Yuletide Truce by Sandra Schwab: Blog Tour, Exclusive Excerpt, New Release Review and Giveaway

London, 1845

It’s December, Alan “Aigee” Garmond’s favorite time of the year, when the window display of the small bookshop where he works fills up with crimson Christmas books and sprays of holly. Everything could be perfect — if it weren’t for handsome Christopher Foreman, the brilliant writer for the fashionable magazine About Town, who has taken an inexplicable and public dislike to Aigee’s book reviews.

But why would a man such as Foreman choose to target reviews published in a small bookshop’s magazine? Aigee is determined to find out. And not, he tells himself, just because he finds Foreman so intriguing.

Aigee’s quest leads him from smoke-filled ale-houses into the dark, dingy alleys of one of London’s most notorious rookeries. And then, finally, to Foreman. Will Aigee be able to wrangle a Yuletide truce from his nemesis?

Title: Yuletide Truce

Publisher: Sandra Schwab

Release Date (Print & Ebook): 22 September 2017

Length (Print & Ebook): 18,000 words

Subgenre: historical romance, Victorian romance, mm romance, holiday romance

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Cute quick little Holiday read. Aigee works in a bookshop where he writes book reviews for the shop’s magazine. Aigee’s thoughtful reviews reflect his deep love of not just the stories themselves but the artwork accompanying them. Handsome Christopher Foreman is a rival magzine’s book reviewer who seems to have it out not just for Aigee, but his magazine and book reviews as well.

There’s no hope for these two getting along until one night when Aigee saves Foreman from a beating and robbery by two street urchins. From there, things progress quickly where the two begin to want to know each other better and move on from past reciprocal hurts.

Like I said, super fast read, it’s really kind of a quick study of two people over a span of a week or so. In other words, there’s not going to be much character development here, but for the length, there were still a couple of nice love scenes.

3 pieces of eye candy

This was such a sweet solid story. Definitely showed the type of research this author did on everything from clothing to locations, even to vocations in England in 1845.

The author did a great job of character development of Aigee-the story is told from his point of view-in such a short amount of words. We learn about his childhood, his mother’s illness, even how he came to work in a bookstore. I also liked that he recognized that he was gay, and didn’t try to hide away how he felt from himself.

As he and Kit recognized their attraction for each other, and the story came to a close, they acknowledged that they would work to be friends, and perhaps more. It wasn’t a “I love only you, forever and ever”, which was perfect for the confident Aigee, and the fact that they had only really known each other a short time. It was a good way to continue their relationship, allowing it to grow.

I’d love to see how these two continue to build on that relationship, with an update at some point. This was well-written, with fantastic descriptions of locations. Recommended for those looking for a quick holiday read.

3.5 pieces of eye candy

Even at this late hour, the streets were full of people, carts, and carriages, and the never-ending din of iron wheels and hooves made conversation impossible on the main thoroughfares. But they could walk side by side, and because the pavements were so crowded, nobody took any notice of two men walking close enough for their shoulders to brush. Indeed, close enough that they could occasionally link their little fingers or brush a thumb over the back of the other’s hand, each touch lasting no longer than a heartbeat. And yet it was enough to stoke Aigee’s desire until he felt he was burning up with it.

The walk to his lodgings had never seemed that long.

They didn’t meet anybody on the stairs, and then, finally, they were in Aigee’s room, and he could close the door behind them. He slid the bolt home and turned. “So—”

The next moment, he found himself pressed back against the wood, with Kit’s mouth on his in hot demand, Kit’s hands on his jaw, cupping his face.

Aigee made a sound of surprise, but then opened his lips quite willingly for Kit’s onslaught. With his hands on Kit’s slim hips, he drew the man further against himself until they touched chest to thigh.

“Hmm…”

One of his hands went to Kit’s arse, encouraging his hips to cant up against him, while Kit deepened their kiss. Greedily, Aigee swallowed his moans. He inserted a thigh between Kit’s, pressing upward, and was rewarded with more muffled moans and groans.

“You!” With a breathless laugh, Kit tore his mouth away and drew back a little. “You.” He trailed a hand that wasn’t quite steady down the side of Aigee’s face. “Calling me a wicked man and then proceeding to drive me insane with all those little touches on the way here.” He gave Aigee a short, hard kiss. “It would have served you right if I had started to rip off your clothes in the middle of the street.”

Aigee grinned, feeling ridiculously pleased with himself. “That would have caused a bit of a scandal,” he said mildly.

Award-winning author Sandra Schwab started writing her first novel when she was seven years old. Thirty-odd years later, telling stories is still her greatest passion, even though by now, she has exchanged her pink fountain pen of old for a black computer keyboard. Since the release of her debut novel in 2005, she has enchanted readers worldwide with her unusual historical romances (some of which she now uses to shamelessly fangirl over Punch, her favorite Victorian magazine).

She holds a PhD in English literature, and in autumn 2015, she appeared on the BBC documentary Great Continental Railway Journeys to talk about another favorite topic of hers, the Grimms’ fairy tales (while walking through a rather muddy stretch of the Black Forest) (there were a lot of slugs, too).

She lives in Frankfurt am Main / Germany with a sketchbook, a sewing machine, and an ever-expanding library.

Connect with Sandra:

Website: http://www.sandraschwab.com

Newsletter: https://landing.mailerlite.com/webforms/landing/k4j3w6

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ScribblingSandy

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SandraSchwab.Author/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/scribblingsandy/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/SandraSchwab


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Rank and File by L.A. Witt: Blog Tour, 5 Good Questions, Review and Giveaway

Senior Chief Will Curtis is as straitlaced as they come. While his fellow Sailors have partied their way through their enlistments, he’s had his eye on the prize—making master chief and retiring after thirty years of service.

Lieutenant Brent Jameson is a Navy brat turned Annapolis grad. He’s lived and breathed the military his whole life, and he knows he’s destined for great things—once he’s done paying his dues at the bottom of the ladder.

When their paths cross, both men know better than to give in to temptation, but that doesn’t stop them. It also doesn’t keep them from coming back for more, even though being discovered would sink their careers. Something has to give—Will can retire, Brent can resign, or they’ll both face court-martial.

But there’s also the option neither wants to acknowledge: jump ship and walk away from each other instead of ending their careers over a fledgling relationship. And they should probably decide before they fall in love.

Except—too late.

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  1. Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write? – I’ve been writing for years and could spend twenty pages listing every author who’s ever influenced or inspired me. For the sake of not going on and on, I’ll keep it to the more recent authors within our own genre who I’ve found incredibly inspiring – Anna Zabo, Santino Hassell, JA Rock, Lisa Henry, Jordan Castillo Price, to name a few. I’m pretty sure they’re collectively occupying about half of my Audible account!.
  2. How important are names to you in the books you write? Do you choose the names based on the way it sounds or how it fits the story you are writing? – Sometimes a name falls out of the sky, and sometimes I have to work to find one. I usually google baby naming sites or lists of names by decade (i.e., popular boys’ names from the 1980 census) to get ideas. The names themselves don’t tend to influence the story or the character’s personality.

  1. Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy? – Sex scenes and car chases. I’ve written hundreds if not thousands of the former, but they will always be one of the hardest for me to write. Car chases are just hard. They’re jerks. I hate car chases. But I write suspense, so… car chases happen. Huff.

 

  1. What book do you wish you could have written? Do you get to read books for pleasure? – Probably the entire PsyCop series by Jordan Castillo Price. It’s just SO good. I listen to audiobooks for pleasure, and will usually spend an hour or two each night listening to something. I’ve actually started hating air travel a little less because flying is the perfect opportunity for an audiobook. In fact, I listened to Abi Roux’s Fish & Chips in one sitting during a transatlantic flight. Passes the time with no eye strain and no motion sickness!

 

  1. Always the fun one: Grab the nearest book, open it to page 48 and look for the fourth word in the second sentence. Now, write a line that starts with that word. (Please include the name of the book!) Say, why am I doing this before I’ve had caffeine? (The book is Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell.)

I love this series, seriously just love it! So when Rank & File came up, I was stalking Net Galley waiting for this book, and as is so often the case with any L.A. Witt book, it did not disappoint.

First, if you like to read “on paper”, steamy, sweaty, graphic man/man sex, this is the book for you (conversely if you do not, you may want to skim those scenes). And there are a lot of them. These two men want each other…a lot…so there is quite a bit of on screen sex. But if that normally scares you, the sex scenes are very well done. They aren’t raunchy scenes, but scenes that are appropriate for their story. These two men have a one-night stand that turns into more, and the sex scenes completely tell that story. As their relationship grows and changes, so does their sex. It is still super hot, don’t get me wrong, but they become infused with little bits of humor, revelations, as well as learning and acknowledging their partners needs and wants. These were not sex scenes merely for the sake of making it an erotic book, but for advancing their relationship from f**k buddies to “this is the man I need in my life”, which made them all the more satisfying as a reader.

One thing I love about L.A. Witt’s stories is that she brings realism into her stories, no matter what environment her main characters are in, and telling the story of these men and their different experiences with the Navy, and all that goes along with it shows that she researches heavily before she writes. Myself, as a civilian, I would have never guessed that an enlisted man could not date an officer, even if they do not have any interaction at work. It seems to be an arcane regulation, yet could have caused one or both men to be ushered out of the Navy without a care to their career history. And her resolution to this issue could have been a fiction one that would have never happened in a real life Navy situation. Instead, she creates a resolution that isn’t perfect, but real for where these characters are in their lives and careers.

There are other things I appreciated about how this book was written. Like the fact that there was an age difference of about 10 years between the two MC’s, and yet it was little more than a blip on the screen. It doesn’t have to be an issue for RL people, and the author doesn’t use it to create another conflict for these men. It is mentioned (admittedly more than once) but not with anything other than the mention, and then the characters move on.

My heart broke for these men when they had to try to figure a way to live without each other, but merely existed on a day to day level. Finding their way back to each other took thoughtful work on their part, in their lives, and even how they presented themselves to others.

I really loved this book, probably my favorite in the series, so far, and I will fan girl enough to say that I would love to see more of this series. I can’t seem to get enough!

4.5 pieces of eye candy

About the Anchor Point Series

Welcome to Anchor Point!

Nestled on the northern coast of Oregon, this small town is home to Naval Air Station Adams. On base, you’ll find freshly minted Sailors who’ve just graduated boot camp, salty officers counting down till retirement, grounded pilots who’ve landed behind desks, and everyone in between—and they’re all looking for love. Well, not all of them, but that won’t stop love from finding them.

So pull up a barstool, grab a beer, and get ready for some sea stories as these men in uniform—or not—navigate the waters of love and life in the military.

Anchor Point stories can be enjoyed in any order. Hop in wherever you’d like!

http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/series/anchor-point

L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies. She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut…

L. A.’s backlist is available on her website, and updates (as well as random thoughts and the odd snarky comment) can be found on her blog or on Twitter (@GallagherWitt).

To celebrate the release of Rank & File, one lucky winner will receive their choice of two eBooks off L. A. Witt’s backlist (excluding Rank & File) and a $10 Riptide Publishing store credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on September 30, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

This post may contain affiliate links. Advanced Reader Copies are accepted by Two Chicks Obsessed in exchange for an honest review without additional compensation.

Monthly Author Column: Victoria Sue talks GRL

 

Victoria Sue asked to make her monthly post this month a GRL post, and really who am I to argue? As a featured blogger for GRL, I am happy to spread the love about GRL, and anything Victoria Sue wants, she gets from me! And boy, does she have a lot coming up in the next few months!!!

 

Liar, Liar, Bad Boys on Fire!

I guess I should make this post all about GRL or Gay Rom Lit for those of you who haven’t heard of the acronym. Anyway, for the uninitiated, GRL is a conference celebrating gay romance literature that takes place in October every year at different locations around the country.

This year it’s in Denver and I’m beyond excited to be going there.

Authors get the chance to choose between either a book reading, a place on a discussion panel, or (and there are only a few of these) getting together with two other authors to plot something different.

And that’s what I’m doing this year. I was lucky enough to team up with Charlie Cochet and Alexa Land to do a game called Liar, Liar, Bad Boys on Fire.

The idea is each author is going to make statements or quote storyline facts about their books and the audience will have to choose whether the author is telling the truth or lying.

Everyone who comes will win something! We have a freebie for everyone, but there are many big prizes including a massive gift basket from each author which will contain a Kindle Fire and many other goodies!

You really don’t want to miss this!

And I am planning a little extra gift for any members of Victoria’s Secrets that will be attending. So make sure you join 😉 https://www.facebook.com/groups/1182647028418709/

Onto Book News:

The third in my series The Kingdom of Askara – The Alpha Prince – will hopefully be released just before GRL.

The next in my Enhanced series – Beneath This Mask (Gael’s story) is coming out in January.

Then the first in my new contemporary series will be released – Rainbow Key. Think wedding destination, white sandy beaches, lurve… except at the moment Joshua is struggling to pay the electric bill, they’ve no paying customers, and even if they had they cannot pay for the repairs from the devastating hurricane three years ago – and to top it off they have to take in a grumpy businessman who has been ordered by his doctor to take some time off before he has a heart attack from too much stress.
Funnily enough, the businessman happens to own a very expensive hotel chain and has been trying to buy this particular island for years. Not that Joshua knows that yet – and boy are sparks gonna fly when he thinks he’s been set up.
Then there’s Matt who has just been let out of prison, Cy who has escaped an abusive relationship, and Ben who used to be a model until a devastating house fire destroyed his face.

Rainbow Key – coming to a kindle near you in February <3

 

Check out all of Victoria Sue’s work here.

This post may contain affiliate links. Advanced Reader Copies are accepted by Two Chicks Obsessed in exchange for an honest review without additional compensation.

Whitecott Manor by Emma Jane: Blog Tour, Exclusive Author Interview, Excerpt and Giveaway

TitleWhitecott Manor

Author: Emma Jane

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: September 11, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 65300

Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, NineStar Press, LGBT, contemporary, British, paranormal, intrigue, family-drama, ghosts, friends to lovers, humor

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Alistair Ellis is the proud gardener for beautiful fifteenth-century Whitecott Manor, in England’s West Country. His life changes forever following a gas explosion at the manor, in which his boss—and love of his life—dies. However, his boss hasn’t exactly gone for good and Alistair still finds himself involved in conversations with the deceased.

Circumstances improve when he meets Noah, the handsome dog groomer for the manor’s new owners. Although there are some issues: Noah is already engaged and Alistair suffers from cynophobia—an acute fear of dogs!

Do you have any advice for all the aspiring writers out there?

Read a lot. Join writing groups or writing forums online. Listen to other people when they tell you something you’ve written isn’t very good, even if you don’t agree with them.

 

If you could travel forward or backward in time, where would you go and why?

Maybe back to the 60s because I’m a massive fan of The Monkees! Or the 1920s because I love the fashion, but I wouldn’t want to stay in that time.

 

We’ve all got a little voyeurism in us right? If you could be a fly on the wall during an intimate encounter (does not need to be sexual) between two characters, not your own, who would they be?

Does it have to be a novel? Probably Ash and Darian from Alexis Hall’s Glitterland.

 

If I were snooping around your kitchen and looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?

Half a tray of dog food. Almond milk. Apple juice. Some homegrown tomatoes from my uncle. Some fat balls I made for the wild birds. And not a lot else! Most of my food is either in the cupboards or the freezer.

 

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?

Telekinesis because I’m horribly lazy.

 

If you could trade places with one of your characters, who would it be and why?

Probably Arthur from Whitecott Manor. He’s quite well off and basically gets to do what he likes!

I loved the setting of this book, an old manor in England, beautiful gardens as far as the eye can see. It makes you think about old Harlequin romance novels, and traveling to these places to see them yourself. A great location to have a grand romance.

Alistair was kind of a mess emotionally, but in a sweet way. Concerned about his job, after his lover, the owner dies (and then “haunts” him), having a difficult time dealing with his father since the death of his mother, and navigating a world where he is gay in a very small English village. He meets Noah the dog groomer, who he is very taken with at first sight…except for the whole phobia of dogs thing. He also really seemed to care about those around him, going out of his way to help others, and even being open to his father finding a girlfriend.

I liked these two main characters, even with all of Alistair’s issues. However, I did think that there might have been too much going on in this book. There were quite a few different conflicts in this book that seemed to pop up, then would fade into the background while another would pop up, until one of the others came to the forefront again. It didn’t make the book confusing, it just made it very busy. It was hard to feel like the romance of Alistair and Noah was a focus when there were so many other conflicts that would become the focus.

The side characters were very well written, including Emmett (the dead lover/owner) who was all about his fashion choices. Those made me laugh every time!

A well written book and characters, but definitely a bit crowded in the story.

3.5 pieces of eye candy

Whitecott Manor
Emma Jane © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Once I was aware of the cuts, they stung like a bitch. I should’ve worn gloves, really, but it’s so much easier not to. I was almost finished anyway, and the Harpers’ rose borders were nearly ready. They’d look beautiful when they flowered in the summer—they always did. White and red rose blooms flanked the path to the tennis court. I just had one last bush to prune and then I could stop for a cuppa. The cuts were itching now too, right where the thorns had snagged and ripped my skin. I sucked the flesh between my thumb and index finger, tasting blood and mud, and stood there, secateurs in hand, watching the house.

It was a fifteenth-century manor—a beautiful listed building made from warm-yellow stone. It’d been revamped inside, a strange mixture of modern and ancient, and was currently—unfortunately, in my opinion—on the market. I didn’t want it to sell; I didn’t want to lose my job. The Harpers assured me that whoever bought the place would keep me on but, well, it wasn’t down to them.

I took my hand from my mouth and watched as the estate agent led a middle-aged couple from their car—some sort of old classic; light blue with a soft-top—to the front of the manor. Even at this distance, I could see the look on their faces as they gazed up at the building before entering. They loved it already. Everybody did; it was such an impressive place. Bloody hell, I’d buy it if I had a spare eight million lying around.

I glowered to myself and turned back to the last bush, reaching into the branches to snip it into some sort of order. I cut myself on another thorn and swore impatiently.

“Language.”

I turned to see Mr Harper—Emmett—watching me. He stood there, smiling, his hands tucked in the pockets of his ridiculous purple corduroys. He always reminded me of Colin Firth, though he didn’t look particularly like him. He was a similar age, I suppose, and had that same clipped accent and no-nonsense manner.

I tossed rose clippings into my wheelbarrow. “Sorry. It’s these roses. They’re full of thorns.”

“Ah, the roses. Yes. I thought perhaps you’d spotted Mr Daniels showing the Scrantons around.”

“Scrantons?”

“Mr and Mrs Scranton. I don’t know their first names, and I don’t care. Lottery winners, apparently.”

I scratched at my cheek with the edge of my thumbnail and then wiped the back of my hand across my brow. “You really want Whitecott Manor bought by lottery winners?” I asked. It wasn’t really any of my business, but I didn’t want to see the place sold on yet again because the Scrantons squandered all their money and ended up bankrupt within a year.

Emmett shrugged. “My dear, I don’t care who buys it as long as they cough up the money. You know I can’t afford to keep the place.”

I knew. Emmett was swimming in debt. His daughters—all five of them—had now moved out and he had to pay for everything on his own since his wife had left. Old Mrs Harper, Emmett’s mother, lived in the house with him, but she was in her eighties and, I think, had about as much money as he did. They wanted to move to a little cottage somewhere, with a nice granny annex and a garden that didn’t require much attention. Certainly not enough attention to take me with them.

I hadn’t said anything. Emmett came and put his hand to the small of my back. “Whoever ends up here would be mad to let you go. They can see how beautiful the gardens are.”

I nodded and stared into the rose bush.

“And you’re beautiful,” he added. “Who would not want you around?”

“You don’t need to flatter me.” I snipped at the bush and tossed branches into my wheelbarrow.

Emmett chuckled and moved away. “Cheer up, Alistair! You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. I’m off to take Mother her tea.”

I watched him stroll back to the house as if he didn’t have a care in the world. I’d miss him most of all. Well, maybe he wouldn’t move far. I’d probably still see him around—at the local fair or plant show perhaps. Besides, house sales took ages; I knew that from experience. If the Scrantons bought the place, it’d be a while yet before they moved in. And if they decided they didn’t want a gardener—if—then I had plenty of time to look for a new job. I could always audition for the X Factor and see where that got me—Emmett said I had a great singing voice, and I’d often dreamed of performing on stage.

I picked up the wheelbarrow and went to empty the clippings on the compost heap. I was just trundling back to the roses when I spotted the estate agent leading the Scrantons out into the gardens. I’d make myself scarce; I didn’t want to have to smile politely while they stood and gawked, so I downed tools and headed to the potting shed.

The cabbage seedlings were coming on nicely, I noticed, but my beetroots were depressingly small. I’d never had much luck with beetroot. They never grew much larger than rat testicles. I shrugged out of my overalls and tied the arms around my waist, singing an Elvis track softly beneath my breath.

I’d just reached for a watering can when an almighty bang made me jump out of my skin. The windows blew out the front of the manor, followed by tongues of fire licking the frames. I stared, heart frozen and mouth open. Then my heart started again, blood thumping in my ears. I threw open the shed door and ran.

“Emmett!”

I dashed towards the building, pulled open the door, and hurried down the hall to where the explosion had come from—the kitchen. Flames crackled in the room, red and angry and louder than I would’ve expected. Smoke and heat billowed outwards, and I coughed and covered my nose. My eyes watered.

“Emmett!” I yelled again.

Something crashed—maybe part of the ceiling falling—and I took a step to go after Emmett when somebody grabbed my arm and hauled me back.

“Mr Harper’s in there,” I shouted at the estate agent, fighting the man’s vice-like grip. “Emmett! Emmett!

The estate agent pulled me away, forcing me bodily back down the hall and outside. He was speaking—shouting, I think—but I yelled too, my voice hoarse, and I couldn’t hear him, couldn’t see, couldn’t… Emmett.

Sirens screamed in the distance, and then I saw the lights flashing through the trees that flanked the lane beside the manor. Fire engines arrived in a cacophony of noise and colour. The estate agent held me in a bear hug, and all I could do as firefighters jumped from their vehicles was stare at the flames roaring from the broken windows.

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Emma Jane has been writing stories since primary school, some of which still survive in notebooks in her dad’s attic, and wanted to be an author as soon as she realised it was a possible career choice and ‘Pony’ or ‘Ninja’ weren’t viable options.

Her first short story, Club Freak, about an anonymous woman’s determination to find her husband’s killer, was published by Park Publication’s Debut magazine in May 2009. Since then, she has gone on to write many short stories and poems for various small presses and has achieved an Honourable Mention in the 2011 Writers of the Future competition.

In 2014, writing as Emma Jane, she signed her first publishing contract for not one, but two novels. Otherworld formerly published by Torquere Press, and Shuttered by Dreamspinner Press.

Website | Twitter

Tour Schedule

9/11 Books,Dreams,Life

9/11 Drops of Ink

9/11 The Novel Approach

9/11 Happily Ever Chapter

9/11 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

9/12 Stories That Make You Smile

9/12 Southern Babes Book Blog

9/13 Love Bytes

9/14 Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

9/14 Two Chicks Obsessed

9/14 Erotica For All

9/14 Bayou Book Junkie

9/15 MillsyLovesBooks

9/15 A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog

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This post may contain affiliate links. Advanced Reader Copies are accepted by Two Chicks Obsessed in exchange for an honest review without additional compensation.

GRL 2017 Official Blog Tour: Guest Post Rick R. Reed

**Today TCO is excited to welcome Rick R. Reed to the GRL 2017 Official Blog Tour. I’m a big fan of his. Psssttt…he mentioned something about a kissing booth at GRL, so here’s hoping! Check out his guest post. I love it! And don’t forget there is a giveaway to enter. (And here’s a little secret, in response to Rick’s post…my husband is coming with me to Denver!!!)**

 

What to Tell People About Your Attendance at GRL

A Guest Post by Rick R. Reed

 

I admit it—to some folks the idea of going to a conference about gay romance literature might seem a little hard to understand. For those of us who are looking forward to it, it’s a foregone conclusion—that it’s fun, that it can be like a family reunion, that it can be an amazing way to mingle with your tribe, with people who get you, and an opportunity to immerse yourself in the reading and writing you love.

But some people in your life might not get it, and it’s for those folks that I offer up these talking points.

I once overheard some people talking about what they tell friends and family about their attendance at GRL, a retreat, as we all know, for lovers of m/m romance. For a reason that’s alien to me, some of the people I overheard felt the need to not be totally open about the event they were attending. As a gay man who’s been out of the closet now almost more years than he was in, the secrecy is a bit hard to understand, but I guess there are still people out there who A. care what someone else thinks about how they spend their off time or B. there are people (like, say, maybe a teacher at a parochial grade school) who knows their association with ‘gay’ literature might be frowned upon. And that’s sad. But I understand it’s a reality for some.

So here are some tips to help you decide what to say when people ask you about where you’re going and what you’ll be doing when you attend GRL.

 

For the straight folks in your life who have never heard of m/m romance

Now, for those of you who are open about where you’re going and people who don’t know your tastes in reading ask something like, “Gay romance? Why gay romance? You’re not gay, are you?” This is such a silly question, as if we have to confine our reading tastes to only who we are. Reading a book with African-American characters and you’re white? Why? Reading a story that’s about aliens from Mars and you’re not one? Why on Earth?

When you put it that way, you begin to see what a silly question it is. It would be like me, as a gay man, saying I don’t read stories with straight characters. I’m not straight, so how could a book about straight people possibly interest me?

Because I’m human! Because we’re all human! And our needs, desires, hopes, aspirations, and despair do not divide us; they unite us.

If someone wonders why you read m/m, you might clue them in that, in the end, you like reading about people falling in love. People. And then you might use the opportunity to tell them what’s so wonderful and different about m/m romance and why it makes sense not only for you to read, but why it also might make sense for them to step out of their comfort zone and give it a try.

 

For the gay folks in your life who wonder why m/m romance and not just gay fiction

And here, it gets a little trickier. I heard someone say on Facebook recently that m/m romance is by and for straight women and that gay romance is by and for gay men. Um, I beg to differ! Putting aside the inanity of trying to classify who reads and writes love stories, you still might have to talk to gay friends about what they might perceive as reading in a genre that’s not gender-appropriate for you, especially if you happen to be a gay man. Again, the same thing I said above applies–we’re all human. And human love stories, whether they’re about gay people or straight people, have a lot more in common than they have differences. Most of us want to find our happily ever after. Most of us have trouble getting there and may even have the misfortune of kissing a few frogs that did not turn into princes along the way. M/m, gay fiction, gay romance (my personal preference) whatever you want to call it, if it centers around two people falling in love, then it’s blind to gender and you really don’t have to defend your reading choices. Tell them that…and tell them that reading or writing about love is about our shared human experience and has very little to do with what’s between our legs, but what’s between our ears. And we all have that in common.

 

What to tell those who simply cannot know

So you may fall into the camp of someone, for whatever reason, must keep your attendance at a gay-related event on the down-low. I wish the world weren’t a place where this was sometimes necessary, but if it is in your case, you have lots of options (and these you can say without even lying). Tell ’em you’re attending a fan convention for fiction, a romance convention, a get-together with other readers like you to compare notes and meet your favorite authors. See, the specifics are nobody’s business but your own. Yet, I urge you, if you possibly can, to be open about where you’re going. Come out of the closet! You might be surprised that people are not as judgmental or surprised as you think. And by being open, you bring the possibility of the good news of m/m fiction more out into the world at large.

 

What to tell people if you’re an author

I can only speak for me, and the answer to that question is easy. I come because I want to connect with my tribe. For each of the now five years I’ve been coming to GRL as a featured author, my experience is always the same: it’s like a family reunion. It’s a chance, for almost a week, to be with the people I write for, the people who ‘get’ me and I them, and to connect with others who write what I do and be go fan boy on them. It’s truly a retreat…into a perfect world where everyone likes the same stuff as I do. I am not big on swag or giveaways. My best giveaway, I’ve always thought, is a smile and a hug. Those are the things that give me my biggest return.

 

Check out all of Rick R. Reed’s books here!

 


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Never Let You Go by Andrew Grey: Exclusive Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway

Friends since they met in school, Ashton and Brighton soon become much more. Ash and his aunt are Brighton’s haven away from his mess of a family, and when Ash enlists in the Army, Brighton learns to endure his long absences and eagerly awaits his return from missions.

Until one day Ash doesn’t come back, and Brighton thinks his greatest fear has come true.

Months pass and Brighton grieves for Ash, not knowing that a terrible misunderstanding sent Ash running, unable to cope when he thought Brighton had betrayed him. Even after an emotional reunion, their relationship isn’t the same—Brighton is now responsible for his young niece, and he’s having a hard time rediscovering the trust he once had in Ash. Ash must still tend to his mental health, but before he can, he’ll have to deal with a past secret that puts all their lives at risk. With so many forces determined to tear them apart, can Brighton and Ash hold on to each other and never let go?

Title: Never Let You Go
Series: Forever Yours: Book Two
Author: Andrew Grey
Release Date: September 8, 2017
Category: Contemporary
Pages: 200

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Usually when I start a story, I begin with the characters, a few times it’s the setting or a particular situation.  Never Let You Go started with the prologue.  I had a clear vision for how this story was going to start.  That vision of Ash seeing Brighton and then turning to walk away when he jumps to a conclusion, is what drove the entire idea.  That in turn helped me develop Ash and Brighton.  It told me a great deal about Ash, his history, and just how broken he felt at that moment.   Brighton and the hurt and pain he carried with him came into clear focus as well.  That isn’t how I usually do things, but for this story I think it worked very well.  Though I will confess that I’m not someone to let go of a story idea no matter where it comes from.  Inspiration can be both fleeting and amazing at the same time.   I like to think that the important thing about inspiration is to wrangle it once it strokes and not let go.  I’m certainly glad I didn’t let go of that initial vision for Never Let You Go.

“You know, you need to get out once in a while,” Raymond said as he came out of his bedroom. “Do you realize it’s been eighteen months since they told you about Ash? He’s gone and isn’t coming back, and you need to find someone to share your life.” He leaned closer. “And don’t say that’s what you have me and Violet for. You need someone to love and love you in return.”

“I had that once, and I don’t know if I can ever have that again.” Brighton knew what it felt like to have someone who was the other half of him. “Besides, Violet is still settling in and I need to concentrate on her. Allie asked me to take care of Violet if anything ever happened to her, and I intend to do the very best that I can.” He knew the answer was a cop-out of sorts and that he was hiding behind his niece, but he wasn’t ready to date yet. “So you go on out and have a good time.” He did a double take on Raymond’s outfit. He wore a pair of jeans that had to be two sizes too small and a shirt that showed off his arms. “Where are you going?”

“To Rose’s for coffee.”

“Don’t you think you’re a little overdressed… or underdressed, in this case? God, you don’t want to cut off circulation to your bits. And this is Biglerville.”

“The guy I’m dating is from LA. His name is Ethan, and he’s Justin Hawthorne’s assistant. So he’s used to being around people who are really cool and interesting and….” Raymond shifted his gaze to the floor.

“You are not allowed to be unsure of yourself. Go back in there and change. Let this Ethan see who you really are and he’s sure to like you. And if he doesn’t, I’ll show up at his house and kick his ass.” Brighton pulled Raymond into his arms. “Now go ahead and change. Just be yourself.”

With a smile, Raymond went back into his room while Brighton returned to making dinner.

“Violet, please turn that down a little.”

She lowered the volume, and Brighton cut up some lettuce to make them each a small salad. He was really blessed that Violet loved vegetables, though if he asked her what she wanted to eat she’d tell him bacon. That girl would eat bacon for each and every meal if he let her. He opened the door to the refrigerator and pulled out some chicken he’d already cooked and began cutting it into small pieces, along with a little celery and some herbs, as well as chopped nuts.

“Is this better?” Raymond asked, and Brighton nodded.

“You look great. The slacks are nicer than the tight jeans, and I like that shirt. The green is great on you.” Brighton watched as Raymond pulled on his shoes and got ready to go. “Take an umbrella. You’re going to need it.”

Raymond looked out the front window, groaning as the rain lashed the glass.

Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled, sending Violet off the sofa and into his arms. He set aside what he was doing, lifted her up, and took her back to the sofa. “It’s just thunder. There’s nothing to be afraid of.” He sat down with Violet on his lap and turned to Raymond. “Just wait a little while. This isn’t going to last long. When are you supposed to be there?”

Raymond checked his phone. “Fifteen minutes.” He shoved it back in his pocket. “The one time I’m ready early and I’m stuck waiting until the storm lets up.”

Brighton patted Violet’s knee. “Why don’t you go get the really big umbrella for Uncle Raymond? That way he won’t get wet.” He smiled as Violet hurried to the closet and brought over the black-and-white umbrella. She jumped when the thunder rolled again, but handed it to Raymond and then sat next to Brighton once more. “Do you think you can sit here while I finish making you something to eat?” He tweaked her nose, and she nodded slowly.

The storm was already moving on and the thunder sounded less sharp. Raymond took the umbrella and headed for the door to the stairs. “I’ll see you later.” He waved, and Violet waved back. Raymond closed the door behind him, and Brighton stood to return to the kitchen.

Violet laughed as one of the characters on her show did something funny. He adored that sound. She’d been with him for six months now. His sister had developed cancer, and by the time they diagnosed it, she was beyond help and lasted only a few more weeks. The strain she’d had was nasty and had left none of her untouched. At the end she’d been little more than skin and bones. One of the hardest things Brighton had ever had to do was take Violet home with him as she cried for her mother while he was barely able to hold himself together. Thank God Raymond had come to stay with him the year before.

Just like when Ash walked out of his life for the last time to take his assignment. Ash had promised it would be his last one that his time was up after that. It all turned out to be true, though not in the way either of them had hoped at the time.

Andrew grew up in western Michigan with a father who loved to tell stories and a mother who loved to read them. Since then he has lived throughout the country and traveled throughout the world. He has a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and works in information systems for a large corporation.

Andrew’s hobbies include collecting antiques, gardening, and leaving his dirty dishes anywhere but in the sink (particularly when writing)  He considers himself blessed with an accepting family, fantastic friends, and the world’s most supportive and loving partner. Andrew currently lives in beautiful, historic Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

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Dreamspinner Press Exclusive Guest Post: Andrew Grey, RWA Centennial Award Winner

**Once again, Dreamspinner Press is stopping by TCO to give us a little update on some of the awesome things happening over there! Check it out, and yes, there is a giveaway too!

Writing is hard work but writing more than 100 books is astounding. But that’s exactly what Andrew Grey has accomplished. In July Andrew was awarded the Romance Writers of America’s Centennial Award for writing more than 100 romances. Andrew is the first male author and first author of gay romance to receive the RWA Centennial Award. You can read an interview with Andrew here.

If you’re an avid Andrew Grey reader, or new to his titles, you will fall in love with his Forever Yours series while it’s on sale at Amazon and the Dreamspinner Press store: eBook one, Can’t Live Without You, a reunion romance between a now-famous actor and his high school boyfriend, is 99 cents; eBook two, Never Let You Go is available tomorrow and features a soldier returning home who must battle secrets to re-establish a relationship with his boyfriend.

Andrew Grey’s unique blend of sweet and sexy will have you happy that his catalogue includes more than 100 titles for you to read!

Congrats to Andrew on this huge achievement!

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Stalking Buffalo Bill by j. leigh bailey: Exclusive Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway

Stalking Buffalo Bill—A Shifter U Tale

A smitten coyote isn’t the only one stalking Buffalo Bill.

A buffalo walks into a cafe. Sounds like the start of a bad joke, but for coyote shifter Donnie Granger, it’s the beginning of an obsession. Donnie is a little hyperactive and a lot distractible, except when it comes to William. He finally works up the nerve to approach William but is interrupted by a couple of violent humans.

While William—don’t call me Bill—is currently a professor, he once worked undercover against an international weapons-trafficking ring. Before he can settle into obscurity, he must find out who leaked his location and eliminate the thugs. He tries keeping his distance to protect Donnie, but the wily coyote won’t stay away.

It’ll take both Donnie’s skills as a stalker—er, hunter—and William’s super-spy expertise to neutralize the threat so they can discover if an excitable coyote and a placid-until-pissed buffalo have a future together.

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Before I get started, I wanted to say a big “thank you” to Two Chicks Obsessed for  letting me stop by today and celebrate the release of STALKING BUFFALO BILL. I had so much fun writing this book, and I’m thrilled to be a part of Dreamspinner Press’s new line, Dreamspun Beyond.

Why Google (or any search engine) Needs an “I’m an Author!” Flag

I don’t have a clue as to how authors in the past ever got anything written without Google and Wikipedia. I love research—that real, buried in the library under stacks of resource books research—but there are times when I’m writing that I need to confirm a detail or verify that what I want to happen actually can happen. In these instances, Google comes to the rescue. But if anyone was looking at my search history, I’d probably come off as deranged, odd, or criminal, depending on the book. So I’ve decided to share a few of my more random search terms.

  1. Writing about shifters means researching really important animal-related factoids like: Which is faster, a buffalo or a coyote? This doesn’t sound like something a normal person needs to know. But when you are writing a chase scene in which a buffalo is chasing a coyote, this is critical. The answer, in case you’re interested, is that both the coyote and the buffalo top out at about 40 miles an hour (the buffalo gets up to 35-40 mph, and the coyote can hit 43 mph).

 

  1. Writing shifters has also prompted this gem: Do birds smell? Of course, then I had to specify the olfactory sense, not “do birds stink?” This then also led into a rabbit’s warren of searches because the answer to “Do birds smell?” depends on which birds.

 

  1. When I was writing my YA action/adventure novel DO-GOODER, a couple of my searches probably landed me on a government watch list. Things like How do you make and transport Sarin Gas? and Weapons trafficking routes through Africa might make international law enforcement folks take another look.

 

  1. Some of my searches have yielded horrifying results. DO NOT look up Pit Viper Snake Bites unless you want to see gross, beyond-painful-looking, sometimes rotting and infected bites, including injuries that show bone and tissue and pus.

 

  1. The best—the absolute best!—searches yield eye candy. When I did a search for Hot men with beards, I found William. It was almost a shame that I found him right away. I mean, searching through thousands of images of hot men wouldn’t be the worst way to spend my time… The model that was used for the cover of Stalking Buffalo Bill, by the way, is 100% how I pictured William while writing the novel. 100%

 

I know there are authors who’s search terms might be crazier (or even more likely to land them on a watch list) than mine. Anyone writing romantic suspense or action/adventure novels probably has way more fascinating stories to tell, for example. For the project I’m working on now, I’m going to have to do some digging into black-market baby adoptions. Not quite as fluffy as “Do birds smell?” but I’ll learn something new. 🙂

 

**GIVEAWAY** I’ll be giving away a signed copy of my gay YA action/adventure novel DO-GOODER (US only) or a digital copy of one of the contemporary New Adult m/m romance titles in my Letting Go series (open internationally) to a random commenter who tells me: What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to look up on the internet?

 

By the time William’s bulky form stood in the entrance of the closet, I was human and 100 percent naked, though I didn’t have time to worry about it. There was a creep out there after my manly man.

“Not real quick with the nonverbals, are you?” I propped my hands on my hips.

He copied the gesture. I had to admit, his version was much more intimidating. And not just because he was actually wearing clothes. “You want to tell me what that was all about?”

I rolled my eyes. “Obviously I needed to get you alone.”

His eyes trailed down my body, from the top of my sandy-brown hair to the tips of my toes. Heat prickled along every inch his eyes touched. Flustered, I snapped, “Not for that.”

“Too bad.”

Did he really—no, now wasn’t the time for that.

“Look, a couple of freaks are looking for you. They had your picture and everything.”

The slight smirk he wore slipped off his face. “What?”

“Yeah, these guys—who gave me chills, by the way—stopped into the café and wanted to know if we’d seen you. They were evil. I mean, to the core. And they definitely weren’t from around here.”

He reached out and gripped my shoulder. “What did they look like?”

“Like a couple of thugs in an amateur production of Oklahoma.”

At his blank look, I gave him a more specific description of the weirdos. Then I told him what I’d seen. “So, Mafia Hit Man is out there right now, looking for you. And you stood there, a hulking target, just begging to be caught.”

“Sorry, I don’t speak coyote.”

j.leigh bailey is an office drone by day and the author of Young Adult and New Adult LGBT Romance by night. She can usually be found with her nose in a book or pressed up against her computer monitor. A book-a-day reading habit sometimes gets in the way of… well, everything…but some habits aren’t worth breaking. She’s been reading romance novels since she was ten years old. The last twenty years or so have not changed her voracious appetite for stories of romance, relationships and achieving that vitally important Happy Ever After. She’s a firm believer that everyone, no matter their gender, age, sexual orientation or paranormal affiliation deserves a happy ending. For upcoming releases and appearances information, sign up for her newsletter at https://t.co/FfL9gFVJLQ.

 

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Website (www.jleighbailey.net )

 

 

 

 

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Earning His Trust by Alicia Nordwell: Exclusive Guest Post, Release Day Review & Giveaway

Evin lost the only two men he ever loved. But he might get a second chance with one of them—if he’s willing to take the risk.

Following the death of his husband, Evin is living in Portland and raising the infant son they had through a surrogate. Six-month-old Micah is his life, and if it means no time for activities or friendships beyond his minuscule support network, that’s a sacrifice Evin is willing to make. When he suffers a burn baking teething biscuits, the last person Evin expects to encounter in the ER is Ben, his lover from college—and the man who left him without a word of explanation.

Ben knows it won’t be easy to earn Evin’s trust and prove he’s not the same man Evin once knew, but he can’t bear to watch Evin struggle to care for Micah, hurting and alone. He wants back in Evin’s life, as a friend and hopefully more, but Evin’s heart is fragile, and the years have changed him too.

Title: Earning His Trust
Author: Alicia Nordwell
Release Date: September 6, 2017
Category: Contemporary
Pages: TBD (Novella)

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Five Things You Don’t Know About Me ~ Childhood Edition

Evin, one of the main characters from Earning His Trust, has a six-month-old son. What I’ve found, as a parent, is that we remember so much more about our childhoods as we watch our children grow and live theirs. Here are a few things about me from those tender years!

  1. Growing up, I had as close to two dads as you can get—without having gay parents. For literally as far back as I can remember, my dad and his identical twin brother lived together. I actually moved out before my uncle did, lol. Of course, we have always sworn they share a single brain in two separate bodies, so maybe it was like having one dad that could be in two places at once. (Seriously, I’ve had them thank me by saying, “Thank you for doing [whatever] that for me” when I actually did it for the other one!)
  2. I learned the sign language alphabet in the first grade, and I can still remember all the letters, though I’ve only used it once when asking a worker at a store where to find work gloves. It’s a basic communication skill that I think everyone should learn, though.
  3. The first book I ever remember reading was a collection of Aesop’s Fables. I got a reprint with the original illustrations to read to my babies.
  4. I remember making up the adventures of a family of swamp monsters called the Goo Goo Dolls for my younger stepsiblings as we lay in bed waiting to fall asleep. This was an early indication of my desire to share to create fiction revolving around members of a family.
  5. I’m writing this while listening to the soundtrack to Burlesque. I absolutely love the movie (not only because of all the eye candy) but because that kind of singing and dancing fascinates me. In the 6th grade I learned I have a visible muscle tic in my cheek that triggered when stage fright struck during a song I had to sing as a trio, and having two left feet would be a step up compared to my dancing skills, so it’s all pure admiration for what I could never do, lol.

I’m so glad that I didn’t judge this book by it’s reviews… I’m not sure why so many people are having problems with it…Even me, who isn’t much of a fan of second chances, loved this story!

Evin lost his husband in a “wrong place at the wrong time” accident, leaving him alone with a six month old son and only his friend Gianna who lived two hours away for company. Life as a single parent is hard, I know all about it…but still grieving and trying to get to a new normal without your husband and with a new baby…I can understand why Evin was the was he was. An accident while cooking has him rushing to the hospital with a fussy, teething baby in tow and that’s where he see’s Dr. Perez. His ex.

Ben left after college without so much as a word to his boyfriend and love of his life, Evin. Of course it was a mistake, but they were young and just figuring life out. Saying he went about it the wrong way is a massive understatement, but if he hadn’t, then no doubt about it, Evin wouldn’t have met his husband and had his baby. It’s awkward at first, but Ben goes out of his way a couple times to see Evin again, that leads to texting and then hanging out and then…Feelings are back and things are like they were before.

As anyone who knows me, knows that I love babies in my stories… there’s just something about good daddies that I love reading about! Okay, those kind of daddies too, but get your mind out of the gutter… I meant, actual fathers! And there is no better daddy for Micah than Evin. He’s so sweet with him and patient… and Ben is crazy about them both.

Is was a cute story… very low angst, no terrible exes coming out of the woodwork or scheming people trying to break them up. It was just a nice, fluffy, read about two men who lost touch and then reconnected down the road. You never know what life will have in store for you…that’s the truth…I was so glad these two found it in themselves to work it out though. I wouldn’t mind reading more from them in future books. Fingers crossed, I guess?!

4 pieces of eye candy from me!

The number one question folks ask Alicia when she shares she’s a MM romance author: “Why gay fiction? Why write men when you’re a woman?” and her answer is: “Why the hell not!” Alicia Nordwell is one of those not so rare creatures, a reader turned writer. Striving to find an interesting story one day, she decided to write what she wanted instead. Then the voices started… Yep, not only does she talk about herself in the third person for bios, she has voices in her head constantly clamoring to get out. Fortunately, with the encouragement of her family and friends, she decided for her own sanity to keep writing.

Now you can find her stories both free and e-published. When she’s not on the computer typing away, she’s a wife and a mom of two in the dreary, yet ideal for her redhead complexion, Pacific Northwest. Except for when she disappears into one of the many worlds in her head, of course! She can also be found quite often at her blog, where she has a lot of free fiction for readers to enjoy or working hard, or maybe hardly working, as an admin on GayAuthors.org under her online nickname, Cia.

Social Media:

Cia’s Stories: http://www.ciasstories.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alicia.nordwell

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AliciaNordwell

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4479520.Alicia_Nordwell

Prizes: Amazon Fire 7” *US Only* $20 Gift Card (Amazon or Dreamspinner) (2) Backlist title winners
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The Alpha Heir by Victoria Sue: Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

Man and wolf. Sworn enemies in the battle for Askara. Can hate and betrayal ever lead to love?

Caleb Harken has spent six years wrongfully imprisoned for his father’s treachery. Tortured and reviled by the very wolf pack he should have been leading as Alpha, he is not surprised to learn he’s finally to meet his death at the hands of the human rebel leader, Taegan Callan.

Taegan gave up his dreams of a life-mate and a family after seeing too many humans butchered at the hands of the wolves—even if Caleb doesn’t seem to be the bloodthirsty savage he expects, and even if he starts to long for a different kind of future with the wolf.

Can Caleb become the Alpha he was always meant to be and lead his pack, or will he finally realize that winning his freedom means nothing when he has already lost his heart?

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Caleb sat hunched over on a fallen log just by the track that led down to the barn they kept the horses in. Taegan could practically feel the misery in the hunched shoulders, the bowed head, the way he favored his left arm even though he didn’t have it in the sling anymore. His arms were bare. “Caleb?” he called out quietly, not wanting to startle him, but Caleb never moved even though Taegan knew he would have heard him.

He crossed in front of the log and sat down, putting both mugs on the ground and passing him the poncho. “It’s cold out here.” For a second, he didn’t think Caleb was going to take it, but lifting his head he reached out cautiously. Instead of passing it to him, Taegan bunched it up and carefully went to ease it down over Caleb’s head. Caleb recoiled sharply, and Taegan stilled his hands. “Let me help,” he said. “You’ll get cold.”

Caleb lifted his head, the brown eyes suddenly so dark. “And you care, why?”

“I don’t know,” he said wretchedly, then shook his head, the gesture a denial, as Caleb widened his eyes in response. He hadn’t meant to admit that.

“I think it better if I sleep in a different cave until you decide what to do with me,” Caleb muttered.

“No—” he bit off. Caleb was hunched inwards. He was incredible. Giving. He soothed so many bitter corners in Taegan’s soul. He wanted to keep him, but it was impossible. Silas had once told him that many years ago, wolves fell in love at first sight. But Taegan was a human and he didn’t understand this odd compulsion to be with someone he had known barely two weeks. Maybe it was just a good healthy dose of lust.

“I’m not going to apologize for Ralph and Adams. The guards,” Taegan added, then felt ridiculous because of course Caleb would know who he meant. “They were doing their job.”

Caleb didn’t reply. Didn’t move.

“But I was wrong.”

Caleb’s head came up quickly. The surprise written all over his face.

“You didn’t deserve that assumption from me, and I apologize.”

Caleb ducked his head.

Taegan passed him one of the mugs of tea and unwrapped the bread. “My mom says you haven’t eaten.”

“I’m not hungry,” came the whisper.

Taegan put his untouched tea back on the ground. He reached out slowly, hooking his finger under Caleb’s chin and lifting it, immediately drowning in the stormy brown eyes, dark and brittle with misery. He had done that, him. He leaned forward and Caleb leaned back, twisting his head away. The rejection stung in his gut.

“Please eat,” Taegan said, dropping his hand. Caleb had been doing so well and the last thing he needed was Taegan upsetting that.

But Caleb didn’t move, didn’t look up. “What are you going to do with me?”

He had treated Caleb abominably. Taegan paused and for the first time in two years did something that wouldn’t help their cause, but was the right thing to do. “You are free to go. Now. If you want to walk down that hillside, I won’t stop you.”

Caleb’s head shot up. “You’d let me go?”

Taegan swallowed the husky denial. “I wish with everything I am that you are not the Alpha heir and I am not the rebel leader.” He let that sink in. Caleb’s eyes still fixed on his. “Especially after last week.”

Caleb’s eyes dipped, and Taegan reached out and touched his arm. “It should still be wrapped. It’s very likely broken.”

“I-it doesn’t hurt.” Caleb’s gaze lifted and Taegan stared. He was drowning in the golden depths. He’d thought Caleb’s eyes were brown, but the center simmered with chocolate and grew lighter outward until the flecks of amber almost turned them copper. Long golden brown lashes framed them, and Taegan took small comfort that the dark shadows under them had gone.

“You don’t eat enough.” He said almost brusquely to cover what he wanted to say. What he wanted to do. “Please eat something.” The words were quiet but no less pleading.

Caleb stared at the offered bread. He took a breath. “I think I forgot how. If I wasn’t hungry it was one less pain.”

“For me.” Taegan knew he had no right to use those words. Caleb owed him nothing.

Caleb took the thickly buttered bread and inhaled. “It smells wonderful.”

Taegan nudged him gently. “It tastes even better.” Caleb took a bite and Taegan beamed. Such a small victory.

“When will you plan to get the kids?” Caleb asked after swallowing. He sipped his tea and took another bite.

“I have two team leaders that get back from Solonara tomorrow. I haven’t the numbers without them.” Caleb chewed and seemed to consider what Taegan said. “It would help if we had any idea what time of day this is planned for.”

“Noon,” Caleb said immediately.

“Of course,” Taegan agreed instantly. It was the time Aylin started to cover Sorin. He should have known. How was it possible they were talking when everything in him wanted Caleb’s lips for another purpose?

Caleb finished the bread. He watched Taegan intently as if waiting for something.

“I owe you another apology also.” He would have been blind to miss the flash of pain that darkened the brown pupils nearly to black or the hiss as his words connected. Caleb misunderstood. He didn’t regret one second of it and wasn’t apologizing for it. “I loved every second of the time I spent with you. How I found the strength to leave my bed that morning is beyond me.”

Caleb’s slow, heart-stopping smile was worth every word of his confession. “So why did you leave me?”

“Because I am taking advantage.”

“Because I can’t stay,” Caleb supplied flatly, answering his own question.

“So, will you leave?” Taegan didn’t want the answer. Should he mention Silas’s crazy bonding theory? He couldn’t let Caleb go if it would hurt him, but he couldn’t take back his offer either.

“I know I can’t stay forever, but I won’t leave until Neal and Rayne are safe. I still think I should be the diversion you need.”

Caleb was touching. While they had talked he had crept closer, but it wasn’t charged with the same emotion as the last time. This wasn’t sexual but all about warmth, compassion, and comfort. He knew Taegan was having difficulty retelling some of his worst moments, and he wanted to support him. It would be so good to have someone by his side, but Taegan had lost that right a long time ago. Caleb’s eyes softened as he listened. It seemed to come as easy to him as breathing, but Taegan knew it was dangerous. Caleb was dangerous because for the first time Taegan wasn’t thinking about his responsibilities to other people.

He was thinking of himself.

“Taegan?” It was Cy. “We have an injured messenger bird. I think you need to come. We should have got the message yesterday but it has a damaged wing.”

Caleb stood and took Taegan’s empty mug. “I have a story to read.” He smiled and Taegan watched him go.

The wolf that eventually won his heart would be a very lucky man.

Victoria Sue:

Wrote her first book on a dare from her hubby three years ago. Loves writing about gorgeous boys loving each other the best, and especially with either a paranormal or a historical twist. Had a try at writing contemporary but failed spectacularly when it grew four legs and a tail.

Is an English northern lass but is currently serving twenty to life in Florida – unfortunately, she spends more time chained at her computer than on a beach.

Loves to hear from her readers and can be found most days lurking on facebook.

www.victoriasue.com

@vickysuewrites

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