Rescuing One’s Self: HOW TO SAVE A LIFE–Review, Exclusive Excerpt, and Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review and exclusive excerpt for the newest book in the Mad Creek universe from Eli Easton. HOW TO SAVE A LIFE is the fourth M/M canine shifter romance in this series and I absolutely adore them all. Check out my reviews for HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON, HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN and HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR because these are books to not miss…

Also, don’t miss the exclusive excerpt or the backlist book giveaway below!
About the book: Rav Miller looked into the terrified, intelligent eyes of the chocolate Labrador on death row, and knew he’d do anything to save him. When the dog, Sammy, escapes and heads to Mad Creek, Rav follows. Mad Creek. The town had become legendary in Rav’s mind after he’d met that bizarre group last year. Rav dismissed his crazy suspicions back then, but when he arrives in Mad Creek, he knows it’s true. Dog shifters exist, and apparently they all live in the California mountains. It’s enough to blow a bad boy’s mind.

Sammy has something in common with Rav—neither one of them trusts people. After Sammy’s abuse as a dog, he particularly dislikes tough-looking men like Rav. But when Sammy gets a chance to work with rescued dogs at the new Mad Creek shelter, his deep compulsion to help others overcomes his fear. Rav and Sammy bond over saving strays. If they can each find the courage to let someone else in, they might find their way to love.

Sheriff Lance Beaufort doesn’t like humans moving into Mad Creek, especially not the tattooed and defiant Rav. When Rav starts a rescue shelter, the town thinks he’s wonderful! But Lance isn’t fooled. He doesn’t buy Rav’s innocent act for one second. How much does Rav know about the quickened? What is his game? And why did he have to show up now, when Lance and the other town leaders are overwhelmed by all the new quickened pouring in?

Rav knows how to save a life. But can he save an entire town? Can he rescue Mad Creek?

An awesome, exclusive excerpt!

Sammy looked back at Rav and waved. “Come on! Come swim!”

“Not yet. You go ahead.”

Sammy tossed his head, like Rav was being silly, and went deeper. He started paddling around. Dog paddling, his hands working the water in front of his chest, a huge grin on his face. Fuck it, that was cute. Rav smiled to himself as he unloaded the bike’s saddlebags. He’d brought an old blanket, a couple of collapsible chairs, a case of beer, a bag of chips, salsa, and guacamole he’d made himself. Damn, he hardly knew himself, acting all neighborly and shit, like he was actually a part of this community. But he’d lived in Arizona long enough to treasure his damn guacamole.

He set up the blanket and chairs and took the food and beer over to the food table. Lily and Tim were there, setting out plates and utensils.

“Hey,” Rav said.

“Hello, Rav.” Lily’s gaze was assessing, like he was a bug and she was trying to figure out the species. “How’s the shelter doing? I hear about it endlessly from everyone in town.”

“Not surprised. I think everyone in town has volunteered at least once.”

“Oh? How’s that working out for you? Are they helping?”

“They’re very enthusiastic.” Rav kept his voice carefully neutral.

“Is it hot today, or what?” Tim gushed. “Looks like Sammy has the right idea, getting in the lake.”

“He knows what he wants all right,” Rav agreed.

Lily looked at Sammy in the water, dog paddling around, then at Rav. Her head tilted curiously, and her eyes were narrowed and searching.

Sweat broke out on the back of Rav’s neck. It was like that scene in Children of the Damned when the alien kids were trying to read the guy’s mind and he pictured a brick wall to block them.

“Cold beer?” he asked abruptly, holding up the heavy case with one hand. “Is there ice somewhere?”

“There’re a bunch of coolers.” Tim nodded over his shoulder at a whole row of variously hued insulated boxes. “Feel free to use them if you can find space.”

“Got it.” Rav went to it, happy to leave Lily’s company.

He’d met her a few times. She was supportive of the shelter and the idea of rescuing dogs, but Rav got the feeling she could read him like a book. And Rav wasn’t all that keen to be read, thank you.

After stuffing half the case of beer in the coolers, he sat in a chair on the blanket and drank from a freshly opened bottle. He wasn’t being very social, but with all the volunteers he had at the shelter, it was nice to have time alone, to just be still for ten damn minutes and watch Sammy swim. Daisy pulled Sammy toward shore until they were both waist-deep. She wore a pink bikini, and Rav couldn’t help but notice that she had a great figure. Strong and lean. Damn, she looked so human.

Dog shifters were fucking amazing.

She rotated her arms in the air, demonstrating a long forward stroke. Sammy copied her, his wet arms flashing in the sun. She was chatting away with him, though Rav couldn’t hear what she was saying. After a bit, they moved deeper into the water, and Sammy tried to repeat the overhead stroke. But his elbows kept wanting to fold up and his hands to paddle at chest-level. The two of them were soon giggling like mad. Fuck. Where was Rav’s phone? He should seriously be videoing this because it was the cutest… in the world, the thing with the….

He’d just raised the phone and started filming when someone plopped down in the other chair on the blanket. In Sammy’s chair. Rav inwardly groaned when he saw it was Sheriff Lance Beaufort. He stopped filming guiltily and dropped the phone onto the blanket.

“What?” he asked bluntly. This is my fucking holiday, man. Leave off busting my balls.

For a moment, Lance was silent, like a bomb waiting to go off. Then: “I hear Sammy moved in with you, Mr. Miller.”

Rav felt a flicker of shame, though he had nothing on God’s earth to be ashamed about. He forced his body to relax.

“Yeah, well, Lance, Sammy said the town needed that teeny tiny tool shed he was living in. Apparently, you guys don’t have enough beds for people? Or something like that. And since he was mostly staying overnight at the shelter anyway, he gave his space up to someone else. So yes, he’s commandeered my couch. You’re welcome. Happy to contribute.”

Lance went tense all over and got a constipated expression. Rav pictured his head as a cartoon volcano with smoke rolling out. He had to bite back a laugh. Yes, dear old daddy was right. The best defense was offense, preferably with a nice smooth knife twist at the end. Rav had a feeling Lance would be sensitive about any perceived criticism of Mad Creek.

“The town doesn’t need your contribution,” Lance said in a voice of pure wounded pride.

Rav shrugged again, poking the bull. “That’s not the impression I got. But no worries, bruh.”

Lance took a few deep breaths and went back on the attack. “So he’s sleeping on the couch, out of the kindness of your heart? That’s your story? I hope you’re not taking advantage of that kid. Sammy’s always given me the impression that he’s… innocent. I think he was, uh, sheltered growing up.”

Rav kept his benign expression, but the barb hit home. “Yes, he’s on the couch. Ask him yourself. Or maybe not, since he’s not a minor, and it’s really none of your business.”

Lance huffed.

Rav settled back in his chair, tilting his face up to the sky. He wasn’t keeping score, but he thought he was ahead.

“So. Have you, um, noticed anything… unusual about Sammy? Now that he’s living with you?” Lance fished.

“Like what?”

Like…” Lance growled, impatient. “He’s… different. From other guys.”

“The world would be boring as fuck if we were all alike.”

“No, I mean really. Really, very different.”

Out of Rav’s peripheral vision, he could see Lance’s intense blue eyes staring at him.

“He’s different,” Rav agreed slowly. “Most guys are assholes. I can say that with some authority because I am one.”

“Truer words.”

“Sammy, on the other hand, is not an asshole.”

“No. He’s not,” Lance agreed. “He’s also not particularly well-educated. He’s, um, taking classes with my mom. Basic stuff. Very, very basic.”

Rav casually slapped at a fly on his arm. “We all have our challenges. I don’t hold that against him.”

Lance growled low in his chest, evidently getting frustrated. “You haven’t noticed anything else odd about him?”

As amusing as this was on some level, Rav was starting to lose patience. “What are you getting at? Are you implying that Sammy is simple-minded? Because he’s not. He’s fully capable of making his own decisions.”

“I never said that. Lily says Sammy is very bright, one of her brightest qui—er, students. But he still can barely read and write. Did you hire him because he’s attractive? Because you wanted to get him into your bed?”

Rav had a serious urge to punch the guy. But his upbringing taught him that power came from feeling no emotion, or at least acting like he didn’t. The calmest man in the room won over the ranting lunatic. He forced himself to release the tension. He even yawned to show how much he wasn’t bothered.

“I hired him because he’s great with the dogs. Period.”

Lance’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Why do you think that is, Mr. Miller?”

Man. This guy was like a bloodhound on a scent. But if he thought he could get Rav Miller to crack, he was barking up the wrong tree. “How do you explain any talent? Maybe he’s got a sensitive soul.”

Lance was quiet for a long moment.

“I know you’re not a stupid man,” Lance said finally, in a low and serious tone. “And definitely not as stupid as you want me to think you are.”

“I don’t care what you think.”

“Tell me you don’t know there’s something different about this town. About these people. What are you hiding?”

Rav looked Lance in the eye. “Do you want to know what I think about Mad Creek? I think you’ve got a hell of an unemployment problem, and I can’t see that you’re doing jack all about it. Did you see how many people showed up to apply for that job I opened? And every day I get ten, twenty people coming around wanting to do something, anything. So maybe instead of spending your time worrying about law-abiding business owners who are trying to do some good in the world, you should focus on helping your own community. Just a suggestion. Lance.”

Lance flushed firecracker red. Even his ears lit up and his eyes snapped. Oh yeah, there went the volcano. Ka-blam. So that was Lance’s sore spot. Good to know.

“This community and its needs are not your problem, Mr. Miller.” Lance’s voice shook.

“Well then, how about we make a deal? You stay out of my business, and I’ll stay out of yours?” Rav stared Lance down. Yeah, that’s a threat, buddy. How do you like it?

Lance got up and walked away.

Rav needed to cool down, in more ways than one, so after Lance left, he stripped off his tank and waded into the lake.

Daisy and Sammy were swimming back and forth between the shore and a wooden dock that was out several hundred yards in the water. The next time they got close, Rav joined the race. He wasn’t the most graceful swimmer in the world, or the fastest, but he had a lot of anger to burn off and he attacked the water like a demented mermaid. Even so, he reached the dock seconds after Sammy. Sammy bobbed in the water, his face split wide with a smile.

“You can swim!” he exclaimed, as if Rav had been holding out on him.

“‘Course I can swim. What do you think? I know everything.”

Daisy laughed. “Don’t believe him, Sammy. All men think that.”

“Oh I know he doesn’t know everything,” Sammy said coyly.

Sammy and Daisy exchanged a knowing glance. Rav decided to change the subject.

“I see you’re getting the hang of it.” Rav mimicked the overhead stroke.

“Yes, it’s much faster.” Sammy held out one long arm and turned it back and forth, looking at it critically.

“Rav, you can play with Sammy for a while. I’m gonna go eat now!” Daisy chirped.

“Don’t eat all the burgers. Save some for us,” Rav said sternly.

“He’s joking,” Sammy told her. “He’s so funny!” Humor was Sammy’s new thing, and he couldn’t get enough of old TCM comedies right now. Daisy just laughed and headed back to shore.

“Don’t mow all the grass!” Sammy called out after her. “And don’t spill all the Coke! Ha-ha!”

“You’re a goof,” Rav told him.

“What’s that mean?”

“That means you’re silly. It’s a compliment.”

Rav leveraged himself out of the water onto the wooden dock, his triceps bulging, and was slightly annoyed when Sammy swung up beside him so easily he might have weighed nothing at all. Rav wiped the water off his face and beard and smoothed back his hair. As usual, concepts of personal boundaries held no sway with Sammy, and he didn’t leave enough room between them for a whisper. His slick arm and side rubbed against Rav’s.

“You like the water, I see.” Rav said.

“Yes. I forgot how much! I used to swim when I was… young.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes. Swimming is very—” Sammy thought about it. “Refreshing.”

Rav smiled at Sammy fondly. The shimmering water and sun, and his slicked back hair, brought the lines of his face into sharp focus. God, he was changing so rapidly. It was a little, Rav imagined, like having a child. Parents were always saying things like “He’s growing so fast!” Only in Sammy’s case, it wasn’t his body, but his mind and behavior that were changing, and it at lightning speed. He liked using bigger words, picking them up from Rav or the TV or God-knows-where, all as though his brain were a dictionary database. He was getting more talkative, joking and laughing more. He was moving with more swagger too, acting like a tough guy, possibly, Rav realized, imitating Rav himself. It was almost sad to see the shy, awkward Sammy ebb away. Or it would have been, if the new, more confident Sammy were not so damned appealing. Rav loved seeing Sammy happy.

“Why do you look at me like that?” Sammy asked, his golden eyes staring back into Rav’s.

Rav blinked and looked away. “Sorry. Guess I was thinking about something else.”

“What? You must like it a whole lot. Your eyes were all melty.”

“Hmmm. Were they?”

Sammy didn’t push for an answer. He put his head on Rav’s shoulder. His wet hair was damp and cold where the sun had already warmed Rav’s skin.

My Review:
Rav Miller is a big, brawny biker with a heart of absolute gold, when it applies to dogs. People, not so much. He grew up in a family that thrived on making tons of cash in real estate and business, but he didn’t like the cut-throat, often not even legal, tactics they took to make more and more money. So, he stepped away and began rescuing dogs.

Over the years, he decided that opening a no-kill shelter was the best manner to his goal: more dog rescues. He even went to shelters in his area and rescued dogs tagged for destruction. A year ago, he met some strange men from Mad Creek, California; these guys helped him return all his animals from sheltering int he desert after vandals had turned the whole facility loose. Rav never forgot the experience, and he was struck by the intelligence in the eyes of some random dogs they’d brought along, including Milo. And, he sees that same spark of intelligence in Sammy, a shy chocolate lab.

Sammy’s first life was as a chocolate lab, and it began with a great start. He loved his owner, and she loved him, but she fell down the stairs one day and he was too scared to bark for help. Her sister took Sammy in when his first owner died. But, this woman’s husband was abusive and particularly hated Sammy. He hated when Sammy interfered while he was beating his wife, and he beat Sammy, too. He threatened to leave Sammy out in the snow during the winter, so she took him to a shelter. There he meets a dog who can turn into a man, one who insists Sammy will be able to do so if only he tries hard enough. Sammy isn’t sure if he can, but he also recognizes that he needs to get away from this shelter before his kill date comes up. He takes careful note of his dog-man-friend’s instruction on how to make it to Mad Creek and be safe. All Sammy needs to do is get adopted, however, he is terrified of large men and few families are willing to adopt him. His kill date draws lethally close. Until Rav comes along.

Rav tries to win Sammy’s trust, but it’s hard to do. Within a week, Sammy the dog goes missing. Rav’s speechless when he watches surveillance footage showing Sammy open his cage, and several doors, in order to release himself from captivity. Upon activating Sammy’s tracker, he follows his meandering labrador to Mad Creek, several hundred miles away. Two connections to Mad Creek in one year is too much coincidence, and Rav decides a road trip is necessary. Arriving, he cannot believe what he finds: lots and lots of doggy-acting humans. Is it magic, or science? If there’s any people Rav could love, it would be these remarkable dog-people.

Sheriff Lance Beaufort isn’t happy that Rav’s deciding to stay, but the whole town is overjoyed when Rav announces he’s planning to open a dog rescue in Mad Creek, and he’s willing to hire members from the community as staff: firstly, Sammy. He immediately notices how many unemployed people live in Mad Creek, and how thin the financial resources are stretched. Yet, working with Sammy shows Rav how easy it is to train the “quickened” dogs (who appear as people because they are dog shifters) in new, but repetitive, tasks. It’s first nature to them to do the same thing over and over, and it gets Rav’s brain working on potential industries he might be able to bring to Mad Creek, to provide jobs for the thousands of quickened who’d never adapt sufficiently to standard jobs in an unsheltered life.

While Sammy is falling head over tails for Rav, Rav’s doing the same with Sammy. Their relationship grows slowly, because Sammy is newly quickened and his physical body is more mature than his emotional or mental age. Plus, Sammy is still shy of large men, even in his human body. Still, being close with Rav is exciting and Sammy’s pals, like Milo, help him figure out how to become a physical lover. Rav’s patience and quiet love for the man-dog he’d rescued back in Arizona pays off, and Rav’s experience in business brings new life to Mad Creek. I don’t really want to discuss those details, because the intricate plotting is very sweet. The book is a bit of a slow burn, and has some dark moments, too. Like, Sammy’s experiences of abuse, and the way the Mad Creek folks try to run Rav out of town. Expect true love to win the day, Sheriff Lance to get a new partner in caring for Mad Creek, and the quickened to find new hope and industry. It’s tender adn sweet and gooey and I loved every second of it. While there’s no guarantee we’ll see another book in this series, I’m wishing on stars and howling at the moon for one.

Interested? You can find HOW TO SAVE A LIFE on Goodreads, Amazon (US or UK).

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a backlist book from Eli Easton.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

And, don’t forget to  check out the previous books in this dog-gone fun series….

HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON, HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN, and HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR.

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Eli Easton has been at various times and under different names a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a long-distance walker. She began writing m/m romance in 2013 and has published 27 books since then. She hopes to write many more.

As an avid reader of such, she is tickled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, two bulldogs, several cows, and a cat. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.

Eli currently publishes with Dreamspinner Press and has a few self-pubbed titles as well. She also publishes thrillers under the pen name: Jane Jensen.

Catch up with Eli on her website, Facebook, and twitter.
signal boost

So Many Great Books!!! 2016 Bests

Hi there! Well, it’s been a YEAR! Ugh! I’m not going to bemoan it too much, because this blog is a way for me to escape the everyday drama. So, let’s do that, shall we!

First, it’s been a book-filled year! 279 books, and 58,968 pages logged through Goodreads, though I’ve forgotten some and ran out of time to add others. So, you’ll see those reviews in the coming year.

I usually make a whole long list, and this year is no exception. It isn’t a Top Ten countdown, or anything. I’d recommend any of these books equally. Hit the links for a full review.

FLIP-THE-BIRD-2Awesome YA books:
Flip the Bird by Kym Brunner. A high school freshman and training falconer falls for a girl whose parents are animal rights fanatics. Big trouble, great messages.

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan. Slice of life book about questioning young gay persons. Really got my heart engaged. Also fell into the Most Challenged (Banned) category that I was interested in exploring.

Girl Against The Universe by Paula Stokes. A girl struggles to get past her guilt, and rebuild her life after tragedies take away half her family.

Simon V. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli: Coming out shouldn’t be this way. Simon’s awesome, and lovely.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. I felt transported to 1987 Texas. It’s not a place I’d want to be–but I’d go there just to be with Ari and Dante. Thick book devoured in a day.

Great anybody reads:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, James Thorne, and JK Rowling.  Harry’s all grown up, and saving the world, yet again. This time his son is the biggest problem.

illusory-prophetCrossing the Horizon by Laurie Notaro. Brave and bawdy ladies of the air try to be the first to cross the Atlantic.

Illusory Prophet by Susan Kaye Quinn.  A futuristic saga with an enhanced human trying to save the rest of humanity. This is the third book in a series. Get them all.

Goldfish by Nat Luurtsema. Lou is a champion swimmer whose been cast out of the pool. It’s pants-wettingly funny.

Great Gay romance:
My goodness. I read SOOO many of these. (more than 100! in 2016) Here’s a few hightlights:
Fave Hurt/Comfort: WHAT REMAINS by Garrett Leigh. Man. This one broke my heart into a million pieces by the end. A man struggles to support his lover after a traumatic brain injury destroys his partner’s memories of their love affair.

A Bear Walks Into A BarFave Dirty Pleasure read: A BEAR WALKS INTO A BAR is a straight up gay erotica from Eden Winters. There’s no man the big bad bear won’t have. Once, or twice. Multi-partner, orgy and various shifters dead ahead.

Fave Paranormal: WOLFSONG by TJ Klune. Pick this one up to curl up with over a cold weekend. It’s really long, yet the unconventional prose had me riveted. It’s a fated mates, shifter story that blew me away.

Fave Virgin Lover: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT by Jay Northcote. This is so fun, with a nerdy college student trading love lessons for stats tutoring with his sporty neighbor. I enjoyed every moment of them crossing sexytimes off the list.

Fave Steampunk/Alt History:
CLOCKWORK HEART by Heidi Cullinan. A French tinker saves a dying Hungarian with the long-sought clockwork heart technology his master has been hiding for years. Let the pursuit begin.

walk-like-a-manFave Shifter romance: HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN by Eli Easton. This is the second book in a series, and I think readers will enjoy all of them, but this one is my favorite, so far. The story revolves around a man who used to be a dog, and how he copes with being human, and finding love with a fellow police officer.

Fave Ugly Cry: SELFIE by Amy Lane. Features a Hollywood star living through the death of his closeted partner—and his complete and utter heartbreak. Suicide ideation, depression, coping, and new love. It was a rollercoaster of feels—all of them intense.

Fave Series: CAPTIVE PRINCE by C.S. Pacat. I read all three of these books in a week back in March, because I lost my mind with the first book and dove headlong into the series. Sleepless for at least one night so I could get to the end. Amazing if you like fantasy/political intrigue. PRINCE’S GAMBIT KINGS RISING, are the other two books. Must read.

Fave Sequel: FIGHT THE TIDE by Keira Andrews. This is the sequel to KICK AT THE DARKNESS and it kicked ass. Surviving in a post-apocalyptic world is rough, but it’s easier when your boyfriend is a werewolf. So many zombies…

TOO HOT TO HANDLE - coverFave Het Romances:
TOO HOT TO HANDLE by Tessa Bailey. A chef burns sown her mother’s former restaurant, and cobbles her busted family to go on a vision quest trip from San Diego to NYC. Sweet and raunchy by turns.

JACKSON’S TRUST by Violet Duke. Love for two sports reporters/analysts with an unhealthy dose of crappy family drama.

COCKY BASTARD by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland. Very fun story about a lawyer running from her disastrous past, and the sexy soccer player who scoops her up in the middle of nowhere.

bright-blazeFave ending to a series:
BRIGHT BLAZE OF MAGIC by Jennifer Estep. This is the third book in an urban fantasy YA series that rocks. I recommend all the books highly, but this finale did NOT disappoint. Magic, magical creatures, fighting for your family until the death, a wee bit of love and romance? Bam! It’s all there.

MANNERS AND MUTINY by Gail Carriger. I’ve completely fallen for this steampunk world of intrigue and assassins.

Fave transgender YA read:
THE ART OF BEING NORMAL by Lisa Williamson. Heartbreakingly freaking awesome. Some part of me will always remember this one. For kids/parents who are questioning gender dysphoria, I highly recommend.

Okay, so lots of different stuff to pick from because I have eclectic tastes. Hopefully something piques your interest, too. Share your fave reads in the comments so I can find something new, or just commiserate.

Going forward into 2017, I have a plan to pick up TBR reads on Thursdays, because, wow, to I have a lot of books in my queue. And, I probably won’t be posting quite as many reviews…because I’m back to teaching in February, that shaping young minds takes up a LOT of reading time, yo.

As always, thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Out Today! MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES–Review & Giveaway!

Hi there! Today I’m celebrating the release of a sweet and tender contemporary M/M Christmas romance from Eli Easton. I’ve been charmed by her books filled with small-town love for a while and wholly recommend FALLING DOWN and A SECOND HARVEST. MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES is a different kind of romance, where a young librarian comes to realize his slightly older boss is actually a kick-ass hero ninja librarian, in the figurative sense.

Catch my review below and be sure to enter the $25 or book giveaway, too!

merry-christmasmrmiggles-600x900About the book:
Toby Kincaid loves being the junior librarian in his hometown of Sandy Lake, Ohio. He spends his days surrounded by books and chatting with the library patrons. He especially adores the head librarian, Mr. Miggles, who is kind, witty, knowlegable about everything, and hopelessly addicted to Christmas. Sean Miggles is also pretty cute—especially for an older guy who wears ties and suit pants every day.

But Sean keeps himself at a distance, and there’s a sadness about him that Toby can’t figure out. When Sean is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he gives up without a fight. Toby realizes that he alone can save the library—and their head librarian.

Toby will need to uncover the darkness in Sean’s past and prove to him that he deserves a second chance at life and at love too. And while Christmas miracles are being handed out, maybe Toby will get his own dearest wish—to love and be loved by Mr. Miggles.

My Review:
I really enjoyed this quiet, M/M Christmas romance.

Toby is the junior librarian in his home town of Sandy Lake, Ohio. He’s also one of two employees of this small-town library. His boss, Mr. Miggles, is the other.

He was the buttoned-up, tie wearing, head librarian and my boss. He acted older than he actually was. He was probably in his thirties but he dressed up everyday in a suit and tie…He was always serious, often sad, and he had an ageless, professorial thing going on. I thought of him as the Socratic ninja of the Sandy Lake Library. He moved around stealthily, getting invisible shit done. And when he did speak, he sounded like he was reading from one of the high-brow books he loved.
It was kind of awesome.
My role, on the other hand, was to be the smart, hip, and mildly jaded young employee. I played it to perfection, if I do say so myself.

Mr. Miggles is an enigma to Toby. And that’s cool. I mean, Toby has a hot boyfriend, Justin, who, you know, borrows money without paying it back, and never pays his share, and hardly goes out to do anything with Toby that could possibly be a “date” but. Yeah.

We learn early that Christmas is fast approaching, and Mr. Miggles is a man who loves Christmas, despite having no discernible family or friends. Still, he relishes dressing up the library with decorations, and putting out the Christmas Surprise Box, a prize that–Toby notices–gets lots of raffle entries, despite the modest $50 contents.

Right about this time little Tanya Lemmens begins getting dumped at the library. She’s maybe five years old, and her single mother, Anita, may actually be looking for a job, but it’s still irresponsible of her to simply drop the child off and run. Mr. Miggles makes it his mission to entertain withdrawn and likely malnourished Tanya. Despite Toby’s requests to call Child Protective Services, Mr. Miggles acts as a surrogate parent for days–until he spots the bruises.

What seems to be an open-and-shut case of neglect and abuse gets turned around, with Mr. Miggles under investigation. Why would a single man take charge of such a young girl? Was he ever alone with her? Some of his tragic past gets twisted and leaked to the local paper to paint this compassionate, conscientious man as possibly predatory.

Toby’s beside himself. In his role as sole librarian, while Mr. Miggles is held for questioning and later released but banned from work, Toby learns all about Mr. Miggles’ side work for the library. How there are several down-on-their luck regular library patrons who “win” the single Surprise box every year. How that crafty, ninja librarian, Mr. Miggles, also got special books for his patrons, including expensive large-types for the elderly, and over-budget cancer books for the newly-diagnosed, and made weekly visits on his off-time to shut-in nursing home patients as part of yet-another unfunded “outreach program” that only he knows about. Toby fairly swoons learning he’d invested his salary over and over again, to the benefit of the Sandy Lake community. The more Toby learns, the more he knows he has to do something to save Mr. Miggles’ job. Because Sandy Lake won’t be the same without him. (Oh, and because Toby’s half madly in love with his erudite, tweedy boss…)

This is a book about small-town politics and small-town compassion, which are, unfortunately, at odds. Mr. Miggles is a good man caught in a crossfire of prejudice and politics. It’s also unfortunate that Mr. Miggles has been so private; because he’s kept so many secrets it’s hard to mount a defense, at first. Still, he has many fans in the community, and Toby’s determination knows no boundaries. All this esteem tips over into the attraction category–long before Toby even knows Mr. Miggles is a gay man, mourning a tragedy he left behind in LA.

The way this community circles it’s wagons for Mr. Miggles is really something special. Toby won’t let Mr. Miggles give up without a fight, and his reaction to Toby’s offensive is nothing less than tear-worthy. The book is a different type of romance. There’s no dating, or wooing. There is simply Toby helping his dear boss, and developing an attraction he’d not expected to have reciprocated–but it was. Expect just a bit of sexytimes mostly near the end, and whoo-boy! To be a fly on the wall of the Mysteries section of the library that evening!! O.O

I loved the way all of this turned out, a quiet, feel-good read that will satisfy.

Interested? You can find MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. MIGGLES on Goodreads, Amazon (US or UK) and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 Amazon GC or a copy of UNWRAPPING HANK.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a game designer, an organic farmer, an avid hiker, and a profound sleeper, Eli is happily embarking on yet another incarnation as a m/m romance author.

As an addicted reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows and six chickens. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.

Eli currently publishes with Dreamspinner Press and has a few self-pubbed titles as well. She also publishes thrillers under the pen name: Jane Jensen.

Catch up with Eli on her website, Facebook, and twitter.
signal boost

Big Choices, Big Love in FALLING DOWN–Release Day Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day review for a New Adult contemporary M/M romance form Eli Easton. FALLING DOWN is a heart-wrenching tale of an aimless war vet and the homeless teen he brings back from the brink.

fallingdownelieastonAbout the book:
Josh finds himself homeless at eighteen, but he has a plan. He’ll head north on the bus to New England and spend October there for his mother’s sake. She always talked about going to see the fall leaves someday. And when the leaves were done and the harsh winter came, Josh would find a place to curl up and let go. It would be a relief to finally stop fighting.

Mark spent his life trying to live up to the tough swagger of his older brothers until he pushed himself so far against his nature that he cracked. Now an ex-Marine, he rents a little cabin in the White Mountains of New Hampshire where he can lick his wounds and figure out what to do with the rest of his life. One thing was clear: Mark was nobody’s hero.

Fate intervenes when Josh sets up camp under a covered bridge near Mark’s cabin. Mark recognizes the dead look in the young stranger’s eyes, and he feels compelled to do something about it. When Mark offers Josh a job, he never expected that he’d be the one to fall.

The snow is coming soon. Can Mark convince Josh that the two of them can build a life together before the flurries fall?

My Review:
Homeless and grieving his dead mother, eighteen year old Josh Rivers decides to use his last bit of cash to travel from Alabama to New Hampshire to experience autumn. It was an unrealized dream of his mom’s, to watch the fall color erupt in all it’s glory, and Josh believes finding a beautiful vista where he can release his mother’s ashes, will put her to rest. Sticking around for the bitter winter snows in which to bury himself and his heartache under their peaceful white flakes sounds like a second great plan.

At 24, Mark Sullivan is the youngest of five sons, and a newly discharged Marine. Scarred by seeing friends die while on his active duty tours, he’s heartsick and drifting, performing odd jobs and living in a rented cabin two hours from his close-knit family so he can keep his homosexuality private. He’s sure his family will reject him, so he maintains the distance. Seeing Josh in his quiet area of New Hampshire, he recognizes that dead-eye stare, and it sparks Mark’s protective side. Needing some help on a big painting job he’s landed, Mark reaches out to withdrawn and skittish Josh.

As it’s only early October, Josh knows he needs some time to put his plan into action. The snow isn’t coming for at least a month and he’s not keen on starving to death under a bridge, so he accepts Mark’s offer of a safe space to sleep, a job, and food. As these guys work and live in close quarters, they develop a friendship. While Mark is definitely attracted to Josh, he won’t make a move, believing Josh to be too young and vulnerable for anything more than friendship. Josh’s depression had killed his libido, but his budding friendship with Mark has quelled his emotional tailspin enough to recognize his growing attraction and affection. It doesn’t hurt that Mark is generous and kind; they forge a tight bond in a short time.

Still, Josh is stifled by Mark’s seeming lack of interest, and when he challenges Mark’s resolve both men find a deeper connection than either’s had before. There’s so much emotion in these pages. Josh’s depression is palpable, and I was terrified regarding his end-of-life plans. It’s always hard for me to read a depressed character, because I identify with them so closely. The joy of watching Josh connect to Mark, and his climb out from that mortal abyss, was worth the anguish at the outset. Further, Mark’s a great guy, despite wishing to stay closeted. When it comes to maintaining his charade, and being the man Josh needs, however, Mark makes the absolute right choice. He’s rewarded by understanding, and love greater than he ever dreamed.

There are some extremely tense moments, and I freely admit I started to cry in the climax. That’s a good sign for me, it shows how deeply I connected with the story–which I felt was fantastic. For readers like me who are sensitive to stories with depression/suicide story lines, just know that there is a brilliant dawn waiting on the far side of the darkest night. The happy ending was realistic, and filled with joy. Highly recommend.

Interested? You can find FALLING DOWN on Goodreads and Amazon (US and UK).

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a game designer, an organic farmer, an avid hiker, and a profound sleeper, Eli is happily embarking on yet another incarnation as a m/m romance author.

As an addicted reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows and six chickens. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.

Eli currently publishes with Dreamspinner Press and has a few self-pubbed titles as well. She also publishes thrillers under the pen name: Jane Jensen.

Catch up with Eli on her website, Facebook, and twitter.
signal boost

Reaping Love in A SECOND HARVEST–Review and Giveaway!

A Second Harvest Blog Tour Banner BannerHi there! I’m so excited to share a review and giveaway for a new contemporary M/M romance from Eli Easton. I’ve loved her books, including HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON, HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN, and HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR, so I couldn’t wait to read A SECOND HARVEST, a tumultuous, yet delicious, pairing of opposites.

Catch my review, an excerpt and get in on the $25 GC or book giveaway below!

SecondHarvest[A]FSAbout the book:
David Fisher has lived by the rules all his life. Born to a Mennonite family, he obeyed his father and took over the family farm, married, and had two children. Now with his kids both in college and his wife deceased, he runs his farm alone and without joy, counting off the days of a life half lived.

Christie Landon, graphic designer, Manhattanite, and fierce gay party boy, needs a change. Now thirty, he figures it’s time to grow up and think about his future. When his best friend overdoses, Christie resolves to take a break from the city. He heads to a small house in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to rest, recoup, and reflect.

But life in the country is boring, despite glimpses of the hunky silver fox next door. When Christie’s creativity latches on to cooking, he decides to approach his widower neighbor with a plan to share meals and grocery expenses. David agrees, and soon the odd couple find they really enjoy spending time together.

Christie challenges the boundaries of David’s closed world and brings out feelings he buried long ago. If he can break free of the past, he might find a second chance at happiness.

How about a little taste?

It was Saturday and the idea of doing more cleaning held little appeal. What else did he have to do with himself? Nothing. The temptation to go into Lancaster or Harrisburg was there, to seek out a gay bar, or even get on Grindr. Gay men had to exist out here. But… that wasn’t why he moved here. He came here to get away from all that for a little while.

His mind made up, he went to the grocery store in town with a long list. It was a big-chain grocery store, and he was pleased to find nearly everything he needed. The October day was bright with crisp leaves and a blue sky. When he got back home with his sacks of goodies, it was still early afternoon. He opened the windows in the kitchen—struggling against the one over the sink that stuck—turned up the music on his iPhone, and started dancing around, organizing his supplies and digging out pots and pans.

He made the curried carrot ginger soup, a lovely dish with fresh peas, green onion, and radishes, some savory cheese-and-herb swirled biscuits, and a basic herb-roasted chicken. He truly did love to cook, though the past few years, it never seemed worth the effort. There were so many great takeout places in the East Village. Plus Kyle was such a picky eater. He basically ate pizza and stripped-down salads, and that was it.

It occurred to Christie while he was prepping this meal that it was going to be a beautiful repast, and it was a shame he didn’t have anyone to share it with. He could freeze some of it, but it wouldn’t be the same. He thought of David next door, living alone, and of his TV dinner. Would that be weird? That would be weird, right?

Pushing it from his mind, Christie spent the rest of the afternoon jamming to tunes in the kitchen and working his way through the recipes, having fun and dancing in his stocking feet.

When everything was ready, Christie decided the meal deserved some pomp and circumstance. His aunt had a drawer of tablecloths, but they were not quite his style. He used a white linen towel for a place mat and put each dish on the table in the best china dishes he could find. He used a red cut glass for his water and lit a candle in an old silver candlestick he found in the cupboard.

He looked at the table and chewed his lip. Everything looked beautiful. It smelled amazing too. He sucked some chicken juice from his thumb—yum. It almost seemed like a waste to eat it. He wished someone were here to share the meal with him. Anyone, really. The idea he’d avoided thinking about while cooking poked its head out again.

Well. He’d never been exactly shy. If he was going to do this, he had to do it quickly. The food was getting cold.

With a nervous shake of his head, Christie decided. He cut the roast chicken in half and put it on a large plate with a little bit of everything else, covered it with aluminum foil, and ran out the back door.

He hadn’t been to the Fisher’s farm before, and it turned out to be a longer trip down the gravel lane than he anticipated, maybe a quarter mile. He kept up a jog, worried about the food getting ruined. Between that and his nerves, he had a fine sheen of sweat when he got there.

David’s farm was beautiful. The white barn Christie had seen from a distance was huge and picturesque. It made Christie’s fingers itch to draw it. The farmhouse was fieldstone with black shutters. Electric candles in the windows gave it a cozy Colonial air and made Christie realize how dark it was getting outside. Why hadn’t he grabbed his coat? It was fucking freezing. He was an idiot—a shivering idiot at the moment.

Determined to drop off his gift without further delay, he marched to the back door and firmly knocked.

Enthusiastic barking commenced. More than one dog—two or three. Christie felt a little nervous. He liked dogs, but these farm dogs might be territorial. And he was holding a plate of chicken. He might as well have bathed in bacon grease.

A deep voice silenced the dogs and the door opened. David’s face looked stern and worn for a moment, but when he recognized Christie, a smile softened it. “Oh, hi.”

“Hi. Sorry to bother you, but I spent the day cooking, and I made all this food. No way can I eat it all, so I thought I’d bring you a plate. You know, to make up for causing you to burn your dinner the other day, fixing my smoke detector and all.” God, he was overdoing it! Shut up, Christie.

“Oh.” David looked surprised. He glanced at the foil-covered plate in Christie’s hand. “You didn’t have to do that.”

“I was bored.” Christie’s shrug turned into a shiver. He held out the plate. His mouth was dry. He was starting to wish he hadn’t done this.

There was a reserve about David, a way he kept himself at arm’s length. Christie sensed that when David stopped by his house, but he put it down to the fact they were strangers. The vibe was stronger here, on David’s turf. Christie felt like an intruder standing at the back door. David was looking at the plate with an unreadable expression. Please just take it.

Then the wind shifted and a delicious aroma billowed up. David’s face grew curious. “Roast chicken?”

“Yeah. It was from a Thanksgiving magazine. I made some sides too.”

Suddenly David moved. “Heck, you must be freezing. Come inside.”

“Thanks. I can’t stay. I just wanted to drop this off.” But Christie was stepping inside as he spoke, welcoming any relief from the cold air.

“River. Tonga. Sit.” David shut the door. The dogs sat obediently. One was a golden retriever and the other a large furry black mix of some kind.

“Tonga?” Christie asked.

“It’s an island,” David said with an adorably bashful duck of his head. He took the plate from Christie and raised the foil, looked at it, and smelled. “This looks really good. You made this?”

“Sure. I just followed the recipes.” But David’s words made Christie feel infinitely better about bringing it by. “Well. I’ll leave you to eat it before it gets cold. I have mine back at the house.”

“Thanks. It beats the heck out of frozen food.” David sounded sincere. He put the plate on the counter. “Hang on.” He opened up an accordion door in the hall, revealing an overstuffed closet with a collection of coats, hats, and shoes. He selected a black woolen pea coat with large buttons and pulled it out. “You’re going to freeze to death.”

“It was stupid not to wear my coat. I didn’t realize it was so far over here.”

David got an amused smile, but he wasn’t looking directly into Christie’s eyes, so he still seemed uncomfortable. Instead of handing Christie the coat, though, he held it open and moved behind Christie.

Christie blinked. He couldn’t remember the last time anyone had helped him into a coat. He held back his arms and let David slip the coat onto him. It fit in the shoulders okay, but it was big around the waist and hips. David turned Christie in a matter-of-fact way and started doing up the buttons.

Christie’s eyes widened, and he swallowed hard. What the hell? Did David think he was a child? But there was something titillating about being taken care of, or maybe it was David’s proximity, his handsome face focused on his task, his rough hands so close to Christie’s body.

Yes, it was definitely the proximity. Wow, David was a good-looking man. Who knew rugged could be so hot? And to think of all the money Christie had spent on grooming!

There were only five buttons, and when David finished the last of them, just below Christie’s chin, he looked up and saw Christie’s face. He suddenly blushed, his nose and cheeks going red. He dropped his hands and took a step back. “Sorry. That was… sorry.”

“I didn’t mind.” Oh God, Christie’s voice had dropped in register and sounded rumbly to his own ears. That was a smexy voice! What the hell was he doing? “Um… thanks for the jacket, David. I’ll bring it back later.”

“No hurry.” David was avoiding his gaze again.

Christie yanked the door open, escaped the house with a silly little wave, and walked fast back to his aunt’s place.

Once inside he found his own food was only tepidly warm, but still flavorful and delicious. The herb glaze on the chicken was to die for, and it went beautifully with the floury-cheesy biscuits and the curried soup. He hoped David liked it too.

He kept the coat on while he ate, snuggling into the fabric and holding the collar close under his chin. It smelled of earth and hay, a slight trace of motor oil, and the smell of a working man—piney, sweaty, and altogether appealing.

He remained in the coat all through dinner. But only because he was cold.

My Review:
David is a Mennonite farmer in rural Pennsylvania. He’s 41, a widower, and lonely. His two children are at college and he works long hours in solitude. His daughter wants him to remarry. His minister wants him to remarry. Women from his church want him to remarry–and David refuses. He’d rather be alone than yoked into another marriage he doesn’t want.

Christie is a svelte out-gay man living and loving in Manhattan. He’s thirty and jaded, unhappy with the same old party scene, but this all changes when his roommate and bestie, Kyle, nearly dies of an overdose. They vow to live life to the fullest, and while Kyle marries a man who’d long chased him, Christie decides to take six months to clear out the house his aunt left to him. There isn’t much to do in Pennsylvania Amish Country, and Christie’s excess energy soon finds an outlet in gourmet cooking. Kinda a pain cooking for one, though, and his silver fox of a neighbor is single. He strikes a bargain–they split the cost of groceries, and David can stop existing on TV dinners.

Soon, David and Christie are sharing more than dinner. They converse, they jog, they work David’s farm, a bit, together. Christie is falling deep into like, and David’s thrilled to be the center of someone’s attention for the first time in his life. He loves how Christie seeks out recipes from far off lands, places David has studied via National Geographic and always longed to visit–but never could. Their camaraderie is not unnoticed, and David’s theology-student son, in particular, is deeply troubled.

David had never suspected Christie was gay, and Christie never mentioned it–mostly because he was afraid to lose David’s friendship. It’s a big kerfuffle when David learns, but it’s not the end. Nope, it’s a new beginning.

I really loved the quiet and slow-burning romance here. It’s really tender, and lovely. Christie isn’t vamping for a man, he’s building a friendship with a man he never intends to have relations with, only to learn that David’s not averse. David has walked paths laid out by others his whole life, and he finds himself very unhappy. Should he continue to suffer in silence to appease people–his elderly mother and children–who are barely part of his life? It’s not a hard choice to make, on the surface, but can David trust that beautiful, talented Christie truly wants a middle-aged farmer hick, like himself? Outing himself would separate him from his entire Mennonite community, and could easily spell financial ruin, but in the end, David’s just not willing to live a life without love, and die early and unhappily like his father.

There are some really harrowing moments, and emergency services are necessary more than once. I was nearly beside myself with concern, and was glad that those scenarios turned out positively. I thought the small cast of supporting characters was all rendered very solidly on the page. I think I might have liked a bit more background on the Mennonite experience. David’s nearly estranged from his faith at the time we meet him, so it’s not so hard for him to pull farther away. I honestly didn’t learn much about Mennonites, and that was a shame, for me.

That said, I love the story, and I adored both David and Christie. That they found love together was kismet.

Interested? You can find A SECOND HARVEST on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press (eBook or Paperback), Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes and AllRomance.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for your chance to win a $25 GC (Int’l) and signed paperbacks of HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON, and HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN (US, Canada only).
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a game designer, an organic farmer, an avid hiker, and a profound sleeper, Eli is happily embarking on yet another incarnation as a m/m romance author.

As an addicted reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows and six chickens. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.

Catch up with Eli on her website, Facebook, and twitter.
1e96c-enchantress2bdesign2b25262bpromo2btour2bbanner

Cover Reveal and Excerpt for A SECOND HARVEST by Eli Easton

A Second Harvest Cover Reveal Blitz BannerHi there! I’m so excited to share a first look at a new contemporary M/M romance from Eli Easton. I’ve loved her books, including HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON, HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN, and HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR, so I’m excited to read A SECOND HARVEST, which sounds like an unexpected love story for two mature men who thought their time had passed. I’ll share a review for the book in July once it releases, but in the meantime…

Check out this evocative cover!
SecondHarvest[A]FS
About the book:
David Fisher has lived by the rules all his life. Born to a Mennonite family, he obeyed his father and took over the family farm, married, and had two children. Now with his kids both in college and his wife deceased, he runs his farm alone and without joy, counting off the days of a life half lived.

Christie Landon, graphic designer, Manhattanite, and fierce gay party boy, needs a change. Now thirty, he figures it’s time to grow up and think about his future. When his best friend overdoses, Christie resolves to take a break from the city. He heads to a small house in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, to rest, recoup, and reflect.

But life in the country is boring, despite glimpses of the hunky silver fox next door. When Christie’s creativity latches on to cooking, he decides to approach his widower neighbor with a plan to share meals and grocery expenses. David agrees, and soon the odd couple find they really enjoy spending time together.

Christie challenges the boundaries of David’s closed world and brings out feelings he buried long ago. If he can break free of the past, he might find a second chance at happiness.

How about a little taste?

Chapter 1

David sat against the rough wooden boards of the cow stall and watched Gertrude die. She opened her big brown eyes once toward the end and gazed at him for a long moment. In the glow of the lantern light, her lashes cast deep shadows so David couldn’t see what emotion might be in those eyes. Was she grateful he was sitting up with her? Did she know it was time to go? Was she relieved to finally be leaving this farm where she’d spent her entire long life?

But she was just a cow. Probably she thought none of those things. When she closed her eyes again, it was for the last time. An hour later she stopped breathing, and she was gone.

It felt like an era passed with her, silently and stealthily. David was there when Gertrude was born. She was the first cow that was his, designated as such while still in the womb, a birthday present from his parents. He raised her and showed her at the Harrisburg farm fair when he was in eleventh grade. She was a beautiful brown jersey with classic lines, and she won a third-place ribbon that day. David was proud enough to burst. For years afterward Gertrude was a reliable, strong milking cow.

A farmer didn’t get sentimental about animals. That was plain stupid. But David was not able to kill Gertrude when her milk production fell off. She’d half performed for another decade until he eventually retired her to pasture. If anyone asked, he told them it was good to have a mature cow around to show the rebellious younger ones what was what, teach them the routine. And Gertrude was a leader by personality. She knew how to put other cows and heifers in their places. But the truth was, David just couldn’t bear to load her in the truck and take her to the slaughterhouse.

She was a part of his boyhood, and it was right she was dead now. God knew the boy in him was a far distant memory.

He turned off the lights in the barn and walked back to the house. It was foolishness to have stayed up with her. The day’s work had to be done whether or not he had a good night’s rest. He was too old for this.

The light in the kitchen was on as he approached the house. He checked his watch. It was just past 5:00 a.m. Amy must be up.

For the past two years, Amy had come home from college for the summer to work as a nursing intern at the Lancaster hospital and to help him run a CSA program on the farm. It was Amy who did all the customer work. She made up the flyers, packed the boxes of produce, and met with the customers every week when they came to pick up their shares. She was good at that sort of thing. He wished he could pay her more, but like every other operation on the farm, the profit from the CSA was a very faint line of green. David honestly didn’t know how most farmers made it. His grandfather had paid off the farm, but still, between property taxes, upkeep and maintenance, animal feed, and everything else, he made just enough to get by. As his dad used to say, the gravy was thin.

He opened the sliding glass door and saw Amy in her bathrobe pulling some fresh eggs from the fridge.

“Hey, Dad.” She yawned. “What are you doing out at the barn so early?”

“Gertrude passed.”

“Aw! That’s a shame.” Amy didn’t sound too broken up about it. Then again Amy learned young not to get attached to the animals.

He grabbed a glass from the cupboard, went to the fridge, and poured himself some orange juice. But when he went to lift it to his mouth, he was surprised to discover a hard, thick lump in his throat. He put the glass back on the counter and breathed. Ridiculous. He hadn’t gotten particularly choked up, even when Susan died. But then she was sick for a few years. Her death was a blessing in the end.

“Things live. Things die. That’s the way of it.” His voice was gruff, but the lump eased. He drank his juice.

When he put the glass down, Amy was watching him with a frown. “You sound so cynical. I worry about you, Dad. You should take Mrs. Robeson up on her offer for dinner. I think she really likes you.”

“I’m not interested in Mrs. Robeson.”

Amy rolled her eyes. “You should give her a chance. Mom’s been gone two years now. She wouldn’t want you to be alone forever. And Mrs. Robeson taught both Joe and me in Sunday school. She’s a very nice lady.”

David gave Amy a warning look. “I don’t care to discuss my love life, thank you. Are you gonna cook those eggs, or are you waiting for them to hatch?”

Amy snorted a laugh, but she opened a cupboard and brought out a skillet. “Slave driver! I just worry about you. I hate that you’re all alone here when I go back to school. Joe hardly ever comes home.”

“I don’t mind.”

“I know! That’s the problem. You’re turning into a crusty old hermit. Next time I see you, you’ll have a beard down to your belly button. I know you live on TV dinners, hotdogs, and chips. It’s not healthy. You should get remarried. I know Pastor Mitchell thinks so.”

“Pastor Mitchell wants to get some of his old maids and widows married off so he doesn’t have to handhold them so much. I’m not interested.”

David was half teasing, but Amy still gasped. “Dad! That’s a terrible thing so say!”

David waggled his eyebrows, unrepentant, and exited the kitchen.

He went upstairs and took a shower. The sleepless night hit him along with the hot water, and he knew it would be a long day. Why had he felt compelled to sit up with Gertrude? She probably hadn’t even known he was there. But at the thought of her, another wave of sadness hit him. An image ran through his mind—one of falling leaves and the boy he’d been playing in them, laughing. He had no idea where that came from or why.

Out of the shower, he used a hand to wipe off the fogged mirror. He looked at himself critically to see if he could get away with not shaving this morning. His reflection surprised him briefly, as it always did. He felt so old. He always expected to see white hair and a sagging face when he looked in the mirror. But there were only a few strands of gray at the temples of his dark-brown hair and in his close-cropped beard. His face was not young, but it wasn’t sagging yet either. He’d lost a good thirty pounds since Susan died, so he actually looked younger.

Fine. He might not look old, but he sure felt it. And he suddenly understood why he sat up with Gertrude. He wanted to watch her as she escaped the farm at last, as she simply left her body and went away, gone where no one could prevent her going and no one could follow.

One day David would leave too, maybe just that way. He’d shut his eyes and vanish, leaving a shell behind. But dear Lord, he was only forty-one this past May. Even if he died when his dad did, at age fifty-eight, he had years to wait yet.

Just to… wait.

Oh, man! This one is gonna get me in the feels, I just know it!

Interested? You can find A SECOND HARVEST on Goodreads, and pre-order it in advance of its July 1st release on Dreamspinner Press (eBook or Paperback).

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a game designer, an organic farmer, an avid hiker, and a profound sleeper, Eli is happily embarking on yet another incarnation as a m/m romance author.

As an addicted reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows and six chickens. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.

Catch up with Eli on her website, Facebook, and twitter.
1e96c-enchantress2bdesign2b25262bpromo2btour2bbanner

Outbreak! HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR–Review and Giveaway!

How to Wish Upon a Star Blog Tour Banner
Hi there! Today I’m so excited to share a review for the newest book in the Mad Creek universe from Eli Easton. HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR is the third M/M canine shifter romance in this series and I’m absolutely loving them. Check out my reviews for both HOW TO HOWL AT THE MOON and HOW TO WALK LIKE A MAN because these are books to not miss…

Also, don’t miss the excerpt or the fab giveaway below! A $25 gift card and paperback books up for grabs (2 winners!)

How to Wish Upon a Star (Howl at the Moon #3)About the book:
Dr. Jason Kunik is working on the most earth-shattering genetics project ever, DNA mapping of a new species, the quickened—dogs who can shift into human form. The problem is, no one knows the quickened exist and Jason can’t betray them by publishing his studies. When he moves to Mad Creek to continue his research in a town full of quickened, all he wants is peace, quiet, and to be allowed to bury himself in his work. Perhaps if he figures how out the mutation is activated, he can silence his own inner dog forever.

Milo is a hospice comfort dog who has bonded with, and lost, many beloved patients in his life. He intuitively understands sickness and pain on a spiritual level most can’t see. When he gains the ability to become a man, he thinks he finally has everything he ever wanted. But being a man isn’t the same thing as being loved, and taking shelter in Mad Creek isn’t the same thing as finding a home.

When a mysterious illness hits Mad Creek and threatens all the quickened in town, it’s up to the scientist and the comfort dog to figure out what it is and how to stop it. Along the way they might discover that true love is possible—if you wish upon a star.

How about a delicious nibble…

Milo put a hand over the keyboard as if to break Jason’s never-ending focus. “Why ask so many questions, Jason? What is the work to do?”

“Do you mean, what is my work for? What am I trying to accomplish?” Jason corrected.

“Yes.”

Jason tried to at least hit CTRL-S to save his progress in Excel, but Milo threaded his hand through Jason’s. By now, Jason was so used to Milo’s touch, he didn’t think twice about it. He held Milo’s hand. Milo’s body temperature ran warm and touching him was like touching a man-shaped heater.

“Well, Milo, I’m glad you asked me that. It’s good for a man to be curious about what’s going on around him. And I’d like it if you took an interest in my work.”

Milo gave him a look of disbelief. “Jason, I answer every question.”

It was remarkable how adept Milo was at throwing shade, seemingly unconsciously. Jason couldn’t hold back a smile. “Yes. You’ve already shown an interest in my work. Quite right. Well, to answer your question, the point of all this is that I’m trying to determine how an ordinary dog, like you were, Milo, gains the ability to change into a man. What triggers that process.”

“Oh, that. I know that,” said Milo, very matter-of-factly.

Jason chuckled. “Well that would be nice, Milo. But I don’t think you really do know. Not the way I mean.”

“How do you mean?” Milo squeezed Jason’s hand as his feet started to kick under the table restlessly.

“I mean the actual scientific process, what happens inside the body.” Jason waved his free hand up and down to indicate Milo’s physique. “Inside the cells.”

Milo looked befuddled, as well he might. “Oh. I don’t know that. But I do know why it happens.”

Jason was curious. “Why do you think it happens, Milo?”

Milo got a bashful look on his face and he leaned in to whisper, as if it were a great secret. “You make a wish on a star.”

Jason turned his face away and pretended to look out the window. Laughter bubbled inside him, and he had to swallow hard to keep it down. Milo was so serious. It was adorable. If you were the sort of person who found things adorable. Which Jason wasn’t. It really wouldn’t do to laugh in Milo’s face.

Milo continued, pointing towards the window. “You go outside at night and pick a good star. You look at it and make a wish. That’s how I became a man.”

Obviously, Milo was not educated enough to understand the difference between fantasy and reality, or cause and effect. Maybe he had made a wish and assumed it had come true. Still, it was odd. No dog, no matter how smart or sensitive, would think to look up in the night sky and ‘make a wish’. Did dogs even know what wishes were?

“This is important, Milo,” Jason said carefully. “You’re sure you looked up at a star, and made a wish, before you ever shifted into a man’s form, or before you even had any symptoms of it? The itching under the skin? The noticeable change in the ability to think or understand speech?”

Milo thought about it. “I could understand what people said sometimes. But I was just a dog.”

Jason hummed. “Who suggested such a thing? Did you hear one of the nurses talking about it? One of the patients?”

Milo’s lips somehow turned up and down at the same time, resulting in a sad little smile. “An angel told me to.”

“What?”

“When she came for Parker. I was so, so, so sad.” His lower lip trembled and he blinked rapidly. He looked down and picked at a thread on his jeans. “She told me: ‘Oh little pup, don’t cry. Make a wish upon a star, and if you want something badly enough, it will happen.’ It came into my head what she meant. How to do it. So the next night, when Sally took me for a walk, I made a wish upon a star.”

Wow. That was…. Jason rubbed his forehead with his fingers. Sad. But also more than a little ridiculous. Where did he even start? “Milo… there are no such things as angels.”

Milo looked at Jason with his thousand yard stare. “But I saw them.”

“You saw them.”

“At the hospice. They come when people die.”

Jason felt a flash of annoyance. Probably some nurse at the hospice had talked about angels and heaven and all that rubbish, and Milo had bought it hook, line, and sinker. Of course he had. He was a dog. He would believe anything human’s said. “You, personally, saw angels? I suppose you can describe what they look like?”

Milo wrinkled his nose. His eyes looked past Jason as he tried to remember. “You don’t see them here.” He pointed to his eyes. “You see them here.” He tapped his belly.

“You saw angels with your stomach,” Jason said flatly.

Milo tilted his head and bit his lip. He looked at Jason from under his lashes, guiltily, as though he could tell he’d said something wrong, but he didn’t know what.

“I want some cheese,” Milo said. He stood up and wandered off towards the kitchen.

My Review:
I think I fall more in love with this series with every book I pick up. It’s not *required* to read the previous two books to understand this one, but I’d recommend them.

This series revolves around a secret colony of canine shifters–collies, German shepherds, bulldogs, the gamut–who either became “quickened” (able to turn human) after bonding with a special human, or were born “quick” to quickened parents. This colony exists in Mad Creek, California, a tiny mountain town which is fiercely guarded by Sheriff Lance Beaufort, a collie shifter.

Jason Kunik is a quickened Malamute geneticist working for a pharma company in Vegas when he got a bad vibe from one of his superiors and learned his personal research (sequencing his own DNA to find clues about quickening) was under direct scrutiny. He fled to Mad Creek, the only home he’d really known, even if he hadn’t been back since high school graduation. Anxious to do something worthy of his knowledge and skill, Jason begins interviewing newly quickened humans, to learn if there is a specific pattern to gaining the Spark…and it goes disastrously. Jason isn’t a people-person, and he’s not a dog person, either. He scares away any of his subjects by being brash and obtuse. *sigh* (Not all scientists act this way!!)

Milo was a shelter rescue adopted by the staff at a Fresno hospice, and he’s miserable. All the humans he bonds with are dying. Lily Beaufort discovers him while visiting a friend, and dog-naps him back to Mad Creek. Milo’s so skittish and in serious emotional pain, only wanting a real home where he’s actually wanted. Jason takes pity on him and brings him back to his big cabin, for a few reasons–he finds Milo attractive, he feels a kinship to him as they are both rather misfits, and Jason expects that he’ll be able to study Milo’s growth into humanity at close range if they live together.

They have an unexpected tenderness to their developing friendship. As a care dog, Milo can sense the pain and suffering in others, and even illnesses! He’d been around so many dying people, he developed in a very different way from the “regular” quickened, and that makes him so unique and precious as a subject–but Jason soon finds that he’s getting swept away by Milo’s tender nature and compassion.

This book has a major outside threat: illness. A former Mad Creek resident returns–in his dog form–and he’s too sick to shift back to human. Quickened first responders are now becoming ill, and that includes major characters…the backbone of Mad Creek, in essence. Jason, Milo, Tim and Matt (from previous books) are put on the trail to an Arizona shelter where Patient Zero likely had contact with normal, but sick, dogs. I liked how this played out, with Milo and Jason coming to terms with each other, and balancing each other’s strengths. Milo seems to love Jason, and Jason’s totally afraid to lose his heart to Milo, even if he already has. I really wish we had a little more time in Milo’s brain, so we could see how his compassion was only one facet of his affection and growing love for Jason.

I’m not a virologist, but I appreciated the actual discussion of the disease, and Jason’s attempts to get control of it. He’s not a virologist, but as a scientist he has learned the most important lesson out there: admit what you don’t know. He seeks help, as surreptitiously as possible, so he won’t reveal the colony, but in a way that will gain him the knowledge and expertise necessary to solve the crisis.

This book will certainly lead to another, as there is a bit of a cliffhanger regarding Jason and his expertise, but the love story is sweetly completed with Jason and Milo becoming a stronger pair than the two were separately. I really would have liked a little bit more loving in this book–it was nearly 75% before we got ANY real sexytimes, and that was almost too long for me. That said, Milo is the sweetest Labradoodle on the planet, and I’m glad that Jason remembered no human–or canis sapiens–is an island unto oneself.

Also of note, I’m keeping a constant observation of my gentle Lab-Pit mix to see if she’s got any hint of a Spark happening. *sadly none as yet*

Interested? You can find HOW TO WISH UPON A STAR on Goodreads and Amazon.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link to win one of TWO prizes! $25 Amazon GC (open internationally) or signed paperback copies of “How to Walk Like a Man” and “How to Howl at the Moon” (US & Canada only).
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

Eli EastonAbout the Author:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a game designer, an organic farmer, an avid hiker, and a profound sleeper, Eli is happily embarking on yet another incarnation as a m/m romance author.

As an addicted reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows and six chickens. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.

Catch up with Eli on her website, Facebook, and twitter.
1e96c-enchantress2bdesign2b25262bpromo2btour2bbanner