Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Mighty Have Fallen by Bonnie Dee

Theatre headliner Trevor Rowland is at the peak of his career when disaster strikes. In one fell swoop, he loses his eyesight, his fame, and his boyfriend, who absconds with most of his money. Trevor must take on a flatmate, hardworking East Ender Jack Burrows, to afford the rent. Anger and bitterness have taken up residence in his heart—but Jack shines light into the shadowy corners with his relentlessly sunny disposition.

Jack introduces Trevor to a local drag club and convinces him he can enjoy the stage again. Trevor’s defences slowly come down as Jack becomes much more than a barely tolerated roommate.

But will Trevor’s fragile trust be destroyed when it appears he’s been manipulated yet again by a man he’s come to care for? Will he reclaim his life or crawl back into a shell of defeat? Trevor must learn to trust not only a man, but himself, once more.

Anyone who follows my reviews will know how much I love Bonnie Dee historicals and now I took a chance on her contemporaries, I was well rewarded for the risk.  I was able to empathize with Trevor's sudden life change and some of his insecurities surrounding those changes.  Okay, not the partner running off with everything but the change in health is a quality of life case that I can understand.  Truth is, Trevor comes to terms with it a lot faster than most would, even if it takes his roommate, Jack, giving him a kick in the pants for him to see it.

Jack is an awesome character who breathes life back into Trevor.  I won't lie, his accent was a little tricky to get use to and some words left me with more than one moment of  "huh?".  Never though, did it detract from the beauty of his zest for life or his determination to get Trevor to see the upside of his future.

As it often is in fiction and in life, miscommunication, or lack thereof, is the angst culprit and you just want to give Trevor a good shaking.  But truth is, it would have been a very short story without a little drama.  All in all, historicals may be my number one sub-genre but The Mighty Have Fallen is a wonderful example that Bonnie Dee can do present as well as the past.


“HOW ARE the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!” Trevor quoted glumly to himself.

Except there’d been no battle involved. He was no wounded warrior with a legacy of heroism to make his loss worthwhile. His fall had been due to a fluke blood clot, which had infiltrated his brain, stealing his vision as a spoil of war.

Now what was he? A performer who couldn’t perform. A blind pauper who’d lost his place in the world and was forced to live in a dingy flat in a shabby neighbourhood. Easy to wallow in misery when he had hours of nothing but time on his hands and an eternal fog confronting him.

“Feeling sorry for yerself again, Rowland?”

Jack Burrows’s drawling East End accent set Trevor’s teeth on edge. He could very quickly grow to hate his new flatmate’s harsh tone.

Hands clapped together loudly and close, making Trevor jump. “Come on now. Stop sulkin’, and we’ll go outside for a breath of fresh air. Could be the last sunny day we’ll see in a while.”

Trevor grunted. See indeed! He’d never see the sky or the sun—or rainclouds, for that matter—again. His blindness wasn’t complete. Not like being in a cave and having the guide shut off the lights. But the fog ensured he’d never see the living room where he currently sat or the rest of the flat, which he only assumed was dingy given it was a low-class neighbourhood. His arse of a flatmate, Burrows, sometimes seemed rudely oblivious of his lack of sight.

“Suit yourself.” Burrows responded to Trevor’s silence. “I’m off to the pub for a pint. Leftover pie and mash in the kitchen if you get hungry later. Ta-ta, then.”

Sunlight through the window heated one side of Trevor’s face. It would feel even better bathing his entire body. Suntan lotion, salt, sweat.

A memory flashed—making love on a secluded beach on the Italian Riviera, the drenching heat pounding Trevor nearly as hard as Barry did. After sex, he and his lover had lain side by side and contentedly roasted, the rushing sound of incoming waves and the cries of seagulls the only disturbance in the perfect romantic afternoon. His memories these days focused more on sensations than images. Would he someday entirely lose the picture-postcard blue sky, white sand, and ex’s face? A rip current of loss rushed through him, threatening to carry him back into the ocean of misery he’d only recently emerged from.

Suddenly the sound of Burrows’s footsteps heading towards the door was untenable; Trevor couldn’t spend another afternoon alone. Even the local pub would be an improvement over endless solitude.

“Just a moment!” Trevor called and Burrows’s footsteps stopped. “I believe I will go with you, if you don’t mind.”

“Woul’n’t ask if I minded. Time you got out of those ’ouse slippers for a bit, innit?”

“Give me a moment.” Trevor rose from his chair, felt for the cane—now always beside him—and used it to guide himself towards his bedroom to get a pair of shoes.

“Shouldn’t use that indoors. You’re supposed to know your way around the place by now.”

“Shut up, Burrows.”

“Righto.” A brief pause, then the voice followed Trevor into his bedroom. “But I once had an auntie with a blind terrier. The little thing pranced about her place and rarely ran into furniture. Shook it off when he did. You might try—”

“Shut up.” Trevor sat on the edge of his bed and laced up his shoes.


THE SHORT walk to the pub around the corner made Trevor’s antennae vibrate nervously like some timid creature expecting to be pounced on by a predator at any moment. With every step he feared running into an obstacle Burrows wouldn’t think to point out, but more than that, he feared people regarding him with pity. They might recognize his face and turn to whisper to one another.

Isn’t that Trevor Rowland? Remember when he was a big star?

Of course, as a London stage headliner, Trevor hadn’t experienced the immediate recognition a movie actor might. Still, he’d had his share of fans approach him for an autograph when he was out to dinner or shopping. He’d rarely found it an inconvenience and had, in fact, been pleased at the attention. But now he didn’t want to be stared at. He wished he wore some sort of Harry Potter invisibility cloak.

Anyway, Stepney was hardly the sort of neighbourhood where theatregoers resided. If people noticed him, it would be because he carried the white cane, his blindness reason enough for their pity. They’d walk past, feeling grateful for their own vision and perhaps a little better about whatever might be wrong in their lives.

Good to know I can be of some service to others.

Beside him, Burrows started humming a tune—tunelessly. The sour notes made Trevor wince.

“Wotcha fink?” Burrows asked after several moments.

“About what?”

“Glad you stepped out for a breaver?”

Trevor shrugged and navigated around a bollard, with the help of his cane. “I suppose.”

“Listen. I know you’ve been froo ’ell. Lost your sight, then your money, forced to share digs wiv a bloke like me. I bet you’ve never ’ad to share anyfin’ in your life.”

“I’m not privileged. I’ve worked for everything I received,” Trevor said.

“Maybe, but you started out middle class, right? It wasn’t so high a climb to success for you.” Burrows must have waved a hand because a draught of aftershave-scented air brushed Trevor’s face. “Point is, you feel like you’ve lost everyfin’. I understand, but you can’t wallow forever.”

Sudden rage made Trevor burn like a woman having a hot flush. He wanted to scream at Burrows that the man understood absolutely nothing about what it was like to lose one’s sight. It had struck Trevor down like a thunderbolt delivered by the gods, perhaps as a punishment for rising too high, too fast.

Trevor had been applauded from the moment he first exploded onstage, critics naming him “a shining star in a play that was utter drivel.” The small role in a doomed production became his launch pad to huge success. Offers came thick and fast, and “the famous Trevor Rowland” had never been out of work.

Until now.

“Not my business, though, is it?” Burrows continued. “My mum always told me I talk wivout finking. She called it my ‘besetting sin.’ Of course, that was before she learned I had a worse one—at least in ’er eyes.” He stopped walking. “’Ere we go.”

Burrows opened a door, and the sour odour of beer and too many warm bodies made Trevor wrinkle his nose. As he followed Jack inside, a hum of voices, music, and a sports programme on TV assaulted him.

“There’s a table about five paces in and on the right. Watch out for the chair. You got it. There’s the edge of the table. It’s a booth, so you’ll ’ave to slide in.”

Trevor followed these directions with irrational annoyance. There was really nothing wrong with Jack Burrows, who was a polite, neat, and quiet co-lodger. Trevor could’ve done much worse. The man was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, earning Trevor’s ire for no other reason than he needed to spew his pent-up frustration at someone.

He slid across a bench slightly sticky from beer, and Burrows’s knees bumped his underneath the table. The slight touch irritated Trevor because nearly everything did these days, but it was also oddly comforting. Knowing someone was there in the mist felt like clutching a security blanket.

The harsh, nasal voice started up again. “You know what you want to order, Trev, or should I read the list?”

“Whatever’s on draught.” Trevor recalled the not-too-distant past in which Barry would have disdained ordering anything that wasn’t real ale. But Barry had evaporated along with Trevor’s fortune and fame. Cheerio, and so long.

He clenched his jaw as anger and pain roared through him. “Did you pick up milk and bread?” he demanded, attempting to pick a fight.

“Fought I’d get ’em on the way back. You need to learn your own way to the shop. We can work on that.”

Trevor frowned, hoping his expression looked like a glare and not constipation. “I don’t need a guide or a trainer. We share a flat, nothing more.”

“Yeah, but if we’re payin’ equal shares of the rent and such, then I won’t be ordered to shop for you. We’ve shared digs for a month. Time you started doing more for yourself.”

Trevor hated Burrows the more because he was absolutely right.

“I’ll go to the bar. Sit tight.”

Then Jack Burrows and his irritating voice were gone, leaving Trevor to sit like a great lump of rock in the midst of a storm of voices. He listened to them, chattering like crows in the working-class accent of Stepney.

His neighbourhood now. Mum and Dad would’ve welcomed him home, but he’d refused to move back to Hampton. He’d cling to his last shred of dignity, the ability to live on his own—almost. With the possessions he’d sold after declaring bankruptcy, and now government disability payments coming in, he could just manage the rent and other basic needs. He’d do all right for a while, although at some point, he must find a way to make a living.

Not much call for blind actors.

The sound of glasses set down on the table startled him.

“’Ere you go. Get that down your neck.”

Once more, Burrows’s legs brushed comfortingly against Trevor’s. Trevor lifted his glass, but before he got it to his lips, Burrows tapped his own against it in a toast.

“Cheers to getting out on a fine summer’s day.”

Trevor grunted in response, but as he sipped the cheap beer, he felt just a little bit better.

Author Bio:
I began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, I was the designated ghost tale teller. I still have a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat.

Writing childish stories for my own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, I dreamed of writing a novel, but at that time in my life didn't have the necessary focus and follow through. Then life happened. A husband and children occupied the next twenty years and it was only in 2000 that I began writing again.

I enjoy dabbling in many genres. Each gives me a different way to express myself. I've developed a habit of writing every day that's almost an addiction. I don't think I could stop now if I tried.



Sulan, Episode 3: The Dome by Camille Picott

Title: The Dome
Author: Camille Picott
Series: Sulan #3
Genre: Cyberpunk, Dystopian, Young Adult
Release Date: January 15, 2017
After escaping the League, Sulan and her friends are granted entrance into the Dome, a utopian biodome in the wilderness of Alaska. Sulan soon finds herself a pawn in Global Arms’s political maneuvers to secure the national mercenary contract. Forced to put on a public persona that makes her skin crawl, she must charm Vex media moguls to further the cause of Global. Should she fail to embrace her new role as company spokesperson, the consequences will be deadly to everyone she loves.

Meanwhile, the League unleashes a new deadly threat on the United States. When Sulan and her friends stumble on the trail of a League mole within the Dome, they set out to track him down. Will they be safe in their new home, or will they find themselves trapped among enemies?

Taro boosts himself over the windowsill and lands lightly on his feet. When he looks up at me, there’s concern on his face.

I should be embarrassed, but I’m not. I’m too caught up in the stream of my raging emotions. Besides, Taro came to my room. I’m allowed to cry in my own room.

“What … what are all these?” Taro asks.

“My mom …” I glance toward the mess and see a picture of me and Mom with Vex headsets on. “I was just looking at these pictures. Mom packed them.”

I sit down inside the arc of photos, my eyes roving across them. Taro crouches down across from me. He doesn’t say anything. His eyes drink in the smiling pictures of me and Mom together.

“I can’t even remember the last time we smiled together,” I whisper. “All we did over the past few years was fight.”

“Sulan …” His dark eyes are soft with empathy.

“How—how do you do it?” I whisper. “How do you get through your days without her?”

“At first,” he whispers, “you just go through the motions. It’s hard. I won’t sugarcoat it for you. I … ran a lot in those first few weeks after her murder. I ran until my legs collapsed. Sometimes I ran until I vomited. Or I’d work out with a punching bag. I’d hit it until I couldn’t lift my arms. Then I’d kick it until my shins and knees bled.”

He reaches out with one hand, extending it over the photos. He touches my face with the tips of his fingers. His hand unfolds, fingers spreading out to cradle my cheek. I close my eyes and lean into his strong fingers. Touching is such a strange real-world thing to do, but I find it comforting.

Taro steps over the photos, kneeling beside me. He’s so close I feel his body heat.

He pulls an ink pen out of his pocket and takes my left hand, cradling my wrist. The bandage around his missing finger brushes my skin. He leans forward. For a panicked moment, I think he’s going to try and kiss me. But his eyes are focused on my arm, not my face.

He places the pen between his teeth and pulls off the cap. His writing hand rests on my palm, pen poised over my forearm. The tip of the pen comes down, and he starts to draw.

His hand moves with the surety of an artist. He draws on my skin, sketching lines that come together and form the face of my mother. Mom’s expression is one of focus and determination. It’s how she looked back on the League freighter before she was killed. Her black hair is tied back into a bun. Her eyes are fierce, her jaw set.

Taro leans back, recapping the pen. “So you won’t forget what she looked like that day she came to save you.” He doesn’t let go of my hand.

Something inside me snaps. I start to shake. Tears overflow down my cheeks.

Taro’s arms come around me. I stiffen in surprise for an instant, then fall against him and sob into his shoulder. He holds me close as I weep. He strokes my damp hair with strong, gentle hands. I can’t remember ever feeling so wretched and so safe at the same time.

“She made me mad all the time,” I say into his shoulder, forcing the words out between sobs. “The last time I saw her, back on the ship, we had a fight. I’m still angry at her.”

“Do you love her?” Taro’s warm breath feathers my ear.

“Yes,” I wail, without hesitation. “I loved her. I love her, Taro. I love her!”

“That’s all that matters. All the other stuff doesn’t mean anything in the end. Hold on to the love.”

If possible, I cry even harder. Images of my last few months with Mom flash through my head. The two of us arguing as I begged her to teach me self-defense; her catching me watching Merc reruns in my bedroom, our discussion disintegrating into another yelling match as I accused her of leaving me defenseless; our last epic fight over a gun; and the wounded anger that hung between us on the League freighter.

And despite all that, I ache for her. I ache, and ache, and ache.

Author Bio:
Camille Picott is a fifth-generation Chinese American. She writes science fiction and fantasy books with Asian characters and/or Asian settings. Camille grew up reading speculative fiction stories largely devoid of Asian characters and culture. This, coupled with a passion for her heritage, is the reason she strives to bring some aspect of Eastern myth, legend, culture, and ethnicity to all of her writings.


The Dome #3

The League #1
**Currently Free on Smashwords**

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Hipster Brothel by KA Merikan

Title: Hipster Brothel
Author: KA Merikan
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: January 24, 2017
Cover: Natasha Snow
The lumberjack of his dreams is now available for rent.

Mr. B has always been a safe guy for Jo to crush on. He’s the cutest bearded lumber-god to salivate over. Add to that his friendly, outgoing personality, and Mr. B might just be the first guy Jo would be willing to kiss. Fortunately, Mr. B has been in a relationship for years, and Jo is no home-wrecker.

But when Mr. B breaks up with his partner and all of a sudden is single, available, and talks about his plans to be sexually adventurous, Jo isn’t so sure anymore if he has the guts to come out as bisexual.

After a sour breakup, Mr. B wants to show his ex that he’s independent, exciting, and can do very well without him. His best friend Jo is there to the rescue, and they come up with a great new business venture. One thing they lack to start their own line of artisanal boozy jams - money for the investment.

After a drunken brainstorming session, Mr. B finds a way to both gather the cash and show the middle finger to his ex. He will create a one of a kind Hipster Brothel - The Lumbersexual Experience - offering wood chopping lessons, pipe smoking, and a reclaimed wood bed where the magic happens. It’s bound to be a success… if only Mr. B can go through with it, because the mixed signals from Jo are making him wonder if his best friend is as straight as he always seemed.

Author Bio: 
K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are taken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite pushing thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.


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