This is one of those weird time warp posts because I am currently still at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention, but I am preparing this post before I leave. So I am going to assume RT has been great and I hope you all have been following along with pics and other fun times. I arrive home late tonight, so tomorrow should be super fun!
Just a reminder again that we are creeping ever closer to the deadline by which I need confirmation if you want to stay subscribed to our Daily Digest and Newsletter. If you currently subscribe to either one, be sure you respond to my email from May 2 or May 11 with details on how to re-consent.
Ok, so suddenly we are approaching the end of May! How did that even happen? Here is what we have planned for this week…
Review: Roped In by A.M. Arthur (Jay)
Review: Last Defense by R.J. Scott and V.L. Locey (Sue)
Review: King Consort by J.R. Gray (Michelle)
Guest Post: Fourteen Summers by Quinn Anderson
Review: Rogue in the Making by T.J. Nichols (Kris)
Review: Object of Desire by Dal Maclean (Michelle)
Guest Post: A Tiny Piece of Something Greater by Jude Sierra
Review: Hard to Get by Jaclynn Quinn (Kenna)
Review: Running From the Immortals by Meyari McFarland (Elizabeth)
Review: A Little Side of Geek by Margueritte Labbe (Veronica)
Guest Post: Object of Desire by Dal Maclean
Audiobook Review: Swann’s Revenge by Shira Anthony (Elizabeth)
Review: Rhoades: Undeniable by Felice Stevens (Kenna)
Review: Social Media Central by Kevin Klehr (Kirsty)
Review: Only With You by J.D. Chambers (Jay)
Review: Alaska by Cate Ashwood (Sammy)
Guest Post: Alpha Heat by Leta Blake
Review: New Year, New You by Steve Pacer (Camille)
Review: His Fairy Tale Ending by Caspar Graham (Sue)
Review: Nudging Fate by E.J. Russell (Elizabeth)
Review: Three Dirty Harts by Cara Dee (Michelle)
Review: Edge of Forever by Barbara Elsborg (Sammy)
Guest Post: The Case of the Missing Drag Queen by Michael Rupered
Today I am so pleased to welcome Annabeth Albert to Joyfully Jay. Annabeth has come to talk to us about her latest release, Level Up. She has also brought along a great tour wide giveaway. Please join me in giving Annabeth a big welcome!
How to date a Gamer or #Gaymer
Thank you so much for having me today! I’m celebrating the re-release of my novella LEVEL UP which is loosely connected to my #gaymer universe and was originally in the EXPOSED anthology with some other great authors. While this book stands alone, fans of the #gaymer series will see the gamer culture that pervaded the original series. Landon, our hero, got a brief mention in CONNECTION ERROR (and also another mention in OFF BASE ). He’s a genius physics professor and the book centers around his decision to pose nude for a charity calendar featuring rising stars in their professions. But what I really loved about this book and his relationship with Bailey, the photographer on his photoshoot, was the way in which Landon and Bailey bond over shared geeky interests.
Dating a gamer or geeky person can be a lot of fun, and it opens up some great date potential, several of which are explored in the book. Great geeky date ideas that work as well for committed relationships as brand new flings include:
Arcade bars. Forget the arcades and pizza parlors of your childhood. The newest generation of arcades combine adult beverages, upscale bar food, and retro gaming consoles. We’ve got a couple locally, and they’re a ton of fun, even for non-gamers as you can talk while playing or stage a little friendly competition to break the ice/de-stress. My research has found these in most major cities!
Tabletop Game Night. Break out the board games and some snacks! Fabulous as a double date with other couples, but also great for just the two of you and an evening in. My spouse and I love Magic the Gathering and make a point to play often. Want a more social gaming experience? Check out Friday Night Magic at game stores and other board/card game meet up events.
Movie theaters that double as bars and restaurants. These are really fun and becoming more popular. It’s a great way to enjoy your favorite super hero franchise or the new Sci Fi action movie .
Museums are always a great date choice, but think outside the box to smaller museums and exhibits. Things like history of Atari and stop motion movie making can be really interesting and lead to great conversation.
Comic Cons and similar events. Not the best first date choice as it’s usually more of an all-day commitment, but these can be so much fun. Not the most on big crowds? Look for cons in smaller cities or smaller one-day events that may not have big stars but will have a more intimate feel.
Take a class. Learn to cook appetizers for your next gaming party. Paint video game inspired paintings. Learn to program virtual robots. Look at offerings at museums too—they often have very diverse class offerings.
Whether or not you identify as a gamer, #gaymer, geek, nerd or just happen to love one, there’s a lot of fun things you can do! To see what fun Bailey and Landon have on their dates, be sure to check out LEVEL UP!
Landon can’t believe he’s let himself get roped into participating in a charity calendar, let alone one that features tastefully photographed nudes. The genius physicist is hardly model material and he’s dreading the nude part of the photoshoot. Amid his reluctance, the one bright spot is his emails back and forth with the photographer.
However, Bailey ends up being not quite what Landon expects, and their first meeting is decidedly awkward. Bailey’s persistent though, and gradually Landon warms to the burly photographer, and they discover they have a shared love of gamer culture.
A tentative friendship is born, but the road from friends to lovers isn’t easy. Landon’s battling past trauma and must decide how much of a risk he’s willing to take. A sexy connection may not be enough to keep them together unless both are willing to put their hearts on the line.
Approximately 40,000 words. Previously released as part of the EXPOSED anthology, and loosely linked to the #Gaymers universe, this friends-to-lovers, hurt/comfort story stands alone with a guaranteed happy ending. Contains a brief mention of a prior assault, but no on-screen violence or flashbacks.
Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer. The #OutOfUniform series joins her critically acclaimed and fan-favorite LGBTQ romance #Gaymers, #PortlandHeat and #PerfectHarmony series. To find out what she’s working on next and other fun extras, check out her website: www.annabethalbert.com or connect with Annabeth on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Spotify! Also, be sure to sign up for her newsletter for free ficlets, bonus reads, and contests. The fan group, Annabeth’s Angels, on Facebook is also a great place for bonus content and exclusive contests.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two active children.
Annabeth has brought a $20 Amazon Gift Card to give away to one lucky reader on her tour. Just follow the Rafflecopter below to enter.
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Adrian Rivera is a farmer. This isn’t exactly what his family, one of the founding families of Lavender Shores, envisioned for him, but he loves it. Circumstances find him a groomsman at former football player Harrison Getty’s wedding. Noticing Harrison doesn’t look so hot, Adrian follows him into the bathroom to make sure he’s ok. He gives Harrison a little pep talk, but in the end, Harrison grabs Adrian and kisses him! Adrian is confused, but he has been attracted to Harrison for some time. Now, he has to figure out what to do…leave it all alone or follow his heart.
Due to his fame as an NFL player, when Harrison came out, he became an admired figure in the gay community. This led to notoriety he was not quite prepared for. His publicist managed to land him a reality show, ala The Bachelor. He choose Will, a resident and member of another of the town’s founding families. Now Harrison is beginning to feel trapped by it all, and he’s having a difficult time with this wedding. When Adrian comes to him in the bathroom, Harrison gives in to the attraction he’s had for him. Now Harrison must figure out what he really wants and handle the consequences of his actions.
I’m going to start with reminding you The Glasshouse is the sixth story in the Lavender Shores series. I’ve read them all and love them passionately. The Glasshouse is a perfect addition and I loved it very much. While you don’t necessarily have to read the first five to grasp what is happening here, I honestly recommend you do. There are five founding families of the town and the stories revolve around them. Characters do cross back and forth between the books and it’s easier to be familiar with everyone even though there is some exposition. Also, I consider the town, Lavender Shores, to be a character unto itself. As the books go on, you learn more and more about it and its history. Of course, this is just a little suggestion, and if you do jump into the series with The Glasshouse, you’ll probably rush to get the other books.
The book starts with a bang. It just really takes off. While Harrison is facing a nerve wracking situation, it’s presented in a real, but slightly humorous, way. The author really captures what it must be like to be in Harrison’s head. I also was able to feel Adrian’s confusion. Yes, he was very attracted to Harrison, but he didn’t necessarily want to hurt Will and embarrass his family.
I loved Adrian and Harrison. They were troubled men, but they knew what they needed…and that was each other. They were well developed, multi dimensioned characters. There were many layers to work through. I found them to be compelling and sympathetic. I was hooked on them from the beginning.
I don’t want to give away too much of the story. It was romantic and sexy, but there was family drama, angst (not too much, though, don’t worry), humor, and sweeping and detailed world building. There is a feeling of reality, however I always considered Lavender Shores to be an almost ethereal place. Something out of a fantasy. There are no mentions of big box stores or chain restaurants. Instead, there is the beach, mom and pop shops, and a diner with home cooked meals and an owner who knows everything about everyone. And, of course, fields of lavender.
Above everything, there is the love that grows between Adrian and Harrison. They knew they’d be outcasts. Adrian would be considered a homewrecker, and Harrison, a cheating jerk (there is NO cheating though). They had to endure Will’s hatred. They genuinely felt bad about that, but there was no fighting their feelings.
There are a LOT of background characters here. Family members and townspeople are featured, but they’re never overwhelming and they’re important to the story. I didn’t find myself wishing so and so would just disappear. There weren’t any real big and bad people. Harrison’s publicist was a bitch, and that’s a problem that took a while to dispose of, but it was satisfying in the long run. The others make up life in Lavender Shores. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, these particular characters do cross over from book to book. They’re worth getting to know, though.
The title of the story, The Glasshouse, describes a building in the middle of the fields at Adrian’s farm. It’s a rundown shed made of glass windows. Adrian wants to tear it down to make space for more crops, but in the end, it becomes…ahem…sentimental, and gets a makeover that made it magnificent. I don’t feel like I’m giving too much away by telling you that. Hehe.
The ending was perfect and I loved it! It was exactly the way it should be, and I was completely satisfied. I had happy tears, and I smiled for the rest of the day. As a bonus, the author includes a family tree for each of the founding familie, and a map of Lavender Shores. That will help you focus on the story because you do get a bit of a who’s who and a where’s where.
I recommend this book and this series with my whole heart. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.
Today I am so pleased to welcome C.F. White to Joyfully Jay. C.F. has come to talk to us about her latest release, Responsible Adult Series. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Share Your Heart: Raising Awareness for Williams Syndrome & The Responsible Adult Serial
Thank you so much for having me today on Joyfully Jay. Today is a rather special day for me – it’s the international Williams Syndrome (WS) Awareness Day, so what better way to celebrate than to tell you all about WS and why it’s important to me, and my three book Responsible Adult serial.
Williams Syndrome is a rare genetic condition that affects one in twenty-thousand births and is caused by a spontaneous and random deletion of 26-28 genes on chromosome #7. The condition itself is characterized by medical problems, including cardiovascular disease, developmental delays, and learning challenges. But a far more fascinating trait that those who have WS share is their unique personalities. WS people are particularly friendly, overly social and have an affinity for music. In a nut shell, they are everybody’s friend, will talk the hind legs off a donkey and love a good boogie. Don’t we all, I hear you say. Well, not like these lot, I can assure you. I’ve been to many a party and gathering with them, because my son was diagnosed with WS at 3 months old.
So why am I telling you about WS and my son? Well, he’s pretty much the very reason why I started writing again. I used to write as a child and into my teen years, but then life took over and I never found the time anymore. Ironically, the moment my free time was limited further when my second son was born disabled, I suddenly found myself making the time. I had a lot of it when he was a baby — he never slept. And when I mean never, I’m talking never. He’d be up all night. So to keep myself amused whilst gently rocking him or pacing the living room whilst soothing him, I created stories in my head. Then, when I got the chance, I started writing them down. Slowly but surely, I was working on a couple of novels without really realising it.
My son is the very inspiration behind my Responsible Adult series of books. Being so overly social, so friendly, and not seeing the ill in anyone, a WS little boy made for a perfect character. Especially when giving him a bad boy big brother who has a past life full of juvenile delinquency and making him his sole carer. Because I defy anyone to not have their hearts melted by Flynn. And that was the whole premise behind the three book series. How this little boy sees the good in everyone, when many of us struggle to do the same, and how he can change his big brother’s outlook on life by helping him open his eyes to love.
Like Micky says in Misdemeanor:
“He’s an eternal child. Sees the world like it should be in a fairy tale, minus the evil characters. Everything is bright and beautiful and everyone is his friend.” Micky hesitated. “It’s a real shame that life isn’t like that. Because a world full of Flynns would be the one I wanna live in.”
This series is about having to grow up, having to make sacrifices, having to make tough choices, and having to take responsibility. Micky is nineteen and had to take care of his little brother after the tragic death of his mother. He’s already harbouring many a secret and had a past life of juvenile delinquency in a small town that he cannot escape from. Micky wasn’t ready, nor equipped, to be sole carer to a disabled child. And, although I am a fair bit older than he, and I, at least, made the choice to have a child, I still feel exactly like he does—juggling through life, making decisions and choices I feel completely unqualified to make. But that’s my lot as a mother. And that is Micky’s lot as a big brother. Luckily Micky gets a little help along the way, even if he doesn’t accept it right away.
In honour of Williams Syndrome Awareness Day, Pride Publishing are putting Misdemeanor, Hard Time and Reformed on a price promotion. You can now get all three books at 99p/c each on Friday 18th May. Link here: https://www.pride-publishing.com/serial/responsible-adult, but you can also buy it at this price at most other retailers.
If you’d like to learn more about Williams Syndrome, then you can find out all the excellent work that the charities in both the UK and US do here:
These charities are solely run by the parents for the parents. They don’t receive government funding, they rely on donations. Without these charities, many families would be completely isolated in their communities and I salute the brilliant work they do in raising awareness, giving information and organising gatherings for all our WS people to chat, laugh and dance at. Just like we all need to do from time to time.
I’ll finish off by asking that we all try to be a little bit like our Williams Syndrome friends. Be nice. Be kind. Be friendly. And, using the WS motto, please if only for Williams Syndrome Day, share your heart.
Thank you for listening and hosting me today, giving me this opportunity to share a little of my heart with you all.
The Responsible Adult series follows bad boy Micky O’Neill as he attempts to better his life to bring up his disabled little brother. A past full of juvenile delinquency and living in a small town rife with idle gossip means Micky struggles to be seen as anything other than a no-hoper from the wrong side of the tracks… until he takes a job at the local supermarket and meets his boss, Dan, a university graduate and self-proclaimed shy, awkward bookworm.
Dan, older and burned from a past relationship, is the one person who sees through Micky’s tough-guy facade to the true heart underneath. With fear and mistrust on both sides, the two must steer their way through a complicated relationship where outside forces are determined to break them up at every turn.
Responsible Adult is a series about growing up and learning that falling in love always brings responsibility.
Brought up in a relatively small town in Hertfordshire, C F White managed to do what most other residents try to do and fail—leave.
Studying at a West London university, she realised there was a whole city out there waiting to be discovered, so, much like Dick Whittington before her, she never made it back home and still endlessly searches for the streets paved with gold, slowly coming to the realisation they’re mostly paved with chewing gum. And the odd bit of graffiti. And those little circles of yellow spray paint where the council point out the pot holes to someone who is supposedly meant to fix them instead of staring at them vacantly whilst holding a polystyrene cup of watered-down coffee.
She eventually moved West to East along that vast District Line and settled for pie and mash, cockles and winkles and a bit of Knees Up Mother Brown to live in the East End of London; securing a job and creating a life, a home and a family.
Having worked in Higher Education for most of her career, a life-altering experience brought pen back to paper after she’d written stories as a child but never had the confidence to show them to the world. Having embarked on this writing malarkey, C F White cannot stop. So strap in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride…
Reid is trying to start over. He packs up his car and heads to stay at his grandmother’s condo in Florida. He needs a break from his life and his family as his mental illness has consumed them for quite some time. Reid has never been on his own before, but he wants to move forward. To quell his restlessness, Reid signs up for scuba diving lessons and meets instructor Joaquim.
Joaquim is in Florida from Brazil and working hard at the dive shop. One look at Reid and he is interested and the feeling is mutual. One hookup isn’t enough and a relationship soon develops between them. But life with Reid can be challenging as they both try to navigate a relationship while making sure that Reid’s mental health stays on track.
I have read several books by Jude Sierra and her style remains consistent. This book offers a third-person narrative and the entire story is character driven and mostly driven by Reid. Reid hasn’t had an easy time. He was diagnosed as being cyclothymic, a mood disorder, and he’s really trying to get his life on track. He’s taking his meds and he’s going to therapy and he has carved out an online support system, but Reid still has setbacks. When he meets Joaquim and then gets to know him, he wants him in the worst way. But Reid is so happy that he can just be Reid in his new location and not Reid with the mental health issues.
The book takes us pretty deep into Reid’s mind and he has a strong character. For where he is in life, his mental health issues take over every aspect. And, as he begins a relationship with Joaquim, it raises questions about if he is truly ready for a relationship. It’s difficult for him to be open with Joaquim and tell him all about his issues, which include cutting. So, for a good portion of the time, Joaquim is left in the dark trying to figure out just what is going on with Reid as Reid moves from one mood cycle to the next. But, when things are good, Joaquim grounds Reid and the guys are sweet and soft and kind to each other. Sierra’s prose is lyrical and descriptive, and it read like a balm to Reid’s soul when he was in an even place with Joaquim.
Joaquim pulls Reid’s lower lip between his carefully, then kisses him in the same way, then again, like raindrops and promises.
Reid’s moods are the focus of the book and the story is really about how he can manage them and move forward to have a life. A life that he can adjust to on his own and then a life with Joaquim, but Reid struggles and being in a relationship with Reid involves learning how to navigate him. While Joaquim wants to be with Reid, Reid’s illness put his needs and his moods in sharper focus and Joaquim would have to adjust to being second a lot of the time. This is the nature of Reid’s illness, but also the reality of being involved with Reid. But, the guys truly want to be together and are better when they are together.
There were a few areas that seemed to drop off for me, as I did wonder where Reid’s grandmother was and if there was a plan for her to return. Reid’s ex, Felix, also makes an appearance, but his storyline felt dropped by the end as compared to how attention was called to him throughout the book. I will call their ending a HFN as the guys are young and are in love for the first time and nothing is quite settled between them at the end other than that they want to be together. I would certainly read a follow up to see how they were doing should one become available. Sierra does a good job of making Reid’s illness front and center, although for where he was currently in his life, there wasn’t time to explore much else about him. A Tiny Piece of Something Greater would be a good choice to dive into a story of a younger man living with mental illness, but also trying to just live.
Kier Moreau lives alone in an extremely well kept condo community. The association’s president has assigned him to welcome his new neighbor…because Kier is gay and his new neighbor is as well. Thanks to a giant misunderstanding, Kier decides he wants to stay away from the man and focus on an issue with one of his students. The young boy’s parents are going to be sending him to “conversion therapy.”
Riley Quinn is a former photojournalist who’s been from Afghanistan to Qatar and everywhere in between. Something went wrong along the way and he lost a friend and became disabled. Now, he’s miserable. When Riley mistakes Kier for the owner of the moving company and realizes what he had done, he’s embarrassed and determined to make it right. Unfortunately, he miscalculates and Kier freaks out.
Kier decides to do something a little rash in order to save his student and it goes horribly wrong. Using Riley’s technicolor door as a beacon, the student makes his way to the condo community where Riley takes him in and becomes determined to help.
This story was great! When I read the blurb, I was intrigued. It seemed like a lot of story for a novella of less than 100 pages. I wanted to see what the author could do with it and I’m so glad I chose this one.
Even though it is a rather short book, there is excellent character development. Both Kier and Riley were well fleshed out and I was able to learn more about them than I expected. Keir is a loner, but he’s got a soft heart when it comes to his students, and he’s willing to risk his job for one of them. Even though Riley is lost and feeling useless now, he’s been involved in exposing corrupt governments far from home. Both men are just good people.
What was unique about The Chartreuse Door was the amount of time Kier and Riley don’t spend together. Thanks to some bizarre circumstances, they keep missing each other, and I don’t want to give anything away, but something happens at Riley’s place that sends Kier fleeing. They only begin staying in the same room together well into the story. However, I was actually surprised that this is not a bad thing. Also, there is no sex. This is also fine. You have to remember these men virtually just met, and even though it’s obvious there will be a relationship between Kier and Riley, they’re only taking their first baby steps.
The subplot of the student being sent to “conversion therapy” is sad and timely. Kier is able to relate to the boy and the situation. I loved how he, Riley, and a good friend of Riley’s were able to put together an event to bring people around.
The ending wrapped up nicely, and as I said, it was obvious Kier and Riley would be getting a HEA along the line. Honestly, I’d love a sequel. There are a lot of things the men could get involved with that could be interesting and romantic. Looking through Lisa Gray’s backlist, I see I’ve actually read two of her other books and enjoyed them. I highly recommend you grab The Chartreuse Door. It was a great way to spend an hour, and it left me feeling really good.
Landon is a physicist and has agreed to be part of a charity calendar, albeit a bit reluctantly since he will have to pose mostly nude. But he has been chatting (and flirting) online with his photographer, Bailey, who has put Landon at ease. Landon is surprised to find Bailey is a man, not a woman, when they finally meet, but the rapport the guys built while chatting manages to carry over to their in person meeting. The men share a love of gaming and enjoy each other’s company, not to mention sharing an attraction
Things are complicated for Landon, however. After a traumatic event in his past, Landon experiences panic attacks and the fact that Bailey is bigger and stronger than him can sometimes be a trigger. Bailey is patient and understanding, but the guys need to take things slow physically, and even that is not always enough. Bailey worries that his big body and his awkwardness are making things hard for Landon, and Landon feels bad that he has some obstacles to having a physical relationship with Bailey. But the feelings the men have for one another are strong and with some patience and effort, they may be able to work things out after all.
Level Up was originally published as part of the Exposed anthology and is now available as a stand alone novella. It is very loosely connected to Albert’s #gaymers series as Landon appears as a side character there, but you definitely don’t need to have read that series to follow this story. The books connect more thematically in that gaming is a big deal for both these guys and something they do together quite a bit during the book.
This is a sweet story with a little bit of a mistaken identity element at the start as Landon assumes Bailey is a girl and has a bit of a crush on him. Landon is definitely bisexual and out, but he is surprised and also a bit wary due to Bailey’s size. But the guys have a nice chemistry and the relationship grows slowly but steadily throughout the story. Landon shares his history of sexual assault with Bailey early on and they take the time to really work through what works for Landon and what may be a trigger. The issue is handled well and Bailey is patient and understanding and willing to go at Landon’s speed. I enjoyed the photography elements, particularly seeing the way Bailey views people around him through his pictures. And the gaming elements were fun and I liked the mix of playfulness and friendship these guys have together, combined with the romance and sexiness. This is kind of a quiet story, but I found it engaging and really liked both of these guys together.
Note: While the basics of Landon’s assault are explained, it is not graphic or detailed. However, be aware if this is a trigger for you.
Today I am so pleased to welcome J.L. Merrow to Joyfully Jay. J.L. has come to talk to us about her latest release, Lock Nut (Plumber’s Mate Mysteries #5). She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Crochet, Knit or Knot?
One of the characters in Lock Nut is very into knitting. She creates vintage-style mittens etc to sell as a sideline in her aunt’s antiques shop.
Now, while I’ve always been fond of macramé, I never really got into knitting when I was younger. My toy rabbit Fred waited in vain for the scarf I started knitting him to get longer than six inches. But a few years ago I fancied giving it another go, so I armed myself with a “For Dummies” type manual and a succession of YouTube tutorials, and actually managed to complete quite a few projects (although sadly, not Fred’s scarf).
Admittedly, they weren’t the sort of projects that require stitch counters and row counters and looking down at a pattern every other stitch. My sort of knitting is more the something-to-do-while-watching-telly variety. And equal parts the oops-dropped-a-stitch-better-unravel-several-rows variety. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to produce a number of scarves and simple fingerless gloves. Some with stitches more complicated than knit one, purl one, even!
The trouble with this sort of knitting is that eventually, you run out of people to give scarves and mittens to. And with the best will in the world, there are only so many you can wear yourself and not have people look at you funny.
So, flushed with success, I thought I’d try crochet next.
After all, there are so many lovely things you can make with crochet. Pretty lacy retro things. Cute little steampunk amigurumi. Calorie free cupcakes, even. I can knit (two needles) and I can do macramé (no needles). Crochet (one hook) should be somewhere in between the two. Easy, right?
I have a confession to make regarding the noble art of crochet: Reader, I suck at it.
I’ve tried, believe me. I have an assortment of hooks and how-to guides, not to mention a small mountain of yarn, bought in a sudden burst of enthusiasm. They languish, now, in the Discarded Projects Bag of Shame. I can manage the chain stitch—although the links tend to vary in size quite alarmingly—but any attempt to do anything more complicated is an utter and complete failure. Whilst I’m generally quite proficient in counting numbers up to five and even beyond, I can never seem to work out correctly which is the second, third or whatever chain from the hook.
So when I’m asked if I crochet, the answer is that no, I do knot.
Question: Do you crochet? (If so, can you recommend an idiot-proof way of learning – please?!) Or have you never felt the urge to become a hooker?
Still waters run deadly.
Tom Paretski, plumber with a talent for finding hidden things, and his private investigator fiancé Phil Morrison have been hired to locate a runaway husband, Jonathan Parrot. The job seems simple enough—until their quarry turns up dead in a canal, and a photofit of Tom’s face is splashed all over the news, making him chief suspect.
The widow, petite ex–porn star Lilah Lovett, is convinced her husband was killed by his gay lover, but Tom and Phil aren’t so sure. Worried they may have precipitated Jonathan’s death, they’re determined to find the real killer. But with a web of incestuous ties linking the suspects, it’s hard to know who to trust. Especially when a second victim dies a gruesome death.
Meanwhile, with their wedding looming and them sharing a house now, Tom’s worried it may all be too much, too fast. The last thing he needs are the mixed messages Phil seems to be sending out. They’ll need to get back on the same track if they want to make it to their honeymoon together—and alive.
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again.
She writes (mostly) contemporary gay romance and mysteries, and is frequently accused of humour. Two of her novels have won Rainbow Awards for Romantic Comedy (Slam!, 2013 and Spun!, 2017) and several of her books have been EPIC Awards finalists, including Muscling Through, Relief Valve (the Plumber’s Mate Mysteries) and To Love a Traitor.
JL Merrow is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, International Thriller Writers, Verulam Writers and the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.
To celebrate the release of Lock Nut, JL Merrow is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on May 19, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!
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Jonty Trelawn’s whole world changed after one awful voyage on his family’s yacht. Fierce storms and turbulent seas wrecked the boat and he was the only survivor. Unable to cope with the reminders of his parents and sister, Jonty sold nearly all their properties, saving only the sea house in Cornwall overlooking the patch of ocean where he lost them all.
The first anniversary of his tragedy is approaching, and Jonty’s spent the year in near isolation painting pieces that sell for large sums. He has plenty of his own money, but wants to organize a tribute to his family by raising money for the lifeboat station. That volunteer operation, boat and crew, fought a miserable storm to rescue him and tow his family back to shore for burial. Unfortunately, despite living in the sea house all this time, Jonty knows hardly anyone in town. He inquires with the proprietor of the local eatery, where Jonty sometimes eats when he’s been too consumed with grief and painting to prepare his own meals, and is directed to Jed Curnow, deputy coxswain of the lifeboat crew. Jonty doesn’t know that it was Jed who pulled him to safety almost a year ago—but Jed couldn’t forget him.
Jed’s a mountain of a man, but with a quiet, dominant demeanor. He makes bespoke furniture and is a carpenter and craftsman by trade. Hearing Jonty’s idea for a fundraiser, Jed’s interested in helping organize, as well as contribute. Seeing the state of Jonty: rail-thin, withdrawn, and self-neglecting, Jed’s also interested in taking Jonty in hand. The attraction is mutual, but Jed’s always looking for a submissive, and he’s not sure if that works for Jonty. As they get to know one another, it’s clear that Jonty has been more than needing someone like Jed to help him cope with life and develop the skills to break through his reclusive nature.
I really liked this one. There’s a bit of bondage and D/s behavior, but no real sadism—some orgasm denial and spankings are all the pain Jed’s into. Jonty is young and petite compared to Jed, who is a fierce protector to Jonty almost from their first meeting. The love story picks up rather quickly, with Jed asserting his dominance from the beginning, and I did like how Jonty responded to him. The tragedy of his losses rang through his behavior, and Jed, as well as his large furry familiar, Marmite, do much to fill the void in Jonty’s life. Jonty also makes tons of friends through Jed’s connections, spouses of other lifeboat personnel, as well as local craftsmen and women who donate items for the charity auction. In the six weeks or so that it takes Jonty to get the benefit organized, Jonty’s life changes yet again—this time for the better.
There is a passionate and considerate D/s dynamic set between Jed and Jonty and his once-solitary days and nights are filled with companionship and love. It’s a sweet, tender, and sexy story about starting over and learning to love again after deep loss. After the opening catastrophe there isn’t a lot of tension, just a slow blossoming of Jonty under Jed’s watchful eye and diligent care.
Doctors Mikhail Stanslovich and Dante Savoy have done the impossible: They found a way to bring the dead back to life. When the talented artist, Nicholas Alexandre, is dragged into their work room having been shot in the stomach by a jilted lover, it seems an easy enough task. A little surgery, a little blood transfusion, a little science, and the young man will soon be up and painting again. But Mikhail is facing down the demons of self-doubt and opium, as well as the actual demon, Azgarth. Is it his science or fae magic that reaches past the veil of death to return young men like Nicholas to life? Is it is his miracle or Azgarth’s machinations that helped him bring back Valentine, his first success?
For over two hundred years, Roman has been an ‘agent’ of Azgarth in the mortal realm. He is responsible for collecting the rare, the valuable, the extraordinarily talented humans that so delight the fae lord. In Azgarth’s service he is responsible for the safety of these men and women, and for their obedience. He encourages them to create works that will please the mercurial and evil monster that is Azgarth, caring for their every need and reporting to the fae lord when they disobey. When Roman was given Nicholas as a charge, everything changed. Not only did he fail to keep Nicholas alive, he has also fallen in love. For Nicholas, Roman is willing to do anything to protect him and anything to free him from Azgarth’s clutches. He failed Nicholas once; he will not do so again.
Nicholas signed his life away to Azgarth, asking the fae lord to protect his beloved sister, but when Juliana died her soul was lost to the fae realm. When Roman sacrifices everything — body, mind, and soul — in an effort to rescue Nicholas, the young painter realizes two things. The first, he’s in love with Roman. The second, he will no longer allow Azgarth to harm the ones he loves. It’s time for them to remove their names from Azgarth’s evil book and break free of the fae lord’s hold. These humans, however, aren’t the only ones who want to see the evil fae lord fall. There’s a new player in the game, the equally dangerous Oiredon who promises them their freedom … for a price. His price.
The lords of fae are going to war with no care for the fragile lives of the humans they play with. They have no more consideration for the mortal world than a man would an ant nest in his yard. It’s up to three broken men to brave the dungeons and tortures of Azgarth’s hellish palace in order to gain back their souls and save humanity.
I was not aware that this was the second book in a series. Had I known that I might have been more prepared for the way the plot came flying at me. And there is a lot of plot in this book. Taking place in a fantasy Victorian world where magic and technology exist, side by side, the three main characters — Mikhail, Roman, and Nicholas — each have a different purpose and a different perspective in the story. Mikhail is a man of science, Nicholas a man of art, and Roman is a man of the world. It’s an interesting tangle of threads, and for the most part, it works.
Nicholas is a young man who lives a fast life, taking lovers from gentleman clubs and following his artistic muse. He’s the least developed of the trio, but we see more of the fae world through his eyes. He not only sees the horrible garden of souls, he understands it. He has an innate ability to parse the symbols the fae use and it helps him when he must struggle to free Roman, to figure out how to navigate through a castle built by no human hands. But other than those two scenes, Nicholas isn’t really all that interesting, at least, not to me.
Roman has been playing Azgarth’s game for a long time and does his best to protect his charges. He’s taken punishments for Nicholas to protect the young painter, and I get the feeling Nicholas is more of a symbol to him than a person. Nicholas is young, beautiful, and mostly innocent. He’s someone to be treasured and someone to be rescued. As old as Roman is and as much as he’s been hurt by Azgarth, he needs something to hold on to. Nicholas is his holy grail; the purpose of the quest, the reason for fighting, the ‘why’ of his suffering. As cautious as he is — and with good reason — I doubt he would have dared to move against Azgarth if it had not been for the danger Nicholas is in, or the fire in Mikhail.
Mikhail, too, owes his soul to Azgarth. Rather than feeling sorrow or shame, he feels a white hot rage. He and Dante (and their assistant, the brilliant Henri) managed to free the musician Valentine from Azgarth. If it’s been done once, it can be done again, right? Mikhail is cold, though not frigid. His icy armor is the armor of someone who has been hurt and refuses to go through that pain again. He’s brittle and sharp and in love with his partner, Dante. He’s equal parts shame and unrequited lust, yet another pain that he turns on Azgarth. It’s Mikhail who drives much of the story, pushing them again and again to find answers to his questions, to find doors into the fae world they can open.
Azgarth comes across as equal parts crazy and cruel. Rather than having a fist of iron in a velvet glove, he’s a giant spiked gauntlet covering a fist of molten acid he uses to beat, punish, and scour the minds and bodies of everyone. He’s too evil, too strong, and I appreciated the introduction of Oiredon as another villain, this one more regal. He’s the one with the velvet glove, with promises of freedom and safety without actually doing much of anything. It’s the humans who find their way in, it’s the humans who must fight their way out and Oiredon who takes the credit.
The world building in this book is rich and intricate. I’m not usually a fan of gaslamp fantasy, but the author managed to draw me in. Unfortunately, as much as I liked the world building and appreciated the rather byzantine plot, I wasn’t a fan of the romantic couple. Because they knew each other before the book began, and because one of them was usually either partially dead, astral traveling, or had his soul taken into the fae world, there was almost no actual relationship between them. It was implied, but never actually drawn out.
Personally, I like books that don’t spend pages and pages on tedious exposition, instead leaving the reader to figure out the details of the story as they read along, learning about the world and the characters in a more organic fashion. I loved the mythology of the fae in this world and the hints at realms within and beyond the fae lands. With the way the book ends, I’m fairly certain there will be a third volume. There’s no cliffhanger ending, but I don’t get the feeling that the fae world is done with Mikhail, Roman, or Nicholas.
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