Tag Archives: Coming of Age

Review Tour: Shinigami by Xia Xia Lake

Shinigami | Xia Xia Lake

Takamagahara Monogatari #2

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Release Date: October 1, 2019

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length: 71,440 words /220 pages

Buy Links:

Amazon US | Amazon UK

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Blurb

Nothing is what it seems.

A coming of age love story between the heir of the richest family in the Land of Yamato and an orphan. The human world meets the yōkai world in a power struggle for the fate of Fujiwara no Hirotsugu.

While he battles to find his own path in life, Hirotsugu finds solace in a boy who will first become his secret friend, then his salvation, then, as they become adults together, the love of his life.

The story is set during the Nara period of ancient Japan and will expand over a period of 25 years (715-740).

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Excerpt

Chapter 1: Kagerō

Kagerō: The quivering appearance of the mist rising from the hot surface of the ground”

On the day Fujiwara no Hirotsugu was born, Mount Kasuga was covered in golden shimmering kagerō rising from the ground to cloak the mountain in mist. The uguisu sang from dusk until dawn, and a crane appeared in the palace garden and didn’t leave for five days.

It was late May, close to the final days of planting the rice. These were the days when finishing the paddy field work was paramount, lest next year’s crops be affected. Yet in celebration of Hirotsugu’s birth, his father, Umakai, sent an order to his bailiff to decree half a day off for all workers. Servants from the palace went down the mountain to offer rice, fish, and sake to the poor in Heijo-kyo.

Gifts poured through the gates for weeks, coming not only from the greatest families living in the land of Yamato, but also from as far away as Silla and Tang. Even the old Empress Genmei, who had no love for the Fujiwara clan, sent Hirotsugu a gift fit for royalty: a sword replica modeled after Kusanagi the Grass Slasher, the sacred imperial heirloom of the Yamato Emperors. Since it was forbidden for anyone except the reigning monarch and the High Priest of the Ise Grand Shrine to lay eyes on the real Kusanagi, no one could actually tell how good the replica was. But neither could they deny that the sword Hirotsugu received was of exceptional workmanship and extraordinary value.

The greatest gift of all came from Hirotsugu’s grandfather, Fujiwara no Fuhito. The leader of the Fujiwara clan made a secret pact with Crown Prince Obito that on the day Hirotsugu turned twenty, he would marry Princess Abe, Prince Obito’s firstborn child.

Upon Hirotsugu’s birth, the Fujiwara clan made great plans for his future, and I watched from my throne of skulls behind the kagerō veil and laughed and laughed and laughed.

SPRING

Chapter 2: Uguisu

Uguisu: The Japanese nightingale

In spring, nature was at its most beautiful at dawn, when Amaterasu’s robe touched the hills and dyed them red, and the blooming cherry trees turned a vibrant pink. Hanging from the eaves of every Fujiwara castle were tendrils of purple wisteria, their blooms awakening to welcome the Sun Goddess. The white clouds above resembled boughs of cherry flowers.

When night approached, the birdsong gently shifted from cheerful to forlorn. The uguisu went to sleep in its pot-shaped nest, and the brown-feathered night thrush—recently returned from wintering in Tenjiku—took its place and claimed the night. Now and then, a deer would call and a fawn would answer back.

The day Hirotsugu was born, a young god wandered up and down the high-forested slopes of Mount Kasuga, tired from the day he’d spent blessing the fields and the future harvest. He would have gone home to Mount Kurama in Kibune, but something was amiss with the yōkai living on Kasuga and he’d come to investigate.

At twilight, he found a group of kodama and an old kappa gathered underneath the budding leaves of a giant plum tree, transfixed by its beautiful red blossoms. When he entered the clearing, they were trying to touch the blossoms, but as soon as a hand came close, the tree would raise its branches out of reach.

“Don’t touch it,” the god commanded. His voice was calm, but it came like the snap of a whip and took them out of their reverie. “It’s a ghost tree. It’s not really here.”

The kodama stumbled backward, frightened.

“When did it appear?” the young god asked.

“This morning, Inari-sama,” the kappa answered. “When the baby was born.”

“Baby?” Inari frowned. “Come closer, child, don’t be afraid. Which baby do you speak of?”

Kogitsune

Takamagahara Monogatari #1

It’s a 40-page short story and is FREE on Smashwords.

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About the Author

Xia Xia Lake is an Otaku & Slytherin that used to cosplay at every comic con she attended until a kid asked if he could take a picture with the “old lady.”

She decided a couple of years ago that she wanted to spend her free time writing stories and partying with vampires.

She lives in Transylvania with her fiancé and is a big fan of Romanian cuisine.

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Book Blast: The Killing Spell by Shane Ulrrein

The Killing Spell | Shane Ulrrein

Publisher: Deep Hearts YA

Cover Artist: Story Perfect Dreamscape

Heat Rating: No sexual content

Length: 57,000 words/236 pages

It is a standalone book.

Buy Links

Deep Hearts YA | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

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Blurb

The Killing Spell is a new young adult fantasy novel that tells the story of Edward Peach, a fourteen-year-old wizard who gets accepted into a prestigious all-boys boarding school for wizards and falls in love with another boy.

Edward and the other boy soon realize their attraction for each other, immediately causing controversy in the academy as the first students from feuding houses to come together, especially in a school where house rivalry can end in murder.

Edward’s new relationship puts him to the ultimate test as he must risk being with the boy he loves even at the cost of his own life!

Excerpt

Chapter I
Accepted

Accepted.
That’s what the letter said. At that moment, I felt a sudden chill go up my spine. I pretended to smile as Mum and Dad became so overjoyed that their little wizard was being sent thousands of miles away to study magic at an exclusive boarding school.
I swallowed hard. Please don’t make me go, I thought.
I took another look at my letter. “Highly prestigious,” “well-accredited,” and “very sought-after” were the different qualifiers used to describe their piss of an academy. There were portraits in a brochure, mostly in sepia-tone black and white, of their most famous students, yet I didn’t recognize any of them. The more I looked at all the rubbish they’d sent me in that big yellow envelope, the more I wanted to vomit.
Accepted.
Everything had been arranged: the meeting place in the Aradian port-city of Navona, our guide who was to see us at the harbor three days from now and take us to the school, and three free tickets for the next available ship from England to Aradia. The whole lot, including my school uniform, was all-expenses paid.
Seeking to break the jovial mood that’d taken over my parents at the breakfast table, I told them that I wasn’t going to that school.
“Not going?” Mum asked me wide-eyed. “Why? This is the opportunity of a lifetime! A prestigious school, fancy uniforms, and a better life for all of us! Are you going to sit there and tell us that you don’t want what’s best for your family?”
Yes, I was, I told her. I wasn’t going and that was the end of it.
My parents then began to lecture me, whilst I kept buttering my toast, about how they never had an opportunity like this when they were my age and how I’d be letting down several generations of our wizard-family if I didn’t go. Dad was especially determined because both he and Granddad got rejected from that school numerous times.
Despite my pleas, my constant whinging, and even throwing a teary-eyed wobbly like I used to do when I was a tiny tot, I was going to that ugly academy. Mum said my name, middle name and all, and insisted that I get packed.
“We’re leaving tomorrow,” she said. “End of discussion.”
And without another word, I stormed into my room, slamming the door after me, and buried my face into my pillow.
Accepted.
It wasn’t fair! Other kids would be pretty chuffed about going to such a distinguished wizard-school, but not me. This sort of thing should’ve gone to those who needed it or wanted it more. Instead, I was the one who got…accepted.
I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be part of the “next generation of great sorcerers,” nor follow in my father’s or grandfather’s footsteps like other wizards my age. I just wanted to be me. I didn’t want to leave my mates or live away from home. What’s more, I’d be going to a foreign country where I didn’t know anyone, much less the language they speak.
Things were much simpler and I was a lot happier before I got that stupid letter!
Accepted.
I didn’t want to study in some shite academy, the name of which I couldn’t even pronounce from the brochure and where mobile phones were prohibited. All I really want to do is enjoy life, hang out with my friends, and go to the beach to listen to its lush, serene music. Yet more than anything, I wanted to do nothing. That’s what I desired most. I simply wanted to do nothing, yet my parents, on numerous occasions, would never hear of it.
I began thinking about turning Mum and Dad into frogs or making them both disappear, but I really didn’t want to do any of that. Deep down, I don’t believe in using magic to hurt or endanger the lives of others. To me, magic was a beautiful yet mysterious thing that was all about me and always brought happiness to everyone. I loved magic, bloody lived for it, but hated the idea that someone could use it for evil when it could be used for good. Not to mention, the last time I’d made my parents disappear, they simply found their way back afterward.

About the Author

Shane Ulrrein is a life-long storyteller and first-time LGBT author currently living in Orange County, California, USA, who one day dreams of leaving his home in sunny Southern California for the wet, dreary weather of England.

He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in music composition in California State University, Fullerton and is a proud member of the LGBT community. In his spare time, he likes to draw, read, and write music that he hopes someday will be heard in all the great concert halls in the world.

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New Release Blitz: The Women Of Dauphine by Deb Jannerson

The Women Of Dauphine | Deb Jannerson

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: June 10, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 55,500

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Blurb

When Cassie’s family moves into a decrepit house in New Orleans, the only upside is her new best friend. Gem is witty, attractive, and sure not to abandon Cassie—after all, she’s been confined to the old house since her murder in the ’60s.

As their connection becomes romantic, Cassie must keep more and more secrets from her religious community, which hates ghosts almost as much as it hates gays. Even if their relationship prevails over volatile parents and brutal conversion therapy, it may not outlast time.

Excerpt

The Women of Dauphine
Deb Jannerson © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
I met Gem the day we moved from the sedate suburbs to downtown New Orleans.

I had recently turned eight, and my first sight of her coincided with our first sight of the Victorian house. I’m not certain if some of my earliest memories are authentic or recreated by photos and hearsay, but that moment made for a striking mental snapshot I’ve never doubted: baroque, crumbling pink-and-ivory walls; a stylish teenaged 1960s brunette perched on the steps. I feasted my eyes upon her in the way only a curious child can. The opportunity delighted me, especially because my parents had forbidden me to stare at the young runaways clogging the sidewalk. The lost children.

I’d be leery of any Crescent City-raised kid who claimed never to have been fascinated by them. The lost children of the city streets were as diverse in origin as they were in countenance. The first I’d seen that morning had been a tap-dancing boy around my own age, gleefully calling to various “cutie-pahs” in an undetermined accent. His joy reached out to me, undisturbed by the morning’s sharp tang of whiskey and street cleaner. I might not have believed he was alone in the world, like the poor souls my parents derided, if not for the layers of sweat marks on his clothes. My parents ignored his dollar-filled top hat and turned my head away in an admonishment. This made me wonder, maybe for the first time, what kind of people they were.

Then, I saw the girl: late teens, stringy sandy hair like frayed rope, weeping with abandon without bothering to hide her face from the tourists and blue-collar shop workers. She seemed “lost,” all right; certainly, more so than the cartoon boys of Peter Pan who had introduced me to the “lost” term in the first place. I remembered the twitch in my father’s face as he snapped the TV’s power button in one fluid motion and turned to explain who the lost children of Louisiana really were.

The girl waiting at our dwelling on Dauphine Street shared a hint of the blonde crier’s defiance, but she also exuded fun. She didn’t bother to sit in the ladylike way I’d learned in church. Still, she jumped up before I reached an angle at which I could see up her green skirt—a fact I noted matter-of-factly, and with some vague sense of disappointment. I continued to examine her clothes anyway, with a youth’s comically bobbing head. I had never seen tights like that before; they were nothing but strings in a diamond pattern. And was that a Boy Scout shirt?

“Hi!” I yelled, unnecessarily since we were barely five feet apart by now. There were chuckles behind me; it seemed like my parents always laughed at me doing normal, serious things. The girl staggered backward, widening her brown-gold eyes. “What’s your name?” She glanced at my parents in something like panic, then back at me, and her face softened.

“I’m Gem.” She glanced behind me again, and I followed her gaze to my mother, situated behind the battered chain-link fence, gazing blankly at our narrow new house. My father caught up, breaking through her reverie as he bustled through the space where a gate should be and pulled our keys out of his suit pocket.

The girl—Gem—stumbled off the stairs and several steps to the right, which is to say, at the edge of the property. Her eyes followed my parents carefully as they entered our new home. Obviously, I didn’t know it at the time, but she was waiting to see if they’d notice her as I had.

Perhaps all houses came with a pretty girl, or maybe she was moving out. “Dad, can Gem come inside?”

My mother turned around in the corridor first. “What, Cassandra?”

“Can she come in with me?” I pointed at Gem and then grabbed her hand. She made a short sound of surprise at my touch.

My mother rolled her eyes elaborately. It didn’t take much to annoy her, especially where I was concerned. She turned to my father, hissing, “Isn’t she a bit old for this?” I could hear the disgust.

My father, unusually jovial today, held up a hand, and my mother went quiet. “It’s okay.” To me: “Sure, little one. Let’s all go in and look around.”

Gem’s expression had gone both stunned and amused. It was a face I’d come to know well and love: the face of a person thrust into a strange scenario she was more than game enough to explore.

“You never told me your name.” Gem flopped into the floral armchair across the room from my bed, then, with a self-conscious glance at me, maneuvered herself into the position my old teacher had promoted as “proper posture.” Unfamiliar furniture crowded the room, from the molded wooden headboard to the dresser’s little blue dollhouse. I missed my room back home, and despite what my father had promised, this didn’t seem “even better” and I could still “remember what came before.” At least I had a new friend already.

“Cassie.” My parents insisted on using the full “Cassandra,” but since they were downstairs, I might as well use the moniker I preferred, the one that hadn’t proved too unwieldy for my classmates to manage.

She nodded. “I’m Gem.”

“You said that already!”

She began to smile, raising her eyebrows. “It’s still true.”

I realized I liked her already. Not only did she dress cool; she struck me as funny, while also, somehow, profound. Had Gem done it on purpose, and anyway, why didn’t people introduce themselves more than once? Even my parents seemed to know she was special, considering they hadn’t made her take off her boots on the rug inside the doorway. Sure, they had ignored her, and so maybe they did not like her, but they must have respect for her. Before this, respect was something I had only seen them demand.

My mind became full of questions, not least of which was why she was talking to someone like me. I settled on the most important-seeming one: “Are you going to stay here?”

Gem smiled again, but this time, one end of her mouth turned down. “Yeah. I’ve been living in this room for a long time, and I’m not about to be driven out.”

“That’s great!” Both hands flew to my mouth, and, sure enough, my mother shouted, equally loudly, from directly below my floor: “Indoor voice, Cassandra!”

“I mean,” I added, “I’ve always wanted a sister.”

“Well, I’m not really your sister.” Gem shrugged and glanced away, her soft brown hair flying in a curtain over her face. “I guess it’ll be like sharing a room with a friend.”

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About the Author

Deb Jannerson is the author of the books of poetry Rabbit Rabbit (Finishing Line Press, 2016) and Thanks for Nothing (Finishing Line Press, 2018), available wherever books are sold. The Women of Dauphine is her debut YA novel.

She won the 2017 So to Speak Nonfiction Contest for an essay about queer intimacy and PTSD, the 2018 Flexible Persona Editors’ Prize (and a Pushcart nomination) for a work of flash fiction about gruesome at-work injuries, and a Two Sisters Publishing prize for a story about switching bodies with her cat.

More than one hundred of her pieces have been featured in anthologies and magazines, including viral articles for Bitch Media. Deb lives in New Orleans with her wife.

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Release Blitz: 717 Miles by Sophia Soames

717 Miles | Sophia Soames

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Cover Artist: Miriam Latu

Release Date: April 30, 2019

Length: 104,969 words/ 371 pages

Genre/s: Contemporary, MM, Romance

Heat Rating: 4 flames

It is a standalone story.

Add on Goodreads

Buy Links:

Available on Kindle Unlimited

Universal link

Amazon US | Amazon UK

 

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Blurb

The calculated flying distance from Oslo to London is equal to 717 miles which is equal to 1153 km. If you want to go by car, the driving distance between Oslo and London is 1732.79 km. If you ride your car with an average speed of 112 kilometres/hour (70 miles/h), travel time will be 15 hours 28 minutes.

Adam Vik Solheim should not be in London. He’s not supposed to be anywhere near the British capital, because Adam Vik Solheim, age 19, is supposed to be on a beach in Bali. He is supposed to be on the first stop on an Asian backpacking trip of a lifetime. That was the plan. That is where he is supposed to be. Not here. Alone in a weird house in a strange city, being paid to look after some troubled 17-year-old.

Felix Haugland has to survive the final three weeks of school. Make it through 21 more days of hell. Then he is going to hide out in his room for the rest of the summer until he can figure out how to get his life back on track. Find a school far far away, where he can start over and not make mistakes.

He doesn’t need a flipping babysitter. He just doesn’t. His life is messed up enough as it is.

Author Note: For US readers, this story is set in the UK where the age of consent is 16. The MC’s are 17 and 19. Mature content.

Excerpt

I don’t notice him at first, wrapped up in a blanket sitting on the sofa. The house is dark and quiet and if it wasn’t for the light from his phone, I wouldn’t have noticed him at all. He just looks up and meets my eye for a second. Looking a little bit sad.

“Where is your mum? I thought you were going to hang out today?”

“Gone to her boyfriend’s. Not sure when she will be back. Didn’t check. She left you money on the side there.”

“Oh.”

I don’t know what to say. Apart from that I’m sorry she is a bit of a shit mum. I mean she left him here alone, whilst she’s gone off to see her bloke. Then, I kind of think that we are all adults. Well, Felix might be. I am not. I still don’t know what to say.

“Philip went on the group chat. I got bored.” Felix gets up from the sofa. Walking over to the kettle and flicking the switch. At least it fills the silence, the kettle humming quietly as the water heats up.

“I saw that, it was funny. Really good.” I pretend to check my phone.

Felix gets a cup down. Pulls out a teabag. Tilts his head towards the coffeemaker.

I get a coffee pod out and load it whilst Felix gets another cup. Nudging my hand as he places it in the brewer, which makes me jolt back. I don’t know why. I just don’t know how to act around him when we are alone. Like this.

He is leaning back against the counter. Chewing on his bottom lip with his arms crossed over his chest. Wearing joggers that are slung low over his hips, and a hoodie that just doesn’t quite cover the blond fuzz on his stomach.

I am standing there biting my nails and fiddling with the envelope on the counter. I try to catch his eye. Staring at his lips and thinking dirty thoughts. Then, looking away the minute he looks up.

It’s different flirting with girls. If Felix was a girl, I would be all charming and touchy-feely and wink and compliment her and we would both know where things would end up in the end.

With Felix, I haven’t got a clue. I don’t know where he falls, whether he is straight or gay or whatever he defines as. He might just think of me as some big brother figure. Someone who makes him feel safe. Someone who he kisses and clings to and cuddles. He seems as confused as me. His hand shaking a little as he pours the boiling water in the cup. Stirs with a teaspoon. Spills a little on the side.

I try to be helpful. I mean, I try to wipe it up with a tea towel, only to nudge his arm with my elbow which makes us both jump. I spill half of his tea. The cup spinning on the worktop. Felix’s hand touching mine, as we both try to catch the cup before it falls. Me catching it and Felix jolting back like he has been burnt. He is sucking his finger into his mouth. Catching my eye and not looking away. He just looks at me, all eyes and hurt and feelings and… I don’t know. I suppose it’s heat. Desire.

It makes me a bit crazy. I mean, I am already crazy, but I think I must be crazier than should be allowed, because I grab his face with both hands and launch at those lips. Just smashing my mouth on his. Walking him backwards until he is being squashed against the kitchen table that is creaking and scratching along the floor under the weight of us.

I am panting. Hard. Being the worst kisser in the world. There is nothing sensual or soft about me and my kissing. Not like I would kiss a girl. I am kissing Felix because I need to. Because I am desperate and because his hands are fisting the hair on my head, pulling and scratching my scalp whilst he catches his breath. Letting his forehead rest against mine, breathing hard and fast against my lips.

Then, he starts to kiss me. Properly kiss me. The way I should have been kissing him. Lips and tongues and more than a little bit of teeth, hard and hot and making me feel lightheaded. I am not breathing properly. Not getting enough oxygen to my brain. Grinding against him. Rutting and jerking whilst he is whimpering and panting and making all these little sounds that just egg me on.

I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t know what got into me. I let go. I let him go. Pull my hands back and step away from him. Wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. Stumbling backwards and blinking into the light like I have just woken up.

“I shouldn’t have done that.” I mumble. Well I shouldn’t. I wasn’t supposed to do that.

Release Blitz Schedule

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About the Author

Sophia Soames should be old enough to know better but has barely grown up. She has been known to fangirl over tv-shows, has fallen in and out of love with more pop stars than she dares to remember, and has a ridiculously high-flying (un)glamorous real-life job.

Her long-suffering husband just laughs at her antics. Their children are feral. The Au Pair just sighs.

She lives in a creaky old house in rural London, although her heart is still in Scandinavia.

Discovering that the stories in her head make sense when written down has been part of the most hilarious midlife crisis ever and she hopes it may long continue.

Miriam Latu is a Norway based artist, specializing in hand-drawn pencil portraits. She works with old-school pen and paper, and more of her work can be found on Instagram.

Author Links

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Giveaway

Little Harbour, my first novel, will be FREE on all Amazon platforms from April 30 until May 4.

Go grab it if you haven’t already read it!

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New Release Blitz: New Boy at the Academy by Sam Hawk

New Boy at the Academy | Sam Hawk

Tales from the Academy #1

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: March 25, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 79,800

Purchase:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Add to Goodreads

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Synopsis

Timmy had no clue that the first day of 10th grade at the Academy would rock his world. He thought it would be just like last year, with its endless bullying and recesses spent reshelving books in the library with his best and only friend Carleen. The sissy boy and the fat girl had bonded over their shared outcast status.

But Carleen shows up filled with sassy confidence and declares they’re going to rule the school. By Christmas, the freaks and nerds would be the cool kids, and the mean girls and jocks would be the outcasts. Something had happened to her over the summer, but what?

And then, the two of them lay eyes on the new boy at the Academy. Doug has auburn feathered hair, veiny biceps, and green eyes the color of Sprite bottles. Plus, he’s come all the way from exotic Los Angeles, California. He rocks out to Patti Smith while Timmy loves ABBA. How does someone so cool end up in tiny, conservative Edgewood, South Carolina?

When Carleen immediately declares Doug a fox and her new prospective boyfriend, Timmy is shocked at his jealous reaction. He’s not supposed to like boys in that way, is he? Doug stirs up weird new emotions deep inside him as Timmy embarks on the adventure of his life. He and his hometown will never be the same.

Excerpt

New Boy at the Academy
Sam Hawk © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Edgewood, South Carolina

1980

God didn’t answer my prayers and bring the Rapture on Labor Day, so I had to start tenth grade after all. I stepped in front of the mirror to assess my new back-to-school outfit. I hated it. I’d begged Momma to buy me the alligator shirt from Belk’s, which really cost her a lot, but did it have to hug my body so much? I tried stretching it out, but it would only stretch so far. I thought I’d look like Tom Selleck with his big veiny arms. Instead, I looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy. I was trying to flex my chest when Momma walked in.

“Honey, get a move on. We have to be out the door in fifteen minutes, and you haven’t even touched your Pop-Tarts.”

“Momma, I think I need to change clothes.”

“What are you talking about?” she asked as she pulled and tugged on my shirt. “This is what you wanted. You look very handsome.”

“But it fits so close.”

“Timmy, I have told you time and again you’re not fat. It’s all in your head. You are absolutely average on the height and weight scale and exactly where you need to be at fifteen.” She patted my tummy, causing me to suck in. “You’ll lose that little bit of pudge in no time in gym class.”

My heart sank at the thought of gym class, and I almost lost my appetite for Pop-Tarts. Almost. Momma smoothed down my cowlick at the kitchen table as I bit into the brown sugar cinnamon pastry.

“Thank goodness you inherited the Ashburn hair,” she said. “Such a beautiful chestnut brown and such a noble hairline. It’s a sign of your aristocratic heritage, you know, on my side of the family. All the Ashburn men had beautiful hairlines. Thank goodness you take after me and don’t have your daddy’s stringy mess.”

I guessed my hairline was okay, but my new haircut was way too short. Daddy had taken me to get it cut only after Momma called him ten times to remind him. He and Momma got divorced when I was two, and it was always weird when he came by, which wasn’t often. Naturally, he took me to the awful old barbershop next to the pool hall instead of the new unisex salon in the Augusta Mall I was secretly hoping for. He told the barber to “buzz it” and then went next door for a beer. I managed to talk the barber into keeping a little length, but not much.

“Now go brush your teeth quick as a bunny rabbit,” said Momma. “Carleen’s mother called this morning and said her car’s not running and could I run by and pick her up for school. So, we have no time.”

Carleen’s house was across the tracks, and I knew Momma didn’t like going over there, but Carleen had been my best friend since kindergarten. Actually, you could say she was my only friend. She was the only one I talked to for hours on the phone at night; the only one I hung out with after school; the only one to ever invite me to a sleepover, which Momma had never allowed me to do since boy-girl sleepovers just weren’t done. I hadn’t seen her all summer because she’d been working at her grandparents’ peach farm. I was glad we’d be going to school together on the first day. I needed my friend with me.

We pulled in front of the house, and Carleen came right out.

“Good Lord, Carleen’s put on even more weight this summer,” said Momma.

Momma was right. Carleen had always been the biggest girl in class, and she wasn’t getting any smaller. I recognized her smock top from last year. A smock top was supposed to fit loose, but hers pulled in all the wrong places.

“Hey, Carleen,” said Momma as Carleen got in the car. “You sure do look pretty for your first day of school.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Thompson,” said Carleen. I waited for an eye roll, but she just smiled at Momma like she really believed it. I looked at her more closely, and there was something different about her. Was it confidence? If so, it was new. Was that lip gloss she was wearing?

“Hey, Timmy, did you hear we’re getting a new boy in our class this year?”

“No,” I said, dreading the addition of another redneck bubba to the roster.

“They say he’s from California and he’s real cute.”

“Really? California?” said Momma. “What’s he doing here?”

“I think his momma’s people are here. He’s related to all those Herlongs.”

“Does that explain the lip gloss?”

“Timmy, don’t be rude,” said Momma.

“I just wanted to look pretty for the first day of school,” replied Carleen.

“And you do,” said Momma.

When Momma pulled up in front of Patriot Christian, Carleen looked me square in the eye and gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up.

“Come on, Timmy. We’re gonna rule the school in tenth grade. Let’s do it.”

Meet the Author

Sam Hawk’s fiction is inspired by his experiences at a private Christian Academy in rural South Carolina in the ’70s. He survived his Southern adolescence with his sanity relatively intact and went on to earn degrees from the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina Law School.

He also served in the US Army as a JAG officer for twelve years. He resigned his commission when it became clear he was expected to persecute homosexuals as part of his job.

Sam then moved to Dallas, Texas where he met the man of his dreams and found his LGBT family. Sam and his husband have been married for over ten years and live with their Corgi and Chartreux cat in the requisite charming old house in a historic district where gay couples are legally compelled to live.

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Blog Tour: Lonely Hearts by Posy Roberts

Lonely Hearts | Posy Roberts

A Novella Bundle

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MM Romance

Release Date: 25.10.18

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BLURB

Stoic men, who believe they’re happy alone, find the world turned upside down when their perfect someone stumbles across their path. In four novellas, eight men encounter unique struggles on their way to their well-deserved happily ever after.

Marc joins the Lonely Hearts chat room where men support men on their way to finding true love. He wants to believe that kind of love is possible for him, but his once-burned heart stops him from going all-in with anyone.

The chat group’s philosophy is, “Figure out how you keep screwing up your happily ever after. Once you know, you’re more likely to find the true thing.”

Skeptical as he is, Marc logs in and meets men in various degrees of getting there. At least he’s not alone. Luther truly loves his single life on the Bakken oil fields. William’s not sure he’ll ever measure up, let alone find someone he can be himself around. And Andrew still pines for a guy he hooked up with on a reenactment battlefield before he got blown up on a real one.

One by one they start dropping like flies. Flies drunk on love. And sooner than he expects, Marc’s luck starts changing thanks to these new friends.

Walk alongside these men as they find the men of their dreams and discover their happily ever afters.

101,000 Words | 396 pages | 8-9 hours to read

blue-collar | reluctant lovers | rural | bisexual | gay | meet-cute | fated lovers | love triangle | Halloween | white-collar | opposites attract | multicultural | coming out | second chance | first time | disability romance | meant to be | military | artist | world traveler | coming of age | long distance | pen pals | gay romance | contemporary | MM romance | lone wolf | alpha male

Stories included: Bent Arrow, Stroke of Luck, Momo, My Everything, and Love on a Battlefield.

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EXCERPT

Marc logged into the chat room, unsure what he was getting into, but he’d been reassured by a friend (who was friends with the moderator) that this was a good group of guys. If nothing else, he’d get to know other queer men. If he was lucky, maybe they’d help him find a way to open up his heart to fall in love again. At least that’s how the group was described to him.

5 Members in Chat Room

Marc: Hey, I’m Marc. I’m new here, and the rules said I had to introduce myself. I’m bisexual but haven’t dated much since my ex-girlfriend cheated on me. Work has been my focus, but after three years, I’m lonely. It’s as plain as that. I’m just not sure how to trust someone again.

Hugo: Hi, Marc. I’m Hugo, the moderator. If I disappear all of a sudden, it’s because I’m waiting to chauffeur kids between gymnastics and yoga.

Marc: You have kids?

Hugo: They’re Kevin’s, my boyfriend’s kids. But who knows what the future holds. Anyway, I was in the same place as you not so long ago, with a cheating cheater who cheats. I had a string of shitty boyfriends, but cheating messed me up. Bad. I swore off men for a solid year, and it eventually paid off.

Marc: How did the time off help?

Hugo: I fixed my shit. Figured out what I kept doing wrong. Worked out my patterns

Luther: Oh no, here he goes! Haha. Love you, H! Marc, H is all about fixing shit so you’re ready for love when it stumbles in your path.

Marc: Makes sense.

Luther: If you have a path filled with potential partners, I supposed it does. H is all about twuuuu wuv cuz he has it. All I can find out here on the oil fields is a hookup. Nothing else. Can’t be out.

Marc: That sucks.

Luther: It’s not all bad. I have a lot of sex and very few awkward conversations. Few conversations at all, to be honest.

William: So, Luth, do you save all the awkward conversations for when you come in here to chat? Stop scaring Marc off.

Luther: Ha. Ha. Okay, Mr. Serious, what have you done lately to make yourself available to the hot dudes who run around on the beaches half naked?

William: I bought a guy a drink at the club last weekend. Spent most of the night with him.

Luther: Before you went home alone?

William: Well, yes, but I had to work the next day.

Luther: LOL.

Andrew: Hi, Marc. Welcome. I’m pretty new here too. New to being fully out despite knowing I liked men for years. I’m still trying to figure out how all this works. Gay clubs are about all I’m capable of yet. If I go to a club, there’s no chance I’ll hit on a straight guy, at least. I’m a vet, and my PTSD and injuries make taking that risk of hitting on the wrong guy anxiety inducing. I distrust everyone, including my own brain and injured body.

Luther: And I’m the sole closet case here.

William: Not entirely. I’m not out at work. No one there has earned the right to know that about me yet. But my family knows.

Hugo: I’ve been out for ages, but I’m still not entirely open about my drag persona. That’s still need to know.

Marc: You do drag? What’s your drag name.

Hugo: Yep. Miss Cherri Pop! 😉

Marc: Where does everyone live? Or should I not ask that?

Luther: On the dusty oil fields of North Dakota, but there are tons of men to hook-up with here. No questions asked. No demands to kiss. Just how I like it!

William: Sunny California, though right now, I’d prefer rain.

Andrew: I’m in Texas, happy to be home after four years in the army.

Hugo: Minneapolis.

Marc: Me too! Minneapolis, that is. I gotta say, it’s nice chatting with some queer men. Everyone around me assumes I’m straight. And since I haven’t dated a man in ages, it’s like all my friends forgot I’m bi. But I’d really like to date a man again. I think if I date a woman, I’m bound to . . . What’s the word? Put all my shit on her?

Hugo: Project?

Marc: Yeah. I’m gonna project my hurt on her cuz of my ex. So I’d really like to try something serious with a guy.

William: So, what are your greatest fears when thinking about falling in love?

Luther: Coming out. I know, I know. It won’t be as bad as I think it will be. But what if it is? I’ll lose everyone around me.

William: But you prefer being alone. Or so you’ve claimed, Luth.

Luther: Right. I push people away. Easier that way.

Marc: I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to trust again. And if I do, what if the guy I end up with assumes I’m cheating on him only because I’m bi?

Hugo: My Kevin is bisexual, and I never made those assumptions. We’re not all neanderthals who can’t appreciate subtlety.

Marc: True. There’s that lack of trust thing again.

William: I’m worried I’ll never measure up.

Luther: Says the man who probably has a dick the size of an eggplant.

William: . . .

William: I might. 😉

Luther: LOL. I knew it!

Hugo: If W & L weren’t thousands of miles away, I’d suggest you guys get a room and fuck to work out your sexual tension.

William: Not going to happen.

Luther: He’d probably want to marry me. 😉 I’m not settling down. I just want to fall in love. Big difference.

Andrew: I already know who I want to be in a relationship with. But I’m too boring for him.

William: You’re far from boring, Andrew.

Hugo: The only way you’ll know is if you take a chance. But get into a good headspace before that. Yes, I know, Luther, you’re sick of me saying that, but if I hadn’t fixed my shit before running into Kevin again seventeen years after our last kiss, I would’ve fucked it up that first night.

Marc: Thanks for this, guys. I’m glad I found you.

 

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Posy Roberts started reading romance when she was young, sneaking peeks at adult books long before she should’ve. Textbooks eventually replaced the novels, and for years she existed without reading for fun. When she finally picked up a romance two decades later, it was like slipping on a soft hoodie . . . that didn’t quite fit like it used to. She wanted something more.

She wanted to read about men falling in love with each other. She wanted to explore beyond the happily ever after and see characters navigate the unpredictability of life. So Posy sat down at her keyboard to write the books she wanted to read.

Her stories have been USA Today’s “Happily Ever After” Must-Reads and Rainbow Award finalists. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her family and friends and doing anything possible to get out of grocery shopping and cooking.

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Lonely Hearts

Lovely collection of novellas from Posy Roberts

lonely hearts ebook 4x6Lonely Hearts: a novella bundle by Posy Roberts

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full review when I’m at the laptop tomorrow.

Right, this is a lovely collection of four of Posy’s previously released shorter novellas and they’re all nice easy to read, relatively low angst and moderate steamy romances.

With this novella, they’ve been loosely connected into her North Star Series series as Hugo sets up a chat room into which each of one half of the pairings joins.

So, in order:

3* Luther and Erik in Bent Arrow – set in the North Dakota oil fields, this is a friends with benefits turns into love romance and it worked really well for me.
There’s a small hiccup as Luther panics when he realises his feelings for Eric are a bit more serious and he needs to deal with coming out but overall, the narrative runs smoothly into a happy ever after.

4* Marc and Cas in Stroke of Luck – This one has a really interesting premise in that Cas still lives with Maisie, his once girlfriend and absolute best friend in a sort of unhealthily “non-sexual” relationship.
There’s lots of dramatic flouncing, a bit of misunderstanding, a lovely make-up scene and a lovely ending.

3* William and Nate in Momo, my Everything – oooh this one was a delicious premise but also super irritating.

An interracial relationship with a fair bit of internalised homophobia on the part of William and an amazingly out and proud drag queen Nate who works as the elegant geisha Momo in a Japanese tea house.
Having the narrative solely from William’s point of view was draining and I wanted to kick his ass for the majority of the story but I absolutely loved Nate.

4.5* Andrew and Shep in Love on a Battlefield – very definitely my absolute favourite and I also own this one as a novella in its own right.
I just loved this. It’s hard to pinpoint why exactly but I think it’s just a sense of the fact that these two guys were each other’s lodestones – even through half a decade apart when life conspired to crap all over Andrew’s dreams while making it appear that Shep was living his.
They are just beautiful and I loved the concept of having the letters they’d written, and Andrew’s journals, form such a major part of the story.

#ARC kindly received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review

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