Rescuing Himself While RESTRICTED–Review and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m excited to share a review and giveaway for a new M/M space opera adventure romance from A.C. Thomas. RESTRICTED is the first book in The Verge adventure series and I loved it LOTS!

Scroll down for an excerpt and to enter the $10 GC giveaway.
About the book:
Dr. Aristotle Campbell is a desperate man. His twin brother has been abducted, and Ari will do anything to find him. Forced out of the comfortable solitude of his laboratory, Ari must leave their home world of Britannia and search the farthest reaches of space for his other half. He hastily equips himself with a flawlessly tied cravat, a handful of clues, and his small science vessel. Now, all he needs is a pilot to get him across the Verge, a barrier separating the civilized world from ungoverned space.

Pilot Orin Stone is a desperate man. No ship, no pay, no prospects. He spends his days barely scraping by in the rough colonies lining the Verge interior. When he gets an offer from a frantic, upper-crust professor in need of a pilot, he has no choice but to take the job. He just can’t believe it when the professor turns out to be the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen and that his offer includes a ship of Orin’s own. If Orin can keep his heart (and other portions of his anatomy) from leaping every time sweet, innocent Dr. Campbell looks at him, this should be his easiest job yet.

Rugged Orin and aristocratic Ari work together to navigate the lawless areas of space beyond the Verge, soon discovering that they work well together in all areas. Their immediate and intense attraction to one another is an obstacle to their plans that neither saw coming. More than sparks will fly when they break through the force field and enter restricted space, all alone together for the perilous journey, leaving barriers to their growing attachment far behind.

In their search across the stars, can two desperate men find their home in one another?

How about a little taste?

Chapter One
“You want me to do what?”

Ari straightened his shoulders, hands folded together on the table between them, suppressing a wince as his skin stuck unpleasantly to a thick smear of residue best left uninvestigated.

Somewhere behind him the sound of glass breaking was followed by a bowel-shaking roar, a meaty impact, scuffling sounds, and hearty guffaws.

Definitively best left uninvestigated.

He sniffed quietly, regretting the action as the odor of stale beer and unwashed bodies assaulted his senses. Forcing himself to meet his companion’s bored regard, he cleared his throat before speaking in as firm a tone as he could manage.

“In the interest of saving both of our time, I’ll cut to the chase. I require a pilot capable of navigating uncharted areas with immediate availability and a willingness to negotiate a flexible pay schedule.”

Mr. “Call me Orin, honey” Stone slumped back in his seat with careless, sprawling grace, the edge of one enormous scuffed leather boot sliding across the floor to rest a millimeter away from the polished black toes of Ari’s spats.

“So, just so we’re clear— You’re asking me to find you a pilot ready to jump right across the Verge into the deepest, slimiest dark, for—and this is the bit that really sticks in my throat, pumpkin— You want me to find you some sap willing to do all that for, apparently, no pay.”

Keen bourbon eyes swept Ari from head to toe, that restless boot finally edging just close enough to touch.

“You’re cute, sugar. But you’re off your rocker.”

Ari’s chair scraped against the floor as he jolted forward in his seat, one hand closing around the fraying cuff of Orin’s greatcoat.

“This is a matter of utmost urgency. My brother is—” He paused to clear his throat after an embarrassing crack in his voice. “My brother is missing; he has been abducted by an Outlier fiend, and I am utilizing every resource at my disposal to ensure his safe return. My inquiries led me to you, with the assurance you could facilitate a jump with immediate effect. Now I demand that you either provide said assistance, or you cease wasting my time.”

Orin fixated on the white-knuckled grip holding his sleeve. The coiled strength of his thick forearm underscored Ari’s awareness that he could break free at a moment’s notice with very little energy expended.

“What kind of resources are we talking, here?” Orin’s eyes narrowed under a heavy brow, the sweep of space-black lashes unexpectedly elegant against his brutish visage.

Ari drew a long breath, attempting to steady his resolve.

“I possess a three-year-old Xalanthe Explorer model 953V. It is in exemplary condition, and I am prepared to offer it as payment upon my brother’s safe return to our home on Britannia.”

Before he finished speaking, Orin sat up in his chair, the full extent of his imposing size suddenly evident even while seated. He turned his hand in Ari’s grip, long fingers wrapping easily around his thin wrist.

“You’re trading your ship. A brand-new ship. To any asshole willing to fly it? Just to finish a little game of hide-and-seek with your brother who—no offense, Red—sounds like he ran off with a bit of strange?”

Aristotle bristled, slim shoulders rising to his ears as the heat of an angry flush spread from the unfortunate ginger of his precisely parted hairline down to the white of his starched collar points.

“He did not ‘run off’! He was abducted. I have no more time to waste with your nonsense, sir. Are you able to assist in my endeavor, or shall I continue pursuing a pilot on my own?”

A lopsided grin spread across his companion’s face, revealing a hint of prominent canine and a surprisingly charming set of dimples. Orin gave another insolent sweep of his gaze, ticking to the length of Ari’s throat rising above his cravat. The rumble of his voice dropped low enough that Ari had to strain to hear him above the surrounding chaos.

“Hmm, that depends, Red. That blush go all the way down?”

The clatter of the cheap aluminum chair against the cracking concrete floor was lost in the cacophony of raucous laughter, clinking glasses, and blaring synth music that characterized drinking establishments on the rough ring of colonies lining the Verge. Ari wrenched his arm away as he stood, breaking free.

He turned his back, adjusting his waistcoat with trembling fingers as he wracked his brain for alternative solutions. He had only taken a half step away from the table when a firm grip on his coattails wrenched him backward. He swung around, fists in a pugilist’s stance, raised to the smiling face of Mr. Stone.

“Whoa now, slow up there, professor. If you’re wanting to trade a whole damn ship for the temporary services of some sleazy sack of shit with a pilot’s license, I got just the guy you need.”

Knees weak with relief, Ari nearly attempted to sit before remembering he had overturned his chair, which was now likely glued to the filthy floor of the saloon.

“Excellent. Where can I find this person?”

That lopsided grin opened up into a full-blown smile, revealing rows of white, uneven teeth. “You’re looking at him, sweetheart.”

Ari twitched at the endearment, unaccustomed to the way they seemed to drip from the pilot’s every phrase like butter melting off the plate.

He turned fully to face him, coattails twining around his narrow hips as Orin maintained his grip, tugging once with a waggle of thick brows at Ari’s resulting unintentional pelvic thrust before releasing him with a flourish.

Orin pushed off from the table, broad shoulders rising up and up to just above Ari’s line of sight. Ari swallowed an obvious comment on the pilot’s intimidating height, realizing how much he’d underestimated the man’s size.

Ari stared straight ahead at the hollow of Mr. Stone’s throat, bronze skin left exposed by the open vee of his collarless shirt. A few dark, curling hairs peeked out of the opening, inches from Aristotle’s nose. A strange fluttering sensation swept through his abdomen at the sight.

Recognizing the sensation as inappropriate at best and disastrous at worst, Ari turned on stiff legs and led the way out of the saloon, doing his utmost to avoid brushing up against the rough clientele. Heads swiveled to follow Ari even as they ignored the much larger figure of Mr. Stone following close behind his every step.

Ari ducked his head as they emerged into the daylight, squinting against the intrusive brightness before heading off toward the nearest dry dock, zeroing in on his ship after a few minutes’ walk. Mr. Stone was a silent shadow at his back, footsteps shockingly light for a man of his size.

The small exploratory vessel stood out among the busted-up freighters and speeders cluttering the dock. Clean panels of riveted steel shaped the subtle curves framing the centerpiece—a large frontal view screen. The only unnecessary ornament was that of the exaggerated dorsal fin, the sight of which had caused Aristotle’s brother to laugh out loud when they first purchased the ship.

Ari’s back stiffened at a low whistle, two familiar notes usually directed with prurient interest.

Mr. Orin Stone was circling his ship, one hand, large and square as a shovel head, trailing long fingers over the surface with surprising reverence.

“What’s your name, beautiful?”

He directed his inquiry to the ship but turned to Aristotle as though expecting an answer.

Ari cleared his throat. “As I have previously mentioned, it is a Xalanthe—”

Orin cut him off with a rude sound pushed between full lips. “She.”

Ari opened his mouth to reply, mistaking a brief pause for the conclusion of the pilot’s statements.

“Ship’s a she. And she’s a pretty little thing, deserves a name. If you don’t have one for her yet, I can think of something fancy to call her. Something with a bit of glitter to it. Little lady like this one deserves to shine.”

His eyes in turn glittered at Ari, sparkling with amusement and apparent satisfaction upon viewing the small science vessel.

Without looking away, he spat into one rough palm before holding it out to Aristotle as if to shake.

“You’ve got yourself a deal, Red.”

Ari recoiled from the offered hand, curling his own into protective fists at the notion of sealing a verbal contract with an exchange of bodily fluids.

“That is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen.”

Orin’s throaty laughter rang out against the polished metal panels of the ship exterior, echoing across the shipyard.

“Is it now? Well, stick with me, sugar; I could really expand your horizons.”

My Review:
Dr. Aristotle Campbell is a resident of Brittania, one of the Core planets stuck within the Verge, a force field that prevents marauders from attacking the main planets. He’s an introverted geological scientist, who is dedicated to his outgoing twin brother Dr. Theo Campbell, which is why Ari is now frantic. Theo has been kidnapped by a ruffian from the Restricted Section beyond the Verge. Ari screws up all his gumption and pledges his own spaceship to a Verge pilot, Orin Stone, who promises he can get Ari out to the Restricted sector.

Orin Stone is a “Verge trash” man who happens to be a huge and imposing person, compared to lithe and delicate Ari. He’s so uninhibited and coarse, and shocking in his open desire for Ari, whom Orin finds to be completely appealing–even more so because Ari is a complete innocent.

This is a unique and engaging world that’s a bit of a mix with Victorian sensibilities and the space exploration tech. Ari and Orin develop a sweet friendship, that Orin is quick to offer more. Ari is so tentative, and concerned about his lack of experience, and his fears surrounding Theo. Ari thinks he’s a fraidy cat, especially since he’s always allowed outgoing Theo to lead the way. Orin believes Ari to be so brave, though, and his constant reassurances give Ari the confidence to take what he wants, for himself.

I really loved the story, and the originality of the plot twists. It was such a fun and engaging adventure, watching Ari develop his inner strength, and fall head over heels for Orin, who doesn’t believe himself worthy. This is a dual-narrated story, so we do get into Orin’s head a bit, and that was so sweet, because we can easily see how captivated he is by Ari, and the admiration he has for the ship–that he names Delilah. His bawdy humor cracks through Ari’s refined persona and really settles Ari’s nerves by his sheer confidence and competency as a pilot. It’s a fun love story for these mismatched lovers, but they are both dreading crossing into the Restricted Space–because Ari’s plan is to leave Orin and the ship, to save Theo himself. The resolution is so joyful, when Ari and Theo reunite and Orin finds that he’s not surplus to the situation. I cannot WAIT for Theo’s love story…

Interested? You can find RESTRICTED on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter link for your chance to win a $10 NineStar Press GC.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
A.C. Thomas left the glamorous world of teaching preschool for the even more glamorous world of staying home with her toddler. Between the diaper changes and tea parties, she escapes into fantastical worlds, reading every romance available and even writing a few herself.

She devours books of every flavor—science fiction, historical, fantasy—but always with a touch of romance because she believes there is nothing more fantastical than the transformative power of love.

You can catch up with A.C. online on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Haunted By His Past HIS DARK REFLECTION–Review and Giveaway

Hi there! Today I’m sharing an excerpt, review and giveaway for a contemporary M/M romance suspense novel newly re-released from Heloise West. HIS DARK REFLECTION features a cop with domestic problems and a former FBI agent, now disgraced and rotting away in WITSEC witness protection. This is the third book in the Heart and Haven series and probably best enjoyed if you’ve at least read the first story, HITTING BLACK ICE where we meet Nick as a bad guy in sheep’s clothing. Nick was also in SEND LAWYERS, GUNS, AND ROSES, just a bit, where we begin to see his turnaround as a character.

Catch the review, excerpt and enter to win a $10 GC below.
About the book:
Disgraced FBI agent Nick Truman failed to save his sister, who was held hostage by a drug cartel until he could give them Alex Crow, who eluded him. His epic downfall lands him in witness protection, where he plays by the rules and keeps to himself. But the murder of his neighbor brings danger to his door. He unexpectedly finds himself the champion of innocents and helplessly attracted to the homicide detective in charge of the case. Nick knows it won’t end well.

Homicide Detective Hank Axelrod is good at digging out secrets, maybe because he hides a big one of his own. He also suspects his husband has one foot out of the door of their marriage and the specter of single life looms unpleasantly on the horizon.

A murder resembling a previous one brings Nick into his world, a man who claims to be a mystery writer looking for a real-life resource. Hank’s instincts say he’s more than that, and he’s rarely wrong.

Torn between the errant soon-to-be-ex husband and the distracting, sexy stranger, Hank needs to focus all his attention on his murder case before he becomes the next victim

How about a little taste?

Hank rattled the keys in a one-handed grip to shake loose the house key from the rest. No lights on in the house and beyond late for dinner—starving and sleep deprived too. In his other hand, he held a thick file of case notes because the night wasn’t over for him yet. At least Len had left the porch light on.

After letting himself into the house, he placed the file on the end table, keys on top, and toed off his shoes. The windbreaker he shrugged out of hadn’t done much to keep the spring cold off.

The rocking chair in the living room creaked. Hank spun around, hand going to his holster.

“Easy, cowboy.” Len yawned. He snapped on the table lamp beside him. “I fell asleep. What time is it?”

“Jesus, Len. It’s two in the damn morning. Let me put this away.” At the bottom of the closet, the gun safe sat on a shelf. He knelt, spun the dial, and tucked the gun away. When he turned, Len stood, arms across his chest, brown hair tousled. Another yawn stretched his mouth wide. Hank, tired to the marrow, pulled Len into a bone-crunching hug, and Len laughed against his shoulder.

Relief tickled through him. On the drive home from the station, he’d feared the house would be empty. He inhaled the scent of Len’s pricey shampoo—vanilla and sweet tobacco with a hint of whiskey. His heart twisted with anxiety.

“I’m sorry. I—”

“You got caught up, I know. ’Sokay.” Len yawned again. “But I’m beat. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed wants me in bright and early tomorrow, so…” He stepped away from Hank’s embrace. Hank let him go with reluctance. “There’s lasagna and meatballs in the fridge. Or maybe you’re ready for bacon and eggs?”

“Neither. Both. I’ll figure dinner out while I read the case notes again. I need to make sure this guy doesn’t walk.”

Len turned around. “Hon? I know. You’ll be great. You always are. Night.”

“Night,” Hank responded as he picked up the paperwork. He sat in the rocker Len had vacated with the file in his lap and fell asleep with the first page between his fingers.

He awoke with a snort, thinking he’d heard Len’s muffled laughter and smiled. When he glanced at his watch, twenty minutes had passed since he’d first sat down. He’d sleep in tomorrow, but he still wouldn’t have caught up on all the sleep he’d lost over this one. Hank stood and stretched his aching muscles, contemplating a shower, but his deepening desire for bed and maybe sex to relax him led him into the bedroom and not the kitchen. Len’s nightstand lamp glowed, and his side of the bed rumpled but empty. Len’s soft giggle came from the other side of the bathroom door.

Hank rapped his knuckles against the oak. “Hey, babe?”

The toilet flushed. “I’m washing up! Be right there.”

A cold weight settled into Hank’s belly at his husband’s rushed, edge of guilty tone, slithery and with pointed scales brushing against his tender insides—a too-familiar feeling tilting the world on its axis. The bathroom door opened, and Len came out wreathed in the scent of mouthwash and minty toothpaste. “All yours.” He smiled but wouldn’t meet Hank’s eyes, making it all the harder for Hank to dislodge the sick feeling in his stomach.

“Who were you talking to?”

Len turned away from Hank. “One of the new interns drunk-dialed me. She’s a hoot, so we talked. Come to bed, Hank. You must be wiped out.” He slid between the sheets and pulled on the covers on Hank’s side.

Liar, the serpent in his belly whispered.

“I fell asleep in the rocker, so yeah, I guess I am.” Too tired to fight, he gathered up pajama bottoms and a T-shirt and headed into the bathroom. When he came out, Len lay facing away from Hank, his breathing even. Maybe asleep. Hank doubted it as he climbed into bed turned away from Len, his eyes wide in the darkness.

*

Hank slept later than usual, exhaustion stealing any memory of dreams he might have had. When he awoke, Len had already gone to work. What had Hank been so afraid of last night?

He went into the kitchen and started up the coffee. Not the first time one of Len’s friends had called drunk or upset. Len had a lot of friends. They helped him through Hank’s late nights. Although their marriage went to hell last spring, in the end, love forced them to work things out. Hank believed in Len, still believed the tearful, heartfelt promises of renewed fidelity.

He shoved a bagel into the toaster oven. But—he plopped down on a kitchen chair as if his bones had untied themselves—why did he have such a weird feeling last night? A couple of weird feelings, actually.

He’d believed Len when he returned to him and promised fidelity. Yet, he spent too much time with liars, thieves, cheats, and murderers, so maybe the distrust had rubbed off on him?

Or should he stick with his gut feeling Len had more to hide? It wouldn’t be the first time…but he’d hoped they’d done with the past. Ugh, second-guessing himself again. He couldn’t afford the drain on his confidence today.

The toaster oven tinged. With a fork, he dragged out the bagel. He loaded it with butter and the homemade strawberry jam his mother had made.

He didn’t trust much of humanity, long before he’d become a cop. Hank didn’t want the scum bleeding into their relationship. Distrust bred more distrust. He often found it tough to leave the hard-guy persona behind at the office, to let his softer side out around Len. It’d been difficult when they first met, but Len had been patient. Well, Hank would be patient too. What if a family issue had set off Hank’s alarms, a secret Len didn’t want to share yet?

He’d demolished the bagel as the wheels turned in his head. Sucking on his sticky-sweet fingers of one hand, he opened the fridge with the other for a second bagel. Last night’s dinner sat wrapped in cellophane on the shelf.

He had to talk to Len. But first, where did he leave the damn file?

My Review:
This is the third book in a series and is best enjoyed when read in order.

Hank Axelrod is a homocide detective in a small New England town. He’s struggling to keep his marriage together to his husband, Len, who had walked out to be with at least one other man in the past year. Len promises that he’s not messing around, but Hank is rightfully suspicious. And, he’s gone a lot. Now occupied with a John Doe case of extreme beating which seems to match a new homocide, a young father down on his luck at work who may have been part of an illegal fight club.

Nick St. Cloud is the alias Nick Truman uses to guard his identity. He’s in WITSEC, grudgingly guarded by the FBI of which he had been an agent. But that was years ago when Nick had worked intel on a motorcycle gang. Before Nick was coerced to murder his own partner to try and snuff out a witness–in order to protect his sister who’d been kidnapped by the gang’s leader. Nick can’t forgive himself for Jordan’s death, or for killing a good agent–and he doesn’t want to. He wants to forget life happens, and go on day by day with as much sex and booze as possible. His neighbor being beaten to death causes Nick’s path to cross with Hank’s who’s seeking info about the motive of death. Hank has a fire in his eye and problems to solve, and Nick is reluctantly captivated.

The key witness in the case seems to be the comatose boyfriend of a stripper, Johnny Lee, who Nick has taken under his wing. The murder of his neighbor’s wife–orphaning their year old daughter–spurs Nick back into investigator mode, trying to protect Johnny Lee from his own murder. And, that keeps Nick in close contact with Hank. Hank, who is crumbling from his own personal problems. Nick doesn’t want to be attracted to Hank, and he knows Hank is too good for a loser/murderer, like himself, but that spark of living has already been kindled, and Nick isn’t able to stay away when Hank needs him–sexually, emotionally, and eventually mortally.

This story is Nick’s redemption tale, and he plays the part of guilty penitent well. Hank has his own secrets about his personal life, and he’s sure that there is a connection between he and Nick, even as he’s not sure what is going on behind Nick’s haunted look. Their romance is a struggle and a hurricane, overpowering their better senses, but it’s growth enables the connection Hank needs when he’s in mortal danger. For me I think this one ends with a Happy For Now ending, and both Nick and Hank are satisfied with that. I fully expect we will see these two in further stories, and that Nick’s past will stop defining his future. There are some spicy sexytimes and lots of bittersweet moments, as Hank and Len quarrel, and Nick makes all the right moves to protect Johnny Lee and his own heart, but takes on the mantle of hero that he’s not quite lost even as his previous choices had dubious motives.

Interested? You can find HIS DARK REFLECTION on Goodreads, NineStar Press, and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $10 gift code to NineStar Press.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Heloise West, when not hunched over the keyboard plotting love and mayhem, dreams about moving to a villa in Tuscany. She loves history, mysteries, and romance of all flavors. She travels and gardens with her partner of 10 years, and their home overflows with books, cats, art, and red wine.

You can find Heloise on her blog, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr and Goodreads.