New Release Review and Giveaway! THE RUIN OF A RAKE by Cat Sebastian

Together, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for love. 
 
 
THE RUIN OF A RAKE
Cat Sebastian
Releasing July 4, 2017
Avon Impulse

Rogue. Libertine. Rake. Lord Courtenay has been called many things and has never much cared. But after the publication of a salacious novel supposedly based on his exploits, he finds himself shunned from society. Unable to see his nephew, he is willing to do anything to improve his reputation, even if that means spending time with the most proper man in London.Julian Medlock has spent years becoming the epitome of correct behavior. As far as he cares, if Courtenay finds himself in hot water, it’s his own fault for behaving so badly—and being so blasted irresistible. But when Julian’s sister asks him to rehabilitate Courtenay’s image, Julian is forced to spend time with the man he loathes—and lusts after—most.

As Courtenay begins to yearn for a love he fears he doesn’t deserve, Julian starts to understand how desire can drive a man to abandon all sense of propriety. But he has secrets he’s determined to keep, because if the truth came out, it would ruin everyone he loves. Together, they must decide what they’re willing to risk for love.


London, 1817

Julian pursed his lips as he gazed at the symmetrical brick façade of his sister’s house. It was every bit as bad as he had feared. He could hear the racket from the street, for God’s sake. He pulled the brim of his hat lower on his forehead, as if concealing his face would go any distance toward mitigating the damage done by his sister having turned her house into a veritable brothel. Right in the middle of Mayfair, and at eleven in the morning, when the entire ton was on hand to bear witness to her degradation, no less. Say what one wanted about Eleanor—and at this moment Julian could only imagine what was being said—but she did not do things by halves.

As he climbed the steps to her door, the low rumble of masculine voices drifted from an open second story window. Somebody was playing a pianoforte—badly—and a lady was singing out of key.

No, not a lady. Julian suppressed a sigh. Whoever these women were in his sister’s house, they were not ladies. No lady in her right mind would consort with the sort of men Eleanor had been entertaining lately. Every young buck with a taste for vice had made his way to her house over these last weeks, along with their mistresses or courtesans or whatever one was meant to call them. And the worst of them, the blackguard who had started Eleanor on her path to becoming a byword for scandal, was Lord Courtenay.

A shiver trickled down Julian’s spine at the thought of encountering the man, and he could not decide whether it was from simple, honest loathing or something much, much worse.

The door swung open before Julian had raised his hand to the knocker.

“Mr. Medlock, thank goodness.” The look of abject relief on the face of Eleanor’s butler might have struck Julian as vaguely inappropriate under any other circumstance. But considering the tableau that presented itself in Eleanor’s vestibule, the butler’s informality hardly registered.

Propped against the elegantly papered wall, a man in full evening dress snored peacefully, a bottle of brandy cradled in his arms and a swath of bright crimson silk draped across his leg. A lady’s gown, Julian gathered. The original wearer of the garment was, mercifully, not present.

“I came as soon as I received your message.” Julian had not been best pleased to receive a letter from his sister’s butler, of all people, begging that he return to London ahead of schedule. Having secured a coveted invitation to a very promising house party, he was loath to leave early in order to evict a set of bohemians and reprobates from his sister’s house.

“The cook is threatening to quit, sir,” said the butler. Tilbury, a man of over fifty who had been with Eleanor since she and Julian had arrived in England, had gray circles under his eyes. No doubt the revels had interrupted his sleep. “And I’ve already sent all but the—ah—hardiest of the housemaids to the country. It wouldn’t do for them to be imposed upon. I’d never forgive myself.”

Julian nodded. “You were quite right to send for me. Where is my sister?” Several unmatched slippers were scattered along the stairs that led toward the drawing room and bedchambers. He gritted his teeth.

“Lady Standish is in her study, sir.”

Julian’s eyebrows shot up. “Her study,” he repeated. Eleanor was hosting an orgy—really, there was no use in pretending it was anything else—but ducked out to conduct an experiment. Truly, the experiments were bad enough, but Julian had always managed to conceal their existence. But to combine scientific pursuits with actual orgies struck Julian as excessive in all directions.

“You,” he said, nudging the sleeping man with the toe of his boot. He was not climbing over drunken bodies, not today, not any day. “Wake up.” The man opened his eyes with what seemed a great deal of effort. “Who are you? No, never mind, I can’t be bothered to care.” The man wasn’t any older than Julian himself, certainly not yet five and twenty, but Julian felt as old as time and as irritable as a school mistress compared to this specimen of self-indulgence. “Get up, restore that gown to its owner, and be gone before I decide to let your father know what you’ve been up to.” As so often happened when Julian ordered people about, this fellow complied.

Julian made his way to Eleanor’s study, and found her furiously scribbling at her writing table, a mass of wires and tubes arranged before her. She didn’t look up at the sound of the door opening, nor when he pointedly closed it behind him. Eleanor, once she was busy working, was utterly unreachable. She had been like this since they were children. He felt a rush of affection for her despite how much trouble she was causing him.

“Eleanor?” Nothing. He stooped to gather an empty wine bottle and a few abandoned goblets, letting them clink noisily together as he deposited them onto a table. Still no response. “Nora?” It almost physically hurt to say his childhood name for her when things felt so awkward and strained between them.

“It won’t work,” came a low drawl. “I’ve been sitting here these past two hours and I haven’t gotten a response.”

Banishing any evidence of surprise from his countenance, Julian turned to see Lord Courtenay himself sprawled in a low chair in a shadowy corner. There oughtn’t to have been any shadows in the middle of the day in a bright room, but trust Lord Courtenay to find one to lurk in.

Julian quickly schooled his face into some semblance of indifference. No, that was a reach; his face was simply not going to let him pretend indifference to Courtenay. He doubted whether anyone had ever shared space with Lord Courtenay without being very much aware of that fact. And it wasn’t only his preposterous good looks that made him so . . . noticeable. The man served as a sort of magnet for other people’s attention, and Julian hated himself for being one of those people. As far as he could tell, the man’s entire problem was that people paid a good deal too much attention to him. But one could hardly help it, not when he looked like that.

 

OMG, this series. (As an aside, it really needs to be classified as a series, Ms. Sebastian–it’ll be much easier to say, “You really need to read that ___ series by Cat Sebastian” instead of “You really need to read those interconnected m/m Regency romance books by Cat Sebastian…they’re called The Soldier’s Scoundrel , The Lawrence Browne Affair , and The Ruin of a Rake.” Because OMG I want to tell everyone to read them ASAP.)

(Just sayin’.)

I have no idea how she does it, but Ms. Sebastian once again gave us a group of characters here that I absolutely dare you not to fall hard and fast for. Admittedly, at first I wasn’t too sure about these two–the labels “prickly and difficult” doesn’t even begin to describe, well, both of them, to an extent and at various times–and I honestly don’t even know when it is that I went from thinking, Ugh, these two… to thinking, Oh! These two… 🙂 but at some point I just knew they had to find a way to be together or….I don’t know what. It wasn’t going to be pretty, though. Fortunately, both Ms. Sebastian and her heroes came through for us on that one, and she did it with style.

Favorite line:

“Missing you is profoundly inconvenient, I’ll have you know. I have things to do and places to be, and all the while I feel like I’ve mislaid a piece of my soul and I won’t get it back until I see you again. That can’t be normal.”

See? Sigh…

So now I’m left anxiously awaiting whatever Ms. Sebastian writes next, and seriously contemplating a binge-reading of all three books, just so I can enjoy the interconnected awesomeness of these characters and their stories.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.


Cat Sebastian lives in a swampy part of the South with her husband, three kids, and two dogs. Before her kids were born, she practiced law and taught high school and college writing. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s doing crossword puzzles, bird watching, and wondering where she put her coffee cup.


New Release Review and Giveaway! TEMPTING TRISTAN by Melissa Foster (Harborside Nights #3)

Title: Tempting Tristan 
Series: Harborside Nights
Author: Melissa Foster
Genre: A sexy standalone M/M Romance
Release Date: October 19, 2016

Blurb:

Tempting Tristan is a stand-alone M/M romance featuring two sexy, hot alphas.

Fresh off the heels of yet another bad relationship, Tristan Brewer is taking a break from men to try and figure out where he keeps going wrong. He knows his biggest fault–he leads with his heart, not his head–and that’s never going to change. But after several introspective weeks, he’s beginning to get a handle on things. That is, until badass heartthrob Alex Wells walks into his bar…

Alex has spent eight years in the Army, months in a hospital bed, and far too long hiding his sexual identity. He’s guilt-ridden, damaged, pissed off, and up for a Silver Star–for the incident that nearly cost him his life, and kept him from his grandmother’s funeral. But all he wants to do is forget his stint with the institution that allows but doesn’t necessarily accept, and live the life he’s always dreamed of.

The chemistry between Tristan and Alex ignites from the moment they meet, and the more time they spend together the hotter the flames become. But the closer Tristan gets, the more Alex’s walls go up, and when the two walk onto a military base, Tristan finds out Alex’s physical scars aren’t the ones that run the deepest.

***

“Melissa Foster is synonymous with sexy, swoony, heartfelt romance!” New York Times Bestseller Lauren Blakely

“With her wonderful characters and resonating emotions, Melissa Foster is a must-read author!” New York Times Bestseller J. Kenner

“Catching Cassidy is laugh out loud funny, heartwarming, sexy, and hands down one of my favorite reads so far this year!” #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Bet, Rachel Van Dyken

HARBORSIDE NIGHTS is a sexy, hot, and evocatively real series of stand-alone romances that follows a group of friends who have known one another for years as “summer” friends, and now come together after college to build their lives. They’re tough, edgy, and accepting–most of the time. This series is written in the same loving, raw, and emotional voice readers have come to love by New York Times & USA Today bestselling, award-winning author Melissa Foster with LGBT themes.

 

 

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Excerpt from Tempting Tristan (A sexy standalone M/M romance)
© Melissa Foster 2016
She rolls her pretty green eyes. “No, Tristan. Because the hottest man on the planet just parked his motorcycle and he’s heading in here. All of my female customers are drooling, and I’m sure you’ll see a flock of them coming in any minute now. Meanwhile, I’m stuck outside and soon I’ll have a pier full of empty tables.” She grabs a handful of napkins and waves them at me with a smirk. “Drool rags.”“Dibs,” Charley says as she whips up a cocktail.

I laugh and hold my hands up. “I’m on a hiatus from all things male, so be my guest.” My ex, Ian, is a self-absorbed ass, and I was an idiot for letting him treat me like shit. Which is why I’m taking a break from men—even if it kills me. It’s been weeks since we broke up and I moved into my buddy Wyatt’s house. Wyatt and his twin sister, Delilah, own the Taproom. They inherited it when their parents were killed in a car accident a little more than a year ago.

“I’m sure he’s straight anyway,” Livi says. “The guy swaggers like a stud.”

“Hey, gay guys can swagger like studs,” I tease.

“I know that.” Livi peers out the pass-through window to the outside seating area and tosses her blond hair over her shoulder. “You’ll see what I mean. He’s a total badass.”

I tend to my customers as the girls discuss the badass hot guy, and when the front door opens, I can’t help but let my eyes drift over. Livi and Charley fall silent, ogling what truly might be the hottest guy on the planet. Linebacker shoulders fill the doorframe. The godlike creature is carrying a shiny black motorcycle helmet in one very large hand. His white T-shirt is stretched so tight across his chest I can see every ripple of his shredded abs, and his deliciously defined biceps are seriously struggling to be set free from his short sleeves.Tear, baby, tear.

He steps inside and runs a hand through his dirty-blond hair. Deep-set, brooding eyes slide over the customers sitting at the bar, sweep over Charley and Livi, and finally land on me. Charley whimpers, and Livi makes a sound in the back of her throat, both mimicking what I’m feeling, though my mouth is too dry to make a sound.

Review:

Sweet and sexy!

Tristan and Alex are an adorable couple, even if they do fall in love awfully quickly (total insta-love alert…) The main conflicts in the story come from Alex–the difficulties he’s having dealing with the lasting implications of the life-changing injuries he suffered as a solider and the mindset of “lock down, shut up, act straight” that he felt he had to personify during his eight years in the Army. I thought Ms. Foster did a nice job of getting us into his head and showing us the effect these things had on him (OMG, when he visits the pediatric clinic? Tears. So many tears over here), though here too, things got a bit fast-tracked at the end. The healing power of love worked really, really quickly for him…

Tristan, other than having had horrible taste in men up until this point, is basically the perfect partner. I kind of wanted him to reveal a flaw or two along the way, but other than getting a little testy about Alex hiding their relationship when they were back on a military base at one point (which again, he got over pretty fast–“fast” being an ongoing theme here), he was essentially Mr. Perfect Boyfriend from start to finish. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing–they are a great couple and I did enjoy reading the book from start to finish–but the angst factor definitely could have been upped a degree…or five.

Tempting Tristan is the third in the Harborside Nights series, and fifty-seventh(!) in the Love in Bloom one, but it still worked fine as a standalone. As in every other Melissa Foster book I’ve read so far, characters from past books do play a part, making you aware that there’s definitely other stories going on/recently happened out there, but you’ll do perfectly fine not knowing all the details.

Yet. 😉

Though I’ve gotta say, Tempting Tristan does have me pretty anxious to get to Charley and Brandon’s stories (Chasing Charley and Breaking Brandon –out soon, but not nearly soon enough!)

Rating: 3 1/2 stars / B-

I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book.


Melissa Foster is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling and award-winning author. She writes sexy and heartwarming contemporary romance, new adult romance (M/F, M/M, F/F), romantic suspense, thrillers, and historical fiction with emotionally compelling characters that stay with you long after you turn the last page. Melissa’s emotional journeys are lovingly erotic and always family oriented. Her books have been recommended by USA Today’s book blog, Hagerstown Magazine, The Patriot, and several other print venues. She is the founder of the World Literary Café. When she’s not writing, Melissa helps authors navigate the publishing industry through her author training programs on Fostering Success.

Melissa has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Her interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping others see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod.

Melissa is available to chat with book clubs and welcomes comments and emails from her readers. Visit Melissa on Facebook or her personal website.

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New Release Review! SINGLE PLAYER by Elia Winters (Slices of PI #3)

Single Player
by Elia Winters

Synopsis:

Geeky meets kinky in the third novel of the sexy Slices of Pi series by RITA-nominated author Elia Winters, where the employees of a gaming company in sultry Florida work hard—and play even harder.

Matthew Abrams finally has the life he’s always wanted—a promising career as a programmer at PI Games, a decent apartment in a nice neighborhood, and a thriving social life. And he’s perfectly content until he has a one-night stand with Silas Benson, a biomedical engineer with a charitable side to boot. Suddenly Matthew is doubting his life choices and worrying he might not be living up to his full potential.

Silas Benson doesn’t have time for much else outside of work, and that’s how he’s always liked it. As a biomedical engineer, he’s at the cutting edge of advances in the field, and he’s not going to waste his life partying when he could be doing actual good in the world. After a one-night stand at his friend’s twenty-fifth birthday party, though, Silas feels his focus shifting toward a certain tall, dark, and handsome almost-stranger.

When an emotional breakdown requires Silas to take a leave of absence from work, Matthew rushes to his aid and teaches him the merits of frivolity. Silas is an unwilling student at first, but Matthew soon has him in the groove, which makes for one steamy, wild ride. But is this a forever sort of affair, or will Silas abandon Matthew’s wanton ways in favor of a life of serious-minded solitude?

 

Review:

I absolutely loved Silas and Matthew! So perfect together–throw in Ruul (Matthew’s special needs kitten, yep, name comes from the original Ghostbusters movie) and you’ve got an unbeatable combination…adorable, geeky, and able to get things done, all in one. These two actually make me think that a quick hookup in a bar might actually lead to something.

Okay, maybe not. This is fiction. But still, it seemed believable–and nobody was hoping for it here more than me 🙂

Silas and Matthew somehow managed to take the opposites attract troupe and make it work for both of them–and then some! Silas needed to find a life outside of work (and realize that he’s not actually allergic to having fun, LOL) and Matthew needed a kick in the pants to make his work not only something he enjoyed but something that challenged him once again. They might have gone into their realizations kicking and screaming (not literally, since neither one of them is that kind of guy–biting and tying up, though, sure ;)) but once they figured things out for themselves? So satisfying. Add in Silas’s full-body blushing (which Matthew takes full advantage of) and his slight social awkwardness, and you’ve got a story with just the right blend of sexy-sweet-geekiness.

Single Player is the third in the series, but worked fine as a standalone. Matthew apparently played a part in one of the other couple’s getting together, though (Even Odds–and they’re in this one a bit too) so I was prompted to add that one to my TBR pile…and while I’m at it, why not book two (Tied Score) too? 😉

Rating: 4 stars / A-

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Pre-Release Review and Giveaway! HERE’S THE THING by Emily O’Beirne

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Here’s the Thing
by Emily O’Beirne
Genre: YA Contemporary (LGBT)
Release Date: October 19th 2016
Ylva Publishing

Summary:

It’s only for a year. That’s what sixteen-year-old Zel keeps telling herself after moving to Sydney for her dad’s work. She’ll just wait it out until she gets back to New York and Prim, her epic crush/best friend, and the unfinished subway project. Even if Prim hasn’t spoken to her since that day on Coney Island.

But Zel soon finds life in Sydney won’t let her hide. There’s her art teacher, who keeps forcing her to dig deeper. There’s the band of sweet, strange misfits her cousin has forced her to join for a Drama project. And then there’s the curiosity that is the always-late Stella.

As she waits for Prim to explain her radio silence and she begins to forge new friendships, Zel feels strung between two worlds. Finally, she must figure out how to move on while leaving no one behind.

 

Excerpt:

As soon as she hears the words “New York”, the blonde princess perks up.

“You actually lived there?” Her voice is still measured, but I can hear the hint of intrigue. Suddenly I’m worth something. She straightens her blazer, looking curious and a touch self-conscious. Like the mention of that city has chafed at the all-comforting sense of superiority she held a second ago when she sized up my loose-haired, loose-jeaned, couldn’t-give-a-crap eyeliner look. Now her perfectly braided hair, subtle eye make-up, and her prefect’s badge don’t stand a chance against me (well, New York). It’s like she suddenly feels like the boring provincial cliché she is.

Please don’t think I’m a bitch, describing this girl like that. I’m not a bitch. Really, I’m not. It’s just that you weren’t here ten minutes ago. I swear it was surreal. She was nice as pie when Mum was here, making small talk, telling us about the school excursions and clubs and extra university prep courses they offer. Then, the minute Mum went in to chat with the senior school coordinator, she went on this total backspin from perky polite to general disinterest. All before the office door even closed.

Of course, that was before I uttered the four, golden ‘lived in New York’ words. Now she’s all ears.

So excuse me for judging, but you have to admit it’s kind of deeply shallow on her part. Like something out of a bad teen movie. She’s one of those popular girls, all shiny and judge-y and awaiting her comeuppance, the one who underestimates the new girl at the start. This, of course, casts me as the nerdy but likeable girl. The one who’ll either seek revenge on all the high-definition girls like this evenly tanned overachiever next to me or else become wildly popular by getting a makeover from a gay man, making some excellent quips, and then dating from the girl-clique’s private male gene pool property.

Believe me, people, when I say that NONE of this is going to happen. What will happen, if Mum and Dad magically convince me go to this school, is that I will put my head down and stay as invisible as humanly possible. Because if she is a taster of the school social menu, I plan to officially bow out of all interpersonal efforts.

We’ve already taken the full tour of the school and grounds, led by the blonde, in chirruping prefect mode, and the principal’s assistant. Apparently this school’s so exclusive that potential Golden Ones don’t even get to meet the principal until they’re properly signed on, fees paid. Together they schooled Mum in everything this place has to offer. Because she’ll be the one paying the fees for the Olympic swimming pool and the sky-lit art rooms, right? And while I dragged my feet behind them, I didn’t get a chance to find out if all the other students are carbon, depressing copies of this one either. All the girls (yes, only girls, which you would think would make me happy but it actually doesn’t) were tucked away in the classrooms. But my guess is, given the North Shore location and the amount of zeroes I saw on the fees list, that this sample of blonde wayyy-upper-middle-class Sydney sitting right here is probably representative enough for me to turn and run for the hills. Or at least back to the inner west.

“Like, New York, New York? Not the state,” the girl asks, wrinkling her nose slightly as if she can’t imagine that hallowed city allowing rabble like me in. Which, of course, shows how little she knows about the place. If she thinks I’m rabble, she’s got another thing coming when she and her fake designer suitcase finally make it there. If New York knows how to do anything, it’s how to produce prime rabble. It prides itself on it.

“Yes, the city,” I say patiently instead of sighing the sigh of the withering, which is what I really want to do. If I were Prim, I probably would have. I’m the kind of person who can manage to stay on the right side of polite, but Prim’s got zero tolerance for girls like this. But then, Prim’s got zero tolerance for most people. “We lived in Midtown.”

The girl looks blank.

“It’s the middle of Manhattan, near Times Square,” I explain as two girls in uniform, looking just like this one but brunette and sans prefect badge, peer into the office. One says something, and the other cackles as they pass. I shudder. Get me out of here. Now.

Blondie perks up some more. “That’s where they have the New Year’s parade?”

I nod.

“Did you go?”

I fight the urge to roll my eyes. I wouldn’t be caught dead there, fighting for a square inch of space with a gazillion tourists and out-of-towners. The parade is what television is made for. It’s for parents and old people and the rest of America to watch while New York goes out. Prim and I had planned to spend New Year’s Eve planning our New World Order. I don’t have time to fill you in on the details right now, but let me tell you this much—this girl here would have trouble surviving once we run the show.

Before I can respond, Mum is finally ejected from the coordinator’s office. I’m so relieved to see her I have to stop myself from jumping up and hugging her. She gives me a thin smile like she, too, has been to private school hell and back.

The coordinator is right behind her. She’s a shaggy middle-aged woman wearing a pastel sweater dress straight out of the eighties. Now I really feel sorry for Mum. Ten minutes in the presence of that outfit is probably pushing at the edges of human endurance.

“I hope to see you next week, Zelda,” the coordinator says to me. “Meaghan will show you back to the gate, won’t you?”

Blondie McPerfect nods enthusiastically and leads us back to the car park full of shiny land cruisers and zippy hatchbacks. She chatters all the way, practically igniting with excitement when she hears Mum’s line of work. I smirk to myself. It must be killing her that two such unimpressive-looking people’s life CVs are impressing her so much.

I tune out and watch the school go by. The playing fields are movie-set green, the sprinklers keeping the summer sun from doing its worst. That’d be right. Last night’s news said parts of the Blue Mountains are ablaze with bushfires, but North Sydney is lush.

As soon as Meaghan leaves us with a wave and a faux-friendly see you next week, I turn to Mum. “I’m not going here. No way.”

Review:

I know I know, shut up. I’m fully aware that this has possibly been one of those things, hasn’t it? Where you guys have been sitting back and watching us give each other meaningful looks, just waiting for us to get together already? I know I would have. And yes, the ship has finally sailed. But don’t be smug. It’s totally easy to start, glued to the screen or flipping pages, thinking, “Oh, come on! When are they going to figure it out?” I do it all the time. But you should know it’s also a lot harder to figure this stuff out in real life than it is in books and movies. And maybe I’m a dummy at this, but I figured it out in the end, okay?

LOL! And yes, it does nearly take until the bitter end. 😉 But to be fair, Zel had a whole lot of stuff she had to figure out for herself before then–some relationship-related, some not–and another person to deal with before she could get to this point. Plus, she’s totally right. So even though you’re totally doing everything she accuses you of, you’re really not minding all that much.

This is the second Emily O’Beirne book I’ve read–not only ever, but this week!–and though I really liked the other one ( Points of Departure ), this one just blew it out of the water. Iloved Zelda’s voice and the way she’d talk just to the reader every now and then. I liked that she’d admit when she was wrong, or wrong-ish–not easy for anyone, teen or not–and that she didn’t spend her whole time wallowing in “why me?” angst even though she totally felt it at times. She’s a teen, but she’s working on being well-adjusted. And doing a pretty good job at doing so believably.

And oh my gosh, I just keep picturing her at the back of her drama class group’s improv pieces, being a darn good tree. I feel you, girl. I’d be right back there with you.

So much fun. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more from Ms. O’Beirne!

Rating: 4 1/2 stars / A-

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Pre-Order Link: Ylva

 

About the Author

Thirteen-year-old Emily woke up one morning with a sudden itch to write her first novel. All day, she sat through her classes, feverishly scribbling away (her rare silence probably a cherished respite for her teachers). And by the time the last bell rang, she had penned fifteen handwritten pages of angsty drivel, replete with blood-red sunsets, moody saxophone music playing somewhere far off in the night, and abandoned whiskey bottles rolling across tables.

Needless to say, that singular literary accomplishment is buried in a box somewhere, ready for her later amusement.
From Melbourne, Australia, Emily was recently granted her PhD. She works part-time in academia, where she hates marking papers but loves working with her students. She also loves where she lives but travels as much as possible and tends to harbour crushes on cities more than on people.

Living in an apartment, Emily sadly does not possess her dream writing room overlooking an idyllic garden of her creation. Instead, she spends a lot of her time staring over the screen of her laptop and out the window at the somewhat less pretty (but highly entertaining) combined kebab stand/carwash across the road. (from the publisher’s website)

Author Links:

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New Release Review and Giveaway! POINTS OF DEPARTURE by Emily O’Beirne

In this young adult novel to be released June 2016 best friends Kit and Liza have been looking forward to this trip forever.

Points of Departure
by Emily O’Beirne
Genre: YA Contemporary (LGBT)
Release Date: June 16th 2016
Ylva Publishing

Summary:

Five girls, five tickets overseas. It’s exactly what they all need after the final slog of high school. But when Kit’s suddenly forced to drop out, Liza’s left with three girls she barely knows.

There’s Mai, committed only to partying. There’s Tam, who already has her doubts about leaving her sick father behind. And there’s Olivia, so miserable about screwing up exams she’s not even sure she wants to get out of bed, let alone on a plane.

Meanwhile Kit’s stuck working double shifts to pay off a debt, wondering if she’ll ever get it together.

All Liza wants from this trip is to discover a new version of herself. She just hadn’t planned on doing it without Kit by her side.

And they’re all learning that travel isn’t just about the places you go, but who you’re with at the time.

 

Review:

Points of Departure is a sweet story about friendship, growing up, and figuring out who you are and what you want.

There’s a lot of points of view to keep straight (but not Mai? That part was a bit odd) and the present tense of the story threw me a bit initially, but once the story sucks you in you just don’t want to put it aside until you’ve finished. Plus, you’re suddenly finding yourself with a mad desire to roam around Europe and Asia…

Ah, if only.

I really enjoyed spending time with Liza, Kit, Tam, Olivia, and Mai. From parents with cancer, coming out worries, overprotective parents, dealing with the financial repercussions of bad decisions (never, ever get an apartment with your loser boyfriend when you’re still in high school or its equivalent, people–that just has bad idea written all over it), to watching your sister giving birth (!)–these girls had a lot on their plates. But they also got to spend most of the book globetrotting too, so…

There’s a touch of romance–a little angsty, a little sweet–not the focus of the story, but a nice addition. Mini Moe #2 and I will definitely be looking for more from Ms. O’Beirne in the future.

Rating: 4 stars / B+

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

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About the Author:

Thirteen-year-old Emily woke up one morning with a sudden itch to write her first novel. All day, she sat through her classes, feverishly scribbling away (her rare silence probably a cherished respite for her teachers). And by the time the last bell rang, she had penned fifteen handwritten pages of angsty drivel, replete with blood-red sunsets, moody saxophone music playing somewhere far off in the night, and abandoned whiskey bottles rolling across tables. Needless to say, that singular literary accomplishment is buried in a box somewhere, ready for her later amusement.

From Melbourne, Australia, Emily was recently granted her PhD. She works part-time in academia, where she hates marking papers but loves working with her students. She also loves where she lives but travels as much as possible and tends to harbour crushes on cities more than on people.

Living in an apartment, Emily sadly does not possess her dream writing room overlooking an idyllic garden of her creation. Instead, she spends a lot of her time staring over the screen of her laptop and out the window at the somewhat less pretty (but highly entertaining) combined kebab stand/carwash across the road. (from the publisher’s website)

Author Links:

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Cat Sebastian, Author of THE SOLDIER’S SCOUNDREL, Talks About Writing Historical LGBTQ Romance (with a new release review and giveaway!)

Two men only meant for each other.

Researching and writing an LGBTQ historical romance:

Researching a same-sex historical romance isn’t much different from writing an opposite-sex romance, as long as you start with the assumptions that 1) there have always been queer people, and 2) people fall in love. We have plenty of historical data supporting both those assumptions, so the next step is figuring out how same-sex couples could find a way to fall in love and be together, while staying largely off the radar of a society that didn’t accept them (and, in the case of men, criminalized sex).

Once you have a handle on how people lived in the past, you can see where a same-sex couple could build a life together. Friends could share lodgings; unmarried women often lived together; people paid extended visits to one another. Secretaries, governesses, companions, and other servants lived in. You can put the pieces together and see how a couple might come to a discreet arrangement. You also start to wonder if that’s why so many people had their letters burnt after they died.

The last thing in the world I want to do, as a writer or as a human with morals, is to sugarcoat the reality of queer life in the past. The fear of being hanged or pilloried for sodomy is horrible. So is the threat of being ostracized, disowned, fired, etc. But people have sex and fall in love even when it’s dangerous. One thing I get to do, as a romance writer, is come up with best case scenarios for my couples. I can arrange things so (fictional) people have health, wealth, and happiness, even during a time when those things were in short supply. And I get to populate the (again, fictional) past with stories that place queer people front and center, even though they’ve often been erased from history.

Cat Sebastian lives in a swampy part of the South with her husband, three kids, and two dogs. Before her kids were born, she practiced law and taught high school and college writing. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’s doing crossword puzzles, bird watching, and wondering where she put her coffee cup.

 

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THE SOLDIER’S SCOUNDREL 
Cat Sebastian
Releasing Sept 20th, 2016
Avon Impulse

A scoundrel who lives in the shadows Jack Turner grew up in the darkness of London’s slums, born into a life of crime and willing to do anything to keep his belly full and his siblings safe. Now he uses the tricks and schemes of the underworld to help those who need the kind of assistance only a scoundrel can provide. His distrust of the nobility runs deep and his services do not extend to the gorgeous high-born soldier who personifies everything Jack will never be.

A soldier untarnished by vice 

After the chaos of war, Oliver Rivington craves the safe predictability of a gentleman’s life-one that doesn’t include sparring with a ne’er-do-well who flouts the law at every turn. But Jack tempts Oliver like no other man has before. Soon his yearning for the unapologetic criminal is only matched by Jack’s pleasure in watching his genteel polish crumble every time they’re together.

Two men only meant for each other


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Jack absently skimmed his finger along the surface of his desk, tracing a swirl through the sand he had used to blot his notes. Another case was solved and done with, another gentleman too drunk on his own power and consequence to remember to pay servants and tradesmen, too dissipated to bother being faithful to his wife. Nearly every client’s problems were variations on that same theme. Jack might have been bored if he weren’t so angry.

A knock sounded at the door, a welcome distraction. His sister always knocked, as if she didn’t want to interrupt whatever depravities Jack was conducting on the other side of the door. She did it out of an excess of consideration, but Jack still felt like she was waiting for him to do something unspeakable at any moment.

She was right, of course, but still it grated.

“Come in, Sarah.

“There’s a gentleman here to see you,” she said, packing a world of both disapproval and deference into those few words.

Really, it was a pity she hadn’t been born a man because the world had lost a first rate butler there. The butlers Jack had served under would have been put fairly to shame.

“Tell him to bugger off.” Sarah knew perfectly well he didn’t take gentlemen as clients. He tried to keep any trace of impatience out of his voice, but didn’t think he quite managed it.

“I have customers downstairs and I don’t want a scene.” She had pins jammed into the sleeve of her gown, a sign that she had been interrupted in the middle of a fitting. No wonder her lips were pursed.

“And I don’t want any gentlemen.” Too late, he realized he had set her up for a smart-mouthed response. Now she was going to press her advantage because that’s what older sisters did. But Sarah must have been developing some restraint, or maybe she was only in a hurry, because all she did was raise a single eyebrow as if to say, like hell you don’t.

“I’m not your gatekeeper,” she said a moment later, her tone deceptively mild. But on her last word Jack could hear a trace of that old accent they had both worked so hard to shed. Sarah had to be driven to distraction if she was letting her accent slip.

“Send him up, then,” he conceded. This arrangement of theirs depended on a certain amount of compromise on both sides.

She vanished, her shoes scarcely making any sound on the stairs. A moment later he heard the heavier tread of a man not at all concerned about disturbing the clients below.

This man didn’t bother knocking. He simply sailed through the door Sarah had left ajar as if he had every right in the world to enter whatever place he pleased, at whatever time he wanted.

To hell with that. Jack took his time stacking his cards, pausing a moment to examine one with feigned and hopefully infuriating interest. The gentleman coughed impatiently; Jack mentally awarded himself the first point.

“Yes?” Jack looked up for the first time, as if only now noticing the stranger’s presence. He could see why Sarah had pegged him straight away as a gentleman. Everything about him, from his mahogany walking stick to his snowy white linen, proclaimed his status.

“You’re Jack Turner?”

There was something about his voice—the absurd level of polish, perhaps—that made Jack look more carefully at his visitor’s face.

Could it—it couldn’t be. But it was.

 

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Loved it! Just the right blend of relationship push/pull…then relationship sweetness and angst…paired with the couple of mysteries that Jack was trying to resolve (at times reluctantly) with Oliver’s help–perfect! Cat Sebastian’s writing too was a whole lot of fun–whether the dialogue was external or internal, there were many, many snippets that I ended up needing to highlight so I could go back later and smile at all over again. Such fun!

Jack and Oliver were a great couple. Of course making your protagonists from different classes in a historical romance gives you built in conflict, but add to that the fact that their very relationship breaks the law? Yeah, that’s a whole new element. But oh goodness, with these two they had to be together, they just had to. I was all for Oliver with his sunny optimism on the prospect of their future, but realistically afraid that Jack was going to end up right all along… (Spoiler alert: he’s not–because, hello, it’s a romance. Fortunately, Ms. Sebastian manages to pull it off in a fairly believable way–I’m not totally convinced it would work, but I want it to, so I’m perfectly willing to go with it.)

I also enjoyed the two puzzles that Jack had to resolve in the course of the book. Neither one of the solutions were obvious, yet the answers came together nicely and made sense. Jack’s ability to read people was believable given his past and also highly entertaining–I loved watching him at work! Oliver was better at helping him out than either of us thought he would be; together they gave off an almost Sherlock-and-Watson-in-the-Regency-era vibe.

The secondary characters here were fun too–Jack’s brother Georgie was a hoot, and it looks like he’s due to star in book #2 (yay!). Jack and Oliver also both have sisters, so… (hint, hint! ;))

A highly entertaining debut from Ms. Sebastian–I am anxiously awaiting her next release!

Rating: 4 stars / A-

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

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New Release Review and Giveaway! KEEPING HER SECRET by Sarah Nicholas (Endless Summer series)

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Book Title: Keeping Her Secret (Endless Summer series)
Author: Sarah Nicholas
Release Date: August 22, 2016
Genre: YA Contemporary F/F Romance

 

 

Two girls. One kiss.

The last person Riya Johnson expected to run into at her new summer camp is Courtney Chastain—her childhood best friend and the girl who broke her heart after a secret, mind-blowing, life-altering kiss. She definitely didn’t expect to be sharing a bunk bed with her for four long weeks.

Courtney has what every girl wants—she’s beautiful, rich, and the object of every boy’s desire at Camp Pine Ridge. Too bad none of them make her feel an iota of what Riya’s kiss did all those years ago. But Courtney needs to uphold appearances at all costs—even if it means instigating an all-out prank war with Riya as her main target.

Neither girl can stop thinking about the other…but that doesn’t mean they can give up past hurts and take a chance on a future together.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains drinking, sexual situations, and a fairy-tale romance sure to make your heart melt.

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Excerpt:

A breeze ruffled her ponytail and Riya’s gaze snapped to the door. Courtney strolled in like a freaking Nordic Goddess with her head held high, cheeks flushed and skin glowing. Sunkissed legs stretched from a pair of sparkly sandals up for miles and miles until finally disappearing under the hem of low-hung white shorts. Flashes of smooth stomach teased as her pink top moved with every graceful step.

Riya’s heart pounded in her chest. Courtney Chastain was trying to kill her. That outfit was a perfectly crafted murder weapon. Checking to make sure her mouth didn’t hang open, Riya tore her gaze from Courtney and swallowed. Hard.

Beside her, Colt slid down the bench, away from Riya. Riya didn’t know why until Courtney froze five feet from them. She glanced at Riya then shook her head at her brother. Colt rolled his eyes in response, patting the sliver of bench between them.

“Miss Chastain, please take your seat so we may continue,” Bob Fazio called, a small chuckle breaking through his voice.

It was then Riya noticed she wasn’t the only one distracted by Courtney’s entrance. Excluding her brother, every boy in the room aged twelve to eighteen stared in their direction—and some of the girls, too.

Riya watched a wide range of emotions pass over Courtney’s face in less than a second before she straightened her shoulders in some kind of resolve. Her hair tumbled to her elbows in gentle waves. Sighing, she tossed the golden strands over her shoulder before spinning and squeezing her hips between Riya and Colt.

The welcome talk continued, but Riya only caught fleeting fragments of the briefing. Something about the daily schedule and a talent show on the last day. Approximately 98 percent of her attention narrowed in on the seven inches of Courtney’s white-silk skin pressed against Riya’s outer thigh.

Riya took a deep breath to steady herself, but caught the sweet rose petal scent wafting from Courtney. She inhaled one deep breath, reveling in the heavenly smell, before shaking her head.

Ridiculous. She was being completely ridiculous.

She’d never let anyone have such an overwhelming effect on her. Certainly not someone like Courtney, someone who couldn’t—or wouldn’t—return her affections. Someone who had broken her heart four years ago and never once looked back.

Riya stared at her own shoelaces, actively un-focusing on the girl sitting next to her.

Trying to, anyway.

Next thing she knew, everyone stood around her and the room buzzed with conversation. The welcome event was over.

“Earth to Riya.”

 

Review:

A sweet friends-to-lovers romance with a side of having the courage to show your true self to the world!

Riya was best friends with twins Courtney and Colt years ago, until she kissed Courtney the night before Riya’s family moved away–Courtney ran away right after, and their friendship came to a screeching halt.

Fast forward to the summer before their senior year, when Riya’s parents–they’re moving again, and this time it will be somewhat close to where Court and Colt live–send her to regular summer camp instead of volleyball camp…the camp that Courtney and Colt have been going to for years, naturally. Colt’s thrilled to see his old friend; Courtney, not so much. Or is she?

Riya’s bi, and has been out for quite some time–her parents are supportive, and she’s never felt like she had to hide anything. She’s still carrying a torch for Courtney, though she’s had other perfectly nice relationships in the meantime.

Courtney, on the other hand, feels a lot of pressure from her family (to follow in their footsteps and be a successful lawyer) and from her peers (to pretty much just be the perfect, popular girl she seems to be) and has been trying for years to deny that the kiss with Riya meant anything at all. She goes through guys like there’s no tomorrow, trying to find something close to what she experienced with her first kiss, but having no success.

It was easy to relate to both Courtney and Riya, though in different ways. Riya is very down-to-earth, friendly, and sweet–she wears her heart on her sleeve and has a hard time not showing exactly how she feels about her ex-best friend. Once Courtney gives in to her feelings but insists on keeping their relationship secret, you can really feel Riya’s hurt and confusion.

Anyone who’s ever felt any pressure from parents or from society to live up to expectations or to be or act a certain way will identify with Courtney. It was hard to watch her struggle with first her feelings for Riya and then with the fear of what others–her twin, her parents, her friends, the other campers–would think of her if they found out. I was really rooting for her to find a way to come out, but at the same time totally understood her fears about the prospect.

Through it all, Colt, Courtney’s twin, was one of my favorite characters. He’s got to be one of the best fictional brothers out there–completely supportive of his sister and her future hopes and dreams, and a great friend to Riya. Fingers crossed that he’ll get a book!

Ms. Nicolas did a nice job of resolving Courtney’s issues at the end (they’re not 100% fixed, but she’s in a much better place than she was at the story’s start), and the epilogue of the book was very sweet. I’d definitely read more both from this author and in this series.

Rating: 4 stars / B+

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

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About the author:sarah_nicolas

Sarah is a 31-year-old YA author who currently lives in Orlando, FL. She believes that some boys are worth trusting, all girls have power, and dragons are people too.

She’s a proud member of the Gator Nation and has a BS in Mechanical Engineering, but has switched careers entirely. She now works as an Event Coordinator for a County Library. She also blogs at YAtopia.

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A Conversation with Calista Lynne, Author of WE AWAKEN

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Thanks so much for agreeing to be with us today, Calista!

 

What 5 things should readers know about you?

  1. Pink Doc Martens, glitter, and birds in my hair are the staples of my appearance, so much so that I consider them major aspects of my personality.
  2. All I want is better representation in the media. Minorities should be fighting dragons and going on road trips just as much as straight white people in literature.
  3. I live in both London and New Jersey, which means I’ve held positions at both the Shakespeare Globe and the Boardwalk where Snooki partied.
  4. My date to prom was a pineapple in a bow-tie.
  5. Honestly you probably don’t need to know any of these things to enjoy my book, but another fun fact is that I organize my bookshelves by color and they’re beautiful.

Awesome!

 

Tell us all about your main characters—who are they? What makes them tick? Most importantly,what one thing would they need to have with them if stranded on a desert isle? 😉

We Awaken is about two female asexuals in a same sex relationship. One half of the main couple is Victoria. She is a dancer hoping to get into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory and would probably most want to have her ballet shoes with her if stranded on an island, although I doubt sand would be the best location for a performance of Swan Lake.

Her love interest is named Ashlinn. She is a creator of dreams who makes the locations that people go to in their sleep. If she could have anything on a deserted island I imagine it would be as much unhealthy or pre-processed food as possible. Popcorn. Pancakes. Ramen. Ice cream.

Wait…popcorn, pancakes, and ice cream aren’t healthy? Is that a typo? (Ramen has too much sodium. I get that one.)

 

Where did the inspiration for this book come from?

My intention was to write asexual representation and show young asexuals that they aren’t broken and can have a happy ending, as well as explain the sexuality to everyone else. The actual plotline, which is magical realism, came from fairytales and a sonnet I once intended to write and never got around to.

Great!

 

How long have you been writing, and what (or who) inspired you to start?

I’ve been writing since I popped out of the womb. Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I have definitely been crafting picture books and whatnot for as long as I can remember. Proper writing started at the beginning of high school, though, which is when I went freelance and wrote for a few magazines and websites. Mostly poetry and articles. I’m not sure what inspired me to start. Neil Gaiman’s career was always something I emulated and I would look at my bookshelves and think how nice it would be to contribute to something like that.

Oooh…I just read a Neil Gaiman book this week (The Ocean at the End of the Lane). What an imagination!

 

What do you like best about being a writer? What is the most challenging part?

I love the fact that there are no rules to writing. And that I can do it sitting in nice coffee shops. The most challenging part is writing openings and coping with comma splices. Also powering through the first draft.

LOL—comma splices! You think it’s tough to deal with them in your own writing? Try explaining them to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders! 😉

 

What are you working on right now? What can readers look for from you in the next year?

After abandoning two drafts of a romance novel (which I promise I will return to), I have begun work on a rather promising story involving fairies and bending time and all sorts of fun things. It will be either young adult or middle grade and I am extremely excited to share it with the world.

Wow—sounds ambitious!

 

What authors and/or books have inspired you?

                Neil Gaiman is my favorite so definitely him. Outside of everything he has ever written, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz is a favorite and I would love nothing more than to write descriptions as beautiful as the ones in that book. Considering the greatest influences probably came from my youth, though, I’m sure Roald Dahl and Bruce Coville had more than a little say in how my writing style currently is.

Nice list!

 

What are you currently reading? What are your thoughts about it so far?

I try to read about three books a week (and have been slacking recently because of my own novel). At the moment I’m re-reading Neverwhere because it takes place in London and I like comparing it to my life there. I recently finished Mosquitoland as well and thought that was beyond lovely. Makes me want to take a great American road trip.

Reading…writing…it’s a tough balance. If only sleep  were optional…

 

If you had to “sell” your book in a single Tweet, what would you say?

                Ladies loving ladies in a dream-like setting. Who doesn’t love cute adventures with a happy ending?

LOL! Nice job!

Keep reading to find out more about Calista and her new book!

 

About the author:

Calista Lynne is a perpetual runaway and glitter addict who grew up on the American East Coast and is currently studying in London. She is having difficulty adjusting to the lack of Oxford commas across the pond and writes because it always seemed to make more sense than mathematics.

Look for her near the caffeinated beverages.

Find Calista here:

http://calista-lynne.tumblr.com/

https://twitter.com/calistawrites

http://calista-lynne.blogspot.com/

Synopsis:

Victoria Dinham doesn’t have much left to look forward to. Since her father died in a car accident, she lives only to fulfill her dream of being accepted into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. But soon she finds another reason to look forward to dreams when she encounters an otherworldly girl named Ashlinn, who bears a message from Victoria’s comatose brother. Ashlinn is tasked with conjuring pleasant dreams for humans, and through the course of their nightly meetings in Victoria’s mind, the two become close. Ashlinn also helps Victoria understand asexuality and realize that she, too, is asexual.

But then Victoria needs Ashlinn’s aid outside the realm of dreams, and Ashlinn assumes human form to help Victoria make it to her dance audition. They take the opportunity to explore New York City, their feelings for each other, and the nature of their shared asexuality. But like any dream, it’s too good to last. Ashlinn must shrug off her human guise and resume her duties creating pleasant nighttime visions—or all of humanity will pay the price.

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Release Day Spotlight! FOR GOOD by Karelia Stetz-Waters (An Out in Portland novel)

FOR GOOD
An Out in Portland Novel
Karelia Stetz-Waters
Releasing July 5th, 2016
Forever Yours
For Kristen Brock, Tristess County, Oregon, is just a stepping stone. She doesn’t fit in to the small town community, but that doesn’t bother her; she’s not here to make friends. A few years as district attorney will look good on her resume, and then she’ll be able to get any job she wants in a big city law firm. But then she meets Marydale Rae, who inspires feelings Kristen never imagined . . .
Marydale didn’t intend to hide her past from Kristen, but the prospect of a friend who doesn’t know she spent time in prison is too tempting to pass up. Add in the kiss they shared, and Marydale never wants Kristen to know the truth. But in a town like Tristess, secrets are impossible to keep. Being together puts both Kristen’s job and Marydale’s parole in jeopardy. But is a chance at forever worth the risk?

 
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Kristen heard a man at the front of the crowd say, “Now I’m going to let my colleague tell you about what you’re going to taste.” A few people clapped.

A melodic woman’s voice chimed in. “Thank you. We both come from a farming-ranching background, so we understand the importance of raw ingredients. We have our own twelve-acre farm north of St. John’s.”

The room was hot.

Sierra said, “It’s really crowded. Do you want to try the next one?”

“We put our heart and soul into this production.” The woman’s voice floated over the crowd.

Kristen couldn’t see her, but the cadence was familiar. It was the same slight twang that had infused Marydale’s voice when she told stories about Tristess.

The man interrupted. “My friend here actually waters the ground with her tears.”

The crowd chuckled.

“No, I’m serious,” the man said. “The first night after planting she goes out to the fields—”

“And you’re going to taste all of that,” the woman cut in, “when I pour the first round.”

Kristen edged forward, listening.

“What is it?” Sierra asked.

The couple in front of Kristen stepped to the side, and Kristen stepped into the space they had vacated. Behind a folding table covered in a black cloth, a banner read Sadfire Distillers. On either side of the table, a bronze contraption, like some steampunk creation from the Alberta Arts Walk, released a blaze of flame. But Kristen wasn’t admiring the craftsmanship or thinking about the liability of open flames in a low-ceilinged room almost certainly over the 148-person capacity listed by the door. She wasn’t thinking about anything now, because she wasn’t breathing, because it was Marydale behind the table, like a vision in a dream. Her blond hair was pulled up in an aggressive bouffant ponytail, and her arms were tattooed in a swirl of oxblood and black, the bodies of women intertwining in the ink. She looked older and tougher and gorgeous.

“So what are we going to taste, Mary?” It was Aldean beside her.

Marydale took a skewer from the table, wrapped a piece of cotton around the end and dipped it into a snifter.

“We’re going to start with the Consummation Rye,” Marydale said. She flicked the end of the skewer through the flame at her side, tilted her head back, opened her mouth, and, accompanied by the “ooh” of the crowd, she lowered the torch into her mouth. The flame disappeared. She set the skewer down and lifted the snifter to her lips and, in flagrant violation of Oregon Liquor Control Commission server regulations, took a long sip.

“Well played,” her friend said. “What do you taste, Mary?”

Marydale turned to Aldean. “You’re going to find this surprisingly smooth for such a young whiskey, although it does still have a bite, and I think that’s part of its charm. It’s going to mellow, but you’re going to miss its youth.”

Kristen felt the stiff, gray fabric of her suit holding her in place. Marydale was there, only feet away, real, breathing, her hair glistening. Kristen had practiced this moment in her imagination a thousand times, this exact moment when their eyes met and Marydale recognized her.

For just a second, Marydale seemed to lose her train of thought. Then she resumed. “Large commercial distilleries produce consistent quality, but they sacrifice character.”

Kristen had dreamed about this reunion. She had seen Marydale in the crowds around Pioneer Square and in the quick flash of a TriMet window, her face forever disappearing into another person’s image. A rational voice in the back of her mind told Kristen she was overreacting. The strange longing that filled her when she thought of Marydale was just the first pangs of middle age creeping into her thirties. It was the kind of nostalgia Sierra and Donna would never feel because Sierra lived in a semi-platonic, semi-polyamorous partnership with Frog and Moss, and Donna dated a never-ending roster of assholes.

Marydale held the glass up to the flame. Someone lowered the lights, making dark shadows of Marydale’s eyes.

“First,” she said, “you’ll smell the earth. Now, don’t let those wine connoisseurs get away with telling you it smells earthy, like that’s a thing. Earth is specific. Farmers know that. This is our parcel.” She smelled the whiskey. “If you’re very careful—and please don’t drink to excess because you’ll miss everything—you can smell the roots of our heritage oak. Yes. Aldean is right. They’re there, too.” She put the glass to her lips and took another sip. “It’s frost on a really clear day in December when you’re lonely despite all the Christmas going on around you. You can also taste summer’s wildfires. This batch was aged in barrels made out of ten percent reclaimed wood from the Firesteed burn. And if you haven’t seen one of those fires up close, you haven’t looked into the eye of God.”

The crowd hushed.

“Now, here I’ve got a little bit of water,” Marydale went on. “It’s from Multnomah Falls, and, friends, even if you don’t take your whiskey with water, you need to at least taste it with water. Water opens the whiskey up.” She poured a little bit of water from a silver pitcher and smelled it again. “There it is.” She paused and looked directly at Kristen. “Your old lover’s perfume woken from the leather seat of your pickup the day you take it to the scrap yard. The body. Lovemaking. Loan. Madrone bark in sunlight. The pencil you once used to write love letters.” Her voice grew louder. She raised the glass to the crowd. “A woman’s hair slick with sweat. That first taste, so strange and so familiar.” She took a sip of the whiskey, set it down, and beamed at the crowd. Her teeth were perfect.

The crowd applauded.

“That, friends, is how you taste a whiskey,” Aldean said.

 


My wife recently dubbed my writing “so-ro,” short for romance with a social conscience. I guess that’s what I do. Whether I’m exploring the problems of gentrification or the evils of human trafficking, every book I write has a lesbian romance at its heart and a social issue in mind. They’re the kind of books that read like fun, lazy-Saturday page-turners and yet leave your unexpectedly enlightened. That’s two for the price of one and way more fun that keeping up with the news.
 
When I’m not writing, I’m being inspired by my amazing community college students and hanging out with my lovely wife and my charming spuglette (that’s a technical term for spaniel-pug mix). I’m a fan of snakes, corn mazes, popular science books on neurology, and any roadside attraction that purports to have the world’s largest ball of twine.