Cephalopod Coffeehouse June 2017–THE SUFFERING TREE-A Review

0ed81-coffeehouseHi there! Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.

This month I’m featuring a paranormal YA story that has a dash of romance and dash more controversy. THE SUFFERING TREE by Elle Cosimano has been getting very mixed reviews, but I liked the story, even as I struggled with some of the plot-points. Also, the blurb doesn’t mention that the MC has a SERIOUS emotional problem which manifests as cutting. Again, controversy.

About the book:
“It’s dark magic brings him back.”
Tori Burns and her family left D.C. for claustrophobic Chaptico, Maryland, after suddenly inheriting a house under mysterious circumstances. That inheritance puts her at odds with the entire town, especially Jesse Slaughter and his family—it’s their generations-old land the Burns have “stolen.” But none of that seems to matter after Tori witnesses a young man claw his way out of a grave under the gnarled oak in her new backyard.

Nathaniel Bishop may not understand what brought him back, but it’s clear to Tori that he hates the Slaughters for what they did to him centuries ago. Wary yet drawn to him by a shared sense of loss, she gives him shelter. But in the wake of his arrival comes a string of troubling events—including the disappearance of Jesse Slaughter’s cousin—that seem to point back to Nathaniel.

As Tori digs for the truth—and slowly begins to fall for Nathaniel—she uncovers something much darker in the tangled branches of the Slaughter family tree. In order to break the centuries-old curse that binds Nathaniel there and discover the true nature of her inheritance, Tori must unravel the Slaughter family’s oldest and most guarded secrets. But the Slaughters want to keep them buried… at any cost.

From award-winning author Elle Cosimano comes a haunting, atmospheric thriller perfect to hand to readers of the Mara Dyer trilogy and Bone Gap.

My Review:
Trigger warning: this book has intense and graphically described instances of the MC cutting her skin as a means to cope with her grief and isolation.

16 year old Tori Burns is new to rural Chaptico, Maryland. Her adoptive mother, brother and herself mysteriously inherited twenty acres of land and a home smack dab in the middle of the Slaughter farm, bequeathed by Al Senior upon his death several months ago. It was just in time, too, as Tori’s family had been recently evicted from their apartment. (There’s some shenanigans about this that I’ll describe later.)

Tori hasn’t been the same since her adoptive father died a year ago. Since then, she’s quit swimming–though she was an expert swimmer–because she can’t imagine doing it without her father cheering her on. Also, she’s begun cutting her skin to mask the grief she’s experiencing. Her arms and legs are covered in scars, and she regularly presses on healing cuts to induce pain when necessary. She’s an outsider in her school which has lots and lots of Slaughter kids, all of whom have the status. Jesse Slaughter is the typical king of the school, and Tori can’t figure out why he’s talking to her and asking her to Homecoming.

One night, when the pain is too great, Tori runs out to the small graveyard on the edge of the property and digs a sharp branch into her arm. The blood shed releases a centuries-old curse and, inexplicably, a man from his shallow grave. Tori’s appropriately horrified by the advent of this former-servant of age-old Slaughter Farm, Nathaniel, and that’s only the beginning. She’s plagued by nightmares of the Chaptico Witch, Emmeline, who was the love of Nathaniel back in the seventeenth century.

So, you can see, this was a really different plot line. The POV shifts between 1690s Nathaniel’s memories, the present-day, and dreams/visions Tori experiences from Emmeline’s magic. Because, she was a witch, and she did love Nathaniel enough to preserve him until he could fulfill his sworn duty to protect her.

There are many interesting themes here: dealing with grief, learning about your history, becoming the person you were meant to be, doing the right thing, as well as the folly of greed and the horror of locking down one’s family skeletons. I think I didn’t really get hooked until about a third of the way through, mostly because I was a little stupefied by some of the issues Tori faces.

See, her mom is a volunteer art teacher. Her father dies and has no life insurance, leaving them essentially destitute. They have no other family and are on the verge of eviction. Sorry, I’d be working at a paying job, folks. And, the grief really isn’t an excuse for me. The whole set-up seemed shady, and it put me off. I almost had less trouble accepting the magical resurrection of Nathaniel than their real-life crisis of near-homelessness. Also, her mom is practically unable to keep this family together. Beyond driving and painting, she has virtually no life skills despite being a mother for 16+ years. It was insulting, honestly. So, shenanigans. I call it.

The isolation Tori experienced was far easier to accept as a reader. New girl in a small town. She’s odd and weird. No doubt she’ll struggle to fit in. The double-crosses were to be expected, and I didn’t think that was a deficit. Plot-wise, I liked the interwoven POVs and I liked Nathaniel, a lot. Tori, at times, seems deliberately obtuse, but she comes to terms with her position in the tangled history with Nathaniel, Emmeline and the Slaughters past and present. It doesn’t help that the current Slaughters are experiencing unprecedented tragedy–including blight, fire and death–and they pin it to the arrival of Tori and her family. It’s a mystery why these events are occurring, to everyone but Nathaniel, Tori and an elderly black neighbor who knows more than her family with believe.

I liked how this turned out in the end, with much faster pacing and a tumultuous climax. For me, the book is an interesting allegory for the power of greed to destroy and of love to reclaim/redeem. That said, it’s still troubling how little assistance was available for Tori, with both her grief and her cutting.

Interested? You can find THE SUFFERING TREE on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks and your local library, probably. It released a few weeks ago. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

Thanks for popping in. Be sure to check out the fave read of my fellow Coffeehouse reviewers by clicking the links below. Keep reading my friends!

Redemption and Romance for a COMEBACK COWBOY–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new contemporary cowboy romance from Sara Richardson. COMEBACK COWBOY is the second book in her Rocky Mountain Riders series, but is fine to read as a standalone. You can check out info on the first book, HOMETOWN COWBOY, too, but COMEBACK COWBOY features a reconnection romance between a sturdy single mom and her high-school sweetheart who left ten years before.

Don’t miss the big giveaway! Scroll down to enter.

About the book:
A WOMAN NEVER FORGETS HER FIRST COWBOY . . .
As a single mother, Naomi Sullivan is used to doing things on her own. She’s finally saved enough from working at the Cortez Ranch to buy a lovely home for her and her little girl. Life is going as planned. But when her high school sweetheart comes riding back to town, this self-sufficient woman feels something she hasn’t felt in years: red-hot, unbridled need for the handsome cowboy who left her behind.

Lucas Cortez doesn’t plan on being in town long. Yet when he sees Naomi again-the gorgeous girl he never stopped loving-he’s tempted to hang up his hat and stay awhile. He’s already charmed his way into her daughter’s heart, but he’ll need more than sweet talk and roses to convince Naomi to give them a second chance-especially when she’s hiding a secret that could change their lives forever . . .

A delicious taste…

“I’m so sorry, Naomi.” For whatever reason, her heart had opened to him. Maybe only a crack, but that was all he needed. He stepped closer to her, so that her body was pressed against his. Out in the parking lot, a line of headlights moseyed out to the road, but he didn’t care. He didn’t know when he’d have this chance again. So he took her into his arms because he couldn’t wait. Couldn’t analyze. He had to see. He had to feel her. Had to know she was as desperate as he was.

“Lucas…” she whispered, closing her eyes.

He rested his hands on her hips, urging her closer. “I need to know you don’t hate me,” he said, drowning in the feel of her. His hands slipped down low on her back, until he had her locked in his arms.

“I don’t hate you,” she squeaked. “God, I don’t hate you at all.”

That was all he needed. Holding her tightly in his arms, he lowered his mouth to hers, unable to stop himself, unable to hold back anything. Her lips tasted sweet, so warm and wet. He pressed into them, drinking in the scent of her, the feel of her curves fit so tightly against his throbbing body.

She kissed him back, sighing deeply into his mouth as though letting go of her protests and hesitations.

His tongue sought hers, rekindling that connection they’d always had, electrifying everything else until the sparks of desire flashed all through him.

Her soft moan purred into him as her lips clung to his, and those hands of hers, always delicate but strong, climbed their way down his chest. He’d never regretted walking away from her as much as he did now, gripped by this one small taste of how it could’ve been with her…

My Review:
Naomi Sullivan is a single mother who never got over her first love, Lucas Cortez. They had a high school romance that was severed when Lucas was incarcerated for arson, supposedly burning a rodeo stadium that devastated their small-town Colorado community. She never learned if the baby she carried was Lucas’ daughter, or that of her husband, Mark, who took off while Gracie was just an infant.

So, ten years pass and Naomi’s saved a lot of money working for and living on the Cortez Ranch, but she’s ready to spread her wings and build a Bed and Breakfast business in one of the Victorian houses that line the Main Street. Lucas returned to their town several months ago, and Naomi’s been careful to keep her distance. She still findd him attractive and doesn’t want her heart broken again whenever he decides to move one. Thing is, Lucas has been pining for Naomi many a long year. That she’s single is a boon, but he’s not sure he should remain in the town–he’s had a lot of shade thrown his way from residents still bitter over the fire. When Mark comes to town, claiming to want a relationship with Gracie, Naomi drops her paternity bomb, and it blows Lucas away. Could he have sacrificed all those years and missed his daughter growing up?

So, there’s a bit of drama here, and I felt the timelines were all a little sketchy. Goodness knows, if I’d loved Lucas as hard as Naomi claimed, I wouldn’t have been intimate with his friend Mark within enough days of Lucas’ arrest to make a possibility of pregnancy by Mark a remote possibility. For me that was baffling and added unnecessary melodrama. That said, all the other parts felt very real, and the connection that Naomi has with her daughter–us against the world–is sweet. Also, both Mark and Lucas are decent guys, for the most part, if you can forgive their horrible choices. Lucas is easier to forgive–his were self-less; Mark was a Grade-A horse pa-toot, but we forgive much based on age and maturity, and he lacked both when he coasted off.

Expect a lot of thwarted sexytimes, as Naomi juggles motherhood and romance when she and Lucas finally connect. Also, expect some heartfelt struggles for Naomi, who experiences the very real fear of loss as her daughter begins to build a relationship with her father. I thought that was handled realistically well, and I liked how those plotlines unfolded. I mention “redemption” in my blog title because both Lucas and Mark experience it in their dealings with Naomi, but Lucas’ experience is more global and has more impact on Naomi’s life. I liked the story, and connected with the characters, so I’d recommend it for readers who like a bit of a slow burn and cowboys who not only make good on long-made promises, but who also poke bulls for fun.

Interested? You can find COMEBACK COWBOY on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, iBooks, and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link and enter to win one of THREE prize packs from Sara Richardson, Debbie Mason, and RaeAnne Thayne!

Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Sara RichardsonAbout the Author:
Sara Richardson grew up chasing adventure in Colorado’s rugged mountains. She’s climbed to the top of a 14,000-foot peak at midnight, swam through Class IV rapids, completed her wilderness first-aid certification, and spent seven days at a time tromping through the wilderness with a thirty-pound backpack strapped to her shoulders.

Eventually, Sara did the responsible thing and got an education in writing and journalism. After five years in the corporate writing world, she stopped ignoring the voices in her head and started writing fiction. Now, she uses her experience as a mountain adventure guide to write stories that incorporate adventure with romance. Still indulging her adventurous spirit, Sara lives and plays in Colorado with her saint of a husband and two young sons. Her first contemporary romance, No Better Man, was released by Grand Central forever 2015.

Catch up with Sara online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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Building a Love ROMANCING THE UGLY DUCKLING–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m getting the word out about a new contemporary M/M romance from Clare London. ROMANCING THE UGLY DUCKLING is a sweet and tender odd-couple romance. I really liked ROMANCING THE WRONG TWIN, so I had to read this one!

Catch an excerpt below and be sure to enter the GC giveaway, too.
About the book:
Is this the makeover of a lifetime?
Ambitious fashionista Perry Goodwood lands the project of his dreams—track down a celebrity family’s missing brother in the Scottish Highlands and bring him back to London for a TV reality show. But first he must transform the rugged loner into a glamorous sophisticate.

Greg Ventura has no use for high fashion. He lives on the isolated island of North Uist to escape the reminder that he’s nowhere near as handsome as his gorgeous brothers and avoid the painful childhood memories of being bullied.

Greg wants nothing to do with city life, and Perry’s never been outside London. When Perry is stranded on North Uist, this conflict seems insurmountable. But Greg is captivated by the vivacious Perry, and Perry by both the island and his host. However, Perry’s one heartfelt wish remains: that ugly duckling Greg fulfill his potential as a swan.

How about a little taste?

After the meal, they settled in the living room again. Greg poured himself a glass of what he introduced as his homemade wine, but Perry politely declined a glass for himself. He couldn’t recall any decent wine he’d ever drunk being that particular shade of purple. He was definitely making a mental shopping list for when he could find somewhere civilized, and gin and tonic would come several steps above couscous on that.

Greg picked up a book and started reading. Perry waited a while—after deciding against asking what they could watch on the miniscule TV in the corner of the living room, with obvious dust settling on the controls—then coughed to get Greg’s attention. “Where do you need me tomorrow?”

Greg peered at him over the book. “What are you talking about?”

“Working together, remember? Um. What exactly do you do, apart from painting?”

Greg’s look was possibly sly, but that could have been due to the waning light outside the cottage.

“Sometimes I work in the Sea Bird restaurant.”

Perry thought he remembered seeing a sign to that place on his journey here in Dougie’s car. The building itself had been very small, more like a tea room, with a single light on in the front porch, and it didn’t look very open for business. But he’d go with the flow. “Are you a chef?”

Greg laughed. He seemed more relaxed tonight. “No, I think you’ve realized my cooking skills aren’t the best. And it’s not really big enough for a chef and full kitchen staff. I mean, it wouldn’t meet your London standards.”

“That has nothing to do with anything.”

“What?”

“My London… standards, experience, whatever you want to call it. I’m in Uist now, and I want to know what you do here.”

Greg was looking at him oddly. Was he, Perry, coming across as too bossy? God, this man was impossible to gauge properly.

“It’s more of a large dining room where friends can hang out.” Greg still sounded reasonably relaxed. “It’s owned by a couple of elderly sisters who are marvelous cooks, and we sometimes hire it out for a celebration. We’re not big on dinner parties here, you can imagine. I help out with serving when it’s busy. But mainly I provide the fish dishes, especially scallops.”

“You’re a fisherman?”

Greg nodded slowly, his gaze still on Perry. “Yes, you could say that. I’m a diver. I dive for scallops.”

“Can’t you just… I don’t know.” Buy them in a shop? “Don’t they have official suppliers?”

Greg frowned. “Hand-collected scallops are better. The sweeter ones are chosen, and the dish is more precious. Haven’t you ever tasted the difference?”

It pained Perry to admit weakness, but he did. “I’ve never had scallops in my life.”

Greg’s eyes narrowed. “I thought you lived in the center of the sophisticated city?”

“We can’t all afford posh restaurants,” Perry snapped back, then blushed at—yet again—having to admit shortcoming.

“Oh.” Greg blinked. “Well, you’ll see them in the raw when you come out in the boat tomorrow with me.”

“When I…? Tomorrow…? Boat?”

Greg smiled slowly. “Yes. The weather should be fine, so I’m driving west past Lochmaddy to one of my favorite coastal seawater lochs. I’ll pack some provisions so we can eat lunch there. You can help carry the equipment, then collect the scallops into boxes and keep watch for me.”

“We… I….” Perry was struggling for words. Worse, Greg seemed to realize it and find it highly amusing. “I’ve never been in one.”

“One what?”

“Boat. I’ve never been in a boat. Well, until the ferry two days ago.”

Greg nodded, also slowly. “That’s fine. You can stay here if you want.”

“No!” Perry’s cry was instinctive. Did this brute of a bloke think he, Perry, was a lightweight? “I will not! We made a deal.”

“Okay. Well, I hope Bridie brought a selection of decent waterproofs as well as your day clothes, because you’ll need them.”

“You said the weather should be fine….”

“Just in case,” Greg said ominously. He concentrated back on his book.

Perry sat silently for a long moment. In fact, everything was silent, inside the cottage and out, apart from the occasional call from a bird, and Greg turning a page. Perry wasn’t used to such quiet. Nor was he used to living in close quarters with a man who barely tolerated him, and actually wanted him to get lost. There was a small pile of paperbacks on the table beside Greg’s armchair, and Perry picked one up. He also wasn’t used to reading anthologies of horror stories, his preference being for romantic comedies and the occasional biography—but he supposed there was always a first time. Opening it to the first chapter, he bit back a sigh. At least he’d won this stage of the battle with Greg Ventura, and he had more time to convince him about the TV project.

But thinking about the trip out onto a likely freezing Scottish loch tomorrow, he wasn’t sure whether the price would be too much to pay.

My Review:
Perry Goodwood is a young and effusive designer-turned-stylist hoping to make ends meet in working at a PR firm in London. It’s certainly not easy working back from the financial disaster his ex-boyfriend created. Having won a reputation for sprucing up the most truculent of clients, Perry’s tasked with tracking down the fifth Ventura brother for a possible reality TV show. Thing is, Greg Ventura dislikes his brothers completely, and is living in the remote Scottish isle of North Uist.

Greg Ventura stopped opening letters from his brothers once he flatly refused to be a part of any TV scheme they’d cooked up. He spent years being ridiculed and put down for his lanky body, clumsiness, and disinterest in girls. Doesn’t matter that he’s “blossomed” into a capable attractive artist. He still carries those wounds close to his heart. So, ignoring their communications leads to a soaked Perry turning up on the doorstep of his croft. Seemed he was notified the half-drowned man was arriving, though he didn’t realize it, and Greg’s the only person who could put Perry up for the night.

Perry’s not encouraged by his lack of reception, and his lack of support; usually his agency sends a team of personnel to go along with a make-over, but Perry’s been left to his own devices, isolated with a wary Greg in their remote locale. It’s unsettling, and upsetting to say the least. Though, Perry puts a good face on it. He doesn’t try to pressure Greg, sure that this capable outsdoorsman and artist will never cave to demands. No, instead he works within Greg’s space, clearing out messes and making himself generally useful. His attention begins to turn Greg’s head, and the confidence of having a sexy young man find him attractive leads to Greg feeling somewhat more positively about himself.

It’s interesting that I’ve, unwittingly, read a few body image books in a row. I really liked Perry and Greg’s dynamic and level of support they offer one another. They are both decent guys and want to have happy, settled lives. Neither expects the other to make his world complete, but they are open to the idea of companionship and romance–for the little time they expect to spend together. They build each other up, with Perry helping Greg see himself with new compassionate eyes, meanwhile, Greg teaches Perry how to swim and do manual tasks he’d never intended. Also, Greg’s self-isolation is no match for Perry’s natural friendliness. Perry helps Greg make more friends in his small town, and come out on his own terms. I liked that part, and there’s a bit more sexytimes than I expected–not that there’s a WHOLE lot, but the format of book in this series has been a little light on the sexy. So, that was a fun bonus.

Interested? You can find ROMANCING THE UGLY DUCKLING on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon (US and UK), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 GC from Clare London.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

copy-of-clarelondonheadshotAbout the Author:
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.

Catch up to Clare on her website, blog, Facebook, twitter, Goodreads, Amazon, and Google+.

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Happy Book Birthday to COMEBACK COWBOY!

Hi there! Today I’m giving a book birthday shout-out to a new contemoprary cowboy romance from Sara Richardson. COMEBACK COWBOY is the second book in her Rocky Mountain Riders series, but is fine to read as a standalone. You can check out info on the first book, HOMETOWN COWBOY, too, but COMEBACK COWBOY features a reconnection romance between a sturdy single mom and her high-school sweetheart who left ten years before.

I’ll be sharing my review in the coming days, but don’t miss the big giveaway in the meantime! Scroll down to enter.

About the book:
A WOMAN NEVER FORGETS HER FIRST COWBOY . . .
As a single mother, Naomi Sullivan is used to doing things on her own. She’s finally saved enough from working at the Cortez Ranch to buy a lovely home for her and her little girl. Life is going as planned. But when her high school sweetheart comes riding back to town, this self-sufficient woman feels something she hasn’t felt in years: red-hot, unbridled need for the handsome cowboy who left her behind.

Lucas Cortez doesn’t plan on being in town long. Yet when he sees Naomi again-the gorgeous girl he never stopped loving-he’s tempted to hang up his hat and stay awhile. He’s already charmed his way into her daughter’s heart, but he’ll need more than sweet talk and roses to convince Naomi to give them a second chance-especially when she’s hiding a secret that could change their lives forever . . .

A delicious taste…

“I’m so sorry, Naomi.” For whatever reason, her heart had opened to him. Maybe only a crack, but that was all he needed. He stepped closer to her, so that her body was pressed against his. Out in the parking lot, a line of headlights moseyed out to the road, but he didn’t care. He didn’t know when he’d have this chance again. So he took her into his arms because he couldn’t wait. Couldn’t analyze. He had to see. He had to feel her. Had to know she was as desperate as he was.

“Lucas…” she whispered, closing her eyes.

He rested his hands on her hips, urging her closer. “I need to know you don’t hate me,” he said, drowning in the feel of her. His hands slipped down low on her back, until he had her locked in his arms.

“I don’t hate you,” she squeaked. “God, I don’t hate you at all.”

That was all he needed. Holding her tightly in his arms, he lowered his mouth to hers, unable to stop himself, unable to hold back anything. Her lips tasted sweet, so warm and wet. He pressed into them, drinking in the scent of her, the feel of her curves fit so tightly against his throbbing body.

She kissed him back, sighing deeply into his mouth as though letting go of her protests and hesitations.

His tongue sought hers, rekindling that connection they’d always had, electrifying everything else until the sparks of desire flashed all through him.

Her soft moan purred into him as her lips clung to his, and those hands of hers, always delicate but strong, climbed their way down his chest. He’d never regretted walking away from her as much as he did now, gripped by this one small taste of how it could’ve been with her…

Interested? You can find COMEBACK COWBOY on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, iBooks, and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link and enter to win one of THREE prize packs from Sara Richardson, Debbie Mason, and RaeAnne Thayne!

Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Sara RichardsonAbout the Author:
Sara Richardson grew up chasing adventure in Colorado’s rugged mountains. She’s climbed to the top of a 14,000-foot peak at midnight, swam through Class IV rapids, completed her wilderness first-aid certification, and spent seven days at a time tromping through the wilderness with a thirty-pound backpack strapped to her shoulders.

Eventually, Sara did the responsible thing and got an education in writing and journalism. After five years in the corporate writing world, she stopped ignoring the voices in her head and started writing fiction. Now, she uses her experience as a mountain adventure guide to write stories that incorporate adventure with romance. Still indulging her adventurous spirit, Sara lives and plays in Colorado with her saint of a husband and two young sons. Her first contemporary romance, No Better Man, was released by Grand Central forever 2015.

Catch up with Sara online on her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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Out today! SEDUCED BY THE TIDE-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review for a new M/M paranormal romance from Sean Michael. SEDUCED BY THE TIDE is the second book in his Dragon Soul series, and I liked it even more than BRANDED BY FLAMES. All the books in this series feature one of the five centuries-old Beteferoce dragon shifter brothers finding love with his perfect mate.

About the book:
Deke has yet to meet a man who gives him a rush. Coast Guard rescue has kept the dragon shifter busy, but there’s no harder work than finding a mate. Then comes Bryan. Bearded and inked, the personal trainer turned mechanic smells of grease, sweat and red meat. How irresistibly human can you get? And when it comes to hot, slamming sex, they’re the perfect fit. Now all Deke has to do is to tell Bryan what he really is, and what he has planned for them.

Bryan has never met anyone like Deke, a consuming lover with a body so arousing it damn near hurts. And he knows how to use every inch of it. Yet he can’t shake the feeling that Deke is hiding something. Just not this—the stud he’s falling for is a centuries-old dragon who has marked him as a mate.

Bryan has to admit that something inside him is changing. For the first time ever, he’s satisfied, body and soul. If Deke really is telling the truth, this could be his destiny—if he’s ready to face it.

My Review:
Deke is the youngest of the dragon-shifter Beteferoce family and isn’t quite convinced his eldest brother, Jake, is telling the truth about finding his “mate,” Shae, but he’s willing to check out this arrangement and see for himself. Plus, Deke noticed that Shae’s neighbor and good friend, Bryan, is a fit specimen he’d like to get to know better. With Jake and Shae being obnoxiously in love, and thoroughly uncivilized in their sexy behavior, Deke is more-than-happy for Bryan’s offer of a spare bedroom in his home.

And let the sexytimes begin…

Bryan doesn’t usually fall into bed with a guy. He hasn’t actually had a partner in years; not since he and Shae didn’t work out. But, Deke is turning all his knobs in just the right way, much to Bryan’s dismay. How can he be so consumed by a man so quickly? And, won’t he be heart-broken when Deke returns to his Coast Guard duties hours away?

During Deke’s week-long visit he learns for certain that he and Bryan are true mates, just like Jake and Shae, but he’s due to report for duty so he vows not to begin the bonding process until he can work out an extended leave. This, by the way, is triggered by fluid-exchange so Deke is careful to stay covered up. Well, except for, oh man! Deke!!

Deke’s so sure of his love, he tries to tell Bryan who he really is, and it all goes sideways. He had no idea how Bryan’s previous history with the paranormal would skew this experience, but Deke holds faith that he’ll be able to win Bryan’s heart back, just as soon as he can get more time. The problem? The physical binding has already begun…

Bryan can’t understand what’s happening to him once Deke leaves. He’s lethargic and ill, and fevered, and unable to manage even the most basic tasks like doing the mechanic work he loves or feeding himself. Good thing Shae and Jake are looking in on him. While Deke manages his details for the Coast Guard, he craves Bryan, and fears what will happen if he shows up on Bryan’s doorstep. And, it’s even worse when he arrives.

I liked this book better than the first, for a few reasons. There’s a lot more tension, the sexytimes don’t take over as much, and Bryan and Deke really have to build trust. I liked how Bryan was a man who’d had a dark past, and his growing love and trust for Bryan helped him to overcome old hurts. I think I was expecting to meet Bryan’s long-lost brother at some point, and I will admit a touch of dismay when that didn’t happen, but that’s only because I’m a greedy reader–it had no impact on this story. For me, I’m hooked on the Beteferoce brothers finding eternal love, and I hope we get some insight on the Fae tattoo artist who seems to be linking them.

Interested? You can find BRANDED BY FLAMES on Goodreads, Carina Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Often referred to as “Space Cowboy” and “Gangsta of Love” while still striving for the moniker of “Maurice,” Sean Michael spends his days surfing, smutting, organizing his immense gourd collection and fantasizing about one day retiring on a small secluded island peopled entirely by horseshoe crabs. While collecting vast amounts of vintage gay pulp novels and mood rings, Sean whiles away the hours between dropping the f-bomb and persuing the kama sutra by channeling the long lost spirit of John Wayne and singing along with the soundtrack to “Chicago.”

A long-time writer of complicated haiku, currently Sean is attempting to learn the advanced arts of plate spinning and soap carving sex toys.

Barring any of that? He’ll stick with writing his stories, thanks, and rubbing pretty bodies together to see if they spark.

Catch up with Sean on line on his website, blog, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Out today! SALVAGED Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt for a new contemporary romance from Jay Crownover. SALVAGED is the final book in her Saints of Denver series and was the book I’d been expected since finishing CHARGED. I’ve enjoyed BUILT and RIVETED, too, so I couldn’t wait to watch Wheeler and Poppy find love.

About the book:
Hudson Wheeler is a nice guy. Everyone knows it, including his fiancée who left him with a canceled wedding and a baby on the way. He’s tired of finishing last and is ready to start living in the moment with nights soaked in whiskey, fast cars, and even faster girls. He’s set to start living on the edge, but when he meets Poppy Cruz, her sad eyes in the most gorgeous face he’s ever seen hook him in right away. Wheeler can see Poppy’s pain and all he wants to do is take care of her and make her smile, whatever it takes.

Poppy can’t remember a time when she didn’t see strangers as the enemy. After a lifetime of being hurt from the men who swore to protect her, Poppy’s determined to keep herself safe by keeping everyone else at arm’s length. Wheeler’s sexy grin and rough hands from hours restoring classic cars shouldn’t captivate her, but every time she’s with him, she can’t help being pulled closer to him. Though she’s terrified to trust again, Poppy soon realizes it might hurt even more to shut Wheeler out—and the intense feelings pulsing through her are making it near impossible to resist him.

The only thing Poppy is sure of is that her heart is in need of some serious repair, and the more time she spends with Wheeler, the more she’s convinced he’s the only man with the tools to fix it.

How about a little taste?

I didn’t want her to be scared of anything ever again.

Things at home had been rocky, rougher than class-five rapids in winter, but I was paddling for my life and prepared to ride it out. I couldn’t let go. I wouldn’t let go. I saw Poppy the day she walked through my shop and I started to feel how sore my hands and my heart were from holding on.

Her head was down, focused on the tips of her shoes. Her shoulders were hunched over and her long hair hid her face. She was skinny, so skinny, nothing but skin and bones. She was nothing that I should have noticed, not because she was clearly doing everything in her power to be invisible, but because I was supposed to have my eyes locked on my future and doing whatever I could do to salvage it. But I did notice her and I couldn’t look away once I did.

She was obviously terrified, clearly out of her element and uncomfortable, but it wasn’t her unease that called to me…it was her loneliness. I could feel it filling up the space that separated us. Stretching, growing, expanding until it was all I was breathing in and exhaling back out. It was bitter on my tongue and heavy across my skin because I knew the feeling well. I lived with it pressing me down and pushing me forward every minute of every day. The reason I was so set on the way things had to be, the reason I was single-mindedly set on settling down and building a life with the girl that was slipping through my fingers was because I never again wanted to be as alone as this girl was. I didn’t want to be left and forgotten. I’d barely survived it the first time.

I did my best to sell her a car that was as beautiful as she was…a classic with clean lines and a flawless finish. She picked something practical and boring but that was ultimately safe and reliable. I understood her choice but it grated and annoyed me long after she left the shop. When she wasn’t standing in front of me, she should have been easy to forget; after all, everything in front of me, everything I had been working for and toward, was falling down in front of my eyes. My world was collapsing in on itself and everything I thought I was so goddamn sure about turned out to be nothing more than lies and illusions. In the middle of all of it, I couldn’t forget her sad eyes and shivering, shaking form. Her loneliness clung to me, unshakable and unforgettable. I didn’t think I would see her again and against my better judgment I often found myself wondering how she was doing and if she had gotten a handle on all the things that seemed to be crushing her under their inescapable weight.

I was wrong about seeing her again, just like I was wrong about thinking that doing everything in my life differently from how my mother had lived hers would ensure my happiness and a future built on an unshakeable foundation. I was wrong about hard work and sacrifice being enough. I was wrong about holding on when what I was holding on to desperately wanted me to let go. All I was left with was bleeding palms, rope burns around my heart and scars on my soul.

The next time I saw Poppy Cruz it was my loneliness that was filling up the space, suffocating me, choking me, making me forget to handle her with care. I was nothing more than a vast, open wound. One that was raw, aching, throbbing, and leaking my heart and shattered emotions out everywhere. I felt like I’d lost everything, like my entire life had been nothing but a waste of time, nothing more than building blocks knocked over with the swipe of a careless hand. The girl I loved didn’t love me back, my future was ultimately nothing more than a fuzzy, fractured blur. I couldn’t see anything clearly other than waste and ruin.

But I saw her. And I saw that I scared her.

It was the last thing I wanted to do but my loneliness was just as big and just as consuming as hers was. It spread out, hungry and angry, looking to consume anyone that might try and challenge its reign.

I tried to pull myself together, apologized because I knew our paths would cross again now that she lived next door to my best friend. I didn’t want to be another man that she was terrified of. I locked the loneliness down, wrestled it into submission, and tried to quiet down the wild inside of me that was howling, screaming at the loss of its mate. I wanted to be nothing more than gnashing teeth and tearing claws but I swallowed those instincts and allowed myself to be like a kicked puppy that just wanted to whimper and cry.

Poppy had been through more than I could imagine. She was the one I couldn’t look away from, but even then, she managed to slip past me and disappear. She looked like honey but she moved like a ghost. I memorized everything about her even though she hardly let me see her face.

I wasn’t supposed to be looking at anything other than how to salvage the mess my life was in, but she was all I could see.

My Review:
Hudson Wheeler is a man with a busted heart. The love of his life, Kallie, has finally confessed that she’s not able to marry him–despite loving him–because she’s really in love with another woman. And, also, she’s pregnant with his child. This all happens a few months before their intended wedding date. Wheeler’s an orphan, and only with Kallie’s family did he find a home, but Kallie’s fear of coming out to her parents has left Wheeler looking like a Class-A Jerk to her folks.

So, he’s sexing his way through half of Denver to avoid sitting alone in the Kallie-furnished home he bought for her and their family. He’s a good guy, making bad decisions, but none of that matters when he begins to build a rapport with Poppy Cruz.

Poppy is on the fringe of the Denver cadre of barmen and tattoo artists due to her sister, Salem, attached to Rowdy–their childhood neighbor. She’s lived through emotional and physical abuse, and kidnap, rape and torture by her deceased ex-husband. Her father, a respected minister, is a head case who psychologically battered Poppy, Salem and their mother all their lives. Wheeler has some sense of this, and approaches Poppy with caution, and compassion.

They bond over the training of a rescue dog Poppy brings Wheeler, and each work through their trauma with frank discussions and small gestures. Soon, Poppy recognizes that she’d like more, and Wheeler’s content to move at her pace.

This is a sweet and tender romance that brings Poppy’s family full circle, and closes the loop on the Denver stories from Crownover. We have lots of looks at good friends from the Saints books and also Marked Men, but this always feels like Poppy and Wheeler’s story. They make peace with Kallie, and her family, and their demons, but there’s still more struggle for Poppy to endure. I liked how Wheeler found family when he least expected to, and how he made a life with the family he built. I really loved this one, and recommend it on it’s own–or to cap the series.

Interested? You can find SALVAGED on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo and Google Plus.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win signed three-book sets of BUILT, CHARGED and RIVETED for 2 winners .
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Jay Crownover is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Marked Men and The Point series. Like her characters, she is a big fan of tattoos. She loves music and wishes she could be a rock star, but since she has no aptitude for singing or instrument playing, she’ll settle for writing stories with interesting characters that make the reader feel something. She lives in Colorado with her three dogs.

Catch up with Jay on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

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Championing Women AHE-EY: Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a supernatural epic from Jamie Le Fay. AHE’EY had been published as a serial, but is now collected into one epic book for her readers to enjoy. It’s a little bit angel, a little bit mortal and a lotta bit confrontational.

Catch my review below and be sure to enter the book giveaway, too!

About the book:
Morgan’s feminist books didn’t prepare her to deal with the dashing Gabriel and the land of Ahe’ey.
Morgan is a dreamer, change maker and art lover. She is a feisty, slightly preachy, romantic feminist full of contradictions and insecurities. Morgan uncovers a world where women have the power, and where magic is no longer just a figment of her wild imagination. Sounds like a dream, but it may, in fact, turn into a nightmare.

The world of the Ahe’ey challenges and subverts her views about gender, genes, and nature versus nurture.

The strong and uninvited chemistry between her and the dashing Gabriel makes matters even more complicated. His stunning looks keep short-circuiting her rational mind.

How about a little taste?

“What do you want from me, Ange’el?”

“Your warriors, they can help secure the area. It’s just for a couple of hours.”

Are you out of your mind? Has Viviane heard about this? My warriors protect our people from those who threaten our security,” she spoke decisively.

He adjusted his tone, trying to reason with her. Silk and honey flowed from his voice and his eyes. “Sky, we were once—”

“Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare!” She leaned in, speaking to his face. Her hand squeezed the hilt of her sword. She gritted her teeth, responding to his silence. “Where were you when we battled the Hu’urei for over twenty years? Where was the powerful prince of Ange’el as my warriors died in the battlefield, crushed by the dragons? Why would I risk the safety of Ahe’ey to respond to the whims of a spoiled coward? Go back to your rich city penthouse Ange’el. You don’t belong here.” Her eyes and her words were razor-sharp spears.

“Please. Sky.”

She mounted the horse and galloped away.

His guilty conscience endured her justified anger and her hate for him. He wore her wrath as a reminder of his weakness, of his betrayal. He gave Sky her rage, and he would suffer it for the rest of their lives. The tension between their roles at Ahe’ey only worsened their frail and fractured relationship. Their agendas were different. She was ultimately responsible for the security of the people of Ahe’ey, and within its borders she was as powerful as the queen and king. She was to be obeyed and rarely needed her mighty army to enforce her orders. Gabriel worked to hide any clues of Ahe’ey’s existence from the humans. In parallel, he sponsored and lobbied for technological and political progress so that Ahe’ey’s secrets could one day be disclosed.

My Review:
Morgan is a super woman of her own making unawares that she’s descended from a superrace that still dwells on Earth. She’s captivated and flummoxed by Gabriel, a man of that race who lives among humanity. As Morgan learns more about this world-within-a-world she gains power she hadn’t expected. And, maybe, finds love.

AHE’EY is an epic fantasy about superbeings who live amongst us human on Earth, told from myriad viewpoints that jump in and out of the mortal realm on Earth. That’s normally a good thing, for me, because it means I’m always in the center of the action as a reader. However, the verbose descriptions between the human realm and the Ahe’ey were exhausting. The complete collection here was about 200,000 words, and I think we could have done without a third of them. Plus, honestly, I was put off by the mundanity of it all. When I’m reading Fantasy, I want to be transported. I don’t want the dialogue to sound like a contemporary YA/MG story.

The battles between the castes seemed forced, and the “drama” of this life-and-death arrangement also didn’t make sense to me. I’m not a big women’s studies genre reader, because I’m all about the romance, and this didn’t draw me to the cause, I must say. It felt very formulaic, and I didn’t connect with any of the myriad characters as a result. The pace bogged, like I mentioned, with large chunks of dense description which damped my interest right quick. The lackluster dialogue sealed Ahe-ey’s fate, for me.

I jumped on this book based on the recommendations, but I wasn’t in love with the execution. I think, for people who really love Fantasy and descriptive literature, you might find this intriguing.

Interested? You can find AHE’EY on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, and Smashwords.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win one of TWO paperback copies of AHE’EY.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the author:

Jamie is an accomplished writer and speaker that focuses mainly on topics related to girlhood, feminism, gender equality, and the misrepresentation of minorities in media and marketing.

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