Friday, November 30, 2018

November Book of the Month Picks and Giveaway: We Had Lots to be Thankful for in November!

Cheers, fellow bookworms, and welcome to our Book of the Month picks and Giveaway for the month of November. We had a lot to be thankful for this month, reading-wise, so have a look-see at the books we loved, and then check out the Rafflecopter widget at the end for entry details on how you can win a couple of eBooks from the list!


JovanEarthly Pleasures by Sera Trevor - Earthly Pleasures is a fun, quick fantasy that reads more like a historical romance. As a second son, and allergic to being told what to do, Prince Paurick has dedicated his life to his own earthly pleasures and amusement, spending his days immersed in the superficial and his nights at Divano’s, the most debauched gentleman’s club in the city. When tasked with coupling with the “ugly, brazen” acolyte, Brother Laurel, in a fertility rite to help stop a famine, Paurick is horrified but agrees to do his duty. He is even generous enough to forgive Brother Laurel for his ugliness, since it’s not his fault, and vows to make their coupling as enjoyable as possible since it’s probably the only pleasure the “poor sod” will ever receive. To his utter shock, devout and earnestly faithful Laurel is equally horrified at the thought of giving his body to the hedonistic, wastrel prince. Despite the dubious consensual nature and inauspicious beginning of their relationship, as these things often go, the MCs soon come to care deeply for each other and spend three months in relative bliss. When reality intrudes, and Laurel is reminded of his vows to the church, he and Paurick will learn how much their time together affected who they are and what they want.

Before You Break by K.C. Wells and Parker Williams – I enjoyed the fact that the book was not filled with scenes that presented BDSM as a form of therapy or a way to avoid dealing with your inner demons. The BDSM relationship between Wayne and Ellis is all about taking care of Ellis, and is only possible through the bonds of trust and friendship they have cemented over the years, and his awareness to the fact that he has been relying on Wayne as a source of strength, protection and support throughout their friendship. The way their initial contract plays out, particularly with its focus on breaking down all the mental barriers Ellis has erected to survive in order to heal is done very well, as it makes this the primary focus of their contract and realistically and slowly builds the potential for a romantic relationship between the MCs later on.

JulesRend by Roan Parrish – As I sit down to write this review, I’m finding myself at a loss for words. My feelings on the book are clear: It was unbelievably gorgeous, and tender, and gut-wrenching, and I absolutely loved it. But, I’m honestly unsure how to properly convey the beauty to you guys. I don’t know how to quantify or describe in words how much I loved Rhys, or how to explain how full my heart was (and still is) when I finished reading it. Rend is not an easy book to read. In fact, it was a big old gut-punch at times, and some might find the overall tone to be sad, but I honestly didn’t. Even though it deals with tough subjects, and Matty is definitely sad more than he’s happy, I actually found the overall tone to be hopeful rather than sad. And that hope, the beauty that absolutely radiates from this book, is hugely down to Rhys.

What It Takes by Jude Sierra – I considered myself a pretty big Jude Sierra fan already, but she just cemented her spot on my auto-buy author list with this one. Milo and Andrew’s story completely stole my heart. One thing I love about Sierra’s books is how authentic they feel. She does such a great job of putting the reader right where they need to be to connect with both the place and the characters. The character development here is incredible, as always. And in this case, the place is a little town called Santuit, Massachusetts, just outside of Cape Cod. Milo’s family moves to The Cape when Milo is eight, and he is immediately befriended by Andrew, who is his same age. The narrative takes us from that first meeting, all the way into young adulthood—and further, with the epilogue—on an incredibly emotional journey.

SammyThe Story of Us by Barbara Elsborg – I cannot begin to catalogue all the reasons this novel should be on your read list. This is a new adult novel and, as such, there is on-page sex, although that is really a sidebar to the incredible plot twists that continually unfold in this angsty drama. It is most definitely a romance, but one with all kinds of delayed gratification. It is also gut-wrenching, for what happens to these two young men is truly staggering. More than once I had to put this book down just to breathe and assure myself that there would be a happy ending for these guys. Because I have to tell you, that idea often seems so far away that it takes all your strength to push through. But, oh my, the payoff in the end is magnificent and worth every tissue you will undoubtedly use.

MaryannLate Fees by Marshall Thornton – Besides this being a puzzling and intriguing mystery, Thornton brings real issues into the mix: HIV/AIDs, AZT and alternatives to taking the medication, greed, viatical settlements, and support groups which have Noah giving more deep thought to his own plight with HIV. Noah never complains or makes his HIV an issue, he’s told very few people about it, and is noble in his decision to protect the people around him. He thinks about the future and doesn’t want anyone to suffer or have to face what he did with his ex, Jeffers. He’s even gone so far as to deny himself a relationship. For Noah, at this point, there is no HEA, but he does take a step in the right direction in his fight with HIV.

There are very few characters that I let get under my skin, but Marshall Thornton makes Noah seem so real in dealing with his personal issues that it just shreds my heart. I highly recommend this exceptional series. I’m not sure what’s planned for Noah Valentine’s future, but I for one hope that there’s more to come.

KyLoving a Warrior by Melanie HansenLoving a Warrior isn’t as emotional or as hard to read [as Point of Contact]. It didn’t make me cry, and I’m thankful for that, but it captured my attention all the same. This time we get a friends-to-lovers theme in a setting where it’s forbidden for them to make the transition. I’m not sure if it was against official rules, but it definitely went against their personal ones. No, there’s no denial or internal struggle with sexuality. Both characters are at peace with who they are. The problem is the time and place where they meet, and I think that the need to keep things quiet came mainly from their desire to focus on training. I liked the progression of them getting close to each other, of them realising that the other one felt the same, of them taking the first tentative steps to something more.

LisaCriminal Past by Gregory Ashe – Ashe’s writing is masterful, intense, provocative, and this series is one of the best laid, most meticulously plotted mystery/police procedurals out there. Not only has the past hovered like a death shroud over Hazard and Somers’ present, but that specter has now reared its head to haunt them in terrifying, dreadful, malicious and persistent ways. A focused Emery Hazard is a rather spectacular and fierce thing, but that singular fixation has also caused its share of problems for him. His first love, Jeff Langham, had kept secrets that Emery is only now beginning to uncover, and their connection to political malfeasance, dirty law enforcement, sexual assault, and a multi-layered trafficking ring that includes a white supremacist group is full of twists, turns, and revelations that by turns kept me riveted and left me reeling.

Oz by Lily Morton – Every moment Oz and Silas spend together on-page drives this story towards its inevitable conclusion. There is almost a sense of awe and wonder as their relationship morphs, grows and also, at times, feeds into Oz’s insecurities. Why would a man such as Silas ever be interested in a commoner like Ozzy Gallagher? Oh, but Oz is anything but common, and Silas is a man worth fighting for and holding on to. There is no doubt by story’s end that they belonged together and that the tone and nature of their relationship defines the series’ title, Finding Home. There is also no doubt by story’s end that my heart was nothing but a shmoopy little puddle of joy. This book is every bit as hope-filled and touching as that title suggests and as we have a hint of the setup for the next couple in the series, there is sure to be more embraceable and swoon-worthy moments ahead. It’s also certain this is a book I’ll read over and over again.


And that does it for this month! We’ll be back next time with our Best of 2018 picks, so until then, happy reading!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Guest Blogger: Jaime Samms
When Mary invited me to blog, her main question was why did I write this book. I think writers get asked that a lot, and it’s often pretty hard to explain why this book, or why this character. At least, it usually is for me, because I don’t normally set out to write a specific type of story or character. I just write, and what happens, happens. It’s a very organic thing.
In this case, though, I actually did put some forethought into what I was going to work on, and what it might be about before I started. That was mostly because what I had been writing wasn’t sparking for me. I was just puttering and nothing seemed very exciting. I was in a rut.
It’s not that I was getting bored with writing contemporary books. Exactly. But an infusion of new ideas and challenges always makes writing more fun, I think. So I thought, what kind of paranormal or maybe more accurate at the time, not­-contemporary book would I want to write?
I knew right away I didn’t want to do werewolves or vampires. I wasn’t going to compete with others who have done it before and probably better than I could. Plus, too many encounters with lake leeches between my toes as a kid have pretty much put me off bloodsuckers for life. And I’m basically a cat person at heart (current furbaby notwithstanding, of course!), so that lets out the wolfy types.

But since I like the idea of magic and of shifters, why not a magical creature that can take a human form? The best of both worlds. And a lizard is perfect, since it totally avoids that whole conflict between my inner cat lady and my very real attachment to the guy on the right here, that delving into the world of wolves would lead to.
So, having decided to imagine a world with dragons who can look like humans if they want, I was left with where to set the story. And let’s face it. I have some experience writing about the contemporary world so it only makes sense that I sort of stick with what I know, at least a bit.
And this is what I know. Despite the fact that the landscape I grew up in carries some pretty hefty scars from the workings of us mundane people, who seem to have so little foresight, it still holds surprising beauty and magic. So I wanted to show that, too. I wanted to show that however small and scarce, there are still pockets of magic in the everyday world around us, and with a little effort, even people who don’t think they have magic can still see it if they try, and even create their own, new and wonderful magic as well.
And so, there. Sunny and Emile. And here, a teensy wee excerpt of their magic for you Mary readers, because I know we all like us a bit of what you just don’t quite catch at the corner of your eye.
“I love days like this,” Sunny murmured. He had an arm up, fingers weaving gracefully through the invisible strands of energy like he was playing the sounds of nature just for Emile.
“Like what?”
“Alive like this. Like if you reached out you could touch the sunshine. Cup it and hold it and form it into dreams that you can make come true. You know?” He moved his head a bit, and Emile just felt Sunny will him to look up.
He did.
Green and gold light, coloured by the willow’s leaves, hit the side of Sunny’s face. As he’d noticed before, Sunny’s eyes turned a molten amber when the light slanted sideways through them. If Emile weren’t sure he was human through and through, he might believe Sunny actually did know about the magic, maybe even knew how to manipulate it.
If you’re interested in reading more, here’s the blurb:
 When Sunny retires to the northern Ontario wilderness to mourn his parents’ deaths, he’s hoping the change of scenery will afford him some peace and quiet.

His hopes are soon spectacularly dashed.

In self-imposed exile, dragon Emile runs across the Fold between his dimension and Sunny’s—and right into Sunny’s arms. Centuries out of touch with human culture, bright, beautiful Emile incinerates any hope Sunny had for an ordinary existence. With dryads and water sprites coming to life all around them, Sunny can’t deny the magic Emile brings to his life—or his heart. But that same magic leads the unrelenting dragon who would keep Emile captive right to them. To save his love, Sunny will have to reach deep and find some magic of his own.


Connect with Jaime here:

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

What I was thinking: ruminating on His Consort

Spark & Ember storefront

I waited in the dark for something not quite human—and all too human—to begin.
—Zadie Smith, from “Windows on the Will,” published c. March 2016 (via paris-inthespringtime)

I love the French Quarter in New Orleans. I love it without question, there are no caveats I need to put in there, nothing. I love walking through the streets during the day, stopping in the antique stores on Royal Street, going to the Farmer's Market, and eating. So many amazing places to eat there and new ones pop up every day.  
There are also amazing art galleries there and I have actually never come home from a trip to New Orleans without a new piece of artwork either from a store or from one of the amazing artists selling their wares along the wrought iron fence of  Jackson Square. 
I love the Hotel Monteleone, (may favorite place to stay), of course the beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe du Monde, and the ghost tours and the cemetery tours and most of all just the thought that lurking in the shadows, or standing just around the corner from me at any given time, could be a vampire.
 I blame it on Anne Rice. 
Before her there were, of course, vampire stories about New Orleans, but let's face it, you think of Lestat first even though The Originals had a nice run on the CW. I actually love shifters more than vampires, but when you're in the Quarter, vampires are truly what is on your mind.
I came home from my last trip to New Orleans with vampires being the only thing I could think of. Jason, my main character, discovers the magical, brutal, and pulse-pounding world and falls deeper and faster than he could have ever thought possible. It's all because of the prince. Because even though Jason is extremely rational, he still becomes quickly enthralled with Varic. I wanted my vampyr prince to be innately dangerous but not threatening. Because even though he has human characteristics, he is still other and so cannot always exist inside acceptable human behaviors and to write him that way wold have diminished his otherness. The lethal and the sexy have to go hand in hand. Hopefully that all comes across. 
I hope you all enjoy taking the trip to the Vieux CarrĂ© with me and my vampyrs.