath and Meren.  I still don’t feel that the author gave us a good explanation as to why a village of over three hundred cat shifters was taken by surprise by a smaller group of raiders.  Or if it was a larger group of raiders, it would have to have been a city’s worth and they would have sounded like elephants.  Surely the Goddress would have let them know danger was coming?  After all didn’t she create them to help protect her woods and creatures?  Wouldn’t all those birds have given flight and sounded alarm? How about all those cat senses?The more I think about it, the more holes appear in the plot and I just have to leave it alone.

So I think I will leave this review here.  The Choosing has some inventive  elements and some nice characterizations in a story that takes 210 pages to tell and for me those pages did not go by swiftly.  If you like your m/m romance minus het sex, than this is not for you.  If you like your stories cohesive and powerful, this isn’t for you either.  But if you are a fan of fantasy and shifters and love them all, pick this up and add one more cat shifter universe to your collection.

Cover art by Brooke Albrecht is just stunning.  I so wished the story had lived up to the promise of the cover.

Buy Links:    Dreamspinner Press          All Romance eBooks (ARe)           Amazon     The Choosing

Book Details:

ebook, 210 pages
Published October 18th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627981918 (ISBN13: 9781627981910)
edition language English

Review: Son of a Fish (Mended 2014 Daily Dose Anthology) by Kenzie Cade

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5 (rounded up to a 4)

Son of a Fish coverFreelance journalist and romance author Sam Crowe’s life is full but quiet.   With characters dancing around in his head and deadlines to meet, Sam doesn’t have much time for anything else outside of his apartment.  But life has a change in store for Sam when a new renter appears on his doorstep.

High School Football coach and history teacher, Casey Sanders, picks winter as a time for a new job and a move into the third story apartment.  But a slip on the ice brings the type of complications into his life he can appreciate when adorable Sam Crowe comes to his rescue when Casey sprains his ankle moving in.

An offer for help from Sam and temporary quarters in Sam’s apartment brings an instant heat and liking into the equation.  Sam isn’t sure that it isn’t the medications when Casey starts in with the flattering words and flirting but Casey knows that the compassionate and cute Sam is the one he wants.  Now all he has to do is convince Sam.

Son of a Fish is the debut short story from first time author Kenzie Cade.  A part of Dreamspinner Press’ Daily Dose Anthology it charts the beginning of a romance between introspective Sam Crowe and outgoing, athletic Casey Sanders. They meet cute in front of their apartment building with Sam as an established resident on the first floor and Casey a new arrival with an apartment on the third.

An armful of boxes and an icy spot in front of the building result in a sprained ankle for Casey and a rescue by Sam.  And Casey’s inability to make it up to his third floor apartment in his condition gives them both time to get to know each other much better to our delight and theirs. Cade’s dialog is charming and each character’s voice comes through clearly.  The title comes from Casey’s idea of cursing without using offensive words, therefore son of a fish instead of son of a…well you get the idea.  Started as a way to please an ailing mother, it is continued as a balm to his pain over her loss.  It’s the little touches like that will pull you into the story even at such a short length.   You just can’t help but like these two characters the more you get to know them, individually and as a pair.

This is a drama free zone.  It’s a sweet, lighthearted, romance between two characters you will find charming.  The jump into bed was lightning fast but attraction can work that way. At least there was no “instant love” involved.

I would love to see Kenzie Cade use this as a springboard for a longer story about these two to see how their romance evolved from such a meet cute beginning.  Looking for a fun, quick read?  Son of a Fish, the debut story by Kenzie Cade might  just be the thing for you.

Buy Links:   Dreamspinner Press     Amazon            All Romance (ARe)

Cover Art by Catt Ford,  Cover is just as cute as the story.

Book Details:

ebook, 25 pages
Published June 1st 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published May 31st 2014)
edition languageEnglish
seriesMended 2014 Daily Dose Anthology

Review: Housekeeping by Kim Fielding

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

HousekeepingNicky Hauser has never been able to figure out what he wanted to do with his life so he’s been gliding along from job to job until he rolled his life and love into one person by working at his boyfriend’s restaurant and living in his boyfriend’s apartment.  Then he walks into work only to catch his boyfriend cheating on him with  a co-worker and in that moment loses everything.  Now out of a job, a home and a lover, Nick scrambles from friend to friend, sleeping on their couches while looking for jobs.  Finally Nick lands a job housesitting for a wealthy couple and discovers he can make a living doing the one thing he loves to do – cleaning.

Computer consultant Spencer Cartwright is a messy person and has a cluttered, garbage strewn house to prove it.  When Spencer needs to go out of town on  business, friends recommend Nicky to house sit and clean, changing Spencer and Nicky’s lives forever. But Spencer is coming off a divorce and Nicky is wary of romance and a relationship so soon after being dumped.  Can these men sweep their past failures away and find love in a spotless home together?

Housekeeping by Kim Fielding is a charming little romance, a happy quick read that is perfect to way to spend some free time over the holidays.  Nicky Hauser and Spencer Cartwright are two quirky and complementary characters, each totally endearing in their own way.  Nicky is somewhat recognizable as that person who has never quite found their way in life.  Not quite emotionally a grownup, too old in years to be a teen, he has managed to go through life without making any real decisions over his future whether it be a profession or even something to be passionate about.  Fielding has made him totally believable, letting us connect with someone lacking direction in life and uncertain how to proceed.  He’s just too nice and gentle, and lacking in ambition.

Kim Fielding has crafted Spencer Cartwright  with a different set of issues.  Spencer’s been married, to a woman, before finally admitting his homosexuality.  He’s colorblind, constantly busy, and a total slob.  Clearly his life needs cleaning up and Nicky is just the person to handle the job.  And happily for us, Fields lets her characters turn from employer/employee to friends and finally to lovers, letting us watch as their relationship builds over trips to Ikea and a mixing of friends and relatives.

Don’t look for any angst, there isn’t any.  No real highs or lows to be found in this story, just a group of funny, lovely friends and two men looking for love and finding it where they least expected it, at home amongst cleaning supplies.  It’s charming and smile worthy.  I love Kim Fielding’s stories, she rarely lets me down and didn’t with Housekeeping. Consider this definitely recommended.

Cover art by Paul Richmond is really very funny, his m/m version of American Gothic.  I loved it.

Book Details:

ebook, 98 pages
Published November 13th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published November 12th 2013)
ISBN 1627982183 (ISBN13: 9781627982184)
edition language English

Review: Hat Trick by Chelle Dugan

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Hat Trick coverAntonio “Tony”  Côté, is a 30 year old professional hockey player who is deeply in the closet.  Tony fears what coming out would do to his career so he has avoided all relationships, preferring to look for sex in anonymous hookups in gay bars on the road and outside of Toronto where he lives and plays.  All that  changes when Tony meets up with Charlie Trevino one night at a gay bar in Toronto.  Tony notices the cute American immediately and turns a hookup into a date and night of lovemaking.  The next morning, Tony wakes up alone with only a note from Charlie with his contact information.  But the note gets soaked when Tony spills water on it and can’t make out the information.

Charlie is finishing up a hotel management and hospitality degree at UAZ atFlagstaff and is on vacation when he meets the man of his dreams.   After one passionate night, Charlie leaves a note beside a sleeping Tony and heads off to catch his plane, unaware that the man in the hotel bed is a well-known hockey player.

Both men desperately want to see each other again but without exchanging last names, phone numbers or addresses, the odds are stacked against them.  Until Tony is transferred to an expansion hockey team in Las Vegas and they meet once more.  Still the pair face many obstacles, including the closet Tony refuses to leave.  What will it take for Tony and Charlie to find the happiness each seeks with each other?

Hat Trick refers to either three goals scored by one player in a game or three victories.  In this case, Chelle Dugan uses the term in reference to the chances given Tony and Charlie to find each other and make a go of their relationship. It’s a  clever use of the term and I only wish that the resulting story had lived up to that promise.

All the characterizations here suffer from a lack of layering, rendering them far too simplistic and one dimensional.  It also makes it hard for the reader to invest in these men and their romance.  Tony’s character is especially hard to relate to as his character fluctuates between a realistic pro hockey player and a smitten teen with identity issues. Hard to like a romance when the oldest partner of the pair comes off as so much younger than the twenty something he is involved with.  Combine that with the closet and the author making his character act like a jerk and the reader starts to wonder why Charlie would want this man in the first place other than the man’s gorgeous exterior.

The story starts out with Tony looking at a piece of paper then flashes back 6 months earlier.  Sometimes this technique works but here it is simply uneven.  It would have been far more effective had the story started out when they first met then progressed to the present time period. Instead the time frame allotted to the men, that of a year of looking for each other, acts more like a bouncing ball that the reader has to follow in order to understand the lack of flow to the various meetings, miscommunications and missed opportunities by Tony and Charles.  Here is a small taste of Tony and his story:

Rafe and Amy sat and listened to Tony’s story. He left out the sex stuff, but he was sure that they got the picture. Amy was sniffling at the end of his monologue; she was a hopeless romantic, after all.

“Tony, I’m glad you shared this with us, but I’m not sure why. I mean, what can we do?” Rafe asked.

Tony pushed away from the table and began to pace in the small space between the table and the sliding glass door that overlooked downtown LA. He ran a hand through his hair and yelped when he swiped his stitches, having forgotten about them. “I don’t know. Is there any way to find him?”

“Let me make some calls,” Rafe offered. “I can give a heads-up to my secretary and hope he calls the office. Write down all the info you have, and I’ll discreetly hire a PI.” He held up his hand when Tony started to protest. “Your name will never come into the conversation. I hope his intentions are good.”

“Well, if they weren’t, we would have already seen stories in the papers or at least online.”

“Let me research that too. Are you sure you want to go after this guy? It could mean your career.”

“If I could feel like I did that night every day, then losing my career would be worth it.”

In addition to the issues I have already mentioned, Dugan includes a flip-flopping point of view that makes this short story more challenging to read than it ought to be.  Again, it’s not a matter of simply changing the point of view of the narrative but how often that happens and the confusing manner in which it occurs.  The reader has just settled into one man’s mindset when the pov switches to the other main character.  It’s disjointed and it works against the flow of the story.

For some readers, these issues won’t be a problem. If you find that excerpt above romantic, then perhaps you will love this story.  If however, style and characterizations matter, than this might not be the story for you.  At 92 pages, Hat Trick is a relatively short read for those seeking a romance and a simplistic love story.

Book Details:

ebook, 92 pages
Published September 11th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627981411 (ISBN13: 9781627981415)
edition language English

Winner

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Good morning all.  Thank you, Sarah Black, for your wonderful posts on Wild Onions and The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari (The General #2).  It was great having you here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. The General and the Elephant Clock cover

The winner of the eBook of The General and  the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari is Andrea M.  Andrea M, I will be passing your name on to Sarah and she will contact you  about your book.

Thanks to all who participated and visit here next week where the Pulp Friction authors will be offering up free reads and copies of their books from their series all week long, each day a different book and contest.

 

Review: Home Team by Jameson Dash

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Review: 4 stars out of 5

Home Team coverAaron Buckley has made hockey his primary focus for most of his life from the moment he first hit the ice to his fifteen years in the NHL.  Hockey was Aaron’s everything.  He gave up family, friends, a social life and most importantly, he gave up the only man he has ever loved…Zach.  Aaron knew that he wanted to play pro hockey and had to stay in the closet if he wanted to make it in the NHL.  Zach wouldn’t be his secret and walked away from Aaron rather than hide who he was.

Now one of the league’s older players Aaron knows he’s at the end of his career.  A huge screwup costs Aaron his spot on his team in LA.  They send him down to the minors in Manchester, NH, back to where he started all those years ago.  Home in Manchester, now on a team full of young rookies hoping to make it big, Aaron has time to think and reconnect with his past.  His sister makes her home and business there as does the man he left behind.

When Zach, now a sports reporter, shows up to cover his first game home, it is clear that Aaron and Zach can have a second chance at love.  But once again, Aaron must choose between hockey and love.  What will his answer be this second time around?

Home Team is a book that will grow on you.  The more you think about the characters, especially Aaron Buckley, the more they will grow on you.  I started out thinking that Aaron was pretty stunted emotionally.  It is his voice driving the narrative of this story.  But the author’s subtle maneuvering of Aaron’s character and viewpoint will have the reader changing their mind as the story continues.

Aaron is at the end of a long career in the NHL, he is steadily losing ground to the younger players and it’s a year since he scored a goal.  His is a voice weary, testy, and resigned.  I really commend Jameson Dash for making Aaron such an irascible, somewhat unlikeable personality at the beginning of the story.  At times Aaron’s voice seems flat, removed, and irritable.  Then Aaron makes his costly error in judgement and his voice flattens out even further until it almost flatlines like his career.

Once Dash brings Rosie, Aaron’s sister and Zach into the story and Aaron’s life, things start to change in Aaron’s outlook although the movement of emotions in Aaron is almost glacial.   I was puzzled over my inability to connect to this character because I love hockey players. But quite frankly, Aaron’s comes across as a jerk for the first part of this story, especially his attitude towards the “mistake” that cost him his spot in the major league.  But the more I thought about it, the better Jameson Dash’s characterization got.  This was a man who has shut down emotionally.  Aaron is beyond tired, and stressed to his limits.  He has lost his spot on his team, he lost his only friend who remains with that team, he lost his home and most likely his career.  And probably, most importantly of all, he is in denial,  Aaron doesn’t want to recognize that his career is over and that because of his own choices, he has left himself with nothing waiting for him.

The author’s characterization of Aaron is so good, so human that it took me a while to realize what he was trying to accomplish with keying us so intimately into the thoughts of a man like Aaron because it seems so counterproductive to our connecting with him.   But again, only at the beginning.  Then little by little as reality of his situation creeps into Aaron’s mindset, that along with the arrival of Rosie and Zach, propels Aaron and the reader out of his “funk” and into the warmth of possibilities and a redemptive love.

This is a spare form of narrative that works perfectly for the character and his story.  Its as free of embellishment as Aaron himself.  And the more I thought about this character and his growth throughout Home Team, the more Aaron and his story grew on me.   I have not read other stories by Jameson Dash, this was the first.  But if this story is a good indication of this author’s style and talent, then I can’t wait to see what they write next.  Consider this book and author highly recommended.

Here is an excerpt as Aaron lands back home in Manchester, NH:

He finds his hat and sunglasses in his backpack, but there isn’t much of a crowd in the airport. Nobody is looking for him. Wives greet their husbands in rumpled suits, a group of teenage boys tangle in a massive hug, and Aaron spots what looks like a college basketball team, home after a disappointing tournament. Aaron wants to give the girls a high five and tell them to keep being awesome. But he’s not feeling very awesome himself. Instead, he keeps his head down out of habit and heads for the baggage carousel.

It’s different traveling alone than with the team. He’s still wearing a shirt and tie; the jacket was folded and shoved into his backpack before the flight took off from LA. He’s representing his team, even if his team doesn’t want him.

But he has to pick up his own equipment. Once Aaron gets the mammoth hockey bag and his suitcase onto a cart, stick bag balanced on top and his own backpack over both shoulders, he looks around for a chauffeur holding up his name. There’s no one waiting for him. There’s no one looking for him.

Cover art by LC Chase is just ok.   It doesn’t pertain to this story, it could be any story about a hockey player.  It’s just too generic.

Book Details:

ebook, 82 pages
Published September 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627981594 (ISBN13: 9781627981590)
edition language English