on m/m romance, baking, knitting, and occasional smut

Tag Archives: Harmony Ink Press

PitchLGTitle: Pitch
Author: Will Parkinson
Publisher: Dreamspinner (Harmony Ink)
Length: 53,637 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary YA Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: Debut Novel, High School, Unrequited Love, Closeted, Best Friends, Straight/Gay Male Friendships, Coming Out, Coming of Age, Art/Artists, Sports, Baseball, Athletes, Abuse, Machiavellian Bad Guy, Evil Teenaged Girls!, Secrets & Lies
Rating: Not Feelin’ It

BLURB

The day Jackson Kern walks into Taylor Andrews’s classroom is a momentous day in Taylor’s life. He’s had crushes before, sure, but as time goes on, this is starting to look a whole lot more serious. Still, Jackson doesn’t return Taylor’s feelings.

Taylor has his own admirers, though. Kevin Richards is used to getting what he wants, and what he wants right now is Taylor, so when Taylor rejects him, Kevin retaliates. At first Taylor’s entourage rallies around him, but then Kevin takes his deception one step further and Taylor sees his support dwindle, teaching him the valuable lesson about who he can truly consider a friend.

REVIEW

I’m always eager to pick up a baseball book and even though I’ve been interested in several and still plan to review a few of them, it has been a while since I’ve picked up a book from DSP’s young adult imprint. From what I gather in the acknowledgements, this is Will Parkinson’s debut novel. Sometimes it’s a gamble picking books to read by a new author or an author I’ve never read, but that’s another part of reviewing that I like. Reviewing gives me the opportunity to read new authors and it feels like I get to enjoy more of the perks, like finding a surprise that’s worth it. Often, it’s different though and while I like some of those books I also don’t like some of them. I’m afraid to say that this book fell into the latter camp for me. While it wasn’t a total disappointment, I just didn’t connect with the book.

Taylor is a gay sophomore in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin high school. His best friend Benny is straight and the only person alive who knows his secret. They’re best friends and always have been and Benny is a rather special guy that is wise beyond his years, intelligent and loyal. Pitch opens on the day that a new student starts at Taylor’s school. Jackson walks into Taylor’s homeroom, looking nervous and totally sexy and Taylor immediately wants to draw him. What follows over the next year is an intense unrequited love that just doesn’t seem to go away, no matter how hard Taylor tries and Benny cautions. No matter how much Taylor is told that Jackson is disgusted by his little boy crush from Jackson’s cheerleader girlfriend, Taylor just can’t seem to stay away.

It isn’t until he and Benny gain some perspective on their problems during the next summer, camp counseling for abused kids, that Taylor starts to grow up. He still has feelings for Jackson, but he’s less likely now to follow him around like a lost puppy. So when a kid from a neighboring school asks him out during their Halloween dance, Taylor decides to take him up on it. He really starts to like Kevin, but he is prey unknowingly walking into Kevin’s trap. It takes some extremely tough decisions and way too much heartbreak and drama to realize that much of what he thought before wasn’t true, about most of the people he knew.

There are two aspects of this novella that I had a difficult time with. The first are the characters. This, especially, is subjective. Part of what oftentimes makes a young adult novel good are the bad choices of the characters. More often than not young adult stories have a moral and it can walk a fine line in the hands of the author between preachy and poignant. The style of this story went a bit over the top and that just wasn’t something that I was really looking for. For high school students, who I freely admit can be some of the cruelest humans on Earth, many of the actions of these characters went beyond immature and foolhardy. I would have appreciated the characters and their decisions (even the bad ones) more if their actions had been more subtle and less ascribed to their particular archetype. Kevin’s actions in particular required me to suspend disbelief a few times.

As I said before, those decisions and your own feelings about them are more subjective than usual. My other problem with this story was in the writing. I applaud this author for writing and writing and sharing their work. But like many new authors I think that there were some fundamental writing problems that this author needs to work on. Mostly it will just take continued writing, so even though this book wasn’t for me, I sincerely hope that this author keeps up with it. Part of the novice prose problems were dialogue and restraint. In a way, the second has quite a bit to do with the first. This book didn’t fall into too bad of a habit of telling rather than showing, but there is importance in letting the characters express themselves in their own ways instead of being a vehicle to express the author’s view. I’m not talking about preaching about issues or anything like that here. I simply mean the difference between the characters’ observations and personality and the author’s. Almost continually there were times while reading this that I stopped and thought that a character wouldn’t say or think that. The dialogue, in a similar way, oftentimes sounded familiar for all the characters and didn’t seem to represent the individual characters. Restraint is important because readers don’t need all the information. It’s a partnership, you know? The readers picks up on the clues the author leaves and pieces them together and in that way one small action tells you more about the character than a whole page of narration.

Ultimately, this book just wasn’t for me because of the more dramatic plot twists. I have seen a couple of 5-star reviews around so I’ll be interested to see if any other readers/reviewers feel the way I do, or if this turns out to be a reader favorite. I’ve been a part of the more unpopular opinion before!


EvolutionLGTitle: Evolution
Author: Sam Kadence
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Length: 68k words, 230 pages
Genre: m/m YA Paranormal Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 2 – Few and Far Between
Keywords/Tags: Famous, GFY, Ghosts/Spirits, Injured Character, Musicians, Past Abuse, Pets, Phoenix Shifter, Physical Abuse, Psychic Abilities, Secrets & Lies, Under Aged Character, Vampires, Young Adult Characters
Rating: Really Liked It

Reviewed by Nikyta

*This review contains some tiny spoilers*

BLURB

Gene Sage has only ever wanted to sing, but his band, Evolution, is pushing him toward the big time. He finds it hard to focus on making musical history when he’s dreaming of graveyards and seeing ghosts. And while all he can think of is hiding who he is from a world unforgiving of anyone different, he discovers he’s also the ultimate snack for vampires and demons. When Gene literally runs into—over—his idol, Kerstrande Petterson, rock god, vampire in hiding, and music cynic, his life falls over the edge into chaos.

Jaded by the world and nearly a decade in the music business, Kerstrande thinks Gene wants to use him to make Evolution immortal in more than one way, but he can’t seem to brush aside the young singer’s enthusiasm.

Getting involved with Kerstrande drags Gene into otherworldly power struggles. Between the ghosts stalking them, the media painting supernaturals as villains, and a vampire out of control in the city, the only way for Gene and Kerstrande to survive is for Gene to embrace his powers—and his destiny.

REVIEW

I adored this story because I had so much fun reading it!

One thing I really enjoyed about this book were the characters. Genesis and Kerstrande have two very distinct voices that are nothing alike. Gene is almost too innocent and forgiving, sweet and nice but fun and eccentric. Kerstrande is grumpy, snarky, and more likely to give an insult than a compliment. They’re yin and yang and balance each other out nicely. In fact, the balance they give each other is a bit crucial to the story and explains some of the troubles they go through. Both Gene and Kerstrande have had a hard life but while Gene has made it his motto to just go forward, Kerstrande still lives somewhat in the past. Ashamed of who he is and what he has to do to survive, it’s not until being with Gene for a while that he realizes he doesn’t have to make things worse for himself. On the other hand, Kerstrande is able to give Gene the one thing he wants most – and that’s to be accepted and loved for everything he is, warts and all, even if Kerstrande doesn’t actually come out and say it. More than that, I loved how soft Kerstrande got around Gene (even when he was fighting those feelings) and even more that he let Gene nickname him KC.

This story took me on a slow but wild ride. It grabbed my attention from the beginning with the spectacular way Kerstrande and Gene met. There’s possession, jealousy, lust, love, distrust and heartbreak and a boat load of other emotions. Gene goes from a nobody to a star over night. From someone who barely knows his own powers to being thrust into the paranormal world without even knowing it or the dangers associated with it. Kerstrande is very hot and cold so a majority of the story is him trying to push Gene away but not being able to let him go. Overall, this book is about their journey, finding out who they are and accepting themselves and each other. One of the highlights of this story, though, is the back and forth between Gene and Kerstrande and the passion they have together. I felt like they had amazing chemistry with KC insulting Gene and Gene taking it in stride. It’s sort of sad but Gene understood why KC was so mean sometimes. Although, they don’t exactly know much of each other in the traditional sense, I was able to overlook that because of how much they go through together.

While I enjoyed this book immensely, there were some problems I had. Mostly, there were times when I was confused on what was going on, how and why some things happened but others didn’t, such as how Joel didn’t burn from the inside out but Hane did. Another thing, though, is that Kerstrande in the beginning was very firm on the fact he wasn’t gay to the point that was one of his main responses to whatever Gene was saying. However, he quickly overcame that objection so it had me wondering, was he in denial? Or was he just gay for Genesis? It’s not quite clear but either way I would have liked a little more detail on that because of how forcefully Kerstrande would tell Genesis that.

One thing readers should be aware of is that when Kerstrande and Gene start their unconventional relationship, Gene is underage. A few months shy of 18, in fact, while KC, the vampire, is a few years older…. Or is he… Anyway, they have sex although it’s not detailed but beautiful all the same and while I didn’t have a problem with this, I do understand that some readers might not take kindly to Gene being underage. So, this is me giving those readers fair warning. After all, this is a YA story 😉 I will say that Gene is very mature most of the time to the point I kept forgetting he was so young.

Overall, a great story that I really loved reading. It had its faults but I was so caught up in the book and the characters, it was easy to overlook them. I can’t wait to see what else this author has coming out next because I adored the writing and the style. There’s a lot of stuff that happened within this story but I didn’t want to give many details on it. Mostly because I want the reader to experience it for themselves but also because I would just sound crazy if I tried to explain it all. LOL. I definitely recommend this to those who enjoy young adult paranormal fantasies and I hope those who decide to read it like it as much as I did 🙂


Play Me, I'm Yours Blog Tour - Madison Parker

Gay/Straight Male Friendships

I haven’t given too much thought to gay/straight male friendships over the years. They seem fairly normal to me. My son has had gay friends since junior high, and he lived with a gay couple for a while once he left the nest. I admit, when my son told me he was moving in with his gay friend, it did raise a few questions in my mind about his orientation, but those thoughts were fleeting, as he insisted (once again, lol) that he was straight and that he and Joe were just friends. It warms my heart to hear tales of straight guys who are accepting of and comfortable with their gay friends.

So it wasn’t much of a leap for me to explore this type of friendship when writing Play Me, I’m Yours. Although the straight guy in question is a secondary character, he was the first one who took shape in my mind and was the catalyst for the story. I had just read several Gay-For-You books and it frustrated me that in every story I read, whenever a straight guy showed affection for a gay guy, it turned out that the “straight” guy was secretly gay. Or bi. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if there was a straight character who was secure enough with his sexuality and compassionate enough that he offered up some affection for an emotionally wounded boy, as one human being to another? And voila, the character was born.

There are straight guys out there who aren’t freaked out by the idea of kissing or showing affection for other men. Actor Darren Criss, for example, when asked if he’d ever kissed a man prior to filming Glee’s “Original Song“, said, “Yeah, but definitely not in a passionate sort of way. […] You know, friends of mine; I’ve had a few gay roommates in the past, so, you know, birthdays, things like that.” No, I can’t crawl inside Darren’s head to find out if he’s secretly gay or bisexual despite the fact that he says he’s straight; I’ll take his word for it.

Is it really so hard to believe that a straight guy would be affectionate with a gay friend? An ocassional hug? Playful text messages? I didn’t think so until two of my beta readers (one male, one female) told me, “A straight guy would never act that way.” To be honest, my first reaction was surprise, and then I felt a bit insulted. I don’t mean to put down my betas in any way; they were just doing their job by telling me their reactions. But I did question their feedback, so I immediately went to my other two betas (both male) to ask their opinions. They both pleaded with me not to change the character. So I didn’t.

But I did stop and wonder about some of the challenges that gay men and straight men face when forging friendships. I’ve read through hundreds of anectdotes and have watched at least a dozen vlogs on the subject, and many similar sentiments reappeared.

Potential Challenges:

“My (straight) friend is afraid I’m going to hit on him.”

“He acts cool when he’s around me, but when he’s with his striaght buddies, he makes fun of me behind my back.”

“Sometimes I feel like the token gay guy, like I’m just there to make him look more open-minded and inclusive.”

“He feels free to tell me all about his sexual conquests with women in detail, but he freaks out if I talk about my attraction to men.”

“He assumes that because I’m gay, I can offer him advice about women and fashion, or that I want to go shopping with him.”

“Everyone always assumes the straight guy must be secretly gay. It’s endlessly annoying and I’ve found myself defending my straight friends’ heterosexuality too often—and usually the person I’m making the defense to is gay. This seems like a sort of perverse reverse homophobia, as if no straight man would ever just want to hang out with a gay guy because he enjoys hanging out with them.”—Japhy Grant

Potential Benefits: (get your mind out of the gutter!)

“I can let down my guard around my (gay) friend. I enjoy being macho from time to time, but being aphysical and unemotional around friends gets tiresome. With him, there’s no social pressure to suppress those things. I don’t have to play into masculine stereotypes the way I do around my straight friends.”

“I can open up to my (gay) friend more easily. We have deeper conversations and can talk about our feelings.”

“He likes that when we hang out, the conversation isn’t centered on gay-related topics. He loves his gay friends, but sometimes he feels like he needs a break from them.”

“There’s no sense of competition between us.”

Many of the articles I read, and the comments that followed, indicated that gay/straight male friendships were really no different than any other friendships. They were based on shared interests and common values, and sexual orientation was a non-issue. Many of the gay/straight male friendships described were formed during college years and have stood the test of time, or began as coworkers and later developed into closer friendships. When it comes right down to it, so long as there are open lines of communication, there’s no reason men should shy away from gay/straight male friendships.

Play Me, I'm Yours by Madison ParkerPlay Me, I’m Yours by Madison Parker
Published by Harmony Ink Press

Fairy Tate. Twinklefingers. Lucy Liu. Will the taunting ever end? Lucas Tate suffers ridicule because of his appearance and sensitive nature. When he’s not teased, he’s ignored, and he doesn’t know which is worse. His one comfort in life is his music; he feels unloved by everyone. What he wants more than anything is to find a friend.

Much to his dismay, both his mom and a schoolmate are determined to find him a boyfriend, despite the fact Lucas hasn’t come out to them. His mom chooses a football player who redefines the term “heartthrob,” while Trish pushes him toward the only openly gay boy at Providence High. But Lucas is harboring a crush on another boy, one who writes such romantic poetry to his girlfriend that hearing it melts Lucas into a puddle of goo. All three prospects seem so far out of his league. Lucas is sure he doesn’t stand a chance with any of them—until sharing his gift for music brings him the courage to let people into his heart.

Click here to read the first chapter.
Purchase Links

Visit Madison Parker’s Website at www.madisonparklove.com for bonus materials including character sketches, piano covers, music videos, and lyrics for songs referenced in the novel.

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Enter to WinTo celebrate the release of Play Me, I’m Yours, Madison Parker is hosting a giveaway. Enter to win your choice of a free copy of Play Me, I’m Yours or a $10 gift certificate from Rainbow eBooks by leaving a comment below along with your email address. For multiple chances to win, comment at each stop along the tour. Click here for the complete tour schedule. Winners will be chosen randomly on April 23.


SeventhofLondon

Congrats to

JayHJay

for winning the copy of the The Seventh of London by Beau Schemery. I’ve already written Jay to let her know, so thanks for playing everyone and thank you all for stopping by and commenting!


SeventhofLondonI want to welcome Beau Schemery today for a book that I really can’t wait to read and review! I’ve read many of this author’s books, and so have you I’d bet, but nothing under the Young Adult pseudonym Beau Schemery (this is the first one). And even more, this book seems to have it all, steampunk wizards?! I’m so there 🙂

Also, be sure to read through to the bottom of the post to enter in the giveaway for an ebook copy of The 7th of London!

So I’ll turn it over to Beau, who has a bit to say about villains…

**Beau has included some lovely artwork of the main characters, but I couldn’t fit them all into the post, so they’re bundled together just after the main post. Be sure to take a close look at each one, they made me want to read this book even more!


Hi there, Armchairists. My name is Beau Schemery and I’m the author of the young adult novel, The Seventh of London, recently released from Harmony Ink Press. Seventh is a steampunk action/adventure and it’s my first young adult book. I’ve written other, more mature pieces under a pseudonym for Harmony’s parent company, Dreamspinner Press, and I approached this book not as a book written for adolescents but as a book written for anyone. I did that because as an adult I enjoy reading young adult novels as well. This brings me to my topic.

Villains. Sometimes the bad guys of a piece are just as important as the good guys. Sometimes more so. Prior to writing Seventh, I had been reading a lot of YA steampunk and adult romance, steampunk and otherwise. A distressing pattern started to emerge. Many of these books featured villains or anti-heroes that were spoken of by all the characters in the book with awe or contempt over the horrible and fantastic things they were rumored to be able to do or had done. Unfortunately it was only talk. The reader was never given the opportunity to see the villain be villainy. Pirates that did no pirating. Criminal masterminds that did no criminal masterminding. In a few instances the villain, portrayed as a selfish ne’er-do-well, was asked by the hero or heroes to help without any promise of reward and the villain agreed with no caveat. Facepalm. What? I found it insulting. Why would an author make this interesting character and then neuter him?

When I sat down to write Seventh, I made a solemn vow that I would create a villain and allow him to be a villain. And not some ‘woe is me’ how do I stop being bad villain; a bad guy who loves to be bad. Enter Jack Midnight. Oh, Jack. Jack, Jack, Jack. Let me say here that I had a plan for Seventh and the main character, Seven. It was a good plan. It was pretty straight-forward, solid and uncomplicated. Then Jack. Jack had other plans for Seven, for the whole plot it seemed. Jack Midnight was supposed to be a villain that helped our heroes out because there was something in it for him. He was supposed to acquire something through less than honest means, hand it over and slip into the night. I had every intention of showing just how he would pull it off, of letting him be bad on the pages, showing the reader rather than just telling them.

But Jack decided to hire Seven instead. And all of a sudden I found Seven in the palace and I had no idea where to go from there. I figured it out with a little help from Jack in fact, and my background villain, who was meant as a spit in the face to all those other boring, cookie-cutter villains, insinuated himself not only into the main plot but several subplots as well. He became almost a mentor to Seven. And as it turned out even had time for a little romance. Let me assure you that he didn’t do any of this out of the kindness of his heart. No. Jack did this all for Jack. But there it is. Bad people exist. And they aren’t all Disney villains with deformities and crooked teeth so you know instantly who they are. And even bad people aren’t just bad. Jack is bad but I think he’s still a likeable, identifiable character because he’s honest. He doesn’t pretend to not be bad. He doesn’t apologized for being the way he is.

I hope you see what The Seventh of London is all about and I hope you find Jack Midnight interesting even if you don’t like him. And you might not like him. As I mentioned before- he’s not a good guy. But he is pretty and that makes people forgive a lot. Thanks to Cole for allowing me to guest on the blog today and thank you, readers, for taking the time to read my post. And if you want to give Seven and Jack Midnight a try, you can buy the book at this link: http://www.rainbowebooks.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=9601. You can follow my blog: beauschemery.wordpress.com, follow me on Twitter or Tumblr: @hedbonstudios or hit me up on Facebook and let me know what you think of the book. I’ll be guesting on a few more blogs throughout the month and this weekend I’ll be appearing at the Scranton Comic Convention. If you’re in the area, stop by and say hello. Enjoy! –Beau.

Beau’s Artwork

click each pic to see it larger!

seventh_sevenseventh_ratseventh_nikkyseventh_midnightseventh_kettlebentseventh_heph

BLURB

After his parents and family die, Seven escapes his factory job. By wits and will alone, he survives in a London divided into the affluent Fairside and the squalor of London’s industrial Blackside, where many struggle to eke their existence out of despair. But Seven has to fight for more than just food and shelter.

All over Blackside, a secret cabal of prominent citizens and the mysterious Mr. Kettlebent are snatching children. Rumor has it a wizard is controlling the queen, and the country’s most notorious villain is the only one who wants to stop him. Seven is determined to find out why.

Hired by the criminal Jack Midnight to steal the evil wizard’s spellbook, Seven soon discovers the mystery runs deeper than he suspected. But events spiral out of control, and it isn’t long before the intrigue sweeps Seven into its deadly current.

EXCERPT

SEV pulled the collar of his secondhand military coat up and wrapped his scarf tighter to block the cold November wind whipping through the streets of London’s Blackside. Sev hated the cold almost as much as he hated the smoke-heavy air this side of the city. Victoria had the slums cut off in 1861. Just before the death of Albert. In whispers they called that period the great spiral. Sev didn’t get the reference, but he understood the intent. The queen’s mum died, and things started to go wrong. Now it was 1865, and Sev slipped in and out of the throng on King Street. He’d been following the man in the stovepipe hat for a few blocks, blending into the shadows to observe his prey. The once-crimson military jacket he wore was almost black with wear from years on the street, but that suited Sev just fine. He knew what it felt like to get noticed. It hurt more often than not, and Sev’d had enough hurt for two lifetimes.

The man Sev trailed was tall and oddly built. His arms seemed too long for his body; his legs towered, but he moved with mechanical purpose. He wore goggles beneath his stovepipe hat and had a beard as black as night to match his clothes. Sev had been watching the man for more than a week now and was completely intrigued by the dark man’s strange errands. Something about the man’s movement seemed wrong. Sev couldn’t explain it, but he knew to trust his instincts, and there might be money in it for him if he told the right person. Sev needed money if he ever wanted to escape Blackside, and he desperately wanted freedom. He’d heard stories of the colonies and how someone with strength and determination could make a living despite the circumstances of his birth. If there were even a chance that was true, it was a chance he was willing to take. The man looked toward the shadows that hid Sev, and Sev pulled his newsboy hat down to shield his eyes. He looked in the window of the bake shop, feigning interest in the window’s contents. Glancing at the emerald-green eyes of his reflection, he pushed his too-long burgundy locks behind his ear before he allowed his gaze to dart back to the dark stranger. He waited for the gangly man to turn the corner before leaving his perch to follow.

Sev had grown up on these streets. His parents emigrated in 1845 like many others during the potato famine in their homeland, and Sev was born a few years after. He could barely remember how happy he’d been as a small child with his family. Although he remembered being branded like it was only yesterday. Funny how the pain could remain so vivid while the contentment faded so easily. Sev escaped after four years of hellish labor and horrific circumstances. Freedom should inspire pleasant feelings, but when he thought back to that day in 1861 when he’d escaped and took Lord Fervis’s eye, his chest tightened with guilt and regret. Sev barely remembered his mother. She’d died in Fervis’s factory when Sev was scarcely nine.

The city was more of a mother to him now, and he knew her streets, could dash along them without thought and know exactly where he was at any given time. Sev prided himself on not being seen. The skill was born of necessity: trying to avoid detection by the Coal-Eaters, Scotland Yard, and Fervis’s Footmen, Blackside’s own police force. Sev spent more time in shadow than in light and excelled at remaining unnoticed. It kept him alive. He stole some things he needed, sold information to get things he couldn’t, all the while trying to set something aside for his escape. Not to mention trying to stand up for the factory orphans, making sure those who tried to take advantage of them met with unfortunate accidents. If only someone had been there for him and his siblings. It wasn’t an ideal existence, dashing from shadow to shadow and avoiding observation, but it beat living in the workhouses and factories like Fervis’s Auto-Matic Cobblery, which sprang up in Blackside, and which Victoria was rumored to have encouraged. Sev would rather die than return to a place like that, and he had no intention of dying. The young Irishman knew, without a doubt, after what he’d done, showing his face anywhere near a factory would be a death sentence.

Sev wasn’t sure if the queen’s intentions were good when she established London’s factory district, and he didn’t care. It was what it was, but as soon as the filth the industries spewed into the air started to encroach on the affluent portion of the city, she’d commissioned giant fans to be placed along the division, keeping the filth in the air over the filth in the streets and away from the nobles and high society. Sev paused on the edge of a roof, hitching up his oversized trousers, reminding himself to tighten the bracers on his shoulders. He regarded the stranger beyond the toes of his boots, which he’d mended more times than he could remember while desperately keeping a lookout for a new pair. The thought brought memories of his father, and Sev swallowed against the swell of feelings still strong after so many years.

The dark man dashed down another alleyway, and Sev skipped along the rooftop following the man’s every move. He loosed the first few buttons of the double row that led down his jacket despite the chill night. The garment beneath was filthy, and he longed to switch it out for his other shirt awaiting him in the small hideout he maintained above the Royal Museum.

Sev’s ability to avoid detection allowed him to pass easily above or below the guarded lines between Blackside and Fairside. He didn’t have much, but he aspired to something more. He managed to slip from his attic hideout into the museum from time to time and had forced himself to learn to read, sort of; he still had a bit of trouble. His thoughts drifted to Henry, the owlet he’d nursed back to health a few months ago. They shared his attic room. Some other streeters, kids who lived as he did, had killed Henry’s mother for food, leaving the tiny owl orphaned and alone. Sev couldn’t allow the tiny creature to starve to death and had saved the little owl chick. Henry hadn’t left Sev’s nest since.

The dark man ducked into Curtis’s Mercantile, and Sev paused, watching from above. He observed the tall man purchase an odd variety of items: cloth, metal, coal, gears, food, water, and oil. The man didn’t leave with the items, and Sev assumed they’d be delivered later. To where? he wondered.

He’d watched the man speak with an eclectic group of people throughout the week as well: the nobleman Sutherland; the criminal, Midnight; a prominent madam; three floor foremen from various industries; and a duchess. Sev tried to piece the connections together but could spot no obvious correlation. The stranger dashed ahead once more, and Sev lost sight of the man. Sev cursed and forced himself to run faster, turning the corner only to find an empty wall. The dark stranger was nowhere to be found. Sev scanned the alley for any means of egress but detected none. He dropped to the ground. Nothing, he thought. He’s just gone. Sev removed his hat and scratched his head. Someone shouted from the alley’s entrance, and Sev scrambled up a drainpipe onto the opposite wall.

GIVEAWAY RULES

Please leave a comment below to win an ebook copy of The 7th of London. The giveaway will last until Midnight CST on Tuesday, December 11th. I will choose the winner using Random.org and email the winner who will then have 48 hours from the time of the drawing to reply to my email. I will then forward the winner’s information to Beau so they can receive their book.

Please enter the email you’d wish me to contact you at in the comment form, or if you prefer, leave it in the message.

Thank you and good luck!

And a big thank you to Beau for coming today and for sharing the info about the book with us, especially the gorgeous artwork!


Title: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover (The Most Popular Guy in the School #1)
Author: Robbie Michaels
Publisher: Harmony Ink Press
Length: 61k words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Young Adult Romance
Heat: 1 – Sweet/None
Sex Frequency: 1 – None
Keywords/Tags: High School, Physical Abuse, Series, Closeted, Coming Out, Jocks, Nerds, HEA
Rating: Didn’t Like It

BLURB

High school can be some of the best years of life—and some of the toughest. Mark Mitchell’s strategy for surviving is to emulate the mighty turtle: pull back inside his protective shell and keep a low profile to avoid trouble. And it works—nobody bothers him. Of course, nobody really knows him, either, even in a town so small it seems like everybody must know everyone else.

Mark certainly knows Bill Cromwell, whom he meets officially when his father volunteers him for manual labor at the school. Bill is his polar opposite: outgoing, gregarious, athletic. But when a massive snowstorm traps the two boys together for three days, Mark learns that being popular doesn’t mean you can’t be bullied or abused—or gay—and that bullying doesn’t stop at the school doors.

Mark isn’t naïve. He’s seen the news reports of gay teen suicides, and he’s determined not to become a statistic. But it’s not himself he’s worried about.

REVIEW

I had high hopes for this book, but ultimately I didn’t like it for a variety of reasons, mostly because it needed a lot more work before it was ready to be presented to readers. If it weren’t for the fact that I accepted this for review, I probably would have stopped reading it.

Mark is decidedly in the closet. He doesn’t really have any friends and is a self-proclaimed math nerd. He meets Bill for the first time when they’re forced to unload a truck full of candy bars at the high school over a Saturday. He’s known of Bill forever — they live in a tiny town and Bill is a hottest and most popular guy in school. Bill has never talked to him though, as casually and like friends as on that day. Afterwards, they meet again as the last people leaving the school just as a snow storm hits, leaving Bill stranded with Mark’s family for several days. There, Mark starts to question if Bill is really what he assumed he was and if he’s gay like himself. The two grow into lovers, but outward best friends, as they and Mark’s family take up several public causes against bullying and abuse.

What I first noticed that gave me pause was the rather strained dialogue. The way Mark (as well as the other young people) speak doesn’t sound like a high school student. The words were off and while I noticed that the syntax and cadence of Mark’s speech and narration was at times made to seem quite young, the words and phrases he uses are at odds with how I remember and expect teenagers to sound (like “my peers”, for one example of many).

Perhaps what bothered me the most was that the book is really preachy. Mark and his family continually take up cause after cause, which is fine and they mean well. In fact, the message of the book, the golden rule, is fine and well. I found it difficult to read the same pithy sentiments over and over though, often the exact same quotes. Issues are often explained down to every detail (what is wrong with bullying, etc.) and with melodramatic flair that made it all over the top. A crucial point in the story is a scene where Bill confronts others about bullying and what followed was a quite unrealistic, shame on you speech. It mostly made me feel like rolling my eyes because it seemed a bit callous to treat such really serious issues as if the world just needed a talking to and everyone would go on their merry way, a whole culture changed. Despite the fact that I couldn’t reconcile the realism brought to the story by the real bullying and abuse and then the unrealistic treatment of it, iI was sad that a nugget of a great story was presented and then not explored.

The characters fell flat to me for a few reasons. Mark didn’t act like a consistent teenager. Bill faces some extremely terrible issues that are dropped halfway through the story without any real lasting affect on his character. The way Mark’s parents go about their crusade fundamentally bothered me. Both Bill and Mark often say to jocks who make comments about “faggots” seeing them in the shower that they should be proud they’re “hot enough to get attention from women and men“. I just kept thinking… what?

I kept wondering if I was taking this book completely different than how it was intended because I just didn’t get it. I couldn’t decide if all these were deliberate choices by the author. On the one hand, I could perhaps see where some of it is satirical, but that didn’t completely jibe. Either way, the book needed more work and more editing in my opinion — not only for content but also to deal with some sentence problems. Some of the information that is presented over and over (several times an event or scene is told from beginning to end in the retelling to other characters, and without altering or adding new information which would give the retelling purpose) should have been taken out.

Like I said earlier, there’s a nugget of a good story in here, it just needed a lot more coaxing out before this was really ready for publishing. I probably won’t be carrying on with the series, and I can’t recommend this book to readers. I can see where other readers will like this, so please, by all means read other reviews and decide for yourself. This is solely my opinion and my reaction to the book.