Review: NineStar Press 2017 Holiday Series by Various Authors - Pt. 3

Some say a mouse king has seven heads. Hah, trust a human to get our legends wrong.

A mouse prince must perform seven tricks before the twelve days of Christmas are up. It’s how he wins his crown, but the prince has whiskers set on something else. A stiff beauty with a magnificent jaw, waiting for him under the holiday shrub. He caught his scent in a dream, which he's been sniffing after ever since.

Scamper with him through his adventures and misadventures, dodging traps, cats, and giants, while he wins a steadfast nutcracker’s heart.




5 Hearts

This short story is a twist on the legendary Nutcracker Suite. It is an incredibly enjoyable read, Mousetrick a brilliant lead amongst a wonderful array of secondary characters.

Though the plot is driven by Moustrick's attraction to the Nutcracker, as well as his wish to perform the seven tricks, it isn't [primarily a romance. This is a delightful cinnamon-flavoured story that evokes Christmas despite being set from the viewpoint of a mouse in an alternative world. It's a story I can't contain in a review - it needs to be read, to be enjoyed. 

NineStar Press did a wonderful job with these holiday stories and this is one of my favourites.


Landon, father of three, accidentally runs into another shopper while looking at oranges in the supermarket. He thinks little of the incident, but after being tasked to find a church by his mother and testing out a Children’s Advent Celebration with his kids, he discovers that the shopper is actually one of the instructors helping all of the children make spiced orange pomanders. The man gives Landon a pomander with his phone number on it, but since Landon swore off men for 2017 after his partner left him and his dates have all flaked on him, will he take the instructor up on his offer of a date?







3 Hearts

This story was very short, a sweet little refreshment of a holiday read. It had quite a religious feel to it, as Landon is trying to find a church he is happy for him and his children to attend.  He stops in at one to check out an advent event with his children and when he's there he meets Max - the shopper he'd accidentally run into just a short while earlier.

This story was very short and for me, whilst well written, it was too short. I didn't feel I knew the characters sufficiently enough to particularly care about them. I could see the intention behind the story, the small, Christmas offering, but for my reading pleasure it just fell a tad short of the mark. As I have said a million times though, not appealing to me doesn't mean a bad story, it just means me and it weren't a fit. Check out other reviews for this story before making a choice!


As Chief Tactician for the airship DeGrasse, Jacob Scarberry has spent the last six months on a wearying tour of duty. He’s missing home, and his prosthetic leg is conducting the December cold straight to his core. But with the holidays coming up, he’s looking forward to a well-earned leave, sharing some Christmas surprises with his lover, Dr. H. Alphus Troyer, and welcoming in the dawn of the 20th century.
A professor at Ohio University, Al is already on Christmas break, and his unconventional household is in a festive frenzy. Al is a bit less joyous, his anticipation of Jacob’s return warring with uncertainty over the special gift he had commissioned for him. Would Jacob appreciate it, or will it put a strain on their relationship?
Suddenly Al’s worries become trivial when the newspapers report an attack on the DeGrasse. With Jacob fighting for his life miles away, Al is left to wonder whether Jacob will return at all, or whether the planned festivities will become holiday heartbreak instead.

4 Hearts
This story is set not just at the start of a new year, but at the threshold of a new century, and brings with it all the hope and possibilities that the dawn of a new age can.

I have to admit, I was thrown for a start as I didn't immediately place the era of this story, it felt too modern at the start to me. Once I'd got that straight in my head though I enjoyed this tale. It highlighted the long way we have come with regards to equality (though of course there is always from for improvement). The hidden nature of Al and Jacob's relationship, the class system and the societal repression of women were all shown.

Al and Jacob were certainly a case of opposites attract, one a tactician on airship, adventure abound and the other a professor, studious and prudent. This worked well though and made for an enjoyable read of two main characters I cared a lot about.


Malmö, Sweden, 1994

Erika Stolt is a feminist activist, and not one of the slick, lipstick lesbian variety. She’s the kind who trashes beauty contests, who graffitis her own subversive messages over commercial billboards, and who fucks people mainly as a political statement. But then a community service sentence lands her a spot as the unlikely new assistant of one of the candidates for the Malmö Lucia contest, and the world as she knows it is promptly turned on its head.







5 Hearts
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this story - I didn't think angsty, feminine activists would make for a good holiday read. I was wrong. This is certainly one of my favourites from NSP's 2017 holiday stories.

Though perhaps not conventional, this story highlighted love and growth. Erika certainly grew up through this story; she didn't drop her ideals, not at all, but she learned to temper her approach and listen to others' opinions. 
I liked this.

Padma was a wonderful opposite to Erika's fire, at least at first glance. As they, and we, got to know each other better it becomes obvious that Padma does hold many of Erika's ideals dear, she just has a different way of facing things.
This really did make me a bit swoony, I loved both these characters and thought this was a great holiday read. Recommended.




Damon is getting over a bad breakup. Ioan is painfully shy. Neither expects to enjoy the New Year’s Eve party to which their mutual friend, Katie, has dragged them. However, their unexpected reunion may make them change their minds by the time midnight strikes.












4 Hearts
This is another story celebrating the new year, new start theme. Short and pretty conventional in a meddling bestie arranges a surprise meeting/boy meets old crush/they've both moved on kinda way, yet it was still an enjoyable read. 

The romance between Ioan and Damon was a bit instalove, but if you can't have that in a holiday book, when can you have it?! Despite this I found it a cute read. A tea break read perhaps, one to enjoy with a cuppa and some biscuits. An enjoyable end to my NSP holiday story reading this year.


All copies provided for an honest review.

Cover Reveal: Hard Line (The Woodbury Boys #2) by Sidney Bell


Today we have a very special treat to brighten up your Sunday!

Fans of the Woodbury Boys series by Sidney Bell who have been impatiently patiently waiting, we're getting closer!!! April 2nd is right around the corner!

And if you don't know anything about this trilogy (and you should treat yourself) here are some fun facts!

1. This is the second book in the Woodbury Boys trilogy. Although this story is about a different couple than the first book, many plot threads do carry over. I've tried really hard to make sure people can pick up this book without reading Loose Cannon first, but your mileage may vary.

2. This book has scenes of BDSM, explicit sex, and explicit violence. Plus cursing. There's a fair amount of cursing. There are also non-explicit references to violence against children. If you have concerns about any of this, feel free to email me with questions at sidneybellbooks@gmail.com

3. Hard Line is a full-length romantic suspense novel of 120,000 words. It does not end on a cliffhanger, and it comes with the Carina Press Romance Promise (HEA guaranteed!).


"Bell writes a meaty romance that you can't put down, and it's a worthy addition to the M/M contemporary romance genre." 
—RT Book Reviews on Loose Cannon (Woodbury Boys #1)


Blurb

Premed student Tobias Benton is making amends for his past. He keeps his head down, mouth shut and colors within the lines. But when his close friend Ghost goes missing, Tobias will do whatever it takes to get answers—including using blackmail to enlist some help. The last thing he’s looking for is romance.

Private investigator Sullivan Tate isn’t above a little breaking and entering to solve a case, but when Tobias catches him in the act, it's almost game over. Their uneasy alliance only gets more complicated when Sullivan learns that Tobias shares his interest in kink. Mixing sex and work could kill Sullivan's career, but Tobias's acceptance of Sullivan's darkest urges is nearly impossible to resist.

Side by side, Tobias and Sullivan spend their days searching for the truth and their nights fulfilling their respective fantasies. But the answers they seek are far more dangerous than they realize, and soon they find themselves fighting for more than just each other.

Buy Links

Amazon
iBooks
Barnes & Noble

Want to know more? Find out more and even read an excerpt on Sidney's website, and p.s., she welcomes questions!

Add it on 

Guest Review: Blush (Uncorked #3) by Shea Balik

Raise your wine glasses high to toast the men of Dahlonia while they discover the secret to happiness – LOVE.

Fifteen years ago, Kadyn Bellamy and Valor Lee had blown any chance of building a future together. Valor had joined the CIA to hunt down terrorists and Kadyn abhorred violence. At the time, their differences had seemed insurmountable.

When Valor shows up in Dahlonia looking as hot as ever, Kadyn needs to decide if he can reconcile their divergent viewpoints. The choice wasn’t as easy as it might seem. If only the love he’d felt for Valor had diminished, he could easily walk away. It didn’t seem fair that he might have to give up the love of his life, twice.

All Valor wanted was the future he and Kadyn had dreamed. For fifteen years, his love for Kadyn had only grown. He’d known when he’d walked away from Kadyn all those years ago, it would be a challenge to convince Kadyn they could still make their dreams come true.

It was only when tragedy struck, that Kadyn was forced to come to grips with the past. With eyes wide open, he was ready to take a step into the future. He just needed to decide if Valor would be a part of it or not


Reviewer: NeRdyWYRM

Second Chance Sweetness

Shea Balik adds another installment to the Uncorked series with a second chance romance between MCs Kadyn and Valor. I will admit, I almost DNF'd this one a couple of times because of Kadyn's idiotic intransigence. I mean, I was incensed on Valor's behalf and wanted to reach in, wrap my hands around Kadyn's throat and throttle him a little while screaming, "Grow the fuck up already!"

But I'll let you experience that for yourself. Because, you know ... you really should. Just so I'm not alone in my frustration. It's been a while since I read this one and that aspect of it remains luridly vivid. Poor Valor. I wanted to throttle him, too, but only because he kept throwing himself on the proverbial sword or figuratively laying down so Kadyn could stomp all over him. Grow some pride, man! FML.

no balls

Of course it all works out in the end. There's soul searching and drama. There's some OTT ridiculousness from Kadyn and some more self-effacement from Valor until, of course, something happens that breaks the stalemate. FINALLY! Little Kadyn grows up a little and stops looking at everything with rose-colored glasses.

I mean, really, I don't want every MC to be some jaded, cynical bastard like me but come on! This guy really had his head in the sand. Deliberately obtuse. Revisionist historian. Seriously.

showing ass

Yeah, I guess I'm still a little salty about that. Must come from being a military spouse. Some give all ...

Anyway, get past the bullshittery of one MC and you had a realistic love story. First loves reunited and second chances. You never forget your first, or at least you don't if they can still set you on fire years later. These guys had that in spades.

This was a good addition to the Uncorked lineup and I actually enjoyed it more than I did book 2. If you liked the others, this one is well worth continuing with the series.


More reviews by NeRdyWYRM can be found on Goodreads here.
Images (when present) may be subject to copyright.
An ARC copy of this title was provided for an honest review.



Audiobook Review: Game Point by M.J. O'Shea

Game, set… match made in heaven.

Spoiled socialite Quinn Valenzuela has no interest in sports or his family’s huge sporting goods empire, Sparta Athletics. So when Quinn learns his grandfather has died and he’s in control of the corporation, no one is more surprised than Quinn himself.

Dedicated COO Porter Davis has little time and less patience for brats like Quinn who have never done a day’s work, but circumstances leave him with little choice. Quinn claims he’s ready to leave partying behind and grow up, but it’ll take more than words to earn Porter’s respect. As it turns out, they can work—and play—together after all. A friends with benefits arrangement makes sense for the two busy men, but are they too different for it to ever develop into more? Not if Quinn can convince Porter he has his head in the game.

Listening Length: 4 hrs 31 min
Narrator: Kenneth Obi


Definitely one of the more enjoyable Dreamspun Desires stories, this went down the hatch with nary a hiccough!


Porter, who is content and happy being the head of operations of one of the top sporting goods conglomerates is understandably devastated when the founder of said company dies suddenly. It’s bad enough that he’s lost his mentor, but when the entire company is left to the prodigal grandson Quinn, no one is more shocked than Porter. Quinn, who has been absent for years, is set to inherit the majority of shares but only if he chooses to stay and step into his grandfather’s position. The thought of the pampered young man being Porter’s boss is enough to make his blood boil!! He simply thinks of Quinn as a spoiled brat with not one responsible bone in his body, and thus wholly ill equipped to do the job. Suffice it to say, pissed off and indignant doesn’t even come close to how Porter feels.


Now granted, Quinn has not been the poster child for initiative and work ethic. Admittedly, he has been living the high life of parties and debauchery but lately, he’s been feeling a bit restless and not so satisfied. Quinn doesn't know why he’s avoided his family for so long, but his grandfather’s death is really just the push he needs for some serious life evaluation, and he’s determined to give this new opportunity a good go. Now, if Quinn can just navigate the sexy COO’s hostile attitude towards him, things might just go his way.


These two not surprisingly, don’t hit it off at all. Somehow though, circumstances force them to lay out the harsh truths and they grudgingly agree to give each other a chance, and lo and behold, both are amazed at just how well their strengths and assets work together. It doesn’t take long for them to establish a great working relationship, one that is busy and stressful and fulfilling, and perhaps could benefit from blowing off some much needed steam. With. Each. Other. Yep!


Narrated by Kenneth Obi, this was my first listening experience with him, and it went just as smoothly as the story did. Overall, Game Point was pretty much angst free, with the obligatory denial of feelings where perhaps that denial carries on just a tad too long. However, it really was a sweet story of enemies to friends to lovers (with a touch of age gap, a dollop of opposites attract, and a dash of sexy). O’Shea typically excels at such fluff, so fans of hers shouldn't have much complaint if at all, with this easy breezy read.


Thanks to the author/publisher for the audio in exchange for an honest review.



Giveaway + Blog Tour: Beneath This Mask (Enhanced #3) by Victoria Sue


Victoria Sue is here today with an excerpt of her latest, Beneath This Mask, the third in her wildly popular Enhanced series. Gael fans get ready to stand up and cheer!


“What do they mean?”
Jake’s gaze fell on Gael. The short blond hair that he would have liked to be just a little longer to latch on to. The smoky blue eyes that deepened and had clouded over last night. The wide lips that were the softest he’d ever tasted. The stubble-covered jaw, because maybe sometimes he had to shave twice a day, and the pulse point beating in his neck. The exact point that Jake had rested his own lips against and wished the heart that was beating belonged to him.
He took a step forward, but Gael’s eyes widened and he backed up.
“What do they mean, Jake?”
Jake tore his eyes from Gael’s stormy ones. He didn’t want condemnation to weaken the last memory of them, when Gael was sated and replete. Gael had been so gorgeous.
Vance, Talon, Sawyer, and Finn all stood there watching them. Connie had retreated and was talking to some lady. Gerry and Mac had gone back to their truck. Jake didn’t know whether the privacy was by accident or on purpose, but delaying the explanation by getting in a car would be worse.
“I spent four years on a SWAT team, as you know. The last op our team was called to was a report of an enhanced who had gone crazy in a shopping mall. Reports of explosions, multiple casualties. When we got there, it was chaos. People shouting. Fire. A lady said there was a man standing in the middle of a kids’ toy shop holding some sort of device in his hand and screaming at everyone to be quiet. There were customers, children, trapped between him and the door. We raced into the store just as the guy turned around and held up what looked like some sort of trigger switch.” Jake’s voice caught, and he struggled to get air into his lungs so he could speak.
“Steven Shaughnessy. Seventeen,” Talon said quietly. “He’d transformed just then in the middle of an argument with his father about wanting the latest game system. Not only is he only the second child we think to have ever transformed while awake, he is the oldest to transform, as far as we are aware.”
“I didn’t know,” Jake whispered, the horror eating at him. He had been a child, and he was dead because of Jake.
“Because you didn’t wait to find out,” Sawyer sneered.
“Look,” Talon said. “Jake was exonerated. It was complete shit, but he was following orders.”
Jake begged Gael silently. They stood amid the tatters of guilt, recrimination, and regret. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that a child had lost his life. It wasn’t fair that a scar could make people lesser than others, and it definitely wasn’t fair that just when Jake thought he might have found a new life, it was being ripped away.
Vance, who had been quiet up to that point, stepped forward and handed Gael some keys. “It’s in the lot. He did it straightaway as a favor.”
Gael wrenched his gaze from Jake’s and took the keys. Sawyer made a disgusted noise and started walking away. Vance turned around as Connie walked over, and they finished packing away some leftover food.
Talon glanced apologetically at Jake, then looked at Gael, who stood frozen, holding his truck keys. “If you need somewhere to crash, you know where we are.”
They were all giving Jake and Gael the space to process this. Finn opened his mouth but shut it at Talon’s look, and they both walked to the lot. It was just him and Gael.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Gael said, still not meeting Jake’s eyes.
“Gregory said to give you time to get used to me first.”
Gael looked up, incredulity written all over his face. “And fucking me? Was that the easiest way of getting me used to you, or just the fastest?” Pain made the words sound raw on Gael’s tongue.
“Gael…,” Jake pleaded and took another step.
Gael held up his hands. “No. I could forgive the shooting. I’m not stupid. We live in a world where a lot of shit happens and an out-of-control enhanced could have killed a lot of people. Am I sorry for him? Of course I am. There are way too many children who suffer at the hands of those supposed to be protecting them, and I don’t even mean just those with a scar on their faces.” Gael heaved a breath as if starved for oxygen. Jake would have given him all he had right there. Gael’s eyes narrowed. “Did you think it was funny? A pity fuck to keep me quiet? Amenable until you’d gotten your place on the team?”
“Gael, no!” Jake begged. “I would never—”
He touched Gael’s shoulder just as Gael turned away from him. Gael was still not as fast as him, but he was stronger. Fuck, he was stronger. Jake had a split second to decide not to duck and avoid the fist that Gael swung at him in anger and desperation, because he deserved it, and then he connected and Jake went down. The pain erupted in his jaw just as everything went black.


Gael stood completely still, stunned at what he had done, and stared at Jake, lying six feet away on the ground in a heap.
“Gael!”
Gael heard the shout from the cars and saw Talon and Vance running back to where he was.
“Shit,” Talon swore, falling to his knees. He put a hand to Jake’s neck to feel for a pulse, the relief in his face obvious when he felt one. Talon quickly stood, lifting an unconscious Jake in his arms. “For fuck’s sake, Gael. What were you thinking? You know we’re much stronger.”
A squeal of tires announced Finn driving up in Talon’s truck. He looked at Vance and Connie. “Vance, follow us. I’m taking him to Tampa Gen.”
Vance held the door open while Talon slid into the back.
“Gael, get your ass in here.”
“We’ll follow,” Vance shouted and bundled his mom to the truck, Connie hurrying to get in, everyone staring at Gael like he had killed someone. His heart was pounding, but it was the only thing in his body capable of movement. For a second he met Talon’s gaze, and then he turned and did the only thing he could.
Run.


Blurb:

Gael Peterson has spent years hiding behind the enhanced abilities he wears like a mask, even though he is an important, confident member of the FBI’s exclusive H.E.R.O. team. The hurt and betrayal of his mom’s abandonment and his father’s fists are secrets buried deep beneath the ugly scars on his face, and he doesn’t trust Jake, his new regular human partner, with any of them. In a world where those with special abilities like Gael’s are regarded as freaks and monsters, it won’t be easy for him to rely on Jake to have his back, especially when the abilities of a vulnerable, enhanced, nonspeaking child make that child a murder suspect.

Tempers rise and loyalties are challenged, and when the serial killer targeting the enhanced finally sets his sights on Gael, not only will Gael have to trust Jake with his secrets, he might have to trust him to save his life.




Buy links:



Victoria Sue Bio:

Victoria Sue…
Victoria Sue fell in love with love stories as a child when she would hide away with her mom’s library books and dream of the dashing hero coming to rescue her from math homework. She never mastered math but managed to dream up quite a few heroes. Loves reading and writing about gorgeous boys loving each other the best—especially with a paranormal twist—but always with a happy ending. Is an English northern lass currently serving twenty to life in Florida—unfortunately, she spends more time chained to her computer than on a beach.
Loves to hear from her readers and can be found most days lurking on Facebook where she doesn’t need factor 1000 sun-cream to hide her freckles.


Twitter: @vickysuewrites

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Audiobook Review: Embrace the Fire (Through Hell and Back #3) by Felice Stevens

Brandon Gilbert has spent years in hiding, but he’s finally accomplished his dream of working as a public school teacher. When offered the chance to help bullied children, there was no way he could say no. Not to mention that meeting Dr. Tash Weber, the psychiatrist who helps them, a sad yet sexy older man, ignited a spark inside Brandon he’d never had before.

Though five years have passed since the death of his lover, Dr. Sebastian "Tash" Weber has no interest in relationships or love. But young, enigmatic Brandon awakens his heart and his desire. Despite Tash’s best efforts to push him away, Brandon unlocks the passion for life Tash thought he’d lost forever.

Falling in love wasn’t part of the plan for either Brandon or Tash, but neither family disapproval nor self-doubts can stop them from embracing the fire that burns between them. And when Brandon returns home to fight for a future he never imagined possible, he and Tash discover that the one thing worth fighting for has been with them all along.

This is a re-release of the original book published in 2015. It has been completely revised and re-edited with over 10,000 words of additional content added.

Listening Length: 9 hours and 42 minutes
Narrator: Kale Williams



Reviewer: NeRdyWYRM

Embrace This Series

I have really enjoyed this entire series. I can't say this was my favorite book of the three so far, but it was still really good. There are some triggers present in this title, as there have been pretty much from the start of this series, so just be aware. They're not as dire as some other things I've read, but I understand that's relative to the individual. Someone with a history of abuse may find this difficult to read, not that it really dwells there much.

So, I found that there was a little too much unnecessary angst for me in this book. It's fine when you have one wallower when it comes to MCs, but these guys were both Dougie Downers for one reason or another. That's probably why I couldn't, in good conscience, call it my favey. Tash pissed me off pretty much the entire time with the aloofness and vacillation.

I liked him, and I was rooting for him, but my gods was he driving me crazy! I channeled the Borg whenever his inner monologue turned to whining and puling. I channeled it so much, I almost assimilated myself. I kept thinking, "Stop crying about how curmudgeonly you are and get with the young, hot, program!"

borg-resistance is futile

And pointless ... and why the hell would you want to resist?! Because let's face it, Brandon was everything Tash needed and then some. I never get MCs who want to live in a past that wasn't all that great in the first place, especially when many years have passed. Seriously. Tash really needed to get over himself. Mourn your guy, absolutely, for as long as you need to. But FFS, you're still alive. Act like it.

Brandon's character, on the other hand, had some legit reasons to wallow. Maybe that's why I was more forgiving of his Eeyore routine. Frankly, his reasons for being wishy-washy put Tash's in the shade. Maybe that's why Tash hacked me off so bad.

chin flick~~forearm jerk

Needless to say, I could go on and on and on. This was a really good story. The previous MCs from the series played a role in this one as well, which I absolutely refuse to spoil. Uh-uh. Not happening. It was worth reading just for Asher and Luke and the resolution you get in the overarching plotline(s) that run through the series so far.

If you liked the first two, read this one. I don't recommend it as a standalone. I would absolutely start from the beginning. You could read this one by itself, but you'd lose out on what's come before and getting to feel just how far all these characters have come by the time they get to this point in the series. Read them/it. All of them.

P. S. The audio version was good, too.



More reviews by NeRdyWYRM can be found on Goodreads here.
Images (when present) may be subject to copyright.
An ARC copy of this title was provided for an honest review.



Guest Review: Sin and Saint (Executioners #4) by J.M. Dabney

Eric and Ellison Gant better known as Sin and Saint were opposite sides of the same coin. They epitomized the nicknames given to them by their friends in the band Executioners. One thing Sin and Saint did well was fight and being inseparable means they have a lot of disagreements, but one thing they agree on is Sheriff Camden Pelter was theirs. The older, stoic man didn’t agree, yet they were determined to change his mind.

Camden Pelter had the daunting job of turning the Powers Sheriff Department around. The residents of the Georgia town didn’t have much faith or respect in the Deputies serving them. That’s where he came in and he was determined to do his job. That was easier said than done with two annoying brothers Sin and Saint who dogged his every step. No way in hell was he getting mixed up in the chaos that were the Gant Twins. Now if only if he could get them to listen and realize they didn’t have a chance of changing his mind.


Reviewer: NeRdyWYRM

Can You Say ... Jacob's Ladder?

'Nuf said. Read it.

Okay, I'm kidding but I'm really not. LOL. Although that was hot, I generally need a little more than a couple of words to entice me into reading a book these days. There are so many meh titles out there, after all. Thankfully, this isn't one of them. But in case two words is enough for you allow me to repeat these: Jacob's Ladder.

Jacob's ladder smug dean winchester

Some of the series with more and more installments forthcoming tend to kind of blend into amalgamations or turn into Groundhog Day where the personalities are so similar they start running together or you lose or transpose the details in the individual stories. So far, that is not the case for me with these.

The twinky twins finally get their man. Hooah! Freaking Cam has been running like an antelope in the Serengeti for a few books now. Well, he finally stops running ... mostly. Every overprotective, macho man-beast of a certain age is going to backslide into former habits like isolationism or martyrdom from time to time and Cam is no exception.

old dog new tricks

Old dogs, new tricks and all that I guess. But it's not overdone here, thank the book gods. Cam's wishy-washy manliness supplies the angst for this story while the wunder twins fight to lock down their walking fantasy ... finally.

I've liked all the installments in this series, but I have to say that Cam is one of my favorite characters. If you've enjoyed any of the others, you'll like this one, too.


More reviews by NeRdyWYRM can be found on Goodreads here.
Images (when present) may be subject to copyright.
An ARC copy of this title was provided for an honest review.



Release Blitz + Giveaway: The Station by Keira Andrews


Keira Andrews and Signal Boost Promotions celebrate re-release of historical age gap romance, The Station! Check out today's book info and enter in the giveaway. You could win your choice from Keira Andrew's backlist!





Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Cover Design: Dar Albert @ Wicked Smart Designs

Blurb

Ever since Cambridge-bound Colin Lancaster spied on stable master Patrick Callahan mastering another man, he’s longed for Patrick to do the same to him. When Patrick is caught with his pants down and threatened with death for his crime, Colin speaks up in his defense and confesses his own sinful nature. They’re soon banished to the faraway prison colony of Australia.

Patrick never asked for Colin’s help, and now he’s stuck with the pampered fool. While it’s true that being transported to Australia is a far cry from the luxury Colin is accustomed to, he’s determined to make the best of it and prove himself. Although Patrick learned long ago that love is a fairy tale, he’s inexorably drawn to sweet, optimistic Colin.

From the miserable depths of a prison ship to the vast, untamed Australian outback, Colin and Patrick must rely on each other. Danger lurks everywhere, and when they unexpectedly get the chance to escape to a new life as cowboys, they’ll need each other more than ever.

This historical gay romance from Keira Andrews features an age difference, an eager virgin, hurt/comfort, and of course a happy ending.





Excerpt

Waiting only a moment after knocking, Colin’s mother, Elizabeth, entered his room. Colin glanced over from the window seat. He’d been watching Patrick in the meadow exercising the young colt born several days before. “Yes, Mother?”

Elizabeth was forty-two and quite beautiful, with a regal nose and posture and the same thick, chestnut brown hair as Colin. “You haven’t bathed yet? Guests will be arriving within the hour.”

“I was about to, if you’d leave me to my privacy.”

When he wasn’t studying or walking the grounds, Colin whiled away the hours sitting by his window reading novels of thrilling adventures in faraway lands. Sometimes Patrick would appear in the meadow, training the horses. Colin’s book would lie forgotten on his lap as he watched Patrick at work. He seemed as if he belonged in one of the fictional tales Colin devoured. Colin could easily imagine him with sword in hand.

“Of course, dear. I had Charles press your jacket. It’s hanging there.” She pointed across the room, where, sure enough, his formal wear waited. “Katherine was partial to that one, if I do recall.”

Colin couldn’t hold back a sigh. “Yes.”

“Darling, you gave up on Katherine far too easily. Tonight will be another chance for you to win her hand. You’re quite a catch, you know. Off to Cambridge soon. Katherine will want to ensnare you now.”

“Mother, Katherine Crawford has turned her favor elsewhere. She’s moved on.” So had he. Most definitely.

Elizabeth’s pretty face pinched into a frown. “It’s an honor that the Crawfords are attending this evening. You will be on your best behavior. I don’t know what exactly you did to ruin things with Katherine, but tonight you will do your utmost to undo it.”

“Yes, Mother.” He would attempt no such thing, but Colin had learned years before that arguing with his parents got him nowhere. Soon he’d be at Cambridge and he would be able to make his own decisions. Soon he’d have a new life.

Mollified, Elizabeth closed the door behind her. Flopping down on his bed, Colin thought of Katherine and cringed. It wasn’t until a most ill-fated outing with Katherine Crawford several months ago that Colin had admitted to himself that his interest in Patrick was far from intellectual.

Katherine was a beauty, all glossy blonde hair and moist, pink lips. For some reason Colin couldn’t fathom, she had shown an interest in him at a holiday gathering down the road. The courting had begun soon thereafter, with Colin escorting Katherine on various activities. Unlike William, who railed against the inconveniences of chaperones, Colin was grateful for the matrons’ presence.

He liked Katherine well enough. She was intelligent and kind and pleasing to look at. But Colin knew something was missing. Katherine didn’t set his blood on fire, and he rarely thought of her when she was absent.

The absences were as long as Colin could manage while still maintaining the guise of courting. He was a perfect gentleman at all times with Katherine, which he found a simple feat. William and his school chums all needled him in private and made winking suggestions of what was actually going on between him and Katherine, and Colin let them believe what they wanted.

The Lancasters and Crawfords had both been guests at a country estate for an Easter celebration. Colin’s sister, Rebecca, was delighted. On the ride over, she had chattered constantly about the beautiful Katherine and how she might one day be her sister-in-law. Colin loved his sister dearly but wished she’d find a new interest.

Colin had been fast asleep the first night at the country estate when Katherine crept into his room. Despite his protests about the impropriety, she’d insisted he dress and accompany her for a moonlight stroll. He hadn’t really a choice.

It went badly.

Despite Katherine’s obvious beauty and heaving bosom, Colin had remained utterly uninterested. He’d tried. Truly, he did. Under a large willow tree, Colin had kissed Katherine and caressed her soft skin under her skirt, her hand firm on his wrist, guiding him. He had been unable to get excited, and when she’d reached for him to find him flaccid, Katherine Crawford had had quite enough.

She’d stomped back to her room and avoided Colin for the remainder of the weekend. Colin could hardly meet anyone’s eyes. His family had obviously required an explanation, and he’d had none.

When they returned home after a torturous journey, Colin had jumped from the carriage, eager to be away from his inquiring parents and sister, who’d demanded to know how Colin had made such a mess of things. Colin had almost barreled straight into Patrick, who had come to take the horses. At the sight of him, his lean muscles, his maleness, Colin had been struck with the vivid memories of what he’d witnessed in the stable that day long ago. He had to bite his tongue to stop himself from begging Patrick to take him into some dark corner and have his way with him.

That was what he wanted. He would never want the Katherine Crawfords of the world. No matter how beautiful, how rich, how ideal for a wife. Colin wanted a man. Oh, God, did he want a man.

Can I be of assistance?” Patrick had affected a guileless expression, and Colin had realized he’d been staring dumbly.

Awkward and ready to crawl out of his own skin, Colin had mumbled something and hurried off. All the denials he’d repeated to himself had finally been silenced. He’d locked himself in his room, took himself in hand, and, muffling his face in a pillow as he thought of Patrick, attained the most satisfying release he’d experienced since that day at sixteen years old, hiding in the stable.

Remembering now, Colin stroked himself quickly, careful not to muss himself too much before the party. He thought of Patrick, of his Gaelic lullaby and of his grunts as he’d penetrated the man in the stable years before. As he rubbed himself with one hand, legs spread, Colin caressed his lips with his fingertips, imagining what it would be like to be kissed—really kissed. He didn’t even know if men kissed each other, but he would like to try it.

Sometime later, Colin straightened his navy tie and vest under his dark jacket and peered into the full-length mirror in the corner of his bedroom. His large eyes were a deep brown that matched his hair, and his jaw was narrow. His nose was straight and unremarkable. Katherine had once told him that his smile turned her knees to jelly and his eyes were bottomless pools she could stare into for eternity.

Colin doubted it, somehow.

He decided he looked as presentable as he was able to and went to join the party. Naturally, the first person he saw was Katherine. Dressed to the nines in an ornate, yellow, bell-shaped gown and looking lovely, she was laughing gaily at something William had said. Her hand was placed just so on his arm, and Colin saw the flash of her eyes as she spotted him. She laughed again, even louder.

Colin felt like laughing himself. If she only knew. Before he could do anything, Rebecca towed him into the drawing room, her voice low and urgent, grip firm. “Honestly, I don’t know what William is thinking. You mustn’t pay them any mind, Colin. Are you very upset?” Her pretty face, very much like their mother’s, creased with worry.

Shaking his head, Colin kissed his dear sister’s cheek. “I won’t give it another thought. William is welcome to her. Perhaps Father will take some solace if the family is connected to the Crawfords in the end.”

Rebecca, fourteen and very dramatic, hugged him tightly. “Oh, Colin. You’re ever so brave.”

Biting back his mirth, Colin thanked her and pointed her toward her newly arriving friends from down the road. He made his rounds of the soiree, shaking hands and making polite conversation. Dinner was served, and Colin listened to a neighbor tell him about what a wonderful time he’d have at Cambridge. Colin hoped it would be true. The one thing dampening his excitement about finally getting away from home was that he’d also be leaving Patrick behind.

As he spooned his custard, Colin brooded. He knew it was deeply foolish, since the strange affection and desire he had for Patrick was certainly one-sided. He’d only been a child when they were friends. Even if by some miracle Patrick desired him now that he was grown, would Colin really have the nerve to lie with another man? His trousers tightened at the notion, and he was glad for the napkin across his lap.

After dinner, Colin endured the ladies’ singing and gentlemen’s card games. Unable to shake Patrick from his mind as the night wore on, he found himself walking to the stable, unable to stay away. He was almost there when a cry came up. A man burst out from the large wooden doors and fled across the meadow, barely visible in the darkness. In the lantern light from the stable, Patrick tumbled outside, followed by two men Colin recognized as shopkeepers in the next county. Brothers named Harris, he thought.

Colin realized he was running and skidded to a halt just as one of the brothers landed a vicious kick to Patrick’s ribs. “Stop!” Colin shoved the man aside. Blood already streamed from Patrick’s nose and mouth.

The man ignored Colin as if he were naught but a fly, and kicked Patrick again. “Unnatural piece of filth!”

Several other guests who heard the melee drew near. The other Harris brother called out to them. “We need the inspector. A crime’s been committed here.”

“What crime?” Colin demanded.

The man spit at the ground where Patrick lay beaten. “Buggery.”

The world tilted on its axis, and Colin’s stomach churned. He realized Patrick’s breeches were loose, and that the man he’d seen fleeing must have been…

Suddenly Colin’s father was there. In the lantern light, Colin could see the rage on his father’s face, and it chilled him. Edward was short and stout, yet an imposing presence. He issued a terse command to the Harris brothers to follow him and bring Patrick.

Patrick was dragged around the back of the manor house, a growing number of curious guests following. Several women were told to go back to the party, and the servants watched with wide eyes as the brothers hauled Patrick through the kitchen. Inside Edward’s study, a group of men gathered. Patrick was deposited on his knees in the middle of the room as Colin crowded inside with the others. They were soon joined by Colin’s mother.

“What’s going on?” she hissed to her husband. “There are whispers everywhere.”

Edward barely spared her a glance. “This is no place for a woman. An ungodly crime has been committed. Go see to the other guests and tell them everything is fine. We don’t want this getting out.”

“I’m not going anywhere. Tell me what’s happened!” Elizabeth’s cheeks flamed.

The man who’d kicked Patrick spoke. “My wife is feeling ill, so my brother and I went to the stable to ask for our carriage to be brought round.”

“Ill? Not from the food?” Elizabeth appeared horrified.

“For God’s sake, woman, forget the food!” A vein in Edward’s temple throbbed, and Colin feared his father might explode with rage.

“Where’s the other one?” Colin glanced behind him, surprised to hear William’s voice. Apparently the whispers were indeed spreading.

One of the Harris brothers answered. “Gone. I think it was the Nelsons’ carriage driver. Quick bastard, we couldn’t catch him. This one was still tangled up in his breeches. Caught him dead to rights.”

“No need to get the courts involved. Take him out back and hang him from his bollocks,” said one of the other guests.

There was a murmur of agreement, and Edward seemed to seriously be considering it. Colin’s panic increased exponentially as the tension simmered. Many of those present had long been into their cups, and a reckless air swirled through the room. He looked to Patrick, who knelt silently, blood dripping down his face, his hands now bound behind his back. Colin hadn’t seen who restrained him.

“Kill him,” agreed one of the Harrises. To Patrick, he said, “Wouldn’t you rather be put out of your misery now than rot in a jail cell knowing you’re going to the gallows? We’d be doing you a favor.”

The murmur of assent grew frighteningly loud. “Should have expected it from an Irishman,” someone shouted.

“Hang ’im! Save the courts some time and money.” The bookkeeper from the local village reached for Patrick, attempting to haul him to his feet as other men cried their agreement.

“No!” When all eyes turned to him, Colin realized he’d spoken aloud. “No. You can’t kill him.” He thought of that day six years before, when Patrick had raced after him and plucked him from the fleeing stallion. His heart hammered as it had that day.

Edward’s eyes narrowed. “Colin, the punishment for buggery is death. It’s what he deserves. This man—if you can call an animal a man—is a degenerate criminal.”

“Then so am I!”

Silence gripped the room in an instant, as if everyone held their breath collectively. Elizabeth went pale. “Colin, you have no idea what you’re saying.” She pulled his arm, urging him toward the door. “I’m sorry, everyone; he’s had far too much brandy this evening. He isn’t himself.”

Colin yanked his arm away. “No, Mother. I know what I’m saying.” He swallowed, his throat dry and thick. “I am myself.” Perhaps for the first time.

A shocked William spoke up, his eyes wide. “Colin, this is madness!”

Edward simply stared, stunned into silence for the first time in Colin’s memory. Elizabeth pulled at him again, but Colin shook free. “If you will kill this man for his crime, then you’ll have to kill me too. Shall you take me outside and string me up?”

“What in God’s name are you doing?” Patrick spoke for the first time, and all eyes turned to where he knelt. He stared at Colin with dazed astonishment.

The sound of Patrick’s voice seemed to spur Edward out of his daze. Edward turned a murderous gaze on Patrick. “If you’ve laid a finger on my son, I swear—”

“I’d sooner bed a horse,” Patrick sneered.

“And probably has!” a voice called out.

Colin felt a ridiculous stab of pain at Patrick’s words.

Patrick went on. “Sir, your son is clearly not in his right mind.”

William’s father, John, a lawyer, spoke next. He was tall and distinguished, the opposite of his brother, Edward. He seemed to be the only calm person left in the room. “Colin, are you saying you’ve committed acts of buggery?”

“Yes.” Even if it wasn’t true, Colin couldn’t let them kill Patrick. At least not tonight, not if he could help it.

Elizabeth shrieked and collapsed into a chair. “Oh, my son. What have you done? It can’t be true!”

“I’m sorry, Mother. They’ll have to kill us both.”

“Don’t listen to him! For God’s sake!” Patrick tried to stand but was shoved back down by Edward, whose face flamed with rage.

John spoke up. “No one’s killing anyone.” He turned to the Harris brothers. “Did you witness the act?”

One of them laughed tersely. “Didn’t have to. They heard us coming, and the other one was off and running. But we saw and heard enough to know what was going on.”

John pondered this, and everyone waited. He seemed to have quietly taken control of the proceedings, for which Colin was grateful. He hoped Patrick wouldn’t be harmed any further for the moment.

“No concrete evidence. None in regards to Colin either,” John said after a lengthy pause.

“Because it’s not true!” Elizabeth cried.

John ignored her and turned to Edward. “I have some friends in the magistrate’s office who should be able to help. I’ll go speak to George Crawford and get him on our side. But too many people have heard Colin’s confession. Something must be done.”

Edward nodded grimly, not looking at Colin. He pointed to Patrick. “We’ll keep this one locked in the pantry for the night. Colin will be in his room with a guard placed outside. William, take him upstairs.”

The shock of his actions slowly settling in, Colin didn’t resist as William led him away. They opened the door to the study to find the hallway crowded with party guests. Katherine was among them, her delicate face transformed into a hard mask. “Fiend!” She dashed down the hall, weeping.

Accusing eyes glared from all sides, and William led Colin to the servants’ back stairway, sparing him the spectacle of being marched up the grand staircase. In his room, Colin tried to speak. “Will, I…”

William raised a hand. “Don’t.” He shook his head sadly, his expression deeply wounded. “I don’t understand. I’ve always thought of you as a dear friend. A brother. Now I feel I’ve never known you at all.” He turned his back, closing the door behind him. A moment later, Colin heard the key turn in the lock, and his life as he knew it was over.



Author Bio

After writing for years yet never really finding the right inspiration, Keira discovered her voice in gay romance, which has become a passion. She writes contemporary, historical, fantasy, and paranormal fiction and — although she loves delicious angst along the way — Keira firmly believes in happy endings. For as Oscar Wilde once said:

“The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

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Audiobook Review: Beguiled (Enlightenment #2) by Joanna Chambers

This is a second edition of a book previously published by Samhain Publishing.

Two years after his last encounter with cynical nobleman Lord Murdo Balfour, David Lauriston accidentally meets him again in the heart of Edinburgh.

King George IV is about to make his first visit to Edinburgh and Murdo has been sent North by his politician father to represent his aristocratic family at the celebrations.

David and Murdo’s last parting was painful—and on Murdo’s part, bitter—but Murdo’s feelings seem to have mellowed in the intervening years. So much so, that he suggests to David that they enjoy each other’s company during Murdo’s stay in the capital.
Despite his initial reservations, David cannot put Murdo’s proposal from his mind, and soon find himself at Murdo’s door—and in his arms.

But other figures from David’s past are converging on the city, and as the pomp and ceremony of the King’s visit unfolds around them, David is drawn into a chain of events that will threaten everything: his career, his wellbeing, and the fragile bond that, despite David’s best intentions, is growing between him and Murdo.

Narrated by: Hamish McKinlay
Listening Length: 6 hours and 33 minutes




***5 STARS and more***


Guest Reviewer - Annery

This is the second book in the Enlightenment Series and I’m thrilled to say that Joanna Chambers is a true talent, sticking unflinchingly to a vision. On the audio front Hamish McKinlay, once again, delivers a masterful performance bringing the principals, David & Murdo, to vivid, distinct, and electrifying life. If I didn’t know better I could be persuaded that there are two narrators. As a bonus he fleshes out another handful of characters, including women, without hitting a false note.

The story picks up and takes place in August of 1822, two years after the events in Provoked, and once again the ‘action’ is firmly rooted in historical fact. George IV, commonly known as Prinny, the ne’er-do-well heir of George III, had been Regent for 10 years during his father’s bout of mental incapacity. A year after his ascension to the throne he embarked on a historical trip to Scotland, the first by a British monarch in almost two hundred years. The trip was stage managed by Sir Walter Scott and was full of pageantry on an epic scale. Here's a brief article on the visit.

This is the setting for David and Murdo’s reunion. In the two years since we last saw him David has made something of a name for himself as an advocate, under the tutelage of his patron and now friend, Patrick Chalmers. He continues to be the same David, dedicated to his profession almost to the exclusion of everything else but a good hearted and loyal friend. On the personal front, while he’s resigned to a solitary life with the occasional stolen moment for passion, he’s not as apt to see his desires as reprehensible.

“It used to be, when he heard people sneering about sods and buggers, his chief reaction was shame. Self-loathing. But more recently -- like when the scandal of the bishop came out -- he’d found himself growing angry when he heard such comments. Angry that people seemed to think they had a right to know what others did behind closed doors. Angry that they wanted to rip people apart for it, even blamed the state of the nation upon it.”
Meanwhile Murdo has ostensibly come to Edinburgh representing his father, the Marquess, as part of the King’s entourage. The two meet by accident or fate at the tailor’s shop and the kindling is set.

 
There is so much wonderful going on in this book and Joanna Chambers conveys all of this without ever ‘telling’ or crowding, but rather by conversations, thoughts, and actions. She not only steps up the story between our two protagonists but also sets them firmly in their time and place, which is a Scotland that was shedding its feudal past in favor of the business and educated classes. We also get a precis on the rights of women (none) via Elizabeth, Patrick Chalmers daughter, now prisoner of an unhappy marriage. However the author never loses sight of the story at hand, which is that of David and Murdo. This time around they’re not so much dancing around each other but falling head first into something they can’t or know to call love, because the world sucks, and that’s not something available to men. Or is it? This is the book in which these men really get to know each other. In every sense.

The real dark horse is Murdo, who’s come back to Edinburgh, among other reasons, to get back into David’s life in any way and for however long it may last. He’s the character who has changed the most. He’s searched his heart, realized, and admitted that he wants more of David. What that more is he has not named. Not yet. He’s that person we all want at the end of our HEA and there’s a scene, which replays in David’s head (and mine too), where Murdo invites David to his house by saying: “You know where my house is. Come anytime.” The memory of that invitation is like an ear worm in David’s head, insistent and persuasive.

Hamish McKinley’s rendering had me on my way to Murdo’s house. *heart palpitations*

I don’t know how much or little to tell because you should really just immerse yourself in this whole series, and yes I mean the audio too. Your heart and brain will thank you. I found myself highlighting and rereading whole passages but quoting them all here would be obnoxious. As an alternative I suggest you go to Chapter 9 of the book. This is the core of the book and of David & Murdo’s story; the themes it explores, and the predominant dynamic. I’ll wait.

David and Murdo have left a tavern and Murdo, gentleman that he is, walks David to his rooms. It starts: “Murdo followed David …” and that’s what’s happening, to one degree or other this August of 1822. The rooms are dark and Murdo is ‘lost’ but David is there to guide him: “Sorry. Here, give me your hand.” David starts to light the fire and, while still in darkness, they begin to talk. It’s one of those conversations you have in the refuge of darkness. Like a confessional. But slowly the light gets stronger, the room warmer. Once the room is lit and warm they’ve exchanged painful remembrances and shared a moment of honest intimacy that surpasses ‘just sex’. I’ll just come right out and say that Murdo is a prince. It ends like this, with David sitting on Murdo’s lap, after offering to suck him:

“Murdo’s eyes glittered. ‘Yes, but stay like this awhile longer. I like you here.’
“So David did, enjoying the warmth of the fire and the feel of Murdo beneath him, around him. Enjoying the tentative intimacy that was growing between them and that felt almost tangible, here, in this warm, secret corner of the world.”
The rest of the book carries through with this theme. David and Murdo deciding that being together is right or at the very least no one else’s business, but trying to find a way of making that possible and figuring out for how long? Murdo shines brightly, being there for David and his ‘causes’ even when he doesn’t know he’s doing it and with deeply romantic moments like this:

“Another good-natured chuckle, then lips at his temple in a brief kiss. A sigh. “David.” Just his name. Not a question but a statement. Or maybe an answer.”
David. Was ever a man more aptly named? Always willing to fight for what’s right even when he’s scared or in the face of daunting odds. But he has Murdo:

“He kissed Murdo, and it was like water. Like something necessary and life-giving.”
Even if I hadn’t read (totally did) the third book I would’ve been happy with this ending. Our men are on a believable path to a HEA that doesn’t rehash the same tired roles of other historicals, jump into anachronisms or require leaps of wishful thinking.

 
***I’d recommend this to everyone. Period. If you can definitely get the audio. Worth every penny. ***