Guest Review: Past Sins by Thomas Grant Bruso

Officer Jack Ballinger receives a phone call from the chief of police in the early morning hours regarding a dead body at an apartment building in a quiet neighborhood in the small upstate New York town of Black Falls. A female student lies in a pentagram outlined in her own blood, clutching a rosary. Ballinger and his former partner Officer Cory Ryan interview tenants in the building about the girl’s death, but are met with more questions than answers.

When another body is found in the same apartment building a few hours later, Jack knows something is wrong. As he ciphers through a patchwork of unexplainable clues, the investigation detours when Ryan disappears from the case and cannot be found.

With his future as an officer in question, will Ballinger be able to deal with the truth of these crimes once he dscovers everything he thought he knew was a lie?


Reviewer: Annery

In Greek mythology Sirens were beautiful creatures who lured sailors with their song only to shipwreck their vessels. The blurb and cover of this book were that call for me. Sadly the results were the same for me. I crashed hard. *cue sad face*

I seem to be on a collision course with bad stuff lately, however there’s no way forward but trying new writers. The dreaded First Person Present Tense, along with the writer/editor’s weird fixation on breaking each sentence into a new paragraph were my first clues that things weren’t going to go well.

Here’s an example:
“I turn to my former partner Officer Cory Ryan, twenty-nine, bisexual, dark-skinned and a Patriot’s fan, writing furiously in his notebook ten feet from me in the fare corner.” A falling out between us last year led us to working with different partners on separate cases. I blame Ryan’s mood swings and lack of patience and professionalism, and the way he handles cases, walking away from interviews and not speaking to me for days later. Six years separate us, and I miss the time we spent together, drinking beer and watching college and professional football games at a bar after work. I stop thinking about our past, as a booming crash of thunder shifts my position, and I jump, startled, and let out a soft yelp.”
As you can surmise, a whole book like this can be a chore, and as you saw there’s boatloads of infodump which ultimately bring nothing to the story. This could be overcome if it weren’t for the MC, Jack Ballinger, weren’t pretty much incompetent as a Police Officer, scared of his own shadow (*see yelping above*), and not particularly likable, if you go by how he treats his bedmate, or how he describes and refers to others.

The coup de grâs of course is police procedural plot written by someone who perhaps has gotten their ideas from bad tv cop shows. To say there’s zero verisimilitude to actual police work or cases would be kind. I won’t belabor the whole plot, preposterous in the sequence of events, resolution, and Jack’s role in it. Also for those still reading, this isn’t really a romance. I can’t recommend this.

Sorry.




Release Blitz + Giveaway: The Arrangement (Homestead Legacy #1) by Alex Jane


Author Alex Jane and Signal Boost Promotions celebrate the release of The Arrangement (Homestead Legacy #1)! Learn more about the paranormal historical romance and enter in the back list eBook giveaway from the author!





Length: 56,000 words approx.

Blurb

1895. New York.


Gabriel Webster’s pack is in trouble. His father’s failing health and his mother’s untimely death mean that the vultures are circling. It won’t be long before his family’s assets are stripped and his pack disbanded. When an offer of help arrives in the form of a marriage of convenience, he has little choice but to accept.


The arrangement would be the perfect solution, if not for one thing. Gabriel is to marry Nathaniel Hayward, the Alpha who was badly injured in the accident that killed his brother ten years before—and the man Gabriel has been in love with for as long as he can remember.


Trapped in a business arrangement masquerading as a marriage — in a strange, empty house with a damaged husband who barely tolerates him — isn’t what Gabriel expected from life.


But sometimes the last thing we want is the beginning of something more.

And an ending can be the start of something beautiful.



About Alex


After spending far too long creating stories in her head, Alex finally plucked up the courage to write them down and realized it was quite fun seeing them on the page after all.


Free from aspirations of literary greatness, Alex simply hopes to entertain by spinning a good yarn of love and life, wrapped up with a happy ending. Although, if her characters have to go through Hell to get there, she’s a-okay with that.


With only a dysfunctional taste in music and a one-eyed dog to otherwise fill her days, Alex writes and walks on the South Coast of England—even when her heart and spellcheck are in New York.


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Review: Adam Only (Those Other Books #2) by Roe Horvat

On stage, Adam lets his passion drive him. All his secret desires, everything nasty, dirty, and beautiful flows freely through him, for once in harmony. His soul thrives when his body moves, but only on stage. Adam’s passionate nature makes him a great dancer…and a failure at life. He’s a lonely, emotional mess. Going home with a man far out of his reach is the last thing Adam should do. Christoffer represents everything Adam isn’t: strong, independent, educated, and rich. His kind eyes, at odds with his brutish form, make Adam's knees and restraint buckle.

Once Christoffer sees Adam dancing, he’s lost. The young man is mesmerizing, otherworldly, and unpredictable. Whatever might happen between them, it will be transient, and Christoffer will most likely get hurt. The temptation is too great, however, and the sex explosive. He might as well enjoy every moment he’s given, even if it’s just one day, maybe two. If Christoffer treads carefully, Adam might stay until Monday.

Warning: Adam Only is a gay erotic love story. It contains explicit language and sexual scenes between two consenting men. For adult readers only.


What can I say about this book that hasn't already been said? Besides...


Or in this case, Hallelujah to Roe Horvat who has erotica's number. On speed dial.

Admittedly, there are several of kinks of mine on display here: size difference, bear/twink dynamic, age difference, some D/s are on offer between them and, most importantly, two men who are unabashedly into each other from the very beginning. Though Adam has some baggage that is making him cautious where Christoffer is concerned, Christoffer navigates his feelings much more honestly.

I don't know that I would've connected with Adam or Christoffer as much as I did had it not been for the dual perspectives. Being inside both their head's allowed me to experience first hand just how smitten they both are with one another and that their connection transcends their mind-blowing sex.

And it was mind-blowing, rest assured. And frequent.


That seems about accurate. Adam is some sort of anal superhero. Long may he reign.

I seriously need to get my filthy mitts on the next one in the series because these two are gold. Straight gold.

Recommended!




A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.



Giveaway + Blog Tour: Love Under Glasse by Kristina Meister


Welcome author Kristina Meister & Riptide Publishing who are here today promoting the release of Love Under Glasse. Find out more about this contemporary lesbian romance & leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway for a signed copy of Cinderella Boy from the author! Good luck!


About Love Under Glasse
This runaway might want to get caught.
El Glasse’s mother controls her life. What she does, who she dates, even what she’s allowed to say. El only has two ways of holding onto her freedom. One is her popular anonymous blog, hidden from Mama Glasse. The other is what she so often blogs about: her feelings for Riley, the girl who works at the ice cream parlor. Riley is fierce, free, and rides a killer motorcycle, and El cannot help but love her. But Mama Glasse can never find out about her sexuality—unless El is willing to rebel. 
When El runs away, Riley feels responsible. She knows what it’s like to be alone, and she can’t deny her deep desire to learn El’s story. In a move she might end up regretting, she makes a devil’s bargain with Mama Glasse to hunt El down.
Riley isn’t trying to bring her home though, because she knows an evil spell when she sees one—a spell of fear and shame El is finally starting to break. This huntress might lose her own heart, but it’s a risk she’s willing to take. 
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.
2018 Foreword INDIES Gold Winner - LGBT
Connect with Kristina:

To celebrate this release, Kristina is giving away a custom ordered biker-style patch that represents El and Riley, as well as a signed copy of her award-winning novel Cinderella Boy! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on August 31, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info! 

Release Blitz + Giveaway: Code Name: Liberty by Marshall Thornton


Code Name: Liberty is out! Author Marshall Thornton and Signal Boost Promotions host today's blitz! Learn more and enter in the back list eBook giveaway!




Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link - Exclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited

Length: 290 pages

Blurb

In the summer of 1980, the news is full of the upcoming election and the hostage crisis in Iran but Patrick Henry Burke is not paying any attention. He’s met a Persian prince and his head is full of romance. All of that changes though when a sexy CIA agent, Gary Walker, approaches him and asks that he spy on the prince and his father. They’re attempting to prevent the hostages from being released to guarantee Carter won’t win the presidency in hopes that the Reagan administration will be grateful enough to assist the prince’s father in becoming the new Shah of Iran. As Patrick gathers information about an impending illegal weapons deal, he struggles to understand who might be lying to him and who might be telling the truth.


Author Bio

Marshall Thornton writes two popular mystery series, the Boystown Mysteries and the Pinx Video Mysteries. He has won the Lambda Award for Gay Mystery three times. His romantic comedy, Femme was also a 2016 Lambda finalist for Best Gay Romance. Other books include My Favorite Uncle, The Ghost Slept Over and Masc, the sequel to Femme. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America.




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Guest Review: Fighter (Survivor #3) by T.M. Smith

Dedication and smarts have given Blair Cummings a leg up in the Bureau. His job is all-consuming but rewarding. It doesn’t leave much time for a love life though, not that Blair believes in love. In his early thirties, he’s only ever been in one long-term relationship due to his inability to commit to anything other than his job and his family.

Born into a family that’s as successful as they are hateful, Howard Manning Tullor Junior ran so far away from his last name that he wound up in the arms of Satan himself. Freedom comes at a high price but it’s one Mannie is willing to pay, setting him on a path that leads him to a quiet, laid-back FBI agent.

Their attraction is unexpected, and yet, welcomed. Blair seems to have finally found something worth fighting for, but Mannie, still haunted by ghosts of the past, wonders if he’ll ever be able to move on. The two are working toward their future, but can a budding romance survive when past and present collide?


Reviewer: Shee Reader


I adored the first two books in this series and couldn’t wait for this one to land on my kindle. I was already invested in Blaire and Mannie’s relationship and couldn’t wait for their full story. The tale crosses over with the other books in the survivor series and I really like that in a book series, that events intertwine as they do in real life, rather than being rebased on relationships that develop in a consecutive way. Of course, some events follow in sequence, but more than one relationship can develop at once, and I really enjoy the concurrent nature of life replicated in a series of books.

Mannie has experienced a huge amount of hardship in his life, from a difficult childhood, abusive father and grandfather who tried to beat the gay out of him, then being preyed pun by a serial offender in the form of a sadistic lawyer with a taste for underage men. Mannie has managed to survive all the atrocities that have befallen him, including being left for dead, and has begun to build a chosen family for himself and a life that can support him. Enter Blair the FBI agent who has been working on the case that includes Mannie as one of two survivors. (The other survivor Shannon’s story is told in an earlier booking the series)

Blair and Mannie have the complications of how they met with Mannie as a victim and Blair the investigator, the fact that they live in different states, and the horrific experiences Mannie has had and can he learn to trust Blair? There is lots of challenge for a new relationship in the story, but much less of the exterior threat that is included in the first two books since one of the villains is in jail and one is dead. The only added threat came from Mannie’s grandfather who turns up near the end of the story.

This is an emotional tale with the struggle for the relationship coming from the characters themselves and whether they can work out their issues, and I found this to be very engaging and I really was rooting for the guys from the outset. My only complaint, If I’m going to be picky, was that Blair seemed a little to good to be true! He had no real character flaws to speak of and as such, this made him a tiny bit one dimensional, but that really is a tiny niggle!

Highly recommended.

I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.






Check out the Fighter (Survivor #3) blog tour stop HERE!

Giveaway + Release Blitz: Safe (Fate, Texas) by Jess Bryant


Celebrate the release of Safe (Fate, Texas) with author Jess Bryant & IndiGo Promotions. Find out more about this sports romance, read an excerpt & enter in the giveaway for a $10 Ninestar Press credit too! Good luck!



Title: Safe
Series: A Fate, Texas Novella
Author: Jess Bryant
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: August 26, 2019
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 17600
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, friends to lovers, coming out, baseball, gay, bisexual

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Synopsis

Trevor Thorne has always played it safe.

He’s a ballplayer. The game has had his heart and soul since he was just a kid. He learned early on that living in the testosterone-fueled world of baseball meant living a lie. He couldn’t afford to be openly gay, not when he had his whole career ahead of him. But his days behind the plate are numbered and he’s tired, so damn tired of hiding who he is, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to deny himself what, and who, he wants.

Rodrigo Cruz is the opposite of safe.

He’s young, ballsy, and bold. Out and proud, Cruz has never shied away from going after what he wants. He wants a career as a big-league ballplayer, and he wants it on his own terms. No hiding his sexuality or his past but also no throwing himself at his beautiful, blue-eyed bunkmate. Not even if he suspects Trevor isn’t quite as straight as he claims.

Crossing that line, testing that theory, it could put his entire career at risk. If he swings for the fences and strikes out, he’ll always be that guy in the locker room who can’t keep it in his pants. But what if he’s right and they’re more than just teammates?

What if they’re soulmates?

Excerpt

Safe
Jess Bryant © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Rodrigo Cruz was wavering. He was fucking wavering. If he was honest with himself, he’d been wavering for a while. It wasn’t the first time he’d considered abandoning his self-imposed rules about not pursuing teammates. But tonight, in the dimly lit bar after a long day in the sun and a couple of drinks, he was wavering way too close to crossing the line he’d drawn in the sand before he’d ever even met Trevor Thorne.

How could he not?

The man was gorgeous. Hot as hell. A Greek god encased in all-American good looks. Full lips. Dimpled chin. Spiky golden-blond hair and those eyes. Fuck, those eyes. They were blue, only blue wasn’t the right word. It wasn’t descriptive enough. They were jewels, diamonds in the rough of his handsome face.

Trevor had a nickname in the league. The Ice King. He was cold. Unemotional. Detached on the field and off. And those eyes of his were glaciers, impossible to delve past the surface without feeling the chill.

Only, Cruz had seen past the icy veneer. Trevor had let him past it. After months of shared hotel rooms, tiny bus seats, and 24/7 forced proximity, Trevor had slowly begun to let him in. He’d started to lower the walls he kept so high around him, and Cruz was proud to call him a friend instead of just a teammate.

The Ice King had thawed for him. Cruz had seen those blue eyes twinkle with laughter. He’d seen them warm with amusement and pleasure. And more and more, he thought about what it would be like to see them full of heat, full of passion and fire.

Cruz stared across the crowded bar, caught himself drowning in those blue pools like they were the goddamn Bermuda Triangle and there wasn’t a life preserver in sight.

Cruz lowered his gaze when Trevor looked away, returning to his phone call. He squinted at the tumbler of liquid sitting in front of him on the table, trying to remember how many he’d had. Too many.

He was drunk. So. Damn. Drunk. He knew he was drunk which meant he was way past the point of no return. He shouldn’t have had that last drink. Or, rather, considering he was in the presence of the one man who made him want to throw his rulebook out the window, he really shouldn’t have been drinking at all.

Alcohol impaired judgment. It made him stupid. Made him do stupid things. Things that would undoubtedly get him in trouble. Things that would most likely lead to his pretty face being punched, repeatedly. Because when he was drunk he forgot he wasn’t supposed to stare at his teammate’s lips like he wanted them wrapped around his cock.

But Trevor had insisted on grabbing a drink when they got back to the hotel, and despite the little voice in the back of Cruz’s head that had said he should just go to bed, he was shit at denying Trevor anything. So he’d gone. He’d bought the first round and then Trevor had bought the second, and by the time the tequila hit him, Cruz had forgotten why drinking with the man who haunted his dreams and was his every walking fantasy was a bad idea.

It wasn’t as if he was just risking his rules when it came to Trevor. If it meant getting the gorgeous god of a man in his bed, Cruz would happily abandon his stance on steering clear of sexual relationships with teammates. He wanted Trevor, and he’d let himself have him if his friend had given him so much as a hint he was into the idea. But he hadn’t, and that meant continuing to fantasize about him, continuing to tread this line and risk their friendship.

Hitting on a friend, on a teammate, on a supposedly straight man who wasn’t interested in him that way wasn’t just against his rules; it was downright self-destructive.

He’d been down this road before. Thinking there was more in every glance, every touch, than there really was. It hadn’t turned out well. Not for him. He’d been young then, naïve, just learning what it meant to be bisexual. He was older and wiser now, and he knew better. He knew it was a dead end.

When he was sober, he knew that. He knew not to stare at Trevor like he wanted to lick him up one side and down the other. He knew the smiles Trevor gave him, the ones that curled around his heart and made him feel all warm and tingly, meant nothing but friendship to Trevor. When he was sober, he knew he needed to stop fantasizing about his best friend.

Even if he wasn’t completely convinced Trevor was as straight as he always claimed. The looks he shot Cruz across the bar were veiled and sexy. The way Trevor bumped their shoulders together and found little ways to touch him was intimate and flirtatious. Cruz honestly believed Trevor was gay or bi or at the very least questioning and curious. But until Trevor made a move, some sort of move, he couldn’t cross that line. He wouldn’t force Trevor to admit to things he’d clearly been hiding for a very long time. He couldn’t and wouldn’t touch Trevor the way he ached to touch him.

But in his alcohol-fueled brain, he couldn’t help but wonder what his best friend would do if he slid up behind him, pressed their bodies together, and whispered in his ear exactly what he wanted to do to him. The idea alone made his cock hard, which at his level of drunkenness was a tribute to how damn much he wanted Trevor. Hell, he never got hard anymore. Not for anyone but the man he couldn’t have.

Trevor slid back into the booth opposite him with a heavy sigh. Without a word, he picked up his drink and knocked it back. Cruz watched his throat work, watched his Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed, and had to swallow a groan of his own.

“Everything okay?” he managed when Trevor dropped the empty glass to the table.

“Fucking fantastic.” Trevor winced and then wiped a hand over his face, “Sorry. I’m in a shit mood, and talking to my happy, madly-in-love brother didn’t exactly help. Didn’t mean to take it out on you.”

Cruz shrugged, accustomed to the same excuse he’d been hearing for weeks now, the one he didn’t quite buy but always let slide. “What’d Trent want this time?”

“You mean other than to tell me my life choices are shit?”

Cruz raised an eyebrow, but Trevor waved him off before he could ask what he meant. Instead, he let it go, just like he always did, and he let Trevor wave the waitress over to bring them another round of drinks.

Purchase

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


Meet the Author

Jess Bryant is an avid indoorswoman. A city girl trapped in a country girl’s life, her heart resides in Dallas but her soul and roots are in small town Oklahoma. She enjoys manicures, the color pink, and her completely impractical for country life stilettos. She believes that hair color is a legitimate form of therapy, as is reading and writing romance. She started writing as a little girl but her life changed forever when she stole a book from her aunt’s Harlequin collection and she’s been creating love stories with happily ever afters ever since.

Jess holds a degree in Public Relations from the University of Oklahoma and is a lifetime supporter of her school and athletic teams. And why not? They have a ton of National Championships! She may be a girlie girl but she knows her sports stats and isn’t afraid to tell you that your school isn’t as cool as hers… or that your sports romance got it all wrong.

For more information on Jess and upcoming releases, contact her at JessBryantBooks@gmail.com or follow her on her many social media accounts for news and shenanigans.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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Book Blitz + Giveaway: A Rhythm You Feel (The Rock Gods: East Coast Label #1) by Ann Lister


Ann Lister and Signal Boost Promotions promote today's blitz for A Rhythm You Feel (The Rock Gods: East Coast Label #1)! Learn more and enter in the backlist eBook giveaway!




Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link - Exclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited.

Length: 347 pages

Blurb

Blade: As the lead singer of Hard Core, I’ve been taught several key life lessons. Unfortunately, I've also ignored many of them in the last twenty minutes alone, which is why I'm now being chased by a horde of crazed fans.


But my worst misjudgment today? Going outside in public without security or a backup plan. Screaming fans come with the job and the fame is as much of a blessing as it is a curse, but I still couldn't imagine doing any other line of work.


Music owns me and I am happy to be her bitch.


Nico: I knew who he was as soon as he burst through the front door of my store and I was absolutely starstruck and speechless. Yes, me with my own hardened attitude and jaded outlook on life had lost the ability to talk in the presence of Blade.


I'm an ex-con. I paid my debt to society, and I have my own brand of scars to show from the time I spent behind bars. My life's regrets stain my soul as much as the ink of my tattoos color my skin. Solace for me came with ownership of a bookstore. It was a peaceful place to work until a certain rockstar blew in from the street like a Category 5 hurricane.


Hurricane Blade was about to make landfall and I wasn't sure I'd survive the storm.


Author Bio

Ann Lister is a native New Englander currently living on the island of Martha's Vineyard with her husband. She has pulled details from her years living in the New England area and uses many local settings and landmarks in her novels. After graduating art school, marrying, and raising two daughters, she established her own video production company. Her nearly two decades working in video production included work within the music industry and won her a coveted Telly Award.


Her 'behind-the-scenes' exposure to the music world and her love of rock music is the inspiration for her erotic rock star romances. Her rock star romance, “Fall For Me”, Book One in The Rock Gods series, was a Finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Award and Book Three, Make You Mine, established her as an Amazon #1 Bestselling Author. Each book in The Rock Gods series brings her two favorite elements together: musicians and the love between two men.


Her stories focus on what it truly means to love; love unconditionally, love without restrictions or labels, love without fear or judgment – to just simply love.




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Review: Innocence & Carnality by J. Alan Veerkamp

Innocence is his only currency.

The gilded cage of propriety where Nathan grew up as a member of the Deilian aristocracy became a true prison when, at fifteen, his homosexuality came to light and created a terrible scandal. His parents see only one way to preserve their reputation amongst the other noble families: fit Nathan with a chastity belt to increase his value to a potential partner and marry him off as soon as possible.

The recipient of that prize is Lord Rother Marsh Delaga III. After a hasty wedding, Rother whisks Nathan away to the strange and seductive land of Marisol, where Nathan will begin a new life, free to explore the pleasures of the marriage bed, though his life is still not his own.

But Rother’s Delaga House is a place of secrets, dangers, and depravity Nathan can scarcely comprehend. Where friends are few and peril waits around every corner, Nathan must employ all the manipulation he learned from high society, along with his talent for clockwork. Most of all, Nathan must adapt, compromise to survive, and cast off the preconceptions of his homeland.

Because only he can orchestrate his freedom, and it’ll come at a cost.


What. A. Delight!

I read the blurb so long ago that I forgot the blurb and that actually turned out to be a great thing. Going in blind and letting Veerkamp take you on the journey of Nathan from innocent ingenue to fierce force to be reckoned with is the way to go, thus I'm going to keep this SUPER short.

The entire story is told from Nathan's perspective and I have to be honest, initially I underestimated him. I thought he was vapid milquetoast. I've never been more thrilled to be wrong. He may have been married off as a 'trophy wife' but he is a quick study and all that time spent watching his trophy wife of a mother equipped him with a few tricks up his sleeve.

Innocence & Carnality is story driven with several turns in the narrative that surprised me and the way the narrative came together at the end was nothing short of inspired. (Trigger warning for abuse & violence.) However, several of the characters popped off the page as well. Strong female characters are always a win with me and Veerkamp delivered more than one all set in a historical steampunkish AU setting. If you're averse to steampunk, it's not overly steampunky.

I don't want to give away the romance but it was divine. I had to wait for it to come together but it was worth the wait. Soooooo worth it. Directly into my wheelhouse, it went.

As a shameless plea to the author,  I would be overjoyed were there to be another book in this universe.

Highly recommended!



A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.



Blog Tour: The Witchstone Amulet by Mason Thomas


Time to get excited about the latest release from author Mason Thomas! The Witchstone Amulet releases today from Dreamspinner Press! Find out more about this urban fantasy and all about rugby from the author right here!


Rugby is Badass
In my latest novel, THE WITCHSTONE AMULET, the main character Hunter is a rugby player, playing on Chicago’s professional team, the Lions. Some may find this a strange choice, but when I sat down to write this particular novel, I knew from the beginning that rugby needed to play a role in the story. Partially because, being a “portal” story where Hunter is pulled from our world into a medieval fantasy world,  I believed someone who played rugby—an innately physical game—would fit well in the brutal, more primitive world where hand-to-hand weaponry was the norm. 
But, the bigger reason I included it was because I simply dig the game. 
In my younger days, my exposure to the sport was rather limited. Understandable, since I’d grown up in the Midwest. Rugby was not even a blip on the radar then. Up until around ten years ago I knew literally nothing about it. 
I wasn’t what one would call a sporty kid, but I did grow up in a very sports-centric household, which meant I was expected to participate in sports. Good for my character, I was told. I played American football in middle school and high school, volleyball in college, and a little basketball here and there, and much to my father’s chagrin, none of it excited me. I had no favorite teams. Never made an effort or was even compelled to watch a game on TV. I never really even watched the Super Bowl. I’d convinced myself that I just wasn’t a team sports kind of guy. 
Then, I discovered rugby. 
I was belly up at a bar and a rugby match happened to be on one of the TVs. With nothing else to do, I started to watch.  If I’m to be honest, it was the short shorts and tight jerseys that brought me to the table at first. No pads to get in the way of those physiques? Yes, please. 
It looked like absolute chaos to me—lots of running, tackling, bodies jumping on each other.  Knowing there had to be some system in place, I set myself the task of trying to figure out what the hell was happening. I’d worked out quite a bit during the match, but then noticed the guy next to me was also watching it as well. Turns out he played the game—on the Dragons, the gay team. So, I started asking questions.
As many believe, it is not a free-for-all out there. There are lots of very specific rules and surprisingly it didn’t take all that long to work them out. Before the end of the night I was yelling at the screen, “That was a fucking knock-on, you blind sot!”
I’m a quick study.
I’ve been hooked ever since. Rugby jazzes me up like no other sport because it does for me what no other sport has been able to do—keep my interest. Now, every weekend in the fall at 8 am, you will find me drinking Guinness at a local Irish pub watching live Six nations tournaments (Go Ireland!) That is my super bowl! And right now, I’m going to convince you why you need to give it a solid look too. Below are seven reasons why rugby is the greatest sport on the planet. 
  1. The ball is almost always in play:
    Even when someone is tackled, or when the ball is passed or kicked, the ball is still active—as long as it isn’t out of bounds or there’s a penalty. This means the excitement doesn’t let up. Unlike other sports, there’s no pause in the action.
  2. Both offense and defense are on the field at the same time
    Rugby has fifteen players from each team on the field (pitch) at all times. If there is a change in ball possession, defense is right there to challenge them. Everyone is out there, fighting alongside each other.
  3. The game is varied and changeable:
    Different scenarios trigger different outcomes, like a scrum, which is sort of like a reverse tug-of-war where everyone is pushing and not pulling, and a line-out, where the ball is thrown back in after it goes out of bounds. (Looks more interesting that it sounds) These variances and nuances in game play make for a more interesting match.  Something different is always happening.
  4. The clock doesn’t stop, not even for an injury (usually):
    Building on the theme that the action continues no matter what, a match is always going to be eighty minutes long (sometimes it can over a few minutes but typically not by much). Two forty-minute halves. You get all your excitement condensed into a power-packed hour and a half. That’s it. Enjoy the match, then get on with your day!
  5. Every player on the field needs a similar skill base.
    Although there is specialization and clear distinct roles, every player needs to know how to handle the ball. It doesn’t matter if they are offensive players or defensive, they all have to be able to throw it, kick it, and run with it. It is not unheard of for a defense player to score. This means everyone can contribute.
  6. Greater overall athleticism:
    With the ball in play ninety percent of the time, the clock is always going, players are in constant motion. Running after the ball, passing and kicking, tackling, scrumming…it never lets up for them. It’s eighty minutes of pure physicality with minimal breaks. The level of athleticism required for the sport is arguably greater than any other. These men and women are fit beyond belief and professional players are out before they are forty due to the physical requirements and the toll it takes on their bodies.
  7. Decisions are made by all the players, not a single player, and not the coach on the sidelines.
    Due to the nature of the game, rugby is one hundred percent a team sport. There are certain positions that are viewed as more critical than others, those that monitor and guide the action, but there isn’t one puppet master controlling the game. A rugby squad is more of a hive mind. Decisions are made on the fly, in the moment, by individual players, and there isn’t time to sit back and strategize. This again adds to the wild nature of the game, and why people new to the sport often feel it looks untamed and chaotic. 


In THE WITCHSTONE AMULET, rugby isn’t just part of Hunter’s backstory, it’s an integral part of who he is. And largely what makes him a badass in this story. His skills play a strong role in the plot as he fights to belong in this strange and tumultuous world. They even contribute to the final battle. Rugby is an amazing sport, and helps make Hunter an amazing character.


Protect it at all costs.

That’s what rugby player Hunter Best’s mother told him before she died. But when Hunter surprises an intruder in his Chicago apartment, he discovers her amulet stolen. Hunter pursues the thief—all the way through a strange vortex. He wakes in a bizarre and violent world, a benighted realm on the threshold of civil war.

The queen has become a ruthless tyrant, punishing any who oppose her, weakening the kingdom’s defenses against the brutal Henerans. To survive, Hunter must depend on the man who robbed him, a handsome former spy named Dax, now a leader of the resistance that believes the queen is an imposter--a Heneran disguised by magic… who also looks identical to Hunter’s mother.

There’s no love lost between Hunter and Dax, and even if Hunter grudgingly agrees with the resistance, he just wants to reclaim his property and go home. But he might be the only one who can oppose the queen and end her reign of terror.

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Mason Thomas Bio
Mason Thomas began his writing journey at the age of thirteen when his personal hero, Isaac Asimov, took the time to respond to a letter he wrote him. He’s been writing stories every since. Today, he is ecstatic and grateful that there is a place at the speculative table for stories with strong gay protagonists. Mason, by all accounts, is still a nerdy teenager, although his hairline and waistline  indicate otherwise. When his fingers are not pounding furiously at a keyboard, they can usually be found holding a video game controller, plucking away at an electric guitar, or shaking a twenty-sided die during a role playing game. Mason will take any opportunity to play dress up, whether through cosplay, Halloween or a visit to a Renaissance Faire. He pays the bills by daring middle school students to actually like school and encouraging them to make a mess in his science classroom. He lives in Chicago with his endlessly patient husband, who has tolerated his geeky nonsense for two decades, and their two unruly cats who graciously allow Mason and his husband to share the same space with them.