Monday, May 20, 2013

Book Tour for Without Aiden by Dianne Hartsock (Review & GIVEAWAY)

To get the week off strong I present to you today Dianne Hartsock with her newest release, Without Aiden, a heartwrenching m/m read.  Keep reading to learn more about this book, along with my impressions of the story, and make sure to leave a comment for your chance to win a GC.

Once upon a time last summer I was sobbing my heart out to one of those old classic romance movies, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, 1945. (If you haven't seen it yet, you really should! It's a treat). But I did wonder what it was about the story that made me cry so hard. And why did I cheer at the happy ending and feel so good?
I think it must be because the story touched something inside me, remembered pain and loneliness. And the happy ending is the message of hope we all need in our lives. There might be tough times, but it's the hope for something better that keeps us going. I think the writers of that old story did an excellent job carrying this theme throughout the whole two hours.
I wondered if I couldn't do this in my own writing. I could have something terrible happen to my hero; nothing easily fixed, yet still leaves him with that bit of hope to get him, and my readers, through to the end.
WITHOUT AIDEN opens up with Tris taking a handmade gift to his ex-darling, hoping for a smile in return, if nothing else, from the man he still loves and needs. It slowly unfolds in the story that Tris's parents have died and his sister left paralyzed from a car accident Tris is blamed for. He'd been drinking and that's something Aiden can't forgive him for.
Was Tris drunk and yet driving the car that kills his parents? That's the question I leave unanswered until the end of the story. How can a person live with that guilt? Or even with the guilt, unearned, that they may place on themselves? Then on top of that, to have everyone you care about and the lover who should stand by you, turn their backs?
At this point, you may be asking where's the hope in this story? It's in hints that Aiden may be coming closer to forgiving Tris. It's in the fact that several people in town are willing to stand up for him despite public opinion.
But where's the romance! His lover doesn't love him anymore. Or does he? That's where I keep the romance of the story alive. Tris and Aiden are still friends. They see each other around town all the time. True, a lot of the loving has to take place in flashbacks from Tris of their time together. There are also moments of tenderness between them, where we see that Aiden still cares even if he may not want to.
I don't want to give away the ending, but when there is so much emotion invested in a story by the reader, I believe there has to be a satisfying ending. Not necessarily a happily ever after, but some closure that makes all their time and tears worthwhile. We see Tris approach Aiden in careful steps, hoping to regain his love. We see Aiden warming up to him, though cautiously. Again, I'm giving Tris and the reader hope for an ending that leaves them with a sigh of happiness. In WITHOUT AIDEN, I think I succeeded.

Is a gift of love enough to open Aiden’s heart and let Tris back in?
After the car accident that killed his parents and left his sister paralyzed, Tris is left with nothing. His family is destroyed. His reputation is shot. And all he has is the guilt of knowing it was all his fault. People in town know he’d been drinking that night, and know he should never have gotten behind the wheel. And even Aiden, the man he thought he’d be with forever, blames him too much to stay.
But Tris can’t let him just disappear. After months of loneliness and isolation, Tris brings Aiden a gift on his birthday, a hawk he’s carved from a chunk of wood they’d found in the forest during an afternoon of love. A small chink seems to open in Aiden’s heart, the first sign of forgiveness. With renewed hope, Tris takes a job renovating one of the older homes in town and tries to rebuild his life. But the townspeople have long memories, and when his sister’s condition worsens, forgiveness—and Aiden—seem to slip even further out of reach…


The car slowed and came to a stop. Tris looked out the front windshield at the aging building with the garish neon signs in the windows. Murphey’s Diner? Day just kept getting better.
“Do you mind? I have class in forty-five minutes and Murphey serves the quickest breakfast.”
“It’s fine.” Tris pushed open his door and climbed out into the crowded parking lot. “Think we’ll get a table?” he asked over the roof of the Fiat.
“There’s usually room at the counter.”
Tris shrugged and followed Aiden into the bustling restaurant. He probably imagined the silence when they walked through the door, but then again everyone had known his parents. Three months were a blink of an eye in the small town of Cherry Creek.
He lifted his chin a trifle as they crossed the crowded room and tried not to notice the whispers behind him. Conversation resumed as they sat at the counter. Aiden seemed impervious to their attention, and Tris picked up the paper menu, acknowledging he was probably being overly sensitive. The waitress smiled as she brought coffee and took their orders, and Tris relaxed enough to enjoy the precious minutes with his estranged darling.
“What class do you have this morning?” he asked and took a sip from the steaming mug. If nothing else, Murphey’s always had good coffee. Aiden shifted on his stool to face him. Tris thrilled when their knees touched and Aiden made no effort to move away.
“Chemistry. I’d ditch out to celebrate my birthday with friends, but there’s an important lab I need to finish up.”
Tris’s lips quirked. “That never stopped you before.”
“That’s only because you were a bad influence.”
Tris chortled into his mug of coffee even as a flush heated his face. It had never taken long to persuade Aiden to stay with him. A soft kiss on the sensitive skin behind his ear. A nip on the neck. Gentle sucks on Aiden’s full bottom lip, the snug silver hoop driving Tris crazy with want. He heard Aiden’s drawn breath—as if his thoughts had gone the same route—and all the blood rushed to his groin. DamnHis dick was going to need some serious attention once he got home.
He smiled secretly when Aiden had to clear his throat. “Are you coming back to college?
The question caught Tris off guard, though he should have expected it. “Once Candice is better…” Familiar panic churned in his stomach.
Aiden’s gentle voice tore down his shaky defenses. “How is she?”
“I don’t know,” Tris whispered and swallowed the tears that would come, damn them. “I left her with the doctor. I couldn’t stay in the house.”
Their food arrived. Tris picked up his fork, stomach queasy at the sight of the greasy mounds on the cheap plate. But he dug into the eggs and spicy hash browns anyway, to stop the screams of helplessness in his head. Despair leaned its heavy weight on his shoulders. He jumped when Aiden touched his arm.
“I’m sorry, Tris. Can I see her?”
“Of course. She’d like that. She asks about you.” Tris moved the fork around on his plate. When he and Aiden had first hooked up after years of flirting, Candice had been their biggest supporter. He didn’t have the heart to tell his sister they’d broken up after the accident that had left her paralyzed. Maybe he didn’t want to believe it and saying the words would make it true. It couldn’t be true. They’d been so good together! No one knew him as well as Aiden did. No one else could drive him wild with a single hot glance.
He remembered the long nights they lay under the stars, made love, and planned their future. Aiden wanted to graduate with a science major. Tris had whispered in his ear that he really didn’t like making furniture. He had the odd wish to be a pastry chef. Aiden licked Tris’s lips and said he made a wonderful dessert.
Tris bit his lip to hide its tremble. No, he’d never admit he and Aiden were through. He’d rather live with the hope they could work things out.



Dianne Hartsock has penned a surprisingly emotional story that hinges on a lie.  It's a lie being kept out of love, but it's made life miserable for Trist as almost everyone in town despises him for killing his parents and paralyzingly his sister after a night of binge drinking. This unrelenting hatred of him shows small town living at its worst and feels a bit over the top.  Trist continually rises above all the anger to care for his sister and work to make ends meet.  The only times he breaks down is when he thinks of his lost love Aiden, who left him after the accident believing the worst of him.  Trist desperately wants him back and throughout the story a reunion is teased.

Aiden is seen mostly through Tris' eyes.  We never dig too deeply into his thoughts.  He's let anger take him away from his love at a moment when he needed him most.  I would've liked to see him grovel to earn Tris' love back, but Tris is too enamored of him to not jump on him when given the chance in a hastily wrapped up denouement.

Their super steamy relationship is mostly seen via flashback when they were happy but struggling to take their relationship out of the closet. There are those in town prejudice against them and unfortunately that hate continues in a few unnecessary scenes of violence that distract from the emotional impact of living a lie for the one you love.  These scenes felt forced and out of place and my enjoyment of the story would've been enhanced had they been edited out.  The big lie was obvious to me from the start, and while it seemed a bit of a stretch, I could understand why Tris kept the town's focus on him.  His own survivor's guilt kept him from moving on, he wanted to feel the punishment that was constantly in his head.

Overall I found this an enjoyable m/m read with numerous steamy sexual interludes.  Life in a small town was portrayed a bit stereotypically which led to some obvious, and unnecessary, scenes but the pain Tris went through completely sucked me in.  Like many short stories I wished for more but was satisfied by what Ms. Hartsock created.

My rating for this is a C+

*I received this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.


After growing up in California and spending the first ten years of marriage in Colorado, Dianne now live in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play.
She says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write. There’s something about being cooped up in the house while it pours rain outside, a fire crackles on the hearth inside, and a cup of hot coffee warms her hands which kindles her imagination.
Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.


Dianne will be awarding a $10 All Romance Ebooks Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour. 

-To be entered, leave a comment, along with your email addy.
-Winners will be chosen randomly from all comments made throughout the tour, so the more you comment the greater your chances of winning.  A list of all participating blogs can be found here.
-Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM CST on 6/3.


  1. I too think that as long as there is hope, all will be well. This sounds like a sensitive story. Very gentle and sweet.

  2. Thanks for having me over today!

  3. Sounds like a story that could really happen! The wood carving is a sweet detail. Thanks!
    brendurbanist @gmail. com

  4. I really liked the emotion and the interaction between Aiden and Tris in the blurb.

    strive4bst(At) yahoo(Dot) com

    1. They're probably two of my favorite characters, Jbst!

  5. I'm a little tender these days, but it does sound rewarding in the end!


  6. Very interesting blurb! Please count me in. Thanks!!!


  7. That's a great excerpt!


  8. This sounds like I neeed to get the tissues in!

    littlesuze at hotmail dot com

    1. Thanks for stopping in, Suze! Yes, there are some sad parts in this book. :)


  10. What a lovely story! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Ah! I just know I'm going to cry reading this!! LOL.. but I'm so going to enjoy it that much more in the end.... It is happy right? LOL..

    Enjoyed the post!


    1. Yes Judi, there is a HEA! No fear in that department.

      The Scarf Princess