Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford

Summary:
The British Empire reigns supreme, and its young Queen Victoria has expanded her realm to St. Francisco, a bustling city of English lords and Chinese ghettos. St. Francisco is a jewel in the Empire’s crown and as deeply embroiled in the conflict between the Arcane and Science as its sister city, London—a very dark and dangerous battle.

Marcus Stenhill, Viscount of Westwood, stumbles upon that darkness when he encounters a pack of young bloods beating a man senseless. Westwood’s duty and honor demand he save the man, but he’s taken aback to discover the man is Robin Harris, a handsome young inventor indirectly responsible for the death of Marcus’s father.

Living in the shadows following a failed coup, Robin devotes his life to easing others’ pain, even though his creations are considered mechanical abominations of magicks and science. Branded a deviant and a murderer, Robin expects the viscount to run as far as he can—and is amazed when Marcus reaches for him instead.


This is a great little novella that mixes magic, science fiction, and history with love and friendship thrown in for good measure.  Watching Marcus overcome what happened to his father and others to do the right thing is heartwarming and helps remind the reader that face value and on the surface is not the whole story.  Definitely worth reading by the very talented Rhys Ford.

Reviewer Note: I have to say that I don't really get the whole terminology of steampunk.  I know what it means and I know it is a sub-genre of science fiction but to me science fiction is science fiction, nothing more, nothing less.  As a reader, I will be putting this and others labeled steampunk on my science fiction library shelf but as a book blogger I will defer to the whole steampunk terminology labeling.  Just wanted to put that out there.

RATING: 



One
THE STINK of St. Francisco crept into Marcus’s nose and stayed there, an unwelcome sensory vermin plaguing him at every step. Fog hung in the alleyways, catching on the corners of buildings and shrouding Little Orient’s arcane-fueled street lamps. The faint orange glow they cast was barely enough to see by on a clear night, and once a heavy soup rolled in off the bay’s murky water, the ill-maintained orbs were dimmed to a pale-tangerine wash.

Definitely not enough light to see anything other than dark, slinky shapes at the edge of his vision but certainly bright enough to warn off any cutpurses lurking in the pea-soup thick shadows beyond. He’d been a fool to come down to Little Orient near dusk, but his grandmother had begged, something she rarely did.

Well, unless she thought she could get away with it.

“I thought I had enough.” Her soft, round face sported few wrinkles, and her cotton-floss hair was suspiciously bright gold, but the elderly woman wore her age well. “Please, Marcus. It would be such a disappointment if it wasn’t served.”

She’d been his only maternal influence after his own mother fled the Commonwealth to head back to London, and Marcus hated disappointing her. Hosting afternoon breakfasts for the West Commonwealth’s society were the highlight of his grandmother’s week, and if she needed a particular jasmine tea for it, he would damn well get it for her.

Now in the misty shadows of the district’s spice and sewer-perfumed air, Marcus wondered if he’d not made a mistake, and he would have been better off popping down to Woolworth’s Tea Emporium for a more mundane leaf.

“She would know,” he reminded himself, hefting his sword cane up and checking the fill of his pocket where his pistol hung heavy in his overcoat. “She always knows.”

The package of tea was light enough in his other pocket, not enough of a weight to trouble him, but it seemed to weigh him down with every step. Obligations. Family obligations. That was what the tea represented. The need to produce… to succeed in order to further the family line. Even if he was only the third son and a poor representation of the dukedom.

A chance quirk of filial bloodlines gifted him with a title, a viscount to put in front of his name, but it felt awkward hanging on his shoulders. He felt more at home in the boxing ring, schooling lesser men on the proper ways to defend themselves, or even riding with the hounds, chasing after a metallic gewgaw covered in rabbit fur rather than the traditional Reynard.

The industrialists made their mark in odd ways, filling the skies with bloated tick-like balloons strong enough to carry a man across oceans or steam-driven contraptions loud enough to frighten a sensible horse on the roads, but strangely enough, it was the faux fox that angered arcanists the most.

“It’s a violation of the natural order! They’ll be the death of us. The death of the British Empire!” His father harrumphed more than once as he read the Post at the breakfast table. He’d been a walrus of a man, bristling with a thick mustache and even thicker eyebrows, his ever-increasing belly popping more than a few buttons on his waistcoat when he blustered his opinions at the Commonwealth’s House of Lords.

In the end, the duke was right in his own way. It’d been a skitter that killed his father, a hand-sized mechanical leftover from the Society’s attempted coup against the newly crowned Queen. Hidden in the Lords’ Hall voting chambers, the spindly-legged mechanism somehow activated and attacked the man nearest to its hiding place, his blustering but large-hearted father. The Duke’s last words as he lay dying on the House floor were of his family and to curse the industrialists who brought doom to the British Empire.

His older brother Brent shared the old Duke’s feelings, having the smashed remains of the skitter cast into a glass paperweight so he could have a continuing reminder of the industrialists’ role in his father’s death. Marcus was kinder in his thoughts, although he’d be the first to admit, the mechanical simulacrums jerking their way through repetitive chores made his skin crawl and his belly clench.

If anything, he was as much of a violation of the natural order as any metallic thing the industrialists created in the name of progress. Knowing about his youngest son’s perversions would have killed the old man far quicker than any bronze, razor-edged spider, but the knowledge of his father’s ignorance was of little comfort to Marcus. He missed his gruff and affectionate father and treasured any reminder of him—including the old Duke’s elderly mother. So if tramping down to the dangerous climes of Little Orient for his gently raised paternal grandmother would make her happy, Marcus was more than willing to take on the task.

Still, he’d come armed. And a lucky thing that was when he turned down Grant Street and heard the sounds of something hard smacking flesh.

It was a sound Marcus knew intimately. And not just from the boxing ring.

Despite the early hour, there were few people on the street, and those he saw were Asian, keen on ignoring the mewling, soft cries of a man being beaten. Their involvement would only bring down trouble on them. If the man were Oriental, a local tong would step in, and if the man were Occidental, then the unfortunate soul would be relying on the infrequent bobby patrolling the unfriendly streets.

Neither sat well with Marcus. Action was bred into the Stenhills over the centuries, and his own father had hammered a single truth into his sons before he departed for the heavens. A man with power protects and serves those lesser than he. It is only the weak who use their power to do harm.

He drew his pistol and broke from the watery light keeping him weak company from above. The weight of the tea in his pocket was negligible, not enough to weigh down his gait, but Marcus was still careful with his footing. The cobblestones under his boots were wet from runoff and the creeping waters of overfilled sewers, but Marcus tramped through the mess, intent on locating the site of the beating.

It wasn’t very far. The alleyway he’d cut through opened up to a courtyard, one of many hidden in Little Orient’s warren, but surprisingly, the small enclosed yard was lit up by lanterns, their bright light casting deep shadows against nearby encroaching brick buildings. The shadows played out a macabre puppet theater, dancing marionettes wielding cudgels Punch would have been proud to own, but it was the casters of those inky echoes that gave Marcus pause.

There were four of them. Men from noble lines if the cut of their clothing and grooming gave him any clue and, alarmingly enough, they surrounded a man, his long body curled up on the yard’s unevenly laid aggregate pad. Their victim lay tightly wound, his arms up over his head to shield his temples, leaving his body largely unprotected.

Where the men gave Marcus pause, the blood seeping into the yard’s cracked ground did not, and Marcus raised his pistol, aiming for the largest of the attackers.

“Stand down!” He let his bulk speak for him as much as his booming voice. Marcus knew his face bore the marks of a man who made his living in the ring. Too many times his nose was turned this way and that before he’d mastered the sport, and if the ring wasn’t school enough, his older brothers had their hand in the shaping of his craggy face.

They were young. Something Marcus felt down in his bones when the men looked up. Barely two decades each, from the way fuzz dappled their cheeks, and a small part of him died inside, saddened by the callousness of arrogant youth. One took a step toward him, and Marcus cocked his pistol, a defining, menacing click signaling his intent.

“It’s Westwood,” one of the young men whispered to his compatriots.

“There’s four of us and only one of him.” One of the larger ones kicked at the man on the ground. “Not like this one is going to get up.”

It was a valid point and one they hadn’t thought of if the expressions on their drunken faces were anything to go by, so Marcus shot the largest of the attackers.

The ball went straight through the young man’s leg, possibly shattering the bone, but he’d aimed far enough away from a critical artery that Marcus was assured the boy would live.

He would definitely limp for the rest of his days, but it was a small price to pay to learn humility in the back alleys of St. Francisco’s Little Orient.

“Now.” Marcus tilted his head to regard the rest of the young men with a stern gaze. “This is a repeater. I have ten shots left. Who would like to be next?”

They fled. It was a near moment when they almost left their fallen comrade behind, but a short tsk of reproach from Marcus’s haughtily set mouth reminded them of their manners. Also, Marcus had no intention of nursing more than one man in the dank Little Orient alleys. It took them longer than he’d expected to gather up the whining young man, his screams nearly girlish when two of his friends hoisted him up across their shoulders.

If he’d been of a more benevolent mind, he’d have offered them a card to his gaming hell with a stern instruction to learn how to defend themselves. He felt less than benevolent. Especially since they didn’t appear to be the sort to learn from a near-fatal encounter after trying to beat a man to death.

He waited a breath before he pocketed his pistol, not trusting the booze-sodden youngsters not to double back and take revenge. When he was certain there were no stealthy footsteps coming at him through the fog, Marcus hurried over to the man they’d accosted and carefully turned him over.

And cursed himself for saving a man who sent a wave of desire down his belly and straight into his hardening cock.

The man wasn’t handsome, not in the way the ton leaned, but there was something about his face… his body. Even battered and bruised, the man’s long legs and strong face were enough to prick Marcus’s buried libido.

It was a crow of a face, with cheekbones sharp enough to cut glass and a Roman nose set firmly above a pair of full lips. The man’s long lashes curved up at the ends, the lights of the quartet’s forgotten lanterns casting shadowy stripes onto his cheeks. A line of blood trickled down from a wound to the man’s temple, its edge smeared into his too-long black hair. It fell straight from a widow’s peak at the center of his forehead, nearly pitch in color except for a thin silver streak starting from his part and leading down the length of his mane, cutting through the deep black like a vein of bright metal poured over coal.

“Are they gone?” Perhaps the huskiness of his voice came from screaming for help, but Marcus doubted it.

He’d not heard a whimper from the man as he lay still, and for a moment before he’d touched the youths’ victim, he’d feared the man was dead. Instead, he’d been playing opossum or perhaps even fallen unconscious from the blows. Either way, the raspy curl of the man’s honey voice was another blow to his control, and Marcus whispered a brief why to his Maker, wondering what he’d done to anger God enough to throw this man at his feet.

Then his fallen crow opened his eyes, and Marcus was lost, trapped in a gaze as silvery as the streak in the man’s inky hair.

“You must hate me so, God,” Marcus pleaded as he steeled himself to check the man’s injuries. Laying his hands on the man’s skin was the last thing he wanted to do. Or the first. He wasn’t quite certain, but in his mind, the fantasy did not involve being out in the open during a chilly evening in Little Orient.

“You were hoping I was dead?” The man struggled to sit up, but Marcus placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Stay there. I need to get a lantern and check your eyes.” There was one not far away, its punched-tin sides holding in a floating arcane globe nearly stronger than the district’s street lamps. Hooking his finger into a catch-loop at the top, he brought the lantern close to the man’s face. “Keep your lids open, and let me see if you have a concussion.”

“You’re a doctor?”

“No, I teach fisticuffs. I can do the basics, and I know when a man’s been knocked senseless.” He stared at the man’s pupils, not liking the disproportionate reaction of his irises. Marcus put the lantern down and held up two fingers. “How many do you see?”

“Of you or your hand? Because I see two of each.” The silver flash of his eyes was gone under the flutter of the man’s long lashes. “And I feel… sick.”

“You definitely are concussed.” Marcus patted at his coat, checking the tea package. “Do you live far from here?”

“Not far, but you don’t have to bother. I can….” The flutter returned. Then his eyes drooped, an uneven shuttering, before they stilled. The man went pale, something Marcus hadn’t thought possible considering he was already nearly bone white, but a creeping gray flush spread over his cheeks, and his breathing hitched, growing erratic.

“Shit.” It was a coarse word, one learned from the stable master when he’d been twelve, but it was fitting at this point in his life.

Dropping his head to the man’s chest, Marcus was encouraged by the steady beat of his heart beneath his bloodstained linen shirt. Sliding a hand up the man’s belly, he tried to concentrate less on the firm muscles under his fingers and more on the warmth of the man’s skin. He was growing cold, the chilled ground leeching away the heat of his body. Marcus would have to move him quickly, but it would have to be somewhere close. With his pate rattled, the long trek up to Great Richmond would do more harm than good, and Marcus still didn’t know if any of the man’s limbs were broken.

“Damn it, I need you to wake up, old man. I need to know where you live.” Marcus folded the man’s greatcoat around his shivering torso and pulled in his arms, telling himself not to look at the injured man’s long, delicate fingers and dream of them ghosting over his own chest. His cock certainly wasn’t listening to him. It was alert and sniffing like a dog with a bitch in the wind, and every twitch of his roiling balls was a reminder he was a sick man, perverted not just for his love of men but for raking up a desire when the man in question was clearly broken.

The lights of a low-flying zeppelin dappled the sky above him, the fog swirling about the enormous balloon’s cab as its rotary blades swished through the damp air. It was enough of a wind to blow a gust of cold down on them, and Marcus leaned forward, hoping to shield the unconscious man from the bluster. It passed quickly, driven to do better things than hover over the area on a dank night, and Marcus sighed with relief as it moved on.

His arms were certainly strong enough to carry the man, but he was loath to leave behind his walking stick. He grabbed the sword cane from where he’d let it fall earlier, tucked it into the man’s coat, and secured it beneath a row of buttons to hold the damp wool folds together.

The lanterns would have to stay, he decided. There was no way he could manage the man and a lantern both.

When he slid his arms beneath the man’s legs, he met resistance, and his fingers tangled through what felt like girders. Curious, he moved the man aside, careful not to jostle him too much, and stared in sheer amazement at what he found hidden beneath the thick woolen fabric of the man’s coat.

If anything, the contraption was small, barely two feet in length or height if Marcus parsed its construction properly. Resembling a pair of struts for a folding bridge, the device looked as if it could be secured around someone’s legs by the leather straps dangling along its lengths and the couplings attaching it to a thick cloth waistband.

“What in the name of the Nine Hells?” Marcus murmured in shock when the device slowly churned at a bend when he touched it at a jointure.

It folded up into a V, then stopped, moving only an inch before locking into place. From what he could see, it had no engine, not steam or gas, and the movement definitely had been powered by… something. A soft glow beneath the cloth was enough of a clue. The mechanism was powered by arcane, a clear violation of the factions’ philosophy against mingling science and magicks.

“Oh, my little crow, what the hell are you up to?” Marcus glanced at the passed out man. “Are you insane? They’ll throw you in New Bedlam for this.”

The shrill pipe of a bobby whistle broke Marcus from his thoughts, and he moved quickly, shrugging off his own overcoat to hide the mechanism beneath its heavy fabric. A red-faced man wearing the Queen’s Blues rushed into the yard, his blackjack at the ready to bash in any attacker he might see, but he pedaled to a halt at the sight of Marcus leaning over his rescued victim.

“Ah, just what I need. Help.” Marcus slid his arms under the man’s legs and back, then nodded over to the bobby. “This man was set on by ruffians. I need to get him to a healer. Is there someone in the area you know and trust?”

The bobby ducked his head, nearly solicitous in his bearing toward Marcus, but his face hardened when he took a good look at the man in Marcus’s arms. “Begging yer pardon, sir, but fuck ’im. ’E can rot there for all I care.”

“What do you say?” Marcus pulled himself up, hefting the man’s slender body into the cradle of his arms with ease. “He’s injured. And an innocent Englishman attacked by his own. He needs assistance.”

“Ye wouldn’t say that if ye’d recognized ’im, guv,” the bobby said, spitting on the ground as if to wash himself of a foul taste in his mouth. “That’s the bloody fucking Toymaker.”

Author Bio:
Rhys Ford was born and raised in Hawai’i then wandered off to see the world. After chewing through a pile of books, a lot of odd food, and a stray boyfriend or two, Rhys eventually landed in San Diego, which is a very nice place but seriously needs more rain.

Rhys admits to sharing the house with three cats of varying degrees of black fur and a ginger cairn terrorist. Rhys is also enslaved to the upkeep a 1979 Pontiac Firebird, a Toshiba laptop, and an overworked red coffee maker.


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The Handyman Can by Lily G Blunt

Title: The Handyman Can
Author: Lily G Blunt
Genre: M/M Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Short Story
Release Date: March 1, 2016

Alex is falling in love with Michael, one of the gorgeous handymen who maintain his property.
Can Alex trust the Fernando brothers or are they thieves?

Summary:
After moving into his new house, Alex Sucre employs the three good-looking Fernando brothers as handymen to maintain his home and garden. He’s immediately attracted to Michael, the youngest, and enjoys watching his muscle-packed body through his study window as he works.

After a spate of burglaries in the area, one of Alex’s neighbors accuses the brothers of the thefts. Alex is reluctant to believe that any of them could be responsible, as their business is thriving and they appear to be honest men. But once that seed of doubt has been sown, Alex wonders whether they can be trusted.

Should Alex confront Michael with his suspicions and risk destroying their newly formed relationship?


All it took was the clack of the garden gate closing. Alex Sucre’s breath paused, his heart raced. He shot a look from the spreadsheet on his laptop to the digital clock at the top corner of the screen.

Mmm… He’s early today.

Alex waited in case he’d misheard, but there it was, the gritty roll of the lawn mower on the path down the side of his house. Warm excitement rippled through him—his breath quickened, his heart pounded just that bit faster. He peered through the slats of the Venetian blinds strung across the study window and out into the garden, waiting expectantly. His cock stirred, a familiar and very welcome tingle. Alex was already anticipating what, or who, he was about to see.

Several whirrs of the motor’s pull cord rattled the near silence until it caught and the lawn mower burst into life, filling the quiet of the house. Alex leaned forward, adjusting the blinds, ready to ogle his gardener as he strode across the lawn. In his eagerness, Alex scattered papers onto the wooden floor.

Damn it!

He scooped them up and slapped them back down by his keyboard. Alex moved beside his desk, to one side of the window, not wanting to be caught snooping already.

Come on. Come on. Hurry up!

What Others Are Saying:
"My review of this amazing story. I received an ARC copy of this book and OMG am I glad I did.

The Handyman Can, is gripping and sweet and thrilling and so much more. I just couldn't put it down. You have a brilliant mix of people in the neighbourhood where it is set from kind dears to busy bodies. My love fell to Alex and Handyman Michael. I won't give spoilers away because I want you all to enjoy this a fall in love with this book as much as I did. Let's just say it's a book you will be thrilled you bought and read and you will want more.

Go buy this asap once on sale and it's for pre sale as well so pick it up guys and gals." --5* Review on Goodreads

"Ahhhh… A short and sweet book to zap your endorphins after reading a long, angsty book. Or as I like to call them: Bathtub Books!

A Bathtub Book is a shorter book that is perfect to read in the tub, before the water gets cold. The Handyman Can is the perfect length and sweetness level to let you relax and enjoy.

Hunky handymen, sweet make out sessions and a bonus hot sex scene make this a win for me.

Enjoy Alex and Michael and the off-the-charts cover-hotness!"  --Gay Book Reviews

"The Handyman Can was a wonderful surprise. For a story only 38 pages long it was surprisingly full of recognisable characters and gripping storyline. I won’t go into the details of the story; the blurb tells you all you need to know. I will say that I got to know both Alex and Michael rather well as the story progressed and especially Michael charmed his way into my heart. I also loved Alex’s neighbours. They were an interesting, varied and recognisable bunch of people, just as you would expect in any neighbourhood.

I enjoyed the simmering heat when the story starts and the way it slowly built up to the steaming finale after all issues have been resolved. And I liked that this story provided more than ‘just’ a steamy romance; we’re also given the opportunity to enjoy a mystery with an action packed conclusion. Quite an achievement, considering the length of this story.

Having said all of that, I did have one or two reservations as well. Once or twice Alex came across as somewhat condescending in the way he thought about Michael and his brothers. As much as it is clear he is head over heals in love with his handyman, Alex’s thoughts made me a bit uncomfortable at times and somewhat worried about their future as a couple. My second reservation is connected to the first one; Alec was very quick to have doubts about the three brothers even if he doesn’t voice them to Michael. These were minor issues though. Overall the obvious and very hot attraction between these two men took centre stage and kept me rooting for them even when it seemed as if it might all be falling apart before it had even had a chance to begin.

Long story short: The Handyman Can is a hot, fast paced and well plotted story and as a result a thoroughly enjoyable quick read. If you find yourself with a spare hour on your hands I recommend this story whole-heartedly."  --4* Review on Goodreads

Author Bio:
Lily G. Blunt writes contemporary gay romance and erotica. She loves to explore the relationship between two men and the intensity of their physical and emotional attraction. Angst often features in her stories as she feels this demonstrates the depth of the men’s feelings for each other. Lily is forever writing imaginary scenes and plots in her head, but only a few ever make it to the page—there never seems to be enough hours in the day despite having left the teaching profession to concentrate on her writing!

Lily discovered the wonderful world of m/m romance novels five years ago via fan fiction and went on to write stories in her spare time. With the encouragement of her friends and readers she decided to publish some of her work. Lily subsequently self-published several stories via Amazon. She later published short stories with Torquere Press and Wayward Ink Publishing. Lily is excited about joining Pride Publishing for her upcoming story, The Handyman Can.

Lily is an avid supporter of GLBTQ rights and advocates equality for all. She was recently a steward for Pride in London. She lives in central England with her rather bemused husband and a 'mad as a bag of frogs' Shetland Sheepdog called Barney.


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Triangle of Hope by Michael Meyer

Title: Triangle of Hope
Author: Michael Meyer
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Release Date: December 1, 2014
Summary:
Feel-good contemporary fiction. Change is in the air.

Who knew that a chance encounter would change their lives, and the lives around them, forever? Three unlikely allies come together to take a selfless, courageous stand, and their world will never again be the same.

Clint Westerly has it all; that is, until he makes a fateful decision that turns his life upside down.

Tanya Wilshire has sheer determination to fulfill her mother's dying wish, although she seemingly has now lost the means to do so.

Seamus Harrington, eighty-four years of age, is determined to right an old wrong before it is too late, even though the odds are heavily stacked against him.

If you love feel-good reads with happy endings, then don't miss TRIANGLE OF HOPE, where "Meyer was masterful in weaving the story lines of the three main characters into a conclusion which was exactly what the title suggests...a Triangle of Hope." (Jon Colson)

"A book that will stay with you forever." (Wanda Hartzenberg)


His impending death hung in the air like thick smog, smothering everything in its path, obscuring a parade of ups and downs, the unevenness of thrills and chills that defined his life’s existence. It was eerie and scary, but also rather comforting, much like being in a warm bed on a cold night, like shivering while being filled with excitement at what was going to happen next. The news could very easily have been broadcast to those of his past and present, but he had made certain that all the speakers had been turned to mute. He had made the firm decision to meet his destiny without any chance of intervention by anyone. He was all alone in this, his final act.

Author Bio:
Writer of mysteries, thrillers, humorous fiction, and non-fiction: Love and romance, laughter and tears, thrills and fears. 

Among the many unique things that have happened to him in his world travels, he has walked the streets of Istanbul with a detective, searching for a pickpocket who got him good. He has ridden on the back of a motorcycle in Tehran while the driver, who spoke not one word of English, pointed out all the sights to him. He has wrestled an Iranian soldier who tried to break into his hotel room in Tehran. He has had the paint completely stripped from his car as he drove across Saudi Arabia in a sandstorm. He has stood on the stage of a busy nightclub in Tokyo, singing "She'll be Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes" to an audience feeling no pain from the Sake they were drinking. He has been chased by a family of mongooses (yes, that is the correct spelling) on the idyllic Caribbean island of St. Croix. And that is just the beginning of his long list of worldly adventures.

As a recent retiree from a forty-year career as a professor of writing, he now lives in Southern California wine country with his wife, Kitty, and their two adorable rescue cats.


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Nora and Kettle by Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Title: Nora & Kettle
Author: Lauren Nicolle Taylor
Series: Paper Stars #1
Genre: Young Adult, Historical
Release Date: February 29, 2016
Summary:
What if Peter Pan was a homeless kid just trying to survive, and Wendy flew away for a really good reason?

Seventeen-year-old Kettle has had his share of adversity. As an orphaned Japanese American struggling to make a life in the aftermath of an event in history not often referred to—the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the removal of children from orphanages for having “one drop of Japanese blood in them”—things are finally looking up. He has his hideout in an abandoned subway tunnel, a job, and his gang of Lost Boys.

Desperate to run away, the world outside her oppressive brownstone calls to na├»ve, eighteen-year-old Nora—the privileged daughter of a controlling and violent civil rights lawyer who is building a compensation case for the interned Japanese Americans. But she is trapped, enduring abuse to protect her younger sister Frankie and wishing on the stars every night for things to change.

For months, they’ve lived side by side, their paths crossing yet never meeting. But when Nora is nearly killed and her sister taken away, their worlds collide as Kettle, grief stricken at the loss of a friend, angrily pulls Nora from her window.

In her honeyed eyes, Kettle sees sadness and suffering. In his, Nora sees the chance to take to the window and fly away.

Set in 1953, NORA AND KETTLE explores the collision of two teenagers facing extraordinary hardship. Their meeting is inevitable, devastating, and ultimately healing. Their stories, a collection of events, are each on their own harmless. But together, one after the other, they change the world.


Cotton candy sticks to my fingers. It winds around my hands, dyeing my skin pink. The smell is so deliciously artificial, so sweet and simple, that it brings tears to my eyes. I bring my nose to the fluffy cloud of sugar and inhale. The breath gets caught in my throat and I inhale again, startled by the feeling. I can’t breathe. I’m choking. Choking on a pink cloud. I cough, putting my hands to my neck. I try to cough again, but nothing moves. I mouth help me soundlessly.

My eyes fly open.

Darkness presses down on me, and a weight leans against my windpipe. My eyes flick to the window. I imagine small rectangles of golden light shining in the night like invitations and witnesses, though only hollow, broken-glassed holes stare back at me. I reach for them, my arms shaking, a tear caught in the creases of my eyelids.

“You knew and you didn’t tell me,” he whispers darkly, dragging my oxygen-starved body from the bed, to my feet, and then releasing me. I stumble as I drag in a breath as quietly as I can. I can’t wake Frankie. My knees knock as I brace myself against the wall. “You sad, pathetic little girl. Did you honestly think you could keep this from me?”

My head drops, my mind still catching up, still caught in cotton candy. “Keep what from you?” I manage, my voice squeezed of sound like my windpipe now has a permanent kink in it.

I can barely see him in the dark room, but I hear the deep, frustrated breath in. It’s wrapping around me like a snake constricting and squeezing. I feel the disgust in his footsteps, sharp, stabbing at the floorboards. He darts and grabs my arm, gripping so tightly that I know his handprint will be tattooed on my skin by tomorrow. “You come with me. Now!”

Like I have a choice.

He yanks hard. Every movement is punctuation to his hatred of me, to his unending anger that it was her and not me.

The hall is lit by a single lamp, and it flickers and dances happily against the wallpaper. My heart beats along with every flick and my body starts trapping itself against the pain. I fold in and in like a note passed around the classroom.

When I trip on the rug, he doesn’t even stop, just tugs upwards on my arm hard. I bite down on my lip to stop from crying. He won’t spare Frankie if she comes out of her room, and she won’t be able to take another beating.

I can.

I can do this.

The study door is kicked open, and I’m swung into the room like a discarded doll. I land, palms flat on the hard floor, the polished boards reflecting the golden spines of hundreds of books. Books that educated a man, yet failed to teach him how to be one.

He looms over me, hands on his hips. His striped pajamas and slippers softening him into a lie I can’t believe, because there’s a darkness in him, a clawing, scrabbling darkness deep within. He casts no shadow. He swallowed the unwilling likeness years ago, and now it coats every organ in his body with blackness.

“What were you trying to achieve?” he spits.

I shuffle backward on my bottom and prop myself up on my elbows, trying to think what to say, how to diffuse him. There’s nothing.

“I wasn’t trying to ‘achieve’ anything. I’m sorry, Father,” I say. “I thought Mister Inkham would inform you of the changes.”

His eyes widen at the name, but he doesn’t respond to my words. He’s stuck on the speech he wants to give. The punishment he’s holding in his clenched fists.

“Do you think it’s acceptable to lie to your father? To entertain strange men in my home when I’m not present?” he starts. Raking a hand through his ash-blond hair, he pauses. “I don’t know why I bother…”

He takes a step toward me, our feet just touching, and I’m frozen. I want to run. I want to scream for help. Fight back. But I can’t overpower him and I can’t leave Frankie alone with him.

“Please, Father. I’m sorry. I didn’t know what he was calling for until it was…”

A dark whir like a giant batwing comes at the side of my face with such force that my teeth feel as if they’re escaping through my cheek. The words, the futile words, are knocked from my mouth. I should have learned by now. But I always try.

“Get up!” he snaps, nursing his hand like it hurt him too. I scramble to my feet and start for the door.
“Stop.” He swiftly closes it and turns, his face shadowed in violence. “Get the belt from the desk drawer.”

I abide.

What did Mr. Inkham say? Survive, endure, for three more years… 

Disappear. Sink down, down, down. Go somewhere he can’t find you. Hide.

I can do this. I have to.

“You’re nothing like her,” he says with the first crack. “You’re of no value to me.” The words are a cloud floating away as I cocoon myself, pull down the shutters, and wait for it to be over.

Author Bio:
Lauren Nicolle Taylor lives in the lush Adelaide Hills. The daughter of a Malaysian nuclear physicist and an Australian scientist, she was expected to follow a science career path, attending Adelaide University and completing a Health Science degree with Honours in obstetrics and gynaecology.
She then worked in health research for a short time before having her first child. Due to their extensive health issues, Lauren spent her twenties as a full-time mother/carer to her three children. When her family life settled down, she turned to writing.

She is a 2014 Kindle Book Awards Semi-finalist and a USA Best Book Awards Finalist.


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The Diary of Bink Cummings Volume 4 by Bink Cummings

Title: The Diary of Bink Cummings Vol 4
Author: Bink Cummings
Series: MC Chronicles #4
Genre: Motorcycle Romance
Release Date: February 29, 2016
Summary:
Fat and pregnant, I'm at the end of my ropes with swollen ankles and exhaustion.

Growing a little person inside of me is no small feat, and when that same little person decides it's time to be welcomed into the world, I'm suddenly catapulted into the beauty of motherhood.

Join me in my birthing journey.

You're in for one helluva ride.

**Not a Standalone- Must read- Vols 1-3 first.**
***Warning: Contains Mature scenarios, and mass quantities of profanity. For Ages 18+ ***




Author Bio:
Author Bink Cummings was born and raised part of a biker family. Upon the incessant coercion from her sacred sisters, she has begun her newest journey in life--writing. When she's not shacked up in her home writing at all hours of the night, Bink enjoys riding motorcycles, taking care of her family, reading, and cooking huge meals--Especially her infamous chocolate chip cookies.


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Bink Cummings Vol. 4

Bink Cummings Vol. 1

Bink Cummings Vol. 2

Bink Cummings Vol 3

Nowhere (Crimson Outlaws MC) December 2016: GOODREADS TBR




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