Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Bureau, Vols. 1 & 2 by Kim Fielding (spotlight, excerpt, and review) ADULT titles

 Volume 1 

ADULT titles
Kim Fielding

This collection contains the first three Bureau novellas:


Once a proud demon of the night sky who carried nightmares to humans, Tenrael has spent decades in captivity as the star attraction of a traveling carnival. He exists in miserable servitude to men who plunk down ten dollars to fulfill their dark desires.

Charles Grimes is half human, half… something else. For fifteen years he’s worked for the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs, ridding the country of dangerous monsters. When his boss sends him to Kansas to chase a rumor about a captive demon, Charles figures it’s just another assignment. Until he meets Tenrael.



Someone—or something—is murdering young men in San Francisco. Clay White has been fired from the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs, but he’s determined to track down the killer. When he comes across a vampire named Marek, Clay assumes he’s caught the perp. But the encounter with Marek turns out to be more complicated than Clay expected, and it forces him to deal with his own troubled past and murky psyche. As Clay discovers, sometimes the truth doesn't come easy—and the monsters are not who we expect.



Alone in a cell and lacking memories of his past, John has no idea who—or what—he is.

Alone on the streets of 1950s Los Angeles, Harry has far too many memories of his painful past and feels simply resignation in facing his empty future.

When Harry is given a chance to achieve his only dream—to become an agent with the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs—all he has to do is prove his worth. Yet nothing has ever come easy for him. Now he must offer himself and John as bait, enticing a man who wants to conquer death. But first he and John must learn what distinguishes a monster from a man—and what a monster truly wants.



Volume 2
ADULT titles
Kim Fielding

This collection contains the fourth and fifth Bureau novellas.



An agent for the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs? That’s the best job in the world. And it’s enough for Terry Brandt, who doesn’t need personal relationships complicating his life. His newest assignment puts him undercover, investigating a Hollywood agent who may have some evil tricks up his sleeve.

Edge is not the man he appears to be. Although he’s a member of the Hollywood agent’s security staff, his true situation is darker and deeper than that. Ordered to seduce the new prospect, Edge finds himself caught in conflicting loyalties.

Haunted by their pasts and tied up in secrets, neither Terry nor Edge can afford to allow passion to interfere with duty. And with danger dogging them, it’s impossible to envision a future together.


Vietnam veteran Kurt Powell’s addiction almost cost him everything, but a job as federal agent with the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs helped him find sobriety and purpose. Now he tracks down dangerous paranormal creatures as well as humans who abuse their magical powers in illegal ways.

Sent from Belfast to the United States as a boy, Desmond Hughes later fell into a disastrous relationship that led to horrific murders. He’s spent seventeen years in a bleak prison with few comforts and no hope of release.

A new mission throws Kurt and Des together in a desperate attempt to prevent disaster. Sometimes what’s long been lost can still be found, but the road to redemption is never easy—and a mutual attraction may not ease the way.



Edge’s brothers were fighting again. Right now there were raised hackles and low growls, but soon enough blood would flow. Edge snarled at them both and stalked out the door and onto the lawn, where the grass felt cool under his feet and the stars overhead tried to shine through the LA smog. He walked the length of the guest house to his favorite spot, a sort of cave between the building and some bougainvillea. His brothers could find him there easily enough, but they probably wouldn’t bother—too busy scrapping over which of them was in charge. As if it mattered. The boss was in charge, not them, and he always would be.
The dirt in Edge’s little hideaway was soft and smelled of mice and lizards. He circled a few times before lying down, sighing when the chain around his neck jingled.
He’d been so tired lately. He was still fairly young, still in good condition, and the boss made sure all of them were well fed. His duties weren’t usually onerous either: Keep an eye on the estate and anyone who entered. Report to the boss if anything was out of order or if anyone did something they shouldn’t. Neither of those things happened often; the boss ran a tight household. Edge supposed people were paid well if they pleased him, and if they didn’t, well, they were gone in a flash. Since maintaining security took so little effort, Duke and Holt had time to squabble over dominance and Edge often felt restless and at loose ends.
But his boring responsibilities didn’t explain why he was exhausted. Not physically exhausted—he could run as fast as ever and hadn’t lost any of his strength. But… mentally. Emotionally. And that was stupid, because his kind wasn’t supposed to be susceptible to that. Such fatigue was for complicated people like the boss and for the movie stars and directors and producers and other famous and wealthy people who flocked around him. Not for simple beings like Edge, who didn’t understand why he felt this way and had no clue what to do about it.
Endure. That was his choice: endure or die. And he wasn’t ready to die yet.
He’d almost dozed off when a familiar whistle cut across the grounds. Three sharp notes that compelled him to his feet immediately and set him tearing across the lawn at full speed. Holt and Duke ran ahead of him, their dispute temporarily forgotten.
The boss waited for them in a pool of light just outside the main house. He had a cigarette in one hand and a lowball glass in the other. Edge tried to judge his mood, but the boss was a hard man to read. Unless he was truly furious—an event that was blessedly rare—he usually appeared either mildly interested or mildly annoyed, depending on the circumstances. Right now he was tending more toward annoyed as he looked down at Edge and his brothers.
“Change,” the boss ordered. “I wanna have a discussion.”
Edge and his brothers exchanged a quick glance of mutual empathy. Changing fucking hurt, and they all preferred to do it in private. But the boss had given an order, and he was waiting for them to obey.
At first it felt like being skinned alive, with every one of Edge’s nerve endings screaming in shock. But the worst part came next, when bones reshaped and sinews and organs repositioned themselves. When Edge was young, he’d howled in agony during the process. But he’d since been trained not to do that, and now he suffered almost silently, although a few moans still escaped.
The change felt as if it lasted for hours, but in reality it took only a few minutes. When it was complete, Edge and his brothers stood panting and naked—except for their collars—in front of the boss, who had finished his cigarette but not his whiskey. Although Edge was used to nudity in both of his forms, he had to force himself not to fidget under the boss’s cool scrutiny; Duke and Holt stood more confidently. While the boss owned all three of them, he didn’t use their bodies the way he used Edge’s.
“Got a new one coming in tomorrow. You know the drill. If he passes my initial inspection, I’m gonna stash him in the guest house.”
Edge and his brothers nodded their understanding; this was the usual procedure with fresh prospects. Having them nearby allowed the boss to keep a close eye on them and to more easily draw them into his web. It also meant that the three brothers would be busier, security-wise, which they generally considered a good thing. It made their jobs more interesting. Duke and Holt looked eager to begin. But Edge had been losing his taste for this kind of excitement. He tried to tell himself that the boss’s fresh meat deserved what happened to them—they came almost begging for it, really—and if they didn’t fuck up, they reaped all the benefits they’d hoped for. None of them gave serious thought to the costs until it was too late, however, and the knowledge of what would happen to them turned Edge’s stomach. He didn’t know why he gave a shit.
The boss focused intently on Edge, as if he’d read Edge’s thoughts. His eyes were black and shiny, and one corner of his mouth twitched into something resembling a smile. “This one’s going to be your responsibility, Edge. Sleep in the room next to his instead of the kennel. Let him fuck you if he wants. In fact, encourage him to fuck you.” He nodded to himself. “That always helps.”
Edge gave the only acceptable answer: “Yes, sir.”
After a brief pause, the boss nodded again. Now his smile spread into something frightening, like a death’s-head grin. He pointed at Edge with his free hand. “Come with me, pup.”
Ignoring his brothers’ worried looks and the roiling in his own gut, Edge trotted after the boss into the main house.

By the time Edge limped out onto the grand lawn, dawn was only a couple of hours away. Despite the burning and aching of his body, he changed back to his canine form. It always felt a little easier to deal with discomfort and unease in that body, and he healed quicker too. Besides, the boss would want him looking like a dog when the new prospect arrived in the morning.
He walked slowly over the grass, his tongue out and tail hanging low. He briefly considered sleeping in his spot behind the bougainvillea, but rejected the idea quickly. Duke or Holt—whoever was on duty tonight—would come looking for him and would be pissed off if they found him there. He went to the kennel instead.
It encompassed a large space on the ground floor of the guest house. Edge didn’t know what its original purpose had been or whether the boss had ordered it custom-built for the three of them. Four of them. There had originally been four. In any case, the big room had tile floors and four large steel cages, each with a dog bed inside. The cages almost always stood open, but there had been occasions when they were closed and fastened with padlocks. One set of doors led out into the center of the estate grounds, where the lawn and pool were located, and another set opened to the back of the building. They were motion-activated, which meant Edge and his brothers could come and go regardless of whether they had hands or paws. The rest of the room was sparsely furnished. A low-set sink could be turned on and off with a foot pedal, and a TV sat along one wall. Another door—this one with a regular knob—led to a toilet and shower they used when in human form. A closet and dresser held their meager allotment of clothing.
That was it. A space not suited for humans, yet not exactly a real kennel either.
Holt lay inside his cage. He opened his eyes when Edge came in but didn’t otherwise react, and Edge was thankful for that. He paused to drink some water from the sink, gave himself a quick shake, and settled into his own bed. He still hurt, but the familiarity of the worn fabric carrying his own scent comforted him.
Dogs didn’t worry much about the future; Edge had been around enough real dogs to know that. But humans did, and sometimes he thought there was too much humanity inside him. Instead of falling asleep, he fretted over what would happen the next day. The boss’s new prospect. What would he be like, and how long would it take the boss to destroy him?

Amazon link


About the author

Kim Fielding is the bestselling author of numerous m/m romance novels, novellas, and short stories. Like Kim herself, her work is eclectic, spanning genres such as contemporary, fantasy, paranormal, and historical. Her stories are set in alternate worlds, in 15th century Bosnia, in modern-day Oregon. Her heroes are hipster architect werewolves, housekeepers, maimed giants, and conflicted graduate students. They’re usually flawed, they often encounter terrible obstacles, but they always find love.
Kim’s novel Brute was the 2013 Rainbow Award Winner for Best Gay Fantasy and tied for fourth place for Best Gay Novel.
After having migrated back and forth across the western two-thirds of the United States, Kim calls the boring part of California home. She lives there with her husband, her two daughters, and her day job as a university professor, but escapes as often as possible via car, train, plane, or boat. This may explain why her characters often seem to be in transit as well. She dreams of traveling and writing full-time.
 Author's website


My review:

4 out of 5 stars

 This adult gay paranormal romance series is filled with memorable characters who are different from the stereotypical ideas of paranormal or fantasy creatures. The stories span the gamut from demon to vampire to Dr. Frankenstein's monster to shapeshifters to magic wielders, but they're tied together by a connection to the Bureau of Trans-Species Affairs. The leader of the Bureau is an enigma who seems to have more resources and plans than he is willing to reveal, not to mention powers that he hoards. 
I am frequently a little confused about what particular decade the story is taking place in, but I am immediately drawn into each tale and disappointed when it ends because I want even more. I enjoyed getting glimpses of Southern California through some of the characters' eyes, and it is so much fun to see characters from the other stories cameo. I think Edge is one of my favorite characters, but I connected to all of these guys, and I definitely want to see more stories that feature all of them. 
Those who have triggers should be aware that there are very dark events that shape some of these characters, but their journeys are inspirational, and one can't help but cheer their ability to overcome adversity. I look forward to reading more stories by this talented author.

A copy of these titles were provided for review

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Mrs. Murray's Home by Emily-Jane Hills Orford (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

Emily-Jane Hills Orford


GENRE:   Middle Grade Fantasy



Home is where the heart is, or so they say. It’s also been said that a home is a person’s castle. But home is also with family and friends. Mrs. Murray longs for home, the family home, a castle an ocean away. The Brownies also crave for home, the same castle Mrs. Murray considers home. And Granny? Mary’s Granny hasn’t been home since she was Mary’s age. It’s time to visit the homeland, Scotland. Mary’s excited to tag along with Granny, Mrs. Murray and the Brownies. And then there’s the witch. The one they thought they’d killed. And the treasure. The one they had found. And it all ties together, for better or for worse. Join the adventure in book 3 of the popular “Piccadilly Street Series”.



Yes, she was going to Scotland. It was a dream of hers to visit Scotland, the land of Brownies and grand storytelling. Her Granny was born in Glasgow and spent her early years visiting family in Kinross and at Blair Castle, the home of the Murray clan chief. That’s where they were headed: Blair Castle. Granny was taking Mary and their collection of Brownies, and, of course, the ghost, across the ocean. They were flying. Mary’s first airplane ride. Mary’s first visit outside of Canada. Mary’s first visit overseas. A lot of firsts. It was all very exciting.
The Brownies weren’t convinced. Neither was Mrs. Murray. And she was the ghost. They all wanted to go. It was their home. Or, at least it had been their home a long time ago. But flying? That was unnatural. It went against the laws of physics. It went against the laws of their magical powers, too. It was one thing to conjure up a spell and become invisible, or to grow bigger like Brunny did the first time he met Mary. Scared her, too. But that was months ago and the two were now fast friends.

“I can’t go,” a voice sobbed from somewhere underneath the growing piles of unpacked clothes. It was Briddie. “I just can’t go. Flying? No! I can’t!”

“We must, Briddie.” Brunny appeared near the folded pyjamas, Mary’s favorite pink ones.

“There is so much we have to resolve. And I want to see our cousins and Pelly’s son. Perhaps they have grandchildren. I want to know. Don’t you? Don’t you want to connect with our family and friends?”

“Yes, Brunny. But flying?” She peaked out from underneath the pyjamas. “I can’t go inside a metal cavern and allow it to take off into the air, thousands of feet off the ground. Once inside, there’s no escape. We’ll be stuck. Inside. Forever.”

“Just eight hours,” Mary interrupted. “And it’s overnight, so we can sleep the whole time. We’ll be there first thing in the morning.”

“No! No! No! It was bad enough getting on that boat and floating out into the deep, blue ocean. But flying over it? No! I can’t! I just can’t.”

Mary stood there watching the exchange. It was actually a little comical. This couple were the bravest people she had ever met, considering all their past adventures. They really weren’t people, though. They were Brownies. Little people. They lived between the walls and underneath the floors. Magical little people who once called Scotland their home. And they were old. Extremely old. Mary wasn’t sure how old, but they all talked of things they did three and four hundred years ago.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

An avid gardener, artist, musician and writer, Emily-Jane Hills Orford has fond memories and lots of stories that evolved from a childhood growing up in a haunted Victorian mansion. Told she had a ‘vivid imagination’, the author used this talent to create stories in her head, allowing her imagination to lead her into a different world, one of her own making. As the author grew up, these stories, imaginings and fantasies took to the written form and, over the years, she developed a reputation for telling a good story. 

Emily-Jane can now boast that she is an award-winning author of several books, including Mrs. Murray’s Ghost: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 1 (Telltale Publishing 2018) which was named finalist in the 2019 N.N. Light Book Awards, Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 2 (Telltale Publishing 2019), Mrs. Murray’s Home: The Piccadilly Street Series Book 3 (Telltale Publishing 2020), Queen Mary’s Daughter (Clean Reads 2018) which won the 2019 N.N. Light Book Awards, King Henry’s Choice (Clean Reads 2019), and several other books. A retired teacher of music and creative writing, she writes about the extra-ordinary in life and the fantasies of dreams combined with memories. For more information on the author, check out her website.

Social Media Links:



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The tour dates can be found here


My review:

3.75 out of 5 stars

Mrs. Murray’s Home by Emily-Jane Hills Orford is part of ‘The Picadilly Street’ series and continues the story of young Mary, who is traveling with her grandmother to Scotland. Travelling with her Granny, their Brownies, and Mrs. Murray, their family ghost, they visit the family home, Blair Castle. Unfortunately, the reunion is not going to be the happy homecoming they anticipate, because things are not the way they should be, and who knows what it will take to find a way for them to join forces.

This children’s fantasy story features a brave young girl who has learned to accept fantastical creatures and surprisingly helpful ghosts. It’s possible to read this as a stand-alone but I think it would probably be better to have read one or two of the previous stories, so that one is more familiar with the Brownies, Mrs. Murray the ghost, and their intricate relationship with Mary and the rest of her family.

The airplane trip from Canada to Scotland is a novel experience for everyone, but the Brownies are very amusing (and not worried enough about discovery, lol) travelers. There are plenty of Gaelic names that Mary has evidently become adept at pronouncing, despite her fondness for using nicknames instead. Things are a little confusing for me, since the Brownies have their own hierarchical struggles going on, but evidently no contact with their relatives across the sea. There are magic and spells and multiplicities of Mrs. Murray ghosts, and intervention by someone who I don’t understand remaining in the background for so long if that kind of power was available.

This is a fun imaginative story that blends folklore, magic, and ghosts. There are occasional odd shifts in points of view for those who are concerned with such, and I’m bemused at the thought of getting into a car with someone who has no idea how to drive yet is being taught on the fly, lol, but there are plenty of entertaining elements and I am sure Mary will continue to have more exciting adventures with her unusual friends and companions.

A copy was provided for review

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Garden pictures

Two tomato plants...the cherry tomato plant (to the left) is fruiting and finally ripening.

 I finally got around to breaking off some of the stems yesterday, so it's not QUITE so bushy. Did you know you could put the stems into soil and get them to root? Peel off all of the flowers and most of the leaves first, so the energy goes to rooting at first.

Strawberry plant in gray circle at lower right, iris in brown thingy at lower left.

As you can see, I use all kinds of pots and whatnot, because I'm always sticking something in the dirt to get it to grow. The gray circle around the strawberry plant is the top that broke off a is great for helping keep the fruit off the ground.

Red multi-bloom amaryllis


Collard green trees (and bird of paradise flowers)

sweet potato (or yam, I forget which is which)

Swiss chard

ivy geranium

Little Finger carrots
I'm not a big fan of carrots, but my best friend is, so I tried these out. The first time, I harvested a bit too early, so I pulled up nubs, lol. I have learned to gently dig down around the carrot and feel its diameter and depth. Good to plant in relatively loose soil, so they are able to grow easily.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Sellsword’s Oath by Gail Z. Martin (VBT, guest post, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT

It is my pleasure to share a guest post by author Gail Z. Martin, who shares thoughts about...

Fusing Hobbies and Writing

By Gail Z. Martin

I owe it all to ScoobyDoo, Dark Shadows and Supernatural.

Well, and a lifetime of reading books of regional ghost stories, following paranormal investigators on TV and the internet, and scouring every account of monsters and cryptids.

And my grandmother’s subscription to Fate Magazine, which I’d grab a stack of and read when we visited when I was a kid.

Plus a penchant for loving to wander through historic cemeteries, restored historic homes, and museums—especially the weird collections.

Oh, and an undergraduate major in history—with an emphasis on the Medieval era.

So really, I’ve been training all my life to write epic and urban fantasy about magic, restless spirits, monsters, and brave heroes with special abilities. They say, ‘write what you know’. The weird spooky stuff—that’s what I know, what I’ve been drawn to since I was a little kid.

Everything I write, regardless of the sub-genre, has supernatural elements—some type of magic, monsters, occult rituals, ghosts. That’s the kind of stuff I love as a reader, and those sorts of tales come naturally to me. Writing them makes me happy, and I absolutely love the research that goes along with it.

I’ve seen other authors do the same with something they love—whether it’s sports, a craft like knitting or baking, or dogs, birdwatching, or a region of their country, etc. Many readers are what I call ‘sneaky learners’—they want to learn something new in addition to enjoying a story. So if a series hinges on a particular theme—like scrapbooking, specialty coffee, horse racing, or NASCAR—readers may enjoy the opportunity to discover new trivia and get an insight into a new slice of life. That’s especially true in genres like cozy mystery and romance.

Your hobbies and life-long interests are a chance to bring a unique flavor and voice to your characters and stories. That’s something that makes your books stand out in a crowded marketplace. It means that the stories may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that they’ll attract the interest of people who already like those elements or are open to something new.

Weaving your genuine interests into your writing also makes the process more enjoyable, because you’re now doing two things that you like—writing, and learning more about your hobby. That brings an authenticity and passion to your writing that can’t be beat!


Assassins of Landria series, Book 2

 Gail Z. Martin


GENRE:   Fantasy



Buddy flick epic fantasy! The second in the Assassins of Landria series from the award-winning, bestselling author of Scourge: A Novel of Darkhurst and The Chronicles Of The Necromancer books!

Wandering mystic Yefim Makary, known to his followers as the ‘Witch Lord’, disappeared before he could be accused of inciting dissent against King Kristoph. His supporters among the disenchanted aristocrats who weren’t arrested have fled or died by their own hand. The king is happy to put the matter behind him. Yet Burke, the commander of the elite King’s Shadows, doesn’t believe the threat is over, and he assigns his two most troublesome, rule-breaking—and successful—assassins to ferret out the real threat and put a stop to Makary’s plots.

Joel “Ridge” Breckinridge and Garrett “Rett” Kennard rose through the ranks of the Landrian army together, from teenaged conscripts to seasoned fighters. Together, they became the most feared team of assassins in Landria, surviving longer that most in their profession by virtue of excellent fighting skills, legendary bravado, peerless strategy, and an uncanny synchronicity.

As the threads of a new plot come together revealing disloyalty among the priests and generals, Ridge and Rett once again find themselves on the run, hoping they and their allies can figure out the Witch Lord’s latest scheme before it costs them their lives—and the king his throne.



The trick, when setting off gunpowder, was to be far enough away.
Ridge had never been good at that part.
He’d almost reached the embankment when he heard the shot from Rett’s matchlock. Knowing what was about to happen next, Ridge dove into the ravine, taking his chances with brambles and thickets over flying rocks and shattered glass.

Behind him, the country manor exploded in a fireball as Rett’s shot touched off the barrels of gunpowder on its roof. That would bring down the ceiling and blow the bombers on the roof sky high while trapping the traitors inside, where they’d either be killed by the blast or buried in the rubble for the king’s guards to collect.

Ridge grunted as he tumbled over roots and rocks, tucking his arms over his face and trusting his leather cuirass to take the brunt of the hits. Even so, rock dust settled like snow over the whole area, and small bits of stone pelted like hail.

To keep it all official, Ridge had nailed the letter of marque to a tree in front of the manor, after he had ensured that no one but the smugglers were inside the abandoned country house. The smugglers—and their rivals on the roof—were already in the process of setting explosives when Ridge and Rett arrived to carry out the assassination. That was a bonus, killing two sets of troublemakers in one swoop and without the personal danger of getting close enough to throw a knife or slit a throat.

He trusted Rett to stay in position, where he would be able to pick off stragglers from his vantage point high in a sturdy tree. Ridge dragged himself to his feet, brushed off the worst of the dirt, and climbed back up the slope. Once he got to the top of the embankment, he would have a good view to spot anyone who might have escaped the explosion and eluded Rett’s aim.

“Damn,” he muttered when he reached the top and saw the results.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Gail Z. Martin writes epic fantasy, urban fantasy and steampunk for Solaris Books, Orbit Books, SOL Publishing, Darkwind Press, and Falstaff Books. Recent books include Witch of the Woods, Sellsword’s Oath, Inheritance, and Night Moves. With Larry N. Martin, she is the co-author of the Spells Salt & Steel, Wasteland Marshals, Joe Mack and Jake Desmet series. As Morgan Brice, she writes urban fantasy MM paranormal romance including the Witchbane, Badlands and Treasure Trail series. Recent books include Loose Ends and Unholy.

Find her at her website, on Twitter @GailZMartin, on, at her blog and on Goodreads

Never miss out on the news and new releases—newsletter signup link. 
Follow her Amazon author page 
On Bookbub.
And get a free complete short story, Catspaw, here.

Join her Facebook group, the Shadow Alliance.



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The tour dates can be found here


My review:

3.75 out of 5 stars

Sellsword’s Oath by Gail Z. Martin is part of the ‘Assassins of Landria’ series. This tale features partners Ridge and Rett, who are elite assassins who serve King Kristoph. They are still hunting those who would destroy the king, particularly the Witch Lord. Their assignments are just as perilous as usual, since they have few colleagues they can depend on for support, and their forbidden talents could wreak their own destruction. Fortunately, they’re used to depending only on each other, and they’re adept at finding their own allies, unconventional as they may be, so perhaps they’ll muddle through without destroying too much of the kingdom…or themselves.

This fantasy novel is a fun addition to the sword and sorcery genre, and reminds me of why I enjoy tales by authors like Violette Malan or Michael J. Sullivan—that camaraderie and absolute partnership, bravery in the face of insurmountable odds, and the ability to think on one’s feet and adapt to the sometimes very eerie obstacles one encounters. I haven’t read the first volume in this series, so it was a little awkward to figure out the basis for some of the challenges the duo is facing, but there is enough backstory to orient the reader, although I definitely still have questions.

I love the opening scene that shows that, although not perfect, the pair gets the job done and trust each other completely. The allies that the duo are accumulating definitely give a nice twist to the story, and the glimpses of magic and tradition are fun, although I am still puzzled about the antipathy for magic that seems counter to the number of folks who apparently want to wield it and the king whose position seems to be cemented by it. For me, the antipathy toward the central pair is a bit confusing, and although I know it supports the “us against the world” aura, it seems illogical in light of what they accomplish. Perhaps the first book (or future sequels) will clear things up for me.

Those who enjoy exciting adventures of epic fantasy and buddy tales will undoubtedly find this story entertaining and should enjoy this prolific author’s contribution to the genre. I admire the multitude of stories available in her various universes and look forward to even more of her exciting tales.

A copy was provided for review

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

WInning Her by Amber Malloy (Spotlight, excerpt, review, and GIVEAWAY) GFT ADULT title

Winning Her
Perfect Stats, Book 1

ADULT title 
Amber Malloy


GENRE:   Sports Romance



In the span of a year, Bane Carter acquired a new job, his brother’s four kids, a crappy nanny and, worst of all, his ex-wife. What could possibly go wrong?

Rule number one—never help an ingrate! Ignoring that hard-learned lesson put Dahl Baby Hamilton straight in the path of her famous ex. All she has to do is save her cousin’s failing restaurant, First Down, then she can go back to her fabulous life. But the main financier—Bane Carter, her ex—finds out and decides to make her life a living hell. Either she becomes the personal chef for an ailing house manager, one neglectful nanny and his four charges or risk having her reputation ruined. What’s an award-winning chef to do when her sexy ex-husband is blackmailing her?

The only black GM in the league, former football hero Bane Carter has his work cut out for him. It’s bad enough that he has to navigate around a dysfunctional team, but the recent passing of his brother and his wife have given him full guardianship of their kids. On top of all that, the last thing he needs is to bump into the woman who broke his heart at the worst possible time—the beginning of his career.

After two failed marriages, Bane realizes he has always been searching for the one who got away the first time. Of course, he doesn’t expect to find her in the same city, let alone cooking in his restaurant.

Reader advisory: This book contains references to a seriously mentally ill parent requiring a minor to take on a caring role. There are implied references to suicide via gunshot. There are also references to sex work, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape, and scenes involving sexual harassment, violence and burglary.



From the minute Dahl Hamilton had stepped into First Down’s kitchen, she’d worked nonstop. Tasked with fixing the failing restaurant, she’d barely seen the inside of her fabulous downtown loft, let alone her sweet, sweet bed. After having labored in the kitchen for more than two months, she was finally seeing all her hard work paying off.

The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, among other publications, had awarded First Down stellar reviews. Since the papers had hit the newsstands, customer attendance had shot up by more than fifty percent. If everything worked out, she could leave before autumn to work on more personal projects.

As Dahl topped off the dessert plate with her ‘D’ embellishment, the incessant ringing of someone’s cell caught her attention. That was a definite no-no in the kitchen. She requested the name of the offender.

“Marco!” the kitchen staff of twenty screamed in unison.

“You know the deal.” Before Dahl plated one perfect, mouth-watering slice of tiramisu cake, she pointed at the fine jar. The funds went toward their holiday festivities. At this rate, First Down’s Christmas party would be one for the history books.

“Smaller cuts,” she advised her assistant at the next station over. The restaurant had a full house, so the staff needed to move fast to keep up. During all the chaos, she found time to teach the newbies a trick or two. “Use your wrist. No one wants to bite a chunk of onion on their first date.”

Breaking her signature snicker-cookie in half, she placed it on top of the whipped cream ruffle.

“Hello, Dolly. I wanted to make changes to the menu.” The office manager, Beth, breezed into the kitchen. “Can we talk out back?”

She slapped the woman’s hand away before she could grab the leftover half of the cookie. “It’s just ‘Dahl’…and no.” She’d taken this consulting gig to help out her cousin. Nothing in the fine print read that she had to take orders from their idiot manager.

“We can’t go outside—or we can’t change the menu?” she asked in that snooty, superior tone.

Dahl handed the dessert off to the server and faced Beth. “To both… It’s no to both.”

“But Melanie told me to tell you—” Dahl held up her hand to kill the twit’s whining. She didn’t have the time. Instead, she went back to the orders. Soon the team would be able to catch their own mistakes. Busy checking the tickets against the meals, she missed the hush that fell over the kitchen. The usual clanging of pots and silly banter flipped into a strange vacuum of silence.

“Why are you here?” His deep, steely voice sent tingles up her spine. Dahl gazed at the six-foot-seven wall of well-dressed, muscled sexy.

Against her will, she smiled. “Hi,” she said.

Better looking than any action star, Bane’s good genes were wasted on football, in Dahl’s opinion. He should have gotten out years ago, but nope… Little boys grow up to be big men with dreams that become everyone else’s nightmares.

“Once again, why are you here?” Bane Carter asked. Her ex-husband smelled amazing.

“That’s a loaded question, Mr. Carter. I’m going to need an assist.”


“Maybe rephrase…” She wiped her hands on her apron and leaned against the counter. “Are you asking why am I in Chicago, why am I in the restaurant or why am I still breathing? The throbbing vein in the middle of your forehead is screaming that it’s the latter.”

Stepping closer, he filled in the space between them. “Pick one through three,” he growled.

Unable to hide her nerves, she laughed. The attack of childish giggles overwhelmed her. It often happened at the most inopportune times and she couldn’t help it. His handsome face went blank before he abruptly turned and walked away. As general manager for the Mavericks football team, Bane probably didn’t get challenged very often—or most likely ever.

He turned and left, as quickly as he’d come. Dahl sighed. After all these years, she’d thought she was over him. “Okay, everyone, back to work!”

“Was that Bane Win—?”

“Yep,” she cut off her sous chef in an effort to deter any more questions.

“Did anyone notice how fast Bad-management Beth dipped out when he came in?”

The team laughed—but Dahl didn’t join them.


AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Amber Malloy dreamed of being a double agent but couldn't pass the psyche evaluation. Crushed by despair that she couldn't legally shoot things, Amber pursued her second career choice as pastry chef. When she's not writing or whipping up a mean Snickers Cheesecake, she occasionally spies on her sommelier. Amber is convinced he's faking his French accent.



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My review:

3.5 out of 5 stars

Winning Her by Amber Malloy is the first book in the ‘Perfect Stats’ series. This adult contemporary romance features Bane Carter, general manager of the Mavericks football team. Not only does he have to deal with the stress of butting heads with the various elements of his team, plus a failing restaurant he’s invested in, but tragedy has conferred four bereaved children into his household. Who knew that his ex-wife, chef Dahl Baby Hamilton, would be his salvation…if only he can convince her to stay.

I like that this story features two driven professionals who care about their careers yet still consider family important. The implications of being a person of color in today’s society are touched upon in various venues, although I wasn’t quite clear about whether that was one of the issues with respect to the high school student. The story flowed a bit jerkily for me, and I was often puzzled about the outcomes of some of the many issues that are touched upon, particularly with respect to folks who either don’t do their job or who betray their responsibilities. I wish some of the characters had a little more depth, but I hope that subsequent stories give a little more insight into them.

There are sizzling interludes between these two stubborn main characters, and I enjoyed the second-chance romance. Those who enjoy romances with elements of sports and cooking, plus the entertainment (and headache) that comes from interacting with kids, should consider giving this story a try.

A copy was provided for review