They settled into their seats, and Declan leaned back, yawning. He took Lucas’s hand and squeezed, whispering, “Get some rest. Stop your fretting.”
“We’re going to stop that ship from sinking, right?” Lucas said in a low voice. He shifted so his shoulder pressed solidly against Declan’s. “And make sure the Sloanes are safe?”
“It’s my goal, Lucas.” Declan’s voice was soft and steady. “Make sure you keep your eyes open and have your earbud in. If there is even a hint of trouble, don’t be afraid to say so. There’s no such thing as a false alarm in this sort of business.”
Lucas studied Declan for a few seconds before relaxing more. “You’re worried about me?”
Declan looked at him, surprise all over his face. “Of course I am. It’s not as if you have a lot of experience in covert work. It’s easy to get flustered or think you’re overreacting to something.”
“Personal experience talking?”
“Oh, yes. The first few ‘jobs’ Jonas and I pulled, I think we screwed up more than we got right,” Declan said. “It’s something of a miracle we survived. There was no one to coach us, we just fumbled right on through. Well, in Jonas’s case it was more like he bulldozed through.”
Lucas laughed softly. “And yet, you both survived,” he pointed out.
Declan chuckled. “You are very right. Fortunately, later on we were able to infiltrate organizations that offered formal training.” He squeezed Lucas’s hand again. “We’ll be fine.”
Lucas leaned over and gave Declan a quick kiss on the cheek. “Yes, we will be.”
Code Name Jack Rabbit is available in eBook, paperback
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RELEASE BLITZ WITH GIVEAWAY
Title: Two Truths and a Lyle
Author: DJ Jamison
Release Date: January 26, 2023
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Tropes: friends to lovers, oblivious to love, small town, demisexual awakening, new adult
Themes: figuring out where you belong, home/community, friendship
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: approx 31 500 words
It is part of the Games We Play series, but it works as a standalone. It does not end on a cliffhanger.
This is a prequel novella. Its release also means the series is complete.
Buy Links - Available in Kindle Unlimited
Two Truths and a...wait, what?!
What happens when drunken idiots, aka your friends, use a silly drinking game to sideswipe you and your BFF with the truth bomb that you’re actually in love with each other?
Truman: You impulsively kiss the best friend you’ve been in love with for ages…then wake up with a hangover—and regrets.
Lyle: You freak out because you’re not gay or bi, before realizing the kiss wasn’t *actually* bad. Then you begin to wonder…should we do it again?
Two Truths and a Lyle is a cute, low-angst M/M romance with two oblivious best friends who are perfect for one another, a town full of quirky residents who get in everyone’s business, and a sweet sexual awakening.
This novella was previously published as part of a promotion, but some new content has been added.
“Okay, the game is Two Truths and a Lie,” Kevin announced. “Who’s first?”
Calista and Darren put their heads together, conferring quietly. Then Darren straightened, gesturing to Calista. “Ladies first.”
“I’ve never been accused of being a lady before,” Calista said to a round of laughter. She was gorgeous, with curly hair that was a little wild and curves that attracted her a steady number of boyfriends. But she was also one of the crudest people I’d met, always down for a dirty joke or reckless adventure. “But sure, I’ll go first. Okay…two truths and a lie. Hmm. Oh, I’ve got it! Here goes: I’m a Scorpio. I once wrecked my dad’s car. And my two best friends are in love with each other.”
“You’re not a Scorpio,” Tru said.
“Wait, aren’t all the truths supposed to be about yourself?” I asked.
At the same time, Evan said, “I thought I was your best friend. I’m not in love with anyone!”
And that’s when it hit me.
She was talking about me and Tru.
“Drink up, Calista!” Kevin called. “They busted you on the lie. You’re not a Scorpio.”
I noticed no one was suggesting she told more than one lie. Or calling her on the fact she’d told a supposed “truth” that wasn’t her own.
“I’ll go next,” Darren announced gleefully.
My gut clenched. Somehow, I knew what was coming. I glanced around the group playing the game, all ranging in age from about eighteen to twenty-two, all long-time acquaintances or friends. Was this some type of organized effort? Evan hadn’t seemed to know it was going down. So maybe it was just Calista and Darren. But that was still too much.
“Maybe we should head out,” I said to Tru.
“Why? We haven’t even played yet.”
Before I could answer, Darren was announcing his truths and a lie. “I’m a Scorpio. I’m a virgin. And my roommate and his best friend totally need to bone because they are in luuuurrrve.”
There were shouts of laughter, and Calista smirked. “I know you’re not a virgin.”
Hold up now. Calista and Darren? Surely not. At the ooohs and ahhs they started to get, Calista flipped off the room. “Dude, he’s a slut. I don’t need to screw him to know.”
I dragged a hand down my face.
“Wait, hold on,” Tru said. “Ly is your roommate.”
Darren smirked. “Yep.”
“And…his best friend is…?”
Darren raised his brows. “Don’t you already know the answer to that?”
Tru frowned, glancing between me and Darren. “I thought I did. Now, I’m just confused.”
“Join the club,” I muttered, though I suspected we were confused about different things. My stomach was squirming with discomfort as half the eyes in the room fixed on Tru and me. Fucking Darren. I knew he was behind this. I didn’t know why, but I’d find out.
Part of me wanted to jump up and tell him to knock it off. The other half wanted to sink into the sofa and disappear rather than draw more attention to myself.
“Ah, I think I get this game now,” Evan said. “Can I go next?”
Sweet Evan. Sweet, naïve Evan. I sighed with relief. Finally, the game would move on, and everyone would forget Darren and Calista’s entirely deluded suggestions that Tru and I were anything but good friends.
Hell, I wasn’t even gay. Or bi. So how could I be in love with my male best friend? I barely dated women, much less men. I was too busy working my ass off, trying to prove myself at the construction company Truman’s dad had built from the ground up while my dad did his best to drink himself into an early grave.
I’d always thought Truman would be right there by my side on the crew, making the back-breaking labor more fun. He had a way of turning everything in life into a big laugh. I hadn’t even realized how much he made me smile until he was gone and every day was just one dreary slog after another.
“Two truths and a lie,” Evan said. “Okay. I’m creating my own app.”
That was undoubtedly true. Evan was a classic tech geek, and at eighteen, he already did freelance work for a handful of companies. He didn’t need a degree, evidently, because he’d taught himself everything he needed to know in his spare time.
Evan continued, “I’m dating a girl.”
There was an immediate snort of laughter. Evan had been out as a gay boy for years.
“And…” He glanced guiltily in my direction. Oh no. Not him too. “Lyle and Truman are totally couples goals. If they could only see it for themselves.”
“Et tu, Evan,” I said.
Beside me, Truman gasped. “Evan, you’re dating a girl?”
Evan looked floored. “What? No?”
“The game is two truths and a lie,” Tru said. “If you’re not dating a girl, you told two lies.”
Evan shook his head. “Sorry, guys. But I’m still gay.”
“Well, I’m not,” I said shortly, standing and dragging Truman up by the arm. “I think it’s time to call it a night.”
About the Author
DJ Jamison writes romances about everyday life and extraordinary love featuring a variety of queer characters, from gay to bisexual to asexual. DJ grew up in the Midwest in a working-class family, and those influences can be found in her writing through characters coping with real-life problems: money troubles, workplace drama, family conflicts and, of course, falling in love. DJ spent more than a decade in the newspaper industry before chasing her first dream to write fiction. She spent a lifetime reading before that and continues to avidly devour her fellow authors’ books each night. She lives in Kansas with her husband, two sons, one snake, and a sadistic cat named Birdie.
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“No. I was just checking out the town and saw you.” Brandon sort of told the truth and immediately cursed himself mentally when Raul arched an eyebrow. The man was a werewolf. That meant he heard heartrates change and could sniff out changes in body chemicals when someone lied. “I mean… c-could we… are you hungry?”
Raul put his hands in his jeans pockets and stood regarding Brandon calmly. He seemed to be studying Brandon, looking for something in his face or body language maybe. It was unnerving.
“Brandon,” he corrected immediately.
Raul nodded and said, “Brandon, look I think I know what’s going on here. What you’re feeling isn’t real.”
“I—you don’t know that.”
“Yes. I do,” Raul said. His voice was firm, kind and Brandon realized he’d had this conversation before.
Raul turned as if he was going to leave, so Brandon darted forward and put one hand on Raul’s forearm.
“No. Please, listen?” Raul stopped so Brandon continued. “I’m just asking… you’re the first person in I can’t remember when who treated me like a normal guy, not a scary freak. I thought maybe you’d have time for some lunch? That’s all. I don’t know anyone else in this area, and eating every meal alone gets old.” Brandon put on his most pleading, innocent expression.
Again, Raul scrutinized him and Brandon hoped he sensed his sincerity.
“Alright. You like Mexican? Real Mexican?”
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Scintilla is available in paperback, eBook and in Kindle Unlimited.
Book Title: Third Time Lucky
Author and Publisher: Aurora Crane
Cover Artist: Cormar Covers
Release Date: January 28, 2023
Genre: Contemporary MM romance
Tropes: Friends to lovers, bi-awakening
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 80 000 words
It is part of the Chain Reaction universe but can be read as a standalone. It is a HEA
Buy Links - Available in Kindle Unlimited
Trust didn’t always go both ways, and Grady Donehue learned that the hard way. He hadn’t learned better after the first betrayal, but he wasn’t going to make the same mistake a third time. Striking up a strange friendship with the equally strange—and straight—soldier, Lake, who had sunshine in his eyes? Grady could do that. He could even handle helping Lake figure out he might not be so straight after all, in a very hands-on way. But falling in love? No, thanks.
“Is there a reason you don’t like your house?” Grady asked.
It was a fair question, since they hadn’t spent a lot of time in the last few months at Lake’s, even though they’d spent so many evenings together.
Lake didn’t answer at first, staring out at the dozens of people milling about like ants with a purpose. “It’s empty,” he said quietly. “I bought it when my grandpa died about ten years ago, from my half of the inheritance. There was a lot of space for a family, and a pool, and a big yard for a dog. I fixed it up using money I got from a really long deployment.” He stared down at his hands. “I guess I thought it would be filled by now.” He couldn’t quite smother the feeling of failure when he thought about all the personal accomplishments that he hadn’t ticked off yet. As though his life were nothing more than a checklist that he had to work his way down. He knew that wasn’t right, but it slithered in there, anyway.
“It’s okay to not have found the person you want to make a family with yet,” Grady said softly. “Sometimes it takes longer than we’d like, but when it’s right, you’ll know.”
“I would never have pegged you for such a romantic.”
“Don’t tell anyone. And stop trying to dodge.”
Lake sighed. He knew, logically, that Grady was right. And he had dated a few people over those years that he’d thought maybe, but nothing had ever panned out. “It just feels big when I’m there by myself. Even with the TV on the silence gets to me. I like your house.” He shrugged. “It’s small, and cosy, and it has you in it.” He didn’t know if that admission was allowed, or what it even meant, when it felt like so much more than he could find the words for.
“I know we haven’t known each other long, but friendships are like that sometimes, aren’t they? I like being around you.”
Grady didn’t respond and Lake awkwardly fiddled with the beaded and leather bracelets around his wrist.
“Do you have food at your house?” Grady asked, eventually. That hadn’t been what Lake had expected him to say. He’d been bracing himself for rejection. Lake had gotten too clingy, wanted to spend too much time with him, and it was time to part ways. Lake would have understood. He knew that he was a lot to handle and sometimes he figured the only reason Felix and Zach had stuck around so long was that they’d had so long to get used to it.
“I guess it depends on what you mean by food?” Lake replied. “Why?”
“Because I like your house, Lake,” Grady said patiently. “And you shouldn’t have to feel like you can’t be there.”
“I—what? You like my house?”
“Well, yeah. It’s big, and it’s inviting, and it has you in it.” He paused and then turned to Lake with a grin that had Lake’s mouth going dry. “And it has more than one bed. Just in case.”
“All of my spare beds are being fumigated,” Lake said, hoping he didn’t sound as desperate as he felt. He didn’t give a fuck if it was weird; he liked waking up next to Grady, liked how big Grady was and how much space he took up on the mattress, the heat that radiated off him in waves. There was no mistaking he wasn’t alone when Grady was with him.
About the Author
Aurora Crane is an Australian author with a particular love for books featuring poly relationships. You can always find a healthy serving of banter, snark and heat in her books, along with impossible men falling in love, even if sometimes it takes them a little while to get there! She has an appreciation for men in suits and frequently spreads that love in the Facebook group she shares with her muse, fellow Aussie, and co-writer Briar Kearney. When not in the writing cave—a rarity to see this author out of her natural habitat—she can be found playing video games, building Lego sets, or hanging out with her fiancé and their menagerie of animals.
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“H-he was one of my…. I was a teacher once, long time ago, and he….” His voice faltered, and he dropped his head back and ran both hands through his hair. “He was a student, and I can’t remember his name. God, I wanted to remember all their names.”
Linden reached out but stopped short of putting his hand on Tyler’s shoulder. Instead his hand hovered for a few seconds before he dropped it to his side. He sat in the chair next to Tyler. “Julius Hernandez.”
Tyler snorted a short laugh. “He wanted to be a screenwriter. He was in my creative writing class.” He ran one finger along the image on the screen. “What happened?”
“That’s what I’m trying to find out.” Linden folded his hands in front of him on the table. “He died by drowning. There was a suicide note, and someone wanted the world to think he did that to himself, but it’s really difficult to commit suicide that way, especially in a bathtub. There are a lot faster, easier, and less painful ways to kill yourself.”
“Christ,” Tyler said. “I seem to remember him saying he wasn’t comfortable in the water. I don’t guess that would apply to bathwater, but still….”
“Hmm.” Linden tapped on the table with one finger a few times. “Odd that someone at least a little afraid of water would choose to commit suicide by drowning.”
“Seems cruel,” Tyler said. “So how did you get the case?”
“The FBI is involved in part because he was an Army Reservist.”
Tyler nodded. “He talked about the military to pay for college. Lots of the kids did. It was their only option, really.”
“Did that myself. Joined the Army and was eventually recruited by the Bureau.”
“Are you here to arrest me?” Tyler asked abruptly.
Linden shook his head. “If I was here to arrest you, you’d be arrested, and we’d be having this conversation later in an interrogation room.”
“But you didn’t come all the way out here, in a blizzard no less, to do something you could have done over the phone,” Tyler said.
“I can’t look you in the eye over the phone.”
“Do you think I was involved in how he died?” Tyler asked.
“I don’t think you’re guilty, but you’re the only lead on a suspect I have right now. Like it or not, and with or without knowledge, you’re involved.”
“Well, I guess I should feel grateful you don’t think I did it.”
Linden smiled and nodded. He yawned and used one closed hand to cover his mouth. “Sorry, it’s been a long day.”
Bait is available in eBook, paperback and in Kindle Unlimited.
Right now the eBook is 25% off at $2.99
Book Title: Harpy Trickery (D’Vaire, Book 34)
Author and Publisher: Jessamyn Kingley
Cover Artist: LJ Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations
Release Date: January 26, 2023
Genres: MM Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Tropes: Fated mates
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 90 300 words
The book does not end on a cliffhanger.
Buy Links - Available on Kindle Unlimited
The ruler of the sprites meets a proud, but wayward harpy. Will their love survive a little trickery?
At eighteen, Warrior Chieftain Kitlivri Cyrrien of the Sprite Grove gained his title. On a dark night, Kitlivri lost his parents, sister, and nearly his entire population thanks to a horrid wizard potion. The Draconises took in him and his brothers, and Kitlivri gradually healed. Now he is a talented businessman, and the sprites have expanded by three dozen. Honored to be the Warrior Chieftain, Kitlivri does not want to give up his important role in Draconis Enterprises, but he believes it’s a necessity.
Jace Pagonis is a proud harpy, but he chafes at his people’s antiquated rules. When Jace isn’t arguing with his mother—the leader of the harpies—he’s sneaking around to improve his archery skills. Weapons and tricks are forbidden to harpy men but are necessary for the women, who are responsible for the men’s survival. Desperate to convince his mother to join the Council, Jace creeps out of his village one night to explore.
Two weeks into his fact-finding mission, Jace meets Kitlivri and is stunned to discover that Fate has selected them as mates. Jace misses home, but he cannot leave Kitlivri, nor does he want to explain to the courageous sprite that he’s the bratty son of the harpy ruler. Jace throws himself into life as Kitlivri’s other half and co-leader of the sprites, but weaves tales to avoid the truth. However, secrets never stay hidden for long, and Jace must face his lies or risk losing Kitlivri forever.
“I’m fine with not using curse words around the sprites,” Jace replied, resignation in his voice along with something Kitlivri suspected was disappointment. “In my village, they weren’t used often either.”
“I apologize for commenting on your language, I sought to keep you from unintentionally rubbing any sprite the wrong way. I know it’s important to you to make a good impression. As I mentioned, you’re free to use whatever words you want when we’re alone. I’m unbothered by cursing.”
“Do you curse?” Jace asked.
“I don’t. Tiri lived here before I arrived, and everyone had already committed themselves to stop cursing around him. The extended clan agreed to do the same whenever Tiri visits. I hope I’m not giving you a poor impression of Tiri; he’s assured us many times that we no longer need to adhere to that rule.” Ducblanc-mate Tiridythas D’Vaire was a sprite and an adored member of Kitlivri’s family.
“No, I’m not bothered,” Jace said, swinging one booted foot to the floor. “Like I mentioned, harpies aren’t big on curse words either.”
“Still, I feel as if I’ve upset you.”
Jace smiled. “I’m not upset at you. I was thinking about how a younger me yearned to be free of rules…to do whatever I wanted and to please myself alone. I doubt such a world exists. In every walk of life, we must be mindful of hurting others if we don’t want to be considered a jerk. I guess I was a jerk because I didn’t want to consider the feelings of others.”
“In this suite, I think we should both be ourselves, even if we do occasionally fall into the category of being a jerk.”
With a laugh, Jace stood and walked up to Kitlivri. “You’re the last person I’d want to be a jerk to.”
“Good, I’d prefer for you not think of me in the jerk category either,” Kitlivri remarked. Giving in to instinct, Kitlivri rubbed Jace’s arms and bent to kiss him softly. “Are you ready to go?”
“Maybe one more kiss first?” Jace asked.
“A request I am happy to oblige.”
When their mouths met, Jace darted his tongue out and Kitlivri shifted slightly to taste the harpy better. Jace grasped his tunic as Kitlivri tugged Jace closer. With each embrace, Kitlivri’s yearning to explore his newfound sexuality increased, and he was convinced it had everything to do with how enticing Jace was. Aware that his brain was calculating the distance to the bed, Kitlivri regretfully pulled away after one last brush of their lips.
“I think kissing is my favorite thing ever,” Jace whispered.
“Wait until we do more than kiss,” Kitlivri responded without thinking.
His gaze widened, and his cheeks went a little pink, but Jace grinned. “I think about it. I think about it a lot.”
“We need to go to dinner now before I forget a world exists beyond your bed.”
Jace’s bright laughter filled the room. “Consider your invitation to join me in it an open one.”
“You’re a dangerous man.”
With a smile, Jace grabbed Kitlivri’s hand and led him to the door of their suite. “I like the idea of being dangerous. But not nearly as much as I enjoy the thought of being yours. Now, take me to meet your people.”
“I promise you that if my brothers and Tiri aren’t ready to go immediately, we’re coming back in here and the sprites will have to wait for another opportunity to meet their newest Warrior Chieftain.”
“If I thought for one minute that you were serious, I wouldn’t let you out of here,” Jace said as they strolled into the hallway.
“It’s nice to know we’re learning a little about each other. Your friendship is important to me.”
“Yours is important to me too, and you’re in luck, the sprites are already in the foyer,” Jace teased as they ventured down the stairs to where Kitlivri’s brothers and Tiri were waiting for them.
“I won’t forget about your invitation.”
“I intend to make sure you don’t.”
Thrilled with the banter between himself and Jace, Kitlivri doubted his mood could get any better. He had a wonderful evening with his people ahead of him.
About the Author
Jessamyn Kingley has published over thirty titles and refuses to pick a favorite among them. With an extraordinary passion for her characters, she enthusiastically adds tales to her D’Vaire series and avidly re-reads them whenever her schedule allows. After decades living in the Washington, DC area, she now resides in Nevada with her husband and their three spoiled cats. When she is not writing or adding new ideas to her beloved notebooks, she is gaming with family and friends.
Join her Facebook group, Jessamyn's Ruffian's
“What the hell were you thinking? And what in the holy hell are you wearing?” Forge stood, yanking his catch up after him, shouting. “If you can’t swim, what in the hell were you doing running down steps covered with algae, you know, that green slimy shit, at a lake. How did you plan to get out? This isn’t just any lake. It’s a Great Lake. And it’s deep! Ships sink in it!”
The kid climbed to his feet and held his palms up in a placating gesture. “I—”
“Not to mention you’re mucking up a murder investigation.” Forge kept right on shouting. He waved his hands up and down more for distraction than anything, hoping the kid wouldn’t notice his hard-on. Wet trousers did little to hide anything, and this guy wouldn’t necessarily know being in close proximity to his soulmate was the reason behind Forge’s reaction.
“Look, I—I promise not to hurt you. Don’t be scared,” the kid said and took a step back as he spoke.
Forge stopped his ranting, put his hands on his hips, and stared. “You won’t—” This had to be a joke. He didn’t know who to blame but at the same time commended their joke planning skills. From what he could see of the kid’s face and judging by the clues given off by his body chemistry, the goof in the goggles was serious.
He couldn’t stop the laughter that rumbled up from his belly and totally consumed him, doubling him over.
“You won’t hurt me?”
He had to wipe the tears streaming down his face away so he could see clearly. Taking a few deep breaths only caused him to laugh more and make a very unmanly giggling-snorting-snickering sort of sound. Forge finally got himself under control and walked across the beach to scoop his coat off the sandy ground.
A few more chuckles escaped, he shook his head while he pulled his jacket on and extracted his badge from the inside pocket. He held it up and said, “Now, let’s try this again. What are you doing here? You’ve got five minutes to convince me you didn’t murder someone and then stand around watching when the cops showed up to examine the body.”
A virtual light bulb went off in Forge’s brain. He didn’t have to worry about what other vampires would do to him for killing his soulmate, he could just pin this murder on goggle boy. Either way, Declan was never, ever finding out about this.
“And take those ridiculous goggles off before I shoot you for bad fashion.”
Forge knew very well a bullet to this kid’s torso wouldn’t kill him, but it would hurt like hell. The kid deserved to hurt that much for wearing his stupid getup.
“I—I can’t, I’ll….” The kid backed up farther.
Electric Candle is available in eBook, paperback and in Kindle Unlimited. Right now the eBook is 50% off ($2.99).
I'm excited to have been nominated in several categories for the The Paranormal Romance Guild 2022 Reviewers Choice awards! Thank you so very much!
Code Name Jack Rabbit - Elizabeth Noble
LGBT/ROMANCE/ACTION ADVENTURE/MILITARY – SERIES
The Vampire Guard – Elizabeth Noble
Jewel Cave – Elizabeth Noble
LGBT/ROMANCE/SUSPENSE/MYSTERY – SERIES
Circles – Elizabeth Noble
There are many amazing authors and books nominated, congrats to everyone!
My snippet this week is from For the Long Run, an erotic mystery/thriller.
There weren’t a lot of people around, and it was too early for most of the bar patrons to be leaving, so it was unlikely anyone would see him other than Eric. The thought of someone other than Eric seeing him like this sent another spark of thrill slithering up from Jay’s stomach.
A few minutes later, Jay heard a car engine cut, a door open and close, and footfalls crunch over the parking lot, coming to a stop behind him. He started when warm hands, fingers spread wide, moved up and down his sides. One hand skimmed over his belly and dipped inside his jeans, gripping his cock.
Eric leaned his weight against Jay’s back and spoke in his ear. “Very nice.”
“P-please… I need….”
“Don’t worry, Jay, I’ll get you exactly what you need.” Eric stepped away and at once Jay missed his warmth and strength.
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For the Long Run is available in eBook, paperback and through Kindle Unlimited. Right now the eBook is 50% off ($2.99).
Book Title: The Queering
Author and Publisher: Brooke Skipstone
Cover Artist: Cherie Chapman
Release Date: January 19, 2023
Genre: Contemporary F/F Romance, Historical F/F Romance, YA LGBTQ+
Tropes: Friends to lovers, Coming of age
Themes: Coming out, finding love late in life
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 92 000 words/ 318 pages
It is a standalone story and does not end on a cliffhanger.
Buy Links - Available in Kindle Unlimited
Trapped between a homicidal brother and a homophobic podcaster eager to reveal her lesbian romance novels, a seventy-year-old grandmother seeks help in Clear, Alaska.
Editor's Pick Booklife Reviews: A fast-paced yet thoughtful romance of coming out and finding love in later life in Alaska
5 Star Clarion Reviews: A riveting novel . . . about love, courage, and solidarity
NO ONE in the world is actually named Brooke Skipstone.
Not for almost fifty years.
Taylor Baird MacKenzie, a long-term substitute teacher in Clear, Alaska, knew her secret had already begun to unravel. Brooke wrote novels about lesbian liberation, fierce coming-of-age stories full of high family drama. Her readers probably pictured an author in her thirties with tattoos and a gender-fluid appearance.
Certainly not a seventy-year-old grandmother with long, thick hair—still more brown than gray—wearing lined leggings and an oversized hoodie that covered her butt. And unhappily married to the same man for over forty years.
Much too old and too obviously straight to be writing such novels.
Soon, everyone would know the truth--she was the author Brooke Skipstone. How big would the shockwave be?
Taylor had long feared the repercussions and kept her pen name secret. What would her kids say? And her grandkids, who hardly knew her because she lived so far from them. And saw them even less than usual because of Covid. At times the thought of discovery had seared her guts, but the liberation of writing what she wanted, revealing the characters living in her mind and the love and pain in her heart, had become her main reason for existence.
While at her keyboard, Taylor lost herself in her secret world—vibrant, passionate, full of laughter and turmoil and utter joy. Not like her real world of silence and numbing isolation, where she couldn’t talk about what mattered most to her.
Keeping the source of her greatest happiness a secret had suffocated her life.
Taylor stood at her classroom door before her last class of the day, while students thumbed phones and talked as they sat at a picnic table in the center of the Commons area. The same kind of table she and Brooke sat at in the spring of 1973.
Soon after Taylor’s college roommate and fellow theatre major, Brooke Tobolovsky turned twenty-one, Brooke changed her last name. Though she didn’t have the internet to check, she said she had never heard of anyone named Skipstone, so claimed it for herself. She thought it sounded cool. Much better for the stage and screen. Besides, she’d always hated the sound of Tobolovsky.
Regardless of her name, no one could ever forget her. Long, thick, cinnamon-colored hair; high forehead; deep-set blue eyes; and the biggest smile Taylor had ever seen. She could play Lady Macbeth just as easily as Juliet and belt out a song like a combination of Cher and Stevie Nicks. She was the natural lead, while Taylor was the utility player—competent actress, writer, composer, and organizational queen.
Once all the legal papers were complete, they celebrated with a pitcher of beer at The Hangout a few blocks from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. They sat at a picnic table under canvas stretched between oak trees, blocking the March sun. Brooke carved her new name on the bench as they pushed flip-flops through pea gravel and peanut shells.
“Does this mean I can’t call you Tobo anymore?” Taylor laughed and snorted beer.
Brooke scoffed with a quick flash of her eyes, “I’ve put a curse on that name, as you can see. Say it at your peril.” She cocked an eyebrow.
Taylor coughed this time, spewing beer on her shirt.
“I always knew you couldn’t hold your liquor.” Brooke wiped Taylor’s chin with a napkin.
“That word will never cross my lips again.”
“Which word?” Brooke teased. Her tongue peeked out the side of her mouth as she dabbed the snot from Taylor’s upper lip. “Hmm?”
Flashing a smile, Taylor said, “From now on, you’ll be BS to me. Nothing but BS.”
Brooke narrowed her eyes and tightened her mouth. “You’d better be referring to Brooke Skipstone.”
Taylor raised her hands and cocked her head in a perfect expression of amused innocence. “Certainly.” She tried to swallow the guffaw rising from her gut. “That’s exactly what I was thinking.”
They stared at each other for three seconds, each holding her pose until Brooke broke into a smile. “That’s BS and you know it.”
Taylor’s guffaw erupted, and in their laughter-filled haze, they both knocked their glasses to the ground. No matter. They drank from the pitcher and later started a burping contest. Taylor conceded when Brooke burped the chorus of “I Am Woman,” earning a standing ovation from the crowd of hippie students and locals that had gathered around them. The girls walked home, Taylor’s arm around her friend’s neck; Brooke’s around the other’s waist.
They were known as B&T because they were inseparable. They’d shared the ground floor of a small rental house since sophomore year but spent most of their time acting, hanging lights, building sets, and running shows at the Owens Art Center. If one of them wasn’t around the other, people would invariably ask, “Where’s ___?” with a little frown and gasp.
Taylor wrote and directed plays and musicals mainly for teens, while Brooke snagged major acting roles every year. Taylor was involved in every one of Brooke’s shows, while Brooke sang and acted in each of Taylor’s studio productions.
They were two promising women, determined to make their own way in the world and support each other’s careers in theatre—Brooke as an actress at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland and Taylor as a drama teacher at a private school in a nearby city. After breaking up with their casual boyfriends and graduating in 1974, they headed west in a very used VW Camper Bus adorned with painted flowers to cover the rust.
They loved each other completely as friends and had only become lovers two days before Brooke’s death.
About the Author
Brooke Skipstone is a multi-award-winning author who lives in Alaska where she watches the mountains change colors with the seasons from her balcony. Where she feels the constant rush toward winter as the sunlight wanes for six months of the year, seven minutes each day, bringing crushing cold that lingers even as the sun climbs again. Where the burst of life during summer is urgent under twenty-four-hour daylight, lush and decadent. Where fish swim hundreds of miles up rivers past bear claws and nets and wheels and lines of rubber-clad combat fishers, arriving humped and ragged, dying as they spawn. Where danger from the land and its animals exhilarates the senses, forcing her to appreciate the difference between life and death. Where the edge between is sometimes too alluring.
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