Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Embrace the Fire (Through Hell and Back #3) by Felice Stevens - Blog Tour, Excerpt, Review & Giveaway

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Embrace the Fire
Through Hell and Back # 3
By: Felice Stevens  
Releasing May 26th, 2015
Loose ID

Brandon Gilbert has spent years in hiding, but finally he’s accomplished his dream of working as a public school teacher. When offered the chance to help bullied children, there was no way he could say no. Not to mention that meeting Dr. Tash Weber, the psychiatrist who helps them, a sad yet sexy older man, ignited a spark inside Brandon he’d never had before.

Though five years have passed since the death of his lover, Dr. Sebastian "Tash" Weber has no interest in relationships or love. But young, enigmatic Brandon awakens his heart and his desire. Despite Tash’s best efforts to push him away, Brandon unlocks the passion for life Tash thought he’d lost forever.

Falling in love wasn’t part of the plan for either Brandon or Tash, but neither family disapproval nor self-doubts can stop them from embracing the fire that burns between them. And when Brandon returns home to fight for a future he never imagined possible, he and Tash discover that the one thing worth fighting for has been with them all along.

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Brandon glanced around the empty room. “Guess we’re a little early.” Chairs were set around in a haphazard manner, and the desk in the front was bare of any material.

When Gage checked his watch, he shrugged. “Yeah, only by about ten minutes. Why don’t I go tell them we’re here?”

Before Brandon had a chance to answer him, Gage left. After wandering around the room, Brandon stood at the window, looking out over the dark city sky. It was times like these he wondered if he could risk it all, go back home, and deal with the consequences. He understood a little better now, with the wisdom coming from a life hard-lived, why his foster mother became so overprotective of him. Years of being beaten down and weakened by living with a bully and abuser like Munson would make anyone want to believe in a religion that promised salvation. While he didn’t understand the religious aspect, he supposed it gave her something to hold on to when her life crashed and burned around her.

The door opened. “Oh, hello. I didn’t realize anyone was here yet.”

Brandon turned from his contemplation and faced the man at the door. His eyes widened, recognizing the man he’d seen crossing the street. Once again his body registered an unusual heated response.

“Yes. I’m here for the mentoring program. I came with Gage Taylor.” The man was even better-looking close up. His eyes were hazel with streaks of gold, and his face had a masculine, rugged quality. Not classically handsome, but arresting and, in Brandon’s eyes, so much more memorable.

“Oh great.” The man entered the room, leaving the door ajar behind him. “We were hoping Gage was able to pick up a few volunteers to come tonight.” He extended his hand. “I’m Tash. I run the program.”

At the press of Tash’s hand, a shiver rippled through Brandon. Deciding he was reading more into the touch than he thought, Brandon withdrew his hand a little quicker than he normally would and sat in one of the chairs, drawing a quizzical look from Tash.

“Tash. That’s an unusual name.” To his shock, Brandon realized he’d gotten hard. Mortified and hoping his cheeks weren’t red, he shifted in his seat, trying to get comfortable. This had never happened before. Ever. He took several deep breaths and concentrated on the man speaking.

Tash rubbed his chin ruefully. “Would you believe my mother is an avid reader of Regency romances and Sebastian was her favorite name? My sister couldn’t pronounce it when she was a baby, and it was shortened to Tash.” He chuckled. “I suppose I should be grateful she didn’t also add the title she loved the most, or you’d be calling me Duke.” 
They were still laughing when Gage walked in, followed by a group of people, some of whom Brandon recognized from the pictures hanging on the wall.

“Oh good, Randy, you met Tash.” Gage dropped into the chair next to Brandon. “Randy is the teacher I told you guys about. Even though he joined our staff as a permanent teacher only this year, he’s already made a tremendous difference in the lives of the kids he teaches.”

Brandon’s face colored, and he squirmed under the scrutiny as the attention of everyone in the room shifted to him. “It’s no big deal,” he muttered. “The kids are awesome and eager to learn.”

“My man here is too modest.” Gage stretched out his long legs. “Within weeks of the start of the school year, all the kids could talk about was Mr. Gilbert and how much they love him. All the kids want to be in his classroom. He’s taken it upon himself to stay late, well after school is over, to work with any of the kids who are struggling, not only the ones in his class.”

“Come on, Gage, cut it out. That’s not why we’re here,” Brandon protested, unzipping his jacket. He hung it on the back of his chair. “Don’t hold up the meeting. No one wants to hear you talk about me.”

“But you’re wrong, Randy,” Tash cut in. “You’re exactly the type of person we need for this program. Someone young, who the kids can identify with, someone who doesn’t look down on them. Someone with empathy for their pain.”

Their gazes held, and Brandon’s breath grew short in his throat. Like a movie where the sound is muted, the rest of the room disappeared; it was as if only he and Tash were present in that small conference room, with Tash whispering the words straight to Brandon’s heart.

Instead of the familiar trepidation at facing new people, Tash’s presence centered Brandon, untangling all the knots the big ball of his hopes and dreams had twisted themselves up into. For the first time in what seemed like forever, Brandon felt safe.

“You make me sound special. I’m not.” It was the truth. All he gave those kids was his time and concern. They craved attention and the knowledge that another person gave a damn about them. Brandon was anything but special. If they knew who he really was, they’d avoid him.

“Everyone is special.” The man he recognized as the founder of the clinic, Dr. Drew Klein, spoke. “That’s what we need these kids to understand. Because they’re different, either in their looks or their sexual orientation, that doesn’t make them weird or bad. Loving someone differently from the norm doesn’t make you wrong.” The doctor smiled at him with a clear, friendly expression.

Brandon wondered if the doctor was gay. In the chair next to his, Tash’s presence brushed up against him, warming him as if he’d been caressed. Brandon’s skin prickled with awareness.

“There’s a chance Randy can help you since he’s already taken it on himself to tutor the kids.” The door opened, and a young man walked in carrying a box of coffee and a bag that smelled like sugar. Gage’s eyes lit up. “I didn’t know you were having coffee and snacks.”

Tash chuckled and bent over to whisper in Brandon’s ear. “If I hadn’t seen how dedicated Gage was to these kids, I’d swear he did this for the free coffee and doughnuts.”

Brandon snorted, knowing well his fellow teacher’s propensity for caffeine and sweets. “I know. The man should just get an IV of the stuff.”

He and Tash shared a smile, and Brandon’s heart gave a funny thump in his chest. Heat rose in his face, and Brandon knew he blushed. Embarrassed, he fidgeted with his watchband, then raked a hand through his hair. He couldn’t sit still and tore his gaze away from Tash’s mesmerizing eyes. 

The overall story of Ash and his brothers reuniting is touching, and for those that read the first two books, satisfying. I personally did not feel the connection between Brandon and Tash, which made it really hard to get into the romance portion of the book and it made the dialogue seem very cheesy. Having said that, the love scenes between Brandon and Tash are well done. The epilogue was great as it gives you a glimpse into everyone's future. 

ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

I have always been a romantic at heart. I believe that while life is tough, there is always a happy ending just around the corner. I started reading traditional historical romances when I was a teenager, then life and law school got in the way. It wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Bertrice Small and became swept away to Queen Elizabeth’s court that my interest in romance novels became renewed.
But somewhere along the way, my tastes shifted. While I still enjoys a juicy Historical romance, I began experimenting with newer, more cutting edge genres and discovered the world of Male/Male romance. Once I picked up her first, I became so enamored of the authors, the character-driven stories and the overwhelming emotion of the books, I knew I wanted to write my own.
I live in New York City with my husband and two children and hopefully soon a cat of my own. My day begins with a lot of caffeine and ends with a glass or two of red wine. I practice law but daydream of a time when I can sit by a beach somewhere and write beautiful stories of men falling in love. Although there is bound to be angst along the way, a Happily Ever After is always guaranteed.

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