A Lucy Review: Seeking Solace (The Walker Boys #3) by Ari McKay

Standard

Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Like his cousins, Devin Walker aspires to be a chef, but he wants to indulge his wanderlust while feeding his customers, and working a cruise ship seems like the solution. Since he can’t find an opening in the kitchen, he’s happy to start out in a position behind the bar.

While onboard Poseidon’s Pearl, Devin is assigned to shepherd a visiting executive. Paul Bailey is quiet and unassuming, and the car accident that cost him his leg also shattered his confidence. He doesn’t think he’s attractive to other men anymore, and Devin is eager to show him just how wrong he is. Paul has a surprising secret that might sink their passionate affair before it even leaves port.

I loved the idea of a cruise ship romance, even more that it wasn’t a passenger type thing but workers.  Add in that Devin wants to be a chef and I thought this is a total win for me.  Devin comes from a super close knit, large family who support each other unconditionally.  That was another win for me.  Paul’s family, though wealthy, doesn’t seem quite as close. 

Paul is on board to check out the workings of the ship but he is there with a secret.  One that really doesn’t affect much unless you start hanging out with and falling for the bartender who is assigned to be your ship liason.   They both have baggage, Paul’s in the shape of an ex-boyfriend who after Paul lost his leg in an accident dumped him and assumed they would no longer be able to do the physical, outdoor things they had always done; Devin’s in the form of an ex-boyfriend who was using him as a way to upset his conservative parents.

The two bond over getting to know the ship’s crew and workings.  Devin shows Paul how to chill out a little and enjoy life and in the process begins to fall for him.  It was a little odd to read how much time off Devin got.  With a relative who worked the cruise ships who always talked about how little time was their own, this was a little bit of a shock.

I felt like they got to know each other, even though the secret was in the way.  It was insta-love to be sure, as the whole thing happens over the course of a two-week cruise.  The final reveal of the secret is a little bit of a let down.  There is no angst here, despite the baggage they each have, and they are pretty well adjusted.  Paul gets over his insecurity about his  missing leg and scars fairly easily as well.

A very weird thing was as I was reading about Beau Walker and Jake Parnell, Devin’s cousin and his husband, I kept thinking how much I would like to read their story.  It wasn’t until I looked it up to add to my list that I realized I already read it! 

There is a moment in Jamaica with a pair of shorts, when Devin realizes that he is really falling for Paul, that totally made my heart melt.  It was my favorite moment of the book.

Cover art:  Alexandria Corza.  Has the moon and ship as the backdrop and Paul as the center model.  If that is supposed to be Devlin, a total miss of the mark.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Dreamspinner

Book Details:

ebook, 206 pages
Published November 6th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781640805231
Series The Walker Boys

Striking Sparks

Breaking Bonds

Seeking Solace

Review Tour – Seeking Solace (The Walker Boys #3) by Ari McKay (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

 

 
Length: 55,188 words
 
Cover Design: Alexandria Corza
 
 
Walker Boys Series
 
Book #1 – Striking Sparks – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Breaking Bonds – Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Blurb
 

All hands on deck for a shipboard romance—with a secret.


Like his cousins, Devin Walker aspires to be a chef, but he wants to indulge his wanderlust while feeding his customers, and working a cruise ship seems like the solution. Since he can’t find an opening in the kitchen, he’s happy to start out in a position behind the bar.


While onboard Poseidon’s Pearl, Devin is assigned to shepherd a visiting executive. Paul Bailey is quiet and unassuming, and a car accident that cost him his leg also shattered his confidence. He doesn’t think he’s attractive to other men anymore, and Devin is eager to show him just how wrong he is. Paul has a surprising secret that might sink their passionate affair before it even leaves port.

 

Excerpt
 
PAUL MERCER stood in front of the full-length mirror mounted on the closet door and checked his tailor-made navy suit for lint or wrinkles before he left his cabin, which was more like a small hotel room than he’d expected. But Triton Cruises prided itself on being one of the more upscale cruise lines, and Poseidon’s Pearl was one of their top ships.


The suite was luxurious enough that Paul could have spent the entire trip inside, maybe reading on the private deck, which was big enough for two lounge chairs with a small table between them. But Paul wasn’t on vacation.


He’d been sent by his father, who was the CEO of Triton Cruises, to assess the ship and its crew and to report on whether the crew was adhering to company standards. To do so, he was posing as Paul Bailey, a new executive with the company who needed to learn about the cruise line. He was using his mother’s maiden name to help avoid anyone making a connection between him and the company’s founding family.


He glanced down at his pants, which were loose enough to hide the fact that he wore a prosthetic on his left leg below the knee. He’d covered the prosthetic foot with a shoe, and looking down at his dress shoes made him feel almost normal again. He had a slight limp, especially at the end of the day when he was tired, but most people were tactful enough not to ask about it, if they even noticed.


The other reason Paul had been sent was because he’d never been on a Triton cruise before. Hell, he’d never been on any cruise before. The cruise line was strictly eighteen-plus so Paul was never allowed to go with his parents when they took their annual trip while he was growing up. Then he’d gone away to college, and after graduation he went straight into grad school for his MBA. After that, he’d started working his way up the ladder at Triton and hadn’t taken much time off except for a few long weekends here and there. Then the accident happened. So the trip was a way for him to experience a Triton cruise from their guests’ perspective. It was also the last trip Paul would take anywhere in a while. Andrew Mercer was ready to retire, and he had put Paul on a fast track to taking over after Paul finished rehab and was cleared to return to work.


Focusing on his reflection, Paul smoothed his hand over his dark brown hair, which was cut short and neatly styled, its natural wave tamed with product. It was too early to go to the dining room, so Paul decided to visit the bar for a while instead.


While most cruise lines these days seemed intent on going the megaship route—huge vessels that could accommodate almost seven thousand passengers—Triton catered to a different clientele. Ships like Poseidon’s Pearl and her sisters carried a maximum of nine hundred passengers, with a crew of nearly six hundred, and every stateroom on the ship boasted a private balcony. The decor in the common areas was just as posh as it was in Paul’s cabin. As he left his cabin on Deck 7, it was only a short walk to the Seafarer’s Lounge.


He heard soft piano music—live, not recorded—as he entered the two-story lounge, which was set in the fore of the ship. It had glass windows from floor to ceiling on three sides that offered a magnificent, panoramic view of the Gulf of Mexico and the serenely blue sky above. The room was large, with stairways on the port and starboard sides giving access to the second level. Small clusters of loveseats and chairs were set around low tables, allowing for intimate groups to engage in conversation, while the rear of the room was lined in bookcases housing the ship’s library, which was large enough to cater to almost any taste. The plush carpet underfoot was patterned in tones of deep blue and gold, which set off the cream of the upholstery.


In the center of the room was a semicircular bar topped with polished mahogany, surrounded by comfortable high seats. As with everywhere else on the ship, the trademark of the line—a three-pronged triton—was subtly worked into the decor, such as the patterns of tile fronting the bar and the fabric covering the seats. There were no more than twenty or so people in the bar, broken into groupings around the room. Everyone was well-dressed, and conversations were muted, giving the room a relaxed and welcoming feeling.


As Paul approached the bar, he caught sight of the bartender, who was tall with broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist emphasized by his tailored uniform vest. He had high cheekbones, a square jawline that looked sharp enough to cut paper, and skin with a rich copper glow that seemed to result from a combination of genetics and sunshine. His dark, thickly lashed eyes were crinkled at the corners as he flashed a dazzlingly white smile and handed an olive-garnished martini to his customer. His midnight-black hair was pulled back from his face and hung in a thick braid that reached all the way to his waist.


As soon as the bartender had scanned the customer’s cruise card and returned it, he turned to Paul, who had claimed a seat at the end of the bar, and Paul got the full effect of his smile. “Good afternoon, sir. I’m Devin. How can I make your day even better?”


The intense charisma behind that smile made Paul almost believe Devin meant the greeting for him alone, but he sternly reminded himself that the ship employees were supposed to say such things to all the customers.


“I’d like a glass of Malbec, please,” he said.


“Excellent choice,” Devin replied. He retrieved a bottle from the wine rack, and after uncorking the wine, he placed a crystal wineglass on the bar, then held an aerator over it as he poured a stream of the rich, dark wine from the bottle through it, making a bit of a show of the process. Then he set the bottle and aerator aside, placed a gilt-edged paper napkin in front of Paul, and served the glass of wine.


“Thanks.” Paul picked up the glass and took a sip, and he was pleased by the quality of the wine.


After cleaning up and recorking the bottle, Devin returned to Paul, favoring him with another smile. “How do you like it? Triton prides itself on the quality of the wines it serves, even the ones they use in the kitchen.”


Good to know, Paul thought, making a mental note for his report. “It’s good, thanks.”


Devin glanced around the nearly empty lounge, but he must not have seen anything that needed his attention, since his gaze returned to Paul. He tilted his head to one side, looking at Paul with a slightly puzzled expression. “If I may ask, sir, have you cruised with us before? You look familiar.”


Paul smiled as blandly as possible and shook his head. Full-sized portraits of Andrew Mercer and Abraham Mercer—Paul’s grandfather and the founder of Triton Cruises—hung in the atrium, so Paul wasn’t surprised one of the employees had picked up on the family resemblance.


“No, this is my first cruise,” he said, assuaging the slight pang he felt over deceiving the crew with the fact he was telling Devin the truth.


“All right, then. I’m very good with faces, and I’m sure I would have remembered you.” Devin grinned. “Especially since you’re almost as tall as I am.”


“Almost?” Paul raised one eyebrow. “I’d say we’re about even.”


“I’m six-foot-five,” Devin said. “In the lower areas of the ship, I have to be careful not to smack my head on the conduits.”


“Then we are in fact even,” Paul said. “I was in high demand for basketball teams all through school.”


Devin chuckled. “If that Charleston accent hadn’t already told me you weren’t from Texas, the basketball comment would have. I was in demand too, but as a wide receiver.”


“I’ve heard rumors that football is the state religion of Texas, but I’ve never played it myself,” Paul said, taking a sip of his wine. “I was on the varsity basketball team in high school, and I played intramural in college.”


“Nice,” Devin said. “I played in high school, then was offered a scholarship to Texas A&M, but football was never more than a hobby. I wanted to go to culinary school, and they don’t have football teams.” He lowered his voice. “Although we often played badminton with food that didn’t turn out very well. It’s amazing how much overdone chicken Kiev resembles a hockey puck.”


Paul chuckled. “How did you go from culinary school to tending bar on a cruise ship? Have you worked here long?”


“Six months, and it was a matter of opportunity,” Devin said. “My best friend and I took a cruise after… well, after I went through a bad breakup, and it was just what I needed. I fell in love with the ship, and the sea, and the travel. I’d never even been out of Texas before, and the travel bug bit me hard. I did some research, and Triton is far and away the best cruise line to work for. They have people lining up for jobs, and it took me almost two years to get my foot in the door, and then it was because I’d also trained in bartending. Of course I hope to work in the kitchen someday, but when they offered me a position I jumped on it, and I haven’t regretted it for a second.” Devin’s smile was rueful. “I hope I haven’t bored you to death.”


“Not at all.” Paul thought it was helpful for the staff to be friendly, especially on longer cruises like this one. It would promote the family atmosphere that Triton Cruises wanted to cultivate. “I don’t want to monopolize your time, though.”


Devin glanced around the nearly empty lounge. “It’ll be slow in here until after dinner,” he said. “The action right now is up by the pool. But once the sun goes down, everyone will come into the Seafarer to socialize and listen to the cruise director’s talk about our ports of call.”


“I should probably come back for that,” Paul said. “I don’t know much about the ports we’re visiting, and I don’t want to wander off without a plan.”


“There are some great shore excursions,” Devin said, his brown eyes shining with interest. “They have some for people who like to be physically active, like diving trips and hiking tours, and some for people who prefer to relax on the beach and play in the waves. They also have activities for people who want to experience the culture of the various islands. And if you’d prefer to be on your own, they’ll have maps to help you out.”


“Sounds like I shouldn’t have any problem finding something fun to do.”


“I’m sure you’ll have a great time,” Devin said. “If I may make a suggestion, there’s something you can do tonight. Just before midnight, go up on Deck 9. They have an open area to do outdoor yoga. The captain always turns off all the extra lights on the ship for several minutes, and we’ll be well away from land by then. You’ll be able to see more stars than you ever thought the sky could hold. It’s beautiful and humbling at the same time.”


“If I’m still awake, I’ll check it out.” Paul glanced at his watch, then slid off the bar stool, taking his wineglass with him. “I should probably head to the dining room.”


“Be prepared for a real treat,” Devin said. “I recommend the beef Wellington, and the triple chocolate torte with Chambord for dessert. Although you won’t go wrong with any of the selections. The food on the Pearl is fantastic.”


“You had me at triple chocolate,” Paul said, lifting his glass to Devin. Then he headed out of the lounge. He wanted to get there in time to take a few notes about what he had observed so far before dinner, but if the rest of the ship had the same kind of staff and atmosphere as the lounge, his assessment would be a glowing one.

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.


Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.


McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.


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Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words review for Seeking Solace here

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Seeking Solace (The Walker Boys 3) by Ari McKay

Standard

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

 

All hands on deck for a shipboard romance—with a secret. 

Like his cousins, Devin Walker aspires to be a chef, but he wants to indulge his wanderlust while feeding his customers, and working a cruise ship seems like the solution. Since he can’t find an opening in the kitchen, he’s happy to start out in a position behind the bar.

While onboard Poseidon’s Pearl, Devin is assigned to shepherd a visiting executive. Paul Bailey is quiet and unassuming, and the car accident that cost him his leg also shattered his confidence. He doesn’t think he’s attractive to other men anymore, and Devin is eager to show him just how wrong he is. Paul has a surprising secret that might sink their passionate affair before it even leaves port.

The Walker Boys series by Ari McKay all center around main characters that are or have aspirations to be chefs with their own restaurants. Seeking Solace (The Walker Boys 3) by Ari McKay falls into the latter category.  Devin Walker, of the enormous Texas Walker clan, has been working on board the Triton line cruise ship learning the kitchen and “the ropes”, waiting for the chance to move up into the role of chef.  It’s a job he loves, even though he wants it to be temporary in the long run with his goal of opening his own restaurant, just as a trained chef would.

Everything is going according to plan, until he is assigned the role of liaison to a visiting executive who needs to learn more about the Triton cruise business from the bottom to the top, never realizing who the man is that he’s showing around.

So, yes.  It’s the false identity trope but it works here.  I mean haven’t you all seen Undercover Boss on tv?  Not that far fetched an idea anymore. The addition of Paul working through his acceptance of his disability, the worries over his appearance (scars and prosthetic) felt authentic and grounded this romance in a definite reality as opposed to a sheltered cruitse glow. I liked that the author(s) gave the readers a believable “behind the scenes” feel to the cruise line and it’s workings.  I enjoyed that and the staff.

The chemistry between Devlin and Paul was hot, sweet, and lovely to read.  I delighted in their romance and the cruise in general.  Plus don’t get me started on the food here.  I felt as though I was going to gain weight just through reading some of the detailed, vivid descriptions of the drinks and drool worthy  menu items alone!  Really mouth watering  and scrumptious!

The cruise takes place over two weeks so the attraction/instant love element is a bit of a stretch for me.  The physical attraction and like?  Absolutely.  Love?  On the road to, yes.  Which is why I enjoyed the HFN ending that McKay left the couple at.  That felt more honest with one exception involving the ship.  Won’t go there, spoiler territory.  I just thought it was unlikely that Devlin would have done that given his working relationship there.

The Walkers Boys and their search for HEA or in this case HFN is a fun series for people who love sweet contemporary romance with a mixture of food and travel.  From Texas to North Carolina and New York (Breaking Bonds) to cruising and back to Texas, this series has a little something for everyone.  They work well as standalone stories but are fun read together as well.

Cover art:  Alexandria Corza.  Has the moon and ship as the backdrop and Paul as the center model.  If that is supposed to be Devlin, a total miss of the mark.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Dreamspinner

Book Details:

ebook, 206 pages
Published November 6th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781640805231
Series The Walker Boys

Striking Sparks

Breaking Bonds

Seeking Solace

Release Blitz for Seeking Solace (The Walker Boys #3) by Ari McKay (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

 

 
Length: 55,188 words
 
Cover Design: Alexandria Corza
 
 
Walker Boys Series
 
Book #1 – Striking Sparks – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Breaking Bonds – Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Blurb
 

All hands on deck for a shipboard romance—with a secret.


Like his cousins, Devin Walker aspires to be a chef, but he wants to indulge his wanderlust while feeding his customers, and working a cruise ship seems like the solution. Since he can’t find an opening in the kitchen, he’s happy to start out in a position behind the bar.


While onboard Poseidon’s Pearl, Devin is assigned to shepherd a visiting executive. Paul Bailey is quiet and unassuming, and a car accident that cost him his leg also shattered his confidence. He doesn’t think he’s attractive to other men anymore, and Devin is eager to show him just how wrong he is. Paul has a surprising secret that might sink their passionate affair before it even leaves port.

 
Excerpt
 
PAUL MERCER stood in front of the full-length mirror mounted on the closet door and checked his tailor-made navy suit for lint or wrinkles before he left his cabin, which was more like a small hotel room than he’d expected. But Triton Cruises prided itself on being one of the more upscale cruise lines, and Poseidon’s Pearl was one of their top ships.


The suite was luxurious enough that Paul could have spent the entire trip inside, maybe reading on the private deck, which was big enough for two lounge chairs with a small table between them. But Paul wasn’t on vacation.


He’d been sent by his father, who was the CEO of Triton Cruises, to assess the ship and its crew and to report on whether the crew was adhering to company standards. To do so, he was posing as Paul Bailey, a new executive with the company who needed to learn about the cruise line. He was using his mother’s maiden name to help avoid anyone making a connection between him and the company’s founding family.


He glanced down at his pants, which were loose enough to hide the fact that he wore a prosthetic on his left leg below the knee. He’d covered the prosthetic foot with a shoe, and looking down at his dress shoes made him feel almost normal again. He had a slight limp, especially at the end of the day when he was tired, but most people were tactful enough not to ask about it, if they even noticed.


The other reason Paul had been sent was because he’d never been on a Triton cruise before. Hell, he’d never been on any cruise before. The cruise line was strictly eighteen-plus so Paul was never allowed to go with his parents when they took their annual trip while he was growing up. Then he’d gone away to college, and after graduation he went straight into grad school for his MBA. After that, he’d started working his way up the ladder at Triton and hadn’t taken much time off except for a few long weekends here and there. Then the accident happened. So the trip was a way for him to experience a Triton cruise from their guests’ perspective. It was also the last trip Paul would take anywhere in a while. Andrew Mercer was ready to retire, and he had put Paul on a fast track to taking over after Paul finished rehab and was cleared to return to work.


Focusing on his reflection, Paul smoothed his hand over his dark brown hair, which was cut short and neatly styled, its natural wave tamed with product. It was too early to go to the dining room, so Paul decided to visit the bar for a while instead.


While most cruise lines these days seemed intent on going the megaship route—huge vessels that could accommodate almost seven thousand passengers—Triton catered to a different clientele. Ships like Poseidon’s Pearl and her sisters carried a maximum of nine hundred passengers, with a crew of nearly six hundred, and every stateroom on the ship boasted a private balcony. The decor in the common areas was just as posh as it was in Paul’s cabin. As he left his cabin on Deck 7, it was only a short walk to the Seafarer’s Lounge.


He heard soft piano music—live, not recorded—as he entered the two-story lounge, which was set in the fore of the ship. It had glass windows from floor to ceiling on three sides that offered a magnificent, panoramic view of the Gulf of Mexico and the serenely blue sky above. The room was large, with stairways on the port and starboard sides giving access to the second level. Small clusters of loveseats and chairs were set around low tables, allowing for intimate groups to engage in conversation, while the rear of the room was lined in bookcases housing the ship’s library, which was large enough to cater to almost any taste. The plush carpet underfoot was patterned in tones of deep blue and gold, which set off the cream of the upholstery.


In the center of the room was a semicircular bar topped with polished mahogany, surrounded by comfortable high seats. As with everywhere else on the ship, the trademark of the line—a three-pronged triton—was subtly worked into the decor, such as the patterns of tile fronting the bar and the fabric covering the seats. There were no more than twenty or so people in the bar, broken into groupings around the room. Everyone was well-dressed, and conversations were muted, giving the room a relaxed and welcoming feeling.


As Paul approached the bar, he caught sight of the bartender, who was tall with broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist emphasized by his tailored uniform vest. He had high cheekbones, a square jawline that looked sharp enough to cut paper, and skin with a rich copper glow that seemed to result from a combination of genetics and sunshine. His dark, thickly lashed eyes were crinkled at the corners as he flashed a dazzlingly white smile and handed an olive-garnished martini to his customer. His midnight-black hair was pulled back from his face and hung in a thick braid that reached all the way to his waist.


As soon as the bartender had scanned the customer’s cruise card and returned it, he turned to Paul, who had claimed a seat at the end of the bar, and Paul got the full effect of his smile. “Good afternoon, sir. I’m Devin. How can I make your day even better?”


The intense charisma behind that smile made Paul almost believe Devin meant the greeting for him alone, but he sternly reminded himself that the ship employees were supposed to say such things to all the customers.


“I’d like a glass of Malbec, please,” he said.


“Excellent choice,” Devin replied. He retrieved a bottle from the wine rack, and after uncorking the wine, he placed a crystal wineglass on the bar, then held an aerator over it as he poured a stream of the rich, dark wine from the bottle through it, making a bit of a show of the process. Then he set the bottle and aerator aside, placed a gilt-edged paper napkin in front of Paul, and served the glass of wine.


“Thanks.” Paul picked up the glass and took a sip, and he was pleased by the quality of the wine.


After cleaning up and recorking the bottle, Devin returned to Paul, favoring him with another smile. “How do you like it? Triton prides itself on the quality of the wines it serves, even the ones they use in the kitchen.”


Good to know, Paul thought, making a mental note for his report. “It’s good, thanks.”


Devin glanced around the nearly empty lounge, but he must not have seen anything that needed his attention, since his gaze returned to Paul. He tilted his head to one side, looking at Paul with a slightly puzzled expression. “If I may ask, sir, have you cruised with us before? You look familiar.”


Paul smiled as blandly as possible and shook his head. Full-sized portraits of Andrew Mercer and Abraham Mercer—Paul’s grandfather and the founder of Triton Cruises—hung in the atrium, so Paul wasn’t surprised one of the employees had picked up on the family resemblance.


“No, this is my first cruise,” he said, assuaging the slight pang he felt over deceiving the crew with the fact he was telling Devin the truth.


“All right, then. I’m very good with faces, and I’m sure I would have remembered you.” Devin grinned. “Especially since you’re almost as tall as I am.”


“Almost?” Paul raised one eyebrow. “I’d say we’re about even.”


“I’m six-foot-five,” Devin said. “In the lower areas of the ship, I have to be careful not to smack my head on the conduits.”


“Then we are in fact even,” Paul said. “I was in high demand for basketball teams all through school.”


Devin chuckled. “If that Charleston accent hadn’t already told me you weren’t from Texas, the basketball comment would have. I was in demand too, but as a wide receiver.”


“I’ve heard rumors that football is the state religion of Texas, but I’ve never played it myself,” Paul said, taking a sip of his wine. “I was on the varsity basketball team in high school, and I played intramural in college.”


“Nice,” Devin said. “I played in high school, then was offered a scholarship to Texas A&M, but football was never more than a hobby. I wanted to go to culinary school, and they don’t have football teams.” He lowered his voice. “Although we often played badminton with food that didn’t turn out very well. It’s amazing how much overdone chicken Kiev resembles a hockey puck.”


Paul chuckled. “How did you go from culinary school to tending bar on a cruise ship? Have you worked here long?”


“Six months, and it was a matter of opportunity,” Devin said. “My best friend and I took a cruise after… well, after I went through a bad breakup, and it was just what I needed. I fell in love with the ship, and the sea, and the travel. I’d never even been out of Texas before, and the travel bug bit me hard. I did some research, and Triton is far and away the best cruise line to work for. They have people lining up for jobs, and it took me almost two years to get my foot in the door, and then it was because I’d also trained in bartending. Of course I hope to work in the kitchen someday, but when they offered me a position I jumped on it, and I haven’t regretted it for a second.” Devin’s smile was rueful. “I hope I haven’t bored you to death.”


“Not at all.” Paul thought it was helpful for the staff to be friendly, especially on longer cruises like this one. It would promote the family atmosphere that Triton Cruises wanted to cultivate. “I don’t want to monopolize your time, though.”


Devin glanced around the nearly empty lounge. “It’ll be slow in here until after dinner,” he said. “The action right now is up by the pool. But once the sun goes down, everyone will come into the Seafarer to socialize and listen to the cruise director’s talk about our ports of call.”


“I should probably come back for that,” Paul said. “I don’t know much about the ports we’re visiting, and I don’t want to wander off without a plan.”


“There are some great shore excursions,” Devin said, his brown eyes shining with interest. “They have some for people who like to be physically active, like diving trips and hiking tours, and some for people who prefer to relax on the beach and play in the waves. They also have activities for people who want to experience the culture of the various islands. And if you’d prefer to be on your own, they’ll have maps to help you out.”


“Sounds like I shouldn’t have any problem finding something fun to do.”


“I’m sure you’ll have a great time,” Devin said. “If I may make a suggestion, there’s something you can do tonight. Just before midnight, go up on Deck 9. They have an open area to do outdoor yoga. The captain always turns off all the extra lights on the ship for several minutes, and we’ll be well away from land by then. You’ll be able to see more stars than you ever thought the sky could hold. It’s beautiful and humbling at the same time.”


“If I’m still awake, I’ll check it out.” Paul glanced at his watch, then slid off the bar stool, taking his wineglass with him. “I should probably head to the dining room.”


“Be prepared for a real treat,” Devin said. “I recommend the beef Wellington, and the triple chocolate torte with Chambord for dessert. Although you won’t go wrong with any of the selections. The food on the Pearl is fantastic.”


“You had me at triple chocolate,” Paul said, lifting his glass to Devin. Then he headed out of the lounge. He wanted to get there in time to take a few notes about what he had observed so far before dinner, but if the rest of the ship had the same kind of staff and atmosphere as the lounge, his assessment would be a glowing one.

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.


Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.


McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.


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A MelanieM Release Day Review: Breaking Bonds (The Walker Boys 2) by Ari McKay

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

From the frying pan into the fire.

After a critic’s review attacks both Chef Liam Walker’s culinary skills and his personal life, Liam can no longer take the heat of the cutthroat New York City restaurant scene. He needs to get out of the kitchen—at least long enough to cool down and regroup.

At the Overlook Resort in North Carolina, Liam meets owner Carter Galloway. Carter has a passion for the hospitality business to rival Liam’s own, and it’s not hard to see where their shared interests—and attraction—could lead. But Carter has no interest in a fling, and Liam has no intention of walking away from the career he fought so hard for. If they want a taste of happiness together, they’ll have to find the courage to break the bonds threatening to pull them apart.

Breaking Bonds by Ari McKay is the second in The Walker Boys series and my favorite so far.  For me, Breaking Bonds has everything the first one, Striking Sparks, didn’t.  From the gorgeous setting in the Smokies (a favorite location of mine) near Asheville to the mouthwatering food descriptions and finally to the great chemistry between two layered MCs, Breaking Bonds has exactly what I look for in a sweet contemporary romance.

Breaking Bonds is about the ties that bind us, in this case it’s Carter to his family’s expectations of him and their future for him which run counter to his dreams.  Its also about their lack of acceptance of his homosexuality, thinking it “phase” or action to get back at them.  Torn between trying to be a “good son” and himself,  it’s cost him financially  and emotionally everything as he chose his own path.  Carter is so open a character, so vulnerable that it’s easy to feel for him at this moment where he could lose everything.  That McKay surrounds with a staff every bit as charming and easy to connect with is a plus.  Rocky, the young chef, is especially appealing.

Chef Liam Walker also has many ties around him, some he acutely aware of that’s pushing him in directions he’s not even sure he wants.  He’s too busy to think about directions any more, consumed by the restaurant and his mentor’s and owner Marco’s demands.  Primed for the ultimate success in NYC, one bad review and rash action because of anger issues sees Liam needing a vacation from the stress and demands of the restaurant.  That first night at the Overlook does not go well for either man.  It’s so realistically written that you both cringe and laugh at the same time, then as it plays out the humor turns to sadness for all involved.

The romance here is balanced by the needs of the men to figure out their futures, their businesses and how to break the ties, the bonds holding them back.  As they do so, we also get wonderful recipes, a lush location and a great cast of secondary character (yes, I’m talking about Rocky…I adore that boy).

I have really come to love the Dreamspun Desires line from Dreamspinner Press and this story is a great example why.  Its sweet, romantic and you can read it as a standalone without having read the first one.  I wonder what the Walker Boys have in store for us next.  Bring it on, Ari McKay!

Cover Artist: Bree Archer gets the backdrop just right and the character too. Very inviting.

Sales Links

 Dreamspinner PressAmazon  | Barnes & Noble

 

Book Details:

ebook, Dreamspun Desires #35, 190 pages
Expected publication: June 1st 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleBreaking Bonds
ISBN 163533151X (ISBN13: 9781635331516)
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series The Walker Boys #2

Ari Mckay on Breaking Bonds (guest post and excerpt)

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Breaking Bonds (The Walker Boys #2) by Ari McKay
D
reamspinner Press

Buy Links

 Dreamspinner PressAmazon  | Barnes & Noble

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Arionrhod of Ari McKay here today talking about the second book of their  Walker Boys series, Breaking Bonds.  Welcome!

✒︎

Hello, everyone! Thanks for taking time out of your day to spend a few minutes with me today. I’m Arionrhod, the “Ari” half of Ari McKay, and I’m here to talk a bit about our upcoming release on June 1, Breaking Bonds.

This story is the second involving one of the Walker Boys, our fictional family of Texas hunks who love cooking. Like his cousin Beau from Striking Sparks, Liam Walker was born with a spatula in one had and a tasting spoon in his mouth. But Liam’s path takes him out of Texas, to the cutthroat culinary world of New York City, where he spends almost a decade working his way up the ladder. He has the good fortune to be discovered by a famous celebrity chef, Marco Cabrisi, who makes Liam the executive chef of one of his premiere restaurants. Yet even as Liam stands only one step away from the dream of opening his own restaurant, his temper lands him in hot water. Marco tells him to take a vacation to cool off, and so he picks a resort at random — and finds himself taking up the role of savior for handsome resort owner Carter Galloway.

Carter has some issues of his own, trying to fulfill his dream of owning his own resort, against the wishes of his domineering parents. The Overlook has potential, but Carter is cash-strapped and stretched incredibly thin. He knows he’s taking a risk when he hires an inexperienced chef, but he doesn’t know just how bad things are until Liam Walker complains about the food. He’s desperate enough that he accepts Liam’s offer of help in getting the restaurant turned around, and can’t help being attracted to Liam playing white knight.

As the two of them work together, they realize they have great chemistry, but they both have obligations that prevent them from acting on it. Carter isn’t going to fuel the prejudices of his homophobic parents by engaging in a short term fling — no matter how much he really wants to — and unfortunately, Liam has a life and commitments in New York, so he can’t offer anything else. That is the central conflict of the story — both men finding a way to cut the chains binding them to the past in order to embrace a future together.

It’s not all conflict, of course! There is a real connection between Carter and Liam, and they each recognize the passion in the other, and the desire to succeed. Plus there is great food, amazing scenery, and a lot of Southern charm.  We hope you’ll give Breaking Bonds a try — this was one of my favorite stories that we’ve ever written, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Here’s a little taste, to whet your appetite. Bon appetit!

After they were loaded up, Liam asked Eckhart for recommendations for meat markets, pulled out his phone, and made note of the information.

“I think that takes care of everything here,” Liam said. “Shall we tackle the meat now? I think Rocky can handle lunch. We’re keeping it simple, and I made the soups during breakfast.”

Carter knew Liam’s comment about tackling the meat wasn’t meant to be suggestive, but that he wanted to snicker like a twelve-year-old meant that he’d probably been celibate too long. “Meat tackling sounds good to me,” he replied as he started up the van.

Liam turned in his seat, raising one eyebrow as if he’d read something of Carter’s thoughts in the tone of his voice. “It sounds good to me too,” he drawled. “I normally frown on mixing business and pleasure, but considering I’m not really your employee, I suppose it doesn’t cross that boundary.”

Carter shot a wide-eyed look at Liam, startled that Liam had not only picked up on his innuendo but had also responded with such bluntness. At least that answered the question of Liam’s sexuality.

“I—uh—” Carter floundered for a way to respond that wouldn’t offend Liam, because he couldn’t get involved, not even short term. He had too little time in the day as it was, and besides, he was fighting enough hard battles with his parents already. He didn’t have the energy to start waging another one. “I’m sorry if that was inappropriate. You’re an attractive man, but you’ve made it clear you’re only here for two weeks, and I don’t do flings.”

Liam looked at him for a long moment, then shrugged. “Sure,” he said, not seeming offended, though there might have been just a touch of disappointment in his voice. “To be honest, part of the reason I said it was because I caught the flirtation last night. I was trying to see if that was actual interest or if that’s just your way.”

“A little of both,” Carter replied, deciding he might as well be honest. Liam was attractive, and under different circumstances, Carter would have taken him up on the offer, but the timing was all wrong right now. “I’ll stop if it bothers you, though. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

With a snort of amusement, Liam shook his head. “I’ve spent the last ten years in New York City, working as everything from a dishwasher to an executive chef. I’ve seen it all, son—and been hit on by half of it.” A slight shadow crossed his face, but it was gone quickly. “It takes a lot more than an innocent bit of flirtation to ruffle my feathers.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Carter smiled, relieved to know he hadn’t damaged their working relationship. “So which of the meat markets do you want to try first?”

BLURB

From the frying pan into the fire.

After a critic’s review attacks both Chef Liam Walker’s culinary skills and his personal life, Liam can no longer take the heat of the cutthroat New York City restaurant scene. He needs to get out of the kitchen—at least long enough to cool down and regroup.

At the Overlook Resort in North Carolina, Liam meets owner Carter Galloway. Carter has a passion for the hospitality business to rival Liam’s own, and it’s not hard to see where their shared interests—and attraction—could lead. But Carter has no interest in a fling, and Liam has no intention of walking away from the career he fought so hard for. If they want a taste of happiness together, they’ll have to find the courage to break the bonds threatening to pull them apart.

About the Author(s)

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.

Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.

McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.

Arionrhod and McKay

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