Release Blitz: Boi Bride by Samantha Cayto #EroticRomance #Gay #EnemiestoLovers @pridepublishing @firstforromance

Boi Bride by Samantha Cayto

Book 1 in the Treaty Brides series

Word Count: 59,605
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 213

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
ENEMIES TO LOVERS
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
ROYALS

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Book Description


Being a bride is a state of mind, not of body.

The Kingdom of Moorcondia and the Marshlands have been warring for years. Now a treaty has been negotiated, but it needs to be sealed by a marriage between the ruling families. But the bride has bolted, leaving her brother, Taryn, to fill the role. There is nothing in the law of either country that says a bride has to be female.

Forced to dress in his sister’s gown and marry Soren, Taryn faces his fate with anger, resolve and frightening anticipation. While the Moorcondians are flexible in their sexuality, the Marshers are more prudish, plus Taryn has learned the hard lesson that an attraction to men is unnatural and wrong. His desire for Soren frightens him.

As a prince, Soren knows his duty and executes it without hesitation. As a widower, he looks forward to a new marriage, and his unexpected bride is very fetching. If only he can convince Taryn to put aside his fears and accept the pleasures of the marriage bed.

Taryn struggles to fill the role of a wife in the royal family, even as everyone else tries to adjust to the notion of a male bride. As the days pass, Soren comes to appreciate his bride more, and Taryn tries embrace his new role with enthusiasm instead of resignation. But politics is a treacherous place to navigate, putting their blossoming love in jeopardy.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of dubious consent, homophobia and attempted suicide.

Excerpt

“I won’t do it!”

The slap was delivered with less force than typical. Taryn didn’t even try to avoid it. He’d learned long ago that any show of fear only fed his brother’s cruel streak. Nor did he back away as Hobart leaned into his face.

“You will do as you are told.” Flecks of spit flew from Hobart’s mouth, the smell of beer wafting on his breath. Fury showed in his expression, testament to how desperate he must be.

Taryn tried to maintain his resolve over this order being suddenly thrust upon him, even as he knew he had no control over his own fate. “I can’t marry that man.” It was hard to believe he had to even say those words.

“You can and you will. It’s the only way the treaty can go forward. If our sister hadn’t run away to the nunnery, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.” Hobart’s gaze shifted to a spot somewhere in the distance, and his lip curled in a sneer. “She’d already taken her vows by the time I’d caught up to her.” He refocused his attention on Taryn. “A child of the chieftain has been promised to the Moorcondian prince. With Alissa gone, it’s down to you, as you are well past being a child.”

Taryn balled his hands in frustration. “My age is not the issue. He was promised a bride, not another man.”

Hobart huffed. “You do yourself too much credit. Truth be told, you’re more of a girl than Alissa ever was. Prettier, too.” His brother didn’t mean those words to be a compliment, and after years of such taunting, Taryn let them roll off his back.

“Tell that to the prince. You can’t hide my sex from him. He’ll see me for what I am even before he takes that frock off me.” He flung his arm in the direction of the maid who stood awkwardly with what should have been his sister’s wedding gown.

“Those fucking Moorcondians are a decadent lot. Men lie with each other all the time, I hear. The fuckers probably bed their horses, for all I know. And the wiseman has looked at their laws and ours. There is nothing that says a bride has to be female. I imagine the stupid princeling will find plowing your ass just as sweet as Alissa’s dried-up cunt—more so, likely. And I’m sure it’s a dream come true for you,” he added with a look of disgust.

Taryn again ignored the baiting and struggled to contain the tears that threatened to leak out. He was angry and scared in equal measure. The whole idea of his marrying the age-old enemy of his people was intolerable. He couldn’t blame his sister for seeking sanctuary from her fate. He was merely the unlucky victim of her self-preservation. She couldn’t have known what it would mean for him and probably wouldn’t have cared if she had. Their father hadn’t raised them to be generous with each other.

Taryn also had to admit that his brother was probably right about the Moorcondian prince. It was a very different society than his own—decadent, as Hobart had aptly put it. Their prince had ridden in with a colorful retinue and much fanfare. They were nothing like the earthier and frankly poor people of the Marshlands. Taryn couldn’t imagine how he was supposed to fit into such a world. Being the child of a Marsher chieftain mostly meant he had cleaner clothes and more to eat. His presence among the Moorcondians would be like a reed finch flitting around peacocks. If he’d been reviled by his own people, the Moorcondians would undoubtedly treat him with even more contempt.

This is so unfair! Railing against his fate out loud was worse than useless. If he put up any more of a fight, he’d be going to his own wedding with a black eye and split lip. Hobart was being restrained at the moment, likely so that Taryn would be as appealing to his groom as possible. Testing his brother’s patience would only end one way, however. He knew he was powerless in this, as with all other things. He’d learned to survive his family’s brutality, and he could cope with anything these foreigners threw at him. Besides, he’d heard that the opulent Moorcondian palace contained a vast library. If he were lucky, his new husband would give him the freedom to explore it.

That’s more like it. Finding some silver lining in any situation was what kept him sane. He would survive this misery as he had so many others. There was also some deep part of him that dared to be intrigued by the idea of being bedded by the prince, lending credence to Hobart’s taunt, though Taryn had snuffed that spark as soon as he’d become aware of it. Those kinds of thoughts weren’t to be tolerated. He didn’t want sex of any kind. Before Alissa had beat him to it, he’d been considering taking his own vows and living his life at the monastery. Anything would have been more appealing than living under the harsh judgment of his father and brother, plus he would have had time for scholarly pursuits. Now his future would be held by another powerful man—and one he knew nothing about.

There was no hope for it. Squaring his shoulders, he stared his brother down. “Very well. I will don that gown and greet my groom to be. If he rejects me, it won’t be my fault.”

Hobart’s expression turned as nasty as it got. “You’d better hope he doesn’t. The ceremony has already been delayed because you were off wasting the day away. If this treaty fails, I’ll stake you to the execution hill myself and revel in your slow death.”

His brother strode out of the tiny room Taryn had managed to call his own. Then he turned to the poor maid, who obviously wished she were anywhere else. He recognized the woman as the one who had served his sister. No doubt she was already frightened that she would be punished for her mistress’ escape. Certainly the guard who’d let her flee must have known tremendous regret the moment before Hobart had severed the man’s head from his neck. Taryn wouldn’t be the cause of trouble for her.

“Will that even fit me?” The pale green dress was trimmed with lace, luxurious for his people. But Anissa was a voluptuous woman. He lacked the essential shape to wear such a thing.

The maid gave him a shy smile. “I took it in this afternoon.”

So, others in our tribe knew my fate before I did. No surprise there. His father and brother treated him like a piece of furniture—and a useless one at that. It must have enraged them to realize that they needed him to seal the treaty, and bringing him into the discussion would never have occurred to them. He pushed back the hurt and took what little control he could. “I’ll need a quick bath.” He’d spent the day riding, mostly to stay clear of the Moorcondians, but he couldn’t go to his groom smelling like horse.

“Of course, sir. Leave it all to me.”

With his heart still lodged in his throat, and his stomach churning, he was happy for someone else to take command of the situation. The story of my life. I should never have been born to a powerful family.

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About the Author

Samantha Cayto

Samantha Cayto is a Boston-area native who practices as a business lawyer by day while writing erotic romance at night—the steamier the better. She likes to push the envelope when it comes to writing about passion and is delighted other women agree that guy-on-guy sex is the hottest ever.

She lives a typical suburban life with her husband, three kids and four dogs. Her children don’t understand why they can’t read what she writes, but her husband is always willing to lend her a hand—and anything else—when she needs to choreograph a scene.

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Release Blitz: Love to Hate You by Whitley Cox #EnemiestoLovers #RomCom #eroticromance @whitleycoxbooks 

Title: Love to Hate You
Author: Whitley Cox
Genre: enemies to lovers, marriage of convenience, best friend’s brother, road trip, forced proximity, romantic comedy, high heat, erotic romance
Release Date: March 12, 2022
She needs arm candy, he needs her insurance, but first, they need to drive across the country without killing each other.

Eli
Since the first day of kindergarten, I have hated Alexandra Hartford.
And twenty-something years later that hasn’t changed.
But she has.
She’s still a tomboy with a chip on her shoulder, but now she’s a hot tomboy with a chip on her tattooed shoulder who can fight like a badass.
I’d still rather have a bath with fire ants than spend ten days in a car with her, but she has something I need.
Once the deal is done, we can go our separate ways.
That is … if I want to.
Alex
Eli Evans is my nemesis.
He blames me for his sister’s death, our parents’ divorces, and probably global warming, too.
Why on Earth would I help him?
Because he’s as easy on the eyes as he is the bane of my existence and I need a hot date to a wedding in San Diego.
Can we drive across the country without me leaving him at a truck stop somewhere? I doubt it.
But, I’m willing to try.
Ten days in a car, a wedding, and a marriage of convenience, then I’m done with him forever.
Right?
“An irresistible blend of emotion, angst, drama, heat, heart and humor was super enjoyable and made this book a true delight to read.”
– Gladys (Goodreads Review)

“There was certainly some emotional moments in Love to Hate You and a few times where I was on the edge of my seat whilst reading. This book is a little gem and one I thoroughly enjoyed.”
– Erin Lewis (Goodreads Review)
“Their story is intense and poignant at times but it also has a lighter side to it as well. The authors words draw you into a storyline that holds hard and fast to your heart. Love to Hate You is an exceptional love story.”
– Kylee (Goodreads Review)
“The sexy times between them are nothing to sneeze at either: hot, steamy, sensual and drool-worthy. This book made me laugh one moment and cry the next.”
– Silke (Goodreads Review)

The sound of the curtain in her changing room being pulled open echoed into my changing room, so I made sure my dick wasn’t visible, then pulled back my own curtain. 

Jamie was zipping up Alexandra’s dress—the royal blue bandage strapless one—but she whipped around to face me when Jamie was finished. 

Her eyes widened, pupils dilated, nostrils flared. It was a primal reaction that I would have to be an idiot to miss. 

I had a primal reaction of my own—in my pants. 

“Holy fuck,” I breathed. 

She glanced away, but the smile that lifted one side of her mouth was dead sexy. 

“You’re getting that one,” I said. 

She smoothed her hands down the sides, turned on one foot, and glanced at herself in the mirror. “Yeah, I like it, too.”

“You can’t wear those two together, though,” Jamie said. “The blues are too close in color, but not close enough. If you know what I mean?”

Alexandra and I nodded. 

“He should just wear a dress shirt and maybe dark gray pants when you wear that dress.”

“I have dark gray pants in the room,” I said, hooking a thumb toward my changing room and a stack of pants on the bench.

I stepped out and away from my room to get a better look at myself in the mirror outside the changing rooms. “What do you think?”

“I think it’s a perfect fit,” Jamie said. “Doesn’t even look like you’ll need tailoring.”

Alexandra nodded. “Looks good.” I caught her checking out my ass and grinned, but when she saw me see her, her eyes whipped up to the ceiling as if a flock of geese had just flown overhead. 

“You guys got any brown wingtips?” I asked, focusing my gaze on Jamie. 

He nodded. “Sure do. Size?”

I glanced back at Alexandra and smiled as I said, “Thirteen.” 

I did not miss the flare of her eyes or the way they drifted down to the front of my pants. 

“Eyes up here, lady,” I said, catching her gaze back in the mirror. 

Startled, she ditched the surprised look and went with a glare before returning to her changing room and dramatically pulling the curtain closed again. 

“What is the dynamic of your relationship?” Jamie asked, glancing back and forth between me and the closed changing room curtain. 

“She’s my fiancée,” I said chipperly. “But she’d rather not be.”


A Canadian West Coast baby born and raised, Whitley is married to her high school sweetheart, and together they have two beautiful daughters and a fluffy dog. She spends her days making food that gets thrown on the floor, vacuuming Cheerios out from under the couch and making sure that the dog food doesn’t end up in the air conditioner. But when nap time comes, and it’s not quite wine o’clock, Whitley sits down, avoids the pile of laundry on the couch, and writes.

A lover of all things decadent; wine, cheese, chocolate and spicy erotic romance, Whitley brings the humorous side of sex, the ridiculous side of relationships and the suspense of everyday life into her stories. With single dads, firefighters, Navy SEALs, mommy wars, body issues, threesomes, bondage and role-playing, Whitley’s books have all the funny and fabulously filthy words you could hope for.
HOSTED BY:

SPOTLIGHT: Forever Yours (A Novel in 3 Parts) by Alisha Kay, Shilpa Suraj, and Andaleeb Wajid #EnemiestoLovers #FakeRelationship @BookReviewTours @andaleebwajid @alishakayauthor @shilpaauthor

A fake engagement has gotten disturbingly real…

When a pretend engagement ends in a very real combined bachelor/bachelorette weekend in Goa, three couples find their lives going from chaotic to disastrous…

Hatefully Yours by Alisha Kay is the quintessential enemies to lovers story with a very interesting twist.
Aditi and Manan hate each other but love their mutual best friend, Karthik. Planning his bachelor party is a trip to hell sprinkled with accidental kisses that taste of heaven. Past misunderstandings, present attraction, and a future built on hope all tangles together to make this weekend one to remember.

Sinfully Yours by Shilpa Suraj is the story of a one night stand turning into nights that they hope never end.
Sidharth is Bollywood’s biggest hit-turned-overnight-flop. His best friend Sanjana’s bachelorette in Goa is the perfect place for him to hide out and drink his sorrows away. Until he passes out in the arms of the extremely hot pixie who moonlights as a bartender in a shack in Goa. And Dani is left with an armful of drunk movie star who is as messed up as he is hot.

Deceitfully Yours by Andaleeb Wajid is the story of what happens when a fake relationship starts to feel very, very real.
Sanjana and Karthik just wanted their parents to stop talking marriage to them. So, they faked an engagement and now their parents are not talking marriage but planning a wedding instead. When their friends throw them a combined bachelor and bachelorette party, they use the opportunity to plan their breakup. Except behind all well laid plans lies the path to disaster.

Three love stories, three oddball couples, one epic weekend in Goa…
Will they find their heart’s twisted path or focus on the brain’s straight-but-boring one? Will they gamble on their happily-ever-after or choose to leave Goa as they came, single and not ready to mingle?

Book Links:
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Short Excerpt from Hatefully Yours by Alisha Kay

No! God, no! Not her! Anyone but her.
What the hell was Aditi Kedia doing here?
The minute he asked himself that, Manan could have kicked himself. Of course, she’d be here. She was Karthik’s friend, just as he was, and while Karthik was the smartest guy he knew, he was completely oblivious to the cold vibes between his two best friends. Or maybe he didn’t care. He wouldn’t see anything wrong in inviting both his friends together.
Something else struck him, and the biryani that he’d had for lunch threatened to make a second appearance.
His mother hadn’t told him anything about the girl that Karthik was supposed to marry. Just said that she was a friend of his. Was it Aditi?
Every cell in his body revolted at the idea of Karthik marrying Aditi. He told himself that it was because he didn’t want his friend to be ensnared by the evil little she-devil. It had nothing to do with the way his heart sped up at the very sight of her. Or the very inexplicable impulse that came over him occasionally to kiss her senseless.
Not that he ever gave in to such an impulse. He hated Aditi with all his heart. That’s all there was to it.
Alisha Kay writes funny, exciting and steamy stories, with spunky heroines who can rescue themselves, and hot, woke heroes who find such independence irresistible.
The first book in The Devgarh Royals series, The Maharaja’s Fake Fiancée, won the grand prize at the Amazon KDP Pen to Publish Contest 2020.

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Short Excerpt from Sinfully Yours by Shilpa Suraj

Sid froze, the glass near his lips. “You certainly have a way with words and polite conversation.”
“Really? You are critiquing me on etiquette, Beach Bum?” She responded to someone hailing her from the other end of the bar with a raised hand.
“Listen, I’ve got to go,” she told him. “Work and stuff. You have a good night, okay?”
“Dani, listen.” Sid grabbed her hand before she could rush off. “When do you finish?”
“I finish at two in the morning,” she smiled. “Not exactly an early night.”
“I’ll wait,” he smiled back, something frozen in his chest thawing at the sight of her warm, beaming face. “Could we get something to eat and maybe chat or something?”
“I don’t ‘or something’ with guys I’ve just met,” she grinned.
“I threw up on you. You threw a bucket of water on me. I think we’re past first or even third date pleasantries, don’t you agree?”
Dani threw her head back and laughed, the same loud, warm laugh he remembered. The thawing moved on to melting.
“Alright,” she said. “Stick around. We’ll grab dinner during my break and chat.” She pointed a finger at him. “No ‘or something’.”
Sid grinned. Suddenly, ‘or something’ was all he could think about.

Shilpa Suraj wears many hats – corporate drone, homemaker, mother to a fabulous toddler and author.

An avid reader with an overactive imagination, Shilpa has weaved stories in her head since she was a child. Her previous stints at Google, in an ad agency and as an entrepreneur provide colour to her present day stories, both fiction and non-fiction.

Contact the Author:
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Short Excerpt from Deceitfully Yours by Andaleeb Wajid

Karthik stared at Sanjana as she stood at the jetty and it almost felt like the rest of the world had faded to nothing. He could see only her, as she stood there, stark against the background of the greyish water. He was still reeling from what his mother had just said about him and Sanjana but he was also trying to look at it realistically. He had been a child then. But surely, there had to be something about her, something that had drawn them together that fateful day when he saw her seated in the garden on his favourite bench.
Fate. It had to be fate, he told himself.

Andaleeb Wajid is the author of 27 published novels and she writes across different genres such as romance, YA and horror. Her horror novel It Waits was shortlisted at Mami Word to Screen 2017 and her Young Adult series, The Tamanna Trilogy has been optioned for screen by a reputed production house. Andaleeb’s novel When She Went Away was shortlisted for The Hindu Young World Prize in 2017. Andaleeb is a hybrid author who has self-published more than 10 novels in the past two years.

Andaleeb on the Web:
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Release Blitz: First You Dream by Aliyah Burke #EnemiestoLovers #Contemporary #eroticromance @totally_bound @firstforromance

First You Dream by Aliyah Burke

General Release Date: 22nd February2022

Word Count: 30,138
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 125

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
ENEMIES TO LOVERS
EROTIC ROMANCE
MULTICULTURAL

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Book Description

 

A rash decision can become the best ever.

Race car driver Cody Gamino has come from Europe to the United States for one thing—to race with the incredible Xin. Their one night together meant more to him than he expected and suddenly, it’s not just about racing together but being together. Forever.

Racer N’Jelle ‘Xin’ Marx turns to a handsome man she met outside a bar, just to forget for a night. Six weeks and two pink lines later, she is questioning the decision she made that night. When he shows up at her job, revealing to her who he truly is, and snatches her position out from under her, she doesn’t have the fight in her any longer. And Cody isn’t one to give up—when he learns of his unborn child, he digs in even more. Will these two, used to life in the fast lane, learn to slow down and see what’s before them? Will they recognize what they have to lose?

Reader advisory: This book contains a brief mention of violence/murder.

Excerpt

“What’ll it be, love?”

The man who asked stared at her as if she were familiar to him and she barely resisted tensing up. She didn’t need to be recognized.

N’Jelle ‘Xin’ Marx craved nothing more than a good hard drink. At least if I can have that I’ll be on my way to forgetting this shitstorm of a day.

“Whiskey. Neat. Leave the bottle.”

The bartender nodded and had her requested items before her in mere moments. Blessedly, he then left her alone.

The first shot went down smooth and potent. Before the burn had even evaporated, she was pouring another, and chasing it down.

Warning prickles popped up along the back of her neck. That awareness came in handy while she drove on the track. Right now? Not so much.

“At least you drink whiskey like a decent human, no froo-froo shit for you.”

The slender woman that parked herself on the stool beside Xin looked not all that different from how she’d been earlier that day. N’Jelle sighed, not bothering to keep it quiet either. The other two were there as well.

She didn’t owe them a damn thing and she was irritated as fuck that they’d tracked her down.

Ignoring all three of them, she remained sitting faced forward and poured more liquid into her glass.

“Does she think we’ll just vanish if she doesn’t talk to us?”

The tallest and roughest of them had spoken this time. Not rough in an ugly way but more of an ‘I can kick your ass and look good doing it’ sort of way.

She’s,” N’Jelle sneered, “sitting right here and doesn’t give a damn what you think I may or may not think. I’ve had enough of you today.”

“Tough shit.” The middle-sized one spoke now. She was the one who actually shared a father with N’Jelle. Xandra was her name. “You’re my sister now and I don’t know what the fuck you were thinking, that you could just roll up at our event, drop that kind of bomb and walk off.”

Turning her gaze to the beauty beside her, Xin snarled. “You what, want me to apologize for not being invited to a family event and getting permission to show up? I don’t want anything from any of you. I had wanted to know why your father couldn’t be bothered with me, but I get it now. He has you and the other two he looks on as daughters—who gives a fuck about the one who was left behind and forgotten.”

Her shitty childhood was shoving at her, pushing for her to lose it and make a scene. Draw some blood.

This wasn’t smart—she had to get moving. Getting off the stool, she dug in her pocket for some bills. She tossed them on the bar top and nodded at the bartender. Then she spun to the door.

All three women stepped in front of her, and she snorted.

“Really? Grew up on the streets, bitches. Don’t push me. Get out of my way or you’re going to lose your weaves.”

Shoving through them, she walked out through the door and stepped into the night. Off in the distance, storm clouds rolled in, and she pinched the bridge of her nose. She requested a ride and kept an eye on the door as she waited. The three women walked out as her ride pulled up.

A leanly muscled man walked up to her from a different direction, his hat pulled down over his eyes.

“Where you off to, beautiful?”

Yeah, he’ll work. “Got any ideas?”

He held the car door for her and she got in, ignoring the calls from her half-sister and cousins. She wasn’t their concern. Hadn’t been before. Wasn’t now.

She needed to forget and this man, dressed in black jeans and a tight black shirt, with scruff on his face, seemed the perfect way to go about it.

Buy Links

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First For Romance

About the Author

Aliyah Burke

USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR

Aliyah Burke is an avid reader and is never far from pen and paper (or the computer). She is happily married to a career military man. They are owned by six Borzoi. She spends her days at the day job, writing, and working with her dogs. She loves to hear from her readers and can be reached here. She can also be found on Facebook or Twitter: @AliyahBurke96. And Pinterest.

If you would like to be kept abreast of what’s going on in the world of Aliyah, you can sign up to her newsletter here.

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New Release: Power and Persuasion by Lisabet Sarai #GildedAge #Billionaire #EnemiesToLovers #Historical #BDSM @lisabetsarai

New Release!

Power and Persuasion:

A Gilded Age BDSM Romance

By Lisabet Sarai

Historical BDSM Erotic Romance

18,400 words,  71 pages

Smashwords and Amazon KDP

ISBN (Smashwords): 9780463534946

ASIN: B09HSS7C6T

About the Book

She’s his natural enemy – and the only woman who can satisfy his perverse sexual needs.

Andrew MacIntyre, heir to a vast empire of railroads, mines and mills, is by far the most eligible bachelor among the society folk summering in Newport, Rhode Island. His mother has filled their opulent mansion with the daughters of bankers and industrialists, but Andrew knows none of these callow young women would ever consent to being bound and beaten, to serving and obeying him the way he craves. His money gives him the freedom to purchase anything except his heart’s desire: a submissive partner to share his life.

Labor activist Olivia Alcott is dedicated to helping the exploited factory workers responsible for Andrew’s wealth. The strike she organizes triggers a confrontation between her and the handsome billionaire. Although their disparate backgrounds and values make them natural foes, something stronger draws them to one another: his need to command and hers to surrender.


Note: This book was previously published by Totally Bound under the title Challenge to Him. It has been revised, expanded by two chapters, and re-edited for this release.

Buy Links

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Amazon  US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09HSS7C6T

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09HSS7C6T

Smashwords –  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1108116

Barnes and Noble – https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/power-and-persuasion-lisabet-sarai/1140290642?ean=2940165040306

Kobo – https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/power-and-persuasion-a-gilded-age-bdsm-romance

Add on Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59240690-power-and-persuasion

Excerpt – PG

“Mademoiselle Olivia!” A skinny girl raced up the street that led to the riverside mill, stirring clouds of dust. “Il vient! He is coming!”

The sputtering racket of an internal combustion engine drowned out the girl’s excited voice. The crowd parted like the Red Sea for a boxy vehicle of shiny black, with silvery headlamps like extruded eyes. The noisy Studebaker rolled to a stop in front of the strikers, who stopped in their tracks like everyone else to stare at it.

The door creaked open. A tall man unfolded himself from the somewhat cramped interior, snatched off his hat and goggles and tossed them into the vehicle. He strode towards the massed strikers, his fists clenched at his sides.

“Where is she? Where’s your damned leader?”

The newspapers generally described Andrew MacIntyre as handsome. The epithet did not do him justice. As he stormed towards her, Olivia was struck with a sense of physical power and keen intelligence. He had wavy red-gold hair, a high forehead, a square chin, a determined mouth. His eyes were hazel, deep set under brows darker than his hair. Those eyes drilled into her, fierce and compelling. The women around her shrank backwards in alarm. Olivia steeled herself, holding her ground and fighting the urge to grovel at his feet. Instead of retreating, she took a step forward, holding out her hand.

“Mr. Andrew MacIntyre, I presume?” She marveled at the steadiness of her voice, the cool neutral tone.

“Damned right. And you are…?”

“Olivia Alcott.” She pulled herself up to her full height and forced herself to meet his gaze. She saw anger simmering there, but behind his irritation there was something else, something that intrigued and thrilled her. Something that she might be able to use to further her goals.

Olivia Alcott recognized lust when she saw it.

He towered over her by at least a head. Though his body was hidden by his loose touring coat, his decisive, economical movements suggested he was lean and athletic. For a moment he hesitated, staring at her proffered hand. When he finally accepted it, his firm grip confirmed her impression of strength. His palm felt warm and dry against hers. She suddenly wished that she were not so sticky and disheveled. When he released her, a momentary lightness swept through her, as though she might float away.

“And can I assume that you are the instigator and cause of this illegal strike, Miss Alcott?” He seemed flustered, less confident than she would have expected. Her spirits rose.

“Instigator? Perhaps. But not the cause.” Sweat trickled from her hairline, down into her eyes. She wiped it away with the back of her hand.

“Here.” He surprised her by offering a crisp handkerchief of fine linen, of a white so pure it almost seemed to shine with its own light. The initials ‘AM’ were embroidered in the corner, in golden thread. A faint scent of lavender reached her nostrils.

“Why, thank you!” The square of cloth was far more effective than her hand. When she’d mopped the perspiration from her face, she held out the swatch of now-damp fabric. “Here you are.”

He waved dismissively. “Keep it. I’ve got dozens more. Let’s get back to the matter at hand.”

“How much did this handkerchief cost, Mr. MacIntyre?”

“I have no idea. My secretary handles my personal expenses.”

“It’s imported linen, I suspect. Belgian, perhaps?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. Look, Miss Alcott—”

“And the monogram looks like real gold. Is it?”

“Honestly, what does that have to do with anything?”

Olivia tucked the handkerchief into her bodice, noting that MacIntyre’s eyes followed the movement. Indeed he didn’t try to hide his survey of her figure, rude as it was. Another tremor of strangeness fluttered in her belly.

“I’m no expert—I don’t have anything so fine myself—but I’d estimate that each of the dozens of handkerchiefs like this that you possess cost at least ten dollars.”

“Ah—really I don’t know—perhaps. Something in that vicinity.”

“That’s about two weeks of salary for one of these women who work here in your factory.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“The cause of the strike, Mr. MacIntyre. You asked about the cause of the strike. These poor women—your employees, sir, to whom you have a certain responsibility—generally make five dollars a week. They’d have to work for two weeks—twelve days, twelve hours per day—to afford one of your handkerchiefs. Do you think this is just?”

“Well, they should be grateful they have jobs.” MacIntyre leaned closer, his manner and his voice menacing. “And if you don’t stop your meddling, they won’t. I’ll fire every single one of them in a minute. There are plenty of people who’d be happy for steady work, for a reputable company that’s not about to go bust and put them out on the street.”

“Won’t you consider raising their salaries, Mr. MacIntyre?” Olivia countered, inserting a bit of sweetness into her own voice. She laid her hand on his upper arm and felt his muscles shift under her fingers. “An additional dollar a week would make a big difference to them.”

“I’m running a business here, Miss Alcott, not a charity.” He pulled away from her grasp and shook his head, as if to clear his thoughts, then stepped past her to speak to the assembled workers.

About Lisabet

Lisabet Sarai became addicted to words at an early age. She began reading when she was four. She wrote her first story at five years old and her first poem at seven. Since then, she has written plays, tutorials, scholarly articles, marketing brochures, software specifications, self-help books, press releases, a five-hundred page dissertation, and lots of erotica and erotic romance – over one hundred titles, and counting, in nearly every sub-genre—paranormal, scifi, ménage, BDSM, GLBT, and more. Regardless of the genre, every one of her stories illustrates her motto: Imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

You’ll find information and excerpts from all Lisabet’s books on her website (http://www.lisabetsarai.com/books.html), along with more than fifty free stories and lots more. At her blog Beyond Romance (http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com), she shares her philosophy and her news and hosts lots of other great authors. She’s also on Goodreads, Pinterest, BookBub, BingeBooks and Twitter.

Join her VIP email list here: https://btn.ymlp.com/xgjjhmhugmgh

Release Blitz: A Scheme of Sorcery by Ennis Rook Bashe #fantasyromance #LGBTQ @niinestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: A Scheme of Sorcery

Author: Ennis Rook Bashe

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/16/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 74800

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Romance, fantasy, new adult, other-world, non-explicit, lesbian, cisgender, enemies to lovers, knights, magic users, royalty

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Description

Palace squire Edwynne Dovecote has discovered her life is a lie. She wasn’t born into the nobility- she’s a daughter of the North, an inhospitable country where people worship a mysterious goddess. Even if it puts her at odds with her adopted family, she’s determined to explore her heritage, as long as no one finds out who she truly is.

But Sariva al-Beroth, an ambitious Northern girl who’s started working for the queen, is sick of rude outsiders gawking at her culture. She refuses to be in the same room as Edwynne, let alone share ancestral secrets.

Then the queen falls under a curse, and only Sariva and Edwynne can rescue her. To save their country, they’ll have to survive a ruined underground castle infested with ghosts, a fascist uprising prepared to sway public opinion with mind-control magic… and each other.

Excerpt

A Scheme of Sorcery
Ennis Rook Bashe © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Sariva couldn’t finish the beaded bag before her caravan reached the castle, so she tidied away her supplies and peeked out the carriage window. “Are we—”

“Don’t worry, miss, we’re not going past the haunted ruins.”

Strange. She’d only wanted to know when they’d arrive.

The carriage rolled over uneven streets made of pale mountain stone, passing low whitewashed houses with flat-eared cats on their doorsteps. The scent of daffodils and cyclamen filled the air as distant silver bells rang, calling people to pray to the sky. Even without the bag completed, her outfit seemed presentable. Everyone who noticed her would believe she belonged. Did she appear marriageable though? She touched the swirl of her plaits. Her rhinestone hairpins still held. Would anyone be able to tell how she’d altered her mother’s old dress? Would they think of her as resourceful or unfashionable? Shining gates swiveled open, presenting a terraced courtyard, a burbling fountain, and tall palm trees in painted pots. As the carriage driver halted his bay roans, she rubbed her heirloom moon pendant for reassurance as her mother had so often done.

A slender woman with warm-olive skin hurried across the courtyard, sandals pattering on the stone. She bobbed a curtsy and shook Sariva’s hand in both of hers. “So pleased to finally meet you. I’ve had the honor of reviewing your list of qualifications and your letters of recommendation—we’ve all agreed you’d be a lovely addition to the queen’s service. Lady Ava of Valency, and you are Lady…Broth, is it?”

“Sorry, it’s Be-roth.” No one ever got her name right. “Rolled R, accent on the second syllable.”

“Well, I’m pleased to make your acquaintance. We have a formal dinner among the court tonight—I have time to show you your quarters.” They left the courtyard through an archway and turned onto a path between ornamental lemon trees.

A young woman passing by in the other direction paused with a displeased moue, raising plucked-thin eyebrows. “Oh, I wasn’t aware of a foreign dignitary arriving today.”

“Lisette, this is Lady Sariva Beroth. Her parents fled serving the sultan, and we’re even luckier to have her at our Almesian court.” Ava gestured to the woman. “Lady Sariva, may I introduce you to Lady Lisette? She is a splendid dancer.”

“Bah-rroth?” Lisette’s delicate features creased, perplexed with worry. “I’m so sorry, your name is just so hard to pronounce. What does it mean?”

“It means cypress,” Sariva began, feeling suspicious, “but—”

Lisette beamed. “It would be so rude to get your name wrong, right? I mean, I’d absolutely hate myself for mispronouncing it. I’ll just call you Lady Cypress if I have need of you, and then we can be great friends.”

Did Lisette think she’d change her surname just because fools kept mangling it? Absolutely not. Sariva made herself smile. “Indeed, I do look forward to us spending time together.”

“Yes, of course! Northerners are always awfully clever. If I have any figures to evaluate, I’ll be certain to call on you.”

She wanted to say “I’m horrid at sums” or “What next, will you accuse me of having killed infants for the Northern sultan?” Instead, she curtsied and nodded.

Even though nearly everyone who’d fled the North did so because they objected to the government or refused to serve in the military, people accused them of lying. Didn’t a fortune in furs hide amongst the Northern mountains, and weren’t all its inhabitants mages? Didn’t most people in the North worship the Goddess of All-That-Is? How could anyone flee the North with less than a fortune in stolen gold? Once a new pupil at the village school had told all the others, “Sariva’s family drinks blood. They only came south ’cause the people who didn’t worship their nasty Goddess caught them. That’s why her little brother is so weak because everyone else drinks his blood.” Of course, a lady didn’t stab classmates with pens or hit them over the head with writing tablets, more’s the pity.

Magazines included subtler taunts: concern about secret mages, wealthy Northerners harming trade, assuming even refugees from the North supported the sultan’s every policy. In the city, maybe people would only mangle her name, not her reputation. She remembered her mother’s words: “It’s much more cosmopolitan in the capitol, my dearest. Islanders, desert nomads, people of the tree faith, and of course, plenty of Northerners if you feel homesick or want others to pray with—even though many of them support the sultanate, my friends say you’ll meet some lovely young radicals.”

Sword crashed against sword. Voices shouted. Would she need to run for her life? “Is there some sort of trouble?” Her town’s largest Northern specialty store had gone up in flames a few months ago. She’d heard about a timed fire-starting charm amongst the sacks of imported food, customers praying as they ran for their lives. Swinging her shopping sack, she’d turned the corner and stopped, mouth open. In childhood, she’d picked out ornately carved candles for the family’s rituals there.

Ava gave a reassuring smile, waving off her concerns. “It’s only the squires practicing. In summer they stage mock sieges in the cellars, but this time of the year, they still use the outdoor ring.”

“How…nice.” Her heart still pounded. Would it ever stop?

“Indeed, our knights are some of the most adept on the continent. We might go watch them if you wish.”

Sariva would rather stitch a tapestry of a battle than ride off to join one, but she liked the idea of strong warriors protecting her. “Of course.”

She followed Ava down the path and into a field. In a makeshift arena of packed dirt and wooden stakes, surrounded by tiers of stone benches, trainees brawled with blunt weapons.

The scrawniest one had the upper hand.

His hair shone a muddy, undistinguished color, clay and ochre; his body appeared sparse of all but knees and elbows like an over-articulated marionette. But he fought like a mosquito the bigger boys attempted to swat—dodging, weaving, shoving others in front of him as impromptu shields. One by one, the others trailed from the arena, nursing bruises and casting baleful glares.

Sariva saw the squire’s face—small pointy chin, full sulky lips. “That squire, the short one…are they a girl?”

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Ennis Bashe is a queer disabled graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, proud cat parent, and prolific writer of romance novels and novellas. Their poetry has appeared in Strange Horizons, Liminality Magazine, Writers Resist, and Cicada, and their short fiction has appeared in The Future Fire, Mirror Dance, and Resistor Vol. 2, among others. Find them on Twitter at @RookTheBird, and sign up for their newsletter at http://www.tinyletter.com/rookthebird

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Release Blitz: Asher by Alex Wolf #kindleunlimited #ContemporaryRomance @AlexWolfAuthor @greyspromo

Asher by Alex Wolf is now live! 

Asher Grayson is a billionaire, a publishing powerhouse.
He crushes the competition and absorbs them into his empire.

Mara Monroe is a small-town journalist whose company verges on bankruptcy.
Destroying the little newspaper should be less than a day’s work.
A speck on Asher’s radar. But, there’s something about her.

She makes him weak–peels back layers he didn’t know existed.
There’s a hidden passion they both share.

But when his business interests don’t align with his obsession for Mara Monroe, he has a choice to make–give up everything he’s built or dismantle the thing she loves the most.

Asher is a billionaire enemies to lovers full-length stand-alone novel.

Download today or read for FREE with Kindle Unlimited!
US: https://amzn.to/2UP7qg9
WW: http://mybook.to/asheraw

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Meet Alex Wolf


Alex hails from the USA and currently resides in Tampa with his awesome girlfriend who’s also an author.
If you like filthy-mouthed, possessive alpha heroes and steamy romance, then he’s the author for you!
 
Connect with Alex
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Release Blitz: Ternary by Kristin L. Stamper #SciFi #LGBTQ @klsmopit @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Ternary

Author: Kristin L. Stamper

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/31/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male/Female (Male/Male interaction)

Length: 81300

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, sci-fi, AI, scientists, gay, bisexual, MMF, enemies-to-lovers, established couple, reunited, aliens, alien artifact, court trial, mystery, humorous, interracial

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Description

Elora isn’t a robot, but she isn’t human either. She’s an abominable combination of the two, a cyborg. For this offense, she must face judgment in a court of law. There, it will be decided if she’s a person, owed the same rights as any other, or an object, owed no rights at all.

But when a last-ditch effort to demonstrate her humanity backfires, Elora is faced with an element of human nature she always hoped to avoid: love. The consciousness of a dead man is accidentally downloaded into her cybernetic brain, and she becomes infatuated with his still-living husband—whether she wants to or not.

For Elora, making her way in a solar system that fears and hates her has been hard enough. Now, she must do it as an intermediary between lovers while keeping her own heart in check. With the trial fast approaching, and anti-robot protesters demanding her head, Elora can’t afford to get swept up in someone else’s love story.

Excerpt

Ternary
Kristin L. Stamper © 2021
All Rights Reserved

It’s the first taste of freedom I’ve had in weeks. It could also be my last. I march handcuffed down the labyrinthian corridors of the Aidos to be ejected out of an airlock, or have my metal components melted down and recycled into engine parts, or be squashed in a giant garbage disposal. No one’s actually told me where I’m going, but it can’t be anywhere good.

An armored squad of meatheads forced me from my cell without a word. They press the barrels of their rifles into my back to keep me walking. The Aidos was assigned to deliver me to the Minos Justice Station for my trial, but we should have arrived three days ago. Plenty of time to find a dark corner of empty space where they could ditch my body without being noticed. I’d been told my confinement was for my safety as well as everyone else’s but always suspected the scale tipped slightly in favor of everyone else’s. Looks like I was right.

We finally arrive at our destination. The door hisses open…and it isn’t an airlock. It’s a conference room. A massive blank viewscreen hangs behind a shiny circular table. Paul Margot, my lawyer, sits beside it, balancing his chair on its back legs and playing a handheld video game. Not a care in the world. As usual, an expensive suit and tie drape his gangly old body, and he’s combed his scarce hair to the side to hide the bald patches. The smell of peppermint wafts from him, the odor so strong I swear I see a green menthol cloud looming in the air.

A Japanese man stands with his arms crossed on the other side of the screen. He isn’t wearing the black-armored uniform of the guards but rather the stark white with gold trim of the Aidos crew. He has a dashing gentleman sort of look about him, and the decorations on his shoulder suggest he’s high in rank. But despite whatever power he might have, he’s hesitant to approach me—like I’m a live bomb. And it’s not an unfair comparison. During the Great Human-AI War, many robots were exactly that. Humankind nearly went extinct in that war, so I don’t blame him for handling me with caution.

A million questions pop into my mind at once, but I settle for the most pertinent: “What the hell?”

“Well, hello to you too,” Paul says.

“See?” the Japanese officer says to him instead of me. “She made it just fine. Now, I’m going to have to ask you to step out.”

“Actually, I think I’ll stay. No one talks to my client without me present.”

“I’m not interested in the legal matters concerning your client, Mr. Margot.”

“And I’m not interested in whatever secret sciency things you have onboard this ship.” Paul laughs. “But I stay. Go right ahead. She can be a little snippy though. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

I’m so grateful for Paul. I know the things he does are because he wants to win his case, but sometimes I feel like he actually cares about me.

Still. “Is someone going to tell me what’s going on?” I say, louder this time.

“I apologize, Ms. Cussons.” The Japanese officer stares at me with the same stupefied ogle everyone gives me the first time. There’s been a great deal of discussion over what exactly I am—ranging from papers published in scientific journals to angry rants on internet forums—but the term “half-robotic abomination” would seem to apply. I prefer Metal-American. Either way, most people know about Elora Cussons, the illegal cyborg in the news, and when they hear my story, they think of a half-robotic, hideous monster. When they actually see me, it’s never quite what they were picturing. On the outside, I’m a perfectly ordinary, unspoiled, twenty-two-year-old woman from Kauai. My tan skin and long, mud-brown hair are indistinguishable from any of my neighbors’. Although, the red prison jumpsuit isn’t in fashion.

“Do you know who I am?” the man asks after a moment.

“That’s a negative.” I mock his uptight military bearing.

“My name is Hamasaki. I’m captain of the Aidos. I hope you’ve been treated well.”

“Mm-hm, the brig is simply lovely.”

He clears his throat and straightens his blouse. “I’ll get right to the point, Ms. Cussons. Do you know where we are?”

“You should probably assume I don’t know anything. It’ll be easier.”

“Right. Sorry. This is an unusual situation for me too. We’re parked outside of the Great Compass. A member of our crew is head of research here, and he’s gotten himself into some trouble.”

“Wait, the Great Compass?” Paul cuts in. “I thought research on the Compass was shut down. Some guy died or something last year?”

“Yes, someone did. That’s why our people don’t interact with the technology here anymore. It’s observational study only. At least, it’s supposed to be. Turns out, our guy bit off more than he could chew and was injured a few days ago. We were on our way to pick him up and transport him to the medical facilities on the Minos, which is how we got tagged with giving you a lift. Come to find out, it’s a little more complicated than we thought. He’s inside the core of the Compass itself, which is deadly to biological lifeforms. Going in there was how we lost our crewmember last year, and we can’t risk any more losses by sending in a rescue team. We’ve been scratching our heads since we got here, trying to think up solutions, and one of our people thinks she might have something.”

“You want me to do it,” I conclude. It was easy to follow his story to its inevitable end.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Paul practically bellows. “If you’re trying to force my client—”

“No, nothing like that.” Hamasaki reclaims the reins of the conversation. “No one is forcing Ms. Cussons into anything. But with robotic machines being illegal, she’s our best chance. We’ve had experts in medicine, biology, cybernetics, the whole bit reviewing her files, and everyone agrees. Because she’s more mechanical than biological, if there’s ever been a candidate for safe exposure to the Great Compass, it’s her.” He returns his attention to me. “We wouldn’t ask this of you if we didn’t think there was a high chance of success. We’ve already gotten permission from the council handling your case, and they’ve agreed to push your trial back. But of course, you’re free to refuse. What do you say? Want out of your box? Want to be a hero?”

It’s obvious why he’s asking me himself rather than send a lackey. He’s a salesman. He’s charismatic and energetic, and his good looks don’t hurt either. An excited gleam twinkles in his eye, and I can tell he thinks I’m sold.

I can’t wait to disappoint him.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Kristin L. Stamper is a writer of YA and adult science fiction. Her interest in storytelling dates back to her childhood when she brought her ideas to life through play-pretend. Once society had successfully pressured her into knocking that off, writing became her new creative outlet. After high school, she spent seven years as an Information Systems Technician in the US Navy, gaining experience in computers and robotics. Currently, she is the mother of a toddler whose favorite pastime is banging on the keyboard while mommy tries to write.

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New Release: Brightly Burning Bridges by Ivy Wild #BullyRomance #enemiestolovers @IvyWildAuthor @EJBookPromos

Title: Brightly Burning Bridges
Series: Kings of Capital Series (stand alone)
Author: Ivy Wild
Genre: Enemies to Lovers ~ Bully Romance ~ Second Chance
Release Date: April 2, 2021 
Cover Consultant: @ofsomanyfeels
Cover Model: Santiago Ferrari
Cover Photographer: Jarno Boom


⭐️5 burning brightly stars⭐️
An angst filled bully romance, a solid plot a well written story with wonderful perfectly imperfect characters.
~ vgreedythirstforforbidden
Gotta love a two for one in a romance book! This is a bully and a second chance romance all rolled into one!
~ Biggs_bookcase
Second chance bully love story with so much emotion and passion that will make you grab tissues while reading it ❤️❤️❤️ and I would highly recommend it with great ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
~ books_fiction_desire
Silas

He wasn’t my friend until he became my enemy.
His center is freezing cold,
and his edges burn me when I get too close.
He is everything I want and nothing I am.
They say not to burn bridges,
but he burned ours to the ground.
Skyler
She is the girl who wants to be seen,
but hates being noticed.
She was my friend, my tease, my confidant.
She is pure light against all my darkness.
The reason you burn down bridges,
is to build them up stronger.
Brightly Burning Bridges is a standalone romance and part of the Kings of Capital series.






Writer of all things untamed, romantic and free, Ivy Wild never planned on becoming a romance novelist. In fact, she hated romance as a kid and was quite proud of that fact. Basically, life is weird.

Married to her own alpha hero, she currently lives in various places of the world at various times thanks to his military career.

Her current side hustle is being a lawyer.





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Release Blitz: Junior Hero Blues by J.K. Pendragon #YoungAdult #LGBTQ @JKPendragon @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Junior Hero Blues

Author: J.K. Pendragon

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 03/29/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 58400

Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBTQIA+, Action/adventure, Coming-of-age, Criminals, Enemies/rivals to lovers, Geeks, Humorous, Interracial, Law enforcement, #ownvoices, Superhero, Young adult

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Description

Last year, Javier Medina was your average socially awkward gay high schooler with a chip on his shoulder. This year, he’s…well, pretty much the same, but with bonus superpowers, a costume with an ab window to show off his new goods, and a secret identity as the high-flying, wise-cracking superhero Blue Spark.

But being a Junior Hero means that Javier gets all the responsibility and none of the cool gadgets. It’s hard enough working for the Legion of Liberty and fighting against the evil Organization, all while trying to keep on top of school work and suspicious parents. Add in a hunky boyfriend who’s way out of Javier’s league, and an even hunkier villain who keeps appearing every time said boyfriend mysteriously disappears, and Blue Spark is in for one big dollop of teenage angst. All while engaging in some epic superhero action and, oh yeah, an all-out battle to protect Liberty City from the forces of evil.

Welcome to the 100% true and totally unbiased account of life as a teenage superhero.

Excerpt

Junior Hero Blues
J.K. Pendragon © 2021
All Rights Reserved

When I woke up, my mask was lying beside me on the ground, and I felt like my entire head had been squeezed like a pimple.

It took me a few minutes to get my bearings, and by the time I realized the Raven was there with me, she was putting my mask back over my eyes and checking my vitals. Masks have a way of obscuring expressions, but I could see her jaw was tight and her lips were even thinner than usual.

“What happened?” I groaned, my voice raspy. I was starting to get memories back, of the smoke and explosions of the battle, and of him. That bastard smashing my head into a mirror—I raised a hand to my forehead and felt crusted blood through my glove—and then of us fighting, and of a rather unheroic rage that had come over me as we did so. The last thing I remembered was my hands on either side of his head, shooting sonic waves into his ears so hard his eyes were rolling back, and his big meaty hands around my neck, squeezing me into darkness.

“Don’t know.” The Raven’s ambiguously Slavic accent was harsher than normal. “I found you here, with your mask off. Who did it, do you know?”

“Yeah.” I coughed. “Who do you think? Jimmy Black.”

*

I guess I should back up a bit. Jimmy Black was my sworn enemy, if you go for dramatics like that (I totally do), and I’d met him before all this crap with the Organization started. I’d been on a date with Rick Rykov. My first date. Ever, that is, and I was pretty convinced the whole thing was a setup to make fun of me, because that would be typical. But then Rick actually showed up at the café, and we sat there for twenty minutes drinking coffee and discussing our lives like regular people, and there was absolutely no sign of the whole thing being a prank or some plan concocted by him and his friends to humiliate me.

I mean, aside from being gay, Rick was, like, standard bully material. He was a football player, even—six feet of lean teenage muscle and popularity. And I have a theory that being gay in high school just pushes your social standing to an extreme either way. Like, if you’re already popular, and then you come out as gay, you become this amazing, brave individual who inspires change (exhibit A: Rick Rykov). But if you come out as gay, and you’re that weird little Spanish dude who came to America in first grade and couldn’t speak any English, who decided to compensate for that fact by eating a bug in front of his entire class, which was never forgotten, ever, by anyone…

Well, see exhibit B: Javier Medina (that’s me, by the way). Skinny, brown, nerdy. I’m sure you can picture it. That, combined with my family not exactly being wealthy, meant I got picked on a lot in school, even before the bug thing, so I’m a little skittish. Or possibly a lot skittish. You decide.

So anyway, naturally, considering my rather extensive history with bullies, when a superhot, superpopular football player came striding down the hall toward me after class one day, my first instinct was to run away. Unfortunately, Kendall (who apparently has superhearing that I don’t know about) had overheard that Rick was planning on asking me out and grabbed my arm to keep me from escaping. She’s pretty heavyset, and I guess she was using her weight to her advantage, because I was basically rooted to the spot despite having, you know, moderate superstrength.

So then Rick strolled up, cool as you please, and introduced himself. Like, he full-on shook my hand. As if it were a job interview. And then he asked me out, and I was thinking I might be stupid enough to eat a bug, but I sure as hell wasn’t stupid enough to think that Rick Rykov was actually asking me out on a date. So I told him to eff off.

Yeah right. I actually said something along the lines of, “Uhh…you want to go…on a date? With me? Wh… Why?”

And he said, “Because I like you. I think you’re cute, so I thought we could get to know each other a bit better over coffee.”

At this point, I was basically giving myself whiplash looking around trying to see if I was in the process of being ambushed with the eventual intent to stick my head in the toilet. And then I got kind of angry because, like, here I was, busting my butt every single day to save people’s lives and keep the public safe. Screw putting up with this high school bullying crap.

So I decided I would go out with Rick, and if he or any of his buff football friends decided to try to pull one over me, I was just going to spontaneously snap and beat the crap out of them (or at least use my powers to pull some fun tricks with them) and plead temporary insanity to Captain Liberty after the fact.

Rick seemed pleased, and a little surprised I’d agreed. We set a date, and I went fully expecting to be doused with whipped cream, or laughed and jeered at, or at the very least stood up.

But Rick was there, leaning back in one of the little spindly café chairs that looked like it might break under his weight and sipping some frothy drink. When I sat, he shook my hand again, and then we just sort of…started talking.

Which I know isn’t a big deal, because, like, people talk all the time. But not me. I mean, I talk to Kendall, because she’s my best friend and has been forever, and we tell each other everything. I talk to my parents, in Spanish mostly, which is still a bit easier for me, funnily enough (although I’m sure you can tell I have an absolutely superb grasp of the English language). But with everyone else? It’s kind of like the fewer syllables I can use, the better. I mumble my way through life. I just can’t make myself say what I’m thinking most of the time.

So yeah, it was pleasantly surprising to be able to talk to Rick. He asked me questions and waited patiently while I answered them, and then offered information about himself. He lived with his parents in a really nice part of town, although pretty close to me, and had a sister and a cat. And I told him, a bit defensively, that I lived with my parents in a crappy little apartment that didn’t allow pets, and that my dad worked on computers and my mom worked at a gas station so we could have a little extra income. I was all set for Rick to be all judgey or awkward (or worse, feel bad for me) about my poorness, but he didn’t seem to care about that at all. He actually seemed to genuinely want to get to know me.

And then, just when I was starting to relax and believe that this was actually a thing that was happening and I wasn’t going to, you know, die, Rick’s phone rang. He had a sort of awkward conversation and said, looking really let down, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to go to work. Last-minute thing.” Then his face brightened up a bit. “But we should do this again sometime.”

I agreed, and he went off, and I was left sitting there for about ten minutes finishing my coffee and thinking. And then my phone rang too.

I should have figured it out right then and there.

It was the Legion dispatch, about as polite as ever, which is to say one step up from a robot. Actually, scratch that, the Legion AI was way friendlier.

So she was all, “There’s an incident downtown, not far from your location. Can you respond?”

And I figured why not, since I was pretty pumped at that moment, and anyway, it was my job. Like, I got paid for it and everything. So I told her I’d be there in two minutes, and grabbed my bag and headed out.

Now, listen up, because I’m going to let you in on a little secret about switching from your civilian clothes into your superhero getup.

The telephone booth thing?

Utter bullcrap.

I mean, maybe except for old pros like Captain Liberty. I’ve seen him change into his costume so fast it was as if he must have been wearing a tear-away outfit, complete with, like, origami cape and boots in his back pocket. But for the rest of us, it’s three-plus minutes of awkwardly hunching on top of a building—try even finding a telephone booth these days—ripping off your clothes and pulling on the parts of your costume that don’t fit under them, and then you have to try to fit everything, including your shoes, into your backpack. And then you have to look for a place to stash your backpack where it won’t be stolen or crapped on by pigeons or something.

And the Legion really does expect you to respond to a call within only five minutes. I don’t know why they haven’t invented some sort of quick-change technology. Maybe they have, and they just don’t make it available to Junior Heroes.

It’s a complete rip-off being a Junior Hero, by the way. You’re supposed to be only assigned to low-risk stuff, but half the time it’s just as dangerous as anything else anyway, and the rest of the time it’s freaking boring.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

J.K. Pendragon is a Canadian author with a love of all things romantic and fantastical. They first came to the queer fiction community through m/m romance, but soon began to branch off into writing all kinds of queer fiction. As a bisexual and genderqueer person, J.K. is dedicated to producing diverse, entertaining fiction that showcases characters across the rainbow spectrum, and provides queer characters with the happy endings they are so often denied.

J.K. currently resides in British Columbia, Canada with a boyfriend, a cat, and a large collection of artisanal teas that they really need to get around to drinking. They are always happy to chat, and can be reached at jes.k.pendragon@gmail.com.

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