Review: Blue River by Theo Fenraven

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Blue River cover DSPPhotographic artist Ethan Mars is hanging out with friends at a house in Topanga Canyon.  When Doug recounts a story about a local porthole that allows people to go back in time, Ethan and his friend Randy decide to hike around on the trails to see if they can find it.  For Ethan the day is more about taking pictures than finding something out of science fiction, then the fog appears before them.  One misstep and Ethan tumbles through the fog and into 1863, albeit still Southern California.

Quinn Parker and his sister Hes own a farm in Blue River and when Ethan Mars stumbles out of the fog, neither is surprised as he is the second stranger from the future to find them in a year.  But unlike the previous time traveler, Ethan Mars is gay and represents everything Quinn Parker wants and has been keeping hidden.

While waiting for the portal to open again, Quinn and Ethan fall into a friendship and then a love affair doomed by time.  Or is it? When the  fog reappears, there is a choice to be made?  Who will stay and who will go?

Blue River is a terrific little romance stuffed full of elements that add texture and depth, giving it the feel of a much larger story.  Ethan Mars is a renown photographic artist who has made the sale of a lifetime and is celebrating with friends in Topanga Canyon, a place known for its artists, quirky atmosphere and gorgeous views.  When a friend wants to hike a little used trail in the canyon, they use the excuse of trying to find a time portal as the reason for their venture into the wild.  The descriptions of the canyon and the oddly floating bit of fog is a great way to start Ethan’s unexpected adventure into the past.

We’d been walking for half an hour when he stopped and held up a hand. “Ethan.”

I looked in the direction he was pointing, and about twenty feet in front of us, under the spreading branches of a copper beech, I saw semitransparent wisps of white flowing together and pulling apart a few feet above the ground. “That’s called fog, Randy.”

“Why is it only in that one spot, then? There’s no water nearby, and the temperature seems fairly constant.”

“We don’t know it’s only in that one spot. Never assume, man.” I brushed past him, heading for the mist.

“Wait!” he yelped, grabbing my arm. “Together, just in case, you know….” “

In case the fog decides to swallow me whole?” Chuckling, I kept walking, dragging him along. “Didn’t they make a cheesy movie about that?” Even close up, it looked like fog. Thin, wispy, and I could see through it to the woods behind.

I stuck a hand in the stuff, waggling it around and making faces at him as I intoned, “Bwahahahahaha….”

He rolled his eyes. “Asshole. I’m getting hungry. Let’s drop by Doug’s place, see what he has in the fridge.” “Yeah, okay.” So much for seeking Shangri-La.

Well, as we all know, the story doesn’t stops there.  Because, as Fenraven knows,  where is the fun in that? But the real surprises start in 1863 and the reality of pioneer life.  Fenraven does a great job in presenting the time period minus the “romantic candlelight” glow that seems to creep into some of the other historic romances I have read.  No, here is 1863 authentically presented with the warts of the time period to go along with the things that have been lost with progress.  So we get, or actually Nathan gets to eat food free of chemicals and genetic manipulation.  In 1863, a tomato or apple explodes on his taste buds, their flavor so sensational that Nathan mourns their loss in his time.  But Fenraven is also quick to include the lack of bathing because as Hes tells Ethan, “its not healthy”.  No bathing, no thoughts of  hygiene, no washing hands, …..so yeah, a closed in cabin is not a happy place to be after a week’s time.  Clothes get rank as does unwashed hair and soon Nathan is pining for 2013 and his shower at home.

And you don’t blame him a bit.

The author is good at vividly describing life in Blue River and 1863, both the pros and the cons.   Fenraven is also quick to note the dangers of open homosexuality in a time period where it is considered a sin and often punished by death.  Quinn Parker is a sexual innocent.  A young man engaged to be married to a woman who helped his family when they needed it.  Responsibility, obligations and society’s expectations have forced Quinn into asking her to marry him and now , with Ethan before him, he feels trapped. The more Ethan describes his open life in the future, the more regretful and conflicted Quinn becomes.  Then Ethan starts his seduction of Quinn, and his true nature surfaces, no longer to be denied.  If ever there was a genie in the bottle, its Quinn’s sexuality.  And Quinn despairs of ever being able to pass as “normal” again once Ethan shows him just how good it feels. Slowly the affection between the men turns into love, one with no apparent future to each man’s despair.

Another aspect of this story that Fenraven doesn’t gloss over is the fact that Ethan could never survive in 1863.  He is ill prepared by his upbringing, his attitudes, and his personality.   He has a hard time hiding who he is from Hes, a judgmental and wary 16 year old, he would never be able to pull it off in front of a more discerning audience. Nathan just can’t hide who he is.  It is one of the reasons Quinn loves him and it is the reason that they will part.

There are a few things that bothered me.  At one point Nathan is missing his family at home (this story takes place during the holidays) but then thinks that he has a family here in 1863 too.  Uh, no he doesn’t.  Hes dislikes him intensely and distrusts him as well.  The only one happy to have him there is Quinn, so I am not sure what family Fenraven is talking about.  Hes is a believable but dislikable character, smug, sure of her universe and disapproving of any that might prove a threat to her happiness, definitely a tad on the puritan side. So yes, she seems real.  The author did a great job making her somewhat stinky flesh and blood but don’t expect me to like her.

And yes, there is a happy ending but in my mind, I can never just leave it there (where I should).  Instead I start thinking about the future, and the romance in this story dims for a second.  But its the holidays, at least in this story.  Time for a suspension in belief in all things real and to hope for all things happy and in love.  I think I will leave the review right there.  At the end, just where all stories about time travel and holiday miracles should.

Cover art by Maria Fanning.  Just a lovely cover, perfect for the story.

Book Details:

ebook, 92 pages
Published October 9th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 13th 2011)
ISBN 1627981659 (ISBN13: 9781627981651)
edition language English
url http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com

Don’t Miss Out! The Tameness of the Wolf Insanity Continues with Contests and Dog Tags!

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It’s been a week since Strength of the Wolf was released and the insanity continues!!StrengthoftheWolf4

If you missed yesterday’s post, go check it out really quick. I talked about the werewolves in, Strength of the Pack and Strength of the Wolf, how I created them, and why I gave them the characteristics that I did. There’s still time to enter to win an e-book copy of Strength of the Wolf, so go get yourself signed up! The winner will be announced, right here, tomorrow!

Today, you can enter to win a set of authentic Dog Tags for the main characters of Strength of the Wolf! These are highly coveted dog tags, featuring the vital statistics of Tim Madison and Jeremy Wagner, from Strength of the Wolf. These are brand new! No one has a set, yet, so you might be lucky enough to be the first!

KM Dog TagsHere is everything you need to know to get entered for your chance to win! The winner will be announced tomorrow, as well, so don’t wait! Get entered!
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1bf30764

Love and Dog Tags,

Kendall

www.kendallmckenna.comBlack Wolf from the back

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Buy Links:

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All Romance 

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

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

StrengthoftheWolf4After the events in Afghanistan, Captain Tim Madison,  Lt. Lucas Young, Dominant and True Alpha Sergeant Noah Hammond find themselves back in the States as part of a new military unit designed to better utilize and integrate the wolf shifters into the military to the benefit of both species.  Its a huge job and they have plenty of preconceived notions, misinformation and outdated combat structures to get rid of.  All receive promotions with Tim Madison promoted to major.  He is also made the head of the new unit which is composed of both human and shifter soldiers. The first order of business? To the bottom of the huge amount of shifter casualties in combat.

Jeremy Wagner is a civilian wolf shifter.  He’s smart, young and just beginning his career as an architect intern.  Jeremy is also a Lone Wolf, having been Cast Out by the True Alpha of the North Coast pack.  To that True Alpha, Jeremy represents a threat to his leadership asJeremy is just beginning his Transition to True Alpha.  Now Jeremy is alone, hormonal and trying to deal with all the physical and emotional changes of his transition and it’s not going well.

A confrontation in a parking lots brings Tim Madison together with Jeremy Wagner with explosive results.  Despite Tim’s concerns about the swiftness of their feelings and age difference, Tim and Jeremy soon form an intimate bond.  But outside elements gather to pull them apart.  Tim’s dysfunctional brother has reappeared in his life,  casualties are mounting for the werewolves in combat and Jeremy must still deal with his transition to True Alpha.  Will their bond and the strength of the wolf be strong enough to withstand the obstacles in their path?

Each new book from Kendall McKenna just reinforces my enthusiasm and love for The Tameness of the Wolf universe and the wolf shifters (and humans) she has created for it.  Strength of the Wolf follows shortly after the events of Strength of the Pack and the kidnapping of Lt. Lucas Young.  That military action highlighted the errors in which the wolfshifters were being used and the need for more investigation and regulating where the shifters and the military were concerned.  After an intense Prologue, McKenna switches focus away from combat and brings us into an exploration of werewolf natural history, one of the aspects I wished had been enlarged in Strength of the Pack..  How did they operate? What was the hierarchy?  In Strength of the Wolf, McKenna starts to answer some of those questions.  I have to admit that I love how McKenna intertwines shapeshifter history with that of human history and lore.  It works beautifully and also manages to introduce an element of humor to the proceedings.

Kendall McKenna’s characters are as strong, deep, and intense, all of which is necessary considering their occupations and difference in physiology.  I love her soldiers, her Marines both human and werewolf.  They are all resoundingly authentic and compelling.  Now we get to see the civilian side of the wolf.  Jeremy is a architectural intern.  He is young, brash, smart, and alone.  His is a more subtle characterization if you can say that about a wolf shifter, especially one becoming a True Alpha.  His is a character in transition in more ways than one.  Jeremy is twenty five.  He is, as an intern, learning about himself as a architect as well as his new  status as True Alpha.  Jeremy has always been a mid level pack member and is not prepared when he starts to change mentally, emotionally, and physically.  He is in all respects, a late bloomer and that’s a problem.  I really love this character.  He is powerful and he is also very vulnerable, he is insecure and having problems handling his transition without help.   Then into his life strides Tim Madison, Lucas Young and Noah Hammond.  Talk about a life changing moment.  That scene in the parking lot is a great example of why everything about this series and book works.  It’s intense, its perspective is both intimate and broad in scope, it’s humorous and potentially terrifying.  It’s amazing.   And the more we learn about Jeremy’s journey to True Alpha, the more we learn about werewolf society, pack rules and regulations.

The character of Tim Madison is, naturally, given more depth and scope than his role in Strength of the Pack.  I liked Tim in that novel but came to love him here.  Older, responsible, and still he yearns for the type of bond he sees in Lucas and Noah, a permanence and deep love that includes respect and understanding.  Tim’s past and his military career have taught him caution, to be wary of unplanned,  quick moves.  So it is absolutely understandable that when faced with Jeremy’s (and his own) desires, that Tim would want to slow things down.  So very human, but that doesn’t always work with your mate is a shapeshifter.  Again, McKenna gives each man his strong persona and then shows us exactly how and why they work so well in combination.  It’s realistic and incredibly sexy!  I mean incendiary sexy!  Those scenes between Tim and Jeremy are the hottest things since…well, since Noah and Lucas!

Of course,  Dominant Lucas Young and his mate, Noah Hammond, the True Alpha of the U.S. Armed Forces Pack are back in force.  This couple always manages to bring an startling sexual and emotional component to each scene they are in.   They remain as charismatic and white hot as you would expect.  But even with all those qualities, their presence doesn’t take away anything from the story of Tim and Jeremy.  They enhance it, not dilute it.  McKenna balances her couples and the needs of the narrative beautifully so neither couple is diminished by the other.  It may be  Tim and Jeremy’s story but the author has a wider plan that she is moving towards and many other elements in play.  And this will include some of the new characters she introduces in Strength of the Wolf.  At least I am hoping to see certain Marines show up again as well as Tim’s brother.

A  review of any of Kendall McKenna’s novels would be incomplete without mentioning the superb military elements so much a part of her narratives.  Because of Kendall McKenna, I now know what a sit-rep is, also a “oscar mike”, CASEVAC, and LPC’s, that’s leather personnel carriers, also known as boots for those of you as ignorant as I was of military speak!  Because of Kendall McKenna and her vivid realistic descriptions, I can almost feel the heat of the desert baking into their skin, and the dessert sand that invades every crevasse of clothes and body no matter the preventative measures taken to keep it out.  The drudgery, the danger, the boredom and the unmitigated horror of a ambush, its all here, done with a gritty realism that will make you wince,cringe and cry out for those involved.  Reading through a Kendall McKenna story is both a pleasure and a revelation.  I feel grounded in its authenticity (especially where the military and combat is concerned) but revel in the new facts and aspects of situation and characters that I had not thought of.    What a joy.

Kendall McKenna’s Strength of the Wolf and The Tameness of the Wolf series are on Scattered Thoughts Best Lists of 2013.  Consider both books highly recommended.  So grab up your LPCs and run to get your copy of Strength of the Wolf.  If you are new to the series, go directly back to the beginning and Strength of the Pack first.  If you loved that book, trust me you will be running back to reread it after finishing Strength of the Wolf.  This is a series you will never get enough of, trust me on this one.

Cover art by Jared Rackler is amazing.  I love it.

Books in The Tameness of the Wolf series in the order they were written and should be read:

Strength of the Pack (The Tameness of the Wolf #1)
Strength of the Wolf (The Tameness of the Wolf #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 365 pages
Published September 6th 2013 by MLR Press
original title Strength of the Wolf
ISBN13 MLR1020130136
edition language English
series The Tameness of the Wolf
Buy links:

More Kendall McKenna, More Marine Werewolves and 2nd Contest Begins!

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Whew! Welcome back, everybody! I don’t know about you, but this last week has been crazy! I’ve had my usual schedule of guest blogs and blog hops surrounding the release of my new book, but the reaction to Strength of the Wolf has exceeded the reaction to the first book, and I can hardly keep up with the email and PMs! If I still had my day job, I wouldn’t have been able to keep up at all!

Thanks for taking time to swing by and get updated. I’ve got a winner to announce later on, but first, pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink, prop your feet up, and let’s chat.

A couple of days ago, I discussed world building and how I construct my stories and my characters. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty today. Let’s talk about werewolves; specifically, the werewolves I created for my series, The Tameness of the Wolf. Creating a world in which werewolves serve in the Marine Corps, are fully integrated with humans, fall in love, and make love, with both humans and other werewolves, was more complex and complicated than I had anticipated. It’s not difficult, but it can get tricky.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve read less than a handful of paranormal romances. As a child, I loved ‘monster’ movies. In addition to the classics, I also had a fondness for the Hammer films of the 60s. Also being a history buff, I read all about the origins of the various myths and legends of my two favorite ‘monsters’; vampires and werewolves. Technology has made for some entertaining movies, and has led to the blending of shapeshifters with werewolves. I created my werewolf mythology from the most intriguing aspects of shapeshifting, anchored it in history, then used it to color my characters and my story.

Black Wolf in snowThere are two characteristics that separate werewolves (or any were-animal) from general shapshifters. One is that the individual is cursed, most often by receiving a bite from a werewolf. The second is the necessity of shifting into a wolf at the full moon. Full werewolves shift completely into a wolf. There has always been the existence of legends about a ‘wolfman’, which is a creature possessing the traits of both wolf and human.

As I built my world for The Tameness of the Wolf series, the concept of the curse became problematic because my werewolves are not evil, and are not villains. I chose to make the curse feature a part of the werewolves history, so it has bearing on my characters, but in an historical capacity. At this point, I can’t elaborate any further without spoilers!

The feature that is arguably, quintessentially ‘werewolf’, is the need to shift into a wolf with the full moon. This is what captured my imagination, more Black Wolf   White Wolf Full Moonthan anything else, so it features prominently in my mythology. My affection for wolfmen manifests itself in my werewolves being able to control their shapeshift by degrees. Unless it’s the full moon, my werewolves are able to shift some or all of their body parts at will.

When it came to the behaviors of my werewolves, both conscious and instinctive, I rooted everything in the natural world. When my werewolves become wolves, they behave just as wolves in the wild do. They have a pack hierarchy, they possess a great deal of aggression, they are able to run for nearly a day, at a steady pace. They’re stronger than they are as humans, they hunt wild prey during the full moon, and they function as a pack-like team. They retain small aspects of their humanity, but for all intents and purposes, they’re large, dangerous Dire wolves.

Conversely, when my werewolves are human, they’re fully human. Some wolf-like aspects bleed through, such as stronger senses of sight, smell and hearing. They retain the wolf’s use of scent and touch to aid in communication. They’re territorial, but they function extremely well in teams.
What this all means is, everything that happens in my stories, and all the traits and features of my characters, occur in reality. Neither human, nor wolf; have any habits, rituals or behaviors that aren’t found in the natural word. For all that my characters defy the laws of physics, and don’t exactly adhere to the law of equal mass, my werewolves – and therefore my stories – are believable. They feel realistic

Once I set up the history of my werewolves, and the rules of my universe, I began to write my story.  Again, I know where I want my characters to go, and where I want them to end up. I know the same things about the plot. I design scenes to do what it is I need done at that point in the story, and I ensure every detail adheres to the rules of the world I built. Building that world, clearly defining it, and sticking to the rules is crucial, and it makes the stories compelling and enjoyable.

I took the world that I built in Strength of the Pack, and I expanded and elaborated on it in Strength of the Wolf.  I continued to weave werewolves into the myths and legends of our reality. I showed what it is to be a True Alpha werewolf, and how Noah and Jeremy got there. I gave insight into how the packs work, and sometimes don’t work. I expanded on the role of the Beta, and I introduced the beloved Omega. And along the way, I showed humans and werewolves learning how to wage modern warfare, side by side.

And along the way, Tim and Jeremy fall in love.Marine with dog tags

Strength of the Wolf continues to rocket its way up the bestseller lists. Tim and Jeremy have captured hearts. If you’re curious, you can read a little bit about them:
Blurb:  
After a fiery exit from Afghanistan, Tim Madison is promoted to major. Jeremy Wagner is a civilian, just beginning his Transition to True Alpha. As a lone wolf, he has no one to teach him the vital principles of strong leadership. After a volatile chance encounter, Tim and Jeremy form an intimate bond.
As Jeremy prepares to someday lead his own pack, Tim struggles with military werewolves being needlessly maimed in combat, as well as specifically targeted by hostile forces. Despite Tim and Jeremy’s feelings, werewolf and human politics or family conflict could prevent their mate-bond.

Excerpt:
The crowd of Marines backed away, forming a wide circle around Tim. To his left, Lucas dropped what he was carrying. Glass shattered on the wooden deck and dispelled the food it contained. To Tim’s right, Jeremy’s clawed hands wrapped around Terrell Hubbard’s throat. His lips pulled back in a ferocious snarl, revealing long, wickedly sharp fangs. Hubbard’s fingers were claws, as well. One gripped Jeremy’s bicep, the other was fisted in Jeremy’s shirt. Hubbard bared his fangs, barking and growling in Jeremy’s face. 

Adrenaline surged into Tim’s bloodstream. His heart pounded, his mouth went dry. “Jeremy! Knock it the fuck off!” he shouted, reaching for the brat’s shoulders to pull him away from Hubbard. “Sergeant Hubbard! Stand down! Right the fuck now!” Tim’s skin tightened over his bones and his clothes were suddenly painful.

Tim hadn’t been this afraid in combat. Hubbard was inches taller and tens of pounds heavier than Jeremy. He was a trained Marine, battle hardened. Jeremy was outclassed and that scared the shit out of Tim. 

“Submit, Terrell,” Noah shouted, voice rough and commanding. He sounded more wolf than human. 

Just as Tim reached for Jeremy, strong hands grasped his wrists. 

“Stay out of it,” Lucas said, trying to drag Tim away from the embattled werewolves. “You’ll only get hurt.”

“Jeremy’s no match for Hubbard,” Tim said angrily, trying to shake off Lucas. 

“Yes, he is.” Lucas put himself between Tim and the shifters, giving a mighty shove. “Let Noah handle it.”

Tim stumbled, Lucas’ shove sending him off balance. He started back toward Jeremy, desperate to get him away from the larger, stronger Hubbard. Lucas blocked his path. Dawson was suddenly behind Lucas as silent reinforcement. 

“Submit to him, Terrell,” Noah ordered again. He stood beside the two werewolves but didn’t touch. Tim wondered why the hell he didn’t break up the fight. “If you make him shift he’ll rip your throat out.”

In the blink of an eye, Hubbard gave up the fight and let himself be carried to the ground by Jeremy’s weight. Now on his back, Terrell let his arms go limp beside him. He tilted back his head so that both his throat and his belly were vulnerable to Jeremy’s attack. 

A strange silence fell over the yard, save for Hubbard’s labored breathing as he struggled to get air past Jeremy’s grip on his throat. Jeremy crouched over Terrell’s supine form. He gripped Hubbard’s throat with only one clawed hand now. He leaned down until his open mouth hovered just above Terrell’s throat. 

“My wolf has submitted, Jeremy,” Noah said calmly. He knelt next to the combatants, still not touching Jeremy. “You’re the victor. He submitted. Let him up.”

Jeremy continued to crouch over Hubbard. He snapped audibly at the vulnerable flesh of Terrell’s throat. Hubbard flinched. Tim clenched his jaw, silently begging Jeremy to accept Hubbard’s submission. 

“You can’t filter this through any human or military standards,” Lucas said quietly. Tim had nearly forgotten he was there. “I know you think it’s too soon, but do you feel a connection to Jeremy?”

Tim swallowed hard, his throat tight. To his relief, Jeremy released Terrell, rising gracefully to his feet. “Yes,” Tim admitted, eyes following Jeremy as he stalked back and forth, glaring at the werewolves circled around them. 

“Let him mark you, then,” said Lucas. “Right now, in front of the Pack.”

Tim realized everything had been leading him to this very moment, despite his efforts to deny and avoid it. “Yeah,” he sighed. He had feelings for the kid he knew weren’t mixed up with Jeremy’s, or tied to the full moon. Jeremy’s well-being mattered to Tim, but he was the reason Jeremy was angry and aggressive. Jeremy needed Tim to stop hiding. 

“It’s got to be a visible mark,” Lucas reminded him. “He’s going to want to get his scent on you, too.”

None of that bothered Tim. Well, the visible marks made him apprehensive. He’d had such sympathy for Lucas, watching him struggle with werewolves making things public that humans usually kept private. 

“The brat had better be worth all the drama,” Tim muttered darkly, decision made. 

Lucas chuckled. “You wouldn’t like him if he wasn’t a challenge.”

Lucas and Dawson both stepped aside, leaving Tim free to approach to Jeremy. Or Jeremy to approach Tim. It wasn’t clear yet how this was going to go down. Terrell had rolled onto his side, but he still lay on the ground at Jeremy’s feet. The neck of his muscle shirt was darkened with blood. Jeremy’s claws had done some damage. Thankfully, it didn’t appear too severe.

Jeremy stopped pacing. Noah stood behind him, speaking quietly. Jeremy stood tall, shoulders squared, staring directly at Tim. His eyes were amber and those of a wolf. His chest heaved with each breath. At least his hands were no longer claws. Tim couldn’t tell if Jeremy still had fangs. 

It didn’t matter if he did. Tim knew he was in no danger from Jeremy. Focusing all of his attention on Jeremy, Tim realized he should have done this before now. Jeremy’s need was a physical ache. His desire to mark Tim, and be marked in return had always been there. It lingered at the back of Tim’s mind like white noise, making it easy to ignore. Tim’s own regret poured through him, drowning out everything else. He hoped this effort would make up for his mistakes. Releasing a shaky breath, Tim silently acknowledged that he’d wanted this all along. 

Tim saw the moment Jeremy sensed that their needs finally synced. He closed the distance between them in a few long strides. Tim clutched at Jeremy’s shirt as Jeremy wrapped his arms around Tim’s waist, pulling their bodies together roughly. Their open mouths collided and Tim felt the hard press of teeth. Jeremy did still have his fangs, their sharp tips drawing blood from Tim’s lips. A thrill ran down Tim’s spine, knowing Jeremy’s lethal strength was leashed, just for him. 

Jeremy licked deep into Tim’s mouth, their tongues tangling wetly. Jeremy’s body was flame-hot, pressed to the length of Tim’s. His breath was scalding as it ghosted across Tim’s cheek. 

Breaking the kiss, Jeremy buried his face in the join of Tim’s neck and shoulder. Tim shuddered. He pushed his hips against Jeremy’s, feeling Jeremy’s already hard cock. Tim tilted his head slightly, asking at the same time he gave consent. 

Jeremy pried Tim’s fingers from his shirt. Tim gasped as Jeremy forced his arms to cross at the small of his back. The strength in Jeremy’s hand was surprising as he restrained Tim’s wrists. The arch in his back pushed Tim’s body hard against Jeremy’s. His own cock was completely hard now and he rubbed himself back and forth against Jeremy. Tim closed his eyes, letting his head fall back in silent pleading. 

Jeremy kissed up the length of Tim’s throat, dragging the sharp tips of his teeth along the edge of Tim’s jaw. The slight sting sent a thrill down Tim’s spine and he wanted more. Jeremy nipped at Tim’s pulse where it throbbed just below his skin. Tim moaned when Jeremy soothed the spot with his tongue. 

His body went rigid and Tim unleashed a decadent groan when Jeremy’s hot mouth latched onto the side of his neck. Tim’s blood rose to the surface as Jeremy sucked hard at the spot. Jeremy soothed the bruise with a swipe of his tongue. Tim relaxed into Jeremy’s hard body, moaning each time Jeremy sucked a bruise into his throat, or nipped sharply at his too-sensitive skin. 

He wanted to touch. Tim struggled to free his hands from Jeremy’s grip. When Jeremy released his wrists, Tim buried his fingers in Jeremy’s hair, holding him close. Jeremy nosed at Tim’s ear, dragging his sharp teeth along the sensitive lobe. Tim shuddered again and moaned. 

Lowering his head, Tim found Jeremy’s mouth. He chased Jeremy’s tongue with his own. Curling his fingers in Jeremy’s hair, Tim used it to tilt his head back. He skimmed his lips and nose over the pounding pulse in Jeremy’s throat. Tim pressed his open mouth to the same spot and drew heated blood to the surface. Jeremy panted. He cradled the back of Tim’s head, encouraging him. Tim sucked blood to the surface of Jeremy’s skin. He was deeply satisfied that Jeremy wore his mark. The werewolf pack that surrounded them would know that Jeremy was his, and only his.

Jeremy pulled back abruptly. “Okay, that’s enough,” he gasped. “Any more and we’re going to put on a much more revealing show than I’d planned.”

Tim blinked, struggling to understand Jeremy’s words. He watched Jeremy’s eyes roam over his throat, taking in the bruises Tim could feel darkening on his skin. Jeremy’s expression was satisfied, bordering on arrogant. Tim couldn’t help but chuckle. It was such an Alpha thing to do. 

The world began to move around them. Dawson directed someone to clean up the shattered glass and spilled food. Noah tried to save the meat left forgotten on the grill. Mundane conversations swirled around them. 

Tim and Jeremy stood alone, completely surrounded by Noah’s Pack, breathing heavily, looking only at one another. 

“How long do we have to stay?” Desire was obvious in Jeremy’s still-amber eyes. 

“It would be polite to eat something, then help clean up a little,” Tim replied, already calculating how he might maneuver them into an early departure. 

“Stay with me tonight?” Jeremy asked. 

Tim nodded emphatically. “Of course.” Everyone associated with a werewolf pack was excused from duty for the next two days for the full-moon run. He imagined the two of them had much to discuss over the course of the next twenty-four hours. 

“Good,” Jeremy said. He turned toward the cluster of Marines who had begun to serve themselves food. “Now let’s go let them all know it’s time to keep their hands off of what’s mine.”

Jeremy’s possessive words should have angered Tim. Instead, it made him consider being rude and skipping out on food. 

If anyone would understand, it would be Lucas and Noah. 

 

In just a little bit, I’m going to show you how you can enter to win an e-book copy of Strength of the Wolf. First, I have a winner to announce:
WINNER of the e-book copy of Strength of the Pack:

Penumbra!
CONGRATULATIONS! (just let me know what format you need)

Now, here’s your chance to enter to win an e-book copy of Strength of the Wolf!
 StrengthoftheWolf4

 http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1bf30761

You’ll also want to swing by tomorrow, the 13th, and find out how to win an authentic set of Tim and Jeremy’s Dog Tags! These are just like the tags worn by U.S. armed forces personnel and are very highly coveted (and a little hard to get!).Strength of the Wolf Dog Tags

Love and Dog Tags,

Kendall

www.kendallmckenna.com

www.facebook.com/kendallmckenna

www.facebook.com/thetamenessofthewolf

www.facebook.com/therecondiaries

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Kendall McKenna Guest Post and The Tameness of the Wolf Contest – Part 1

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Strength of the Wolf Banner

Welcome back!

The highly anticipated book, Strength of the Wolf, was released on September 6th by MLR Press!  Less than 24 hours after release, it debuted at #6 onStrengthoftheWolf4 Amazon’s Top 100 Gay & Lesbian Romance. Reviews have begun to roll in and they’re excellent!

If you already know me as an author, and you already love my werewolf Marines, then you know that my writing trademark is authentic characters who are U.S. Marines. My stories feature realistic action sequences that are fast paced and heart pounding. I write believable love stories based on intimacy, which unfold against the backdrop of relevant and timely plots.

I never intended to write a paranormal book, let alone a series. I never made a point of reading shifter stories, so I was completely unfamiliar with the common tropes and themes. These days, I know what the common tropes are, because I’ve been told how my stories don’t contain them. When it came time for me to try to write what eventually became the book, Strength of the Pack, I wasn’t sure where to start. I know Marines, I know wolves, and I had a fondness for some of the older werewolf mythology. We’re told to write what we know, so that’s what I did.

It was daunting in the beginning, but anytime I expressed self-doubt, an author with experience in writing paranormal stories would tell me one thing; you can make anything believable, if you’re consistent in your world building. It’s the one thing I heard over and over, I knew it was true, so I paid close attention to the details of the world I was building.

I’m a very character driven fan and when I began my writing career, it was immediately evident I’m a character driven writer. When I began writing Strength of the Pack, I knew my story was about Lucas and Noah, and the conflicts they faced as they fell in love. As I developed their characters and moved their story along, I created interesting and likeable supporting characters that added specific things to the story.

Characters are wonderful, and they’re important. They’re only half the formula, though. Characters have to have things to do, problems to solve, goals to achieve, and in the case of my characters, a war to fight. My plots are the vehicles in which my characters travel as they follow the courses of their character arcs. Each of my plot points is built around the emotional note I need a specific character to hit at that moment in the story.

All of this is pretty basic when writing a real-world contemporary romance, because existing and functioning within the rules of our world come wolves fightingnaturally. I don’t have to think consciously think about them. When I dove into writing Strength of the Pack, I used our modern world as my foundation, building Lucas’ and Noah’s world on top as I went. Taking the U.S. Marine Corps and Operation Enduring Freedom, I inserted a race of werewolves into that reality. I selected portions of old werewolf lore that appealed to me, coupled it with real-world wolf behavior, and layered that onto my Marines.

And from there, I built my world. I constantly asked the question, ‘how would this work if werewolves were real?’. How would a werewolf Marine handle entering a new platoon, as opposed to a human Marine? How would this training go if half the platoon was faster and stronger? How would a human officer command werewolves, when they’re stronger, faster, and require powerful leaders? If werewolves are faster, stronger, have better sight and hearing, how would that affect combat? How would the Marine Corps utilize these strengths in combat?

Word building is about attention to detail. It has to all make sense. Everything must seem possible within the context of the story. Consistency is critical; if one character can or can’t do something, it must hold true for all characters, and any exceptions have to make sense. If Noah the werewolf is able to save Lucas with a special skill in chapter five, but fails to use that same skill to rescue him in chapter fifteen, readers will mutiny! And they should. If I need Lucas in danger to create a dramatic moment, and I need Noah to rescue him to create an emotional moment, I can’t change the rules of my own world building simply because I’m in love with this idea I have for some good hurt/comfort.

If you’re curious to see what Strength of the Pack is all about, check out the excerpt below. I’m offering everyone the opportunity to enter for a chance to win an e-book copy. The winner will be announced on Thursday, September 12th, so be sure to check back then. I’ll also be sharing some insights into why my werewolves have some of the strengths they do, and why they’re missing others, what some of the problems were that I encountered in writing a paranormal story, and how I solved them.

You’ll also want to swing by tomorrow, the 11th, and find out how to win an authentic set of Lucas and Noah’s Dog Tags! These are just like the tags worn by U.S. armed forces personnel and are very highly coveted (and a little hard to get!).

You’ll find the Rafflecopter widget for the giveaway, at the end of the Strength of the Pack excerpt.

Blurb:
Lieutenant Lucas Young doesn’t know much about shifters. When Sergeant Noah Hammond is assigned to Lucas’ platoon, the Marine Corps’ True Alpha werewolf challenges the Lieutenant’s authority and his self-control. As Lucas learns to dominate and command Noah, he struggles against a strong attraction and deepening emotional bond.

During their combat deployment to Afghanistan, Lucas and Noah begin mirroring legendary partnerships. Their bond and their power grow as they survive dangerous combat and ambushes. When one of them is wounded in battle, they both must embrace the strength of their bond before they lose each other forever.

Excerpt: Lucas pulled his SUV into the parking lot. The sun blazed orange and hung low over the ocean, streaking the sky with shades of red and purple. Lucas estimated it was about forty-five minutes before sunset. There were several vehicles already parked, but Lucas knew there would be many more rolling in.

Noah was easy to spot, leaning against the spare tire of a Jeep, legs crossed at the ankles. A thrill ran the length of Lucas’ spine as he took the parking place beside the Jeep. Stepping out into the still warm evening, he realized he wouldn’t need the jacket he’d brought.

“I will admit, Lieutenant,” Noah said by way of greeting, “I didn’t think you’d actually show up.” His eyes were glittering silver.

“I said I would, Sergeant,” Lucas replied. “Why would you doubt it?”white artic wolf

“Not a mistake I will make again,” Noah drawled laconically.

Lucas knew there was more meaning behind that statement than was immediately obvious. He held out the clipboard with the roster of werewolves expected to show tonight. “Do you already have one of these?”

Noah glanced at the list and back up into Lucas’ eyes. “I won’t need that, sir. But if it makes you feel better to use it as a back-up, by all means.”

He knew Noah was laughing at him, and Lucas bristled. “You can keep track of exactly who shows up tonight and if they make it back in the morning, without writing anything down?”

“Yes, sir, I can.” It was a simple statement of fact, devoid of any arrogance.

“Since we’re off duty, we can set rank aside for the evening,” Lucas said, wondering at the wisdom of his words even as he spoke them. “Explain to me how you keep track of such a large group of shifters.”

“Yes…Lucas,” Noah replied. His face was expressionless, but his voice was laced with humor. “At the end of the night there will be two distinct scent trails for everyone who turns out for the run. If there’s any trail that goes out but doesn’t return, I’ll use that to track down the missing werewolf.”

Lucas ignored the tug of attraction he felt at Noah’s subtle amusement. “Does that happen often?” he asked brusquely.

“No, Lucas. Not very.”

Lucas suppressed a shiver at the husky, suggestive way Noah said his name. It had to be due to his impending shift into wolf form. He watched as Noah’s nostrils flared slightly.

“When it does,” Noah continued. “It’s usually a case of someone misjudging how far out they’ve run. Occasionally, I have to deal with trapped legs or lacerated paw pads.”

Lucas thought of how Noah always seemed to be scenting him. “Is that how you all keep track of each other?” He silently chastised himself for hoping he was something special.

Noah’s eyes narrowed as he studied Lucas for several seconds. “Are you asking if every werewolf is able to differentiate between over a hundred individual scent trails and identify the age of each trail?”

Not really. “Yes.”

“No.”

The abrupt answer took Lucas by surprise. He waited for Noah to elaborate but quickly realized he didn’t intend to.

“So it’s a skill unique to Alphas?” Lucas persisted.

“Having the ability to monitor several different scent trails contributes to an Alpha being able to successfully lead a pack.”

Lucas forced himself to be patient. It was like pulling fucking teeth. He decided to meet Noah’s silence with his own.

Finally, Noah pushed off from the Jeep and said, “True Alphas can track and monitor larger packs. It manifests naturally; we don’t have to develop it.”

Lucas nodded thoughtfully. That was a hell of a useful skill to have.

“Listen up,” Noah suddenly shouted, causing Lucas to jump. “Everybody check in and out with my Lieutenant, here. He’s standing Sentinel, so make it easy for him.”

Lucas looked around, abashed that the parking lot had begun to fill up while they’d stood there talking, and he hadn’t noticed. How such a large group had remained so quiet baffled him.

As the Marines passed by, each one called out his or her name. Lucas checked the first box for each one on his alphabetized list. The entire process went quick and smooth. As the group checking in dwindled, Lucas turned to find Noah kicking off his shoes.

“Now what?” Lucas asked, surprised at his own informality.

Noah opened the back of the Jeep and pulled out several plastic tarps that he handed off to other Marines. “We walk out into the setting sun, get naked and shift into wolves.”

Lucas’ mouth went dry at the mental picture of Noah stripping himself naked. “And the tarps?” he asked distractedly.

“Nobody likes putting on clothes that have lain in the dirt all night.” Noah’s grin made Lucas’ chest tighten.

“Of course,” Lucas replied, wondering when he’d lost the power of deductive reasoning.

The large group had almost all moved out into the growing dusk. “I should warn you; some of us are going to show back up in different states of…arousal,” Noah said, looking like he was avoiding meeting Lucas’ eyes. “There could be squabbling. There will definitely be some fucking. It’s typical. Just ignore it.”

Lucas wasn’t sure how to respond. He stared wordlessly at Noah for several long moments. “Seriously?”wolves howling in group

“Ever been in combat?” Noah asked, finally looking directly at Lucas with his silver eyes.

“Yes.” Lucas wondered what that had to do with anything.

“Similar reaction,” Noah replied.

Lucas suddenly understood. “Copy that.”

“Are you really going to sit in your car all night waiting for us to come back?” Noah asked abruptly.

Why was this so fucking hard to believe? “I’ve got a book, a thermos and a cell phone. If something goes wrong out there, send someone with a message, and I can get help.”

Noah gave a slight shake of his head. “Are you for real?” he muttered.

“Excuse me?” Lucas had no clue how to answer, or if he even should.

“The first of us should start showing back up just as it gets light,” Noah said over his shoulder as he walked into the dark, his hips rolling slowly, broad shoulders cutting a defined silhouette.

Lucas locked down the sudden spike of lust that rocketed through him. “What’s the appropriate thing to say, right now?” he asked, hoping levity would dispel the sudden awkwardness. “Good luck? Stay safe? Play nice with the other wolves, and don’t pick up any strange fleas?”

Noah stopped in his tracks and slowly turned back. Lucas was sure he’d crossed some sort of line of inappropriateness. He mentally berated himself for openly flirting with an NCO under his command.

Relief washed over him when Noah suddenly grinned. “I wondered if there was any spirit to go with that brain.”

Lucas stayed rooted to his spot, speechless, blood thundering in his ears, as he watched Noah walk into the darkness.

Strength of the PackENTER HERE FOR A CHANCE TO WIN AN E-BOOK COPY OF
STRENGTH OF THE PACK!
The winner will be announced right here on September 12th!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1bf30761/

(please leave comment to enter if the link doesn’t take you to the appropriate page, sorry for the inconvenience)

Love and Dog Tags,
Kendall

Scattered Thoughts Welcomes Kendall McKenna and the book contests for The Tameness of the Wolf series

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Strength of the Wolf Banner

Greetings! My name is Kendall McKenna and I write gay erotic romance novels that feature U.S. Marines (www.kendallmckenna.com). I’m really happy to be back here again, sharing the release of my new military paranormal book, Strength of the Wolf. We have a lot planned for you, and a lot to share over the next few days. It’s a major book release celebration!

Strength of the Wolf released Friday, September 6th on MLR’s website . Strength of the Wolf is Book #2 of The Tameness of the Wolf, and is the followup to Strength of the Pack. Noah and Lucas are back, but they’re taking a backseat to Tim Madison, and the civilian Alpha who quickly realizes just how lucky he’d be to have a Marine Corps officer as his mate. Terrell Hubbard, Elijah Chandler, and Logan Grant are all back a well, along with a new cast of fascinating characters – both human and werewolf, Marine and civilian. There are new werewolf behaviors, rituals, and legends. And of course, there’s an intimate romance and some hot, hot sex!

If you’re new to the universe of The Tameness of the Wolf and my werewolf Marines, you’ll have a chance to win an e-book copy of Strength of the Pack. Once you read it, you’ll understand why all of the book reviewers are competing with each other to be the one to review Strength of the Wolf for their site.

Along the way, I’ll share with you how I built the world of The Tameness of the Wolf, and how I created a breed of werewolf unlike any other found in the genre. I’ll discuss how I managed to write unique werewolves, despite the fact they seem to be everywhere!
If you’ve already read Strength of the Pack and are a fan of Lucas and Noah, you’ll have a chance to enter to win a highly coveted set of their authentic Dog Tags. If that’s not enough, I’ll be offering a chance to be the first reader ever to win a set of Tim and Jeremy’s authentic Dog Tags. These are brand new, created just for the release of Strength of the Wolf, and have never before been offered as a prize!

Finally, in a culmination of fun and excitement, I’ll be offering THE GRAND PRIZE of a chance to enter to win an e-book copy of the highly anticipated Strength of the Wolf!

Beginning tomorrow, September 10th, you can enter to win an e-book copy of Strength of the Pack. 
September 12th I’ll announce the winner of the e-book copy of Strength of the Pack. You’ll also be able to enter to win a copy of the follow-up novel, Strength of the Wolf. 
September 14th we’ll all celebrate my birthday by announcing the Grand Prize winner of Strength of the Wolf!

Along the way, I’ll be offering opportunities to enter to win AUTHENTIC DOG TAGS for the main characters of Strength of the Pack and Strength of the Wolf. These are highly coveted, genuine military dog tags for Lucas and Noah, from Strength of the Pack. With the release of Strength of the Wolf, Tim and Jeremy now have their own set of tags! I’ll be offering chances to win a set of each, over the course of the week so be sure to keep an eye out.
Join me back here tomorrow, September 10th, to kick off the festivities, and find out how to enter to win an e-book copy of Strength of the Pack!

Love and Dog Tags,StrengthoftheWolf4Strength of the Pack
Kendall

www.kendallmckenna.com

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It’s Contest Time! The Release of Strength of the Wolf by Kendall McKenna is Almost Here!

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Note: This event has been postponed until Monday, Sept. 9.

Good morning, everyone!  I have several great announcements to make today.  On September 6th, Friday, the long awaited sequel to Kendall McKenna’s Strength of the Pack releases from MLR Press and to celebrate, Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is hosting a two – part guest blog by Kendall McKenna as well as a two- book contest/giveaway.

On Thursday,  Part 1 of Kendall McKenna’s blog will be posted as well as kick off the first book giveaway.  For those of you new to Kendall McKenna, she is one of my absolute must have authors.  Her stories include some of the most authentic, gritty military characters in recent memory, so realistic that she has garnered the approval of soldiers who have read her books and commented on her remarkable details and knowledge of the military universe.  In this series, The Tameness of the Wolf,  Kendall McKenna gives us a new  twist on wolfshifters. In her stories, the wolfshifters and the military work together in special units, each with their own commander.  It is a new arrangement and not without its own unique issues and misunderstandings.  I love the way her universe combines the boredom and terror that goes hand in hand with combat units abroad with the supernatural element of wolf shifters with their pack rules and hierarchy.  It’s amazing and compelling.

The first book in the series, Strength of the Pack (The Tameness of the Wolf #1), revolves around the dynamic relationship between  Lt.. Lucas Young and the True Alpha pack leader Sargent Noah Hammond, who has just  transferred into his platoon.  We watch as they first establish a working relationship and then a personal one, a bond steeped in myth and old legends.  It’s raw, primal, disciplined and oh so real.

There is a power and strength to McKenna’s characters equal to the intensity of the military actions and battles the platoons and soldiers find themselves in.  McKenna’s wolfshifters have a true primal feel to their characters, you never forget the animalistic behaviors  exhibited are their true natures, not ones they assumed.  The author’s Marines exude the  military discipline and attitudes  that Marine training and experience have ingrained in them.  These are not characters easily forgotten.

That first story earned a 5 – star rating and a multitude of fans.  And now finally we get a sequel.  The wait is almost over. So here is the schedule for Kendall  McKenna’s guest blog and book contests.  All you have to do is leave a comment at the end of each days blog, its that easy.  So mark your calendars and join us for a 4 day celebration of Kendall McKenna’s The Tameness of the Wolf series and new book release.

Thurs., Sept. 5:  9/9  Kendall McKenna Guest Blog Part 1 – Start of contest
Fri., Sept.6:         9/10 ,Repost of The Strength of the Pack review
Sat.,Sept 7:          9/12Kendall McKenna Guest Blog Part 2,winner of 1st book announced, start contest for 2nd book
Mon., Sept 9:    9/14  Review of The Strength of the Wolf and Winner of Strength of the Wolf announced

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Strength of the Pack

It’s All In The Writing, Folks and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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To prepare for my time at GRL in Atlanta in October, I am trying to get ahead in my reviews for September and October.  And that means reading tons of books and of course writing about them.  And books read in volume will highlight the most common flaws I am seeing across the boards from person reading stacks of booksauthors seasoned and brand new to publishing.  Surprisingly it’s not one sided.  Just yesterday I finished a book from a favorite author of mine only to get to the end and find that not only did the story not have an ending, it was missing a hugely anticipated “aha” moment.  I was astonished, and quite a bit frustrated to say the least.

I don’t know what is going on but these same issues are everywhere and I am not the only one who has noticed.  Currently I am working on my next mini rant “The Case of the Missing Aha Moment”.  It will pair up nicely with my mini rant on missing endings.  *shakes head*  Really there is no excuse.  The most immediate remedies to these issues that pop into my brain are 1) get a great editor and 2) super concrit partners or betas.  Both could and should point out issues such as these in a person’s writing.

For a humorous look  at writing do’s and mostly don’ts visit  http://tom.mcallister.ws/?p=868. It’s Tom McAllister’s 107 Ironclad Rules for Writers Who Want to Be Better at Writing.  Some I agree with and of course, some I don’t.  But they are fun, and thought provoking.  Here are the first six to give you a sample:

1. Write every day. Except on days when you don’t feel like writing that much and you don’t have anything interesting to say.

2. Never write when you’re too hot. Beads of sweat are ideas leaking from your brain.

3. Nobody really eats turnips. They are a ridiculous food. Characters cannot eat turnips.

4. Hypnosis is the writer’s greatest tool.

5. Skinny people are often the cause of conflict. Fat people are often the solution. NO MEDIUM SIZED PEOPLE.

6. If you must write about the travails of being a writer, at least give yourself a glass eye or a cyborg hand or something.

If you want to read more, check out the link above.  Next week we will talk about the new words added to the dictionary.  Srsly?

Now on to the very exciting week ahead.  Next week I start on the third series in the offerings from the Pulp Friction authors.  This is the Triple Threat series from L.E. Harner.  It’s menage, it’s kinky, and its wonderful.   And drumroll please…….Kendall McKenna is also releasing her long awaited sequel to Strength of the Pack.  It’s titled Strength of the Wolf and it releases Sept. 6th from MLR Press.  To celebrate, Scattered Thoughts is hosting a 2 part guest blog with Kendall McKenna and a two book contest for a lucky person who comments during the contest time.  Might even be another surprise giveaway too, more about that later.  So many great things to look forward to.  Mark your calendars, and check them twice.  Hope to see you all here all week long.

Monday, Sept. 2:                   Coliseum Square by Lynn Lorenz

Tuesday, Sept. 3:                   Triple Threat (Triple Threat #1) by L.E. Harner

Wed., Sept. 4:                          Contest Announcement and Dates

Thurs., Sept 5:                        Kendall McKenna’s Guest Blog – Part 1

Friday, Sept. 6:                       Strength of the Pack  by Kendall McKenna – Review (reposted)

Sat., Sept. 7:                            Kendall McKenna’s Guest Blog – Part 2
Winner of first contest announced

For those of you here in the States, have a happy and safe Labor Day weekend.

Scattered Thoughts Summary of Reviews for August 2013

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August banner with pencils

August 2013 Review and Blog Summary:

5 Star Rating:

Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #4) by Lee Brazil, contemporary
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #4) by Havan Fellows, contemporary
Wicked Incarcerations (Wicked’s Way #3) by Havan Fellows contemporarysummer images with book

4 to 4.75 Star Rating:

Chances Are (Chances Are #1) by Lee Brazil (4.5 stars) contemporary
Dance Only For Me (Dance With The Devil #6) by Megan Derr (4.75 stars) fantasy
Demolished by Astrid Amara (4 stars), contemporary
Home Sweet Home (Home #5) by T.A. Chase, (4.5 stars) contemporary
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #2) by Lee Brazil
The Beast Without by Christian Baines (4.75 stars) supernatural
Welcome, Brother (College Fun and Gays #5) by Erica Pike (4 stars) contemporary
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Ways #2) by Havan Fellows
Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Ways #1) by Havan Fellows

3 to 3.75 Star Rating:

Burden by Annmarie McKenna (3.5 stars) contemporary
Faire Fugitive by Madeleine Ribbon (3.75 stars) fantasy
Fall For Me (Rock Gods #1) by Ann Lister, contemporary
Handle With Care by Josephine Myles (3.5 stars) contemporary
Mixed Tapes, Vol. 2 by Kris Jacen editor (3.5 stars) contemporary
Nischal (Leopard’s Spots #9) by Bailey Bradford (3.75 stars) supernatural
Subtle Innuendos (Mixed Tape series) by Z. Allora (3 stars) contemporary
The Boy Who Came In From The Cold by B.G. Thomas ((3 stars) contemporary

2 to 2.75 Star Rating:

The Queen’s Librarian by Carole Cummings (2.75 stars) fantasy

1 to 1.75 Star Rating:

Aching For It (Dominican Heat #1) by Stanley Bennett Clay (1 star) contemporary

Other Blogs:
Author Spotlight: Havan Fellows    
Author Spotlight: Lee Brazil
Wait? That Was The Ending? A Writing Mini rant From Scattered Thoughts

Review: Mixed Tapes Volume #2 Edited by Kris Jacen

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Rating 3.5 stars out of 5

Mixed Tape 2 coverRemember when there was nothing finer than someone putting together a tape of music that meant something to you both.  A song here that brought back memories of a special date or a song there that spelled out the love you had for each other.   That special list of songs on that Mixed Tape told you someone was thinking about you and your relationship with them when putting that list together.  Here is the second volume of songs and the stories that revolve around the relationships forever tied together by musical memories.

Mixed Tape – Volume #2:

“Never Goin’ to Let You Go” by Embry Carlysle
“Living On My Own” by Megan Slayer
“Save Your Love For Me” by Lex Valentine
“Up Where We Belong” by Rob Rosen
“It’s Raining Men” by Diana DeRicci
“How Soon Is Now” by Christopher Koehler

I did not read the first anthology in this series although I love the subject of these two volumes.  I still have locked away somewhere a tape or two that a former boyfriend mixed together for me, tapes that still manage to bring back smiles and perhaps a few tears along with the memories.  Among these stories I have found a new author to love, and several stories to recommend.  I am not sure if any of these stories have companion pieces in the first volume but one story here in particular is sending me back to check.   Here are the stories as they line up in the anthology:

1.  How Soon Is Now by Christopher Koehler.  Rating: 4 stars

Toby Meyer and Derek Tremaine are university undergraduates.  And each has been eyeing the other for months but neither has worked up the courage to approach the other man.  For Derek, past mistakes have made him overly cautious about relationship until the sight of Toby makes Derek want much more with the other man. For Toby, Derek is frustration personified.  He can’t understand why the man won’t ask him out on a date.  One night at a party which change the stalemate Toby and Derek are locked in.  For someone else has his eyes on Toby and Derek must decide to act for both their sakes.

I wished this story had been a little longer but the characters were interesting and endearing.  Derek especially was a interesting take on the “larger man”.  His sense of fashion is an important part of his personality, a trait more often seen in the young quirky characters instead of someone as huge as Derek.  Loved him, and this aspect of the story.  I only wish it has been a little longer and the resolution more drawn out.

2.  It’s Raining Men by Diana DeRicci. Rating: 5 stars

Dallas and his group of friends have come to Paper Dolls to cheer on their friend in the drag queen contest.  But from the moment he lays his eyes on Pepper Prince (aka Peter), the hostess of the club, Dallas knows he must do everything possible to get to know the man on stage.  Pepper Prince has a firm policy to never date any of his “dolls” or members of the audience who comes to see them.  Dallas, however, is impossible to ignore and persistent beyond measure.  When they do finally get together, the sparks fly.  But Peter has been hurt in the past.  Can Dallas overcome Peter’s past to make a future for himself and Peter together?

This is simply an amazing story.  Outstanding characterizations and terrific plot make this story a true standout.  DeRicci layers the story with several couples that you want to know better, along with the point of view of gay man who loves dressing as a woman and being a man.  The author makes Peter such an accessible personality, so well grounded in his beliefs that every reader will be able to understand exactly where Peter is coming from emotionally and applaud him.  Dallas too has so many wonderful strengths and accompanying insecurities that the pair is terrific apart and as a couple.  I simply wanted more of them, and their friends.  This is the best story of the anthology.  I want more in this universe.

3. Up Where We Belong by Rob Rosen. Rating: 3.5 stars

A limousine driver is standing in an airport holding a sign with a name on it – Ted Jackson.  Unfortunately for him, two men with the exact name arrive at the airport at the same time, one from the East Coast and one from the West.  The solution?  Both men take the same car to their hotel and a romance ensues that turns into something much more for them both.

This is a very cute story.  I loved the idea of two men with the same name and one very confused limousine driver.  There are some hot sexy scenes and a quick resolution.  Another case of instant love but here it kind of works.  Short and sweet.

4. Living On My Own by Megan Slayer. Rating 3 stars

Kelsey’s life is in turmoil.  He has just been dumped by his ex who has made awful accusations about him, his sister has trashed the house he let her stay in and he is lonely beyond measure.  Then Daniel Tate shows up, the man Kelsey has never gotten over.  They had a wonderful life before Daniel’s drinking destroyed their relationship.  Now Daniel is back and sober.  Daniel also wants Kelsey back.  Can Kelsey work through all the pain he has been put through and trust Daniel again?  Or will their last chance at a relationship be lost forever?

I liked Kelsey and Daniel well enough,  although I would have appreciated a little more back history on them both.  They were involved in a BDSM relationship and they pick back up on that immediately as soon as Daniel reenters Kelsey’s life.  Kelsey has just been humiliated in public due to a man he trusted, the trust he had previously place in Daniel had been destroyed due to Daniel’s drinking.  So how it is that they pick back up on that part of their relationship immediately given their test issues?  I liked the rest of their story well enough but this issues dragged it down to a 3 star rating.

5. Never Goin’ to Let You Go by Embry Carlysle. Rating: 2 stars

Takes place in Chicago in the 1980’s.  Friends Drake and Shane come to grips with each other and their sexuality.  Drake is gay and unashamedly so.  Shane is sure that he is straight to the point of making fun of gays and throwing around gay slurs.  Shane is also attracted to Drake which confuses him and makes him act out in a cowardly fashion.  Months and months go by and the miscommunications and misplaced emotions pile up.  Can Drake and Shane break through Shane’s self imposed barriers to have the relationship they want with each other?

Sigh.  I almost didn’t make it through this story.  It feels impenetrably long, like slogging through molasses on a cold day.   The writing is overly dense, the same issues repeated innumerable times throughout the story until the reader just doesn’t care any longer how the boys resolve their problems to have any sort of relationship.   Shane particularly is not a likable or endearing character.  I am not sure why the author feels like the reader should connect with him,  Instead we are left thinking that Drake should have moved on eons ago.  My least favorite story of the group.

6.  Save Your Love by Lex Valentine. Rating 2.5 stars

Starts out May 1987 in San Jose, California.  On his 18th birthday, Jay Sparks loses his virginity and finds out he is gay at a rock festival. Jay also discovers that Matt Langdon, his friend and first lover is also his forever love.  But it will be years and many different paths and lovers for each of them before they will be ready to take the chance on a relationship and a forever love.

I just couldn’t connect with these characters, however much I wanted to.  Jay, now a rock star, and Matt, a firefighter, keep meeting, usually on birthdays, having sex and telling each other how much they love each other.  They also  have to tell each other they just got tested and when was the last time they slept with someone else.  Conversations then occur where they deny their many lovers mean anything and that they know this causes each other pain.  *head desk*  Nothing about their relationship or feelings felt very realistic or believable,  When Jay says “I don’t understand how I can be with other guys when loving you feels so right, ” well, by that time I really didn’t care.  Far too short to make the reader engaged in such a relationship.  My penultimate least favorite story in this anthology.

Book Details:

ebook, 253 pages
Published June 18th 2013 by MLR Press
ISBN 1020130092
edition languageEnglish
seriesMixed T