Jeff mentions the books he released last week. The guys talk about some TV they’ve been watching, including EastSiders: The Documentary and 911 Lone Star. They also discuss the sneak peek they got of Charlie David’s GRL documentary and Jason T. Gaffney’s new project at Dekkoo.

Jeff reviews When Frankie Meets Johnny by Xio Axelrod and Triangulation by Gregory Ashe. Will reviews Avery Ford’s Trust Me and Believe Me.

Macy Blake talks with Jeff about The Chosen One series, which has its finale on February 4 with the release of Stop at Nothing. Macy also shares her plans to continue writing in the Chosen One universe, how much fun she’s had with it and what its earliest origins were.

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Show Notes

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Interview Transcript – Macy Blake

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Jeff: I am excited to welcome Macy Blake back to the podcast. Thanks so much for being here.

Macy: Thanks for having me. It’s really fun to see you again. I have missed you. I haven’t seen you in quite a while.

Jeff: It has been awhile. We’re excited to have you here to talk about a big finale you’ve got coming up.

Macy: I am so excited. This has been my passion project for the past year and a half – it’s called “The Chosen One” series and book five, the final book, is called “Stop at Nothing,” and it will be out on February 4th, so about a week. So we’re getting close.

Jeff: We’re going to have that exciting preorder in the show notes so that people can go grab it and be ready for it to drop into their Kindle that day.

Macy: And with an all new look. For readers who haven’t, who aren’t in my Facebook group, I have rebranded the entire series for the finale. So I’m revealing a whole new set of covers that we’ll be launching for all of the books in the series. So I’m very excited for that – everyone to get to see the new look and the new Sawyer, who’s the main character. It’s very cool.

Jeff: Those covers looked so good to begin with.

Macy: It’s really funny, you know, I’m like my quirky little self, but I was ready for something new. I found this concept that I was really excited about and I was sort of toying with it, maybe for the idea for a box set or, you know, something like that.

Maybe once the series was complete. And then my cover artist who has been my, one of my closest friends for almost 20 years, she said. You know, I have this idea for the final book. What do you think if, and it was the same idea, so I knew it was meant to be. I was super excited and I just let her go with it and, and it’s so beautiful.

I’m very excited for it.

Jeff: For people who don’t know. Tell us about “The Chosen One” series and what we’re leading up to here in the finale.

Macy: Well, that’s actually really difficult question to answer because it’s crazy spoilers.

And for anybody who is not familiar with me, I loathe spoilers, like it’s my least favorite thing. I don’t want to be spoiled. I don’t want to spoil anyone. But I do quite enjoy taunting my readers and teasing them quite, quite horribly. They call me the queen of edging. I like to tease everybody so much, but what I can tell you is that it is a poly romance where a human finds out about the supernatural world and comes to find out he has eight mates and they’re all paranormal creatures, and he has a special role to play – that there is a prophecy for the chosen one who is my main character, Sawyer, and he has to restore the balance of magic and the magical world. So the magic is broken and nobody knows why, but they’ve been waiting for this prophecy, for this chosen one, and his guardians to be revealed.

And now is the time and Sawyer has arrived. So he’s been through this journey now for the first four books of finding his mates and his guardians and getting all of the pieces in place and finding out the secrets in his past and what really is going on. And now we’re at the finale where it’s do or die.

He either has to fix it or he’s going to lose everything. So I’m wondering which way it’ll go.

Jeff: Having a romance at its core, I have an idea where it’s going to go, but you know, you could…

Macy: I do believe in happily ever after. So, you know, I don’t think anybody has too much to be afraid of except for my best friend, Amy, because I’ve already promised her that I’m going to kill a character for her.

So, you know, hopefully it won’t be anyone else’s favorite character, but somebody has to die just so I can torment my best friends.

Jeff: And if that person is your favorite character, listeners out there, just get in touch with Amy.

Macy: Yeah. It’s all her fault.

Jeff: You’ve had a great time writing these books, cause we’ve talked about it on and off since you started them. What is it about these that makes you so happy with them?

Macy: I think because it’s been a passion project that was building for a number of years. A lot of times I’ll get an idea and I write the book and then I published the book. And then it’s moving on to the next book. And you have the idea and you’ve got, and it’s almost like this, you’re just churning out the idea and then you don’t really get enough time to savor it.

This series has been something that… I had the idea for it many years ago, and I started gathering ideas. And I was doing all of this research. I had it all sort of plotted out, but it wasn’t quite right. And I just kept working on it and I kept building it. And whenever I was having trouble with the book that I was working on at the time, I would go open that notebook and I would start making notes and I would take things apart.

So it’s something that built all of the research and the world building had been years in the making. And so I had this incredible foundation of research and character ideas and plot points and that all right there ready. And I can’t tell you how freeing that has been just to have these ideas that I can flip through that notebook if I’m at a point where I’m like, I’m stuck for an idea, I don’t know what to do in this. Spot and I can flip through my notebook and I’m like, Oh, I forgot that I had this idea three years ago.

And you know, it’s made it a lot of fun to be able to put all of those pieces together. And I’ve never had a series like that before, in a world like that before, where I was just able to keep building it because I had been working on it for so long, just as sort of a passion project that I honestly never thought I would write.

And then one day I was like. The idea came to me and I’m like, that’s the answer. And it was that there were, all of the guardians were Sawyer’s mate. That was the actual point. And I was like, can I do that? That’s a whole lot of arms and legs to keep up with, but I just, I knew it was the right answer and I knew it was worth the risk to try it.

And so I started trying to write it and it just, I wrote 40,000 words of the first book in a week. So I knew, I knew, I knew that it was right and it’s just kept, it just kept going. I just love to dive into the world. And you know, the editing is, is less fun keeping up with all these arms and legs, but a whole lot of fun for the creative process.

Jeff: How has the series changed for you since you first started figuring all this out now to where you’re closing out book five? Did it end where you thought it would end or did it just keep

Macy: them morphing and evolving? They’ve known the end since the beginning. I knew what was gonna happen and how it was going to happen, and I have been very much surprised by some of the things that have happened on the journey that I did not.

No, there’s been a couple of characters that snuck up on me. I, for example, in the hell hound series, Nick, who is Sawyer’s older brother, I was not expecting him to be such a dynamic character. He was just going to be this sort of placeholder character that like filled this role that I needed. Sawyer needed a big brother character for, you know, as the story went.

And I wasn’t expecting for Nick to then have his own book. And so “Give Him Hell” is actually Nick’s story and I wasn’t expecting that to happen. So it’s, it’s pretty crazy that it’s that things like that have surprised me. But the actual plot of the “Chosen” books I’ve known from the beginning.

Jeff: Are you, I can’t remember. And I should, cause we’ve talked about this. Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Macy: I’m in the middle. I plot usually major plot points, but I don’t outline, I don’t go like chapter by chapter. I do sometimes once I’m really in the book, I’m in the midst of it. I’ll outline a little bit more.

But pretty much I like to see what’s going to happen, and almost always there’s chapters or things that happened in the book that I wasn’t planning. So pretty heavily pantser, or to be honest with you, and yet I’ve known a five book series, since I started writing it, I knew how it ended.

So plotter and pantser, I don’t know.

Jeff: You’re sitting right there in the middle somewhere, for sure.

Macy: I really am like, I do a lot of planning, but I don’t actually outline, so I like fall somewhere in the middle, I think.

Jeff: What is it about these books, do you think that’s resonated so much with readers? Because these had been quite successful.

Macy: I think that it’s that tale as old as time sort of thing where it’s the human who finds out about the paranormal world and has this grand adventure and you know, there’s really everything that you could think of would be in there. I’ve got dragons, I’ve got vampires, I’ve got, you know, wolf shifters. I have lions shifters, I have hell hounds. I have Dryads, the fae are in there. Pretty much, I’ve used world mythology and pulled in pieces from all the mythology that I’ve studied over the years and pepper it in there. And, I think that a lot of the humor resonates because Sawyer’s just, he’s kinda goofy and he, he’s just silly.

And he’s like, when he finds out that there are dragons, that his best friend is a dragon. He’s like, you know, he wants him to light his marshmallow on fire so he can make a s’more. And I think that readers really appreciate that. I think that they appreciate that humor because a lot of them would, would say. Yep. I can, I get that. I get that. That’s a good idea. You know? I think the humor, and I think that the idea that it’s all fantastic and just finding out the mystery. I think a lot of the readers have just been like on the edge of their seat, trying to figure out the puzzle and, and try to figure out the secrets. So I’ve been yelled at quite a number of times for some of the things that I’ve done, I’ve done to my poor characters. But it’s fun.

Jeff: You mentioned that the “Hellhound” series actually connects to this world. How did that whole thing spin off with “Hellhound Champions?”

Macy: It was, again, it was one of those things I was developing. Once I decided that Sawyer was going to have eight mates, I was working on that idea and in the meantime I was like, this is going to be a big universe. And I thought I wanted to write a hellhound book cause I, the only hell hounds that I had ever seen were from “Supernatural,” the TV show and they were scary creatures and I was like sexy creatures.

So I just thought it would be fun and I thought, I’m going to write some hellhounds for fun and then it’ll be great. That’s what I’m going to do that it’ll be fine. So I did that, and then it ended up being part of the universe and I was like, well, but Sawyer needs a character who can do this, and I happen to have these hellhounds who can do this.

And so I ended up writing at the same time I was writing “Chosen,” the first book. So “All or Nothing,” I realized while I was writing that. I had another story in my vault of story ideas where I had one of the main characters name was Henry, and that story had stalled and I had never been able to finish it.

So Henry ended up being the main character of Chosen. And he was one of the children in Sweet Nothings, which is the prequel to Chosen. And he had a powerful uncle in the book who was able to protect him, and that uncle became Meshaq the hellhound over the course of like three weeks of trying to fit a bunch of the different ideas that I had.

So it was like, it was all meant to be all of those things that I had started building in more. Was cooking in the background. In my mind it was like, Oh, it’s all the same universe. Okay. That makes it a lot easier

Jeff: And “Hellhounds” is now a three book series. You did co-write one of those too?

Macy: I did.

Yes. Casey and I have been. Basically writing buddies since I first wrote my very first book and when I wrote my magic, she was writing her first book under it. She was writing under a different name at the time, and so we, we’ve been together. For years, just we’ll pop online. How many words did you get today?

And so it was really fun. And Nick’s book is the one, and that character spoke to her and I was talking about writing his book and she was like, how I think this might be fun. Can we do it? You know? And I was like, it was the first time in several years that she had really been excited about writing.

She’d worked full time. And didn’t really have as much time to write, and so I was like, let’s do it together. So it was a lot of fun being able to write a book with one of my oldest friends, you know? She’s actually going to be launching a spin off series to the universe that she’s put her own spin on it.

So we’ll let you, we’ll keep you guys posted for when that’s going to be coming out. Probably at some point this year.

Jeff: Look at you creating a universe that other people get to play in.

Macy: I know. Only if you’re one of my oldest friends. Nobody else is going to get that.

Jeff: Is there more to come in “Hellhounds” at this point?

Macy: I haven’t decided that. That’s the trick question. I do have loose plans for a fourth “Hellhounds” book, but what I’m kind of torn over is that I want to use those characters in other books, in other series in the universe. So I’m debating whether or not to put out a fourth “Hellhounds” book or to put the hellhounds as main characters and one of the other spin off series that I’m creating in the universe, there will be more hellhounds and there will be more hellhounds love stories. I’m just not sure that it will be under the hell hounds series umbrella. Does that make sense? That explanation sounded very complicated.

Jeff: And you mentioned more spinoffs for “Chosen One.” What can you tease us about that?

Macy: Well, I have currently four new series started in the universe. I have plans to release two of them in 2020. For those of you who have read the hell hounds books, I have mentioned Nick multiple times. He’s been such a dynamic character and a fan favorite.

So, spoiler alert, Nick ends up being the guardian of a number of children. I’ll be very vague. So that I’m not too spoiler-y, but I thought that it would be a fun twist for there to be a little magical mayhem involved in those children finding their forever homes. And so the series is called “Magical Mates,” and there is some magical intervention involved to get these children and their parents there to help them find their parents, but to help their parents find each other as well. So those, I have two novellas that’ll be coming out in the spring, to start that universe. And just to see, I want to kind of see if people are interested in it. I think it’s, it’s fun, but you know, I want to see what my readers think about it.

And then the big series for 2020 is going to be “The Coven.” So “The Chosen Coven” we’ll be launching in May, I think. Not 100% sure when the first one is scheduled. I don’t remember. But, all four books in that series are planned for 2020. So that’ll be my big 2020 push is getting those four done.

So that’ll be the coven that has helped throughout the books. They are going to each get their own series. So yeah, they’re own. Tim’s excited. I’m excited about, I’ve already started working on them, so I’m like, I’m in the world of all the elementals and doing the elemental magic, and it’s a lot of fun.

Jeff: Did you see from the start in that notebook that this was going to grow to be so many books in such an interlocking universe? Was that the hope?

Macy: Honestly, it wasn’t even what I wanted. Like I, I had this idea that I would just churn out these, these sort of similar series, but with different sort of creatures and say that I could say, okay, well the mythology of the fae is so unique. How would if a group of fae be different from a pack of werewolves, I love that sort of differences. And then did they go, well, what would happen if you paired a werewolf with a fae? What would that, what would that look like?

And so a lot of my research that I did was really just like pulling in those pieces of, well, what about this, and what’s unique, and what’s something that I haven’t seen before. But then what are those tried and true tropes that I really love? And like all my werewolves have to have to be this certain thing or I, and so I didn’t think that it would be one giant universe.

I thought that I would write about my werewolf’s and one of them might have a fae mate. And then I would write about the fae. And you know, maybe it was the same group like family of fae, or the same realm, but it wouldn’t be really connected. That didn’t happen. At this point there are so many characters and there’s so many potential series that, you know, I already have my writing schedule through 2021 and it’s in this universe.

So as long as everybody keeps reading them, I’ll keep writing them cause I just have a lot of fun with it.

Jeff: You’ve already mentioned like six books coming this year, so I assume you’ve got another four to six out there in 2021.

Macy: Yeah. Then the ones for 2021 is another. It’s a smaller pack that is a made family. I won’t spoil it too much, but once you’ve read, “Stop at Nothing,” you’ll know who the main family is, but it’s the family that you choose. And so that’s going to be the stories of a family that you choose, and they’re going to be a little bit more of an adventure, you know, it’ll be a little bit more, a little bit of suspense in those.

So there’s a little bit more because you know, the Chosen, there’s plenty of danger in the Chosen universe, but I think there’s going to be a little bit more suspense to those the way they are feeling right now. But of course, I haven’t started writing those yet. Not even I’m that crazy to write that far out.

Jeff: And of course there’s always going to be a good HEA thrown in there too.

Macy: Oh yes. Always, always got to have your happily ever afters. And I think that’s what’s fun about this universe is when you have favorite characters, you never know where they’re going to turn up. There’s a character in the “Hellhounds” books that everyone really liked.

And over the course of the series, I was able to give him his happily ever after, and he makes an appearance in one of the “Magical Mates” books with his wife, and you know, it’s like you still get to see those characters and you get to see their journeys because they’re still part of the world. And it’s so cool.

It’s been so fun to do. And so when readers say, Oh, I really miss this character, I’m like, well, I’ll give him a little mention. Let’s check in on him. And so it’s been fun to be able to do that and not have to say goodbye, you know?

Jeff: Never had this long of a series slash universe before, but we see it happening all the time.

I mean, obviously Lucy Lennox has her massive universe and Charlie Cochet has her big universe. How’s it feel to be a caretaker of that sizable chunk of, of material?

Macy: It’s overwhelming. I have a lot of help. I actually killed the same character twice on accident, and so my readers actually figured that out for me.

I really didn’t like that character. I killed her twice. I fixed it. My readers actually caught it in, in the ARC form, and they were like, but did you kill her already? And I was like, I sure did. So it is a lot to keep up with and, but I have a big support system in place to help me keep it all together.

And I have a fantastic editing team who helps me keep track because it’s really hard when you’re dealing with this many characters, like, you know, just keeping their eye color straight. It just seems like so silly. But like that, I probably have, 150 characters in this universe at this point, just from all, even the little side characters, you know, that get barely mentioned.

But it’s, I have to remember them because they’re going to show up at some point, you know? So it’s, it’s a lot. But I’m loving it. I think it’s the kind of books that I like to read. You know, I was mentioning to somebody recently, Carol Lynne, her “Cattle Valley” series. It’s this great series about a small town and you can just go back and pop in and then you’re back in the town and you’re back with those characters. Then you know, you’re these guys, these guys are going to go out to dinner at the local restaurant and they’re going to be sitting at the table next to the characters from three books ago that you fell in love with, and there was something so inspiring about that.

I don’t remember how many books that series has in it, but it’s a whole bunch of books. It’s in the 20s possibly into the 30s it’s a huge series And I just love that. And I love being able to see those characters that, you know, you saw five or six books ago and now you get a mention of them and you get to see that they’re still happy.

And there’s something really special about that and it’s exciting.

Jeff: You put out another set of books, last year “The Triad of Magic.” Tell us about those books.

Macy: So it was really fun because these were actually the first books that I ever wrote. What started as pretty much a dare of sorts. A friend of mine, I know, right? A friend of mine and I read paranormal romance together, and we were always talking about the books that we were reading and he said, and he and his partner were raising a child and he said, I wonder what it would be like to have a shifter kid, like what would a shifter kid be like? And I was like, I could write that. And his birthday was coming up. So I wrote this little thing for him and I didn’t think anything of it. turns out that, you know, he really liked it and he was like, you know, you should get this book published.

And I was like, Oh, thanks. You’re sweet. I just, I’m glad you liked it. But he kept on at me and so I had them published. They first came out and 2012 and 13. I think the first book was 2012 and then the final book, I believe was out in 2013 possibly early 2014 and that was the end of it. And then, middle of last year, I ended up getting the rights back for those books.

And I was like, what am I going to do with him? Because my first book, they were like, my babies. I got to do something. And I had one of my Macy readers who happened to know both of my pen names and she was like, you should just put them out as Macy because your readers are gonna love them.

And I was like, can I do that? Is that weird? I talked to my readers about it and they were like, no, give us the books. So I did, I published my books under the first pen name that I, that I published under. I republished them as Macy. And that’s the “Triad of Magic.” It’s been so fun for those books that were like, like when you ask somebody what their favorite book is that they’ve written, you know, it’s sort of like that first book always has a really special place in your heart.

And that’s that world for me, that the mind magic. And that was my first attempt at this type of a universe. So it’s kind of funny to see now how far I’ve come in that, you know, nine years. It was really special to see that one, that those books still resonated and two to see that, yeah, now I’m writing this even bigger universe, and it’s just fun.

You know? It’s fun to see how you get where you are, where you’re at, and that was a great opportunity for me to be able to experience that with my readers.

Jeff: Do you think you’ll visit that series again?

Macy: I’ve sort of teased that I would try to figure out a way to like loop it into the “Chosen” universe cause everything seems to come back to that.

But I don’t think I am. I really did a lot of soul searching about it and I thought about adding another story to the end, but I like them the way they are. They’re special the way they are. And, I don’t want to touch that. Those were my first babies and I’m proud of them the way they are.

I want to leave that as I originally created it and not try to tinker with it. I think that it’s best the way I had originally intended. And, you know, I’ve got a lot to keep me busy, but I’m really tempted to write another one, but I just don’t think my heart says to they they were special for what they are and what they were.

And I need to leave that and, you know, leave it be okay. Yeah, I know how that goes. I felt, I’ve thought about it quite a bit.

Jeff: We’ve talked a lot about the future already. Is there anything else out there in the world of Macy Blake, we should be teased about?

Macy: There’s always stuff to be teased about in the world of Macy Blake, I think for, I like to give readers different experiences based on where they are with me. So if you are on my newsletter, you see things that you don’t necessarily see if you followed me on Facebook, and if you follow me on Facebook, you may not see things that are in my group. I try to give people different little short stories and deleted scenes, little shorts of characters that I don’t have a full novel idea for but that I know I want to give a little happily ever after to, I possibly have a couple of those planned for this year. I also have let’s, shall we say, deleted scene that’ll be coming up. That’ll be only for, if he followed me on either my newsletter or my Facebook group.

There’s a lot of like, secrets in my world that I, I love to give bonuses and teasers to people that my group has already seen the cover of the new series, the new launch, the rebranding, and they’ve also already seen, several scenes from the teasers scenes from the book. So, you know, that’s, I would say that’s the big thing for readers who aren’t following me, that you get the most up to date information.

And I do Q and A’s over there. I’ll probably do a Q and A or a Facebook live after the book launches so that I can answer questions and let people yell at me. All that death and destruction. Somebody’s gonna want to yell at me. That’s the thing about this world is you really don’t know what’s going to happen next.

One of my readers just reminded me it was actually only supposed to be four books, so “Nothing Gained,” wasn’t in the master plan. It was four books. I apparently am very long winded and had a lot of characters, and so I ended up having to squeeze another book in.

So “Nothing Gained” was a bonus that wasn’t part of the plan.

Jeff: And of course all of this leads to the obvious question of, where can people find you online so they can keep connected about all this good stuff?

Macy: Yeah. Your absolute best place to find me is in my Facebook group.

I check in there usually once a day, if not more than that. When I’m, when I’m not writing, I check in multiple times, but when I’m writing I limit it. My group is the place where people get to see things first. I also send out newsletters only when I have news to report.

So I send out when I have a new release or when something’s on sale and stuff like that. So if you’re a reader who only really wants to get like the news and you don’t want to see all the memes and all the, you know, fun dragon pictures and everything that appeared in my group, then that’s where you’re gonna want to be.

I did a poll this week – my readers picked the name of my next character. So my next main character, I let them pick the name of the character so that’s going to be fun. I am not on Twitter. Sad to say that I, I cannot keep up with Twitter.

I’m, you know, I am on Instagram as well. I try to post things when I’m traveling plus some fun little snippets. I’m a, I love Harry Potter, and so I go to Universal and the Harry Potter world. About once a month. And so I try to post some things from over there. So you know, all the usual, you’re not on Twitter everywhere else,

Jeff: We will link up to that in the show notes page so people can get on board to all of that. And especially so they can, you know, join you in the Facebook group perhaps as the new book comes out.

Macy: Yeah, that’ll be the place to be because we do spoiler chats and I do Facebook lives and Q and A’s and I really try to be present for my readers cause I know how important it is to, to have that connection.

And you know, when you want to ask questions, you’d want to know that your author’s going to, well, I mean, I’m not always going to answer it, don’t get me wrong. I do like to tease and I do like to talk, so he like teasing and taunting. Please feel free to come to my crew so that I can tease and taunt you

Jeff: Macy thank you so much for coming in, sharing the finale news with us.

Macy: I know there’s so much big news coming in, so exciting, and I can’t wait for everybody to see, you know, Sawyer and his mates and how they, how they deal with the big finale.

Book Reviews

Here’s the text of this week’s reviews:

When Frankie Meets Johnny by Xio Axelrod. Reviewed by Jeff.
When Frankie Meets Johnny has lurked on my TBR since I met Xio Axelrod back in July and got the book from her. I’m glad I finally got to this short story because I totally fell for this story about Philly DJ Frankie, who is a Scottish ex-pat, and John, a contractor renovating a studio at the radio station Frankie works at.

Initially Frankie bristles at having Johnny at the station. Frankie works the late shift and relishes the alone time to spin the records he loves for his audience. But, he gets why the work needs to be done overnight so he deals with it.

He’s not quite ready for John though–a gorgeous man who Frankie can’t stop looking at through the studio glass. John, who Frankie falls into calling Johnny or John Boy, is quiet, a bit mysterious and seems to carry the weight of the world on him. They form a cautious friendship as Frankie starts to play music based on John’s mood of the night. This is an interesting quirk of Frankie’s that I adored–he won’t take requests for specific songs, instead you tell him your mood and he’ll play the right songs.

The slow burn of Frankie melting away Johnny’s layers of defense was delicious. It started with music to fill Johnny’s nights at the station and it moved to the guys hanging out away from work–for lunch or a walk or at an event. There’s a piece of Johnny though that’s always at arm’s length and at times he’s downright mean about keeping his privacy. Frankie is tenacious though and continues to push to get to know this man who he’s so drawn to–more than he ever was with his ex Garrett.

These poor guys go through a helluva dark moment when Johnny suddenly leaves with no explanation–although it’s a really good one. Frankie still pines because he can’t shake Johnny–even as Garrett makes a play to get Frankie back. Of course, that doesn’t happen Johnny returns to bring the story to at least a happy for now… and if all goes well Xio will have more from these two to bring it to full HEA because I need more of these guys.

Not only did I love Frankie’s tenacity going after the man of his desires, Frankie’s love of music brought me into this story and Xio did an amazing job of writing it. As a teenager, I wanted to be a DJ–I had a mixing board from Radio Shack and loved making mix tapes with it so I could smoothly transition songs. I also love vinyl and truly miss it in this digital age. Xio created a radio station full of records, even though I think those are few and far between these days. Plus Frankie wanted to be a music journalist and that brought me back to what I’d originally wanted to do with my life–so there was some nostalgia of a sort wrapped up in this for me too.

Beyond all the music stuff, Xio is an ace with descriptions. I loved the vividness of it all–Frankie and Johnny, how the music made the guys feel, the places they went and how they moved with each other. There’s a scene where they are walking along a canal that it’s not only a super sweet scene as they get into some deep discussions on their lives but the description of the place and the body language of the guys was simply perfect..

I adored When Frankie Meets Johnny and I hope a sequel comes sooner than later and, in general, I look forward to reading more from Xio Axelrod as I’m hooked on the stroytelling!

Triangulation by Gregory Ashe. Reviewed by Jeff.
I picked up book two in Gregory Ashe’s Borileas Investigation series with Triangulation. No one’s going to be surprised when I say that I loved this book. I have a feeling that Greg can do no wrong by me. However…. He really pushed it on this one with the biggest cliffhanger of any of the eight books of his that I’ve read.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m okay with cliffhangers. I didn’t have a problem at all with what Layla Reyne did in the Fog City series. The Triangulation cliffhanger though knocked me for a loop and had me cursing Greg for a moment. Thankfully book three is already out so no waiting required–except for the reason I’ll get to in a moment.

There’s a lot going on in this book and I really get into the way Greg weaves many plots together to make an excellent whole.

First there’s the major case: Shep Collins runs a local LGBTQ youth halfway house. He used to run a conversion therapy center, but he left that behind we he finally came out. Now he’s married to a man, runs the halfway house and is prominent in the St. Louis gay community. But he goes missing and then turns up dead. Who did it and why? Was it revenge for his past? Something to do with money? Shaw and North have their work cut out for them, and they have no idea who they can actually trust because they actually seem to be working against the police. This is another twisty, turny Gregory Ashe mystery that was so wonderfully intricate. And, as usual, I didn’t figure it out.

For a break from all the heavy action, North takes on a case of why one local gay guy has been loosing brunch guests to a competing brunch. It’s a completely ridiculous scenario, but a welcome bit of relief as North gets to the bottom of it. This whole thing was hilarious because I could imagine it totally happening. The centerpiece of this is a cameo from Hazard and Somerset in a piece of business that comes after Criminal Past, which is the final book in the first Hazard and Somerset arc. It was great seeing these two in another setting and also a brief glimpse at Hazard’s past in St. Louis.

For the two detectives, there’s a lot going on besides the cases too. Shaw is having major flashbacks on his encounter with the West End Slasher and some investigating he’s doing solo has some unexpected turns. Plus his relationship with North evolves as North makes the right call to leave his terrible husband. North and Shaw are so broken in similar and different ways–not getting together in college has impacted them for years. Greg writes these complexities so amazingly well–in the way that they tackle their work, in their non-working times, when they’re trying to comfort each other and when they’re simply being asses. The banter and interplay between them is priceless. Shaw and North end up dealing with so much of their stuff here it’s amazing there’s room for other story, yet you can be sure it’s all balanced in a well crafted but messy package — and I mean messy in the best way possible.

The wonderful discovery of this book was Charlie David as narrator. I adore Tristan James in the Hazard and Somerset series and it’s great to find Shaw and North in such capable hands with Charlie. He nails it all and in particular that banter I mentioned as Shaw and North debate whatever the topic was absolutely fantastic. And here’s where the wait comes in–I’m going to have to wait for Charlie to get book three narrated (a little birdie told me he starts work on it soon) because now I must hear him perform these characters.

If thrillers and a slow burn love story with some messed up characters sorting out their lives and solving crime is your thing, you need these books! So I certainly recommend Triangulation and the Borealis Investigation series from Gregory Ashe.

Trust Me by Avery Ford. Reviewed by Will.
Trust Me is a terrific short read, the first in the Love in New York series by Avery Ford.

Nice guy Milo, who’s busy climbing the corporate ladder of a large-scale forestry conglomerate, is tasked with convincing a recluse in upstate New York to sell his land. Though this guy has rejected every offer, Milo drives into the mountains, confident he can close the deal. Milo’s trip takes an unexpected turn when an incoming storm causes an accident. Milo hits a burly mountain man trudging through the snow.

Jax is a little battered and bruised from his experience, but is okay once he’s able to rest in the cabin he calls home. It quickly becomes apparent that Milo, the cute city boy who hit him, works for the company that wants to buy his land.

It’s not an ideal situation, but since the storm has trapped them together in the cabin for the foreseeable future, Jax makes the effort to get to know the guy. Milo’s pretty great, despite who he works for.

They spend the night cuddled in the same bed, for warmth of course, and our heroes definitely heat things up. The next morning, neither of them has any regrets. As they talk, Jax realizes that Milo has no idea how the company he works for is destroying the forest. He shows Milo the nearby logging camp and the devastation they’ve left behind.

With the weather cleared, the road down the mountain should be safe enough for Milo to return to the city. If this is going to be their last night together, then Milo and Jax are going to make the most of every last second. And boy, do they.

In the morning, Jax wants to ask Milo to stay. But they have such different lives, wanting more is unrealistic.

Back in the city, Milo goes into work to tell his boss that the deal wasn’t made, and that he knows what’s going on up on the mountain.

Milo now has to decide what he really wants. A job in the big city, or a life with a sexy mountain man by his side.

Since this is a romance, Milo’s decision shouldn’t come as a great shock.

It’s no surprise that I really loved this book. Stranded in a mountain cabin is one of my all-time favorite tropes and Avery Ford uses it to great effect in this story. I also enjoyed the chemistry between Milo and Jax. In each other, they found something that they didn’t know was missing, which is something that I always enjoy reading – that special kind of romantic awakening.

If I were in the habit of swooning, I would definitely do it over these two and their irresistibly sexy/sweet love story.

Believe Me by Avery Ford. Reviewed by Will.
The last thing big, surly, and mostly straight bar-owner Drew Bryant wants to do is take part in a charity bachelor auction. But Alex, Drew’s brother, who is in charge of the event, reminds him that it’s all for a good cause. The auction will raise much needed funds for the LGBT center.

Nice guy Shane is looking forward to the charity event (his best friend is organizing it after all) and Alex asks Shane to bid on his brother, explaining how skittish Drew already is, and it would be just too damn awkward if Drew got up onstage and there were no takers.

The night of the big event, Shane gets in a bidding war for Drew and ends up winning the auction.

They make plans to go on their date the following night. Drew feels a little strange making plans with a guy, even if it is just a “fake” date. But Shane seems nice, and is awfully handsome, so what could go wrong?

As it turns out, absolutely nothing. The dinner date goes perfectly, and Drew finds that he is really into Shane, like really into him. So much so that he even kisses Shane goodnight.

After dropping Shane off at home, Drew decides that one kiss just wasn’t going to be enough, and texts if he can come over.

Shane says yes. They’re not sure what the chemistry between them means, but it’s not something that they want to deny.

Afterward they make plans for a real date, which goes even better than the first, Drew later spending the night with Shane and intimately exploring the crazy hot attraction that they have.

Alex calls up Shane to see how the date went. Unable to lie to his best friend, Shane ends up telling him just how well things have gone with Alex’s “straight” brother. This prompts Alex to have a serious conversation with his big bro. Alex, it turns out, is fine with whatever their relationship ends up being, he just wants to make sure that neither his brother or best friend gets hurt.

A relationship is exactly what Drew wants, just before Shane decides to call things off. Well, if they’re gonna break-up, then Drew wants to hear it from Shane, face to face. Explaining that it was just the fear of getting hurt, Shane admits that he is really into Drew. And since Drew is really into Shane, everything works out for the best. A short epilog shows our two heroes a few months into their new relationship. Their first date may have been “fake”, but the love that they share now is most definitely real.

Just like the first entry in this series, Believe Me is a terrific blend of sweet and sexy romance tropes, featuring two heroes who are likeable and relatable. Though they fall for one another pretty quickly, Drew and Shane’s love is believable and I’m so looking forward to the next book in this series. I have a pretty good feeling that it’s going to be Alex who finds love next, and I cannot wait!