Author Interview

Friday Favourites with Dal Maclean

00:00

It's time for my Friday Favourites post and today I'm very excited to welcome Dal Maclean, author of m/m crime mystery romance, on my blog. Her second book, Object of Desire, was just released and it's a compelling murder mystery with strong romantic elements (and HFN ending!) which I absolutely adored. Read on to get to know Dal better and learn more about her book. 


Friday Favourites
I’m going to be completely useless at this because I don’t do absolutes well. I just don’t have ‘a favourite’ in most things. So please bear with me while I waffle?

1. Favourite place: Uuuum. This isn’t a good start. I’m shuffling because I don’t have one exactly. It depends? I love London and New York. Anywhere in the US really. Oxford. Singapore (specifically Raffles - yowser). The Dordogne in France. Sydney. Laos. Java. Hong Kong. Tokyo’s brilliant. Or my garden. My garden would be the easy choice.

2. Favourite food and drink: squirming in agony. Ummm. At this second, oranges and dark chocolate. And drink… I’ll go with cocktails of any description.

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song: It depends -- again. I love bits of just about everything from classical and opera through blues to rock, pop, R& B. I probably like indie/alternative rock best though. I’ll go with what I’m listening to right now which is The Heavy who’re Indie/Blues rock. “Same Old” and ‘Short Change Hero’. But it could be a totally different tomorrow.
 -
4. Favourite movie/TV series:  I’m going to fail at this one tooooo…. TV - I love old-fashioned British mysteries and also police procedurals like Marple, Poirot, Morse, Lewis and Endeavour. Also harder core stuff like The Fall, Line of Duty, Broadchurch etc. I really love some sci-fi like Firefly. But currently I’m watching Lucifer and its oddly… compulsive. Movies - I like film noir as a whole. I love ‘The Uninvited’ (the b & w one) ‘The Name of the Rose’, ‘Presumed Innocent’, ‘My Cousin Vinnie’... I love the new Sherlock Holmes movies (the R Downey ones) and some of the Marvel stuff for pure entertainment value… I’m no use at this am I?

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby: I think probably gardening. It’s a mix of creativity, nurturing/science/practicality and hard work (Hey- that was actually a straight answer!)

6. Favourite books:
Argh. This is so hard. Non fiction - I read history books. One I love a lot is ‘The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England’ by Ian Mortimer. It was such a clever concept to show not tell how alien so many aspects and attitudes of the distant past can be. I’m currently reading something that’s not history though -- “Mistakes Were Made. (But not by me)” which is a superb analysis of the lengths we go to to avoid admitting to ourselves we got things wrong.
In fiction, I read mysteries mainly – murder ones, supernatural ones. I like tension, a puzzle, suspense to keep me hooked -- something to figure out and hopefully a surprise. I’m trying to catch up on the Harry Hole books by Jo Nesbo, which everyone else read years ago. In MM, I read across the genre to see what’s up. So to speak. Theres so much great writing and story telling in MM. But if I have to choose one I think my fave MM of all time ever ever, is probably The Adrien English series by Josh Lanyon

7. Please introduce your latest/upcoming release
It’s called ‘Object of Desire’ and its set in London and in the same universe as my first and only other book to date, ‘Bitter Legacy’. But it’s not a sequel. This one is a psychological thriller/mystery/romance and its much less of a slow build than ‘Bitter Legacy’ in that the core events take place over a matter of days, as opposed to months.
The point-of-view character is a successful model called Tom Gray who finds his life beginning to disintegrate around him after the death of his female boss. And he has to turn for help to the man he cut out of his life two years before.
I'd say the book explores among other things the power of manipulation; the limited returns of celebrity, despite our idealization of it; the psychology of emotional self-protection driven by fear of vulnerability – and the hard reality that we can never be sure we truly know someone else.  Most of all though, I really hope it’s a page turner.

Blurb

Tom Gray is one of the world's top models–an effortless object of desire. Self-contained, elusive and always in control, he's accustomed to living life entirely on his own terms. But when Tom comes under suspicion in the gory death of his employer, his world spirals into chaos.
Someone's framing him. Someone's stalking him. And as old secrets come to light, Tom finds his adversary always one step ahead. 
Will Foster is the only man Tom trusts to help. But Tom brutally burned all bridges between them two years before, and Will paid a bitter price. If he wants to survive, Tom must prove his innocence to Will–and to the world.

  Buy links: Amazon / Smashwords 

Author Bio and Links
  
Dal Maclean comes from Scotland. Her background is in journalism, and she has an undying passion for history, the more gossipy and scandalous the better. Dal has lived in Asia and worked all over the world, but home is now the UK. She dislikes the Tragic Gay trope, but loves imperfect characters and genuine emotional conflict in romantic fiction. As an author, and a reader, she believes it’s worth a bit of work to reach a happy ending. Agatha Christie, English gardens and ill-advised cocktails are three fatal weaknesses, though not usually at the same time.

Her first book, "Bitter Legacy", was a 2017 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for best Gay Mystery and was chosen by the American Libraries Association for their 2018 Over The Rainbow Recommended Books List. 


Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ainslie Paton

Review: Love Coupon by Ainslie Paton

00:00

Title: The Love Coupon (Stubborn Hearts #2)
Author: Ainslie Paton 
Genre: Contemporary romance, Roommates 

Release Date: 2 Oct 2017 

Author's links:


Add on Goodreads
My rating: 3 Stars

Blurb

How many coupons does it take to fall in love?

Flick Dalgetty knows what she wants and how to get it, which is why she’s about to start her dream job in Washington. Until then, she needs somewhere to crash, and Tom O’Connell’s place is her sole option. He’s a repressed, antisocial ogre…but man can he kiss.

For Tom, being around Flick is like being too close to the sun. Her untamed energy is overwhelming, and he’d spontaneously combust if he had to live with her long-term. Housemates with benefits—and an expiration date—suits him just fine. 

Then Flick gives Tom thirty coupons, each entitling him to one obligation-free activity, from bowling and bubble-bathing to morning delight, removing all the guesswork from being incompatible partners and shifting their fling into high gear.

Now the problem is their arrangement is drawing to a close, and they might be falling in love—and there wasn’t a coupon for that. 

Review

I loved the first book in the series and after a somewhat shaky start and ended up enjoying this one  too.

It's a forced proximity, opposites attract kind of romance. She is impulsive, messy and a whirlwind of emotions while he is restrained, reserved, a stickler for order and planning.

It was she who took all the initiative - pushed to become his roommate, then offered a roommates with benefits type of arrangement. Flick leaving for a job of her dreams in two months and Tom having professional plan firmly set where he is, put an expiration date on their affair. And while they were fine with it initially, slowly both get to want more from each other

My main issue is that I felt she was too pushy at the beginning,  and while I do see how it was a game they both willingly played, still it made me uncomfortable at times, her insistence for him to let go emotionally and physically when they were together might have been what he needed but I also read it as she knew better than him what would make him happy, it appeared like she was ignoring his limits, the restraints he had imposed on himself. I think his consent in a couple of sexual situation early in their relationship was not as explicit and clear as it should have been and this put me on edge.

I quite liked Tom, he was caring, and considerate. He followed the rules and expected the others to do so too but in his personal and in his professional life. Becoming a bit more spontaneous, adaptive to changing circumstances was god for him in the end though I'm not fully convinced Flick's approach to this was the right one.

In a way they both helped each other become better - he taught her a much needed control and distance in her relationship with her family, while she showed him it's ok to trust your heart and not have everything planned.

The  coupon game was fun but it did come a bit late in the story, after 50%. It gave them the safe distance to work through their feelings and allowed them to really get to know each other and fall in love.

The ending was sweet and very romantic but a bit rushed and I felt it was slightly out of character for them both. I have no doubt is was the right decision and a well deserved HEA but I wanted it to be  more fitting to their personalities as I saw them in the rest of the story. I would have loved an epilogue showing them after a couple of months living together.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks

#rombklove

#RomBkLove day 14: Family

03:00


Family is really important for me in real life and I appreciate seeing different family dynamics in my romances. Sometimes the family is that pillar of unwavering support and strength that the hero and heroine need, in others - the family is what causes the tension between the MCs. Give me real, vibrant families who mess up but also learn and grow and change in the same way the main characters in the story. 

I will list some romances where the family and how it was presented/its role in the story has stuck with me. The families in them function in different ways but for me they are all memorable and they added a lot to the main romantic arc in the story.

I'm starting with Laura Florand's La Vie en Rose series where she explores a wide variety of family dynamics - a single (distant) parent, big loving families, sibling rivalry but also support and encouragement. She entwines her characters' stories in the larger historical context of descendants of WWII heroes (and traitors). Seeing the way the past has shaped the present and and how it affects the next generation adds a whole new layer in these romances. 

In her novella Snow-Kissed she examines a marriage in trouble which is rarely found in romance and the other novella in the series, Sun-Kissed has two older characters with grown-up falling in love. 

Alisha Rai's series, Forbidden Hearts, is a family saga type of romance. It's the complex and volatile relations between two families that lay at the center of the stories. We see revenge, guilt, childhood friends and enemies all making the romances between the MCs more than a challenge. 

Penny Reid's Winston Brothers is a series of romcoms about a a family of 6 brothers and 1 sister. I very much like how the author plays with stereotypes and readers' expectations in these books. 

Jill Shalvis also writes great families in her contemporary small-town romances. I love the banter, the true friendship, being always there for each other and at the same time not hesitating to call the other person out on their mistakes. Wilder series focuses on three brothers running a company organising mountain adventures, Cedar Ridge is another series centred around siblings which I greatly enjoyed. 

Next I want to share some of my favourite romances with  found families. I'd say found families are by far more common in queer romance but they also happen in m/f romances. 

One such example for me would be the three heroines in Kate Calyborn's Chance of a Lifetime series. They are more than close friends, they are each other's family (their relationships with their bio families are complicated and the women give each other the love and support they need and lack from their bio families). 

I also think of the queer characters in KJ Charles's Society of Gentlemen and Sins of the Cities series form their own families. Most of them are not completely rejected by their bio families but they have to hide their true selves and who they love. They can only be themselves with their friends and can fully rely on them and this makes them a found family in my eyes. 

Nathan Burgoine creates a remarkable found family in his Christmas novella, Handmade Holidays. It's during the holidays that the lack of family hurts the most and having close friends to share your joy (and sorrow) with again and again through the years is a remarkable, precious thing. 

My last recommendation is a romance with a mix of bio and found family which I consider absolutely amazing. This is Dear Mona Lisa by Al Steward and Claire Davis, contemporary m/m romance with two older men finding love, one of them facing coming out as gay to his college-aged daughter. We see different family connections at play in this longish novella, there is hurt and pain caused by homophobic parents, but also love and support by colleagues and friends. It's very moving, both heart-breaking and heart-warming. 

I could continue with more recommendations but I'm curious to see what your favoruite romances with memorable families are. What kind of family dynamics do you enjoy reading the most?


Author Interview

Friday Favourites with Lynn Turner

00:00

It's Friday Favourites time again and release day for Pas de Deux, my guest's Lynn Turner, second book. Read on to learn more about Lynn and her book which is ownvoices contemporary romance starring a Black ballerina and the dancer-turned-choreographer who fell for her. It's a brilliant romance which I enjoyed very much and will be reviewing on the blog next week. So, go read this book and see some mesmerising dance performances put into words. 



Meet Lynn

1. Favourite place

Big Island, Hawaii. Black sand. Giant sea turtles. Tons of little pockets of space to get lost in. 

2. Favourite food and drink 

Chocolate and wine go together like me and my pillow.

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song

Oh my gosh, I swear this changes every day. Spotify is my happy place. Lately, I’m obsessed with anything by Banks, Labrinth, Kehlani, Alessia Cara, Andrew Belle and Alina Baraz.

4. Favourite movie/TV series 

Pride & Prejudice! The movie from 2005, the series from 1995 (hello, Colin Firth). No matter what new show or movie I fall in love with, it never seems to top P&P.

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby 

I’ve been drawing a lot more lately, and my proportions when drawing faces are improving. I fancy myself an artiste now. 😉 

6. Favourite books 

Oh God, this gives me anxiety in the best way, hahaha. ::takes deep breath::

Romantic comedy: 
Anything by Emma Hart, Talia Hibbert, Lucy Parker, or Penny Reid. Their stories make a fool of me in public places, laughing aloud and talking to the characters. I’m looking forward to reading A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole.

Emotional terrorism:
Kennedy Ryan, Brittainy Cherry and Jessica Hawkins. I have to take breaks as I read their stories because I drown in my feelings.

Classics:
The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer, Pride & Prejudice (SHOCKER, I know), historicals by Kathleen Woodiwiss and Beverly Jenkins. Octavia Butler’s world building in her science fiction novels makes me weep.

7. Please introduce your latest/upcoming release (what inspired you to write, what can the readers expect from it, etc.)

I am so excited to introduce Pas De Deux to readers! As the subtitle suggests, “pas de deux” means “a dance for two.” I’ve wanted to write a ballet romance for a long time but didn’t out of sheer terror because I’ve never danced and the choreography and lifestyle, while intriguing, felt so intimidating. Then one day, I watched Misty Copeland’s “A Ballerina’s Tale” on Netflix and a story slowly started to take shape in my mind. I was so moved by Misty’s journey to success, and her unique experiences as a black ballerina, that writing a black ballerina became like air for me: I needed to do it. I was also inspired by the movie, “The Cutting Edge,” because of the amazing sparring and sexual chemistry between the leads. 

Readers can expect a journey of two damaged souls brought together by love for their art. Mina and Zack bump heads a lot, but their story is peppered with humor and little moments of recognition that were so fulfilling to write.

Blurb

It's said the artist is born of a damaged soul…

Wilhelmina Allende is a prima ballerina. When tragedy turns her beloved Paris into a gilded cage, she jumps at the chance to work with one of the most prolific choreographers she’s ever seen. But Zack’s style is way out of her comfort zone. So is his teaching method. And his humor. And his everything. He’s a charming little connard. It’s hard not to like him. Merde. What has she gotten herself into?

Zachary Coen’s first musical is opening on Broadway. Much like his life, it’s anything but conventional, so hiring Mina is simply out of the question. She’s too…classical. Too perfect. She’s all wrong for the role. Then he meets her in person and sees her cracks. Her broken pieces. How unique and beautiful each one is. And he can’t help but notice how her edges seem to fit his…perfectly.

Just when teaming up seems to be working, the monsters they’ve kept hidden threaten to rip it all apart.

Add on Goodreads
Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / iBooks 


Author Bio and Links

Lynn Turner is dedicated to writing inclusive stories that explore what it means to be imperfectly human. She is convinced she would have made a great Gilmore Girl, that writing about herself in third-person is weird, and that Colin Firth is the best Mr. Darcy (don’t fight her on this). When she isn’t writing and adulting, she’s tackling her monstrous TBR list, TV-binging, traveling, or watching old Samantha Brown travelogue videos and wishing she had her job. She and her husband share their home in California with their two extraordinary children and their sometimes cat, Bowie.


Historical Romance

Review: The Henchmen of Zenda by KJ Charles

04:24

Title: The Henchmen of Zenda
Author: K. J. Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical, MM romance
Release Date: 15 May 2018

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook Group / Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars

Blurb

Swordfights, lust, betrayal, murder: just another day for a henchman.

Jasper Detchard is a disgraced British officer, now selling his blade to the highest bidder. Currently that's Michael Elphberg, half-brother to the King of Ruritania. Michael wants the throne for himself, and Jasper is one of the scoundrels he hires to help him take it. But when Michael makes his move, things don’t go entirely to plan—and the penalty for treason is death.

Rupert of Hentzau is Michael's newest addition to his sinister band of henchmen. Charming, lethal, and intolerably handsome, Rupert is out for his own ends—which seem to include getting Jasper into bed. But Jasper needs to work out what Rupert’s really up to amid a maelstrom of plots, swordfights, scheming, impersonation, desire, betrayal, and murder.

Nobody can be trusted. Everyone has a secret. And love is the worst mistake you can make.

A retelling of the swashbuckling classic The Prisoner of Zendafrom a very different point of view.

Review 

This is a wonderful adventure romance in the veins of Dumas's The Three Musketeers but queer. It's fun and full of court intrigue and treason and sword fighting and an engaging romance between an older experienced gay man and a charming younger bi man

This story is a wild ride from the start. It's told form Jasper's POV, a jaded and disillusioned henchman who is loyal to his friends and the people he cares about. He is comfortable with who he is, absolutely unashamed and unrepentant about his life choices.

Rupert is dashing, vibrant, full of life and dreaming of having all the adventures. I loved how his bisexuality was very much present in the story and it was not an issue for anyone. He was a flamboyant flirt, yet he lacked experience with men and was willing to learn everything from Jasper.

I won't be going into details about the mystery plot of the story in order to avoid spoilers. All I can say it was very engaging and full of twists and turns and just when I thought I had an idea where things would go, the author took them in a completely different direction.

I find the theme of kindness and loyalty a recurring idea in KJ Charles's books and it had a central place here too. Jasper and Rupert are mercenaries yet they both value kindness and try not to do excessive harm, they don't enjoy violence for its own sake, but view it as a means to an end. They are both happy and comfortable with the lifestyle they have chosen for themselves (another common theme in KJ's books - the free to choose and shape your own life regardless of family obligations and other people's expectations of you).

And the story ends with the most perfect epilogue - love comes in various forms and the only thing that matter is for everyone involved to feel happy and satisfied, then all can be right in their own little world, and to some extend in the larger world too.

Flickr Images