Release Blitz + Giveaway: Desperately Seeking Santa by Eli Easton

Eli Easton and Signal Boost Promotions celebrate the latest Jizzmas release from Eli Easton, Desperately Seeking Santa! Find one more info about the title today and enter for a chance to win an ecopy of Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles!

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 50,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Reese Dante


Journalism student Gabe Martin gets his first professional assignment—to write about a Christmas charity dinner that benefits a children’s home. It sounds like a total snooze-fest until Gabe learns that the event’s Santa is a mystery man. He shows up in costume and no one has a clue who he is. Uncovering Santa’s identity sounds like the perfect angle to turn a fluff piece into serious journalism.

Mack “The Mountain” McDonall, at 6’10”, is University of Wisconsin-Madison’s enormous star wrestler. When Gabe first claps eyes on him at a wrestling match, it’s lust at first sight. Gabe’s friend, Jordan, sets up the pair on a date. But when Gabe chatters on about his plans for outing Santa, Mack goes cold, and their first meeting becomes an epic fail.

As Gabe researches the children’s home, he learns that Mack has secrets a guy famous for being a brute wouldn’t want the world to know. Can Gabe find his holiday spirit, write a killer article, win the heart of a surly giant, and give everyone a very merry Christmas?

Author Bio

Eli Easton has been at various times and under different names a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a long-distance walker. She began writing m/m romance in 2013 and has published 27 books since then. She hopes to write many more.

As an avid reader of such, she is tickled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, two bulldogs, several cows, and a cat. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.

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Audiobook Review: Signs of Life (Resilient Love #2) by Melanie Hansen

Successful lawyer Jeremy Speer has it all—a loving husband, a beautiful home, and a cherished dream that’s about to become reality. He’s learned not to take happiness for granted, meeting the challenges of life and love head-on with unwavering commitment and fierce devotion. A series of tragic events leave Jeremy shattered, adrift on a sea of unimaginable pain. He’s able to piece his life back together, but instead of embracing it, he merely exists, using isolation and punishing physical exertion to keep the world at bay.

High school teacher Kai Daniels has a heart for at-risk kids—he was one himself, and a teenage brush with the law and some troubled years behind bars left him scarred inside and out. With courage, hard work, and the support of friends, he’s built a fulfilling life that leaves no time for a relationship.

An intense encounter with Kai at a gay club ignites a spark in Jeremy that he thought was extinguished forever, but he’s unwilling to destroy the fragile peace he’s managed to create, and he leaves Kai humiliated and disappointed. Things should have ended there, but a bizarre occurrence brings the two together in a way neither of them expected.

Listening Length: 8 hours and 13 minutes
Narrator: Robert Nieman

Signs of Life is a hurt/comfort romance that features two damaged men that came from different walks of life that find love by chance set in Oregon.

Jeremy Speer is a lawyer whose world was turned upside down for the worst and he reacts even more worse. It took him some time but he turned it around some and functioned by shutting everything out. Kai Daniels is an alternative high school teacher who was formerly at risk himself. He's streetwise due to being raised there. He is used to to life giving you shit instead of lemons. These two happen to live in the same town and meet one fateful and very hawt night at a club.

But before we take a magical trip onto the fire that is the chemistry between Jeremy and Kai., let's discuss that beginning shall we?

The beginning! WTF? It was two of the worst things that could happen to person, consecutively. Not even 3% and it felt like the world was ready to crash in. I actually stared at my Kindle for a minute or two wondering WTF more could happen. I read/listened to the entire thing from that point with trepidation and shield over my chest cavity.

(No tears because...

...Book! The eyes were dry. So hah!

Let me get what I didn't care for as much out the way, so I can get to the good stuff. The good obviously outweighed the...not as good for me.

- the students - I know there are a lot of at risk teens out in the world. I've known a few in passing, know some now. Something about the lingo the kids spoke read a little off to me. Not all the time, but sometimes. I might be overthinking it but the West Coast vibe would vary from region to region right? Why was I getting Cali vibes from these kids for a setting in Oregon. It's a niggle of mine. I can't help but mention it as I would sometimes cringe at the narrator and text (and not for he words you might think) it read less authentic. Which brings me to the next thing...

- the teenager whisperer/ walking textbook - Kai was a former juvenile delinquent who is now reformed and teaches current delinquents. Uh-huh. He was borderline perfect. But overall I like Kai just sometimes the ease ruined the realistic vibe the story had going. And the clinical terms while speaking such as dysthymia, that read more like a educate the reader moment rather than have Kai speak regularly to a lover. It's a pet peeve of mine when the dialogue gets research-y rather than having people have normal conversation. It's a info dump moment. Kai was a mix of things former street tough, teacher, informal psychologist/counselor. I feel the mix of those different facets could have been smoother.

- Leticia - I wanted just a sentence of some sort of acknowledgement from Jeremy. He was healing, letting go of his anger at life. What happened to what he did in the beginning? If he's turning a new leaf, what about that one?

My niggles didn't ruin the story. It just made me pause or wonder if this would really happen. The angst got heavy handed in the beginning but it mellowed out for the rest of the book. In fact other than mostly internal and a few communication issues, the angst was pretty low.

This is my second Robert Nieman audio book. I actually listened to his narration of book #1 and  feel the same about both books. He doesn't do a variation of voices, sometimes he might act out some action, sometimes he might pronounce words funny but he was steady. Do I think another narrator could have done a better job? Yep. He paused at odd points a few times, rushed though text where as I read didn't call for it. But it wasn't bad. His narration is more of 3.75 Hearts rounded up.

The good though? Hansen can twist a tale. Nieman didn't enhance the writing. However, I enjoyed having him read her words. Because the words were good, really good.

Smutsters, this is a book you want to eye. The sex is a-plentiful!

Listen to me... You listening? *stares* Melanie Hansen can write a fuck scene. She didn't reinvent the wheel but she sure made that motherfucker spin. Wow! It was a checklist of my faves: SNOWBALLING, RIMMING, ROUGH SEX...PUBLIC SEX!

Those two couldn't get of each other. Both had unlimited rides to PoundTown and they acted like they only hand one ride left on their ticket.

I love hook up to romance stories. And at first these men didn't seem like they could get anything meaningful since the sexual tension played a major factor and (a certain someone did a major DICK MOVE--twice!) But once the fella interacted outside of the sheets, I was on board.

While this can be read as standalone, the epilogue features followup to book #1's main characters and I squeed! It also covered this book's HEA pretty nicely.

For the most part, I bought it. Kai and Jeremy are very good for each other. They will continue to help each other heal. They will fuck it up from time to time but there is a shared bond and willingness to try.

Sometimes that's all you need.

Recommended for hurt/comfort fans, for sure-- audio or eBook works just fine (though I loved reading it slightly more)!

Guest Review: Smolder by Remy J. Alan

The fire. The burn. The smolder.

Haunted by who he is and what he refuses to become, Mike returns annually to the hotel where he first succumbed to his deepest desires and realized his greatest fears. Falling in love was so easy so many years ago, when Luc’s masculine vitality and tender acceptance sparked feelings in Mike he’d never before imagined.

Torn between his true passion and his religious indoctrination, Mike confronts his struggle and suffers the tragic consequence, branding him heart and soul. Can he find redemption before his Family extinguishes the final, smoldering ember?

Guest Reviewer - NeRdyWYRM

Highly Unexpected

I was pleasantly surprised by this short. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting the twist, although the MCs names did tweak my hmm-meter enough that I was surprised but not in cardiac arrest when things shook out the way they did. There was a thread of sadness running through this little nugget of a story which, paradoxically, morphs into an oddly hopeful ending where things remain mournfully unresolved.

The ending left us with some hope that something might eventually work out even though it’s not at all clear whether or not that is ultimately advisable. What can I say? I always root for the underdogs and I’m a firm believer that ‘bad’ guys aren’t always all ‘bad’ and ‘good’ guys are rarely all ‘good’. I’m morally ambiguous that way sometimes.

The fact that the present, chronologically speaking, is one-sided on-page and there’s no HFN or HEA is not necessarily a bad thing. The lack of resolution isn’t strictly a drawback here because the plot is inherently a long-game kind of scenario despite the relative brevity of the story itself. The possible ramifications of making a bad decision in the scenario the MCs are enmeshed in are, quite literally, potential world-enders. Like, Armageddon world-enders.

I did knock the rating down a notch because the ‘relationship’ part of the story was all flashback and nothing new happened in ‘real time’. However, none of my observations thus far are meant to be construed as criticism. So, unless any of that is a dealbreaker for you as a reader … well, this title is worth reading just for the fact that it’s surprising. In the world of repetitive themes and predictable plots, in my opinion being ‘surprising’ is enough of an accomplishment to make reading it a no brainer.

Given the limited page-time, I’m ultimately satisfied with how it ended, but I was a little disappointed because I was intrigued enough to want more. Hopefully that’s something on offer in the future from this author, but who knows? If nothing else, I got to read a little bit of a mindbender and connected with the character(s) enough along the way to care what happens to them. You can’t ask for much more than that from a short story.

This review is cross-posted on Goodreads here.
More reviews by NeRdyWYRM can be found at Goodreads on my review shelf.

Images (when present) may be subject to copyright.

An ARC copy of this title was provided for an honest review.

Trivia Question: Name the bittersweet historical tale that features two Spartan warriors. 10 pts

Random winner will be chosen 11/24. I'll be traveling all will so I will try to have winners notified no later than 6 pm EST.

Anniversary Shenanigans: Author Visit + Giveaway - Kelly Jensen

Thank goodness, Kelly Jensen has arrived! She is seriously delivering the goods! She talks about her new release, Counting on You, wrote sci-fi flash fiction and is giving away an entire series to ONE lucky person! 

Take it away, Kelly!

Happy anniversary, Boy Meets Boy Reviews!
November also sees the release of the final story in my Counting series, Counting on You. In the first two novellas, Henry and Marc found themselves trapped in a rental car on the side of the road during a blizzard, and in the basement laundry of an apartment building in downtown Boston. In Counting on You, Henry and Marc travel to DC, and I had a lot of fun thinking about places they could find themselves stuck.
The train on the way down? I wouldn’t wish three hours in an Amtrak bathroom on my worst enemy. The elevator at the hotel? Been there, done that, it’s not fun. The revolving door at the front of a building? A supply closet at the offices of their client? Maybe the boardroom? Somewhere in the metro system? Inside a national monument! I even thought up a few hostage situations.
In the end I didn’t lock them anywhere (well, except for that one place in the last chapter…) because this is the story that will determine whether or not Henry and Marc have what it takes to make their fledging relationship last. The traps are of the emotional variety this time, and they’ll have to count on each other to find their way out. (See what I did there!)
I’d love to give the entire series away to one lucky reader. (Counting Fence Posts, Counting Down and Counting on You.) To enter, answer the following question:
Who would you like to be trapped with? For a bonus entry, tell me where you’re stuck and how you plan to get out!

New Release Details:
Counting on You (Counting #3)
Henry and Marc can’t seem to catch a break. They’ve had two disastrous dates—the first trapped in a car during a blizzard and the second locked in a basement—followed by nearly two months apart. Even though they work for the same firm, their relationship is held together by flying visits, phone calls, and text messages. A joint assignment in Washington D.C. might be more togetherness than they can handle, however.
Henry is still battling insecurity, and this assignment is too important to his career to mess up. Marc is committed. He’s falling for Henry and looks forward to having him permanently on his team and at his side. But the real test isn’t the assignment. When Marc finally lays his heart on the line, can he count on Henry to be there for him, in every way that matters? And can he do the same for Henry when Henry needs it the most?
Coming November 22, 2017 from Dreamspinner Press.

If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.
Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, co-written with Jenn Burke. A lot of what she writes is speculative in nature, but sometimes it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.
Connect with Kelly: Twitter | Facebook | Website
For free reads, new release news, and exclusive giveaways subscribe here!

Flash Fiction Piece: The Spark by Kelly Jensen
That I can ignore the storm breaking across my back is a pretty clear indication I’m facing something… not good. I’m aware of the chaos behind me a peripheral way. The rain licking coldly across my shoulders and the ache of my feet. Running barefoot when it’s wet is a dangerous hobby. I’d resolve not to take it up, but I’ve got bigger problems—one being the Spark dancing in my palm. He wants me to climb down into the other problem: a hole in the ground. If there’s one thing I hate more than lighting and thunder, it’s the dark.
I’m really not cut out for this hero thing.
Are you sure? I’m playing for time, we both know it. But it’s dark down there. Really dark.
I’ll light the way.
The tickle of his voice against my inner ear isn’t very reassuring, but it’s all I’ve got right now.
Still, I hesitate for an entirely useless moment, imagining all the ways I could die in the next few moments. My poor, battered feet could slip on any one of these rocks. Or several at once. Something even scarier than the dark could lie in wait, just out of sight. My favourite—not—is the darkness itself swallowing me up. Extinguishing me like a candle flame deprived of air. Correspondingly, my chest tightens and breathing becomes an issue.
I’m about to think it again. Ask it one more time. Is he sure? The wind takes the decision out of my hands. A harsh gust rips me away from the edge of the hole, rocking me back to the ground. Lighting arcs downward at just that moment, and I squeeze my eyes shut and wait for the sizzle in the middle of my forehead. My back hurts as much as my feet. The rocks are not soft and I didn’t just lie back.
I almost welcome the strike, even though I know having my brain cooked inside my skull is probably the worst way to die. Way more painful than falling down a hole and/or being swallowed by darkness.
It’s the warmth in my hand that brings me back, reminding me of why I’m here. Why we’re here. This isn’t for my sake. We didn’t have to run for me; though now I’ve started I won’t be able to stop. We did it for him. And not just because he is my light and the only person I would abandon my so-called life for.
We did it because his light doesn’t really belong to me. He’ll let me have as much as I want. His affection has never been in question. But if he is to fulfill his destiny—a word that has accrued twice as many syllables than are visible when applied to everything he plans to accomplish—we have to go down into the dark.
I’ll light the way.
He doesn’t need to say it again, but I hear the words anyway.
Wrapping my fingers around him, I cup the Spark to my chest and crawl back to the edge of the hole. Here we go. I jump and trust him to throw back the shadows until we touch the ground.

So good, right? Let Kelly know what you thought of the Spark below! We thank Kelly for partying with us today!

One lucky winner could win the ENTIRE series (Counting Fence Posts, Counting Down and Counting on You) by answering the following question below with a way to contact you (i.e. email or Twitter, Goodreads link):

Who would you like to be trapped with? For a bonus entry, tell Kelly Jensen where you’re stuck and how you plan to get out!

The giveaway is open until 12:00AM (EST) on 11/30/17. Shortly thereafter, we will contact a winner!

Please respond to the winning notification within 48 hours or we will choose another winner. Good luck!

Don't miss entering in our month long unicorn giveaway HERE! It ends 12/1/17!

Anniversary Shenanigans: Author Visit + Giveaway - Bonnie Dee

Happy Thanksgiving to the American unicorns out there! If you celebrate or not, we hope you know we're thankful for you and sharing the same passion we have for reading. And today's first author to party with us is definitely in a thankful mood. She's giving away an Audio CD title (or an eBook to international winners) to TWELVE people! It's the giving season, folks!

We're happy to welcome Bonnie Dee to the stable! Take it away, Bonnie!

Happy Anniversary, Boy Meets Boy Reviews!
I’m honored to take part in your anniversary month celebration of four years of providing quality gay romance reviews. I’ll be giving away CDs of audio books in my back list. Enter in Rafflecopter for a chance to win your choice from so many titles I’m not even sure what all I have! If you’ve only read contemporary m/m romance before, this is your chance to sample audio books of some of the historicals I’ve written with Summer Devon. The narrators have sexy British accents that only enhance our tales. Pretty much anything you see on THIS PAGE is available in audio format.
What I’d like to promote today is my most recent release, Snow Angels with Bear, a Love Off Leash tale. If you missed hearing about this series up till now, here’s the rundown: Love dogs and smoking hot men? The Love Off Leash series is for you. Different authors. Unrelated stories. Shared theme of new love and pets. Previous titles include Caring for Riggs, Hot Under the Collar, and Chilling with Max. For detailed blurbs on each title, check them out at my website.
Snow Angels with Bear is a winter story just in time for the holiday season.
An accident on an icy road brings a stray into August Long’s life, forcing a meeting with a man who invades his heart.

When a newcomer to the area brings an injured dog to his clinic, veterinarian Eric Grover is intrigued by tall, handsome and somewhat mysterious August Long. No one has the full story on why the ex-army vet is in Hopewell Springs. Natural shyness makes it difficult for Eric to get to know the stranger better. Luckily, the abandoned German Shepherd August names Bear brings the two men together.

Settling into civilian life after military service, August’s new job has brought him to northern Michigan on the cusp of winter. He never intended to hook up with a local, but gruff, taciturn Dr. Grover woos him with snowmobiling and cross country skiing. The southern boy from Atlanta comes to appreciate cold weather and the big man who lights his fire.

As the pair grows closer, sharing deeply personal confidences turns dating into a relationship. Even their dogs get along together. But August fears telling Eric what his job entails and keeps a secret until the truth explodes their romantic bubble. For two pride-filled men to patch things up may take a Christmas miracle—or the intervention of two adorable mutts.

I hope you’ll check it out. In the meantime, share your thoughts. Do you prefer cats or dogs? (or birds, ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits, hermit crabs, etc.)

Bonnie Dee is giving away a DOZEN of her titles in Audio CD (US only)/ eBook (international) format! TWELVE PEOPLE and that back list? Imagine the choices!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The giveaway is open until 12:00AM (EST) on 11/30/17. Shortly thereafter, we will contact a winner!

Please respond to the winning notification within 48 hours or we will choose another winner. Good luck!

Don't miss entering in our month long unicorn giveaway HERE! It ends 12/1/17!

Audiobook Review: The Sumage Solution (San Andreas Shifters #1) by Gail Carriger

Can a gentle werewolf heal the heart of a smart-mouthed mage?

NYT bestseller Gail Carriger, writing as G. L. Carriger, presents an offbeat gay romance in which a sexy werewolf with a white knight complex meets a bad boy mage with an attitude problem. Sparks (and other things) fly.

Max fails everything - magic, relationships, life. So he works for DURPS (the DMV for supernatural creatures) as a sumage, cleaning up other mages’ messes. The job sucks and he’s in no mood to cope with redneck biker werewolves. Unfortunately, there’s something oddly appealing about the huge, muscled Beta visiting his office for processing.

Bryan AKA Biff (yeah, he knows) is gay but he’s not out. There’s a good chance Max might be reason enough to leave the closet, if he can only get the man to go on a date. Everyone knows werewolves hate mages, but Bryan is determined to prove everyone wrong, even the mage in question.

Delicate Sensibilities? 

This story contains M/M sexitimes and horrible puns. If you get offended easily, then you probably will. The ­­­­San Andreas Shifter stories contain blue language, dirty deeds, and outright admiration for the San Francisco Bay Area. Not for the faint of heart (mouth/tongue/etc.).

This book stands alone, but there is a prequel short story featuring Bryan’s brother, Alec, the Alpha. Want to know why the pack moved? Read Marine Biology.

Narrated by Kirt Graves
Listening Length: 10 hours

I find I'm having a bit of separation anxiety upon finishing this book. I keep thinking about it and that always counts for something with me.

What started as a seemingly run of the mill, opposites attract shifter romance turned into an obsession. I listened to the whole thing in one day. I know! Crazy, right?

Bryan, beta werewolf and Boston accented big un, is Cupcake book boyfriend material. If you know me, you know what tics my boxes and Bryan colored them in with permanent magic marker-gentle giant except when it counts, lover not a fighter, has that vulnerability thing happening... *sigh*

Dude is hot is all I'm saying.

Bryan's recently relocated with his newly formed pack of "misfits" to the Bay Area. As beta of the pack, he takes his caretaking responsibilities seriously, never wanting to disappoint or hurt anyone. He's closeted (briefly) and coming to grips with his sexuality. So virgin and bashful and blushing. #S.W.O.O.N. He gets volunteered to go to the local DURPS office to register the pack and meets Max. Max is a sumage and a little abrasive. He tends to use humor and sass to mask his feelings of inadequacy. Childhood was a nightmare, he's generally a loner and feels inferior in most all ways, and has some truly awful body image issues, so he's in need of some TLC in a bad way.

Sparks fly between them and the dating and sexytimes occur pretty quickly. The sex is ON FIYAH!!!!!! (to me). Thorough and messy. Rimming, marking, biting, big guy bottoming, manhandling, toys, hands free orgasm and a little bossiness. Cupcake might've danced a jig.


The Sumage Solution definitely meets criteria for the hurt/comfort trope and is rife with mis/non-communication. Almost immediately there is conflict which even though I thought was somewhat overblown and dramatic on Max's part, I understood why he would do what he did. However, the conflict at the end employed the dreaded martyr plot device. I really hate that one and I was ultimately dissatisfied with how it played out.

Despite my quibbles the romanciness of this first love story will stick with me for the foreseeable future. I do love a mates story and Carriger takes us along for the journey of them falling in love and getting their hard fought HEA.

It was like the werewolf filled all his empty, broken, lonely parts with liquid fire. Scary and exhilarating. 
Biff felt odd, floaty but tethered, anchored to Max. A shard of toffee, sharp and sweet, was being melted inside him into hot liquid caramel. The taste and smell of Max.

The pack and other various sassy and endearing secondary characters rounded out this story. I do love a chosen family and this has all the hallmarks of adding countless "misfits" to an already adorable pack. This world that Carriger has created will make it impossible for me not to proceed with the series. Admittedly, there were times where I felt like I was missing something and wishing like crazy for a prologue or glossary of terms or something! But the cleverness of this interpretation of an urban fantasy with all sorts of shifters and paranormal beings won me over. The action plot takes a backseat to the romance, though.

As far as the narration, this is my first Kirt Graves and he's going to get listened to again. Each character got their own voice, though all the women were variations on Southern which was confusing for a book set in the Bay Area. Other than that his Boston accent for Bryan and Alec had me swooning all over the place. I ❤️ me a Boston accent. I forgot how much until I heard Bryan speak. Reminded me of that time I legit recorded the vendor hawking CHOWDAH HEYYYAH at Fenway. Good times.

Yeah, I did it.

Anyways, where was I? Oh yeah, recommending this book! Smartly written, droolworthy likable characters, sexytimes, romancey first love romance with mates, entertaining plot and fantastic narration. What's not to like? If you like urban fantasy or romance this should be a win for you.

A review copy was provided.

Trivia Question: When Perry & Rory go out to rescue Fiona in Romancing the Ugly Duckling what was she out in a storm looking for? 15 pts

Random winner will be chosen 11/23. I'll be traveling all will so I will try to have winners notified no later than 6 pm EST.

Audiobook Review: The Mystery of the Curiosities (Snow & Winter #2) by C.S. Poe

Life has been pretty great for Sebastian Snow. The Emporium is thriving and his relationship with NYPD homicide detective, Calvin Winter, is everything he’s ever wanted. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, Sebastian’s only cause for concern is whether Calvin should be taken on a romantic date. It’s only when an unknown assailant smashes the Emporium’s window and leaves a peculiar note behind, that all plans get pushed aside in favor of another mystery.

Sebastian is quickly swept up in a series of grisly yet seemingly unrelated murders. The only connection tying the deaths together are curiosities from the lost museum of P.T. Barnum. Despite Calvin’s attempts to keep Sebastian out of the investigation, someone is forcing his hand, and it becomes apparent that the entire charade exists for Sebastian to solve. With each clue that’ll bring him closer to the killer, he’s led deeper into Calvin’s official cases.

It’s more than just Sebastian’s livelihood and relationship on the line—it’s his very life.

Listening Length: 7 hours and 15 minutes
Narrator: Derrick McClain

I’m a big fan of this series and my love boils down to the MC’s, namely one Detective Calvin Winter. And I do love me some Sebastian too, I really do. But Calvin is the one that took the spotlight for me in this installment. We learned more about his past and it wasn’t surprising, but it was heartbreaking. What Calvin had been through had been alluded to in book 1, but in Mysteries it became more personal and I had even more respect for him the more I learned.

The series is really a lot of fun and I liked the mystery in this one muchly. I love Sebastian’s dad and the secondary characters add the flair and some comic relief in amongst Sebastian’s shenanigans. And he does get up to the shenanigans. You kinda have to suspend belief a bit as there is now way Sebastian would get away with his meddling (he is the Scooby Doo definition of ‘meddling kids’) but you have to let that go and enjoy the ride. There is no doubt the man has the smarts and background to crack the codes, but like I said, not a real life thing.

I love the relationship that’s building between Calvin and Sebastian though. It’s not easy and the meddling shenanigans don’t make it any easier, but it’s obvious they love each other and are willing to be honest in order to move their bond forward.

Sebastian’s dry sense of humor and somewhat socially oblivious nature are very charming. I think the narrator did a good job of capturing the obliviousness well and while it took me a bit to warm up to his take on Sebastian’s humor, I did get there. I think I got more of the humor when I read the book versus when I listened, but I got more of Calvin when I listened versus when I read. A pretty decent trade-off if I do say so myself.

**a copy of this audiobook was provided for an honest review**

Anniversary Shenanigans: Author Visit + Giveaway - Suki Fleet

Today for our anniversary shenanigans the unicorns are super excited to welcome Suki Fleet to the clubhouse with her wonderful flash fiction and giveaway. One of my favourite authors but I'm denying all bias when I say you guys are in for a treat. Get yourself a cuppa and a biscuit, and settle in for a mini break.

Gig Night Crush

It’s seven thirty-five pm and I’m washing cars and half wishing I was as drunk as the crowd of teenagers sitting waiting on the pavement across the street. I pretend I’m not watching them. Pretend all my focus is on scrubbing the windscreen of some old white car I don’t even know the make of, and not on their shared ciders, their shared smiles, their laughter.
There’s some new band playing jangly guitar music at The Rose tonight. The queuing started an hour ago and now extends beyond the teenagers and as far as I can see down the street. I’ve stolen a glance at the band’s promotional black and white poster on the door more than once. Way out of my league, but the guy pictured makes my stomach tighten longingly. There’s something a little self-conscious and unaware about him, innocence maybe. If I didn’t know better I’d say people were coming tonight just to see him, but it’s more than that—they’re good, this new band. I keep hearing snatches of sweetness as they warm up, the sound echoing like summer rain around the parking lot. That’s the thing about The Rose, sounds leak out through its crumbling bricks, they seep through its magnificent stained-glass windows that colour the street. It’s a regular church, but once a week on a Friday up and coming artists play and the place is filled with a different sort of devotion. The kind where no one cares about your sexuality or gender. The kind that makes you feel free. I’ve only been inside once. I’d go every Friday, if I could.
“I’m not paying you to daydream, Tommy!” Lennox calls from the wooden hut with its big Perspex window where customers can wait for their cars and watch me trying to make them shine. “We’ve got a backlog to get through.”
I glance at the six cars lined up behind me. My arms already hot and aching. Obviously, I’m not going tonight. And that’s okay, that’s life. But I am listening.

An excited hush goes through the crowd as the doors finally open. Even the teenagers with their ciders fall silent. The air crackles. Or perhaps I’m just imagining it. Perhaps it’s just that so little ever happens in my life but work and study that even concerts I’m not actually going to are a big event.
Eight fifteen and I’m on my third car when music spills from the church in a beautiful, chaotic rush. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end as the singer’s voice holds a single clear note and his yearning floods out into the street. From that moment on I listen to nothing else.
The beginnings of each song are so full of longing they break my heart. The finales, all crashing crescendos that fill my broken spaces and make my heart soar. It’s been a while since music has done this to me—taken my hand and tugged me so far away from myself. Far enough to forget my aching arms, my hot prickling skin, the near endless scrubbing it takes to make each car sparkle. Far enough to feel so suddenly alive.
Five songs in, the singer introduces himself and the band. His name’s Michael, his accent’s strong, northern, Yorkshire maybe, and he’s the driving force behind the music. The band started out as session musicians who just clicked. Their musical connection has been obvious since their first song, and even from Michael’s few words I know they have a strong bond—particularly his bond with Shell, the drummer, who he speaks of with so much warmth.
If I imagine being part of something like that, deep longing tangles threads around my heart and pulls so hard it physically hurts my chest. I know my life won’t always be the way it is now. I know that, I do, I just…I’ve stopped dreaming a little perhaps, stopped searching for my way out.
“I’m really shy,” Michael adds so softly I stop thinking and hold my breath to hear him. His voice warm and deep as the low evening sunlight. “It probably seems weird that I’m fronting a band, but singing is about the music, and I’m fine with that, but talking to people is about me and it’s something I find hard and need to build up to, so…bear with me, please? God my hands are shaking…” he murmurs, not quite off mic.
His vulnerable honesty makes me want to hug him. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
The band play four more songs, and in the dying light, customers waiting for their cars stand swaying on the pavement, their eyes never straying far from The Rose. I don’t want the music to stop, but I can feel the change in energy, the way the concert is winding down.
After the fourth song ends, there’s a pause and my disappointment peaks. The concert is over. Only… Michael clears his throat and starts talking again.
“Not many people know this about me—I mean, probably no one but Shell, really—but until a few months ago I used to clean buses.” He coughs, clearly uncomfortable, but after a breath he carries on. “I’d take every night shift that came up so I could pay my rent and spend every second I wasn’t working or sleeping writing songs. It was kind of lonely, as I said I’m shy…I actually can’t believe I’m up here speaking about this to be honest. I am complete jelly right now.” He pauses as the crowd murmur supportively. “I really want to say this though, even if it’s hard, because we’ve all got to do hard stuff. That’s life isn’t it?” A cheer goes up. “So, anyway…back when I was cleaning buses, I knew most of the songs I wrote were rubbish, but I felt driven to keep writing and writing them, and it took me a few years to get to even writing something that came out anything like I wanted it to. Anything I thought was good enough. And then I got…I just got lucky. Someone heard me sing and play on an open mic night and despite me being so shaky, they liked what they heard. They helped me get a band together—and this band by the way, they’re the best. I love these guys, and they’ve helped me be so much more than I was. They’ve got my back.”
“We’ve got your back!” someone yells, and everyone laughs, even me. Because it’s true. Every single person listening must be rooting for him.
“And what I’m trying to say is: that’s all this is.” He pauses and I can imagine him looking around the church, the crowd drunk on his music looking back at him, hearts beating hard like mine, because he has that sort of pull. “It’s hard work and a yeah, little luck, but mostly hard, hard fucking work.” Now he’s smiling. I can hear it in his voice. “So, if you have a dream keep going, keep believing, even when you wonder what the hell you’re doing picking chewing gum off the floor of the number 52 to Clapham Junction at two am. Sometimes opportunities come from unexpected places up, so don’t ever, ever give up. Wow, I need a lie down…”
The crowd roars. For Michael, I think, as much as anything he said. People on the pavement are clapping, the customers in the waiting hut, Lennox, me, I’m clapping hard.
“Okay, for our last song I’m going to play something really new.” He has to shout over the roar but the crowd quickly quieten. “This is something I wrote this afternoon. I wasn’t going to play it tonight but Shell, our awesome drummer, liked it a lot. It’s called Gig Night Crush and it’s inspired by the beautiful person I spent too long watching clean my car today and was too shy to go say Hi to…story of my life…”
A tingle shoots up my spine, even though I know he can’t mean me. For one, I doubt anyone has ever thought my boring, square face was beautiful. And two, I am not the sort of person someone notices and is inspired by. But a little voice whispers, you are the only person washing cars in the vicinity. Lennox has been in the hut all evening.
“And um, if they’re listening, I hope they’re flattered and not weirded out.”
My heart swoops to my stomach. I stop rubbing the wheel rim of a new Ford Focus and steady myself against the car’s door. A few wolf whistles ricochet through the crowd inside. Michael laughs self-consciously, the sound low and sweet.
He can’t have been inspired by me. I’m not special…I’m not anything. I’m just a lonely boy struggling to make ends meet while finishing a seemingly endless English degree.
A punchier, heavier guitar riff starts up. The drums come in pounding, oozing frustration. And Michael gives it everything. Not polished but perfect and heartfelt and beautiful.
My heart is a high rise blocking out the sun
It makes me wait and I’m tired of waiting
I always get it wrong.
In my head are dream boys who’ll never take me home
They tumble me when my eyes are closed but their mouths are cold
So fucking cold and their hearts are made of air.
Before I know what I’m doing, I’m walking across the street to The Rose. There’s no one on the still-open door anymore. The casually dressed security guy, likely a member of the church, is standing just inside, his head turned towards the stage, watching, just like everybody else.
On stage, Michael is electric. He’s the guy from the poster only he’s so much more in person. His dark hair wild from an hour on stage playing guitar and singing, baring his soul. I don’t believe in any god but I feel like I’m watching something holy, something more than me, this crowd, this church, this narrow life.
We all need something warm and real
A second glance or two
Tonight I don't know anything
but afternoon sweetness
Tonight I don’t know anything
But sweetness yet to come
Everything is yet to come.
For a few seconds after Michael hits the last note, there is complete silence, and then the crowd erupts as one. I don’t move. I can’t. I’m still obliterated.
I don’t know what to do, only that I want to do something. Talking to him now would probably be weird and I doubt he wants that so I grab a church flier and ask the security guy if he has a pen. Luckily, he does.
I stare at the blank back of the flier a minute before writing.
Just. Wow. Your songs are amazing and inspiring. Especially the last.
I look up and find a slightly out of breath girl with flushed cheeks and a high blonde ponytail, clutching a pair of drumsticks and watching me with an intense expression I’m not sure how to take.
“You’re the guy from the car wash,” she says, still catching her breath. “I saw you come in just now. Jesus Christ getting around that crowd to get to you wasn’t easy.” I’m still staring at her somewhat blankly. She tilts her head as if she’s weighing me up, probably from my lack of response. “I’m Shell, the drummer. Come back stage with me.”
Behind us people are starting to chant “encore” at the empty stage.
Glancing over the shoulder, Shell smiles briefly and her whole expression softens. “They’re going to be disappointed. We played everything we had. This encore thing is a bit new for us.”
Turning back to me, she says, “I kinda hoped you’d still be around out there, and you’d hear the song. Michael’s adorable, but fucking awful at connecting with new people…when he’s not on stage anyway. You like him, don’t you?”
I bite my lip. Even though I’m out, I wasn’t always so open about my sexuality and her directness makes me squirm a bit. Obviously, I like him, and I want to meet him, but… “Look, I’m not shy but he is and this doesn’t feel right. Telling a crowd something that inspired a song doesn’t mean he wants to meet with me. I think it’d make him feel super awkward.”
She raises an eyebrow but nods. “You might be right.”
“Would you give him this though? I hold out the paper.”
“A church flier? I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.” She grins.
I smile as I turn it over to show her the back, but before I hand it to her, and look down at what I’ve written. Not enough.
Not at all weirded out. I’m gig night crushing on you, too.
At the last second, I add my phone number.
Shell smiles even wider. “Well, maybe we’ll see you around then.”

After that, I kind of tumble out into the night, light as air. I finish the last car without really noticing. Gravity could have failed and sent us all drifting through space, and I don’t think I’d pay any more attention.
For the first time since I started working at the car wash, I forget to collect my evening’s wages when I leave. Lennox will keep them for me for tomorrow I’m sure, but still, it’s not like me.
Absently, I rub my arms as I walk home. It’s a couple of miles, and without the sun it’s cold, but I don’t pull on the sweatshirt I carry in my rucksack. My skin feels hypersensitive, as though the air in the streets all around The Rose is still electrified and I don’t want anything to dampen the feeling. Not yet.
Every so often I pull my phone out of my pocket, pretending to myself that I’m checking the time.
If I’m honest, I don’t think he’ll contact me. As he said, it’s a gig night crush, and by the time I get home to my little garden flat, gig night is just about over. Whatever happens, I’ll treasure tonight for the brilliant unexpected thing it was. Who else is ever going to write a song seemingly inspired by seeing me? What other beautiful boy am I ever going to make pine, even for a moment? Which other song writer is ever going to make me feel so connected that everything around me suddenly seems brim full of magic? He will likely be the only one. What’s the harm in letting myself believe and dream for a night?
I leave my phone on the kitchen counter, so I don’t keep staring at the screen, and open the back door. Sitting on my cracked concrete back step, I listen to the music of the trees as they sway, their leaves brushing in the dark, soothing and peaceful. When I try and replay the concert in my head, it’s like trying to catch a hold of smoke. I wish I’d recorded something on my phone. I hope one day I get to see them play again. If tonight has shown me anything, it’s that I need to stop putting my life on hold, I need to start living again.
Later, I’m curled in bed sleepily listening to a church bell a long way from The Rose ringing in midnight, when my phone pings with a picture message sent from an unknown number.
London, from the bank of the Thames, the city lights blurred like a dream. Written beneath it:
Funny how you can miss somewhere you’ve never known. Michael x
Or something, someone. I think, before texting back, my heart kicking.

Well be still my beating heart! I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did - thank you Suki! 

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