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GUEST POST and EXCERPT and GIVEAWAY: Aqua Follies by Liv Rancourt

The Aqua Follies!

Hey, so, thanks for having me back as a guest on Because Two Men Are Better Than One! I very much appreciate connecting with your readers, especially today. I’m excited for everyone to finally have my new novel Aqua Follies out in the wild. Happy release day to me!

You may well be wondering, um, Aqua Follies? What exactly are the Aqua Follies? Right? Let’s talk about it. Basically, the Follies were a variety show on the water. In the days before triple-digit cable channels and Netflix & chill, people went out for their entertainment. From 1950 until about 1962, during the Seafair celebration, Seattleites could run down to Green Lake for the show.

Here’s a bit of background for those of you who aren’t from Seattle. Seafair is an annual August event that stretches out over a couple weeks. It’s still happening, so if you’re in town this summer, you can catch the Milk Carton Derby (boats made out of milk cartons race around the lake), maybe get hit on by a Seafair Pirate, or watch the grand finale, the hydroplane races on Lake Washington with the Blue Angels overhead.

It’s about as corny as can be, and pretty much unavoidable if you live here.

For the first Seafair in 1950, an open-air grandstand and stage was built at Green Lake, a lake in the northwest corner of the city with a 2.8 mile perimeter (that I once walked around in 35 minutes. Just sayin’…). The stadium sat a little over 5000 people, though it was built really fast and they had to take down about half of the seats in a rehab project in 1970.

In the ‘50s, though, Esther Williams was a huge star, who appeared in movies like “Bathing Beauty” and “Million Dollar Mermaid”. The Aqua Follies tapped into the public’s interest in water ballet, bringing a group of synchronized swimmers – the Aqua Dears – from Minneapolis to perform, along with their dancing sister-troupe, the Aqua Darlings.

The Aqua Follies also featured Olympic divers and a live band. Older friends who attended the Follies tell me that for kids, the divers were the most popular act. I’ve seen pictures of the original theater, and I’ve walked past that section of the lake uncountable times, and the water just doesn’t look deep enough for divers. They must have dug a trench or something, or else the bottom of the lake drops down past where I can see.

At any rate, the Dears and the Darlings were huge news when they got to town. The front page of the Seattle Times would feature them, with headlines like, “The Aqua Dears, Darlings Arrive for the Follies!” or “Sleepy Swimmers!”(which went along with a picture of six of the girls leaning on a bannister, grinning way too hard to be convincingly sleepy). The performers were housed in sorority houses at the nearby University of Washington, and tickets for the show ranged from $2 to $3.5 for a box seat.

All good things must come to an end, and after the Seattle Worlds Fair in 1962, the aqua theater fell out of regular use. The weather in Seattle is just too unpredictable, and frequent rain-outs made the shows cost-prohibitive to produce. In the ‘60s, promoters organized one-off events with performers like Sonny and Cher and even a rather notorious concert by Led Zeppelin, who opened for Three Dog Night. One of the final big shows was put on by the Grateful Dead in the summer of ’69. Soon after that, the stage and diving towers were dismantled.

Now the aqua theater is the home of the Green Lake Crew, and the only people in the remaining grandstands are joggers looking to add some stairs to their training. They say you should write what you know, and while I wasn’t old enough to see the Aqua Follies (or even that Led Zeppelin show, darn it) I do know the neighborhood, and it felt right to imagine the Aqua Dears’ coach, Russell, falling for the trumpet player in the band.

I hope you’ll check out Skip and Russell’s story. Keep reading for an excerpt, and please do enter the rafflecopter giveaway. My writing partner Irene Preston and I have a $25 gift card up for grabs, to celebrate Aqua Follies release!

Giveaway

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter

Prize pack includes $25 Gift Card to Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Blurb

The 1950s. Postwar exuberance. Conformity. Rock and roll.

Homophobia.

Russell tells himself he’ll marry Susie because it’s the right thing to do. His summer job coaching her water ballet team will give him plenty of opportunity to give her a ring. But on the team’s trip to the annual Aqua Follies, the joyful glide of a trumpet player’s solo hits Russell like a torpedo, blowing apart his carefully constructed plans.

From the orchestra pit, Skip watches Poseidon’s younger brother stalk along the pool deck. It never hurts to smile at a man, because sometimes good things can come of it. Once the last note has been played, Skip gives it a shot.

The tenuous connection forged by a simple smile leads to events that dismantle both their lives. Has the damage been done, or can they pick up the pieces together?

About the Author

About Liv Rancourt
I write romance: m/f, m/m, and v/h, where the h is for human and the v is for vampire … or sometimes demon … I lean more towards funny than angst. When I’m not writing I take care of tiny premature babies or teenagers, depending on whether I’m at home or at work. My husband is a soul of patience, my dog’s cuteness is legendary, and we share the homestead with three ferrets. Who steal things. Because they’re brats.

Where to find Liv

LivRancourt.com

Facebook | Twitter | Mailing List | Goodreads

Excerpt 

When Skip had crossed the line into blatant flirting, Russell blushed like a girl. Skip liked the charge that came with pushing the pedal down, and—despite Lou’s opinions—he had enough self-preservation to know when to cut the gas.

Skip followed Russell to a shadowy area in the back of the parking lot, and once they were out of sight of anyone in the club, Russell brought out the flask and handed it over. Skip took a hit, the whiskey’s smoky burn warming his chest on the way down. “I got another question for you.”

Russell took the flask and raised an eyebrow.

“How come you don’t dance?” Skip was mainly curious, but the words carried more heat than he’d intended.

Russell snorted, crossing his arms over his chest in a way that made his biceps bulge. “I just don’t.”

“Maybe you need someone to teach you.” Lou would sure scold him for this one. “Maybe you just need the right person.”

Russell’s fists clenched, and for half a second, Skip thought he might haul off and punch him. Heck, he probably deserved it. Then Russell choked out a laugh. “The right person. Sure.”

“I mean…” Since he hadn’t been served a knuckle sandwich, Skip struck a pose, hip cocked, hands in the air like they were on a partner’s shoulders. “I can do the cha-cha.” He swung his hips, fighting a laugh at Russell’s perplexed expression. “Or the swing.” He mimed a four-step pattern, then swung his hips again for good measure. Russell appeared transfixed by the motion.

A shout of laughter distracted them. A group of people spilled out the nightclub’s door, a woman’s voice rising over the hubbub. “Where are we going again?”

Russell shifted in their direction, hands on his hips. “Annette?” he said softly.

“Wait. I want to go back in and hear the band.” To Skip’s ear, the woman wasn’t laughing nearly as hard as the bunch of guys she was with.

“Come on, sugar. It’s just out here,” one of the men said. Skip didn’t like the way he laughed.

“No.”

This time there was no mistaking the distress in her voice. Russell took off running, with Skip right behind. He detoured to the door of the club, where he ran into Ryker and Susie. They were laughing, his arm around her shoulder.

“Come on, you guys,” Skip said. “It sounds like your friend Annette’s in some trouble.”

By the time they got to the other end of the parking lot, Russell was chest to chest with a drunken college boy, the kind with pale skin, a buzz cut, and a mean attitude. Skip looked around for anything he could use as a weapon if it came to a fight. There were two other fellows backing the one in front of Russell, and Annette huddled against a car, tears streaking her cheeks.

“So you’re going to take on all three of us? All by your lonesome?” The boy stuck his finger in Russell’s chest. Russell grabbed his wrist and leaned into him. The college boy was taller, but Russell was broader and bulkier.

“If I have to.”

Under different circumstances, the rock-solid certainty in Russell’s tone would have given Skip a hard-on. Saving that thought for later, he grabbed a thick branch lying between the cars.

“One against three.” Another of the college boys snickered.

Skip stepped forward, holding the branch loosely. “Looks like three against three to me.” Ryker followed his lead.

One of the arrogant fools came right up to Ryker. “Two and a half against three, I’d say.”

With a click, Ryker opened a switchblade. “Funny how this extends my reach.”

Swinging the branch, Skip took a step forward. The college boys all shifted back, even the one facing off with Russell. Skip might be slender and a little light in his boots, but anyone who grew up in Pioneer Square knew how to fight. He and Ryker moved into position on either side of Russell, and the college boys backed off.

“We were just playing anyway.” One of them laughed like it was all a joke.

“Didn’t sound like that to me,” Russell said. “I think you should apologize to my cousin.”

“Your cousin’s a slut.”

Skip wasn’t sure which one said it, but before anyone could respond, Russell took three big steps forward and put his fist into the middle guy’s belly. The boy dropped to his knees, and Russell stood over him. “Anyone else?”

The other two beat feet, which didn’t surprise Skip. These candy-ass college boys were all show and no go. Susie ran up to Annette, with Russell right behind her. “I’m going to get the car,” Skip said to Ryker. “We gotta cut out.”

Buy Links

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GUEST POST: Maui, A Cozy Mystery Paradise by Joe Cosentino

MAUI, A COZY MYSTERY PARADISE

Drama Luau, the fourth Nicky and Noah comedy/mystery/romance novel

by Joe Cosentino

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’ve been all over the world, and no place is more beautiful, exotic, and romantic than Maui, the perfect location for a gay cozy mystery.

A few years ago, my spouse and I survived the long plane ride and visited hidden white sandy beaches (our favorite was the beach used in the movie South Pacific), giant and spectacular waterfalls (as in the opening of Fantasy Island), craters of every hue on steep mountaintops, palm trees waving in the gentle breeze, and incredibly low key and hospitable Hawaiians. We braved the white-knuckle drive to the fantastic Seven Sacred Pools, yawned at the gorgeous sunrise at Haleakala, snorkeled in the clear turquoise water, and flew through the crystal blue sky while parasailing. We also attended a luau with a dramatic boat procession, pig roast and ceremony, huge and sumptuous buffet of Hawaiian foods, and of course the hula dancer show. The dancers were muscular Hawaiian men wearing grass skirts, leis, flower headdresses, anklets, and bracelets, who gestured with their arms, waved their knees, stomped, and grunted on an outdoor stage masked by a dormant volcano.

So when it came time for Nicky and Noah to go on their honeymoon in the fourth novel in my popular Nicky and Noah mystery series, I knew they had to go to Maui. It was great fun including all the things my spouse and I did on our trip into this fast-paced, humorous, spine-tingling mystery with a very shocking ending. Nicky and Noah have the time of their lives solving this one, and also find their relationship in for quite a change.

As you remember, in Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Novel of 2015), college theatre professors are dropping like stage curtains at Treemeadow College, and amateur sleuths/college theatre professors Nicky and Noah have to use their theatre skills, including impersonating other people, to figure out whodunit. In Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention 2016), Nicky and Noah don their gay Holmes and Watson personas again to find out why bodybuilding students and professors at Treemeadow are dropping faster than barbells. Also, Nicky and Noah’s relationship reaches a milestone by the end of the novel. In Drama Cruise, it is summer on a ten-day cruise from San Francisco to Alaska and back (which my spouse and I also did). Nicky and Noah must figure out why college theatre professors are dropping like life rafts as Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship starring Noah and other college theatre professors from across the US. Complicating matters are their both sets of wacky parents who want to embark on all the activities on and off the boat with the handsome couple.

Now in Drama Luau, Nicky is directing the luau show at the Maui Mist Resort, and he and Noah need to figure out why muscular Hawaiian hula dancers are dropping like grass skirts. Their department head and his husband, Martin and Ruben, are along for the bumpy tropical ride. In addition to the sexy hula dancers, we meet a handsome Hawaiian detective, a Bloody Mary type housekeeper, a cigar chomping hotel manager, the hotel owner and his senator wife who give new meaning to the term family values, and a cute young waiter who wants to be a hula dancer more than a priest wants a new altar boy convention.

And watch for Drama Detective, book five, releasing in six months!

It is my joy and pleasure to share these stories with you. So grab your plate at the buffet table, and take your front row seat for the luau show. The grass curtain is going up on Drama Luau!

DRAMA LUAU (a Nicky and Noah mystery)

a comedy/mystery/romance novel by JOE COSENTINO

http://myBook.to/DramaLuau

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/711186

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/drama-luau-joe-cosentino/1125994872?ean=2940154062050

Theater professors and spouses, Nicky Abbondanza and Noah Oliver, are on their honeymoon at a Hawaiian resort, where musclemen in grass skirts are keeling over like waterfalls. Things erupt faster than a volcano when Nicky and Noah, along with their best friends Martin and Ruben, try to stage a luau show. Nicky and Noah will need to use their drama skills to figure out who is bringing the grass curtain down on male hula dancers—before things go coconuts for the handsome couple. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining fourth novel in this delightful series. Curtain up and aloha!

 

Praise for DRAMA QUEEN, the first Nicky and Noah mystery by Joe Cosentino from Lethe Press (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, Contemporary Novel of 2015):

“I love this story, just the right mix, of fun, hilarity and mystery in the mix. The storyline is fresh and well thought out, and the dynamic of the characters is through the roof! Bike Book Reviews

Praise for DRAMA MUSCLE, the second Nicky and Noah mystery by Joe Cosentino from Lethe Press (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention):

“reading these books is like watching a fabulous comedic, murder mystery, action, adventure, romantic film.” “I was giggle snorting and laughing so much I had to stop reading. Joe Cosentino’s writing is absolutely flawless. He’s a master storyteller and will keep you guessing and utterly riveted until Drama Muscle’s highly satisfying ending. This is an absolute gem of a book, and series.” Divine Magazine

Praise for DRAMA CRUISE, the third Nicky and Noah mystery by Joe Cosentino from Lethe Press:

“Each (Nicky and Noah mystery) is a wonderful mixture of sex, comedy, romance and murder, but when Cosentino took it to an Alaska cruise and the high seas, well, it tossed it up into theatrically delicious magic….I loved this story. I love this couple. What on earth is going to happen to them next? I can’t wait to find out.” Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Bestselling author Joe Cosentino was voted Favorite Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of 2015 by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen. He also wrote the other novels in the Nicky and Noah mystery series: Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention) and Drama Cruise (Lethe Press), Drama Luau; In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), A Home for the Holidays, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland (Dreamspinner Press); Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back (TBR Pile Book of the Month/Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings Cozzi Cove series (NineStar Press); Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press) Jana Lane mysteries; and The Nutcracker and the Mouse King (Eldridge Plays and Musicals). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. His one-act plays, Infatuation and Neighbor, were performed in New York City. He wrote The Perils of Pauline educational film (Prentice Hall Publishers). Joe is currently Head of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and is happily married. Joe was voted 2nd Place for Best MM Author of the Year in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2015! Coming next: Drama Detective, the fifth Nicky and Noah mystery.

Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JoeCosentinoauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoeCosen

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4071647.Joe_Cosentino

Amazon: Author.to/JoeCosentino

Excerpt of Drama Luau by Joe Cosentino:

Rivaling our heated argument with the Kapenas, the fake volcano onstage erupted, thanks to the theatrical effects of red lights and smoke. The dancers entered the stage to welcoming applause and executed their opening number. I held Noah’s hand as the men gestured toward the palm trees, ocean, and mountains behind them. As the dance built in intensity, they stomped, grunted, and made faces in honor of the goddess of the ocean. Though lead dancer Kal was positioned front and center for most of the dance, each dancer filled the stage with dramatic character (thanks, Noah!) and strong presence. The conclusion of the opening number was met with appreciative applause from the audience.

After a brief musical interlude, the dancers returned to the stage in their grass skirts and performed the next few numbers. Kal maintained his magnetic charisma. Though older and drooping a bit in the middle, dance captain Ak and bulldog faced Kimu held their own, as did cute little Ahe. Not surprisingly, Ahe’s lover, Keanu, commanded the audience’s attention with his obvious desire to move from dancer helper to lead dancer. With each successfully completed routine, Noah and I breathed a sigh of relief.

Pulling off their skirts and wearing only G-strings, the dancers performed their homage to the creation god. I noticed that both of the Kapenas seemed to be quite interested in that number.

Finally, the stage lights dimmed, and the cast lit their fire clubs. Waving them enthusiastically to honor the fire goddess, each dancer performed his routine beautifully. As I had instructed, a technician turned on the fan near the stage to highlight the flames that danced along as the men carried them. I thanked the theatre gods when Kimu, no doubt having taken a swig in the dressing room, doddered a bit but managed to stay on his feet until the end of the fire finale.

“Nicky, look!”

I followed Noah’s index finger pointing to a tiki lamp onstage as it came crashing down on Kimu’s head. Kimu saw the light.

The music stopped as the audience shrieked. Noah and I raced up onto the stage. Checking Kimu’s pulse, Noah said, “Nicky. He’s dead!”

The stage became a blur of activity with dancers, technicians, Walter, the Kapenas, wait staff, and band members racing around like bear cubs without their mother.

Feeling like the star of a 1940’s thriller, I stood at the apron of the stage. “Is there a doctor in the house?”

Before anyone could answer, Noah tapped my shoulder. “Nicky, Kimu’s gone.”

I continued scanning the audience for a doctor or a nurse. “Maybe there’s still a chance to save him.”

“No, Nicky, he’s really gone,” Noah said.

I looked behind me at the place onstage where Kimu had fallen. It was empty.

 

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EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: Sunset at Pencarrow by Anne Barwell and Lou Sylvre

Thanks for hosting us here today as part of our blog tour for Sunset at Pencarrow.

We have a Rafflecopter running as part of the blog tour so be sure to enter—which you can more than once. Use the discount code PENCARROW for 30% off Sunset at Pencarrow only from the Dreamspinner Press store from 31st May-30th June.

Blurb

Kiwi Nathaniel Dunn is in a fighting mood, but how does a man fight Wellington’s famous fog? In the last year, Nate’s lost his longtime lover to boredom and his ten-year job to the economy. Now he’s found a golden opportunity for employment where he can even use his artistic talent, but to get the job, he has to get to Christchurch today. Heavy fog means no flight, and the ticket agent is ignoring him to fawn over a beautiful but annoying, overly polite American man.

Rusty Beaumont can deal with a canceled flight, but the pushy Kiwi at the ticket counter is making it difficult for him to stay cool. The guy rubs him all the wrong ways despite his sexy working-man look, which Rusty notices even though he’s not looking for a man to replace the fiancé who died two years ago. Yet when they’re forced to share a table at the crowded airport café, Nate reveals the kind heart behind his grumpy façade. An earthquake, sex in the bush, and visits from Nate’s belligerent ex turn a day of sightseeing into a slippery slope that just might land them in love.

World of Love: Stories of romance that span every corner of the globe.

Excerpt

“I don’t bloody believe this.” Nathaniel “Nate” Dunn took a deep breath. “So, any idea when my flight might actually leave?”

The woman at the counter gave him what she probably thought was a pleasant smile. Instead it came across as condescending with a touch of oh help me, God, how stupid is this guy?

“I’ve already told you—” She glanced at his ticket. “—Mr. Dunn… Nathaniel… I don’t have that information. The fog will lift when it decides to lift, and we can’t begin to reschedule flights until that time. In the meantime, you’ll have to wait like everyone else.”

“You don’t understand. I have to be in Christchurch this afternoon. I have a job interview tomorrow.”

“Of course you do.” The woman seemed ready to dismiss him but then appeared to reconsider. “If you’re desperate, perhaps you can catch the afternoon ferry sailing to Picton and then a flight from either Blenheim or Nelson.”

“The ferries are full.” Nate read the name on her badge—Heather Rawlins. “Ms. Rawlins, I’ve already thought of that.” He waved his hand to indicate the very full airport. Many of those in line behind him were students. Several of them looked very young, and they had parents hovering around them. Probably their first time away from home, and not a great start to a course of study at either Canterbury or Otago universities. “Uni starts back last week of February. That’s next week. There’s only me and several hundred others trying to make it to the South Island.”

“You’d better settle in and wait, then, hadn’t you? This might take a while.” Heather looked past him. “Next, please.”

“Charming,” Nate muttered. Why the hell had the fog decided to pick today of all days to turn up? Beautiful weather for weeks, and on the only day he needed to fly out of Wellington, the bloody stuff foiled his plans. His flatmate, Amy, had warned him to be prepared for delays when they hadn’t been able to see the airport from across the harbor that morning, but he hadn’t listened. Fog in the morning didn’t mean the stupid stuff would hang around all day. Typical of his luck lately. “Windy Wellington” and today there wasn’t even a breeze to blow the fog out.

It was a conspiracy.

Much like the rest of his life. One could only take so much of pretending everything was hunky-dory and plastering on a false smile. He was sick of it. Bad enough that Glenn—who he’d thought was the “one,” the guy he’d be with forever—had dumped him, but to find out his job of the last ten years was finishing as well? And now this….

“Next, please,” Heather repeated.

“Excuse me, sir,” a man behind him said in an American accent. “There’s a line here, and I’m sure the lady has done all she could to help you.”

Buy Links

Dreamspinner Press (Discount code PENCARROW from 5/31-6/30, 30% off, DSP store only.)

Google Books

iTunes

Kobo

Amazon

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Giveaway

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter

Blog Tour

We hope you’ll join us for the other stops on the tour.  Click here to see the complete schedule and links to the blogs.

About the Authors

Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She works in a library, is an avid reader and watcher across genres, and is constantly on the lookout for more hours in her day. Music often plays a part in her stories, and although she denies being a romantic at heart, the men in her books definitely are.  Anne has written in several genres—contemporary, fantasy, historical, and SF— and believes in making her characters work for their happy endings.

Website: http://annebarwell.wordpress.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/anne.barwell.1

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/annebarwell

Email: darthanne@gmail.com

Lou Sylvre

Lou Sylvre loves romance with all its ups and downs, and likes to conjure it into books. The romantics on her pages are men who fall hard for each other, end up deeply in love, and often save each other from unspeakable danger. It’s all pretty crazy and very sexy. Among other things, Lou is the creator of the popular Vasquez and James series , which can be found at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and many other online vendors.

Website: http://www.sylvre.rainbow-gate.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLouSylvre/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/sylvre

Email: lou.sylvre@gmail.com

 

Lou and Anne’s shared Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/sylvrebarwellhoffmann/

 

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RELEASE BLITZ with GIVEAWAY: Misdemeanor by CF White

 

Buy Links:  Pride Publishing (Early Download) Amazon US | Amazon UK (Out July 4)

Blurb

After his mother tragically dies and his deadbeat father goes off the rails, nineteen-year-old Micky is left to care for his disabled little brother, Flynn.
   
Juggling college, a dead end job and Flynn’s special needs means Micky has to put his bad boy past behind him and be the responsible adult to keep his brother out of care. He doesn’t have time for anything else in his life.
Until he meets Dan.

“Amazingly gritty and raw. This slice of life is so realistic it flays you.” – Pride Publishing

Excerpt
 

The Sun Keeps Rising

“Shit!”

Micky cursed loudly and squinted through the morning glare to read the alarm clock that was obviously having trouble performing its one and only basic function. He threw off his duvet and jumped out of bed, his foot landing on a plastic wind-up toy penguin discarded on the floor. The penguin openly mocked him by tossing itself into a noisy backflip.

“Fuck!”

Micky cursed again, bending down to pick up the toy and throw it savagely against the wall. It shattered into a million pieces and Micky felt instantly guilty.

“Flynn!” he yelled, hopping over to his bedroom door and yanking it open. Treading more carefully to the bathroom opposite, he rubbed his eyes before coming face-to-face with himself in the mirror above the sink.

He looked like shit. No change there. The three hours of almost sleep he’d gotten obviously hadn’t done anything to improve on his disheveled appearance. He ran a hand over the stubble on his chin. He needed to shave but now didn’t have the time. Micky turned on the tap, dunked his head under the cold stream and squeezed paste onto his toothbrush.

“Flynn!” he shouted again, louder this time, before shoving the toothbrush into his gob and brushing vigorously. The minty taste did nothing for his dry mouth.

“Yes, Micky,” came a quiet little voice from the bathroom doorway.

Still holding the toothbrush between his lips, foam dripping out from the side of his mouth, Micky turned.

“We’re late,” he said, trying to suck the minty drool back up and stop it escaping from the corners.

“I’m dressed,” Flynn replied with a huge proud smile.

Flynn stood in the doorway, clutching another wind-up plastic toy. He kept spinning the thing around, setting off an ear-piercing buzz as it unwound at double speed. He appeared so small and fragile. More like a five-year-old than his actual eight years. He’d gotten dressed. Sort of. He’d managed to pull on his gray school trousers over his pajama bottoms and his army-green jumper clung inside out. No socks, and his mousy-brown curls stuck out from his head in all directions.

Micky’s heart melted a little at the sight.

“Well done, Flynn.” Micky finished brushing his teeth, spat down the plughole and cupped a handful of water into his mouth to rinse. Turning back to his brother, Micky then crouched in front of him. “But how about we try taking the pajamas off?”

Flynn looked down, waggling his toes, and back up at his big brother. “Why?” he asked, confused. “I put them back on later.”

Micky laughed. The kid had a point.

“Come on.” Micky took hold of Flynn’s hand to walk him back into the small box room. It had twin beds, pushed up against opposite sides. One had used to belong to Micky before he’d moved into the master bedroom.

“What time did you get up today?” Micky asked, dragging Flynn’s jumper over his head.

“Five five two,” Flynn replied.

He wound up the blasted plastic toy again and Micky breathed in deeply, preventing his immediate instinctive reaction to take the thing and smash it against the wall in comradeship with its penguin mate.

“That’s early,” Micky said, pulling off Flynn’s pajama top then rooting around in the drawer for his brother’s school polo shirt. He found it scrunched at the bottom and helped Flynn squirm into it while trying to smooth out the creases.

“For what?” Flynn asked, holding on to Micky’s shoulder as he knelt and stepped out of his trousers.

“Everything,” Micky replied with a yawn.

“Daddy didn’t say it was.”

Micky looked into Flynn’s blue eyes. The white starburst pattern within them gave him the feeling of being hypnotized. Micky blinked.

“Dad’s not here, Flynn,” Micky said slowly, standing to inspect his now school-uniform-clad little brother.

“Yes, he is.” Flynn smiled widely, his plastic toy buzzing in his hands.

Micky stared down at for a brief moment, then spun around and ran full pelt down the stairs and into the living room. The place was dark and dank, stinking of booze and fags with beer cans littering the floor.

Micky yanked open the curtains to witness the disgusting figure sprawled on the sofa. Tatty stonewashed denim jeans bagged around his knees and the T-shirt he wore, once white in color, was stained yellow with patches of Micky didn’t want to know what. His greasy, graying hair hung around his face like rats’ tails. He was snoring and every breath out from his wide-open mouth filled the room with a putrid stench.

Micky kicked at the arm dangling off the sofa. The man grumbled but didn’t move. Micky kicked him again, more fiercely. Opening one eye, the brute belched as he squinted through the glaring sunlight.

“Get the fuck out,” Micky demanded.

The laughter that followed made Micky’s skin crawl, along with the irritating scratching of fingernails across the man’s chest. The shirt rubbed against the curly dark hairs scattering his fat body and made the unbearable scraping of nails down a chalk board.

“Now,” Micky growled.

The grunted response wasn’t something Micky could decipher, nor did he care to. Micky watched with contempt as he rolled off the sofa and landed on the floor with a thump. Several beer cans crunched under his heavy frame and he rolled again to push up on to all fours. Grunting once more, he heaved himself to stand. He tripped on his own feet and clutched at the wall. Micky clenched his fists at the ready as the second loud belch blasted out and Micky had to turn away from the oncoming stink.

“Money,” he demanded, holding out a hand.

“Get fucked,” Micky spat back.

“Then I take his.”

He staggered over to the fireplace mantelpiece and made a grab for the handmade clay moneybox shaped like a car. Micky wrapped firm fingers around his wrist and squeezed tightly.

“Over my dead body.” Micky gritted his teeth. Clutching the wrist harder, he used his other hand to root around in the dirty jeans pocket and yanked out a key. Shaking his head, Micky shoved him away. “Now leave, before I fucking kill you.”

“Micky?” Flynn’s delicate little voice squeaked from the living room door. He clung to the plastic toy still in his hand, his eyes tightly shut.

Micky ran over, picked him up and settled him on his hip. For an eight-year-old, Flynn weighed no more than a couple of stone, his body skin and bones. It wasn’t his fault. It was the condition. Flynn rested his head on Micky’s shoulder, wrapping his arms around his big brother’s neck, still clamping his eyes shut.

“It’s okay, Flynn. Dad’s leaving now.”

 
Author Bio
 

Brought up in a relatively small town in Hertfordshire, C F White managed to do what most other residents try to do and fail—leave.

Studying at a West London university, she realised there was a whole city out there waiting to be discovered, so, much like Dick Whittington before her, she never made it back home and still endlessly searches for the streets paved with gold, slowly coming to the realisation they’re mostly paved with chewing gum. And the odd bit of graffiti. And those little circles of yellow spray paint where the council point out the pot holes to someone who is supposedly meant to fix them instead of staring at them vacantly whilst holding a polystyrene cup of watered-down coffee.

She eventually moved West to East along that vast District Line and settled for pie and mash, cockles and winkles and a bit of Knees Up Mother Brown to live in the East End of London; securing a job and creating a life, a home and a family.

Having worked in Higher Education for most of her career, a life-altering experience brought pen back to paper after she’d written stories as a child but never had the confidence to show them to the world. Having embarked on this writing malarkey, C F White cannot stop. So strap in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride…

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RELEASE BLITZ: By The Numbers by RJ Scott

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Paperback: Amazon US | Amazon UK 


Length: 37,400 words


Cover Design: Meredith Russell


Sanctuary Series


Guarding Morgan (Book #1) Amazon US | Amazon UK
The Only Easy Day (Book #2) Amazon US | Amazon UK
Face Value (Book #3) Amazon US | Amazon UK
Still Waters (Book #4) Amazon US | Amazon UK
Full Circle (Book #5) Amazon US | Amazon UK
The Journal of Sanctuary One (Book #6) Amazon US | Amazon UK
Worlds Collide (Book #7) Amazon US | Amazon UK
Accidental Hero (Book #8) Amazon US | Amazon UK

Ghost (Book #9) Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Blurb
 

Secrets and lies threaten Brandon and Daniel’s new love.


Brandon Hoselton is running scared, finding security in his obsession with patterns and numbers. With his family threatened, he feels he has nowhere left to go, and even considers ending his life to keep them safe. Until Sanctuary, in the shape of the enigmatic Daniel Karnes, gives him a reason to stay alive and offers the possibility of a future free from fear.


Former SEAL Daniel is new to Sanctuary, tasked with watching Brandon, a brilliant geek with way too many secrets. Falling in love with quirky Brandon is easy; now he just has to make sure secrets don’t end up with them both dying.


The only way of destroying Varga is to cut the crime boss’s money, and the two men become part of an intricate take-down involving millions of dollars. But Brandon has a secret he can never share with Daniel, and their new love is at stake.

When the villain has murder in mind, sometimes the only way to stay alive is to lie.

 
Excerpt
 

Brandon took down the drapes in his room as soon as he was able to. He could have asked his sisters, but they didn’t know just how badly looking at the geometric pattern in the fabric upset his equilibrium. They knew he was weird; most sisters thought their big brothers were weird. But he also had twitches and nervous tics about certain things, and they’d seen it all, even though his list of crazy was something he could manage now.


They didn’t need to know he’d spent three hours last night counting the squares on the drapes and being irritated to the point of stimming that they weren’t even and the stitching was wrong. And Jesus, stimming—having to move his fingers, loosen his muscles, anything to ground himself—he hadn’t done that in years.


And hell if he was going to ask Daniel into his room to help him, because Daniel was someone Brandon did not want in his space. Not taking down drapes, or talking to him, or even breathing near him. There was only so much of Daniel that Brandon could take, because when he was anywhere near him, he lost his ability to form coherent sentences. He didn’t have time to have these powerful feelings of lust that kept hitting him.


Like the time he and Daniel had met on the landing and Daniel had been in just a towel. They’d only been together a few days, but Daniel was funny, and sexy, and dangerous, and exactly everything Brandon should be avoiding in his life.


He had way too much to worry about, and a date written in his memory that he wouldn’t forget any time soon. The deal he had—to stay alive, to hide himself away, and then to present himself to Varga—was just about the only thing that filled his thoughts.


Varga thought that, on a given date, Brandon would join him in his huge mansion, pull together all the funds Varga had hidden in various places, and then join him in whatever country the US didn’t have an extradition treaty with.


Like hell he would. He was meeting with Varga, getting all his money, dispersing it to the right causes, and sending any intel he could get out to the authorities.


And then Varga would kill him for doing that.


Inevitable, really, and something he’d come to terms with. He’d blown his chance to do this when he’d worked for Varga, so he had to make up for it. He was doing the right thing.


He’d been biding his time in Hope, but had been unfortunate to be scooped up by Sanctuary. He just needed to work out a way to get away from them, and in particular Daniel, but he had about ten days to go yet until that magic date when Varga had decided he would be leaving the country.


For now, Sanctuary was safe for him and his sisters.


So yeah, choosing to avoid having Daniel in his room, with his probing questions and his distracting body, was an easy decision to make in among all that crap.


The only downside was that it meant he had to take the drapes down himself.


Trying to shoot himself hadn’t gone so well; instead of being dead and gone, he had a through shot and muscle damage which hurt like knives in his skin. He waited until day four, when the pain in his shoulder had lessened to the point where he could at least manage to get out of bed and to the window but he couldn’t handle looking at those drapes any longer.


Today he actually felt capable of dealing with drapes he didn’t need anyway. There were blinds at the windows, and behind the blinds each window was coated so you could see out but no one could see in. He pushed the offending fabric under the bed and clambered back to a standing position, wincing in pain as he banged his shoulder, and sat on the edge of his bed.


The drapes were still there—he could picture them under the bed—and exasperated, he lay back on the mattress and attempted to think of something else. Blue skies, blue mugs, blue eyes. Anything blue, because it was a color that calmed him.


He lasted about a minute.


Huffing, he rolled up carefully and reached under the bed, pulling out the drapes and screwing them into a ball. Opening his door, he threw them out onto the landing, not even checking if anyone was standing there.


Daniel. Of course it would be Daniel, who reacted like a ninja and had the drapes under submission in seconds.


Once they were dead, or at least overpowered with some sort of karate move, Brandon felt like he should apologize.


“My bad,” he said, and shut the door in Daniel’s face.


He expected the knock, but hadn’t quite decided what he was going to say to Daniel when he came in. Maybe if he ignored the request to enter and said nothing, then Daniel might go away.


Daniel knocked again, and this time instead of waiting for Brandon to say he could come in, he pushed his way in, looking irritable. He was shirtless, his hair wet—evidence of a recent shower—his sweats hanging low on his hips and every muscle deliciously tight and toned.


“What the hell, Brandon?” he asked, his dark eyes angry, his lips in a set line. He wasn’t holding the drapes, so Brandon counted that as a win.


“I didn’t want them up at my window,” Brandon explained, and eased himself down into the chair by his bed. He was most comfortable there; he could see out the window and it was easier to keep the pressure off his injury.


“So you decided to throw them in my face?” Daniel sounded less pissed and more confused about getting fabric in his face.


Brandon indicated the door. “To be fair, I didn’t know you were there.” Then he couldn’t resist, “And you heroically subdued them so fast, I knew you could handle the danger.”

Author Bio


RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing.


The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.


mailto:rj@rjscott.co.uk
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twitter.com/Rjscott_author
www.librarything.com/author/scottrj

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GUEST POST: Silent Voice by Thom Collins

Thanks for having me here today to talk about my new release Silent Voices. This story was a lot of fun to write but the inspiration for it came about in the most mundane fashion. I was so bored with my daily commute one morning last autumn that I veered off onto a completely unknown road, knowing that it would eventually lead me in the direction I needed to be for work. The road itself was twisty with hair pin bends, deep woods and isolated farm houses. So much more interesting than my usual route. I began to take this journey every morning. It was sometime during the second week that I noticed a large manor house set back from the road behind a gated wall. Each day I paid more attention to the old house as I passed and ask myself the kind of “what if” questions that kick start so many good stories. On arrival at the office, I would quickly scribble down the latest round of ideas my morning commute had provided. Being the kind of author I am, I didn’t imagine tea parties and happy families behind those gates, but something far darker and sinister. In this way Winterstone Grange, the black heart of the story, began to take shape.

Silent Voices is set in the North East of England, in a combination of real and fictional locations. My lead character Josh Jackson is a restaurateur in the centre of Durham. While his restaurant The Cellar Steps is fictitious, the street where it’s located is very real. It’s one of my favourite parts of the city, full of secret corners, alcoves and hidden court yards. Silent Voices is essentially a thriller as Josh is drawn into a dark web of secrets and cover-ups while searching for his young cousin. It’s also a love story. Josh’s search for his cousin leads him to Ed, a journalist, researching Winterstone Grange for reasons of his own. Both characters were great fun to write – modern, sexy, intelligent guys – and their attraction for each other is seriously hot.

This is my third release with Pride Publishing and my first novella. My previous releases where Closer by Morning, a novel, and Gods of Vengeance, a short story. I love the novella format, as both a writer and a reader. I like the balance of action, drama and character, delivered at great pace, in a story that can be enjoyed in one or two sittings.  I can’t wait to write more like this.

Blurb

A desire for justice as strong as their passion for each other.

Concerned about the welfare of his young cousin, Josh Jackson, a restaurant owner, traces the boy to Winterstone Grange, a gated manor deep in the country. Miles from anywhere, the protected walls of this stately house conceal dark secrets. Josh’s search brings him into contact with Ed Brolin, a handsome journalist who has spent weeks investigating the secrets of the Grange and its owner. Ray Armstrong is a wealthy business man with influential connections in Parliament and the police. Ed knows exactly what goes on at the Grange but without evidence, he hasn’t got a story.

Drawn together by instant attraction and a powerful hunger for justice, Josh and Ed are determined to expose the sordid secrets of the grange despite the risks it poses. Josh has never met a man like Ed before—so strong, determined and masculine. Falling in love is easy. But they’ll have to put their emotions aside if they’re going to give a voice to all the silent victims of Winterstone Grange.

EXTRACT

Josh Jackson didn’t worry when his cousin failed to come home. It was Saturday night and Kevin was eighteen. Josh wasn’t about to impose a curfew on the kid. Neither was he going to babysit. Kevin was old enough to take care of himself.

Josh checked Kevin’s room when he came home from work at one o’clock. The spare bed hadn’t been made since Kevin had gotten out of it that morning and yesterday’s clothes were all over the floor—discarded jeans with his boxers still inside them, a scruffy T-shirt and a pair of dirty socks. The smell of the socks hit him from the doorway. Despite the reek of cheap deodorant and aftershave filling the room, the socks were pungent. Teenagers. Josh wasn’t about to tidy up after him so he left things as they were, including the damp towel draped over the foot of the bed. The kid was only staying a few nights. If he wanted to live in a mess like that, so be it, so long as he left the place as he’d found it when he moved on.

Josh shut the door and went to bed. He wished his cousin luck. If the boy wanted to get laid, he’d rather he did it somewhere else. It was bad enough that Josh’s lodger, Bobby, regarded the place as a Grindr pit stop, without his cousin treating it like a knocking shop, too.

Josh read for a while and half-listened for the sound of Kevin coming home, but eventually fell asleep.

He wasn’t overly concerned in the morning to find Kevin’s room just as he’d left it, though by now it smelled considerably worse. The fancy fragrances had worn off and all that remained was the fetid odor of teenage sweat and damp towel. So, he stayed out all night. Good on him. Josh had been a teenager once, a horny one at that, so he could totally relate. Kevin wouldn’t get the chance to fuck around much when he was at home. His mother had very rigid views on that. It wouldn’t have mattered whether Kevin had turned out straight or gay. His mother had raised a good boy and intended to keep him that way.

Kevin will be going back to her in a couple of days. He might as well have fun while the leash is off.

He was a good-looking lad. Josh knew he’d be popular in town. A little baby-faced for his age, but with the family features of blue eyes and blond hair, his fresh twinkie image would attract plenty of attention. He looked a lot like Josh had at that age. Josh had been a slim-looking twink until well into his twenties. It was only in the last few years he’d filled out with muscle and looked more like a man. The beard helped. How grateful he’d been when the ability to grow more than a few wisps of pale chin-fluff finally occurred. He kept it neat with a regular trim, but now that he had grown a beard, he couldn’t ever see himself being without one.

Josh called Kevin’s mobile while waiting for his morning coffee to brew. It rang a few times before going to voicemail. “Hi, it’s me,” he said. “Not checking up on you, I just want to know you’re okay. Give me a ring back, or a text when you get this message. Just to say you’re alive… Otherwise I’ll have to call your mother,” he added jokingly and hung up.

He had bigger concerns than a randy teenager. His restaurant, The Cellar Steps, was short on staff today and fully booked for both lunch and dinner. He’d asked all his remaining staff to come in early to help with the prep and service, which meant getting in even earlier himself. As the owner, it wasn’t necessary, since he employed a manager for the day-to-day running, but Josh believed in setting an example from the top down. That meant rolling up his sleeves when things got tight. He thought about putting a little cash Kevin’s way to help out, if he arrived home in decent time and wasn’t too hung over.

He heard the heavy thud of the newspapers landing in the hall. Perfect timing. A little news and some freshly brewed coffee. A relaxing start to an otherwise hectic day.

Josh sat at the kitchen table with multiple Sunday supplements spread all around him when Bobby stumbled out of his bedroom in just his boxers and a T-shirt, yawning and scratching his belly and balls at the same time. His semi-hard dick waggled in the front of his shorts. Bobby lurched into the bathroom and returned a few minutes later, looking fractionally more awake, minus morning wood.

“Coffee?” Bobby asked. “Okay if I help myself?”

“You know where it is,” Josh said, drawing back from the stench of alcohol that came off him in stale waves. “Jesus, your blood must be one hundred proof.”

“I think I’m still drunk,” Bobby observed. “The hangover hasn’t kicked in yet.”

“I don’t envy you when it does.”

“One cup of this and I’m crawling back beneath the duvet.”

Josh looked at him uncertainly. An idea had just occurred to him. He hoped he was wrong. “I don’t suppose my cousin is under that duvet with you?”

Bobby chuckled, his dark eyes crinkling. “Wouldn’t that be something? He is kinda hot. But little blond cupcakes are not my thing. In Kevin’s case, I could make an exception. Maybe.”

“But did you?”

“Too close to home, bro. The kid’s a cutie but he ain’t worth the earache. I’d never hear the last of it.”

It was some relief. Josh didn’t have a problem with his young cousin fucking around—but with Bobby, no way. His lodger was a good friend but a total slut. Kevin would need a lot more experience under his belt before he was ready for that old hound. “I don’t suppose you do know where he is? He hasn’t been home.”

“He’s between somebody’s sheets, all right. I walked into town with him last night, had a drink and showed him where to go.”

“You left him on his own?”

“No, he left me. I guess I cramped his style. He headed off toward Gala Square with a group of studenty types. He didn’t know how fast to ditch me once he got to talking to people his own age.”

Josh loosened up again. He’d been right about Kevin. He knew what he was doing. A young man in a new city making friends fast. There was nothing to worry about.

BUY LINKS

Pride Publishing: https://www.pride-publishing.com/book/silent-voices

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XXH9T1N/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1491562233&sr=8-3&keywords=thom+collins

Amazon USA: https://www.amazon.com/Silent-Voices-Thom-Collins-ebook/dp/B06XXH9T1N/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1491562407&sr=8-3&keywords=thom+collins

KOBO: https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/silent-voices-15

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/silent-voices-thom-collins/1126168330;jsessionid=5F7489723C6FD83BD2A1910F02E6693C.prodny_store02-atgap09?ean=9781786515605

Thom Collins Bio

Thom Collins is the author of the novel Closer by Morning, with Pride Publishing. His love of page turning thrillers began at an early age when his mother caught him reading the latest Jackie Collins book and promptly confiscated it, sparking a life-long love of raunchy novels.

His novella Silent Voices will be published by Pride in May, followed by the novel Anthem of the Sea, the first book in the Anthem Trilogy. He has recently finished writing the second book in a series and is making plans for the third.

Thom has lived in the North East of England his whole life. He grew up in Northumberland and now lives in County Durham with his husband and two cats. He loves all kinds of genre fiction, especially bonk-busters, thrillers, romance and horror. He is also a cookery book addict with far too many titles cluttering his shelves. When not writing he can be found in the kitchen trying out new recipes. He’s a keen traveler but with a fear of flying that gets worse with age. Since taking his first cruise in 2013 he realized that sailing is the way to go.

Links:

Blog: www. thomcollinsauthor.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter:   @thomwolf     and  @realthomcollins

Email: thomcollinsauthor@aol.com

 

 

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EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: The Rainbow Clause by Beth Bolden

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BLURB

Heisman winner. Member of the National Championship team. NFL Rookie of the Year. Quarterback Colin O’Connor knows he’s become the ultimate romance novel cliché: all the success he’s ever dreamed of but nobody to share it with. Too bad it’s not as simple as asking out the next girl who intrigues him – because the next girl to intrigue him probably won’t be a girl at all.

Unexpectedly, the solution comes in one neat package: Nick Wheeler, lead journalist for a leading sports and pop culture blog. Hired by Colin’s team, Nick comes to Miami to shine a spotlight on the NFL’s most private quarterback.

The heat in Miami rises when Nick discovers that Colin is nothing like the hollow personality he pretends to be in interviews and he’s even hotter in person than on his Sports Illustrated cover. Nick knows this is the story of his career, and after spending his teenage years as a bullied, closeted teen, it hits very close to home. What he needs is to help Colin share his story while keeping their growing relationship from boiling over in the press, but what he wants is to tell the world.

Purchase: Amazon US | Amazon UK

TRC teaser 1

The Rainbow Clause Exclusive excerpt

Nick walked over to where Colin was sitting on the lounger. Every molecule was screaming at him to stay away if he wanted to keep things platonic between them, but he needed to have enough self-control for this. Because somewhere along the line, someone had convinced Colin that he wasn’t the ’right’ kind of person to be who he was, and he needed to understand that was just plain bullshit.

Nick gingerly sat at the end of the lounger and when Colin lifted his eyes to look at him, his face was finally out of the shadow. Perfect. If he could only ignore the way Colin looked and sounded and even smelled. How did he smell so clean after a night of dancing and drinking? Nick was sure he smelled like a locker room full of flop sweat and too much booze.

“Listen, you don’t have to do what everyone expects. Even if it’s easier. Especially if it’s easier.” Nick inched closer and tried to ignore the desperate pounding of his heart at Colin’s nearness. If he moved half a foot closer, he’d be close enough to kiss.

Kissing was definitely not what Nick needed to be thinking about right now, especially when Colin’s expression was still skeptical.

Nick changed tactics. “Do you know what they call weird people if they’re rich? They don’t call them weird. They call them eccentric. Money and success buys you the ability to break the mold. You can do whatever you want. You’re about to change your whole life. Embrace that you’re different. Stop apologizing for it.”

It was slow, but the doubt on Colin’s face had begun to melt a little. Nick prayed a little and threw his Hail Mary. “The first time we met, you told me that your personal role model wasn’t Tom Brady. It was Nelson Mandela. That’s you, that’s not the cardboard cutout the media wants you to be. Be you. Trust me, you’re a hell of a lot more interesting than the cardboard cutout Colin O’Connor.”

“But you’ve always been easy to win over,” Colin smirked, echoing that first interview. Nick had to swallow down the lump that had grown in his throat, because Colin had insisted he hadn’t remembered that interview. But maybe some of it had come back.

“True,” Nick said. Anything else was a complete lie. He’d been easy to win over from the first moment. The easiest, probably.

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About the Author

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Beth Bolden lives in Portland, Oregon with her supportive husband and their beloved cat. She wholly believes in Keeping Portland Weird, but wishes she didn’t have to make the yearly pilgrimage up to Seattle to watch her Boston Red Sox play baseball. She’s a fan of fandoms, and spends too much of her free time on tumblr.

Beth has been writing practically since she learned the alphabet. Unfortunately, her first foray into novel writing, titled Big Bear with Sparkly Earrings, wasn’t a bestseller, but hope springs eternal. She’s published two novels, The Lucky Charm and Getting Lucky, and a short story, Eye of the Storm. Her next novel, Summer Attractions, will be released in August 2016.

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads | Amazon

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BLOG TOUR, EXCERPT, AND GIVEAWAY! Enemy Within by Tal Bauer

Title:  Enemy Within

Series: The Executive Office, Book 3

Author: Tal Bauer

Publisher:  Self-Published

Release Date: 3/28/2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 176K

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense

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Synopsis

The White House, infiltrated.
The president, running for his life.
A traitorous general, intent on burning the world to the ground.

When everything falls apart, who do you trust?

President Jack Spiers fled Washington DC on the heels of a devastating attack on CIA headquarters, masterminded by one of America’s own, former General Porter Madigan. While the world believes Jack was killed in the bombing, he embarks on a wild infiltration mission, smuggling himself into occupied Russia to rescue the love of his life: former Secret Service Agent and First Gentleman Ethan Reichenbach.

Reunited, Jack, Ethan, and deposed Russian president Sergey Puchkov, along with President Elizabeth Wall—the only person left in Washington DC who Jack trusts—must work together. They piece together a desperate plan, hunting Madigan to the ends of the earth and the bitter frigidity of the Arctic, where Madigan’s world-shattering doomsday plan comes together.

Outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and outgunned, Jack, Ethan, Sergey, and the rest of the team struggle to put a stop to Madigan and his army. In the desolate extremes of the Arctic, their resolve, their strength, and even their love is tested, pushed to the absolute limits as choices must be made: choices that pit the fate of the world against the love in their hearts, and the loves of their life.

As the world crumbles around them, Jack and Ethan find themselves waging a war on two fronts—against an enemy they can see, and another, hiding within their ranks.

Who can be trusted when the enemy is within you?

Excerpt

The sounds of the convoy coming alive in the frosty morning started clattering through their patch of snowy forest. Grumbled Russian, slamming doors and squeaky metal hinges, the crackle of logs in a fire, and the clang of pots and pans that Vasily insisted on bringing from Volga.

Jack nuzzled at Ethan’s neck, and the roughness of his beard, grown thick in the five days they’d been on the road, scratched over Ethan’s skin just before Jack dropped a kiss beneath his jaw. “Morning, love.”

Ethan smiled down at him, de-cocked his pistol, and slid it into his hip holster beneath their blankets. He wrapped both arms around Jack as Jack turned and faced him. “How are you? Are you warm enough?” As Ethan spoke, his breath clouded the air between them.

“I’m good.” Jack peeled off his gloves beneath the blankets and snaked his warm hands up under Ethan’s jacket and sweater. His gentle, searching fingers found the long line of ragged stitches in Ethan’s side.

Ethan flinched.

“Sorry. You know we need to check them.” Carefully, Jack felt around the stitches, testing the skin, and then rested his palm over the top of the mostly-healed wound. “No heat. No swelling. No pus. No infection.” He smiled. “You had me worried after yesterday.”

Ethan ducked his head, his cheeks warming. While rummaging through an abandoned barn, he’d walked right through a rotted-out baseboard and fallen into a cellar, into the rough, loose earth. Not his finest moment. They’d wrangled some supplies, but he’d come away filthy and bruised, his ego smarting. Jack’s worried eyes and his gentle ministrations after they’d stopped for the night had helped sooth the ache.

Jack’s gaze darted over Ethan’s face, searching. He frowned. “Did you get any sleep?”

“Some.”

“Liar.” Arching an eyebrow, Jack sat back but kept his hands under Ethan’s clothes and on his skin. “You should let me watch over you at night, too.”

“I’d rather do it. I have you close to me.” He patted his hip and his holstered weapon. “I have constant protection on you all night long. There’s no way anyone can get to you. Not without going through me.”

“Literally.” Jack smiled, but it faded fast. “I’ll drive during the day again. Rest, and let me watch over you.” He squeezed Ethan’s hip as if to emphasize his point.

Ethan nodded, and the corners of his lips quirked up. This was new, this give and take of caretaking and watching out for each other. In DC, at the White House, there had been their jobs and their duties and the world to react to. They took care of slights and wounds inflicted by the press, their suits and ties a kind of armor against the world. Out in the wilderness, in the forest, they’d fallen into a different kind of caretaking. A sharing of two lives, each supporting the other’s existence. It was primal, in a way, how they had fused together. Half of his life was in Jack’s hands, and instead of feeling vulnerable, it was the most natural feeling in the world. “Deal.” Leaning forward, he pressed a kiss to Jack’s lips.

A question hovered in the forefront of Ethan’s mind, weighing on his thoughts. Every morning, he felt the weight of his secret resting over his heart: two rings, made before the world fell apart around them. Some moments, asking Jack was on the tip of his tongue, ready to tumble from his lips with his next breath. He forced himself to swallow the words. Not yet. It wasn’t the right time. Not yet.

Jack leaned into Ethan, and his hands wound around Ethan’s back beneath his sweater. “At some point, we won’t be sleeping in this jeep anymore,” he whispered into their kiss. “We’ll have room to stretch out… share a sleeping bag…”

Smiling, Ethan pulled off his gloves and brought his hands up to Jack’s face, his thumbs caressing Jack’s cheeks. “We don’t need a sleeping bag…” One hand snaked around Jack’s neck, and the other dropped to his hip.

In a flash, he flipped Jack, laying him on his back across the bench seat. Jack wrapped his legs around Ethan’s waist as Ethan slid his hands through Jack’s blond strands.

Jack grabbed his shoulders and pulled Ethan closer, his legs tightening and holding Ethan in place. He captured Ethan’s lips, kissing greedily as his hips rocked upward. Even through the layers they wore, Ethan felt Jack’s hard cock, pressing against his own.

“I want you,” Jack breathed.  “I want you to make love to me.”

Ethan’s blood burned, searing through his body from his head to his toes, and part of him wanted to tilt Jack’s head back and ravage his throat, work his way down, unwrap him like a present until he found his cock. Suck him deep. Work him open with his tongue until Jack begged for more, and then sink his cock into Jack’s warm, tight body. Jesus, he wanted Jack. So much.

The springs on the jeep’s suspension squeaked with their rocking, and the tires groaned and crunched against the snow on the ground. In the distance, low chuckles sounded, and one catcall.

Deflating, Ethan dropped his forehead to Jack’s chest. He rode Jack’s deep, heaving breaths and listened to his racing heartbeat. “I don’t want an audience when I make love to you again.”

Jack’s legs dropped, one falling over the back of the front seat, and the other squishing against the window. His hands stroked over Ethan’s back and tangled in his hair. “I don’t want to have to be quiet.”

“Jesus.” Ethan gripped Jack and surged against him, thrusting against his hard cock once more. “That’s not helping.”

Smiling, Jack rocked his hips up once and then scooted backward, propping himself up on his elbows as Ethan sat back and tried to straighten out his clothes. A prominent bulge strained the front of his cargo pants. He ached, nearly painfully hard for Jack.

From the center of the camp, Scott called, “Coffee’s ready if you are!”

Rumbling laughter, deep and throaty, from nearly all the men.

Shaking his head, Jack started to pull himself together next to Ethan and fished out his balaclava from the pocket of his cargo pants. Outside of the jeep, he wore a full-face balaclava and, on their drive, he kept everything but his eyes covered. Ethan insisted, and Scott and Sergey both backed him up. The members of their convoy, of course, knew who Jack was, and just after Jack had shown up, Sergey had delivered a scathing speech in Russian to his people that had had even Ethan flinching, though he didn’t understand a word that had been said. But, they were traveling through a war zone, parts of Russia that were contested in the coup, under attack from Moroshkin’s forces, and that had been bombed by the United States and other nations, all trying to stop Moroshkin.

Who knew what was out there, or who was out there. Jack was, to the world, brain dead in Bethesda Naval Hospital. A front-page picture of him alive and well in Russia would go over as well as a nuclear bomb.

“Scott came by?” Jack tucked his undershirt into his pants, taking a moment to readjust. His cheeks were dusted crimson, a faint flush that Ethan wanted to nibble.

“Yeah.” He tore his eyes away from Jack and fanned the bottom of his sweater, trying to cool his body.

“How’d the scouting go?”

“The route is clear for the morning. More abandoned villages. They found fuel and some supplies. Vasily is cooking eggs.” Ethan reached out, and his fingers traced Jack’s spine through his sweater and jacket. “And you should talk to Sergey.”

Turning, Jack stared at Ethan.

“I think Scott’s worried about him.” A tight, strained smile, curved his lips. “And that’s saying something.” Scott’s trust in Sergey, and in their Russian allies, extended from meal to meal. Day to day, hour by hour. If everything came apart, Scott would be the first to say “I knew it”.

“He hasn’t wanted to talk to me.” Swallowing, Jack leaned back with a sigh. His hands dropped to his lap, and he picked at the wool fibers of the balaclava. “He’s kept his distance since Volga. I’m not sure I’m the person he wants to see right now.”

Nodding slowly, Ethan frowned. Sergey’s harsh accusations, thrown at Jack at Volga air base, had been the last direct contact the two had. “After all this time, you think he’s pulling away because of…”

Because of their love? Because he and Jack were together? Because Sergey had been loved by a gay man? Was this some kind of reaction, a fear that falling in love with another man “was contagious”, as he’d hurled at Jack?

“He’s pulled back before.” Jack sat forward, slipped the balaclava over his head. He tugged it down around his neck. “I want to do the right thing by him. I don’t want to piss him off.” He frowned, deep lines furrowing his brow. “But, no matter what else is going on, he’s devastated about losing Sasha. I remember what it felt like when I thought you were dead. I can at least try to talk to him about that.”

Ethan’s chest constricted, and his heart almost seized. Was it only a week ago that he’d thought Jack was dead and gone as well? Never, ever, again. He’d do everything in his power to keep Jack safe, keep him from ever coming to harm. And, he’d never lose faith like that again, either. The darkness that had swallowed him on his race from Saudi Arabia to Russia. The emptiness, the silent scream within his soul. The way he had wanted to die, had begged the world to kill him.

Together. They’d face everything together from now on. No matter what.

Adjusting the balaclava, Jack leaned over and pressed a chaste kiss to Ethan’s lips. “Time to face the music, love.”

Ethan pulled out his own balaclava, tugged it down around his neck, and gripped the door handle. They piled out of the back of the jeep, and Ethan caught the smothered grins and barks of laughter sent their way. Scott raised a dented metal mug toward them both. Jack headed for him, and for the small fire on which Vasily was cooking.

One of the Russians who went out with Scott every morning, Aleksey, slid up to Ethan. Middle-aged, Aleksey had been a federal police officer in Sochi and had fought back with Sergey against Moroshkin and Madigan’s forces the night of the coup. Now, he was one of Sergey’s officers in the insurgency. He had a small beer gut and a thick salt and pepper mustache beneath ruddy, pockmarked cheeks, a quick, sharp smile, and perpetually messy hair.

His eyes glittered as he clapped Ethan on the back. “You are good Russian lover!” he crowed. “Quick!”

Others laughed, and Ethan spied Jack smothering his grin and rolling his eyes as he took the coffee Scott offered. Scott shrugged and hid his smile in his next sip.

Ethan clapped Aleksey on the upper arm, smiling along with the others. When he and Jack had first met the men in Sergey’s insurgency, they’d worried about how they would be received. Two men in love in a country where only months before, Sasha had almost been killed for being gay. Another man, Evgeni Konnikov, had been murdered.

Sergey’s men, however, had been nothing but accepting. They were believers in Sergey’s government, after all, and Sergey had made equality a foundational platform of his politics and administration.

They just showed that acceptance through good Russian ribbing and teasing. The more ribald the better.

“If we had actually got going,” Ethan began, winking first at Jack and then sending Aleksey a grin, “we’d be here for days.”

More laughter. Aleksey wagged his finger in Ethan’s face and squeezed his elbow before handing him a cup of bitter, sludgy coffee. Vasily waved him and Jack over, and he scooped the last of the eggs into a scavenged plastic bowl they shared. “I save for you,” Vasily said, pointing to them both.

Jack thanked him. As they ate, Ethan spotted Sergey standing in front of his jeep, his hands resting flat on a spread-out map of Russia draped over the hood with his head bowed low. He looked up, and his piercing gaze fell on Jack. There was a moment where his face flickered, something dark passing through his eyes, but it was gone before Ethan could catch it.

And then, Sergey folded up his map and climbed into the driver’s side of his jeep. He kept his eyes downcast, not once looking at Jack again.

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Meet the Author

Tal Bauer is an award-winning and best-selling author of LGBT romantic thrillers, bringing together a career in law enforcement and international humanitarian aid to create dynamic characters, intriguing plots, and exotic locations. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.

Pronouns: They/them & he/him

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RELEASE BLITZ & GIVEAWAY: Trapped by Ruby Moone

 

Buy Links: JMS Books | Amazon US | Amazon UK


Publisher: JMS Books


Length: 62,000 words


Blurb


Sam Holloway is a desperate man. Trapped in Dante’s, the high-class London brothel catering to men who love men, his only hope is to find a rich protector. Then he meets the young aristocrat with sad eyes.


Tristan Barrington, sixth earl of Chiltern, waited until the death of his father before acting on his unnatural desires. Dante’s has a reputation for quality and absolute discretion. He never expected to find in its sordid depths a glorious man who could master not only his body but his heart, as well.


In Tristan, Sam sees an opportunity to flee a life he hates, and he sets his sights on seducing the earl. Tristan vows to help him escape, but in the process not only uncovers the vile corruption at the heart of Dante’s but also suspects that Sam’s declaration of love was nothing but a lie.


Then Sam is gravely injured, and Tristan faces a tough decision — leave Sam to his fate, or help him once again?

 

Companion book to The Wrong Kind of Angel but can be read as a standalone. HEA.

 
Excerpt
 

Tristan stood in the hallway of his home, back pressed against the door. He closed his eyes. Sam’s words kept racing around his mind. How unutterably foolish he had been. How unspeakably stupid. Shame and humiliation washed over him again, making him nauseous. At the same time, he was wracked by a sense of loss so deep that made his chest feel as though it were about to crack wide open. He pressed a hand there and tried to breathe and made his way to the study to pour a brandy. He stood by the fire a moment or two, then crumpled into a chair still clutching his glass. He wondered if he might cry, but he felt too numb, too bruised, too hollow.


He had no idea how long he had been there when the door opened and Alfie walked in.


“What the hell are you doing hiding in here?” he asked in his own inimitable fashion. Tristan couldn’t speak. “Trouble in paradise?”


Tristan just sat. Alfie came closer and peered down at him. “Tris?” This time there was no drawl in his tone, no teasing light. “Tris, what is it? What has happened?”


Alfie reached down and took the glass carefully from him. He looked up at Alfie’s face. The face of his childhood friend. He had to blink several times.


“Bit of a shock. That’s all.” He ran his hand around the back of his neck and tried desperately to think.


“I take it this is about Holloway?” Alfie sat opposite him and was staring at him. When he cared to make the effort, Alfie had the most penetrating stare of anyone he knew.


“Don’t stare.”


“Then tell me what is wrong with you. You look like someone stole your last sixpence.”


Tristan smiled. “Not quite that bad. I just discovered that … Samuel is not quite the man I thought he was.” He had to swallow a couple of times before he could continue. “It would appear that I may have been taken for a fool.”


It hurt to say those words, and it almost undid him. He rubbed his chest again as the crushing pain worsened. He felt so humiliated, so foolish.


“I’m sorry to hear it. I had just popped over to see if the both of you would like a little escapade, but perhaps this is not the right time. Is it all over?”


“Escapade? What on earth are you talking about?”


“A few … like-minded people are taking a jaunt to the country for a few days. I thought perhaps you and Holloway might like to join in. I thought he seemed sincere. It looks like I was wrong.” He sounded faintly surprised that he might be.


It would have been just what Samuel needed. A little company, a little fun. Tristan pinched the bridge of his nose.


Before he could respond, a commotion in the hallway interrupted them. Samuel burst into the room, followed by an agitated footman Alfie quickly dismissed.


Tristan stood as Sam strode over and gripped his arms. “Tristan, please let me explain, please listen to me.”


“Unhand me.”


“Tristan …”


“I said, unhand me.” Tristan threw off Samuel’s hands forcibly.


Samuel stumbled back, clearly shocked. He closed his eyes for a moment and then opened them. “Tristan I am so sorry you overheard that. Gareth is … well, he overstates things and exaggerates.”


“I didn’t hear any contradictions.”


“Can we speak alone?” Samuel cast an awkward glance at Alfie who watched the whole drama with unconcealed interest.


“Alfie, be a dear?” Tristan said.


Alfie smiled. It wasn’t a pleasant smile. “Of course, my love. I shall be within calling distance if the brute cuts up rough.” He sauntered from the room.


Samuel balled his hands into fists and glared at his retreating back. He then began pacing. His hand kept going to his mouth, where he rubbed and pulled at his bottom lip. “I need to explain something. I need to … oh God, what a mess.”


“Indeed. I shall be interested to see how you explain what Gareth said.” Only years of ruthlessly masking his feelings and his nature allowed Tristan to remain reasonably impassive.


Samuel looked tortured, but his next words floored Tristan.


“It was all true.”


“True?” The words came out as an incredulous whisper. He had expected emotional denials, explanations, excuses, appeals, but this?

 
Author Bio



My name is Ruby Moone and I love books. All kinds of books. My weakness is for romance, and that can be any kind, but I am particularly fond of historical and paranormal. I decided to write gay romance after reading some fantastic books and falling in love with the genre, so am really thrilled to have my work published here. The day job takes up a lot of my time, but every other spare moment finds me writing or reading. I live in the north west of England with my husband who thinks that I live in two worlds. The real world and in the world in my head…he probably has a point!


Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/RubyMoone/
Twitter – @RubyMooneWriter
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/rubymoone/
Blog – rubymoone.com

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