Boys of Brighton
Genre: M/M romance
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Date of Publication: 3 March 2017
Number of pages: Print – 117
Word Count: 40,060
Cover Artist: Boroughs Publishing Group
Two reclusive gay men—Brighton’s local librarian and its grumpy bear, former motorcycle gang member turned diner owner—find each other and love.
Excerpt from Rick’s Bear
Rick just knew he was going to ruin this evening somehow. Heck, he’d already started by causing those three men to notice him. He’d planned to stand behind them, hopefully going unseen, until Bear had called his name and he had to walk through the group. Now his anxiety level was rising like a toxic tide.
“Easy. Look at me. Breathe…” When Rick looked up, everything looked fuzzy, and he noticed they were in Bear’s office instead of at the table. “Breathe in and out. That’s it.”
After several minutes, Bear’s handsome face came into focus, and Rick could finally speak. “S-s-sorry” was all he could manage to say.
“No, that was my fault. I should have never called their attention to you or made you walk through them with your anxiety. I’m the one who’s sorry,” Bear replied with a guilty look on his handsome face. “I won’t ever do that again unless it’s an emergency. I’ll come to you instead, I swear.”
Rick realized a while ago that Bear was aware of Rick’s “little quirks” but had never brought them up so openly before. He felt a bit embarrassed and found himself unable to meet Bear’s eyes. “It’s okay, and it’s not your fault that I’m this way.” That responsibility belonged to someone else entirely, a man so vicious it had taken four officers to take him down.
“This way?” Bear gently cupped both of Rick’s cheeks so he couldn’t look away again. “The way you are is perfect to me, never doubt that.”
He looked so serious that Rick had no other choice but to nod his head in agreement.
“Okay, now are we ready to have dinner and apple pie?” Bear’s smile brought out that one dimple he had on his left cheek.
“Oh yeah,” Rick replied. “Did you know an average nine-inch pie holds roughly six medium apples?” He hung his head so quickly that Rick was surprised he hadn’t given himself whiplash. Damn nervous useless information, he’ll think I’m a freak.
“Yeah, we use around five or six depending on the size of the apple,” Bear answered and carried on toward the front without one word of censure or even a strange look for Rick’s “info drop” as he liked to call his freaky behavior. It wasn’t like he could namedrop, but boy he could spit out useless information like a pro. Maybe for a little while, Rick would be able to act as if his idiosyncrasies didn’t matter and not have to worry about how he appeared to others.
Bear led Rick to their table by keeping a possessive hand on the small of Rick’s back, and Rick had no idea why it felt so good there. How can I be attracted to another giant of a man? Didn’t I learn my lesson the last time? Rick honestly didn’t quite understand why Bear wanted to spend time with him, but Rick wasn’t going to complain. He felt safe when he was with Bear, which was an odd feeling for him to begin with.
Over the next hour, Rick learned more about the man that occupied every dream he’d had over the past year. He knew Bear had been in a motorcycle club back in Chicago but had left it to “find a new life,” as Bear put it, but he wouldn’t elaborate further. What he did know still amazed Rick, who’d never left Brighton. All the places Bear had seen were a world away from Rick’s reality.
“Here you go, sweetie, your apple pie.” Rick looked up and smiled at Sarah. The older woman was an absolute angel to everyone.
“Thank you, Sarah. I absolutely love your apple pie,” Rick stated as his mouth watered for a bite.
“We know, honey,” Sarah responded.
“Hey! What the hell? You told me you didn’t have any more apple pie, you old crone,” yelled one of the three men who’d made Rick feel nervous when he’d come in. “What do I have to do, go in the back and give the boss a blowjob like little Mr. Bookworm here did?”
Rick immediately pulled his messenger bag off the table and placed it safely on the bench seat—Bear’s gift was in that bag after all. He slid across the bench, putting some distance between himself and the irate man. The man’s two friends were desperately clawing at the third man’s jacket, trying to pull him back.
Rick’s anxiety began to rise, and of course, he knew what was coming next. “In a recent survey, it was found that four out of ten people have dated someone from work. But in this case, you are completely mistaken. We’re friends.”
The drunk man stopped and just stared at Rick like he’d grown a second head. “What do I care? Are you some kind of idiot?”
Rick witnessed the change in Bear and sat fascinated as he went from attentive, charming dinner date to a hulking man who, with one look, could make most people shake. But the truly bizarre thing was that, instead of feeling fear, Rick felt excited.
What’s wrong with me?
Rick's Bear is all about the characters. Rick is so sweet and I love his quirk of spouting off random, obscure facts. His aversion to crowds and attention makes being around others a challenge, but that's something with which Bear is more than happy to help him. Bear is so attentive and caring, putting Rick first and making sure Rick is not uncomfortable. Together they are one of those couples who complement each other perfectly.
I did think the drama that was introduced was a bit over the top, something I've noticed keeps happening in the books from this series. Overall though, I liked Rick's Bear quite a bit more than the first two books of the series.
This story gets 4 stars from me, and those readers 18+ who like sweet with extra drama will enjoy this book.
Boys of Brighton
Genre: M/M romance
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Date of Publication: 2 June 2017
Number of pages: Print - 120
Word Count: 40,810
Cover Artist: Boroughs Publishing Group
A widower and a man who fled his past find love in Brighton, TX, despite the violence of one’s homophobic family.
Excerpt from Jesse:
Royce heard the deep rumbling and knew his hopes that they could work this out had disappeared. The roar of Jesse’s bike as it pulled out of the driveway and away from their house felt like a stab to his chest. Was it still “their” house? Was he coming back? Was he safe? Royce didn’t have the answers and a sick feeling began to spread through his body. Jesse had left him. Maybe I shouldn’t have been so hard on him. But Jesse was keeping things from him and Royce was frustrated. He’d spent the last few weeks afraid Jesse would be hurt or leave. Well, he left.
The pain was starting to set in. Jesse left. The realization hit home like a sledgehammer. He left me. Royce couldn’t understand why Jesse hadn’t taken his things with him. Maybe he’s coming back? Royce didn’t know what to think. He never thought Jesse would just take off like this because they’d always found it easy to talk things out up until now.
Royce wandered through his empty house room by room…rooms he’d hoped and prayed would be filled with children someday. He’d always dreamt of giving children with special needs a good home and viewed adoption as the option for him. But when Daniel had died, so had that dream, until Jesse came along. Now Royce’s pain was becoming intense, and he knew unless you’d suffered through the loss of the person you love, there was no way of properly describing it. But the closest he could imagine was paralyzing, painful emptiness creeping into his heart and soul.
Should he go look for Jesse or wait here? What would Royce do if Jesse didn’t come back? That one thought alone kept Royce pacing the floors. He stopped by the kitchen and grabbed himself a beer before continuing with his silent vigil. The more he thought about everything that had happened, the more worked up he got. Hell, he’d already lost one man he’d loved. Royce couldn’t help but wonder how he’d pissed off fate so badly that this was happening to him again.
Hours crawled by and Royce sat waiting. At two in the morning he surrendered to the fact that Jesse wasn’t likely to be coming back. He’d been gone over twelve hours. Royce had already called Dante, one of the leaders of the Sentinels, to let him know Jesse had left. That had been hours ago, and Royce wondered if the Sentinels were still out looking for Jesse. Royce would still pay to have Jesse safe even if it was without Royce at his side.
He walked slowly to their bedroom, taking his shirt off and dropping it on the floor in the hallway, not caring where it landed. He continued on, leaving his pants at the bedroom door, boxers at the foot of the bed. By the time he crawled up onto the mattress, he couldn’t hold back his sorrow and loss any longer. The last time he’d cried was at Daniel’s graveside. Royce had thought he’d be impervious to that kind of pain again, but he’d been sorely mistaken.
Royce laid his head down, praying sleep would take him away into blissful nothingness. He hoped against all odds that this had all just been some sort of cruel nightmare and he would wake up at any moment with Jesse in his arms. But all the while knowing full well his reality had changed yet again and his future was uncertain.
Royce awoke hours later. He hadn’t even realized he’d fallen asleep and had no idea what woke him, but something was different. Slowly, he opened his eyes; the room was dark but he could make out the outline of a large figure standing in the doorway. There was just enough light coming down the hallway to confirm that it was indeed Jesse. Royce sat up in bed, conflicting emotions running through his mind and heart. He was overjoyed that Jesse came back but Royce felt betrayed at being left in the first place. Those two emotions kept him on the bed, silent. If Jesse came back for his things, Royce wasn’t about to beg. No matter how much he wanted Jesse to stay, the man had to want to stay first.
Of the first four books in this series, Jesse is my favorite so far. Just like with Rick's Bear, Jesse is driven by the main characters, Jesse and Royce, and it was very easy to sympathize with Jesse's family situation. In fact, I wanted my chance at Jesse's family to personally rip them up for how they treated him.
Royce is quite protective of Jesse, even when he feels like his heart might be broken by him. I loved the way everyone around them also became Jesse's protectors--the family and community in Brighton are wonderful, if a bit nosy and overbearing at times. As for Jesse, he helps Royce heal and move on, even if it's a bumpy road to get there.
4 stars for Jesse, and this story can be read as a standalone just like the others in the series...though you'll probably enjoy it more if you read them in order so you have everyone else's backstory.
About the Author
M. Tasia is a paralegal and author who lives in Ontario, Canada. A member of the RWA and its chapter RRW, she is a dedicated people watcher, and a lover of romance, 80’s rock, and happy endings. Mother of two wonderful girls, she is also a servant to two spoiled furry children.