Author Interview – L A Witt

comfy chairMy guest today is a best-selling author best known for scorching erotica and erotic romance, writing both M/F as Lauren Gallagher and M/M as L A Witt. Her series of novels – Rules of Engagement, Cover Me, The Distance Between Us, Changing Plans and, with Aleksandr Voinov, The Market Garden – all have an avid following. In addition she has written many standalone works to delight her readers ranging from speculative fiction to steampunk and back via historical and contemporary romance. Her latest release, co written with Aleksander Voinov, is Unhinge the Universe, an exciting historical drama set in 1944.

Welcome L A and thanks for agreeing to the interview.
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Author Interview with Adam Fitzroy

comfy chair

My guest today is Adam Fitzroy, author of five non-erotic M/M romance titles available from Manifold Press. Romances set in the White House, on Flanders Fields and on the border of England and Wales, some contemporary, some historical and some BOTH, have met with critical acclaim.  Thank you, Adam, for so kindly agreeing to answer my questions.

- Hi, Elin; it’s lovely to be invited, thank you!

Elin: You have written contemporary stories and historicals, which do you prefer? Do you find contemporaries easier to write than history?

Adam:  No, not at all.  In fact I’m far more at home with historical subjects, and I think the reason is that I’m a bit of a dinosaur; with contemporary subjects I have to keep reminding myself that the characters will have access to mobile phones, computers, the internet and so forth, and that they will be able to find things out quickly which would have taken a previous generation weeks or even years to discover.  I like a slow pace of storytelling, something that will be an immersive experience for me when I’m writing it and will hopefully be very much the same for the potential reader, and that somehow seems to be at odds with the faster pace of contemporary life.

Elin: When writing historicals, what do you enjoy most about the process? Do you enjoy research for its own sake?

Adam:   I love research; I love solving little problems and discovering how things would have been done in a bygone era.  To me, learning about a ‘new’ historical era is like learning a new language; I need to acquire a lot of information before I can write so much as a single word.  What job or profession would my characters have had, for example, and what would they have earned; how would they have made a journey from Point A to Point B and how long would it have taken them?  I’m also fascinated by historical diet, furniture, houses, clothing … and the fact that, whatever their trappings, human beings are essentially the same and have the same or similar hopes and dreams, fears and failings throughout history.  I love getting inside their heads and understanding their concerns, seeing how like us they are – and, in other ways, how very different.

One place where I draw the line in historical fiction, though, is with language – there is absolutely no point in trying to write historically-accurate dialogue full of ‘thees’ and ‘thous’ because it runs the risk of sounding like a bad parody of Shakespeare; a far more straightforward course is to stick to relatively simple English and indicate to the reader by the subject matter they’re discussing that these are not contemporary characters.  Ellis Peters did this to good effect in the ‘Brother Cadfael’ books, which in my view makes it an example that’s very well worth following.

Elin: I’m fascinated to see that you have set a romance in the White House with the President, no less, as one of the protagonists. What inspired that story?

Adam:   I’ve been a bit of ‘Presidency buff’ ever since I was a child, and I love the whole panoply of White House life – the staff, the settings, the prestige and the power – although I must admit that I’m less enthusiastic about the actual politics; I just see the Presidency as the American equivalent of royalty, with similar glossy trappings under which are very often flawed human beings.  I adore movies with a White House background – and as you can probably imagine I’m a huge fan of ‘The West Wing’, too – and basically with ‘Dear Mister President’ I set out to write the story of the kind of movie I would really like to be able to sit down and watch.  That’s my starting-point with most of my books, in fact; I try to write something that would be entertaining to me if someone else had written it.

Elin: Your novel Make Do And Mend is set during the early part of the Second World War in rural Monmouthshire. Can you explain why you chose such an unusual place to set the story instead of a more glamorous location?

This farmhouse, the site of a former youth hostel, is the site Adam chose for the fictional Hendra.

Adam:   There were two main reasons; one was that – as far as I knew – nobody had ever done it before, but the other was the old advice about ‘writing what you know’!  The location where the story is set is not a million miles from where I live, and I often pass through it by train – which you might think would lead to a superficial acquaintance with the area at best – but I’ve been doing so on a regular basis since the 1980s and it’s sunk in gradually, somehow, by osmosis.  I’ve also covered a lot of the same ground by car and also on foot, I should add – I walked the Wye Valley some years ago – and read up quite a lot about it.  Eventually I became fascinated with one particular valley, one particular road, one particular location … and over a period of several years the story of Harry and Jim slowly took shape in my mind.

Looking back towards the Hendra from the road to “Sermon Pass”

 

Elin: I can understand that Adam. It’s one of my very favourite places. Now, could you give me a reading recommendation, either in your genre or out of it? The type of book you would wade through a flood to rescue.

If you enjoy reading about men coping heroically with impossible situations you will enjoy this book.

Adam:   There is one book above all others that always springs to the forefront of my mind when this sort of question is asked, and it’s the one I would take to the legendary BBC desert island with me – Nicholas Monsarrat’s ‘The Cruel Sea’.  It’s probably the book that’s had the profoundest effect on me since the day I sneaked my father’s copy out of his bookcase when I was a teenager.  Monsarrat’s unsentimental style, his eye for detail and his characters – together with the overwhelming conviction that he has been in these places and seen these things for himself – combine to produce not only a powerful and absorbing narrative but also, looked at in another light, an example of the kind of book I would give my eye-teeth to be able to write.  He portrays, strongly and convincingly, the sort of devoted relationships between men that are all about love and not even remotely about sex; Erikson and Lockhart, for example, are closer to one another than they are to the women in their lives – and there’s Ferraby and his affection for his young friend Rose, too, which I’ve always found extremely moving.  I must confess that the surnames Lockhart and Ferraby appear in ‘Make Do And Mend’ as a direct tribute to ‘The Cruel Sea’, which some readers may have spotted.  Other favourites may come and go over time, but this is one book that will most definitely remain with me forever!

Elin: What’s next from the pen/word processor of Adam Fitzroy? Can you tell us about it or do you refer to keep the details to yourself until the work is finished?

Adam:   I’ve recently started – and it’s giving me a bit of trouble at the moment – a book about two male teachers of different ethnicities who meet and fall in love while working in a school in the East End of London in 1966.  They bond over trying to create – completely from scratch – a school cricket team, using the most unpromising materials.  Cricket is among my many enthusiasms, and in a way it’s odd that I’ve never written anything about it before, but of course it offers an ideal meeting-point for people from completely different cultural backgrounds.  I would like the book to be about unconscious prejudice of all sorts – whether originating in race, gender, age, social class, sexual orientation or anything else – but hopefully not ‘preachy’ in any way; it’s enough, I think, to show that sometimes people’s unthinking predispositions can be overturned, and it needn’t be by any great dramatic revelation – just gradually learning a little bit more about their fellow human beings.

Elin: Could we please have an excerpt?

Adam:   This is from ‘Make Do And Mend’ – the air-raid sirens have gone off during the village Christmas Dance, and the characters are sheltering in the crypt of the church:

Like all such occasions, it was almost fun at first; they crowded together in the vault, and it soon became warm enough to be comfortable, and for quite a while there was nothing but silence overhead.  Someone had brought over a set of dominoes and the top of a long-deceased Lyon’s slab tomb was turned into a table where the game was played with great enthusiasm; Gwen and the ward sister – her name was Hilda, it transpired – were deep in conversation; Blanche leaned against Kitty and fell asleep, and Kitty in turn leaned against Jack.  Harry, under some obscure compulsion not to rest even for a moment, circulated slowly like the host at a particularly unsuccessful party; he and the vicar, working together as if they had rehearsed it, stepped gently over stretched-out legs, found Alka-Seltzer and headache tablets and extra blankets, distributed magazines and sandwiches and light conversation wherever appropriate.  By the end of the first hour, however, when optimism had turned to resignation and novelty had already begun to pall, there began to be a minor rumble of discontent amongst the ranks.  People had already started to talk about making a dash for it back to their own homes – to pets shut in, to children being looked after by neighbours – when the sounds of approaching violence became audible in the distance.  Parry ARP, out in the graveyard with his fellow wardens, twitched the curtain aside to say “Here they come”, and husbands pulled their wives closer to them and friends pressed tightly against one another’s shoulders in order to be in contact with someone, anyone, in a time of fear.  The church may well have stood for a thousand years before tonight, but it would be no proof against a direct hit; if that happened, there would be a thousand years of solid masonry and carved oak down around the ears of the shelterers in an instant.

Harry’s father had been killed in just such a way, barely eight months before, when seven hundred German bombers had torn out the historic heart of London; crushed in the ruins of the library at Gray’s Inn, he had died surrounded by the things and places he had loved the most.  Harry, however, could not simply stand still and wait for the same to happen to him.

“I’m going outside,” he said quietly to the vicar.

Eltringham glanced assessingly around the vault; Gwen and Hilda were looking calmly in their direction, but nobody else seemed to have a single thought to spare for either of them.

“All right,” he replied.  “I’ll come with you.”  And they pushed through the blackout, up the twisted stairs, emerging into the chill graveyard where they joined Parry ARP in a little sandbagged redoubt tucked into the angle between nave and transept.  There was already an ominous droning in the air, accompanied by a series of far-off thuds that certainly betokened nothing good.

“They’re coming up the railway line,” said Parry.  “From Pontypool.”  And even as he spoke the separate impacts drew nearer, stitching along the valley with an almost paralysing slowness, bombs falling repetitively one by one by one in a long and deadly rhythm, flashes of light sometimes perceptible where they fell.  “It’s mostly farmland over by there,” he added hopelessly.

“What can I do?” asked Eltringham, in a distracted tone.  “Whatever can I do?”

“Pray, vicar.  That’s all any of us can do.”

“Mr Parry, I’ve been praying continuously since 1939!”

“Well, sir,” replied the warden, “no offence, but I’m afraid it isn’t working.  Maybe you’d better start praying a little bit harder?”

The engine note was clearly identifiable now.  “Heinkels,” said Harry.  “I just wish there was a moon.”

“And I wish there was no war,” responded Eltringham, gripping his arm above the elbow with bony fingers that dug in and stayed clamped there as the thundering menace drew closer, juddering in the tight air, vibrating through ground and stones and bones and blood and souls.

“They’re going over the mountain,” Harry realised at the last moment.  “Over Hendra.  Over the quarry.”

They were above the village, two of them, three, maybe more, ripping holes in the sky, dropping fire from a great height, screaming from darkness into darkness leaving chaos and death behind them.

Somewhere high up on the mountain flames blossomed and rose quickly, and then were gone.

“Jim,” said Harry.

Idiotically, he began to run.

###

You can buy Make Do and Mend here:

http://www.manifoldpress.co.uk/2012/10/make-do-and-mend/

Follow me at the following sites.

Adam’s blog:  http://www.manifoldpress.co.uk/2012/10/make-do-and-mend/

Adam’s LJ:  http://adam-fitzroy.livejournal.com/

Adam on GoodReads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3513066.Adam_Fitzroy

Adam’s Author Page on Amazon:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Adam-Fitzroy/e/B00BF045YG/

I’m afraid I don’t do either Facebook or Twitter … still too much of a dinosaur!

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Many thanks for joining us today, Adam, and good luck with the WIP.

Review: The Low Between by Vivien Dean

It was supposed to be simple.

All struggling actor Carlo Baresi had to do was pick up a man in a taxi, drive him to the location he specified, then report where he’d taken him. The only problem is, the man isn’t who he claims to be…and they both know it.

Bookstore owner Joe Donnelly has a reputation for helping those in need, but this plan has been a bad one from the second he stepped in. Discovering someone has switched out the taxi driver is one more complication he doesn’t want, especially since Carlo is the kind of distraction that can get a man in serious trouble if he’s not careful.

But the men have something in common other than their mutual attraction. They’re both loose ends, struggling to find out what is really going on.

And murder is always complicated, even when you’re on the same side.. 

ebook  - 144 pages

Review by Erastes

Ms Dean has had me as a fan for a good while, although it’s been a while since she published a gay historical, and I’ve missed her. This was a very enjoyable read I’m glad to say!

I love Noir, I’m a big fan of Bogart and Marlowe and Spade and all that, so I was looking forward to a New York 50′s vibe and in that, I’m afraid, I was a little disappointed. There’s not enough immersion into the era. Dean lost an opportunity here–possibly by sticking to a more traditional for a romance two-POV style rather than a first person narration–in really steeping the story in a Noir feel. Part of the prop shafts for great Noir are mouth watering descriptions of clothes, guns and cars and the reader is short-changed in all these departments. There’s rain, which always adds to the genre, lots of rain and in that respect it’s atmospheric but it could have gone a lot further to really bring out the flavour of the era.

It’s a good plot, although the mystery did confuse me rather, which starts with a great scene of a switched driver and a different contact than the one Carlo was expecting which sets the scene nicely for the growing romance and the mystery. I liked Joe a lot more than I did Carlo–we learn a lot more about him, for a start. He’s beautifully flawed and having tasted tragedy in his life, professionally and personally, he keeps the world at bay. We know much about his character simply from the way he interacts with the people he knows–and doesn’t know. I felt that the “OK, now we are partners” aspect was a tad rushed–couldn’t quite see why Joe would have trusted Carlo quite so quickly, particularly after Carlo violates that trust pretty sharpish.

As for Carlo himself, I didn’t really get him at all. We know very little about him, not his past or his home life, or his past homosexual experiences. I couldn’t really warm to him the way I did Joe because of that, as by the time we are really inside his head he’s entirely smitten with Joe and that’s all he can think about.

The prose is good, as expected with this author, and there are quite a few phrases that were outstandingly beautiful and original which made me bite my lip in jealous fury that I hadn’t thought of this or that analogy or metaphor. The editing needed more work, but I’m used to that with Amber, it’s not a deal breaker, I just wish they’d pull their socks up and get editors who know the right place for a comma.

Once the relationship kicks in, it’s handled nicely and sparingly. The protagonists aren’t forever hard and aching for each other, there’s a major sex scene in the place where you’d expect it, and a glasses-fogging kiss scene which was–for me, at least–was hotter than any sex scene. It takes talent to write gorgeous kisses and not many people can do it as well as Dean.

Sadly, probably in deference to the “M/M conventions” there’s also a long sex scene after the denouement of the mystery which for me was unnecessary and didn’t interest me at all. I can understand the reason why this scene may have been put in, but my rule-of-thumb is: if you can take out the scene and it makes absolutely no difference to the plot, then it shouldn’t be there. This is appease the sex-lovers of the genre, but I found myself skipping through it to get to a rather more “pat” ending than I liked. I felt the true end of the book had actually happened naturally just before the sex scene which was probably why the sex seemed a little shoehorned in, as if the publisher said “One sex scene isn’t enough!!”

However, it is a well-written, well-paced book which I enjoyed reading. It might not be a keeper, but it gets a thumbs up from me. I have to say that the title baffled me though–what does it mean?

Author’s Website

Buy at Amazon UK | Amazon USA| Amber Allure

Author Interview – Lisa Henry

My guest today is Lisa Henry, resident in Australia but her imagination roams the world and the genres from contemporary drama to ancient history. Her work has received glowing reviews and has been picked as The Romance Reviews top picks.

Thank you very much, Lisa for agreeing to answer my questions today.

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Elin: Do you have a crisp mental picture of your characters or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?

Lisa: I like to know what makes my characters tick, but I never have more than a vague idea of their physical descriptions in my head. I’ll write sticky notes about eye colour, hair colour, and who is taller than who (otherwise I’d get mixed up when it comes to love scenes) but that’s about the extent of it. When I read I usually like to fill in most of those gaps for myself, and I think a lot of readers do. Sometimes when an author reveals their inspiration for a character I’m very surprised. Wait, that’s not how I pictured him at all!

Elin: Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one with masses of action?

Lisa: I tend to write relationship driven stories rather than action, simply because I think I’m better at it. I love reading a great action sequence, but I do find them trickier to write. In an action driven story you have to keep a very tight pace, and one piece of action has to lead directly to the next and so on. In a relationship driven story you’re allowed more space to breathe and reflect, I think, which suits my style more.

Elin: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Lisa: I’m a pantser who is attempting to be a reformed-pantser, but I have found that whenever I attempt to sit down and plot, I get bored with it because I just want to dive right into the writing. So instead of working more at the beginning with plotting, I work more at the end with brutal editing. There is often very little in common between my first and final drafts.

Elin: Villains – incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. What sort of villains do you prize? A moustache-twirling nightmare or … ?

Lisa: I love villains, but no moustache-twirlers for me. I like my villains to be more complicated than that, and I think it’s important to remember that “evil for the sake of evil” is incredibly rare. Most villains don’t think they’re evil, which makes them much more terrifying. The closest thing I’ve ever written to a moustache-twirling villain would be Vornis from The Island, but even he’s not evil just for the sake of it. He makes examples of the men who cross him because it is necessary in his line of work. He happens to enjoy it as well, but it’s not done without reason.
I think Nero is one of history’s most fascinating and complicated villains, because he really did start out with so much promise and so many good intentions. Because of that, it’s tempting to be somewhat sympathetic towards him: you can see how the people around him poisoned his mind, you can see how tormented he was, and you can see how power corrupted him. That aside, he was a complete monster by the end, and deserved to die.

Elin: Do you enjoy research for its own sake or do you just do what is necessary for each project? What was the most interesting fact you discovered in the course of your research that didn’t make it into your novel?

Lisa: I can get totally lost in research, because it’s all too fascinating. I love learning about how everyday people lived, and I try to get the details right. I have a by-no-means-comprehensive list in my head that I need to check off before I feel comfortable writing about an historical period. It includes things like what did they use instead of toilet paper, what did they use for birth control, what did their shoes look like, what did their houses look like, and what did they eat for dinner? I think you have to know the basics before you can attempt to recreate a world, even if those details don’t make it to the page.

One of the most fascinating things I learned about Ancient Rome that never made it into He Is Worthy — and was never going to, I just got completely sidetracked — was about cosmetic surgery. Yes, in Ancient Rome you could get breast reductions, nose jobs, and eyelifts. The Romans knew about blood and circulation, and even how to reshape cartilage, but given that they didn’t know about germs, or have much in the way of anesthetic, I imagine you would have to be very brave or very desperate to go under the knife.

Elin: Short vs long – which do you prefer to read/write?

Lisa: I prefer to write long, but I’ll read anything. As long as the story pulls me in, I don’t mind if it’s a tiny piece of flash fiction, or War and Peace.

Elin: Would you say that a short story is harder to write than a long one?

Lisa: Absolutely! For me, at least, which is why I generally write long. Short stories require almost a different skill set. They have to be sharper, and neatly honed, if that makes sense. I like that in longer works I can detour a little bit, and see where it takes me. It probably comes back to being a pantser rather than a plotter.

Elin: Put together your ideal team of men – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?

Lisa: I’m going to choose all fictional, since my chances of a happy ending are stronger there. I think Dean from Supernatural would be great in the case of both muggers and alligators, and demons of course, but maybe not fundamentalists. In the case of fundamentalists, I would want a Special Ops team including James Bond, Boromir from The Lord of The Rings, Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead, and Jack Bauer from 24. And, just to cover all bases, the Scarlet Pimpernel. Oh, and Moriarty from the BBC’s Sherlock. I want him planning the entire operation.

I don’t think I’ve left any room for error there…

Elin: “Had we but world enough and time” and no other commitments, is there anything you would write that you’ve been eyeing and putting off because it’s just too big a project?

Lisa: I want to write a series of novels set in the one universe, full of political machinations that would make the Borgias proud. At the moment I’m leaning towards space opera rather than historical, because that way I can do all the world building myself, and fit all the pieces together without having to worry about historical accuracy. But I wouldn’t say I’m putting it off because it’s too big a project — I’m putting it off because I keep getting distracted by new, shiny ideas.

I’m also being plagued by plot bunnies for a sequel to Dark Space, an m/m romance that came out in December. I’ve never written anything before with the intention of writing a sequel, so this feels entirely ambitious for me. But Dark Space has been so well received, and I loved writing in Brady’s voice so much, that I just know I’m going to have to go back to that world.

Elin: Borgias in space? You can put me down for one of those.
When you have been writing a scene, have you ever scared yourself/upset yourself so much that you decided to tone it down a bit?

Lisa: There was one scene in an earlier draft of He Is Worthy that I cut, because it was just too much. I wanted to show Nero’s brutality, so I had a scene written from Aenor’s POV where another slave was turned into a human torch. When I’d finished it was just too horrible, so instead that scene was cut down to the one sentence where Senna is in the gardens and sees the remains of the slave. I didn’t want to shy away from showing how monstrous Nero was, but that scene was just too upsetting.

Elin: I’m very glad you didn’t put that in the book. The little bit you did include was upsetting enough, though necessary, I think, to get across just how perilous a slave’s position was in that society. What are you working on at present?

Lisa: At the moment I’m in the process of editing The Good Boy, co-written with the amazing J. A. Rock, which is a contemporary m/m with a BDSM theme, which will be released around March by Loose Id. I’m currently writing another historical, set in Wyoming in 1870, with the working title Sweetwater. My MC, Elijah, is partially deaf thanks to Scarlet Fever, and finds himself having to choose between two very different men with two very different agendas.

Elin: Could we please have an excerpt?

Lisa: I’ll go with Sweetwater, since this site is all about historicals! This is the (very unedited) opening scene:

1870, South Pass City, Wyoming Territory

A spray of blood hit his face like hot rain, and Elijah Carter clamped his mouth shut.
“Hold him! Hold him!”
The rope had slipped when Dawson made the first cut, and the yearling was trying to buck them off now. Elijah and Lovell had it pushed against the fencepost and were trying to hold it there, Lovell against its hindquarters and Elijah shoulder-to-shoulder with the yearling. Elijah didn’t know which of them had the worst end of it. He wasn’t sorry to be out of the way of those back legs, but if the swinging thick skull of the panicked animal collided with his, he’d be in real trouble. Elijah pushed his forehead against the yearling’s neck. Closer was safer, if they could hold it.
Dawson was drunk, probably. His hands shook too much, and they were weak too. He’d been a good butcher once, back when Elijah first started working with him scrubbing the floors and the counters in the shop and doing the deliveries. Then Dawson’s drinking had picked up, and now he couldn’t even slaughter a yearling without fucking it up.
Elijah’s cheek scraped against the coarse coat of the yearling. He smelled blood and dust.
The yearling pitched forward and Elijah’s grip slipped.
“I said hold him, you simple deaf cunt!” Dawson grunted.
Elijah didn’t need to see the shape of Dawson’s mouth in the lamplight to make out the words. He’d heard the insult often enough.
Hot blood washed over Elijah’s fingers. He dug his boots in the dirt, fighting against the struggling animal. The yearling bellowed — a long, high-pitched sound that vibrated against Elijah’s face, his hands. It moved through him, and jarred his bones.
Elijah closed his eyes as Dawson’s knife passed close in front of his face. He hoped Dawson wasn’t drunk enough to take his fingers with the next cut. He hoped the lamp hanging off the fence gave enough light for Dawson to finish the task.
Working in the dark was dangerous, but it had to be done. The beasts were mavericks, brought down from the hills into South Pass City. They had to be slaughtered and butchered under the cover of the night, and served up on dinner plates all over town before the sheriff came asking questions.
Elijah hadn’t seen the faces of the men who’d herded them into town. There had been maybe four of them, all wearing their hats pulled low. In the darkness, they could have been anyone. Elijah hadn’t stared. It was safer that way. He’d stayed out of the way while Dawson had done business with the men, then Lovell had come to fetch him. And here they were.
The yearling bellowed again.
Blood again. A flood of it this time, as free flowing and hot as bathwater poured from a kettle. It turned Elijah’s stomach, and he fought the instinct to pull away.
The yearling sank to its knees and Elijah went forward with it. He could hear its heartbeat echoing inside his skull, in panicked counterpoint to his own. It beat slower, and slower still.
Elijah was slick with blood. He shifted back, his body aching. He kept one bloodied hand on the neck of the yearling, his fingers splayed. It was too weak to struggle now. Its ears flicked back and forth and its eyes rolled.
The yearling’s breath came in short pants. So did Elijah’s. Kneeling together in the dirt, they waited. Blood, black in the night, pooled around them.
Dawson laughed, lifting his arm to wipe his sweaty forehead on his sleeve. The blade of the knife made an arc in the scant lamplight. Dawson’s skin was yellow and puffy these days. His gut was bloated. Elijah had read enough of Dr. Carter’s medical books to recognize it as cirrhosis. Dawson was an asshole, and every day, every drink, he was closer to death. Elijah had more sympathy for the yearling than the butcher.
The yearling sighed, stilled.
Lovell dropped a hand on Elijah’s shoulder. “We’re done.”
Lovell never treated Elijah like a fool. Never pulled his mouth into exaggerated shapes to mock the way Elijah spoke. Never laughed at him or slapped him in the head for being slow to understand.
Elijah rose to his feet, bracing himself against the dead yearling. The beast felt more unyielding now than when it had been struggling against them. Dead things always did. The difference between alive and dead was both infinitesimal and immense: the tiny space of only a single heartbeat was as wide as an abyss.
Elijah spat, and wiped his hands on his bloody apron for all the difference that it made.

~.~

Thank you, Lisa, that was terrific.

If you would like to follow Lisa online you can find her blog here, on Twitter as
@LisaHenryOnline and she hangs out on Goodreads a lot too.

He Is Worthy

Rome, 68 A.D. Novius Senna is one of the most feared men in Rome. He’s part of the emperor’s inner circle at a time when being Nero’s friend is almost as dangerous as being his enemy. Senna knows that better men than he have been sacrificed to Nero’s madness—he’s the one who tells them to fall on their swords. He hates what he’s become to keep his family safe. He hates Nero more.

Aenor is a newly-enslaved Bructeri trader, brutalized and humiliated for Nero’s entertainment. He’s homesick and frightened, but not entirely cowed. He’s also exactly what Senna has been looking for: a slave strong enough to help him assassinate Nero.

It’s suicide, but it’s worth it. Senna yearns to rid Rome of a tyrant, and nothing short of death will bring him peace for his crimes. Aenor hungers for revenge, and dying is his only escape from Rome’s tyranny. They have nothing left to lose, except the one thing they never expected to find—each other.

 

Buy “He Is Worthy” here:

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Review: The Pretty Gentleman by Max Fincher

Erotic sketches, a blackmail letter, a closeted aristocrat, his ambitious lover, and a sacrificial murder. Love, betrayal, deception and vengeance in Regency’s London’s art world.

George Rowlands, an aspiring young painter and apprentice to his father in the Haymarket theatre, meets Sir Henry Wallace while drawing the river at Richmond. Wallace invites George to his home in St. James’s square to draw his collection of sculpture and his good-looking valet Gregorio Franchese. Securing him a place to study painting at the Royal Academy of Arts under the eccentric Gothic painter, Henry Fuseli, George meets the mysterious John McCarther who befriends him. Meanwhile, Lady Arabella Wallace records in her diary her suspicions about her husband’s night-time absences and his ‘enthusiasm’ for his new protégé. George discovers his every move with Wallace is being watched after Wallace confesses his love for him.

ebook – 306 pages

Review by Erastes

I’ve been musing a while as to whether I should still be reviewing self-published books on this blog, and the editing–I’m sorry to say–on this book has pushed me so close to the edge of deciding, it’s only going to take one more like this to get me to fall off the fence one way or the other. From the huge list of helpers, encouragers and friends that the author lists in his acknowledgements, you’d think SOMEONE might have pointed out that he has a comma abuse problem. As well as subject confusion, and many other issues such as random tense changes, homonym mistakes and typos.

Sidebar: Self Published authors. I’m sick of this. Don’t go skipping towards self-publishing with the attitude that by not having to give most of your royalties to your publisher you can coin it. Think rather that you should be paying a fucking editor the money your publisher would have. Because? If you skip this, cut corners and think gleefully at the money you’ve “saved” you’ll produce a shoddy product which no one will bloody BUY. Rather defeats the object. I apologise for losing my temper, but this book really tipped me over the edge, and when you review books and you read so many self-published books which clearly are not ready for publication, and there’s so many authors doing good work, it makes me mad.

That all being said, there is something to like in this book. If it had not had that kernel of promise I would have either not reviewed it at all, or dismissed it with a half of one star for putting words in a line–kind of the equivalent of putting one’s name at the top of an exam paper, but there is talent here, there is a knack for description and the ability to communicate a time and place. It’s just a shame that the shoddy workmanship drags it down.

The other main problem is the pacing; putting aside all other issues, if this had been the type of polished self-publication–as say, The Painting was–I would still have problems with the execution. It’s possibly the most realistic Regency set book I’ve read, the research has been done mostly impeccably and you really feel that–with the descriptions of the grit and grime of the streets and the dark, candlelit rooms that you are in a time before gas lighting and electricity. But the first half of the book is so painfully slow and laboured if I hadn’t been reviewing it I would have given up, and I almost never feel that way. There’s just nothing much going on–George meets Wallace by chance whilst out painting the landscape and so slowly you can almost see the glaciers growing faster they move to a position of artist and patron while George falls in love with Wallace. Apart from one instance where George follows Wallace in stalkery fashion to Vere Street and another time he sees someone he thinks is following him, for over 50 percent of the book nothing much else happens. Oh, there’s attendance at art school, and the occasional party, and endless pages of George painting and sketching–all interspersed with the increasingly paranoid journal entries of Wallace’s wife, but there’s no real sense of foreboding or even burgeoning love on either side. George tells us he’s (probably, how can he tell?) in love with Wallace on numerous occasions, but he doesn’t really give any reason for that, nor is the reader given any. Wallace, for me, was a thoroughly objectionable, spoilt brat who wants everything his own way, and everyone to agree with his own opinions. He’s not even depicted as being entirely mesmerising which would explain why George falls so completely under his spell.

As I said, there’s a lot of historical detail in the book, most of which is accurate as far as I could tell–I wasn’t knocked out by modern language or attitudes. But many of the touches which the author obviously wanted to put in so we can tell he did the research were a bit superfluous and I was often thinking – “yeah, ok, nice scene, good description, but what’s the point of it in the plot?” I also rolled my eyes at George being paid £200 for his very first portrait and then wondering how he was going to live – the minimum conversion of that sum of money is well over £11k so it’s unlikely he’d have had any money problems for a good long while.

The major conflict, when it happens is not unexpected, but is actually well-handled. Wallace proves himself to be the git I took him to be all along which was gratifying, at least. I think what the author was aiming for was a gradual escalation of the plotline as after the middle of the book things start to kick off, but the beginning needs to have some acceleration rather than pages of walking around painting and or looking at things.

So, I’m torn about the book. On one hand it’s well done to the extent of the feel and the paranoia and the atmosphere of the times, but the painfully slow pacing would make it a do not finish for many. I would probably recommend it as a read if you can get past the pacing – AND if you are prepared to put up with the legion of grammatical errors throughout. I would advise the author to get it very carefully proofed by someone who knows how to punctuate, at the very least. A neatly edited version of this would have earned a 3.5 but as it is–specially the conversion from PDF to Kindle where all the double Ts were entirely missing–I can’t give it more than a 2.5

Author’s Website

Buy at Amazon UK | Amazon USA |

Review: Lord of Endersley by S.A. Meade

Will the passion ignited during a violent uprising survive the rigid confines of Victorian society?

Jacob Endersley is glad to escape the confines of his family home for the exotic and dangerous beauty of India during the glory days of the Raj.

Marcus Billington, an Army officer, is tired of the stifling social mores of life in a British enclave. When the Sepoy Uprising of 1857 leads to chaos and bloodshed, the two men seek the safety of Agra and find refuge in each other.

Once the rebellion is quashed, Jacob returns to England while Marcus remains in India. They have no hope of a future together until Jacob learns that Marcus has returned to England. When they meet again, Marcus makes it clear there can be nothing between them and Jacob returns to Endersley resigned to a solitary life until Marcus arrives out of the blue and then everything changes.

ebook and paperback – 161 pages

Review by Erastes

Now here’s something rare – I might even say unique! A gay historical romance set during the Indian Mutiny, a period that fascinates me and evokes the mysterious, the strange and the exotic. Jacob is the eponymous Lord of Endersley who has come to India to sort out a cousin’s finances and meets up with Captain Marcus Billington and sparks fly almost from the first.

I have to say that I was impressed with S.A. Meade’s writing. It’s nicely descriptive without being over the top, and with the exception of a couple of repeated sentences that a good editor should have winnowed out, she manages to place the reader in the stifling, lung drowning heat of India. The weather is almost a third character because everything one does in India is pretty much done in tandem with the weather. It’s excellent the way Meade notes small details such as the women struggling to deal with “roughing it” after the rebellion starts–struggling with their dresses for a start–without making such small details interfere with the flow of the story.

The romance trundles along nicely–I loved the way that they weren’t able to leap into bed together and have night after night of passionate sex, that the social structure of the time made this almost impossible and that it was clear that they had to be careful and circumspect all of the time. The couple of times they did get together were cleverly managed and quite believable. The one thing I didn’t really understand though was why they didn’t get more than one opportunity to use the little shack they used just the once. The ubiquitous handy vial of oil is really beginning to bug me, the more of these I read.

The one thing I would have liked more of was the rebellion itself, and the reasons for it, as there’s no explanation of it and the reader would come away from the book no wiser than when they started. I don’t believe that fiction books should be history tomes, but I do think they should reflect the situation. Englishmen and women talked a lot about the natives and there could easily have been club talk and gossip as to what was happening in the wider scheme of things. Sadly there’s not, and Jacob simply does guard duty. The infuriating thing is that when he leaves the fort after the rebellion has been put down, we get this sentence:

It seemed an anticlimactic moment after months of near starvation, close calls, death and privations.

And I agreed with him entirely, because we’d seen nothing of all this, and whilst I don’t think a blow by blow account of daily life at the siege of Agra would have been suitable for a romance–although there are books that get away with it– I would have liked to have seen something of this. Nothing is mentioned of the magnificent Agra fort either–other than one of the small pavilions along the walls, it surprised me that Jacob never gave any description of the wonderful interiors instead of moping around in the heat.

Only fifty percent of the book takes place in India; the rest plays out in England where again, the weather and the descriptions really anchor the reader in the sense of time and place. It’s a gasp of fresh air after the suffocating warmth of India and I laughed at Jacob already complaining about the chill when he’d spent all that time longing to be home in a cooler climate.

The dance between the two of them once they got back to Blighty became a little tedious for me, and it sadly was a case of rinse and repeat once back in England, including the hurt/comfort aspect. It was all “no no, we mustn’t” “but why not?” “no no, I must go” and so on and so on. It’s a convenient conflict, but it’s not terribly interesting reading. In fact I found much of the British section really boring, most particularly the chess match the two men have which is described for pages and pages and pages and I simply couldn’t see the point of it, as there wasn’t any sub-text dialogue going on at the same time, which you’d expect there would be.

The historical feel is quite well done, but it did tend to dip into a 20th/21st century vibe from time to time, particularly when the two men were “talking it out” some of the phrases were quite anachronistic and modern in feel

I am guessing–as this is the first part in a series–that the title of The Endersley Papers will become clear, and I have to say that as a personal niggle the title “Lord of Endersley” does nothing to evoke any interest in this book. Neither the title nor the cover give any hint of the exciting backdrop of the Mutiny and that’s a shame because I’m sure more people would try it if that was made a tad clearer.

Overall I enjoyed reading this, and I gobbled it up wholesale which is a good sign believe you me! I think that anyone who’s looking for a well-written romance will love this. I look forward to the next parts.

Author’s Blog

Buy at Amazon UK | Amazon USA | Total e-bound

Home is the Heart by J M Gryffyn

The last thing war-weary veteran William O’Sullivan expects to find while walking his family’s property is the love of his life, but that is exactly what happens. Under the summer sun, well-born Irishman Will meets gypsy lad Brock, and the two are instantly love struck. 

Their newfound love may be rock solid, but so are the obstacles in their way. Will is expected to marry his childhood sweetheart and produce an heir for the family estate. Brock has his own waggon now and is expected to marry another Traveller.  The roads to their futures are embedded firmly in the past—and don’t include their love. Running off to America seems a perfect solution, but in the mean streets of New York City, they very quickly find that even a love as strong as theirs must be earned.  

ebook only – 100 pages approx

Review by Erastes

I really liked JM Gryffyn’s first book “The Wishing Cup” and I was eagerly looking forward to reading the second. Sadly I was disappointed by “Home is the Heart”

The writing is still good, there’s a flow to her prose that I like a lot but although The Wishing Cup managed a complete arc in a 100 pages, the pacing of Home is the Heart didn’t work for me at all. Perhaps it was the more static feel to the beginning–a young man stuck at home and travellers with their caravans. But throughout the book from literally the second scene it jumped around, introducing characters as though they rose from the grass and leaping from moment to moment with almost a dizzying speed.

The main protagonists literally meet and are just about having sex from second one. I’m not averse to insta-attraction but love, coupling and endless adoration from first sight is a bit too much for me. The author attempts to throw a couple of caltrops in the lovers’ path, but again, it’s sudden, seems shoe-horned in, and there’s no background to shore it up.

I think really, that there’s a point when a book simply can’t be done in 100 pages, not if the author wants to do the plot justice, and in this case to include sex scenes as well.  There’s too much here to be dealt with other than in this rather rushed way and it shows.

However, the research, particularly that around the gypsies, seems well done, I’m not familiar with the customs of the people, but what we are told seems to make sense.

There are a few minor quibbles, there are a good few Americanisms scattered around, like the dreaded “gotten” and a few context errors but all in all it is a sweet romantic tale and I’m sure that many will enjoy it. I can’t say I did, although that won’t stop me getting Gryffyn’s next book, as I’m sure that the promise of The Wishing Cup will bear fruit – it is a shame that this book didn’t live up to the promise.

Buy from Dreamspinner Press

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