Release Blitz for Saved (Breaking Free #1) by AM Arthur (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Saved

Series: Breaking Free #1

Author: A.M. Arthur

Publisher: Briggs-King Books

Release Date: September 12, 2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 67,000 words

Genre: Romance, non-shifter Omegaverse, alternate universe, mpreg

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Synopsis

He didn’t want an alpha to save him, but fate had other ideas…

Braun Etting was raised to know his place as an omega by his alpha father’s cruel words and fast fists, and he expects nothing but violence from the alpha who may one day mate him. His older brother Kell mated a cruel alpha who abuses him daily, and Braun is terrified of that seemingly inevitable future. When Braun’s father dies in a car crash, leaving Braun an orphan, he’s sent to a halfway house for omegas. But on his fourth night there, he witnesses a horrifying crime that sends him fleeing to the streets alone—and edging into his first heat.

Tarek Bloom is settled in his workaholic, single lifestyle, even if it is somewhat embarrassing to be a twenty-eight year-old unmated alpha. He enjoys his job as a constable, helping people and solving problems, so he isn’t prepared for his life to flip upside-down when he walks into his beta friend Dex’s apartment to help with “a problem.”

The problem turns out to be an unmated, nearly in-heat omega orphan who Dex and his husband rescued off the street last night. The even bigger problem is that Tarek feels the mating bond for this terrified omega immediately—and he’s pretty sure the omega feels it, too. But Braun hates alphas as a general rule, and no way is he giving in to the bond. All mating leads to is violence and suffering, so no thank you. But Tarek’s gentle kindness slips under Braun’s emotional shields, and Braun begins to want. To dream. All Braun has ever known is violent alphas, but Tarek is determined to make Braun trust him—and to trust in the idea of their happily ever after.

NOTE: This is a non-shifter Omegaverse story with alpha/omega/beta dynamics, heats, knotting, and mpreg. In this world, omegas are second-class citizens with few civil rights and almost no protections under the law. Trigger warnings for physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. 67,000 words.

Excerpt

“Would you be able to describe exactly what you saw that night in detail?” Tarek pulled a notepad and pen out of his front pocket.

Braun’s entire body went rigid. “Why? Who are you really?”

“I really am Tarek Bloom.” For a moment, he actually seemed contrite. “What I didn’t tell you is that I’m also a constable.”

“Shit.” Braun bolted out of his chair and toward the front door, fork still in his hand.

In a flurry of movement, Tarek was in front of him, blocking his path to the door, and Braun lashed out with the fork. Dex grabbed his wrist and plucked the fork out of his hand, but that didn’t stop Braun from swinging. He punched Tarek in the chest. Twice. Panic settled in, overriding his common sense, and he tried to push past the brick wall of a man.

“Let me go! I won’t go back, I won’t!”

Arms wrapped around his torso from behind, pinning his arms to his sides. Serge’s comforting scent settled his racing mind a bit, but it was Tarek’s hand on the back of his neck that settled Braun completely.

“Calm down, firecracker,” Tarek said. His deep voice soothed Braun’s frazzled nerves, and his touch sent his pulse racing with delight. “You’re still safe, I promise. No one here wants to hurt you.”

“Why do you care?” Braun snarled. “I’m just some useless omega you’ve known for twenty minutes.”

“You’re far from useless, little one.”

Tarek’s other hand rose, nearing Braun’s face. Braun snapped at his fingers. “I’m only a womb to you.”

“Far from it, my firecracker.” The hand on his neck squeezed. “Far from it.”

The grounding touch made Braun want to roll over and show his belly, but he was done being passed around. Done letting other people control his life. He didn’t want to feel this mating bond to Tarek, but he also couldn’t turn it off. Even with the heat block, Tarek was under his skin, doing funny things to his insides.

Angry and confused, Braun dared look an alpha in the eye.

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Meet the Author

A.M. Arthur was born and raised in the same kind of small town that she likes to write about, a stone’s throw from both beach resorts and generational farmland. She’s been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long, in a losing battle to make the fictional voices stop. She credits an early fascination with male friendships (bromance hadn’t been coined yet back then) with her later discovery of and subsequent love affair with m/m romance stories. A.M. Arthur’s work is available from Carina Press, Dreamspinner Press, SMP Swerve, and Briggs-King Books.

When not exorcising the voices in her head, she toils away in a retail job that tests her patience and gives her lots of story fodder. She can also be found in her kitchen, pretending she’s an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | eMail | A.M.’s Pot O Gold | Newsletter

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A Free Dreamer Review: Love Can’t Conquer (Love Can’t Series #1) by Kim Fielding

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

love-cant-conquerBullied as a child in small-town Kansas, Jeremy Cox ultimately escaped to Portland, Oregon. Now in his forties, he’s an urban park ranger who does his best to rescue runaways and other street people. His ex-boyfriend, Donny—lost to drinking and drugs six years earlier—appears on his doorstep and inadvertently drags Jeremy into danger. As if dealing with Donny’s issues doesn’t cause enough turmoil, Jeremy meets a fascinating but enigmatic man who carries more than his fair share of problems.

Qayin Hill has almost nothing but skeletons in his closet and demons in his head. A former addict who struggles with anxiety and depression, Qay doesn’t know which of his secrets to reveal to Jeremy—or how to react when Jeremy wants to save him from himself.

Despite the pasts that continue to haunt them, Jeremy and Qay find passion, friendship, and a tentative hope for the future. Now they need to decide whether love is truly a powerful thing or if, despite the old adage, love can’t conquer all.

There’s no doubt: “Love Can’t Conquer” was absolutely, utterly brilliant. I picked it up and couldn’t put it down, which led to a couple of nights with very little sleep.

In case the blurb isn’t obvious enough for you: This story is rather dark and quite angsty. It deals with past alcohol and drug abuse, past child abuse and a bit of mental illness (mostly anxiety, but also depression). There’s also talk about attempted suicide. If that’s not your thing, back away slowly. You won’t enjoy this book.

Qay isn’t easy to like. He’s really struggling with his life, but tries his damndest to stay clean and sober. That’s not always easy and he’s not always nice. The things he’s gone through didn’t make him a nice, mellow person. They made him distrustful and full of self-doubt. Still, he was a very interesting character and my heart really went out to him. Definitely not your typical romance hero and I liked that.

He doesn’t even look like your typical romance hero: He’s skinny, he’s got scars and he’s pale. But I believed Jeremy when he said he found Qay beautiful.

Jeremy has had a less troubled life. He did have his struggles, sure, but life dealt him a better hand than it did Qay. I loved him just as much as I did Qay. Both of them had real depth and had a unique voice that I enjoyed reading.

There was also an interesting collection of side characters, each with their own depth and a potentially interesting history. I can definitely see the potential for a sequel there.

The two of them were very different and yet it felt like they were made for each other. I immediately felt the attraction between the two of them and it was easy to believe their feelings.

I loved the way Kim Fielding handled the sex. The MCs didn’t just tumble into bed, overcome by lust, without any thought or discussion, the way it so often happens in these books. Instead, both MCs made a deliberate decision to wait and really made their first time together a special occasion. They took time to savour each other and I felt like the sex really added something to their relationship.

Aside from the romance, there was also an element of mystery regarding Jeremy’s ex. Some minor parts of that were a little bit predictable, but the overall solution was definitely not expected.

Qay and Jeremy had to really work for their HEA. There was a lot of stuff for them to overcome and they had to really fight for it. I often dislike endings, but here it seemed to fit perfectly.

The way Qay’s struggle with his addiction was portrayed was very realistic. It didn’t just all go away magically because of love. He had to work to stay clean and sober every day. Some days that was harder and some days that was easier. But the struggle never just disappeared.

The whole book had a rather bleak feel to it, with a dash of hope. Kim Fielding did an amazing job portraying both MCs’ doubts and insecurities and made it easy to get caught up in the story for hours on end, without realizing how much time had passed.

If you don’t mind dark and angsty, and want your MCs to really work for their well deserved HEA together, read this book. It’s right up there with the best books I’ve read this year.

It’s the first in a new series by Kim Fielding and I’m already looking forward to the next books.

Cover: The cover by Brooke Albrecht shows a lone figure standing in the middle of a bridge. It looks a little sad and forlorn and fits the mood of the book perfectly.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press | ARe | Amazon

Book details:

ebook, 260 pages
Published June 3rd 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634773217 (ISBN13: 9781634773218)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series:
Love Can’t

1. Love Can’t Conquer

A Jeri Review: Debt by KC Wells

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

da084-debtfs2b252812529Interesting and slightly different premise to this novel by KC Wells. One man has had his heart broken when his long time boyfriend left. One man is trying to pay off the debt of his brother- by working in what is basically a brothel.

Nikko chose, in a way, to work in the brothel to pay off the debt to his brother’s employer- a known drug dealer. He thought he would be working in the kitchen or serving drinks. But really he is behind glass with other prostitutes waiting to get chosen by a john.

Mitch is talked into going to a club with a friend from work. To get himself out there and try to get over his heart break. After a drink in the innocuous bar downstairs, his friend leads him to the secret upstairs. A sex club that offers prostitutes for a price. Mitch has no interest in sex for pay, until he sees Nikko reading in the corner trying to be invisible.

Mitch falls for Nikko and Nikko for him. But…..

Like I said, this was an interesting premise which I really liked. And while Mitch was a character I’ve seen again and again, I really liked Nikko. His loyalty to his brother and his acceptance of the fate he chose was respectable.  Mitch and Nikko together was very hot at times and very sweet and romantic at others. Even with all of the drama that surrounds the situation, I would still call it fairly low angst.

What I didn’t like was that Mitch kind of felt like the knight in shining armor. Swooping in the save the day. Nikko seems to have hero worship towards him and I worried that their love for each other wasn’t quite real because it grew out of such extraordinary circumstances.

A good read, generally likable characters and a tidy (too tidy?) ending that actually leaves it open for another book, either with them as the main characters or someone else taking the spotlight.

Cover art by Paul Richmond is gorgeous.

Sales Links:   Dreamspinner Press |  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 254 pages
Published May 27th 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1634772865 (ISBN13: 9781634772860)
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Paul B Review: Alexei’s Mouse (Werewolves of Manhattan #5) by A.C. Katt

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Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Alexei's MouseThe fifth book in A. C. Katt’s Werewolves of Manhattan series is more of the same, which is a good thing for the reader.  The leadership of the loup garrou and Garou Industries keep finding their mates in humans in trouble.  These pairings find redemption for both men and bring gifts to the werewolf council. These will be needed as they fear an upcoming battle looms in the near future.

The human mate this time is Donal Berne.  A runaway at the age of fourteen, Donal has spent the last seven years working as a call boy Vito Apuso, for an underling of Don Ferone.  Apuso has abused Donal and gotten him hooked on heroin in an effort to control him.  The only reason he has survived as long as he has is because of Julio, an independent call boy.  However, Donal has decided that seven years of abuse from Vito and the johns he is assigned to is enough and decides to end it all with an overdose.

The Garou Industries executive this time is fifth in charge Alexi Davidoff.  He was the second in command of the Russian Council.  Three years ago, Alexi was arrested for protesting the inaction of the Russian police after his beta was murdered by gay bashing thugs, which caused the death of the beta’s mate as well.  Having spent three years in a Russian prison nearly broke Alexi.  After his release is negotiated by Garou Industries, Alexi immigrates to the United States and takes over the Colorado territory of the American Council, which is within his birthright.  As he is travelling to his new home in New York City, he spots a young man on a park bench with a needle sticking out of this arm.  He investigates and discovers the man is his mate and calls for help.

The resolution to Donal’s problems seems to have been solved a little too quickly but a further complication is thrown in shortly afterward.  However, this threat is mostly talked about as a possible threat to both Donal and Don Ferone but is resolved almost as quickly and off screen like the first problem.  The tension in the previous books just wasn’t there this time for me.  The epilogue is a probably preview of the next book of the series, where unlike in the past, the future mate has already been introduced.  As mentioned before, the characters mention a possible big battle that is coming in the near future.  There are three more members of the Garou ruling board who are unmated, so this battle may be a ways off yet.  I eagerly await the conclusion of this series.

The cover art by Winterheart Designs has Donal and Alexi above a New York skyline.  Above the two men is Alexi’s wolf.  It Is well done and fits the pattern of the rest of the series.

Sales LinksMLR Books  |  Amazon

Book Details

EBook, 217 pages
Edition Language:  English
Published:  May 20, 2016 by MLR Books
ASIN: B01G2AKDFS

Series:  Werewolves of Manhattan

 

 

 

 

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Its the Pre-Release Celebration for ‘The Debt by K.C. Wells’ (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Debt
Author: K.C. Wells
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: May 17, 2016
PreOrder Hosted by Enticing Journey Book Promotions

Two months after Mitch Jenkins had the rug pulled out from under him when his two-year relationship came to an abrupt end, he is still hurting. A colleague’s attempt to cheer him up brings Mitch to a secret “club.” Mitch isn’t remotely interested in the twinks parading like peacocks, until he spies the young man at the back of the room, nose firmly in a book and oblivious to his surroundings. Now Mitch is interested.

Nikko Kurokawa wants to pay his debt and get the hell out of the Black Lounge—where he is forced not only to have sex, but sometimes suffer abuse to please clients. Earning his freedom isn’t proving easy, especially when he starts attracting interest. Life becomes that little bit easier to bear when he meets Mitch, who is nothing like the other men who frequent the club. And when Mitch crawls under his skin and into his heart, Nikko figures he can put up with anything. Before long he’ll be out of there, and he and Mitch can figure out if they have a future together.

Neither of them counted on those who don’t want Nikko to leave….

“So?” Aaron nudged him again. “Which one lights your candle?” He grinned. “You’ve got to admit, there are some beautiful men in there.” He nodded toward one young man standing nearest the window. He was stroking down over his chest and well-defined abs, to where a thick cock jutted out toward them. Just then the young man turned and bent over, reaching back to spread his cheeks and reveal a pink, glistening hole, clearly lubed. He wiggled his ass, his dick bobbing stiffly.

Aaron smothered a chuckle. “Wow. He’s eager.”

That wasn’t the word in Mitch’s mind. He preferred blatant, and it wasn’t turning him on. In fact, none of them were.

“This is a mistake,” he said quietly. “Thanks for bringing me here, but honestly, this isn’t me. And there isn’t one guy who does it for me.” His gaze swept across the room, taking in the smiling, pouting faces and….

Mitch stopped, his pulse quickening. “Him.” How did I miss him?

Aaron peered in the direction of Mitch’s stare. “Which one?”

At the back of the room was a small table and a couple of armchairs facing each other. In one of them sat a young man with long, black hair tied in a single braid down his back. He was Japanese in appearance, with small, round glasses perched on his nose. Physically he was slight, not that tall as far as Mitch could tell. Unlike the others, he wore a pair of jeans and a white shirt.

What caught Mitch’s attention was the fact that he was reading a book, his legs curled up under him, lost in his own world.

“Mitch?” Aaron pinched his arm.

“Hey!” Mitch grumbled, rubbing the spot near his elbow. “What was that for?”

“You were off in cloud cuckoo land.” Aaron cocked his eyebrows. “Well? I repeat, which one?”

“The one with the book.” There was something so delightfully incongruous about him that Mitch was intrigued.

“Really?”

Mitch dragged his gaze away to give Aaron a firm stare. “You said to take my pick, so I pick him.” He couldn’t account for the way his body reacted to the young man. His heart pounded and his mouth was dry.

“That’s Nikko. He’s new here.”

Mitch turned toward the speaker. A dark-haired man wearing a black suit and matching shirt smiled at him. “My name is Randy. I’m here to give you any information you require.” He gave a flick of his head toward the window. “Nikko only joined us recently. Would you like to meet him, and if so, for how long?”

His heart still racing, Mitch regarded the young man who was oblivious to his surroundings. “An hour?”

Beside him Aaron chuckled. “And that’s my cue to leave.” He patted Mitch on the arm. “Enjoy, with my blessing. You can tell me all about it on Monday.”

“Thanks, Aaron.” Mitch gave him a warm smile. “And as for Monday? Uh-uh.” The smile became a grin. “I don’t kiss and tell.”

He snorted. “Spoilsport. And you have nothing to thank me for yet.” Aaron grinned. “See ya.” He walked toward the door and gave one last wave before disappearing through it.

Mitch returned his attention to Randy, who was regarding him with a hint of amusement. Mitch cleared his throat. “I’m sorry, I’m new to all this.”

Randy’s smile widened. “Then you and Nikko have something in common. Do you have your card?” Mitch held it up and Randy peered at it. “Okay, that’s fine. If you’ll come with me, please?”

He led Mitch through the door at the end of the lounge. They were in a long hallway with doors on either side. Randy escorted Mitch to door number seven and opened it. The room was small, but what it lacked in size, it made up for in furnishings. In the corner was a Chinese painted screen and a washbasin with a thick towel hanging from a rail beside it. Most of the space was taken up by a bed adorned with white sheets, a soft gray comforter, pillows, and cushions. A wide chair faced the bed, its cushions deep. There were no windows. At the head of the bed was a large mirror, and beside it, a small cabinet with two drawers.

“You’ll find condoms and packets of lube in the cabinet,” Randy said. “You’re aware of the club’s strict safe-sex policy.”

Mitch nodded. He had no problem with that. He’d never had bareback sex in his life.

“There are also some toys, should you require them. If there’s something particular you’d like, simply ask. We do cater for those clients who are into S&M, but they generally stipulate their needs ahead of time. Would that be of interest to you this evening?”

Mitch was sure his face was bright red. “Uh, not for me, thank you.”

Randy gave a polite nod. “Then I shall go and bring Nikko to you.” He exited the room.

Mitch gazed around him while he removed his jacket. He placed it on the chair and examined the prints on the wall. The room was definitely nothing like he’d expected; he’d had something much more austere in mind. A glance behind the screen revealed a toilet, tastefully hidden from view.

They really do think of everything.

Mitch scanned the walls and corners for any sign of a camera. Nothing. But from a safety aspect alone, he knew there had to be one in there somewhere.

Damn, they’re good.

He came back to the bed and sat, bouncing on it to test its springiness.

“Are we to be using it as a trampoline?” a soft voice asked.

Mitch jerked his head toward the door just as it closed gently. Nikko stood there, his fingers laced together in front of him, dark brown eyes focused on Mitch, his braid not visible, his expression impassive.

Mitch coughed and rose to his feet. “Maybe not.” He took a few steps toward Nikko, his hand extended, his belly tensed. Inwardly he cursed his uncertainty. It wasn’t as if he was a stranger to meeting guys, but after two years of being in a relationship, he felt decidedly out of practice. And this was definitely a new experience.

Nikko took his hand almost shyly and shook it, his fingers cool to the touch. “I’m Nikko.” The handshake over, he laced his fingers once more and stepped back, maintaining his distance from Mitch. His manner had Mitch retreating too.

“Is that your real name, or just one you use here?” Mitch wanted to know. When Nikko raised his eyebrows, Mitch felt the warm flush that rose up his chest and neck. “I’m sorry. This is my first time in a… in one of these places.”

Nikko became still for a moment, tension evident in his posture. When he smiled, it didn’t reach his eyes. “Then we have something in common. And to answer your question, Nikko is my real name. May I know yours?” Those eyes were captivating, a rich, deep brown framed with long, sooty black lashes, and set in a pale, unblemished face.

“I’m Mitch.” It was on the tip of his tongue to say Pleased to meet you, but the words sounded wrong given the circumstances. I don’t suppose there are etiquette rules for greeting a hooker in a brothel.

Not that Nikko resembled his preconceptions of what a hooker looked like. The young man was beautiful, maybe five foot five, six max. He felt tiny next to Mitch’s five foot eleven. Those clasped fingers were slim, his hands delicate. Mitch was reminded of one of his mother’s ethereal porcelain figurines in her china cabinet back home. They shared that same fragile quality.

“Are… are you feeling awkward too?” Nikko asked, biting his bottom lip. “You’re my first… client.” A flush crept across his cheeks and his ears turned red.

His words stirred something in Mitch’s chest, an absurd desire to enfold Nikko in his arms, to protect him. The yearning took him by surprise. Maybe it was Nikko’s slight build, his fragility, that engendered the inclination. Whatever it was, it sent a rush of warmth through Mitch’s body.

He beckoned to Nikko. “Come here.”

Slowly Nikko walked over to him, his gaze fixed on Mitch’s face. He stopped a few feet in front of him and tilted his chin up, not quite meeting Mitch’s gaze. The rapid rise and fall of Nikko’s chest, the ragged breathing, betrayed the nerves he hid. Mitch stretched out his hand to cup Nikko’s face, his large hand exaggerating the diminutive young man’s size.

“How old are you?” Mitch asked quietly. Nikko had to be barely legal.

“I-I’m twenty-two,” Nikko said in a low voice that cracked. “I know how I look, Mitch. I’m old enough to work here. This may be my first time with a client, but I’m not a virgin.”

“I never thought for a second that a virgin would be working here,” Mitch admitted. He tilted his head. “You can come closer, you know. I won’t hurt you.”

Nikko swallowed, blinking. “I… I’m sorry. It’s just that you’re not how I expected a client to be.”

Mitch took a step closer. “How did you think I would be?” He kept his voice low and soothing. Nikko reminded him of a colt he’d spent time with on his uncle’s farm as a boy. The young man gave an impression of being about to bolt at any second.

Nikko took a deep breath. “I didn’t expect to be treated with so much… respect.”

Now Mitch got it. “Come closer,” he said, coaxingly. When Nikko hesitated, Mitch gave him a warm smile. “Nikko, I meant it. I will not hurt you. I don’t have it in me to do that.”

Nikko regarded him in silence. “I believe you.” He inhaled slowly and took that last step to bring him to Mitch.

Mitch couldn’t help himself. He bent his head lower and took Nikko’s mouth in a gentle kiss. Nikko held himself still for a moment longer before putting his slim arms around Mitch’s neck and responding, his lips parting.

When Mitch broke the kiss, Nikko looked up at him with shining eyes. “Thank you.”

“For what?”

Nikko smiled, this time genuinely. “For being gentle.” His breathing hitched. “You… you make this easier than I thought it would be, Mitch.”

Mitch’s first reaction was a surge of pleasure, until a thought nagged at him. He paused, his hands on Nikko’s shoulders. “Are you here because you want to be?” Something about Nikko’s choice of words tugged at his mind.

Nikko regarded him, face calm. “I chose to be here, Mitch. Have no doubt about that.” There was no trace of deception in his voice or expression. He reached up with both hands and cupped Mitch’s face. “Kiss me again?” His Adam’s apple bobbed.

“Are you asking because you want to be kissed or because you feel you should ask?”

Nikko stared at him, lowering his hands, his eyes wide. “You are… perceptive.”

Mitch shrugged. “I use my eyes, is all. If you’d rather we sit on the bed for a while, maybe chat, that’s okay, I don’t mind.” He waited for Nikko to make the next move. The young man was skittish enough without Mitch making matters worse.

Nikko’s breathing grew more even. “Then I should like you to kiss me, because”—he stroked Mitch’s cheek, the touch light, and for the first time, he looked Mitch in the eye—“because I want you to.”

Mitch smiled. “That’s better.” He caressed Nikko’s cheek, brushing his fingertips over his cheekbones. “Because I want to kiss you.”

Nikko closed his eyes, lips parted, waiting.

Fuck. Nikko was beautiful.
Born and raised in the north-west of England, K.C. WELLS always loved writing. Words were important. Full stop. However, when childhood gave way to adulthood, the writing ceased, as life got in the way. K.C. discovered erotic fiction in 2009, when the purchase of a ménage storyline led to the startling discovery that reading about men in love was damn hot. In 2012, arriving at a really low point in life led to the desperate need to do something creative. An even bigger discovery waited in the wings—writing about men in love was even hotter….


K.C. now writes full-time and is loving every minute of her new career. The laptop still has no idea of what hit it… it only knows that it wants a rest, please. And it now has to get used to the idea that where K.C goes, it goes. 

And as for those men in love that she writes about? The list of stories just waiting to be written is getting longer… and longer….

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A MelanieM Review: Blue Steel Chain (Trowchester Blues #3) by Alex Beecroft

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

BlueSteelChain_600x900At sixteen, Aidan Swift was swept off his feet by a rich older man who promised to take care of him for the rest of his life. But eight years later, his sugar daddy has turned from a prince into a beast. Trapped and terrified, Aidan snatches an hour’s respite at the Trowchester Museum.

Local archaeologist James Summers is in a failing long distance relationship with a rock star, and Aidan—nervous, bruised, and clearly in need of a champion—brings out all his white knight tendencies. When everything falls apart for Aidan, James saves him from certain death . . . and discovers a skeleton of another boy who wasn’t so lucky.

As Aidan recovers, James falls desperately in love. But though Aidan acts like an adoring boyfriend, he doesn’t seem to feel any sexual attraction at all. Meanwhile there are two angry exes on the horizon, one coming after them with the press and the other with a butcher’s knife. To be together, Aidan and James must conquer death, sex, and everyone’s preconceptions about the right way to love—even their own.

There are certain books you approach with definite expectations of what you will find with the characters and plot.  Sometimes those expectations are met, other times they aren’t.  But on those rare occasions, something else happens, a book doesn’t exceed your expectations, it blows them all to hell, widening your horizons and smacking you in the face with your assumptions.  That’s what occurred  with Alex Beecroft’s Blue Steel Chain, the 3rd book in the Trowchester  Blues series.

My love for the previous novels is apparent in the reviews I wrote and the author interview I conducted.  Alex Beecroft brought alive the small village of Trowchester, with its canals, long boats, antique bookshops, Morris Dancers, historic reinactors and characters of every type imaginable, every type except boring and uninspired. Up until now Beecroft has ushered me into her world with such amazing details such as musical instruments of antiquity I yearned to hear, dances I wanted to watch and a place I desperately wanted to be real.  Her characters, wounded, snarky, and amazing made me laugh, cry and nod my head in recognition and joy.   Then came Blue Steel Chain and everything went topsy turvy.

Where to start when everything is unexpected and sometimes hard to understand?

Blue Steel Chain is beautifully written and thought provoking.  And for me, it was also hard, emotionally, to digest at times.  At the heart of all the thoughts and feelings whirling around in my head is the character of Aidan Swift.  At sixteen, already thrown away by his family for his sexuality, he is fair prey for an older man hiding sick, abusive behaviors and deeds.  Now eight years later, Aidan is a perpetually frightened, submissive, abused young man.  Sometimes left chained and alone for hours as punishment, isolated from all around him, his state of mind is one of fear, chaos, an overwhelming need to please and much , much more.

Alex Beecroft makes Aiden so real your heart bleeds for him and your stomach churns during the scenes he has with his abuser.  Trust me, those are hard to take because we have quickly come to love Aiden so.  But Aiden has another secret.  He’s asexual.  That makes those scenes where he is being sexually abused even more problematic.  Why?  Because of the way he sees them.  I thought I understood what  asexuality meant.  Apparently not.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a character  (or author for that matter) recently that made me question my assumptions about sexuality and relationships as Aiden and Alex Beecroft have. We live in Aiden’s skin here.  Every moment, every thought that occurs from his  brief secret excursions away from the house where he is kept, out over the meadows, into the local museum where archaeologist James Summers is toiling over the latest batch of “finds” and having his own relationship issues.  Aiden’s brief moments of joy, his initial fear of Jamie, his curiosity and ,man,, this makes me want to cry again, his love of pottery and the art he was forced to abandon…we are there inside him, listening and weeping.  And hoping for a rescue.

Jamie too needs help. We’re let into his point of view as well, important in a story such as this one. His long term  relationship has diminished to the point that he rarely sees his “partner, and when he does, he dissolves into  a doormat for his rockstar lover to walk over. Jamie too is a believable human being, full of frailties, preoccupied with his bits and pieces of antiquity and his life in Trowchester.  It takes the arrival of Aiden in his life to shake up the status quo and get him moving again.  Jamie is not asexual but gay with a healthy appetite that’s been repressed by his current relationship and lover.

There are some incredibly scary scenes that involve characters from the previous stories who help Aiden escape and start a new life.  These moments in the novel are heart-stopping, white-knuckle, “wap your head against the wall” exciting and frustrating, all at the same time.  You know those bits where you are yelling at the actors on the scene to get moving?  Yep, that happens here.  But its what comes later that will blow your perceptions of romance and a relationship to bits.  Some will like it, some will love it and others won’t get it at all.  At times, I was all  three.

Ever think what it must be like to be asexual and love someone who is not?  What does it mean to be in a relationship when one partner loves sex and the other doesn’t?  How does that work?  If it does? Beecroft takes those questions and gives us some answers through the relationship dynamics between Jamie and Aiden.  At times I found myself shaking my head, thinking this can’t possibly work  But a conversation with a friend who is asexual basically confirmed that is does, more often than we think.

Can a relationship work when you must schedule times for sex because to do otherwise is an abuse of another’s wishes and needs?  Can a sexual being truly understand how an asexual person feels and act accordingly?  And visa versa?  These are all issues Alex Beecroft brings into her characters and storyline.  It made me rethink my own assumptions about relationships, what works, what doesn’t and  Steel Blue Chain has left me with even more questions and jumbled ideas, making me revaluate what I thought I knew about people, recovery and love. And did so through the character of a wounded,yet resilient young man called Aiden.

Blue Steel Chain came very close to a five star rating but a few things still bothered me at the end.   There was so much going on here that I thought the idea of all those years of abuse would leave mental, emotional scarring far wore than the physical marks Aiden wore from his time in captivity.  Yes, it was mentioned he was seeing a therapist, but it felt a little glossed over and not in keeping with the realism of the rest of the story.   Perhaps that would have made this a 600 page story, who knows?

Still, I find that Blue Steel Chain is the most ambitious and surprising of the three novels.  Is it my favorite? No. Is it the most remarkable?  Yes, I think so. Blue Steel Chain will challenge your perceptions of love and romance, it will make you rethink your definitions of love and long term happiness.  And it makes me yearn for more of this remarkable village, its incrediblely human and addicting inhabitants, and the stories they still have to tell.

Cover Art by Lou Harper.  I  like the branding, the tone and design works with all three stories but I’m just not sure that model works for any of the characters within.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | All  Romance (ARe) | Amazon | Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook, 250 pages
Published July 27th 2015 by Riptide Publishing (first published July 25th 2015)
original titleBlue Steel Chain
ISBN139781626492066
edition languageEnglish

Trowchester: it’s the fourth smallest city in Britain, and visitors sometimes think it hasn’t left the Middle Ages yet. There’s a Bronze Age barrow, a wide network of ley lines, the best tea shop in the county, and more morris dancers than you can shake a stick at. Trowchester attracts those who have been hurt and those who are looking for sanctuary from the modern world. But scratch the surface and there’s murder and mayhem aplenty. People come here to find love, but they’re forced to learn bravery first.

The release order of the Trowchester series is Trowchester Blues, Blue Eyed Stranger, and Blue Steel Chain, but you can start with withichever book catches your eye; they each stand alone. I highly recommend them all.

Trowchester Blues (A Trowchester Blues Novel)
Blue Eyed Stranger (A Trowchester Blues Novel)
Blue Steel Chain (A Trowchester Blues Novel)