Cole McCade

Review: Autumn by Cole McCade

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Title: Autumn (Crow City #2.75)
Author: Cole McCade
Genre: Contemporary romance, MM romance
Release Date: 27 March 2017

Author's links:
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My rating: 5 Stars

Blurb

There are worse things in life than loving a man who hates you.

Unfortunately, Walford Gallifrey can’t think of many.

Ever since a ghost from his past kidnapped his niece, Willow (THE FOUND, Crow City #2), Wally’s life has been nothing but grief, turmoil, and loss. With no idea if Willow is dead or alive, Wally’s only comfort is in caring for his grieving brother-in-law and Willow’s father, Joseph Armitage. For the past twenty years, Wally has never hoped to be anything but the backdrop to Joseph’s life; between marrying Wally’s sister and decades of mistakes building walls of enmity and resentment between them, Joseph has been firmly cemented in Wally’s mind as unattainable.

But the pain of Willow’s loss forces them to face the demons sleeping between them, find common ground—and more. Together, they explore mutual grief. Shared memories. Quiet respect. Warmth. Camaraderie. The joy of learning to live again.

And an unspoken attraction, buried beneath the scars of hurtful words and terrible missteps. 

Yet even as they work through the thorns and tangles of old wounds, Joseph has his own struggles to face. The struggle to leave his ex-wife in the past. To let his daughter go. And to trust Wally to love him, to see him as more than just his multiple sclerosis, when so many have treated him as less than a man. The only way forward for them both is forgiveness. Trust.

And a second chance to discover what it means, to truly be in love.

Review

This is the fifth book in the series, after two novels and two novellas and the first queer one. And unlike all the previous, it's so much lighter, happier and heart-warming and how it can any other way when one the heroes is Walford Gallifrey. He brought warmth and tenderness even in the darkest moments in the previous books, so I couldn't his own story any other way. 

We get the story of two older characters, Wally - a circus ringmaster, whimsical and caring and lonely, having had a crush on Joseph since they met over 20 years ago. The other - Joseph, suffering from MS, angry, abandoned and alone. They have a history with its ups and downs, and some serious hurt of unpack and overcome. There are expectations of each other to change. And revelations, so many revelations to absorb.

Joseph has a lot to deal with, including realising he is bi but that is not what this story is about. I liked how the author didn't make this focus of the romance. It's just one aspect of his personality, yes, a bit unexpected both for him and for Wally, yet he accepts it in stride. It's just what it is and no one in the story (their friends and family) made a big deal about it. 

I really liked how the focus in their relationship was on intimacy, companionship, being together - sexually and in all other ways, in their everyday lives. It's not all smooth sailing. They keep hurting each other inadvertently, but never give up on trying. We see them learning their way around each other, how to express their love for each other, how to be there for the other in sickness and in health, in good time and bad times. 

I'm avoiding any spoilers, so let me just say we see more of Willson and Vin and Gabriel and Leigh and it's perfect!

The writing is what I have come to expect from Cole McCade - lyrical, emotional, evocative. He builds these rich, powerful images that stay with the reader long after they have finished the book.

Autumn could be read as a standalone though I definitely recommend reading the previous books in the series before it, or at least the novella, The Saved. They will give you a deeper insight into the world of Crow City and its inhabitants, including Wally and Joseph.

Purchase links: Amazon





Author Interview

New and Debut: Dal MacLean

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I'm really happy to welcome Dal MacLean for the regular New and Debut spotlight. She is the author of Bitter Legacy, mm romantic suspense, which was just announced to be a Lambda Literary Awards finalist in the Mystery category! Read on to see what inspires her to write her stories and what you can expect from her in the future. There is also short excerpt from Bitter Legacy for you to enjoy. 

Meet Dal


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

First of all thank you for having me! To answer the question (that sound is me sucking my teeth in a considering fashion)… I don’t think I ‘decided to become a romance writer’ so much as deciding to TRY to become a romance writer. I’m still not really sure I’ve succeeded. I’ve been fascinated to find that romance has a formula and structure that maybe I veer from slightly. Without meaning to. Not deliberately. Or anything. It’s because I don’t know any better. Honestly.

I do know that the kind of romance I love reading, has genuine, believable conflict at the heart of it, which must be overcome to win the happy ending. I think my first (and so far only) book, ‘Bitter Legacy’ was a bit of a 50/50 hybrid really of mystery and romance. Mystery, I discovered (it was my first try at that too) has its own structure that readers expect to see, and trying to wrestle both structures into one coherent, balanced story isn’t the easiest thing in the world. I loved the process though, in a masochistic kind of way.

Before this, my training and experience were in writing, but not creative writing. I hadn’t done any of that since school. I decided, on a whim, to give fanfic a go and discovered that, while I was using, in principle the same basic skills (grammar, punctuation etc) it was a totally different thing. I didn’t do much of it, but I loved the challenge and reward. I think MM is different again from fanfic. 

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

The person who first got me in to reading (and writing) M/M is still right at the top – Josh Lanyon. I bought ‘Fatal Shadows’ and was blown away because it read like a top-of–the-line mainstream mystery, but with gay leads and a turbulent, charismatic romance at its core. I thought it was incredible, and then I bought the rest of the Adrien English series and I became A Fan. A Fanyon in fact. She writes so beautifully and intelligently and she’s not afraid to make her characters genuinely flawed, and her conflict genuine and not easily resolved. I crave that in romance, and, really, in any book I read. It’s that ability to make what’s probably essentially wish fulfillment feel believable and real that gets me every time

Harper Fox, Nicole Kimberling and Ginn Hale are such superb, skilled writers they kind of knock me on my arse every so often, with sheer envy. I think we’re incredibly lucky to have them in this genre. I recently discovered and love Elin Gregory & Roan Parrish. I loved the Captive Prince series by C P Pacat – that felt like something a bit different. And because I like historicals (history was what I studied) KJ Charles. And I still want to read Alexis Hall, Rhys Ford and CS Poe because so many people have told me how good they are. But right now, if I read, I don’t write, so…

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

I don’t know, to be honest. I read and a watch mainstream mystery and detective fiction – mainly UK stuff, though I love US TV as well. But I also love historical books and TV –– medieval to Elizabethan is my favourite. And I like sci-fi and fantasy too.

I’ve always admired Agatha Christie particularly, as a mystery writer, not just because she emphasized characterization with actual flaws included, but because she was never afraid to make an unpopular decision for the good of the book. By which I mean, sometimes the culprit was a person you liked and understood. That made her work more messy, far less predictable, and far more exciting, and I think it’s one reason it’s had such longevity. I also love Hollywood film noir and Raymond Chandler etc -- laconic humour, lovely use of language and flawed larger than life characters.

In MM, possibly Josh Lanyon, because I love what she does so much. But also because I’ve never been taught to write formally (as in taking a course or anything) having an editor as skilled and insightful as Nicole Kimberling at Blind Eye Books was a real revelation. Nicole’s taught me such a lot.

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

I think probably contemporary and for the time being anyway, mystery, though, as I said, mystery was a genre I never tried before Bitter Legacy. I have an MM ghost story/romance, shoved down the back of the sofa, but it’s not a traditional romance structure so I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I don’t have the nerve to try historical because I research everything so obsessively I’d spend months identifying historically accurate curtain fabric. So contemporary it is.

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release.

Ah. I can’t really because I’m still writing and forming it. But at this point I can say it’s in the ‘Bitter Legacy’ universe, but not a sequel. It’s set in present day London, and the main protagonist/narrator is not a policeman. That may all change tomorrow if I panic and throw it in the bin.

In the meantime though, there’s Bitter Legacy. It’s a fairly complex police procedural/whodunnit on the one hand (set with the Metropolitan Police in London) and a focus on a challenging romantic relationship on the other. Everything is seen through the eyes of the narrator, DS James Henderson, but bear in mind that, just like all of us, Jamie sometimes gets the wrong end of the stick when it comes to interpreting other people’s behaviour. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it!

BLURB

London...

Detective Sergeant James Henderson’s remarkable gut instincts have put him on a three-year fast track to becoming an inspector. But the advancement of his career has come at a cost. Gay, posh and eager to prove himself in the Metropolitan Police, James has allowed himself few chances for romance.

When the murder of barrister Maria Curzon-Whyte lands in his lap, all that changes. His investigation leads him to a circle of irresistibly charming men. And though he knows better, James finds himself enticed into their company.

Soon his desire for photographer Ben Morgan challenges him to find a way into the other man’s lifestyle of one-night stands and carefree promiscuity. At the same time his single murder case multiplies into a cruel pattern of violence and depravity.

But as the bodies pile up and shocking secrets come to light, James finds both his tumultuous private life and coveted career threatened by a bitter legacy.

Purchase links: Amazon


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.



EXCERPT


The door on the left at the top of the first flight of stairs appeared identical to the one on the ground floor—paneled and freshly glossed white. But though James knocked on it, ignoring the intercom-man’s instructions, and though he definitely heard voices behind it, it remained stubbornly closed. He knocked again. The door didn’t open. The man had meant what he said.

James had no real reason to feel as pissed off as he did. The man inside couldn’t know he was a detective investigating a murder. He wasn’t purposely disrespecting the police. Yet, as James lurked, frustrated, in the plush hallway, stealing irritated glances at his watch, he found himself almost deliberately pushing himself to conclusions.

The visitor in there had an appointment. And the man who’d answered had said there’d be another right after James.

So. What kind of men were most likely to have serial “appointments” at expensive residential addresses? High-end hookers.

He glowered at the pristine door, copper’s imagination running with it.

Fuck—the last thing he needed was a vice collar right now, but he couldn’t exactly ignore a high-class prostitute operating under his nose.

Or maybe—he could. He really didn’t have time for this.

He frowned fiercely, slumped against the opposite wall. Then, without warning, the door to the flat opened with a shocking blaze of light, and a man slipped out into the hall.

James, as he straightened, could hardly fail to notice the guy was flamboyantly good looking—all extravagant cheekbones and pouty lips, like a catwalk model—and to all appearances, extremely pleased with himself. As he strutted past, he gave James a quick once-over and a knowing smirk, then he trotted down the stairs and out of sight.

James stared after him. He didn’t look like the kind of man who paid for it, but, if police-work had taught him anything, it’d be that people rarely obliged by fitting their stereotypes. Whatever the guy had been there for, he’d emerged appearing very satisfied indeed. James’s suspicions solidified.

“Sorry about that, mate. Overran a bit.”

James snapped his head back to stare at the figure now standing in the open doorway of the flat, assessing him in turn.

The man was startling. Caucasian, round about James’s height, but with a more slender build and thick, dark, shoulder-length hair in silky, loose curls. He had a fine bone structure, straight black brows and large, dark eyes whose color James couldn’t determine in the dimness of the hall. If the guy fucked for money, James thought in those first moments, he could fully understand how he could afford to live in Selworth Gardens.

Suddenly James felt very aware that, while he was wearing a very nice Paul Smith suit from his old life, it needed a good pressing. And after only three hours’ sleep, he could do with the equivalent himself.

The man smiled brilliantly, which rendered him even more startlingly attractive.

James found himself fighting not to blush. It was his fatal emotional tell and he hated it—a lifetime of self-discipline, and he still colored up like an adolescent.

“Hey,” the man said. “Come in.”

Eli Lang

Review: Half by Eli Lang

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Title: Half
Authors: Eli Lang
Genre/Themes: MM fantasy romance
Release Date: 13 Feb 2017

Author links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
Add on Goodreads

My rating: 3 Stars

Blurb

Living between worlds has never been comfortable, but it’s where I’ve always fit: between human and fey, illness and health, magic and reality.

I’ve spent the last six years looking for a cure for the nameless sickness eating me up. If I believed there was one out there, I would keep searching. But there isn’t, so I’ve come back home, where my past and present tangle. Come home to live . . . and to die.

But my father insists I meet Kin. He’s a healer, and determined to help, even though I’m not so hopeful anymore. But Kin isn’t what I expected, in any way. He sees me, not my illness. He reminds me of what it’s like to be alive. And I can’t help falling for him, even though I know it isn’t fair to either of us.

Kin thinks he has the cure I’ve been looking for, but it’s a cure that will change everything: me, my life, my heart. If I refuse, I could lose Kin. But if I take it, I might lose myself.

Review

Before I start this review I feel the need to add a trigger warning which this story doesn't have but for me there needs be one. TW for serious disease/disablity, which is potentially terminal.

This is a debut novel and I was drawn to the premise of an urban fantasy with faeries and the while I enjoyed a lot of things in the story ultimately it was an OK read for me.

I loved the writing style, it's very lyrical, poetic and reminds me a bit of Alexis Hall's writing which I absolutely love.

Eli Lang tells a tender love story, subdued and quiet and in a way I missed there being a stronger conflict at the center of it. The mood was melancholic and self-reflective throughout the story and while I liked it and also felt it was too much at times.

Both main characters, Luke and Kin are interesting and well developed. The focus falls on Luke and his struggles to come to terms with his fate which leads to a lot introspection, thoughts on life and death, im(mortality), the meaning of love. I very much enjoyed how the author explored the complexity of human relations, the difficulty of building and maintaining meaningful connections with the people around.

The romance between Luke and Kin was something I really liked in the story. There was an easy, natural flow to it with the inevitable setbacks and both characters making mistakes and trying to overcome them. We see two people coming together and learning to be together and making compromises and ultimately respecting the decisions the other persons makes.

A major plot in the story was Luke's relationship with his sister and I felt it overshadowed the main plot at times. There was a lot of going back and forth in both relationships (Luke and Kin; Luke and his sister) and some repetition which I found annoying. This affected the flow of the story as a whole making go all too slow at times, nothing much happening.

I was the drawn to the (urban) fantasy setting  and found it interesting but in the end it felt underdeveloped. I was left wanting to learn more about the world of the different faeries.

The ending is a bit unconventional when it comes to romance though it was fitting and came as not surprise. It's a sort of HFN ending, not too optimistic but focused on the now and enjoying the good things while they last without thinking much of the future.

Despite the issues I had with this story, still I found it to be a very tender, imaginative romance beautifully told. It was not quite the right book for me but I loved the author's writing style and I want to read more of her books in the future.

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

M/M romance

Review: Insight by Santino Hassell

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Title: Insight (The Community #1)
Authors: Santino Hassell
Genre/Themes: PNR mm romance
Release Date: 13 March 2017

Author links: Website / Twitter / Fb group / Goodreads
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My rating: 5 Stars


Blurb

Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate. 

Hitching from his tiny Texas town, Nate is picked up by Trent, a gorgeous engineer who thrives on sarcasm and skepticism. The heat that sparks between them is instant and intense, and Nate ends up trusting Trent with his secrets—something he’s never done before. But once they arrive in the city, the secrets multiply when Nate discovers an underground supernatural community, more missing psychics, and frightening information about his own talent.

Nate is left questioning his connection with Trent. Are their feelings real, or are they being propelled by abilities Nate didn’t realize he had? His fear of his power grows, but Nate must overcome it to find his brother’s killer and trust himself with Trent’s heart.

Review

I'm don't read much PNR but I'm a fan of Santino Hassell and was intrigued by the idea of a romance involving psychics, so picking this book was a no-brainer for me. And I'm so glad I did. 

This is an intriguing story combining a tender and explosive romance with an interesting suspense/mystery plot. There is a bit of everything - a very dysfunctional family, a murder to solve, a road trip during which to fall in love, a big bad mastermind and their organization to bring down. All the while trying to make a relationship work while keeping both yourself and person you love safe.

That's a lot for Nate to deal with, Nate who is a low-level psychic, angry at his family, unable to use/control his gift fully and basically just a young guy dealing with some pretty hard luck in life.

And then he meets Trent and everything changes, Trent is all warmth and sunshine and happiness and optimism. At least that is what Nate psychic gift tells him. And this is very much true, though Trent is not naive or totally out of touch with reality, he is just a genuinely kind person. We see this practical down to Earth, engineer-major guy accept the existence of psychic power and gradually get involved in some serious conspiracy, behind-the-scene actions, yet he stands by Nate without hesitation or doubt.

We get the story from Nate's perspective and we are privy to his innermost thoughts which give us an invaluable insight into his character. I wish we got the same level of familiarity of Trent but only see him from Nate's perspective. He is defined more in his relation to Nate rather than on his own and that is fine with me. He is an invaluable partner, a lover, best friend, the person everyone needs in their lives, especially during turbulent confusing times.

the story, despite being paranormal, is very emotional and raw, and feels real in the way I have come to expect from Santino Hassell. It read very much like romantic suspense which I greatly enjoyed. Nate (and Trent)'s struggle to figure out who to trust and who is the real danger and how to fight it was one exciting ride.

Overall, Insight is a very well written with intriguing plot and likable characters  which made me a very happy reader. And there is still a lot to look forward to in the next two books in the series. I'm excited to see some very interesting characters (Chase, Chase!) get their stories told and  ultimately the good winning the fight against evil. 


Purchase links: KoboRiptide | Amazon | BN | iBooks



Contemporary Romance

Review: Madly by Ruthie Knox

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Title: Madly (New York #2)
Author: Ruthie Knox
Date of publication: 14 March 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Author's links:
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My rating: 4.5 stars

Blurb

Allie Fredericks isn’t supposed to be in Manhattan, hiding in the darkest corner of a hip bar, spying on her own mother—who’s flirting with a man who’s definitely not Allie’s father. Allie’s supposed to be in Wisconsin, planning her parents’ milestone anniversary party. Then Winston Chamberlain walks through the door, with his tailored suit, British accent, and gorgeous eyes, and Allie’s strange mission goes truly sideways.

Winston doesn’t do messy. But after a pretty stranger ropes him into her ridiculous family drama with a fake kiss that gets a little too real, he finds out that messy can be fun. Maybe even a little addicting. And as the night grows longer, Allie and Winston make a list of other wild things they could do together—and what seems like a mismatch leads to a genuine connection. But can their relationship survive as their real lives implode just outside the bedroom door?

Review 

Ruthie Knox is one of my favourite authors of contemporary romance. I have enjoyed most of her previous books but somehow I missed that she started a new series. I haven't read Truly yet but after I finished Madly which I absolutely loved, the first thing I did was to go on Amazon an get it :)

Madly is exactly the kind of contemporary romance I like to read - life-like complex characters, struggling with life and love, discovering themselves, making mistakes and growing up as people. And the romance part was just perfect - a bit whimsical, both characters acting simultaneously slow and fast, cautious and daring.

The heroine, Allie, is fabulous in my opinion and I feel there is a lack of heroines like her in romance. She is young and independent and smart and financially successful. She doesn't depend on no man and doesn't need a man in her life to support her, take care of her. She needs and finds a partner, someone who appreciates and loves her with all her contradictions and complexity - being smart and beautiful, young and rich, self-confident but also desperately trying to keep her family together, hungry for the love and approval of her loved ones, deeply involved (albeit, often misguidedly) with their lives.

Winston was an interesting character as well. He has just turned 40, divorced, re-evaluating his life. He appeared stuffy and distant, too set in his ways, deeply unhappy and lost. he was not prepared for Allie and all the possibilities she brought with her. And it took him some time to grasp it and take a chance on being happy, on falling in love, on being vulnerable and honest with himself and the peole in his life he cares about.

I liked how Allie and Winston challenged each other, how they opened up to one another. The game of the list of sexual dares that want to try was an interesting and effective way to bring them together in raw honesty. Their romance was a curious mix of daring and hesitation, of I-don't-need-this-in-my-life-right-now and This-is-so-exciting-and-new-and-perfect-for-me.

The story explored different family relationships, between sibling, between parents and children, withing the romantic couples themselves. in all their complexity and dysfunction. And I liked where the author went with all of them. Through them she built a compelling picture of the characters' lives - complex, interwoven, changing and evolving.

I have only one minor quibble with the story and this has to do with Allie's mum and her relationship with her dad and her artistic career. I was surprised with the development of this plotline and I am not sure how to take it. On the one hand she is presented as a strong woman, one that balanced having a family and a suitable way to express her creativity. She is someone who hasn't sacrificed her dreams but have found an alternative way to pursue them. On the other hand, I felt her behaviour was deceptive to her family, keeping a secret like that, leading a double life. This didn't sit very well with me. I'd say it is a matter of personal preference and not a weakness of the story itself. Other readers may not feel like that about it, so don't let this minor issue of mine stop you from taking a chance on this wonderfully complex romance. 

Madly it's a beautiful and compelling modern day love story that fans of contemporary romance would greatly enjoy.

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

Gilded Age

Review: Mogul by Joanna Shupe

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Title: Mogul (The Knickerbocker Club #3)
Author: Joanna Shupe
Date of publication: 31 Jan 2017
Genre: Historical romance, Gilded Age
Author links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 3 Stars


Blurb

The privileged members of the Knickerbocker Club can never climb too high up the social ladder. But for one charming New York bachelor, does the ascent take precedence over love in the Gilded Age?

As owner of a well-respected national newspaper, Calvin Cabot has the means to indulge his capricious taste for excess—and the power to bring the upper crust of society to its knees. So when a desperate heiress from his past begs for his help, Calvin agrees . . . as long as she promises to stay out of his way. Except, like the newsman, this willful beauty always gets what she wants.

Lillian Davies lives a life brimming with boundless parties, impressive yachts, and exotic getaways. But when her brother disappears, Lily knows that blood runs thicker than champagne and she'll spare nothing to bring him back alive. Unfortunately, the only man who can help her is the one she never wanted to see again. Can Lily keep Calvin at arm's length long enough to save her brother and protect her name . . . even when the tenacious powerbroker turns out to be absolutely irresistible?


Review

I enjoy this intriguing series a lot, the first two book were a lot of fun to read. I had great expectations of this one too and till the very end it was a solid 4 star read till the very end but the very abrupt and rushed ending spoiled it all for me.

I like the Gilded Age NY setting, the abundant historical details built a powerful sense of time and place and brought me deep into the story and really bring into to the story. This story focused a lot of the social/political issues of the period - the situation with the Chinese immigrants and the women entering business. 

I found the way the Chinese characters were presented convincing and respectful. There were the main part of the subplot but also central to the conflict in the main plot. I dare say the author created complex diverse characters and focused on their issues even though the main couple were white American.

What I enjoyed the most in this book was the romance itself. It was a second chance, lovers-to enemies-to lovers story that I found absolutely fascinating. The chemistry between Calvin and Lilly was explosive and I appreciate the sex positive attitude the author created by giving us a heroine who acted free and wild and uninhibited with her lover. 

The mystery element of the plot worked well for me as well. It kept me invested till the end but never overshadowing the romance. 

My greatest disappointment was the ending. I literally tapped my Kindle repeatedly hoping to open the next page. I just couldn't believe the author ended a well plotted, complex love story in such a rushed unsatisfactory way.

Purchase links: AMAZON / B&N / IBOOKS / KOBO

Author Interview

New and Debut: Emily Leigh

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Another Monday, another new author to meet. Stop by to meet Emily Leigh, author of contemporary romance. You can read what she shared about herself and there is a short excerpt from her latest release, Kiss me, Cooper, for you to enjoy.




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

I’ve always read. In fact, I can’t recall a single childhood memory in which I a) didn’t have a book or b) wish I had a book. For a while, when I got grounded a lot because I was super rebellious (or an angel, let’s go with misunderstood angel), it was actually pretty spectacular because I was sent to my room with no TV and no other people. DO YOU KNOW HOW AWESOME THAT WAS? It was awesome. Anyway, I loved to read but I was and still kind of am, very specific about the types of books I read. I always wanted the happy ending. I always wanted the guy to get the girl and the villain to be vanquished. Romance gave me that. The first romance I ever read was a Nora Roberts I found stashed in the bottom of my mom’s sewing basket. In my house, books belonged to everyone so imagine my surprise when I found a hidden book. Imagine my further surprise (I think I was 12 or 13) when I opened the book to the page my mom had marked and there was kissing with a tongue and then… other things with a tongue. I had two thoughts: 1. I shouldn’t be reading this but holy hell was I going to keep reading and 2. How could my mom stop reading right at this very point? I very quickly read the book – Montana Sky, I think it was, and then immediately blew all my babysitting money (I hated babysitting so this was a big deal to go through it all at once) on more Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, and Norah Hess. Does anyone remember the absolute crazysauce that was Norah Hess? No? Do yourself a favor and go look up Snow Fire right now. Go on, I’ll wait. Just read the blurb and look at the cover. Then devour the story of Flame and Stone.

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

My number one favorite book (series because I’m a series girl) is Anne of Green Gables. I think this series was kind of ahead of its time. I mean, Anne is funny and resourceful and she overcomes the way she thinks she looks to get the boy in the end. And she makes him wait. She makes him agonize. She owns him. Plus, come on, Gilbert Blythe? Yes please.

Today my favorites are Nora (still), Kristan Higgins, Jennifer Crusie, Julia Quinn (because my first foray into romance was Regency and ho boy was that a hot mess but super fun) and Jo Goodman (hello cowboys and the incredible women who outmaneuver said cowboy every time).

One thing all these books/authors have in common is the type of heroine – smart, sassy, resourceful – and the character driven plots. These women aren’t afraid to go after what they want, once they realize what they want, and they sacrifice to get there making it all worth it in the end.

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

I take my cues from my favorite authors but I also love TV and movies. Netflix is my jam. One thing I noticed in TV is that a long-running series can be either a very excellent thing or a very disappointing thing. Consider 22 episodes over the course of say 10 years – how to you keep it exciting? Some of my lessons come from ahem, missteps of others. I will close a book or turn of a TV show if the writing ends up lazy which usually means the characters start changing personality for the sake of the conflict or the characters do the same thing over and over and over and never learn.

TV I love: Big Bang Theory, Homeland (I know, not happy at all), Santa Clarita Diet (which I recently discovered and devoured – which is a pun and a very good one if you’ve watched the show, thank you very much).

Movies I love: epics like Star Wars and Lord of the Ring, Pride and Prejudice (the 2003 version with Kiera Knightly… ducking), Juno, and Something’s Gotta Give.

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you?

Happy ones? Vague I know but 100% true. Real people dealing in real situations but with a touch of sparkly happiness that makes you feel good and want to sink into a hot bath with a glass of Coke (or wine, but I love Coke) or sit in a beach chair at the ocean all by yourself (kids are super overrated at the beach) and lose yourself in a story of a smart woman looking for her own brand of happy ever after.

5. Introduce your latest release

My latest release is part of a multi-author series set in present day Nashville. I visited there a few years ago with my fellow authors and fell completely and irrevocably in love with the city and the people.

In Kiss Me, Cooper, Georgia Montgomery learns that sometimes running away means finding home. And Cooper Quinn, the deliciously grumpy bookstore owner (seriously, how is that not hot – he’s a dude who loves books so much he has his own store) finds out that love happens whether he wants it or not – and he wants it, so bad! There is a road trip, a beach, a cat (named Cat Two or Cat Too or Jane Austen… it’s a whole thing) and did I mention the bookstore? It’s called The Angry Cat. Boom.


Blurb

Georgia Montgomery abandoned a promising future when she left home following a tragedy. As a paralegal at an up-and-coming law firm on idyllic Hale Street in Nashville, Georgia buried her past – and her dreams – to build a new life. Convincing Cooper Quinn, a reclusive and cranky-but-oh-so-devastating bookstore owner, to open up is part of her new life plan.

Cooper's quiet bookstore life suits him just fine, and he's determined to avoid the chaos that inevitably follows Georgia. She's strong and loud and beautiful. Indestructible. But when one frustrated kiss leads to a thousand, Cooper realizes there is more to Georgia than meets the eye and her force-of-nature personality just might be destined to change his world forever.

Can you call it running away when you find the place you were always meant to be?



Excerpt

Kiss Me, Cooper – Chapter One 

Georgia Montgomery rubbed hard at her eyes and blinked to clear the blur created by her computer screen. Down on the street, two stories below, came the whine of a steel guitar, the rich tones of a lead singer woven through with the hum of fifty or so of Hale Street’s closest friends enjoying a summer night block party. In Hudson’s office, inside the fridge he kept stocked with Dr. Pepper was Georgia’s contribution to the party the girls of Sugar Babies Sweet Shop had organized. She had three large jugs of mint julep and the ingredients for more if needed. With this group, more was always better. 

The brief she was working on would only take thirty minutes or so and then Georgia could go down herself. She was looking forward to a few hours in the easy, casual company of the friends she’d made since joining Hudson Bennett’s law firm on Hale Street as a paralegal. He’d been up twice, Hudson had, to badger, bully, and blackmail her into coming to the party. The blackmail hadn’t worked out very well, she noted with some satisfaction. In an office this small, just the two of them, it was tit for tat. So when he threatened to tell everyone that she had a secret obsession with Family Feud, Georgia pulled out the big guns and simply told him that if he tried to take that low road, she’d reveal the fact that his mother called him three times a week and always referred to him by his baby name — Cinnamon Buns. He’d turned pale over that. 

Besides, the brief was due in court on Wednesday, and if she didn’t do it now, he’d have to take over and finish it on Sunday because Mandy was coming in on Monday to make sure all the facts were straight. 

And Georgia wanted to finish it. Mandy Baker was suing her husband for full custody of their two children, and it had to go right, it had to be perfect before going to the judge. It was up to her to make sure every piece of evidence was in place and the compelling arguments lined up perfectly to0, so that Hudson’s presenting arguments could ensure Mandy and her two boys were safe. Georgia had seen Mandy’s bruises. It had to go right. 

Renewed by that thought, Georgia slipped off her flats and tucked her feet up under her, pulled the rolling chair close to the desk, and got back to work. The noise faded along with the ache in her shoulders and the tightness behind her eyes as she settled into the groove and rhythm of the work. It had always been like this for her, honed and heightened as she moved through college and pre-law toward graduation, preparing for law school. She’d taken a dive in that summer after graduation as she was getting ready to head off to Georgetown; things had gone downhill and her motivation shot to all sorts of hell. Here in Nashville, she’d found her way back to a comfortable work pattern. And cases like these always seemed to spike her work mojo, her brain clicking through and discarding options, words, laws until settling on just the right argument, just the right tone to suit whatever judge they happened to be presenting to. 

Done, Georgia saved the file and uploaded it to the shared server, then sent Hudson a notification email. She switched off the computer screen and blinked when the room plunged into darkness. It had still been light when she started, and Georgia sucked in a breath when her gaze hit the digital clock on her desk. It was after nine now and the party below, judging from the loud shout of male laughter, was still going hard. 

Okay, time to go. She shoved her feet into her shoes and, flipping on the overhead lights, went back to Hudson’s office. Bennett Law Offices, located on the second floor of one of the brick buildings that lined Hale Street, consisted of three rooms. The front, her office and the lobby, overlooked the street. Hudson occupied the back of the building, with a tiny supply and copy room between them. Hudson had told her that other buildings might have been a better fit but this one had been ready when he needed the space, and it was right next to Sugar Babies. Sometimes the smell of baking cupcakes wafted over, seeping through the century-old bricks, and filled the office with a warm, buttery scent. 

She would have chosen this spot too. Hale Street was the perfect fit for the boutique law office, and the location played a big part in Georgia’s decision to take the job offer after bouncing around Nashville’s law scene for a few years. 

In Hudson’s office, Georgia opened the refrigerator and pulled out the jugs. She used one hand to shove aside the overflowing pile of papers on Hudson’s desk and set the jugs down. He was a law genius, Hudson, but only when he worked in absolute chaos. Georgia shook her head, bemused, as a tottering pile fell to the floor. Law genius, complete slob. 

When she straightened, her gaze snagged, as it always did, on the Stanford Law diploma hanging behind Hudson’s desk. It never failed to hit her straight in the stomach, a little dip of regret mixed with a healthy dose of shame and misery. But she was doing well now. She was doing what she was meant to do. It was fine. Georgia told herself that every time too. 

“Doesn’t matter,” she muttered and carted the jugs out to the front office, where her phone was beeping with a text. 

Get your ass out here, Montgomery, Hudson had texted. 

“Coming,” she said to the phone, gathered up the rest of her things, and thundered down the stairs, locking the door behind her. As she did every time she locked up, Georgia took a moment to enjoy Hale Street. It was short, only about a half of a city block, but lined on both sides with two- and three-story turn-of-the-century brick buildings. In the glow of the golden street lamps and dazzle of white fairy lights the bakery girls had strung from one side of the street to the other, the brick sidewalks glistened and the wrought iron balconies cast shadows. At the end of the street, a small green space covered over with big, leafy trees and winding paths was situated to one side of the grand Wentworth Hotel. 

She loved it here. She loved that she could walk to work in the mornings. Her darling one-bedroom apartment was on the opposite side of the street from the law offices, in an old warehouse converted to studio apartments on the second and third levels. The main level was earmarked for a business or retail space, and she’d heard rumblings of a wellness spa. From her own balcony, Georgia could see the tops of the trees in the green space, hear the flags snapping in the breeze outside the Wentworth, and watch all the comings and the goings of the street. 

Hudson was there on the sidewalk beside her, already taking the jugs from her hands. 

“Come on, Montgomery, you’re missing the band.” 

She tipped her head back to look at him, noting he’d exchanged his work slacks and button-down for a T-shirt and cargo shorts. He topped her by more than a few inches and Georgia wasn’t a short woman. “I could hear them well enough upstairs when I was doing your work.” 

“Burn,” he drawled, showing off a stellar grin. “And thank you.” 

“We just have to get Mandy’s sign-off on Monday.” 

“We will,” he assured her and led her over to a group of folding tables covered with fluttering white and teal table cloths. Probably Violet, one of the bakery girls, who hurried over and drew Georgia into a happy hug that Georgia returned with equal enthusiasm. 

“Hudson told me he had you up there working all night. I’m glad he finally let you out.” 

“Hey,” Hudson protested mildly but then ignored them in favor of fixing a mint julep. 

“He’s decent enough,” Georgia allowed loudly. She liked Hudson tremendously and fed on the brother-sister vibe. She’d left family behind in Florida, including her three sisters and two brothers (Caroline, Mary, Cheyenne, Dallas, and Houston — Sharon Montgomery had a passion for travel and she applied it liberally to her children’s names) along with a myriad of cousins. She loved coming to work every day, and although he was her boss, it was less like a boss relationship and definitely more family feeling. They were on the same team, she and Hudson, and yeah, oh, yeah, he was something to look at with his preppy East Coast looks — tall, dark, and delicious — but she couldn’t get past the fact that his mom called him Cinnamon Bun or that he slurped his Dr. Pepper in a highly irritating fashion. 

“The turnout is amazing,” Georgia said loudly as the band started up again, this time with a cover of “Ring of Fire.” “You might run out of food and drinks.” 

“Clayborne’s has that covered,” Violet said and waved a hand toward Clayborne’s on the Corner, the family-owned bar situated at the entrance to Hale Street. Hunter Clayborne operated the bar and served as an association member on the Hale Street revitalization effort. “He’s going to start sending groups over there around midnight. That’s when the city said we had to start shutting things down.” 

Georgia passed a friendly wave at Asia Knowles, an assistant manager at Clayborne’s, as she sailed by, and glanced around. It appeared as though the whole street, and their guests, had turned out in fine form. She saw Nessa, who owned the wedding dress shop down the street, twirling around on the arm of Frank Dole, grizzly and grumpy owner of Frank’s Diner, while his wife, Tilly, looked on, laughing. Nick, Violet’s boyfriend and one of Hale’s preferred contractors, was sipping on a beer on the fringes, talking to Burke Wentworth, who owned the hotel at the end of the street. There were others too. Ivy, the bakery goddess, was leading the third bakery girl, Kennedy Lowell, through the crowd talking a million miles a minute while Kennedy smiled indulgently. 

There was Jackson, Kennedy’s brother, chatting with a guy Georgia didn’t recognize and the third Lowell sibling, Sierra. Lurlene, a lifetime resident of one of the apartments above what was now a boot shop, stood on the edges looking for someone to trap into conversation about bats or the evils of technology or whatever other mad genius topic she’d focused on with razor-sharp obsession. Her albino ferret, Snowball, hopped around on his hot pink leash before snuggling down between Lurlene’s oversized green Crocs. 

Georgia looked away quickly before Lurlene could catch her eye. 

“Where’s Cooper?” she asked Violet. 

“I haven’t seen him yet.” Violet glanced toward the building directly next to Sugar Babies and across the street from Clayborne’s. “No lights on in the Angry Cat. He knew we were having the block party; Ivy went over and badgered him about it. Do you think he would have gone home?” 

“Typical if he did,” Georgia said even as the zing of awareness that accompanied Cooper Quinn’s name faded away. “He’s not big on crowds.” 

“He’s getting better,” Violet said, still frowning. “Do you think I should go over there? See if he’s there?” 

“No.” Georgia took a plastic cup from the stack on the table, filled it, and handed it to Violet. “I’ll do it. You go make Nick dance with you.” 

“He won’t.” 

“He will if you ask nicely.” 

Violet grinned. “Yeah, you’re right. Don’t let Cooper say no if he’s over there, okay?” 

Georgia saluted as Violet whirled away, looking insanely in love. It’d be nice, Georgia thought, to have someone to dance with. Someone who lit up when she walked by, like Nick was lighting up now, taking Violet’s outstretched hand, laughing with her, pulling her close as the band slowed it down. 

Nice, she thought and turned toward the Angry Cat Bookstore and Cooper Quinn.


Purchase Links: Amazon / B&N / Apple / Kobo

Social Media Links: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website




Dystopia

Review: Ashwin by Kit Rocha

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Title: Ashwin (Gideon's Riders #1)
Author: Kit Rocha
Genre/Themes: Dystopia, Romance
Release Date: 7 March 2017

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

My rating: 4 Stars


Blurb

Lieutenant Ashwin Malhotra is a Makhai soldier--genetically engineered to be cold, ruthless. Unfeeling. His commanding officers consider him the perfect operative, and they're right. Now, he has a simple mission: to infiltrate Gideon's Riders, the infamous sect of holy warriors that protects the people of Sector One.

He's never failed to execute an objective, but there's one thing he didn't anticipate--running into Dr. Kora Bellamy, the only woman to ever break through his icy exterior.

When Kora fled her life as a military doctor for the Makhai Project, all she wanted was peace--a quiet life where she could heal the sick and injured. The royal Rios family welcomed her like a sister, but she could never forget Ashwin. His sudden reappearance is a second chance--if she can manage to touch his heart.

When the simmering tension between them finally ignites, Kora doesn't realize she's playing with fire. Because she's not just falling in love with a man who may not be able to love her back. Ashwin has too many secrets--and one of them could destroy her.

Review

This is my first book by this author duo, though I have some idea about the Beyond series, since I have read some of the free chapters available on their site. This is a spin-off series which I'm happy to say works rather well on its own. 

The authors build an intriguing dystopian world mixed with religious beliefs and a strong sense of community. We see it mostly through the eyes of Ashwin, a genetically modified soldier, and Kora, a highly skilled doctor/healer. And it's fascinating how they both discovered this unfamiliar world and become part of it.

Ashwin is is the type of hero I love reading about the most - socially awkward, a killing machine which the system tried to dehumanize completely. His awakening to a life of feelings, was a long, painful journey of trial and error. 

And Kora, I have so much love (and deep sympathy) for Kora. She was Ashwin's opposite but as it turns out they are more alike that anyone can suspect. In a way she is also on a journey of discovering her place in Sector One, of discovering and embracing the joy of belonging to a community of people who care about and love each other. I loved how the story explores the complexity of forming and maintaining relationships, especially in times of war, when people are often driven to desperate actions.

The community in Sector One was truly outstanding. There is a strong sense of joy and living your life to the fullest but also providing care and support to those who needed. 

The story presents us with an intriguing set of supporting characters, both the Riders (hello, Zeke!) and the rest of the people in Sector One and I'm excited to read more about them. 

It's a fast-paced story, both introspective at times and full of action at other times. There are quite a few plot twists that kept me turning pages almost feverishly. And the love story at the center of it all was beautiful - very sensual but also emotional and intimate.

Purchase links: Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Historical Romance

Review: An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles

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Titlle: An Unseen Attraction (Sins of the Cities #1)
Author: KJ Charles
Genre/Themes: Historical, MM romance
Release Date: 21 Feb 2017

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

My rating: 4 Stars

Blurb

Lodging-house keeper Clem Talleyfer prefers a quiet life. He’s happy with his hobbies, his work—and especially with his lodger Rowley Green, who becomes a friend over their long fireside evenings together. If only neat, precise, irresistible Mr. Green were interested in more than friendship...

Rowley just wants to be left alone—at least until he meets Clem, with his odd, charming ways and his glorious eyes. Two quiet men, lodging in the same house, coming to an understanding... it could be perfect. Then the brutally murdered corpse of another lodger is dumped on their doorstep and their peaceful life is shattered.

Now Clem and Rowley find themselves caught up in a mystery, threatened on all sides by violent men, with a deadly London fog closing in on them. If they’re to see their way through, the pair must learn to share their secrets—and their hearts. 

Review

This is the start of new Victorian queer romance series by one of my favourite authors of historical romance, and I was super excited to read it. And then I was really happy and thoroughly delighted when i read it.

This a romance coupled with some mystery in the tradition of Victorian sensational novels but with gay characters and told from the POV of the less fortunate half of society - the sort of middle class professional Rowley who is a taxidermist and Clem who is half-Indian and the bastard son of an Earl.

The writing is perfect as one has come to expect from KJ Charles, it the story flows smoothly despite a somewhat slow start. The pace of the mystery/thriller aspect picks up after the middle and I became totally engrossed in this element of the plot. 

And the romance, oh the romace is just beautiful. We see two real men with their strengths and weaknesses coming slowly together. Clem is neurodiverse, he suffers from dyspraxia and I didn't know anything about it before I read the book, yet the way KJ Charles portrayed his daily struggles made me feel deeply for him. And I found even more powerful is the way Rowley reacted to Clem's condition - with understanding, making some wrong assumptions along the way but always ready to listen and learn. 

The progress of Clem and Rowley's relationship was a pure delight to follow, friends to lover, to true partners, discovering each other's quirks, learning to be together. 

I like the strong sense of time and place the author created which I'd say is also typical of KJ Charles' stories. Meticulously research details of the places and the times as a whole really brought the story to life for me. 

I enjoyed meeting Clem's friends and as a supporting cast they were really intriguing, with Polish Mark being my personal favourite. (And of course, as my luck would have it, we get to read his story last).

Judging from other reviews it seems Clem is the readers' favourite in this story. And he absolutely deserves it - his kindness, his care for his fellow human beings were amazing and heart-warming. I found Rowley equally intriguing and he managed to tug at my heartstrings the same as Clem. His vulnerability, his fear for his life, were just normal human emotions, not something to be ashamed of or mocked for by the others. I really like the dynamics of power between Clem and Rowley and how it developed gradually and fitted them so well. 

This book was a great start to an intriguing new series, less overtly political than Society of Gentlemen but still very much politically and socially aware. The story highlights the diversity of the Victorian society in a natural and cohesive way (I enjoyed reading the bits on the Indian society Clem visits and the way his complex relationship with his origin was presented).

Purchase links: Publisher / Amazon.com / Kobo

Author Interview

New and Debut: Layla Reyne

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This week's New and Debut post presents Layla Reyne and it's part of the blog tour for her debut mm romantic suspense, Single Malt, which release on Feb 28. Read on for the usual author interview, plus some teasers and an excerpt from the book. Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a special gift set!


Meet Layla

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

Most of the “romance author” credit goes to my grandmothers. One was an English professor and the other, who kept me after school, was a Southern storyteller and soap opera addict. Every afternoon, we watched her “programs” together. As a result, I was always drawn to the romance thread in books, movies and television shows. That lead me down the road to ’Shipper Fandom—a fan who pulls hard for a certain fictional couple to develop a romantic relationship. Mulder and Scully were my first big one, to the point I started writing fanfiction, not really realizing that I was writing romance. I got diverted a bit with my other career, but fandom eventually captured my interest once more—The Vampire Diaries, Arrow, Castle, Suits, to name a few—and I started writing fanfiction again. Around the same time, a fandom friend recommended I read Kristen Ashley. From there, it was all over. I became a ravenous romance reader, began working on my own original stories, and here I am a few years later with my first published romance. Can’t seem to shake those FBI agents (or redheads) though!

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

I read widely across romance subgenres. The only thing I don’t read much of is historical, but put a KJ Charles romance in front of me and I’ll devour it. Kristen Ashley is a favorite, especially her Colorado Mountain and ‘Burg series with their overarching mystery and town plots. Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series was probably the one I inhaled fastest. Living in the Bay Area, I especially love her reimagined San Francisco. I started reading male/male romance first in slash fanfiction years ago, then more recently after falling in love with Lord John from the Outlander series. About the same time, I saw Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban’s Cut & Run series on a list of Must-Read Romantic Suspense. I emerged from the Ty/Zane fog a week later a total fan of the genre. HelenKay Dimon’s Tough Love series is another m/m romantic suspense favorite. In contemporary m/m romance, Santino Hassell, Alexis Hall, Megan Erickson and Annabeth Albert are auto-buys for me. And finally, in SFF, Jensen & Burke’s Chaos Station series, C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince Trilogy, and Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series. 

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

My romance and suspense leanings definitely draw from my television fandom background. In addition to the above-mentioned soaps, Hills Street Blues and every airplane fighter pilot movie ever were often played in our house. The other major influence is my experience living on both coasts. I was raised in North Carolina, but have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for ten-plus years now. As a result, my characters are often from one state or the other—Jamie’s from a North Carolina town not far from where I grew up and Aidan’s family, after immigrating from Ireland, settled one town over from where I live now. Some of my favorite locations and foods also inspire the same—the Tavern, Jamie and Aidan’s shared Blue Bottle coffee addiction, Jamie’s penchant for fried chicken, something almost every North Carolinian shares, and in AIW2, Aidan and Jamie travel to North Carolina for their case, the location and case borne out of my love for college basketball. I’m a UNC alum after all! Then in AIW3, some of Silicon Valley’s most notable places and themes are featured.

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you?

Adrenaline-fueled romance—that’s my tagline and that’s what readers are going to get. In my romantic suspense, I aim for a balance of plot and romance that keeps readers flipping pages into the wee hours. *Shares all the coffee* And in my contemporary romance, I think readers will see adrenaline, of one sort or another, fuels my characters and keeps the plot steam-rolling ahead.

5. Can you introduce your upcoming release?

Agents Irish and Whiskey is about widowed FBI agent and Irish ex-pat, Aidan Talley, falling hard for handsome, younger Cyber agent, Jameson “Whiskey” Walker, as they investigate cybercrimes and the murder of Aidan’s late husband. In Single Malt, Irish and Whiskey investigate a series of hacks at a biocontainment facility as they work to stop a potentially deadly terrorist attack. Aidan and Jamie are also trying (and failing) to stop their growing romantic attraction, a distraction they don’t need if they’re going to solve the case and save their hearts and lives in time.

Blurb

Eight months after the car crash that changed everything, FBI agent Aidan Talley is back at work. New department, new case and a new partner. Smart, athletic and handsome, Jameson Walker is twelve years his junior. Even if Aidan was ready to move on—and he's not—Jamie is off-limits. 

Jamie's lusted after Aidan for three years, and the chance to work with San Francisco's top agent directly is too good to pass up. Aidan is prickly—to put it mildly—but a growing cyber threat soon proves Jamie's skills invaluable. 

Jamie's talents paint a target on his back, and Aidan is determined to protect him. But with hack after hack threatening a high-security bio-containment facility, time is running out to thwart a deadly terrorist attack. They'll have to filter out distractions, on the case and in their partnership, to identify the real enemy, solve the case and save thousands of lives, including their own. 

Purchase links: Carina Press | Amazon | Google Play | Kobo | iTunes| B&N


Excerpt from SINGLE MALT

Aidan came to slowly. The acrid smell of smoke stung his nostrils, something wet dripped down the side of his face, and his head throbbed like someone had taken a hammer to it. Eyes closed, shattered glass tinkled all around as he lifted a hand to his temple. Massaging the point of pain, his fingers came away sticky and wet.
His aching brain was slow to catch on. One by one, it put together the pieces, and the terrible familiarity of his situation came into focus, knotting his gut and tearing at his chest.
Blood.
Broken glass.
Engine smoke and airbag fumes.
Not one but two SUVs barreling toward them.
Car accident.
Again.
Present events collided with past memories of a similar, horrible night eight months ago.
Tom clutching the dashboard with one hand and the handle above the Tesla’s passenger door with the other, bracing for impact, his face aghast in the oncoming high beams of the vehicle speeding toward them.
Gabe’s frightened black eyes meeting his own in the rearview mirror, a second before his body was thrown sideways in the back seat, the crash of his skull against the window louder in Aidan’s mind than the grinding metal and splintering glass.
Aidan’s insides tossing and turning with each flip of the car, free fall at its most terrifying. The scrape of asphalt against his arm, metal piercing skin, twisting and turning, as death pinned him in its grip.
A weak gurgling cough yanked Aidan back to the present.
Whiskey.
Eyes popping open, he squinted against the bright morning light and gasped at the pain piercing his head and radiating down his right side. Fighting the blackness encroaching on the edges of his vision, he turned his head left, searching for his partner.
His partner who’d driven the Rover with stunt-worthy precision out of the way of two oncoming SUVs, through a barrier, and down a cliff into a ravine.
The hard landing had knocked Aidan out, but he’d woken upright and in one piece, relatively. Walker, just coming to, was held back against the driver’s seat by the taut seatbelt. He had his left hand up by his hairline, and when it fell limply into his lap, his fingertips were covered in blood. The strained belt snapped, and he began to crumple forward.
“Whiskey.” Swatting the deflated airbags out of the way, Aidan reached over to hold Walker upright, pressing him back into the seat. “Stay with me.”
Groaning, Walker rotated his head, his lashes dark against colorless cheeks. Bright red blood seeped from a gash at his hairline.
Ignoring the pain in his side and the anvil in his head, Aidan unbuckled his seatbelt and stretched across the console to hold Walker’s face in his hand, giving his unshaven cheek a firm but careful pat.
“Come on, Jamie. Open those beautiful blue eyes for me.”
Walker’s forehead wrinkled and his eyelids fluttered open, the gaze beneath them hazy and unfocused. “Irish?”
Pure relief and blinding need propelled Aidan across the console. Fingers digging into Walker’s neck, he slammed their mouths together and tasted the precious life flowing from his partner’s lips. Aidan had wanted this the past three weeks, but he’d denied the attraction between them. Because they were partners. Because he was still grieving. But in the aftermath of this latest accident, too much like the one that’d stolen the last man he’d loved, Aidan needed to know the man beside him, the man he could but couldn’t love, was alive.
Walker gave a surprised jerk, then, catching on, angled his head and parted his lips, his warm breath rushing into Aidan’s mouth. Granted entrance, Walker’s slow kiss was no match for Aidan’s desperation.
For the fear that laced each swipe of his tongue.
For the longing that shook his fingers and caused him to groan.
For the darkness that grew closer with each stolen breath.
“You’ll be okay, Whiskey,” he whispered against his lips.
Relief for Walker’s safety, for his life, made Aidan’s slide into darkness smooth, not the tossing and turning of his nightmarish memories.
“Irish, hold on,” was the last thing he heard before falling forward into Walker’s big body and letting oblivion take him.

Coming May 1, 2017 - CASK STRENGTH (Agents Irish & Whiskey):


Professionally, the FBI team of Aidan "Irish" Talley and Jameson "Whiskey" Walker is as good as it gets, closing cases faster than any team at the Bureau. Personally, it’s a different story. Aidan’s feelings for Jamie scare the hell out of him: he won’t risk losing another love no matter how heart-tripping the intimacy between them. And loss is a grim reality with the terrorist Renaud still on their trail, leaving a pile of bodies in his wake.

Going undercover on a new case gets them out of town and off the killer's radar. They're assigned to investigate an identity theft ring involving a college basketball team in Jamie's home state, where Jamie's past makes him perfect for the role of coach. But returning to the court brings more than old memories.

As secrets and shocking betrayals abound, none may be more dangerous than the one Jamie’s been keeping: a secret about the death of Aidan’s husband that could blow his partner's world apart and destroy forever the fragile bonds of trust and love building between them.

Preorder now: Amazon | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play

Author Bio and Links

2016 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist, Layla Reyne, was raised in North Carolina but now calls San Francisco home. She enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline fueled suspense and heart pounding romance. When she’s not writing stories to excite her readers, she downloads too many books, watches too much television, and cooks too much food with her scientist husband, much to the delight of their smushed-face, leftover-loving dogs. You can find her online at http://www.laylareyne.com/

Connect with Layla: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads


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