Love Romance and Fantasy? Check out the Book Blast for Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1) by Isobel Starling (excerpt)

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BOOK BLAST

Book Title:  Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1)

Author: Isobel Starling

Publisher: Decent Fellows Press

Cover Artist: Valentine Pascadian (Lennel)

Genre/s:  Fantasy, M/M Romance

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length:103 600 words/ 556 pages

Release Date: February 15, 2019

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Blurb

After a traumatic event, Winter Aeling finds himself destitute and penniless in the backwater town of Mallowick.  He needs to travel to the city of Serein and impart grave news that will bring war to the Empire, but without a horse, money, and with not a soul willing to help him, he has no choice but to line up with the common folk seeking paid work on the harvest.  

As wagons roll into the market square and farmers choose day laborers, Winter is singled out for abuse by a brute of a farmer.  The only man who stands up for him is the farmer’s beguiling son, Adam, and on locking eyes with the swarthy young man Winter feels the immediate spark of attraction.

Winter soon realizes there is a reason he has been drawn to Blackdown Farm.  The farmer possesses a precious item that was stolen long ago from Winter’s family, and he determines to retrieve it.  He also cannot take his eyes off the farmer’s son, and as the young man opens up Winter can’t help wondering if Adam is just kind or his kind!

 

 

Excerpt

“Apple Boy” by Isobel Starling

CHAPTER 1

MARKET SQUARE

“You boy, aye, YOU.  Ain’t never seen ye round ‘ere before,” The farmer directed his bellow at me.  

It was sunrise, and at last, I’d found the courage to step out of my hiding place and join the common laborers who gathered in Mallowick market square.  We were waiting for the farmers’ carts to come by and choose their day workers.  I’d watched this ritual each morning for the past three days, peeking out from shadowed doorways, or while crouching behind barrels.  

It was harvest time, and it appeared to be routine for peasants to walk from the surrounding hamlets before dawn and assemble in the square to seek work on the farms.  There was wheat, barley, root vegetables, and tree fruits to be gathered before the weather turned. I was informed by a ruddy looking fellow in the tavern that anyone could get work on the harvest, and so, with my pride cut to ribbons and my pockets empty, I’d stepped out of the safety of my hiding place and joined the commoners.

“Does ye wants work or no’?  Look at me when I’m talkin’ to ye.  What’s yer name?” The burley farmer roared.  I looked up, stunned to be singled out from among all of these strapping men and hardy looking women, for I felt invisible.  Four carts had already passed and taken their pick of the young, strong peasants, but none of those farmers gave me a second glance.  I should have known something was afoot, for when this particular wagon turned up the women in the square shrank back into doorways, and men sidled away to lean against buildings.  On the side of the wagon, writ-large in bold off-white letters were the words BLACKDOWN FARM. There were around thirty of us left on view, like cattle.

I had never partaken in manual labor or any kind of work before.  I was a gentleman and far more familiar with spending my days relaxing, reading, attending social events in the city, or taking a horse for a gallop in the country.  But my life had changed since I’d become stranded here in the Pasturelands provincial town of Mallowick two weeks earlier.  Now I was living on my wits.  Each day was a fight for my life, and I’d sold all of my fine belongings, intending to pay for passage on the stagecoach from Mallowick to the city of Serein.  But I had not thought things through, and it did not happen that way.  My body’s needs took precedent. I’d become so ravenous, and therefore the meager coin I’d gathered from selling my finery was spent on what I could afford—basic rough barley bread and ale, just enough to stave off the gnawing pangs of hunger in my belly each day.  Now, I had no belongings, and the money was all but gone. I was no thief, and the only thing I had left to sell was my body. Looking like a wretch, I did not believe I could earn even a copper that way! Before I left on my travels, I was warned that the province of Erias had strict rules about men bedding other men and I did not want to tempt fate.  I was at a loss—hard labor or starvation were the only choices available to me. Gods, if my father could see how far I’d fallen in such a short time, he would be thoroughly ashamed.  I was living hand-to-mouth, and if I dared to seek out my reflection and observe my disreputable state of dress, I was sure I would see I was no longer a gentleman at all.

I assured myself that all would be well as soon as I could get to the city of Serein.  There I would attend my father’s depository and obtain funds from his account—as had been arranged, and then, I could find my way to my uncle’s residence and attend to a much grimmer business.  

So, with no other choice, I was here, standing in Mallowick market square with a bunch of rough-looking fellows and ruddy-faced women with just the ragged clothes I stood in to my name.  I wondered if my visage had taken on the same gaunt, starved, haunted look some of them wore.

“WELL?”  The farmer roared.

“Leave him be Pa; I think he’s a mute.  P… p… please don’t—” A swarthy young man urged, stepping to the farmers’ side.  The man appeared to be in his early twenties, with broad angular shoulders, slim hips, and wavy jaw-length hair that longingly reminded me of Montestein tea.  When the morning sunlight broke through the clouds and caressed him, the strands of his hair revealed all the shades of autumn.  It was beautiful.  His eyes were bright emerald green, and his skin bore the wind-burned tan of a man who spent his days working the land.  I met his gaze for a second that seemed to stop time, and I felt a flutter of longing erupt in my gut. I found myself mesmerized by him.  He appeared a little embarrassed, for himself or for me, I wasn’t quite sure. The farmer turned to his son.

“Shut that filthy mouth o’ yours, apple boy!” he spat.  His large meaty hands twitched.  He sneered and glared at his son in such a wicked way I knew it should have been followed up by a sharp slap.  I worried that the young man would endure further public humiliation at the hands of his father, but the farmer moved his disdainful glare back to me.  I shuddered with fear. I had a feeling that he was saving his son’s punishment for later—away from the prying eyes of the townsfolk. I did not like that thought, not one bit.  I did not know why the farmer was drawn to me, but he sized me up with a sweeping glance of consideration, then wrinkled his nose as if he’d sniffed a revolting stench—I hadn’t bathed in two weeks, so maybe I did smell a tad ripe!

“Is ye a mute?”

I shook my head.  I would say, if anything, I was deeply traumatized by the unfortunate circumstance I’d found myself in, but no, I was certainly not a mute.  I just wasn’t used to a lowly man speaking to me so roughly. Generally, men who dared to address me knew their betters and behaved appropriately.  But here in Mallowick, in the province of Erias, I was no better than a beggar on the street.  There was no one I could call on for favors, no one who, on hearing my family name, would loan me coin for the stagecoach or a horse to ride to the city and send word to my father.  

When I’d first arrived in Mallowick, telling the truth of my station had gotten me dragged down an alley where my finger and earrings were stolen, and I’d received a beating.  This farmer from Blackdown Farm had no idea who I was, and I would not make the same mistake again.

I took a breath and stepped out of line.  “Master Irwin Harding, sir. You may call me Win.”  I winced at hearing my own soft, well-spoken voice, with my accent, the clipped tongue of Thorn.  I had not used my real name and wished I had not used my true voice either.  The fact that I was the son of the Duke of Thorn meant nothing here.  Thorn was west of Erias, on the other side of the Silua Montis Mountain range, and I doubted any of these illiterate souls in Mallowick knew anything other than that folklore passed around by storytellers.

The farmer stepped to stand in front of me.  He was a big, bulky bastard of a man and stank of stale sweat and baccy.  He had a grizzled podgy face and thick dark hair shot with strands of silver pulled into an untidy tail.  The tension grew between us, and I worried I’d spoken out of turn. I looked down and watched my bare, filthy feet as if they held endless fascination.  I’d seen men like him before. He had hands like shovels, and I’m sure they’d done damage in their time. My father would have used a man like him well, probably as muscle to intimidate the city folk while the Royal Chancellor did the rounds collecting taxes.  

Afraid and sweating with anxiety, I glanced up and away, unable to look at the farmer directly and meet his fierce piggy eyes.  Instead, I looked left and caught the eye of his son. I felt another flutter of attraction. I was grateful for it because it dampened my fear a little.  The glance the farmers’ son sent me back was sheepish, apologetic. He shrugged and put a finger to his lips, signaling for me to hush. I’m sure now he knew what was coming.

Master, is it?”  The farmer gave a raspy malevolent chuckle.  “Well, well, well aren’t ye an uppity little scrote.  Such a pretty voice an’ all. Have your balls dropped yet, lad?”  

The townsmen men standing around me shuffled on their feet and snickered uncomfortably.  I could tell from the tentative laughter they were afraid of this man too. My chest tightened with fury, and I felt the flare of heat rush to color my cheeks.  If in Thorn I would have put this fellow in his place, but as directed by the farmers’ handsome son, I held my tongue.  

I dared to look up as the farmer scratched his grizzled chin and consider me.  It was then I saw it. A chill iced my bones. On his chubby right index finger, he wore a gold ring set with a large red gemstone that I was aghast to see held the intaglio engraving of a rose thorn—my family’s seal.  How had this disgusting Pasturelands farmer come upon my family’s ring?  Anger curdled my gut, but I forced myself to focus and fixed my features so as not to alert the man to what I was looking at.  That ring was more precious than I could say. It was not set with any common gemstone, oh no, the setting was Star-fall.  The legend was that mortal tools could not cut the rich-red Star-fall stone.  The gemstone was shaped by sorcery, and the power that carved into the gem was stored inside it as if the Star-fall was a reservoir for the magic.  It was illegal for any other than the Twin Kings of Osia to own Star-fall.  The king’s men had scoured the Empire to remove all traces of the priceless gem from common and aristocratic hands and possessing it was a death sentence.  Did this ruffian have any idea what he wore?

Not getting a rise from me, the farmer stepped yet closer and found out for himself if my balls had dropped.  He reached for my privates and squeezed.

Ahh, ye got some big stones de’re al’right, boy,” he said with a filthy sneer.

“Done any labourin’ before, lad?”  My eyes watered.  I shook my head and winced as the pressure on my most sensitive parts rose.  I wanted to shout and push him away, punch him in that bristly pug face. I’d trained in hand-to-hand combat and swordplay, but that was of little use to me now that I had no sword and was cast as naught but a commoner myself.  I stood frozen to the spot with fear, my cock, and balls in the hand of this brutish man. I was sure that clutching my nethers was not the best way to test if I would be a good apple picker.  

The farmer let go, stepped back, and looked me over again like he was sizing up a prize pig.  I wanted to keel over, hold my sensitive parts and howl, but, with my eyes watering, I kept my back ramrod straight and looked past the farmer, using his son’s regretful, pretty green eyes as my focus.  

I appeared to be a boy, but I am nineteen and about to make my majority.  I have a tall, willowy frame, and little muscle to show for my near twenty summers.  Weeks before, I was clothed in the silken garb of a lordling, but all I wore now were my stinky silk britches and a once-white linen shirt.  I’d even had to sell my fine leather boots. My flaxen hair hung loosely to my shoulders and was bedraggled. My mother had always told me my hair shone like a golden halo.  I guessed that was no longer the case. I had not seen my reflection in two weeks so I could only imagine how frightful I appeared to onlookers. My circumstance was terrible, but I refused to let it defeat me.  I was a son of Thorn, I was a gentleman, damn it, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to do to find my way to my destination and seek justice for all the ill-luck that had befallen me.  

“Right, scrote, up on the wagon,” the farmer declared.  “We can always do wit a few extra scurrier’s fer the windfalls.”

I had no idea what that actually meant, but strangely relieved to be selected, I nodded subserviently and then, ducking my head to avoid the farmers’ glare, I scurried to the wagon where I surreptitiously gave my aching intimate parts a gentle rub.  

I’d heard from a fellow in the tavern that harvesting wheat at Robinswood Farm was backbreaking, as was digging root vegetables at Windy Oakes Farm.  He advised that apple picking was easy work and if I could get employment at Weatherby’s or Blackdown Farm, they paid good coin.  He said the mistress at Blackdown was particularly well-liked and always gave laborers a bread and cheese luncheon with last season’s cider.  I was so hungry that bread and cheese sounded like a banquet. The fellow had neglected to tell me that the farmer was a brute!

The farmers’ son met me by the wagon and offered to help me aboard.  For a moment, from the look of consideration in his eyes, I thought he could see past the disheveled state of me to the gentleman I’d once been.  But that was ridiculous. The farmers’ son hopped up onto the back of the wagon with dexterous athleticism, and then offered me his hands. I took them without a thought.  His warm touch and the strength in those work-roughened fingers twisted my gut into uncomfortable knots. He fixed my gaze as he gripped both of my hands and tugged me up as easily as if he were lifting feather down.  He pulled me closed and pressed me to his hard chest.

“Don’t back chat him or it’ll be the worst fer you,” he whispered the warning to my ear.  Alarmed, I eased back from him and cautiously met his eye for a split second. In the look he gave me I saw that the warning was well-meant.  Bewildered, I nodded in thanks and understanding. I had no idea why this stranger was looking out for me, but the fact he was warmed my heart.  I choked back a tear. No one had looked out for me over these past weeks, and I had been so terribly lonely. I’d learned some hard life lessons on this leg of my journey, and I’d come to understand that here my title was irrelevant, and without money I was suddenly invisible; therefore small kindnesses meant more than I could say.

My adventure into the provinces had been made to appease my father for my supposed ‘lack of direction.’  I’d become bored with my easy life in Thorn, and not intending to marry; I’d told my father that in-light of my upcoming twentieth Bloomsday I wanted to tour the Empire.  If I were to one-day become Duke of Thorn, I needed to know a little of the politics of each province and so, pleased with my initiative and happy to be rid of me for a while, he’d set me on my way.  I’d toured the provinces of Terria, Corvay, and Reuss and then continued to the province of Osia, spending time in the capital city Altea, at the court of the Twin Kings, Kristoff, and Fabian Von Harte.  With this journey to Erias, I was to have the full set of provinces under my belt.  But fate was not on my side.

On benches affixed to either side of the farmers’ wagon sat fourteen men morosely staring at their bare, filthy feet, not a word of chatter between them.  They each owned a small pack of belongings and a wrapped blanket that each had stowed beneath the bench. At this moment they were better-off than me, for I did not even have a blanket to my name.  There was space for me and five more, totaling twenty men. The farmer chose from the remaining laborers with less consideration than I had been afforded.

“Right…  I’ll take Allin, Jed, Arthur, Bartram, and Matty, that’ll do me fer the week,” he hollered decisively.

The week?  I thought I’d promised myself for a hard day’s labor?  But then again, I considered the harvesters who were sitting in the wagon, and yes, they appeared to have prepared for an overnight stay.  Confused, I sat down as the other laborers were pulled up onto the wagon by their comrades, and then we shuffled along the benches until we were all seated.  I noticed the shoulders of the remaining men in the market square sag a little in apparent relief as if some mighty weight had lifted from them. I didn’t understand it.  I thought they’d wanted to work?

The farmers’ son clambered over into the front of the wagon.  His father climbed on, the man’s bulk shaking the timbers of the rickety wagon as he settled on the bench beside him.  The son handed his father the ribbons, which the farmer greedily snatched up, and then with a fearsome bellow of “Geddup” and a thunderous whip crack, the large mottled grey workhorse began its cumbersome trot down the main street and onto the dusty road to Blackdown Farm.

 

About the Author

Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland.  She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.

Isobel is currently working on her nineteenth book.  

“As You Wish” (Shatterproof Bond#1) narrated by Gary Furlong won the Audiobook Reviewer Award for Romance 2018.  It is the first M/M Romance audiobook to win a mainstream audiobook award.

 

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A Lila Advent Calendar Review: The Legend of Gentleman John by TJ Nichols

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Banyn, a fae, escorts the souls of children to Magh Meall, but one Christmas, he comes for a lad who isn’t quite dead, and he breaks a rule rather than wait while John fights a battle he’ll ultimately lose. So begins a long-running affair that crosses the border between life and death, the human and fae realms, and even oceans to strange countries with different gods and rules.

John Rourke renounced a religion that had no place for him and returned to the old ways. Convicted of theft, he is sentenced to transportation and suffers brutal punishment—until he escapes to live on his own terms as a bushranger. When vengeance against his tormentor consumes him and threatens his life, John finds he has only one holiday wish—to see his fae lover one last time.

The Legend of Gentleman John is not a traditional Holiday story. It does take place at the end of December and the dates are important to the story, making it relevant to the season.

I did enjoy both main characters, John and Banyn. They were unique and complemented each other paths.  Following the timeline takes a couple of pages, but it’s easy to spot the changes in time and the need for them. 

There’s a lot of world-built for such a short story. It’s interesting to see how John grows and how Banyn tries not to interfere with his life. I wanted a chance to see more of the times they were together, happy, before the end of the story. 

Which brings me to a heart-melting ending. I wish everyone that lived before us had a chance to redeem themselves and be loved & remember as John did. 

The cover by Brooke Albrecht follows the 2018 Advent Calendar | Warmest Wishes template. The picture within could be John’s.

Sale Link: Amazon | Nook | Dreamspinner

Book Details:
ebook, 40 pages
ISBN: 9781644050644
Published: December 1, 2018, by Dreamspinner Press
Edition Language: English

New Release Blitz for Irresistible Indigo (D’Vaire #9) by Jessamyn Kingley (excerpt and giveaway)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Irresistible Indigo (D’Vaire, Book 9)

Author: Jessamyn Kingley

Cover Artist: LJ Anderson, Mayhem Cover Creations

Genre/s: M/M Fantasy Romance, M/M Paranormal Romance

Heat Rating:  3 flames

Release Date: November 15, 2018

Add on Goodreads

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

Blurb

A young wizard, a noble duke, and the potion that changes D’Vaire forever.

Since arriving at the Draconis Court of D’Vaire at the age of sixteen, Idris has done everything he can think of to make his new family proud of him. After five years of challenging work, he is finally poised to reach the highest rank within the Spectra Wizardry. The only glaring thing missing is his mate. While he may be young, Idris wants to share his heart with his other half, so he asks Fate to send him a nice dragon who will be kind to him and his familiar. He does not want to be demanding but Idris knows without him he won’t be complete.

Duke Macardle “Mac” Stenetdraconis’s days are centered around his amazing grandparents who raised him. When his grandfather suggests he apply for a new duke position at Court D’Vaire, he is intrigued. It is a place that has opened its doors as a sanctuary and he’s drawn to the idea of helping others. When he arrives, he finds himself with a small dragon familiar on his lap. Minutes later, the owner of that familiar saunters through the door and Mac’s heart is instantly hooked on the irresistible wizard. Determined to make Idris his, the pair soon find themselves tested by life. Their love turns out to the anchor Mac cannot do without while Idris opens the door to a new future for his family.

Excerpt

“Does anyone have a ball or anything?” Mac asked.

Idris lifted a hand and within seconds, an indigo sphere appeared. He tossed it to Mac, who bounced it in Greggory’s direction. When the familiar used his head to return it, Roger flew off his shoulder and landed on the floor, so he could play too. Two of the young men Mac was sworn to protect were sitting at a round table placed in the office designed for Delaney and Idris. The sorcerers were painstakingly going through the two boxes of warlock books and scrolls found in the Arch Lich’s library. Dra’Kaedan insisted the two get first crack at everything since they were still seeking research ideas. Duff was presumably in his room working on his own studies.

It left Mac with barely anything to do. When Mac discovered how little he knew of sorcery, he went to Aleksander and explained his problem. He wasn’t content to spend his days sitting around. If he was going to oversee the protection of two wizards, he needed to be able to assist them in some way. Aleksander agreed and called the Prism Wizard. Vadimas was receptive to the problem, and Mac was expecting his own box, full of basic magic books, to arrive soon. He might not be able to cast but he could learn, and he was determined to be an asset to Delaney and Idris. If they weren’t trying to reach the pinnacle of their education and power, he would’ve asked them for help, but Mac wasn’t going to get in their way.

In the meantime, Mac could be close to them and entertain the cute dragons who were taking to playing with the ball Idris provided with enthusiasm. He tossed it again and cringed as the two familiars crashed into each other and wiped out. “Sorry, guys,” he offered. Growls were hurled in his direction, but they allowed him to help them off the floor and both waited patiently until he threw their toy again.

“I think I might’ve found something interesting,” Idris announced.

“What is it, sweetheart?”

“It’s written in archaic warlock. I need Dra’Kaedan to translate some of this. It’s a language I’m still learning, but what I can read is really intriguing.”

“Are you going to tell us why?” Delaney inquired.

“Not until I’m sure I am reading this right,” Idris remarked as he stood. “I’m going to go find him.”

“I’m coming too,” Delaney said.

“We’ll play ball later,” Mac told his scaly friends. Roger soared up to his shoulder as soon as Mac was on his feet, and Greggory flew behind them all as they headed toward the office down the hall which housed the Coven of Warlocks. Inside they found Dra’Kaedan, his twin, and his familiar.

“Do you have a minute, Dra’Kaedan?” Idris asked with the scroll held protectively in his hand.

“For you guys, always. What’s up?”

“I found something I can only read parts of. Can you translate the rest?”

Dra’Kaedan took it from Idris’s hand. The small blond’s eyes grew wide with shock as they moved down the parchment in his grasp. When he was finished, he handed it to his brother. Dre’Kariston’s reaction was the same as his twin’s; then it was passed to Renny.

“This can’t be real,” Renny declared when he was done. “I mean really. This can’t be fucking real. How’s this possible? Because if it is, my brain’s going to explode.”

About the Author

Jessamyn Kingley lives in Nevada where she begs the men in her head to tell her their amazing stories which she dutifully writes it all down in what has become a small mountain of notebooks. She falls in love with each couple and swears whatever book she wrote last is her absolute favorite.

Jessamyn is married and working toward remembering to start the dishwasher without being distracted by the scent of the magical detergent. For personal enjoyment, she aids in cat rescue while slashing and gashing her way through mobs in various MMORPGs. Caffeine is her very best friend and is only cast aside briefly for the sin better known as BBQ potato chips.

Visit her website 

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Giveaway 

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win one of five

copies of any ebook (reader’s choice) from the D’Vaire series (1 – 8)

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Cover Reveal – Irresistible Indigo (D’Vaire # 9) by Jessamyn Kingley (excerpt)

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COVER REVEAL

Book Title: Irresistible Indigo (D’Vaire, Book 9)

Author: Jessamyn Kingley

Cover Artist: LJ Anderson, Mayhem Cover Creations

Genre/s: M/M Fantasy Romance, M/M Paranormal Romance

Heat Rating:  3 flames

Release Date: November 15, 2018

Blurb

A young wizard, a noble duke, and the potion that changes D’Vaire forever.

Since arriving at the Draconis Court of D’Vaire at the age of sixteen, Idris has done everything he can think of to make his new family proud of him. After five years of challenging work, he is finally poised to reach the highest rank within the Spectra Wizardry. The only glaring thing missing is his mate. While he may be young, Idris wants to share his heart with his other half, so he asks Fate to send him a nice dragon who will be kind to him and his familiar. He does not want to be demanding but Idris knows without him he won’t be complete.

Duke Macardle “Mac” Stenetdraconis’s days are centered around his amazing grandparents who raised him. When his grandfather suggests he apply for a new duke position at Court D’Vaire, he is intrigued. It is a place that has opened its doors as a sanctuary and he’s drawn to the idea of helping others. When he arrives, he finds himself with a small dragon familiar on his lap. Minutes later, the owner of that familiar saunters through the door and Mac’s heart is instantly hooked on the irresistible wizard. Determined to make Idris his, the pair soon find themselves tested by life. Their love turns out to the anchor Mac cannot do without while Idris opens the door to a new future for his family.

About the Author

Jessamyn Kingley lives in Nevada where she begs the men in her head to tell her their amazing stories which she dutifully writes it all down in what has become a small mountain of notebooks. She falls in love with each couple and swears whatever book she wrote last is her absolute favorite.

Jessamyn is married and working toward remembering to start the dishwasher without being distracted by the scent of the magical detergent. For personal enjoyment, she aids in cat rescue while slashing and gashing her way through mobs in various MMORPGs. Caffeine is her very best friend and is only cast aside briefly for the sin better known as BBQ potato chips.

Visit her website 

Follow her on Facebook

She loves to engage with readers there.

Other Author Links

Twitter

Google+

Pinterest

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A Chaos Moondrawn Review: A Dance of Water and Air (Elemental Magicae #1) by Antonia Aquilante

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 Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Due to rising tensions with their neighbor, Tycen, the King of Thalassa is pushing an alliance with Aither on their western border. The king’s son Prince Edmund is to marry Aither’s Queen Hollis and conceive within two years. The author nicely sets up some political intrigue at court in an understated way that will germinate in later books. The prince and his secretary, Peregrine, travel to Aither for the wedding to take place in three months time. Since the Queen’s father died and she is still in mourning, the wedding can’t take place any faster. This allows the author to also set up political intrigue for this court.

The queen’s brother, Prince Arden, is told to spend time with Edmund–time the queen should be spending to get to know her betrothed, but is avoiding. We meet Arden’s best friends, Larkin and twin brother Ciaran, who are the eyes and ears for court politics. The alternating POV between Arden and Edmund allows the reader to know he is unhappy about being attracted to Edmund and that Edmund don’t really allow himself to admit or understand he might feel it too. As they get to know each other better, the ways of Aither being open to people of all elements, challenges everything Edmund has learned from his father and the way he rules Thalassa. This also plants seeds for future books. We get to know a little bit about Edmund’s affinity with water and Arden’s affinity with air and how that magic can be used. Their common enemy Tycen is know for their affity with fire. We know little about the earth affinity, so I guess that will be in future books.

This author is known for high fantasy and political intrigue so I expected the world-building to be good and it was, but I have hopes there will be a lot more detail later. I was enjoying the story, the court, the politics, the slow burn as they were getting to know each other, yet nothing is in great detail. When someone with an affinity with water tries to kill the Queen, Edmund is arrested and after spending so much time with him, Arden is in a precarious position. We are told Hollis and Arden were close once, but we never see it. There could have been more done with that plot-wise. We only get a glimmer of Arden’s feelings of muted hurt. If fact, we know little of the queen or any of the characters beside Arden, Ciaran, Peregrine, and Edmund.

Once they flee the castle, it was like the author no longer knew what to do with them. Edmund and Arden are suddenly stumbling around when they already know how they feel about each other. It was all handled in an awkward, drawn out way. I liked the depictions of Edmund as a demisexual, and Arden, who reads as non-binary (the publisher’s tag is trans). Their love scenes were sweet, yet circumspect and while explicit, were not really erotic. At this point even Ciaran, who has grow up in political intrigue and has a spy network, starts to act childish. He shouldn’t be failing apart about something he knew would happen. Then, all of the sudden they start writing in code as he communicates with his sister. As if this had never occurred to him before whilst they are fleeing for their lives? Ciaran and Peregrine are also in a relationship now which seems to consist of a lot of handholding. For me, this read as high fantasy that turned into YA.

As Tycen prepares for war, Arden and Edmund meet with Queen Hollis along the border, whereupon she acts like an unreasonable child. This is the most we get to see of the queen and I was not impressed. Unless we get to see her POV in future books and a lot more backstory, I am not sure how this character can be redeemed for me at this point. Maybe she won’t be, but everything is so sweet and slots into place so easily, I expect the sister and brother will eventually make up, somehow.

The end of the book really points to learning more about the various magics and how they can be utilized together. Right now, they are like kids studying and playing with magic. We’ll see if that changes if war actually happens. I would have liked a lot more of the elements and their creatures that magic wielders can communicate with. I wanted this to have more detail and depth about everything. While I liked the MCs, I didn’t feel emotionally attached to them. This is a nice, sometime sweet, easy read for a couple of evenings and I recommend it be enjoyed as such.

The cover art by Natasha Snow is fitting for the story, showing a blend of the two main elements covered in this story and a castle. The color palette fits with the dark intrigues. Although most of the story takes place in Aither, this seems to be the palace in Thalassa, where the story starts and finishes.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook
Published October 1st 2018 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781949340853
Edition LanguageEnglish

A VVivacious Review: The King’s Sun (The Brass Machine #1) by Isaac Grisham

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Rating: 4 out of 5 exhilarated stars

Kitsune is the self-contained prince of Kitsunetsuki defined by his loyalty to his King, his Father, Oni. But when Oni banishes him from the kingdom, Kitsune is thrown off-kilter. Kitsune has no knowledge of what lies ahead of him and he has no idea of what his travels will unravel.

As he travels through Odom, skirts around the Wastelands to the Tribal lands, in search of the Harbinger to shed light on his path, he learns the truth about himself and his father. But more surprisingly he comes across the most undefinable emotion of all, love.

As love encompasses his mind and changes his perspective, what will happen to the mission that his brought him so far and what of the misguided loyalty that still belabours in his heart for his King.

This book will immediately inspire you to compare itself to much more prolific series that deal with the rise and fall of kingdoms but it lacks the complexity of plot that can only arise when you have multiple characters all with their own agenda pulling the plot in many different directions where it is always a challenge knowing who will succeed and how that will alter the chess board.

This book lacks all that complexity and overall has only two over-arching plotlines. Now the problem with having only two plotlines is that you know that they will eventually have to feed each other and the plot and so I had kind of guessed the most suspenseful event of this book from its blurb which was further validated when I started reading the book and then it actually came to be. So that would be its one downfall that the book lacks the complexity to hide the suspense of its storyline.

But, truthfully I liked the lack of complexity of over-arching agendas and plotlines where I am struggling to understand how they all come together. While those books are their own sort of fun, I really liked the way this book went about its storyline and that is saying something since I had already guessed its climax.

I really liked how magic was introduced in this book as something that Kitsune was sure of didn’t exist because it added a connection between him and me. Also, I like how magic was explored in this book.

I really liked Kitsune’s story I was so into it that the first detour that we took from his story to follow Saxma’s made me stop reading. I sometimes question authors changing perspectives when the storyline of one character is in jeopardy because it’s hard to read placid storylines when your heart is racing with adrenaline, it just had me really frustrated but later I really liked what Saxma brought to the story. I also liked how Saxma’s story is used to build up Oni and I can’t wait to see where that leads.

This story is essentially setting up the chessboard. By the end of the story we have all our main players in place and we know their backstories and where they are coming from and their motivations that will define their actions in the sequel which I would really like to get my hands on, hopefully soon.

This book is not a romance though love happens to be one of the great plot progressions in this book and I really liked the story of Darren’s lover. That idea of combining a story within a story was ingenious, in fact, some of the writing for that story related so well with life in general that it blew me away.

I have really come to like Kitsune and even though I can’t really understand his character, I am loving his story and I would love to know where it goes especially because of thecliffhanger that the so-called climax of this book was hiding which even I hadn’t guessed.

Cover Art by Dissect Designs.  I really loved the cover. It is so amazing with the title engulfed in fire on the background of a series of cogwheels. Also, talking about the cover reminds me of the analogy in this book, that of the brass machine and I loved the metaphor.

Buy Links 

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes and Noble  – Paperback

 

Book Details:ebook, 298 pages
Published May 1st 2018 by Cooper Blue Books, LLC
ISBN 173214060X (ISBN13: 9781732140608)
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Brass Machine #1

A Caryn Release Day Review: Nudging Fate (Enchanted Occasions #1) by E.J. Russell

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Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

We all nudge Fate every day, with every choice we make.

I just love this author when she’s being playful!  Those who loved Cutie and the Beast will also love this book.  It is not explicitly in the same universe, but still involves beings from various mythologies (the MC in this one is Norse) who are interacting with the morally ambiguous and manipulative world of the Fae, as well as mundane Earth.  This book is set primarily in the Interstices, “the pockets in reality where … magic from all supernatural realms could coexist”.  In addition to the Fae, this book has an eclectic mix of supernatural beings from just about every folklore and tradition that I can think of, cleverly integrated into a cohesive whole.  It was only as I was writing this review that I realized how very clever the author was in taking such complexity and making it seem effortless!

I will save you the trouble of looking up the norn (which I just had to do because I didn’t want to wait for the author’s specific explanation).  In Norse mythology there are three divine female beings who influence the destinies of gods and men (roughly corresponding to the Greek Fates), Norns with a capital N, and then there are other norns of lesser strength and influence.  Anders Skuldsson is one of these – half human son of one of the big three, which makes him outcast for being a half-breed, but also mistrusted because when you are around him, how to you know that he didn’t just make things happen according to his will?  Despite his questionable status, he’s a good guy just trying to do the right thing and earn a little respect.  He’s the Senior Event Coordinator of Enchanted Occasions Event Planning, and has been chosen by no less than the Fae Queen herself to be in charge of her son Prince Reynard’s ceremony to choose and bond with a consort.  This job is not only his greatest challenge so far, it is also a make or break event for Enchanted Occasions and his employees – all of whom are half-human and looked down on by most of the Pure bloods of the other supernatural races.  Anders has a lot to prove with this gig.

Prince Reynard, on the other hand, has no desire to participate in this Faerie version of “The Bachelor” and get hooked permanently to some suitable consort chosen by his mother.  He’s all about a life of freedom and promiscuity.  His half brother Conall of Odstone – bastard result of the Faerie Queen’s own consort’s infidelity centuries ago – has been blessed/cursed with the gift of responsibility:  he does what’s right, even when it’s difficult or inconvenient.  Rey is used to exploiting this trait, and Con has ended up impersonating Rey multiple times over the years for any events that Rey finds boring, or onerous, and Con once again found himself uncomfortably forced into a predicament that unfortunately has much higher stakes than he’s ever faced before.

Through a comedy of errors and missteps, these two unlikely men end up thrust together – while each impersonating someone else – and find that they really like each other, and their chemistry is off the charts.  But they are both basically men of truth and integrity, both responsible for others and wanting to do the best by them, and how can anything real and true come from such deception?

I laughed out loud at the antics of the MC’s, and at the ridiculous situations they ended up in despite the best of intentions.  The secondary characters – Talus, man of iron, arbiter and dispenser of justice for Faerie, and solid supporter of Con; Brooke and Smith, the other half-breeds who work with Andy who are brilliant at creating the perfect worlds in the Interstices; the other characters that are pure comic relief like the goblin chef who creates the most incredible and delicate food but goes into a rage when people don’t appreciate it – were just pure genius.  The Interstices themselves were an incredible and subtle weave of magic from different worlds combined with the best of Earth.  And the plot, while superficially a romp of increasingly ridiculous circumstances, was really a story of integrity and kindness overcoming manipulation and selfishness.  It’s a romantic comedy with a moral, in the style of a fairy tale, but so much more fun.  I can’t wait for the next book, and there were definitely some clues dropped about who might star in the next one…

Cover art by Aaron Anderson actually detracts from the book.  The story is otherwordly, beautiful, and magic, and this cover is downright boring…

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 224 pages
Expected publication: May 15th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640805064
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesEnchanted Occasions #1

A MelanieM Review: Magic Ties Together by Nina Begonia

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Ira has one eye, a back-alley accuracy charm, and a policy of taking what he can get.

Lajos has a sword, a stoic façade that crumbles quickly under pressure, and a mysterious past.

When a routine monster attack leads to the men being magically bound together, unable to part without being violently ill, Ira is horrified. Worse, the link means they can sense each other’s every emotion. And as time goes on, Ira starts to wonder which emotions are truly his, and which are just a result of the magic…

I just love fantasy and always search out new stories and new authors. So I had high hopes for Magic Ties Together by Nina Begonia.  It had a neat, interesting premise that linked the couple right from the start…a type of magic handcuffs.

But while this story did contain some nice elements and places where my interest was definitely piqued, for the most part, it was jammed full of just a weird mixture of not enough world building (had no idea of the sort of world these characters really existed in) and one in which we got far too many extraneous details.  Really should have been the other way around.

The characters started having sex almost immediately, because the bracelets “made them do it”.  Trust me, not sexy at all.  Then there were hodgepodgy creatures whose physical descriptions made even less sense than some of the world building (what there was).

The characters had potential but didn’t seem to reach it imo.  This story is 100 pages yet it felt as though the author was trying to jam 500 pages worth of things the author had in mind for the story that just kept flowing on, regardless of whether it fit or not into the current scenes or storyline.

The ending was probably the best thing about this story.  It was the most pulled together.  The characters felt as though they might actually care about each other but everything leading up to it is such a narrative quagmire.

Not a story I would recommend.

Cover art: Aisha Akeju.  Gorgeous cover, definitely eye catching.

Sales Link:  Less Than Three Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 103 pages
Published April 4th 2018 by Less Than Three Press (first published April 2nd 2018)
Original TitleMagic Ties Together
ISBN139781684312382
Edition LanguageEnglish

A MelanieM Review: Consorting with Dragons by Sera Trevor

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

At last, the novel-length expansion of the award-winning novella!

Lord Jasen of Grumhul, an impoverished young nobleman, has come to the Draelands to find a rich husband to help pay his father’s debts. To the shock of everyone, he ends up attracting the attention of King Rilvor himself, and the dragons who control the magic in the land. Becoming royalty wasn’t something Jasen either expected or wanted, but he can’t control his growing feelings for kind and handsome king. Scheming factions at Court conspire to keep him from Rilvor’s side, and now Jasen has to decide if the chance at true love with Rilvor is worth the burden of being the husband of a king.

This sweet and funny Cinderfella romance is complete at ~85000 words and ends in a solid HEA. After all, true love always wins in fairy tales!

Well, as someone who loves all things dragons, Consorting with Dragons by Sera Trevor was a novel I couldn’t wait to start into.  It has all the elements guaranteed to pull me in.  A King looking for a new consort, dragons who play a major element, and a young man throwing his fate to the winds because of the misdeeds of his father.  Yes, yes, and yes!

Sera Trevor let me know right at the start I was in splendid “narrative” hands when, for starters, it came to the father/son dynamics.  Jasen’s reprobate of a father is a drunk, a gambler, and a total loss when it comes to handling money.  He’s run through the considerable estate Jasen’s mother had left him and his father, their castle or mansion, or whatever is left is in a sad state of disrepair, and the what money is left is sliding fast through his father’s fingers.  So Jasen hates him, right?  No.  Bitter perhaps, but he loves his father, while understanding exactly who he is, extreme faults and all.  Trevor doesn’t make a villain out of him where others would have. Instead we get the realistic complicated relationship of a father and son trying to love each other giving the current state of affairs (albeit directly due to the father’s actions).

The author, though, also lets us in, immediately, into a secret.  Jasen is special.  When he spies the dragons soaring in the air above near the castle, his heart heats up.  Something new and different.  And magical.  Oh the anticipation that starts to build for the reader!

From there on out, we walk next to Jasen as he (the bumpkin at the court), finds two friends, makes a magical connection, and a connection quite unexpected.  I just enjoyed the fun and joy that seems to rise out of this character! I often found myself smiling along with whoever was in his company because as written, he’s downright charming and endearing.

So too are the other characters.  They make their mark on you.  Whether it is King Rilvor,  Jasen’s new friends, or even his court enemies, they are so well written, that they leave quite the impression.  This includes the King’s many children too.  I wouldn’t have minded a game of mudball with them myself.

This is a world I would happily return to and a couple I would love to see more of down the road.

If you love fantasy, dragons, and romance, Consorting with Dragons by Sera Trevor is a  novel not to be missed.  I loved it and highly recommend it.  And will probably end up reading it again.

Cover art is lovely and works for the characters.

Sales Links:   Amazon

Book Details:

indle Edition, 2 edition, 295 pages
Published April 7th 2018 (first published July 28th 2014)
Original TitleConsorting with Dragons
ASINB07BHHTFXZ
Edition LanguageEnglish

 

A Lila Audiobook Review: The Gryphon King’s Consort by Jenn Burke and Andrew McFerrin (Narrator)

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

Love takes flight.

The sudden death of the Gryphon King throws the kingdom of Mythos into uncertainty, and Crown Prince Luca rushes both his coronation and an arranged marriage to a man he’s never met. Eirian is young and idealistic, and while they both want what’s best for their people, their philosophies couldn’t be more different. While Luca believes in honoring tradition, Eirian is determined to infuse modern values into their kingdom of magical creatures. When given the choice between loyalty to his husband and his own crusade, Eirian makes a decision that might doom their marriage.

Still, Luca is committed to making their union work, and that means forgiving his brash consort. But when Eirian becomes the target of a deadly conspiracy, Luca must act fast—or forever lose the chance to explore their burgeoning love.

The Gryphon King’s Consort has an interesting concept but too much backstory for such a short book. The world build is excellent but it takes away from the romance and the connection between Eirian and Luca. I love the arranged marriage setup but it wasn’t enough to carry the whole story.

My main dislike about the characters was how easy it seems for them to change their minds or trust more on someone else. They keep each other at an arm’s length even when they internally fight about it. It’s hard to believe in the future of their relationship when they are indifferent to it.

The fantasy/paranormal aspects make the reader want more. I enjoyed how the author integrates humans and “others” in a world that feels feasible. All the secondary characters and the settings added to the overall magic of a story that could be happening somewhere.

In reality, this is a good story just not an all-consuming romance. If you enjoy this Dreamspun line, this book will work for you.

Andrew McFerrin gave the story a regal air. He did a good job creating the voices and introducing the listener to the different characters in the story.

The cover by Aaron Anderson is an adaptation of the ebook but it’s not really appealing. It shows the King and the Gryphon but it doesn’t seem cohesive.

Sale Links: Dreamspinner | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Narrator: Andrew McFerrin
Length: 5 hours and 51 minutes

Published: March 5, 2018 (Audio Edition) by Dreamspinner Press
ASIN: B07B65WFWM
Edition Language: English