Book Blast – Awaken by Vanessa MacLellan

Awaken
Vanessa MacLellan
Publication date: July 30th 2022
Genres: Adult, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy, Horror

Balin stands between two great Powers.  One will shatter his mind; the other will destroy his soul.  Only one of them can save his people.

Fort Resonbirg, a Norse stronghold in the New World, is besieged by the evil sorcerer Ursulard the Dreamspinner.  Though their fields are scorched and homes destroyed, the residents and refugees do not worry, because Fort Resonbirg is Awakened with the power to provide, protect, and grow.  But not all is as it seems when a wall of impenetrable mist surrounds the fort, and within the mist hunts the dragon, Nidhogg.  Nidhogg hungers for more than flesh and bone. It instills nightmares on its prey, feeding on fear and pain, inevitably taking lives.

Balin Tremore, a commoner bound for the militia but hoping to stay by his noble love’s side, never expected to amount to grand things.  When the great power of Cradleweaving is awakened within him, Balin unknowingly becomes the one person with the power to pierce the wall of mist and banish the deadly beast within before it destroys them all—if he can master the new power in time.  But to master the power, he must sacrifice much.  The question is, will it be his position, his Lady, or his very soul?

The Mist meets Nightmare on Elm Street in this classic tale of personal sacrifice.

Goodreads / Amazon

REVIEW:

Awaken opens up with a BANG right in the middle of the war, but then slows down as Balin is trapped in a cell for two chapters and we have our moment to get to know him and William, the prince of the keep. It’s a torturous scene and builds a lot of the world in story that skimmers might miss some things. This is not a book you would skim. There is so much going on and I love that. It doesn’t hand feed things.

It’s a story about pacts made in desperation. First Resonbirg (the magical, sentient keep) and later Balin. It’s a story of sacrifice. How far will you go to save those around you. How much time will you waste trying to find other ‘reasonable’ solutions before the big moment on the cross is all you have left.

The characters are all strongly build as well as the world. There are some Norse myth characters I didn’t know, but in the context of the story I didn’t have to know exactly who they were. I figured out the meaning just fine.

Great moodiness. There are these special chapters told from characters in present tense and you figure out they are all their last moments before Nidhogg gets them. It’s harrowing. It’s heart-breaking. A lot of breaking hearts in this story.

Perhaps not a story for everyone, I loved it and would recommend it for people who like woven storylines, amazing worldbuilding, and characters you WILL cry for. Don’t read if you need a sunshine, happy, everyone gets what they want kind of ending.

EXCERPT:

He rapped his knuckles against the wooden door, leaning against the frame to take the strain from his leg.

“Who is there?”

“It is I, Balin Tremore.” He glanced up and down the hallway. Vacant. “I request an audience.”

The door swung open. “Please enter with an open heart, Balin.” Elaine beamed at him, her joy evident in the musical laughter in her words.

Balin stepped inside, and Elaine slammed the door closed.

“Is Kirsten here?” he asked, scanning the suite for Elaine’s handmaiden.

Elaine shook her head. “She’s getting fabric.” With no warning, she threw her arms around Balin’s shoulders and hugged him close. “I’m so, so, so glad you are well,” she said, her words held stiffly, as if voicing a vow. “Don’t ever do that again. Don’t ever.” She squeezed him. His body took a moment to react, and then he melted into her hold.

He embraced her, brushing his cheek against her plum silk shirt, holding her close, praying to Baldr that she’d never be taken from his arms. He inhaled her lilac scent and closed his eyes.

She pulled back, and the intensity in her gaze captured his breath. They were of a same height, except for when she wore ball shoes and could stare down at him with haughty superiority. She’d tease him then, drape her arm over his shoulders when nobody was looking their way. He didn’t mind, he just enjoyed being close to her. Now, however, no tease twinkled in her stormy eyes. Only worry and determination resided there, and he hated to see all those emotions in turmoil over her sweet features.

“Balin, would you just give in? You don’t have to return to the field.”

Balin took in a breath and let his gaze slip from hers to stare at the side of her nose. “I can’t do that.”

“Yes. You can.” She pulled away sharply, turning her back on him as she charged into her sitting room, her strong trouser-clad legs cutting the distance to a few strides. She gleaned pieces of paper from her writing desk and tromped back towards him, shaking the papers in his face. “I’ve completed the requisition. All I need is the Hauld’s approval, and after you and William—” she waved her hands through the air in a grand gesture, the papers crackling under the abuse, “—there’s no way he wouldn’t agree to you being my steward.”

They’d had this argument before, and Balin found it harder and harder to refuse her.

But he wanted to be so much more to her than just her steward.

“I don’t even need your approval, you know.” Her eyes narrowed, and her mouth turned into a frown.

He dropped his shoulders back, attention wandering over the copper molding encircling her ceiling. “You wouldn’t do that.”

“Don’t you tempt me, Balin Tremore. If it means keeping you out of the war, I will do what I have to do.”

The command in her voice drew his attention back to her face. He scooped up her hands, papers and all, and pressed his forehead to hers. They stood that way for a moment, Elaine’s breathing fast, Balin’s heart thumping in his ears. Those weeks in the cage, cold, starving, he’d wanted her. Wanted her soft touch. Her amused smile. He’d kept her stored in his mind in the hidden places Zebbens couldn’t beat out of him.

“We have to fight him, Elaine. Every one of us, we all have to do what we can.”

“Then, Balin,” she argued, her voice a terse whisper, “that means I need to be out there, too.”

Through his bangs, he saw her looking at him. He rolled his forehead against hers until their noses touched. “You can’t go out there, Elaine,” he whispered, the words hovering between their nearly touching lips.

“I’m a better fencer than you.”

“Fencer, not swordsman, they aren’t the same.”

Behind him, the door opened.

“Oh, Miss, I’m so sorry to intrude,” Kirsten said.

The air crackled with anticipation, but Kirsten, so-sorry-to-intrude, didn’t leave.

Balin bowed his head and slowly pulled away. Then he turned to the handmaiden.  “Hello, Kirsten.”


Author Bio:

Vanessa MacLellan was born and raised in the farmlands of eastern Washington, works as an environmental engineer, and is an avid birder, naturalist and hiker living in Portland, Oregon.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


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Cover Reveal – Awaken by Vanessa MacLellan

Awaken
Vanessa MacLellan
Publication date: July 30th 2022
Genres: Adult, Dark Fantasy, Fantasy, Horror

Balin stands between two great Powers. One will shatter his mind; the other will destroy his soul. Only one of them can save his people.

Fort Resonbirg, a Norse stronghold in the New World, is besieged by the evil sorcerer Ursulard the Dreamspinner. Though their fields are scorched and homes destroyed, the residents and refugees do not worry, because Fort Resonbirg is Awakened with the power to provide, protect, and grow. But not all is as it seems when a wall of impenetrable mist surrounds the fort, and within the mist hunts the dragon, Nidhogg. Nidhogg hungers for more than flesh and bone. It instills nightmares on its prey, feeding on fear and pain, inevitably taking lives.

Balin Tremore, a commoner bound for the militia but hoping to stay by his noble love’s side, never expected to amount to grand things. When the great power of Cradleweaving is awakened within him, Balin unknowingly becomes the one person with the power to pierce the wall of mist and banish the deadly beast within before it destroys them all—if he can master the new power in time. But to master the power, he must sacrifice much. The question is, will it be his position, his Lady, or his very soul?

The Mist meets Nightmare on Elm Street in this classic tale of personal sacrifice.

Add to Goodreads


Author Bio:

Vanessa MacLellan was born and raised in the farmlands of eastern Washington, works as an environmental engineer, and is an avid birder, naturalist and hiker living in Portland, Oregon.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter


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Cover Reveal coming soon! Awaken by Vanessa MacLellan

It’s comes for you in your nightmares.

Awaken – Norse Dark Fantasy by Vanessa MacLellan

Balin stands between two great Powers. One will shatter his mind; the other will destroy his soul. Only one of them can save his people.

Fort Resonbirg, a Norse stronghold in the New World, is besieged by the evil sorcerer Ursulard the Dreamspinner. Though their fields are scorched and homes destroyed, the residents and refugees do not worry, because Fort Resonbirg is Awakened with the power to provide, protect, and grow. But not all is as it seems when a wall of impenetrable mist surrounds the fort, and within the mist hunts the dragon, Nidhogg. Nidhogg hungers for more than flesh and bone. It instills nightmares on its prey, feeding on fear and pain, inevitably taking lives.

Balin Tremore, a commoner bound for the militia but hoping to stay by his noble love’s side, never expected to amount to grand things. When the great power of Cradleweaving is awakened within him, Balin unknowingly becomes the one person with the power to pierce the wall of mist and banish the deadly beast within before it destroys them all—if he can master the new power in time. But to master the power, he must sacrifice much. The question is, will it be his position, his Lady, or his very soul?

The Mist meets Nightmare on Elm Street in this classic tale of personal sacrifice.

Review: The Girl Whose Luck Ran Out

The Girl Whose Luck Ran Out by Gayleen Froese

Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
 Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Length: Novel (~212 pages)

I really liked this book. Ben is a private detective, who was once a cop. He was blackmailed into quitting the force because of reasons (I won’t spoil you, but I do think he was dumb to have put himself in that situation). But generally, he’s a good guy. Jesse is his ex who is now a super star musician. And he’s pretty good too. I like it when my characters aren’t jerks.

Ben is asked to find a missing girl and Jesse joins in, (who is sick, so can’t perform) helping where he can. Both of their past angst and issues come out through the story, a way to show the characters are slightly broken so they can heal each other. I wasn’t as into that, but I loved the teamwork, Jesse’s fun confident manner, and Ben’s surety. The mystery plot and the romance plot both continued steadily throughout the book. Also, social media is evil.

They mystery is followed through naturally. I felt the steps made sense based on the clues he was given. There were a few red herrings and great secondary characters. I was worried for Kim and had my heart squeezed by the end of the story.

The title connection with the girl’s reason for being missing I thought was great. Tricksy and lovely.

The attraction between the two exes was great and expected in this kind of story. I like that they had a past so it wasn’t an instalove.

I was pushed out of the story on two occasions. Both, when the author’s opinions/politics came to the forefront. I skimmed both politics discussion and anti-depressant discussion. Didn’t even read those sections and found when the discussion ended and started again, because I was enjoying the story. But other readers might not even notice.

Definitely recommended for those who like to follow mysteries, enjoy engaging characters, and second chance romances.


I asked Gaylene to let us know more about her, and she agreed to be interviewed! So let’s get to know this great author of a fun detective series.

 


I’m a mystery writer who lives in Edmonton, Canada with a house full of pets, including three dogs and a three-foot tegu lizard named Marlowe. My housemate, Laird Ryan States, is also an author. Marlowe hasn’t written anything yet. They say everyone has a book in them but it’s possible this doesn’t apply to lizards.

I have two previously published books, Touch and Grayling Cross. The Girl Whose Luck Ran Out is my first book with DSP Publications and the first in a series. If you’re looking for me online, my website is gayleenfroese.com and I’m on Twitter @gayleenfroese

Are you promoting a book now? Tell us about it.

I’m promoting my new detective novel, The Girl Whose Luck Ran Out. I met the main characters, Ben and Jesse, in a dream, which is how I usually meet the characters I end up writing about. The book is set it, in part, in a real place called Dead Man’s Flats. It used to be called Pigeon Mountain and it got its new name in 1985 because someone thought it would encourage tourism. I think, if a town is going to have a name like that, it should earn it.

The Girl Whose Luck Ran Out is the story of a P.I. named Ben Ames, who’s looking for a missing university student. It’s also the story of Ben’s musician ex-boyfriend Jesse, who gets pneumonia on tour and crashes at Ben’s house, then winds up coming along for the ride while Ben works the case. There’s nothing better than a long highway drive for aggressively not discussing your failed relationship. There’s also nothing better than getting everything you think you want for making you question the whole idea of luck.

The trade paperback and e-book are available June 14, 2022, and you can find pre-order links and an except at https://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/books/the-girl-whose-luck-ran-out-by-gayleen-froese-12145-b

What was your ‘ah ha’ moment when you realized you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t plan to be a writer but I didn’t think I would write novels. I thought I’d write for television and I went to university with that in mind. The more I talked to working TV writers, though, the more I realized TV writing wouldn’t be for me. I’m more suited to connecting with my characters on my own and working through the story myself than I would be to having to advocate and negotiate for them in a writers’ room. That’s definitely not disrespect for TV writers or writers’ rooms—it’s just my temperament and how I prefer to work.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve sold the sequel to The Girl Whose Luck Ran Out to DSP Publications. The working title is The Man Who Lost His Pen, which may not sound dramatic, but you’d be surprised how bad losing a pen can be.

Now I’m working on a book about a teenager who gets mysterious superpowers, and accidentally comes out to his family and friends, on the same night. He takes one of these things much more seriously than the other.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I often put together music playlists to write to. I might have an overall playlist that covers the main themes and settings of the book and then scene-specific playlists that are more geared to generating a specific mood. If I can’t find exactly the song I need, sometimes I have to write one, but I’m a painfully slow songwriter and this approach soon begins to look like avoidance of the book I meant to be writing in the first place.

Avoidance. Yes, I think we all recognize that. Thank you Gayleen for the interview. And good luck with the launch of The Girl Whose Luck Ran Out! I know your other readers will love it.

Book Blast and Review – AUDIO Life Lessons by Kaje Harper

AUDIOBOOK TOUR

Book Title: Life Lessons

Author: Kaje Harper

Publisher: Self-published rerelease

Narrator: JF Harding

Review

I’ve been a huge fan of Kaje Harper since I read her Tracefinder series. She has a great knack for creating characters with depth and slowly revealing their inner dimensions.

Tony is out and proud and a confident younger man, who is in a position of authority as a teacher. Mac is so not out, but very proud of the man and police detective he is. He’s carrying for his child and sacrificing everything for her. When Tony is a near witness to a murder, Mac is the detective who is given the case. It was inevitable that the two be drawn together. But it’s not insta-love. It’s insta interest, that evolves into a realistic journey between two men with very different needs and comfort zones. I enjoyed how each was given unique personalities and were confident enough to know his limits.

The mystery was fun and satisfying–we were given the right amount of hints to figure it out if we were looking. I’m not a reader of simple romance, but the story about the killer, the constant threats, the emotional turmoils, were all super engaging for a plotty reader like me.

The audio reader was SO GOOD! I am sorry to hear I have to wait for the next audiobook.
He had distinct voices and a steady delivery that was very expressive when needed. Love him and would seek him out for other audiobooks.

All in all, a great listen/read and I would highly recommend this MM mystery to any fan of the genre.

Goodreads

 

Buy Links – Audible, KU and Paperback

Audible US  |  Audible UK 

Amazon US  |  Amazon UK

 

Mac’s three goals: keep Tony safe, catch the killer, don’t come out.

 

Blurb 

Tony Hart’s a dedicated teacher, though he’s not much older than his high-school students. Between his profession, a few good friends, and plenty of books, he’s content with his quiet life. Then the murdered body of another teacher falls into the elevator at his feet, and Tony’s life becomes all too exciting.

Jared MacLean is a homicide detective, widowed father to a young daughter, and deeply in the closet. But from the moment he meets Tony’s blue eyes in that high school hallway, Mac can’t help wanting this man in his life. Mac’s not out ― can’t afford to be out ― but Tony makes him want the impossible.

Mac isn’t the only one with their eyes on Tony, though. As the murderer tries to cover their tracks, Mac has to work fast or lose Tony, permanently.

(This is a rerelease of the 2011 original with light editing.)

 

Excerpt

Tony said after a pause. “You’re not the only person trapped in the closet. All those guys in the military, stuck with don’task, don’t tell; other guys with macho jobs or religious families. Lots of guys are doing it.”

“But you don’t want to,” Mac acknowledged.

“It wouldn’t be my first choice, no. I’ve put a lot of effort and pain into being out so I wouldn’t have to hide. But I do want you, and I know that comes on your terms.”

“They’re not my terms,” Mac protested.

“Whatever. It comes with being secret and hiding whatever we have together. The question is whether that’s better than not having anything together.”

Mac wanted to shout that of course it was, but he bit his tongue.

Tony looked at him hard. “The other question you have to ask yourself is whether you want to take the risk. No matter how careful we are, you may get caught. A wrong look, a note in your pocket, someone tracking down your cell in an emergency; there are lots of ways this could come out in the open. It’s not a problem for me. But is that a risk that you want to take?”

Mac opened his mouth to say yes, and hesitated. How have I come this far this fast? He’d been willing to cut away anything in his life that risked his daughter Anna or the job. And sex had never been that important. But this wasn’t about sex; it was about Tony. And Tony had somehow become too important to cut away. It might hurt less to give up breathing.

“There’s never been anyone I could go to, to just be myself. I’ve never had a lover, or even a fuck-buddy. I thought I could live without that, but now… I don’t want to. Even with Mai, I wasn’t… I couldn’t relax completely. With you, I’m just me.”

“Yeah.” Tony smiled at him. “That’s part of being gay, you know. It’s not just who you want in bed. It’s who your emotional relationships are with the other twenty-three hours of the day, whose arms you want around you when life hands you shit.”

 

About the Author  

I get asked about my name a lot. It’s not something exotic, though. “Kaje” is pronounced just like “cage” – it’s an old nickname, and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I’ve been writing far longer than I care to admit (*whispers – forty-five years*), although mostly for my own entertainment. I write M/M romance, often with added mystery, fantasy, historical, SciFi, paranormal… I also have Young Adult short stories (some released under the pen name Kira Harp.)  

After decades of writing just for fun, my husband convinced me I really should submit something, somewhere. My first professionally published book, Life Lessons, came out in May 2011. I now have a good-sized backlist in ebooks and print, both free and professionally published, including Amazon bestseller The Rebuilding Year and Rainbow Award Best Mystery-Thriller Tracefinder: Contact. A complete list with links can be found on my website “Books” page at https://kajeharper.com/books/

 

 

Social Media Links

Audible Profile  |  Blog/Website  |  Newsletter Sign-up

FacebookFacebook Group: Kaje’s Conversation Corner  

Goodreads Author page  | BookBub

 

 

About the Narrator

JF Harding Facebook Page  |  Facebook Group

 

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Review: The Schoolmaster’s Spy by Ruby Moone

RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: The Schoolmaster’s Spy

Author: Ruby Moone 

Publisher: Self-Published 

Cover Artist: Meredith Russell 

Release Date: October 28, 2021 

Genre: Regency MM 

Tropes: School Crushes / King’s spy with trust issues & geeky school master 

Themes: Trust, love, finding a family, self-acceptance 

Heat Rating:  4 flames

Length: 93 000 words

It is book three in the Winsford Green Series and does not end on a cliffhanger.

Book 1 – Dances Long Forgotten

Book 2 – People Like Us 

Goodreads Series 

Review:

Dexter is a spy, who used to be deep in the trenches (so to speak) in France. Now the French war is over and he’s sent on other odd jobs, like looking for French spies on British soil. He meets up with his old instructor, back when he was a rambunctious youth, and there is INSTANT attraction. It’s cute how the playboy is immediately smitten with his old instructor, who is also equally taken by him.

I was drawn to this book, because like my recent release, it has the past student/teacher relationship that I adore. The story was sweet with not too much unnecessary drama (But it’s a book, so of course there is drama!), but in general, the two men get along and want to be honest and protect each other, and I appreciated that. The plot was a backdrop to watch these two get past the initial lie that was the foundation of their coming together and their eventual admission about with how they feel about each other. A delightful historical romance.

The book did have two properties that kept throwing me out of the story, though. My guess is most readers won’t even be bothered by these. First, though it’s historical, it was flush with modern sentimentality and expectations. Second, if I go by the statistics in this book, I’d guess about 80% of England at this time was gay. It appeared to be a bloodline trait as well.

Definitely a recommendation for those who enjoy gay historical romance. You get your HEA, sweet love, action, intrigue and above it all, Heroes.

Buy Links – Available in Kindle Unlimited

Universal Link   |  Amazon US  |   Amazon UK 

Mark Dexter was the one boy that schoolmaster, Felix Brook, never forgot. Ten years later, he’s back… 

Blurb

With Bonaparte defeated, King’s spy, Captain Mark Dexter is furious at being sent to investigate the latest headmaster of his old school, rather than a smuggling ring on the south coast. Things look up considerably when he realises that the schoolmaster he admired above all others, Felix Brook, is still there. The man who listened to him, the man who cared about him, the man who is still out of bounds. With only half an eye on the job, Dexter puts Felix in a compromising position. The mission goes catastrophically wrong, leaving Felix to bear the brunt of the repercussions. With his commanding officer after his blood, and Felix running from him, Dexter is desperate to put things right.

Felix Brook, schoolmaster, is devoted to Hestingley’s school and its pupils. His life is quiet and unremarkable, but When Mark Dexter turns up at an Old Boys’ dinner, he turns Felix’s life inside out. In the decade since he last saw him, the wild, unpredictable schoolboy has become a devastatingly handsome man. Felix can scarcely believe it when Dexter makes his attraction clear, it’s like a dream come true. Until it all goes wrong.

Reluctantly thrown together at the Winsford Green annual Summer Fete, Felix and Dexter attempt to piece together what happened, rebuild trust, and deal with the searing passion that still burns between them. When the truth is finally revealed, Felix must not only prove his innocence, but hold tightly to love as Dexter’s world crumbles beneath him.

Excerpt

Felix yelled aloud at the shock of running into someone in the dark corridor. A firm hand clamped over his mouth and Felix clutched the strong arm that held him. When the hand eased a little, he was wondering frantically what to say by way of explanation for his presence, when a wave of sandalwood mingled with leather hit him. There was only one person in the world who smelled like that. Only one person with that underlying scent of manliness. He swallowed and stared at the floor, gathering his composure. Why would Dexter be here? Why? The conclusion he drew both terrified and exhilarated him.

The hand over his mouth lifted and Felix had to make himself not lick his lips.

“Brook?” It was him. Mark Dexter was standing in front of him, one arm holding him tight. Felix had regretted not taking up the earlier, blatant invitation with every fibre of his being. Castigated himself as an abject looby for not responding with at least a smidgeon of sophistication and behaving like the insular, lonely schoolmaster he was.

“You followed me.” He hadn’t a clue what else to say.

“Is that what you think?”

Felix had to look up at that. “Well, why else are you here?”

Moonlight shone through the window beside them, casting a ghostly glow over Dexter’s head, making his hair look darker and his eyes gleam.

“Why else indeed,” Dexter whispered and stepped closer. Felix’s instinct was to run, but he held his ground. This was probably the last chance he would get to spend time with him. Who was he fooling? Spend time? He didn’t want to spend time, he wanted to… Well, he didn’t know what in God’s name he wanted but it involved Captain Mark Dexter in his rooms. In his bed, leaning over him, kissing him, feeling the weight of him. Christ, he wanted him naked.

“Do you want me to leave?” Dexter was so close he could feel the warmth from his body.

This was it. All he had to do was say ‘yes’ and he was sure that Dexter would leave. He had done so last time.

“Mr. Brook?”

“My name is Felix,” he said, surprised at how deep and rough his voice was.

A smile spread across Dexter’s sculpted features. “Felix,” he whispered as though tasting the word on his tongue.

“You can’t be calling me Mr. Brook. That man was your teacher.”

“And this man, Felix?”

Felix shivered as Dexter moved closer. He touched his nose to Felix’s ear and the breath left Felix’s chest. His eyes fluttered closed, his mouth opened on a soundless word, and he leaned into the contact.

Dexter’s hand slid around Felix’s waist, and he pulled him a tiny bit nearer. He pushed his nose against Felix’s cheek and nuzzled. Felix felt the soft warmth of his breath, the scent of his skin, and the latent strength in the body that stood so, so close.

“Might this man, Felix, be my lover for tonight?”

About the Author

Ruby Moone lives in the wilds of Lancashire with her husband and writes historical and contemporary romance. At school, her teachers said that she lived with her head in the clouds and if she didn’t stop daydreaming she would never get anywhere. She never did stop daydreaming, and after years of happily living in the clouds, decided to write the stories down.

Social Media links

Facebook Page  |  Facebook Group – Ruby’s Room  

Twitter  |  Instagram  |  Tumblr

Webpage and Newsletter sign up

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Review: Best Laid Plaids


Best Laid Plaids (Kilty Pleasures) by Ella Stainton

Rating: 5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | Carina Press | Kobo

Length: Novel (283 pages)

As a Scotch/Irish descendent, I was drawn to the delightfully fun title of this book. This book hits the ground running in a superbly masterful unveiling of character balancing fun, heat, and the struggles of hiding one’s true feelings. Once I picked it up, I found it difficult to set aside.

Dr. Ainsley Graham is a wealthy Scot, full of energy, who jumps from bedmate to bedmate in an era where it’s illegal to love other men. Oh, and he hears ghosts. Joachim Cockburn is the older man, a student of psychology, coming to prove Ainsley is a bit off his rocker due to his belief in ghosts.

The steam hits early, but the characters go back and forth, trying to hide their growing feelings for each other. Ainsley is a playboy, and Joachim doesn’t want to push him away by revealing his attachment. Together they cross the Scottish countryside looking for ghosts, grasping at intimate moments while convincing themselves it will all end in a week.

The culture and world building really bring Scotland and the characters alive on the page. Ainsley’s grief and guilt about his dead brother keeps him from reaching out and getting close to other people. Joachim’s desire to get his phd and make something of himself works against his realization that Ainsley isn’t mad. There really are ghosts.

The ghosts flit in and out of the story and play a major role for the characters’ growth and the plot, but I’d have loved a bit more play with them. Hopefully in the next story, well see more ghosts.

Note: this is a Dom/sub style story, but it’s not whips and chains BDSM. The dynamics unfold naturally and fit the characters in believable ways. It hits on some hurt comfort, facing falling in love, loyalty, all in a post WWI historical atmosphere.

Guest Post: Aldrea Alien author of To Target the Heart (Spellster Series Book 2)

Book Title: To Target the Heart (Spellster Series Book 2)

Author: Aldrea Alien

Cover Artist: Leonardo Borazio

World Building

Building the Kingdom of Tirglas

One of the things I love about high fantasy, both in writing and reading, is the world building. From landscapes, to weather, to history and politics… everything is free game. But it’s also a lot of work, even though my newest release, To Target the Heart, is part of the spellster series and set in the Known World (which consists of a single giant continent and a few outlying islands).

The story itself involves a pair of princes from two realms that might as well be oil and water. Prince Hamish of the Mathan Clan is from the rustic Kingdom of Tirglas, whereas Darshan vris Mhanek comes from the gluttonous Udynea Empire.

The latter was fleshed out a fair bit whilst I wrote In Pain and Blood (which was set elsewhere, but clashed with Udynea), but Tirglas had little fleshed out beyond it being a largely rural place full of forests and home to big people that kind of spoke with a brogue. That was all right when the kingdom was a faraway land the MC had only academic knowledge of, not so much when the story is set there.

So, off I went to craft me a new kingdom.

It became obvious to me quite early on that there’d be a fair few differences between the two lands. Tirglas is a kingdom that abhors slavery and confines its spellsters, whereas Udynea is widely known for slavery and its nobility is full of spellsters. Added to how Tirglas leans heavily on its Scottish and Celtic influences whilst Udynea influences come from several cultures (sprinkles of India, Ancient Rome, a dash of Victorian England being the top three)… a few clashes and misunderstandings were bound to happen.

I already knew Tirglas’ history was full of clan skirmishes, border disputes, plagues and even an almost complete extermination of the royal line during a coup (I had fleshed out that information whilst writing In Pain and Blood). I tend to build as I write when it comes to new worlds, but I couldn’t quite get to the underbelly of Tirglas as swiftly as I had done with Udynea or Demarn. I especially couldn’t find the reason why Hamish’s mother was so virulently against him being with a guy (beyond her obvious longing to control everyone and everything) except for a vague mention of ancient scriptures.

Following that thread had me reaching a point where facts finally started to knit together, leading me to a history of deep-seated homophobia throughout the kingdom as a whole that it has yet to fully shake off. Just like the real world, the outlook isn’t universal.

When I reached the knowledge that a certain law legalising their deaths was abolished only half a century back… it coloured a lot of the world building; be it how Hamish sees himself, the individual reactions of his family, their deity’s views on such unions, or even how people see an innocent kiss between the two MCs. Alongside this serious core, I mixed in details that sounded more-or-less innocuous without that knowledge and ran with it.

And that is how I wound up with a rural, magic-confining kingdom that’s still struggling to adapt under the rule of a controlling, homophobic queen.


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How can he win with the odds stacked against him?

 

Blurb 

Prince Hamish has no interest in fulfilling his duty of marrying. Not to a woman, at least. That doesn’t stop his mother, Queen Fiona, from presenting him with every eligible noblewoman that enters their castle. He’s certain it’ll be no different with the representative of the Udynea Empire.

So when they do arrive, Hamish is relieved the imperial prince, Darshan, is not the woman everyone expected. Until the man kisses him and Hamish is confronted by the very emotions he has been forced to conceal or be punished for. Emotions he is eager to explore.

But the kiss proves to be a little too public and leads his mother to take drastic measures to ensure Hamish adheres to her family vision. The contest of arms will force Hamish to make a choice: give up his happiness for convention’s sake or send the kingdom spiralling into civil war for the right to love his own way.

 

About the Author 

Aldrea Alien is an award-winning, bisexual author of fantasy romance with varying heat levels. Born and raised in New Zealand, she lives on a small farm with her family, including a menagerie of animals, who are all convinced they’re just as human as the next person. Especially the cats. Since discovering a love of writing at the age of twelve, she hasn’t found an ounce of peace from the characters plaguing her mind with all of them clamouring for her to tell their story first.

 

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Release Blitz – Space Fox by L.M. Brown

RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Space Fox (G-Force Federation Book 1)

Author: L.M. Brown

Publisher: Self-published

Cover Artist: Fantasia Frog Designs

Release Date: January 31, 2020

Genre/s: M/M Sci-fi Shifter MPreg romance

Trope/s: MPreg, biological urge to mate

Themes: Sacrifice for the one you love, forced together

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 54,000 words

This is part of a shared universe series and Space Fox is the first to be released.

It is a standalone story.

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US | Amazon UK

 

 

Protecting his shifter from threats is easy, but can he protect him from his own ambition?

Blurb

As part of the G-Force Federation, gargoyle Jude is a newly promoted pilot eager to prove himself on his first solo assignment. Unfortunately, his plans go awry when his craft is shot down, leaving him stranded in the desert.

Kirby is a fennec fox shifter on the desert world of Cairo. When Jude’s ship comes under attack he races to help him, and after the crash he offers to guide him back to the base.

Their journey across the harsh desert is fraught with dangers, one of which is the lure of Kirby’s scent as he goes into heat for the first time. Jude’s protective attitude towards him pushes all the right buttons with Kirby, and it doesn’t take much for him to persuade the gargoyle to be his first lover.

When Kirby discovers he is pregnant they know one of them will have to make a sacrifice if they want to raise their baby together, but can either of them give up everything they have ever known?

 

Excerpt

Jude almost tripped over Kirby when the young shifter did a sudden about-face, darted through his legs, and crouched behind him.

“What is it?” He kept his voice low. Something must have startled Kirby, and he trusted the shifter’s hearing to be far more acute than his own.

He took a few steps, cautiously scanning their surroundings.

By keeping a close eye on the direction Kirby appeared to be focusing on, he was ready for company. The two fennec foxes were larger than Kirby and had a haggard appearance that told of fights and rough living.

Kirby growled and hunched lower.

Jude crouched and placed a hand on Kirby’s furry back. “I don’t like the look of them either,” he whispered. “Do you want me to carry you?”

Kirby hesitated for a moment, before shaking his head and shifting back to human form.

The two newcomers did likewise. The change didn’t improve their appearances. They were older than Kirby, perhaps in their thirties. The larger of them leered at Kirby. “It must be our lucky day. Such a ripe little treasure crossing our path.” He sniffed loudly. “Ah, yes, and untasted. There’s nothing like being the first.”

Jude didn’t like the sound of that, and from Kirby’s shiver, neither did he. He took a step in front of Kirby. “Back off.”

“Stay out of this, human.”

Jude felt Kirby’s hands on his arm, the grip tight. “Don’t worry Kirby, I won’t let them hurt you.”

“You hear that, Sandy? He thinks we want to hurt him.”

Sandy laughed and shook his head. “No, we’re going to make him feel good. I mean, it might hurt him a little, since it’s his first time, but he’ll get over that quick enough.”

Kirby whimpered and Jude reached behind to give him a reassuring pat. “You won’t touch him.”

Sandy smirked. “Do you think you can stop us? His scent is a beacon, drawing us to him—along with every other fennec fox for miles around.”

Jude glanced over his shoulder. Kirby’s expression was one of fear and… guilt? “What is it, Kirby?”

The shifter hung his head. “I’m sorry. I hoped we would make it back to my den before I went into heat.”

“You mean you didn’t realise it was so soon?” Jude asked. He had been able to tell how close Kirby’s heat was from the day they’d met. How had the shifter not realised?

Kirby nodded. “Back on Earth, my kind used to go into heat at certain times of the year, but on this world the seasons are different and it’s hard to tell when one finishes and another starts. Predicting your first heat is kind of hit and miss.”

Sandy coughed to get their attention. “As nice as it is that you’re educating the ignorant human, I’d rather we just get down to business. Right, Flick?”

Flick nodded. “Who gets the honour of going first?”

“You went first last time, so it’s my turn,” Sandy replied.

“But last time it wasn’t such a fresh piece as now. Who went first the last time it was one like him?”

Jude backed up a little, urging Kirby along with him. Maybe they could make a run for it while the two of them were arguing.

They made it about five meters before Sandy noticed.

In a flash the shifter pounced towards them, Flick right behind him.

Jude pushed Kirby out of their way and altered his stance, ready to take on the two shifters. He might not know everything about shifters and their heats, but he knew more than enough about fighting to protect the innocent to handle this pair of would-be rapists.

He concentrated his energy and hardened his body, letting Sandy hit him just as he turned his chest to stone. Other than a slight tearing of the seams of his shirt, the partial shift didn’t cause too much damage to his clothes. The same could not be said for Sandy’s fist.

The shifter screamed and clutched his hand to his chest. “What are you?”

Jude grinned. “I’m one charged with protecting the inhabitants of this world. And Kirby is under my protection.”

Sandy glared at him. “You’re not human or shifter.”

“No, I’m not.”

Flick, who had stalled his assault at the last moment, drew near. “I think I know what he is. There were stories, from back on Earth, about his kind. Hideous creatures of stone, who had the ability to take human form. They were even rarer than shifters. They were known as gargoyles.”

Jude wondered briefly what the stories said about his kind. From the look of hesitation on Flick’s face, he suspected not all of them were flattering. Not that the reputation of the gargoyles mattered to Jude, in fact it helped to have a fearsome reputation.

 

 

About the Author

L.M. Brown is an English writer of gay romances.

She believes mermen live in the undiscovered areas of the ocean.

She believes life exists on other planets.

She believes in fairy tales, magic, and dreams.

Most of all, she believes in love.

When L.M. Brown isn’t bribing her fur babies for control of the laptop, she can usually be found with her nose in a book.

She loves hearing from readers and can be contacted

via her website or by email at lmbrownauthor@gmail.com

 

Social Media Links

Website | Facebook

 

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Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts here

 

Review: Hathonatum by Taylin Clavelli

Hathonatum by Taylin Clavelli

Rating: 4 stars
Buy Link:
 Publisher: MLR Press | Smashwords

Length: Novel (~300 pages)

An interesting take on star-crossed lovers. A soulmate story that crosses dimensions. This review is littered with spoilers, so beware. Long story short, a very sweet romance with some great characters and fantastic world building.

I was drawn to this novel for two reasons. I love Egypt and the mythology and history of that country. The other was the promise of interspecies romance. Taylin delivered beautifully on both. Her research and knowledge of Egypt shone in this novel and in her interview, she talks about her own love for Egypt. And while Hathonatum isn’t all that different from humans, there are definite differences between biology, culture, and world.

Ben is an archaeologist and one of the reasons he’s drawn to Egypt is that in his past life he was the king’s consort of a sort. And Hathonatum (in a very interesting way I won’t go into to avoid too many spoilers) was that king.

The worldbuilding really shines in this story with the layers of past lives, soul mates, and alien cultures. It seems like a huge mash up, but it works.

Ben, the human, knows what he wants. And when he meets Hathonatum, he knows this is the man he’s been waiting for. They are drawn together. Hathonatum was there specifically for Ben, because he knows Ben is his soulmate. Hathonatum is the capable, older, confident man of the relationship, but doesn’t bully Ben. There is support and love.

Though the story has one (unnecessary in my opinion) relationship set back, for the most part there isn’t much relationship angst. (Ugh relationship angst… not my fave.). The conflict is with the world out there, with other characters, with other aliens with agendas, it isn’t between the two main relationship characters. So, cheers for that.

Ben’s brother is a pretty significant character in this book. Jared is awesome and supportive and makes me wish I had a sibling like him. Their closeness is a gem and how they will do anything for each other. I’m happy to see strong family support.

My biggest gripe has nothing to do with the relationship, but one aspect of the worldbuilding. I had issues with the time slip between dimensions. I’m wondering if I missed some vital clue in my reading. So an hour in Hathonatum’s dimension is a week or so on Earth. But we have a couple where one half is on this side and the other half is on that side, but there is no problem with the time slip with them. I didn’t understand why. There was another issue with DNA sequencing to make earthlings and Hathonatum’s people age at the same rate (apparently Hathonatum’s people are very long lived)… but I wasn’t sure if this was attached to the time slip, and if so, why would it matter if the human was in the other dimension. It seems he would age at the speed of whatever time he was in (see author’s comment explaining where I got it wrong!). So, those two things kinda nagged at me, but if you’re not picky about details like these, they shouldn’t bother you to enjoying this romantic story as a whole.

I wanted more closure on Jared getting the King’s DNA (for the aging issue mentioned above) and what exactly that meant. Lots of hubbaloo and hinting with no actual follow through. Then I found out this was book one of a series, and I’m betting this is going to continue in the next book, which has me excited and eager to find out what is up with the DNA sharing!

All in all, a satisfying story and a fairly smooth read. The characters are likable, you want to root for the romance, and the world is interesting. Interesting teasers for what might be unveiled in the next book. Definitely worth a read to anyone interested in star-crossed/soulmate type stories.

Check out Taylin’s guest post on why she chose Egypt as her settling! Guest Post Taylin Clavelli