Saturday, June 6, 2015

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Through Hell & Back by Felice Stevens featuring Embrace the Fire

Title: Embrace the Fire
Author: Felice Stevens
Series: Through Hell & Back #3
Genre: Contemporary, M/M Romance
Release Date: May 26, 2015

Embrace the Fire #3
Brandon Gilbert has spent years in hiding, but finally he’s accomplished his dream of working as a public school teacher. When offered the chance to help bullied children, there was no way he could say no. Not to mention that meeting Dr. Tash Weber, the psychiatrist who helps them, a sad yet sexy older man, ignited a spark inside Brandon he’d never had before.

Though five years have passed since the death of his lover, Dr. Sebastian "Tash" Weber has no interest in relationships or love. But young, enigmatic Brandon awakens his heart and his desire. Despite Tash’s best efforts to push him away, Brandon unlocks the passion for life Tash thought he’d lost forever.

Falling in love wasn’t part of the plan for either Brandon or Tash, but neither family disapproval nor self-doubts can stop them from embracing the fire that burns between them. And when Brandon returns home to fight for a future he never imagined possible, he and Tash discover that the one thing worth fighting for has been with them all along.

So we find ourselves with the last brother's story, and what a story it is.  I don't know if I'm ready to say goodbye to this family and yes it is a family.  Not just because of the brothers but because of the heart of each character but also because of the heart and soul the author put in to each page.  These characters truly do go through hell and back but Felice does it in such a way that you not only want to take the ride with them but you need to see it through right along side each and every step.  She does it so well that not only as a reader do you want to make that trip but if any of these characters were your friends, family, or neighbors you know you'd take that journey with them too.  That takes talent in my book and Miss Stevens is definitely an author you want to keep your eye on.  If M/M Romance isn't your typical genre of choice, this saga is still worth checking out from the sheer beauty of the storytelling and if you are a M/M fan but haven't read this author before, well Through Hell & Back series is a great place to start.


A Walk Through Fire #1
Years after running away from an abusive foster family, Asher Davis still inwardly struggles with the guilt of leaving his foster brothers behind. He’s climbed to unimaginable heights as a ruthless, high-powered attorney, creating a life of power and control. He takes whatever and whoever he wants.

Blaming himself for the death of his parents, Dr. Drew Klein retreats into a shell of loneliness, merely going through the motions of life.  After a disastrous, short-lived marriage, Drew decides to leave his lucrative medical practice to set up a clinic for abused young men and women. The decision has more repercussions than Drew could ever imagine when the dark and sensual Ash Davis volunteers to help.

Although Drew isn’t gay, Ash is inexplicably drawn to him. He vows to simply bed him and forget him like he's done with every other man.  However, Drew's sweet and caring nature and unexpected passion stun and frighten Ash, who questions his right to any happiness at all.  And when Ash befriends an abused young man who unwittingly draws the clinic into danger, threatening Drew’s safety and that of his beloved grandmother, Ash discovers that there is nothing he won’t sacrifice to protect the love he never thought he’d find.

I'm not sure which one spoke to me more, Asher or Drew, but either way it was all win-win as far as I was concerned. The story, the characters, the setting, everything just jumped right off the page.  When I read the summary, I expected not to really feel much for Asher right away, I was afraid he was going to be a player who needed to earn his way into my heart.  Was I wrong!  He had my heart right away.  I sure hope that we haven't heard the end of these amazing characters.


After the Fire #2
A single bullet destroyed the dreams of Dr. Jordan Peterson. With the man he loved dead, Jordan descends into an endless spiral of pain that nearly costs him his friends, his career and his life. When Jordan meets the aloof Lucas Conover, the investment banker’s mysterious past and unexpected kindness shocks Jordan back to a life he thought was lost forever.

Betrayal and abandonment by the foster brother he’d worshiped as a child taught Lucas Conover never to trust or believe in anyone. Living a solitary life did little to free him of the nightmare of his past; it reinforces his belief he wasn’t meant to fall in love. Working closely with Dr. Jordan Peterson forces him to meet another person whose suffering equals his own and Lucas can’t shake the unexpected the first man to ever get under his skin.

Mutual respect and rising desire bring Jordan and Luke closer than they ever imagined, and each man must come to terms with their past as they struggle to create a future together. And learning to trust in themselves and love again after tragedy and a lifetime of pain, may be the only thing that                                                                                 saves them in the end.

I wasn't sure I was going to be able to leave Ash and Drew behind enough to get into Jordan and Luke's story.  Was I wrong!  Very few authors can pull off heartbreaking and inspiring in the same book, but this one has.  Felice Stevens is quickly becoming one of only a few authors that I instantly "1-click" without even reading the blurb.  Even though After the Fire centers on a different couple, I really feel that you need to read A Walk Through Fire first.  There's something that happens in Walk that sets up After, so I don't feel it would flow very good if you try to read this one first. Some might call it "angsty", personally I don't see it as such, it's just drama in my mind, but whatever term you use it's very powerful on the heart and a definite addition to your TBR list.


Embrace the Fire #3
“Maybe we should get started? I’m, ah, kind of interested in seeing what you want me to do.” Beneath lowered lashes he shot a glance at Tash, who, thank God, had turned his attention to talk to the other men in the room.

Though he couldn’t remember their names, Brandon recognized the husky blond-haired man, hovering protectively next to a dark-haired young woman, from the picture hanging outside on the wall.

“That’s Mike, Dr. Levin, the dentist. He and Drew’s sister, Rachel, are dating,” Gage murmured in between sips of coffee. “She’s got a PhD in child psychology and set up the suicide prevention hotline here at the clinic. They really thought of everything here.”

Once again, regret slammed into Brandon. What dreams could Ash, Luke, and he have accomplished if someone had cared about them? Ash might not have run away, and Luke might’ve had someone to talk to instead of becoming so sad and withdrawn.

“Hey, Randy, where’d you go?”

Brandon blinked and found Gage’s sympathetic gaze trained on him. He swallowed hard and averted his eyes. “Nowhere.”

Gage shot him a sharp look but returned to sipping his coffee. As Drew approached, Brandon braced himself for the inevitable onslaught of getting-to-know-you questions. It didn’t matter as he had his whole pretend history well rehearsed.

“So, Randy, we’ve already heard from Gage before today. What do you think we need to do, to reach and help as many kids as possible?” Drew sat in the chair next to him.

Brandon instantly sensed Drew was a person who rarely passed judgment on people; he was the person you wanted to come home and tell all your problems to.

“I think you need to make sure the kids know first this is a place of trust and security. Also if they come here to talk, or we talk to them anywhere, we’re there to help them work out their own solutions safely.”

Rachel’s friendly smile encouraged Brandon and increased his confidence. “The most important thing to teach these kids is that they have a chance to break free and be what they want to be.”

Drew rubbed his chin, and his eyes clouded. “One thing from the beginning I have to make clear. If we hear of any abuse, we go straight to the police. If there’s any bullying, the school and the parents have to know.” The smile he wore so easily faded, replaced by an almost trembling frown. “We lost someone very dear to all of us because we held back, and I made the mistake of trying to handle the problem on my own.”

Rachel whispered in Mike’s ear, and he came over to place a hand on Drew’s shoulder. Drew smiled tremulously at him but continued. “The consequences are too enormous and dangerous if we don’t bring in the authorities when we know a person is at risk.”

The police? Shit. He couldn’t be a part of this. For years Brandon had evaded them, deliberately taking every precaution to keep as far away from them as possible. Now with this project, he’d be putting himself practically in their pockets. Though the mission sounded amazing, he knew he’d have to decline. He couldn’t afford the risk.

“Um, I’m not sure if I’m the right person for this.” Brandon’s fingers shook as he reached for his jacket. The room fell silent as he fumbled and stuttered over his words. “I mean, I’m so new; you really need a person who’s more experienced.”

He stood and grabbed his backpack. “Uh, I have to go, but I’ll let you know if I can do it. Thanks.”

“Wait, Randy, please.” Tash put himself in between Brandon and the door, but Brandon couldn’t let the disappointment and confusion in Tash’s handsome face dissuade him from leaving. He circled Tash and wrenched open the door.

“I’m sorry. I gotta go.” Cheeks burning, Brandon put his head down and raced through the hallway toward the front of the building. He’d just reached the door, when it burst open, and a tall, dark-haired man stood facing the street, shaking out his wet umbrella.

“Excuse me,” muttered Brandon, brushing by him, not waiting for a response. He plunged headlong into the foggy drizzle that had begun again, uncaring if he got wet. His long strides ate up the block as he pushed himself farther and farther away from the clinic. It hurt, walking out so abruptly, but once he got home, he’d call Gage and make up some excuse.

At the intersection he spotted a cab with its light on, and even though he could barely afford the fare for his monthly subway pass, he hailed it, asking it to drop him off at the nearest subway station in Carroll Gardens. He’d find a way to get home to Flatbush somehow.

The farther away he got from the clinic, the better, yet as he sat back in the cab, he couldn’t help recalling the disappointment in Tash’s face. But Brandon knew if he stayed he’d do more than disappoint everyone, and that wasn’t a chance he was willing or able to take.

A Walk Through Fire #1
“Have a drink, Drew, and tell me why you’re here.” Ash sipped his vodka and stared at him over the rim of his glass.

“No, thanks, I’m driving. But I do want to talk to you.” The man was a study in contrasts. Drew couldn’t think of a time he hadn’t seen Ash perfectly dressed, every hair in place, looking like he’d stepped out of a men’s fashion magazine.

Tonight however…well he looked off-kilter. Though he still had on his clothes from earlier, that white button down shirt and black slacks, the shirt was wrinkled and unbuttoned lower than he’d ever seen. Dark stubble shadowed along his jaw, and his hair lay unkempt and disheveled. Drew shifted on the sofa. “Look, I know this may sound stupid, but my grandmother was concerned about you, so she asked me to stop by and check up on you.”

“And of course you do everything your nana says.”

Drew’s face flamed. “Fuck you, Davis.”

A tiny smirk hit the corner of Ash’s lips. “What’s the matter, Doc? The truth hurts?”

The bastard. After all the nice things his grandmother had said about him, how she’d worried about him, this was his response? To act like the snide sarcastic son of a bitch he was at their first meeting? How dare he treat her concern as if it were nothing? And to think he’d actually thought they were friends. “What the hell do you know about the truth, huh? No one knows anything about you; you have no friends, no lover.” He stood, ready to leave. “No wonder you’re all alone. No one cares about you. You aren’t worth it.” Shit, he’d never spoken so cruelly to anyone. But then again, no one had ever gotten under his skin like Ash Davis.

Like a snake uncoiled, Ash jumped off the sofa and grabbed him by the shoulder. “Take that back.”

“What’s the matter, Davis? The truth hurts?” He mimicked Ash’s earlier words to him, and saw a flare of anger gleam in those colorless, glittering eyes.

“You fucking bastard. Who are you to say I’m not worth it, that no one cares about me? I have friends. People like me. Don’t you ever say I’m not worth it. I matter goddamn you. I fucking matter.”

Ash tried to grab onto him, but Drew wrenched away and took off for the door, speaking over his shoulder.

“People don’t like you, Ash, they want to fuck you because you’re beautiful. That’s not liking. That’s not a friendship. How many relationships have you ever had with another man? You’ve never even had a boyfriend or a permanent relationship have you, because you have to have a heart. You have to care about someone. How can you value someone else in your life when you don’t even value yourself?”

After the Fire #2
“Damn, you look like shit.” Ash’s sharp gaze raked him up and down. “Ow.” He rubbed his arm when Drew elbowed him. “Don’t get mad at me, baby. You know he does. Look at him.”

“Can we come in, Jordy?” Drew’s kind smile strangely made him feel worse, not better.

He said nothing and pulled the front door wider for his friends, leaving them to trail behind him back through the house and into the spacious kitchen. Sunlight poured onto the terra-cotta floors and glinted off the glass-fronted maple cabinets. The kitchen was his pride and joy, and when he and Keith bought the brownstone, it had been the only room he cared about decorating. Jordan had always loved staring out of the large bay window as he relaxed with his cup of coffee in the morning.

“Did you have a party?” Drew tipped his head to the table, still cluttered with vodka bottles.

“Party of one, more likely.”

Jordan heard Ash’s muttered remark, and despite a throbbing head and a roiling stomach, he lashed out.

“Shut up, Davis.” He and Ash had never had the easiest of relationships, and even though Jordan knew how happy Drew was, the man still irritated the hell out of him.

“Why, Jordan? The truth hurts?” Ash’s voice, oddly enough, neither condemned nor derided him. Instead, it held an overall note of sadness, mixed with empathy that pulled Jordan up short. “You sit here, night after night, refusing our dinner invitations, as well as any social contact with Rachel, Mike, or even Esther. Don’t think we don’t know what you’re doing and why.”

Jordan winced. Shit. A kindhearted, sympathetic Ash Davis was almost worse than the usual sarcastic attitude he dished out to everyone. “I’m not in the mood for company; that’s all.”

“And I call bullshit on that. You’re still mourning Keith, and I get that, but that doesn’t mean you don’t go on living. When your only company since he died has been vodka or whiskey, you’re heading for disaster.”

“Jordy.” Drew slung an arm around his shoulder. “I’m worried about you. You’ve lost weight, skipped days at the hospital, and I was told that during surgery last week—”

“Are you checking up on me?” He pulled away from Drew, shaking with anger. “What the fuck, man? You’re not my goddamn keeper.” Humiliation, shame, and a sense of despair tore through him as he turned away from his two friends to go back and sit at the kitchen table. He ran his hands over the battered wood of the long farmhouse table. He remembered how happy he and Keith had been to find it in the small Pennsylvania town they’d stumbled upon oneSaturday. Making love on top of it after lugging it up the stairs of the brownstone was a memory etched forever in his mind. He gripped the edge of the table to steady himself.

A few deep breaths settled him, yet he couldn’t face his friends.

For over thirty years he and Drew had been friends; the man knew him better than anyone else. People might think Drew Klein was sweet and easygoing, but Jordan knew the core of steel within his friend. Drew refused to back down if he thought he could help. True to form, Drew dropped into the chair right next to him, challenging and direct.

“Jordan. Look at me.”

It took an effort to tear his gaze away from the tabletop, but he inhaled a deep breath and smiled into Drew’s face. “What is it?”

Drew seemed taken aback that Jordan was smiling and not lashing out with his usual anger. “I’m not checking up on you. It’s common knowledge that you showed up to your first surgery since Keith died and had to wait an extra hour to start because you had the shakes.” Drew’s mouth thinned to a hard line. “Are you crazy showing up drunk for surgery? You could lose your fucking license, for God’s sake.”

“I wasn’t drunk. I was overtired and hadn’t eaten since lunchtime the day before.”

Behind him he heard Ash snort with laughter. “Are you fucking kidding me, Jordan? You can come up with a better one than that.”

“Fuck off, Ash,” he shot back. “I couldn’t care less about your opinion.”

“Do you care about mine, Jordy? Don’t lie to me.” Drew’s stare remained unflinching, his eyes soft and knowing. “I know you’re still having a hard time moving on from Keith’s death, but it’s going to be a year soon.”

“It’s only been nine months. God almighty, did you expect me to forget him already?” Horrified, Jordan swept his hand across the table, sending the empty bottles and food containers crashing to the floor. “Could you forget Ash so quickly? Keith and I were together for almost four years. Stop pressuring me to move on with my life. It’s over for me. There will never be anyone else.”

What is the biggest influence/interest that brought you to this genre?
I don’t know if there was any one influence. I had been writing Regency romance at the time I picked up my first MM book and fell in love with the emotional intensity of the men falling in love. I began to devour all the books I could find and by the time I stopped and looked back, I was done with historicals. Although I still indulge in some of my favorite MF authors.

When writing a book, what is your favorite part of the creative process(outline, plot, character names, editing, etc)?
Well, I don’t plot. Ever. My creative process is an idea pops into my head and I start to write it. Inevitably I hit a wall and stop. I then talk to my brainstorming betas and bounce  ideas around.  I walk about a mile to and from work every day so on my way home, I talk scenes out in my head and come to the office or home and write them out. It’s probably why I’m so oblivious when I’m walking and have passed my kids on the street without seeing them. And I like the editing process.

When reading a book, what genre do you find most interesting/intriguing?
I am a romance junkie; I need my Happily Ever After, so if I get that I’m good. As far as other books, I love mysteries and detective novels have been reading them since I was a child.

If you could co-author with any author, past or present, who would you choose?
I couldn’t imagine co-authoring since I’m too disorganized. If I was friends or friendly with the author they would literally hate me at the end of the process, so I’m honestly better off alone.

Have you always wanted to write or did it come to you "later in life"?
I know it’s corny to say, but I really did always want to be a writer. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing something, either a poem or a short story.

Author Bio:
I have always been a romantic at heart. I believe that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. I started reading traditional historical romances when I was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that my interest in romance novels became renewed.

But somewhere along the way, my tastes shifted. While I still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, I began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. Once I picked up her first, I became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, I knew I wanted to write my own.

I live in New York City with my husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of my own. My day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. I practice law but daydream of a time when I can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.


Embrace the Fire #3

A Walk Through Fire #1

After the Fire #2

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