Changing Tides by Alex Standish: Release Day Review and Giveaway

While most pirates sail in search of riches, Captain Devon Hall, the infamous Phantom of the Caribbean, is driven by vengeance. Devon has sworn to put an end to the corrupt governor of Jamaica and break the ruthless man’s stranglehold in the Caribbean.

When Devon is wounded and stranded on land, an unlikely rescuer comes to his aid. Brett Campbell is nothing like his uncle, the governor, and his goals are not so different from Devon’s. Brett longs for freedom, but his obligations to protect those under his uncle’s control keep him from fleeing. Throwing in with Devon might increase both their chances of success—and survival.

When the governor’s attempts to destroy Devon escalate and place Brett in danger and in the hands of the ruthless and depraved pirate Captain Blackburn, Devon must risk everything to save the man he loves and repay his enemies.

All Devon’s ever wanted is his ship, his freedom, friends who stand by his side through thick and thin, and someone to love. But facing dangers at sea and on land, Devon wonders if they will live to enjoy it all.

Title: Changing Tides
Author: Alex Standish
Release Date: August 16, 2017
Category: Historical: Americas
Pages: TBD (Novella)

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Changing Tides tells the tale of Devon, a notorious pirate known as the Phantom of the Caribbean who’s the captain of The Flying Horse. He and his crew do what pirates do, that is sail around looking for ships to commandeer and plunder. In between pirating, he’s got it in for the governor of Jamaica, Rupert Campbell, who Devon responsible for his father’s death, and is always looking for opportunity to take the guy down. The book opens with Devon wounded but stumbling his way to the Governor’s mansion where he is found by Brett, the Governor’s nephew. Brett nurses Devon back to health and during his recovery, he and Brett grow fond of each other. Naturally these two are going to have a bit of a hard time getting this thing off the ground, and before they can do much, the governor returns and Devon must flee. What follows is a pirating adventure that sort of reminded me of the classic Treasure Island: hidden treasure, an old map, adventure, ship battles, kidnappings, revenge, the high seas.

There were so many elements that would make me like this book: Pirates, romance, fights, rescue, bad guys getting their comeuppance…but I did not love this. The writing is a bit stilted and the details are kind of bland. I didn’t really feel anything for the characters or the romance. There’s a lot of tell, not show, here and conversations just don’t feel quite natural. There are a few love scenes, but at one point, Brett is half dead and it feels kind of icky for them to be attempting sexy times. This feels like an early writing attempt as far as dialogue and writing style go, but the plot wasn’t horrible. In fact, thinking back to Treasure Island, the style of writing is similar in that there’s lots of action and plot, and it’s much less character driven — not my favorite thing. Still, the good parts were okay and the less good parts really weren’t the worst I’ve read. I’d give the author another try in the future.

2.75 pieces of eye candy


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The Foxling Soldati by Charlie Cochet: Release Day Review and Giveaway

Foxling Toka has served the Soldati king for centuries, and now he attends to the kingdom’s cherished Soldati prince. It’s a position of honor, and as Toka helps the once-human prince adapt to their magical realm, he finds joy in their friendship. He also grows bolder in his encounters with Rayner, Soldati warrior and the king’s second. But the laws are clear: servants and Soldati are not permitted to mate. It doesn’t matter that Toka lost his heart to the dashing cad long ago.

Rayner never imagined he would fall in love with a servant, but the clever and beautiful foxling has ensnared him, and he resents the regulations keeping them apart. When an arrogant and spiteful king visits from a neighboring realm, Rayner is in danger of losing everything. But Soldati warriors don’t surrender, and he intends to fight all the harder to keep Toka where he belongs—in Rayner’s arms.

Title: The Foxling Soldati
Series: Soldati Hearts: Book Two
Author: Charlie Cochet
Release Date: August 16, 2017
Category: Fantasy: Urban Fantasy; Paranomal: Angels & Demons; Paranormal: Werewolves/Shapeshifters
Pages: TBD (Novella)

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Welp, that didn’t turn out like I thought it would.

Let me explain. I tend to shy away from fantasy books in general and shifter stories specifically. I’m not sure why. But this is an m/m and has a historical feel, so I gave it a try. What’s the worst that can happen?

Toka is a playful shape-shifting foxling who lives in the Soldati realm which is ruled by tiger shifters. It’s a nice place, actually: everyone seems to be happy and gets along, the king, Khalon, is easy going with a sense of humor, humility and since finding his fated mate, Riley, is pretty much in honeymoon mode 24/7. Toka’s lot in life is to be a servant, but the Soldati treat their servants (though let’s be honest, they’re slaves) kindly and respectfully. Rayner is the king’s sexy, tiger-shifting right-hand man whose (mutual) interest in Toka goes from flirtation in Book 1 (The Soldati Prince) to physical almost right away here. Pair up a tiger-shifting warrior with a lean twink-like foxling and you’re going to have some sexy times.

Toka and Rayner’s flirtations grow more heated and draw them closer together, physically and emotionally. Toka is just… so sweet, and I always like to see a big, tough alpha like Rayner show his soft, gooey center trying to please his little fox. There’s a bit of angst about whether this coupling is a fun distraction or true love — but it hardly matters because there’s a stupid ancient rule on the books that forbids Soldati and servants to mate. So, while the two can fool around all they want, they can never legally, officially, or openly pledge themselves to each other. Doesn’t that make you so mad? Me too.

The real trouble starts when the Soldati are visited by the king of a neighboring realm who is, essentially, a bear-shifting bully whose desire for revenge against Rayner fuels an uproar amongst the Soldatis and pits long-time friends — and new lovers — against each other. Toka finds himself in an intolerable situation and Rayner has to decide how far he will go, how much he will give up to keep Toka with him.

This is a short, sweet read and the short format naturally requires a sped-up lust-to-love-to-angst-to-resolution timeline and that may not be for everyone. Cochet’s writing is quick and to the point, and the plot flows smoothly. There are light hearted moments, the characters are drawn well and I’m mad, sad and a bit angsty along with them at times. There’s threat of rape and a couple of beatings that take place. Still, things may be a little too happy-happy for some, but I think it worked here for me because of the short-length format (Do not give me 800 pages of happy-happy). I liked Riley, the king’s husband, a lot and while you don’t need to read his book (The Soldati Prince) first, you do need to read it. DO IT. I knew I would get an HEA (because otherwise I would break things) but a little detail at the end made me even happier. So, while I shy away from shape shifting books in general, I was pleasantly surprised in how much I enjoyed this book and the series. Looking forward to reading more Charlie Cochet.

3.75 pieces of eye candy!


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Out of the Shadows by K.C. Wells: Release Day Review and Giveaway

Can he step out of the shadows and into love’s light?

Eight years ago, Christian Hernandez moved to Jamaica Plain in southern Boston, took refuge in his apartment, and cut himself off from the outside world. And that’s how he’d like it to stay.

Josh Wendell has heard his coworkers gossip about the occupant of apartment #1. No one sees the mystery man, and Josh loves a mystery. So when he is hired to refurbish the apartment’s kitchen and bathrooms, Josh is eager to discover the truth behind the rumors.

When he comes face-to-face with Christian, Josh understands why Christian hides from prying eyes. As the two men bond, Josh sees past his exterior to the man within, and he likes what he sees. But can Christian find the courage to emerge from the darkness of his lonely existence for the man who has claimed his heart?

Title: Out of the Shadows
Author: K.C. Wells
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Category: Contemporary, Dreamspun Desires
Pages: 250

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Josh, residential handy-man and gardener for a set of apartment buildings, has a new job to do. Instead of working in the garden, he’s been asked to do some remodeling in these outdated apartments. New bathrooms and kitchen cabinets, and tiles, it’s going to be hard work. I didn’t understand why he was expected to do it all himself, but he seemed up for it and enjoyed the work. His first day on the job, he thought he was alone, nobody seemed to be home, though after a full day of working, he found the tenant was actually just locked in his room and preferred to talk through doors or texts. He knew something was wrong, but didn’t know what. People had been talking about the elusive tenant, giving him idea’s of the kind of person he might be. How wrong they were.

Christian’s life is in his apartment. He never leaves, he never sees people. It’s just him and the insurance job he does from home. An accident from almost a decade ago has left him scarred and disfigured and naturally, he’s pushed everyone away and stayed hidden. Even when he checks out the hot gardener that works in his garden. Little does he know, the man who’s been hired to redo his apartment, IS the hot gardener. Talking through the door seems silly, but he wouldn’t dare let the man see what he looks like.

Until one day, he does. Josh is amazing. He’s patient and kind and everything Christian needs him to be. He doesn’t pretend to not see the scars, but they don’t bother him a bit. I like how he didn’t pretend to not see them, or try to downplay what I’m sure is a serious thing for Christian. He didn’t brush off his anxiety about going out and about, he just worked around it. He nudged him instead of pushed and was so understanding when Christian was uncomfortable. He was really very sweet and of course Christian fell for him, who wouldn’t? Little did he know, the time he spent with Christian, he was falling for him too.

I love hurt/comfort stories. I love the realness of stories like these that have obstacles that aren’t arbitrary or baseless. This one was sweet and slow burning and when these two came together, from friends to lovers, it wasn’t forced or rushed. I loved that.

Although I thought the dialogue was often times cheesy, and I’ve never seen any straight friends act like teenage girls gossiping like Josh’s friends. I liked them as well. I wouldn’t mind reading stories about all of them as well. Overall, it was a very sweet read and I’m glad I didn’t pass it up.

4 pieces of eye candy for me.


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The Charlatan’s Conquest by Vivien Dean: Exclusive Guest Post, Review and Giveaway

With love and ghosts, the challenge is figuring out what’s real.

Software engineer Cruz Guthrie needs money for his sister’s cancer treatments. He needs it so badly he’s willing to stand in for a ghost hunter friend and investigate a millionaire’s supposed specters. It should be an easy gig—after all, nobody thinks the haunting is real.

Neurological researcher Brody Weber is furious that Cruz would take advantage of Brody’s father. But his mind changes when spirits manifest—and he realizes Cruz genuinely wants to help. When they learn the paranormal activity centers on Brody, Cruz is willing to fight to free Brody from the entities determined to make his life miserable. With a little help from friends and family—both living and dead—they must figure out why Brody is attracting spirits and how to banish them. Only then can they pursue a future together.

Title: The Charlatan’s Conquest
Series: Phantom Fixers
Author: Vivien Dean
Release Date: August 15, 2017
Category: Paranormal: Ghosts/Spirits, Dreamspun Beyond
Pages: 216

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

By Vivien Dean

Thank you so much for letting me stop by today! My name is Vivien Dean, and I’m excited to have a release in the debut month of Dreamspinner’s new line, Dreamspun Beyond. It’s nerve-wracking, I’ll admit. I’ve wanted to have a solo title with Dreamspinner for over three years now. The reports from my author friends who published with DSP were nothing but glowing, and I itched to be a part of it. Plus, the covers were gorgeous, and who doesn’t love getting graced with pretty art? So when Dreamspun Beyond was announced, I jumped at the chance. I had been lucky enough to collaborate with Rick Reed on the Dreamspun Desires line, but this would be all on my own, without any filters, without Rick to help me along. Now, I’m not exactly a newbie. I’ve been writing and publishing romance for over a decade. But first impressions only happen once, and I always strive to present the best I can, especially in my work.

First impressions also play vital roles in our stories. It doesn’t matter if characters haven’t met before the story starts or if they’ve known each other for years. Those initial thoughts on the other person, as well as the interactions, can shape how the relationship progresses. Two strangers bumping into each other in a coffee shop have a specific dynamic. Two men who’ve been best friends since kindergarten will bring a completely different perspective to a budding romance. Those first moments matter, whether we see them on the page or not.

In “The Charlatan’s Conquest,” my two heroes, Cruz and Brody, don’t even know the other exists when the story starts. Cruz first meets Brody when Brody storms into a meeting Cruz has with Brody’s father about getting rid of the ghosts haunting the family house. Cruz is already on edge because he feels like a bit of a faker since he’s not a real ghost hunter, so his first instinct is to keep everybody calm so he can stay in control of the situation.

But crashing the meeting and finding this gorgeous guy sitting on the couch with his dad isn’t Brody’s first impression of Cruz. Actually, he’s already formed an opinion before he steps foot in the house. He’s convinced Cruz is a scam artist, which is why he raced to intervene, but when he arrived, this was what greeted him:

Another car was in the circular drive in front of the three-story brick house. Brody pulled up behind it with a frown, his gaze fixed on the vehicle as he got out of his own. It was a dark blue Volvo station wagon, at least twenty years old, with a dozen stickers on its rear bumper. A yellow ribbon for children’s cancer with words of support surrounding it. A rainbow-colored peace symbol. A variety of slogans like I’m not speeding. I’m qualifying and My other car is the Batmobile and Sometimes I wrestle with my demons. Sometimes we just snuggle.

Brody snorted at the last one. He could tell this gay-rights supporter/speed freak/comics-loving ghost hunter a thing or two about demons.

I wanted Brody’s first impression to be very distinct. It’s also fairly accurate in a purely superficial way. Cruz decorated his bumper in stickers that meant something to him, and the chaos of all the messages and colors is perfectly on point with the vibrancy and diversity in Cruz’s life. Brody learned a lot in a single glance, even though he didn’t understand the importance of all of it. It subverted his expectations, which ultimately made it easier for Cruz to gain his trust.

If I had bumper stickers on my car—and the fact that I don’t says something about me, too, whether I like it or not, haha—mine would probably be as diverse as Cruz’s. One for my kids being honors students. Some type of pride emblem. One that says, “Hostile 17 owes me kittens.” The list would likely be huge. My Flex would look like a Nascar car covered in ads. Except not, because, well, it’s a Flex.

What first impression would people get from your (real or imaginary) bumper stickers?

Paranormal stories are not usually my books of choice. With just a few exceptions, I have always been more of a contemporary romance, life in the current plane of reality kind of reader. But The Charlatan’s Conquest intrigued me from the second I read the blurb. Not just because it was part of a new line by Dreamspinner Press, but also because the ghost part, that has always been a bit of a fascination for me, and within the gay romance genre, those books are few and far between.

I immediately liked Cruz. He was a responsible guy, with a family that was strange, but helped to create him into the person he was. His connection to his family made him even more likable, especially his younger sister, who even while she was sick couldn’t help but try to find Cruz the right boyfriend.

Brody, well, he took a little getting used to. The reader could see that his concern was that his father was being swindled, and having spent so much of his life on the other side of things with his father, he wanted to make sure there was not one more thing that would go bad. Brody for years didn’t realize that all the hauntings that he refused to acknowledge were actually brought through him.

Once these two connected and worked through how the hauntings were happening, and what was the root cause, it was easy to see how these two men could work together to try to find the right way to get rid of them, and allow Brody to find a happy place for the first time in his life. Seeing a man who spent his years from the time his mother died until he was able to rid himself of these demons in a terribly unhappy place was tragic, and explained so much about his life, and even his skepticism.

Brody and Cruz fit well together, but even more, they were able to be strengths for each other, as both had their own demons (literally and figuratively) to work through, but needed each other to balance everything out. They were definitely ying to yang for one another. Giving and taking as needed to deal with the enormous and frightening tasks that they had to deal with.

What a satisfying ending, not just to the story, but to how it was dealt with. With ghost and paranormal stories, whatever the author dreams up could be somewhat realistic, or it could be so off the charts out there that the reader has a hard time believing that it “could” happen in a parallel universe. In this case, it felt like something that really could happen in that alternate world.

I really enjoyed this one, and highly recommend! 4.5 pieces of eye candy

 

VIVIEN DEAN is a firm believer that love doesn’t care about gender. That’s why her titles encompass both GLBT and het, erotic and sweet, as well as a wide variety of genres. After growing up in the snowy and isolated Midwest, she went off in search of her creative muse. She performed on stage, wrote and directed indie films in Orlando, then met her British soulmate online. One wedding, two children, and ten addresses later, she resides in the Bay Area where it’s easy to indulge in her favorite pastimes—good theater, great movies, and amazing food.

Vivien is a four-time EPIC eBook Award winner and collaborated with Pepper Espinoza to write as Jamie Craig for five years.

CONTACT VIVIEN

Website: www.viviendean.com

E-mail: vivien_dean@yahoo.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/vivien.dean.3

Twitter: @VivienDean

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Tufted & Tatted by Jacques N. Hoff (SJD Peterson, author): Exclusive Cover Reveal, Guest Post

Tufted & Tatted, is the 4th book in the Peckers series and the first that was solely written by SJD Peterson. For those who may be confused about why I wrote these under Jacques N. Hoff, he is actually the main character in the pecker world. These are his stories, about his friends and will be the star in the final book. What some may have missed from previous books, is book is always dedicated to Jacques long lost love. 🙂
Freed from the Australian zoo where he was the subject of forced breeding experiments, Atticus makes his way to the tufted puffin grounds in California, only to find he may not be free after all. Atty is a loner, but he doesn’t want to fight the pull to a flighty surfer who gives his inked skin a pleasant, uncontrollable itch.

Scott has the sun on his face, the waves beneath him, and gratitude for every second of life he gets to embrace. Then Atty steps into his life, and it’s like the universe has tuned his meditation bell to the perfect frequency.

The Tiki Pro surfing competition in Florida is calling to Scott, and Atty agrees to make sure Scott gets there safely. A cross-country road trip in the Hunny Wagon seems like a perfect way to live in the present and get tantric all at the same time.

But they aren’t making this trek alone.

Title: Tufted & Tatted
Series: Peckers: Book Four
Author: Jacques N. Hoff
Release Date: September 13, 2017
Category: Paranormal: Werewolves/Shifters, Humor
Pages: 82

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About Jacques N. Hoff:

My father told me all about the birds and the bees. The liar. I went steady with a woodpecker until I was twenty-one. I now travel the world in search of the hottest peckers—in tandem with my best friend Simon Spoonwell and his blue jay partner Jay Azure.
What you read here is all true. Well, at least in the world of UCPeckers it is. Wherever you see peckers, you may just find me there.

About the Authors:
Jacques N. Hoff is the brainchild of SJD Peterson and S.A. McAuley–two authors who shouldn’t be allowed to interact with each other (at least in public). It was either co-write hot pecker porn or plot world domination. It’s not clear which outcome will take the forefront on any given day.
Sam helped co-write the first three books in the series and is the driving force that started UC Peckers. For now Jo is taking over the series but who knows, you may see Sam pop in from time to time or maybe other guest co-writers.

The UC Peckers World:
Jacques N. Hoff welcomes you to the world of Undercover Peckers. Where love is instant the moment you find your mate. Where there’s only one true pecker for every man. Where the sex is so hot it will singe your tailfeathers. Where bird watching is both a recreation and a preoccupation—that usually leads to feathers flying. Let Jacques N. Hoff, Simon, and his avian shifter mate Jay lead you through this world of sinful and ridiculous exploration.

Jay Walking (Peckers Book 1)

Cockstrut (Peckers Book 2)

Masked Booby (Peckers Book 3)

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The Long and Winding Road by TJ Klune: Release Day Review and Giveaway

Family is not always defined by blood. It’s defined by those who make us whole—those who make us who we are.

And here, at the end, Bear and Otter will be tested like they’ve never been before.

There’s a knock at the door from a little girl who has nowhere else to go.

There’s a phone ringing, bringing news they do not expect.

There’s a brother returning home after learning how to stand on his own.

As these moments converge, all of their lives will change forever.

Beginning in Bear, Otter, and the Kid and continuing in Who We Are and The Art of Breathing, TJ Klune has told a saga of family and brotherhood, of love and sacrifice. In this final chapter, the events of the past pave the long and winding road toward a future no one could have imagined.

Title: The Long and Winding Road
Series: Bear, Otter, and the Kid Chronicles: Book Four
Author: TJ Klune
Release Date: August 11, 2017
Category: Contemporary
Pages: 346

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I feel like I knew this was coming and I still wasn’t prepared for it. How do you? How do you prepare for the end of something you’ve felt so invested in for so long? Something that impacted your life a great deal, even though they were fictional people in a fictional world ? I wasn’t ready… I’m still not.

Probably be mild spoilers, though I’ll try not to… Beware of that now ….that was your warning!

In this one, we start out looking in the past… we see a lot that went on in the time gaps, from Bear’s POV. Ty’s addiction, man, that was a tough one. It was so very well written and explained. My heart broke for both of them, but Tyson…reliving it all from Bear and Otter… I just loved the realness of it all. The reality of it and how much it hurts the people who love you. I wasn’t expecting that. Then, we go on another journey we didn’t get to see in other books. How they decided and how it affected each of them. There’s so much I could, and that I wanna say here. I wanna gush and ramble and cry, because I did a lot of all of that, while reading it… And I’m not being dramatic; especially if you’ve followed this imaginary family from the beginning, you can’t not help but get invested in their fictional little lives and want the absolute best for them, always. All of them, even Creed, who I gotta be honest, drives me a little crazy.

Then, we get to the present…. Izzy… I worried about her after Ty left her last book. That effing cliffhanger… I mean, spoiler if you haven’t read it.. sorry, but if you haven’t then why are you jumping ahead? Go back and read it!

So, Izzie…and Bear and Otter and their amazing news. Then Ty and Dom and Anna and Creed, and everyone is all here. Ty is getting settled into his life where we left him, Dom and Ben… things are good with everyone finally, and we’re on the road to preparing for their future and the greatness they’re getting. It’s a hard road… hard and funny and taxing and emotional… everything you’d expect with this family. But through everything, they always have each other…They’re one giant team, right? Bear and Otter, there isn’t anyone alive that loves as much as those two do… they have an endless amount and it’s so fun to read about. I loved every single second…. Even if I did wanna throttle Otter for just a split second. I love how everything was handled and how Bear can be the serious one when he needs to be. His heart to heart with Izzie had me a mess….I was happy to see him be the calm one, when it counted. When he needed to be, he had several heart to hearts in here….They were even coherent…mostly 😛

And then everything that they’d worked so hard for, everything that had been leading up to this moment…. Happened…. And F if I didn’t fall in love with all of them even more all over again….

Now, the future…the future is perfect. Although I hated to see it end… it ended perfectly… in the best place. Everyone was in the best place. Happy and healthy and together. Kids and family, love and extended hippy family. It couldn’t have ended better. I’m sad, really that it’s over… I’ve been following this series for what seems like ever and we’ve been through a lot with them… a whole lot. But we got everything we needed by the end. Everything to make it okay to say goodbye to. I hope we do get a glimpse at everyone later, maybe in brief cameo in a Paul and Vince book, or possibly if Kori/Corey gets a book, which I beg to all that is Holy that, that will happen.

Although it’s time to say goodbye to everyone, I feel better knowing I can come back and revisit them any time I want to….I give this series AND this story… ALL the sunshine points!

5 stars from me. And even though I may be a little biased, I was given this story with the promise of an honest review… If you follow my reviews at all,  I am nothing but honest… perhaps a little dramatic at times too, but always honest. If you loved any part of this entire series. You won’t want to pass this one up. It’s perfect.


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The Valentine’s Day Resolution by Ava Hayden: Release Day Review and Giveaway

Huxley carries invisible scars from a near-fatal car accident. He sleepwalks through a job at his father’s company, marking time until he can quit and pursue his own dreams.

Everything changes the moment he makes eye contact with a stranger while riding to work. It’s as if he’s been shaken out of his stupor, and Huxley vows to find the man.

Thanks to a thieving ex-lover, Paul’s florist shop is on the brink of closing down. He needs to milk Valentine’s Day for all it’s worth—and the irony that a day dedicated to love might help undo the damage of a failed relationship is not lost on him.

When Huxley finds Paul at his shop, both men feel an instant attraction. Before long, they’re falling hard, but Huxley holds back. If Paul knew all the baggage he’s carrying, he might run.

Paul’s gut tells him Huxley is hiding something. Huxley looks like a keeper, but Paul can’t go through another disastrous romance.

When Valentine’s Day arrives, will they have anything to celebrate?

Title: The Valentine’s Day Resolution
Author: Ava Hayden
Release Date: August 2, 2017
Category: Contemporary, Holiday
Pages: TBD (Novella)

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This was a sweet holiday read (although I did wonder why it came out in August versus around Valentine’s Day, but it was still a lovely insert into summer). The Valentine’s Day Resolution did not have a lot of angst, but definitely brought a few tears to the eyes, especially as you saw what Huxley had been through in the previous year.

One of the things that I liked most about Huxley was not just that he was trying to deal with his issues surrounding his car accident, but also that he was trying to grow himself as a person, and a man running a successful company. He realized that he had been sleepwalking through his position since he started, and really wanted to find a way to make a difference in the work lives of his employees, as well as the company as a whole. Healing as a person was important to him, but becoming a manager that could be relied upon, and be seen as forward thinking was important to him as well, and he worked on that nearly as hard as trying to get past his accident.

Meanwhile, Paul himself was working on whether to allow Huxley in, to trust him, after learning he trusted the wrong person in the past, and it created such a devastating position for his shop. I didn’t necessarily agree with his method of dealing with things, as sometimes it seemed he was trying too hard to do everything himself, and not allowing those that cared for him to help. In the end that lack of trust made things more of a challenge for him to get through the tough spots, and almost lose his new love.

I really enjoyed, though, the big “final” scene. I loved how it brought all their issues together, clicked them off one by one, and of course brought them to their HEA. But it was dealt with in a very unique way (in fact one of the MC’s was not in that entire scene, which was very creative).

3.5 pieces of eye candy


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Red Fish, Dead Fish by Amy Lane: Exclusive Author Interview, Blog Tour, and Excerpt

Red Fish, Dead Fish Blog Tour Stop 4

The Lovely Ms. Kim Fielding

By Amy Lane

Okay folks—so, I’m here today to promote Red Fish, Dead Fish, my latest story in the Fish Out of Water series.  Now, usually in a blog tour, we talk about ourselves and our newest book until we can’t hardly stand it—but this time out I decided to do something different. I’m going to talk about other people’s books—because I know some amazing romantic suspense authors, and I wanted to celebrate them instead.

So Red Fish, Dead Fish is out on Amazon, it’s the second in the series, and I think you’ll like it very much a lot! That being said, let’s talk about Kim Fielding!  

I have to admit, I’m biased about Kim Fielding. We’ve been on road trips together to Las Vegas, where we saw where the lazy mobsters hid the bodies, and to San Diego, where we got butt lost somewhere in LA. We even threw our combined children in the back of the minivan and left them to Mate’s devices while we gossiped in her amazing Mini, and the whole lot of us went hunting for ghosts in the Sierra Foothills.

And after all this time together, I’ve got to tell you—there’s something terrifically and deliciously not right with Kim Fielding.

She’s a criminal justice professor in her other life, and she’s got a pixilated sense of humor to go with her knowledge of where the bodies would be buried and which law enforcement agency would dig them up when they were. When I first wrote Fish Out of Water, I sent it to her, so she could spot any inaccuracies—she was my resident expert, and I flat out revered her opinion.

That, and she laughs at my jokes and isn’t afraid to be lost in the middle of Southern California with me.

And she writes terrific books.  For a touch of paranormal, I’d recommend Motel Pool, but if you want some romantic suspense—even if it’s just the suspense of a lover’s past coming back to bite him in the ass, go with the Love Can’t series, which seriously made me cry. But really, you can’t go wrong with Kim Fielding no matter which book you pick up—so kick back and enjoy her interview, and hope that maybe one day, you’ll get to join her on a ghost hunt too. Even if you don’t find any ghosts, I promise, you’ll enjoy the trip! 

Kim Fielding

What do you think is the most delicious part of a suspense novel or a mystery?

Fielding: The human beings involved. Obviously, plot is important in these genres. Everything needs to be tighter and needs to serve several purposes. But I won’t care at all about the world’s most beautifully crafted plot if I don’t care about the characters. I want heroes who are flawed. I want villains who are sympathetic. I want minor characters who feel like real people and not just Plot Enablers. I want the characters to be smart. This is important. I once read a novel in which the protagonist was such an idiot she couldn’t have qualified as a hall monitor, yet she was supposed to be an FBI agent. Right. On the other hand, I want these smart people to have weaknesses and do stupid things now and then, because don’t we all?

Tell me about body counts–seriously. How many corpses make a good suspense novel, and why?

Fielding: Depends on the corpses.

For me it’s not about how many die, but how and why. Are their deaths truly furthering a plot point? Were they predictable? Were they realistic? Are they all just rehashes of the same crime? And who are they?

“Who are they?” is an especially important question. A murder is often more effective if the reader has some emotional connection to the victim. It can be a negative connection. For example SPOILER HERE SPOILER SPOILER weren’t you deeply satisfied in Game of Thrones when Ramsay Bolton got eaten by his own dogs? I know I was. But of course the connection can be positive

too. Stephen King is wonderful at making his characters come alive, making us love them, and then killing then off. This connection can even happen with minor characters. In my book Love Is Heartless, a bad guy murders two people who we’ve met only briefly, yet I think their deaths resonate because readers liked those poor men.

The other most important question for me is how realistic the murders are. My day job is criminal justice professor, so I’m critical of authors who do a sloppy job on research. That kind of stuff throws me right out of the story. In my opinion, an author who’s going to write a suspense novel should take the time to ensure the details are right. He or she should to cops, lawyers, or criminologists, or read guides like Geoff Symon’s books on Forensics for Fiction.  Because if there are mistakes—especially big ones—I’ll judge that author. A lot.

What’s your most creative way to kill someone?  

Fielding: I don’t know that I’ve ever caused the a death in an especially creative way, but I’ve done some interesting things with people after they were dead.

I can’t be specific about this because it’s spoilery, but I have a novel in which I killed off one of the protagonists TWICE—and still managed a happy ending. I’m pretty pleased with that one.

I have a recently finished novel (currently under submission) in which an unpleasant fellow dies by getting his throat sliced. But my hero needs the information this guy had, so he lops of the dead guy’s head and drags it to a necromancer. Unfortunately, the deceased isn’t any more loveable than he was when he was alive.

I also have to mention a death in Love Is Heartless. A man has disappeared, and some time later a homeowner finds the missing man’s jawbone in his front yard. Police focus on the homeowner’s neighbor, who’s kind of a lowlife—but security camera footage reveals that the jawbone literally fell from the sky! How? Well, you’ll have to read the book to solve that mystery. But what I wanted to share was that this really happened not far from me; I got the story from a local deputy coroner and was thrilled to include it in a book.

Dish about TV shows–which ones do you love and which ones do you hate from a suspense POV? Which TV show/movie do you most want your books to resemble?

Feilding: I watch almost no TV. It’s not that I have anything against it, but between writing, the day job, and the family, I just don’t have time. I do, however, tend to have a single show I follow. For the past several years that’s been Game of Thrones. GoT’s season is really short, though, and this year I’ve added a second series, American Gods. That’s it for now. Part of the fun of GoT is you never know who’s going to die. And with both GoT and American Gods, you’re never sure they’ll remain dead.

I generally avoid cop and lawyer shows because they get too many things wrong. I sit there shouting, “That’s not right! That’s not how they do that!” until my husband gets annoyed with me and turns of the TV. One exception was Dexter. No, it wasn’t realistic either, but I was able to overlook that because the rest of it was really fun.

When you read outside your genre, what’s your candy? (I ask everybody this–I think it’s fascinating!)  

Fielding: I read a lot of stuff. On more than one occasion, a bookstore clerk has commented on my eclectic choices, and this pleased me. My most common go-to, however, is speculative fiction. Under that wide umbrella, I especially love urban fantasy and magical realism. For instance, I’ll snap up just about everything by Neil Gaiman and Isabel Allende.

More generally, though, I adore books in which the author surprises me with something fresh. Some recent ones I’ve enjoyed? The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt, about a pair of gold rush-era hitmen. It’s violent but also funny and delightfully weird. Helen Wecker’s The Golem and The Jinni is also delightful. It mashes together golem and jinni mythology, it’s set in New York around 1900, and it’s sweet and sad and amazing. It’s the kind of story that swallows you up. Another recent favorite was Frederick Busch’s The Night Inspector, which also takes place in New York, but a few decades earlier than Wecker’s book. There’s a lot of brutality in it, but that was a brutal time, and the protagonist is beautifully flawed.

You can see in the last paragraph that I’m a fan too of historical fiction. I prefer stories that focus on common people rather than the rich, titled, and famous. And while I’ll read any timeframe, I have a special weakness for the California gold rush, probably because I live very close to where it happened.

 

For more interviews and author close ups for Romantic Suspense, check out the rest of the blog tour—

July 28 – MM Good Book Reviews Amy Lane

July 28 – Alpha Book Reviews (Just a little about Jackson in Fish Out of Water)

July 31 – Open Skye Book Reviews Andrew Grey

August 1 – Two Chicks Obsessed Kim Fielding

August 2 – My Fiction Nook Rayna Vause

August 3 – Tammy’s Two Cents Ava Drake

August 4 – Happily Ever Chapter Melinda Leigh

August 7 – Long and Short Reviews Karen Rose

August 8 – Love Bytes Charlie Cochet

August 10 – The Novel Approach Tere Michaels

 

Red Fish, Dead Fish

Blog Tour:

July 28 – MM Good Book Reviews (Amy Lane answers her own interview questions!)

July 28 – Alpha Book Reviews

July 31 – Open Skye Book Reviews

August 1 – Two Chicks Obsessed

August 2 – My Fiction Nook

August 3 – Tammy’s Two Cents

August 4 – Happily Ever Chapter

August 7 – Long and Short Reviews

August 8 – Love Bytes

August 10 – The Novel Approach

  

 

They must work together to stop a psychopath—and save each other.

Two months ago Jackson Rivers got shot while trying to save Ellery Cramer’s life. Not only is Jackson still suffering from his wounds, the triggerman remains at large—and the body count is mounting.

Jackson and Ellery have been trying to track down Tim Owens since Jackson got out of the hospital, but Owens’s time as a member of the department makes the DA reluctant to turn over any stones. When Owens starts going after people Jackson knows, Ellery’s instincts hit red alert. Hurt in a scuffle with drug-dealing squatters and trying damned hard not to grieve for a childhood spent in hell, Jackson is weak and vulnerable when Owens strikes.

Jackson gets away, but the fallout from the encounter might kill him. It’s not doing Ellery any favors either. When a police detective is abducted—and Jackson and Ellery hold the key to finding her—Ellery finds out exactly what he’s made of. He’s not the corporate shark who believes in winning at all costs; he’s the frightened lover trying to keep the man he cares for from self-destructing in his own valor.

 

 Amazon

Dreamspinner Press

 

Prologue—Belly Up

“Ellery, hand me my phone,” Jackson mumbled. “It’s ringing.”

“You’re not back at work yet,” Ellery slurred. “You have two more weeks.”

Jackson rolled over on top of him and as he reached unwisely for the phone Ellery had strategically put on his own end table. For a moment, Ellery was covered with tense, warm man, and then he shoved Jackson off.

“I’ll get it!” he snapped, officially awake. “Jesus, what in the—”

“It’s Mack’s ringtone,” Jackson defended. “I told him what we were looking for.”

Ellery tried not to roll his eyes. Mack. This was the same Mack who had helped Jackson out when Jackson had wrecked the car unofficially helping Ellery with an investigation.

At the time, Ellery had been so happy to get Jackson back in one bruised piece—and on a plane to somewhere he could rest without incident—that he hadn’t questioned this Mack’s existence. Once he found out that Mack Flanders had been Jackson’s bedmate a few years ago, he’d been irritated but unsurprised.

Now that Mack was calling them in the whore of dawn’s sweaty crack, Ellery wanted to kick him in the balls.

Except….

“Cottage Park, near the outbuilding. Yeah, I got it. There’s a way to get in there, right? I’m not climbing the fucking fence. Of course there’s cops and crime scene tape. That’s not what I’m asking.” The voice on the other end spoke patiently, and some of Jackson’s defensiveness seeped away. “Okay. Thanks, Mack. Owe you another one. No, sorry—told you. Not paying favors that way anymore, but it’s nice of you to ask.”

“God in heaven,” Ellery muttered.

“Yeah, okay. I’ll be there in half an hour.”

“We’ll be there.” Ellery rolled out of bed and headed for the shower. Thirty seconds to run some soap under his pits and pack a suit for court later that day. He could do it.

“Crap,” he could hear Jackson say as he closed the shower door. “We’ll be there. Thanks.”

Five seconds later, Jackson stepped into the shower with him and grabbed his own shower gel from the corner of the tub. They’d had some nice times in there together—particularly when Jackson was still healing from his gunshot wound and his shattered scapula and needed Ellery’s help.

They’d had a few after that too, but not today.

“Body?” Ellery asked, not really needing confirmation.

“Yeah.” Jackson scrubbed his pits with care but not vigor—moving was still painful and probably would be for a little while. He’d gotten out of the hospital less than six weeks earlier. By all rights he should still be chilling in the fall sunshine, maybe swimming in the pool at the gym—but not Jackson.

Ellery had needed to haul him to San Diego to give himself time to recover.

It was even more infuriating that he was right today. There really was no time to rest.

“Our kind?”

Jackson shook the water from his dark blond hair and squinted at Ellery through eyes as green as bottle glass. “We have a kind of dead body? Most couples just go with favorite song.”

Ellery soaped his hair efficiently. “You know what I mean.”

Jackson grabbed the shampoo. “Yeah.”

Jackson, the private investigator at Ellery’s defense firm, had gotten shot helping Ellery bring down a ring of corrupt cops. They’d put the ringleaders in prison—but one of the underlings had gotten away.

Turned out he was the one the police should have been chasing all along.

“Young,” Jackson said, ticking off items on the list. “This one’s Hispanic. Male, but slender. Recent involvement with drugs. Maybe a week of turning tricks.”

“Dirty pretty,” Ellery confirmed grimly. They had been Scott Bridger’s words, actually, one of the men they’d brought down, to describe the kind of person who had disappeared on his partner’s watch. Gender hadn’t mattered, nor race. Just a little bit of street dirt and some physical beauty.

Tim Owens liked to take the “dirty pretty” ones and make them not so pretty anymore.

“Mack says there’s something new about this one,” Jackson said, stepping in front of him to rinse his hair.

Ellery wasn’t sure why he did it, except it was not yet four in the morning and he and Jackson were naked together, and that wasn’t something he’d learned to take for granted yet.

He wrapped his arms around Jackson’s shoulders and kissed his neck, softly, gently, with just enough tongue and teeth to make Jackson regret they weren’t making love this morning but going to work instead.

Jackson tensed for a moment, probably caught off guard, but then he relaxed into Ellery’s arms and leaned his head back.

“What?” he asked suspiciously.

Well, Ellery had been known to be an autocratic bastard—that was probably warranted.

“Just….” Ellery couldn’t find words. Or he could find words, but neither of them had said the words yet, and you just didn’t spring those words on a guy whose entire life had been an act of insufficient self-protection.

With a sinuous movement, Jackson turned his head and caught Ellery’s mouth, something he couldn’t have done a month ago, something that felt huge and necessary now.

“Don’t worry about me, Counselor,” Jackson said cheekily, pulling away. “But the cuddle was downright friendly.”

Well, sure. Friendly. Just two friendly lovers getting out of bed extra early to go catch a serial killer. Nothing strange about that at all.

“Just be careful,” Ellery said, trying not to sound bitchy or officious and failing. “He’s got your cell phone. You know that, right?”

“Well, he had it for a couple of hours before it got deactivated,” Jackson said. “And yeah—fuck me for owning an Android with the shitty security. Thank you so much for the iPhone, Ellery. Now I am safe from serial killers everywhere.”

The snark in his voice was the only thing that kept Ellery from conking him over the head and tying him to the bed in a completely non-kinky way.

 

PI Jackson Rivers grew up on the mean streets of Del Paso Heights—and he doesn’t trust cops, even though he was one. When the man he thinks of as his brother is accused of killing a police officer in an obviously doctored crime, Jackson will move heaven and earth to keep Kaden and his family safe.

Defense attorney Ellery Cramer grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but that hasn’t stopped him from crushing on street-smart, swaggering Jackson Rivers for the past six years. But when Jackson asks for his help defending Kaden Cameron, Ellery is out of his depth—and not just with guarded, prickly Jackson. Kaden wasn’t just framed, he was framed by crooked cops, and the conspiracy goes higher than Ellery dares reach—and deep into Jackson’s troubled past.

Both men are soon enmeshed in the mystery of who killed the cop in the minimart, and engaged in a race against time to clear Kaden’s name. But when the mystery is solved and the bullets stop flying, they’ll have to deal with their personal complications… and an attraction that’s spiraled out of control.

 

Amy Lane has two kids in college, two gradeschoolers in soccer, two cats, and two Chi-who-whats at large. She lives in a crumbling crapmansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and m/m romance–and if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.

 

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

The Teddy Bear Club by Sean Michael: Release Day Review with Giveaway

Two lonely men. One perfect family.

Aiden Lake adopted his institutionalized sister’s two daughters, and he’s a good dad. He works nights on websites and gets in his adult time twice a week at the Roasty Bean, where he meets with other single gay parents.

Devon Smithson wants to be a good dad now that his sixteen-year-old sister asked him to babysit her newborn… three months ago. But he’s overwhelmed with the colicky baby. An invitation to the daddy-and-kid gatherings at the café is a godsend. The pot is sweetened when his friendship with Aiden develops into more—maybe even something that can last.

But the mother who kicked Dev out for being gay wants to get her claws into the baby, and she doesn’t care if she tears Dev, Aiden, and everything they’re building apart in the process.

Title: The Teddy Bear Club
Series: The Teddy Bear Club
Author: Sean Michael
Release Date: August 1, 2017
Category: Contemporary, Dreamspun Desires
Pages: 208

Amazon

Dreamspinner Press

Kobo Books

 

Hot dads with their kids, is there anything cuter?

In this one, we have Aiden, who with his friends, Logan and Zach have a weekly routine to meet up for coffee for a little “dad-date” kind of thing. Just a little group to get away and have some time with other adults, as a mother, I can 100% relate to. Dev, is the new guy to the group and brand new dad to his sisters abandoned baby. She just up and left him without a trace, leaving Dev to figure out how to do this dad thing on his own. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to, because Aiden, with his two little girls, invite him into their home for play dates and adult conversation. It starts off as a platonic friendship but soon turns into more, the more they get to know each other and spend time with each other. Plus, all the kids get along really well, Bee (Aiden’s daughter) and U- short for Unicorn (Dev’s new son), are roughly around the same age, so I can imagine how difficult that would be, but handy, as I loved having kids close together.

Unfortunately for Dev, his sister disappeared, so getting custody of U before his homophobic mother caught wind that he had him, was proving pretty difficult. Luckily, Logan’s a lawyer and set to work on it pretty quick.

I loved these two together because it all seemed so real. The dynamic wasn’t perfect between them, Dev brought some baggage and needed help, which he wasn’t afraid to ask for and Aiden was wasn’t afraid to offer it. It was a story of friendship first that turned into more. I liked that it wasn’t just, “hi, nice to meet you, we both have kids and you’re hot so I love you”… I enjoyed reading about their every day stuff and them getting to know each other and got used to being a family, together. The dialogue was a bit cheesy at times but it works for these two. I really enjoyed it.

I would’ve liked to seen some karmic justice served up on the mom who was seriously, a terrible person, but other than that. It ended on a good note and I wouldn’t mind reading more about Dirk, Logan and Zach. <Heavy hinting here> J

4 pieces of eye candy from me!


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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.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Clare London: Exclusive Cover Reveal, Excerpt and Giveaway

TCO is very excited to bring you the Exclusive Cover Reveal for Clare London’s next installment in the London Lads series, Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Check out the amazing cover-such detail!-along with a sassy excerpt and a giveaway!!! Welcome to Clare!!!!

 

Garry’s at the end of his tether. He’s waiting at Glasgow Airport to meet his friend Will, on their way to a holiday in a Scottish Highlands hotel. Now there’s a ten-hour delay to incoming flights, the seat in the lounge is more like an instrument of torture, and he’s beyond tired of airport food.

He’s also dreading having to apologise for the pass he recently made at Will, his colleague at a London bank, under the influence of too many beers and a long-held crush. Now Will’s been offered a new job offer on a continent thousands of miles away, Garry realises it may be the end of their close friendship—let alone anything more.

To add to Garry’s stress, he’s treated to the company of Emily and Max, two young people who think he needs educating in the ways of the world. Struggling with their well-meaning help and the startling mess from spilled ketchup and noxious-smelling sweets, he’s encouraged to re-examine how he feels about Will and to decide what kind of journey he’d really like them to take together.

Note: this book was previously published at Amber Quill Press, and has been re-edited for this version.

Release Date: August 30, 2017

Artist: Valerie Tibbs

Dreamspinner Press

 

Valerie Tibbs’ romantic theme for this series of London stories continues to delight me! Here are our two best friends Garry and Will, separated by the very thing that’s meant to bring them together – an airport visit on their way to a holiday with their friends. Will’s delayed on his flight in from New York, and so Garry’s stuck on his own at Glasgow Airport.

And then Garry meets two precocious kids, Max and Emily, to contend with. Mess, mixed-up words, and a lot of unwanted advice from kids under half his age. Just what he needs! Through it all, half of him is desperate to see Will again, but the other half is mortified that he made a clumsy pass at Will and must apologise. Or… must he? Dear readers, you can probably guess how that might turn out 😊.

This is the fifth title in the series of novellas I’m publishing with Dreamspinner Press throughout 2017, all under the banner “London Lads”. A set of individual contemporary romances set in and about London, involving confusion, tension, passion, miscommunication, heart searching, and some humour – but always love. I’ve been so excited to see the whole line of covers unfold over these last months, and share them with you!

Today Between a Rock and a Hard Place goes on pre-order. It’s a short romantic contemporary story, with humour and an HEA, and themes of friends to lovers, unrelieved sexual tension, and the things kids say! I hope you enjoy this post, the cover reveal, and my celebratory Giveaway today.

Garry must have dozed off. He woke with numbness in his left arm that made it feel the size of a Halloween pumpkin, and pain in his scalp that meant his hair had got caught awkwardly on the wrong side of his parting. His head had drooped over the back of the chair, and his legs were folded underneath it in a manner that would defy a professional acrobat. Trying to move his limbs just made him groan aloud. It took him a depressingly long time to get himself upright again and, wincing, he made a mental note to renew his gym membership when he got back home after the trip.

He tried to smooth his hair back down in place. He’d snagged the shoulder-length ends into a short ponytail for travelling, but the tie had twisted at the back of his neck. When he tugged the hair back, his fingers caught up in the tangles. It also seemed to have collected an interesting selection of dust particles and the remains of a catering-sized butter wrapper. Maybe a couple of those blueberry droppings. He squinted at the lounge clock and saw that a couple of the ten hours had passed.

The good thing was that the Sleeping Not-Beauty had left the seat beside him.

The not-so-good thing was that he had another neighbour, and this one was a lot smaller. Probably only about seven. A plump-cheeked girl stared at him, her eyes sky-blue, her hair pale blonde. She was delicately pretty and would have looked like some kind of picture book princess, except that she had a huge, suspiciously red stain on the front of her Hello Kitty T-shirt. Her legs were tightly pressed together to contain a pile of sweets in her lap and there was sugar frosting stuck all over her skirt. Some of the sweets had obviously already been consumed—the frosting was on the end of her nose, and around her mouth too—and she chewed thoughtfully as she stared at him.

Garry wrinkled his nose. The sweets had a particularly violent and disturbing smell, like a medicine he’d once been forced to take as a kid. A fair proportion of the sugar fallout seemed to have made its way onto his jeans too. He examined his mood and doubted it was one to tolerate children just at the moment. Sensation was creeping back into his arm and it was bloody painful. He wanted to swear—he had a good vocabulary, he’d been complimented on it more than once—but, of course, that was now out of the question. He knew that much about children.

“Hi,” the girl said. “You’re awake now.”

He glared at her, groggy from his nap and with his limbs still aching. His stuffy brain wanted him to say “buzz off, squirt,” but his mouth opened, and he said, “Hi.” He didn’t know what else to say to such a small person. He hadn’t had a lot of practice with them. Allen used to talk about his large family and the new generation of nieces and nephews, but Garry admitted in his deepest, most honest heart, that he usually tuned out all that information.

He and Will had talked about kids, once. That is—other people’s. Or, that was how it started.

“I’ve never wanted them,” Garry said. It was after a long, four-way Skype conversation with Allen and Leonard, peppered with anecdotes both amazing and infuriating about Allen’s extended family.

“Me, neither.” Will was squashed up close to Garry, both of them perched on bar stools because it was quiz night at the Grove, and all the tables were packed full.

“That story about dropping all the eggs on the kitchen floor.” Garry rolled his eyes. “I’d have been bloody furious, not laughing.”

“And pulling down their pants in the supermarket? Wow.” Will chuckled.

“The story about adopting the abandoned puppies was sort of cute….”

“But not putting them in the baby’s cot! Not when they found out about the fleas, anyway.”

Garry smiled ruefully. “Nothing but trouble, eh? Pooping and pissing babies, yelling and crying. Scrawny, slippery little toddlers, running amok, never sleeping through the night, smashing windows with footballs, drawing zoo animals on the bottom of the bath with permanent marker. Teenagers, just as bad, climbing trees, ripping clothes, smoking a whole pack of cigs then vomiting over the sofa….”

Will was peering at him, an amused look on his face. “Um. So who did all that?”

“I have three brothers, man.”

“Yeah?”

Garry scowled. “Okay, so mainly me.”

Will chuckled again. “But I guess it’s different when they’re your own.” He didn’t look as disgusted as he had before.

“How so? Just think—” Garry clamped his mouth shut.

“Think what?”

What kind of kid we’d create if it were possible. Garry couldn’t finish that sentence. He’d started it as a joke, but suddenly it felt like something different. Something that prompted a painful, emotional tweak in his chest.

“Mini-mes,” Will continued, his eyes still on Garry, his thigh all but nudging Garry’s. “Mini-yous. Would that be so bad?”

Garry changed the subject, pretty smartish.

Back in the here and now…

“You want one?” The little girl in the airport held out something to Garry that looked sticky and totally unappealing, vibrantly pink and green and in the shape of a heart. New sprinkles of sugar whispered off it onto their knees.

Garry pursed his lips. He had a barely irresistible urge to brush off the white crystals as if they’d rot like poison through his jeans. “No thanks. I already ate.”

“When?”

He stared at her. Who did she think she was, his mother? “When I got here.”

“You’ll need more than that,” she said bluntly. “The Delay is twelve hours now.” Her tone dignified it with capital letters, like it was some kind of alien monster, a Harbinger of Armageddon, a Premonition of Global Doom.

Now she had him doing it, even in private. For a second he thought he might still be asleep and dreaming he was in a late-night version of The Twilight Zone. But his back and his toes were still hurting, so it looked like he was awake. Damn shame.

“You should be with your parents,” he said, just as bluntly.

But she didn’t seem disturbed. She put a red and yellow heart into her mouth and wiped her sticky fingers down her T-shirt. It proved that at least the red stain wasn’t blood. Garry wondered at what point he’d even considered that might be the case.

“You’re grumpy,” she said. “Just like Mum.”

“Huh?” One thing Garry did know about kids was that, if you encouraged them, they stuck like glue. Or like particularly revolting sweets. All he had to do was stifle any conversation and then, in a minute, she’d get bored of him and wander off again.

“I’ll stay here for a while.” She patted her lap with determination. A sparkling cloud of sugar floated a few inches off the fabric, then settled back down again. Garry thought some of it might have got stuck up his nose—every time he moved he could smell the cloying sweetness anew. “Mum and Dad aren’t smiling. My uncle sent me to get some sweets.”

Garry looked around, a little warily. Surely there’d be a couple seated somewhere close, watching their child fondly? Or they’d be walking over to her, calling her back to join them. Or they’d be running back and forth through the airport lounge, weeping and screaming for their kidnapped child, followed by armed police.

He couldn’t see anyone taking any notice of them at all.

“So where are they, your parents? They’ll be worrying about you. Won’t they?”

She shrugged. A small bubble of orange popped at the side of her petite little mouth, and she giggled softly. “Unc said I should get sweets and Dad didn’t say no because he was all red in the face. Mum said I was to go off and skip.”

Garry stared at the blonde head and re-examined the carefully pronounced words. Go off and skip? None of it made sense. Was it some new street-speak? Was it meant to make sense?

Then another small but equally clear voice broke in. “What she means is, Mum told her to take a running jump. They were arguing about the Delay. Dad gets very tense with Delays.”

Garry spun around to examine the speaker. When did someone arrive on his other side too? He stared into clear air, then dropped his gaze down several inches. It was another small person; a boy this time.

“Best we keep out of the way for a while,” the boy said, very solemnly. He was just like the girl, though he looked older. Same blond hair, same blue eyes. A lot less mess on his face but, in place of it, his mouth was twisted into a very sour look. He sat rather primly on the seat, dressed in smart jeans and a denim shirt, his feet swinging slightly above the floor. A Game Boy was on his lap, his fingers still hovering over it as if he’d only just paused play.

“So?” asked Garry. Your point is? His head was starting to hurt.

The boy frowned at him. “Well, obviously we’ll stay here for a while until they calm down. They’re always like this when we fly.” He glared over Garry’s lap at the girl. “She should know that.”

“Mum has men strudel,” the girl said, oblivious to the boy’s interruption. Another sweet vanished into her surprisingly capacious mouth.

Garry’s imagination toyed with visions of a rather exotic cannibalistic dish.

“She means menstrual. Mum gets like this every month. My sister doesn’t understand.” The boy rolled his eyes and spoke very gravely. “She’s only seven. She gets her words wrong all the time.”

Garry looked from one to the other and felt his own eyes roll. Fuck, he thought, though he didn’t dare say it aloud. They were like a pair of matching bookends. Where was the sign on these empty seats that said Weirdos, sit here?

Clare London took her pen name from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with her other day job as an accountant.

She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic, and sexy characters.

Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter three stage and plenty of other projects in mind… she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.

Clare loves to hear from readers, and you can contact her here:

Website: http://www.clarelondon.com
E-mail: clarelondon11@yahoo.co.uk
Blog: www.clarelondon.com/blog
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clarelondon
Twitter: https://twitter.com/clare_london
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/clarelondon
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/author/clarelondon/
Google+ : https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ClareLondon/posts

Between a Rock and a Hard Place is based on the grim humour of being stuck in an airport with nowhere else to go! How would you pass the time if, like Garry, you were stuck in an airport for ten hours, with only the food and facilities the airport had on offer?

I’m offering a $10 Amazon giftcard for one lucky commenter who shares with us what they’d plan for entertainment – though please keep it for fun and be respectful!

 

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