Find out the latest indie author news. For FREE.

Brains and Brawn
Billy “Brains” Brennan is convinced he’s living on borrowed time. Brains and his band Hush are ready to take the last cross-country Warped Tour by storm...until a freak accident leaves him incapacitated...and in the capable hands of a handsome stranger who inexplicably feels like home. Chief Petty Officer Paul McNally is in the right place to provide aid to a fallen rock star, but it sends his life spiraling on a trajectory he never planned for. He’s now playing nursemaid to a fascinating younger man…and falling in love—a fact he can’t seem to figure out how to explain to his adult son. Fate brought them together. It will take trust, honesty, and hope to keep them together.

Quarter Finalist

Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 9.50 out of 10


Plot: Expertly plotted and paced, this romance builds a central relationship that is sweet, sexy, and satisfying. The love story grows through various plot points and conflicts, taking the main characters -as well as a vibrant supporting cast - on an emotionally resonant and heartwarming journey. It's exactly what a good romance book should be.

Prose/Style: Merrill’s dialogue is authentic and exhibits variances of tone and cadence when spoken by different characters; it's distinct and clear. The love scenes are explicit and passionate with an undercurrent of emotion that sets them apart from others in the genre.

Originality: Merrill's novel is a heartwarming love story that features an engaging main couple whose road to happily-ever-after is fun, sweet, romantic, and memorable. This story rises above the typical romance novel with its relatable and genuine conflicts, charming romance, and a captivating main couple.

Character Development: The protagonists are strong, fully fleshed out characters who have distinct personalities and challenges. Their growth, as individuals and as a couple, is excellently portrayed. Merrill does a wonderful job creating an expansive yet strong set of supporting characters, who are each well-rounded and vital to the overall narrative.

Blurb: This swoon-worthy romance between a Marine officer and a rock star charms with a sweet and sexy story that shows how love can heal two hearts touched by tragedy.

Date Submitted: July 20, 2020

Merrill’s diverting if formulaic second romance to feature the members of metalcore band Hush (following The Summer of Hush) kicks off when Paul McNally, a bisexual Navy corpsman facing retirement, takes his son, Bowie, to attend the Warped Tour. Paul gets into a flirtatious verbal sparring match about music with Hush drummer Billy “Brains” Brennan that leaves both men romantically intrigued. When Brains is injured in an accident at a meet-and-greet, Paul, who is trained in emergency medical treatment, comes to the rescue. Paul further insists that Brains recuperate at his home rather than on the tour bus. As the men slowly bond and fall into cozy domesticity, a health crisis emerges that threatens their happiness. While there are some intimate moments, including a sensual massage scene, the emphasis of this modest romance is less on sex and more on how both men must realign their priorities to move forward. Brains may never play again, while Paul has to determine what to do after retirement. They also grapple with how Bowie, who Paul has never come out to, will respond to their relationship. The result is low-stakes and comforting, even if the soundtrack is loud. (Self-published)