Karma’s Kiss by M.C. Roth – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes M.C. Roth who is celebrating the recent release of Karma’s Kiss. Enter for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Karma isn’t the worst curse to have after all.

Zack is running from his family, his past and a curse that has tainted his life since childhood. Fleeing his temporary home for the sake of his ex-boyfriend, Zack becomes stranded in a snow drift in the middle of nowhere, wearing nothing more than a spring jacket and an old pair of running shoes. Resigning himself to freezing to death, he is rescued by Eric, an irresistible man who treads the line between kindness and discourtesy.

Zack quickly realises that Eric’s home is a different kind of frozen hell. There is no electricity in the tiny one-room cabin, no running water and definitely no Wi-Fi.

But Eric is more than just a man. He is the only one who seems to be immune to Zack’s curse, and he has secrets of his own. Eric may be more dangerous than anything Zack has ever seen before.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and the death of a secondary character.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“No. No. No,” said Zack as he pushed the gas pedal all the way to the floor. The ancient car responded sluggishly, a full second passing before the engine vibrated with a purr that made his foot go numb. The bald tyres spun, trapped in a sheet of ice and snow that coated the road and the lone vehicle.

The storm sagged against the windshield as the wipers tried lethargically to keep up, leaving large, frosted streaks with every swipe. With each pass, the ice crystals grew denser, coating the wipers with budding globs of ice.

Another burst of wind battered the side of the car, fluttering against the door and buffeting the tiny cracks in the vehicle. A trickle of cold air brushed against his chilled knuckles, and a shiver cascaded though his body.

The vehicle lurched closer to the ditch that had disappeared into the blizzard’s cloud. The tyres caught, edging sideways in a frozen rut. He jerked at the steering wheel, but there was no response as he was buried deeper in the drifts.

Zack’s heart pounded as he lost control of the wheel and the engine sputtered. But he barely noticed as the car lurched into a stall or as the air got even colder through the flimsy heating vents. The storm was the furthest thing from his mind.

It had happened again. And, of course, it had chosen the moment when the biggest snowstorm of the decade was blowing its way across the lakes. The radar had probably gone from red to purple then black while he’d driven with no destination in mind.

The roads had been relatively clear a few hours before, when he had fled to his car, putting it straight into second gear before he even had his seat belt on. He had hit the highway, flipping a virtual coin to choose the exit he’d take before the heavy flakes had started drifting down from the grey sky.

He shuddered. His darkness—his curse—the thing had haunted him for as long as he could remember… It always seemed to choose the worst moments to rear its ugly, jealous head. This had to be one of the top five of all time, though.

He had tried to keep moving. He’d tried to leave before he could put anyone else at risk. ***

Then it had all gone wrong. One word and a spurned rejection, and his past had caught up with him with the force of a starving tiger. He’d staggered as he’d felt the blood drain from his face.

He had fled before anything could happen to the man who he had almost started to like. If he’d had the opportunity, he could have developed full-blown feelings, which were more dangerous than his curse.

He’d grabbed everything in sight that belonged to him, leaving more behind than he’d taken. His socks and underwear were lost beneath the bed and in the basket of laundry, but he hadn’t had the time to retrieve them. They weren’t the worst things that he’d ever left behind.

He’d had run to his ancient Honda, breathing hard by the time he had tugged the door open. As he’d sped away, he’d left another chunk of his past behind him, the sweet memories tainted by his bitter curse. The traffic had steadily thinned, until he was the only car in the midst of a forest that seconded as a snowy hell.

His trusty Honda was only five years younger than him and had more problems than he did, which was saying a lot. Its most recent issue was that it apparently couldn’t drive through more than two centimetres of fresh snow.

He fumbled with the key, glancing out into the bleak stretch of swirling snow as he tried to start the engine yet again. Stomping on the gas, he waited for the RPMs to climb into the red zone before popping the clutch and putting the car directly into second gear. First gear didn’t exactly work, and on ice, it was its own death trap.

There was a shuddering jerk that had relief flooding his gut, until the car rocked once and stalled back into silence. The dials dropped and the fuzzy radio station faded until the barest hint of the country song vanished under the sound of the wind.

“Shit,” he said as he slammed his hand against the steering wheel. It shuddered, barely holding on to its rigging after his repeated abuse. He could imagine the wheel finally tumbling off as he merged lanes on a highway doing one-hundred-and-thirty-five kilometres per hour. I’m lucky like that.

His palm ached from the hit and the cold that was steadily seeping into the car, but it didn’t stop him from slamming the wheel a second time. His thumb caught the edge of the horn, but the blaring sound was swept away on the wind.

The temperature inside the car noticeably dropped another few degrees, and his breath turned into a misty fog that coated everything it touched. The car’s heater was lukewarm at best, and without a working defrost, ice had started to crust on even the inside of the windshield.

He turned the key again as he popped the car back into neutral and pushed the clutch to the floor. He shivered as another gust of wind cut into the Honda. His thin jacket was best suited for balmy fall days, but it was the only one that had been in sight as he’d scrambled to leave. His toes were numb in his sneakers, and his hands? Well, he was afraid to look at them, because he wouldn’t be surprised if a few fingers were already missing. His gloves had been one of the many things that he had left behind, and his hands had been aching since the snow had started.

The car key turned under his hand, jingling with the other attached keys and mementos that he had picked up on his travels. There was a tiny metal sandal that he’d picked up in a beach town and an iron sun from a gift shop that he’d found in the middle of nowhere. The rest were worn, their edges smooth from their constant motion. He kept them close, so he wouldn’t have to look back and remember.

The key turned, with the promise of escape and a hint of heat. Silence. Not even a putter from the flooded engine. His gut churned as a shiver racked his body. It was so freaking cold, and according to the last clear announcement on the radio, the storm was just getting started.

He grappled with the horn, pushing the button as hard as he could. There had to be someone close by who would come to his rescue if they heard him honking. People in the city might not have looked twice, but he was pretty far into the wilderness, on the only road that probably ever saw a plough in winter. People were different out here—lonelier.

The button clicked under his palm as the battery finally gave out. The same battery had lasted him twenty years, so, of course, it would choose to fail him when he was about to lose his toes.

Zack took a shuddering breath as his vision blurred and his heart sank. He wrapped his arms around himself, trying to keep the warmth from escaping. Perhaps everything was finally catching up with him. Freezing to death wouldn’t be the worst way to go. He’d seen worse before—so much worse. His stomach clenched as memories fluttered to the surface of his mind. He tried to push them away before he could retch.

“Look at the snow. Just look at the snow,” he said, holding himself tighter as he tried to focus on an individual flake in the whirling mass—anything to leave the flashes of his past behind.

Beyond the window he could see bits of the forest through the gaps in the gathering ice on the windshield. The road was nearly invisible, with no tyre tracks except his own behind him. Even those were almost gone now.

A green bough fluttered in the wind, dumping its heavy load onto the ground below it. A bird fluttered from the branch, battling against the wind as it took off. For a moment, it looked like it would lose the fight and be tossed into the nearest tree trunk. It pumped its wings faster, finally triumphing over the storm.

There were no hydro lines along the road or lamp posts that would guide a traveller along at night. It was a tourist’s nightmare. He cursed himself, wondering if he should’ve taken the other fork in the road that had probably led along a path that was closer to the city.

A smudge of colour caught his eye as it flashed along the very edge of the trees. The trunks grew close together, dark and foreboding within the mass, and their limbs danced and swayed in the wind, dumping the snow back to the earth with each pass. There was so much movement that he wondered if he had imagined the blur.

He squinted and leaned closer to the window, trying to make sense of it through the fluttering snow. It could have been a deer. He’d already seen a few along the way, looking ready to jump out at his car and double his insurance. Or it could have been a bear, given how far he’d come, although he’d only ever seen them on television. The dark beacon had looked too small to be the creature he’d seen on Planet Earth.

He spotted it again as the wind stilled and the blizzard cleared for a moment. It moved through the snow with a fluid grace that could only belong to an animal who could survive a harsh winter. Nothing battered or beaten lived in this cold, and no predator could thrive without hunting in the perpetual storm that was February.

It grew closer with every loping step, until it seemed larger than what he imagined a bear would be. It was fast, too, cutting through the drifts as if it weighed nothing. Zack knew how hard it was to walk through snow that deep, which was why he usually avoided it at all costs. That, and he really didn’t want to get his too-tight jeans wet.

Zack scrubbed the inside of the window with his nails, bits of ice stinging his numb fingertips. His breath frosted it over again, until everything blurred.

It could have been a dog with how dark the colouring was, but he’d never seen a dog that big. A bear would definitely make more sense, but according to the television, bears hibernated in the winter.

The ice on the window thickened into an opaque crystal as he pressed his forehead against it, desperate to see what was coming. It was running at a pace that was hardly possible over the covered ground, gliding over the snow without seeming to disturb it at all.

A bubble of fear simmered in his gut as he pictured a bear breaking through his window with its massive, clawed paws. He was small enough that he wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight, but there was still enough meat on him to make a decent meal, he supposed.

He took a deep breath, closing his eyes to try to ground himself. The wind around him paused, the car going suddenly still and silent. He snapped his eyes back open, looking through the tiny gaps from his fingertips. There was nothing but the dark tree trunks capped with pure white.

The seat creaked as he freed himself from the seatbelt and lifted himself to his knees, pressing against a strip of clear glass. He blinked, rubbing his eyes to remove the imagined fog, but nothing appeared. The snow was undisturbed, except for the partially covered ruts from his own tyres. There were no footprints, and no animal was out in the wind.

I’m officially losing my mind.

About the Author
M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path.

Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing.

She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head.

Website | Goodreads | First for Romance

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Fire and Clay by Noja Lina – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Noja Lina who is celebrating the recent release of Fire and Clay. Enter the Rafflecopter at the end of the post for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card! Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Who will end up getting burned when they collide?

Ian is a skilled but foulmouthed photographer with an aversion to meeting new people, a short fuse and a relatively short stature. One evening, he starts a squabble with Victor before knowing that Victor is the best friend of Ian’s current crush.

With them being in the same social circle and Victor being a model and theater actor, they keep meeting over the course of several months. Their interactions feature an array of jabs at the other’s height, mild aggression and attempts to mock or one-up the other.

But, through instances of Ian involuntarily showing his caring side and Victor showing what he’s made of, several sparks and serious talks, some denial and three successful photoshoots, their relationship gradually evolves.

Will they get past their initial animosity? Will they get burned by colliding with the other? Or will fire come in contact with clay to create something beautiful?

Reader advisory: This book contains bullying, mentions of eating disorders, violence and threats.

Enjoy an Excerpt

There was no clear-cut explanation for how Ian had ended up in a corner of a dark closet, fervently kissing a person who had once been a statue—or for why Victor was kissing back. Weren’t they supposed to come at each other’s necks?

It had all started several months before, when Hayden, Ian’s best friend since before they could read or write, moved into a new student dorm and invited Ian for a visit.

“Do I have to go?” Ian asked Hayden while they were talking on the phone.

“No, but I’d like it if you did.”

Hayden received a familiar grunt in return. That was how Ian usually relayed he’d do what Hayden asked him to, despite hating the idea.

There was nothing bad about going to see Hayden and his new dorm. It was having to meet Hayden’s new roommate that had made Ian avoid the visit for as long as possible. Going to the dentist was an easier experience for Ian than meeting new people.

Both of them had been living in Thornburg for over two years. It was a city that attracted people from all over the country, even from abroad, with its array of educational and professional opportunities, its growing social diversity and its vibrant cultural and entertainment scenes—not to mention its colorful palette of bars.

Thornburg’s vibe and offer had also attracted Ian to it, but college had been a short-lived initiative for him. His passion for photography had grown years before any facial hair had and Ian had been cultivating his skills in taking pictures for over half a decade at that point. As such, photography courses that treated their students as beginners had underwhelmed him greatly. He’d dropped out of college after the first year and applied to paid photography gigs with his extensive portfolio and a half-decent attempt at being friendly. Luckily, the portfolio had done its job.

Hayden was on the opposite end of the spectrum, both in terms of college and his capabilities in being friendly. If he still liked Ian after so many years of Ian being Ian, he could probably be friends with an anthropomorphized lemon. Hayden was in his third year at the veterinary medicine college and, as the extroverted person he was, he’d always chosen to live in the student dorms since coming to Thornburg.

When he’d first announced his plan to become a veterinarian, he’d said, “I already have experience in dealing with all sorts of animals, especially a chihuahua.”

His family had many pets, but that bunch hadn’t included a chihuahua. It was a reference to Ian. Hayden often compared his best friend to the small, mouthy dog that thinks of itself as a big beast and sometimes gets itself in trouble by aggressively challenging an actual large one. Ian’s only counterargument had been that, as opposed to him, dogs didn’t like being left alone.

To this, Hayden had replied, “If that really were the case, then why do you always come when I call you over?”

Admitting that he liked being around Hayden was too melodramatic for Ian, so he’d answered with a simple and dry ‘whoof’.

Thus, when Hayden had called Ian over to show him his new dorm room and introduce him to Danny, his new roommate, Ian had gone, despite his DNA constantly reminding him how hardwired he was to dislike meeting new people.

Danny was a year younger than Hayden, they’d hit it off from the get-go, they attended the same college and were equally as balanced in handling their studies and social lives.

If this Danny guy’s anything like Hayden, it probably won’t be so bad… F***, who am I kidding? It’s guaranteed to be bad.

Ian sighed before entering the dorm room. He relaxed his throat in preparation of swallowing many words he shouldn’t say but would probably end up voicing anyway. Taking in air, he opened the door and was instantly ambushed by something bright.

It might’ve been the warm rays piercing through the window, it might’ve been Hayden’s flower-power T-shirt but it was most likely Danny.

Danny was dazzling. All his features were soft and curvy, all his gestures smooth and inviting. His voice sounded like windchimes, his skin looked like fruity yogurt and his presence was as welcoming as one’s bed after a hard day at work. Ian barely remembered the correct sequence of the two syllables in his name when Danny smiled and initiated their introductory handshake. Whenever Hayden didn’t elbow him, Ian also barely remembered that he was a fully-fledged, functional homo sapiens specimen who should be able to hold a conversation.

But Ian was also a drawn-to-visuals person, and everything about Danny’s appearance gave off early summer day, with wildflowers swaying in the pleasant breeze and birds chirping in the trees. So, despite it being late October, Ian’s mind packed up and went on vacation, leaving him to be about as articulate as the chair he sat on.

By the time Danny had offered him the umpteenth solar-like smile and his second beer, Ian’s synapses were finally back to their usual productivity level. But there was a glitch in that system of synapses, and Ian let out, “You’re so sweet.”

Hayden choked on his beer. “You’re complimenting someone during your first meeting with them? I see… We should get our textbooks updated because flying pigs are definitely coming.”

“They’ve been around since the invention of the airplane,” Ian replied, referring to any human in the air.

“Okay, now, that’s the usual you. You had me worried for a sec.”

There was no need for Hayden to be concerned. Ian hadn’t been replaced by an alien lookalike. He was just smitten. In fact, he was so much so that he’d almost brought flowers on his next visit to that dorm room.

Becoming attracted to someone based on looks wasn’t unusual for Ian. But being smitten had been a rare experience, so it wasn’t just Danny’s looks that were working their magic on him. Despite being more apprehensive than the average person when meeting new people, Ian had started floating in a pool of serenity right after stepping into the range of Danny’s sunray-shaped aura. Danny often smiled—always with sincerity—acted in caring ways and looked at people as if he were hugging them with his gaze. Ian knew he was smitten when the thought of actually hugging Danny one day made something explode within his chest.

He continued visiting Hayden and Danny in that dorm room for the following two months and always tried having many pleasant interactions with Danny. It was easier than Ian-ly possible, because Ian wasn’t his usual self around him.

Hayden asked him about the reason behind his change in behavior, but Ian just said, “I have more vitamin D in my system now,” because ‘D’ stood for ‘Danny’, who was like sunlight in Ian’s mind, and sunlight was a known source of vitamin D.

Normally, Ian would’ve told Hayden the truth. But Danny was Hayden’s roommate, and Ian didn’t want to make things awkward by revealing his feelings. Hayden knew Ian was into guys just like Hayden was into girls, so there was no problem there. However, Ian didn’t know Danny’s preferences and he didn’t want to open Schrödinger’s cat’s box by asking either Danny or Hayden about that. If he discovered the cat dead, he’d also have to kill his current crush. If the cat were alive, he’d have to—God forbid—put himself out there and lay his feelings on the table for someone else to shuffle at will.

Both options came with downsides, so Ian just maintained a quiet crush on Danny. At least, that had been his intention…

About the Author:New writer on the romance block, Noja Lina likes writing uplifting contemporary romance stories. These stories are centered around engaging male characters, usually dealing with personal struggles alongside love struggles.

Noja lives in Romania, specifically Transylvania. When she’s not working at her full-time job or working on one of her stories, she enjoys her one-sided love relationship with various forms of Asian media, enjoys adding another cooking fail to the collection and hanging out with friends over a cold beer.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | < ahref="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60500740-fire-and-clay">Goodreads | First for Romance Author Page

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Character Interview with Nicky and Noah from DRAMA TV – Guest Blog and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Joe Cosentino back with an Interview with Nicky Abbondanza and Noah Oliver, the leading characters in his Drama TV, the 13th Nicky and Noah mystery/comedy/romance novel. Check out the giveaway at the end of the post.

Nicky and Noah, you have hit it big with your mystery series!

Noah: Nicky definitely has hit it big.

Congratulations on the release of the thirteenth novel in your award-winning and popular Nicky and Noah gay cozy comedy mystery series.

Nicky: Thank you. Thirteen is our new lucky number.

Since the readers can’t see you, tell them what you look like.

Noah: Nicky is a gorgeous hunk.

Nicky: And Noah is always honest.

Noah: He’s tall with dark hair and sexy long sideburns, a cleft chin I love to kiss, Roman nose, emerald eyes, and a muscular body thanks to the gym on campus.

Nicky: I call it the chamber of horrors and self-abuse.

Noah: Best of all, Nicky has a huge heart. And something else that is huge.

Nicky: And Noah likes that.

Noah: It sure doesn’t hurt. Well, not too much anymore. (He blushes.)

Nicky: Noah is tall, with silky golden blond hair, true-blue eyes, milk and honey skin, and a body I love to hug all night long. And Noah always cares about others. Especially me. And I adore him.

Nicky and Noah: And we both love solving mysteries!

Nicky: Talking together is a cute couple thing we do.

Tell us about Drama TV, the thirteenth novel in your popular, award-winning series.

Nicky: Noah and I

Noah: And our best friends Martin and Ruben

Nicky: And our sons Taavi and Ty shoot (no pun intended) the pilot episode for a television series based on our first caper, Drama Queen.

Noah: When Nicky and I first fell in love.

Nicky: Where else would we do the television show but cozy Treemeadow College during winter break? It will come as no surprise to Nicky and Noah fans that cast members disappear like a TV newscaster with a broken teleprompter.

Noah: As usual we use our drama skills to catch the killer

Nicky: Before Noah and I get cancelled.

As usual, calamity ensues in book thirteen. 

Nicky: Of course! I do double duty (Try saying that three times fast while chewing gum) directing and playing myself in the TV pilot.

Noah: And thanks to a bit of nepotism, I play Noah Oliver.

Nicky: Our witty and wild best friend Martin Anderson, Theatre Department Chair, plays himself

Noah: And to his husband’s chagrin, Martin casts Ruben in the multifaceted role of a dead body.

Nicky: Our stagestruck son Taavi tries to steal the show as enterprising film student Kyle Samson

Noah: And Martin and Ruben’s cocky son Ty holds his own as unlucky in love theatre major PJ Myers.

Nicky: Martin’s sassy office assistant, Shayla Johnson, plays Martin’s sassy office assistant Shayla Johnson. And long-suffering detective Manuello is such a bad actor he has difficulty playing himself!

Who are the new characters in book thirteen?

Noah: Incredibly handsome, muscular, and sexy young actor Cam Mark plays incredibly handsome, muscular, and sexy theatre major (and the star of the Jack the Ripperesque college production) David Amour. Though Cam isn’t as sexy as Nicky.

Nicky: Or Noah. Madame Mirembe, a reality TV show talent contest winner, plays theatre major Kayla Calloway. Southern beauty pageant winner Caroline Joy is theatre major Jan Annondale.

Noah: Broadway rap star Tadeo Torres is cast as theatre student Ricky Gonzalez.

Nicky: The professional actors, like the students they play in the Drama Queen TV pilot, are hiding many secrets.

Who was your favorite new character? 

Nicky: Noah.

Noah: New character, Nicky.

Nicky: Oh, I really admire hunky actor Ford Heathcliff who plays hunky junior detective John Dickenson. Ford has risen above his disability to become quite an admirable young man.

Noah: We know all about rising things, don’t we, Nicky? My favorite character is Nicky.

Nicky: New character, Noah.

Noah: Oh, our adorable makeup and hair stylist Stuey Socks wears his rouge on his cheeks and his heart on his sleeves.

Which new character do you like the least? 

Nicky and Noah: Everyone who is murdered. (smile)

Which new character is the sexiest? 

Nicky: Chris Jones, the statuesque actor playing Professor of Movement Jackson Grier, though Noah is sexier.

Noah: Tadeo Torres is sweet and cute as a lollipop, but Nicky is sweeter and cuter.

What makes the Nicky and Noah mystery series so special?

Nicky & Noah: Us!

Nicky: Actually, it’s a gay cozy mystery comedy series, meaning the setting is warm and cozy, the clues and murders (and laughs) come fast and furious, and there are enough plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning faster than an evangelical judge taking away LGBT rights. At the center is the touching relationship between Noah and me. You watch us go from courting to marrying to adopting a child, all the while head over heels in love with each other.

Noah: Reviewers called the series “hysterically funny farce,” “Murder She Wrote meets Hart to Hart meets The Hardy Boys,” and “captivating whodunits.” One reviewer wrote they are the funniest books she’s ever read! Another said Joe is “a master storyteller.” Who am I to argue?

Nicky: Even though Noah and I tell Joe everything to write. 

How are the novels cozy?

Noah: Many of them take place in Vermont, a cozy state with green pastures, white church steeples, glowing lakes, and friendly and accepting people. Fictitious Treemeadow College (named after its gay founders, couple Tree and Meadow) is the perfect setting for a cozy mystery with its white Edwardian buildings, low white stone fences, lake and mountain views, and cherry wood offices with tall leather chairs and fireplaces.

Nicky: It’s even more cozy in winter with snow blanketing the campus and surrounding the village. 

Why do you think there aren’t many other gay cozy mystery series out there? 

Noah: Most MM novels are erotica, young adult, dark thrillers, or supernatural. While that’s fine, I think we’re missing a whole spectrum of fiction. In the case of the Nicky and Noah mysteries, they include romance, humor, mystery, adventure, and quaint and loveable characters in uncanny situations. The settings are warm and cozy with lots of hot cocoa by the fireplace. The clues and red herrings are there for the perfect whodunit.

Nicky: So are the plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning over like an anti-gay politician in the back room of a gay bar. And no matter what is thrown in my path as a sleuth, I always end up on top.

Noah: Which is just fine with me. 

For anyone unfortunate enough not to have read them, tell us the titles of the first twelve novels in the series.

Nicky: Let’s see how fast I can do this. Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Novel of the Year), Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Drama Fraternity. Take it, Noah, while I catch my breath.

Noah: Drama Castle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Drama Dance (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Drama Faerie, Drama Runway, Drama Christmas, Drama Pan. Phew!

Joe is a college theatre professor/department chair like Martin Anderson in your series. Has that influenced the series?

Noah: As a past professional actor and current college theatre professor/department chair, Joe knows first-hand the wild and wacky antics, sweet romance, and captivating mystery in the worlds of theatre and academia. The Nicky and Noah mysteries are full of them! He never seems to run out of wild characters to write about.

Nicky: His faculty colleagues and students kid him that if any of them tick me off, he’ll kill them in his next book. And he probably will. The little guy is fearless!

What do you like about the regular characters in the series? 

Noah: I love Nicky’s never give up attitude and sense of humor in the face of adversity. He’s genuinely concerned for others, and he’ll do anything to solve a murder mystery. He’s also a one-man man, and I’m proud to admit that man is me.

Nicky: Noah makes the perfect Watson to my Holmes. (I always thought Holmes and Watson were a gay couple.) Noah also has a large heart and soft spot (no pun intended) for others. Finally, like me, Noah is gifted at improvisation, and creates wild and wonderful characters for our role plays to catch the murderer.

Noah: I think it’s terrific how Martin and Ruben throw riotous zingers at each other, but they’re so much in love. You don’t see a lot of older gay characters in books nowadays. Of course Martin’s administrative assistant, Shayla, thrives on her one-upmanship with Martin, and he thrives right back.

Nicky: And our kids, Taavi and Ty, fit into our thespian crime-solving group perfectly.

How about your parents? 

Nicky: They’re hilarious. I love Noah’s mother’s fixation with taking pictures of everything, and his father’s fascination with seeing movies and television. I also love how Noah’s father is a ham and an amateur sleuth like me. As they say, men marry their fathers.

Noah: Nicky’s mom’s Mafia ties and addiction to church Bingo are also a riot. Both sets of parents fully embrace their sons and their sons’ family, which is refreshing. 

I’m sure Joe has been told that the books would make a terrific TV series.

Nicky: Many many times. Hence the title Drama TV. Rather than Logo showing reruns of Golden Girls around the clock, and Bravo airing so called reality shows, I would love to see them do The Nicky and Noah Mysteries. Come on, TV producers, make your offers! Joe has written a teleplay of the first novel and treatments for the remaining novels!

How would you cast the TV series?

Noah: Here’s my wish list: Matt Bomer as Nicky, Neil Patrick Harris as me, Rosie O’Donnell and Bruce Willis as my parents, Valerie Bertinelli and Jay Leno as Nicky’s parents, Joe as Martin Anderson (nepotism!), Nathan Lane as Martin’s husband Ruben, Wanda Sykes as Martin’s office assistant Shayla, and Joe Manganiello as Nicky’s brother Tony.

Joe has written other mystery series: the Player Piano mysteries and the Jana Lane mysteries. There are mystery elements in his Cozzi Cove series and Found At Last series. A story in Joe’s Tales from Fairyland Anthology is a mystery. 

Nicky: They’re great stories, but Noah and I aren’t in them. Next question.

What’s next for the Nicky and Noah mysteries?

Nicky: Whatever we whisper in Joe’s ear.

How can your readers get their hands on Drama TV, and how can they contact you? 

Nicky: The purchase links are below, as are Joe’s contact links, including his web site.

Noah: Nicky and I love to hear from readers via Joe! He tells us everything you say about us! 

Thank you, Nicky and Noah, for interviewing today.

Nicky and Noah: Our pleasure.

Noah: So relax on the sofa and reach for the remote. The TV screen is exploding with sexy young heartthrobs, egotistical reality TV show contestants, a soap opera diva, a hot rap singer

Nicky: and murder!

It’s winter break at Treemeadow College, and Theatre professors and spouses Nicky Abbondanza and Noah Oliver, their best friends Martin and Ruben, and their sons Taavi and Ty are starring in a television pilot for the Nicky and Noah Mysteries series based on their first caper, Drama Queen. More is shot than footage as cast members drop like giant flat screen TVs mounted by an intoxicated carpenter. Once again, our favorite thespians will need to use their drama skills to catch the killer before they get cancelled. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining thirteenth (yikes!) novel in this delightful series. So relax on the sofa and reach for the remote. The TV screen is exploding with sexy young heartthrobs, egotistical reality TV show contestants, a soap opera diva, a hot rap singer, and murder!

Enjoy an Excerpt

Smoke, streetlamps, beggars, and ladies of the evening permeate the Victorian London street. A dangerously handsome young man in an expensive suit twirls his dark cape around the shoulders of a beautiful young woman. Her hair and gown are blonde and flowing. The man’s crystal blue eyes sparkle as he kisses her ivory neck. She reaches for his broad back. He grasps the broach fastened at her neck by a thick ribbon, and he squeezes tighter and tighter. The elated expression on her youthful face transforms to one of abject horror. After she gasps her last breath, the woman lay motionless on the gray cement next to another young woman whose blood trickles from her dark skin onto her burgundy gown. The murderous Adonis flicks back his long dark velvety hair. After admiring his two victims, he spots his next prey. A smaller and darker man removes his jacket and ruffled white shirt exposing a ripe, muscular chest. As if offering himself as a human sacrifice, he reaches out, resting his hands on the other man’s bulging biceps. After they share a passionate kiss, the taller man retrieves the knife hidden inside his high black boot. He holds it erect and then plunges it into the other man’s side. As the murderer stares down at his third victim, he says, “The Lord is vengeful and strong in wrath. And revenge is oh so sweet.”

The deceased blonde woman sits up and says, “Did my hair and makeup look okay?”

Wiping the blood off her arm, the dark woman asks, “Was Caroline in my light?”

The young male victim rambles to his feet. “Can Cam and I try the kiss again?”

“Cut!” Hello, TV land. It’s Nicky Abbondanza, PhD, Professor of Play Directing and director of theatre, bodybuilding competition, cruise dinner theatre, luau show, film, ballet, modeling runway, and now television. What am I doing directing a television pilot during winter break here at Treemeadow College in picturesque Vermont? A television network made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Literally. My credit card payments were due at the same time as a television network executive saw a play I directed at the college. The plan was hatched for me to direct a television pilot chronicling my first mystery case at the college. As they say, the first is always the most special. Just ask my mother about her oldest boy—me! My first case of twelve so far, Drama Queen, was also unique because it brought me together with my husband, Noah Oliver, Associate Professor of Acting. When five of our professor colleagues dropped faster than the curtain on a David Mamet play for an audience full of nuns, Noah was one of my suspects—which he never lets me forget. (He also never lets me forget my age, forty-five, since he’s a youthful thirty-eight.) After that first case, Noah became the Watson to my Holmes, the love of my life, my spouse for life, and the co-parent to our adopted son, Taavi. Back to the TV pilot. I cast the best actor I know as myself—me. Noah began drafting divorce papers until I cast him in the appropriate role of himself, Noah Oliver. Our son, definitely an Oliver-Abbondanza, craves the theatrical limelight as well as the detective’s flashlight, making us a three armchair detective family. So Taavi, sixteen, threatened to become a Republican terrorist storming the Capitol if I didn’t cast him in the role of suspect Kyle Samson, Treemeadow College film major. My best friend and Theatre Department Chair, Martin Anderson, was happier than a QAnon member spotting a Jewish laser from outer space when I asked him to write the script and play himself in the TV pilot. Martin’s husband Ruben vowed to hide Martin’s diapers and dentures until I cast Ruben as one of the murder victims. Martin and Ruben’s fifteen-year-old adopted son, Ty, began phoning nursing homes for Martin and Ruben until I cast Ty as theatre major and suspect P.J. Myers. Martin’s secretary, adversary, and confidant, Shayla Johnson, hinted at burning our paychecks, so I cast Shayla in the plum role of herself, Shayla Johnson. Finally, my nemesis, Detective Jose Manuello, bitten by the Treemeadow acting bug in my past shows, talked his way into playing himself. Manuello told me he wanted to be close by when shooting (pardon the pun) wraps, and members of the TV cast and crew are murdered. Oh, Manuello, ye of little faith. It’s an Abbondanza production. They’ll be murdered long before that. Speaking of which, the television network cast professional actors from Los Angeles and New York in the remaining roles, and we lodged the actors in the dormitory on campus. So, like a warning before the Great Hurricane of 1780, the slate board was raised, and we shot first exterior and now interior scenes. This current scene in our ruby theatre documents the Jack the Ripper style play I was directing at Treemeadow College a decade ago, “when I was a hunk.”

“You’re still a hunk to me.” Noah sat in the front-row theatre seat next to mine. His strawberry shampoo made me weak in the knees—which were getting weak anyway.

I pointed to the neck brace under my shirt collar. “I don’t feel like a hunk.”

He kissed the cleft in my chin. “You’ll always be my hunk. No matter how old and feeble you become, Nicky.”

“Thanks, Noah.” I think. True, my Italian-American genes had left me with tight olive skin, a Roman nose, and emerald eyes. Yes, the gym at the college had rewarded me with a muscular body. Of course, my wardrobe (copied by Noah, Taavi, and Ty) of a well-appointed dress shirt, dress slacks, and blazer made me look dashing. And then there is that other tidbit. Well, not exactly a tidbit. More like a titan. Why beat around the bush (no pun intended)? Like a new member of AA who is called to speak first, I’ll come right out and say I have a nearly foot-long penis—flaccid—which thanks to Noah isn’t flaccid very much.

Noah’s azure eyes, milk and honey skin, and radiant blond hair made him the picture of youth. Grr. “I’ll always adore you, Nicky.” He giggled. “Even when you’re old—er.”

I kissed his soft, youthful (grr) cheek.

Noah cooed. “Remember when we first met in this theatre, Nicky?”

“Yes, my graduate assistant, Scotty Bruno, was hot for you.”

“But I chose you, the love of my life. Despite you thinking I was a suspect in the Drama Queen murders.”

See?

Noah rested his head on my shoulder.

“Ow!”

“Sorry. How’s your neck, Nicky?”

“Ask the compressed nerves.” I sighed. “It’s no fun growing old.”

“Unless you have someone wonderful to grow old with.”

We started to kiss.

“When do we shoot my scene, Pop?” My son took the other seat next to me.

I turned toward him too quickly. “Ow! You can’t always be on camera, Taavi.”

“Then can I be onstage?” Taavi’s dimples resembled the craters of his homeland Hawaii.

Noah leaned toward our son. “My scene comes first.”

“Help, I’m trapped inside an actor sandwich!” I said.

Noah winked. “You can be the meat, Nicky.”

I whispered in his soft ear, “Later my love.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” he whispered back. “Literally.”

“I’m counting on it.”

Taavi’s dark eyes raised to his dark hair. “I can hear that.”

Noah did a doubletake. “How can you hear us whispering, but not shouting for you to go to bed at night?”

“Selective listening,” I explained to Noah.

Taavi cocked his head. “Is that an acting technique like sense memory and emotional recall?”

“For you, yes. And speaking of shouting.” After clearing my throat, I shouted to my cast onstage, “Caroline, Madame, and Tadeo, we can edit out your comments, but for future don’t break character until I call, ‘Cut!’”

About the Author: Joe Cosentino was voted Favorite MM Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of the Year by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen, the first Nicky and Noah mystery novel. He is also the author of the remaining Nicky and Noah mysteries: Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, Drama Fraternity, Drama Castle, Drama Dance, Drama Faerie, Drama Runway, Drama Christmas, Drama Pan, Drama TV; the Player Piano Mysteries: The Player and The Player’s Encore; the Jana Lane Mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll; the Cozzi Cove series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Moving Forward, Stepping Out, New Beginnings, Happy Endings; the In My Heart Anthology: An Infatuation & A Shooting Star; the Tales from Fairyland Anthology: The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland and Holiday Tales from Fairyland; the Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories Anthology: A Home for the Holidays, The Perfect Gift, The First Noel; and the Found At Last Anthology: Finding Giorgio and Finding Armando. His books have won numerous Book of the Month awards and Rainbow Award Honorable Mentions. As an actor, Joe appeared in principal roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Jason Robards, and Holland Taylor. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Goddard College, Master’s degree from SUNY New Paltz, and is currently a happily married college theatre professor/department chair residing in New York State.

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Giveaway: Post a comment on what you love most about a good gay mystery on television. The one that lights up our wide screen the most will win a gift Audible code for their choice of one of the first three Nicky and Noah mystery audiobooks: Drama Queen, Drama Muscle, or Drama Cruise.

Safe Harbor by Thom Collins – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Thom Collins who is celebrating the recent release of Safe Harbor, the second book in the Jagges Shores series. Enter the Rafflecopter below for the chance to win a $50.00 First for Romance Gift Card!

Two lovers seek shelter in a storm of jealousy and passion.

Matt arrives in the seaside town of Nyemouth for a much-needed vacation. As a successful lawyer, Matt has a hectic career, and with an ex-husband still pestering him for money, he is long overdue a break. A holiday home perched above the town and its breath-taking harbour seems like the perfect place to unwind. Matt can’t wait to explore the beautiful, jagged shorelines and lose himself for a couple of weeks.

Jake has made a home in Nyemouth. After growing up in the city, living on the coast is everything to him. Running a business with his sister and volunteering on the crew of the local lifeboat, he is exactly where he wants to be. But Jake’s life is far from peaceful. Though he left his domineering husband Vince a year ago, Vince refuses to consent to a divorce or loosen his controlling hold on Jake.

On Matt’s first night in town, he encounters the couple having a blazing row. When Vince turns violent, Matt intervenes and takes Jake inside to escape his angry ex. Despite what happened, Matt feels a powerful attraction to the younger man. Jake is bright, endearing and unbelievably attractive, but the young man’s life is complicated. Matt already has enough problems of his own. He came away looking for an escape, not a starry-eyed distraction. As Matt and Jake get to know each other better, the gamble on a holiday romance becomes hard for either of them to resist. They have both been unlucky in love before. Maybe this time will be different.

Vince will not be shaken off so easily. He has no intention of letting Jake go…ever. As Matt’s and Jake’s emotions deepen, they do not understand how far Vince will take things to keep his husband. As far as Vince is concerned, they made a vow to each other… “till death do us part.”

Reader advisory: This story contains stalking and assault, physical and emotional spousal abuse, attempted murder with a firearm and references to abusive parenting and substance additions.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Will you be staying long in town?” the shop assistant asked as he ran items through the till.

“Two weeks,” Matt Ramsey replied.

“Really?” The assistant, a pleasant-looking man in his fifties, didn’t look up from what he was doing. “It’s a small place to spend such a long amount of time. Won’t you get bored?”

“I doubt it. I want to use Nyemouth as a base to explore the local area—country walks, coastal trails, that kind of thing.”

“Oh, then you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. There are some stunning locations nearby, both up and down the coast.”

Matt smiled. He’d already done extensive research into this area of Northumberland. He’d visited here a couple of times before, just for the day, and it was a place he’d always wanted to discover further. With two weeks ahead of him and no other commitments, there would never be a better time.

He had finished work at five p.m. promptly and got straight into his car. Despite the Friday evening traffic, he’d made good time on the journey from York to Nyemouth, arriving at the holiday home just before seven-thirty. The old man who lived next door, a friendly guy called Jacob, had greeted him at the door with the keys and given him a quick rundown on the property and what he could find in town. Matt had left home without picking up supplies, and Jacob directed him to the small shop near the marina, less than ten minutes from the house, where he could get all he would need to see him through the next few days. Matt had thanked him and hurried down to the store.

He intended to get a takeaway for dinner tonight, but picked up bread, eggs, bacon, milk and tea bags for breakfast. He also bought three bottles of red wine, a bottle of dark rum and two litres of Diet Coke. It was his intention to eat out as much as possible while he was there, but he wanted to have some alcohol in for the times he came home late, so he could unwind in the comfort of the beautiful house that looked down on the marina and the mouth of the river.

“Have you lived here long?” he asked the cashier as he paid for his shopping.

“All my life,” the man said, sounding proud. “I know I knock the place for being small and there’s not a lot to do here out of season, but I do love it. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Matt nodded. “Even in the winter, I imagine it’s still a lovely place to be.”

The man gave a good-natured laugh. “Come back in February when there’s a seventy-mile-per-hour gale coming in from the North Sea and see if you feel the same.”

“If the next fortnight goes well, I might just do that.”

“Well, if you do, I’ll be here.” He handed over the two bags of groceries. “Enjoy your stay. Hopefully I’ll see you around.”

Matt thanked him and left the shop.

That evening, it was difficult to imagine the brutal winter conditions the shopkeeper had spoken of. It was coming up to nine o’clock and the clear sky was deepening into shades of lapis and blueberry, marred by just a few wisps of cloud, high in the atmosphere. The perfect sky was mirrored on the still water of the harbour. The fishing fleet was home for the night, the boats lying motionless in their moorings.

There were a lot of people milling around the marina, couples and families enjoying the mild July weather. The bars and restaurants along the waterfront had set tables outside and looked to be doing a good trade. Matt had heard great things about The Lobster Pot, a bar-come-restaurant in the heart of the bay, and intended to treat himself to at least one good meal there during his stay—maybe one night next week when it wasn’t so busy.

He walked across the harbour, passing by the lifeboat station, towards the footpath back up to the house on South Bank Terrace.

Nyemouth’s lifeboat had made worldwide news the past summer when it was involved in the frantic rescue of the actor Arnie Walker and his young son. The publicity afterwards had brought hordes of tourists to the small seaside town. When Matt had been searching for a place in Northumberland to stay for his summer holiday, he’d almost discounted Nyemouth, remembering the scenes of chaos he’d seen on the news less than a year before. He wanted somewhere peaceful as a base for his hiking trips, and the interest Arnie’s rescue had created for the town made it far from ideal.

Matt had done some extra research and, while it was true that Nyemouth was now on the map as a major tourist attraction, the initial ghoulish interest people had taken in it had settled down, although he’d read that Arnie Walker was now a permanent resident here with a home on the north bank of the river. When Matt had discovered a house on the south side was available for the dates he required, those niggling concerns had disappeared.

Now he was here, breathing in the fresh sea air, and he knew he’d made the right choice.

At thirty-nine, Matt had no qualms about going on holiday by himself. He was a free man, able to do what he wanted and pursue his own interests without having to compromise for someone else. Some of his friends and colleagues had tried to talk him out of it and persuade him to join them for his summer break. Matt had no interest in their Spanish villas or their all-inclusive trips to the Caribbean. He’d always wanted to explore Northumberland, and now, divorced and one year short of his fortieth birthday, he intended to do exactly what he pleased.

Those same colleagues were always trying to fix him up with their gay friends. It was four years since he’d split with Clinton, and people seemed determined to pair him off with someone else.

It was all well-meant, but Matt didn’t need it. This was his time to do his own thing, and he intended to enjoy it.

He followed the path upwards, through the cobbled backstreets of the old town. Living in a city, albeit a modest one like York, gave him a greater appreciation of small towns and villages, especially those on the coast. The pace was much calmer here, more peaceful. He knew he was looking through the rose-tinted eyes of a tourist, but tonight he was happy in the belief that life was simpler in a place like this.

A middle-aged couple walking a small terrier smiled at him and nodded as they passed.

“Hey,” he said in return.

After a busy day at court, he looked forward to a quiet night in the holiday home. He would pour a glass of wine, order some food and unpack his stuff while waiting for it to arrive. He was too tired to explore the town this evening. There would be plenty of time for that tomorrow. He intended to get acquainted with Nyemouth this weekend, checking out the shops, pubs and cafés, before exploring the wider area next week.

Matt was a keen walker and hiker. Though the path from the marina to the house was steep, he managed it with the two bags of shopping without getting even mildly out of breath. The path levelled out as he reached South Bank Terrace and the last stretch was straight. The views from up here were second-to-none, taking in the entire valley and the river mouth. Maybe he’d be able to enjoy it with a glass of wine in the front garden before darkness cut in.

There were two men on the path that ran in front of the garden wall. He heard their raised voices as he approached.

“I’ve told you a million times before that the answer is no,” one of the men said. He was dressed in running shorts and a T-shirt—younger and slimmer than the other man. Pretty hot, Matt noticed the guy with long, muscular legs and dark brown hair that swept back from his face in luxurious waves.

“You’re being unreasonable,” the second man said. His voice sounded tight, like he was speaking through gritted teeth. He was stocky and thickset, with closely cropped grey hair and a narrow face. He wore grey suit trousers and a white shirt, the sleeves rolled up and the neck open.

“You’re the one who followed me up here,” the younger man said, sounding like he was close to losing it.

“What was I supposed to do? You won’t answer your damned phone. You don’t respond to my voicemails.”

“Don’t you get it, Vince? I blocked your number. I’ve told you before—I don’t know how many times—but I’ve had enough.”

A lover’s tiff, Matt guessed, though they seemed an unlikely couple. The young guy could do so much better for himself. Not that looks were everything, but he was way out of the older man’s league. Matt gave them a wide berth as he passed, but came close enough to see just how attractive the young man was. He had large, expressive eyes, a long, straight nose and a wide mouth. He looked wholesomely handsome in his running gear, giving off cute Clark Kent vibes.

The other man, he realised, was not as old as he’d first seemed, maybe early-to-mid-thirties. His prematurely grey hair and sharp features created a false impression. Even still, the two men did not look well matched.

“Just come with me,” the older man, Vince, snarled. “Listen to what I have to say.”

“Vince, I’ve heard everything before. There’s nothing you can say now that will make any difference.”

About the Author: Thom Collins is the author of Closer by Morning, with Pride Publishing. His love of page turning thrillers began at an early age when his mother caught him reading the latest Jackie Collins book and promptly confiscated it, sparking a life-long love of raunchy novels.

Thom has lived in the North East of England his whole life. He grew up in Northumberland and now lives in County Durham with his husband and two cats. He loves all kinds of genre fiction, especially bonkbusters, thrillers, romance and horror. He is also a cookery book addict with far too many titles cluttering his shelves. When not writing he can be found in the kitchen trying out new recipes. He’s a keen traveler but with a fear of flying that gets worse with age, but since taking his first cruise in 2013 he realized that sailing is the way to go.

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Sun, Sea and Spotted Squid by Kristian Parker – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Kristian Parker who is celebrating the recent release of Sun, Sea and Spotted Squid. Enter to win a fabulous gift package and get a FREE eBook from the author!

Sam came to Spain for a summer with squid—but found a Wolfgang…

University graduate Sam is looking forward to a summer internship at Valencia’s world-famous Oceanogràfic Aquarium, but it’s fellow intern and flatmate Wolf who captures his interest.

Tall, handsome redhead Wolfgang is also aloof, and Sam burns to know what makes him tick. Being paired with him on a project has Sam imagining them spending their days out on the ocean in the aquarium’s boat, but Wolfgang only has eyes for the rare spotted squid they’re assigned to study. Charming.

But Sam won’t take second place to a cephalopod mollusc, even one with spots. He sets his sights on cracking Wolfgang’s shell…only to discover the sexy German is so far in the closet that his address could be Narnia House, Narnia Street, Narnia.

Can Sam help Wolfgang find the strength to be true to himself and his desires, or will their relationship be like the squid they’re seeking and plummet to the depths of the seabed when summer’s over?

Enjoy an Excerpt

France lay below like the skin of a huge beast, veins interlocking across it, but if I really squinted, they became roads with little cars and lorries zooming along them. From the first time I’d been on an aeroplane as a kid, I’d loved to stare out of the window at the world below. All those lives being played out beneath me sent my imagination rolling.

“And what is it you’re doing in Spain?” asked Mrs Talkative, my seat neighbour who was oblivious to my turned shoulder.

“I’m going to be working at the Oceanogràfic,” I replied, cursing myself again that I had left my headphones at the bottom of my bag, out of reach.

“Oh yes, I know what that is,” she said, holding up a guidebook as evidence. “That’s the aquarium near the beach.”

I nodded and gave her a weak smile.

“I’m surprised that your mother is letting you come out here for the summer,” she continued.

I had just turned twenty-five, so my mother didn’t really have much of a say in what I did. She had cried buckets at the departure lounge, of course. I had tried to explain to her that I had been away from her longer than eight weeks when I’d lived at uni, but nothing had stopped the waterworks.

“She just wants me to be happy,” I told Mrs Talkative.

“She sounds like a wonderful mother.” She popped her mini bottle of prosecco with a shriek of glee and poured herself a glass. “Bottoms up. Here’s to happy holidays.”

I took a healthy swig of my beer while she sipped her fizz as though she had never done anything so wild in her life.

* * * *

Two hours later and I found myself in the back of a taxi to take me to the rooms in the old town that the aquarium had arranged. I had managed to lose Mrs Talkative at the baggage carousel—otherwise, I think she would have insisted on coming and checking out my room. I half suspected her to be a sleeper agent dispatched by my mother to keep watch.

The view from the taxi seemed like any other European city. Huge furniture shops gave way to bigger supermarkets which gave way to vast warehouses. Even so, I had my nose glued to the window while I took in the city that would be my home for the next eight weeks.

As we came closer to the centre, the modern buildings slowly changed to older, more dusty ones. People on the street replaced the hard shoulder. Young people crowded around a motorcycle. Three women gossiped on the corner. A group of men were making their way into a bar. And I couldn’t wait to dive into it.

I had been to Spain before, but my family preferred an all-inclusive hotel to a city break. I had wanted a new experience…and I’d got one.

“There is a kite festival soon as well,” said the taxi driver, who had taken it upon himself to give me a running commentary.

I’ll be here for the whole summer. I can go to that festival and I’m not even bothered about kites.

The car turned onto a busy road and to my left were treetops on a level with the car.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Ah,” said the driver, puffing up his chest. “That is the Turia Riverbed Park. The jewel in our crown. Down below the road, where the river once flowed, lies a beautiful park.”

I frowned. “What happened to the river?”

“Years ago, they were sick of the flooding, so they simply rerouted the river. They made that park from land. My grandfather worked on it, you know.”

I hadn’t been too great at doing my research into the place—after studying hard for my Master’s, I’d struggled to find motivation to pick up yet another book. But I had read online that the park led to the Ciutat de les Arts i de les Ciències which held the aquarium I would be working in.

“Is the aquarium there?” I asked.

“Ah yes, so many buildings down towards the sea.”

I craned my neck behind to see if I could see the huge buildings I’d studied on the internet, but couldn’t see anything.

“You won’t see it like that. You want me to detour?” the driver-turned-tour-guide offered.

As tempting as it was, I declined. I wanted to find my digs and my fellow workmates.

I had never been the type who had wanderlust. I had been happy to wave my school friends off when they went to find themselves in far-flung places. I’d settled on finishing my studies. I’d had plenty of fun on the way too, so I didn’t feel too sorry for myself. But today made up for all that lost excitement, especially now we were on the cobbled streets of the old town. I peered out of the windows, trying to get my bearings. People were on both sides of the narrow street, jumping onto the pavement as we drove past.

Eventually we stopped outside a nondescript bar with a couple of people outside smoking. The sign seemed to be half hanging off and the rusty yellowy-white furniture in front of it had seen better days.

“We’re here,” announced the taxi driver.

“We are?” I echoed, my stomach sinking.

I rustled in my bag to get out my letter from the aquarium and checked the address. We were here. Perhaps it would be better inside. The letter said to use the door to the left of the bar.

Standing in the street once I’d paid the driver, I looked up at the grimy windows. The smokers outside the bar watched me with interest. Putting on the best confident face in my repertoire, I picked up my spectacularly heavy suitcase and made my way through the door and up the filthy staircase that greeted me.

By the time I reached the top, I had to lean against the wall. I regretted packing nearly every item of clothing I owned. I had agonised over the outfit to wear today, but first impressions counted, so I’d settled on jeans and polo shirt, tight to show off my slim waist. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror at the top of the stairs—my dark curls had gone a bit frizzy, but other than that, I didn’t look too bad.

A stunningly beautiful girl appeared out of one of the doors.

“Hola,” she said, staring me up and down.

“Hi. I’m Sam Davis.”

“Ah, typical Brit. Doesn’t know the language and expects us all to know his,” she said with a smirk.

“Hola. Encantado de conocerte. Soy Sam Davis.”

She had the decency to give a little embarrassed laugh. “Silly me. I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, should I? I’m Astrid Ström.”

We stood there staring at each other for a second before she realised she had barred my way.

“Come in,” she said.

I followed her down the corridor. To my horror, my feet were sticking to a carpet which clearly hadn’t seen a decent vacuum cleaner in decades.

A door on my left lay open. Inside, another girl was busying herself hanging up clothes.

“Maria, this is Sam,” Astrid called.

Maria stopped pulling clothes out of her suitcase long enough to give me a wave.

We carried on to the end of the passage, which had three more doors. Before I could ask about the winding staircase next to the third door, which must lead to another floor, Astrid pointed to the door on the left that had a poster of a rock band called Satan’s Flesh peeling off it. “That’s Genevieve and Paul’s room. They are in there doing things that couples do.” She giggled.

The overwhelming smell of old fried food had started to make my eyes water. I couldn’t work out if it came from one of the rooms or from downstairs.

Astrid seemed to be taking charge of everyone. How had they managed to form a tight group already? I hated being the last to turn up anywhere. I would much rather be the first and let things build around me, but I couldn’t do anything about it now.

Astrid pushed open the middle door to reveal the smallest kitchen I had ever seen. A gas cooker covered in stains and a tiny larder fridge told me I would probably be eating out a lot of the summer. The smell doubled in here. I knew I shouldn’t turn my nose up, but this had not been what I had imagined when I’d heard I would be living in Valencia’s famous old town area.

Behind the final door, she showed me a matching tiny bathroom. “I’ve given it a good clean,” she said. I clearly hadn’t hidden my first impressions. My friends always said I would be a useless poker player.

“Thank you,” I said.

That meant my room must be up the steep stairs I had glimpsed.

“We thought we’d go out for something to eat. See you in an hour?”

“Oh, okay.”

With that, she set off down the corridor to her room before stopping halfway. “Oh, choose whichever of the two rooms upstairs you like. The final member of our little group doesn’t arrive until later.”

I took a deep breath and half carried, half dragged my case up the stairs. It caught on a piece of the peeling wallpaper and managed to rip it off, sending some plaster scattering onto the threadbare carpet. At the top lay a small landing with three doors.

I peeped through one into the room it led to. It had to have been a storeroom at some point—the proportions were tiny. So much for attics having the biggest rooms. A quick peek through the middle door revealed a shower room. I opted for the final door.

I pushed it open and discovered what would be my home for the next eight weeks.

A lumpy bed sat against one wall with a black lacquer bedside cabinet to the side. A wobbly looking desk and wardrobe completed the furnishings. This is just a place to sleep. You’ll be out most of the time.

I plonked myself down on the bed and took a minute. I had made it to Spain. The view from the window showed the rooftops of the town stretching ahead to the cathedral in the distance. It reminded me of when I’d first arrived at the halls of residence at university. Some people had been nervous, but I couldn’t wait to get going and find out what adventure I had signed up for.

I took a picture of the view and sent it to my Mum.

Greetings from España. It’s lovely here. Can’t wait to get started.

It wouldn’t be a good move to show her my room. She would go mad. My case sat in the corner—I should probably unpack. But I had all the time in the world. Instead, I sat up on the windowsill and watched all the people coming and going. A bit of peace felt great.

An hour later, I ventured down to the kitchen. I hadn’t braved a shower—something told me that would need all my strength. Instead, I’d washed in the sink and changed my clothes, discovering that the bathroom was for my room and the other bedroom, meaning I’d have to remember to lock both doors when I used it.

In the kitchen I found a couple feeding each other pieces of ham.

“Bonjour,” said the girl when she saw me come in.

“Bonjour,” I replied.

“This is our Brit, then,” said the man. “I am Paul and this is Genevieve.”

“Sam.”

We put our hands in our pockets and kind of stared at each other awkwardly. “Where shall we eat?” asked Paul, breaking the stalemate, much to my relief.

“Oh, we have to have paella,” said a voice behind me. Astrid beamed away at us. “We are in the birthplace of it, after all.”

“Do you like paella?” Paul asked me.

“I love it. I do eat more than egg and chips, you know,” I said. “In fact, I make a mean paella myself…but probably not in this kitchen.”

They all laughed. Always a good sign.

“Paul has been reading about the best paella place in Valencia,” said Genevieve, staring adoringly at him. “It’s only a few streets away.”

“That’s settled then,” said Astrid.

“Ready,” said Maria over Astrid’s shoulder.

Our merry little band were all together for the first time. “Time for a selfie,” I said. Everyone got in for the picture.

“We will have to do one when the other guy comes,” said Maria.

I’d almost forgotten about the missing member. “What’s his name?”

“Wolfgang,” said Astrid. “I saw it on the email.”

Wolfgang? That sounded butch. What would he be like? I’d find out soon enough.

About the Author I have written for as long as I could write. In fact, before, when I would dictate to my auntie. I love to read, and I love to create worlds and characters.

I live in the English countryside. When I’m not writing, I like to get out there and think through the next scenario I’m going to throw my characters into.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, on a train, in a restaurant or in an office. I am always in search of the next character to find love in one of my stories. In a world of apps and online dating, it is important to remember love can be found when you least expect it.

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An Interview with Nicky Abbondanza by Joe Cosentino – Guest Blog and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Joe Cosentino who is celebrating the recent release of Drama Pan, the 12th Nicky and Noah mystery/comedy/romance novel. Post a comment about why you love a gay cozy mystery. The one that tinkers our bell the most will win a complimentary audiobook of Drama Queen, the first Nicky and Noah mystery novel, by Joe Cosentino, performed by Michael Gilboe.

Enjoy an Interview with Nicky Abbondanza

Nicky, you’re like Peter Pan, the guy who never grew up!

Noah says I grow “up” in bed each night. (smile)

Congratulations on the release of the twelfth novel in your award-winning and popular Nicky and Noah gay cozy comedy mystery series.

Thank you. I bought Noah a dozen roses to celebrate.

Since the readers can’t see you, tell them what you look like.

Noah says I’m totally hot. Now you know why I love him so much. I’m tall with dark hair and long sideburns Noah loves to kiss, a cleft chin, Roman nose, emerald eyes, and a hunky body thanks to the gym on campus I call the torture chamber.

And?

Noah says I have a huge heart. Among other huge organs, which is just fine with Noah.

Tell us about Drama Pan, the twelfth novel in your popular, award-winning series.

It’s all about me (smile). In Drama Pan my merry theatrical crew at Treemeadow College create our own musical version of Peter Pan entitled, Every Fairy Needs a Big Hook! Enter the belligerent Couture family of avant-garde technical designers as guest artists. In no time the Coutures are hung out to dry by a mass murderer. For the twelfth time we thick as thieves thespians (Try saying that three times fast while eating peanut butter) use our drama skills, including playing outrageous characters, to catch the killer before they get thrown to the crocodiles.

As usual, calamity ensues.

Of course! I do triple duty as director, Mr. Darling, and Captain Hook. (See, it’s all about me. smile) Noah gets the title role of Peter Pan. He slept with the director. (smile) Our witty and wild best friends Martin Anderson, Theatre Department Chair, and his husband Ruben camp it up as a tiger of a Tiger Lily and swarmy Smee the pirate respectively. Our stagestruck son Taavi tries to steal the show as Michael Darling, and Martin and Ruben’s cocky son holds his own as John Darling. Martin’s sassy secretary Shayla plays Mrs. Darling, and longsuffering detective Manuello hits the ground as Nana and the Crocodile. I have my hook full as technical dress rehearsals for the show get off to a start more rocky than Captain Hook’s boat, and Taavi and Ty fall unrequitedly in love with the same person.

Who are the new characters in book twelve?

Graduate assistant and technical director Jax Jun insists the play violates his “religious freedom.” Santino Thirio, senior theatre major and stage manager, pumps his muscles while pumping others to invest in his dream to become a producer. Twink Tripp Taleb, the sophomore theatre major playing Tinker Bell, has his fairy dust aimed at Santino. Oscar Romero, tall and brawny sophomore theatre major with the loud singing voice playing the Merman, has his fins in the water over Tripp. All of the actors are exasperated over the avant-garde technical aspects of the show, none more than Tiara Moore, junior theatre major playing Wendy.

Who was your favorite new character?

Oscar Romero, the student who plays the Merman, wearing a g-string and fins. He has a song in the show called “What’s Between My Legs.” His affection for the student playing Tinker Bell is really sweet.

Which new character do you like the least?

All of the Coutures! The family of technical designers are egotistical (I wouldn’t know about that. smile), arrogant, predatory, and opportunistic. It’s great fun to watch them get the hook.

Which new character was the sexiest?

Dark-eyed muscleman Santino Thirio, our student stage manager who knows how to work a lighting board—and work everyone around him.

What makes the Nicky and Noah mystery series so special?

Me! I’m a legend in my own mind. Actually, it’s a gay cozy mystery comedy series, meaning the setting is warm and cozy, the clues and murders (and laughs) come fast and furious, and there are enough plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning “faster than a Super PAC buying a conservative politician.” At the center is the touching relationship between Noah and me. You watch us go from courting to marrying to adopting a child, all the while head over heels in love with each other. Reviewers called the series “hysterically funny farce,” “Murder She Wrote meets Hart to Hart meets The Hardy Boys,” and “captivating whodunits.” One reviewer wrote they are the funniest books she’s ever read! Another said Joe is “a master storyteller.” Who am I to argue? Even though I tell Joe everything to write.

How are the novels cozy?

Many of them take place in Vermont, a cozy state with green pastures, white church steeples, glowing lakes, and friendly and accepting people. Fictitious Treemeadow College (named after its gay founders, couple Tree and Meadow) is the perfect setting for a cozy mystery with its white Edwardian buildings, low white stone fences, lake and mountain views, and cherry wood offices with tall leather chairs and fireplaces.

Why do you think there aren’t many other gay cozy mystery series out there?

Most MM novels are erotica, young adult, dark thrillers, or supernatural. While that’s fine, I think we’re missing a whole spectrum of fiction. In the case of the Nicky and Noah mysteries, they include romance, humor, mystery, adventure, and quaint and loveable characters in uncanny situations. The settings are warm and cozy with lots of hot cocoa by the fireplace. The clues and red herrings are there for the perfect whodunit. So are the plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning over “like an anti-gay politician in the back of a pick-up truck.” No matter what is thrown in my path, I always end up on top, which is just fine with Noah.

For anyone unfortunate enough not to have read them, tell us a bit about the first eleven novels in the series.

I’ll let Joe do that. He needs to be good for something. Take it away, Joe.

Joe: In Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Novel of the Year) Nicky directs the school play at Treemeadow College—which is named after its gay founders, Tree and Meadow. Theatre professors drops like stage curtains, and Nicky and Noah have to use their theatre skills, including impersonating other people, to figure out whodunit. In Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention) Nicky and Noah don their gay Holmes and Watson personas again to find out why bodybuilding students and professors in Nicky’s bodybuilding competition at Treemeadow are dropping faster than barbells. In Drama Cruise it is summer on a ten-day cruise from San Francisco to Alaska and back. Nicky and Noah must figure out why college theatre professors are dropping like life rafts as Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship starring Noah and other college theatre professors from across the US. Complicating matters are their both sets of wacky parents who want to embark on all the activities on and off the boat with the handsome couple. In Drama Luau, Nicky is directing the luau show at the Maui Mist Resort and he and Noah need to figure out why muscular Hawaiian hula dancers are dropping like grass skirts. Their department head/best friend and his husband, Martin and Ruben, are along for the bumpy tropical ride. In Drama Detective (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Nicky is directing and ultimately co-starring with his husband Noah as Holmes and Watson in a new musical Sherlock Holmes play at Treemeadow College prior to Broadway. Martin and Ruben, their sassy office assistant Shayla, Nicky’s brother Tony, and Nicky and Noah’s son Taavi are also in the cast. Of course dead bodies begin falling over like hammy actors at a curtain call. Once again Nicky and Noah use their drama skills to figure out who is lowering the street lamps on the actors before the handsome couple get half-baked on Baker Street. In Drama Fraternity, Nicky is directing Tight End Scream Queen, a slasher movie filmed at Treemeadow College’s football fraternity house, co-starring Noah, Taavi, and Martin. Rounding out the cast are members of Treemeadow’s Christian football players’ fraternity along with two hunky screen stars. When the jammer, wide receiver, and more begin fading out with their scenes, Nicky and Noah once again need to use their drama skills to figure out who is sending young hunky actors to the cutting room floor before Nicky and Noah hit the final reel. In Drama Castle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), Nicky is directing a historical film co-starring Noah and Taavi at Conall Castle in Scotland: When the Wind Blows Up Your Kilt It’s Time for A Scotch. Adding to the cast are members of the mysterious Conall family who own the castle. When hunky men in kilts topple off the drawbridge and into the mote, it’s up to Nicky and Noah to use their acting skills to figure out whodunit before Nicky and Noah land in the dungeon. In Drama Dance (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention), during rehearsals of The Nutcracker ballet at Treemeadow, muscular dance students and faculty cause more things to rise than the Christmas tree. When cast members drop faster than Christmas balls, Nicky and Noah once again use their drama skills, including impersonating other people, to figure out who is trying to crack the Nutcracker’s nuts, trap the Mouse King, and be cavalier with the Cavalier before Nicky and Noah end up in the Christmas pudding. In Drama Faerie, Nicky and friends are doing a musical production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Treemeadow’s new Globe Theatre. With an all-male, skimpily dressed cast and a love potion gone wild, romance is in the starry night air. When hunky students and faculty in the production drop faster than their tunics and tights, Nicky and Noah use their drama skills to figure out who is taking swordplay to the extreme before Nicky and Noah end up foiled in the forest. In Drama Runway Nicky directs a runway show for the Fashion Department. When sexy male models drop faster than their leather chaps, Nicky and Noah use their drama skills to figure out who is taking the term “a cut male model” literally before Nicky and Noah end up steamed in the wardrobe steamer. In Drama Christmas Nicky, Noah, and crew don their gay apparel in a musical version of Scrooge’s A Christmas Carol, entitled Call Me Carol! More than stockings are hung when hunky chorus members drop like snowflakes. Once again, our favorite thespians use their drama skills to catch the killer and make the yuletide gay before their Christmas balls get cracked.

Joe is a college theatre professor/department chair like Martin Anderson in your series. Has that influenced your series, Nicky?

As a past professional actor and current college theatre professor/department chair, Joe knows first-hand the wild and wacky antics, sweet romance, and captivating mystery in the worlds of theatre and academia. The Nicky and Noah mysteries are full of them! He never seems to run out of wild characters to write about. His faculty colleagues and students kid him that if any of them tick me off, he’ll kill them in his next book. And he probably will. The little guy is fearless!

What do you like about the regular characters in the series?

I like my never give up attitude and sense of humor in the face of adversity. I’m genuinely concerned for others, and I’ll do anything to solve a murder mystery. I’m also a one-man man, and I’m proud to admit that man is Noah Oliver. Noah is blond, blue-eyed, lean, handsome, smart, and devoted. He makes the perfect Watson to my Holmes. (I always thought Holmes and Watson were a gay couple.) Noah also has a large heart and soft spot (no pun intended) for others. Finally, like me, Noah is gifted at improvisation, and creates wild and wonderful characters for our role plays to catch the murderer. I think it’s terrific how Martin and Ruben throw riotous zingers at each other, but they’re so much in love. You don’t see a lot of older gay characters in books nowadays. Of course Martin’s administrative assistant, Shayla, thrives on her one-upmanship with Martin, and he thrives right back.

How about your and Noah’s parents?

They’re hilarious. I love Noah’s mother’s fixation with taking pictures of everything, and his father’s fascination with seeing movies. I also love how Noah’s father is an amateur sleuth like me. As they say, men marry their fathers. My parents’ goal to feed everyone and protect their children is heartwarming. My mom’s gambling addiction is also a riot. Both sets of parents fully embrace their sons and their sons’ family, which is refreshing.

I’m sure Joe has been told that the books would make a terrific TV series.

Many many times. Rather than Logo showing reruns of Golden Girls around the clock, and Bravo airing so called reality shows, I would love to see them do The Nicky and Noah Mysteries. Come on, TV producers, make your offers! Joe has written a teleplay of the first novel and treatments for the remaining novels!

How would you cast the TV series?

Here’s my wish list: Matt Bomer as me, Neil Patrick Harris as Noah, Rosie O’Donnell and Bruce Willis as Noah’s parents, Valerie Bertinelli and Jay Leno as my parents, Joe as Martin Anderson (nepotism!), Nathan Lane as Martin’s husband Ruben, Wanda Sykes as Martin’s office assistant Shayla, and Joe Manganiello as my brother Tony.

Tell us about Joe’s other mystery series, the Jana Lane mysteries published by The Wild Rose Press.
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Noah and I aren’t in them. So take it away, Joe.

Joe: I created a heroine who was the biggest child star ever until she was attacked on the studio lot at eighteen years old. In Paper Doll Jana at thirty-eight lives with her family in a mansion in picturesque Hudson Valley, New York. Her flashbacks from the past become murder attempts in her future. Forced to summon up the lost courage she had as a child, Jana ventures back to Hollywood, which helps her uncover a web of secrets about everyone she loves. In Porcelain Doll Jana makes a comeback film and uncovers who is being murdered on the set and why. In Satin Doll Jana and family head to Washington, DC, where Jana plays a US senator in a new film, and becomes embroiled in a murder and corruption at the senate chamber. In China Doll Jana heads to New York City to star in a Broadway play, faced with murder on stage and off. In Rag Doll Jana stars in a television mystery series and life imitates art. Since the novels take place in the 1980’s, Jana’s agent and best friend are gay, and Jana is somewhat of a gay activist, the AIDS epidemic is a large part of the novels.

And how about Joe’s New Jersey beach series?

Noah and I aren’t in those either. So you’re on again, Joe.

Joe: A reviewer compared them to Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City books. I was incredibly humbled and flattered. I love those books, and they are incredibly cinematic (hint-producers)! They are: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings, and Cozzi Cove: Happy Endings. The series (NineStar Press) is about handsome Cal Cozzi’s gay beach resort on a gorgeous cove. I spent my summers as a kid on the Jersey Shore, so it’s a special place for me. The first novel was a Favorite Book of the Month on The TBR Pile site and won a Rainbow Award Honorable Mention. I love the intertwining stories of Cal and his family and the guests as Cozzi Cove, each so full of surprises. Cozzi Cove is a place where nothing is what it seems, anything can happen, and romance is everywhere. Some reviewers have called it a gay Fantasy Island.

What’s next for Joe?

It depends on what Noah and I tell him.

How can your readers get their hands on Drama Pan, and how can they contact you?

The purchase links are below, as are Joe’s contact links, including his web site. I love to hear from readers via Joe! He tells Noah and me everything you say about us!

Thank you, Nicky, for interviewing today.

My pleasure. I know you’ll laugh, cry, feel romantic, and love delving into this crackling new mystery with more plot twists and turns than a congressional hearing to impeach a treasonous ex-president. I’m more excited than a Republican governor taking Democrats off the voter rolls to share this twelfth novel in the series with you. So take your seats and throw the fairy dust. The stage lights are coming up in Never Land on a lad who won’t grow up without Viagra, a pirate with a huge hook, a twink called Tink, a Lily who’s a tiger, a Merman perplexed at what’s between his legs, and murder!

It’s spring break at Treemeadow College, and Theatre professors and spouses Nicky Abbondanza and Noah Oliver, their best friends Martin and Ruben, and their sons Taavi and Ty are sprinkling on the fairy dust in an original musical extravaganza of Peter Pan entitled Every Fairy Needs a Big Hook! Pirates shout more than “Yo, ho!” when a family of visiting technical designers, the Coutures, drop like yesterday’s fashions. Once again, our favorite thespians will need to use their drama skills to catch the killer before they get the hook. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining twelfth novel in this delightful series. So take your seats and believe in fairies. The stage lights are coming up in Never Land on a lad who won’t grow up without Viagra, a pirate with quite the hook, a twink called Tink, a Lily who’s a tiger, a Merman surprised at what’s between his legs, and murder!

Praise for the Nicky and Noah mysteries:

“Joe Cosentino has a unique and fabulous gift. His writing is flawless, and his plot-lines will have you guessing until the very last page, which makes his books a joy to read. His books are worth their weight in gold, and if you haven’t discovered them yet you are in for a rare treat.” Divine Magazine

“a combination of Laurel and Hardy mixed with Hitchcock and Murder She Wrote…
Loaded with puns and one-liners…Right to the end, you are kept guessing, and the conclusion still has a surprise in store for you.” “the best modern Sherlock and Watson in books today…I highly recommend this book and the entire series, it’s a pure pleasure, full of fun and love, written with talent and brio…fabulous…brilliant” Optimumm Book Reviews

“adventure, mystery, and romance with every page….Funny, clever, and sweet….I can’t find anything not to love about this series….This read had me laughing and falling in love….Nicky and Noah are my favorite gay couple.” Urban Book Reviews

“Every entry of the Nicky and Noah mystery series is rife with intrigue, calamity, and hilarity…Cosentino keeps us guessing – and laughing – until the end, as well as leaving us breathlessly anticipating the next Nicky and Noah thriller.” Edge Media Network

“This is one hilarious series with a heart and it just keeps getting better. I highly recommend them all, and please read them in the order they were written for full blown laugh out loud reading pleasure!” Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Enjoy an Excerpt

The Darling’s white nursery was lit only by the three lamps, one at each bedside. Wendy, Michael, and John knelt at their beds singing their nightly prayer with Big Ben and the London Bridge watching over them outside the nursery window. Suddenly, the three children were hung from the ceiling like bandits in the old West.

“Stop!” Remember me? It’s Nicky Abbondanza, PhD, Professor of Play Directing at Treemeadow College and Vermont’s theatre armchair Sherlock Holmes. My last name means ‘an abundance,’ which is certainly true in my case. An expression in my Kansas hometown is ‘hung like an Abbondanza,” given the fact that I have a nearly foot long penis—flaccid—which it has been constantly during tech week. For any of you who aren’t insane enough to direct a play, tech week is the time when the technical elements are added to a production, and any director worth his weight in Playbills yearns for a straitjacket and a long commitment to a mental institution harboring no thespians, which of course doesn’t exist. So here I sit front row center in the college’s ruby (like the color of my eyes) theatre with electronic tablet in hand contemplating how to begin my suicide note.

Why am I in the college’s theatre during spring break week—a time when students are generally away getting STDs and unwanted pregnancies? My younger brother Tony arranged for the award-winning Couture family of technical theatre designers to be visiting artists at Treemeadow for the Theatre Department’s spring extravaganza. So my best friend, Theatre Department Head/Professor of Theatre Management Martin Anderson, went right to work writing an original musical production of Peter Pan called Every Fairy Needs a Big Hook! After rehearsing much of spring semester, we finally hit tech week before opening night.

Outside our Edwardian-style campus, trees are budding over the low white stone wall and walkways surrounding the campus. A rainbow array (no pun intended) of flowers peeks out from behind the university’s white stone entrance, where the bronze statues of Harold Tree and Jacob Meadow, the gay couple who founded the university, have again become a resting spot—and relieving spot—for multicolored birds of many species. The calm, cool spring air ripples in the surrounding lake and brush over the bordering majestic mountains. However, inside the theatre, we are feeling anything but calm or cool.

“Why are the children dangling from the ceiling like track lighting?”

That was the renowned Jules Couture, avant-garde set designer, taking center stage. Jules, in his fifties, small, wiry, with an enormous nose to match his huge ears, looks like an aardvark in heat.

“Because your flying apparatus is even more temperamental than you are, Jules.” Jax Jun, theatre graduate assistant and technical and musical director for our show, locked eyes with Jules. In their techie black turtlenecks and chinos, the two men looked like beatnik renegades from a 1950’s funeral.

Jules ran a shaky hand through his dark hair and narrowed his gray eyes. “There is nothing wrong with my flying equipment.”

“Except that it ejaculates prematurely.”

No pun intended.

Jules groaned. “My family and I cannot work like this, Nicky.”

I can relate.

Jax’s exotic jade eyes widened. “None of us would have to ‘work like this’ if I were designing the show.”

Jules snickered like a Republican president pardoning his cohorts in crime. “The Coutures have designed shows to rave reviews from our native France to Italy to London and throughout the US on our way to Broadway.”

“Your avant-garde style may work in some venues, but it’s out of place in this show and at our university,” replied the graduate assistant.

“How so?”

Jax scratched at his thin dark locks. “A set that looks like a teeth-whitening commercial, turning Never Land into outer space, and the revealing Merman and Tinker Bell costumes are against my religious freedom!”

I cleared my throat, which unfortunately didn’t clear my head. “Can we discuss this another time, gentlemen, since the children have hit the roof—literally?”

About the Author Joe Cosentino was voted Favorite MM Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of the Year by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen, the first Nicky and Noah mystery novel. He is also the author of the remaining Nicky and Noah mysteries: Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, Drama Fraternity, Drama Castle, Drama Dance, Drama Faerie, Drama Runway, Drama Christmas, Drama Pan; the Player Piano Mysteries: The Player and The Player’s Encore; the Jana Lane Mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll; the Cozzi Cove series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Moving Forward, Stepping Out, New Beginnings, Happy Endings; the In My Heart Anthology: An Infatuation & A Shooting Star; the Tales from Fairyland Anthology: The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland and Holiday Tales from Fairyland; the Bobby and Paolo Holiday Stories Anthology: A Home for the Holidays, The Perfect Gift, The First Noel; and the Found At Last Anthology: Finding Giorgio and Finding Armando. His books have won numerous Book of the Month awards and Rainbow Award Honorable Mentions. As an actor, Joe appeared in principal roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Jason Robards, and Holland Taylor. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Goddard College, Master’s degree from SUNY New Paltz, and is currently a happily married college theatre professor/department chair residing in New York State.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon Author Page

Buy the book at Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, or Barnes and Noble.

Wyvern Ways & Elven Magic by Bailey Bradford – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Bailey Bradford who is celebrating the recent release of Wyvern Ways & Elven Magic, the second book in her Fire and Flutter series. Enter and get a FREE romance book from the author!

Take one magic-sensitive wyvern shifter, one horny royal-adjacent elf…and stand well back.

Brick’s a wyvern shifter, but he’s not wily or skilled in diplomacy like wyvern shifters should be. Instead, he’s big and brawny and slower than the rest of his family—the ruling family. Worse, he doesn’t fare well around magic, so being in the elf kingdom for the royal wedding celebrations is one big nosebleed. Literally.

Jagger’s an elf. A royal-adjacent one, whose family have been chancellors and councilors to the king for centuries. It must have skipped a generation, however, as Jagger’s more interested in drinking and seducing his way through the kingdom. Well, everyone wants to know if it’s true what they say about elves, right? Spoiler alert—it is.

When Brick discovers he’s being handed over as part of the wyvern-elf alliance treaty, he fumes and decides to cut ties with his family to make his own way in the world. But first, he has to find his way out of the elf kingdom. Asking at the tavern for an elf to be his guide, he’s taken to a room where a half-naked Jagger is lounging on a four-poster bed.

And that’s just the beginning of their dangerous, crazy and sexy adventure…

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Ow!” Brick grabbed at the hand slapping his face and glared at its owner. If he hadn’t known who was hitting him, the selection of bright cocktail rings and the jingling bracelets she wore would have told him it was his younger sister, Scarlet. “Any reason you’re smacking my face?”

Scarlet tilted her head, her forehead creased. “Habit? Whatevs. Hold still—”

Brick held still enough for her to shove wads of cotton wool up his nostrils, then brushed her hand away. Scarlet’s sharp fingernails near any of his body parts made him uneasy at the best of times, and in the rumbling, jolting carriage he and she were currently traveling in, more so. Her nails were long and pointed and they gleamed the brightest mahogany shade she could find, all to mimic the talons they became when she shifted.

Well, that’s only natural, Brick reasoned. Wyverns in general were proud of being wyverns, the ruling family even more so and his sister, the youngest offspring of the Ruby Throne, in particular.

“Thanks,” he muttered, the thick clog in his voice not just due to his nosebleed and the wedges of cotton wool. “Thanks for staying with me.” He knew she’d rather be flying alongside the carriage with their father, Potentate Carnell of the Ruby Throne, and mother, the First Lady Cerise, not to mention the son and heir, Lord Gules, and their older sister, Lady Vermillion. But it was her turn to keep him company, and Scarlet, like all of them, put family duty first.

“Sit up straight,” she replied, wagging a finger in the direction of his face to tell him it was the best way to deal with a nosebleed. She knew. All his family did—Brick got them when he was around magic, and they were prepared for today. “Open wide for your pills.”

Brick obediently opened his mouth, and Scarlet, snickering, moved back to the farthest corner of the royal carriage and flicked in first one tablet, then another, using her middle finger and thumb to launch them as if she were playing a game and getting points. Scarlet performed her family obligations, sure…and made sure she had fun doing so. But she loved Brick, just as he did her.

He tried not to choke—the tablets were huge and foul-tasting. “Thanks,” he repeated, wishing she’d thought to give him a drink to swallow them down with. Actually, no—he didn’t want her squirting it in with a water pistol. He checked the cotton wool was still in place up each nostril. “There must be a lot of magic in the air here.”

“Well, duh,” his sister replied. “Inside the elven kingdom, and just approaching the capital? What d’you expect? They breathe it in and fart it out here, then breathe it in again.” Oh, she was a charmer. “I got orders to smarten you up—you’re not gonna bleed on me, are you?”

He shook his head and let her pull his smart suit jacket into place as if he were a baby, for all she was younger than he was. Well, that fits, with me being as useless as a hatchling. She tutted and brushed off the shoulders and lapels, as if he had flaking head scales. I don’t, do I? That’d be all he needed, with them having to look their best as they arrived for this regal state occasion.

As soon as Scarlet settled back again, grumbling that there wasn’t much she could do with his short hair, he took a sly peep in the glass of the carriage window to check for scale-flake. He caught a quick glimpse of his bronze skin and slitted gold eyes before the spectacle outside claimed his attention. Oh, not the well-maintained kingdom they were driving through, with its paved roads, sturdy-looking buildings and general cleanliness all signs of its good governance, but his family, in the air above the small procession.

Brick lowered the glass to see better. The four royal wyverns made a stunning, vibrant swoop of color as they flew, their wings beating with synchronized grace, their heads turning slowly on their long, elegant necks to incline this way and that at the gasps and applause from townsfolk lining the route, who were all eager to see visiting nobles and dignitaries.

“Elven folk must be used to flying beasts, right?” he asked Scarlet.

She scoffed. “Not like us.”

“Yeah.” Brick had to admit that. A woman stumbled, shading her eyes against the wyverns’ shimmering scales, the gleaming shades of red carefully arranged from his father Carnell’s shining cardinal to his mother Cerise’s glossy pomegranate—“the first seen in the kingdom in a hundred years!” as she often reminded people.

His brother Gules’ proud imperial red came next, then his sister Vermillion’s brash crimson. The family at wing, in the correct order, looked like flames burning up the sky.

Although why they should want to arrive anywhere making the place look like it was on fire, Brick couldn’t fathom. What he did know was Scarlet wanted to be up there too, making an entrance like a bold streak of lava against the blue and white of the sky. He jumped as the most jewel-colored creature of the quartet swooped low and stuck her beak through the window—his mother, checking in on him.

She couldn’t talk in her shifted form, of course, but he had no problem interpreting her caw and twists and jerks of her head. She was concerned for him—she loved him. They all did. Like they would any slow-witted hatchling. He wasn’t wily or cunning, no asset in statecraft or trade negotiations, so they gave him busy work. Grunt work. He nodded to show Cerise he was fine and reached up to pat her on the head, near the top, just after the brow ridge finished.

With a click of her beak, she took off again and rejoined Carnell, circling him with a slow flap of her wings before taking her place at his side. He flicked his tail out to slide along hers.

“Oh, ewww!” Scarlet, on the seat opposite him now, pointed up at the Potentate and First Lady and retched like a caterwaul bringing up a hairball. She made a show of rummaging for one of the sick bags they kept for Brick—there was no telling what form his sensitivity to magic might take. “Old people foreplay is just gross.”

Brick didn’t think it was that bad. Sure, he had no wish whatsoever to see his parents making out like subadults or immatures ever, anywhere, but that they were still loving and affectionate was…something he didn’t see himself ever having. The only people who’d wanted him so far had been those seeking a way into the ruling family and using him as their way to get within polishing distance of the Ruby Throne.
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“Mommy, look!” A little girl on the sidewalk near a tavern, her eyes full of wonder, tugged at her mother’s arm. “Up there—dragons!”

“Wyverns!” yelled Scarlet, flinging herself so far out of the window to correct the kid that Brick, alarmed for her safety, grabbed at the back of her dress. “Look at the picture, small fry!” She tapped the crest on the side of the royal coach, a plain outline of an almost S-shaped beast, its wings stretched and its slim legs prominent. “Count the limbs, kid. There’s two, not four. We look like lumbering oxen dragons to you?”

She subsided into her seat again and shot Brick a glance. “No offense, bro.”

“I know.” Brick was wide and tall, built like a brick smokehouse, as the saying went, whereas wyverns, in addition to being wily, were light and lithe. Winged serpents, really. He tried not to feel like he was letting down the Ruby Throne, but…

“You’re not even red!” Olahf had scorned when, realizing a relationship with Brick wouldn’t bring him into the inner governing circle, he’d ended things between them. “Brick by name and brick by nature and brick by color!” Yeah, Olahf didn’t really have the gift of eloquence a senator or diplomat should, although his tongue could be said to have been silver in other ways… Brick shivered at the memory, then felt sad.

How much of that had been fake? Had Olahf even liked him? If not, their relationship had been, well, transactional at best and icky at worst. It had also made him dwell on his experiences with all the other wyvern shifters who’d befriended him over the years…and hadn’t seemed very friendly. How many had if not used him, then put up with him, for what they could get out of it?

Would life have been different if I were called Flame, or, or Rosso? Maybe if the former, he’d have been dashing and just a little bit dangerous, or if the latter, darkly seductive and a lot more dangerous?

“Persimmon’s a good name,” he mused out loud. “Then Sim would be a good nick. ‘Hey, Sim, coming out for a quick tankard of sack mead?’ Maybe Simmy? ‘Simmy, joining us for dawn patrol?’ Perse? Percy?”

“What? No—you know what? Never mind.” Scarlet waved a hand at him. “Because we’re nearly there.”

About to ask his sister how she knew they were almost at their destination—where they’d be doing some trade-and-aid diplomacy over drinks—Brick saw the ceremonial herald bird flying to join the four wyverns in the sky. The escort would please his mother, who was into appearances. Even his father had commented more than once that the elves had used to do things properly, and that he hoped the Storm King was keeping up traditions.

“He will as long as he has Jerrick advising him,” Cerise always replied. “Jerrick served Jade’s father, too, and Jerrick’s father, Jacron, was chancellor to the Storm Emperor before that. And Jerrick’s son—” She usually stopped herself there.

“Gotta love ya and leave ya!” Scarlet opened the carriage door even though the vehicle was still trundling along.

“I feel okay now the meds have kicked in,” Brick assured her. “Shouldn’t I join in?”

“And risk you having an allergy—sorry, sensitivity—attack up above and bleeding down on Jade or his big green groom?” Scarlet sniggered. “While it would be hilarious, best not.” Blowing a kiss over her shoulder at him, she launched herself from the open door.

Scarlet shifted effortlessly in midair and took her place just behind Gules and Vermillion. It was hardly worth her shifting, though, when the carriage jolted to a stop at the top of a meadow. Two ruby and pale jade pavilions stood proudly, their pennants waving in the early evening breeze, and councilors and nobles waited before them.

The Ruby Throne circled the meadow in a group, then made a tighter circle of the tents to finally drop into the space set up beneath the main pavilion’s awning. They descended one at a time from Carnell to Scarlet—all executing flawless landings and simultaneous shifts back to their other-forms the second their claws touched the ground, clothing themselves as they did so.

They’d left a space for him, and Brick decided he was going to take it properly, instead of scuttling to it, shamefaced. Ignoring his headache and throbbing nose, he ran a few paces and leaped as high as he could with a gurgled “Eaaarrgghhh!” to shift into his wyvern form and, oh, how good it felt to be in the air again, stretching his wings.

He liked the world better in his shifted form. He loved the view from up on high, how things looked when seen from his bigger, more golden than yellow eyes. Scents were more acute to his snout, with its slits for nostrils, than to his other-form nose, which was broad and had never worked as well after being broken during a heated game of tail ball. Which his team had still lost.

Okay, so he wasn’t all polished and gleaming reds like the others, but he liked his scales, with their rust and terra-cotta and ochre shades. Recalling Cerise’s insistence that his hues were “alternative reds” made him snort with laughter and swish his tail, the triangular barb it ended in swinging near his face.

He was going to do this! He dropped lower. I can do this! Can drop into that landing zone! The really small landing zone… I can’t do this.

“Believe in yourself!” Cerise had told him over and over since hatchhood. He would. He did! With a high-pitched squeal, a bit like a teakettle coming to the boil, he took a final squint at the target zone, landed, shifted and…belched. Oh gods. He’d meant to clothe himself, not burp one out. And certainly not such a loud one…or one that stank like a dragon’s taint.

“Oh, ewwwwwwww!” cried Scarlet, her longest ever. She pinched her nose closed with her talon-like fingers. She’d get the worst of the stench, being next to him. “How, how, is that so foul? What the fuck you been doing, bro, sucking off a troll?”

“Could have been worse!” called a voice from the crowd. “Just imagine if he’d farted!”

About the Author A native Texan, Bailey spends her days spinning stories around in her head, which has contributed to more than one incident of tripping over her own feet. Evenings are reserved for pounding away at the keyboard, as are early morning hours. Sleep? Doesn’t happen much. Writing is too much fun, and there are too many characters bouncing about, tapping on Bailey’s brain demanding to be let out.

Caffeine and chocolate are permanent fixtures in Bailey’s office and are never far from hand at any given time. Removing either of those necessities from Bailey’s presence can result in what is known as A Very, Very Scary Bailey and is not advised under any circumstances.

Goodreads | First for Romance Author Page

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ENTER HERE AND GET A FREE EBOOK FROM THE AUTHOR! Notice: This competition ends on 1st June 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Hold Him Close by J.P. Bowie – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes J.P. Bowie who is celebrating the recent release of Hold Him Close. Enter and get a FREE romance book from the author!

Sometimes love and loyalty are all you can count on.

Ten years ago, John White Eagle, then a film extra and stuntman, met Detective Mark Rossi and sparks immediately flew, despite the fact that Mark had just arrested John as a suspect in a murder case.

Fast forward ten years and John, now a private detective, and Mark, recently promoted to detective sergeant, are happily married, even if they still have to deal with those on the wrong side of the law.

Alex Vasquez, an old friend of John’s, is being blackmailed. When the blackmailer turns up dead and Alex skips town with his boyfriend, things look bad.

Penny Andrews hires John to find her missing brother, Sam, even though she fears he has been murdered, perhaps by their own father. John discovers that Sam is very much alive, in Afghanistan, searching for Jareem, the man he loves but had to leave behind.

Hindered by liars and hired assassins, things don’t look too good for John and Mark. Can they find Alex before the police do? And can they keep Sam and Jareem safe from those who believe in honor killing and are determined that Jareem will be their next target?

Publisher’s Note: This book is related to The Set Up by J.P. Bowie.

Enjoy an Excerpt

John White Eagle parked his Harley outside the building where he rented his office space and sprinted up the stairs, glancing at his phone as he took the steps two at a time.

“Good morning, John.” Millie Barnum, his secretary, greeted him with a bright smile.

“Morning, Millie. Anything urgent?”

“Just the message I’m guessing you’re reading on your phone right now.”

“Huh. You’re right. But I just left Mark at home. What can he want already?”

“That’s not for me to speculate on.” Millie, gray-haired, bespectacled, her appearance more suited to a school principal’s office than his slightly less-than-upscale space, stared at him with sparkling blue eyes. “What you boys get up to is certainly none of my business, thank goodness.”

“Riiight. You’d love it if I gave you the deets on what goes on at Chez Rossi/White Eagle. But that’s not going to happen. Mark and I are not taking the place of the characters you read about on your Kindle. At least not with an audience.”

“I like your hair grip,” Millie said, ignoring his comment about her love of male romantic fiction.

“I found it in a box when Mark and I moved into the new house in North Hollywood. My grandmother made it for me and I’d forgotten I even had it still.” He slipped a hand to the back of his head and fingered the intricate pattern of small beads. “It’s neat, isn’t it?”

Millie got up to take a closer look. “It’s beautiful. She must have had such a delicate touch.” She sighed. “And you have hair that’s far too lovely to be on a man. Anyway, you’d better get in touch with Mark right now. He sounded irritated that you hadn’t returned his call.”

“How the hell can he be irritated within the space of a half-hour since I left him?”

Millie pursed her lips. “Did you perhaps forget to kiss him goodbye?”

John chuckled. “As if. We might’ve been together for ten years, but he never lets me outta the house without savaging my mouth first.”

“Oh, my.” Millie clutched at her bosom. “The vision that just conjured up. Savaging, oh my.” She did a pretend stagger back to her desk, making John laugh. How did I ever get so lucky as to find a woman like Millie? Totally efficient on the computer and phone, but also unfazed by the high and the very low life that sometimes waltzed through the doors of JWE Investigations, looking for some kind of help, legal or otherwise. Then there was the fact that John just happened to be a gay man.

He’d explained that to her when she’d answered his ad and met him for an interview. “Just so you know, I’m gay and Native American,” he’d told her. “If you have a problem with either one, say so now.”

“I’ll have you know I am neither a racist nor a bigot,” she’d replied. “In fact, when I was a young girl, I used to cheer for the Indians in those old westerns…still do, when they repeat them on late-night TV.”

She’d been less impressed with his office and had suggested that he give it a good coat of paint. “I have some nice prints I can bring in, and a couple of plants by the window will certainly give the place a little more ambience, don’t you think?”

“I think I’ve been taken over by a formidable force,” he’d told Mark when he’d gotten home that night. Mark had laughed but had helped him paint the office and given his full approval of Millie’s efficiency, and the set of Norman Rockwell prints she’d brought with her to brighten the walls.

She’d fallen in love with Mark at first sight. Not that John could be surprised by that. His husband was an amiable man, and movie-star gorgeous. They’d met when John had been set up to take the fall in a murder perpetrated by Greg Mathis, a then-famous actor who’d told John he was being blackmailed. Mathis had convinced John to go with him to a motel room to confront the blackmailer. Except, unbeknownst to John, the blackmailer was already dead, in the bathroom tub.

Mathis had told John the blackmailer hadn’t shown, but he’d coerced John into bed after handing him a drugged beer. Unaware of the beer being drugged, John hadn’t needed much coaxing into the offer of sex with Mathis. He’d been young, horny and still starry-eyed about his involvement with such a big celebrity, even admiring the man’s acting ability. In addition, Greg Mathis had been one of the most gorgeous men on the planet. As a matter of fact, he’d been nominated The Planet’s Sexiest Man more than once in a popular magazine. Alone with him in the room, John had wondered at Mathis’ eagerness to be fucked by him, insisting on going through with it even though John had been aware he wasn’t enjoying it at all. That look of pain had never morphed into one of pleasure.

When John had regained consciousness, the police had been hammering at the motel room’s door. The arresting officer, Detective Mark Rossi, had appeared to believe John’s story under interrogation, even if he wouldn’t divulge the name of the man he’d been with. John had been convinced no one would believe that Greg Mathis, super-macho movie star, could possibly be involved in such sleaze, but he’d reckoned without Mark totally seeing the truth in John’s story.

John had never dreamed that being arrested by Mark would later result in a dinner date with the handsome cop, and the mind-blowing sex that had followed. Those first bleak days when it had looked as if John were the only suspect, and the evidence against him had grown stronger, had only been tempered by Mark’s insistence that he’d believed John’s story.

Sometimes he wondered why his mind dwelled on that incident so often. He supposed it was because it had been the defining moment in his life. Mark had been with him throughout the ordeal, even when things had taken a decided downturn the day forensics had called Mark with the news that the sperm in the condom they’d found in the dead man’s rectum was a match for John’s DNA. It had been a measure of Mark’s faith in John’s innocence that he’d believed in him, despite that damning evidence.

His cell chimed with Mark’s ringtone. Oops, now he’ll be more than just irritated.

“John!” Millie’s voice from the main office held an accusatory tone. She knew Mark’s ringtone too. “Haven’t you called Mark yet?”

“Picking up now! Hi, sweetie, what’s up?”

“Don’t ‘hi, sweetie’ me.” Mark sounded pissed, and not improved by John’s quiet chuckle. “Hey, I’ve called a dozen times at least.”

“No you haven’t. Three times by my reckoning.”

“Then why the hell haven’t you responded? Don’t you know what day it is?”

“Uh, it’s Thursday, isn’t it?”

“It’s my dad’s birthday, smartass.”

“Fuck. Why didn’t you say something before I left the house?”

“Because…because I forgot about it, too—till about twenty minutes ago.”

“Oh good. That makes me feel better.”

“John…”

He could almost feel the heat of Mark’s glare through the phone. Oh, that hot Italian blood. His cock pulsed in his briefs at the thought of Mark’s lush lips on his. “Sorry, didn’t mean to be flippant. Call him and say we’re taking him out to dinner—and how on earth could he have forgotten? I’ll pick up a card and a bottle of his favorite Scotch.”

“Okay, you are redeemed in my eyes. What about the restaurant?”

“I’ll leave that to you. He doesn’t like fancy, remember.”

“Louie’s Pub?”

“Perfect. Okay, man I love above all others on earth, I have to make like I’m working. Let me know the time I need to meet you.”

Mark chuckled. “You sure know how to blow some hot air up my ass.”

“That’s not all I know about what to do with your ass,” John said slyly. “Your mighty fine ass…an ass that belongs on the body of a much younger man, I might add.”

“Thank you, I think.”

“You can compliment my ass later. Gotta go. Ciao.”

“Ciao, baby. Love you.”

“Love you too.” From the start of their relationship, John had insisted they end their phone conversations with that sentiment. Not that he wanted to be morbid, but Mark’s career did involve an element of danger and it would kill John if something happened to Mark and he hadn’t heard those words that day. I’m a sentimental sap, I know, but there it is…

Millie sighed happily in the outer office.

“You shouldn’t eavesdrop, you know, Millie. It might sully your innocence.”

She barked out a sardonic laugh but didn’t say anything. John heard the door open and Millie say sweetly, “How can I help you?”

“Is Mr. Eagle in?” The voice was female and tentative.

“Do have an appointment with Mr. White Eagle, my dear?”

“No, but if he’s busy I can come back…”

“Just one moment.”

Millie stuck her head around John’s door. “You want to take this?” she whispered. “She looks sad.”

John groaned mentally. Most likely another suspicious wife wanting to find out who her errant husband was screwing when he was not at home with her and the kids. Some said that kind of investigating was the bread and butter of the business, but John hated it. There were so many disappointed and unhappy couples out there. It often made him feel guilty that he and Mark were so happy…most of the time. One thing was for sure—if the impossible ever happened, and Mark cheated on him, he wouldn’t have to hire a private detective to find out.

Swallowing his inappropriate laughter, he said, “Okay, I’ll come out.” He got up from his desk and followed Millie as she approached the young woman standing nervously by the door. She was very young—early twenties, John guessed—and pale. Pale skin, pale blonde hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. Very little makeup. She wore a rose-pink blouse and a gray skirt, and clutched at a large bag slung over her left shoulder. A quick glance told John she wasn’t wearing a wedding ring. So maybe not the problem I first thought she had.

“Hi.” He held out his hand. “I’m John White Eagle.”

After a moment’s hesitation, she put her small hand in his. “P-Penny Andrews. I don’t have an appointment, but I wondered if I could speak with you for a few minutes?”

Activity: A penile erection http://appalachianmagazine.com/2018/02/12/wytheville-rural-king-set-to-open-this-weekend/ viagra generika happens when the penis loads with blood, bringing about an erection. Some people push them away, viewing them as the precursor to old age or worse, death. viagra sale Like Driver’s Ed teaches us the viagra cost in canada essential safety check of a vehicle, so too must you – as a parent – provide your teenagers with their ‘dating safety check’. This actually contains sildenafil citrate, which is an FDA-approved medicine for the faster relief from erectile dysfunction, as well as tadalafil india cialis-on-demand men * Further improvement of blood tests that show a healthy blood vessel function * Further improve prostate symptoms This thought-provoking speculation based on short-term data from a small study. “Of course. Come on through. Would you like some coffee? Millie makes a wonderful cup.”

“Just some water, please. It’s a little warm outside today.”

“I’ll get that for you,” Millie said, walking over to the cooler.

John shepherded Miss Andrews into his office and indicated the seat opposite his. He waited until Millie had set a glass of water in front of her then left before he asked, “So how can I help you?”

“My brother is missing, and I think someone may have killed him.”

John stared at her for a moment. Thar was not what he’d expected her to say at all. “What makes you think that?”

“I haven’t seen him or been able to contact him in over a week.” She took a Kleenex out of her bag and passed it over her face briefly.

John had noticed the fine beads of sweat on her forehead and upper lip. Maybe she isn’t feeling well. “And that’s unusual?”

She nodded. “Yes. We are really, really close. We have been all our lives. Even when he was married, hardly a day went by that we didn’t talk at some point. We also meet up at least once a week for lunch. He works for Brennan Finance, downtown. I only work part-time, at a bookstore, so I take the bus to meet him.”

“And did you have a lunch date he didn’t show for?”

She nodded. “I wasn’t able to reach him for two days, but I went to our favorite diner near his office building on our regular day, and he didn’t show up. I called and called and went round to his apartment in Silver Lake. He didn’t answer my knocking. I asked his neighbor who he does some chores for if she’d seen him, and she said not since Friday, when he took her trash out. That was a week ago today.”

“Have you contacted the police to report him missing?”

“Oh, no. They’d most likely want to contact my father and I’m afraid that if they questioned him, he’d go ballistic.”

John frowned. “Why would he go ballistic? Would he not be worried like you are about his disappearance?”

She hesitated then said, “Sam and our father don’t get along. In fact, they hate each other. I’m afraid they might have gotten into some kind of fight. That happens a lot. They both have a temper, but our father can be violent. Not so much since Sam has grown up and can defend himself, but it used to be bad, and now…”

“Are you afraid of your father, Miss Andrews?”

She looked away and passed the tissue over her eyes, then nodded. “Sometimes. I don’t think he’d ever hurt me physically, but he yells when he’s mad…and he says some terrible things.”

“Like?”

“Like I killed my mother. She died as a result of giving birth to me, he says. I was three when she died, but he said she was never the same after I was born, that she’d gone through hell in labor and he’d known she’d never really recover from the trauma.”

Jeez… John already hated Mr. Andrews. What kind of a creep throws that in his daughter’s face? Especially as the girl had lost her mother at such an early age. And from the sound of it, he’d been doing it for a long time. He could see the toll it had taken on the young woman. She was so frail and nervous. Verbal abuse could be as hurtful as the physical kind. Detective Mark Rossi could attest to that from the countless abuse cases he’d dealt with.

“The truth is, Mr. White Eagle…” Her posture and voice seemed to shrink as she continued. “Although I pray he did not, I think my father might’ve killed Sam. Perhaps not deliberately, but by accident during one of their rows. Like I said, he has a terrible temper. He might have struck out at Sam. Perhaps not really meaning to kill him, but somehow…it happened.”

“That’s some accusation, Miss Andrews.” John frowned. “Could it not be that your brother simply wanted to get away for some personal reasons? Girlfriend trouble, maybe? Didn’t want anyone to know until he was ready to talk about it? There could be a hundred reasons why.”

She shook her head. “He wouldn’t want me to worry about him. He would tell me if was just going away for a time.”

“You seem so sure about that.” John drummed his fingers on the top of his desk. “Do you know everything about your brother’s state of mind, or his personal life?”

“I know enough,” she replied sharply. “Enough to know he has no girlfriend.”

“Boyfriend, then?”

She shook her head again. “He’s not gay. He was married at one time, for a year.”

John wasn’t about to give her a lecture on the ‘low-down’ so many married men indulged in when they wanted a brief time out from their marriage. Instead he asked, “You’re sure? I thought that might be the reason you want to employ a gay private detective.”

“No. I came to you because of an article about you in Vanity Fair, where you were instrumental in finding a young girl who’d been missing for several weeks. You succeeded where the police could not.”

“That’s not exactly true,” John said. “I had a lot of help from a detective sergeant in the LAPD. It was a joint effort.”

She nodded. “A detective sergeant who worked off the clock to help you…your husband.”

“That’s correct. VF tended to downplay Mark’s involvement—at his request, I might add. Nevertheless, it was a joint success, and might have ended differently had he not been at my side.”

“The article was better than some of the books I’ve read.” Miss Andrews was almost gushing. She gazed at John through watery eyes. “Will you please take my case? Find out what has happened to Sam?”

“I will,” John assured her. “But what makes you think your father might have actually killed your brother…his son? What could your bro have possibly done to bring that kind of reaction from your dad?”

“I really don’t know. Sam didn’t say anything about having a recent argument with him, or that they were more at odds than usual. Sam works for our father at his company. Father bought out the owners of Brennan Finance a couple of years ago. It might have had something to do with work. Sam tends to regard Brennan as being a bit cutthroat toward some of the less affluent clients, and also as secondary to what he really loves doing, but he would’ve told me if there’d have been a problem there.”

“What is it he really loves doing?” John asked.

She smiled. “He’s a bit of an adventurer. Loves going to foreign lands, researching cultures, that kind of thing.”

“So, couldn’t that be what he’s doing right now?”

“Yes, but as I said, he wouldn’t just go off without letting me know, especially if it was out of the country.”

She seemed pretty certain about this, so John thought it best to switch the line of questioning. “Have you asked your father if he knows where Sam is?”

“Yes, and he sort of fluffed it off. He said he didn’t have a clue. Then he added that he didn’t really care either. It was as if it didn’t matter to him.”

“Nice guy…”

She dabbed at her eyes again. “No, he’s not a nice guy, Mr. White Eagle. He’s my father, but I’m afraid there isn’t much of a loving father-daughter relationship between us. I couldn’t pretend otherwise.”

Clutching at the large bag she held on her lap, she bit her lip. “Oh, I’m sorry. You certainly don’t need to hear about any of that. Please find my brother, or find out what happened to him. I can pay your fee, whatever it is. It’s killing me not knowing where he is.”

“All right.” John was okay taking the case, but she had to know he couldn’t proceed without confronting Andrews Senior. “However, I have to warn you that the first person I’m going to talk to is your father. In my opinion, he has got to know something about your brother’s whereabouts. They work together, or rather your brother works for him. Would he not have run by your father the fact he needed time off?”

She frowned. “He won’t like you asking questions.”

John smiled. “I’m kinda used to that aspect of the job. Let me have your brother’s cell number, and do you have a photo of him, by any chance?”

“Uh, yes, but it’s the only one I have in my bag. I hate to give it up.”

“That’s okay. Millie will make a copy for me.”

“Oh, okay.” She rifled through the contents of her bag then produced a business card from her wallet and handed it to John. “His cell and office numbers are on the card…and here’s his photo.”

Whoa… John involuntarily widened his eyes as he gazed at the photo Penny had given him. The guy was a looker, without a doubt. Blond, like his sister, but with stronger features, clear blue eyes and full lips that were parted in a killer smile that showed off straight, white teeth.

“He’s handsome, isn’t he?”

John flicked his gaze back to Penny Andrews. “Yes, he is. Okay, I’ll take on your case and I’ll do my best to give you peace of mind about your brother. I’ll need a check up front for two days of my time, but Millie will take care of all that for you. If I find out where your bro is within a day, I’ll refund half the check amount. If it takes more than two days then it’s on a daily basis, but I’ll keep you apprised of my progress each day.”

“That sounds fair.” She followed him to Millie’s desk to write the check and waited for Millie to photocopy her brother’s picture. “Thank you for taking this on. And please, find Sam for me…safe and sound if possible.”

John smiled and held out his hand, taking hers gently. “I’ll do my best, Miss Andrews.” He showed her out then returned to his desk. He fingered Sam’s business card for a beat or two then picked up his phone and called the man’s cell number. No harm in trying… After a couple of rings, he was directed to Sam’s voicemail.

“Oh, hi. My name is John White Eagle. I’m a private detective, and your sister, Penny, hired me to find you. She is concerned for your safety. Please, either call her or return my call so that I can verify your whereabouts with her. Would appreciate a prompt reply. Thank you.”

Okay, so his phone is still active…let’s see if he still is.

“So, what do you think, Millie?” he asked, after he’d given her a quick rundown of the conversation with Penny Andrews.

His secretary sighed. “From what you’ve told me, I think she’s a very unhappy girl, something I saw in her before she even spoke to you. If it turns out that her brother has been killed, it will be devastating for her. But don’t you think she’s far too dependent on him? This over-insistence on how close they are seems strange to me. Could she be holding something back?”

John nodded. “Yeah, I got that too. Interesting case. I think my first course of action will be to pay a surprise visit to the creepy father.”

“Better you than me,” Millie said snippily. “I can already tell that he and I would not have a friendly conversation.”

John grinned. “Know what you mean, but I’ll try not to be too in his face.”

About the AuthorJ.P. Bowie was born in Scotland and toured British theatres in numerous musical shows including Stephen Sondheim’s Company.

He emigrated to the States and worked in Las Vegas, Nevada for the magicians Siegfried and Roy as their Head of Wardrobe at the Mirage Hotel. He is currently living with his husband in sunny San Diego, California.

Find J.P. on Facebook and Twitter.

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Finding Home by Megan Linden – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Megan Linden who is celebrating today’s release of Finding Home, book 6 in the Harrington Hills series. Enter the giveaway below and get a FREE romance book from the author!

With a beginning as rocky as their pasts, it’d be easier if they stayed away from each other. They didn’t.

Leo Tomilson has come back to Harrington Hills after a fire that changed his life forever, and all he wants is to be left alone. No longer being a firefighter is something he might learn to live with, but there are days when he doesn’t even feel like a proper werewolf anymore. That cuts deeper than anything else.

Charlie Dewitt is as reliable as they come in Harrington Hills. Ever since he put down roots in this town, he’s never wanted to leave. His brother is here, his pack is here and so is his life. He has everything he needs. Not everything he wants, perhaps, but that’s fine.

Their first meeting is a mess because they clash over a series of misunderstandings. But Charlie is a patient man, Leo sees in him what most people miss and neither of them are good at taking the easy way out, so maybe there’s a chance for…something, after all.

Reader advisory: This book is best read as part of a series but can be read as a standalone. The book contains a scene of public sex.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Leo woke up to the sound of knocking, but he refused to acknowledge whoever it was. They would leave eventually.

He rolled over and put his face into his pillow, but the knocking turned into pounding.

“Open the door, LJ!” Sylvia. Of course. He should’ve known.

“Go away,” he said, loud enough so she could hear him. “I’m sleeping.”

“I don’t care.” She pounded on the door again. “Let me in before somebody calls the cops on me.”

“Ha-ha,” he grumbled but sat up. Given their foster father was the sheriff, the joke had been funny once, but that time had long passed. “Maybe they should.”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Sylvia said through the door, but at least she wasn’t attacking it anymore. She’d probably heard him getting up.

It wasn’t until he was halfway down the hallway that he realized Sylvia wasn’t alone. Damn it. Damn his fucked-up senses and damn his siblings for ambushing him like this first thing in the morning.

Or afternoon, he figured, glancing at the clock near the door.

A big part of him wanted to turn around and go back to sleep, but since he was already out of bed, he might as well get on with it. Sylvia wasn’t going to let up now, anyway.

He opened his door with a “What?” in a matter of greeting and almost closed it a moment later when he saw the small crowd on his porch. Along with his annoying sister were Damien, Luka and Beatrice.

“Hello to you, too, brother,” Sylvia told him and moved forward. When Leo stepped back on instinct, she nodded at him and entered the house. She went to pat his chest, but he sidestepped that in the guise of capitulating and making room for the rest of their little group to come in.

Out of everyone, only Beatrice had the good graces to look vaguely apologetic for the invasion.

“I love what you haven’t done with the place,” Sylvia said as she looked around, but Leo just rolled his eyes. The house was furnished enough to be lived in, and that was what he was doing—living in it. Sure, it had been furnished by a company he’d hired and further accessorized by his mother—their mother—who wanted to make it more ‘homey’, but it was a perfectly fine living space.

Sylvia made it sound like he was living in a shack in the woods.

Which he wouldn’t mind, actually, as long as it had a comfortable bed, but he’d known better than to freak out his family like that. So he’d purchased a house remotely before he’d even moved back to Harrington Hills—and here he was.

Yet his family still found a reason to freak out anyway.

“Give me a minute,” he muttered and went back to the bedroom. He put on a pair of jeans and the first T-shirt he pulled out of his drawer, barely avoiding the temptation to just lie down again. He made a stop in the bathroom without so much as a glance at the mirror then forced himself to return to the living room.

The four of his siblings had sat down on the couch and one of the armchairs, leaving the other empty for him. How nice of them, he thought dryly, and for a second considered ignoring the seat altogether, but finally he sat, putting his hands on the armchair’s sides and resisting the urge to pull his legs up.

“Did you need something?” he asked.

“We needed to talk to you.” Sylvia looked at him then, pointedly, at the rest of their siblings, who nodded.

“We’re worried about you,” Beatrice said, and Leo opened his mouth to tell her there was no need, but Sylvia didn’t let him.

“You haven’t been out on a Full Moon Run since you got here. You’ve skipped all but one of the pack gatherings—”

“Two,” he corrected her. He’d been roped into that second one because he’d bumped into his mother at the store and she’d insisted he help her out, but it still counted, nevertheless.

“Fine, two.” Sylvia seemed to struggle not to roll her eyes—or maybe get up and smack him over the head. Either one or both, really. “In the almost three months since you’ve been back.”

“So what?” He raised his eyebrows. There was no law that said he needed to attend the gatherings. He’d done what was required. He’d gone to see the Alpha once he’d been back and he’d attended one get-together soon after. Then he’d decided to do what he preferred, which was to stay home and not bother with people.

His mood was definitely not suited for interactions with others, which this conversation perfectly conveyed.

“What do you mean, ‘so what’?” Luka frowned. “You’re a part of the pack. We gather as a pack.”

“It’s not mandatory,” he pointed out the obvious, but it looked like it was only obvious to him alone.

“It’s not mandatory to attend every gathering,” Sylvia told him. “It’s unheard of to attend none. And,” she added quickly when he opened his mouth, “yes, I know you attended two, but that’s beside the point.”

“What is your point, then?” Leo dug his hands into the armrests. “I did attend two gatherings, so it’s not like I’ve attended none. I’m not going more because I don’t want to. What’s so bad about that?”

“What’s so bad is our mom, who makes your favorite pie every time the pack gathers at the house because she thinks you’re going to be there,” Damien spoke up and, damn it, he’d always been the best at guilt-tripping.

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Leo might feel like a monster some days, but he’d never purposefully hurt the most important woman in his life.

“I never promised her I’d come,” he said, but even to his own ears the excuse was a weak one.

“Yeah, because that makes it all better,” Damien muttered.

“You don’t have to promise anything. She’s always going to be waiting, and you know it.” Sylvia sagged in her seat as if she were a balloon that had lost all its air. “Seriously, what did you expect, moving back to Hills?”

He’d been looking for a place to survive. Somewhere to hide in, to forget his old life, forget—

Forget everything.

So he’d returned to the last place he’d felt safe, the place he’d called home long before Chicago. But even here, nothing felt like it once had, because the memories had come back home with him.

He’d been trying to bury them all, but they refused to let go. They kept him up at night, trapped him in his nightmares and suffocated him until he ran, and ran, and ran for miles through the forest surrounding the town—and farther, too. He’d caught himself more than once outside the Harrington Pack grounds.

He’d never run far enough to outrun his head, but sometimes his thoughts had quieted for a while, at least.

He couldn’t do it on the pack runs, not really. Someone would notice he wasn’t shifting or running for pleasure, and he never wanted to have to admit to anyone—his parents, his Alpha, his siblings—that he was running for his life these days.

“LJ?” Sylvia’s voice penetrated his thoughts. It sounded softer than anything she’d said so far today, and when he looked up, he met her worried gaze.

He forced himself to let up his grip on the armrests. At least he hadn’t extended his claws.

“I expected some peace and quiet,” he said after he remembered the last thing she’d said before he’d gotten lost in his head. “I get that you like to gather until there’s a crowd, but crowds are the opposite of what I want.”

“How about we organize a family dinner, then?” Beatrice spoke up and he turned to her. She seemed…sad, and Leo didn’t have to guess why. That had been a part of why he’d stayed away—not wanting his family to worry. “Not the whole pack, just the Tomilsons? We hadn’t had one of those in a while.”

Leo wanted to protest—‘just the Tomilsons’ still meant close to thirty people, including all the significant others and the kids—but he figured it was actually a compromise he could live with. He would sit through the family dinner, make his parents happy and hopefully get his siblings off his back.

“Fine,” he said with a sigh when he saw Sylvia opening her mouth. “Let’s do that.”

Sylvia narrowed her eyes. “Really?”

“Yes, really.” He shot her a glare that hopefully conveyed ‘don’t push your luck’. He got up. “Now, is the intervention over?”

She shook her head but got up as well.

“This wasn’t an intervention,” she said, and the trio on the couch looked from one of them to the other and back, staying silent. “It was a warning. We’ll settle for a family dinner now, but you skip the next after-the-run barbecue and we’ll be back. And that’s going to be an intervention.”

He wondered briefly what she considered the difference between the two but dismissed the thought quickly. He’d worry about it later. Now, he just wanted them out of his house, so he could go back to bed.

Or maybe eat something.

He should probably eat. It had been a while.

“Is that all?” he finally asked, since everyone’s gaze was now stuck on him.

It was the politest ‘get out of my house’ he could come up with, and he hoped it would work, because he truly didn’t want to fight with them. He just wanted to be left alone.

Sylvia looked from him to their siblings on the couch before nodding slowly. “Yes,” she finally said with a nod. “I’ll text you about the family dinner, so don’t pretend you’ve lost your phone or I’ll come here and drag you out myself.”

Leo pushed his suddenly sweaty hands into the pockets of his jeans and forced himself to swallow through his tight throat.

There was no smoke, no fire, no pain.

Sylvia was just being Sylvia.

“Fine,” he said slowly, carefully, making sure his voice would hold. He walked to the door and opened it. “Bye now.”

Beatrice and Luka sighed, Damien rolled his eyes and Sylvia looked like she wanted to say something but closed her mouth and walked out without another word.

Soon, Leo was alone again, with only the fading scent of the pack and his family members lingering in his house.

Maybe he should actually invite his family over one day to make the whole place smell like them?

He snorted to himself. Yeah, right.
About the AuthorMegan is one of those people who dreamed of being a writer since they were a little kid and then didn’t do anything about it for years. Then as a teenager she was introduced to fandom and… well. She fell head first into it and never looked back. At some point she decided to try writing her own characters in her own stories. And that’s where she is today.

When she’s not writing, Megan works as a psychologist and continues to learn the hard way that she can’t give all her clients their happy ending (she truly believes everyone can save themselves, though). That’s why she makes sure to give it to her characters, always.

She loves TV shows, books, fanworks and pizza (not necessarily in that order). But there’s nothing like getting messages from readers who enjoy her stories, so if you’re not sure it’s okay to contact her—yes, it is.

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Unlikely Harmony by Lily Michaels – Spotlight and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Lily Michaels who is celebrating the recent release of Unlikely Harmony, book 3 in the Improbable Bonds series. Enter to win a FREE Lily Michaels romance book!

In the middle of his darkest moment, Sebastian finds an unexpected light.

Since his immense gift was first discovered, Sebastian Chevalier has led a life of blissful indulgence—crisscrossing the globe to perform to thousands of adoring fans and garnering international attention for putting a modern face on opera—that is until a vocal cord injury steals Sebastian’s most prized possession.

While he rehabilitates, he turns his focus to composing an opera and hires Jasper Lorde to join as his accompanist to help turn his written music into a living creation. Although Jasper is the polar opposite of everything he is normally attracted to, Sebastian finds himself with an overwhelming desire for the man and as he slowly regains his ability to speak, the two men explore the passion building between them.

Once the opera is complete and Sebastian has been cleared to sing, he books a debut at the prestigious LA Opera House. But this decision releases a Pandora’s box of demons for Jasper that threatens their tentative connection.

Reader advisory: This book includes the impact of PTSD and anxiety and reference to a car crash with multiple fatalities.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Just standing in front of the imposing oak door soothed the part of my soul that had been scattered, erratic and unsettled. A two-hundred-city tour could easily do that to a person. I missed home. I missed my bed. And damned if I didn’t miss this.

Instead of falling into the comfort my two-thousand-thread-count sheets afforded, I was waiting in the cool, late summer night air for the host to swing open the door and welcome me in…because I needed this.

At any point during the tour, I could have—and probably should have—made a few phone calls and found a similar club in Luxemburg, Paris or New York, but none possessed the familiarity and anonymity Sergio insisted upon for Devour.

In the way that only Sergio could, he—not a designated attendant—opened the door with a flourish and a wicked grin. “Did you miss me, darling?”

I leaned forward and kissed each of his cheeks, as had become our custom over the years. “Terribly, but not quite as much as your dark room.”

His slate-colored eyes glimmered with mischief and knowing all melded into one. “It is your favorite place in Devour.” He stood to the side and held out one arm. “We’ve had a new visitor over the past couple of months while you were gone. He memorized the vocabulary of the dark room with freakish speed. He’s here tonight and I think he may be right up your alley.”

Never in the three years I’d known Sergio and frequented his club had he drawn my attention to anyone in particular, even though he knew I had a very specific type. “What makes you say that?”

He tipped his head to the side, his devious grin melting into a much more serene smile. “You’ll see, cupcake. He’s the only one in the dark room not currently paired up.”

Improving cardiovascular health of person, enhancing immune system, viagra line preventing type 2 diabetes and improving mental performances are some among the best natural treatments for oligozoospermia. Erectile dysfunction, also known as impotence is a rising problem that is being faced by millions of men all around the globe experience a low sex drive at some or the other point of time in their lives and they don’t have to even empty their pocket as generic drugs cialis online prescription are easily accessible in kamagra fizz 100mg packages in any reliable pharmaceutical drug store &. Impotence is also common in young males due to poor mental health have problem enjoying their sexual health to the person. cialis pill cost People are now advised to be aware to viagra for sale mastercard greyandgrey.com these kinds of diseases. In a familiar routine that soothed some of the aching remnants of my tattered nerves, I handed my leather coat to the clerk, slid the ticket into the pocket of my tight black denim pants and made my way to the room I’d spent the entire flight home from London thinking about.

I’ve lived my life on overload and typically loved every minute of it. Crisscrossing the globe, performing, recording, giving interviews and personal appearances… Every second of it fed my already admittedly healthy ego. It was impossible to not be rather enamored with yourself when men and women from twenty to sixty-five threw themselves at you. About half only salivated over me because of my singing abilities, the others because of my appearance. Either reason was okay with me.

But in the dark room everything stilled, quieted and was at peace. I was wanted for who I was at my core, the most authentic part of me. Hell, no one I’d ever encountered within those four walls had known my name, much less my public identity, and I adored that fact.

Just outside the door I slid on the required half-mask and closed my eyes, giving them a moment to transition from the low lights in the hall to the black lights minimally filling the room. I stepped inside and didn’t open them again until the click of the mechanism closing sounded behind me.

As Sergio had indicated, there were several couples paired up in various positions and stages of play throughout the dimly lit space. A solitary figure stood swirling a drink no more than a dozen paces from me. The black light, which tended to toy with and distort a person’s vision, flashed off the silver mask covering half his face. His body was a little on the lanky side, but the fitted tank top he wore showed off lean muscles on his upper arms and a modest bulge to his chest. He had a thick mop of curly hair that appeared dark in the room, although I was well acquainted with not only the tricks the lights played with appearances but also the lengths to which some people went to keep themselves from being recognized when they came to Devour.

I closed the space between us and reached for his hand. The dark room was about feeling and immersing oneself in the moment, all while keeping the interactions anonymous. Everyone was required to conceal their face, and the ultraviolet bulbs assisted in making the players unrecognizable.

Most important to me, however, was the ‘no talking’ rule. Sergio had set up a system of tracing letters and a few basic symbols on the hand of whomever one wished to partner with for the night as the way to communicate and confirm consent, but no words were ever spoken. And based on his little disclosure, the newbie had caught on quickly and would be able to follow along.

Sub? I moved my index finger just below his knuckles and my heart rate kicked up a notch at his responding nod.

From what I could tell, he was certainly my type physically, but the confirmation that he was submissive was truly what ticked my box. Play? I drew each letter painstakingly slow to be certain he understood what I was asking. I loved embracing my Dominant side and certainly was a fan of a little rough play, but only with both partners fully on board.

He nodded again and I led him to the wall where Sergio had created a handful of signs that would help us outline what we wanted for the night without the long process of spelling it out and possibly creating a misunderstanding. I held out my hand to the papers on the wall, indicating he could choose. I had been too-long deprived and was ready for nearly anything, as long as I could flex the muscles of authority that had lain dormant.

And as much of an arrogant asshole as I was in my daily life, nothing meant more to me than meeting the needs of the submissive under my control, even if only for a night. I needed to know what he wanted from me, what he needed.

About the AuthorCoffee, chocolate, and books make up Lily’s world, often all three at the same time. Whether reading or writing she is a sucker for an over-the-top happily ever after… only following an appropriate amount of pain, of course.

When she is not writing or reading (which is not very often) she enjoys exercising her right brain in non authorly ways such as creating mosaics, crocheting, knitting, scrapbooking, and taking one man’s trash to create something new. But never, ever ask her to draw something. That is a beast best left alone.

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