Spotlight & Excerpt: In Strange Woods + Giveaway

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In Strange Woods

Author: Claire Cray

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: August 28, 2020

Cover Artist: Sneaky T 

Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romantic Mystery, M/M Gothic Romance

Trope/s: Instant attraction, Hurt comfort, Tortured protagonist, Family secret,

Long lost relative, Country boy/City boy, Rural romance, Fish out of water 

Themes: Healing, Found family, Redemption, Heritage, Belonging, Homecoming

Heat Rating:  3 – 4 flames 

Length: 71 370 words /204 pages

It is a standalone book.

Goodreads

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US  |   Amazon UK 

 

Blurb 

Reeling with grief after the mysterious massacre of his wealthy family, moody New York photographer James Worthington Crane decides to take his downward spiral somewhere far away: to the rural Oregon Coast, where he’s just inherited a random piece of property hidden somewhere in the woods upriver.

But when James pulls into the decaying seaside town of Brooks, everyone thinks he’s someone else—an elusive local outlaw named Beau. Now James must fight through his grief to unravel a tangled web of family secrets and forgotten history…with help from a soft-spoken local hunk named Hunter Quaid.

Hunter’s been on his own since he left his fundamentalist family at the age of fifteen. It’s taken years of hard work to build the steady life he has now, fixing up seaside houses while living alone in a trailer by the river. Then James blows in like a winter storm, disturbing the peace and stirring up a hunger like nothing he’s ever felt.

As Hunter helps James search for the truth, their lives intertwine in unexpected ways—and they begin to discover what it means to find out where you really belong.

 

Excerpt 

Hunter pulled his truck into one of the slanted parking spaces along the Brooks sea wall and turned off the ignition, cutting off Bobbie Gentry in the middle of ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ to let the roar of the waves take over. It was windy out, and he took a second to rake his dark-blond hair into a stubby ponytail at the nape of his neck before getting out of the truck. 

His work boots hit the asphalt with a heavy thud, and he strolled over to the rustic stone barricade to look out at the dark ocean. A wave immediately exploded up in front of him, white foam fanning out and dissolving like a burst of fireworks, and he filled his lungs with the sharp, salty air. It never got old, no matter how many times he came here. None of it did, though. Not the trees, the rivers, the sunsets, the storms. This rugged little chunk of the coast had been his most consistent, and sometimes his only, source of joy since the first summer his parents dropped him off at his grandma’s place upriver, where he now lived alone.   

Today had been long as hell, but satisfying. He was in the middle of renovating a beautiful midcentury house on Cedar Crest, a wooded cliffside high up on the north edge of town. It was the biggest project he’d ever landed since striking out on his own as a contractor, and it was turning out to be a dream come true. The owner was some Portland banker who didn’t give a shit what he did as long as he stayed within budget, and Hunter relished the freedom to make actual design choices.   

Matter of fact, life was pretty good these days, wasn’t it? Business was good, anyway, and that was a lot. Yeah. Steady work with nobody telling him what to do, a place to sleep by the river, all the ocean air he wanted every day…what more could he ask for? There was a time when he wouldn’t have dared to dream so—

A car alarm went off suddenly, jarring him from his thoughts, and he turned his head. Several seagulls were scattering noisily from the sea wall near a black hatchback several spaces away, its horn blasting and lights flashing. He couldn’t see what had set it off. A nosy gull, maybe, or the splash of a wave. At any rate, that wrapped up his relaxing after-work sit by the ocean. 

But just as he was about to turn back to his truck, the driver’s side door of the hatchback clunked open and slowly creaked ajar. 

Hunter watched, intrigued, as a hand slipped out through the crack, followed by an arm, and then a mop of wavy dark hair. Then, to his amazement, an entire tall, slim man slid out onto the pavement, pooling there in a tangle of long limbs and dark clothing. 

The alarm was still making a ruckus. The man groaned low and rolled to his side, wrestling with himself for a moment before yanking a key fob out of his back pocket. He jabbed it toward the car several times until the alarm stopped, then fell on his back with an unintelligible mutter. Just then, a big wave spouted over the wall and showered him with seawater.

Hunter winced sympathetically. Hell of a place to be drunk off your ass. Dude definitely wasn’t from around here. He looked about Hunter’s age, stylish in a cool, classic kind of way. Black jeans, black boots, battered brown leather jacket. Nothing flashy, but obviously outside the local dress code of Carhartts, hooded sweatshirts, and rain gear. Hunter couldn’t help admiring the long lines of the stranger’s body, his carelessly tousled hair. 

With a shake of his head and a soft sigh, he turned his gaze back toward the ocean again. Life was good, and all. He loved it here. So what if it wasn’t overflowing with romantic options for a quiet gay man with a taste for tall, slim guys dressed like drifters from the 1960s? No one got to have it all.

Life is good, he told himself stubbornly. Life is fine. Life’s going just great. 

The sound of an approaching engine made him glance back over his shoulder, and suddenly he sprang into motion before he could think. 

The drunk man was staggering onto the highway, his dark silhouette backlit by the high beams of a log truck that was roaring around the bend. 

Another half-second would have been too late. The driver didn’t even seem to see them. The air from the passing truck threw him off balance as he yanked the drunken dumbass out of the road, and they both fell back on the pavement. 

“You okay?” Hunter asked breathlessly.

 

About the Author  

Claire Cray writes gay romance featuring hot, complicated men in weird situations. Offbeat and character-driven with a gothic bent, her work has been described as deeply atmospheric and a little bit strange.

Born and raised in the rural Pacific Northwest, Claire takes inspiration from its rich, moody vibes: the ancient forests, rugged coastlines, eccentric characters, and whispers of dark mystery in even the tiniest little towns. Combine all that with steamy sensuality and psychological drama, and you’ve got a story by Claire Cray.

Author Links

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Spotlight & Excerpt: Summer Warrior + Giveaway

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Summer Warrior
The Clan Donald Saga Book 1
by Regan Walker
Genre: Romantic Historical Fiction

 

Somerled’s parentage was noble, of the Kings of Dublin, the royal house of Argyll and the great Ard Ri, the High Kings of Ireland. But when the Norse invaded Argyll and the Isles, his family’s fortunes fell with those of his people. When all hope seemed lost, he rose from the mists of Morvern to rally the Gaels, the Scots and the Irish.Sweeping across Argyll and the Isles like a fast-moving storm, brilliant in strategy and fearless in battle, Somerled began retaking his ancestral lands, driving away the invaders and freeing the people from the Norse stranglehold. In doing so, he would win the title Somerle Mor, Somerled the Mighty, Lord of Argyll, Kintyre and Lorne and, eventually, Lord of the Isles.

This is the unforgettable saga of his path to victory that birthed the Kingdom of the Isles and won him the heart of a Norse king’s daughter. 

The Village of Drimnin, Morvern, Argyll, late summer 1136 A.D.

SOMERLED SMELLED THE SMOKE before he reached the village.
A small community nestled around a crescent bay on the western shore of Morvern, everyone who lived in Drimnin was related either by blood or marriage. The villagers made a good life raising cattle and reaping the bounty of the sea. Somerled had passed this way only once, and then he had approached from the Sound of Mull in his galley. He remembered the villagers’ humble but generous hospitality.

Today, he and his men had traveled on foot along the coast, wending their way through the pine woods in search of the Norse rumored to be raiding the shores of Morvern, hoping to catch them before they could strike. His ships were still too few to take them on the water.

He stepped out of the trees, lush with ferns at their base, his hand on his sword hilt, prepared to fight.

A ghastly sight met his gaze, sickening his stomach.

Too late.
Bodies were sprawled upon the grass between the shore and the woods, struck down while trying to flee. Dreadful wounds revealed some had fallen to axes.

Acrid smoke rose from the cottages still burning, the flames leaping from the dry thatched roofs. He could see no longships pulled up on shore but the raiders could not have been long gone.

Aghast at what he saw, he was suddenly aware there were no birds to be heard, save the hooded crows pecking at the blood-soaked bodies. “See if any live,” he said to Domnall and started forward.

“Aye,” said his cousin and swung his arm in silent command, pointing to the fallen. The men hastened to obey.

Both old and young had been killed by the merciless Norse. Seeing the women who had been violated, Somerled ground his teeth. Their tunics had been ripped from their bruised bodies before they were killed. “Cover them,” he said to one of his men. “Cover them all with whatever you can.” The men closest to him hurried to accomplish the task.

He walked through the village, assessing the carnage. The doors of the burning cottages stood open. Goods, taken in haste, had been discarded like so much rubbish. So, too, had the Norse raiders considered the lives of the people. He knew they would see judgment in the next life but Somerled wanted justice in this life. He did not hate the Norse. How could he when his mother was one of them? But these were lesser men, ruthless pirates, some ostracized from their own people to prey on others.

When his men returned with reports that none lived, Somerled faced the woods and in Gaelic said in a gentle voice, “If you live, come to us or make a sound. We will help you.”

Two boys staggered out of the woods, their fearful expressions and tear-stained cheeks bearing witness to what they had seen. From the look of them, they were brothers, close in age, both with dark brown hair and wide eyes. To them, Somerled’s sun-gilded fair hair would mark him more Norse than Gael.

Kneeling before them, he said, “I am Somerled, a man of Argyll, and these are my men. You will be safe with us.” When he saw relief on their faces, he said, “We will return to bury the dead but now we must go in haste to exact vengeance on those who did this. Do you come with us?”

The boys shared a glance and the older one nodded. “We will come.” Somerled gave them into the care of a MacInnes man who stepped forward and offered to raise the boys with his own children. As they started to go, the older one said, “They took our sister and another girl.” It was clear from the boy’s haunted eyes he had an idea of the girls’ fate. Likely he had already witnessed the rape of the village women, including his own mother.

Somerled’s eyes narrowed as his heart hardened within his chest. “We will see them avenged.”

A short way down the coast, one of Somerled’s men scouting ahead had spotted dragonships offshore.

They approached the top of the rise and Somerled signaled his men to stay low. A field of yellow wildflowers bloomed where he crouched behind a boulder, observing the Norse longships. He counted five, three just pulling up at the water’s edge, their sails doused, their dragon-carved stems boding ill for the people who lived farther down the coast. Counting shields, he saw they numbered nearly three hundred.

The sea was calm, as if nature herself was unaware a massacre had just taken place to the north. Somerled’s heart burned within him, a furnace of rage. He wanted the waters to roar, to cry for vengeance on the heathen dogs.

Behind him were the forests in which he had hunted. Gathered around him was his group of one hundred men, MacInneses from Morvern, archers from Argyll and Irish mercenaries from Antrim, who had heard of his plan to retake Argyll and joined the cause. They were stout-hearted men yet still too few to take on so many Norsemen clad in mail and conical helms and armed with swords, axes and spears.

The Highlanders and Islesmen wore tunics of linen or wool over tight-fitting trews or hosen, their tunics secured at their waists with a belt. On their feet were soft leather boots. Around their shoulders, some wore woolen cloaks. A few, like Somerled and his brother, also wore leather armor. None wore mail. It was expensive and rare in these parts. All carried weapons but not all had a steel sword at their waist.

No matter the odds against them, Somerled wanted those ships and he wanted justice for the lives cut short at Drimnin.

 
 
A lawyer turned writer, Regan Walker is an award-winning, bestselling author of Regency, Georgian and Medieval romantic historical fiction. Her novels weave history and historical figures into fictional stories with political intrigue, a bit of mystery and love. She lives in San Diego and loves to walk along the seashore with her dog “Cody”.
 
 
 
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
 
$20 Amazon giftcard + winner’s choice of ebook from Regan Walker
 (If US winner, you can choose an autographed paperback if preferred!)

Spotlight: Daddy’s Home + Giveaway

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Daddy’s Home
A Holly Jennings Thriller Book 1
by A.K. Alexander
Genre: Thriller, Murder Mystery

 

A KILLER STALKS HIS PREY…
A calculating and deadly killer is in search for what he terms as his perfect family. Preying upon single mothers and their innocent children, the police have dubbed him “The Family Man.”
 
HE WATCHES THEM…HE TAKES THEM…
He plays out his role as the perfect father. When things don’t go so perfect in his insane fantasy world, the family man kills.
 
HOLLY JENNINGS IS ON THE CASE…
Crime Scene Investigator Holly Jennings of the San Diego Police Department is determined to track him down and see that justice is served. With Holly being a single mother herself, this man’s crimes are deeply personal to her, and turn more so when a friend and her daughter become the latest victims of “The Family Man.”
 
Along with tracking an evil killer, Holly is dealing with her own internal demons. She is raising her daughter Chloe alone after the death of her husband–a death she feels guilty for.
 
To complicate her life further, Holly is doing her best to avoid possibly falling in love again with charming veterinarian Brendan O’Neil. As Holly delves deeper into solving the murders, she finds herself being sucked into a game of cat and mouse by “The Family Man,” that may lead her down a dark path too horrible to bear. One that may cost her gravely-her family, her new found love, and even her life.
 
** Only .99 cents!!**
 
 
A.K. Alexander is the international bestselling author of Daddy’s Home, “Mommy, May I?, The Cartel, and The Michaela Bancroft Suspense Series.
When she isn’t writing thrillers, she is writing mysteries and young adult novels under her real name Michele Scott. The author resides in San Diego, Ca with her family and large crew of animals.
 
 
 
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!
 
7 winners get Blood & Roses and a signed copy of Murder Uncorked
 
1 winner gets Blood & Roses, Murder Uncorked, The Dead Celeb, The Cartel, and a $25 Amazon gift card.
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