Audiobook Review: Learning to Love by Felice Stevens

After ten years away from home, bad boy caterer Gideon Marks has a lot to prove. Getting the holiday catering job at his childhood synagogue is the first step in demonstrating to everyone he didn’t turn out to be the failure they predicted. What he doesn’t count on is Rabbi Jonah Fine, his high school nemesis and secret crush, stirring up old feelings Gideon thought long gone and secrets he’s buried deep for years.

An unexpectedly passionate encounter shocks Gideon, but he pushes Jonah away, convinced he isn’t good enough to be in a relationship and would never be accepted by Jonah’s father. But Jonah hangs tough—he won’t allow Gideon to hide or run away from life again. And when it comes to love, Gideon learns the most important lessons aren’t always taught in school.

Narrated by: Derrick McClain
Listening Length: 5 hours and 51 minutes

Guest Reviewer - Annery

***3.00 for the book, 3.5 for the Audio***

This is my third Felice Stevens read and I’m beginning to sense a pattern. The landscape is authentic and recognizable along with the usual cast of New York characters. In this case some nice Jewish boys from Brooklyn and their friends and family. I like to read about everyday people but this one was just on the ‘underwhelming’ side.

Usually when I do audios I follow along with the print just to ‘see’ the words or even highlight but in this instance I stuck strictly to my ears and the performance by Derrick McClain. I happen to like Derrick very much and once again he didn’t disappoint. There’s a clear distinction between characters and a nice but not over dramatized narration. He even does nice voices for the women in the story. I’m not sure he did any favors to the main MC, Gideon Marks. No fault on Derrick’s part but rather on who Gideon is or how he is written.

Gideon Marks has come home to Brooklyn from a self imposed Florida exile. He wants to make a success of his catering business but he also wants to rub it in the face of those who thought he wouldn’t amount to anything. He particularly wants to impress one Jonah Fine and Jonah is impressed. So what was my problem? Glad you asked. I had a few, though none of them were deal breakers, more like sand in your shoes. Not as bad as pebbles but annoying nonetheless.

The major stumble for me is Gideon himself and when you sort of dislike the main MC everything teeters. He had the standard issue fraught childhood, his mother and beloved grandmother were killed in an accident leaving him with an alcoholic father who was ill equipped to deal with Gideon’s needs which went beyond the usual teenage growing pains. What said needs were/are the reader can figure out pretty soon before being told. It’s very noble of the author to have a character with these issues and having him deal with them, but Gideon is a bit of an insufferable ass and with something like a boulder on his shoulder. For one thing all those nay sayers he’s come home to stare down are mostly in his head and while this attitude is perfectly believable and understandable in a troubled teenager it gets harder to swallow from an almost 30 successful businessman. It annoys me to no end to have people jump to conclusions about the intentions or motivations of others when their main complaint is being unfairly judged. Also when people do nothing but snap at others when they’re being shown nothing but kindness I want to reach in the book and slap them. I wanted to grab Gideon by his curly locks and drag him around a bit and hug him later.

Another hurdle is that though Jonah and Gideon knew each other since they were teenagers I don’t see how they would get hung up on each other. As far as I could tell they only saw each other at temple; they went to different schools and weren’t even friends. So how smitten could they have been to the point where Jonah seems to have been waiting for Gideon for ten years when they never had anything going?

In any case after some back and forth of Jonah being unbelievably patient with Gideon and letting him figure out that he is and always was into Gideon our love birds are living in bliss when we have the ‘out of nowhere’ righteous indignation from Gideon, subsequent stomping out, and some groveling from Jonah and forgiveness from Gideon. Thing is in my book Jonah had nothing to apologize for. Another instance of Gideon being a prickly diva. More stuff happens, Gideon confronts and makes some sort of peace with his past and Jonah solves his non-problems. Good people doing good things. Amen.

The theme here seems to be that your enjoyment of this book will depend on how much you like or hate Gideon. I don’t hate him but I can see us having words.

A review copy was provided.

Guest Review: Year One: Would it Be Okay to Love You? by Amy Tasukada

A robot fanboy. An erotic voice actor. Will their secrets overwhelm their love?

Sato doesn’t get out much. The anime company accountant spends his days at a desk and his nights working on his own small-scale robots. His geeky life is like a dream, but it has just one piece missing…

The world only knows Aoi for his moans. The erotic voice actor has legions of fangirls obsessed with his gasps of simulated ecstasy. And his new boyfriend Sato can barely handle the attention.

As Aoi’s popularity rises and secrets about his past begin to reveal themselves, can the accountant and the voice actor rise above their problems to create something real?

Year One is a short story anthology collection unlike anything you’ve ever read. If you like geeky settings, and sweet romance, then you’ll love Amy Tasukada’s slice-of-life story.

Reviewer: R *A Reader Obsessed*

This was cuuuuuute.

A quaint romance about Sato and Aoi, they’re an established couple who are just starting to become serious. Basically, this is a month by month look at how they live their lives and how their feelings evolve and strengthen.

Sato and Aoi may be complete opposites, especially in their interests and what they do for a living, but somehow they make it work. Their interactions, their respect, and their kindness and love for each other warmed my cold heart - and there’s a bit of smexy just to keep things interesting.

Overall, nothing fancy, nothing dramatic. Throw in a little insecurity, a little twisty doubt, and mix it with a lot of sweet. Maybe as a warning, this seemed to end all of a sudden; Sato and Aoi have reached a milestone and are strong… I just wanted more of this simple love story.

Perhaps as a consolation, you can sign up for the author’s newsletter to receive monthly snippets about these two. I did!

Thank you to the author/publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review .

Don't miss the Would it Be Okay to Love You? Release Blitz HERE!

Release Blitz + Giveaway: Would It Be Okay to Love You? by Amy Tasukada

Amy Tasukada and Signal Boost Promotions celebrate the release of Would It Be Okay To Love You? See our review HERE! Enter in the giveaway to win 2 ebooks: Would It Be Okay to Love You? and Year One!

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 41,000 words


Would It Be Okay To Love You (Book #1)
Would It Be Okay To Love You: Year One (Book #2) Amazon US | Amazon UK


A robot fanboy. An erotic voice actor. When love comes calling, will they shed their armor?

Sato’s only long-term relationship is the one he shares with his Gundam collectibles. He dreams about the kind of unconditional love his parents enjoy. If only he could break out of his shell, he might find his special someone…

Outgoing playboy Aoi has sworn off relationships. He knows they only distract him from his budding voice acting career. He’s earned a few loyal fans, and if he keeps at it, he may even earn enough to never worry about being evicted again…

When Sato meets Aoi at the local anime store, there’s definitely a spark. But even as they tread carefully, their commitment issues and Aoi’s troubled past soon muck things up before they can start. In order for Sato and Aoi to have their happily-ever-after, they’ll both have to take a leap of faith… and hope to be caught.

Would It Be Okay to Love You? is the first book in a gay romance series set in Japan. If you like original characters, nerd culture, and simmering chemistry, then you’ll love Amy Tasukada’s charming multicultural love story.

Author Bio

Amy Tasukada lives in North Texas with a calico cat called O’Hara. As an only child her day dreams kept her entertained, and at age ten she started to put them to paper. Since then her love of writing hasn’t cease. She can be found drinking hot tea and filming Japanese street fashion hauls on her Youtube channel.





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Review: His Pirate (Second Chance #2) by Stephanie Lake

Rhain Morgan is desperate to leave London and move his ailing sister to a climate that will save her life, so he books passage to their Caribbean plantation on the only available ship, captained by Alastair Breckenridge. Rhain fights his attraction to the alluring captain, who looks and acts like a pirate, but the man’s fairness wins Rhain over. The trip that once seemed endless is now too short.

For years, Alastair held people away from his heart, until Rhain. Finally admitting his feelings to himself, he tries to convince Rhain to stay on board, but it’s all in vain.

Despite his own burgeoning feelings for Alastair, Rhain wants to prove himself and refuses to let go of his dream of making a home for his sister and himself on their plantation. But as Alastair’s ship sails away, Rhain is left alone to make the best of disastrous circumstances and overwhelmed by regret, nurses his broken heart.

When all seems lost, could they dare hope for a second chance to set things right and love again?

If I had to describe His Pirate, the second standalone in the Second Chance series by author duo Stephanie Lake briefly: it read like Jack Sparrow porn.

But instead of the pirate chasing light skirts and rum, he was all about the men and pirating. (mainly men)

Not mad at it.

"I'm going to slip another finger into that hot hole of yours. Let your muscles play with them, stroke them, hold them tight."

Not at all.

His Pirate is set in the late Georgian era, orphan Rhain Morgan only has his ailing sister as family. The London air doesn't agree with his frail sister and the longer they live there, the worse it will be for her. Before Rhain's father died, he bought a plantation on the island of Dominica. Rhain sells his meager savings to have enough money to book a trip for his small family.

Sadly, it's late in the sailing season and no one but a dandy pirate, Captain Alastair Breckenridge is the only one around to set sail to the Caribbean. The spark of heat flares from the moment they set eyes on each other. Rhain vows not to dally with men anymore. He plans to find a wife and lie to himself to produce an heir.

But Alastair notices the attraction. And he day dreams about getting the tall and thick Rhain to pound him into next week. (I was wishing for something a little more devious or daring)

Now, the beginning of the story had potential to be an epic read. The reader gets crumbs on the main characters' back story: Alastair has family issues that make him the man he is today, Rhain is brokenhearted. They have some damage but the story tone is light and low angst.

In fact, it could even be described as fanciful and over the top. Historically accurate? Not really. It read modern for the time period. But it definitely is fun.

And the smut is heavy:

"--bent over the captain's table and tried to feel the man's tonsils with his cock by ramming it as far as he could up the man's arse."
For as pirate who has something to prove to his father, it gets pushed aside once Rhain's cock turned out to play. Unfortunately, this pirate lover had her socks knocked off earlier this year by another story and I can't help but compare the light and not really deep to something that had depth and characters that made you think and feel.

His Pirate had good secondary characters in Rhain's sister and Captain Jack Alastair's first mate. There is a cute little side love story going that doesn't over take the main plot. The issue is the main plot didn't go much further than nautical road trip and pirate banging. The guys are day dreaming and lolly gagging when I expected more pirating. Seriously, the penis was constantly on the brain. The characters barely pass the three dimensional mark, they have some back story but it's told rather than shown and sort of info dumped.

The series is titled Second Chance. I read the first book in this standalone series (and I found it slightly stronger). Both books featured second chances. But where as the first book used it as the main conflict, His Pirate really doesn't. The second chance bit was short (after 86%). And I wanted to throttle Rhain for his bonehead move. And since the second chance happens so late in the game, it read rushed and there was not enough grovelling in my opinion. Alastair just rolled over and opened his legs. It also made me question the sincerity of Rhain.

But I'm looking too deep for something that doesn't have much depth. It's a good time, a smutty time, lots of fun.

I'd recommend for readers who'd rather fun light pirating and heavy smut. It's low angst historical that didn't read too plot heavy.

Besides who wouldn't like to read about a bottom happy Jack Sparrow type?


Guest Review: Saved: An Omegaverse Story (Breaking Free #1) by A.M. Arthur

He didn’t want an alpha to save him, but fate had other ideas…

Braun Etting was raised to know his place as an omega by his alpha father’s cruel words and fast fists, and he expects nothing but violence from the alpha who may one day mate him. His older brother Kell mated a cruel alpha who abuses him daily, and Braun is terrified of that seemingly inevitable future. When Braun’s father dies in a car crash, leaving Braun an orphan, he’s sent to a halfway house for omegas. But on his fourth night there, he witnesses a horrifying crime that sends him fleeing to the streets alone—and edging into his first heat.

Tarek Bloom is settled in his workaholic, single lifestyle, even if it is somewhat embarrassing to be a twenty-eight year-old unmated alpha. He enjoys his job as a constable, helping people and solving problems, so he isn’t prepared for his life to flip upside-down when he walks into his beta friend Dex’s apartment to help with “a problem.”

The problem turns out to be an unmated, nearly in-heat omega orphan who Dex and his husband rescued off the street last night. The even bigger problem is that Tarek feels the mating bond for this terrified omega immediately—and he’s pretty sure the omega feels it, too. But Braun hates alphas as a general rule, and no way is he giving in to the bond. All mating leads to is violence and suffering, so no thank you. But Tarek’s gentle kindness slips under Braun’s emotional shields, and Braun begins to want. To dream. All Braun has ever known is violent alphas, but Tarek is determined to make Braun trust him—and to trust in the idea of their happily ever after.

NOTE: This is a non-shifter Omegaverse story with alpha/omega/beta dynamics, heats, knotting, and mpreg. In this world, omegas are second-class citizens with few civil rights and almost no protections under the law. Trigger warnings for physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.

Reviewer: R *A Reader Obsessed*

It’s a cruel cruel world for omega’s in this particular universe, where they’re used and abused to be breeders for alphas to beget more alphas, having very little, if at all, basic human rights.

This is a non-shifter ABO story, and it starts off with Braun being sent to an omega halfway house after his father passes away, as he’s not deemed capable of taking care of himself, let alone have control over his own life. Perhaps fortuitously, Braun witnesses a terrible abuse on one of his fellow omegas which spurs him to escape, fearing that he too, will be up for such a horrible fate. Luckily, he comes across some kind betas who take him in and who happen to be bff’s with Tarek, a constable and rare alpha who’s a strong supporter of omega rights.

Immediately of course, Tarek and Braun realize that they’re potential bond mates, a situation that says they’re pheromone compatible, strongly urging them both to make it official. However, Braun has been brutalized by a cruel alpha father and doesn't trust any alphas, nor wants to be tied to one ever. It doesn't help either that his brother Kell, is mated to a monster whose constant cruelty is accepted with very little backlash. There’s no way in hell Braun is going to just blithely mate with the first alpha that sparks his interest. Tarek definitely has his work cut out for him to show he’s worthy, for it’s going to take a lot more than just pretty words and promises to win Braun over.

As a warning, this contains physical and emotional abuse, attempted rape, non MC rape, and dubious consent (but that’s typically the norm when it comes to most heat cycles). This was also way more than just a romance as it depicts a world where omegas (and betas to a smaller extent) are treated little better than slaves, and there’s some simmering dissent hopefully hinting at some big changes that are on the horizon.

So, in addition to heat cycles, uncontrollable urges with crazy pheromones running amuck, plus KNOTTING, this also had a decent plot regarding Braun and how he becomes empowered to make some much needed change to his life and that of his fellow omegas. This kinda sorta ends on a cliffhanger mostly regarding Braun’s poor abused brother. Be reassured that Braun and Tarek, after going through some tough relationship learning curves, are at a strong point, but the overall arc leaves us hanging. I enjoyed this and am definitely intrigued enough to see how this plays out when the next book arrives!

Thank you to the author/publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Surrendered to the Sea by Dessa Lux

When an omega werewolf cast himself into the sea, he never expected someone would be there to catch him...

Omega Devon Griffith feels like his life is already over; he's failed out of school and it's just a matter of time before his parents arrange a loveless mating for the good of the pack. He wants someone to love him for himself, but it seems like he's missed his chance. When he gives in to a dark impulse and slips into the sea, he thinks that one moment of surrender will be the end...

Sea god Lir has spent years living only in the present, forgetting his own troubled past and never worrying about the future. Then his father issues an ultimatum: Lir needs to prove he can care for someone else, or he'll be banished from the sea forever. Lir doesn't even know where to start, until a werewolf falls into his sea and nearly drowns. This is Lir's chance to show he can be responsible for a mortal. He may not know anything about werewolves, but how hard can it be?

When Devon's heat arrives, Lir quickly discovers that caring for him takes more than just food, water, and shelter... and Devon finally feels like he has a future worth looking forward to. Alone together on Lir's enchanted island with a baby on the way, their love quickly blooms. But Devon can't quite forget his life on land, no matter how hard Lir tries to keep him happy in their hideaway. Can Lir and Devon's love survive beyond their magical island, or will too much reality break the sea's spell?

Surrendered to the Sea is an m/m mpreg romance featuring a lost omega werewolf, a lonely sea god, and a happy ending hot enough to melt icebergs!

Devon Griffith is unhappy and slightly depressed as we meet the young Omega aboard a rented yacht with his family in the middle of the sea. Devon doesn’t want an arranged marriage to some Alpha who his family can profit off of for social and financial status, Devon wants to be taken care of, to love and to be loved equally in return. In a moment of despair, he decides to take fate into his own hands and plunges into the cold sea, offering himself to the dark depths if the moon won’t have him.

Lir is a sea god who has displeased Father North aka his dad. He is told he must learn to respect land-dwellers and have a care for their ways even though is domain over the sea does not reach the land. Father North has given Lir the timeline of one year to make this happen or he will send Lir to live among those he holds with such dismal regard. Lir takes this seriously and when he feels a presence in his domain of the sea, and the offer of giving one’s self to his sea, he rescues the land-dwellers and our story begins.

I really have to clear way of reviewing this without giving the entire story away so I will try to be simple about the review.

I adored this book! I know that Devon keeps referring to Lir as an Alpha and while he is indeed one, he isn’t the growly and rough Alpha’s I am used to with shifters. Lir is kind, supportive, protective and a wonderful caregiver to Devon. He wants nothing but to make Devon comfortable and happy and while the threat from Father North is present in his mind, Devon strikes a chord closer to Lir’s heart and that is where his actions come from.

Since Lir as a sea god is part of the sea, he needs to create land for his werewolf to live upon and Lir takes to this with great creativity and care. There is no way to say this but to put it out there…Lir makes a home for Devon, literally. He calls up on the plastic of the sea to come bind together to form an island which he commands moss to grow upon and it becomes a living organism that continues to grow and change into a floating island that later becomes like a reef of sorts that they build their home on. Yeah, the sea god is recycling plastics that assholes put in the ocean to build a home for Devon which is so stupidly romantic, the hippie and environmentalist in me forgets about the disgusting plastics polluting the oceans because Lir is creating an island for Devon to take care of him. He made him an island, folks. Talk about epic declarations, eh?


We get this story told in both POV’s which is lovely because both Devon and Lir are complicated creatures. It’s nice to see the depth and growth of their character through internal dialogue/actions as well as through the eyes of their mate.

So, Devon and Lir get used to one another and start a new life atop the floating island together and then one day, Devon remembers that he is an Omega and what Omega’s are made to do. Yeah, he kinda forgot that he would be going into heat soon, losing track of the days while being thrust into this new odd existence with a sea god who can take many forms, including one with tentacles (yes I had ideas about those tentacles and the heat – judge away) and explains to Lir what will happen with his heat and how much he will need Lir. All Lir wants to do is take care of Devon and he’s looked up mating on Google so he is ready though Devon starts to feel selfish for taking Lir away from whatever his responsibilities are as a sea god.

I will say this…The heat was hot as it always is with the need to fuck, self-lubricating holes made for fucking and a sea god who happens to KNOT during sex. Don’t ask about the knotting, just marinate in it and like it. Mmm Kay? Mmm Kay.

As the time passes during and after the heat, Lir and Devon start to develop feelings beyond what either thought they were made for and it was truly charming to read. I had no idea where a book with a sea god and a werewolf would lead but both of these men were lonely, depressed and yearning for love. They found it in one another but when the heat is successful and Devon laments the loss of his pack; Lir goes beyond what he should to make his mate happy.

There is a bit of angst in this story that made me sadder than I expected to. I adore Lir so much with all he does for Devon. He loves his land-dweller so much that he broke my heart when the angst appeared. How can you not love a sea god who wants to call Devon by an endearment and chooses to call him “Sunlight” because Lir is from the cold, dark depths of the sea? *sigh* I just love him but Lir has issues and he doesn’t remember the reason behind his father’s ultimatum and it’s not until a storm brews between Lir and Devon, that Devon learns the truth from Lir’s brother Mar.

Goodness, but this book packs in some sneaky emotions I wasn’t expecting. It is full of hurt/comfort so much that I feel like I need a tentacle hug from Lir and I don’t do hugs. It was so emotional and the angst made me cry. When Lir remembers the why of Father North’s ultimatum, it’s so freaking sad but he loves his Devon and will do whatever he has to do right his wrong.

Wow. Did I say anything of substance about this book? I am just floating along on this happy cloud having finished it. It’s not your traditional shifter romance as it borderlines a fairy tale with a few moments you just need to accept even though they are a tad outrageous like the laptop and phone, because it was so damn sweet.

That epilogue was adorable and the bit with Zoey made me giggle. I do wonder if they author has plans to make this a series because there seems to be something with Harry and Mar that I would love to see explored.

Review: Something Like Stories (Volume 2) by Jay Bell

The Something Like… series is drawing to a close! Before it ends, reunite with favorite characters and meet others for the first time in this special collection of fourteen stories. Highlights include Something Like Champagne, in which Marcello searches for the truth behind a drunken vision. In Something Like Bunnies, a young Jace Holden struggles with his first crush. Ben and Tim return in Something Like Memories as they debate when exactly they should celebrate their anniversary, and Jason finally makes an important decision about his future with William in Something Like Sun. Joyful reunions and tearful goodbyes await you, as do many affirmations of love, in this second volume of short stories.

I don't know where to start. I really, really don't. This is all going to come out in a jumble so I ask your forgiveness in advance.... please and thank you!

Okay. Firstly, this has been on my to-review pile for a while and I feel I should apologise to Jay Bell, and I would, but *I'm not speaking to him at the moment, or possibly ever again because MY HEART HURTS TOO MUCH. AGAIN. I'm not a fan of short stories and I think that's why I've put off reading it (yep, that's what we'll say, it's not because I'm a wimp). I personally think short stories are hard to get right and often find that authors who do fab novels don't hit the right spot for me short story-wise. Of course, this is Jay Bell, so I should have known better. I would tell him, but see above.*

Secondly, Jay's writing is amazing but oft times bloomin' harrowing. I've still not finished SL Autumn because I just can't. I did think that short stories wcouldn't be that bad and I was completely right... until I was wrong. A cat, Jay Bell. A freaking cat. You git.

Thirdly, I never know how to review anthology/short story compilations. Do I write a review for each story? Pick a few to concentrate on? Or just give a summary of the whole?

I know, right! Choices. Decisions.

I've decided to go for the summary option because frankly all you need to know is that every story in this book was a 4 or 5 heart read. Mostly 5 but I can't be too generous now, can I? There is something for everyone in here. Something Like fans - don't put off reading this (I'm surely not the only one who did?), it's such a fantastic way to read about the interim parts of various characters. 

As I was going to sleep last night I had a really clever (snorts) analogy worked out to describe the way these stories fill in the gaps of the books but fuck if I can remember what it was beyond it involving water...So in a non-clever way I'll say, these little insights to the characters lives that happen between the stories, or off page, or from another perspective are amazing. Each one can change how you view a story or character - let's face it, this is what Jay Bell does best. Everyone should read these books, even if it's just to gain understanding of the complexities of people and how to learn about people's actions/motives/perceptions/perspectives. 

Seriously, we know from the novels how cleverly this is shown, how we can 'hate' a character in one book and love him in the next, even set in the same timeline and events. These stories just add the decorations on top of the icing on the cake. They're the hundreds and thousands on top of the cherry. 

Each story is different though. Some are funny, some sad, some a little off the wall - but what they all have in common is fantastic writing and a need to read on, read more, gain that extra bit of understanding. The Something Like world is our world. It's the people we do and do not know. It's just brilliant.

My personal favourite is the last one (even though it's the reason I'm *no longer talking to the author). How anyone can write like that, from that perspective and still be so real and so loving and heartbreaking I don't know. The only other author I can think of who managed it is Michael Morpurgo. It's a talent and if someone explained the story I'd have been all 'nah, you're good mate, I'm not reading that, totally not my cuppa tea.' But they didn't and I did read it and I am so glad, and sad, and happy, and confused that I did.

So I say to you, dear reader, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE read this book. 

*NB: just for the record, I am really still talking to Jay Bell. Mostly.

A copy of this book was given in exchange for an honest review.

Giveaway + Blog Tour: Bad Boy's Bard by E.J. Russell

E.J. Russell is here today talking genealogy within her Fae Out of Water series. Bad Boy’s Bard is the latest installment & the grand prize of a $50 Riptide credit is still up for grabs, so be sure to leave a comment below to be entered to win. Good luck!

In the Fae Out of Water series, Gareth is tagged as the last true bard in Faerie—so that begs the question: if he’s the last one, how did he learn his craft? In The Druid Next Door, Mal confesses to Bryce that he outed Gareth as a bard when he discovered him healing his own hand with song. That resulted in Gareth being snapped up by Arawn, the ruler of Annwn, the Welsh otherworld (where, in my story world, the Kendrick brothers lived until Arawn departed, making Annwn inaccessible).

Gareth’s teacher was Gwydion, one of the sons of the goddess Dôn. Gwydion was a powerful magician as well as a bard, but his code of ethics was more than a little…shall we say…flexible? The story of how he caused a completely spurious war—which resulted in massive casualties on both sides, as well as the death of Pryderi, king of Dyved, at Gwydion’s own hand—to enable his brother to rape their uncle Math’s virginal attendant, is told in the fourth branch of the Mabinogion, tales from the oral traditions of pre-Christian (probably pre-Roman) Britain that were written down in the 12th or 13th centuries.

Here’s a partial tree of Gwydion’s happy little family:

In addition to the tale of Gwydion’s warmongering/procuring, the fourth branch also tells of his devotion to his nephew, Lleu Llaw Gyffes—in fact, he treats him like a son. In some interpretations of the Mabinogion, Gwydion is framed as the biological father of both of Arianrhod’s sons. I don’t claim to be a historian or a scholar of such things, but I’ve always had my suspicions about that. Now granted, incest was kind of a thing among ancient pantheons in a number of cultures, but one of the earliest translations of the Mabinogion doesn’t actually name Arianrhod’s partners. She gave more or less instant birth, thanks to Math’s magic wand, but Gwydion himself suggested her as an appropriate candidate for the post of Math’s foot virgin (don’t ask). Presumably, if he knew better, he wouldn’t have broached the subject.

Personally (and again—not the expert here, but it’s at least a possibility), I think Gwydion took responsibility for one of his magically born nephews because the northern kingdom (Gwynedd) was matrilineal at the time. Gwydion himself acted as his uncle’s heir, more or less. He’s referred to as Gwydion ap Dôn—no mention of his father. Arianrhod’s amorous adventures were her own business—until she tried to apply for a position for which she lacked the primary qualification.

Govannan, Gwydion’s brother, plays a pivotal role in Bad Boy’s Bard, but when it comes to finding references to him in the Mabinogion—or anywhere else for that matter—he doesn’t get much love. We know he was a smith, and that he threw a spear that killed his nephew Dylan (Arianrhod’s other magically induced son), but that’s about it.

From a reader’s perspective—and I devoured Evangeline Walton’s retelling of the Mabinogion back in the mid-seventies—this is terribly frustrating. From an author’s perspective, however, it’s a golden opportunity. In the absence of any contradictory information, we’re free to make up stuff! So in my story world, Govannan is still atoning for killing Dylan and Gwydion, the self-centered jerk, hasn’t learned compassion for anyone outside his younger brother and his nephew.

Gee, they sound like a couple of other Welsh brothers I know…

About Bad Boy’s Bard

As far as rock star Gareth Kendrick, the last true bard in Faerie, is concerned, the only good Unseelie is . . . well . . . there’s no such thing. Two centuries ago, an Unseelie lord abducted Gareth’s human lover, Niall, and Gareth has neither forgotten nor forgiven.

Niall O’Tierney, half-human son of the Unseelie King, had never lost a wager until the day he swore to rid the Seelie court of its bard. That bet cost him everything: his freedom, his family—and his heart. When he’s suddenly face-to-face with Gareth at the ceremony to join the Seelie and Unseelie realms, Niall does the only thing inhumanly possible: he fakes amnesia. Not his finest hour, perhaps, but he never revealed his Unseelie heritage, and to tell the truth now would be to risk Gareth’s revulsion—far harder to bear than two hundred years of imprisonment.

Then a new threat to Gareth’s life arises, and he and Niall stage a mad escape into the Outer World, only to discover the fate of all fae resting on their shoulders. But before they can save the realm, they have to tackle something really tough: mending their own broken relationship.

Now available from Riptide Publishing.

About the Fae Out of Water Series

Once upon a time, there were three brothers, nobles of the Seelie Court of Faerie, who set out to seek their fortunes. The eldest—

Scratch that. Rrrrrewind.

Nowadays, when tales are told in 140 character bursts on tiny LED screens, rather than spun out by the glow of a midnight campfire, even Faerie’s elite have to get with the program.

The Kendrick brothers have traded longbow for briefcase, battle steed for Harley, and enchanted harp for electric guitar.  But while they’re finding their feet in the modern world, instead of finding their fortunes, they stumble straight into love.


About E.J. Russell

E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business-intelligence consultant. After her twin sons left for college and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class, she returned to her childhood love of writing fiction. Now she wonders why she ever thought an empty nest meant leisure.

E.J. lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, the only man on the planet who cares less about sports than she does. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

Connect with E.J.:

To celebrate the release of all three books in the Fae Out of Water series, one lucky winner across all three tours will receive a GRAND PRIZE of a $50 Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on September 23, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the Bad Boy’s Bard tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Review: Calm (Tidal #2) by K. Evan Coles & Brigham Vaughn

A love worth the wait.

When Riley Porter-Wright comes out as bisexual and confesses his feelings for Carter Hamilton, it severs their friendship. Carter’s rejection forces Riley to move on and he’s shocked to learn Carter’s marriage has fallen apart.

Overwhelmed by his failure as a husband and father, Carter misses Riley, but feels guilty for disappearing after Riley’s coming out. After Riley extends an olive branch, the former friends agree to repair their relationship. Slowly, Carter pieces together a new life, admits his attraction to men and confesses his feelings for Riley.

Leery of Carter’s initial rejection, Riley turns his focus to a new man, Will Martin.

Disappointed, Carter fosters new friendships with men like Jesse Murtagh and Kyle McKee, while also navigating new waters with his ex-wife, Kate, as their children learn their parents are dating other people.

As they rebuild their friendship, both Carter and Riley draw strength from each other, hoping the choices they’ve made are for the best.

Reader Advisory: This book contains expressions of homophobia by multiple secondary characters, divorce, references to parental neglect, disownment, references to adultery and m/m/f threesomes.

In the aftermath of Riley’s revelation, and Carter’s personal decision to come clean to his wife, the friends are no longer speaking. Riley has come to terms with the fact that he is never going to be with Carter the way he wants, so he is moving on, and living his truth out in the open. He has found someone he wants to move on with, but unfortunately he still holds a flame for Carter, and it is causing him to hold back with his new man, Will. Will is trying to be patient, but it is difficult to fall in love while the object of that love is still pining for someone else.

Carter is getting divorced, trying to forge a new path with his ex-wife and children, and is exploring his bisexuality by dating. His easygoing personality is a little tarnished, and he isn’t as joyful as he was before. He has depression, and sometimes everything is just too hard.

Part 2 is both frustrating and well balanced. The stars have not aligned for Carter and Riley, and they are both in very different places in life. This part of their journey is inevitable as they clean up their mess, but the distance is also secured by their inability to communicate, and Carter’s resentment of Riley’s choice to come out and turn what Carter thought he knew on it’s head. Stubbornness is a good word for Carter. While wallowing in his own misery, he maintains the distance he created by ignoring Riley for a while. Thankfully they eventually get it together enough to get back their friendship but there is still a distance between them as their lives develop in different ways.

Kate is understandably angry in this story. I really felt for her. I think it was important for her character to not be as accepting and easy for Carter to just brush off. She deserves her time on the page, with all her fiery bitterness at the secret life her husband decided to keep. What makes her a hero in this story is that she tries. She tries not to let the anger consume her and turn her into someone bitter and twisted. Her life is a mess, but she is still going to make the most of her situation and not let her broken heart impact her children’s relationship with their father. She also does what most people wouldn’t, and tries to be okay with Riley.

I enjoyed this story as much as I did the first part. The additional characters are all well developed and bring something to Carter and Riley’s life. Everything is not all roses and soft landings. It can’t be. The decisions Carter and Riley made and continue to make impact those around them, and each other in a big way that is not clean, and requires work to move past.

Between the two parts of this story, it is long. Especially when factoring in timeline. But it is so balanced and there is nothing slow about it. Every part of the story is a part of the character’s development, and each point of view provides another part of the whole.

I still wanted these two together, but about halfway through I almost accepted that they would not be the couple they should have been. Almost. I mean what’s the point of all of this if they aren’t together right? But sometimes friendship is enough, and stronger than a relationship with so much baggage.

The authors did a magnificent job of making all the characters in this story loveable in their own way. It isn’t all serious and sad. There is a lot of joy between these pages, and some hard won happiness. I am in no way disappointed with any of this and I highly recommend this story for anyone who enjoys complex relationships and a good dose of feels.

A review copy was provided for an honest opinion.

Review: The Garden (Lavender Shores #2) by Rosalind Abel

Beautiful Gilbert Bryant designs jewelry for the rich and famous, and he made his escape from his gossipy little hometown of Lavender Shores. However, with so many friends and family, he keeps getting pulled back. When he attends his best friend’s engagement party, Gilbert can’t help but sample one of the new men in town. It’s just some innocent—or not so innocent—fun. Nothing that will even cross his mind once he gets back to his everyday life.
Walden Thompson dreamed about living in Lavender Shores since he visited as a child. He finally gets his chance, and he embraces the opportunity to start over, to become someone new. He leaves both hurts and dangerous habits in the past, where they belong. When Gilbert crosses his path, Walden gives in to his baser instincts. He can indulge in the carnal pleasures this once and still be okay.
Their few hours together haunt Gilbert, the two-hundred-mile buffer from home no longer shutting out the past or the sexy man he left behind. Walden is just beginning to recover from the smoldering encounter with Gilbert when they are thrust together once more. This time, neither of them can walk away, no matter how hard they try. But when their pasts crash into each other as surely as the magnetism that pulls them together, walking away may be the only option.

This series has fast become one of my most anticipated reads and The Garden did not disappoint!  I loved this just as much as I did The Palisade but for wholly different reasons.  Where the first book was full of swoon-worthy romance and tropey goodness, Gilbert and Walden's book had a more serious tone.  That's not to say I didn't laugh during this book because I LOL'ed quite a bit, especially with Walden.

One of the things I love most about this series and this author is that the characters and the story are never what I expected.  I will think a character is going to be one way but then they take off in a completely different direction.  It's fantastic!  Take, for instance, Walden.  A big, tall hunk of corn-fed man meat with an ass for days (dat ass!) and I'm expecting Toppy McTopperson, III with a big ole' chip on his shoulder.  What I got instead was a shy, sweet, awkward middle school science teacher with a big heart and an even bigger desire to have his field thoroughly plowed.

Walden is some kind of special.  He's incredibly awkward and oh so adorable.  Completely pocket-worthy.

Her brother? She was going to introduce me to her bother? A Bryant, obviously. Holy shit, what if she introduced me to Gilbert? How was I supposed to play that off? Obviously I wouldn’t look at her and be like Oh, we know each other. He used my ass so hard I was still feeling him this morning.  
Or worse, what if Gilbert wasn’t her brother, but a cousin or something and she introduced me to whomever her brother actually was. Then Gilbert walks up, and it looks like I’m trying fuck my way through the entire Bryant family?
You get in my pocket right now, Walden!  Do you hear me, Mister?  RTF Now!

And Gilbert... I thought I had him pegged from the first book but he surprised me even more. I thought he was a playboy who didn't take life very seriously and would be a bit immature.  Nope!  Not this Gilbert.  Yeah, he was rough around the edges and talked a good game but underneath was sensitivity and the kind of maturity that gets my motor running and will guarantee a successful read for me.  This is a man who conquers his demons the right way, through therapy, and isn't afraid to admit when he's afraid.

That wasn’t how being a man worked. How being an adult worked. You fixed yourself. You didn’t wait for love to do it for you. You fixed yourself, and then you earned love.
*dreamy sigh* 

I'm so incredibly in love with this series I can hardly stand it.  The way the author portrays these characters has me swooning.  The communication!  Lawd, the communication in this book is outstanding!  Communication is so damned sexy.  Gilbert and Walden actually talk to each other, about what they're thinking, about how they're feeling and it. Is. Fabulous!  There are zero Big Misunderstandings here.  Yes, they have secrets, but - and here's the kicker - they share them with each other.  I know, right?!?!?

You know what else is sexy?  Dirty talk.  Holy hotness of the mouth, this had some serious dirty talk in it!  I thought I was going to burst into flame during some of the scenes, especially that first scene.  Like, whoa.  Gilbert, man... he's got some serious talent there.  He could teach a class on it, like 'Dirty Talk 101' or something.  Hoo boy!

I want everyone to read this book.  I want everyone to read this series.  I want everyone to fangirl along with me.  I loved this so damned much!