Love Contemporary Romance? Then Check Out the Release Tour for The Doctor’s Orders (Copper Point Medical #3) by Heidi Cullinan

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The Doctor’s Orders (Copper Point Medical #3) by Heidi Cullinan
Publication: August 20th 2019

Cover Art: Kanaxa

Buy Links

Goodreads • Publisher • Audible • Ripped Bodice • Barnes & Noble • Google Play Ebook • Google Play Audio • Apple Books • Kobo (US) • Kobo (Canada) • Amazon (US) • Amazon(Canada) • Amazon (UK) • Powells

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Heidi Cullinan’s tour for The Doctor’s Orders, the third story in her Copper Point Medical Trilogy. Enjoy the excerpt below.

Blurb

The elevator at St. Ann’s is out of order…but the chemistry between the doctor and CEO is working just fine.

Once upon a time Nicholas Beckert was the boy who stole kisses from Jared Kumpel beneath the bleachers, but now Jared’s a pediatrician and Nick is the hospital CEO who won’t glance his way. Everything changes, however, when they’re stranded alone in a hospital elevator. Ten years of cold shoulders melt away in five hours of close contact, and old passions rekindle into hot flames.

Once out of the elevator, Jared has no intention of letting Nick get away. It’s clear he’s desperate for someone to give him space to let go of the reins, and Jared is happy to oblige. But Jared wants Nick as a lover in a full, open relationship, which is a step further than Nick is willing to go. They’ve traded kisses under the bleachers for liaisons in the boardroom… and it looks like the same arguments that drove them apart in high school might do the same thing now.

Jared’s determined not to let that happen this time around. He won’t order Nick from his shell—he’ll listento what his friend says he needs to feel safe. Maybe this time he can prescribe his lover a happy ever after.

 

Excerpt

The Doctor’s Orders

Once upon a time, Nicolas Beckert went to weddings without a heavy pang in his heart.

He’d attended plenty in his day, between his Copper Point cousins, relatives in Milwaukee, and friends of the family. For several years it felt like every weekend there was yet another gift his grandmother or mother picked out, waiting for Nick to amplify it with a little extra cash and a handwritten note wishing the couple a bright future. Nick had always happily gone to these weddings. As the one who had understood without being told it was his job to live up to the legacy of service and grace his father had left behind, Nick knew his duty, and he took pride in fulfilling it, never once begrudging even a penny of those cash packets tucked into the card or a second of those busy Saturday afternoons.

Lately, though, the weddings themselves underscored the fact that while he was present at these events, he was separate from them in a way he couldn’t ever let anyone know.

The wedding of his third cousin at the New Birth Baptist Church in Copper Point was particularly uncomfortable, and it wasn’t just because the first Saturday in June had dawned uncharacteristically muggy and hot. People were gossiping as they always did, but the topic du jour made him distinctly uncomfortable.

“Did you hear, the surgeon and nurse finally picked a date for their wedding? Coming up fast too. First weekend in October.” The speaker, one of Nick’s distant relations, raised her eyebrows knowingly, fanning herself with a paper plate as she stood in line for the buffet. “Going to be a big to-do, since Dr. Wu has his family coming from Taiwan.”

Nick’s great-aunt clucked her tongue. “The things we see sometimes.”

The group around them made ever-so-slightly disapproving noises.

This was spoken a bit loudly, for the benefit of Dr. Kathryn Lambert-Diaz, whose first cousin was the bride. Kathryn was attending with her wife, Rebecca, whom she’d married years ago in a ceremony among friends and accepting family members while Kathryn was doing her residency at the University of Iowa. Nick watched them both, worried Rebecca in particular would say something, but they only continued to chat politely with Kathryn’s parents. They didn’t have plates of food in their hands and looked as if they were about to leave.

“The other couple hasn’t set their date yet, but they’re next.” By other couple, his great-aunt meant Dr. Owen Gagnon and Erin Andreas. “Should have never thought to see the day.”

“All of them working at the hospital too.” Uncle Billy leaned around his wife to addressNick, who stood close enough to easily be drawn into conversation. “You best keep your people in line there, son.”

His wife swatted Billy with her fan. “You leave the boy alone. He’s had enough work, with the embezzlement scandal. He don’t need your sass too.”

Pastor Robert came up behind Nick and rested a hand on his shoulder. “I have faith in our Nick. He’s done a wonderful job with the hospital. I daresay we’ve never had better leadership in place there, thanks to him. We certainly haven’t had a better CEO.” He winked at Nick. “If all it comes with is a bit of unusual community color, I suppose we can count that as a blessing.”

Everyone at the table chuckled, and Nick inclined his head. He wanted out of this conversation. “I should go check on my grandmother and mother, to make sure they don’t need anything. If you folks’ll excuse me?”

They shooed him away gleefully, but Nick could hear them talking about him as he disappeared, and a perverse instinct kept him nearby but hidden so he could eavesdrop.

“He’s the next one we need to see married off.”

“Get him a wife and a couple of kids, and we’ll have ourselves the Copper Point Obamas!”

“What’s taking him so long, though? He never dates anybody.”

“Well, he’s been busy with all those scandals.”

“Scandal’s been done and dusted. Besides, a man’s got needs. It’s not right, him never dating.”

“You don’t think our Nick….”

Nick’s stomach turned over. Wiping his mouth to cover the grimness of his countenance, he moved out of earshot before he heard the rest of that sentence.

He didn’t get three feet, though, before he ran into the choir director, James Grant.

James greeted him with his usual wide smile. “Nick, looking good, brother.” His grin faded as Nick failed to mask his unsettled emotions fast enough. “You all right? Something happen?”

Nick fished up a smile. “Nah. No worries. Too much to do, is all, too much on my mind.”

James raised an eyebrow. “Things haven’t calmed down at the hospital?”

“Oh, you know how it goes.” Nick couldn’t quite catch his groove. That last remark kept echoing in his head. You don’t think our Nick….

James put a hand on Nick’s shoulder. “Hey. You want to go sit somewhere for a minute and talk? You don’t look so good.”

Talking was the last thing Nick wanted to do. And much as he loved James, sitting with himand having an intimate heart-to-heart would only fuel the flames of what people were apparently thinking about their Nick. He held up his hands. “Thanks, but honestly, I’m just doing a little too much these days.” He took a step sideways and kept walking as he spoke. “I gotta go check in for a second. But we’ll talk soon. The choir is killing it, by the way.”

“All right.” James waved him away, looking sad. “We’ll talk later.”

Nick gave himself a moment behind a bush to gather his composure before hunting down his family. His mother, grandmother, and sister were together at the table where the groom’s closest relatives had gathered, Grandma Emerson holding court. She was in the middle of telling some story as Nick approached, but his sister broke away to greet him.

“Hey, you.” She nudged him with her hip. “You going to get down with me later?”

“Can’t. Got the reception for Dr. Amin.”

She sighed. “Oh right, I forgot you had to leave early.”

“Erin’s covering for me, letting me show up late.” He tugged at his tie and reached into his pocket for his handkerchief to dab at his neck, which dripped in the heat. “Need to go home and freshen up before I head out to the country club.”

“Country club crowd.” Emmanuella wrinkled her nose. “How bad will thatbe?”

“Standard hospital donor schmoozefest. Pretty dry and crusty, but they made the cardiac unit possible. I wish you would’ve agreed to be my date so you could meet Dr. Amin. She’s amazing. You’ll love her.”

“I’ll meet her sometime when she’s notat one of those dog and pony shows, thanks. The dedication ceremony was more than enough for me.” She punched him lightly in the arm. “Besides. It’s time you get a proper date for yourself instead of hauling me around to these things.”

“She wants to meet the family, though, since she wasn’t in town for the ceremony.”

“You should invite her family over for dinner. Mom and Grandma would love it.” She leaned in closer and spoke quietly. “Did I hear right, the Ryans will be there?”

The Ryans were Jeremiah Ryan, their father’s longtime friend and sometimes business partner back in the day, and his daughter Cynthia. Since then, Ryan had made quite a name for himself in the hospital industry, to the point that now he was the CEO of a corporation managing several medical centers in the Midwest. Nick nodded, stealing a careful glance at their mother. “Was she the one who mentioned it?”

Emmanuella snorted. “I can’t believe she hasn’t bothered you about it yet. You know she’s always dreamed about Cynthia Ryan as a daughter-in-law.”

Yes, Nick was painfully aware. He didn’t comment, choosing to wipe his mouth with his hand and send his gaze out across the crowd. It landed on the bride and groom, who stood hand in hand as they greeted their guests two tables over. They looked so happy.

Nick fought another pang in the center of his chest.

His mother spied him then, smiling wide and waving him to her side. “Baby, come sit and eat. I made you a plate, and it’s getting cold.”

Though Nick wasn’t remotely hungry, he held up his hands in apology, dredged up his most charismatic grin, and settled into the space beside her. “Sorry, was making my rounds.” He reached across the table to shake hands with the groom’s family. “Wonderful ceremony. Thanks so much for having us.”

Mrs. Hill beamed and pressed her hand to her chest. “We’re so glad y’all could come. Especially since your mother tells me you have another event yet today?”

“Reception for the new cardiologist, yes.”

Mr. Hill’s chest puffed up at being prioritized over the fancy country club shindig. “I’m telling you, Nick, your daddy would be so proud to see the work you’ve done with that hospital. Not just becoming the CEO, but cleaning up all the mess those fools made for so many years. You’re a credit to his name.”

Nick inclined his head. “Thank you, sir.”

Mrs. Hill elbowed her husband with a sly wink. “Now we have to help find hima lovely wife too.”

Nick pushed the potato salad and baked beans around his plate, doing his best to ignore the leaden feeling in his stomach.

As the table conversation resumed, allowing him to drift into his own thoughts again, Nick focused on the sea of guests. People were happy and laughing, caught up in the festivities. It was a humble gathering, with homemade decorations and family and church members helping cook and serve the dishes in lieu of a catered lunch. It was practically more picnic than wedding, except everyone was dressed in their finest outfits, and in the case of many of the ladies, hats. Nick loved the children the best, in their frilly dresses and suits and ties, chasing each other and giggling as they ran about the lawn, mothers and aunties occasionally hollering at them to mind their clothes or sit and finish their food.

Everything was warm and wonderful and perfect.

The bride and groom glowed as they reveled in their special day. They were good people, and Nick looked forward to watching them make their family together. Except though he celebrated their union and their happiness, it pained him too. With every tinkle of laughter the couple inspired, each beaming smile they shared, the yearning inside Nick grew, until eventually he excused himself from the table and flitted around the reception once more.

When the time came for him to bid people goodbye and get ready for the country club party, he was almost relieved. As he stopped by his family to let them know he was leaving, his grandmother put her hand on his arm. “There’s a bag on the table in the kitchen, a small gift for the Ryans. Give it to them, will you, when you see them this afternoon? And be sure to say hello to Cynthia. Tell her to stop by the house the next time she’s through.”

“Of course.” With a squeeze of her shoulder, Nick went on his way.

He found the gift—locally roasted coffee and a loaf of Grandma Emerson’s famous banana bread tastefully tucked inside tissue paper in an elegant bright blue gift bag—where she’d said it would be. It smelled wonderful, and he lingered to savor the mingling scents. Then, setting his keys beside the package so he wouldn’t forget it, he hurried upstairs to shower.

Shutting his eyes under the spray, Nick saw the smiling faces of the bride and groom once again in his mind’s eye. So happy. So celebrated. So protected. Everything laid out before them, the community ensuring their path stayed clear.

What would that be like, he wondered?

Adjusting the plain silk bow tie over the tips of his shirt collar, he stared at his reflection. He felt much stiffer in his tuxedo than he had in the tan suit and gray-striped tie he’d worn to the wedding. He tried out a few expressions in the mirror, searching for one that allowed him to remain guarded but still seem dignified.

He grabbed the gift bag along with his keys, and to boost himself on the way to the country club, he blasted The Weeknd on his stereo. He sang along, winding down the long, scenic road leading to the country club on the top of the hill overlooking the most beautiful and expansive part of the bay.

Pulling up to the gates, he clicked off the radio, put his work face on, and presented his member card to the guard.

The party was in full swing as he handed his keys to the valet and entered the crush. The women were in elegant dresses, the men all in tuxedos or suits—excepting Rebecca Lambert-Diaz. She and Kathryn had already arrived, no longer dressed in airy outdoor wedding clothes, but while Kathryn wore a simple black evening gown, Rebecca had donned a smart black pantsuit with glittering rhinestones on the collar and cuffs. They seemed a bit more at ease at this party than the one they had left, laughing and mingling with the guests.

Nick took his place in the crowd as well, moving from group to group, smiling and shaking hands, ensuring people felt welcomed. His reception here was markedly different than it had been at church. Here they were wary of him, the young upstart who had changed so much about the tidy lives of Copper Point.

As far as they were concerned, he’d broken all their rules. Nick had been hired to be a pawn. Oh, no one had ever come out and said as much, but he’d understood things with one glance. A hospital CEO, at his age? He didn’t have the experience. His suspicions had been confirmed as soon as he’d come through the door. No real power, no backing. Even so, experience was experience, and it was nice to stay close to home. He’d told himself he could put up with it for a while, until it was time to upgrade.

Except part of him hadn’t been able to shake the idea that he could dig under the rotten surface of the institution and dismantle the system that had broken his father’s spirit and nearly ruined their family. A few years on the hospital board had been enough to catch the attention of the power players at the hospital in a way that dogged him even after he’d been voted out. They worked behind the scenes to ruin his business and nearly cost him his home—and ultimately, through his failing health, had cost him his life.

Nick hadn’t really thought he’d be able to avenge his father, had only dreamed of it. But with the help of Erin and the others, he’d done just that. Now there was a new board, a new balance of power, and a new day at St. Ann’s. For many of the people in this room, though? Oh, Nick was still that man. It didn’t matter that the board members who’d embezzled a scandalous amount of money were all in jail and that Nick had helped put them there. These people still didn’t like him. They didn’t like how he’d gone out of his way to make the new hospital board reflect the diverse population of Copper Point. There was a lot of rumbling from this set about “the way things used to be,” their gazes turned toward the past with longing.

Well, Nick thought as he sipped a glass of champagne he’d collected from a passing tray, if they’d rather have the crooks than progress, then screw ’em.

Jeremiah Ryan beamed when he saw Nick, waving him over. Cynthia waved too, her expression welcoming and warm, reminiscent of the faces he’d left at the wedding reception. It also carried the whiff of something more, something hopeful.

Nick smiled back, ready to make his way to this important donor, this friend of the family, this man who understood his difficult position better than anyone, this woman he admired and considered an important friend. But before he reached them, he bumped into another guest, and as soon as he saw who it was, his carefully constructed image fell apart.

“Sorry.” The man, fair-haired and tall, but not as tall as Nick, held up his hands and stepped aside. As their gazes met, the man’s smile fell away. “Oh. It’s you.”

Yes. It’s me.

It’s you.

They both had their masks down as they regarded one another. Nick was conscious of the heavy beating of his heart, of the ache and longing he always felt when he stood this close to Dr. Jared Kumpel. He looked devastating in his tuxedo, crisp and neat, dark-blond hair gleaming in contrast to the dark fabric, his light skin glowing in the dim light.

He was beautiful in a way that stole Nick’s breath and short-circuited his brain. This man had stirred him ever since he could remember, since the moment Nick had been, at last, able to understand why he felt so different than everyone else around him.

Jared spoke first, his voice thin and forced. “How was the wedding?”

It took Nick a second to register what Jared had said, to remember he shouldn’t simply stare at the seductive curve of the man’s upper lip. “G-good. It was good.” He cleared his throat. “Hot.”

“Yes, it’s a muggy day out, isn’t it?” The conversation, such as it was, broke off and dangled.

Nick tugged at the cuffs of his shirt and glanced away. “I should….”

“Of course.” Jared’s voice was flat, dead, as if he couldn’t wait to get away. “I’m sorry to keep you.”

And just like that, they parted, Jared wafting over to the bar, Nick resuming his trajectory toward the Ryans, plastering on the expression he’d practiced in the mirror as the leaden weight settled all the more deeply onto his heart.

Dr. Jared Kumpel wanted to find a dark broom closet, put a bucket over his head, and scream.

It was supposed to be an evening of celebration. The physicians, board members, and local donor class were gathered at the Copper Point Country Club to toast the arrival of Dr. Uma Amin, who would start work next week. After years of embezzlement scandals and a complete overhaul of the hospital board of directors, at last things were peaceful. Perfect, even.

Except for the part where Nick Beckert had a smile for everyone in the room but Jared. The memory of Nick’s bright expression melting away at the sight of Jared, the way he’d hurried off as if escaping the plague, drove Jared directly to the bar, where he sipped his drink and tortured himself by watching Nick pull out the charm for everyone else.

Goddamn it.

Jared had absolutely no right to feel so proprietary, which only made him crankier. Nick wasn’t his boyfriend, was barely his friend, despite the fact that once upon a time they’d been so intimate he could have identified the man by the sound of his breath. For the past four years, Nick had been Jared’s employer, in a sense, though the contractual relationship between clinic physicians and St. Ann’s Medical Center was complicated. For years the two of them had silently agreed to pretend the past never existed, and this strategy, while frustrating, had mostly worked out for the best.

It was just lately they’d gotten along, talking casually, playing racquetball, hanging out in the safety of large groups. Jared realized he’d allowed these interactions to engender false hope and perhaps a bit of expectation. He wasn’t ready for Nick to start freezing him out.

Before the embezzlement crisis, Nick had focused entirely on work, and Copper Point had seemed willing to leave him to his monkhood. But then Nick had taken out the embezzlement ring in the old board and overseen funding for the long-overdue cardiac center, dedicated in his father’s name. He was the shiniest man in town, and everyone wanted him on their arm.

So many damn womenwanted him in their bed.

Watching yet another woman brush a manicured hand along the sleeve of Nick’s tuxedo jacket, Jared told himself it didn’t matter. He’s never going to admit who he is, even to himself, so who cares who flirts with him?

I care, damn it.Turning away with a glower, Jared finished off his drink and wandered into the crowd. Except he didn’t feel like mingling, so he found a table as far from Nick as possible and sat, ready to bury himself in his phone.

He hadn’t had so much as a chance to reach for his pocket before someone joined him. Dr. Owen Gagnon, the anesthesiologist at St. Ann’s Medical Center and one of Jared’s best friends, pushed a glass in front of Jared and plunked down at the table beside him. “Doing all right? You seem off your game.”

After taking a sip of his drink, Jared waved a breezy hand. “Fine. Not feeling the hospital function vibe, is all.”

With a grunt of agreement, Owen peeled back the panels of his tuxedo jacket and settled in. “Jack has to be jealous we didn’t throw him a party when he arrived.”

Jack was Dr. Hong-Wei Wu, St. Ann’s resident general surgeon. “Knowing Jack, he’s indifferent. I’d think he wouldn’t want the fuss but would have endured it if we’d arranged it for him. Though maybe you’re right. Maybe he was quietly offended we didn’t treat him better. He holds a lot of cards close to his vest.”

Owen snorted. “He’s all about doing things up properly. I bet he was mad we didn’t give him more of a welcome. He sure as hell deserved it.”

Jared felt better not thinking about Nick. He tried to keep the conversation going. “By the way, the quintet sounded great, but of course it always does. Your solo was particularly good.”

As usual, Owen ignored the compliment and wrinkled his nose. “I don’t love how every time we have one of these gigs I have to play Pied Piper. Sometimes I want to sit and grouse about having to show up in my monkey suit with the rest of the doctors.”

“If your fiancé hears you, you’ll be sleeping in the garage tonight.”

“Yes, well, the good news is the garage in the mansion is climate controlled.” Owen glanced around. “Still, there’s no reason for Erin to have to hear.”

This time Jared didn’t have to fake his grin. “Have you seen Jack or Simon?”

“Jack’s talking with Dr. Amin. Simon, I’m not sure.”

“Probably with Jack, since he’s not with us. He feels out of place at these things. Until he was Jack’s plus-one, he never had to come.”

“As the nursing rep on the hospital board, he’d be here anyway. He needs to get comfortable.” Owen leaned in closer, eyes sparkling with mischief. “So, Mr. I-Know-All-the-Gossip. How’s Copper Point’s elite handling yet another physician who isn’t a white male evangelical Christian?”

“Oh my God. Where do I start?” Jared rolled his eyes and picked up his drink, sipping it as he moved closer to Owen so they wouldn’t be overheard. “The retired college president’s wife was in a private chat group pitching a fit because the new cardiologist isn’t only from India, she’s Muslim. Someone pointed out there was nothing wrong with that, and the end result was the country club scrambling to find someone they could send into the women’s locker room to break up a fight when the online spat went abruptly offline. Then on Copper Point People someone else—no one of note, some random MAGA—complained about how it was obvious St. Ann’s had an antiwhite hiring policy.”

Owen buried his face in his hands. “That Facebook group is trash.”

“Wait until you hear how it got resolved. People argued back and forth for two days, but when everyone was starting to cool off, someone came in as the ‘mediating’ voice and pointed out at least she was straight this time.”

Owen sat up slowly, drawing his fingers down his face and staring sightlessly at the table decorations in front of them. “Tell me again why we live here?”

“Because Simon couldn’t bear to leave his family when we were looking for somewhere for us to get jobs together after med school. Plus now you’re marrying one of the founding sons. Just because we’re stuck in this crazy town doesn’t mean we can’t get our quiet revenge by living well, though. I think you and Erin should adopt a horde of children and raise them Wiccan. It’s the only way to heal this place.”

Owen rubbed his jaw. “I dunno if I’m organized enough to be Wiccan. Aren’t there a lot of meetings and rituals? I could do casual pagan.”

“I think it depends on the type of Wiccan.” Jared lifted an eyebrow. “Are you ignoring the hordes-of-children part, or is this your way of telling me you’ve changed your opinion on fatherhood?”

“Well. I mean, I don’t know about hordes. But yeah, we’ve talked about it some, and it doesn’t seem such a terrible idea, when I think about it with Erin. Oh.” He straightened, his face transforming into a youthful, slightly ridiculous grin as he waved to someone across the room. “Speak of the devil. I need to go. You sure you’re okay here?”

You fine being alone?That was the translation.

Jared got out the fake smile, wrestling it into something genuine. “Nowhere else I’d rather be. Go see your man.”

After Owen left, Jared sipped his drink and people watched for a few minutes, telling himself everything was fine, but his gaze kept drifting to Nick. The DJ switched to a slow song, and one of the women surrounding Nick took his hands to lure him onto the dance floor. He didn’t fight her.

It was the daughter of the investor from Milwaukee. Cynthia Ryan. The two of them looked stunning together, her dark hair swept up in a breathtaking style no white woman in the room could emulate, her brown skin glowing against her goldenrod evening dress.

If Nick took Cynthia home to Grandma Emerson, she’d give her blessing in the span of a sigh.

Setting his teeth, Jared finished his drink, then rose and went to get a refill.

Matthew Engleton was at the bar, collecting change for a vodka sour, and he grinned at Jared as he approached. “Dr. Kumpel. Good to see you.”

It wasn’t a dismissive greeting, which Jared found interesting. He knew Matt, vaguely, because you couldn’t live in Copper Point and not know the Engletons, especially if you ever had to buy a suit from their family store. Matt was on the hospital board now too, so they’d gotten a bit closer.

Jared smiled back politely. “Good to see you as well. Enjoying yourself?”

“Oh, as much as I can at these sorts of things.” Matt leaned an elbow on the bar and gestured at the crowd of Copper Point elite and St. Ann’s higher echelon. “What about you? You aren’t with your usual crew.”

“We’re all busy networking bees. They want the doctors talking to the potential donors, so if we stay in the corner and drink, it defeats the purpose.”

Matt laughed. “Difficult to hide, I suspect, when one of you is engaged to the vice president.” He motioned to the bartender. “Let me buy you a drink, and you can network with me.”

“But you’re a board member.”

“I’m also one of the potential donors. Dad always gives liberally to the hospital, but he never comes to these functions anymore. He says he needs me to be the representative now. So I have double duty.” He raised his eyebrows. “You’ll have to charm the money out of me, Doctor.”

Oh my. Was Matt… hitting on him? A closer inspection of the man’s focused gaze told Jared yes, he was.

Well. He hadn’t seen this coming. Jared had assumed Matt hid his orientation in deference to the family business. Apparently he was wrong, or there was an exception clause for local pediatricians.

Did he wantMatt to hit on him? He hadn’t thought of Matt as anyone but the polite man who sold clothing well before, and now was also the man who sat in boring meetings beside him. He supposed he was cute enough….

“What’ll you have?” the bartender asked.

“Old Fashioned,” Jared replied.

A familiar feminine laugh behind him made his shoulders relax. “Someone’s ordering an Old Fashioned? Dr. Kumpel must be at the bar.”

He turned around in time for Rebecca Lambert-Diaz to catch his cheek in her hand and give it a gentle tweak. He playfully swatted it away. “Hello, Rebecca. Where’s your wife?”

“Hiding in a corner. She hates these things, and we already had to endure a family wedding this afternoon.” Rebecca smiled at Matt. “Hello again, Matthew. How’s the store?”

Was it Jared’s imagination, or did Matt’s expression dim a little? “Everything’s going well, but we’d do better if our favorite lawyer came by and checked out our new summer line.”

“Always a salesman. But now that you mention it, you’re right, I haven’t been by in a while.” She withdrew a twenty and waved it at the bartender. “Let me get my glass of wine, we’ll find a seat, and you can tell me what you have in stock. I do need a new suit.”

The three of them ended up back at the table Jared had vacated, Rebecca in the middle as she and Matt spoke intensely about women’s clothing. Jared sipped his drink and scanned the room, more concerned about where people were. Jack was with Dr. Amin, poor Simon appearing as lost as Owen had said. Owen was with Erin, talking with the leader of the Copper Point string quintet.

Where was Nick, though?

Jared’s lip nearly curled when he found him. He was with Cynthia Ryan, and didn’t they lookcozy.Grumbling under his breath, Jared took a fortifying drink of alcohol, the burn fueling his ire.

“Don’t you think, Jared?”

He snapped out of his funk at Rebecca’s question. “Sorry, what?”

She gestured to herself, miming dress parts as she spoke. “I enjoy a double-breasted suit, but I think what’s best on me are those single-breasted smooth pieces that don’t have a crease. You know what I’m talking about?”

Jared frowned at her, his attention officially drawn away from Nick. “Well, yes, it’s the most flattering option for you, but it isn’t as if you can wear the same thing all the time.”

Matt held out his hands. “Thank you.I’ve been trying to convince her of this for months.”

Rebecca waved airily. “Whatever, I’ll let the two of you dress me.”

Jared snorted into his Old Fashioned. “You won’t ever give up control so easily, but nice try.”

“Who I’d really like to get into the store is Jared.” Matt bumped Jared’s arm, lingering a little longer than necessary. “It’s been a while since you’ve treated yourself to some new clothes. Unless you’ve been cheating on me with other clothing stores?”

Rebecca laughed. “Jared, leave town to shop? Good luck with that.”

No question about it, Matt was trying to flirt with Jared and was getting lesbian cock-blocked at every turn. Well, Jared supposed he could do worse.

He cut a glance to the other side of the room. Matt was as nice as any number of men, but Jared’s attention was firmly fixed elsewhere.

Jared’s gaze landed on the woman’s hand sliding down Nick’s arm, and his teeth set.

“Did you want another drink?” Matt shook Jared’s glass, which he was shocked to discover was empty. “Or maybe you want to get up and walk around?”

Jared couldn’t look away from Nick, though he knew he needed to. He felt a hand on his arm as he stood—Rebecca gave him a questioning look.

“You’ve seemed off all evening. And honestly, you haven’t been yourself lately, period. Is there something going on?”

How could he tell her or any of them the truth? He bent and kissed her on the cheek. “I’m fine, but thank you.”

She caught his shoulder and kept him down long enough to whisper. “You’re not. You might have fooled the others, but you haven’t fooled me. Who’s giving you a ride home?”

Oh, Lord, now he had Rebecca mothering him. Sighing, he patted her shoulder. “Seriously. It’s not a problem. Okay?”

Matt frowned at him.

Jared squared his shoulders. He wasfine. He was absolutely perfect, and he didn’t need a babysitter. Maybe he’d start an affair with Matt Engleton, what the hell. Maybe sweet little Matt would surprise him and he’d be the next one of their group to find a happy ever after.

Sweet, boring Matt.

“You okay?” Matt asked.

God, they needed to stop asking him. Jared’s face was going to break, he was stretching it so far for these damn smiles. “Absolutely.”

Except as they rounded the corner of a group of chuckling old men, he got another glimpse of Nick as the music shifted. It was Prince of all the damn things, and not only Prince but “Kiss.”

Like magnets, Nick and Jared’s gazes met and locked.

You’re not boring, baby. Not boring at all.

And I haven’t forgotten a thing.

When two new women appeared beside Nick, giggling and tugging him forward, Nick turned away, and Jared couldn’t stand it anymore.

Jared threaded his fingers through his hair in an attempt to hide his shaking hands. “Actually,” he said to Matt, “I think I wouldn’t mind stepping outside.”

Matt beamed. “Great.”

Yes, let’s get out of here.

Except Jared knew from experience it didn’t matter how far he ran. He couldn’t get away from Nick.

 

 

About the Author

Author of over thirty novels, Midwest-native Heidi Cullinan writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. Heidi is a two-time RITA® finalist and her books have been recommended by Library Journal, USA Today, RT Magazine, and Publisher’s Weekly. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading novels and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more at heidicullinan.com.

Copper Point Medical Series

The Doctor’s Secret

The Doctor’s Date

The Doctor’s Orders

A MelanieM Review:The Doctor’s Date (Copper Point Medical #2) by Heidi Cullinan

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Sequel to The Doctor’s Secret
Copper Point Medical: Book Two

The hospital’s least eligible bachelor and its aloof administrator hate each other… so why are they pretending to date?

Dr. Owen Gagnon and HR director Erin Andreas are infamous for their hospital hallway shouting matches. So imagine the town’s surprise when Erin bids an obscene amount of money to win Owen in the hospital bachelor auction—and Owen ups the ante by insisting Erin move in with him.

Copper Point may not know what’s going on, but neither do Erin and Owen. Erin intends his gesture to let Owen know he’s interested. Owen, on the other hand, suspects ulterior motives—that Erin wants a fake relationship as a refuge from his overbearing father.

With Erin suddenly heading a messy internal investigation, Owen wants to step up and be the hero Erin’s never had. Too bad Erin would rather spend his energy trying to rescue Owen from the shadows of a past he doesn’t talk about.

This relationship may be fake, but the feelings aren’t. Still, what Erin and Owen have won’t last unless they put their respective demons to rest. To do that, they’ll have to do more than work.

When I was reading the first story in this series, The Doctor’s Secret, I was loving the world that Heidi Cullinan was building and the characters she was introducing us too.  It’s never just a couple, but a foundation of friends, family, a network of co workers and townspeople that form a tapestry that make a place and people come alive for us.   I did get wrapped up in the courtship and romance of Jack and Simon but…and so remarkable and Heidi Cullinan like…there were two characters I couldn’t take my eyes off of.

Like lightning bugs in the darkness, flashes of brightness flickering away,  the characters of Owen Gagnon and Erin Andreas kept pulling my attention towards them when it should have been solely situated on Simon and Jack.  There was something about these two argumentative and yes, oddly broken men that I could never look away from. And I wanted their story…badly.

So here came The Doctor’s Date (Copper Point Medical #2) and honestly?  It’s my new favorite story.  I’m hugging this thing so hard because it’s everything I look for in a romance and more. It’s love, and healing, and self discovery, and finding the perfect someone and a home, and even redemption.  The author picked up the pot of narrative contemporary romance perfection, gave it a toss or two, and out came Owen and Erin’s story.

There were scenes from The Doctor’s Secret where your heart just broke for Erin, especially as he prepared to stand  alone against his father. That fight continues here.  Both Owen and Erin have to face huge issues in this story dealing with their fathers, abuse, and their upbringing.  Cullinan writes so realistically about the impact childhood abuse has on adult men that your heart shatters for them over and over. Just as realistically, it’s been dealt with, at least by one of them with years of therapy and in some cases medication.  This is a element I’ve seen lacking in far too many stories.  They include the abuse but not how the characters have dealt with the impact authentically.  Here we believe it and in them.

There are so many moments here from the auction to the important elements with the violin which swing from comedy to deep angst to tissue laden scenes that will leave you weeping for joy.. I read and read until this story was finished and then started it over again.

From the serious issues with the board (suspense and white knuckle action) to the hilarious competitive bromance between Owner and Jack to the novelty socks that carry such meaning, The Doctor’s Date is one book that is a treasure chest of story threads to keep exploring read after read.

And the next one is already coming out.  I think Copper Point Medical series just might be my new favorite Heidi Cullinan series.  This story definitely is.  I highly recommend it.  It’s now on ;my comfort reads list.  Pick it up, the first story too.  I bet they will make yours as well.

Cover art: Kanaxa.  As cute as that model is and as perfect as it brands the series, there is one glaring omission that almost ruins the cover.  No socks!  Socks, novelty socks, for both men, is a huge element here, and the model is sockless!!!!!  I would have photoshopped something onto his feet at least.  Utter fail. See Heidi’s guest post on socks here.

Sales Links:Goodreads • Publisher • Audible • Ripped Bodice • Barnes & Noble • Google Play Ebook • Google Play Audio • Apple Books • Kobo (US) • Kobo (Canada) • Amazon (US) • Amazon(Canada) • Amazon (UK) • Powells

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Published June 18th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
Original Title The Doctor’s Date
ASINB 07PNPP1GD
Edition Language English
Series Copper Point Medical #2

Copper Point Medical Series

The Doctor’s Secret

The Doctor’s Date

The Doctor’s Orders

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2015

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best-of-2015-small-banner2

 From Books, Audiobooks to Book Covers

Its

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2015

Happy New Year! Looking back over 2015 I’m  amazed at all the changes here and marvelous tales that came to our door. I’m thinking about the new reviewers we’ve added,  all the wonderful books we’ve read, new authors we’ve discovered, and the way Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words has grown in this past year.  Along with new reviewers, came new columns like Paul’s Paranormal Portfolio (his New Year’s edition is posted today), our Author Discovery along with all our author interviews and guest posts.

As the market for audiobooks has increased so has our reviews.  Even a audiobook virgin like myself jumped into the format and found that I enjoyed it immensely. What a surprise…for me!

I hope 2016 brings a new look to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words, a few new reviewers to help us read more, listen to, review more about the thing we love…books! I hope we find more new authors to discover, and more ways in which to write about them and the writing process.

But before we move forward, we’re going to look back at the books and covers we loved best.  So here are some of our favorites. Free Dreamer is traveling, and Paul was working on his Paranormal Portfolio but some of the rest of us had our lists ready. Are some of yours among them?  Which ones do you think we left out?  And are there new discoveries among those we love so much? Check out our Best Books and Covers of 2015 below…

 

 

From BJ:

✪Favorite Books Read in 2015:

Captive Prince One and Two by C.S. Pascat
The entire Straight Boys series by Alessandra Hazard
The entire Guardians of the Pattern series by Jaye McKenna
For Real by Alexis Hall
Control by Cordelia Kingsbridge
Give an Inch by K.D. Sarge (because it was so cute AND it was written from my prompt)

✪ Best Audiobook of 2015:

Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper, Narrated by Kaleo Griffith

✪Favorite Covers of 2015

Ghost in the Mythe coverFor Real coverSong of the NavigatorBurn The Sky cover

Ghost in the Mythe by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
For Real by Alexis Hall
Song of the Navigator by Astrid Amara
Burn the Sky by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
Leythe Blade by Jaye McKenna, artist Chinchbug
Something Like A Love Song by Becca Burton
In Discretion (Ylendrian Empire, #3) by Reesa Herberth
Neskaya (Bittersweet Dreams) by Augusta Li

Leythe BladeSomething Like A Love SongInDiscretion_500x750Neskaya

I really admire original covers that are drawn or created specifically to represent that book so much more than those that just use stock photography…so here are some I love.

 

 

From Stella:

 

✪BEST BOOKS

Beneath the Stain by Amy Lane
Sacrati by Kate Sherwood
✪BEST COVERS
Sand and Gold and RuinThe Fifth Son coverCabin NightsACID coverStormBeforeTheCalm[The]FS
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
The Fifth Son by Blaine D Arden
Cabin Nights by Ashley John
ACID by Wulf Francu Godgluck and S. van Rooyen
The Storm before the Calm by Cate Ashwood
✪BEST AUTHOR DISCOVERIES
Family of Lies Sebastian by Sam Argent
Go On Your Own Way by Zane Riley
The Rules of Ever After by Killian B Brewer
The Union of Sun and Moon by Gus Li
The Last Yeti by Tully Vincent
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

                                                                                        From Ali

✪ Best books:  These are my top 5 plus

The Subs Club by JA Rock
Darker Space by Lisa Henry
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Lonely Hearts by Heidi Cullinan
Crash & Burn by Abigail Roux
A Seditious Affair by KJ Charles

  ✪Best Short Stories:

Fawn by Nash Summers  **this was probably my favorite thing I read this year in this genre
One Perfect Night by Lisa Henry
Lima Oscar Victor Echo & the Truth About Everything by Suki Fleet
Ten Simple Steps for Surviving the Apocalypse by Cari Z
Waiting for Clark by Annabeth Albert

 ✪ Best Covers:

 Sutphin Boulevard coverIn the Middle of Somewhere coverFawn coverStygian
Stygian by Santino Hassell
Fawn by Nash Summers
Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell
Level Hands by Amy Jo Cousins
Level Hands
In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish

From Mika

✪My Favorite Books of 2015

. Sunset Park by Santino Hassell & How To Be A Normal Person by T.J. Klune. They are tied for me. I loved these books. (

Rest in any order
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson
Breakaway by Avon Gale
Fish Stick Fridays by Rhys Ford
Kick at the Darkness by Keira Andrews
Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
Definitely Maybe, Yours by Lissa Reed
The Subs Club by J.A. Rock
Restless Spirits by Jordan L. Hawk
Down & Dirty by Rhys Ford

✪Best Covers:

Conscious Decisions of the Heart civCarry the OceanTrust the Focus

Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Trust the Focus by Megan Erickson

From Sammy:

✪Best Books of 2015:

– Unwrapping Hank by Eli Easton
– Dirty Dining by E.M. Lynley
– The Wrong Man & The Right Time by Lane Hayes
– The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
– Slasherazzi by Daniel A. Kaine
– Where There’s Smoke & Where There’s Fire by Cari Z
– The World in His Eyes by A.J. Thomas
– The Ultimate Team by Tricia Owens
– The Biggest Scoop by Gillian St. Kevern (A YA pick!)
And an upcoming release in 2016 that I had the pleasure of beta reading:
– Thorns & Fangs by Gillian St. Kevern

From Melanie

For me there  were so many. You really had to look no further than our best book of the month to see that.  Its especially hard in a year where favorite  series came to a finish.  Those were so tough on the heart.  But so were so many others. I laughed with these characters and boy, did I cry.  Sometimes, I did both at the same time.  Looking at you Renae Kaye and John Inman!
Alex Beecroft and Alexis Hall almost deserve their own section.  Beecroft’s Trowchester Blues was a trilogy so marvelous it was illuminating.  And Alexis Hall?  His words flow with a lyricism and magic  that make reading his stories a privilege.
John Wiltshire’s excellent series More Heat Than The Sun starts off with one of my favorite books of 2015, Conscious Decisions of the Heart (also Best Cover).  Heidi Cullinan’s Minnesota Christmas trilogy which ends with my favorite story of them all, Eden Winter’s Diversion series (be still my heart) got a new installment that I’ve read several times, see?  I can  go on and on.  And I haven’t even talked about Astrid Amara who is on several of the other reviewers lists!

✪Best Books

The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall
Sand and Ruin and Gold by Alexis Hall
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Holding Out for a Fairy Tale (Least Likely Partnership #2) by A.J. Thomas
My Magical Palace by Kunal Mukherjee
Blue Eyed Stranger (Trowchester Blues #2) by Alex Beecroft
Trowchester Blues (Trowchester Blues, #1) by Alex Beecroft
Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues, #3) by Alex Beecroft
Blowing Off Steam by Joy Lynn Fielding
Redemption (Diversion #5) by Eden Winters
Tigers on the Run (Tigers and Devils #3) by Sean Kennedy
A Solitary Man by Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy
Where the Grass is Greener (Seeds of Tyrone #2) by Debbie McGowan and Raine O’Tierney
Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas #3) by Heidi Cullinan *loved them all
******************************
(Humor & Pathos Division)
Shawn’s Law by Renae Kaye
Coming Back by John Inman
You Are The Reason by Renae Kaye
 ***********************
Four of Club series by Parker Williams (Pulp Friction 2015)
Jack of Spades series by Lee Brazil
King of Hearts series by Havan Fellows
******************************

Best Audiobook

Best Covers:

Theory Unproven 400x600Blowing Off Steam coverConscious Decisions of the Heart civWaiting for the Flood cover

 

 

 

 

 

Theory Unproven by Lillian Francis, artist Meredith Russell
Conscious Decisions of the Heart by John Wiltshire
Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall, artist Simone
Blowing Off Steam by Joy Lynn Fielding

 

Sand and Gold and RuinSnowman coverForging the future coverRunning with the Wind cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shawn's Law coverChasing the Swallows coverSomething Like A Love SongFirst Comes Marriage

 

 

 

 

 

Shawn’s Law by Renae Kay, Paul Richmond artist
Something Like A Love Song by Becca Burton, unknown artist
Chasing the Swallows by John Inman, artist Maria Fanning
First Comes Marriage by Shira Anthony, artist Paul Richmond

The Sub Club by J.A. Rock, artist Kanaxa
My Magical Palace by Kunal Mukherjee, artist unknown
Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton, artist L.C. Chase
Trowchester Blues trilogy by Alex Beecroft, artist Lou Harper
Trowchester Blues cover

 

 

TheSubsClub_600x900Winter Oranges coverMy Magical Palace

A MelanieM Review: Fever Pitch (Love Lessons #2) by Heidi Cullinan

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Sometimes you have to play love by ear.

Fever Pitch coverAaron Seavers is in a world of pain and he doesn’t know what to do about it.  His strict controlling father wants him to pick out a suitable college and do it  now.  But Aaron doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life even if his father had decided for him.  His divorced mother won’t support him against his father so Aaron knows he’s on his own and that’s a very lonely place.  But no one would guess all that lurks just underneath the exterior of a boy considered one of the popular crowd and its just the tip of the secrets Aaron is hiding.

Giles Mulder can’t wait to get the hell out of Oak Grove, Minnesota.  Giles has been through the horrors that middle and high school hold for someone who is different, gay and very different.  Bullied, beaten, hospitalized, its all been a large part of Giles’ life, made bearable by the love and support of his parents and family.  Now the chance to escape and reboot his life at college looms large.  Giles is headed off to St. Timothy’s College where he intends to play his violin, and be everything he wasn’t in high school.  Then he meets a drunken Aaron Seavers hiding in a closet at the party and it changes everything.

Aaron is in the closet in almost every way until Giles helps him out and home during a drunken binge at a party.  When Giles mentions the college he is going to in the fall, something clicks with Aaron, unbeknownst to Giles and his plans.  When Aaron appears on campus,, Giles is afraid that his high school experience is about to repeat itself.  For Aaron, Giles rejection is just one more thing to overcome.  Neither young man is prepared to the adjustments and changes that college has in store for them both.  Giles and Aaron soon realize that sometimes you have to play love by ear in order to find that which you have always wanted.

The title Fever Pitch comes from a quote in the story, advice actually, that if you want something so badly don’t go after it in a fever pitch but slow down, make sure its real, and not just the perception of something you think you want to have.  Excellent advice for the title characters here and life in general.  Fever Pitch, the second in the Love Lessions series, by Heidi Cullinan, presents two young men on the cusp of adulthood.  From starkly different background and families, they represent the best and the worst examples of teenagers dealing with their sexuality and thoughts of the future.  Aaron’s childhood is one of stultifying control and restrictions.  Even Aaron’s parents divorce, didn’t free him from his  father’s oeverbearing, restrictive rules and regulations, especially as his mother lacks the ability to support and parent her son.  Every aspect of Aaron’s life has been directed by his father and until his meeting with Giles, that wasn’t about to change.  Outwardly, Aaron has everything, including being part of the “in” crowd at school, a faction of which has been tormenting Giles.  Inside?  Aaron is a mess. Giles, on the other hand, has the love and support of a family who adores him and that includes his homosexuality which they accept.  But where Giles has it easy at home, school has been one nightmare after another, so much so that he has  ended up in the emergency room at numerous occasions.  Two young men, at odds with their surroundings, uncertain about their futures waiting ahead of them.

Heidi Cullinan is one of those writers who is able to take a teenage character and present them in a realistic and complex fashion.  Both Giles and Aaron feel absolutely believable, up to and including their histories and back stories.  The launching pad of this story is that odd time of panic and anticipation that happens at the end of the high school year, just before you leave for college.  Too many paths branching out before you, so many unanswered questions tossing about in your head as you step forward towards your first experience of independence.  Cullinan remembers this well and her ability to bring such a time of uncertainty and flux to life makes this story and these characters so moving and memorable.

There are so many wounded young men walking through these pages.  And while the damage done to them all carries the same hefty emotional weight, each received their wounds in different manners. Aaron and Giles are so different yet the empathy and pain you feel for them both is balanced and heartfelt.  Aaron especially with his moments of darkness and depression feels scarily authentic.  Giles’s attitude and assumptions also feels right for someone of his age and experience.  Sometimes you forget how hard it is to be 18 and this story is a perfect reminder of how tumultuous it can be and how out to sea they can feel.

One of the important aspects of this story and one that is beautifully portrayed is St. Timothy’s music department, along with the acapella songs that choral groups (that Glee and Perfect Pitch brought to everyone’s attention) sing as well as the school competitions and inequalities present among boy and girl groups. The interdepartmental politics and competition among students is laid out in a way that feels as real as every other element here.  That includes the songs and arrangements mentioned throughout the novel.

There is angst, oh my so much angst, that your heart will bleed a little along with the characters.  Through devastating events and stunning reversals of situations and beliefs, this is a story that creeps into your heart and mind to stay.  Characters from the first story, Kelly and Walter, have huge roles to play here as do the characters of Baz and Elijah (yes, that’s Bad in Baltimore’s Elijah).  But through all the issues, and swirl of emotions and adjustments, it still comes down to the love and romance of Aaron and Giles as they take their first steps towards adulthood and the life they want for themselves and each other.

Fever Pitch words fine as a stand alone or as part of a series.  I missed out on Love Lessons and Frozen Heart and will now rectify that omission.  Like me you don’t have to wait for those stories to pick this one up now.  Its a must read as far as I am concerned.  Heartwarming, deeply moving, and an ending you won’t believe.  Get started today!

Cover artist: I couldn’t find it but as lively and fun as that cover it, it didn’t reflect the story inside.

Sales Links:  Samhain Publishing      All Romance (ARe)     amazon      Fever Pitch

Book Details:

ebook, 270 pages
Published September 30th 2014 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.heidicullinan.com/Fever-pitch
seriesLove Lessons #2

Love Lessions Series:

Love Lessons (Love Lessons, #1)
Frozen Heart (Love Lessons, #1.5)
Fever Pitch (Love Lessons, #2)

Review: Miles and the Magic Flute by Heidi Cullinan

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Miles and the Magic FluteMiles Larson believes the world has turned against him.  The poor economy cost him his cushy job and lifestyle, now Miles lives in considerably reduced circumstances back in his hometown in Minnesota. At least that’s how he sees it.  He works in a friend’s pawn shop fixing broken down appliances while living in his friend’s trailer behind the shop.  And all the time, he is thinking “why me, why did this happen to me?”  As Miles begrudgingly goes to work and then home, the only thing that lifts his spirits is a walk in the woods nearby, a place of solice and adventure when little,  now a blessed respite from the disappointment that is his life.   Little does he know that as he bemoans his life, the wood have ears and are listening.

One day at the pawn shop, a box of personal goods to be sold revealed an intricately carved silver flute to be pawned.  When asked to research its origin, Miles’s investigation opens up an enchanted world where one can have all he wants if only he asks the right question.  Before he realizes it his reality becomes one of two worlds vying for his body and soul.  An ethereally gorgeous fae wants Miles to choose him and his world but is everything there exactly as it seems?  Who is the beast he encounters along with the Fae Lord in the Otherworld?  For each choice that Miles might make, a price is to be paid.  But what is the price of being given everything you desire?  What if what you desire wars with true love and happiness? What price will you pay then? Only Miles can answer those questions…now if only he knew what those answers are….

Miles and the Magic Flute is less a romance and more of Heidi Cullinan’s LGBTQ version of Aesop’s Fables.  Or should that be Cullinan’s Fae Fables?  An intricately layered cautionary tale, Miles and the Magic Flute starts with one character whose sense of entitlement and displeasure with his current status starts the games of enchantment to follow.

From the beginning Cullinan builds two very realistic and opposite worlds to vy for Mile’s body and soul.  One is the small town in Minnesota that Miles has returned to after losing his job and condo in the big city.  A sense of desperation covers the town like a layer of dust.  A factory has closed putting much of the town’s population out of work, and sometimes only the largesse of his friend Patty of Patty’s Pawn shop keeps some of them from going without food or a home.  A cluttered store filled with the bits and pieces of peoples lives, the pawn store has been passed from father to daughter as has the trailer behind it.  Into the shop flow various sundry folk, from a hispanic family seriously weighing how they will spend their strictly budgeted dollars to an antagonistic bully who learns that homophobic slurs will cost him big time from the lesbian pawnbroker.   Cullinan paints these small town characters with the same brush as her main ones, and they are as realistically detailed and human as they could be.  You can feel the paint peeling and the cars falling apart from neglect from the author’s descriptions of a small town barely surviving and the people who remain behind while others have left.

The second world starts off as nothing more than a shivery feeling as Miles walks through the woods nearby.  A feeling of being watched, a ripple in the air, the appearance of a small white flower in winter, and little by little Cullinan’s Otherworld, the Fae Dream world arrives to encroach on Miles’ reality and the well being of all.  I loved how the author built up not only Miles anticipation and sense of alarm but the readers as well.  Layer by layer the magic comes and at first its wondrous and enchanting….and then it deepens to something more.  And as we begin to  get a true sense of exactly what and who the Fae Lord represents, Cullinan continues to pivot us and Miles back and forth between reality and desire, human and Fae until the contrasting images and worlds start to blend eerily into each other. The author’s locations and world building is superb and each feels as real as the other.

Heidi Cullinan has also provided the readers with one of the most realistic and wonderful lesbian couples that I can remember. Patty with her blunt ways and mannerisms that cover a depth of personality just waiting to be revealed.  And  Julie whose perceptions and world views are startling and compelling.  I loved this couple and they provide the anchor that the story and Miles requires.  Patty and her long time lover, Julie, have slowly been pulling Miles out of his depression over losing his job and successful life in Atlanta at Fetterman Financial.  Patty gave him a job fixing the appliances she pulls out of trashcans or brought into the store.  Julie feeds him vegan food she cooks from her amazing garden out back and items she has traded for.  Cullinan does an exemplary job of conveying how grey and small this world appears to Miles in his current  emotional state, the businesslike and frank manner in which Patty deals with her customers and Miles, and the generous, compassionate nature that is Julie’s answer to everything she confronts in life.  And while we see their trailer, business and partnership only from Miles’ viewpoint, it is clear that Miles’  self-absorbed outlook keeps him from seeing his friends  and their lives in a clear and realistic way.

And that is part of what I feel is a real issue for the reader here.  The story is told from Miles’ point of view.  And he is whiney, complaining, and his sense of entitlement is hard to take after a while.  I get that we need to see Miles at his worst in order to get a base line from which we can chart his growth but that doesn’t make his selfishness and self centeredness any easier to take.   Even as Miles realizes that he sees everything now through his “Atlanta filter”, comparing and contrasting his current life against that which he lost, his musings become a Greek chorus of want, hate, and envy.  “I hate this, I hate my life, I hate what I’ve become, I hate what I lost, I hate realizing that I never really had it.” and finally “I hate my life and I would do anything and give anything to change it.”    Heartfelt worlds that the woods, or someone in the woods is listening to and geting ready to answer with an offer.

But the most damning words here are probably the ones that the readers will recognize, if not understand.  How the readers feels about hearing Miles utter them will reflect in how much the reader will like this story.  Those words are the ones that will propel Miles to accept an offer too good to be…well good.  And they are “I’m better than this.  I deserve so much better than this.”  What an all too human phrase…one that probably propels many a person into actions that they will regret later on.  How readers feel about Miles’ sense of entitlement will be the lens through which they view this story.  For many, I think it will mean they look at Miles and his predicament with a sense of detachment.  And no matter what befalls Miles, that lack of emotional investment in his problems and terrors will keep readers disconnected from the story and Miles.  I will admit I came perilously close to that detachment myself.  It took me much longer to connect with Miles than I anticipated and by then the story was almost over.

As I said this is a story of lessons and morality.  “Beware of what you wish for, as you just might get it”, “Be happy with what you have,” actually Miles and the Magic Flute is a roll call of lessons from Aesop’s Fables among others.  Whether it is about appearances being deceiving or giving one’s enemies the means for your own destruction, Cullinan lines them up and marches Miles through them on his way to  enlightenment, redemption, and finally love.

Yes, there is several love stories here, although no romances.  I wish I had a better understanding of “the Beast” here, he is the one character without much substance.  There is so much about Miles and the Magic Flute that is as wondrous as its plot.  From Terris and Murali to Patty and Julie and the worlds they all inhabit, Cullinan’s ability to bring both the magical and the mundane to life is amazing.  I just wished I had more of a connection to Miles, that I had wept when he did but ultimately that didn’t happen here.    Other readers might find themselves incredibly moved by Miles’ story and the terrific ending that Heidi Cullinan has crafted for them all.  Pick up this book and decide for yourself.  I am still so very happy that I read it and journeyed for a while in their shoes.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  What a beautiful, magical cover.  Loved it.

Publisher’s Note: This title has been previously published and has been revised from its original release

 

Buy Links:    Wilde City Press       Miles and the Magic Flute ” Amazon          ARe

 

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd Edition
Published May 27th 2014 by Wilde City Press (first published June 7th 2010)
original titleMiles and the Magic Flute
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.heidicullinan.

Summer Has Begun and the Week Ahead at Scattered Thoughts….

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Summer officially started yesterday and already I feel as though I am behind in my normal summer activities.    The late winter combined with a cold and rainy spring has meant all my gardening chores were delayed well into late Spring.  Now my gardens are playing catchup with flowers blooming out of season and major replantings necessary due to the frigid conditions that saw many of the temperate plants perish.   On the downside I lost some of my favorite plants like my old rosemary bush and many of my lavenders.  On the plus side?  I get to redesign some spaces and bring in new plants I have always wanted in my gardens.

Funny how things always seem to happen that way.  Old things give way to new, cycles continue whether you want them to or not.  Change arrives and its what you make of it that matters.  Mourn the old if you must but welcome the new and see where it takes you…..gardening lessons that work no matter what you are actually applying them to.  Weed out the extraneous from your life.  Mulch and prune as necessary.  Fertilize and nuture.  Water and let go.   Repeat…appreciate the seasons.    And keep the terriers from hunting the toads…..that foaming at the mouth is nasty and the toads don’t like it either.

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Winner Announcement: Winner of the “Looking After Joey” contest is Jo johannasnodgrass@yahoo.com. Jo has been contacted by myself and David Pratt. Congratulations to Jo.  My thanks to David Pratt for the wonderful interview and book giveaway.

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My week ahead at ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is looking like this:

Monday, June 23:         Cold Feet by Lee Brazil

Tuesday, June 24:          Miles and the Magic Flute by Heidi Cullinan

Wed., June 25:               G.B. Lindsey “One Door Closes” Book Tour/Contest

Wed., June 25:               Voodoo ‘n’ Vice by K.C. Burn

Thursday, June 26:       Book Blast:  Lee Brazil and “Less Than All” (contest)

Thursday, June 26:       Swords, Sorcery and Sundry by Mina  MacLeod

Friday, June 27:             Author Spotlight: An Interview with Mina MacLeod (contest)

Friday, June 28:            Book Blast: Draven St. James and “Fused By Fire” (contest)

Saturday, June 29:        Duty to the Crown by Rebecca Cohen

 

Happy Reading…now off to the gardens while the sun shines…

Scattered Thoughts Best Books of 2013

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ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords Presents:

best-books of 2013

Time for Scattered Thoughts to look back at all the wonderful books read and reviewed in 2013 and try to pick those stories that stood out the most among all the many stories I read.  As always it was a hard thing to do because there were so many this year that crowded at the top.  How to choose between Sarah Black’s The General and the Horse-Lord and her sequel, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazeri?  Or Ariel Tachna’s Outlast the Night and her Conquer the Flames?  It was only by the mm (seems reasonable) that the latter book for each won out.parabook

Some authors did end up with two books in my lists, whether it was because they were in two different categories or because they were in different series or just because they were that good.  I also ended up with more categories this year, including  Best Humor, Best Young Adult, Best New Vampire and Best New Werewolf.  The variety in genres just begged for subcategories so I created them.  Something really new this year was the interconnected series from the Pulp Friction group. Each series and main characters were intimately connected to each other and culminated in a four author four series finale story.  It was outstanding and earned all four a place on my list.

And then there were the marvelous novels like Harper Fox’ Brothers of the Wild North Seas whose review has slid into 2014 but is one of my top novels of any year.  Anyway, here are the books I chose in alphabetical order.  Which authors/stories were on your list this year?

Best Contemporary Novels of 2013:

  • Best Stand Alone Novels:

Illumination by Rowen Speedwell
The Sky is Dead by Sue Brown

Best Action/Suspense Fiction of 2013:

Collusion by Eden Winters (Diversion series)
Corruption by Eden Winters (Diversion series)
Pulp Friction Series of 2013 (4 interconnected series)

Shock & Awe by Abigail Roux
Touch & Geaux  by Abigail Roux (Cut & Run series)
Worlds Collide by R.J. Scott

Humorous Fiction of 2013:
Books with wings in the sky

Shy by John Inman
Hobbled by John Inman
Tell Me It’s Real by TJ Klune

Young Adult/YA Subject Oriented Fiction:

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane
Necromancy and You by Missouri Dalton
Vampirism and You by Missouri Dalton

Best Historical Fiction:

Lessons for Suspicious Minds by Charlie Cochrane
On The Lee Shore by Elin Gregory
Trick of Time by JL Merrow

Best Horror/Fantasy:skeleton-clip-art-15-315x600

Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr
Too Many Fairy Princes by Alex Beecroft
The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles and Men by Eric Arvin

Best Science Fiction Novel/ Series of 2013:

Aria of the Eclipse by Vivien Dean
One Breath, One Bullet by S.A. McAuley
Dominant Predator by S.A. McAuley  (sequel to the one above)
Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler
Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1) by Aleksandr Voinov (fantasy)

Best Supernatural/Paranormal Fiction of 2013:

Close Quarter by Anna Zabo
Into This River I Drown by TJ Klune
Re-entry Burn (Superpowered Love #5) by Katey Hawthorne
Undertow by Andrea Speed (Infected series)

Best New Vampire (a tie):

The Beast Without by Christian Baines
The Family: Liam by K.V. Taylor

Best New Werewolf:

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

Happy New Year, everyone!  Happy Reading To All and May 2014 Be Great!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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sláinte! Happy St. Patrick’s Day.  To start your St. Patrick’s Day, here is some great music from Brogan’s Bar in Ennis, Ireland to get you fired up!

Half Irish, half Scottish, I love this day and today the weather has gone along with the program and seems particularly Irish. Overcast, damp, but not too cold, perfect for marching in parades all over the nation.

I have travelled to Ireland several times and found the leaving of it always comes with a crease in my heart, as though even my cells know that we are saying farewell to home.  My first time visiting with my high school daughter was both a delightful and revelatory, her feet seeming to find paths that she should not know where there.   My nights were filled of dreams of seals and shores and music carried along the winds over gorse covered hills, studded with stone.  And on the penultimate day, Heather and I were hiking in a verdant forest, far away from any others or so we thought.  And then we heard it, or heard them more accurately.  First the sounds of a waterfall, the roar getting louder the closer we got.  But what really made that day magical was the sounds of piping coming from high overhead.  We craned our necks to see where it came from and finally we found him, standing on a rock ledge, eyes closed, bagpipes swelling as he lost himself in the music he was playing.  We listened for a while and then quietly left, rejuevenated and enriched by a magical experience shared before she left for college.  One of my finest memories.

So day I hope for the best for all of you, of laughter shared, of love found and family held close. And as this website is, mostly, devoted to books I will leave you with a quote from an Irish author:

“As a writer, I write to see. If I knew how it would end, I wouldn’t write. It’s a process of discovery.”
– Author John McGahern

Here is the week ahead in book reviews:

Monday, March 18:                An Unconventional Union by Scotty Cade

Tuesday, March 19:                 Never A Hero by Marie Sexton

Wed., March 20:                     Redemption of the Beast by Amylea Lyn

Thursday, March 21:              Family Man by Heidi Cullinan

Friday, March 22:                   Nights in Canaan by Kendall McKenna

Sat., March 23:                        Natural Predators by Neil Placky

So, that’s the week.  Have a safe and wonderful St. Patrick’s Day.  Forego the green beer, that’s gross anyway and have a Irish Manhattan, so much better!

Dirty Laundry (Tucker Springs #3) by Heidi Cullinan

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Rating: 5 stars

Dirty LaundryEntomology grad student Adam Ellery is trying to get his clothes washed at the laundromat when drunken frat boys start to harass him.  Just as things start to escalate out of control, Adam is saved by a muscled mountain of a man who dispatches the frats after making them apologize to Adam.  His rescuer’s name is Denver Rogers, a bouncer at the local gay bar.  Every thing about Denver pushes Adam’s buttons and, unbelievably to Adam at least, his thanks turns into a sexual encounter the likes of which Adam has never experienced before.

Denver Rogers knows his physique ensures his bed is never empty and the bar is the perfect place to find players for his  games but something about Adam is  so different from his usual bedmates.  Denver can’t get Adam out of his mind, and starts to pursue the Entomology student with a passion for bugs and rough sex. But Denver comes with a background of abuse, self esteem issues, and no formal education.  Denver wonders what the brilliant Adam will think about a man who doesn’t even have a GED?

Adam is OCD, with a side of clinical anxiety  and just getting through the day takes all his strength and determination.  His only long term romance ended because of his mental illness as well as the fact that they did not mesh sexually.  But his encounter with Denver has fulfilled him and left him satiated and his mind quite for once. Denver is everything Adam could want but how will Denver feel when Adam tells him he has obsessive compulsive disorder? Will Denver be able to deal with Adam’s illness? Adam and Denver each have their share of dirty laundry in their closet. Will they be able to come clean so they can see a bright future together?

Cullinan had me at Sphingidae.  An author who gives me a main character who is an entomologist specializing in hawk moths, be still my heart, watch as this Park Naturalist swoons.  But that one thing shouldn’t surprise me as Cullinan continues to bring us characters so human, so realistically flawed and interesting in their emotional makeup that it is a wonder that I haven’t seen someone like Adam in her stories before now.

Tucker Springs is a town full of amazing people and Cullinan has just contributed two more town citizens so remarkable that I still stay up at night thinking about them.  Both are, as I said, beautifully realized human beings, with their flaws and emotional issues.  But Adam and Denver also have the ability to disarm the reader with their vulnerability and surprising decency.  First let’s talk about Adam whose OCD and clinical anxiety is something thousands face in their lives today.  Cullinan has made this mental illness accessible and understandable through the character of Adam.  As he fights his way through his demons at every step in his day, from the lab to just getting out of the house, we really start to comprehend just how overwhelming it must be to just try and stay a functioning human being, let alone one successfully getting through college.  Adam has heart, and bravery, and a need for kinky sex  in which he can give up control. Adam kept surprising me all through the story, love him.

Then Cullinan delivers Denver Rogers to Adam via the laundromat.  Denver Rogers has his own demons in his head (none I will list for you here) and a need for rough sex and to be the one in control.  Everything about Denver will surprise you as it does Adam.  He could have easily degenerated into a stock character, but that never comes close to happening here in Cullinan’s capable hands. Denver is a decent, multilayered human trying to work through his past and starts to think that he might just have a future with his “bug boy”.  I adored this man.

We must also talk about the characters sexuality because it is such a huge component of the story and their relationship.  This is not your vanilla sex but rough, consensual hot sex.  It is bdsm and D/s and both are absolutely necessary for the story and this couple.  While neither is something I normally read, here it makes total sense for the characters and that helps the reader who either is not familiar with bdsm or reads bdsm to not only accept it but enjoy it.  Adam and Denver need this part of their relationship.  It is an integral part of who they are and it satisfies a deep seated need for Adam to be submissive and for Denver to be the dom.  Not only that but it calms Adam’s OCD as nothing else has.  I won’t get into the explanations but needless to say, the author does the same exemplary job of bringing the reader into Adam’s head to help us understand his thoughts and feelings on this element as well as the others.  So, even if this type of sexuality is not something you normally enjoy, Cullinan helps you understand, if not outright accept and enjoy this as a mutually healthy expression of their love and outgrowth of their relationship.

Cullinan then to proceed to slowly build an engrossing, heartwarming love story between Adam and Denver, one complete with a step backward for every two they manage to go forward with.  Adam and Denver must over come one obstacle after another, ones both small and large, including each other.  By the time, their story is finished, as a reader you are so throughly invested in this couple’s lives that you don’t want it to be over.  Not by a long shot.  My hope is that we will see them in other Tucker Springs novels just as El and Paul did here.  I would also love to see more of Louisa, a trans character equally memorable and endearing.  I highly recommend this story and all of the Tucker Springs novels.  This is a town full of people you will never tire of visiting with and listening to their stories.  And while you are off to get the book, make sure and add Heidi Cullinan to your list of must have authors.  Really, she deserves to be there.   Sphingidae, indeed!

Cover art by LC Chase is perfection and works in every way for this story and overall appeal.

Here are the Tucker Springs novels in order they were written:

Where Nerves End by LA Witt (Tucker Springs #1)

Second Hand by Marie Sexton and Heidi Cullinan (Tucker Springs #2)

Dirty Laundry by Heidi Cullinan

Plus there is a website for Tucker Springs novels.  TuckerSprings.com

Inauguration Sunday and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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So, we have a three day weekend with Martin Luther King Day and the Inauguration on Monday.  The sky is blue, Saturday saw me scrambling so here I am still in my bunny slippers and looking to stay that way for the immediate future.

With Lance Armstrong’s self serving, “woe is me, not quite getting the whole picture” sob fest still leaving a malodorous odor in the air, I am looking forward to an inspirational speech on two on Monday.  So Monday’s post will be a little different,  No book banter or book reviews,  just some musings on the Inauguration and MLK.

I have read some terrific books to be reviewed this week, starting with Tuesday’s selection of Charlie Cochrane’s lastest release from Carina Press. And if you missed it, go back for yesterday’s review of J.L. Merrow’s Trick of Time, loved that book.  The movie Somewhere in Time is a favorite of mine so you know Trick of Time hit all my buttons and then some.

So with a drumroll please in keeping with the flair of things this weekend, here are the books to be reviewed this week:

Monday, 1/21:                        Scattered Thoughts on MLK and the Inauguration.

Tuesday, 1/22:                        Promises Made Under Fire by Charlie Cochrane

Wed., 1/23:                              Dirty Laundry by Heidi Cullinan

Thursday, 1/24:                     A Troubled Range by Andrew Grey

Friday, 1/25:                          The Dragon and His Knight by M. Raiya

Saturday, 1/26:                      Too Stupid To Live by Anne Tenino