Brigham’s Recommendations – “Double Dutch Courage” by Helena Stone

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Sudden changes require great bravery. Can both men find the courage to be true to themselves and each other?

Blurb

Ronan Collins has spent most of his life in Dublin hiding who he really is. Coming out would hurt his mother, and Ronan isn’t going to be the second gay man to do that. When he receives news the father he has never known has died, leaving him both a house and a business in Amsterdam, he jumps on the opportunity to get to know the man who fathered him and to discover what he’s been denying himself for years.

Lucas Brandt thought he had it all when Paul Kelly offered him a job and rooms to live in. With Paul deceased he fears he may be about to lose both. He didn’t even know Paul had a son, and now this stranger is on his way from Dublin to pull the rug out from under Lucas’s feet.

The two men don’t expect to like each other, never mind feel attraction. With numerous reasons why hooking up would be a bad idea, why does giving in feel so much better? And is Ronan’s back story really as he’s always imagined it to be?

Excerpt:

Ronan seemed to search Lucas’s face for something, then lowered his gaze until Lucas was convinced he was staring at his lips. He mused that the sunshine had to be getting to him as the afternoon took on a dreamlike quality. Ronan licked his lips, the tip of his tongue tempting Lucas, teasing him. When Ronan leant forward Lucas wondered what was happening, whether he was imagining things. Surely Ronan wasn’t about to —

The soft press of Ronan’s lips against his elicited a sigh from Lucas. He would have been embarrassed about his reaction if he hadn’t been lost in the moment. It was the second time Ronan had taken him by surprise in this manner, except on this occasion he didn’t appear to have any intention of pulling back.

With so many reasons why this was the worst idea ever, it didn’t make any sense that the overriding thought running through his mind was more.

He cupped Ronan’s neck, keeping the pressure light, barely there. Ronan reacted as if Lucas had used force and pressed his lips firmer against his, parting them in the process.

Lucas was helpless against the onslaught. It had taken him days to stop obsessing about Ronan’s mouth after that quick, shy kiss a week earlier. There would be no coming back from this. He had no doubt he would end up hurt. Even as he had the thought, Lucas parted his own lips, slipped his tongue through the gap and tentatively caressed Ronan’s mouth.

“Oh.” Ronan’s soft exclamation meant his lips parted farther and Lucas took advantage. Fuck being sensible. Fuck worrying about tomorrow, or next week, or six months from today. He was here, now, and the tongue hesitantly exploring his was nothing like what he’d expected and everything he wanted it to be.

The kiss transported him back to his teenage years, to the first boy he’d ever kissed. Clumsy and with clashing teeth, it had been as awkward as it had been exciting. Pretty much as it was now, except this time it didn’t make sense.

He pulled back until the tips of their noses were the only parts of them still touching. Ronan’s lashes fluttered before he opened his eyes. They widened and he lowered his gaze.

“That bad, eh?” Ronan directed his words at the grass beneath their knees.

“Not bad.” Lucas tried to figure out what to say. Not sure what he was reacting to, he didn’t know which words to use either, so the truth would have to do. “It just brought back a memory of something I hadn’t thought about in ages.”

“Oh?”

Ronan still wouldn’t look at him and Lucas didn’t like it. He lifted Ronan’s chin with his index finger. “It reminded me of when I was fourteen and me and Hans, my best friend back then, decided to find out what the big deal about kissing was.”

“It was like your first kiss?” Ronan still tried to avoid meeting Lucas’s gaze.

“Yes.” Lucas smiled. He couldn’t believe Hans had slipped his mind. They’d done a lot of exploring together before Hans decided he was interested in girls after all. He got so lost in his reminiscence he almost missed the words Ronan muttered.

“Makes sense.”

It hit Lucas like a ton of bricks. Here was yet another reason why getting involved with Ronan was the worst idea ever. If he was right, he would be Ronan’s first in everything. The thought that Ronan’s inexperience might include kissing hadn’t crossed his mind until this moment. He wasn’t sure he could make that journey with Ronan without getting emotionally involved. He had to know for sure.

“I’m your first?”

The combination of shame and defeat Lucas read in Ronan’s expression tore at him. He didn’t need an answer. He also didn’t need to think about what to do next. Yes, he would end up getting hurt, but he’d deal with it. It wouldn’t be the first time or, in all likelihood, the last. He could be Ronan’s first and make it a good, a memorable, experience.

“I want to be your second, too.” He didn’t wait and pressed his lips back against Ronan’s before he could respond.

 

 

Kopstootje Meme

 

Review: 

I’ll be the first to admit, I am totally biased when it comes to Helena Stone’s books. We’re friends. I was staying at her home in Ireland when I beta read “Double Dutch Courage”. But biased or not, it’s a wonderful story.

“Double Dutch Courage” follows Ronan Collins from Dublin to Amsterdam as he learns about an inheritance left to him by his absent father, Paul, and begins to take the first steps toward being open about his attraction to men. Lucas Brant, Paul’s business partner and flatmate, helps guide Ronan along that path.

The author deftly weaves in Ronan’s discovery of Amsterdam through the story and it plays such a large role in the book, it needed to be mentioned. It’s wonderful and vivid and makes me want to travel there (more than I already did)!

This is a quiet story. Ronan’s journey doesn’t have huge, wildly dramatic twists and turns, but the gently unfolding self-discovery is no less compelling. The attraction between them and the building relationship is skillfully done and you’re rooting for them as Ronan overcomes those final obstacles and moves forward into the kind of future he’s always dreamed of.

“Double Dutch Courage” has wonderful characters, a fantastic setting, and a sweet romance. What more could any reader want?

Buy Links:

Amazon

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This Changes Everything

 

I had a knot in my shoulder and zero motivation to do anything yesterday evening when my dad reminded me that we had plans to go see This Changes Everything, a film (based on a book by Naomi Klein) about climate change. I almost cancelled, but I am glad I didn’t.

My dad is an active member of the Sierra Club and they were co-hosting a film screening. I’ve seen plenty of documentaries—I’m as likely to binge watch PBS nature documentaries as I am a show like Breaking Bad or Family Guy—but this was definitely different than your usual film about climate change.

While I can’t say that the film itself will change everything, I think the ideas in it could if people would listen. It’s a rather different take on climate change and ties in with so many other frustrations that I know many, many people are feeling right now. The film focuses on how protecting the environment and building a better economy don’t have to be at odds.

Rather than using shock tactics and leaving you with a feeling of hopelessness, the film highlights changes that average, ordinary citizens around the world have made. I had heard about Germany’s massive switch to renewable sources of energy but had no idea that pressure from the country’s citizens was what was behind it. I had no idea that people in India had been able to block the building of coal power plants.

The film doesn’t claim to solve all the problems or give us a blueprint to change the world. But it does present a different way of thinking and I think if enough people considered it and took action, it could make a difference.

As for what I personally will do? I’m still mulling that over.

I do know that one of the highest compliments I can give a film or book is saying it made me think.  This film definitely did.

If you’re curious to learn more, and especially if you feel helpless and frustrated that there’s nothing you can do to change what’s happening in the world, visit the website, buy the book (or get it from the library), or find a nearby showing of the movie. It’s worth your time.

It’s worth everyone’s time.

Brigham’s Recommendations – “Falling for Ramos” by Sue Brown

Falling for Ramos by Sue Brown

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Summary:

A glimpse of a group of businessmen in a newspaper tells Colin Hess his old love, Alejandro Ramos, is back in London a decade after they split up.

They met by chance as students, when Colin was pushed into Ramos’s lap at a party. Despite the disapproval from Ramos’s parents, Colin and Ramos were inseparable from that moment and settled in their own place as soon as they finished university.

But when Ramos’s father fell ill, Ramos was forced to return to the family vineyard, leaving Colin behind. When Colin joined him for a holiday, the plans Ramos’s parents had for their son became painfully clear—and those plans did not involve Colin.

Colin knows it would be stupid to rekindle their old love after the devastating end to their relationship. Still, neither can deny that they still have feelings for each other from the minute they meet, and Colin learns the meeting might not be as random as it seemed.

Review:

For some reason, I’ve had “Falling for Ramos” on my tablet for a long while.  It must have been because I’m busy because I always enjoy Sue Brown’s work (adored “The Isle of Wight”) but something about the book called to me this morning and I devoured it without stopping.  Colin and Ramos were both wonderful characters, but Ramos?  *sighs* He was perfect.  Not as in “un-flawed” because he certainly had flaws and made mistakes along the way, but the way he was written was so utterly perfect.  He absolutely leapt off the page and I couldn’t help but fall for him too.  Colin was equally endearing and the depth of their connection was incredible.

Their path was rocky, and considering the way the time jumps and flashbacks happened it the story could have become very confusing.  But even without the handy date at the beginning of every chapter the author made it easy to figure out when the action was taking place.  It made for a beautifully layered story that all came together for a wonderful ending and I truly enjoyed every minute.  The journey the men take as they struggle to be together was wonderful.  If you’ve been thinking about reading this book, don’t wait another second!

Buy Links:

Amazon

Dreamspinner Press

Final Stop on the “Equals” Blog Tour – Rainbow Gold Reviews – Audio Excerpt

Today is the final stop on the Equals blog tour.  Marc, from Rainbow Gold Reviews, talked me into doing an audio excerpt.  Mind you, I hate listening to my recorded voice, so this was way out of my comfort zone.  But since that’s pretty much what my whole writing career has been, I figured I should plunge ahead and give it a shot.

Equals Cover 1 Final

Please go check out the audio excerpt on the blog and let me know what you think.  I’d really love your feedback on this.  And don’t forget this is the final chance to be entered in the giveaway!

Giveaway:

At each stop, one commenter will win their choice of a backlist title from me. In addition, one commenter in all of the tour will win a $10 Gift Card from Amazon. See the stops on the blog tour for more details.

“The French Toast Emergencies” Reviews

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I’ve gotten some really great feedback on this story lately and I wanted to share them with you!

Helena’s Heat blog reviewed

“All too often when I read short stories I’m left feeling short changed. The stories feel rushed, the characters underdeveloped or the ending disappointing. ‘The French Toast Emergencies’ had none of those issues. It was a complete and very satisfactory story about two interesting and likeable characters.”

Rainbow Gold Reviews blog also reviewed the story

 “…I loved how the events of the story pushed these likable men together. They felt real, acted real and it made their sweet romance so much more poignant. They weren’t just random characters, in just 45 pages they became friends and I laughed with them, felt my heart warm as they realized what they might have found in each other and totally believed their love story. I cared for them and with just a few pages that is an incredible achievement!”

GGR-Review  weighed in.

“This book was so sexy. Sexy as in how comfortable the characters were with each other, how easily they fell into a domesticated state. Sexy doesn’t have to be pages of penetrative sex, it can also be 2 guys getting to know each other from the simple touches and nudges to body exploration. Even trying to take a sneaky peak at the other through an opaque shower curtain. Brigham excelled at writing this, I pictured myself in the apartment on this ratty sofa playing footsie with my “boyfriend”.”

There was a review on Padme’s Library on Monday.

“Arthur and Samuel are wonderfully intriguing characters that I would have loved to read more about but the length, or lack-there-of, is definitely not a drawback.  I fell for both guys and the romance that sets in due to their weather triggered circumstances.  Definitely another great novella by Miss Vaughn.”

And today, Prism Book Alliance put up their review!

“I love seeing a well written, tight, and clean self-published story.  So often these days, I find self-published to lack the quality I seek when I am paying for a story.  I was very pleased to see Vaughn, however, stays far away from that trap.”

No time for me to get a swelled head at all of the great feedback though, there’s too much writing to be done!  And, if you haven’t checked out the story yet, what on earth are you waiting for?