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Joyfully Jay by Jayhjay - 2h ago

Hi gang! I am back from Book Lovers Con and I wanted to share some recent winners with you all.

-Saint Unshamed by Kerry Ashton: Andrea and Trix
-Starting from Zero by Lane Hayes: H.B.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by the blog and entered the contests. And a big thanks to Lane and Kerry for donating the great giveaways!

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Rating: 4.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Bennett lives in a small town in Washington state. He doesn’t normally have to commute to Seattle, but as he’s trying to land a promotion, he’s been commuting by train to the main office. Bennett’s life is busy. With his wife living out of town to attend college, the care of his two young sons falls mostly on him. He loves his kids, but his life is lonely and routine and he knows he feels resentful. Every morning Bennett sees the same man on the train and slowly the men start to exchange a few words.

Kieran commutes every day and maybe he looks for the same man on the train. The men strike up a casual acquaintance and then their lives intersect in unexpected ways. The draw between them is undeniable and too strong to resist. Bennett has never been attracted to a man before, but Kieran is everything he didn’t even know he wanted. Kieran has known he was gay since he was a teen, but he knows his conservative Irish family would never have accepted it. While his wife knows who he is, she thought he would change after they got married and it’s not something they discuss. Kieran loves his daughter, but his life is choking him and Bennett is the only thing that makes him feel complete.

Neither man wants to be in the position they find themselves in, but they cannot stay away from each other. The love and passion they share is all consuming, but remains hidden until Bennett can’t stand keeping their relationship a secret anymore. However, Kieran can’t find his way to come out for fear of losing everything. Neither man wants to go back, but there doesn’t seem to be a way forward either.

I have read a number of books by Cara Dee and she excels here in her characterization. The book is told through Bennett’s eyes and we get a great sense of who is and where he is in his life. We also get an amazing sense of who Kieran is without ever being directly in his POV.

One of the main topics that needs to be brought up here is that Kiernan and Bennett are both married to women and both have children and carry on an affair. We are given a great sense of their lives, but they are still cheating on their wives and I know that is an absolute deal breaker for some readers. However, Dee shows a scenario that is not black and white and this story on the edge completely drew me in.

Since the book is highly character driven, not a lot can be said as their day-to-day life unravels, and we learn the circumstances of their marriages and how they came to be where they are. The book doesn’t try to excuse the cheating, but shows what drew the men to each other. Kieran has a lot of issues to work through regarding his family and has all but resigned himself to never living authentically, and this is not an easy road for him or for them as a couple. When the men are together you can see the passion they have for each other. They both also make their children a priority and here the children add another layer to their story.

The book did have a dated aspect to it and it was never directly stated that the book was not in present day. Same sex marriage was not yet legal in all states, but we aren’t told this until later in the book. Before that, we get glimpses of them using a film camera, getting their first iPhone, and using the Sunday paper for classifieds and for most of the book these details read as being off to me as the year the book took place in was never indicated. The book is also part of the Camassia Cove series, which connects the books by the small town they are set in. While you may see a previous character make an appearance, this book does stand alone.

This book could be controversial for some readers, but I was completely caught up in this heartfelt, intense story that dug deep into the lives of the men and showed the difficulty encountered as Bennett and Kieran reach for a life together.

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Rating: 3.5 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Carter meets Tanner under less than stellar circumstances. Naked, with his foot trapped by an unruly floorboard, Carter requires rescuing by his new contractor. Despite their embarrassing beginning, both men find a genuine connection almost from the start. Of course, life in a small town tends to bring out the gossips and it’s not too long before people in Kirkby are wondering what might be happening between the sweet vet and the construction worker.

Amidst meetings with family, well meaning busy bodies, and a homophobic boss, Tanner and Scott discover that communication and trust in one another are the key to their relationship. But only time will tell if they’ve built the foundation of something meant to last.

Let Me Show You is a sweet, but rather ordinary, everyday romance between two men from different backgrounds. The writing is strong enough and while the pacing is a tad slow, the story has a smooth, relative easiness to it that I appreciated. There are no huge dramas here. Instead, we see the romance between Tanner and Scott evolve naturally and with a casual sweetness that seems to suit both main characters. Tanner and Scott aren’t fully dimensional though and they felt a shade flat, but they certainly aren’t without some definition. I’d say there’s enough for most readers to find a connection with one or both of them.

On the whole, Let Me Show You was a bit boring. It’s a perfectly serviceable story, but it never seemed to go anywhere. Everything plays out exactly as you’d expect, from the romance itself to the resolution with the homophobic boss. There just wasn’t much here that I could sink my teeth into. It was all very commonplace. And while that isn’t bad per se, Let Me Show You didn’t have enough of anything to make a solid impression on me. That said, the genuine sweetness between Tanner and Scott saves the book from becoming forgettable.

Let Me Show You is fine. Just fine. There’s nothing surprising or shocking here and there’s no real angst to twist things up. The couple is relatively sweet and while I would have preferred the book have a bit more emotional depth, for those of you who want a straightforward happily ever after, you’ll probably enjoy Let Me Show You. It just didn’t do much for me.

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Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


It’s been two years since Merrick lost Daniel, his partner of eight years. He knows he should be starting to move on, but Merrick’s grief is still raw and painful. He is trying to maintain whatever ties he can to Daniel, and that includes occasionally texting him. But this time, when Merrick texts Daniel on his birthday…someone answers back.

At first Merrick is devastated that someone new has Daniel’s phone number. It seems just one more way that Daniel is slipping away from him. But it turns out Jace is friendly and understanding, and despite the strange circumstances, the two strike up a friendship and begin chatting regularly. When they move to meet in person, it is clear that Jace and Merrick have a great connection. Jace is everything Merrick could want in a guy, but he can’t help the guilt he feels when he even considers moving on from Daniel. But Jace isn’t looking to replace Daniel, and being around him somehow helps Merrick work through his grief. As the two men start falling for each other, Merrick must decide it if he is ready to take the next steps forward to a life with Jace by his side.

The Last Text is sweet and romantic and full of emotion. Alice Winters is just so good at finding that balance between humor and tension, and this story made me laugh at the same time I felt for Merrick and his sense of loss. This is the first book of Winters’ that I have read that doesn’t have a suspense element, so I was curious how things would go with a straight contemporary. But even without a thriller aspect, this story kept me captivated throughout.

When we meet Merrick, it is clear he is still heavily grieving. He just can not figure out how to move forward, and he is lonely and feeling trapped and discouraged. His family, for all they love and support him, are so worried about upsetting him that they end up often making things worse. So watching Merrick slowly find himself again with Jace’s help is so rewarding. Jace is so understanding and supportive. He is patient and kind (not to mention funny and gorgeous) and he never pushes for more than Merrick can give. At the same time, Jace helps Merrick find a way to process his loss, to remember the good times with Daniel without being so mired in grief that he can’t function. It is just lovely to see Merrick find happiness again, and the two of them are just lovely together. This story has Winters’ trademark humor and these guys are adorable and their banter is fun and charming.

The story is a slow burn as Merrick definitely needs to take his time getting comfortable with the idea of a new relationship. Yet the book never feels slow and I really enjoyed watching Jace and Merrick fall for one another. So this is another hit for me from Alice Winters, and she has quickly become one of my go-to authors. This story is sweet and romantic and really uplifting. I can highly recommend it.

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Today I am so pleased to welcome Adriana Herrera back to Joyfully Jay. Adriana has come to talk to us about her latest release, American Fairytale.  Please join me in giving her a big welcome!

Thanks so much to Jay for inviting me back to share some of my favorite romantic spots in Harlem and the Bronx which are the setting for, American Fairytale, the second installment in my Dreamers series. Fairytale takes place in New York City. What better place than the Big Apple to set a modern-day fairytale romance between a swoon-worthy billionaire and a very prickly social worker.

Camilo Briggs (who we know from American Dreamer) is a New Yorker through and through, and by that I mean, he has not time for BS. Enter Thomas Hughes, the irresistible billionaire who comes into Camilo’s life and does his best to sweep his off his feet. To do so, Tom relies on the magic of the BX and Harlem to make his move.

I chose to set Fairytale in Harlem and the Bronx because they are the parts of New York City that I know best, and also the ones where my own New York City roots are. The Bronx is where my aunts landed when the emigrated from Dominican Republic in the sixties, and Harlem was where I first felt settled and like a true New Yorker after my own passage from the island over thirty years later. Even though they have not been the most popular settings for romances novels they are nevertheless full of gems and iconic spots, ideal to go with the one you love.

My first pick is one of my favorites restaurants in New York City, Red Rooster, where Tom and Camilo have their first *ahem* business meeting. This restaurant is the embodiment of swag and a throwback to the Harlem Renaissance days. Its owner, Chef Marcus Samuelson is Ethiopian born, raised in Sweden, but a self-proclaimed Harlemite. The food and vibe of the place encompasses all that awesomness. Red Rooster is a must for people looking for an outstanding evening out, and basically a perfect first date spot. Get the Chicken and Waffles and the Obamatini…You will not regret it!

Once you’ve done brunch at Red Rooster head a little further uptown and to the West to one of THE most romantic places in the city, The Cloisters. Although not strictly in Harlem, the Cloisters is in Washington Heights, a VERY Dominican part of NYC. It’s a museum that is part of The Met system and it is gorgeous. The building is a replica of a French Abbey and it has a world-class collection of medieval art. The views of the Hudson River are amazing and in the spring and fall it is a breathtaking spot.

Now moving to the Bronx, I have another spot where Camilo and Tom went on a date (I mean a meeting) in American Fairytale, the New York Botanical Garden. The grounds are massive and it’s right in New York City. The conservatory alone is worth the visit, and if you are lucky enough to be in town during the spring Orchid Show, you should definitely go.

Last I have my favorite restaurant in Little Italy (not the one in downtown, the OG Little Italy on Arthur Avenue, where THE REAL REAL go) it’s Zero Otto Nove. This spot has amazing food and the inside is decorated to look like a little street in Italy. It’s so cozy and the food delicious. Perfect for an intimate dinner after a stroll at the Botanical Garden which is just a ten minute walk away…You can also cross the Fordham University campus while you’re at it, which is another BX gem.

So these are my recs for some BX and Harlem romance! Hope the next time you’re in NYC, you come for a little fun and lots or romance Uptown!

Blurb

“Herrera delivers an emotionally resonant, sensually charged second Dreamers contemporary (after American Dreamer) that will knock readers’ socks off.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“With a superb understanding of human strengths and weaknesses, a genuine appreciation for the important role different cultures play in our world, a generous dash of sharp humor, and a real flair for crafting heart-tugging characters, Herrera continues her Dreamer series, following American Dreamer (2019), and puts her own sizzlingly sexy spin on the idea of a modern-day fairy-tale romance.”—Booklist

Fairy-tale endings don’t just happen; they have to be fought for.

New York City social worker Camilo Santiago Briggs grew up surrounded by survivors who taught him to never rely on anything you didn’t earn yourself. He’s always dreamed of his own happily-ever-after, but he lives in the real world. Men who seem too good to be true…usually are. And Milo never ever mixes business with pleasure…until the mysterious man he had an unforgettable hookup with turns out to be the wealthy donor behind his agency’s new, next-level funding.

Thomas Hughes built a billion-dollar business from nothing: he knows what he wants and isn’t shy about going after it. When the enthralling stranger who blew his mind at a black-tie gala reappears, Tom’s more than ready to be his Prince Charming. Showering Milo with the very best of everything is how Tom shows his affection.

Trouble is, Milo’s not interested in any of it. The only thing Milo wants is Tom.

Fairy-tale endings take work as well as love. For Milo, that means learning to let someone take care of him, for a change. And for Tom, it’s figuring out that real love is the one thing you can’t buy.

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

Bio

Adriana Herrera was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last fifteen years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings. When’s she not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a social worker in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence. https://adrianaherreraromance.com/

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Joyfully Jay by Jayhjay - 1d ago

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a great week! I have been in New Orleans for Book Lovers Con and am coming home today. I got some vacation time early in the week with the hubby, then was on my own for the conference. I have been sharing pics and updates on my social media, and I’ll try to recap things here as well once I get settled back in.

So suddenly here we are, racing toward the end of May! My daughter graduates high school in a couple of weeks, so I feel like time is flying! I hope you all are enjoying your spring (or fall for my south of the equator folks!).

I’m excited that this week our former reviewer, Kirsty, is back to join us with a review from a series she started reviewing for us while she was here. We are happy to have her back for the day! Here is what else we have planned for this week!


Monday
  • Review: The Last Text by Alice Winters (Jay)
  • Review: Let Me Show You by Becca Seymour (Sue)
  • Guest Post: American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera
  • Review: If We Could Go Back by Cara Dee (Michelle)

Tuesday
  • Review: The King’s Whisper by T.S. Cleveland (Elizabeth)
  • Review: Love on the Rocks by J.P. Bowie (Kenna)
  • Guest Post: Azaran by Jacki James
  • Review: Stable Hill by Jodi Payne (Veronica)
  • Review: Gorgon in 69 Seconds by C.B. Archer (Kris)

Wednesday
  • Review: Firm Hand by Nora Phoenix (Jay)
  • Review: Redesigning Landry Bishop by Kim Fielding (Sammy)
  • Review: The Things That Come by Dan Ackerman (Camille)
  • Guest Post: Out of the Shade by S.A. McAuley
  • Review: The Sacrifice by Stephanie Park (Jovan)

Thursday
  • Review: You First by J.C. Lillis (Jay)
  • Review: Out of the Shade by S.A. McAuley (Michelle)
  • Guest Post: The Surprise Groom by D.J. Jamison
  • Review: Anthony, Earl of Crofton by Rebecca Cohen (Sue)
  • Review: Top Shelf by Allison Temple (Kenna)

Friday
  • Review: Catching Chance by M.E. Parker (Michelle)
  • Review: Alcatraz by Dakota Chase (Kirsty)
  • Review: Barricades by Dem Had (Elizabeth)
  • Guest Post: You First by J.C. Lillis
  • Review: Surprise Groom by D.J. Jamison (Sammy)

And that should do it for this week!

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Rating: 4.25 stars
Buy Links: 
 Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Note: Stalker of Shadows starts the third season of the SPECTR series and, as such, this review has spoilers for the end of the previous season. 

In the aftermath of the battle in Charleston, John, Gray, and Caleb are now settled in New Orleans. Caleb is working as a guide for vampire tours, much to Gray’s chagrin, but John is at a bit of loose ends. The director of SPECTR sent him to New Orleans to await orders, but he still doesn’t quite know what his next steps will be. Gray and Caleb have been having fun tracking down NHEs, but with John recovering from his injuries, he has been largely sidelined. It seems like these days John’s job is primarily monitoring Gray and Caleb and keeping them out of trouble.

When John gets word from the local SPECTR office that his grandfather has been attacked by a rougarou, he is shocked to discover his estranged family is living right there in New Orleans. John hasn’t seen any of them since he was sent away as a teen for having paranormal abilities, and when the local office offers to let John in on the case, he is eager to help and cautiously optimistic about a reunion. It turns out the rougarou that attacked his grandfather is much bigger than any they have seen before, not to mention that it appears there are many rougarou attacking in the area. As John attempts to dig into the case from official channels, Caleb and Gray look to do some hunting of their own. But there is definitely more going on than the men first realize. Between the mysterious behavior of the rougarou, another potential danger lurking, and strange behavior from John’s family, the men have a fight ahead of them and many questions to answer.

Stalker of Shadows marks the start of the third season of Jordan L. Hawk’s fabulous SPECTR series. The end of the second season brought us an enormous battle with Yuri and Dru that almost destroyed Charleston. That chapter closed out John, Caleb, and Gray’s life in Charleston and left them heading off to new adventures, so I have been really eager to see how Hawk redefines the series in a new location and where they would take our beloved men from here. This book really sets up both their new lives, as well as the new season, so it definitely serves as a foundation story, rather than the super high intensity of the end of last season. But there is still an exciting case, a suspenseful ending, and a lot of groundwork laid for where things go from here.

I liked that this case brings us more in contact with John’s family, as the focus of last season delved a little more into Caleb and Gray. So this is a nice chance to explore John’s backstory more as he reunites with his family for the first time since he was a teen. John also meets a cousin he barely remembers and I think the family dynamic is going to go interesting places as the season continues. I enjoyed the way the case with the rougarou attacks ties together with John’s family and things come together in really interesting ways, particularly at the end. We do get resolution to the immediate case, but given that this is a serial style story, there are lots of open threads as this book ends that will continue in future stories. I am really intrigued by where things are left at the end of this book and there are so many things I am eager to see explored.

John, Caleb, and Gray are among my all time favorite couples (technically threesomes) and I have to tell you, as soon as I picked up this book I got a thrill at reuniting with them. I couldn’t help but laugh at Gray’s irritation at being subjected to the indignity of fake fangs on Caleb’s vampire tour. Gray is such a fascinating character and one of the hallmarks of this series is the way he is both a wild and powerful being, but also so devoted to Caleb and John. I love watching Gray battle with his own instincts for aggression and violence and the recognition that he must keep himself under control for John and Caleb and the sake of their mortal world. This episode shows us some new vulnerabilities for John, as he isn’t really sure of his place and how he fits in now that he is no longer working regularly for SPECTR, but we also see how deep the connection is between him and the men he loves. They are such a fascinating triad and I feel like i could read about them endlessly.

So this story is a great start to the new season. Hawk gives us an interesting supernatural case and sets the stage nicely for a lot of new directions the series can go in the aftermath of next season. I definitely can’t wait!

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Rating: 3.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel


Mark Edwards has long dreaded turning forty—by his own estimate, this is the gay sixty and his life may as well be over. It certainly doesn’t help that his photography hobby and work as a features writer for a magazine don’t spark joy, or that he’s still wary about making a love connection due to a bad break up. Vincent, magazine CEO and his best friend, offers Mark the chance of a lifetime: write an expose about an up and coming business that specializes in anti-aging treatments. Mark is skeptical at first, but the more he reads up on Youthology and the more he feels his age, he decides to accept.

Youthology is a hot new company that wants to help people of a certain age regain their youthful vitality. How they do this requires blood to be harvested from carefully selected donors and given to the patient via transfusion. So far, the results have been promising. As Mark peruses the catalogue of donors, he is captivated by a hot young man who appears like a god among men. He quickly agrees to start the treatments and it’s not long before Mark begins reaping the promised benefits. His skin tightens, his muscles firm up, he has more energy, and his libido is through the roof. It’s just like he’s twenty-something again. The side effects are a mixed bag, however. He has dreams about a devastatingly handsome young man and feels an emotional connection to him, but he also has nightmares about partaking in snuff fantasies. Mark also didn’t expect the physical changes to include his hair and eye color changing, or even his physical body type. Suddenly, when Mark looks in the mirror, he’s not so sure he’s just Mark anymore, but someone else.

I have been hankering for a story that features a genuine bad guy, a criminal. I wanted to read about a character who wasn’t framed for bad deeds they didn’t do or who gets redeemed one way or another. In that regard, It’s In My Blood fits the bill almost perfectly. It’s part of the Criminal Delights collection, a set of darker, standalone stories written by different authors. Personally, my first impressions of Mark before he started any blood infusions were of an incredibly shallow man obsessed with himself. Towards the end of the story, Mark himself seems to labor under the opinion that he was just milquetoast—compared to what he turns into, I supposed I can see that, but I didn’t not get any impression whatsoever that he was timid or bland, just self-absorbed and poor at handling turning forty. All that is to imply that Mark pre-infusions wasn’t a character I found particularly likeable. This is an interesting choice for me because the nature of the book (and the author’s own blurb about it) make it clear that post-infusions, Mark’s character turns downright nasty.

The fun of watching Mark’s transformation comes not from his physical transformation, but his mental transformation. The prose is peppered with moments where Mark is receiving transfusions and notices his reactions to everyday irritations becomes increasingly out of character for him. For instance, when someone bumps into him at a coffee shop and zips off without apologizing, Mark literally screams curses after the offender. Clearly, the anger management issues Mark develops are accredited to his transfusions—so is his nearly non-stop libido. When some of the people Mark sees in his dreams start to materialize in his waking life, Mark begins to experience issues balancing sexual desire with normal functioning. So much so that Mark sort of devolves into a cyber stalker and works to orchestrate little “happenstance” meetings between himself and Sean (the devastatingly handsome man he’s dreamed about).

Mark’s experience with the Youthology treatments was an interesting exploration of extreme human conditions. The more transfusions he takes, the more he takes on the physical characteristics of his donor—and that includes his donor’s horrible personality. I don’t know if this was supposed to be more suspenseful in the book, but it was pretty obvious from the get-go what was happening to Mark. Rather than draw out that drama, however, it was more interesting to read about Mark both acknowledging what is happening is not just weird, but flat out creepy…but also seeing Mark rationalize it away.

All that said, I had some difficulties getting into the story. It takes a good one-third of the book before the transfusions start…plenty of time to get exasperated with pre-transfusion Mark’s shallowness and self-centeredness. Given that the transformation happens slowly and builds the more Mark has transfusions, I was disappointed I didn’t see *more* early-transfusion Mark asserting his good-senses and late-transfusion Mark embracing all the bad, selfish proclivities.

The biggest shortfall here is in the writing. Youthology sounds like a placeholder name to me and City Magazine comes off as unimaginative (although a few publications do seem to use some iteration of this). Mark’s photography hobby is nebulous—I was under the impression he’s a *writer* for the magazine, but offers to be a *photographer* for some of the publication’s articles. And the fact that he has a darkroom in his house is crucial to the plot, even if it only appears as bookends on page. As noted above, it felt rather obvious what was happening to Mark and the explanation for why blood transfusions would cause the problems they did are glossed over and never really addressed. Finally, there are copious mechanical errors in the text. Plural and possessive forms are often mixed up; the tense of the narration needlessly flip-flops from present to past. There is even a glorious bad typo at the climax of the sex scene that cements just how depraved Mark becomes. I had to take breaks from reading because the mechanical usage of the language was so irritating.

Curiously, despite Mark taking on some terrible attributes, the story has a HEA type ending. Indeed, the final line of the story was delightfully on-brand for who Mark has become, though it’s unclear whether Mark continues to pursuit the darker elements of his new personality (i.e. interest in snuff). On the whole, I would say that despite the (copious) mechanical mistakes, It’s In My Blood would still be an entertaining read for anyone who wants a story about a character who’s NOT on any sort of hero’s journey.

*An obligatory note: there is a sex club that features in a few big scenes in the book and there are graphic depictions of very rough sex and a myriad of sex acts including water sports and fisting.

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Today I am so pleased to welcome Layla Dorine to Joyfully Jay. Layla has come to share an exclusive excerpt from her latest release, Gypsy’s Rogue. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!

Excerpt

“Were you wanting a few of those birds?” a lean man in a blue shirt and overalls asked, as he stepped up to the other side of the pen.

“Yes, please,” Gypsy remarked. “Four actually, a Tom and some hens.”

Picking them up, the man made quick work of sorting out the males from females, before doing a quick count of the remaining birds.

“Tell you what, I’ll throw in a forth hen for free if you’d like her. I’ve got too many hens here at the moment.”

“That would be wonderful, thank you,” Gypsy replied, as Rogue glanced down at the cage he carried and back at the birds.

“I think we need a bigger cage,” he suggested.

“Least it’s not a bigger boat,” Gypsy shot back, giggling.

“I’ll run back to the truck and get one,” Rogue offered.

“Forget it, you’ll get lost in this place if we leave you to your own devices,” added George. “That or have another unfortunate encounter with a guinea fowl.”

“Nope, only one I’ve had an unfortunate encounter with today has been you.”

“Ha, ha,” remarked George, before heading back in the direction of the truck. By the time he returned, the money for the turkeys had changed hands and Gypsy and Rogue found themselves the new owners of a flock of young turkeys.

“What’s wrong? You look like you just swallowed a lemon?” George asked Gypsy as he set the cage down beside the pen.

“He’s named them.”

“What? Why?”

“To make it easier to call them when we want to feed them,” Rogue admitted.

The man in the overalls snickered but had the good graces to cover it up with a series of coughs, which was more than George and Gypsy managed to do, as the pair howled with laughter, prompting a series of gobbles from the turkeys, who’d fled to the other side of the pen, fortunately, cordoned off from the rest of the flock.

“What?”

“Dude, you don’t name the food.”

Blurb

Growing up with a strictly religious father in a house with little joy, or love, left Grady Stoltz eager to get out. At the first opportunity that presented itself, they left home with a young man who swept them off their feet, used their preferred pronouns, and accepted that they were gender fluid and wished to shed the name Grady and all of the constraints of their former life. Dubbed Gypsy, they never expected to return to that farm or the rural community they’d been raised in, but life took some unexpected turns, and they found themselves returning four years later. A little older, a little wiser, and the new owner of a house full of memories and regrets.

Cleaning the place up is only the first step towards deciding if they wish to sell it, or if they wish to stay and try and make a life for themselves in a place they’ve never felt as if they belonged. Haunted by the memories of the father who could never accept them, the mother they lost at a young age, and their own shortcomings and failures, they are in a very dark place when Rogue arrives.

Charismatic when performing in front of an audience, yet shy and vulnerable when faced with the prospect of being alone in a crowd, Rogue seeks shelter with Gypsy on their middle of nowhere farm, hoping for a new beginning and a chance to see if the tiny spark that had flared between them once before, can be kindled into a roaring flame.

Two battered souls, one tattered farmhouse, an old dog, a cranky chicken, several misspoken words, and one crazed ex-husband combine in an explosive combination of truth, lust, dreams, and vengeance. Will the force of it tear Gypsy and Rogue apart, or will it leave them closer than they ever dared to hope?

Buy Links For Gypsy’s Rogue:

Bio

LAYLA DORINE lives among the sprawling prairies of Midwestern America, in a house with more cats than people. She loves hiking, fishing, swimming, martial arts, camping out, photography, cooking, and dabbling with several artistic mediums. In addition, she loves to travel and visit museums, historic, and haunted places, caves, monuments, national parks and quirk spots.

Layla got hooked on writing as a child, starting with poetry and then branching out, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Hard times, troubled times, the lives of her characters are never easy, but then what life is? The story is in the struggle, the journey, the triumphs and the falls. She writes about artists, musicians, loners, drifters, dreamers, hippies, bikers, truckers, hunters and all the other folks that she’s met and fallen in love with over the years. Sometimes she writes urban romance and sometimes its aliens crash landing near a roadside bar. When she isn’t writing, or wandering somewhere outdoors, she can often be found curled up with a good book and a kitty on her lap.

Layla Dorine can be found at:

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Today I am so pleased to welcome Angel Martinez to Joyfully Jay. Angel has come to talk to us about her latest release, The Mage on the Hill (which we recently reviewed and loved!). She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!

Magical Systems

Fantasy writers of all stripes talk about magical systems—building them, understanding them, fleshing them out—in their work. But what do we mean by that? A magical system is how magic works in a fictional world, how intelligent beings use or don’t use it, how it exists outside magic users, who can use it and the mechanics of how it’s done. While variations on magical systems are numerous, I’ve found that they fall into three broad categories:

  1. Magic exists as a natural force. Anyone can learn to use it.
  2. Magic exists as a natural force. Only certain people can use it.
  3. Magic is a supernatural force that requires special knowledge to use.

For #1, the best example I can think of is Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles, which are both a different POV retelling of an old Welsh story cycle, the Mabinogion, and a wonderful set of young person’s adventure stories. In these stories, magic just is and can be accessed through acquisition of knowledge (The Book of Three), magical items (The Black Cauldron) or even an oracular pig. Magic in this world, as in many worlds, is dangerous and can lead to terrible consequences in the wrong hands.

The second category is more prevalent. Magic exists in the world as a natural force, but only certain people have a talent for it. The Earthsea books by Ursula LeGuin emphasize a need for balance in all things when using magic and those with talent can learn, in larger or smaller ways, to use the true names of things for magical workings. In the Quarters series by Tanya Huff, magic exists in the form of elemental spirits and only gifted bards can learn to sing to these spirits to work magic. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series features magic that acts like the inebriated older brother of particle physics, but even here only certain people have an aptitude for it.

The third one’s a little harder to pin down, since any time we talk about the supernatural we start to edge into paranormal territory. I’d say the Grimoire Saga by S.M. Boyce is a good example, since it’s portal fantasy that features supernatural creatures and, of course, the Grimoire, that only the protagonist can read.

The Mage on the Hill definitely falls into the second category. Mages pull their power from elements in the natural world, but only a small subset of humans are mages, from family bloodlines that have hidden in plain sight for hundreds of years.

There are other ways to categorize magical systems, and more specific ones. This, for me, takes it down to its bare bones basics when we start to talk about magical systems in fiction.

Blurb

Toby’s wild magic is killing him. The mage guilds have given up on him, and it’s only a matter of time before he dies in a spectacular, catastrophic bang. His only hope is an exiled wizard who lives in seclusion—and is rumored to have lost his mind.

The years alone on his hilltop estate have not been good for Darius Valstad. After the magical accident that disfigured him and nearly drowned Pittsburgh, he drifts through his days, a wraith trapped in memories and depression. Until a stricken young man collapses on his driveway, one who claims Darius is his last chance.

For the first time in fifteen years, Darius must make a choice—leave this wild mage to his fate or take him in and try to teach him, which may kill them both. The old Darius, brash and commanding, wouldn’t have hesitated. Darius the exile isn’t sure he can find the energy to try.

Bio

The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, gave birth to one amazing son, and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.

Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.

She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.

Buy Links:

Giveaway

Angel is giving away a $25 Dreamspinner gift card with this tour. For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter

a Rafflecopter giveaway


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  • Prizes will be distributed following the giveaway either by Joyfully Jay or the person/organization donating the prize. In order to facilitate prize distribution, the winner name’s and email may be provided to a third party awarding the prize.
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  • Void where prohibited by law.
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