A MelanieM Review: The Wolf and the Sparrow by Isabelle Adler

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Derek never wished to inherit his title as a result of a bloody battle. With the old count dead and the truce dependent on his marriage to the rival duke’s son, Derek has no choice but to agree to the victor’s terms in order to bring peace to his homeland. When he learns of the sinister rumors surrounding his intended groom, Derek begins to have doubts—but there can be no turning back from saying I do.

After the death of his wife, Callan of Mulberny never expected to be forced into another political marriage—especially not to someone like the new Count of Camria. Seemingly soft and meek, it’s only fitting that Derek’s family crest is a flighty sparrow, worthy of nothing but contempt.

Another war with the seafaring people of the Outer Isles looms on the horizon, and the reluctant newlyweds must team together to protect those caught in the circle of violence. Derek and Callan slowly learn to let go of their prejudices, but as they find themselves enmeshed in intrigue fueled by dark secrets and revenge, their tentative bond is all that keeps their world—and their lives—from plunging into chaos.

 

I  enjoyed the sort of mystical historical fantasy novel, The Wolf and the Sparrow by Isabelle Adler. I thought it worked very well on some levels and less well on others.   From the moment I met the main characters of Derek, son of the fallen Count of Camria and now the new “head” of house, and Callen, first son of the Duke of Mulberny, victor of the war, the author eases of us the perspectives of both men and their various different worlds.    The gulf between them necessarily wide due to the losses of war, Derek his father and the fear of losing his small fiefdom and all that entails for his people and family. For Callan?  It’s merely one more political move by his father with himself as the chess piece, one he doesn’t want to make but will for duty.

The young men as characters are well thought out and presented, less so some of the people around them.  I am not sure if this is the first story in a series but much is made of Derek’s brothers, an older scholarly brother Ivo and a sullen teen brother who constantly acts up, putting his brother’s safety and that of any  political agreements in danger.  That it is allowed to continue makes no sense in this narrative other than for dramatic purposes.  The brother is unlikable, the author makes no attempt  to layer him into anything other than a cardboard character and eventually he disappears completely two thirds of the way from the story leaving the reader to wonder why he was inserted at all.  Ivo’s character  did a flip flop at the end and then exited as well after being used as a potential red herring for a relationship with Callan’s sister.  Both examples of throwaway characters that had way too much page time.

The relationship development between Callan and Derek moved along nicely when they were allowed to be out in the field doing exactly what warriors like themselves were allowed to do, bonding over field maneuvers and showing their skills at taking down marauders.  That made complete sense and I loved it.  The other   element I started to get into and I thought was absolutely underused was that of magic.

What a waste.  It was, in my opinion, such a great part of the narrative and yet so underwhelming at the same time.  One, the effects were only related  by one of the  main characters not both.What a loss because while we get the maelstrom of physical, emotional, and magical elements happening from one side, we never get to “see” it from the other’s.  Which is weird because this whole story is a two narrative novel.  Why reduce to one now?  When we want to “see” what is happening at it’s most wildest and wonderful?  Makes no sense.  The best part and powerful potential of this story is lost.  And not for the last time.

If the author was laying the groundwork for a series, that would be different, but I believe this is a standalone novel, so here is all this great promise for magic within this novel and character and quite frankly, it gets tossed away, not one but twice, because the author holds back, throwing out tidbits instead of going full throttle.  This character can control animals, have them do his biding.  Do we see it?  Uh, off stage sort of.  Control the wind and seas?  Does that come into play?  Nope.  Other cool stuff?  Pretty much no.  Just one more “bunny out of the hate” and done.

What a shame.

The end comes off the same way. Characters disappear,  there is an odd resolution that feels sort of inadequate, magically speaking.  and yes, a HEA for this couple, which seems odd, because, other than Ivo, Derek’s family is never mentioned again.

So yes, I enjoyed it but so many questions kept popping back up into my head about other characters, universe building, and the holes in the magic that it wasn’t a smooth read for me. If you are more of a surface reader than I am, perhaps this story is more in your wheelhouse than mine.  Either way, I found it went pretty quickly and the main characters were enjoyable.  I just wish the promise I saw had been fulfilled.

Cover art by Natasha Snow is eye catching and dramatic.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 300 pages
Published November 25th 2019 by Nine Star Press
ISBN139781951057893
Edition Language English

Dont MIss Out on the Release Blitz for Slashed and Mashed: Seven Gayly Subverted Stories by Andrew J. Peters (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Slashed and Mashed: Seven Gayly Subverted Stories

Author: Andrew J. Peters

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 11, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 96700

Genre: Fantasy Folklore, LGBT, retold lore/folklore, fantasy, mythical creatures, magic, magic beings, magical reality, trickster, action/adventure, established couple, over 40, Greek mythology, Hungarian folklore, Grimm’s fairytales, Momotarō, historical fiction, jaguar folklore, the Arabian Nights, African folklore, Uncle Remus.

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Synopsis

What really happened when Theseus met the Minotaur? How did demon-slaying Momotarō come to be raised by two daddies? Will Scheherazade’s hapless Ma’aruf ever find love and prosperity after his freeloading boyfriend kicks him out on the street? Classic lore gets a bold remodeling with stories from light-hearted and absurd, earnestly romantic, daring and adventurous, to darkly surreal.

The collection includes: Theseus and the Minotaur, Károly, Who Kept a Secret, The Peach Boy, The Vain Prince, The Jaguar of the Backward Glance, Ma’aruf the Street Vendor, and A Rabbit Grows in Brooklyn.

Award-winning fantasy author Andrew J. Peters (The City of Seven Gods) takes on classical mythology, Hungarian folklore, Japanese legend, The Arabian Nights, and more, in a collection of gayly subverted stories from around the world.

Excerpt

Slashed and Mashed
Andrew J. Peters © 2019
All Rights Reserved

THE GREAT HALL of the king’s palace was vast enough to house a fleet of double-sailed galleys, and its gray, fluted columns, as thick as ancient oaks, seemed to tower impossibly beyond a man’s ken. Prince Theseus had been told, he had been warned of the grandeur of the Cretans, how it was said they were so vain they forged houses to rival the palace of Mount Olympus. Yet to see was to believe. For a spell, the sight of the great hall stole the breath from his lungs and slowed his feet to a stagger. Should not he, a mere mortal, prostrate himself on his knees in a place of such divine might, such miraculous invention? It felt as though he had entered the mouth of a giant who could swallow the world.

No, he reminded himself: this was all pretend, a trick to frighten him and his countrymen, though he only half believed that. Silenos, an aged tutor who Theseus’s father had hired to teach him all things befitting a young man of the learned class, had cautioned him not to trust his eyes, that these pirates of Crete used their riches to build a city of illusions so any navy that endeavored to alight at its shores would be hopelessly confounded and turn back to sea in terror.

Theseus forced a swallow down his bone-dry throat and retook his steps to keep pace with the soldiers who escorted his party into the hall. He had brought his father’s highest-ranking admirals to accompany him, Padmos and Oxartes, and the king had sent three men for each one of them to meet them at the beach where they had rowed ashore. From there, they had been conveyed up a steep, zigzagging roadway to the palace. The armored team looked like an executioner’s brigade rather than a diplomatic corps. They were hard-faced warriors clad in bronze-plated aprons and fringed, blood-red kilts, and they carried spears that could harpoon a monster of the ocean.

He tried to look beyond the many wonders and train his gaze on the distant dais where the king and his court awaited him. Yet curiosity bit at Theseus. Oil-burning chandeliers seemed to hover in the air, hung from chains girded to a sightless ceiling. No terraces had been built to bring in daylight, nor doorways to other precincts of the statehouse, unless they were hidden. Theseus would say it smelled of nothing but damp stone and clay, the cool, cloistered air too sacred to be disturbed by perfumes. The walls shimmered with a metallic reflection of the room’s massive columns, affecting the appearance that the hall went on to infinity. The diamond-patterned carpet on which he trod was one continuous design stretching from the vaulted doorway where he had entered all the way to the other end. Such a carpet was surely large enough to cover the floors of every house in Athens!

As he neared the stately dais, he beheld the king’s high-backed throne of ebony and glimpsed the man himself along with the shadowy members of his court. Theseus lowered his gaze to disguise his impressions. He supposed it also counted as a gesture of respect. He followed the soldiers into a lake of light that glowed from thick-trunked braziers on either side of the hall’s carpeted, shallow stage.

Their steps ended some ten paces in front of the room’s dignitaries, including, of course, the king himself. The armored men knelt on one knee, drummed down the handles of their spears on the floor, and bowed their helmet-capped heads as one company.

That left Theseus and his consorts standing and wondering what to do with themselves for a worrisome moment. To kneel to the king was to surrender Athens’ sovereignty, and that had not been his father’s bargain. Though his princely leather cuirass and his laurel crown felt peasant-like, almost absurd while he stood before the king, Theseus did not break. He glanced to Padmos and Oxartes so they would know they should neither kneel nor bow.

Righteousness grew inside Theseus, arisen from the unsurpassed conviction of a youth of eighteen years who felt well-acquainted with the indignities of the world, though in truth had rarely been cut down to size. As an infant, he had been sent to live in his mother’s village, which was countries apart from the hubbub and political fray of Athens. This, no excess of fatherly protection, but a testament to his father’s severity. People later spoke of his banishment in the ennobling light of superstition, an augury of the night sky or some such according to his father. In any case, Aegeus had decreed: if his son was worthy to succeed him, he must earn the right on his own terms.

For most of his life, Theseus had not known his father. He had not even known of his paternity, though he had lived quite well as a handsome, rugged lad among countryfolk who required no more than that to smile upon him, fetch him apples, give him a rustle on the head when he passed by, a proud acknowledgment he was one of their own. Then came his mother’s confession, and his storied trek to present himself at his father’s court, which he had made on foot across Arcadia, an ungoverned, forested land that had been said to be rampant with all manner of bandits, ogres, and mythical beasts.

In Athens, he was a newcomer, an adventurer, and a fawn-haired swain, all of which earned him magnanimous gossip. Men made way for him, and women smiled and idled when he passed by.

Naturally, young Theseus was aware of none of this, as a favored flower does not question why it thrives in sunlight and has a gardener always at the ready for its succor, while others of its kind turn spiny and dull from negligence. Or, it should be said, a glimpse of his place in the world, past and present, was only just then taking form while he stood in King Minos’s great hall. He did not like how it made him feel.

He shook off the sinking sensation. He would be bold, for he alone stood for Athens in this house of tyranny. As he had heard, these foreigners had butchered his countrymen, raped their women, taken their daughters and sons as slaves, and burned their fields. He would end the war, and it did not matter if he returned to Athens on a white-sailed galley to herald a hero’s return or if a black-sailed ship should come back to his father, signaling that Crete had been his final resting place. So had he decided. He looked to King Minos to begin.

The Cretan king returned his gaze, appraising, taunting, and then he perched in his seat and craned his neck to see beyond the prince, to turn a querulous eye at the headmen of his squadron.

“Where is Athens’ tribute?” he spoke.

He appeared to be no more advanced in years than the prince’s father, a sturdy, dispassionate age. The similarity wore through at that. The king’s chestnut-brown beards were plaited and shone with oil, and he wore a miter banded with red-gold. He was clad in deep cerulean raiment of the finest dye and a draped, red stole, all adorned with fine embroidery and fringe. Theseus had never seen a man so richly clothed and groomed. His father, the wealthiest man in all of Attica, had only a sheep’s fleece and a laurel crown to say he was king.

“King Aegeus has sent me, his son, Theseus of Attica, to answer your request,” Theseus spoke.

Minos pursed his lips, sucked his teeth. “I asked for children.”

That was the compact signed by Theseus’s father to end the war—seven boys and seven girls surrendered to Minos in return for nine years of peace, during which the Cretan king had pledged he would call back his warships.

It was a war begun while Theseus still lived with his mother in the countryside, years before she had taken him to an unfarmed field outside the village and shown him his father’s buried sword, from which he came to know his origins. Theseus had only arrived in Athens one season past and been apprised of the history. This heartless war borne from a tragic misunderstanding.

Two years ago, Minos sent his son Androgeus to Athens on a friendly embassy, and when Theseus’s father took the youth on a hunt to see something of his country’s pastimes, Androgeus was thrown from his horse and landed headfirst on a rock. No physician nor priest could restore him. His spark of life had been extinguished all at once.

Aegeus returned the prince’s body to Crete with all due sacraments and respects. He had been washed to prepare him for his passage to the afterworld, and the king sent him across the sea on a bier of sacred cypress, ferried on his finest ship, oared by his best sailors, and with a bounty of funereal offerings, gold and silver, many times more than his kingdom could afford. Yet Minos declared treachery and turned fire and fury against Athens.

Three seasons the war had raged, and after a decisive battle on the Saronic Gulf, Minos claimed the vital sea passage and installed a naval blockade, robbing Athens of her trade routes and slowly starving her. Aegeus appealed to the Cretan king for an armistice. An emissary from Crete returned with the tyrant’s reply: fourteen innocent lives for the price of his son. This, after Crete had already extracted the lives of thousands of fighting men in payment for Androgeus, whose death could only be blamed on the mysterious Fates.

Aegeus decided he had no choice but to agree to the king’s terms, and his council supported him. The Athenian navy was no match for the foreigners neither by the numbers nor by the craftsmanship of their vessels. The Cretans flung barrels of fire from catapults. Their triremes were faster and their battering rams were more potent, carving apart a galley on a single run. The Athenian fleet had dwindled to a dozen vessels. Their forests were stripped of lumber, and even if they had the resources, their shipbuilders could not assemble new warships fast enough. Food shortages had depleted their force of able-bodied men to defend the city. Without a reprieve from war, the next attack on Athens would be the last. Who could stop an army empowered by the God of the Sea?

But after the lottery had been held, and weeping fathers from all parts of the country brought their sons and daughters to the naval pier where they would be ferried to Crete, Theseus could not bear it. He looked upon the children, stunned as lambs without their mothers, and wept for them, and wept for his country, and wept for the shame of being part of this abomination.

Then, in a rush of rage, Theseus attacked the sailors who would lead the children to the ship. He had come to know them as friends, yet all he saw were blank-faced monsters. By grace, he had only had his fists, and no man raised a blade to stop him. Theseus shoved, struck, and menaced perhaps a dozen before they overtook him and held him fast by his neck and arms. A terrible blackness ate up his vision, and, inspirited with a daemon’s strength, Theseus threw off his captors. He turned his fury at his father who stood at the landside end of the quay with his councilors.

Theseus shouted at them vicious oaths he had not known were in his vocabulary, and he spat at them. Did they not know what they were doing was an offense to the goddess? It was a betrayal of every free man of Attica. His throat was scorched from shouting, his voice hoarse, and he fell to his knees, dropping his bonnet, weeping and pulling at his thick, curled hair.

He looked up at his father. “Please, send me.”

Now Theseus faced King Minos intrepidly. “I have been chosen to stand for the children. I have only eighteen years, turned just this past season, and I am my father’s only son. I will face your contest.”

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Meet the Author

Andrew J. Peters has been writing fiction since his elementary school principal let him read excerpts from his mystery novel over the PA system during lunch period, an early brush with notoriety, which quite possibly may have been the height of his literary celebrity. Since then, he has studied to be a veterinarian, worked as a social worker for LGBTQ youth, and settled into university administration, while keeping late hours at his home computer writing stories. He is the author of eight books, including the award-winning The City of Seven Gods (2017 Best Horror/Fantasy Novel at the Silver Falchion awards) and the popular Werecat series (2016 Romance Reviews Readers’ Choice awards finalist). Andrew lives in New York City with his husband Genaro and their cat Chloë. When he’s not writing, he enjoys travelling, Broadway shows, movies, and thinking up ways to subvert heteronormative narratives.

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Love Fantasy? Check Out the New Release Tour for The Midspring Rebellion by Doreen Heron (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Midspring Rebellion

Author: Doreen Heron

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 22, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 25100

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, fairies, royalty, magic, mythical creatures

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Synopsis

Things are amiss in the fairy court, made worse one spring morning when King Oberon’s wife decides to leave him. His decision to gather his thoughts in the human realm lead him into the path, and arms, of workaholic human Nick Chandler. But when Oberon’s throne is threatened, will he be able to retain his kingship and his newfound love?

Excerpt

The Midspring Rebellion
Doreen Heron © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
As it always did, the Wheel of the Year continued to turn.

Midsummer turned to Midfall.

Midfall to Midwinter.

Midwinter to Midspring.

The seasons changed. The years changed. But life in the Fairy Court remained the same.

And this left Titania dissatisfied.

“It is time for a change,” she announced one evening over dinner. Oberon had known something was wrong the moment she dismissed the waiting staff. It had been over three hundred years since they had eaten alone, and even that was because Titania had wanted to discuss the idea of adopting another Changeling. Not that the idea had gone anywhere, of course. Oberon had learned his lesson about taking human children long before that, and he had not been keen to repeat the experiment. It was natural, then, that he held his breath when Titania spoke, and he waited for whatever she was about to decide. “We have become stale.”

Oberon found it impossible to disagree. Being married for a millennium was certainly an accomplishment by anyone’s count—especially when fairy marriages were annulled and then voluntarily renewed on an annual basis. But one thousand years of an arranged marriage was going above and beyond in his royal duties, of this, he was sure.

“What do you propose?” he asked, not entirely sure he wanted an answer. A separation from Titania might allow them both to pursue other interests, but there was no denying that a split in the Royal Court could rip the whole of his already unstable kingdom in half.

“A separation.”

He nodded. He’d known where this was going, and he couldn’t say he was particularly unhappy about it. But he had questions.

“Why now? We’ve been living this same way these last three hundred years. Why propose this now?”

“It is the best possible time. The kingdom is at risk of civil war…”

“…Which is exactly why we should be united.”

“Or is it why this is the ideal time for a split? We would not want to needlessly disrupt harmony in the kingdom. Ergo, if we split while there are already fractures…”

“…we guarantee a split in the kingdom.”

“We hurry along a split we already know is coming.”

Oberon closed his eyes and shook his head. Titania had always been ruthlessly logical. It was one of the reasons his father had chosen her as a perfect mate, and—more importantly—a future queen.

“But…”

“I have met someone else.”

Well, that was the clincher, wasn’t it?

“I have fallen in love.”

“Love?” Oberon frowned at his queen, unsure of exactly what he was hearing. “What of love? We are a king and a queen. Love need play no part in anything.”

“Oberon, even the mortals have abandoned that way of thinking now. It is time for us to catch up.”

Oberon grunted. It pained him to hear Titania speak of love. She’d not as much as breathed the word in five hundred years, not since his trick to cause her to fall for the human Bottom.

“This love. It is not the human, is it?” he asked. “The actor.” His voice dripped with venom as he spoke, though he himself wasn’t sure if he was jealous that she had fallen with such ease or angry that his own magic had been the cause.

“Oberon, humans lead short lives. Bottom died many, many years ago.”

“Then who?”

This time, it was Titania’s turn to shake her head, causing blossoms of pink and orange to fall from her hair and hit the ground.

“Not important,” she said. She stood and pushed her chair back under the oak table, before walking delicately over and taking her husband’s left hand. “I release you.” She smiled. She turned a hand over and undid the leather strap that was tied at his palm. “I release you.” She unwound the leather from his hand, uncrossing the straps that worked up his forearm. “I release you.” She pulled the leather from his bicep, taut with the tension and stress running through his body. She leaned over and kissed his forehead. “Good luck to you, Oberon.”

He stood at the window of his tower, having vanished the glass to get a better look at what was going on. He watched as Titania loaded her trunks onto the glass chariot. He watched as a male fairy, face obscured by some of Titania’s trickery to stop him from being identified, helped to pile the heavier pieces of furniture. He watched as the two of them climbed into the chariot, and as the dragonflies took flight, pulling it into the woods and out of sight.

He thought he should shout. He thought he should swear. He thought he should cry. But he found himself empty. For a thousand years, he had known he could be temperamental or selfish or immature and Titania would always be by his side. Because she had had to. They had vows. But she had met someone better than him, and she was gone.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Ultimately, he chose to do what many do when they find themselves bereft, and he began to prepare himself for bed. He removed his emerald-green robes and ran a damp washcloth across his torso. His muscles contracted at the cold, tightening and becoming more defined than they usually were when hidden beneath his loose robes. Usually, he enjoyed the feeling of his tightening body, but even that was little comfort in the light of being left alone. He unwrapped the leather strap that ran across his waist—a symbol of his perpetual commitment to his kingdom—and draped it across the wooden dressing table. He dipped the washcloth in the water again before removing his loincloth and washing the rest of his body. It was only right to be clean before entering the kingdom of the DreamWeaver, and he was not about to abandon formality and politesse just because he would be alone in his bed tonight. Naked, but dry after patting the water away with a towel, he knelt by his bed.

“I give thanks to the earth, which bore me and gave me life. I give thanks to the great unknown, who guides me and shapes my fate. I give thanks to my ancestors, from whom I descend and for whom I live a life which is not mine, but which belongs to my subjects. These are my thanks.”

He stood and climbed into bed, pulling his mouse pelt blankets over him, and curled up into a ball. Scrunching his eyes together, he willed himself to sleep. It didn’t come easily, as visions of Titania and her paramour danced through his head, but eventually he found himself drifting off.

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

Meet the Author

Doreen Heron is a writer who is finally living her dream in Cornwall, England. She is lucky to live in the county she loves, and to be using her writing to entertain her readers.

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Love Fantasy? Check Out the Book Blitz for The Exile Prince (The Castaway Prince #2) by Isabelle Adler (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Exile Prince

Series: The Castaway Prince, Book Two

Author: Isabelle Adler

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 22, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 22900

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT fantasy, royalty, androgyny, gender-bending, cross-dressing

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Synopsis

Having chosen exile rather than face persecution at the hands of his family, Prince Stephan of Seveihar has finally found refuge in the south kingdom of Segor with his lover and former servant, Warren. For the first time in his life, Stephan is free to be who he really is, to explore his sexual identity and his fascination with all things feminine.

But it seems life has other plans, and the quiet happiness Stephan has run so far away to find is once again threatened by sinister forces from his past. Will Stephan and Warren’s newfound love be strong enough to weather the danger that could rip them apart forever?

Excerpt

The Exile Prince
Isabelle Adler © 2019
All Rights Reserved

The warm morning breeze carried the smell of sea salt, exotic spices, and the promise of a distant sandstorm.

Stephan breathed deeply, closing his eyes against the gentle currents, and leaned on the windowsill, offering his face up to the sun. It was not yet noon, but the heat was already building up. Soon the busy streets of the port city of Varta would empty, the denizens taking a brief respite during the midday hours to hide in the relative cool of their homes, away from the glare of the ruthless sun. At dusk, all activity would renew with rekindled vigor as the streets around the harbor filled with the cries of peddlers hawking their wares, the music of wandering performers, and the general hubbub of a large city going about its business. But for now, Stephan simply enjoyed the bright sunshine, which had been so rare in his native Seveihar, before he’d be forced to retreat to the shade of his rooms.

No, their rooms. He’d been living with Warren, his former footman and current lover, for the past six months, sharing the two cozy rooms in one of the quieter districts of Varta. The modest appointments were a far cry from the richness of his father’s royal palace in Sever, but luxury was low on Stephan’s priority list. These short months were the happiest he’d been in his entire life. Granted, at twenty years old, he was still at the beginning of his journey, but with his father gone and the rest of the family actively persecuting him, he’d had his fair share of misery.

Stephan sighed and closed the wooden shutters. Even so, the room was still softly illuminated, filled with translucent, soporific light. The hem of his white silk robe trailed after him as he made his way to the large writing desk, cluttered with sheaves of paper and different-colored inkwells. Warren, being the son of a merchant, was the one with the experience and a practical grasp for business, and he had been the one to suggest they invest the money left from selling Stephan’s extensive collection of jewelry in local commerce. For centuries, Varta, the second largest city of Segor, had been a crucial junction for the passage of goods between the deep south and the northern countries and provinces—including Seveihar and rival Esnia. With trade burgeoning in recent years, investing in independent shipping ventures seemed like a sound plan, although they were only now beginning to see any returns. None of it was enough to make a fortune, but for now, at least, they were able to live comfortably.

Stephan settled in a chair and pulled out a stack of letters he wanted to sift through one more time. While Warren was responsible for the finances, Stephan handled the records and correspondence. As a member of the royal family, he was well-versed in several languages, including Segati—a dialect spoken in Segor and along the long stretch of the southern coast. But reading and writing with a teacher weren’t the same as practicing the language among native speakers, and Stephan wanted to brush up on his communication skills as much as possible to be able to navigate the often-equivocal patterns of business negotiations with Segorian merchants and ship owners.

He was writing down some notes on a piece of paper when the door opened, and Warren stepped in, letting out a long-suffering sigh as he closed the door and took off his sweat-soaked scarf.

Stephan smiled as he rose to meet him. He threw his arms around Warren, planting a quick kiss on his lips. Warren’s skin, flushed and hot, still carried traces of salt and fish smell.

“I missed you,” Stephan said playfully.

Warren grinned in response, taking Stephan’s hand and kissing his fingers. “I’ve only been gone a few hours. And I still stink from the docks.”

“I don’t mind.” Stephan nodded at the leather-bound ledger sticking out of Warren’s coat pocket. “Any news?”

“The ship should arrive any day now. With the price of silk going up, we should make a nice profit off this consignment.”

“You might be the one to blame for the increase in prices,” Stephan teased. “You didn’t have to buy me quite so many dresses.”

“Of course I did. They make you happy. And I love seeing you in them.”

Warren let go of Stephan and threw the ledger on the desk. He was still smiling, but Stephan could sense tension in the rigid set of his shoulders and the way his smile quickly turned from genuine to strained.

“What’s wrong?” Stephan asked. “Are you worried about the ship being delayed?”

Warren shook his head and sat on the long bench beside a low dining table. He picked an orange from a fruit bowl and began peeling it.

“I’ve heard some bad news from Seveihar,” he said, avoiding meeting Stephan’s eyes.

Stephan sat back at the desk, tucking his long hair behind his ear in a nervous gesture. He knew he wasn’t going to like it.

“The war has started, hasn’t it?” he asked quietly.

Warren nodded. “Rumors spread fast in this city. It seems the first thing your brother did after ascending to the throne was declare war on Esnia.”

Stephan swore softly. His older brother, Robert, had been warmongering to garner political support, but until now, Stephan had clung to the naïve hope he wouldn’t go as far as actually starting a full-blown territorial war with their neighbor. Or at least that his advisers would stop him from making such a foolish move, if he wasn’t prudent enough to restrain himself. Even after fleeing his homeland and abandoning his title, Stephan couldn’t help but feel somehow responsible for the wellbeing of its people. Waging a war when most of them were already struggling with the increase in waterway taxes his uncle Rowan had decreed last fall would only add insult to injury.

“That wasn’t what got me worried, though. There’s more.” Warren dropped the peelings on the table and frowned at the naked fruit, as if surprised it turned out to be an orange after all. “There’s talk about Seveiharians in Varta. Apparently, an envoy arrived at the Governor’s palace two days ago. They were trying to keep it secret, but again, Varta is anything but surreptitious.”

Stephan shrugged. “So? They must be here to amend trade agreements. War changes demand, and the usual shipping routes would need to be altered if the Zenna River proves too dangerous now for regular transport.”

“No doubt.” Warren handed him a few orange slices, and Stephan popped them in his mouth. He flicked his tongue across his lips to lick away the juice, noting the way Warren’s gaze took on a familiar intensity as he followed the tiny movement.

Warren’s unmistakable interest sent a jolt of heat down his belly, triggering his own arousal. He licked his lips again, this time in an involuntary response to the thought of what he and Warren could be doing to while away the sultry midday hours. But apparently Warren wasn’t done yet.

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Meet the Author

A voracious reader from the age of five, Isabelle Adler has always dreamed of one day putting her own stories into writing. She loves traveling, art, and science, and finds inspiration in all of these. Her favorite genres include sci-fi, fantasy, and historical adventure. She also firmly believes in the unlimited powers of imagination and caffeine.

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A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Through the Tears by Leigh M. Lorien

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5 

Rafe’s human lover Eamon disappears through a portal to a differnet world after a ghoul attack. Rafe is a low ranking lord and thinks the king will not help so he decides to rescue his lover himself. As Eamon battles the elements and strange culture of the ghoul world with the help of Beah, a native who helps him, Rafe battles ghouls to learn the secret of portals with his second in command Kiran. Larger evil is afoot than just ghouls jumping worlds to eat humans and what started as a horrible accident, leads into a possible war no one saw coming.

Rafe is called a rin, which is basically a vampire. I liked the lore used here. Even though the ideas aren’t radically unique, there are some interesting takes on common science fiction themes: interdimensional travel, feeding on blood/sex/energy, mind linking/control, bonded mates, turning on magic users, religion to control the population, the feudal type of setting, etc. Eamon is strange at first, full of fear and anger, like he can’t take control of himself and needs Rafe to (mentally) control him. I think this was meant to show him as submissive, but I’m not sure I like this characterization. Taking this out of the equation, Eamon is loyal and brave, even when frightened. I loved the flashback of how Rafe and Eamon met. At the beginning Rafe is cold, calm, and collected even after Eamon disappeares; then he seems to miss him slightly, but does go to look for him. By the end the I love yous are completely over the top, so I wish this had been a little more even handed. It would have made their reunion more impactful. Beah is a great trans character who gets treated horribly by his tribe. Be aware they are several depictions of misgendering, humiliation, and dead naming–although the author doesn’t allow the reader to know the dead name, which I appreciated.

This story could be a self contained adventure, but it’s also a larger story arc that will be picked up in the next book. The side characters like Kiren, Orienna, and the King are all intriguing, but there is little to them in this book. Eamon is the fish out of water in this tale. There is a little of Beah being a fish out of water as well, for some nice symmetry. It’s difficult in a first book with all the world-building, so I am hoping the next book works harder at holding/highlighting the emotional moments between the friends and lovers so they don’t get stomped on in all the politics and intrigue. Those are what gives me something to root for–to hope they win and save the day. There are twelve worlds and this book has only shown small parts of two, so there are so many different possibilities for future stories.

The cover art by Natasha Snow shows a desert through what appears to be a grimy window pane, which I take to be the portal between worlds.

Sales Links:

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Book Details:

ebook
Published July 8th 2019 by NineStar Press
ISBN 139781951057015
Edition Language English

Love Fantasy? Check Out the Release Blitz for Treacherous Seas (Mermen and Magic #6) by L.M. Brown (excerpt)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Treacherous Seas (Mermen and Magic, Book 6)

Author: L.M. Brown

Publisher: Pride Publishing

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Genre/s: Paranormal, Fantasy, M/M Romance

Themes: Reincarnation, Second Chance at Love

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 85 815 words/348 pages

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Blurb

Caspian, the Atlantean God of Justice, has devoted his eternal life to protecting the merfolk. He has no time for romance, not even when the merman he now watches over is his former lover reincarnated.

Phoebus, a merman living in the sunken city of Atlantis before the Atlanteans were banished, never intended to fall for Caspian, the most promiscuous of all the gods. Yet, when Caspian offers him immortality, Phoebus doesn’t know if he can pay the price, even if refusing means breaking the heart of a god.

Back in the present, Marin remembers the love he once had for Caspian, but he’s not the same merman now. Caspian might have loved him as Phoebus, but he knows the god cannot give him what he needs.

Marin doesn’t want Caspian’s protection. He wants revenge, and he is prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to get it, even if it means breaking Caspian’s heart a second time.

 

Excerpt

“Caspian, there you are.” Cari breezed into the room and settled herself onto the chaise. “I’ve been searching everywhere for you.”

Caspian sipped his wine before answering his sister. “Well, now you’ve found me.”

Cari helped herself to a glass of her own. “Since when do you travel to this part of the world?”

“I needed some time alone,” Caspian replied. Rafe’s jealousies had pushed him to his limit today, so he had escaped to a small province in Italia for a little peace and quiet. Hiding from his priest wasn’t difficult, but avoiding his sister was another matter entirely.

“Rafe?” Cari asked.

“You know I don’t like it when you poke into my head.” He managed to block most of the immortals from his mind, but his sister appeared to have the ability to bypass all his defenses. He supposed it came from being the Goddess of Prophecy.

“I didn’t,” Cari replied. “But when I checked your palace, he was ranting about some merman you’d fucked. I simply drew my own conclusions.”

“I didn’t fuck him.”

“Rafe seems to think otherwise.”

Caspian rolled his eyes. “Rafe was present in the room the entire time. He is well aware of what we did.”

Cari huffed. “Did you ever think that your priest might not get quite so jealous if you didn’t make him watch you with other men?”

“The merman was having trouble breaking his mating fever. He came to me for help, we broke his fever and he returned to the ocean. That was it.”

“What was his name?”

“Who? The merman?”

“Yes, him.”

“Phoebus. Why do you want to know?”

“Just curious. I spoke to Mother this morning.”

“And what did she have to say for herself?”

“She told me Medina had slipped you a love potion.”

“Apparently. She added something to my wine, but I don’t know what. She was probably bluffing.”

Cari laughed briefly. “Don’t you know by now that Medina never bluffs?”

“Well, it doesn’t seem to have had much of an impact on me. Probably she isn’t as good at brewing up mischief as she likes to think.”

Cari sipped her wine. “You never did figure out the difference between a love potion and one that simply inspires lust.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that if she’d given you the latter, which is what she hands out to most who seek her services, you’d be fucking that young merman right now. A true love potion, on the other hand, takes time to work, just like real love takes time to grow.”

“What are you saying? You think I’m going to fall in love with someone? The merman?”

“Like it or not, you are about to discover what falling in love is like.”

“I think I’ll let that particular experience pass me by, thank you all the same.”

“You seem to be laboring under the mistaken belief you have a choice in the matter.”

“I do.”

Cari finished her glass of wine and poured herself another. “I took a peek into your future after I spoke to Mother.”

“I suppose telling you I don’t want to know about my future would be pointless?”

“It would.”

“Very well. Tell me what you saw, and if I don’t like it, I’ll do what I need to so I can change it.”

“You can’t alter course mid-stream.”

“Says who?”

“Fate.”

“I don’t believe in fate.”

“It doesn’t matter what you believe in. You’ve met Phoebus, and been intimate with him, just hours after drinking Medina’s concoction.”

“He only sucked me.”

“That’s more than enough to trigger the potion. Chances are, if it’s one of Medina’s brews, the touch of your hand to his would have been enough.”

“I’m probably never going to see him again,” Caspian said, even though the thought of a second encounter with the merman made his heart race.

“I assure you, you’ll be seeing him very soon. He’s a nice man and I think he’ll be very good for you.”

“Why are you and Mother so eager to see me settled down with just one man? I’m perfectly happy as I am.”

“Are you?”

“Yes.”

Cari shook her head. “When you’ve fallen for him, when you’re head over heels, desperately in love with him, you’ll know what perfect happiness is.”

“Oh, please.” Caspian rolled his eyes.

“You’ll see.”

 

About the Author 

L.M. Brown is an English writer of gay romances. She believes mermen live in the undiscovered areas of the ocean. She believes life exists on other planets. She believes in fairy tales, magic, and dreams. Most of all, she believes in love.

When L.M. Brown isn’t bribing her fur babies for control of the laptop, she can usually be found with her nose in a book.

 

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A MelanieM Review: On the Subject of Griffons by Lindsey Byrd

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Rating:  4.75 stars out of 5

They’ll do anything to save their children’s lives, even if it means working together.

Kera Montgomery is still mourning the sudden death of her husband, Morpheus, when her youngest son falls victim to a mysterious plague. With no medicinal cure, Kera must travel to the Long Lakes, where magical griffons capable of healing any ailment reside.

As an heiress unused to grueling travel, Kera struggles with the immense emotional and physical strain of her journey—one made more complex when she crosses paths with her husband’s former mistress, Aurora. Aurora’s daughter is afflicted with the same plague as Kera’s son, so despite their incendiary history, the two women agree to set aside their differences and travel together.

The road is fraught with dangers, both living and dead. Each night, old battlegrounds reanimate with ghosts who don’t know they’ve died, and murderous wraiths hunt for stray travelers caught out after dark. If Kera, Aurora, and their children are going to survive, they’ll need to confront the past that’s been haunting them since their journey began. And perhaps in the process, discover that old friends may not be as trustworthy as they once thought—and old enemies may become so much more.

On the Subject of Griffons by Lindsey Byrd is such an unexpectedly deep, and emotionally rich journey.  Not of one woman, although Kera Montgomery is the main character who undergoes the most personal growth and development.  So too does the woman who starts out as her adversary and the source of so much of her pain,Aurora., Kera’s deceased husband’s’ ex-mistress.

The writing and characterizations in this story are simply brilliant. Told from the perspective of the “Widow Montgomery”, she is at moments controlled, raw, open, distraught, and as the story moves forward comes a woman of strength, determination, and incredible bravery.  Someone able to go forward and love again, building a future for herself, others and more. But when it starts out she is a woman overwhelmed by the deceit of her husband, buried in grief by his loss, mired down by the weight of responsibility for the huge brood of children she has and and lack of control over his   own future which seems lay in the hands of her father and the bankers of the town which want to pressure her into selling them her home, Ivory Gates.  She’s barely  coping and we are made to feel every tear, every throbbing pressure headache, every lost to depression episode Keri is feeling.

Then the deadly sickness that is sweeping the town invaded her home and her smallest child falls critically ill.  And again, we are in Kera’s heart and head that just as we don’t believe this  woman can stand any further pain, humiliation, or despair, now her youngest child is going to die.  And we are weeping with her.   And raging with her over her feelings of inadequacy and helplessness and the anticipation of yet another crushing deep loss.

It’s rare that I get pulled so fully and deeply into such a character as Kera Montgomery because of, I suppose, her state and, like all others, outward impression of her at the beginning.  Kera inhabits a rigid society that gives women little choice as to their roles in life.  Nice women in society are wives and mothers.  The men manage things, money, estages, society,  and wars. When Kera’s husband, Mori dies in a duel disgraced, he leaves her a widow of 7 children and a large estate she never wanted, Ivory Gates, teetering with looming debts and no pension of her husband’s to use as income.  Bankers are at her door and no one is asking her what she wants to do but her father instead.    She’s feeling invisible, emotionally battered, once more in mourning and feeling betrayed by a husband she loved who never seemed to think about the consequences of his actions.

Grief, helplessness and depression have mired this woman down until her youngest son is struck down and will soon die if nothing is done. It’s that desperation that is the impetus for Kera to finally act, against society and for herself and her son.

To save him she must find a Griffin’s feather and they exist only in one part of the territory.  In the cruelest of ironies, the first person she encounters on the road is her husband’s mistress who’s daughter is critically ill with the same sickness.

The journey then becomes this incredible saga  of multiple complex story threads, magic, and redemption.  Kera must learn to get past her hatred of Aurora, her pain and need for understanding about the affair, there’s forgiveness and personal growth, and so much more than this review can begin to describe.  Really, these women are beyond amazing as is their road to saving their children and finding a new future together.

It is labeled as F/F but the heat level is low, limited to kissing and off scene sex that is not described.

If I had any issues its that it ended a little too pat but what came before was just too magnificent for me to really quibble about that.  The writing and characterizations are just that outstanding.

Honestly, if you love fantasy and some of the best womens characterizations I’ve read this year, pick up On the Subject of Griffons by Lindsey Byrd.  I highly recommend it.  It’s just a stunner of a story!

Cover art: L.C. Chase.  The cover is a little dark and it does fit parts of the story but it could easily be a contemporary fantasy which this is not.

Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon
Book Details:
ebook, 316 pages
Published May 27th 2019 by Riptide Publishing
Original Title On the Subject of Griffons
ISBN 139781626498822
Edition Language English

Love Fantasy Romance? Check Out the Release Blitz for Healing Glass by Jackie Keswick (excerpt and giveaway)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Healing Glass

Author: Jackie Keswick

Cover Artist: Pavelle Art

Release Date: May 13, 2019

Genre/s: Fantasy, M/M, Fantasy romance

Trope/s: friends to lovers, two against evil

Themes: fighting oppression, personal responsibility, love is stronger than tyranny, never piss off a man who has something to protect 😉

Heat Rating:  3 flames

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Blurb

A dying city.

An ancient, forgotten accord.

And two gifted men caught in a web of greed and dark magic.

Despite belonging to different guilds, glass master Minel and warrior captain Falcon are friends. Their duties keep them apart, but when Minel falls ill and chooses death rather than the only known cure, nothing can keep Falcon from his side.

As their friendship grows into more, old wrongs and one man’s machinations threaten the floating city and leave both Minel and Falcon fighting for their lives. Can they learn to combine their gifts to save the city and its magic, or will everything they know and love perish before their eyes?

Healing Glass is an LGBT fantasy adventure with its head in the clouds. If you like medieval backdrops, impressive world-building, three-dimensional characters and a touch of magic, then you’ll love Jackie Keswick’s socially-conscious adventure.

Buy Healing Glass to visit the floating city today!

 

Buy Links 

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Excerpt

Half a mile above the surface, a deep, rumbling groan rattled through Favin’s bones and turned his guts to water. The elevator jerked and shuddered—long enough for Favin to wonder whether he’d left his errand too late—before it resumed its stately progress up towards the floating city.

The groans and jerks came more often these days, on almost every journey. Despite the trickle of ice-cold fear, Favin welcomed the noise and stuttering ascent. He’d raised the alarm weeks earlier, but no one had believed the word of a servant. No one but Councillor Teak, who now clung to the transparent wall on the far side of the elevator, face grey and eyes wide.

The City Council would believe Teak.

“Is… this… why you wanted me to accompany you?” Teak spoke louder than necessary in the tight confines of the chamber bearing them aloft.

“Yes, Councillor. I reported it several times, but—” Favin stopped, loath to criticise the council. “I felt you had to know what’s happening.”

Teak, resplendent in a well-cut black coat and lace cuffs under his scarlet robe of office, didn’t belong in an elevator filled with rows of stacked crates, bins of cloth, and rolls of parchment, even when Favin hadn’t packed the space as full as he usually did. The councillor didn’t need the experience of a full cargo run, of squeezing into a gap just large enough to get in and out of. Never mind that he wouldn’t have fit. The servants joked that were the councillor hollow, one of them could fit inside his frame with space to spare.

Teak enjoyed his food as much as he enjoyed his status and privileges, but he hadn’t lost all sense of his responsibilities. When Favin had asked for his help, he’d only grumbled a little before agreeing to investigate the matter. Now here he stood, pressed against the transparent wall, gaze riveted to the crate in front of him, not daring to look down.

Favin watched the sea and the sky over Teak’s shoulder, wishing—as always— that he could see the city as they made their way towards it. The freight elevators didn’t allow for such a view, and Favin’s work rarely left him the leisure to sit on the beach.

Four levels of squat glass tiers and elegant spires connected by sweeping stairs and graceful bridges, suspended high above the waves by a raft of near-invisible columns… the floating city had stood waiting at the edge of the ocean when the Craft Guild arrived in need of shelter. Nobody knew its builders. Nobody quite understood how it worked. The city kept its occupants warm and dry, the glass walls closing or receding depending on the weather. Fountains supplied water in every square, and in all the buildings. The middle tier of the city—a wide, level space between the double-story, flat-roofed dwellings of the lower level and the skyward-reaching spires of the top tier—had been given over to growing food. All other goods the inhabitants needed came via the trade guilds and the Merchant Guild. The craft masters could have anything that fit into one of the eight large elevators, whether it came by land or sea, while men like Favin ensured the goods arrived where they were needed.

The groan came again, more of a pained shriek now, like the death cry of a material used too long and too well, as an abrupt slip downward hurled both Teak and Favin to their knees.

Then the sounds stopped.

The downward movement stopped.

And the elevator resumed its unhurried climb.

Sweat pearled on Teak’s brow and upper lip by the time the transparent cabin reached its goal. “Can we… not use this elevator?” He stepped off the floating disk before he turned to ask.

“It will delay deliveries, Councillor.”

“How many journeys do you make in a day?”

“Some days as many as fifty.”

“And the noise and the… jerking… have been getting more frequent?”

“Yes. I’m told the other elevators show the same signs of trouble. And in the upper city, the glass is said to be weeping.”

“Weeping?”

“That’s what I’ve heard, Councillor. I’ve not seen it.”

“No, of course not.” Servants of Favin’s class had no access to the upper levels. “Thank you, Favin, for bringing this to my attention.”

Favin bowed to the councillor before he set about unloading the cargo into the hands of the waiting servants. The council would decide whether to shut down the elevator or keep it running. He’d done as much as he could do, given his station. He’d said his piece and had had a councillor listen.

He continued with his work, until words drifting through a half-open door stopped him on his way to deliver rolls of parchment and ink to the council chamber.

“Weeping is the only way to describe it, Wark. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“And you think it’s going to be a problem?” The clipped tones were the regent’s and Favin froze where he stood, listening.

“Of course, it’s a problem,” Teak argued. “Go and see for yourself if you don’t believe me. There’s liquid glass welling up out of the column and trickling down its length. What do you think will happen if the glass wears away doing that? Or if the whole column turns to liquid? Will it continue to support the upper level in that state, or will it run into the sea and disappear?”

“Calm yourself, Teak. I’m sure there’s no need for panic.”

“You would know, of course.” Teak said snidely. “But I say you should listen. There’s more than one of those weeping spots in the upper city. The freight elevators jerk and groan, and servants are buying out their contracts, happier to make a life elsewhere than work here.”

Then it is serious, Favin thought, glued to his spot. More serious than I knew.Positions with one of the three gifted guilds were hotly sought. Only the king’s court paid better wages, and with the high prices in the royal city and port of Allengi, those wages didn’t go nearly as far.

“We must deal with this, Wark. Before it is too late.”

“Repairs to the city’s fabric are the task of the glass master. I will make sure he attends to the problem.”

“Minel is an outstanding craft master.” Teak bristled as if he had heard something in Wark’s comment that Favin had not. Something he disagreed with. “Most sought after, despite his youth. His list of commissions is near endless and he earns—”

“There are no other glass masters in the guild. Minel is our only choice if we want to fix the problem you’ve brought to my attention.” Regent Wark sounded oddly gleeful.

“No. You can’t— What if—?”

“You can’t have it both ways, Teak. You can’t bring me a problem and then object when I solve it. Minel’s work and his designs pay a large part of the city’s debts. I’m not so stupid I’d interfere with that. But if the fabric of the city fails, all the money and favours we’re owed will be no use to us. It’s fortunate that Minel cares about nothing but making glass. He doesn’t have the stomach for confrontation. I think… I think this will work out very well. Minel will accept that we direct his work and we can add another treasure to our collection. I have waited long enough.”

 

About the Author

Jackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurring dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.

Jackie loves unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who don’t follow the rules when those rules are stupid. She blogs about English history and food, has a thing for green eyes, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat.

And she still hasn’t found the place where the bus stops.

For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops or recipes for traditional English food, you can find Jackie Keswick in all the usual places.

 

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Love Fantasy? Check out the Blog Tour for Unimaginable by Iyana Jenna (excerpt and giveaway)

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Book Title: Unimaginable

Author: Iyana Jenna

Publisher: JMS Books

Cover Artist: Written Ink Designs

Genre/s: Fantasy, M/M Romance

Trope/s: shifters, vampire

Themes: drama

Heat Rating:  3 flames

Length: 14 675 words/ 52 pages

The book is planned as part of a series but can be read as a standalone.

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Blurb

Callum Saxon wakes up to a totally different universe where all around him is water. Strangely he can breathe it as if it’s air. The bad thing is he can’t remember how he got there. He can’t remember himself, either.

Ainsley Carlisle is more than a man with long blond hair. He’s a unicorn shifter with secrets as widely stretched as the rainbow supposedly coming out of his rear. Ainsley won’t help Callum uncover who he is because Ainsley wants him to remember it himself.

In this new universe, Callum has to survive the creatures that live there, such as vampires, shifters, werewolves, you name it. But there’s more to Callum than meets the eye.

 

Buy Links

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Excerpt

Callum wasn’t completely unaware of where he was going. He recognized the place as the kind of pub Ainsley had showed him earlier. He wasn’t sure how he was going to pay for his drinks but the thought of losing himself in alcohol was as big of enticement as his desire to erase his mind completely — if there was any to erase.

Callum blinked his eyes, adjusting to the dim light inside. The place was quiet, practically empty. Perhaps it was still quite early. It wasn’t unlike other pubs he frequented — ha, he remembered that piece of information. The only thing keeping this one apart from the ones he knew was the slow moving thick water around him. Callum just hoped he wouldn’t get sick like some time ago when he first shoveled food down into his stomach. He gazed straight at the bartender. Now what could he say to get a free drink …

“Hello, gorgeous.”

He looked up. A literal tall, dark, and handsome was looming over him. Callum wouldn’t call himself short but compared to this man? He was a midget.

“What are you doing alone in this place, baby doll? Where is your, ah, partner?”

“What do you mean?”

The stranger waved his hand. “You know, that blond bastard?”

So he knew he’d been going about with Ainsley.

“Come on,” the man said dismissively. “Two pretty creatures like you? You were both strolling around the town like the happiest couple in the realm, making everyone jealous.”

Callum sputtered. “Jealous? We’re not a couple and I’m not sure about the pretty creatures …” Talking about pretty, he himself couldn’t tear his gaze away from … what was his name?

“Who are you?” Callum’s voice was as weak as he was feeling at the moment.

The man closed the distance between them and Callum sniffed his cologne. It was a scent he’d never smelled before. It was a mix of their surroundings, like ocean breeze as well as the old woods, added with citrus aromas and a trace of musk underlying all of those. It was strong but not too overpoweringly so or suffocating. It was more like the flow of the ocean water, soothing and lulling, spellbinding.

“Is a name that important to you?”

Callum felt like he was coming back from a long slumber. He looked up from the man’s strong, sculpted jaw, which sat at his eye level.

“Uh …”

“What’s yours, l’ange?”

It took a beat and Callum realized the man just called him angel in French. So they spoke French here, too, Callum mused. He wondered what other languages they spoke.

“Callum. Callum Saxon.”

“Your name is as pretty as its owner.” He practically purred.

“How about you?”

To Callum’s surprise, the man withdrew a little to make a deep bow with one leg pulled back and a hand waving low.

“I am usually called Patrice Deniau. I believe that’s my real name though it’s been centuries and I honestly can’t remember in which period of time I was named that.”

Callum felt as if all the air in his lungs was sucked out. Centuries. Period of time. What was this man whose name sounded French, too — Patrice Deniau? A vampire?

A shudder ran down his spine. Patrice did look like a vampire with his tall, slender figure, sharp chin, dark hair, and a pair of intense blue eyes that easily bewitched Callum.

“I, uh, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Deniau.”

“Mister?” Patrice’s laughter was soft and lilting. “Unless you are to call me Sir or Master, Patrice will suffice.” He stroked Callum’s jaw with his long fingers.

Callum let out an involuntary moan. He knew he had to pull back, move away. But he couldn’t. Instead, he leaned in and his eyes shuttered closed. He practically purred.

“Yes, all right, Patrice.” It was Patrice for now. Later, he decided, he might change to Sir, even Master.

“Very well. Good Lord, you’re so gorgeous. Has anyone told you that?”

“Oh, yeah, I guess.” Amidst his foggy mind, Callum heard himself replying, not that he knew exactly what he had been asked.

“Really? Who was that, someone special?”

Callum nodded. “Yes.”

“Someone you loved or someone who loved you?”

“Both. Love.” Why past tense? “He still loves me.”

“As you deserve, someone as captivating as you. May I know — I believe it’s that Carlisle boy? Ainsley?”

Ainsley. Callum’s cheeks heated up as the name was mentioned. He’d definitely developed a certain infatuation with the man. But love? They had not even declared their feelings to each other. Declare, because Callum was certain their feelings were mutual. He shook his head slowly.

“No?” Patrice sounded surprised. “You’ve only been here for, what, two days, three days at the most. I can’t believe you’ve been fooling around, let alone falling in love.”

But of course he’d not been fooling around. He’d barely met other people aside from Ainsley and his mother. Yet it was neither of the two who he had on his mind.

Kevin Travers.

Callum blinked as a name suddenly flashed across his mind. He shook himself inwardly and took a deep breath. The name sounded familiar. It had to be familiar. Otherwise, why would it turn up out of the blue?

“What is it, my dear? You look ashen.”

Callum was suddenly out of breath, near hyperventilating. “He was … he is …”

“Yes?” Patrice’s hand crept up at the back of his head.

“I don’t remember but … but he was important to me. I just know it.” Patrice stroked his scalp with knowing fingers and it was all Callum could do to stop himself from moaning.

“Is he still important now?”

 

About the Author

I’m Iyana Jenna and you can call me Iyana. I like writing, romance, and man-love, so you’re mostly going to find my stories as m/m whether they are for adults or young adults. They are not going to be too heavy on explicit sex, though, as many say that my stories are considered sweet romance.

When I don’t write, I teach English to children, teens, and adults. I also work in the curriculum and materials department in a language institution. Among my responsibilities are writing books and tests.

 

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Check Out the New Release Blitz for Where Song Replaces Silence by Layla Dorine

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Title: Where Song Replaces Silence

Author: Layla Dorine

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 22, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 33300

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, abduction, anger, Brownies, faeries, gay, hurt/comfort, mythical creatures, nymphs

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Synopsis

Raze halts his midnight joy ride to give chase to twinkling lights that appear in the road before him and then lead him deep into a forest, where he falls into another world. There, magic is real, wishes are granted, and no one is considered odd or out of place.

Raze has never fit in anywhere in his own world and uses his angry attitude to keep others at bay and mask his anxieties and fears in this new place. A dangerous combination in Loas, where rudeness is frowned upon and foul language can land him in a dungeon.

Rurin, an inhabitant of Loas, tries to teach Raze about their world, its magic and its residents, but he faces Raze’s stubborn resistance at every turn. Bitter about his past, pessimistic about his future, Raze sees what could be, but he struggles to accept it. In the meantime, his encounters with the Fae range from hostile sarcasm to potential danger. While he attempts to keep the promises he’s made to Rurin and follow the rules laid out for him, Raze grows more and more curious about the place where he’s landed. It’s too bad he keeps making poor choices.

As the connection between them grows, Rurin works to keep Raze from being banished, but Raze may be cast out of the Loas before he has the opportunity to discover the true reason he was led there in the first place.

Excerpt

Where Song Replaces Silence
Layla Dorine © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Heavy, the steady thud, thud, thud of the base rocked the back windows, and poured from the open driver’s side where the scent of rain flowed freely, mist lightly splashing on Raze’s face. “Four Rusted Horses” blared from a radio cranked so high the rain-covered glass vibrated with the force of the speakers’ efforts.

Thud, thud, thud, “forbidden…” Raze growled along, more snarl than song. Thud, thud, thud, “heaven…” Every word committed to memory. Thud, thud, thud, “useless…” Despite the slickness of the road, he drove with just two fingers, his free hand tapping out a beat on the shifter. Thud, thud, thud, “hell…” Glowing red numbers on the dash flipped from 2:59 to 3:00, the witching hour, the night so dark the headlights struggled to pierce the dim and fog.

The old Charger’s purr was a gospel choir of spark plugs and gears. His steel and chrome baby was the only thing in life Raze worked hard to care for. Some might even say he worshipped her power and speed, stroked her like a lover, and spent more than one night curled against the supple leather of her seats. He called her Rhea, after Saturn’s second largest moon. As a kid, he’d had a collection of beautiful photos of the ringed planet.

For most, this might have been motivation to aim high, study astrophysics or astronomy, anything that might put them closer to the cosmos. Not Raze. If he was behind the wheel, space and time were irrelevant; the world shrank, melted, and faded away. The song reached its crescendo, and he drummed along, eyes half closed as he pressed harder on the gas, felt the wind snarl and tug at his hair—sharp, like cold teeth. Tensing, he belted out the final verse, barely keeping Rhea on the road.

Exhilaration warred with exhaustion, the miles piling up for hours. A quick glance at the dash showed the gas tank was drifting below a fourth, dangerous territory when he had no clue where to find the nearest station. Common sense said he should have stopped at the last place he saw, but the rebel flags in the window made him wary. He’d always had a tough time understanding how people could hate someone so absolutely over something as simple as the color of their skin.

His own varied, based on how much time he spent in the sun. Most days, his skin glowed like the beach at sunrise, the sand shimmering a glowing golden hue. In the summer, though, his skin grew three shades darker, and if he wasn’t careful, a crop of freckles would appear splattered across his nose. He hated them as much as he hated the odd, three-toned hues of his hair, and how, no matter how many times he dyed the messy mane, he could never quite get his locks to turn out one color.

The long strands needed another treatment, the rich reds were like blood and rubies, or at least, that’s how a multitude of people had described the color over the years. A few, being kind, had likened the shade to fall leaves or a sunset, but kindness hadn’t been a common occurrence growing up. His so-called oddities had always made others uncomfortable. Funny, but ever since he’d learned the meaning of normal the idea had freaked the hell outta him. One of the many reasons he was still drifting.

Shit!

Slamming on the brakes, he jerked the wheel, sending Rhea spinning through the dancing green-gold figure appearing out of nowhere, swathed in a halo of lights. Somehow, despite the rows of waving trees, he got Rhea stopped without clipping one. His throat hurt, and his chest was pounding, lungs heaving as he sucked in air. Breathing and trying to relax the death grip on the wheel at the same time was a struggle. His fingers ached. Stiff and cramping, they refused to cooperate, no matter how hard he focused. Shaking, he collapsed against the wheel, the weight of his body sounding the horn, the echo a forlorn cry above the howling wind.

Shit shit shit shit shit

The only word he could formulate, shit, a mantra, running through his brain. There hadn’t been a thud. He hadn’t felt one, hadn’t heard one, meaning he’d missed them, right?

He didn’t want to look, but he knew he had to. Maybe they’d tripped, fallen, dived out of the way, rolled. They could be hurt, but not as bad as if he’d struck them with nearly two tons of metal. Swallowing, he told himself to man up, jerked his fingers free of their grip on the wheel, and sucked in a deep breath as he fumbled in the darkness for his phone. Three bars. Good, he could get them help if they needed it.

He fumbled with the door, got it open on the second try, and practically fell getting out, his body rebelling with every movement. For a moment, he stood in darkness, disoriented as he tried to figure out which direction he’d been coming from. When he spotted the twinkling green lights over the road, he blinked and stumble staggered toward the glowing apparition, watching the fragments of gold swirl and take shape, hovering, the form human, but not.

The fuck?

About fifty feet away, he could hear laughter, a mocking, teasing jangle of bell-like notes.

“You missed me, you missed me.”

Huh?

Squinting, he struggled to assess the situation, even as the words continued.

“Now you gotta kiss me.”

Oh, hell no. Either he was hallucinating, or he’d smacked his head on something. Either way, he was gonna wake up in a few minutes to darkness, a whining engine, and a pounding headache even the best painkillers wouldn’t cure.

Scrubbing a hand over his face, he pressed his fingertips against his temples, counting to ten, but the laughter and singsong words continued.

“You think this is funny!” he roared, hands dropping to his sides, fingers curling into fists. He took a step forward and then another. “You could have gotten me killed; you could have fucked up my car; how fuckin’ stupid do you have to be, playing games out here in the middle of nowhere! Do you get off on fucking with people, huh? I swear to god, if there is a fuckin’ piston outta place in Rhea, you’re gonna pay to have her fixed.”

The laughter grew, even as he stalked the light. Only when he was within grasping range did it turn and flee toward the forest, glancing back every now and again to taunt him more.

“You can run, run, run, but when you’re done, you will never catch me.”

“Oh, you better believe Imma catch you, and when I do, Imma beat the sparkle offa you!” he screamed, crashing through the underbrush after it. It occurred to him, as he slipped and floundered, like as not, he was chasing swamp gas or some fucked-up idea of a joke involving holograms and projectors. They were probably sitting in a tree laughing at his stupidity. Didn’t stop him from continuing to give chase.

Tripping, he landed facedown in prickly brambles.

“FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!”

Yowling, he carefully tried to detangle himself while the laughter continued to grate on his nerves.

“Clumsy, aren’t we? My, my, my, that’s a very fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into.”

“Me? You’re the one who led me into this crap.”

“If you’d been faster, or smarter, perhaps you’d have used your wings, instead of stumbling around like a blind Alp-luachra searching for its next joint.”

“Wish I was sitting somewhere warm and dry smokin’ a joint right about now,” he grumbled beneath his breath, even as the sparkling flake of glittery light continued to cackle, twinkling like a firefly with every high-pitched note.

“Ah, but your wishes matter little to me. I lack the ability to grant them, and even if I could, I wouldn’t, until we’ve finished our game, though you are a poor, poor chaser. Perhaps you would be a better seeker. Shall I hide and see if you can find me?”

“Please don’t; actually, no, wait; please do. Yeah, that’s brilliant. You go hide, and I’ll come find you…in a century or two.”

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Meet the Author

Layla Dorine lives among the sprawling prairies of Midwestern America, in a house with more cats than people. She loves hiking, fishing, swimming, martial arts, camping out, photography, cooking, and dabbling with several artistic mediums. In addition, she loves to travel and visit museums, historic, and haunted places.

Layla got hooked on writing as a child, starting with poetry and then branching out, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Hard times, troubled times, the lives of her characters are never easy, but then what life is? The story is in the struggle, the journey, the triumphs and the falls. She writes about artists, musicians, loners, drifters, dreamers, hippies, bikers, truckers, hunters and all the other folks that she’s met and fallen in love with over the years. Sometimes she writes urban romance and sometimes its aliens crash landing near a roadside bar. When she isn’t writing, or wandering somewhere outdoors, she can often be found

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