Release Day Blitz Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes by Kevin Klehr (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes

Series: Actor and Angels, Book 3

Author: Kevin Klehr

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 19

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 54000

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy, performance arts, drug/alcohol use, contemporary, established relationship, angels, demons, over 40

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Synopsis

Adam is dead, but that’s not his only problem. His husband, Wade, is still alive and sleeping with losers. His guardian angel, Guy, has grown fond of the liquor cabinet. And Adam suspects his demise was the result of foul play.

Meanwhile, in the depths of the Afterlife, the devil forces Adam to put on a play for the sinners. If he fails to entertain them, Guy’s parents will spend eternity in the Underworld.

As he gambles with the freedom of the damned angels, Adam comes to terms with infidelity, friendship, and the reason why he was the victim of a double murder.

Excerpt

Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes
Kevin Klehr © 2017
All Rights Reserved

It was like being in a Hollywood remake of The Jetsons, suspended in air and surrounded by cloudless sky, with interweaving conveyor belts shifting us farther to the front.

Behind me a couple of lesbians fidgeted while peering forward, trying to see where we were going. Below, another mix of curious folk deliberately moved forward on this mechanical mess of pathways. Above me, the same.

“Do you have any idea what’s going on?” asked one of the women behind me.

While she could pass for the girl next door, all made up with lips as red as a 1950s advert model, her checkered dress spoiled the effect with its huge smoldering burn mark.

“What happened,” I queried.

Her partner stuck out what was left of her tongue. It too was charcoal black with a melted piercing smeared all over it.

“Let’s just say, never get frisky outside while there’s a thunderstorm.”

She reached for her skirt and was about to lift it to prove her point. I clutched her wrist just in time.

“I get it. Your girlfriend’s stud became the conductor. I don’t need to see something that will haunt me for the rest of my life.”

Her eyes widened. “Your life? Look at your chest!”

I released her arm and felt my heart. It was like someone had used too much starch while ironing my shirt. I examined a rusty brown stain on the crisp white cotton.

“I’ve returned, but this time for good,” I muttered.

“Wha uw ya awing awout?” said the one with the brittle tongue.

“What did she say?”

“I think she wants to know what you’re talking about.”

I stood on tippy-toes to see farther ahead, but all I saw was a long row of people waiting patiently.

“I’ve been here before, I think. I’m not sure.” I jumped high on the spot but still couldn’t see where we were going. “I guess that’s why I’ve got this frantic ink blot on my chest.”

“Sweet cheeks, it’s blood.”

“Yes, I know that.”

“So what’s your story? How did it get there?”

I felt it again. Its sandpaper texture began to crumble. “I wish I knew.” Bending sideways, I tried to steal a glimpse, but it was no use.

“Well, it’s not quite how I imagined it. I’m not sure it’s how you saw it either, Frida.” She held her girlfriend’s hand. “I was expecting tattooed angels parked on clouds with big black motorcycles ready to take us to Heaven.”

Frida nodded.

“What did you expect, um, what’s your name?”

“Adam.”

“Hi, I’m Sue.” We shook hands. “And this is Frida.”

“Ice oo eet yoo.”

“My pleasure.”

“So, is this the way you pictured it?”

“No, I can’t say it is. My partner isn’t here.”

“What’s his name?”

“Wade. We’ve been together for nearly nineteen years. Or at least, we were.”

“I’m sorry he’s not with you.”

I felt my bloodstain once more.

“Well, at least he survived, if what happened to me happened to him, if that makes sense?” I bit my bottom lip. “Actually I really don’t know what I’m talking about.”

“Aw leees ee awive…”

Sue raised her hand like a cop stopping traffic.

“Don’t try to speak, darling. It looks like hard work.”

“Yeah, but I get what Frida’s trying to say. At least Wade’s alive instead of here.”

“A silver lining in the cloud.”

“That’s one way of looking at it.”

Below me a young chap in a Second World War uniform peeled off his gloves. His conveyor belt had stopped. An African woman wearing more colors than a rainbow tried to speak to him, but he seemed too traumatized to reply. She raised her arms in disappointment and began talking to the gray-haired woman behind her.

“Leopard print,” said Sue.

“Huh?”

“Check out the middle-aged woman in the leopard print, far behind us. Wow! She’s wearing more jewelry than a 1960s movie star.”

I looked. “I think she is a 60s movie star. Look at that beehive!”

“Jackie O she ain’t.”

“And look at the older woman next to her. A lollipop in a pantsuit.”

“Adam, how can they be from the 60s?”

“Now I know I’ve been here before.” I glanced ahead and saw the tip of a wing obstructed by the others on my conveyor belt. I couldn’t hold back my smile. “Sue, let me ask you something. What era are you from?”

“Nineteen ninety-three. Why? Aren’t you?”

I pointed to the man in uniform. Sue’s jaw dropped steadily.

“And what country?”

“Poland. And you?”

“Australia, twenty-first century.”

“You speak Polish well for an Australian.”

“Sue, I’m not speaking Polish.”

She shared stunned looks with Frida.

“Wha iz ee alking avout?”

“Girls, you’re about to enter a world I’ve been dreaming of returning to since I was last taken from earth before my time.”

“Maybe you should try Polish. I have no idea what you mean.”

Frida rotated her finger by the side of her head; a gesture to make out I was loony. Sue shrugged before carrying on a private conversation with her girlfriend about the family they’d left behind.

A few drops of water splashed on my face. I looked to the moving path above. A group of teenagers also from the 60s flower-power days stood shivering, saturated to the core. One long-haired guy, with enough swirls on his shirt to send you into a trance, saw me.

“Never do your own plumbing when you’re tripping, man,” he called. “I flooded the apartment.”

“Why didn’t you run outside?”

A naked girl with waist-length long hair clutched onto his arm. “I thought I was swimming in candy floss,” she replied.

“Candy floss!” he said. “I thought the sky had fallen and there was no escape.”

“Weren’t we in space, floating?” asked another.

I chuckled before bending sideways to look ahead. I saw half his body. My guardian angel, Guy. He acknowledged me with a kind grin. I was eager to jump to the head of the queue. I took a calm breath, stood up straight, and closed my eyes.

I already sensed his comforting hugs, letting me know I’d returned to safety. I could feel his strong wings wrap around me like an extra layer of armor. Nothing would harm me here in the Afterlife, not with him by my side.

“Adam’s here,” said another voice I recognized.

“Yeah,” Guy replied. “There’s something I need to explain.”

“Mannix?” I mumbled to myself.

Many passengers later I was at the front. I stepped off the conveyor belt onto thin air, and before a word was uttered, both the angel and my old friend wrapped their arms around me. I clutched them tightly, never wanting to let go. Huge smiles engulfed us all. Behind me were bewildered murmurs, as a stray tear from Guy softened my cheek.

“I’ve missed you,” I said to my angel. I kissed him tenderly on the forehead. “And I missed you too, Mannix.”

“Welcome to the Afterlife again,” said Guy.

“Why am I here?” I whispered. We stepped apart.

“I think this time you’re actually dead,” Mannix replied.

He sounded unsure, like a wife telling her tired husband that there might be a burglar in their house. He was still in his early thirties, just as he was the last time I was whisked off to the Afterlife six months earlier.

His sensual demeanor still warmed me in places I’m too polite to mention, even though his boyhood looks had faded slightly since we last met. A man was taking his place. A man wise beyond his years, wearing older-sexy like a stylish coat.

“Where’s Wade?” I asked.

“Sadly mourning your demise, my friend,” Guy said in a hushed tone. “Adam, we’ll talk about that later.”

I touched the dried blood on my shirt, crumbling it into tiny pieces that fell away.

“Guy, I need to know what happened.”

He turned to Mannix. “I’m releasing you from welcoming duties to show Adam his new home.”

“Which is where?” the young man asked.

Guy pulled out a key from his trouser pocket. “The apartment under mine.” He had a devilish grin. “Adam’s not the only one who needs a friend at the moment.”

Purchase

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

 

Meet the Author

Kevin lives with his long-term partner, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.

From an early age, Kevin had a passion for writing, jotting down stories and plays until it came time to confront puberty. After dealing with pimple creams and facial hair, Kevin didn’t pick up a pen again until he was in his thirties. His handwritten manuscript was being committed to paper when his work commitments changed, giving him no time to write. Concerned, his partner, Warren, secretly passed the notebook to a friend who in turn came back and demanded Kevin finish his story. It wasn’t long before Kevin’s active imagination was let loose again.

His first novel spawned a secondary character named Guy, an insecure gay angel, but many readers argue that he is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. Guy’s popularity surprised the author.

So with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.

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Release Day Blitz Drama Queens and Adult Themes by Kevin Klehr (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Drama Queens and Adult Themes

Series: Actors and Angels, book 2

Author: Kevin Klehr

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 22, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage

Length: 62350

Genre: Fantasy, performance arts, contemporary, established relationship, angels, over 40, open relationship, age gap, ménage, cheating, drugs, death, romance, fantasy, paranormal, cisgender

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Synopsis

Adam’s about to discover how much drama a mid-life crisis can be. He’s obsessed with Mannix, the nude model in his art class. But Adam has been married to Wade for nearly two decades, and they don’t have an open relationship.

Little do they know that Fabien, a warlock from the Afterlife, has secretly cast a spell of lust on Adam and his potential toy-boy.

As things begin to heat up, Adam’s guardian angel, Guy, steps in. But what’s the best way to save the relationship? Should Guy subdue Adam’s wandering passions or instigate a steamy threesome?

Excerpt

Drama Queens and Adult Themes
Kevin Klehr © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Adam

He stood wearing a velvety white towel and an eager grin. Either could’ve disappeared at my whim. I smelled the freshly laundered lemon scent of the towel combined with the odor of his body sweat, which I was dying to lick from his forehead. I’m always a sucker for a devil-may-care attitude. It makes me weak at the knees in an instant, but in this case, I was already reclined in my gleaming white tub, so there was no danger of losing my balance. The water filled to the brim, and I knew that when he joined me, he would splash the tiles below.

I’d only known him for half an hour, and already I was under his spell. Was he a young man of style, or was he a man of simple tastes? Did he have a daytime career that gave him the world at his fingertips, or did he simply have the freedom of freelance engagements?

Time slowed as his luxurious towel fell to the floor. His body was not toned like a swimwear model. His features would never inspire a dozen wet dreams. It was his everyday physical qualities that were driving me wild. That tuft of silky chest hair that traced its way to his belly button. He even had a little flab. Not too much, just a tad. To me, it signaled a man of zero pretense.

But as the towel was now on the floor, his upper body wasn’t what I was focusing on. He lifted one leg and eased himself into the water. The other leg followed as instinct lured my face toward his luscious…

“At some point, Adam, you do need to put pencil to paper,” said my art teacher. He had crept up behind me.

My wayward daydream vanished. Hopefully, I’d find it again before bedtime. I blushed and so did the nude model. I quickly drew a line, but it wasn’t in keeping with the young man’s form.

I was startled at my own behavior. A man of my age wasn’t supposed to act like a starstruck teenager. My instructor gently gripped my hand and guided my pencil to create a more natural line.

The model winked at me as some of the other students chuckled. Another budding male artist with bleached-blond hair nodded in my direction, smiling slyly.

“Okay, I admit it. My mind was somewhere else, and I apologize to the model,” I said.

All eyes in the room were on me.

“I’m flattered,” the model replied.

“It’s not like me to act like this, seriously.”

“Can I get you a glass of water?” asked the teacher.

“Thanks but I’ll get one myself. I think I need a walk. I’ll catch up on my drawing as soon as I get back.”

I rushed out of the classroom. This was all too weird in my situation. I was in my early forties and still madly in love with the man I’d shared my life with for the last eighteen years. We had a healthy sex life, even though I fantasized more than I’d like to admit. In fact, any dreamy man wandering past my view would arouse my animal instincts faster than a straight guy in a room of lipstick lesbians. But this young man posing for art class had my tongue dragging so close to the floor I was licking it clean. I was definitely not ready for a midlife crisis, or so I thought.

I sat on a seat in the corridor. Was I capable of having a discreet fling? I lightly slapped myself on the cheek, waking up to how ridiculous this question was. Why would he want to have an affair with an old fart like me?

It was the middle of winter, and I could already feel chilled air on the tip of my nose. I stood up and headed for the bathroom. I splashed warm water on my face. I stared at the mirror, giving my reflection some sound advice.

“Adam, get a grip. You don’t know this guy, but suddenly he’s invaded your thoughts. Yes, I know he looks really cute up there with nothing but that devilish grin and a pair of turquoise socks, but come on now, he can’t be more than thirty!”

“Seems like you’re smitten,” alleged the bleached-blond student.

He had wandered through the door and was heading for the urinal.

“Were you standing outside long?”

“I heard you down the corridor. Nothing to be ashamed of, really. This is my fourth class, and I’ve had to draw that same model once before. He hasn’t got the perfect body, but boy has he got the perfect attitude. Alluring, and if there is a god, available.”

The blond zipped up his fly and wandered to the sink next to me.

“I agree, but I usually don’t go around acting like a schoolgirl with a crush.”

“Enjoy it. Not all their models have that much charisma.”

We escorted each other back to art class where the other students had made headway on their drawings. I focused on the model’s socks in an attempt to concentrate on my artwork, rather than the young man’s prominent feature. Soon the ankles were added before my pencil carefully outlined his masculine legs.

As I traced up to the hip, I sighed as I studied his most manly asset. How should I draw it? Would the teacher fail me if I portrayed it erect? After all, a great artist should display his own feelings on the sketchpad.

I decided to skip his crotch and draw his chest. His slightly defined chest. Not too developed, but not devoid of shape either. The small tuft of dark hair in the center of the upper body was outlined with great care. Outlining shape was one thing, but defining the type of chest hair someone had was another. A trail of thick small lines was carefully added to the picture from the torso to the navel.

“Okay folks, pencils down.”

The teacher wandered around the room giving us feedback. The charming model reached for a pair of frayed blue jeans, which were neatly folded over the back of a chair just an arm’s length away. He pulled them up and carefully buttoned the fly around his naked assets, as he clearly hadn’t brought underwear.

“We’ll have him back in a couple of weeks if you want to complete this particular drawing,” said the teacher.

He gave me a cheeky look.

“How far did you get?” asked the model.

He grabbed his dusty-pink T-shirt and snuggled into it tightly.

“Not as far as I would have liked,” I replied.

“Let’s see.”

He strolled over to my unfinished work. I was anxious by the thought of only a patch of denim between me and the model’s private bulge. I concentrated on my artwork and tried not to let the man’s proximity lead me to more wicked thoughts. Who was I kidding?

I had to divert my attention to our teacher instead, who was heading my way. He was a funky, retired chap. Black thick-rimmed glasses, peppered hair, and beard with a gentle face. The kind of man who’d take long walks with his wife in the park and watch Sunday arts programs on television.

“For the short amount of time you spent on this, you did pretty well for a newcomer,” he said. “But what are these strange lines to his side?”

“Um, I had this desire to add wings to my subject.”

“Wings?”

“I know it’s odd, but you did say at the beginning of class not to be constrained by what we see, and that we all see characteristics differently.”

“Yeah, but wings? Are you picturing our model as some kind of angel?”

“Why not? I’m seeing caring characteristics.”

The young man gave me a saintly smile. The teacher stroked his chin before pointing to the socks I’d drawn.

“Are my ankles really that shape?” the model asked.

He bent over to take a closer look. I wanted to bury my tongue in the nape of his neck and lick off any imaginary sweat.

“Yes, that’s the shape of your ankles,” the instructor replied. He gestured toward a student near the window. “Ian over there did a better job on your ankles, but Adam really did well on your socks. The way the shape of the feet peep through the cotton is not something I expect from a first-timer.”

“Thanks,” I replied. “I used to do a little sketch work last year but only amateur stuff. Still life from things around the house. A clock, fruit, dirty laundry, that sort of thing.”

“Bring in your drawings next week. I’d like to see them.” He spoke up to address the class. “Now let’s check out Ian’s work, and Carla’s. Ian knows his ankles, and Carla’s good with faces.”

We walked over to look at Ian’s sketch as the other students followed. Ian’s careful study of the model’s feet almost made them look bare. Carla captured the man’s cheeky smirk skillfully, making that feature alone the highlight of her image. The budding blond artist did his best work with the chest and hips, although they were considerably more masculine than they needed to be.

We all made the rounds, admiring and commenting on the other artworks before ending back at my attempt. There were unanimous compliments about the socks, sparking the suspicion that I must have a foot fetish. Like anyone, I had my kinks, but sucking toes was not one of them. There’s something about a tinea marinade that just doesn’t float my boat.

“You know, Adam, maybe you’re onto something with the angel wings,” said Carla. “I would have put a wry smile and devil horns on him, just because I think he’s cheeky. But you see him as virtuous.”

“Divine, maybe, but not virtuous,” I replied.

Everyone strolled back to their easels to pack away their portraits except for the appealing model. He stayed to chat. He even helped me roll up the drawing as I studied the way his skillful hands worked with a cylindrical object.

“I’ll be back here in a couple of weeks if you want to finish the picture. They use me at least once a month.”

“Getting naked doesn’t bother you?”

“I have open-minded parents. They used to take me to nudist beaches when I was a kid.”

“Only child?”

“Only child.”

“Spoiled?”

“A bit. Still am, I suppose, even living away from home. Mum’s always dropping off baked dinners or cookies for me and my flatmate. You’d think we can’t fend for ourselves.”

“I’m Adam,” I said.

I raised my hand, and he shook it firmly.

“Mannix. Please don’t ask what my parents were thinking when they came up with that name. On marijuana or something.”

“I like it.”

“I want to change it, eventually.”

“What to?”

“At this stage, I haven’t a clue.”

“Keep it. It sounds like the name of a secret agent.”

“Yeah, a pretty lame one at that.”

Mannix handed me my picture as I beamed at him, probably resembling a lonely bachelor with a crush on an enigmatic porn star.

“I’m honored you were taken with the subject matter,” he teased.

“Between you and me, Mannix, that’s never happened to me before. I’m sorry if I was staring.”

“Not blowing my own trumpet or anything, but Adam, you wouldn’t be the first.” He winked, which kind of made me feel embarrassed. “Do you need a lift somewhere?”

“It’s okay. I have my car.”

Instantly, I regretted this admission of car ownership. Could I grab those words from the air and stuff them back in my mouth? My beautiful partner, Wade, was not going to be home for at least another hour and a half, and maybe, just maybe? I snapped back from my adolescent thoughts and sighed.

“Do you want a nightcap before going home?” he asked.

“Yes!” I replied with the zeal of a henpecked man about to get a lap dance. “I mean, sure. That’s a good idea. Whatever you want. Drink. Good suggestion.”

“Is that bar on Clarence Street on your way home?”

“As a matter of fact, it is.”

It was actually in the opposite direction.

“Looks like we’ve got a date.”

He walked ahead of me before helping get my pencils and my sketch onto the passenger seat of my car. It was a ten-year-old modest two-door hatch, which Wade and I had bought secondhand. We both used to drive it before my partner fell in love with a flashier sedan he’d found at a dealership.

I thanked Mannix as he walked to the opposite row of vehicles parked at the neighborhood center. The beep of the automatic lock made a sporty little mini double blink its headlights.

The young man eased into his understated luxury car with unassuming confidence. I was a sucker for material items I couldn’t afford, especially this type of tasteful indulgence. Mannix teased his engine before letting his vehicle make its way out of the car park.

I sat there for a minute or two, wondering if I was doing the right thing. After all, I was only going for a drink. Wasn’t I? Guilt was rising through my body. I could see Mannix climbing over me into that imaginary bathtub again. His basket of goodies inviting this old wolf to sample.

I turned the key and started my engine. As I made my way to the street, my thoughts alternated between Technicolor adultery and refined G-rated friendship. Did Mannix have an ulterior motive, or was I full of wishful thinking? It wouldn’t be hard to hide this fling from Wade, even if we just decided to meet up on another night when I was supposed to be at art class.

No, bugger it. Why wait? There was a bathtub waiting at home, and Wade was at his salsa lesson and wouldn’t be home for at least another hour. The tub would be filled to the brim, a bottle of champagne, two glasses, and a Northern soul compilation drifting in from the lounge room.

But then, I wondered what would happen if Wade’s dancing partner, Tim, didn’t need a lift home. He’d be home early. How would I have explained my need to bathe? Perhaps the other students attacked me with their charcoal crayons. Maybe the teacher hated my work so much that I was berated to the point of needing to soak up the tension.

I pictured Mannix on our sofa when Wade came home. I would try several coded words to let my husband know that a threesome was on my mind.

But this wasn’t our style. We didn’t invite costars to our bed. In fact, like most long-term couples we went through phases of being either solely devoted or acting more like two confident individuals. In recent months, we’d behaved like old souls who knew we couldn’t live without each other. We’d hold each other before we fell into slumber and awake needing to possess each other again. But it might have been fun to share that experience with Mannix.

I pulled up in front of the pub, still reeling from my own errant imagination. I took one deep breath to jolt myself back to reality. It didn’t really work. My sense of guilt magnified while I pictured that bathtub again and Mannix’s soft lips cruising toward my own.

“Adam, are you okay?”

My gaze darted to the person who was knocking on the windscreen. It was Mannix, curious to why I was taking so long to get out of my car.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Kevin lives with his long-term partner, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.

From an early age, Kevin had a passion for writing, jotting down stories and plays until it came time to confront puberty. After dealing with pimple creams and facial hair, Kevin didn’t pick up a pen again until he was in his thirties. His handwritten manuscript was being committed to paper when his work commitments changed, giving him no time to write. Concerned, his partner, Warren, secretly passed the notebook to a friend who in turn came back and demanded Kevin finish his story. It wasn’t long before Kevin’s active imagination was let loose again.

His first novel spawned a secondary character named Guy, an insecure gay angel, but many readers argue that he is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. Guy’s popularity surprised the author.

So with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Vimeo

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Review: Good Boy (Theta Alpha Gamma #4) by Anne Tenino

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Good Boy coverSebastian “Toppy” DeWitt is feeling the stress.  He is working double time to finish his thesis.  And there are the post graduation decisions of where to apply for a position that is also adding to the pressure and worry that is his life these days.  Lucky for him that his boyfriend, Brad “Frat Boy” Feller, is there to cook, clean, and take care of everything else while Sebastian concentrates.  True, they don’t seem to have time for each other during the day or even see each other at night other than to fall into bed.  Sebastian is sure once he finishes his thesis and graduates then everything will go back to normal.  Or will it?

Brad Feller is feeling lonely and a little bit neglected.  He knows how important it is that Sebastian finish his thesis but while parts of their life together, their sex life, is hot and working, nothing else is.  Sebastian went home to see his father and didn’t suggest that Brad come with him.  And they never talk about their future after graduation.  The strain Brad feels and the stress Sebastian is under is starting to put cracks in their relationship, fractures that Sebastian seems unaware of.

When an old frat brother with romantic ties to Brad needs temporary shelter and moves in with them after a fire in the frat house it shatters their fragile status quo.  Amidst bouts of jealousy, anxiety and guilt, Sebastian realizes that things need to change if he is to keep the one man he loves and needs above all others or lose him forever.

Frat Boy and Toppy, the first in the Theta Alpha Gamma series, was the first book to introduce me to Anne Tenino.  It made me a fan of this author and the series as well.  And while I enjoyed the love stories of the other men in the series, Paul and Trevor as well as Collin and Eric, it is the combination of Sebastian and Brad that have remained my first love.  So I was delighted to see a return to this marvelously quirky couple to see how they were doing and where they had gone in their relationship.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that they stumbled into one relationship trap after another with equal amounts of cluelessness and inexperience piled on top of every day pressures that is helping to derail their happily ever after.  I say unsurprisingly because this was a pair that was unexpected and surprising to begin with.  Brad, the ultimate frat boy on the outside, was large, somewhat clumsy, gentle, and searching when he first met Sebastian in class.  Sebastian, the TA, was intelligent, impatient, allergic to relationships, fixated on scholarship and kind of imperious.  Not exactly two men you would expect to meet, combust, and eventually fall deeply in love with each other.  But they did and it was wonderful.  Anne Tenino mades this complex mixture of personalities and quirks not only real, but a loving, layered relationship that the readers absolutely connects with all the way through their story.

So it’s heartbreaking to see how much that promising relationship has stagnated in the months following the end of Frat Boy and Toppy.  In the timeline of events that happen at the college and the TAG house, Good Boy exists side by side with Sweet Young Thang, the story that chronicles the fire at the TAG house and the reason that necessitates Collin’s stay, albeit temporarily, with Brad and Sebastian.  It gives the reader the full back story as to the events that are occurring around the oblivious Sebastian with his complete focus on himself and his thesis.  In Sweet Young Thang, we have the large canvas of the college and the  fraternity house which in Good Boy is narrowed down to Brad and Sebastian’s apartment and the malfunctioning state of their love affair.

Anne Tenino does a wonderful job of getting us inside each man’s head as individual insecurities (Brad’s) and current preoccupations (Sebastian’s) start to tear apart the relationship each man treasures.  Here is anexcerpt with Brad:

But after Brad abandoned Collin at the dinner table and chased his boyfriend into their bedroom, he didn’t find him. The bathroom doorway had been left open a crack, and he could hear Sebastian brushing his teeth, so he sat on the end of the bed to wait. And stew in some of his inner workings.

Aside from being pissed off in general at that whole weird dinner scene a few minutes ago—did Sebastian really have to go being a prick to Collin when the dude had had such a shitty day?—his instincts were poking at his stomach, telling him something seemed to have changed tonight with his boyfriend. Maybe now Brad could get some answers about what the fuck was going through his head, and why he’d been kind of preoccupied since Christmas, and when he’d decided to try having a relationship through a tin can and a string.

And I can ask him why he didn’t want me to meet his dad.

Shut up. Stupid little voice in his heart always had to push for more. We’ve haven’t even been together a year. He had to wait for the right time. Relationships progressed, right? Take the whole thing with Collin just now. Nine months ago, Sebastian had barely reacted when Collin had sucked Brad off in the locker room shower, but tonight he’d seemed, like, jealous. Watching him stalk off, something in Brad’s chest had gone ping. An alert, telling him Sebastian had finally fucking noticed him again.

Which was a relief, because cooking and back rubs and all the other things he’d been doing to get Sebastian to open up to him had made him feel like a dog begging for treats. ’Cause some nights Sebastian ate dinner without mentioning a damn thing about the food, just talking about his fucking thesis, and some nights he didn’t say anything at all. And some nights, when they actually had sex, he did Brad like he only needed someone to get off with.

All along, no matter how many times Brad reminded himself that Sebastian was just preoccupied with school, trying to be accepted to a good doctoral program, he’d been terrified that in reality, relationships just happened like this. Half a year in and things became about satisfying the physical needs and not about the emotional crap. It didn’t explain why it had all changed at once, but what did he know? Maybe that was normal, too.

I think everyone has heard those little voices inside from time to time, those internal arguments that start to undermine self confidence and deepen our need for reassurance.  Brad is a little part of everyone and it makes him not only endearing but completely relatable.  I love  Brad.  The snarky, self obsessed Sebastian is also someone I connected with.  He thinks he is doing whats best for them both without actually communicating his thoughts and feelings to his lover.  He has isolated himself without realizing it, a precarious situation in a relationship and it takes the arrival of Collin to jumpstart Sebastian’s interaction with Brad once more.

Good Boy is funny, heartbreaking, sexy, and ultimately quite wonderful.  I love this couple and hope Anne Tenino will revisit their love affair and relationship once more.  You just know somehow Sebastian will find a way to derail it once more before they get their happily ever after that they both need and want so much.  We want it for them too and that’s why I will be here with each and every new installment in the Theta Alpha Gamma series.  Join me will you?

This is how it starts….

Sebastian hadn’t taken a break for hours. He came out of his research-induced haze to find that his foot had fallen asleep, and when he moved his leg, his back made an alarming sound somewhere between a creak and a pop. Dammit, he’d sat hunched over the computer for too long again. Maybe later Brad would give him a massage to work out some of his aches.

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

Frat Boy and Toppy (Theta Alpha Gamma, #1)
Love, Hypothetically (Theta Alpha Gamma, #2)
Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma, #3)
Good Boy (Theta Alpha Gamma, #4)

Cover Art by L.C. Chase, lcchase.com/design.htm

Book Details:

ebook, 67 pages
Published October 7th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
original title Good Boy
ISBN13 9781626490680
edition language English

Review: Playing Ball Anthology

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Playing Ball coverAre you in love with the boys of summer?  Can’t wait for opening day and the cry of “play ball”? Baseball is America’s favorite pastime and the focal point of the love, heartbreak and the dreams of a nation of fans and players alike.  In this anthology four terrific authors share their passion for the game of baseball with four stories of love…the love of the game as well as romance between men who share a passion for baseball and each other.

Here are the stories in the order they are to be found within this anthology:

“One Man to Remember” by Kate McMurray
“Home Field Advantage” by Shae Connor
“One Last Road Trip” by Kerry Freeman
“Wild Pitch” by Marguerite Labbe

What a treat to pick up a book whose authors and collection of stories share my love for baseball and the boys of summer!  From stories situated in 1927 that bring the Babe back to life to the present day game and romance, these four stories will keep you happy and engaged, especially during those months where the fields of dreams are empty and the stadium seats wait for summer and the fans to arrive once more.

Here are my reviews for each story in the order found within the book:

1.  “One Man to Remember” by Kate McMurray:  Rating 5 stars out of 5

It’s 1927, New York City. Babe Ruth and the Yankees’ unstoppable batting lineup, Murderers’ Row are on their way to a season that will go down in the annals of baseball as legendary.  Across town, a rookie infielder for the Giants, Skip LIttlefield is racking up as many hits as the Babe but no one is noticing.  No one except a  famed sports reporter named Walter Selby, a notorious dandy whose sexuality is an open secret.  Walter has been watching the kid make hit after hit in seeming anonymity as everyones attention is focused on the Babe.  Everything about this rookie puzzles and intrigues Walter so he arranges an interview that will have far ranging repercussions for them both.

Kate McMurray has gifted us with a small historical gem of writing with One Man to Remember.  She has captured both the flair of the era as well as the homophobia and secret society of gay men during those times.  Its clear that McMurray has done her homework not only for the information she imparts about that storied run of Babe’s and the Yankees but the every day life as lived in 1927.  Whether it is snappy slang of the day to notorious places represented by The Penguin Club off Fifty-Sixth Street near Times Square, the author submerges us as throughly as her characters in this time period and brings off a home-run of a story.

The men, their love and knowledge of the game and the manner in which they have to hide their romance is both realistically and beautifully laid out in a story so well done that it cries out for a sequel.  One of my favorite stories in an anthology full of great tales.

2. “Home Field Advantage” by Shae Connor.  Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Toby MacMillan lives for baseball and loves his team, the Atlanta Braves.  In fact Toby has grown up with the Braves as Toby is the grandson of Atlanta Braves owner Ray MacMillan. Toby owns 30 percent of the team and expects to inherit the rest from his conservative grandfather upon his death.  And that’s primarily the reason Toby has hidden his sexuality from his family and team.

Then a new rookie arrives from the minors, Caleb Browning, ready to make his appearance in the major leagues.  Caleb Browning is talented, naive, attractive and gay.  And he has eyes for Toby.  A dinner engagement highlights their attraction to each others as well as the dangers that any relationship between them will bring to each of their careers.  Despite their good intensions to remain just friends, a romance begins that soon deepens into love.  What will happen when a fastball to the head, threatens not only Caleb’s career but their  love affair as well?

Situated in present times, Shae Connor’s looks at the reality of major league players coming forward about their sexuality and the fragile acceptance they are met with.  Toby’s entire life has revolved about the Atlanta Braves, a team owned by his grandfather.  His is a  character in love with the game while still aware of the realities of being a gay man involved in professional team sports and the sacrifices that requires.  Toby is an endearing characters whose reality is grounded in the truth of the men who love and control the game itself.  Toby realizes that while change is coming, the progress is as slow as acceptance itself.

I had a little more of a stretch to believe in Caleb Browning.  I really don’t see someone who plays ball, whether it is in the minor or major leagues, not being more aware of the consequences of his “gayness” while remaining a ballplayer.  His naivete seems not only extreme but unrealistic, so it took me a while to commit to their relationship.  But once committed, I threw myself into their romance with all the fervor of a fan at the game.  And by the time I got to Toby’s speech towards the end I was cheering them on.  You will be too.

3. “One Last Road Trip” by Kerry Freeman.  Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

After many years in the major leagues, bad knees sees Second Baseman Jake Wilson retiring from San Diego Padres and heading back home to a small town near Atlanta.  He is making one last road trip, pulling along a small trailer of possessions both physical and emotional.  On his way, he visits his ex wife, his grown children, getting reacquainted with his present and bringing up memories of his past.  And always present in his thoughts is Mikko Niemi, the young man he fell in love with in college and has never forgotten.

From his Facebook account, Jake has learned that Mikko’s long term partner has died and Mikko has started to date once  more.  So Jake is heading home to Mikko hoping it’s not too late for them to reconnect and ignite a love that never should have been abandoned.

Kerry Freeman, Kerry Freeman, you hit a home run to the heart with this one.    Not only it is about older ex lovers getting a second chance at love but the main character is a retired MLB player feeling every inch of his years in the game and the injuries that go along with it.  I loved the character of Jake Wilson.  His rueful examination of his past actions along with acknowledging how much he was still grateful for his ex wife and children, well, it is a heartwarming and compassionate portrait of a man at a certain stage in life who has come to grips with who he is and where he hopes to be.   Jake is a large hearted individual aware of his short comings and his strengths.  He is easy to connect with and root for.  In fact all the people in this story are well rounded, layered characters that a reader will love spending time with.

If I have any small quibble at all, it is that I wish we had gotten a little bit more of Jake and Mikko after their reunion.  A little more interplay between them would have sweetened an already emotionally satisfying romance.  But that quibble aside, I loved this story and you will too.

4. “Wild Pitch” by Marguerite Labbe. Rating 5 stars out of 5

Ruben Martell and Alan Hartner have been together as friends for a long time. They met during their early years playing baseball, and their friendship stayed strong through marriages, different teams, and locations, and even through death of a wife and divorce.  Now they are business partners in a batting cage/ sports bar and coach rival Little League teams.  And through it all, Ruben Martell has loved Alan Hartner, not just as a friend, but with a passionate hidden love.

Except for one night where their relationship crossed the lines of friendship, neither man has ever referred to each other as anything other than best friends.  But the pain and stress of hiding his feelings and hopes from Alan is causing Ruben to question their friendship and business partnership.  Ruben isn’t sure how much more he can take of the status quo without even a glimmer of hope for their future. As Ruben pulls away from Alan and his kids, Alan realizes just how much he might lose unless he takes a chance on a wild pitch.

Wild Pitch by Margueritte Labbe brings together all the elements needed for a great romance and then spices it all up by  using baseball to frame this long term relationship between Ruben Martell and Alan Hartner.  This story is so great on so many levels I don’t know where to start.  Both men have been together since their earliest times in baseball.  With a love for that sport as the cement that initially held them together, Labbe lays out for the reader how that relationship has changed and deepened over the years, morphing from friendship to brotherly love to something far more dangerous and passionate, especially on Ruben’s side.

The author delivers this story with an intimacy and warmth that makes the reader a companion and friend to these men right from the start.  I loved feeling included as Alan and Ruben deal with Alan’s kids and the Little League players they coach.  These are  real kids spouting dialog that can be heard on school and park playing fields country wide as well as at home.  I loved them and wanted as much of this aspect of the story as I did the romance.

But it’s the emotional realism of the scenes that Labbe has written as the men break through the stasis of their present relationship into that of a recognized romantic love that will catch at your heart and perhaps even bring out the sniffles.  Watch out especially for that moment where one son’s asks how much love a heart can hold…sniff.  Well, just have the  tissues handy because you will find yourself bawling away like I was.  A remarkable story to end a collection of marvelous tales.

This collection of stories demonstrates just why baseball is so often used as a metaphor for life.  It is full of passion, and history.  It’s hilarious and heartbreaking.  It’s about the grand gesture and small intimacies.  And its about love and all the memorable diverse characters drawn to the National Pastime.  Every story here is a home run!   It is already on my must reread list.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson is perfect.  It has an almost old time look about it with the design and font that works perfectly for this collection.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook, 270 pages
Expected publication: September 25th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press

Review: Velocity (Impulse #3) by Amelia C. Gormley

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Rating: 4.25 stars

Detroit handyman Derrick Chance and his lover, Gavin Hayes’ relationship has come a long way since they first met but many obstacles loom on the horizon, each with the power to destroy what they have built and split them apart for good.  Gavin is still waiting for the results of his HIV test since he learned that his ex boyfriend may have given him the disease during one forced encounter between them.  Derrick is facing not only moving from the only home he has ever known but he has been outed to his local hockey team and someone is sending him threatening messages.

Already full of self doubt, Gavin’s insecurities bloom and his self worth plunges when his ex, Lukas, returns and wants to involve Gavin in his rehabilitation to Derrick’s consternation.  And the biggest issue?  Although Derrick has professed his love, Gavin has held back his declaration.  So many issues and the holidays are just around the corner.  Can Derrick and Gavin let go of their respective pasts and move forward into their future? Or will the past continue its hold and break them apart forever?

I am going to presume this is the last book in the Impulse series by Amelia C. Gormley and I think this is a wonderful way to see Derrick and Gavin out.  I did have a  few issues with this book but those will  be addressed last.  One constant in this series has been the wonderful characterizations the author brought to her stories.  From the moment we meet lonely Derrick Chance we realize that there is something very special about him.  Traumatic circumstances came together at a developmentally important stage of his young life that helped to isolate this man from the normal societal milestones.  Derrick was left to the care of aging grandparents who later passed away leaving him alone in their house, earning his living by repairing appliances as out of date as he is and doing minor house repairs for neighbors close by.  Here is a man caught in stasis and the author makes him not only relatable but endearing in his way.

Gavin is almost his opposite.  Experienced sexually and socially for all it did him, Gavin’s self image has been battered by an abusive ex to the point that he trusts no one, with the exception of one friend.  And for two books we have watched Gormley slowly bring these two men with their divergent backgrounds together in a way that has seemed not only realistic but true to the core of her characters personalities.  And while most of the battles fought were internal, the last book Acceleration ended with problems from the outside of the relationship starting to press in on the couple.

There are several main issues at work here and Gormley treats them all with sensitivity and compassion, from homophobia to conveying accurate knowledge and clinical histories of HIV and domestic violence .  First there is the problem of homophobia rearing its ugly head at Derrick’s local hockey team.  Now out to his teammates, someone within the team has been threatening Derrick, demanding he quit or suffer the consequences, following that up with destruction of personal property and more.  I loved the way the author dealt with this issue as she went in a direction different from most authors. Given that homosexuality and sports are in the headlines these days, the manner in which this was resolved felt authentic and timely.

Secondly, there is the subject of domestic violence and awareness of the victim mentality that those who have been subjected to DV carry within themselves.  This accounts for a larger portion of the story and again Gormley has done her homework, putting forth not only how domestic violence affects its victims but how it can manifest itself in their behavior and reactions to others.  Much of the information is imparted between conversations with Gavin and Hannah,a victim, as she relates her circumstances and following actions.  I applaud the author’s efforts to get this information accurate and out there but unfortunately, this element of the story came across as more of a information dump.   Also, Gavin’s interactions with his ex Lukas are drawn out too far.  He knows that Lukas is a liar and manipulator and yet he believes his story instead of Derrick’s?  While it might not be implausible (yes, we get it, Gavin has a DV victim mentality), as he reverses himself immediately it just doesn’t ring true with coupled with his other actions.

What does seem real and gritty and painful are the emotions that roll through Gavin with regard to his possible HIV status, his wavering about the test results, and his confusion about his future.  Gormley really seems to have a window into the thoughts processes of a person in this awful predicament and it comes across to the reader as painfully read in every aspect.  Then you hook DV with the possibility of HIV and have the same individual responsible and yes, there is a very good reason that Gavin is an emotional mess.

Another element that surprised me was the depths of pain and humiliation that Gavin requires to be sexually satisfied.  In one scene, Derrick supplies a huge amount of said bdsm elements to their sexual play without discussing it with Gavin first.  No setting of safe words or limitations, just moving right into the scene without too much preparation.  And this, I will admit, bothered me on a couple of levels.  At this point, Gavin has not trusted himself to tell Derrick he loves him or trusts Derrick to go with him to get his test results.  I had assumed, perhaps wrongly, that trust is a huge element in such sexual play and that if he did not trust Derrick in these other areas, than it must be lacking here too.  But after such thought and discussions, I can see Gavin separating his trust issues into compartments and that trusting Derrick sexually (and physically) was different from trusting him with his love and HIV status.  I just am not familiar enough with bdsm to be knowledgeable but it did bother me to a degree while I could still see why it was necessary to Gavin’s character.

There are some issues with editing, and I think that certainly some areas could have been streamlined and made more concise.  But in the end, Velocity is a wonder of a book and a marvelous way to complete Derrick and Gavin’s journey to a full partnership and loving relationship.  The ending was just perfection and it left me smiling long after I put down my Kindle. If this is your first time meeting Derrick and Gavin, go back to the beginning Inertia and see how it all began.  Then proceed immediately to Acceleration as their relationship and events  pick up speed and finally to Velocity where it all comes together with emotions on high.  I really cannot recommend this series enough.  Amelia C. Gormley is a amazing author and I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and their relationships:

Inertia (Implulse #1)

Acceleration (Impulse #2)

Velocity (Impulse #3)

Cover art by Kerry Chin.  I love these covers.  They are lush and different and just amazing.