Tour and Giveaway for Runner (The Runner #1) by Karma Kingsley (special excerpt)

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Title:  Runner

Series: The Runner, Book One

Author: Karma Kingsley

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: August 21

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 79300

Genre: Contemporary, age gap, celebrities, hurt/comfort, interracial, mild BDSM, movie industry, spanking, toys

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host the tour and giveaway for Runner (The Runner #1) by Karma Kingsley.  Be sure to check out the exclusive excerpt below!

Synopsis

Alex Banez is a runner for a Los Angeles film set. When he has a chance encounter with executive producer Atwell Richards, he finds himself falling fast and hard. Atwell is rich, powerful, gorgeous, and everything Alex never thought he would have. But Atwell also has a dark side and an inflexible need for control that threatens to suffocate everyone around him.

Alex has to figure out if he can love Atwell without losing himself.

Exclusive Excerpt

Runner
Karma Kingsley © 2017
All Rights Reserved

By the time Alex finished work, Atwell had already claimed him in his mind. He had absolutely taken possession of him and dared anyone to challenge him about it. He waited in the parking lot for him, coolly positioned against his car. He loved the hot, crisp LA air and it soothed his clamoring nerves.

“Hey,” he called out as Alex approached.

“Hey.” Alex dropped his eyes, still avoiding his gaze, and Atwell hated how devastated that made him feel.

Atwell swallowed down the lump of hurt in his throat and moved to open the passenger door of his sleek, dark blue sports car. He was feeling like he needed raw power beneath him, so he’d traded out his day car. “Come on. Get in. We’ll talk at my place.” He held the door open and waited for Alex to climb in. He gaped in confusion when Alex walked past him, shaking his head.

“I can’t. I’ve got my bike,” he said, heading for the bike rack.

“So leave it. I’ll take you home.”

Alex finally looked up at him and Atwell couldn’t decide which he liked less, when he looked at him with those beautiful green eyes clouded over with darkness or when he avoided looking at him altogether.

“I can’t.” He shook his head again. “I can’t afford to keep Uber-ing to work in the mornings.”

“Okay. So you’ll stay over.”

“Atwell.”

“Or I’ll send a car for you. Whatever you want, but I thought you wanted to talk.”

Alex let out a sigh. “I did—I do. I want to be with you, Atwell.” Atwell’s heart soared at hearing the claim. “But I don’t want to feel like your prostitute, or your charity case, or your project. I can take care of myself, so you don’t have to worry about it.”

Atwell closed the passenger door of his car with a slam. His high from hearing that Alex wanted to be with him was quickly diminished by the fact that he thought he was considering him as some sort of toy, or some pay-as-you-go sex doll. “Alex, I don’t think of you as any of those things, but the fact of it is, I am a wealthy man. And while I have no doubts that you are perfectly capable of taking care of yourself, I want to take care of you. I’ve watched you take care of everyone around you, except for you. Let me do that. I need to do that.”

Alex dropped his eyes again, but Atwell caught a glimpse of some of the clouds clearing. Alex squirmed. “I don’t want our relationship to be public. Aside from the drama it would cause at work, I don’t want to be an item on the news.” He shifted uncomfortably. “There are things in my past that I’d just rather not have surface for the world to see.”

Atwell nodded in understanding. “Well, I am a public figure but I’ll do what I can to keep a lid on the media. But I’ve told you before, I won’t be ashamed to be with you. If we’re out in public and I want to touch you, I reserve the right to do so. And I have a feeling I’ll be wanting to touch you quite often.”

Alex flushed and said nothing.

“Anything else?” Atwell asked.

“Does it matter? It seems all my conditions are irrelevant. You’re not a very flexible man.”

“Shit,” Atwell cursed at himself. He’d meant to be much more bending, much more accommodating to Alex’s need—at least at first. But now he’d let all his true colors flare, shooting him down at every turn.

Alex shook his head and moved closer to him, meeting his gaze and sending Atwell into a frenzy with the brightness of his eyes. “Atwell, it’s okay. I still want to do this.” Atwell’s heart jumped in his chest, racing faster as Alex moved in even closer. “And you told me to tell you when I wanted you.” Alex’s chest rose and fell in rapid succession and Atwell realized so did his own. The air between them was electric, stinging every single one of his nerve endings. He’d never felt so alive and buzzing in his life. He nodded his head, not trusting his voice. “Well, Atwell, I think if you don’t kiss me, I may die.”

 

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Karma is a wine-enthusiast, feminist, activist, humanitarian, vegetarian and just all around liberal and that often seeps into her writing. She loves any place with white, white sand and blue, blue water and an endless supply of prefix-mo drinks (Moscato, Mojito, etc.).

 Twitter | eMail

Tour Schedule

8/21    Love Bytes Reviews

8/22    Erotica For All

8/22    Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

8/23    The Novel Approach

8/23    Boy Meets Boy Reviews

8/23    Happily Ever Chapter

8/24    Bayou Book Junkie

8/25    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

8/25    MM Good Book Reviews

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A MelanieM Review: Champagne Kisses by Lynda Aicher

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Champagne KissesThe Christmas Eve wedding Evan Cleary pulled together in four weeks is crashing down around him and taking his fledgling event planning business with it. With an empty altar and over a hundred guests arriving soon, he turns to the resistant, gorgeous brother of the runaway groom for help.

When Richard Patterson’s flamboyant brother storms out hours before he’s scheduled to marry his equally dramatic partner, Richard is left dealing with the fallout. The last thing he wants is more drama, yet he can’t deny his attraction to the effeminate event planner trying to salvage the wedding.

Evan thinks his crush on Richard is a lost cause, but one steaming kiss later, he learns different. What starts as a night of hot sex turns into a connection neither expected. But Evan knows their relationship is hopeless unless the ultra-conservative Richard can embrace every part of him—both in private and in public.

Short, sweet and sexy, this Christmas novella is the very definition of  opposites attract. Lynda Aicher starts off on one side of the spectrum with Evan Cleary. Flamboyant, some would say delicate to the point of being effeminate, Evan has worked hard on this Christmas Eve wedding which was to launch his event planning business…even though it had disaster written all over it, starting with the couple in question.

His opposite is Richard Patterson, masculine, solid, gorgeous, someone who has never been attracted before to someone of Evan’s “type”, until now, an attitude that doesn’t sit especially well with Evan.  It’s a night of emotional meltdowns, harsh attitudes, and revelations set amidst a wedding that  anyone would call the wedding of your dreams.  Aicher has described it in detail and I’m sure more than one reader sighed in response.

I liked the clash of personalities which included that of Richard’s  brother and Evan, which had a friendship here too.  There is a bit of hot domination play here and enough drama to satisfy those who need it in their relationship stories.  All in all a satisfying sexy romp.

My only issues?  Some very iffy word choices, a very big no if you are at all familiar with my reviews.  Two words that should never appear with regard to the male anatomy…canal and channel.   And they both appear here.  I just start waiting for the tugboats to appear.  Or river barges or things of that nature.  It almost got this story knocked down to a 3 star but no, the rest of it was charming. When they appear, close your eyes and move swiftly past.  Other than that, this story is a keeper.

Cover art by L.C. Chase is nice but doesn’t have enough details to make it stand out from any other cover.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing | ARe | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 83 pages
Published December 14th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
Original TitleChampagne Kisses
ISBN139781626493759
Edition LanguageEnglish
URL

A Stella Review: Rough Road (Lake Lovelace #2) by Vanessa North

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Rough Road coverEddie Russell is many things: A wealthy pillar of the community. An outrageous flirt. A doting best friend. A masochist with a kink for brawling with his bedmates. But he is definitely not a man who invites intimacy. His friends are close but few, his lovers rarer still.

When Eddie runs his Mercedes off the road on a hot July afternoon, Wish Carver comes to his aid—and leaves his number in Eddie’s phone. Wish, a road crew worker half Eddie’s age and sexy as sin, seems fascinated by Eddie’s different sides. Mutual attraction and compatible kinks ignite the sheets, but it’s their connection outside the bedroom that Eddie begins to crave.

When the two come down on opposite sides of a local issue, Eddie finds his growing feelings for Wish at odds with his business interests and his devotion to his best friend, local wakeboarding legend Ben Warren. Torn between old loyalties and his new love, Eddie is reluctant to make a choice. But he knows he can’t make Wish wait too long to make up his mind.

Rough Road was my first book by Vanessa North. It’s part of the Lake Lovelace series but if you haven’t read the first one yet, Double Up, don’t worry. It can be easily read as a standalone. Still I was so nicely surprised by Rough Road that I’m going to come back to the first one soon. I’m so curious about Ben and Davis story.

This book was really really good, there wasn’t one thing I didn’t like, on the contrary. I’m a huge fan of characters with an age gap between them and with some kink elements or light BDSM. So from the blurb Rough Road had the potential to be a winner and I wasn’t disappointed at all. the age gap was an important one but not so evident cause Wish (*swooning over him*) was more mature for his years, he was sure of himself and what he wanted or better who he wanted. I particularly liked the MCs, Eddie was hilarious, too many times over the top but that’s why I loved it so much. He and Wish hit it off from the first time they laid eyes on each other and I can guarantee the chemistry came out from the pages in waves. I rushed into their story cause I was engaged by the scenes and the dialogues.

Their relationship was hot and sweet and just what I was in the mood for. I think you can’t go wrong picking this book, it was wonderful, light and quick. It was well written and I enjoyed the little but important hitches the author put in front of the MCs, they gave depth and reality to a story that could have been too simple to be loved so much. I liked the author’s style, she was so good she was able to make me like a story written in the first person using the present tense. I usually have a hard time with these choice but not in this case, I honestly noticed it on the second chapter. I think she did great and I can’t wait to read more by her. Highly recommended!

Cover art by LC Chase. The cover is nothing special to me and that’s probably why it caught my attention but it fits the book.

Sales Links:   Riptide Publishing |  All Romance (ARe) | Smashwords | Amazon | Buy It Here

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 185 pages
Expected publication: September 28th 2015 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626492980
Edition Language English

Series Lake Lovelace
Double Up #1
Rough Road #2

 

Return to Lake Lovelace with Rough Road by Vanessa North (contest)

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Rough Road cover

Rough Road (Lake Lovelace #2)
by Vanessa North

Published by Riptide Publishing
Cover Art by L. C. Chase

Series: Lake Lovelace

Sales Link:  Riptide Publishing Rough Road Page

RoughRoad_TourBanner

Hi, Welcome to the Rough Road Blog Tour!

I’m Vanessa North, and I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts throughout the week on writing the second book in the Lake Lovelace series, Rough Road. Join the conversation by commenting on the posts and you’ll be entered in the drawing for a $25 Riptide Publishing gift certificate. Thanks for reading!

You can find all of the Rough Road tour stops at http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/rough-road

Blurb

Eddie Russell is many things: A wealthy pillar of the community. An outrageous flirt. A doting best friend. A masochist with a kink for brawling with his bedmates. But he is definitely not a man who invites intimacy. His friends are close but few, his lovers rarer still.

When Eddie runs his Mercedes off the road on a hot July afternoon, Wish Carver comes to his aid—and leaves his number in Eddie’s phone. Wish, a road crew worker half Eddie’s age and sexy as sin, seems fascinated by Eddie’s different sides. Mutual attraction and compatible kinks ignite the sheets, but it’s their connection outside the bedroom that Eddie begins to crave.

When the two come down on opposite sides of a local issue, Eddie finds his growing feelings for Wish at odds with his business interests and his devotion to his best friend, local wakeboarding legend Ben Warren. Torn between old loyalties and his new love, Eddie is reluctant to make a choice. But he knows he can’t make Wish wait too long to make up his mind.

About the Author

Author of over a dozen novels, novellas, and short stories, Vanessa North delights in giving happy-ever-afters to characters who don’t think they deserve them. Relentless curiosity led her to take up knitting and run a few marathons “just to see if she could.” She started writing for the same reason. Her very patient husband pretends not to notice when her hobbies take over the house. Living and writing in Northwest Georgia, she finds her attempts to keep a quiet home are frequently thwarted by twin boy-children and a very, very large dog.

Connect with Vanessa:

Website: vanessanorth.com
Facebook profile page: facebook.com/AuthorVanessaNorth
Twitter: @VanessaNWrites
Goodreads: goodreads.com/VanessaNorth

RoughRoad_TourBanner

Giveaway

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for $25 in Riptide Publishing store credit. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on October 3rd. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to leave your email so we can contact you if you win!  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Lake Lovelace Series

Welcome to Lake Lovelace: a small town that’s big on charm!

Lake Lovelace is famous for its wakeboarding competitions and the local athletes who dominate it. Legends of the sport and stars of the future share the glory, and everyone celebrates. Whether on the water or around town, the men and women of Lake Lovelace collide, clash, and ultimately find love under the scorching Florida sun. – See more at: http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/universe/lake-lovelace#sthash.FcS4OefA.dpuf

– See more at: http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/universe/lake-lovelace#sthash.FcS4OefA.dpuf

Books in the series to date:

Double Up (Lake Lovelace #1) and Rough Road (Lake Lovelace #2) – see links to our reviews.

Double Up coverRough Road cover

 

Review: City Mouse (Country Mouse #2) by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

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Rating: 5 stars out of  5

City Mouse coverWhen Malcolm Kavanagh chased down Owen Watson in the middle of a train station and told Owen he loved him just as Owen was about to leave London, well that is the HEA moment always envisioned at the end of a romance novel.  But for Malcolm and Owen, life is what happens next.  For Malcolm, he is on new territory as he has never been in love or even a relationship before Owen.  Now Owen is living in his flat, and Malcolm doesn’t  really know how to handle things, even something as simple as eating breakfast together.

For Owen, Malcolm is the man he has come to love and stayed in London for.  Luckily for them both, Owen not only has experience with relationships, and a great Mom to ask advice from but Owen realizes that Malcolm has some growing to do and he is willing to help him through the precarious first steps of a serious relationship.  His mom said the biggest obstacle to overcome will be Relationship Armageddon, when you’ve reached the sixth week, the honeymoon phase is over, and reality sets in.  Owen has a new job, and patience, lots of patience.  But when the stress of Mal’s job combines with the strain of adjusting to a new relationship, will Owen’s patience and love be enough to help the couple struggle through  to a real HEA.

When I love a book the way I did Country Mouse, I always approach its sequel with a little trepidation, even with such wonderful writers as Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov at the helm.  You always wonder if the continuing story will measure up to the joy and outright affection you have for the original.  Well, I shouldn’t have worried, because the fates of Malcolm and Owen are in wonderful, capable hands and I might even love Malcolm’s story a tiny bit more.

Haven’t you always wondered what happens after boy gets girl or in this case boy gets boy in the romcoms in the theatre or on TV?  In City Mouse we get to see what happens after that wildly romantic gesture when Mal runs after Owen, catches up to him in the train station and declares his love for Owen.  Usually its “cue the music, close the curtains, The End” time but now we pick up the story two days after Malcolm’s declaration of love.  The boys are living together in Malcolm’s high end flat and Malcolm is getting ready to resume his routine, a routine that now must make  room for Owen in it.  And to say that Mal is extremely uneasy about the whole thing is putting it mildly.  This is how City Mouse opens, with Malcolm already in high stress mode:

The bad thing about a fictional Chinese prawns food poisoning was that it couldn’t possibly outlast a real one. Malcolm had done his research on the internet, and a real food poisoning would be over in a day or three. Another problem was that he felt guilty for having left the trading desk. He should be at work.

Oh, but Owen was so sweet in bed.

That’s where they’d gone right after the train station, where Malcolm (Malcolm!) had poured his bloody heart out and begged Owen not to leave. Bed. There would be time to hammer out the details later. Time to figure out jobs and schedules and Owen’s place in all of this? But Owen was here, in Malcolm’s penthouse, and that’s where they stayed for the next two days.

But today, he had to go to work.

Malcolm got out of the shower, shaved his maddening dark stubble carefully, and combed and gelled his hair until it would stay perfect for the rest of the day. He had one clean suit left, and the rest needed to be serviced. God . . . four days, five nights he’d spent playing. And now his life was falling apart.

Okay—that was a tad dramatic. But he did need to do some dry cleaning. And—

You can almost hear the hyperventilating begin….it’s funny, it’s realistic, and in its own way kind of heartbreaking.  I love the character of Malcolm.  He has so many mannerisms and attitudes built in to his personality that help to protect him from hurt and his past although he would be the last to admit it.  As written by Land and Voinov, Malcolm is a complex, flawed and, for me, wonderfully appealing character.  He so wants to be loved and for his relationship with Owen to work, if he could just figure out how to bring that about.  The authors make sure the reader sees Malcolm’s vulnerability even as he is spouting off nonsense about Owen’s less than chic address at work or the clothes that Owen wears.  Lane and Voinove make sure we see that there is a reason for Malcolm’s shallowness even if we don’t know just what propels it forward.  And the authors make us laugh while they are making Mal stress over something else that Owen has done.  Here is Malcolm meeting Owen at the coop he is working for.  Malcolm has entered the Happy Endings Little People’s Club adoption agency inhabiting the third level floor of the building:

Happy endings. Little people.

A world full of baby photos. Adorable infants. Blonde girls. Middle Eastern boys. Happy families. Kids cuddling teddy bears.

Would he make it to Owen before he developed diabetes?

“Hullo, luv,” said the matronly woman at the desk. She smiled up at him sunnily, revealing large teeth, slightly protuberant eyes, and a suit that dated back to the seventies. “Can I help you?”

He felt the beginnings of sugar shock just looking at all of that maternal goodwill.

“Uhm, I was looking for—” “Owen!” she crowed. “And you must be Malcolm. We’ve heard so much about you!” She pitched her voice to one of the hidden back rooms. “Owen, your boyfriend’s here. And you’re right. He does look like a snake that swallowed a lemon!”

Malcolm was shocked out of his irritation. “I do not.”

Owen’s throaty laughter emanated from the room, followed by Owen himself. “You do too, Mal, and you know it. Come on back. Thanks, Emmaline. I didn’t want to miss him.”“

Oh, I don’t think you could do that, dearie. He is very good looking, just like you said.”

Owen winked, his sweet brown eyes wicked under the fall of hair. “You don’t think I would have stayed here if he’d been homely, do you?”

I loved that interchange, it tells us so much about Malcolm and Owen.  Despite being out of his comfort zone, Malcolm has travelled into the *shudders* lower income region of the city just because he wants to see his lover. And Owen has already been filling in his new coworkers (and friends) on Malcolm, enough so that they recognize him before he introduces himself.  Lovely dialog, lovely and funny setting, and memorable characters all in one great scene.

Everything about City Mouse rings true, from the slow fumbling towards a real relationship that speaks of permanency to the authenticity of a tour through the many sections of London.  Owen and Malcolm do not have an easy time making their adjustments to their new status although Owen has more experience than Malcolm.  But Owen too has his own insecurities about his new situation.  A phone call or two to his Mom helps but only so much.  I do love his mother, she is such a great character of her own, she almost needs her own story.  But Owen never comes across as “too good to be true” to me.  He knows his limitations and Owen also realizes how much personal “loosening up” Mal needs to do before their relationship can grow.  Realistically, Owen hopes that it will happen but he is never quite sure that it will.  Again, a lovely testament to the writing skills of Lane and Voinov.  We believe in this relationship and the men involved because they are so real.  That “realness” makes it easy to engage the readers affections and keeps them connected throughout the story to the end.

City Mouse clocks in at 160 pages, almost twice the length of Country Mouse, and the longer story length was necessary to more accurately portray the relationship dynamics in play after the grand romantic gesture is done.  I don’t think a shorter version would have let us see into all of the problems and issues that had to be resolved before the boys could settle down realistically and happily in London together.  But time and type (and two wonderful authors) gave us exactly what Owen and Malcolm needed.  We get the joy and fun of watching two great endearing characters fight, cook and love their way to a more authentic relationship.  One that has a far better chance at succeeding than the point that we first left them at.  And that makes this book a real winner for me, and hopefully for you as well.

There are some scenes with a mild bdsm content.  Those readers uncomfortable with bdsm sex scenes should not have a problem with the content here.  It is mild and does contribute to some very hot love making between Owen and Malcolm.  Grab the fans, you will need them.

Pick up Country Mouse and City Mouse and have yourself a wonderful time.  Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read:

Country Mouse

City Mouse

Cover Art by Jordan Taylor. The cover is adorable although the model is not exactly what I would expect of Malcolm.

Book Details:

ebook, 160 pages
Published March 18th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 9781626490 (ISBN13: 9781626490055)
edition languageEnglish
original titleCity Mouse
urlhttp://riptidepublishing.com/titles/city-mouse
seriesCountry Mouse #2
charactersMalcolm Kavanagh, Owen Watson
setting London, England

Review: Blacque/Bleu (Arcada #1) by Belinda McBride

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Blacque and Bleu coverRating: 5 stars

Lukas Blacque is a werewolf in a unique position.  A son of the alpha wolf, he prefers life lived on the fringes of the pack, removed from pack politics.  He has a college degree but prefers his car shop, bringing old vehicles back to life as well as performing normal maintenance.  Another surprising element is that he is lonely for a shifter with a pack, but he has a secret.  Lukas Blacque is gay and deeply in the closet and so for that his lifestyle works as long as no one looks too closely.  There is one person who has caught his interest but the  danger factor is too high for him to act on it, and that would be his neighboring vampire in the shop next to his.  But he refuses to act until one night when his father decides to change everything and Lukas’ life is upturned.

Oliver Bleu is a vampire plagued by nightmares from his time on the front in WWI, nightmares which keep him from sleeping and replenishing his strength.  Now he finds himself slowly fading away, even his hunts don’t quench his hunger.  But then there is his neighbor next door to Oliver’s shop.  Oliver knows he is more than attracted to the shifter, Lukas’ blood might be able to bring him back to strength.  The walls between their businesses are thin and he hears the family arguments going on next door when Lukas’ father arrives for a meeting with his son.  When Oliver goes to check on Lukas, their encounter turns into a passionate weekend neither can forget nor wants too as lust turns into love.

But Lukas has made a commitment to his father and his pack, and is determined to honor it even if it breaks his heart and Oliver’s as well.  Lucky for both shifter and vampire, they live in a very special town who  looks after her citizens,  And when evil from Oliver’s past follows him to Arcada, things are set in motion that will have lasting impact on all around, including Lukas and Oliver.

I just loved this book.  It is the first book by Belinda McBride and it puts her on my must have list immediately.  From the start she gives her characters a marvelous world in which to inhabit, the town of Arcada.  The town is sentient and although we don’t know how that happened, her affection for the diverse citizenry reveals itself in a myriad of ways.  Perhaps she makes it impossible for them to leave or her protection manifests itself in prodding others to act in ways that benefits others.  No matter, Arcada is a benign and loving presence and this leaves us just dying to know more about the town and its diverse community of  humans, vampires, shifters, fae and so many others that we are given brief glimpses of.

But the heart of the story is McBride’s characters, Lukas Blacque and Oliver Bleu, a terrific play on words that fits in beautifully in their interactions with each other.  Lukas Blacque is a complex giant of a man, gentle of spirit, lonely and sad because as much as he wants to be a part of his pack due to his wolf nature, the fact that he is gay keeps him separated and aloof.  He is such a lovely creation that we connect to him immediately and we can empathize with him at this point  in his life.  Then we meet Oliver Bleu, in many ways the anthesis of the vampires we have meet in other novels.  Far from the powerful, immortal beings we have come to expect, Oliver Bleu is a victim, struggling to survive.  In a horrific element of the story, we learn that Oliver died from mustard gas in the trenches at the front.  If you were not familiar with the horrors of WWI before, by the time you learn how Oliver was affected, the true evil that man can create in the name of war will be brought home in gritty, pus filled painful authenticity.  Sometimes the horror of the paranormal universe has nothing on the real one we already live in.

Circling around these main characters are others of equal strength and complexity.  From Dane Blacque, the Alpha wolf to Lukas’ sister and Oliver’s great grand daughter (yes, you read that right), McBridge gives us one compelling persona after another to capture our interest and move her narrative forward.  Even her villains have a startling depth to them that enables you to feel some compassion for them even as you hate their actions, past, present and fear what they are going to do in the future.

This is the first in the Arcada series and really after one memorable walk through town with Lukas and Oliver, you can see she has the basis for many books to come in the fascinating town dwellers and their identities as revealed in bits and pieces.  My only quibble is that I felt it ended too soon.  That’s what happens when all the right elements come together in a story that will stay with you after you are finished reading it.  Blacque/Blue is just that story.  Now I am on to the next with great anticipation.  I will let you know what I find.  But pick this one up and start reading.  You are going to love it!

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be  read:

Blacque/Bleu (Arcada #1)

Silver/Steel (Arcada #2)

Cover art is just gorgeous and perfect for the story within.

Too Stupid To Live by Anne Tenino

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Rating: 4.5 stars

Too Stupid To Live coverSam has his head buried in his latest romance novel and his feet planted on the grass when he is knocked to the ground. Then Sam’s heart notices the ripped body of the man assisting him to his feet and it decides it has met his One True Love.  Turns out Sam had been walking across the rugby playing field and got beaned by the ball.  And no matter that Sam’s head says that his One True Love couldn’t look like some Highlander god or that someone who looked as gorgeous as the man lifting him to his feet would ever want a skinny, nerdy, beanpole like him, Sam’s heart says Sam has met his future husband.

Ian Cully hopes that he has left the worst of his life behind him to start a new life in a new town.  His life as a firefighter ended with a traumatic accident.  Now he has a new job, a new apartment and only his cousin, Jurgan and his partner, Nik, as his connections to his family and his past. Another part of his past Ian is hoping to forget? The part where Ian pretended to be straight. Now he is free to explore his sexuality but where to start? Ian thinks he knows his type, until he goes to the rescue of a guy who got hit by the ball during his rugby game.  One look into the eyes of Sam and all Ian’s suppositions about himself are gone.  In their place is a lanky, blond haired gay with his head in romance novels and a heart too vulnerable for its own good.

But Ian still has some major issues to work through and he is not sure a commitment is something he is capable of.  Everyone is telling Sam that Ian is Mr. Wrong but Sam just can’t convince his heart that is true.  Sam soon starts to wonder if he is not like the character in the books he reads, the one who is too stupid too live, who never sees the trouble coming and gets out of the way.  Is Ian Mr. Wrong or does Sam’s heart know Mr. Right when it sees him?

I didn’t realize until I was several chapters into the book that many of the main characters originated in another book,Anne Tenino’s Whitetail Rock.  I remembered reading it quite a while ago and then Nik, Jurgan and the rest snapped back into place.  But you don’t have to have read that book to enjoy this maddening, happy, exasperating romp through the lives of Sam and Ian.  Sam is a wonder of a character.  Tall, scrawny, head buried in his bodice rippers and riddled with self esteem issues, Sam is a character you want to hug even as you are giving him a little shake.  Sam is endearing, and clearly deserving of True Love but he doesn’t see himself as worthwhile.  That will break your heart as more of Sam is revealed over the storyline. I love my nerds in m/m fiction but Sam is something special.  He is not your normal small, cute blond but lanky, thin haired, and has a big nose and giggles.  I adored him.

Ian Cully comes off at the start as a smug horn dog who could have easily descended into an unlikable character but Ian too has layers that save him from being a stock creation.  He is seeing a therapist, recognizes his issues and wants to change.  It took me a little longer to connect with him but when I did, I feel in love with him just as Sam did.

Anne Tenino’s dialog is a wonder.  It’s funny, charming, topical, and perfect for each character she has created.  There are times I just sat back and laughed out loud at the things that came out of Sam and Nik’s mouths, especially if they were getting their drunk on.  And there are some heartbreaking moments that will have you in tears.  One such scene involves a character that I believe Tenino is setting up for her next novel.  At least I hope so. We absolutely need to know what happens to him.  And that fact alone, that we need to know what happens next in the lives of these people cements my feelings about Too Stupid To Live.  This book is a wonderful romantic ride to Ones True Love, and that is something Sam and Ian both deserved and got with each other.

Too Stupid To Live is listed as Romancelandia #1.  I can’t wait for the others.

Cover artist is LC Chase.  Love this cover.  The model is adorable, the perfect representation of Sam.

Review: Esau (Leopard’s Spots #6) by Bailey Bradford

Standard

Rating: 4 stars

Esau Leoppard Spots 6During the confrontation with Chung Kee’s lepe and the death of Chung Kee and his shaman, Esau Wallraven was separated from the rest of his family with the mission to find Ye—sun Warren, the brother who helped Jihu Warren and his son Daniel escape the compound.  The compound burned to the ground as the different factions fought and neither Bae and Jihu are sure their half brother survived. So as the family gathers their wounded and leaves for home, Esau remains behind to search for Ye-sun.

Ye-sun Warren has had a hellish life.  Imprisoned and tortured by his grandfather as punishment for helping Jihu escape with his son, he is shocked and drugged, as his grandfather hopes to force him to impregnate the females in the compound, something he has refused to do.  When he is left to burn with the building, he manages to escape and runs directly into a Snow Leopard, Esau.

Both men are astounded to find that they are mates and the biological drive to consummate their bond is overwhelming. But Esau is tormented by his past and doesn’t want a mate, a fact he communicates to Ye-sun after their mating.  Hurt, rejected by family and mate, Ye-sun runs off, leaving Esau wondering if he hasn’t just made the worse mistake of his life.

Esau (Leopard’s Spots 6) picks up directly after the events of Gilbert (Leopard Spot’s 5).  The Warren family and their mates and friends have confronted the heinous Chung Kee at his compound with the results that several key members of both families were injured, and Chung Kee and his shamans were killed. Esau had disappeared into the woods at the end of that story, looking for the missing Warren brother, and this story picks up just as Esau gets the scent of a Amur Leopard in the woods.

Most of this story deals with the past traumatic histories of both men.  Ye-sun’s is one most familiar to those who have read the previous books.  Brought up in a cult like compound, under the strict rule of a obsessive leader, his grandfather Chung Kee, Ye-sun was looked at more as a breeding stud than as a person and to refuse that role meant hours of torture and shock treatments to get him to submit to his grandfather ‘s plans.  In addition to the physical trauma, his grandfather also used emotional abuse to inflict pain on the young man and chemicals to keep him from shifting.  Bradford does an excellent job of giving us a young man, confused and so full of anger that he is not sure about anything now that he has escaped.  I liked both main characters here immensely.  Ye-sun pulls at our heartstrings and his anger is something everyone can relate to.

Esau Wallraven makes a formidable mate and partner for Ye-sun.  The only child of his parents, he lead a sheltered life, where his only dream was to be normal, an impossibility for a Snow Leopard shifter.  As soon as he could, he left to travel the world, never settling down, always looking for that elusive “something” to fill up the hole within him.  Then a horrific event in South America leaves it permanent scar on his heart and cements his life of isolation.  Everything about Esau makes sense, including his rejection of his mate, done out of fear and past pain.

There is no case of instant love or even instant affection.  What draws them together is a natural imperative to mate, brought on by their animals and hormones.  And mate they do, for about 75 to 80 percent of the book, in both animal and human forms.  It’s brutal, snarling, biting and bestial for the most part as is fitting for cat shifters.  As humans, there is an exploration of their sexual natures through spanking and mild bdsm, as pain with sex seems to be part of the shifter sexuality as written by Bradford.  Ye-sun is a virgin to anal sex but is not treated like one, a subject that is brought up and dealt with.

And that is really my only quibble with this book.  Yes, there is tons of hot  sex but too much hurts the book when exposition is left behind as it is here.  I wanted to know more about the injured family members left in a coma in Gilbert’s book.  Here there was only a sentence or two to say all will survive but it did not address some of the serious situations mentioned previously.  Another Amur Leopard is scented in the woods during their mating frenzy but never brought up again.  Did someone else survive?  Is this a red herring?  Don’t know and it’s frustrating.  There are so many issues and conspiracies involved in this series and this story moves none of the plot lines forward.  We need more depth here in storyline, and to resolve some of the problems addressed in Gilbert.  None of that really happened here and it makes this story much weaker than it should have been.

We also get a look at a character just introduced, Bobby the wolf shifter brother to the alpha wolf mated to Oscar.  Bobby seems to be a good ole boy red neck shifter but Esau sees below the shallow, callow demeanor Bobby projects.  Bobby lit up the pages with his sass and moxy.  I can’t wait to see more of him.  He really deserves his own story and soon.

So on to the next story which is Sullivan (Leopard’s Spots #7).  Bailey Bradford has me hooked good and proper.  I need to know what happens next, who is drugging the shifters, what happens to all those poor schmoes from the compound who survived.  What about the Amur Leopard they smelled in the woods?  Who was that?  See, so many questions and I need the answers.   Hopefully, I will find some in Sullivan.  I will let you know.

The gorgeous series covers by Posh Gosh continues.  Just beautiful.

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters, their relationships and events:

Levi (Leopards Spots #1)

Oscar (Leopards Spots #2) read my review here.

Timothy (Leopards Spots #3) read my review here

Isaiah (Leopards Spots #4) read my review here

Gilbert (Leopards Spots #5) read my review here

Esau (Leopards Spots #6)

Sullivan (Leopards Spots #7)

Review of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, A Clandestine Classic by Jules Verne and Marie Sexton

Standard

Rating: 4 stars

The year is 1866, and Naturalist Dr. Pierre Arronax and his manservant Conseil board the Abraham Lincoln, a vessel whose purpose is to track down and destroy the marine monster terrorizing the oceans.  This unknown monster threatens international shipping and has sunk the ships of many nations so it is imperative that it be stopped at all costs. The nations have come together to fund the mission and now the Abraham Lincoln holds the best sailors to do the job.  But from sea to sea, after visiting multiple locations where the monster has been sited, the ship turns up nothing, boredom besets the crew and the Professor’s interests turn to Ned Land, a sexy harpooner who returns Arronax’s interest.

As the Professor and Ned engage in a tempestous affair, the Captain of the Abraham Lincoln makes one last attempt to locate the monster and succeeds beyond its wildest goals.  The mighty sea monster is sighted and the Abraham Lincoln attacks, only to be attacked by the thing in turn.  During the proceedings, Dr. Arronax is thrown overboard, followed by Conseil, and then Ned Land.  The men find themselves rescued and then imprisoned upon The Nautilus, as their “sea monster” turns out to be a submergible vessel captained by the enigmatic and dangerous Captain Nemo. As the days aboard the secret submarine turn into months, the Professor and Conseil spend their days mesmerized by the new worlds they see under the sea and the Professor and Ned spend their nights investigating their sexual pleasures.  But Ned feels that he cannot live his life forever  imprisoned and the Professor must choose trying to escape with his lover or a life spent in scientific discovery on board the Nautilus.

With Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Marie Sexton merges the classic Jules Verne novel with m/m fiction to a remarkably successful degree.  Jules Verne published his popular science fiction story in 1870 and his saga of the mysterious Captain Nemo, the submarine Nautilus and its narrator Professor Pierre Arronax became a instant  classic that continues to this day.  A layered, complex tale of scientific discoveries, amazing undersea journeys and futuristic assumptions also included the basest of human emotions such as anger, hatred and the need for revenge.  Jules Verne was ahead of his time in predicting the military use of high speed submarines.  Also forward thinking was his use of “oppressive peoples” in his story,  that Captain Nemo was so voluble in his heated arguments and discussions about the oppressors and the oppressed which is how Nemo and his crew regarded themselves was a rarity.  The original book included authentic scientific lists of flora and fauna to go with the animals seen during their voyages.  As Marie Sexton states “several places where extended monologues or lists of plant and/or animal species have been deleted from the story.”  In their place, the author establishes a romance between Professor Pierre Arronax and Ned Land, the definitely did not exist in the Jules Verne story.

I throughly enjoyed the author’s addition to this classic tale.  I loved Arronax’s love for his Ned Land.  Their sexual exploration of each other is carried out in a realistic manner, as fear of exposure to those around them would have resulted in death.  Ned’s small cabin aboard the Abraham Lincoln allows only the smallest of sexual play and their assignations are kept to the minimum which is also authentic.  But once the men have been taken onto the Nautilus, things change between them as the rules and law of Captain Nemo are very different from the nations above them. Sexton does a lovely job of mixing historical reality with Jules Verne science fiction story.  She also gives us a sexual relationship that includes a slight Bdsm bent between Pierre and Ned as their larger cabin on the Nautilus allows them greater physical freedom in their bed.  Ned is a lovely  character given the genuine feel of a man who lives his life outside, his love of the thrill of the hunt is present in all of his actions. So when Ned’s adrenaline based life style is curtailed when he is imprisoned, however nicely, on the Nautilus, we can understand his frustration at his inaction and his anger at Nemo and crew.  Pierre Arronax, again the narrator, and his manservant Conseil, are also beautifully portrayed as the excited scientists they are as each new discovery propels them into frissons of delight and wonder during the day and Pierre experiences the joys of submission at night.  Again, I just loved Marie Sexton’s romance enhanced version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

I will admit that my father gave me my first copy of this story back in grade school.  He passed on his own copy that he had gotten when he was young along with Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.  I was mesmerized by the many descriptions of new places and animals I had never seen.  I couldn’t get enough of the forests of kelp or the schools of marine life I had never seen or heard of. There were so many unknown animals that I had to go look up, so many places I need to find on my globe that I often felt like a voyager along with Arronax and Nemo.  But as with the original, the lush multitude of descriptions, the veritable endless lists of scientific nomenclature had me flipping past pages then as it  did now.   There is a reason that many a student turns to Cliff Notes instead of wading through the original novel, and this version suffers from the same problem.  It is simply too long.  In trying to remain faithful, it too is as long as the original version.  Jules Verne’s came in at 352 pages (approximately depending upon font size), Marie Sexton’s at 390.  And as a Naturalist as much as I love revisting the scientific terminology for various species of flora and fauna, a little of it goes a long way.  And while I delighted in the sumptuous portraits of the wonders found under the sea, after a while it became just too many to digest, too rich a banquet as it were.  For me, I had to read it over a stretch of time, pace myself so I had time to look up the places the Nautilus went and the things they saw.  And once read, I never picked it up again however much I enjoyed it.

So here’s my quibble with this Clandestine Classic, it is too true to the original.  It is very enjoyable and I give high marks to Marie Sexton for her romantic inclusion as well as the manner in which she honored the original.  That said, it is a lot to wade through.  I don’t have problems with people playing with the classics, it’s done all the time.  So if you loved the original and you love m/m romance, pick this up and prepare to enter back into Jules Verne’s universe with a twist.  If you found the original daunting,  perhaps you will give this a try in stages.  It is worth it no matter how long you take to travel 20,000 leagues under the sea with Professor Pierre Arronax, Conseil, Ned Land and Captain Nemo.

Posh Gosh over was interesting but I wish it had been more of a play on the original.

Review of Play It Again, Charlie by R. Cooper

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars

Pushing forty, Charlie Howard’s life is caught in a pattern of pain and routine.  After a disabling accident left Charlie’s body more broken than able, he retired from the force and became a professor at a community college teaching criminal justice and forensics.  The aftermath of the accident did  more than leave him with almost crippling pain, it deprived him of his boyfriend as well.  One who wouldn’t stick around for his surgeries and recovery.  Charlie’s days are filled with phone calls from his sisters, teaching and chats with his friend and co worker. Jeanine.

The days merge together and Charlie watches the world pass by from his apartment in the building owned by his grandmother. Charlie is afraid to move forward with his life, hiding behind a wall of “I’m Fine” until he meets a haircolorist named William housesiting for Charlie’s third floor neighbor.  From the moment that Will drops a flower pot off the balcony that lands at Charlie’s feet, the fey, flamboyant man seems determined to invade Charlie’s life.  Glitter twinkling around the eyes, and hands always fluttering in motion, Will seems like the very embodiment of transience to Charlie.  But to Charlie’s consternation, everything about Will speaks to Charlie too.  He wants to protect him, make him safe, kiss him and so much more.  Lucky for Charlie, Will wants much the same from him.  Their quick bed room encounters start looking more like dates and their feelings for each other deepen even as they go unexpressed.  Both men must overcome their pasts before a new future can be written for them both.  Only time will tell if they are up to the challenge.

In a genre populated with stories of  instant love and relationships that just fall into place, Play It Again, Charlie is that gem of a novel where love is hard won, a relationship develops at a snail’s pace, and only after two totally different, difficult men learn to communicate. This novel is long, frustrating, irritating, illuminating, and so very satisfying at 370 pages.  Even more impressive, the story gets better with each subsequent read, as the reader is now familiar with the flow of the dialog and the reticence of it’s main character so that many qualities you might have missed the first time around now shine through even more brightly.  There are so many strengths to this book, it is hard to know where to start.

Cooper’s characters are the pillars upon which this story rests, and their shoulders are most definitely up to the task.  Each could have been a caricature but in Cooper’s hands, they thrive, breathe and grow into our hearts.  Charlie Howard is especially impressive.  There is so much depth to Charlie that clarity of character comes together only over a length of time.  The story is told from Charlie’s POV and when we meet him, Charlie is graying, his face lined from the ever present pain radiating out from his hip, his hair has gotten long due to lack of care, and the suits he wears to class present a formal ill-pressed exterior, complete with bad ties.  His injury forces him to leave the police force and his “cop social circle” behind and he retreats in isolation to his apartment.  Charlie take his responsibilities seriously and shoulders the weight of his family’s needs without complaint.  Repressed, honorable, and hurting.  Charlie is such a complex man that it is hard to get a feel for how he really looks to those around him, caught up in his own vision of himself. It’s Charlie’s self image that’s presented initially to the reader.  It’s not until William, “Will” as it were, comes into play, that we start to see Charlie as others do. Then a whole new portrait of the man is revealed, tall, handsome, firm, gentle, and partly Hispanic.  Charlie is that wonderful character that continues to reveal itself as the barriers he constructed peel away to give us an even more complex personality far more vulnerable that we had anticipated.

Will is that “twink persona” that is heartbreakingly beautiful in his insecurities, brash in his embrace of his sexuality, and charming in his endless enthusiasm for life.  Will is twenty nine when we meet him,although he comes across as much younger,  flitting from one temporary home to another, never really landing anywhere for long.  Even his business is run over the internet and is conducted at other peoples homes.  Kicked out of his house at the age of 16 by parents who refuse to accept his sexuality, Will has only his sister to fall back on.  Referred to more than once as “Holly Go Lightly”, that character is certainly applicable when it comes to Will. Will loves the old classic movies, preferably black and white with a cast that includes Humphrey Bogart.  Stylish and fragile, impetuous and flighty, he parties hard, works harder and has little time for permanence in relationships. He also comes with Daddy issues and a vast amount of insecurity regarding his lack of education and “smarts”.  But he watches Charlie from the balcony above as Charlie goes about his routine and something about Charlie calls to him, makes him want to push his way into “Sergeant Howard’s ” life in any way he can.  Will is immediately engaging, capturing our hearts along with our hopes for his happiness. Watching Will try to win over Charlie’s wary, grumpy cat speaks volumes about the character and we trust him with our affections.

Will is that perfect match for Charlie.  If Will is Holly Go Lightly, then Charlie is Linus Larrabee (that would be the Humphrey Bogart version, not the Harrison Ford one). Will has watched the movies.  Charlie has read the books they were based on.  Even their sexuality is yin to the other’s yang.  But what they really have in common is an inability to communicate their wants and hopes to each other.  Charlie is so reticent as to be non verbal at times, Will is his opposite, hiding his feelings and hopes behind constant chatter. Neither man is willing to risk the tentative stage they are at by talking to the other about what they really want to have in a relationship.  It is so frustratingly real, so irritatingly authentic that the reader is often left wanting to deliver a strong slap up the head to each by the end of a page or chapter. When you find yourself grinding your teeth as the characters prevaricate about their feelings, then you know the author has done an outstanding job.  R. Cooper does that outstanding job and then some.  I now feel the need for major dental work having finished the book twice.

There is some kink involved, but it is on the light side, and made wholly believable in the context.  Even the sexual side of their relationship lacks the communication they so badly need, as each starts assuming things about what the other wants and desires. Both men are as uncommunicative in bed as they are elsewhere, which makes complete sense given who they are. Insert another teeth grinding session.  Sometimes their dialog feels so intimate that reading it comes across almost voyeuristic in nature, so close do we feel to them both.  Everything about these men and their story will strike you as realistic, and uncompromisingly truthful.

Trust me when I say that this is a long, drawn out novel, but also trust me when I say it is wonderful, worthy of the time spent, and one you will remember and return to. This was the first book I have read by R. Cooper and now I will be searching out the rest.  Do not let this remarkable story pass you by.  Get it, curl up somewhere, and prepare to be transported into an unlikely love affair, worthy of Bogart and Bacall. or perhaps Audrey Hepburn.  Will never could make up his mind.

Cover is nice.  But Will’s hand needs a little polish, a little more sparkle.

Book available at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon and All Romance.