Saturday, April 30, 2016

Book Review: Desolation Angel by Layla Dorine

Dare gets lost in music only he can hear.

Since childhood, it’s rolled through his mind, drowning out the rest of the world. When he comes back to himself he has the notes and lyrics for the songs his band plays. But he wonders if such talent is worth it, when the rest of his life is such a mess. All Sionn ever wanted was Dare’s attention.

But that won’t happen as long as Dare has his ‘musical dreams’, so he keeps his attraction a secret. Too bad it’s impossible to keep anything secret when you live with your three best friends. When Sionn’s temper reaches breaking point, he sets Dare on a quest to ‘fix’ himself, in the hopes of gaining the love of the man he adores.

But Fate has a funny way of twisting things. And ‘normal’ is just a state of mind, isn’t it? While Dare struggles to change, secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested, and the band is offered the chance of a lifetime. Can they pull themselves together fast enough to take advantage of it, or will Dare’s desire to be ‘normal’ unravel all their lives?

Jewel's rating:


Desolation Angel is a mostly enjoyable story about a young man, Dare, who gets lost in his music. It didn't feel like a romance, at all, though. Although Dare has been in love with Sionn and vice versa for ages, neither one got the courage to act upon it. And when they finally do, it was pretty anticlimactic, to be honest. I didn't really feel their relationship at all until really late in the book, and even then, it was secondary. Also, there is no steam, to speak of. With exception to one brief oral scene and an undetailed sex scene, all the sex is off page entirely.

Dare is in his early 20's, I think, but it was hard to get a read on him there. He reads much younger since everyone else in the band pretty much takes care of him and it seemed to me that they often treated him like a child, as well. And he really has the tendency to act quite childish. He can't hold down a job because of his waking music dreams. They make him appear to be spaced out and hard to reach. Sometimes, they put him in danger, like if he is cooking, or driving. Not an awesome combo, for sure. But he mostly managed, until he got it in his head that he wanted to be "normal". Oh, Dare, normal is just a setting on the dryer. Unfortunately, it takes Dare the whole book to figure that out.

But you get Dare on stage and he is magic. Everything that is Dare just shines there.

Blogtour: Ocean Of Secrets by Jerry Sacher

Please say hello to Jerry Sacher and 

Ocean Of Secrets 


Andrew Elliot, the son of a Scottish Nobleman, is sent to America accompanied by his fiancée and her brother. But theirs is no love match. Andrew's family insists that he marries to 'cure' him of his feelings for someone else--the son of the caretaker on his father's estate.

Matthew Ahearn, newly orphaned, dreams of Texas and cowboys. He lands a job as a third class steward on a ship bound for America, and it is there that his and Andrew's worlds collide. The two men--and their secrets--are brought together, lost in the magic of an ocean voyage, one that will always be remembered.

The year is 1912, and they're about to board R.M.S Titanic…

Jack and Rose; Edith and Edward of Noel Coward's Cavalcade of 1933; Lady Marjorie Bellamy on Upstairs Downstairs. What did all of these fictional people have in common? The sinking of the Titanic played a major role in their stories… So why did I choose to write another story about the sinking of the Titanic? 

I have been interested in the Titanic since first grade, when I was first able to read a book about the ill-fated liner. The stories of the passengers and crew who were there have always fascinated me. I always wanted to write one of my own, and to tell in my own way a story that, until now, hasn't been told: the romance between two men with the great ship as the background of their world.

There was known to have been at least one gay couple traveling on the Titanic: a young man in second class named Albert Fynney, who was accompanied by a male companion named William Gaskell. Both of them were the subject of many rumors that had circulated prior to boarding the liner.

A first class passenger, noted artist Frank Millet, wrote to a friend back home from the ship from the last port of call--Queenstown, Ireland--describing "A queer lot of people" and "Plenty of our kind" of people among the passengers. Who could he have been talking about? My antagonist, Andrew, is befriended by Mr. Millet. Could he have met someone like Andrew and written to his friend about him from the ship? It's possible.

The story begins with Andrew Elliot, the son of a Scottish nobleman, engaged to a woman he doesn't love, and being sent to America aboard the Titanic, chaperoned by her brother. The hasty match has been arranged by Andrew's parents in hopes he will get over his feelings for a young man on the family estate, and to keep the family from scandal.

On the Titanic, he meets a young crewman named Matthew, who has secrets of his own. The lives and fates of all of them are thrown together on the night of April 14, 1912. Who will survive?

Here is a short excerpt:

Bookblast: On The Outside by Louise Lyons

Please welcome Louise Lyons with 

On The Outside 


When Craig Ferguson is released from prison after a year’s sentence for fighting, he returns home to his father and brother, and the family business. Throwing himself back into the life he left, with family, work, and women, Craig tries to forget his time on the inside, but there’s one thing he just can’t get out of his mind.

Cell mate, Rocky Kirk, still has six months of his sentence to go, and after a year together in a tiny cell, Craig misses him more than he cares to admit. He does his best to forget, but when Rocky is released, and arrives on Craig’s doorstep, homeless and hurt, everything that happened between them comes flooding back.

Craig’s family takes in Rocky, now known as Kirk, and gives him a home and a job, but he’s reluctant to join in with their partying, and never seems entirely comfortable in their home. A few months later Kirk announces he has to leave, and when Craig presses him for an explanation, Kirk blurts out that his unwanted feelings for his friend are hurting him too much to stay. His admission changes everything, but Craig’s uncertainty, and fears of his father discovering their secret, threatens to ruin anything that could develop between them.


I turned away from him, barged past Dad, and took the stairs two at a time. The bathroom door shook in its frame when I kicked it shut behind me. My temper rapidly subsided, and I risked a peek at myself in the mirror above the sink. The color in my face faded, leaving me pale and wild-eyed, breathing hard. What the hell just happened?
I replayed the scene in my head, starting with the almost-kiss between Stuart and Catherine. Was there something between them? Was it really nothing? Was I pissed off because she was supposed to be dating me, or was I actually hurt? I didn't feel hurt. It didn't seem that important anymore. She probably wouldn't want to see me again after my outburst and I wasn't convinced I minded all that much. What the fuck did that say about us? The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was only angry with myself, mostly because when I’d finally got what I wanted, I didn’t want it that much anymore.
"Craig?" A gentle tap came on the door. Kirk.
My rapid heartrate escalated, and I scowled at my reflection. "Leave me alone."

"Come on, that hand needs looking at."

Sighing, I sat on the edge of the bath. "Come in."
Kirk slipped into the room and closed the door behind him. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, just fucking brilliant."
"I'm sorry."

"You didn't do anything."
"You know what I mean. Do you think there's anything going on with her and Stuart?"

"How the fuck should I know? It looked like it, didn't it?" I shrugged and blew my breath out hard. "I don't fucking care anyway."
"I thought you liked her."

"Yeah, well. Maybe I should have stuck with the one-nighters."
"You don't mean that. I thought you wanted a relationship."

"I don't wanna talk about it." I didn’t want to think about it anymore either. My hand stung like a bastard, and I noticed for the first time that blood was dripping all over the tiles under my feet. Before I could move, Kirk grabbed a folded towel, placed it on my knee and laid my hand on it, palm down.
"There's a lot of glass in there."

"You reckon you can get it out?"

Friday, April 29, 2016

Kindle Weekly Deals~ Week of 4/23/16- 4/29/16

"Professional Distance" by Silvia Violet- M/M, contemporary romance~ Price drop to $0.99!

"Will & Patrick Wake Up Married" by Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths- M/M, contemporary romance~ Price drop to $0.99!

"Red Hot: Coffin Nails MC California" by K.A. Merikan- M/M, contemporary romance~ Price drop to $0.99!

Book Review: His Fateful Heap of Days (More Heat Than the Sun #8), by John Wiltshire


Only a few months from his fiftieth year, Nikolas is feeling a distinct wobble in his formidable certainties. Aleksey Primakov appears to have become irrelevant. All he needs, therefore, is to be dragged into an adventure with Devon’s answer to the three musketeers. How many times can he tell Ben and his moronic friends that a mutilated body buried on Dartmoor has nothing to do with them? But not only does this desecration slowly become their business, it cuts to the heart of the life they have created together. It’s just as well, perhaps, that generals never do actually retire…

Jewel's rating:

After coming out of the previous book where my heart was stomped upon, thoroughly, I was so happy to find Ben and Nik back where they needed to be. Some of the dynamics have changed with how Ben and Nik interact with Tim and Squeezy, though, and that was certainly fresh. Ben's relationships with his friends are still strained from his foray into finding religion while Nik's relationship with them has improved.

Though Nik and Ben are solid, Nik has managed to find a couple insecurities regarding his age. He's not young anymore (though he's certainly not old, either) and he's realized that he needs to work harder to gain and maintain a certain level of fitness and even then, he's not going to ever be at his peak again. He's pushing 50 and he's realized that his youth is gone and he fears that Ben will go with it.

Blogtour: Not Just Passing Through by Jamie Dean

Please say hello to Jamie Dean and 

Not Just Passing Through 


Socially awkward, closeted virgin Avery Malcolm passes his days and nights running his bigoted aunt’s motel in rural New Mexico. He dreams of getting away and hitting the road, but with one friend, a few acquaintances, and no real life to speak of outside his duties as front desk clerk, he doesn’t know if he’ll ever get a chance.

Fate sends hot drifter Chase Lancaster to the Red Ram Motel, riding in on his sexy black motorcycle. Within twenty-four hours, Avery’s life is turned upside down. Before long, even though Chase’s sexual interests seem to run exclusively toward women in bars, Avery finds himself falling for the beautiful biker with no permanent address. Chase is much more than his bad boy persona, so while it’s nice to have another friend, Avery doesn’t know how he’ll survive with his heart intact when Chase inevitably moves on.

Hi, I’m Jamie Dean, author of the new novel Not Just Passing Through. Joining me today is the lead character, Avery Malcolm, front desk clerk at the Red Ram Motel in Strider’s Point, New Mexico. Welcome, Mr. Malcolm. Thank you for being here, since I know you aren’t a fan of social situations.
Avery: Please call me Avery. Or Ave. And you’re welcome.
Jamie Dean: Your friend Lana tells me that you’re the go to person when it comes to town gossip, would you say that’s accurate?
Avery: No, I don’t think so.
Jamie Dean: But you do meet most new people before the rest of the town, don’t you?
Avery: Since they usually check into the motel before going for food or anything, I suppose that’s true.
Jamie Dean: And you see them when they’ve just come off the road, tired and perhaps not at their best. So you might learn things about them the casual observer might not get the chance to, don’t you think?
Avery: I suppose.
Jamie Dean: All right, well, what can you tell us about that new biker who’s moved into the motel? Is he single? Is he staying long?
Avery: What? He, um, that is, I don’t really know much about him...
Jamie Dean: Well, can you tell us his name, at least? Was it Chance?
Avery: Uh, Chase. He’s, um, I think he’s staying a couple of weeks. He’s single, but I don’t think he’s looking for anyone serious. He isn’t much on permanence.
Jamie Dean: You don’t think he’d stick around for the right person?
Avery: *sigh* Maybe. I don’t know.
Jamie Dean: Well, if he’s just a womanizer, maybe we should all just write him off. Doesn’t sound like anyone I’d want to get to know.
Avery: No! He’s not like that. He’s…  he’s actually really caring. He’s just too scared of losing anyone he cares about, so he tries not to care about anyone. He lost his parents when he was young and I think it still affects him.
Jamie Dean: Hm, sounds like maybe you know him, after all. Maybe someone besides Lana has a crush on our handsome drifter?
Avery: What? No, I don’t—that’s ridiculous! He’s just a friend. I was trying to protect his privacy when you asked about him, so I said I didn’t know him, but he’s my friend. He’s... he’s a good guy. Just don’t anyone out there get your hopes up, if you’re thinking he’s going to stop drifting and settle down and love you. Because it’s not going to happen and you’re just kidding yourself and making yourself miserable in the process. He’s never going to love you back. He can’t. So you need to forget it. Forget him. He can’t... He can’t...
Jamie Dean: Oh, dear! Here, take a tissue. I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you.
Avery: *hiccups* You want to know about Chase Lancaster? He’s the best person I’ve ever known. He’s loyal and generous and wickedly funny. He’s beautiful enough on the outside to use as a Christmas tree, but his inside is so beautiful it almost hurts to look at. He likes beer and movies and music and his bike and his sister and not a lot else, but what he loves, he loves passionately. He’s smarter than he will ever acknowledge and he can fix anything on his bike, even though he’s never been trained to do it. Chase Lancaster is amazing. And I’m lucky to know him. *stands and starts walking away*

Jamie Dean: Avery, please sit back down. Avery? Mr. Malcolm! I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen, our guest has just walked away. I think he’s got more than a crush. Readers, do you have any advice for him? Any similar stories you’d like to share? Leave a comment or come look me up on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook by my handle JamieDeanWrites, or talk to me at my website, Thanks for reading!

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Blogtour: No Good Deed by Michael Rupured

Please welcome Michael Rupured with 

No Good Deed 


On Christmas Eve in 1966, Philip Potter, a kind-hearted Smithsonian curator, wraps up his last-minute shopping. Meanwhile, his lover of several years takes his own life back in their home. Unaware of what awaits him, Philip drops off gifts at a homeless shelter, an act of generosity that will later make him a suspect in the murder of a male prostitute.

Following James’s shocking death, two men enter Philip’s life—and both drive yellow Continentals. One of them, though, is a killer, with the blood of at least six hustlers on his hands. And both are hiding something.

As Philip is about to discover, no good deed goes unpunished.

What’s In a Name?
Thanks for the opportunity to talk about No Good Deed, my first release from DSP Publications and the second Philip Potter Story. It’s an historical mystery/thriller prequel to Until Thanksgiving, the first book in the series. The series can be read in any order. A second edition of the third book (Happy Independence Day) will be released by DsPP in July.
No Good Deed was originally published by MLR Press (2013) as After Christmas Eve. Notice the holiday titles? That’s why Holiday Tales appears as the series title on some versions of Until Thanksgiving and Happy Independence Day.  Thanksgiving and Independence Day work well enough, but Christmas in the title created expectations for a different kind of story than I wrote.
When the opportunity to publish a second edition arose, I wanted a title more suggestive of the story. I tried on half a dozen different titles before settling on No Good Deed. Yes, there are a hundred novels with the same name, but it fit my story to a tee.
Phillip Potter is the main character. He acquired quite a few fans for his supporting role in Until Thanksgiving, including me. Kind, caring, and committed to helping others, Philip alludes to a past lover who had committed suicide thirty years earlier. No Good Deed begins with the moments leading up to the suicide and the generous act that makes him a murder suspect.

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Blogtour: Talk Dirty To Me by Jessie G.

Please say hello to Jessie G. and 

Talk Dirty To Me 


As a secret agent for the DEA, Snake’s gone deep into Devils Pride MC with the hope of bringing down the head of Miami’s lucrative drug trade and finds himself saddled with the club’s volatile and secretive SA instead. Unfortunately, after years as partners doing shit neither of them wanted to do for reasons neither of them felt comfortable sharing, Snake considers Trick his best friend. Now he’ll do anything to repair the damage his own necessary lies did to their friendship because, while Trick may have walked away from the MC, Snake needs someone he trusts to have his back.

Meanwhile, Snake’s contact at the DEA has him tied up in knots. The sexy voice and inappropriate comments have him walking around with a permanent set of blue balls. Life undercover is lonely and he lives for every phone call, but his own personal Deep Throat is skittish about committing to a date once Snake returns to headquarters. As far as Snake’s concerned, they only have one shot to build something together and he’s not willing to waste it.

Greg knows he’s not Snake’s type, or anyone’s for that matter. Former love interests called him plain, chubby, and boring. More comfortable in his tech cave than with people, he’s a grade A nerd who isn’t exactly GQ material. Normally he would never be brave enough to flirt with anyone—much less the very hot and very dangerous ginger who’d been starring in his nightly fantasies—but Snake needed something to keep him from getting lost undercover. What started out as a helping hand quickly became an integral part of their relationship—if one could call a five year phone conversation a relationship—and Greg is terrified that once Snake’s sees the wizard behind the curtain, he’ll lose the only man he’s ever loved.

Now the DEA has called Snake home to plan the next stage of the mission, leaving Greg no more places to hide. When fantasy and reality collide, will it be everything Snake hopes for or everything Greg fears? The trick will be staying alive long enough to figure out the answer.


Knowing what Gene needed before he actually asked was what made them a good team and his growing personal feelings aside, he believed they worked well together. Greg also knew Gene felt the same way because he never failed to show his appreciation. “Thanks, Sunshine, I knew I could count on you. So, tell me how the move to Tampa’s going?”
Greg sighed and leaned back in his chair to look at the ceiling. He had been working at the DC office since joining the agency and while he enjoyed the work, DC was a stressful place to live. He’d adapted just as he’d done when he went to MIT in Cambridge, but it wasn’t his first choice. When the request to transfer and be closer to the undercover operation he’d been devoting ninety percent of his time to came in, he jumped at it even though he questioned his superior’s motives.
But moving was stressful, fitting in with new coworkers more so, and doing both while keeping up with Gene’s needs was damn near exhausting. It was worth it, but he was more tired than he ever remembered being and none of that was Gene’s problem. As an undercover agent in an outlaw motorcycle club, he had more important things to worry about, so Greg downplayed the stress he’d been under. “Florida’s better than DC, that’s for sure.”
“But?” Gene asked knowingly and Greg sighed. He should have known better than to think he could bluff his answer. They’d been talking multiple times a day for almost a year. If there was anyone who could tell just by the tone of his voice what he was feeling, it was Gene.
“When I first got this assignment, it seemed odd that I wasn’t immediately transferred to a closer office. Not that location really mattered in the past, but our partnership was a first in the agency. Normally, undercover agents have full use of the entire Intelligence Division and everyone in ID works together so nothing falls through the cracks.” Maybe he was becoming more like Gene, because he was seeing shadows everywhere lately. “That didn’t happen and it obviously wasn’t necessary because I was able to do whatever you needed from DC. So why, out of nowhere, did Crockett and Stimer request me in the Tampa office? If they wanted me closer to your operation, why not Fort Myers or even the Miami office?”
Gene didn’t immediately respond and Greg knew he was choosing his words. Lately, they’d begun to wonder if someone within the agency, or any branch of law enforcement, was working with Durango. Crooked agents were an unfortunate fact of life and the more information he uncovered about Durango and the MC, the more things didn’t add up. Namely, putting an agent in what they had to know would be a long term undercover operation only to bitch about how long it was taking him to get the job done. It was like they were setting him up for failure and that didn’t sit well with Greg at all.
He was fully invested in doing the best job he could and that was only solidified by the growing personal feelings he was developing for Gene. The last thing Greg wanted was to see him get burned by the agency they both joined in the hopes of doing something good.
“I can hear those wheels turning from here, but we both know how dangerous it is for you to go poking around into Crockett or Stimer. You’re the new face in the office so you have no allies you can trust. If anyone catches wind of what you’re doing…”
“They won’t.” Greg wanted to sneer at the suggestion that he didn’t know how to cover his tracks. The only thing that stopped him was the knowledge that Gene cared about the risks he might be taking. That concern was a foreign concept that he didn’t know how to deal with. “I know how to hide a trail, Gene.”
“I don’t doubt your abilities for a second,” Gene assured, taking the wind out of any potential argument between them. “I just don’t want to see you get hurt. If Crockett or Stimer or someone else has a hidden agenda, you’ll find it in the work we’re already doing. You’re already cherry picking the information you put in the files, already deciding what they can and can’t be trusted with, right?”
“Yes,” Greg grudgingly admitted. He just didn’t know if those precautions were enough.
Gene chuckled at his tone. “You and I both know if they’re in any way involved in Durango’s business, if they’re doing anything to hinder the case, you’ll uncover it in the intelligence you’re already gathering. I know it’s not enough, but I’m already in play and there’s no way to step back now. If you go digging and someone catches wind of it, you paint a target on both our backs.”
Which was the only reason he hadn’t already gone digging and why he was coming clean now. The very last thing he wanted to do was make Gene’s job more dangerous than it already was. “Fine.”
Gene laughed at him again and he found himself pulling up a photo of the agent. It was unfair how good looking the man was. Tall, broad, scruffy, with piercing eyes and a strong chin, and lips made for doing sinful things. Gene was all of Greg’s weakness wrapped up in a hard body that made his fingers itch to touch.
A soft sigh and the sound of a bed creaking brought his attention back to their conversation. “I’m done thinking about this for tonight. Tell me something good before we hang up.”

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We had a chance to ask Jessie a few questions:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Author Of The Month - Rick R. Reed - Grand Finale

Welcome to our Grand Finale celebrations for the amazing 

In today's post, we'll take a look at the suspense novels and thrillers Rick has written, starting with The Couple Next Door. We'll also talk about Third Eye, and IM, plus our Q&A with Rick, and one final chance to win one of his books!!

First up, The Couple Next Door:


With the couple next door, nothing is as it seems.

Jeremy Booth leads a simple life, scraping by in the gay neighborhood of Seattle, never letting his lack of material things get him down. But the one thing he really wants someone to love seems elusive. Until the couple next door moves in and Jeremy sees the man of his dreams, Shane McCallister, pushed down the stairs by a brute named Cole.

Jeremy would never go after another man s boyfriend, so he reaches out to Shane in friendship while suppressing his feelings of attraction. But the feeling of something being off only begins with Cole being a hard-fisted bully it ends with him seeming to be different people at different times. Some days, Cole is the mild-mannered John and then, one night in a bar, he s the sassy and vivacious drag queen Vera.

So how can Jeremy rescue the man of his dreams from a situation that seems to get crazier and more dangerous by the day? By getting close to the couple next door, Jeremy not only puts a potential love in jeopardy, but eventually his very life.


I open the front door, and that’s when everything changes. My life turns upside down. I go from bored discontent to panic in a split second.

The first thing I hear is someone shouting “No!” in an anguished voice. I look up from the lobby to see two figures on the staircase above, on the second-floor landing. One is a guy who looks menacing and so butch he could pose for a Tom of Finland poster. An aura of danger radiates from him. Aside from his imposing and muscular frame, he’s even wearing the right clothes—tight, rolled jeans and a black leather biker jacket with a chain snaking out from beneath one of the epaulets. His high and tight buzzed hair gives him a military—and mean—air. He has his hands on the shoulders of a guy who looks a bit younger and much slighter, making me want to call up the stairs, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” The smaller guy, blond and clad only in a pair of pajama bottoms, struggles with his attacker, looking terrified. Their movements, clumsy and rough, would be comical if they weren’t so scary. The smaller guy is panting and batting ineffectually at the bigger one.

“Please! No! Don’t!” the smaller guy manages to get out, his voice close to hysteria.

I have never seen either of these men before. In fact, the whole scene has the quality of the surreal, a dream. The danger and conflict pulsing down the stairs makes my own heart rate and respiration accelerate, causing feelings of panic to rise within me.

And then the worst happens. The big butch guy shoves the smaller one hard, and all at once he’s tumbling heavily down the stairs toward me.

The fall is graceless, and it looks like it hurts. It’s over so fast that I’m left gasping.

I look up to see the leather-jacket guy sneer down at his mate, lying crumpled and crying at my feet, and then turn sharply on his heel to go back into a second-floor apartment that had been vacant yesterday. He slams the door. The sound of the deadbolt sliding into place is like the report of a shotgun. Both slam and lock resound like thunderclaps, echoing in the tile lobby, punctuation to the drama and trauma of this short scene.

I switch into Good Samaritan mode and drop to my knees at the sniveling, crumpled mess of a man lying practically at my feet.

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Secondly in today's line-up, Third Eye:


Who knew that a summer thunderstorm and his lost little boy would conspire to change single dad Cayce D’Amico’s life in an instant? With Luke missing, Cayce ventures into the woods near their house to find his son, only to have lightning strike a tree near him, sending a branch down on his head. When he awakens the next day in the hospital, he discovers he has been blessed or cursed—he isn't sure which—with psychic ability. Along with unfathomable glimpses into the lives of those around him, he’s getting visions of a missing teenage girl.

When a second girl disappears soon after the first, Cayce realizes his visions are leading him to their grisly fates. Cayce wants to help, but no one believes him. The police are suspicious. The press wants to exploit him. And the girls' parents have mixed feelings about the young man with the "third eye."

Cayce turns to local reporter Dave Newton and, while searching for clues to the string of disappearances and possible murders, a spark ignites between the two. Little do they know that nearby, another couple—dark and murderous—are plotting more crimes and wondering how to silence the man who knows too much about them.


Outside, the wind was kicking up. Papers and small pieces of gravel skittered across the road in front of the house. Cars passing by had turned on their headlights, piercing the odd, darkening afternoon light. The maple trees lining the road bent in the wind, like fingers splayed backward. The sky had a funny greenish tinge, and Cayce had seen that weird green color enough times to know what the storm portended.

Cayce made his way down First Avenue, searching from side to side and pausing occasionally to rub a piece of grit out of his eye. “Luke!” He yelled, “Luke!” even louder when there was no response. Where was that boy?

A drop of water landed on his arm, icy. The rows of houses lining the yellow-bricked street had deserted porches, everyone escaped indoors. The lights switched on inside the houses made them look like sanctuaries, and Cayce wished he could be in his own sanctuary with his own son, smells of the Sicilian peasant food he had grown up on filling their little house. Cayce supposed his neighbors had all retreated into their living rooms, where they could turn on the Weather Channel or listen to the radio to validate what was happening before their eyes.

Everyone, that was, except for Lula Stewart, bless her. Lula, who had lost her husband the winter before, still sat on her glider, wispy dyed-black hair being lifted by the wind.

“He went thataway,” Lula called, pointing to where First Avenue dead-ended at the woods.

“Great,” Cayce whispered to himself, then said to Lula, “Thanks. I’m going to wring his little neck for him.”

“Be nice, Cayce. He’s only seven.”

“I know, I know.” Cayce headed for the darkness of the trees at the end of the street. As he picked up his pace, so did the wind and the droplets of water, coming heavier every second.

The sky flashed with white light. Cayce gasped as a crack of thunder ripped through the air, reverberating through the ground and leaving in its wake the smell of ozone. “God, that was close.” Why didn’t Luke have the sense to come in out of the rain?
The sky ripped open and released the downpour, a sibilant hiss, so heavy it nearly blinded Cayce. In seconds his T-shirt and board shorts were drenched, clinging to him like a second skin. Water sluiced from his curly black hair into his eyes. The sky morphed into premature night, brightened only by the lightning. The thunder’s crash upped Cayce’s sense of anxiety and fear with each crack. The volume and the bright lightning seemed to have a direct line to his heart, which hammered double time in his chest.

“Luke!” he screamed above the wind that yanked twigs and whole clumps of leaves from the trees above him. An orange drink carton hit Cayce in the back of the head.

“Luke!” He watched in despair as Oreo ran back toward the house, tail between his legs. “Traitor,” he called after the dog.

The woods were even darker than the street. Cayce held his hands out in front of him to avoid crashing into trees. Already, his flip-flops were making a sucking sound as he pulled his feet out of the mud.

Annoyed, Cayce wiped the icy rain away from his face, flinging his damp mop of black hair back, trying to see in the storm’s murk. In the brief bluish flash of lightning, the woods looked empty, deserted. Why couldn’t he see Luke cowering under a tree, or better yet, running toward him, hell, even running away from him? Anything but this dreadful emptiness, abandoning him to the woods and the storm.

“Luke!” he yelled again, his throat growing hoarse. He tried to keep his voice even so Luke wouldn’t think he was mad, so the little boy wouldn’t hear his dad’s fear. “Luke, if you can hear me, yell. I’m not mad.”

And he wasn’t, not at his little boy anyway, whom he pictured trembling under a tree or huddled under a neighbor’s porch, shivering, terrified, wet, and cold. But Cayce was angry at himself, for not keeping better tabs on the weather and the whereabouts of a seven-year-old. What was wrong with him? Maybe his mom was right; maybe Cayce was too young (and alone) to take on the responsibility of rearing another human being. She was always telling Cayce to give the boy back to his mother. “Little boys need their moms,” his own mom often proclaimed.

Apparently, though, moms didn’t always need their little boys. Case in point, Joyce, Cayce’s wife of less than a year, who was only too happy to leave the “burden” of Luke with Cayce when she abandoned them both four years ago, heading off without a backward glance for the presumably greener pastures of Portland, Oregon. Like Marc, Joyce apparently believed happiness awaited outside the city limits of Fawcettville, Pennsylvania.

“Luke!” he called once more, competing for dominance with the wind, the thunder, the driving rain.

But all that answered him was the roar of the storm and the sound of detritus whistling through the air and smacking against the trees. Cayce was beginning to think his quest was in vain, that Luke was probably already at home, sitting at the kitchen table and wondering where his dad was, hungry for his supper.

It happened so quickly Cayce only experienced the event through instincts, like an animal.

The flash was so bright, Cayce gasped, squeezing his eyes shut.

The scent of ozone filled the air. Hair stood up on the back of his neck, tickling.

The rumble of the thunder deafened, so loud and close it drowned out his scream. And the sharp break of the tree branch above his head was akin to the crack of a whip.
The limb crashing down on his head dropped him to his knees.

Everything went dark.

A little snippet from Sandra's review of Third Eye:

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

ARC Review: A Mended Man (The Men of Halfway House 4) by Jaime Reese

Detective Aidan Calloway is rock-solid strong. He's a man of justice—loyal to his friends, family, and job—even if it requires bending a law…or two. He shields himself behind an abrasive, fearless facade, until a phone call one night chips his armor and throws his perfectly planned, hollow life into a tailspin.

Jessie Vega is the epitome of optimism. His carefully crafted attitude of hope and positivity protects him from a past filled with too much pain. When a ghost from a dark time resurfaces and nearly breaks him, he must tap into his inner strength or risk losing everything he's worked so hard to build.

But Jessie can't do it alone. He must fight to break through Aidan's ironclad defenses to reveal the heart of the man hiding beneath the tough surface and mend his damaged spirit. Only then can they truly heal and become strong enough to battle the demons that haunt them and threaten their chance to finally be together.

Dani's rating:

This series is about wounded, imperfect men who find their HEA through struggle and sacrifice. The road to happily ever after is stained with blood, sweat, and tears.

But there's love. There’s always love.

What I appreciate about Jaime Reese’s books is that past trauma is never easily or magically fixed. It takes hard work and determination.

A Mended Man is not an easy read. It’s broody and sad. It begins and ends with a brutal attack, and deals with issues of abandonment, rape, and PTSD.

A monster from Jessie’s past returns to haunt him. Aidan is forced to stay off Jessie’s case, which drives him mad.

Both MCs hide deep scars, but Jessie is willing to talk about his. Aidan loves Jessie with all his heart, but his demons are cunning and brutal. All Jessie can do is make sure Aidan knows that his love isn’t conditional.

Even though several crime cases are woven into the story (the attack on Jessie; the “butterfly killer”; and Cam’s connection to a drug ring), this book is very much relationship focused. Despite Aidan putting up brick walls, he and Jessie never waver, never quit. They offer each other comfort and hope.

Aidan says so much without ever saying a word. Their relationship is based on a strong foundation of trust and friendship. Jessie just wants more; he wants an “us."

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