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Release Blitz: The Reluctant Royal by Catherine Curzon & Eleanor Harkstead

The Reluctant Royal | Catherine Curzon & Eleanor Harkstead

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Release Date: January 26th, 2021

Length: 93,492 words

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Blurb

As an unseen enemy draws near, a royal bodyguard must choose between duty and love.

Risking his life to save a princess is all in a day’s work for Sergeant Joe Wenlock, a Close Protection Officer detailed to protect the royal family. After months of recovery following his brush with death, Joe’s ready to return to duties. But Alejandro Fuente-Sastre, as infuriating as he is fabulous, is the last royal Joe wants to be assigned to.

Alejandro isn’t quite the sort of queen that the British royal family is used to, but when Joe learns that Her Majesty’s step-grandson is also drag bombshell Paloma Picante, it makes his job a whole lot tougher. But is there more to Alejo than sulking and sequins?

When Alejandro’s life is threatened by an unseen tormentor who progresses from internet trolling to arson and violence, Joe must keep his charge safe from harm.

Living in close quarters with the man he shouldn’t be falling for, Joe begins to discover his true self. But as Alejandro’s enemy prowls ever nearer, Joe must make the impossible choice between duty and love.

Reader advisory: This book contains instances of homophobia and homophobic language, cyberbullying and threats, harassment, terrorism, drug use and abuse, Islamophobia and suicide. There are mentions of domestic abuse, including physical, emotional and gaslighting.

Excerpt

Joe took another sip of tonic water. He wished it contained gin, because being the only sober person at the table was hardly his idea of fun, but as he watched the bottle of champagne being passed around, he knew he didn’t really want any alcohol anyway. He couldn’t go back to work the worse for wear. Not after months of sick leave. Best foot forward, as his dad would say.

And it wasn’t only his decision not to drink that made Joe an oddity at the table. These were all Wendy’s friends, out for her birthday. Solicitors, legal types, who’d spent most of the evening already talking shop. Joe looked on, his mind on other things. Would he cope on his first day back? Would they trust him to ever do a good job again?

“So, Joe, we’re taking bets on who you’re going to be coddling next week!” Wendy put her second bottle of Prosecco on the table and settled into her seat. Her leg brushed Joe’s momentarily and she shifted, putting air between them again. “Izzy thinks one of the Fergie duo. Barnaby’s bet his bonus on Wills and Kate. I think it’s going to be the queen. The top job for a top bobby!”

“I don’t know yet.” Joe shrugged. “Maybe one of the corgis?”

“I bet you do know, and you’re teasing us!” Wendy’s friend Jemima brayed. “Have you signed the Official Secrets Act?”

Joe turned the plastic stirrer through his fizzing drink, rattling the ice cubes against the glass. He didn’t pester Wendy’s friends about confidential matters, so why did they think he was fair game? “As you know, if I had, I wouldn’t be allowed to say.”

“Whoever it is,” Wendy told them, “let’s hope they don’t put my poor old hubby in hospital again! He’s getting too old to play the action hero!”

Wendy’s friends laughed, and Joe tried to look happy, but he really didn’t want to be reminded of the accident. The headlamps coming straight for him in the evening darkness—and after he’d pushed the Duchess of Albany out of the way, there had been no time for Joe to leap aside. Just that crushing pain as the car slammed into him. Joe had slumped over the bonnet and found himself eye to eye with the idiot who’d just tried to deliberately run down the Duchess.

“He’s not that old!” Verity giggled. She patted Joe’s leg and he tried not to flinch. “And still in fine form, too, Wendy, you lucky thing!”

“Lucky old me!” Wendy’s smile looked like a grimace. How would she know what form her husband was in when it had been over six months since they’d so much as kissed, let alone more? She refilled her glass and whispered to Joe, “For God’s sake, have a real drink.”

“Come on, you know I can’t,” Joe replied. “I can’t risk it. First day back and all that.”

“It’s my birthday.” Her pink lips grew thin and she drew in a deep, sharp breath, as sharp as her fresh blonde bob. Then she put her lips to his ear and hissed, “Stop showing me up, Joe, have a drink.”

“I’m drinking a stunt gin and tonic. That’s enough.” Joe held up the glass. It had the brand name of a well-known gin printed down its side. “They do tests, you know. I want to be nice and clean when they poke through my bodily fluids, thank you very much.”

“Barnaby!” Wendy subtly turned away from her husband, the centre of attention all over again. He was dismissed, just as he had been so many times over the five years of their miserable married life. “So, we’re all dying to know how your Tokyo merger’s going. It’s all everyone’s talking about. Tell us all the latest from the front line of big money!”

Joe sat his glass down on the table. The last thing he cared about was Barnaby and his bloody merger, which he’d heard snippets of for weeks as Wendy had made business calls at home. Barnaby this, Barnaby that, ‘Barnaby’s going places.’

So am I.

Joe nudged his seat back and stood to leave. Verity glanced at him, as if she was surprised he was going, but her attention turned to Wendy and Barnaby. Joe wasn’t sure where he’d go, but he needed fresh air. He wanted to be away from loud drinkers, away from Wendy’s carping. His head was pounding and as he stepped outside the pub, a car drove by close to the kerb. He instinctively jumped back, pressing himself against the wall behind him.

Calm down, Sergeant Wenlock, he told himself.

The night was cold, as cold as the pub had been hot, and Joe took a deep breath of autumn air. London tonight seemed even more surreal than ever, the streets a curious mix of the same well-dressed professionals who filled Wendy’s group and those who had embraced Halloween, escaping the real world in the form of cats and devils, vampires and aliens, some already stumbling, others only just starting out. And there in the middle of them was Joe, who would rather be anywhere else but there.

Maybe Joe should’ve thrown aside his tweed jacket and sensible open-necked shirt for a costume. He’d have made quite a good Frankenstein’s monster, maybe, though that said, when he’d first been taken to hospital and had plaster casts and bandages in places he hadn’t thought possible, he’d have been a brilliant cursed mummy.

Joe decided to go for a wander. Once he was working again, he’d have little time to call his own. He’d take his freedom when and where he could. Music blared from pubs and bars, people laughed, taxis pulled up and disgorged their passengers. And up ahead, someone was shouting.

Bloody people, can’t hold their drinks.

“Don’t you ever, ever bloody do that again! Do you hear?”

It was a man’s voice up ahead. Joe could see two figures, one in a black suit with a skeleton painted on it in white. He was wagging his finger—jabbing it—at the red-headed woman walking beside him in heels so high Joe wondered how she didn’t fall flat on her face.

“It’s so important to me, so fucking important, and all you have to do is just nod, and instead, you’re pissing about, making a fucking joke of yourself!”

“I’m sorry!” Her voice sounded almost desperate and she recoiled from her companion’s stabbing finger, jerking away as though it were the blade of a knife. She hurried after the skeleton when he stalked onwards, scooping up the silken hem of her shimmering red evening gown to follow. “Don’t be angry, I’m sorry!”

“I’m sorry!” he mimicked. Joe could almost see him in profile. The man’s face was disguised by makeup that turned his face into a skull.

Seemed a bit rich for him to be accusing someone of making a joke of themselves.

“The man’s an investor in my film, and I wanted him to know that I’m serious about my art, and then you’re there hanging over my shoulder, interrupting and gobbing on about God knows what!” The man clenched his hands. Even they were tricked out in skeleton makeup. “Why do you wind me up like this? You do it on purpose, for fuck’s sake, then it’s all I’m sorry! Well, you bloody well will be!”

“He was laughing too,” the woman said, a fresh note of desperation in her sing-song voice. No, not desperation. Fear. “He was having a good time, you’re not thinking straight! Just—please, don’t be like this!”

“My thinking’s perfectly clear!” The man gave a long sniff then, and Joe knew exactly what was going on.

The drugs are talking.

The man stopped where he was and raised his hand at the woman. The way she flinched back told Joe that this wasn’t the first time it had happened. As she drew away, he saw her makeup clearly, a glamourous sugar skull in a rainbow of colours that nearly took his breath away.

“Please don’t,” was all she said.

Joe increased his pace. The man’s raised hand trembled, but in a split second he slapped the woman across her painted face.

Joe ran.

He was on the couple in only a few steps and interposed himself between them. He didn’t look back at the woman, but could hear her frightened breathing just behind him. “That’s enough. Time for you to go.”

“And who the fuck are you, James Bond?” the man sneered.

“I’m not going to stand around and watch a bully like you slap a woman.” Joe clenched his fists, resisting the temptation to give Skeletor a taste of his own medicine.

“A woman? That’s a fucking joke. She’s a drag queen—a bloke!”

Joe turned to look at the woman.

A bloke?

Was she?

About the Authors

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Eleanor Harkstead likes to dash about in nineteenth-century costume, in bonnet or cravat as the mood takes her. She can occasionally be found wandering old graveyards. Eleanor is very fond of chocolate, wine, tweed waistcoats and nice pens. Her large collection of vintage hats would rival Hedda Hopper’s.

Originally from the south-east of England, Eleanor now lives somewhere in the Midlands with a large ginger cat who resembles a Viking.

You can follow Eleanor on Facebook and Twitter

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Catherine Curzon is a Royal historian who writes on all matters of 18th century. Her work has been featured on many platforms and Catherine has also spoken at various venues including the Royal Pavilion, Brighton, and Dr Johnson’s House.

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, writes fiction set deep in the underbelly of Georgian London.

She lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

You can follow Catherine on Facebook and Twitter and take a look at her Website.

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Notice: This competition ends February 2nd, 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

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New Release Blitz: Playing House by Suzanne Clay

Playing House by Suzanne Clay

Rough Play #2

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: March 23, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage

Length: 80,500

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon

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Blurb

After six months deeply in love with each other, childhood best friends Logan and Christian are excited for their first summer away from home. With one year of college under their belts, they’re ready to grow up and see what the rest of their lives will be like together by strengthening their relationship over the next few months. But fate has never followed their neat plans.

Christian receives an opportunity to pursue one of his greatest unfulfilled passions: acting. It’s a chance to explore a talent his parents crushed before he could dream of spending his life studying it—but is he up to the challenge? Is it worth taking the risk, knowing his family won’t support him?

Logan struggles with his attachment to Christian and his fears of being left behind. If Christian’s career on the stage takes off, will he abandon Logan and replace him with far better lovers? And how can Logan be so hypocritical when another man has caught his eye? Or has that man perhaps captured Christian’s attention as well?

Their relationship will be tested far beyond their imagination—but love always has room to grow, even in the face of fear.

Excerpt

Excerpt
Playing House
Suzanne Clay © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Logan’s muscles ached like hell. It probably had something to do with the mountain of opened boxes sitting in the corner of the small bedroom. With the massive bed taking up the lion’s share of the sunshine-lit room, his empty moving boxes cluttered up the rest. Everything still wasn’t in its place, but he couldn’t be mad about it right now. This was home for the summer—away from Fulton State University.

Words couldn’t express how grateful he was not to be going back to the little town of Greenbarrow. God knew he’d have finer company here than there with his family.

The sound of footsteps crumpling plastic bags on the floor behind Logan made him speak. “You haven’t changed a bit.”

“Don’t need to change when you’re perfect.” Christian’s familiar drawl had the same effect on Logan that it always did: a slow series of tingles drifted down his spine. “Don’t be roasting me on how I pack shit.”

“You make it so easy.” Logan turned around and pointed at the equally messy pile of empty bags. “That. Look at that. I’ll buy you suitcases, duffel bags, anything you want—just stop putting everything in a goddamn trash bag.”

Christian slung an arm around his shoulder and kissed his cheek. “How much does it cost to get you to stop running your mouth?”

Difficult to think of a price, really, when goose bumps were still skittering over his arms. He turned his head and found Christian’s mouth less than an inch away. “…half an hour of making out.”

“Done.”

With a solid shove to his back, Logan landed facedown on the bed, then grunted when Christian’s weight crashed down on him. Instincts kicked in—he dug his elbow into Christian’s side and shoved him away, then rolled away to get a better position for wrestling.

Six months of dating, and they still acted like they had every day of their thirteen years of friendship. It wasn’t an easy habit to break. For every kiss they shared, there was Christian pinning Logan down until he said uncle and swore he’d do the dishes that night. Each evening they snuggled in one of the tiny bunk beds in their dorm, and they couldn’t keep from shit-talking each other until their eyelids were heavy.

Weirdly, Logan thought being out of college for the summer would make their relationship a little more like a movie—soft, sweet, and romantic—but as he lunged for Christian and pinned an arm to his chest, he realized things might never change. And he was okay with that.

“I said making out,” Logan gritted out as he batted one of Christian’s massive hands away before it could grab his hair. “Not me kicking your ass again.”

Christian laughed breathlessly. He snagged the back of Logan’s neck. “This is just foreplay, baby, don’t be silly.”

Baby. He still wasn’t used to that either. The air caught in Logan’s chest long enough for Christian to put him on his back. With the sight of his stunning boyfriend rising above him, all dark skin and dangerous eyes and smirking lips, he didn’t much feel like fighting anymore.

Whatever energy was overflowing in Christian seemed to dissipate. He trailed the back of his fingers down Logan’s cheek, leaving a path of fire behind them. One finger snagged in the neckline of Logan’s T-shirt as Christian bit his bottom lip and sighed.

The mood changed fast with Christian, and Logan never knew how to keep up. Not even after all this time. All he could do was watch him with a sense of wonder and see what he was going to do.

“I was gonna ask if you wanted to grab some food now that we’re done unpacking,” Christian murmured. He tugged at Logan’s shirt, and the hook in his belly yanked even harder. “Now I’m pretty sure I wanna eat you.”

Logan exhaled sharply. “You know you don’t gotta ask.”

Christian crashed down, their lips smashing together painfully, as he dug his fingers into Logan’s thick curls. As he shoved Logan back on the mattress to try to get better leverage, something fell to the floor, and Christian lifted his head with a huff. “The fuck is that? Are you already breaking shit?”

“Me?” Logan shoved him with a laugh, then rolled over to reach for the fallen binder. “C’mon, this is gonna make you feel old as fuck. You ready?”

“Aw, hell.” Christian lay on his side, head supported by his hand. “What’s this?”

Logan opened the binder. Inside were a few memories that he wouldn’t have shown anybody else for love or money—but Christian was different. He was the man he loved. And these little treasures included him too.

“Oh my God.” When Logan held a photograph toward Christian, he took it with another rough chuckle. “You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

“So cute,” Logan teased, and Christian elbowed him.

It was an old, battered photo of Christian as a child in his first-ever church play. Some girl was trying to pull off her shoe in the background, and a boy was going completely off-script and pushing someone off the stage, but Christian stood very seriously at the front of the stage as he delivered some poorly written line or another.

“Jesus Christ,” Christian breathed, shaking his head, and Logan threw an arm around his waist with a grin, snuggling closer to see better. Christian scoffed. “Damn. Probably a good thing I never went after that shit. I look stupid.”

“You’re a kid. You all looked stupid.” Logan left a messy kiss on his cheek.

“Funny.” Christian set the photo aside, then pulled something out from the other sleeve of the binder. “What’s this?”

“Oh, that’s…” Logan reached to take it away, but Christian was sitting up out of reach. “Hey, c’mon—”

“Ooh, I remember now! Baby’s first monologue!”

Logan made another dive, driving Christian to his feet. “Don’t! It’s awful, man, give it.”

“Not a chance in hell!” Christian turned his back to him and began to recite. “Family. Is there any deeper hell than family? Is there—”

Logan couldn’t listen to a word. With strength he hadn’t used since they’d started dating, he practically crawled up Christian’s shoulders and snatched the paper away with such force that he ripped it free from the fingerhold of paper Christian had. “No, we’re throwing this shit away right now.” The mere memory of how enthralled he’d been by Christian performing it when they were teenagers was embarrassing.

“Hey, hey.” Christian grabbed Logan’s shoulders, but when he didn’t reach for the paper again, Logan stayed still, tension in his chest. “Just ’cuz we were young and awful when we did that shit don’t mean we shouldn’t keep it. Remember where we came from. You know?”

Logan scoffed an unamused laugh. Yeah, great to keep it around when we’re never gonna get to follow those dreams again. Right.

“Logan?”

“Just put it away, man.” He offered the paper over his shoulder, then turned his head to watch and make sure Christian did as he asked instead of being an asshole.

The knock on the door drew Logan’s attention back to the present. “Yeah?”

“Hey, it’s me!”

“Just Noah,” Christian said absently. “Who the fuck else would it be?”

“Shut up.” Logan laughed, but moved to open the door.

“Hey!” Noah grinned up at him, flushed from his own exertions of unpacking. “Just wanted to let you know we’ve got cookies!”

“Cookies?”

“Yep! From Daiki.” Noah gestured behind him, and Logan leaned until he could see a bouquet of sweets set up on the tiny, scratched dining room table. “He sent a note too. He says he wishes he could be here.”

The bed creaked behind Logan as Christian spoke. “You’re actually sharing your boyfriend’s cookies with both of us? Now, that’s friendship.”

Noah chuckled. “It’s not that big a sacrifice—I can’t eat that many anyway.” He blinked. “I wasn’t interrupting anything, was I?”

“Nah,” Christian drawled. “We were having a walk down memory lane. Then I thought I’d maybe fuck Logan’s brains out. The usual.”

Logan turned his head, cheeks flaming. “Shut up!”

“Just saying.” Christian shrugged.

“Oh! Uh. Right. Right.” Noah stepped back into the hallway, his hands raised. “You know what? I think I’m going to run to the grocery store, so, uh, if you guys need anything, just text me, I’ll pick it up, no problem…” He was still talking as he grabbed his keys and walked straight out the front door.

Christian immediately burst out laughing, grabbing his bare stomach. “Did you see the look on his face?”

“Oh, you don’t think he’s entitled? Are you just gonna announce every time you wanna fuck me?” Logan shut the door and went for his belt with a roll of his eyes. Christian might be obnoxious sometimes, but it didn’t stop the fact that his gut was stirred up, eager for a distraction from the binder Christian had tossed to the floor.

The look Christian gave him—dripping with heat and invitation—scalded Logan’s skin. Christian licked his lips, his gaze drifting down, down, down, until it rested on Logan’s hands. “Well, it’s just damn polite, ain’t it? Unless you don’t want me to. You want him to be surprised when he sits there and hears us fuck every time?”

That was a bizarre thought, one that made Logan snort and roll his eyes and completely ignore the lift of carbonated bubbles in his chest, around his heart. No, instead of thinking about it, Logan kicked his pants off and crawled on top of Christian and got caught up in how goddamn lucky he was. He’d spent months thinking he’d never get to have this, but here they were, safe in their own bedroom, with a bed they could sleep in side by side and a roommate who wasn’t going to throw a fit if they made love to each other in the middle of a weekend afternoon. As far as Logan was concerned, there was nothing ahead of them but hope and light.

He was lucky—too lucky—and he refused to think about what might happen if that luck ever ran out.

About the Author

Suzanne is an asexual woman with a great love for writing erotica and enjoys spending her time confusing people with that fact. She believes there is a need for heightened diversity in erotic fiction and strives to write enough stories so that everyone can see themselves mirrored in a protagonist.

She lives with her husband and cat, and, when not writing, Suzanne enjoys reading, playing video games poorly, and refusing to interact outdoors with other human beings.

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Expertly crafted angsty romance

Someday, SomedaySomeday, Someday by Emma Scott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Full review tomorrow when I’m at the laptop.

***

I’ve never read Emma Scott before so I had no clue going into this one what I’d be getting. What I did get was an expertly crafted angsty romance which never veered into the overly-dramatic but instead wound a careful tale about finding your own self-worth.

Both characters were fascinating drawn, Max being much easier to like from the off because of his determination to reclaim his life from hitting rock bottom. Silas was, deliberately I suspect, harder to like, while easy to sympathise with.

Ultimately though, their connection was a beautifully detailed emotionally satisfying read, dealing with some quite horrific traumas – and please do pay attention to the subject matter warnings, this book isn’t an easy read.

My main reason for it not being a five star entry is that I was missing just that small spark to draw me totally into the narrative. I think it was because – rightly so, the author did a wonderful job with both research and representation – it was perhaps a little bit slow in getting to the happier parts.

I will say, Silas’ older brother Eddie was himself a bright light, his Asperger’s treated with care and consideration and never made me feel like I was reading a character put there just to provide comedic relief because of the way he behaved.

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

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