Book Recommendations, Book Talk, Meet Cute Chronicles

International Tea Day

Today is International Tea Day! There are some weird “holidays” floating around, but a day celebrating tea? I can get behind that!

Here on the blog, I’m celebrating with tea (duh!) and books where tea features prominently. Let’s start off by pouring a cup of our favorite tea. Here’s mine.

My favorite tea: matcha genmaicha. Look at that color! 😍

Many of my characters drink tea, because I’m a tea lover and I project that onto my MCs. But no one but Viggo in They Met in the Woods makes their own tea. No wonder Måns falls for him, right? I would, too, if I lived in that world 😁

Måns Elemander had A Plan. A researched and well-thought-out one, devised to help him avoid getting lost while foraging for mushrooms in an unfamiliar forest. But his cell phone battery didn’t get the memo, died unexpectedly, and thwarted The Plan, leaving Måns with a basket full of mushrooms, but no idea where to go. Until the sounds of someone chopping wood reaches him.

Måns follows the sound and finds a quaint cabin…and its owner, Viggo Moberg. Viggo is kind, understanding of the situation, and willing to help. He’s also smoking hot and their connection is instant, threatening to ignite and burn down the woods. Will the sparks burn fast and fizzle out, or will the attraction grow roots, just like the trees in the forest?

M/M Contemporary / 17 388 words


But wait. I know I write pretty short books, so if you still want more after finishing They Met in the Woods, if you’re in the mood for a really long and cozy tea-drinking and tea-reading session, I’ve got you covered. Here are three more books featuring tea.

Amy Tasukada’s Blood Stained Tea isn’t a romance, unless you count the relationship between Nao and his tea. But if you’re in the mood for a bloody thriller about crazy, murderous yakuza and excellent tea descriptions, Blood Stained Tea is just the book for you.

Tattoos & Teacups by Anna Martin: if you’re in the mood for opposites attract, age gap, and a charming relationship-focused book. I haven’t read it in years, but I remember loving it. Maybe today is the perfect day for a re-read?

Taking Stock by A.L. Lester might not have the word “tea” in the title, but it’s full of the stuff. It’s a book set in Britain, written by a British author after all, so tea is expected. And it’s there, in every little aspect of daily life, and as a tea lover myself, this is something I really appreciate. But it’s the quiet, lovely romance between the two men that’s the real star of this book, despite all the tea goodness.

Nao took the cup and let the tea warm his hands. The astringent oolong filled his nose with an undertone of plum from that particular blend. Tea always calmed him, and he was more thankful than ever that Father had called for it. Nao pressed the cup to his lips and drank. Bitter, probably from too many leaves stuffed into a tiny infuser.

After making tea in my only, beautiful teapot and finding proper teacups and saucers to drink it from, I loaded up a tray with the tea-making paraphernalia and some proper Scottish shortbread and joined Chris under the duvet that he’d brought through to the sofa.

Laurie was thin under the soft cotton. They stood for a while, doing nothing but breathing and looking out the window. Gradually, Laurie relaxed and as he did, he swayed back, just a little, until some of his weight was resting on Phil. It felt nice, to take the weight for someone else.

Eventually, Laurie dashed his good hand over his face. Wiping his eyes, Phil thought. “Tea’s getting cold,” Laurie said.


Tell me; which is your favorite book where tea features prominently?

Release Blitz

New Release Spotlight: The Hunger Gap by Holly Day

Today, I welcome the lovely Holly Day back to the blog to talk about her newest release The Hunger Gap. Welcome back, it’s always a pleasure to have you here! ❤️


Hello, Nell! Hello, Nell’s readers! *waves*

A few days ago, my story The Hunger Gap was published. I don’t know how many of you are familiar with what the hunger gap is. I suspect it’s a term you might not have heard unless you’re into gardening and growing fruit and veg. It probably depends on where you live, too.

The hunger gap is that period in the spring when there are no fresh fruit or vegetables to be had. If you’re in California or Florida, then you don’t really have a hunger gap since you can have fresh things growing year around. In Sweden – we’re still at risk of getting nights below freezing. Things are starting to grow, gradually. The trees are getting greener by the day and my radishes, lettuce, spinach, and snow peas are just peeking up out of the soil.

So if we’re going back to a time when our grocery shops weren’t overflowing with fruits and vegetables from around the globe, the hunger gap was very real and had a huge impact on people’s lives. About this time last year, my biggest fear was a food shortage. I might like to have a few garden beds, but I don’t have the knowledge, and I don’t have the space to provide for my family. What if they closed the borders? What if lockdown meant no one would go out into the fields to harvest?

In 1867, there was a bad harvest here. People starved to death, and out of those who survived, about 20% of all men and 15% of all women left for the USA in the following years. If you’re from the midwest, you might have some Swedish genes since it was where most of them ended up. They left because they didn’t want to see their children starve to death, and they’d heard about the fertile soil on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Enough of a history lesson, and by now, you might have an idea of what The Hunger Gap is about. It’s a dystopic story where every district has to grow its own food. And since I’m Swedish, I gave them a climate similar to where I’m at in Sweden – with a hunger gap stretching from January to May.

As if having to struggle through a hunger gap wouldn’t be enough, we also have a corrupt government and rigorous controls of how much food you’re allowed to keep for yourself and your family. George has a homestead and has to pay a weekly toll in food that he’s to produce. And the story starts with Axel’s first day at the job as a controller – the one who has to make sure people pay their tolls.

Oh, and I probably should say, I wrote this story to celebrate World Plant a Vegetable Garden Day, and that’s today.


Excerpt:

As soon as the car rolled out of the yard, George rushed through the house. He stopped a few seconds by the light switch and flicked it up and down at a rapid pace, hoping June would see it.

Then he ran out the back door, took the stairs up the hill two steps at a time, and then jogged down the slope they’d dug out of the stony ground, and in through the door on his side of the hidden garden.

“What the heck are you doing with the lights?”

He jumped at June’s voice. “Run!”

June looked up at him, her hazel eyes widening. “What’s going on?”

“New controller. He’s traveling the round to prepare for Thursday, inspected my barn and wanted to see my hens.”

“Shit.” What little color she had on her cheeks drained away. “Shit, the hens are out. The roosters—”

“I know. One cockerel came strutting into the barn.”

She dropped the garden trowel to the ground. “What happened?”

“I scared him off, and when he crowed, I told them it was your rooster.”

She nodded.

“Go! I’ll try to lock them in. Turn off the light.” She jogged toward the door, scared a couple of hens in the process, but left the secret garden within seconds.

They had dug out a hole in the hill. It wasn’t a perfect square, but they’d aimed for thirty feet times thirty feet, and they’d dug it ten feet deep. It had taken ages—buckets of sweat and too many blisters on their hands to count, but they’d done it.

George had traded food for acrylic glass at the black market. It wasn’t ideal, but they needed a material that wouldn’t shatter if something fell on it, or if an animal were to walk on it. They’d installed poles to keep the glass from falling in, and while it was slow to get the heat up at this time of the year, it created a big greenhouse.

June had gotten hold of wires, so they’d hooked it up to the distribution box in George’s house and buried the cord in the ground. They’d built an area in the corner where they’d installed shelves with growing lights for seedlings.

By the door on the other side of the hidden garden, they’d built chicken coops from leftover boards and planks they’d found, stolen, or borrowed. Farther in, they kept a few rabbits. George didn’t like raising rabbits, but it was food. They reproduced fast, which was good. The main problem was keeping them fed.

Together, they kept twenty hens and two roosters. Which were fifteen birds more than they were allowed. The cockerel walking into the barn earlier was not included in the twenty-two birds, he was destined for the pot. George would take care of him. With a new controller, they had to be more careful. Better to eat the bird than get thrown in jail because of him.

George had watched June starve, had watched her children starve, and had suggested they work together. It had started with allowing June’s rooster to walk with his hens. Then there had been chicks that he’d butchered and given the meat to June.

He’d been starving too, but as Mr. Rowe had pointed out—he got breakfast every day at the bakery. June did too, and he suspected, now during the hunger gap, it was all she ate.

Watching children starve was terrible.

He didn’t agree with the government’s system; didn’t agree with people being given less food if they worked less than others. He did not agree with the government having the right to take everything you made for yourself.

Yes, there was a food shortage, he understood that. And yes, he understood people living in apartments in the city could not grow their own food. But to take the food he grew, to restrict how much he was allowed to have when he worked hard for it—that he didn’t agree with.

A person like June didn’t stand a chance. She was a single mother of three boys, her husband had walked out on her years ago. How was one person’s weekly quota supposed to feed four people?

It didn’t. Even with the extra food packages for children, it was nowhere near what a family needed to survive.

She got a little extra for having the kids, and a few measly boons for being a homesteader, but it wasn’t nearly enough. After a few years of watching her struggle, and struggling himself, he’d tried to do something about it. It might be his death, would most likely have him end up in prison one day, but to see those kids get to have fresh vegetables, allow them to eat eggs and the occasional chicken—it made it worth the risk.

Blurb:

After years of the government taking everything he grows, homesteader George Vega has had enough. Food is scarce and people are starving. To provide for himself, he’ll need to break the law. Together with his next-door neighbor June, he sets up a system to hide food from the controller during his weekly collecting visits.

Axel Rowe won’t survive much longer. Every scrap of food he can get his hands on, he gives to his six-year-old daughter, but it isn’t nearly enough. Luck is on his side when he secures a job as a controller. He realizes taking the job will make people dislike him, but he has to eat.

George understands the danger he’s in when his old, lazy controller is replaced with a new, more observant one. Axel suspects there is something George is withholding, but when George takes care of him after nearly collapsing from hunger, Axel is more curious about how he’s able to keep food for himself than he’s interested in reporting him. George knows the risk, but after having looked into Axel’s desperate eyes, he’s compelled to take care of him. But can an outlaw homesteader have a relationship with the man who’s supposed to make sure he follows the law?

Buy links:

Dystopian M/M Romance: 23,976 words

JMS Books :: Amazon :: books2read.com/TheHungerGap

About Holly:

According to Holly Day, no day should go by uncelebrated and all of them deserve a story. If she’ll have the time to write them remains to be seen. She lives in rural Sweden with a husband, four children, more pets than most, and wouldn’t last a day without coffee.

Holly gets up at the crack of dawn most days of the week to write gay romance stories. She believes in equality in fiction and in real life. Diversity matters. Representation matters. Visibility matters. We can change the world one story at the time.

Connect with Holly @ https://lnk.bio/xpae or visit her website @ hollydaywrites.wordpress.com

About Nell

Nell around the Internet

A big part of releasing a new book is promoting said book, and a huge part of promoting is writing guest posts. So for the release of So Far Away, I wrote guest posts, and if you’re interested in reading them, here are the links:

I visited A.L. Lester’s blog and wrote about where the idea for the story came, and how writing about a pandemic amidst a pandemic is tricky business, and how the story I wanted to tell wasn’t about the virus itself, but of the humans affected by the circumstances. Link here.

Considering the topic for Ally’s blog, this review made me really happy:

 So Far Away isn’t so much about the virus but the human heart, the emotions that can and have hit most of us.

Padme’s Library

Next, I visited Ofelia Gränd’s blog and wrote about what’s the first thing I’d do when reunited with my significant other if I’d been separated from him. And what Zakarias and Julian in So Far Away wants to do when they finally are allowed to touch again. Link here.

And finally, I visited Holly Day’s blog and wrote about established couples in books (and TV shows) and the complicated relationship I have to reading books with established couples. Link here.

Read the two lovely reviews in their entirety @ Bayou Book Junkie

Engaged couple Zakarias and Julian are convinced nothing can separate them…until a global pandemic hits. Zakarias catches the virus with mild symptoms and isolates in the couple’s guest house. The few meters dividing them might as well be the moon as he watches Julian, an ICU nurse, work himself to the bone, unable to support him the way he needs. Frustration and worry build as the weeks pass. Will Zakarias be declared healthy before Julian burns out?

M/M Contemporary / 14 567 words

While the theme hits close to home regarding what’s happening in the world, the focus isn’t on the situation itself, but on the human experiences of the main characters and how they deal with it all.

Goodreads reviewer
About Nell

Nell at Work

I survived the first two weeks at work. Yay me!

But, Nell, you say. It’s only Thursday! And yes, you’re right, of course. But Ascension Day is a public holiday, so I have today off. And Friday is something we call a squeeze day here in Sweden, which is a regular working day “squeezed” between a public holiday and the weekend. Some companies, my employer among them, give their employees that day off, too, so no more work for me this week. I asked one of my new coworkers if I can still say that I’ve survived two weeks at work when I’ve not yet worked two actual weeks, and she said yes, so there you go! 😁

Upper left: my train station. Upper right: a rapeseed flower field on the way to work. Lower left: my train was canceled on Monday, so I parked my butt at a coffee house (properly socially distanced, ofc) while I waited for my husband to come get me in the car. Lower right: chilly temperatures + face masks = foggy glasses.

And so far, I like the job. There are some obvious cons: I have to wear pants (or at least not the robe I wear during my writing mornings) and brush my hair 😱 My new coworkers are all super nice and I like them…but they’re not my morning writing crew, so anyone not Ofelia, Ally, or JM start at a disadvantage! 😁 The gazillion teenagers going to school on the same train as me, constantly bickering over one thing or another, is driving me crazy, but I’m managing better since my husband lent me his noise cancellation head phones.

One more serious con is that working messes with my writing routine, so I need to carve out a new one. I still write on the mornings I have off, like weekends or today, and maybe that needs to be enough. For now, at least, until I get into the job more.

There are pros, too, of course. The commute to work is awesome for listening to audiobooks (audiobooks also helps drown out the teenagers). Actually meeting people is also fun; I wasn’t sure at first since I’m an introvert, but I’m surprised at how much I like it. The tasks are varied and interesting. And then there’s the steady salary!

So all in all, these first couple weeks have been great, and I’m happy about the job. And I’ll figure out a new writing routine; if I don’t put too much pressure on myself, I’m sure it’ll work out organically. A million other authors have managed to write while working a full-time job, so why wouldn’t I, right?

Right. 🙂

Book Recommendations

Sunday Book Recommendation

It’s Sunday, and Sundays are for reading on the couch (or in the garden now that it’s spring), shushing anyone who tries to disturb you unless it’s asking if you need more tea, and relaxing. And if you need a reading recommendation, I’ve got you covered.

I’ve read three books by K.L. Noone lately – and if you’ve followed me for a while, you know how I feel about K.L. Noone by now – that I want to tell you about. Three books that were as great as every other book of hers I’ve read. She really is one of my absolute favorite authors, and sometimes I get upset that I don’t see more people talking about her books. That’s so unfair; her stories deserve praise and recognition.

Do you have a favorite author who doesn’t get the recognition they deserve? If yes, tell me about them in the comments, please.

Anyway: I’ll start with the shortest and most recent of the books I read:


Ellis retired from a pirate’s life to settle down with Tom, the man he loves. But when a fever nearly claims Tom’s life, Ellis faces a foe he can’t fight, and though Tom’s recovering, the ordeal’s left Ellis shaken. On a stormy afternoon, can Ellis and Tom face the tempests of their emotions and find safe harbor together?

Gay Historical Romance / 3202 words

If you only have a few minutes, this is the book for you. And if you like pirates! I don’t; I’ve never understood the attraction to pirates, but after reading a huge chunk of what K.L. Noone has written, I knew that she wouldn’t disappoint me even with pirates, and I was right!

“Speaking of, can I at least ask you to kiss me? Not too gently? Piratically, perhaps?”

Quote from A Sonnet for a Thunderstorm

Buy link: JMS Books


Aidan’s on what should be an easy Magical Enforcement Division case: stolen apples. But the apple-thief faerie-horse shifts into a gorgeous young man who doesn’t mind being captured. Ink left his herd to find adventure, and he has. He likes Aidan’s hands and that enchanted bridle on him. But ritual magic and complicated powers collide, and the family legacy Aidan’s been avoiding becomes important.

Gay Paranormal BDSM Erotic Romance / 20 205 words

If you like paranormal stories but have grown tired of all the wolves in shifter stories and crave something more unusual, may I suggest a faerie-horse shifter story? I admit I hadn’t heard about a “Pooka” before reading this story, but Google tells me it’s an Irish mythical creature, that “is a shapeshifter and can take any form it chooses. Usually, it is seen in the form of a horse, dog, rabbit, goat, goblin, or even an old man. Traditionally a Pooka is seen as a dark, sleek horse with a long wild flowing mane and luminescent golden eyes.” (source)

The day I read this book, I was so in the mood for an apple-thief faerie-horse and I was not disappointed!

He remained very, very unclothed: toes bare in long grass, ears up and shivering through dark hair, tail a starlit fall of onyx against pale skin and apple-tree bark.

Quote from The Pooka’s Share

Buy link: JMS Books


Raine’s an unconventional Cupid who dislikes his powers. He isn’t about to fall in love and wouldn’t trust someone falling in love with him. But the owner of his local coffee shop tempts him. Don’s a Frost who enjoys good coffee and overall cheer. But one gorgeous Cupid seems immune. Don’s determined to make Raine smile, and he learns Raine’s sarcasm hides a lonely heart.

Gay Fantasy BDSM Erotic Romance / 40 020 words

The word that best describes this story is probably “delightful,” and it left me with a wide, happy grin on my face. The characters, Don and Raine, are delightful, the coffee shop is delightful, the writing is delightful, everything is delightful. I probably looked like this 😍 the whole time I read this book. And it’s really creative: Raine is a divorce lawyer Cupid, who dislikes Valentine’s Day – “You mean the commemoration of commercialization and insincere affection?” (I couldn’t have said it better myself!) – and Don is a big-hearted coffee shop owner who can create frost and ice, who I’d like to know in real life.

He sent Raine, via the dependable Henry, his heart in the form of coffee: strong and bold, with a dazzling variety of beans and roasts.

Arabica. Robusta. Viennese. Italian. Complicated blends. Spices and smoke.

Quote from Frost & Raine

Buy link: JMS Books


Happy sigh.

I love K.L. Noone, have I told you that before? 😂