Saturday, August 19, 2017

Guest Post, Review & Giveaway: ANTISOCIAL by Heidi Cullinan-Includes Excerpt!



Cover art by Natsukoworks
Cover design by Kanaxa Designs

Blurb

A single stroke can change your world.
Xander Fairchild can’t stand people in general and frat boys in particular, so when he’s forced to spend his summer working on his senior project with Skylar Stone, a silver-tongued Delta Sig with a trust fund who wants to make Xander over into a shiny new image, Xander is determined to resist. He came to idyllic, Japanese culture-soaked Benten College to hide and make manga, not to be transformed into a corporate clone in the eleventh hour.
Skylar’s life has been laid out for him since before he was born, but all it takes is one look at Xander’s artwork, and the veneer around him begins to crack. Xander himself does plenty of damage too. There’s something about the antisocial artist’s refusal to yield that forces Skylar to acknowledge how much his own orchestrated future is killing him slowly…as is the truth about his gray-spectrum sexuality, which he hasn’t dared to speak aloud, even to himself.
Through a summer of art and friendship, Xander and Skylar learn more about each other, themselves, and their feelings for one another. But as their senior year begins, they must decide if they will part ways and return to the dull futures they had planned, or if they will take a risk and leap into a brightly colored future—together.

Buy Links:  


Excerpt

Chapter One

The painting, three by four feet and propped on an easel in the center of the room, arrested Skylar Stone, emptying every thought from his head, save one. This piece of art was the most incredible thing he’d ever seen.
He paced a semicircle around the canvas, unconsciously hooking his index finger into his collar to loosen his tie, as if looking at this painting required more room to breathe. It assaulted his senses and made him too dizzy to think. How did it possess so many colors and yet seem kind of purply blue? There was gold in there, somehow, and red, and…God, everything. What was the figure in the foreground? A man? A dog? A boulder? Somehow it was all three. A hulking mass of darkness looking out at…stars. Or perhaps it was someone lying on a blanket. Or it was a gargoyle looking over a city. A city on fire.
Or maybe it was a city being formed?
It looked like a child had painted it. Or a grand master. It took Skylar’s breath away.
“I said, can I help you?”
Blinking, Skylar turned toward the speaker, a mousy, scrawny, hunched male student with a permanent glower stitched on his face. He wore a dark-blue apron stained with paint, several brushes sticking out of the right-side pocket. The plaid shirt the apron protected was frayed at the collar and cuffs, and it fit the man so poorly it looked like he’d dressed in his father’s closet. His jeans were equally worn, and his tennis shoes sported soles flopping open at the toes.
The man glared at Skylar with dark-brown eyes peering from a shag of slightly curly, too-long bangs as he waited for Skylar’s reply.
Skylar cleared his throat and struggled to find his usual confidence, feeling clearer with the artwork out of a direct line of sight. “Sorry. That painting is so gorgeous it knocked me off my game a little.” Digging his smile out of his stupor, he crawled back into what his fraternity brothers called Silver Stone Mode and stuck out his hand. “Skylar Stone. I’m the risk manager for Delta Eta Sigma. I’m looking for Mr. Xander Fairchild. Can you tell me where I might find him?”
The mousy guy didn’t accept the handshake, and if anything, his scowl deepened. “What do you mean, the painting is gorgeous?”
Skylar turned back to it, rubbing the smooth line of his chin with his thumb and forefinger. “I mean that the painting is gorgeous. I feel like I could look at it for hours.”
“The paint is too thick, and the brushstrokes are a mess.”
“That’s kind of what I like, though. The thickness. The roughness. It feels almost 3-D. I don’t know anything about art, so I wouldn’t know a brushstroke if you hit me with it, but I love this painting. Do you know who did it?”
Scowling Guy snorted. “Me.”
“Wow. Really? That’s fantastic. I can see someday I’ll be forking over an arm and a leg for the right to hang your work in my living room.”
The artist hunched his shoulders and glared harder. “What do you want?”
Right, no more compliments. Skylar got down to business. “Like I said, I’m here to see Mr. Fairchild. Do you know where I can find him?”
“You already did. Now tell me what you want, so I can tell you no and get back to work.”
“You mean—you’re Xander Fairchild?”
“Yes. And you’re one of the frat boys who spray-painted penises all over my mural.”
Here, finally, Skylar found his groove. “No. I’m one of the officers of the fraternity where three members are on probation for vandalizing your work. I’m here to apologize on behalf of Delta Eta Sigma and see what we can do to make amends for our brothers’ inappropriate behavior.”
“There’s not much you can do. It can’t be replaced. I’d have to repaint the whole thing, and it’ll never be the same as the first time. It’ll always be a copy, which means it’s going to suck. I told the dean to take it down and forget it. I’ll do another mural somewhere with less chance of roving drunken monkeys. Or I won’t do it at all. I have my portfolio and BFA project to think about.”
That news disillusioned Skylar on multiple levels. He’d assumed he could sentence the freshmen to eons of community service beginning with cleaning, but hearing the mural was ruined meant things were more serious than he’d been led to believe. Also, he’d liked that artwork. It was on the wall of Gama Auditorium, which meant he passed it every time he walked into school, and he walked almost every day. It made sense, he supposed, that he’d liked the mural so well, since it was by the same artist as the painting in front of him. He liked the painting so much better, though. The mural had been stylized, designed to represent Benten College more than being art. It depressed Sky to think it would be removed, not repaired.
He realized he was woolgathering, not focusing on his mission, and he cleared his throat. “I’m sorry to hear the mural is ruined. That will change our punishment of the offenders, though I can’t imagine that’s much recompense for having your work destroyed. At the very least, I’d like to apologize on behalf of Delta Eta Sigma. As someone who enjoyed your mural, I will miss seeing it every day.”
Xander turned away and wrestled the lid off a paint can. “Whatever.”
Normally Skylar would enjoy the challenge of someone so difficult to smooth over, but he wasn’t on his game today. “Are you sure the mural can’t be saved? Because believe me, these two have days of community service ahead of them. If that can’t be done, maybe there’s some particularly grueling work they can do here in the studios?”
“You think I want them in here? Anyway, why are you asking me? I did the mural as a sophomore special project. I don’t have any authority over what happens to it. That said, if you try to stick me in a room full of frat boys grousing about their punishment—”
Skylar held up a hand. “Hey—first of all, I’m asking you because you’re the artist. Yes, we’re in discussion with the head of the art department, and the Interfraternity Council, as well as campus security, but your thoughts on this situation are also important. Second of all, no one will be sticking you with anything. These two are facing all manner of charges and suspensions, and at this point they’re doing nothing but groveling. We take this seriously. That’s why I’m here, asking how Delta Eta Sigma can make it up to you.”
Xander had the lid off the paint can and waved it angrily at Skylar. “Nothing. Thanks for the effort. Talk to the building secretary about donating money for paint or something, but don’t let your goons clean any of my brushes. Meanwhile, I need to get back to work.” After dunking a fat, wide brush in the can, he wiped it on the rim and aimed it at the canvas.
Skylar frowned at him. “What are you doing?” When he realized the brush was about to slide across the top of that night sky, he didn’t think, only knocked it out of Xander’s hand, sending it clattering to the floor.
Christ!” Xander faced down Skylar with his fists clenched. “What the hell is your problem?”
Skylar felt queasy and slightly shaky. “You were going to paint over it.”
“Yes. It’s a piece of sh*t, and I need the canvas.”
Piece of sh*t? “It’s stunning. If you don’t like it, sell it and buy a new canvas.”
Xander’s nostrils flared. “Like I said, you can leave now.”
Skylar should have. He’d done what he’d come to do—he hadn’t succeeded, but if he wanted to achieve his goal, he’d need to leave, regroup, and try again another day. But he couldn’t leave and let the painting be ruined, so instead of walking out the door, he reached for his wallet. “How much do you want for it?”
This only enraged Xander further. “I said, get out.”
Skylar thumbed through his bills. “I only have forty-five on me, but I’ll go to the nearest ATM and get the rest of whatever price you name. I want to buy the painting, Mr. Fairchild.”
“I’m not letting you take this back to your stupid frat house so you and your brothers can use it for a dartboard.”
Skylar lowered his wallet and swallowed the impulse to give in to temper. “I have no such intent. I would never use a piece of art so callously. I gather you don’t have a high opinion of Greek life, which I’m sorry to hear.” Gears turned, and Silver Stone Mode ground back to life. “You don’t seem to have much regard for your own skill, either, if you’re so unwilling to sell your work. As far as I’m concerned, you belong in a gallery.”
Xander blinked at Skylar. For a moment he looked vulnerable, almost eager, his veneer cracking at last. Just as quickly, however, his owlish demeanor was back. He set his jaw as he picked the brush up from the floor. “This is my painting. I can destroy it if I want to. I can paint over it, use it as a coffee table, chuck it against the wall. It’s not going to hang in a gallery. The closest thing to that I’ll be seeing anytime soon is my senior art show, and there’s no way in hell I’m letting that get laughed down.”
“What’s to laugh at? I love the painting. The idea of a room full of your work sounds perfect.”
“Oh yeah? Tell me why you like my work, then.”
Skylar turned to the painting. The power of it hit him every time he looked at it, and he felt self-conscious attempting to articulate why when Xander was so derisive. He considered giving up and leaving. He’d delivered the apology and started trying to engender goodwill. The rest of his work would be done with research and carefully orchestrated gestures. But he really did hate the idea of this painting being covered up.
“I don’t know. It gets me, right in the gut. It’s so many things at once. It makes me feel aching and lonely but not desolate. This guy who has lost everything and retreated from the world, maybe even hates it, still has hope he can find his niche.” He sighed and gestured with his hand. “I don’t know anything about brushstrokes or forms or whatever. All I know is I’d hand over a lot of money to take this home with me. I wouldn’t use it as a dartboard. I’d hang it in my room, and I’d stare at it while I lie in bed.” He rolled his eyes at himself. “Now you’ll tell me how off my interpretation was. But it’s why I love it.”
Xander looked pale, almost trembling, like someone had slapped him in the face. He stared at Skylar with that same vulnerable, aching expression. Then he turned away. “Take it.”
Skylar frowned. “Take what?”
Xander made shooing motions at him. “The painting. Take it. Take it and go.”
The painting? Skylar pulled out his money again. “Here, let me pay—”
Just take it.” Xander put down the paintbrush, hauled the painting off the easel, and thrust it at Skylar. “It’s yours. Go away.”
Skylar struggled to accept the painting without dropping his wallet. “I really would pay for it. I want to pay for it.” He needed to.
“We don’t always get what we want. You have the painting, and you’ve apologized for the frat. I accept. There, see? Everyone’s happy. Go have a kegger or something.”
Xander didn’t look happy. He looked upset. Skylar was too. It bothered him to pay nothing for the painting. He didn’t like that Xander was so dismissive of Delta Sig, as if they were some reboot of Animal House. Though he supposed with the mural incident they looked like it, dammit. Skylar wanted to tell Xander about the two friends who had founded Delta Eta Sigma while caring for the sick, about Delta Sig’s connection to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and how much service they did a year. He wanted to talk about how his housemates truly were his brothers, how the social network the Greek life provided was as fundamental if not more so than his own family upbringing.
He would have, but Xander took off his apron and disappeared out of the studio and down a hallway. The door closed behind him with a quiet snick.
Skylar stared at the place where he’d disappeared, letting the quiet ring in his ears. Pulling his business card out of his wallet, he spied a backpack at the foot of the easel and slipped the card into an open flap. Then he tucked his wallet into his pocket, the painting carefully under his arm, and wove his way out of the building and down the hill toward Delta Sig.

Art Styles in Antisocial

Today I’m here to talk about my new novel, Antisocial, a new adult gay and asexual romance set in a fictional college in upstate New York between a one-percenter fraternity boy and a highly antisocial artist. One encounter with Xander Fairchild’s artwork is enough to turn Skylar Stone’s carefully orchestrated life upside down, unlacing his secrets and inviting him into a secret anime-soaked world with a new set of friends. But will they be brave enough to embrace their fragile new relationship and let it last beyond the summer?
In Antisocial, Xander is an artist at Benten College, getting ready to present his senior project. He plans to present paintings done in traditional oil painting styles, but his friends keep nudging him to do something with his other art love, manga. There are also several specific artists mentioned in the novel, some at length. Today we’re going to talk a bit about some of the styles and the artists mentioned in the story at greater length.

Oil Painting
You’re probably familiar with oil painting as an art style: this is simply art done in oils on canvas. It’s been around for centuries, it’s thought begun by Indian and Chinese painters for Buddhist paintings in the fifth and tenth centuries, though it wasn’t until the 15th century that the technique migrated westward and things truly took off. Oil paint became the primary means of art in Europe, and it remained that way until the dawn of photography, which quickly eclipsed it. Oil painting is still around today, though it now competes with acrylic and watercolor, as well as many other art mediums.
Oil painting has more than one kind of style, and how the paint has been used has varied over the years. Because it’s thinned with mineral spirits, you get different effects depending on how much it’s thinned and how much paint is applied, or how much you let the paint dry before applying another layer (and how many layers you apply). Connoisseurs of art can tell an artist by their brushstrokes much as one can be read by their handwriting, but use of paint style—how much, how little, what kind of thinner, etc—also tells a lot about the artist in question.

Ukiyo-E and Printmaking
In Antisocial Xander mentions the ukiyo-e style, which actually refers to a period of time in Japan more than a style, though with Japan the two are a bit intertwined. Japan as an island nation has always been isolated, but for a long period of time it was even more so, cut off from the outside world by the edict of its government. Who ruled Japan during that time was complicated: to understand quickly and in a humorous fashion, I suggest this video
What Japan’s isolation also did was produce a period of high stability and incredible art, including visual art. It’s during this time we refer to the ukiyo-e style, which translates to “pictures of a floating world.” They depicted the hedonistic environment of the pleasure districts, and these portraits were popular with the merchant class, who didn’t necessarily partake in the delights (though may have) but did enough the idea of them. You can see several examples of ukiyo-e style art here, as well as a more detailed explanation. 
Because so many people wanted to enjoy this art, it needed to be mass-produced, and that meant these were not paintings but woodcuts which could print multiple copies of the same image. They would still be expensive, but not nearly so much as an original work, and fewer artworks overall would need to be produced. Plus (this is my analysis, not any research) there’s then the shared effect, everyone having the latest Hokusai, which is good for both the populace and the up-and-coming artists. The artists themselves did not always cut the images themselves—they sketched the design and then had their assistants to the work of carving out the image to be made into a woodcut.

Hokusai
You know Hokusai, even if you don’t think you do: he made the wave painting which is discussed in the novel and which is plastered on every dorm wall in college. Hokusai’s full name is Katsushika Hokusai (family name is Katsushika, and this is how he’s referred to in Japan), though he also changed his name many, many times (this isn’t entirely uncommon either for that time or for Japanese culture as I understand it, though I’m still learning my Japanese culture). He does seem to have changed his name more than most. He produced a phenomenal body of work during his lifetime, and he lived a vibrant, rich life.  He was meant to learn mirror-making from his father, but his skill as a painter became evident early on and he was quickly shifted into that profession instead.
Xander discusses Hokusai a great deal in Antisocial, so I won’t belabor the point, but I will say he’s worth looking into not only as a major artist in Japan but as a major artist, period. He’s fascinating, and his work (beyond The Great Wave) is amazing.

Manga/Anime
In the west, manga are “Japanese comics” and anime are “Japanese cartoons.” In Japan, manga is comics, period, and anime is animation of all kinds. 
There are no real differences between our comics and cartoons except the point of production…and the culture, which is worth pointing out. Japan doesn’t have the censors we do, the bodies of people saying what can and cannot be produced (yes, this exists and they rule over your comics and your movies and your television, welcome to your “free speech”), which is why you’re more likely to see edgy things out of Japan and Asia than the “freedom-loving” US. The markets are also different in general and have not grown up with the same concept of what a profit margin must look like, nor with the same set of institutions of who must work where and how things must be produced, and so you end up with a difference system. For further reading, I suggest The Soul of Anime, and I’ve also be talking more on this at another tour stop (Cozy Reading). 

Hiromu Arakawa
The mangaka behind Fullmetal Alchemist, Arakawa has an amazing backstory, the little we get of it. She’s from Hokkaidō, which is in the far north of Japan, and is full of farms. It was her dream to be a manga artist, though, and she achieved it—but she never forgot her country roots, it seemed. Her avatar for herself in the intro and outro to Fullmetal is a dairy cow, and she writes with a clear sensibility and affection for rural people. I especially appreciate her portrayal of female characters, something which in shōnen manga (manga written for young men) can be uncomfortable. If you’re wanting to try your hand at a manga, I highly recommend this one, for you or your children. If you’d rather watch it, try Fullmetal Alchemist:Brotherhood, which is the anime version faithful to the manga.

Body Painting
In the novel Antisocial, quite famously (infamously?) there are no sex scenes, but there is a body painting scene, and nobody so far has told me they would like to trade out.  Xander discovers Skylar likes having paintbrushes run over his skin, so he arranges for a day-long body painting session (which he performs, of course) and learns how to do it. This meant that I had to look up what that entailed.

It turns out body painting is quite involved and complicated. There seems to be a lot of argument about what paint to use and not use, what is safe and what isn’t. Technically they should have tested paint out to see if Skylar reacted (we’re just going to assume they did this for the sake of narrative), and honestly, I can’t imagine doing it for so many reasons. I think I’d feel crazy claustrophobic. But I can conceptually imagine it feeling highly sensual for the right person, and I knew Skylar would be one of them. It’s one of my favorite scenes I’ve ever written. I was as excited to write it as they were to be in it.

And that’s it for the art styles of Antisocial. You learn a bit more by reading the book, I suppose, though mostly you get to see Xander’s art. And I would say, if I can brag up my characters, that you definitely don’t want to miss his art show at the end.



Carra's Review

There are so many firsts for me with this book.  Most importantly, it’s the first book I’ve read by this author…which after reading it has led me to berate myself for not reading her before this even though I have several of her books waiting for me on my e-reader.  Needless to say, all of her work has just shot up to the very top of my TBR list…after all, Antisocial has just become my absolute favorite book of 2017 (which, hey-spoiler-means 5 stars and a Top Recommendation in case you're wondering).

Another first—I’ve never been into manga or anime or really anything like that, though I’ve long admired Japanese art in general, and this is the first book I’ve read that concentrates so heavily on these aspects.  I found myself intrigued enough to start looking into the culture on my own.  I know there are elements that are idealized/romanticized and not necessarily true to everyday life, but just the idea of the cultural aspects presented is soothing and put me in a very positive headspace.

A rather interesting and unexpected first…reading a new adult romance where there’s absolutely no sex.  I love sex in romance books because when it is not overused it can be an emotional and provocative way to advance the intimacy between the characters—and I mean relationship-wise, not just sex-wise.  Here in Antisocial, the first “intimate” encounter between Xander and Skylar is done with their hands, and it was more sensual than a lot of regular sex scenes I’ve read, distinctly more emotional, and actually almost erotic—without a single piece of clothing coming off.  There’s more to sex than intercourse, and it’s passages like this that show this is an undeniable fact.

There’s a lot of symbolism; this story is very much Skylar's journey from the fake, plastic person he pretended to be to who he really is-which is not something he knew when Xander first met him. Skylar was whatever everyone else wanted him to be and who he truly was...that person was lost inside him and Xander helped bring him out.  Self-discovery at its very best, and I personally found Skylar’s journey incredibly moving.  I became thoroughly absorbed in this book, even more so after the first touch scene between Xander and Skylar. 

The story may seem long and drawn out to some readers, but the way it is told is necessary to really uncover the root of Skylar's torment and help him become who he really wants to be. It is descriptive and really helps the reader feel how the characters feel.  If you are the type of reader who appreciates a deeper meaning in a story, not just for the characters but for you personally, Antisocial is definitely one that should be on your must-read list.  And the amazing characters—main and supporting—who all had so much depth and meaning, they continued to pull me further and further into the Antisocial world with every page.


Five stars is not anywhere near enough for Antisocial, this story has clearly earned the top spot of all the books I’ve read so far in 2017 (and that’s just over two hundred so far), and is now sitting atop my Top Recommendations list for the genre.

Heidi's Bio

Heidi Cullinan has always enjoyed a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. Proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality, Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights. She writes positive-outcome romances for LGBT characters struggling against insurmountable odds because she believes there’s no such thing as too much happy ever after. When Heidi isn't writing, she enjoys playing with new recipes, reading romance and manga, playing with her cats, and watching too much anime. Find out more about Heidi at heidicullinan.com.



GIVEAWAY!

New Release-Excerpt & Giveaway: RETURN TO ECSTASY by Tina Donahue


RETURN TO ECSTASY
Her Master's Pleasure, book 1

by Tina Donahue

New Release & Giveaway: LOVE ON FIRE Box Set


LOVE ON FIRE
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Friday, August 18, 2017

Now Available: BEAST OF A TIME by Misha Paige (Hellhound Bound #1)



Buy Links: 




Blurb

Everyone's heard stories or songs about being a beast of burden. Well, it's quite a burden to be a beast, too.

Kane isn't like most people: he's not human, for one thing. What he is, is exceptional.


An event from his past led him to stay on Earth, a planet of people that were often scared and hostile to his kind. Even so, Kane ignored all the hateful things said to him and focused instead on the job he chose to do.

That job is everything to him, and it's his reason for living. When one man shows up-Al, a new hire who keeps smiling at Kane when he should be looking at him with fear and distaste-Kane is faced with a challenge he never expected. He didn't think anyone would ever truly want him, and to discover that a very sexy, handsome man does indeed want him, shakes Kane to his core.

Despite Kane's best attempt's at keeping distance between them, he finds himself partnered with Al. Kane knows he needs to push Al away, and he tries. Sort of.

Al isn't scared off like Kane's former partners, and if he and Kane can survive the fight that's coming for them, then maybe they'll have a chance to discover what it means to love.


Author Bio

Misha Paige is the psuedenym of a stay at home mom of four whose favorite way to relax has always been reading. After years of hearing voices in her head, she finally decided to set them free and hopefully entertain others.

She is lucky enough to have the support of her wonderful husband even if he is shocked by what she writes.


Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions


Cover Reveal & Giveaway: UNFILTERED by Leigh Lennon


UNFILTERED
by Leigh Lennon

New Release-Excerpt & Giveaway: THE DUKE'S DEFIANT BRIDE by Michelle McMaster

HAPPY RELEASE DAY
The Duke's Defiant Bride Tour Graphic
THE DUKE'S DEFIANT BRIDE
Michelle McMaster
The Duke of Hawksmoor reunites with a beautiful spy from his past...but can he trust the defiant Lady Blade?
The Duke's Defiant Bride
Series: Brides of Mayfair Book 4
Genre: Historical Romance, Regency Romance
Publication Date: August 18, 2017
Carver Adams, the powerful Duke of Hawksmoor and brave war hero, makes a shocking discovery at a glittering Mayfair ball. The one woman he could never forget--the infamous spy, Lady Blade--is very much alive. Though he balks at the idea of teaming up with the woman who betrayed him and his men during the war, the beautiful former French spy may be the key to his next undercover mission.
Juliet Reed never wanted to love the handsome British army captain. After an unspeakable tragedy changes her life forever, the half-English and half-French young woman became a deadly spy for the French, known as Lady Blade. When she is taken captive by Captain Adams, the two enemies must fight against the heated attraction that burns between them, or betray everything they have fought for.
Now, a year after the Battle of Waterloo, the two former lovers--and former enemies--must re-unite in order to stop a dangerous plot which could cost many innocent lives. But with their volatile past and their dangerous passion for each other re-ignited, will the two star-crossed lovers risk everything to trust each other once more?

Purchase Links

Available now for $3.99 only. Grab your copy today.

An Excerpt from the Book

Take an inside look at The Duke's Defiant Bride. Read this sizzling excerpt from the book.

Bellamy House, 
Mayfair, London
April, 1816
Carver Adams, the Duke of Hawksmoor, had a secret. Two, actually—and either one of them would knock the ton on its head if the truth ever came out.
As he stepped into the glittering ballroom of Bellamy House, he scanned the room for his host and spotted him immediately.
His old friend, Beckett, the Earl of Ravenwood, took notice of his arrival and approached with champagne in hand.
“Your Grace,” Beckett said, bowing slightly. “Welcome. Though I’m a bit surprised to see you here tonight. Are you finally in the market for a bride?”
Carver chuckled. “You never quit, do you, Beckett.”
“Certainly not. If you are, Isobel would be happy to help. Lady Weston would, too, I suspect. Look, there are Alfred and Prudence, now.”
Carver turned to see Alfred, Baron Weston and his beautiful wife, Prudence, taking the final steps in a lively quadrille in the center of the ballroom. They turned and locked eyes with Carver, smiled and approached.
“Tell me, Your Grace, is it true? Are you on the hunt for a duchess at last?” 
He was on the hunt for something, or someone, Carver mused to himself. But men like him always were. 
“There is quite a crop of beautiful young ladies to choose from here this evening,” Alfred added, scanning the room. “Simply take your pick.” 
His wife cocked her head to the side. “I do beg your pardon, Alfred, but what of the young ladies? Do they not have a say in this? Perhaps they don’t wish to have a husband. Even a duke. Pardon my saying so, Your Grace.”
Prudence, Baroness Weston, was known for her independent speech and intelligent mind, which was no surprise, considering she ran a successful school for young ladies who came from troubled backgrounds, or even the streets themselves. 
“I am not seeking a duchess this evening, Lady Weston,” Carver replied. “But if I were, you and Lady Ravenwood would be the first I would consult for advice and recommendations. You are both modern-thinking ladies, and as you know, I have come to the dukedom rather late in life. Truth be told, I still feel like nothing but a lowly captain of the West Devonshire, and nothing more.”
“Forgive me, Your Grace,” she replied with a charming glimmer in her eye, “but as my husband tells it, Captain Carver Adams was quite a distinguished soldier. You led many brave missions in the Peninsula and saved countless English lives. You are a true hero.”
Carver thanked her but looked away from the compliment, for there was one mission where he had failed catastrophically—the mission to escort a beautiful French spy, Lady Blade, to his superiors at Villarosa.
Two-and-a half years later, those hellish events still haunted him in the darkest hours of the night. The explosions… The screams of dying men...
And of course, the beautiful Lady Blade haunted him most of all.

Other Books by Michelle McMaster

Don't miss the other books in the Brides of Mayfair series. Join the handsome heroes and spunky heroines of this sparkling series, as they find romance and adventure in the glittering ballrooms of Mayfair in Regency London.
"Michelle McMaster knows exactly how to keep readers entertained with the perfect mix of romance and laughter."
- USA Today Bestselling Author, Julianne MacLean

Seducing the Bride

Taming the Bride

His Courtesan Bride

Giveaway

WIN $20 AMAZON GIFT CARD
The Duke's Defiant Bride Giveaway Graphic
Contest runs from August 18 - 24, 2017.

About Michelle McMaster

Michelle McMaster loves writing about dashing heroes and spunky heroines in her historical romances, and is known for humorous dialogue and memorable characters. Michelle holds a degree in English Literature from Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia. She enjoys travelling, reading, quilting, and gardening. She lives on the east coast of Canada with her husband and their two dogs, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and a Border Collie mix.

In partnership with
Book Unleashed Logo

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Review & Giveaway: HARD TIME by CF White (Responsible Adult #2)



Buy Links: 

Pride (Available Now)
Amazon US | Amazon UK (Available September 5)

Length: 77,855 words
Publisher: Pride Publishing

Responsible Adult Series

Misdemeanor (Book #1): Pride Publishing | Amazon US | Amazon UK


Blurb

Love isn't always responsible.

After Micky O'Neill is remanded in custody for breaching his court order, his already tempestuous relationship with Dan Peters is tested to the limits.

Having to battle their way through a court case that could end with Micky in jail, social workers breaking up the family home, and the return of Micky's deadbeat father, it seems everything is set to destroy their relationship before it even had the chance to start.

With such high stakes involved, not just for Micky but for once-burned, twice-shy Dan, they both have to learn that falling in love isn't always responsible.


Carra's Review

After the way I was pulled in to the first book of this series, Misdemeanor, and the way it left me hanging at the end…I was jumping at the chance to read Hard Time to see what came next.  CF White did not disappoint, and I was catapulted head-on into a story of constant tension and worry, but also smiles, heat, and so much love.  Yes, this story moves along determinedly at its own pace, not letting a single thing be revealed until the author was good and ready for it; but I was entirely absorbed in every single page—even as I was trying to read faster to get to what every reader wants to know…what is Micky’s future?

The journey there will take you through more of Micky and Dan’s relationship development as they both continue to battle their individual insecurities, and they each discover just how committed the other is to their success.  And you know it’s not going to be easy for them with Micky’s freedom hanging in the balance, so that does place a bit of suspense on everything as his fate is drawn out throughout much of the story.  Plus there’s still the lingering issue of Micky’s father—just in case you forgot he’s not quite out of the picture after the first book.  

Micky and Dan do what they do best—get through their daily lives, doing as best they can and forming an ever closer relationship as they become thoroughly entwined in each other’s lives.  Their feelings are blatantly obvious, even if they each may come to doubt them at different points.  And in between it all is the wonderful, eternally happy Flynn.  The lengths that both Micky and Dan will go to so Flynn’s life will be better are unlimited, and it is because of this on Micky’s part that Dan can see past who Micky used to be, and the incredibly selfless man he’s become.

The supporting characters do an amazing job here in Hard Time, from Dan’s parents Cathy and Frank with their unconditional support of their son as well as Micky and Flynn, to Micky’s friend Jason and Dan’s roommate and friend Tamsin, to Micky and Dan’s fellow employees.  They all provide a strong framework both men can count on for help, love, and laughs when it counts the most…and they do it without being overly cheesy or boring.  I was also very glad to see how Dougie’s character was portrayed in this story over the first one; this time around he may still be a little goofy and oblivious, but he’s a really great guy through it all.

The story was pretty emotional, and by the end I confess I did have some tears making themselves known.  Between the constant tension and the emotional ups and downs, Hard Time had me captured from start to finish as I read it through in a single sitting.  You definitely need to read Misdemeanor before starting Hard Time to appreciate exactly where both Micky and Dan came from and how meaningful that makes this story by the end.  And while you won’t get a crazy cliffhanger this time around, there’s a promise at the end of more to come—something I am REALLY looking forward to!


5 stars for Hard Time, and it’s a story I highly recommend to any M/M romance fan (just please read Misdemeanor first!).  This book is meant for readers 18+ for adult language and sexual content (mmm…yes, Micky and Dan can be quite the sexy pair!).  And you probably will want some tissues on hand…just sayin’…


Author Bio

Brought up in a relatively small town in Hertfordshire, C F White managed to do what most other residents try to do and fail-leave.

Studying at a West London university, she realised there was a whole city out there waiting to be discovered, so, much like Dick Whittington before her, she never made it back home and still endlessly searches for the streets paved with gold, slowly coming to the realisation they're mostly paved with chewing gum. And the odd bit of graffiti. And those little circles of yellow spray paint where the council point out the pot holes to someone who is supposedly meant to fix them instead of staring at them vacantly whilst holding a polystyrene cup of watered-down coffee.

She eventually moved West to East along that vast District Line and settled for pie and mash, cockles and winkles and a bit of Knees Up Mother Brown to live in the East End of London; securing a job and creating a life, a home and a family.

Having worked in Higher Education for most of her career, a life-altering experience brought pen back to paper after sheíd written stories as a child but never had the confidence to show them to the world. Having embarked on this writing malarkey, C F White cannot stop. So strap in, it's gonna be a bumpy ride...



GIVEAWAY!



August 14 - BooksLaidBareBoys
August 17 - Making It Happen
August 29 - Diverse Reader
August 31 - MM Good Book Reviews
September 7 - Alpha Book Club

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions