Butterflies, all a-flutter

Cobweb ghosts are so inconvenient—especially grumpy ones with bad breath. Don’t they know silence is golden?
butterfly


Johnny Strong is the expert; he hasn’t spoken in two years. Not one word to anyone except the ghost. The main purpose of life is to avoid people and being noticed. Friends? He doesn’t need them; and certainly nobody wants him despite what the ghost says.

Until a new boy appears—Finn Lyons, teenage wizard. He eats frogs, concocts potions, and is always hungry. Not only does Finn stand up for Johnny; he actively seeks his company and soon becomes part of life.

First love; family and words; a heady mix to go in the potion but how will it all turn out?

Hubble bubble; Johnny Strong’s in trouble! Silence is not always golden in this sweet, zany story of purest magic.

We received an ARC from the ever so generous authors. We also both purchased our own copies.

It is the season for heartwarming short stories and novellas and the latest offering from Al Stewart and Claire Davis is up with the best of them this year.
At times tender and melancholy this short book also manages to deliver the trademark hopefulness that we have come to associate with Stewart and Davis stories.

Fra: I have read the story three times: the first I was so lost in the lyrical language that I missed a couple of plot points and had to go back and pay attention to the actual story. The third time I just re read it for the sheer pleasure of it.

Set in a foster group home the book deals with hard themes without ever losing its lyrical qualities or its hopeful undercurrent.

Karen: Fra, I did the same, the first time I read this I was just overtaken by how bloody sad it seemed, and I really wasn’t sure that I liked it. I appreciated the writing (as always) and the sentiment and I so felt for Johnny – but Finn’s story made me cry. The second time reading I appreciated the positive much more !

Fra: The main character, Johnny Strong, is isolated from the rest of the children in the home, hasn’t spoken aloud in over two years to anyone but the ghosts he places in the cobwebs outside his window. Johnny is an endearing character, his narrative voice at once so young and so haunted and we see the story evolve exclusively from his point of view.

Counter balancing Johnny’s silence and meticulously planned approach to life  the authors introduce chaotic, uncout, spontaneous Finn Lyons. And here is one thing I loved about both characters: because Johnny is quiet (literally so) and methodical I initially regarded Finn’s imagination as stronger than Johnny’s but I was wrong. My successive reads showed me two hurt young kids who use the only power available to them as a coping mechanism in a world long grown callous to their needs. Johnny’s ghost is no less imaginative than Finn’s songs and potions and heartfelt declarations of being a wizard.

In fact the more I think about it the more the two seem to carry inverted roles: Johnny is an introvert, closed off and yet he is much more streetwise than raucous Finn who is most certainly an extrovert and yet so very naive of the world he has come to inhabit.

Karen: When this was being written, the authors mentioned that it had been sparked by Children in Need, and I found that the boys started to save each other really poignant, especially as they were both facing leaving the foster system. I don’t know how true to life this is, but for me it read true.

Fra: There are various levels to this short story which make me wish this had been a full length novel.

On one level the story is about kids in the foster system: not only the tragedies and horrors that land them there but also the inevitable distance of the jaded carers more focussed on paperwork and targets than the welfare of their charges. I felt for Greg and Anna I did but ultimately I was unconvinced about their turnaround and this was one of the reason I wished the book had been longer: to witness for myself that the change did in fact happen.

On a deeper level the way the two boys learn to communicate with each other and eventually the world around them was beautifully rendered and brought a much needed element of hope to the story. The way Johnny speaks aloud for the first time seems so natural in the context of Finn’s tornado like chattering that it isn’t until he questions himself if something momentous has occurred that we as readers take a step back and look again.

Karen : I think that the book is a balance between reality and optimism, there is an feeling that as Johnny and Finn start the next stage of their lives, their friendship will be a strength to them both, even if the potential for romance never fully develops. I think more than anything else in this book I appreciated that. Given the boys backgrounds the relationship level was spot on for me.

Fra: As the boys grown into friendship and the most tenderly delicate relationship their voices become more audible; they take stands for each other, they demand and obtain the respect they deserve and need to move their lives forward. They assert themselves and each other and they are heard.

Karen: I totally agree that this could have been longer for me, I wanted to know more about what had happened to Johnny, and as Fra said earlier I wanted to see how Greg and Anna developed as well. That being said the slight fairy tale quality to the story made it both more Christmasy, and as we said before – more hopeful.  

All in all this was yet another beautiful book from these authors and one of our favourite Christmas stories: tackling issues of mental health and the well being of children in care – and of the carers themselves, to a point- the novella delivers a message of magic and hope that Stewart and Davis do so well.

Highly recommended

Buy Links:

http://www.beatentrackpublishing.com/?ref=nobodysbutterfly

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Christmas is coming..

 

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Few things get us in the festive mood more than a Christmas story, or three, well maybe a snowball with a glace cherry and a jumper with lights ? We can’t share those with you, so it’s the shorts..

MerryandBright-f-web

 

Jo Chambers is one of our favourite authors, and these three are a treat, especially Rest and be Thankful.

Humbug

Quin Flint is unimpressed when his gorgeous colleague, Rob Paget, asks for extra time off at Christmas. As far as Quin is concerned, Christmas is a giant waste of time. Quin’s on the fast track to partnership, and the season of goodwill is just getting in the way of his next big project. But when Quin’s boss, Marley, confiscates his phone and makes him take an unscheduled day off, Quin finds himself being forced to confront his regrets, past and present, and think about the sort of future he really wants…and who he wants it with.

Mr Perfect’s Christmas

Sam Warren’s new job hasn’t been going so well so the last thing he’s in the mood for is the obligatory office Christmas party, particularly since Nick Foster’s going to be there. Nick–the guy whose shoes Sam has been trying to fill–seems to take very opportunity to point out where Sam’s going wrong. But when Sam receives an unexpected Secret Santa gift at the party, he’s forced to question his assumptions about his rival. Could it be that he’s been misinterpreting Nick’s actions all along? And is it possible that his reluctant attraction to Nick is reciprocated?

Rest and Be Thankful

Things haven’t been going well for Cam McMorrow since he moved to Inverbechie. His business is failing, his cottage is falling apart and following his very public argument with café owner Rob Armstrong, he’s become a social outcast. Cam needs to get away from his troubles and when his sister buys him a ticket to the biggest Hogmanay party in Glasgow, he can’t leave Inverbechie quick enough. But when events conspire to strand him in the middle of nowhere in a snowstorm, not only is he liable to miss the party, he’ll also have to ask his nemesis, Rob, for help.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | KOBO | Barnes & Noble

Length: 59,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Natasha Snow

Author Bio

Joanna Chambers always wanted to write. She spent over 20 years staring at blank sheets of paper and despairing of ever writing a single word. In between staring at blank sheets of paper, she studied law, met her husband and had two children. Whilst nursing her first child, she rediscovered her love of romance and found her muse. Joanna lives in Scotland with her family and finds time to write by eschewing sleep and popular culture.

 

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Captured Shadows

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Jim Sinnett spends his days on respectable portrait photography and his nights creating scandalous erotic pictures for men who hide their desires in locked cabinets and between the pages of books. When a new friendship leads to a secret opportunity, one more dangerous than ever before, Jim agrees to step in front of the camera but finds himself baring much more than his skin.

A twisting historical romance set in the fog of Victorian London, Captured Shadows follows the path of love, blackmail and obsession to a devastating climax.

As of writing, this book is still free/ pay what you fancy  here

Karen: I downloaded this for free, but it was so good I have since gone back and paid . I actually got this because I’ve had RR Stockholm Syndrome trilogy for ages, and for whatever reason I haven’t read it – but I really enjoyed the Trojan Project. I would say that this book is in my top 10 reads this year.

Fra: We have indeed been talking about reading Stockholm Syndrome for ages and I am so glad your love for Captured Shadows transmitted so clearly that I went and got it as well. No doubt this treasure of a book has made my top ten this year as well.

For one the writing is gorgeous:

“My wings get dusty in the street, sir, I keep them folded in a hat box at home while I am out in town”

The sentence is in the opening chapter and I was absolutely and utterly in love. Ordinary Victorian London – as is  the main narrative – is conveyed so lyrically to almost sound poetic.

The language and imagery throughout are just beautiful and captivating while the characters – and the story – remain realistic and intriguing.

Karen: One of things I really enjoyed about Captured Shadows  is that while it’s a romance, it doesn’t seem to follow the same structure as others, and  also neither of the main characters were rich/ titled. The main way that authors seem to skirt male homosexuality being illegal in historical romances is to make at least one of the characters wealthy. In Captured Shadows you have a very real sense of the danger that Jim and Archie experience. I really appreciated that Rider developed all the characters as well, so that I came to want to know more of Sally’s story, and also John Percival.

Fra: I also think that it is important to notice the lack of “titled” gentry from the main plot: both men are working class and their love story does not rely on the “classic” historical romance  trope of title and wealth to shelter and  bring the characters to the happy ending.

 I actually didn’t see Captured Shadows as “romance” at all. Perhaps it is that I have grown weary of the tropes and formulas of the current “romance” offerings but Captured Shadows struck me more as a very effective foreshortening of Victorian London with its multiple layers; stuck between the righteousness and the sordid the book delivers some fascinating questions of the nature of morality and virtue.

The prominence of photography in the book is, in my opinion, critical to this: not only it delivers quite a portrait of Victorian’s fascination with new technology – but most and foremost the upside view of the subject on the plates underscores the duplicity of society: respectable, borgeous, straight in the daylight – erotic, queer, seductive and spirited in the night.

I agree on the characters’ development Karen, I think all of them were incredibly well fleshed out and I appreciated greatly the way they represented the full working class spectrum: from Mr Everett to Sally, from the newly born bourgeoisie to the prostitutes and everything in between. I found this to be a refreshing and realistic glimpse into Victorian society.

Karen: The central love story between Jim and Archie was beautiful, the sense that they were existing in a bubble at times, that this bubble was so fragile, and that if/ when it did burst something awful would happen.

Fra: This was an incredibly romantic book, by its own definition a “memoir of love”; the age of the lovers makes the relationship “[a] new and strange …unknown place, as though we were explorers in a distant land”  their beautiful and fragile bubble “filled with what felt like entire lifetimes’ worth of plans and dreams”.

It also starts on camera, if you will. And I think this was one of the best twists in the narrative: as Jim and Archie explore their newly found attraction in front of the camera their romantic journey flips the norm and starts quite publicly with them “half naked..pasted on countless cards for other men to crave” and then takes the lovers on a journey of discovery of what it means to be together for a lifetime. The epilogue, is slightly rushed, still manages to convey a lifetime shared, of love through the decades and the rapid changes of the world around them; finally of memories of a life well spent as lovers.

Here the relationship between Jim and Archie is, like you well said Karen, at times a bubble and at other times a very clear indication of the dangers of homosexuality in a righteous society. There is no buffer offered by manors and wealth to our two main characters, their continued relationship and happy ending is suffused by their intimate understanding of their circumstances and strengthened by the fact they are prepared to weather them together.

 

All in all this was a delight to read: romantic, realistic and poetically rendered; a true little gem of a novel we happy recommend to all.

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

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

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