Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Constant Soldier by William Ryan - A Review

Bookclub read
390 pages


1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut - a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who - against all odds - have so far survived the war.

When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.

But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope - for Brandt and the female prisoners - grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.

And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . . .

My thoughts

Well. Wow. I’m not sure where to begin. This book took my breath away. I expected the faultless, gorgeous writing before I even opened the book. William Ryan hasn’t let me down in that respect yet. The fact that the story gripped me from the start and didn’t let me go, even when I wasn’t reading, didn’t come as a surprise either. But I think the author surpassed himself here. As much as I admired and adored the Captain Alexei Korolev stories (and wouldn’t mind seeing more of them), The Constant Soldier hit me harder and will stay with me for much longer.

This book is almost deceptive. It appears to be a quiet, inwards looking tale about a man coming to terms to what has happened to him: his disfigurement, the loss of love, being forced to fight in a war he didn’t believe in while representing a regime he abhorred. The tension creeps up when he recognises the love he’d thought lost forever near his home, and manages to get a job at the SS rest hut where she’s forced to work. You worry about him and his desire to rescue her and the other women imprisoned there. You worry about the SS-er in command, who doesn’t appear too stable, and you really worry about Peichl who doesn’t think twice before shooting and killing those he sees only as expendable.

And then the story switches to a different perspective. The Russians are coming. And you know that the second half of the book you’re reading is going to be a heartstopping adrenaline rush, a dilemma between wanting to rush ahead to see how it ends—doubting that it could possibly end well for all of those who deserve an escape from the violence—and savouring every word because they’re so very well written.

This story is stunningly nuanced. Sure, we are introduced to more than one true monster and witness humanity at its worst. But we also get to see the other side. Those who were only victims, despite officially belonging to the ‘right’ side of the political status quo. And those who clung to their humanity with all their might, despite the odds being stacked against them, the world falling apart, and the fact that not being as cruel as those around them could easily put their own lives at risk.

A few of the characters in this book are burdened with an overwhelming sense of guilt. Brandt carries a heavy burden of guilt about what has happened, what he has had to do, despite never having been a supporter of either the regime or the war, and more or less having been forced into military service as a result of his acts of resistance. This leads to him taking risks in an attempt to atone for what he perceives to be his gravest sin. For Neumann it means hallucinations and an ever increasing sense of hopelessness. These two men, more than any of the other characters in this book, show us what is so very easy to forget when we think about the second World War; not every soldier was a blood thirsty monster. Many just got caught up in the madness and tried to stay alive while doing as little harm as they possibly could in the process.

This doesn’t mean that the author tried to make this period look less horrid than it was. The cruelty is always present in this book, sometimes in obvious, almost glaring ways, and at other times hidden under a thin veneer of studied civility. Because evil comes in many guises, from outright cruelty to just not caring, and wilful blindness. But the other side of evil is always present, if at times barely perceptible, portrayed by those who did what good they could in the face of odds stacked against them.

While Brandt is the main protagonist in this story, it was the women who truly shone for me. The strength and determination of both the women prisoners and Polya, the Russian tank driver holding her own in a world of men and violence, was as glorious as it was through-provoking. It did make me wonder whether or not I’d be able, whether or not I’d find that strength within me when faced with impossible odds. And I can’t help hoping this is a question I’ll never have to answer.

The writing in this book is excellent, stunning even, causing me to stop reading occasionally, just to appreciate the sentence or paragraph I’d just read.

“The change from one year to the next was a time to take stock and to look forward, but Brandt had the sense that people wanted the calendar to stop still at the end of nineteen forty-four, for the future to remain unknown and for the past to remain hidden.”

As dark as this story was at times—and how could it possibly have been anything else, given the subject matter—this is, ultimately a story about perseverance and hope, leaving the reader optimistic, despite the darkness that dominated so many of the pages.

“He was still soft, that was all. Even after everything. And that was good.”

Long story short: This is a book for my extra-special list and I highly recommend it.

Screwing the System by Josephine Myles - Release Blitz

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK  

Length: 228 pages 

Cover Design: Harper By Design 


When Boss meets brat…

Forced to apply for a job he doesn’t want, Cosmo Rawlins has only one aim in mind: fail the interview and get back to making music. But his attempt to shock the sexy, sharp-suited Alasdair Grant has a very different result.

Instead of getting thrown out of the office for flaunting an interest in BDSM, Cosmo finds himself on his knees, apologizing to the most dominant man he’s ever met.

Alasdair has more important things on his mind than training a novice sub, especially a rebellious bad boy like Cosmo. But there’s something beneath the youngster’s bratty attitude that fascinates him.

As Alasdair takes Cosmo in hand—and for a wild ride on his Harley—he becomes obsessed with bending the young rocker to his will, both in and out of bed. But while Cosmo might enjoy the kink, he’s not up for becoming Alasdair’s household slave.

When Alasdair goes one demand too far, Cosmo is gone in a cloud of dust. Forcing Alasdair to admit that earning Cosmo’s loyalty—and love—will involve the toughest challenge he’s ever faced.

Warning: This title contains an overbearing Top with a less than glamorous job, a rebellious brat who refuses to call him sir, and a total lack of high-end BDSM clubs or playrooms. Expect floggings over the kitchen table instead. Written in Jo’s usual exceedingly “English” English.

NB. This book is a re-release.


Cosmo crossed his ankle over his knee and began humming. It wasn’t deliberately to annoy the blonde chick behind the reception desk. No, he’d had this tune buzzing around in his head ever since waking, but what with having to come along to this interview for a piece-of-shit job, he hadn’t had a chance to get it down yet. That was why he couldn’t hold down regular employment, see? It wasn’t laziness or stupidity, no matter what his old teachers might have said. Nah, he was just one of those creative types. He’d told that to Irene—she was his advisor at the Jobcentre. He’d told her he was looking for jobs that would utilize his musical skills. She’d said, “In High Wycombe? Dream on, Cosmo,” and told him he had to put down a wider range of acceptable jobs or she’d bloody well do it for him.

In the end, she had started to arrange interviews for him, which explained why he was sitting here, waiting to be interrogated about his suitability as a “sanitary disposal operative”—in other words, the poor sod who had to go around emptying bins in ladies’ toilets.

Fuck that.

The skinny bloke who’d gone in before him loped out of the shuttered office and hightailed it across the lobby to freedom. Cosmo sighed and popped a stick of gum into his mouth. Fresh breath, see? It looked like he was making an effort so he’d get brownie points, but chewing gum during an interview was guaranteed to piss off pretty much every manager out there. As was asking how many cigarette breaks you got per hour.

“Mr. Rawlins?” the blonde chick called. “Mr. Grant will see you now.”

Cosmo stood and smoothed down his black drainpipe trousers. He even had a well-ironed shirt and tie on. Thing was, he’d discovered that on him, the smart clothes and grade-two haircut made him look less like a good little worker and more like a thug. He’d probably get a job as a bouncer if that was what he was going for—not that he had the intimidating build or anything, but he looked well hard, what with the couple of scars on his chin and the one across his eyebrow from fighting off angry closet cases, plus he could do a mean stare if he felt the need.

But he had other tricks up his sleeve too. Quite literally. Cosmo massaged his sore wrists and headed on into the boss man’s office, giving Blondie a huge grin on the way. She smiled back, all coy-like. Barking up the wrong tree there, love.

Mr. Grant, on the other hand… There was a tree he wouldn’t mind barking up. Or climbing up, more like. He was huge and had to be old enough to be his dad, which wasn’t actually all that old, seeing as how his dad was only fifteen when he got his fourteen-year-old excuse for a mother up the duff. But this wasn’t some fat old geezer with white hair bristling out of his nostrils. Mr. Grant wasn’t big like that. He was built like a bricklayer, all broad chest and shoulders bunched with powerful muscles. It was obvious, even with his body covered up by the fancy suit, he spent time down the gym.

“Cosmo Rawlins,” the boss-man said, holding out a huge hand, which swallowed up Cosmo’s in a warm and firm handshake. What a grip. Cosmo had all kinds of naughty thoughts about where else he’d like to feel a hand like that and wondered whether getting a boner in the interview would be something this Mr. Grant would report back to Irene. Best not take the chance. “I’m Alasdair Grant. Please take a seat.”

Usually these things were done across a desk, but Mr. Grant didn’t seem to need the prop to boost his ego and had a load of comfy chairs arranged around a giant coffee table at one end of his office. The man was clearly doing all right for himself. Cosmo could have fit the entire ground floor of his shared house in there and still had room to swing a cat in. Not that he believed in cruelty to animals or anything.

“Nice place you’ve got here,” Cosmo said as he settled into the chair indicated.

“Thanks. It’s taken me a decade to build this company up, but we’re now the largest sanitary services operation in the South East.”

Cosmo tried not to look too impressed, but it was bloody difficult not to when faced with the sight of Alasdair Grant seated across from him, like a stern George Clooney with that handsome face, cropped salt-and-pepper hair and designer stubble so thick it was bordering on beard territory. He had these sharp grey eyes fixed on Cosmo. It was unnerving, sitting there with the bloke looking at him like that.

Was Boss-man checking him out? Yes, definitely, but Cosmo was buggered if he could tell if it was purely a professional assessment or if there was a more salacious interest lurking in his gaze. Alasdair Grant didn’t have a wedding band, but Cosmo wasn’t going to read too much into that.

“So, Cosmo, has your advisor at the Jobcentre let you know exactly what the job entails?”

“Emptying rag bins in the ladies’ lavs, as I understand it.”

Boss-man gave this pained smile and leaned forward a little. Shit, it felt like he was looming over Cosmo, despite him being the other side of the coffee table. “That’s certainly an element of the work, but it’s a more responsible position than that. We provide a full replenishment service for all disposables, like paper towels and hand soap. We also empty and top-up the vending machines, so there’s a cash-handling element. You’d be in charge of one of our vehicles and acting as a frontline representative of Sanco Solutions at all times.”

Cosmo tuned out the words Boss-man was saying and just enjoyed the sound of his voice. There was this deep bass rumble to it that made him think those lungs must be huge, but that was overlaid with a melodic timbre not all that many speakers had, and there was a smooth, easy rhythm to his speech. Shit, he could listen to him for hours. Cosmo found himself tapping his foot and drumming his fingers along with his words. Gave him ideas for inserting a rap in the middle of the new song. Some UK Garage or Grime stylings, maybe. Would that work? The rest of the band would hate it. Rizzo especially, which made it doubly appealing.

“Mr. Rawlins. Am I boring you?”

That made him snap his head up. “What?”

“You looked like you were lost in music.” Boss-man stared pointedly down at his fingers.

“Oh, that. Sorry, it’s just habit. I’m a musician, see, and I can’t help it. I find inspiration everywhere.” Actually, this was good. Playing the flaky-musician card put off most employers, but he didn’t normally get a chance to until the bit at the end when they asked him if he had any questions.

“A musician? What do you play?”

“Guitar, and I sing too. I’m in a band. ScarDue, we’re called.” How much longer he’d be a member, he didn’t know. They were currently experiencing a bout of creative conflict. In other words, the rest of them were content playing cover versions of alt-metal hits in local pubs, whereas he wanted to experiment with crossing genres, come up with a completely original set and go places.

“Should I have heard of you?” he asked.

“I doubt it. Not unless you make a habit of hanging out down the White Horse on open-mic night.”

“Can’t say I do. The White Horse… Is that still a bikers’ pub?”

“Kind of. More emo and goth kids these days, but there’s a few bikers still hanging around. Freddie’s mates.”

“Freddie Henderson? Is he still the landlord?”

“Yeah, you know him?” Cosmo couldn’t imagine the two of them moving in the same social circles. For a start, Freddie had a shaved head, handlebar moustache, and the rest of his body was pretty much covered in tattoos and black leather. Alasdair Grant, on the other hand, was corporate establishment through and through.

Boss-man got this weird expression on his face. Fond? Yeah, it was that, but there was something more. Something kind of hot, like he was remembering sexy good times.

Author Bio

English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.

Jo’s novel Stuff won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Bisexual Romance, and her novella Merry Gentlemen won the 2014 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Romantic Comedy. She loves to be busy, and is currently having fun trying to work out how she is going to fit in her love of writing, dressmaking and attending cabaret shows in fabulous clothing around the demands of a preteen with special needs and an incessantly curious toddler.

Twitter: @JosephineMyles

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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Vodka & Handcuffs (Mary’s Boys #2) by Brandon Witt

Mary’s Boys #2
Novella / 112 Pages
Release Date: April 26, 2017
Publisher: Dreamspinner

The blurb

Vahin Arora, Hamburger Mary’s sexy bartender, plays the flirtatious role so well even his closest friends—his chosen family at Mary’s—don’t realize Vahin hasn’t had a hookup in months. Then Tall, Dark, and Handsome steps through the door, and Vahin’s libido races back to life.

Being a black cop on the Denver police force is no easy job—Marlon Barton can’t imagine adding being gay to the equation. And while Marlon loves his work as an officer, his life has taken a turn for the hellish because of his new partner, the nephew of a senator.

Fleeing his partner’s company one night, Marlon stumbles into Mary’s for the first time… and wakes up with a hangover in the bartender’s bed. The one-night stand heats up into a budding romance, but not without stress as Marlon’s partner’s actions threaten Vahin’s livelihood and Marlon’s future on the force. Can Vahin and Marlon face the challenges and hold on to the love, friendship, and family they’ve found?

My thoughts

Vahin and Marlon—give me a moment while I sigh and smile. I fell so very hard for these two men. They are far from perfect which made them all the more human and loveable in my eyes.

In fact, this whole story felt real to me. The issues Marlon and Vahin have to deal with aren’t a figment of the author’s imagination. Brandon Witt didn’t have to exaggerate in order to provide drama in their lives. It breaks my heart that people face this sort of prejudice every day of the week and that, unfortunately, the situation appears to be getting worse these days. Being a black cop isn’t easy. Add being gay to the equation and Marlon pretty much risks becoming an outcast in the job he loves. And it isn’t any easier for Vahin. Having already been rejected by his birth family when he came out as gay, he now suddenly finds himself in a society where his cultural background is viewed with suspicion.

Kudos to Brandon Witt for writing a story dealing with all those issues, without this book ever turning heavy or preachy. But the opposite is true too; he never diminishes the problems Marlon and Vahin encounter and the resolution to a very sticky situation was both realistic and perfect. In fact, it is safe to say that for me the balance between issues, angst, and love-story was just about perfect. Not to mention that Vahin and Marlon and rather hot when they get together and naked.

But, as much as I loved Marlon and Vahin in this book and Darwin and Cody in Nachos & Hash, it is the whole extended community of Hamburger Mary’s that has stolen my heart. The bonds between them and the loyalty that ties them together is what gives these story the ultimate feel-good vibe. I’m well and truly hooked and can’t wait for my next opportunity to visit Mary’s Boys.

Related review: Nachos & Hash

Images purchased through 123 RF

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

A Good Neighbour - London Lads #3 by Clare London

Buy Links: Dreamspinner | Amazon US | Amazon UK 

Length: 18,825 

Cover: Tibbs Design


A London Lads Story

A secret affair can’t go on forever.

Dylan Philips admits it himself: he’s a relentlessly single man in a small suburban town, both proud of and resigned to being a good teacher and a devoted nephew to his mischievous great-aunts.

When the aunts take a hand in matchmaking him with Josie Whitman, the girl who lives along the street, Dylan doesn’t tell them what kind of soul mate he’s really looking for—and the fact that he’s already found the man in question. It’s not Josie who’s travelling from London every month to her town property, but her journalist brother Neal. And Dylan meets up with Neal whenever he can.

But decisions must be made for their future. Dylan is risk-averse to everything from overseas travel to coming out, whereas Neal embraces adventure—and now he wants to take Dylan with him.

Horrified that his chance at love will move even further out of his reach, Dylan realises it’s time for him to own up to what kind of man he really is. He needs to find courage and compromise. And who knows whether the great-aunts will be a help or a hindrance with that?

First Edition published as A Good Neighbor by Amber Quill Press/Amber Allure, 2009.

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A Good Neighbour was a good, sweet, hot, and often funny delight of a story, in which the secondary characters, aka the great-aunts, shone as brightly as Dylan and Neal did. Having said that, as much as the two ladies made me smile and laugh out loud, I couldn’t help but be impressed by Dylan’s patience in the face of them interfering in his life.

Dylan himself triggered a variety of reactions in me too. I went from finding him adoring, to commiserating with him, to wanting to slap him, and back to adoring him again. I loved the care he took of his two aunts, and how he took their eccentricities in his stride. I was however less charmed with his reluctance to be true to who he was, and what’s more, to the man he obviously loves.

While we don’t get to know Neal as well as we do Dylan, I did love what I saw and wanted to give him a standing ovation when he made a surprise announcement towards the end of the story (sorry, that’s all you’re going to get out of me on that front).

These two men are hot together. Given that their circumstances mean that they spend a lot of time apart, the heat they generate when they do get together is off the scale. Witnessing Neal and Dylan taking care of their pent-up desires was a delight and a very special treat.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this story, I can’t deny that I wouldn’t have minded if it had either been longer or had given me a better insight into what exactly was going on in the heads of Neal, and especially Mitzi and Bess.

Just like Chase the Ace and How the Other Half Lives, the first two London Lads novellas, A good neighbour was a well written, thoroughly entertaining and captivating story that kept me flicking through the pages while smiling and left me satisfied when I reached the end. Clare London never fails to make her men come to life for me and I'm delighted we haven't reached the end of the series yet. I can't wait to read the next story.

“’Bloody hell’, he said. He looked over at the aunts. ‘You see why I call him my home?’
‘And you,’ I said, refusing to look away, my voice starting to waver. ‘And you are my adventure.’”

Author Bio

Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant. She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.
Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.
All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello! 

Website | Blog | Facebook | Facebook chat | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

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Friday, 14 April 2017

Imagines (Imago #2) by N.R. Walker - Review Tour

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Imago (Book #1): Amazon US | Amazon UK


Imagines is the Latin plural for Imago, and the only thing better than one metamorphosis, is two.

Jack Brighton and Lawson Gale have been together for six months and are very much in love. Lawson’s work ensuring the survival of the Tillman Copper is demanding as ever, and Jack’s work with the regeneration of the bushfire-ravaged national park is just as hectic.

When Jack suggests they take a short trip, Lawson agrees. But then he is offered a two-week research position in tropical Queensland to help determine why the Ulysses butterfly is on the decline. Figuring they could combine work and pleasure, Jack and Lawson go on their first vacation together.

Working alongside renowned professor Piers Bonfils isn’t easy. But personal and professional differences aside, Lawson is offered a more permanent role in Queensland. Torn between his new life in Tasmania with Jack and a dying species of butterfly he feels compelled to save, Lawson has to decide where his fate lies.

But fate changes the rules. On a research expedition into the depths of the rainforest, suddenly it's not only the butterflies’ existence that hangs in the balance

A butterfly’s life cycle never changes. From larvae to imago, their course is plotted by design. Jack and Lawson need to determine where they stand, if they live through it. Because the only thing more incredible than one imago is two.

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‘When you were explaining to me what imago was, I kept thinking it was just like you. You’d shown me your true self, and Lawson, it was a remarkable sight.’

Before I say anything else I’d like to stress that you really should read Imago before turning to Imagines. Not that you couldn’t read, follow or even thoroughly enjoy this story without reading the prequel first, but you’d be doing yourself a huge disservice. Individually these books are wonderful, taken as a whole they give us a fabulous, heart-warming, and utterly charming reading experience I’m unlikely to forget anytime soon.

‘Six months ago, I was intrigued, bewitched even, by this butterfly man. Now I was in love with him, impossibly so. Impossible because there was no going back from this. I was a changed man. My heart belonged wholly to him, and I knew, without a doubt, it always would.’

Just as Jack finds himself bewitched by Lawson, his butterfly man, I found myself enthralled by these two men together. Their story in this books picks up six months after Jack and Lawson’s adventures in Imago and not only are our two men still going strong, they are at least as endearing and perfect together as they were in that first book. If there is anything marring the perfection of their union it’s Lawson’s reluctance to move in with Jack, not because he doesn’t want to be with him but because he doesn’t want to rush their still developing relationship.

The thing I probably love most about both these stories is that in a (romance) world where often the relationship itself is the angst producing factor, the connection between Jack and Lawson is never in any doubt. These two men are meant to be together, know it, and are determined to make things work whatever way they need to; even if it means over a long distance.

Of course there’s nothing like a near-death experience to put life and relationships into perspective. To say my heart was in my throat when Lawson (once again, how can a man be so accident prone?) found himself in a situation that might well mean the end of him, would be a gross understatement. Thankfully it all led to my eyes filling with happy tears while reading the last two chapters, which were, as far as I’m concerned, utter perfection.

Not that this book is all angst and fear. Far from it in fact. The story brought me a delightful combination of (mild) angst, fun, suspense, romance and sexy times. Jack and Lawson have the sort of relationship all of us strive for, their family and friends brought extra depth to both the story and my understanding of both men, and the story itself drew me in and didn’t let me go until I’d reached a happily ever after I completely believed in.

In fact, once I finished reading Imagines my first impulse was to forgo my usual review and just write a thank you note to the author. N.R. Walker  has, once again, produced a book that might as well have been written to my personal preferences and specifications.

‘In entomology, we have a term we call imagines. It’s the plural of imago. And if imago is one butterfly reaching its full potential, then surely we, together, would be imagines. I will love and honour you, cherish and adore you for all my days, Jack.’

Related review: Imago

Author Bio

N.R. Walker is an Australian author, who loves her genre of gay romance.

She loves writing and spends far too much time doing it, but wouldn’t have it any other way.

She is many things: a mother, a wife, a sister, a writer. She has pretty, pretty boys who live in her head, who don’t let her sleep at night unless she gives them life with words.

She likes it when they do dirty, dirty things… but likes it even more when they fall in love.

She used to think having people in her head talking to her was weird, until one day she happened across other writers who told her it was normal.

She’s been writing ever since…

Where to find N.R. Walker

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Moments by RJ Scott - Release Blitz

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Length: 54,000 words


An actor on possession charges, hell bent on destroying his own life meets a man who quietly works to make the world a better place.

Jacob Riley is a typical Hollywood former child star with issues. He has already done prison time and at the age of twenty-six has been arrested again.

Ethan Myers is the owner and manager of Macs, an education center providing teaching and learning to local low income families. Losing his partner to cancer leaves him lost and alone and he buries himself in his work to start to mend his broken heart.

Sparks fly when Jacob has to complete his community service at Macs. Their relationship grows against a background of disenfranchised street gang members, arson, the Oscars, and despite their prejudices.

Can Jacob Riley be saved?

Chapter One

Jacob Riley slammed the door to the small conference room and stomped to the window to stare moodily at the bright, sunshine-filled day outside. He twisted both hands tight into his hair in frustration, wondering how the fuck this day had all gone to hell. His lawyers—his fucking well-paid lawyers—had said they’d get him off, not land him with some lame-ass probation, community service crap.

Four months, in some lame ass community program. Jeez, like he was going to be taught anything by cleaning streets or dealing with people’s trash.

The TV in the corner showed some trashy entertainment show, where a smug presenter was reporting the latest news on his case, live, embellished with words that made Jacob cringe. There were even experts on there talking about the child star gone bad. Experts in what? Character assassination, apparently. He tried his hardest to tune it out but it was nigh on impossible—it must have been the tenth time the clip of the sentence being handed out had been played.

The reporter continued, “The news of B-list actor Jacob Riley’s arrest boosted the audience figures for the half season’s finale of his show, End Game, to their highest point in eight months.”

Jacob huffed a sigh, he guessed that was one piece of good news to come out of this whole mess.

Then expert one repeated what he’d said already, “He’s been offered a lifeline in a county rehab program. He showed a lot of promise, and I think this could be a good thing for him.”

Jacob briefly thought of throwing his cell phone at the TV.

“Well you may be right there; his spokesperson said he’s concentrating on work and himself. What that means, we don’t know.”

“We wish him luck.”

The anchor turned to face the camera, that smug fucking smile back again. “Well, folks, here’s hoping Jacob Riley, one of TV’s highest earning actors, proves to be a recovering addict who actually turns their life around.”

Jesus Christ, talk about dramatic.

“The show is on a filming hiatus,” Samantha, his PA, replied carefully from just inside the door. “I’ve just got off the phone with your agent and the Network will delay your return to Game until you’re free to come back. Remember, with Christmas soon the way; we have some room to move here.”

Jacob spun on his heel. His quiet, calm assistant stood holding a clipboard, a cellphone balanced on top of it.

“Of course they’ll delay my return,” he summarized. The Network would be stupid to lose him; he was convinced of it. End Game was his show. Jacob’s character was pivotal, the star of the whole goddamned series.

“There was some talk of replacing you.”

“They wouldn’t fucking dare.”

Samantha smiled at him, but it was insincere and didn’t reach her eyes. She used to smile all the time, but for some reason, she’d stopped now. Then she pulled back her shoulders. “Your agent says you’re lucky you play a drug-taking manic depressive. Otherwise he swears they would have canned you today, no hesitation.”

Was she trying to make him feel better? “Sam, do I look like I give a fuck what my shit agent says?”

“You need—”

“I don’t need him to tell me I’m lucky; it’s the Network that is lucky. They push me off the show, and they’ll see their ratings drop overnight. No one loses Jacob Riley and sees their show survive.”

Resentment bubbled up inside him.

Samantha cleared her throat. “Look, Jacob, we have four months to get you into a program and complete your work through the community service,” she continued. Her patient tone measuring every word, talking to him as if he were a small child—he hated every syllable.

“No,” Jacob snapped, balling his temper and his dismissal of her into that one word. She stepped away from him to stand against the door. “Jacob—”

“I’m not cleaning streets; I’m not searching for rubbish or any of the usual crap they put celebrities through to humiliate us.”

“It’s not meant to be a humiliation. But it is a punishment,” Sam said, raising her free hand in an attempt to placate him. Her cell phone slid off the clipboard and tumbled to the floor.

Jacob listened, but what she’d said only served to increase his temper. He could feel the itch of addiction under his skin, and it terrified him. Although he would never admit it, he was out of control, and it was eating away at him.

In over a year, he hadn’t wanted a hit as badly as he did at this moment. Frustration and anger burst out of him with uncontrolled force. He crowded her against the door. “I don’t pay you to get up in my face, Sam,” he snarled.

“You’re scaring me, Jacob,” Samantha said firmly, backing as close to the wood as she could.

“You don’t know what this is like,” he shouted.

“Jacob. Please…” There were tears in her eyes, pain and real fear in her voice. Something in the simple “please” reached through his anger. What was he doing?

“Fuck,” he said tiredly. Half closing his eyes, he took a deep breath. It was the first time in their relationship he’d seen fear in Sam’s eyes, and it scared the hell out of him. Was she afraid of him? What should he say? How the hell could he—?

“Your father is waiting for you in the next room,” Sam said, but wouldn’t look him in the eyes.

Jacob went from guilt straight back to feeling aggrieved.

“Great,” Jacob stepped back, watching as Samantha edged away from him.

“Your dad just wants to help. He knows of this place you can go for the next—”

“He’s the one who turned me in!”

“He’s waiting, and there’s something else,” she said, this time with steel in her words. “I was going to leave this until after Christmas when filming ended, but there is no point now. You’re an asshole, and I quit.” Quietly, she turned her back and left the room, and he felt a moment of shock.

“What?” she didn’t stop. “Don’t come running back begging for your fucking job!” he shouted after her.

She didn’t even look at him, but he heard her words.

“I won’t come back.”

Her loss.

Frustrated, angry, and looking for someone to blame was not how Jacob should have gone to a meeting with his father, but he didn’t have a choice. The whole freaking world was against him, and none of this was his fault.

“I’ve pulled strings, son, and arranged to get you into a new type of program, something different. It has an original approach, and it’s very exclusive.” Joe Riley stood stiff and straight in front of Jacob.

Jacob slouched, arms across his chest, unwilling to show even the slightest interest.

“Yeah,” he said when his dad remained quiet.

“I’ve made a hefty donation to get you accepted. The only stipulation was that you are clean.”

Jacob looked into his father’s gray-blue eyes then shrugged. He’d heard all too clearly the question under Joe Riley’s statement, and hated him for it. A year—a damn year.

Joe closed his eyes and sighed. “Isn’t there something dramatic you feel you have to say at this point, Jacob?”

“If I thought you would actually listen to me—just once—maybe I would have something to say,” Jacob said.

“Are you?”

“Am I what?”

“Jacob, are you clean?” Joe asked.

“Fuck you, Dad,” Jacob snapped, “I’ve been clean for a year, and you damn well know it.”

His dad crossed his arms and shook his head. “No, I don’t know that. I know what you told your mother and me, and then I find you mixing with the same lowlifes you knew six years ago. What was I supposed to think? What was I supposed to do? Tell me, son?”

“Call the cops on me, obviously.” Jacob clenched his hands into tight fists at his sides.

“Do you think it was easy for me to do this, Jacob? Call the police on my son?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I do.” He’d long ago convinced himself that his dad had perversely enjoyed turning him in, and he chose to ignore the pained expression that crossed his dad’s face. “It kinda solves all those issues around having to maybe—I don’t know—talk to me instead?”

“You don’t listen.”

“No, Dad, you’re the one who doesn’t listen.”

Joe inhaled sharply as if he had been physically hit, and Jacob wondered how his dad was going to defend his parenting skills this time. “Think about your mother in this. What if you died? Can you picture her visiting a morgue, identifying your body, and seeing track marks on your arms? She cried so much over you last time and refused to let me get involved. But this time, hell Jacob we had to do something, had to stop you from self-destructing.”

Jacob tugged self-consciously at his sleeves, anger building inside him. He had been clean for well over a year. Why didn’t anyone trust him? He felt vulnerable for a moment, like a small child, and then he pushed that weakness to one side, resumed the role of aggrieved man he was playing today, and rolled his eyes.

“Now who’s being dramatic?” he spat. “I had the stuff in my car for a friend, didn’t mean I was using.”

“You know how it looks, and the police agreed.”

“You could have tried asking me why I had it on me.”

“And you wouldn’t have lied to us?” Joe asked simply, his voice calm. Jacob didn’t answer. He wasn’t going to rise to the bait. “This is your last chance. Take it. You could make something of yourself if you tried.”

Jacob inhaled sharply.

“So what the hell do you call two movies and a successful TV series? Nothing?” His parents had never liked that he had decided to pursue acting. They’d always made it very clear that they expected him to join the family construction firm. He’d endured several wearying years of forcing and badgering, but always knew what he wanted to do. He didn’t want to build skyscrapers and shopping malls; he wanted to act.

“It isn’t even about what you do anymore. You’re killing yourself. And I swear, Jacob, if you ruin this last chance, I will hold back every penny of your inheritance.”

“Not that shit again.”

“I mean it—”

“I make three million a movie, and ninety thousand for every episode of End Game. Seriously—you really think your money matters to me?”

“I swear every penny will go to your brother,” Joe continued, but Jacob had heard that threat before too, and it had the same impact as always—no impact at all.

“That loser?”

“Tell me, why is Micah the loser? He has a career, a wife, a great kid—your nephew. He has a life.”

“I’ve got a freaking career, Dad, and let’s face it—kids? That isn’t going to happen. I’m gay!” Frustrated, Jacob pushed his fingers through his hair and closed his eyes.

“I’m not arguing. This isn’t about some petty brotherly feud, or who is happy and who isn’t. You had every advantage—everything money could buy, every ounce of love your mother and I had in us. Son, please. This is your life, and your mom and I are desperate for you to see that! But you don’t seem to give a damn about it.”

“Well, maybe I don’t.”

“For God’s sake, stop being so damn melodramatic. As far as I’m concerned, we’re done talking. Go home and get some clothing together. Benjamin is outside. He’ll take you home, and then he’ll drive you down tomorrow.”

“And if I say no?”

“You can’t. I’ve pulled strings, but at the end of the day, it’s either this or you’re back in prison. This program is the only reason you’re not back there now.”


Author Bio

RJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn't with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn't like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.
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