Blog Tour for ‘Kevin Corrigan and Me’ by Jeré M. Fishback (author guest post, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Kevin Corrigan and Me

Author: Jere’ M. Fishback

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 19

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 57400

Genre: Contemporary and Historical, YA Literature, Historical, memoir fiction, non-explicit, Gay, Bi, Cisgender, coming-of-age, friends to lovers, homophobia, in the closet, coming out, athlete

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Where my ideas come from by Jere’ M. Fishback

People ask me where my ideas for my stories come from, and I always have to tell them, “I don’t know.” When I start a new book, I only have a character in mind who has a problem or a challenge to face and I know the setting for the story, that’s about it. I never outline my books, I could not imagine doing so because my stories develop as I go along. After a while I find the characters are telling me what to write and where they want to the story to go. I know that sounds strange but it’s true.

Synopsis

Ever since their boyhood days, fifteen-year-old Jesse has craved something more than friendship from Kevin Corrigan. Athletic, handsome and cocky, Kevin doesn’t seem approachable. But when Kevin spends a summer at Jesse’s family’s beach home, an affair ignites between them, one so intense it engulfs both boys in a emotional tug of war neither wants to give up on.

Excerpt

Kevin Corrigan and Me
Jere’ M. Fishback © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Kevin Corrigan died two days ago, on a Thursday, at the age of sixty-five. I know this only because I saw his obituary in this morning’s Tampa Bay Times. The obit provided limited information: date of birth, date of death, and Kevin’s place of residence, Madeira Beach. It also said Kevin had no known survivors, but that isn’t really true because I’m still alive and I am very much Kevin’s survivor.

My name is Jesse Lockhart. I grew up in the Jungle area of west St. Petersburg, Florida, in a cinder-block home with a fireplace, casement windows, a weed-and-dirt yard, no air-conditioning, and an ineffective furnace. My parents divorced when I was six years old and my father disappeared shortly after that, so he wasn’t a factor in my life. I lived with my mother and younger sister, Lisa.

Kevin was an only child who lived next door to me with his Boston Irish parents. He was a year older than me, and between my parents’ divorce and the time I reached the age of eleven, Kevin became my primary masculine influence.

I worshipped him.

Always half a head taller than me, Kevin was lanky, with curly blond hair and a riot of freckles dancing across his turned-up nose. His blue eyes twinkled, and he was athletic in a way I would never be. He had a cocky attitude; he wasn’t intimidated by anything or anybody, not snarling dogs, rattlesnakes, teenagers, or any type of authority figure: cops, umpires, or the nuns that taught at his Catholic primary school.

Okay, he wasn’t the sharpest when it came to his schoolwork. I was mostly a straight-A student while Kevin scraped by with Cs, and every time report cards issued, his mom compared mine to his. Then she’d say to Kevin, “Why can’t you be more like Jesse?”

But Kevin wasn’t meant for school and textbooks; he wasn’t designed to perform academic tasks. His world was the palmetto and pine forest near our homes, the baseball diamonds in our part of town, a tree house he built for himself, and the streets and alleys of our suburban neighborhood.

It seems hard for me to believe now, but when I was eight and Kevin nine, he and I often rode a city bus, unaccompanied by an adult, from the Jungle all the way to downtown St. Petersburg, a ten-mile journey, just to see a matinee at the Florida Theater. Afterward, we’d visit a magic shop called Sone’s, a quirky place run by a Japanese couple where we bought stupid things to bring home: fake plastic puke, a whoopee cushion, and cigarette loads I snuck into my mom’s Viceroys; they exploded with a bang shortly after she lit up. Once we bought a tin of itching powder, which I think was simply shredded fiberglass, and then on the bus ride home, Kevin surreptitiously sprinkled some of the powder down the backs of two women’s sundresses, causing the women to writhe and scratch while we giggled and jabbed each other in the ribs.

Kevin’s home life was a mess. His father, Colonel Frank Corrigan, was a wheelchair-bound WWII veteran who’d sustained spinal damage in the Pacific theater. He was in constant pain, and this caused him to be cranky and out of sorts. He puffed on Hav-A-Tampa cigars jammed into a holder he’d fashioned from a coat hanger because his fingers didn’t work very well. He drove a black Cadillac with the accelerator and brakes operated by calipers attached to the steering wheel. He was always yelling at Kevin for one thing or another in a barking tone I could hear a block away. His favorite epithet was, “I’m gonna kill that kid, Margaret.”

Margaret was Kevin’s mother, the Corrigan household martyr who endured Kevin’s mischievous behavior and her husband’s unceasing demands. A bulky woman with auburn hair and a narrow, thin-lipped mouth, she bathed the Colonel, helped him in and out of bed, got him dressed, and cooked the family meals. She washed clothes in an old-fashioned ringer-style washtub, then hung them to dry on a clothesline in the Corrigans’ backyard. She always seemed tired and dispirited to me. I rarely heard her laugh, and I often wondered whether the Colonel and Margaret had once enjoyed a happy marriage, back when the Colonel was healthy and Kevin wasn’t part of their lives.

The Corrigans’ social life revolved around the Madeira Beach Moose Lodge, the VFW, and St. Jude Catholic Church. Every Sunday they piled into their Cadillac to attend Mass with the Colonel’s wheelchair loaded into the trunk by his wife. Once I went with them; I was curious to see how a Catholic service might differ from those at my Methodist church. Much to my surprise, the St. Jude Mass was conducted in Latin; I couldn’t understand a word the priest said. Money was collected from parishioners through use of a metal basket attached to a telescoping aluminum pole operated by an usher. The day I was there, Kevin pretended to put money in the basket, but instead he stole a dollar when his folks weren’t watching, then stuffed it into his pocket after giving me a wink. I felt appalled by his behavior, but of course I didn’t snitch; I wouldn’t have dreamt of it.

Kevin was a natural athlete; he could play any sport—baseball, basketball, or football—with agility and grace. But he couldn’t get along with other players; he constantly got into scraps with members of opposing teams, or even with his own teammates. He had a way of needling guys with sarcastic remarks about their lack of athletic prowess or even their looks. (“Is that your nose or are you eating a banana?”) In fact, he seemed incapable of forming true friendships with anyone other than me.

For reasons I didn’t understand at the time, Kevin was drawn to me just as I was drawn to him. He never teased or threatened or taunted me like he did other boys in the neighborhood. He never called me an insulting nickname. I was by nature a gentle boy who lacked self-confidence in the masculine world, so I never tried emulating Kevin’s miscreant behaviors on my own, but I loved serving as his sidekick and sycophant. I relished my role as abettor.

Many of our neighbors had citrus trees in their backyards: oranges, tangerines, and grapefruits. One night, at Kevin’s suggestion, we snuck into the neighbors’ properties to fill two paper grocery sacks full of grapefruits larger than softballs. Across the street from my house, a huge live oak grew in the right-of-way. One of the oak’s limbs stretched across the road like an arm reaching for a box of crackers in the cupboard. Toting our sacks of grapefruits, Kevin and I scaled the tree and perched ourselves on the limb overlooking the road. When a car passed beneath us, Kevin or I dropped a grapefruit on the car’s windshield, which always scared the bejeezus out of the car’s occupants. Women screamed and brakes squealed. Men cursed. But of course no one could see us up there in the darkness.

Every Halloween Kevin and I dressed as hobos. We scavenged the neighborhood, collecting candy in our pillowcases while pulling the occasional prank. My favorite was one where Kevin scooped up a pile of dog turds using a Sabal palm boot as a shovel. He dropped the turds on someone’s doorstep, soaked them in lighter fluid, and set them on fire. Then he rang the unsuspecting homeowner’s doorbell. The result, of course, was never in doubt. The surprised resident stomped the fire out with his shoe, only to belatedly discover what sort of material flamed. Kevin and I hid in a nearby bush, watching and chuckling so hard I think I might have peed in my pants.

Kevin liked to spy on people at night, on weekends or during summers when we could stay out until nine or ten. We peeped on women undressing, on an old guy who picked his nose and ate the boogers, on a pair of men who slow-danced together in their underwear to Johnny Mathis records, on a high school boy who often pleasured himself while leafing through a girlie magazine. I, of course, had never seen such things before. Kevin’s spying opened up a whole new world for me, one I knew I would never discuss with my mom or sister or anyone else. How could I possibly?

I remember one summer when the Colonel traded in his Cadillac for a two-toned, cinnamon-and-cream Rambler station wagon. The Corrigans took a month-long cross-country trip in the Rambler, all the way to California, where Kevin sent me a postcard from Disneyland. He sent me another from the Alamo in San Antonio. Both were places I’d always dreamed of visiting, but figured I’d never see. That was a miserable month for me. I felt jealous of Kevin’s travels and as lonely as I’d ever been in my young life. I think I was nine then. Of course there were other boys in the neighborhood and I did my best to pass the time with them, but it wasn’t the same as being with Kevin. I longed for the day the Corrigans would return.

The Corrigans’ house stood north of ours. Kevin’s bedroom was at the southwest corner, while my bedroom was at the northwest corner of our house, so Kevin and I always slept about twenty feet apart. If we’d wanted to, we could have tossed a football back and forth between our bedroom windows. But I never spent the night with Kevin and he never spent the night with me because Kevin was a chronic bed-wetter. His mother kept a fitted rubber sheet on his mattress at all times, and this went on for as long as Kevin lived next door. I didn’t know anything about the reasons behind bed-wetting, but even then I suspected it was caused by emotional distress of one sort or another, probably linked to his poor school grades, his father’s withering tirades, and the Colonel’s very obvious disability that surely must have embarrassed Kevin. But I always kept his bed-wetting problem to myself; I never even mentioned it to my mother or sister. I figured I owed it to Kevin to keep his habit a secret from the rest of the world.

When Kevin and I were boys, Catholics were not supposed to eat meat of any sort on Fridays: no beef, chicken, or pork. So every Friday Mrs. Corrigan prepared a dinner featuring Mrs. Paul’s fish sticks. These were tasteless little rectangles of processed and frozen cod you heated up on a cookie sheet, and Kevin detested them.

“They taste like cardboard,” he told me, “even when I cover them with tartar sauce.”

At our house, my mom prepared a fried chicken dinner every Friday—the tasty meal was a ritual—and every Friday Kevin would sneak over to our house to dine on fried chicken, unbeknownst to his parents. Of course, my mom knew what was up, but she never told Kevin’s parents he violated God’s law every Friday night. She let him gnaw on wings and legs with abandon because Mom was that way. Within reason, she believed in giving kids the freedom to do whatever they chose.

The summer before my sixth-grade year, I was nearly eleven and Kevin was already twelve. He was almost as tall as my mom at that point—he’d put some muscle onto his frame as well—and I remember very clearly an incident involving Kevin, a truly cathartic experience for me. I had just finished my breakfast and brushed my teeth, and I walked over to the Corrigans’ house to see what Kevin was up to. Their garage door was open, and I heard someone rattling about inside, so I walked into the garage’s shadowy interior where I found Kevin rummaging through the contents of a cardboard box. He wore nothing but a flimsy pair of briefs that clung to his buttocks and displayed a randy bulge in front.

Kevin might as well have been naked.

Right away my mouth grew sticky and my knees wobbled. I lived with two females—I had never seen another boy in his underwear—and the sight of Kevin’s lean physique captivated me in a strange way I hadn’t felt before. There in the garage, I thought Kevin was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I felt so stunned I couldn’t speak. I just clenched and unclenched my fingers at my hips while I kept my gaze focused on Kevin.

When he finally noticed me standing there, Kevin gazed at me with his eyes narrowed and his forehead crinkled, as if to say, “What are you looking at?”

It was then, of course, I realized something about myself that I’d never before suspected: I felt a physical attraction to Kevin; I wanted to touch him in ways that weren’t allowed in the world we dwelt in, and the realization that I harbored these urges frightened me out of my wits. I didn’t know what to do or say, so I turned on my heel and ran back to my house as quickly as I could. I went to my room and closed the door behind me. Then, after I sat on my bed, I rocked back and forth while wagging my knees and cracking my knuckles. My stomach roiled and my heart thumped. Between my legs, I felt a stiffening as I recalled exactly what I’d seen in the Corrigans’ garage. My viewing of an almost nude Kevin had seared his sex appeal into my brain, and I was never quite the same guy after that morning. There in my bedroom, I knew I was somehow different than other boys, and though I couldn’t yet articulate how I was different, I was certainly on my way to finding out. Neither Kevin nor I ever mentioned the incident in the garage after it happened. In fact I suspect Kevin had no idea what it had meant to me or how that moment had altered my view of myself.

But I knew.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

 

Jere’ M. Fishback is a former journalist and trial lawyer who now writes fiction full time. He lives with his partner Greg on a barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast. When he’s not writing, Jere’ enjoys reading, playing his guitar, jogging, swimming laps, fishing, and watching sunsets from his deck overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.

Website | Facebook

Tour Schedule

6/19    Bayou Book Junkie

6/19    MM Good Book Reviews

6/20    Divine Magazine

6/21    Stories That Make You Smile

6/22    Dean Frech

6/22    Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

6/23    Love Bytes Reviews 

6/23    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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In the Spotlight: Back to You by Chris Scully (Riptide Publishing Tour and Giveaway)

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Back to You by Chris Scully
Riptide Publishing

Cover by: L.C. Chase

Available for Purchase at Riptide Publishing

✒︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Chris Scully here today on her Back to You Tour.  Welcome, Chris!

✒︎

Hello! I’m Chris Scully. I’m thrilled to welcome you to my blog tour for Back to You, my new romantic suspense novel. Join me at various tour stops, where I’ll be sharing some background on the novel and the characters, my thoughts on writing, and more. Comment on each stop to be entered in a drawing for a $20 Riptide gift certificate. Thanks for joining me on the tour!

About Back to You

Journalist Alex Buchanan has come home to the remote British Columbia town he grew up in, but only because his estranged father is dying. For Alex, the homecoming holds a mix of memories, mostly bad. The only bright spot is reconnecting with Benji Morning, the childhood friend he never truly forgot. As boys, the strength of their bond had frightened Alex. But now that he’s confident in his bisexuality, he’s drawn back to quiet, soft-spoken Ben.

Ben isn’t the same boy Alex left behind, though. His life has been overshadowed by the disappearance of his sister two decades earlier, and now a new break in the case threatens to undo the peace he’s worked so hard to attain.

As Alex struggles to repair the relationship with his father before it’s too late, he finds himself caught up in a twenty-year-old mystery, a story he never expected, and a shocking truth that could affect his and Ben’s future together.

Available now from Riptide Publishing

About Chris Scully

Chris Scully lives in Toronto, Canada. She grew up spinning romantic stories in her head and always dreamed of one day being a writer even though life had other plans. Her characters have accompanied her through career turns as a librarian and an IT professional, until finally, to escape the tedium of a corporate day job, she took a chance and began putting her daydreams down on paper.

Tired of the same old boy-meets-girl stories, she found a home in M/M romance and strives to give her characters the happy endings they deserve. She divides her time between a mundane 9-5 cubicle job and a much more interesting fantasy life. When she’s not working or writing (which isn’t often these days) she loves puttering in the garden and traveling. She is an avid reader and tries to bring pieces of other genres and styles to her stories. While her head is crammed full of all the things she’d like to try writing, her focus is always on the characters first. She describes her characters as authentic, ordinary people—the kind of guy you might meet on the street, or the one who might be your best friend.

Although keeping up with social media is still a struggle given her schedule, she does love to hear from readers.

Connect with Chris:

Website: chrisscullyblog.wordpress.com

Facebook: facebook.com/chris.scully.author

Goodreads: goodreads.com/author/show/6152322.Chris_Scully

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Back to You, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on June 17, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Blog Tour and Giveaway for Will to Live by M. Christine (special excerpt)

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Title:  Will to Live

Author: M. Christine

Publisher:  Torrid Books

Release Date: March 16, 2017

Heat Level: 5 – Erotica

Pairing: Male/Female, Male/Female/Male (No Male/Male interaction), Female/Male/Female (No Female/Female interaction), Female/Female/Male (Female/Female interaction)

Length: 29,509 words

Genre: Erotica, BDSM, Contemporary,Multi-Cultural,Friends-to-lovers

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Synopsis

The old adage learn by doing sure applies to Williamson “Will” Franco, a dominant prodigy at age 18. If it weren’t for an impromptu threeway encounter—with a sideshow of anilingus—this truly intercultural young man never would have dreamed of spanking, bondage, and role play. So he becomes an employee of a sex club.

When Will shows up, club revenues jump. Consensual kinky sex is not a required part of the job, but is optional. The club, however, ends up being much more than a sexual awakening. His coworkers embrace him as kin, while the proprietress and her submissive husband end up being Will’s benefactors, bankrolling his education and guiding him on a good path, despite a dire home life in the hood.

The experience matures him, equips him to cope with inevitable family problems and tragedy, and shows him how to live.

Excerpt

Kendra then gave him a tour.

“There are so many fun things to do here,” she said. She walked demurely with Will, as if she were a debutante being courted by a gentleman. “For instance, if we detour into this big room, we find gloryhole action. There’s a big space over yonder where someone who’s really hungry for dick sits inside a cubicle, and the four walls around it have a bunch of holes for insertion. Then there’s a couple of smaller setups that accommodate a more intimate experience of one unknown cock, one unknown mouth.”

The more compact gloryhole structures reminded Will of confessionals, which made him feel uneasy. His grandmother was a devout Catholic, and he did not like thinking of his grandmother in connection to a gloryhole.

Kendra led him to another room. It was black-lit, and to enter it they were required to attach a bendable glow stick onto their bodies. Will could see a few glowing wrists groping frenetically at some dark mass of bodies; a few folks made illuminated cock rings or hooked their glow stick through nipple hoop piercings. A sweaty energy emitted from this grope center. Although Kendra longingly watched some of the action, Will stayed put. He let her get her eyeful as his arm remained linked to hers, but he did not budge toward that orgy.

There was a region of the club space to the side of the large main room, where rows of racks of varying heights were lined up against the walls. Bodies in various states of dress were fastened to most of them. Some racks were in an X-shape, others were like door jams with hooks on the outside, holding paddles and other toys.

“Are those whips?” inquired Will just before he heard a sharp crack. A hand flicking a blood-red bullwhip caught his eye. Will observed a big, pale set of anonymous butt cheeks receive a snap from the uncoiled object. The flesh flinched and wobbled hypnotically, though the biting blow appeared to draw blood, which jolted Will out of his dazed stare. He expanded his vision, noticing that the restrained female was wearing a cloth sack over her head.

Will noticed other people—men and women—clamped, locked, or roped onto the different racks. They were disciplined with paddles or riding crops, and Will became aware of the cacophony of slaps filling the space. There were a few attendees waiting in line for some of this action. One Bettie Page-type submissive apparently had her fill, calling out Uncle! as she squirmed inside her limb restraints. Her ebony-skinned female partner’s whole hand—gloved to the elbow—was inside her. G-spot liquid spilled out from her pussy as the dominatrix yanked out her fist. She wiped the wetness onto the bound female’s tits and stomach, dried her glove with a towel hanging nearby, and made a half-hearted effort to slacken the knots at the limp captive’s wrists. With one spiky stiletto, the domina tugged loose the sinew around her partner’s red and raw ankles. The released girl curled up on the floor, groveling at her top’s sexy high heels and long legs. Those legs kicked her aside while the fierce lady fetched a container of disinfectant wipes and threw it at her. The groveling one commenced to clean up the area and equipment they used. She gathered the trash and vacated the spot for those waiting their turn—which happened to be a threesome.

“I don’t see too many people smiling in this area,” Will said.

“Come this way,” Kendra responded with a tilt of her pretty head.

In one corner was a leather swing. Will once saw one like it on a porn site Yuri showed him. In the swing, which was hooked to the ceiling with industrial strength, was a fine Latina with her legs spread comfortably in the provided stirrups. She smiled and laughed as the swing rocked back and forth. Her pink labia was impaled on a rigid dick. The dude who the dick belonged to manipulated her swing to slush and stroke it over and over. The woman just giggled and sighed and grinned, speaking a few encouraging words like so thick, and oh, stud. When she spoke her voice was low and sexy, which made the guy push and pull her hips more intensely, and that made her squeal in delight.

“Hi, Evelyn,” cooed Kendra.

The swinger waved to Kendra and blew her a kiss, never breaking out of her state of pleasure.

.

Purchase

Torrid Books | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Meet the Author

M. Christine is a SoCal writers whose work is infused with an extended tour of duty in adult-magazine publishing, melting-pot subcultures, and art school.

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | eMail | Simon & Schuster | Google Play

Tour Schedule

6/12 – millsylovesbooks

6/13 – Divine Magazine

6/14 – Books,Dreams,Life

6/15 – A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

6/16 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

6/16 – Happily Ever Chapter

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A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Summer Heat by Jay Northcote

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I generally enjoy a good friends-to-lovers story and this was no exception. Except that it was better than many and took place between two BFFs on a well-deserved holiday vacation at a gay resort in Spain—a beautiful setting for a story with plenty of buildup and a sweet conclusion.

Adam had been living with his older lover, Drew, for five years, but when he’s suddenly too mature to suit his twink-loving man, he’s unceremoniously dumped for someone else and finds himself out in the cold with no place to go except to his BFF’s place. Finn, of course, accepts him with open arms, having loved Adam as more than a friend for many years. Finn is definitely not attached to anyone else so it’s a win-win situation for both of them.

When Adam recalls that he’d booked a week’s vacation at a gay resort for himself and Drew, he asks Finn to go with him instead, thus setting the scene for the evolution of the friends-to-lovers theme.

Though each has the hots for the other, it’s not until a cute guy named Niall invites Finn for a threesome with Adam that Finn reluctantly accepts. And it’s not that he doesn’t want sex with Adam—it’s just that he’s worried their friendship will fall apart. What follows is super-hot—readers had better get out their personal fans for this one—and it’s something both men decide to continue for their week away. Little do they realize they won’t be able to stop and won’t want to either.

I loved this story. The romance was just perfect. The sexy times weren’t too shabby either. I always enjoy Jay Northcote’s work and it just keeps getting better. This would be a great book to take on vacation and let your imagination run wild with the guys as they share their own vacation adventure with readers. Highly recommended!

The gorgeous color photo cover of a very hot guy was designed by Garrett Leigh and is perfect for this story.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 205 pages
Published June 9th 2017 by Jaybird Press
Original TitleSummer Heat
Edition LanguageEnglish

Review Tour Request & Giveaway: RJ Scott’s Back Home

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK


Cover Design: Meredith Russell


Length: 52,147 words


Blurb


Falling for his brother’s boyfriend broke his heart. Now he’s back home and falls in love all over again.


One birthday kiss and Kieran realizes he is in danger of falling for his brotherís boyfriend, Jordan. Leaving for college, then moving to another country is the only way to ease the ache in his heart.


But, when his father becomes ill and his sister begs him to come home, Kieran returns for good. He finds the family business nearly bankrupt and Jordan, the man he ran from, beaten down by despair and guilt.


Friendship is what they promise each other as they work to repair the business, but it could never be enough for Kieran. When secrets spill, and there are vital decisions to be made, Kieran realizes two things; heís back home, and he wants to stay with Jordan for good.


Now he just needs to convince Jordan.

 

Author Bio

RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a weekís break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldnít defeat.

mailto:rj@rjscott.co.uk
Website
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Megan Derr on How the Trilogy Came About and her latest release ‘Waiting for You’ by Megan Derr (guest blog, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Waiting for You

Series: Lifesworn, Book 1

Author: Megan Derr

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 5, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male/Female (Male/Male interaction)

Length: 40000

Genre: Fantasy, fantasy, friends to lovers, reunited, royalty, bodyguard, established couple, political, spies

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How the Trilogy Came About by Megan Derr

So a question that crops up pretty often is what comes first, plot, setting, or characters? For me, that varies from story to story. This particular one started with the characters and some of the plot (I wrote another post on the exact inspiration for this story).  I had a princess in danger, a prince, and his bodyguard, and an eventual threesome. I had an evil parent (though father become stepfather).

Since this had originally been meant as an erotic short for ARe, I decided to keep the setting simple. Two countries, one with obvious medieval Europe influences, the other with medieval Middle East influences. No magic. Pretty confined plot, in that there’s a small cast and they don’t move between a whole lot of locations. But as is my want and practice, I also built a world where all things queer are accepted. Her stepfather hates her, but only because she’s a threat to his power, not because she’s bisexual. It doesn’t matter to him if she marries a man or a woman, if they’re cis or trans. He just wants her out of the way or under his control once and for all.

And I felt it was important to lay out how this story came about, because there’s this idea that persists in writing, in art, that we must wait for inspiration! and be struck by muses! and listen to the voices! and that to purposely write something with a goal like money in mind makes us less. And that’s stupid and worse harmful. I always write what I want, but sometimes what I want is something that does not tax and exhaust me the way High King or Dance-verse or Tavamara-verse does, something that is easy to write, appealing to more readers than usual (since queer fantasy romance is never going to have the draw that contemporary romance does), and makes good money.

So that is how this trilogy came about.

Synopsis

Shanna has spent her whole life waiting—waiting to be old enough, waiting for the day she must pick a consort, waiting for a chance to finally overcome her despicable stepfather… and waiting for someone to finally banish the loneliness that comes with being a queen-in-waiting one step away from being murdered.

On the eve of the two-week event during which she must pick a consort from a bevy of suitors, two strangers arrive claiming to have been invited—though she knows full well they did not receive any such invitation. But the handsome, mischievous Prince Kallaar is too intriguing to resist, and his quiet bodyguard too compelling to ignore…

But she’s learned the hard way never to let anyone get too close, and on the verge of gaining true independence her stepfather will stop at nothing to see she never gets it.

Excerpt

Waiting for You
Megan Derr © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Prologue

Shanna sighed in the gloom of the stables, enjoying the dark and quiet, even the smell of horse, dragon, and manure.

Gingerly touching her sore cheek, the result of a stepfather who’d succumbed to a rare fit of temper and struck her, she went to get some treats for the animals.

After she’d given apples to the horses and hazelnuts to the dragons, she pulled out the small flask of wine she’d brought with her, upended a bucket to make a seat, and settled in front of her favorite dragon’s stall for a night of drinking.

She’d prefer to be making merry, a proper ceremony honoring her mother, two years dead now, but of course her worthless stepfather, Mercen, preferred a much smaller, quieter, and more somber affair. Just one more occasion for him to do what he needed to further his own goals while paying token respect to the woman who’d made him consort.

At least it was late enough she’d be left alone out here. Everyone else was asleep or on duty. The only person who’d be in the stable at that hour was Tikki, the stable boy, and even if he woke and realized she was there, he’d leave her alone.

All the problems of the day—week, month, past two years—tried to rise up, but Shanna had endured more than her fill of them for the present. They’d have to wait until tomorrow. Instead, she drank wine and tried to focus only on happy memories of her mother, the sorts of things her mother would tell her to think about.

She’d almost managed to achieve a good mood, or something close enough, when she heard voices outside. Voices that were not speaking Remnien. If she wasn’t mistaken, they were speaking Morentian, which was bizarre. Morentians didn’t travel this far north very often, and certainly not in the dead of a winter night.

Pushing to her feet, Shanna headed for the stable doors—and barely jumped back in time to avoid being whacked in the head by one.

Two figures, accompanied by horses, hurried into the stables and closed the doors behind them. The shorter of the two said something, and Shanna caught snatches of “finally” and “snow” and something she didn’t understand but suspected was a curse. Her mother had never taught her those words, though Shanna had tried to learn them.

“Can I help you?” she asked.

They spun toward her, going still a moment before removing the snow-crusted wrappings from their faces—which revealed extremely handsome men, tired and travel-worn though they were. Shanna swallowed, painfully aware suddenly of her own unkempt state: the old, ragged dress she’d thrown on, her hair only loosely knotted back, the bruise slowly forming on her cheek.

Oh, what did it matter? She was a princess—a queen in waiting—what did it matter if she looked good to a couple of travelers she’d never see again?

“I am sorry to disturb,” the shorter man said, mouth curving in a smile that reminded Shanna of the kitchen boy, Benni, who caused no end of trouble but always charmed his way out of it with smiles like that. “We are humble peddlers from Morentia and not accustomed to your wretched snow. We were hoping to reach the royal castle tonight, but I honestly have no idea where we are right now.”

Shanna laughed. “You’ll be relieved to know you’ve reached your destination, though you’ll have to wait until morning to peddle your wares. But come, there are places aplenty for you to stay the night, and the kitchens can give you a meal.”

“We’d be most grateful, Lady…”

“Shanna.”

Both men stilled again briefly before venturing farther into the stable, closer to Shanna. She moved backward a few paces and nearly collided with one of the two lanterns that lent the stables light.

The shorter man said something in Morentian she didn’t understand, the words spoken too low and fast to catch. “You are no lady, but the fine princess herself,” the man said, his wickedly charming smile returning. “We are most honored to make your acquaintance, my princess.”

Shanna shivered. My princess. She liked the way he said that.

“Shall we tend the horses before you attempt to flirt with someone too good for you, Kallaar?” the second man asked gruffly.

“Yes, Ahmla.” Kallaar glanced back at Shanna. “Where should we put our horses, Your Highness?”

“This way.”

Once the horses were tended, Kallaar returned to her side immediately, almost but not quite standing improperly close. “Now then, what brings a lovely princess to the stables so late at night? And all alone. Surely there are better places to be in this terrible weather? I should think anywhere else at all would be better.”

“It’s not that cold.”

Kallaar looked at her like she had lost her mind. “There is snow.”

Shanna laughed at his affronted tone. “Yes, but it’s early winter yet. Soon it will be so cold every breath feels like knives in your lungs, too cold even for snow, and everything that ventures outside unprotected freezes immediately.”

“How can it be too cold for snow?” Kallaar sounded affronted. “That sounds like a nightmare come to life.”

Ahmla made a noise that sounded like agreement.

“I’m certain many people say the same about the heat of Morentia. What brings you so far afield this time of year? Surely your wares could wait to be traded in weather you find more pleasing?”

“I come from a very bossy family, and there are things that must be done, and I am the one to do them,” Kallaar said, looking oddly intent for a man who probably traded in bobbles and knickknacks. “Not that I mind, of course. I am just as bossy and demanding as the rest of them—” He gave a snickering Ahmla a look. “Anyway, despite our grousing, we are happy to be here, my princess. Now, I do not suppose there is anywhere in this place where a couple of frozen strangers might thaw?”

“I think I can help with that,” Shanna said, smiling in a way she hadn’t since her mother had died two years ago. Hard to find anything to smile about when she was a prisoner in her own castle, constantly afraid she would join her mother in the afterlife while Mercen stole their kingdom.

“Splendid!” Once they were outside, Kallaar offered his arm.

Amused and charmed despite herself, Shanna made to accept—and slipped on a patch of ice, but even as she drew breath to scream, she was scooped up before she hit the cold, hard ground.

Shanna blinked at Ahmla, who held her like she weighed nothing, and was shockingly warm for a man who had seemed cold and miserable. “Are you all right?” he asked.

“Um. Yes. Thank you, Master Ahmla. That would have been a nasty fall.”

“My honor to serve, princess.” Instead of setting her down, though, Ahmla carried her all the way to the castle and only put her on her feet once they reached the stones of the kitchen yard, which were kept clean by the staff so they could work safely.

“Thank you again,” Shanna said and hastened inside to hide her flushed face.

In the kitchen, she found the late-night cook in the pantry and requested she see about food and beds.

Returning to Kallaar and Ahmla, she said, “You’ll be taken care of quite well from here by the staff.”

“It’s most appreciated, my princess. You are even kinder and more gracious than rumors say.”

Shanna highly doubted any such rumors existed, but she smiled all the same. “It’s sweet of you to say so.”

“No, it’s not. Don’t encourage him,” Ahmla said. “He’s enough of a brat.”

“You wound me,” Kallaar said with a pout.

Shanna laughed. “I will leave you to charm sweets from the cook, for I must to bed. It was a pleasure to meet you both. Perhaps I’ll see you again before you continue your travels.”

“Count on it, my princess. I could never leave here without seeing your lovely face at least once more.”

Ahmla lifted his eyes to the ceiling, and even the cook snorted as she brought them bowls of the soup kept on the fire for staff and soldiers working through the night.

Smiling again, Shanna bowed her head as they bowed. “Goodnight, dear sirs. Sleep well.”

“And you, my princess,” Kallaar said. “Sweet dreams.”

As she headed off to her room, still smiling at Kallaar’s antics and how nice it had felt to be held so easily by Ahmla, Shanna thought maybe for the first time in a long time, her dreams just might be sweet.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Megan is a long time resident of LGBTQ fiction, and keeps herself busy reading, writing, and publishing it. She is often accused of fluff and nonsense. When she’s not involved in writing, she likes to cook, harass her cats, or watch movies. She loves to hear from readers, and can be found all over the internet.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr

Tour Schedule

6/5 – Erotica For All

6/5 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Word

6/6 – MM Good Book Reviews

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6/7 – millsylovesbooks

6/7 – Divine Magazine

6/8 – A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

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A Stella New Release Review: Back to You by Chris Scully

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RATING 5 out of 5 stars

Journalist Alex Buchanan has come home to the remote British Columbia town he grew up in, but only because his estranged father is dying. For Alex, the homecoming holds a mix of memories, mostly bad. The only bright spot is reconnecting with Benji Morning, the childhood friend he never truly forgot. As boys, the strength of their bond had frightened Alex. But now that he’s confident in his bisexuality, he’s drawn back to quiet, soft-spoken Ben.

Ben isn’t the same boy Alex left behind, though. His life has been overshadowed by the disappearance of his sister two decades earlier, and now a new break in the case threatens to undo the peace he’s worked so hard to attain.

As Alex struggles to repair the relationship with his father before it’s too late, he finds himself caught up in a twenty-year-old mystery, a story he never expected, and a shocking truth that could affect his and Ben’s future together.

I was a little scared to read this new release from Chris Scully, although she is one of my favorite authors, I’m really not a huge fan of mystery stories. I like my readings to be funny, light and sweet. And it’s hard to find a good mystery with these elements in it too. But I couldn’t skip it, so I approached it being a little wary of what I was going to have on my hands. And I was surprised.

Back to You is a beautiful novel, it’s about love, about regrets, about making amends, about deaths, more than one. I found myself in a mystery twenty-years old. A mystery I was sure where it was going on from the start, and I so appreciate the author gave it a little twist and proved me wrong. I so preferred the resolve she chose.

If you already read something else from this author, you know she can write pretty well, she can bring the reader into each new world, new character she creates. Back to You was no exception. I found myself into the characters’ lives and being with them was an amazing journey. Alex and Ben  twenty years later should be two strangers and for a lot of things maybe they are, but inside they are the same boys, as the same is the strong connection between them, not just a chemistry but an understanding line that runs deep.  A connection that doesn’t turn into sex as soon as they see each other again because there is too much going on around them.

All the characters are real, buried in problems like we are, they are flawed and weak. They suffered and are still hurting.

“I see you, Ben Morning,” I whispered, resisting the urge to fold him in my arms right there in the rotunda of the Community Hall. “I’ve always seen you. All these years. I didn’t know how much I missed you, how much a part of me you still were, until I was here again.” The words were out before I knew they were there, ready to be said. “And I wish I could do everything over, but I can’t. I just . . . I want you to know that.”

I feel to recommend Back to You (and in general ALL the books by this author) to everyone who is looking for a good story, well written, with a great setting and characters well developed. It totally deserves five full stars.

The cover art by L.C. Chase is well done, I especially like the colors and it’s fitting.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 266 pages

Expected publication: June 12th 2017 by Riptide Publishing

ISBN 1626495742 (ISBN13: 9781626495746)

Edition Language English

Release Day Blitz and Giveaway for Performance Review by Tamryn Eradani (excerpt)

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Title:  Performance Review

Series: Daniel and Ryan, book 5

Author: Tamryn Eradani

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 29, 2017

Heat Level: 5 – Erotica

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 11600

Genre: Contemporary, BDSM, businessmen, friends to lovers, bisexual

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Synopsi

After a day testing Daniel’s limits and then a day being spoiled, Daniel has some time to reflect on his and Ryan’s relationship. He thinks they’re ready for their next step; planning a weekend away.

Excerpt

Performance Review
Tamryn Eradani © 2017
All Rights Reserved

 

Sundays are the one day of the week that Daniel doesn’t run, which also makes it the one day of the week he lets himself sleep in. There’s no alarm yanking him out of his sleep, no carefully planned morning routine to force him out of bed. Instead, he wakes slowly, arms stretching out, reaching toward the far side of the bed.

His hand knocks into an extra pillow, but doesn’t encounter another person, and that makes Daniel open his eyes. There’s supposed to be someone else in bed with him.

The other side of the bed is empty, and Daniel brushes his hand over the empty space. The sheets are cool. Which means Ryan’s been up for a while. Craning his head to get a look into the bathroom, Daniel sees that the lights are off.

Daniel pushes down the wave of hurt that comes when he realizes Ryan’s left him to go into the other room. Daniel leaves Ryan sleeping alone in the bed all time, especially on Saturdays when he wakes up much earlier so he can go running. And it’s not like he needs Ryan here.

He just wants him.

Awake now, Daniel slides out of bed, pausing as the first movement he makes alerts him to the fact that his entire body is sore. It’s an achy kind of pain, from his neck to his toes, muscles complaining that he didn’t even know he has. That’s what he gets for being so tense last night. Turns out not getting to come over and over again is a full body workout.

He likes the soreness. It’s not painful. It’s a reminder every time he moves of what happened last night. A reminder of how desperate he was. Desperate enough to cry. Desperate enough to beg Ryan to fuck him.

Daniel flushes, embarrassed even though he’s the only one in the room. It’s another useless emotion. There’s nothing for him to be ashamed of. If Daniel didn’t want Ryan to fuck him, then they wouldn’t be in a sexual relationship. And if Ryan didn’t want Daniel begging for it, then he wouldn’t have teased Daniel for as long as he did.

Then why isn’t he here, the insidious part of Daniel’s brain wants to know.

Daniel forces himself out of the room, but he doesn’t go looking for Ryan right away. He goes to Ryan’s bedroom instead, because his overnight bag didn’t make it to the guest bedroom, and Daniel doesn’t like wandering around his own apartment without clothes on, let alone Ryan’s apartment.

He pulls on a pair of sweatpants and a plain white V-neck, but it’s a little chilly in the apartment, and he looks around for something warmer. He has a sweatshirt in his bag, but it’s not what he wants. His eyes fall on one of Ryan’s cardigans, hanging over the open closet door. So close to being put back away.

Daniel plucks it from its current resting place, and slips his arms through the sleeves. Ryan doesn’t wear cardigans to work, or he hasn’t yet that Daniel’s seen, but he has a whole collection of them in his apartment. They’re all stretched at the sleeves or fraying at the collar. This one is light blue, and its sleeves are loose from being rolled up too many times.

Daniel tugs the sleeves over his hands and goes to find the owner of the cardigan.

Ryan’s in the guest room, standing by the bed with two plates in his hands and looking confused.

Daniel watches him wander over to check the bathroom, before he says, “Looking for someone?”

Ryan turns around, smiling when he spots Daniel in the doorway. “I was hoping to catch you before you got out of bed,” he says, holding up the two plates of breakfast for Daniel to see.

“Breakfast in bed?” Daniel asks. “Isn’t that messy?”

“We’ve got to wash the other sheets anyways.” Ryan sits down on the bed. “Come on, live adventurously.”

“I thought that’s what we did last night,” Daniel says, but he joins Ryan on the bed.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Tamryn studied English and Creative Writing in school but has been writing since she could first hold a pencil. Recently, she’s turned her focus towards writing erotica. She enjoys writing stories where sex comes first, then feelings, because doing things out of order can be fun.

Tamryn has spent the past few months writing the Daniel and Ryan series with a lovely view of mountains out her window, and she’s now searching for a new mountain range to serve as her backdrop as she begins her next project.

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Love a Fantasy? Check out ‘The Castaway Prince’ by Isabelle Adler (author interview/excerpt/giveaway)

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Title:  The Castaway Prince

Author: Isabelle Adler

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 15, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 20000

Genre: fantasy, fantasy, royalty, androgyny, cross-dressing, friends to lovers, disguise, princes

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Isabelle Adler here today.  Welcome, Isabelle, tell us a little bit about yourself!

✒︎

~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Isabelle Adler~

✒︎

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?

There are so many superpowers I’d like to have! For instance, the power to slow or stop time entirely. I’d get so much done! Telekinesis would be rather useful as well; and don’t get me started on teleportation!.. The one thing I definitely wouldn’t want, though, is telepathy.

If you could trade places with one of your characters, who would it be and why?

If you could sequester yourself for a week somewhere and just focus on your writing, where would you go and what would the environment be like?

I guess my perfect writing getaway would be a ski lodge somewhere in the Swiss Alps, sitting in a comfortable armchair in front of a roaring fire, with snow falling outside and an endless supply of hot chocolate. Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

What’s the one thing, you can’t live without?

Coffee. Definitely coffee.

What internet site do you surf to the most?

YouTube and Thesaurus.com

When you got your very first manuscript acceptance letter, what was your initial reaction and who was the first person you told?

Oh, wow. When I got the acceptance letter for Adrift from the editor at NineStar Press, I was ecstatic. I could hardly believe my eyes! I mean, somebody thought my manuscript was good enough to publish! I wish I could say I did a happy dance, but unfortunately, I was too busy organizing my kids in the morning. I told my husband right away, though; he was even more excited than I was!

Synopsis

Ostracized by his family for his sexual identity, Prince Stephan is forced to flee his homeland before his older brother ascends the throne.

Stephan has been drawn to feminine things for as long as he can remember, so when the dire need for secrecy arises, he seizes the chance to don the perfect disguise. With the help of his loyal servant, Stephan picks his way through hostile territory, hiding his identity by posing as a woman. His only hope for asylum lies with the man who had been his friend and lover three years ago. But when that man also happens to be the crown prince of a rival country, things are a bit more complicated.

With war looming on the horizon, the danger of discovery grows by the moment. With all odds stacked against him, will Stephan find a safe place where he can be his true self, or is he doomed to remain a castaway?

Excerpt

The Castaway Prince
Isabelle Adler © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

“My, aren’t you a beauty.”

“Shut up,” Stephan said as he hoisted his skirts. The wind and the rain had made the pier boards slippery, and he nearly fell over as the wet fabric twisted around his legs. All his surreptitious practice wearing dresses and feminine undergarments hadn’t prepared him for the trials of this kind of miserable weather. In the course of a few minutes after stepping out of the relative coziness of their private boat cabin, he’d managed to get soaked through down to his stockings and narrowly avoided falling into the river.

Warren, his manservant, seemed to be rather amused by Stephan’s efforts. He was grinning as he watched him try to drag his bags onto the pier. Stephan really wasn’t supposed to do that, but the port hand was currently busy unloading another boat, and the prospect of warming up in front of a cozy fire had lost Stephan all patience.

“Help me, you oaf!” Stephan glared at Warren from under the hood of his fur-lined cloak. The man was having a bit too much fun at his expense.

“Watch your language. You’re a lady, remember?” Warren said, quickly coming to his aid, shouldering the heavy travel bags. “One who’s too pretty to be so bad-tempered.” He winked at Stephan and led the way across the busy dock, farther into the streets of the city.

Zenna, the capital of Esnia, sprawled on both banks of the river, its two halves connected by a multitude of stone bridges. This was a city Stephan had never thought he’d be visiting—certainly not in his current predicament. The royal castle, partially visible from the docks, was an ominous presence that loomed over the city and more resembled a prison. It spanned the narrowest point of the river with its massive arch of a weathered stone bridge. Built to withstand invasion and siege, it was supported by great rectangular pillars rooted deep in the riverbed, now almost entirely green with centuries-old buildup of slime and algae.

Stephan was glad when its daunting bulk was lost from view as they headed to the more genteel part of the city, where the smell of fish and refuse wasn’t quite as overpowering. They had to walk a good distance from the docks, but as they left the bustle of the riverfront and fish markets behind, the streets became broader, and the mud was replaced with cobblestones. The rain was bitterly cold, making him miss the slightly gentler climate of his homeland.

Thankfully, with so much traffic this time of day, they didn’t attract too much notice. They found a respectable-looking inn, situated on one of the main streets, where noble folk, even those traveling ostensibly without a retinue, weren’t an uncommon sight.

“My sister and I require lodgings for tonight,” Warren announced with a haughty air as they stepped inside the common room and the innkeeper rushed to meet them. Really, Stephan thought as he pushed back his hood to watch Warren dispense silver coins, the man was doing a startlingly good job imitating nobility, even considering he came from a well-off merchant family and not some backwater village. Stephan stood aside, waiting meekly for his “brother” to finish giving instructions regarding their meals and baths, and then followed him upstairs. He would be overjoyed to finally see a dry bed and a lit fireplace in a room that didn’t sway with the river’s tides.

They were given two adjacent rooms on the second floor. Warren deposited Stephan’s bags in his room before retiring to his own, where Stephan could hear him unpacking on the other side of the wall. He took off his cloak and fumbled with the lacings of his bodice, cursing under his breath. The wretched things were so wet it made them more difficult to handle, but finally the knots came undone, and the heavy dress, crumpled and dirty from the journey, slipped from his shoulders to the floor. The corset that cinched his waist and added discreet padding to his chest was next to come off, and Stephan could finally draw an unrestricted breath, standing in nothing but a fine cotton chemise and bloomers.

As this was a room intended for a lady, there was a large standing mirror in one corner. Its ornate frame must have been the pride of the innkeeper.

Looking into the spotless polished surface, Stephan had to admit his bedraggled state didn’t quite mesh with his idea of feminine charm. The paint he’d used to accentuate his lashes had smeared beneath his eyes, and his chestnut hair, usually done in a low bun, was now in complete disarray.

Despite the dress being uncomfortable at times—particularly when it was nearly soaking wet—he was growing more and more accustomed to it. At the beginning of their journey, he’d been nervous about appearing ridiculous, despite all the previous careful preparation and the endless hours spent on modulating his voice and perfecting his posture in front of the mirror. His shoulders were too wide, his hips too narrow, his gait too awkward. Perhaps he’d been lucky no one had peered too closely at a noblewoman traveling under the protection of her fierce-looking older brother.

It was one thing to put on a costume once in a while for the sheer fun of it, and quite another to wear it constantly, living in it and assuming it as a part of his identity, affecting a wholly feminine character at all times. Especially when this identity—as attuned as it was to his preferences—was the only thing keeping him alive.

Still, as he wiped away the streaks of paint and grime from his face and leaned in to look more closely—at the smooth cheeks so rarely in need of shaving, the long lashes, and the finely arched brows—the familiar similitude of womanly features reasserted itself. There was nothing overtly masculine about the face staring back at him. Turning slightly, he lifted a shoulder, affecting a coquettish pose, and smiled at his reflection. Maybe the possibility of him pulling this off wasn’t so entirely unfeasible.

There was a knock on the door, and he turned around in alarm, clutching the chemise that had slipped off his shoulder, but it was only Warren, carrying a tray with two steaming cups of tea.

“Your Highness,” he said, after shutting the door with his heel.

Stephan took the cup gratefully, warming his fingers. The scalding-hot fragrant tea made him feel marginally better about the world.

Warren set the tray on the table. He took a quilted silk robe out of one of the bags and helped Stephan put it on, after which he proceeded to pick up the discarded articles of wet clothing strewn across the floor.

“It would behoove you to be a bit more circumspect,” he observed in a neutral tone as he shook the water out of the velvet. “For a pampered aristocrat, you behave like a loudmouthed milkmaid sometimes.”

Stephan barked a laugh and turned away from the mirror. “Only when I’m too cold to wait on my servant’s alacrity.”

It was meant as gentle ribbing, not real censure. Warren seemed to take it as such, because he draped the dress neatly over a chair to dry, and sat down without waiting for permission, pouring another cup for himself.

While Stephan had been busy ogling himself in the mirror, Warren had taken the opportunity to change out of his travel clothes. The plain linen shirt clung to his broad shoulders, and his short auburn hair was half dry already. He was tall and solidly built, the very image of hale masculinity, whereas Stephan was slender and almost petite, with fine bones and delicate features. He’d been teased for these attributes since adolescence, but now he worried they were not nearly as effeminate as the situation required.

“You seem glummer than usual,” Warren observed. “I’d have thought it would take more than a bit of rain to dampen your spirits.”

“The prospect of being thrown in prison and possibly executed if anyone were to recognize me doesn’t exactly make me cheerful,” Stephan said dryly, setting his cup down and removing the needle-sharp pins that held his long hair back. “And it’s so…dreary here.”

He supposed his own anxiety made the surroundings seem more depressing than they truly were, but so far nothing about this city had appeased him, apart from the tea.

“At least we’re off that cursed boat,” Warren offered wryly, watching him over the rim of his cup. He’d had some difficulties adjusting to that mode of transportation, and spent the first few days on the upper deck, leaning over the rail. The experience hadn’t served to lighten the moods of either of them. “And no one has followed us.”

Stephan nodded in acquiescence as he languidly finger-combed his hair, working out the knots. There had been no signs of pursuit, or of anyone actively looking for them, as far as he could tell. Of course, he was counting on the likelihood of his seeking refuge in Esnia being rejected as outright preposterous. Just as his outfitting himself as a woman would have been thought to be. It was one reason—though admittedly not the chief one—why he’d resorted to this type of disguise.

“We’re due to arrive at the royal castle tomorrow,” Warren reminded him. Stephan could tell he’d been steeling himself to have this conversation. Again. “Are you absolutely sure you want to go through with this? You know what I think about this whole matter, Your Highness. It’s not too late to turn elsewhere.”

“We’ve come this far already,” Stephan said. “To back down now would be—”

“Prudent,” Warren interjected. “Up until now, we’ve been traveling by the waterways, which was safe enough. Not a lot of people, more privacy to be had, no fear of discovery. And if anyone thought you behaved strangely—well, gentle-born women are peculiar in their manner, you know? But it won’t be like that in Zenna. Here, there are real noblewomen aplenty, around whom you will need to take special care of how you conduct yourself. Not to mention people who might recognize you from before.”

“Who? The only ones who might would have been the members of the Esnian delegation to Seveihar, and that was three years ago. A lot has changed since then.” Three years was a long time, especially in that awkward age between sixteen and nineteen. Stephan was reasonably sure it would be difficult enough to associate him with the shy, lanky youth he’d been back then, even without the disguise.

Warren shrugged and took a sip of tea. For a moment, his eyes lingered on Stephan’s hands going through his hair, and then he looked away. “When you have reason to hate someone as the Esnians hate us, you remember your enemies’ faces. You send spies that would know what they look like. We’ve talked about this already, but what makes you think Prince Arlen himself won’t call the guards when he sees you? As you’ve said, a lot has changed in three years.”

“He wouldn’t,” Stephan said with a conviction he wasn’t feeling.

Warren rolled his eyes, his expression that of a long-suffering voice of reason. At twenty-five, he was only six years Stephan’s senior, but at times he acted like Stephan’s aged grandfather.

“It’s not as if I have a lot of choice,” Stephan said bitterly. He finished combing his hair and picked up his tea, which was rapidly growing cold. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. Arlen is the only one who might grant me asylum.”

“There are other people who could help you,” Warren said carefully. “I mean—”

“You know very well there aren’t,” Stephan cut him off. “None that would support me against Robert and my uncle.”

Warren opened his mouth and then paused as he seemed to reconsider what he was going to say.

“With all due respect, you have no idea what kind of man Arlen is now. Do you really want to risk your life on his ability to handle seeing you in a petticoat?”

Stephan turned away and walked to the fireplace, letting the warmth spread through his weary body. As much as he wanted to snap back at Warren, he couldn’t. Warren was right, of course, and it wasn’t only Stephan’s life that hung in the balance. Stephan’s title as the prince of Seveihar—even while he was fleeing his own country—offered at least some semblance of protection, while Warren had none. Furthermore, the circumstances in which Stephen’s identity could be discovered—namely, pretending to be a woman—would mean nothing but shame and ridicule for his family, regardless of his ultimate fate. Shame and ridicule that they would not react well to.

Stephan often wondered why Warren had agreed to accompany him and share in his uncertain fate—loyalty notwithstanding. More than loyalty, really, as a bond had formed between them, tenuous but certain. But it had become clear from their first night on the road that Warren’s plan had been to continue to dissuade him from this folly—a plan that had proved futile in the face of Stephan’s blind determination.

It wasn’t as if Stephan wasn’t aware of the risks. He knew exactly how dangerous this scheme was. He’d known that when he’d first devised it, but then it had seemed like a daring idea, a shockingly outrageous adventure, even if it had been conceived of out of sheer desperation. Making his way through enemy territory, securing invitations to the High King of Esnia’s annual ball under false names—all for a chance to reconnect with the man who had been his first love and best friend years ago, and seek refuge with him—it all seemed improbable.

But after surviving a third alarming “accident” at the royal palace at Sever, his home in the valley-situated capital of Seveihar, Stephan was more than ready to risk appealing to an old lover rather than tempting fate by remaining in the family nest.

Certainly, in coming to Esnia, he was placing himself in no lesser danger. Seveihar’s relations with Esnia had been tenuous for decades, and then there was King Feden’s personal dislike of him. If exposed, Stephan would most likely face captivity and incarceration.

At least the choice of disguise for his escape had come easily to Stephan. If he was going to be persecuted for his idiosyncrasies, he might as well embrace them fully. Stephan had always enjoyed exploring his feminine side, and despite the audacity of it, when the idea of this subterfuge entered his mind, he’d directed all his efforts to delving deeper into it. He was still not entirely certain of his ability to fool others, of not making some stupid mistake that would give him away, but it was attainable, given time. He just wasn’t sure he had enough of it at his disposal.

“I have to at least try to get through to him,” he told Warren. “I can do this. I promise I’ll be careful. And it’s not like anyone would miss me should anything happen.”

Warren wisely didn’t contradict him, but his expression grew pensive. He seemed to put his arguments aside, as he’d done so often before when Stephan refused to be swayed.

“I wish you’d listen to reason, Your Highness. But since you won’t, and we’re here, we might as well go through with it. I’ll fetch you some food and hot water,” Warren said. “I’ve requested for you not to be disturbed.”

“Thanks, War,” Stephan offered him a smile. The man insisted on addressing him by his title, but in truth he was more a friend than a servant; he’d become the only one whom Stephan could trust when so much was at stake.

Warren left to get their dinner, and Stephan shed his robe before stretching on the bed, luxuriating in the crispness of clean starched sheets against his skin. After a three-week boat journey at the wane of autumn, he was grateful for all the little comforts he’d always taken for granted. The linen smelled vaguely of lavender. Stephan liked lavender. His household staff had scented his pillows with the dried flowers, and he remembered the smell clinging to Arlen’s hair as they rolled about in bed, laughing.

He closed his eyes, breathing in deeply. The memory of that long-ago summer had lingered on the edge of awareness. Now, he could see in his mind’s eye the bright-colored light that had spilled from the stained-glass windows of the throne room, lending an almost festive appearance to the first and only Esnian delegation to Seveihar. How handsome Prince Arlen had been, wearing a silver circlet in his hair and Esnian royal blue. How happy they’d been later, finding joy in each other’s company. He wished he could stay in that memory a little bit longer, but it dissolved in the warmth, transforming into deep, exhausted sleep.

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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 Lila Release Day Review: A Taste of Honey by Ari McKay

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Boone Phillips needs a girlfriend—now! If he shows up to the family reunion alone, his mother will throw every woman in sight at him. But the only “woman” Boone trusts enough to ask is Honey, the drag queen alter ego of his best friend, Rob. It’s a crazy idea, but Boone is desperate.

Boone wins Rob over to the idea after first going on a “date” with him as Honey, but everything feels different once the plan is set in motion. Between nosy relatives, illegal moonshine, and the sight of Rob in white lace panties, Boone starts to wonder if he’s as straight as he thought. When an earth-shattering kiss sends Rob running, however, Boone learns some surprising things about both his family and himself. Now he needs to convince Rob to give him another chance, or his first taste of Honey might also be his last.

A Taste of Honey is a charming, southern, friends-to-lovers story.  It can almost be read as two couples—Rob and Boone & Honey and Boone—with the exception of the beginning and the end where the transition between them morphs into one. And that’s the main plot in the story.

There are several tropes the author used well to bring the characters together and to give them a sense of place. The setting is an important part and the reader to see it through the characters’ eyes. The food, dialogues, and somehow stereotypical characters added to the charm.

Even when Rob cross-dresses into Honey, and is in character when they visited Boone’s family, this story doesn’t center around it. It is a sweet, slow romance that takes time to simmer. The MCs’ friendship is strong enough to carry the book.

If you are looking for a short story with nice characters and a different take on bringing “the one” home to the family, you will enjoy this book.

The cover by Reese Dante shows a perfect mix of Honey and Rob. A great hint to the story to come.

Sale Links: DreamspinnerAmazon | Kobo

Book Details:

ebook, 88 pages
Published: May 17, 2017 (Second Edition), by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 978-1-63533-580-4
Edition Language: English