Review: Shock & Awe (Sidewinder #1) by Abigail Roux

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Shock & Awe CoverAfter being shot in New Orleans, Sidewinder medic Kelly Abbott has returned home to his cabin in Colorado with fellow Sidewinder Nick O’Flaherty joining him to help him in his recovery.  Kelly and Nick, bonded through their years together as part of a Marine Force Recon team, have always loved each other like brothers but past confessions and the recent events in New Orleans has Kelly thinking past brotherly bonds into something far more intimate and sexual. During a quiet moment at the cabin Kelly asks Nick to kiss him and is surprised when Nick does.  But the kiss turns into something unexpected for each man…its deep, and warm and overwhelmingly sexual, and leaves Nick and Kelly wanting more.

That one kiss leads to others and only the reality of Kelly’s wounds keep the men from more.  Confused, Kelly and Nick try to examine their feelings not only towards each other but about a deeper commitment outside their band of brothers.  But the past has a way of intruding on the Sidewinders, pulling them towards danger and an uncertain future.  Can Nick and Kelly find their way through their confusion and doubts before they are called to duty once more?

Abigail Roux is killing me here.  I am still trying to recover from the events of Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7) when Roux starts a new series about the Sidewinders, the Marine Recon group that Ty Grady is a part of, and has me in tears all over again.  But I am getting ahead of myself and this review.

Shock & Awe, the titles continuing in the tradition the author started in the Cut & Run series, is an expansion series into the tight band of brothers Abigail Roux introduced in the Cut & Run series.  We met the various members of the Sidewinders as they came to visit Ty Grady in Baltimore and through appearances made in several of the Cut & Run stories.  Nick, especially, was an important character in helping to understand Ty’s past and the close  bonds of the Sidewinder Marine Force Recon Unit.  Going too much into Nick O’Flaherty’s background would offer up spoilers for past stories but suffice it to say he and Ty have an unusual past history that is referenced here in Shock & Awe acting as an impetus for Kelly’s musings and startling request.  And while the others members of the unit (Digger, Owen, and yes Ty) make an appearance, Shock & Awe is focused on Kelly and Nick. It starts shortly after the events of Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7) where Kelly was shot in New Orleans when all the Sidewinders gathered to celebrate a birthday.

The smaller, more intimate setting of Kelly’s cabin is perfect for the introspection and actions that follow an unusual request from Kelly for a less than brotherly kiss from Nick.  Normally, Roux has a much larger canvas on which to place her characters and storyline but having one location lets the author (and readers) concentrate on the developing relationship and emerging emotions of Nick and Kelly.  I loved this aspect of the story.  The author had previously given the readers only a cursory introduction to Kelly while past stories made Nick an unwelcome intrusion into Ty and Zane’s relationship.  Now both characters get to stand on their own and this story turns them into the remarkable men that Roux had always intended us to see them as.  I had no trouble at all falling in love with both of them.  Here is a little window into their close relationship. They have just arrived at Kelly’s cabin and are getting settled:

Kelly made a derogatory sound and closed his eyes again. Nick pulled away, then gently covered him with the sheet.

Kelly may have been the corpsman, but Nick had always been the caretaker of the group. He’d been a wingman, fall guy, sounding board, and alibi. He’d been mother, father, big brother, and crazy uncle. Whatever they’d needed. He’d always been the one who’d made sure all the Sidewinder ducks were in a row, and he was probably the sole reason the house they’d all shared in Jacksonville hadn’t burned down.

It was so odd to think back on all those years and know that Nick had been hiding part of himself he thought he couldn’t share. It almost broke Kelly’s heart to think of all the secrets he’d spilled to Nick, all the things he’d gotten off his chest, but Nick had never been able to do the same.

And when Kelly’s heart breaks so does ours.

There is so much emotion, so many feelings packed into this story that I found it hard to believe it was only 92 pages long.  It was just long enough for me to fall completely in love with these two and time enough for Abigail Roux to break my heart not once but twice before the story ends.

Abigail Roux has proven over and over in each of her stories that she has the ability to make us believe in her characters, their passions and relationships.  She is also a proven master of the hidden agenda, cliffhangers and heartbreak.  You will find all of those here too.  Grab this book up and fall in love with Nick and Kelly.  The second story in the series, Bait & Switch (A Sidewinder story) is located after this one and will have you gnashing your teeth as well as crying quite a few tears, especially as it features Zane and Ty as well as Nick and Kelly.  This is a 2 tissue box affair from start to well…..just pick it up and starting reading.

If you are new to Abigail Roux and her connected series (Cut & Run and Sidewinder), it would be best to start at the beginning to understand all the relationships of the men mentioned.  Plus you will find yourself with two new addictions.  One is winding down.  There are only two more stories to go in the Cut & Run series.  I hope that Sidewinder enjoys just as long a run.   Don’t miss out on these remarkable men and this terrific author.

Cover by LC Chase.  I loved this.  The green cover sets it apart from the Cut & Run series while the shamrock continues the tradition of a single object helping to tie the series together.  Perfection.

Sidewinder series to date:

Shock & Awe (Sidewinder #2)
Bait & Switch (A Sidewinder story)

Cut & Run Series:

Ball & Chain (Cut & Run #8) Expected publication: March 15th 2014 by Riptide Publishing
Touch & Geaux (Cut & Run #7)
Stars & Stripes (Cut & Run #6)
Dine and Dash(Cut & Run #5.5)
Armed & Dangerous (Cut & Run #5) – by Abigail Roux
Divide & Conquer #4, Fish & Chips #3, Sticks & Stones #2, Cut & Run #1 – all of these written by Madeleine Urban and Abigail Roux

Book Details:

ebook, 92 pages
Expected publication: November 11th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
original title Shock & Awe
ISBN13 9781626490567
edition language English
characters Ty GradyZane Garrett, Nick O’Flaherty, Kelly Abbott

Contest and Shock & Awe Blog Tour with Abigail Roux

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Good morning all.  Today ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to play host to the Shock & Awe Virtual Book Tour featuring one of our favorite authors, Abigail Roux and her new Sidewinder series.  I am so excited about this book and the new couple of Nick and Kelly.  They won my heart immediately and they will win yours too.  Shock & Awe is one of Scattered Thoughts Best Novels of 2013.  You don’t want to miss this one.  And here is bunch more reasons to acquaint yourself with Nick, Kelly, and the rest of the Sidewinders:

Hello everyone! Welcome to the Shock & Awe blog tour! Thank you to ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords for hosting today. If you’re following along, you might find this handy dandy schedule of use, and you might be interested in keeping up with me each day, because I’ve got a couple goodies to give away. In celebration of Nick and Kelly’s coming out, so to speak, I’ve got three of their Heart and Clover T-shirts for three lucky commenters. And I’ve got five sets of trading cards with original artwork and character work-ups, something I intend to add new cards to every year, which makes this first year’s cards pretty important if you’re an obsessive collector like I am.

Author Bio: 

Abigail Roux was born and raised in North Carolina. A past volleyball star who specializes in sarcasm and painful historical accuracy, she currently spends her time coaching high school volleyball and investigating the mysteries of single motherhood. Any spare time is spent living and dying with every Atlanta Braves and Carolina Panthers game of the year.
Abigail has a daughter, Little Roux, who is the light of her life, a boxer, four rescued cats who play an ongoing live-action variation of Call of Duty throughout the house, a certifiable extended family down the road, and a cast of thousands in her head.
Connect with Abi:

Shock & Awe Blurb:

Shock & Awe CoverAfter barely surviving a shootout in New Orleans, Sidewinder medic Kelly Abbott has to suffer through a month of recovery before he can return home to Colorado. He’s not surprised when fellow Sidewinder Nick O’Flaherty stays with him in New Orleans. Nor is he surprised when Nick travels home with him to help him get back on his feet—after all, years on the same Marine Force Recon team bonded the men in ways that only bleeding for a brother can. He’s very surprised, though, when Nick humors his moment of curiosity and kisses him.

Nick knows all of Kelly’s quirks and caprices, so the kiss was a low-risk move on his part . . . or so he thought. But what should’ve been a simple moment unleashes a flood of confusing emotions and urges that neither man is prepared to address.

Now, Kelly and Nick must figure out what they mean to each other—friends and brothers in arms, or something even deeper?—before the past can come back to ruin their tenuous future.

You can read an excerpt and purchase Shock & Awe today from Riptide!

Contest Giveaway:
Abi is giving away some great goodies along the tour, including three of their Heart and Clover T-shirts for three lucky commenters and five sets of trading cards with original artwork and character work-ups. Just leave a comment at any of the stops along the tour to enter. The contest closes on November 25th.

Contest Rules:

  • By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
  • Please note that the contest is open worldwide, winners will be chosen tour-wide and comments left with an email address will be entered to win.
  • Winners will be selected by random number. No purchase necessary to win. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
  •  Winners may be announced on the blog following the contest. By entering the contest you are agreeing to allow your name to be posted and promoted as the contest winner by ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords.
  • Prizes will be distributed following the giveaway Riptide Publishing..
  • By entering you are agreeing to hold ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords harmless if the prize or giveaway in some way negatively impacts the winner.
  • Readers may only enter once for each contest. Duplicate entries for the same giveaway will be ignored. In the event of technical problems with the blog during the contest, every effort will be made to extend the contest deadline to allow for additional entries.
  • Void where prohibited by law.

 

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Book Contest and Sarah Black Guest Blog for The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari

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Good morning! Today Scattered Thoughts is welcoming Sarah Black back to talk about her latest release The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari (The General #2).  Although my review won’t come until tomorrow, I will say that this book is on Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2013 list.  Trust me, it is one of those books that you will want to read over and over again.  So with that in mind, we are giving away one eBook copy of The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari to one person who leaves a comment on any of the posts from 10/23 to 10/26.  A Winner will be announced on Saturday.

This is Why I Love Those Old Men by Sarah Black

My stories are full of old men, and I think anyone reading can tell I love them. In Lawless I wrote Manuel, and in The Legend of the Apache Kid I wrote Johnny’s old man and Raine’s daddy; in Marathon Cowboys we had The Original Jesse Clayton. In the new book, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari, I wrote another old man, the director of the Bardo Museum, who steps in and helps the young men realize their dreams.

That’s what old men do, right? Step in and stand watch while the young men strap on their wings and prepare to leap off the ledge. They listen when we talk. They’re quiet when we just need their company. They watch over us, and when we’re about to screw up, they put up a hand and say, “hold up now. Better think about that.”

My grandfather is the model for all those old men in all my stories. He was quiet and strong and steadfast. A hurricane couldn’t blow him over. No rain would ever touch my head if I was standing next to him. He was as big as a mountain and as strong as an oak. That’s what I remember. He died when I was three, and he was fifty, of a heart attack.

Just before he died, my grandmother sent him out to buy me a pair of shoes. She told him to get something sturdy that could be washed. He carried me back into the house two hours later and I was wearing pretty little black patent Mary Janes. The women had a fit. “Earl, what’s she going to play in?”

And he laughed and pulled a tiny pair of red sneakers out of his pocket.  I’ve adored red shoes from that day, and I adored my big, handsome grandfather. He never said three words when one would do, and he preferred action over words, anyway. He could fix anything, a broken toy or a car that wouldn’t run or a skinned knee. And I have been pretty sure all my life that he was up in heaven keeping an eye on me. Never a judgmental eye, either. Just keeping me safe, keeping me company. Pure love has no room for judgment.

I’ve wondered sometimes if I was writing the same story over and over. I guess writers have things to say, and we say them through fiction. I always try to be clear in my mind what I’m trying to say. This new book, I was really ambitious. I wanted to say something big, something with meaning. Plant my flag and say, this is how I see the world. But with this book, and every book, now and forever, my handsome strong grandfather will make an appearance, and he’ll be watching over me.
SB Grandfather

Here’s a link to the new book: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4277The General and the Elephant Clock cover

Dreamspinner Blurb:

Fresh out of the closet, General John Mitchel and Gabriel Sanchez are settling into their new life together when an old army colleague taps them for a rescue mission to Tunisia. Eli and Daniel, two former Rangers working security, have been arrested in Carthage, charged with blasphemy and thrown into prison.

With rampant unrest in the ancient city and an old enemy targeting them, John gathers a team to liberate the two captive men. When he discovers Eli’s boyhood obsession with Al-Jazari’s Elephant Clock, the rescue becomes complicated and strangely beautiful, and John and Gabriel have to risk what they love the most to bring their team home.
Here’s an excerpt from the book, with my new old man:

The Director was a very old man, with a cane and a long white beard, sharp dark eyes under heavy, greying eyebrows. He was formally dressed in a dark suit and tie, and he greeted Gabriel with a handshake. He had a young woman with him, holding a portfolio. Wylie opened the portfolio, looked inside, then patted it down.

John moved forward, greeted him in Arabic, then he introduced Eli and Daniel. He didn’t remember the old man, but they’d all changed so much in thirty years. Kim was holding his camera, one of the big professional models, and the Director seemed charmed by his Arabic greeting and pretty smile. “Eli, Daniel, why don’t you sit down with the Director? Sir, have you met Abdullah al-Salim? I know you will recognize him. The first time I saw him, I thought his father was standing before me.”

The old man greeted Abdullah with cries of delight and three kisses, the traditional Arabic way. Abdullah held a hand out to Kim. “Kim is General Mitchel’s nephew. He’s my best friend.”

Kim was kissed now, then they all sat down on the couch. John counted. Five men, with plenty of room, just like Kim had said, and the U shape meant people on either end could see each other to talk. Even better, he could, if he wanted to, perch on the leather polka dot ottoman like a frog sitting on a lily pad. God, he hated that couch. Kim looked at him, gave him a weak smile. Kim was reading his mind again.

Gabriel took Sam and Wylie, and they moved over to the table and pulled up chairs. Kim held up his camera. “Director, I thought I would take a picture of you with these men. It will be a good memory for them when they are back home, to remember your kindness.”
Abdullah translated, and the Director gave Kim a hesitant nod. Then the old man turned to Eli and Daniel, offered them each a hand. Abdullah translated his words. “I have come to tell you of the admiration of the Tunisian people for your courage. It gives great heart to the people when we see your love for Carthage. I also brought something for you to see. I found this in the archives.” The young women with him handed over the portfolio, then retreated to stand with Jen. Jen reached out to her, and John could hear the quiet murmur of their voices in the background.

The Director pulled out a plastic sleeve. Inside was a brown manuscript page, painted in colors still vibrant and beautiful more than eight hundred years after they had first been painted. The old man put the page down on the ottoman, and the boys leaned forward to look at it. It was an original page from The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices and showed Al-Jazari’s wondrous elephant clock. Eli caught his breath, reached out and touched the edge of the parchment through the plastic. “This is really… it’s the real….” He sounded like he was having trouble catching his breath.

Kim stood up and moved around the other side of the couch and lifted the camera. Eli looked up at the Director, and something in his battered face must have touched the old man. His eyes were tender, and he reached out, put his hand on Eli’s cheek. Then he reached out with his other hand, held Daniel’s. “My sons, will you come and see the Bardo? The museum will be open tomorrow for the children. It’s the day we have a festival for them. I would like you to come, to see something of our history and our culture.”
Eli looked down at the page again. “The kids, they’ll go crazy over this! Can you believe it? Is this wild, or what? Do you see it?”
He looked up at John, his green eyes like jewels, his black hair sticking up in the front in little tufts. John nodded at him, smiling. “I do see it. Is it as good as you thought it would be?”

“Better,” Eli said. “Can we go, General? To the Bardo?”

John looked at Gabriel, then back to Eli. “Yes, I think we can. We’ll be safe in a group.” Daniel stood up, let John take his place next to the old man. “Thank you for your kindness. Are you sure it will not be too much trouble? I understood you were closed for renovations.”

The Director shook his head. “Once a year we have a children’s day. We had planned to have the parts of the museum not under construction open tomorrow. It is like a festival, very important to me. I believe there will be camels and balloons and too many sweets, and my staff will have video projectors set up because the children like to watch movies. In your honor I will add a stage for the elephant clock, a video so the children can see. Like this young man,” he put his hand on Eli’s shoulder, “love of scholarship starts when a child is very young. I believe you will be safe. Let us open our heart to you, show you the true face of Tunisia. The true face of Islam.”
Eli leaned forward. “What is the true face of Islam?”

The old man put his hand on Eli’s cheek again. “Just like with your people, my son, the true face of Islam is love.”

Last Day at GRL and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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I am writing this in advance as today is my last day at GRL in Atlanta and my travel day home.  I hope I will have had time to post several pics and blogs of the event as it happened.  If, as I predict, not, then a followup blog will be coming shortly.

At any rate, it is going to be a great week here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words.  Sarah Black is stopping by to discuss her latest release,, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari, the sequel to The General and The Horse-Lord, a favorite of mine.  If you enjoy great military characters written realistically and grounded deeply in the Marine ethos, then these stories are for you.

Also reviewed this week is her outstanding supernatural story, Wild Onion.  Sarah Black donated the proceeds of this story to her local food bank, a wonderful endeavor and a much needed one.  Anne Tenino is back with more of her boys from Alpha Theta Gamma in Good Boy and I have new stories hee by A.R. Moler and Jameson Dash.  Really there is something for everyone.

Here is the schedule for the week ahead:

Monday, Oct. 21:       Burning Now by A.R. Moler

Tuesday, Oct. 22:       Home Team by Jameson Dash

Wed., Oct. 23:             Wild Onions by Sarah Black

Thurs., Oct. 24:          Good Boy by Anne Tenino

Friday, Oct. 25:          Sarah Black Guest Blog and Book Giveaway

Sat., Oct., 26:             The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari by Sarah Black

September 2013 Summary of Reviews

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September and Fall

September 2013 Book Review Summary

What a wonderful month it was for books and reviews!  Most of the books I read fell into the 5 and 4 star category, a few into the  3 star and none below that.  Series predominated the ratings this time.  Most notably the series offerings from the Pulp Friction authors. There 3d-person-sit-pile-books-reading-book-26141531were new books in well established series such as Katey Hawthorne’s Superpowered Love series as well as followup stories and new series  from such talented authors such as Kendall McKenna (The Tameness of the Wolf series) and Aleksandr Voinov (Memory of Scorpions series).

Other new series includes Poppy Dennison’s Pack Partners , Cat Grant’s Bannon’s Gym) and Harper Kingsley’s Heroes and Villains series too.  My cup (and yours) runneth over with series, all promising more great stories featuring characters we have come to love. And believe it or not, October is starting the same way!  What a fall!

So grab a pen or notebook and jot down those books and authors you may have missed the first time around.  I have linked my review to each one listed.  Happy Reading!

5 Star Rating:

Crucify (Triple Threat #4) by L.E. Harner
Defiance (Triple Threat #3) by L.E. Harner
Re-entry Burn (Superpowered Love #5) by Katey Hawthorne (supernatural)
Retribution (Triple Threat #2) by L.E. Harner (contemporary)
Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1) by Aleksandr Voinov (fantasy)
Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2) by Kendall McKenna

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Accidental Alpha (Pack Partners #1) by Poppy Dennison (4.5 stars)(supernatural)
Black Dog (Bannon’s Gym #1) by Cat Grant (4.5 stars)(contemporary)
Blessed Curses by Madeleine Ribbon (4 stars) (fantasy)
City Knight (City Knight #1) by T.A. Webb (4 stars out of 5)(contemporary fiction)
Heroes and Villains (Heroes and Villains #1) by Harper Kingsley (4 stars)(supernatural)
Sonata by A.F. Henley (4.5 stars out of 5)(contemporary fiction)
Summer Lovin’ Anthology (4.75 stars out of 5) (contemporary)
The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft (4 stars)(historical)
Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1) by L.E. Harner (4.5 stars)(contemporary)

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Coliseum Square by Lynn Lorenz (3.75 stars)(historical)
Roughstock: Blind Ride, Season One by BA Tortuga (3 stars) (contemporary)

2 to 2.75 Star Rating: none

1 to 1.75 Star Rating: none

Review: Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2) by Kendall McKenna

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

StrengthoftheWolf4After the events in Afghanistan, Captain Tim Madison,  Lt. Lucas Young, Dominant and True Alpha Sergeant Noah Hammond find themselves back in the States as part of a new military unit designed to better utilize and integrate the wolf shifters into the military to the benefit of both species.  Its a huge job and they have plenty of preconceived notions, misinformation and outdated combat structures to get rid of.  All receive promotions with Tim Madison promoted to major.  He is also made the head of the new unit which is composed of both human and shifter soldiers. The first order of business? To the bottom of the huge amount of shifter casualties in combat.

Jeremy Wagner is a civilian wolf shifter.  He’s smart, young and just beginning his career as an architect intern.  Jeremy is also a Lone Wolf, having been Cast Out by the True Alpha of the North Coast pack.  To that True Alpha, Jeremy represents a threat to his leadership asJeremy is just beginning his Transition to True Alpha.  Now Jeremy is alone, hormonal and trying to deal with all the physical and emotional changes of his transition and it’s not going well.

A confrontation in a parking lots brings Tim Madison together with Jeremy Wagner with explosive results.  Despite Tim’s concerns about the swiftness of their feelings and age difference, Tim and Jeremy soon form an intimate bond.  But outside elements gather to pull them apart.  Tim’s dysfunctional brother has reappeared in his life,  casualties are mounting for the werewolves in combat and Jeremy must still deal with his transition to True Alpha.  Will their bond and the strength of the wolf be strong enough to withstand the obstacles in their path?

Each new book from Kendall McKenna just reinforces my enthusiasm and love for The Tameness of the Wolf universe and the wolf shifters (and humans) she has created for it.  Strength of the Wolf follows shortly after the events of Strength of the Pack and the kidnapping of Lt. Lucas Young.  That military action highlighted the errors in which the wolfshifters were being used and the need for more investigation and regulating where the shifters and the military were concerned.  After an intense Prologue, McKenna switches focus away from combat and brings us into an exploration of werewolf natural history, one of the aspects I wished had been enlarged in Strength of the Pack..  How did they operate? What was the hierarchy?  In Strength of the Wolf, McKenna starts to answer some of those questions.  I have to admit that I love how McKenna intertwines shapeshifter history with that of human history and lore.  It works beautifully and also manages to introduce an element of humor to the proceedings.

Kendall McKenna’s characters are as strong, deep, and intense, all of which is necessary considering their occupations and difference in physiology.  I love her soldiers, her Marines both human and werewolf.  They are all resoundingly authentic and compelling.  Now we get to see the civilian side of the wolf.  Jeremy is a architectural intern.  He is young, brash, smart, and alone.  His is a more subtle characterization if you can say that about a wolf shifter, especially one becoming a True Alpha.  His is a character in transition in more ways than one.  Jeremy is twenty five.  He is, as an intern, learning about himself as a architect as well as his new  status as True Alpha.  Jeremy has always been a mid level pack member and is not prepared when he starts to change mentally, emotionally, and physically.  He is in all respects, a late bloomer and that’s a problem.  I really love this character.  He is powerful and he is also very vulnerable, he is insecure and having problems handling his transition without help.   Then into his life strides Tim Madison, Lucas Young and Noah Hammond.  Talk about a life changing moment.  That scene in the parking lot is a great example of why everything about this series and book works.  It’s intense, its perspective is both intimate and broad in scope, it’s humorous and potentially terrifying.  It’s amazing.   And the more we learn about Jeremy’s journey to True Alpha, the more we learn about werewolf society, pack rules and regulations.

The character of Tim Madison is, naturally, given more depth and scope than his role in Strength of the Pack.  I liked Tim in that novel but came to love him here.  Older, responsible, and still he yearns for the type of bond he sees in Lucas and Noah, a permanence and deep love that includes respect and understanding.  Tim’s past and his military career have taught him caution, to be wary of unplanned,  quick moves.  So it is absolutely understandable that when faced with Jeremy’s (and his own) desires, that Tim would want to slow things down.  So very human, but that doesn’t always work with your mate is a shapeshifter.  Again, McKenna gives each man his strong persona and then shows us exactly how and why they work so well in combination.  It’s realistic and incredibly sexy!  I mean incendiary sexy!  Those scenes between Tim and Jeremy are the hottest things since…well, since Noah and Lucas!

Of course,  Dominant Lucas Young and his mate, Noah Hammond, the True Alpha of the U.S. Armed Forces Pack are back in force.  This couple always manages to bring an startling sexual and emotional component to each scene they are in.   They remain as charismatic and white hot as you would expect.  But even with all those qualities, their presence doesn’t take away anything from the story of Tim and Jeremy.  They enhance it, not dilute it.  McKenna balances her couples and the needs of the narrative beautifully so neither couple is diminished by the other.  It may be  Tim and Jeremy’s story but the author has a wider plan that she is moving towards and many other elements in play.  And this will include some of the new characters she introduces in Strength of the Wolf.  At least I am hoping to see certain Marines show up again as well as Tim’s brother.

A  review of any of Kendall McKenna’s novels would be incomplete without mentioning the superb military elements so much a part of her narratives.  Because of Kendall McKenna, I now know what a sit-rep is, also a “oscar mike”, CASEVAC, and LPC’s, that’s leather personnel carriers, also known as boots for those of you as ignorant as I was of military speak!  Because of Kendall McKenna and her vivid realistic descriptions, I can almost feel the heat of the desert baking into their skin, and the dessert sand that invades every crevasse of clothes and body no matter the preventative measures taken to keep it out.  The drudgery, the danger, the boredom and the unmitigated horror of a ambush, its all here, done with a gritty realism that will make you wince,cringe and cry out for those involved.  Reading through a Kendall McKenna story is both a pleasure and a revelation.  I feel grounded in its authenticity (especially where the military and combat is concerned) but revel in the new facts and aspects of situation and characters that I had not thought of.    What a joy.

Kendall McKenna’s Strength of the Wolf and The Tameness of the Wolf series are on Scattered Thoughts Best Lists of 2013.  Consider both books highly recommended.  So grab up your LPCs and run to get your copy of Strength of the Wolf.  If you are new to the series, go directly back to the beginning and Strength of the Pack first.  If you loved that book, trust me you will be running back to reread it after finishing Strength of the Wolf.  This is a series you will never get enough of, trust me on this one.

Cover art by Jared Rackler is amazing.  I love it.

Books in The Tameness of the Wolf series in the order they were written and should be read:

Strength of the Pack (The Tameness of the Wolf #1)
Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 365 pages
Published September 6th 2013 by MLR Press
original title Strength of the Wolf
ISBN13 MLR1020130136
edition language English
series The Tameness of the Wolf
Buy links:

More Kendall McKenna, More Marine Werewolves and 2nd Contest Begins!

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Whew! Welcome back, everybody! I don’t know about you, but this last week has been crazy! I’ve had my usual schedule of guest blogs and blog hops surrounding the release of my new book, but the reaction to Strength of the Wolf has exceeded the reaction to the first book, and I can hardly keep up with the email and PMs! If I still had my day job, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up at all!

Thanks for taking time to swing by and get updated. I’ve got a winner to announce later on, but first, pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink, prop your feet up, and let’s chat.

A couple of days ago, I discussed world building and how I construct my stories and my characters. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty today. Let’s talk about werewolves; specifically, the werewolves I created for my series, The Tameness of the Wolf. Creating a world in which werewolves serve in the Marine Corps, are fully integrated with humans, fall in love, and make love, with both humans and other werewolves, was more complex and complicated than I had anticipated. It’s not difficult, but it can get tricky.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve read less than a handful of paranormal romances. As a child, I loved ‘monster’ movies. In addition to the classics, I also had a fondness for the Hammer films of the 60s. Also being a history buff, I read all about the origins of the various myths and legends of my two favorite ‘monsters’; vampires and werewolves. Technology has made for some entertaining movies, and has led to the blending of shapeshifters with werewolves. I created my werewolf mythology from the most intriguing aspects of shapeshifting, anchored it in history, then used it to color my characters and my story.

Black Wolf in snowThere are two characteristics that separate werewolves (or any were-animal) from general shapshifters. One is that the individual is cursed, most often by receiving a bite from a werewolf. The second is the necessity of shifting into a wolf at the full moon. Full werewolves shift completely into a wolf. There has always been the existence of legends about a ‘wolfman’, which is a creature possessing the traits of both wolf and human.

As I built my world for The Tameness of the Wolf series, the concept of the curse became problematic because my werewolves are not evil, and are not villains. I chose to make the curse feature a part of the werewolves history, so it has bearing on my characters, but in an historical capacity. At this point, I can’t elaborate any further without spoilers!

The feature that is arguably, quintessentially ‘werewolf’, is the need to shift into a wolf with the full moon. This is what captured my imagination, more Black Wolf   White Wolf Full Moonthan anything else, so it features prominently in my mythology. My affection for wolfmen manifests itself in my werewolves being able to control their shapeshift by degrees. Unless it’s the full moon, my werewolves are able to shift some or all of their body parts at will.

When it came to the behaviors of my werewolves, both conscious and instinctive, I rooted everything in the natural world. When my werewolves become wolves, they behave just as wolves in the wild do. They have a pack hierarchy, they possess a great deal of aggression, they are able to run for nearly a day, at a steady pace. They’re stronger than they are as humans, they hunt wild prey during the full moon, and they function as a pack-like team. They retain small aspects of their humanity, but for all intents and purposes, they’re large, dangerous Dire wolves.

Conversely, when my werewolves are human, they’re fully human. Some wolf-like aspects bleed through, such as stronger senses of sight, smell and hearing. They retain the wolf’s use of scent and touch to aid in communication. They’re territorial, but they function extremely well in teams.
What this all means is, everything that happens in my stories, and all the traits and features of my characters, occur in reality. Neither human, nor wolf; have any habits, rituals or behaviors that aren’t found in the natural word. For all that my characters defy the laws of physics, and don’t exactly adhere to the law of equal mass, my werewolves – and therefore my stories – are believable. They feel realistic

Once I set up the history of my werewolves, and the rules of my universe, I began to write my story.  Again, I know where I want my characters to go, and where I want them to end up. I know the same things about the plot. I design scenes to do what it is I need done at that point in the story, and I ensure every detail adheres to the rules of the world I built. Building that world, clearly defining it, and sticking to the rules is crucial, and it makes the stories compelling and enjoyable.

I took the world that I built in Strength of the Pack, and I expanded and elaborated on it in Strength of the Wolf.  I continued to weave werewolves into the myths and legends of our reality. I showed what it is to be a True Alpha werewolf, and how Noah and Jeremy got there. I gave insight into how the packs work, and sometimes don’t work. I expanded on the role of the Beta, and I introduced the beloved Omega. And along the way, I showed humans and werewolves learning how to wage modern warfare, side by side.

And along the way, Tim and Jeremy fall in love.Marine with dog tags

Strength of the Wolf continues to rocket its way up the bestseller lists. Tim and Jeremy have captured hearts. If you’re curious, you can read a little bit about them:
Blurb:  
After a fiery exit from Afghanistan, Tim Madison is promoted to major. Jeremy Wagner is a civilian, just beginning his Transition to True Alpha. As a lone wolf, he has no one to teach him the vital principles of strong leadership. After a volatile chance encounter, Tim and Jeremy form an intimate bond.
As Jeremy prepares to someday lead his own pack, Tim struggles with military werewolves being needlessly maimed in combat, as well as specifically targeted by hostile forces. Despite Tim and Jeremy’s feelings, werewolf and human politics or family conflict could prevent their mate-bond.

Excerpt:
The crowd of Marines backed away, forming a wide circle around Tim. To his left, Lucas dropped what he was carrying. Glass shattered on the wooden deck and dispelled the food it contained. To Tim’s right, Jeremy’s clawed hands wrapped around Terrell Hubbard’s throat. His lips pulled back in a ferocious snarl, revealing long, wickedly sharp fangs. Hubbard’s fingers were claws, as well. One gripped Jeremy’s bicep, the other was fisted in Jeremy’s shirt. Hubbard bared his fangs, barking and growling in Jeremy’s face. 

Adrenaline surged into Tim’s bloodstream. His heart pounded, his mouth went dry. “Jeremy! Knock it the fuck off!” he shouted, reaching for the brat’s shoulders to pull him away from Hubbard. “Sergeant Hubbard! Stand down! Right the fuck now!” Tim’s skin tightened over his bones and his clothes were suddenly painful.

Tim hadn’t been this afraid in combat. Hubbard was inches taller and tens of pounds heavier than Jeremy. He was a trained Marine, battle hardened. Jeremy was outclassed and that scared the shit out of Tim. 

“Submit, Terrell,” Noah shouted, voice rough and commanding. He sounded more wolf than human. 

Just as Tim reached for Jeremy, strong hands grasped his wrists. 

“Stay out of it,” Lucas said, trying to drag Tim away from the embattled werewolves. “You’ll only get hurt.”

“Jeremy’s no match for Hubbard,” Tim said angrily, trying to shake off Lucas. 

“Yes, he is.” Lucas put himself between Tim and the shifters, giving a mighty shove. “Let Noah handle it.”

Tim stumbled, Lucas’ shove sending him off balance. He started back toward Jeremy, desperate to get him away from the larger, stronger Hubbard. Lucas blocked his path. Dawson was suddenly behind Lucas as silent reinforcement. 

“Submit to him, Terrell,” Noah ordered again. He stood beside the two werewolves but didn’t touch. Tim wondered why the hell he didn’t break up the fight. “If you make him shift he’ll rip your throat out.”

In the blink of an eye, Hubbard gave up the fight and let himself be carried to the ground by Jeremy’s weight. Now on his back, Terrell let his arms go limp beside him. He tilted back his head so that both his throat and his belly were vulnerable to Jeremy’s attack. 

A strange silence fell over the yard, save for Hubbard’s labored breathing as he struggled to get air past Jeremy’s grip on his throat. Jeremy crouched over Terrell’s supine form. He gripped Hubbard’s throat with only one clawed hand now. He leaned down until his open mouth hovered just above Terrell’s throat. 

“My wolf has submitted, Jeremy,” Noah said calmly. He knelt next to the combatants, still not touching Jeremy. “You’re the victor. He submitted. Let him up.”

Jeremy continued to crouch over Hubbard. He snapped audibly at the vulnerable flesh of Terrell’s throat. Hubbard flinched. Tim clenched his jaw, silently begging Jeremy to accept Hubbard’s submission. 

“You can’t filter this through any human or military standards,” Lucas said quietly. Tim had nearly forgotten he was there. “I know you think it’s too soon, but do you feel a connection to Jeremy?”

Tim swallowed hard, his throat tight. To his relief, Jeremy released Terrell, rising gracefully to his feet. “Yes,” Tim admitted, eyes following Jeremy as he stalked back and forth, glaring at the werewolves circled around them. 

“Let him mark you, then,” said Lucas. “Right now, in front of the Pack.”

Tim realized everything had been leading him to this very moment, despite his efforts to deny and avoid it. “Yeah,” he sighed. He had feelings for the kid he knew weren’t mixed up with Jeremy’s, or tied to the full moon. Jeremy’s well-being mattered to Tim, but he was the reason Jeremy was angry and aggressive. Jeremy needed Tim to stop hiding. 

“It’s got to be a visible mark,” Lucas reminded him. “He’s going to want to get his scent on you, too.”

None of that bothered Tim. Well, the visible marks made him apprehensive. He’d had such sympathy for Lucas, watching him struggle with werewolves making things public that humans usually kept private. 

“The brat had better be worth all the drama,” Tim muttered darkly, decision made. 

Lucas chuckled. “You wouldn’t like him if he wasn’t a challenge.”

Lucas and Dawson both stepped aside, leaving Tim free to approach to Jeremy. Or Jeremy to approach Tim. It wasn’t clear yet how this was going to go down. Terrell had rolled onto his side, but he still lay on the ground at Jeremy’s feet. The neck of his muscle shirt was darkened with blood. Jeremy’s claws had done some damage. Thankfully, it didn’t appear too severe.

Jeremy stopped pacing. Noah stood behind him, speaking quietly. Jeremy stood tall, shoulders squared, staring directly at Tim. His eyes were amber and those of a wolf. His chest heaved with each breath. At least his hands were no longer claws. Tim couldn’t tell if Jeremy still had fangs. 

It didn’t matter if he did. Tim knew he was in no danger from Jeremy. Focusing all of his attention on Jeremy, Tim realized he should have done this before now. Jeremy’s need was a physical ache. His desire to mark Tim, and be marked in return had always been there. It lingered at the back of Tim’s mind like white noise, making it easy to ignore. Tim’s own regret poured through him, drowning out everything else. He hoped this effort would make up for his mistakes. Releasing a shaky breath, Tim silently acknowledged that he’d wanted this all along. 

Tim saw the moment Jeremy sensed that their needs finally synced. He closed the distance between them in a few long strides. Tim clutched at Jeremy’s shirt as Jeremy wrapped his arms around Tim’s waist, pulling their bodies together roughly. Their open mouths collided and Tim felt the hard press of teeth. Jeremy did still have his fangs, their sharp tips drawing blood from Tim’s lips. A thrill ran down Tim’s spine, knowing Jeremy’s lethal strength was leashed, just for him. 

Jeremy licked deep into Tim’s mouth, their tongues tangling wetly. Jeremy’s body was flame-hot, pressed to the length of Tim’s. His breath was scalding as it ghosted across Tim’s cheek. 

Breaking the kiss, Jeremy buried his face in the join of Tim’s neck and shoulder. Tim shuddered. He pushed his hips against Jeremy’s, feeling Jeremy’s already hard cock. Tim tilted his head slightly, asking at the same time he gave consent. 

Jeremy pried Tim’s fingers from his shirt. Tim gasped as Jeremy forced his arms to cross at the small of his back. The strength in Jeremy’s hand was surprising as he restrained Tim’s wrists. The arch in his back pushed Tim’s body hard against Jeremy’s. His own cock was completely hard now and he rubbed himself back and forth against Jeremy. Tim closed his eyes, letting his head fall back in silent pleading. 

Jeremy kissed up the length of Tim’s throat, dragging the sharp tips of his teeth along the edge of Tim’s jaw. The slight sting sent a thrill down Tim’s spine and he wanted more. Jeremy nipped at Tim’s pulse where it throbbed just below his skin. Tim moaned when Jeremy soothed the spot with his tongue. 

His body went rigid and Tim unleashed a decadent groan when Jeremy’s hot mouth latched onto the side of his neck. Tim’s blood rose to the surface as Jeremy sucked hard at the spot. Jeremy soothed the bruise with a swipe of his tongue. Tim relaxed into Jeremy’s hard body, moaning each time Jeremy sucked a bruise into his throat, or nipped sharply at his too-sensitive skin. 

He wanted to touch. Tim struggled to free his hands from Jeremy’s grip. When Jeremy released his wrists, Tim buried his fingers in Jeremy’s hair, holding him close. Jeremy nosed at Tim’s ear, dragging his sharp teeth along the sensitive lobe. Tim shuddered again and moaned. 

Lowering his head, Tim found Jeremy’s mouth. He chased Jeremy’s tongue with his own. Curling his fingers in Jeremy’s hair, Tim used it to tilt his head back. He skimmed his lips and nose over the pounding pulse in Jeremy’s throat. Tim pressed his open mouth to the same spot and drew heated blood to the surface. Jeremy panted. He cradled the back of Tim’s head, encouraging him. Tim sucked blood to the surface of Jeremy’s skin. He was deeply satisfied that Jeremy wore his mark. The werewolf pack that surrounded them would know that Jeremy was his, and only his.

Jeremy pulled back abruptly. “Okay, that’s enough,” he gasped. “Any more and we’re going to put on a much more revealing show than I’d planned.”

Tim blinked, struggling to understand Jeremy’s words. He watched Jeremy’s eyes roam over his throat, taking in the bruises Tim could feel darkening on his skin. Jeremy’s expression was satisfied, bordering on arrogant. Tim couldn’t help but chuckle. It was such an Alpha thing to do. 

The world began to move around them. Dawson directed someone to clean up the shattered glass and spilled food. Noah tried to save the meat left forgotten on the grill. Mundane conversations swirled around them. 

Tim and Jeremy stood alone, completely surrounded by Noah’s Pack, breathing heavily, looking only at one another. 

“How long do we have to stay?” Desire was obvious in Jeremy’s still-amber eyes. 

“It would be polite to eat something, then help clean up a little,” Tim replied, already calculating how he might maneuver them into an early departure. 

“Stay with me tonight?” Jeremy asked. 

Tim nodded emphatically. “Of course.” Everyone associated with a werewolf pack was excused from duty for the next two days for the full-moon run. He imagined the two of them had much to discuss over the course of the next twenty-four hours. 

“Good,” Jeremy said. He turned toward the cluster of Marines who had begun to serve themselves food. “Now let’s go let them all know it’s time to keep their hands off of what’s mine.”

Jeremy’s possessive words should have angered Tim. Instead, it made him consider being rude and skipping out on food. 

If anyone would understand, it would be Lucas and Noah. 

 

In just a little bit, I’m going to show you how you can enter to win an e-book copy of Strength of the Wolf. First, I have a winner to announce:
WINNER of the e-book copy of Strength of the Pack:

Penumbra!
CONGRATULATIONS! (just let me know what format you need)

Now, here’s your chance to enter to win an e-book copy of Strength of the Wolf!
 StrengthoftheWolf4

 http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1bf30761

You’ll also want to swing by tomorrow, the 13th, and find out how to win an authentic set of Tim and Jeremy’s Dog Tags! These are just like the tags worn by U.S. armed forces personnel and are very highly coveted (and a little hard to get!).Strength of the Wolf Dog Tags

Love and Dog Tags,

Kendall

www.kendallmckenna.com

www.facebook.com/kendallmckenna

www.facebook.com/thetamenessofthewolf

www.facebook.com/therecondiaries

tim_jeremy_paw

Review: Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7) by R.J. Scott

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Worlds CollideDale MacIntyre, Sanctuary agent, is in charge of protecting Emily Bullen, wife of Senator Thomas Bullen, from her husband and the rest of the criminally inclined Bullen family. After turning states evidence, Emily is headed back to Albany on a jet.  Accompanied only by Dale, the pilot of the plane, and the copilot, she is horrified when word reaches them that a key player in the Bullen family crime syndicate was mistakenly freed from jail and is now able to hunt down the only person who can put him away for life.  That person is Emily Bullen.

Midflight, Dale realizes the extent that Ryland Griffin will go to in order to eliminate Emily Bullen. Dale reaches out immediately to the person he knows he can trust to have immediate answers, have his back and that of the person he is protecting. That person is his lover, Navy Seal Joseph Kinnon.  When Dale’s assignment gets more dangerous, Joseph and his Seal Team intervene and the resulting events bring about a serious introspective search for Dale and Joseph about where their relationship is headed.

I have been waiting for another Dale and Joseph book since they first appeared in The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2). In that story, Dale, an ex Seal and Joseph, current Navy Seal, meet, clash and lust as the investigation into the Bullen family crime syndicate is in its initial stages with Joseph’s murdered sister as one of Bullen family’s first known victims.  The start to their romance is white hot, primal and short lived.  Since then, R.J. Scott has kept the readers on high anticipation with teasers of the couple in book after book but nothing notable or even remotely satisfying.  This is how it all starts:

“It’s not too late, we can still get out of here,” Chief Petty Officer Joseph Kinnon said urgently. He pressed both hands to the glass and stared down at the street below. The city was a white, snowy landscape and at any other time would have been stunningly beautiful. They were ten stories up in a hotel in the heart of the historic district and the place had ledges at each level. As a team they’d dealt with worse. Assessing the situation, he considered the options.

“Fuentes, talk to me.”

Luca Fuentes, young, tall, and built like the side of barn with muscles on muscles, was the team’s resident hacker but was also a tactical genius. He joined Joseph at the window. “Chief,” he said formally. His green-eyed gaze unerringly focused in on the view that Joseph had. He frowned as he looked out.

“Can you find egress here?” Joseph asked.

Luca tapped the glass.

“Reinforced; we’d need some pretty heavy ordnance to get out—I can get Viktor on that—then zip wire. Get it hooked to the top of the plaza building.” Luca looked up and down, then turned to Joseph. “Forty degrees. We can get down to the roof and get out that way.”

“Assessment?” “Fifty-fifty. I think most of us will be okay, but one of our team is scared of heights,” Fuentes said seriously.

Joseph nodded in agreement. “You’re talking about Mike Dexter.”

“He’s a liability, sir,” Luca answered. “I’m not sure his underwear would remain unstained and survive the fall.”

Joseph and his Seal team are assembled for a very different type of mission, a personal one.  This is a funny and really moving introduction, just what I have come to expect from R.J. Scott.  Joseph and his team are truly a band of brothers,unchanging until now.  But the event they have gathered for marks the beginning of transitions for more than one member of the team.  We have not met Joseph’s team until now and what a diverse group they turn out to be.  I can easily see R.J. Scott building an entire new series around this team, especially the randy Viktor.  While Scott has let us see Joseph in action, this is the first time we get to see Joseph operating as a member of his Seal team.  By their interactions with each other and their dialog the author lets us feel why being a Seal and a part of this team is so important to  Joseph.  And it also lets us into the pain Dale felt when he was forced out.  Since being a Seal is fundamental to Joseph’s character, what plays out next highlights the importance of Dale and their relationship.

And that is really what Worlds Collide is all about, an internal shift in both men that will allow them to have a future with each other.  This is more a relationship book than any of the other stories in the series to date.  Yes, we are still dealing with the fallout from the Bullen family crime investigations.  One important criminal has escaped and Dale is in charge of getting Emily Bullen to safety so she can testify.  But this section is just the impetus for providing the platform for change in both men’s lives.  Here is Joseph with a note from Dale:

Just touching the note grounded Joseph in the here and now. Slowly, over the course of the last few months, the space in his life that had once been filled by the team he was with, by the job, by staying alive, had seen a full-frontal assault by the man he had fallen in love with.

This is a huge ground shift by a man who lived for the Seals alone.  Dale too has undergone his own emotional introspection about Joseph and their possible future ahead.  I love the way Scott has developed their story.  Our first meeting and theirs was explosive, a fight turned sexual.  It was incendiary.  But after that, something else occurred, they started to care about each other and so did the readers.  From time to time, we heard about each man and their tentative relationship in the other books. Nothing concrete for them or us, just tantalizing bits that kept us engaged in their future.  So this book was more than welcome, I am sure we felt it was long overdue after being teased through five books. And  the author doesn’t let us down.

We alternate perspective, from Dale to Joseph and back, as the events brought on by  Dale’s assignment, guarding Emily Bullen, brings out those determined to stop her at all costs.  We get to see the fluidity of motion and deadly competency of the Seal team in action, and the intrepidness of Dale’s Sanctuary training coming together to achieve one end.  But the highlight of the story must be the time that Joseph and Dale get to spend together after the mission is finished.  It’s heartwarming, it’s sexy and it fulfills most of the dreams we have had about this couple.  But of course, not all.

It’s all here. All the things that have made this series such a great one.  Realistic, fully rounded characters, a complicated criminal investigation that spreads through the series, and a narrative that moves the plot forward swiftly and smoothly.  I love that the Bullen investigation is still ongoing, with loose ends out there waiting to trip up Sanctuary and the other agencies. Just a terrific aspect of this series and beautifully plotted out. There are one or two small chinks in the armor here.  One small scene with the Seals and the criminal that I thought was unrealistic given their training and readiness. And then there is the ending.  Absolutely realistic as always. For those expecting a finality to Dale and Joseph’s romance, we haven’t gotten it …yet.  But you know that it is coming and this ending will leave you satisfied for now.

If you are  new to the series or Dale and Joseph’s romance, go back to the beginning.  An absolute must in order to understand the characters and the events as they play out.  Here are the books in the order they were written and must be read:

Guarding Morgan (Sanctuary #1)

The Only Easy Day (Sanctuary #2), Dale and Joseph’s romance begins

Face Value (Sanctuary, #3)

Still Waters (Sanctuary, #4)

Full Circle (Sanctuary, #5)

The Journal Of Sanctuary One (Sanctuary, #6)
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Worlds Collide (Sanctuary #7)

Cover design by BitterGraceArt is lovely and in keeping with the characters.

Book Details:

ebook
Published June 28th 2013 by Love Lane Books (first published March 30th 2013)

Review: The Final Line (Recon Diaries #3) by Kendall McKenna

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5 The Final Line

Staff Sergeant Corey Yarwood returned home after a tour of duty that saw him injured and a case built against the civilian security forces that operated overseas.  Now an instructor at the Basic Reconnaissance Course. Corey is suffering from PTS, and is drinking heavily in his off duty hours to help him sleep through the night and the nightmares that arrive as he falls to sleep.  One night at a local bar, Corey comes to the aid of a woman being targeted by some local drunks.  When her friend arrives to take her home, Corey meets a man that is smart, compassionate and wakes up his long slumbering libido.

Sean Chandler, an actor and a musician, walks into a dive bar expecting to find his neighbor who called for a ride. Instead he finds himself tossed into the middle of a drunken mess with one man standing between his friends and a group of angry drunks. He watches as the Marine easily handles the situation and then helps him walk his neighbor to the car.  One ride home lands Sean squarely into Corey’s life, as friend and perhaps even romantic partner.  Corey is less than communicative, but Sean sees immediately that Corey is having problems, starting with alcohol.  But Sean also sees the remarkable man who is in so much pain and in need of his help that nothing will stop Sean from doing  what he can to see Corey on the path to sobriety and mental health.

Corey is also suffering from memory loss.  Something awful happened during his last tour of duty and an investigation has been opened up to uncover those responsible for civilian deaths and the following coverup. Corey’s memories are the key needed to unlock the truth.  As the investigation draws closer, Corey’s memories gain power.  Will the truth put Corey on the path to recovery and love or will the truth be his downfall?

When is 5 star rating not high enough? The answer is when you have a book like The Final Line in front of you to review.  This is really one of the most exemplary examples of military fiction that I have read in quite some time.  Add to that fact that given the overwhelming number of soldiers returning from their tour of duty with PTS, traumatic head injuries as well as physical disabilities and an infrastructure unable to handle all their needs, it becomes not just a beautifully written piece of fiction but a timely one as well.

Corey Harwood is the focus of this book, unlike the previous stories where Marine Staff Sergeant Jonah Carver and former Platoon Commander, Kellan Reynolds were the main characters. In those stories, Corey was a young soldier just learning the reality of his job, a reality that only comes with the first tour of duty.  This is our first introduction to  “baby Marine” Corey Yarwood in Brothers In Arms:

PFC Corey Yarwood of Slayer-Two-Three sat cleaning his gear, listening to the bullshit his fellow Marines were spouting. He laughed in the right places but didn’t contribute much. Jonah always felt a sharp twist in his chest when he saw Yarwood. The kid resembled Kellan. Jonah had thought Kellan looked young all those years ago, but Yarwood—Yarwood looked so young, he made Jonah feel old. Kendall McKenna. Brothers in Arms  MLR Press LLC.

From baby faced, inexperienced Private, we watch Corey age and grow into a seasoned warrior injured in battle, returned to the States for training in Fire for Effect (Recon Diaries #2):

Jonah’s features split into a grin. “Yarwood,” he greeted, extending his hand.

Corporal Corey Yarwood approached, dressed in full utilities including the eight cornered, billed cover. He’d changed since Kellan had last seen him. Corey was the same height, but he held himself a little taller. He seemed broader in the chest and shoulders. Two years had matured Corey, that much was obvious. He’d still been boyish, when Kellan had met him. Now, he was unquestionably all man.

Corey grasped Jonah’s hand and shook it briskly. They pulled each other in for the ultra-masculine, back-slapping hug of the alpha male. Corey was smiling wide when he stepped back, his eyes shone as he looked up into Jonah’s face. He released Jonah’s hand but now stood gripping his bicep.   Kendall McKenna. Fire for Effect . MLR Press LLC.

By the second book, Corey has returned home a veteran Marine with First Recon getting ready to deploy for his third mission overseas.  Experienced but still young enough to harbor a crush on his idol, Jonah Carver.  This is also where we start to get our first indications that all is not well with Corey, when Kellen asks about his injury:

“How’s your head these days?”

Corey’s fingers lifted to his temple in what looked like an unconscious gesture. “I have a pretty good scar but beyond that, I healed up fine.” Kendall McKenna. Fire for Effect . MLR Press LLC.

But the truth is Corey is far from fine, and he is already drinking to excess.  By the time we meet up with Corey again, he has become Staff Sergeant Corey Yarwood  and is an instructor at the Basic Reconnaissance Course.  He is having difficulty sleeping, he has lost his memory of certain important events, and untreated PTS is steadily pulling him into a downward spiral. And that is just part of the beauty of this series and this book.  Kendall McKenna has given us a powerful portrait of a Marine, honor bound to the Corp and its codes of behavior, from his first tour of duty to a seasoned Instructor.  It’s realistic and its has all the authenticity I have come to expect from a Kendall McKenna story. I believe in Corey,  I believe in his attitudes towards the Corp and service.  And because of that unquestioning belief, I felt every moment of his pain, every second of his despair, and finally his joy as he starts on the path to recovery.

In some respects, this story is less a romance, than a study of a veteran who is dealing with PTS, and that makes it not only emotionally compelling but timely as our media is full of stories of our soldiers returning to society, unable to cope with their physical injuries and emotional trauma. It is not enough that a writer is familiar with military terms and uses them in a story.  It is the understanding of the soldier mentality, or in this case what it means to be a Marine, an identity so indelible that it is written on their cells.   Ask any one on a street in the US, what it means to be a Marine, and you can expect an immediate answer, whether it be “Semper Fi” or “once a Marine, always a Marine”. It is quite simply a never-ending brotherhood.  To understand and be able to ground their stories and characters in the Marine culture is an achievement that few authors manage.  Kendall McKenna is one of those who reach that level of accomplishment in every story she writes.  If you have read her guest blog , then you will understand how her family and past history has contributed to this knowledge.   But I am convinced that it is something more, something else, a special talent that allows an author to go beyond knowledge and history to extend real emotion and a mental framework into their characters that bring them fully alive on each page of the story.  Corey Yarwood is that powerful, compelling creation that moves beyond the page and into your hearts as a real person.  We invest ourselves emotionally in Corey’s situation and yearn for his recovery as much as those around him do.

Another terrific element of The Final Line is the fact that McKenna helps to educate the public about PTS without standing on a soapbox.  This is Corey’s first meeting with a doctor from the Warrior Clinic:

“I’m guessing it’s the nightmares and insomnia that are causing you the most trouble?”

“Yes, ma’am. Doctor Goldman gave me a prescription for that. It’s only been a couple days but so far, things seem better.”

“Good. That’s really good. You’ve reported only one anxiety attack. By taking care of the sleep issues and coming here, you’ve probably headed off more frequent and more severe episodes, so that’s also good.” Doctor Ingram paused and Corey wiped his sweaty palms on the thighs of his jeans.

“You’ve reported no flashbacks and no hyper-vigilance, but I’m willing to bet you have very mild symptoms and just don’t recognize them.” The doctor canted her head as she regarded Corey closely. “Do some of your memories seem more vivid that others? Do you lose time? Several minutes where you don’t know what you were just doing? Are you uncomfortable in crowds? Do you feel aggressive if you don’t have a wall at your back and all exits in view?”

Corey sat in stunned silence for several moments, mouth hanging slack as he stared at Doctor Ingram. “I don’t lose track of time,” he managed through his tightened throat. “But all the rest? Yeah.”

And that is just some of the symptoms associated with PTS and through Corey, we watch as he tries to deal with them first on his own, and then with the assistance of others, including doctors.  It is truly an eye opening experience if you are unfamiliar with the disease, and McKenna gets us right into his head and mind frame. Then multiply Corey by the thousands and you begin to  understand the hurdles the young men and women are facing as their return from duty and try to reintegrate into society.

Along with Corey, McKenna also gives us a military investigation into a war crime where civilians were killed and an coverup of that event at home.  Both Jonah Carver and Kellen Reynolds are back as part of that investigation and Corey’s memories hold the key to exactly what happened overseas and who was responsible.  This portion of the story is as enthralling as everything else going on around our main character.   It just as easily could have been one of those “ripped from the headlines” plot lines, but again this section has the same authentic feel as all other aspects of this story.  Trust me when I say your heart will just ache by the time this book is done, and not just for Corey. McKenna has given this its due diligence and it shows.

Is there a romance here?  Absolutely.  As with all her other characters, McKenna gives us another realistic, relatable character in Sean Chandler.  He is interesting, compassionate and a true equal for Corey.  There is no instant love here but a relationship that has to be built around real issues that have to be dealt with.  Corey has to learn to communicate better and Sean has a front seat in learning what it means to be a Marine, especially a Recon Marine.  It is a wonderful, believable and ultimately loving relationship that McKenna creates between the two men, emotionally satisfying for both the reader and the couple.  How I love them both.  You will too.

From character study to military investigation to war crime to the building of a loving relationship, The Final Line has it all and then some.  It is exemplary as an example of military fiction as it is m/m romance.  I cannot begin to recommend this story highly enough.  It is such a remarkable book, so timely and alive in personality and culture, that I continue to shake my head in amazement.

Run, don’t walk, and pick this up.  If you are new to the series, start with Brothers in Arms and continue forward until you reach The Final Line.  And then spread the word too about a series all will want to read and men that all will want to embrace.

Cover Art by Jared Rackler.  The covers for these books are as powerful as the stories within.

The Recon Diaries books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events taking place: ReconDiariesBanner2 Brothers In Arms (Recon Diaries #1)

Fire for Effect (Recon Diaries #2)

The Final Line (Recon Diaries #3) Book Details:

ebook
Published July 4th 2013

Guest Blog – Kendall McKenna and Book Contest!

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ReconDiariesBanner2 Today we are lucky to have as our guest Kendall McKenna talking about her latest release, The Final Line (Recon Diaries #3).  To celebrate its release, we are giving away one copy of The Final Line and one copy of any other Recon Diaries title to a person who comments either today or tomorrow.  So don’t forget to leave a comment at the end of the post.  This is an incredible series and The Final Line is one of Scattered Thoughts Best Books of the Year: The Final Line Hello! My name is Kendall McKenna and I write M/M Erotic Romance novels and novellas. I’m going to talk about my U.S. Marine characters, and give away some free e-books, so let’s have some fun! Thanks to everyone for joining me today! On July 4th, The Final Line, my fifth novel – #3 in The Recon Diaries – was released to great reviews and a lot of excitement. This is the story of Corey Yarwood, who readers have watched grow up during the first two books in the series. Corey falls in love, has some hot sex, but also struggles with Post Traumatic Stress. That’s one of the hallmarks of The Recon Diaries, a hot romance woven together with a realistic military situation.

That’s actually what I do, as an author. My specialty, if you will.

My journey into writing love stories about U.S. Marines is pretty direct. I have never served in the military, but I have worked in law enforcement. There is a lot of crossover. Quite a few of my family members left the military to become law enforcement officers. I grew up in San Diego, where there are more Navy and Marine Corps bases than there are schools. Okay, not really, but almost. You get the idea. Growing up and into my late 20s, I was very close to my maternal grandfather. He had served in the Marines during WWII, and had been one of the founding members of 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. This all mixed together to become an extensive knowledge base and understanding of all things military, quite specifically, the Marines.

When I got all grown up, I noticed how inaccurately both cops and Marines are portrayed in books, movies, and on television. I desperately wanted to read good books about these characters, that didn’t have glaring errors or clearly indicate that authors had no military knowledge at all. You can tell from my books that military personnel have ways of thinking and speaking. As a sub-culture, they have a language of their own. I understand all of this, and can tap into it. I’ve explained before that it’s a lot like spending your first ten years in another country, speaking English as well as the local language. If you move to the U.S. at the age of ten, it becomes the language and culture you most closely identify with, but you can still access everything from your first ten years.

That’s just one piece of the puzzle, though. My characters are very crucial to my stories. I would say they’re more important than my stories, but I know many would argue. In any event, people who thrive in the military culture, have certain personalities. They also go through a process of socialization and conditioning while in the military. What this means is that military characters have to be created in a specific way for them to be realistic. First of all, they’re emotionally reserved. They aren’t overly talkative, especially when it comes to their feelings. They tend to prefer actions over words. They possess an inclination to ‘protect’ their loved ones from the ugliness of their professional lives. They need something pristine as an escape, so they attempt to keep the two halves of their lives separate.

Anyway, I first tried writing military characters and military themed stories, because I believed I could do it better than in some of the things I was reading. And I’m not just talking in the m/m genre. It’s a widespread issue. So, I sat down and wrote. I edited, I re-wrote. And I wrote again. I went out and found editors and beta readers who I knew could be very critical and push me to be better. I wrote, they corrected me, and I re-wrote. I grew from simple stories of 2,500 words, to my sweeping 100,000 word epics.

It’s one thing to write a series of stories that are strictly about two people falling in love. Obviously, I love a good romance. I wanted to do more, though. I wanted to write realistic, believable (yet, fictional) stories that would serve as the backdrop for the love story. It’s a commonly used technique, but I looked around for something that either affects, or only occurs to military personnel. I start with that kernel of truth, and from it I develop my own story and draw my own conclusions. It’s a really big game of what-if, for me. My characters think, speak, act and react to the fictional situations I devise. I weave the love story in and out of the fictional plot, until they’re hopefully, seamless.

Here’s how it all worked for my latest story, The Final Line. Corey Yarwood is a small, secondary character who first showed up in Brothers In Arms. He reappeared, a little older and more mature, in Fire For Effect. When it came time for his own story, I aged him and promoted him, giving him a few unpleasant experiences to make him interesting, but also to give him some baggage. I created a love interest for him who is just different enough to create some conflict, but different in ways that balance Corey out a bit.

You pretty much have to be living under a rock, these days, to miss the fact that our military veterans are battling against Post Traumatic Stress. I gave Corey a case of PTS, and was careful to realistically portray the symptoms, as well as the treatment. I didn’t make anything easy. Corey suffers, and it takes him some time to heal. Even then, it’s not perfect

Also, if you pay attention to national news, you know that there have been some incidents that have occurred, resulting in military personnel being prosecuted. I created an event that would serve as a war crime, and would feasibly lead to stateside prosecutions. What better incident to trigger Corey’s PTS?

Finally, returning vets are suffering high rates of domestic violence. I used a local incident as a jumping off point for a plot point that sets the entire story in motion. If Corey was affected by an incident in Afghanistan, others in his platoon would be as well. If Corey battles to overcome his PTS, would there not also be someone who sank into darkness following this event? And what would happen if everyone got together to cover up this event? Who would take the fall when someone set out to uncover the truth?

What really sets my books apart from others written about military characters or situations, is the authentic flavor of my narrative. I tell the story I have designed using military jargon, dialog with the cadence of military-speak, and realistic combat scenes. I drop the reader into the story and tell them what it’s like to feel the recoil of an M16. I describe the tooth-rattling, ear ringing feel of being close to an explosive detonation. I write authentic radio chatter, right down to unit call signs. I make the reader’s heart pound and their blood race, as if they were right beside Corey in combat. My military situations could happen; they’re actually possible. My Recon Marines execute real-life missions. They’re not Navy SEALs single handedly saving the White House.

I admit it! I love stories like that! But I set out to do something completely different. The rogue SEAL has been done to death. I set myself apart by going for realism.

If you have any questions about me, my background, or about anything regarding one of my stories, leave a comment, I’m happy to answer.

TheFinalLineEventPicCurious about Corey and The Final Line?

Here’s the blurb: Staff Sergeant Corey Yarwood is an instructor at the Basic Reconnaissance Course. His last deployment ended in horror, but he can’t remember those events. Battling severe PTSD, Corey’s drinking is growing out of control. Sean Chandler walks into a dive bar, and into Corey’s life. An actor and a musician, Sean has the empathy and compassion to sooth Corey’s pain, and the strength to support him as he struggles to heal. Corey’s lost memories are pivotal to a civilian murder, and a military investigation. Remembering could mean salvation, or destruction. Will the truth be too much for Sean to handle?Final Line pic

The Final Line might be Book #3 in The Recon Diaries, but it also stands alone. You can read it without having read the previous two books. However, if you’re curious about The Recon Diaries, you can read more about them at my website: www.kendallmckenna.com

NOW FOR THE FREE STUFF!

You have the chance to win one of two e-books! Our hostess is offering a free e-book of my newest title, The Final Line! I am offering a free e-book of any of the three titles from The Recon Diaries! The Rafflecopter drawings below will tell you what you need to know!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1bf30753/

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1bf30754/

Thank you so much for joining me here, and good luck to everyone with the drawings!

Corey & Sean 1st kiss Corey with puppyMarine Corey