Tag Archives: Release Blitz

Release Blitz: Salute to the Stud by Beth Laycock

Salute to the Stud | Beth Laycock

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Publisher: Rainbow Romance Press

Release Date: February 21, 2019

Subgenre: Contemporary Romance

Order here: Amazon only.

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07NGRFKG9

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07NGRFKG9

The novella will be only $0.99 on ebook during release-week and tour, February 21-27!

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Blurb

Jasper is licking his wounds in paradise after being dumped, according to his ex, for someone more adventurous. The romantic Hawaiian getaway for two he booked hadn’t featured his sister as his plus one, but sometimes real life sucks.

For the two weeks he’s there his plans include hot dates with a sun lounger and working his way through the local craft beers. Nothing more.

Until he receives a sext from a wrong number. A mystery yoga instructor offering a private session to teach him the plow, and maybe even get plowed. Jasper’s never had a hookup with anyone before, but perhaps it’s time to prove his ex wrong.

One night with Tamal, no matter how hot it is, isn’t enough, yet that doesn’t change the fact this thing between them can’t last. Because time is running out. Jasper has to leave, has to return to London and real life.

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Excerpt

I had talked myself in then out of meeting up a thousand times. Then back in, because I wanted to see Tamal again – more than I probably should. But then the thought of seeing him again – of what we might do – had my breaths coming far too quickly and my skin itched like it had been stretched too thin. I knew nothing about the man I was meeting apart from the yoga and plowing bit if Tamal and the sexter were one and the same person. If they were then I was worrying unnecessarily because Tamal had been… A sigh escaped as the word ‘everything’ flittered through my mind. Stupid, getting carried away, and I

didn’t know what to wear. What if Tamal expected to give me an actual yoga lesson? What if I’d misunderstood the whole conversation?

My sister texted me to let me know she was having a great time at the waterfalls. So I texted her I was going out for a wander down the beach and would see he in the morning. Not a complete lie but not the whole truth. But some things my sister didn’t need to know.    

My bare feet sank into the sand as I strolled along the water’s edge. The waves crept up the beach and lapped at my feet. Goosebumps erupted up my legs, the water cool now the sun had disappeared. The tops of the waves glinted where the moonlight caught them, and a few stars twinkled like they were winking at me and in on my secret. The further I wandered the quieter the sounds of the hotel became, to be replaced by the quiet rush of the sea and the high-pitched whistle of the frogs calling to each other that I still hadn’t got used to.

Once I passed the bar lounge, there was nothing but palm trees and beach until the sand disappeared beneath a stretch of rocks. I climbed over them to find a single wooden shack with a coconut-style thatched roof, and the only thing visible in the secluded cove. If it hadn’t been for the window that glowed brightly against the inky night sky I’d have thought it was abandoned.

I hesitated. In or out? Told myself it was like a gay rite of passage – had to have at least one hookup in my dating life. And I wanted to see Tamal again. Fuck it. I strode up the beach like I owned the goddamned place. Like I would have done before Sam. Fake it till you make it, right?

About The Author

Beth Laycock’s books are influenced by her time living overseas as well as the gritty, urban landscape of the North of England where she grew up. She has been reading romance since she was old enough to tell herself that line every book lover does—just one more chapter.

As a teenager, she attempted to write her first novel, and many more since then are still gathering dust on her bookshelf. It wasn’t until she discovered the MM genre that her muse showed up and refused to quit telling her stories about beautiful men finding love together. She hasn’t stopped scribbling them down since.

Beth’s muse usually shows up when she is in the shower, is allergic to cleaning, rarely lets her watch TV, and insists she drinks copious amounts of coffee so she can turn caffeine into words.

When not writing or reading, Beth can be found procrastinating on social media or being dragged around the English countryside by her dog Freddie.

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Author links:

Instagram: www.instagram.com/bethlaycockwrites

Facebook: www.facebook.com/beth.laycock.writes

https://www.facebook.com/bethlaycockauthor/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2188017221465443

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18580707.Beth_Laycock

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BethLaycock_

Website: https://bethlaycock.com

Newsletter: http://bethlaycock.com/newsletter

Pinterest: www.pinterest.co.uk/BethLaycockAuthor

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/beth-laycock


Giveaway

Win a $10 Amazon gift card + an ebook copy of Miracle On Three Kings’ Day by Beth Laycock.

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Release Blitz: Step Up With Me by Kris Jacen

Step Up With Me | Kris Jacen

With Me #5

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Buy Links:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | MLR Press

Length: 45,000 words approx.

Publisher: MLR Press

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Blurb

Richard “Tank” Martin was a big boy from the start. Born weighing over 11 pounds, he didn’t stop growing.

When he was in middle school, a football coach took him under his wing and finally explained to him the mystery of calories in, calories out and from then on it was all good for him. At least he thought.

Being called to meet with his platoon sergeant and told that he was now part of the Army’s overweight program, sent him into a spin that only his crews can help him out of.

Dr Jack Dillon thought his life was good and finally settled. Part of an active veterinarian practice, volunteering with a service dog organization, spoiling his sister’s triplets and training in sports jiu-jitsu…the only this missing was a partner.

He never thought that his world could be shattered with just a phone call even after being around his military friends.

Tank and Jack have been dancing around each other for months until Tank takes a chance and kisses Jack at their friends’ wedding, moving their slow dance into a heated bump and grind.

Can these two survive the changes coming their way together or will all the changes break them apart?

With Me Series

Book #1 – Wait For Me – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book #2 – Explore With Me – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book #3 – Learn With Me – Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book #4 – Challenge Me – Amazon US Amazon UK

About the Author

Kris Jacen grew up just north of Boston, Massachusetts, met her soldier in high school but didn’t marry him until almost ten years later. She moved around with him and their daughters (born in two different states thanks to the Army) for the first 19 years of their marriage (they celebrated their silver anniversary in 2018) before settling in western New York.

She has been the Editor in Chief and Formatting Director for ManLoveRomance Press and its imprints since January of 2008 and has never looked back. Working with the amazing authors at MLR has allowed her to both hone her editorial skills and indulge her inner fangirl.

She also acts as editor, mentor and sounding-board for newcomers which lets her “pay-it-forward” and help authors realize their dreams.

You can find out more about Kris on her website www.krisjacen.com


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Release Blitz: Slammed into You by C.M. Valencourt

Slammed into You | C.M. Valencourt

Coffee & Cardigans #1

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Length: 52,000 words

Release Date: February 21, 2019

Cover Design: James @ GoOnWrite.com

Buy links:

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Slammed-into-Coffee-Cardigans-Book-ebook/dp/B07NSFQKG6

Amazon UKhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Slammed-into-Coffee-Cardigans-Book-ebook/dp/B07NSFQKG6

Add to Goodreads:

 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43924671-slammed-into-you

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Blurb

They were like two hurricanes, touching down on the same shore.

Amir is a rising slam poet who wants to make it big. While he works a day job at a café, he writes poems like his life depends on it and performs at a local poetry slam every week.

But then Landon comes to a slam, and he’s not impressed by Amir. When he joins the slam team, he jeopardizes Amir’s chance to go to Nationals, all Amir’s been dreaming about for the past year. He vows to show Landon that he is the better poet.

As Amir and Landon clash to get the last spot at Nationals, their bickering and attempts to undermine each other quickly turn into angry lust. Amir’s priority is to win, but he can’t seem to get Landon out of his head…

Excerpt

He wasn’t expecting to find Landon in the hotel room when he unlocked it. But there he was, pacing back and forth in front of the beds, his footfalls heavy. Amir quietly closed the door behind him, and Landon didn’t notice as he stepped into the room.

He had unbuttoned the pink shirt, revealing a heather grey muscle tank underneath. His shoes were still on and there was no doubt he was bothering the people in the room below them. But as he turned on his heel again, this time facing Amir, he could tell he was absolutely livid.

“You okay?” Amir asked, his voice surprisingly small.

Landon stopped pacing and looked up. His eyes narrowed. “Yes, Amir. I’m fantastic.”

Amir felt anchored to the spot. “Look, I’m sorry that happened-”

“No, you’re not,” Landon bit back. “You just want to hear me say it. That’s why you followed me back.”

“Say what?”

Landon chuckled darkly. “That you were right! That I shouldn’t have done that poem at all!”

Amir looked right at him. He tried to be diplomatic. “I think it can serve as a learning experience.”

Landon shook his head. “God, just tell me off already!” His voice was growing louder with every word he spoke. “Blame me for crushing your dreams. I can take it.”

“You need to chill the fuck out. I’ll leave.” But Amir didn’t move.

“No,” Landon said. “We need to deal with this. It’s gone on too long.”

Amir almost asked what, but he knew what he was talking about. The constant conflict between the two of them, the way they were at each other’s throats all the time. But Amir didn’t really think Landon was in the mood to build bridges.

“Fine. Here it is. Maybe if you’d just listened, you wouldn’t need to be so pissed off at me! You could have done your other poem, and we could have won the whole damn thing!”

“There we go!” Landon yelled. “I knew you blamed me.”

“Who else would I blame?” Amir asked, feeling his own temper begin to build. “Everyone else got decent scores except for you!”

Landon took two steps forward towards him. “I know. I should have listened to the All-Knowing Amir! If only you’d shown me the way!”

Amir stepped forward, too. They were only about a foot apart now. “But you can’t deny I was right! You weren’t confident in that poem, didn’t know it as well. You didn’t even know it well enough to remember the goddamn words!”

Then Landon’s finger was jabbing into his chest. Amir was surprised that the distance between them had closed. Despite himself, he could feel how close Landon was, thinking of the scene at the club.

Without even thinking about it, he leaned in and kissed him, the need too great. Landon was still so warm, though this time it was probably from righteous fury. Landon was stock still for a few seconds before he pushed him backwards, just enough so their bodies were no longer touching.

“Fuck you,” Landon said, but this time he wasn’t yelling. His voice was almost a whisper.

Then he grabbed Amir’s shirt collar and pulled him back in, kissing him roughly.

About The Author

C.M. Valencourt is a new MM romance author. They started devouring queer fiction when they still had to smuggle it into their parents’ Catholic household and dreamed of writing books about queer people finding love ever since.

They like figure skating, ghost hunting shows, and Carly Rae Jepsen.

You can find out more about their books and learn about upcoming releases at cmvalencourt.com

Follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cmvalencourt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Release Blitz: Diamond In The Rough by Charlie Cochet

Diamond In The Rough | Charlie Cochet

Four Kings Security #4

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MM ROMANCE

RELEASE DATE: 12.02.19

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Cover Art Copyright © 2019 Reese Dante

http://reesedante.com

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BLURB

For Ward “King” Kingston the role of protector, forged by fire and tragedy, is one he takes seriously. When King is asked to safeguard the son of a four-star general and friend, he is pulled back into the world of government black ops on a mission that raises painful memories from his past. The moment King meets Leo, amid the chaos of a lockdown at a secret black site, it’s clear he’s never faced a challenge like this—one that will test his unwavering sense of control.

Leopold de Loughrey is a misunderstood genius whose anxiety and insecurities are sent into overdrive when he is forcefully recruited to work on a top-secret project. Terrified of what his role as “invaluable asset” means, Leo’s stress leads to disappearances, arguments, and blowups that threaten the project and Leo’s future. King’s arrival is a calm in the storm for Leo and his frenetic thoughts.

King and Leo couldn’t be more different, yet as they navigate the dangers of a secret multi-agency operation and face unknown threats, their differences could be what saves them. Neither man believes a happily ever after is in the cards, but their hearts might just prove them wrong… if they can survive a deadly betrayal.

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EXCERPT

“Everything okay?”

Leo bit down on his bottom lip and nodded. “Mm-hm.” How about we not reveal what a complete and total freak we are to the hot soldier guy? Not hot. Obviously hot, but Leo shouldn’t be thinking hot. Ones and zeroes. That’s what he should be thinking. Ones and zeroes and sixes, or was that eights? Six-pack or eight-pack?

“Leo?”

“Eight.”

“I’m sorry?”

Leo’s jaw went slack. Holy shit, he’d said that out loud! He promptly shut his mouth, eyes wide. Something banged somewhere, and he flinched. Lifting his gaze, King scanned the room, his expression turning pensive, like he was trying to figure something out. For Leo, it was easy. Noise. It filled the room. Clicking of keyboards, talking, whirring of equipment, and movement. The hostility that rolled off some of the analysts like little clouds of doom didn’t help either.

“I’ll be right back,” King said before he headed toward the analysts.

Leo followed King’s movement as he walked down the rows of workstations until he seemed to find what he was looking for. With a warm smile at Heather, one of the first analysts to be recruited, he pointed to a pair of heavy-duty noise-canceling headphones. He said something that had her blinking up at him, and he checked her ID before his next words were followed by him putting his hand to his chest.

She raked her gaze over every inch of him—way to be subtle, Heather—and her cheeks went pink before she lifted her wide eyes to his. Leo wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen it, but she visibly sighed. Like a dreamy sigh, not the frustrated “why do you have to breathe the same oxygen as me” sigh she’d given Leo that morning when he’d asked to borrow a highlighter.

Heather nodded, and King took the pair of large headphones from her desk, then returned to Leo, Heather’s gaze never leaving him, or rather his ass. Leo narrowed his eyes at her, and when she realized she’d been busted, she started typing away at her keyboard like she was Sandra Bullock in Speed and her desk would blow up if she typed under fifty words per minute.

“Does anyone actually ever say no to you?” Leo asked.

King chuckled and handed him the headphones. “You’d be surprised. My family certainly has no problem giving me a piece of their minds. Noise-canceling headphones. Why don’t you use these for now and let me know which brand you prefer, and I’ll be sure to get a pair brought to you right away.”

“How did you know?”

“One of my brothers-in-arms, Jack, handles cybersecurity for Four Kings Security, and when he’s working on an important project, he puts on headphones to block out any noise that messes with his concentration. Usually it’s when our other brother, Ace, is in the same building.”

Leo couldn’t help his smile. “King, Jack, Ace? I’m sensing a pattern here.”

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Charlie Cochet is the international bestselling author of the THIRDS series. Born in Cuba and raised in the US, Charlie enjoys the best of both worlds, from her daily Cuban latte to her passion for classic rock.

Currently residing in Central Florida, Charlie is at the beck and call of a rascally Doxiepoo bent on world domination. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found devouring a book, releasing her creativity through art, or binge watching a new TV series. She runs on coffee, thrives on music, and loves to hear from readers.

Website: www.charliecochet.com

Email: charlie@charliecochet.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/charliecochet

Twitter: @charliecochet

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/charliecochet

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/CharlieCochet

Instagram: www.instagram.com/charliecochet

THIRDS HQ: www.thirdshq.com

Sign up for Charlie’s newsletter: http://bit.ly/CharlieCochetNews

Follow Charlie on BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/charliecochet

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Release Blitz: Snowed In: Nen and Anani by Nell Iris

Snowed In: Nen and Anani | Nell Iris

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Buy Links:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | JMS 

Length: 22,312 words

Publisher: JMS Books

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Blurb

It is time to go to my son.

Nen waited to hear those words from the Vasilissa for fifteen rotations, since that time the snow wouldn’t stop falling. But now that he’s about to meet Anani, the love of his life, again, he’s afraid. What if Anani doesn’t feel the same anymore?

Anani, the guardian of the water element, was only seventeen when he was banished from his mother’s court. Heartbroken he couldn’t be with the one he loved, he lost control over his emotions and his power. No matter what he tried, the snow wouldn’t stop, and as a last resort, he was sent away.

When they finally meet again, Anani is hopeful but disillusioned. The law that kept them apart hasn’t changed. How will they be able to find their happily ever after?

And what happens when the snow starts falling again?

Excerpt

A third knock hushes the forest even more. Not a single insect can be heard. Is the wildlife waiting for me to leave? Is he? Would he answer if I call out to him? Or will the sound of my voice make him even more resolved to stay behind the closed door?

Before I have time to come to a decision, the door is yanked open and he appears in the opening.

The Vasilieu.

Oh, great Spirit, still my heart!

He is magnificent!

He is willowy tall and has grown so much these last fifteen rotations, reaching me to my nose, standing over a head taller than any other member of his family. He’s dressed like a commoner in a tunic and pants even plainer than my own — where’s his kaftan? The clothes hug his body and reveal every long sinewy muscle in his legs and arms.

Hair as white as newly fallen snow is parted in the middle and hangs straight to his waist. His nose, slightly upturned, gives him a mischievous look. His pale lips, imperceptibly darker than his skin color, are pillowy but set in a severe line.

But it’s his eyes that draw my attention. Pale blue eyes staring at me as if he can’t believe what he’s seeing. After a few heartbeats, they widen, and he lets out a gasp.

A wave of emotions hit me square in the chest. What was muted just moments before grows into an avalanche as though he let them loose, or lost control of them. They overwhelm me; I physically feel them, poking and prodding my breast, invading my heart. I stagger a few steps backward and sink to my knees without hesitation. I don’t avert my gaze. “Vasilieu.”

He narrows his eyes. “Do not call me that. You know my name. Use it.”

The barrage of his emotions intensifies, making it hard to breathe but easy for me to identify them. Disbelief. Uncertainty. Hope.

… Happiness?

Yes, definitely happiness.

“Anani,” I whisper. Never before have I uttered his name, not even alone in the night. Saying it now is terrifying and freeing all at once. And it feels right, as though my lips are meant to say it. Whisper it in his ear as our limbs are entwined and sweaty.

He surges forward and throws himself on his knees before me. Cups my cheeks and lets his thumbs caress my beard. His gaze flits over my face as if though he’s trying to take in all the changes that have happened since we saw each other last. The crow’s feet by my eyes. The corners of my mouth that are downturned from the lack of smiling. The first gray at my temples in a sea of black, bristly hair.

I’m an older, more tired-looking version of the man who watched him walk away all those rotations ago, while he’s more breathtaking than ever.

“Vasilieu. Don’t kneel before me. It’s not proper.”

“Nen. Oh Nen. Is it really you?” he asks as if he didn’t hear my plea. His hands explore my face; the fingertips linger in my wrinkles and lines, sending sparkles through my body. He tugs lightly on my beard and gazes into my eyes. I wonder what he sees.

“Vasilieu. Anani.” The second time I use his name is even more momentous. “Stand, I beg you.”

He sits back on his heels. “What are you doing here?” His disbelief melts away. Clearly, he trusts his own eyes and what he can see before him. Confusion takes its place. With grace, he rises to his feet, bends down to grab my hands, and pulls me to standing with little help from me. Spirit, he is strong!

He doesn’t let go.

Nell Iris is a romantic at heart who believes everyone deserves a happy ending. She’s a bona fide bookworm (learned to read long before she started school), wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without something to read (not even the ladies’ room), loves music (and singing along but, let’s face it, she’s no Celine Dion), and is a real Star Trek nerd (“Make it so”). She loves words, poetry, wine, and Sudoku, and absolutely adores elephants!

Nell believes passionately in equality for all regardless of race, gender, or sexuality, and wants to make the world a better, less hateful, place.

Nell is a forty-something bisexual Swedish woman, married to the love of her life, and a proud mama of a grown daughter. She left the Scandinavian cold and darkness for warmer and sunnier Malaysia a few years ago, and now spends her days writing, surfing the Internet, enjoying the heat, and eating good food.

One day she decided to chase her lifelong dream of being a writer, sat down in front of her laptop, and wrote a story about two men falling in love.

Nell Iris writes gay romance, prefers sweet over angst, and wants to write diverse and different characters.

Email contact@nelliris.com

Web www.nelliris.com

Twitter @nellirisauthor

Facebook page www.facebook.com/nellirisauthor

Facebook profile www.facebook.com/nell.iris.12

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/nelliris

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/nell_iris/

QueeRomance Ink https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/nell-iris/


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Release Blitz: Milo by Lily Morton

Milo | Lily Morton

Finding Home #2

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MM ROMANCE

RELEASE DATE: 15.02.19

AMAZON US: https://amzn.to/2SwBnPz

AMAZON UK: https://amzn.to/2ImhlCy

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COVER DESIGN: Natasha Snow Designs

BLURB

Once upon a time a brave knight rescued a young man. Unfortunately, he then spent the next few years bossing the young man around and treating him like a child.

Milo has been burying himself at Chi an Mor, hiding from the wreckage of his once-promising career and running from a bad relationship that destroyed what little confidence he had. Niall, his big brother’s best friend, has been there for him that entire time. An arrogant and funny man, Niall couldn’t be any more different from the shy and occasionally stuttering Milo, which has never stopped Milo from crushing wildly on the man who saved him.

However, just as Milo makes the decision to move on from his hopeless crush, he and Niall are thrown into close contact, and for the first time ever Niall seems to be returning his interest. But it can never work. How can it when Milo always needs rescuing?

From the bestselling author of the Mixed Messages series comes a story about a man who needs to write his own happily ever after.

This is the second book in the Finding Home series, but it can be read as a standalone.

Content warning: There are descriptions of domestic abuse in this book.

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EXCERPT

“Bloody hell, is that a relation of my husband or a suspect in the Jack the Ripper case?”

I laugh and Cora startles slightly. I shush her and kiss the tiny fingers she holds up to my face. Moving next to him, I stare down at the picture. “He is a bit grim, isn’t he?”

“Grim? Caligula was grim. This is a new and previously undiscovered level of malevolence.” He cocks his head to one side. “Is it my imagination or do his eyes follow you when you move?”

I shake my head. “My remit isn’t to judge. Instead, I reveal what has been previously hidden.”

“While I’m sure that sounds romantic in your head, let’s be realistic. You’ve actually just wiped dirt off a grumpy old git’s face.”

I laugh. “I’m so glad my time at art college wasn’t wasted.”

He looks searchingly at me and opens his mouth but then closes it again. I stare at him. “Oh my God, what were you going to say? It must be bad if it’s made Oz Gallagher shut up.”

He laughs, and I look affectionately at him. I know he’s going to tell me the truth. Oz doesn’t ever shy away from that. He’s my best friend in the world and it comes as a shock to realise that I’ve only known him for a couple of years.

He came here to Chi an Mor in all his wisecracking, sassy glory and proceeded to turn everyone’s lives upside down. Footloose and fancy-free, he only intended to stay for a few months and ease the old house into opening to the general public. The best-laid plans always go wrong – or right – and now he’s settled with his husband Silas, the current earl, and they have a beautiful seven-month-old daughter.

He clears his throat and looks at me, and I straighten from kissing Cora’s forehead. “What?”

“I just think that you’re actually a bit wasted here, Milo.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re so bloody talented. People from all over the country are starting to come here to consult with you, and rather than enjoying it you’re stuck in a small, cold room wearing ugly gloves and hunched over a hideous painting. It’s like something from a Dickens novel.”

He pauses for breath and I try to relax my instinctive defensive shield. I don’t need it with him.

He rubs my arm affectionately. “You’re so clever and talented and no one sees it here apart from us, and you need more than that. You should be living it up and going to exotic parties. Mixing with artists and the bohemian crowd.”

I swallow hard at the thought of the people that used to surround Thomas. “I don’t think I’m cut out for a bohemian crowd. They sound quite noisy and tiring,” I manage to say.

“Well, maybe look for a sub-branch. The whispering bohemians or something.”

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Lily writes contemporary romance novels, and specialises in hot love stories with a good dose of humour.

Lily lives in sunny England with her husband and two children, all of whom claim that they haven’t had a proper conversation with her since she bought her first Kindle.

She has spent her life with her head full of daydreams and decided one day to just sit down and start writing about them. In the process she discovered that she actually loved writing, because how else could she get to spend her time with hot, funny men!

She loves chocolate and Baileys and the best of all creations – chocolate Baileys! Her lifetime’s ambition is to have a bath in peace without being shouted by one of her family.

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Release Blitz: Apple Boy by Isobel Starling

Apple Boy | Isobel Starling

The Quiet Work #1

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Publisher: Decent Fellows Press

Cover Artist: Valentine Pascadian (Lennel)

Genre/s: Fantasy, MM, Romance

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length:103,600 words/ 556 pages

Release Date: February 15, 2019

Add on Goodreads

Buy Links

Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US | Amazon UK

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Blurb

After a traumatic event, Winter Aeling finds himself destitute and penniless in the backwater town of Mallowick. He needs to travel to the city of Serein and impart grave news that will bring war to the Empire, but without a horse, money, and with not a soul willing to help him, he has no choice but to line up with the common folk seeking paid work on the harvest.

As wagons roll into the market square and farmers choose day laborers, Winter is singled out for abuse by a brute of a farmer. The only man who stands up for him is the farmer’s beguiling son, Adam, and on locking eyes with the swarthy young man Winter feels the immediate spark of attraction.

Winter soon realizes there is a reason he has been drawn to Blackdown Farm. The farmer possesses a precious item that was stolen long ago from Winter’s family, and he determines to retrieve it. He also cannot take his eyes off the farmer’s son, and as the young man opens up Winter can’t help wondering if Adam is just kind or his kind!

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Excerpt

“Apple Boy” by Isobel Starling

CHAPTER 1

MARKET SQUARE

“You boy, aye, YOU. Ain’t never seen ye round ‘ere before,” The farmer directed his bellow at me.

It was sunrise, and at last, I’d found the courage to step out of my hiding place and join the common laborers who gathered in Mallowick market square. We were waiting for the farmers’ carts to come by and choose their day workers. I’d watched this ritual each morning for the past three days, peeking out from shadowed doorways, or while crouching behind barrels.

It was harvest time, and it appeared to be routine for peasants to walk from the surrounding hamlets before dawn and assemble in the square to seek work on the farms. There was wheat, barley, root vegetables, and tree fruits to be gathered before the weather turned. I was informed by a ruddy looking fellow in the tavern that anyone could get work on the harvest, and so, with my pride cut to ribbons and my pockets empty, I’d stepped out of the safety of my hiding place and joined the commoners.

“Does ye wants work or no’? Look at me when I’m talkin’ to ye. What’s yer name?” The burley farmer roared. I looked up, stunned to be singled out from among all of these strapping men and hardy looking women, for I felt invisible. Four carts had already passed and taken their pick of the young, strong peasants, but none of those farmers gave me a second glance. I should have known something was afoot, for when this particular wagon turned up the women in the square shrank back into doorways, and men sidled away to lean against buildings. On the side of the wagon, writ-large in bold off-white letters were the words BLACKDOWN FARM. There were around thirty of us left on view, like cattle.

I had never partaken in manual labor or any kind of work before. I was a gentleman and far more familiar with spending my days relaxing, reading, attending social events in the city, or taking a horse for a gallop in the country. But my life had changed since I’d become stranded here in the Pasturelands provincial town of Mallowick two weeks earlier. Now I was living on my wits. Each day was a fight for my life, and I’d sold all of my fine belongings, intending to pay for passage on the stagecoach from Mallowick to the city of Serein. But I had not thought things through, and it did not happen that way. My body’s needs took precedent. I’d become so ravenous, and therefore the meager coin I’d gathered from selling my finery was spent on what I could afford—basic rough barley bread and ale, just enough to stave off the gnawing pangs of hunger in my belly each day.

Now, I had no belongings, and the money was all but gone. I was no thief, and the only thing I had left to sell was my body. Looking like a wretch, I did not believe I could earn even a copper that way! Before I left on my travels, I was warned that the province of Erias had strict rules about men bedding other men and I did not want to tempt fate. I was at a loss—hard labor or starvation were the only choices available to me. Gods, if my father could see how far I’d fallen in such a short time, he would be thoroughly ashamed. I was living hand-to-mouth, and if I dared to seek out my reflection and observe my disreputable state of dress, I was sure I would see I was no longer a gentleman at all.

I assured myself that all would be well as soon as I could get to the city of Serein. There I would attend my father’s depository and obtain funds from his account—as had been arranged, and then, I could find my way to my uncle’s residence and attend to a much grimmer business.

So, with no other choice, I was here, standing in Mallowick market square with a bunch of rough-looking fellows and ruddy-faced women with just the ragged clothes I stood in to my name. I wondered if my visage had taken on the same gaunt, starved, haunted look some of them wore.

“WELL?” The farmer roared.

“Leave him be Pa; I think he’s a mute. P… p… please don’t—” A swarthy young man urged, stepping to the farmers’ side. The man appeared to be in his early twenties, with broad angular shoulders, slim hips, and wavy jaw-length hair that longingly reminded me of Montestein tea. When the morning sunlight broke through the clouds and caressed him, the strands of his hair revealed all the shades of autumn. It was beautiful. His eyes were bright emerald green, and his skin bore the wind-burned tan of a man who spent his days working the land. I met his gaze for a second that seemed to stop time, and I felt a flutter of longing erupt in my gut. I found myself mesmerized by him. He appeared a little embarrassed, for himself or for me, I wasn’t quite sure. The farmer turned to his son.

“Shut that filthy mouth o’ yours, apple boy!” he spat. His large meaty hands twitched. He sneered and glared at his son in such a wicked way I knew it should have been followed up by a sharp slap. I worried that the young man would endure further public humiliation at the hands of his father, but the farmer moved his disdainful glare back to me. I shuddered with fear. I had a feeling that he was saving his son’s punishment for later—away from the prying eyes of the townsfolk. I did not like that thought, not one bit. I did not know why the farmer was drawn to me, but he sized me up with a sweeping glance of consideration, then wrinkled his nose as if he’d sniffed a revolting stench—I hadn’t bathed in two weeks, so maybe I did smell a tad ripe!

“Is ye a mute?”

I shook my head. I would say, if anything, I was deeply traumatized by the unfortunate circumstance I’d found myself in, but no, I was certainly not a mute. I just wasn’t used to a lowly man speaking to me so roughly. Generally, men who dared to address me knew their betters and behaved appropriately. But here in Mallowick, in the province of Erias, I was no better than a beggar on the street. There was no one I could call on for favors, no one who, on hearing my family name, would loan me coin for the stagecoach or a horse to ride to the city and send word to my father.

When I’d first arrived in Mallowick, telling the truth of my station had gotten me dragged down an alley where my finger and earrings were stolen, and I’d received a beating. This farmer from Blackdown Farm had no idea who I was, and I would not make the same mistake again.

I took a breath and stepped out of line. “Master Irwin Harding, sir. You may call me Win.” I winced at hearing my own soft, well-spoken voice, with my accent, the clipped tongue of Thorn. I had not used my real name and wished I had not used my true voice either. The fact that I was the son of the Duke of Thorn meant nothing here. Thorn was west of Erias, on the other side of the Silua Montis Mountain range, and I doubted any of these illiterate souls in Mallowick knew anything other than that folklore passed around by storytellers.

The farmer stepped to stand in front of me. He was a big, bulky bastard of a man and stank of stale sweat and baccy. He had a grizzled podgy face and thick dark hair shot with strands of silver pulled into an untidy tail. The tension grew between us, and I worried I’d spoken out of turn. I looked down and watched my bare, filthy feet as if they held endless fascination. I’d seen men like him before. He had hands like shovels, and I’m sure they’d done damage in their time. My father would have used a man like him well, probably as muscle to intimidate the city folk while the Royal Chancellor did the rounds collecting taxes.

Afraid and sweating with anxiety, I glanced up and away, unable to look at the farmer directly and meet his fierce piggy eyes. Instead, I looked left and caught the eye of his son. I felt another flutter of attraction. I was grateful for it because it dampened my fear a little. The glance the farmers’ son sent me back was sheepish, apologetic. He shrugged and put a finger to his lips, signaling for me to hush. I’m sure now he knew what was coming.

Master, is it?” The farmer gave a raspy malevolent chuckle. “Well, well, well aren’t ye an uppity little scrote. Such a pretty voice an’ all. Have your balls dropped yet, lad?”

The townsmen men standing around me shuffled on their feet and snickered uncomfortably. I could tell from the tentative laughter they were afraid of this man too. My chest tightened with fury, and I felt the flare of heat rush to color my cheeks. If in Thorn I would have put this fellow in his place, but as directed by the farmers’ handsome son, I held my tongue.

I dared to look up as the farmer scratched his grizzled chin and consider me. It was then I saw it. A chill iced my bones. On his chubby right index finger, he wore a gold ring set with a large red gemstone that I was aghast to see held the intaglio engraving of a rose thorn—my family’s seal. How had this disgusting Pasturelands farmer come upon my family’s ring? Anger curdled my gut, but I forced myself to focus and fixed my features so as not to alert the man to what I was looking at. That ring was more precious than I could say. It was not set with any common gemstone, oh no, the setting was Star-fall. The legend was that mortal tools could not cut the rich-red Star-fall stone. The gemstone was shaped by sorcery, and the power that carved into the gem was stored inside it as if the Star-fall was a reservoir for the magic. It was illegal for any other than the Twin Kings of Osia to own Star-fall. The king’s men had scoured the Empire to remove all traces of the priceless gem from common and aristocratic hands and possessing it was a death sentence. Did this ruffian have any idea what he wore?

Not getting a rise from me, the farmer stepped yet closer and found out for himself if my balls had dropped. He reached for my privates and squeezed.

Ahh, ye got some big stones de’re al’right, boy,” he said with a filthy sneer.

“Done any labourin’ before, lad?” My eyes watered. I shook my head and winced as the pressure on my most sensitive parts rose. I wanted to shout and push him away, punch him in that bristly pug face. I’d trained in hand-to-hand combat and swordplay, but that was of little use to me now that I had no sword and was cast as naught but a commoner myself. I stood frozen to the spot with fear, my cock, and balls in the hand of this brutish man. I was sure that clutching my nethers was not the best way to test if I would be a good apple picker.

The farmer let go, stepped back, and looked me over again like he was sizing up a prize pig. I wanted to keel over, hold my sensitive parts and howl, but, with my eyes watering, I kept my back ramrod straight and looked past the farmer, using his son’s regretful, pretty green eyes as my focus.

I appeared to be a boy, but I am nineteen and about to make my majority. I have a tall, willowy frame, and little muscle to show for my near twenty summers. Weeks before, I was clothed in the silken garb of a lordling, but all I wore now were my stinky silk britches and a once-white linen shirt. I’d even had to sell my fine leather boots. My flaxen hair hung loosely to my shoulders and was bedraggled. My mother had always told me my hair shone like a golden halo. I guessed that was no longer the case. I had not seen my reflection in two weeks so I could only imagine how frightful I appeared to onlookers. My circumstance was terrible, but I refused to let it defeat me. I was a son of Thorn, I was a gentleman, damn it, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to do to find my way to my destination and seek justice for all the ill-luck that had befallen me.

“Right, scrote, up on the wagon,” the farmer declared. “We can always do wit a few extra scurrier’s fer the windfalls.”

I had no idea what that actually meant, but strangely relieved to be selected, I nodded subserviently and then, ducking my head to avoid the farmers’ glare, I scurried to the wagon where I surreptitiously gave my aching intimate parts a gentle rub.

I’d heard from a fellow in the tavern that harvesting wheat at Robinswood Farm was backbreaking, as was digging root vegetables at Windy Oakes Farm. He advised that apple picking was easy work and if I could get employment at Weatherby’s or Blackdown Farm, they paid good coin. He said the mistress at Blackdown was particularly well-liked and always gave laborers a bread and cheese luncheon with last season’s cider. I was so hungry that bread and cheese sounded like a banquet. The fellow had neglected to tell me that the farmer was a brute!

The farmers’ son met me by the wagon and offered to help me aboard. For a moment, from the look of consideration in his eyes, I thought he could see past the disheveled state of me to the gentleman I’d once been. But that was ridiculous. The farmers’ son hopped up onto the back of the wagon with dexterous athleticism, and then offered me his hands. I took them without a thought. His warm touch and the strength in those work-roughened fingers twisted my gut into uncomfortable knots. He fixed my gaze as he gripped both of my hands and tugged me up as easily as if he were lifting feather down. He pulled me closed and pressed me to his hard chest.

“Don’t back chat him or it’ll be the worst fer you,” he whispered the warning to my ear. Alarmed, I eased back from him and cautiously met his eye for a split second. In the look he gave me I saw that the warning was well-meant. Bewildered, I nodded in thanks and understanding. I had no idea why this stranger was looking out for me, but the fact he was warmed my heart. I choked back a tear. No one had looked out for me over these past weeks, and I had been so terribly lonely. I’d learned some hard life lessons on this leg of my journey, and I’d come to understand that here my title was irrelevant, and without money I was suddenly invisible; therefore small kindnesses meant more than I could say.

My adventure into the provinces had been made to appease my father for my supposed ‘lack of direction.’ I’d become bored with my easy life in Thorn, and not intending to marry; I’d told my father that in-light of my upcoming twentieth Bloomsday I wanted to tour the Empire. If I were to one-day become Duke of Thorn, I needed to know a little of the politics of each province and so, pleased with my initiative and happy to be rid of me for a while, he’d set me on my way. I’d toured the provinces of Terria, Corvay, and Reuss and then continued to the province of Osia, spending time in the capital city Altea, at the court of the Twin Kings, Kristoff, and Fabian Von Harte. With this journey to Erias, I was to have the full set of provinces under my belt. But fate was not on my side.

On benches affixed to either side of the farmers’ wagon sat fourteen men morosely staring at their bare, filthy feet, not a word of chatter between them. They each owned a small pack of belongings and a wrapped blanket that each had stowed beneath the bench. At this moment they were better-off than me, for I did not even have a blanket to my name. There was space for me and five more, totaling twenty men. The farmer chose from the remaining laborers with less consideration than I had been afforded.

“Right… I’ll take Allin, Jed, Arthur, Bartram, and Matty, that’ll do me fer the week,” he hollered decisively.

The week? I thought I’d promised myself for a hard day’s labor? But then again, I considered the harvesters who were sitting in the wagon, and yes, they appeared to have prepared for an overnight stay. Confused, I sat down as the other laborers were pulled up onto the wagon by their comrades, and then we shuffled along the benches until we were all seated. I noticed the shoulders of the remaining men in the market square sag a little in apparent relief as if some mighty weight had lifted from them. I didn’t understand it. I thought they’d wanted to work?

The farmers’ son clambered over into the front of the wagon. His father climbed on, the man’s bulk shaking the timbers of the rickety wagon as he settled on the bench beside him. The son handed his father the ribbons, which the farmer greedily snatched up, and then with a fearsome bellow of “Geddup” and a thunderous whip crack, the large mottled grey workhorse began its cumbersome trot down the main street and onto the dusty road to Blackdown Farm.

About the Author

Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland. She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.

Isobel is currently working on her nineteenth book.

“As You Wish” (Shatterproof Bond #1) narrated by Gary Furlong won the Audiobook Reviewer Award for Romance 2018. It is the first MM Romance audiobook to win a mainstream audiobook award.

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