Review: The Race for Second by Chase Potter

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

The Race for Second Cover smallEthan is about to start off on an adventure he has always dreamsed about, he is going to be spending his sophomore year in college abroad in the university town of Freiburg, Germany.  Leaving behind his first boyfriend at the University of Minnesota and his mom, Ethan is ready to experience new things, meet new friends and even hopefully find new love.  All he has to do is submerse himelf in the German language, figure out the Strassenbahn network of trams, his mode of transportation other than walking. and uncover why one of his new roommates hates him so.  All while carrying a heavy course load and feeling a little isolated to boot.

Of all of Ethan’s roommates, it’s only Daniel who seems to take an instant dislike to Ethan.  True, Ethan is nineteen, much younger than any of the others.  But there seems to be something more behind it, some problem that not even Florian and Paula, his other floormates, can make sense of.  However, there is something so intriguing about Daniel that not even  Daniel’s cold demeanor can stop Ethan from falling in love with his chilly roommate.  When Ethan has an accident, Daniel’s behavior and attitude towards him changes drastically, enough for Ethan to hope that his crush might be returned.

Daniel has many secrets, including the ones that made him reject Ethan to begin with.  He is also very straight.  When all his secrets are revealed, will their friendship still be there in the aftermath or will something more be possible between them.

Coming of age stories are a common rite of passage for many writers.  It is a needful retelling of that first momentous journey from childhood into the footprints of an adult and maturity.  For some authors remembering that benchmark of their lives translates into a remarkable story that stirs up  our own memories of youth and time of transition. Those tales bring forth a wellspring of emotions that speak to the heart of who we are and how we become that person we are  today.  The Race for Second by Chase Potter is one such memorable story.

In addition to conjuring up memories of our own youth,The Race for Second shines the light onto one young man’s first voyage of discovery and growth.  From Ethan’s story we glean the lessons he learned and the price paid for that experience from this rite of passage tale. And those shared elements that we all go through at that stage serves to connect us all together.  In Ethan, Chase Potter gives us a 19 year old young man on the cusp of change, a change he not only welcomes but has created for himself by choosing to spend his sophomore year abroad in Germany.  Ethan is a marvelous character and his journey of one year in Germany will pull you in from the first moment you meet him on board a plane bound for Frankfurt and a year he will never forget.

Ethan is a product of a single parent home.  His father left the family when he was three and his mother has given her all to support them both in a loving but financially straightened environment.  Ethan was also lucky in other ways including a maternal love and acceptance that never changed when Ethan came out. Even in childhood Ethan’s dreams and ambitions have always extended past the trailor park where they live into a much larger, expansive future for himself.  Potter’s descriptions of Ethan’s childhood and mother are interspersed throughout Ethan’s story, giving the reader glimpses of his life in Minnesota and clues to his emotional makeup.

One element of Ethan’s story is the automobile, a specific type of one that is powerful, expensive and beautifully designed. With the ever present Autobahn and its fast flowing river of cars interrupting Ethan’s thoughts and trips out from the university, cars play an important role in Ethan’s life that started in childhood. Ethan uses cars as a metaphor for the vehicle which will carry him away from his mundane, restricted life in the trailer park towards some unknown powerful future.  Here is an excerpt to introduce you to Ethan and his point of view:

Cars were another reason that it would have been great to have a dad— one that stuck around until middle school at least. I love them. In high school, before making dinner so Mom could eat when she got home from work, I’d go out to the road and watch the cars. The speed limit was only forty-five, and I’d sit where I could see every vehicle that passed. It let me see the make and model names inscribed on the back. We didn’t have a computer then, so it was how I learned what was out there.

It was rare that anything cool came along. No one with money had any reason to go near Twin Meadows trailer park. Except one time, the last week of class before the end of tenth grade. It was almost time to go inside and start the spaghetti and meatballs I was planning. But there were still a few more minutes. Maybe a Corvette or Mustang would zoom past, and the wait would be worth it. Wind blasting last year’s dead grass as it rolled up to the road, I lay back, crossing my legs at the ankles and staring up into the clouds. I was kidding myself. That night was just like all the others in that damn place. I stood up to head inside, and then I heard it. A deep purr with a rich timbre, coming up fast.

My head snapped to the point in the road where it would emerge from behind the trees. In a rush of gray and chrome, the enormous sedan erupted around the corner. Its flat nose and massive grille spoke of earlier times, but the flowing lines proclaimed it to be modern. It was easily the largest car I’d ever seen, both in length and girth. The rumble of its engine struck a reserved note that belied its current speed far over the limit. Then it was gone. I didn’t have any idea what the heck it was at the time, other than a really expensive car. In retrospect, it was probably a Rolls Royce or a Bentley. All I knew is that it was beautiful, every part of it. Even the sound felt like the engine was singing to my soul. Okay, sometimes I’m full of shit, but it really was awesome.

 

And there’s Ethan, that wonderful, singular American voice that narrates  The Race for Second.  It’s through his curious, adventurous eyes that we explore the town of Frieburg and its history. Or head out to Marseilles and beyond.  As Ethan wanders and explores, so does the reader. Over the cobblestones and through the old parts of town, into shoppes and market places.  Potter’s descriptions bring us immediately into the location and settings as well as Ethan’s thoughts about it all.  And never does it come across as a travelogue instead of the personal journey of one young man. Through Ethan we get both an American viewpoint as well as that of someone on the brink of self discovery and adulthood.  Trust me you are going to fall in love with this character and his year in Germany.

Along with fine tuning his German and coping with a heavy curriculum, Ethan must adjust to the German lifestyle and the situation of being alone and uncertain.  The story abounds with German phrases and information about the language.  We learn as Ethan does.  It’s a useful concept that makes Ethan’s problems accessible and easy to relate to.  But at the center is Ethan’s perception of and relationship with his roommate Daniel.  Daniel is a bit of an enigma through most of the first half of the story.  His rationale for his dislike of Ethan, his change in outlook and finally his friendship occupy Ethan’s thoughts and emotions throughout the story.  There’s more than one mystery here, both of which are buried in the past.  And its into the past Ethan must first look for answers before he can grow and accept certain things for himself.

The Race for Second abounds with lively, multidimensional characters as does the locations and settings they find themselves in.  Potter brings Freiburg and the university alive for the reader.  We are immersed in the campus life and the ancient town that surrounds the university as Potter weaves its history and its people into the tapestry of life abroad he has created for Ethan and the reader.  It is a journey fraught with disappointments and emotional outbursts, filled with moments of incredible joy and personal discoveries.  The reader will be able to laugh along with those that Ethan has gathered together for his recreation of an American Thanksgiving in his dorm and cry along with Ethan with the exposure of the harsh and painful truths that life offers up to go along with the joys.

Is this a romance? Not really, but love does play into it in many forms. And although it might not work out the way you had thought it would or had hoped for,  it is still enough to make you happy and able to go forward with Ethan and his travels into adulthood.  Chase Potter had a wonderful story to tell and in The Race for Second he has absolutely achieved that goal.

I loved The Race for Second and Ethan.  It was a remarkable journey that Potter sends Ethan and the reader on and it was one I was sorry to see end.  But Chase Potter has said that he intends to continue Ethan’s story.  The story here is somewhat open ended so I welcome the information that a sequel will be in the works.  I can’t wait to see what happens to Ethan after Germany as he is a hard character to let go.

I have been luck to find two new authors through their coming of age stories.  Both tales of young men at the start of something remarkable in their lives and each so uniquely different in character and story.  For Chase Potter, The Race for Second is his first book and I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It’s beautifully told, full of textures,vivid descriptions and of course, characters that pour from the page and into your heart.   Grab it up today and start y0ur journey with Ethan as he discovers the wonders and pitfalls of life abroad in Germany and the personal growth that important life experiences bring.

Book Details:

The Race for Second by Chase Potter
Paperback, 250 pages
Published May 1st 2014 by Chase Potter Books
ISBN 0615982603 (ISBN13: 9780615982601)
edition languageEnglish
other editions (1)
The Race for Second Copyright © 2014 Chase Potter
Buy Link: Amazon

 

 

 

 

Review: The Fall (The Fall #1) by Kate Sherwood

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Fall coverAfter his boyfriend dumps him for a younger man, Scott Mackenzie must figure out the mess his life has become.  A part-time model, Mackenzie had allowed  his ex to completely take over his life.  Mackenzie lived in Nathan’s house and off Nathan’s income as Nathan’s disapproval of his profession saw Mackenzie’s modeling assignments dropping away until he was barely accepting job offers.  Now the reality of his dependency is hitting Mackenzie hard as he tries to determine what to do next.  He had purchased an old church to use for gay weddings on a whim and now that looks like his only avenue both as a home and new job.  But Mackenzie is a gay fish out of water in a small town in rural Ontario.  Both he and the church need a lot of fixing up and he doesn’t know where to start.

Joe Sutton is a rancher and on occasion when his twin needs help with his business, he is also a part time contractor.  When his parents died, Joe and his twin brother did whatever was necessary to keep their family together on the land that had been a Sutton ranch for generations.  In fact, Joe’s life now consisted of running the ranch and managing his large and sometimes unruly family, leaving little time for a relationship, something already made difficult by the fact that Joe is gay in a small town.

When Mackenzie contracts the Sutton twins for help restoring the church, the initial meeting between the only two out gay men around doesn’t go well.  Joe isn’t looking for a relationship and Mackenzie is put off by the monosyllabic impression Joe makes.  But a small connection is made, one that grows larger by the day.  When Mackenzie’s past arrives to threaten their burgeoning relationship, Joe and Mackenzie must decide just how much they will sacrifice to stay together.

Have you ever read a story where you immediately fell in love with the characters and plot even if you can’t exactly pinpoint why? The Fall by Kate Sherwood is that story for me.  I love these men and I loved their story.  Everything about Mackenzie and Joe spoke to me.  I felt connected to them by their idiosyncrasies and their personalities.  I loved Joe’s family and Mackenzie’s dog, Griffin.  I loved the town of Falls Creek, the church Mackenzie bought to refurbish and even the town’s Chamber of Commerce.  How’s that for a lot of love?  But that also makes for a very short review so I had to take a closer look to see if I could figure out my case of instant love for The Fall.

It turns out that I did not have to dig very deep for reasons to love this book.    Starting with Kate Sherwood’s characters,  everyone that Sherwood created for this story (with the exception of Nick) just captivated me.  I found Mackenzie immediately endearing from the moment he murmurs to himself “no one puts Baby in the corner”, referring to himself.  One reference and I was his.  Mackenzie is someone who has a ton of growing up to do.  He gradually let his ex take over his life until he was basically a kept man and Nathan his sugar daddy.  At the moment we meet him, he is needy, spoiled by city life and a rich life style. This man is totally unmoored in every aspect of his life.  This is our first introduction to Mackenzie:

“IT’S NOT like I was expecting an adorable little café. I knew that even Starbucks might be pushing it.” Mackenzie tried to loosen his grip on his cell phone before saying, “But Kristen, there’s not even a Tim Hortons! There’s a donut shop. It’s called The Donut Shop. It sells donuts. No pastries, no soup, no sandwiches. Just donuts. And coffee.” In the interest of full disclosure, he added, “And bagels. I don’t know what’s with the bagels. But there isn’t even a drive-through!”

Mackenzie has just arrived in town and already he is panicking. And he hasn’t even set foot in the church he owns to see how much work is needed just to make it safe.  But even as adrift emotionally as Mackenzie is, we know he is worth sticking around to see what happens next.  Gradually Mackenzie starts to grow up, accepting responsibility for his life and  deciding to take charge of his future.  Sherwood throws this character down an uneven path, making him stumble and fall.  But as we watch Mackenzie pick himself up, often with verve and self depreciation, our connection to this character deepens with each new page.

The character of Joe Sutton starts off as the antithesis of Scott MacKenzie.  Whereas Mackenzie has not had enough responsibility in his life, Joe has almost had too much, eschewing a social life for family and his ranch.  Joe has become so reserved in demeanor that Mackenzie’s ebullience and vivacity puts him off, leading him to make assumptions about Mackenzie from his mannerisms and conversation. The thing is Joe is only partly wrong.  There are many layers to Joe Sutton, and they are pealed back one by one as Joe and Mackenzie begin a casual sexual relationship that turns into an emotional commitment.  Gradually we see the humor, the love of family and the land.  Kate Sherwood’s portrait of Joe Sutton will win you over just as completely as Mackenzie’s.

All the characters are well done here, whether you like them or not.  They are grounded in their human frailties , their complexities feel both real and recognizable.  Of special note is Joe’s nephew with whom he has a father/son relationship.  Five year old Austin is a special needs child, although the reason for that is never mentioned.  Austin’s behavior (autism it seems to me) is well researched and authentic.  And Joe’s relationship with Austin and the manner in which he interacts with his nephew brought more depth and warmth to a story I was already in love with.  Add in the rest of the Sutton siblings and the dogs Griffin and Red, each characters in their own right, and you have a story brimming with people and pets not easily forgotten.

Sherwood’s dialog is especially noteworthy.  It almost sparkles as it exits Mackenzie’s mouth, frothy, excitable, and very vulnerable.  Joe’s dialog too is perfect for his character.  It’s slow, thoughtful, and grounded.  It all works.  The plot comes to a happy resolution but leaves enough story threads hanging to carryover into another book.  The Fall is the first in a series and I can’t wait to read the next installment.  These characters and their town has me hooked.  Consider The Fall highly recommended.

Cover art by Leah Kaye Suttle.  I liked the cover but wish it had included more elements specific to the story such as the church. As it is it feels almost too generic.

Book Details:

ebook, 214 pages
Published December 16th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 15th 2013)
original title The Fall
ISBN 1627983902 (ISBN13: 9781627983907)
edition language English
series The Fall #1

Review: Long the Mile by Ally Blue

Standard

Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

“Seven out of 10 Americans are one paycheck away from being homeless.” – Pras Michel

LongTheMile_500x750When Judah Jackson is released from prison he has exactly a bag containing two pairs of pants, a shirt, some underwear, socks and $300 in cash, a far cry from the wealthy man who entered prison convicted of insider trading.  At first, Judah thinks it will only be a matter of time before he is working and getting his business back together.  But soon the reality of his situation and new life as a ex con sets in.  No one will hire him and without an income he loses his apartment and ends out on the streets, vulnerable, angry, and alone.

Tobias Simonsen has been homeless for over a year and finds that he has almost adjusted to his status as a man without a job or place to call his own.  Not even his degrees and experience in the restaurant business have been enough to save him from his current life and he is now beyond despair that it will change.  Then he saves a man being beaten in an alley, a man once wealthy and now painfully unable to fend for himself on the streets of Ashville.

Together Judah and Toby find a connection that begins to lift them up into friendship and then something more.  When their relationship starts to heal the wounds for both men, they start to hope for a future together.  Then a change in one man’s situation starts a chain reaction of emotions and events that could shatter their bond forever.  Will their faith in each other and their love keep them together even when reason tells them they will part?

What a moving and timely story from Ally Blue!  Long the Mile focuses on the plight of homeless, a heartbreaking statistic that is rising throughout the nation, especially in these economic times.  Instead of faceless numbers Ally Blue takes this tragic reality for so many and  brings it down to an intimate and relatable level with the characters of Judah and Toby, two men of  different backgrounds and education who end up in the same landscape of homelessness and despair.

This is a tough topic to use as a center for a romance, especially if one of the men is also someone whose criminal conduct and arrogance got him convicted of a felony and sent to prison.  Our first introduction to Judah Jackson is a risky one on the part of the author.  Judah is angry, still arrogant, and not especially sorry that he committed a crime, only that he got caught.  Think of the white collar criminals such as Kenneth Lay of Enron and you can see how such a character might invite scorn instead of sympathy. But that sneering man we meet as he is leaving prison is soon to get a shocking comeuppance as Judah tries to find a job while his small pocket of funds dwindles.  Ally Blue takes us into his mindset as Judah unravels emotionally and physically until he finally runs out of options and ends up on the streets of Asheville.  It is a scary picture, made all the more real by the author’s authentic descriptions and her clear understanding of the humiliation, despair and fear that is the constant state of those who are homeless.

To balance out the picture she is creating, Blue then gives us Toby Simonsen, an educated young man who was working on his career, with a bright future ahead of him until the economy crashed along with his job.  With all hotels and service establishments in trouble, the jobs vanished and so did the hopes of thousands of people along with them.  I loved Toby and my heart broke for him because we understand that Toby has given up after a year on the streets.  The constant search for work as well as the constant rejection wears  upon the soul and only the goodness and understanding of Father Bill and the shelter at Holy Innocents has helped to save him. Ally Blue has endowed Toby with an inner strength that feels real, born out of need and Toby’s innate goodness.  Toby is definitely the easier of the two men to connect with.

Slowly over the course of Long The Mile, the real inner Judah starts to appear along with his history that makes the man he became at least understandable if not  always likable.  And the reader needs that in order to accept Toby’s attraction and eventual love for Judah. If this story has an identifiable weakness, it arrives in the latter part of the book when a event arrives that threatens to tear the men apart.  I think the situation that signals a change in their lives is a perfectly realistic one as is its separate effect on each of them. My only quibble is that Toby seems a little oblivious to what a change in the dynamics would have on Judah with his background.  I kept thinking that perhaps a little more exposition and length would have helped alleviate what felt like a rushed resolution to a terrific  story.

But that quibble aside, Long the Mile is a timely tale no matter what time of year it is.  With its focus on a homeless population that is ever present, Ally Blue has brought this tragedy home and given it two faces we can identify and sympathize with.  When you add the fact that young LGBT youth are a large part of that statistic through no fault of their own other than being gay and the shame and horror deepens.

I  highly recommend this book to all based on its own merit as a heartwarming romance.  But Ally Blue and the publisher just made it easier by donating 20 percent of all proceeds to the Ali Forney Center.  So run, don’t walk and grab it right up.  You will be getting a wonderful story and helping LBGTQ youth as well.

Special Notes:

20% of all proceeds from this title are donated to the Ali Forney Center in New York, whose mission “is to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood.” To learn more about this charity or to donate directly, please visit http://www.aliforneycenter.org/.

 Book Details:
140 pages
Expected publication: December 2nd 2013 by Riptide Publishing

Guest Post: Shira Anthony, Mega Contest Time and the Release of Encore!

Standard

BlueNotesSeries_FBbanner_DSP[1]

“Moving on from Music” by Shira Anthony

Thanks, Melanie, for hosting the Encore release day party on your blog! It’s such a pleasure to be here today. I’d crank up the music, but I’m not sure if we should play Tchaikovsky or The Who. Roger and John might be just as conflicted. They love just about any kind of music.

Those of you who have read any of the Blue Notes Series books probably know that the books are loosely based on people and events from my own life as a professional musician. I’m a former violinist and professional opera singer who gave up my music career about 15 years ago. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but I don’t regret the decision. But having no regrets doesn’t mean “no pain.”

Ask yourself how many people you know who have studied music at the college level or beyond. I bet you can name a few (you may even be one!). How many professional musicians do you know? I know a lot of former professional musicians. There’s a reason for that: it’s an incredibly demanding career that requires total focus, pays poorly (unless you’re a superstar), and often means a nomadic lifestyle (not great for long-term relationships and family). There are many more former musicians than there are professionals. But how do you give up something you love nearly as much as you love the people in your life? The grief is very much like the grief you’d feel over the loss of a loved one.

I know. I’ve been there.

Two of the Blue Notes Series characters are former musicians: Jason Greene from Blue Notes, and Roger Nelson from Encore. Each deals with his grief over the loss of his music differently. For Jason, the perfectionist whose fear of performing became overwhelming, he finds a way to make peace with himself and accept his imperfections. Roger, however, is a different story. Roger loses the physical ability to play the violin. His musical voice aches to be heard, but his body (his hand) can’t translate the music of his heart into sound. It’s the most devastating loss of his life, and one he struggles to come to terms with over many years.

I don’t think it’s a surprise that it took five Blue Notes books for me to finally write my own loss into a Blue Notes character (Roger’s character). A musical soul needs to express itself, but it’s difficult to move forward when you aren’t sure how to do it or where to go. Roger tries to forget about his music and deny his grief. It’s only when he realizes there are other forms of self-expression that he can move on with his life and truly love. I’ve found a new outlet for my own self-expression in my writing and learned how to incorporate my love of music into my books. Even better, readers can still “hear” that musical voice in my books. So I guess in some sense, I haven’t really given up performing, have I?

Encore’s release will be followed on Christmas Day by the release of a Blue Notes holiday novella, Symphony in Blue. SymphonySymphony in Blue-build (1) will be my 10th Dreamspinner Press release, so I’m celebrating the release of both of these books with a blog tour contest ending on New Year’s Eve at midnight! Grand prize is a Kindle loaded with many of my Dreamspinner Press titles. You can get more entries by commenting on blog tour posts, tweeting, and buying the books. Here’s the link to the giveaway:

Contest Details for Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:

  • Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
  • Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
  • Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.

Prizes (U.S. Only):

  • Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
  • 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
  • 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
  • 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choice

Encore-BuildBlog Stops Currently Scheduled :
November 11th (release day – Encore): Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (Melanie Marshall)
November 12th:   Live Your Life, Buy the Book
November 14th:   Michael Rupured’s Blog

Book Contest and Sarah Black Guest Blog for The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari

Standard

Good morning! Today Scattered Thoughts is welcoming Sarah Black back to talk about her latest release The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari (The General #2).  Although my review won’t come until tomorrow, I will say that this book is on Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Best of 2013 list.  Trust me, it is one of those books that you will want to read over and over again.  So with that in mind, we are giving away one eBook copy of The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari to one person who leaves a comment on any of the posts from 10/23 to 10/26.  A Winner will be announced on Saturday.

This is Why I Love Those Old Men by Sarah Black

My stories are full of old men, and I think anyone reading can tell I love them. In Lawless I wrote Manuel, and in The Legend of the Apache Kid I wrote Johnny’s old man and Raine’s daddy; in Marathon Cowboys we had The Original Jesse Clayton. In the new book, The General and the Elephant Clock of Al-Jazari, I wrote another old man, the director of the Bardo Museum, who steps in and helps the young men realize their dreams.

That’s what old men do, right? Step in and stand watch while the young men strap on their wings and prepare to leap off the ledge. They listen when we talk. They’re quiet when we just need their company. They watch over us, and when we’re about to screw up, they put up a hand and say, “hold up now. Better think about that.”

My grandfather is the model for all those old men in all my stories. He was quiet and strong and steadfast. A hurricane couldn’t blow him over. No rain would ever touch my head if I was standing next to him. He was as big as a mountain and as strong as an oak. That’s what I remember. He died when I was three, and he was fifty, of a heart attack.

Just before he died, my grandmother sent him out to buy me a pair of shoes. She told him to get something sturdy that could be washed. He carried me back into the house two hours later and I was wearing pretty little black patent Mary Janes. The women had a fit. “Earl, what’s she going to play in?”

And he laughed and pulled a tiny pair of red sneakers out of his pocket.  I’ve adored red shoes from that day, and I adored my big, handsome grandfather. He never said three words when one would do, and he preferred action over words, anyway. He could fix anything, a broken toy or a car that wouldn’t run or a skinned knee. And I have been pretty sure all my life that he was up in heaven keeping an eye on me. Never a judgmental eye, either. Just keeping me safe, keeping me company. Pure love has no room for judgment.

I’ve wondered sometimes if I was writing the same story over and over. I guess writers have things to say, and we say them through fiction. I always try to be clear in my mind what I’m trying to say. This new book, I was really ambitious. I wanted to say something big, something with meaning. Plant my flag and say, this is how I see the world. But with this book, and every book, now and forever, my handsome strong grandfather will make an appearance, and he’ll be watching over me.
SB Grandfather

Here’s a link to the new book: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4277The General and the Elephant Clock cover

Dreamspinner Blurb:

Fresh out of the closet, General John Mitchel and Gabriel Sanchez are settling into their new life together when an old army colleague taps them for a rescue mission to Tunisia. Eli and Daniel, two former Rangers working security, have been arrested in Carthage, charged with blasphemy and thrown into prison.

With rampant unrest in the ancient city and an old enemy targeting them, John gathers a team to liberate the two captive men. When he discovers Eli’s boyhood obsession with Al-Jazari’s Elephant Clock, the rescue becomes complicated and strangely beautiful, and John and Gabriel have to risk what they love the most to bring their team home.
Here’s an excerpt from the book, with my new old man:

The Director was a very old man, with a cane and a long white beard, sharp dark eyes under heavy, greying eyebrows. He was formally dressed in a dark suit and tie, and he greeted Gabriel with a handshake. He had a young woman with him, holding a portfolio. Wylie opened the portfolio, looked inside, then patted it down.

John moved forward, greeted him in Arabic, then he introduced Eli and Daniel. He didn’t remember the old man, but they’d all changed so much in thirty years. Kim was holding his camera, one of the big professional models, and the Director seemed charmed by his Arabic greeting and pretty smile. “Eli, Daniel, why don’t you sit down with the Director? Sir, have you met Abdullah al-Salim? I know you will recognize him. The first time I saw him, I thought his father was standing before me.”

The old man greeted Abdullah with cries of delight and three kisses, the traditional Arabic way. Abdullah held a hand out to Kim. “Kim is General Mitchel’s nephew. He’s my best friend.”

Kim was kissed now, then they all sat down on the couch. John counted. Five men, with plenty of room, just like Kim had said, and the U shape meant people on either end could see each other to talk. Even better, he could, if he wanted to, perch on the leather polka dot ottoman like a frog sitting on a lily pad. God, he hated that couch. Kim looked at him, gave him a weak smile. Kim was reading his mind again.

Gabriel took Sam and Wylie, and they moved over to the table and pulled up chairs. Kim held up his camera. “Director, I thought I would take a picture of you with these men. It will be a good memory for them when they are back home, to remember your kindness.”
Abdullah translated, and the Director gave Kim a hesitant nod. Then the old man turned to Eli and Daniel, offered them each a hand. Abdullah translated his words. “I have come to tell you of the admiration of the Tunisian people for your courage. It gives great heart to the people when we see your love for Carthage. I also brought something for you to see. I found this in the archives.” The young women with him handed over the portfolio, then retreated to stand with Jen. Jen reached out to her, and John could hear the quiet murmur of their voices in the background.

The Director pulled out a plastic sleeve. Inside was a brown manuscript page, painted in colors still vibrant and beautiful more than eight hundred years after they had first been painted. The old man put the page down on the ottoman, and the boys leaned forward to look at it. It was an original page from The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices and showed Al-Jazari’s wondrous elephant clock. Eli caught his breath, reached out and touched the edge of the parchment through the plastic. “This is really… it’s the real….” He sounded like he was having trouble catching his breath.

Kim stood up and moved around the other side of the couch and lifted the camera. Eli looked up at the Director, and something in his battered face must have touched the old man. His eyes were tender, and he reached out, put his hand on Eli’s cheek. Then he reached out with his other hand, held Daniel’s. “My sons, will you come and see the Bardo? The museum will be open tomorrow for the children. It’s the day we have a festival for them. I would like you to come, to see something of our history and our culture.”
Eli looked down at the page again. “The kids, they’ll go crazy over this! Can you believe it? Is this wild, or what? Do you see it?”
He looked up at John, his green eyes like jewels, his black hair sticking up in the front in little tufts. John nodded at him, smiling. “I do see it. Is it as good as you thought it would be?”

“Better,” Eli said. “Can we go, General? To the Bardo?”

John looked at Gabriel, then back to Eli. “Yes, I think we can. We’ll be safe in a group.” Daniel stood up, let John take his place next to the old man. “Thank you for your kindness. Are you sure it will not be too much trouble? I understood you were closed for renovations.”

The Director shook his head. “Once a year we have a children’s day. We had planned to have the parts of the museum not under construction open tomorrow. It is like a festival, very important to me. I believe there will be camels and balloons and too many sweets, and my staff will have video projectors set up because the children like to watch movies. In your honor I will add a stage for the elephant clock, a video so the children can see. Like this young man,” he put his hand on Eli’s shoulder, “love of scholarship starts when a child is very young. I believe you will be safe. Let us open our heart to you, show you the true face of Tunisia. The true face of Islam.”
Eli leaned forward. “What is the true face of Islam?”

The old man put his hand on Eli’s cheek again. “Just like with your people, my son, the true face of Islam is love.”

Review: Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight #2) by Sue Brown

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Isle of Wishes coverAfter the tumultuous events of the past months, life for Sam Owens and Liam Marshall is finally on track.  They are getting married and Liam’s visa issues have finally been resolved.  So Sam sends Liam back to his home in Michigan to pack up his belongings for the final move to England and married happiness with Sam.   Everything is fine until Liam stops returning Sam’s phone calls. Sam trusts Liam and their love so Sam knows that something has gone terribly wrong.

Sam intends to go to the States to look for Liam but knows he will need help and support.  So he turns to his brother, British Metropolitan police officer Paul Owens, to accompany him to Michigan.  If anyone can find Liam and get them both safely back to the Isle of Wight for their wedding its Paul Owens. Upon landing, they soon discover the trail leads to a small town in Wisconsin, outside of Milwaukee where LIam’s rental car has been found.

Once in Milwaukee, openly gay Detective Paul Owens starts investigating Liam’s disappearance and runs smack into the closeted but gorgeous Wisconsin Detective Olaf Skandik.  Olaf returned home after he left the service and joined the police force.  But the small town attitudes and close-knit community now feel restrictive, and Olaf is afraid that coming out will leave him both without a job and family.  But as Paul and Olaf start investigating Liam’s disappearance together, mutual attraction flares into something much more, shocking them both.  What happens when a casual attraction turns into love for men separated by an ocean of responsibilities?

Isle of Wishes is the second story in the Isle of Wight series and it deepens my love for these men and their families that started in The Isle of…Where?.  In that book, we first meet Sam Owens and Liam Marshall when Liam arrives on the Isle of Wight to scatter the ashes of his best friend, Alex.  Sam and Liam meet and fall in love, passionately and forever within weeks of Liam’s arrival and Sue Brown absolutely makes the reader believe in this love affair and Sam and Liam’s need for each other.  The author also surrounded this pair with a collection of characters, mostly Sam’s family, including one of his brother’s, a police officer named Paul.

Brown gave this motley, large family such depth and dimension to their characters that I fell in love with them as much as I did with Sam and Liam.  At the end of that story, we left Sam and Liam happy but starting the process of getting a residency visa for Liam and dealing with other issues.  Brown had convinced us that they were on the road to happiness but still had a journey in front of them. So naturally  I wanted the next chapter in their lives immediately.  Sigh.

Instant gratification are two words not in Sue Brown’s vocabulary, at least not in this series.  Her readers had to wait over a year to see what happened next to Sam and Liam and the Isle of Wishes gives us a startling answer.  Liam disappears to the consternation and heartbreak of Sam and fans of this series.  I love that element of Sue Brown’s stories where items that appear to be safe and straightforward are actually deceptively complicated, whether it is  relationships, sexuality, or even a trip home to finish packing and move.  Nothing works out as planned because life doesn’t function that way and Sue Brown’s stories are most definitely grounded in reality.

That’s why I can accept a casual attraction turning into something deeper, not yet love but greater than just a flirtation and hookup.  It’s also the reason why the cause behind Liam’s disappearance is so plausible as well.  I often find myself nodding in agreement with something I am reading in her stories because its recognizably familiar and human.  This also applies to her characters, whose problems and outlooks reflect our own.

Olaf is that man who finds himself torn between family and job he loves and his sexuality.  Olaf has hidden his sexuality for years and now it has become deeply ingrained to hide his attraction to men.  Given small town attitudes, especially in his town’s law enforcement, Olaf is well aware of what coming out would cost him, his job and his family.  Until Olaf meets the outwardly gay Paul, he has never questioned his decision to remain firmly in the closet.  Then Paul and Sam arrive looking for Liam and Olaf’s life is turned upside down.

Brown makes Olaf’s decisions understandable even as the heat between the men flares white hot.  It’s painful, its frustrating and it feels so real to watch Olaf and Paul work through what they mean to each other even as they follow the leads in Liam’s disappearance.  Paul is a great character too.  Paul is home is in his sexuality.  He is great at his job, loves his family and is astonished at his feelings towards Olaf.  We get it that both men have a hard time believing that their feelings for each other are real given the time frame and situation they are operating in. Sam is there too for every agonizing minute that Liam is gone.  Trust me when I say your heart will be sore but not broken by the end of this story.

And that is primarily why I have not given Isle of Wishes 5 stars.  There are many loose ends left fluttering about at the end of this story, intentionally so.  We do get part of a happy ending and a something more but the author is laying her groundwork for the next installment.  And while I respect that, I do wish it had been pulled together a tiny bit more instead of a surfeit of questions and possibilities.

Still this is a deeply wonderful story.  The writing is crisp and the plot complicated enough to let the romance shine through without obscuring all the other great elements here.  And of course, there are those marvelous characters that we have come to love and who form the  basis and structure for this series.  I don’t think I can place one above the other, they are all so intertwined that separating them out actually would lessen the impact of the story. The Owens family, those by blood and those they adopt are a force to be reckoned with and I love them all equally.

So, what is in the future for this series? Well, per Sue Brown, book 3, Isle of Walls, will be out in May next year. It directly follows on from Isle of Wishes, and although it’s based on Nibs and Wig, it will tell more of Paul and Olaf’s story. Then she has a new series planned with Olaf and Paul, which will start next year.  So many stories to look forward to.  I know I will spend some of the time rereading the first two books while waiting for next spring and the arrival of Isle of Walls.

If you are new to this series, go back to the first story, Isle of….Where?(Isle of Wight #1).  It’s necessary in order to fully understand all the people and relationships to follow.  For no matter where this series goes, the heart of it remains on the Isle of Wight and the incredibly addicting Owens family. Consider this book and this series highly recommended.

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events that occur:

The Isle of… Where? (Isle of Wight #1)
Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight #2)

Book Details:

ebook, 242 pages
Published August 19th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1627980776 (ISBN13: 9781627980777)
edition language English
series Isle of Wight

Review: Scorpion (Memory of Scorpions #1) by Aleksandr Voinov

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Scorpian 2nd edition coverKendras is quite possibly the last surviving member of the only family he’s ever known—the elite fighting force known as the Scorpions. Gravely injured and left for dead during the conflict between the city states of Dalman and Fetin. Kendras has no choice but to accept the coin and offer of service to the mercenary who finds him severely wounded outside the city.  All the mercenary called Steel demands is nothing less than Kendras’ total submission and acceptance of a secret task to carry out.  With no where else to turn and no money to buy medicine, Kendras resignedly accepts.

But Kendras has his own hidden agenda, that of finding if any of his Scorpion brothers survived and bringing the elite team back together again.  It also includes finding the man who holds Kendras’ heart and soul, that of the officer who leads the Scorpions.  But first, Kendras must heal.  His shattered foot and other wounds need time.  Complications arise when Steel becomes possessive of Kendras, wanting more than just his body.  But Steel’s too late, Kendras’ love and loyalty lie elsewhere.  When that becomes apparent, what will Steel do when he realizes Kendras will never be his?

Kendras faces layers of political intrigue, and tests that will strain his loyalties and test his physical prowess as a warrior.But nothing will stand in the way of Kendras achieving his goals, not even the Empire itself.

Scorpion is such a powerful book.  Brutal, grimly realistic in its portrait of a warrior’s life, depicting the violence to body and soul that is the by product of such a life.  It is also equally honest in its scenes of casual everyday brutality that is a way of life for those less fortunate and lacking in status or wealth.  Rape, humiliation, slavery and death lie in wait for all but the most noble or well connected. And even then assassination and mutilation are possibilities for those who would rule.  Aleksandr Voinov has created a universe of exceptional cruelty, where casual viciousness and political maneuvering are daily occurances. Yet it is also a world where love and loyalty cannot be bought and the possibility of  redemption and love is a treasure to be fought for.

In Voinov’s world, a devastating war in the empire of Shara has left the former dynasty broken into three city kingdoms.  In the three hundred years since the sundering of the empire of Shara, the three cities have maintained a delicate balance of autonomy between them.  The author reveals the political tactics within each city and the wars that the failed policies and negotiations have brought to the kingdoms themselves. Kendras and his fellow Scorpions are the latest casualties of a war between Dalman and Fetin, two of the city kingdoms.  From the start, the author brings us into the conflict at the bottom level.  The consequences of the war is everywhere, from the dead to the dying and mutilated.  The mercenaries, needed to fight are just as quickly discarded by those who hired them.  It is a rough, cruel life and Voinov depicts it honestly with gritty descriptions that are almost to vivid to bear.

Equal to Voinov’s world building is his characterizations.  Every character found within this novel is meticulously created from Kendras to Steel to Widowmaker, the assassin whose loyalties are hidden beneath layers of guile.  These are  also not men for the fainthearted.  They take what they want regardless of the frailties and consent of others. In fact, kindness and passivity is looked down on, it will get a person killed or enslaved on this world. Loyalty and brotherhood are to be treasured and love is so rare that it is not easily identifiable.

At the heart of this story is Kendras, an orphan discarded on the streets of Fetin to fend for himself at an early age.  An oddity because of his black skin and blue eyes that mark him as a pureblooded Jaishani (a noble race), Kendras has no idea as to his lineage or history.  A petty thief and sometime killer, Kendras’ life was changed on the day he was set to die, saved by the officer who would train him to be a  Scorpion.  I loved Kendras.  He is such a remarkable character, he perseveres, he is loyal, and amidst his pragmatism, there is an unquenchable desire to love and be loved in return.  Equal in complexity is the officer (his name is revealed later on in the story).  Who and what he is slowly comes to the surface over the course of the story.  While the novel unfolds through the eyes of Kendras, the officer becomes a man who both Kendras and the reader commit to emotionally and intellectually.  But every character Voinov has created has multiple layers, from Selvin a Scorpion who chooses to remain a sexual slave to Steel and Widowmaker, mercenaries with pasts as complex as their characters.   Every one of these damaged people enrich the story with their realism and singular personalities.

I found no quibbles with this incredible story but I must make an admission.  The opening pages are as brutal as any you will find throughout Scorpion.  Initially, I had a hard time with them, especially the non con elements involved.   But they also ring with a terrible authenticity and you will understand why the author not only included them but started off in such a manner as you delve further into the book and Kendras’ life.  It is cruel and sets the tone for the reality of the life Kendras lives and the events that will occur down the line.  Kendras does what he has to in order to stay alive.  It’s a pragmatic outlook and it certainly is one that belongs to a war hardened mercenary.

The narrative of Scorpion was smooth and thrilling.  I couldn’t put it down. The ending of the story was satisfying while leaving the way open for the next book in the series.  Its with anticipation and a little fear that I await the next installment.  Don’t pass this  story up..

Cover art by Reese Dante is gorgeous in the 2nd edition.  The model is perfect for Kendras and the design works in tone and graphics.  Great job.

Book Details:

2nd edition from Riptide Publishing
eBook ISBN: 978-1-62649-013-0

eBook release: May 27, 2013

eBook Formats: pdf, mobi, html, epub
Print ISBN: 978-1-62649-014-7
Print release: May 27, 2013
Word count: 71,000
Page count: 274
Type: Part of a Series
Cover by: Reese Dante
This title is #1 of the Memory of Scorpions series.
– See more at: http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/scorpion-memory-scorpions-1#sthash.UsSFLbL9.dpuf
Rewritten, enlarged and redited
First edition 242 pages from Dreamspinner Press 2011

Review: Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #4) by Lee Brazil

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Ghost of a Chance book coverChance Dumont thought he couldn’t survive when his first love, Cannon, left him.  It took Chances five years before he thought he could take a chance on another man and a relationship.  Then Rory, a young submissive cop came along and further complicated Chance’s already complicated life.  An attack on Rory made Chance understand that he loved Rory and could move forward again with a new relationship.  But the aftermath of that attack and the return of Cannon shattered Rory’s recovery.  If that wasn’t enough, a dead body in the men’s restroom of Chances Are bar completed the detonation of Chance’s and Rory’s fragile relationship due to trust issues.  At the time, Chance felt there was a fifty fifty chance that Rory had done the crime. So Rory left and Chance has not seen him since, though not for lack of trying.

No one has seen Rory.  The man has  vanished, taking with him all the hope and promise that Chance had just recovered.  Now  months have passed since Rory’s departure. Chance hasn’t left the sanctuary of his home, not once.  His constant companions are empty beer bottles and greasy pizza boxes and everyone is worried about him.  Chance hasn’t even been to his bar, a shocking situation that his friends and employees don’t know how to handle. If there is even a ghost of a chance of getting Rory back, Chance will take it.  But where to start?

Ghost of a Chance is the fourth book in the Chances Are series and in some ways it is a return to the emotional issues in first story in the series Chances Are.  Once again, Chance is recovering from a relationship gone wrong.  But this time, its his fault that the relationship didn’t succeed and the guilt eats at him constantly.  Chance knows that the issues he carried with him from the first failed relationship made him doubt himself and Rory from the beginning.  His ex boyfriend’s return didn’t help either.

Once again, Brazil paints a portrait of a man whose actions and self doubt triggered the events that demolished the beginnings of a new love.  It is a great on so many levels.  Chance’s inner turmoil, his guilt, and his downward spiral into pity and drunkenness is authentic and believable.   Told from Chance’s pov, we hear every inner argument and counter argument as Chance fights his way past the current events that have left him alone once more.  It’s a tough inner battle that Chance fights and the conclusions he draws are not always complimentary ones.  He knows where he failed but doesn’t know how to correct his mistakes.  How human and how understandable.

Chance must first fix himself and to help him do that are characters from the other Pulp Friction series.  From Wick Templeton to Archer, Zachary and Jeremiah from the Triple Threat series, all are present and accounted for as they help Chance recover once more and move forward with a plan to bring Rory home.   Here is a taste of Chance still hiding away in his house:

Even if I couldn’t explain what exactly I wanted, I could close my eyes and put a face to it. I wanted Rory. With us, it was not a game. It wasn’t a scene. It was how we were, and I should have fucking told him that. Maybe if I had, he wouldn’t have gotten tired of waiting and he’d have stayed and we’d be spending Friday night in the usual way, putting off gratification as long as possible while I sat in the bar and he knelt on the bed, and an invisible thread of arousal thrummed between us, ratcheting tension higher and higher until the whole bar seemed to snap with sexual tension.

Instead, I sat on my back patio watching a sexual disaster in the making cut his dad’s grass and giving one of my oldest friends the brush off while I concentrated on getting drunk as efficiently as possible in the vain hope that I’d be able to sleep tonight.

Brazil has created a wonderful character in Chance and then gave him the perfect voice for his character and personality.  I love Chance and everything about Chances Are.  In fact as Chance or his grandmother would say, chances are that everyone will find something to love about this series.  It’s short but seems so much larger in scope and characterization.  The characters and plot are terrific, the emotions realistic and its impact authentic and human. There’s more coming and i will be there for every new installment.  You will be too once you start on their adventure.  Go back to the beginning and Chances Are.  Meet Chance Dumont, Rory, Gerry and the rest.  You are going to love them as much as I do.

Note:  Series contains elements of bdsm and D/s.  It works perfectly within the series and for the characters involved.  Even though readers who prefer their sexual encounters to be on the vanilla side will enjoy the kink as explained by Lee Brazil and Chance.

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events within:

Chances Are (Chances Are #01)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02)
Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #03)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #04)

Book Details:

ebook, 36 pages
Published May 1st 2013 by Lime Time Press
edition language English
series Chances Are

Review: Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #3) by Lee Brazil

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Fifty Fifty Chances Are coverChance Dumont, owner of Chances Are bar and his lover, Rory, are still trying to deal with the aftermath of Rory’s attack and the return of Cannon, Chances’s former boyfriend.  It’s not going well.  Rory, a cop, has still not been declared fit for duty.  But truthfully the trauma of the attack has left Rory fearful and he may never heal enough to be a cop again.  And Chance?  He’s trying hard to be the lover Rory needs but their relationship is strained and fragile, just like Rory.

When a man is found naked and dead in the bathroom stall in the men’s room, his identity points to Chance and Rory as suspects.  Chance knows he didn’t do it but did Rory?  That’s the question and no one likes that the answer might be that its a fifty fifty chance that Rory did.

This series is just amazing.  It continues to get better with each new story.  It deepens in intensity and in emotional layering and I can’t get enough. We left Chance and Rory trying to pick up the pieces of their relationship after Rory has been attacked in Second Chances Are, and it’s not going very well.  And it can’t because the relationship started on tenuous terms and has never found a firm foundation.  The men aren’t communicating, primarily because one is traumatized and the other doesn’t want to upset him further.  It’s a realistic portrait of two men at the very first stages of recovery and they are still trying to find their way past the pain.

Lee Brazil packs a lot into 34 pages.  Great characterization, wonderful plot, and tremendous dialog and with each new story it gets better, more layered, more authentic.  Chance was a complicated man in the first two books but not always likable, something the character himself acknowledges. But here as Chance struggles to put Rory first instead of giving into his impulses for revenge, he becomes more human, more understandable.  He is so frustrated, as is the reader that we instantly relate to him.

Trust is the issue and focus here.  So many areas where trust is lacking.  There is the trust missing between Chance and Rory. Plus Chance still doesn’t trust Gerry, his bartender who stole from him and both men are struggling with that fact.  Rory can’t trust himself or anyone other than Chance, maybe.  Then Brazil shatters the tentative trust established between Chance and Rory with a murder that either man might have done.  The emotional detonation that occurs reveals to all involved just how fragile the binding was that held them all together.   It’s angry, it’s hurtful, and it’s damaging on many levels, but is it permanent?  That’s the question that Brazil gives us to answer and the answer remains elusive by the end of the story.

Again there is an element of bdsm and D/s but it absolutely works for the characters and story.  Don’t let it put you off.  And for you  romance lovers, well, it’s coming.  Romance and love is not an easy thing for Chance Dumont. Its hurt him deeply in the past and he hasn’t been able to get past that emotional trauma.  Now he is finally ready but is the man he loves?  Brazil is stringing that aspect of the series out for us and it is making it  even more enjoyable to anticipate the outcome.

It’s hard for me to believe that Fifty Fifty Chances Are is only 34 pages in length.  It has the breadth and scope of a larger book.  So does the series.   Really, the author’s work here is immaculate.  Pick it up but start at the beginning and work your way through.  There are four stories so far and I know that more are coming.  Lucky us.

Books in the series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and events within:

Chances Are (Chances Are #01)
Second Chances Are (Chances Are #02)
Fifty Fifty Chances Are (Chances Are #03)
Ghost of a Chance (Chances Are #04)

Book Details:

ebook, 36 pages
Published May 1st 2013 by Lime Time Press
edition language English

Review: Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #04) by Havan Fellows

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Series Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Wicked Guidance coverIt’s not every day that a pickpocket steals the wallet out of Wick Templeton’s jeans.  And for Wick Templeton, it means he has to chase that unlucky thief down to retrieve his wallet and phone.  But the thief he catches is just a child, and a smart-mouthed one at that.  For Wick it’s like looking at a mirror, a small Wick mini me, all dirty, thin and full of sass.   And that’s just the start of the trouble, all four feet of it.  It seems that someone wants the kid out of the way – permanently.    Several fired shots later and Wicked is pissed.  No one is going to hurt this kid.  Its time for Wick to do what he does best, investigate, threaten and create total chaos.

And if one gorgeous, sexy Ned Harris turns up to meddle in the case, well no one, including Wick would be surprised.  Who is after Wick’s little 11 year old companion? And what is the deal with Ned Harris this time?  With a little wicked guidance, Wick will see his mini me safe and the criminals behind the threats in jail or dead.  It’s all in a days work for Wick Templeton, a law unto himself.  And with a twerp to protect, those hunting the boy had better run, and run fast, for the most wicked of them all is on their trail and judgement day is coming.

With Wicked Guidance, one more piece of the puzzle that is Wick Templeton is revealed and fitted into place.  With all the other stories, we have seen Wick’s intelligence, his ultra competency, his meticulous planning and control at work.  We have watched him smart mouth villains and outsmart the law.  He’s been witty, and sexy and dangerous.  But we haven’t seen him really care about someone…until now.  Sure we know he is a loyal and trusted friend to a small group of people and that his clients can trust him implicitly when it comes to their cases.  But a softer side, ok, Wick’s type of softer side has been missing until a young boy steals his wallet.

With the creation of Kyle, pickpocket and twerp extraordinaire, Havan Fellows delivers another facet to Wick Templeton’ character.   Kyle is a true eleven year old in every way.  Defiant, smug, mouthy, and full of fire, it’s no wonder that Wick looks at the kid and sees himself.  Fellows does a beautiful job in giving us a miniature Wick while still keeping Kyle believable as a tween out on the streets.  But Kyle is also in deep trouble with the vulnerability of the young that cries out for protection.  Kyle is just a terrific character and his interaction with Wick reveals more of Wick than we have seen in the other stories, starting from the moment Wick chases him down.

He tapped the handy dandy earpiece again then eyed his current problem. “Tried infers that you attempted something and failed.” He waved the wallet and phone in front of the brat before slipping them securely back in his pocket. “You attempted and failed.”

The kid humphed at him. “You gonna call the cops?”

“Why? They can’t protect you from me.”

The thief’s eyes widened for a brief second before he slumped his shoulders in defeat. “I’m real sorry, mister. I just was so hungry.” He rubbed his hand over his stomach for good measure. “I’ve learned my lesson and won’t do it again. Promise.”

Wick scored him a ten for his acting chops. He stepped back and took in the whole picture the kid presented. His blond hair teased the line of medium brown due to its oily matted down appearance, and Wick was sure there was a pale complexion on that face somewhere—if he Brillo padded through the dirt to find it. The bright hazel eyes that shone through the mess held intelligence and fire, defiance at its best. The twerp’s clothes matched the rest of him, filthy beyond any washing machine’s help, with holes in places that never qualified as cool. They hung loosely on his bony frame, as if at one time they fit properly but, with the boy’s new restrictive diet, had become too big too fast for him.

And that’s just the exchange I can quote.  The rest is both hysterically funny and perfectly authentic, especially the words coming out of Kyle’s mouth.  And all the more heartbreaking for all the sarcasm and bleak point of view in someone so young.  And you can see why this youngster appeals to every protective instinct that Wick has.  For me, it’s the most fulfilling and heartwarming relationship of Wick’s to date, his lustmance with Ned aside.  Trust me when I say the reader is absolutely emotionally involved in this boy and his future.

As with all the stories, we have a mystery to solve, and it’s a huge one.  Someone is trying to kill Kyle.  Havan Fellows has drawn us in, first with the introduction to Kyle, than with the developing relationship with Wick and finally with the threat to Kyle’s life.   We worry about the threat and we fear for his future, even while being assured that he is safe with the one person in the world who can protect him….Wick Templeton.  The author craftily sends us on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride, from laugher to fright back to laughter and than back down to dead fear once more.  It’s a true E Ticket ride (google it), one you won’t want to get off.

This is also the story where we see that the tenuous lustmance between Wick and Ned is finally turning into something deeper.  Oh, there is still scores of questions to be answered about both of their background and in Ned’s case, current employment.  But a deeper connection between the men has formed, and while the sex is still hot and spicy, an element of caring has arrived in the mixture too.  I love that Fellows is making this a slow build to something real and perhaps lasting.  We aren’t there yet, but the glimpses she gives us makes us want more.

Wicked Guidance is my favorite book of the Wicked’s Ways series to date.  Havan Fellows has written a story that combines all the ingredients for the classic story you constantly reread.  It flows smoothly from beginning to end, it has laughter, it has wit, it has memorable characters, a mystery and sex appeal.  And with the inclusion of Kyle, Wicked’s Way and Wick Templeton gain a measure of heartbreak and warmth as well.  By the end of the book, I felt like that little boy Joey who calls out “Shane, come back!” at the end of that classic western.  I wanted more…much, much more of Wick, of Kyle, of Ned….just plain everyone.   I think you will feel that way too.  Here is a little something more to wet your appetite:

Wick learned a long time ago that if you just gave a little nudge, a simple word or two, chances of someone talking raised significantly. It felt like he wanted to talk. Maybe he needed a reason to.

He fell in step with the kid and mimicked him as he started kicking the little pebbles out of the way. They walked the duration of the path this way, quietly kicking stones, matching strides with each other. It meant Wick had to shorten his step a bit, but that didn’t cause a problem, neither did the silence. Wick was one of those that could hold his tongue for however long it took to get what he wanted.

Thankfully for us, he won’t have to wait long. Soon he and the readers will get what we want.  So run, don’t walk, and pick up this series.  Start with the first in line, Wicked Solutions and work your way through to the last story released so far, Wicked Guidance.  I read them completely through in one sitting and then did it again.  Thank goodness, Havan Fellows has promised to deliver more Wicked’s Ways and Wick Templeton in the future.  I can’t wait until I make their acquaintance once more and get caught up in their lives and investigations.

Here are the books in the Wicked’s Way series in the order they were written and should be read to understand the characters and the events that follow:

Wicked Solutions (Wicked’s Way #01)
Wicked Bindings (Wicked’s Way #02)
Wicked Incarceration (Wicked’s Way #03)
Wicked Guidance (Wicked’s Way #04)

Cover art by Laura Warner.  Nice job of branding the series, but I consider the design a missed opportunity to design something along the lines of the original pulp fiction novels.  This series cries out for more.

Book Details:

Published July 14th 2013 by Appleton Publishing Avenue