Blog Tour & Giveaway: Shelter The Sea by Heidi Cullinan

Oh My Shelves welcomes author Heidi Cullinan to the blog today. She brings her highly anticipated release Shelter The Sea out today. Along with her is a sneak preview of chapter one of Shelter the Sea  and a great giveaway. Please give Heidi a really big OMS welcome!!!!

 

Chapter One

Emmet

My boyfriend, Jeremey, thinks the moon looks like a watermelon.

He said this the night we visited my aunt for Christmas. My aunt who lives in Minneapolis, not the one who lives in Ames, though Althea was there that night too. Aunt Stacy has a telescope, and she let me use it to show Jeremey the moon up close. I was listing the names of the seas and craters when he told me what the moon reminded him of.

“It looks like a watermelon.”

I tried to work out how the moon could be similar to a watermelon, but I couldn’t do it. “Jeremey, it isn’t even green.”

“But it has the lines across it, the same as a watermelon, and they all come from a single point, the stub where the stem would have been, leading back to the rest of the plant. See? That spot there. The bright one at the bottom.”

He let me use the telescope again. I still didn’t see a watermelon. “That’s Tycho. It’s a crater.”

“Like the toy company?”

“No. The toy company is spelled T-y-c-o. This is T-y-c-h-o, for the Dutch astronomer. It was seventy percent likely formed by the asteroid 298 Baptistina, which they used to think was the same one that made the dinosaurs go extinct, but then they found out it wasn’t.”

“It will always be a watermelon to me now. But I’ll remember the stem’s name is Tycho.” Jeremey leaned on my shoulder, gazing at the moon without the telescope. “I didn’t realize there were so many seas on the moon. I didn’t think it had any water.”

“It doesn’t on the surface. Solar radiation burned all the water off, but they thought it might be in lunar rocks. Surface ice has been discovered recently, however.”

“Why do scientists always look for water on the moon and other planets?”

“Because it’s the essential element for any human habitation. Unfortunately, so far lunar habitation isn’t looking good.”

“But they have all those seas on the moon. Does that mean it used to have water?”

“No. Those are lunar maria, basaltic plains. The early astronomers thought they were ancient seas, but they were in fact formed by ancient volcanic eruptions.”

Jeremey settled his head more heavily on my shoulder, listening, and so I kept talking. I told him about the lunar dust, how it covers the surface and comes from comets hitting the surface, five tons of dust rising and falling every day. How the dust takes ten minutes to land.

Jeremey shook his head. “What do you mean, ten minutes to land? That’s how long until the dust hits?”

“No. It hits, then rises, but because there’s so little gravity, it takes five minutes for it to rise and then five minutes to fall back down. Which means the moon has on average one hundred and twenty kilograms of lunar dust rising one hundred kilometers above the surface at all times.”

“Wow. You know a lot about the moon.”

I knew a lot more than what I’d said so far, and when I told him this, he asked to hear the rest. We sat there for another hour, me telling him everything I knew, until my voice was scratchy and I needed water. He went inside and got some for me, and then he talked while I drank it.

“It’s so weird to think the moon has all those seas but no water. The names are so pretty. I almost prefer the Latin ones because they’re so mystical. Mare Nubium. Though Sea of Clouds is nice too.” He hugged his arms around his body. “Are there places on Earth called seas or oceans without any water?”

“They call the deserts sand seas, sometimes.”

“That sounds sad, though.”

He swayed back and forth, and I rocked and hummed with him because I was so content.

Then he spoke once more, his voice quiet. “I heard your mom talking inside. About The Roosevelt. Bob is worried about money.”

I stopped rocking, but my insides felt jumbly the way they always did when this subject came up. The Roosevelt was the place where Jeremey and I lived, and Bob was the man who owned it, the father of David, one of our best friends. “David would tell us if something serious was wrong. Bob’s having a fundraiser on New Year’s Eve.”

“Your mom is worried it won’t be enough. Not with the budget cuts the state is proposing and the way they’re restructuring the mental health system as a whole.” Jeremey hugged himself tighter. “I don’t want to lose The Roosevelt.”

I didn’t want to lose The Roosevelt either. I didn’t think it was a good idea to worry, though. “Why don’t we wait to talk to David. There’s not much we can do about anything up here on the roof. We should enjoy the moon and think about how slowly the dust is rising and falling.”

We did exactly that, and I noticed Jeremey relaxed. The next time he had something to say, it was about the moon, not about fears of losing our home. “Sometimes we say people have seas of emotion. What would sea of emotion be in Latin?”

“Mare Adfectus. And sand sea would be Mare Harenam.”

“I like sand sea in Latin better. But mostly I enjoy hearing you tell me all about things like the seas of the moon. Even if they are salt.”

“Basalt isn’t salt. It’s silica.”

“Can you tell me all about basalt and silica?”

I could, and I did.

Most people don’t want to hear me talk about the things I know, but most people aren’t Jeremey. He doesn’t mind that I’m autistic. He says it’s one of his favorite things about me. He says sometimes my autism is the best medicine for his depression and anxiety, which was why we’d gone up to the telescope in the first place. Jeremey was anxious in my aunt’s house, and he’d been depressed for a few days as well, he’d told me. He’d been depressed more often than not for several months now, in fact, and it didn’t matter how they adjusted his meds or how often he went to see his therapist, Dr. North. Depression, and sometimes anxiety too, kept getting the better of him. I wondered if it was because he was worried about the rumors we kept hearing about The Roosevelt being in trouble, though it was hard to say with depression. It could be for no reason except because depression eats happiness.

But Jeremey said when we sat together in the moonlight and I told him all the facts about the moon and basalt, he felt better.

Jeremey and I have been boyfriends for over two years now. We’ve lived together for most of that time in The Roosevelt. Neither of us is okay to function in the world alone, but together and with the help of our friends and family, and the staff at The Roosevelt, we’re independent and happy.

Except that night with Jeremey wrapped in a blanket and arranged carefully in my arms, I decided I didn’t want to be quite so independent anymore. I wanted to keep Jeremey with me, to take care of him and to let him take care of me. I wanted to be dependent on him. I wanted him to be there to tell me the moon looks like a watermelon and then ask me to talk for another hour about basalt. I wanted to do everything with Jeremey, forever. This is a special kind of thing between boyfriends, when you feel this way. This meant I wanted to marry Jeremey.

With people on the mean, coming to such a realization would be simple. I would have bought a ring, asked him, and we’d have gotten married. But I’m not a person on the mean, and neither is Jeremey. And when I made the decision to marry Jeremey, it was only December. There were so many changes about to happen, earthquakes coming because the world wasn’t content to let people such as Jeremey and me simply enjoy the next step in our happy ever after. Not without a lot of complications.

This story is about how we undid those complications and got ourselves the rest of our happy ever after anyway.

#

Asking Jeremey to marry me was a big question, and it deserved some serious consideration and preparation. I knew getting married was complicated no matter what, but I didn’t know what kind of accommodation my autism and his depression and anxiety would require from a practical standpoint. I was nervous, but not because I thought asking him was a mistake. Marrying Jeremey was a logical move, and I felt confident about our relationship. I didn’t worry about Jeremey’s answer, either. The probability of him saying no was low.

But I knew our families would be concerned, especially Jeremey’s. They didn’t like that I was autistic. They hated the autism part more than the gay part, Jeremey said. They would be upset if we got engaged, and this would upset Jeremey, which would only make his depression worse.

Jeremey’s depression was often challenging for me. I had a difficult time understanding how to live with it as his partner. His anxiety was okay. He had the AWARE anxiety management strategy to manage himself, and I knew all the steps and could help him remember to do them. But depression was tricky. Anxiety I could see on the outside, but depression happened on the inside. It scared me. He’d already attempted suicide once, and I never wanted it to happen again. I knew I couldn’t necessarily stop this from occurring, but I also knew the variables which influenced the odds.

My mother would call this splitting hairs. I will never understand either this metaphor or how anyone could split a hair with any knife or ax or sharp instrument of any kind.

There were other considerations to proposing to Jeremey, though. I didn’t get disability anymore because of my employer, but Jeremey did. He had a job as our friend David’s uncertified aide, but it was part-time. He attended community college for a short while to be a Certified Medical Aide, but it was too stressful for him. He took some classes online, but it was hard for him. Eventually he decided to stay on disability and maybe try classes another time. He made a small salary as David’s aide, but it was basically a discount on his fees for being at The Roosevelt.

Right now his insurance comes from Medicaid, which is complicated and messy since the State of Iowa decided to make it privatized. My mother, a medical doctor, has a great deal to say about this, and most of it is swearing. All I know is when Jeremey had to switch to the private plan, he had to pick one of three insurance companies, and now he has to drive to Des Moines for half his appointments since most of the providers he used stopped taking his insurance due to the Medicaid privatization. Some of the doctors he saw only took one kind but not another, so he had to choose which ones he wanted to see. He has regular panic attacks over dealing with his health care management now, and this is with me, my parents, and The Roosevelt staff helping him. My mother says people who don’t have support staff are up “shit crick.” Crick is a colloquial way of saying creek, which is a synonym for small stream. She assures me they do not actually need to walk up a river of poop, but they might as well because it would probably be less awful than navigating our new health system.

I’ve never been on Medicaid. Even if I had been, it wouldn’t have mattered as we also had my family’s insurance, which meant we could make other choices. Technically Jeremey could use his family’s insurance until he is twenty-six, but then he would have to negotiate with his parents, who are challenging, so he’s elected to deal with the messy state system alone. I don’t use my family insurance anymore either, since I work full-time now at Workiva. I worked for them part-time while I was still in college because they think I’m a genius. This is because I am a genius.

Workiva gives me a generous salary and benefits package, including insurance. I thought if I married Jeremey, he could be on my insurance, but I didn’t know if Jeremey’s disability payments would change if he was my husband. Jeremey’s job with David and his SSI payments cover his part of our bill for our apartment and fees at The Roosevelt with a tiny bit of spending money for Jeremey left over. The truth is if he didn’t live with me, he couldn’t afford to live at The Roosevelt. I don’t know, to be honest, how he would live at all.

I hoped marrying me would make things easier, but it was worth checking to make sure they didn’t get more complicated instead. The trouble was, I didn’t know who to talk with about my plan. I thought about talking to David, who was my friend as much as Jeremey’s, but he wasn’t my first choice. David was disabled, but he wasn’t on the spectrum. I felt these were spectrum issues, and so I decided I should go to a friend who was also on the spectrum, Darren.

I made the decision to contact Darren on my way home from work one day, so when I arrived at The Roosevelt, I was eager to go upstairs and begin the conversation. First, however, I had to stop in the lounge and say hello to Jeremey and my friends. I didn’t want to because I was so focused on the potential conversation with Darren, but it would have been rude to skip them. Since the whole point was to figure out how to marry Jeremey, it was logical to take the time to care for his feelings first.

I was already being a good husband before I’d even proposed.

When the Workiva car dropped me off at The Roosevelt, I hummed, feeling happy. I liked that we had snow. Everything felt quieter when we had snow. There had been a blizzard the day before, and we’d made snow residents on the lawn. They smiled at me as I passed, and I smiled back.

As I entered the lounge, I counted seven people in the room, eight now because I was also present. David and Jeremey were there, as well as Sally and Tammy, the support staff for the building. Paul had his back to them as he played Xbox, but he had no headphones and the TV sound was off, so I knew he was listening to the conversation. Cameron was with Sally at the table, running his Spirograph while he spoke. This meant he was concentrating.

Stuart sat beside him, watching the circles and patterns and occasionally making yelp noises to let Cameron know he enjoyed the drawings and was excited to be included in the conversation. Most people wouldn’t consider drawing a conversation, but it was to Cameron and Stuart.

Stuart is a strange guy. He’s on the spectrum too—a lot of us in the building are—but there’s something about him that makes me want to flap my hands. Technically the term for flapping is stimming, but I’ve always thought of it as flapping, so that’s what I call it. Stuart makes me feel flappy. He uses his camera eyes to watch me, the same as I watch him. Like a lot of autistic people, he doesn’t have to look directly at something to see it. Yet I always feel as if he’s watching me whenever I’m in the lounge. Tammy says this is because I did a viral video with David and Jeremey last year. We dressed up like the Blues Brothers and danced through Target to Stuart’s favorite song by his favorite artist, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and became YouTube stars for a few days. To this I say, why doesn’t he watch Jeremey or David?

Tammy says it’s because they don’t dance like Elwood Blues or have autism the same as he does. Except our autism isn’t the same, but Tammy doesn’t understand. She means well, but autism isn’t one size fits all. Stuart and I are living proof.

Beside Stuart was David in his wheelchair, and beside David was Jeremey. I signed my special hello to Jeremey, and then I flapped at the room so they knew I was happy to see them too.

Sally waved me over. “We’re making plans for a party, Emmet. A New Year’s Eve party. Come join us.”

I ignored her for a minute because every time I see Jeremey after work I give him a touch. Jeremey loves touches and hugs about as much as they make me feel as if someone put my skin on inside out. Sometimes I hug him after work and sometimes I don’t, but he always gets some physical contact from me.

I put a hand on his shoulder, and his body went soft as he leaned his cheek on my hand.

Though physical contact isn’t my favorite thing as a general rule, when I touch Jeremey it’s a different story. Today as it usually happened, when I rested my hand on his shoulder, I wanted to sign for him to go upstairs with me and have sex. But it would be rude to leave the party-planning meeting when I’d just arrived, plus I had the chat with Darren to do. So I found a straight-backed chair I could put near David and Jeremey.

David had waited to greet me because he knew Jeremey came first, but when I sat, he held out his fist for me to bump. Our fist bumps are awkward since I clunk too hard and he can’t close his fist all the way or aim well to meet mine, but it’s okay.

Tammy had a list in front of her with two columns, one labeled activities and another snack food. Karaoke and dancing were under the activities column. They were not my favorites. But Mexican train dominoes was on the list too, and I enjoyed this game a lot. I don’t know what is Mexican about it, and I’ve asked, but Sally says it’s only a name. I haven’t been able to find any research that explains why it’s called that either, but I enjoy the game a great deal.

I studied the snacks side of the list and flapped excitedly when I saw what she’d written. Parmesan popcorn was a treat Tammy made when she was extra happy or wanted to reward a resident. It was on the list twice, once with plain written beside it and the other saying there would be M&M’s in the popcorn. This is because some residents enjoy the sweet and salty mixed together in the same bowl and some of us would need to go to the corner and hum if food were jumbled like that.

I didn’t say much while the others planned. Too many people were talking at once, and work and thinking about how to propose to Jeremey had drained my energy, so when I had an idea, I sent texts to Jeremey, who read them to the group. But then I had a thought so big I wanted to say it myself. I tapped the table, and when Sally called on me, I said, “Can we invite Darren?”

“That sounds like a great idea. I’ll talk to his staff and see about arranging for him to come over.”

I was annoyed because I wanted to invite Darren myself, not have staff do it. I thought if I hurried to the apartment, I could maybe invite him first, but before I could excuse myself, Jeremey tapped my leg twice to get my attention. When I turned to him, he didn’t speak, he signed.

A teacher of mine a long time ago taught me and my family to use American Sign Language to communicate during a period when speaking out loud felt too intense for me. I speak out loud often now, but I still use ASL sometimes because it’s handy. My family, friends, and boyfriend use it too, especially when we wanted to have conversations without other people getting involved. When I saw what Jeremey had to say to me, I understood why he was signing instead of speaking.

I caught Sally and Tammy whispering about budgets in the staffroom when they didn’t think I was close enough to hear.

Jeremey was worried about The Roosevelt closing again. Though if Sally and Tammy were whispering about it, maybe he was right to worry. I signed back to him. We need to talk to David instead of eavesdropping.

Jeremey nodded. I thought I would go see him now before we went upstairs to make dinner. But it might mean we start making dinner and do our laundry late.

This worked out perfectly. I need to talk to Darren about something anyway. We can adjust our schedule by a half an hour or even forty-five minutes without a problem.

Jeremey smiled at me, and my chest felt warm and tight. I love you, Emmet.

I love you too, Jeremey.

I kissed the inside of my palm, then pressed that palm to Jeremey’s. His eyes were bright as he took the kiss tight in his fist and his open palm to his lips.

I couldn’t stop smiling. I loved him so much.

“I’ll see you at dinner,” I said, then stood to go get some advice on what would be the best way to marry him.

 

Book Info

 

Shelter The Sea: by Heidi Cullinan
Series: The Roosevlet #2
Release Date: April 18th, 2017
Pages: 190 • Format: eARC
Published By: Heidi Cullinan
Purchase Links:
Amazon USAmazon UKBarnes & NobleSmashwords

Some heroes wear capes. Some prefer sensory sacks.

Emmet Washington has never let the world define him, even though he, his boyfriend, Jeremey, and his friends aren’t considered “real” adults because of their disabilities. When the State of Iowa restructures its mental health system and puts the independent living facility where they live in jeopardy, Emmet refuses to be forced into substandard, privatized corporate care. With the help of Jeremey and their friends, he starts a local grassroots organization and fights every step of the way.

In addition to navigating his boyfriend’s increased depression and anxiety, Emmet has to make his autistic tics acceptable to politicians and donors, and he wonders if they’re raising awareness or putting their disabilities on display. When their campaign attracts the attention of the opposition’s powerful corporate lobbyist, Emmet relies on his skill with calculations and predictions and trusts he can save the day—for himself, his friends, and everyone with disabilities.

He only hopes there isn’t a variable in his formula he’s failed to foresee.

Giveaway

Carry the OceanShelter the Sea signed paperbacks and Roosevelt Blues Brother kit (black fedora and skinny tie)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Author Bio

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, playing with her cats, and watching television with her family. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.

Blog Tour – The Places We Say Goodbye by Jordan Taylor

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~Excerpt~ 

Chapter Four

Flep sags into his desk chair, rubbing his eyes. He reaches mechanically to switch on the desktop Mac with his free hand, then sits still with his eyes closed, head bowed.

Mud vibrates under his boots. Men scream in his ears. Whistling metal zips past with a speed that hides the flight paths. Blood stretches over snow like a crimson river. Where is the paper? He reaches for paper, its familiar feel—needing that letter so desperately it’s terrifying that it is not here.

Flep’s eyes snap open. For an instant, he sees the paper clearly: brown and dirty, wet with snow, covered in handwriting, clutched in his freezing fingers. Holding his breath, hands shaking, he squints as he fights to see the words.

He blinks.

Sunlight falls across his work desk in a long rectangle from the small window. The computer awaits his password. Coffee steams in its lidded mug, sending up a wisp of vapor through the spout. A phone rings down the hall—an old-fashioned telephone sound, not a chime. Three or four people are talking in the office next door. The floor beneath his shoes feels solid. Air around him feels warm, even stuffy.

The clock on the wall to his left ticks softly, reminding him to be efficient.

Never waste a minute. You can rush and worry and stress all week and you will never get it back.

His mother’s words. She was always trying to catch up. She never did. Flep keeps the clock for white noise in his workspace, reminding him to use every moment.

Yet, here he sits. Motionless and dumb in the busy studio offices.

A car horn honks outside. He is only four floors up and traffic is loud here. No screams though. No bullets or explosions. No snow. No blood.

He presses a hand to his stomach, fighting to swallow, pushing the mug away and turning his head at the same time.

“Boss?”

Flep spins in the swivel chair to face the door. “What?”

Simon steps back. “Sorry, didn’t mean to—”

“That’s fine,” Flep says. “What do you want?”

“I just…have these sketches for you.” The young intern holds out several sheets of hot press watercolor paper covered in graphite and ink sketches.

“Thank you.” Flep takes them and turns away, avoiding meeting Simon’s eyes.

“I can go over the ideas with you…” Simon trails off, addressing Flep’s back. “Did you get breakfast? Need anything?”

“We’ll talk about these before lunch,” Flep says. “I’m leaving early today.” He logs into the computer and turns back to Simon, trying to smile. “Happy 4th. Doing anything fun?”

Simon still looks uneasy.

Late attempt at civility not cutting it.

“Seeing friends tonight,” the young man says. “We’re trying to catch some fireworks.”

“Good luck in that crowd.”

“Thanks. They know their way around better than I do.” Simon only came to Manhattan three months ago to start his internship with Time Marks. “Well…” He nods, smiling weakly. “I’ll talk to you about those later.”

“Give me a couple hours. I’ll get back to you.”

Light from Flep’s office window catches Simon’s Ray-Ban glasses as he glances down to the papers he handed Flep. He opens his mouth, nods, puts his hands behind his back, lets them hang at his sides, then hurries away.

Flep rubs his eyes again. Heartless bastard. That kid was probably up half the night doing these drawings. Now Flep is treating him like a prop?

He turns his attention to the screen. He’ll make it up to Simon. Take him to lunch tomorrow with Tanya, the other art department intern, and talk over their progress. The two of them can brainstorm. Flep only has to encourage them and act like they have good ideas. They do have good ideas. Two smart kids and both superb artists.

“Flep!”

Half crouching away from the voice, he looks around. “John?”

“Do you have those concepts to show the producers?”

Friday, damn him. John first asked for them on Friday. The day before a weekend and major national holiday when half the team wasn’t going to be here. But John Case, West Side, river front resident, does not believe in putting off until tomorrow what someone could have done for him yesterday.

“We’re working on it,” Flep says. “I’ll have something ready tomorrow and get a meeting on Wednesday.”

“Tomorrow? You’ve got four people on this. Good God.” John shakes his head and turns away. “Well, whatever it takes.”

As John stomps off, Flep exhales a slow breath, wishing he could.


ThePlacesWeSayGoodbye-f500The Places We Say Goodbye by Jordan Taylor
Release Date:  July 18, 2016
Pages: 235 • Cover Artist: Natasha Snow
Published By: NineStar Press
Purchase Links:
NineStarAmazonB&N • ARe

COUPON CODE: Get 20% off preorder on NineStar Press website with coupon code “preorder”

* (Good until release day)

Flep has a great job as a New York City production designer, a blossoming relationship with Torin, and the potential joy of becoming a stepparent to Torin’s two young daughters. Nothing could be better—yet his life is crumbling from the inside out.

Ever since moving in with Torin, Flep has dreamed of muddy trenches, bullet-riddled bodies, and endless horrors which only grow worse and spill into his day-to-day life. Traumatized and sleepless, he slogs on: a soldier afflicted with post-traumatic stress. Only, Flep has never been a soldier, let alone been to war.

Fighting for his sanity, Flep turns to unlikely sources for help—even phantoms from another era. It could take a family from 1916 to illuminate his waking nightmares, but the truth may come at the price of losing his new family along the way.


 

~Giveaway~
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Check out our events calendar for information on additional blog stops for The Places We Say Goodbye and other upcoming releases!

About Jordan Taylor

Jordan Taylor is the author of numerous novels and stories from the bestselling Angel Paws shorts to the historical fantasy series Lightfall. An avid reader and writer, Jordan also enjoys photography and graphic design, old bookstores, researching World War One, travel, and tweeting about her smooth fox terrier.

Pre-Release Review – Tournament of Losers by Megan Derr

Pre-Release Review – Tournament of Losers by Megan Derron February 10, 2016
Pages: 229
Amazon • (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)

All Rath wants is a quiet, peaceful life. Unfortunately, his father brings him too much trouble—and too many debts to pay—for that to ever be possible. When the local crime lord drags Rath out of bed and tells him he has three days to pay his father's latest debt, Rath doesn't know what to do. There's no way to come up with so much money in so little time.

Then a friend poses an idea just ridiculous enough to work: enter the Tournament of Losers, where every seventy-five years, peasants compete for the chance to marry into the noble and royal houses. All competitors are given a stipend to live on for the duration of the tournament—funds enough to cover his father's debt.

All he has to do is win the first few rounds, collect his stipend, and then it's back to trying to live a quiet life…

five-stars

 

I have a major crush on this book and it’s a bit silly and yet not.

I was looking for something that was not of the norm in my reading routine and this cover caught my eye. It looked like something that would tickle my funny bone and after reading the blurb, I needed to know about this Tournament.

We meet one Rathatayen Jakobson, aka Rath, getting pulled out of bed in the early morning by a few thugs who want money. Now, it’s not Rath that owes them money but the slime on the bottom of a shoe father of his who owes a debt, a big debt. Rath is told if he does not pay up, bad things will happen and Rath is too good of a man to let that happen, so he goes to speak to the Godfather, or um, Friar about what is owed and his timeline to pay it. Of course, dear old daddy couldn’t just owe a few pennies but fifteen slick (which I am assuming is about $15k as this book is set in its own world and not the one we live in) and Rath, he doesn’t make that kind of money, so what is a good boy to do?

How had the need for fifteen slick wound up stirring hopes and dreams long dead? 

Ugh. This book, I just simply adored it. There is this minor world building that we get in the beginning, the ins and outs of those living in the kingdom and their social hierarchy. My darling Rath is of the low city with the laborers, whores and those who work hard for their meager earnings and that bed he was pulled out of in the first few pages… did I mention he had a gorgeous boy in bed with him who is part of the nobility or high city?? Yeah, he had a boy with him and it was a pity he was taken away so fast as to not get a repeat performance. *grins* Le Sigh.

So back to the money being owed. There is no way Rath can earn the money with his work in the time the Friar wants it repaid and then a ridiculous idea is thrown his way; enter the Tournament of the Charlet or affectionately called, the Tournament of Losers… problem solved.  Right? Goodness, I loved the reason behind this tournament coming to fruition and who created it. I loved that this book, this story, this world I was so drawn into was inclusive of race, gender and sexuality.  There was never a step taken back that the tournament competitors would be fighting those of the opposite sex, or that the winners would be married to someone of the same sex or someone of a different skin color, it just was and it was fantastic! It was so inclusive and so well written that it wasn’t preached about, it was just there on the page as if that were the normality of it and yeah, well done on the authors part with that. The tournament itself it a character and it was so much fun to go on each challenge with Rath. ACK! I want to say so much about each one but that would be telling you what I really want you to read for yourself.

I keep getting off on tangents but this book, it was so much more than I expected. Yes, there is romance and the steam with the romance was very low but the emotions were not. The emotions are there with the romance, (which I refuse to spoil who it is with or a anything about it) and the emotions are there they whole way with Rath. From him loathing his father yet bailing him out of debt, the unconditional and heroic love he has for his mother, the way he sees his life, his worth and the things that he doesn’t usually let himself want for yet… creep up on him and floods him with so much that I fell head over heels for this man. I mean, when you realize what his name means and why he was named it? *swoon* Just, yeah, the author killed me with that and I have so many highlights where I made a one word note of “Yes’, or “Use” or “Sigh”, this book hit so many check marks for me with what I love about romance.

This author is new to me but after this, I am going to go check out her backlist because if this book about a reluctant hero can affect me this way? I so need more of her words in my life.

So at the end of it all… this book, it was lovely. It reminded be a bit of the movie, A Knights Tale, with its blend of a historical/fantasy setting with a modern twist. The romance is swoony, the challenges are magnificent, and the story telling is gorgeous and… I kinda liked this book. Like, A LOT! If you couldn’t tell.

Pre-Order Purchase Link: Less Than Three

About Megan Derr

Writing and reading are my life. I’m pretty equal opportunity, there is very little I do not like to read. But, I think it’s safe to say that romance and fantasy are my primary stomping grounds :3 I love writing slash, it works for me in a way that writing other things never did. Past that, I’m all over the board – fantasy, supernatural, contemporary, space operas, you name it.

Outside of those primary obsessions, I love cooking, baking, reading, movies & TV. I also enjoy harassing my five cats. I live in a beach town so I never again have to put up with snow.

If you need/want to reach me, email is your best bet (doesn’t matter which), but I’ll respond anywhere as long as I see it. I can be slow to reply to emails, fair warning. I get a lot of them and stuff gets buried fast. But I will eventually reply, and by all means harass me if I do not reply quickly enough.

Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield

Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfieldon July 27, 2014
Pages: 230 pages
Amazon
Dare Buckley has come home—or at least, he’s come back to Palladian, the small town he left as a teenager. After a major lapse in judgment forced him to resign from the Seattle PD, Palladian is the only place that’ll hire him. There’s one benefit to hitting rock bottom, though: the chance to investigate the mystery of his father’s suicide.

Dare also gets to reacquaint himself with Finn Fowler, whose childhood hero worship ended in uncomfortable silence when Dare moved away. But Finn isn’t the same little kid Dare once protected. He’s grown into an attractive, enigmatic stranger who neither wants nor needs what Dare has to offer.

In fact, Dare soon realizes that Finn’s keeping secrets—his own and the town’s. And he doesn’t seem to care that Dare needs answers. The atmosphere in Palladian, like its namesake river, appears placid, but dark currents churn underneath. When danger closes in, Dare must pit his ingenuity against his heart, and find his way home the hard way.
two-stars

I decided to try this book because the cover was compelling and I really like the St. Nacho’s series written by the author. Unfortunately, I can’t point to anything in this book that I enjoyed.

It started out really well and about half way, it descended into this baffling sex, lies and murder mystery. I found the character of Finn Fowler to be a head scratcher. Finn Fowler was the “left behind” character as his friend Dare Buckley left Palladin Washington in search of greener pastures. Finn was the son of the town whore and everyone picked on him. He was called “Foullest”, a play on his last name Fowler. Dare Buckley, the beloved town son, always stood up for Finn until the suicide of his detective father rocked his foundation. Dare and his family quickly left town, and Finn was stuck fending for himself again.

Over a decade later, Dare returns to town after a disgraceful error in judgment cost him his job. And he seems while some things are still the same, others have changed drastically. For instance, Finn isn’t as helpless as he used to be, and now Dare was the one who needed help putting his life back together.

This book was dark and never really got better. I never felt settled reading this book, not even at the end. I never quite understood Finn. I get that he had to create an environment he could control since almost everything around him was out of his control, but I didn’t understand what he truly desired. Bill Fraser and Dare Buckley, made sense but Finn, I can’t wrap my head around. The BDSM aspect to this story did NOT work for me and I found it disturbing. It was almost like Finn was broken inside just as much as Dare and Bill. I thought the author would somehow try to fix all three of them together. All three and the whole town seemed to be pretty messed up with their secrets and lies.

Capture The Sun (Stories from Sapphire Cay #5) by Meredith Russell & R.J. Scott

Capture The Sun (Stories from Sapphire Cay #5) by Meredith Russell & R.J. ScottSeries: Stories from Sapphire Cay #5
on August 30th 2014
Pages: 105 pages
Amazon • (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
Model, Isaac Bailey wants to break into the world of fashion design. Under his father’s company name, he is set to debut his new collection—summer wear. He has the models, the clothes, what he needs is a location.

Mitch Stone is a trouble shooter. His latest client needs an exotic location and he happens to know someone with the very thing—Sapphire Cay. Having underestimated Isaac as nothing more than an airhead model, Mitch soon discovers there is much more to the young man than he first thought.

As the fashion shoot gets underway, Mitch has to contend with his feelings for his old love, Dylan, and the very new and growing affections he has for Isaac. What starts as just another job, turns out to be more fruitful and exhilarating than winning any multi-million dollar contract.
three-half-stars

Isaac Bailey wants to transition from being a hot model into fashion design. He convinces his father to let him design the family’s summer collection and they bring in the big guns to help with the photo shoot and marketing because this debut has to be perfect.
Mitch Stone was hired and he had the perfect location in mind, Sapphire Cay, the island that his former lover Dylan bought and moved to in Follow The Sun.

While on the island, Mitch found out that Dylan was now engaged to Lucas and it didn’t hurt as much as Mitch thought. that was because something about Issac was captivating Mitch. Their instant connection was noticed by almost everyone but career expectations was a hindrance, especially with Issac being a client. Are they willing to risk their careers, or will the island affair continue after they leave Sapphire Cay?

What I liked was that Issac was kind and giving and patient, qualities Mitch really needed and Issac made Mitch smile. Mitch was kind of living in a funk, and Issac was the ray of sunshine he needed. The authors really keep the angst to a minimum and just keep the romance simple. If you are looking for a light and sweet read, this series is for you. You will be relaxed and smiling the whole time you read this book.

*Reviewed for Paranormal Romance Guild

About R.J. Scott

My goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.

I’ve has been writing since age six, when I was made to stay in at lunchtime for an infraction involving cookies and the mixing bowl. You can’t tell a six year old not to lick the bowl!

I was told to write a story and two sides of paper about a trapped princess later, a lover of writing was born.

As an avid reader myself, I can be found reading anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror. However, my first real true love will always be the world of romance. I love my cowboys, bodyguards, firemen and billionaires (to name a few) and love to write dramatic and romantic stories of love and passion between these men. (Yum)

With over 90 titles to my name and counting, I am the author of the award winning book, The Christmas Throwaway, which was All Romance Ebooks best selling title of 2010.

I’m also known for the Texas series charting the lives of Riley and Jack, and the Sanctuary series following the work of the Sanctuary Foundation and the people it protects.

I’m always so thrilled to hear from readers, bloggers and other writers.

A Better Man (The Men of Halfway House #1) by Jaime Reese

A Better Man (The Men of Halfway House #1) by Jaime ReeseSeries: The Men of Halfway House #1
on 2014-01-16
Pages: 210
AmazonB&N • (Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
Matthew Doner is starting over. After a five-year prison term that alters every aspect of his life, he receives a bequest from his aunt with the stipulation that he use the money to make things right. Breaking free of the long-standing role he's played and inspired by the few who support him, he decides to create a safe place where people like him can find purpose and start a new life. Julian Capeletti likes challenges. He is confident, brash, stubborn, and just what Matt needs. Desperate for work after a downturn of luck, he accepts the job to renovate Matt's crumbling building. Over the course of a year, romance simmers between them as they restore the house. But there's a bigger renovation that must take place in their hearts. To become better men, they need to learn to trust each other even with secrets and painful memories they fear may rip them apart.
four-stars

Julian Capeletti is barely making it month to month. He is 2 months behind in rent and lacks job offers when he comes across an AD in the newspaper looking for a handyman. Desperately trying to find some work, Julian goes and meets the owner of the building, Mr. Matt Doner and gets the job. Matt Doner inherited a dilapidated building from his Aunt Eleanor who wanted him to use the house as a new beginning. See Matt just served a 5-yr prison sentence and now he wanted to make his life count for something positive.
So with Julian’s help, Matt sets out to rebuild the “office space”, but this project turns out to be a restoration for both men as Julian is also trying to heal from his past.

I loved Julian. He had such inner fortitude and resolve. He was a man of his word and he was a rock for Matt. I was happy with the continual evolution of Matt as he found strength to reconnect his family…well, not his witch of a mom, but the rest of his family. I love that the author didn’t make this story too angsty or sappy, it was just right in terms of pace, character development and emotional moments. These two guys deserved this second chance and I was so happy they got it.

About Jaime Reese

Jaime Reese is the alter ego of an artist who loves the creative process of writing, just not about herself. Fiction is far more interesting. She has a weakness for broken, misunderstood heroes and feels everyone deserves a chance at love and life. An avid fan of a happy ending, she believes those endings acquired with a little difficulty are more cherished.

…and yes, it was totally weird reading something about myself in 3rd person 🙂

I get this huge dorky grin on my face when I receive a message from someone who has taken the time to read my book. I know readers have a choice in a sea of many options. I’m humbled when someone chooses one of mine. Thank you. ~JR

Pray The Gay Away (A Southern Thing #1) by Sara York

Pray The Gay Away (A Southern Thing #1) by Sara YorkSeries: A Southern Thing #1
on 2014-03-02
Pages: 314
AmazonB&NNarrator: Jason Frazier
Star football player, Jack Miller, had it all. The perfect family, looks, girls hanging on his every word, and the respect of most people in his town. But one thing was missing--a man to be his own. When Andrew Collins showed up in small town, conservative Sweet, Georgia, he looked more scrawny mutt than high school senior. Andrew's plan was to keep his head down and graduate high school, leaving his family behind to start his real life. When he meets Andrew, Jack thinks he's found heaven, but reality holds him in check until one night when his lips gently slide across Andrew's and fireworks go off. As lust and something a little deeper brings them together, compelling them to take chances, people start to notice. Then the unthinkable happens, and Jack's parents find out he likes guys. The battle lines are drawn and they vow to pray the gay away.
two-half-stars

My biggest issue with this book is that I don’t want to be told how to feel, and that’s what the author did here. It was quite preachy but it didn’t allow me to draw my own conclusions and it was also one-dimensional.

Jack Miller was the son of a small Georgia town’s preacher and also the star of the high school football team. He had everything, except the freedom to love who he wanted. It seems that his father had noticed some traits that were “sinful” about Jack, so his father really pushed him to be a “man”.
When a new family, the Collins moved to town, they asked the preacher to help them start over. Their son Andrew Collins has afflicted with the sin of gayness and they are hoping being around good people will redirect Andrew’s sinful ways. If Jack could mentor Andrew and show him how a real man was, maybe Andrew could be saved. Now Jack finally found a kindred spirit, but they have to bide their time. Jack is being recruited to play football by many colleges around the country, so if they can keep their love a secret, once they get out of Sweet, Georgia, they can finally be free to be together.

But Jack’s father found some incriminating things on Jack’s computer. What will happen to Jack, the preacher’s son and town football star if anyone found out he was gay?

This story was written in an elementary manner. It also ended in a silly cliff hanger designed to make you quickly pick up the next one. Unfortunately I didn’t find the story compelling enough to want book 2. It wasn’t the grammar errors that bothered me; the story just lacked the requisite emotion to draw me. I didn’t “feel” the plight and that prevented me from truly connecting with the characters. I am glad it was free.

Bliss by Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau

Bliss by Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleauon 2014-08-18
Pages: 244
Amazonthree-stars

Rory James just got a job working with Judge Lowell in the peaceful town of Beulah. He is excited to move from Tophet to Beluah because for the past 10 years, Beluah has had no crime and no pollution. It is supposed to be this utopian society and Rory just needs some peace.

His first day in Beluah and Rory gets punched in the face by Tate Patterson, whose also from Tophet. Rory is rushed to the hospital and Tate is arrested. Beluah deeals with criminals by placing them in a Rehabilitation through Restitution program. The perpetrator works for the victim for 7 years, instead of going to jail. The idea is to humanize the victim, and make the criminal see the first hand effects of their assault.

Each criminal called a “Rezzie” is fitted with a GPS chip that allows the officials to locate them but it’s also a behavior modifier. Tate is now Rory’s Rezzie, and begins his rehabilitation by living and working for Rory. Then we begin to see how the “rehabilitation” truly works and that Beluah isn’t the safe haven it’s being portrayed as. First of all, Tate is almost weirdly happy to be at Rory’s beckon call. Then this criminal seems to have no will of his own. What’s up with this program? Rory begins to investigate how this chip affects the rezzies and he is flabbergasted to find out the real deal with the program.

I started reading this one with excitement. That rehabilitation through restitution sounded like a great idea. I did think 7 years was excessive for just a punch, but some people have died from punch, so I went with it. The lack of investigation by surrounding towns or even lack of scrutiny was baffling to me, and I wonder if they knew what was going on in Belulah. I mean, you would think every town would want a non-crime statistic, right? Well this town was full of bad secrets and once you began peeling this onion, it made my eyes water with each peel.

I liked Rory and I even liked Tate. I like how the authors humanized Tate. I don’t condone what he did to Rory, but it’s interesting that he wasn’t a criminal like I initally thought. If something is too good to be true, it often is.

I had been warned that the book had non-consensual sex, but I jumped in anyway. It was very uncomfortable for me to read. There was an Happy for now (HFN) so at least that was a good ending. But if you are squeamish lack of consent issues, think twice about this one.

*Special Thanks to Riptide Publishing via Netgalley