Release Blitz + Giveaway: This or That by Hope Irving

Author Hope Irving and Gay Book Promotions promote new release, This or That! Read more and enter in the $20 Amazon gift card giveaway!


Book Title: This or That

Author: Hope Irving

Publisher: Self-published 

Cover Artist: Simon Franklin

Release Date: June 3, 2021

Genres: Contemporary M/M Romance; Bi Romance

Tropes: Enemies-to-lovers, gay for you, bi-awakening

Themes: Coming out, forgiveness, acceptance (self, family, friends), trust, friendship

Heat Rating: 3 - 3.5 flames

Length: 54 000 words / 200 pages

It is a standalone story. The main characters are secondary characters from another one of my books, Omega Artist (A Cocky Hero Club novel) that takes place later. Omega Artist is a contemporary M/F romance. Both can be read as standalone novels.

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Buy Links - Available in Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US  |   Amazon UK 

Sometimes, a kiss can knock you out faster than a blow to the head, rendering you unable to think straight.


Sometimes, a kiss can knock you out faster than a blow to the head, rendering you unable to think straight.

When drunken Michael Clayton stole a sloppy kiss in a Parisian club, he didn’t know that this would mean war. War, as in being taught a lesson by a shameless cowboy. War, as in being given a taste of his own medicine. War, as in being left dumbfounded and yearning for more. Blame it on the alcohol, right? Damn, Mike hated the guy for muddling his assumed straight orientation and raising unwelcome questions.

When noble Troy Hunter stole a revenge kiss from a despicable hot playboy, he didn’t know that it would be all but forgotten months later. Landing a gig on a Rio-bound cruise ship, the rising DJ is dazed when Mike strikes back with a vengeance during their second encounter, fueling his appetite for dominance. Blame it on the blazing sun, right? Damn, Troy hates the guy for pushing all of his buttons and rubbing salt in old wounds.

It shouldn’t have happened, but now all bets are off. Their feelings quickly escalate into something that they aren’t willing to label. It’s easier this way, until it isn’t… because life’s no cruise and some experiences are life-altering. Between Troy’s painful past and Mike’s unsettling present, their future together might be short-lived, unless their insane chemistry compels them to push their limits and each other. So, which is it? This or that?

This or That was previously part of a charity anthology entitled Anyone But You; it was originally published in early 2021. Since then, I’ve added new content, including a bonus epilogue! Same enemies-to-lovers storyline. Same hot and sweet characters. More focus on certain scenes. Discover or rediscover Mike and Troy’s story… 

If you’ve read Omega Artist (A Cocky Hero Club novel), this is your chance to see how it all started for two familiar faces that you only briefly met since This or That is a standalone prequel.


It’s impossible to think straight when he’s this close. As annoying as he is, I can’t let him escape my clutches.

Out of reflex, my palms land on his taut chest and shove him out of my personal space. I need oxygen, and his presence isn’t helping. Too bad he doesn’t budge, his daring eyes capturing mine. “You and your...” I stutter and, before he says something inappropriate, quickly add, “big mouth.”

A moan leaves his smart mouth. Seriously? “You know what they say...” He shrugs, an amused expression on his conceited face. “Big mouth, big—”

Narrowing my eyes, I can’t help but want to muzzle his smart mouth and put it to better use. He’s impossible! Who says things like that?

The fucker unsettles me yet again by shooting me a raunchy once-over, licking his sinful lips. “Stop looking at me like that,” I hiss.

What the hell does he want from me? We’re not quite touching. His pupils are so dilated that it’s clear, even in the waning sunlight. “Or what?”

Cutting off any chance of response, his commanding lips mold against mine and his arms circle my waist. I can’t move. Once again, his lips on mine feel so wrong and, at the same time, so right. The friction of his stubble on my clean-shaven skin and the dance of his frenzied tongue with my greedy one send me into overdrive.

Whimpering, I wiggle as if possessed. Going a mile a minute, my brain is at war with my body, which craves more unprecedented sensations. The sloppy Parisian kiss the cowboy stole months ago enticed a hidden desire that has no place in my well-planned life. Worse, our encounter elicited sensations that I’ve been desperate to recreate in a flurry of one-night stands, but nothing’s worked so far.

What’s left of my willpower eventually propels me to stop the mind-boggling tongue action. He needs to accept that I run the show.

The air thickens between us as we huff and puff.

His half-mast eyes are so much darker than they were a minute ago. Should I keep playing with him? “What’d you do that for?”

“You’re not gonna win at this game, cowboy,” I sneer in a rushed voice; an expression of my false bravado. “So you think.” Acutely attuned to my hungry body, one of Hunter’s legs subtly treads closer and he leans into me.

Within seconds, his tongue fills my mouth again. Shuddering under his touch, my resolve crumbles as the asshat deepens the kiss. I stiffen when it evolves from bruising to tender, although our encounter is anything but. My body temperature skyrockets, along with my libido.

Unaware of the all-consuming passion that this kiss provokes in me, he thrusts his hip against mine, banging my back into the wall. His jean-clad semi rubs, grazes, and expands against mine that’s desperate for release. I try to pace myself, but it’s a lost cause.

Overwhelmed by a myriad of toe-curling sensations, my brain shuts down and allows my ravenous body to do the talking; maybe that’s the kind of talking Hunter was referring to earlier!

Talk, my ass! No, no, no, keep my ass out of this!

With that thought in mind, my tempted body is given the green light to act.

Without warning, I close the gap between us and my knuckles trace his sculpted abs. At once, his intoxicating scent numbs my consciousness, and I act on the unthinkable the second his hands snake around my body. And just when I think the fever has reached its peak, the conniving man betrays me, ditching my waist in favor of my hair.

Why can’t you stop? Get a hold of yourself. This is your game, not his...

Then why does the simple act of his fingers running through my short hair increase the unbearable pressure building between my legs? I don’t even give a flying fuck if I come in my pants.

Damn, it’s hot in here!

His urgent mouth devours my expletives and beads of sweat run down the side of my face, but I’m too far gone to swipe them away. I’m too blissed out to care. I’m too needy to break the spell quite yet. My senses are on alert. I want to hate him. I hate to want him. So much...

About the Author 

Hope Irving lives in Paris, France, with her supportive husband and creative teenage daughter. The French indie author spent a couple of years in Texas, where she earned her MBA. With many friends, relatives, and readers in the States, the US has a big place in her heart. Although French is her mother tongue, she chose to write her novels in English because it simply feels right for her characters. Hope’s suspenseful and complex love stories are modern fairytales that feature an unconventional Prince Charming and a headstrong heroine. A natural introvert, she enjoys tormenting her flawed characters with a hint of darkness and sometimes magical elements. Still, her heart melts when love conquers all. Her work has been described as “genre-defying,” “refreshingly unique,” and “an emotional rollercoaster read.”

Social Media Links

Blog/Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

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BookBub  |  Goodreads

Facebook Group - Hope Irving’s Heroines


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a $20 Amazon Gift Card

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Blog Tour: Secret Simon (Haven Hart) by Davidson King

The Secret Simon tour visits BMBR today! See what author Davidson King and Vibrant Promotions shared about the new romantic suspense!

Secret Simon

A Haven Hart Novel

Davidson King

M/M Romance

Release Date: 05.24.21



Being the nephew of one of the most infamous mob bosses in the world isn’t easy. Our family has enemies everywhere, and no one is safe without protection. Here I am at college with a fresh start, a new last name, and secrets hidden from those around me—life is going according to plan. Then one day on campus, I see him…and I want him to strip me bare…in more ways than one.


Abernathy is more than just the university I attend. It’s my destiny, my namesake. Singing and entertaining are who I am, but my father wants me to major in something more appropriate for the name I carry. I’ve resigned myself to being who my father wants, doing what he wants. Then Simon comes into my life…and turns everything upside down. Now I have a reason to fight for what I want. 

Who knew our love story would lead to secrets revealed, murderous plots, and finding our forever buried under so many lies? Hopefully we’ll live long enough to see it.

*Trigger: Violence and mention of suicide

Universal Link:


Figuring out how to begin my story was the hardest part, but I knew when it was over, there was a good chance Rush would walk out that door and never return. I supposed it didn’t matter how I started—the end would be the same, most likely. 

“I’m about to tell you a lot of shit, Rush. You’re not going to like most of it, and I understand you may never want to see me again afterward.” He was about to interrupt, but I held up a finger. “Don’t make a promise you don’t know if you can keep by saying ‘nothing I tell you will change how you feel,’ because that’s bullshit. What I will ask is only one thing. Let me tell the story to the end before you walk out of here.” 

“You’re so sure I’ll leave?” 

I nodded. “Yeah.” 

Rush tightly fisted his hands together on his lap, readying himself, no doubt. “Okay, tell me.”

Davidson King, always had a hope that someday her daydreams would become real-life stories. As a child, you would often find her in her own world, thinking up the most insane situations. It may have taken her awhile, but she made her dream come true with her first published work, Snow Falling.

She managed to wrangle herself a husband who matched her crazy and they hatched three wonderful children.

If you were to ask her what gave her the courage to finally publish, she'd tell you it was her amazing family and friends. Support is vital in all things and when you're afraid of your dreams, it will be your cheering section that will lift you up.


Release Blitz: The Fourth State of Matter (Valence Chronicles #1) by D’Arcy Arden

Celebrate the release of sexy sci-fi, The Fourth State of Matter (Valence Chronicles #1), with author D’Arcy Arden and Gay Book Promotions!


Book Title: The Fourth State of Matter (Valence Chronicles #1)

Author: D’Arcy Arden

Publisher: The Wild Rose Press 

Cover Artist: Jennifer Greeff

Release Date: May 31, 2021

Genres: Futuristic/Sci-Fi, erotica

Tropes:  aliens, polyamory

Themes: BDSM, Gay-Lesbian, Menage/Multi-Partner

Heat Rating: 5 flames  

Length: 86 889 words/ 349 pages

It is the first book in a series.

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Buy Links

Amazon US  |   Amazon UK 

Space is cold, the sex is hot, and the rebellion is right on target.


Earth is dead. Humanity survives by selling the only resource available—themselves. 2689 has signed away his rights as a living being and become décor, living artwork that rich aliens use to decorate their homes. It's a stable existence but a boring one. Until one day his owner plays host to three unexpected guests. Large, loud, and more potent than anything 2689 has ever experienced, this trio of ship-dwellers from the wrong side of the universe awakens a desire he can't ignore.

However, blissful days of sex and companionship with Brog, Desmodian, and Xavis come to an end when 2689 discovers a plot that could land the trio in jail...or worse. 2689 will have to make a choice—stay silent and allow three innocent lives to be ruined or give up his stable life to protect the ones he loves.

Book Trailer  


Pet fumbled his drink, creating a clink of glass against glass and spilling pink droplets onto the table’s surface. He had encountered Décor Preservation Services once before, at his first auction, when they evaluated his quality and determined what price to charge his buyers.

“And what does DPS want with us?”

Desmodian sounded too calm, considering the tremor Pet felt running through the hand on his head.

Vige scoffed. “Really? A trio of dirty ship-dwellers running around with one of their precious décor, and you don’t think they’re going to intervene?”

“We’ve done nothing wrong.” Xavis ruffled his feathers again, filling what little space remained in their alcove. “Pet was transferred to us legally. Anyone can check the license.”

In a different situation, Pet would have stroked the feathers back down, but he was too scared to do more than stare dumbly from person to person.

About the Author 

D’Arcy Arden grew up in Akron, Ohio, where she attended creative art schools and was surrounded by beautiful country landscape. This combination cultivated an interest in literature, art, and the natural world around her. In college, she earned a Masters Degree in Fiction Writing, which primarily taught her that there is no one way to tell a good story. So, she turned around and went back for a degree in Animation as well. This love for both visual and written stories has given her a preference for stories that are memorable, easy to picture, and, most importantly, fun.

That was her main goal when she started writing The Fourth State of Matter—to provide readers with a fun story featuring the three S’s. Science, sex, and spaceships. It is her first published novel, but only the beginning of a great adventure.

Social Media Links

Blog/Website  |   Facebook

Twitter  |  YouTube

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts and reviews here

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Stolen Heart by Kristian Daniels

Author Kristian Daniels and Gay Book Promotions visit on the Stolen Heart blog tour! Check out more about the friends to lovers romance and enter in the Stolen Heart paperback giveaway!


Book Title: Stolen Heart

Author: Kristian Daniels

Publisher: FriesenPress

Cover Artist: FriesenPress

Genre/s:  M/M Romance

Trope/s: Friends to lovers

Themes: Coming out, Forgiveness, Love, Hate crime

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 60 000 words/284 pages

It is a standalone book.

Add on Goodreads

Buy Links 

Amazon US  |   Amazon CA  |  Amazon UK 

Kobo  |  Friesen Press

Will Elliott’s past dampen his new life?


Life is better with you.

As a teen, Elliott Denison grapples with life, love and sexuality. His heart had been shattered every time his parents pushed him away. Life had forced him to be strong enough to endure Stanstead’s biggest bully and strong enough to come into his own as an openly gay man.

Now he was 26 years old, and a wave of emotion invaded him as though a switch had been sparked in his mind when Chase Harrison unexpectedly crossed his path. Everything Elliott ever wanted growing up was there in front of him. It doesn’t take long for Elliott to enter into Chase’s life.

Then the ugly past rears its head. Only this time, the face is a shadowy online stalker and an anonymous hater.

Book Trailer


I got back home a few hours later. “Hi, I’m back,” I said. As I headed towards my room, my father asked me to join him in the living room. I did.


My father was sitting in his chair with my mother by his side. Something didn’t look right.

“Are you a homosexual?” my father asked calmly but sternly as he turned my laptop around. I hadn’t even noticed it there.

My worst nightmare was staring at me. Ah, shit. “How come my laptop is down here?” I asked.

“I asked you a question,” my father said.

My eyes started darting around as if looking for a place to hide, but I finally looked at my father and answered, “I don’t know.”

“This is a sin!” my father yelled, slamming the laptop shut. He approached me, pointing his finger at me. “This behaviour stops now, you hear? I will not have a sinner in my house! We didn’t bring you up like this, and no son of mine will partake in such disgusting, perverted activities! If you don’t change, I will send you to conversion therapy.”

I looked at my mother for some support or compassion, but she stood there and did nothing. My father stormed outside and slammed the door behind him.

“Mom,” I said, “I’m sorry you had to find out this way.”

“You are a sinner,” she said, slapping me across the face. “You are a disgrace to this family. I would rather have a criminal for a son than a pervert. If you want to remain part of this family, you will cease this deviant behaviour immediately; otherwise, I want you out of this house.”

“Mom, please… Don’t say that. It’s not my fault. I tried to resist these feelings. Believe me, I tried.” My eyes were starting to tear up.

“You didn’t try hard enough,” she said.

“This is how God made me, Mom. I can’t change that.”

Her eyes became dark, and her pupils dilated, “Don’t you take the lord’s name in vain! Why do you insist on hurting us like this?”

“I don’t want to hurt you! Do you think this is to hurt you?”

“Liar!” Her face was so close to mine that I could smell her breath. Then she walked out.

I ran outside, slammed the door behind me, and sat on the front steps, trembling. I couldn’t stop sobbing. I called Chad and asked him if I could crash at his place.

“What happened?” Chad asked.

“My parents found out I was gay! They saw the video on my laptop. The things they said to me were so hurtful. I can’t live here anymore! All that matters to them is what the bible says! They’re ready to throw me out! I don’t mean anything to them!”

“Calm down,” Chad said. “I’ll come to pick you up. Pack your things.”

I went inside, grabbed all that would fit in my duffle bag, and stormed back outside to wait for Chad. I didn’t bother telling my parents where I was going; they wouldn’t care anyway. Chad drove up the driveway, I got in, and we left.

“What did you tell your parents?”

“I told them what you told me,” Chad said.

“Are they cool with me coming over?”

“Yes, they’re fine with it. How are you holding up?”

“I’m not sure. I don’t know what to think. I feel so ashamed.”

“Don’t. It’s not your fault.” As we pulled up the driveway to his house, Chad suggested that I see a school counsellor next week. “Maybe they can help.”

“Yeah, maybe. Thanks for everything,” I said.

As we walked in, Chad’s parents met us at the door. His mom said, “Hi, Elliott, welcome. I want you to feel comfortable here. Consider this your home now. Chad told us a bit of what happened, and we’re so sorry you had to live that.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Hardwicke.

“Come, I’ll show you your room,” Chad said as we walked up the stairs. “Rest up. If you need anything, I’m just across the hall. It will be alright, I promise.” Chad hugged me and went back downstairs.

I sat on the bed, hunched over with my head in my hands, rocking. “What am I suppose to do now? Am I such a bad person?”

About the Author  

Kristian Daniels writes coming of age, gay romance and gay love stories. His stories are about the life and tribulations of the LGBTQs community, their fight to be accepted and loved. It’s also about their struggles, rejection and their suffering. Writing a novel was always a thirst for him, and with Stolen Heart, it became a reality

Author Links

Blog/Website  |   Facebook   |  Twitter  


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one of two paperback copies of “Stolen Heart” (each dedicated to the winner)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Blog Tour: Love on the Horizon by R.J. Peterson

Author R. J. Peterson and Vibrant Promotions visit with the Love on the Horizon blog tour! Read more about the contemporary romance today!

Love on the Horizon

R.J. Peterson

Gay Romance

Release Date: 05.04.21


Two years after losing his husband, the last thing widower Rob Asher wants to do is go on a cruise-for-two by himself. But after some practical advice from his best friend, Rob realizes that his husband wouldn’t have wanted him to hide away from the world with only his grief for company. So despite some lingering doubts, Rob packs his bags for his cruise adventure and flies to Barcelona to board the Ocean Wanderer.

Actor Ben Rockingham has just finished a whirlwind promotional tour around Europe and is looking forward to a week long cruise so he can relax and unwind. He’s felt alone for far too long and doesn’t foresee that changing anytime soon. But a chance encounter in a hotel bar has Ben feeling things he hasn’t contemplated for a very long time.

He and Rob hit it off right away and Ben is both intrigued by and attracted to this conflicted man. Is it possible that Rob is the one who's been missing from Ben's life all these years, and can Ben help Rob move past his grief so they have a chance at a future together? They have one week aboard the Ocean Wanderer to find out and the stakes are high on the high seas.

Universal Link:


Ben rolled over and looked at the clock on the nightstand. The alarm on his phone would go off in fifteen minutes. Just enough time to lie there and think about yesterday. Meeting Rob at the bar had been a pleasant surprise. And though Rob recognized him right away, he didn’t act like he was an over-the-top fan who only wanted to chat with Ben for bragging rights later. He just seemed like an all-around nice guy.

Rob was handsome, but there was more to it than just his good looks. Sure, Ben had always found both men and women attractive, but no man had put butterflies in his stomach since Ryan back in college. Until now. Fuck, was there any chance that Rob maybe felt the same way? Yes, he was gay, but his husband died two years ago and he was obviously still in mourning; only natural considering how long they had been together.

What do I know? I haven’t had feelings like this for such a long time—wait, do I have feelings for Rob? 

Something is definitely going on here, but I’m not really sure what. Ryan was a great boyfriend, but it was the ‘80s then and we had hidden our feelings from pretty much everyone. We’d known each other for years and just kind of fell into a romance after admitting that we found each other attractive. At the time, there was so much homophobia out there and neither one of us had been ready to be out and proud. Over time, we had drifted apart and then I met Caroline. And while we got along great at the beginning, our relationship had mostly been rocky, if I was being honest. We did have Kyle though, so it hadn’t been all bad.

“Okay,” he said aloud, “I had a short relationship with a guy thirty-plus years ago and then a longer relationship and marriage with a woman a few years after that, and not much of anything since then.” He paused a moment, trying to organize his thoughts. “Both of those relationships had taken a while to develop. I’d never experienced ‘love at first sight’ or ‘lust at first sight’ or whatever the hell this was. Sure, a few dates here and there, but nothing that really felt completely right. For so many years I thought that either I was bi or that Ryan was just a one-time thing.”

But now, after spending just a few hours with Rob, he’s all I can think about.

Ben remembered a movie set he had been on a few years ago. He’d been chatting with one of the crew one day and the guy mentioned that he was ‘demi.’ 

“Demi? What the hell is that?” Ben had wanted to know.

“Demisexual,” the guy had replied. “I like girls and I like guys, but unless I have an emotional connection to them, I can’t get serious. Casual sex just doesn’t do it for me, but if we connect emotionally, it’s magical.”

That had stuck in the back of Ben’s mind and sometimes he thought that maybe he was demisexual too. He had done a bit of research at one point and it seemed like the emotional connection took a bit of time to develop. That certainly fit in with what he’d experienced before. It had been so long since he felt anything for anyone, he had started to think maybe he was asexual. Now, those emotions were starting to stir again when he thought of Rob. Was this really happening?

Ben’s phone began to chime, so he reached over and shut off the alarm, then got up and began to get ready for the new day.

About the author

R.J. Peterson is a retired graphic designer. 

He is an avid reader, preferably while sipping a vodka martini or some bourbon on the rocks. RJ’s had a long and varied career, including library page, car wash attendant, customer service representative, interpreter for the deaf, travel agent, and graphic designer in the marijuana industry. He also worked in banking for twenty-five years. In addition to starting up a writing career, he still works as a freelance designer, creating book covers and other items for several authors.

RJ loves to travel and has been on 40+ cruises. When not on a cruise, he and his husband live in New England.

Love On The Horizon is his first book.

Where to find RJ




Twitter: @RJPeterson4

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Review: The Homecoming Prince (The Castaway Prince #3) by Isabelle Adler

Having returned to the continent following Warren’s illness, Stephan and Warren are certain they’ve escaped the notice of spies from Seveihar and are ready to build a new future for themselves. However, their quiet life is shaken once again when they receive a message from Stephan’s sister, Nessa. She begs him to return home and help her stand against their older brother, Robert, who is abusing his power by oppressing his subjects and starting an unnecessary war with the neighboring country of Esnia. 

With dark family secrets coming to light, Stephan is faced with a difficult choice between safety and happiness in exile with the man he loves, and his duty as a prince to protect his people from tyranny. And yet, amid all the dangers, the greatest risk he might face is a broken heart… 

The Homecoming Prince is the final book in The Castaway Prince series. For best enjoyment, please read the books in order.

I'm not so great with goodbyes so I'm going to keep this short for fear of face leakage. 

Obviously I joined this party for superficial reasons but along the way Adler developed two really strong characters in Stephan and Warren that I came to like and admire and now find myself a little bereft that I no longer have more adventures to look forward to from them.

However, the finale ended on a strong and satisfying note in part by seamlessly folding in a few relevant current topics to this fantasy world that surprised and delighted me. I wish I could go into a couple things in more detail but I don't want to spoil, so suffice to say I went on an emotional rollercoaster and wouldn't mind if Adler were to pivot and focus on a different character(s) in this world.

Which leads me to the world building which is as impeccable as always and almost on par with Adler's prose, which I continue to be enamored by even though there seemed to be more editing issues in this one than previous installments. Regardless, I enjoyed the finale and would recommend the whole series to fantasy adventure lovers.

A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Release Blitz + Giveaway: Rattling Chains (Bound to the Spirits #1) by T. Strange

Author T. Strange and Pride Publishing celebrate the release of paranormal BDSM thriller, Rattling Chains (Bound to the Spirits #1)! Check out today's promo and enter in the giveaway for a chance to win a fabulous gift package and get a FREE T. Strange romance book!

Rattling Chains by T. Strange

Book 1 in the Bound to the Spirits series

Word Count: 71,784
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 294



Add to Goodreads

Book Description

Ghosts are popping up where they shouldn’t. Harlan, a ghost janitor for the police, suspects there’s a serial killer on the loose—but no one believes him.

Harlan Brand is a medium who was abandoned by his parents at a school for the psychically gifted. He grew up lonely but safe from the ghosts that terrorized his childhood.

But now, at twenty-one, he’s out in the real world. He works as a ghost janitor for the Toronto Police Service, cleaning up after crimes and hauntings in the Greater Toronto Area. Adding to the anxiety of leaving the ghost-warded safety of his school, the cop assigned as his partner seems to hate him, he’s having confusing feelings for a BDSM club owner who brings out his deepest fantasies and ghosts are popping up where they shouldn’t.

Using the ghosts as clues, Harlan begins to suspect there’s a serial killer loose, but no one believes him. Harlan will stop at nothing to discover who—or what—is preying on his city.

Reader advisory: This book contains mention of implied rape and implied violence, references to murder, torture and body horror.


Harlan stared at the scuffed, dented metal strip across the bottom of the doorway. Behind him was worn linoleum, with a pattern so familiar that he could have drawn it from memory. Ahead was a concrete sidewalk. It was scribbled with cracks, and there were piles of sodden leaves gathered anywhere the wind couldn’t touch them, dark spots where people had spat out their gum, cigarette butts, candy wrappers and so many people.

Inside—order, sameness, routine.

Outside—chaos, change… Excitement.

Harlan wasn’t looking for excitement or change. He wanted very much to turn around, away from the physical and mental threshold the doorway represented and vanish into the building that had housed him since he had been five years old.

“Do you need a push?” Tom asked, gently.

It was still difficult for Harlan to think of him as Tom. He’d known the man since he was eight as ‘Mr. Addison’.

Mr. Addison had called Harlan into his office a few days before. There had been a paper on his desk with an official-looking stamp that Harlan hadn’t been able to identify before the man had covered it with his broad, hairy hand.

‘Am…am I in trouble, Mr. Addison?’

Mr. Addison had laughed and said, ‘No, of course not! Please, call me Tom. You’re an adult now, and I’m no longer your teacher.’

Those words had dropped something heavy and poisonous deep into Harlan’s guts and it had stayed there for the last three days. It had been there while he’d packed his few belongings, while he’d said goodbye to everyone he’d ever known his whole life—everyone who gave any kind of shit about him, anyway.

Harlan shook his head. No, he didn’t need—didn’t want—a push. He wanted that letter to have never arrived. He wanted to stay in the Centre, the only home he could really remember.

After leaving him there, his parents had visited for a few years, and it had been strained for all three of them. Then Harlan’s parents had had a new baby, one without ‘the’ ability. They’d visited once a month, then twice a year—his birthday and Christmas—then just sent cards. And after a few years…nothing. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d heard from them, but it wasn’t a relationship he intended to pursue, in or out of the Centre. They’d made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with him—and the feeling was mutual.

He didn’t really consider anyone at the Centre his family, but it was his home, and he was being forced to leave with only his tiny, overstuffed duffle bag. Most of the things inside were just silly little presents the other kids had made him, not even personal items. He was also holding an envelope that Mr. Addison—Tom—had pressed into his hand with great importance, telling him there was three thousand dollars in it.

Harlan had never had to worry about money before. The resident children were given allowances, to spend or save as they chose, and some kids snuck out of the Centre to buy candy—or cigarettes and alcohol when they were older—but Harlan had never been tempted to leave. He’d been given everything he needed there, and they’d kept him safe. A cigarette that smelled bad and made him cough or a beer that made his head swim and made him sick in the morning weren’t worth the risk of stepping beyond the Centre’s encircling walls. He would have been happy to stay forever, maybe even eventually become a teacher like Mr. Addison… Tom. But apparently that wasn’t his decision to make.

“Harlan? Is everything all right?” Tom asked.

No. Everything was not all right. It would never be all right again. “Fine, Mr.— Tom.”

Tom grinned at Harlan—the smile of a man who would, in just a few minutes, be shutting himself back in the safety of the Centre, closing out the rest of the world.

Harlan tried to return the smile, close-mouthed, afraid that if he opened it, he’d throw up.

Looking past Harlan, Tom waved. “Ah! Your ride’s here!”

A sleek, black car with tinted windows drew up beside them. The driver climbed out, circled the car and opened the door closest to Harlan without speaking.

“You’ve got everything?” Tom asked. The too-enthusiastic, bubbly voice that had encouraged Harlan as an eight-year-old didn’t have the same effect at twenty-one.

Harlan shrugged, throwing his bag into the back seat and climbing in after it.

Tom sprawled one elbow on the roof of the car, leaning way down until his face was uncomfortably close to Harlan’s. “Great! And don’t worry—the car’s been specially treated. Didn’t want to stress you out too much on your first day! Give me a call if you need anything.” His voice was positively saccharine, and Harlan wanted to punch it.

Tom slammed the door and rapped on the trunk as though he were dismissing an ambulance.

Harlan didn’t look back.

He closed his eyes when he saw the first ghost. He’d seen plenty, first as a kid, then when his parents finally realized what was going on, in the controlled environment of the Centre. As a child, he hadn’t understood that other people couldn’t see his ‘visitors.’ They’d been excellent playmates, until one wouldn’t go away. Harlan had been too afraid to sleep, jumping at noises no one else could hear, having screaming fits with no apparent cause.

His parents had taken him to psychiatrist after psychiatrist, desperate to deny that their son might be a medium. They’d wanted something medical, something they could cure with pills and therapy. They hadn’t wanted their son to be one of those people.

Answering the doctors’ questions, Harlan realized for the first time that he really was the only one who saw the ‘see-through people’. He’d always thought his parents were just ignoring them.

The psychiatrists tried to convince Harlan—and his parents—that it was just a phase, imaginary, nothing to be afraid of. The ghosts didn’t go away, no matter how hard Harlan tried not to believe in them. Finally, the Centre had called Harlan’s folks. He’d found out later that one of the psychiatrists they’d seen had taken pity on Harlan, contacted the Centre and informed them she had a patient who was potentially a medium. The Centre had invited Harlan and his parents for a tour. His mom and dad certainly didn’t believe in that sort of thing, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence, but they had run out of options and Harlan wouldn’t even go into his bedroom without screaming. He hadn’t slept in days, and the whole family had been desperate.

Young as he’d been, Harlan remembered his first step past the threshold of the Centre. It was…silent. There were no voices here—unlike everywhere else, where they surrounded him like a wall of sound, people he could and couldn’t see clamouring for his attention. There was no one but those he knew were really there—him and his parents. He realized he’d never felt this blissfully alone before. There had always been ghosts. And now they were gone.

He closed his eyes and breathed it in—the silence, the solitude.

He startled when he felt a soft touch on his shoulder. A few minutes of peace had been wonderful, but he knew it couldn’t last.

An older man—even older than the grandparents Harlan was no longer allowed to see after he’d frightened them by passing on messages from people who’d died long before he was born—was kneeling in front of him.

“You must be Harlan.”

Not wanting to speak, to shatter this beautiful silence, Harlan nodded.

The man smiled. “Do you like it here, Harlan?”

“Yes! Very much!” Harlan had said. He’d been afraid that if he didn’t speak up, didn’t answer this man’s question, he might have to leave. He’d wanted to stay…as long as possible. Just a few more minutes.

“There’s someone I’d like you to meet. If I’m right, she won’t be much of a surprise to you. And if I’m wrong, you can go on home.”

Harlan nodded again, fighting to keep his face blank. He didn’t want to go home, where it was always noisy and crowded with people only he could see or hear, never mind the thing in his bedroom—

The man offered Harlan his hand to shake, just as seriously as he would an adult.

Harlan shook, just as solemnly. The man’s hand was pleasantly cool and dry, and he didn’t squeeze too hard. Harlan wished his own hands weren’t so clammy.

“I’m Dr. Cunningham, the director here at the Centre. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Harlan.”

Harlan tensed—just another doctor, more tests to see what kind of crazy he was. And that was a pity, because it was so lovely here. Harlan didn’t think he was crazy, but his parents did, so he must be. They just hadn’t found anyone who could prove it.

Dr. Cunningham laughed. “Don’t worry. I’m not… This test will be different than any you’ve done before. I promise.”

Standing, Dr. Cunningham gave Harlan’s parents a reassuring wave before immediately returning his attention to Harlan. “Would you like to come with me?”

Harlan had heard plenty of stories from ghosts about how to tell if someone was dangerous, what would get a person killed and who to trust. Dr. Cunningham felt safe and genuine.

He nodded, allowing Dr. Cunningham to take his hand and lead him deeper into the building. They left his parents behind, but he didn’t mind very much.

This part of the building was different. The front part, where they’d come in and where they’d left Harlan’s parents, had carpets and art on the walls, like a hotel lobby. Here, the floors were bare concrete, the walls plain white with pipes visible overhead.

Dr. Cunningham’s shoes clicked as he walked. The sound, the way the doctor walked with confidence, as though he belonged here and expected everyone to know it, made Harlan feel special. He belonged here, too, and he’d take any test they wanted to prove it.

Maybe reading Harlan’s excitement as nervousness, Dr. Cunningham gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “Don’t worry. The dormitories are far more comfortable. This is the lab, and you won’t be spending much time here. That is,” he said, smiling down at Harlan, “if you pass this test, which I very much think you will.”

The doctor winked, and again Harlan felt as though he was being included in a wonderful secret, one not even his parents knew.

“We have a ghost in here.”

Harlan stiffened. He’d never had a grownup talk about a ghost like it was real, and he felt a surge of bitterness when he realized the doctor had just been making fun of him like everyone else did.

Dr. Cunningham gave Harlan a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry. She’s quite safe. She won’t hurt you.” He laughed. “She actually used to work here, in the lab. She always talked about becoming a research ghost when she died.” His face turned grim. “She should have had many years ahead of her, but… Well, she still works here, just in a different capacity. You don’t have to be afraid.”

“I’m not afraid.” He was, though—afraid that Dr. Cunningham was teasing him and afraid that he wasn’t. Ever since that horrible woman had taken over his bedroom, ghosts weren’t fun anymore.

“Good lad.” Dr. Cunningham gave Harlan’s shoulder a brief squeeze. “I’ll be right here with you the whole time. When you’re ready, step onto that pad.” He pointed at a metal circle set in the concrete floor. “This whole building is warded against ghosts, except for a few select places like that one. You won’t run into any by accident here…if you choose to stay.”

Harlan bit his lower lip, hard, so he wouldn’t cry. He wanted to stay. He had to pass this test.

“If, at any time, you get scared or you want to stop, just step outside the circle and she’ll disappear again.”

“W-what do I have to do?”

“Just talk to her. Say ‘hi’. It’s only polite. She’ll tell you a special word that will let me know you’ve really seen her.”

“I just have to talk?”

Dr. Cunningham nodded.

Harlan drew in a slow, deep breath and briefly closed his eyes. He could do that. He’d always found it easier to talk to ghosts than to ‘real’ people. He could never tell what the living were thinking or feeling, but ghosts kind of…projected their feelings, whether they meant to or not.

Breath hitching in his chest, Harlan stepped forward onto the pad. He realized he had his eyes closed and had to force them open. His hands were trembling.

She appeared slowly, not just popping into his view the way ghosts sometimes did, and he suspected she’d done it on purpose so she wouldn’t scare him.

“Hello. Are you Harlan?”

He nodded, just a tiny tilt of his head. He’d learned to hide when he was listening to a ghost, and he almost never spoke to them out loud anymore. He glanced back at Dr. Cunningham, but he just gave Harlan an encouraging nod. He didn’t look at all angry or mocking.

“It’s very nice to meet you. I’m Gwen. Are you ready for the word?”

He nodded again, a little more confidently.

“The word is ‘ludicrous’. Ludicrous. You’ll remember?”

“Yes,” he said, shyly.

She waved and started slowly fading.

He stepped out of the circle and turned to face Dr. Cunningham again. “She said…ludicrous.”

Dr. Cunningham beamed. “You passed the test.”

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About the Author

T. Strange

T. Strange didn't want to learn how to read, but literacy prevailed and she hasn't stopped reading—or writing—since. She's been published since 2013, and she writes M/M romance in multiple genres, including paranormal and BDSM. T.'s other interests include cross stitching, gardening, watching terrible horror movies, playing video games, and finding injured pigeons to rescue. Originally from White Rock, BC, she lives on the Canadian prairies, where she shares her home with her wife, cats, guinea pigs and other creatures of all shapes and sizes. She's very easy to bribe with free food and drinks—especially wine.

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Release Blitz + Giveaway: Ternary by Kristin L. Stamper

Tenary is out from NineStar Press! Join author Kristin L. Stamper and IndiGo Marketing in celebration of the MMF sci-fi release! Discover more about the tale and enter in the $10 NSP credit giveaway!

Title: Ternary

Author: Kristin L. Stamper

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/31/2021

Heat Level: 2 - Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male/Female (Male/Male interaction)

Length: 81300

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, sci-fi, AI, scientists, gay, bisexual, MMF, enemies-to-lovers, established couple, reunited, aliens, alien artifact, court trial, mystery, humorous, interracial

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Elora isn’t a robot, but she isn’t human either. She’s an abominable combination of the two, a cyborg. For this offense, she must face judgment in a court of law. There, it will be decided if she’s a person, owed the same rights as any other, or an object, owed no rights at all.

But when a last-ditch effort to demonstrate her humanity backfires, Elora is faced with an element of human nature she always hoped to avoid: love. The consciousness of a dead man is accidentally downloaded into her cybernetic brain, and she becomes infatuated with his still-living husband—whether she wants to or not.

For Elora, making her way in a solar system that fears and hates her has been hard enough. Now, she must do it as an intermediary between lovers while keeping her own heart in check. With the trial fast approaching, and anti-robot protesters demanding her head, Elora can’t afford to get swept up in someone else’s love story.


Kristin L. Stamper © 2021
All Rights Reserved

It’s the first taste of freedom I’ve had in weeks. It could also be my last. I march handcuffed down the labyrinthian corridors of the Aidos to be ejected out of an airlock, or have my metal components melted down and recycled into engine parts, or be squashed in a giant garbage disposal. No one’s actually told me where I’m going, but it can’t be anywhere good.

An armored squad of meatheads forced me from my cell without a word. They press the barrels of their rifles into my back to keep me walking. The Aidos was assigned to deliver me to the Minos Justice Station for my trial, but we should have arrived three days ago. Plenty of time to find a dark corner of empty space where they could ditch my body without being noticed. I’d been told my confinement was for my safety as well as everyone else’s but always suspected the scale tipped slightly in favor of everyone else’s. Looks like I was right.

We finally arrive at our destination. The door hisses open…and it isn’t an airlock. It’s a conference room. A massive blank viewscreen hangs behind a shiny circular table. Paul Margot, my lawyer, sits beside it, balancing his chair on its back legs and playing a handheld video game. Not a care in the world. As usual, an expensive suit and tie drape his gangly old body, and he’s combed his scarce hair to the side to hide the bald patches. The smell of peppermint wafts from him, the odor so strong I swear I see a green menthol cloud looming in the air.

A Japanese man stands with his arms crossed on the other side of the screen. He isn’t wearing the black-armored uniform of the guards but rather the stark white with gold trim of the Aidos crew. He has a dashing gentleman sort of look about him, and the decorations on his shoulder suggest he’s high in rank. But despite whatever power he might have, he’s hesitant to approach me—like I’m a live bomb. And it’s not an unfair comparison. During the Great Human-AI War, many robots were exactly that. Humankind nearly went extinct in that war, so I don’t blame him for handling me with caution.

A million questions pop into my mind at once, but I settle for the most pertinent: “What the hell?”

“Well, hello to you too,” Paul says.

“See?” the Japanese officer says to him instead of me. “She made it just fine. Now, I’m going to have to ask you to step out.”

“Actually, I think I’ll stay. No one talks to my client without me present.”

“I’m not interested in the legal matters concerning your client, Mr. Margot.”

“And I’m not interested in whatever secret sciency things you have onboard this ship.” Paul laughs. “But I stay. Go right ahead. She can be a little snippy though. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

I’m so grateful for Paul. I know the things he does are because he wants to win his case, but sometimes I feel like he actually cares about me.

Still. “Is someone going to tell me what’s going on?” I say, louder this time.

“I apologize, Ms. Cussons.” The Japanese officer stares at me with the same stupefied ogle everyone gives me the first time. There’s been a great deal of discussion over what exactly I am—ranging from papers published in scientific journals to angry rants on internet forums—but the term “half-robotic abomination” would seem to apply. I prefer Metal-American. Either way, most people know about Elora Cussons, the illegal cyborg in the news, and when they hear my story, they think of a half-robotic, hideous monster. When they actually see me, it’s never quite what they were picturing. On the outside, I’m a perfectly ordinary, unspoiled, twenty-two-year-old woman from Kauai. My tan skin and long, mud-brown hair are indistinguishable from any of my neighbors’. Although, the red prison jumpsuit isn’t in fashion.

“Do you know who I am?” the man asks after a moment.

“That’s a negative.” I mock his uptight military bearing.

“My name is Hamasaki. I’m captain of the Aidos. I hope you’ve been treated well.”

“Mm-hm, the brig is simply lovely.”

He clears his throat and straightens his blouse. “I’ll get right to the point, Ms. Cussons. Do you know where we are?”

“You should probably assume I don’t know anything. It’ll be easier.”

“Right. Sorry. This is an unusual situation for me too. We’re parked outside of the Great Compass. A member of our crew is head of research here, and he’s gotten himself into some trouble.”

“Wait, the Great Compass?” Paul cuts in. “I thought research on the Compass was shut down. Some guy died or something last year?”

“Yes, someone did. That’s why our people don’t interact with the technology here anymore. It’s observational study only. At least, it’s supposed to be. Turns out, our guy bit off more than he could chew and was injured a few days ago. We were on our way to pick him up and transport him to the medical facilities on the Minos, which is how we got tagged with giving you a lift. Come to find out, it’s a little more complicated than we thought. He’s inside the core of the Compass itself, which is deadly to biological lifeforms. Going in there was how we lost our crewmember last year, and we can’t risk any more losses by sending in a rescue team. We’ve been scratching our heads since we got here, trying to think up solutions, and one of our people thinks she might have something.”

“You want me to do it,” I conclude. It was easy to follow his story to its inevitable end.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Paul practically bellows. “If you’re trying to force my client—”

“No, nothing like that.” Hamasaki reclaims the reins of the conversation. “No one is forcing Ms. Cussons into anything. But with robotic machines being illegal, she’s our best chance. We’ve had experts in medicine, biology, cybernetics, the whole bit reviewing her files, and everyone agrees. Because she’s more mechanical than biological, if there’s ever been a candidate for safe exposure to the Great Compass, it’s her.” He returns his attention to me. “We wouldn’t ask this of you if we didn’t think there was a high chance of success. We’ve already gotten permission from the council handling your case, and they’ve agreed to push your trial back. But of course, you’re free to refuse. What do you say? Want out of your box? Want to be a hero?”

It’s obvious why he’s asking me himself rather than send a lackey. He’s a salesman. He’s charismatic and energetic, and his good looks don’t hurt either. An excited gleam twinkles in his eye, and I can tell he thinks I’m sold.

I can’t wait to disappoint him.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Kristin L. Stamper is a writer of YA and adult science fiction. Her interest in storytelling dates back to her childhood when she brought her ideas to life through play-pretend. Once society had successfully pressured her into knocking that off, writing became her new creative outlet. After high school, she spent seven years as an Information Systems Technician in the US Navy, gaining experience in computers and robotics. Currently, she is the mother of a toddler whose favorite pastime is banging on the keyboard while mommy tries to write.

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