Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Winter Hearts by Fyn Alexander

Luke Chandler says he wants nothing more than a quiet life on his land-claim in Dakota Territory. But what he also wants is a partner. The problem is, loving other men in 1881 means a lonely life for a man like Luke. As the son of a butcher from Boston, his desire for a loving domestic relationship seems nothing more than a dream, until one winter night, a snow storm blows a young man to his door in need of shelter. As the winter drags on, bringing with it a slow-burning love, his hopes begin to soar. Along with those hopes, his fears of the reactions of the people in the small town of De Smet grow.

Sam Smith is a romantic, but he also holds a strong family loyalty. He leaves Boston to get away from his parents’ expectations for a while, always knowing he must return at some point. The sweet young man does not anticipate meeting a rugged, honest man like Luke, who is desperate for love while at the same time afraid of the repercussions. The first time Luke holds him in his arms, Sam plans on making Luke his darling man.

In the first chapter, we get to see Luke and his wintery existence in De Smet in the Dakota Territory(now South Dakota) and the author's eye for detail had me immediately hooked.  As someone who has lived their entire life in Wisconsin, winter can be grueling, even though I have never experienced the kind of blizzards that were in 1881, it can still be extremely lonely and emotionally exhausting.  When the author captured that in one chapter I knew this was a story for me and I was right, Luke and Sam have very little in common and yet their chemistry was palpable.  Sam's eagerness to succeed is naive but honest and if anyone can get through Luke's stubbornness and into his heart, Sam is the one to do it.  Watching their journey can be heartbreaking at times but also uplifting and if you are as big a historical lover as I am I highly recommend Winter Hearts, even if they aren't your thing but you do love a well written tale, this is one to add to your list.


A knock on the door sent Luke’s heart thudding. Who the hell was out there in this storm? Either it was good or bad--nothing in between. From experience he assumed it was bad. He picked up his rifle and cautiously opened the door a crack.

A blast of icy, frozen pellets and freezing wind slammed into his face. From the darkness a voice said, “Sorry to trouble you, sir, but I’m caught in the storm. I wonder if I can put my horse and wagon in your stable and take shelter.”

The voice was soft, with an edge of desperation. The man must have followed the railroad track into town. Luke’s house was nearest to it. “Who’s with you?” The last thing he wanted was an entire family with little children in his tiny house.

“Just me and my horse.”

Babies or not, he would have let them in, but he was relieved the man was alone. “Wait a minute.”

Quickly he lit the oil lantern, then pulled on his coat and hat and went outside. The storm was blinding, but he could make out a wagon drawn by a shivering bay horse. Holding its bridle, Luke led the animal around the back of the house to the stable. The man opened the doors while Luke led the wagon inside. He closed the doors behind them, dulling the roar of the raging wind, and for a moment they looked at each other. Even in the lamplight he could see the other man was young and sweet-faced.

“You can put your horse in the stall beside Pretty Girl.” He gestured at the stall where Pretty Girl turned her head to the intruders. “Try to get your wagon over by mine.”

After some maneuvering in the small stable, the wagon was stowed out of the way. While the younger man unhitched the horse and led it into the stall with soft words of encouragement, Luke threw a bale of hay down beside it, and the animal began at once to eat.

“Thank you, sir,” the young man said. From his wagon he took a piece of burlap sack and began to rub the lather from the horse’s sides. “That feel better, Pip?” he asked the horse gently. “I’m so sorry I put you through this.”

The way he treated his animals said a lot about a man, and Luke liked what he saw watching this man brush down the horse while talking to it so sweetly.

The young man looked at Luke and smiled. “It’s freezing out there, but Pip is overheated from the work of pulling the wagon through deep snow. I should have stayed put, but I can be overconfident sometimes.”

Luke didn’t respond at once. The cadence of the young man’s voice reminded him of Holland’s, except that Holland was older than this boy and had a deeper tone.

“Do you mind if I sleep here, sir?”

The stable was snug for the animals but not for a man. “You can sleep in the house. You’ll freeze out here, but leave your weapons with your wagon.”

When he had finished caring for his horse, the young man tossed his handgun into the wagon beside his rifle and pulled out a canvas sack. Luke held the lantern high to lead them back through the black, biting storm to the house.

“You can hang your coat on the hook beside mine,” he said brusquely when they were inside. He wasn’t going to get friendly with this stranger, just do the decent thing and let him ride out the storm in safety.

“Thank you, sir.” He took Luke’s coat and hat from his hand and hung them for him, then put his own on the other hook. Surprised by the gesture, Luke didn’t know what to make of the young man.

“It’s cozy,” he said, looking around the house.

The comment made Luke look around too. Crumbs from his morning meal still littered the table along with the empty oyster tin. He was glad he’d straightened the bed, but he felt quite suddenly ashamed of the unswept floorboards and dusty shelves. “I don’t have a wife,” he said by way of excuse.

“Me neither.”

“What’s your name, boy?”

A hand as calloused from the reins as his own stretched toward him. “Samuel Smith. Sam.”

“Name’s Luke Chandler.” When Luke shook Sam’s hand, it was freezing, but his grip was strong. “You’re cold. Come to the stove.”

Luke could have kicked himself. Did his voice sound too soft, too concerned? He was sick of watching everything he said, being careful of his tone, or of inadvertently giving away private information. Living alone on his own land would be perfect for him. He’d be his own boss. No more working with rough men in the gold mines who talked about nothing but where the nearest whorehouse was. No more working on another man’s ranch. He was his own man from now on.

“I thought I was going to perish in the storm. I’m fine now. Thanks for taking me in.” Sam smiled, producing a dimple in his left cheek.

By God, he was sweet. For a moment Luke prayed the storm would be over by morning so he could send him on his way. The last thing he needed was a repetition of the White Horse Tavern. By himself Sam didn’t stand a chance against Luke, who was older and much stronger, but if Sam got the other men against him, he’d be run out of town on a rail--tar and feathers optional.

While Sam warmed his hands at the stove, Luke noticed their coats. Hanging side by side, two men’s coats looked good together. Luke found his gaze riveted on them before looking at Sam again. The young man had thick, soft, dark blond hair. It was long, past his shoulders. A lot of men wore their hair long outside of the cities, but Luke’s was dark and curly, so he kept it very short for fear of looking unmanly. “I don’t have much food, and there’s nothing to buy in the stores until the train comes through, but I can give you a can of oysters.”

“There’s not going to be any trains,” Sam said. “The train’s stranded in deep snow at the Tracey Cut.”

“I know that. A telegraph came through to Fuller’s earlier today, but they’re digging it out.”

“No, sir.” Sam shook his head, making his long hair fall across his face. “Last I heard, the railroad company has suspended all efforts to get the train out till spring.” He pushed his hair back behind his ears.

“We’ll starve to death by then!” Luke felt like an idiot for his outburst. Like it was Sam’s fault the train wasn’t coming. “Looks like I’ll be living on hay,” he said more quietly.

Luke wished it was daylight so he could see Sam better, but even by the light from the oil lantern, he saw the brown eyes, the smooth, fair cheeks, and the slenderness of youth.

“Don’t worry. I brought food.” From the canvas sack the young man pulled out a cloth bag of cornmeal and a huge slab of salt pork. Again he stuck his arm in the sack and pulled out several large potatoes and a few onions.

Luke looked at the food with relief. He’d share what he had, and willingly, but he was glad Sam had brought supplies. “I’ve got a water pump and a sink.” He pointed at the amenities with pride. “The pump was a bonus when I rented the house for the winter.”

“It sure is.” Sam smiled.

Without further ado, Sam set about making a meal. He stoked the stove as if he were in his own home and then found a knife and began to slice the potatoes and salt pork, all the while saying nothing.

When the salt pork was frying in the pan, he added the sliced potatoes and onions, filling the house with the delicious aroma of good home cooking. Sam pumped a little water into a bowl and began to make corn mush cakes. Luke sat near the stove on one of the straight-backed chairs, watching Sam working away at the table. Every now and then Sam looked at him, smiled, and then looked down again as if he was shy.

“How much food did you bring?” Luke asked.

“Enough to last through till spring. I knew I was coming too late to plant a crop, but I didn’t think I’d hit storms like this. I set out at the end of September, and it’s taken me this long to get to De Smet because the weather’s been so bad.”

“So you were headed to De Smet? Not just passing through?” Luke asked.

“Yes, sir. I claimed a quarter section.”

So he must be twenty-one years old. The law said a man must be at least twenty-one to claim land.

When the meal was ready, Sam found the tin plates and knives and forks without asking where they were. In such a small house it wasn’t difficult to find things. He set the table like they were in a hotel or something and then looked at Luke with a smile that twisted Luke’s insides so painfully he couldn’t decide what he wanted more--the food or the man.

The food he could have, but he’d better not make the mistake of laying a hand on Sam, not if they were to live in the same town. He got up to swing his chair to the table when Sam grabbed it and did it for him. Surprised once again by the young man’s good manners, Luke sat down and picked up his fork. He was anxious to dig in when he noticed Sam with his head bowed and his hands clasped.

He wanted to say grace!

Luke put his fork down, and Sam looked up and gave him that smile again. If he’s teasing, I’ll beat his ass and throw him out into the night to freeze. It’s hard enough to ignore his handsome young face without him acting all coy and then outraged if I touch him.

“For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful. Amen.”

“Amen,” Luke repeated.

The food was delicious after a month on plain corn mush, beans, and a few canned oysters. Luke tried not to stuff it down, but it was gone before Sam was halfway through his plateful. The men in the gold mines ate like animals, and by the time he’d left, his manners were no better. “Thank you,” he said when he was done.

Sam paused, his fork halfway to his mouth. “You’re welcome, sir.”

“You might as well call me Chandler if you’re going to stay.”

A hopeful expression lit Sam’s eyes. “Can I stay till spring? I’ll never get a shanty put up on my quarter section now. The snow’s too deep, and I need to buy a stove.”

Till spring? This boy would drive him insane before then. “There’re a couple of hotels in town, the Beardsley Hotel and Mead’s. You could stay there.”

“That would be expensive. I wanted to save as much money as possible for seed wheat,” Sam said.

Luke shrugged. “Stay if you need to,” he said, as if he didn’t care.

“Thank you!” Sam smiled wide with gratitude. “I have enough food for both of us. That should be worth the price of my rent.” Luke watched him finish his meal. Sam ate carefully, mouth closed when he chewed, elbows off the table.

He must think I’m a pig.

With the last mouthful eaten, Sam rose. “I’ll clean up.”

At the sink he washed the plates and cutlery under the cold-water pump and carefully wiped the crumbs off the table. Luke kept his gaze on his boots until Sam joined him, bringing the other chair from the table to the stove. Feeling contentedly full and with the presence of another person cutting the emptiness of the little house, Luke sat in silence, knowing there was nothing he wanted more than the companionship of another man. Love was a thing he had given up on long ago. He’d settle for companionship.

“Should I put more coal in the stove, Luke?”

He’d told Sam to call him Chandler. “No. It’s time for bed. I’m not wasting coal at night, not now that there’s no train coming to bring more. You got any in that wagon of yours?”

Sam shook his head.

“Best get to bed, then, and put out that lantern. That’s the last of my oil.”

Both men stood up, and Sam swung the chairs back to the table. He blew out the lamp while Luke closed the hatch on the stove. What was left in the stove would burn for a couple more hours, but the house would be freezing by morning.

Feeling miserly complaining about oil after the splendid meal Sam had provided, Luke stripped down to his red flannels, hanging his clothes on the nail by the bed before sliding under the heavy quilt and blankets and pulling them over his shoulders. In the pitch darkness he turned his back to the room, acutely aware of Sam’s presence, listening for every sound, wondering where he was. He must have taken his boots off, because Luke could no longer hear his footsteps.

“What the hell!” Luke cried out when he felt Sam slide into bed beside him. He turned to face him, though he couldn’t see him. “Where’s your bedroll, boy?”

“I left it in the wagon. Do you want me to retire out in the stable?” In the darkness Sam’s voice sounded scared and very young.

“No,” Luke said as gruffly as he could. “You can get it tomorrow.” He didn’t want to sound like he wanted him there, but he didn’t want to worry about him freezing to death in the stable either. “You can sleep here. Just don’t toss and turn all night, or I’ll kick you out.”

“No worries, Luke.”

“I said call me Chandler like you would any man you might be friends with.”

The boy pulled the quilt up to his neck. “Chandler,” he said quietly.

“And move over! You’re stuck right up against me.” Sam shifted his slender body.

Luke turned his back again. The bed wasn’t that big. There was no more than an inch of space between his back and Sam’s hip. He’d never get any sleep now, not with Sam lying beside him. Even with the icy snow scouring the roof and walls of the little house while the wind wailed across the prairie, he could still hear Sam’s soft breathing. Then Sam rolled onto his side and scooted in closer, pressing his belly into Luke’s back.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing now?” Luke shouted at him. He sat bolt upright as if outraged, though he wanted nothing more than a piece of this healthy, handsome young man.

“I’m cold, even in my under flannels. It must be forty below outside.”

“If you managed to get here all the way from...where the hell did you come from?”

“I left Volga this afternoon right after the storm stopped.”

“You managed to travel all that way in forty-below temperatures, so you can sleep just fine without crowding me. Now move over.”

“Yes, sir.” Sam rolled onto his side with his back to Luke. It took several more minutes for Luke to calm down. Only when he heard the young man’s deep, even breaths did he finally fall asleep.

Author Bio:
Fyn Alexander grew up in the UK with a great love of books, libraries, writing and all things literary. Fyn loves writing, being a foster parent, and considers her greatest accomplishments to be her two beautiful daughters, who also love to write.

EMAIL: fyn.alexander@gmail.com

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Release Day Blitz: Magnate by Celia Aaron

Title: Magnate
Author: Celia Aaron
Series: Acquisition #2
Genre: Erotica Romance
Release Date: January 19, 2016
Lucius Vinemont has spirited me away to a world of sugar cane and sun. There is nothing he cannot give me on his lavish Cuban plantation. Each gift seduces me, each touch seals my fate. There is no more talk of depraved competitions or his older brother – the one who’d stolen me, claimed me, and made me feel things I never should have. Even as Lucius works to make me forget Sinclair, my thoughts stray back to him, to the dark blue eyes that haunt my sweetest dreams and bitterest nightmares. Just like every dream, this one must end. Christmas will soon be here, and with it, the second trial of the Acquisition.

“I’m not in the mood, Lucius.”

He let his gaze run down the scoop neck of my sweater and lower. I stood and moved toward the door. He darted faster down his side of the table and blocked me in.

“I think you are.” He shoved me into the corner, caging me in with his hands at either side of my head. “Want to know what I’ve been thinking about? What I thought about last night while I stroked my cock?”

I met his light eyes and fisted my hands at my sides. “No, but I’m sure you’ll tell me.”

He moved closer. I tilted my head back so I could hold his gaze. He was dangerous. Taking my eyes off him wasn’t an option.

“I thought of you.” Pressing his fingertip into my jugular, he traced down my bare skin to the edge of my sweater. “The way you looked in Cuba, naked underneath me. The way these were hard.” He pinched my nipple and I pressed back into the corner. “Just like they are now. How much I wanted them in my mouth. How deep I wanted to be in your pussy. You know what got me off, what pushed me over the edge?”

I forced myself to stay put, to see this part of the game through. “What?”

“This.” When he pressed his lips to mine, I closed my eyes. He tasted like champagne and oranges, heady and sweet.

Author Bio:
Celia Aaron is the self-publishing pseudonym of a published romance and erotica author. She loves to write stories with hot heroes and heroines that are twisty and often dark. Thanks for reading.

Sign up for my newsletter at aaronerotica.com to get information on new releases. (I would never spam you or sell your info, just send you book news and goodies sometimes).


Magnate #2

Counselor #1

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Stone Legacy Series #1-3 by Theresa DaLayne

Series: Stone Legacy #1-3
Author: Theresa DaLayne
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult
Release Dates: Mayan Blood: December 29, 2015
Interlude: January 12, 2016
Lights of Aurora: January 29, 2016

Mayan Blood#1
Their empires have fallen, but their mythology lives on…

Zanya Coreandero is a seventeen-year-old orphan with only a single friend and no hope for a normal life. Diagnosed with anxiety and night terrors, no one believes her cuts and bruises are a result of an evil entity, and not a brutal case of self-harm.

With the only home she’s ever known being the isolated institution—where breakfast is a handful of medications, the psychiatry sessions are mandatory, and her every move is watched—the only relief is her red-haired roommate named Tara, who’s more like a little sister than her best friend.

Free will is strong, but destiny is stronger.

When Zanya is kidnapped, she meets a group of gifted Mayan descendants, each with a unique ability. Gone from a nameless castaway to the only hope of mankind, Zanya is forced to make a grueling decision: bond with an enchanted stone and save humanity from rising underworld forces, or watch helplessly as Earth falls victim to a familiar dark deity from her dreams. This time, he’s playing for keeps.

A wicked secret hides behind a handsome face…

When Arwan, a dark-eyed timebender, takes interest in Zanya’s mission, it’s unclear if his intention is to help, or if he’s on a hell-bent mission for revenge. Wary of falling for another guy with major secrets and a tainted past, Zanya fights to keep her distance. If only her heart gave her a choice.

Interlude #2
Tara may have spent years in an asylum, but that doesn’t make her crazy–just fearless.

Dropped in Moscow with a the group of enchanted Mayan descendants, seventeen-year-old Tara is forced to wait on the sideline while her best friend—the Stone Guardian— battles to reclaim a friend’s soul trapped in the underworld.

It sucks being ordinary when everyone else is superhuman…

A mortal girl with a tainted past, Tara is left to deal with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. Her boyfriend, Peter, is a healer. Her best friend is The Guardian, and everyone else is a powerhouse of awesome strengths. Meanwhile, she struggles to leave her childhood of abuse in the past, and while Peter picks her up every time she falls, it becomes clear he deserves better.

When they opened Pandora’s Box, hell came pouring out…

When she’s given a chance to aid in the group’s mission, Tara is eager to pull her own weight, even if it means uncovering buried memories of being held prisoner by the underworld general. Now haunted with flashbacks of torture, Tara wanders from the safety of Peter’s arms into a city of depravity and corruption. And amidst all this evil is a young man with an agenda of his own, who leads her down a road that will either prove she is a hero at heart, or drag her into a world she’s always feared.

He wants revenge, she wants redemption. And in an underground ring of missing girls and bloody sacrifices, only the fearless can survive…

Lights of Aurora #3
After living her entire life in an orphan asylum, Zanya fears she may actually be losing her mind.

Following the discovery of her ancient Maya bloodlines, eighteen-year-old Zanya Coreandero is faced with a daunting responsibility. She must protect the relic stone while Sarian, the underworld general, ceaselessly drives her to the brink of insanity.

With the approach of an ancient bonding ceremony, Zanya struggles to control her abilities—and her desires…

As the winter solstice approaches, it brings an onslaught of unexpected side effects. While Zanya struggles to seize control over her supercharged powers, she must also face an overwhelming suspicion that her boyfriend, Arwan, is hiding a secret so dark it could destroy them both. And with her powers finally taking root, the struggle to pace their relationship takes on a life of its own.

Just when she thought life couldn’t get more complicated…

With the arrival of a surprise houseguest, Zanya’s deepest fears about Arwan are confirmed. And when middleworld deities intercede, the group of gifted Maya descendants are confronted with hardships they never saw coming—including an enemy more deadly than they have ever faced.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And when that woman has no soul and a taste for revenge, they will need the powers of every surviving ancestor simply to stay alive.

Zombie Apocalypse- Who would you want to team up with? With Theresa DaLayne
Ahhh, the Zombie Apocalypse. It’s a favorite subject of conversation among me and my friends, in my house, and oh, just while I’m sitting by myself, plotting my own survival plan.

The fact is, if you can prepare for zombies, you’re prepared for just about anything. And I give a lot of thought as to whom I’d bring into my “group.” Yeah, if Rick were here, I’d be the new Maggie. Don’t get me wrong, Michonne is kick-ass in so many ways, but I don’t know how to swing a sword, and she rocks those dreads way better than I ever could—so Maggie it is.

But aside from the fearless leader and myself, who else would I hand pick to trust with my life? And I’m talking real-life people. Friends and family. Who would I take, and who would I trip on the way out?
plays a role, and each role is equally important to keep the machine running, right?

I have a friend named Heather, who I’d definitely bring along. She can grow anything. Seriously. Anything. Her passion is identifying fungi and pruning wilted leaves from otherwise thriving plants. Once she gave me a Sex Ed lesson in the male and female flowers on her cucumber vine. Awkward, but interesting. So Heather, in.

My friend, Karen, knows almost nothing about plants, and cried when I took her horse back riding for her birthday. Not out of joy, mind you, but because she’d never touched a horse in her life and was terrified. She claims she would be vital for comic relief, but F-that. Comic relief won’t stab a zombie in the temple. But she is from New York and can throw a pretty mean right hook, so I figure her surly nature would make her a pretty good zombie slayer—whether she knows it or not. Karen, in.

My husband—of course—because not only is he pretty talented with a handgun, strong, and smart, but I could picture him being second in command. He knows people and can sniff out a threat from a mile away. Plus I’ll surely need a good snuggle when I come to the realization the world has gone to hell in a hand basket. Husband, in.

Lets just get my mom in there, too. Not only can she make a meal out of anything, but she’s my mom, so…can’t really leave her behind. Mom, in.

Speaking of relatives, my sister—who lives in Canada—would be an amazing addition. The only problem is, I’d have to get to her first. With no planes and limited car accessibility with cluttered highways and no gasoline, that would be a challenge. But her husband is totally into survival stuff, loves to camp, and I’m pretty sure would gnaw on a stiff squirrel if there was nothing else to eat. Plus, I may not step into the shoes of Michonne well, but my sister would rock a ninja sword with just a little practice. Sister, in. (And her husband in, too. He could be our tracker and survivalist.)

Education is important, even when the world has ended. I’d still want my kids to know how to read and write, so I’d definitely bring my friend, Zubaidah, who is a teacher. She’s also really strong and most likely has a zombie-killing beast laying dormant inside her somewhere. I could see her taking down walkers with a buck knife and zip line. Zubaidah, in.

Now that the group is getting bigger, I have to start being choosy about who I let in. We have a lot of who we need already. My question for you is, would YOU qualify to be in my group? Tell me why, and I may add your name to the list…

Author Bio:
A long-time enthusiast of things that go bump in the night, Theresa began her writing career as a journalism intern—possibly the least creative writing field out there. After her first semester at a local newspaper, she washed her hands of press releases and feature articles to delve into the whimsical world of fiction.

Since then, Theresa has been married, had three terrific kids, moved to central Ohio, and has been repeatedly guilt-tripped into adopting a menagerie of animals that are now members of the family. But don’t be fooled by her domesticated appearance. Her greatest love is travel. Having traveled to over a dozen countries—not to mention an extended seven-year stay in Kodiak, Alaska—she is anything but settled down. Wherever life brings her, Theresa will continue to weave tales of adventure and love with the hope her stories will bring joy and inspiration to her readers.


Mayan Blood #1

Interlude #2

Lights of Aurora #3

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