Spotlight On: BA Tortuga and Say Something Book Tour and Contest

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I had a chance to ask BA a few questions and took it.  Here’s the interview…

1 – In books, what makes you cry?

It’s usually that moment of self-realization where the character knows s/he’s screwed and there’s nothing they can do about it. That kills me.

2 – Have you ever written something that makes you cry?

Oh, good lord and butter, all the time. I cried over Say Something a dozen times a day. O.o There’s a moment about mid-way that I just die, every time. (And I won’t spoil, but email me after you read and I’ll totally share).

3 – What is the saddest book you ever read?

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. I just sobbed.

4 – What would you say is the hardest subject book you ever had to write?

Say Something, without question. I swear, I didn’t think I’d survive writing this one — there’s marriages, deaths, illness, healing… a whole lifetime. 😀

5 – What’s your idea of a perfect romantic evening?

Me, my wife, a couple of cold gluten free beers, and a steak on the grill.

Book Name: Say Something
Author Name: BA Tortuga

Author Bio:

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

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

Author Contact:

  • batortuga@gmail.com

    Home

    http://batortuga.blogspot.com
    https://www.facebook.com/batortuga
    @batortuga on Twitter

SaySomethingFSPublisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Angsty G

Sales Links:    Dreamspinner Press

Say Something Blurb:

Jenson has loved Mike his whole life, but he has never known how to tell Mike how he feels. After high school Mike leaves for college and his Hollywood dream, while cowboy Jenson stays behind in their small East Texas hometown. Neither man knows what to say to go beyond friendship, even though they come together through all of the best and worst times of their lives. The most amazing moments keep bringing them back together, but through huge love and terrible loss, sickness and health, their timing never seems right to take their relationship to the next level. When the universe gives them one final chance, Jenson must overcome his fear and say the most important something before it’s too late.

Say Something Excerpt:

“So, this guy, he’s the one?” Ricky leaned over the edge of the bed, head dangling down.

“That kills brain cells, man.” Mike looked at himself in the mirror, working the thick pancake makeup to make the scar less noticeable.

“Uh-huh. So does green, and we smoke that. The scar is hot, honey. Leave it alone.”

Mike grunted. “He’s only ever seen it with stitches.”

“He’s, like, a real cowboy?”

“Uh-huh. We’ve been together forever. I just… I can’t believe he’s coming.” Really coming, here. Jenson. Finally. Mike touched up his eyeliner, and looked at himself again. Maybe glasses….

“You’re such a big queen.” Ricky laughed, waving at him upside down.

“You’re just jealous that I’m not your big queen.”

“Nah. You’re too toppy.” Ricky cackled, and Mike had to laugh. Everyone knew Rick would bottom up for anyone.

“Oh yeah. I’m a big bad leather daddy.” He turned and flexed, playing happily. Ricky was going to be a model. Hell, the guy was already working. Him, though, he still wanted to act.

He thought he could. His profs said he had talent. He just had his damned face to overcome.

The phone rang, and he spun around. “Oh God. Do you think it’s him?”

SayBadgeTour Dates/Stops:

9/29: The Hat Party
9/30: Cate Ashwood
10/1: Amanda C. Stone, Velvet Panic
10/2: Parker Williams
10/3: Rainbow Gold Reviews
10/6: Andrew Q. Gordon, Prism Book Alliance
10/7: Lee Brazil
10/8: Fallen Angel Reviews
10/9: Hearts on Fire
10/10: Kimi-Chan
10/13: Tara Lain
10/14: Cathy Brockman Romances
10/15: Havan Fellows
10/16: Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
10/17: MM Good Book Reviews
10/20: My Fiction Nook
10/21: LeAnn’s Book Reviews, The Blogger Girls
10/22: Love Bytes
10/23: Inked Rainbow Reads
10/24: Multitasking Mommas

Contest:  Rafflecopter Prize: E-Copy of Say Something.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.  Use the Rafflecopter link for the entry form and for additional contest details.

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Review: Prevailing Winds (Separate Ways #4) by Laura Harner

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

PrevailingWinds8x12“Please don’t go.”

Words that would haunt Lord Jamie Mainwaring long after he boarded the plane departing Phoenix, Arizona.  After the deaths and destruction of the past events, Jamie feels that leaving is his only recourse, even if it means leaving once more the man he loves, Det. Remy Remington.  Jamie watched Remy’s mouth form those words at the airport as he went through the doors to get on the plane.  But it  was too late for them  and for the love that had followed them across oceans and continents for the last two years.

Brokenhearted and grieving, Remy watches Jamie leave him once more.  But returning home, he finds that Jamie isn’t the only person leaving him.  Toby is confused, shattered and angry…at Remy and the world.  Toby flees his home and safety looking for answers to his past.  What Toby finds in Las Vegas is nothing but trouble,

Fate has a way of pulling Jamie and Remy back together.  Jamie’s is asked to get involved in one more case for the British special agency he used to work for.  Remy leaves home looking for Toby and both paths intersect in Las Vegas where a corrupt prince, the lost boys from London, and Toby are intertwined in a mess of abuse, pain and potential death.   Jamie and Remy must put all their past issues aside and come together to find and rescue Toby before the prince can destroy them all.  Will Remy and Jamie finally prevail and find a future together for them as a family?  Or will the coming storm destroy them once and for all?

Prevailing Winds, the Separate Ways series finale, is that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the icing on the cake and the cherries on top of the sundae!  This is the story that is the salve for the wounds left behind by the tumultuous events and anguish of the last three books and I couldn’t be happier.   For three bloody, suspense filled, painfully frustrating stories, Laura Harner has been developing her rollercoaster ride of a relationship between Lord Jamie Mainwaring and Det. Remy Remington.

From the moment they connected in London over missing boys, to the betrayals on the ocean cruise and the devastation of the events in Phoenix, the relationship dynamics between these two has been fascinating to watch as the men connected, fled, reconnected, and separated again and again.  What has made it so endlessly addicting is that we understood why the separations had to happen, the mental and emotional changes each character had to undergo in order to make a relationship (any relationship) work, and all the obstacles that life and their jobs as well as nationalities placed in their paths.  It wasn’t just one thing that kept them apart….but a boatload.  Harner carefully built up wall after wall between these two wonderful characters. Walls made up of Remy and Jamie’s childhood issues and abuse, requirements of their individual jobs, and even personal outlook on long term relationships and ties.  Throughout each story we waited for the barriers to start to fall.  And they would start breaking down, a few bricks here and there.  Only for us to watch the walls firm up again at the end of each story.  Frustrating, authentic, and it made great reading.

And as skillfully as Harner built up those barriers, then she had to slowly and realistically break them down.  And that took time.  And three, no four books to accomplish that because Remy and Jamie are still working on their problems and expectations for each other and a long term partnership well into Prevailing Winds.   This time, its Toby on the run and Remy following in his wake.  And their paths intersect with Jamie on a mission in Las Vegas.

The point of view flows back and forth between Toby and Remy and Jamie.  Toby’s scary predicament is heightened by this format as the danger increases the deeper the investigation goes and the closer the men get to finding Toby.  Gut wrenching at times, the anticipation is overwhelming towards the end as we rush towards the denouement!  Plus there’s not just one, but several here. Loved this part of the story.  In fact, loved it all!  So will you.

The writing is taut, smooth and fluid. The plot’s mechanisms are lovingly orchestrated for maximum excitement and anticipation.  Oh, and for our total satisfaction as well.  But you must read these stories in the order they were written, in order for the character development and situations to make sense.

This is one heck of a series and a great way to end it!  Love the book, love the characters, and Las Vegas was the perfect place to bring it all to a head!

I highly recommend this story and series to all lovers of action, adventure and a long denied romance that finds it’s happily ever after!

 

Buy Links:              All Romance eBooks (ARe)            Amazon    Prevailing Winds 

Cover Art by Laura Harner. This cover is very different in design from the other three but it works great for the story.

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 198 pages
Published July 23rd 2014 by Hot Corner Press
ASINB00M3AV0YA
edition language English
url http://lauraharner.com/series/separate_ways_series/
seriesSeparate Ways #4

Separate Ways Series in the order they were written and should be read:

Continental Divide by Laura Harner and Lisa Worrell
Oceans Apart (Separate Ways #2) by Laura Harner
Moving Mountains (Separate Ways #3) by Laura Harner
Prevailing Winds (Separate Ways #4) by Laura Harner

Review: Cupcakes by Sean Michael

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Rating:    3.5 stars out of 5

Cupcakes coverAllen Jameson was just 21 when he fell in love with Gary, a wealthy man much older than him.  From than on life was perfect for Allen, ensconced in a fabulous house, living a fairy tale life.  Until Gary died of a heart attack.  Then the Allen’s return to the real world was swift and jarring.  Allen was unprepared for life outside the bubble Gary had created for him and now must face the real world alone and unprepared. But one thing Allen could do was bake, so he opened  the Sweet ‘n’ Sassy Cupcake Shop, where he could lose himself in creating exquisite cupcakes and pleasing others with his creations.

Byron “Bit” Bannigan  walked through the door of Sweet’n’ Sassy Cupcake shop and found not only great cupcakes but the man behind the counter.  Byron owns a construction company and on this day he was sent to pickup the cupcakes needed for a company party.  Byron ended up picking up much more to the amazement of both  Allen and Byron.  Quickly Byron and Allen’s relationship flourishes as each proves to be the right man for each other.  But Allen’s business is struggling under its success and Gary’s old friends disapprove not only of Allen’s business but Byron too.  As Allan’s past clashes with his present day reality, he decide if he is ready to let go of his past with Gary to have a future with Byron.

This story started off so well.  Allen Jameson is a man who has been cosseted by his much older partner from the moment they met.  Gary almost “trained” Allen to be the perfect house husband from the age of 21.  Allen baked, decorated, kept the house immaculate and planned all their frequent parties.  Plus he looked great doing it.  Gary effectively cocooned the man inside Gary’s way of life, leaving Allen ill prepared for the real world when Gary dies.  I really liked this plot.  It’s a terrific play  on the idea of a 1950’s wife whose life revolved around her husband and household.  Those housewives  were not prepared for their husbands deaths (or divorce) and the social changes that came with it.  Using a twist on the same relationship dynamic but within a m/m context was a terrific storyline.  How does such a man suddenly adjust to the real world?  Once that bubble is gone, how does he deal with all the everyday chores that his husband took responsibility for and are now his?  Those scenes would have given Allen the necessary character background we miss out on in this story.  Without seeing him in that context, Allen comes across as less believable than he could have been.

The same problem exists with his boutique cupcake store.  How did Allen achieve so much so quickly with no business training and no idea of what he was doing?  It would have been great to have seen those scenes as well as Allen leased the store and then slowly established himself as the cupcake place of the moment.   Instead of showing us Allen as he struggled through Gary’s loss and the startup of Sweet’n’ Sassy Cupcake Shop, we are “told” that it happened.  That gave this story a much lighter but also superficial feel.

Byron “Bit” Bannigan does not come with the same requirements for his character that Allen does.  As a self made man, Byron is a lovely masculine construct and works well both as foil when compared to Gary’s old friends and as Allen’s new, sexy and younger partner.  My only question here is the part about his name.  Byron is called Bit throughout the first part of the story, a nickname from a brother.  Then once he starts dating Allen and finds out that Allen likes his given name of Byron, then that is the name he is referred to for the rest of the story.  It just seems such an unnecessary quirk when the author abandons it completely without any reason.

The relationship between Byron and Allen is sweet and sexy.  Much is made of the lack of sex life in Gary and Allen’s relationship as Gary was not a sexual being.  So Allen’s rediscovery of his sexual nature with Byron is one of this story’s real joys.  It feels both natural and loving, with Allen acting like the happy, sexy young man he should have been all those years with Gary.  It’s probably the most realistic part of Cupcakes aside from the ending and the cupcake recipes Allen creates.

The primary issue here is that this is a very even toned sweet romance.  No real highs or lows, just a “steady as they go” sort of relationship.  Given Allen’s isolated life with Gary, with Gary’s friends, Gary’s things, and Gary’s house, I kept wondering if there was going to be a dark closet somewhere in Gary and Allen’s life as it appeared so very bland.  But then again, maybe the blandness of the 50’s housewife lifestyle suited that of Allen’s role as Gary’s househusband.  I kept waiting for the “other shoe” to drop when there wasn’t one.  There really isn’t much drama here except for a segment towards the end that is as neatly resolved as everything else in Allen’s life.

I think I was disappointed in this story because of the promise of the plot and the author behind it.  Sean Michael has created so many multidimensional characters in the past that I expected that here.  And didn’t get it.  But what I did receive was a sweet, lovely  if facile romance, a little Donna Reed gone m/m (google it if you must).  It’s a nice story, one you will be happy to read even if you forget it as soon as the story is over.  However, I would love to have some of Allen’s cupcakes…now those sounded not only unique but gastronomically memorable.  I only wish I could say the same about Cupcakes the story.

Cover art by LC Chase is as sweet and frothy as the story itself.

Book Details:

ebook, 188 pages
Published January 8th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published January 7th 2014)
ISBN 1627984828 (ISBN13: 9781627984829)
edition language English

Review: The Actor & The Thief by Edward Kendrick

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

The Actor and the Thief coverAdam Murray and his castmates had just finished their nightly performance in a play in Denver.  Now it was time for some food, some drink and relaxation.  Then he sees someone unexpected, someone he hasn’t seen for over 20 years. The only man he has ever loved…Craig Byrnes, thief,  and recently released from prison after serving time for robbery.

Craig headed out to Denver as soon as he was released.  He is a man with a plan.  But things start to go wrong almost immediately.  Craig’s mentor and friend is killed and it looks like the killers are after Craig.  Then he runs into the one man he never stopped loving, Adam Murray.  He followed Adam’s career in prison but is surprised to see him again in that small bar.

Their meeting reignites old feelings, ones that never really died.  But trouble is on their heels and their lives are in danger.  The smart thing to do would be to walk away from each other.  Will they part again for the final time or find a way to safety and a future they always wanted?

The Actor and the Thief is a short, lively, and suspenseful romance by Edward Kendrick.  There were so many elements to this story that I enjoyed, starting with the fact that its main characters were older, seasoned by their life experiences and yet still hopeful enough to reach out for future with the person they loved.  Kendrick’s characters make this story.  He has given each man enough layers and texturing to bring them to life, grounding them and their life choices in the real world.  We believe in them because the author has done his job well.

Craig is an unrepentant thief, good at his job and tough enough to endure prison and emerge relatively unscathed by the experience.  Craig slid into a life of a criminal early on and found he liked the easy money and he was good at being a burglar.  His only regret was that his profession cost him Adam Murray, the man he loved.  You kind of have to love someone who is not going to apologize for his choices, to use that old phrase….Craig “is who he is”.  Unfortunately for him the past does have a way of catching up and it has for Craig in the plot.

Adam Murray is a lovely character. Clearly the author has pulled from his own experiences in the theatre to create Adam Murray so authentically as an older actor at the zenith of his career. He has played all the roles and now is aging out of the new plays and roles being written.  It’s an ironically wry outlook leaving Murray rueful and yet grateful for the career he has had.  He is also at the point in his life that he is evaluating his next step and looking towards retirement.  And at that moment, his past arrives in the form of his only real love, thief Craig Byrnes.

Kendrick’s plot includes some very nasty killers and  the requisite buildup of suspense as all the characters head towards the climax of the story.  I love this aspect of the story where the hunted and the hunters pursue and are pursued in equal measure.  My interest was riveted to the scheming and action involved and my emotions engaged by the characters and their attempts to outsmart the killers and stay alive.

My only issues with this story is the lack of back history of Craig and Adam’s part and their relationship.  We are given only a small amount of knowledge of their past together as well as the fact that neither man ever got over the other.  But to deepen their relationship for the reader and make us really believe in this enduring love, we needed more of them in the past and we don’t get it.

What we do get is two chapters that move the story forward in time at the end.  The actors and the readers are rewarded with an ending guaranteed to bring satisfaction and happiness all around.

Looking for a great little romance featuring older main characters and a happily ever after?  The Actor and the Thief is the story for you.  Pick it up and enjoy.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  I have to admit that I found this cover off putting.  Both the models and the split cover design just don’t work for me.

Book Details:

ebook, 85 pages
Buy links Wilde City Press,
Kindle Edition, 85 pages
Published December 12th 2013 by Wilde City Press (first published November 20th 2013)

ASIN B00H9SS0FI

How I Met Your Father Guest Blog and Book Tour

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Good morning everyone! ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is so happy to have  LB Gregg here with us today.  She has been a favorite of mine ever since I discovered her Romano and Albright series as well as her newish Cornwall  books.  She is stopping by today to promote her new release How I Met Your Father.  I loved this story and think you will too. So without further ado, here is LB Gregg:

Hi! My name is LB Gregg and I write m/m romantic comedies. Thanks for stopping by on the How I Met Your Father blog tour. I’m LBGreggpicturethrilled to be part of the Home for the Holidays collection and want to encourage you to purchase my book—as Riptide will donate 20% of the proceeds of the sale of this book, and the collection, to the Ali Forney Center in New York. The centers mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.”

Exclusive How I Met Your Father excerpt!

“Gee. I wish my dad had been as cool as you.”

That cracked his veneer. I would have said more, but Jack’s gaze found mine, and what I saw reflected there wasn’t annoyance. It was amusement. He flicked ash into the sand, and his wink made me glad it was dark under the trees.

Laid up, huh? My pleasure adding to your list of conquests, Mr. Hayes.”

And this time he didn’t just smile. He bowed.

“Please.” I rolled my eyes. “I hiccupped. I wasn’t trying to be smooth or add notches to some imaginary belt.” Which was admittedly filled with all manner of notches. “You pursued me. And how in the hell did you hear me in the bar?”

“I came in from the beach.” The glowing end of his cigar waved toward Nevis’s shore. “They left the hotel without me, too.”

He’d taken the same path from the hotel that I had. He’d come in right after me, following me again, though he’d waited before he’d approached his family. Lurking in the shadows. What wasn’t weird about that?

“You kids did a nice job. Catchy.”

Kids. I resisted the urge to sit taller. “Gee. Thanks, mister.”

He exhaled a ring of smoke.

I found myself asking, “You really didn’t know who I was?”

“Not a hint. What do I know about music? My daughter listens to women who don’t shave their legs, and my son wears headphones twenty-four seven.”

My ego took a tiny, tiny hit, and damn him, Jack noticed.

“Does it bother you that I didn’t know?”

“Not really. It’s actually refreshing.” How could he possibly know Chuck Kinney, the fucking Chuck Kinney, and not have seen a picture of me at some point? There were photos of us together all over Chuck’s apartment. There were posters of us, actually. Teen Choice Awards. We’d had a picture with the president. Surely he’d Googled Chuck? Wherever Chuck stood, I’d been at his side.

A man like Jack would have practiced due diligence and had his daughter’s fiancé investigated before giving his blessing on any marriage, right? I’d confirmed that both Mandy and Chuck had signed their prenup because that fell under my job description as peacemaker and watchdog for the four of us.

Jack’s keen gaze read me easily. “I bet for you, it’s a pain in the ass that everywhere you go, people think they know you.” His words were uncomfortably astute. “I know I wouldn’t like it.”

“It can be a pain in the ass, but I appreciate the fans.”

“You practice that in a mirror, sport? Because you didn’t look appreciative this afternoon when that woman pointed a camera at you. You bolted.”

The back door slammed, saving me a lame denial, and a woman in a slinky romper tiptoed shakily across the rocky patio. We waited. Jack gazed thoughtfully into the darkness, and I swatted insects and wondered what the hell else he saw. He sort of freaked me out. He’d had my number since the Fasten Seatbelt sign first illuminated.

I shot him a look, but Jack was watching the shoreline, one hand stuffed in his front pocket and his blazer wrinkled manfully behind his arm. White smoke floated around his head.

So far, no one had come looking for us, which was a minor miracle, but TJ and Matt were hitting on anyone with a C cup or higher, and Chuck . . . would appear in the doorway any second now.

The girl in the stilettos joined her friends at the fire pit, and I had one burning question for Jack. “How old are you?”

“Younger than I look. Older than I feel.”

“That’s helpful. You’re supposed to answer the question with a number. Like this: I’m twenty-nine. I’m guessing you’re . . .”

I sucked at guessing anyone’s age, but I gave it a shot. Silver-streaked hair, tan enough to do some work or sports outdoors, ripped from the gym, loaded if the watch was any indication, smoker of Cuban cigars, wearer of fine shoes, father of Mandy—

Holy fuck. The man must be fifty.

“Relax. I’m forty-four.”

My relief must have been evident. It was certainly audible as I sighed.

Jack shook his head. “Not as old as you thought. Thanks.”

“Sorry. I’m really bad at this. And forty-four’s not old. It’s distinguished.”

“Sure. You look twenty, so let’s call it a draw.”

“Twenty?” He would have carded me, too. Maybe I did need a beard. “So you are a pervert.”

His mouth twitched.

“Or did what happened earlier have nothing to do with age? For you, I mean.”

“Didn’t it?” His low words made my neck tingle. He didn’t move closer, but his gaze settled on my mouth like he remembered the feel of his lips on mine. “It had to do with opportunity,” he said slowly. “Adrenaline. Anonymity. Adventure. Age. You didn’t know me. I didn’t know you. And you loved it.”

I swallowed.

“I knew you would. I knew it the second I saw you. We could do it again.” He moved closer. “Take our time. Get to know each other.” His words skimmed across my nerves like a caress and Jesus Christ, they called me a player? The man could give lessons. “We could go back to the hotel.”

So tempting. But I remembered Chuck. And Mandy. And Benji’s slightly worshipping gaze. The wedding. Propriety. A bug hit my eye and, thank God, it broke the spell Jack had me under. I smacked another mosquito, and I knew Jack wasn’t playing me—he was playing with me.

LB Gregg writes m/m contemporary romantic comedies for a variety of publishers including Riptide, Carina Press, Samhain and Musa. For information about LB’s books, visit her on the web at lbgregg.com.

Contest Specifics or How To Enter to Get This Fabulous Book: 

Enter your details in the Rafflecopter below and leave a blog post comment to gain entry in the Home for the Holidays giveaway! This week of the tour closes at midnight, EST, on November 22nd. One grand prize winner will be contacted at the end of the tour on December 15th. Contest is valid worldwide.

Rafflecopter Link – visit and enter at http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/YThmY2QyMTMwZGEwMGQ2MzU3MWZhNDI0MjFlOTM1OjA=/
HowIMetYourFather_150x300Publisher Blurb:
The man of your dreams could be sitting right next to you.

Former boy band member Justin Hayes isn’t looking for a man. He just wants a quiet, scandal-free Christmas at home in Chicago, out of the public eye. But his best friend and bandmate is subjecting everyone to his destination wedding, and Justin can’t dodge the “best man” bullet. All he has to do is get to the island on time, survive the reunion, and get Chuck to the altar with as little drama as possible. What could possibly go wrong?

Jack Bassinger’s own plans for a quiet Christmas have been dashed by the summons to his daughter’s hasty wedding with a man Jack has hardly met. On the bumpy flight to the island, he finds himself comforting a nervous — and extremely attractive — young man. One hasty sexual encounter in an airport bathroom later, they both feel much better. No one ever has to know, after all.

Now Justin and Jack must find a way to explore their attraction, despite the distractions of disapproving family members, unexpected announcements, an impromptu concert, and an island paradise that proves there’s no place like home.

Buy Riptide Publishing buy link.Click here to read an excerpt and order How I Met Your Father!

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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

Playing Ball Authors Stop By For A Chat and a Contest!

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PlayingBall_tourbannerScattered Thoughts is hosting those wonderful authors of the Playing Ball Anthology today and offering a chance to win a eBook and a print copy!  The link to the contest is at the end of the blog! So join me as I pull up a chair and welcome Marguerite Labbe, Kate McMurray,Shae Connor, and Kerry Freeman:

Playing Ball End of Blog Tour and Giveaway

I can’t believe this is the last day for the blog tour, what a whirlwind ride it’s been. The ladies and I thought we’d share some of our favorite positions in baseball (outside the bedroom ) and a few excerpts.

Marguerite: So any thoughts on your favorite positions in baseball?

Shae: Catcher. Those THIGHS. 😉

Marguerite: One of my closest friends would agree with you for that very same reason.

Kerry: I’m partial to 2nd basemen. They have strong arms for to throw with, and you know they must have good hips to pivot and throw like they do 😉

Shae: And first basemen are usually tall, with long arms and legs, agility, and a lot of flexibility…

Marguerite: I’ve always been a fan of 3rd base and 3rd basemen. *Sighs* I still miss Mike Lowell. It gets hot and intense in that corner.

Kate: I don’t have a favorite, though my baseball boyfriend Joe Mauer is a catcher, so make of that what you will. Maybe it’s the mask, like he’s hidden and then there’s the hotness reveal? Also, some catchers get manicures so that the pitcher can see the hand signal while staring at the catcher’s crotch. (Just saying.)

Shae: One of the catchers today (Cards?) had his fingernails painted shiny gold. What happened to using white tape?? LOL

Marguerite: Maybe it’s more eye-catching or a secret signal? I noticed it too. I think though, that my favorites are pitchers. I just love the intensity and the way they torque their bodies and of course the staring at crotches.

Playing Ball coverPlaying Ball
Shae Connor, Kate McMurray, Kerry Freeman, and Marguerite Labbe

Cover by Aaron Anderson
Published by Dreamspinner Press
270 pages

Buy at Dreamspinner,Buy at ARe,Buy at Amazon

Blurb:

Baseball—America’s favorite pastime—provides a field wide open for romance. A Home Field Advantage may not help when Toby must choose between the team he’s loved all his life and the man he could love for the rest of it. In 1927, Skip hides his sexuality to protect his career until he meets One Man to Remember. Ruben and Alan fell victim to a Wild Pitch, leaving them struggling with heartache and guilt, and now they’ve met again. And on One Last Road Trip, Jake retires and leaves baseball behind, hoping to reconnect with Mikko and get a second chance at love.

The anthology contains the following novellas with an excerpt behind them:

Home Field Advantage by Shae Connor

Toby MacMillan, grandson of Atlanta Braves owner Ray MacMillan, lives for baseball and loves his team. When he meets new team member Caleb Browning, an innocent welcome-to-the-big-leagues dinner leads to a not-so-innocent night together. Toby quickly calls things off, afraid of the ramifications of their tryst, but the two men develop a friendship that soon becomes more. After Caleb takes a fastball to the head, their budding romance hits the news—and Toby’s grandfather hits the roof. When Ray MacMillan demands Toby deny the relationship, Toby must choose between the team he’s loved all his life and the man he could love for the rest of it.

“Come up for a drink?”
All the warning bells in Toby’s mind went off at once, but none of them were enough to stop him from doing what he did next. He followed Caleb into the elevator, rode up to the sixteenth floor beside him in silence, and then followed him down the hall to his room.
Once inside, Caleb dropped his duffel on the dresser and moved toward the minibar, like he was actually going to make good on his nightcap offer. “Not sure what they have in here, but—”
Toby didn’t let him get any further. He took three long steps, reached up to wrap one hand behind Caleb’s neck, and kissed the words right out of his mouth.
Caleb’s lips were soft and dry, yielding easily to Toby’s insistent pressure and soon parting to allow Toby’s tongue inside. Caleb tasted like the mint he’d popped as they left the table downstairs, with a hint of sweetness from the tea he’d had with dinner and a deeper flavor of pure Caleb.
Toby wondered if he tasted like that everywhere.
Eager to find out, Toby slid his hands under the hem of Caleb’s T-shirt and pushed it up until it bunched under Caleb’s arms. Breaking reluctantly away from Caleb’s mouth, Toby bent to lick his nipple instead, hearing the hiss from above at the intimate touch. Caleb’s skin was saltier here, the remains of a long day of travel clinging to his body, and Toby took another, longer taste, wrapping his lips around the pebbling skin and sucking gently.
“Holy shit, Toby.”
Caleb shifted, and Toby saw his T-shirt go flying a second before Caleb grabbed Toby’s arms and turned them both, shoved Toby against the wall, and fell against him. Caleb sealed his mouth over Toby’s even as he worked his fingers under Toby’s shirt and let them roam across his skin. Toby kissed him back desperately, kneading at the strong muscles of Caleb’s back, muscles honed from years as an athlete who used his body well. Toby was no slouch, physically speaking, but he relished the few inches and couple dozen pounds Caleb had on him. Toby felt surrounded by Caleb but not overwhelmed, the give and take between them perfectly balanced.
After breaking the kiss, Caleb pushed at Toby’s shirt, and Toby raised his arms to let Caleb strip it away like he’d done with his own. Caleb wrapped one arm around Toby’s body to pull their chests together and used his free hand to cup Toby’s ass so he could grind his pelvis into Toby’s. Toby groaned as Caleb licked across his jaw to his ear, where Caleb breathed out, “Jesus fuck, you’re hot.”
Toby let out a strangled sound something like a laugh. “Nothing on you,” he managed, turning his head to capture Caleb’s mouth with his.

One Man to Remember by Kate McMurray

It’s 1927, and in New York City, Babe Ruth and the Yankees’ unstoppable batting lineup, Murderers’ Row, is all anyone can talk about. Across town, the Giants’ rookie infielder Skip Littlefield racks up hits, creating a streak to rival the Babe’s. Worried his secrets could get out, he avoids the spotlight, but he catches the attention of lauded sports reporter Walter Selby, a notorious dandy whose sexuality is an open secret. Skip reluctantly agrees to an interview, and mutual attraction is sparked. Skip can only hope the more charismatic stars will draw attention away from his romance with Walt. Otherwise, his career and everything he loves is at stake.

Walt leaned against the brick facade of a Times Square building and watched Babe Ruth get out of a cab. The Bambino was wearing a clean white suit with a matching fedora tilted at a jaunty angle. Walt always found the contradiction of Ruth—the expensive clothes on the odd, triangular body, with the craggy face that looked like it had been in too many bar brawls—to be quite interesting. But there were plenty of reporters in New York dying to follow Ruth around. Walt had another story to pursue.
The Penguin Club was around the corner. It wasn’t Walt’s favorite Times Square establishment. It was a little bland, but that was why he’d chosen it—it was safe. He couldn’t imagine a kid like Skip would do well in the sorts of places Walt really liked to go. He was skittish in the baseball stadium; Walt couldn’t imagine him calm in one of the racier clubs.
He pulled his fedora down over his eyes and slunk down Fifty-Sixth Street. The Penguin was a little off the beaten path—another reason Walt had chosen it—and tonight, Walt wanted to fade into the background a bit, to observe instead of be observed.
He spotted a figure walking down the street from Sixth Avenue and knew immediately it was Skip. He walked with a dancer’s grace, something Walt had noticed at the stadium. As he came closer, Walt saw he was wearing a brown suit a couple of seasons out of style and a battered bowler hat that didn’t really go with the suit. These were forgivable offenses, Walt decided, since he did look pretty great out of a baseball uniform.
“Why, Mr. Littlefield,” Walt said as Skip walked up to him. “You’re a real sheik outside of the ballpark.”
It was too dark to see if Skip was blushing, but Walt imagined from the way he ducked his head that he was.
“I’m still not really sure about this,” Skip said.
“One measly drink won’t do any harm.”
Walt gestured for Skip to follow him. He knew the password, although the door was being watched by a big six named Anthony, with whom Walt had once had a brief and tawdry affair. Luckily, they were still on good terms.
“How are ya, Walt?” Anthony greeted him.
“I’m just ducky. This is my friend John.”
Skip tilted his head, but then extended a hand to Anthony, who shook it.
Anthony said, “You boys can go on in. Although, Walt? If you’re looking for something to do later, Carmela’s performing at that little place off Forty-Third tonight.”
Walt nodded. He loved Carmela’s show, but he was sort of wishing this interview would go long enough for him to miss it. And he certainly knew better than to think Skip would be interested in a show like Carmela’s. “I’ll keep that in mind,” Walt said.
As Walt led Skip into the speakeasy, Skip said, “Who is Carmela?”
Walt chuckled. “Would it terrify you if I told you she is a female impersonator?”
Skip tilted his head again, as if he were taking that in. “Like a man in a dress?”
Walt nodded. “Carmela is in fact an Italian fella named Carmine who I’ve known for years. He’s… well, he’s something, to be sure. But his brother owns a bunch of the Times Square establishments, plus a few other places downtown, so he has plenty of performance venues.”
Skip seemed more intrigued by this than put off, which was not the reaction Walt had been expecting. “What does he do in his show?”
“Dances, tells jokes, that sort of thing. Like a one-man vaudeville act. Why do you ask? Do you want to see it?”
Skip shrugged. “Just wondering.”
What an interesting man Skip was turning out to be. The lack of literacy had given Walt pause back at the stadium. Walt’s handwriting wasn’t so abysmal that it couldn’t be deciphered, so Skip’s hesitancy over the words said a lot. But he still had found the place. Asking about school was on Walt’s agenda for this evening. He didn’t know much about Skip except that he was very attractive—he had a round face with a narrow nose and surprisingly plump lips atop that athletic body, and as he removed his hat, he displayed a thick head of wavy blond hair—and he played baseball as well as or better than many of the best ballplayers in the city. He was also, apparently, barely literate and intrigued by the idea of a show like Carmela’s. Walt was fascinated.

Wild Pitch by Marguerite Labbe

Ruben Martell fell in love with Alan Hartner during their years playing baseball. They stepped over the foul line once, but the encounter left them struggling with heartache and guilt, turning away from each other to focus on their families. Now retired from the majors, they run a batting cage together and coach rival Little League teams as they juggle fatherhood and being single again. Though Ruben has never given up hope that Alan might look at him as more than a friend, Alan seems determined to keep things the way they’ve always been. But long-buried feelings and desires have a way of resurfacing, and Ruben can’t wait forever.

The pop fly went straight up the center and was caught easily by the shortstop. Ruben came jogging forward as the end of the inning was called. “Didn’t get enough sleep last night, Alan?” he called teasingly, and Alan narrowed his eyes. Oh no, he was not going to be the only one who had a hard time concentrating today.
“Just remembering The Maltese Falcon,” Alan said, patting Ruben’s back as he came to an abrupt halt. “Makes it a little hard to stay focused.”
Ruben turned to look at him, his gaze hot and intense, and Alan knew he’d gotten under his skin. He was learning to recognize the little signals from Ruben that gave away his interest, like the way those eyes of his would darken even more, or the way he’d kind of lean in toward Alan. “Good movie,” Ruben said, after a minute examination of Alan’s face. “Good memories associated with it.”
“Good, hmm?” Alan let his gaze rake over Ruben and grinned wickedly as the other man shook his head in bemusement. “I can think of many other adjectives.”
Ruben leaned closer still and lowered his voice. “You’re a damn tease, Hartner. I never would’ve thought that of you.”
“Goes to show you don’t know everything about me yet.” Alan backed away toward his dugout with another grin, spreading his hands wide. “Kind of exciting, isn’t it?”

One Last Road Trip by Kerry Freeman

With the last game of his Major League Baseball career behind him, Jake Wilson hits the road. Years have passed, but he never got over the romance he shared with Mikko Niemi back in college. Finally, he’s ready to do something about it. He starts with some crucial visits to his ex-wife in New Mexico, his son in Oklahoma, and his daughter in Tennessee. But his true destination is Mikko’s home in Georgia, where he’s hoping to get a second chance at love.

It had been a lonely few months in Atlanta. Jake had gone from being a high school baseball star to just another hick jock. It didn’t matter that his test scores and grades would have gotten him into Georgia Tech regardless of the baseball scholarship. The smart kids looked down their noses at him. And the other jocks? Until Jake played a game and played it well, he was only a wannabe freshman. The first day of preseason training, it all started to turn around for him. He and the other freshman bonded over their mutual desire to prove they were worthy to wear the gold and white. They worked hard and cheered each other on. They quickly became favorites of the handful of regular practice spectators, who all seemed to have a soft spot for the awkward newcomers. One spectator stood out. Jake tried not to stare, but he couldn’t stop his surreptitious glances at the man. Jake had known since forever that he could be turned on by men as well as women, but this was different. The man’s square jaw and tight swimmer’s body made Jake have evil, evil thoughts, thoughts of things way beyond the frenzied hand and blow jobs he’d experienced with other equally frightened high school boys. Jake also had more tender thoughts, which he found slightly frightening. Every time the man brushed his hair from his eyes, Jake wondered if the hair was soft, how it would feel if he ran his fingers through it. He snuck enough glances to determine that the man’s almond-shaped eyes were a beautiful hazel, and, more often than not, those eyes were trained on Jake. Worst of all, Jake wanted to pull the man’s full bottom lip between his and find out how the man tasted. He had never kissed a man, but God, he wanted to kiss this one. After a few weeks of torture, Jake decided he’d had enough. He might make a fool of himself. He might even get his ass kicked. But he was going to talk to the man who’d been starring in his dreams. When practice was over, Jake hung back on the field, waiting for the other players to head toward the locker room and hopefully out of earshot. He’d noticed days before that the man would not leave right away; he’d linger, reading a book or relaxing on the bleachers. It was almost as if he were waiting for someone. Then again, Jake thought, that could be his own wishful thinking. As he walked, Jake brushed off his pants and straightened his cap. When the man looked up from his book to see Jake heading his way, his smile was unmistakable. Jake was sure he’d never seen a clearer invitation to come closer, and he struggled to keep his feet from speeding up. He needed to play this cool, keep his intentions a secret until he was sure they were welcome. “Hey.” Jake shoved his glove under his arm. “What you reading?” The man waved the small paperback. “Oh, this? To Kill A Mockingbird. I have been told it is a classic American novel. I like it so far.” Oh holy fuck, Jake thought. He has an accent on top of everything else. The man’s voice was cool and smooth, like a window in an air-conditioned room. It sent frissons cascading over Jake’s sweat-damp skin. Each word was clearly enunciated, crisp. Jake sat down, leaving a respectable distance between them. “It is. I read it in high school, and it’s pretty good.” The man folded the corner of a page and closed the book. “We read a few American novels in school in Finland, but not this one. I think I may recommend it to my teacher back home.” “Finland? How did you end up here?” “I wanted more sunshine and warmth. My family visited friends in Savannah once, and I fell in love with Georgia.” “Well, you definitely came to the right place for sunshine.” Jake was positive if he heard much more of the man’s accent, he would melt on the spot. “I’m Jake Wilson,” he said, holding out his hand. The man stared at Jake’s hand before finally shaking it. “I know,” he said. “I read about you in the student paper. My name is Mikko Niemi.”

To celebrate the release of PLAYING BALL, we’re giving away two great prizes:

Grand prize: A print copy of PLAYING BALL signed by all four authors, a unisex BBQ apron featuring hot athletes from Originals by Lauren (https://www.etsy.com/shop/OriginalsbyLauren), and swag from all four authors.

Runner-up prize: An ebook copy of PLAYING BALL and swag from all four authors.

The giveaway will run from 12AM Central on September 21, 2013 to 12AM Central on October 11, 2013.
To give an opportunity for the authors to get together to sign the book and gather swag, the winners will be picked and the prizes shipped after the end of GayRomLit 2013.

Rules:

You must be a resident of Earth, 18 years or older, who lives in a place where the viewing of adult material is legal. By entering the giveaway, you are indicating your agreement to the rules. Winners must provide a physical mailing address to receive their prizes. If a winner does not respond to the prize notification within 48 hours, the prize will be re-awarded.

Link to contest page: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/76e2bf6/

Review: Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T. A. Chase

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Home Sweet Home coverYancey MacCafferty and Juan Romanos have been in love since the first time they met.  In a gay bar in Texas, an underage Juan just wanted to dance.  But danger was all around him.  Yancey, a young rent boy, sees Juan’s innocence and naivete and falls in love, all while saving Juan from a predator on the dance floor.  Eventually both ended up with their brothers on the ranch owned by Les Hardin and Randy Hersch, where they finished growing up and found their dreams.  For Juan, it was all about the horses and being a world class equestrian, eventually ending up at a show bar on the East coast. Yancey chose another path, that of college and an education needed to become a veterinarian.  And all during those years, Yancey and Juan never stopped loving each other, even though each was at opposite ends of the country.

Now Yancey has graduated from college and is ready to reunite with the man he loves and start his career. But to do that, he will have to leave the people he has grown to love including his brother for a new veterinarian practice in Virginia, just miles away from the show barn where Juan rides and lives.  He and Juan have been parted long enough.  He is sure that Juan feels the same way.  Or does he?  Yancey isn’t sure, exactly but its time to find out.  Can Yancey and Juan’s puppy love mature into the forever love they have always wanted or will the reality of being and living together bring their dreams crashing down?

I have been waiting like so many others for Juan and Yancey’s story since the first time we met them in Home of His Own (Home #2 – their brothers, Brody MacCafferty and Tony Romanos story).  These two young men were instantly endearing and their love story so heartwarming that it almost eclipsed that of their brothers.  Happily, I can announce that it was worth the wait.  Home Sweet Home is a wonderful story, reminescent of the first book in the series, No Going Home which remains my favorite.

In every book of the series, we kept getting glimpses of Juan and Yancey as they grew up.  The author always managed to throw in little details of their lives, whether it was Yancey returning for the holidays from college or Juan’s equestrian training at Edward’s barns in Virginia.  These small mentions managed to keep our interest in these young men alive and pique our curiosity over their future.  In fact, one of the many aspects I love about this series is that Chase continues to bring together all the characters from other books into the latest stories.  These people form a family, one cobbled together by need and choice so to have that family remain topical in every book is important to the cohesion and strength of the series.

The characters of Yancey and Juan have also grown as their characters have aged.  From teenage gay boys to confident, mature young men, Chase has developed their characters realistically relative to their age.  It’s wonderful getting reacquainted with these older versions of the boys we first met.  Along with their characters, their love for each other needs to grow as well. Luckily, Chase has taken care of that too.  The author has her characters adjust their views of each other and their careers in a very human and authentic manner.  I just loved how tentative and yet determined each man is to make their relationship and Yancey’s move work.  It is emotionally satisfying and oh so enjoyable to read about.

If I have a quibble, it would be with the ending.  In the epilogue we fly forward from 1 year to 5 years into the future, missing out on so much of their lives together that it felt like a missed chance to round out their story in favor of a quick finish (note see my mini rant on storying endings).   I don’t know if this rushed ending is due to Chase finishing up the series or just their story.  Either way, it didn’t measure up to the first part of the story and that was a shame.  But even with that quibble, I still love this series and recommend it. The Home series is heartwarming, sexy, and full of wonderful characters you will never get tired of.   Home Sweet Home is another great installment and one you won’t want to miss.

Cover art by Posh Gosh.  The young model in front is perfect for Juan and the cover gorgeous in design and detail.

Here are the Home series book in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events:

No Going Home (Home #1) – my favorite
Home of His Own (Home #2) Tony and Brody’s story (second favorite)
Wishing for a Home (Home #3) Derek and Max’s story
Leaving Home (Home #4) Peter and Chaz’s story
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) Juan and Yancey’s story (a tie with their brothers)

Book Details:

ebook, 137 pages
Published May 27th 2013 by Total-E-Bound
ISBN 1781843228 (ISBN13: 9781781843222)
edition language English
series Home #5

Review: Tattoo You by Willa Okati

Standard

Rating: 3.75 stars

Tattoo YouJacob Lee has loved Donathon for three years and knows their love will last a lifetime.  There is almost nothing he wouldn’t do for his lover if Donathon asked him to.  Except one thing, get a tattoo.  Donathon is covered in tats, clouds, tigers…his body a veritable canvas of color and design.  His lover would love to see Jacob inked as well but Jacob is afraid of needles.  As Donathon’s birthday approaches, Jacob works up the courage to finally give his lover the one present he wants.  A formidable task, a twist of fate, and a forever love unite to give Jacob just the inspiration he needs to give Donathon the best birthday present of his life and a symbol of their love.

This is a very sweet, angst free love story from Willa Okati.  At 60 pages in length, it flies by quickly.  I have to admit the name Donathon threw me as my mind kept wanting to insert Jonathan everytime it saw the word on the page, a tad distracting.  I do like all the detailed knowledge the author displays of tattoo shops and the characters she created for Hummingbird Studio West, the tattoo parlor where half of the scenes take place. These people are interesting and intriguing in their own right. I would have loved to have seen more of each of them in this story or perhaps, their own as part of a series.  Jacob Lee (said together repeatedly) and Donathon are sweet together and their initial meeting is relayed to the reader as a remembrance in an endearing moment in the story.

One element I especially appreciated was the old drawings found in books in the basement.  That was a lovely touch and the mystery behind them made me want to know more about those men and their past.  It was the needed component to keep this story from being overly saccharine with its hint of sadness and inevitability.  But this story truly belongs to Jacob Lee and Donathon.  Their love story is appealing, and the ending satisfactory.  No one would ever question that this is a HEA just as they deserve.

In the mood for a quick happy read?  Pick this up and enjoy a light, sweet tale of love.

Cover art by BSClay is lovely but not the happy, cloud covered character that is Donathon.

Book Details

First published in Spiked Anthology from Torquere Press 2008:

Kindle Edition, 60 pages
Published June 2013 by Torquere Books
ASIN
B00DCZH29C
edition language
English

Review: Fever Anthology by M Rode

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

If you love cowboys, than this is the anthology for you.  From cowboy tv stars to those that ride bucking bulls and every permutation in between, these 8 stories will make you laugh, make you sigh, even reach for a fan or too but always make you remember why you love a cowboy.

Stories included in Fever are:Fever cover

Loose Riggin’ by Julia Talbot
Two Buckets and a Snakeskin Suit by Aaron Michaels
Torn by Sean Michael
Cowboy and Indian by Rob Rosen
Heart of Dixie by Mychael Black
Ready to Ride by Katherine Halle
White Hat/Black Hat by Kiernan Kelly
In the Pocket, a Roughstock story by BA Tortuga

I really enjoyed this anthology, especially because cowboys are a real weakness for me.  Of special interest was the new story from BA Tortuga in her Roughstock series, I cannot get enough of those boys.  It also introduced me to a series I hadn’t heard of, Mychael Black’s Hearth and Home series, so that was a plus too.  Here in sequence as they appear are mini reviews of each story:

1.  Loose Riggin‘ by Julia Talbot: 3.5 stars

One cowboy on the way up, one cowboy bull rider on the way down.  Baron LeBlanc is a top bullrider at the end of his career.  During one ride he injuries himself badly and an young bull rider, Arlen Deamus, offers to take care of him and become his traveling partner.  I loved this story and thought the characters and the plot were full of promise.  It is the perfect introduction for a longer story.  Julia Talbot draws us in with her wonderful characters, great names and vivid descriptions but just as we are settling in, its over. As a short story, it ends so abruptly that it feels incomplete and the reader feels more than a little frustrated after investing emotionally in the story.  I would love to see this author expand Baron and Arlen romance into a full length book.  I will be first in line to pick it up.

2. Two Buckets and a Snakeskin Suit by Aaron Michaels: Rating 3.5 stars out of 5

While on vacation, Marcus and his sister Shelly attend camel races outside Las Vegas.  Shelly is dying to meet an Australian cowboy and these camel races have more than their share of those.  But when Marcus is hurt after he falls off a camel, he is the one who captures the attention of the only Aussie cowboy there.  This was a cute little romance between a man talked into riding a camel by his sister and the Aussie cowboy who just happens to be a chiropractor who comes to his aid.  Michaels did a nice job with presenting us with a well rounded character in Marcus and Shelly but I would have loved a little more back story on Vic.  But it’s cute, hot, and has a realistic HFN.

3.  Torn by Sean Michael: 5 stars for the heat alone

Pistol, an injured bull rider, returns home to his partner Bender and their ranch after a long  6 month absence on the rodeo circuit and shoulder surgery.  He is unsure of his welcome after receiving an angry  phone call from his  partner following his injury.  Bender’s love for Pistol is both the source of his anger and the one thing that will heal it.  This is my second favorite story in the collection.  Sean Michael gets everything right in this story.  We get all the information we need about these two men and their long term relationship from Michael’s descriptions of their tense posture, their loving gestures and a dialog that  telegraphs a well established intimacy at every level.  Bender is tired of his lover’s injuries and this last one scared him badly.  Pistol loves riding bulls and is frightened that his time as a bullrider is coming to an end.  The situation is tense, hot, loving, angry, gentle, just everything you would expect from two scared people who love each other deeply and are faced with a serious situation.  The ending is perfection, but then so is this short story.  It doesn’t need to be longer, it doesn’t need any additional backstory.  It ends where it should.  Lovely.  Here is a tease. Pistol is returning home after surgery unsure of his welcome:

He opened the door, pushed it open and stood, trying to keep them from the arm still in the sling. “Hey y’all, you happy to see me?”

“You should have called and let me know.” Bender waited for the dogs to have their hello, blue eyes on him like twin laser beams.

“I didn’t want you worrying. Jack needed his guest room back.” He’d been imposing. Not to mention, the man’s mother-in-law had come to help with the last few days of Mary Ellen’s pregnancy, and he’d wanted to come home. Bender told the dogs to “scatter,” and they did.

Before Pistol could say anything Bender was on him, mouth covering his in a kiss that smashed his lips against his teeth and totally stole his breath.

Oh. Oh, thank God. He pushed up into the kiss, damn near sobbing with relief.

4. Cowboy and Indian by Rob Rosen: 2 stars out of 5

Jed sees a poster for a fifty-dollar prize for the longest bronco buck advertised outside a saloon.  He figures his horse Bessy needs a new saddle and aims to get it for her by riding in the rodeo.  Along the way he runs into an Apache warrior, Taza, who wants to help his people.  They make love, not war and end up with a future neither of them ever dreamed of.   There are quite a number of things about this story that I have issues with, but the portrait of Taza, an Apache warrior, is the largest.  Having a Native American character, especially in a historical story, can be a iffy element if not handled just right.  For me, Taza just did not work.  From his pidgin English which reminded me of the “Me, Tonto, you white man” variety to the fact that he drops trow for an unknown white man just after the awful Apache wars have ended….well it’s not just unrealistic but downright ridiculous.  Here is their first interchange:

 “Jed,” I told him, with a polite nod. “White man sounds so, well now, formal.”

With his free hand, he pounded his chest. “Taza,” he informed me. “In your language, means Apache warrior.”

I nodded my head. “Pleasure, Taza.”

And then he nodded, releasing the beast before sending it swinging. “You want to pleasure Taza?”

The only way that piece of dialog would work is in a Mel Brooks comedy.  And it just goes further downhill from there.  This is the one story I would skip over.

5. Heart of Dixie by Mychael Black: Rating 4 stars out of 5

Mack Sexton has been in love with his best friend and handyman Les Spencer for a long time.  Les feels the same but neither man has acknowledged let alone acted on their feelings.  Then one day everything changes.  Heart of Dixie is a snapshot of a relationship that is part of a series called Hearth and Home by Mychael Black.  I am unfamiliar with that series but got enough of a taste of it from this story that I will be scampering back to pick up the rest.  Black develops the characters and setting to the point that it and both men feel real and the reader connects with them from the start.  Mack’s sister, Kate, is a lively character in her own right and the interaction among the three of them comes across as long established and affectionate.  Enjoyable and romantic.  I loved this one.

6. Ready To Ride by Katherine Halle: 4 stars out of 5

Eric is an orthopedic surgeon volunteering his time with the Justin Sports Medicine program. Ben Greene is champion Saddle Bronc rider Eric has come to love.  When Eric’s volunteer time with the rodeo comes to an end, Ben must travel on the circuit alone.  And while neither man has talked about where their relationship is going, both love each other deeply.  When Ben is receives a season-ending injury during a ride, Eric decides that, conversation or not, he is bringing his man home for good.  I loved Halle’s characters and thought she got the character of Ben with his avoidance of “mushy talk” just right.  While most of the story is seen through Eric’s eyes,  Halle shows us that Ben’s actions telegraph his feelings perfectly to his lover and that words are not always necessary.  This story has romance, cowboys and HEA in a nice short package.

7. White Hat/Black Hat by Kiernan Kelly: 4.25 stars out of 5

The time is 1968, the place Hollywood where a new TV western is getting ready to go into production.  Two men, Dallas Frank and Stone Grant, arrive to audition for the two leads, Black Bart and Sheriff Carson Star, the White Hat/Black Hat title characters.  To each man’s surprise and delight, they win the roles and secretly the love of each other.   For the next forty years, they pretend to hate each other in public while continuing a love affair that has lasted as long as their show.  Then their show is cancelled.  What will they do now?  Kelly gives us a terrific look back at old Hollywood and its outlook on homosexuality.  Through small interludes we watch as Dallas (real name Joe Bob) and Stone Grant (real name Arvin Mason) settle into a long term relationship while playing the Hollywood game to protect the series and their reputation. The ending is rewarding, the relationship has a very authentic feel as does the times the men pass through.  My third favorite story of the collection.

8. In the Pocket, a Roughstock story by BA Tortuga: 5 out of 5 stars

Sterling is a new bullfighter and he loves his job.  He also loves working with his hero and fellow bullfighter, Coke Pharris.  But rodeo clown Dillon Walsh is tired of the youngster drooling on his man and figures a little matchmaking is in order.  When stock  contractor Colby Tyburn asks for an introduction to Sterling, Dillon sees an opportunity and takes it, maneuvering Sterling into a date with the stock contractor.  Colby Tyburn has been watching Sterling for some time and loves what he sees….a gorgeous energetic young man, all want and desire.  Sparks fly at the first introduction but neither man expects the white hot sex to turn into something deeper and just perhaps, permanent.  In the Pocket is a Roughstock story. So if the reader is familiar with the series, than you already know all about Coke Pharris and his rodeo clown lover, Dillon Walsh.  They happen to be a favorite couple of mine so it is wonderful to see them make an appearance here.  But the focus of the story is the young (and virginal) bullfighter, Sterling, and the older, more experienced man, Colby Tyburn, a roughstock contractor.

Sterling is a bouncy Tigger of a character.  He is youthful, energetic to the extreme and has a bad case of hero worship when it comes to Coke Pharris.  Unfortunately for Sterling, Coke is taken and Dillon is not happy that Sterling can’t keep his hands off his man.  BA Tortuga paints the perfect portrait of innocent enthusiasm and lustful need all wrapped up in one young man who doesn’t seem to know what to do with it all.  I just loved Sterling, he absolutely made me smile.  Colby Tyburn could have come off as a predator but his appreciation for Sterling and all of his qualities, not just his physical traits, brings him back to a person the reader can relate to.  Their sexual encounter is sexy, white hot, and ultimately very touching.  It is not necessary to have read the other Roughstock stories, but it does help to round out the back history of the other men mentioned, however casually.   There are over 17 stories in the Roughstock series, Coke and Dillon’s story is called Roughstock: And a Smile- Season One. I absolutely recommend them all.  Here is a taste:

Nate (was) screaming his head off to get the bull’s attention. Joa landed, but luckily the Brazilian was ready, and they sort of strong-armed each other.

“Gotcha.”

He flung Joa toward Pharris and put himself between the cowboy and Merry-Go-Round. He heard Coke grunt, but then he and Nate were busy playing a game of slap the bull on the nose, trading off as it went round and round. This was his favorite part, the fun part. They did their little dance, and he pulled his butt in, hearing the whoosh as two thousand pounds went by.

“Woohoo!” He grinned at the gate shut, jogging over to Pharris, who clapped him on the back.

He loved his life.

Loved it.

Cover illustration by BSClay is perfect in tone and design for this collection.

Book Details:

ebook, 195 pages
Published June 5th 2013 by Torquere Press
ISBN
1610404858 (ISBN13: 9781610404853)
edition language
English