A MelanieM Review:The Nature of the Game (Stick Side #2) by Amy Aislin

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Six years ago, an ultimatum forced Dan Greyson to make a choice that cost him everything he loved most. One of those things? His boyfriend, hockey player Ashton Yager. Now that they’ve crossed paths again, Dan isn’t about to let the opportunity slip away. Ash’s reappearance in his life is just the catalyst Dan needs to escape the rut he’s fallen into…and win back Ash’s trust and love.

Ashton Yager, once burned and now a little bit shy, didn’t mean to publicly come out as bisexual. But now that he has, he’s got to deal with the consequences, including the fact that it might’ve cost him his NHL contract. With his job on the line, he needs to keep his head down, work hard, and play the best hockey of his life. Rekindling things with Dan? That’s not exactly keeping a low profile. It’s also never going to happen, not after Dan walked away once without an explanation.

When a hurricane forces Ash to seek shelter out-of-state, he and Dan find themselves in the same B&B, where old feelings resurface. But with everything Ash has on the line, does he dare play with fire again?

This story had so many things going for it before I even started it.  It’s a second chance at love novel, one of my favorite tropes, it happens to be from a series about a hockey team and LGBT hockey players, so score!  That’s always high on my list!  And then there’s the author Amy Aislin who I have followed for a while and and always enjoyed her stories.  So I anticipated a good time and heartwarming romance and the author delivered that and more.

The Nature of the Game (Stick Side #2) by Amy Aislin slides into events that happen shortly after the ending of the first book in the series,  On The Ice.  While you don’t have to read that first because the exposition here helps to fill in all the gaps you will miss out by excluding that tale, reading it first gives you a firmer foundation for all the characters and a real sense of who these people are by letting you into the dynamics in the interlocking relationships you are diving into here.

The first story features Dan Greyson’s brother, Mitch, and Alex Dean, best friend and fellow hockey teammate to Ashton Yager, one of the other main characters in this book  So you begin to see how tight the threads to each couple are from story to story.  Yes, they make important appearances as you would expect.

The format here is both that the story is told from two points of view as well as in flashbacks.  We get present day Dan and Ash, and then back to their past bright first relationship and the future they thought they had together.  If you read the first story and from Dan’s pov, you are aware of what broke them apart.  But Ashton doesn’t so his ignorance and, in part, seeing the trainwreck that we know is coming is part of the heartbreak of this story.

How it all gets put back together is the charm, the hope, and the true joy here.

I liked that the author didn’t make any of it easy.  Years of pain, hurt, and poor decisions can’t be put aside overnight and they aren’t.  Both men  work to regain trust and a relationship even as major events happen in each others lives.

I really sank myself into the lives of these hockey players, the outreach program they were running for LGBT youth in Tampa, and the stress of even thinking about coming out to your team and the NHL, the possibility of what it could do to your career.  Again, I thought the author handled it realistically and authentically.

I loved the first two stories and can’t wait to see who’s next, although I have an inkling.  Hockey romances are such an addition for me and this series is just another reason why I love them so.

Cover art is pretty typical, has some hockey elements and a half naked torso.  Wish it was more specific to the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 280 pages
Expected publication: May 7th 2019
ASINB07QN1FNJ3
Edition Language English
Series Stick Side #2

Stick Side Series:

On the Ice

The Nature of the Game

Love Murder Mysteries? Second Chance at Love? Check Out Hell and Back by Dirk Greyson (excerpt)

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Hell and Back by Dirk Greyson
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art: L.C. Chase

Release Date: Oct 27 2017

Book Links: AmazonBarnes and NobleDreamspinner Press

Blurb/Synopsis:

Seventeen years ago, Forge Reynolds fell in love… and had his heart broken.  When Gage Livingston was brought into Forge’s Army field hospital, temporarily paralyzed, Forge sat with him, read his letters, answered his mail, and formed a connection he thought would last. But Gage was sent home, Forge transferred to a new post, and Forge’s letters to Gage went unanswered.

Now, in the middle of a bitter divorce, Forge is sick and tired of his husband’s manipulation and is almost ready to make any sacrifice to get closure, and then he finds Granger murdered execution-style in their home. Forge had no idea about Granger’s illicit activities, but the killers don’t believe that. They think Forge has something they want, and they’re coming after him.

When Forge’s lawyer arranges for professional protection, the last face Forge expects to see is Gage’s. Can he even contemplate a second chance for them after almost two decades or will hoping only lead to more heartache? Before they can explore the possibilities, they must figure out what information Granger had—and others are willing to kill for—or that possible heartache could become a certainty

Genre: M/M, Paranormal Romance, Shifters
Edition/Formats Available In: eBook & Print

Excerpt 

Gage went through the house to turn out the interior lights before settling in the family room in front of the television with the volume on low, listening for anything out of the ordinary. One thing the Army had done a good job of training into him was patience. He could sit in a mostly empty house and listen for nothing for hours.

A lot of his jobs were hurry up and wait. This one had seemed like it would be more active. When the call had come in to the office, he’d been about to go off duty. Margie, his receptionist, had relayed who was calling and what they needed.  That woman never seemed to sleep and had forwarded the office phone to her cell..  There had been no one else available, so he’d sprung into action and hurried home to get a bag together. It wasn’t until he’d been driving and Margie called to give him the particulars that he’d heard the name and nearly run off the road.

After all these years, to run into Forge again, and under these circumstances….

He turned toward the stairs and got up to make a round through the house, then checked outside just to ensure everything was quiet.

Forge Reynolds. Gage sat down, turned off the television, and retrieved his bag to pull out his iPad so he could read for a while. After a few minutes of reading the same page over and over, he set it aside, leaned back, and closed his eyes. Concentration wasn’t something he had at the moment.

Almost instantly he was lying in a hospital bed.

He’d been hit with shrapnel, a ton of it if what he’d been told was true, and a piece had nicked his upper spine. He couldn’t walk or use his arms at first. And he’d never forget the day a man, about his own age, sat in the chair next to his bed and picked up the pile of letters on his tray. They hadn’t wanted to transport him in case it caused more damage, and his family couldn’t visit him where he was, so old-fashioned communication was the best way.

“Would you like me to read them to you?” The man’s voice had been mellow and gentle, at odds with most things in the Army.

“Please,” he’d said softly. At least he’d been able to talk.

Forge had opened the first envelope and read Gage the letter from his mother, then a second one. The third envelope contained one from his mother and one from his dad, and Forge read both. Gage had been tired and fallen asleep, but when he woke, the man was still there. He picked up a pen and paper and asked if he wanted to write a letter. “My name’s Specialist Forge Reynolds, by the way. I never did tell you.”

“Gage Staff Sergeant Livingston. Gage,” he’d croaked, hating the way his voice sounded. He remembered feeling useless, helpless, and wanting to die. And when he’d dictated that first letter, all of it had come out in a burst of self-pity and loathing that Forge had faithfully written down, showed to him, and then ripped to shreds.

About the Author

Dirk is very much an outside kind of man.  He loves travel and seeing new things.  Dirk worked in corporate America for way too long and now spends his days writing, gardening, and taking care of the home he shares with his partner of more than two decades.  He has a Master’s Degree and all the other accessories that go with a corporate job.  But he is most proud of the stories he tells and the life he’s built.  Dirk lives in Pennsylvania in a century old home and is blessed with an amazing circle of friends. 

Author Links

Other Works by Dirk Greyson

Yellowstone Wolves Series

Challenge the Darkness

Darkness Threatening

Darkness Rising

Day and Knight Series

Day and Knight

Sun and Shadow

Dawn and Dusk

Standalone Titles

An Assassin’s Holiday

Flight or Fight

Playing With Fire

Lost Mate

Hell and Back

A Lila Advent Calendar Review Day 14: Cursed Miracles by Meg Harding

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

cursed-miracles-by-meg-hardingTwo hundred years ago on Christmas Eve, William Mashinter was frozen in time, cursed by his wife to roam the world on his own, waiting for the love of his life to find him. The love of his life, whom she killed. Time hasn’t healed this wound, and William is tired of the happy holiday and the constant reminders of a love that’s been taken from him. But then the impossible happens, and maybe… maybe he can get a new Christmas perspective.

Brady Gallagher has lived three different lives, always aware of the first and most important, yet unable to find the man who will fill in the missing pieces and let him know he’s not crazy. He encounters him at a work event, of all places, but is he willing to throw everything else to the wind and embrace the miracle laid out before him?

Cursed Miracles is a lovely short story. One, I hope the author re-writes into a full-length novel. It has all the elements to keep the reader’s attention longer and brings questions of what ifs? The fast pace and those open-ended questions were the only reason this wasn’t a perfect five for me.

I love the idea of two lovers having to find each other to get their happily ever after. William is a strong narrator. We get to experience his pain over his marriage and the resulting separation from Brady. Plus, their love when they get reunited and through the epilogue.

I like the secondary and supporting characters. The author did an excellent job giving the story a nostalgic feel, setting the historic time frame, and bringing them into the future. The real reason behind the cursed isn’t revealed until later in the story, but it makes sense. Overall, this is a great little story to get you in the mood for the holiday season.

Catt Ford did a beautiful cover. It goes with the period in which Brady and William first met and fall in love. The color scheme also matches the dark feeling of the cursed.

Sale Links: Dreamspinner | Amazon | ARe

Book Details:

ebook, 48 pages
Published: December 1, 2016, Dreamspinner Press
ISBN: 9781635331769
Edition Language: English

A MelanieM Review: Fool’s Gold by Sarah Madison

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Rating: 4.5  stars out of 5

Fool's Gold by Sarah MadisonEight years ago, Jake Stanford had it all: a spot on the U.S. Olympic Equestrian Team and the love of his life, Rich Evans. A tragic accident wipes out everything in the blink of an eye. Hard work and sacrifice get him another shot at Olympic Gold, but only if he puts his past behind him and agrees to work with Rich again.

Bound by secrets he cannot share, Rich was forced to give up Jake eight years ago. Now he has a second chance to help Jake realize his dreams. But the secrets that drove them apart haven’t changed, and Rich must face them or risk losing Jake forever.

This is the first book I’ve read by Sarah Madison and its a wonderful one.  Fools’ Gold fully captures the world of world class horses and their equestrians and the sports they participate in.  If you read the author’s notes and realize Madison herself is both a horse owner/lover and eventer, then its no wonder then she gets the details of this world and horses spot on.  But its as a writer that she’s able to make it come alive for not only the reader such as myself who has horses and has been involved in the horse circuit (at a local level) but for the non-horse person as well.

From the drama and intricacies of getting a team, horse and rider, ready for the big league to what makes a great partnership between horse and rider tick, Madison puts it all down on paper and makes it pulse with the rhythm of the hoof beats and the beating of the hearts of the people involved. Its a great story all by its self.  The drive to find the horse with the will to equal your own, what it feels like when that happens.  Its magic.  And Madison is able to convey that here.

Then all that hard work, all that incredible non-verbal special communication that goes on between rider and animal is overlaid with a romance that is both believable and heartbreaking.

Jake Stanford and Rich Evans are terrific characters and a great thwarted romantic duo.  Torn apart by tragedy, it takes something serious to bring them back together, if one of them will agree to a working partnership once more.  The author makes us feel the pain, the longing and also Stanford’s realistic need for Rich the trainer who understand’s not only him but the horses.  I understood so well Rich Evans side of the story having met so many people in his circumstances, just as I expect Sarah Madison has done as well.  The horse world is strewn full of them, such is the passion for these animals and the need not only to be near them but to be riding as well.

Fool’s Gold by Sarah Madison pulls it all together.  A background, the history and world building, the men and their romance and makes it not only believable but heartwarming and special.  Its a world close to my heart and I believe Madison got it right but made it accessible to those unfamiliar with it.  And then topped it off with a romance to root for.  I loved this book.  I think you will too.

The cover art by Reese Dante is terrific and captures a moment perfectly.

Sales Links

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 238 pages
Published July 28th 2016
ASINB01JB1WHHW
Edition LanguageEnglish

I’m Off To GRL and The Week Ahead In Reviews

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GRL 2013logoShort and oh so sweet this week.  I am off to GRL in Atlanta this week and I am beside myself in anticipation.  If you listen hard enough you can hear a little fan girl “squee” here. So many people to meet and3d-person-sit-pile-books-reading-book-26141531 get to talk with, there are authors galore, publishers,, editors, other bloggers and of course readers.

Some authors i have chatted  with electronically just recently, some I have admired for years as well as so many new authors I have yet discover.  Really I am beside myself with joy. I hope to post some pictures and small journal pieces while I am gone but if things get busy (as I anticipate them to do) then, it will wait for a Scattered Thoughts at GRL Blog to pull it all together when I get back.

So here are the book reviews to be posted this week:

Monday, Oct. 14:     Conquer The Flames by Ariel Tachna

Tuesday, Oct. 15:      The Unwanted Collection by Westbrooke Jamison

Wed.., Oct. 16:            Strange Angels by Andrea Speed

Thurs, Oct. 17:            Wireless by L.A. Witt

Friday, Oct.18:           Fool For Love by Cassandra Gold

Sat., Oct. 19:               Justice  (Leopard’s Spots #10) by Bailey Bradford

Review: Summer Lovin Anthology

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Summer Lovin' CoverRemember those long summer, sultry days when the heat beat down, the songs played endlessly into the night and romance was in the air?  Summer Lovin’ anthology brings you five stories of summer love by some of the best authors around. Chrissy Munder, Clare London, JL Merrow, Lou Harper and Josephine Myles put their spin on summer romance from light hearted love to an angst filled romance with the potential for more.

Grab a tall glass, filled with something wonderful and decadent (umbrella optional) and sit back and enjoy five tales of summer lovin’.

Stories in the Anthology are:

“Summer Hire” by Chrissy Munder
“Lost and Found on Lindisfarne” by JL Merrow
“Salt ’n’ Vinegar” by Clare London
“Werewolves of Venice Beach” by Lou Harper
“By Quarry Lake” by Josephine Myles

Usually when I read an anthology, I normally find a story or two that could be skipped over or at least is not up to the quality of the others included.  Not here.  Each one of these stories will resonate with a reader, whether it is the more lighthearted fare of Summer Hire by Chrissy Munder to the somewhat darker Salt n Vinegar by Clare London  They are all quite wonderful and each in of its own makes Summer Lovin’ a must have anthology.  I have a mini review of each story waiting below.

1. Summer Hire by Chrissy Munder: 4.5 stars out of 5

When Jim Carlson accepted a summer job along with his best friend at a repair/summer rental business, he had no idea his was stepping into one of his favorite porn dreams.  Too bad that gorgeous tattooed hunk in the overalls was also his new boss. And to make matters worse, Aaron  is also gay. Worse  because Aaron is remaining decidedly professional even when being friendly.  Jim thinks Aaron’s attitude towards him is because he is unremarkable and kind of dorky.  He is after all a just graduated IT major with no hopes for a job.

Aaron Torres has worked hard to overcome his family and poor start in life.  Now a successful businessman with his own business, Aaron avoids any romantic entanglements with employees, especially seasonal ones that will be gone in the fall with the tourists. Still, there is something so engaging about Jim Carlson.   Jim is clumsy, hardworking, and totally adorable.

As the end of summer draws near, the two men find it impossible to say goodbye.  Can a summer love last a lifetime?

Chrissy Munder takes all those lovely summer memories at the lake or beach and incorporates them into her short story of summer love.  The characters are engaging, the story well done and the relationship between Jim and Aaron realistic yet lighthearted.  No angst just a lovely relationship between two men you will adore.  Great way to set the tone for the collection.  Loved it!

2.  Lost and Found on Lindisfarne” by JL Merrow. Rating 4.75 stars out of 5

Single dad Chris and his 12 year old daughter, Kelis, are vacationing on the holy island of Lindisfarne when they run into a group of Viking re-enactors, village and all. Ulf the berserker, also known as Ian, strikes up a conversation with Chris. One conversation turns into a tour of the historic spots on the island.  When his daughter’s lost necklace makes them miss the ferry home,  Ian invites them to stay with him and the other re-enactors for the night.

Chris and Ian are more than attracted to each other but Chris has Kelis and no one wants a single dad as a  boyfriend do they?

Merrow offers up a tale that is both travelogue and love story and it works on both levels.  I loved all the details about the Viking villagers from making berries as ink to the historic places they visited on tour.  It’s a loving portrait of the island overlayed with a realistic persona of a single dad making up for lost time.  Chris is a wonder of a character and his backstory (and Kelis’) gave depth to the summer love story.   This is no case of instant love but just the beginnings of a wonderful relationship.  JL Merrow is one of my favorite authors.  Her attention to detail and loving descriptions of the settings in her stories make her a must read.  That includes Lost and Found on Lindisfarne.  This is how it starts:

“It was a hot summer’s day on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The lanes were dusty underfoot, the languid breeze was heavy with the scent of the North Sea, and a Viking had just offered to buy my daughter.”

3.  “Salt ’n’ Vinegar” by Clare London. Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Joe and his twin sister, Mandy, were enrolled at Brighton University, so it only made sense that Joe, a Psychology major and Mandy, Food and Hospitality major, live and work together at the fish and chip shop opposite the entrance to the pier. “Chip ‘N Fin”.  The work paid enough for their lease and a little more and the location near the beach make it perfect for Joe to pick up the gorgeous young gay boys for casual fun and sex, especially during the summer months when Brighton was full of tourists.

But all that changed when a shy young man named Steven makes the chip shop his regular stop in the afternoons.  When it becomes apparent that he waits for Joe when ordering, Mandy urges her brother to ask him out. The resulting relationship quickly turns serious to Joe’s surprise as Steven is fun, intelligent and they are absolutely compatible in every way.  But Steven is hiding a dark secret that will threaten their new found love and so much more.

Salt ‘n’ Vinegar is the darkest of the 5 offerings in the Summer Lovin’ anthology.  I liked that it brought a soberness and diversity to this collection that made me not only appreciate its attributes but in comparison, those of the other authors as well.  I liked everything about this story from the setting in Brighton to the characters that felt very authentic from the sibling relationship to the superficiality of Joe’s initial outlook on romance.  My only quibble here is with the ending.  I am not sure how to say this without giving too much away but one character (secondary but important) doesn’t ring true to what I know about those type of individuals.  They do not react by walking away instead the opposite unfortunately holds true.  But that would have called for a much longer story and would not be in keeping with the tone of most of this collection.  Still that imperfection bothered me for quite some time, especially given the  seriousness of the situation.  And while I liked the story, that aspect made this my least favorite story of the anthology.  You tell me what you think.

4.  “Werewolves of Venice Beach” by Lou Harper.  Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Bryan Williams is  house-sitting for the Spencers.  He plans to spend the time deep in study for his architecture degree and maybe some time at the beach.  But Bryan knows that he is a nerd, and that the beach just spells trouble. Little did Bryan know that the trouble was waiting for him next door in a house full of interesting and quirky individuals, starting with the naked man that just ran past his window, up the front stairs into the house next door.

How can you not love a story that starts with “the naked man came out of nowhere”?  I love, love this story.  Bryan is a wonderful, decent young man. The next door people who could have been flat stereotypes instead are fully fleshed out human beings and the romance that springs up between the naked guy and Bryan is full of road bumps and self doubt.  Harper then adds in a bit about a possible werewolf and cracked me up too.  If this wasn’t my favorite, it came close.  I am still smiling as I think about it.

This is how it starts, so irresistible.

The naked man came out of nowhere. One minute I was eating my Wheaties and enjoying the early morning peace and quiet, the next there he was, walking through the neighbor’s front yard. The Spencers’ porch—where I was having my breakfast—sat at least a foot above ground level, providing me with an excellent view over the low stone wall separating the two properties.

5.  By Quarry Lake” by Josephine Myles. Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Tommy Freestone left his hometown 3 years ago to attend the university but the real reason he fled was because of Rob Carver, his best friend.  Now Tommy has returned.  He learned much about himself in his time away, including the fact that he should have never left Rob and the town behind.  Tommy hopes that now that he has accepted his sexuality, he can approach Rob, ask for forgiveness and a new relationship.

Rob Carver has never stopped loving and missing his best friend Tommy.  While Tommy left, Rob continued to work his family’s farm, staying deep within the closet.  His one and only attempt at a romance cost him Tommy so when Tommy returns Rob is determined not to let that happen again.  Just friends, right?  Tommy has other ideas.  Can Tommy woo Rob back or will their past cost them the relationship both want?

This story is in a tie with Werewolves as my favorite stories of the anthology.  Myles pulls me in with her descriptions of sleepy rural Somerset and the two boys who grew up there.  You can feel the heat beating down on the farmland, and the quiet, cool water that awaits Tommy and Rob in their secret lake in the quarry.  It’s engaging, its magical and it feels like the best of every summer you dreamed about.  You, your best friend/secret lover, a hideaway known only to the two of you and a cave.  Those are elements that will speak to every reader, it’s the best of summer hopes and dreams. I loved it all.

One kiss sent Tommy running away but once he realized and accepted that he was gay, it also sent him running back.  It’s the classic love story.  Boy loves Boy, Boy loses Boy, Boy gets Boy back.  That never gets old and Myles did a great job with her take on that classic theme.  Again no instant love but an old one reignited, totally believable and satisfying.  Especially the scene with Rob’s Dad, how I loved that scene, just perfection.  It pulls you in right from the opening line:

The river wasn’t the same as when he’d left it.

I can’t remember when was the last time I enjoyed an anthology as much as I did this time.  It wasn’t just that it happened to fall as August was waning, or that pictures from a cousin brought back memories of times at the beach.  It was the hopes and dreams these stories evoked inside me, the smells and sounds of summer overlaid with memories of fleeting romances that somehow you always wished would linger long after the vacation was over but never did.   I highly recommend this collection and loved them all, although not equally.  You will have your own favorites.  Let me know which ones they were.  Pick it up and return to your own summer recollections and dreams.

Cover art by Lou Harper works for the collection.  It feels like romance and summer.

Book Details:

ebook, 247 pages
Pink Squirrel Press
Published August 14th 2013 by Pink Squirrel Press
edition language English
other editions
None found