'Nathan Burgoine

Mini Reviews: Two Holiday Novellas

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Title: Handmade Holidays
Author: 'Nathan Burgoine
Genre: MM holiday romance

Author links: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads
Purchase links: Publisher

My rating: 4.5 Stars


Blurb

At nineteen, Nick is alone for the holidays and facing reality: this is how it will be from now on. Refusing to give up completely, Nick buys a Christmas tree, and then realizes he has no ornaments. A bare tree and an empty apartment aren’t a great start, but a visit from his friend Haruto is just the ticket to get him through this first, worst, Christmas. A box of candy canes and a hastily folded paper crane might not be the best ornaments, but it’s a place to start.

A year later, Nick has realized he’s not the only one with nowhere to go, and he hosts his first “Christmas for the Misfit Toys.” Haruto brings Nick an ornament for Nick’s tree, and a tradition—and a new family—is born.

As years go by, Nick, Haruto, and their friends face love, betrayal, life, and death. Every ornament on Nick’s tree is another year, another story, and another chance at the one thing Nick has wanted since the start: someone who’d share more than the holidays with him.

Of course, Nick might have already missed his shot at the one, and it might be too late.

Still, after fifteen Christmases, Nick is ready to risk it all for the best present yet. 

Review

Oh, this was so lovely, a bit nostalgic a lot of hopeful, just the perfect holiday read for me.

I loved the concept of following a group of queer friends through their Christmases spent together over 15 years. This is a story about life and love and friendship and the meaning of the holidays - a time to share with those who you love and who love you. Those young queer people created a chosen family for themselves and set new traditions which we see them follow and enrich over 15 years.

It's was not all happiness and holiday cheer though. There was some pretty painful moment to read. There was no glossing over the hardships the characters face as young queer people dealing with life on their own - heartbreak, betrayal, racism, transphobia (even within the queer community itself).

It's a poignant story which packs a punch in novella length. It was emotional, engaging, real and made me reminisce about my own last 10-15 Christmases.



Title: A Special Delivery
Author: Laura Bailo
Genre: MM holiday romance

Author links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads
Purchase links: Publisher

My rating: 4 Stars


Blurb

Colin only meant to take a wrongly delivered package to a house a few streets over. But a sudden snowstorm leaves him with no option but to beg shelter from his unknown neighbour James. During the course of a long night, a cozy fire, a little hot chocolate and the snow outside conspire to draw the two men closer. But will their connection outlast the storm?

Review

The was the flufffiest of fluff m/m romance. It's tender and gentle, perfectly heart-warming, like a cup of hot chocolate on a chilly winter day. Two very real and likable characters meet by chance and fall for each other. Nothing more, nothing less, just the perfection of making a connection with another human being, sharing some of you with them. All this, plus an adorable dog. What more can you want from a Christmas story.

There was an easy flow to the writing and the story, it projected a sense of warmth and intimacy, happiness. Overall, it's low-key story of two ordinary people with ordinary lives finding each other and starting a life together.



Author Interview

New and Debut: Kate Clayborn

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I'm so happy to welcome as my guest in New and Debut author spotlight the lovely Kate Clayborn. Her debut Beginner's Luck, mf contemporary romance, was just released on Oct 31. I've already reviewed it and can't praise it high enough. It's such a delightful story, complex and fun and realistic and in short, contemporary romance at its finest. Read on to learn more about the author and her book and don't miss the excerpt from Beginner's Luck at the end of this post.


Meet Kate 

1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?
Probably like a lot of romance authors, I started writing because I really, really loved reading romance. I’ve always loved to write, and do some writing as part of my day job, but I don’t think I had a strong vision of myself as being a writer of novels. But when I started reading romance, I felt like I had found my “thing,” my people, if that makes sense? What I really loved most about romance was that much of it had a very strong sense of community - not just a partnership between the central couple, but friendships, family relationships, work relationships. In my own life, community is really important - it’s what gives my life a lot of its meaning. I’m from a close family and have many lovely, dear friends as well as a husband who is fun and funny and supportive. So as a writer, I wanted to write books that pay tribute to community like that. I love building those communities around a central romance pairing in a way that feels natural and realistic. 

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?
How much time do you have? I have so many favorites, and I’m such a compulsive re-reader when I find books/authors I love. Some of my favorite contemporary authors are Sarah Mayberry, Ainslie Paton, Ruby Lang, and Alisha Rai (especially her new series, which I love so far). My favorite contemporary of the last year or so was probably Sally Thorne’s terrific The Hating Game. I love historicals, too, especially Courtney Milan and the new Alyssa Cole Loyal League series, as well as Tessa Dare and Sherry Thomas. 

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?
The first romance I ever read was Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me, and her heroines—who are smart and fierce and imperfect and complicated—were certainly an influence in how I went on to read romance. I look for heroines like that as a reader, and I gravitate toward writing heroines like that. But I also try to take inspiration from unexpected places—a beautifully written piece of journalism that makes me think differently about something I already knew, or that teaches me something entirely unexpected, a great movie or a TV show, even a passing interaction with a stranger. I’m inspired by character, always—so learning something interesting about someone’s job or hobby or history or habits will often inspire me to think of stories that supplement those characteristics. 

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)?
I write contemporaries with a lot of a humor and heart, featuring strong, independent heroines who have to work hard to find a place for love in their complicated lives. I like to match these heroines with heroes who are complicated, too—competent at what they do, and emotionally mature and invested in friendships and family relationships.

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release.
BEGINNER’S LUCK is the first book in the Chance of a Lifetime series, which features three best friends who win the lottery. For each of them, the lottery is a chance to go after a long-desired goal, and for the heroine of BEGINNER’S LUCK, Kit, that’s to buy a house in the city she’s come to think of as home. As a trusted research scientist at the local university, Kit’s feeling pretty stable for the first time in her life, but the arrival of a handsome corporate recruiter named Ben—who’s offering her a new job and some extra help on her newly-purchased home—threatens to upend her carefully constructed plans. But since Ben is as charming and kind as he is handsome, Kit starts to wonder whether it’s possible to have both stability and the man of her dreams.


Title: Beginner's Luck (Chance of a Lifetime #1)
Author: Kate Clayborn
Date of publication: 31 Oct 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Add to Goodreads

Purchase links: AmazonB&N • iTunesBooks-A-MillionGoogle PlayKobo

My rating: 5 stars

Blurb

When three friends impulsively buy a lottery ticket, they never suspect the many ways their lives will change—or that for each of them, love will be the biggest win of all. 

Kit Averin is anything but a gambler. A scientist with a quiet, steady job at a university, Kit’s focus has always been maintaining the acceptable status quo. A sudden windfall doesn’t change that, with one exception: the fixer-upper she plans to buy, her first and only real home. It’s more than enough to keep her busy, until an unsettlingly handsome, charming, and determined corporate recruiter shows up in her lab—and manages to work his way into her heart . . .

Ben Tucker is surprised to find that the scientist he wants for Beaumont Materials is a young woman—and a beautiful, sharp-witted one at that. Talking her into a big-money position with his firm is harder than he expects, but he’s willing to put in the time, especially when sticking around for the summer gives him a chance to reconnect with his dad. But the longer he stays, the more questions he has about his own future—and who might be in it. 

What begins as a chilly rebuff soon heats up into an attraction neither Kit nor Ben can deny—and finding themselves lucky in love might just be priceless . . .

Author Bio and Links

KATE started writing stories on the extra wide-ruled notebook paper her first grade teacher passed out for handwriting practice, dreaming up everything from fairy princesses to secret agents, to fairy princesses who were also secret agents. She got gold stars for her handwriting, and side-eyes for the secret agent stuff.
Those stories were packed away in a memory box while Kate grew up and did lots of things—a master’s degree, a PhD, work, travel, home renovation, life in general—always with a book at her side.
A jolt in the form of a great romance novel reminded her to start writing stories again, but this time on a laptop (though she still has excellent handwriting).
These days Kate’s favorite stories to write are the ones that make people snort-laugh and happy-sigh—stories about smart, strong heroines who face the world alongside true friends, complicated families, and good men who recognize exactly how amazing the women they love are.
Kate is lucky enough to spend her days reading and talking about all kinds of great books. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing them, thinking about writing them, or remembering edits she needs to make in them. There’s also the thing where she takes long walks around her neighborhood and makes her handsome husband and sweet-faced dog listen to her talk about books and writing. They’re never bored and she’s not single-minded at all.



EXCERPT 

Here’s an excerpt from Kit and Ben’s very first meeting, when he comes to her research lab to make his first attempt at recruiting her: 

“Excuse me,” comes a deep voice from behind me, and it’s so unexpected that I jump a little, hitting my elbow on the creep frame I’ve just finished cleaning. 

“Ow,” I mutter, turning to meet—oh, only the most attractive person I have ever actually seen in real life, unless something is happening to my vision. I raise a hand immediately to my face, noting the lab goggles I am wearing—right, this is ideal—over my actual glasses. I pull them off, the rubbery strap getting a little stuck in my hair, and wince when a few strands come out. Once I’ve got my glasses straightened, I have another look. 

And, yeah. Still the most attractive person I’ve ever seen, tall and broad-shouldered with sandy-blond hair and a square, set jaw, eyes so blue I can see them even from several feet away, where he’s standing in the doorway. I don’t usually go for guys in suits, probably because most of the men in my line of work are more the rumpled-khakis or jeans type, but damn. This guy wears a suit like it’s his job. Which, it probably is his job, since it’s noon on a Friday. 

“I’m looking for E.R. Averin.” Excellent voice too—deep and smooth, and I had not really realized until this moment that I am so hard up if I am noticing this man’s voice so forcefully. Maybe there was something to Zoe’s constant haranguing about my nonexistent dating life. 

“Well, you found her,” I say, glad to hear that my own voice, at least, sounds normal. 

“I—” He paused, looked back over his shoulder. “I have?” 

“You have.” He blinks, unbuttons and then rebuttons his jacket. It is awkward to a high degree, and let me tell you what, you don’t spend your life around a bunch of experimental scientists without getting a real skewed sense of what’s awkward. This guy seems completely thrown. 

“You’re E.R. Averin?” he says, a little edge of doubt in his voice, and it’s at this point that I get almost relieved to know what I’m dealing with. Not for nothing am I the only female—not to mention the youngest—lab technician to ever work in this department, and in fact the only woman working in a lab tech role in the College of Engineering. I’ve dealt with a lot of dudes who have doubted me. 

“I think I’ve made that clear, Mr....?” 

He has the decency to look genuinely chastened. “My apologies, Professor Averin. I’m Ben Tucker.” 

He steps forward, holding out his—well, very nice, very large—hand, but I hold up the bottle of ethanol and my rag, shrugging in half-hearted apology. “Hello, Mr. Tucker. I’m not a professor.” 

“Right, yes. I apologize.” 

“That’s okay,” I say, and I almost feel sorry for him. There’s something about him, some weary feature behind his handsomeness, that gives me the sense I’m getting him on a bad day.

“Please, call me Ben.”

“Okay, Ben. Call me Ms. Averin.”

Austin Chant

Friday Favourites: Austin Chant

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Friday Favourites are back in full swing and today my guest is Austin Chant, author of queer fiction. His trans retelling of Peter Darling released earlier this year and I only got to read it last month and it completely blew me away! His latest book is the trans pnr Caroline's Heart which I somehow loved even more. You can learn more about it and read an excerpt from it in the end of this post. First, though you get to learn what some of Austin's favourite things in the world are.



Austin's Friday Favourites

1. Favourite place
Everyone who's ever heard me talk about Austin, Texas, is groaning and covering their ears right now. But seriously: did you know there are swan boats (and also literal swans) sailing around the city every night? Did you know there's a 400-acre park with natural hot springs right across from downtown Austin? Did you know that the margaritas are cheap and delicious? Did you know that a colony of 1.5 million precious little bats lives in the city during the summer and that they eat all the mosquitoes? I once saw a Disney villain-themed drag show there with the world's most beautiful Captain Hook. Last time I visited I had cactus tacos for breakfast. Austin is perfect.

Yes, my name has made this relationship awkward, but I don't care. I'm in love with the city of Austin and nothing will stand between us.

2. Favourite food and drink
I'll take a blended jalapeno margarita or a strong cup of Earl Grey any day of the week, and I'll take either with a good burger or pulled pork sandwich.

3. Favourite music/genre/artist/song
I tend to change up my playlists depending on what I'm writing, so I listen to most genres, but if I'm just keeping myself entertained it's a mix of southern rock/alternative and pop. My favorite band at the moment is The Revivalists and I've been jamming to their song Wish I Knew You all year. 

4. Favourite movie/TV series
Jurassic Park is my all-time favorite movie, and Over the Garden Wall is probably my favorite TV series, although that might just be the Halloween spirit talking.

5. Favourite hobby besides writing, if you consider writing a hobby
Video games! I've been a big gamer since I was a kid, and gaming is still my favorite way to relax; it's a total change of pace from writing, but it's still creative and engaging. I love how much storytelling potential the interactive form has. Also, I've put more hours into Overwatch this year than I want to talk about. 

6. Favourite books 
Not that this could ever be a complete list, but my all-time favorites include Howl's Moving Castle (and many others) by Diana Wynne Jones, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, The Book of Salt by Monique Truong, the Captive Prince series by CS Pacat, and The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles. Recently, I've really enjoyed The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, Nevada by Imogen Binnie, and Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell.

Austin Chant's latest release is Caroline's Heart, Western trans romance with cowboys and witches and spells and magic and HFN! Buy link: 

Blurb
Cecily lost her soulmate years ago, leaving her with nothing but the clockwork heart that once beat in Caroline's chest. They say it's impossible to bring back the dead, yet Cecily's resurrection spell is nearly complete and grows more powerful by the day.
But when a cowboy she barely knows is fatally injured, the only way to save him is by sacrificing an essential piece of the resurrection spell—and all possibility of seeing her lover again.
Purchase link: Amazon 

Author Bio and Links

Austin Chant is a bitter millennial, a decent chef, and a queer, trans writer of romance and speculative fiction. His fiction includes Peter Darling, Coffee Boy, and Caroline's Heart. He co-hosts The Hopeless Romantic, a podcast dedicated to exploring LGBTQIA+ love stories and the art of writing romance. He currently lives in a household of creative freelancers who all spend too much time playing video games.


Excerpt

Roy puts the horses out to pasture under the watchful gaze of the witch candles, his nose itching every time the wind carries the pale smoke in his direction. He keeps an eye out for the witch, but there's no sign of her; he overhears John talking about how witches only travel under cover of darkness, because the light of day will burn their blighted skin. Roy's curiosity starts to fade to resignation. Maybe he won't see her at all. Maybe Weber will keep her away from the men entirely; maybe he fears that a hex on one of them would be a hex on the whole ranch.

Around midday, he retreats into the stables to repair a stall door that one of the mares kicked down. It's unpleasant work, downwind of the house so the air reeks of smoke as well as manure and straw dust. He sneezes till his eyes are running and his throat is raw. It seems like it's getting hotter every minute, feverish almost. Soon his chest aches with each breath.

He stops to wipe his brow on his sleeve and notices that the straw is stirring around his feet as if picked up by a breeze, but there's no wind, just a strange agitation in the air.

A coil of soft heat, like a cat's tail, brushes the back of his neck.

Roy startles and glances over his shoulder. There's nothing out of the ordinary, just saddles and tack and a bare wall, but the air pushes around him like a hot bath. He takes a thick breath, his head swimming, and moves toward the stable door. Better sit down, he thinks, before you fall down—

But then he sees it: a seam of light cutting its way across the bare wall like a shooting star.

Roy stands stock still, staring at the light. He's filled with a giddy fear like the kind he used to get from his pa's candlelight stories. The heat is dizzying, past intolerable, the air swelling urgently around him. Roy blinks sweat out of his eyes, watching the light's progress as it traces a rectangle the size of a door.

Then the door cracks inward, and the pressure goes all at once. The air left behind is cold and thin and smells of flowers.

Roy sags against the wall, shivering and staring, as the witch steps through.

She moves like a deer, dainty and aloof, turning to press the glowing door closed behind her. She's dressed like Mr. Weber's young wife, in gray and white, with a bow around the high collar of her dress and a straw bonnet trimmed with silk. Roy hadn't expected her to be so pretty. She's the kind of lady who would make him stumble over his tongue if he met her in the street. Her lips are rosy, her cheekbones striking; her hair is dark and tame, pulled back into a shiny braid, loose ringlets curling over her brow and along her cheeks.

He realizes he's exposing his soul for her taking a moment too late when she turns and catches his eye. She looks straight at him, not in the forthright way that some people do, but like a cat watching an insect. Her eyes are black, languid—her eyelashes so thick and dark they seem to pull her eyelids down for each dispassionate blink. Roy, flushed and now freezing, finds himself unable to move.

"Do you need something, cowboy?" she asks, a cool voice with a distinct Texan drawl.

#readRchat

#readRchat: Frequently Asked Questions

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Have you seen the #readrchat hashtag on Twitter and wondered what it was about. Or you might have never heard of it but now you are curious? Here is a short FAQ to give you a general idea what it is about.


1. What is #readrchat?
#readRchat is a monthly romance readers chat that takes place on Twitter. It includes 10 questions a topic that we choose and announce beforehand. We ask the questions within one hour but the chat usually goes for 1.5-2 hours.

2.Who runs it?
It was started by Ava Kingswell and me (Ellie Reads) in January 2017. During the summer Ana Coqui joined us. Today we run the chat with the support of a couple of more reader friends - Mary Lynne, Kini and Joy

3. When is it happening?
The chat takes place every first Saturday of the month at 10pm CET /4pm EST.

4. Can I participate on my on time (since the time of the chat is not convenient for me)? 
Yes, you can answer the questions any time that is convenient for you.

5. What topics have been covered so far?

  • Introducing #readRchat: Share Your Passions
  • Romance Tropes and Subgenres
  • Series and Standalones
  • Choices, choices: How do you pick what to read next?
  • Best reads of 2017 so far - special mid-year chat
  • Let's Talk All Things Erotic in Romance
  • Summer Reading
  • Adventures in Romance
  • The Reader/Author Interaction: Dos & Don'ts

6. Where can I see the upcoming topics?
I will be posting them every couple of months here on my blog. The next chat will be on Nov 4th and we will be talking about People of Color and Romance. 

We want to the #readrchat to be a fun and pleasant experience for everyone and we are always open to suggestions how to do that. We are actively seeking new topics that romance readers feel passionate about and want to discuss with each other. Feel free to reach out to us on Twitter or you can leave a comment on this post if you prefer.

Contemporary Romance

Review: Beginner's Luck by Kate Clayborn

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Title: Beginner's Luck (Chance of a Lifetime #1)
Author: Kate Clayborn
Date of publication: 31 Oct 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Author's links:
Add to Goodreads

My rating: 5 stars


Blurb

When three friends impulsively buy a lottery ticket, they never suspect the many ways their lives will change—or that for each of them, love will be the biggest win of all. 

Kit Averin is anything but a gambler. A scientist with a quiet, steady job at a university, Kit’s focus has always been maintaining the acceptable status quo. A sudden windfall doesn’t change that, with one exception: the fixer-upper she plans to buy, her first and only real home. It’s more than enough to keep her busy, until an unsettlingly handsome, charming, and determined corporate recruiter shows up in her lab—and manages to work his way into her heart . . .

Ben Tucker is surprised to find that the scientist he wants for Beaumont Materials is a young woman—and a beautiful, sharp-witted one at that. Talking her into a big-money position with his firm is harder than he expects, but he’s willing to put in the time, especially when sticking around for the summer gives him a chance to reconnect with his dad. But the longer he stays, the more questions he has about his own future—and who might be in it. 

What begins as a chilly rebuff soon heats up into an attraction neither Kit nor Ben can deny—and finding themselves lucky in love might just be priceless . . .

Review

What a fantastic debut! It had everything I love in contemporary romance - an engaging plot with lots of real-life details and interesting complex characters finding their HEA.

There is so much I liked about this book, I feel I can talk about it for weeks. The story covered so many aspects of life without ever being superficial about them, while still not drowning the reader in details. There is a richness to the characters (both main and side ones), to the background and the plot itself has a few twists that kept me invested in the story the whole time. I was both in a hurry to find out what happened next and at the same time I wanted to read slower in order to savour all the beauty of the writing and to fully appreciate all the tiny details the text offered.

Both Kit and Ben are wonderful characters, I really can't say whom I liked more. They are complex and realistic, dealing with different heavy issues in a mature way.

Kit is a scientist, a professional, a close friend and the daughter of a father with alcohol and gambling addiction. She is pretty much self-made and works hard to make a home for herself and to feel settled and secure. I loved the dynamics of her found family with her best friends Zoe and Greer and I appreciate so much the emphasis on female friendship and the support they gave each other.

Ben, oh Ben, he was a troubled soul. On the surface he is successful, even happy with his professional and personal life, seemingly in control, but he is thrown in for a loop when his father suffers a nasty fall and he has to come back to his home town temporary to care for him. I read him as neuroatypical (ADHD?), and he had some anger management issues in his adolescence that still troubled him. I liked how we see so much of him dealing with his family, with his colleague and friend Jasper, with River, a troubled teen that they get to help them in the salvage yard, with his conflicting feelings for Kit. There are no easy solutions to his problems and fought hard to make things work for everyone.  

There is a strong caregiver aspect in the story which I found important. Both Kit and Ben do their best for their family, despite the strained family dynamics. I like the depth of with which they were explored. We see their pasts really shaping much of their present and the people we see today. 

It's a slow burn romance, tender and intense, emotionally charged, happening under unusual circumstances. I liked how their professional entanglement was handled, and really respect Ben for giving up on recruiting her when he developed personal connection with her. 

It's essentially a story of two grown-up people meeting and falling for each other despite the circumstances. We follow them as they find a way to work through the obstacles in their way, and these were some real obstacles, practical ones. There was no magical solution, but a compromise, a personal growth in both of them which allowed them to be together. In a way both came to a decision on their own and I liked that, unlike in most romances, it was her who did the grand gesture in the end. And rightly so.

We get to meet two leads falling in love and turning their lives around to start a new one together. There are unforgettable side characters, a well developed background - places and jobs, lovely details on the work in the salvage yard and Kit's job and house restoration (as a fan of all such TV shows I loved that so much). They all gave richness to the story which I greatly enjoyed. 

Powerful debut which I greatly recommend to fans of contemporary romance! Can't wait to read the next one in the series, coming in March 2018.

Purchase links: Amazon • B&N • iTunes • Books-A-Million • Google Play • Kobo

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