A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Out! (The Shamwell Tales #3) by J.L. Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

When the costs are added up, will love land in the black?

Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.

His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.

Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.

Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax advisor clashes with Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.

Shamwell is a sleepy rural village in Hertfordshire, England, and a place I’ve grown to love over the course of four Shamwell Tales novels by J.L. Merrow.  Slipping into one of these stories is like visiting a small village full of people you instantly like, all intimately connected to one another, full of humor, past histories, human frailties, and tons of love.

As read by Mark Steadman, one of my favorite narrators, Out! comes alive, vibrant, as one again I fell into the story of Mark and Patrick’s rough road to romance and love.  I can close my eyes and forget that it’s just Mark Steadman, one person, narrating the story.  He swings so easily between characters and voices, creating nuances and dialects even from person to person.  And this story deserves a certain flair!  We are talking about the Shamwell Players as well you know.

We have humor (sometimes laugh out loud humor), tough subjects such as Mark Nugent dealing with the realization that he really doesn’t know his daughter, that he had unknowingly checked out of her life, that he was a closeted dad, well, closeted period.  So many issues to deal with, including a bitter ex wife.

Patrick Owen is someone I loved in the previous stories and wanted to have his story here.  He’s remarkable in that he’s personable, loving, and relatable.  As are all J.L. Merrow’s characters.  They have staying power.  We get involved in their lives in Shamwell, caught up in their romances and drama and hopefully their HEA’s.  The books are a true joy but in the audiobook version, Mark Steadman launches the story anew, bringing a vibrancy to the tale and the characters that make me feel that I’m hearing it for the first time.  It’s breathes a true believable romance that we connect with and people we love.

I absolutely recommend Out! (The Shamwell Tales #3) by J.L. Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator).  Both the story, the author and  the narrator!  Grab up the whole series!  You can’t go wrong.

Cover art by Natasha Snow is adorable and perfect.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Audible, Amazon, iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Time: 7 hrs. 51 min.

Published October 19th 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published January 19th 2016)
Original TitleOut!
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Shamwell Tales #3

A MelanieM Audiobook Review: Played! (The Shamwell Tales #2) by J.L. Merrow and Mark Steadman (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

All the world’s a stage…but real-life lessons are hidden in the heart.

Tristan’s in Shamwell for one last summer of freedom before he joins the family firm in New York—no more farting around on stage, as his father puts it. But the classically trained actor can’t resist when members of the local amateur dramatics society beg him to take a role in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Especially as he’ll also be giving private acting lessons to gorgeous local handyman, Con, who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Tristan’s determined to get Con in his bed—not only is the man delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan’s success after a bet made with his drama school chum Amanda.

Con’s never dared to act before. A late-diagnosed dyslexic who had a hard time at school, he’s always been convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines—but with Tristan helping him, he might just be in with a chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken, and with Tristan due to leave the country in a matter of months, Con’s determined not to give in and start anything that’s bound to finish badly.

Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance of happiness.

Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave.

I’m a fan of both JL Merrow and her Shamwell Tales, the series that follows the lives and romances of this small English village and it’s little group of thespians.  Not familiar you say?  Well, Played! in audiobook format is a splendid way to make its acquaintance because a terrific story is further enhanced by the outstanding narration by Mark Steadman.

I easily sunk into the drama and every day lives of Tristan and Con with Mark Steadman’s voice casting a spell over the tale.  The narrator rose quickly to being the “voice’ of  everyone in the large cast of players as well as acting the various roles the characters/actors were playing (play inside a play) from Bottom to Puck, and giving them life as well.  I never had a difficulty distinguishing between characters, and indeed, often forgot I was listening to only one person narrating the story, Mark Steadman is that good.

And with Mark Steadman narrating, you can concentrate on the story of Tris and Con and their rocky path towards romance and love. Ah, Tris with his rich imperious father and full load of familial expectations, none of which seem particularly desirable to Tristan.  The death of his Gram, a house, and a cat lead Tris to Shamwell, the Shamwell Players and Con.  All of which starts to erode the strict goals his family has laid out for him,. Under the influence of Con and the people he’s meeting,  Tristan becomes the person he’s meant to be.

Con, a handyman, ends up with a remarkable amount of revelations for himself as well.  A learning disability has Con convinced he could never act until Tristan starts coaching him. The why’s behind that action I’ll leave up to the story.  There’s is mystery in Con’s background and an investigation to launch in the village.  Really, Played! has a cornucopia of elements and it makes for a lively, hopping plot!

Merrow’s characters have depth and a believability about them that makes it a delight to care for them and the outcome of their romance. Especially, when you want to give them a shake or two as you will Tristan!  The story just flows and the listening goes quickly.  You’ll find the book is over and your visit in Shamwell done before you are ready to leave.  At least I felt that way.  Luckily there are more Shamwell tales out there.  I hope they all end up as audiobooks with Mark Steadman as the narrator.  I can’t wait to listen.

I highly recommend this audiobook and all the Shamwell stories, ebook and otherwise.

Cover by: Natasha Snow is  perfect for Tristan.  Love the cover.

Sales Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon |  Audible |  iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Time: 6 hrs., 58 min.

Audiobook
Published September 15th 2017 by Riptide Publishing (first published June 30th 2015)
Original TitlePlayed!
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series The Shamwell Tales #2
setting England (United Kingdom

 

 

 

A Stella Review: Spun! (The Shamwell Tales #4) by J.L. Merrow

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RATING 5 out of 5 stars

With friends like these . . .

An ill-advised encounter at the office party leaves David Greenlake jobless and homeless in one heady weekend. But he quickly begs work from his ex-boss and takes a room in Shamwell with easygoing postman Rory Deamer. David doesn’t mean to flirt with the recently divorced Rory—just like he doesn’t consciously decide to breathe. After all, Rory’s far too nice for him. And far too straight.

Rory finds his new lodger surprisingly fun to be with, and what’s more, David is a hit with Rory’s troubled children. But while Rory’s world may have turned upside down in the last few years, there’s one thing he’s sure of: he’s straight as a die. So he can’t be falling for David . . . can he?

Their friends and family think they know all the answers, and David’s office party hookup has his own plans for romance. Rory and David need to make up their minds and take a stand for what they really want—or their love could be over before it’s even begun.

Another amazing book from JL Merrow! I can always count on this author writing, I have to say it was some time I didn’t open one of her books, so it took me awhile to get into her humor and British words, but when I did, it was a so lovely pleasure to read Spun! and I found myself again in the beautiful village of Shamwell.

In this new installment in the Tales of Shamwell series it was finally time for David to have his HEA, remember when we met him  in Out!? David is still the same, still flamboyant, still flirting with everyone. But he is in need of a new job and a place to live. Thanks to his friend Mark, he will find both of them, the first in helping Mark with his new business, the second in Rory.

Rory is a friend of Mark, he’s straight, divorced with two children and in need of some cash. Here comes the idea of renting a room, but he isn’t ready for the tornado David is. And for the feelings they will develop for each other till they will create a family.

As always the author created great characters, I’m a sucker for stories with children in them, the ones well done, and here the relationship between Rory and his children was real and believable, as the way David was able to create a connection with the two little pests, especially with the quiet Leo. I loved how they fell almost easily into each other lives and became the family all of them were looking for.

Spun! was so cute and well done it was impossible to not like all its characters, most of all because it has all the elements I often look for in a story: slow burn, divorced MC, age gap, children. Mix all these with the British humor and JL Merrow writing, what more could I request?

Highly recommended.

The cover art by Natasha Snow follows the style of the series’ covers, I like it.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 316 pages

Published July 3rd 2017 by Riptide Publishing

ISBN 1626495882 (ISBN13: 9781626495883)

Edition Language English

Series The Shamwell Tales #4

RIPTIDE TOUR & Giveaway: Spun! (The Shamwell Tales #4) by J.L. Merrow

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Spun! (The Shamwell Tales #4) by J.L. Merrow
Riptide Publishing

Cover by: Natasha Snow
Available for Purchase at Riptide Publishing

✒︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host J.L. Merrow here today on her Spun! tour.  Welcome, J.L.

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Hi, I’m JL Merrow, and I’m delighted to be here today as part of the blog tour to celebrate the release of Spun!, the fourth of my contemporary MM romantic comedies in the Shamwell Tales series.

About Spun!

With friends like these . . .

An ill-advised encounter at the office party leaves David Greenlake jobless and homeless in one heady weekend. But he quickly begs work from his ex-boss and takes a room in Shamwell with easygoing postman Rory Deamer. David doesn’t mean to flirt with the recently divorced Rory—just like he doesn’t consciously decide to breathe. After all, Rory’s far too nice for him. And far too straight.

Rory finds his new lodger surprisingly fun to be with, and what’s more, David is a hit with Rory’s troubled children. But while Rory’s world may have turned upside down in the last few years, there’s one thing he’s sure of: he’s straight as a die. So he can’t be falling for David . . . can he?

Their friends and family think they know all the answers, and David’s office party hookup has his own plans for romance. Rory and David need to make up their minds and take a stand for what they really want—or their love could be over before it’s even begun.

Spun! is now available from Riptide Publishing.

About the Shamwell Tales

Welcome to Shamwell! A sleepy rural village in Hertfordshire, England, it’s the perfect place to move to for a little peace and quiet—or at least, you’d think so. But as a succession of newcomers to the village find, there’s more going on in these idyllic surroundings than cricket matches on the common and pints of ale in the local pubs.

As a place where everyone’s connected to everyone else, Shamwell’s rife with mishaps, mayhem, and misunderstandings—and the path of true love is no smoother than the ancient stone walls of the parish church.

Each contemporary romantic comedy in this series stands alone, but all feature a cast of characters drawn from Shamwell and its surroundings.

Check out the Shamwell Tales, available from Riptide Publishing!

About JL Merrow

JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea.  She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.

She writes (mostly) contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour.  Her novel Slam! won the 2013 Rainbow Award for Best LGBT Romantic Comedy, and several of her books have been EPIC Awards finalists, including Muscling Through, Relief Valve (the Plumber’s Mate Mysteries) and To Love a Traitor.

JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.

Connect with JL:

Website: www.jlmerrow.com

Twitter: @jlmerrow

Facebook: facebook.com/jl.merrow

Goodreads: goodreads.com/.J_L_Merrow

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Spun!, one lucky winner will receive a $20 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 8, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

A Stella Review: Out! (The Shamwell Tales #3) by J.L. Merrow

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RATING 4,5 out of 5 stars

Out!When the costs are added up, will love land in the black?

Mark Nugent has spent his life in the closet—at least, the small part of it he hasn’t spent in the office. Divorced when he could no longer deny his sexuality, he’s sworn off his workaholic ways and moved to Shamwell with his headstrong teen daughter to give her a stable home environment.

His resolve to put his love life on hold is severely tested when he joins a local organization and meets a lively yet intense young man who tempts him closer to the closet threshold.

Patrick Owen is an out-and-proud charity worker with strong principles—and a newly discovered weakness for an older man. One snag: Mark is adamant he’s not coming out to his daughter, and Patrick will be damned if he’s going to start a relationship with a lie.

Between Mark’s old-fashioned attitudes and a camp, flirtatious ex-colleague who wants Mark for himself, Patrick wonders if they’ll ever be on the same romantic page. And when Mark’s former career as a tax advisor clashes with Patrick’s social conscience, it could be the one stumbling block they can’t get past.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have another winner from the amazing JL Merrow! She is one of my favorite authors and The Shamwell Tales series is really great. Out! was a great addition to an already well done series. It was engaging and English like all JL’s works.

Out! was a light story, there was really nothing too heavy, making it perfect for a pleasurable reading time. As always the characters were all well defined and enjoyable, but it’s probably the first time with this author, I have to admit that I liked the secondary characters, Lex and David especially, more than Mark and Patrick.  In fact I’d like to beg JL to please, pretty please, write Lex’s story. They deserve it.

What I particularly appreciate in Out! is that I felt everything about the story was real and authentic, in Mark’s struggles with his teenage daughter Fen, in the development of his relationship with Patrick and in their different points of view of important things. The funny dialogues often reflected the ones I have in my RL, so it was easy to empathize with their lives and everyday issues.

I want to highly recommend this story and the whole series, it’s fun, light and easy. Don’t miss it!

Just a note: all books can be read as a standalone.

The COVER ART by Kanaxa is not my favorite of the artist and in the Merrow’s series. Most of all I can’t see my MCs in the model on the cover. But it’s clearly well done.

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

Book Details:

ebook, 322 pages
Published January 19th 2016 by Samhain Publishing
Original TitleOut!
ISBN 1619229935 (ISBN13: 9781619229938)
Edition LanguageEnglish

The Shamwell Tales series – with links to Stella’s reviews:

A Stella Review: Played! (The Shamwell Tales #2) by J.L. Merrow

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Rating 5 stars out of 5

Played coverTristan’s in Shamwell for one last summer of freedom before he joins the family firm in New York—no more farting around on stage, as his father puts it. But the classically trained actor can’t resist when members of the local amateur dramatics society beg him to take a role in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Especially as he’ll also be giving private acting lessons to gorgeous local handyman, Con, who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances. Tristan’s determined to get Con in his bed—not only is the man delicious, there’s fifty pounds riding on Tristan’s success after a bet made with his drama school chum Amanda.

Con’s never dared to act before. A late-diagnosed dyslexic who had a hard time at school, he’s always been convinced he’d never be able to learn his lines—but with Tristan helping him, he might just be in with a chance. Trouble is, the last time Con fell for a guy, he ended up getting his heart broken, and with Tristan due to leave the country in a matter of months, Con’s determined not to give in and start anything that’s bound to finish badly.

Just as Tristan thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes. And the curtain may have fallen forever on their chance of happiness.

Warning: contains a surfeit of Bottoms and asses, together with enough mangled quotations to have the Bard of Avon gyrating in his grave.

 

“Hello. I perused your advertisement in our local emporium. All—”

“You what?”

“I read your card in Tesco,” Tristan clarified with a sigh. Some people had no appreciation for the beauties of the English language. “All household job’s—I assume the apostrophe was ironic?—done, reasonable rates.”

“Er, yeah.” The man on the other end of the phone sounded somewhat nonplussed, possibly due to the way Tristan had stressed the “ibble” at the end of reasonable. “What’s the problem?”

“Biblical.”

“What?”

“I have a plague of frogs.”[…] “A frog,” the handyman was saying. There was another pause. “So technically, yeah, that’s a plague of frog. One of ’em.”

“Semantics. The plural, in this case, may be taken to include the singular.”

“Right… Look, I think you want pest control, anyhow.”

“Finally we reach agreement. So how soon can you be here?”

This is where I fell in love with Tristan. He was amazing, hilarious. I loved how Tristan talked.

Let’s start my review saying I read Played!, which is the second book in the Shamwell Tales series by JL Merrow, without having read Caught!, the first one, and I can assure you I didn’t miss anything, it just increased my curiosity about Caught!  Having different main characters, it isn’t exactly a sequel. So if you are interested just in Tristan and Con’s story, you can totally buy it. You won’t regret it.

Tristan has just moved to Shamwell where he is going to spend the the “last summer of freedom”. He is trading is biggest passion for acting with a boring (and hated) career at a desk job, working for his father’s firm in NY, a father who has never supported him in his dream of acting. No one ever supported him in his dreams, apart from his dear grandmother (Nana Geary). She’s just passed away and left him her house. So he’s planning to spend the summer in Shamwell to dispose Nana’s things before starting his new and boring life.

He meets Con when he called for help after a plague of frogs (it was really just one frog!).

Con works as an handyman with Sean (MC in Caught!). He moved to Shamwell where he met Geary the time he went to do some home repairs to her. She took him in and treated him like the mother Con’s has never been.

The first meeting with Tristan doesn’t go well. Tristan is funny but a prick, he’s used to having what he wants, he speaks perfectly and can’t stop himself in correcting the people who don’t. Con can’t stand Tristan. But nobody has ever turned Tristan down, Con is the first one, because he is not looking for just some fun, he needs something real and not casual.

When a new actor is needed for the role of Bottom in the Midsummer Night’s Dream production by the local theater, it  will take Tristan to convince Con to join the play and to help him with his dyslexia.  Con starts to overcome his fears and most of all to see who is the real Tristan hiding behind the snobby one.

There is a great cast of second characters, starting from Heather, Con’s friend. Some seem snobby as Tristan, others simple and sweet and caring as Con. They have some kickass friends.

Shortly JL Merrow did it again. She gave me another favorite book which is going to join the beautiful Muscling Through. The amazing Tristan will stay in my heart as Al did. I found this book fascinated. As I think I already said I love how the author puts words together in this so British way she has. She delivered a funny and light story, with a plot and great characters, a Tristan full of doubts and fears on his future. Sometime sure convinced that working for his dad will help him mature and become more responsible, other times that theater was just for fun. The relationship with Con will help him grow up so much at the end of the book, I (and Con) couldn’t love him more.

Moreover I can add I’m not a huge fan of slow burn and with almost no sex stories, I like my men to start loving each other pretty quickly in the book I’m reading and rather only a few times, otherwise I bore easily. Well in Played! I had no time to be bored. There was no dead moment, every sentence was full of humor, I laughed so much at Tristan.

Played! was an absolute winner, really really good. I don’t even know what to say to recommend you to buy it. I loved it so much.

Cover art by Kanaxa. You know, I can’t explain why, cause honestly there is nothing special about it, but I really like it.

Sales Links:  Samhain PublishingAll Romance (ARe)Amazon  Buy It Here

Book Details:

Published January 30th 2015 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Kindle Edition
ASIN B00U3M60TU
Edition language English
The Shamwell Tales series
Caught! #1
Played! #2

A Stella Review: Caught! (The Shamwell Tales #1) by J.L. Merrow

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

You can run from the past…but the past runs faster.

Shamwell Tales, Book 1

Caught coverBehind Robert’s cheerfully eccentric exterior lies a young heart battered and bruised by his past. He’s taken a job teaching in a village primary school to make a fresh start, and love isn’t part of his plans. But he’s knocked for six—literally—by a chance encounter with the uncle of two of his pupils.

Sean works in pest control, rides a motorbike, and lives on a council estate. On the face of it, he shouldn’t have anything in common with Robert’s bow-tie, classic-car style and posh family background. Yet Robert is helpless to resist Sean’s roguish grin, and a rocky, excruciatingly embarrassing start doesn’t keep the sparks between them from flaring.

Despite Robert’s increasingly ludicrous attempts to keep his past where it belongs, his past hasn’t read the memo. And soon his secrets could be the very things that drive Sean away for good…

Warning: Contains the alarming misadventures of a pest control technician, a stepsister with a truly unfortunate name, and a young man who may have more bow ties than sense.

Okay, confession time for me: I had with JL Merrow a love/hate relationship until last month (of course she didn’t know about it LOL). This amazing author wrote one of the first mm books I read back when I became obsessed with men loving men. The book is called Muscling Through and it still is one of my fave re-read. I fell in love with it and with the great way JL have to put words together. This love brought me to Hard Tail and there, it started my hate. I realized she was too “British” to my poor English. Sure it was my fault but I had to leave it behind and hated it. Three years later here I am, I came back to her, cause I honestly couldn’t resist The Shamwell Tales series anymore. I read it out of order, first Played! and then this one, Caught!

So far I read four of her books and I don’t want to stop! We can discuss about plots, characters, etc, but the feeling I have is the same in every book: satisfaction. That’s the word I have in mind when I think of her works.

Caught! was another winner to me. The story was definitely light, with a lot of humor and some incredible second characters, especially I’m thinking about Rob’s best friend, Rose, who was my favourite one, sometimes I liked her more that Robert himself. She acted exactly as I hope my friend should be: true in her harsh words, cheering and so much funny.

You know, I’m not usually a huge fan of stories based on misunderstanding and miscommunication, but in this case the story flowed so well I wasn’t bothered from the lacking of clarity, most of all because I really couldn’t blame Robert for being scared to share his past. It was so destructive enough for him to bring him to transfer in the new village of Shamwell. It made him more insecure in his love life and when he meets Sean, he is soon worried to not be enough for the bisexual man.

What about the pest control technician? Well first of all I have a thing for red hair, so I was a goner for Sean from the start. And for the little twins too, cute as much as trouble makers. Sean is a really good person, loyal in his love and so caring versus his sick sister, he lives with her to helping with his twin nephews. I loved how he was with Robert, so open and understanding with the formal teacher and so in love with his bow ties.

“I haven’t got any condoms!” I blurted out. Mortified, I clapped a hand over my mouth. I could almost feel the breeze of the stable door slamming shut as the horse flicked its tail in contempt and cantered merrily down the street.

Sean was laughing at me. “Okay, unexpected but to the point. I like that in a bloke.”

Oh God. “I mean, I thought… Just in case we… Not that I was making any presumptions, that would be, um, presumptuous. And I wouldn’t want to, well, presume…”

A rough-skinned hand stroked my face. It was blessedly cool against my heated skin. “Got it. No presuming. Wouldn’t dream of it. You know. Presuming you’d presumed.”

“You must think I’m utterly ridiculous.”

He laughed again. “Well, I wouldn’t say utterly.”

The story is full of funny moments, some cute and some unbelievable too. It was a light read but there were a lot of things going on at the same times (I don’t want to spoiler), which didn’t make the book confusing, just more relevant, poignant.
Of course I still had to use Google for a couple of things sometimes but it was so worth it. My relationship with JL is just a love story now!

Cover art by Kanaxa. I simply love this cover! It’s exactly how I imagined Robert, his expression, his clothes. Well done.

Sales Links:  Samhain PublishingAll Romance (ARe)Amazon Buy It Here

BOOK DETAILS

Published August 19th 2014 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Kindle Edition, 276 pages
ASIN B00K1WUBG0
Edition language English

The Shamwell Tales series
Caught! #1
Played! #2