Monday, December 10, 2018

Monday's Memorial Moment: Christmas Angel by Eli Easton


Title: Christmas Angel
Author: Eli Easton
Series: The Christmas Angel #1
Genre: M/M Romance, Historical, Holiday
Release Date: December 2, 2018
Cover Design: Meredith Russell
Summary:
When John Trent, a dedicated member of the new Bow Street Runners, finds an exquisite carved angel floating in the Thames, he can’t stop thinking about it. He tracks down its creator, a sad and quiet young sculptor. But neither the angel nor the sculptor is done with John just yet. The blasted angel refuses to leave him be, behaving not at all like an inanimate object should.

Alec Allston is resigned to the fact that his love will ever be a river that flows out and never flows in. All he wanted to do was create a special gift so that a small part of himself could be with his unattainable and noble beloved, always. But when the gift keeps showing back up at his shop in the hands of a windblown and rugged thief-taker, Alec will need to reconsider his conviction that love is destined to remain an ethereal ideal.

This book is one of seven stories which can all be read and enjoyed in any order.

The Christmas Angel Series
In 1750, a master woodcarver poured all his unrequited love, passion, and longing into his masterpiece—a gorgeous Christmas angel for his beloved’s tree. When the man he loved tossed the angel away without a second thought, a miracle happened. The angel was found by another who brought the woodcarver True Love.

Since then, the angel has been passed down, sold, lost and found, but its magic remains. Read the romances inspired by (and perhaps nudged along by) the Christmas angel through the years. Whether it’s 1700s England (Eli Easton's Christmas Angel), the 1880’s New York (Kim Fielding’s Summerfield’s Angel), the turn-of-the-century (Jordan L. Hawk’s Magician’s Angel), World War II (L.A. Witt’s Christmas Homecoming), Vietnam-era (N.R. Walker’s Soldier’s Wish), the 1990’s (Anyta Sunday’s Shrewd Angel), or 2018 (RJ Scott’s Christmas Prince), the Christmas angel has a way of landing on the trees of lonely men who need its blessing for a very Merry Christmas and forever HEA.


When John Trent found a carved angel floating in the Thames he never expected it would change his life.  As a member of the Bow Street Runners he knows how to locate people and solve puzzles so locating the angel's creator is not too difficult.  Once he hands the angel over to Alec Allston he figures that is the end of it but it resurfaces.  It seems the angel is not done with either man.  Will the angel bring happiness, holiday cheer, and possibly more to John and Alec?

First, I just want to say what an incredibly fun, clever, and creative holiday series: The Christmas Angel has the potential for so much holiday fun-ness, I haven't read them all but I can't wait to dive in to each entry.  Second, Eli Easton has never created a holiday story that I didn't love and Christmas Angel is no different, she has once again proven she is a Holiday Romance Master.

I won't say too much about the story, it may be the must-have-HEA-ending that is pretty much required for holiday romances but it is the hows, whys, whens, and wheres the men face getting from point A to point Z that makes John and Alec's journey so memorable and heartwarming.  As for the secondary characters residing in the boarding house where John lives, they are an eclectic bunch that will make you smile, laugh, and just feel good.

What's not to love about Christmas Angel?  It ticks all my book-loving boxes: historical, romance, Christmas, drama, heat, and plenty of heart.  If you normally steer well clear of anything historical, I truly implore you to give this gem a try, yes it is set in the past and the author does a spot on job of getting the era right but at the core of Alec and John's journey is the romance and their connection so you would be missing a great story if you skipped it simply because it is set in 1750s England instead of 2018.  Christmas Angel is a holiday-classic-to-be and definitely one I'll be revisiting for years to come.

RATING: 


They reached Green Park and paused at its southern end to take it in. It was surprisingly well-attended. The broad lawn, with its distant view of St. James, was dotted with couples and families who strolled the park’s broad paths in their coats and muffs, furs and tricorne hats, enjoying the unseasonal weather. Many carried lanterns so that dozens of flames danced here and there in the park in spectral fashion.

“Would you care to take a turn around the park?” Trent asked. “Or would you rather head back? You must be tired after a long day.”

“No. No, please. How could we resist a scene like that? It looks like a fairy kingdom. We must walk it,” Alec said with feeling.

Trent gave a low chuckle. He half turned so that he could gaze at Alec’s face. “I’ve noticed you’ve a fondness for the fairy kingdom. Your sculptures have a hint of it.”

“They may do,” Alec admitted. “But—”

The words evaporated when Trent pulled the glove off his right hand and raised the backs of his fingers to Alec’s cheek. “Not too cold?”

How his hand could be so hot was a mystery. Or perhaps Alec’s cheek was just that cold. But the touch seared him. His eyes watered, and his insides swooped as though his heart were a bird diving into the sea. He had a strong urge to lean into that touch. He swallowed, his voice gone.

Trent’s smile faded, and he gazed at Alec so seriously for a moment. Then he dropped his hand. “You’re not too cold to go on?”

“No,” Alec said quietly.

“Then let’s promenade, my fairy prince.”

That was so patently absurd it made Alec laugh and the spell was broken. Trent switched to Alec’s other side and this time he took Alec’s arm without asking. Instead of clasping him above the elbow, he threaded his arm through and wrapped it around Alec’s bicep. It was a more secure hold, and it brought them together hip to shoulder, almost huddled against the chill.

They moved onto a path, Alec’s heart once again thudding heavily, his mind a whirlwind.

He can’t truly be interested in me that way, a voice whispered in his head. Only it was getting harder to believe. Honestly, Alec was less interested in believing it.

Trent couldn’t be interested in him professionally. Alec had never witnessed a murder or committed any crime. And while sodomy was illegal, Alec had never done the act. Surely a Bow Street Runner would not set out to entrap a lonely sculptor who was minding his own business.

No, Trent had found the shop because of the angel. The question was: why had he kept coming back?

He decided to broach the subject because his heart couldn’t take much more of this. And it was awfully hard to stand on one’s principles and reject a thing if one wasn’t even sure the thing was on offer.

“You said you are not married,” he began.

“No. Nor do I ever intend to be.”

“Because your profession is dangerous?” Alec asked, then cursed himself. He was so used to skirting around the subject he found it difficult to get even close without shying away in the opposite direction.

“No,” Trent said, squeezing his arm. “No, Mr. Allston. I will never marry because there will never be a woman I want in that way, and to force one to live with half my affection would be wrong.”

“Ah.”

It was like a dash of cold water in the face, one meant to wake the sleeper. Trent couldn’t be more clear. A trill of fear went through Alec at his boldness, at what he was very nearly saying out loud. He remained silent.

They continued down the path. Trent’s hand was firmer now because Alec’s legs had gotten weaker and he was barely going on. They passed two older gentlemen in black tricorne hats with gold trim, both smoking cigars. They all nodded to one another.

“Pardon me if I’ve offended you,” Trent said after the two men had passed. He sounded worried, and Alec realized he was not as brazen as he appeared.

“No. No... I.” He kicked himself for his hesitancy. He wouldn’t be a coward now, not when Trent had put his neck on the line. “What I mean to say is, I am also far from a Lothario when it comes to the female sex. I’m not made that way. That’s why I... why I have decided to remain unwed. And to dedicate myself solely to my work.”

“You’re talking about a life of celibacy.”

Alec swallowed. As usual Trent’s bluntness was a little shocking. “Yes. It’s not so rare. Those in certain professions—priests, for example—have abstained for centuries.”

“That’s bollocks,” Trent said strongly. “And from what I’ve heard about priests, they’re not as celibate as all that.”

“But.... If you can keep your mind pure, surely that’s a state to be wished for. To live for art and higher ideas. Particularly if one’s predispositions are not... are not in the natural way of things. I think—”

“Let me ask you something,” Trent interrupted with a hint of impatience. “Would you find it admirable if a man never ate? So that he became skin and bones and got ill and abandoned his duties? And all the while he looked to the heavens with pious eyes and insisted God wanted him to starve to death because gluttony is a sin. Is that something to be admired? Or would you think he had a bat in the belfry?”

Alec pressed his lips together. “That’s not the same thing.”

“Or what about a man who refused to shit? Just kept it all bottled up inside because he felt it was beneath him?”

“Mr. Trent!” Alec gasped.

“We are physical beings, Mr. Allston. We must eat and shit and drink and move and make love. If you ask me, denying any part of our physical nature is not only a tragic folly, but it’s bound to lead to misery in the end. If you want to be happy in life, honor your physical nature, in moderation, with an eye to not harm anyone else, and, indeed, to do good where you can. Art and the church and politics and the law, they enrich a man’s life, to be sure. But the physical self is the base of well-being.”

Trent talked passionately, and Alec had to admit, he made a good argument. He thought of the way William had spoken about denial of the body’s longings as the highest aim, that purity was the only possible state for a man of elevated consciousness.

Yet now a very unhappy thread of doubt crept in. Did William espouse that course merely to avoid intimacy with Alec? Was it his way of holding Alec at arm’s length? Surely, he wasn’t planning to be celibate with his wife. There were the heirs to secure, if nothing else.

Damnation, he didn’t want to think about William and his bride. Tonight, of all nights, he didn’t want to think about William at all.

“But what if... what if one’s physical self, one’s innate appetites, would lead one to acts which are immoral and illegal? In that case surely it’s better to abstain entirely?”

Trent stopped walking. He turned to grasp both of Alec’s arms, as though he wanted to shake him. But he only held him firmly and stared intently into his eyes.

“Do no harm. Does it harm anyone if two people come together who want each other? If they give one another pleasure and warmth and smiles?”

He made it sound so innocent. “But they arrest men for it. Men have been executed!”

Trent’s expression grew pained. “Well I know it. A fellow I board with, Stockbridge, was caught up in that witch hunt in ’26, poor sod. Before that nobody much cared, then the Reformation societies got it in their heads that London was a pit of wickedness and God would destroy it like Sodom if they didn’t ensure that no one ever had a lick of fun again.”

“I’m familiar with the type,” Alec said dryly. He saw them often on the street corners passing out their pamphlets and raging about sin. “They’re terrifying.”

“They are,” Trent agreed. He sighed and took Alec’s arm again and they began walking. “I don’t know if you’ve heard much about their tactics, but back in ’26 they sent agents provocateurs into the molly houses in Holborn and Moorfields and entrapped men, spied on them. They threatened the younger boys with trial and execution if they didn’t testify against their regulars. It was a bloody rout.”

Trent sounded disgusted. Alec said nothing, but his heart was heavy. This was precisely what he feared.

“But,” Trent said firmly. “They’ve found other bushes to beat, and men have gotten shrewder and more secretive, and there hasn’t been a fuss made in some time. One must be careful, but, for God’s sake, we can’t stop living.”

Alec thought about that. “You see no conflict in breaking the law given your profession?” He asked not as an admonishment, but because he truly wanted to understand this complicated man.

“I’m a great respecter of the law. And there are cases which should be pursued. Children despoiled or forced into prostitution, people injured for the sake of another’s pleasure, rape. But not every law is reasonable or fair. Some things are simply misunderstood, minds blindered by tradition. And I return to my earlier point, do no harm.” He sighed. “I suppose you think me a bloody hypocrite.”

“I don’t think so. Not unless you arrested men for doing what you do yourself.”

“That has never come up, and if it did, I would refuse. Fortunately, Judge Fielding is a practical man. He doesn’t apply himself to the cause of London’s morality. We have work enough with real crimes.”

A family with a pretty, round-faced wife in a bonnet, a pleasant-looking husband, and a boy and girl of around ten approached. They greeted the family and received cheerful salutations in return.

What a strange world it was, Alec thought, with so many configurations. Young and old, large families and small, elderly couples, newlyweds, gentlemen who perhaps were bosom friends but would be horrified at the idea of more. And those who got up to things behind closed doors of which no one was the wiser. He supposed it must be so. He and William had carried on their dalliance, mostly in letters, true, but no one had guessed. And who knew but that the butcher’s wife had been secretly in love with the baker for decades? It reminded him of his shop where shepherdesses lounged on tables next to African beasts and King George in his coronation robes was arranged across from a humble field mouse.

Alec had thought himself a solitary figure, set up upon some high shelf, removed from it all. But here he was.



Author Bio:
Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has over 30 books published.

Eli has loved romance since her teens and she particular admires writers who can combine literary merit, genuine humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, bulldogs, cows, a cat, and lots of groundhogs.

In romance, Eli is best known for her Christmas stories because she’s a total Christmas sap. These include “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “Unwrapping Hank” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles”. Her “Howl at the Moon” series of paranormal romances featuring the town of Mad Creek and its dog shifters has been popular with readers. And her series of Amish-themed romances, Men of Lancaster County, has won genre awards.

In 2018 Eli hopes to do more of the same, assuming they reschedule the apocalypse.


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The Christmas Angel by Eli Easton

Summerfield's Angel by Kim Fielding

The Magician's Angel by Jordan L. Hawk

Christmas Homecoming by L.A. Witt

A Soldier's Wish by N.R. Walker

Shrewd Angel by Anyta Sunday

Christmas Prince by RJ Scott

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Week at a Glance: 12/3/18 - 12/9/18


































Sunday's Steampunk Spinner: The Glow of Luminiferous Aether on Tinsel by Jana Denardo


Summary:
As Chief Tactician for the airship DeGrasse, Jacob Scarberry has spent the last six months on a wearying tour of duty. He’s missing home, and his prosthetic leg is conducting the December cold straight to his core. But with the holidays coming up, he's looking forward to a well-earned leave, sharing some Christmas surprises with his lover, Dr. H. Alphus Troyer, and welcoming in the dawn of the 20th century.

A professor at Ohio University, Al is already on Christmas break, and his unconventional household is in a festive frenzy. Al is a bit less joyous, his anticipation of Jacob's return warring with uncertainty over the special gift he had commissioned for him. Would Jacob appreciate it, or will it put a strain on their relationship?

Suddenly Al's worries become trivial when the newspapers report an attack on the DeGrasse. With Jacob fighting for his life miles away, Al is left to wonder whether Jacob will return at all, or whether the planned festivities will become holiday heartbreak instead.

Original Review January 2018:
A wonderful blend of holiday and steampunk.  Those who follow my blog will know that I don't really see steampunk as a separate genre, for me its all science fiction but that is just my personal feelings.  Steampunk, or science fiction in general, is not a genre we often associate with Christmas.  For some not being a typical genre means its pretty open game for plot, for me it actually means it has a lot to live up to.  Jana Denardo does not disappoint.  Taking a common theme, loved one waiting at home while their significant other is away serving and hearing news of danger, can be a dangerous thing for authors when treading the line of cliché and original storytelling.  The Glow of Luminiferous Aether on Tinsel is a lovely blend of said cliché and steampunk originality letting Jacob and Al(and the reader) remember what is really important.  Whether you like steampunk, alternative history, or just a great heartwarming tale, I seriously recommend checking this short story out because it certainly left me smiling and I certainly wouldn't say no to reading more if the author were to explore this universe further .

RATING:  


The icy night wind bit deep, like a dog gnawing down to the bone. Jacob Scarberry pulled his blue wool pea coat tighter as he shivered. The cold burned his fingers through his gloves, and he shoved his hands up under his arms. Thick charcoal clouds obscured the silvery light of the moon, making the night more forbidding. Jacob ignored the urge to yank out his pocket watch to test how much longer he’d be on the deck of the DeGrasse. It wouldn’t be much longer, but at this point, as the wind and the airship’s engines carried them lazily eastward, he’d be home soon.

Jacob wished he could wear a third set of pants to keep out the cold, but he’d never be able to move in them. A union suit and woolen uniform trousers should have been enough to keep out the December chill, except his metal prosthetic leg, a miracle of spring-work technology, conducted the cold straight through his stump, up into his jewels, and even made his bladder ache. His slow path around the ship’s deck as he kept watch did little to warm him.

He had one sure way to feel warmer: thoughts of a certain Dr. H. Alphus Troyer waiting for him back home. Theirs was a strange and beautiful relationship. He’d never understand why a man as smart as Al would want to be with an air corps man like himself. Al argued that Jacob, as the onboard tactician, possessed intelligence in abundance. Though it would seem not enough to figure out a way to avoid guard duty in the middle of the frigid night just before Christmas. The airship’s engines growled a bit as a crosswind caught the balloon, rocking them. Jacob braced himself, widening his gait to help keep his balance, and his heavy boots thudded on the wood decking. Above him, the airship’s bladder rustled from a strong gust. He’d need more than thoughts of his debates with Al to keep him warm if the wind got any colder. Luckily, he had many fond memories of sharing Al’s bed. Now those were warm thoughts.

“My goggles are frozen to my face.”

Turning to face Marion Rose, Jacob tried not to laugh at her sour tone. Her lovely hair had been jammed up under a hat, and her goggles did look fogged. They wore them mostly to keep the wind out of their eyes, and when it was this cold, Jacob appreciated the lenses. The same could be said of the thick hat he wore over his dark hair. Behind Marion, the tinsel some wag had hung on the inside of the railings fluttered in the breeze, dully reflecting the bright moonlight.

“Everything is frozen to us,” Jacob said, patting his right thigh just above the leg Helen, his prosthetist, had crafted for him. “My leg is probably giving my stump frostbite.”

She crossed the gondola and tossed her arms around him. Between her thick woolen coat and his, he could barely feel the embrace. “Hmmm, this should be warmer, but it isn’t.”

“No, not really.” He rubbed her back. If he had any interest sexually in women, he would have considered Marion a perfect mate. Maybe it was better this way. He could be friends with this bright lady mechanic without sex messing things up.

“I bet you’re looking forward to getting home to Athens.” She hip bumped him. “To a certain professor.”

“Hush.” He meant that sincerely. Marion had guessed his love for Al—he wasn’t sure how—but he didn’t want it to be common knowledge.

“No one else is on the deck freezing to death,” she replied. “But point taken. The both of us could find ourselves committed to Athens Lunatic Asylum. You, a wedded bachelor, and me, a woman who thinks independently.”

The bitterness in her words crystallized in the night air. Jacob swallowed past the boulder in his throat—The Athens Lunatic asylum. It was a real fear. It wasn’t unheard of that homosexuals and mouthy women who didn’t know their places were committed as insane. The asylum was a beautiful place—even had dances, inviting the town, to give the patients something positive—but Jacob didn’t want to end up inside its walls for good. He doubted the new age looming before them would bring fast changes on how women or homosexuals were viewed.

They were less than two weeks to the turn of the century—1900. The mere thought of seeing a new century excited Jacob. He didn’t understand the hysterical types who swore the world would end. It hadn’t ended with any other turns of the century. Why should this one be any different, no matter what the religious zealots said? Al already had a party planned for New Year’s Eve that Jacob looked forward to nearly as much as he did Christmas. Given all he’d been through with the military, Jacob counted himself lucky to see a new century. At least this guarding precious cargo detail should be an easy one provided they avoided airship pirates.

He peered over the upper deck’s rail. A large, inky snake cut across the landscape—the mighty Ohio River. Pinpoints glittered in the darkness from all the gas streetlamps lighting up the small river towns that had cropped up along the waterway. Gazing east, the darkness seemed endless, consuming all.

Author Bio:
Jana Denardo's career choices and wanderlust take her all over the United States and beyond. Much of her travels make their way into her stories. Fantasy, science fiction, and mystery have been her favorite genres since she started reading, and they often flavor her works. In her secret identity, she works with the science of life and gives college students nightmares. When she’s not chained to her computer writing, she functions as stray cat magnet. She’s also learning that the road to enlightenment is filled with boulders she keeps falling over and that the words gardening and Zen don’t go together no matter what anyone says.


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Release Blitz: The Selkie Prince's Unexpected Omega by JJ Masters

Title: The Selkie Prince's Unexpected Omega
Author: JJ Masters
Series: Royal Alphas #3
Genre: M/M Romance, Mpreg, Paranormal
Release Date: December 8, 2018
Cover Design: Megan Parker of EmCat Designs
Summary:
An alpha claim. A possible heir. A Selkie prince whose mistake might just be what the fates intended.

Zale, the third alpha-born son of King Solomon, is concerned. His youngest brother, Caol, has been spending time with an unbonded omega. Being a responsible alpha, Zale feels it’s his duty to warn the omega Finn before he and Caol get into trouble. Especially since Finn had only been brought to the colony by their father in case his oldest brother’s fated mate couldn’t conceive. However, when Zale goes to Finn’s quarters to have a word with him, he isn’t expecting to discover what he does: the omega in the throes of oestrus and begging for an alpha’s assistance.

Finn has nowhere else to go. Not only unwanted by his own family, his previous alpha perished in a tragic accident. So for the past two years, the omega has relied on the King of the North’s generosity, even if it means he may end up as a surrogate for one of the alpha-born princes. Or even worse, the king’s sixth mate. But when the Prince Zale comes upon him during his heat, Finn demands relief from the alpha. Although afterward, has to live with the guilt. Now, he might not only be carrying the prince’s son, he may have very well ruined Zale’s chance to find his true fated mate...

Note: A 58k-plus word m/m shifter mpreg story, this is the third book in the Royal Alpha series. Due to the “knotty” times in this book, it is recommended for mature readers only. While it can be read as a standalone, it’s recommended to read the series in order. And, like all of my books, it has an HEA.


Zale’s jaw was tight and his teeth gritted as he waited in the hall outside of Finn’s quarters.

He knocked again. This time more loudly using the heel of his fist, since, apparently, his knuckles weren’t getting the job done.

The alpha-born prince was losing his patience, which he usually had an abundance of. Just not today. Especially since the visiting omega, Finn, had been seen sneaking off with Zale’s youngest brother Caol.
Which was dangerous.

Particularly since Caol was considered a Selkie slut. What humans would call a man-ho. He loved to rut with anyone who would let him, be it Selkie, human or hybrid. Most likely any male with a cock swinging between his legs.

Hell, he probably rutted with other species of shifters.

But even so, it brought Zale back to the problem at hand. He and his brothers had told their father, the King of the North, that he should send Finn away. Return the omega to his own colony. That he was no longer needed here at the Northern colony. But his father hadn’t listened.

No surprise there.

They all suspected that King Solomon had considered taking the omega for himself.

But a whole two years had passed since the King first brought Finn to the castle, so it made no sense for the unbonded male to remain. His father needed to shit or get off the pot. Either take Finn as his own to bear more sons or send the poor omega home so he could find an alpha of his very own.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a fated mate waiting for Finn anywhere. His supposed alpha had been killed and eaten by an orca during their bonding swim from what Zale understood.

None of them had ever asked Finn about it because neither Zale or his brothers wanted to know those cringe-worthy details and they also were inclined to avoid him since he was an unbonded male. Again, being around an unbonded omega could be dangerous.

However, Caol tended to be reckless. If the omega came into heat, Caol would most likely be the proud father of a future pup. Zale could just imagine how the king’s head would spin at that news.

So, Zale needed to nip whatever was going on between Finn and Caol in the bud. For his youngest brother’s sake and also for Finn’s. If the omega had the urge to rut, he could do so with some of the betas the king kept on hand for that purpose. Nothing stopped Finn from taking a beta lover, especially since his corona membrane was no longer intact.

But an alpha? No. He could not rut with an alpha that was not his mate.

That was against Selkie law.

Caol knew that. As did Finn.

Therefore, Zale was being a good older brother and trying to head off a disaster.

Or that’s what he told himself.

Yes, he was protecting not only Caol but this omega... who continued to live among a castle-full of alphas even though that was unsafe.

He stared at the heavy wood door and cursed. Why wasn’t Finn answering?

He leaned closer and shouted, “Finn! Are you in there? Open your door.”

Zale listened carefully. Nothing.

He was done knocking. He had announced his presence and now it was time to take the next step...

Into the omega’s quarters.



Author Bio:
J.J. Masters is the alter-ego of a USA Today bestselling author who writes hot, gay romance filled with heart, humor and heat. J.J. became fascinated with mpreg romance as soon as she figured out what mpreg stood for. She loves to write about "knotty" men!

You can join JJ’s FB Group.  And sign up to her newsletter to keep up with exclusive content and news.


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The Selkie Prince's Unexpected Omega #3

Series

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Texas by RJ Scott Part 2 featuring Home for Christmas


Home for Christmas #9
Summary:
Can Connor show River a real family Christmas?

When Connor finds River on the roof of the campus admin building, he doesn’t know what to do. His friend is drunk, and shouting into a snowstorm, a bottle of vodka in his hand. The easy part is getting River down; the hard part is insisting River comes home with Connor for Christmas.

River doesn’t have a family, or any place outside of college that he calls home. Not that it matters to him; he’s happy being alone for Christmas in his budget motel, watching reruns of Elf. Only, Connor keeps telling wildly improbable stories of the perfect family celebrations at his parents’ ranch in Texas, and it’s wearing River down. He didn’t ask to be kidnapped. He didn’t want to fall in love with the entire Campbell-Hayes family. But he does.

From one Christmas to the next. This is Connor’s year to rescue River, and himself, for them both to mess things up, make things right, fall in lust and finally, for Connor to show the man he loves what being part of a family can mean.

Texas Gift #8
Summary:
A gift for every single reader needed to know what happened next for to Jack and Riley…

When Hayley arrived on the steps of the D, Riley and Jack knew life would never be the same.

Told through Riley and Jack’s eyes, this is ten years in the life of their family and watching Hayley grow up, fall in love, and start her own life. Hurricanes, illness, babies, happiness, sadness, work, play, the barn, the office, horses, friends, enemies, and above all love.

Home for Christmas #9
Finding River drunk on the roof was the last thing Connor expected to see as he was preparing to head home to the Double D for the Christmas holiday but once he sees him in that state he can't just leave him.  River doesn't want to spend the holiday with Connor's happy family but once he arrives in Texas will he open himself up to the welcoming environment of the Campbell-Hayes family and let man in or will he return to Denver as soon as he can?  Will Connor be able to show River that love is possible and that he's not just a charity case?

It's a new Texas story!!!! YAY!!!! EEEP!!!! HOLY HANNAH BATMAN!!!! and a thousand other catchphrases that express pure joy!  Okay, I got that out now on to the story. 😉😉

When I heard we were going to be visiting the Double D again, my first thought: Jack and Riley! Yes, they are here as are many in the Double D universe and that alone makes this a winner.  But Home for Christmas is so much more.  The old familiars are there, the land, the horses, but this is Connor's journey.  What is it about the Texas series that makes them so amazing?  Is it the land, the Double D, the characters, the horses?  It is all that put together and so much more than words can say.  As a farmer's daughter I can attest to how the land has a way of giving a person(in this case River) a chance to relax, to just stop and breathe.  As with so many in this series, River needs more than relaxing but being able to breathe, to take stock, to see what makes Connor Connor, also gives River a chance to see who is looking back at him in the mirror.  Basically, the Double D may not be what River wants but at that point in his life, its what he needs and whether you believe in fate or not sometimes life knows exactly where we should be to keep our journey going.

Connor was always the quiet twin but he has definitely found his voice, and speaking as someone who has one of those talkative types in the house it can be frustrating, but there is just something about Connor that even though there are times you know River wants to stuff a huge Christmas bow in his mouth you also know that he finds it endearing.  And just like Connor does, there are times you want to wrap River up in bubblewrap just to protect him from the world but also from himself.  That's not to say River is a danger to himself physically but emotionally perhaps and you can't help but want to give him a never-ending bear hug.  RJ Scott has always had a way of making her characters, who should by all appearances be angsty and over-the-top, real and ones that you could meet pumping gas or buying stamps, Connor and River are no different.

Home for Christmas may be Connor and River's journey of holidays, friendship, discovery, and love it is also the perfect addition to the Texas series.  Seeing the Double D again is never a bad thing and getting a glimpse of the Campbell-Hayes family as they grow and age is a true holiday treat.  For those asking "can I read Home without having read the others?" my answer is "Probably."  My personal opinion however, is to read the series in order but as this is Connor and River's story it can be read without prior knowledge of the others but I personally feel the "little moments" just flow better knowing the family(and ranch)'s history.

Texas Gift #8
Original Review November 2017:
HOLY HANNAH BATMAN!!  And that was just my reaction to finding out there would be a new Texas entry, that we would get to ride along with Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes to see what's been happening on the Double D.  THEN, I read Texas Gift and there was a whole new level to my excitement: HOLY HANNAH JUSTICE LEAGUE AND AVENGERS!

Texas Gift is exactly what the title says: a gift.  We get to see what the future holds for the Campbell-Hayes family and although its a HEA that doesn't mean it is an easy journey but it is an entertaining one.  I won't touch on details but I will say that you won't be disappointed.  Will we see more of the Double D down the road? Who knows, Texas Wedding was suppose to be the final one and yet apparently Jack and Riley spoke to RJ and said "we have more to tell you".  You won't be sorry giving it a read, lets face it if you are already a fan than you know the amazing-ness that you will find within its covers and if you aren't than boy are you in for a treat.  I re-read Texas every summer and it never gets old so having another installment to add is nothing but good for me.

If you have never visited the Double D crew, here is the perfect time to start because there is a level of "full circle" that Texas Gift brings to the table that makes it something special or even more special.  I feel lucky to call RJ Scott a kindred spirit but if I didn't, if we were at odds about everything I would still be recommending Texas Gift and the rest of the series because there is just something about the Double D universe that she's created that touches my heart and has expanded my horizons.  It was book one, The Heart of Texas, that was originally recommended to me by more than one of my book loving BFFs when I wanted to venture from slash fanfiction to M/M published works.  I can safely say that I loved it and it was the creativity of RJ Scott's Double D that led me to seek out other authors in the genre and in doing so led me to wanting to blog about books so that if I could help just one person find what I did than I would be happy.

I know that this is suppose to be a review of Texas Gift and it is because when you find a book(or series in this case) that can effect you like RJ Scott's Texas has me than that says more about the book and author than anything I can come up with.  So simply put, my review is: Texas Gift is an amazing read and whether or not it is truly the end to the series it will make you cry, make you laugh, and it will touch your heart.

Overall Series 4th Re-Read Review 2018:
I seriously have no idea what more I can say about Texas that I haven't already.  This is the series that brought me into the world of published M/M genre so Jack & Riley Campbell-Hayes and the Double D universe will always hold a special place in my heart.  No matter how many times I read this series, I always smile, cry, laugh, and just completely escape into their world.  I may never experience that first time adrenaline rush but it still gets my blood pumping and heart racing.  Texas is not just Jack and Riley's journey, yes they are the primary leads but we also get to see their children, their family, their friends all navigate life on and off the ranch.  The Double D has a way of bringing people together, giving them hope and purpose, a fresh start, a place to grow and become who they are meant to be, but at the heart of each story is just that: heart.  When RJ Scott wrote The Heart of Texas, I doubt she had any idea what she started, how far it would go or how many people it would touch but I'm just glad she gave life to Jack and Riley and everything that came from their love.  This is one series that isn't getting old any time soon for me.

RATING: 


Home for Christmas #9
Chapter 1
Connor skidded to a stop.

The cold December wind whipped around his face, ice and snow knifing into his skin, and at first, he couldn’t make sense of what he was seeing.

Maybe he should have stopped, called 911, shouted for help, but it could’ve been too late, so he’d acted on instinct alone. He’d taken the four flights of stairs at a run, reaching the roof and throwing the door open. His lungs burned from the freezing air and his voice had gone. What now?

Why was River on the roof in nothing but jeans and a T-shirt, clearly drunk? Why was he standing on the ledge, his feet spread, his arms wide, and a bottle of vodka in his hand?

When the girl from his floor told him she’d seen River go up to the roof, he thought she’d meant something else. He often went up there to read or watch life go by. But not in a snow storm.

He didn’t expect to see River standing on the ledge in the snow.

Don’t scare him. He’ll stumble and fall. He might jump.

A gust of air slapped Connor. River swayed to the left but righted himself with the casual grace of a gymnast. River wouldn’t fall by accident. Hell, Connor had seen him balance on one hand on a diving board, perfectly still, before falling gracefully and accurately with spins and pikes into the water below. He’d never seen River falter.

“River?” Connor asked, only an inch from grabbing River’s shirt and holding him tight. He saw River tense, but he didn’t wobble in surprise or slip and fall to the ground.

“I canbalance. Look at me.” River sounded so damn proud of himself.

Connor took a small step forward, finally being able to hold River’s shirt, hoping to hell that would be enough to stop River from falling.

“Come down, buddy.”

River lifted the bottle over his head, sloshing alcohol over his hair, his tongue flicking out to catch any that ran over his face.

“Fuck,” he shouted.

Connor tugged at him, not knowing what else to do. “Come back,” he said, loud enough that River actually looked at him.

“Leave me alone,” he said.

“I’m not leaving you on the roof,” Connor snapped and got a better hold of River, hooking a finger into his belt. River wasn’t a big guy, a diver’s body, no more than five ten and a buck sixty soaking wet, but if he fell, would Connor be able to hold him long enough to save him?

River pulled against Connor’s grip, and for a second the world stopped turning as Connor had to use his entire body weight to keep him upright. Something about the action must have scared River. He cursed and rocked backward, but he still wouldn’t come down.

“Come down,” Connor pleaded. “You’re scaring me.”

“You think you gotta save me? Huh?” River threw his arms wide again, more alcohol sloshing over the top of the bottle. “I don’t need saving.”

“I want you to come down.” Connor tried for calm. What was he doing? He should have called the cops immediately when he spotted River. Or firefighters, negotiators? Or whoever the hell should’ve been here. He’d seen things like this on the television, the mediator knowing all the right things to say and do, standing by River and connecting him to his family or childhood or his faith. All Connor knew was that he needed to pull River down, use the only thing he had going for him; the fact that he was bigger and stronger.

“I like it up here!” River explained with another wide gesture. He wobbled a little but righted himself immediately.

“Come down, Riv.”

“Saint Connor tries to save everyone,” River shouted, ending with a hysterical laugh. He was clearly losing control of himself, and even if Connor did have the words to talk him down, he thought maybe he’d just yank River back onto the concrete roof of the building and worry about injuries later.

But River wasn’t finished. “Even if they don’t need saving!”

“River!”

“Who the hell cares if I can balance, huh?”

“I care,” Connor shouted back. This was so out of character.

“Yeah, right, telling me what Christmas and family is like for you, making me see it in my head, and then leaving me here alone.”

“River, please.” Connor tugged him, but River wouldn’t move back.

“Leaving me here, alone, because that’s all anyone ever does. They fuck off, leave me, and what happens when college is over, huh? What happens when I lose that?” He lifted one clenched fist to the sky. “Fuck you!”

Connor had never heard River curse like this, and he was done with holding on to him. So evaluating where they would end up if they fell backward and not caring how much it hurt, he yanked, hard. River tumbled with him, arms flailing and the vodka bottle slipping from his grasp and falling into the tub of snow-covered plants on the roof patio. The two of them fell onto the roof, Connor using his body to cushion River’s descent, getting his arms full of an icy cold man, the breath forced from his lungs when they hit the ground.

Connor enveloped him in his arms and locked his hands in place, fighting a frozen, wet, drunk River. He wouldn’t get free. Connor had his pappa’s height, a rancher’s build, and he was a solid anchor in the wind and snow. There was no point in River fighting, and somehow he must have realized he couldn’t get free and went still in Connor’s arms.

All Connor could think was that he’d wanted River back in his arms for a long time now, but he’d expected soft lighting and mood music, not driving winds and snow.

“What the hell are you doing?” Connor demanded.

“Let me the fuck go.”

“Jesus, are you trying to kill yourself?”

River attempted to wriggle free. Connor’s grip didn’t falter in his hold. With his arms securely around River, he shuffled them back so they were protected by the low wall. He wanted to get them back inside, but he wasn’t ready to let River go yet, and the door was at least ten feet away. What if River wriggled free and ran for the ledge? The idea of River on the ground, twisted in death, blood… Connor didn’t want to think about it. He opened his coat, one-handed, and then pulled River closer, trying to get as much of the material to go over him, attempting to keep them both warm. River’s skin was like ice. How long had he been standing up there?

“What were you doing?” he demanded, but River didn’t reply, only burrowed deeper into Connor’s hold. This was stupid. He needed to get them off the roof, or he needed help. His phone was in the car. The campus was emptying for Christmas. It was ten a.m., snowing. What the hell was he going to do now?

“I have no one,” River muttered, then laughed and buried his face deeper.

“What do you mean? Talk to me, River.”

“No.”

“We need to get inside.”

How the hell do I get River inside?

He imagined struggling with River’s weight, trying to get him down four flights of stairs and across to his room. Maybe if he could just get him to the car, with its heated seats and the warm air blower and the coffee in a flask that Connor had made for the start of his journey back to Dallas. Then he could call someone, the cops or a doctor? That seemed like a plan, a focus. He scrambled to his feet, bringing River with him, and stumbled inside. As soon as the door shut, warmth hit them, prickling at his exposed skin, and he moved toward the radiator, still gripping River’s belt. He let go of him long enough to remove his jacket and place it around the shivering man’s shoulders.

River buried himself in the coat, and Connor went into disaster assessment mode. He’d seen hypothermia back home at the D, and it wasn’t pretty. He remembered his pappa saying there were signs to look for, and when Jack spoke, Connor always listened. He pulled up the facts he could remember. Did River have hypothermia? His teeth weren’t chattering, and he wasn’t talking at all, so it wasn’t obvious if he was slurring. Then, even if he did talk and his speech was slurry, how could Connor tell how much vodka he’d drunk? Connor tried to remember the symptoms. The college hospital wasn’t far away. He could drive there, and they would help.

Why the hell did I leave my phone in the damned car?

“It’s okay. I’m okay.”

“No, you’re not.”

“You can go,” River said dully. He wriggled closer to the radiator.

“I’m not going anywhere.”

“But you are,” River murmured. “You kissed me, you got me off, and now you’re leaving today.” Then he hid his face in his hands. “Shit, shit, shit.”

Wait. Was this about what happened at the thanksgiving party?

Is this my fault?

Connor didn’t usually drink that much, but he’d had one beer too many at the party, to the point where he had all the courage he needed to wait for River to come out of the bathroom.

“Can I kiss you?” he’d asked, and River had stared at him, stone-cold sober and narrow-eyed.

But then, holy shit, River had pushed him back into the nearest bedroom, shut the door, and the kiss had turned into something more, hands tangled in hair, the two of them kissing and rutting against each other until they were coming in their jeans. Really unromantic. Nothing more than getting off, and River had left before Connor could even get his breath back. Not the best of outcomes. Then River had ignored him. Not returning texts, no more study sessions in the library, and he’d even missed the last lecture of the semester.

All of that told Connor on thing: River wasn’t interested in anything more with him. But that didn’t mean they weren’t still friends. They sat in silence for a few minutes, River’s face still buried in his hands, and he was clearly crying.

What the hell should I do now?

Texas Gift #8
Chapter One
Riley needed to apologize. Right now.

He’d fucked up big time, and he should have seen it coming, because everything he did went in cycles. He and Jack hadn’t argued in so long and maybe the tension that had been building inside Riley had needed an outlet; he’d provoked the argument. He’d pushed and prodded and sulked and shoved at Jack until Jack had snapped.

Not in loud, shouting temper, or anything like what Riley deserved. No, Jack had gone deathly quiet.

Absolutely. Utterly. Quiet.

Riley shouted at him, got everything out of his system, felt the weight of it all lessen by throwing it at Jack and what had happened? He’d stood there at first, confused, and then steadily calmer. Weirdly calmer.

They argued; no normal marriage went without arguments over things as important as the kids and as trivial as picking up wet towels. But they resolved things, Jack/Riley was a unit that worked. They sometimes bickered and teased, they shouted rarely, and on the odd occasion there would be sulking. Mostly from Riley. He considered it as thinking time but Jack just called him on his sulking like a child.

Their arguments always ended in love; talking, kissing, complete forgiveness that could only come when two people understood and loved each other.

This morning though, he’d made Connor cry, Lexie scowl, and Max hide under the table with Toby. Jack hadn't even stayed for that. The crying, scowling and hiding had happened after he’d left.

“Why are you shouting at Pappa!” Connor shouted back at Riley. “Stop shouting.” Then he’d started to cry, and Riley’s heart had broken into a million pieces. He’d sat between a crying Connor, and a sullen, angry Lexie and tried to explain that he had a bad headache and he didn’t mean to shout. For headache, read migraine, tight painful migraine that blurred his vision and made him feel sick. He’d taken meds and the sharp edges of the glass in his head were easing, but he couldn’t think straight. Connor stopped crying.

“You were so mean,” Lexie summarized, but she did give Riley a hug and kiss him on the forehead to make it all better.

Max on the other hand, while not angry with Riley and the shouting, was still under the kitchen table with Toby. The black lab, Riley’s black lab, was between Max and Riley in a protective furry wall.

“It’s okay Tobes, I got this,” Riley tried to fold all six-four of himself under the wood. He got caught on a bench, his neck burned, his stomach was in knots, but nothing was going to stop him from getting to Max. Toby did eventually move to one side but not too far. Toby may well have been Riley’s dog at the start, but he and Max were inseparable now.

“Max, buddy?” he began, and Max at least looked up at him for a split second. “You okay?”

“M’okay,” Max said. “You’re noisy.”

At least he wasn’t rocking, or stimming. He was just sitting with his dog in his favorite place under the kitchen table.

“Is everything okay?” Carol said from behind him. He scrambled back and brushed himself off. “Riley?”

“I shouted,” Riley explained simply.

“At the kids?” Carol asked, aghast, as if that was the ultimate sin in her eyes. Which, to be fair, it was in Riley’s as well. He and Jack didn’t shout, they cajoled, and bargained, and ran a happy house. Most of the time, anyway. Just not this morning.

“No, at Jack.”

“Is Max okay?” she peered under the table and smiled at Max. He adored her, the kids all loved their nanny, probably quite a bit more than they loved their dad today.

“He seems fine.” Riley peered out of the window at where Jack had gone. The damage had been done, but Connie and Lexie were chatting to each other, Max was with Carol and he needed to go and make things right with Jack.

“I think we’re okay in here,” Carol said, “Go find Jack.”

Riley shot her a grateful glance, and as he left the kitchen he heard Lexie telling Carol that her Pappa had a headache and that she’d kissed it better. When he closed the door it was just him and the ranch and finding Jack. It didn’t take him long; he was outside their barn, looking up at the siding, with his feet apart and his arms crossed over his chest.

Riley inhaled the fresh morning air and pulled back his shoulders. He could do this; he could ignore the pain in his head now it had lessened a little, he could push back the nausea, and he could go and apologize to Jack for being a fucking idiot.

“I’m sorry,” he murmured, coming to a stop next to Jack, only a few inches separating their arms. Jack didn’t move.

“It’s okay.” Although it didn’t sound okay at all. Okay was one of those words that meant nothing in the context of an argument, it was a word that plastered over cracks in a relationship. Okay was quiet and tight-lipped silences and Riley recalled okay from when he was a kid.

He hated okay.

“It’s not okay, I have a headache and I didn’t mean any of what I said.”

“You didn’t mean to say that life would be easier if you didn’t have to listen to me?” Jack’s voice was low and serious, and Riley winced.

“You were saying too much, and I couldn’t think.”

Their discussion had started in the bedroom.

“I asked if you’d made an appointment to see someone about the headaches.”

“I know—”

“And why you were limping again—”

“Jack—”

“And why you weren’t sleeping, and why you spent so much time at the office, and why the fuck have we not used the barn in over a month?”

The barn wasn’t just the barn, it was a euphemism for sex. They hadn't been together in a month, over a month now. How did Riley explain that he’d been at the office, sometimes with the blinds shut, closing out the light, sleeping? How did he explain he didn’t want to see a doctor because the headaches scared him? And how the hell did he tell Jack he was limping because every single one of his muscles hurt, because he was tired, because it was all too much?

“Jack, I’m sorry.”

“You’re not, Riley, because you won’t listen to me.” Jack pointed at the barn. “I’m thinking we turn this into a games room for the kids.”

Riley gripped Jack’s arm. “No, what the hell?” His tension fled and in its place was panic. This was their space. Sometimes they came out here to talk, to hide away from the world, but it was also the one place they had the hottest sex he’d ever experienced. He wanted that again, but he was so tired, every time he turned over in bed his neck hurt, and his head pounded, and his leg ached, and he was fucking tired of it all. “Jack, I’m sorry, don’t…”

Jack turned to face him, and his expression wasn’t angry. “Either you go to the doctor, right here, right now, or I start clearing the place for a pool table.” He looked deadly serious, and Riley couldn’t tell if this was an empty threat. Then Jack softened, cradled his face and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Riley, please.”

Just those two words pierced the fear in Riley, he couldn’t stop the pain, or the threat of being sick, or not sleeping, but whatever was wrong, Jack would be there for him.

“I’m scared,” Riley murmured.

Jack gathered him close. “You think I’m not?”

“Please don’t,” Riley said against Jack’s neck. His words sounded slurred and fear made him sway. What the hell? “Please don’t let me chase you away.”

“I won’t.”

And that was the last thing he heard as his world went to black.




Author Bio:
USA Today bestselling author RJ Scott writes stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, a happily ever after.

RJ Scott is the author of over one hundred romance books, writing emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

She’s always thrilled to hear from readers, bloggers and other writers. Please contact via the links below.


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EMAIL: rj@rjscott.co.uk



Home for Christmas #9

Texas Gift #8

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