Its Riptide Publishing’s 4th Anniversary Celebration Blog Tour! (Andrea Speed guest blog and giveaway)

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Riptide Publishing’s
4th Anniversary Celebration!

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Thank you for joining Riptide on our 4th Anniversary blog tour! We are excited to bring you new guest posts from our authors and a behind the scenes insights from Riptide. The full tour schedule can be found at here . Don’t miss the limited time discounts and Free Books for a Year giveaway at the end of this post!

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Please welcome Andrea Speed to the tour.

To me, horror and comedy have always been attached at the hip. Now I know that position might be anathema to many, but think about it. If you break it down into its component parts, many horror stories are ridiculous. Clowns with machetes? Dead people who eat live people? Undead bloodsuckers who wear capes and flounce around like party boys who ran out of molly? This stuff’s hilarious, people.

Not to say that it can’t be horrific too, because it can be. It can be two things at once. Ridiculous and scary, bloody and silly. I have many real world examples of this. From the granddaddy of them all, Evil Dead 2 (I honestly believe Bruce Campbell’s fight with his own hand belongs in a spot in the cinema hall of fame, if such a thing exists), to the great granddaddy Young Frankenstein, to the more contemporary examples of What We Do In The Shadows to any of the comedy episodes of Supernatural (which, to their credit, are usually pretty funny, especially if Ben Edlund writes it). Humor and horror belong together like chocolate and more chocolate. And it would make the Walking Dead a thousand times more watchable if they just included a goofy moment or two somewhere – anywhere, in any episode.

You’d think this would be a given, but it simply isn’t, and as a fan of “serious” horror, it baffles me. Yeah, I like a good “straight” scare as much as the next person, but if we can’t laugh at ourselves and the clichés and conventions of the genre, then what’s the point? You can’t take yourself so seriously. Life is pretty absurd, once you think about it, and I feel everything needs to acknowledge that if we want to get up and move on.

Which brings me to Josh of the Damned. If you asked me to describe the most hellish job in existence, it wouldn’t be mortuary worker, or garbage man, or even sewer worker. It would always be service industry, because, let’s face it, most people are pretty terrible. You could be a good person but having an off day, and you end up inadvertently taking it out on a stranger you doubt you’ll see again, which is often this hapless worker bee, be they a barista, a fast food cashier, or a store clerk. There is so much naturalistic horror to be found in this setting I don’t know why all horror stories don’t start or end there.

It’s not subtle commentary to say that Josh’s monster clients are often nicer than his human clients, because they are. Oh sure, occasionally they threaten to kill him or ear hentai him, but even Josh understands this isn’t as bad as it could be. He’s an undereducated, underpaid everyman who finds himself the lynchpin in a battle between worlds he can barely comprehend, and has no hope of understanding. It doesn’t stop him, though, which is the mark of a true hero. You go do something, even if you have no idea what’s going on in the bigger picture. You just try and deal with the mess here and now.

I’ve written more conventional types of heroes (including one who still sees the humor in the whole bloody mess of everything – his name rhymes with phone), but I feel like Josh could always stand shoulder to shoulder with them. Yes, he’s a night clerk, and he doesn’t always understand what’s going on or what he’s supposed to do about it. But he goes into work every night and he tries, which is a feat of heroism all by itself.


So next time you’re in a business, and see a weary clerk/cashier/barista, thank them, or just give them a big tip. We all fight monsters. Some are just more literal than others.

About Josh of the Damned

Josh Caplan is your average late-night convenience store clerk, but the Quik-Mart where he works is nothing like normal with that hell vortex in the parking lot. Waiting on zombies, demons, and other things that go bump in the night might scare some, but they’re actually more polite than the stoners, and Josh welcomes the break in the monotony—especially when he acquires himself a sexy new boyfriend with a deadly secret.

Will Josh survive this retail nightmare? It’s a Big Gulp of a chance, but between the hazard pay and the hottie with a sweet tooth for Josh’s candy, it’s a chance he’s willing to take.

About Andrea Speed

Andrea Speed was born looking for trouble in some hot month without an R in it. While succeeding in finding Trouble, she has also been found by its twin brother, Clean Up, and is now on the run, wanted for the murder of a mop and a really cute, innocent bucket that was only one day away from retirement. (I was framed, I tell you – framed!)

In her spare time, she arms lemurs in preparation for the upcoming war against the Mole Men. Viva la revolution!

Connect with Andrea:

[Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Note:  Andrea Speed’s  Joshua of the Damned series is on our October Scary Tales Recommendations and their covers are always on our Best of Lists.]

Anniversary Sale

The Josh of the Damned series is being sold in a special discounted bundle by Riptide this week only. Check out the sale on this series and other bundles at http://www.riptidepublishing.com/anniversary-sale

Giveaway

To celebrate our anniversary, Riptide Publishing is giving away free books for a year! Your first comment at each blog stop on the Anniversary Tour will count as an entry and give you a chance to win this great prize. Giveaway ends at midnight, October 31, 2015, and is not restricted to US entries.  You must leave your email address in the body of the comment so you can be contacted if chosen.  You must also be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Rafflecopter code:http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/c1ee22d91

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Review: Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Christmas Kitsch coverOn the outside Rusty Baker might look like just another stereotypical football player, just one of many in his high school that looked as though they were popped out of a mold for tall, big, blond rich boys.  But on the inside Rusty is different, a difference that remains hidden until Oliver Campbell, small, dark and out Oliver Campbell, enrolls in his high school and sits next to Rusty in class. When one of the more brutish football players starts in on Oliver in class, Rusty is there to cut him off, making his protection of Oliver clear to all.  A close friendship is started, one Rusty doesn’t understand.  Because Rusty suffers from poor self esteem and thinks he is stupid. Rusty can’t understand why the cute and highly intelligent Oliver would want to be his friend.  Then the day before Rusty is to leave for Berkeley, Oliver kisses him and everything changes for them both.

The hardest thing Rusty ever had to do was leave Oliver behind going to a community college while Rusty left town for a school he knew he wasn’t ready for and couldn’t survive in.  Rusty is under a mountain of stress over everything, from grades to his sexuality and the pressure almost does him in. When Rusty returns home for Thanksgiving, it all explodes when his parents catch him kissing Oliver in the driveway and they kick him out, homeless at the holidays.

While Oliver and his dad may not have material wealth, they are rich in acceptance and love.  And with their support and Oliver’s love, Rusty just might make it through not only the holidays but the rest of his life.

In Rusty Baker Amy Lane has created one of the most luminous, heartbreaking characters I have ever read.  Ten pages into the story I started weeping over this glorious man child who has been made to feel stupid and inadequate for all his years, promptly forgetting that Rusty exists only in the pages of Christmas Kitsch and the fertile imagination of Amy Lane.  Told from Rusty’s point of view, his thoughts and feelings (as well as the manner in which Rusty voices his views that shows just how deep his lack of self esteem is) engage the reader so throughly that you forget about everything around you except for Rusty and his halting path through life.

Trust me when I say that just when you think that Rusty can’t break your heart anymore, then he says something  that seems innocuous on the surface but is so shattering in the truth that it reveals that you find yourself breaking down yet again, grabbing for that second box of tissues while realizing that you are only on page 60 or so of a 256 page story.  Rusty Baker is so incandescent in his innocence and beauty that I almost expected the pages to glow.  He is textured, and glorious and unforgettable in every way.

But Rusty can’t make it alone, either in life or in the story.  So the author has created a group of characters every bit as remarkable and amazing as Rusty himself, starting with Oliver Campbell.  Oliver really is Rusty’s polar opposite from quick intelligence to his physical exterior.  Oliver’s mixed race parentage is evident not only in his name but in his small stature, dark eyes and skin. Equally rich is the latin culture which overlays everything at home from his family’s food to their family rituals.  Oliver is highly intelligent, generous of spirit and out about his sexuality.  This is our and Rusty’s first introduction to Oliver:

Oliver showed up in early September of my senior year, slender, brown on brown on brown. Dark brown hair cut with long bangs around his narrow face, dark brown eyes with thick, thick lashes, and light brown skin. He slouched quietly in the back of Mr. Rochester’s English Literature class and eyed the rest of us with sort of a gentle amusement.

It’s that “gentle amusement” that draws Rusty in as well as Oliver’s acceptance of him no matter what  Rusty might say or the way he struggles with everything in his life.  Oliver is there to quietly shore Rusty up, giving him a look at families who love and support each other with a generosity Rusty has never had in his life.  There is a quiet glow to Oliver that is never outshown by Rusty, they complement each other perfectly. I love Oliver and Oliver’s amazing dad, Arturo, both so alive that I absolutely believed in them as a family.  And that goes for Estrella, Rusty’s housekeeper and surrogate mom, as well as Nicole, Rusty’s young sister just as starved for love and family as Rusty is.  Nicole’s fragility is slowly revealed to Rusty and the reader as she becomes more of a presence in Rusty’s life.  I know that sounds odd but when you read the story you realize just how compartmentalized Rusty’s family is and the impact of that structure upon the children.

OK, I realize I am doing it again, treating these characters as real people.   Amy Lane is a superb storyteller.  She creates worlds, situations and yes, characters that seem as real as any you might meet outside your door.  They are flawed, they bleed as well as breathe.  And when they hurt, you will hurt and bleed along with them.  And that’s because somewhere those characters crossed the line from paper personas to people we love and care for as though they are family.  I have the empty tissues boxes to prove it.

What characters seemed removed, incomplete and insubstantial?  Well, that would be Rusty’s mother and father.  And with  good reason, because they feel that way to Rusty.  His parents are cold, detached from family warmth and familial love, driven by their own ambition and control.  By the author creating characters so coldly ephemeral and disengaged from their children, it helps to establish Rusty’s viewpoint as ours and it helps to understand his upbringing as well as Nicole’s.

There is laughter to be found among the pages to go with the river of tears you will shed for this amazing boy crying out for love and understanding.  And the reader will celebrate the happiness that Rusty (and Oliver) find together after all the obstacles have been surmounted.  I found myself, exhausted, red faced and snotty, surrounded happily by empty boxes of tissues at 3am and promptly wanted to do it all over again.

If I had a minuscule quibble with this story, it would be with the title.  I would have loved it if the title would have been free of holiday references.  Why?  Because I am afraid that at any other time of the year readers unfamiliar with either Amy Lane or this story might relegate it to the Christmas story genre instead of “the must read at any time of year’ category it so deserves.  But that is a wispy sort of quibble, lacking any substance and disappearing as we speak.

I loved, loved Christmas Kitsch.  It is heartwarming as well as heartrending. It is as joyous as it is poignant! And I will read it again and again because that’s what I  do with comfort reads with characters who are real to me and dear to my heart.  I am sure you will feel the same, so grab it up and start reading.  Have that tissue box handy, you will need it.  And as a extra bonus you will be helping LGBT youth in need as well.  This is a Highly Recommended, Best of 2013 or any year.  Don’t pass it by!

Cover art by LC Chase is soft and lovely.

Special Note:

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 visithttp://www.aliforneycenter.org

Book Details:

256 pages
Expected publication: December 9th 2013 by Riptide Publishing (first published December 7th 2013)
ISBN13 9781626490864
edition language English
Riptide Publishing’s Home for the Holiday Series

Review: Illumination by Rowan Speedwell

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Illumination coverExhausted from his last performance on his band’s final tour,  Adam Craig, lead singer of the rock band Black Varen, returns to his suite to find it filled with his fellow band members and hangers-on partying out of control.  Adam feels burnt out and dissatisfied with almost every aspect of his life and now he’s had it.   Adam really wants to be back on stage, his real love. Plus, Adam is deeply in the closet, appearing to be straight because of his career.  Adam has always known he is gay but with a homophobic guitarist and Black Varen’s  fans to think about,  Adam has been forced to hide who he really is.  Now the secrecy and denial is wearing him down.  Escaping the party in a cab, Adam winds up hours way at a lake resort he remembered visiting often as a child.  It was a time and place where Adam had truly been happy.  Now its closed and the entrance chained. But a drunken Adam is not to be denied and he climbs over the chain and wanders around until he ends up falling asleep in a chair on the deck of a lakeshore cabin.

Miles Caldwell, a brilliant artist, lives in a cabin on the lake resort that his parents owned, now the property of Miles and his sister. It is the perfect place for an artist like Miles to live and paint.  It is also the only place Miles can live and stay sane.  Suffering from agoraphobia and social anxiety, Miles needs the isolation and quiet that the lodge and its surroundings give to him.  Unable to leave the resort, Mile’s only companions are his African Grey parrot, Gracie, his sister when she visits, and two old friends, a couple who help keep Mile’s grounded.

Mile’s spends his days illuminating manuscripts, often losing tracks of the hours he paints, consumed by the intricacies and tiny embellishments he creates for his masterpieces.  When Miles discovers Adam asleep on his porch, his first inclination is to call the police and have the intruder arrested.  But after introductions are made, each man is soon charmed by other.  Adam by Mile’s lack of knowledge as to his fame as a rock star as well as Mile’s gentle nature and idiosyncratic ways. And Mile’s? Well, he is enamored of just about everything about Adam, including his charm, gorgeous body and intelligence.

Before each man knows it, their accidental meeting turns into a two week romantic idyll.  Although each man tried to keep their affair light and complication free, just the opposite is happening.   When the demands of the band and his rock star way of life calls Adam away from Miles, can a man whose demons keep him trapped at home find a way to happiness with Adam, a man always on the run and still in the closet?

What is illumination? According to Webster’s, illumination is the act supplying or providing light to make something visible or bright. It is also the  manner in which an artist creates an elaborate decoration of the text of handwritten books with gold or, more rarely, silver, giving the impression that the page had been literally illuminated.  In other words, the page illustrated glows with light.   Rowan Speedwell uses both meanings of the word in her novel Illuminations to create a story that glows with its tale of love and redemption.

Speedwell has created two main characters, each a man carrying a darkness within them, both in need of love and passage to a happier life.  I loved both men.  The author has done a marvelous job making these men complicated real people, each layered with a variety of quirks, gifts, and oddities to their personalities.  And of course, each man also has his own individual demons to fight.

Adam is probably the most recognizable and even relatable of the two men.  He is a rock star tired of his fish bowl existence. He hates hiding who he really is, whether it is his sexuality or his love of the stage. Adam keeps both hidden and is paying the heavy price of denial with several types of self inflicted injuries.  He is using his best friend as a beard, having casual sex that later disgusts him and he is taking too many drugs.  Adam uses drugs to deal with life, not recognizing that it is getting out of control.   Rowan Speedwell paints a picture of an unhappy man who is self destructing with no way to stop it.

Her second character is astonishing in so many ways.  I never saw Miles Caldwell coming.  He is truly a unique creation.  Without going into spoilers, there is so much about Miles that will surprise you.  He is a artist of a very specific art form, one that is centuries old.  He illuminates text and he does so using the old methods.  He is brilliant in his artistry and known only by a small group of collectors and buyers.  His world is a much smaller canvas in all ways, not just in his artwork.  Due to his agoraphobia, social anxiety, and other issues, Miles has restricted his universe to his cabin and the lake shore in front of his cabin.  His companions have been winnowed down to his parrot Gracie, his sister Lisa, a lawyer, and two old friends, now a couple, who have known him since childhood.  And all contact with the outside world is handled either by phone, computer or by the delivery men.  It is a tight, small place in which Mile’s lives and feels safe.  And Speedwell brings the reader into Miles’ world gently and with an intimacy that makes us realize what Miles has both gained and lost in the hand life has dealt him.

Mile’s world is itself embellished by the secondary characters Speedwell creates to support him and shore him up mentally and emotionally.   Lisa is a heartbreakingly sturdy and loyal sister.  She has lost as much as Miles has, perhaps even more, and yet there is so much to admire about her.  Lisa is a well rounded creation and you will want to shed tears along side her when her pain and frustration gets too much and overwhelms her.  At little more on the odd side is Bobby and Doug, a  gay couple who have been friends with Miles for years.  Bobby, in fact, has been Miles  sex buddy with the complete approval of Doug, his long term partner.  With certain restrictions of course, because those sexual acts belong to Doug alone.  It’s a strange little arrangement that feels jarring to the reader and kind of pathetic in that is how narrow Miles’ life has become.   I understood the author’s reasoning in its inclusion but how you feel about this arrangement, whether you can accept it or not, might complicate your feelings  about this story and their friendship.

And of course, there is Gracie, the Congo African Grey Parrot.  As someone who has one as part of her family, I loved Gracie and thought the author did a  superb job of bringing the ACG to life in a remarkable way.  These are extraordinary birds with the recorded intelligence of a 5 to 7 year old child.  And given the right socialization and treatment act exactly as Gracie does.  So wonderful to see the African Grey as part of this story and this relationship, I loved it.

The art of illumination is such an amazing element of this story.  We learn about the types of ink, and how they are created as well as the calfskin used as canvas.  Every aspect of the products necessary for Miles to work as well as the history is included here. But it is done smoothly as part of the narrative rather than as a history lesson.  Through Adam and Miles’ interaction,  we learn about the types of illumination and the  intricate gold leaf work associated with it.  And as Adam is educated about illumination to his astonishment and joy, so is the reader.  This is Adam’s first introduction to illumination and Miles’ art:

Miles walked into the center of the room and pointed at the back wall. “That’s illuminated manuscripts.”

“Holy. Fucking. Shit.”

The wall was covered with framed calligraphy pieces. Adam had played around with lettering in high school art classes, but nothing even remotely like these. The calligraphy was a bunch of different styles that he supposed were historical, and they were beautiful, but the painting that decorated the pieces was amazing. What looked like real gold was interspersed with designs and foliage and flowers painted in deep, bright colors, layered and detailed. He put his nose up close to the glass covering one of them to look at the tiny brushstrokes showing the miniscule hairs and veins of a leaf no more than a half an inch long. “Christ on a crutch,” he breathed. “You did these?”

“Yeah. They’re samples,” Miles said carelessly. “That one you’re looking at is a reproduction of a fourteenth century Book of Hours—that’s kind of like a prayer book rich people carried around with them in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.”

“Whole books of these?”

“Yep.”

“Jesus.”

“Yep.”

Adam stood back and craned his neck to see the ones toward the ceiling. Those didn’t have as much gold—one didn’t have any at all—but they were even more intricate in the spiraling designs he recognized as Celtic. Others had amazingly realistic flowers and bugs painted so that they looked three-dimensional. One was entirely in shades of gray. The ones that had calligraphy all had the same text, that 25
started out “Lorem ipsum . . .” Some of them had the “L” ornately decorated, with pictures inside the letter of flowers or people or animals. “So this is like, what, your catalog?”

Miles laughed. “Yeah, in a way. I do have a catalog, both physical and online—I have a professional facsimile photographer take pictures of finished pieces.”

The paintings dazed Adam, already only semi-functional from the hangover. He turned and said weakly, “I need one of these.”

If you have been as lucky as I have to been able to see this work in person, then you know that its ability to stun a person with its visual beauty and astound with its intricate designs is realistically telegraphed in the scene above.   Its jaw dropping art and Speedwell not only understands that but is able to convey it through her words and characters,  an amazing achievement.  The author uses it as a metaphor for the light that Adam and Miles’ relationship brings to each man and their life, and their story is elevated further.   Like illumination, there are many stages and complicated procedures necessary before the final product is finished and will glow.   Speedwell delivers on that end too.

There are so many serious issues here for the author to address.  Issues of drug abuse, mental illnesses, family dynamics and personal growth that you might think that the story  would bog down under the combined weight of all these heavy problems and sometimes it came close.  But Rowan Speedwell also remembers to add in levity and light just when it is needed the most.  Whether it is in the reflected glory of Miles’ artwork or the comedy that is Gracie, the story swoops and climbs the emotional hills and valleys of the author’s plot with an agility that the heart can accept and the mind will enjoy.

For myself, the story works best with we are dealing with Mile’s and Adam’s issues in tandem.  Once the story removes Mile’s and his efforts at recovery from the equation to focus on Adam and his struggles with his fame and addiction, then an important part of the focus of the story is lost, not to be regained until Mile’s reappears towards the end of the book.  I wish the author had found a way to continue the equal treatment of both men as they are concentrating on their individual problems much in the same manner she  brought them together in the first place.  That would have made this story perfect.  As it is, it falters a bit towards the end when it stays on Adam and his efforts to balance his love for Miles with the reality of his life.  We need to have Miles there to balance out Adam as much as he does.  And when the story brings them back together, and the men find themselves glowing from their renewed health and love for each other does Illuminations really shine with its promise fulfilled.

Illuminations is a perfect title for this story that revolves around two artists in love. One, a man with a profession whose origins is steeped in ancient history and is consumed by the focus the small illustrations and gold leaf applications it requires.  The other man  a modern musician whose music is spread across countless stages, large venues and recording studios that carry his songs to millions everyway.  With these two diverse characters and their art, Rowen Speedwell delivers an intense and ultimately rewarding tale of love and redemption, one that I can recommend highly.   Pick it up and start reading.  And maybe once you are done,  head to the library or the computer and check out The Book of Kells and the art of illumination.  Prepare to be astonished and happy that the author incorporated such a magical art form into such a marvelous story.

Cover Art by L.C. Chase, http://lcchase.com/design.htm.  What a wonderful cover, perfect in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 307 pages
Published September 30th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN13 9781626490529
edition language English

Review: Good Boy (Theta Alpha Gamma #4) by Anne Tenino

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Good Boy coverSebastian “Toppy” DeWitt is feeling the stress.  He is working double time to finish his thesis.  And there are the post graduation decisions of where to apply for a position that is also adding to the pressure and worry that is his life these days.  Lucky for him that his boyfriend, Brad “Frat Boy” Feller, is there to cook, clean, and take care of everything else while Sebastian concentrates.  True, they don’t seem to have time for each other during the day or even see each other at night other than to fall into bed.  Sebastian is sure once he finishes his thesis and graduates then everything will go back to normal.  Or will it?

Brad Feller is feeling lonely and a little bit neglected.  He knows how important it is that Sebastian finish his thesis but while parts of their life together, their sex life, is hot and working, nothing else is.  Sebastian went home to see his father and didn’t suggest that Brad come with him.  And they never talk about their future after graduation.  The strain Brad feels and the stress Sebastian is under is starting to put cracks in their relationship, fractures that Sebastian seems unaware of.

When an old frat brother with romantic ties to Brad needs temporary shelter and moves in with them after a fire in the frat house it shatters their fragile status quo.  Amidst bouts of jealousy, anxiety and guilt, Sebastian realizes that things need to change if he is to keep the one man he loves and needs above all others or lose him forever.

Frat Boy and Toppy, the first in the Theta Alpha Gamma series, was the first book to introduce me to Anne Tenino.  It made me a fan of this author and the series as well.  And while I enjoyed the love stories of the other men in the series, Paul and Trevor as well as Collin and Eric, it is the combination of Sebastian and Brad that have remained my first love.  So I was delighted to see a return to this marvelously quirky couple to see how they were doing and where they had gone in their relationship.

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that they stumbled into one relationship trap after another with equal amounts of cluelessness and inexperience piled on top of every day pressures that is helping to derail their happily ever after.  I say unsurprisingly because this was a pair that was unexpected and surprising to begin with.  Brad, the ultimate frat boy on the outside, was large, somewhat clumsy, gentle, and searching when he first met Sebastian in class.  Sebastian, the TA, was intelligent, impatient, allergic to relationships, fixated on scholarship and kind of imperious.  Not exactly two men you would expect to meet, combust, and eventually fall deeply in love with each other.  But they did and it was wonderful.  Anne Tenino mades this complex mixture of personalities and quirks not only real, but a loving, layered relationship that the readers absolutely connects with all the way through their story.

So it’s heartbreaking to see how much that promising relationship has stagnated in the months following the end of Frat Boy and Toppy.  In the timeline of events that happen at the college and the TAG house, Good Boy exists side by side with Sweet Young Thang, the story that chronicles the fire at the TAG house and the reason that necessitates Collin’s stay, albeit temporarily, with Brad and Sebastian.  It gives the reader the full back story as to the events that are occurring around the oblivious Sebastian with his complete focus on himself and his thesis.  In Sweet Young Thang, we have the large canvas of the college and the  fraternity house which in Good Boy is narrowed down to Brad and Sebastian’s apartment and the malfunctioning state of their love affair.

Anne Tenino does a wonderful job of getting us inside each man’s head as individual insecurities (Brad’s) and current preoccupations (Sebastian’s) start to tear apart the relationship each man treasures.  Here is anexcerpt with Brad:

But after Brad abandoned Collin at the dinner table and chased his boyfriend into their bedroom, he didn’t find him. The bathroom doorway had been left open a crack, and he could hear Sebastian brushing his teeth, so he sat on the end of the bed to wait. And stew in some of his inner workings.

Aside from being pissed off in general at that whole weird dinner scene a few minutes ago—did Sebastian really have to go being a prick to Collin when the dude had had such a shitty day?—his instincts were poking at his stomach, telling him something seemed to have changed tonight with his boyfriend. Maybe now Brad could get some answers about what the fuck was going through his head, and why he’d been kind of preoccupied since Christmas, and when he’d decided to try having a relationship through a tin can and a string.

And I can ask him why he didn’t want me to meet his dad.

Shut up. Stupid little voice in his heart always had to push for more. We’ve haven’t even been together a year. He had to wait for the right time. Relationships progressed, right? Take the whole thing with Collin just now. Nine months ago, Sebastian had barely reacted when Collin had sucked Brad off in the locker room shower, but tonight he’d seemed, like, jealous. Watching him stalk off, something in Brad’s chest had gone ping. An alert, telling him Sebastian had finally fucking noticed him again.

Which was a relief, because cooking and back rubs and all the other things he’d been doing to get Sebastian to open up to him had made him feel like a dog begging for treats. ’Cause some nights Sebastian ate dinner without mentioning a damn thing about the food, just talking about his fucking thesis, and some nights he didn’t say anything at all. And some nights, when they actually had sex, he did Brad like he only needed someone to get off with.

All along, no matter how many times Brad reminded himself that Sebastian was just preoccupied with school, trying to be accepted to a good doctoral program, he’d been terrified that in reality, relationships just happened like this. Half a year in and things became about satisfying the physical needs and not about the emotional crap. It didn’t explain why it had all changed at once, but what did he know? Maybe that was normal, too.

I think everyone has heard those little voices inside from time to time, those internal arguments that start to undermine self confidence and deepen our need for reassurance.  Brad is a little part of everyone and it makes him not only endearing but completely relatable.  I love  Brad.  The snarky, self obsessed Sebastian is also someone I connected with.  He thinks he is doing whats best for them both without actually communicating his thoughts and feelings to his lover.  He has isolated himself without realizing it, a precarious situation in a relationship and it takes the arrival of Collin to jumpstart Sebastian’s interaction with Brad once more.

Good Boy is funny, heartbreaking, sexy, and ultimately quite wonderful.  I love this couple and hope Anne Tenino will revisit their love affair and relationship once more.  You just know somehow Sebastian will find a way to derail it once more before they get their happily ever after that they both need and want so much.  We want it for them too and that’s why I will be here with each and every new installment in the Theta Alpha Gamma series.  Join me will you?

This is how it starts….

Sebastian hadn’t taken a break for hours. He came out of his research-induced haze to find that his foot had fallen asleep, and when he moved his leg, his back made an alarming sound somewhere between a creak and a pop. Dammit, he’d sat hunched over the computer for too long again. Maybe later Brad would give him a massage to work out some of his aches.

Here are the books in the order they were written and should be read:

Frat Boy and Toppy (Theta Alpha Gamma, #1)
Love, Hypothetically (Theta Alpha Gamma, #2)
Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma, #3)
Good Boy (Theta Alpha Gamma, #4)

Cover Art by L.C. Chase, lcchase.com/design.htm

Book Details:

ebook, 67 pages
Published October 7th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
original title Good Boy
ISBN13 9781626490680
edition language English

The Rank Few and their Rank View or When By The People and For The People Went Into the Dump and The Week Ahead In Reviews

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One of the many aspects that people either love or hate when living in the Washington DC Metro area is our constant bombardment of information of and about the Government.  The constant stream flows from our radios, tvs, cable, computers, phones, tablets, seemingly from the air itself.  It keeps us informed and aware of things happening in the government (whether we want to or not). I would even say that most of the people who live in this area work for the government or it has an impact on their work in some way.  Its Inside the Beltway at work and normally I kind of enjoy it.

Not now.

Now the government is shutdown and I am angry, and feeling helpless to make a difference in a situation that never should have happened in the first place.  This has effected me in so many ways, from the people I love, my family, my friends, acquaintances, all who are on furlough, those working and not getting paid, everyone who is impacted by this idiocy., including myself.

All those wondering how their mortgages will get paid, how will they put food on the table, or even get gas to bring them to the work they are not getting a paycheck for.    I see and hear it in the voices of cab drivers and food truck operators with no one to drive or feed,  hotels vacant because the tourists have gone home or have cancelled their trips.  From the front desk to those cleaning the rooms and hallways, and everyone else involved in the hospitality business, all are impacted, all are hurt.

What about those 30 children just admitted to a new cancer program at NIH, a last hope certainly and one that is frozen along with all the other protocols patients enrolled in specialty care need so desperately.  What about that person who needs a serious operation now.  It was scheduled then all leave was cancelled, no exclusions, no exemptions.  Who looks them in the face and tells them no? Even those hoping to get married or WWII veterans hoping to see their memorial? It’s certainly not the idiot Congress at the helm of this shutdown.

I, along with countless others, have called my representatives, Republican and Democrat, to voice my anger that the needs of the people who put them in office are being ignored, dismissed entirely because our views are not considered important.  The phone lines for all, especially the Republicans are constantly busy.  And when I did get through, I got a voice mail, saying all mailboxes were full.  No one is answering the phones on those offices.  But turn a camera in their direction, and they have time to expound on their importance and what they see as their own path to power and glory.

I am embarrassed that those people voted in to help their constituents have decided to help themselves instead.  The rank few with their rank view, those petulantly powerful, those gasbags of arrogance who should have been helping the government work has shut it down instead.  A fight was picked that they knew they wouldn’t win for the express purpose of shutting the government down.  They are confident that they will never have to come face to face with the millions they are hurting in the process.

And they are probably right.

Will they be visiting the people they made homeless?  Or those standing in line in the food banks?  Those in the hospital and those out of work because they lost their jobs or their businesses?  I don’t think so.  For these type of people its never their fault.  Their self-importance and arrogance overwhelms all else, leaving others to suffer for their selfishness and need for even more power.

The United States Constitution starts out as “We the People”, not We the Few and Powerful.  I think those Senators and Representatives who have shut down the government, need to be reminded who and what they represent.  They need to sit down and listen as someone reads to them the documents on which our nation and our freedoms are based.

Right before the signatures on the Constitution, the following paragraphs appear:

In all our deliberations on this subject, we kept steadily in our view that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American, the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity, felicity, safety–perhaps our national existence. This important consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each State in the Convention to be less rigid on points of inferior magnitude than might have been otherwise expected; and thus, the Constitution which we now present is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensable.

That it will meet the full and entire approbation of every State is not, perhaps, to be expected; but each will, doubtless, consider, that had her interest alone been consulted, the consequences might have been particularly disagreeable or injurious to others; that it is liable to as few exceptions as could reasonably have been expected, we hope and believe; that it may promote the lasting welfare of that Country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish.

Where is their adherence to those words and feelings expressed above?  Lacking, tossed aside in favor of their own positions and small minded thoughts.

How sad,, how infuriating, and how un American.

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews:

Monday, Oct. 8:         Northern Star by Ethan Stone

Tuesday, Oct. 9:         Starry Knight by T.A. Webb

Wed., Oct. 10:             Enigma by Lloyd A. Meeker

Thurs., Oct. 11:           The Night Visitor by Ewan Creed

Friday, Oct. 12:           Guest Blog by Playing Ball Authors

Sat., Oct. 13:                Playing Ball Anthology

Review: The Crimson Outlaw by Alex Beecroft

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Crimson Outlaw coverVali Florescu, heir to a powerful local boyar, is determined that his beloved sister will not have to marry the much older, scarred man their father has betrothed her to.  So he hatches a plan to upset the wedding, but everything goes awry, leaving Vali imprisoned by an enraged father.  Escaping, Vali flees instead of his sister, hoping to see the world.  But that plan too fails when he is captured by Mihai Roscat, the fearsome Crimson Outlaw.

Vali finds his captivity surprisingly wonderful, falling quickly for the outlaw.  But Vali also finds that his father is far more cruel than he ever expected.  The villages and their inhabitants on his father’s land have been subjected to raids from his father’s soldiers, raids that saw villages burned to the  ground, women and children killed over something so small as an imagined slight.  Soon Vali is feeling ashamed to be a prince and his father’s son, vowing to changed his peoples lives for the better.

Mihai Roscat came from highly regarded, wealthy family himself.  But that family came up against the power and evil of Wadim Florescu, Vali’s father.  Almost all were slaughtered, leaving only 3 sons alive.  Mihal has vowed vengeance upon the Florescus and thought to punish the son for the  father’s deeds.  But Vali is nothing like Mihai expected, and when Vali helps Mihai defend a village against his father’s soldiers, Mihai’s affection turns into love. Together, Vali and Mihai vow to overthrow Wadim Floriescu once and for all.  Will they succeed or lose everything in trying?

Hard to believe that Alex Beecroft jammed such a sweeping tale into 131 pages.  Set in Carpathian forests of Romania, Beecroft’s story conjuers up visions of boyers, and Vlad the Impaler.  Specifically it is 1720 – Harghita County, Transylvania when the story opens up and the Florescu family preparations for the wedding of Stela Florescu to Ionescu, a war-hardened old warrior and important ally of Wadin Florescu.  From the vivid descriptions of the wedding finery to the dialog of the soldiers closest to Vali, Beecroft brings this time and place alive before us.  This is the start of the wedding procession:

It was the grimmest of weddings. Even the weather agreed, rain lashing down from a glowering sky, turning the red tiles of the turrets the colour of blood, gushing over all the balconies, and churning the moat to a froth.

Vali, with a sodden sheepskin clutched around his silken hat, escaped his father’s scrutiny long enough to dash through the puddles of the courtyard and catch up with his sister and her maidens before she entered the castle church. The girls gave him sour looks for stopping them outside in this downpour, but he didn’t care overmuch that the spun-sugar delicacy of their headdresses were drooping and darkening with the wet, and that their heavy gold-and-silver-laced bodices, their globes of shimmering skirts were sopping up water with every second.

They were uncomfortable. Well, so they should be, since his sister’s face was anguished and her eyes red with weeping. She had met her husband-to-be for the very first time yesterday, at a feast thrown for that purpose, and although she had concealed her horror fairly successfully at the time, it was clear to see she had not spent a peaceful night. Even encased as she was in so many layers of cloth-of-gold she might be a martyr’s mummy, he could see her shaking, and he was furious to know she was as frightened as she was miserable. Her voice was as raw as her eyes. “You shouldn’t be here. If Father sees you . . . Go back to the men’s side before you’re missed.”

Beecroft sets the scene beautifully for all that is to follow.  Laid upon these vibrant primal setting are characters that are perfect for the time period. Vali, the young impetuous prince, comes across as the thoughtless, yet well meaning young man that he is.  His is also a character who grows up as the story progresses.  I really liked Vali.   Stela, Wadim and other members of the court are harder to pin down and perhaps that is as the author intended.  Because the other characters that really come to life are the villagers that Vali meets once he is away from the castle.  They are more vibrant then the gray denizens we met at the wedding.  Again, I felt as though that was intentional.  The villages and the inhabitants need to be lifelike if we are to believe in Vali’s transformation from spoiled, naive child to realistic young warrior ready to overthrow his father.

The only issue I had with this story is the instant love that sprang up between the outlaw and the prince.  It was such a short time between capture and enrapture, and the prince’s sexual kinks aside, their romance needed much longer to percolate in order for it to be believable.  Vali’s affection for his horse seemed far more realistic than his love for  Mihai.   The reader must accept this instantaneous love affair for the book to really work.  Some of the readers will, others won’t.  That will affect how much enjoyment and satisfaction they will get from reading The Crimson Outlaw.

For myself, I loved Beecroft’s settings and descriptions.  Romania is steeped in tradition and legends.  Beecroft makes the most of both with descriptions as lush and layered as the land itself.  That alone made this story for me.  I love Alex Beecroft’s stories and look forward with anticipation to each new one that is released.  Add this to your to be read pile and enjoy your journey to the Carpathian Mountains of Transylvania and romance.

Cover Art by Simoné, http://www.dreamarian.com.  This is the most amazing cover.  It is as gorgeous and vibrant as Alex Beecroft’s descriptions of the land and people.  One of the best covers of 2013.  Just outstanding in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 131 pages
Published August 12th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN13 9781626490536
edition language English

Review: Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma #3) by Anne Tenino

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Sweet Young ThangCollin Montes was instrumental in getting his fraternity, Theta Alpha Gamma, to change their  bylaws and accept gay and bisexual college men into TAG.  Several of the brothers were already out about their sexuality, most notably Brad, so this just instilled in their bylaws the acceptance acknowledged in their close knit fraternity.  But there is even another reason this change means so much to Collin and that is the fact that Collin is also gay.  Collin has kept that fact  hidden from most of his fraternity and his family.  And that includes his Uncle Monty who raised him after his father died when Collin was 5.  Uncle Monty is also the president of the TAG Alumni Association and an influential and powerful man in his own right. Uncle Monty is also a homophobe.  The TAG Alumni Association contributes a heavy sum to the running of TAG and neither Uncle Monty or the rest of the board are happy with the inclusion of Gays and Bisexuals in the fraternity.

When first a water heater is rigged to launch through the ceiling, setting off a fire at the TAG house which injures one of the brothers, and then a bomb is found,  Collin is sure that these are repercussions due to the changes in bylaws at TAG.  One of the paramedics/firemen to arrive at the house  the day of the fire is college and TAG Alumn  Eric “Dix” Dixon.  Eric sees Collin helping out his injured frat brother and the attraction between the men is instantaneous.

Older by ten years and with touches of grey in his hair, Eric is openly gay at work.  Eric has always dreamed of someone to make a home and family with but that person hasn’t appeared until now.  Collin, with his sexy eyes and gorgeous body, just may be the one Eric has been waiting for.  But there are many obstacles between their happiness and future together, from Collin’s closeted status and homophobic uncle to the person responsible for the arson and bombing of the TAG House.  As Eric and Collin fall in love, the threat to Collin and the fraternity grows greater.  Can Eric protect the man he has come to love or will homophobic hatred ruin their chance for a future together?

This is the third book in the Theta Alpha Gamma series by Anne Tenino and I loved it.  It has all the distinctive features of the others in the series.  It’s funny, it has terrific characters, and of course, it’s over the top sexy!  But this story has something more. It has a mystery as well.  Who is behind the arson and bombs at the fraternity?  A mystery is a terrific new aspect to this already wonderful series.  But let’s take a closer look at this series most common features.

Each book has focused on a member of the Theta Alpha Gamma or TAG fraternity at Calapooya University in Oregon.  First it was Brad, then Paul, and now it’s Collin’s turn.  Each young man is not only a member of TAG but gay as well, although each has arrived at that self knowledge in differing ways.  The wonderful thing about this series is that the characters and couple you have fallen in love with in the previous books are back, included in this story.  That holds especially true for Brad and Sebastian from Frat B0y and Toppy (Theta Alpha Gamma #1).  They are still working on their relationship and Collin plays an important part in helping them work through a few issues of their own.  But the story here belongs to Collin and Eric, as well as the rest of the fraternity brothers.

This is the first time we have really seen the men of TAG interact with each other on a deeper scale.  Tenino brings us into the frat house dynamics and the close knit brotherhood of the Theta Alpha Gamma fraternity. Once more we get to watch Tank, Ricky, Toby, Kyle, Jules and the rest support each other, no matter the problem.  I have to admit the frat house scenes that involved all the frat brothers had me giggling uncontrollably.  Whether they were being roused to action by the threat to their kegerator or watching Project Runway, these are the scenes that really brought their fraternity to goofy life.  It’s hysterically funny and yet heartwarming at the same time.  Is it a realistic depiction of life at a fraternity?  Don’t know and quite frankly don’t care. In Tenino’s more than capable hands, these quirky, crazy group of guys are alive and kicking and making us  laugh over and over again.  I just loved them.

Collin and Eric are so interesting in their own right.  Collin’s father died when he was young and although his mother is alive, his Uncle had a large part in raising him.  Collin is an intelligent young man who knows he is gay but fears losing the love of his Uncle by telling him who Collin really is.  Uncle Monty is homophobic and controlling, and that has defined Collin’s upbringing until now.  It is a joy watching Collin change as the events unfold and his relationship with Eric grows more substantial.  Eric is also an interesting character with a sexy, hidden side to him.  Trust me when I say that a photography session is one of the sexy highlights of this story.  I enjoyed their relationship and the journey towards love for them both.  I liked that Anne Tenino took into consideration their age difference when writing the relationship. Neither man is at quite the same stage as the other which is an honest aspect to this story.  I appreciated it much more than if we had gotten a case of “instant love”.

I did have a few quibbles with the story.  The person behind the attacks on the frat house is easily spotted although the motive remains hidden until the end.  I really didn’t have a problem with that aspect of the mystery because it plays out so nicely in the story.  There is an event at the end I wasn’t expecting and that was a nice touch too.  I did wish that Collin’s relationship with his Uncle had a better resolution (and his Uncle’s Alumni Association’s aspect too).  Both his Uncle and the Alumi Association had figured greatly in the story, and that was not really dealt with at the end.

A new young gay character was introduced here. Tank’s younger brother has transfered into the college and been accepted into TAG. I see his story coming next.  I can’t wait.  I love these guys and their crazy mixed up fraternity.  They have heart to go along with their beer parties.  They are funny, engaging, and I always enjoy my time with them.  I highly recommend this book and this series.  Grab them all up, starting with the first one if you are new to the series and this marvelous band of brothers.

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

Frat Boy and Toppy (Theta Alpha Gamma, #1)

Love, Hypothetically (Theta Alpha Gamma, #2)

Sweet Young Thang (Theta Alpha Gamma, #3)

Book Details:

ebook
Published July 22nd 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626490321
edition languageEnglish

Review: Pickup Men by L.C. Chase

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Pickup Men coverMarty Fairgrave is a top Pickup* man in the rodeo.  It’s his business to make sure that the bull and bronc riders get back to the gates safely.  The riders count on him and he rarely makes a mistake.   Then Tripp Colby catches a ride on a bull named Shockwave and the events that follow prove to be a life changer for both men.  Marty has been in love with Tripp Colby for several years now and knows that Tripp loves him back.  But Tripp is also deep in the closet and not even an injured Marty can make him come out.

For Marty the romance is over but Tripp is determined to get him back.  But what will a closeted cowboy do when no one is there to pick him up, not even the one he loves?

From May to August, the PBR is on break, so what a great time to get caught up on all the rodeo fiction that has been published recently.  If you are a fan of hot cowboys and rodeo action as I am, then you will appreciate this story from L.C. Chase.  In Pickup Men, the author’s focus is on the unheralded, but important profession of the pickup man.   Here is the definition of a pickup man from Jerry Nelson’s Frontier Rodeo website:

Rodeo Pick Up Men* are vital to the safety of the cowboy.  A Pick Up Man’s job is to rescue the cowboy after his eight second ride from a bucking bronc.  The cowboy’s job is to first ride the bucking bronc for the eight second ride with one hand, then grab on with two hands and wait until the Pick Up Man rides in along side the bronc and picks him up and they ride off to safety.  The cowboy then is easily set down to the ground without injury.  The Pick Up Man’s job is also to remove all equipment from the bronc and to remove the bronc from the rodeo arena after the competition.    Pick Up Men also play a role in the calf roping and steer wrestling events, by roping calves and steers after competion and gentling coaxing them out of the arena.   Pick Up Men are also a vital part of keeping the show fast paced.  Pick Up Men have a great rapport with the livestock and have years of training in horsemanship.

They are the unsung heroes who time and again save both the rider and the roughstock.  So it was wonderful to see a book with a Pick Up Man not only as the title character but as the title itself.  Way to give these men their due, L.C. Chase!

In Marty Fairgrave, L.C. Chase gives us a wonderful character who exemplifies the best qualities of a Pickup Man in more ways than just his career.  Marty is one of the top men in his profession and in his personal life, he is also the pickup man for Tripp Colby, a closeted mess of a champion bull rider.  The two men have been having a romance that has been kept hidden from those around them because Tripp fears that he will lose his sponsors once the truth is known that he is gay.  As the stress of this situation builds, Marty risks everything to save Tripp, and the result is disastrous for both of them.  For me, this is actually the best part of this book.  It is raw, the descriptions are vivid, and the action so swift that you feel as though you are down in the arena with the action taking place.  This is how it all starts:

Two thousand pounds of pissed-off beef, aptly named Shockwave, tossed around the man on its back like a ragdoll. But Tripp wouldn’t be dislodged. He clung to the spinning beast with an ease and confidence that belied the skill and athleticism—not to mention pure guts— required to compete at the professional level.

Sitting astride his best pickup horse, Fairgrave Flyer, near the chutes of the Santa Maria Elks Rodeo arena, Marty Fairgrave couldn’t suppress the smile that fought for freedom across his face.

It was a beautiful sight watching a champion at work.

But what happens next takes your breathe away, and its impact upon the reader is immediate and heartpounding.  Really, some of the best descriptions happen here.  Clearly, L.C. Chase is familiar with the rodeo and has great affection for those who make it their life’s work.  And while the fan may only see the 8 second ride, a story like Pickup Men lets the reader go behind the scenes of the rodeo, where a hundred jobs and actions must take place to pull off such an event.  This includes what happens when the cowboys are injured and the physical ailments that are part of the job.  There is the constant traveling, the stress of being tired for long periods at a time and of course, the injuries.  L. C. Chase gets this aspect right as well.

But the problem here is the character of  Tripp Colby.  He is not terribly likable at the beginning.  As I said earlier, he is a closeted mess and the reader comes down hard on the side of Marty when the two are apart.  Later on as Tripp’s story is revealed, he does earn our compassion, especially during a trip to San Francisco.  But for the majority of the book the character that Chase has created in Tripp serves more to disconnect the reader from his story rather than engage them.  And, as the book winds down, it is hard to bring the reader back into his corner.

There is a considerable amount of miscommunication between the men, including one incident that eludes any type of plausibility for me.  And the narrative becomes a little uneven towards the middle of the story. The other thing is that Tripp is 33 years old, and that is old in a profession where most bull riders are between the ages of 20 to 25.  It is a young man’s sport. And while most bull riders hate to give up riding, most accept that they have a certain time frame to work with.  All of which makes Tripp’s attitude a little more whiney than perhaps the author wanted it to come across.

But those issues aside, I did enjoy this story.  It moved along at a nice clip most of the time and had a lovely cast of secondary characters that I wished I had seen more of.  From Marty’s mother, a champion rider in her day, to his small circle of friends, they are a well rounded and charismatic group.  I enjoyed my time with them immensely.  So for all those fan of the rodeo as well as fans of L.C. Chase, I can recommend Pickup Men as a fun way to spend the time while waiting for the rodeo to return to cable.  Pick it up now!

* I have seen Pickup Men written several different ways by several different rodeo organizations.  From Pick Up Men to Pickup Men to Pick up men, all seem to be correct.

Cover art and design by L.C. Chase.  Just an outstanding cover, perfect in every way.

Book Details:

ebook, 166 pages
Published July 8th 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN13
9781626490284
series

A Book Giveaway, Riding the Weather Rollercoaster, and the Week Ahead in Reviews

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So far the Washington Metro area has felt like Seattle, WA, and now we are aiming for Phoenix, AZ.  We have had close to 12 inches of rain in the last month alone, and that doesn’t seem to be letting up as we head towards the middle of July.  Really, folks, nothing like 100 percent humidity for a smokey Fourth of July.  Now the heat wave that baked the western states has hit here as well.  Temperature is rising to 98º today.  Now add to that the fact that the ground squishes with every footstep and a high humidity….well, it is little wonder I expect to see monkeys swinging from the maples at any time.  It is downright tropical outside.  Well ok, we did see a runaway red panda last week that escaped from the National Zoo (now safely back home after a trip to Adams Morgan, a very trendy place).  And a couple of teenage black bears that decided to tour downtown Washington for a suitable condo to live in.  I am betting air-conditioning and a pool were on their list of must haves!   So I am seeing a day spent inside knitting and reading on the agenda for the rest of the day.  I did get my coleus and caladiums bought on sale planted yesterday, as well as some yanking of smartweed but anything else will have to wait until the temperatures go down.

Now on to the exciting week ahead.  Kendall McKenna’s latest release, The Final Line is just out.  It is the another book in her wonderful Recon Diaries series.  On Monday, Kendall McKenna will be here with a guest blog and a book contest.  We will be giving away, courtesy of MLR Press, a copy of The Final Line to one of the people who comment on her blog and my review, which will be posted the next day.  Here is the blurb for the book:

Staff Sergeant Corey Yarwood is an instructor at the Basic Reconnaissance Course. His last deployment ended in horror, but he can’t remember those events. Battling severe PTSD, Corey’s drinking is growing out of control.

Sean Chandler walks into a dive bar, and into Corey’s life. An actor and a musician, Sean has the empathy and compassion to sooth Corey’s pain, and the strength to support him as he struggles to heal.

Corey’s lost memories are pivotal to a civilian murder, and a military investigation. Remembering could mean salvation, or destruction. Will the truth be too much for Sean to handle?

So mark your calendars for July 8 and 9 for your chance to win a copy of this wonderful book!  And thank you, MLR Press and Laura Baumbach for the copies of The Final Line.  Now here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, July 8, 2013:                 Guest Blog with Kendall McKenna, author of The Final Line

Book Contest.  One copy of The Final Line will be given away

Tuesday, July 9, 2013:                  Review of The Final Line, last day to comment for the contest

Wednesday, July 10,2013:          Pickup Men by LC Chase, winner of contest announced

Thursday, July 11, 2013:             Changing Planes by Karenna Colcroft

Friday, July 12, 2013:                  Fever Anthology by M. Rode

Saturday, July 13, 2013:              In Pursuit of the Bang On, Well Done, and apparently Endangered Short Story

So that’s our exciting week ahead.  I will leave you with a picture of Winston, recently groomed.  He has settled into our family as though he has

DSCN3917 always been there.  And here is a recipe for a drink to keep this hot weather in its place!  This cocktail is called appropriately Adios Motherfucker or AMF.  I have included the recipe as well as a link to the video on how to make this delicious drink.  A great way to say goodbye heatwave or  anything else to want to get rid of:

Adios Motherfucker CocktailAMF Recipe:

Scale ingredients to servings
1/2 oz vodka
1/2 oz rum
1/2 oz tequila
1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz Blue Curacao liqueur
2 oz sweet and sour mix
2 oz 7-Up® soda

Pour all ingredients except the 7-Up into a chilled glass filled with ice cubes. Top with 7-Up and stir gently.
Read more: Adios Motherfucker recipe http://www.drinksmixer.com/drink735.html#ixzz2YHs7Z756

Review: Flawless (Irresistible Attraction #4) by Cat Grant

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Flawless coverSteve Campbell’s life has just hit a few speed bumps now that he has gotten a little older.  His best friend and coworker has found true love, and now has little time to spend with Steve.  They are also arguing about a new client and the direction a job should take.  On top of that, Steve is frustrated by comparing his life to that of Connor’s new status as a happy man in love.  Steve had long repressed his feelings for Connor, preferring to stay safely in the “straight” category until it was too late and Connor had met someone else.  Steve realizes that his life is stuck on hold but is unsure how to move on, romantically and sexually.

Then Steve’s Ferrari refuses to start up in the parking lot outside his gym, and Gil Alvarez comes to his rescue. Gil Alvarez has not had an easy life. He has struggling through childhood and rejected by his family for a body that didn’t match who he was inside. A skilled driver and mechanicm Gil Alvarez now owns his own body shop but is struggling to make it a success.  With all the complications he is currently dealing with, a white, rich, clueless guy is not what he needs in his life.

But one date and steamy night later and both Gil and Steve realize their lives have changed forever.  Steve wants a committed long term relationship and thinks Gil is the one man for him, if he could just stop putting his foot in his mouth whenever the other man is near.  For Gil, the obstacles are much greater. Gil’s ex has reentered Gil’s life, and not in a good way.  Plus Gil harbors a secret that he fears will turn Steve away once it is revealed. Can Gil and Steve pull down the barriers between them and have the life and relationship both men crave or will they let love slip away?

Flawless is the fourth book in the Irresistible Attraction series but the first one I have read.  Based on the high quality of the story I just read, I know I will be running back to grab up the rest of the books in the series.  At 91 pages, it might seem a quick read but don’t let that short length fool you into thinking that it will be short on characterization and plot depth.  Quite the contrary.  From a slightly fluffy “boy meets boy” romcom meet cute start, the story then veers into a more complicated, and realistic tale of self-actualization as well as finding the courage to stand up for who you are as well as who you love.  I have to admit I thought Steve Campbell pretty funny from a number of angles as well as being a realistic representation of a man who has been more caught up in his career than his personal life.  Steve is someone not at ease in a casual conversation, particularly when he is talking to someone he is attracted to.  Being brilliant in a lab does not translate necessarily to one’s personal life.  Steve is awkward and just finding out who he is late in life, a wonderful characterization.

Gil, on the other hand, is someone Cat Grant has imbued with a number of personality traits more in line with someone who has had to pull himself up from a poor start to achieve his goals, yet Gil has more a feeling for community and history than Steve does.  And there are further, more fundamental issues here that are only hinted at in the book blurb from Riptide Publishing.  I really don’t want to get into that here, mostly because how it is brought to  Steve’s and therefore the reader’s attention is so beautifully done that I would hate to spoil it for you all.

At the core of this love story is the fundamental idea of self, of one’s true nature.  For Steve, it is something he has only recently acknowledged after having repressed feelings towards men all his life.  It has cost him Connor and now he wants to come out but doesn’t know how.  Gil is Steve’s opposite.  Gil has always known he is a man but the consequences of that knowledge is something he is still having to deal with.  Cat Grant does a wonderful job with this aspect of the story, treating it realistically and with great sensitivity.  Gil Alvarez is a terrific character, one who captured my sympathies and compassion immediately, if nothing else but for the manner in which Gil was reaching for his goals, no matter the obstacles in his path.

I will admit that the length of the book does come into play.  At 91 pages, Steve and Gil get a HFN rather than a HEA, there just is not enough time for them to achieve a deeper relationship.  And that is precisely what this story needs in my opinion, a little longer peak into their relationship down the line to see how they adjusted to commitment and each other’s life.  But as it is, I highly recommend Flawless, it is a great read and one that shouldn’t be missed.

Here are the other books in the Irresistible Attraction series.  They can be read as stand alone stories.

Priceless (Irresistible Attraction #1)

Doubtless( Irresistible Attraction #2)

Fearless (Irresistible Attraction #3)

Flawless (Irresistible Attraction #4)

Book Details:

ebook, 91 pages
Published April 22nd 2013 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626490120 (ISBN13: 9781626490123)
urlhttp://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/flawless
seriesIrresistitableAttraction

Cover Art by LC Chase who did a great job with the models and of course that cherry red Ferrari.