Figuring Out That SCARLET GAZE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary YA M/M romance with magical elements from Foster Bridget Cassidy. SCARLET GAZE features a boy following a cryptic vision to a college where he’s astounded to learn he can wield magic. If only he can use it to save his boyfriend…

About the book:
After a paranormal encounter in his youth with someone from his future, Collin Frey sets his sights on getting to Marke Staple University. Now eighteen and with a full scholarship to the prestigious university, Collin hopes to find an explanation to that life-changing event. Unfortunately, it only leads to more questions.

Finding out he’s there to study magic is the first surprise. The second is his roommate, Terrence, looks identical to the person who started him on the path to Marke Staple.

Collin’s more than willing to sell his soul to get closer to Terrence and uncover all the secrets hidden there. Can knowing a man will change after making a horrible mistake ease the pain of betrayal? Collin is going to find out.

My Review:
Collin Frey has an encounter at the age of 11 or 12 that determines his life path going forward. While on a skiing trip with his family, Collin meets a sobbing man with shining red eyes he doesn’t know, yet who seems to know Collin intimately. This man begs Collin’s forgiveness, and has a gold coin minted with Collin’s name and face on it’s front and “Marke Staple University” on the reverse. He cannot forget the pain in that man’s scarlet gaze, and it drives Collin not only to discover this tiny, private, British university, but to study his booty off and get a full scholarship.

Collin’s also one of only five first year students admitted to the prestigious literature program at Marke Staple. Every student not in the literature program is a business major, like Collin’s roommate, Terrence, who IS the man from Collin’s youthful vision. He’s not sure if he should tell Terrance of their meeting years ago, or if Terrence will think he’s insane. Terrence doesn’t have shining red eyes, and he’s avid about getting to know–and maybe shag–Collin. Terrence is also the son of Collin’s Dean of students–and Collin soon learns that all the literature students and teachers possess magic–including himself. Most of the students in the business program are rudimentary practitioners, but Terrence has a lot of innate talent. He was banished from using his magic years before when he tried to summon a demon in a fit of pique. When a practitioner allies with a demon, their vision goes red–so Collin knows this must be what happens before Terrence goes back in time to meet his child-self.

Collin doesn’t know how to manage the magical world, but the instructors are very sympathetic. His cohort are nice enough, though they wonder how Collin got admitted without knowing he was magically-talented. Collin’s mission is now two-fold. To keep Terrence from making whatever mistake leaves him demon-possessed, and to figure out his talent in magic. Meanwhile, he’s falling steadily for Terrence, who’s bravado is all subterfuge to hide the pain of his youth, his estrangement from his father and his deep longing for connection. And…a little bit of delusions of grandeur. Collin’s talent seems to be in teleportation, a rare gift, and he’s wondering if he can teleport both space and time. He practices the space dimension, using the newly minted pure-gold coins that help practitioners harness and focus their magical abilities. He isn’t allowed to, but he takes Terrence on his teleporting forays. He even teaches Terrence how to teleport, and helps Terrence research how to seek the help of a demon, hoping that he can convince Terrence it’s the worst possible idea. He give Terrence all the rope he needs to hang himself, praying that he will use it to climb back from the abyss he’s manifesting.

This is an interesting romance, with lots of fantastic magical elements. Some of it felt a little convenient, and I wondered if Collin was simply the most gullible man in Great Britain the way he gave all his secrets away. His faith in Terence is almost unbelievable, but I think the most interesting piece of all of this was the connections that Collin made with his cohort and professors–people who wanted to help him save Terrence from himself and his unyielding ambition. There’s a decent amount of family drama, too, with all these high-flying magical teens having very prestigious families and uber high expectations. The way they all leaned on one another was fresh and engaging. For me, I was entertained, and enjoyed how the magical elements worked. I’m a big fan of Harry Potter, so this one scratched that M/M romance + magic + college life itch. It has a little bit of sexytimes, but not overwhelming for an upper YA/New Adult read.

Interested? You can find SCARLET GAZE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books and Kobo. I read a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
FOSTER BRIDGET CASSIDY is a rare, native Phoenician who enjoys hot desert air and likes to wear jackets in summer. She has wanted to be a fiction writer since becoming addicted to epic fantasy during high school. Since then, she’s studied the craft academically—at Arizona State University—and as a hobby—attending conventions and workshops around the country. A million ideas float in her head, but it seems like there’s never enough time to get them all down on paper.

Her main support comes from her husband, who reminds her to laugh. Mostly at herself. Their partnership may be difficult to grasp when viewed from the outside, but seen from the inside they are a perfect match. He’s helped her though surgeries and sicknesses and is always willing to wash her hair when she can’t do it on her own.

Their children have four legs and fur and will bite them on occasion. One snores loudly.

For fun, Foster likes to take pictures of her dachshunds, sew costumes for her dachshunds, snuggle her dachshunds, and bake treats for her dachshunds. In exchange for so much love and devotion, they pee vast amounts on the floor, click their nails loudly on the tile, and bark wildly at anything that moves outside. Somehow, this relationship works for all involved.

While not writing, Foster can usually be found playing a video game or watching a movie with her husband. While not doing any of those things, Foster can usually be found in bed, asleep.

You can find Foster online on her website, Facebook, and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Surviving the WINTER MASQUERADE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a gay magical realism story by Kevin Klehr. WINTER MASQUERADE features a man waking up in a fantasy world and the only way home is to acknowledge his life is endangered by his partner.

About the book:
Ferris wakes on the Sea Queen, an enchanted cruise ship sailing on a chocolate sea. He has no idea how he got here, but he desperately wants to go home to his boyfriend.

The alchemist is the only person who can help Ferris, but he’s been kidnapped. The ransom is high tea with scones and jam.

Meanwhile, the passengers are gearing up for the Winter Masquerade, a ball where love and magic reign.

With a murderous musician, an absent boyfriend, and a mystical party, Ferris soon learns that Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

My Review:
This fantasy/magical realism story was filled with twists and turns–and breaks with reality. Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland for adults.

Ferris awakes on the Sea Queen, an ocean liner sailing a chocolate river. He’s unsure how he got there, and wonders what’s happened to his boyfriend, Harris. He seeks help from the first people he finds, a kindly musical trio made up of Olive, Cole and Scallywag–a child. They urge him to seek help from the Alchemist, but the Alchemist has been kidnapped to another dimension. So, Ferris’ brought to The Detective who’s aided by a talking, flying minihorse called Janus, and the Alchemist’s wife and mistress to help find Ferris’ way home.

They urge him to describe his home to see if he can retrace his journey. Each time Ferris tries to talk about Harris he is transported to another dimension where sweet Olive is trying to murder everyone aboard ship–notably Ferris. The Alchemist stands ready to defend Ferris, but Ferris must come to terms with the evil in his life before he can find his way home.

Through several iterations, Ferris begins to see the pattern–discussing Harris causes him terror, injury and pain. The persons in his Sea Queen journey all represent people in Ferris’ real life, friends and lovers he’s lost due to the abusive relationship he’s trapped in with Harris. Breaking through his self-isolating walls, through the fantasy comfort of the Sea Queen comrades, gives Ferris the impetus and strength to reach for the help he needs to escape–both the Sea Queen and his abuser.

It’s an imaginative way to relate the terror of domestic violence without being overt. Ferris is a good man, and he’s ashamed of the fearful and dire situation he’s allowed himself to fall prey to. His abuser has appropriately groomed Ferris, to remove those supports that would hinder his ability to control Ferris. The Winter Masquerade is a metaphor for removing the masks that hide our secret selves–and Ferris finally lays down his mask to his dear, but estranged, friends. It was then that Ferris began to remake himself into an independent man, one he could believe worthy of love.

It’s at times comical and confusing, in the way that Alice in Wonderland is both comical and confusing. It is only once Ferris returns to his real life roots that we begin to see and understand his real life problems. It takes time, but the resolution mentions Ferris finding the love of his life much later–when his heart’s finally healed and ready to accept that love.

Interested? You can find WINTER MASQUERADE on Goodreads, NineStar Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:
Kevin is the author of a number of books including the Actors and Angels series and the Nate and Cameron Collection.

The Actors and Angels series are three comedies about theatre in the Afterlife, where two friends explore their love for each other through several lifetimes with the help of a gay angel. The third in the series scored a Rainbow Award for Best Gay Alternative Universe/Reality novel. The Nate and Cameron collection are two novellas that delve into a relationship between a dreamer and a realist, where the latter is coming to terms with loving second best. The two stories, Nate and the New Yorker and Nate’s Last Tango, are also available in one paperback edition.

His dystopian novel, Social Media Central, explores a future where everyone is addicted to their screens and where murder is just a keystroke away.

And his new novella, Winter Masquerade, whimsically explains why Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

Kevin lives with his husband, Warren, in their humble apartment affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own “Emerald City,” Sydney.

Catch up with Kevin on his website, twitter, and Facebook.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

Cephalopod Coffeehouse June 2017–THE SUFFERING TREE-A Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gothic Connection A FACE WITHOUT A HEART–Review & Giveaway!

f-w-o-h-blitzbannerHi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a contemporary retelling of THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY chillingly woven by multi-published author Rick R. Reed. I’ve reviewed some of Mr. Reed’s books in the past and always find them well-written, considerate and thrilling, be they romance (DINNER AT FIORELLO’S, BIG LOVE, LEGALLY WED) or suspense (TRICKS), so I was really eager to see how he’d treat the gothic psychological Dorian Gray. I wasn’t disappointed by A FACE WITHOUT A HEART.

Catch an excerpt and get in on the book giveaway, below.

facewithoutaheartafs_v1About the book:
A modern-day and thought-provoking retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that esteemed horror magazine Fangoria called “…a book that is brutally honest with its reader and doesn’t flinch in the areas where Wilde had to look away…. A rarity: a really well-done update that’s as good as its source material.”

A beautiful young man bargains his soul away to remain young and handsome forever, while his holographic portrait mirrors his aging and decay and reflects every sin and each nightmarish step deeper into depravity… even cold-blooded murder. Prepare yourself for a compelling tour of the darkest sides of greed, lust, addiction, and violence.

How about a little taste?

He was beautiful. Beauty is so seldom ascribed to men, too often incorrectly attributed to men with feminine features—wavy blond hair, fine cheekbones, teeth cut from porcelain. But I’ve always thought of beauty as a quality that went deeper than the corporeal… something dark, dense, inexplicable, capable of stirring longings primal, longings one would be powerless to resist.

He was beautiful. I sat on a Red Line “L” train, headed downtown, bags of heavy camera equipment heaped at my side, one arm resting protectively over them. I watched the young man, unable to train my thoughts on anything other than this man who had blotted out the reality of the day, magical and transforming. Beauty, especially so rare a beauty, can do that. The young man was an eclipse, his presence coming between myself and the reality of the day hurtling by outside train windows.

He had come in behind three foreign people, a bright counterpoint to their drab clothes, colorless, already wilting in the August humidity. They chattered to one another in a language unrecognizable, Polish maybe, and I was annoyed at their yammering, unable to block it out sufficiently enough to concentrate on the book I was reading, a biography of William Blake.

I almost didn’t notice him. It wasn’t like me to pay much attention to what went on around me, especially when I was preparing for a shoot. Usually I used the time on the train to set up the photographs I would take, the way I would manipulate light and shadow and how it fell on my models, to arrange the props, set up and test the lighting.

But something caused me to look up when the doors opened—perhaps I was struck by the dissonance created by the unknown language—and I saw him. Close-cropped brown hair, a bit of stubble framing full lips, a bruise fading to dull below his right eye. The bruise did not detract from the man’s beauty but served to enhance it, making of the rough features something more vulnerable. The bruise was the embodiment of a yearning for the touch of a finger, the whisper of a kiss. He wore an old, faded T-shirt with a Bulls logo, black denim cut off just above his knees, and a pair of work boots, the seam on the left beginning to separate. In spite of the workman’s garb, there was something intellectual about the man, an intensity in his aquamarine eyes that portended deeper thought.

At that moment, I made a decision. I don’t know what caprice seized me. I have always led an orderly life, completely without surprise. But when the train pulled to a stop and the young man stood, I acted on an impulse that was as sudden as it was uncontrollable.

My Review:
Gary Adrion is a young man of incomparable beauty, spotted on the “L” train in Chicago by an artist, Liam Howard, who specializes in holograms. Liam is a little older, and not as attractive as Gary, but Gary-a mostly solitary trust fund kid-is intrigued by Liam’s work and agrees to sit for a piece. The result is astounding, and Gary is so taken with it, that he makes an inadvertent bargain to remain as fresh and youthful as his hologram, no matter the darkness and depravity of his actions.

Well, over the years Gary gets pretty dark, and awfully depraved. Egged on by Liam’s dear friend, an outgoing drag queen known as Henrietta, Gary’s life takes some disastrous turns. He thinks he finds love, and throws it away on a whim–which leads to deadly results. Liam acts as Gary’s conscience, taking him to task when Gary will let him near, and that’s not a good situation, either. The further down this rabbit hole Gary falls, the more his hologram absorbs the horror of his actions, turning from an objet d’arte into a grotesque. Meanwhile Gary never seems to age a day. Friends turn bitter and enmity is rampant, even among his hangers-on. Gary delights in beauty, and it’s ultimate corruption.

This isn’t a romance, which I knew going in. There is some sex, but it’s written for shock value and the effect is chilling, not amorous. As we know from the Oscar Wilde classic, Dorian Gray–our narcissistic Gary–never fully redeems his soul, despite knowing that he must if he’s ever to find peace from the ghosts of people that have died as a result of his actions–directly or indirectly. There’s lots of drug use, and a seedy club-kid-type vibe for some of the book, and there’s horror. Death and murder are part of Gary’s path, and the only end is the dramatic one we all know is coming.

As a psychological thriller, I’d have loved just a little more insight into what happened during the large gaps in time the book spans. Some people seemingly come from nowhere, particularly in the end, and I know they were a part of that murkiness. I also got that Liam sensed Gary’s menace from their first encounter, but I didn’t see where that came from, as a reader. Gary is definitely shady, but I’d have liked to know how and why we knew that from the first pages. That said, as a retelling of Dorian Gray, I wasn’t disappointed.

Interested? You can find A FACE WITHOUT A HEART on Goodreads, DSP Publications, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo.

****GIVEAWAY****

Click on this Rafflecopter giveaway link for a chance to win one of two haunting tales by Mr. Reed.
Good luck and keep reading my friends!

About the Author:
Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love.

He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). He is also a Rainbow Award Winner for both Caregiver and Raining Men. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.”

Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”

Catch up with Rick on his website, blog, Facebook, twitter, Google+, and Bookbub.
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Cephalopod Coffeehouse Dec 2016- GRAIL- A Review

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

This month I’m sharing a review for the third book in the Le Fay series by Realm Lovejoy. GRAIL follows Morgan Le Fay, a fire-throwing soldier for a modern-day Camelot. This book really needs to be read after HENGE and SWORD for it to make sense.

grailAbout the book:
A hero has fallen, and darkness threatens a splintered Camelot. In the midst of turmoil, the last hope for the kingdom is Morgan le Fay. Morgan is both feared and revered . . . and currently in prison for treason.

In the wake of King Uther’s tragic death, the wicked Mordred is closing in on young King Arthur, and the boy king turns to Morgan for help. Freed from her imprisonment through his order, Morgan searches for a way to protect him. But she is still an outcast, and no one believes her suspicions about Mordred.

To save King Arthur, Morgan must reach the greatest Royal Relic in the world—the Grail—before Mordred does. It’s a journey that will challenge her in ways she’s never been challenged before. Traveling deep into a land of darkness, she will need to overcome the ghosts of her past to find her true power.

Can Morgan defeat Mordred and save King Arthur? And this time, can she defend Camelot without destroying herself?

My Review:
Morgan Le Fay is an eighteen year old girl who’d dreamed of being a member of Arthur’s Round, an elite fighting force that would counsel and protect Arthur Pendragon when he became king. This is a contemporary society where magic exists, and Camelot is real. Unfortunately, the Pendragon family is under attack by the Luminaries, an extremist group that wants magic to be out in the open, unconstrained by law. The Luminaries tried to kill Morgan and young Arthur in HENGE and again in SWORD. Morgan is, to her credit, a steadfast girl. She’s unorthodox, because she refuses to let Arthur come to harm–and believes that people close to him, namely Mordred, are aligned with the Luminaries.

Still, her behavior is erratic and dangerous, in the eyes of the court, and she’d been sentenced to death for treason for kidnapping Arthur before his enemies could. Without Morgan, Arthur would have been struck down before he even gained his magic. Of course, in forcing Arthur to find Excalibur, Morgan learned a very difficult truth about her heritage–and her relationship to Arthur.

She’s been imprisoned to keep that secret safe, and also, because no one can fully prove, or disprove, her involvement in Arthur’s father’s untimely death. Lancelot is on her side, however, and when Morgan is sentenced to a life of magicless servitude, he bargains for her release into the Grey Knights. It’s not fantastic, but it’s not scrubbing toilets either. But, Arthur needs Morgan more than ever, now that he’s fifteen and bearing the weight of the crown. He’s borderline suicidal, and Mordred’s machinations haven’t ceased. When Arthur goes missing, it’s up to Morgan–who’s blood is tied to Arthur’s–to head up the rescue mission, and perhaps save her dear friendship with a jaded Merlin.

Morgan was my kick-ass heroine of 2015, and she’s back this year with another rollicking adventure. She’s more subdued, however, feeling the full-weight of her crimes, and newly-discovered paternity. She’s devoted to Arthur, but her efforts to assist him only lead her into more trouble. Morgan, Lancelot and Merlin have a complicated relationship, with Merlin–who had been completely infatuated–spurning her, while flirty Lancelot is willing to stick his neck out to make her punishment lessened. Merlin comes off as a real whiny dude, making my esteem drop, while Lancelot’s a steady man, unafraid to be a hero. The adventure to find Arthur is perilous and pushes Morgan to her very limits. She never quits. I just love that about her. She may be down, but it’s always a temporary situation, because her shrewd intellect is always looking for the next opportunity to rise again. By the end, she’s not only saved the day, she’s saved herself. And that’s totally cool. She has romantic feelings for both Lancelot and Merlin, but this doesn’t become a love triangle scenario. There are too many hurt feelings to have any real romance. Plus, Morgan’s life is not her own for a great deal of the book. She does her best to mend rifts, and it seems she manages to do this quite well. I’m eager to get the next book in this series.

Interested? You can find GRAIL on Goodreads and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in! Be sure to check out the reviews of my fellow Coffeehouse bloggers. And, keep reading my friends!

Double Trouble in the North Pole! Charlie Cochet’s Elves in Love

Hi there! Today I’m sharing two reviews for North Pole City novellas of M/M elf-love by Charlie Cochet. I started this series years ago, and fell for MENDING NOEL, THE HEART OF FROST and VIXEN’S VALOR–each holiday season when these books were released. For some reason I forgot to grab LOVING BLITZ last year, so I picked it up with this year’s DISARMING DONNER.

There books are an interconnected series and best enjoyed when read in order. All titles in this series are currently 30% off at Dreamspinner Press through Dec 30th.

loving-blitzAbout LOVING BLITZ:
From North Pole City to Winter Wonderland, preparations are underway after a royal announcement sweeps everyone into a frenzy of festivity. At the heart of the celebration are the city’s most beloved elf pilots, the Rein Dears. Once the Big Flight is behind them, the pilots prepare for the royal event. Assigned a special task of finding an Elska rose, Cupid and Blitzen are unaware of how their friendship is about to change forever.

Yet not all that glitters is gold. The sweet, angelic Cupid hides a dark secret, one that threatens to destroy his Rein Dear status, his friends, and the elf who’s captured his heart. It’s up to Blitzen to help Cupid see the light in the darkness and show him that together they can mend broken hearts.

My Review:
Christmas Elves Cupid and Blitzen have been best friends since they went to school to train to be Rein Dears, the elite flight squadron that delivers global Christmas cheer now that Santa’s too busy with his Mayor Kringle status. They are tender and loving to each other, but just friends. Though, a quick kiss at the Jingle Bells Ball sets each man examining if they could possibly become…more.

Blitzen doesn’t want to hurt his friendship with Cupid, but Cupid has even darker reasons for not pursuing his best pal: he’s not exactly a Christmas Elf. His mother was a winter faery, but his father? Dockalfar–the dark elves that instigated the Frost Wars centuries ago. Dockalfar aren’t welcome in North Pole City, and would never be accepted as a Rein Dear. Or, so Cupid believes. When his elder brother turns up to wreak mischief and mayhem and ruin Cupid’s happy existence. That Cupid and Blitzen are just beginning to explore the love burgeoning between them is mighty inconvenient.

This novella is mostly sweet with a bit of sad. Cupid doesn’t want to harm his brother, but he can’t let the man destroy North Pole City. Nor can he face being shunned by Blitzen. I liked how his double-life, as it were, gets smoothed out, and we get the introduction of two potential couples for future stories: Dasher and the King of Frost, and Cupid’s other brother, Calder, with Donner. There’s a couple steamy moments, and a lot of love sprinkled within this sweet novella package. I find the series enchanting–and Christmas magical.

Interested? You can find LOVING BLITZ on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance.

disarming-donnerAbout DISARMING DONNER:
As a beloved Rein Dear and Christmas elf for Mayor Kringle, Donner prides himself on his flawless reputation, good sense, and wise decisions. Donner never does anything until he’s thought it through properly. He’s certainly not one to get flustered, infuriated, or fall prey to romantic nonsense. At least not until the most unlikely of elves begins chipping away at Donner’s defenses.

Calder is a Dockalfar—a dark elf. He’s wicked, untrustworthy, and armed with lethal magic. At least that’s what everyone thinks. It’s easy for them to believe the worst and mistrust him before they’ve even spoken to him, but Calder is out to prove that he’s more than his Dockalfar blood, especially to a certain Rein Dear who has caught his eye. But it will take more than sweet words for Donner to admit what’s in his heart.

My Review:
Calder is a Dockalfar, a dark elf, hated and feared by the light elves of North Pole City, including Prince Jack Frost. He’s only been granted access to the city so he can train his younger brother, the beloved Rein Dear Cupid, to control his magic–so he doesn’t harm anyone. Calder is a solitary elf, never looking to engage in a fight, but he’s formidable and a near-giant in stature. All Calder has ever longed for is a man to share his life with; but Dockalfar males don’t couple, and no Christmas elf, Tin Soldier, or winter faery would have him.

Still, Calder is attracted to Donner, the prickliest of all Rein Dears. His violet eyes seem to call for him, and Calder can’t help volunteering his services as a stand-in escort to Donner in the preparations for Jack Frost and Rudy’s wedding. Also, he’s eager to assist when there’s trouble in the town–building new gingerbread houses for elves displaced by avalanche.

Donner’s mystified by Calder. He should be evil and mischievous, but isn’t. He’s kind and generous, and uses his magic for good whenever he can. It’s upsetting for Donner to have all his notions regarding Dockalfar up-ended, even if Calder is the one good one of the lot. And, there’s no question that Calder is good. And attractive. And so very tall and strong and…oh, sugar plums! Donner’s falling hard for Calder, despite his best intentions. I liked this one, and really wanted it to be longer. Enemies-to-lovers are always a fun read, and this is no exception. I loved how Calder and Cupid’s brother semi-redeemed himself, and how we’ve got one final romance to look forward to in next year’s story: Dasher wooing the ice-cold heart of the King of Frost back to life!

Interested? You can find DISARMING DONNER on Goodreads, Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and AllRomance.

Charlie_Cochet_by_madison_parker150About the Author:
Charlie Cochet is an author by day and artist by night. Always quick to succumb to the whispers of her wayward muse, no star is out of reach when following her passion. From adventurous agents and sexy shifters, to society gentlemen and hardboiled detectives, there’s bound to be plenty of mischief for her heroes to find themselves in, and plenty of romance, too!

Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading, drawing, or watching movies. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.

Catch up with Charlie on her website, Facebook, Facebook Author Page, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, or sign up for Charlie’s Newsletter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Release Day Blitz for THE LOST CODEX! Plus, Get a free book!

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Hi there! I’m so excited to get the word out for a new urban fantasy out today from Heather Lyons. THE LOST CODEX is the fourth book in the Collecters’ Society series, which features fictional characters from well-known books being warriors against censorship and book destruction. It’s all very enthralling… I really loved THE HIDDEN LIBRARY and THE FORGOTTEN MOUNTAIN, so I’m looking forward to THE LOST CODEX!

Drop down below to get your FREE start to the series! (Only through 11/8!)

thelostcodex_ebook_450x675About the book:
Allies, once inseparable, splinter until they break apart.

An insidiousness carves its way through Wonderland, challenging the land’s very existence.

Battle lines will be drawn as pages, long languishing in darkness, are finally illuminated.

Swords will clash, blood will be spilled, and lives will be lost.

For what is written can still be erased.

Just to recap, the Collector’s Society is a series that pulls characters from storybooks into our daily lives. Alice, Queen of Wonderland, is a heroine of the first order, as she gave up her true love in Wonderland to assist the Librarians to take down rogue agents who seek to destroy entire fictional worlds. She’s partnered with Finn, think: Huckleberry, who is another true match, and boy howdy to the get it on…but they ALSO work together to take down the most nefarious enemy the Librarians have ever faced: the Pied Piper.

There’s much more to the story, but if this intrigues you, check out my reviews for THE HIDDEN LIBRARY and THE FORGOTTEN MOUNTAIN.

I’ll be sharing a review in coming weeks, but until then…
tlc_teaser1Catch up on the series here….

***FREE*** through 11/8!  THE COLLECTORS’ SOCIETY can be found on Amazon (US and UK) iBooks and Kobo.

THE HIDDEN LIBRARY is available on Amazon (US and UK) Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo.

You can find THE FORGOTTEN MOUNTAIN on Goodreads, Amazon (US and UK), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks.

About the Author:
Heather Lyons
Heather Lyons writes epic, heartfelt love stories and has always had a thing for words. In addition to writing, she’s also been an archaeologist and a teacher. She and her husband and children live in sunny Southern California and are currently working their way through every cupcakery she can find.

Catch Heather on her website, Goodreads, twitter and Facebook.

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Out Today! INTO YOU Release Day Blitz and Excerpt!

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a release day blitz for an upper YA/New Adult-ish M/M romance from Jay Northcote. You know I’ve totally enjoyed other New Adult titles from this author, including HELPING HAND, LIKE A LOVER and PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT, but INTO YOU is a totally different kind of book. It features younger boys who seemed destined to be besties forever, until one kiss throws them for a loop–and how they NOW get back to being real.

intoyouAbout the book:
What do you do when the body you wake up in isn’t yours?
Olly and Scott promised to be best friends forever. They grew up on the same street, went to the same school, and did everything together. But one hot summer night, teenage experimentation caused hurt feelings and confusion, and their friendship was destroyed.

Four years later they’re both eighteen years old and in their final term at school. Scott is a football star and Olly’s preparing for a main role in the school play. After a heated argument in the street—witnessed by their mysterious, elderly neighbour—they wake up the next morning stuck in each other’s bodies.

With no idea how to get back to normal, they have to co-operate in order to hide their secret. Spending time together rekindles their friendship, yet feelings run deeper for both of them. With the end of school fast approaching, the clock is ticking. Unless they discover how to change back, they could be stuck in the wrong bodies forever.

A little taste…

The sound of music playing pulled Scott from a thick blanket of sleep into wakefulness. He lay curled on his side; his room was darker than usual, as though someone had come in and closed the blinds while he slept. His bed felt weird, softer than it should be, and it smelled different.

He sat up, blinking in confusion as he looked around. He took in the room, the details unclear in the half-light that crept around the edges of the blind, but it was enough for him to realise where he was.

The posters on the wall were new, but the layout hadn’t changed in four years.

What the fuck?

It wasn’t possible. Logic told Scott there was no way this could be happening.

He’d gone to sleep in his own bed—he hadn’t been drunk or high. So why the hell was he waking up in Olly’s room with no recollection of how he got there? And where the hell was Olly? The music that had woken him was coming from a phone on a docking station by the bed. He picked it up and pressed some buttons until it stopped. His brain was fogged with sleep and he couldn’t think clearly.

Scott got out of bed on shaky legs. His hip ached as though it was bruised. Actually, his whole body felt weird. Perhaps he was sick? Maybe this was all some bizarre hallucination?

Pulling the cord to raise the blind, Scott flooded the room with light. He looked down at himself, only….

He closed his eyes and shook his head. When he opened them again, he still didn’t see himself. His body was too thin, his skin too pale, the hair on his legs darker than usual, and he definitely didn’t own any snug purple briefs like the ones he was currently wearing.

Stomach roiling with disbelief and terror, Scott turned to the full-length mirror on the wall and blinked.

Olly’s reflection stared back looking as horrified as Scott felt. Scott raised his hands to his face, and so did Olly in the mirror.

“This isn’t happening,” he said.

The voice was Olly’s too, softer and a little higher-pitched than Scott’s own.

It was the weirdest, most vivid dream Scott had ever had.

He pinched himself hard. “Ouch!”

Why wasn’t he waking up?

* * * * * * * *

Beep beep beep beep beep beep beep!

Olly shot up, heart pounding at the shrill sound. He opened his eyes and blinked in the sunlight.

Ugh. Too bright.

He looked around wildly and closed his eyes again, refusing to believe what he saw. Obviously he wasn’t awake yet because he couldn’t be in Scott’s room. He hadn’t set foot in Scott’s house in years.

Olly cracked his eyes open again but still saw the white walls, the posters of Scott’s football heroes that Olly remembered from years ago, and the freakishly tidy desk that definitely wasn’t his.

The alarm clock by the bed was still making an awful racket, so he found the button to silence it.

“Scott?” he said hesitantly, then coughed.

What the fuck was wrong with his throat? His voice was deep and rough sounding. Oh God, no, please don’t let him be getting a cold. He couldn’t afford to lose his voice with all the play rehearsals coming up.

He pushed the duvet off and swung his legs around to get out of bed. He’d find Scott and work out what the hell was going on. Maybe he had some weird amnesia after his accident yesterday, although he hadn’t hit his head. There had to be some explanation for why he was apparently in Scott’s bed rather than his own.

Then Olly looked down at his legs—and froze.

They were thicker and more muscular than they should be. Olly only dreamed of having legs like that. The hairs on them were light brown instead of dark, the skin more tanned. He looked at his hands, they were all wrong too, thicker and sturdier than they should be. He lifted one to run it through his hair, the way he often did in times of crisis.

“What the fuck?” No long floppy fringe falling in his eyes. Instead he found short-cropped hair and his ear piercings were gone.

Now convinced he was dreaming, because that was the only possible explanation, Olly got up to look in the mirror. Scott’s handsome face stared back at him, the mouth slack with surprise and the blue eyes wide.

Olly shook his head in disbelief. No way could this be happening. No way. This was the stuff of Hollywood movies, not reality. But cold, creeping panic rose in his gut, because apart from the fact that he appeared to be in the wrong body, everything else felt normal. Way too normal for it to be a dream.

“No,” he said loudly, putting his hands up and touching Scott’s nose, Scott’s cheekbones, Scott’s lips. He felt every brush of his fingertips. “Oh, Jesus Christ on a bike, this is not happening. No.”

I seriously LOVED this. Expect my review next week.

Interested? You can find INTO YOU on Goodreads, Amazon (US and UK)

About the Author:
Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England, with her husband, two children, and two cats. She comes from a family of writers, but she always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed her by. She spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content. One day, she decided to try and write a short story–just to see if she could–and found it rather addictive. She hasn’t stopped writing since.

You can find Jay on her website, Twitter, Facebook Author Page, and Amazon.

Thanks for popping in, and keep reading my friends!

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Love’s Value: More Than RAG AND BONE–A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a new magical M/M romance from the historical Charm of Magpies world conjured by KJ Charles. RAG AND BONE marks the beginning of a new series and features an interracial couple who’ve got some true dilemmas. As you know I simply loved A GENTLEMAN’S POSITION, THINK OF ENGLAND, and THE SECRET CASEBOOK OF SIMON FEXIMAL, so I knew I’d love this historical, magical romance.

Rag and Bone (Rag and Bone, #1)About the book:
It’s amazing what people throw away…
Crispin Tredarloe never meant to become a warlock. Freed from his treacherous master, he’s learning how to use his magical powers the right way. But it’s brutally hard work. Not everyone believes he’s a reformed character, and the strain is putting unbearable pressure on his secret relationship with waste-man Ned Hall.

Ned’s sick of magic. Sick of the trouble it brings, sick of its dangerous grip on Crispin and the miserable look it puts in his eyes, and sick of being afraid that a gentleman magician won’t want a street paper-seller forever—or even for much longer.

But something is stirring among London’s forgotten discards. An ancient evil is waking up and seeking its freedom. And when wild magic hits the rag-and-bottle shop where Ned lives, a panicking Crispin falls back onto bad habits. The embattled lovers must find a way to work together—or London could go up in flames.

This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.

Warning: Contains a warlock who needs to go straight (but isn’t), a waste-man running out of patience, blood magic, bad-tempered justiciars, and a pen with a mind of its own.

My Review:
Crispin is a disgraced warlock attempting rehabilitation. He had no idea when he was recruited, as a child, by a blood magician that he was doing anything illegal. It was only when his mentor and caretaker was found guilty of murder that Crispin’s involvement became known. He’s been offered several mentors to re-train him in acceptable use of magic–and has failed all attempts, his magic–graphimancy–simply doesn’t work like other types. Using his forbidden bone pen (fashioned from one of his own finger bones!) Crispin can draw with his own blood and make magic happen. It’s a bit harrowing, and highly frowned upon.

Ned and Crispin met when Ned assisted in the capture of Crispin’s murderous mentor. They have maintained a clandestine love over the past several months, despite Ned’s aversion to magic. He is “flit” able to hear magic, and he also despises this ability. As Crispin takes on yet another mentor, Ned’s getting embroiled in a magical plot–jar sellers, like his neighbor, are being killed in extraordinary ways. Ned can hear the use of magic, and Crispin breaks his oath to save Ned and his rag shop for certain destruction. As the story unfolds Ned and Crispin learn that a great danger is being unleashed, and it’s up to them to save London…

It’s a fantastic mystery, and a sweet romance. This book is the first in a spin-off series from the Charm of Magpies, and fully enjoyable on its own–though I will admit to rushing back and buying up the Charm of Magpie books. I’ve not read a book by this author that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed, so it’s not a big gamble.

Interested? You can find RAG AND BONE on Goodreads, Samhain Publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance.

About the Author:
KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, an out-of-control garden and an increasingly murderous cat.

KJ writes mostly romance, gay and straight, frequently historical, and usually with some fantasy or horror in there. She specialises in editing romance, especially historical and fantasy, and also edits children’s fiction.

Find her on twitter, Facebook, join her Facebook group, or contact her here. She is represented by Deidre Knight at The Knight Agency, and published by Samhain and Loveswept.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!

Deadly Consequences–BRIGHT BLAZE OF MAGIC-A Review

Hi there! Today I’m sharing a review for a fantastic YA magical suspense adventure from Jennifer Estep. BRIGHT BLAZE OF MAGIC is the third book in the Black Blades series. You’ll remember that I loved DARK HEART OF MAGIC and it’s the same for this one.

Bright Blaze of Magic (Black Blade, #3)About the book:
Bad Things Always Come In Threes…

As a thief, I’m good at three things: hiding in the shadows, getting in and out unseen, and uncovering secrets. I put these skills to work for the Sinclair Family, one of the magical mobs that run the tourist town of Cloudburst Falls.

Everyone knows Victor Draconi wants to take over all the other Families–and kill every last Sinclair. What they don’t know is that I’m on to him, and no way will I let the man who murdered my mom get away with hurting all the other people I care about. Especially when I’ve got places to break into, stuff to steal, and Devon Sinclair fighting right by my side…

My Review:
This is the third book in a series, and I’d encourage readers to read the previous books for best enjoyment.

Lila Sterling is an orphaned teen in a magical world. She’s got plenty of magic herself, including the ability to sense magical power and transfer power used against her into magic she can use for herself. These are rare Talents, and she could find herself fighting for her life if power-hungry demagogues, like Victor Draconi, could get his lethal hands upon her. See, Victor has already killed Lila’s father and mother, and he’s the brutal leader of one of the four Families (think magic mafia) that control the power and commerce in Cloudburst Fall, NC.

Lila is employed by the Sinclair family as a bodyguard to Devon Sinclair, a beefy Bruiser, only son to Claudia Sinclair, head of the Family. Lila’s mother had worked for the Sinclairs many years ago, and Lila feels safe in their world–except she’d discovered a cache of magic infused weapons that had been collected by Victor. These mark the capstone in Victor’s plan to kill the other Families and seize all power in Cloudburst Falls, so Lila, Devon and Felix steal the majority of the weapons–with the help of Deah, Victor’s daughter (and Lila’s cousin)–and replace them with fakes.

It’s not long before all-out war is declared. It’s a bloody business and many lives are lost. It sould have been a massacre if Victor’s minions had the magic-infused weapons, however. Lila has the ability to end the siege, and bargain for the release of captives, using the very blades she stole from Victor. Oh, and win also a magic duel to end all battles.

I love the tension in this book. So many life-or-death moments, and increasing suspense. It’s a tough road for Lila, who wants to kill Victor, but needs to use her head, and plan the perfect revenge. When the time comes, she’s still a girl, one fighting for her life–and those all whom she loves. She and Devon are a couple in the book series, and they have appropriate levels of affection, which are wholly clean. Expect Lila to be hurt, downtrodden, and nearly out of the game altogether, but to persevere against all expectations. The magical elements of this world are truly charming, with unique fauna that have deadly abilities. Who knew I’d love me some Lochness monster? Yes, even a tentacled beast of the deep had me going Aww!

The end of this book marks a hard break in the series, with some small plot threads left open for use in another book–though I have no idea if a fourth book is forthcoming. 😉 That said, I’d totally read on. Lila was one of my Kick-Ass Heroines of 2015, and she’s a shoe-in to claim the title again in 2016. Between her thievery, her strength and her indomitable spirit, she’s a gal who gets the job done. If the job is protection, theft and saving the day, that is…

Interested? You can find BRIGHT BLAZE OF MAGIC on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and libraries/bookstores everywhere. I received a review copy via NetGalley.

About the Author:

Jennifer Estep is the New York Times bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series; the Black Blade young adult urban fantasy; the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series; and the Bigtime paranormal romance series.

Her books are available in print, audio, and e-book formats from a variety of retailers, including the following: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Books-A-Million / iTunes / Kobo / Audible / Brilliance Audio.

You can catch up to Jennifer on her website, Facebook and twitter.

Thanks for popping in and keep reading my friends!