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

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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

 

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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

 

Where Eagles Dare

 

Eagle's Shadow FIN1 (1)What if the new love of your life also holds the keys to your past?

When Chicago journalist Tom Welsh meets British banker Sanders Templeton at a conference, Sanders insists they have a connection, though he does not know what it is. They’ve never met before—but the strangest thing is, Tom can also feel it.

Sanders Templeton is a highflier who has it all—the money, the lifestyle and a rare intellect. Only a few chosen people know that he also suffers excruciating pain since childhood, with no cure, a mystery to western medicine.

Sanders knows that meeting Tom may be the most significant event of his life. As their relationship deepens, they learn that this is not the first lifetime in which they’ve fallen for each other. This time, true love can be theirs if they find the courage to forgive.

Disclaimer: We both beta read Eagle’s Shadow prior to its publication

Fra: Eagle’s Shadow is the  intense and compelling second installment in Aleks Voinov’s Witches of London series. Co written with Jordan Taylor the novel  can be read as a standalone but it does offer a window onto two of the characters’ lives – Julian and Lee – as they come to the rescue of the two MCs Sanders and Tom.

Voinov and Taylor’s writing complements each other beautifully and add an extra layer to the narrative: on the one hand the very European essence of Sanders and on the other Tom’s North American mannerism end up contributing in more than one way to the story and its development.

Karen: Totally agreed, it was great to read a book set in two main locations where you really did feel each place, Tom’s discovery of London was especially fun to read.

Fra: At times a realistic account of chronic pain as much as it is about the romantic journey of the two MC to finally accept the deep bond between them, I thought this novel principal strength rests in the complex relationship – from friendship to love – between Sanders and Tom as they explore the undeniable feelings of attraction and recognition and the manner in which these are interwoven with the exploration and eventual resolution of the pain, physical and emotional, which both men are in.

Karen: The attraction between the two of them was very immediate, and because of their history, it was one of the few times that the immediacy worked well for me, Sanders in particular is a complex character, and that is apparent from the off – however as you rightly point out Fra, so is Tom. It’s very cleverly woven, how these two twine together and then pull apart.

Fra: This is not an easy journey and the regression sessions reveal – and compel both the reader and the characters to relive – a odyssey through harrowing times from the Irish Famine to the utter madness of World War 2. As to be expected from both authors the accounts are realistic, harsh and historically accurate and the link between chronic pain and past lives is explored in detail but never forced on the reader.

Karen : The scenes where the characters regress are extremely powerful, but what was great to read was Tom’s logical skepticism,  for me it made him ring true – it needed something to temper the immediacy of the attraction- and this just did it for me. I  also appreciated the fluidity of the characters past lives, when I have read books with regression in before they seem often glamorous – but these were gritty real people.

Fra: To expand on that Karen – I particularly loved the tension between Sander’s determination to see the regression therapy through and Tom’s skepticism and denial of its effectiveness. I think this was one of the best underlying themes of the novel: the tension between Sander’s belief and Tom’s disbelief punctuates the manner in which the characters interact and eventually delivers a great emotional payout.

These are great characters; they are strong and broken at the same time, they are flawed and complex and realistically compelling. Their relationship from the undeniable sense of deja vu and belonging to the final denouement is also realistic and layered with complexity.

Karen: Eagles Shadow carries on with the theme set in Witches of London – Lars, of  different belief systems and ways of life being harmoniously integrated amongst the everyday. And I find this wonderfully realistic and inclusive, very reflective of the real community – especially as a sceptic myself.

Fra: Agreed Karen,  critical to the narrative is London’s Witches role. We see Lee in his practice as well as Julian in glorious supporting mode.And London itself – seen through Tom’s eyes in his solitary wondering is as much a character in the novel as the protagonists and roots the action in the strongest sense of place.

Karen: Ahh Lee ! Simply one of my favourite characters, I kind of want/ don’t want his story !

Also, a big shout out to Tiff, who has taken cover design for this series to a higher plane !

All in all this is a brave novel, unafraid to take its premises, and its characters, through the ringer before an emotionally rewarding conclusion and one that we wholeheartedly recommend.

You can buy Eagle’s Shadow here

 

Light up the Dark

lightupthedark

For two years Nicky has wandered the dark empty corridors of the overgrown Thorn Hall, unseen and untouched, feeling like a ghost. His only company, the cold man who promised to keep him safe from harm, Lance.

But when Lance dies, Nicky’s assurance of safety disintegrates and his world suddenly becomes a lot more real and a lot more dangerous. Scared to leave the house, Nicky longs for daylight. He employs a gardener to clear the over-grown bushes and vines that have nearly swallowed Thorn Hall whole.

The last thing Nicky expects a little light to do is show him something to fight for.

Eighteen months in a young offenders’ institute has taught Cai two things: he occupies the playful puppy end of the How Dangerous Are You? spectrum, and he has an unfortunate knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Desperate for a job, he takes the first offer he gets. Even though Thorn Hall creeps the hell out of him and he barely knows one end of a pair of garden shears from the other.

Things start to fall apart when Cai is drawn into Nicky’s strange world of sticky notes and secrets. Cai finds he is now a target, blamed for a crime he didn’t commit. Desperate not to go back to prison, he digs deep and risks all the good things in life to help Nicky run.

But now Nicky has someone he wants to protect, he knows he can’t run any more

Fra: Suki Fleet has been one of my most treasured discoveries of reading year 2016. Her stories are heartbreaking and beautifully written while at the same time affording both her characters and her readers uplifting experiences.

She writes contemporary tales firmly set in their environment and her writing evokes gritty, stark landscapes which are as much obstacle and redemption to her characters.

She explores themes of isolation, abandonment, mental illness and marginalisation in the most delicate of manners without ever turning condescending and without ever affording the facile endings so well loved of similar tales from across the ocean.

Light Up The Dark is her latest novel and it is – in my modest opinion – a classic Fleet novel. There are recurring themes, a strong sense of place, and a plot which carries the characters across a development and growth arc amongst some of the best I have read in 2016.

Karen : I would agree on Suki Fleet being a total find this year. I have become less tolerant of overtly formulaic books, and while I recognise that romance as a genre does operate within parameters, there is still scope for originality and difference. The previous books I have read by Fleet have been mainly NA and angst heavy, and I need to be in the right frame of mind for both of these to enjoy them. So I was trepidatious over reading one of her books, and I did start this very slowly, but after the first 10% I was hooked.

This book blew me away, Fra had already read it by the time I was 30% in, and I was like a giddy child with all the questions I was asking, and hopefully we won’t spoiler at all, or at least minorly.

Fra: I was absolutely hooked and I just could not put the book down. I am also very much in love with all of the YA/NA stories of hers I read in 2016; I too have by now a complete lack of interest in the overtly formulaic offerings of so many books that come from across the pond.

Add to the above the fact that her books are deliciously British and European in their outlook and approach – bleak and yet uplifting outlook and an approach to plot development which relies heavily on the characters own willingness to get themselves into the “light” and not some sort of narrative miracle, and Suki Fleet can count me as one of her diehard fans forever.

Karen : There are some great elements in LUTD, the Gothic setting of the decaying house, and Dickensian as well with Nicky somewhat like Miss Haversham living in the shadows. As Cai and his family start to invade Nicky’s life there is also a sleeping beauty feel, all of these are relatively subtle though. What made this so good for me was the balance between the psychological thriller and the romance. I think that to get the right balance is incredibly hard, and SF got it totally right for me. I wanted to know what was going on in Thorn Hall, and I rooted for Nicky and Cai.

Fra: Aren’t there just Karen?

I fear spoiling the novel if I go into more details. But let’s put it this way – Light Up The Dark is a psychological thriller with several elements of Gothic fiction thrown in for good measure.

Thorn Hall, I thought- oppressive, dark and dank and mysterious – is as much a character as Nicky and Cai in the story.

Cai’s progress on the overgrown outside of the mansion punctuates Nicky’s progress on the inside: Suki Fleet stated that Light Up The Dark is one of her less angsty novels and I tend to agree. Nicky is isolated and reserved for incredibly good reasons and yet he is the one to initiate the clearing of the wild plants that will eventually bring in both the light and Cai in his life.

I found that there were similarities between Foxes and Light Up The Dark in the way Fleet uses space around her main characters. In Foxes the disused swimming pool Danny uses as a home brings him solace and protection and allows him to retreat from the world around him at will. Comparatively Thorn Hall affords Nicky a modicum of security and protection even if he has started to feel ever so slightly claustrophobic in it. I thought it was particularly poignant how both men build themselves  some sort of inner sanctum in the places and how in Nicky’s case the dark is both comforting – in the space he chooses for himself – and frightening – everywhere else in the house. (note I’d love to be more specific but I am absolutely not going to spoil this story)

Together with the classic “person in the turret” Gothic trope I also thought the book had a very cinematographic element to it which reminded me of some of the greatest noir psychological thrillers of old times. In particular I did mention to Karen that Thorn Hall reminded me of Mandalay.

Karen : Nicky is a fascinating character, an inconsistent mix of vulnerable and strong, scared and brave (with good reasons for all of these) and he is matched so well with Cai – also a complex character – despite Nicky being the elder it is Cai who comes initially as the most mature, and then as in all good books they switch roles. Cai’s sister and her friend Loz are wonderful supporting characters as well, while young they are also quite emotionally mature and not there for diversity window dressing.

Fra: I agree on both counts. Nicky is abrasive and guarded, frightened but determined and is the perfect match for Cai. I found Cai equally determined, vulnerable and yet strong and in control.

It had been a while, also, since I read such an intense and sensual intercourse between two main characters.  Not gratuitous or a tick box in a narrative lull. When the two main characters get together it propels the story forward both on plot and character development. It was beautifully written and highly romantic.

The alternate point of view is also incredibly well done. I do think Suki writes her secondary characters as if they were the protagonists of their own story and this lends strength to the whole novel.

In Light Up the Dark Loz’s viewpoint works as a brilliant counterpoint to the main plot line and offers, in several slow reveals a completely different angle on the on going story. Which is already quite the reversal of roles given that Loz is a teenager but their actions in the story also affords a queer character pivotal, and incredibly positive, agency.

The same can be said of the rest of the secondary character – mostly women – who at critical points of the story safe the day in a complete reversal of what the formulaic approach would have demanded of the story.

Karen : Because LUTD was published early, I can say that this was one of my top reads of 2016 now as well !

Fra: Agreed !

Overall we found LUTD gorgeously written with Gothic overtones: the pacing is relentless sustained by a tight plot and beautifully upheld by complex character development across multiple point of views.

The language is achingly beautiful, the story gorgeous and romantic; and once again Fleet explores complex themes – isolation and mental health to mention but two – in a delicate way and brings about a satisfying conclusion without relying on the facile denouements so overused in many of this genre novels. Highly Recommended

About the author:

suki-fleet

Award Winning Author. Prolific Reader (though less prolific than she’d like). Lover of angst, romance and unexpected love stories.

Suki Fleet’s first novel This is Not a Love Story won Best Gay Debut in the 2014 Rainbow Awards, and was a finalist in the 2015 Lambda Awards. Foxes won Best Gay Young Adult story in the 2016 Rainbow Awards.

You can contact Suki at sukifleet@gmail.com

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