Dr. Ed Hollingsworth, widowed for five years, returns to San Sebastián, Spain, after a thirty-year absence. He seeks out his first and only male lover, pro surfer Javi Elizalde.
After surviving a near-fatal shark attack, Javi turned his back on the sport he loves and became a recluse.
Iker Lizaso, professional jai alai player, finds himself at loose ends now that his contract has expired. Forced to retire at thirty-eight, he returned to his home in the Basque Country to figure out what to do with the rest of his life.
Three different men, encumbered by their past, converge in a city famous for its food, summer festivals, and romantic promenades. Can they find happiness together? It’ll be difficult, maybe even improbable, considering their backgrounds, but Cupid’s arrow usually hits the mark, and this particular strike might be epic.
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I truly enjoyed this story. I enjoy Ms. Ashling’s voice and how she can get you invested in the story so quickly. She brings out emotions and has you connect with the characters making you want to know what happens with them. The setting for this story is so rich. You truly feel like you’re there in San Sebastian with the characters. I loved the sense of place in the story.
Javi is someone I wanted to hug. He was a bit of a curmudgeon and set in his ways but also deeply changed by the shark attack. He hid his hurt from Ed well. He was open with his affection and couldn’t not show his feelings for Ed and Iker. The way he slowly came around to life without a foot and built up to handling his fear of the water was wonderful. I adored how happy he was by the end of the story.
Iker was an old soul. While he was still young in many ways, he’d lived a long life in his thirty-eight years. He had a good head on his shoulders and mostly very rational. He also has an honor you don’t see often in this day and age. I liked how he was eager to help Javi get back in the water. Iker knew Javi needed that to properly start to heal. Ike wore his heart on his sleeve in many ways. His feelings for Ed and Javi were obvious and actually rather sweet right from the start. I enjoyed seeing him get passionate and exciting about his career towards the end of the story. You could tell he’d found what he was looking for.
I really liked watching Ed figure himself out. You could see him try to work through labels and what they meant for his past, his future, his family, and himself in general. That’s one aspect of the story that was amazingly wonderfully done. Ed struggled with his relationship with Javi far longer than expected. He seemed to go back and forth between full speed ahead and running in the opposite direction for most of the book. The way he approached helping Javi was wonderful at times and kind of off at others. I loved how he kept talking with Javi about getting back on his feet (metaphorically) and out in the water (physically). But the way he just bought things and didn’t ask Javi what he needed to heal seemed like he was proving he knew better. I adored how the relationship between Iker and Ed grew. Ed was very nervous about what each person thought and made sure everyone was on the same page.
I really enjoyed watching the build up between Javi and Ed and Ed and Iker. You can also see the slow build between Iker and Javi threaded throughout the story. I liked the tension between all three and seeing it eventually explode in passion. I also loved how they kept checking in to be sure no one was jealous and one one felt left out, laying out rules and having open communication about everything. But the ending of the story was a bit rushed making their feelings seem rushed as well. I completely felt the love between Javi and Ed. I also could mostly feel the emotions between Iker and Ed though I didn’t think they were as far along as they said they were. But I didn’t buy the feelings between Iker and Javi. I could definitely see it was headed there. But not yet. Then the story ended. I felt like I needed more to be more sure of their connection and that they would make it long term. I’d love to see a sequel to see more of all three. I would gladly read to see Javi follow his dreams, Iker content with his found career, and Ed more firmly in with the relationship.
I’m so excited for Ms. Ashling to join us today. She talks about the setting of Gnarly and its inspiration. Plus she shares a local recipe with us. It sounds so delicious I can’t wait to try it myself. Read and enjoy!
Thanks for stopping by to help me celebrate my latest release, Gnarly, which is part of Dreamspinner’s World of Love collection. The setting for this long novella is San Sebastian, a beautiful seaside town in the North of Spain (Basque Country). Those of you who know me are aware my mother was Basque. I still have many relatives in that part of the world and visit as often as possible.
Gnarly is a standalone. The only similarity to my other series featuring a Basque character (Loving Edits series) is that it’s m/m/m. There’s something about the area that compels me to write polyamorous relationships. I’m not certain why. My best guess is the overabundance of eye candy. I had the opportunity to spend six weeks in San Sebastian—Sanse as the locals call it—last summer, and left with a small arsenal of plot bunnies.
One of the best things about Spain as a whole is the food. You’ll find lots of references to good restaurants and popular dishes in my novella. Today, I’d like to share a recipe for a staple found in almost any bar or restaurant throughout the country. Tortilla de Patata, also known as a potato omelet, is an easy and economical dish that can be eaten hot or cold. You can dress it up with pieces of chorizo, ham, vegetables, or even cheese, but almost everyone likes it in its purest form.
Before we move on to the recipe and short excerpt, I’d like to thank Molly Lolly for hosting my tour visit and my wonderful publicist J for her excellent help in organizing everything.
Tortilla de Patata
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds waxy potatoes, thinly sliced
- 2 Spanish onions, halved and thinly sliced
- 4 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, plus extra to garnish
- Salt and ground black pepper
Heat part of the oil in an 8-inch non-stick frying pan, and fry the onions until golden brown and cooked through. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Transfer to a plate. If you plan on adding chorizo or ham, you can fry the cubed or cut up pieces at this time and add to the cooked onions once you drain and pat dry. Add more oil to the pan and fry the potatoes, turning frequently. Cover tightly and cook over a gentle heat for about 30 minutes turning occasionally, until softened and slightly golden. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the eggs and parsley. Gently stir in the potatoes and onions until coated (and additional ingredients if desired), taking care not to break up the potato too much. It’s important to mix everything in a bowl instead of pouring the eggs directly over the potatoes in the pan. The eggs are distributed evenly and it tastes better this way. Wipe out the pan and heat the remaining oil. Add the potato/onion/egg mixture and cook over a very low heat until the egg begins to set. Use a rubber spatula to prevent the tortilla from sticking and allow the uncooked egg to run underneath. Preheat your broiler to high. When the base of the tortilla has set, which should take about 5 minutes, protect the pan handle with foil and place the tortilla under the grill until it is set and golden. Cut into wedges and serve garnished with parsley.
One of the advantages to sticking around was making new friends. Every customer who walked in was familiar to Javi or his father, Patxi, who worked tirelessly by his side. Somehow Iker was included in the introductions, and when the new acquaintances discovered he was an ex-pelotari, the conversation veered toward the sport. There was nothing Iker enjoyed more than reminiscing about his glory days in Miami. Back then, he was on top of the world, with a hefty bank account, decent house, and sporty vehicle. It was a far cry from his current life in San Sebastián. Here he was renting a one-bedroom apartment and didn’t even own a car. He couldn’t bring himself to spend more than the bare minimum until his future was secure.
Well-meaning offers from some of the older guys who had connections in town were thrown out in passing, and Iker filed them away for reference. Maybe one of them might actually pan out, although he still hadn’t decided what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He was young and had decades of living to contend with. Occasionally he’d bemoan the unfairness of it all. The job market in Spain was terrible, and staying in America hadn’t been an option. If he’d only used his spare time to get some sort of degree online, he might have had more opportunities, but he’d fallen into a comfortable trap, convinced that he’d have another five years. It had come as a complete shock when his contract wasn’t renewed.
If his moral compass hadn’t been so firmly in place, he’d have considered the marriage option as a way of staying in Florida. He knew guys who’d done it. Arranged marriages to bypass immigration laws were a common occurrence and beneficial to both parties if one could pull it off without getting caught. But a gay man would be subjected to far more rigorous scrutiny, and Iker didn’t have the stomach for it. Furthermore, it would mean complete transparency. Even if he were willing to overlook his former teammates’ disappointment, he couldn’t bear to hurt his parents, and they would undoubtedly find out that he’d married another man.
Mickie B. Ashling is the pseudonym of a multifaceted woman who is a product of her upbringing in multiple cultures, having lived in Japan, the Philippines, Spain, and the Middle East. Fluent in three languages, she’s a citizen of the world and an interesting mixture of East and West. A little bit of this and a lot of that have brought a unique touch to her literary voice she could never learn from textbooks.
By the time Mickie discovered her talent for writing, real life got in the way, and the business of raising four sons took priority. With the advent of e-publishing—and the inevitable emptying nest—dreams of becoming a published writer were resurrected and she’s never looked back.
She stumbled into the world of men who love men in 2002 and continues to draw inspiration from their ongoing struggle to find equality and happiness in this oftentimes skewed and intolerant world. Her award-winning novels have been called “gut wrenching, daring, and thought provoking.” She admits to being an angst queen and making her men work damn hard for their happy endings.
Mickie currently resides in a suburb outside Chicago.
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July 3: MM Good Book Reviews
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I enjoyed the excerpt it is so difficult for Iker I do hope his luck changes and he can get a the job he needs and thank you for the review Molly too.
shirleyann2400 (at) gmail (dot) com
Thank you for the review and congratulations on your book release, Mickie.
Molly, thank you for the insightful review, and to Shirley and Ami for stopping by to comment.
Thank you for the recipe. It sounds delicious. Congrats again on the new release! It sounds so intriguing =)
The book sounds great. Thank you for the recipe.
Thanks for the review and recipe!
Thanks for the review, excerpt, & recipe!
Thanks for the review and the recipe! I like how you can make it as is or add ingredients based on taste.
Thanks for the review! And for another yummy-sounding recipe. I love Spanish food.
Congrats on the new release! And thanks for the review and recipe.
Back in the 70s, the potato omelet was known as Spanish Omelet/Tortilla Española. After visiting Spain I used to make it all the time back home in Puerto Rico, adding mixed vegetables to the mix, and lots of potatoes, making it at least 2 to 3 inches thick. Eat it on its own or with a chunk of crusty bread and a glass of red wine and you have it made! Yum!
Congrats and thanks for the post. I’d love to visit Spain, and I can via your story, and the polyamorous relationship sounds intriguing.
enjoyed the review