Welcome to our third week of celebrating the amazing
In today's post, we'll take a look at the two Dreamspun Desires titles the authors have written. One is already available (Striking Sparks), and the other one (Breaking Bonds) comes out in June.
There's also a personal story they have chosen to share, plus another chance to win one of their books!
First up, Striking Sparks
The stakes are high and the heat is on.
Beau Walker, owner of the Barbecue Shack, needs the help of Jake Parnell, his one-time rival and secret crush, in a televised barbecue competition. Beau is a proud man, but the stakes are high, and smart, sexy Jake is his only hope, even if being around Jake reawakens the attraction he’s fought for years.
Jake left his hometown, determined to build a life somewhere his sexuality wouldn’t hurt his family’s restaurant business—and far away from hunky, obstinate Beau Walker. Then his twin, Josh, is killed, and Jake returns to support his brother’s wife and children. Despite his reservations, he agrees to go head-to-head against Beau on national television. Between stress and grief, as well as pride and determination, only one thing is certain—the heat between Beau and Jake extends well beyond the kitchen.
Never in his wildest dreams had Jake ever thought he’d be back in Buffalo Lick, Texas, working as a cook in his family’s restaurant, Parnell’s Pantry. Josh was the one who’d wanted it, the one their father had trained up to take over the business. Jake hadn’t resented it, because even though he liked the restaurant and helped out after school while he was growing up, he was the “different” one in the family. The dreamer, the one with a surprising head for numbers and a flair for making money. Even while working at the restaurant, he’d also had a paper route, and he’d tracked every penny he made as though it were gold. By the time he was twelve, he was helping his mother balance the books for the restaurant. By fifteen, he was doing the family taxes. At eighteen, he’d left for UCLA, and his family had been proud of his bachelor’s degree in math and his master’s in education. He’d gotten a job teaching at an exclusive private prep school in Southern California, and he was working on his doctorate. He had a full life with friends and acceptance.
Then the world had come crashing down, when a devastated Lexy called to tell him there had been an accident. Jake had flown back to Texas at once, where he helped to support Lexy and his parents as the doctors tried to put Josh back together again. But they hadn’t succeeded, and Jake’s father, who was approaching his seventieth birthday, had been devastated. Jason Parnell had had a heart attack five years before, necessitating his retirement, which left Jake as the only one to run the restaurant. He couldn’t walk away, not when Josh’s life insurance hadn’t been sufficient to support Lexy and the kids. His parents were comfortably well off, but with his father on Social Security and his mother only a year from a school-system retirement, there was no way the older Parnells could manage alone. Lexy’s folks were no better off. They lived sixty miles away, while the various aunts, uncles, and cousins of their extended families had their own problems to deal with. Jake was the only one free to help out. He’d adored his brother, and he loved Lexy and the kids, so he’d put his life on hold and taken over the restaurant.
So here he was, back after ten years. He still felt like he didn’t fit in Buffalo Lick, although not because he was “too big” for it. But he’d known from his early teens that a rural Texas town, full of men who relived the glory days of playing high school football and prided themselves on their manliness, was not a good place for a gay man.
That was the real difference between him and his brother and everyone—well, almost everyone—else in the town. Jake had grown up hiding who and what he was because he didn’t have the courage to take the abuse he knew he’d get about his sexuality. As much as he loved his family, Buffalo Lick had been a prison he’d longed to escape, hoping to find a place where he could find someone to love the way Josh had loved Lexy. California had seemed like the Promised Land, and if he hadn’t found love there, at least he’d found acceptance, and he’d never given up hope of finding someone to share his life with.
A glance at the clock showed him it was eleven thirty. He’d been in since six that morning, and he was tired in both body and spirit. Even though a morning cook handled breakfast, he had books to balance, orders to place, and a variety of other chores to handle. Not to mention that the busiest time of the year was fast approaching. Soon the Buffalo Lick Festival would draw thousands of visitors for the annual rodeo and celebration of the town’s place along the famous Chisholm Trail.
He also had a mountain of correspondence he still had to get through—agreements Josh had made to cater events, and even something about a television show that wanted to film at the restaurant. Jake was still sorting through everything and managing as best he could, but Josh had died less than a month ago. Sometimes Jake still wondered if it was all a bad dream, but when the alarm went off every morning and he opened his eyes to find himself in the same bedroom where he’d spent his childhood, he knew it was all too real. California and thoughts of finding his soul mate had been the dream. Reality was Buffalo Lick, Texas, and the family who needed him.
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And secondly, the upcoming Breaking Bonds
From the frying pan into the fire.
After a critic’s review attacks both Chef Liam Walker’s culinary skills and his personal life, Liam can no longer take the heat of the cutthroat New York City restaurant scene. He needs to get out of the kitchen—at least long enough to cool down and regroup.
At the Overlook Resort in North Carolina, Liam meets owner Carter Galloway. Carter has a passion for the hospitality business to rival Liam’s own, and it’s not hard to see where their shared interests—and attraction—could lead. But Carter has no interest in a fling, and Liam has no intention of walking away from the career he fought so hard for. If they want a taste of happiness together, they’ll have to find the courage to break the bonds threatening to pull them apart.
Carter loitered nearby, and when Rocky left the kitchen to take a pile of dirty dish towels to the laundry room, he approached Liam again.
“I was wondering if you’re busy after dinner service tonight,” he said, clearing his throat as if he was nervous.
“Actually, I’d been considering going into Asheville,” Liam replied slowly. He’d given some thought to finding a companion for a little fun that wasn’t complicated by business. He was on vacation, after all, and since Carter wasn’t on offer, it was the best option Liam had. “I understand it’s very gay-friendly.”
“It is,” Carter replied, the admission sounding a little grudging. “It’s a big art, music, and food town. There are a lot of great places that offer live music most nights of the week.”
“That’s what I’d read. I was thinking of hitting a couple of clubs, checking out the local flavor. Why, is there something you wanted me for?”
Carter’s cheeks turned pink, and he studied the floor. “It doesn’t matter since you’ve already got plans.”
There was definitely something going on with Carter, and Liam wondered if Carter was more interested in him than he thought. He stepped closer and put his finger under Carter’s chin, coaxing his head up. “Plans can change,” he said softly.
Carter met Liam’s gaze shyly, and the blush in his cheeks darkened. “We could go to Asheville together,” he suggested, lightly resting his hand at Liam’s waist. “I know some good clubs.”
Liam could feel the warmth of Carter’s hand through his shirt, and while he thought that was an encouraging sign, he wanted to be certain. “Have you changed your mind about the fling thing?” he asked. There was no sense setting himself up for an evening of frustration if Carter just wanted to go as a friend.
Carter gnawed on his bottom lip, and Liam could see the inner battle he was fighting in his eyes. “You’re still going back to New York?”
“I have to go back. I can’t walk out on my mentor after he took a chance on me,” Liam replied honestly.
Disappointment flashed in Carter’s dark eyes before he lowered his gaze again and stepped back. “I thought we could hang out after dinner service, but maybe that’s not such a good idea. If you want the names of those clubs, I’ll write them down for you.”
It wasn’t hard to figure out that Carter wanted Liam, but he wasn’t going to settle for a short-term thing, while Liam couldn’t just throw away ten years of hard work and the debt he owed Marco. If he’d been a different type of man, he could have lied about his intentions in order to coax Carter into bed, but that wasn’t his way.
“No, but thanks anyway.” Suddenly the thought of a casual hookup with someone he’d met in a bar lost its appeal, and Liam shrugged as though it didn’t matter. “I’ll go back to my room and watch a movie.”
“I’ve got stuff I should be doing anyway.” Carter mustered a wry smile and shoved his hands into the pockets of his tailored slacks. “An owner’s work is never done.”
Part of Liam wanted to invite Carter to watch a movie with him, but it would probably lead to more frustration, so he ignored the impulse. “That’s what I’ve been told,” he replied instead. “Perhaps one day I’ll know for myself.”
“I’m sure you will.”
Rocky entered the kitchen, and Carter used that as an excuse to head for the door. “Good luck with dinner service,” he said, waving as he hurried away.
Liam watched him go, then turned to Rocky and started giving him directions for the preps for dinner and pushing away any regret about he and Carter being nothing more than friends. Immersing himself in work would distract him until dinner service was over. After that… well, going to bed alone was something he was used to, and it didn’t seem destined to change anytime soon.
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A Personal Story
This is an Ari story.
I have a keen interest in genealogy, and over the course of over twenty years I’ve put together an extensive family tree. As part of all this, I have been genetically tested, so that I could find more relatives through ancestry.com. I know my immediate family quite well - or thought I did - so you can imagine my surprise when I had two unexpected first cousins pop up. I sent messages to the people, wondering what their story was. As it turned out, the story is both sweet and sad.
My father’s parents married very young. This was in the deep South during the depression, my grandfather was half Choctaw, and he and my grandmother were basically subsistence farmers. I had grown up thinking that my father was their eldest child -- and my father thought that, too! But apparently my grandparents had two daughters before my father. Being desperately poor, they could barely support themselves, much less two babies, and they gave their girls up for adoption, hoping to give them a better life. The two girls were adopted by different families, but knew they were adopted, and years later their children discovered each other and pieced together the story.
The adopted girls had good, happy lives, I’m glad to say, and so have my cousins. Now here is the real twilight zone kind of thing. My parents didn’t have me until they were older, and even though they were living in south Florida at the time, I was born back in my father’s hometown when they were visiting his parents. My father’s oldest sister had a daughter who was already in her early twenties and a nurse by the time I was born. No one knew this at the time, but my cousin was a nurse on the maternity ward at the hospital where I was born. Of course there’s no way to prove it, and at the time my cousin hadn’t traced her biological family, but it’s rather cool to think that one of the nurses that might have helped at my birth was a first cousin I never knew. Sometimes, truth is even stranger than fiction!
About the authors:
Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.
Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.
McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.
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Thanks for celebrating with us. Come back next week for our Grand Finale celebrations, with more of Ari McKay's books, our author Q&A, and one more chance to win!
Until then, happy reading!