Friday Favourites

Friday Favourites: Laura Bailo

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After getting some lovely notes from blog readers saying how much they enjoyed the Friday Favourites posts I decided to re-start them. I'm very happy to welcome as my first gust in this new edition of the feature, Laura Bailo, author of queer fiction. You can learn more about her and her debut mm romance, The Sun Also Rises in her New and Debut post  from this spring. Today she shares some of her favourite things in the world and introduces the just released collection of 10 lesbian/bisexual paranormal stories, The Holy Company.


Friday Favourites 

Thank you so much for having me, Ellie! I’m excited to take the seat and answer your questions, though I admit I may curse once or twice along the way. 

1. Favourite place: in the entire world? That’s a difficult one. I love Pamplona, and I think I’m lucky to live here. It’s a beautiful city and I really enjoy walking around and showing it off to people when they visit. Within the city itself I’d say my favourite place is the old town – and there’s a café I really love called Café Iruña, right in the city centre. I love sitting there, drinking coffee and watching people come and go. 

Outside of Pamplona, I visited Edinburgh a few years ago and fell completely in love with the city. I’m dying to visit again. 

2. Favourite food and drink: drink is easy – coffee. I’ve been trying to drink less, and I’ve actually managed to go from 5 cups a day to two most days, although there are still days when I’ll have three or four (don’t tell anyone!) As for food… I don’t think I have a favourite? I love cooking, and I love food. If I had to choose, though, I’d probably be a tie between a Spanish omelette and my mum’s chicken in almond sauce. 

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song: you know? The other day I noticed that I don’t listen to music as much as I did before. I remember my university years I couldn’t live without music; I was always listening to something and singing along. I don’t think I’ve listened to anything new in months. I’ve always been a rock lover, so I’ll go with that. 

4. Favourite movie/TV series: this changes from time to time, and I’ve got a lot of favourites. I’ve been watching Stargate SG-1 lately, and loving it. And I can always rewatch the BBc’s versions of Merlin and Sherlock. And of course there’s Doctor Who! But please don’t make me choose a movie, we’ll be here forever! 

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby: as much as I grumble and stress over writing, it’s more than a hobby to me; it’s something I need to do to keep myself sane, it’s a part of who I am. When it comes to hobbies, I love board games, and doing puzzles. And reading, I couldn’t live without books.

6. Favourite books: this may be the most difficult question yet. I’m going to go with recent reads, or we’ll be here forever. I love Matthew J. Metzger, and I’ve loved most of what I’ve read by him, but I recently read Private and outright adored it, especially the dad – the clueless dad that loved his sons no matter what, even if he didn’t understand things. Jigs and Reels by Leigh M. Lorien was a lovely novella that I enjoyed a lot, with a permanent smile while reading. Right now I’m reading the Chaos Station series by Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen, and while it’s killing me and making me cry, it’s a series that will stay with me for a long time. Team Phison by Chace Verity made me happy; I read it in one sitting and I adored the characters and the way their relationship developed. And I’ve also recently read the two books available of the Hong Kong Nights series by JC Long and those kept me glued to the page, waiting to see what would happen next. I made it to five right? I’m going to leave it there or I could be talking books all day.


Into the Mystic, vol. 2, an anthology of 10 lesbian/bisexual paranormal short stories, featuring the following authors: Elna Holst, Valentine Wheeler, A. Fae, Sita Bethel, CC Bridges, Laura Bailo, Jacqueline Rohrbach, MK Hardy, Lina Langley, TS Porter

It was released on Oct 16 by Nine Star Press.


Green Love – Have you heard about the aspen clone in the heart of Blackwood forest? Some say it’s enchanted, while others…
Dead Letter – Signed, sealed, delivered…or was it?
Seaside Escape – Just because it's been done for generations doesn't mean it should be.
Dressed in Wolf Skin – She was never particularly fond of werewolves, but she hated skinwalkers.
Unraveled – Summer can hack their magic, but she can't hack her own heart.
The Holy Company – On an ancient holy path, they will come face to face with one of the local legends.
Vampire Hours – One’s a vampire. The other is human. One wants forever. The other wants everything to end.
To the Sea – Sometimes you just have to hold your breath and dive in.
Holy Water – She might be the most dangerous being in the world, but Clara is still in love with her.
Lighthouse Five – Is it possible for a mermaid and a human to build a relationship?

Add to Goodreads / Buy links: Nine Star / Amazon

Laura Bailo’s story: The Holy Company

Sophie curses the day she said yes to Anna’s idea of walking Saint James’s Way in Spain. She’s exhausted, and she doesn’t think she can keep her feelings for her a secret for much longer. But a day of rest soon turns into a nightmare when they come face-to-face with one of the local legends, and Sophie’s secret is no longer safe.

Author Interview

New and Debut: Brianna Kienitz

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My guest today is Brianna Kienitz, debut author with Nine Star Press. Her f/f soccer romance Off Pitch came out last week. Learn more about Brianna in the following short interview and read an excerpt from the book at the end of this post. Enjoy!



Meet Brianna

1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?
Haha! Oh boy! I started writing fiction a little over a year ago. My first project (which I'm still working on) is a young adult apocalyptic sci-fi series. Though I loved reading fluffy woman-loving-woman romances, I never thought I'd have kind of story in me. 

After several months of feverish writing, I was getting worn down and running out of juice. I needed a change, something completely different to cleanse my palette. I was writing on Wattpad at the time, and had prodded fellow authors to write more lesbian soccer stories. When NaNoWriMo came along last November I decided to take matters into my own hands, and Off Pitch was born. 

Turns out I had a romance story in me after all. It has opened the floodgates for a whole slew of sports romances I have planned for the future.

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily Danforth is my favorite book of all time. It's young adult lesbian fiction coming of age story by a Montanan about a Montanan. Being a Montana native as well, the settings, characters, and story resonate down to my roots. 

Coming in a very close second place is the Starborn series by Maggie Derrick, currently in its beta stage on Wattpad and Maggie’s blog. Her magic realism stories are like living in a work of art, and are nearly impossible to put down. 

I also love the Waking Forever series by Heather McVea. It's hard to beat sexy vampires who happen to be women-loving-women with grew exceptions. It's thrilling, it's steamy, it's fluffy, and it hovers perpetually near the top of my recommendation list. 

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?
Before I started writing, I was reading stories featuring women-loving-women voraciously. However, I'm pretty isolated in my little Hobbit hole, and I was starting to run out of things I wanted to read within my limited scope. (Twitter has opened up a whole new world for me, so now the problem is my lack of time, not my lack of reading material.)

I started writing the kinds of stories that I want to read. A lot of my inspiration comes from the characters and stories i love. If I didn't love to read what I was writing, I would never finish the story. 

A lot of my inspiration also comes from dreams, real life, the people around me, experiences I've had, and the things I'm passionate about. I love Ireland and classical music, and I can't seem you keep those two things from working their way into my stories. 

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)?
Like I said, I started out in young adult sci-fi. Off Pitch is contemporary new adult. I have an unsettling amount of adorable romances planned. There are a couple of fantasy stories waiting in the wings. I can't imagine writing a story without some amount of ladies falling in love, but I like to keep an open mind. I'm a happy leaf floating wherever the wind takes me. 

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release.
Off Pitch follows Adeline Fahey, an undergraduate student at Northwestern University. She’s a straight-A student, but that's nothing compared to what she can do on the soccer field. Her focus is razor sharp and she’s on course to become a highly sought after professional player. 

Razor sharp that is, until the teaching assistant walks into Addie’s Beginning Spanish class. A graduate student from Spain, she's already a world class cello player poised to become the darling of the symphony. 

Despite the university's fraternization rules and their drive towards their goals and passions, the two women can't help but gravitate towards one another. The road is rough, but sprinkle in a sarcastic best friend, homophobic parents, and a T-rex costume, and they just might have a shot at something more in life than they ever could have planned for. 

It's funny, it's steamy, it's adorable, and I hope you love it as much as I do.

Blurb

Soccer star Adeline Fahey has never taken an interest in the world outside of the pitch. The daughter of wealthy Irish immigrants, and a straight-A student, she sees nothing the the goal - finish her last two years of school and join a professional soccer team - no ifs, ands, or buts.

Then Gabriella Soto, a cello prodigy in her own right and the teaching assistant in Adeline’s dreaded Beginning Spanish class, walks onto her playing field.

After a drunken night in a T-rex costume boots their hearts onto a collision course, Adeline and Gabriella must tackle a field of school scandal, homophobic parents, and their own passionate career goals to have a shot at something more. In the face of so many obstacles, Adeline and Gabriella fear that their love may not be strong enough to score them the championship relationship they never knew they wanted.

Buy links: Publisher / Amazon / Add to Goodreads

Author Bio and Links

Brianna Kienitz (pronounced Kee-nits) started out as an avid reader of lesbian fiction. When reading no longer sated her appetite, she turned to writing the stories she craved. Brianna believes a good story should make you feel every moment deeply, whether it be laughing until it hurts, crying yourself dry, or screaming with unbridled rage. Her Wattpad works have been widely read and have received multiple awards from the Wattpad community. Her current project, Off Pitch, was named Wattpad LGBT Book of the Month in March 2017.

Brianna lives in Missoula, Montana, where she works as a slayer of transit demons, and a dance instructor. She spends most of her down time hiding in her Hobbit Hole with her wife and cat, curating T-rex costume GIF’s and pretending not to be socially awkward on the internet. 


Excerpt

It hadn’t even been two weeks, and already I was falling behind in my Spanish class. Much to my chagrin, I needed help if I was going to pass the class. And so it was that I found myself making my way to the place where Marcy had said she would be holding office hours. A few people threw casual greetings my way as I maneuvered through the narrow hallways.

“Heyyyy, Fahey,” a generic-looking bro said as he passed me by. I was too caught up in trying to remember if I knew the guy to respond. I was fairly certain I had never met him before.

Sometimes, being me was weird. A lot of people on campus knew who I was, not because I was a particularly social person, but simply because I was one of the top athletes in the school. I had received a full scholarship to come play soccer for Northwestern, and started every game during my freshman year. From the start, I was a force to be reckoned with. I’d been the school’s leading soccer star ever since. As such, my name had made it into the school newspaper after almost every game, often accompanied by pictures of me tearing it up on the field.

Suffice to say that I had achieved a moderate amount of celebrity on campus in the two years I had been here. It made me more than a little uncomfortable at times, but not enough to deter me from my passions. I played soccer because I loved the game, and nothing could change that.

I reached the office I had been seeking and stopped short outside the open door.

“Oh, hello. Adeline, right?” Gabriella sat at a nondescript desk in the cramped space beaming up at me more brightly than I felt the situation warranted. I hadn’t realized I was still standing in the doorway staring until Gabriella’s smile faded slightly and she cleared her throat. “Would you like to come in?” she asked, sounding concerned and confused by my behavior.

“Oh, right. Sorry. Just Addie is fine.” I snapped out of my stupor and took the seat at the end of the desk reserved for wayward students such as myself.

“What can I do for you, ‘Just Addie’?” she teased with a good-natured chuckle.

“Well, I’m hoping that you might help me pass this class. I’m terrible at Spanish.”

“Everyone is terrible at Spanish at first. That’s why they call it learning,” she replied with thinly veiled sarcasm. Gabriella may have seemed shy in the classroom, but clearly there was more to her than met the eye.

I had yet to be in such close proximity with her. Now that I was, I could see a spark burning behind her jewel-like hazel eyes that spoke of something fiery hidden beneath her reticent exterior. It created a persona of mystique that I was finding terribly distracting. It didn’t help that she was utterly gorgeous. Her chocolate-colored hair perfectly complemented her bronze skin. She was relatively small in stature compared to my five-foot-nine frame. I guessed she was a few inches shorter than me, and her curves were to-die-for.

“So, did you have something specific in mind to work on, or did you want me to teach you the whole of the Spanish language right now?” Gabriella’s snark caught my attention, and I looked down sheepishly to avoid staring at her any longer.

“Umm...I guess I don’t really understand the whole masculine/feminine thing.” Of course you don’t. You’re a lesbian. I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing at my poor choice of words.

Gabriella was the picture of patience as she explained the difference between the masculine and feminine word endings, and the mechanics that went along with them. I marveled at the complete lack of condescension in her explanations. I had been to office hours with other TA’s and professors that had left me feeling like a fool by the end of the session.

“Where are you from?” I asked several minutes later, once I felt that I was beginning to get a handle on the concepts we were discussing.

“España,” she replied without looking up from the diagram she was drawing to display different vocabulary words with feminine and masculine endings.

“Oh. That explains the accent.” Wow. Smooth, Fahey.

“What about you? You don’t sound wholly American, either.” I was glad Gabriella had chosen to ignore that dumb comment.

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” I said with a cocky half-grin. “I’m from Naperville, but my parents are Irish immigrants. I guess their accents rubbed off on me a bit.”

“Huh. That’s cute.” I didn’t know if she realized what she said, but the comment made me blush furiously. I was glad her attention was still focused on creating the endings table. “So, Naperville. Isn’t that pretty ritzy?”

“I guess so.” I shrugged, not wanting to delve into the details of my family or my upbringing. I was spared that uncomfortable conversation by a knock at the door. A young man I didn’t recognize stood in the doorway.



Austin Chant

Mini Reviews: September Reads

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I'm starting a new feature on the blog - Mini reviews. I'll try to make make a monthly post with short reviews of a couple books I have read in the past month (or even before) but for which I haven't written more elaborate reviews.

This time I will review four novellas I read in September: The Layover by Roe Horvat, A Taster of Honey by Rose Lerner, Peter Darling by Austin Chant and Jigs and Reels by Leigh M. Lorien.


Title: The Layover
Author: Roe Horvat
Genre: MM romance

Author links: Website / Facebook / Goodreads
Purchase links: Amazon / Kobo / Dreamspinner Press

My rating: 4.5 Stars


Review

This is a very powerful debut, very European centered, topical on the issue of LBGT rights (in Slovakia and across EU in general) It is also a tender love story, which packs a punch in a short format.
I basically loved everything about it - solid writing, interesting and realistic plot, complex characters. Ondro is defensive, sort of just passing through life without really living it, Jamie, is in a bit of a similar situation, trying to be more outgoing, reckless if you want. 
They form a deep connection over some some usual circumstances and it didn't feel forced or rushed, it was just right for them. I really appreciate that he author kept it real, there is no glossing over the hard aspects, no miraculous reconciliation with homophobic family, just moving on without them into a future shared with a person who loves them for who they are.


Title: A Taste of Honey
Author: Rose Lerner
Genre: Historical mf romance

Author links: Website / Facebook / TwitterGoodreads
Purchase links: Kindle / kobo / nook /iBooks

My rating: 4 Stars


Review


This is a historical erotic novella, full of deliciousness. It's rich in food detail that will make you crave all the Victorian desserts. We have two characters who want to be together but neither feels truly worthy of the other. I liked how it was the heroine who she took the imitative despite her doubts and fears. Mr. Moon is a lovely beta hero - a virgin who is opens himself to carnal pleasure and love. I feel the sex scenes were a bit too much for such a short read and would have preferred more character development (especially insight into their background and motivations). Still, fans of the series will no doubt enjoy seeing Mr. Moon get his HEA after his disastrous misadventures in courtship in book 1.


Title: Peter Darling
Author: Austin Chant
Genre: Retelling, trans romance

Author links: Facebook / Twitter / Smashwords / Website
Purchase links: Amazon
My rating: 5 Stars


Review

To be completely honest I don't feel fully equipped to review this story. It's both magical and painful to read at times, profound and mesmerizing. It made me feel all the feels without going into  melodrama. Austin Chant is a master story teller in this trans retelling (re-imagining) of Peter Pan. The story is made up beauty and emotion and so much fragility that it makes my heart ache. Peter's (and Captain Hook's) journeys are all about finding yourself, your place in the world, someone to share happiness/hardship with. The story has a lot to say about family (birth and chosen one), friendship, building relationships. I can't recommend this book highly enough.


Title: Jigs and Reeels
Author: Leigh M. Lorien
Genre: Contemporary m/m romance, Musicians

Author links: Twitter / Facebook / Blog / Goodreads
Purchase links: Publisher / Amazon / Kobo

My rating: 3.5 Stars


Review

This s sweet mm romance about two musicians in renaissance fairs band falling in lover. It's a quick, fluffy story about finding and keeping the joy in your life. The plot is focused on the choice between what you should feel and do and what you real feel and want to do with your life. It's gives a strong encouragement to go after your dreams without being preachy or going overboard with positive message of "You can do anything". We see the hardships, the difficult choices but also the joy and freedom and it's heart-warming. A bit of a rushed ending and less tension/conflict that I would have liked, but overall it's a nice, solid romance.


Author Interview

New and Debut: Leigh M. Lorien

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My guest today is Leigh M. Lorien, author of mm romance novella Jigs and Reels, released on Sept 16. Travelling Renaissance band meets closed off, introverted man and... if that sounds like your kind of story, read on to learn more about it and the author. Don't miss the excerpt in the end :)


Meet Leigh

1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?

Well, I have a lot of pets, a lot of books, and a lot of plants. I like photography and the outdoors, music, rainy days, and cute animals. I never actually “decided” to become a romance writer. I was trying to write epic, serious sci-fi and fantasy, but my characters kept falling in love and doing naughty things instead of pursuing their quests. The first novel-length piece I ever finished was contemporary gay romance, but I didn’t realize I’d written a romance novel until someone pointed it out to me. That’s partly because I never thought about assigning a genre, but also partly because I didn’t think there was such a thing as gay romance except in fanfiction (and even then it’s not called “gay romance”). I have never been happier to find out I was wrong.

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?

One book I recommend pretty often is Redshirts by John Scalzi. If you’re a Star Trek fan, or a sci-fi fan in general, read it. You will laugh.  I also love Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and I have a penchant for children’s books  such as Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, Chronicles of Narnia, and A Wrinkle in Time.
Favorite not-children’s-books authors, in no particular order, include Jim Butcher, John Scalzi, C.S. Pacat, Josh Lanyon, Aleksandr Voinov, and Matthew J. Metzger.

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?

Absolutely everything inspires me, even something as mundane as cooking a meal. Conversations overheard between strangers. A stray vine climbing up the side of a barn. Movies, books, and music are huge inspirations. Every book I read gives me some new idea. I have a tendency to pick up voices from things I read, no matter the genre or situation—if I just read a snarky character, I’ll want to write a snarky character. If I see a cool cucumber in a movie, I’ll want to write a cool cucumber. Music is a vastly important tool for how I shape characters. Listening to a lot of metal music will make me want to write an aggressive character. Listening to dubstep makes me want to write sci-fi. A passing phrase in the lyrics of a song might inspire the idea for a relationship dynamic, or an emotion worth exploring. There are stories in everything and everyone.

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)?

I market myself as a queer romance author. The fun thing about romance is that it can happen anywhere! Space ships, castles, skyscrapers, you name it. I’m working on a contemporary novel and a sci-fi short story, and planning on an urban fantasy novel next. No matter the genre, my writing will feature characters from all colors of the rainbow. I have transgender, nonbinary, asexual, and bisexual characters in progress. My stories will almost definitely include dorkiness, pop culture references, music, humor, healthy relationships, and probably some kink.

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release.

Jigs and Reels is my first release, and it came out September 16. It’s a cute, lighthearted story about musicians in an Irish band, and the important distinction between “being alive” and “living.” The romance is fun and passionate and sweet.

 Blurb


Elijah works in a cubicle, lives with his parents, and never goes on dates. It isn’t an exciting life, but it’s safe and easy and that’s good enough.
Then he meets Peter, a whirlwind of a man who leads a traveling renaissance band. Peter represents everything Eli usually avoids, but his boisterous enthusiasm is infectious… and his band needs a fiddle player.
When Eli agrees to fill in for a weekend, he awakens a part of himself he thought long gone. With Peter’s help, he shakes off the dust that has settled on his soul and remembers how to have fun.
But when the band asks him to join them permanently, is Eli’s newborn sense of adventure -- and insane crush on a man he barely knows -- enough to make him leave the safety of a life he’s clung to for years?

Purchase Links: PublisherAmazon / Kobo

Author Bio and Links

Sometime back in the early 90’s, Leigh M. Lorien started writing and never stopped. Her anime fanfiction is still on the internet, but no amount of torture or bribery will convince her to reveal its location. While acquiring her Creative Writing degree, she tried to write what her professors called “literature,” but her male hero kept ending up in bed with the male villain, so she gave up and joined the queer writing community. She likes it there and has no intentions of ever leaving.
Leigh’s writing is character-driven and mostly contemporary for now, but she plans to write compelling, dorky, wonderfully human queer characters in every genre she can. Leigh supports mental health awareness and general human decency. If she’s not writing, she’s probably reading, gardening, petting cute animals, getting tattoos, or losing a battle against her social media addiction. She lives in a creepy old house in a creepy old town with her husband, four cats, four dogs, and probably some ghosts.


Exceprt

“Wait, what?” My heartrate spiked and I swallowed against a sudden wave of nausea.

No one had mentioned this before. Morrison’s? We hadn’t practiced Morrison’s. I knew the tune, but man, I was not prepared for this. The past few days were really pushing the limits of my spontaneity for the week. Month. Hell, I hadn’t been this spontaneous in years. Seeing my anxiety, Peter caught my shaky hand as I reached for a bottle of water. My eyes widened and I glanced around, but everyone else had better things to do than watch my every move.

“Hey,” he said softly, and brought my hand to his lips for a kiss, like an old-fashioned gentleman. “You’ll be great. You know these songs, you’ve been on stage before, nothing is different.”

“No?” I said in a choked whisper. He wasn’t letting go of my hand. His skin was soft, smooth as silk, warm, and dry. Well, it had been dry before he’d grabbed my sweaty mitt. “I don’t know you guys at all. I’m going to fuck up, I’m going to miss a cue or, or, play a song too fast or too slow or get up there and forget how to play everything I’ve ever learned. I’m going to be too stiff, people are going to look at me and think I’m a zombie or something, some kind of weird fiddle-playing corpse, an animatronic fiddler. I don’t move around much, that was something Toby always told me, too. My ex ... band leader. Toby. He got on my case, said if I was going to be so still I might as well just sit in a chair for all the more entertaining I was on stage. I have no stage presence. I just --”

Soft fingers touched my lips. He didn’t put any pressure on me, but the mere presence of the touch made me shut up. “Shh,” Peter cooed. He met my eyes and smiled, but it wasn’t an impish, teasing smile this time. It was gentle and earnest. “You’re not going to forget those songs.” The fingers brushed back along my cheek until he cupped my jaw in his palm, thumb coming to rest on my lower lip. Why was I just standing there like an idiot? Do something! Those bright eyes had me hypnotized. I couldn’t have pulled away if I’d wanted to.

And I didn’t want to. It had been way too long since I’d had affection. Hell, even if it had just been last week, I figured Peter would have been able to entrance me. He just had that energy about him, that insane, hell bent for leather, bright eyed confidence like he could go out the door one day intending to get the newspaper and end up taking over the world. Katie had a similar sort of energy. I was drawn to it like a stupid moth to a lamp. And, much like a stupid moth, I could not actually obtain that energy for myself. I just bounced around it until it became too much to handle and I dropped.

“We’ve had two fiddlers since we got together, and a couple other temp stand-in members” Peter said, still holding my hand, still caressing my lip with his thumb. “We’re used to adjusting to new members, but I don’t foresee it being an issue. You and I click, musically. You pick up on cues like a pro.”

“Well,” I said, my voice matching his soft timbre, “you’re not exactly subtle.”

Peter laughed. “No time in life for pussy-footing around.” He let go of my hand and brought his other hand up to cup my other cheek, holding my face. He was taller than me, I realized. Not much, but just enough that I noticed when he tipped my face up towards his. He didn’t lean in though, just kept smiling. “What kind of cues are you picking up on right now?”




Contemporary Romance

Review: The Lady of Royal Street by Thea de Salle

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Title: The Lady of Royale Street (Nola Nights #3)
Author: Thea de Salle
Genre: Contemporary romance, Religion, 
Release Date: 21 Aug 2017

Author's links:
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 3 Stars


Blurb

From the New York Times bestselling author of the NOLA Nights series comes a rollicking, sexy tale of opposites attracting in the midst of wedding planning.

Alex DuMont is everything his brother Sol isn’t: regimented, serious, and devout. Between twelve-hour workdays, service to the church, punishing daily workouts, and bi-weekly therapy sessions, Alex is, as Sol once put it, “a kettle perpetually whistling as it boils itself to death.” So when Sol announces his marriage to Arianna Barrington, heiress and society sweetheart, Alex is the absolute worst choice to be his best man. Sol asks anyway and Alex reluctantly agrees. It’s only a week, after all, and Alex should be able to stop himself from throttling his big brother for a meager seven days. Probably. Maybe.

Theresa Ivarson is Arianna’s best friend and the maid of honor. A decorated photojournalist who interrupts her globetrotting to stand beside her friend, Theresa is beautiful, witty, and unafraid to speak her mind. So when she is faced with working with the best man from Hell, a Viking who doesn’t know how to smile, is bossy, and about as pleasant as a cactus, the sparks are bound to fly—and not in the good way. To make matters worse, Sol and Rain's wedding planner was hit by a bus the week before their special day, and Alex and Theresa find themselves at the center of a list-ditch effort to pull the wedding together. But when you can’t decide if you want to kiss or kill someone, something’s bound to break.


Review

This was my first by this author and while I liked some of it, I also had some issues. Its book 3 in the series, it can be read as standalone. Based on the blurb and a few friends' reviews, I had quite high expectations of this book but they were not quite fully met.

We have two interesting, complex characters meeting and falling in lust/love during the preparation and actual wedding of the couple from book 1. I'm not the biggest fan of wedding-set romances especially involving super rich/famous people. I didn't mind it too much here as the focus was more on the characters and it was the bride and groom who where in the media spotlight, not the MCs.

The main conflict was based on fact that Alex is a devout Catholic and as such he hesitates and then feels guilt over his pre-marital sexual relationship with Theresa (who is also Catholic btw). I'm orthodox Chrisitan myself and read the religious aspect here from the position of an outsider. Even though I understood Alex' struggles, I found his behaviour annoying, there was too much going back and forth, he was too hesitant to make a decision.

I likes Theresa who unlike Alex reconciled the decision to be with him with her Catholic faith from the start and stuck with it. I felt she deserved better from Alex. His clumsiness and lack of sweet-talking skills were endearing and I could see why Theresa forgave him for them. What I had trouble accepting how he acted hot and cold with her all the time, making her feel ashamed for giving into her attraction to him, making her doubt her own moral compass.

I like heroes who a bit awkward, who mess up and who are not perfect but Alex was too much. He kept hurting the heroine (unintentionally but still). She struggled to be understanding of his issues, yet I feel they were something he should have figured out for himself before trying to start any relationship. In all honestly I found it difficult to relate to him, probably if we were given more insight into his reasons for his deep religiousness it would have been easier for me to understand him.

I still might go back and read the first two books in the series but this one was not the hit I expected it to be and in the end I remain with mixed feelings about it. 

Purchase link: Amazon

Historical Romance

Review: An Unsuitable Heir by KJ Charles

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Title: An Unsuitable Heir (Sins of the Cities #3)
Author: KJ Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical, MM romance
Release Date: 3 Oct 2017

Author's links: Website / Twitter / FB Group / Goodreads
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My rating: 3.5 Stars


Blurb 

A private detective finds passion, danger, and the love of a lifetime when he hunts down a lost earl in Victorian London.

On the trail of an aristocrat’s secret son, enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz finds his quarry in a music hall, performing as a trapeze artist with his twin sister. Graceful, beautiful, elusive, and strong, Pen Starling is like nobody Mark’s ever met—and everything he’s ever wanted. But the long-haired acrobat has an earldom and a fortune to claim.

Pen doesn’t want to live as any sort of man, least of all a nobleman. The thought of being wealthy, titled, and always in the public eye is horrifying. He likes his life now—his days on the trapeze, his nights with Mark. And he won’t be pushed into taking a title that would destroy his soul.

But there’s a killer stalking London’s foggy streets, and more lives than just Pen’s are at risk. Mark decides he must force the reluctant heir from music hall to manor house, to save Pen’s neck. Betrayed by the one man he thought he could trust, Pen never wants to see his lover again. But when the killer comes after him, Pen must find a way to forgive—or he might not live long enough for Mark to make amends.

Review

Note: In the story Pen says he is neither a man, nor a woman but for lack of better term, Pen uses he/his pronouns. In present-day terms I see him as genderfluid or enby. I've decided to follow the author's choice and go with he/his pronouns and genderfluid for the sake of clarity in my review.

I must admit this is a rather difficult review for me to write. On the one hand I did enjoy a lot about this story and liked how it completed the mystery/crime arc of the series. I was excited to finally read Mark's story and was curious about Pen since I haven'rt read many genderfluid characters so far.

Overall, I'd say reading this romance was a positive experience but still there are some things that bothered me and took away from my enjoyment.

WE get the usual, detailed, engaging rich writing that we have come to expect from KJ Charles. The story is rich in details and follows the tone and general atmosphere of the whole series. I have to admit that finally uncovering the mystery was rather satisfying,

I  liked Mark from the earlier books but here I had mixed feeling about him. I liked how open he was to everyone, how his pansexuality was expressed, his desire to care for others, to give them pleasure was an admirable character trait. Yet, especially at the beginning his "I like everyone and everything" made him appear bland, I felt it made him lack any personality of his own. As it turned out (to his own surprise) he is far from ordinary and simple in his likes. And it was Pen who encompassed in himself everything Mark found appealing, the mix of male and female had an irresistible pull on him.

I was very curious about Pen. I liked how his genderfluidity was presented (I'm saying this from POV of a cis het female reader). His struggles with himself, the society in general and the particularly difficult situation he found himself in were terrible.

I felt bad for him, forced to make a choice and suffering through Mark's betrayal (though I understood both sides here, Mark did it as the only way he saw to keep Pen safe, and Pen felt betrayed because his explicit wishes were so blatantly disregarded). Pen's very real sense of lack of choice in his life was very vividly presented and had a powerful impact on me as a reader.

My biggest concern was the comparison between Mark's disability and Pen's gendefluidity. It was done a few times and worked as a way for both of them to understand the other. I see its usefulness in that aspect but I also felt it carried the the subtext that only someone with a "flaw" could understand another person with a different "flaw". This didn't sit well with me at all from my very limited, outsider's perspective on both being disabled and being gendefluid.

I saw Mark as loving everything about Pen, his appearance, his character, his strength and vulnerability and i was convinced of the depth of his feelings for him. It was a sudden realization that Mark has a type, a preference and Pen is exactly what he wanted/needed in his life and he did his best to keep Pen in his life and make him happy.

On the other hand, I wasn't very much convinced of Pen's feelings for Mark. I saw him as grateful for being accepted for who he is, feeling good about being loved and cherished but for most part of the story I really didn't see his own affection/love for Mark. I it was only in the end that we saw Pen showing his feeling for Mark for who he is not for what he did for him.

On a more positive note, I liked how things worked all for everyone in the end. I felt the good people got the chance at happiness they deserved (we see the couples from the previous series, as well as Pen's sister in HEA/HFN situation) and bad guys got what they deserved.

In conclusion, it would say it is moving, thought-provoking story exploring some complex  issues of personal identity, disability, love, acceptance and the choices we make in life. 

Purchase links: Publisher / Amazon / Kobo

Amara Lynn

New and Debut: Amara Lynn

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My guest today is Amara Lynn, author of paranormal novella Masks. Read on to learn more about her and her debut book. There is an excerpt for you to enjoy at the end of this post :)


Meet Amara

1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?
Hi, I'm Amara Lynn. I was born and raised (and am still currently stuck in) the Midwest United States. I've always had a wild imagination with no outlet, taking inspiration from the things around me or in books and TV shows (mostly anime). I was very into art when I was in high school, and just sort of into writing, and now I am somehow the opposite. I've always been drawn to the concept of first loves (and true loves/soul mates!) and happily ever afters. I love writing and reading about that first spark!

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?
My most recent favorite has to be Kay Berrisford and her Landlocked Heart series. The first in the series, The Lonely Merman, was so adorable and sweet with a light smattering of angst, which is the perfect combination in my opinion!

I'm also loving V.E. Schwab at the moment and am currently very, very slowly reading A Gathering of Shadows. My go-to faves are Jordan Castillo Price (Channeling Morpheus and Mnevermind are my most faves), Lynn Flewelling (The Nightrunner Series of course!) and Diana Wynne Jones (Howl's Moving Castle).

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?
As far as who goes, Lynn Flewelling. She was the biggest influence on my early writing and I hope I can one day make something as amazing as that.

For what, a little bit of everything inspires me. Video games, anime, reading, and most of all music. Music is my biggest source of inspiration. I seem to get the best ideas or sparks of inspiration when I'm listening to new music (and probably somewhere I can't write, as that always seems to be how it works!).

Though I don't get to do much of it at all (next to none really), traveling is also inspiring to me. Getting out and going places I've never been always sparks my creativity.

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)?
A little bit of everything! I like to write stories usually with fantasy elements, so some modern/urban fantasy, a little traditional fantasy, and some fairy tale retellings/reimaginings. All of my writing will also be either adult or new adult.

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release.
My debut novella, Masks, was released August 23rd and is a story about not fitting in, learning to trust, and first love, with some supervillain/superhero action thrown in! Avari is an orphan and social outcast with superhuman abilities, trying to navigate college life while staying under the radar. Then he meets Chayton, who is intent on being friends with him. Avari's frustration leads him on a dangerous path, and not only is he balancing college and trying to figure out Chayton, but also a secret identity…


Blurb


Avari has always been a social outcast, which is just fine by him; he has superhuman abilities and hates people. But his lab partner Chayton keeps being so friendly, and Avari can't stop staring at his alluring smile.

When he loses control of his abilities, Avari is faced with a startling revelation about himself—one that's both thrilling and dangerous. As Avari seeks to understand Chayton, he finds himself coming out of his shell, and his connection with Chayton grows deeper.

Meanwhile, a mysterious adversary appears who may hold answers to who Avari really is. Fueled by his curiosity, Avari continues his path of destruction—but he can't help wonder if his secrets will tear apart his shaky new bond with Chayton.

Purchase links: Publisher / Amazon / B&N / Smashwords

Author Bio and Links

Amara Lynn has always been a quiet daydreamer, content getting lost in her own fantasies. From a young age, she was always coming up with characters and worlds with no idea what to do with them until she found an outlet in writing. She has admitted on more than one occasion that she could be left in a room alone with only a notebook and pen and be able to entertain herself all day.

When she isn’t thinking about her own characters, she is usually reading, listening to podcasts, playing video games, or taking way too many pictures of her two cats. She is addicted to writing and music, and gets most of her inspiration when listening to music and going for walks.

Amara loves anything to do with pirates, merpeople, magic, supervillains/superheroes, paranormal, and just about anything else that happens to strike her fancy.

Twitter / Facebook / Blog  

Excerpt

I flicked my fingers in and out of the Bunsen burner’s flame, flirting with the flickering orange and purple and grinning with amusement. I’ve always felt akin to fire. It was so beautiful and brilliant, yet destructive. Fire could give and it could take.

“You know you could burn yourself doing that,” said a voice, rudely jolting me out of my fire fueled reverie.

I looked up at the intruder. I’d seen him before in chemistry class. With that bronzed skin, that black hair, and those dark eyes, he was hard not to recognize. Not that it really mattered. He was still just another student. Aside from his few defining features, he was just like everyone else.

Narrowing my eyes at him, I hoped he would just go away. I turned my attention back to the flame and resumed what I was doing, a clear dismissal. Instead of going away, he took the seat beside me. How obnoxious. Nobody ever sat by me.

“I’m Chayton,” he said.

I turned my glare back on him and frowned. “Okay… And?” He was smiling, which made my scowl deepen.

“You’re Avari Terran, right? We’re lab partners.”

Sighing and rolling my eyes, I looked at the burner again. Why did I need a lab partner? I was perfectly capable of doing all of the labs by myself. A lab partner would just get in the way, and mess things up. Did the phrase “doesn’t work well with others” that high school teachers so loved to put on report cards mean nothing to these blockheaded university professors?

“Just stay out of my way and don’t screw things up,” I snapped at him. When I heard him chuckling, I looked up. “What are you laughing at?” I growled. Maybe if I concentrated hard, his shirt would catch fire. If I was mad enough, I could easily do that.

“Sorry, it’s just…” Chayton trailed off as he fought back a few more laughs. “You’re so serious.”

Because this was a very serious matter! I failed to see why it was so amusing for me to be serious about my schoolwork. “Is there a problem with that?” I asked, frowning deeply, and wishing he’d go away already.

“You need to loosen up a little,” he said, leaning back in his seat and putting his arms behind his head.

I snorted. “Why?” I really wanted to ask why in the hell he even cared, but I stopped myself short.

“It’s not good for you, being serious all the time,” he said, smiling at me.

“And who says I’m serious all the time?” I countered his smile with a scowl.

Chayton leaned closer, and I caught a whiff of campfire smoke and pine. “Are you?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“No,” I blurted quickly, meeting his midnight eyes sternly.

“Oh? What do you do for fun, then?”

“None of your business,” I replied, tearing my gaze from him then. Who did he think he was, interrogating me like this? I owed him no explanations or assurances about my behavior or hobbies during my leisure time.


“Okay, okay.” Chayton raised his hands in surrender.

The lab started, forcing Chayton to drop his line of questioning and focus, for which I was grateful. Of course I did well on the assignment. I didn’t credit any of my success to Chayton, though I guess he did help a little, which was much better than him screwing something up.

As soon as class ended, I threw my stuff in my bag and walked out. Footsteps ran up behind me, and I looked back to see Chayton following me. What did he think he was doing? Couldn’t he just buzz off? Why was he trying to catch up with me?

I stopped walking and turned completely around, glaring at him and crossing my arms. “Can I help you with something?”

“So, since we’re lab partners, we need to be able to get in touch with each other. We should exchange numbers.”

Immediately I frowned. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a phone. I did, mostly out of necessity. Places like the school needed a phone number on file. I would just as soon not have one, because I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I really wasn’t too keen on the idea of giving my phone number so freely to him, but clearly there was no avoiding it. I sighed and took out my phone. “Fine. What’s your number?” I keyed in the digits as he said them and then called him so he’d get my number.

“Maybe we’ll see each other around the campus,” said Chayton with a smile.

“I hope not,” I mumbled.

I turned away and stared at my phone screen, pretending to look interested in something on it like most of the other students on campus often did. In reality, the only thing on my screen was Chayton’s phone number. I started to save it to my contacts. How was “Chayton” spelled? What kind of name was that anyway? I guess I would just save it as “C” for now and figure out how it was spelled later.
I returned to my dorm room. Locking the door behind me, I let out a heavy sigh.

Finally. Alone at last.

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