Blog Tour

Blog Tour for Spectred Isle by KJ Charles

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KJ Charles is starting anew trilogy of queer romance, a sort of spin-off of The Casebook of Simon Feximal, set in 1920s. Sounds pretty awesome, right! The first book, Spectred Isle, is out on August 3 both as ebook and in print. Read on for more information on it. You can also enjoy an exclusive excerpt from the book at the end of this post. Happy reading!


Title: Spectred Isle (Green Men #1)
Author: KJ Charles

Genre/Themes: Historical romance, paranromal
Release Date: 3 Aug 2017
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Sales links: Amazon / iBooks / B&N / Google Play / Kobo



Blurb 

Archaeologist Saul Lazenby has been all but unemployable since his disgrace during the War. Now he scrapes a living working for a rich eccentric who believes in magic. Saul knows it’s a lot of nonsense...except that he begins to find himself in increasingly strange and frightening situations. And at every turn he runs into the sardonic, mysterious Randolph Glyde.

Randolph is the last of an ancient line of arcanists, commanding deep secrets and extraordinary powers as he struggles to fulfil his family duties in a war-torn world. He knows there's something odd going on with the haunted-looking man who keeps turning up in all the wrong places. The only question for Randolph is whether Saul is victim or villain.

Saul hasn’t trusted anyone in a long time. But as the supernatural threat grows, along with the desire between them, he’ll need to believe in evasive, enraging, devastatingly attractive Randolph. Because he may be the only man who can save Saul’s life—or his soul.

Author Bio and Links

KJ Charles spent twenty years working as an editor before switching sides to become a full-time writer. She hasn’t regretted it yet. KJ writes mostly queer historical romance, some of it paranormal or fantasy. She lives in London with her husband, two children, and a cat of absolute night.

Excerpt

London 1923. Saul Lazenby, disgraced archaeologist, is reduced to working for Major Peabody, a crank who believes in magic and has sent him off to look for “sacred sites” in a North London park. This leads to his first encounter with the heavily sarcastic Randolph Glyde...

***

If my theory is correct, there will be a site on the west side of Oak Hill Park, Major Peabody had said. A burial, a standing stone, a sacred grove. A historical artefact or a local legend. Explore for me and see what your professional instincts can discover. 

Saul’s professional instincts were shaped by his doctorate in archaeology from Oxford and two years working on excavations in Mesopotamia. Major Peabody believed that if the ravens left the Tower of London, the city would fall. It was not a match made in heaven, but Saul gave the Major the best work he could and strove to be respectful without losing what little self-esteem he still had. 

There was no sign of any sacred Druidic grove or whatever bee was in the Major’s bonnet this time, but there was a truly magnificent oak dominating the landscape not far ahead. Saul took another step towards it, admiring the gnarled branches and the bright light green of its fresh new foliage, and it burst into flame. 

The fire erupted so violently that Saul heard a faint whoomph of air, like an explosion, and his immediate war-trained thought was, Mortar. He could see all around the heath, though, and there was no engine of war, no gun, no people, even, except for one man some way down the path who was running towards the tree with such urgency that Saul found himself jog-trotting, then sprinting, to meet him. 

By the time Saul reached the tree, it was blazing so hard he couldn’t go near it, waves of heat rolling out and stinging his eyes. The other man was standing, breathing rather less heavily than Saul, staring at the conflagration. 

“What the devil happened?” he demanded aloud, in a decidedly upper-class tone. 

Saul couldn’t tell if the man was asking him or the empty air; he replied anyway. “I’ve no idea. I thought it was a mortar at first but—”

“We’re not at bloody war any more.”

“At first,” Saul repeated. “That or lightning, but the sky’s clear as you like. Did you see anything?”

“Such as what?”

Saul had no idea. “Someone with some kind of gasoline? That blaze is—”

“Unnatural,” the man completed. He was regarding the tree with hard, sceptical eyes. Saul couldn’t blame him. The tree had been a living thing; if you’d chopped it down the wood would have taken a good year to dry out for burning, but the fire was so fierce he felt it heating his cheeks, and so loud that they were almost shouting over the noise of branches crackling and snapping. How in God’s name did a live tree burn like that?

“It must have been lightning,” he said aloud. “I had a view of the whole park.”

“And you saw a very small thunderstorm above?”

Saul had trained himself to endure contempt, but he didn’t have to take sarcasm from a stranger. He turned away from the inferno and had his first good look at the other man. 

He was of medium height, but thinnish and rangy, which made him appear taller: the sinew and whipcord build that Saul himself had, and liked. English from his features, with dark hair and much lighter hazel eyes under near-black, slanted brows. A saturnine, sardonic sort of face, clean-shaven; a mouth that seemed made to sneer. He looked like the kind of man Saul had met a great deal in the war in the officer ranks: a thoroughbred aristocrat, effortlessly superior, endlessly disdainful. 

“See anything you like?” the man enquired, those finely shaped lips twisting, and Saul realised he’d been staring. 

Well, sod you, fellow. “I can’t say I do, no,” he replied affably, and wasn’t sure if the flicker in the man’s expression was amusement or affront.


Adriana Anders

Review: In His Hands by Adraina Anders

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Title: In His Hands (Blank Canvas #3)
Author: Adriana Anders
Date of publication: 1 Aug 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Abuse, Religious cult

Author's links:
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My rating: 4 stars


Blurb


He is Her Salvation



Abby Merkley has been a member of the Church of the Apocalyptic Faith since she was a child, and there's no way out―except death. She will fight the odds to survive, but there's no one in the world she can trust, nowhere she can run that the cult can't find her...until her handsome, brooding neighbor takes her into the safety of his arms.

Luc Stanek craves a quiet life. But he doesn't hesitate when a desperate woman lands, bloodied and branded on his doorstep. Soon he finds himself drawn into her chaotic world, caught in the center of an apocalyptic war...and determined to save the fierce beauty no matter the cost.


Review

I absolutely loved Adriana Anders' debut book, Under Her Skin, and when I got a review copy of this one, I grabbed the chance to read it. It was no surprise that I ended loving this one too.

This is an intense and raw story of two very different characters who discover they are exactly what the other needs.

Abby is trying to escape a religious cult, while Luc is on the run from his past. She wants to experience life to the fullest, he is living as a recluse and wants to keep it that way.

We have the mix of strong, irresistible sexual chemistry with slow opening up to real intimacy which brings them together. He helps her escape, she helps him start enjoying life again.

The whole aspect with the religious cult was very much along the lines of what I expected, still the levels of manipulation and physical abuse were truly staggering. So much pain, so much uncalled-for violence/hate.

I really liked Abby and found her to be a very real, believable heroine. She was determined to escape the cult and its teaching, yet still very much under their influence, we see her struggle, her growth as a person of her own, one thinking and making choices for herself, no longer brainwashed by the teaching of the cult.

Her lack of much experience in the world outside the cult is shown but it's not overdone for the sake of presenting her as more innocent and naive than she really was. I liked it was not a virgin heroine trope, tough she was very much a virgin at every thing to do with intimacy besides the sexual act itself.

Luc was very much a misanthrope or rather he did a spectacular job pretending to be one. He was hurt by his family and like Abby, he was on the run from his old life, trying desperately to build himself a new one. She brought (back) the human(-loving) side of him, she made him care, about her, other people, brought back the life in him.

I loved how the story explored the relations between emotions and physical connection/intimacy, how notions of shame and taboo were questioned.  It's ultimately a celebration of life, enjoying it to the fullest - through food and drink and sex and just interacting with people on one's free will, forming relationships (with friends, with family, with lovers). Overall, this is a great addition to the series and a highly recommended read. 

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks

Friday Recs

Friday Recs: Romances Set All Over the World

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I have been meaning to do a post with recommendations for romances (contemporary) set outside the US for a while now. It turned out I haven't read many like that and most of the ones I have read were set in the UK. So in order to be more inclusive and for purely selfish reasons of finding more romances set around the world for me to read, I asked romance Twitter for recs and they literally showered me with suggestions. So many new books to add to my TBR list!

I'm starting with my own favourites first, contemporary romances set outside the US which I have read and enjoyed a lot. Then I will proceed with all Twitter recs. Hope you will find something new and interesting for you to read

Note (all links take you to Amazon, for the series I have linked the first book)

My recommendations

  1. 1. Alexis Hall - The Spires is a loosely connected series of queer romances set set in Oxford, UK. It includes Glitterland, Waiting for the Flood, For Real and more to come. As a huge fan of this author I have read and loved them all. His Rita 2017 nominated queer romance Pansies is also set in the UK, the small Northern town of South Shields.
  2. Act Like It and Pretty Face, mf romcoms by Lucy Parker. I absolutely loved these books, both of which are set in the London theatre world.
  3. Abroad by Liz Jacobs, queer NA, a kind of coming-of-age romance which was just released and which is quiet and introverted and gave me all of feels. It's set in London.
  4. Muscling Through by JL Merrow, sweetest mm romance between an academic and a neurodivergent character (the story is told from his POV)
  5. Foxes, heart-breaking and heart-warming NA mm romance with neurodivergent character and a character with eating disorder (TW abuse, violence, extreme poverty);  Light Up the Dark, contemporary mm with Gothic overtones, really dark (TW abuse, violence, manipulation)
  6. Glasgow Lads series by Avery Cockburn - mm football romances set in Glasgow, Scotland which as a football fan myself, I very much enjoyed.
  7. Cara Mckenna has a couple of books set outside US which I've enjoyed a lot. Her Best Laid Pans (NA erotic novella, set in Ireland) and the Curio series of novellas set in Paris featuring an agoraphobic male prostitute and an American museum worker who is virgin. Unbound, an erotic romance exploring kink, is set in the Scottish Highlands.
  8. Amour et Chocolat series of contemporary mf romances featuring top French chefs are all set in Paris, France. She also has a series with female chefs set there too (Paris Nights), La Vie en Rose is another series of her, this time set in Provence and centering a family of rose oil producers and perfume makers.
  9. The Assassins series by Carolyn Crane - one of my favourite romantic suspense series. Book 2, Off the Edge is set in Bangkok, book 4, Behind the Mask in Peru.
  10. The Rain in Spain by Amy Jo Cousins, a low-heat but very intense novella following one couple on their one-night adventure along the streets of Seville - Amy Jo Cousins

Twitter recommendations

UK
  1. Heart (standalone mm romance, TW for sexual abuse), Misfits & Strays (mm romance series) by Garrett Leigh
  2. Housemates series on NA queer romances Jay Northcote (includes characters with different sexualities - gay, trans, bi)
  3. Tyack and Frayne series by Harper Fox, set in Cornwall. It was recommended for very authentic presentation of the geographic location by British readers. The series are contemporary with some paranormal elements.
  4. His Royal Secret and His Royal Favorite by Lilah Pace, series of two mm romances about royals 
  5. About Last Night by Ruthie Knox, mf romance set in London. While I have read and loved many of this author's books, I haven't gotten to this one yet and I hope to remedy that soon.
  6. Broken (mm romance, TW per GR page for mental illness, self-harm, suicide ideation), Who Are We by Nicola Haken 
  7. Jefferson Blythe, Esquire by Josh Lanyon, mm romance/mystery 
  8. True Brit by Con Riley, mm romance set around musical reality competition  
  9. Unsticky by Sara Manning, mf romance/chick-lit
  10. Rugby series by Penny Reid and L.H.Cosway, mf rugby romance
  11. London Legends series of rugby romances by Kat Latham

The rest of Europe
  1. Return of Investment and Witches of London series of mm romances by Aleksandr Voinov, set in Europe
  2. The Sun Still Rises by Laura Bailo, mm novella set in Pamplone during the San Fermin festival 
  3. And It Came to Pass by Laura Stone, mm romance featuring a young Mormon character on a trip to Barcelona
  4. Fall Hard by JL Merrow, mm romance/mystery set in Iceland 
  5. All Roads Lead to You by Harper Fox is set in Italy
  6. Heaven & Hell series of mf by Kristen Ashley (Italy)
  7. Kiss & Ride by Teodora Kostova, mm holiday novella (Italy)
  8. I Love You More Than Pierogi by KA Merikan, mm romance (Poland)
  9. True Love series of mm romance by Anyta Sunday (Germany); Nest, YA mm romance
  10. Fjord Blue by Nina Rossing, YA mm romance set in Norway

The Philippines
  1. Beginner's Guide: Love and Other Chemical Reactions by Six de los Reyes, nerdy mf romance (on 0.99 sale at the time of posting)
  2. If the Dress Fits by Carla de Cuzman, NA romance (diverse, fat-positive)
  3. Better at Weddings Than You by Mina V. Eguerra, NA mf romance; 
  4. Cover (Story) Girl by Chris Marian, mf romance with Filipino hero and Korean heroine (on 0.99 sale at the time of posting)

Canada
  1. Back to You by Chris Scully, mm romance/mystery thriller 
  2. Arrows Through Archer by Nash Summers, mm romance Triggers/tags from GR page: grief, age difference, family, loss, mentions of suicide, recovery, hurt/comfort, homophobia
  3. Wardham series of mf romances by Zoe York (first two books are free at the time of posting) 

Australia and New Zealand
  1. Her Best Worst MistakeThe Other Side of Us and most of the romances by Sarah Mayberry
  2. Butterfly Hunter by Julie Bozza, mm romance
  3. Red Dirt series (book 1 is 0.99 at the time of posting) of mm romance by NR Walker (set in the Australian Outback), Imago series (set in Tasmania and Queensland)
  4. Sydney Smoke Rugby series by Amy Andrews, mf romance
  5. Floored by Ainslie Paton is a Sydney to Perth road romance, most of her books are set in Australia
  6. Tigers & Devils series Sean Kennedy, mm sports romance 
  7. Rock by Anyta Sunday, YA mm romance

Peru
  1. Killing Time by Cindy Gerard, mf romantic suspense
  2. The Path by Ariel Tachna, mm about falling in love on the Inca Trail in Peru
India
  1. Bollywood Confidential series of mf romances by Suleika Snyder 

Alisha Rai

Review: Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

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Title: Hate to Want You (Forbidden Hearts #1)
Author: Alisha Rai
Genre/Themes: Contemporary romance, Depression
Release Date: 25 July 2017

Author links: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads
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My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Blurb

One night. No one will know.

That was the deal. Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler would share one perfect night of illicit pleasure. The forbidden hours let them forget the tragedy that haunted their pasts-and the last names that made them enemies.

Until the night she didn’t show up.

Now Nicholas has an empire to run. He doesn’t have time for distractions and Livvy’s sudden reappearance in town is a major distraction. She’s the one woman he shouldn’t want…so why can’t he forget how right she feels in his bed?

Livvy didn’t come home for Nicholas, but fate seems determined to remind her of his presence–and their past. Although the passion between them might have once run hot and deep, not even love can overcome the scandal that divided their families.

Being together might be against all the rules…but being apart is impossible.

Review

This is my first book by Alisha Rai and I absolutely loved it. It had everything I enjoy in contemporary romance - interesting, complex characters, a captivating love story, passionate scenes of intimacy, tightly woven plot and very fitting and real HFN.

I love romances with strong heroines and Livvy is definitely one of them though she didn't see herself like that. Just the opposite, she though of herself as weak because she let a man break her heart and still she loved him and couldn't stay away from him. She thought she was weak because she had depression and some serious episodes brought her to the edge. But she was a fighter, strong and determined, and everyone knew it, all the people who loved and cared for her saw her strength and beauty and free artistic spirit and the author made it so that the reader saw it too. There was not a moment of doubt in my mind as to her strength despite her own doubts and misgivings, despite seeing her lose herself in her fears and insecurities. She always got up again (it was not always easy and she needed help and got it), she fought for herself (though she carried her shame in her all the time), fought to build a life for herself and to find a path to happiness.

She had her heart broken and her life torn apart and she came back to reclaim it all, her life, her family, even her love (though it was much more complex then just winning Nico back). She was a force of nature  though she never quite realised it herself. I found her depression and her struggles with mental issues to be presented in a very compassionate way which made it easy for me to relate to them. She was not being dramatic, just struggling with mental health issues which made her sensitive and fragile. We get to see the lying face of depression and anxiety, the build up of I-am-no-worthy, I-am-a-loser mentality and it was scary and painful and raw. We saw how she struggled with it, how she tried to have some control over it, how she fought with herself and the world to be able to live a fuller life. 

And Nico, he had issues of his own. His love for her was no weaker than hers for him - all-consuming, the center of his existence. It brought him both pleasure and pain, relief from the pressure of in his professional/family life but also tension because it appeared to be impossible.We see how the verbal abuse and emotional manipulations of his father made him who he was - someone who shut down his emotions, who compartmentalized every aspect of his life, who became obsessive with controlling himself at all cost. He also carried the sense of being responsible for everyone - he placed himself under enormous pressure all the time, never giving himself the chance to feel, to act on his feelings. Apart from that day once a year he spent in a hotel room with Livvy. It was pretty dysfunctional arrangement, hurting them both but it did take a lot of effort and even more pain to try to change it. It was all worth it.

This is powerful, emotional story, told with depth and compassion. All the characters we meet feel like real people with strengths and weakness, fighting very real battles while trying to navigate their lives. 

Highly recommended read to all fans of contemporary romance!

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Apple / Kobo / Google Play

Coming of age

Review: Abroad by Liz Jacobs

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Title: Abroad (Abroad #1)
Author: Liz Jacobs
Genre/Themes: Contemporary romance, Queer, Coming of age
Release Date: 27 June 2017

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Author's links: Twitter / Instagram / Facebook / Goodreads

My rating: 5 stars


Blrub 

Nick Melnikov doesn’t know where he belongs. He was just a kid when his Russian-Jewish family immigrated to Michigan. Now he’s in London for university, overwhelmed by unexpected memories. Socially anxious, intensely private, and closeted, Nick doesn’t expect to fall in so quickly with a tight-knit group of students from his college, and it’s both exhilarating and scary. Hanging out with them is a roller coaster of serious awkward and incredible longing, especially when the most intimidating of the group, Dex, looks his way.

Dex Cartwell knows exactly who he is: a black queer guy who doesn’t give a toss what anybody thinks of him. He is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, totally in control of his life. Apart, maybe, from the stress of his family’s abrupt move to an affluent, largely white town. And worrying about his younger brother feeling increasingly isolated as a result. And the persistent broken heart he’s been nursing for a while . . .

When Nick and Dex meet, both find themselves intrigued. Countless late-night conversations only sharpen their attraction. But the last thing Nick wants is to face his deepest secret, and the last thing Dex needs is another heartache. Dex has had to fight too hard for his right to be where he is. Nick isn’t even sure where he’s from. So how can either of them tell where this is going?

Review

What a powerful, memorable debut! This a quiet and understated, yet unforgettable coming-of-age story of finding yourself and your place in the world.

We have three main characters in this story and an array of their friends who equally interesting and compelling to read. We have Nick, a Jewish Russian immigrant on study abroad in London coming to terms with being gay while falling in love with Dex, a Black British openly gay and broody chemistry student. Then there is Izzy, who brings everyone together and who has her own sexual awakening to deal with. She is like the glue that holds together this circle of friends with different sexualities, backgrounds and life experiences whose lives we follow in the book.

I'd describe this as chatty kind of story, especially at the beginning when Nick meets everyone and is completely overwhelmed by them. As a reader I felt in a similar position, so many new characters introduced almost at the same time was a bit confusing but it didn't last long. They all had unique, distinctive voices I could hear in my head while reading.

I loved how the author made all her characters feel like real people one could meet on the street. I really, really liked everyone of them and very much like I would have wanted desperately to be their friends while also worrying I'm not good enough for them. Nick's anxiety, his fears and doubts, as well as his hopes and dreams, and his youthful confusion and indecisiveness were presented with such tenderness and understanding, made vivid and real, something I could relate on a personal level. Even though my life couldn't have been more different from any of the characters' I could identify with bits and pieces of them all through the story and I find this connection truly magical. This is what I love the most about reading fiction - finding pieces of me in character who are nothing like me on the surface.

While i loved Izzy, (who wouldn't love her?), I also felt distracted by her at times. We got two parallel stories going on at the same time and it made me wonder why this choice as made. I think she deserves the spotlight of her own book. This is just a minor quibble I have and in no way it deducts from the amazing gorgeousness of this nuanced, rich book.

This is a slow-building romance, there is some angst and secrets and confusion and a very tentative HFN at the end. We also get to experience the stress of being in your final year in university, navigating school, family, while finding your own place in the world. learning to take care of yourself but also how to be with someone, how to love and be loved, building friendships and romantic relationships.

Highly recommended read and I can't tell you how excited I'm to read more about Nick and Dex and Izzy and the rest of gang in the next book.



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