Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Chasing Forever by Kelly Jensen - Blog Tour with Author Guest Post and Giveaway




Chasing Forever is the final book in the series This Time Forever. Brian and Mal's story is special in all sorts of ways. Even though these books all standalone, Brian has been there since the beginning--as the character everyone loved to hate in the first book, and the character who seemed to have more to him in book two. In this final story, I share who Brian really is, and hope you'll all come to love him as much as I do. Then there's Mal, his other half, my serious soldier who has been waiting all his life for a challenge like Brian. Sometimes we have to be knocked lower than ever before in order to reach that high, and Mal's journey is one I treasure. I hope you enjoy reading this story of redemption and learning to live out loud.
About Chasing Forever
Old wounds, new directions, and a forever worth chasing.
Malcolm Montgomery was a history teacher and track coach until an accident left him with two broken legs. He’ll recover, but life has knocked his feet out twice now. He’s not sure if he’s ready to try again, especially when it comes to love—and slick guys like Brian Kenway. Still, he needs help mentoring the school’s LGBTQ society, so he asks Brian to take some responsibility.
Brian has been hiding behind his reputation as a liar and a cheat for so long that he actually believes he’s that guy—until his nephew, Josh, turns up on his couch, tossed out for being gay. Brian has never considered being a father, but he knows all about being rejected by loved ones. Now Brian wants to be more: a partner for Mal and a role model for Josh.
But when Mal’s recovery is set back and the sad truth of Brian’s past is revealed, the forever they’ve been chasing seems even further from their grasps. It’ll take a rescue effort to revive their sense of worth and make Brian, Mal, and Josh into a family of their own.
About the This Time Forever Series
Small towns and second chances.
Simon, Frank, and Brian think love has passed them by. Each is facing down his fiftieth birthday—Simon in a few years, Frank next year, and Brian soon enough. Each has loved and lost. But for these men, everything old really is new again, and it’s only when they return to their roots that they’ll find their second chances and the happily ever after they’ve been waiting their whole lives for.
This time it’s forever.
This series includes:
  1. Building Forever — released October 15
  2. Renewing Forever — released November 12
  3. Chasing Forever — released December 10


No Excuses (Who is Brian Kenway?)

I’m fascinated by redemption stories, but never really wanted to write one. First of all, I don’t really do angst. Although I don’t mind reading something that twists me up and wrings me out on the very rare occasion, I can’t do it repeatedly. I cried for TWO MONTHS after Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I fared a little better after The Remains of the Day, but still regard this author’s work with well-earned suspicion.

I was inconsolable after Something Like Autumn by Jay Bell—even after having known for two books that it was going to happen, I had to reread the scene three times. And sobbed harder each time.

So why no redemption stories? Redemption, to me, isn’t simply providing an excuse as to why, but impelling that character to acknowledge their mistakes, before having them redraft their template. This usually means breaking them down so you can build them back up. That usually means angst. Most people don’t behave badly simply because they enjoy it. There’s going to be a reason.

But there are no excuses.

So when I set out to redeem Brian, I knew I had a tough job ahead of me. First, I had a character no one liked. Heck, in Building Forever (This Time Forever #1) I didn’t even like him. I did have sympathy for him, though—especially in the scene where he admits to Simon that he misses him. I had the idea then that Brian realized he’d made a huge mistake, and that it was only the latest in a long line of mistakes. I also sensed he was lonely and feeling lost without Simon, and I, um, totally have a thing for lonely characters. I think there’s one in every book. I don’t know why I find loneliness so appealing, except to say that I feel as if there’s an aspect of aloneness to us all, and that meeting The One is a wonderful balm.

This is not to say we can’t be fulfilled on our own—but I do write romance, and a romance novel usually does include a search for that missing piece, or as is so often the case in my novels, finding the person who fills that lonely spot.

I tossed around a lot of ideas for Brian’s book. I had Mal all figured out, so I knew who he was going to fall in love with. What I didn’t know was how to change Brian from someone who apparently slept around to someone who would be ready to commit. I didn’t want to pull out such well-worn tropes as “love is the answer” or “magic sex.” I didn’t want Brian to cheat in this book, either. I wanted a total reboot for both characters. So I had to challenge Brian in other ways. Because I didn’t want to use excuses, I decided to throw something of a wrench into Brian’s life in order to force him to reevaluate not only his direction, but where he came from.

I’ve heard it said that when you’re feeling down and directionless, helping others can be a way to restore your balance. Focusing on someone else’s problems can not only relieve the stress of dealing with your own, but it can make you feel good. You’re helping. And if you can help someone else, maybe you can help yourself. Might not work for everyone, but I know it works for me. So, I figured it might work for Brian.

Brian starts the book feeling down and directionless. He misses Simon, who was his lover, business partner, and friend. He is also mired by a feeling of inertia, regarding his career and personal life, and blames it on the small town he’s living in. And yet, he’s not quite ready to move on. Basically, he’s reached a crossroads, and while he’s there, he trips over two people who need him in a way he’s never been needed before—and it’s this feeling, of being needed, that is going to encourage Brian to grow.

The first is his nephew, Josh. Josh lands on Brian’s couch on Christmas Eve, kicked out of home for being gay. Brian has never considered being a father. He’s never been a family sort of guy—with good reason. But he responds to Josh’s situation with instant care, even while he’s muttering about not wanting the responsibility. And even though he at first rejects the idea of caring for Josh himself, it’s not long before he’s holding on to Josh with everything he has. Because caring for his nephew makes Brian realize one or two things about himself. One, he can’t change his past. But he can move on. Two, people actually need him. Him! And in order to provide for them, he has to step out from behind all the excuses he’s piled up over the years.

Mal needs Brian as much as Brian needs Mal and this is the secret to their new relationship. It’s one of mutual longing for something they each never thought they could have. What I really enjoyed about writing Brian and Mal together was also the mutual respect. I think Brian needed that, and not to look down on Simon, but Simon can be pretty cool. Charlie’s okay with that because Charlie is kind of overwhelming. He shakes Simon up on a way Simon needs. But Brian wasn’t okay with it. He needed to be more. He needed to be worshipped, in a way. To be loved in spite of, and that’s what Mal brings to their relationship. Of course, Brian is also perfect for Mal in a number of ways that I’ll talk about in other posts.

I hope you enjoy the redemption of Brian. I love this book and as I worked through each revision round, I couldn’t help but feel it was the perfect cap to the series—and that in some small way, all of the stories had led to Brian’s evolution, that the series had been about him all along. It’s not, but Brian’s ego is such that I’ll keep letting him believe it is, because when he’s happy, Brian is very, very capable of making a lot of other people happy too.

To view my visual inspiration for Brian, Mal, and the setting for Chasing Forever, visit my Pinterest board. https://www.pinterest.com/kmkjensen/chasing-forever-this-time-forever-3/


About Kelly Jensen
If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories about 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, cowritten with Jenn Burke. Some of what she writes is speculative in nature, but mostly 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:

Giveaway
To celebrate the release of Chasing Forever one lucky person will win a $25 Riptide Publishing gift card and a swag pack of stickers, art cards, and bookmarks! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 15, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!


Spells & Stardust by J.Scott Coatsworth - Blog Tour with Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway

Spells & Stardust


J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi/fantasy anthology out: Spells & Stardust.


Spells & Stardust is Scott's first anthology - eight sci fi and fantasy shorts that run the gamut from regeneration to redemption.


The Bear at the Bar: A gay fish out of water tale with a pinch of magic.

Tight: What happens when your lover disappears in midair?

Morgan: The year when everything changed.

Re-Life: What if you were reborn in a strange new future?

A New Year: They met every eleven years. And each time, Hank's life changed.

Repetition: What if you wanted to go back in the closet?

Gargoyle: Sometimes you get what you deserve. Sometimes it happens on All Hallows Eve.

Avalon: A few bright moments in the sun, stolen from outside time.


Most of these stories have been previously published in various anthologies and journals. This is the first time they have all been collected in one place.

Get It On Amazon



Unique Excerpt – From "Re-Life"


As Eric lay there listening to the solitary wind, looking up at the pinprick stars, a line of golden light split the firmament. "You have an appointment with Jozy in half an hour," Simon said, destroying the illusion, as the line rotated and widened into a picture of the receptionist.
Eric sighed and got up out of bed. He wasn't sure he was ready for modern society, but he had to dive in some time. Better to do it with a willing tour guide. The bed melted into the floor behind him.
He called up the ionic shower, thanking the clinic for all the lessons they’d given him on Safris hygiene. He stripped off his used clothes. “Simon?” he said, looking around.
“Yes, Eric?”
“Where’s the hamper?”
There was a pause. “There is no ‘hamper’,” Simon said at last, pronouncing the word as if it were a brand-new thing. “Just set your clothes here,” and a spot in the corner lit up, “and they will be absorbed for recycling.”
He did as he was told, and then stepped into the ionic stream, feeling the tingle as his body was dry-washed clean. A moment later, he stepped away, and the shower head vanished up into the trees. Enough of this self-deception. "White walls, please." The forest faded first to grey, then white. “Can I have a mirror, Simon?”
“My survey of early twenty-first century literature shows the mirror trope was quite overused.”
Eric stared at the wall for a minute, then burst out laughing. “Because I’m a writer.”
“Quite right, Sir. If you’d like, I can provide a virtual Eric for you to look over.”
Eric grinned. He was sure there was laughter in Simon’s voice that time. “Had that request before, huh?”
“You re-lifes are nothing if not predictable.”
Eric smiled at the dry humor.
A full-sized version of his naked body appeared in the middle of the room. He walked around it, admiring the work the re-life clinic had done. It was his face, reimagined to perfection.
They’d augmented his basic gene set, and his new body was a virtual work of art. It was strange, but he kind of missed his old, less-than-perfect body. The mole on his left arm that looked like a little Mickey Mouse. The occasional ache in his ankle where he’d broken it playing soccer as a child. Even his chipped front tooth.
Now he was perfect, or at least as perfect as the clinic had been able to make him. There was something quite boring in perfection. He understood why others here went to extremes to be different.
The technology to bring him and others like him back had been in existence for some time, but the Clinic’s budget was limited. It was a historical, cultural project to thaw those poor frozen souls like him and make them a part of modern society. He was a walking museum piece, from his washboard abs and beautiful pecs to his perfect ass.
He took a much closer look at that beautifully rounded ass, a view he’d never enjoyed before. And his cock... I would have been a God in my own time.






Giveaway


Scott is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:





Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4740/?




Excerpt

From "A New Year"

The edge of the old cement pediment crumbled away beneath Hank’s feet into the river far below, glistening in the light of the almost-full moon. The bridge railing was cold at his back—he could feel it all the way through his jacket and shirt to his skin. He could see his breath glowing in the night air.

The nearly-frozen water rushed by in the river below, flowing under the bridge behind him and on toward the ocean far away in a steady flow, silver in the moonlight and heavily laden with winter rain. As soon as he gathered his courage, Hank would let go of his grip on the railing and fall into those icy waters, to disappear forever from the world of men.


It was New Year's Day, 1986, an hour after midnight, and it was the end of things for Hank.

Or it should have been.


It was also the night he first met Dale.





Author Bio


Scott lives with his husband of twenty five years in a Sacramento suburb, in a cute little yellow house with a brick fireplace and two pink flamingoes out front.


He inhabits in the space between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into science fiction and fantasy by his mom at the tender age of nine, he quickly finished her entire library. But he soon began to wonder where all the queer people were.


After coming out at twenty three, he started writing the kinds of stories he couldn't find at Crown Books. If there weren't many queer characters in his favorite genres, he would will them into existence, subverting them to his own ends. And if he was lucky enough, someone else would want to read them.


His friends say Scott's mind works a little differently than most - he makes connections between ideas that others don't, and somehow does more in a day than most people manage in a week. Although born an introvert, he forced himself to reach outside himself, and learned to connect with others like him.


Scott's stories subvert expectations that transform traditional science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something different and unexpected. He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark.


His romance and genre fiction writing brings a queer energy to his stories, filling them with love, beauty and power. He imagines how the world could be - in the process, he hopes to change the world, just a little.


Scott was recognized as one of the top new gay authors in the 2017 Rainbow Awards, and his debut novel "Skythane" received two awards and an honorable mention.


Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/
Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/jscoatsworth/
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth
Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/
Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ


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Slow Thaw by J.Scott Coatsworth - Blog Tour with Author Q&A, Excerpt, and Giveaway

Slow Thaw


J. Scott Coatsworth has a new MM trans/cisgender holiday romance book out: Slow Thaw.


Javier Fernandez is a climate scientist living in a research station near the South Pole. Since his husband was killed in a car crash, he’s preferred to be alone, and is less than thrilled to have a junior scientist thrust upon him by his rich patron.


Col Steele is a trans man fleeing a bad break-up, ready for the next step in his career, who is ready to spend Christmas anywhere but at home. When a crack in the ice separates the two men from safety, they are forced to come to terms with their own losses and each other.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | KoboQueeRomance Ink | Goodreads





Giveaway


Scott is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:





Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4740/?




Excerpt



Meme - Slow Thaw


It was the start of the end of the world, but Col Steele didn’t know it yet.

The rhythmic whomp whomp whompof the helicopter’s rotary blades matched the beating of his heart.

I’m here. I’m really here.

He pressed his face to the glass, eagerly taking in the landscape below, capturing the view in his phone. There was no cellular network here, of course, and he had his Sony A73 packed away for the real work, but his phone was good enough to record his own personal memories.

The sparkling blue and white of the Ross Ice Shelf spread out before him, almost indescribable in its frozen beauty. The ice seemed to stretch on forever here in the South, as they called it. On the ice.

The copter had left the Southern Explorer a few minutes earlier, taking off from the grey deck and passing over a span of cold ocean water where a waddle of penguins played in the Ross Sea.

The cliffs of The Ice were white enough—and tall enough—to put the cliffs of Dover to shame with their splendor.

Col checked the temperature gauge on the console. It was a relatively balmy Antarctic day, with the temperature hovering just below zero Fahrenheit.

"First time?" His pilot, Joseph, steered the copter over the ice field with practiced ease.

"Yes. Not yours, I assume?"

"Nope, I’ve done the run to Amundsen–Scott more than a dozen times, people and cargo. Been out to Bettancourt three times now."

Col nodded. Paul Bettancourt was his benefactor—a billionaire who was keenly interested in the science and effects of global climate change.

He picked me.Out of more than two hundred research scientists, the man had chosen Col to be the next fellowship scientist to join Javier Fernandez at Bettancourt Station for a six-month internship.

It was still sinking in.

The timing couldn’t have been better. Col had no desire to be home for the holidays this year. After a bad breakup with David, he was nursing a broken heart, and was in no mood for Christmas trees and candy canes. Far better the frozen tundra of Antarctica, to match his frozen heart.

The Ross Shelf was much more varied a landscape than he’d expected. The smooth white ice near the shore gave way to a variety of landforms, the result of the ice being pushed and pulled around by gravity and shaped by wind and snow and rain for millennia.

There were mountains and valleys, the peaks white and the shadows a beautiful blue.

In other places, the wind-blown snow created long scallop shapes along the ice.

In at least one spot, a wide, shallow pool of melted water almost glowed turquoise in the sunlight. Not a good sign.

"You see a lot of melting out here?"

Joseph nodded. "More every year. It's been a slow thaw, but every summer season it goes a bit faster. Lots more icebergs too. Seeing one of those calve off the main shelf is something else. Crack! Thunder!And a great splash of water as it hits the ocean."

Col grinned. "I’ve seen it in the Arctic. I spent a year based out of Whitehorse, studying the ice sheets up north."

"Never been. Though I hear the girls in the Yukon are wild."

Col snorted. "I wouldn’t know." What he didn’t say was that he’d been one of them, once. On the outside, at least.

That was a lifetime ago.

Now this new life was laid out before him, and he just wanted to move forward.

He captured as much of the landscape as he could manage with his phone, awed that he was finally here. Then he tucked it away to just take in the experience.

"Might wanna get your phone ready," Joseph said at last. "We’re almost there." The pilot pointed off to starboard, and a small speck appeared in the distance, alongside a long line in the ice.

"It’s bigger than I imagined."

Joseph’s eyebrow went up. "Bettancourt?"

"No. The Giant Crack."

Joseph laughed. "You scientists suffer from a sever lack of imagination."

Col grinned. "It’s true." He stared at the Crack. It stretched from one edge of the horizon to the other, a sign of things to come. He’d seen many pictures of it, of course, but seeing it in person. It was awe inspiring, and a little frightening. It had happened two years before, but since then, the shelf seemed to have stabilized again.

It was the reason he was here, as much as his break-up with David.

He snapped a few pics, then looked down at Bettancourt Station.

It was a modest place, maybe the size of a couple RV’s hooked together. It basically was—two modules built by Northrup-Grumann to Bettancourt’s specs, brought in by military copter and hooked together. One served as the laboratory, and the other as living quarters for the scientific team.

Fernandez was there now. His last lab partner, Astrid Danvers, had departed a few days earlier. It had all been in the briefing email.

Col whistled. It was going to be a tight space for his six-month rotation down there.

Still, it would be worth it. Careers were made by postings like this, and he’d have a chance to put his education and experience to work at something that might actually help the planet.

Fuck you, David.

He took a couple more shots, and then settled in for the landing.






Interview – J. Scott Coatsworth

If I were a Hollywood producer about to put your book on the big screen, who would you want me to cast as the leads?

Sure!

For Javier, I think it would have to be Miguel Ángel Silvestre from Sense8 – throw some glasses on him and he'd make the perfect hot gay Antarctic scientist.

For Col? Scott Turner Schofield, the trans actor who was on The Bold and the beautiful.

I think they'd make a great couple.


If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?

Free Oreos for everyone day? I could totally get behind that.

If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?

Let's see. Does my husband Mark count?

If not, can I bring him?

How about my laptop, my teddy bear, and my copy of Moreta, Dragonlady of Pern?

What action would your name be if it were a verb?

Never stop moving. Totally. Even at night when I'm sleeping.

Would you visit the future or the past, and why?

The future. I wanna see how we pull this out – put our country back together, and manage to avoid the worst parts of climate change. I am an eternal optimist – the story about the kid who came up with a device to clean up the Pacitic Garbage Patch gives me hope.


Author Bio


Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.


He decided that if there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.


A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality.


Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com/
Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth
Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/
Author Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/jscoatsworth/
Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jscottcoatsworth/
Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth?from_search=true
Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/
Author Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ


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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Only Love by Garrett Leigh - Release Blitz with Giveaway



Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 355 pages

Cover Design: Book Cover By Design

Blurb

The diagnosis of a chronic stomach condition leaves thirty-two-year-old Sergeant Jed Cooper with little choice but to call time on his Army career. Then on the dusty streets of Kirkuk, an ambush gone tragically wrong decimates his team, and he returns to the US with a shattered leg and the memory of his best friend dying in his arms.

Life in his sleepy hometown proves intolerable until he finds solace in a lakeside cabin with vivacious young carpenter, Max O’Dair. In the shadow of the epilepsy that periodically plagues Max, he and Jed form an unspoken bond. After a late night episode, Jed realizes how much Max means to him, and life has taught him not to waste time.

But the lines between contentment and complacency are blurred. Things left hidden resurface to tear through their world, and before they can repair the damage, death comes to call again. Faces, past and present, rally around them to weather the storm, but before long, they are left with only love.


Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.

Garrett's debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.

When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.

Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock site moonstockphotography.com with photographer Dan Burgess.

Website: http://www.garrettleigh.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/garrettleighauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Garrett_Leigh




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Trusting Jack by Ruby Moone - Release Blitz with Giveaway



Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 45,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Meredith Russell

Blurb

With only a few days to go until Christmas, Michael Cross has to admit there is something amiss about his latest employee, Jack Whelan. Quiet, jumpy, thin… he never seems to eat. He is also incredibly gorgeous with dark spiky hair that Michael aches to touch. But as his boss, Jack is off limits. And when it comes to relationships, he…well, he sucks.

Jack Whelan is at the end of his tether. He’s living rough in the middle of winter, and paying off a massive debt, so getting a job with MC Securities is a lifeline. His new boss is also the hottest guy ever. Geeky, broody, and scarily clever.

When Michael stumbles upon the reality of Jack’s life, he offers to help. But as Michael’s feelings deepen, and Jack’s terrible past catches up with him, Michael has to decide between believing in the awful truth that is staring him in the face, or trusting Jack.


My name is Ruby Moone and I love books. All kinds of books. My weakness is for romance, and that can be any kind, but I am particularly fond of historical and paranormal. I decided to write gay romance after reading some fantastic books and falling in love with the genre, so am really thrilled to have my work published here. The day job takes up a lot of my time, but every other spare moment finds me writing or reading. I live in the north west of England with my husband who thinks that I live in two worlds. The real world and in the world in my head...he probably has a point!

Facebook Page - https://www.facebook.com/RubyMoone/?ref=bookmarks
Twitter - @RubyMooneWriter
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/rubymoone/

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Love Blooms by Stephanie Hoyt - Release Blitz With Excerpt and Giveaway


Title: Love Blooms
Author: Stephanie Hoyt
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: December 10, 2018
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 61800
Genre: Fantasy, Santa, elves, magic, holiday

Add to Goodreads


Synopsis

Nico Hamurişi is the one and only son of Santa Claus. All his life, Nico has known he’s expected to fall in love and find lifelong commitment by the Christmas of his thirtieth year—like every other heir before him. But knowing and accepting are vastly different things, and as the final countdown begins, Nico has yet to embrace his fate. His once great enthusiasm for eventually becoming Santa has been dimmed by uncertainty over how the Santa Line will be affected when he marries a man.

With only a year left, will Nico have time to find love and commitment all while learning how magic will transform the family line to accommodate who he is and who he loves?

Excerpt


Love Blooms
Stephanie Hoyt © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
The sun hasn’t even begun to brighten the sky when Nico reaches the family estate. He shuts his car’s engine off in front of his childhood home and waits, staring at his watch as the seconds tick by. The hour hand strikes five and snow starts to fall. His father must have made his first delivery right on time. Nico sighs, relief washing over him at having successfully avoided the annual Christmas conversation for the next twenty-something hours. For the moment, no matter how fleeting, he can go inside without bracing himself for confrontation.

The snow falls soft and cold on his face as he walks to the door, and for an instant, Nico thinks it may have been worth coming home earlier to avoid the snowfall. He laughs, short and bitter, as last year’s predelivery family dinner flashes in his mind and he remembers what avoiding the snowfall entails. He’d much rather deal with this cold, wet mess than the disappointment in his father’s eyes at another year passing by without him fulfilling his obligations as heir apparent. If last year was bad, this year will be infinitely worse. His father had been disappointed then, but now with the deadline looming so close, Nico can imagine how his father’s mood will have shifted to something far worse than disappointment.

He wipes his feet on the welcome home mat and opens the door. He takes a deep breath as he steps inside and tries his best not to let this place get the better of him. It stopped being home years ago, but he can do this. He can. Except, the utter lack of even a shred of welcoming quality fills him with dread. This house has been the site of nearly every argument he’s ever had with his father and he knows he’s opened the door to yet another lecture on the expectations and obligations that come along with being the son of Kristoff Hamurişi.

This year won’t be any different, especially since the final year of the countdown begins at midnight. If he’s being realistic, which he hates to do, any discussion of his failings is going to be much more tense than they’ve ever been before. But for now, the lights inside are off, save for the Christmas tree, his father is out for more than a full day’s worth of deliveries, the rest of the house seems to be fast asleep, and Nico can slip upstairs to his childhood bedroom without being noticed.

At least, that’s what he was counting on.

Unfortunately for him, someone had different plans for his arrival. He opens his bedroom door to a lit room and a ball of limbs and hair curled up in the middle of his bed. He sets his suitcase down with a loud thud and the ball moves, revealing the face of Noelle, the youngest of his four older sisters.

“My dear little Santicholas,” she says, words and laughter both swallowed in a yawn. “I can’t believe you thought you could sneak in here unnoticed.”

Nico rolls his eyes. “You know I hate when you call me that.”

She untangles herself and pushes up on the tips of her toes to wrap her arms around Nico in a big, tight hug. “It’s hard to believe you do when you’re smiling so big.”

Nico’s words get muffled by her hair and his own laughter. “Yeah, yeah. I missed you, too.”

She lets him go, shaking her head as he starts to yawn. “You should’ve come home at a decent hour if you wanted to be well rested.”

Nico narrows his eyes. “If it’s such an indecent hour then why are you up?”

Noelle lets out a short huff of air, annoyed. “I wanted you to see a friendly face before…”

Nico closes his eyes. Here it comes. He should have known better than to think he could avoid confrontation, even for a moment, even from his closest friend and sibling. When he opens his eyes again, Noelle’s sitting on the edge of the bed and her face has softened in a way that makes Nico feel worse.

He smiles but it does nothing to wipe the gentle expression off her face; she knows him too well, knows he wears it as a shield.

“You don’t have to pretend with me. I know failing is what worries you.”

“Failure isn’t my concern here, Noelle.” Not entirely true. “I’m worried about what will happen if I don’t fail.” Unbearably true.

Noelle raises her eyebrow, confused, and Nico’s stomach clenches. Am I actually doing this? He plows on before she can interrupt and he loses his nerve. “And I’m angry! I’m so incredibly angry I even need to be concerned by all this shit in the first place. I don’t want to think of heirs and continuing a family legacy and everything else riding on me falling in love when I don’t even know how who I love will affect any of this.”

Noelle blinks, breathing out a barely audible “Oh.”

Nico’s heart skips, his pulse is erratic.

“I’m gay.”

Noelle blinks again, and again, and again, and then, after what feels like an eternity of his stomach turning over in knots, she smiles. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Yes, okay.”

She motions for Nico to sit next to her, and he does, knocking his shoulder against hers. “I was expecting a little more than an okay, if I’m being honest.”

Noelle laughs, embarrassed. “I didn’t think I should start quizzing you on if you’re seeing anyone, so okay seemed, well…okay.”

Nico smiles, and this time it’s not a shield. He feels lighter and more at peace in this house than he has in years. It’s such a relief to have finally shared such an important part of himself with such an important person in his life.

“Who all knows?”

Nico doesn’t answer immediately, and Noelle asks, “Oh, am I the only one who knows?”

“No, it’s not exactly a secret. I mean, everyone I know who doesn’t know this family knows. So work and friends from college and yeah. I’m basically out to everyone except the family.”

Noelle appears confused and curious. “Not even Joy? She knows how—”

Nico cuts her off. “No, not even our dear lesbian sister knows. Only you.”

Noelle hums an acknowledgment but doesn’t say anything else for a long while—Nico can tell she’s working through what to say next.

He has an idea of what she might be thinking and supplies an answer, “I haven’t told Mom and Dad because, even though it wasn’t a thing when Joy came out, what if… I mean it’s got to be different when you don’t have to produce an heir.”

Nico can’t keep the disdain out of his voice. For as long as he can remember, the heir has been his biggest concern regarding his father and, in turn, his mother finding out his sexuality. “There’s all this added pressure surrounding me finding someone to love. I know they don’t have a problem with queer people, but what if they have a problem with me being gay. There’s a lot riding on my love life.”

“Okay,” Noelle nods. “Well, yeah. I can’t deny there is a lot of pressure put on you falling in love. But I’ve got your back here. No matter what happens, I’ll help you find out how this affects you being the heir apparent to the Crimson Sleigh.”

Nico bursts out in laughter. “God, shut up. Why do you insist on calling it that?”

Noelle smiles, pleased as can be. “Because it makes you laugh.”

Nico purses his lips, trying to stifle his laughter. “You’re ridiculous, you know?”

“Yes, obviously. But I am also wonderful and magical and dearly beloved by you.”

“I guess.” He draws the word out, teasing, and Noelle shoves him, laughing. “Though I wouldn’t consider magical one of your finer qualities since we all are.”

Noelle crinkles her nose. “If you got it, flaunt it.”

Nico sighs. He wishes he was pleased with the extra magic they have, but it’s different—like everything else—when the full extent of his own powers is contingent on falling in love. “I’d much rather have no magic at all, but that’s probably just me.”

“Yeah, it’s got to be just you.” She pauses, furrowing her brow in thought. “Is it even possible to have no magic, though? Everyone’s got some when it comes down to it, even the Immunes. Magic’s everywhere little bro; it’s a fact of life.”

“I’d gladly trade with anyone who doesn’t have a love stipulation placed on their magic.” He doesn’t mean to sound so wishful, but so much of his life since college has been spent wondering how his life would be if he didn’t have all this extra pressure resting on his shoulders. He’d much rather be gifted with any other sort of magic; no need for the frills of Santahood. “Besides, I’m not much more powerful than anyone but Dad as it is. Since love eludes me.”

Noelle’s eyes light up. “So you’re not seeing anyone?”

Nico shakes his head, chuckling. He can always count on Noelle for poor segues and making him laugh. “Have you been waiting this whole time to ask me?”

“No, of course not; that’d be absurd. But since you’ve brought it back up…”

“I didn’t exactly bring it up.”

Noelle waves her hand, dismissing his words. “Yeah, yeah. But you gave me the perfect opportunity to ask, so.”

“So, what?” Nico knows what she means, but he wants to mess with her, make her work for the answer.

“So”—she draws the word out, her warm brown eyes twinkling with familiar mirth—“are you or are you not seeing anyone?”

“No, not at the moment.”

Noelle seems surprised, and Nico supplies an answer before she can ask, “It’s not necessarily a coincidence I pursued a career in something that affords me the opportunity to travel so much—I’m not entirely sure I want to settle down or fall in love.”

It’s the unfortunate truth of his life, but Noelle’s face falls. She isn’t pleased with the answer.

“Oh, Nico. You can’t deny yourself love because of the things expected of you. That’s not fair to yourself.”

Nico shrugs. He wishes it were that simple, but his obligations are always at the back of his mind, and it only gets worse when he meets a man who has the potential to be something more. Noelle smiles, soft and sympathetic. She gets up and ruffles his hair like she has since they were children; her fingers catch at the end where it’s starting to curl, and she clucks her tongue. It’s annoying and comforting all at the same time, as it always has been, and more of Nico’s tension slips away. Noelle’s always been such a good friend. “Mom will be up soon enough, and the rest of the house won’t be much longer after that.”

Nico yawns and Noelle continues, hand on the door, ready to leave, “The kids missed you last night so you might want to nap and get a story ready for why you didn’t arrive with everyone else because I’m sure they’ll pester you for one. Especially Timmy. Belle says he’s become quite the inquisitive little boy as of late.”

Nico motions for the door. “Will you stop fretting over me and go already. You said I need a nap. So let me nap.”

“Okay, okay. I’m going,” she says, but before she closes the door, she peeks her head back through and says, “I’m going to help you figure this all out, Nico. I promise.”

She shuts the door and Nico, for the first time in a long time, feels calm and relieved and a tad hopeful since he’s told Noelle. She’s right: he shouldn’t deny himself love. There might be a deadline and a world of responsibilities, obligations, and powers that come with being the heir apparent to the sleigh, but at the very least, he can’t let this change what he wants. He can’t let a part of his life he has never had a say in control his happiness.

He wants to fall in love; he wants to settle down; he wants to open his heart and build a life with someone else. And honestly, Nico thinks, as he starts to doze off, Santa be damned if being gay will change any of that.

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Meet the Author

Thematically, Stephanie likes magic and spies and magical spies. Aesthetically, she likes glitter and gold and pineapples. She wants to put more soft, sweet bi representation into the world so that people like her teen-self can see themselves in their favorite genres and know that who they are is nothing to be ashamed of.

She currently lives in the Great White North (Wisconsin) with her husband, daughter, and three dogs. The only thing getting her through these Midwest winters is the soothing sound of Tim Riggins saying “Texas forever” and the prospect of one day moving back there. She loves a good astrology twitter but ultimately only believes in it when her husband calls her stubborn and then her response is: “Well, I am a Taurus.”

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