A MelanieM Pre-Release Review: Savior (415 Ink #2) by Rhys Ford

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

 

A savior lies in the heart of every good man, but sometimes only love can awaken the man inside the savior.

The world’s had it out for San Francisco firefighter Mace Crawford from the moment he was born. Rescued from a horrific home life and dragged through an uncaring foster system, he’s dedicated his life to saving people, including the men he calls his brothers. As second-in-command of their knitted-together clan, Mace guides his younger siblings, helps out at 415 Ink, the family tattoo shop, and most of all, makes sure the brothers don’t discover his darkest secrets.

It’s a lonely life with one big problem—he’s sworn off love, and Rob Claussen, one of 415 Ink’s tattoo artists, has gotten under his skin in the worst way possible.

Mace’s world is too tight, too controlled to let Rob into his life, much less his heart, but the brash Filipino inker is there every time Mace turns around. He can’t let Rob in without shaking the foundations of the life he’s built, but when an evil from his past resurfaces, Mace is forced to choose between protecting his lies and saving the man he’s too scared to love.

Savior is the second in the 415 Ink series, the Tattoo shop and  its family this story and series is being built around.  If I loved the first story, then I also completely fell in love with the broken men here as well.  I can see they are all going to effect me that way.  Rhys Ford’s men have a  habit of doing that.

Mace Crawford was introduced to us in Rebel but it wasn’t really his story.  That we get here and what a nightmare it was and  still is because he remains firmly in the grips of what his past, his horror of a childhood  and genetic family has done to him.  It’s given him an emotional mindset that sends him running through the city in an endless game of tag because to remain still scares him, keeps him up and in search of comforting loud noises around him for silence haunts him, and leaves his family of brothers clueless as to the depths of pain and terror he has truly faced in his short lifetime because he fears to tell them.  Complicated doesn’t even begin to cover it.  Mace is a Rhys Ford character in spades and he’s amazing.

The man he can’t keep his eyes off of?  That would be the one employed by his brothers at 415 Ink. Rob Claussen, a tattoo artist, with a lively endearing attitude hiding his own story of rejection and survival.  Rob is the light to Mace’s darkness and Ford makes the pull of attraction between them visceral.

Mace fights his feelings for Rob even as Rob fights for Mace. Ford brings the  monster at the heart of Mace’s past to shatter everything, something you expect from her stories but its still so shattering when it happens…every time.

There are so many wonderful other characters here.  From the Chinese “Grandmother” Mace checks in on in his building to Rob’s best friend to of course, all the brothers…everyone here is someone you enjoy spending time with.  Which is a great thing because they all reappear in each other’s stories to my joy.  There is a great lump of a dog and a child that all are involved in raising,  a house that is ever expanding/repairing/improving itself, and a cobbled together band of brothers you take to heart with their scars inside and out, wounded souls, and need for HEA.

I’m so happy we are only on the second story.  I can’t wait for more.  What a series this is turning out to be.

And yes I highly recommend it.

Cover Artist: Reece Notley.  I like the cover.  It brands the series but wish it was more Rob and less Mace tbh.

 Pre Order Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Expected publication: September 18th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640808614
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series 415 Ink :

Rebel
Savior

RJ Scott has a New Book And New Series Out! Check Out Kyle (Legacy #1) by R.J. Scott (giveaway)

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Release Blitz & Giveaway

RJ Scott – Kyle (Legacy #1)

Author: RJ Scott
 
Release Date: September 2 2016
 
Length: 
 
 

Blurb:

Two men destroyed by the past learn to live—and love—again.
Kyle Braden has nowhere else to go. With no money, no prospects, and no drive to be something else, he turns to the only man who promises him help. Jack Campbell-Hayes wants to show Kyle that he can be more than he ever thought.

Kyle gets to realize just how far he’s come from being the scarred man who shut everyone out, when the first person through the doors of Legacy Ranch carries a gun and threatens to kill anyone who comes near him. Kyle wants to be the man that someone turns to for help and it scares him.

Thrown out of his house and with three years on the streets marking every inch of his body, Jason Smith is scared. His life is an evil mess of hate and despair, and even the offer of a fresh start and a clean bed isn’t enough for him to hand over his gun. He’s cheated death twice, and he’s not letting there be a third time—he might not be so lucky.

For these broken men, Legacy Ranch offers more than a place to live and work.

It offers hope.

A new story set in the world of Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes and the Double D Ranch, Texas.


About the Author ~ R.J. Scott

RJ Scott is the bestselling gay romance author of over ninety MM romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing. 
 
RJ also writes MF romance under the name Rozenn Scott.
 
The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.
 

 Giveaway

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And check out Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words’s review here on 9/14.

A Stella Review: Until September by Chris Scully

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Rating:  5 out of 5 stars          ★★★★★

UntilSeptember_600x900As a teenager, Archie Noblesse clawed his way out of the poverty, heartache, and abuse of the reservation and left his family behind. Desperate to shake the shadow of his past, he reinvents himself as Archer Noble, an outspoken blogger and controversial author who lives only for himself. But when his beloved sister dies, Archer is saddled with guardianship of his niece and nephew.

Elementary school teacher Ryan Eriksson is devastated when his best friend Marguerite is killed, leaving her two young children orphaned. Helping Archer with his new responsibilities eases his grief, but when Archer offers him custody of the children, Ryan’s left with an impossible choice: get the family he’s always wanted, or respect Margie’s wishes and convince Archer to give parenting—and his heritage—a chance.

To buy time, Ryan promises to stay for the summer, hoping that Archer will change his mind and fall for the kids. But Archer’s reluctant, and the growing attraction between him and Ryan complicates matters. Legal decisions must be made, and soon, before Ryan returns to school. But with hearts involved, more than just the children’s future is on the line.

I read the Inseparable series by Chris Scully two of years ago and when I saw Until September with the great cover and the interesting blurb, with promises of a lot of emotional moments and a couple of kids, I was soon conquered. I knew I wasn’t going to be disappointed and I was right. I found it an amazing read, it simply took my heart.

The first chapter was hard to read. Abused by his uncle since he was a child, at sixteen Archie is tricking behind school to earn some money and move from the hell Manitoba Reservation has become. His only light is Margie, his baby sister, thirteen years old, the only person he truly loves. He was the one to protect and feed her when their mother left them alone. Leaving the place is his only chance at survival and staying away from all the drugs and child abusers the Cree population suffers. Now that the uncle is dead Archie needs to be strong, abandon Margie and save himself.

Then the story switched to twenty years later but that only first chapter broke my heart. Just a few pages helped me understand a lot about Archie, his deep connection with his sister and the mask he used to hide his scars from indelible things from her.

Twenty years later Archie is Archer Noble, new name, new place, new money, but the fear of losing everything still clings to him. He is now on tour, promoting his new book, when a call comes that will change his whole life.

Ryan Eriksson is a 25 years old teacher, with little social life, who has found in Marguerite, the mum of one of his student, a sister he never had, they shares secrets and hopes. He supports her after the loss of her husband and she knew about his desire to build a family and the disaster with his ex boyfriend.

When tragedy happens, Archer and Ryan need to be together and try to give a family to Dillon and Emma, Marguerite’s children. But Archer can’t take care of them, he still has a lot of work to do on himself. He can’t be a parent, he’s not ready. But he’s willing to give this family thing a try for a bit. Then he will be on his own and the children with Ryan. Ryan has until September to convince Archer that he belongs with his niece and nephew.

I have to be honest and say Until September is one of the best stories I read this new year. It has all the themes I love to read about, moreover it was delivered to my heart with an easiness and straightforwardness, I hardly had found somewhere else. I fell in love with the children and the MCs. Archer and Ryan both changed so much during the book and the development of their relationship, even if slow, it never bored me, on the contrary, it was right for a book like this.

If you want a book emotional that will put a smile on your face till the end, a tear on your cheek a couple of times, full of sweetness and the cuteness only children can give, you can’t miss Until September. I adored it. Plus, it was beautifully written, I felt every single word. 5 full stars!

The cover art by Lou Harper is perfect. It fits the story, cute and great in the colors. I love it.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 298 pages
Published February 8th 2016 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626493553 (ISBN13: 9781626493551)
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: Sinner’s Gin (Sinners #1) by Rhys Ford

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Rating:  4.5 stars out of 5

Sinner's Gin coverThere’s a dead man in Miki St. John’s vintage Pontiac GTO, and he has no idea how it got there.

After Miki survives the tragic accident that killed his best friend and the other members of their band, Sinner’s Gin, all he wants is to hide from the world in the refurbished warehouse he bought before their last tour. But when the man who sexually abused him as a boy is killed and his remains are dumped in Miki’s car, Miki fears Death isn’t done with him yet.

Kane Morgan, the SFPD inspector renting space in the art co-op next door, initially suspects Miki had a hand in the man’s murder, but Kane soon realizes Miki is as much a victim as the man splattered inside the GTO. As the murderer’s body count rises, the attraction between Miki and Kane heats up. Neither man knows if they can make a relationship work, but despite Miki’s emotional damage, Kane is determined to teach him how to love and be loved — provided, of course, Kane can catch the killer before Miki becomes the murderer’s final victim.

I  arrived late at the Rhys Ford doorstep and am now reaping the benefits of being able to binge read through Ford’s amazing series starting with Sinners. What a rich tapestry Rhys Ford weaves with this first tale in the series, Sinner’s Gin.  A  musician, wounded in body and soul, a modern Gaelic warrior, read that police officer, who sees the treasure buried beneath the scabs and scars and a murderer bringing the past back with him makes this a story I couldn’t put down from the moment I started it. And did I mention a dog so entreatingly, believably scruffy and well, terrier true that he stole my heart as well?  I wolfed down Sinner’s Gin the way Dude would a fine piece of steak, ok, any piece of steak.  With groans of appreciation and a longing for more.

Sinner’s Gin, a band destroyed by a drunken driver which left one member alive to mourn the loss of not just the band but its members he called family, and the man Damien that Miki thought of as his brother.  After a tramatic prologue, Ford drops us into what’s left of Miki St. John’s life and its depressed and ugly.  Subsisting on booze and junk food, the only thing keeping Miki from death is the thought that Damie’s hateful parents would inherent  his music rights (and other things) and use them in ways Damien opposed.  That fight keeps him alive, just barely.  Ford brings this despondent man alive, from his caustic thoughts to his life at the stripped down warehouse which we see through his eyes.    It will take several grisly events and a scruffy terrier to get Miki moving again, the foremost is a eviscerated body dumped on the GTO Damien bought him.  That brings his past back and Kane Morgan into his life.

Kane Morgan is not a solitary creation.  And how I thank Rhys Ford for this.  Kane Morgan stomps into the story and our hearts carrying with him the Clan Morgan from mother Brigid who could teach the warrior queen Boadicea a thing or two to Donal, the “da”, a father so huge and elemental that he is frequently described as Ent like (a description I not only loved but could see).  It doesn’t stop there.  Conner, the oldest brother, the twins Kiki and Ryan, Braden, Riley, Ian and Quinn.  And yes I know I got the order wrong. Six boys and two girls.  A cousin, Sionn on the Finnegan side.  You take all that Irish, all that Gaelic love, heart, and  fire and when added together it become narrative magic.  One that carries over from book to book.  Oh, and except for Quinn, who in another book or alternate universe would have turned out to be a mage, they are all law enforcement officers or firefighters or something just fierce.  They are that known entity….an Irish dynasty found in police and firefighter families everywhere.

Not one of which is slighted in the character department.  Each person is rooted deeply not only in the family and story but in the authenticity of their characters.  In their very believability they carry weight within them, a depth of feeling and soul.  But each is so different from the other, even if only slightly.  And its that slight difference that makes them feel so much like family, along with a dialog and family dynamics that anyone with siblings will  recognize.

Yes, I have to mention Dude.  I have terriers.  Dude is a terrier and continuing character.  Yes, you should never give them broccoli.  The farts are catastrophic and profound.  It speaks of research or at least close proximity with terriers who are fond of greens.

The plot and killer will make you heartsick at times and adds in an element that continues through all the stories. That of musicians with wounded, abused backgrounds that will find their way into a new band with Mike St. John and into the Morgan family Clan. Music runs through this story and series, music is in lyrics at the beginning of the chapters or in mentions of favorite bands beings ticked off by Morgan sons.  It flows everywhere.

By the end of this amazing story I was  reaching for Whiskey and Wry (Sinner’s #2), hearing the beat of the Bodhrán pounding in my ears, growing louder as well as my anticipation for what I knew was coming next.  The startling ending of Sinner’s Gin had me on edge and now I’m more than ready for my journey to continue with the Clan Morgan and the musicians they love.

I highly recommend this story and the next, and well, the entire series.  Rhys Ford has quickly become a “go to” author for me  I love it when that happens.  Need a new author to love?  A new series to read?  Grab up Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford and get started.  Amazing people and things await you!

Cover art by Reece Notley.  I really like the covers for this book and the series, all done by the same artist.  Great job.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 260 pages
Published December 24th 2012 by Dreamspinner press
original title Sinner’s Gin
ISBN 1623802490 (ISBN13: 9781623802493)
edition language English
series Sinners #1:

 

 

 

A MelanieM Review: Little Wolf (Beings in Love #4) by R. Cooper

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Little Wolf coverOn the run from his old-blood werewolf family, Tim Dirus finds himself in Wolf’s Paw, one of the last surviving refuges from the days when werewolves were hunted by humans and one of the last places Tim wants to be. Kept away from other wolves by his uncle, Tim knows almost nothing about his own kind except that alpha werewolves only want to control and dominate a scrawny wolf like him.

Tim isn’t in Wolf’s Paw an hour before he draws the attention of Sheriff Nathaniel Neri, the alphaest alpha in a town full of alphas. Powerful, intimidating, and the most beautiful wolf Tim has ever seen, Nathaniel makes Tim feel safe for reasons Tim doesn’t understand. For five years he’s lived on the run, in fear of his family and other wolves. Everything about Wolf’s Paw is contrary to what he thought he knew, and he is terrified. Fearing his mate will run, Sheriff Nathaniel must calm his little wolf and show him he’s more than a match for this big, bad alpha.

I have read most of the books in R Cooper’s Beings In Love series and have loved them all,  Little Wolf included.  I admit to laughing out loud, emitting more than a few snorts over the dialog and sighing over the very hot sex scenes with Nate and Tim.  But I also recognize that this book also presented more challenges to the reader than I was expecting.  Those issues impeded my connections to the story and to the characters, so let’s get to those first before we get to the story’s strengths.

What were those challenges?  The main issue was the amount of time it took for me to become engaged with the characters and the town of Wolf’s Paw.  Tim is our narrator and we drop into the story as Tim, our “Little Wolf” is watching the mounted tv at the cafe he works at.  The tv is tuned to the soap opera, Dierdre’s Secret and it includes the  first ever “known”  werewolf actor.  The opening paragraphs is jammed full of information about the soap opera, the cafe and its denizens, the town, and the world around it.  We learn that supernatural beings are now a part of the  “normal” world, and the cafe Tim works at is owned by a fairy named Robin’s Egg (for the longest time I thought that was the name of the cafe instead of the owner).

We find out that the town itself, Wolf’s Paw is full of supernatural beings of all types, but mostly populated by weres and humans.  In fact so much world building is thrown at us that its hard to separate out the details we need at the time from the massive amounts of “universe building”being given to us and clump them back into piles of information that make sense to the plot and character.  It took chapters to figure out that Wolf’s Paw, the town, has historically been a sanctuary for those in need.  It has fed them, hidden them, and  protected them at great cost to itself, a situation that continues to this day.  But it is also, oddly enough, a town that puts on strange festivals, geared towards dating, and interspecies sex.  Yep, a sanctuary that sanctions sexual relations between weres, humans, and the like during festival time. Think Tinder or Grinder as a festival, and you’ve got the picture.  That’s just one of the puzzles the reader will have to make sense of when the book opens.

The thing is, Tim’s thoughts jumps around from person to person, from thought to thought that its hard at first to get a idea of his character and situation at  Wolf’s Paw.  His character, inner self, is elusive.  To us and to the rest of the towns folk.  And that fact makes it hard for us to connect with him at the beginning.  I had to plug away at chapter after chapter before Tim solidified into someone I not only cared about but truly loved.

It should never have taken so long.

I understand why R Cooper fashioned Tim and presented him this way but, frankly, it hurts the narrative.  Tim is in fight or flight mode…all the time.  He’s unbelievably stressed out, he’s being hunted, he’s hiding, and against his better judgement, he’s coming to care for those around him…not that he would ever admit it to himself or others.  Plus just the appearance of the town’s sexy Alpha Sheriff makes Tim’s sense go haywire and brings out emotions he doesn’t understand or know how to deal with.

It’s Nate that allows the reader to connect with Tim and begin to understand why he behaves as he does.  Tim is rude, cavalier about peoples opinions (on the outside) and more than a bit of a jerk.  But around Nate, that starts to change even while we still hear the snarky thoughts inside Tim’s head.  Nate the were who appears perfect on the outside and yet is hurting deeply inside while still trying to behave with honor and respect.  I adored Nate from the beginning, and through his interactions with Tim  the story starts to jell.

From that moment on, most of the chaff of the plot falls away, and we are left with the grains, the story we wanted all along.  As our understanding of Tim’s background and true personality fall into place, the dialog snaps with intelligence, verve and vitality.  It’s funny, and poignant and, heartrending at times.  And before we are even aware that it’s happened,  our thoughts and hearts are fully committed to Tim, Nate, and the rest of the complicated people in this oh so unusual town.

This is a long story, 380 pages worth of complicated people and history.  Most of which I loved.  Parts of which frustrated me more than a little.  For a smart, intelligent, and yes, naive young were, Tim makes you want to shake him most of the time.  I think the author has his ignorance go on far too long.  R Cooper has the other characters strewing clues about a certain situation all over the dang story surface, and yet, this brilliant young wolf doesn’t pick up on it?  That got harder and harder to buy into as the plot wore on.

Yet for all these issues, most of the time I still wanted to give this perplexing story a 5 star review!  Why?  Those same characters and situations that made me want to gnash my teeth are the same characters that had me reading until early in the morning.  I had to see the personal explosions I knew were going to happen, the clash of hunted vs hunter…to see evolve what Tim had been telling us all along…that the Little Wolf has teeth, claws and the predator abilities of a piranha, or werewolf as the case is here.   What scenes those were!  A white knuckle ride several times over, full of drama and action that had you holding your breath in suspense…it made that dense beginning so worthwhile to have plowed through.

R Cooper writes in the foreword that this story took her 2 years to write, and it shows, for good and for bad.  With a firmer editor, tighter reorganization, and a little ruthless pruning,  Little Wolf would be the 5 star read it has the promise of being. As it is, I give it 4 stars and the recommendation that, even if you want to stop reading several chapters in, keep at it.  Both Tim, and the story are deserving of your attention and time.   Have patience and you will be rewarded with a story and couple that will have you howling for more of them and this special town of Wolf’s Paw.

Cover art by Paul Richmond is perfect, at least for the little  wolf.  He has a feral quality that works.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 380 pages, also in DSP Paperback
Published May 8th 2015 by Dreamspinner Press LLC
ISBN139781632169761
edition languageEnglish
seriesBeings in Love #4

Books in the Beings in Love Series:

A MelanieM Review: The Truth as He Knows It (Perspectives #1) by A.M. Arthur

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Lies are the chains that keep you weighed down at rock bottom.

The Truth As He Knows It coverNoel Carlson is now living as a police officer in the town of Stratton, Pennsylvania.  The scars he carries, on body and in mind, are not the only reminders of the gay bashing in college.  It also left his first love and best friend Tristan institutionalized with brain damage. And Noel his only visitor.  Weekly visits to Tristan and some of the comments Noel has overheard at work have kept him firmly in the closet, even to his partner.  Then an official call to an apartment building on a nuisance violation changes all that.

The loud noises from an out of control female bachelor party brings Off. Noel Carlson and his partner face to face with a tied up, dazed male stripper. Since the stripper had violated no laws, Noel lets him go.  Later Noel finds that he can’t forget the gorgeous man in the thong with the butterfly tattoo.

Shane Joseph has had a terrible life and it has left him with overwhelming debts to repay, especially to the brother who sacrificed nearly everything for him. His two jobs, in a deli and as a stripper, leave him no time for a social life.  But when his last job brings a gorgeous cop to his rescue, Shane thinks his might be missing out on something.  Another encounter at the deli reinforces that impression, especially when it seems that Noel wants more than sex and a quick hookup.  Soon a shaky bond is formed and Shane and Noel start to hope that they might even have a future together.

But Shane has huge secrets that he is hiding from everyone, including his brother.  And past history has taught him that lying brings less pain than telling the truth.  But now those lies are piling up and threatening to drown Shane.  Shane wants to come clean to those he loves, including Noel.  But when the revelations are done, will Shane still have anyone to come home to?

Whew!  What an emotionally wrenching read.  A. M. Arthur certainly knows how to build a story complete with strong, vulnerable characters you grow to care about.  A carryover from Arthur’s Cost of Repairs (book and series), the reverberations of the events and gay bashing continue to spread through the storyline here.  The Truth As He Knows It is the first in Arthur’s new Perspectives series that will feature characters from the Cost of Repairs books and new characters such as Shane.  But honestly, as well written as this story is, I’m not sure I’m going to continue on.

As I stated before this author creates believable, viable human beings for her stories.  The settings, locations, and events that occur translate as authentic and real.  For example, the beaten-up old trailer and disreputable, grungy trailer park where Shane and his brother Jason, reside, is so vividly described that the reader will have no problem visualizing such a desperately poor and hard scrabble sort of existence both brothers have been living.  That aura of desperation and near poverty coats Jason and Shane, leaving them both with a grayness that can’t be washed off.  That’s marvelous writing.  And it continues with Noel and Tristan’s relationship, and carries over into all the interchanges and dialog between every main character here.  So why wouldn’t I want to continue? Why? Because of the unrelenting angst and pain these characters go through.

These characters have been abused, raped, imprisoned, beaten, left brain damaged, scarred, impoverished, victimized in almost every way and it’s not just in the past.  Its past, present, (and if I read the clues right), it continues well into their future…books that is.  The pain and abuse rains down on these people like a 40 year flood that’s just getting started.  Just when you think there’s a possibility of something positive happening or a hopeful turn of events,  the author beats the crap out of that bead of light with a steel baseball bat.  It’s not just the characters that are left reeling, but the reader as well.

I can take angst if it is balanced out with scenes that leave the characters and the reader feeling happy or hopeful or even satisfied that all the time spent reading that story was worthwhile.  And for me, that just didn’t happen.  I felt as beaten up as the characters when it was all over.  And the hints and clues laid down by A.M. Arthur for Tristan’s story made me feel worse.

There are other elements that some readers will have issues with like the constant lying and the out of relationship sex, neither of which bothered me. A. M. Arthur lays out a rational and logical reason for both of those things happening, including an abusive background for Shane that makes his bad decisions seem realistic if sad.  No, it’s that I want more in a romance, more love, more hope, less constant  sorrow.  So, I am leaving this story and series right here.  Not all readers will feel the same.  Others will have a higher tolerance for hurt/comfort or near constant angst then I do, and they will adore this story and most like the series too.  Plus its just that well written that you shouldn’t be surprised to find the tears flowing as certain scenes unfold. So…what’s left to say.

I’m not giving any recommendations one way or the other.  Instead, you know what type of reader you are so I will leave the decision up to you.  I have read and loved A.M. Arthur’s stories in the past, including some in the Cost of Repairs series like Foundation of Trust.  Arthur is a terrific writer. I will continue to pick up and read Arthur’s new books as they arrive (mostly).  I will let you all into what I discover!

Cover artist: ?  I loved that cover, intimate and sexy.  Too bad I have no idea who created it.

Sales Links:  Samhain Publishing      All Romance (ARe)         Amazon   Buy it here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 289 pages
Expected publication: February 10th 2015 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
ASINB00ODW2IEM
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://amarthur.blogspot.com.au/
seriesPerspectives #1

Review: Black Dog (Bannon’s Gym #1) by Cat Grant

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Black Dog coverEddie Roscoe has just arrived at his family’s diner to open up and start preparing for the breakfast run when he sees a young boy and drunk fighting in the back alley.  After breaking it up, Eddie notices the kid’s bruises and other injuries arent’ exactly fresh.  And from the backback the kid was fighting over and the state of the clothes the boy was wearing, Eddie can tell the kid is homeless.  An offer of breakfast and a job brings young Tom into Eddie and his mother’s home and their family.   But it’s another side of Eddie’s life that will bring a measure of safety to Tom as well as bring an old friend back into Eddie’s life.

Eddie Roscoe and Danny Bannon have loved and fought for over 15 years.  But a shared trauma and the resulting guilt has kept them apart and sabotaged every effort they make to reunite.   Now the arrival of Tom Delaney, a teenage runaway, will be the spark that brings them back together and units them in a common cause, that of keeping Tom safe while training him to be a mixed martial arts fighter.

Tom Delaney is young, angry and hurt.  And he has aspects of his past life that he is keeping hidden from those trying to help him, namely Eddie, Danny, and Gloria’s Eddie’s mother.  And when his past, in the form of his abusive father, tracks him down, it will take everyone around him to keep him safe and out of jail.

Black Dog is an emotionally gripping story, one that kept me awake in the wee morning hours until I had finished it.  And that emotional connection is due to Cat Grant’s damaged and vulnerable characters and the situation they find themselves in.  The people she created for Black Dog (and the series) are ones easy to connect with and they engage our sympathies immediately.  First of all, we meet Eddie arriving in his old Ford 150 pickup to open the diner his grandfather started and he now owns with his mother, Gloria.  The scene is vivid, so much so we can almost hear his footsteps sloshing through the puddles of water on the asphalt outside the  diner.   Grant sets not only the tone for the characters in her settings but for the rest of the story as well.  A slightly run down family diner in a neighborhood that has never seen better days, its interior still proclaims its 50’s origin.  And Gloria, Eddie’s constantly smoking mother is recognizable to all who have visited establishments like these.  I absolutely love the character of Gloria Roscoe and some of the finest scenes in this book happen in her presence.

Eddie and Danny are also realistic characters.  Their combined past contains a traumatic event that neither man has dealt with.  It has destroyed their relationship as friends and lovers.  And neither man knows how to get that back or get past the accident that has twisted their lives and emotions.  It’s powerful stuff and Cat Grant delivers their pain and angst to the reader with authenticity and detailed scenes that will resonate with the reader.  Here is a scene from the beginning, with Tom and Eddie at the diner after the fight:

Tom nudged his plate away and burped. Two spots of bright pink popped high on his cheeks. “That was really good. What can I do to pay for it?”

“It’s on the house.”

His eyes widened. “Seriously? I can’t even sweep up or do dishes or something?”

I pulled a quart of waffle batter out of the old green Frigidaire and swung around to study him. Reminded me of me at his age, all quiet intensity with a streak of sheer panic beneath the surface. Just like any other kid forced to strike out on his own. One thing was clear: he came from money. St. Pat’s wasn’t cheap, and nobody got straight white teeth like his without a few years in braces. From the way he spoke, he was no dummy. What was a kid like him doing living on the street?

Maybe I wasn’t born rich, but I knew what he was feeling. That hollowed-out ache inside, the panic and fear of seeing every new person as a potential threat. Where would I be now if no one had offered me a helping hand? And no, one lousy meal didn’t count.

“Leave your stuff in back,” I said. “There’s a broom and an extra apron in the closet. Start with the pantry. It’s a mess in there.”

“Okay.” He sprang up and headed in back, brushing past Gloria, who’d just come up to grab a stack of paper napkins. Her gaze followed him through the swinging doors.

“You sure that’s a good idea?” That was what she always said. And if the bemused tilt of her head was any clue, she knew she wasn’t about to dissuade me.

“If you want to clean up back there, have at it.”

“You and your charity cases,” she said, coughing out a raspy Marlboro laugh and planting a kiss on my cheek.

I’d caught something else in the kid’s eyes too. Frustration, determination, anger. Whatever mixture of emotions that spurred him to deal that drunk a beat down. He’d acted pretty matter of fact about his scrapes and bruises, but those other marks on his face . . . well, he hadn’t gotten them walking into a door.

That is such a telling scene, revealing so much about all the characters involved from Gloria and her ever present cigarettes to the fear in Tom’s eyes. It remarkable and it hooks the reader in emotionally from the start.  We care for these people and we need to know what will happen next.

Black Dog is the first in the Bannon’s Gym series and I hope that these people will form the core of the series as Tom fights his way to the top of the MMA profession. The author makes the gym and those learning to fight there accessible to the reader.  We learn about MMA and the fight training methodology common to the mixed martial arts.  There is a lot of leeway with a gym as a setting in a series and I can’t wait to see how Grant develops this series.

I will admit that I came close to giving this story 5 stars but several aspects prevented that.  The first being a pov that is constantly switching narrators.  I wish Grant has stuck to just Eddie as the pov. He has a singular voice that rendered an intimacy to the narrative that is lost when the pov switches to another character or third person.  If the story and characters had not been as great as they were, this unevenness in style would have brought the rating down even further.  And the other is an awkward sentence that signals the end of the story.  The scene itself works but it needed a little more, whether it was dialog or action, to feel complete.  Still I felt happy at the end and ready for more.  More of Danny, Eddie, Tom and Gloria, and more of Bannon’s gym.

So yes, I highly recommend this story.  Go grab it up and get reading.  I have added Cat Grant to my must have authors list.  I think after this book you will be doing the same.

Cover art is great, love the black and white design and the tone. Perfect for the story

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 82 pages
print book,  130 pages
Published August 2013 by Cat Grant Books
ISBN13 9780989694919
edition language English
series Bannon’s Gym

Review: The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B.G.Thomas

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The Boy Who Came IN From The ColdLife has not been easy for Todd Burton.  He lives in a small town, Buckman, Missouri.  His father died when he was young and his mother remarried to an abusive man who makes Todd’s life miserable in every way possible, including calling him a “fag”.  All Todd has ever wanted was to be a chef but his dream and small efforts are ridiculed by mother and stepfather alike. One night, the taunts and abuse become too much, and Todd flees his home and town, running away to Kansas City to pursue his dream of being a chef.  But the reality of life in Kansas City is a harsh one and soon Todd is left out in the cold, evicted from his apartment with no where to turn.

Gabe Richards, a wealthy businessman, finds Todd outside his apartment building freezing to death.  The sight of the young man brings back memories that Gabe thought he had buried.  He offers Todd a place to spend the night and food to eat and as the men get to know one another, the night becomes a week, and then more.  But the situation is fraught with tension and awkwardness.  Todd has always assumed he was straight, so why is he checking out Gabe like he would a girl?  Could he actually be gay?  And for Gabe, Todd brings up memories of another young man in Gabe’s past, one associated with pain and betrayal.

Gabe and Todd find themselves falling in love despite their pasts.  For Todd, being evicted and coming in from the cold might be the best thing that ever happened to him.

I have some very mixed feelings about this story because I really liked parts of it.  B.G. Thomas has a lovely writing style and his characters, specifically, Todd Burton and Peter Wagner, a friend and employer of Gabe, are fantastic.  Todd is someone we could empathize immediately.  Even when he is using offensive words like “fag”, we know its because those words have been thrown at and around him all his life.  It’s a knee jerk reaction, especially in someone questioning his true sexuality.  I have to admit having to suspend some belief in Todd’s miraculous culinary skills. Given his background, would someone like Todd really know what to do with fennel or taste white pepper in wine? But as I love a cooking element in a story, I can accept his interest and gift in putting flavors together to create something wonderful.  Todd’s questioning of his sexuality is another terrific aspect of this story, although his leap into bed with Gabe as well as his embrace of his “gayness” came a little too fast for someone who just found out that they were gay.  But again, I can accept that too because Thomas made it seem realistic.

Peter Wagner, vaguely British, kind and over the top is perhaps my favorite character,  Think Peter O’Toole in My Favorite Year and you have some approximation of Peter Wagner.  I loved him and every scene he appeared in.  Thomas must have a real fondness for him too because his descriptions of Wagner and his actions are vivid, almost Technicolor, trying hard to express the heart and vitality of this man.   Here is a sample of Peter at his best:

“Yes,” Peter decreed. “Sexily aromatic, like linen sheets after making love on an island in Greece.” Peter took another sip. “It is superb. And now if I might?” Peter lifted a fork as if it were a conductor’s baton, then a knife, cut into the thigh Todd had placed on his plate and sliced it quickly and masterfully. He brought the morsel to his mouth, stopped, inhaled. Then popped it into his mouth.

Todd held his breath.

A corner of Peter’s mouth slowly tipped upward. He opened his eyes. “Heaven,” he whispered.

Todd felt a rush. He had no idea why. He had no idea who this strange man was with his flourishes and declarations, his nimble swagger, and the graceful way he moved his hands and arms and lanky body. Yet, the compliment Peter had given him might have been the best in his entire life.

And we get that because Peter has become so real to us as well that we understand the sentiments involved.  Great job, great characters indeed.

Gabe Richards is a little more problematic for me.  It is with him and an event and people in his past that I have issues with. Gabe is described as a successful businessman with a painful past that both Peter and Gabe’s friend/assistant are aware of.  This past involves a young man who had been sexually abused by his father for years and was living on the streets when Gabe found him.  This character and his situation are the dramatic fulcrum upon which Gabe’s past angst pivots.  And this is the element that dragged the story down for me.

It’s my opinion that if an author uses rape or sexual abuse as an element in their story, they have a responsibility to treat it as seriously and realistically as the topic deserves.  This includes have the adult characters suggest counseling and police action for sexual abuse/rape, especially in underage victims involved in this storyline.  The fact that this is fiction does not reduce that responsibility for the author.  But when an abused underage young man is instead “adopted” as a son, calls the men who adopted him “Daddy One” and “Daddy Two” and is then looked at as a possible bedmate by both of them, then the subsequent story is undermined for me.  That this young man is then also portrayed not as a victim but instigator of a painful event, then that aspect of the story becomes an object of disbelief.  For that element to have been realistically portrayed, the author should have gone into the ramifications of parental sexual abuse, including perhaps the need for validation by a father figure and other long term aspects of paternal sexual abuse, especially if untreated.  I am aware that this is only a part of Thomas’ story but it is still a small but important one.  The author could have left this element out all together and chosen to make this a shallow opportunistic young man.  If Thomas had, this would have been an altogether different review.  As it is, it reduced the rating almost to a 2.

Outside of the sexual abuse section , this story also contains a case of “instant love”, something I am seeing a lot of these days.  Gabe and Todd have one week together, during which  time Todd not only comes to grips with his sexuality but also falls in love with Gabe, who very conveniently falls in love back.  Sigh.  Gabe’s past “homelessness” really isn’t, as he left his apartment for the night.  So not the same as Todd.  Again, a suspension of belief is called for. The author then wraps up all the loose story lines in a manner that seems a little pat. Again, while I could accept most of them, the resolution of the plot with the young sexually abused man is handled just as badly as was the character’s introduction. He runs off to confront his father by himself.  No police involved,  no one helping him because “he has to do it by himself”. And the last chance to redeem this plot element is lost.

Why give this story a three rating?  I had to ask myself that question too.  I did love parts of The Boy Who Came In From The Cold.  I loved some of the characters and plot points.  The parts that bothered me about the story are, in my opinion, hugely relevant, enough so to drag an otherwise charming story downward. So the writing, and some of the characters saved this story for me enough to give it a 3 star rating.  For other readers, maybe they will skim over those sections that bothered me or it won’t be so obvious as to be an issue for them.  You can make up your own mind.

Cover art by Aaron Anderson is lovely except (and I can’t believe I am saying this) but the model is a little too old for the character of Todd.  Usually it is the other way around.  But the graphics and overall feel is lovely.

Book Details:

ebook, 284 pages
Published May 29th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 162380714X (ISBN13: 9781623807146)
edition language English

Sunday, Glorious Sunday and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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Finally, our weather seems to have evened out into a semblance of spring and the day is truly glorious.  The sun is shining, the day is warming up and a slight breeze is ruffling the remaining cherry blossom petals on the trees that line the streets of my neighborhood.  My hostas are now at least 4 inches above the ground, my early azaleas are starting to bloom, and the trees all around are raising almost single handedly the pollen count for the entire Metropolitan area.  In fact all my gardens are shaking off their winter doldrums, waking up to the warm spring sunlight and recent nourishing rains.

I love this time of year, the season of rebirth and new growth.  For me, spring is something I also internalize, a time for changes inside as well as out.  I look at the house and think “time to spruce up a bit, hmmmm, new paint job for the living room?” or maybe just the time to start donating or throwing away those unused or rarely used things around the shed, in the basement or in my closet, definitely my closet.  Time to buck up and get rid of those size 8 jeans that have not seen the light of day since my late twenties or those gaucho pants I so dearly loved in my 30’s.  And what do you know? Jumpsuits are back, but maybe not in that military green and Pointer Sisters style.  I know all trends come back around in time, but really, I doubt I will ever see that size again no matter what Weight Watchers tells me!  Why have I kept a bike helmet when I don’t ride a bike?  And what did I think I was going to do with that broken hand turned coffee grinder?  Wait until it was an antique?  In that case, my basement is full of antiques to be, just waiting for their time in the sun.  Kind of like me. I do admit to looking in the mirror and thinking that perhaps a swath of purple would look amazing in my hair and that maybe a visit to the new tattoo parlor that just opened up might just be the thing to add to my calendar.

Hey, its spring and the possibilities are endless, promise of new growth, any type of growth,  is everywhere.  Why not just go with the flow and see what’s new around you?  New places to explore, new people to meet and  always new authors and new books to take along with you on your journey.  Here are some books you might want to consider:

This is what our week ahead in reviews looks like:

Monday, April 15:                 Fire for Effect by Kendall McKenna

Tuesday, April 16:               The Good Fight by Andrew Grey

Wed., April 17:                       The Fight Within by Andrew Grey

Thursday, April 18:               Highland Vampire Vengeance by J.P. Bowie

Friday< April 19:                    Loving Hector by John Inman

Sat, April 20:                           Into This River I Drown by T.J. Klune

That’s the plan at any rate.  I think I have gotten over my snit fit with Into This River I Drown, at least enough to offer a reasonably objective review.  We will see on  that one, rarely does a book make me want to cheer and smash things as that one did.  And thanks, Lynn, for the recommendation of the John Inman book, that was great.  If any one out there has a book they think I have missed out on, please send me the titles, authors and publishing house.  I make no promises but I am always looking for something new to read.

So, that’s it.  There are gardens calling and color samples waiting to be pondered over.  The terriers are gazing longingly out the windows, telling me its time to head outside.  I totally agree with them.   See you all later.

Review of Ruffskin (Dance With The Devil #4) by Megan Derr

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Rating: 5 stars

It is a typical night at The Bremmer, it’s pouring outside and Johnny is arguing with Grimm inside over an alleged flirtation at a party they just left.  A messenger interrupts them looking for Peyton Blue, the werewolf coowner and bartender of The Bremmer.  The strange courier has a package to deliver, one that has an immediate effect on their beloved barkeep.  When Grimm chases after the courier, he disappears  under a magical spell.

The package is from Peyton’s past, bringing with it bloody memories and a death sentence.  It is up to Johnny and Grimm to find the messenger, and finish the conflict started years ago when Peyton still belonged in the Blue Pack.

Ruffskin is a short story that follows the characters of Dance in the Dark (Dance with the Devil #2), Johnny Goodnight and his boyfriend/guard Grimm,  and their friend Peyton Blue, a werewolf.  Without reading Dance in the Dark, you will miss the backstory on all the characters involved in the case here which would be a mistake and leave you confused as to the elements involved in Ruffskin.  That said, this is a marvelous addition to that universe.  Most of the denizens of The Bremmer, local bar and hangout, have interesting pasts and it’s bartender and owner is no different.

Of course, it is a dark and stormy night that brings Peyton’s past home to him, a past he has tried so very hard to forget and one that could cause his death.  Johnny Goodnight is none other than John Derossiers, son of The Dracula Derossiers who rules the territory they live in. When the mystery and conflict from Peyton’s past intrudes on the bar and his father’s land, Johnny is called in to investigate and solve the problem.  And what a problem it is.  A dreadful dark secret that is at the heart of the chaos in the Blue werewolf pack. This is a very sensitive subject matter that Megan Derr gives a delicate and compassionate treatment, identifying the matter through the use of a poem instead of outright stating the nature of the abuse. Simply and elegantly done.

Ruffskin contains all the usual elements I have come to expect from Megan Derr.  Great characterizations, smart dialog and a storyline that keeps the reader engaged right to the end. Ruffskin is listed as the fourth book in the Dance With The Devil series but the author states at the beginning that this story fits in right after the second book as I have noted above.  While Midnight could almost be read as a stand alone (it figures into the books that follow it), the first three books should be read in the order I have indicated below:

Dance With The Devil (DWTD#1)see my review here.

Dance In The Dark (DWTD#2) – see my review here.

Ruffskin (DWTD#4)

Midnight (DWTD#3) – see my review here.

Cover:  Again another gorgeous cover by London Burden in keeping with the series and containing a simple graphic of a object center to the storyline.