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Review ~ A Casual Thing by Annabelle Jacobs

Title: A Casual Thing

Author: Annabelle Jacobs

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Length: Novel/138 pages

Genre: Contemporary gay erotic romance

Cover Artist: Anna Sikorska

Release Date: Wednesday July 1st

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Patrick Mason travels to Bristol to spend the summer with his brother, Ben. He’s cat sitting for the first two weeks while Ben goes on holiday. But Ben neglected to tell him he wouldn’t be doing it alone. Will Adams—Ben’s mate and Patrick’s long-time crush—is staying in Ben’s guest room while he waits to move into his new house after a breakup.

Against his better judgment, Patrick convinces Will that a little no-strings fun is just what they need. Patrick doesn’t want to get involved with a guy on the rebound, and Will isn’t interested in starting something serious with a student. But Patrick’s never been good at separating sex from feelings, and this time is no exception. As their weeks together draw to a close, they need to decide if they have something worth pursuing or if it’s really just a casual thing.

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 Patrick stopped, the words dying on his tongue as he noticed Ben wince.

“No.” He jumped off the bed, fisting his hands in his hair. “No fucking way. Ben, please tell me you’re not leaving me alone for two weeks with the guy I have a huge unrequited, and frankly, embarrassing, crush on?”

Ben shrugged. “He needed somewhere to stay. I’d sort of forgotten you had the hots for him.”

“How could you forget?” Patrick paced in front of the bed. “The last time I was here, I tried to climb into his lap and told him how hot he was. In front of his boyfriend.”

“Oh yeah.” Ben grinned, and Patrick stopped his pacing to punch him on the arm.

“It’s not funny.”

“It was hilarious.” Ben ducked out of the way when Patrick tried to punch him again. “Look, you were drunk. We all were. He doesn’t hold it against you.”

“But he won’t have forgotten.” The whole thing still made Patrick cringe every time he thought about it. He may have been drunk, but sadly not drunk enough to wipe the horrifying experience from his brain.

“Sit down. I think you might be overreacting just a tad.” Ben even used his finger and thumb to demonstrate how much he thought Patrick was overreacting before grabbing Patrick’s arm and yanking him back down onto the bed.

Patrick sighed. Fine. Maybe he was being overly dramatic, but come on. This was Will. Tall, dark, and handsome, and as easygoing as Ben. He oozed charm and made you want to curl up with him somewhere warm and never ever move. Well, that last part could just be Patrick.

Fuck.

He was going to make such an arse of himself. He flopped onto the bed and covered his face. “I hate you. You are the worst brother ever.”

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4.5*

From the start you know the decision to become ‘fuck-buddies’ will be more than ‘a casual thing’ between Patrick and Will while they live under the same roof. Events and tiredness conspire against them so they don’t actually spend much time in the bedroom. However this gives them time to get to know each other better and enjoy each other’s company. Throw in an ex-boyfriend, the slight age difference, the thought of a long distance relationship and one of them won’t admit he has deep feelings for the other. I was rooting for Patrick from the start and was even wishing he’d go on a date with Christian to make Will jealous to kick him up the butt.

Another hot, yet sweet story from Annabelle, sprinkled with humorous moments and a touch of angst thrown in for good measure. Very enjoyable. Well written and nicely paced as always, with realistic dialogue and a HFN ending.

***A copy of this book was provided by the author in return for an honest review***

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Dreamspinner Press / Amazon | All Romance | Amazon UK

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Annabelle Jacobs lives in the South West of England with her husband, three rowdy children, and two cats.

An avid reader of fantasy herself for many years, Annabelle now spends her days writing her own stories. They’re usually either fantasy or paranormal fiction, because she loves building worlds filled with magical creatures, and creating stories full of action and adventure. Her characters may have a tough time of it—fighting enemies and adversity—but they always find love in the end.

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Twitter / Blog  / Email / Facebook profile / Facebook Author page

 

 

Beyond the Scars by Louise Lyons

New release from 

Louis Lyons

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After years of physical and mental abuse, Tommy Chadwick finally finds the strength to leave Colin, his tormentor. But Tommy soon finds that escaping his violent boyfriend was only the first step on his path to recovery.

Now he must overcome feelings of worthlessness in order to rebuild his battered self-esteem.

Tommy’s lack of self-confidence prevents him from going out… at first, but then has him ricocheting from one man to another, desperately trying to please them in his search for love and acceptance.

After being rejected on New Year’s Eve, and then beaten after leaving the gay bar, he agrees to accompany his best friend, Sarah, to a martial arts club. There Tommy meets Marcus, a strong older man, who at first becomes his friend, introducing Tommy to new interests, and later, tentatively asks him on a date.

Will Marcus be the man to help Tommy put his past behind him and fall in love for real?

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Shane rang me the next day after work, and my heart leapt when his name came up on my phone. I was in the lounge talking to Sarah, and I jogged upstairs to my room as I answered the call. I told myself he couldn’t wait until Saturday and wanted to speak to me in the meantime.

“Hi, Shane,” I said brightly.

“Hi.” He cleared his throat. “About Saturday….”

“Yes?” I wondered if the arrangement for the weekend was to change.

“It’s not gonna happen. I’m sorry.”

“Oh!” I felt the smile slip from my face, and I waited for him to elaborate.

“I’ve got a girlfriend. She’s been working in Spain for a few weeks, and I didn’t think she was coming back until next month, but she turned up this morning. Sorry.”

“Girlfriend?” I echoed, stunned.

“Yeah, I’m bi.”

“I thought you said you broke up with someone recently.”

“Well, she’s been away a long time, and we’d had a row when I said that.” I could picture him shrugging as he spoke.

“Oh. Okay. No problem.” I did my best to sound as if I didn’t care, while my heart plummeted into my shoes and tears prickled at the back of my eyes. When I ended the call, I reminded myself about everything that had been wrong in the very brief relationship. He didn’t talk, we had nothing in common, and he was inconsiderate in bed. But I’d liked him, far too much, and it fucking hurt that he had a girlfriend I didn’t know about. It hurt that he’d probably only been using me to fill in the time until she came back.

I curled up on my bed and wrapped my arms around myself. I wouldn’t let myself cry—I’d done far too much of that over Colin—but my throat hurt with the effort of not giving in to it, and my jaw ached from grinding my teeth. I lost track of time as I lay there feeling sorry for myself and wondering if I should have stayed with Gary after all.

“Tommy?” Sarah called softly from the doorway and waited.

“Yeah.” I rolled onto my back and forced a smile onto my face.

“What’s wrong, hun?” She closed the door and came to sit on the edge of my bed. My smile apparently hadn’t been very convincing, and I let it slip away.

“Nothing, I’m okay.”

“You were all excited when your phone rang, and now you look like a puppy that’s been kicked.”

“Thanks.” I grimaced and tried to laugh it off.

“Is it that bloke you’ve been seeing?”

“Shane. I’m not seeing him anymore. He’s got a girlfriend,” I blurted out. My eyes smarted again, and I blinked.

“I’m sorry.” Sarah rested her hand on my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “But you’d only seen him a couple of times, hadn’t you?”

“Yeah, well, I’m a prick. We didn’t even have much in common. Less than me and Gary. But somehow I suppose I….” I sniffed miserably and sat up. “I really liked him.”

“Oh, Tommy.” Sarah slid her arms around me to give me a cuddle, and I sagged against her. I felt pathetic. I couldn’t say I was heartbroken over someone I’d had sex with twice, but I felt the sharp pain of rejection all over again, and the fragile confidence I’d built up since I left Colin began to crumble. Shane slipped from my mind, and I thought of a situation I’d been in with Colin more times than I could count.

“Get your shit packed and get out of here, Tommy.” Colin sneered at me from the couch. “You’re a pathetic waste of space and I’m sick of the sight of you.”

“You seriously want me to leave? Who’s going to pay the bills, then?” I asked.

“I’ll have no trouble getting a new flat mate. I don’t know why I haven’t done this sooner. There are plenty of cute boys out there. I don’t know why I stuck with the ugly little slut you are for so long.”

“Fine. I’ll go.” I turned away from him as hot tears spilled down my cheeks. He didn’t want me, didn’t care about me. I felt lost and crushed and relieved all at the same time. Maybe this time he’d really let me go.

I went into the bedroom and found my rucksack. I began packing my clothes first, while I sobbed and snuffled, and repeatedly wiped my eyes and nose on my sleeves. It was just after our first anniversary. He’d given me the ring and told me how much he loved me, how special I was to him, and how things would be perfect between us from now on. I’d almost forgotten all the times he’d hurt me, and even though I didn’t like the ring, I’d been delighted to receive it. It made me believe he really did love me. The next couple of days had been perfect—until now. I could barely remember what had started it—something to do with him not liking my suggestion we go out somewhere. We spent our whole lives cooped up in the flat except for me going to work and him going fishing with Gary. I’d thought we could do something nice together, but he could only see that I wanted to get out so I could look at other men or get attention from them.

I crammed the last few items into my rucksack and set it aside. I looked up to find Colin standing in the doorway, watching me.

“I’m sorry, babe,” he said. “I didn’t mean any of it. You know how jealous I get. I love you so much, and I want to keep you all to myself.”

“So why did you tell me to leave?” I said in a small voice.

“I wasn’t thinking straight. I don’t want you to leave. I never want you to leave.” He came to me and took my hands. He stroked his thumb over the ring I wore. “This means we’re together forever. I’m never gonna let you go, Tommy. I promise.” He began kissing my face all over, tasting my tears. “Forgive me. Come on. You know I love you.”

The day had ended with him fucking me on the floor from behind, so hard he’d almost smashed my head into the wall. I’d been so sore afterward, I could barely sit down without yelping.

“Tommy, are you sure this is just about Shane?” Sarah was stroking my hair, and I realized I’d wept all over her blouse and left a wet patch on her shoulder. I pulled away and rubbed my hands over my face.

“Sorry. Uh… yeah, I’m just being stupid. I thought things were going well. Clearly I was wrong.”

“Are you sure that’s all? You seem so upset.”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You know, I don’t get why you broke up with Gary. He seemed really nice.” Sarah frowned in puzzlement. “He treated you well, didn’t he?”

“Yes, but we had nothing in common. We never did anything except… never mind.” I laughed and felt my face heat up. “I’m fine, really.”

I was fine. I moped for two days and then went out to La Rues again. I met Paul, whom I dated for two weeks. He was ginger and freckled, and I wasn’t really attracted to him, but he was keen on me and he made me feel better. My confidence rose again, and I forgot about Shane. I felt good and I began to feel I could get anyone I wanted.

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$10 Amazon gift card + 1 eBook from Louise’s backlist

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Louise Lyons comes from a family of writers. Her mother has a number of poems published in poetry anthologies, her aunt wrote poems for the church, and her grandmother sparked her inspiration with tales of fantasy. Louise first ventured into writing short stories at the grand old age of 8, mostly about little girls and ponies. She branched into romance in her teens, and MM romance a few years later, but none of her work saw the light of day until she discovered FanFiction in her late 20s.

Posting stories based on some of her favorite movies, provoked a surprisingly positive response from readers. This gave Louise the confidence to submit some of her work to publishers, and made her take her writing “hobby” more seriously.

Louise lives in the UK, about an hour north of London, with a mad Dobermann, and a collection of tropical fish and tarantulas. She works in the insurance industry by day, and spends every spare minute writing. She is a keen horse-rider, and loves to run long-distance. Some of her best writing inspiration comes to her, when her feet are pounding the open road. She often races into the house afterward, and grabs pen and paper to make notes.

Louise has always been a bit of a tomboy, and one of her other great loves is cars and motorcycles. Her car and bike are her pride and joy, and she loves to exhibit the car at shows, and take off for long days out on the bike, with no one for company but herself.

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Paint the Sky

Paint the Sky is now available via PayHip

for those who prefer to use PayPal or don’t have access to Amazon or ARe.

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View and Buy Here

Genre: M/M, Contemporary Romance and Erotica

Length: 65,000 Words

Release Date: August 30, 2014

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A love of art…

A mutual interest in art draws two shy university students together. Ben admires Vinnie’s painting of the university building, so Vinnie invites him to an exhibition of his artwork. From a wealthy family, Ben purchases some of Vinnie’s art and arranges for the artist to personally hang the paintings in his apartment.

Starry, starry night…

Ben commissions Vinnie to paint his portrait, in order to spend more time with the artist. On the night of the sitting, Vinnie fingerpaints the starry night on Ben’s chest… and they kiss. They begin a relationship beneath the night sky, God’s own canvas.

But every relationship has its ups and downs and so it is with theirs. When Ben thinks Vinnie spends too much time with a fellow artist, his jealousy drives a wedge between them and forces Vinnie into the very thing Ben dreads.

Hold tight to your dreams…

Ben and Vinnie will have to walk through fire before they can find one another again. But if they believe, and if they keep their faith in the night sky and each other, just maybe they can make their dreams of love come true.

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Vinnie led me across the room, pulling me by the shirt. “Lie back on the sofa for me and I’ll paint you.”

As if in a dream, I settled my head against one arm of the sofa, my legs dangling over the other end, scarcely breathing now. Vinnie knelt on the floor beside me with an open pot of paint in his hand.

Teasingly, he dipped his index finger into the dark blue paint as if it were cream he would lick off. His finger connected with my skin and he made short strokes across my chest, the coldness of the paint making me shiver.

Mesmerised by the closeness of his beautiful face, the view of the night sky through the window, and the picture forming upon my chest, I watched as dab after dab and stroke after stroke he built up a mix of shades, until a dark night sky with the moon and stars were there to be seen—a masterpiece, drying on the warmth of my blazing skin, a transient thing of beauty. His fingers skimmed my skin causing gooseflesh to ripple in waves down my arms and thighs. My nipples pebbled in response to his touch.

And when he was done, his lips met mine in a languid kiss; how our first kiss should have been—sweet, innocent, and full of promise. He pulled away, smiling down at me.

This was the beginning of something special.

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Review ~ Back in the Saddle by J.R. Barten

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Gregory McKnight is not lucky in love. In fact, he feels like a downright failure, having had two partners leave him for someone else. So, instead of trying another relationship, Gregory focuses on what he does do well: run a business and raise his daughter, Kendall. Willing to do just about anything for his daughter, the single dad takes them on vacation to Colorado and books a weekend tour riding horseback in the mountains. For Kendall, it’s a dream come true. For Gregory, who has been afraid of horses since he was a kid, this is just another opportunity for him to fail.

Enter Cowboy Cooper, the tour’s lead guide and expert rider. The two men have an immediate connection, and while Cooper isn’t shy about making that known, Gregory is terrified of getting his heart broken again. They share an amazing night in the stables, but Gregory ultimately rejects the sweet Cowboy and leaves the ranch without saying good-bye. Knowing how her dad really feels about Cooper, Kendall convinces him that it’s time to get back in the saddle and take a chance on love. What Gregory and Cooper soon realize is that getting together was the easiest part. Can their relationship survive when they’re not even in the same time zone? Follow Gregory and Cooper from the mountains of Colorado to the lakes of Minnesota, where they navigate a relationship hampered by distance and insecurity, and finally find their happily-ever-after.

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3.5*

Not having read the blurb or reviews before I began I expected the story to be set on a ranch with loads of hot cowboys. Once I started reading, I liked the premise of a short vacation at a Cowboy Camp situated miles from home and meeting a potential future partner. Very romantic.

Cowboy Cooper has a very pleasant and patient personality. I liked him very much. He was the good guy in the story for me. He’s quite a bit younger than Gregory, not overly hunky or especially attractive, but he possesses a sexy voice that initially draws Gregory’s attention. Despite falling deeply for this dream of a cowboy within hours of seeing him in person, Gregory is torn between throwing himself into a new relationship and giving up before the first day is out. And this happens for much of the story. Although in his forties, Gregory is indecisive and comes across as insecure and a worrier. Gregory had been hurt by previous breakups, and that experience makes him dither about jumping into something new.

Insta-love happens for both men, which is feasible in real life and fiction. They declare their feelings early on and have no qualms about telling the other, which surprised me considering they had only just met. At the same time, Gregory doubts his feelings are reciprocated even though Cooper states they are, plus Gregory worries about maintaining a long distance relationship. This angst and indecision has Gregory wavering throughout much of the book and I could sympathize with Cooper when he snaps and tells him to make up his mind.

I would have preferred less agonizing about Cooper’s forthcoming visit and more details on their developing relationship after he stayed at Gregory’s house. The final two chapters were a blur of information and could have been fleshed out a lot more.

On the whole the story is well written, although I would have preferred it in past rather than present tense.

**Copy provided by the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review**

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Amazon.com / Amazon UK

PsyCop Audiobooks by Jordan Castillo Price

The PsyCop series by Jordan Castillo Price

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Once upon a time if you told doctors you heard voices, they’d diagnose you as schizophrenic, put you on heavy drugs, and lock you away in a cozy state institution to keep you from hurting yourself or others.

Nowadays they test you first to see if you’re psychic.

The PsyCop series by Jordan Castillo Price features frazzled psychic medium Victor Bayne and his smokin’-hot boyfriend, Jacob Marks. Fifteen years ago, Victor studied at Heliotrope Station, one of the original residential psychic training programs in the U.S. The only thing he learned in that facility was how to be a better liar.

Now he’s part of an elite PsyCop unit. Solving murders should be a snap when you can talk to the deceased. But since no one’s ever given him a lucky break when they were alive, why would they start now ?

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five-stars

5* for the story and the performance

I hadn’t read any of the PsyCop books before I listened to the series on Audible. I throughly enjoyed each story and Jordan’s distinctive storytelling. I loved the premise of the series and thought the chemistry between Vic and Jacob was sizzling throughout. Gomez Pugh’s performance was fabulous. His narration was spot on for each character. He differentiated each person clearly and made them come alive for me. I pictured everything going on in the scenes and recognized each character when they spoke. Jacob’s voice was husky and so sexy. UNF! The production quality was excellent. I will definitely listen to all five superb stories again.

This is what Jordan said about choosing a narrator for the series: “But then Gomez Pugh sent in an audition and totally nailed it. It’s hard to articulate exactly what the quality of his voice is that captured my imagination… He sounded just about the right age, so you could buy that he was a fortyish cop from Chicago. And—most important—he sounded world-weary and disillusioned, even though I was having him read a romantic scene. That was what really grabbed me.”

“I think people process audio and text differently—I know I do. Some folks say they can’t pay attention to an audiobook. I’m the opposite of that. I will forget where I’m driving when an audiobook is playing in the car, because I get so swept away into the storyverse. When my eyes are tired from a day at the computer, and the last thing they want to do is watch TV or read, I love being able to lie back and lose myself in an audio.

What I notice Gomez brings specifically to PsyCop, though, is an elusive tenderness to Vic when he’s dealing with certain people. I think his rapport with his BFF Lisa is striking. There’s a scene in Body and Soul where he’s talking to a victim’s grandmother, where Vic and the old lady don’t even speak the same language. But the tenderness there was so clear it actually choked me up. The ease Vic feels when he’s talking to Maurice really shines through. And the chemistry with Vic and Jacob, particularly in the love scenes, just floors me. So I think what this talented actor is bringing to the books is delicious nuance that reveals layers of characterization in a way that might not always happen with text.”

Among the Living

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Victor Bayne, the psychic half a PsyCop team, is a gay medium who’s more concerned with flying under the radar than in making waves.

He hooks up with handsome Jacob Marks, a non-psychic (or “Stiff”) from an adjacent precinct at his ex-partner’s retirement party, and it seems like his dubious luck has taken a turn for the better. But then a serial killer surfaces who can change his appearance to match any witness’ idea of the world’s hottest guy.

Solving murders is a snap when you can ask the victims whodunit, but this killer’s not leaving any spirits behind.

Warning: This audiobook contains explicit adult content.

Buy on Audible / iTunes / Amazon

Criss Cross

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Criss Cross finds the ghosts surrounding Victor getting awfully pushy. The medications that Victor usually takes to control his abilities are threatening to destroy his liver, and his new meds aren’t any more effective than sugar pills.

Vic is also adjusting to a new PsyCop partner, a mild-mannered guy named Roger with all the personality of white bread. At least he’s willing to spring for the Starbucks.

Jacob’s ex-boyfriend, Crash, is an empathic healer who might be able to help Victor pull his powers into balance, but he seems more interested in getting into Victor’s pants than in providing any actual assistance.

 Buy on Audible / iTunes / Amazon 

Body & Soul

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Thanksgiving can’t end too soon for Victor Bayne, who’s finding Jacob’s family hard to swallow. Luckily, he’s called back to work to track down a high-profile missing person.

Meanwhile, Jacob tries to find a home they can move into that’s not infested – with either cockroaches or ghosts. As if the house-hunting isn’t stressful enough, Vic’s new partner Bob Zigler doesn’t seem to think he can do anything right. A deceased junkie with a bone to pick leads Vic and Zig on a wild chase that ends in a basement full of horrors.

 Buy on Audible /  iTunes / Amazon

Secrets

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Victor Bayne’s job as a PsyCop involves tracking down dead people and getting them to spill their guts about their final moments. It’s never been fun, per se. But it’s not usually this annoying.

Vic has just moved in with his boyfriend Jacob, he can’t figure out where anything’s packed, and his co-worker is pressuring him to have a housewarming party.

Can’t a guy catch a break?

On a more sinister note, Vic discovers there’s absolutely no trace of him online. No trace of anyone else who trained at “Camp Hell,” either. Everyone Vic knows has signed a mysterious set of papers to ensure his “privacy.” The contracts are so confidential that even Vic has never heard of them. But Jacob might have.

What other secrets has Jacob been keeping?

Buy on Audible UK / Audible.com

Camp Hell

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Victor Bayne honed his dubious psychic skills at one of the first psych training facilities in the country, Heliotrope Station, otherwise known as Camp Hell to the psychics who’ve been guests behind its razorwire fence.

Vic discovered that none of the people he remembers from Camp Hell can be found online, and there’s no mention of Heliotrope Station itself, either. Someone’s gone through a lot of trouble to bury the past. But who?

 Buy on Audible.comAudible UK /  Amazon.com

Thaw (a PsyCop short)

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A FREE taster of Vic and Jake to stream or download HERE

Don’t just take my word for it, check out the PsyCop audiobooks!

Stream a sample from each book at the PsyCop site

~O~

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Check out the PysCop Facebook Page HERE

and the

PsyCop site HERE

Review ~ Ari by Cheryl Headford

Blog Tour – Ari by Cheryl Headford

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Title: Ari

Author: Cheryl Headford

Genre: LGBT, romance, transgender, intersex, M/M, F/F

Length: Novel

Publisher: Wayward Ink Publishing

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After having known each other online for some time, writers, Benji and Ari meet at a convention.

Their attraction is both immediate and mutual.

But all is not straightforward—Ari is intersex and Benji transgender.

Together they embark on a journey.

A journey that unites families, and heals old wounds.

But not everyone is happy with the blossoming love between these two unique and special individuals.

Will an act of aggression crush the flower before it can bloom?

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Isis and Osiris came bounding out of the house, followed by two women carrying trays. The similarities and differences between Nancy and Skye were even more obvious in person. It was like looking at two halves of a personality, one severe and the other timid. Ari, it seemed, had inherited all the fun.
The trays contained a delicious selection of cakes and biscuits, and Skye immediately scuttled back indoors, presumably to collect more, or perhaps drinks. Marc was on the plates like a locust.
“Marc! At least say thank you.”
“Thank you,” he mumbled with a mouth full of cake.
“Don’t worry,” Nancy said with a smile that transformed her sour expression, “he’s not doing anything Ari doesn’t. I’m surprised he hasn’t got his face in the chocolate cake already. He must be on his best behaviour.”
Ari shrugged. “Don’t get too complacent. I already ate the—”
“Ari Fischer.” Skye’s voice was outraged as she strode down the path, holding a large jug and a tin. “Look at this.” She shook the tin at Nancy, who smirked.
“Don’t tell me, half of the gingerbread snaps have mysteriously vanished.”
“Half? There are four left. Four!”
Ari uncurled and danced over to his mother. He hugged her; then he grabbed the tin. “Oh well then, might as well finish them.”
“Ari.” Skye scolded as he dipped his hand into the tin and stuffed his mouth with something that crunched.
“Ari, will you please—?”
“Do you think there’s a point in scolding him?” Nancy broke in, cutting Skye dead. “He never listens, and besides, the boy’s too thin. There’s nothing there of him. He could do with feeding up.”
“Feeding up? You see how much he eats.”
“He burns it off with all that energy. Here, have some of these.” Not missing a stride, Nancy took up a plate of biscuits and handed them to me. When Ari would have intercepted the plate, she batted his hand away. “Visitors first, dear,” she said, and Ari gazed at me with an expectant expression. I don’t know whether he was waiting to see if I liked the biscuits or for me to relinquish the plate.
The biscuits tasted like heaven. They were sweet and light and crunchy, and tasted of butter and something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. “What’s in the biscuits?”
“Cinnamon,” Ari said instantly. “Nancy makes the best cinnamon cookies ever.”
Nancy beamed. “Thank you, dear, but those are your mother’s. She’s a serious challenger these days. Which is just as well as I’m getting older and no one knows how much longer I’ll be able to cook.”
“Mother. Don’t say things like that,” Skye exclaimed, almost dropping the second mug and stack of glasses she was carrying. “You’ll be around for many years yet.”
“I intend to,” Nancy said with a grin, “but no one knows what’s coming ’round the corner.”
A sharp breeze whipped around the corner of the house and made me shiver for a moment. It was gone as fast as it came, but I noticed Ari, Nancy and Skye all raised their heads and glanced around. I shivered again. Did they think it was a premonition? Was it? Hadn’t Ari said Nancy and Skye were witches? I hadn’t believed him, but maybe they were. If so, some of their stuff would have rubbed off on Ari maybe. He was very perceptive, did that count?

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3.5 Stars

This touching story explores what it means to be intersex, transgender and gender fluid. The two main characters are young and inexperienced, and at times are insecure with their identity. Cheryl hasn’t made them flawless and this gives them a realistic quality.

Ari is eighteen, intersex, with elfin features, and according to Benji has “mercurial moods”. Another character calls Ari a ‘Little Imp’ and he behaves as such during much of the story. Ari is energetic and over the top, blurting out whatever’s on his mind, yet everyone who meets him can’t help but like him. Even Ari himself admits he is innocent and weird. Until now, he has been cocooned by his mother and grandmother. He comes across as immature and far from streetwise, and this results in Benji misunderstanding some of the things he says at first and also leads to trouble from others with upsetting consequences.

Despite all this, Benji falls for him within hours of their first meeting and is declaring his love and sharing intimate moments with Ari in the hotel bedroom during a UK Meet style conference. Ari and Benji met previously online through their writing connection, but hadn’t confided many personal details with each other. Ari has been reluctant to publicly state his sex, but soon finds he is comfortable revealing his body to Benji. They focus little on their writing interests and more on their burgeoning relationship during the weekend. Little is made of their writing throughout the story and their careers are set to take a different path by the end of the story. The two guys, as that is what they identify as, help each other understand who they are and how they view themselves over the course of the story.

Cheryl’s love of writing fairy/fantasy stories comes across in the second half of the book, and in fact, the plot takes an unexpected turn and focuses less on the gender identity issue and more on family relationships and their future. Despite all the drama that takes place, Benji’s love for Ari shines through and the overriding message of the book is ‘just be yourself’.

**Copy provided by the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review**

 

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CHERYL HEADFORD was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Cheryl has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.

Later in life, Cheryl became the storyteller for a re-enactment group who traveled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.

In present times, Cheryl lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son and her two cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. The part of her that needs to earn money is a lawyer, but the deepest, and most important part of her is a storyteller and artist, and always will be.

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Review ~ Helping Hand by Jay Northcote

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Title: Helping Hand

Author: Jay Northcote

Publisher: Jaybird Press (self published)

Length: 33,000 words

Genre: Contemporary gay romance

Cover Artist: Garrett Leigh

Release Date: Friday June 26th

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Amazon.com / Amazon UK / ARe / Smashwords

Add it on Goodreads.

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Wanking with a mate isn’t gay—as long as you keep your hands to yourself.

Jez Fielding and James MacKenzie—Big Mac to his mates—are in their second year at uni. After partying too hard last year, they make a pact to rein themselves in. While their housemates are out drinking every weekend, Jez and Mac stay in to save cash and focus on their studies.

When Jez suggests watching some porn together, he isn’t expecting Mac to agree to it. One thing leads to another, and soon their arrangement becomes hands-on rather than hands-off. But falling for your straight friend can only end badly, unless there’s a chance he might feel the same.

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Afterwards, Jez blamed the alcohol for loosening his tongue, because he didn’t think about it before he spoke. The words tumbled out before he could stop them.

“Man, I’m seriously horny now. Have you got any decent porn on that laptop?”

“Huh?” Mac snapped his head around to meet Jez’s gaze. Jez’s heart pounded erratically, but his dick was still standing to attention. “What… you mean, you want to wank in here? Now? Wouldn’t that be weird?” Mac sounded seriously freaked out.

Jez backtracked quickly, cheeks hot. “It doesn’t have to be weird. I’ve done it before with guys at school, and it’s never been a big deal. But don’t worry about it. I’ll go and watch my own stash instead. But I need something soon, ’cause I’m gonna explode after watching that sex scene.”

Jez was expecting an instant no from Mac. He wouldn’t have blamed him. A lot of guys wouldn’t be into what Jez was suggesting. Jez’s heart still thumped hard, but his arousal didn’t abate despite his anxiety. He was shocked by how much he wanted this.

Mac bit his lip and frowned. “Seriously. You’ve done that?”

Jez shrugged, trying to look nonchalant. “Yeah. Like I said, it was no big deal. Just guys messing around.”

Mac stared a moment longer, then he stood, and Jez’s heart sank as he walked away. But Mac only went to fetch his laptop from the dining table. He sat back down and then opened it and tapped in his password.

“What sort of stuff do you wanna watch?” Mac’s voice was gruff and he focused on the screen rather than Jez.

Fuck. They were really going to do this, then.

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five-stars

5 wonderful stars from me

In a glorious week when I have seen the tags “Love is Love” and “Love Wins” on social media more times than I have over the past few months, Jay’s story fits the bill perfectly.  Neither Jez nor Mac would label themselves as ‘gay’ at the start of the story and even by the end they are reluctant to slot themselves into such restrictive pigeon holes. They love each other and that’s all that matters. But to reach this conclusion they have to move from friends, to friends with benefits, to lovers and then finally boyfriends. What starts out as just sex and helping each other out gradually leads to a physical and emotional connection between the two young men as they battle to sort out who they are and who they want to be with.

I loved every part of this story. Jay’s characters are realistic in their behavior and mannerisms. I adored how the physical intimacy between Jez and Mac gradually developed along with their feelings for each other. I understood their desire to keep their special arrangement hidden from the other housemates and their reluctance to admit this was anything but giving each other a helping hand in the bedroom. Jay, as per usual, wrote smoking hot scenes and I thought she surpassed herself this time with portraying the sizzling chemistry between these two lovely boys. The story gave me wonderful ‘feelz’ from start to finish. Fantastic!

**Copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review**

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Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England, with her husband, two children, and two cats.

She comes from a family of writers, but she always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed her by. She spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content. One day, she decided to try and write a short story–just to see if she could–and found it rather addictive. She hasn’t stopped writing since.

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www.jaynorthcote.com

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