BLITZ for Diamond Heart (Cherrywood Grove #2) by M.A. Hinkle (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Diamond Heart

Series: Cherrywood Grove, Book Two

Author: M.A. Hinkle

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 4, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 60900

Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBT, contemporary, YA, high school, twins, arts/music/theater, gay, ace, panromantic, gender-bending, learning disability/social anxiety, family drama

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Synopsis

Gareth has a problem. He got expelled. Now he and his twin brother, Morgan, have to start over at an artsy new private school, and it’s all Gareth’s fault. Not to mention Morgan’s crippling social anxiety and Gareth’s resting jerk face aren’t making them any friends, and their father is furious with him. Gareth could live with this, but Morgan’s mad at him too, and Morgan is the only person alive who can make Gareth feel guilty.

Good thing Gareth has a plan. Cute, bubbly Felix, a student at their new school, has a crush on Morgan, and they both want to act in their school’s production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. Gareth figures it’s the perfect way to help Morgan come out of his shell and set him up with Felix. Then, maybe Morgan will forgive him, and Gareth can go back to not caring about anything or anyone.

But Gareth has another problem. He’s been cast as Oberon, and Felix is Titania. Oh, and Morgan doesn’t like Felix back. And maybe Gareth is enjoying the play and making new friends and having a good time at his new school. And maybe—just maybe—he’s got a crush on Felix. Can Gareth keep up his tough-guy act long enough to repair his relationship with Morgan, or will Felix get caught in the fallout of Gareth’s dumb schemes?

Excerpt

Diamond Heart
M.A. Hinkle © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Everything started when I punched a guy in the face, but I only realized this was more than a regular Tuesday once my twin brother Morgan got home from school looking like he’d been hit by a truck.

Not literally. Morgan resembled the guy on the cover of a romance novel—not Fabio, the Twilight knockoffs, where they were angsty instead of buff. Morgan’s hair was always windswept, except when he pulled it back as per the school dress code. While our school had a dress code, at least it was gender neutral, so anyone could wear whatever they wanted as long as their skirt hit below the knee and their hair was kept out of their face.

Morgan’s hair is always kept out of his face, is what I’m saying.

I was hoping word hadn’t gotten around school, but what a stupid hope. Morgan was ashen. I got to my feet. “Morgan—”

He shook his head without changing his expression.

Crap. I tried to stand still as Morgan went through his getting home ritual: shoes placed in a neat straight line next to the door, tie loosened but not taken off, laptop removed from bag, bag hung on the hook next to the empty one where mine belonged. I put my hands behind my back so he wouldn’t see me digging my fingernails into my palm.

Morgan finished and turned to me. I couldn’t read his expression. “So what happened this time?”

I tried to make my mouth work. But for one thing, I had a bad feeling Morgan already knew the answer. For another—

If he didn’t already know, explaining would be impossible. This went deeper than being dumb and teenage and angry. This was about Morgan and his nerves and me protecting him the only way I knew how. If I could explain it out loud, I wouldn’t have been in this mess. I could have talked things out with Warren Beauregard III (really, truly his name in the year of our Lord 2016) the way Sesame Street taught me, and we would sing a song, and everyone would have gone home happy after learning about the letter of the day.

But before I could figure out how to put it into words, my father came downstairs.

My father—excuse me, Dr. Trevor Lewis, PhD and some other fancy letters—was a professor of Welsh literature. He spent most of his time buried in books written in a language barely anyone spoke, writing papers seven other people would read. Whenever he tried to tell me about it, my soul left my body from sheer boredom.

I didn’t see him much. In order to focus on his research, Trevor taught night classes, which meant all the good people working full-time jobs and going through school snored their way through his English 101. Therefore, he was at home while I was in school, and I was at home while he was at school. It worked well. I didn’t have to see him and remember we looked alike and I hated it, and he didn’t have to see me and remember the family disappointment.

“Let’s sit in the parlor, boys.” His voice was cool.

The change of scenery wasn’t for anyone’s comfort; the furniture was so old it doubled as a torture device. Morgan and I took our usual spot on the couch, Trevor in the chair across from us. Morgan chewed on his lower lip. I wanted to do the same, but I also didn’t want Trevor to see he had me over a barrel.

“The principal decided to avail me of a number of things about you, Gareth,” said Trevor, after a long, long minute of staring at me. He still hadn’t raised his voice. “He said you are, in most respects, a brilliant student. A leader in class discussions, consistently high achieving on standardized tests, and well liked by your teachers. I was aware of all of this.”

I did not relax. Before everything else, Trevor was a rhetorician. He was not reassuring me; he was laying out background before he launched into his thesis. According to family legend, when he defended his dissertation, the evaluators only asked one question apiece because his argument about whatever he studied was so watertight.

“What I did not know is you have also been consistently on the verge of expulsion from the moment you started high school. I don’t see the point of going into detail of the reasons. I’m sure you’re aware—swearing, uniform violations, lashing out at other students.”

The expulsion part was news to me, which was not going to help my case.

Trevor waited, not to see if I wanted to respond. He was pausing for effect. “And it has only been by the grace of the aforementioned good qualities and my not inconsiderable donations to your school that you have not been run out for conduct unbecoming a member of their academy.”

I bit my tongue. Literally. It hurt. Sometimes, I appreciated Trevor’s frankness. Take when he talked about college. He always said, “I expect both of you to attend either the school where I teach or the University of Wisconsin, unless you get into an Ivy League college.” It might sound controlling, but I knew exactly where I stood with him—in the garbage.

“You’re getting kicked out?” Morgan asked, as though I should have led with it when he came in the door.

“I guess, but I just found out too.” I didn’t even know my school expelled people. Then again, I was the only kid ever written up for fighting on school grounds.

Morgan stiffened like we were going over the first drop on a roller coaster, only there was no track at the bottom to catch us. “I can’t stay there by myself.”

Now that was news to me. Among other things, Morgan was valedictorian, first chair violinist in orchestra, and student council secretary. (He’d be president, but then he’d have to talk.) All the teachers thought he was God’s gift to academia, and he’d been fielding college recruiters since we were in eighth grade. And everybody adored Morgan. Girls wanted to bang him, guys wanted to be him/possibly also bang him, nonbinary people high-fived him, et cetera. I wasn’t exactly an outcast, but I wasn’t anyone’s first choice for gym, either.

Trevor’s expression was unreadable. Behind his glasses, his eyes were the color of a freezing winter sky. My father had never been cuddly, but he used to talk to us more, before my mom killed herself four years ago. Suicide should have been the low point, but things only went downhill in our family from there. After the funeral ended and all the flowers were thrown away, we never talked about her again. I hadn’t bothered trying, but Morgan had, and Trevor dismissed him. Not in so many words, maybe, but we got the hint.

Anyway, as long as Morgan was calm and under control, he and Trevor had long and involved conversations about books and crap. But the second Morgan faced something more complicated than precalculus, Trevor was out the door faster than blinking, leaving Morgan alone with his deep-breathing exercises. And me. I always cleaned up the mess, whether or not I made it.

To be fair, I usually made it.

I got to my feet, one hand clenched in a fist. I wasn’t going to hit Trevor—no use. It wouldn’t get a rise out of him. But the pain helped me concentrate so my voice would come out calmly, the same way it did at fancy dinner parties when one of Trevor’s too-rich friends asked me a question that drove me up a wall. I knew Morgan hadn’t meant to say anything out loud, nor would he appreciate it if I answered him right now. So I put on my best Trevor face and pretended Morgan wasn’t hyperventilating beside me. “Well, this is all pretty shitty. When do I find out?”

Trevor’s expression hadn’t changed an inch; he might have been staring at one of the insipid paintings hung on the wall. “You’ve been suspended for the rest of the week while they decide. In the meantime, I suggest you research alternative options. I have enough work preparing for midterms.”

I bit the inside of my cheek hard enough to taste blood so I wouldn’t answer. Morgan was about ready to barf all over the fancy Persian rug, but he almost always was. I couldn’t tell if it was worse than usual.

“You wanna help me search?” I asked. If I didn’t give Morgan some kind of out, he would sit there until the end of time, caught in his own head.

Morgan stood, jerkily. He nodded at Trevor and followed me upstairs.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

M.A. Hinkle swears a lot and makes jokes at inappropriate times, so she writes about characters who do the same thing. She’s also worked as an editor and proofreader for the last eight years, critiquing everything from graduate school applications to romance novels.

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Christi Snow on Romancing St. Louis and her latest release “Believe in the Wish’ (guest blog and giveaway)

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Title:  Believe in the Wish

Author: Christi Snow

Publisher:  Self-Published

Release Date: May 11, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: ~55,000 words

Genre: New Adult, enemies to lovers, forbidden love, twins, contemporary romance, mourning death

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Christi Snow here today talking about her latest novel, Believe in the Wish. Welcome, Christi.

✒︎

Romancing St. Louis by Christi Snow

I try to write most of my books in places that I’m familiar with, even though I may use made up town names…i.e. Snowcroft is based on a real New Mexico mountain tourist town where we lived when we were first married (many, many moons ago), but that wasn’t the name of it.

For Believe in the Wish, I chose to put the characters in St. Louis, specifically a cross between two of my favorite towns that are suburbs of St. Louis… Kirkwood and St. Charles. I love Kirkwood because it’s filled with the old, big houses like you see in Meet Me In St. Louis. It’s not hard to imagine the carriages driving down some of the roads in that modern-day quaint little town.

Although none of these huge mansions make an appearance in Believe in the Wish, the entire picturesque quality and cozy ambiance of the town does.

Before we moved to Texas when my husband retired from the military, we lived in another suburb of St. Louis…Belleville, Illinois. Our entire family fell in love with St. Louis. 

St. Louis is one of those perfect cities. It has tons of history…the Lewis and Clark expedition came through there, but the Mississippi has been a major waterway for this country the entire time people have lived here. 

When we lived there, they had pro football (Rams, who have since moved), pro hockey (St. Louis Blues), AND pro baseball teams (St. Louis Cardinals). It’s also the home of Budweiser, which means when friends and family come to town, you can go tour the plant and drink free beer. Double win. The same goes for kids theme parks like Grant’s Farm…seriously all kids parks like this should offer free ice-cold beer to parents.

St. Louis is a major city with all the amenities that go with it, but it never felt overwhelming or huge when we visited it. We regularly went into the city…for shopping, entertainment, festivals, and activities. We truly loved it there.

So when it came time for this book, St. Louis was an easy fit for location. Plus it offered lots of options for the tasks that Emma left Ethan and Hawk to do. 

My favorite scene is the two of them going up the Arch. Not only is that scene pivotal to the story…hello, first kiss…but it’s simply fun, because the Arch and the ability to travel up it is something unique to St. Louis. And I promise you, once you’ve gone on that little, weird roller coaster ride up the inside, you will never forget it. There are videos on YouTube about riding the tiny cars up to the top. It’s wild…and yes, sometimes a bit eerie and scary, but it’s an experience everyone should have.

I hope that you see a bit of the city I loved through this book, Believe in the Wish. While the romance is most definitely the focus, I thought the romance of St. Louis provided the perfect backdrop for two of my favorite men and their guardian angel.

Synopsis

I buried my twin sister six months after she found out she had cancer. Her funeral was three months ago. Today is our birthday and it started with delivery of letters from her.

It seems she didn’t trust me to move on after her death. She knows me too well. But how can I go on when my other half is just…gone? That’s not something I can recover from with a snap of my fingers. But I also can’t ignore her instructions even though I’d be perfectly content to cuddle up with my buddy, Johnnie Walker, and call it a year.

She has a list of things for me to do and there are rules attached.

There’s one major problem besides the fact it’s been three months since I left the house. I have to do all these things with her jerk of an ex, Hawk Simmons. He abandoned her shortly after she found out she was sick. If that wasn’t enough to make this a really bad idea, the fact that he makes an appearance in all my nighttime fantasies probably does.

I don’t think I can do this, but I owe it to my sister’s memory to try.

This is a stand-alone male/male contemporary romance novel.

Excerpt

Katya ended her call and promptly pushed the ‘away’ button for receiving phone calls. “I’m sorry. No more calls. They may not think so, but they can survive without me for an hour or so while we have our chat.”

Ethan’s stomach rolled over. That brought them to the question of the hour…chat about what? But he was almost afraid to ask at this point. Instead, he redirected. “Do you have your own firm, or do you work for someone else?”

She raised an eyebrow at him, but with a slight tilt of her head she must have seen something in his expression because she answered, “I own my own firm. When I graduated from law school, I went into a partnership that was later dissolved when I bought my partner out. It’s all mine now, which keeps me very busy.”

He grimaced. “And that’s further complicated by hermits like me who refuse to answer phone calls or mail deliveries. Sorry about that.”

“No.” She shook her head. “It’s time for you to stop apologizing. This is a hard time for you and that’s okay. To a certain extent, that’s the way it should be…”

She hesitated for a moment. “At least for a little while. You’re allowed to grieve. But Emma knew this would be an issue for you, so she made plans.”

“What kind of plans?”

Katya reached into her briefcase and pulled out a file. She reached inside and pulled out an envelope that she handed to him. On the front was his name, written in Emma’s handwriting. Suddenly it was hard to breathe.

“What is this?” he whispered.

“The first of your instructions. You need to open and read it.”

He didn’t want to. He didn’t know why, but he really didn’t want to. “I’d rather wait until I’m at home.” At his house, if he fell apart, he could do it without witnesses.

She shook her head kindly. “No, that won’t work. She was very specific in how she wanted this all to go. I need you to open it now.”

Ethan swallowed against the huge lump in his throat as he tried to find air to breathe. His heart pounded in his chest. Surely, everyone around them could hear that.

“It’s okay,” she said softly. “I promise.”

“That’s where you’re wrong.” He glanced up at her. “It’s never going to be okay again.” His voice cracked.

She lowered her lids, and her lips compressed into a tight line as if his grief was too much for her.

His hands shook as he turned the envelope over, lifting the sealed flap. It had to be his imagination, but he could have sworn that he smelled a faint whiff of the strawberry lotion Emma always liked to wear.

For just a moment, he shut his eyes and tried to calm down his emotions going haywire. He didn’t know whether to be angry that she’d done this to him, sad that she wasn’t here to tell him whatever information this letter held, or scared at whatever Emma had cooked up for him.

Throughout her life, she’d kept him hopping. As the exuberant, outgoing twin, she’d always dragged him into trouble when all he’d wanted to do was stay home. In that regard, this whole scheme of hers was very apropos.

He took a deep breath and pulled out the single sheet of paper and unfolded it. At the very first words on the paper, his eyes filled with tears.

Happy Birthday, baby brother.

He glanced up in disbelief at Katya. “It’s May fifteenth?”

At her silent nod, he gazed down at the paper in his hands, his eyes filling with tears. It was their twenty-fifth birthday. The first birthday he’d ever celebrated without her. She’d only been twenty-four when she’d died. How unfair was that? To her. To him. To the world that missed out on everything she had to offer it.
Emma’s handwriting wavered in front of his eyes, but he continued to read, not knowing what else to do. His other option—sobbing in the middle of the restaurant—would be mortifying.

I’m sorry I’m not there to go out partying with you. Remember when we were little and you didn’t want to share your birthday with me? Now you get your wish.

He’d been a horrible person. The tears overflowed his eyes. He’d made that wish more years than he even wanted to remember. How selfish was that? How could he have wished for a life without her in any way? She’d been his light.

Katya shoved a tissue into his hand.

Right. He was in public. Time to get it together.

My bad. It was probably too soon for a joke like that.

I love you, Ethan.

I know I didn’t say that enough—you know emotional displays and I didn’t mix—but beyond anything else that happens over the next few weeks, KNOW THAT. I love you, and if I could have figured out a way to stay, I would have…for you.

But God obviously had different plans for me, so now I’ll just have to content myself with being your guardian angel for the next seventy-five years. I’ll have your back, bro. I promise.

And in the interest of having your back, that’s why Katya is here.

I know you. You’re stubborn, and right now, I imagine that you’re more than a little sad. I get that, but that doesn’t mean you stop living. My death means you have to live twice as much because you have to do it enough for both of us. I’m counting on you.

But, again, I know you, so I’ve enlisted some help from my friends just to get you going.

Make a Wish, Ethan. Believe in it. It’s time to live.

~Emma

When Ethan finished reading, he took several deep breaths. The sobs had welled in his throat, and it was all he could just to hold them inside.

“You okay?” Katya asked.

“Yeah.” His voice sounded husky, but he’d managed to say the word, so he figured that for a win.

“Then it’s time for step two.”

He looked up just as she held a flaming lighter to the candle on top of a cupcake. She pushed it in front of him. “Make a wish and blow. All you have to do is believe.”

As he sat there, looking at the flickering candle, it occurred to him at just how sad this was. His twin was dead, and he was at some bizarre birthday celebration with someone he’d never even met before. Even from the grave, Emma was working to pull him out of his shell.

So he closed his eyes and blew as he made his wish.

I wish I wasn’t so alone.

But when he opened them, nothing had changed. He was still sitting in a restaurant with a woman he didn’t know, mourning the twin sister who’d died. Not that he expected a miracle, but Emma wanted him to believe.

Believe.

How was that even possible? She’d been the one who believed in the magic of things like wishes and fairy tales. What had that gotten her? She’d died before she’d even had the chance to live. What kind of magic could he possibly believe in with that kind of reality?

Purchase

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Meet the Author

As an avid reader her entire life, Christi Snow always dreamed of writing books that brought to others the kind of joy she felt when she read. But…she never did anything about it besides jot down a few ideas and sparse scenes.

When she turned 41, she decided it was time to go after her dream and started writing. Within four months, she’d written over 150,000 words and hasn’t stopped since.

She’s found her calling by writing about sexy, alpha heroes and smart, tough heroines falling in love and finding their passion. She’s truly living the dream and loving every minute of it.

Her tagline is… Passion and adventure on the road to Happily Ever After. She’s loving this adventure!

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Tour Schedule

5/11 ~ Hearts on Fire Reviews

5/11 ~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

5/12 ~ MM Good Book Reviews

5/13 ~ Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents

5/14 ~ Dog-Eared Daydreams

5/15 ~ Happily Ever Chapter

5/16 ~ Two Chicks Obsessed with Books and Eye Candy

5/16 ~ MM Book Escape

5/17 ~ Book Reviews Janisf & Leisha

5/17 ~ BFD Book Blog

5/18 ~ Dirty Books Obsession

5/19 ~ Reviews for Book Lovers

5/19 ~ Love Bytes Reviews

5/20 ~ Bayou Book Junkie

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