Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Review, Excerpt & Guest Post: Closely Guarded (PROTEKT Book 2) by Michael Mandrake @ rawiyamikembl #mm #thriller

Closely Guarded (PROTEKT Book 2) by [Mandrake, Michael]Publisher: Pride Publishing (October 25, 2016)
Publication Date: October 25, 2016

Book 2 in the PROTEKT series
Promises are meant to be broken sometimes. 
Can Kimball complete the mission and keep his feelings for fellow agent Darien in check in the process?Darien Mosely, aka BA Pointe, is a former NYPD officer with a chip on his shoulder. He came to PROTEKT in search of a new identity and career after being accused of killing a man in cold blood. Darien’s keen perception is what has made him an asset, but his cockiness has often landed him in hot water.Kimball Emerson, aka Justice Masters, is an important figure in PROTEKT. Being a former army sergeant, he’s used to keeping secrets and being in danger on a regular basis. As one of the prime figures in the organization, he is counted on to be the finisher and, for the group’s latest task, he’s been called upon to find the leaders of a Russian mob. It should be easy enough with all his knowledge and special skills but not with his close friend Darien Mosely along for the ride.Kimball made a promise to his fiancĂ© that he’d come back in one piece and not watch his partner’s ass, but he isn’t sure he’ll be able to keep the latter. Darien and Kimball have been best friends for five years and, at a Christmas party several months ago, they shared a kiss that left an indelible mark on their relationship.This latest mission calls for focus and calmer heads if they are to find the offenders who are bringing illegal drugs into Russia. The question is, how can they do it with mutual feelings and the threat of extreme danger looming over their heads?

Review by: multitaskingmomma

My Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Closely Guarded, is the second book to the action-thriller PROTEKT series. The men involved are hunky, well-trained in defense and offense, are gay (this is an M/M story folks), but they're also what many would consider, broken. Although I haven't read the first book, this one is a complete stand-alone.

In this installment, we have Darien Mosely and Kimball Emerson as the main men. Best friends, they are closer than most in their organization and one night, apparently it happened in the first book, not quite sure, but they kissed. Things wouldn't be so complicated if it were not for the fact that Kimball is engaged to be married to a different man. Now, many would consider this cheating, and for sure, I did as well. It wasn't until I gave this a chance did I reconsider and changed my opinion to Kimball having a hard habit he had difficulty breaking.

This is the real angst to this story. True, there is a whole lot of action going on hear, a lot of flirting on the side with different men involved, and there's the graphic violence that goes hand in hand with a thriller, but those were not the main friction. The real conflict is inside Kimball's heart and mind. You see, he's in love with Darien. He knows this without any doubt, but he is convinced he's in love with Mike, his fiance. How does he deal with it all? How does the author deal with a potential cheating expose and turn it into one of self-realization and romance?

I think Michael Mandrake managed to keep this reader on her toes. I was forever wanting to fast forward the story or just flip to the ending and find out who was the mole in their organization as well as discover how Kimball was to break it cruelly or gently from his fiance. Well, I held myself back and boy, there was a lot of foreshadowing regarding the mole, but how he finally faces reality, that was very well and kindly done. So peeps, take it off your mind. No, there's no cheating involved, there is an epiphany and before the habit breaks the man, the man broke it first.

Good one, Michael!

About Michael Mandrake

Michael Mandrake pens complex characters who are already comfortable in their sexuality. Thorough these characters, he builds worlds not centered on erotica but rather the mainstream plots we might encounter in everyday life through personal experiences or the media.

Why I Write Outside of my Spectrum
Sharita Lira (a.k.a. Michael Mandrake)

I’ve wanted to write this blog for a while, and I finally decided why not? You see, other than my Facebook personality, along with the muses, I’m really a shy person. I hide behind the computer screen and most of the time my social media profiles don’t feature a personal picture. It’s not because I don’t think I’m beautiful. *smiles and twists black locks of hair around my fingers* it’s because my writing shows so many different sides of myself. I mean, why would I want to write about a woman in her forties with an evil day job? Ugh. Sometimes those would make for great stories, but in my mind they’re kinda BORING. No, I don’t want to go so far as saying I’m boring. Once I get to talking and, maybe with some help from the liquor variety, I’ll tell you my life story. Or maybe not. *laughs* But really, I’d rather tell you about my writing and the personas I take on when I sit down at the computer. Yep, besides the 3 muses, (No I haven’t started writing under Veronica yet so there is 3 main names) I have a variety of people I decided to be for every book.
For Michael Mandrake, and many of my characters, I take on the persona of a gay man. I learn things from reading other books, articles, and things on the internet. Yes, porn. SURPRISE I’m sad to say, I have no close gay male friends, but when it comes to sex, I rely on what I read as my guide. While I did the edits for Mocha Kisses, I was fortunate enough to have what I assume is a gay male editor. One thing I’ve hardly been questioned on is my sex scenes, but this time, he asked me about some of the things I wrote. I’m glad he did, because there were things I assumed to be true because of what I read or seen in porn. It’s good to have those things when you’re a cis-gendered, mostly het female and don’t have the resources readily available, but having someone to advise you during the editing process is very helpful.
As I’m rambling, I should get back to my post. I, as a cis het, female, want to write outside of what I know. I know customer service, worked in it fifteen years plus. I was a banker, I’m a mother of two kids, I’m married to a wonderful man, and I’m a black female who loves rock music. Even with all the things I claim to know, I will not go so far as to say I’m an expert. I still ask others for opinions or thoughts on things I include in my stories because I want to make an accurate portrayal. Despite all of this, I still might screw up on something because people will say, oh that’s not real or that doesn’t really happen, but that’s a topic for another day. Bottom line, I love writing outside of what I know to challenge myself and learn new things. I like to explore different worlds, cultures, etc, and I get hyped about putting that new knowledge into a book.
This kind of ties in with the two latest kerfuffles in the gay romance genre about writing GLBTQIA  and/or people of color. You can ask questions, do research, just like you could about a doctor, police officer, EMT, etc. These is a lot of important information about these professions and people of different races, religions, gender identities, sexualities, and ages are no different. However, I do add this. Write them as individuals first because no matter the differences they are still people.
To get back to my writing outside spectrum post, I’m saying don’t let any of this stop you from writing the story you want to write. In all seriousness, Michael Mandrake scares the shit out of me with his complicated plots. Serial killers, CSI’s, homicide detectives, double agents, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I’m intimidated at the lengths in which I have to research these things, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
In my opinion, writing people shouldn’t be that much different. Do your due diligence and become that person you’re writing about. Do it with empathy and passion, and not because you feel you have to in order to sell books. Do it because you have a genuine interest in the person you’re including in your story because while you’re writing, you should put yourself in that character’s shoes and become that individual.
So why do I write outside again? To gain knowledge and become a different person. Besides, how many exciting stories are there about women in their forties unless they’re falling in love with a hot musician? *looks at the idea on my long list of WIPs*


Copyright © Michael Mandrake 2016. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Pride Publishing.

Upper Manhattan, New York, three sixteen p.m. 
“Okay, let’s start from the top. A one, and a two, and a one, two, three, four.” Darien Moseley, the drummer for the band Phuze, counted in rhythm and his bandmates Salvi Johann and Ira Passe followed his lead on bass and keyboards. They were a bare bones band who’d made their name on the local and national scene. They refused to compromise with record companies, so they’d created their own label, Musictyme, only using a bigger label for distribution.
Darien Mosely, aka BA Pointe, was largely part of their desire to stay virtually unknown, besides the band’s basic stubbornness. As a control freak, he ran the social media pages, negotiated contracts for distribution and sent the music to traditional and Internet radio stations. He took over the bulk of the work because, in his mind, it couldn’t be done right unless he was behind it. But he controlled everything to keep his cover secret for PROTEKT.
To Johann and Ira, he was just Darien—their drummer, manager and financial provider, willing to take over all tasks if needed. To PROTEKT, he was a top agent, working undercover on missions the authorities couldn’t complete. As of late, his directions from Chief Wes Moreland had been to lie low while they continued the search for Pablo Ora. But, as with all agents, they never worked on one solitary mission, because the need was too great.
“Darien. Hey, man, did you get lost in the music again?” Ira laughed and threw a guitar pick at him.
Darien stopped hitting his drum and dodged the small object flying in his direction. “For a minute,” he lied. “Hey, I’m not sure I like this part. Can we go over it one more time?”
Johann grimaced. “Man, we went through it like six times already. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s almost seven. I’d really like to get home before nine. The game’s on television, and I don’t wanna miss it.”
“Pssh, haven’t you ever heard of a DVR? Johann, we’re not leaving this place until we’re fully happy with this album. I’m not paying this studio money to put out a shitty-ass product, all right? I wanna watch the Giants, too, but this isn’t the time to fool around. This album’s gotta be done so I can leave at the end of the month.”
“You still haven’t told us where you’re going, man. In fact, you never do. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you were an undercover spy working for the government or something,” Ira chided him.
Darien sighed, not saying anything in answer to that. If he did, it would open the door to suspicion from his bandmates and possibly put their lives in danger. “Forever the joker. I told you I need to go see my lover. You know, the one that finances my place and everything this band does? I promised to visit him abroad for a couple of months once the disc was done.”
“Abroad where?” Johann inquired. “And, why don’t you ever mention the cat’s name? Do ya think we’d go after the sap and look for him?”
“I told you. His name is Wesley.” That lie was almost true. Darien was going to see Wes but not for romance.
“And you and Wes are going…” Ira asked.
“I don’t know yet. I’m meeting him in Italy.” Another lie. He’d gotten used to telling them now.
“Ooh, Italy.” Johann swooned and walked over to Ira. “Look, babe, our Darien is going off to Roma to have a romantic rendezvous with his secret lover.”
“How come we haven’t been anywhere outside of the States? Why are you so dead set on keeping us here? We’re big, and people outside the USA wanna see us tour.”
“I told you. We don’t have enough popularity to waste money going to Europe,” he quipped.
“But you have the money to see your lovah boy,” Johann answered in a high-pitched tone.
“He’s paying for it, but I refuse to have the band travel to a country when we won’t sell out the venue. Anyway, this isn’t about me. It’s about this band and what we need to do to succeed. It’s worked for us so far. Why should we change things up now?” Darien looked at the couple who had been his friends for the last ten years.
Ira and Johann eyed one another then Darien. Neither appeared to be thoroughly convinced with his half-assed answer.
“I suppose you’re right, Darien. Things are good, and since you’ve got all the business sense, we let you run it. I can’t take care of our household money, let alone the band’s finances. Still, I think we should look to explore going overseas. The record sales have been good enough to at least go to Canada and do a short stint in Europe.”
Just as Darien was about to speak, his phone rang on his hip.
Saved by the bell!
Darien plucked the second phone from his holder, seeing Goofy Goober on the caller identification. The number was masked so that in the event he ever lost his phone, no one would know the contact digits or the person from PROTEKT who called him.
“Hang on, guys. I gotta take this. Work on that note a moment while I talk to my man.” He quickly got up from his drum kit.
“Ooh, oh, oh, kissy, kissy.” Johann laughed, along with his boyfriend Ira.
Darien harrumphed and sprinted out of their practice area to the side room he kept for conversations with Wes. After looking to make sure the coast was clear, he pushed the makeshift wall, revealing a tiny space for him to step into. Once he made it in, he shoved it back in place until it was locked tight. Good thing he was still skinny enough to fit inside this small space.
“Bonjour, mon ami.” Darien spoke low and in French, on the off chance the guys were in earshot.
“Well, I guess I’ve interrupted another brilliant jam session from the Phuze outfit, hmm?”
Darien smirked and slid down the wall until his butt hit the floor. “You did, but no worries. They’re in the next room, thinking I’m talking to my boyfriend. I’m pretty sure they can’t hear. We are in the middle of finishing this latest project, so I can’t talk long.”
“You wish I was.”
“No, actually you do, but I’m not the type that dates my boss.”
Wes cleared his throat. “Aren’t you in the soundproof room we had built for you?”
“Yeah, I am, but they’re asking too many questions. I’m really starting to wonder if they’re on to something.”
“I believe we’ve had this conversation before, BA. Your civilian job as a musician isn’t the smartest choice for this line of work. You’re a public figure—”
“As Darien Moseley, not any of my code names I use for the mission,” he interrupted.
“Still, you’re seen too much and you’re in a band with nosy friends. Cut the ties with the band and be a solo artist. I’d almost appreciate that better.”
“They’re my friends, Wes, and music is my second love,” he countered. “Making music is something I have to do to keep sane.” Darien gulped hard and rubbed the back of his neck. Sweat beaded under his hairline, making him feel gross. Uncomfortable. He desperately needed a shower.
“I get it. Believe me. You were a wreck when you came to us straight from NYPD. I know you’re suffering inside, and making that noise is your release.”
Darien almost appreciated the fatherly tone Wes took on, but he didn’t want to go into it.
“Yes, it is, but that’s not what you called me about, right?”
“No, it’s not. I’m fully aware that Bonnie Leighton and Clyde Huxley need your help, but right now, Justice Masters needs you more.”
Darien raised his head, staring straight ahead at the wood in front of him. Bonnie and Clyde were the code names for new agents Miranda Ashley and Devlin Crawford. They were busy trying to find Pablo Ora, son of fallen mobster Augustine.
Justice Masters, aka Kimball Emerson, was his closest friend other than Ira and Johann. He hoped the three would never meet because, if they did, it would mean only one thing—his own death.
“Yeah, sorry, sir. What’s wrong with Justice?”
“Nothing’s wrong with him, but he and Thalia will need your assistance with securing the Russian dignitary.”
Darien grimaced at that statement. Although that was part of the job, he hated being anyone’s bodyguard. “What? You really think he needs three of us to take care of him?”
“No, but there is a lot more to this than just protecting an important politician. We need to meet so I can give you the details. We’ll be at the headquarters close to Queens at ten p.m. sharp.”
“Will K—I mean Justice—be there, too?”
“Yes, as will Thalia.”
Thalia was the code name of BA’s other fellow agent. They hadn’t gotten along at all due to past history.
“Well, I guess one out of two ain’t bad,” he joked, trying his best to lighten the mood. Wes was so serious all the dang time, and he felt himself becoming a lot like him.
“Hmph. She’s a good agent, BA. I know you two aren’t friends.”
“Yeah, because she almost got me killed in Paris!”
“True, but Justice was there to save you.”
Darien shuddered at the thought of his best friend, who he’d always had more than a simple liking for, but Kimball was taken, damn near married. There was no chance his friend was leaving his partner Mike Jacoby.
“As he always is. All right then, so I’ll see you around ten,” BA said.
“Yes, and don’t be late.”
“I never am. See you then.”
The line went dead and Darien pushed the disconnect button. He raked his hand through his hair and shook his head, trying his best to get out of the haze.
Kimball needs me?
If only that were true, then he wouldn’t be alone. Darien’s double life as a PROTEKT agent and musician had become a welcome distraction—his way of forgetting about the hurt of being betrayed by NYPD and the loss of his parents at such an early age. This proved to be a blessing and a curse all at once because it numbed the feelings and took up so much time that he didn’t have to reflect on being by himself.
For the last four or so years, it had worked like a charm, but now, with his thirty-third birthday around the corner, Darien was tired of living the bachelor life and dating random men just to get the edge off. Perhaps it was best to forget about Kimball Emerson being his man and move on to find someone else to fill the void.
With much still on his mind, he forced himself up and slowly slid the paneling open. He looked both ways, making sure Ira and Johann weren’t in the vicinity, then stepped out, before quickly pushing the wall back together. He shoved the phone back on his belt clip and walked into the room. He hoped to mask the emotions of hearing about Kimball so his bandmates wouldn’t suspect.
“Hey, there you are. I think we found something we like a little better. You ready to hear it?” Johann called out to him, interrupting his train of thought.
“Yep. Let’s do it.” Darien smacked his sticks together and counted off again, waiting for his band members to follow. And this time the note did fit the tune they called Fainted a lot better than the last. Darien knew he could always count on his friends when he needed them most.
Though Darien was pleased at the outcome, his mind was miles away from the practice space. In less than a couple of hours he’d shed one personality and adopt another to prepare for a mission from his secret employer.
With every trip, he prepared himself for extreme danger, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. Making music did sustain him, but living on the edge and executing justice was what kept him alive.

Author Sharita Lira: In one word, crazy. Just crazy enough to have 3 4 different muses running around in her head, driving her to sheer exhaustion with new plot bunnies and complex characters.
In addition to being a computer geek and a metalhead, Sharita loves live music, reading, and perusing the net for sexy men to be her muses.  She’s also a founding member and contributor to the heavy metal ezine Fourteeng.net.

For more information, please visit http://www.thelitriad.com as well as her Facebook fanpage, The Literary Triad.

The Literary Triad - http://www.thelitriad.com/#!

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