Blog tour and Giveaway: Shelter The Sea by Heidi Cullinan

Shelter the Sea (The Roosevelt #2) by Heidi Cullinan

Release Day
Available for Purchase at

Buy links: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo,  Smashwords


Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Heidi Cullinan here today with her latest release, Shelter the Sea.

Welcome, Heidi!


Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals by Heidi Cullinen

In Shelter the Sea, one of the characters acquires a service dog during the course of the novel, and in researching for the book, one of the most interesting things I learned was that the terms service dog, therapy dog, and emotional support dog are not interchangeable, that each animal does a slightly different job and has a distinctly different classification.

Service dogs are specifically trained to assist one person, and their primary function isn’t to provide companionship or emotional support, though the individual they care for often forms a tight bond with the dog and vice versa. They’re required (and trained to) tolerate a wide variety of experiences, environments, and people. They’re also covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning their owners have a right to bring them into public establishments, and they may live with their owners even if the building has a “no pets” policy.

Therapy dogs can also tolerate a wide variety of experiences and environments, but they aren’t trained to support just one person, meaning they aren’t tailored specifically for them. They’re trained to assist generally, helping multiple people. They aren’t covered by the ADA, as they aren’t designed for individuals, only for specific spaces and instances where there would be no conflict for their use.

Emotional support animals, which can include dogs but don’t always necessarily only include them, are mostly there to provide, as the name suggests, emotional support. They aren’t covered by the ADA, as the ADA has ruled their work isn’t directly related to their disability and they’re not specifically trained for that individual, and therefore they can’t necessarily go everywhere. They are, however, sometimes allowed in places with “no pets” policies.

You can read more about the rules about service, therapy, and emotional support animals on the ADA website.


Some heroes wear capes. Some prefer sensory sacks.

Emmet Washington has never let the world define him, even though he, his boyfriend, Jeremey, and his friends aren’t considered “real” adults because of their disabilities. When the State of Iowa restructures its mental health system and puts the independent living facility where they live in jeopardy, Emmet refuses to be forced into substandard, privatized corporate care. With the help of Jeremey and their friends, he starts a local grassroots organization and fights every step of the way.

In addition to navigating his boyfriend’s increased depression and anxiety, Emmet has to make his autistic tics acceptable to politicians and donors, and he wonders if they’re raising awareness or putting their disabilities on display. When their campaign attracts the attention of the opposition’s powerful corporate lobbyist, Emmet relies on his skill with calculations and predictions and trusts he can save the day—for himself, his friends, and everyone with disabilities.

He only hopes there isn’t a variable in his formula he’s failed to foresee.


Author Bio

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi at


Rafflecopter Prize

Carry the OceanShelter the Sea signed paperbacks and Roosevelt Blues Brother kit (black fedora and skinny tie)

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Retro Review Tour: Garrett Leigh’s Misfits (Urban Soul #1) (giveaway)

Urban Soul Series
Misfits (Book #1) 
Strays (Book #2)  Out March 27

Buy Links: Riptide | Amazon US | Amazon UK | KOBO | B&N | Smashwords

Length: 70,200 words

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Cover Design: Garrett Leigh at Black Jazz Design


Restaurant owner Tom Fearnes has loved his partner Cass for as long as he can remember, but their work often keeps them apart. When he meets a striking young man named Jake on the vibrant streets of Camden Town, their heady first encounter takes an unexpected turn.

Jake Thompson can hardly believe his luck when he wakes up in Tom’s bed. Tom is gorgeous, kind, and . . . taken. Tom’s explanation of his open relationship leaves Jake cold, but Tom is too tempting, and when hard times force Jake to accept Tom’s helping hand, he finds himself between two men who’ve lost their way.

Cass Pearson is a troubled soul. He loves Tom with all he has, but some days it feels like he hasn’t much to give. Jake seems like the perfect solution. Cass risks everything to push Jake and Tom together, but Jake resists, wary, until the darkness of Cass’s past comes to call. Then Jake finds himself the last man standing, and it’s time to dig deep and shine a light for the men he’s grown to love.

Finalist: Best Gay Romance in the 28th Annual Lambda Literary Awards!
Be sure to check out Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words’ 5 star Review here.

Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.

Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at, and co-owns the specialist stock site with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.


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An Ali Audiobook Review: Everything Changes (Resilient Love #1) by Melanie Hansen and Robert Nieman (Narrator)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
everything-changes-audioWhat happens when friendship catches fire? 

Former Marine and lower-leg amputee Carey Everett keeps a grueling schedule of counseling fellow war veterans and their families. The injury he received in Afghanistan forces him to rely on a reserve of strength he didn’t even know he had. A much deserved vacation will let him reconnect with his best friend, who saved his life and has been there for him through devastating injury and painful recovery. 

Part-time EMT and aspiring singer Jase DeSantis has been in love with Carey for years, but he’s come to accept that his straight friend will never be able to offer more. Jase fills his days with band rehearsals, ambulance shifts, and willing groupies, all while trying to cope with debilitating PTSD. 

A week of sun, fun, and music in San Diego changes Jase and Carey’s lives forever when their relationship takes an unexpected turn. Jase has been longing for that change, but it leaves Carey reeling with confusion. As Jase fights to hold things together, Carey deals with doubts, fears, and his own preconceived notions about labels and the true nature of love.
I really liked this. It had a bunch of my favorite things….friends to lovers, hurt/comfort and some fantastic dirty talking.  The story mostly takes places in the present but there are some flashbacks to their time in Afghanistan.  When the story begins they’ve been through a lot and have not visited each other in awhile although they talk on the phone frequently.  What is supposed to be an average visit turns in to them becoming physical with each other.  While Jase has known for a long time that he loves Carey, Carey identifies as straight and has never thought about crossing from friends to lovers.
As the story goes on Carey admits that he cares deeply for Jase but he really struggles with what it would mean for his life should he begin to identify as bisexual or gay.  I think this part of the story was really well done and I felt it was a very realistic situation.  They have a great foundation of friendship and they’re the rocks in each other’s lives.  It makes sense that it would turn into a physical one.
I especially liked how well these two communicated with each other. There were some bumps in the road but they were open and honest about it. I wish we’d see that more in stories.  I can’t imagine you could make such big changes in your life without having some things to think through and I loved how they talked about this every step of the way.
This book was narrated by Robert Nieman and I thought he did a great job.  He did a good job on both of the MC’s as well as the side characters. He happens to be one of my favorite narrators in this genre so I was pleased to see he was doing this book.  
This was my first time reading this author and I’m looking forward to reading more by her.  I plan to move on to the other books in this series as soon as possible.  I also loved the narration and if you enjoy audiobooks then I definitely recommend this media.
Cover art by Natasha Snow Designs works perfectly for the story and characters.
Sales Links
Audiobook Details:
Published January 12th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press (first published March 13th 2015)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesResilient Love #1

Its Release Day for ‘Change of Address’ by Jordan S. Brock (giveaway)


Change of Address by Jordan S. Brock
iptide Publishing
Release Date October 24, 2016

Cover art by L.C. Chase
Read an Excerpt/Buy it Here

About Change of Address

Air Force sergeant Michael Baldwin wanted nothing more than to escape his family’s political ambitions, but his dream of freedom was shattered by an enemy bullet to the head. Two years later, he and his service dog, Kaylee, resist his father’s demand to join him on the campaign trail—where a photogenic “wounded warrior” is always an asset—and instead return to the family’s summer home on Hartsbridge Island.

There Michael and his beautiful German shepherd capture the attention of Josh Goldberg, co-owner of the local bagel shop. Josh has a knack for business and a killer repertoire of his bubbe’s recipes. But lack of education undermines his confidence, and Josh’s father doesn’t share his ambition for the restaurant’s future.

Chicken soup and bacon might be the way to Michael’s heart, but he and Josh need time to learn about everything that comes after—lessons that Governor Baldwin and his relentless ambition will do anything to thwart. Letting someone in is a tall order for two men who can’t trust themselves, but if they have any hope of a future together, that’s exactly what they’ll need to do.

Change of Address is available from Riptide Publishing.

About Jordan S. Brock

Coffee-fueled author Jordan Brock writes engaging contemporary romance with a deliciously pan-romantic sensibility and an emphasis on consent, respect, and, of course, love. Her characters are constantly surprised by the way love’s slow burn sneaks up on them.

Jordan’s children are all four-legged and furry. They love to be oh-so-helpful with her writing. She can usually be found hiding from the sun with her service dog and her puppy-in-training. (She tried the training thing with cats first, since cats are so much smarter, but it was a no-go.)

Before she was published, Jordan worked as a tech writer in the semiconductor industry. She’s also created labs and learning materials for auto, diesel , and motorcycle mechanics. The technology was the easy part; the hard part was trying not to slip in pop-culture snark.

Jordan lives in the desert outside Phoenix, Arizona, despite the fact she turns into gray goo and blue hair dye when exposed to heat. For fun, she hunts scorpions in the backyard, with a blowtorch, and a crowbar. She’s chronically unavailable for at least a month after new game releases from Blizzard. She’s an unapologetic fangirl and has been known to write an occasional fanfic to prove Bucky Barnes is not a villain. Oh, and she crochets the cutest amigurumi ever.

If you’d like to learn more about Jordan, check out her blog and website at

Connect with Jordan:



To celebrate the release of Change of Address, one lucky winner will receive a stuffed United States Air Force bear and $15 in Riptide credit!

Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on October 29, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!


Love’s Not Blind in BA Tortuga’s Real World (Release Day Tour & Excerpt!)

Real World

Real World (Love is Blind #2) by B.A. Tortuga
reamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Bree Archer

Release Date August 15, 2016

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is so happy to have BA Tortuga here today with an excerpt from her latest novel, Real World.  Welcome, BA.

Hey y’all, it’s BA Tortuga, resident redneck and lover of all things cowboy and redneck.  Here’s an excerpt from my new book, Real World, the story of Dan, a soldier who’s just left the service, and Weldon, a central Texas redneck that’s one of Dan’s brother’s husband’s (man, is that convoluted as hell or what?) best friends.

Much love, y’all.



A Love is Blind Novel

Dan White is trying to acclimate to civilian life after a long career in the military with multiple combat deployments.

Now he’s home in the Austin area, living with his brother Dixon, Dixon’s husband, Audie, and their two nine-year-olds. During the New Year celebration, Dan meets Abraham Weldon, and the connection is instant.

There’s a kiss. There’s a dance. There’s a proposition.

Then Dan finds out Weldon is bisexual.

And a dad.

With five kids. Five kids, one of whom is a blind fifteen-year-old.

Weldon has been in love twice in his life—with his high school best friend, Blake, and with his wife, Krista, who he met in a Dairy Queen as she was crying over a positive pregnancy test. Love number three hits Weldon like a hammer when he meets Dan.

But since Dan isn’t interested in a guy with kids, they might only get one night together.


Excerpt from Real World

“Hey, Emma, stop pulling Kenzie’s hair.” Dan was going to lose his shit. How could this be so hard? All he had to do was keep five kids from killing one another for an hour until Mel got there.

Weldon had blown a tire in Buda and Mel had a doctor’s appointment she couldn’t reschedule, so Dan had said, sure, he could watch the kids. No problem.

“She’s got bugs in there!” Emma teased and Kenzie immediately started to scream, which set Caleb off too.

“There are no bugs.” He couldn’t just bark orders like he did with soldiers. Dan plucked Caleb out of his high chair, patting his back. “Emma, let go. Now.”

“For fuck’s sake! Shut the fuck up. All you do is make everything worse, Emma. MacKenzie, come here right now!” Jakob looked like he was fixin’ to rain hellfire on the girls.

“Jakob!” The name shot out like a high powered rifle shot. “Language.”

Kenzie looked at him, then buried her face in Jakob’s chest. Jakob scowled in his general direction. “Look, you’re not my dad. You’re not even the dude that’s screwing around with my real dad. Back off.”

“Jakob!” Maddie stared at her big brother, blue eyes huge in her face. “That’s mean.”

“It’s true.” Jakob looked so stiff, so defiant.

“Whatever I am, your dad asked me to keep an eye on all of you for a freaking hour.” Dan put all of his officer training in his voice, knowing grown men quailed before it. “You can be civil or you can leave the room.”

Jakob stormed off and the rest of them just stared. It was Maddie who spoke. “He didn’t mean it.”

Caleb hiccupped, and he tried a smile. “I know. Heck, y’all are still getting to know me.” Dan meant it, too. Still, Jakob’s real dad comment bothered him.

It was fairly obvious that Weldon wasn’t Jakob’s biological father, but none of the kids seemed to think it was a thing. As far as Dan knew, the bio dad wasn’t in the picture.

“I’m sorry,” Emma said quietly.

“Maybe better to tell Kenzie that, huh?” That was what he was supposed to say, right? God.

“Sorry, Kenzie. That was mean. You want to color with me? You can use the markers that smell good.”

“For reals?”

“Uh-huh.” Emma offered a tiny smile, and Dan nodded at her, pleased.

Then he glanced at Maddie. “You okay?”

“I don’t like it when it’s mean.”

No, Maddie was a peacemaker, for sure.

“I’m sorry I yelled.” Dan knew he’d been justified, but Maddie deserved a quiet place to do her homework.

“It’s okay. I wanted to yell a little, too.”

Caleb patted Dan’s cheeks suddenly. “S’okay, Dan-Dan.”

He chuckled softly, the little touch unbearably charming. “It is okay, Caleb. Totally.”


“Has he had milk in the last few hours?” Dan knew Weldon was trying to cut Caleb back a bit.

“Not since we came home from school.”

“Me too, Dan-Dan?” Kenzie asked. “Just a little glass?”

“Yep. You want some, Maddie? Emma?” He could stop on the way back from work tomorrow and get more milk.

“No, thanks. I’m going to have a Diet Coke.” Maddie caught Emma with a glare. “And I’m not sneaking it. I’ll have water with supper. Dan can tell Daddy or I can text him.”

“I’ll let him know,” Dan murmured, heading to the fridge to distribute milk.

Weldon did this all by himself. Weldon had done this with a brand-new baby, grieving for his wife. Dan couldn’t even imagine how much work and how little sleep Weldon had put in.

He had nothing but respect for Weldon.

Well, respect and lust.

Sales Links


About BA Tortuga

Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy’s Girl, BA Tortuga spends her days with her basset hounds and her beloved wife, texting her sisters, and eating Mexican food. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting and surfing Pinterest in the name of research. BA’s personal saviors include her wife, Julia Talbot, her best friend, Sean Michael, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee.

Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but has heard the call of the  high desert and lives in the Sandias. With books ranging from hard-hitting GLBT romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon-holed by anyone but the voices in her head. Find her on the web at

Love is Blind Series with links to our 5 star reviews:

Ever the Same (Love is Blind, #1) by B.A. Tortuga
Real World (Love is Blind, #2) by B.A. Tortuga

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Real World (Love is Blind #2) by B.A. Tortuga

Rating: 4.75 stars rounding up to 5 out of 5

Real WorldDan White is trying to acclimate to civilian life after a long career in the military with multiple combat deployments.

Now he’s home in the Austin area, living with his brother Dixon, Dixon’s husband, Audie, and their two nine-year-olds. During the New Year celebration, Dan meets Abraham Weldon, and the connection is instant.

There’s a kiss. There’s a dance. There’s a proposition.

Then Dan finds out Weldon is bisexual.

And a dad.

With five kids. Five kids, one of whom is a blind fifteen-year-old.

Weldon has been in love twice in his life—with his high school best friend, Blake, and with his wife, Krista, who he met in a Dairy Queen as she was crying over a positive pregnancy test. Love number three hits Weldon like a hammer when he meets Dan.

But since Dan isn’t interested in a guy with kids, they might only get one night together.

When I read Ever the Same (Love is Blind #1), I fell in love with the families and characters that B.A. Tortuga created for that story.  I certainly couldn’t wait for this series to continue. Real World (Love is Blind #2) brings us back to those families and couples with Dan White, ex soldier adjusting to civilian life and brother to Dixon, blind musician who we met in the first story.  Dan’s not adjusting very well, but he’s living with Dix and his husband Audie and their kids so civilian life is up front and in his face every day.    So are the connections to Dix and Audie’s friends and the community which brings a meeting to Weldon and a “oh so hot we might combust” connection.  Until reality sets in when information is exchanged and Dan finds out that Weldon is a dad of five and bisexual, way more than a man who feels he’s not ready for commitment can handle, leaving a very disappointed Weldon in his wake.

How I love a story where a couple must over come obstacles, inner obstacles they create for themselves, in order to be together.  This story is chock full of those. Here in Real World those barriers feel so completely authentic and believable when it comes to the characters who are trying to work through their feelings and doubts about their relationship and walls they built up around themselves.  And no one here has walls higher than Dan White.  Walls against dating bisexual men, walls against men with families, and one by one…we watch those barriers fall…prey to the charm and love of Weldon and his brood of kids.  What a group of kids they are too.  Snarky, drama filled, lovable, not so lovable, crying, every adjective you want to throw in here.  In short, a very realistic family of children that will grab at your heart, especially the eldest who will have his own heartrending story thread to go through.

I haven’t forgotten Weldon.  That character…well, he’s a man that will tug at you all the way through the story.  He’s a loving father, a vulnerable man, who’s trying to balance his families needs with his own. You just end up aching for him when Dan turns away time and again.  Trust me…there are places you will want to shake that man!  Isn’t that great writing?  Yes, I say it is.

B.A. Tortuga has a way, whether its by her ear for the vernacular or locale or just knowing people and family dynamics, of being able to create characters that are so real, so believable that they pull you into their story and lives that you ache for them, get mad at them, yes, want to shake them and finally rejoice in their happiness at the end when they pull together and realize they can make it as a couple and as a family.  That happens here in Real World, a book I loved even better than the first story in the series.  That’s saying a lot.

Do I recommend this story?  Absolutely.  Grab it up and the first in the series too.  I can’t imagine what’s coming next but I know I can’t wait to see what develops.  There are more White boys although they are supposedly straight.  Hmmm.  We’ll see.

Cover art by Bree Archer. I love this cover.  Its just perfect for the story and its heartwarming too.

Sales Links





Book Details

ebook, 290 pages
Expected publication: August 15th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634773748 (ISBN13: 9781634773744)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series: Love is Blind

Ever the Same
Real World


Celebrate the Release of Loud and Clear blog tour with Aidan Wayne (giveaway)

Loud and Clear

Loud and Clear by Aidan Wayne
iptide Publishing
Cover art by L.C. Chase

Read an Excerpt/Buy it Here

About Loud and Clear

Jaxon is getting by fine, severe dyslexia or not. Being a cab driver means he doesn’t need to read much, and the job has its perks. The pay isn’t bad, the people can be interesting, and having memorized the city streets keeps him from feeling too stupid.

When he picks up Caleb, a quiet fare in a nice suit, Jaxon doesn’t think anything of it. Then he ends up driving Caleb home the next week too, and the next, and the next. Eventually Caleb tries to communicate—by writing things down. Turns out that Caleb has such a bad stutter he spends most of his time mute.

If only Jaxon had an easier time reading what Caleb had to say. But he’s interested in trying, and Caleb seems interested back. They discover that, with a little bit of effort, it isn’t so hard to make themselves understood. Especially when what’s growing between them is definitely worth talking about.

About Aidan Wayne

Aidan Wayne is a big believer in character-driven stories with happy endings. This is not to say that stories can’t contain a little (or a lot) of grief, just that at the end of it all expect there to be bandages and hugs. They particularly like to write about minority characters because damn it, they deserve happy endings too.

When not writing, Aidan enjoys practicing aerial, martial arts, and ASL, and watching reality cooking shows. They are probably in the middle of twelve projects as you read this.



To celebrate the release of Loud and Clear, Aidan is giving away $15 in Riptide credit. Leave a comment to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on May 28, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

A Paul B Review: Love Comes Unheard (Senses #5) by Andrew Grey

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 

Love comes Unheard coverGarrett Bowman is deaf but that is the least of his problems.  Having lost his mother recently to cancer and a brother who cannot bother to learn to communicate with him, Garrett is on his way to see his sister in Chicago when he runs out of gas in front of a farm in Northern Michigan.  When the owner of the farm comes to speak to him, Garrett is astounded that the man knows sign language.  When Connor, the owner of the farm, tells Garrett that is helper has not shown up for the day, he offers Garrett the chance to make some money to fill his tank.  Grateful, Garrett accepts.  Connor then takes Garrett home for the night for a decent meal and good nights sleep.

Wilson Haskins has been working for Connor and his partner Dan for a couple of years.  While he works for the family, the pair and their three children consider him one of the family.  When Connor brings home a stranger for the night, Wilson is taken by his good looks.  He feels that the ten-year age difference between the two men would prevent anything from happening between them.  Besides, Wilson’s last relationship ended in disaster with him leaving his native land on England as a result.

While both men are hesitant to start a relationship, they do enjoy each other’s company.  As the relationship grows, relationships with both of their families come back to present problems for them.  Garrett’s sister would like for him to stay with her and her partner thinking that Chicago might be a better place for a gay deaf man to live.  Meanwhile, Wilson’s brother phones him out of the blue asking him for help with a situation he has gotten himself into in England.  When said brother shows up in the States looking for Wilson, will it cause trouble for Wilson and the family he know considers his own?

The relationship between Garrett and Wilson was done well.  The hesitancy that both of the men showed is rooted in terrible breakups in their previous relationships.  Garrett’s ex could not care enough to learn to communicate with him.  Wilson’s ex tried to set him up for something that the ex actually was responsible for.  But Wilson suffered the consequences for the ex’s actions anyway.  It is through their interactions with each other and their boss’s children that endear themselves to each other.

This is the fifth book in Andrew Grey’s Senses series.  In each book, at least one of the major characters usually has a form of disability.  Mr. Grey has shown in each book that this so called disability is but one aspect of the person.  In these books, love really does conquer all.  I have come to enjoy these books and always look forward to the next one.

The cover art by L.C. Chase shows Wilson and Garret above in a pastoral setting.  Wilson is in a grey suit while Garrett is in a blue flannel shirt.  These are good representations of what I thought the two would look like.  It’s a nicely done cover.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press |  All Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details

Ebook, 200 pages
Published:  September 14, 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
Edition:  English
ISBN:  978-1-63476-589-3

Series:  Senses

  • Love Comes Silently (Senses #1)
  • Love Comes in Darkness  (Senses #2)
  • Love Comes Home (Senses #3)
  • Love Comes Around (Senses #4)
  • Love Comes Unheard (Senses #5)

A Mika Review: Signs by Anna Martin

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Signs coverAfter spending most of his life in special schools, Caleb Stone now faces public high school in his senior year, a prospect that both excites him and threatens to overwhelm his social anxiety. As a deaf teenager, he’s closed himself off to the world. He speaks a shorthand with his parents and even finds it hard to use American Sign Language with people in his local deaf community. But Caleb finds comfort in his love of photography. Everything he can’t express in real life, he posts on his Tumblr.

Struggling to reconcile his resentment for his father’s cruelty with the grief of losing a parent, Luc Le Bautillier scrolls through Tumblr searching for someone who might understand his goth look and effeminate nature. When Luc reblogs a photo by Caleb, sparking a conversation, they both find it easier to make friends online than in person.

Luc and Caleb confront their fears about the opinions of the outside world to meet in New York City. Despite Caleb’s increasing confidence, his parents worry he’s not ready for the trials ahead. But communication comes in many forms—when you learn the signs.

Anna Martin’s writing usually goes two ways for me. I either love it enough that it’s a 5 star read, or it’s a DNF for me. I was super skeptical of reading this because of the blurb.  My main weakness is hurt/comfort, throw in a disability and I’m trapped. I read this book and one sitting and I feel in love with the characters.

I love the main characters of the story, not so much the execution. I’m giving 5 stars for Luc & Caleb because this was a love story between two sweet boys. That’s my basic description of the story. I’m not really sold on the writing aspect as much as the character development. Let me explain; she was able to bring the most vulnerable boys together and put them together to show they had the strength and determination in them all along.

Luc is this short, emo/goth twink who was just living. Not really doing anything but waiting for high school to be over and move to Seattle to face his dreams. He is closed off to the world, and most of it is because that’s they way he wants it. He grew up with no comfort, love from his parents except from his sister who basically was his surrogate mother. I love Ilse… his sister was so supportive. I definitely liked her as soon as she entered the picture. Caleb was the total opposite of Luc he is this 18 year old boy  in Boston, who lives with his parents who are his biggest support system. Caleb wants the normal, he wants the friends at school, he wants to answer question when the teachers ask them. They meet through Tumblr through Caleb’s photography blog and Luc’s music blog it’s sweet and mostly innocent. From there we definitely see the characters develop really fast. Caleb has this protective streak for Luc, it’s adorable. It is a definite re-read for me.

They meet, fall in love with each other and we just see them shine in different roles. I loved that Luc feels the need to take charge on some things regarding Caleb’s well being. I like the Caleb knows Luc well enough to expect unexpected visits. I fell in love with these two boys. That’s it, that’s all there is for me. I would have really liked to see what happened after the summer. Where do these two go? What happened to the question Caleb asked Luc using finger ASL? I would have liked an epilogue for these two, but again they bring a smile to my face just writing this review.

Cover Art by. Ethan James Photography. I loved this picture so much, it definitely reminded me of Caleb all the way. He is one of my favorite characters by this author.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press eBook & Paperback   All Romance (ARe)  Amazon   Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Expected publication: March 20th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
edition languageEnglish

Review: Handle With Care by Josephine Myles

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

handle with careBen Lethbridge spent most of his life taking care of his little sister when his parents were killed.  It was a job no eighteen year old should have to shoulder, especially a diabetic one.  But Ben did it and with love and patience, becoming the parent, guardian and security for his 6 year old sister.  And when his sister grew up, the lessening of those duties made Ben a party boy, determined to make up for those years he missed out on while she was growing up.  But the excess to which Ben partied and drank was too much for his fragile body to handle and now he is paying for it by living on a home dialysis regimen and waiting for a kidney transplant that never seems to come.

The highlight of Ben’s day is his delivery boy coming to his house to drop off a package.  Ollie is a young, purple haired skateboarder whose bright personality and gorgeous body is the stuff of Ben’s dreams, day and night.  But not only is Ben not sure of Ollie’s sexuality, Ben feels unlovable and downright unsexy due to the tubes running out of his abdomen, his swollen physique, and strict daily regimen he is locked into.  So, other than a casual greeting with Ollie, all Ben does is look. And dream.

But one day a package Ollie is delivering breaks and Ben’s gay porn CDs fall out. In the ensuing mess, it comes out that Ollie is as gay as Ben had hoped. And Ollie’s kinks mesh with Ben’s status.  As with everything else in Ben’s life, nothing is ever easy and that goes for a relationship between Ollie and Ben. Can both men overcome the obstacles between them or will Ben let this chance at happiness slip away.

Handle With Care has so many terrific unexpected elements to it not normally found in m/m romance novels or any romance novel actually.  Myles gives us two main characters whose physical traits, and past histories make them unusual to say the least.  Her first MC is a young man responsible for his own (mostly) physical decline.  Ben Lethbridge was a 18 year old diabetic when his parents death made him responsible for his young sister as her only guardian.  Myles makes us understand why Ben would party to excess when he was finally able to let go, while remaining factual as to the physical  ramifications that such an abuse of drugs and alcohol would have on a diabetic.  Now in his thirties, Ben is living with the consequences and they aren’t pretty.  Josephine Myles gives us graphic descriptions of exactly how Ben goes through his daily regimen that is barely keeping him alive.  This happens early on:

Three hours after Zoe left I hooked up the catheter tube in my belly to an empty bag and started to drain out all the waste dialysis fluid. I’d infused a dialysate bag not long before she’d turned up, so I had to wait for it to diffuse before opening the parcel. It might sound silly, but I had problems getting it up with all the dialysate fluid inside me. I’d look down and see my bloated abdomen and that bloody tube sticking out of me, and any trace of arousal just evaporated. I’d just start thinking about how the fluid was sloshing around inside my peritoneal cavity, getting more and more toxic as it leached all the waste products out of my blood.

In some ways, I’d have preferred to stay on the haemodialysis, which was only three hospital visits a week, but what with the diabetes, it didn’t work so well for me. I felt terrible most of the time and kept having crashes. Peritoneal dialysis was better at keeping my blood sugar level, even if it could be a hassle having to infuse and drain four bags a day.

As the fluid drained out, taking all those toxins with it, I ripped open the cardboard wrapper and pulled out the latest acquisition to my library. I was getting quite a collection. Like I said, I had to get the variety somehow, didn’t I?

Vivid, matter of fact, and perhaps more than the reader would  want to know.  And this is perhaps the mildest of the descriptions of the reality that Ben faces daily as a man who needs a kidney transplant and lives a fragile life according to a medical regimen.  Ben has a disease that many live with and more than a few mishandle it as badly as Ben does early on.  He loves his sister, and has been her main support and companion for her entire life.  Ben is intelligent and holds down a good job, albeit at home due to his physical condition.  He seems like an ok guy. And while there is much to admire about Ben, there is also elements of his personality that made it hard for me to like him.  Is he human? Absolutely but does that translate automatically into a character we can care about and relate to?  I don’t think so.  For a character to have a disability or a disease is not enough to make that person someone the reader would automatically connect with.  They need a good or great core at the center to go along with whatever else is happening to them.  Ben, unfortunately, is also a bit of a curmudgeon.  He makes assumptions about everyone and everything, not always nice ones.  He has a next door neighbor who fills her garden with gnomes and other statuary.  Here is his thoughts on poor Mrs. Felpersham:

Ollie to be at the door on Monday morning. What I was expecting was Mrs. Felpersham, the old biddy who lives in the gnome-infested house next door and who insists on calling round once a week to ask how I’m doing. I wouldn’t mind if it were purely an innocent enquiry, but I swear she’s just looking for a chance to snoop around my flat and pass judgment.

In fact Ben rarely has a nice thought about any one with the exception of his sister.  And that gets old fast.  I kept telling myself that this was supposed to be reflective of Ben’s mental and physical state at the time.  And while it may have been realistic, it didn’t make him any more accessible as a person.

And it’s not just Ben.  His sister, Zoe, is as understandable and unlikable as he is.   She is young and protective of her brother/guardian.  In fact, due to Ben’s illness they have switched places with Zoe acting almost as Ben’s caregiver and sole companion.  She cooks all his meals for him due to his dietary restrictions and acts as his only friend outside his house.  Not exactly a healthy relationship but that never comes up.  She wants Ben to date, she wants to control who he dates.  She throws fits of anger and jealously that seem real given her personality and circumstances but do I like her? Again, no.

And then there’s poor Ollie, our young purple haired skateboarder who dreams of opening his own cafe.  I actually liked Ollie the best but Myles has burdened poor Ollie with a back history as a doormate/domestic servant with benefits with an older man who took advantage of him.  The history Myles created for Ollie seems authentic and potentially realistic.  So does his behavior with Ben and that makes Ben’s actions later more than a little repugnant and hurtful.  Ollie is young, ebullient and in financial straights.  I understood and liked this character.  Just not his choice of lovers, and that includes Ben.

I think my biggest issues here have to do not only with the characterizations but the relationship.  These all felt like very real people.  So were the events that happened to them, from the accident that killed Ben’s parents to the transplant that Ben undergoes to save his life.  The location, the events, everything is beautifully layered and fleshed out but no matter how hard I tried (and truly I did try), I just never got the attraction between Ben and Ollie.  That pull or magic that needs to be created on the page in order for the reader to buy into their love for each other seems utterly missing.

Josephine Myles is a terrific writer.  She thinks outside the norm when it comes to her characters and plots.  Sometimes they work and other times while we see the potential of the story, the actuality comes up short as it did here.  I liked the chances the author took with her characters in this story.  I like seeing people with disabilities or more common diseases being represented in romances as they deserve to be.  I only wish I had liked these a little more.  If you love Josephine Myles, then maybe you will feel differently than I do about Ben, Zoe and Ollie.  But if you are new to this author, skip this one and proceed to her many other books.  There is sure to be one you will love waiting for you on her shelf.

Cover art by Kanaxa is both lovely and touching.  Great job.

Book Details:

ebook, 149 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
ISBN 160928965X (ISBN13: 9781609289652)
edition language English