Heart2Heart Volume 5

5 out of 5 Stars

Summary

Once upon a time, a bunch of authors wondered… what would happen if Heart2Heart, the dating and community app responsible for bringing together couples from all over the world, encouraged people to do something they’d never done before?

#NeverHaveIEver is trending on H2H, and fourteen authors who’ve never before appeared in a Heart2Heart anthology (and one who’s never left) have come together to show how funny, hot, and heartwarming it can be when H2H app users challenge themselves to do something outside of their comfort zones–from singing in public, to skinny dipping, to getting their first real kiss–while they manage to fall in love along the way.


As always, all proceeds from this anthology will benefit LGBTQ+ charities to ensure that love in all its incarnations will be celebrated and protected every single day of the year!

The Review

I was super excited to have the opportunity to read the latest batch of stories for the Heart2Heart Anthology. There were some authors I had followed and wished they’d get to participate at some point and HERE THEY ARE!!! These stories take place all over the globe and it’s exciting to see all the different settings.

Never Have I Ever … Dyed My Hair Flaming Red by Daryl Banner -Three Stars

I had the opportunity to meet Daryl Banner at a book signing, so since then, I’ve kept up with his work. Seeing his name pop up in this collection was exciting for me. He is one of the few authors I enjoy reading from their work from the first person point of view.

If you are a fan of the new adult genre, this will fit the bill for you. It’s more conversational, delves into the drama of stage work, and I could hear the characters’ southern twang in my head while I read.

Zakary is very young, learning who he is and what he wants in life. Jonatho, has a bit of an ego, but what director doesn’t? Zakary is right though; we need more stories that end sweetly and with a sense of hope. Instead of doom and gloom.

It’s a bit cheesy in places, but it was a fun, easy read.

 

Never Have I Ever … Spent the Night with Blanche by Louisa Masters – Four Stars

Okay, if you haven’t ever binged a few episodes of the Golden Girls, you need to treat yourself to that stat. It was the perfect meet-cute for Fin and Clay. A Golden Girls screening to get them to meet outside of the Heart2Heart app.

Also, I cannot get over Ripper’s character. The minute I laid eyes on him; I knew I’d love him. Big biker with a soft spot for the Golden Girls? Yes, please.

This was such a feel-good story that had me grinning throughout it.

 

Never Have I Ever … Been on a Date by Tal Bauer – Five Stars

Tal Bauer is a master at weaving romance into a heart-pounding thrill ride. He creates such strong, intelligent characters that it’s easy to connect with them, no matter where the story takes them. So, it was no surprise that I fell headfirst into a story taking place on Antarctica. I wish I could have gotten a full-length novel for these two.

A chance encounter twines Cletus and Damien together during the time they spend on Antarctica. A missed opportunity that turns into a second chance. Even if it’s not under the greatest of circumstances?

The steam level is fade to black, but it’s very the emotional connection between the men is as strong as you would expect from Tal Bauer’s work. There’s grit, heart, and happiness in their story.

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The Gentleman and the Spy by Neil S. Plakcy

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary

After his father’s death Lord Magnus Dawson has more important things to think about than falling in love—like how to earn a living when all he knows is the idleness he was raised with, and the military training he received before selling his commission.

For Toby Marsh, the impetus is as great, though he doesn’t have Magnus’s family connections to fall back on. A scholarship student at Cambridge, he was forced to spend his last year in college as valet and sometime tutor to a brainless fellow student after his father’s sudden death. Now he scrabbles out a living as a freelance tutor.

Then a call from the Foreign Office brings them together. Toby disdains the idle lordling, and Magnus can’t seem to treat Toby as more than a servant. As they delve deeper into their assignment, the attraction between them grows. But can they envision a future together when so class and culture conspire to drive them apart?

The Review

Lord Magnus Dawson is down on his luck. His father has passed, but his older brother has control of the estate and he’s not offering Magnus work on the estate. Magnus is desperate for work and he stumbles into working for the Foreign Office because of his title.

Toby Marsh, who is also down on his luck. He has a degree but hates the idea of teaching, so he tutors to make ends meet. His specialty in languages and previous experience as a valet lands him a temporary job at the Foreign Office working as a valet for Magnus as they go under cover at a shooting party.

The attraction between Magnus and Toby is instantaneous. It’s got a bit of a forbidden love aspect to it that worked. Magnus and Toby are in different social classes and that is used for their undercover work.

There were parts of this that I was iffy on. What was their purpose of going undercover? I kind of lost that. Then some of the terminology got a little repetitive. I didn’t like that I couldn’t remember the purpose.

TRIGGER WARNING Scene – Toby Marsh scene message me if you want more info. I had to skim through it

What I did like was being able to see this from two separate classes and the issues that come from that. Also it was interesting to see the inner working of estates and how they work. There was detail that late me be exactly where Magnus and Toby were.

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Demons Do It Better by Louisa Masters

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

I work for Lucifer. Only, it’s not as cool and satanic as it sounds.

The truth is, I’m an admin assistant who applied for a job that sounded kind of interesting and ended up working for the Community of Species Government. I’m the only human in the office, and basically I ride herd on a team of rambunctious shifters and demons.

I also spend a lot of time avoiding Gideon Bailey, the demon I had a one-night stand with right before I took this job. He hates me, and I really want to avoid being murdered. But I’ve been offered a promotion that will mean working with him, so we’re both going to have to get over it.

Plus, people are going missing. Pregnant people. And the word is that someone is dabbling in genetic experimentation. Putting a stop to that is more important than the sexual tension Gideon and I have been ignoring… isn’t it?

Review

Why didn’t I read this book sooner?! This was such a fun read.

Sam, a human, unknowingly applies for a job with the Community of Species Government which is very much not human. It turns out to be one of the best decisions he’s made though. He’s found a family with the group he works with and he enjoys his work again. Turns out, the guy he hooked up with a couple nights ago? Well they now work at the same agency and he’s a lot grumpier at work then he was in the bedroom.

What did I love about this book? Sam’s personality. He might be a short fella, but he is larger than life. He’s sarcastic, witty, and the kind of person I would love to be friends within real life. He keeps you grounded and makes sure you don’t get too big of a head lol.

Then the shift in Sam’s character. I don’t want to give too much away, but I loved this twist and then the resulting events afterwards. Gideon, a demon who is hot as hell, finally melts just a bit towards Sam.

This book is definitely here to establish the bigger storyline. Pregnant people going missing, genetic experimentation involving both humans and members of the community. The case hits close to home, once Sam learns more about where he came from, and it pushes them to work harder to find out how save these people.

What I wish there was more of? A little more resolution. I felt like the story had just got started and then it was over.

Give this book a try. I’ve already scooped up the second in the series because I need more of these characters in my life!

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I Hope You’re Listening by Tom Ryan

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

EVERY MISSING PERSON HAS A STORY.

In her small town, seventeen-year-old Delia “Dee” Skinner is known as the girl who wasn’t taken. Ten years ago she witnessed the abduction of her best friend, Sibby. And though she told the police everything she remembered, it wasn’t enough. Sibby was never seen again.

At night, Dee deals with her guilt by becoming someone else: the Seeker, the voice behind the popular true crime podcast Radio Silent, which features missing persons cases and works with online sleuths to solve them. Nobody knows Dee’s the Seeker, and she plans to keep it that way.

When another little girl in town goes missing, and the case is linked to Sibby’s disappearance, Dee has a chance to get answers with the help of her virtual detectives and the intriguing new girl at school. But how much of her own story is she willing to reveal in order to uncover the truth?

Review

Dee Skinner’s life changed the moment she witnessed her best friend getting abducted at seven years old. Ten years later, she still lives in the same town, but in a different house. Sibby is a ghost that haunts Dee every day. She’s the girl who wasn’t taken. That guilt weighs her every action down.

She wasn’t able to help Sibby, but she finds a way to help others who have gone missing. As an anonymous podcaster, the Seeker, she hosts a true-crime podcast called Radio Silent. She focuses on missing person cases and works with the Laptop Detective Agency to find new leads and to find the missing.

Nearly ten years to the day, another girl goes missing in her town.

Dee struggles, wanting to stay away from the case but at the same time wanting to help find the missing girl. Is Sibby’s abduction related to Layla’s? A well-timed e-mail sends her down the rabbit hole to find out what has happened to both girls.

What I loved about the format of this novel, was the fact that the podcast scripts were included. I’m a huge true crime junkie and podcast lover. Being able to see how Dee worked to keep herself anonymous but she worked hard to help get answers from these families was exciting. She was determined to find answers and finally put in the work that her Laptop Detective Agency had been doing since episode one.

Dee meets Sarah, the attraction is immediate, but they balance each other. Where Dee is headstrong and throws caution to the wind, Sarah talks her off the ledge and finds a way to make sure they are safe from harm. Their romance takes a backseat to the plot, but the relationship was normalized in a way I wished my high school years could have been. She and Sarah got to go to the Winter Formal together, her parents didn’t make her sexuality seem anything but normal.

The action was a bit slow in the beginning, but once it got going? I couldn’t put the book down. I needed to find Sibby and Layla. I needed to make sure Burke was going to be okay by the end of it all. I had an inkling of who took Sibby, but the result for Layla? I wasn’t expecting that at all.

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Flesh and Gold by Ann Aptaker

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary:

Havana, 1952, a city throbbing with pleasure and danger, where the Mob peddles glamour to the tourists and there’s plenty of sex for sale. In the swanky hotels and casinos, and the steamy, secretive Red Light district of the Colon, Cantor Gold, dapper art thief and smuggler, searches the streets and brothels for her kidnapped love, Sophie de la Luna y Sol. Cantor races against time while trying to outrun the deadly schemes of American mobsters and the gunsights of murderous local gangs.

The Review

Flesh and Gold was much more than I expected. Cantor Gold, a thief and smuggler, arrives in Havana searching for the love of her life, Sophia, but trouble follows Cantor wherever she goes.

Now, the first thing you need to know is that this is not a romance (like my usual reads). It is the ultimate love story though, seeing the lengths that Cantor was willing to go to find Sophia.

This is very much a crime noir, think mobsters and dens of ill repute (I don’t know how else to say it). Every time I thought I had a line on who was playing who, everything flipped upside down. It’s the best kind of mystery to read.

I like the fact that everything and everybody felt important to the storyline. The detail was rich enough that I could feel the balmy humidity of Havana. I could feel the way passersby stared at Cantor and her suits and masculine attire. The attitudes, language, and buildings placed me in 1950s Havana. There was a bit of violence, some of it a little unbelievable, but Cantor does live on the darker and more dangerous side of the life.

If you enjoy crime noire, this is definitely a series you’ll want to pick up and read.

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Spellbound by Allie Therin

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Five out of Five Stars

The Summary: To save Manhattan, they’ll have to save each other first… 

1925

New York

Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.

Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.

Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.

The Review

Now I’m going to start this review by saying, this is the book that pulled me out of my reading slump. I went quite a while without finishing a book and Spellbound was the one that pulled me back into my happy reader universe. It combined magic with the prohibition era in New York and I fell in love with Ace and Rory (Jade and Zhang were pretty awesome too).

Rory Brodigan is a psychometric, who uses his gift to find counterfeit antiques. He can see into the history of objects. Ace is in need of someone who can see into the history of a magical object. At first, Ace thinks the psychometric might be Mrs. Brodigan, but soon finds that it’s Rory who has this talent. As the pair works together, they become closer and the attraction between them grows.

I found Rory’s talent fascinating and I enjoyed the way the history of the items was portrayed to the reader. Also, Rory’s backstory, very fitting of the time period. Rory was not entirely trusting of Ace at first, but once they learned to trust each other it was sooo good.

It was easy to get lost in 1920s New York, with Ace, Rory, Jade and Zhang. It was refreshing to see that this group of friends weren’t all powerful. They had limits to their powers and had to think creatively to overcome obstacles.

A lot of the romance happened off the page, which was a little disappointing, but I was so into the story line and what was happening that it was okay. So if you’re looking for red hot romance, you’re not going to get it here, but the action combined with the characters kept me entranced in finding out how the story was going to end.

I’m excited to see that this is a series and it’s going to kill me to wait a year to get the next book! But I’ve been recommending this one out to friends and definitely want to get my hands on a physical copy of Spellbound!

Get your copy here!

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

The Review

This was another book that I needed to read for one of my graduate studies coursework. So I’m going to make this as non-academic as I can because I’ll be writing an in depth analysis of this for the rest of the week.

The Paying Guests was the first book I’ve read in full by Sarah Waters and it was definitely one that will keep my reading her work.

This was a stunning story. The setting was vivid and I could see the house, the streets and the back garden like a movie playing in my head. I found myself engulfed in Frances and the situation she and her widowed mother found themselves in, needing to take in lodgers in order to pay their bills. Lilian and Leonard Barber had taken rooms at the house and it’s an entirely new experience for them all. They face all the daily rituals that you don’t think about until you faced with it. For instance, passing each other on trips to the outdoor bathroom, hearing coughs, arguments, furniture moving around and interpreting those odd noises coming from the couple upstairs.

Through all this Frances and Lilian take a shine to each other. First they’re friends and seem to be exactly what each other needs to get through the day. They start to bond over Ana Karenina which my nerdy little heart swooned over. Soon those feelings turn into something much stronger. I was entranced with their stolen moments filled with kisses, want and need for each other.

I literally picked this book out of a bag, so I had no clue what was awaiting me towards the end of this book. I did not expect to end up in a courtroom or dealing with the day to day emotional toll a court case will take on a person. I was so happy that Frances and Lilian were together that this BOMBSHELL broke my heart for them. I’m being deliberately vague here because I don’t want to give anything away, but my poor heart.

Sarah Waters has this was of making you feel for her characters and have you just as invested in an outcome as they are. So when things go wrong, it just really freaking sucks and leaves you feeling just as horribly as the characters did.

So, the question here is: should you read it? Yes. This isn’t full on romance. There’s daily life, flirting, a criminal court case and emotions all over the place. But it’s all in the best ways if that makes sense. Will I finally open up Fingersmith and give that one a read? After I finish this paper, you bet cha!

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Grasmere Cottage Mystery by Dahlia Donovan

Three out of Five Stars

The Summary: Join bestselling author Dahlia Donovan on a cosy mystery adventure in Grasmere Cottage Mystery book one. With love, wit, and a murder to solve, life for Valor and Bishan is about to get bloomin’ complicated in this sweet gay romance.

Dead body in the garden? Check.

Mystery to solve? Check.

Police focused on the wrong person? Not good.
All grown up and graduated, Valor Tarquin Scott, son to Earl and Countess Scott, owns The Ginger’s Bread, a biscuit shop, in Grasmere in the Lake District. The love of his life, Bishan Tamboli, has turned his music studies into a successful career playing with the London Symphony Orchestra. It’s a perfect life with their cat, spending evenings watching Poirot on the television.

The nightmare begins with one dead former schoolmate, leading police to believe Bishan is responsible.

Valor struggles to solve the cryptic puzzles left behind in a race to prove Bishan’s innocence.

He can’t help wondering how far the body count will rise before they manage to stop the killer.

The Review(s)

 

The Grasmere Cottage Mystery is three book series that you definitely need to get as a bundle. Otherwise you’re going to hate yourself and the cliffhangers at the end of Dead in the Garden (Book One) and Dead in the Pond (Book Two). I wouldn’t have been a happy camper if I didn’t have all the books in hand while I was reading them.

Dead in the Garden starts out with Valor and Bishan finding the corpse of a former classmate in the garden over morning tea. For some reason the police focus on Bishan as a suspect. Bishan, is Autistic, and very much not who the police should be looking at. It takes another murder and a coded note before Bishan and Valor are back together.

What was really interesting was the fact that we got a realistic Autistic character in this series. You got a couple of different point of views as well. In the first book, which is told from Valor’s point of view, you get to see how they interact as a couple. Valor cherishes the touches Bishan bestows upon him and he knows when it becomes too much.

Valor also comes from a very wealthy family that he’s been disowned from. Honestly, he’s a bigger part of Bishan’s family than he ever was of his own. The Tambolis are extremely supportive and caring. It’s the type of family you want to be a part of, even if they can be a little bit overwhelming at times.

Dead in the Pond, picks up right where Dead in the Garden stops. This book is told more from Bishan’s point of view, which I liked. You got a feel for his internal thoughts and how his mind works. It’s just a little bit different than the way out minds work. The killer ups his game. He starts targeting those close to Valor and Bishan.  They’re trying to figure out the puzzles left behind and who the killer is. This isn’t as easy as Poriot and Mrs. Marple makes it seem. There’s a bit of a subplot going on in this book in concern to Valor and his family. Why do they so desperately want him back in their lives?

The cliffhanger in this one is worse than in the first book. You’re left right in the middle of a situation wondering what the heck is going to happen.

In the conclusion, Dead in the Shop, relief settles over you because you know that Bishan and Valor are okay. That cliffhanger wasn’t nearly as bad as you originally thought it to be. Even though it made me so angry and this is precisely the reason you need all three books in hand when you start this series.

Now, I’m going to be completely honest with you. I kind of forgot there was a serieal killer running amuck. I was much more invested in Valor and Bishan and their friends interacting with each other than I was with the mystery aspect. And when I did find out who the killer was and why he was killing? Well It was an ‘eh, okay’ reaction and I was interested in the frogs vs. gnomes war that was happening.

Over all this was a cute, easy series to read. I really wanted more from it though. I needed a bit more about Valor’s family because it was so hyped up and then it fell a bit flat. And I didn’t much pay attention to the killer in the last book because it got a little boring. I absolutely adored Valor and Bishan though. They made my heart warm and left me feeling happy. Honestly I could have read about them without the mystery and been perfectly happy.

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The Heights by Amy Aislin

The Heights (Lakeshore #1)

Three Stars out of Five

The Summary: Twenty-one years ago, a four-year old child was kidnapped from his front yard. He was never found. Until now.

All Nat Walker wants is to make his late father’s dream of running a father/son woodworking shop come true. And he had the perfect building in mind—until the new guy in town came in and bought the place right out from under him. The fact that the new guy is adorable means nothing. For all Nat cares, he can take his new dance studio and waltz back to New York City.

Professional dancer Quinn Carroll couldn’t be happier that he made the move to the small town of Lakeshore, Oregon. Sure, it’s not New York, but now he’ll be living closer to his adoptive brother. And since his studio will be the only one in the area, he should get enough business to keep him busy. Besides, there’s something about this place that seems familiar…

He doesn’t expect to fall hard for the local, grumpy woodworker who won’t even smile at him.

Or find out that his entire life is a lie

The Review

Quinn has moved to Lakeshore to kick off his life and his career. He opens up a dance studio on the main street of the two, where he meets Nat, who was eyeing the same space but lost out on it to Quinn. There’s more to Quinn though. He was adopted and he’s still searching for his biological family.

There’s something familiar about Lakeshore to Quinn though. Turns out, Quinn might have been the twin that had been taken right from his front yard.

There were times I wondered what this story was actually about and what they were trying to accomplish. It didn’t mesh well for me.

I was expecting much more romance and interaction between Quinn and Nat. That was something I definitely didn’t get. In the beginning they were pitted against each other as feuding business owners. Then all of a sudden that changed with a snap of the fingers. I felt like there wasn’t a balance between Nat’s conflict and Quinn’s.

I do think this could have worked out really well. The premise was one I was very interested in. I wanted the mystery and the excitement of finding out what truly happened and why it happened. There wasn’t much explanation.

Saying that, this is a series and we may eventually get all those answers. I was slightly disappointed though. Will I read the next one in the series? Probably not. I have read other Amy Aislin books and have thoroughly enjoyed them. This was just a miss for me.

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Dead Reckoning by Pandora Pine

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary: When the spirit of a young male prostitute comes to psychic Tennyson Grimm asking him to find the john who brutally murdered him, Tennyson can’t say no. Only able to communicate through the use of images, rather than words, getting any information out of the young man is frustrating and slow going.

Cold Case Detective Ronan O’Mara has been on a roll solving cases since he and Tennyson last teamed up to solve the Michael Frye case. Unfortunately, the red-hot romance that had blossomed between them during that investigation is now off in a ditch, thanks to Ronan’s self-confessed pigheadedness.

Agreeing to work together despite the rift in their relationship, Tennyson and Ronan discover they are in for more than they bargained for when more victims start to reveal themselves to Tennyson.

Realizing they might have a serial killer on their hands, the two men work tirelessly to stop this madman from killing again, but when the killer targets the son of a prominent member of the Boston Police Department, can Ronan and Tennyson save him before it’s too late?

The Review

Detective Ronan O’Mara and psychic Tennyson Grimm are back and things aren’t all rainbows, kittens and butterflies for the couple. Since the conclusion of their last case they’ve spent their time apart and angry with each other. Tennyson gave Ronan the ultimatum, get help from a therapist or they’re done. It takes a case to bring the two back together and a level of understanding between the two of them.

There’s a serial killer out there torturing and murdering teenage boys who have taken to the street to survive. They’ve resorted to this life style because they came out and were not accepted by their families. As Ronan and Tennyson work their way through this case, they find each other and a family that they didn’t know they had in their friends.

All the men in this series are emotional, be it angry, happy, sad, loving. The entire range of emotions is explored over all the characters. One of the reasons this didn’t get a full five stars was how overly masculine Ronan is and how dramatic Tennyson can get. I get that it’s their personalities. That’s how it was in the first book. But it’s gotten more intense, if that makes any sense?

Then I figured out who the killer was really early on. I was still invested though.  I needed Ronan and Tennyson to be okay, to care for each other and be part of each other’s lives.  Then the Captain and Greeley? OMG, my heart broke into a million pieces and then slowly rebuilt. I love the Cap. He’s one of the secondary characters the jumps out at you and is like, ‘helloooo, I’m here and important’. He is important and wonderful and I want someone like him in my life.

I enjoyed this, even though I nitpick about little things (like the overuse of the word cock). Am I going to pick up the next one to read, review and feature on here? Yep. I just hope we get a little more flirty, seductive moments between Ronan and Tennyson. Perhaps a little more complexity?

 

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