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Champagne Kisses by J.R. Loveless Blog Tour Guest Post with Excerpt

Valentine’s Day is a time for many of us to celebrate with our significant other, whether it is our lover, husband, wife, whomever it is that shares our lives and our hearts. There are many things we relate this holiday with; flowers, champagne, candlelit dinners, and even making love.
What many may be surprised to know is that the root of the holiday comes from ancient Rome and a festival called Lupercalia. The festival was a fertility celebration held annually on February 15th. But in 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius recast the pagan festival as a Christian feast day and changed it to February 14th, declaring it to be St. Valentine’s Day.
Personally the festival name makes me think of shapeshifters! Maybe this is where mpreg shifter romances were born? Kidding, of course. But it’s definitely interesting history!
In my newest release, Champagne Kisses, Sam Evans is looking forward to spending the holiday with his lover only to be disappointed when his boyfriend ditches him for work. Who wouldn’t be depressed and upset over such a thing? But Sam isn’t quite prepared for the surprise that awaits him after he closes up shop after work.

Blurb:
Their date cancelled on the most romantic day of the year, Sam Evans feels betrayed by Dean, who often puts work before their relationship. Brooding about his lover’s lack of commitment toward him, he leaves work early only to be stunned by what awaits him outside the door.
Excerpt:

February 14th, 3:05 P.M.

Sam Evans stared broodingly out of the window of the small bookstore he worked at part time. There were little to no customers in the shop and he couldn’t be more thankful. His spirit was definitely not in the mood for being people-friendly. All he wanted to do at the moment was wallow in self pity. How could Dean do this to him?

“I’m sorry, Sam, but it’s a really big case. We can’t afford to miss anything or he could walk.”

“But it’s Valentine’s Day! You can’t take a few hours off to spend it with me?”

“I’ll make it up to you. I promise. I’ve gotta go. I’ll call you later.”

Click

Damn him! Sam scowled even harder. Six months they’d been together and Dean still put his work over their relationship. Sometimes he wondered if it was even worth it, but then he’d remember how sweet and sexy the man could be and his anger would dissipate until the next time Dean would cancel a date or break plans they’d made together. He loved him and couldn’t imagine spending his life with someone else, but if things didn’t change soon, he wasn’t sure how much longer he could deal with it. Though Dean had no idea how deep his feelings went. They’d never used the big L word and Sam would be damned if he said it first with how things were between them.

He hadn’t even gotten Dean anything for Valentine’s Day. Because if they weren’t going to spend it together, what was the point of getting him a gift? Maybe he’d even done it a little bit out of pettiness and disappointment. Okay, it was true. He’d been selfish and hadn’t wanted to think about buying something for Dean because he was mad and because it depressed him even more to think about spending the holiday, meant for lovers to be together, alone.

Sam thought back to the first time they’d met and flushed at how clumsy he could be at times. His best friend and confidante, Aaron Beckinridge, had opened a catering business a little over a year before he met Dean. Sam could still hear Aaron’s excitement when he’d found out he’d gotten the gig for a huge charity dinner party for some of the big wigs at City Hall. A few hours before the event, Aaron called Sam in a tizzy because he was short-handed and needed a body to help fill in. He’d begged Sam and despite Sam’s many attempts to wiggle out of the obligation, Aaron managed to back him into a corner until Sam reluctantly agreed. He’d never been entirely comfortable in social settings, but at least he wouldn’t be expected to make polite chit chat or entertain anyone.

At first, the party had been dull, a bunch of stuffed shirts bragging about their latest wins in the courtroom or their golf handicap. As the night wore on, Sam wandered through the crowd holding a tray of champagne glasses while attempting to entertain himself by making up stories about the attendees. One overweight man who brayed like a donkey and sweated like a pig reminded him of the arrogant, selfish Duke in one of his stories. A seemingly straight-laced blonde woman in a tight black dress would have made the perfect gold digging Black Widow. He made mental notes of everything to work into his stories, including some of the decorations and food from the evening.

In the midst of his imaginings someone bumped his arm causing the tray to over balance. One of the champagne flutes tipped and spilled all over a pair of expensive-looking black patent leather shoes. Sam immediately apologized and looked up into the most breathtaking hazel-green eyes he’d ever seen. His voice failed him.

Easily six foot four, the man towered over Sam’s mere five-nine. The severe cut of the tuxedo clung to the stranger’s lightly muscular physique in all the right places. Short light brown hair swept back from the man’s features accentuated the strong jawline and firm rounded chin with a slight cleft in it. Sam’s mouth dried out in desire and he swallowed hard, attempting to find his voice once more. He shoved a strand of his almost shoulder-length dirty blond hair behind one ear nervously.

“No worries. I hated these shoes anyway,” the man drawled amusedly, his full lips lifting in an almost smirk.

Sam snapped out of his daze and blushed. “I’ll get something to clean it up with,” he mumbled and threaded his way toward the kitchen at the back of the mansion to grab a towel. Rushing back out, he saw that the attractive guy had disappeared and fought off disappointment as he cleaned up the spilled drink. He didn’t delude himself into thinking the man could possibly be gay. If he was a guest at the party, it meant he was a lawyer and he hadn’t heard of many gay lawyers, if any at all, in this city.
Sighing, he went back into the kitchen, dropped the rag on the counter and decided to take his break. “Hey, Aaron, I’m going to get some fresh air.”

Aaron waved him off, shouting instructions at one of his regular waiters. Sam walked out of the back door leading onto a large balcony overlooking a huge, well-kept garden, which no doubt cost more than he made in a year. He breathed in the night air deeply as he moved to the railing and leaned against it, his hands resting on the cold cement. He tilted his head to stare up at the bright half-moon overhead while berating himself for being so inept. The man probably thought him an utter disaster. Frowning, he shook his head and tried to dislodge the stranger from his mind. Why should he care? After tonight, he’d never see the man again anyway.

He sighed once more. He wanted to be home, surrounded by his books and working on his latest novel. At least there he didn’t have to worry about making a fool of himself. Books aren’t concerned with what you look like or how you act. What he loved most about books was that they were places to lose yourself in. Somewhere you could hide from the cruelty of the real world and become a sexy, brilliant detective or a suave, confident prince who could have anyone they wanted, go anywhere they wanted and they never embarrassed themselves. It was why he loved working for A Book Nook, his usual day job. Most customers who came in were like him, looking for an escape from their lives. His own novels weren’t main-stream, but he made enough to be comfortable working part time and writing.

“I always did detest these kind of parties,” a deep, sexy voice disrupted his thoughts and Sam jumped, turning to look at the owner. The man he’d spilled the drink on stood a few feet away from him. He’d been so wrapped up in his thoughts, a bad habit mind you, that he hadn’t even known the guy was there. How long had he been watching him? The butterflies in his stomach kicked up once more and he could only nod in response to the stranger’s comment before turning back to staring at the stars and moon. Sam tensed when the guy approached and leaned onto the railing near him. He could feel the warmth radiating from his closeness and bit his bottom lip.

“I’m going to guess this isn’t your usual gig either.”

Sam shook his head, still finding his voice locked in his throat.

The stranger hummed. “If I hadn’t heard you apologize earlier I’d wonder if you were mute.”

“No,” Sam murmured. “I can talk.”

“Ah, there’s his voice,” the man teased gently, tilting his head toward Sam.

“I’m really very sorry about your shoes,” Sam apologized again, glancing at him out of the corner of his eye.

“I told you don’t worry about it. I have several pair like these and between you, me and the flowers, I’d rather go barefoot.” One hazel-green eye winked at him.

Sam blushed and swallowed hard, his fingers curling into half-fists on the railing. His chest tightened almost painfully. He’d never been very good at idle conversation. Even as a child, he’d found it hard to open up to strangers. It took forever for him to make friends, but once he did, he allowed himself to let go and show more of his true self to them. “Well… um…”

“Dean Saunders,” the guy offered.

The man’s name was as hot as the package. Sam managed to force himself to reply. “Sam Evans.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Sam,” Dean said holding out his hand.

Sam stared at Dean’s manicured fingernails uncertainly for several breaths.

Dean chuckled lightly. “I’m not going to bite, you know.”

Sam’s blush deepened at his social ineptitude and he placed his hand in Dean’s, shaking it briefly. When he pulled away, he felt Dean’s fingers trail over his palm and shivered at the almost caress-like touch. “I… uh… should be getting back to work,” Sam mumbled, pushing away slightly from the balustrade.

“Stay,” Dean cajoled. “I could use the company and I’m sure your break is a lot longer than five minutes.”

He gave a brief nod at Dean and relaxed against the banister. Nibbling on his lower lip, Sam focused on the fountain in the center of the garden, watching the way the water sprayed into the air before raining down to the surface. Dean shifted beside him and turned, leaning his elbows on the railing and tipped his head back to gaze up at the stars.

“So when you aren’t serving stuffed shirts at a party, what do you like to do, Sam?” Dean asked casually.

“Oh, this isn’t my usual job,” Sam protested. “I was just helping out my friend Aaron. He was short staffed and asked me to help out. I’m actually… I work for a bookstore.” He’d never felt comfortable telling others that he was a professional novelist. Most people took it as him bragging, or at least he thought it seemed they did. Although Aaron would always tell him to stop being so modest and to brag all he wanted, that becoming a published author was a huge accomplishment. Sam still felt as though he was showing off when he talked about it.

Dean gave the lop-sided grin Sam was beginning to see as his signature smile. “That suits you more than this place.”

Sam frowned, his brow furrowing. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It wasn’t meant as an insult,” Dean assured him. “I just meant that you seem like the type who prefers more casual environments rather than all this.” He gestured toward the mansion and the party inside.

Eyeing Dean, Sam debated on whether to accept the man’s words at face value, but figured it wasn’t worth challenging since he didn’t know him well enough to be certain Dean was being rude. “And what about you? Do you prefer casual or all this?” Sam tossed back, waving his hand similarly to Dean.

Dean shrugged. “I like being where I can be myself. The only reason I attend these parties is to meet shy, handsome waiters with gorgeous brown eyes.”

At first, Sam felt a warm flush race over his skin, but then he thought about Dean’s words and scowled, shoving away from the rail, the happy glow gone. “You don’t have to mock me.”

He spun around to go back inside except Dean grabbed his wrist, stopping him. He kept his back to Dean, trying to tug his hand out of Dean’s grip. “I’m sorry, Sam. I wasn’t mocking you. I’m afraid my flirting skills are a bit rusty.”

Sam stopped struggling and turned enough to be able to see Dean. Flirting?

“Give me another chance, please?” Dean asked softly, his grip loosening and his thumb rubbing across the smooth skin on Sam’s inner wrist. “I’d like to take you to dinner.”

His fear of being hurt as he had been in his last relationship kept him from accepting immediately. He’d remained single for five years because he didn’t want to ever go through the same pain again. Aaron constantly told him he needed to stop letting his past keep him from finding love, but it was easier to say than do. It was kind of like when you fell off a horse and were afraid to get back on. The longer you went without returning to the saddle, the stronger the hold your fears have on you. Several breaths went by before Sam replied. “I… I don’t know.”

Dean straightened away from the balcony railing and leaned closer to Sam, his fingers still loosely circling Sam’s wrist. “Take a chance, Sam. One date and if you aren’t convinced by the end that I’m a good guy, you don’t have to see me again.”

Sam hesitated again and Dean reached up with his free hand to brush a strand of Sam’s hair back from his face. “One dinner. That’s all I’m asking.”

Taking a small leap of faith, Sam decided one dinner couldn’t hurt, so he said yes. One date turned into two, then three, and finally on the seventh date Sam allowed Dean to seduce him. In the last six months, they’d been doing fairly well despite the multiple times Dean cancelled one of their dates to work on a case. Sam knew Dean wanted to help people and worked hard to do so, but he couldn’t deny it still stung that Dean would rather be at work than with him. This Valentine’s Day ditch was the hardest of them all. Why couldn’t Dean find at least a couple of hours to spend with him? Didn’t he want to? Or was Dean tiring of him already?

 Sam regularly battled his fears and anxieties. His ex-boyfriend had left behind a lot of scars. Not physically, but emotionally. At the end, when the reality of how long the relationship had been dead sank in, Sam hadn’t wanted to accept it at first because it would mean the three years spent together meant nothing and he’d still been desperately clinging to the hope that they could work it out. Over the course of time since the breakup, he’d come to realize just how one-sided their relationship had been; the emotional and mental abuse, the way his ex would try to change him and mold him into what he thought was acceptable, and the way he’d used him until the very end. Dean had shown him even more just how wrong everything had been.

Sighing, Sam heard his boss, Marla, come out of the back room. “What are you so mopey about?” she asked, raising an eyebrow as she set a box of books on the front counter. She was one of his closest friends, right up there with Aaron, and knew him fairly well. More than once she’d helped him with his problems. When she’d found out he was seeing Dean, she’d fairly squealed in excitement and demanded all of the details. At the age of fifty-two, Marla had been married and widowed, had two adult children over the age of eighteen, and spent most of her waking hours running the bookstore. Sam had been trying to get her to go out more, to date, but she’d just laugh and say, “Sam, my late husband was the love of my life. No one will ever be able to give me back what I lost and I really don’t need to go on a bunch of bad dates to tell me that.”

He bent further over the counter and watched her cutting the tape on the box. “Dean’s stuck on a case and won’t be able to spend Valentine’s Day with me.”

Marla chuckled while opening the box and beginning to remove the books in it for stocking. “Child, if people only expressed their love for one another one day a year, there’d be a lot less marriages in this world. Dean loves you and that’s all that matters.”

Sam frowned. “He hasn’t told me he loves me.”

Marla stopped what she was doing and put her hand on her hip, shaking her head. “You seriously can’t tell me that you haven’t noticed how head over heels for you that man is, can you? I’ve seen the way he looks at you when he picks you up. It’s like he’s seeing his very first sunrise and it leaves him breathless.”

Sam ducked his head bashfully for a minute before peeking up at his boss. “You really think so?”

“I know so, hon.” Marla reached out and patted his hand lightly. “Tell him how you feel, Sam. You might just be surprised.”

He nodded as she went back to stocking the recent shipment on the shelves. Was Marla right? Should he just tell Dean he loved him?

“It’s a little slow today so we’re closing up shop a bit early, hon.” Marla looked at her watch. “Instead of eight, let’s call it at five, okay?”
“Sure thing, Marla.” Not that he had anywhere important to be.

Buy Links:
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/703779
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06X17KWG9

Find Me Here:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjrloveless
Twitter: https://twitter.com/jrloveless
Blogger: http://jrloveless.blogspot.com/
Website: http://www.jrloveless.com

Bio
J.R. Loveless is an avid fan, reader and writer of anything pertaining to male/male romance. She started out her adventure into the genre in 2004 when she discovered the anime Loveless, a softer side of Yaoi. The moment she saw Loveless, it sucked her in and hasn’t let go since.

After Loveless, she voraciously searched for anything she could find within the anime world pertaining to Yaoi and Shounen-Ai. She found Gravitation, Princess Princess, Gakuen Heaven, Junjou Romantica and so much more. As she searched for the different animes available, she stumbled across an amazing forum that to this day she is more than ever thankful she found.

J.R. currently has several works in progress and several more ideas on the slow cooker. Ideas come to her out of the blue, a lyric in a song, a line in a movie, or just out of nowhere while she’s standing in the shower. She loves to make up her own stories, to follow her heart, and to write things her way because she loves a happy ending.
She is always thankful for all of her followers on AarinFantasy and for all of the wonderful people who read her stories. Please feel free to send her an email or to drop her a note on Facebook. She will always try to respond, even if it isn’t right away.

Guest Post by R. Phoenix: Why I Wrote Too Close

The question I’m being asked a fair bit is “why did you write this story?” This is probably one of the most complicated questions I’ve ever been asked, and the answer changed every step of the way. First of all, let me start by letting you know there are trigger warnings regarding domestic abuse and violence in the book and potentially in this blog post.

When I sat down to write this book, I didn’t expect it to be anything special. I thought it would join the ever-increasing collection of shitty first lines, first paragraphs, and first chapters that have been abandoned on the desolate wasteland of my Google Drive. For a long time, its title was something like “Contemporary Thing.”

I rewrote the first page and a half six times before it ever hit editing. I spent hours on three paragraphs. I erased them. I rewrote. I erased that. (You get the point.) I contemplated dropping it. But somewhere down the line, I figured out what I was writing — and I realized it was special, which both made the journey easier and more difficult.

Too Close isn’t autobiographical, but it is grounded in reality — in my reality, and in other people’s. Abuse touches so many people’s lives, directly or indirectly, but it isn’t something we talk about. There are so many reasons why, but in my experience, it has come down to one basic truth: it’s complicated.

In another world, it would be simple. One partner would perform a specific action, and the other would leave. But in reality, there are other factors: love, fear, children, finances, nowhere to go. Many people who are abused have been slowly but systematically isolated from friends and family, and they don’t know what to do.

Another question I’ve been asked is, “What message are you trying to send with this book?” By contrast, the answer to this one is simple: I didn’t consciously set out to send a message. I know that probably sounds ridiculous, considering the element of abuse, but I didn’t know what I was trying to tell people.

I can’t dictate or predict what readers will take away from this book. Maybe they’ll get an idea of how complicated abuse is in practice and how many factors can suspend someone in an unhealthy relationship. Maybe they’ll think I didn’t villainize the abuser enough or that I villainized him too much. Maybe they’ll think that Skylar is too innocent and too blameless or maybe they’ll think he’s weak, whiny, or spoiled.

Maybe they’ll just laugh at my gloriously terrible puns and carry on without it affecting them at all.

I wouldn’t mind a shift away from the knee jerk, “I’d never let myself be abused…!” Because that shame is part of the reason I don’t — didn’t — talk about my experiences. I realized after I finished Too Close that I could count how many people knew I’d been in an abusive relationship. I could even more easily count how many people knew any details. Over a decade later, I could definitively tell you who I’ve told. Until now — and maybe even now — it was too taboo, uncomfortable, unwelcome, shameful.

The stigma has to be lifted, and the need to remain silent and alone has to be addressed.

No one deserves to be abused. No matter what. And if you’re in an abusive situation — even if it seems hopeless, if you feel helpless, there are options. Spoiler alert? Unlike Skylar, I didn’t have a hot math teacher to get out of my situation, and I didn’t have a dependent younger sibling to be strong for. So take heart from that: this is fiction, and some of it is what I wish had happened instead of what actually did.

You are strong. You are worthy. You can break free. You may not believe it right now, but you deserve better. There are people who will help you.

In the end, I’ve rambled at you for several paragraphs to tell you the answer: the reason why I wrote this book is every bit as complicated as the reason why people stay in abusive relationships.

National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence: http://www.ncdsv.org/ncd_linkswominternational.html

Blurb:

Skylar Orion’s life has been complicated ever since his mother abandoned him and his sister Evie. Making ends meet seemed impossible until Tate Chandler took them in — his knight in shining armor who promised to make life about more than just surviving. But Tate is not the man he seemed to be, and even his whispered I love yous and generous gifts do little to soothe the pain he causes. Knowing he can’t give his sister all that she deserves without Tate, Skylar stays with him, relying on bad puns and a worse sense of humor to keep up the charade.

He will do anything for his sister, even if that means acting the responsible adult and going back to his old high school to meet Dexter Weston, the hot math teacher who can make even algebra interesting. Sparks fly between the two of them, but with his dependence on Tate, Skylar isn’t free to follow his heart. He wants what is best for Evie, but can he pass up the chance to find love that heals instead of harms?

Warning: This book contains scenes of domestic abuse and violence that some may find triggering to read.

Get it from Amazon

Bio:

R. Phoenix has an unhealthy fascination with contrasts: light and dark, heroes and villains, order and chaos. She believes that love can corrupt and power can redeem. Her muse is a sadomasochistic slave driver who thinks it’s terribly amusing to give her the best ideas when she just got comfortable and warm in bed, and she passes on that torture to her readers. She also tries entirely too hard to be funny, and she mercilessly inflicts her terrible sense of humor upon anyone who speaks to her. She’d love it if you’d say hello!

Social Media Links:

Website: http://rphoenixbooks.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/RaissaPhoenix
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/r.phoenix
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/raissaphoenix

Phantom Lover: The Saga of the Lonely Life of a Kumu Hula (Hula Master) by A.J. Llewellyn

phantomEight years ago, I was visiting Lahaina, Maui when I encountered a painting in a gallery window on Front Street. The painting was called Spirit Lover and it captivated me and has held me in its grip ever since. In it, a young woman is in the arms of a powerful-looking Hawaiian man. He is striking. Solid. Masculine. He is all-consuming.
He is also a ghost.
During the day, the spirit lover’s body disappears below the waist. At night, in certain light, his bottom half reappears. I was fascinated by the painting and since I was staying nearby I kept coming to look at the painting day and night. And then an idea formed in my mind. The young man managing the gallery noticed me one morning he tried to interest me in buying the painting but I didn’t happen to have thousands of dollars loitering in my wallet.
But, as he lifted the painting out of the window and took it inside for me to look at it under special lights, I realized how magical that painting was and I could have wept for not having the money to buy it.
It gave me an idea, though. When I returned to my holiday house, I began work on Phantom Lover and created the story of a local hula master posing for a painting. I named him Kimo Wilder and he became real to me. No. He was larger than life to me. I have no idea where the story came from but a few days later I met a real hula dancer in Lahaina and he was training at a local halau, hula school, and he invited me to come and watch.
I met some wonderful teachers and dancers through him. I learned so much that I never knew about hula. For example, learning hula takes many, many years and requires great sacrifice. Dancers spend a long time away from their families to prepare for competition. It sometimes feels like they are preparing for battle.
Many young children in the islands are taught from an early age. In some areas, the children live with their teachers and fellow students in special schools. They are taught secrets about their culture that are taught by word of mouth since there was no written language until the missionaries came to the islands in the 1800s. The children’s talent is noticed at a young age.
Some hula is very painful, such as one performed on the knees. I watched as young girls cried rehearsing a long dance devoted to the goddess Hina (moon goddess), but they loved the dance. Loved the pain.
For a long time, Hawaiian language, music, dance, and literature were banned in the island state’s schools. Today, a huge movement is holding strong and the artists of the Hawaiian culture no longer practice in secret. The more I learned the more I wanted to know about the Hawaiian culture that it became more important than ever for me to create a character that was authentic to its religion and philosophy. Many of those friendships are still important to me today. I have maintained those ties and cherish them and still continue to learn the role of the male hula dancer in the world yesterday and today.
Hula dancers are storytellers.
They have in their hands and feet the heartbeat of their culture, the history, and their songs. The hula dancer conveys so much with the mere twitch of a finger, which is why people always say “keep your eyes on the hula dancer’s hands.”
I know I always do!
Here is a synopsis of Phantom Lover. It’s the first of 16 books in my series, which I am re-releasing through The Pele Press.
The rest will be coming soon. Once they are all released, I will be writing more. I am giving away 2 copies of the ebook, AND a copy of the audio book to two lucky readers so please post a comment telling me what you think of male dancers…and what do you think of hula?

Phantom Lover by A.J. Llewellyn

Purchase Link:
https://www.amazon.com/Phantom-Lover-Book-J-Llewellyn-ebook/dp/B01KCVLGNQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1471830514&sr=8-1&keywords=phantom+lover+a.j.+llewellyn#nav-subnav

Synopsis:

Hawaiian hula dancer Bobby Kikawa has deep fantasies about the alluring, mysterious Kimo Wilder, a gifted kahuna and kumu hula, a hula master. He becomes even more fixated after Kimo poses for an erotic painting called Phantom Lover. He plans to seduce Kimo even though the man is straight, married and known for his extreme loyalty to his wife. 

Alone on a hot night after dance rehearsal on the big island of Hawaii, Bobby manages to persuade Kimo to let him service his neglected, extremely hungry passions. When the young dancer awakens a part of Kimo that nobody else ever has, Bobby both fears and welcomes the incredible power Kimo has over him. The legendary dancer inserts himself into Bobby’s life, but not everyone is happy about their burgeoning romance. 

Things go from one extreme to another with interference from family and friends. Are the men prepared to sacrifice everything for each other? Their red-hot fling threatens not only Kimo’s marriage but Bobby’s sanity when he discovers Kimo is a “Keeper of Secrets” in the Hawaiian culture…a man born of fire and hidden, taboo, dark magic the ancient Hawaiians called Lua. 

NOTE: This book was previously published. This reissued version of the book has been re-edited.

A.J. Llewellyn is the author of over 200 M/M romance novels, who was born in Australia, and lives in Los Angeles. An early obsession with Robinson Crusoe led to a lifelong love affair with islands, particularly Hawaii and Easter Island.
Being marooned once on Wedding Cake Island in Australia cured her of a passion for fishing, but led to a plotline for a novel. A.J.’s friends live in fear because even the smallest details of their lives usually wind up in her stories. A.J. has a desire to paint, draw, juggle, work for the FBI, walk a tightrope with an elephant, be a chess champion, a steeplejack, master chef, and a world-class surfer. She can’t do any of these things so she writes about them instead.
A.J. I started life as a journalist and boxing columnist, and still enjoys interrogating, er, interviewing people to find out what makes them tick.
Friend me/Find me:
email: ajllewellyn@gmail.com
website: http://www.ajllewellyn.com
http://www.facebook.com/aj.llewellyn
http://www.twitter.com/ajllewellyn
Newsletter sign-up: ajllewellynnewsletter@gmail.com – each month I give away a free ebook!
I’m an app! Download my FREE A.J. Llewellyn App for Android here: http://tinyurl.com/lkbc4wm

Rival Poet by Ingela Bohm with Guest Post and Excerpt

Kimi pic 3In hindsight, I guess it was inevitable. You don’t invite someone like Christopher Marlowe into your book without paying the price. Like his Doctor Faustus who sold his soul to the devil, I sold mine to Kit, and from that moment on I didn’t have one iota of control over my own story.
Kimi pic 2But hey, I was happy to hand over the reins. Kit charmed me as surely as he charmed Will. He had an irresistible combination of confidence and vulnerability that intrigued me. He said what he thought without fear, and yet he could keep a secret for decades. He was open about his orientation, allegedly saying things like “All they that love not tobacco and boys are fools”, even though at the time, this could get him hanged.
In Rival Poet, when Will is drawn in by Kit’s charisma, he thinks it’s just ordinary friendship. He thinks it’s just nervousness about meeting a famous playwright, even after half a year of getting to know the man. And when Kit tries to seduce him, he has no idea how to handle it. There’s no positive name for what he’s feeling – sodomite is the go-to term – and no clear-cut identity to wear.
And yet with time, Will does accept it. In some of his plays and poems, he even refers to same Kimi picsex attraction. When old enemies Coriolanus and Marcius meet under more auspicious circumstances, Marcius bursts out, “Know thou first, I loved the maid I married: never man sigh’d truer breath. But that I see thee here, thou noble thing, more dances my rapt heart than when I first saw her bestride my threshold.”
That doesn’t sound entirely straight to me. Of course, we should be wary of reading authors into their characters, but in this case it’s just too darn tempting.
Take this sonnet:

A woman’s face with Nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman’s gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women’s fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Much steals men’s eyes and women’s souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure,
Mine be thy love and thy love’s use their treasure.

Now, literature analysis is a many-splendoured thing, and no one person has the definite answer. But I think we can agree that the narrator compares the subject of the poem to a woman – he has a feminine face, gentle manners, and glittery eyes (aww…). Everyone adores him, regardless of gender. To begin with, he was even meant to be a woman, but when Nature fell in love with her own creation, she decided to make him a man.
And this is where it gets interesting. The narrator laments, “And by addition me of thee defeated, by adding one thing to my purpose nothing.” In other words, Nature added a cock to the mix, thus making the guy off limits.
Oh, but wait! “Nothing” was also slang for female genitalia at the time, so there could be a double meaning in there: namely, that said cock could serve the same purpose for the narrator as a woman’s bits.
Finally, in case the reader hasn’t yet caught the drift, the next to last line makes a pun, saying that Nature “prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure”. Need any help translating that? Filthy-minded bastard, that Will guy.
Now, I’m not saying this poem is about Kit or anything, not at all. What I am saying is that Kimi pic 4Shakespeare could identify with men who were attracted to men. Personally, I’m convinced that he was bisexual, but that’s just speculation. Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, since we don’t really know anything about the man.
But the fact is, when I researched this book, I read a lot of Marlowe (Shakespeare I was already familiar with), and I was amazed at all the little echoes in their texts. Some people would argue that it was really Marlowe who wrote Shakespeare’s works (which I think is nonsense for reasons too numerous to list here). You could also argue that those echoes are just evidence of two professionals paying homage to and/or stealing from each other.
But how much more romantic is the idea that they were entwined soul to soul, their innermost thoughts reflected in each other, and that they wrote their plays in bed as an extension of their love-making?
Which is exactly what you get in Rival Poet. 😉

Paper, quill, & ink lit by candle

Paper, quill, & ink lit by candle

Blurb:

Even a genius can be a fool in love.

When young Will Shaksper arrives in London to peddle his poems, he has no idea what he’s in for. Meaning to stay for just a few days, he’s thrown completely off course when he meets Kit Marlowe. Charismatic and dangerous, this wunderkind of verse takes an eager interest in the newcomer. Before Will knows it, their shared passion for poetry has transformed into an attraction as irresistible as it is forbidden.
Because this is the sixteenth century. Love between men isn’t just frowned on, it can lead to the gallows. When Kit is called away on a state mission, Will does his best to suppress the feelings he doesn’t even have a name for.
But how can he write when his muse is gone? Why does Kit keep disappearing? And what’s the awful secret that makes his eyes echo with a lifetime of pain?

A fresh look at two of England’s brightest literary stars, this romance blends the authentic mood of Elizabethan London with contemporary dialogue to paint a love story that’s as alive today as it was four hundred years ago.

Excerpt:

“Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?” His eyes searched Will’s face curiously, and for a moment Will was hit by the ridiculous thought that his poems had somehow preceded him, that rumour of his rejected writings had reached this man, this shooting star, this paragon of writers. But almost at once he realised that the question wasn’t to be taken literally. It was a pick-up line – a parody of a pick-up line, and therefore impossible to respond to without making an ass of himself.
He stared at the smirking man. “I-I know you,” he stammered stupidly, snippets of Amores and Dido clouding his brain.
Beside him Richard shifted, embarrassed. “Burbage.” He clasped Master Marlowe’s hand, or rather the two fingers not currently employed in elegantly balancing the pipe.
Marlowe smiled briefly. “I know.”
Richard looked stricken for a moment. “Oh, er… I’m, well I’m honoured, Sir – I mean…” His customary cool seemed to have been completely sucked out of him. “Ah… please meet my very good friend William Shakespeare.” He gestured towards Will, apparently eager to deflect the attention.
“Charmed, I’m sure.” Their new acquaintance laid his pipe on the table and enveloped Will’s hand with both of his. They were seething hot and Will almost yanked his hand back. “And please, call me Kit. All my little friends do.” He glanced at the confused trio still waiting for him in the corner.
“I’m such a fan,” Will blurted.
Obviously delighted at the praise, Kit pulled up a chair and sat down. Only when his hand dragged Will down with him did Will realise that he was still holding it. “So… you’re an aspiring dramatist, then?”
“Oh, I… no… well, that is…”
“Never mind.” Kit finally let go of Will’s hand and grabbed Richard’s mug. Realising that it was empty, he set it down again in vague disappointment. “Where are you from? You’re obviously not a Londoner.”
“Stratford.”
“Stratford?”
“Upon-Avon.”
“Never heard of it. Hah! So much for a university degree.” Kit lit his pipe again, seemingly in need of something to do with his hands. “Well, nothing of value was ever taught in such a ridiculous place. Come to think of it, maybe they did mention domestic geography at some point, but education and alcohol really is a detrimental combination! You can’t have one without the other, and yet one innocent drink takes away the whole performance. So, Stratford… a shit-hole, no doubt?”
“On the contrary,” Will protested. “It’s a beautiful place. I was reluctant to leave.”
Kit grinned broadly and slapped Will’s back. “Spoken like a true gentleman! Never let on how much in love you are with the big city, you might come across as a simpleton. Wax lyrical about the unpolluted countryside instead, and you’re automatically in, eh Robert?” He winked at one of his abandoned friends. The one presumably named Robert, a thin man with a straggly red beard, muttered something inaudible in reply. Kit immediately lost interest and turned to Will again. “You should work on that accent, though.”
“Wh… what’s wrong with it?”
“It’s bloody incomprehensible, that’s what’s wrong with it! You don’t think I got to where I am by speaking like a Canterbury ale taster, do you?”
Despite himself, Will chuckled. It was difficult not to be contaminated by Kit’s exuberant manner.
“Hey, you written anything I might know?”
Will hesitated. Was he being ironic again? “Well… not really… I’ve put together some poems, but…”
Kit snorted. “Poems! Stop right there, darling. Your shoes are growing too small for your feet by the minute, and you know it. Poetry and la-di-dah is all very well, but the theatre, now that is the future.”
Will smiled tentatively. “I can see why you’d say that.”
“Setting aside my own glorious self for a minute, think about it: not everyone can read. But even the most down and out hooker has ears, and they flock to the play-houses like simpering lords to Rhenish wine. As a playwright, you have the ear of the entire city – fuck it, you have the ear of the Queen herself! And a soliloquy is poetry in its own right. Only, getting your poetry read aloud by an artiste like Edward Alleyne… not to demean you, sir,” he looked briefly in the direction of Richard, “… that just makes it so much… grander! It’s almost better than sex.”
Will nodded slowly, his mind awash with images of said Alleyne tearing the stage apart in his bloodied shirt. But he didn’t dare compliment Master Marlowe – Kit – on his intimidating talents, for fear of being taunted. Instead he mumbled, “I don’t have the imagination.”
Kit shook his head impatiently. “Don’t be stupid. Stories are ten a penny. It’s what you do with them that counts. It’s all the same crap anyway, life and love and death, blah blah blah. Use whatever’s around, that’s what we all do.”
“Yeah, but…”
“Look, when people just buy and read your stuff, you never get to see how your words seduce them. Wouldn’t you like to hear the sea-surge of applause?”
Will felt the dangerous tug of Kit’s imagery and protected himself with feigned annoyance. “I’m sure it’s all very exhilarating, but I’m quite serious when I say that I can only write poetry.”
Kit hesitated, and then shrugged. “So what? We’re the makers of manners, puppy. And verse makes for excellent crutches. That’s why you begin by writing speeches.”
What’s it to you? Will wanted to ask. Instead he said, “I just don’t know how to translate the stories that I love into dialogue. I read something and I’m inspired, you know, but when I try to write, it comes out poetry. I can’t bridge the gap. I can make poetry out of stories, but I can’t make stories out of poetry.”
Kit smiled. “That’s just the kind of phrase that makes me wish you could. You have the art of rhetoric down pat – God knows how you’ve managed to pick that up from your provincial education! All you have to do is push the boat out, and I’m here to help you with that.”
Will frowned at his assailant. Just a few minutes ago, he had been wilting like a dead man in his lonely corner, for all the world like someone who had just lost his whole fortune, and now he was a veritable river of words. “Why do you care anyway?”
Kit looked stricken, but just for a moment. “Well… why did you want to meet me, if not to further your career?”
“I didn’t! I was leaving, it was you who… Ask Richard!”
Kit glanced without interest at Will’s silenced companion. Then he knocked the ashes out of his pipe, put it in his belt and blew the last cloud of smoke into Will’s face. “Tell you what. Why don’t you write a speech about…” He turned to his morose-looking friends who must have given up hope of his company by now. “Robert! You said you needed some kind of soliloquy, didn’t you?”
“What?” The red-bearded man flung up defensive hands. “No, I don’t need any help.”
“Yes you do, shut up. It was Constance, wasn’t it?”
“No.”
“Yes, it was, don’t lie to me.” Kit turned to Will again. “He needs this pompous speech, you know, anguished ramblings of the tragic heroine and all that… and he has trouble connecting with his feminine side. His women come off as wooden statues. Don’t they, Robert? Now you, on the other hand,” Kit grabbed a lock of Will’s hair and twisted it between his fingers. “You are surely very good at identifying with girls, am I right?”
Will stared at Kit’s face, suddenly so close to his. This man had no personal space. “Oh, I don’t know… I mean, of course I took on roles at school, but…”
Kit laughed. “And I would have loved to see them! So you’ll submit something?”
“I…” Will looked over Kit’s shoulder at the fuming writer in the corner. “I don’t know, he doesn’t seem to…”
Kit scoffed. “Don’t pay any attention to Robert! He expects me to help him out – he doesn’t see the difference, poor sod, doesn’t realise how glaringly obvious the shift is, from his language to mine, I mean, honestly! But maybe if you wrote it instead, as a fellow amateur your text wouldn’t jar so much against his.”
“We don’t know him,” Robert complained. “He could be worthless.”
“Don’t be so inconsiderate, Robert! We won’t know his worth until we let him try. Besides, we need some new blood. If his text is good enough, you two could even collaborate on something. Or at least he gets to show that no-good printer of his what he missed, and that’s as noble a mission as anything, right?”
Will made a face. So he had been listening in.
“Hey Will, wouldn’t that be great?” Kit implored. “When you’re a famous playwright he’ll come crawling back, begging you to grace his worthless printing house with your immortal poetry!”
Will looked down at the table, striving to hide his smile. “Okay…”
Kit cocked his head. “Okay?”
“Yes, okay. Just to shut you up, mind you.”
Kit grinned broadly. “You’re in good company, my friend. Many a thing has been done just to shut me up.”

Find Rival Poet at:

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00X507Z1O

Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rival-poet-ingela-bohm/1117351825?ean=2940152307849

iBooks https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/rival-poet/id1022361270?mt=11

Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/540269

All Romance Ebooks https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-rivalpoet-1796386-148.html

The World As He Sees It- Perspectives by A.M. Arthur with Excerpt, Guest Post, and Giveaway

WorldAsHeSeesIt-The400

Author Name: A.M. Arthur

Book Name: The World As He Sees It

Series: Perspectives

Book: Two

Can be read as a standalone

Release Date: October 20, 2015

Blurb:

Love knows no limits…but fear could keep them from seeing it.

Gabe lives a double life. As Gabriel Henson, he works multiple jobs to support his remorseless, alcoholic mother. As Tony Ryder, he does internet porn for extra cash and regular safe sex without complications.

Yet when he encounters a scared young man freaking out in a night club, he’s compelled to reach out. Ever since then, the memory of that young man has haunted him.

Tristan Lavelle lives his life thirty minutes at a time. After a traumatic brain injury three years ago, he gets through his day recording his life in spiral notebooks and sticky note reminders.

A month after Tristan’s embarrassingly public meltdown, another chance meeting with Gabe sparks a warm, emotionally fulfilling email relationship. Both men crave more, but fear of the next step stands between them.

Until Tristan gets the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial that could improve his memory—if the side effects don’t kill him. But for Tristan, the possibility of a real life with Gabe is worth any risk…

Continue reading

Discovering Dalton (Manchester Ménage #2):Nicole Colville

PUBLISHER: Hidden Pleasures

LENGTH: 300 pages

SUMMARY: At fifteen, Troy and Liam were fostered by the same family, and although hating each other at first, they gradually became solid friends. As adults, the two foster brothers live together. Both experience tough times, each being a rock for the other, but their love had never been anything other than brotherly.

That is until they both fall for the same guy, and things get…complicated.

Dalton is fresh out of a ten year marriage. Feeling lost, he concentrates on the only thing he can control—his body. Developing from a chubby, unfit police officer into a lean, mean inked one, Dalton has never looked better, but inside, he’s never felt worse. That is until he meets two men who change his life forever. A relationship is far from his thoughts, and one with another man makes Dalton even more confused. He takes time to get to know Troy and Liam separately, but Manchester isn’t that big, and sparks fly when fate throws the three together.

Together, these three fight it out between them. Both Troy and Liam demand Dalton choose between them, but what if he didn’t have to choose? What if it could work between three?

The things in life worth fighting for are never the easiest, but they’re the ones worth holding

onto forever.

Book 2 – Manchester Menage Collection. A new stand alone book following on from Saving Samuel.

REVIEW: I can’t seem to come up with enough words to describe how excited I was to finally read this story. I waited months after reading the first book in the series (Saving Samuel) to find out whatever became of sweet Dalton.

Ms. Colville definitely didn’t disappoint her readers with this follow up. In this book, we get to know Dalton a lot more. His character is this complex combination of sweet, kind, tough, trustworthy, handsome and innocent cop. How she managed to stuff all of those qualities into one character is truly amazing.

Troy looks like this bad-boy tattooed biker but is really a sweet guy looking for someone to willing to see him—beyond the tattoos– and to love the real him. But Troy fails to not realize that the very thing he’s looking for has been with him all along. Troy has this vulnerability to him because of his past that makes him that much more endearing.

Liam is the tough alpha of the three but he too, has a soft side to him. He’s the type of man who’s not willing to commit to a man because he’s afraid of what that would do to Troy. He’s not willing to commit to another man and lose what he has for Troy. Oddly enough, Liam is already in a committed relationship with Troy and have been for years.

Dalton is going through so much in his life and poor man has reached his emotional limit. Liam is the gym owner/sometimes trainer to Dalton who has had his eye on the sexy cop for a while but never really thought to make a move on him.

Liam and Troy’s relationship is complicated to say the least. These two men love each other deeply, not really realizing that their love runs deeper than just the brotherly/friendship type of love they’ve been living for decades. They’re both keeping the other from finding happiness with anyone else. These two have this sort of weird dependent relationship. While both men are aware of this, neither one is motivated enough to change anything until they both meet and fall for the same man.

Ms. Colville takes us on a wonderful journey with these men first as individuals, then as a couple and finally a triad. This series is very well written. The characters and dialog is fabulous and each book leaves me anxious to read the next and the cover is AMAZING. Although the books can be read as a standalone, I highly recommend that you read them in sequential order just because they are that damn good.

I was so happy that these men found each other and as with Milo, Daniel and Samuel, they fit together perfectly.

To say that I am anxiously awaiting to read about the next ménage would be an understatement. I highly recommend this author and this series.

RATING: 🌟🌟🌟AMAZING🌟🌟🌟

AMAZON

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Broken Circle (Sirius Wolves # 2): Victoria Sue

PUBLISHER: Dark Hollows Press Continue reading

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Coffee Cake- Michaela Grey

Dreamspinner Press

Blurb:

Bran Kendrick never expected to fall in love. He’s asexual, after all. What chance does he have of finding someone who’ll see past that? So when Malachi Warren catches his eye, Bran tells himself his crush will pass. Malachi disagrees. He has been attracted to Bran for some time, something he is delighted to find Bran reciprocating. They begin to date and feel their way through an intimate relationship that meets both their needs.

Suddenly Bran finds himself juggling a new boyfriend, a demanding job, and a college degree he’s not sure he wants, but he couldn’t be happier—until a series of seemingly random accidents befall Malachi. When they escalate, Bran realizes someone is trying to take away the best thing that ever happened to him, and he must scramble to keep Malachi safe while they search for the would-be killer.

 

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Review:

I must say that I’ve never read a book with an asexual main character. This book is about two college guys who have been admiring each other from afar as it were, who finally enter into a relationship with each other and  fall in love. All of this occurs while someone from Mal’s past trying to kill him. The bones of the story is solid, it’s the meat of it that I felt needed more time to cook. If it wasn’t for the mystery of who had it out for Malachi, this story probably wouldn’t have held my interest. Don’t get me wrong, this book was in no way poorly written, quite the opposite, actually. It was just very bland, very…vanilla, if you will, and that’s just not my thing. One of the MCs being asexual  was interesting and intriguing to me because I had no idea how a person who identified as asexual was able to sustain romantic relationships. So this was a learning experience for me. Normally, the lack of heat in a book doesn’t bother me if the storyline was strong enough to carry the story but in this case it just wasn’t, at least for ME, it wasn’t. Yes, the mystery as to who was behind the attacks against Malachi held my interest but just until the culprit was revealed. Once that was revealed, I lost interest.

This author did a wonderful thing by stepping outside of the box by featuring an asexual MC. It helped me to better understand this sexual orientation but I will more than likely not read any other story where a MC is identified as being asexual. The heat level was simply too low and the story not strong enough for ME make up for it.

Rating:

❤️❤️❤️

  

Buy links:

Dreamspinner Press

Amazon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rainbow Connection by Alexa Milne

MLR Press Presents http://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=AMRAINBW

rainbow connectionBlurb

Two men, one with a past, and one determined to give them a future, together.

Mick Flanagan has kept himself hidden since his only lover died three years ago. He works at night, keeps to his routine, has impressive facial hair, and avoids contact with other people. Enter Ceri Llewellyn, with his constantly changing rainbow-coloured hair, who seems determined to talk to him. Gradually, Mick tells his story and begins to trust Ceri, but Mick has a past that contains more than just a dead lover. Can Ceri show him that he deserves to be loved and, above all else, help him find his true self?

 

Review

This was a surprisingly different book than I expected. I was thinking it would be a fairly fluffy geek/nerd love story with a twinky/goofball and instead I got a fairly rich, and deep story about a deeply controlled man who has never been on his own and doesn’t know what to do when he is.

Mick’s mom is a piece of work. She never let Mick stray far from her grasp all throughout his childhood, threatening home schooling and demanding almost complete isolation from him while instilling fear of the outside world into his head. It is only dumb luck that Mick finds love at the hands of a paramedic, Alfie, who both saves his life and rescues him from his mom.

But Alfie has his own imperfections and he, too never let Mick be his own man. He loved Mick, to be sure, but he controlled him and never let him flourish. Neither his mom nor Alfie encouraged his creativity or self-reliance and when Alfie suddenly dies, Mick is on his own. (His mom kicked him out for being gay, of course.)

Now, three years later, Mick is coping – just – but still not thriving. He meets Ceri (pronounced Sherry – it’s a Welsh name) at work and is immediately captivated by the outgoing man who literally changes his hair color each week.

Ceri is a big kid – not quite but almost ready to settle down and admit he will never be a pro-skateboarder at the age of 27. He meets Mick and thinks he sees a diamond in the rough hiding behind the awkwardness and the bushy beard.

The two start to get to know one another and Mick slowly comes out of his shell. Here things move along rapidly (maybe a bit too rapidly) and they become lovers. But Mick is still holding tight to his dead-lover’s memory and can’t let Ceri in.

Only when an old friend interferes can he really let Ceri in and get past Alfie. At the same time he finds out his mother is dying from cancer and may only have a limited time left around for building bridges.

What really surprised me about this story was how much growth we got to witness in Mick. He really was so controlled, but in both cases lovingly, if not dangerously. Ceri has to dance around helping him without taking over and becoming the next leader Mick follows blindly.

All in all I really enjoyed this and will definitely look for more from this author.

4.25 of 5 hearts

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