Audiobook Review: Polished (Polished #1) by Alyssa Turner

It seemed like they had everything, but they didn’t have Jack.

Without question Spencer Hartley burns hot for his girlfriend, Rory, but his other desires are hidden down deep. He might blow things up for a living and climb mountains for kicks, but the scariest thing in his life is the truth about his sexuality.

Jack Rothman works hard and plays dirty. After long, demanding days in his family's engineering firm, he indulges in the pleasures of silk restraints and fine wine. Lots of hot meaningless sex helps him forget that he's suffocating, with no one to give him a reason to breathe.

When a catastrophic accident traps Spencer in a flooded subway tunnel with Jack, they need each other to survive. But something strong stirs down there in the darkness, and it's more than their desperation to live. There's a spark between them that's impossible to ignore.

Rory Campbell would love to give Spencer the one thing he doesn't have, the freedom to explore his secret desires. But how does that fit into her picture-perfect relationship? When Jack invites the couple to his sprawling Hamptons beach house, Rory realizes that she has secret desires of her own--the kind only Jack's Dominant hand across her bare bottom can satisfy...

(Polished is book one in a series of standalone stories including Swept and Make Me)

Narrators: Erin Bateman and George Orlando
Listening Length: 7 hours and 42 minutes

Reviewer: Shee Reader

Our story opens with a cute and intimate moment between our couple, Spencer and Rory. They are a loving couple in a stable relationship. Spencer wants to ask Rory to marry him, but feels he can’t do it until he has been completely, painfully honest with Rory about his most secret desires. For her part, Rory loves Spencer completely, but knows there is something missing.

As a construction foreman, there are plenty of risks in Spencer’s job, but the collapsed subway tunnel that leaves Spencer trapped with his sexy as sin boss is a-more-than-life-changing event. Jack invites Spencer and Rory to his beach home in the Hamptons for the weekend, as a ploy to ensure Spencer doesn’t decide to sue Jack and his father’s company for the accident, and here at the beach, everything changes!

This wasn’t my first menage read, and it may well be the hottest one I’ve read! Spencer and Rory are spicy together, but add in Jack and, Oh my goodness it gets incendiary!

The path to happiness and stability for a couple can be hard, but for a three-some it can be a minefield. In this case, I was rooting for the three of them from the outset. Rory and Spencer look like a perfect couple, but when Jack gets involved, it is clear that they both need something the other can’t provide. Jack is the missing piece of their happily ever after.

I loved the connections between all three of them and their striving to make each other complete. There was ups and downs, but it was largely low-angst. The sexy times are scorching, and the cosy intimacy is heartwarming.

I listen to a lot of audio books (I’m not kidding. A LOT) and I’m not a massive fan of dual narration, but George and Erin did a wonderful job. It truly suited the book.

Highly recommended!

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Magic or Die (Inner Demons #1) by J.P. Jackson

Author J.P. Jackson and Indigo Marketing visits on the Magic or Die (Inner Demons #1) blog tour! Learn more about characters Thomas Jones and James Martin via their character interview! And enter in the giveaway for a $10 NineStar Press credit!

Title:  Magic or Die
Series: Inner Demons, Book One
Author: J.P. Jackson
Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: July 2, 2018
Heat Level: 2 - Fade to Black Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 87300
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, paranormal, demons, witches, magic

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James Martin is a teacher, a powerful Psychic, and an alcoholic. He used to work for the Center for Magical Research and Development, a facility that houses people who can’t control their supernatural abilities, but left after one of his students was killed, turning to vodka to soothe his emotional pain. The problem is he still has one year left on his contract.

When James is forced to return to the CMRD, he finds himself confronting the demons of his past and attempting to protect his new class from a possible death sentence, because if they don’t pass their final exams, they’ll be euthanized.

James also discovers that his class isn’t bringing in enough sponsors, the agencies and world governments who supply grants and ultimately purchase graduates of the CMRD, and that means no profit for the facility. James and his students face impossible odds—measure up to the facility’s unreachable standards or escape.


Magic or Die
J.P. Jackson © 2018
All Rights Reserved

One: Call Back
“YES, MIRIAM. YES, I know. I know it’s been over a year. I’m not sure I’m ready.”

The knuckles on my hand cramped from clasping my cell phone in a death grip. I glanced at my watch. This conversation had gone on too long. In the span of two minutes, Miriam had managed to exhume memories and history I wanted buried and forgotten. I sucked in a short breath as nausea surged like a tsunami of fear. Its behemoth wave washed bile against the back of my throat.

I slumped down the stained and weathered wall of the coffin-sized studio apartment I reluctantly called a home. It wasn’t a bad place to live, except for the cockroaches I found on a daily basis. I’m sure they considered it a veritable paradise. Absentmindedly, I toed an old pizza box near my foot while listening to Miriam. One of the insects scampered across the matted Berber carpet.


Cody. A pale ghostlike face flashed before me. His hair, the exact colour of fall fallowed fields, hung listlessly over one eye, as blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth. His chapped lips parted, asking me, “Why?”

I ignored the vision. Well, ignored wasn’t the right word, more like boxed it up with a heavy rock and pitched it into the abyss of my mind with all the other terrifying nightmares.

“I know. I owe you, yes. I’m just not sure—” I crawled over to the upended crate being used as a coffee table, grasping for my last pack of smokes. I lit one, enjoying the soothing crackle of the tobacco as it ignited, and then inhaled deeply.

Ah, yes. Hello, nicotine, my demon friend.

Miriam continued blithering while I half-heartedly listened to her soul-sucking voice. She was demanding my presence.

“What? You mean, tomorrow? Miriam, I don’t think it’s a good idea.” I drew in another steady stream of the toxic smoke. It burned my lungs as the addictive chemicals flooded through my body. I really need to quit. Scraping together the smallest ounce of courage, I attempted to defy her. “No, I can’t.”

A wraithlike hand, desiccated and fragile, inched its way across my shoulder and gripped my tense neck muscle. Its sharp nails dug into my flesh. Its bite, a warning.

Cody’s lifeless lips brushed my ear, sending cold shivers skittering across my back. Eruptions of goose flesh covered my neck and shoulders. His voice was a memory and a sound I would never forget.

“Don’t do this. You’ll kill me again.” His icy breath whispered to me.

Another box, a bigger rock, another addition to the pit of despair in my head.

“No,” I replied to one of Miriam’s inane questions. “There’s an Arcane too? I’ve never been good with them. They creep me out. No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Shit.” Miriam had just described a scene for me. My flesh turned buggy, as if I had chiggers nesting and burrowing deep into my skin. “Oh god that’s gross. It’s also not a good sign.” I pointed uselessly at the wall, waving my finger, trying to make a point to the caller. “I never took the exam for the third class.” Miriam had asked if I’d kept up my licensing. I instantly felt guilty. I should have done it years ago. One thing was becoming evident from the conversation—she needed my help. Help only I could give.

“All right, maybe, I think I can. Consult only. Do you hear me, Miriam? Just a consult.” I had tried desperately to stay the hell out of this. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to go back there. “What time? Yes. I’m pretty sure. Miriam—” A thousand reservations ran through my mind, a wild stampede, unbridled, laced with dread and fear. “How many? How many in this class?”

The question sat like the world perched on my shoulders. The higher the number, the bigger the world, the more responsibility, an undeniable possibility of…

“Five! Are you kidding me? I can’t do five. No. No! It’s not possible.”

She was out of her mind.

“Yes, my sister is still on the streets. You know that’s close to blackmail, right?” I stubbed out the cigarette. The lacquer of smoke in my mouth tasted like I had just licked the bottom of an ashtray, and it was suddenly very hard to breathe. Why do I smoke again?

“Fine. Tomorrow. Yes. Ten a.m. Yes, I’ll be there. What do you mean dress appropriately?”

I looked at my cell phone, disgusted as the call ended.

I flipped the device onto the floor as if it had burst into flame and branded the conversation into my hand. I snorted. Like, I’d forget.

Stretching around to the other side of the crate, I grabbed blindly for a bottle I hoped was there. By all the gods’ great divine gifts, it was. And it still had liquid in it. In fact, it was surprisingly half-full.

I tipped the vodka bottle back, allowing its burn to strip away the cancer stick’s smoky film inside my mouth.

Swaying back and forth with my eyes closed, I tried to drown out the endless voices in my head. The words inundated my impending thoughts of doom and failure, and I could feel the chaos and panic mounting. Steadying myself and regaining my mental capacities, I gazed out the window. It was dark already and only six, early evening at best. Yay for daylight-savings time and late fall in Canada. Lights from the downtown cityscape lazily twinkled and danced before me. It should have been a pretty sight, but the darkness always seemed too oppressive, like a shroud. And I knew better. Things lived in the shadows.

I took another swig from the clear glass bottle. The burn hit my throat and disintegrated the bile that had crept up there.

Five very gifted students.

I rubbed the stubble covering my face and took yet another nip. Except it wasn’t a quick sip, it was a good one. A long one.

The window acted like a mirror, and my image reflected against the backdrop of the city skyline. I looked like shit. My short brown hair had cowlicks; thank god I kept it close. But the rest? No wonder Miriam instructed me to clean it up. The shirt I was sort of wearing was only half buttoned and stained in several spots. I had no pants on, but the pair of tighty-whities, which weren’t exactly white anymore, or tight, were ripped and showed more flesh than they were supposed to. Jesus.

How did my life get here?

Five young people had no control of their gifts.

And I had a sister who was lost out in the sparkle-light of downtown’s darkness, up to who knew what, and doing it with god only knew who, mired in her own addictions.

I glanced around my shit-hole apartment, wondering what the fuck I was going to do.

Magic or Die Character Interview with James Martin

Thomas Jones (reporter):“Good evening. My name is Thomas Jones, and here at Global Broadcasting Incorporated, we are committed to providing accurate and reliable news, reporting stories that affect our world, not just our nation. In recent months the ever expanding crisis of untrained and undocumented Magicals is coming to a head.
As our world evolves, we are finding that the number of Magicals, those people who have abilities that supersede what we originally thought humans were capable of, continues to grow within the world’s population. One estimate places the rate at 1 out of every 10 who are to some degree, magical, but other studies are suggesting the rate is as high as 20%.
Today we have both James Martin, ex-teacher and Psyche Magical from the Canadian Center for Magical Research and Development, and his multi-class boyfriend Isaiah Dannenberg. James and Isaiah, welcome, thanks for agreeing to take part in our expose.
Tell our audience, who you are, what your profession is and what abilities you have.”
James Martin: “Evening, thanks for having us. My name is James Martin, I was a teacher, primarily for high school and middle grades, but after my classification, no regular school district would hire on of us”
Thomas: “When you say ‘one of us’, what do you mean?”
James: “Oh, a magical, of course. People are scared of what we are capable of. So, once ‘outed’ as a magical, I couldn’t teach anymore. I had graduated from the CMRD many years ago and the director offered me a job teaching new recruits to the facility. I’m a psyche, with a specialization in Empath abilities.”
Thomas: “And what is an Empath?”
James: “An Empath is someone who can sense emotion, read what other people’s emotional state is, and I can also project emotions and make other people feel what I want.”
Isaiah Dannenberg: “Hi, I’m Isaiah. I’m currently in between jobs and I am all three classes. I have an affinity for lightning, I’m able to teleport and I have an Asmodeus demon living within me.”
Thomas: “That doesn’t really fall into our traditionally held beliefs about Magicals, does it? I thought each Magical had only one class?”
Isaiah: “Yeah, what can I say? I buck the system.”
Thomas: “And what’s an Asmodeus demon? Did I say that correctly?”
Isaiah: “Yeah, that’s right. Um…well, he’s…how do I say this politely? He can control other people through manipulation of sexual desires. He’s like the worst type of matchmaker.”
Thomas: “Oh, I…I see. Alright then. When did you first discover your abilities? And how did that happen? James, let’s start with you.”
James: “Ah, okay. Well, I was in my late teens, but it wasn’t until I was about 25 or so before I really got control and mastery over them. Discovery of them was sort of gradual. I always felt like I knew how my friends in High School were feeling. I had a really good read on them, but it wasn’t until my first year of University when I discovered I could make someone feel what I wanted them to. That was an awkward situation. There was a guy I was interested in, and I inadvertently passed on my emotional longing to him. Turns out, he was straight.”
Thomas: “I can see how that might be very awkward, and potentially unsettling for a lot of viewers. In the wrong hands, that ability could be unscrupulously used.”
James: “Definitely. I don’t take my abilities lightly.”
Thomas: “I see. Isaiah, how about you?”
Isaiah: “The house I grew up in was turbulent. I think the lightning appeared in a self-defense situation, but it was so long ago, I forget exactly what happened. All I really remember is that after one incident where I electrocuted my father, I left and lived on the streets for years. It wasn’t a good situation, but I lived through it, and today I have much better control of my talents.”
Thomas: “So, for both of you it was in your late teens?”
James: “That’s a typical age. Some manifest their abilities younger than that, some older, but most around the late teens, early twenties. It’s usually when the frontal lobe is maturing.”
Thomas: “Interesting. So, do Magicals run in your families?”
James: “My sister has some abilities, but she’s classified lower than I am.”
Isaiah: “No, I’m the only one that I know of.”
Thomas: “James that was an interesting thing you said. Classified? What do you mean by that?”
James: “Each Magical, once discovered, can be subjected to tests in order to evaluate how powerful they are. Category 1 is on the low end, Category 5 is rare and very powerful. Isaiah is a Cat 5, I’m not quite there, but some would classify me at a Cat 5.”
Thomas: “So, I’m sitting with a couple of very rare individuals. I feel quite honored. Let me ask you though, if it was possible would you rather be a normal?”
James: “Well, I am normal. I’m me. But would I want my abilities taken away? No, I don’t think so. They’re part of me. I mean, it’s not everything I am.”
Isaiah: “Yeah, like, that’s asking if I could live without my arms. Sure I could, but given the choice? No, thanks. Although sometimes, you could have the demon. He’s annoying.
Thomas: “Tell me, Isaiah, Arcanes are rather rare individuals, most of the general population wouldn’t necessarily get the chance to meet one. Given your last statement, tell us, what are demons truly like?”
Isaiah: “Well, on one hand, it’s like having a constant companion. Because it lives inside of me, it experiences everything I do. I’m never alone. And it’s a fierce protector. I’ve never tested it out, but I think it would come to my aid if I was threatened. But on the other hand, I have no privacy, my thoughts are not my own, and I can always hear what its thinking. That’s draining.”
Thomas: “I can well imagine. Okay, just a couple more questions. James, I understand that your sister has been known to dabble in the rather unspeakable fourth class of magic. Care to clear the record of that rumor?”


NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

J.P. Jackson works as an IT analyst in health care during the day, where if cornered he’d confess to casting spells to ensure clinicians actually use the electronic medical charting system he configures and implements.

At night however, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shape shifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues. The insurance company refuses to accept any more claims of ‘acts of the un-god’, and his husband of almost 20 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summoning’s in the basement. And apparently imps aren’t house-trainable. Occasionally the odd ghost or member of the Fae community stops in for a glass of wine and stories are exchanged. Although the husband doesn’t know it, the two Chihuahuas are in cahoots with the spell casting.

J.P.’s other hobbies include hybridizing African Violets (thanks to grandma), extensive travelling and believe it or not, knitting.

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Review: The Guardian's Prize (Men of Neptune #2) by Deja Black

What’s a merman to do when his mate doesn’t seem to want him? Go after him anyway? Life for this guardian will never be the same.

Tetra Batair, grandson of Neptune himself and guardian of the god’s military forces, has arrive in Charleston, South Carolina for his mate. The only problem? His mate doesn’t want him. Now what’s a merman to do?

Aoki Tatsuo, an art teacher who’s half dragon and half human, doesn’t want to be anyone’s mate. Or, at least that’s what he’s telling himself.

When the two first meet the earth trembles…literally.

A merman and a dragon.

One will have to learn patience.

The other will have to learn there’s more than one way to love.

Can the two of them work through the obstacles in their past to find their perfect future?

Merman, dragon and fated mates...the premise was a checklist of things I enjoy reading about!

Set in present day South Carolina, The Guardian's Prize mixes mythology, fantasy and paranormal with added romance. This is set in a series but the stories look like they could be read as standalone.  I wasn't lost reading this.

Merman Batair is a guardian in Neptune's army in the ocean (think warrior- though there isn't any ocean action). He left his world to seek his mate on land. Batair doesn't know who his mate is but he has a feeling. Aoki, artist, teacher and dragon shifter has a chip on his shoulder. The last thing he needs is a mate. Though when he sees giant Batair one day, their chemistry begins to spark.

Aoki is stubborn and tries to fight the obvious attraction. The story isn't long enough for Aoki to put up a good enough fight. Besides, fated mates = inevitable. Save the fighting for the bedroom. (Well if you're into that sort of thing)

The author has a good paranormal world set up. We get to learn a little bit about Batar's merman world through a few side characters. Same with Aoki and his witchy half and a little about his dragon half. The dragon world has kingdoms and politics at play. It was interesting.

The romance was hot at times. Batair doesn't go full caveman mode when seeing Aoki. Rather he is patient and tries to learn more about the man he came to the surface for. What he learns, he loves. (Obviously) Bith men had believable chemistry. And the sexual tension didn't last very long if you're impatient. Thankfully there wasn't heaps of sex to muddy the sense of character Batair and Aoki showed.

This story was pretty good, if you're in need of reading about paranormal romance and time is something of an issue. However, I found the scene transitions to be somewhat clunky. The main ingredients are there: main characters, their minor conflicts (one wants their mate, the other doesn't (but really does) and minor mystery plot (that could have been developed more). What was giving read like scratching the surface to me. Another 20-30 pages to delve into the dragon and merman's world building, develop the mystery/action parts could have made for a stronger story.

Overall, I liked it.

Easy story, good premise.

I would check out more from this world, see what else the author has up their sleeve.

Giveaway + Blog Tour: Cinderella Boy by Kristina Meister

Welcome Kristina Meister who's here today celebrating the release of Cinderella Boy! Find out more about this young adult romance and be sure to enter for your chance to win an amazing swag bag. See the deets below!

See our 4 ❤️ review of Cinderella Boy here.

About Cinderella Boy

Being perfect isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Sixteen-year-old Declan is the perfect son . . . except for one tiny issue. When his sister Delia comes home to find him trying on her clothes, he fears her judgment, but she only fears his fashion choices. One quick makeover later, Declan is transformed into Delia’s mysterious cousin Layla and dragged to the party of the year, hosted by Carter, the most popular boy in school.

When Carter meets Layla, he fumbles to charm her. He adores her sense of humor and her poise. But when she vanishes in the middle of the night, he’s left confused and determined to solve the mystery of who she is.

As their school year begins, their high school embraces a policy of intolerance, and both Declan and Carter know they must stand up. Carter is tired of being a coward and wants to prove he can be a knight in shining armor. Declan is sick of being bullied and wants desperately to be himself. If they team up, it could be a fairy-tale ending, or a very unhappy ever after.

About Kristina Meister

Kristina Meister is an author of fiction that blurs genre. There’s usually some myth, some mayhem, and some monsters. While Kristina’s unique voice and creative swearing give life to dialogue, her obsession with folklore and pop culture make for humor and complexity.

She and her mad-scientist husband live in California with their poodles Khan and Lana, and their daughter Kira Stormageddon, where they hoard Nerf toys, books, and swords—in case of zombie apocalypse.

Connect with Kristina:
      Twitter: @kristinameister

To celebrate the release of Cinderella Boy, Kristina is giving away a canvas swag bag (with cover art) that  includes a t-shirt, an engraved pen, and a tiara! (Yes, really!) Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 7, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Review: The Werewolf's Fae Mate by Liv Rider

He never expected his mate to be fae. Now he has to choose between his heart and his pack.

When mixed-blood werewolf Mahon comes across powerful fae magic in a nightclub, dealing with the threat is a chance to prove to his new pack where his loyalties lie. But the threat turns out to be a gorgeous, wide-eyed college student who’s never heard of the supernatural world. After they're attacked by bloodsucking vampire bats, he takes Oscar and his small, angry cat home for their own protection. He’ll definitely tell his pack about Oscar...later.

Abandoned as an infant, Oscar’s always wondered where he came from—he just never expected the answer to include pointy ears, magical powers, and evil forces trying to kill him. Oscar knows he shouldn’t rely on Mahon for help, but it’s hard to resist when a six-foot-six werewolf literally sweeps you off your feet. The key to Oscar’s past might lie with the local fae court—where werewolves aren’t welcome.

Oscar and Mahon are mates—but how can they be together when it might cost them both everything?

The Werewolf’s Fae Mate is an m/m paranormal werewolf/fae romance with a HEA and no cliffhangers.

The Werewolf's Fae Mate is a short, straight forward paranormal read with heat and action.

As the blurb states, Oscar is a normal college student, until he realizes he’s anything but a normal college student. Unfortunately for Oscar, that realization happens right around the time a vampire and vampire bats come calling. Luckily for him, Mahon (a werewolf) also comes calling and Oscar is thrust into a world that he once believed was only in storybooks.

With the danger lurking around Oscar, he ends up staying with Mahon as they try to figure out the specifics about his missing past. One thing leads to another quickly and it’s all growly, mine, mates, sex, thinking about sex, and more sex. Oscar is clueless, goofy, and endearing. I wish we had more of his personality without being clouded by lust and overshadowed by the main drama of miscommunication. There is insta-love as usual in a mates situation and they ride that train all the way to an HEA.

While Mahon and Oscar are cute together, the relationship and world building is lacking IMO. I liked the premise and the characters but everything felt so rushed. Oscar has a cat named Marshmallow and I didn’t understand why there was so much emphasis placed on her. I kept waiting for *something* to happen. It didn’t. Still, I’ll definitely keep Marshmallow on the table for my future pet's name.

If you’re new to m/m paranormal, this could be a good starting point for you. Hopefully the world building comes together in the next book. I’ll give Aidan (Mahon’s brother) a shot if he gets a book. Recommended if you're looking for a quick and easy paranormal.

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Temple of Time (Fathoms Five #5) by Geoffrey Knight

Welcome author Geoffrey Knight and Vibrant Promotions on the Temple of Time (Fathoms Five #5) blog tour! Geoffrey talks about their gay adventure series in more detail today! Sounds like fun! Check it out and enter in the giveaway to win a $10 Amazon gift card!

Temple of Time Tour Banner

RELEASE DATE: 06.17.18
COVER DESIGN: Adrian Nicholas

There is a civilization that vanished without trace. There is a lost temple that can change time as we know it. There is a fragile fraternity that protects the most important secret in human history. And there is one man who will destroy everything and anyone to know the truth—his name is Caro Sholtez.
In his possession are the four pieces of the most powerful mythical clock in the world, and the only person who can stop him from finding the Temple that can unlock Time itself is Professor Fathom.
And so it seems to Caro Sholtez that distractions, kidnappings, killings are necessary to disperse the Professor’s men to keep them from stopping him from finding the one thing he wants—the power to control the passage of Time.
From the markets of Marrakesh to the pot parlors of Amsterdam, from the landmarks of London and Prague to the very cradle of Mayan civilization, join hunky New York adventurer Jake Stone, Brazilian biologist Eden Santiago, Texas cowboy Shane Houston, Italian art expert Luca da Roma, and Californian college quarterback Will Hunter on their greatest adventure yet.
**Please note: This is the fifth book in the Fathom's Five adventure series. It is recommended to read the series in order to fully appreciate the sequence of events.

The Temple of Time Teaser 1

Author Visit

Not just one… but Five Hunky Heroes

Hi there, and thanks so much for having me! I’m so excited to be here talking about my new Fathom’s Five book – The Temple of Time.

If you haven’t read any of the Fathom’s Five adventure books, there are five in the series so far (with a short little stand-alone adventure on the side).

This very sequential series includes:
The Cross of Sins: Fathom’s Five Book One
The Riddle of the Sands: Fathom’s Five Book Two
The Curse of the Dragon God: Fathom’s Five Book Three
The Tomb of Heaven: Fathom’s Five Book Four
And now The Temple of Time: Fathom’s Five Book Five
Along with the very short stand-alone adventure The Dame of Notre Dame

The books trace the adventures of five hunky treasure hunters who, under the guidance of the wealthy and wise Professor Fathom, journey across the globe looking for ancient relics, solving deadly mysteries, uncovering lost temples, leaping pitfalls and getting themselves out of impossible scrapes every step of the way.

It’s old-fashioned, over-the-top adventure that takes our five heroes to steamy jungles, perilous peaks, scorching deserts and deadly destinations all over the world.

But who, pray tell, are these amazing, action-hardened heroes.

By way of introduction, our five Fathom’s heroes are Jake Stone, a New York adventurer and treasure hunter who has problems learning how to care about anyone but himself; Dr Eden Santiago, the clever and courageous Brazilian biologist and physician; Shane Houston, the Texas cowboy who has a knack for maps and cartography and a love for animals; Luca da Roma, the Italian fashion model and art history expert whose skills uncover the secrets hidden in works of art; and Will Hunter, the college quarterback and ancient history major who knows his way around a pyramid just as well as he knows his way around a bedroom.

Combined, they have all the skills they need to solve some of the greatest mysteries of all time.

When I wrote the first Fathom’s Five adventure – The Cross of Sins – back in 2007, I originally only intended to have one hero to the story. Luca da Roma was initially going to be the only lead character, jetting around the globe and using his good looks and expertise in art history to find ancient relics and lost treasures.

But being the greedy author I am, I wanted more. I looked at the dynamics of Charlie’s Angels and loved the way the different strengths and skills of those three characters came into play at different times throughout the story to solve the mystery and catch the bad guys.

I wanted to use that mechanic for my own stories, but – once again being the greedy author I am – the first question I asked myself was: ‘Why stop at three? Why not create five lead characters?’

And so the five hot, horny men of Fathom’s Five came to life.

The first thing I wanted was an international flavour. I already had my representative from Europe in the form of my very sexy Italian model Luca. But I wanted someone from another continent as well and, knowing all too well how sexy Brazilian men are from my limited knowledge of soccer and my not-so-limited knowledge of gay porn, I decided to cast someone from Rio. I wanted to make him both sexy and smart, and so Dr. Eden Santiago was created.

The remainder of my five heroes needed to be American because that’s who I was targeting as my main audience, but I wanted variety. The result was a cowboy from Texas, a college quarterback from California, and gun-for-hire from New York.

With my five hunky heroes set in stone, I realized I could then add more personalities through the support characters who entered the stories. Much like James Bond is accompanied by a ‘Bond girl’ in every film, I began introducing a gay equivalent – a ‘Bond boy’, if you like – in each story for one of my men to hook up with. Using that formula, the sky was the limit in terms of introducing different nationalities with different personalities, making for interesting shifts and developments in the character dynamics of each book.

Above all, my goal was to create five heroes that my readers could fall in love with. I wanted them to be clever, charismatic, strong and swoon-worthy, but still not without their flaws. I want my readers to have their favorite and cheer them on. And through it all, I want my readers to have fun!

The Temple of Time is the fifth book in the series, but if you haven’t read any Fathom’s Five books before, you’re best to start with Book One, The Cross of Sins. The series is very sequential. The character arcs continue to slowly evolve through the series, and various subplots continue to development. To get the most out of the series, please read them in order to fully experience the world of Fathom’s Five.

I hope you enjoy going on these wild adventures with my five hunky heroes!

Happy reading!

The Temple of Time Teaser 2
Big Zettie walked toward the dining table with a large tray of tea. Her hands were shaking so much from the news that the cups clattered loudly. Will helped her ease the tray down before returning to his nervous pacing.

Everyone had gathered around the table.

Elsa sat beside Luca, rubbing his back as a mother would care for a distressed child.

Daniel sat beside Shane, squeezing his hand for reassurance.

Jake stood in the doorway, side-stepping from one foot to the other as though ready to make a move as soon as the Professor gave the green light.

At the head of the dining table sat the Professor with Eden by his side.

In front of them were three opened envelopes, and beside each of these was a short letter.

Eden read them aloud one by one for the Professor.

“This was the message left at Will’s house,” Eden said by way of explanation.

“I expected to see Felix,” Will interrupted, his anxiety evident by his quivering voice. “He’s always there, always telling me to slow down… or finish my homework… or eat my goddamn vegetables. The house was so quiet and empty. It was so fucking empty without him.”

Jake grabbed Will’s shoulder and hugged him tight.

The Professor nodded for Eden to continue. “Please read me what it says.”

Eden took a breath and delivered the message. “Dear Master Hunter, if you ever wish to see your faithful Felix Fraser alive again, you’ll solve this riddle… Voiceless I howl, toothless I bite. Cities will crumble in the wake of my might.”

Silence filled the room. “What the hell does that mean?” Jake said, his brain refusing to function and the fuse of his temper quickly burning to its frayed end.

“Patience, Jake,” said the Professor, himself trying to remain calm and composed. “He wants to rattle us. He wants to cloud any sense of clarity we might have with anger and fear. Our emotions are our weakness right now.” He turned to Eden. “Please, Eden. Continue.”

Eden picked up the second letter. “This was the letter left for Shane.”

“That goddamn asshole Claudius Welles handed it to me while I watched the home my father built burn to the ground,” uttered Shane through gritted teeth. “That stupid coward saved himself rather than try to save my mother.”

Daniel clutched Shane’s hand tight. “We’ll get through this. We’ll find your Mom and we’ll all get through this together.”

The Professor said nothing to Daniel’s comment. He could already see how this was playing out. Caro Sholtez was indeed about to divide and conquer in a somewhat ruthless and spectacular fashion.

“Eden, please read on,” the Professor said.

Eden held the second message in his hands. “Dear Mr. Houston, if you ever wish to see your beloved mother alive again, you’ll answer this riddle… Angry I run, cold I am still. But when I am hot, the air I will fill.”

“I think I see where this is going,” said Daniel, his mind clearly ticking over.

“I’ve no doubt you’re correct, Daniel,” said the Professor. “Eden, would you mind reading the final riddle?”

Eden picked up the third letter, the one addressed to Luca.

Luca said nothing. He had replayed the words over and over again in his head so many times he didn’t need to hear it again. He turned away.

“Dear Signor da Roma,” Eden read aloud. “If you ever wish to see your cherished Bride of Christ again, you’ll answer this riddle… My colors I change, by day and by night. My fury is dark, but my silence is bright.”

A sniff escaped Luca. He lifted his face to reveal his glazed eyes and numb expression. After a moment, he uttered quietly, “Sky.”

“What did you say?” asked Jake, unable to hear Luca’s mumbled words from his place in the doorway.

“The answer to the riddle is ‘sky’,” Luca replied in a monotone voice. “I’ve read it so many times, I’ve thought of every possible answer, and the only one that makes perfect sense is the sky. The sky changes color every hour of the day. Yellow at dawn, pink at dusk, blue at noon, black at midnight. When there’s a storm it’s dark and angry, but on a calm, quiet day, the sky is clear and bright.”

Daniel, the puzzle-solver of the group, stood nodding. “He’s right. All the answers are part of nature. Voiceless I howl, toothless I bite. Cities will crumble in the wake of my might. That’s the wind. The answer to Will’s riddle is the wind.”

“It howls and bites and tears buildings to shreds in a tornado,” agreed Will, some hope finally returning to his voice.

“And as for Shane’s riddle, that answer is water,” said Daniel. “Angry I run, cold I am still. But when I am hot, the air I will fill.”

Shane nodded, understanding the references now. “Raging rivers run. Ice is still. And boiling water…”

“Rises into the air as steam,” finished Jake. “But what does it all mean? Sky, wind, water… the answers just leave us with more questions and no clues what to do with them.”

“The clue is in Caro himself,” the Professor said. He turned his head toward Jake and Will and gestured for them to stop pacing and join the others at the table. “Please, gentlemen, take a seat. It’s important I tell you everything there is to know about Caro Sholtez. Or at least everything I know about him.”

“If it leads to Felix and the others,” said Will, quickly pulling up a chair, “then hit us with everything you’ve got, Professor.”

“There is a Temple somewhere in the Mexican jungle known as the Temple of Time. Nobody knows where it is, at least nobody left alive today. The last known sighting of it was by a man named Hernando Cortez in the late sixteenth century. Cortez was a thief who stowed aboard a ship in the Spanish Armada, posing as a Conquistador. He was after gold and silver and bragged that he had plundered a lost temple in what is now known as the Lacandon Jungle in Mexico. Unfortunately for Cortez his bragging was short-lived. The natives soon realized what he had done and quickly captured him, sacrificing him to their gods for his crime. But legend has it Cortez found more than simply gold and silver… according to the stories, he found—and stole—the four pieces of the clock inside the Temple of Time. The natives were furious. They put safeguards in place to stop anyone else from finding the Temple, but the damage had already been done. The pieces of the clock were gone, and Cortez… well… he had no idea how close he came to finding the greatest discovery in human history. You see, according to legend, the Temple holds the key to unlock time itself.”

“What do you mean, unlock time?” asked Daniel.

“I’m referring to the ability to control time. Bend it. Contort it. Travel through it,” said the Professor. “It is a place of untold power.”

“Travel through time?” Shane asked. “Are you serious?”

“I’m deadly serious. And so is Caro. Finding the Temple has been his entire life’s obsession. He has murdered his way across continents to fulfill his quest.”

Geoffrey Knight is the author of more than 30 gay fiction novels, novellas and short stories, ranging in genre from gay adventure, gay romance, gay suspense and gay comedies. He is the recipient of two Rainbow Awards including Best Mystery Winner and Best Overall Gay Fiction Runner-up. His work has been featured in several anthologies including Best Gay Erotica 2013, and he appeared as Guest of Honor at the inaugural Rainbow Con in Florida, 2014.
Geoffrey has worked in advertising, politics and journalism, but nothing is as fun as telling stories. He lives with his partner, their baby daughter, two dogs and two cats in a rambling old house in North Queensland, Australia, where the paint is fraying and life is good.


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Review: Stranger in a Foreign Land by Michael Murphy

After an accident stole his memory, the only home American businessman Patrick knows is Bangkok. He recovers under the tender ministrations of Jack, an Australian ex-pat who works nights at a pineapple cannery. Together they search for clues to Patrick’s identity, but without success. Soon that forgotten past seems less and less important as Jack and Patrick—now known as Buddy—build a new life together.

But the past comes crashing in when Patrick’s brother travels to Thailand looking for him… and demands Patrick return to Los Angeles, away from Jack and the only world familiar to him. The attention also causes trouble for Jack, and to make their way back to each other, Patrick will need to find not only himself, but Jack as well, before everything is lost…

DNF @ 42%

I love reading and it takes a lot for me to give up on a book but I couldn’t keep reading with this.

I adore a good amnesia story and the chance to rediscover yourself along with becoming someone totally new because you have no memory of who you were. There is a romanticism about amnesia and I am one who loves the trope but sadly it was used here in the weirdest way.

I couldn’t connect with the writing from the first page. It’s very wooden, pedestrian and to be honest, boring. So many details given and so many things told that I was never given a chance to feel anything for Patrick or even as “the man” when he loses his memory after the car accident. I was confused when Jack shows up because there was no indication of a dual POV until we suddenly hop into Jack’s head and see “the man” through his eyes. The head hopping is a constant and it kept taking me out of the story.

Patrick, aka “the man”, aka Buddy goes from being almost childlike with his amnesia to acting like he doesn’t have it at all with his knowledge. I am no amnesia expert but again this boomerang effect of his personality jarred me so much I couldn’t focus on what was going on even when what was going on was odd.

When Jack starts to perv out on this childlike man with no memory I had to take a moment and while I am no prude, it seemed almost predatory the way Jack basically stalked Buddy and then takes him home. I get people being overly kind and wanting to help but Jack could have given Buddy some clothes rather than let him hang out in a towel all afternoon and then naked and have thoughts about going down on the dude as he washed days of filth and dried blood of his body.
I don’t know. I decided to stop when things became physical and Buddy suddenly runs off to get oil from the kitchen to use as lube. Again, I don’t declare myself to be an amnesia expert but Buddy went from not knowing how to slice pineapple to knowing that peanut oil can be used as lube because he wanted to be fucked.

Um… *scratches head*

This ginger loves the Dreamspun line likes it’s my job, but this story doesn’t fit it at all.

No fluff.

Only frustration.

Release Blitz + Giveaway: Once Upon a Rainbow, Volume Three by Various Authors

The third anthology volume of QUILTBAG fantasy series, Once Upon a Rainbow is out! Celebrate with publisher NineStar Press and IndiGo Promotions! Learn more about the eight stories from authors A.E. Ross, Elna Holst, Mark Lesney, N.J. Romaine, Sam Burns, Valentine Wheeler, and W.M. Fawkes today! Enter in the $10 NineStar Press credit giveaway!

Title:  Once Upon a Rainbow, Volume Three
Author: A. E. Ross, Elna Holst, Mark Lesney, N.J. Romaine, Sam Burns, Valentine Wheeler, W.M. Fawkes
Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: July 2, 2018
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: No Romance, Male/Female, Male/Male, Female/Female
Length: 121800
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, bisexual, coming out, dragons, fae, family drama, Fantasy, gay, kidnapping, knights, lesbian, royalty, sexual, trans, warriors, witches

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Your favorite stories from childhood have a new twist. Seven fairy tales of old with characters across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Green Things Grow from Cinders by A.E. Ross – Glass slippers aren't for everyone.

Gretel on Her Own by Elna Holst – This time around, Gretel Kindermann is on her own. Or is she?

Bremen Town Musicians by Mark Lesney – Loss and love on the road to Bremen Town.

The Scent of Magic by N.J. Romaine – Who can win a hunt against the Big Bad Wolf?

The Rescue by Sam Burns – Saving princesses is hard work. Getting out of marrying them is harder.

Loose in the Heel, Tight in the Toe by Valentine Wheeler – The shoe fits, the prince is won: now what?

Baile de la Marioneta by W.M. Fawkes – No one else can pull his strings.


Green Things Grow from Cinders by A.E. Ross

What if you could walk into a party with the perfect outfit—one that matches the way you feel inside?

For Ash Zermeno, the night of his best friend’s brother’s wedding reception is a hard pass: he’s certainly not going to wear the dress he ordered months ago, and he’s got no other wardrobe options. Forget about the fact that his long-time childhood crush Roman is going to be there. It just ain’t happening, no matter how hard he wishes on it. And he didn’t even wish on it…or did he?

Gretel on Her Own by Elna Holst

Gretel Kindermann has always lived in the little village at the lip of the Schwarzwald forest. But now, her father has moved away, her mother is indefinitely admitted to a private clinic, and her brother Hänsel, oh—

And all because of Margrete Heckscher. That Lebkuchen-making, sugar rush-inducing busybody, whose enthralling niece, lately arrived from Vienna, seems set on tempting poor Gretel out of her last vestiges of sanity… Because, surely, outside of the realm of fairy tales, there can be no such thing as an actual, magic-wielding witch?

Bremen Town Musicians by Mark Lesney

Simon the Donkey, an orphaned peasant boy on a Medieval farm, flees cruel servitude to seek his fortune in his childhood dreams of becoming a performer in the fabled city of Bremen Town. On the road he finds true friendship and finally love in the arms of young Edwin the Hound. They join with two other accidental travelers, Cat the Thief, and Rooster the Maid, conspiring together to survive in a brutal world of robbery and murder, with only the magical saving power of their talents for make believe.

The Scent of Magic by N.J. Romaine

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, a lone huntswoman comes across a traveller in red, walking through an autumn forest in the shadow of a spell-trapped kingdom.

Aletta moved out to the solitary woods to avoid the troubles of her past, but when she meets a young woman travelling alone with nothing but a red-hooded cloak, her sense of duty compels her to offer aid. But nothing is what it seems in the wild backwoods, and both women have secrets with far-reaching ramifications.

Aletta must confront her past and learn to trust herself, lest the hunter become the hunted.

The Rescue by Sam Burns

Brice has come to the dragon’s lair to save poor Princess Primrose, even if he doesn’t want her hand in marriage. The beautiful young man being held captive alongside her is a surprise, and Brice may not want a prize for his chivalry, but he wouldn’t mind taking Aidan home with him.

Loose in the Heel, Tight in the Toe by Valentine Wheeler

Catherine’s life was different before her stepmother took charge of the family. When her father was alive, she’d been the treasured daughter and the heir to his textile empire. Now she’s just her stepmother’s servant.

Prince Heinrich doesn’t want to marry, but as the only heir to the throne, he knows he must. When a mysterious woman at the ball in his honor is completely unimpressed by him, he’s intrigued. Could she be the partner he’s been looking for? And when catastrophe strikes both their lives, how can their arrangement hold together?

Baile de la Marioneta by W.M. Fawkes

José Velásquez has no ideas for his senior project, but when his classmate trades him a giant block of white pine for scrap metal, it’s almost too easy to carve out a fantastic sculpture. From the wood, José pulls the legendary Maya warrior Tecún Umán. It’s José’s best work, but how much credit can he take for the creation of a wooden man who steps off the block on his own? To get through his last exhibition, José must find an artistic voice uniquely his own or risk losing Tecún forever.

While José worries about his senior project, Tecún longs for a chance to experience being human with the man who drew him out of his wooden shell. He’ll do whatever it takes to get a real shot at life, even if that means cutting his strings to dance on his own.


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Tag Team Review: The Night Owl and the Insomniac (Shifter U #3) by j. leigh bailey

Long nights lead to intrigue… and infatuation.

Chronically ill with a mysterious condition, Yusuf “Joey” Franke escapes his smothering family and doctors by moving halfway across the country to enroll in Cody College. Not long after arriving on campus, some of his symptoms disappear, only to be replaced by debilitating insomnia. Joey spends his nights wandering the halls of his dormitory and hanging out with gregarious and affable Owen, who works the night shift.

When he suddenly shifts from a sick college kid to a massive Asiatic lion, Joey discovers another side to Cody College—it’s a haven for shifters like himself… and like Owen, a part-time great horned owl. And being a shifter is hereditary, which means his parents have some explaining to do.

When Joey and Owen investigate, they discover more than they bargained for—a family deception, a dangerous enemy with international connections, and a love that might be too new to survive the backlash.

4.75 average

Sara - 5 Hearts

I want to spend at least a semester at Cody College just to prowl around the campus grounds and see if I can see piles of discarded clothes or spot any of the shifters that attend in their shift. I find this community absolutely amazing and endearing that I can’t get enough. I thought I fell in love with Donnie and William in Stalking Buffalo Bill and then I thought I found more love in Simon and Ford in Chasing Thunderbird. But I didn’t know what love was until I met Yusuf and Owen. Goodness, this was such a journey and I loved every bit of it.

What always gets me about shifter stores is how varied they can be while still holding true to the shifter lore. Here, we have a young man who has believed for the last 15 years of his life that he has had some bizarre autoimmune disease being tested and tortured through modern medicine to find out what’s wrong to only be left disillusioned and sickly. But when Yusuf leaves the comfortable--and controlling--hold of his parents in Chicago to attend Cody College in Wyoming, he gets a new lesson that wasn’t on any course syllabus.

The meet cute with Yusuf and Owen was so freaking adorable. I love that Yusuf knew exactly how many steps would take him through Matthison Hall and how we get their first meeting with Owen overwatering a plant. It’s such a simple meeting and yet everything from that moment on is anything but simple for these two.

Yusuf aka Joey, but I prefer Yusuf just like Owen does, was a new sort of shifter for me because he has no idea that he is a shifter and that the majority of folks on campus are also shifters, or at least aware that they exist. All Yusuf knows is that he’s always been sick and that he can’t sleep at night because he gets an itchy feeling under his skin that keeps him up. Now, having read not only this series, but a good amount of shifter stories once I read that, I knew it was his shifter side wanting to get out. I just didn’t know what his shift would be until it happened, and I of course I immediately went to Google to see how amazing Yusuf would look. But at the same time, I hurt for him because OMG how crazy would it be for anyone to suddenly turn from human to animal and not know WTF was going on. It’s a good thing Yusuf was around friends when it happened and that Owen’s dad happens to be a doctor who works at the clinic where they quickly take Yusuf so he won’t hurt himself or anyone else while shifted.

Owen is so fantastic in this book. I love that this series doesn’t pair same species shifters but let's… well, nature take its course. Owen is a great horned owl and Yusuf shifts into Asiatic Lion so on paper these two shouldn’t work in their shift but the truly compliment each other so well.

The journey of discovery and acceptance Yusuf takes is a tough one. First, he has to accept he turns into an animal. Then he has to face the possibility that either he’s been adopted and his parents know nothing about his shifter side. Or that they have been lying to him for years and letting him be a test subject of horrible tests for years to keep their secret. Either way, it’s a path that leads Yusuf to a dangerous discovery and one where he has to make the choice to fully accept his lion or to walk from everything and everyone he has started to care about.
The author has a firm grasp on the Dreamspun Beyond line balancing the complexity of the shifter world with the fluff I’ve come to adore from the Dreamspun line. There is enough of both sides to keep you interested in the world building and swooning along with the romance as the couple finds their way to their HEA.

Owen and Yusuf were a pure pleasure to read. Owen is such a strong young man in both forms and he wants nothing than to take care of Yusuf. He knows from the beginning that being an owl isn’t the best shift to help a lion learn control. So the introduction of Buddy the bear gave moments of frustration for Yusuf, but high interest for this reader. Also, David… hmm. There are a couple guys who showed up in this book that I am curious about and honestly would love Buddy to find a mate who could handle the grumpy bear.

But back to Yusuf and Owen because I adored the holy heck out of them. Their romance was of the slow burn variety as Owen took his time with Yusuf who wasn’t only struggling with his new shifter side but his sexuality he hadn’t actually considered before. Being sick was all Yusuf knew so he isn’t sure if he’s gay, bi or just Owen sexual but he does know who his lion wants and who he wants to protect.

The secret with the parents went down really well and all the secrets were in line with a creepy paranormal theme as it should be. The end gave me a ridiculous amount of emotions that landed me with a firm hug to my Nook as I finished.

One quick thing… I am in LOVE with this cover! Wow. Yusuf on the cover with his eyes and light hair and that drawing of an owl right behind him. It does it for me so much!

I’m wrapping this up.

This is another winner in this series and I hope the author has more stories from Shifter U for me.

Ann - 4.5 Hearts

I really do love this series and The Night Owl and the Insomniac is officially my favorite of the three (shhhh - don’t tell the guys from #1 and #2). Yusef and Owen are just ideal characters and I simply liked them so much. Honestly, you could strip out all of the shifter shenanigans and I would still have loved the story just as much.

In the first two stories in the series, one MC in each couple is part of the badass variety of shifter, they are more “in the know” with the shifter council and are alpha-level level protective of their kind. The couples were intriguing and I loved them, but Yusef and Owen are different and I loved them even more.

Yusef and Owen are young men still figuring out their live and Yusef has the extra burden of discovering he’s a shifter. He’s been sickly his whole life, isolated because of his human medical issues. Once he gets to Cody College though he discovers his real deal is that he’s not human and once he learns to shift his health problems are gone. He’s actually completely normal for shifter physiology.

The author does a great job of balancing Yusef’s innocence with his new found independence and strength. It was my favorite part of the story. Owen wants nothing more than to take care of Yusef and make him happy. And while Yusef is tired of getting the mother hen treatment from everyone, he can’t help but be floored by the care and love Owen shows for him. He doesn’t really get it, but he’s smart enough to be flattered and his cluelessness is adorable.

I am making it sound more simplistic than it was. There was plenty of shifter drama and potential familial betrayal to stay within the theme of the series, and it did escalate the closeness between Yusef and Owen and my impatient self was completely fine with that. Their relationship didn’t feel rushed at all though and the fact that Yusef was never portrayed as a victim made me believe in a future HEA for these two.

The beauty of this story was in the pureness in the feelings Owen and Yusef have and I could write odes to the awesomeness that is Owen. It wasn’t until I started reading that I realized how much I’ve missed a relationship story like this and I would have loved to keep reading about these two. Yusef is discovering who he is and Owen is supporting him in every way and while it’s all new to Yusef he’s nothing if not honest in his feelings just like Owen is. It was so refreshing to read a love story like this.

This was the first story in the series where Buddy had more of a presence and I really hope he has a story coming soon. A grumpy bear who does yoga? Yes please! This one was a total treat though. I got my shifter fix along with a charmingly adorable love story. I’m already impatient for the next one.

Release Blitz + Giveaway: Skating Through by Jennifer Cosgrove

Skating Through by Jennifer Cosgrove, a YA hockey romance, is out from NineStar Press! Celebrate with the author and IndiGo Marketing! Learn more about the coming of age tale today and enter in the $10 NineStar Press credit giveaway today!

Title:  Skating Through
Author: Jennifer Cosgrove
Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: July 2, 2018
Heat Level: 1 - No Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 70500
Genre: Contemporary YA, BFF, coming of age, coming out, high school, hockey, homophobia, sports, YA

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There are two things Ben Lewis has convinced himself he can never have at the same time: playing hockey and being openly gay. Hockey is looking to be his only choice. Until now. Being captain of the team and starting his senior year of high school is a lot to handle. Throw in a budding friendship with his crush, Marcus, and Ben is faced with deciding if he’s brave enough to take the next step.

Fortunately, courage can come from unexpected places. His BFF Ryan, new friends, and a voice from the past are great assists to his determination to be true to himself and keep playing the game he loves, but will they be enough?


Skating Through
Jennifer Cosgrove © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“There you are.”

A murmured meow was Ben’s answer as Biscuit settled next to him, curling close to his side. He was wide awake. It was still dark outside, the only light in the room coming through the window from the streetlight on the corner. The alarm hadn’t gone off yet, but he’d trained himself to be up at the crack of dawn. He stretched, careful not to disturb the cat, and ran a hand through his hair in an attempt to flatten out the mess. He was in dire need of a haircut. Every year, he decided to grow it out, and every year, he changed his mind as soon as hockey season was on the horizon. It was just too much to deal with under a hockey helmet. Besides, he looked a little ridiculous with long hair.

He stared at the ceiling and let the rare quiet of the house wash over him. Most guys his age would sleep until noon, especially on summer break, but that wasn’t going to happen. The alarm started going off and Ben grabbed for the phone, accidentally knocking it off the nightstand along with his Band of Brothers DVDs and sending Biscuit scurrying away and out the door. He fumbled over the side of the bed, finally snagged the phone, and swiped across the screen to turn off the cheerful beeping.

Maybe he should just give in and go to the rink, get in some early ice time. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. His dad would probably get up and give him a ride. Ben rose and took a step toward the door. Or he’d tell him to go back to bed—it’s an off day, for god’s sake, Ben. Probably not, then. He shut the door with a click and got back in bed, scrolling through the texts from last night out of habit.

Ryan: he was in the shop again

Ben: …

Ryan: I didn’t say anything

Ryan: I wouldn’t do that

Ben: I know.

Ryan: you’re going to have to talk to him eventually

At that, Ben had put his phone down and gone to bed. Ryan meant well, but he wasn’t ready to deal with that. It just didn’t work that way. Not for him. Not now.

Ben looked at the time and groaned. When the phone beeped again, he turned it completely off and tossed it back onto the nightstand. He thought about getting up anyway but dragged a pillow over his head instead. Sleep deserved another try.

The next time Ben woke up it was to a pounding on his bedroom door that could only be one person. “Cut it out, Bethy!”

“Quit playing with yourself and get up, Benny!” The giggling that followed was cut short when he heard his mom’s voice coming up the stairs, followed by her light footsteps.

“Beth! Leave your brother alone.” A pause. “And don’t be crude.”

Ben rolled his eyes and struggled to sit up. There was a gentle tapping on his door. “Ben, honey?”

“Yeah, Mom.”

The door opened and she peeked in cautiously.

“Remember we’re going to help Gran today.” How could he forget? She’d reminded him every day for the past week. It wasn’t like he was going to suddenly develop amnesia or something. “And we need to leave soon, so if you want breakfast, you’d better get a move on.”

He definitely wanted breakfast. “I’ll be right down.”

“Hurry. The vultures are circling,” she said with a wink and closed the door behind her.

Ben got up, stretched, and rolled his shoulders. He thought about going through the flexibility routine Coach Jordan recommended, but he just didn’t feel like it. It was his day off, and he was going to stick to that. He let his routine slip a bit during the summer, and he’d get enough of a workout moving heavy boxes and furniture, anyway. His grandma was leaving the cold winters of upstate New York to escape to Florida’s warmer climate. She’d laughed when he told her she was a walking, talking cliché.

“That might be true, my love, but I’ll still be the youngest one down there.” It was true. She’d taken early retirement when his grandfather had gotten ill, and now that he’d passed, she had the means to make a move closer to her sister. He was going to miss her.

“Ben?” His mom’s voice floated up the stairs.

He sighed and picked up the DVDs that had fallen down beside the bed and started pulling clothes out so he could tell her, honestly, that he was getting ready.

“Five seconds!”

“Plate’s on the table.”

Ugh. He’d better hurry. He could smell bacon, and either Beth or his dad would have no qualms about stealing it right off his plate. Always the bacon. And today it would be real bacon instead of turkey bacon, so that made it even more tempting. Not that turkey bacon ever stopped them. He felt a twinge of guilt for making his mom fix two different breakfasts most days, but it was something they’d lived with from the time he’d started high school. Ever since he got serious about hockey.

It was all he’d ever wanted to do. He’d known from the first time he stepped out on the ice. He was good at it, and he was lucky to have supportive parents. It hadn’t been easy. The equipment and fees were expensive, and the demanding training and game schedules were always a challenge. But he was never late to practice, and they’d never missed a home game. It would be worth it, he thought. The college scholarship would make a huge difference. He didn’t want his parents to bear all the burden of putting him and his sister through school, not if he could help it.

He pulled on a faded Flyers T-shirt and opened his door, almost tripping over the ball of fluff waiting right outside. “Dammit, Biscuit!” He received a put-upon meow in return as he scooped the cat up in his arms. Biscuit’s rumbling purr was comforting against his chest as he carried him down the stairs. The cat started to squirm as soon as they got to the kitchen, ready to get at the food waiting in his dish.

Ben absently brushed cat hair off his shirt before sitting at the table in front of a plate piled high with eggs, bacon, and fruit. He was just in time because his dad and sister had almost finished their own breakfasts and were already eyeballing his. It was a cheat day, for god’s sake, but they were all vicious when it came to bacon. “Morning.”

Not quite sociable yet, his dad answered with a grunt. He’d be better after his second cup of coffee.

His mom swooped by and ruffled his hair. “You have ten minutes.” Ben ran a hand through his already messy hair and groaned. She narrowed her eyes. “Get a move on.”

He took her at her word and dug in. After he finished, he slurped down coffee and juice and took the extra precaution of downing a glass of water. It was already warm outside, even for August, and it’d be a long sweaty day.

“When do you think we’ll be getting home?” He’d promised Ryan he would go to a party with him tonight. It was a promise that only a best friend could drag out of him. Ben didn’t like parties for the most part, especially ones where there was drinking and other stuff. He knew it made him look like a goody-goody or a stick-in-the-mud or whatever other term Ryan could dream up to tease him with, but he didn’t like to take any chances. He couldn’t put his future in danger, as dramatic as that sounded in his own head.

His mom was digging through her purse for her keys. He let her look for a few seconds before reaching over and plucking them off the hook. She took them with a lopsided smile. “Sorry, what did you say?”

Ben rolled his eyes with a grin. She knew his practice schedule better than he did, but could never keep up with her keys. “What time do you think we’ll be back?”

“Why? Got a hot date or something?”

Ben grimaced behind her back. There was a lot she didn’t know about him, especially in that respect. He opened the front door and gestured for her to go ahead.

“Nah. Ryan talked me into going to a thing at someone’s house. Holtsy’s girlfriend’s?” He didn’t think she’d have a problem with him going to a party, but he didn’t want to have to answer a lot of questions. Plus, she loved Ryan.

She gave him an odd look before unlocking the car. She knew he didn’t like parties. “We should be back in plenty of time. You want to drive there or back?”

He’d had his driver’s license for only two weeks and was still nervous behind the wheel. It hadn’t helped that he’d put off learning how to drive until this summer, right before his senior year. The only reason he finally relented was because he’d be off to college soon, and his dad pointed out they wouldn’t be there to drive him to practice or class. So Ben had sucked it up and decided to learn. Driving still scared the hell out of him, though.

“Back.” The traffic would be lighter at least.

“All right.” They had a brief squabble over the radio that his mom won, before heading out. It was just the two of them, as Beth would be coming later with their dad after running some errands. “But no trying to get out of it this time.”

Ben shook his head and smiled out the window. “I won’t.”


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Meet the Author

Jennifer has always been a voracious reader and a well-established geek from an early age. She loves comics, movies, and anything that tells a compelling story.

When not writing, she likes knitting, dissecting/arguing about movies with her husband, and enjoying the general chaos that comes with having kids.

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