Love Historical Romance? Don’t Miss ‘The Quality of Mercy (Bent Oak Saga #2)’ by Ari McKay (guest post and exclusive excerpt)


The Quality of Mercy (Bent Oak Saga #2) by Ari McKay
Dreamspinner Press

Cover by Reese Dante,Website:

Preorder Links: Dreamspinner Press: eBookPaperback:  

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to welcome back McKay of Ari McKay, here to talk about their latest release The Quality of Mercy.


Hi, everyone! I’m the McKay half of Ari McKay, and I’d like to thank Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for hosting us on our blog tour for our new historical Western, The Quality of Mercy. This is the second book in our Bent Oak Saga series, set in Texas in the late 19th century.

Today, I’d like to share an exclusive excerpt from the book, one that shows the uphill battle Carlos faces in winning Jules’s heart. I hope you enjoy it!

Exclusive Excerpt

“Tonight we have something new and special for the harvest festival,” Miss McManus announced. “In honor of the season, our schoolmaster, Mr. Jules Wingate, will read a selection of seasonal poetry for us, accompanied by the beautiful music of one of Mercy’s favorite cowboys, Mr. Carlos Hernandez.”

Miss McManus stepped aside and the audience applauded politely. Jules removed several sheets of paper from his coat pocket; he’d copied all the poems down in case nerves got the better of him. He waited while Carlos readied his guitar. Carlos sat down in the chair that had been provided for him, tuned his guitar, and smiled warmly at Jules when he was ready.

Jules began with the Browning poem he’d chosen, modulating his voice to reach to the back of the room so everyone could hear him. Carlos’s music suited the poem perfectly, adding its own beauty to the measured lines of verse. When they finished, there was loud applause. So it went through the other seasonal poetry. Carlos found the perfect accompaniment to enhance the spoken words and make them seem richer and more vibrant. Each was given enthusiastic acknowledgment, and Jules was pleased the people of Mercy were so receptive.

After a brief pause to let the applause die away, Jules recited “Annabel Lee.” The poem had been one of his favorites since school, the pathos of the tale elevated to something transcendent by a poet without peer. It meant even more to him after losing Carlos, for the yearning, even in the face of incredible pain, was something he knew all too well. To have loved and lost made the poem resonate with him in ways that nothing else did. To know the love he had lost and missed so deeply sat only a few feet from him somehow made it all the more heart-wrenching, and he knew the depth of his own loss was reflected in his voice.

When he finished speaking and the last beautiful, melancholy chord of Carlos’s guitar died away, there was utter silence for several moments. Jules looked out on the people who had come to listen, seeing tears glistening in more than a few eyes. Then the applause began, and it shook the very timbers of the building with its power.

Stunned, Jules took a step back, drawing in a deep breath and glancing at Carlos.

“I think they liked it,” he said, pitching his voice to not be lost in the thunderous clapping.

“Of course they did,” Carlos replied with a little nod. “You are a captivating speaker. You always have been.”

Jules smiled, feeling his face grow hot at the compliment, which warmed him far more than it should. “Thank you. But I think your music gave it that extra something.”

“Thank you.” Carlos turned away briefly to pack up his guitar, and then he stood up and moved closer to Jules. “Our talents are well matched,” he said, and a heated gleam appeared in his dark eyes before he leaned over and murmured in Jules’s ear, “We were well-matched in several ways, as I recall.”

Memories of the two of them entwined in passion rose to torment Jules, no doubt as Carlos intended. Jules felt himself flushing again, and he shook his head, taking a step back to put some distance between them, glancing quickly at the audience to make certain no one was paying attention to them. “That was a long time ago.”

“Yet not so long ago that I have forgotten the pleasure of your touch or the sweetness of your kisses,” Carlos said. He winked at Jules before picking up his case and sauntering away, seeming to put a little extra swagger in his step for Jules’s benefit.

Jules wished he could smack Carlos. Carlos knew exactly what he was doing to Jules, and Jules was frustrated with himself that he wasn’t immune to Carlos’s tactics. He watched Carlos walk off, unable to keep from thinking about how different Carlos’s body would be now that he’d filled out, all broad shoulders and lean hips.

Jules bit off a growl. Rather than dwell on it, he joined Al to watch a skit put on by the older students from school, as well as the musical performances to follow. He tried to enjoy himself and put Carlos out of his mind, but he found his gaze straying throughout the evening, watching Carlos as he interacted with other people. He couldn’t seem to help himself, and every time Carlos noticed him looking, he gave Jules a heated smile.

A young cowboy, perhaps a few years older than Al, approached Carlos, and Jules was experienced enough to recognize the subtle flirtation in the way the handsome blond stood a bit too close to Carlos and leaned in whenever Carlos spoke. He wasn’t certain if Carlos was uninterested in the young man or if age had schooled him to more discretion, but Carlos didn’t appear to give the young man any encouragement. Still, the sight gave Jules a pang he had no right whatsoever to feel. It reminded him that Carlos probably hadn’t spent the past ten years alone the way Jules had, and that even if Carlos wanted him now, Jules wouldn’t be able to hold his interest for long.

The performances ended, and Jules rose, ignoring Carlos and the other young man. Feeling deflated, Jules made himself nod politely and accept the compliments of those around him for his own part in the evening, but he didn’t linger. Instead he decided to help the group of people who were cleaning up the tables outside, keeping busy instead of dwelling on what could never be.



Gil Porter and Matt Grayson’s Bent Oak Ranch in Mercy, Texas is a rare haven for gay men in the 19th century, and their friend Carlos Hernandez will need it when a man from his past unexpectedly comes back into his life.

Jules Wingate hopes to start over in Mercy as the schoolmaster after a scandal sent him and his son fleeing their former home. But he discovers he’s left one bad situation for another when he encounters his former student and lover, Carlos. No matter how Jules tries to resist, he yearns for the passionate connection they once shared… before Carlos broke his heart.

Carlos knows his foolish, immature actions hurt Jules, but he desperately wants a second chance and to show Jules he’s changed. But trust so badly broken is hard to repair. While he works to earn Jules’s forgiveness, someone else at the ranch has his sights set on Carlos—and he doesn’t care how many lives he has to ruin to make Carlos his and his alone.

About the Authors

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.

Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.

McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.



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A MelanieM Review: A Place to Call Their Own by Dean Pace-Frech


Rating:  4 stars out of 5

A Place To Call Their OwnFrank Greerson and Gregory Young have been discharged from the Army and are headed to their childhood homes. They both defied their parents in 1861 when they joined the Army. After battling southern rebels and preserving the Union of the United States of America, the two men set out to battle the Kansas Prairie and build a life together. Once they find their claim, they encounter common obstacles to life on the Kansas Prairie in 1866: Native Americans, tornadoes, wild animals, and weather.

When a prairie fire destroys their crops and takes their neighbor’s lives, Frank and Gregory are instructed to find their young son’s aunt. Faced with leaving a destroyed claim, the railroad coming through their land, and dwindling funds, Frank and Gregory must decide whether to leave the place they have worked hard to make their own or fulfill their friends’ dying wishes.

When I first started into A Place to Call Their Own the pacing and style of the story was at once both so different from all the other stories I’ve read  (or am reading) and yet so  oddly familiar as well.  It was in the matter of fact tone of the narration, the “plain speaking” manner of its characters, and the precisely lived hours of their days that Dean Pace-Frech lays out for us that niggled at my brain, telling me I recognized, not the story or characters, no…but the old style, slower approach of storytelling and the affection for the past in the author’s heart.

Then it hit me…the author already laid it out for us…right at the beginning…something I had glossed over too quickly.

“Six miles beyond them, two bachelors were living in one house. They had taken two farms, and built the house on the line between them…they cooked and ate together in the middle of the house.” —Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie

Dean Pace-Frech may have used that quote from my beloved Laura Ingalls Wilder as inspiration but maybe he loved the matter of fact every day descriptions too.  For some of A Place to Call Their Own conjures up visions of the Little House on the Prairie sage, M/M style, in a wonderful way, making history alive again through the lives of two men who love one another.

As we enter the story, Frank Greerson and Gregory Young are already a couple, albeit a hidden one, and have decided on a course of action, taking their savings and  heading out to the 1861 Kansas territory and making a land grab for the free land where they figure they can be themselves,  a “safe” couple.

Their back story will come along later.  Its their journey, their relatives, their wagons, cows, building the cabin, interaction with the local Osage Indians, that will have a lovely (and well researched ) feel. The author includes the expansion of the railroad and the Homestead act and the villainy associated with claim jumping. Such a life always included its perils, and angst.  And both young men still have much growing up to do, even having served in the Civil War and survived.

This story is low on sex and high on love and survival, in a place where they find that having used their energy to make an extra bed in their first prairie house just might ensure that their reputations stay intact enough for their neighbors to lend them a hand when necessary.

I sank into this story much that same as I did the Little House in the Prairie books and when I came to the end, I was saddened to see that there was not another waiting for me so I could know how the journey continues for Frank and Gregory and others.  That was really my only issue here, that the story  ends too abruptly.

I hope that Dean Pace-Frech  will consider taking it further, letting us know what the next leg in their journey was and how it turned out.  A new M/M Western Historical Saga is just the thing I’ve been looking for.  I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Consider  A Place to Call Their Own by Dean Pace-Frech a story I absolutely recommend if you love historical stories and a look into the past.  Or even are, as I am, totally fond of Little House on the Prairie.  Pick this up, and prepare to fall in love all  over again.


Cover art by Written Ink Designs.  I like the cover but its too generic and I could swear I’ve seen it used before.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC  |  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 156 pages
Published May 31st 2015 by JMS Books LLC (first published July 1st 2012)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Review: Dime Novel by Dale Chase


Rating: 2.75 stars out of 5

Dime Novel coverDime novelist Benedict Bright has come out west to meet the man he has made famous in his dime novels, Arizona Marshal Evan Teague.  But the real man and the actual American west are very different from the popular stories he has written, stories that the Marshal has nothing but distain for.   When Benedict convinces the Marshal that he wants his next book to be authentic, Evan Teague begins Benedict’s education about life, not just surviving in the wild west but about his sexuality as well.  Nothing is like Benedict imagined it would be especially Evan Teague.  The longer Benedict stays in Arizona, the more he changes, including falling for the man he writes about.  When his education is over, will Evan continue to be a part of his life or will the Marshal break his heart?

I am a long time fan of western fiction, starting with the outstanding Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey.  So I am always excited to come across a new story set in the old west.  Dime Novel refers to those stories that were both cheaply made and cheaply sold.  Known as Penny Dreadfuls in England, as the format crossed the Atlantic the price was raised to a dime, hence the name dime novel.  They were overly dramatic ( think soap opera) stories with covers to match. While other genres appeared in dime novels (most notably the detective genre), it is the westerns that are the most fondly remembered.

The first dime novel was published in 1860 and flourished well into the early 1900’s.  So it works well that Dale Chase sets his story about the adventures of a dime novelist in Arizona 1897, just as the dime novel was at its height of popularity.  But writing historical fiction comes with pitfalls not found in contemporary fiction and Dale Chase walked into most of them.

The story is told from Benedict’s pov, one that seems to veer from the vernacular of the late 1800’s to that of current phraseology. Benedict will converse in courteous, polite tones one would expect from an “easterner”of the times, then drop into sexual language that could be found on Grindr.  Phrases like “sob sister” also pop up in Benedict’s dialog, however, that term did not appear in the American lexicon until 1912, years after 1897.  And with the dialog fluctuating between centuries, I was not surprised to find the behavior of the main characters follow that pattern as well.

Would a well known U.S. Marshal sexually accost a stranger almost immediately upon their arrival in town?  Especially if that stranger just happened to be a novelist from the East?  I am thinking no.  Actions like that would get them hanged, especially the rough sex that occurred in “the common two-story wooden boarding house” where the Marshal made his home, one that had “an atmosphere of cigar smoke and cooking grease”.   Those structures were notoriously flimsy with thin walls perfect for eavesdropping.  So a well known marshal takes the eastern novelist past the “heavy set woman” who oversees that establishment up the stair for a good fucking? No, I think not.  Not without a hanging party appearing shortly thereafter.  Any sexual  same sex relations would have been circumspect at best with hidden signals and masked intentions.Plus cigars were expensive and if you could afford a cigar then you could afford to live in a boarding house that didn’t reek of rancid oil .

With the dialog and character actions out of sync for that historical time period, the story is lost amidst glaring inaccuracies and inconsistent characterization.   The characters of Benedict and Evan never solidified into real human beings as their actions and interactions seem both “out of character” given social mores of the times and of the personas created for them by Chase. And as the characters lacked substance than so did any romance that happened between them.

There are many outstanding western novels available to read.  Among m/m authors who write great historical fiction of the American West, I count those novels of Lucius Parhelion, Shelter Somerset or Barry Brennessel.  All of those authors brought the American west to life with accuracy towards characters and time period.  Run and grab up one of their stories and give this one a pass.

Cover art by Wilde City Press.  No artist is credited with this cover.  The design would have been fine in another story, perhaps a modern western.  However, given that the title and plot is formed around a dime novelist, should there have been an attempt to model the cover after a typical dime novel.  What a missed opportunity. Here is an example: Buffalo Bill dime novel cover_buffalo_bw

Book Details:

12,000 words, Published 2013 by Wilde City Press