RELEASE BLITZ: “Not Gonna Lie” by S. M. James. $30 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway Included!

RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Not Gonna Lie

Author: S. M. James

Publisher: May Books

Cover Artist: Story Styling Cover Designs

Release Date: May 16, 2019

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance

Trope/s: Enemies to lovers

Themes: Online bullying culture, eating disorder, anxiety

Heat Rating: 1 flame

Length: 85 000 words/ 400 pages

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Not Gonna Lie is a standalone story within the #lovehim series.

There’s also the novella prequel (To Be Continued, book 6).

It will show you where it all began for Gram and Digi.

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

At this year’s Webcon, nothing will stay secret for long.

Blurb

Everyone has their secrets.

Last year Digi walked out on Webcon, on his fans, and on Gram.

Now he’s back determined to give what they had a real shot, but Gram is more prickly than ever, not willing to risk his heart again.

Despite trying to stay out of the spotlight, the anonymous Public Service Announcements draw Digi back in. As the secrets of the internet’s top celebrities are leaked to the world, it’s only a matter of time before Digi and Gram are next.

To get through it, they have to set their rivalry aside.

Will Digi handle the pressure of the bright lights long enough to find who is tearing their world apart? Or will the threat of full exposure be too much for him to handle?

Excerpt

Gram tosses his cell phone onto the bed between us. Playing along, I grab his phone and check the screen, and the selfie we took last night stares back at me. I smile, we both look relaxed and totally comfortable, even though my hand on his thigh had me buzzed in that exact moment.

I set my mug down and toss the phone back to Gram before rolling onto my side. “Reminds me of when we used to vlog together.”

He stares at the photo for a minute. “Yeah. It does. Did you see the comments?”

“Nope.”

“Turns out, people are still insanely curious about where you’ve been for the last year.”

“Eh. Why?”

“Because you disappeared, Digi. You were one of the biggest vloggers and then you were gone. All those comments are asking about you. So … let’s collab.”

“What?”

“Well we’re friends, aren’t we? I haven’t lined up any guest vloggers yet, and if you do this with me, I won’t have to.”

“Yeah, no. I’m not doing that anymore.”

“I’m not saying you have to go back to it, but this will give you a chance to tell your piece, then everyone will stop speculating and you can go back to whatever the bloody hell you’ve been doing.”

I scrunch up my face, not real interested in the idea. “I dunno, Gram. I like being able to come here and not be hassled. If I do that, I’m opening the door on everyone thinking they can stick their noses back into my life.”

He sighs. “I can’t say I don’t understand. And it is your choice though.” Gram watches me, completely unguarded for a change. There’s no tension in his face, and it’s the way I like him best.

“Hey, remember that time we snuck off while our mom’s were on a panel, and went to that dolphin place?”

“Oh yeah …” His gaze goes unfocused and I know he’s remembering that day. “Yeah, that was amazing.”

It was. We’d spent the whole day there, participating in the training sessions and swimming around. Gram hadn’t started dying his hair at that point, and I can still picture the way he kept pushing his black bangs back off his face.

His gaze flicks to me and away again. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

I blink, noting how wide my smile stretches. “I just felt real close to you that day.”

“Probably because you kept hugging me.”

“I think that’s when we first really became friends.”

“When I first realized I’d never be rid of you.” He pretends to cringe, but doesn’t do enough to cover the affectionate tone.

“When I first realized I never wanted to be rid of you,” I counter, knowing he won’t expect it.

He sighs. “You just say whatever is on your mind, don’t you?”

“Sometimes. Unlike you. You never say what’s on your mind.”

“I do when it’s important.”

“So tell me what you’re thinking now.”

“Well that’s easy, I’m thinking I’m going to be late.”

The smile drops from my face as I glance at the time. “You don’t have to go yet.”

“You know my schedule, do you?”

“I just … I mean, you can hang out for a bit longer if you wanna. We can order breakfast up here. You won’t have to worry about fans interrupting that way.” I’m just throwing out words at this point, but his schedule doesn’t start for another two hours and he’s clearly ready. There’s no reason he has to race off, right?

“I thought you were tired,” he says.

“Not anymore.”

He’s frowning at the bed and it takes him a bit to answer, like he’s trying to come up with an excuse to go. “I told my mother I’d eat with her …”

“You get to see her any old time. We’re only here for two more days, Gram. Would you really deny me your company?”

He laughs despite clearly trying to hold it back, and shoves my shoulder. “Okay, fine. Just stop.”

“Stop what?”

“Being so needy.”

I shrug, sitting up so I’m facing him. “What can I say? I like attention.”

“Tch. No you don’t.”

“I like your attention.”

Gram frowns, wide mouth falling into a pout. “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were flirting with me, Digi Lynch.”

I blink, eyebrows pulling up. Flirting with him? Am I? I replay my words over, and actually, I think I might be. Huh. “Would that be a bad thing?”

“It would be a strange thing.” He’s still looking at me odd, so I leave him to be confused and pick up the room phone to order our breakfast.

Gram settles back against the pillows, long legs stretched over the bed and crossed at the ankles. He’s not too much shorter than I am, but he seems smaller. Maybe it’s the over excitable personality he puts on for his vlogs, or the way his delicate face scrunches when he’s trying to be mean. I could scoop him up easily, like I did when we took that photo, and I’m hit with the impulse to do it again.

I grin as I imagine how surprised he’d be if I just grabbed him and pulled him close. I dunno want I’d do when I got him there—hug him for sure, but maybe … maybe he’d let me kiss him again?

“I’m sorry for shaving your eyebrows off,” he says suddenly, glancing over at me.

“Gram that was two years ago.”

“But I didn’t apologize.”

“You didn’t, but like I care now.”

“They’ve never grown back properly though, have they?”

I rub a hand over my eyebrows. “They’re a bit of a mess.”

“They make you look permanently bewildered.”

I laugh, lying on my side so I’m facing him. “To be fair, I feel like I don’t know much of what’s going on anyway.”

“You are adorably vague.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Gram screws his mouth up to the side, but his eyes light up, and it’s all I need to know that he’s definitely flirting with me too.

About the Author

S. M. James writes books for teens about squishy sweet characters.

While not writing, SM is a readaholic and Netflix addict who regularly lives on a sustainable diet of chocolate and coffee.

Member of SCBWI.

Unapologetically dishing out HEAs for LGBT+ characters.

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Giveaway

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win one of these prizes

1x $30 Amazon gift card

2 x paperbacks international (Winner’s choice of my books)

3 x eBooks international (Winner’s choice of my books)

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BOOK BLAST: “Last Loose End” by K. R. Allen

BOOK BLAST

Book Title: Last Loose End

Author: K R Allen

Publisher: Self-published

Cover Artist: Fiverr

Release Date: May 6, 2018

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance, Action/Adventure/Spies

Trope/s: Gay for You

Themes: Authenticity, acceptance

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length: 122 917 words/ 296 pages

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Blurb

Australian secret agent Cole Pearson never could stay out of it.

Now he is AWOL and on the run with Sean Trammel, analyst for mining giant ARBUS dodging killers and cut off from help as he never is overseas. As they try to uncover the reasons behind the attack on Sean, Cole unexpectedly realises that he has reasons purely personal and increasingly physical for wanting to keep this man safe. And as they discover the stakes for their hunters they know that it is going to take more than Cole’s charm, guns and wits to keep Sean alive and out of their clutches.

Buy Links

Smashwords

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Excerpt

It was the skulking action that first caught his eye. Even without the dark grey fatigues, not couture de rigueur for urban Brisbane, the light step and hurried, almost sneaking motion was deeply suspicious. Cole sat up straighter in his car, the boredom from sitting for five straight hours disappearing in an instant. The skulker slid along the side of the office building heading towards the back. Any legitimate visitor to the building would go through the front door, check in at the counter maybe. It wasn’t the building Cole was supposed to be watching and it was extremely unlikely that the skulker was the Indonesian intelligence officer he was looking out for but he was intrigued nonetheless.

“Now what are you up to buddy?” he muttered. A moment later he saw the man wasn’t alone. Two more men dressed in similar dark grey fatigues followed his path. Cole looked up and down the Spring Hill street. People were coming and going and not paying the slightest attention to him or the men moving into the building across the road from him.

Cole tapped his fingers against the vinyl of the steering wheel. He knew he should mind his own business. It wasn’t what he was there for and he knew he’d only been given this surveillance detail as punishment for his latest misdemeanour. He didn’t think his career could stand many more infractions. Anyway, it was warm in the car and while it was a sunny day out and midday, outside the air was chilly in typical Brisbane May weather. Still…he caught sight of another two figures and pursed his lips. Someone’s day was about to go to crap, he thought reasoning with himself. And really he could do with some movement. For an hour he had sketched passersby and played license plate poker on and off but mental stimulation didn’t keep the blood pumping. A moment more of internal debate and he grabbed his gun from under his jacket on the passenger seat and slipped out of the car. He was just going to take a look he told himself.

On this street the buildings were actually accessed at road level half way up the building with at least four floors below due to the way a hill had been cut into years before. The skulkers had wound their way from street level up the maintenance gangways which wrapped around the sides and presumably the back of the building like a mesh exoskeleton, up two floors so Cole followed at a distance. He saw the lead man jimmy open a door and the whole string of them, bar one who stayed by the door as look out, slipped inside pulling on ski masks as they did so.

‘Just taking a look’ would end now, Cole thought. No matter how he spun it. He’d clearly seen them go into a building he wasn’t supposed to be monitoring. At most he should call the Police. Instead, he double checked the magazine in his pistol and set to finding another way into the building.

Cole went back down one floor and used a fire extinguisher to break open a door and found himself in a back hallway near a couple of storerooms and the toilets. He slipped his gun into the back of his pants pulling the buttoned shirt free of his waistband so it could hang over the top to hide the gun. Following the hallway he entered an open area with a kitchenette along one wall and an open eating area with a floor to ceiling window looking out onto a courtyard type arrangement. When he encountered a couple of people, he adopted his best ‘yep, I’m meant to be here’ countenance and kept steadily on. He’d had a lot of practice blending in and it did not fail him here. Pretty much everyone ignored him. Just beyond the kitchen was a void through at least five levels with stairs to the next level up and down. The timber stairs squeaked slightly at his steps but still no one gave him a second glance. It was the usual thing, he thought. If you were in everyone just assumed that you were supposed to be.

About the Author

Kathryn Allen is an Australian cross-genre author of magic realism romance Ever Man and male/male action thriller Last Loose End along with a frankly ridiculous number of in-the-works fantasy, action and drama novels. For added confusion, she also writes under the names K R Allen and Kathryn R Allen. She enjoys writing about characters taller, bolder, quicker with the comebacks and infinitely better shots than she is.

Find out more about Kathryn at: https://www.kathrynallen.com.au/

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RELEASE BLITZ: “No Ordinary Drakeling” by Jessamyn Kingley

RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: No Ordinary Drakeling (D’Vaire, Book 12)

Author: Jessamyn Kingley

Publisher: Self-published

Cover Artist: LJ Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations

Release Date: May 16, 2019

Genre/s: M/M Urban Fantasy Romance

Trope/s: Fated Mates

Themes: Love, Courage

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length: 97 670 words

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Blurb

Emperor Chrysander Draconis rules not only the dragons but the entire Council of Sorcery and Shifters. From the moment Fate selected him, he has devoted himself to ensuring his people thrive and prosper. His life revolves around duty; nothing stands in the way of his dedication to his job. One of the most prominent issues on Chrysander’s plate is the lack of hybrid drakelings that have survived the road from man to beast. When he receives word that one such rare soul is living in an obscure tribe, he races to help.

Ellery of the Fen-Lynthi elves is different from the rest of his people. He does not understand why his ears are shorter, why he stands taller than the others. Then his mother explains why the other children mock him and call him a mongrel: his father, a dragon, abandoned her the moment he learned of Ellery’s impending birth. With his mother’s often-fragile mental state, Ellery does not know if he can trust her words, but they are all he has. He spends his days ostracized, doing what he can to improve his lot.

Chrysander is overjoyed to find his mate among the Fen-Lynthi, but when it is confirmed that Ellery is half dragon, he is terrified Ellery will be ripped apart by the beast inside him. Regardless, Chrysander proceeds with their matebond ceremony, though he delays the event, believing duty demands they bypass elven tradition. This troubles Ellery, and he wonders if moving forward is what Chrysander truly wants. Their schedules present them with little opportunity to spend time together, which gives him further cause for worry. If that isn’t enough, Ellery is apprehensive over his new role as emperor. Chrysander and Ellery must confront their fears and learn to face the world as a united and loving front. In doing so, not only will they be able to defy the impossible, but they will change the world.

 

Buy Links

Amazon US

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Excerpt

“I’m only trying to be realistic. We can’t ignore statistics, even if you are Chrysander’s mate,” Wesley stated.

“I am afraid I do not understand.”

“Ellery, what do you know about hybrids?” Chrysander asked, his voice warm with concern. Ellery liked his tone and wished they had a few moments alone to get to know one another, but for some reason Fate had paired him with a powerful man who had abundant responsibilities.

“Not much. My tribe did not interact with many people. I am the only hybrid I have ever heard of. I just know the other elves did not like that I was different. Is the Council the same way?”

“I won’t deny that there are those ignorant enough to think hybrids are somehow lesser than others, but they are very few. What Wesley’s referring to is survival rates for hybrids,” Chrysander stated, and his words were measured to Ellery’s ears, though he couldn’t discern why.

“What is the survival rate for hybrids?”

“In general, they’re quite high,” Damian revealed. “The ones who are half shifter almost always have a beast, though there are exceptions. However, the larger and more powerful the animal, the more trouble hybrids have surviving their first shift.”

“Dragons are very large,” Ellery observed.

“We’re also the strongest shifters,” Zane added quietly. “To date, no dragon hybrid has survived their first shift.”

Ellery let that tidbit of information settle into his mind. He reached down inside of himself where the entity inside him dwelled. It had always been a warm and inviting presence and at Zane’s words, all he felt was peace. A voice inside his head told him his dragon wouldn’t hurt him, and he decided to trust it. Just because no other hybrid had managed the feat did not mean Ellery was going to die. In fact, he refused to accept that it was his destiny. “How many dragon hybrids have there been?”

“Not many that we’ve known of, though hybrids in general are growing more common. Fate seems to be pairing more combinations of people than ever before,” Chrysander told him.

“How old are dragons when they shift for the first time?”

“Around one hundred,” Zane replied.

“So, my dragon is ready?”

“We’ll give you some time with a trainer but yes, you should be ready,” Chrysander assured him.

“I think we should wait until after Ellery’s shift for any of this. He can live here and concentrate on his beast. We’ll deal with the rest of the details afterward,” Wesley suggested.

“If that’s what Fate wanted, she wouldn’t have led him to Chrys until after his shift. The title is his,” Damian responded.

“I agree,” Chrysander said. Ellery found himself smiling. At least Chrysander appeared glad to have met him.

“Fine, but it’ll take at least six weeks to put together an appropriate mating ceremony,” Wesley argued.

“That’s fine, but everything else needs to be put into action immediately,” Chrysander replied, and Ellery grew irritated as his grin faded. No one was going to observe elven tradition or even ask him what he wanted, but he was now a dragon too. He needed to keep an open mind and learn about his other culture. This was his opportunity to put his life as an elf behind him and embrace dragonkind. He wanted to forget the isolation and sadness he’d endured and create something worthwhile that made him happy. But what he most required was to collect himself from the shock of his afternoon. There was a beast inside him ready to grow wings.…And even more astounding was the man he was going to share an eternity with. He was handsome, appeared kind, and Ellery welcomed the opportunity to discover more about him.

Ellery got to his feet. “Perhaps you could show me where I will be sleeping?”

“I’d be happy to,” Zane offered, and Ellery followed him out of the room. He wasn’t sure what his future held, but he wasn’t going to spend the next few weeks as if they were his last. The other hybrids may have failed, but Ellery was determined to make history.

 

About the Author

Jessamyn Kingley lives in Nevada where she begs the men in her head to tell her their amazing stories which she dutifully writes it all down in what has become a small mountain of notebooks. She falls in love with each couple and swears whatever book she wrote last is her absolute favorite.

Jessamyn is married and working toward remembering to start the dishwasher without being distracted by the scent of the magical detergent. For personal enjoyment, she aids in cat rescue while slashing and gashing her way through mobs in various MMORPGs. Caffeine is her very best friend and is only cast aside briefly for the sin better known as BBQ potato chips.

Visit her website at: www.jessamynkingley.com

Follow her on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/jessamynkingley

She loves to engage with readers there.

 

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RETRO REVIEW TOUR: “Made in Manhattan” by Ana Newfolk. Rafflecopter Giveaway included. See below link for entry form!

 
 
RETRO REVIEW TOUR
 
 
Book Title: Made In Manhattan
 
Author: Ana Newfolk
 
Publisher: Self-Published
 
Cover Artist: Rhys Athanasiadis-Lawrence, Ethereal Elain
 
Release Date: January 15, 2019
 
Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance
 
Trope/s: Second chance
 
Heat Rating: 5 flames 
 
Length: 62 000 words
 
 
 
 Lisbon and Manhattan are only a heartbeat apart
 

Blurb

Will they get a second chance to rekindle their love?

Isaac was kicked out by his family at a young age.

It took him years of hard work to become his own man. Now he’s helping the LGBTQ youth of Lisbon so they don’t have to go through the same.

Max has a long and troubled past.

An ER nurse in New York City who volunteers at the local Liberty center, he knows first hand what it’s like to lose your family and having to make it on your own.

A chance encounter between the two a year ago has them hoping for a happy ever after, if not for the distance between them, but when Isaac takes a temporary work placement in Manhattan, the two men have an opportunity to find what their love is made of.

Will they make it, or will life’s tests tear them apart for good?

Made In Manhattan is the fourth installment in the Made In series by Ana Newfolk. It is a standalone gay romance novel with a HEA ending and no cliffhanger. Fair warning, there will be naked man-parts touching, a touch of angst, and the claws of an overprotective cat.

Made in Manhattan is 62k words and features the same main characters from Made In New York – A Christmas Short Story.

You don’t have to read it, but you may want to find out how Max and Isaac first met.

 
 
Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited
 
 
 

Excerpt



Max

Lisbon, June

“I missed you so much.”

Isaac pushed me away, his eyes tight and piercing.

“What do you mean, you missed me so much? If you’d missed me so much then why didn’t you—”

“Isaac.” I put my hands on either side of his face so he would have no choice but to hear me out. “Can we talk, please?”

Fate really was a bitch.

I didn’t dare break eye contact for fear this was all a dream.

The club was packed so when someone elbowed me as they were trying to get past the motion jolted me into action, and with one step forward I wrapped Isaac in my arms, my face burrowing in the space between his neck and shoulder, his mass of dark curls soft against my skin.

He froze for a moment but then his arms came around me. As his body relaxed into the embrace, I swear a sob came from his chest.

He smelled of fresh pine; manly, woody, and so familiar it was making me dizzy.

I wanted to stay with Isaac like this for as long as I possibly could, which turned out to be not long at all because I had to ruin the moment with those five words.

He let out a long breath as if he was reminding himself we were in a club surrounded by people, and sat down at the table. I wanted to sit next to him, but it would be easier to keep eye contact if we were facing each other.

It had taken two days last Christmas for Isaac to do what many had tried and failed. He’d unpeeled the many layers of protection I’d built around my heart before hopping on a plane to return to his home in Portugal.

Six months later and three thousand miles away from my home in New York, I found myself right back where I’d been on the night I’d saved him from a fire, feeling like I’d been punched in the gut.

Except this time it was worse because I already knew what those eyes looked like when he smiled, what those lips looked like when they were all plump from kissing, and what his mere presence could do to my heart.

I should have known this would happen. There hadn’t been a day since I’d booked my flight to Portugal that I hadn’t thought of him. If I was honest, there hadn’t been a single day since I last saw him that he hadn’t teased my thoughts.

The first time I’d looked into his eyes, after I’d saved him from the fire, he’d been barely conscious, sitting against me on the pavement outside the LGBT Youth Center. All I’d seen was his wild curly hair, but when I’d pushed it away from his face and seen him open his eyes, he’d literally taken my breath away.

The second time I’d had the chance to look into his eyes from a close distance I’d seen it all, and it had been just before he’d pulled me into a kiss on top of the Empire State Building.

 
 
 

 

 
About the Author
 
Ana Newfolk was born in Portugal where she grew up surrounded by sunshine and countryside. She has always had a deep love of reading, and ever since she can remember her favorite presents and treats have always been books. She would often be found in her not-so-secret spot reading her favorite adventure books (when she was younger) and romance novels (when she discovered boys). At 20 years old she moved to the UK where she has lived since.
 
In 2015 Ana stumbled across her first MM romance novel by chance, and she was hooked. She loves reading about men falling in love, hard, fast and ever so sweetly. This new found love for LGBTQ+ romance has opened a new world for Ana, and in 2017 she decided to finally listen to the voices in her head and write them down.
 
In addition to the time she spends reading and writing Ana has a full-time job that involves meeting lots of people with interesting stories to tell. She also loves baking as much as she loves watching people eat what she creates, much to the delight of family, friends and work colleagues alike.
 
You can follow Ana on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or through her blog for up to date news of her book releases.

 

 

 

 

 
 
Social Media Links
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
Giveaway
 
Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win A paperback of Made In Portugal, plus some swag.
 
 
 
 
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RELEASE BLITZ: “Healing Glass” by Jackie Keswick

RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Healing Glass

Author: Jackie Keswick

Cover Artist: Pavelle Art

Release Date: May 13, 2019

Genre/s: Fantasy, M/M, Fantasy romance

Trope/s: friends to lovers, two against evil

Themes: fighting oppression, personal responsibility, love is stronger than tyranny, never piss off a man who has something to protect 😉

Heat Rating: 3 flames

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Blurb

A dying city.

An ancient, forgotten accord.

And two gifted men caught in a web of greed and dark magic.

Despite belonging to different guilds, glass master Minel and warrior captain Falcon are friends. Their duties keep them apart, but when Minel falls ill and chooses death rather than the only known cure, nothing can keep Falcon from his side.

As their friendship grows into more, old wrongs and one man’s machinations threaten the floating city and leave both Minel and Falcon fighting for their lives. Can they learn to combine their gifts to save the city and its magic, or will everything they know and love perish before their eyes?

Healing Glass is an LGBT fantasy adventure with its head in the clouds. If you like medieval backdrops, impressive world-building, three-dimensional characters and a touch of magic, then you’ll love Jackie Keswick’s socially-conscious adventure.

Buy Healing Glass to visit the floating city today!

Buy Links

Payhip Store (this offers a lower price than mainstream retailers)

Universal Link

Kobo

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Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

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Excerpt

Half a mile above the surface, a deep, rumbling groan rattled through Favin’s bones and turned his guts to water. The elevator jerked and shuddered—long enough for Favin to wonder whether he’d left his errand too late—before it resumed its stately progress up towards the floating city.

The groans and jerks came more often these days, on almost every journey. Despite the trickle of ice-cold fear, Favin welcomed the noise and stuttering ascent. He’d raised the alarm weeks earlier, but no one had believed the word of a servant. No one but Councillor Teak, who now clung to the transparent wall on the far side of the elevator, face grey and eyes wide.

The City Council would believe Teak.

“Is… this… why you wanted me to accompany you?” Teak spoke louder than necessary in the tight confines of the chamber bearing them aloft.

“Yes, Councillor. I reported it several times, but—” Favin stopped, loath to criticise the council. “I felt you had to know what’s happening.”

Teak, resplendent in a well-cut black coat and lace cuffs under his scarlet robe of office, didn’t belong in an elevator filled with rows of stacked crates, bins of cloth, and rolls of parchment, even when Favin hadn’t packed the space as full as he usually did. The councillor didn’t need the experience of a full cargo run, of squeezing into a gap just large enough to get in and out of. Never mind that he wouldn’t have fit. The servants joked that were the councillor hollow, one of them could fit inside his frame with space to spare.

Teak enjoyed his food as much as he enjoyed his status and privileges, but he hadn’t lost all sense of his responsibilities. When Favin had asked for his help, he’d only grumbled a little before agreeing to investigate the matter. Now here he stood, pressed against the transparent wall, gaze riveted to the crate in front of him, not daring to look down.

Favin watched the sea and the sky over Teak’s shoulder, wishing—as always— that he could see the city as they made their way towards it. The freight elevators didn’t allow for such a view, and Favin’s work rarely left him the leisure to sit on the beach.

Four levels of squat glass tiers and elegant spires connected by sweeping stairs and graceful bridges, suspended high above the waves by a raft of near-invisible columns… the floating city had stood waiting at the edge of the ocean when the Craft Guild arrived in need of shelter. Nobody knew its builders. Nobody quite understood how it worked. The city kept its occupants warm and dry, the glass walls closing or receding depending on the weather. Fountains supplied water in every square, and in all the buildings. The middle tier of the city—a wide, level space between the double-story, flat-roofed dwellings of the lower level and the skyward-reaching spires of the top tier—had been given over to growing food. All other goods the inhabitants needed came via the trade guilds and the Merchant Guild. The craft masters could have anything that fit into one of the eight large elevators, whether it came by land or sea, while men like Favin ensured the goods arrived where they were needed.

The groan came again, more of a pained shriek now, like the death cry of a material used too long and too well, as an abrupt slip downward hurled both Teak and Favin to their knees.

Then the sounds stopped.

The downward movement stopped.

And the elevator resumed its unhurried climb.

Sweat pearled on Teak’s brow and upper lip by the time the transparent cabin reached its goal. “Can we… not use this elevator?” He stepped off the floating disk before he turned to ask.

“It will delay deliveries, Councillor.”

“How many journeys do you make in a day?”

“Some days as many as fifty.”

“And the noise and the… jerking… have been getting more frequent?”

“Yes. I’m told the other elevators show the same signs of trouble. And in the upper city, the glass is said to be weeping.”

“Weeping?”

“That’s what I’ve heard, Councillor. I’ve not seen it.”

“No, of course not.” Servants of Favin’s class had no access to the upper levels. “Thank you, Favin, for bringing this to my attention.”

Favin bowed to the councillor before he set about unloading the cargo into the hands of the waiting servants. The council would decide whether to shut down the elevator or keep it running. He’d done as much as he could do, given his station. He’d said his piece and had had a councillor listen.

He continued with his work, until words drifting through a half-open door stopped him on his way to deliver rolls of parchment and ink to the council chamber.

“Weeping is the only way to describe it, Wark. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“And you think it’s going to be a problem?” The clipped tones were the regent’s and Favin froze where he stood, listening.

“Of course, it’s a problem,” Teak argued. “Go and see for yourself if you don’t believe me. There’s liquid glass welling up out of the column and trickling down its length. What do you think will happen if the glass wears away doing that? Or if the whole column turns to liquid? Will it continue to support the upper level in that state, or will it run into the sea and disappear?”

“Calm yourself, Teak. I’m sure there’s no need for panic.”

“You would know, of course.” Teak said snidely. “But I say you should listen. There’s more than one of those weeping spots in the upper city. The freight elevators jerk and groan, and servants are buying out their contracts, happier to make a life elsewhere than work here.”

Then it is serious, Favin thought, glued to his spot. More serious than I knew.Positions with one of the three gifted guilds were hotly sought. Only the king’s court paid better wages, and with the high prices in the royal city and port of Allengi, those wages didn’t go nearly as far.

“We must deal with this, Wark. Before it is too late.”

“Repairs to the city’s fabric are the task of the glass master. I will make sure he attends to the problem.”

“Minel is an outstanding craft master.” Teak bristled as if he had heard something in Wark’s comment that Favin had not. Something he disagreed with. “Most sought after, despite his youth. His list of commissions is near endless and he earns—”

“There are no other glass masters in the guild. Minel is our only choice if we want to fix the problem you’ve brought to my attention.” Regent Wark sounded oddly gleeful.

“No. You can’t— What if—?”

“You can’t have it both ways, Teak. You can’t bring me a problem and then object when I solve it. Minel’s work and his designs pay a large part of the city’s debts. I’m not so stupid I’d interfere with that. But if the fabric of the city fails, all the money and favours we’re owed will be no use to us. It’s fortunate that Minel cares about nothing but making glass. He doesn’t have the stomach for confrontation. I think… I think this will work out very well. Minel will accept that we direct his work and we can add another treasure to our collection. I have waited long enough.”

About the Author

Jackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurring dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.

Jackie loves unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who don’t follow the rules when those rules are stupid. She blogs about English history and food, has a thing for green eyes, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat.

And she still hasn’t found the place where the bus stops.

For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops or recipes for traditional English food, you can find Jackie Keswick in all the usual places.

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BLOG TOUR: “Saint Unshamed” by Kerry Ashton. Rafflecopter Giveaway Included! Find entry form below:



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Book Title: SAINT UNSHAMED: A Gay Mormon’s Life 

Healing from the Shame of Religion, Rape, Conversion Therapy & Cancer

Author: Kerry Ashton 

Publisher: Lynn Wolf Enterprises

Cover Artist: Kerry Ashton 

Release Date: April 17, 2019

Genres: A Gay Memoir featuring M/M Romance & some hard core sex

Tropes: Forbidden love, Rape, Mormon Religion

Themes: Coming out, Forgiveness, Overcoming Religion, Rape, Police Surveillance & Arrest, Conversion Therapy including Electric Shock Treatments, and a 16-year battle with rare cancer

Heat Rating: 5 flames

There are many erotic passages—most are hardcore, erotic and explicit passages, all M/M. Many deal with scenes of sexual humiliation, degradation, group scenes, S&M and/or the gay male leather scene.

Length: 120 000 words /348 pages incl. 14 pages of B&W photos from author’s private collection.




“A TRIUMPHANT MEMOIR!” Clarion Books


Blurb

The first paragraph of Kerry Ashton’s new memoir explains a lot: “I told this story once as fiction in the 1980s, but this time I tell the truth. I even tell the truth, in #MeToo fashion, about being violently raped by another man when I was 18, with a knife held to my throat—a secret I kept from everyone, including myself, for over 40 years. The rape, like other experiences I endured while a student at Brigham Young University, where I came out in the early 1970s, had a profound impact on my later life. But this story is not so much about my rape or my coming of age at BYU, as it is about the lifelong effects of shame itself, not only about how I internalized and inherited a wounding shame from my Mormon upbringing, but also how I eventually unshamed myself. It is about the journey of a lifetime, finding spiritual growth, self-discovery and healing along the way, while encountering many miraculous events that pushed me forward through darkness toward the light.”

Telling about his experiences during his four years at BYU—the rape, falling in love for the first time, police surveillance, harassment and arrest, while enduring three years of conversion therapy and electric shock treatments—provide the structure of Kerry’s memoir. But intermittently, the author shares memories from his childhood, growing up Mormon in Pocatello, Idaho, and later from his adulthood, as well as from his professional career as an actor and writer, both in L.A. and NYC, describing encounters with Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis and Julie Harris, while detailing his experiences with Tennessee Williams and his brief affair with Stephen Sondheim. Lastly, he talks about the 12 years he spent in therapy, about his 16-year battle with cancer, how he eventually rid himself of the shame internalized from his Mormon youth, sharing glimpses into his sexual journey from his innocent youth through S&M and the gay leather scene in mid-life to the loving monogamous relationship he now enjoys.



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Excerpt


READ PART ONE HERE

The Holy War, as I have come to think of it, began on a hot day in early September 1971, the day I left Pocatello to drive four hours south to Provo, Utah, to attend Brigham Young University. As in all wars, whether holy or unholy, it would not be without its casualties.

I spent the morning packing things in my ‘56 Chevrolet, parked in the spot on the lawn where our driveway would have been had my parents ever had the money to pave it. A yellow-and-bronze, two- door coupe with cream interior, a huge cream steering wheel, and black dashboard, the car had class, which is why I named it Oscar— after the Academy Awards I hoped to win one day.

As I packed Oscar full of boxes, Dad worked under the hood of the car. Once Oscar was filled with boxes, I sank down on our front lawn. Knowing this would be my last day at home, I tried to capture everything I saw and felt around me: The red of Mom’s roses framing our side porch, the hazy blue of the late morning sky, the large pine tree at the front of our corner lot, and the blue-grey crag of Scout Mountain in the distance, where I had always imagined Santa’s sleigh flew over on Christmas Eve.

Hearing Mom humming in the kitchen as she prepared lunch, everything seemed right in my Latter-Day-Saint world.

Getting up from the grass, I walked over to where Dad was still working under Oscar’s hood. “Everything look okay, Dad?” I asked.

“Oh, sure,” Dad replied in his folksy way. “I just wanted to make sure everything’s good with your car. I don’t want you stranded on the highway.”

Though I had fulfilled every church obligation, I was not the mechanic that Dad had hoped each of his three sons would become. I left mechanical jobs to Dad or to my two older brothers, both married by then.

“I love you, Dad,” I said suddenly. He stopped tinkering with the spark plugs and looked up at me. “I love you, too, son,” he replied, embracing me with a greasy hug.

Mom came out on the side porch just then. Wiping her hands on her apron, she called out to us, “Okay, you two! Lunch is ready!”

I washed my hands at the kitchen sink and let Dad wash his hands in the bathroom. Then I joined Mom at the kitchen table while we waited for Dad.

“Kerry Lynn,” she whispered, stroking my dark brown hair as she often did, “I don’t know what I’m going to do without you.”

Now a grown-up, or so I thought, I bristled at her calling me by both my given names as it sounded so girlish. But since it was my last day at home, I chose to ignore it.

“With all the kids married,” Mom continued, “and you going off to college, this house is going to feel awfully empty without you.”

“Maybe you and Dad will finally get some peace and quiet,” I kidded. “Maybe now you two can finally go on that second honeymoon you’ve talked about.”

“Maybe,” she said, laughing as she reached out to hold me. “I

love you, Kerry.” As she held me tight, I never wanted to let go. Once Dad joined us at the table, he said a blessing on the food, as we always did in our home.

After the blessing, we tore through the food. Mom had made some of my favorites: Her wonderful potato and egg salad, savory burgers with all the trimmings, and delicious corn-on-the-cob bought fresh from the farmer’s market.

After lunch, we went into the living room where Dad anointed my head with oil, laid his hands upon my head, and gave me a sacred Father’s Blessing—the blessing of a Melchizedek Priesthood Elder— warning me to be “mindful of the Adversary.”

Before I left that day, Dad took a photograph of me standing in front of Oscar. Barely 18 and dressed neatly, at 6’3” and 190 pounds, I was the very image of a conservative, clean-cut, LDS young man who loved his Mormon family, the LDS Church, and his Heavenly Father.

I arrived at Salt Lake City three hours later. From there, it took me another hour driving south on Interstate 15 before I arrived in the city of Provo.

Taking my first glimpse that day of Provo through Oscar’s wide windshield, I could see the white LDS Temple huddled against the Wasatch Mountains, its golden steeple gleaming in the late afternoon sun. Further north, Mount Timpanogos reached heavenward, while a sign at the main entrance to the BYU campus read: “The World Is Our Campus.” In reality, the campus became my world.

Driving north past the immense Cougar Stadium, and then into the foothills just beyond the BYU campus, then turning east and heading toward the mountains, I came to the huge Marriott Sports Arena under construction on my right, and stopped at the light. Once the light turned green, I made a left turn onto Sumac Avenue, climbing dramatically into the foothills, before pulling into the driveway in front of my new off-campus apartment.



About the Author

Raised in Pocatello, Idaho as a Mormon in the heart of Mormon Zion, Kerry attended BYU in the early 70s, where some of the most dramatic events recounted in his memoir took place.

Always interested in pursuing a career as both an actor and writer, Kerry wrote his first play, BUFFALO HEAD NICKELSat the age of 17, and published it at 18. Since then, he has published several works, among them most prominently THE WILDE SPIRIT, a one-man play with music, in which Ashton starred as Oscar Wilde, and also wrote the play’s book, music and lyrics. The play won Kerry critical acclaim for both his writing and performance, and three 1977 L.A. Civic Star Awards for Best Actor, Play and Direction. The play ran for three consecutive seasons in Provincetown, MA from 1990-1992, and was produced Off-Broadway in 1996, winning Kerry a National Award of Merit from ASCAP. The author now makes his home with his partner Victor Ramirez in South Florida. For more info, visit www.KerryAshton.com.


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BLOG TOUR: ” The King’s Fear” by Isaac Grisham

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Book Title: The King’s Fear (The Brass Machine #2)

Author: Isaac Grisham

Publisher: Cooper Blue Books, LLC

Cover Artist: Dissect Designs

Genre/s: Fantasy, LGBT Fiction

Trope/s: Good vs. Evil, Magic, Shifter, Bi the Way

Themes: Darkness and Light, Heartbreak of Betrayal, Revenge and Forgiveness

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length: 95,000 words/290 pages

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Everything will burn

Blurb Myobu has waited all his life to find love, and just as he makes a connection, it’s taken from him in an instant. Reeling from the fatal climax of his love story with Prince Kitsune, the magical Yokai must take advantage of his second chance at life, reconciling his past and present while keeping the prince from going down a path of darkness. Together with Kitsune, Myobu is tasked with destroying an evil that threatens the brass machine—and their world. Meanwhile, Prince Kitsune is lost in the depths of responsibility and the murkiness of grief. His role is at the head of an army, defending against the whims of his deranged father. King Oni’s aggression is mounting, and he will stop at nothing to maintain his power over Kitsunetsuki. Overcome with the guilt of killing the man he loved, Kitsune finds direction when he discovers the legendary Sword of Inari—but when the voices within the steel speak to him, they lead him deeper down a path of deceit. In a tale of good versus evil, life and death, Kitsune and Myobu must come together alongside their allies to face unspeakable horrors.  

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  Excerpt It was the perfect morning. Treating himself to a good long stretch, Myobu worked his way up to sitting. With his back against the wooden headboard, he looked down at the pair with whom he had spent the night. Ryn and Nikki owned one of the oldest taverns in Hawte, having belonged to Ryn’s family for generations. Myobu had met them not long after arriving in the capital nearly three sun cycles ago. Something else had happened as their friendship grew. Late one night after helping close up the tavern, they had spent a few hours drinking by the hearth. Ryn and Nikki spoke of their first encounter and subsequent marriage, purportedly a scandalous affair. Having lived over a century without ever engaging in sexual activity, Myobu had drunkenly bombarded them with endless questions on the subject. The pair looked at one another, a glimmer of humor and desire in their eyes, and decided to answer his queries physically rather than verbally. Taking him by the hand, they led him upstairs to bed. Upon closing the bedroom door, the first thing the couple did was peel off their clothing. Myobu had watched in awe as the differences in their skin were revealed. Ryn was a burly man, and there were few areas on his body not covered in hair. Nikki was dark-skinned and appeared free of any blemishes or extraneous hair. The two had begun tugging at Myobu’s own clothing, which he sluggishly gave up. He wasn’t timid or particularly self-conscious, though he had wondered if the human form he had taken was correct in the details. He possessed all the parts of a man, but he lacked the massive tufts of hair Ryn displayed. He was almost as smooth as Nikki. Concerned they would figure out he wasn’t actually human, he had contemplated adding hair to his body before his shirt could be removed. In the end, the two hadn’t given a second thought to his nearly hairless form. They stripped him naked, looked at him appreciatively, and began running their hands over his body. The dual sensations of Ryn’s rougher palms and Nikki’s smoother fingertips elicited a gasp from Myobu. Goosebumps broke out over his flesh. It heightened his tactile awareness, dulled his sense of time, and deeply aroused him. He tentatively put a hand on each of their bodies, awkward at first, but easily got into it once he realized his touch elicited the same types of responses from them.  

About the Author

Isaac Grisham currently lives in a blue county of Illinois with his partner and doggos. By day, he works at a local college. The King’s Fear is his second completed novel and, by night, he is busy assembling the gears of the third and final piece of The Brass Machine.

 

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RELEASE BLITZ: “The Love Him Series Box Set” by S. M. James. $20 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway Included!



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Book Title: The #lovehim Series Box Set

Author: S. M. James

Publisher: May Books

Cover Artist: Story Styling Cover Designs

Release Date: May 4, 2019

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance

Trope/s: Friends to lovers, mild hurt/comfort 

Themes: Coming out, friendship, family, chronic illness, internalised homophobia

Heat Rating: 1-2 flames

Length: 290 000 words/ 1,000 pages

Box Set of three books and three short stories




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Six stories. Three couples. One perfect kind of love.

Blurb

Read the first three books in the #lovehim series and their short stories. 

That Feeling When 

A summer camp romance where a bi actor and a closeted ballet dancer are blackmailed into keeping their relationship a secret.

No Big Deal 

In the meet cute to To Be Honest, Angus finally gets a roommate … and a big, fat crush.

To Be Honest 

Angus and his adorkable roommate Tyler, embark on a cross country road trip to confront Angus’s catfisher. 

For The Win 

The meet cute for In Case You Missed It, Brooks agrees to one non-date with Darien because they’ll never see each other again … right?

In Case You Missed It 

Love is supposed to be simple, but Brook’s secret will put their relationship to the test. 

PLUS A BONUS NOVELLA NOT YET RELEASED

In Real Life 

The sequel to That Feeling When, where Archie and Landon visit Australia and try to make their relationship work amidst judgmental family and pushy exes.


Excerpt (From No Big Deal)

I groan and give him a playful shove, not able to resist touching him, but it just makes the urge to do it again worse. “I think I’ll manage.”

I’ll manage because I don’t even watch the end. I watch Tyler from the corner of my eye. The way his chest expands with each breath, the way he scratches his nose, or rubs his arm. I catch everything.

I really need to get out of here, to put some distance between us, but I can’t. I don’t want to, which is the really messed up part.

The movie ends with that same song that’s played through the whole thing and instead of choosing another, or returning to his own side of the room, Tyler rolls onto his side, legs hanging off the bed, and tucks a pillow up under his arm.

“Okay, if you could go anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?”

I shift around so I’m facing him and try to be subtle about putting distance between us again. I lean back on my hands, my knees filling the void between us. “Tokyo.”

“Huh. I didn’t picture you for a big city guy.”

I shrug and nod at him. “Same question.”

“The Central Library in Vancouver. Reason one.” He holds up his thumb. “I get to visit another country without having to fly, reason two.” He holds up his forefinger. “I could spend my life there and never read all the books they have. Plus it looks like the Colosseum. Which I’ll never see. Because I hate planes.”

“You’re afraid of flying?” It’s my turn to try and hold back a laugh.

“I happen to have a healthy appreciation for how much it would hurt to plummet to my death.”

“Okay so what do you like?”

He considers the question for a moment. “Quesadillas, marine life, old school computer games … and you.” He shrugs like what he said was no big deal. Just a random list.

I try not to hide how awkwardly I swallow. “I guess you’re pretty cool too.”

He lets my lame reciprocation go. “So football … do you actually love it? Or is it one of those things where you tried it, you were good, and Mom and Dad were so proud you couldn’t give it up for fear of disappointing them?”

“Wow. That was oddly specific. Umm … no. It’s one of the ‘I’m an only child and my mom’s dead so Dad is proud of anything I do’ things.”

“Oh.” Tyler’s eyebrows jump up and it’s weird to see him caught by surprise. “I shouldn’t have pried.”

“Don’t worry about it. I was young, I barely remember her.”

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“No. Trust me, if I do, I won’t be much fun for the rest of the day. I mean … it’s hard to miss something you never had. And, well, it makes me feel a bit guilty.”

Tyler’s looking at me with so much sympathy it’s kind of hard to look away from. He reaches out and gives the spot just above my knee a squeeze. I feel it all the way up my leg.

“Okay, how many guys have you hooked up with?” He’s trying to take my mind off it and I’m so grateful.

“Umm … two. The first was the summer before I came out. It was kind of a confirmation, I guess. Sloppy and rushed. The second …” I rub at my mouth to try and hide the smile. “The second was last Christmas break. Dad and I went to a Christmas party with some of his work friends. I didn’t know the guy, and I know I’ll never see him again, and I think that’s what made it so hot.” I nod at him again. “Same question.”

“How many guys have I hooked up with? I can honestly say zero.” He catches my eye with a grin. “Sorry, Angus.”

He gets a laugh from me. “If you ever want to try it, you know where to find me.” I don’t know what makes me say the words but I immediately regret it. Maybe repressing my sexuality for so long isn’t the best idea.

“Noted.”

“Obviously I meant girls, you idiot.”

“In that case.” He frowns as he thinks. “Also zero.”

“No way.”

“I know. I struggle to believe it myself.”

“Do you ever get lonely?” I’m not sure where the question comes from.

Tyler’s serious when he answers. “Only all of the time. Mom and Dad are super busy, and I don’t really have any friends.”

“Except me.”

He lets loose his smile, all teeth and squinty eyes. “Except you.”

“It’s very possible you’re my only actual guy friend too. At least, the only one who doesn’t see me as the gay kid.”

“What do you mean?”

“I just have so be so careful around people. Honestly, it gets pretty exhausting, but it’s safer. Like, I can’t joke around with my teammates in case they think I’m coming on to them or something. I mean, I’m not an idiot, I wouldn’t set myself up to fail by falling for a straight guy.”

“Yet you just offered to hook up with me.”

My stomach clenches and he starts to laugh but I’m kind of uneasy about it. I’d meant it as a joke—obviously—but to him … it had been too easy to say. 


About the Author

S. M. James writes books for teens about squishy sweet characters.

While not writing, SM is a readaholic and Netflix addict who regularly lives on a sustainable diet of chocolate and coffee.

Unapologetically dishing out HEAs for LGBTQ characters.


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RELEASE BLITZ: “The Duke & The Dandy Highwayman Trilogy” by Zakarrie Clarke. £10 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway Included!


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Book Title: The Duke & The Dandy Highwayman Trilogy

Author: Zakarrie Clarke

Publisher: Self-published

Release Date: May 6, 2019

Genre/s: Historical M/M Romance (Regency), Comedy/Humour

Trope/s: Forbidden Love, Highwayman/Duke

Themes: Duty, Expectations of Society, Redemption Tale

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: approx. 100,000 words

It is a standalone story




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AVAILABLE FREE FOR A LIMITED TIME


 




Blurb

‘The Most High, Noble and Potent Prince, His Grace Padraic, Duke of Waterford.’


After enduring the Ducal Grand Entrance, one might be forgiven for thinking that an evening could only improve. One would be wrong. Padraic was then duty bound to find an amiable miss to romance and dance attendance upon. In truth, the Duke was rather more partial to establishments that promised charms he would ne’er find in the arms of a Lady. Such dalliances didadd a dash of decadence to his life of ducal drudgery, but time was tick-tocking and a blue-stocking bride must be wooed, and wed…

Raff of the Rookeries. The most afeared rake-hell to have haunted the highways since Darkin denied them the pleasure at the gallows…by stepping off the ladder before they could whip it from under his feet. Raff had fought his way up to rule the roost with instincts as razor-sharp as his dirk. His sword skills, fists, and wily wits had stood him in good stead, but none had proved as invaluable as the weapon he’d ne’er needed to tend. His fury. A rage every bit as lethal as arsenic—deadlier than brawn, brains, or bravado—Raphael had carried it like a toxic plague. Until, he became Raff of the Rookeries. Unleashed upon the underworld, it was the most formidable foe in London. Two men from two different worlds…a mere few miles apart. That is, until the fateful night when The Duke was halted in his tracks by a very Dandy Highwayman…


 


Excerpt

Mayhaps twenty minutes later, the air turned decidedly rank; a stench that came accompanied by random street sounds and the odd drunken shout. They were, beyond any shadow o’doubt, heading for some godforsaken part of town. A logical assumption, further embellished by the aroma of decaying cabbage and other, far less salubrious odors.

If the Devil himself intended to demoralize the poor, he could not find a means more agreeable to his plans, than the London slums.

“Nearly there, Yer Grace,” The scoundrel called over his shoulder as they slowed to a trot.

“Where is ‘there’?” Padraic dared to wonder.

“My humble abode. It’s where you’ll be staying awhile; leastways until someone coughs up for yer safe return.” The highwayman’s voice sounded harsher, colder while imparting this, as if his words were poisoned by the rancid air as they fell from his lips.

“Whereabouts are we?” Padraic asked, curious as to whether his rogue would answer.

“The Strand.”

It was as he’d expected. They were in the warren of narrow, filthy streets and alleyways in the densely populated slums. Home to one of London’s most notorious Rookeries. An utterly lawless labyrinth of squalid living, gin dens, bawdy houses, and brothels. Popular legend told of a traveller who had entered Portugal Street on his way to The Strand and never emerged. His ghost was, apparently, still searching for a way back to civilization. Padraic would just have to hope to fare rather better than he.

The Duke had e’er been horrified that people were forced to live this way, right under the refined noses of the ton. Poles apart, but virtually overlapping in proximity. Padraic had poured thousands into funding an orphanage and school for foundlings, when he came into his inheritance. He visited them oft, choosing the staff himself to ensure that no child was ill-treated, but there was only so much he could do. With all the will in the world, there wasn’t a great deal to be done, as long as those in power turned a blind eye to the suffering of others.

“Whoa…” When Demon clattered to a halt on the cobblestones, the Duke reluctantly relinquished his grip about his captor’s person. The scoundrel shifted in the saddle and with one sharp tug, the kerchief was gone, alongside a fair few strands of hair that were tangled into its knot. The Duke scarce felt the sting as his hungry gaze guzzled the sight it had been denied for the duration of the ride. ’Twas with a devilish wink that the highwayman threw a leg over the horse’s head, before lightly dismounting.

“Billy, m’lad!” He hailed a youth seated on the front steps of a large dilapidated townhouse, holding a lantern aloft. An endearing grin lit up his grimy face as he sprang to his feet.

“Yer all right, Raff?” he chirped, in very genuine cockney tones.

“Too right I am. We ’ave ourselves a guest m’friend. Yer Grace, this is Billy—he ain’t got another name—so I can’t tell yer that. Billy, this ’ere is His Grace, The Duke of Waterford, so yer better mind your p’s ’n’ q’s, like I taught yer.”

“Hello Billy, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” Padriac greeted him.

“Lawks! I can’t fink why, Yer…Grace?” Billy glanced at the man he’d called Raff, seeking reassurance for his form of address, and received an approving nod.

“I can’t think why ’twould not be.” Padraic smiled. Billy looked puzzled for a moment—as if trying to make sense of something he’d patently understood—then just beamed instead and reached for Demon’s halter.

“See that he’s rubbed down and well-fed, won’t you, Billy? I need to get our guest settled in.”

“Righto. C’mon Demon, let’s be ’avin yer, there’s oats awaiting and some fresh hay.”

“After you, Yer Grace…” The rascal sketched a bow, waving his hand with a flourish as he bent extravagantly low, before straightening up to push open the front door. It was painted black; blistered, peeling and desperately in need of a fresh coat. A large, dimly lit hallway lay beyond it, with a wide staircase ascending on the left.

“Raff! I’d almost given up ’ope on ya. Thought you’d gone a-whoring,” announced a stocky, bow-legged man, with close-cropped hair and forearms like lamb shanks. His broad grin revealed several missing teeth, the remaining ones having seen better days. Several decades ago.

Despite having tugged his kerchief down when they entered, Padraic was still unable to drink his fill of Raff’s face, for much of it was cast into shadow and the rest, obscured by a tangled fall of hair.

“Not tonight Bluff, I was off procuring us a guest,” he smirked.

“Crikey, you’ve nabbed a right nob. Who the ’ell is he?”

“This ’ere’s The Duke of Waterford.” Raff declared, inclining his head with divine insolence.

“Lawks! A Duke? Couldn’t yer find a Prince ’anging about then?” Bluff gaped.

“’Fraid not, we’ll just ’ave to slum it…” Raff tutted, with a fulsome sigh.

“I hope yer don’t expect me t’curtsy. I ain’t got the legs for it.”

“You ain’t got the legs for owt except sitting on ’orseback,” Raff retorted, about a breath before his tone darkened to a deadly rasp. “Bluff. See to it that no one. But no one. Lays a finger on him.” He added nary a dire threat, nor had he raised his voice. Raff had, in fact, lowered it to a lethal lash of sound that sliced the air like a whip—but it was the glint of green he levelled at Bluff that made the man swallow visibly while nodding several times.

“Will do, Raff. He’ll fetch a pretty price, won’t he?”

“Too bloody right, he will. I’ll have to keep him up top with me—Duke he might be—but he ain’t above being too ripe and ready by ’alf.”

“A dark ’orse is he? I ain’t at all surprised, now you mention it. Beggin’ yer pardon, Yer Dukeness. Right, I’ll just wait for Billy an’ lock up then.”

“Thanks, Bluff. ’Night.”

“’Night Raff…’night yer Dukeness.” Bluff doffed an imaginary cap at Padraic, who inclined his head with ducal gravity, so as not to disappoint him. The amiable miscreant was chuckling away to himself as he took his leave of them, before disappearing through a door further down the hallway.

“Right then, Yer Grace, up yer go. Right to the top,” Raff instructed, gesturing towards the staircase with a regal sweep of his hand.

“Are you locking me in the attic?” Padraic asked, as he clasped the bannister.

“I am, indeed. Yer can’t get up to any mischief up there.”

The Duke thought it might be wise to hold his tongue and make his way upstairs, afore the scoundrel decided to shove him in the coal cellar instead. Padraic’s brain was abuzz with demon steeds, daft monikers, and bandy-legged blackguards. A boy with only one name and a heart of gold.



About the Author 

After moving to London at eighteen and flitting about for far too long, Zakarrie settled, as blissy as can be, by the sea. ’Twas here that her castaway dreams resurfaced and she began to write; stories that are, in truth, better at being her than she’s ever been. Her one hope now is that someone, somewhere, will enjoy the misadventures of her miscreants as much as she loves writing them.


 


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