A MelanieM Review: Short Stay (Love Lessons #3.5) by Heidi Cullinan

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5   ★★★★★

Short StayHot messes have a hard time with happily ever after.

Baz Acker and Elijah Prince have it all. They’re engaged, and their wedding is guaranteed to be a spectacle no event will ever top. So why are they hunkered down in a quiet corner of the Acker mansion, restless and edgy while they wait out the holidays?

When Baz suggests a road trip with Walter and Kelly to Las Vegas, it sounds like an ideal escape, but it turns out Vegas only amplifies their unease. Elijah can’t slough off the self-hating his parents programmed into him, and he worries how that will affect his marriage. Baz, crippled en route because of too much time spent in the car without rest, must face the truth that his wealth and influence can’t always counteract the limits his disability will put on his—and Elijah’s—life.

With help from their friends, a wily poker player, a take-no-prisoners drag queen, and a smooth-talking casino owner, they face the truth that happiness is a state of mind, not a destination where they book a stay. What happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas—it will follow them all the way down the aisle.

This novella was written for and by the request of Heidi’s Patreon readers. It is suggested but not required that you read at least Lonely Hearts before reading this book.

When I finished Short Stay I just couldn’t stop smiling, my heart felt so full and happy.  If, as Heidi says above this was written at the request of and for her Patreon readers, they must be overflowing with joy.

Short Stay takes engaged couple Baz Acker and Elijah Prince (Lonely Hearts (Love Lessons #3) off on a runaway trip to escape a Momzilla on groom plan overload and their own fears for themselves and their  future together.  And of course, the only logical place to run away in a time like this is to Las Vegas, a scary destination for a man with photophobia and another with an unease of crowds and new places.

But Heidi Cullinan immediately starts to enclose our shaky couple with a cushioning of characters, old friends and new, that will guide them safely to a happy solid relationship foundation and future.  Walter and Kelly (Love Lessons)  come along immediately as drivers of Baz’s Tesla on their road trip to Las Vegas (Baz can’t drive because of his poor vision due to the photophobia that was caused during the hate bashing when he was 16).

In Las Vegas, their hotel reservation turns out to be Herods and an introduction to a wonderful  group of fascinating and unforgettable characters, Ethan, Randy, Sam, Chenco, Mitch and more.  Its such a great combination of universes and its works to perfection.

The author’s amazing ability to dive into each character’s hearts, and pull us along into their journey as these broken men find the courage and trust in themselves in order to go forward never fails to bring me to tears. The author makes us understand the special requirements and needs for  living with photophobia, that life with a background as a child on the streets never vanishes, nor does the pain of that existence diminish with time.  The author gives the reader insight into these issues through Baz, Elijah, Randy and more.  We believe in them wholeheartedly, we want them to be happy and when it works out, just as the author plans, its beautiful, scary when their future seems shaky and heartwarming.  A wonderful 5-star story.

And true to form,  all other characters in the stories will show up as well.  Heidi Cullinan forgets no one.  I loved it.  And it will send me back to reread all the other stories too.  Bonus.

I loved Short Stay, I love all the Love Lessons stories. In fact I love Heidi Cullinan.  There you go.

I recommend them all.

Book Cover is perfect for the story and character.  Yep.  Loved it too.

Sales Links:  Amazon  “>Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Published May 24th 2016 by Heidi Cullinan
Original TitleShort Stay
ISBN139781311679758
Edition LanguageEnglish
URLhttp://www.heidicullinan.com/ShortStay
SeriesLove Lessons #3.5

 

Amelia C. Gormley On Research, Characters and ‘Risk Aware’, her latest Novel (giveaway)

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Risk Aware by Amelia C. Gormley
R
iptide Publishing
Cover Artist L.C. Chase
Read an Excerpt/Buy it Here

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Amelia C. Gormley here today to share her thoughts and inspiration behind her latest novel, Risk Aware.  Welcome, Amelia.

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Hi, and welcome to the RISK AWARE blog tour!

RISK AWARE is probably the longest single writing project I’ve ever undertaken. I started working on the concept in the spring of 2013, not long after I finished writing SAUGATUCK SUMMER. Geoff and Robin first appeared as minor characters—already in an established relationship—in SAUGATUCK SUMMER and I wanted to pursue their backstory.

Disabled people aren’t generally featured in BDSM fiction, and the sorts of BDSM usually portrayed is largely focused on activities that could be injurious—if not actually fatal—to something with Geoff’s condition. The story concept gave me an opportunity to examine several things we don’t often see in erotic romance. But it also meant I had to step far outside my own personal sphere of knowledge and experience on multiple levels. Which meant research was required.

Lots and lots of research.

The upshot is that the book took me over two years to write. If you’ve followed my posts on other blog tours in the past, you’ll know that’s highly unusual for me. I wrote SAUGATUCK SUMMER—a longer book—in about fifteen days. A lot of this is because I kept setting the manuscript aside to work on other projects and then taking a while to get back into things. But most of it is that getting it right required so much effort. So it’s particularly gratifying to finally get to share it with everyone who has been waiting for Geoff and Robin’s story, and also with people who may just be coming into the Saugatuck universe.

So thank you for being here!

About Risk Aware

Tattoo artist Geoff Gilchrest is convinced his life is some sort of cosmic joke. Why else would a hemophiliac also be a masochist? He’s given himself more than one elbow bleed since puberty just doing what guys do when alone and bored, so forget about whips and chains. How many partners would contemplate playing with someone even a mild flogging could kill?

Gallery owner Robin Brady knows he can deliver what Geoff needs: to be taken to the edge of danger but never beyond. But Robin came to Saugatuck to get away from the leather scene and heal from a betrayal by his former sub, so he’s not sure he should get involved with Geoff. His ambivalence isn’t helped by the fact that Geoff’s unwillingness to communicate about his well-being hits Robin in some very raw places.

Geoff’s hemophilia isn’t the obstacle he thinks it is. Instead, a lack of trust—on both their parts—is what could end them before they have a chance to begin.

About Amelia C. Gormley

Amelia C. Gormley published her first short story in the school newspaper in the 4th grade, and since then has suffered the persistent delusion that enabling other people to hear the voices in her head might be a worthwhile endeavor. She’s even convinced her hapless spouse that it could be a lucrative one as well, especially when coupled with her real-life interest in angst, kink, social justice issues, and pretty men.

When her husband and son aren’t interacting with the back of her head as she stares at the computer, they rely on her to feed them, maintain their domicile, and keep some semblance of order in their lives (all very, very bad ideas—they really should know better by now.) She can also be found playing video games and ranting on Tumblr, seeing as how she’s one of those horrid social justice warriors out to destroy free speech, gaming, geek culture, and everything else that’s fun everywhere.

Connect with Amelia:

RiskAware_TourBanner

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Risk Aware, Amelia is giving away an ebook copy of the Strain series. Leave a comment to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on May 14, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

A MelanieM Review: Ever the Same by B.A. Tortuga

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

EvertheSameLGAudie Barrack is in it up to his elbows with a sick calf when his son’s school calls. Seems Grainger has gotten into yet another fight. When he walks into the principal’s office, he’s shocked to find his son has been fighting with a little girl named Randi.  And that’s not the only shock.  The little girl his boy has been fighting with has a blind dad, a widower when his husband recently passed away.

Dixon has lost his sight, his career, and his husband. Thank God for his brothers, Momma and Daddy, and his little girl, or he would simply give up. The last thing he needs is for Randi to start trouble at school, especially trouble that puts him in contact with another dad who might expect him to be a functional human being.

Dixon is struggling to live as a blind man, Audie is terrified someone might see he has a closet to come out of, and everyone from the school to both men’s families is worried for the men and their children. Unless they get themselves together and commit to change, neither of them stands a chance.

It’s no secret to those of you who have read my reviews that I am a huge fan of B.A. Tortuga.  She has one of the finest ears for regional dialects and culture in the genre as well as the ability to write memorable characters. And that gift is apparent here in Ever The Same. In fact this book has so many elements that are hooks for me, that it has taken a while, and another reading to think about what I was going to write.

Why?  Because some of the parts of this story that I find alluring are ones that other readers might not connect with, something not unusual in a B.A. Tortuga story.  Let’s start with the characters, who, yes, can be defined by their conversational style and wording.  Audie is rooted in the soil of his family’s ranch and the horses he loves almost as much as he loves his son.  He is a plain speaker, full of the regional euphemisms and colloquial speak of the area.  This is Audie, in a capsule of speech:

He gave Momma a call as he pulled his shirt on. “Momma, I got to run up to the school. Can you get Sister to keep an eye on the calf?”

“Is he sick? Grainger, I mean, not the calf.”

“Nope. It’s no big deal. I’ll be back in a jiff.” He hoped.

“Okay, Son. Your daddy’s due in off the road next weekend. He wants to take that boy of yours to a picture show. Tell him if he ain’t good, PopPop won’t take him.

Audie is a man filled with family and its obligations.  A person with a huge heart, open mind, and realistic view of himself and his situation. I fell in love with him immediately.

The father of the little girl his son has been fighting with at school, is so very different from Audie…at least on the surface.  Dixon is a musician blinded in the same car accident that killed his husband and he’s lost in his grief while trying to maintain a life for his adoring daughter.  And she is not coping well either with the changes in her life and the loss of one of her dads.   It’s country meet city in the most  unusual way.  Dixon and his daughter have moved from the city into the small town where his mother and step dad raise llamas.  It’s round peg trying to fit into a square hole for both of them.  This is a small scene from the principal’s office where the initial meeting about their kids hasn’t gone very well.

“I’ll talk to her. If it happens again, I’ll… shit, I don’t know what I’ll do. I’ll make it up as I go along.” The guy stood, and his mom handed him a cane. A white cane.

Oh Jesus fucking Christ. Seriously? Seriously, Grainger picked the kid with a blind dad and a dead….

Wait.

Her other dad was dead. Jesus. This guy was blind, had lost his man, and his kid was a shit? That sucked hugely. “I can try to get Grainger to help. I promise.” He had no idea why that popped out, except this guy’s life had to suck, and because it had been a long time since Audie had met anyone who would openly admit to being queer like he was.

“Take us home, Mom. Please.” Now that he could see the White guy, he kind of wanted to wince. Lean, tattooed—this guy wasn’t made to be here, and obviously he wasn’t a local. Hell, his parents weren’t that local; Audie didn’t know them.

“Of course, Son.” She stood and offered Audie a frosty smile. “Thank you for being so, er, understanding.” She put a hand on her son’s arm, and he turned her way, the cane tapping as they left the room.

Audie glared at Shannon Shields as soon as they were out of earshot. “You couldn’t’ve had Miz Laws warn me?”

“I assumed you knew, Audie. Everybody knows.”

The conflicts have been established, as well as some of their backgrounds and family circumstances and we are still early in the book.  What a great job Tortuga has done to bring the readers into the various situations, letting us empathize with each “faction” and the small children involved.  The need for understanding that is born out of this meeting will set the stage for the relationship and attraction to follow.

As with most of Tortuga’s plots and stories, no character exists as a isolated individual.  Audie (25) is surrounded by his family, which includes along with his son, Grainger, a sister, Gracie, her kids, his “Momma”, and long haul trucker father.  All on the family farm.  Gracie’s husband is in the Army and is on tour abroad.  This family has its own tensions, expectations, and stress along with the love.  Dixon’s family is equally large and imposing, even more so.  For Dixon (33) has brothers Damon 20, Dalton 18, Dan 31, along with his daughter Randi.  Most are close with each other, and Dixon and Randi are now living with his upscale mother and step father on their llama farmette.  I loved that while the two families have a foundation in agriculture they still couldn’t be farther apart in approach and style.  Yet both sides are believable, layered and authentic.  You can like them even if you aren’t fond of their actions.

The story winds through multiple stages of Audie and Dixon’s relationship and that of their kids, a major factor here just as it should be.  For readers not fond of children or gay families in their stories, this element will put you off.  Those of you, like me, with kids and who love to see them in stories, you will love following their growth and increasing closeness to each man.  In this case, these two men and their children really do complete each other.  It’s heartwarming and real.  And yes, I loved it.  Because the author makes every part of Audie and Dixon’s journey intimate and heartfelt.  We are there along side them as Dixon starts to deal with his blindness and Audie becomes sure enough of himself to be openly gay in town.  There are some very tough spots and situations to deal with but that’s pretty real and reasonable as well.

Tortuga includes a epilogue that stops the story just where it should.  It’s funny, heartbreakingly alive, and leaves the reader satisfied as to how it all came out.  How much do I love this story?  Enough that when I want to smile and leave myself in a happy state, this will be one of the books I pick up.  I highly recommend it  and hope you will love it as much as I do.

 Cover Artist:   Christy Caughie did a beautiful job with the cover.  I loved the colors and the composition.  It easily draws the reader in.  Great job.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 256 pages, also available in paperback
Published February 27th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781632168313
edition language English

Review: Burden by Annmarie McKenna

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Burden coverIt’s Detective Keegan Monroe’s first day off after a long undercover assignment and all he wants to do is relax and enjoy his coffee.  But his day is shattered when a  man dives in front of him throwing them both to the ground.  Then a gunshot goes past them as a murder attempt fails.  The man laying on top of him is stuttering that he couldn’t let him kill Keegan.  Suspicious of his savior, Keegan takes the man into custody for questioning.  But at the precinct some astonishing facts are revealed. The suspect is a former I.A . police detective.

Detective Brennan McGuire has been struggling to adjust to the brain damage he incurred when his car went over a cliff during an investigation.  Along with stuttering and the massive physical scarring caused by the accident, Brennan also has long and short term memory problems which make it almost impossible to cope with the requirements of every day life.  Brennan can’t remember the accident or much else about his life as a police officer.  But something sparked in the depths of his traumatized memory when he saw someone aiming a gun at the man at the table and he reacted.

During the investigation into the shooting, Keegan and Brennan find themselves falling first into bed and then into a relationship.  But their romance triggers Brennan’s repressed memories of his accident with startling results.  Now Keegan and Brennan find themselves with not one mystery but two to solve and some very determined people who want to make sure that Brennan never remember.  Can Keegan and Brennan find love while keeping each other alive?

I think Annmarie McKenna has the makings of a terrific story here but several issues, including the ending, leave it at that – just the ingredients and nothing more.  I loved the idea of a brain injured detective whose traumatized brain holds the key to his injury and much more.  It’s a great plot tactic because it pulls in those readers who love the hurt/comfort element while upping the tension and anticipation in the story for the moment when the character remembers the past and pulls it all together in a satisfying denouement.   And it works for most of the story. Right up until the author throws it all away.

Detective Brennan McGuire’s life’s a mess.  He can barely remember the social niceties that get people through the day, let alone  pay for a cup of coffee. As created by McKenna, he is an object of sympathy and engages our affections immediately.  I liked her treatment of his brain trauma.  He is still touchy and snarky even if he can’t remember the simplest thing like a pepperoni pizza or to shake the hand offered to him.   His is a beautifully layered portrait of a man coping with brain trauma and not always succeeding.

Keegan Monroe is a somewhat less effective character.  As a detective who immediately gets sexually involved with a suspect, and a brain damaged suspect at that, Keegan appears to have a less than solid grasp on police ethics, not to mention the appearances of taking advantage of someone in recovery.  I got that the sparks flew between them.  McKenna does a more than credible job making us believe the men can’t keep their hands off each other.  But the facts about their relationship and Brennan’s physical and mental state kept me from throughly investing myself in their affair.

The author does a good job in plotting out the mystery for the readers.  She slowly gears up the anxiety over the safety of the men as more and more facts about  Brennan are revealed. But all the suspense and anticipation is demolished in an ending that is rushed and incomplete in terms of motives and facts.  I was, in fact, astonished when I came to the end.  All that build up and the reader gets nothing for their time and effort spent on this story.  It pretty much just stops with no real explanation, no satisfactory reveal of  all the criminals, and certainly no resolution to the relationship of a detective and a still brain damaged individual.

And that is a shame because this book could have been so much more.  With a longer, more fully developed ending and perhaps even an epilogue, this could have been one of my “must read” recommendations.  But as it is, I will say that if you are a fan of Annmarie McKenna, then pick this up.  But if you are looking for romance, a terrific mystery and an ending that will leave you satisfied, then head elsewhere.

Cover by Angela Waters.  This is just a generic cover that has nothing really to do with the story.  Grade C for effort.

Book Details:

ebook, 117 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
ISBN 1619218291 (ISBN13: 9781619218291)
edition language English