Posts Tagged ‘gay fiction’

It’s not long to wait until Rag and Bone is out – a full length novel set in the Magpie world and featuring brand new protagonists but as a lovely little taster, here is A Queer Trade, introducing Ned and Crispin and a brand new type of magic.


Title: A Queer Trade

Author:K J Charles

Pages: approx 50

Available: NOW


Apprentice magician Crispin Tredarloe returns to London to find his master dead, and his papers sold. Papers with secrets that could spell death. Crispin needs to get them back before anyone finds out what he’s been doing, or what his magic can do.

Crispin tracks his quarry down to waste paper dealer Ned Hall. He needs help, and Ned can’t resist Crispin’s pleading—and appealing—looks. But can the waste-man and the magician prevent a disaster and save Crispin’s skin?

A 16,000 word story set in the Charm of Magpies world, and a prequel to the novel Rag and Bone (March 2016). This story was first published as part of the Charmed & Dangerous anthology.


Ned Hall, waste-man, was not enjoying his day.

He was generally happy in his work. It wasn’t a job for the weak, heaving waste down narrow stairs and hauling the handcart over cobbled or rutted streets, and after a while you could never get the paper dust out of your skin, but he liked it. Liked dickering over ha’pennies, liked seeing the odds and sods that came up in the piles, and mostly liked being his own master, a very long way from the docks.
It was a good life. A queer trade, to be sure, selling on psalters to wrap pork in, or dead men’s love letters to go round an ounce of baccy, but it suited him. So it was impossible to say just what was wrong now.
Ned pulled at his ear, scratched inside it with a finger. He’d done that so often it was beginning to feel sore, but he couldn’t stop, because he couldn’t shift the feeling that he could almost, not quite, but maybe, if he could just turn his head the right way, hear something.
Except there was nothing there to hear, and it was driving him to Bedlam.
He clapped both palms to his ears, gave them a rub so vigorous that he felt they might come clean off, and was engaged in that undignified act when a knock came from behind.
“Mr. Neddy Hall?”
Ned turned to look, and blinked. A gentleman, of sorts, stood in the doorway, in a tentative sort of way, like he was trying not to be there. A flash sort, dandyish clothes. Slim, no great height, or age either: about twenty, Ned reckoned. A narrow, nervy sort of face, and a head of hay-coloured hair, that yellow-brown shade.
“That’s Ned, if you don’t mind. Something I can do for you, sir?” The ‘sir’ was for the clothes, mostly: there was something about the way the visitor stood, hip tilted and weight on one foot, that didn’t say authority.
“Um, I’m trying to find some waste paper. Can you help me?”
Ned spread his arms wide, an invitation to look around that the young man took up, reddening as he grasped the silent point. The small room was paper from floor to ceiling, great piles and drifts of it, mounds of the stuff, white and yellow and browning, plain and printed and scrawled upon, a few bundles bound with string, most loose.
“You want waste, I’ve got it. How many hundredweight?”
“I mean, some specific paper,” the young man said, a little reproachfully, as if Ned should have known that. He had a trace of one of those country accents that sounded like a stage pirate talking, so you could hear the r in ‘paper’. “My ma— My, uh, teacher died and the house was cleared while I was away. They sold a lot of papers they shouldn’t have and they wouldn’t tell me where they sold them, and I have to find them. It’s terribly important.”
His eyes were wide and pleading, Ned observed, but the greater part of his brain was taken up with the observation that the toff talked like a molly. Not like the Cleveland Street boys, or anything. Just, a light voice that danced a bit and put a lot of stress on a few words, the sort of voice that made you think, I know your sort.
And the molly knew he knew, because the colour swept across his pale skin. “Can you help?” he asked, and there was an obvious effort to go a bit more manly there.
“What name?” Ned asked.
“Uh, Tredarloe. Crispin Tredarloe.” The young man did something Ned would never have predicted: he stepped forward and put out his hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Hall.”

Buy Links:

Amazon UK | Kobo | Amazon US | Smashwords | ARe

Author Bio:

I’m a writer of romance, mostly m/m, often historical or fantasy or both.

I’m also a freelance editor, and I blog about writing and editing at kjcharleswriter.com.

I live in London, UK, with two kids, a tolerant husband and an even more tolerant cat.

Follow me on Twitter @kj_charles or friend me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kj.charles.9

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Author Name: Rae Gee

Book Name: A Second Past Midnight

Release Date: April 22, 2015

Pages or Words: 87,900 words

Categories: Erotica, Fiction, Gay Fiction, M/M Romance, Thriller, Dystopian

Publisher: Torquere Press

Cover Artist: BS Clay


It had come like a thief in the night, an invisible force that had wiped out life as they had known it, sending them from 1981 back to 1881. The cause of The Pulse had remained a mystery and become the cause of speculation of fear. In a heartbeat, stock markets had crashed, power plants had shut down, and the land became poisoned by sewage, chemicals and, in some areas, radiation. If it had microchips in it, it was dead, finished beyond all repair. The anomaly which had wiped out their life had become known as The Pulse and the events following it had become known as The Crash.



With the rifle slung over one shoulder, James made his way through the drifts of fall leaves. Miles from home, and in the depths of the Minnesota forests, he knew he was far from alone. Spread across one of the state’s many forested areas were others like himself, getting ready for open season to begin. Dressed in army surplus fatigues, and with his long brunette hair pulled through a baseball cap, he was ready. Rules drawn up by the county required hunters to wear fatigues rather than their usual orange so as not to clash with the inmate’s uniforms.

James looked at his watch. 2.40pm. Twenty minutes left. Finding a thicket of bushes, he crouched within the prickly branches and quietly prepped the gun. Peering down the scope, the brunette man aimed at a nearby tree. Perfect. Clipped to one side of the scope was a small flashlight, perfect for when the sun began to set.

All around him, the smell of fall hung in the air. Musty, and a little damp, it spoke of a long, hard winter, and evenings sat before the fire. In January of 1981, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists had moved the symbolic Doomsday Clock to 11:56pm, four minutes to the “midnight” of global catastrophe the clock represented. On October 31st, 1981, at 1:13am, the Doomsday Clock had struck midnight.

It had come like a thief in the night, an invisible force that had wiped out life as they had known it, sending them from 1981 back to 1881. The cause of The Pulse had remained a mystery and become the cause of speculation of fear.  In a heartbeat stock markets had crashed, power plants had shut down, and the land became poisoned by sewage, chemicals and, in some areas, radiation. If it had microchips in it, it was dead, finished beyond all repair.  The  anomaly which had wiped out their life had become known as The Pulse and the events following it had become known as The Crash,.

Within days, anarchy broke out and the cities became no-go areas. The small communities furthest from the carnage were the best places to be. Diseases long thought dead flared back to life. Money was still being used but prices were sky high. No one could afford the meager crops that were produced and for those who owned farms, like James’ family, keeping animals was dangerous. While the tiny communities protected one another, there was nothing, bar the gun in his lap, to stop a stranger from stealing their animals. They still kept a few; a couple of cows and a few chickens, but that was it. Everything else, including any wild animals, were long gone, were so badly affected that they were in danger of extinction.

It had been several months before they’d truly found out what had happened on the night of The Crash. An airdrop of flyers, created between the British and Canadians, had scattered over the state. They told of the electromagnetic pulse that had wiped out their lives, retaliation from the Russians for the boycotts imposed by the United States. The Pulse, having traveled along anything metal, had destroyed the American military, leaving them helpless and unable to return fire.

The government had recognized the lack of supplies and, in ’83, had signed the “Shoot to Kill” executive order. Twice a year, a number of convicts from prisons across the country were released into wooded areas to be hunted, with a promise of freedom if they survived the seven day open season. All were felons; with DUIs, drug dealers, and thieves.

Sales Links: Torquere Books

About the author:

Born and raised in the heart of England, Rae spent her formative years bouncing around the globe with her missionary family. When she wasn’t on a plane, she was often found with her head in a book. These days she racks up air miles by learning to fly.

When she’s not writing, she enjoys making documentaries, roaming the South Downs, teasing the cat and her dad (normally at the same time!), taking photos and naming her electronics. She believes that she’s trapped in the wrong era and should be roaming the streets of 19th Century London.

She also has a tattoo of a Boeing 747 and is only too happy to tell the tale behind it. Feel free to ask; she promises not to bite too hard!

Rae made her vocal début on Spawn of Psychosis’s 2013 EP Mind Over Mania. All profits from the EP go to mental health charity Mind.

She currently lives just outside of Leicester and is partly owned by Bertie the cat.

Where to find the author:

Facebook Author Page: www.facebook.com/thequeenofsteam

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VeetuIndustries

Other: www.raegee.co.uk

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/raegee

Tour Dates & Stops:

Parker Williams, Cate Ashwood, Bayou Book Junkie, My Fiction Nook, BFD Book Blog, Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews, Divine Magazine, MM Good Book Reviews, 3 Chicks After Dark, Inked Rainbow Reads, Molly Lolly, Velvet Panic, Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents, Elin Gregory, Nephylim

Click here for a chance to win a Rafflecopter Prize: An e-copy of ‘A Second Past Midnight’ by Rae Gee

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comfy chairMy guest today is a young author who has been both scaring his readers spitless with his horror novels and wowwing them with the more tender and romantic aspects of the same works. I am a well known light-weight when it comes to horror so I have to read his books through my fingers but I still enjoy them immensely.

I’m also delighted to welcome him to my blog to celebrate, and promote, the impending release of his new Memoirs of Human Wraiths book, Still Waters.

Thanks, Frederick Feely for joining me here today. If you are sitting comfortably I will begin.

Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?

Well, I don’t have a traditional day job, no. I have sort of taken on the house duties while my husband is at work. Cooking cleaning etc. But when I am in writing mode that can last for months on end, so the other stuff gets done….but not exactly in an orderly fashion. Being married is hard work!

When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it? 

I love listening to music and hanging out with my friends when we managed to get time together. As far as writing about that time, not really. I mean, my friends personalities are fodder for writing- something they have probably guessed- but that’s as far as that goes.

In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?

The situation comes first. The ‘what if’ moment that suddenly brings about this line up of events in my head. And then I sit down and hopefully make it make sense.

Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them? Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image? 

It’s based solely on an emotion first and foremost and I write the person around the situation or the feeling.

Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?

I love to write horror, I am not unopposed to writing in other genres if it ever came around to it. But horror is what I stick with.

Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?

I like a villain I can sympathize with on a very basic level. I want you to understand their motivations. Why they do the things they do. For instance, in Stephen King’s Carrie, I cheered for her. All the way through and it really messed with your head to do so. It really trips your head when you have bad vs worse.

 What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished. 

I am thinking about trying to extract the main character of The Phantom of the Opera, into a modern setting. Or at least, have a character like his – in the present day.

Could we please have an excerpt of something?

Certainly. Here is an excerpt of Still Waters.

She loathed Adam. Loathed what Adam meant to him, who they’d been, what they were. Bret felt the anger rise like bile in him, but he just shook his head as Kaiser nudged at his hand, feeling the tension in the room.

“Well, I’m sure he’ll turn up just fine,” she said. “Your father will be home in a few days. You may want to get a head start finding campus housing. I mean, the fall is coming quickly, and it’ll take your mind off your friend.”

“Fiancé,” Bret replied.

“Excuse me?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.

“Fiancé, Mother. I am not leaving behind someone I love because—”

“Please, don’t try to dignify what the both of you do as love.”

“Oh, right. Because that’s what you and Dad have? Tell me, when Dad had his affair with—what was her name… Jessica?—was that love as well?” Bret fired back with a smile on his lips. His mother’s lips puckered, and he watched as her fury grew.

“You little son of a bitch, how dare you—” she said, growing furious, but Bret put up a hand.

“Tell the truth? Look, let’s just keep from jumping on the merry-go-round of knives, shall we? Stay out of my way, and I’ll stay out of yours. Deal?” he asked.

“Fine. But I will be telling your father when he gets back,” she sniffed, putting her hands on her hips and then dropping them in outrage as Bret suddenly burst into laughter.

“Oh no,” he said, grabbing his heart. “Oh, please don’t tell Daddy. What will I do with his disapproval?”

“Oh, you don’t care much about his approval, I know. Your father cheated on me because he couldn’t handle having a gay son. It disgusted him,” she said venomously.

The statement would have hurt him if he hadn’t turned her off a long time ago. He still wanted to slap her. But instead, he decided he’d hit another way.

“Mother, your husband cheated on you because when we moved here, his wife became Queen Ice Bitch of Promise Lake. That, and Jessica was twenty-three. So don’t put your Stepford bullshit on me,” he fired back.

She took an angry step forward, and Kaiser let out a menacing growl that caused her to hesitate. However, the look of fury on her face was replaced with one of stone calm, something that scared Bret even more than their heated war of words.

She was beginning another “how dare you” statement, which had become common since her discovery of Bret’s sexuality, when Kaiser let out a series of very loud barks that caused them both to jump. The reflection of two lights across the kitchen wall caused Bret to turn as a car pulled into the driveway.

“Kaiser, come on,” he said, snapping his fingers.

The dog turned from the window and looked at Bret before wagging his tail and following him on his way to the stairs that led up to his room.

“Where are you going?” his mother demanded, and Bret turned and was about to respond when a car door slammed and a voice tore through the night—and right into his heart.

“Bret! Bret!” The voice sobbed and broke the second time.

The tortured sound hit him like a truck. His heart skipped, and the truth he was yet to discover, the hand fate had held, was shown for the first time. Bret’s mouth went dry as his throat constricted, and he swore if he were to try to step forward, he would fall flat, but with another shout of “Bret!” he ran forward. He knew the voice, and Kaiser was hot on his heels while his mother complained about the racket they were causing.

Bret hit the door, his heart lodged in his throat and his knees trembling. Kaiser rushed between his legs to the person standing in the light of the car. Bret’s view was obscured as the beams from the headlights stole his night vision, but Kaiser knew the newcomer and got out of their way as they came into focus.

It was Timmy, Adam’s older brother, and the look on his face screamed through Bret’s body like electricity as realization dawned horribly in his mind. The cards were being laid out on the table.

“No.” Bret sobbed, shook his head, and brought his hand up to his mouth. As if shaking his head would somehow slay the dragon, he reached out for Timmy as his knees finally gave out on him. Timmy fell too as he gathered Bret in his arms, as Adam’s mother and father shrouded both boys in grief.

Kaiser, unsure of what was happening, raised his head toward the sky and let out his own mournful wail as they wept, their tears soaking the parched concrete driveway with the truth.

Adam wouldn’t be coming home.



Still Waters


Promise, Michigan is very much like every other small town across the state. Built on the edge of a lake, the homes sit in neat little rows in cute little neighborhoods. During the summer Promise bustles with tourists who come to spend their vacation dollars and enjoy the lake’s refreshingly cold water. But Promise holds a terrible secret. In the center of the lake is an abandoned island where a curse is rumored to wait for victims, unabated and deadly. Most think it’s just a story, something used to keep kids out of trouble. Still, everyone gives it a wide berth. Everyone except Bret and Adam. They dare to venture out the night of Bret’s birthday. When they declared their love and promise to get married, they believe no one else heard their whispered words—but they are wrong.

Five years after Adam dies, Bret returns to his family to heal. But someone is killing the people of Promise in random acts of violence. Bret, with the help of FBI agent Jeff McAllister, must discover the identity of a murderer with death on his mind and revenge in his heart.

Available on 30th March from Dreamspinner Press.

Still Waters

Author Bio:

F.E. Feeley Jr was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan and lived there for twenty years before joining the military. He is a veteran of the US Armed Services; having done a tour in support of Operation Iraq Freedom in 2002-2003, he turned college student, pursuing a degree in political science. He now lives in Southeast Texas where he is engaged to the love of his life, John, and where they raise their 1½ year old German shepherd, Kaiser.

As a young man, reading took center stage in his life, especially those novels about ghosts, witches, goblins, and all the other things that went bump in the night. His favorite authors include such writers as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice, whose work allowed him to travel to far off places and meet fascinating and scary characters. As a gay man, he wishes to be able to write good fictional literature for those who love the genre and to write characters that readers can relate to. All in all, he is a cigarette smokin’, whiskey drinkin’, rock and roll lovin’, tattoo wearin’ dreamer of a man with a wonderful husband who puts up with his crap and lets him write his stories.

You can find out more  about F. E. Feely Jr by following his blog here: www.authorfefeeleyjr.wordpress.com




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Happy Humpday. And since it’s Wednesday that means another interview and excerpt from an author contributing to the Not Quite Shakespeare anthology from Dreamspinner Press which is available for pre-order HERE.

My guest today is one of my favourite authors, whose cerebral mysteries and paranormals are a delight. Welcome, Theo Fenraven.

Have you ever visited the UK? If so where did you go? If not, what would you most like to see if you were able to make a visit?

I’ve never been to England. I’ve always wanted to go, though. There are a lot of places I’d like to see, but because my story is set in Manchester, that would be my first pick.

What inspired you to write your story for the anthology?

I liked the idea of setting a story in the U.K., and I’ve never been part of anthology before. As it happened, the idea for the short story occurred to me only a day or two before I heard about this. Talk about fortuitous!

Could you tell me a little about it?

Very little, or I’ll give the plot away. I’d rather readers came to it with fresh eyes. Wag is in IT and as the story opens, he meets Silver, a new employee, and is instantly in lust. That’s all it takes; Wag doesn’t get out much.  The story of these two misfits plays out against the background of Canal Street in Manchester and at their shared office.

Could you please tell me about your other work?

My latest release is Transgression, a story that looks at different kinds of sexuality in our culture and what people think about it. A male bisexual meets a MtF transwoman, setting various events in motion, some of which are life-threatening. My books are rarely straight romance. I would soon be bored to death! Instead, I weave in elements from thrillers, mysteries, and adventure tales. Precog in Peril is a paranormal murder mystery centered on the life of two young men who live on a houseboat; The Blue Paradise is set in Florida and the world of pro baseball, and concerns a stalker; Phoenix Rising dramatically brings a myth back to life in the shape of a charismatic rock singer; and in Blue River, a talented photographer goes back in time to 1863, where he has to grapple with a disturbing lack of amenities while attempting to court a deeply-closeted young rancher.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently wrapping up a first draft of my next book, which is called Wolf Bound and is a shifter story. I always swore I’d never write one based on a human-to-wolf transformation, as it’s been done over and over in the genre, but the characters leaped up in my head one day, waving their arms wildly, and I was hooked.

Please could we have an excerpt?

Here’s part of the first chapter from Wolf Bound.

I bought the old farmhouse in July, moved in on September tenth, and discovered the lake island in October. The body of water I lived on was Heron Lake, and it didn’t have islands. It did have a few summer cabins, a couple of year ’round residences, and my farm-turned-country acreage for a guy who knew nothing about growing food or keeping animals. It had been abandoned some years back, long enough that the pasture that had once fed beef cattle was now overgrown with thistle, and trees had sprung up in the long grass. I had my work cut out for me, taking down and disposing of the old barbed wire fence, but I thought I might get it accomplished by the time winter set in.
I knew there was another, smaller lake in the area, but I didn’t find it until I threw down my wire cutters one Saturday afternoon, wiped the sweat off my brow, and walked down the road, impulsively turning into an unmarked gravel lane that led into the trees. There was no mailbox to indicate it was a private drive, so I followed it past towering oaks and maples until it ended at a small lake. Out in the middle of it, on an almost perfect circle of raised land, was a small one-and-a-half-story cabin circled by a tall, graceful stand of birch and ash. Between the island and the shore was a wide, wooden dock, one end of which lay to my right behind thick woods. The other stopped short of the island by what I guessed was around thirty feet.
On my left was a large, well-cared-for house with a neatly trimmed lawn and intermittent explosions of late-blooming flowers. On the shore, a canoe and kayak were turned over on the beach. A dusty SUV was parked in the drive, but no one was on the porch and the lights were off. An old windmill turned lazily in the breeze, and there were solar panels on the roof.
I backed away uneasily, realizing this was someone’s private property and I was trespassing. Giving the tiny island cabin another admiring look, I retraced my steps to the road and went home. I decided it was high time to quit for the day, sit on my porch, and suck down a cold beer.

The summer people were mostly gone, but someone from the cabin closest to me wandered up my drive as twilight was setting in and sank into a rocker with a sigh. His name was Sam Malone. “Same as the guy on Cheers, remember that show? But I’m not a professional bartender, and my hair is real.”
Sam didn’t look like the actor, either. He had a head of curly black hair, was on the short side at around five foot nine, and was lean as a piece of crispy bacon. His parents owned the cabin, and sometimes he came out to get away from his stressful job as an ER nurse.
The breeze was picking up and had a distinctly chilly edge as it swept leaves off the trees and along the ground. Fall was here and winter not far behind.
“How ya doing, Jon?” he asked.
“Good. Got about ten feet of wire down.” I glanced at my hands, which looked beat up despite the gloves I wore when working. “Hardly any barb cuts today.”
I fetched him a beer, and we rocked and gazed at the small whitecaps ridging the water. I asked, “Who lives in the house on the other lake?”
“Egret? That’s the writer, Harrison Kalmes. One of his books was bought by Hollywood and turned into a movie. Must be nice, eh?” Sam drank and burped. “Keeps to himself.”
“Does he have a family?”
“Not that I’ve seen.” He grinned. “You interested?”
I’d told him I was gay the first time we met. Smiling, I swung back in the rocker and lifted my work boots to the porch railing. “Don’t know him. I’m interested in him being a writer, though. That’s sort of my secret dream.”
“Yeah? That’s cool.” He slid farther down on his spine, stretching his legs out and crossing them at the ankle.
Sam was straight, but my orientation didn’t bother him. It was nice having someone nearby I was comfortable around. I’d miss him when winter shut things down and he no longer visited. However, after what I’d been through the last few years, a little isolation didn’t sound half bad.
We drank in companionable silence while the first stars came out and a sickle moon rose in the sky. An owl hooted nearby, and I remembered someone telling me owls and hawks didn’t share common territory. I wondered if that was true.
“What’s with the cabin on the small island?” I hadn’t been able to get it out of my mind. I wanted to see what it looked like inside, and what the view of the lake was from there. I’d been reading about “tiny houses” off and on for a few years, and while this one obviously hadn’t been built recently, it had that same feel about it, like the whole of someone’s life could be tucked neatly away in small spaces. I’d even considered buying one, but then this property became available for not much more, and I decided to risk it. Also, practically speaking, resale value on “normal” houses was much better.
“Don’t know. Knock on the door and ask him.”
“Maybe I will.”

Many thanks, Theo, for answering my questions, and good luck both with NQS and with Wolfbound, which I understand has now been released to very good reception from reviewers and is available here.

Readers, if you would like to follow Theo’s progress you can find him on his blog and on Facebook.

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Happy Saturday!!

At least I hope you’re having a happy Saturday. I am because I’ve just read a terrific book and THERE’S A SEQUEL! I’d heard of the first book and had always intended to read it but, somehow, never got round to it. Luckily, a few days ago, it popped up amongst my recommendations on Amazon so I got it and read it and WOW. I owe Kirby Crow a huge apology for leaving it so long to read Scarlet and the White Wolf.

This fantasy novel is set in a complex world where cultural mores, religion, appearance and morality are all sources of prejudice. Scarlet belongs to a minority at both ends of the social scale – a very few are theocratic rulers of a restless mixed population, the rest are subsisting in small close knit villages as farmers and small scale craftsmen. Incensed by the oppression of the rulers, factions of the population persecute Scarlet’s people and pogroms are frequent.
Scarlet feels at odds with his hidebound family so has become a traveling pedlar, hawking handicrafts and haberdashery from village to village. It’s an adventurous life and Scarlet feels capable of dealing with anything. Then a bandit camps on one of Scarlet’s regular routes and demands toll of all travelers. A massive man with the golden skin and white hair of the far North, Liall, the White Wolf, is a genial rogue and when Scarlet is cheeky to him revises his demand for payment from cold hard cash to a warm soft kiss. Scarlet is outraged, as much by his urge to say ‘oh yes please’ as by the demand, and refuses. And so the dance begins, with Scarlet trying to slip past unkissed, Liall trying to hold his company together, enemies old and new showing up to complicate their lives and the clouds of war gathering.

This story won’t be for everyone because the focus is on the world and its complexities. I’ve seen a couple of accusations of overmuch info dumping, but this is a fantasy world with many races, religions and political entanglements to describe. Tolkien boxed clever by having innocents as heroes. Frodo and Bilbo were totally ignorant of the world outside the Shire and so it made sense for Gandalf to bring them up to speed. In this case all the characters are well aware of the set up so the author has got the information across as effectively as possible without any noticeable “As you know, Bob …” conversations.

As for the romance, Scarlet is deep in denial and Liall is achingly lonely, despite being the revered leader of a cheerful gang of bandits. They fancy each other like crazy but there are REASONS, not least that they are both proud and stubborn, and to my mind there’s nothing wrong with that.

A slow burn romance plus intricate and satisfying world building, I can’t wait to read Mariner’s Luck, the second part of the series.

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