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Piper’s Reading Roundup: Top 15 Reads of 2016

Hey, all! It’s been a while since I posted one of these, but since 2017 is rapidly approaching, I figured I might as well save it for a big end-of-the-year post!

Without further ado, and in no particular order, these were my top 15 favorite reads in 2016. (Note: I did cheat a little by choosing series in a couple of places, and these are books I read this year but they weren’t all necessarily released in 2016.)

Being(s) in Love Series by R. Cooper – I’ve recommended plenty of titles by R. Cooper in the past, so seeing her on this list should come as no surprise. Instead of individual titles, though, I’m just going to mention her Being(s) in Love series as a whole. I have my particular faves (Little Wolf and A Dandelion for Tulip), but really, I just love this entire series. R. Cooper has created a world I wish I could live in. I love seeing familiar faces pop up throughout the books, and I love R. Cooper’s skill at writing slow-burn and unresolved sexual tension. It’s such delicious torment waiting for the characters to finally get together. The pining, friends. The pining. I highly recommend this series for fans of urban fantasy romance. There are fairies and elves and werewolves and dragons and all sorts of wonderful creatures and characters that will steal your heart.

 

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Staged by Kim Fielding – I admit to some hesitancy before starting this book. I’m generally not a big fan of books containing dub- or non-con elements, and slave fic can be pretty touchy for me too. The reason I took a chance on this book was the author. If you’ve followed my book rec posts in the past, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Kim Fielding. We have author/reader trust established, which means I know that no matter what she puts her characters through, she’ll get them to a happy (or happier) place by the end. I trusted her to do that here too, and I wasn’t disappointed. Fair warning, though – this is a lot darker than Kim’s usual work, and some parts were difficult to read, at least for me.

Misfits by Garrett Leigh – A couple of months ago I was in the mood to read a good menage story and I asked for recommendations on Twitter. Misfits was mentioned by nearly everyone who answered, and though I’d shied away from reading any of the Garrett Leigh titles I own because friends kept warning me about the high angst content, after several people – including Garrett herself – told me the story wasn’t overly heavy, I decided to take a chance. I’m so, so glad I did, because it was a lovely story and an instant addition to my favorites shelf. There was a bit of angst but nothing overwhelming, and I loved watching these three men come together. Highly recommended!

 

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Shades of Gray by Brooke McKinley – Man, it took me way too long to read this book! I don’t know why I put it off for so long, even though I’d bought it when it first came out and multiple friends recommended it to me after its release. I loved pretty much every word. The angst, the yearning and attraction between Miller and Danny… I mean, it’s like my crack when it comes to books. I die for great UST (unresolved sexual tension). DIE, I SAY. And when they finally came together, it was scorching and I just wanted it to work out for them SO BAD. The ending was perfect. Highly recommended. (And damn, was I bummed when I realized McKinley didn’t have any other books for me to devour. /sadface)

Damned If You Do by Marie Sexton – This book was a pure pleasure to read. It had humor, mild angst, and SO MANY FEELS. Religion – or rather faith – played a huge role (obv, I mean, this is a book about a soul-acquiring devil falling for a Bible-quoting revivalist). I loved Sexton’s take on Hell. I laughed more than once, had a few heart squishy moments, and even got misty eyed toward the end. Whether you’ve read Sexton before or if she’d be new to you, I definitely recommend checking this out! (Also, heed the product warning from Samhain because if snakes aren’t your bag, a couple of scenes in this book might freak you out. Just a heads up.)

Power Play (Scoring Chances #3) & Empty Net (Scoring Chances #4) by Avon Gale – Full disclosure, I can’t claim to be totally unbiased here. Over the last year, Avon has become one of my best friends, and at this point I’m lucky enough to get to read her work as it’s being written (and we’re also currently writing a series together that was recently contracted by Riptide!). But I will say that my love of Avon’s work and our friendship both started sort of simultaneously. I was hooked with Breakaway and have loved everything I’ve read since. It’s been a trend so far with the Scoring Chances series that I’ve loved each book more than the last. Each book is infused with Avon’s trademark humor, skillful writing, and snappy dialogue. Watching her characters come together is always incredibly fun and gratifying — and sometimes heart-wrenching. Even if you’re not a hockey fan, I’d suggest giving this series a try. The books are about so much more than hockey, though if you’re a fan like myself, there is plenty here to keep the sports lover happy too.

 

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Farm Fresh (Naked Organics #1) by Posy Roberts – I loved how different this book was. It portrayed a “free love” commune in Oregon, which one of the main characters joins after encountering the intriguing Hudson, a man who lives/works in the Kaleidoscope Gardens and sells their produce and various other things during the farmers’ market on Jude’s college campus every week. Hudson and Jude come from similar backgrounds, but Jude is nursing some serious hangups when it comes to sex – guilt, shame, and memories of abuse at the hands of his parents, who think sex is for one purpose only: procreation. I was fascinated by the commune and Jude’s changes as he acclimated to life there. I’ve actually discussed the idea of a commune, although not quite this type, with friends in the past, and I think I’d love to live in such an environment. I’m looking forward to reading the next book, which features Hudson and Jude once again. They’re together at the end of this book, but their relationship is really just beginning. And as you can guess by this description and the blurb, this book is about poly/open relationships. If you’re not a fan of seeing sex happen with anyone outside of the main couple, then it’s probably best to avoid.

The Dead Past by Kate Aaron – Earlier this year I asked if there was such a thing as cozy mysteries in M/M. You know the sort – bookish librarian of bakery owner from a small town suddenly stumbles over a corpse and amateur sleuthing ensues. Someone mentioned the Puddledown Mysteries and I was intrigued enough by the blurb of the first book to try the sample. And when I came to the end of the sample I immediately purchased the book and kept reading right until I finished it. The story is set in a small British town in the wake of WWII. Hugo finds an elderly widow brutally murdered in the woods, only to have Tommy, the new groundskeeper on the property, appear on the scene mere minutes later. At first Hugo is suspicious, but then he starts to develop feelings for the mysterious Tommy as they bond in the aftermath of their mutual discovery. It’s a quiet, understated story in the manner of Agatha Christie or Louise Penny with no sex and very little physical contact. If you’re a fan of cozies, you’re almost certain to enjoy it. (I also read the next two books in the series and loved them too!)

The Benched Series by Misha Horne – This contemporary series starts with Rookie Mistake, and man, is it fun! Juno and Kyle are vivid, wonderful characters – especially Juno – and if you’re a fan of spanking and D/s elements, you need to be reading these shorts. The most recent one came out in October, and I’m eagerly awaiting more!

The Galactic Alliance Series by KC Burn – When this series was first recommended to me, I’d had the first book, Spice ‘n’ Solace, on my TBR list quite some time. I finally dove in, and I’m so glad I did! These sexy stories include fabulous characters and are perfect for anyone who’s a fan of sci-fi without an over-abundance of world-building and technical jargon to weigh the story down. I even asked KC Burn if there’d be more right after I finished the third book, which should tell you something. (She said yes, BTW. :D)

Tournament of Losers by Megan Derr – Friggin’ fabulous! If you like reading stories in which the hero has to compete in a tournament for their lover’s heart and hand, well, you will not find a better one in M/M! And it was written for me, after my shameless begging for this type of story on Twitter, so, you know, that made it extra special!

 

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Interborough (Five Boroughs #4) by Santino Hassell – I’m a big fan of this series, and this couple in particular. I’m really glad that Santino decided to revisit them and really cement their HEA. David and Raymond are by far my favorite couple in the Five Boroughs universe. Their chemistry is like whoa, and here we got to see them develop and strengthen as a couple in spite of some stressful life circumstances, which I think was necessary for the reader to believe their relationship can really withstand the test of time. They’ll be together forever. I know it! And it was good seeing glimpses of all the familiar 5B characters. That epilogue! I still haven’t recovered!

Must Like Spinach by Con Riley – I confess, it was the title of this book that first caught my attention. It was different – and I usually like different – and I’m so happy I decided to give it a go. It was my first book by Con Riley, but it certainly won’t be my last. I mean, what a gorgeous, character-driven, slow-burn romance! I loved the pacing. There was enough angst to keep it from being fluffy, and yet it was still a sweet story, and it perfectly fit my mood at the time. I know I’ll reread it again in the future, and I recommended it all over the place after I finished it.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – What can I even say about this book? It was my favorite read of the year, and I seriously doubt anything else I read in the next couple of weeks will even come close to knocking it from that pedestal. This is the sort of LGBTQ+ YA I aspire to write. I thought it was absolutely perfect, and if someday I produce a book that makes people feel the way Simon made me feel, I’ll consider my ultimate goal as an author accomplished. I loved it that much. All of the stars to this fabulous read. It’s one of the few books I own in 3 formats – audio, paperback, and ebook.

 

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Piper’s Reading Roundup – June

Hi all! It looks like I’m finally starting to get over my reading drought. Huzzah! I read some gems this month, so let’s get to them! 😀

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To Arizona by Meg Harding – When I read the blurb for this I said, “Shifters and hockey? Sign me up!” (And actually, I’d been having IDEAS before hearing about this story, so it was fun to discover that someone else had been thinking similarly.) This was totally adorable! I loved the characters, the writing was light and humorous, and the hockey element just tickled my NHL loving heart. Recommended if you like varied shifters and cute romance (and hockey!).

A Cobra’s Charm by Meghan Maslow – This was another book in DSP’s “A Walk on the Wild Side” collection. I loved Jiri, a cobra shifter, and Miksa, a honey badger shifter, and the story had a fairytale vibe, in my opinion. I really enjoyed it!

Spell Weaver by Megan Derr – I love fairytales and re-tellings. This is a take on Cinderella, which I’ll never pass up. Plus, it’s Megan Derr and I’ve never done anything to hide the fact that I’m a fangirl of hers. This was very sweet, and I loved the world-building and would welcome more stories in this universe.

Shades of Gray by Brooke McKinley – Man, it took me way too long to read this book! I don’t know why I put it off for so long, even though I’d bought it when it first came out and multiple friends recommended it to me after its release. I loved pretty much every word. The angst, the yearning and attraction between Miller and Danny…. I mean, it’s like my crack when it comes to books. I die for great UST (unresolved sexual tension). DIE, I SAY. And when they finally came together, it was scorching and I just wanted it to work out for them SO BAD. The ending was perfect. This was probably my favorite read of the month and maybe one of my favorites of the year so far too! Highly recommended. (And damn, was I bummed when I realized McKinley didn’t have any other books for me to devour. /sadface)

 

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The Protection of the Pack Series by Dessa Lux – I have Lexi Ander to thank for turning me on to this series. She knows I love shifters and stories with the a/b/o dynamic (and knotting!). I tried the first book, The Omega’s Bodyguard, right after Lexi recommended it to me on Twitter and promptly consumed all the others. I loved this world; I loved the characters. It’s super sexy and well-written and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here and meet new packmates as they’re introduced. Believe me, if you’re a fan of any of the things I mentioned above, you will love this series. (Note: There are couples, but some of the sex scenes are M/M/M+. If you can’t deal with sharing, even if it makes sense within the books’ universe, this series might not be for you.)

Damned If You Do by Marie Sexton – This book was a pure pleasure to read. It had humor, mild angst, and SO MANY FEELS. Religion – or rather faith – played a huge role (obv, I mean, this is a book about a soul-acquiring devil falling for a Bible-quoting revivalist). I loved Sexton’s take on Hell. I laughed more than once, had a few heart squishy moments, and even got misty eyed toward the end. Whether you’ve read Sexton before or if she’d be new to you, I definitely recommend checking this out! (Also, heed the product warning from Samhain because if snakes aren’t your bag, a couple of scenes in this book might bother you. Just a heads up.)

Farm Fresh (Naked Organics #1) by Posy Roberts – I loved how different this book was. It portrayed a “free love” commune in Oregon, which one of the main characters joins after encountering the intriguing Hudson, a man who lives/works in the Kaleidoscope Gardens and sells their produce and various other things during the farmers’ market on Jude’s college campus every week. Hudson and Jude come from similar backgrounds, but Jude is nursing some serious hangups when it comes to sex – guilt, shame, and memories of abuse at the hands of his parents, who think sex is for one purpose only: procreation. I was fascinated by the commune and Jude’s changes as he acclimated to life there. I’ve actually discussed the idea of a commune, although not quite this type, with friends in the past, and I think I’d love to live in such an environment. I’m looking forward to reading the next book, which features Hudson and Jude once again. They’re together at the end of this book, but their relationship is really just beginning. And as you can guess by this description and the blurb, this book is about poly/open relationships. If you’re not a fan of seeing sex happen with anyone outside of the main couple, then it’s probably best to avoid.

The Dead Past by Kate Aaron – I think it was last month when I asked if there was such a thing as cozy mysteries in M/M. You know the sort – bookish librarian of bakery owner from a small town suddenly stumbles over a dead body and amateur sleuthing ensues. Someone mentioned the Puddledown Mysteries and I was intrigued enough by the blurb of the first book to try the sample. And when I came to the end of the sample I immediately purchased the book and kept reading right until I finished it. The story is set in a small British town in the wake of WWII. Hugo finds an elderly widow brutally murdered in the woods, only to have Tommy, the new groundskeeper on the property, appear on the scene mere minutes later. At first Hugo is suspicious, but then he starts to develop feelings for the mysterious Tommy as they bond in the aftermath of their mutual discovery. It’s a quiet, understated story in the manner of Agatha Christie or Louise Penny with no sex and very little physical contact, and if you’re a fan of cozies, you’re almost certain to enjoy it. (I also read the next two books in the series and really enjoyed them too!)

And that’s it! What books did you read and love this month? You know I’m always looking for recs! 

Piper’s Reading Roundup – January & February

Hey, peeps! I know it’s been a while since I did one of my book recommendation posts. I’ve definitely read some great stuff since the beginning of the year, so let me rectify that now! These are the titles I’ve read and loved since January 1st. 

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Astounding! by Kim Fielding – It’s probably not a surprise to anyone who regularly follows me to see a Kim Fielding title on this list. I have yet to dislike anything I’ve read by Kim. Here we have Carter Evans, founder and EIC of Astounding!, a speculative fiction magazine that is fast approaching the end of its life. Then there’s J. Harper, an author who keeps submitting terrible stories to the magazine that Carter continually rejects. One day while drunk, Carter drafts and sends a crueler rejection letter than he would under normal circumstances, and subsequently, he sets out to find J. Harper and apologize. I loved this story and the entire cast of characters.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – What can I even say about this book? It’s my favorite read of the year so far and I seriously doubt anything else I read before the end of the year will knock it from that pedestal. This is the sort of GLBT YA I aspire to write. I thought it was absolutely perfect, and if someday I produce a book that makes people feel the way Simon made me feel, I’ll consider my ultimate goal as an author accomplished. I loved it that much. All of the stars to this fabulous read.

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Some Kind of Magic (Beings in Love #1) by R. Cooper – There’s no denying R. Cooper is an author of considerable talent. I’d venture to say she’s the strongest author in the genre at writing pining/mutual yearning. At least in my opinion. The UST (unresolved sexual tension) in her stories is so intense I have reactions anywhere from rage to tears. It doesn’t matter the story; I can always feel the deep, painful longing between her characters, and I LOVE IT. Seriously. If you enjoy UST and that will-they-or-won’t-they anticipation, that delicious, “Please just let him love you already” feeling, you need to try R. Cooper. I don’t think you’ll regret it!

Love You Like a Romance Novel by Megan Derr -This was a sexy story. I love Megan Derr’s rockstars. I love her writing. Hell, I just love her! She’s pretty damn swell. I’m an unashamed Megan Derr fangirl, and she’s another author who is fantastic at writing UST. She also wrote me a story called Tournament of Losers, which just came out last month and I cannot recommend highly enough. It was fabulous, and if you like reading stories in which the hero has to compete in a tournament for their lover’s heart and hand, well, I don’t think you’ll find a better one in M/M!

Blind Space by Marie Sexton – Speaking of sexy stories… damn! Y’all know I love me some men in lingerie, and I was thrilled to see that fetish explored here. Tristan and Valero were super hot together, but beyond that, I loved the world-building in this little sci-fi gem. It was just enough to tantalize me and make me want more. I’d love to see more stories in this universe!

Hunter of Demons (Spectr #1) by Jordan L. Hawk – I frequently see readers recommending Jordan L. Hawk, but I hadn’t read any of her work until this year. Now I can see why she has such a fanbase. I really enjoyed this story, and I’m looking forward to reading more in this series and more of Hawk’s work in general.

Hell for the Company (Brimstone #1) by Angel Martinez – What a delightful little story this was! I’m a fan of Angel Martinez, and I love the humor and tone in the Brimstone stories (I’ve also read the second one). It sort of reminds me of Firefly with the whole space western/pirates theme. Definitely looking forward to continuing the adventures of Shax, Verin, and Ness.

Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan – I love ranchers, cowboys, drifters, and stories about friendship, finding a home when you least expect it, and building a family not tied by blood. Cullinan pairs all that with BDSM and some sexy pony-play. This was dirty and kinky, but beneath the smoking hot sex was a surprisingly tender love story. Definitely recommended.

The Professor and the Smuggler by Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon – This is one of my favorite author duos. They write interesting historicals in a genre that’s dominated by contemporary, and this is another reason I never hesitate to recommend them. I think they deserve more attention. Their stories always feel different and refreshing, and this opposites-attract romance was simply lovely. You can tell they know their stuff and they’ve done their research, but it never feels like I’m reading a textbook. I want authenticity in the setting, yes, but I also crave readability. I’ll DNF a historical romance that feels like it’s trying to teach me a history lesson. I don’t want to be bogged down by an overwhelming amount of detail, and I think Dee and Devon strike the perfect balance when it comes to this.

And those are my recommendations for January and February. What have you read and loved since the start of the year? Do tell. 😉 

Piper’s Favorite Reads of 2013

Hey, y’all! These lists are cropping up on blogs all over and I thought I’d join in the fun. Note: These are the books I read and loved in 2013, but not all of them were actually published last year. They might be older books I just discovered. I thought it’d be cool to show them love either way. 🙂

Now, in no particular order:

Without Reservations by J.L. Langley – Why did it take me so long to read this book? I have no idea. But once I did, I consumed the rest of the series in a couple of days and have since reread them all more than once. Love. LOVE. And I can’t wait for more. This is my fave shifter series. 🙂

Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford – Well, what can I say? Rhys is amazing. Her characters are vivid and well-developed, even down to all the secondaries. I loved this book and I love her Sinner’s Gin series. She’s become one of my favorite authors and I feel very fortunate to be able to call her a friend now also. She’s one of the loveliest, kindest people around. ♥

El Presidio Rides North by Domashita Romero – This is actually a free online read, but don’t let that discourage you from checking it out! If you’re a fan of zombies and shows like The Walking Dead, you will love this story!

Criss Cross (PsyCop #2) by Jordan Castillo Price – Oddly enough, an entire year passed between me reading the first book in the PsyCop series and this one. I don’t know why exactly, since I loved Among the Living, but I did read a lot less in 2012 than I did last year. Once I moved on to Criss Cross, I devoured the remainder of the PsyCop books available and fell hopelessly in love with the series (and I’ve since reread them all, too). It’s now my favorite overall m/m series and one of my favorites in general. I love these books and these characters. If you haven’t read them yet and you enjoy paranormal mysteries with a dash of romance thrown in, then please do check them out. And, as a bonus, Jordan Castillo Price is awesome. 🙂

The Mark of an Alpha (Pack Discipline #1) by Kim Dare – I’m a big fan of Kim Dare and yet somehow hadn’t read any of her Pack Discipline books before last year. This is a shifter series and with Kim Dare at the helm, you know there’s a bit of BDSM involved, but that’s just how I like it! This and the 3rd in the series, The Duty of a Beta, were my faves, but I enjoyed them all very much.

Illumination by Rowan Speedwell – Rowan is a very sweet lady and her writing is beautiful. Illumination is the story of a rockstar and a reclusive artist who illuminates manuscripts for a living. Reading about the process of illumination had me hankering to give it a try myself. You could tell while reading that Rowan knows her subject matter and I can appreciate that in a book. Plus, Miles and Adam were hot together.

Unbreak My Heart by K-Lee Klein – What a heart-wrenching story this was. Cowboys, loss, grief, and finding love again. This was beautiful. I ugly-cried a few times.

Fear, Hope, and Bread Pudding by Marie Sexton – I can’t even put into words how much I loved this story. I think I read it 3 or 4 times after its release. I love Marie’s Coda books, but Cole’s book, Strawberries for Dessert, remains my favorite. In this sequel, we see the process of him trying to become a father along with his husband, Jon. I yearned with them, mourned with them, and rejoiced with them. It was lovely. Probably in my top 3 for the year.

Noticed Me Yet? by Anyta Sunday – This was the perfect little read. Cute, sweet, and unique. I read it twice last year and I know I’ll reread it again someday.

The Starving Years by Jordan Castillo Price – This was an amazing book. It had that sort of breathless, anticipatory feel you get when watching disaster movies. You get caught up in the characters’ panic and confusion about what’s happening and you stay on the edge of your seat until the ride is finally over. It was gripping, original, and wonderfully written, as is always the case with JCP. The romance is secondary to the action, but there was a bit of a love triangle that eventually developed into a ménage, and I enjoyed the dynamic of these three characters together.

College Boys (Men of Holsum College #1) by Daisy Harris – This is the beginning of Daisy’s popular Men of Holsum College series. I really enjoyed this book and this series and quickly went through them all and was left wishing for more. While more books in the series are unlikely, there are 8 available and they can all pretty much stand on their own. Check these out if you like reading about college-aged guys and you like your stories with a bit of angst and humor.

Six Ways from Sunday by Mercy Celeste – A football player, a Marine, best friends, steamy sex scenes, and lots of emotion. What more can you ask for? If you haven’t read Mercy, you’re missing out.

His Roommate’s Pleasure by Lana McGregor – Hot damn this was one hot story. Like, I was literally sweating. We have a couple of college roommates dabbling into BDSM for the first time and the results are smoking. If you like your romance on the erotic side, check this one out.

Fugly by KZ Snow – KZ Snow is an amazing author. One who I think doesn’t get near the amount of attention she deserves. Fugly was not my first read by her. That was The Zero Knot back in 2011, and that book remains one of my all-time m/m favorites. In Fugly we have a trio of egotistical, superficial guys who get cursed by a mysterious stranger and learn how little good looks really matter when your heart is ugly. I really enjoyed it. A modern day fable penned by an impeccable hand.

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So, what were your favorite reads of 2013, new or old? I’m always looking for recs. Feel free to share in the comments. 😀

From Belgium, With Love

Hi, all! 🙂 Where am I now, you wonder? Well, the title of this post says it all. I’m in Belgium staying with Terry Milien, one of my besties. I’ll be here until Thursday when I head off for Germany, the final destination in this whirlwind adventure of mine. Today we have plans on visiting a dolphinarium. I ❤ dolphins, and I know they have other cute sea creatures like seals and sea lions, so I’m looking forward to checking it out!

2013-07-08 14.09.45Since I last updated, I went on a tour of Bath and Stonehenge. In Bath, Sue and I met up with Josephine Myles, who after our official tour of the Roman Baths, gave us a more unofficial tour of the town itself. We’d had lunch with her shortly after we arrived, broke for the tour of the baths, and then we walked around with her a bit. Knowing I’m a major Jane Austen fan, she showed us to one of the houses where Jane Austen had lived, took us past the Jane Austen Centre, and then showed us a couple of spots any Austen fan might recognize from the books/movies — the Circus and the Royal Crescent (pictured above). It was a lovely town and I enjoyed it very much, and being in the Roman Baths left me in awe thinking of the people who had first built it thousands of years ago. A bit surreal. Stonehenge was even more so after that, especially with all the speculation surrounding the actual use of the stones. We’ll never know, it’ll all be conjecture unless someone finds a magical, as-yet-undiscovered answer. Mysteries like that intrigue me. I must have taken a hundred pictures, one of which you can see below. 

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The day after our Stonehenge/Bath tour, Sue and I headed down to Brighton with Marie Sexton. We met with Chris, a Brighton Greeter, who took us through the town and showed us various sights while giving us some historical background. For a volunteer who claimed not to be an “official” tour guide, he was certainly very knowledgeable, and he made our visit that much more enjoyable.

2013-07-09 17.03.19After parting with him, we did lunch, and then we left Marie behind in the center of town to shop while Sue and I went to have our tattoos done. You can see mine to the right. It’s Harry Potter inspired and also serves to commemorate this trip, as a part of it I was most looking forward to was our visit to the Harry Potter studio at the beginning of the month. 

Being friends with the tattooist who did my work, Melanie Tushmore was waiting for us at the tattoo parlor. She stayed for our tattoos and then helped us get back to the town center via bus, where Sue and I went down to the beach to dip our toes in the English Channel (And, man, was that beach rocky and killer on our feet! I don’t get how people were lying on those rocks bare-skinned, lol). Then we hung out with Tush and a friend of hers for a little bit before heading back to London. It had been a long day with lots of walking around, and we were tired.

That was on the 10th and the last of our official tours. Below, to the left, you can see a pic of the Royal Pavilion, which was one of my favorite 2013-07-09 10.34.24buildings in Brighton, and I just loved its back-story. Then on the 11th, our last day in London, Sue and I split up for a bit. She went to check out the Natural History Museum while I met up with Marie Sexton at the London Dungeon. For those who don’t know, this isn’t an actual dungeon, but a haunted house type of attraction that blends history/folklore with trying to scare the hell out of you. As Marie said to Rowan later that day, we didn’t know each other very well at the beginning of our visit, but we did by the end. Clinging to someone in terror will do that to you! lol. Some of it was cheesy, it has to be said, but there were a few scary moments that had me screaming and holding on to Marie’s arm for dear life. I don’t feel too bad, though, because there were moments she grabbed me too. Hehe.

The day after the London Dungeon, we took a train to Manchester for the UK Meet Up. It was so great meeting new people and seeing some familiar faces. I got to meet some peeps I’d been talking to on Twitter and FB for a while, which was awesome, and the adorable Ashlyn Kane, who wrote one of my favorite M/M rocker romances, which was an unexpected pleasure, as I hadn’t realized she was going. Also saw some of the Dreamspinner crew, which is always a pleasure. Mainly we ate, drank (well, I drank pop/juice/water, the others mainly had wine :P), and talked and laughed. I enjoyed the panel discussions that went on throughout the day on Saturday, and then on Sunday, we only hung around long enough to have breakfast with Susan, and sit in on another couple of panels, and I got to chat with Kay Berrisford for a few minutes, who I’d been looking forward to meeting and had spoken to briefly the day before. The signing on Saturday evening went well. I had a few people stop by, managed to sell all my books, and even picked up a few books and signatures myself! JL Merrow was there and she wrote what is probably my favorite humorous M/M romance to date, so I was thrilled to meet her and have her sign my book, and I also bought books from Henrietta Clarke and Julie Bozza, which I am really excited to start reading!

Well, I must go off and shower so we can begin our day over here. Hope you are all having a beautiful summer. This time next week, I’ll be back home. Much as I’m looking forward to seeing my friend Carolin in Germany and spending a few days there, I’m also anxious to get back home. This is the longest I’ve ever been away from my family, and I’m really missing my son.

Halfway through our adventure

2013-06-24 11.53.22Hey, all! It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. My friend Sue and I have been going almost non-stop since we left Chicago on June 23rd. :)First, we hit Rome, which was just amazing. I could have easily spent an entire month just exploring Italy, and I definitely want to go back one day. We did a few tours while we were there. One of ancient Rome, which took us to sights like the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Trevi Fountain. That was a hard tour — three hours of walking under a blazing sun on one of the hottest days we’ve experienced so far — and yet, it was probably my favorite for all that. There was a moment where we were sitting across the street from the Colosseum having lunch (see pic above), which stands out as one of the coolest moments of my life so far. Then we did a tour of the Tuscan countryside and also a tour of a few crypts and old churches. It was a ton of fun and a lot of activities packed into a short amount of time. The only downside was that I got sick the day after the ancient Rome tour and still haven’t fully recovered, though I’m doing loads better. 

2013-06-30 15.07.10After Rome, we moved on to Paris, where we met my friend, Terry, and his husband, A. We hit up as much as we could — the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Saint-Chapelle, Champs-Élysées, Montmarte (that’s a pic of the real Moulin Rouge on the left) — as well as attending the gay pride parade on the 29th and having some truly decadent hot chocolate at Angelina (I thought I’d go into a diabetic coma!). By the time it was all over, we were old pros at getting around on the Metro (though, mainly we just followed behind wherever A. led like ducklings :P). Then Terry and A. accompanied us to London via the Eurostar.

Once we were in London, we found our nearest tube stop and familiarized ourselves with the area a bit. Then the next day we went to Warner Bros. Studio in Leavesdon for the Harry Potter tour, which was awesome! My favorite part was the model of Hogwarts, which you can see a bit further down.

We’ve definitely gotten to know the London underground very well, and we’ve both even gone on it by ourselves when we went to 2013-07-02 15.04.40separate activities the other day. Definitely much easier (and cheaper) than hailing cabs everywhere. So far in London, we did a “snapshot” tour, which took us to the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Covent Garden, the London Eye, and gave us a general overview of things like the Parliament and Big Ben. Then another day we did a Jack the Ripper tour with Marie Sexton and Rowan Speedwell, who are over here to attend the UK Meet. Yesterday, I met up with Melanie Tushmore, who took me on a brief tour of the markets at Camden. And today Sue and I had tea at The Tea Room on the 2nd floor of Harrods and checked out the market in Notting Hill. Tomorrow, we’re doing a tour that includes Stonehenge and Bath, which I’m really looking forward to! Josephine Myles will be meeting us in Bath since she lives nearby and giving us a tour and showing me all the spots any Jane Austen fan would appreciate. 😀 Later in the week, we’re doing a tour of Brighton with Marie and Rowan, Sue and I are getting tattoos to commemorate our trip (it was the first time overseas for both of us!), and on Wed or Thurs, I will likely be going to check out the London Dungeon before we move on to Manchester. 

My trip will be going on for an entire month, so right now I’m only halfway through. Sue only has another week, as she’s leaving for home right after the UK Meet. I still have two more countries to visit after we’re done in England. I’m looking forward to it! 🙂

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