Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Curse of the Blue Scarab: A Monster Mash-Up by Josh Lanyon

Summary:
Who or what is responsible for the gruesome deaths of members of the secret society known as the Order of Osiris?

Dr. Armiston, an irascible, confirmed bachelor who believes in medicine not mysticism, is certain the deaths are only tragic accidents.

The members of the Order of Osiris suspect something more sinister is at work. They profess to believe an ancient curse has been visited upon their society. Handsome and mysterious Captain Maxwell requests Armiston’s help.

Tarot cards? Egyptology? Spiritualism? Armiston has little patience with the superficial and silly pastimes of the rich, but he does love a good puzzle. Or could it be that he is more drawn to young Captain Maxwell than he wishes to admit?

Either way, Armiston must solve the secret of the cursed sarcophagus very soon, for Captain Maxwell is the next slated to die…


Another amazing tale from the great storyteller Josh Lanyon.  The Mummy has always been one of my favorite Universal & Hammer horror stories and this interesting mash-up/spin on it had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end.  Is the Mummy real? Well, for that you'll have to read The Curse of the Blue Scarab yourself, but I will say that you won't want to miss this one.  So many elements in this one bring the story to life in ways that had my heart in my throat, my knuckles white from gripping my Kindle so hard, and the building anticipation had me tingling from my hair to my toes.  Such a delicious way to start the New Year, a Lanyon novel with all my favorite elements: historical, romance, mystery, and hints of the paranormal which tick all my WOW boxes. The only disappointment was that it had to end.

RATING: 


Chapter One
I Am Called In
I remember the fog was particularly thick that February morning.

Pressing its formless face to the steamy window panes, grey and dreary as a specter, it crept down the chimney, dripping and hissing onto the smoking logs.

Drip. Hiss. Drip. Hiss.

An otherwise unremarkable start to the day that was to change my life forever.

Bird, my servant, an ex-sergeant of Marines, was spinning some lengthy and involved yarn about his exploits at Ladysmith while I attempted to read my magazine and finish my breakfast before the business of the day began.

“Those were weary hours. Lying on that hill while the bullets hailed down on us. I can still hear ‘em cutting through the air and clacking on the rocks. You couldn’t hear yourself think...”

“One can only imagine,” I murmured.

My name is Armiston. I’m a physician living and working in the West End. This sounds grander than the reality which is a little flat over a grocer’s shop in a small side-street off Piccadilly. My patients are principally the servants (and principally the men-servants—butlers, coachmen and such) from the big houses and clubs.

“Nine hours we clung to that pile of stones. Cartridges dwindling and men dying. I can tell you hope was fading…”

“I feel as though I’m there beside you.” I turned the page of the paper, studying the dubious claims in the advertisement for Madam Harper’s hair tonic.

In the street below a couple of news-boys began yelling about exciting information  exclusive to the special edition of the Daily Tale. I knew nothing would satisfy Bird till he got a copy. So I sent him out.

Drip. Hiss. Drip. Hiss.

Presently the outer door was flung open, and a man’s voice demanded whether the doctor was in.

“Second door right-hand side of lobby,” I shouted, and the man was in before I could swallow another mouthful.

He was a handsome, well-dressed young fellow, though noticeably lame. He leaned heavily upon an ebony walking stick--I noticed he wore no gloves--and his face was bloodless and strained with pain and shock.

I rose at once, ready to go to his aid, but his words stopped me.

“Sorry to come in on you like this,” he said, “but there has been a sudden death in Albany—a man I know—and I--we--need you to come round at once.”

His eyes, dark now with emotion, appeared to be gray in color. His hair was black. He was perhaps thirty.

“I see.” I left the paper-knife to mark my place in the magazine. “Are you quite sure he’s dead?”

“I’m afraid there’s no doubt about it.”

“Poor fellow,” I said, and sat down again. “If he’s dead, I may as well finish my breakfast.”

The young man stared as though he could not believe his ears.

I took another mouthful of kippers.

“You damned cold-blooded c-cormorant,” said the young fellow very angrily. “Will you come or won’t you?”

I studied him for a moment. Too thin, nervy, and young. Younger than I had first thought. Pain and illness had taken their toll.

“Not unless you want me,” I assured him, “but I’m ready if you are--and it seems you are.” I took one final bite, rising and turning into the lobby for a hat, munching the last of my breakfast as I followed my visitor out.

I didn’t mind his remarks, for though my attitude was both logical and practical, his sentiment was natural enough. I observed his awkward gait as he preceded me down the stairs. He managed to move quickly, which must have hurt considerably.

Instinctively I patted my hip-pocket, to make sure that my hypodermic case was there. It is an old servant, and reminds me of a good many queer things if I sit down to overhaul it. But the queerest had not happened when I felt it in my hip-pocket that raw February morning.

A taxi-cab waited at the street door, noxious fumes pooling into the fog. We piled inside and the cab pulled away at once.

Maxwell, as he told me his name was, said that he and another man had gone round to breakfast at the Albany, and had found their host lying lifeless on the ground.

“Poor Scrymgeour’s man Seymour knew you,” he said. “He gave me your address.”

The name Scrymegeour was unfamiliar to me and I could think of no patient named Seymour. I had a number of questions--beginning with why Scrymegeour’s own physician had not been summoned--but it seemed futile to quiz Maxwell when I was about to see for myself.

My companion did not appear to be a talkative man. His profile was grim and withdrawn as he stared at the cab window. The hand clutching his walking stick clenched and unclenched in unconscious anxiety.

In a few minutes we reached the Albany. Maxwell paid the driver and we hurried inside.

All was quiet. There was no sign of life. And by the same token, no indication that a death had occurred. The gas lamps made a valiant effort to challenge the chilly gloom of the day, but the soft light could not dispel the shadows lurking in the corners.

We hastened up the stairs. We had just reached the top of the dimly lit landing when a woman seemed to come out of nowhere, narrowly missing collision. Head down, face heavily veiled, she brushed past us with a breathy wordless apology and disappeared hurriedly down the stair.

I glanced after her. “This way, Doctor,” Maxwell urged, and we continued down the corridor.

Maxwell knocked at A14 and the door opened at once.

A cadaverous-looking specimen stood before us, and I recognized my former patient Seymour. His complaint had been a touch of liver, as I recalled, and in fact his gray and puckered face rather resembled a piece of undercooked liver.

Maxwell and Seymour exchanged a certain and silent look. Without a word Seymour turned, leading the way.

These Albany suites consist mostly of dining-room, bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen, and a pigeon-hole for a servant. The three first are en suite, each opening into the hall or lobby. Seymour took us straight to the bedroom from the outer door. Entering, one faced a high carved mantelpiece over the fire; and above the mantelpiece was the half-length portrait of a man in the dress of Charles the Second’s time.

On the hearth a large, heavy man lay, his head turned a little over his shoulder, his face half-hidden. It was easy to see before handling him, that his neck must be broken, and when I touched him I found he was not only dead, but cold.

Next to his feet lay wooden steps of the sort one uses to reach high book shelves. The right panel had broken off and the stool was overturned.

I glanced up at my companions. Maxwell met my gaze steadily, almost fiercely, as though waiting for me to make some objection. Seymour was staring at his fallen master.

I returned my attention to the unfortunate Scrymgeour. He wore evening-dress, and his face, the face of a man about thirty, was strikingly like that over the mantelpiece. The resemblance was increased by a small pointed beard, and by the dead man’s pale hair being just a little longer than most men wear their hair in town nowadays. What troubled me was his expression. His milky blue eyes were protuberant, as though starting from his head in alarm. His lips were drawn back from his rather pronounced teeth in a grimace of horror.

A young fellow, whom I judged to be Maxwell’s companion to this projected breakfast, joined us through another door than that by which we had entered, and bowed rather ceremoniously to me, without saying anything.

I began to like the situation less and less, though I could see nothing actually untoward in the case. More, it was the peculiar attitude of Scrymgeour’s friends. They were genuinely shocked, as they should be, but they also seemed almost…fearful, and for this I could see no reason.

I became conscious of a strange scent, an undernote to the more obvious odor of death. What was it?

“Your friend is, of course, dead,” I said, rising from my knees, “and he has been dead several hours.”

“And will you be so good as to tell us the cause of death?” asked the young fellow who had just joined us. He was fair-haired with soft brown eyes like a calf. He would have been about the same age as Maxwell, but of a softer and more conciliatory nature. Maxwell, unless I missed my guessed, had seen military service. This young man had never faced a more dangerous enemy than a bill collector. His voice was pleasant, though high-pitched, his manner was polite almost to affectation.

“A broken neck,” I said, “vulgarly speaking. More accurately, there is a separation of the cervical vertebrae, and probably complete rupture of the spinal cord.”

“But would you kindly oblige us with your opinion as to the cause of the broken neck?” At Maxwell’s warning look, he added, “I hope I am not asking too much.”

I looked at the young man, at the body, the steps, and the portrait.

“I cannot take the place of the coroner’s jury, you know,” I said. “The general appearance of things suggests that your friend was using the steps—perhaps examining that portrait—and that the steps broke, and the consequent fall did the mischief.”

He offered an uncertain smile. “Quite so. That is what we thought. I am greatly obliged to you for your opinion.”

“But my opinion,” I went on, looking at them both rather sternly, “isn’t of the slightest value, except as to the injury. The police must be told at once, and things had better be left exactly as they are until the police come. There will be an inquest.”

“Is that absolutely necessary?” Maxwell asked.

“Absolutely, as you must surely realize. But the police will tell you,” and I turned to leave the room.

I was thinking about the poor fellow on the floor, whose face was, I dare say, a good deal less grave and dignified then than it had been while he was alive. When death is sudden, in this case almost violently sudden, the victim is sometimes frozen in his final conscious or unconscious act, however ludicrous or embarrassing. The abject terror on the dead man’s features was disturbing even to someone who had not known him, and I wondered if perhaps it was this that was so distressing his friends to the point of addling their wits.

Preoccupied with this thought--or at least that would have been my excuse had either challenged me--I made absent-mindedly for the nearest door which led to the room the second young man had exited in order to join us.

As I reached for the handle I heard the two friends say simultaneously, “Not that door!’’

But they were too late.

The strange scent was much stronger in here and I recognized it at once.

Bitumen.

The hair rose on the back of my neck, though there is nothing inherently terrifying about the substance.

The room smelled of other things too. Cedar and candle wax and musty linens, but the acrid smell of bitumen underlay it all.

I pushed the door the remainder of the way open, and my attention was immediately caught by the queerly-shaped something propped against the far wall. It was the size of a small settee.

The next instant Maxwell reached me. He caught my arm. “This is only a dressing room, Doctor,” he said. Though his tone was courteous, his expression was grim.

I glanced down at his hand, raised my gaze pointedly.

Maxwell stubbornly held my stare.

I saw the very moment the thought occurred to him--recognized it because it was the exact same instant the thought occurred to me. His eyes searched mine and then he withdrew his hand.

I said, “I was thinking that if I write a note for the police—I know the inspector—it may save you trouble. I can write it here, I suppose?”

“No,” the other young man said. “You can’t.” He threw Maxwell an impatient look and then turned to Scrymgeour’s man. “Seymour, find the doctor pen and paper. Doctor, there is a writing table right in here.”

I ignored him, nodding at the heavy coffin-shaped container. “What is that?” I asked. I suspected I already knew what it was, though it was difficult to be certain in the poor light. I could see that it was made of dark wood and had been painted with exotic blue and gold designs.

“That?” It was Maxwell who answered. His tone was casual. Too casual. “That’s a mummy case, with a mummy inside. Poor Scrymgeour was interested in such things.”

This was my first introduction to the Mummy.

I wish it had been my last.

Author Bio:
A distinct voice in gay fiction, multi-award-winning author JOSH LANYON has been writing gay mystery, adventure and romance for over a decade. In addition to numerous short stories, novellas, and novels, Josh is the author of the critically acclaimed Adrien English series, including The Hell You Say, winner of the 2006 USABookNews awards for GLBT Fiction. Josh is an Eppie Award winner and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist.


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EMAIL: josh.lanyon@sbcglobal.net



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The Arrangement Audiobook by Felice Stevens

Title: The Arrangement
Author: Felice Stevens
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: July 20, 2016
Cover Design: Reese Dante
Photographer: Alejandro Caspe
Narrator: Charlie David
Audio Release Date: December 26, 2016
Summary:
Carter Haywood lives for the weekends - specifically the one weekend every month when he escapes real life, with all the pressures of work and caring for his special needs brother, to do whatever he wants, with whomever he wants. Sex is only a release; he's not looking for love, a relationship or even a second night with the same man, until he walks into a bar and finds someone who makes leaving it all behind impossible. After one incredibly passionate encounter, he breaks his rule and goes back. He needs to see this man again. And again.

Damaged goods. That's all Reed Kincaide sees and hears when he looks in the mirror. Anxiety and ADHD define his life and he's learned to keep people at a distance, never letting them get close enough to know who he really is. When Carter proposes a monthly weekend of sex without strings, it's the ideal arrangement for him. Or so he thinks. Every month, leaving Carter proves to be more and more difficult. It's not only the intensely hot sex they have in their hotel suite; Reed wonders about the secret life Carter refuses to share.

As months pass and they grow closer Reed finds himself falling for Carter, but he needs more than hurried hugs and farewell kisses. He wants it all. Letting Reed into his carefully constructed family life could upset Carter's whole world, but it might be the risk he's finally willing to take, if it means keeping Reed. Once bodies are engaged, the heart is sure to follow, and Carter and Reed discover that holding on to each other is the first step in letting go of the past.


“Um.” Reed consulted his watch. “My shift doesn’t end for another hour.”

“I’ll wait,” said Carter without hesitation. “And I’ll take that Grey Goose now.” He stroked Reed’s fine, thin skin. “But with a twist this time.”

Reed’s eyes widened, and his nostrils flared. Unconsciously he leaned forward and triumph surged through Carter.

Yeah, that’s right, baby. Smell me; you know you want it. Carter quirked a brow, and Reed jerked back to awareness and pulled his arm away. Shooting Carter frequent dubious looks, Reed made him his drink and proceeded to set it on the bar quick enough that Carter couldn’t make a grab at him again. He backed away and began to twist at the cords of his leather bracelet.

Chuckling to himself, Carter sat there for the next hour and sipped his drink, getting just the right buzz on to the point where he could forget everything else in his life except the man who’d be coming back to his room tonight with him.

He looked up from his now-empty glass to find Reed standing beside him, wearing a beat-up leather jacket. “I-I’m finished with my shift now, but I’m not sure—”

“Not sure about what?” Carter stood and slipped his arm around Reed’s waist, inside his jacket. His warmth enveloped Carter, and strangely enough, he wanted desperately to sink into Reed’s arms. Reed tensed, and Carter felt the flex and play of his muscles underneath his clothing.

“I want you, you know that. And you want me too; it’s obvious. It’s only sex.”

“Yeah, I know that, but still.” Reed chewed his lip, suddenly looking very young and vulnerable, and an uneasy thought crept into Carter’s mind.

“How old are you?” Carter asked and held his breath.

“Twenty-seven. I know I look younger, but…”

Relief poured through Carter. A nervous lover he could handle. Still holding Reed around his waist, Carter moved even closer, fitting their hips together, letting Reed feel the weight of his arousal through his jeans.

“I want you to fuck me,” he whispered into the startled man’s ear. “Make me scream.”

Author Bio:
Felice Stevens has always been a romantic at heart. While life is tough, she believes there is a happy ending for everyone. She started reading traditional historical romances as a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn't until she picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth's court that her interest in romance novels was renewed.

But somewhere along the way, her reading shifted to stories of men falling in love. Once she picked up her first gay romance, she became so enamored of the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion there was no turning back.

Felice lives in New York City with her husband and two children. Her day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. Although she practices law, she daydreams of a time when she can sit by a beach and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be some angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.


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EMAIL: felice@felicestevens.com



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Mystery Angel Romance Series by Petie McCarty

Series: Mystery Angel Romance #1-3
Author: Petie McCarty
Genre: Contemporary Paranormal Romance

No Going Back #1
Summary:
Kellen Brand's inheritance turns out to be a whopper -- one dilapidated farm in West Virginia and one guardian angel! Since Kellen is convinced no sane woman would choose to live in Riverside, she vows to sell her farm and quick. Her handsome and reclusive neighbor Luke Kenyon must block the farm sale or risk exposure of his family's secrets. While Kellen has located one potential buyer, she faces a town full of objectors. Someone is trying to frighten her off, and Luke is forced to step in and rescue her more than once. Unfortunately, Kellen can't seem to stay out of trouble. She stumbles onto a clandestine hazardous-waste-dumping operation next to her farm, and she prays Luke has one more rescue up his sleeve. It's her only hope of staying alive. Unless her mother really did leave her a guardian angel…

Angel to the Rescue #2
Summary:
Child psychologist Rachel Kelly isn't quite sure how to handle the situation with her newest client -- a six-year-old boy who says he can talk to angels and one is coming to help Rachel. She already has her hands full of trouble this Christmas season, and things quickly take a turn for the worse when a stalker crashes Rachel's Christmas party and takes her young clients hostage.

Police negotiator, Lt. Jake Dillon, walked away from his fiancΓ©e Rachel when she suddenly balked at having kids. His kids. Yet when the hostage crisis erupts, Rachel calls Jake first. Now he has a choice to make -- stand back and wait for the cavalry to save Rachel or step in and try to save her himself. Time is running out, and Jake may be their only chance for rescue.

Unless Rachel's little angel-spying client is telling the truth…









The Seal's Angel #3
Summary:
Navy SEAL Sean MacKay's teammate is murdered after stealing a deadly nerve-gas formula from Syrian terrorists. Naval Intelligence believes MacKay's teammate was a traitor and shipped the stolen formula to his sister in the states for safekeeping. MacKay is given orders to find the sister before the terrorists do and to retrieve the stolen formula at all costs.

Foreclosure looms for Cory Rigatero as she fights to keep her rustic resort near Mt. St. Helens afloat after her brother deserted her to join the SEAL Teams. Cory's whole world dives into a tailspin when Sean MacKay shows up at her resort with the news of her brother's death and the wild suspicion her brother may have sent her traitorous classified documents. No way will Cory trust MacKay -- the man who once seduced her and then vanished into the night without a trace.


No Going Back #1
A horse whickered behind her, then the telltale creak of a saddle -- too close for comfort. Kellen froze. The hair on the back of her neck prickled as though lightning were about to strike. Ankle deep in the water, she couldn't make a decent sprint for the car, and she regretted her impulse to visit this deserted stretch of riverbank.

She eased around and saw the towering silhouette of a powerfully built man astride a huge black stallion, the rider's face shadowed beneath a wide-brimmed Stetson. The cowboy made an impressive, and at this moment intimidating, sight -- a throwback from the frontier days of the wild wild West.

The horse whickered again and sidestepped away from the edge of the embankment, forcing the cowboy to twist around to keep her in sight. She could feel his dark eyes studying every inch of her. The intensity in his gaze raised goosebumps on her arms and sent a tiny shiver vibrating up her neck. Trapped here along the edge of the river, she felt vulnerable yet strangely unafraid. Would he come any closer?

Angel to the Rescue #2
"Want to tell me what that was all about?" Wally asked, when they climbed into their Crown Vic.

"No."

"You said ex-fiancΓ©e."

Jake ignored him, hoping he'd shut up. Seeing Rachel -- touching her -- had shaken him.

"She's gorgeous."

He shot Wally a fulsome glare.

"Just saying is all. Kind of hard to believe you'd let somebody that gorgeous get away."

"Drop it," he growled.

"But we're partners. Partners talk."

"We've only been partners for three days."

"We can still talk about stuff that bothers you," Wally prodded.

"Nothing's bothering me," Jake snapped. "Come find me in three months. We'll talk then."

"But as real partners, we're supposed to share--"

"No, we're not," Jake bit off. "You don't need to know everything about me."

Wally stuck his palms up. "Okay, okay. Gees! Doesn't matter anyway. Some things I can see for myself."

Jake glowered at him again. "What are you talking about?"

"I thought you said to drop it?"

"Spit it out," Jake snapped.

"I can see you're not over your ex-fiancΓ©e. Yet."

Jake swung the Crown Vic hard into traffic. "You're crazy."

Wally shrugged. "I don't think so."

The Seal's Angel #3
Mac hauled ass for the main house, Garth huffing hard alongside, already winded and trying to stay on his heels. Something had happened to the dog, but he couldn't worry about that now.

The two broke through the border of the side garden. Mac could see the kitchen door of the main house standing wide open and raced that direction.

A second scream ripped through the air. This one sounded closer to the front of the house, and Mac turned course to race in that direction. Garth stayed straight and bounded through the kitchen door as Mac cleared the corner on the house.

He stumbled when he spied a man wearing a black hood and dark clothes -- a knife held at Cory's throat -- half-carrying, half-dragging her down the front steps. Mac skidded silently into the rhododendron bushes lining the porch. The assailant hissed over his shoulder to someone behind him.

Okay. Two tangos.

A wolf-like howl suddenly echoed in the house, clearly audible through the open front door. A heavy thud, a scream of pain, and vicious snarling sounded in rapid succession. Mac had backup. Garth had made it inside.

Author Bio:
Petie earned a Bachelor's degree in Zoology from the University of Central Florida, which was no help at all when she decided to write romance novels as a second career. Her particular background did afford her the luxury of many unique assignments during her career as an aquatic biologist, including aquatic plant surveys in Florida lakes and streams by airboat. Many of those off-the-wall assignments provided background for her stories.

Petie spent most of her career working as a biologist at the Walt Disney World Resort, "The Most Magical Place on Earth." What could be more magical than driving by Cinderella's Castle on your way to work every day? Living in the heart of the theme park entertainment industry constantly tweaked her imagination and made her want to write. She had the fun of working in the land of fairy tales by day and creating her own romantic fairy tales by night. She eventually said good-bye to her wonderful "day" job to write her stories full-time.

These days, Petie shares her home on the beautiful Cumberland Plateau with her horticulturist husband, a spoiled-rotten English springer spaniel addicted to green olives stuffed with pimento, and a talkative Nanday conure named Sassy who makes a cameo appearance in Angel to the Rescue. She loves golf, running, and reads voraciously. That's Petie, not the conure.




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***Books #1 & 2 Currently 99cents***
No Going Back #1

Angel to the Rescue #2

The Seal's Angel #3





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