Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Audiobook Review & Excerpt: BOY SHATTERED by Eli Easton, narrated by Tristan Josiah - Includes Giveaway!

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Boy Shattered 

by Eli Easton

BoyShattered Audiobook Cover2

Narrated by Tristan Josiah

Brian
You’ll make it out of here, Brian. I swear.
I had everything—school quarterback, popular with girls, and my dad was proud of me. I told myself it didn’t matter no one knew the real me. And then I nearly died. Landon saved my life. He’s the bravest guy I know. He came out a few years ago, proud and fierce, and he ran into gunfire to help others. Me, I’m a mess. Can’t even stand to be in a room with the curtains open. But here’s the thing about losing it all: You get a chance to start over and be someone new. Only how can I move on when the two shooters who attacked our school were never caught? And why do I feel like I’m still in the crosshairs?

Landon
Will you kiss me?
When I came across Brian Marshall,the hottest guy in school, dying on the cafeteria floor, I did what anyone would do. I tried to save him. His request surprised me, but I figured he needed comfort, so I kissed him on the forehead. When he survived and came back to school, he was broken in body and mind. He still needed me, and soon we were unlikely besties. But what I saw at school that day woke me up. I want to demand action on gun control, lead protests, raise my fist. I’ll tear the world down if I have to. And if I can get the man of my dreams and save the world at the same time? I’ll take it. Only I didn’t understand that the horror at Jefferson Waller High wasn’t over.

Universal Audio Link

Audible US
Audible UK
Universal Book Link

Goodreads

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Exclusive Excerpt 

“Help. Help me.”

The words were low, and they snapped me out of the fog. I looked around. Over by the water fountain was a guy lying on his side on the floor. He was looking at me. He said it again. “Help me. Please.”

A fresh wave of adrenaline and sorrow washed through me. Oh God. It was Brian Marshall. Yesterday, he’d been the picture of youth and glowing health. Now he lay on his side, trying to raise his head off the floor to look at me. His bloody hands clutched his shirt. His face was white, so damn white, and a red pool was growing from his body like an oil spill.

I pushed myself up and staggered over to him. I fell to my knees beside him and put a hand on his shoulder. “I’m here. Can you lie back? Let me help you.”

Brian rolled onto his back with a groan of pain. But he looked up at me with his dark blue eyes filled with so much relief and trust. Like he just didn’t want to be alone.

Like he didn’t want to die alone.

Hot, sour anger rose up in me again. This shouldn’t be happening. Not to Brian, not to any of them. But anger wouldn’t help right now. I had to get it together. I had to help him. My eyes stung.

“It’s okay. You’re gonna be all right.” I tried to sound confident, but my voice broke.

He was clutching his stomach on the lower left side, his hands bloody and shaking like crazy. Fresh, dark red blood oozed through his fingers.

I gently pulled his hands away and lifted the bloody shirt. I had to fight not to retch. He’d been shot in the left side, above the visible curve of his hip bone. There was a blown-out area the size of a ping-pong ball. Through the gore I saw a glimpse of something shiny and tubular. Internal organs.

Oh my God.

Don’t look. Don’t think about it. Just help him.

I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know much about gut wounds except that he probably had internal bleeding and that it could be fatal. But he wasn’t shot in the heart or lungs, so he had a chance. Except for the bleeding. There was way too much blood.

I wished I’d taken a more extensive first-aid class. I wished I knew exactly what to do to save him. I remembered, from the cop shows my mom loved, that they always put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. I looked around but didn’t see anything close by, so I tore my T-shirt over my head, rolled it into a ball, and pressed it to Brian’s wound.

He cried out in pain and tried to double up. But he didn’t push my hand away.

“Sorry, I’m so sorry,” I said. “But I have to stop the bleeding.”

“Yeah,” Brian grunted, giving a growl of agony. He made himself relax back to the floor, breathing hard through his mouth. “I think it’s coming out the back too.” His teeth chattered.

“Right.” If the bullet went all the way through him, there’d be two wounds. I didn’t have anything left to use, but a few feet away there was a soft-looking pink purse. With silent apologies to the owner, who I hoped was still alive, I left him long enough to grab it. I pushed it under him, hoping it would stop the blood, and went back to pressing my T-shirt into his stomach with both hands.

“You’re gonna be all right, I swear to God.” My voice was firmer now. Resolute.

Brian looked up at me, his eyes full of pain and fear. Of doubt.

“Screw that, Brian. You are gonna make it,” I told him in a bossy tone, rage giving it an edge. “Don’t you hear the sirens? They’re already on their way.”

It was weird because I hadn’t been consciously aware of sirens, but as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized they were true. I heard sirens. They were coming.

“Cops, ambulances, fire department—they’re gonna be here in just a minute. You’ll make it out of here, Brian. I swear.”

I pressed the wound with both hands, leaning close. But Brian didn’t respond. His eyes were getting a little glassy, and he looked over my shoulder at nothing.

“Brian!”

He blinked and focused on my face.

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Carra's Review

When you have a topic like school shootings the focus of a story, it can be tough for many people to read.  The subject matter is disturbing on so many levels, and for some readers pushes buttons that they don’t ever want to be pushed.  For me, living just under 15 miles from the school where the Parkland shooting took place, it’s common to see #MSDStrong bumper stickers and magnets on cars, or people wearing t-shirts in support of the school that’s right here in our community.  While I may not have children of my own, I do have some in my family—and the thought that this could happen to one of them is terrifying.


In Boy Shattered, the author puts you right in the thick of things with a depiction that goes beyond eerie, and might have you thinking twice about not just the possibilities in other schools, but in ANY setting where you don’t have total control of your own surroundings.  Going through that from both Landon and Brian’s points of view (especially Brian’s) made for a highly emotional read—not just regarding the shooting itself, but also how it affects them both afterward.


There’s a strong line of tension running through the book until close to the end since resolution is not immediate for the victims, something that is a powerful factor in Brian’s recovery.  There’s even more drama added in the form of conflict with Brian’s father and his beliefs (the word that comes to my mind is “infuriating”.  But alongside all that is the friendship and eventually romantic relationship that develops between Brian and Landon, and there’s an intensity between them that is supercharged thanks to the event that brought them together.  


You cannot read this book and come away from it unaffected.  The subject matter is relevant and unfortunately ongoing in our lives today, and for some readers it may hit too close to home to be comfortable.  Be prepared for a brutal, uncensored eyewitness look at one of the horrors of our current society…but also know that the author shows hope and strength in the midst of it all.


5 stars, full stop.  This book is meant for readers 18+ for adult language, sexual content, and scenes of a graphic and disturbing nature depicting a school shooting.  This is a heavy read, just know that going in (and you’ll probably want to have something light and fluffy queued up to read next after it).


The narration: I really enjoyed listening to Tristan Josiah’s narration of this book.  The emotions were spot-on, and there was good differentiation in the character voices.  I felt just as much emotion from the events as they occurred in the story when listening to the audio version as I did when reading the ebook.  5 stars for the narration!

 


Enter the Giveaway:

To celebrate the audio release of Boy Shattered, Eli is giving away an Audible Code for her other YA Story, Superhero.

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win!

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

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EliEaston_Road_bw

About the Author:

Coming from a background in computer game design, Eli has written over 35 books in m/m romance since 2013. The Mating of Michael (2014) and A Second Harvest (2016) both won The William Neale Award for Best Gay Contemporary Romance, and Eli’s books have won many awards from the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Reader’s Choice Awards. She is best known for her Christmas romances, the Howl at the Moon series of rom coms featuring dog shifters, and her Sex in Seattle series, which revolves around a sex clinic in Seattle.

Connect with Eli:

Website - Facebook - Facebook Group - Twitter


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Monday, November 16, 2020

Review & Giveaway: GIDEON (Boyfriend for Hire #3) by RJ Scott & Meredith Russell





Cover Design: Meredith Russell
Length: 45,000 words approx.

Boyfriend For Hire Series

Book #1 - Darcy - All Buy Links
Book #2 - Kaden - All Buy Links
Book #4 (coming April 2021) - Jared - Add to Goodreads

Blurb

A snowy cabin with one bed? That’s only the first step toward Gideon falling in love.

Gideon is too old to be fought over at Christmas by divorced parents who should know better. The prospect of a Christmas on his own is better than having to face either of them. When Rowan hires him for a wintery break in Maine, it seems like a safe choice until his PA’s meddling family shows him something entirely new: Love.

Rowan hiring his boss for a trip back to his moms’ place for Christmas sounded like a good idea at the time. Killing two birds with one stone, he can cheer up Gideon and possibly steal a kiss under the mistletoe. After all, he’s been hiding his attraction to the man for years, and maybe with some Christmas magic, he can help Gideon see what is right under his nose.



Carra's Review

I’ve been wanting Rowan’s story since I read the first book in this series, so it made me a happy camper to find out we’d be getting it here…and with Gideon!  Rowan’s outgoing, more edgy style complements Gideon’s more reserved demeanor; the only real question was WHY Rowan would need to hire him.


The two of them are mostly opposites, both in personality and upbringing.  They are each attracted to the other, but both share their hesitancy in possibly damaging their work relationship.  So of course that results in neither of them truly being happy.


There’s really not much true angst in this story.  It’s more of a slow reveal of feelings as they get to know each other better, first as people and later carnally (because you knew that was coming, right?).  The doubt they each have over getting involved lingers for much of the story, so you’ll be waiting quite a while for some relief.  But you will ultimately get it…with this writing duo that happy ending is pretty much a guarantee.


Gideon was a solid 4-star read for me, and while it’s more of a “friend for hire” rather than “boyfriend for hire”, the payoff was getting the story behind the owner and personal assistant for the company.  It makes for a nice holiday romance, but still with an 18+ caution for the adult language and sexual content.



About the Authors

RJ Scott is a USA TODAY bestselling author of over 140 romance and suspense novels. From bodyguards to hockey stars, princes to millionaires, cowboys to military heroes to every-day heroes, she believes that love is love and every man deserves a happy ending.

Find RJ here: Amazon | BookBub | Facebook - Also, Never miss a release


Meredith Russell lives in the heart of England. An avid fan of many story genres, she enjoys nothing less than a happy ending. She believes in heroes and romance and strives to reflect this in her writing. Sharing her imagination and passion for stories and characters is a dream Meredith is excited to turn into reality.



GIVEAWAY!



Friday, November 13, 2020

Review: GIFTS FOR THE SEASON Winter & Christmas M/M Charity Anthology




ALL BUY LINKS


Cover Design: Meredith Russell

Length: 157,000 words


All proceeds donated to The Trevor Project - you can find out about the wonderful things they do here


RJ Scott - Single Dad Christmas - It would be a Christmas miracle if he loved me back.⁣⁣⁣
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Annabeth Albert - Must Be Santa - Tis the season for Operation Christmas Papa!⁣⁣⁣
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Joanna Chambers - The First Snow of Winter - Christmas Eve, 1814: a maimed war hero and the childhood friend he almost kissed five years earlier are trapped together by the first snow of winter⁣⁣⁣
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Eli Easton - Twelve Days of UPS - What happens when your Secret Santa is less intriguing than the delivery man who brings the gifts?⁣⁣⁣
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Suki Fleet - Sometimes, Always - When Echo’s Christmas Eve surprise for Peri goes a little sideways, it turns into a night they’ll both remember for the best reasons, for always.⁣⁣⁣
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Lane Hayes - Out For The Holidays - Good Things Happen When You’re Out for the Holidays!⁣⁣⁣
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Annabelle Jacobs - Driving Home For Christmas - A road trip, snowstorm, and only one big bed at the Inn…⁣⁣⁣
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Alex Jane - Homestead for the Holidays - Alone in a cabin in snowy Nebraska for Christmas⁣⁣⁣
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Amber Kell - A Santa for Trin - Everyone needs a bit of Christmas magic.⁣⁣⁣
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Garrett Leigh - No Place Like Home - As long as they’re together, love always wins⁣⁣⁣
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V.L. Locey - Dressed In Holiday Style - Can the spirit of Christmas save this budding love affair?⁣⁣⁣
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Clare London - Five Gold Blings - Where Christmas sparkle leads two lonely hearts⁣⁣⁣
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Posy Roberts - Sojourn For Christmas - This year, a place to stay is the best Christmas gift Sawyer could ask for.⁣⁣⁣
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Felice Stevens - The Gift of Forever - What do you get the man who has everything?⁣⁣⁣
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AE Via - An Unworthy Gift - What do the lonely do at Christmas?⁣⁣⁣


Authors



Carra's Review

This anthology is a great mix of stories from so many of my favorite authors.  Some are peeks into characters from their previous books, others are totally new characters, but all will make you smile, swoon, and sigh.  Here’s my quick takes on each of the stories.


AE Via - An Unworthy Gift 

This story struck just the right balance between angst and sultry while also delivering sweet at the same time.  Oh, how much I loved Spencer and Cole!  Though at first Cole seems like he’s trying too hard, later—after the sultry part—it flips to that bit of sweet, and eventually to full-on need.  4.5 stars.


Lane Hayes - Out For The Holidays

It was nice to see what basically amounted to a slice of Derek and Gabe’s life here, though that’s really all it was.  There was a small injection of angst between Derek and his mother, but beyond that it’s just a quick visit with the guys.  3 stars.


RJ Scott - Single Dad Christmas

Oh, oh, oh…angst and angst and angst (and a dash of cuteness from the kids)…and then SQUEEEE!  This story was everything and while I wanted to bonk Austin on the head for keeping his mouth shut, I loved Paul’s wish to Santa.  5 stars.


Eli Easton - Twelve Days of UPS

Awww...I loved the setup for this story with the gift packages.  It was a great way to slowly develop things between Paul and Dan, and made for such a sweet read.  4.5 stars.


Annabeth Albert - Must Be Santa 

I’m one of those people who don’t really care for kids in the romances I read, but I was still happy to revisit Teddy and Nick and see how their relationship had progressed.  This was a sweet look at their chance at growing their family, with a dash of spice on the side.  4 stars.


Joanna Chambers - The First Snow of Winter

I’m the first one to admit that I’m always wary of historical M/M stories primarily due to how those in the LGBTQ+ community were treated in earlier eras.  This story avoided those types of drama, concentrating on Sam dealing with the loss of his arm and the chemistry still present between Sam and Jasper when they see each other again.  Truly enjoyable, and personally I’d love to see this expanded into a full-length novel.  5 stars.


Clare London - Five Gold Blings

A cute look at a fledgling fashion influencer and the delivery guy who believes in him, encourages him, and falls for him.  3.75 stars.


Posy Roberts - Sojourn with You

All right now…no fair teasing like that.  Now you’ve got me on the hook wanting a LOT more from Sawyer and Gregg!  4 stars.


Suki Fleet - Sometimes, Always

Peri and Echo are from the author’s story Sometimes There’s Stars, and even without having read that book it’s immediately apparent that the intensity between these two is sky-high.  While it did feel like I’d stepped into a story already in progress, I still became wrapped up in the powerful feelings so evident between them.  4 stars.


Garrett Leigh - No Place Like Home

This story centers on an existing couple from a prior book so I kind of felt thrown into the middle of things not knowing their history.  It was mostly a glimpse into their life now, and how dedicated they still are to each other.  3.5 stars.



Monday, November 9, 2020

New Release-Review & Excerpt: THEIR DARK REFLECTIONS by Amanda Meuwissen - Includes Giveaway!

Their Dark Reflections

by Amanda Meuwissen

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Tiferet Design

Genre: Dark Paranormal M/M Romance

Trope/s: Friends to lovers, vampire/victim, boss/employee, thief with a heart of gold, hidden agenda, kind but vicious vampire

Themes: Self-discovery, finding light in the darkness, embracing one’s darkness, love against all odds

Heat Rating:  4 flames     

Length: 70 096 words/204 pages

It is a standalone book.

Goodreads


Buy Links

Dreamspinner Press  |  Amazon US  |  Amazon UK 


Everyone has a second face. 

   
Blurb

Personal assistant Sam Coleman can do it all: housekeeping, groundskeeping, bookkeeping. The catch? It’s a con.

Ed Simon, his newest millionaire boss, doesn’t know Sam Goldman is a Robin Hood for hire who targets rich jerks. Sure, Sam keeps the money for himself, his crew, and his real employers, but at least they only steal from bad people.

Until sweet, fumbling Ed, who doesn’t seem to have a single vice. Too bad the people who hired Sam won’t let him back out. They want Ed’s money, and they’ll hurt Sam and his friends to get it.

For years Ed has kept people at arm’s length, but Sam’s charms wear down his defenses—just as he learns their budding relationship was an act. Sam isn’t who Ed thought he was, but Ed has a dark secret too: he’s a vampire. And someone is framing him for a series of bloody murders.

When the real villains force their hand, Sam and Ed must choose: work together, trust each other, and give in to the feelings growing between them… or let what might have been bleed out like the victims piling at their feet.



Excerpt 

Sam was exhausted, probably because he hadn’t slept well in the past two days, but when he was ready to call it a night and looked around for Ed, he was surprised to find him outside, already in the pool. Sam was usually gone before Ed took his swims.

The tricked-out radio by the patio doors was blasting loud enough to carry outside, playing Blue Oyster Cult and making Sam smile. He didn’t fear the reaper so much himself anymore either.

Ed wasn’t doing any complicated strokes, just floating serenely on his back, arms gently moving to keep him up while he gazed at the stars beginning to glitter above him. He’d left the doors open as if to invite Sam to watch, so it was easy to do so without calling much attention to himself.

Ed didn’t look like a predator while swimming, his trunks clinging to him, chest bare. Sometimes it was hard for Sam to accept that dissonance—this version of Ed compared to the swift, brutal one—but then, wasn’t a lion capable of seeming like a housecat even if it was always dangerous?

“Would you like to join me?” Ed called without turning to look at him. “I have an extra suit upstairs.”

Sam wondered if that made him the lion tamer.

Enjoying the way Ed’s eyes fixed to his mostly bare body when he descended from upstairs in the spare trunks, Sam took his time walking to the edge of the pool, set his clothes on one of the lounge chairs, and stepped off for a simple, smooth drop into the water. He shook the excess from his hair and face when he resurfaced, seeking out Ed at the other end.

“Tell me,” Sam said, lifting up to float lazily on his back, “even without your telescope, how many of those can you name?”

“The stars? Or constellations?” Ed lifted as well, both watching the sky as they orbited each other.

“Does it matter?”

“No. I can name most of them.”

“Then where am I?”

Ed navigated to drift up beside Sam, tracing over invisible lines in the sky. “Gemini. Sort of like two stick figures holdings hands.”

Sam chuckled. “And you?”

“Pisces is there.” Ed dragged his finger the other direction. “See the way the ends connect and then it makes a sort of tilted V?”

“Doesn’t really look like a fish.”

“We had to be more creative back then.”

Blinking as what Ed was implying sunk in, Sam righted himself, not sure if he could ask, “You mean…?”

“I’m not that old.” Ed grinned. He didn’t clarify how old he was, however.

“You know, one of these days, I’m going to get you up on that roof to use your telescope properly.”

Ed scrunched his nose. “I wasn’t lying about not caring for heights.”

“I figured. Any particular reason?”

“I don’t know. Maybe because there weren’t as many tall buildings in my time.”

“Which was…?” Sam tried again, but Ed glanced away.

“Is this our first date?”

“If it was, would you tell me?”

“I said my age wasn’t a first date reveal, so….”

Sam read Ed’s hesitancy and didn’t want to push. “I don’t think this counts.” He smirked when Ed looked at him with a start. “We need to leave the house for a real date.”

“We’ll have to start thinking about our rain check, then.” Ed smiled back at him.

Drifting closer, Sam slid his hands around Ed’s waist to finally connect and pull him in. Even in the heated pool, Ed’s skin felt bracing. “I guess we will,” he said and started to lean forward.

“Sam.” Ed wrapped his arms around Sam’s neck, but his hands fidgeted, and he held back from letting Sam reach his lips. “You’re not only pretending because you think this is the only way to be safe from me, are you?”

“What?”

The idea that Ed still expected treachery surprised him, but then, Sam almost had betrayed him again, scared as he’d been. Ed was the most powerful and deadly creature he’d ever met, but he was still vulnerable, still so human.

“According to you,” Sam said, “I’m putting myself in more danger by being with you. You gave me an out, Eddie, and I chose to stay.”


Carra's Review

This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but once the descriptor of “sweet, fumbling vampire” caught my eye, I had to immediately add this to my reading list.  And oh yes, Ed is exactly that…but don’t let that fool you.  Seriously—DON’T.


He had Sam fooled for a while.  But once that ended, things started getting pretty interesting.  We know from the start that Sam went to work for Ed as a con, and as more is revealed it turns out there’s more going on than what was first thought.  Even once the identity of the person behind everything is known, there are still surprises to come up almost to the very end.  Just enough to keep you guessing, and even when you think it’s all been revealed?  Nope—here, let’s throw something else at you.


Things between Sam and Ed are very slow burn.  At first because neither of them expects the other to be around long, then because Ed’s true nature makes it difficult for him to keep control.  It’s a learning process for them both, which both ramps the sexual tension up and the frustration levels between them as well.  They definitely have the chemistry between them though, something the slower pace of things helps develop not just physically but between them as friends too.


I liked that most of the classic vampire weaknesses from the majority of the literary myth are not in play here.  It opens up more options for the story and lends the story its own uniqueness.


Overall, Their Dark Reflections was a 4-star read for me, and I would definitely recommend it to fans of M/M paranormal romance.  I also thought the epilogue made for the perfect ending for Sam and Ed, letting readers know how things played out for them without getting too overly sentimental.  This story is meant for readers 18+ for adult language, sexual content, and the bloody scenes you might expect with a vampire being framed for murders ;-)



About the Author 


Amanda Meuwissen is a bisexual author, with a primary focus on M/M romance, and works in marketing for the software company Outsell. She has a Bachelor of Arts in a personally designed Creative Writing major from St. Olaf College, and is an avid consumer of fiction through film, prose, and video games. As author of the paranormal romance trilogy The Incubus Saga and several other titles through various publishers, Amanda regularly attends local comic conventions for fun and to meet with fans, where she will often be seen in costume as one of her favorite fictional characters. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, John, and their cat, Helga, and can be found at www.amandameuwissen.com.

Blog/Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

Instagram  |  Pinterest  |  Newsletter Sign-up

 

Giveaway!

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win

one of three ebooks from the author’s backlist.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

 

Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts and reviews here



Friday, November 6, 2020

New Release & Giveaway: GIDEON by RJ Scott & Meredith Russell (Boyfriend for Hire #3)





Cover Design: Meredith Russell

Length: 45,000 words approx.

Boyfriend For Hire Series

Book #1 - Darcy - All Buy Links
Book #2 - Kaden - All Buy Links
Book #4 (coming April 2021) - Jared - Add to Goodreads

Blurb

A snowy cabin with one bed? That’s only the first step toward Gideon falling in love.

Gideon is too old to be fought over at Christmas by divorced parents who should know better. The prospect of a Christmas on his own is better than having to face either of them. When Rowan hires him for a wintery break in Maine, it seems like a safe choice until his PA’s meddling family shows him something entirely new: Love.

Rowan hiring his boss for a trip back to his moms’ place for Christmas sounded like a good idea at the time. Killing two birds with one stone, he can cheer up Gideon and possibly steal a kiss under the mistletoe. After all, he’s been hiding his attraction to the man for years, and maybe with some Christmas magic, he can help Gideon see what is right under his nose.

About the Authors


RJ Scott is a USA TODAY bestselling author of over 140 romance and suspense novels. From bodyguards to hockey stars, princes to millionaires, cowboys to military heroes to every-day heroes, she believes that love is love and every man deserves a happy ending.



Meredith Russell lives in the heart of England. An avid fan of many story genres, she enjoys nothing less than a happy ending. She believes in heroes and romance and strives to reflect this in her writing. Sharing her imagination and passion for stories and characters is a dream Meredith is excited to turn into reality.



GIVEAWAY!


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: IN STRANGE WOODS by Claire Cray

In Strange Woods

by Claire Cray

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: August 28, 2020

Cover Artist: Sneaky T 

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romantic Mystery, M/M Gothic Romance

Trope/s: Instant attraction, Hurt comfort, Tortured protagonist, Family secret, Long lost relative, Country boy/City boy, Rural romance, Fish out of water 

Themes: Healing, Found family, Redemption, Heritage, Belonging, Homecoming

Heat Rating:  3 - 4 flames 

Length: 71 370 words /204 pages

It is a standalone book.

Goodreads

 

Buy Links - Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US  |   Amazon UK 

 

In the stormy coastal woods of the Pacific Northwest, 

roots run deep and passions run wild.


Blurb

Reeling with grief after the mysterious massacre of his wealthy family, moody New York photographer James Worthington Crane decides to take his downward spiral somewhere far away: to the rural Oregon Coast, where he’s just inherited a random piece of property hidden somewhere in the woods upriver.

But when James pulls into the decaying seaside town of Brooks, everyone thinks he’s someone else—an elusive local outlaw named Beau. Now James must fight through his grief to unravel a tangled web of family secrets and forgotten history...with help from a soft-spoken local hunk named Hunter Quaid.

Hunter’s been on his own since he left his fundamentalist family at the age of fifteen. It’s taken years of hard work to build the steady life he has now, fixing up seaside houses while living alone in a trailer by the river. Then James blows in like a winter storm, disturbing the peace and stirring up a hunger like nothing he's ever felt.

As Hunter helps James search for the truth, their lives intertwine in unexpected ways—and they begin to discover what it means to find out where you really belong.


Excerpt

Hunter pulled his truck into one of the slanted parking spaces along the Brooks sea wall and turned off the ignition, cutting off Bobbie Gentry in the middle of ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ to let the roar of the waves take over. It was windy out, and he took a second to rake his dark-blond hair into a stubby ponytail at the nape of his neck before getting out of the truck.

His work boots hit the asphalt with a heavy thud, and he strolled over to the rustic stone barricade to look out at the dark ocean. A wave immediately exploded up in front of him, white foam fanning out and dissolving like a burst of fireworks, and he filled his lungs with the sharp, salty air. It never got old, no matter how many times he came here. None of it did, though. Not the trees, the rivers, the sunsets, the storms. This rugged little chunk of the coast had been his most consistent, and sometimes his only, source of joy since the first summer his parents dropped him off at his grandma’s place upriver, where he now lived alone.

Today had been long as hell, but satisfying. He was in the middle of renovating a beautiful midcentury house on Cedar Crest, a wooded cliffside high up on the north edge of town. It was the biggest project he’d ever landed since striking out on his own as a contractor, and it was turning out to be a dream come true. The owner was some Portland banker who didn’t give a sh*t what he did as long as he stayed within budget, and Hunter relished the freedom to make actual design choices.

Matter of fact, life was pretty good these days, wasn’t it? Business was good, anyway, and that was a lot. Yeah. Steady work with nobody telling him what to do, a place to sleep by the river, all the ocean air he wanted every day…what more could he ask for? There was a time when he wouldn’t have dared to dream so—

A car alarm went off suddenly, jarring him from his thoughts, and he turned his head. Several seagulls were scattering noisily from the sea wall near a black hatchback several spaces away, its horn blasting and lights flashing. He couldn’t see what had set it off. A nosy gull, maybe, or the splash of a wave. At any rate, that wrapped up his relaxing after-work sit by the ocean.

But just as he was about to turn back to his truck, the driver’s side door of the hatchback clunked open and slowly creaked ajar.

Hunter watched, intrigued, as a hand slipped out through the crack, followed by an arm, and then a mop of wavy dark hair. Then, to his amazement, an entire tall, slim man slid out onto the pavement, pooling there in a tangle of long limbs and dark clothing.

The alarm was still making a ruckus. The man groaned low and rolled to his side, wrestling with himself for a moment before yanking a key fob out of his back pocket. He jabbed it toward the car several times until the alarm stopped, then fell on his back with an unintelligible mutter. Just then, a big wave spouted over the wall and showered him with seawater.

Hunter winced sympathetically. Hell of a place to be drunk off your ass. Dude definitely wasn’t from around here. He looked about Hunter’s age, stylish in a cool, classic kind of way. Black jeans, black boots, battered brown leather jacket. Nothing flashy, but obviously outside the local dress code of Carhartts, hooded sweatshirts, and rain gear. Hunter couldn’t help admiring the long lines of the stranger’s body, his carelessly tousled hair.

With a shake of his head and a soft sigh, he turned his gaze back toward the ocean again. Life was good, and all. He loved it here. So what if it wasn’t overflowing with romantic options for a quiet gay man with a taste for tall, slim guys dressed like drifters from the 1960s? No one got to have it all.

Life is good, he told himself stubbornly. Life is fine. Life’s going just great.

The sound of an approaching engine made him glance back over his shoulder, and suddenly he sprang into motion before he could think.

The drunk man was staggering onto the highway, his dark silhouette backlit by the high beams of a log truck that was roaring around the bend.

Another half-second would have been too late. The driver didn’t even seem to see them. The air from the passing truck threw him off balance as he yanked the drunken dumbass out of the road, and they both fell back on the pavement.

“You okay?” Hunter asked breathlessly.

   
  
Carra's Review

I’m normally not much of a mystery book reader, but something about this story caught my eye and said “read me”…and I’m really glad I did.  Yes, there was a bit of a mystery revolving around the murder of James’s family, along with the mystery of whoever in the small town to which he escapes that everyone there seems to think he is.  But more prevalent—at least for me—was the hurt/comfort theme of James trying to cope with the murders, and Hunter offering that comfort which James so desperately needs.


I was hooked from the start, and both James and Hunter’s characters were so easy to become attached to with every page read.  I can’t imagine the pain James was going through.  Then to add on top of that the unknown person in town for whom he apparently is a dead ringer?  The weight on his shoulders was massive.  Hunter though is the perfect balm for all of this, and is everything James needs—and not just in the moment.


As the intrigue with his lookalike comes to the forefront, it opens up so much more about his family.  I do admit—I was worried at first.  And while I did figure things out before they were revealed in the story, getting to that reveal was a treat.


As for James and Hunter together, everything about them just clicks…and don’t even get me started on their incredible chemistry physically.  It will have you rooting for them to stay together permanently just like I was.


In Strange Woods was an overall 4.5-star read for me.  This was the first book I’ve read by this author, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading more from her in the future.  This story is meant for readers 18+ for adult language, sexual content, and some gruesome descriptions of the murders of James’s family.



About the Author 

Claire Cray writes gay romance featuring hot, complicated men in weird situations. Offbeat and character-driven with a gothic bent, her work has been described as deeply atmospheric and a little bit strange.

Born and raised in the rural Pacific Northwest, Claire takes inspiration from its rich, moody vibes: the ancient forests, rugged coastlines, eccentric characters, and whispers of dark mystery in even the tiniest little towns. Combine all that with steamy sensuality and psychological drama, and you've got a story by Claire Cray.




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Monday, November 2, 2020

New Release: GIFTS FOR THE SEASON Winter & Christmas M/M Charity Anthology




ALL BUY LINKS


Cover Design: Meredith Russell

Length: 157,000 words


All proceeds donated to The Trevor Project - you can find out about the wonderful things they do here


RJ Scott - Single Dad Christmas - It would be a Christmas miracle if he loved me back.⁣⁣⁣
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Annabeth Albert - Must Be Santa - Tis the season for Operation Christmas Papa!⁣⁣⁣
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Joanna Chambers - The First Snow of Winter - Christmas Eve, 1814: a maimed war hero and the childhood friend he almost kissed five years earlier are trapped together by the first snow of winter⁣⁣⁣
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Eli Easton - Twelve Days of UPS - What happens when your Secret Santa is less intriguing than the delivery man who brings the gifts?⁣⁣⁣
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Suki Fleet - Sometimes, Always - When Echo’s Christmas Eve surprise for Peri goes a little sideways, it turns into a night they’ll both remember for the best reasons, for always.⁣⁣⁣
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Lane Hayes - Out For The Holidays - Good Things Happen When You’re Out for the Holidays!⁣⁣⁣
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Annabelle Jacobs - Driving Home For Christmas - A road trip, snowstorm, and only one big bed at the Inn…⁣⁣⁣
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Alex Jane - Homestead for the Holidays - Alone in a cabin in snowy Nebraska for Christmas⁣⁣⁣
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Amber Kell - A Santa for Trin - Everyone needs a bit of Christmas magic.⁣⁣⁣
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Garrett Leigh - No Place Like Home - As long as they’re together, love always wins⁣⁣⁣
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V.L. Locey - Dressed In Holiday Style - Can the spirit of Christmas save this budding love affair?⁣⁣⁣
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Clare London - Five Gold Blings - Where Christmas sparkle leads two lonely hearts⁣⁣⁣
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Posy Roberts - Sojourn For Christmas - This year, a place to stay is the best Christmas gift Sawyer could ask for.⁣⁣⁣
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Felice Stevens - The Gift of Forever - What do you get the man who has everything?⁣⁣⁣
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AE Via - An Unworthy Gift - What do the lonely do at Christmas?⁣⁣⁣

Authors