Thursday, November 12, 2020

In Strange Woods by Claire Cray Blog Tour

In Strange Woods by Claire Cray Blog Tour

Gothic gay romance in the stormy coastal woods of the Pacific Northwest.

Reeling with grief after his wealthy family is mysteriously murdered, moody New York photographer James Worthington Crane decides to take his downward spiral to the rural Oregon Coast, where he’s just inherited a piece of property hidden somewhere in the woods upriver. But when James pulls into the decaying seaside town of Brooks, everyone thinks he’s someone else—an elusive local outlaw named Beau. Now James must fight through his grief to unravel a dark web of family secrets and forgotten history... with help from a soft-spoken local contractor named Hunter Quaid.

Hunter’s been on his own since he left his fundamentalist family at the age of fifteen. It’s taken years of hard work to build the simple life he has now, fixing up seaside houses while living alone by the river. Then James blows in like a winter storm, disturbing the peace and stirring up dreams he thought he'd given up. As their lives and histories intertwine in unexpected ways, they start to discover what it really means to know where you belong.

From the author of Merrick and Hidden Talents comes a steamy, tender romance inspired by the rugged beauty and offbeat history of Pacific Northwest timber country. In Strange Woods moves through ancient old-growth forests, abandoned logging roads, ramshackle seaside towns, decaying homesteads, coastal highways, and the stories hidden in the trees.

Content Warnings: Grief, mental illness, alcohol abuse, suicidal ideation; references to suicide and murder. For a detailed list of content warnings, click HERE.



In Strange Woods by Claire Cray

Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
~  Also Available with KindleUnlimited  ~




Hunter pulled his truck into one of the slanted parking spaces along the Brooks sea wall and turned off the ignition, cutting off Bobbie Gentry in the middle of Ode to Billie Joe to let the roar of the waves take over. It was windy out, and he took a second to rake his dark-blond hair into a stubby ponytail at the nape of his neck before getting out of the truck.

His work boots hit the asphalt with a heavy thud, and he strolled over to the rustic stone barricade to look out at the dark ocean. A wave immediately exploded up in front of him, white foam fanning out and dissolving like a burst of fireworks, and he filled his lungs with the sharp, salty air. It never got old, no matter how many times he came here. None of it did, though. Not the trees, the rivers, the sunsets, the storms. This rugged little chunk of the coast had been his most consistent, and sometimes his only, source of joy since the first summer his parents dropped him off at his grandma’s place upriver, where he now lived alone.

Today had been long as hell, but satisfying. He was in the middle of renovating a beautiful mid-century house on Cedar Crest, a wooded cliffside high up on the north edge of town. It was the biggest project he’d ever landed since striking out on his own as a contractor, and it was turning out to be a dream come true. The owner was some Portland banker who didn’t give a shit what he did as long as he stayed within budget, and Hunter relished the freedom to make actual design choices.

Matter of fact, life was pretty good these days, wasn’t it? Business was good, anyway, and that was a lot. Yeah. Steady work with nobody telling him what to do, a place to sleep by the river, all the ocean air he wanted every day… what more could he ask for? There was a time when he wouldn’t have dared to dream so—

A car alarm went off suddenly, jarring him from his thoughts, and he turned his head. Several seagulls were scattering noisily from the sea wall near a black hatchback several spaces away, its horn blasting and lights flashing. He couldn’t see what had set it off. A nosy gull, maybe, or the splash of a wave. At any rate, that wrapped up his relaxing after-work sit by the ocean.

But just as he was about to turn back to his truck, the driver’s side door of the hatchback clunked open and slowly creaked ajar.

Hunter watched, intrigued, as a hand slipped out through the crack, followed by an arm, and then a mop of wavy dark hair. Then, to his amazement, an entire tall, slim man slid out onto the pavement, pooling there in a tangle of long limbs and dark clothing.

The alarm was still making a ruckus. The man groaned low and rolled to his side, wrestling with himself for a moment before yanking a key fob out of his back pocket. He jabbed it toward the car several times until the alarm stopped, then fell on his back with an unintelligible mutter. Just then, a big wave spouted over the wall and showered him with seawater.

Hunter winced sympathetically. Hell of a place to be drunk off your ass. Dude definitely wasn’t from around here. He looked about Hunter’s age, stylish in a cool, classic kind of way. Black jeans, black boots, battered brown leather jacket. Nothing flashy, but obviously outside the local dress code of Carhartts, hooded sweatshirts, and rain gear. Hunter couldn’t help admiring the long lines of the stranger’s body, his carelessly tousled hair.

With a shake of his head and a soft sigh, he turned his gaze back toward the ocean again. Life was good, and all. He loved it here. So what if it wasn’t overflowing with romantic options for a quiet gay man with a taste for tall, slim guys dressed like drifters from the 1960s? No one got to have it all.

Life is good, he told himself stubbornly. Life is fine. Life’s going just great.

The sound of an approaching engine made him glance back over his shoulder, and suddenly he sprang into motion before he could think.

The drunk man was staggering onto the highway, his dark silhouette backlit by the high beams of a log truck that was roaring around the bend.

Another half-second would have been too late. The driver didn’t even seem to see them. The air from the passing truck threw him off balance as he yanked the drunken dumbass out of the road, and they both fell back on the pavement.

“You okay?” Hunter asked breathlessly.




Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

This is a wonderfully atmospheric story. A murder mystery and dark family secrets are balanced by a gentle romance. This is the story of James, a wealthy New Yorker drawn to a small Oregon town because of a footnote in his mother’s will. As James searches for answers in the past, he is surprised to find a place for himself in the present.

James comes to Brooks a broken, isolated man who drinks too much and doesn’t feel he can trust anyone. He asks questions about secrets the locals refuse to talk about and seems to have a bit of a death wish. I love the growth in James in this book. The people he finds and the people who find him offer him both closure and a much needed sense of belonging.

This book is advertised as a romance but it’s a story about all sorts of relationships and James’ slow, sweet connection to Hunter is really only one of the important elements of the story. The two men are sexy together and there are some beautifully steamy scenes, but the story’s focus is James and romance is only one part of his life.

This is a difficult book to review without spoilers. I loved the story. The book feels both special and unusual and the characters are real and raw and flawed – and wonderfully relatable. The writing borrows from the Gothic tradition; the descriptions of coastal Oregon are dark and eerie and there is a fabulous sense of claustrophobia despite the immense open spaces.



Author Bio

Claire Cray writes gay romance featuring hot, complicated men in weird situations. Offbeat and character-driven with a gothic bent, her work has been described as deeply atmospheric and a little bit strange.

Born and raised in the rural Pacific Northwest, Claire takes inspiration from its rich, moody vibes: the ancient forests, rugged coastlines, eccentric characters, and whispers of dark mystery in even the tiniest little towns. Combine all that with steamy sensuality and psychological drama, and you've got a story by Claire Cray.

Connect with Claire

Facebook  ~  Twitter  Instagram  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads
Facebook Group: Claire's Hideout





Watching Hunter sink into the corner of the couch, all faded denim and soft flannel and broad shoulders, James felt an odd pang of longing. He looked so comfortable there, so calm and steady and sure…


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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of In Strange Woods by Claire Cray to read and review for this tour.

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