The Coven Returns – Witches Of London Abroad

Eagle's Shadow FIN1 (1)A year has passed since Tom Welsh and Sanders Templeton met. They’ve almost settled into their new home, a historic chateau at the foot of the Swiss Alps, and finally get to spend more time together in peace and quiet … or that was the idea.

Instead, something’s wrong. It’s not just recurring nightmares that haunt both men—other strange disturbances surround them, from their cat jumping at shadows in empty rooms, to unexplained sounds in the night.

Matters go from unsettling to scary, so they call on Lee, who helped them through a series of past life regressions. Lee has friends who might be able to assist; although bubbly and sweet Sue doesn’t fit the cliché of “witch”. What seemed a simple question of a haunted house soon dredges up even personal skeletons that Tom and Sanders thought were safely tucked away—and turns into much more than a ghost hunt.

The ever so generous authors provided an ARC for review.

Karen : Generally I am a fan of series, although sometimes they have a tendency to become repetitive, and this is always my greatest fear when starting one. I have really enjoyed those where there are common characters, but the major plot and main characters change – so there is a balance between familiarity and new.

I had thought that Witches of London was going to feature different MC’s in each book, so I was surprised to see that Sanders and Tom had a sequel, mainly because, for me, Eagle’s Shadow ended perfectly. So I was intrigued to read what the authors had in mind for them.

We thought we’d ask each other questions, as we had some long discussions when reading.

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD

Q K : My biggest concern when starting to read this was how the authors would balance that Sanders and Tom had got resolution from an issues, moved in and were settled with a new ‘adventure’ while  not reinventing the relationship.

I felt that while overall this was achieved, the pacing of the book, especially in the first almost 50% was a little off. Did you find that ?

A F: I did find the pacing slightly off as well. Overall the novel worked but I found the beginning to be slow in getting into the poignant part of the story and that, in a way, a lot of “setting the scene” time was spent rediscovering the mechanics of the relationship between Tom and Sanders.

That said I did love the domesticity of the relationship, the way the two main characters have settled into and around each other as a couple and found some very tender moments between the two. The romantic overall feeling I got from Eagles Nest was still very much an item in Shadows as well. I love to see established couples and how they get on after the initial burst of romance brings them together.

Q F: I find with the Witches series overall that the freedom from financial strive affords the characters freedom to grow as people. In Shadows Tom’s financial situation compared to Sanders is one of the couple issues. How did you find the disparity between the two worked in the novel?

A K:  I actually thought that it added a believable splash of tension, also again that they felt that they were talking things through, but actually didn’t communicate all that well felt very real. In the contemporary part of the book I found the normalcy of the relationship issues was a real plus.

Q K : Characters from the coven,  like Lars and Rhys, make an appearance into the story for no real narrative reason, other than to emphasise the continuity of this book with  the main series, and I didn’t feel that it was actually needed ?

A F: Actually I did ask myself about Rhys and Lars presence in the novel. I felt that, as opposed to Sue and Amanda, they had no real role in the story especially Rhys who stays firmly a shadow in the background. Although him being “starstruck” at both Sanders and Tom did offer some humorous scenes.

I felt though that introducing Sue as a fully fleshed out member of the coven was well done and offered the readers a new perspective in the dynamics of the “Witches of London”.

Q F: Sanders is jealous of Sue: did you think that he had reasons for his jealousy?

A K: Yes and No (sorry) I think what this illustrated really well was how both men thought they were expressing themselves well emotionally, but in fact weren’t, but it was also clear to us as readers that Tom was totally engaged in his relationship with Sanders.

Q K : When the reason for the haunting is discovered, the stories behind it are heartbreaking and very moving, I felt that more of the book could have been spent exploring this, and less time setting the scene, especially the initial getting to know Sanders and Tom again part,  what did you think ?

A F: Oh Gods Karen! The letters! The diaries! The sketches!

This is where this novel really worked for me. The accounts of the men days in the inn was poignant and, I found, heartbreaking. The letters Sanders deciphers gave an intimate insight on the plight of POWs and the hope, the love of these men filled the pages and knowing the inevitable end filled me with tears. But it was Easton’s diary and John’s diary and Parker’s sketches that really did me in.

The love story between John and Parker was intense, romantic, desperate but fulfilling in the isolation afforded by confinement. If I am completely honest I thought this was a story within the story and found myself wishing that it had in fact taken less time to get into it instead of going through the details of Tom and Sanders life together. However I do get the parallel being drawn here and I appreciate that a level of closure is afforded to John and Parker by Tom and Sanders working through their issues.

Q F: I found myself thinking this novel was actually two novels in one. Although it all worked in the end I do think there were continuity issues with the narrative; did you find the same?

A K:  Yes, I did feel that: almost that the historical , haunting part of the book could have been a story in it’s own right, and was stronger than the contemporary part. I think that when authors consistently produce good work we as readers have high expectations, and while this didn’t engage me as much as the first two Witches of London books it was still a good read.

All in all we enjoyed this novel and found that, despite some minor issues with pacing, it delivered yet another interesting angle to the Witches of London series. The story within the story was outstanding and made us feel deeply for the protagonists.

Buy the book

Amazon.co.uk

http://amzn.eu/6L2x2k3

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Love, all around

Tom, shy office clerk by day and drawer of foxes by night wakes up one Monday knowing the most extraordinary week of his life is about to begin.

In five days time a lifelong ‘secret’ will be made gloriously public—but will it mean losing the person he loves most?dear mona lisa

Getting married…

It seems like only yesterday Tom changed nappies and sang nursery rhymes to a laughing baby. He relishes the demands of being a daddy; especially teaching his little girl to draw and paint as she grows up.

But the years tick by and times change. Long-buried secrets must come to the surface which may test even the strongest ties.

Tom and Lawrence…

 

He writes a list of all the things he has to do before the weekend and sticks it in the middle of his wall. The names and goals hang like threads of a spider’s web, inevitably leading to the centre, and all to the same place.

Dear Mona Lisa…

How to explain?

Each morning he notes the colours of dawn, listens to the birds and waits for the perfect moment. In one hand rests the balance of life and a terrible responsibility, in the other a wedding ring. Difficult days and the past loom, but his friends rally round and one by one the words come to life.

Everyone waits as Tom finds the strength to open up and set free the secrets of his heart in a celebration of family, friendship and love.

A quirky story of modern life, set within the breathtaking landscape of Bradford.

 

A heartfelt thank you to both authors for the ARC of this book.

Karen: In an age where publishers send out ARCs of the books months in advance, passages – practically chapters are quoted in the press, on blogs and on SM I find the attitude of  Davies/ Stewart refreshing. In that these books don’t seem to need the fanfare of 100s of ARCs and advanced reviews from a never changing fan pool: Al Stewart and Claire Davis’ books speak for themselves.

However, they also deserve to be praised more and sold more widely:  romance lovers should pick up any one of their books, and revel in the excellent writing and rather refreshing  honesty of their narratives.

Fra: Oh Karen, I couldn’t agree more! At the moment by the time a book is out we have already been exposed to mostly of its content, the ravings of the “fans” (frankly I am not even sure about the word anymore – with many a writer in the genre it is more like cult than fandom – but that’s an argument for a different blog post).

I was delighted to receive an advance copy of Dear Mona Lisa, ever since reading Tork I have become rather enthralled by the writing skills of this writing duo. I also apologise for the late review: work travel prevented me from reviewing this most delightful of books by its publishing date. But I am back now and ready to wax lyrical about the novel.

Karen: Mona Lisa is simply a book about love: romantic, sexual, familial and between friends . It is about the sacrifices parents make that don’t feel like sacrifices and how love can find you when you least expect it. There are no wasted pages or prose in this book at all, every word counts.

Fra: I find that there is a delicacy to Stewart and Davies’ writing that allows them to tackle heavy duty subject matter without ever becoming cliched or relying on overused tropes.

In Mona Lisa I absolutely loved the way this novella manages to explore so many facets of love without losing track of the plot or the final denouement.

I loved Tom the main character and narrator and found that his internal monologue on his relationships with lover Loz, daughter Lisa Louise and all secondary characters to be relatable and engaging.

Like you say Karen in just 80 short pages the authors explore love in all its aspects. Tom and Lou relationship is fleshed out in strokes that remind me of paintings and drawings: economical in its lack of rhetoric it also presents a rather stunning picture of the beautiful connection of this father and daughter.

I appreciated how Tom and Loz are older men and how their relationship is stable and loving and deep set: and I found Tom’s reluctance to go through his “to do” list in the run up to the wedding to be very relatable indeed. As a parent myself I do find my life and choices heavily wrapped up around my child – at times even irrationally, that is my fears and concerns are not necessarily my child’s and yet they still drive me.

Tom and Loz’s relationship was amazingly rendered: it was romantic and strong and beautiful.

The writing carried such an emotional weight without ever becoming verbose, every word counts – so much so that there’s a poetic quality to it which made the story shine and sparkle.

Friendship, old and new, also takes a key role in the novel and once again it is all so very beautifully done: on the one hand the comfort of old friendships and on the other the surprising presence of new ones.

Karen: Mona Lisa also touches, briefly, on issues such as  religious hatred of homosexuality, the desire to conform to societal norms, alienation and self doubt. In many other books these would be massive angsty dramas, and while perhaps the book lacked depth here, it was good to read a novel where these issues didn’t  make the character ‘broken’ or ‘damaged’ or where they did not become the end all to be cured with “magic sex”.

Fra: I actually thought that the depth of repercussion of the issues you mention above is conveyed by how much Tom’s self doubt is related to them but also, and I’ll say especially, in Tom’s and Lou’s relationship. It is almost as if the positive space, the love filled connection between father and daughter exists to illuminate the negative spaces left by Tom and his parents’. I think the depth of the issues is subtly rendered but carries weight in Tom’s faltering behavior in completing the most important of tasks on his list.

I also agree that in a sea of cliche’ driven angst-y romance novels, Dear Mona Lisa avoids the typical pitfall of turning into an angst fest for the titillating pleasure of the audience, and becomes, instead the foundation of Tom’s love and strength.

All in all Dear Mona Lisa is a poignant, romantic, realistic and beautifully written novel which we happily story recommend to all.

 

Buy it here:

In the UK and Ireland https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dear-Mona-Lisa-Claire-Davis-ebook/dp/B074CZ2BSH/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1503145972&sr=1-1&keywords=dear+mona+lisa

In the U.S.  https://www.amazon.com/Dear-Mona-Lisa-Claire-Davis-ebook/dp/B074CZ2BSH/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503145899&sr=1-1&keywords=Dear+Mona+Lisa…

Check the authors website here: http://astewartcdavisbook.wixsite.com/author

An Unexpected Truth

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So happy to be hosting one stop on the tour for this excellent book:

A trust destroyed is a trust that is hard to recover…

Brendan Matthews is happy training racehorses for a living. He thinks he’s hit the jackpot when a wealthy orthopedic surgeon, Adam Ahmadi, sends six yearlings his way. Not only are the horses a cut above the rest, their owner isn’t too shabby either.

But not everything is as it seems. Adam has many secrets, most of them dark and deadly. When Adam’s past returns with a vengeance, he disappears, leaving Brendan confused and hurt.

If Adam survives, will his past destroy their future?

ARC of this book generously provided by the author.

Karen: I love SA Meade’s writing, and one of my all time favourite book is Stolen Summer, and there is a crossover with Evan and Colin (small but it’s there) in AUT. This is an interesting mix of romance and a kind of gritty ‘spooks’ type of suspense.

Fra: it was beautifully written: there’s a quality to tell a story in a strong quiet manner

Karen: I agree Fra, I really appreciate the almost understated style, so this reads as elegant and calm while the story line is actually exciting and fairly dramatic.

Fra: I liked the way the relationship between Brendan and Adam is quiet, strong and very ordinary: no sensational lust filled pages; these two old hands and carry on in the most ordinary manner – until they don’t that is.

I think Sue uses the ordinary rhythm of the couple to counterpoint the mystery/thriller setting.

Karen: very much so, Adam and Brendan fall into a slow burning and very deep romance from the off , these are very clearly grown up’s and romantically they behave as such initially.

Fra: Ultimately though although I did enjoy reading this book – I did think that mystery plot line was somewhat lacking and much was left unexplored.

Karen: I have to say I felt conflicted a little on both counts, however I don’t mind that not everything was explained in terms of the suspense, for me enough was, and I was satisfied. I also had totally no idea almost until the denouement of who was doing what to whom, and why.

I was a little frustrated with the lack of communication, especially the first time it happened, it actually seemed unnecessary – especially as Adam clearly wanted to be with Brendan, it seemed odd that Adam would not just Talk !

Fra: Yes, this was also at odds with how beautifully observed and subtle the earlier part of the book was, and there was enough suspense and drama in the the latter part that this really didn’t appear to be needed.

Overall this was a lovely mix of romance and suspense, beautifully written that worked more than it didn’t, SA Meade is an under recognised writer, who is well worth reading

You can buy AUT at Amazon USAmazon UK and we would also highly recommend a Stil Summer – available here

If you fancy your luck, and want to win a copy enter here

The Fangs of Scavo

Fangs bannerAt Scotland Yard, DI Timothy Stoker is no better than a ghost. A master of arcane documents and niggling details who, unlike his celebrity-chasing colleagues, prefers hard work to headlines. But an invisible man is needed to unmask the city’s newest amateur detective, Hieronymus Bash. A bon vivant long on flash and style but short on personal history, Bash just may be a Cheapside rogue in Savile Row finery.

When the four fangs of the Demon Cats of Scavo—trophies that protect the hunters who killed the two vicious beasts—disappear one by one, Stoker’s forced to team with the very man he was sent to investigate to maintain his cover. He finds himself thrust into a world of wailing mediums, spiritualist societies, man-eating lions, and a consulting detective with more ambition than sense. Will this case be the end of his career, or the start of an unexpected liaison? Or will the mysterious forces at play be the death of them both?

And just who is Hieronymus Bash?

We received an ARC of this book from Signal Boost PR for an honest review.

As spoiler free as possible !

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Fra: What an absolute delight of a book this is! Entertaining, plot and character driven all set in a accurate historical setting and with romance to swipe you off your feet!

Karen: What frustrates me with a lot of historical’s is the balance between making a book feel accurate and ‘real’ and modern requirements of readability. In my opinion Selina Kray gets it spot on in Fangs. 

Fra: I am happy to admit that historical romances are by far my favourite kind of romance.

I found that Fangs of Scavo was well researched which in turn lent the investigation at its core a well earned authenticity.

I won’t go into the mystery at the core of the book at all – I’d hate to spoil it for readers – but Kray managed not only to evoke the London of the time but also the undercurrent of spiritualism, rationalism and the strident relationship between aristocracy and the burgeoning middle classes.

One of the indicators of a good historical for me is the use of adequate language. Like you say, Karen, many a times in historical romances the language is strident to the narrative period: here I found Selina was able to use language to the complete advantage of the story and left me feel as if I was reading a novel from another time.

Karen:  The character of Hiero in particular was so endearing, his love for  his dead partner Apollo, and the attraction for Tim/ Kip is well balanced, and while the attraction is quite instant, there is no mention of love. I really really appreciated this.  

Fra: Yes! I loved that too. I loved that both characters are very well settled in their lives: Hiero has become a quick favourite, I find him strong and vulnerable at the same time but unrelentingly unapologetic about himself including the love and relationship with Apollo. In this I must admire Selina Kray’s avoidance of the insta love – “let me chuck everything I have ever done/loved etc away because all I want is you, bloke that I met 5 seconds ago” trope.

There is undoubtedly attraction, mostly piqued by the fact both men recognise a “mystery” in the other;  and Hiero and Tim are at the very -heady – start of a new relationship but oh how I appreciated the total lack of insta love and insta declarations of the big L word.

In fact I also very much appreciated the fact that – attraction and new beginnings notwithstanding both characters (well Hiero kicking and pouting, but still) are well aware of the circumstances they find themselves in and act accordingly. If I have a minor niggle is the addition of a tiny dose of angst in Tim’s behaviour towards the end of the book which I found a little bit forced.

Karen : What worked for me the best in this book was how the characters were both what you see, and totally not. So you had Hiero who appears to be the detective, is an actor and yet is actually a detective. Tim, who is a detective and yet is an actor, Callie who is a sweet young innocent, with a mind like a trap and a emancipated detective, Han and of course Goldie.

Fra: I thought the book was both plot and character driven: both MCs are richly fleshed out and expertly delivered: neither man is what he seems and I also particularly loved the way they are so very well layered. The appearance of both Hiero and Tim is at the same time incredibly deceiving and incredibly true. Hiero is flashy and ponce-ish to Tim’s carefully built unremarkable exterior: and yet both have secrets and layers of agency. Both play parts to an audience – although I must say that both MCs are aware quite early on of at least some of the parts the other is playing.

The secondary characters as well keep the layered approach well  firm within the narrative: from Callie who subverse every single societal expectation of her while completely playing the system, to Han whose cultural identity deceives every bystander into underestimate him and his role within Hiero’s group to, of course, the rather splendid Goldie.

I think that one of the strengths of Fangs Of Scavo is the complex nature of both characters and story is enhanced by the writing and the narrative approach but it remains a delight to read without ever becoming unnaturally complicated nor ever slipping into condescension and “lecturing mode” which seems to be the norm of many romance novels of lately.

Karen :  I agree with that, Fangs never talks down to the reader, and is a real pleasure to read,  SK writing style is very well suited to historicals, and my only (minor) complaint is that the language at times veers to the overblown.

 

All in all this was great fun to read, it delivered a well written story tight in both plot and character development; it also managed to satisfy on development of the book itself while at the same time making us  want to read more not only about the two MCs but also about every single one of the secondary characters and how they have all ended up together, we’re keeping our fingers crossed for more books in this series !

 

You can buy The Fangs of Scavo at Amazon UK, Kobo,  Barnes + NobleGoogle Play and iBooks

Enter here to win a copy of the book

Is this Love ?

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Here at Inglorious we’re pleased to be part of the Retro Review Tour for Suki Fleet’s This is Not A Love Story,  one of the most beautiful and tender love stories we’ve read in a very long time.

When fifteen-year-old Romeo’s mother leaves one day and doesn’t return, he finds himself homeless and trying to survive on the streets. Mute and terrified, his silence makes him vulnerable, and one night he is beaten by a gang of other kids, only to be rescued by a boy who pledges to take care of him.

Julian is barely two years older than Romeo. A runaway from an abusive home, he has had to make some difficult choices and sells himself on the street to survive. Taking care of Romeo changes him, gives him a purpose in life, gives him hope, and he tries to be strong and keep his troubles with drugs behind him. But living as they do is slowly destroying him, and he begins to doubt he can be strong enough.

This is the story of their struggle to find a way off the streets and stay together at all costs. But when events threaten to tear them apart, it is Romeo who must find the strength within himself to help Julian (and not let their love story turn into a Shakespearean tragedy)

Our thoughts :

Karen: I’ve had this book in my reader for almost a year, and I admit I was really nervous about reading it, because I’d heard that it was very emotional and angsty. But I have loved everything else I’ve read by Suki Fleet

Fra: Delicate and strong at the same time, written with resounding empathy and quietly brimming with hope in very dire, dark situations – This Is Not a Love Story is one of my favourite novels of all times. It is, also, one of those novels which I put on my son’s shelves to read when he is ready: this book not only is exquisitely written but it also makes you want to be a better person, it gently pushes you to take notice of the urban world around you and urges you to get more and more involved in social justice all while shining the brightest of lights on the type of love that gives strength and hope to overcome the most jagged of obstacles.

Suki Fleet brings out our more introspective nature, so we asked each other questions about TINALS. Remee is also Romeo’s name, so we use both at times .

Fra Q: Karen I know you were cautious about reading this book now that you have met Romeo and Julian what did you think of your reading experience?

Karen A : I’m actually glad that I read Suki Fleet’s books out of their writing order- I started with some shorts, then Light up the Dark, then Foxes – some more shorts and finally This Is Not A Love Story, as I was aware of the emotional punch that I was going to get. When I use angst in books, I mean the artificial set up kind. You know what I mean, the MC’s despite being able to articulate on page how they feel, and what is happening jump to the wrong conclusion because of over hearing a partial conversation/ seeing something out of context and then running away. Forcing out lovers to Face Up To Things usually that they should have a conversation ! So reading about these boys who struggled so hard to make their place in the world better for each other and faced big issues was a breath of fresh air.

That’s not to say I found this an easy read, but a good , satisfying, hopeful and emotional one – yes !

Fra Q: I find that one of the recurring themes in Fleet’s novels is the idea of safe spaces: in Foxes it was Danny’s empty pool and in Light Up the Dark the library – In This Is Not A Love Story is even something as small as the tarpaulin Remee/ Romeo and Julian use to escape the rain. Did you get the same feeling about space and feeling safe?

Karen A: I got a lot less sense of safety in This Is Not A Love Story  in the places that the boys occupied, understandably so really, what I did get was the safety of people, especially with Romeo. At times you forget how young, really young these boys are which I think allowed SF to explore how being outside society and it’s rules can start to damage people, but kept them optimistic and open (mainly) to others.

Fra Q: Suki’s writing also conveys how dramatically the weather affects the lives of these boys: the rain and the cold are relentless, I feel that the constant grey atmosphere adds to the idea that the boys and the homeless are invisible and occupy a parallel plane – You live and work in London, did you get the same feeling of two layered London: parallel, untouching, invisible to each other?

Karen A:  I had read a couple of books on homelessness and people who live outside of society coincidentally before starting the book, and I was struck by how much we don’t see, or how you normalise what you do see. Most of us will never experience what the characters do, so I think that when SF uses the weather, and the grey surroundings of social housing projects it really amplifies everything. It very much reminds me of how a visual artist can create a mood with colour.

Fra Q: There is no doubt that this novel is anguishing and heart breaking. The two main characters and the people around them are so very young and yet I find that the narrative conveys a soul warming sense of  hope. Hope born of the kindness of ordinary people – where even the smallest act of concern creates ripples that eventually foster positive change. How do you feel about Suki’s writing in relation to stripping down human need to its most basic form? I mean the characters need to be safe and comforted and warm and fed: there is not even space in their lives for wanting anything remotely superfluous.

Karen A: My answer to this, is kind of combined with my answer to your second question, the reason This Is Not A Love Story works so well is because of the youth of the MC’s for me. Despite some of the terrible things that have happened to them, they still retain hope and a certain innocence , especially Romeo. The more people are open and help, the more open he becomes, and his hope starts to affect Julian.

What I appreciate about Suki’s writing is how pared down it it, and yet so intensely emotional and how she gets into the heads of her characters.

Karen Q:Leading on from your question above Fra –  I find the balancing in Suki Fleet’s books to be one of their best qualities, did you find the balance here worked for you ? Especially between the reality as documented by the press/ TV of life on the streets and the version that SF portrays

Fra A: I think you are right, Suki Fleet’s writing maintains the most delicate of balances amongst all of the themes it explores. I think most and foremost with the light/dark balancing act Suki conveys the possibility of heartbreaking beauty in the darkest of circumstances. It is, in my opinion, one of Fleet’s greatest talents: this ability to convey the brightest of lights in a single act of kindness, a tiny, random touch, a smuggled cup of tea, a kiss between young lovers.

Her themes remain dark: the lives of Romeo and Julian and Cricket and Pasha on the streets are portrayed delicately but in a manner that never skirts the devastating reality of it.

I believe that “reports” on homelessness are in the most geared to offering the public a vision of it that can be related to our own experience. The problem with this approach is that yes, for sure, many of us feel a need to help and do something about it – charity work, donations – and yet it fails, in my experience at least, to convey the actual lives of the people. Suki Fleet does the opposite they do not spend any time on denouncing homelessness rather they show us in no unflinching terms what the actual lives of these young people on the streets are like. We don’t get to see their lives from the comfort of our own homes, we are transported and immersed completely in theirs. And that to me  is the sign of the strongest of writers.

Karen Q: As always in Suki Fleet’s books the supporting characters play critical roles, and the kindness of ordinary people is another one of their recurring themes (and in truth with many writers) there were some pivotal moments in this – which were yours ?

Fra A: Oh yes! The secondary characters add so much weight to the story!

Thinking about pivotal moments and roles within the secondary characters I can think of some which are critical to the story development.  Every act of kindness from Cassey, every cup of tea and every piece of food I think opens Remee and Julian to the possibility of kindness in the world and – as you said – to each other.

Cricket’s betrayal precipitates the dramatic development of the story and takes Julian from Remee thus allowing for Remee to become aware of the other possibilities in his path.

Crash’s refusal of stopping to being friendly and supportive of Romeo and his insistence that he gives his foster family a go makes Romeo aware of his own desire for something different and recognising the need to accept help as a way to move forward. I found this to be true of Kay’s character as well. She is so non judgemental and incredibly open to offer support in whichever way both Romeo and Crash and also Julian, may need it.

In summary I think every secondary character helps Romeo and Julian in their forward journey. However I think it is more a gentle nudge, a showing of possibilities and I love the way Suki writes stories in which  the protagonists first and foremost want to save themselves, and by acknowledging this internal need  they are then also able to save each other.

Karen Q: Romeo is very young, actually below the age of consent I think when the book starts. But TINALS deals with issues that are very adult as well, how did this affect, or did it, your view of Romeo and Julian’s romantic/ sexual relationship ?

Fra A: Actually no, Romeo’s age – and Julian’s who is also incredibly young – had no effect on my view of their relationship. The book tackles issues so fundamentally harrowing that I found the very fact the two boys find love in each other the very essence of what love and hope is about. At 15 and 17 respectively these two have experienced abandonment, homelessness, hunger, addiction not to mention prostitution. They are both very young and the fact they have this strong, unfaltering love for each other is what ultimately coaxes hope out of this story and brings light to the darkness.

TINALS Cover

Another highly recommend novel from us, with such a gorgeous cover.

You can buy this wonderful book at AmazonHarmony Ink

Enter the giveaway here

The companion book Wild Summer  shows more of Romeo and Julian’s new life, and also has more Crash

With enemies like these…

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They’re dangerous men. Absolute enemies. And totally hot for each other.

Will has never met anyone like Kit. He’s arrogant. Gorgeous. Lethal. The most expensive bodyguard money can buy.

And Will can’t seem to resist him.

A simple command in Kit’s cut-glass accent makes Will want things he’s never wanted, do things he’s never done. Their red-hot chemistry is off the charts.

Just one problem: Will has vowed to kill the billionaire that Kit is hell-bent on protecting.

And Kit has secrets, too—his own reasons for sacrificing his soul, piece by painful piece, to keep one of the worst men on earth alive.

We received an ARC from the ever so generous authors as well as having pre ordered our own copies.

Karen: When I read the blurb for this book I was so excited. While I love Jo Chambers historical romances , I have recently discovered a weakness for spy/ undercover suspense. Carolyn Crane’s (Annika Martins alter ego) series The Associates I also adored .

However I’ve had a hard time recently with romances and very specifically with m/m romance so I was  a bit trepidatious when starting to read this, however I was hooked from the first page !

Fra: Me too Karen! I have recently grown so weary of the formulaic and over commercialised nature of m/m romance that I also was a bit apprehensive to pick up a book in this genre. And yet Jo Chambers is one of my favourite authors and I trust her with content, writing and her choice of co author. I was most certainly not disappointed: I positively loved this book.

Karen:  I really appreciated how the authors made a distinct difference between the voices of Will and Kit, one of my frustrations is when the tone of a book becomes homogenised US speak with no real feeling of place, and I was so pleased that this didn’t happen here. From the beginning Will and Kit were distinct and different.

Fra: Oh Yes! Absolutely – Will and Kit retain their cultural differences and both act distinctively according to these. I really appreciated that not only such distinction felt completely authentic it was also very cleverly underlined by the correct use of spelling for the UK/US divide. I admire this: in a genre where language is sanitised and localised to “bland U.S” setting in pursue of the largest audience, Chambers and Martin held their peace and used the cultural differences between the two protagonists to underlying their characters’ journey. And it was so well done.

Karen:  WillKit has a wonderful pace to it, I recently admitted that of late I had skimmed several books, because they were so predictable; not so here. The authors kept me on the edge almost all the time.  The balance between the suspense, romance and excitement is very well managed,  and while not massively complicated it’s not so simple either. I read this in one sitting

Fra: I found the book surprising, suspenseful, enjoyable to no end. The excellent writing sustains a tight plot. The characters move smoothly along the storyline while growing and moving closer at every turn. The pace, as you say Karen, was near perfect – the push and pull of the enemy to lover trope easily falling into pace with the story and the character development.

Karen: WillKit also uses time, and distance apart very well, the time between the encounters allows each man to explore their feelings and grow, combined with this is some actual communication between them. From the beginning it’s clear that Will needs to relinquish control at times, and this is demonstrated sexually initially, and then verbally. There is no dreaded misunderstanding either, which I think is the thing I dislike the most about the romance formula.

Fra: how very true Karen! Like I was saying earlier I think the pacing of this novel is perfect. Kit and Will circle each other, they examine each other and, absolutely, each encounter carries a new step in their development and a step further towards the final denouement of the story.

The story develops naturally, the characters journey devolves as a logical consequence of their first encounter and it does so, beautifully I may add, based on both Will and Kit’s response to each other and to how said response makes them question themselves. And the writing! The writing is beautiful – it is sparse without been dry, descriptive without being pedantic, it is witty and thrilling and I have to be honest here – sustains one of the best stories I have read in a very long time.

Karen :  I touched on the sex in the book earlier, and it is very sex positive without feeling gratuitous,  another balance which I have struggled  with recently. Here as well as illustrating the chemistry between WillKit ,  for me it solidified the connection and communication between them. I find that sex in a book has to add something to the overall story, and it doesn’t have to be on page graphic to work. The initial sexual encounters between these two really worked for me.

Fra: and it was also very, very sensual: charged, emotional, engaged! It furthered the romantic plot and the thriller one at the same time. I too grew weary of the sex in romance for sex sake: the tick box in the let’s titillate the audience box. Of course intercourse and intimacy are key cornerstones of romance but does it have to be so pedestrian all the time? Obviously, when faced with so good a novel as Enemies the answer is a resounding no; I am ever so grateful to Chambers and Martin for reminding me about the power of intimacy in romance novels.

Karen:  This was a really fun read, it’s not full of procedural accuracies, nor do I think it should be, there are plenty of books that do this but I would not call them romantic suspense.

On the negative side I did realise who  one of the bad guys was fairly early on,  so there was an element of waiting for the penny to drop within the story line, however I don’t see how this could have been changed.

Fra: I found Enemies Like You suspenseful, plot and character driven, romantic and highly sensual: great novel altogether. The storytelling was tight and emotionally charged and most and foremost it was so much fun to read. Regrettably I cannot go into details as it would spoil the whole plot, but Enemies Like You grabbed me from the very first chapter and kept me going with a big smile on my reader’s face happy in the knowledge that yes, there’s a whole lot of drivel in the genre at the moment, but there are also writers like Jo Chambers and Annika Martin who are masters of their craft and will always be delivering true gems like this novel.

A fast paced, romantic sexually charged well written fun read. What more do you need ? Aside from a whole lot of more novels about WillKit that is. In the meantime, highly recommended.

 

Last Dance of The Sugar Plum

 

sugar plum cover

TICK-TOCK-TICK-TOCK-TICK-TOCK

Jonathan is a spy.

Anton is Jonathan’s ‘keeper’.

Jonathan is a spy with a code implanted deep in his subconscious, so deeply he can’t remember—anything at all.

Anton is an interrogator intent on retrieving the code, whatever the cost.

But sometimes they dream of dark tunnels and locked-up rooms, and then they both scream.

TICK-TOCK-TICK-TOCK-TICK-TOCK

Along comes Harry, who seems to have all the answers…but who is he, and which side is he on?

TICK-TOCK-TICK-TOCK-TICK-TOCK

Bang!

For many months, Jonathan and Anton live apart from the world in a hazy, dreamlike state, only interrupted by interrogations and a healthy fear of HQ. One day, they watch a dance performance, and memories begin to unwind… A ticking clock… Betrayal… Missions… Always the scent of oranges. But with clarity, comes a return of powerful emotions…

Last Dance of The Sugar Plum is an exciting spy thriller with as many twists and turns as a maze.

 

Thank you to the authors and publishers for a review copy.

This review is as spoiler free as we can make it!

Karen: Straight off the bat, I would say that I haven’t read a more original romance in quite a long time, and what I enjoyed so very much about this book was that it kept me thinking. It’s not your typical spy story, nor is it your typical romance nor is it your typical romantic thriller BUT it has elements of all these in it.

Fra: This is one of the most original novels I have read in quite some time: in equal parts spy story and romance, the two authors manage to deliver a thrilling reading experience which compels the reader to pay attention from page one.

Karen: Because it’s focused so very much on what has happened to Jonathan and Anton, and the narrative slips from the past to the present this was an intense read, and why Jonathan and Anton are in the position they are in is only revealed towards the end of the book- so all the way through I found myself second guessing what was going on, and got it wrong, every single time. And that so rarely happens.

After reading my gran’s romance books (Georgette Heyer, Catherine Cookston mainly) I drifted into mysteries and thrillers, so to find books that combine both of these, and well is one of my great reading pleasures. This book made me happy!

Fra: I loved the switches between past and present. Throughout the book I felt that the alternating chapters took me to almost guessing what was happening in both timelines while at the same time kept me focused on the story.

One of the things that I loved most about the novel is the very theatrical  narrative: it is as if the authors are constantly pointing a blinding spotlight on the parts of the story they want you to see drawing your attention to the specific scene in front of you and not allowing you to focus on any of the surrounds.

Not only did this technique work for me on a narrative level, I also felt that it brought the shifting timelines together as both past and present chapters are well defined scenes. As such I felt it brought continuity to the story when the story itself was purposely very disconcerting.

Don’t even start me on the guessing, second guessing and third guessing! I mean more than once I thought I had it all figured out only to get to the next chapter and eventually to the end of the novel and realise that I had figured absolutely zilch out!

How rare it is that a novel keeps us guessing and constantly focused on the story and the characters without feeling claustrophobic or confusing? I not only enjoyed this book because it was a good story I absolutely loved it because it of its narrative structure and because it demanded my attention all the time at all times.

Karen: The relationship between Jonathan and Anton is complicated, and at the beginning I felt that there was an element of Stockholm syndrome going on, then co-dependency – but like everything else in this book, Claire Davies and Al Stewart took my preconceptions, and made me think, again and often again about what I was reading. There are times when you have to just trust in your authors, and for me this was one. These two write consistently different and excellent books without, as far as I can tell, any really obvious writing or plot repetitions or tells.  Their writing is spot on for me, neither too flowery nor too linear (I detest those books that read like a Delia Smith recipe- and then they did this, and then they did that etc) and they pack a lot into the books without them becoming diluted or shallow.

Fra: I agree: Stockholm syndrome and co-dependency crossed my mind too in relation to the MCs relationship: but  I trusted the two authors to push the boundaries of my expectations and stayed with the story. And how expertly they did so too! Through a tight plot, a perfectly sustained narrative and expert writing Al Stewart and Claire Davis took all of my expectations – together with the easy way out many would have chosen – and kicked them out of the field.

Everything I have read of these two authors has defied expectations and delivered original, clever stories which have made a real impact on my reader’s mind.

In this particular case, as I was saying earlier, it is not only the story that is phenomenal but it is the way that is written: while you read you focus on the events – both past and present – to try and pull  the threads of the story together and become invested on both threads and yet it is only when you get to the end that the whole story becomes visible. It is almost as if the novel is narrated in reverse.

I thought this novel original, clever and so far away from the norm that – never mind the story itself, which I loved, I absolutely fell in love with the structure, the narrative. All in all this was a winner for me and I highly recommend it.

Karen: I couldn’t agree more Fra, LDoTSP joins my best of 2017, and is highly recommended.

Also another book with an amazing cover by the equally talented Noah Homes
You can buy it at Amazon UK