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Old Loyalty, New Love by Mary Calmes

Old Loyalty, New LoveOld Loyalty, New Love by Mary Calmes
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel: 73,902 Words
Purchase at Amzon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  3
 

When jackal shifter Quade Danas was banished from his pack for being gay, he spent years in the military escaping his father’s prejudice before returning to civilian life as a bodyguard for Roman Howell, the teenage son of a very rich man. After Roman is in an accident that leaves him physically scarred and emotionally distant, Quade is the only one who can get through to him. As Roman becomes a man, he realizes what he wants—his bodyguard by his side and in his bed. Unfortunately, Quade can’t seem to see past the kid Roman once was to the man he has become, certain Roman’s feelings are merely misplaced gratitude. But Roman knows a lot more than Quade realizes, and he’s used to persevering, no matter how many impediments life throws his way. He wants the chance to prove to Quade that he’s strong enough for a jackal alpha to call mate.

Despite the decades Quade has been away, and the heartache of his father’s rejection, his inborn loyalty to the pack remains, and his abrupt departure left the jackal shifters without an alpha heir. As a psychopath shifter staking claim as alpha draws Quade back home, and Quade feels compelled to heed the call, he may be forced to make a choice he never anticipated. But doing so means he must leave Roman behind… unless somehow they find a way to make loyalty and love work together.

Excerpt

This was a nice shifter story.  The story starts out with feeling like you get dropped into the story part way through.  There was a lot of filling in of back story to do and it broke the rhythm of the book.  It was interesting to watch Quade struggle with his feelings for Roman.

I will admit right off that I didn’t care as much for this book.  I love the story line and side characters but the book went so fast.  With the feeling of being dropped in part way through and the speed of it I just couldn’t connect with the characters.  I didn’t get why these two had such strong feelings for each other.  I get there is a lot of past and the whole you see me for me but it just didn’t ring right with me.

Unlike others I wasn’t disturbed by the age difference.  It really didn’t bother me.  I had no issues with either of the characters.  I have always enjoyed the author’s characters and the snark and humor in her stories.  The writing with regards to that was a good as always.  I just didn’t get the depth to the story and characters as I usually do.

The writing was well done.  The author is always very descriptive.  The scenes come alive and are very vivid.  The plot makes sense and leads in a logical progression through the story.  As I said though there is something missing to this story that I usually get in her other books.  I just couldn’t grasp the emotion to connect to the characters.

I did enjoy the story.  I hope there is a follow up to the book with the descriptions of the other male characters and the way they are acting.  It would be interesting to hear what they do:)

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Floodgates by Mary Calmes

FloodgatesFloodgates by Mary Calmes
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  71,040 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Nobles
Roses:  3
 

Tracy Brandt considers himself a lucky man. He has a wonderful family, good friends, and a dependable job. His love life, however, features a cheating ex who, though out of the house, is not yet out of the picture—with a past that just might get Tracy killed.

Homicide inspector Cord Nolan wants nothing more than to show his best friend’s little brother that he’s a reliable man, but to do that he’ll have to get Tracy to look past the player he used to be. It’ll be a tough sell; reputation is everything, and Cord’s is tarnished by his past indiscretions.

Tracy and Cord have spent five years trying to suffocate their fiery attraction under a blanket of grudging antagonism. When Tracy finds himself with a target on his back, Cord finally has the chance to ride to the rescue and break through the dam of Tracy’s reserve. But he’d better be careful: if Cord is breaking the floodgates to wash away the past, he’s going to have to hold tight to Tracy to make sure they’re still standing when the tumult recedes.

 Excerpt

I really am a fan of Mary Calmes.  I don’t care that her style is a bit formulaic.  It works for me:)  This particular book though was not as good as others.  It was mainly that it felt…loose.  There were threads that made no sense to have and then leave hanging, in particular Tracey’s boss. I know it is accepted in the end but it just felt like there was more there.  Then there is Breckin’s cheating.  I get the crazy stalker going after those that Breckin cares about but what about the man Tracey caught him with.  This is a friend of Breckin’s but is never gone after…doesn’t make sense.

The writing itself is good.  Mary Calmes has a way to draw you into the story and give you details without making it totally overwhelming.  I quite enjoy her writing style.  The plot is a bit thin and seems a bit stretched.  I don’t buy the whole going to another state with police escort for something like this even with family involved it was a bit much.  The characters are what always make me smile.  I love the possessive, domineering alpha and the snarky “bottom boy”.  It’s a thing that works for me and makes me smile.  This isn’t the most stimulating of writings but for a comfort read that makes you feel good it is great.

So overall, the characters and writing worked for me.  I thought they gave something different to the story and made it fun to read.  The plot though and storyline had a few too many holes to make this a great read though.  If you want a feel good read though this is a good one.

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Soul Magic by Poppy Dennison

Soul MagicSoul Magic by Poppy Dennison
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  63,750 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  3
 

Sequel to Body Magic
Triad: Book Three

Blood runs soul-deep. Cormac hasn’t been the same since the night the High Moon Pack was attacked. With his magic weakened, he’s consumed by a bloodlust he hasn’t felt since he first became a vampire. His need to replenish his power makes him a danger to his last remaining family member, and his hunger makes him careless. And that’s just the beginning of his troubles. Feeding from pack beta Liam Benson was supposed to slake his appetite, not leave him craving more.

Simon Osborne and Gray Townsend are trying to fight a being history says shouldn’t exist—one with all three types of magic. The pack must use all of their resources to combat the mysterious triad, even turning to the shady Council of Mages for help. While Cormac struggles to reconcile his past failures with his current desires, Simon must attempt the impossible: an alliance between mind, body, and soul.

Excerpt

This is the third book of the Triad series.  After reading the last two books I was anticipating this book and the conclusion to the story arc for Gray and Simon.  I thought that we would get more of the relationship of Cormac and Liam but this was sadly lacking.  The story was geared more towards ending the story arc.

The writing was well done.  I was left wondering through most of the story what would happen next.  I love the characters as well.  They are so vivid and interesting.   I will admit I still didn’t see Liam very clearly.  He was a fairly shallow character.  I would have loved more development of the story between Liam and Cormac.  Still the part of the story that involved concluding the story arc was fascinating to me.

I enjoyed the story even though it wasn’t what I was expecting from it.  I look forward to the next book in the series and where the author will take it next since this story arc is complete.

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Knitter in His Natural Habitat by Amy Lane

Knitter in His Natural HabitatKnitter in His Natural Habitat by Amy Lane
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  51,455 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  2
 

Stanley’s life took a left turn at a knitting shop and hit a dead end. The closest thing he’s had to a relationship breaks things off to date a “nice boy,” and none of the pretty young things in Boulder’s limited gay scene do it for Stanley. He needs to reevaluate whether working as a floor designer for a series of craft stores is really where he wants to be.

Then Stanley does a peculiar thing: he starts to live the life he fell into. Stitch by stitch, he knits his life into something meaningful. Just when he does, Johnny, the store’s new delivery boy, walks in.

Johnny is like no one Stanley has ever met: he doesn’t believe in quickies in the bathroom and has a soft spot for theater and opera. There has to be a catch. When Johnny’s dark past comes back to haunt them, Stanley realizes how much he loves his cushy life in the yarn store—but he’ll give it all up to keep the man who makes his ordinary life extraordinary.

Excerpt

This is the fourth book in the Knitting series by Amy Lane.  I have enjoyed this series with its humor, real life characters, and its life lessons all wrapped up in knitting.  We go outside the insular little farm to the big city of Boulder to Craw’s ex, Stanley.  Stanley is aging and is realizing since “losing” Craw that there might be more to life than a steady stream of meaningless sexual hookups.  It’s not long after that that he meets Johnny and finally starts opening his heart to a real relationship.

The author’s use of description and referencing it all to knitting is an interesting tactic.  I loved seeing all the other couples from the series and getting a little update on life.  Stanley wasn’t quite what I was expecting.  He wasn’t very solid to me.  He kept aging himself with the hair plugs reference.  I know that is part of the character because of his life before and how crippling aging is in that world but it really threw me off this character.  I didn’t really like him as much as I would have expected.  The author has always done well with connecting me to the main characters she writes about.  In this case I feel like the story was pushed.  It just didn’t flow and contained characters that just didn’t meet up to the usual standards in a book by Amy Lane.

Johnny was…unknown.  There is reference to him talking a lot with Stanley but I get very little sense of his character in the overall text of the book.  He remains elusive to me within the story.  Stanley for all his talk in the book, as the voice of the story, ends up really giving me very little to work with.  These characters do not behave like they should in regards to Johnny’s life.  WITSEC and yet here goes Stanley telling everyone.  Danger comes and Stanley runs out of town to where there is even less protection.  It is never explained how danger even follows Stanley when he runs.  Then even with these people in jail the danger to Johnny could still be very present.  None of the situation there really rang true to me.  NONE of it!

When I don’t consider any of the situations with WITSEC then the story is cute, sweet, and shallow.  This is a nice enough story but has a bit too many troubles with it.  I would consider this a one off for this author though.  She has wonderful work even within this series so there is no doubt I will continue to read her and this series.

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In Search of a Story by Andrew Grey

In Search of a StoryIn Search of a Story by Andrew Grey
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  60,852 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  3
 

He’s searching for a story but finds so much more.

Brad Torrence is next on the chopping block at the newspaper where he works. Hungry for any source he can find, he runs across an ad in the classifieds: For Sale: Nursery Items, Never Used. It’s the lead he’s been looking for. Thinking a piece about the loss of a child will give him the edge he needs to keep his job, Brad follows up. He doesn’t expect a single man to answer.

Rather than being offended, Cory Wolfe finds sharing the story of his grief and pain liberating. He’s even surprised by the spark that strikes, and one story leads to another.

Brad digs into his stories and Cory’s life, eager to know everything about the man who’s caught his attention. But when a lead points him to the hospital where Cory works, he unearths a mystery that might have been safer left buried. Brad’s search for a story could prove deadly….

Excerpt

He’s searching for a story but finds so much more.

Brad Torrence is next on the chopping block at the newspaper where he works. Hungry for any source he can find, he runs across an ad in the classifieds: For Sale: Nursery Items, Never Used. It’s the lead he’s been looking for. Thinking a piece about the loss of a child will give him the edge he needs to keep his job, Brad follows up. He doesn’t expect a single man to answer.

Rather than being offended, Cory Wolfe finds sharing the story of his grief and pain liberating. He’s even surprised by the spark that strikes, and one story leads to another.

Brad digs into his stories and Cory’s life, eager to know everything about the man who’s caught his attention. But when a lead points him to the hospital where Cory works, he unearths a mystery that might have been safer left buried. Brad’s search for a story could prove deadly….

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Ash and Echoes: Book One of the Blessed Epoch by Augusta Li

Ash and EchoesAsh and Echoes: Book One of the Blessed Epoch by Augusta Li
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  125,026 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  5
 

For the past few years Yarroway L’Estrella has lived in exile, gathering arcane power, but that power came at a price. Now it’s time for him to do his duty: his uncle, the king, needs him to escort Prince Garith to his wedding, a union that will create an alliance between the two strongest countries in the known world. But Yarrow isn’t the prince’s only guard. A whole company of knights is assigned to the duty, and Yarrow’s not sure he trusts their leader.

Knight Duncan Purefroy isn’t sure he trusts Yarrow either, but after a bizarre occurrence during their travels, they have no choice but to work together—especially since the incident also reveals a disturbing secret, one that might threaten the entire kingdom. But will it ultimately work in their favor?

When a third member joins the precarious alliance, it seems to cement the bonds between all three men. But the arrangement isn’t perfect: Yarrow knows the power inside him and fears getting too close. The mysterious newcomer was raised to believe love and trust are weaknesses. And Duncan struggles to accept them as they are. Saving their home will take everything they have—including the fragile relationship they’ve built.

Excerpt

This was an entertaining fantasy.  I did think at first the characters are a bit flat but as I continued the read I could see where the author was heading with these men.  When you meet each character they are as one would expect the character to be…Yarrow is selfish and cold.  He is purely driven by his own wants and desires.  Duncan is the faithful knight.  He believes in his cause and in making a better world.  Duncan’s first duty is to his mission.  He can care for nothing more than his duty!  Sasha is the assassin.  He is cold, without remorse and lives entirely in the moment, feelings are only a weakness.  As the story progresses you see the changes that occur in each of these characters.

I have seen some bad reviews in reviews of this book in regards to the plot.  The plot is twisty but fairly typical for this kind of fantasy read but that is not where the author is taking this series.  It isn’t as much about the kingdom and what occurs within it.  It is all about these three men and how they grow, each changing the others and becoming more in the so doing.

The one thing I didn’t really expect in the story is the creature that lives in Yarrow.  I’m just not sure about him.  You believe throughout the story he is evil…even at the ending I would say he is evil, but there is something more there.  It will be interesting to see where the author takes this character in the rest of the series.

There were only two other items I noticed.  The “head hopping” and sex scenes.  The head hopping of the point of view added a lot to the story but I do think it could have been at times a bit clearer as to who’s perspective the story was being told from.  The sex scenes were a bit long.  I do not know why they didn’t really have my attention.  They were a bit too formulaic for me as they went.  I think the fact that I got the same feeling from the characters in the first sex scene to the last means something there didn’t go right.

Overall I think the author has done a wonderful job with this book.  It is interesting and different.  There is a similar plot to it but with the underlying story that changes it.  It is a book that stays with you.  I look forward to the next book in the series.

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Mastering the Ride by J.P. Barnaby

Mastering the RideMastering the Ride by J.P. Barnaby
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Short Story:  15,874 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  4
 

Josh, a young gay submissive with a strong desire to serve, is searching for the Master of his dreams. After being released by yet another Dom, he takes the advice of his trainer and leaves Chicago to accept the invitation of a Montana rancher—a real, live, modern-day cowboy. With his new Master, Wade Mallory, Josh may just find what he’s looking for… and more.

Excerpt

This is a short story and as such has some of  the typical  inherent flaws of shorts.  It ends just when it is getting good.  I would love to know more.  Josh is a sub and looking to be one full time to a Dom.  He is having trouble though and is in despair as another Dom dumps him.  Josh has lots of self doubt when it comes to his worth.  His service to his Dom helps him with that.  He wants to be necessary!  Wade has had a long road to get to where he understands himself more.  He left behind his life that he was living for his father to find a life for himself.  After he discovers his desire to be a Dom he begins his search for a Sub.  No Sub seems to want what he wants.  It isn’t about a thrill for him.  He wants a Sub to serve him but is having no luck.  Luckily for both men they have a common friend that sets them up.  Now they have to see if they each are what the other is looking for.

As the story is the writing is awesome.  I love the build up to the meeting between Dom and Sub.  It lets you know so much more about the men involved than a usual short would.  This does mean that the relationship part is very short.  This is where the short has problems.  You just start to see what these two men can have and it ends.  I still loved it.  It was a wonderful short that gives you a great view of this author and her writing.  Her abilities to write vivid and touching characters are shown here.  I usually have issues with the depth of characters in shorts.  Though we don’t get all the background on these characters, with even more hinted at, you still get a full enough one to start to really “see” them.  Readers will leave this short wanting more.

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Billy’s Bones by Jamie Fessenden

Billy's BonesBilly’s Bones by Jamie Fessenden
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  73,735 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  4
 

Kevin Derocher was thirty-two when he walked into Tom’s office, newly married, a baby on the way, and the collar of his red flannel shirt pulled up to hide the bruises around his throat from when he hanged himself in his garage. After his initial consult, therapist Tom Langois believes he’ll never see Kevin again—but Kevin turns up three years later to make repairs on Tom’s new house.

Kevin and Tom become fast friends, and Tom begins to suspect Kevin may be interested in more than friendship. However, Kevin remains haunted by something from his childhood—something so terrible he blocked it from his mind. These suppressed memories make it impossible for Kevin to get close to anyone without panicking and lashing out, sometimes violently. But as his past begins to surface, it becomes apparent that Kevin may hold the key to a twenty-five-year-old mystery: what happened to Billy?

Excerpt

This is a very different read.  There isn’t the sex that is in many books.  There is a good reason behind it and adds I believe to the story line.  Kevin is a very emotionally damaged young man.  He doesn’t seem to want to change or to some degree even think he should.  I believe the author’s intent with that was to should how difficult and emotionally damaging his trauma was.  He is a confusing mess of contradictions for Tom.  Tom met Kevin first one time as a therapist and then again after 3 years when Kevin comes to fix Tom’s hot tub.  Tom is very intrigue but Kevin.  He finds himself developing a friendship with Kevin and then a crush.  Tom doesn’t believe that Kevin is gay.  When Kevin finally admits his attraction to Tom the two begin to delve into Kevin’s issues and uncover more than expected.

I think the author did an amazing job with this story.  He approached the subject matter from an informed point of view.  You can tell he has done some research into the subject.  He shows the reader one of the possible outcomes of childhood trauma.  I will admit to some surprise that Kevin’s issues weren’t discovered and treated when he was intuitionalized as a child.  I don’t know if that would bother a reader or not but it did catch me a bit, not that I don’t think that it couldn’t happen.  The story line leads the reader in a logical and emotional way through Kevin’s psychological discoveries and the start of his recovery.  You twist and turn through their discoveries and relationship.  You are left to wonder about Kevin and what else they will discover as you go through the story.

I think where I did have some issues with the story was the relationship between the main characters.  I didn’t feel that love that the two men had.  It had a friendship feel to it.  I do think by the end that they were heading toward a romance.  I think until then that Kevin’s issues so dominated the relationship it just didn’t feel romantic.  The characters were well developed though.  The author draws the reader easily into the story by way of the characters.  Kevin’s character, even without being the “voice” of the story, is compelling.  He changes and grows during the story.  Other than what the author explains about the need to change some of what a real person would go through with Kevin’s issues, you see some of what happens to a person with his abuse issues.  It was emotionally devastating for the reader to find out what happened to Kevin.  Tom on the other hand I never really got as much of a connection with.  He does show how a partner’s mental issues affect those around them but other than that he was a bit flat.

The ending of the story also didn’t work for me.  I would think that Kevin would have to recover some more before the two men would even consider further commitment.  I have no doubt that Kevin might have offered but I didn’t feel that Kevin was enough emotionally steady yet in his recovery.  (I know many have complained about the mom issue.  I didn’t think it was that out of character.  I know many that have terrible trauma with a parent but still hope to have a connection and continue to reach out.  Kevin’s character seems like one who would do this.)

The story was an excellent read and one that will stay with me for a while.  Compelling and emotional as it was there was a wonderful, hopeful message about recovery contained within.  I think it a very worthwhile read.

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Masters & Boyd by S.J.D. Peterson

Masters & BoydMasters & Boyd by S.J.D. Peterson
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novella:  26,648 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  3
 

Carrick Masters and Edward Boyd have already found true love—it’s the happy ever after that’s eluding them. Between Carrick’s job as an orthopedic surgeon and Ed’s career as a defense attorney, they have hardly any time to spend together, and what time they do have seems to be poisoned by resentment. Carrick and Ed know they need to refocus to make their marriage work, but they seriously need more than a spicy once-a-week date night to get them back on track.

Excerpt

This was a story originally done from a photo and a prompt in the Goodreads M/M Romance group.  The author has done a wonderful job within a short story format.  This is about and established couple and how their very happy marriage crumbles under real world pressures.  When the two men hit a point of their marriage almost breaking under the strain, they resolve to fix it.  The story itself chronicles their relationship for about 2 years.

Carrick is a surgeon and his husband, Ed, a lawyer.  They are both very successful but busy.  They notice that their relationship is becoming all work with the occasional night of sex.  They are losing touch with each other and the small things that mean so much to the relationship.  They finally take time to fix their marriage.  In the course of doing so they stumble across the fact that Ed likes to be spanked and Carrick likes to be in control during sex.  They start to explore this difference in their love life and find it something they both enjoy.

I thought the writer did a good job with the plot.  The whole of the story was pretty much a flash back which contains flash backs.  That sounds confusing but the writer manages to make it very smooth and with no confusion as to what is happening.  The believability of a relationship “hitting the rocks” like this makes the story interesting.  How do they change where they are headed?  And how did this vanilla couple put these kinks into their love life?

The characters are simple but easy to sympathize with.  They are made believable by how they are letting just the little stuff intrude and tear them apart.  I will say that I really didn’t connect with them though.  I think it is a bit of the nature of a short that it is very difficult to create a character that connects to the readers.  In this case I just didn’t have enough emotion devoted to the story to connect with the characters.

This is a sweet little story and good read.  I would recommend it to anyone.

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Dex in Blue by Amy Lane

Dex in BlueDex in Blue by Amy Lane
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  120,308 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  4
 

Johnnies: Book Two

Ten years ago David Worral had plans to go to college and the potential for a beautiful future in front of him. One tragic accident later, he fled to California and reinvented himself as Dex, top porn model of Johnnies.

Dex’s life is a tangled mess now, but the guys he works with only see the man who makes them believe even porn stars can lead normal lives. When Kane, one of Dex’s coworkers, gets kicked out of his house, the least Dex can do is give him a place to stay. Kane may be a hyperactive muscle-bound psycho, but he’s also a really nice guy. What could be the harm?

Except nothing is simple—not sex, not love, and not the goofy kid with the big dick and bigger heart who moves his life into Dex’s guest room. When they start negotiating fractured pasts and broken friends, Dex wonders if Kane’s honest nature can untangle the sadness that stalled his once-promising future. With Kane by his side, Dex just might be able to reclaim the boy he once was—and if he can do that, he can give Kane the home and the family he deserves.

Excerpt

This is actually a companion book rather than a book 2.  The time line is the same for the first book Chase in Shadows and we view what events happen in that book from Dex and Kane’s point of view along with Dex and Kane’s story.

I love this author’s writing.  The characters are usually vividly portrayed with “warts and all”.  Kane/Carlos is not well educated but a very sweet character.  He loves animals and has adopted ones that aren’t usually as well loved.  Kane loves them and manages in the story to make other love those critters, or at least hate less, too.  Dex/David is a caregiver and planner.  If something needs to happen he tries to make it happen.  Dex is a much or complex character with issues that reflect that.

As far are the plot line of the story, it holds together well.  It isn’t the emotional draw and crush that Chase in Shadow was so it made for a bit of an easier read.  There was only the one hiccup for me and that was Dex and how he falls into this relationship.  Dex seems so against risking his heart again and has issue with the age difference but falls pretty fast for someone with those issues.  Kane is slower to figure things out than he is which if not for Dex’s past would make sense.  As I said small hiccup and really didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment.

The read was a solid piece of work.  You feel the characters and the angst level is just enough to keep the story from getting flat.   Overall I enjoyed the book.

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