A Barb the Zany Old Lady Release Day Review: Blue Umbrella Sky by Rick R. Reed

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Milt’s husband of many years, Corky, has passed away after suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, a horrible deterioration of mind and body.  As is the case with many who suffer from this disease, Corky forgot who Milt was at times and at other times was angry and resentful toward him. He escaped his home, sometimes while nude, and in short, tested Milt’s reserves to the nth degree.  But Milt never stopped loving him and now, sitting in his new mobile home in Palm Springs, California, he’s far away and yet still close in his heart.  Some thought Milt was being too reactionary when he packed up and moved across country, but he and his adopted dog, Ruby, are beginning to acclimate to their new lives together.

Then, along comes a flash flood and a friendly neighbor to rescue them. Billy Blue, handsome, young, a former singer, now working at Trader Joe’s is an alcoholic in recovery for several years and planning to stay that way, despite the emotional ups and downs he begins to feel when Milt enters his life. Though several years older than Billy, Milt is nevertheless exactly the man of Billy’s dreams and Billy has to exercise all his life lessons to remember that good things happen in their own time, not on his time schedule.

Those who follow my reviews know I get a little (okay, a lot) peeved when authors glaze over a “drinking problem” or have their character in detox and then have him live a happy life, drinking again whenever he’s out with friends—with no consequences.  But in this story, Mr. Reed presented alcoholism and recovery, through the twelve step fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous, as clearly, kindly, respectfully, and honestly as I’ve ever read. And I’m old, so I’ve read a lot! I appreciate his attention detail more than I can say.

A frequently heard term in AA is “the joy is in the journey, not the destination.”  And for me, the joy was in the journey of reading this beautiful portrayal of a man coming to grips with the death of his husband, moving through the stages of grief as time goes on, and ultimately recognizing that it’s okay to love again.  There’s also joy in being present for Billy’s journey as he follows direction from his sponsor and does what he’s learned is most important to his balance—to put his sobriety first.  After all, he wouldn’t have any chance with Milt if he wasn’t the man he is today and that’s due to working the program. 

I simply loved this story.  It’s not explicit, thankfully.  That wasn’t necessary.  What was necessary was to allow two men to have an opportunity to get to know each other, become friends, and eventually move to a firm and loving relationship.  Slow burn, hurt-comfort, age gap, men over forty, grief, men with pets—I can think of many more tags I’d use for this one. But ultimately, the tag I’d use first and foremost is amazing.   Thank you Rick R. Reed! You have set the bar high. 

The cover by Reese Dante features two men in an embrace—perhaps a kiss about to happen—set against a beautiful blue background of the sky over Palm Springs.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 190 pages
Expected publication: March 19th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ASIN B07NNX7J4Q
Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Accidentally on Purpose by J.M Snyder

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Love older MCs? Love slow burn, even in the bedroom? This one is just right for those of us who want to read about two older guys who find their way to romance. Granted, in this case, they get a little push from a 14-year-old, but nevertheless, they get there.

Alan Travers has custody of his nephew Brooks, and when Brooks is police-escorted home from the mall one night, Alan’s not upset because it’s Detective Jim Garrison who brings him home.  Jim is the “hot” cop Alan has been admiring from afar and has been too tongue-tied to ask out.  It just so happens that Brooks offered to help him find the perfect opportunity to have a chance to talk by using himself as bait to get picked up for breaking curfew. 

Alan is still pretty tongue-tied and definitely self-deprecating. At fifty-three years old, he’s not in the best shape—or at least, not from his perspective—but Jim likes what he sees and the two end up going out after days and days talking on the phone until late at night. So at the end of their date, which doesn’t feel like a first date at all, they finally make it to bed. 

The author takes the time for the two to get to know one another and even in the bedroom scene, several chapters cover their time together. After all, it’s been some time—years—for both of them, and Alan has to get past the hurdle of undressing before another man, and Jim has to search for condoms. When he finally found some, though unopened, the box was over ten years old!  There were quite a few laugh out loud moments in this story and the sweetness of their romance shines through. When Brooks goes missing the morning after his date with Jim, Alan gets the chance to see his detective in action.   All is well in the long run, and the couple manage to find their way to a nice HEA by the epilogue. 

Very enjoyable, I recommend this to those of us into late-life romance. 

The cover features two handsome older men, a light blue background and a cup of coffee – symbolic of their first meeting when Alan dumped his all over Jim’s shoes.  Any cover featuring an older MC attracts my attention these days.  Very nicely done!

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 173 pages

Expected publication: November 24th 2018 by JMS Books LLC

ASIN B07JMGFC8L

Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: The Law of Miracles by KC Wells

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

I’ll start by saying that there was literally nothing about his wonderful love story that I didn’t adore. It had all the ingredients that make a perfect story for me, including slow burn and two older MCs—both around 50—one of whom is a widower of two years and the other still recovering from the heartbreak of his long-term partner leaving him after over twenty years together. Add to that, adult children who are not only kind and compassionate, but witty and fun-loving and fully supportive of their father, Joshua.

This is a sequel to A Christmas Promise in which Joshua’s son, Micah, meets Greg, a young man who was lured into a gay bashing and then left for dead in the snow in rural Wyoming. And though it is a sequel, there’s enough backfilled information in this story that, in my opinion, a reader could read this without having read the first book and wouldn’t be lost. That being said, this was quite delightful as a follow-up to Greg and Micah’s love story.

Alex is the gorgeous, fit, state’s attorney who will be prosecuting Greg’s case against his bashers. The story follows a timeline of approximately a year—between the initial meeting to review evidence and the final trial outcome. During that year, Joshua meets Alex, the two hit it off and become friends, and then later explore their attraction to one another. What starts as two friends meeting for cooking lessons—Alex is going to teach Joshua—ends as two men who can no longer deny what they feel for one another.

But it’s a very long, slow burn. And I loved every minute of it. From the recipes being prepared (the author really triggered my hunger pangs with some of these mouthwatering dishes) to the camping trip the kids planned in the hopes of matchmaking, to the harrowing days of the trial, and finally, to Alex learning to trust again, every moment was just perfect. Even my family asked why I was constantly smiling. I tried to explain that I had fallen in love with two men who had captured my heart and wouldn’t let go. 

Concurrent with the development of feelings between Alex and Joshua, we were treated to glimpses of Joshua’s past with his lovely wife, Rachel, and Alex’s past with his partner, Theo. Greg was still on crutches when the story opened and Micah was still struggling to put together enough artwork for an exhibit he was set to do in their small town. They, too, were an essential part of this story and readers were treated to their growth as a couple as well as to witness the outcome of Greg’s work to convince other young men to stand against the thugs who beat them. 

From the first chapter, the author endeared these characters to me. Joshua’s repulsion over using his bare hands to squish the meatloaf he was preparing made him very human. The time that elapsed as he and Alex learned more about each other, met for coffee, watched movies, cooked together, and finally, acknowledged the spark of attraction was just right. My favorite scene—and there were many to choose from—is the Cards Against Humanity game Naomi set up. Little did she know her father had such an evil streak. It was great fun; so much so, I felt I was there. And my favorite quote in this book is an old adage: “There may be snow on the rooftop but there’s fire in the furnace.” That is most definitely very apropos here.

I could go on and on. There’s just so much to like, so many wonderful memories, such engaging characters that the least I can do is very, very highly recommend this story to lovers of MM romance, particularly those who enjoy men with a little “snow on the rooftop.”

The cover by Meredith Russell features two very handsome older men, each exactly like the author’s description of Alex and Joshua, set against a snowflake background.  Perfect in every way, I’m so happy to see a cover match the description of the MCs.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 305 pages
Published November 24th 2018
ASIN B07KVJCP74
Edition Language English

Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Christmas Lane (Lighthouse Bay #1) by Amy Aislin

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Age gap and slow burn are two of my favorite tropes. Add to that, snow and Christmas holidays and I couldn’t be happier. This lovely, sweet tale of the romance between Zach Greenfeld and his former elementary teacher, Holland Stone, is perfect in every way.

Zach is back in Lighthouse Bay after graduating with a degree that will allow him to be an event planner—a role that fits his highly organized habitual list-making life. While waiting for an interview that will get him out on his own, he’s helping his sister in the family-owned café and crushing on Holland Stone, the gorgeous older handyman who was once his third grade teacher.  So what if Holland is fifteen years older? He’s hot and that’s enough to start.

Holland has started his own business making custom doll houses, and in between doing handyman work for townsfolk he’s working on his float for the annual Christmas parade competition.  He hopes to draw attention to his skills but is surprised when his work on the float draws Zach to him instead.  Zach has accepted the temporary position of town event planner so he gets to spend a lot of time with Holland in the warehouse where the floats are being built.  And slowly, Holland begins to view Zach as more than a happy-go-lucky kid. 

I loved the very slow buildup of their attraction and all the events, activities, and character interactions that happened along the way.  Their chemistry was strong and their emotions high. Their sex was off page and that didn’t matter to me at all. There was so much more to enjoy on page that using my imagination for what may have happened in the bedroom was just fine.

There’s really nothing about this story I didn’t like and I think it would make an excellent gift to a best friend and/or fellow MM romance lover.

The cover art by Jay Aheer at Simply Define Art is a park bench covered in snow. The bench plays a major role in the story, and that plus the snow are the perfect symbols to choose for the cover. Read the story to find out why.

Sales Links:

Amazon: http://geni.us/XmasLane

iBooks: http://geni.us/XmasLaneApple

B&N: http://bit.ly/XmasLaneBN

Kobo: http://bit.ly/XmasLaneKobo

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition
Expected publication: November 29th 2018
ASIN B07J5SZXMD
Edition Language English
Series Lighthouse Bay #1

Neve Wilder on Cracker Jacks and her new release Centre Of Gravity (Nook Island #1) by Neve Wilder (excerpt and giveaway)

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Neve Wilder here  today talking about her latest novel Center of Gravity and  Cracker Jacks! Welcome, Neve!

Thank you so much for having me today! So Cracker Jack—yes, the caramel popcorn stuff with the prize—is a thing in the beginning of this book, and I’m going to talk about how it ended up becoming this oddly appropriate symbol for their unfolding relationship in Center of Gravity.To be honest, the whole Cracker Jack idea just popped out when I was writing. I saw Rob, my grumpy accountant, standing at the window, and when I thought about what he was seeing outside, I saw Alex with a box of Cracker Jack in his hand, tossing bits in the air and catching them in his mouth. It was weirdly specific, so I ran with it, liking how the sight threw Rob off and cast him back into his own memories of baseball games and bleachers.

There’s a part in the book where they argue/flirt over the merits or lack thereof of Cracker Jack, with Rob dismissing the treat altogether as too sweet and the prize disappointing, and Alex disagreeing, saying that it’s all about the anticipation and that the prize doesn’t matter either way. It’s a really telling moment of their character—Rob’s grumbly pessimism to Alex’s persistent optimism.

Rob starts to pick up boxes of Cracker Jack to give to Alex, and this thoughtful gesture on his part signals that he’s more into Alex than he’ll admit. As their relationship progresses, Rob begins to realize that Alex might be right: it’s all about the journey. Though the prize in this case—their hard-won happily ever after—ain’t too shabby, either!

 
Excerpt from Center of Gravity. In this bit, Rob and Alex discuss the merits—or lack thereof—of Cracker Jack while Rob tries to rein in his attraction to Alex.
*****

Alex looked up at me again. I thought he might say more about my dad, but instead he tossed a Cracker Jack in my direction, calling out “Catch!”

I had to veer hard to the right to catch it, but I did. The caramel melted on contact and stuck to my teeth. He gave me one of those gleaming, sun-bright smiles. “By the skin of your teeth.”

I leaned over, snatching the box and shaking a few in my hand so I could return the favor. He caught it easily.

“The best part of this stuff was always the prize. They’re not really that good.”

“You’re wrong.” Alex tossed another kernel up in the air for me to catch. I threw up my hand and caught it midair. “The prize is always disappointing. But it’s all about the anticipation, that maybe someday the prize will be really good. Cracker Jack itself is decent.”

“How is that any different than what I just said?”

Alex shrugged. “It just is.” Then, fishing through the box, he pulled out the wrapped prize and tossed it in my direction. “Do the honors.”

I peeled the paper back to reveal a smiley face with a disembodied hand giving a giant thumbs up.

Alex laughed. “See, terrible. But admit that for a second you thought maybe it’d be something good.”

“Not even for a millisecond.” I smirked.

“So jaded.”

I slid the sticker from the backing and held it up on my finger. “It’s all yours, color whiz.” I leaned forward on my knees to stick it in the center of his T-shirt, fist bracing my weight to one side of Alex’s leg as I pushed the sticker into cotton. His chin angled down as he examined my handiwork, and then his eyes met mine, his grin fading. He licked his lips and I had to force a casual smile. Don’t mind me as I try to inhale you.

“Rob?”

First I was just relieved he didn’t call me Mr. Macomb, then came a strange mashup of anxiety and awareness that I was still hovering in his space. It was too damn tempting to stay in that pocket of air scented with his soap, his hair, his deodorant, the Cracker Jack-tinged sweetness of his breath.

“Yeah?” I forced myself back onto my own patch of carpet that smelled of dogs and age.

“Thanks for giving me this job. Seriously.”

I cut a dismissive wave at the liquid green-gold sincerity of his eyes. “Break my heart, why don’t ya.”

His sober expression gave way to another grin, this one mischievous. He was good at layering his expressions with nuance and, as with the paint chips, I was becoming more adept at discerning the undertones.

His brows bounced. “Give me a chance to.”

I tossed the empty box of Cracker Jack at him and stood. I needed him out of the house before I decided I needed him to stay.

“Go home,” I said, not unkindly.

Winslow grunted and huffed air, stretching out long against Alex’s leg and nuzzling his head against Alex’s thigh.

“And take this damn traitor dog with you.”

“Seriously?” he said, his hand sweeping over Winslow’s belly before he stood.

“No. He hasn’t made me miserable enough. Yet.”

 

Buy Links:Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2DTNP55

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2Rln8sB

Length: 98,000 words approx.
Cover Design:Jay Aheer
Blurb

When life comes apart at the seams, love is the only thread that can repair it.


Accountant Rob Macomb has a stable job that he’s good at and… that’s about it. A year of nothing but heartache leaves him seeking refuge from loneliness and grief behind spreadsheets, punishing daily runs, and the occasional anonymous tryst. He wants only to bury the past and focus on his career, but he has one last task to complete: pack up his parent’s quaint beachside house and put it on the market.
Alex Andrews is a budding artist with a penchant for Converse, Cracker Jack, and piercings. Family turmoil sidelines his dreams of finishing art school and building a career in three-dimensional design, and now he’s doing whatever he can to keep everyone afloat.When Alex shows up as a part of the moving crew hired to help Rob clean out the house, what should be a simple move becomes far more complex. Because it’s not the first time they’ve met, and their last encounter was memorable for all the wrong reasons.The attraction between them is undeniable and intense, but Rob’s hell-bent on pushing everyone away, and Alex is on the verge of spinning out of control. Can a grumpy accountant and a bootstrapping artist find their center of gravity together, or are they on a collision course to heartbreak?*An emotionally-charged, slow burn m/m romance featuring an age gap, hurt/comfort themes, and a hard-won happily ever after. This is the standalone first in the Nook Island, Georgia series.*

 

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words 5 star review here.

Neve Wilder lives in the dirty South, where the summers are hot and the winters are…sometimes cold. She is a mom to three rambunctious weebeasts who have joined forces in a mission to carpet the family home with toys and small items that really suck to step on at six in the morning.


She reads promiscuously, across multiple genres, but her favorite stories always contain an element of romance. Incidentally, this is also what she likes to write. Slow-burners with delicious tension? Yes. Whiplash-inducing page-turners, also yes. Down and dirty scorchers? Yes. And every flavor in between.


She believes David Bowie was the sexiest musician to ever live, and she’s always game to nerd out on anything from music to writing.


And finally, she believes that love conquers all. Except the heat index in July. Nothing can conquer that bastard.

Newsletter: You can keep up with Neve’s future projects by joining her newsletter, where you can instantly download the free Watch Me, Extracurricular Activities #1 short story. The series continues exclusively for newsletter subscribers. Subscribe here: readerlinks.com/l/320361

Author Page: readerlinks.com/l/320362
Facebook Readers’ Group: readerlinks.com/l/320364
Website: https://www.nevewilder.com
Goodreads: readerlinks.com/l/320363
Amazon Author Page: readerlinks.com/l/320389

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New Book Release Blitz for Death Days by Lia Cooper (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Death Days

Author: Lia Cooper

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 6, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 70000

Genre: Paranormal, college, teaching, magic, dark, slow burn, age gap, vampires, shifters

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Synopsis

By day, Professor Nicholas Littman works as an itinerant professor at a small college in the Pacific Northwest. He teaches seminars on mythology and the intersections of folklore and magic in the ancient world. By night, he’s the local necromancer, a rare magical talent that has left him alienated from other practitioners.

All Nick wants from life is to be left alone to run his magical experiments and teach kids the historical context of magic without anyone being the wiser. Unfortunately, his family is sworn to sit on the council of the Order of the Green Book—a group of magicians dating back to the Crusades—and they aren’t willing to take Nick’s no for an answer.

As though that wasn’t bad enough, a coven of Night Women has arrived in town, warning Nick that there are wolves at his door he had better take care of. But what can one necromancer do when every natural and supernatural card seems stacked against him?

Excerpt

Death Days
Lia Cooper © 2018
All Rights Reserved

One: The Professor
“Today we’re talking about the elision that occurs between Thoth worship in pre-Ptolemaic Egypt and early Greece. Let’s break into four groups for seminar,” Professor Nicolas Littman said, eyeing the half-empty teaching theater. He divided the room with a sweep of his arm and glanced at the clock on the back wall.

“We’ll meet back here in thirty minutes to discuss your thoughts as a group. And I want every small group to come up with a question to pose to the rest of us.”

He felt gratified at the way they began shuffling together into little clusters without further prompting.

“One of you should go use the lounge outside,” he said, waving absently at the small group at the very back of the room.

He didn’t care if they took the direction or not. He trusted in every student’s desire to escape the four walls of the classroom given a millimeter of freedom. All that mattered was that he now had thirty minutes of his own time in which to play hooky.

Nick grabbed a book and the vape out of his bag, and slipped out of the left-hand exit.

Why someone in the administration had decided to give him a corner theater for this class was beyond him. Four credits on Hermetic Mythologies and Cosmologies was hardly in demand. Especially when it was offered as a four-and-a-half-hour option on Saturdays. But if it meant they got a spacious room and the otherwise empty SEM II C building to themselves, he shouldn’t complain. His students could spread out to their hearts’ content, leaving him to steal outside to smoke without anyone around to gripe at him.

“Not even a proper smoke,” he muttered, flicking the round silver device on, warming the metal under his hand.

Nick sat on the concrete with his back to the building’s cement exterior and his knees bent, pressed the tip of the vape between his lips, and held down the button for a long, comforting drag. He closed his eyes to the bright sun and tipped his head back against the wall. Vapor streamed out of his pursed lips in a thick, fragrant cloud and pooled in the air above his head.

“Hiding from the students again?” an amused voice asked from above.

“I’m not hiding,” Nick grumbled.

A thin body lowered itself down onto the ground next to him, all long spidery limbs that folded with the kind of soft careless agility Nick hadn’t felt in a decade or two.

He looked over at his—teaching assistant wasn’t the word. Technically, Josiah didn’t work for him at all. He was just an independent contract student working on an eight-credit history project, but he let Nick use him like a TA so that’s how he always thought of him.

“What do you call this?” Josiah asked, knocking their shoulders together.

“Seminaring.”

Josiah’s face crumpled up with amusement. His flexible mouth stretched into a laugh while his shoulders shook. Nick held out the vape on offer and waited for Josiah to notice.

“Is it peppermint?” he asked.

Nick nodded.

“No thanks.”

“I’m not buying cake or whatever it is you like.”

“Are you trying to say there’s something wrong with cake?” Josiah returned Nick’s stony look with a nonplussed expression.

“It’s unna—”

“First of all: I don’t remember tobacco ever coming in ‘peppermint flavor’ before, and second: everything you do is unnatural, so that’s not a valid argument coming from you, Professor Littman.”

Nick grimaced. “Don’t call me that.”

“Nick.”

He sighed and took another long drag off his vape, waiting for the nicotine to soothe the flutter in his heart that Josiah’s words had kicked up. Nothing he did was natural. The kid had no idea just how right he was. Nick glanced down at his empty hand, automatically checking his nails for pesky traces of dirt, but there was nothing unusual to see. He’d scrubbed up hard the night before. Done a thorough job not to leave any of those unnatural traces that might have given Josiah a better-formed picture of what his professor and academic adviser got up to in his free time.

Shit, even in his head, he sounded like a pervert.

“You’re wrong. Some things I do are perfectly natural.”

“Like what?”

Nick gave the young man a slow look. “You have a very active imagination, Mr. Wexler.”

“The imagination is a hungry organ, seeking perpetual nourishment. I like to think that it’s not so much I’ve got an active imagination, but rather a well-fed one.”

“That you feed on thoughts of me?” Nick smiled, playing the comment off as a joke even though it left something low and hot in his body to sit up with interest. A curl of amused interest that quivered at the thought of a bright young man captivated by thoughts of him, even if they were merely frustrated or prurient or the passing whim of childish fancy, as he suspected was the case.

“Sometimes,” Josiah admitted, looking away.

The two of them sat in companionable silence until the phone in Nick’s pocket hiccupped its alarm to let him know that the requisite thirty-minute small group had passed, and he had to return again to face the lethargy of his classroom.

“Did you need something?” he asked, using the wall to push himself to his feet, and slipped the vape back into his pocket.

Josiah pulled out a sheaf of printouts from his backpack and held them up for Nick to take. “Two new chapters. I wanted to get your thoughts on them before I continue. It took a—the narrative took a direction we haven’t discussed before.”

“All right. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks.”

“Do you want to come in?”

“Nah, I’ve got to meet Jen. Talk to you next week?”

Nick nodded.

Above them, the sky had dimmed as sure as if someone had taken a dimmer switch to the sun. Dark clouds cast a clear, watery gray light over campus, the edges of the quad hemmed in on all sides by towering dark trees that only helped to feed into the illusion of night creeping over them. The air smelled as though it were about to rain, bitterly cold and damp.

“Do you think it’s going to snow?” Josiah asked, climbing to his feet.

Nick shook his head. “Not a chance.”

He filed back into the teaching theater behind the stragglers. Sixty minutes for discussion and in-class readings, and then he’d be free for the rest of the weekend. Nick perched his feet on the edge of his desk, saw the streaks of mud clinging to his shoes, and dropped them again. He cleared his throat and looked out at the crowd for the first person to meet his eyes.

“Ah, Amelia, why don’t you start us off with a brief summary of what your group discussed.”

He folded his arms over his chest and listened with half an ear while his focus strayed repeatedly to the darkening sky and the promise of rain.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Lia Cooper is a twenty-something native of the Pacific Northwest, voracious reader, pop-culture addict, and writer. She cultivated an early interest in writing through fandom and completed writing her first full length novel with the help of NaNoWriMo.

In the years since, she’s dabbled in catering, barista-ing, and working as a pastry chef before finally returning full time to the thing she loves most: storytelling.

When she’s not glued to Scrivener, Lia enjoys playing video games with friends and reviewing books for her booktube channel.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

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A MelanieM Release Day Review: Knitting a Broken Heart Back Together by Ari McKay

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

 

When a Christmas shopping expedition brings Tomy Peralta into Jason Winters’ yarn store, both men feel an immediate and intense spark of attraction, but dance instructor Tomy intends to propose to his boyfriend Sean at Christmas. Unfortunately for Tomy, marriage isn’t on career-minded Sean’s agenda. Heartbroken, Tomy throws himself into his work until his mother convinces him that learning to knit might help take his mind off his failed romance.

Jason falls hard for Tomy, but he knows Tomy needs time to heal and to trust in love again. As Jason teaches Tomy how to knit, Tomy teaches him how to dance in return to prepare for his sister’s wedding. Just when it seems Tomy is ready for a new romance, Sean shows up, wanting Tomy back. Has Jason helped Tomy knit his heart together again, only for Tomy to give it to Sean once more, or will Tomy finally see Sean for what he truly is?

It’s rare that the authors known as Ari McKay make a misstep, let alone two (or more) in my opinion.  Normally, they can do no wrong.  In fact, that’s one of the major reasons I was so excited to read this story.  Ok, I’m always happy to pick up any McKay tale but I’m a knitter so I was intrigued to see how they would fold such a tactile and favored element into this story.

Honestly?  Disappointed in how underused the craft of knitting is here, from Tomy learning to knit (which is supposedly a huge deal), to Jason who dyes his own yarn, detail after sensuous, vivid yarn/knit related detail is left out of the romance and therefore out of the story.  We are told Jason teaches Tomy to knit, we hear briefly about the yard shop and that he dyes yarn?  But the particulars that actually bring all that alive?  Totally missing in action.  And I have read several stories from other authors that use knitting as a framework that make you want to jump into the nearest bags filled with skeins and make you want to start madly knit away at your own projects. Or go off and start fondling some yarn.  Not here, which  is a problem with a story that has a titled called  Knitting a Broken Heart Back Together.   Someone’s heart was not into the knitting part at allAnd that sort of includes the character of Jason He’s nice but something is  missing…

Then there’s the element of dance. Tomy and his family have always  owned a dance studio and competed professionally. Truly this book should have been called Waltzing your Broken Heart Back Together. Because its in the descriptions of dance, dancing together, the feeling of “floating” and being a partner in a sensual  embrace on the studio floor where this story comes soars. In short, the descriptions of dancing have everything that knitting lack. You can tell, that one of the author’s interest was vested here in dance, not knitting.  The part’s of the story in the dance studio?  They sang!  The main characters exhibited a connectivity that didn’t happen earlier in the story (certainly not when talking about knitting) and it’s dancing that brings them together.

Anyway, it take them a while to start dancing cheek to cheek, to its a slow burn sort of romance as Tomy gets over his disastrous love affair and finds himself ready to love again…with his partner on the dance floor.  It is a sweet romance with cute relatives (Tomy’s) and relatively angst free story.

As I said, the only thing that just bugs me is the total fail with the knitting from the cover, title and the blurb.  Change it over to dancing and you have a winner.  Honestly.  did someone not read this story?  It’s all about the dancing. smh.

 

Cover art: Bree Archer.  Lovely cover.  Would work great for a book actually more about knitting.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 2nd edition, 125 pages
Expected publication: July 6th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 16th 2014)
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New Release Blitz for The Merchant’s Love (Chronicles of Tournai #6) by Antonia Acquilante (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The Merchant’s Love

Series: Chronicles of Tournai, Book Six

Author: Antonia Aquilante

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 18, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 106100

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, fantasy, paranormal, shifters, cats, magic users, demisexual, bisexual, family drama, royalty, friends to lovers, slow burn

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Synopsis

Faelen, cousin to the prince and son of a diplomat, has finally come home to Tournai after years away. The pull to return was almost tangible, and the sense of rightness at being back is absolute. He wants nothing more than to put down roots and build a life among family while pursuing his linguistic studies. Becoming involved in magic meant to protect Tournai isn’t part of his plans…but falling in love is even more unexpected and unfamiliar, but he finds himself doing just that as his friendship with Maxen deepens into something more.

Maxen, second son of a wealthy merchant family, longs to leave Tournai and see everywhere he can. All his life, he’s found places on maps and dreamed, planning out routes to get to them. For now, he’s tied to Tournai’s capital city by family obligations and his position in their shipping business. Someday, though, he’ll be able to travel. His sudden attraction to Faelen shocks him, but their friendship soon becomes a necessary part of his life. Love, however, has no place in his plans, especially not love for a royal cousin with secrets who wants nothing more than to stay in one place.

For Faelen and Maxen to build something real between them, they must resolve their differences, but when magic goes awry and all Faelen’s secrets are revealed, will Maxen remain at his side?

Excerpt

The Merchant’s Love
Antonia Aquilante © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
In the last decade since his father was appointed ambassador to the kingdom of Teilo, Faelen had been on the grounds of Tournai’s royal palace three times, if he included today. The relief, happiness, and utter sense of home flooding through him as soon as he stepped off the boat had been shocking in its intensity, but not surprising otherwise. Sometime in the middle of the journey, he’d been hit with the bone-deep certainty that he needed to be back in Tournai. He’d mentioned it to Alexander, who admitted feeling the same—which Faelen was happy to hear from his twin, even if it did make the whole thing stranger.

He tried not to dwell on it, which was made a bit easier because of his discomfort that they were arriving unannounced and uninvited.

Well, not entirely uninvited. Faelen’s cousin Etan was getting married in a couple of weeks, and the entire family had been invited to the wedding, but Faelen couldn’t imagine Philip, the crown prince, and Amory, his husband, expected them to descend on the palace for it. Faelen certainly hadn’t expected them to make the long trip to Tournai, but Mother had other reasons for bringing him, Alexander, and Thibault back home.

He and Alexander would be staying in Jumelle longer than that if they had their way.

They alighted from the hired carriage at the palace, a servant handing Mother down and the rest of them following. If the servant was surprised to see Princess Edine and her three sons (and quite a few trunks), he didn’t show it, even if their arrival would cause a scramble to ready rooms for their party.

Faelen stopped as soon as his feet touched the stones of the courtyard and looked up. The palace towers soared above him, white stone glowing in the afternoon sunlight. Like something out of a tale. He’d always thought so, and no amount of visits could end that fancy.

Alexander leaned into his shoulder, just enough to divert Faelen’s attention. He looked into his twin’s face, nearly identical to his own. Alexander’s eyes were without their usual gleam of mischief. “Come on. No time to daydream.”

“I’m just looking.” Still, he set off walking quickly at Alexander’s side, but not so quickly that they’d catch up to Mother and the others who’d gotten well ahead of them. “I always think I’m exaggerating how beautiful it is in my thoughts, but I’m not.”

“No.” Alexander smiled slightly as he trotted up the stairs to the open doors. “We’ll get to see more of it now. Unless we get shipped off to Grandfather with Thibault.”

Faelen went cold all over. No. He loved Grandfather, but he didn’t want to be stuck so far from Jumelle and the university. He and Alexander had been pursuing their studies at the university in Teilo before Mother insisted they return to Tournai. Thibault would be going to Grandfather to help him with running his modest estate, which would one day be his. Faelen and Alexander had no part in that, and Faelen refused to give up all he’d accomplished so far and all he hoped to because of the move.

Alexander clasped his hand. “Don’t worry. We’ll stay in the city.”

The “somehow” was unspoken. Their parents didn’t keep a house in the city. Before the marriage, Father’s family wouldn’t have been able to afford it. With what Mother brought to it, they could have, but it would’ve been pointless with Father’s diplomatic ambitions. Faelen and Alexander couldn’t afford a house on their own at this point, and Mother had made no mention of providing lodgings in her hasty, yet vehement, instructions that they pack everything. Faelen and Alexander had discussed it in whispers on the boat, wondering whether they could take rooms together in the university quarter. They’d talked before about returning to Tournai on their own, but Mother had surprised them before they’d made any plans.

“Of course, we will,” Faelen responded.

“Faelen, Alexander. Don’t dawdle.” Mother’s voice floated back to them, not loud but still echoing in the enormous entry hall.

Alexander rolled his eyes eloquently, and Faelen forced back a smile and nodded. Nevertheless, they obediently quickened their pace to catch up. Mother sailed through the palace corridors, her heels tapping on the marble floors with authority, as if she wasn’t following behind a servant leading them somewhere.

Which turned out to be a small parlor in the guest wing of the palace. Mother’s lips turned down in a slight frown, but Faelen wasn’t sure what she’d anticipated. No one expected them. It was unrealistic to think rooms would be waiting for them at all times.

“Have the princes been notified of our arrival?” Mother asked the servant.

“Their Highnesses are being notified now, Princess Edine. I’ll bring refreshments for you.” He bowed and left at her dismissal.

“I’ll suppose we’ll have to wait, then. I’d prefer to have been settled in our rooms first, but we’ll have to make do.” Mother seated herself in a velvet-cushioned chair near the fireplace where a small fire crackled. Thibault took a chair near her, but Alexander wandered to the windows. Faelen paused for a moment, indecisive, and then drifted over to where Alexander stood.

The windows looked out over the garden, their position one floor up giving them a decent vantage point. In the falling dusk, lanterns had been lit along the paths closer to the palace, and Faelen caught sight of a couple strolling along one of them, the men holding hands and seemingly in no hurry. He squinted, trying to see who they were in the shadows, but the door opened before he could.

He turned to find not a maid with the expected refreshments but Philip and Amory. Philip was Faelen’s cousin—his father had been Mother’s oldest brother—and he’d come to the throne only about five years ago after the sudden, untimely death of his parents. Faelen and his family had returned to Tournai for the funerals and the coronation, the first time he’d been back since they’d left for Teilo when he was all of ten years old. They returned again when Philip shocked everyone by marrying Amory, a man and a commoner. Faelen liked what little he’d found out of Amory then, and Amory had certainly won over Tournai in the meantime. Faelen was hoping to get to know him better—and Philip too, as the last he’d spent time with Philip he’d been a child and Philip just into his teenage years. He looked forward to meeting their son, Julien, as well.

Philip had the look of Tournai’s royal family—something Faelen and Alexander strayed from slightly—with his dark hair and classically handsome features. He carried himself as the ruler he was, and his hazel eyes were sharp as they took in the room. Amory was a match for him in looks with his dark eyes and shining auburn curls. He seemed to have grown into his role, carrying himself with more confidence than Faelen remembered at their wedding.

“Aunt Edine,” Philip said as he came into the room, and they all bowed or curtsied. “And Thibault, Alexander, and Faelen. What a surprise. We didn’t expect you.”

Mother didn’t move to embrace Philip. She wasn’t the type for demonstrations of affection, especially to the crown prince, even if he was her nephew. “We left Teilo quite suddenly. A boat was about to depart that would get us here in time for Etan’s wedding.”

“Etan will be happy you’re all able to attend.” Philip didn’t mention that no one had dreamed they would. “And, of course, Amory and I would be delighted if you would stay here at the palace while you remain in Jumelle.”

“Thank you, Philip. We’d be honored to accept your hospitality.” She left it unsaid that she’d certainly anticipated the invitation. Faelen doubted there had been a thought otherwise in her mind.

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Meet the Author

Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

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A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Survivor (Survivor #1) by T.M. Smith

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

When Taylor Langford is thirteen, his world is turned upside down by the murder of his parents. The only reason he wasn’t killed was because his mother shoved him into a crawlspace in the attic and told him not to come out unless she came for him. But the man who ultimately found him, rookie cop Frank Moore, becomes the most important person in Taylor’s life from that day forward.

This is an absolutely wonderful May to December, very slow burn MM romance, with engaging characters, an exciting plot, and a terrific narration. That’s win-win in my book! Frank and Taylor have a bit over ten years age difference, or at least that was my impression from the audiobook, and Frank never puts the move on Taylor, even when he slowly realizes what he feels for the young man is more than friendship. In fact, neither man alerts the other about their feelings that develop long after Taylor has passed puberty and high school and is finishing college. Taylor knew from a young age that Frank was his ideal man in every way, and as he aged those feelings only became stronger.

But it’s not until it’s so evident to their friends and extended family members—Taylor’s foster parents and Frank’s partner and his wife—that Frank finally decides to tell Taylor how he feels. That occurs at Taylor’s graduate degree graduation party, and by the time it happens, readers like me are rooting for this couple. Both characters are really well-developed and three dimensional—people I’d love to know in real life.  The fact that the murderer is back after a ten-year absence and wants Taylor dead only adds to the excitement of this story.

Nick J. Russo did a wonderful job with the narration, providing a variety of voices, both male and female—each distinct and easy to recognize. That definitely made the audio experience worthwhile.

I definitely recommend this story to lovers of age gap MM romance and most definitely recommend it in audio format.

The cover depicts a handsome young dark-haired man sitting against a colorful background done as an abstract painting with the Seattle Space Needle in the background, representing the locale of the story. Very colorful and attention-getting.

Sales Links:

Book Details:

ebook
Published August 28th 2017 (first published 2017)
Original TitleSurvivor
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesSurvivor #1

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Tied up by the Boss (Office Kink #2 ) by Hunter Frost

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

When Parker Greenhill speaks out against one of the execs to whom his marketing firm is pitching a project, he thinks he’s doing his ex a favor, but in reality, he’s hurting himself because his company loses the chance to work with that exec and Parker loses the respect of his bosses, teammates, and subordinates. Worse, he’s assigned to work with his curmudgeon of a boss, Morgan Brant, an older Brit who takes his role as VP seriously.

Somehow, though, working with Morgan flips a switch in Parker and he ends up on his knees submitting to his Sir after work every night. There may be ropes and bondage involved. And there may be a better use for Parker’s sassy mouth.

I enjoyed this story so much I couldn’t put it down. I simply had to read straight through to see what these men were up to and to learn how their awkward work situation would be resolved.

The author put plenty of kink into the story and built two characters who were at extremes of personality and yet gelled nicely together. And did I mention age gap? Well yes, there’s quite an age difference, so added to the bondage, the silver fox with the cute young exec just pushed all my buttons. Without giving away any spoilers, I can say that Morgan’s mum was a surprise to Parker and he was a pleasant surprise to her. There’s lots to love here and I’m most definitely looking forward to more in this series.

Highly recommend to lovers of light kink and bondage, age-gap, and slow burn.

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Cover by James of GoOnWrite.com is a photo of a man’s tie set against a deep mauve background. It’s both attractive and pertinent to the story and is the same photo used in book one, but in a different shade.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 124 pages
Published April 23rd 2018
Original TitleTied Up by the Boss
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesOffice Kink #2