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My guest today is Ally Lester – writing as A L Lester – author of the Lost in Time series and currently celebrating the release of her latest novella, Inheritance of Shadows.

Thank you for joining us today, Ally and answering my questions.

~~~

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

Mr AL and I  are full-time carers for Littlest, who is eleven and severely disabled. I used to be an IT geek. Then I taught people office skills for a bit. Oh, and did spiritual healing.  And then I worked in the audio-visual industry with Mr AL  for a while, doing lights and powerpoint and stuff for conferences. I quit that when I had babies because people got cross when I climbed ladders whilst pregnant. And then I started a chicken breeding business and had a market stall selling eggs. I gave that up when Littlest began to  need more care. Plus I started having stress-related seizures and couldn’t drive any longer.

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

I do fibre-craft stuff when I have the time and head-space. I knit (quite well) and I spin (very badly). I also needle-felt and sew, but it’s a bit hit and miss. And, erm, I brew beer? And I like to bake. All of this is very dependent on where I am in my head, though. I try and only start small projects these days because I run out of puff and they get abandoned. Oh, and I have a permaculture garden, that’s creative, too – it’s a slow process, but I’m gradually trying to make our garden self-maintaining and also food-producing. It’s a constant battle with the nettles at the moment, so it doesn’t feel very creative or nurturing, just a daily slash-and-burn battle.

Elin: Can you name any author/authors, past or present, who have been a great influence on your work?

Dorothy Dunnett, for the meticulous historical research in her Lymond series – I’m listening to them on audiobook at the moment!  Ursula Le Guin, for her wonderful world-building. And Josh Lanyon was the first gay romance author I read. I love her style.

Elin: What are you reading? Something to be clutched to the bosom or tossed aside with force? Fiction or non-fiction? Recommendations please.

Ooooh! Well. I’ve actually just read Kaje Harper’s new release, Changes Going On! I loved the first in the series – Changes Coming Down – and have been waiting for this to drop on to my ereader. It’s a gay menage, which with some authors is all about the sex and not about the story, but this is NOT that. It’s about a cop, a rancher and an ice-hockey player (again, ice-hockey romances not my thing usually) and how they all fit together. There are murders, too, which I like a lot in my reading. Once I’d finished that, it prompted me to go for a massive Kaje re-read, so I have also read her Life-Lessons duology (closeted cop, teacher) and am now reading Nor Iron Bars a Cage, which is set in a fantasy world with a mage as the hero. They all happen to have gay MCs, but I read all sorts of books with queer protaganists – Ada Harper, C. L. Polk and Allie Therin are all hard recommends. Also Melissa Olsen’s books – the relationships are straight, but it’s so plot-driven that they sucked me right in.

Elin: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pantser. I’ve been trying to be more of a plotter, but honestly, everything just falls apart. I need to write about 30k words, just splurged on the page, and by the time I’m done with that, it’s become apparent to me what’s actually happening in the book and I have a plot to work with. I write using Scrivener, which lends itself to small scenes I can pull around to where they fit.

Elin: Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them?

Definitely develop as I work on them. I suppose I feel that I’m discovering more about them as I go – it’s not that I have to make them up. I just discover what they would do as I’m writing each scene I throw at them.

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

Definitely more a thought and feeling. And a smell, sometimes, which is weird, because I don’t actually have that much of a sense of smell in my real life.

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

I find it very hard to write purely relationship driven stories, so I don’t! I find them a bit boring to read, too, so I think they’re just not my thing. Several people have said to me that I don’t actually write romance, per se, because there’s such a lot of plot going on in my stories. I think with relationship-driven stories so much of the conflict is internal that it’s hard to do them well. It’s possible to have a lot of ‘telling’ going on rather than ‘showing’, which I think makes the story slow – unless you have a lot of misunderstandings and people being horrible to each other etc, which is difficult to make realistic. I am the person who spent all of the school production of Othello muttering ‘just ask her about the handkerchief, just ask her about the handkerchief’. I find a lack of communication between characters annoying rather than a sympathy point for them!

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

I’d like a tortured villain, if you’re going to make me choose, please, thank you. Someone who is a baddie because of their circumstances or their inner turmoil or because… just a random example… they have been connected to someone else by a magical accident and cannot get free.

Elin: 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 can discuss it! I’m working on a story between a disabled farmer and a disgraced stockbroker, set in the same place as Inheritance of Shadows, but in the 1970s rather than the 1920s. It’s sort of a sequel. But it’s not, really. I loved the farm-setting so much that I wanted to re-visit it. I’m not sure if it’s got magic in it yet though. I’m still in the frantic-pantsing stage.

Elin: Could we please have an excerpt of something?

You may! Here is an excerpt from Inheritance of Shadows. This is my new release – it’s a 35k stand-alone novella set in the Lost in Time universe, although readers who have come across other books will recognize little things that carry across from different books. The first 7.5k words is a tidied up version of The Gate, which is the first thing I wrote set in the universe and which is available free. I then wanted to find out what happened to Matty and Rob after the end of the story- and this is the result.

It’s 1919. Rob and Matty both return from the trenches only to find Matty’s brother dying of an unknown illness. And Matty’s looking sicker and sicker. The answer seems to be in the esoteric books Arthur left strewn around the house.

It’s taken them more than a decade to admit they share feelings. They are determined that nothing will part them. What is Rob prepared to sacrifice to save Matty?

CHAPTER FOUR: Breaking the Cypher

“I think I’ve got it,” Rob murmured, one Saturday evening in November as they sat on either side of the fire in the parlour. He had a notepad on his knee and was transcribing from what Matty thought of as the Himalayas book, with the coded text and sketch-maps. It had been raining all day and they’d been hauling muck from the heap behind the byre to put on the fields of oat stubble. It had been a relief to come in and have a bath before they’d eaten, and they were now relaxed and tired.

Matty paused in his own reading to look over at Rob. He was still working on the green book himself, on the pages of what he thought of as spells. Some of them were in reasonably plain if old-fashioned English, some were in languages he could make a decent stab at with a dictionary, and a few were in a completely incomprehensible scrolling script that he couldn’t place, even after two months of searching. “Got what?” he asked, intelligently, pulled from his fugue.

“The cypher. There’s a bit later on, toward the back, that’s a translation, I think. It looks like I might be able to make the rest out from there.”

Matty rose and went over to sit on the arm of Rob’s chair. He often sat like this, reading over Rob’s shoulder as they puzzled out some piece of nearly indecipherable script. They were moving forward slowly with understanding what the books said. There were many others—piles of them all around the floor. Matty had ploughed his way through Arthur’s well-thumbed edition of The Golden Bough and agreed with Rob that it was the biggest load of cobblers he’d ever come across, neither of them having much use for either magic or religion. There were history books, psychology books—Mr Freud was another load of perfect bollocks, Matty thought, despite Rob’s interest—and books on different languages and people and places. As they had sifted through them all during the dry autumn, it had become clear that the focus of the collection was the pair of antique, handwritten books they had initially identified. Arthur had gathered the rest of his library in his quest to understand those. Now Matty and Rob had taken on his mantle.

Matty often wondered how long Arthur had been investigating this. Was it something he’d come across during his time in London? He’d gone from Oxford to work at the Evening Trumpeter when he’d gone down in 1897. He had travelled abroad to cover the war in the Sudan. He’d been to Afghanistan to write about the Pathans for the same paper. “Perhaps he picked up the brown book in India,” he mused, out loud. “That would make sense, wouldn’t it? A lot of the notes are about that area.”

“Perhaps,” Rob agreed. “I’m not sure it matters, though. Look at this.” He pointed to an untidy page of writing on the flyleaf at the back of the book, scratched in pencil. It contrasted sharply with the reasonably neat pages of the rest of the notebook. He recognised the hand as the one filling the second half of the book. “Here, look, it’s a translation of the cypher.”

“I thought you said it was Trench Code,” Matty asked.

“Sort of. It’s a cypher, really. Trench Code is impossible to crack without a code book—you can guess, but really, unless you know what the words are supposed to stand for, you’re stuck. A cypher, though. You can crack a cypher, if you’re lucky. Even if you don’t have the key.” He drew his finger down the pencil-covered, discoloured page and Matty became a little distracted, following its path. “It’s not a direct key, this here. But I think that it’s a translation of an earlier bit of cypher. This one, here.” He flipped back to a page much earlier in the book, a left-hand page, facing the map of the cave system on the right.

“Here, look. This grid here has pencil marks overwritten. Very faint.” He pointed. “And I’ve just realised…the first few letters on this page…” he flipped back to the flyleaf at the back of the book, “correspond to them. Which gives us somewhere to start.” He grimaced up at Matty. “I’m kicking myself. I’ve been thrashing through it for weeks and not getting anywhere, and it was here all the time. It looks like someone tried to rub them out on the first page, once they’d written it out in longhand.”

Matty looked. “Yes, I can see the marks. So, what does it say?”

 

All the links!

Buy links / https://books2read.com/inheritanceofshadows

Website / http://allester.co.uk

Facebook / http://facebook.com/ALLesterAuthor

Twitter / http://twitter.com/CogentHippo

Instagram / http://instagram.com/CogentHippo

Email / ally@allester.co.uk

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I’ve been waiting for this one with considerable excitement because a) werewolves, b) historical that isn’t Regency!!! * c) it’s by Joanna Chambers with a cover by one of my favourite artists d) it’s available from today, and e) there’s a giveaway at her website where you could win a copy of the book and a $20 giftcard! Scroll down for details.

BLURB

Gentleman Wolf (Capital Wolves duet #1)

An elegant werewolf in Edinburgh…

1788. When Lindsay Somerville, the most elegant werewolf in Paris, learns that the man who held him in abject captivity for decades is on his way to France, intent on recapturing him, he knows he must leave the Continent for his own safety. Lindsay cannot take the risk of being recaptured—he may have been free for a century but he can still feel the ghost of his old chains under his fine clothes.

… on a mission…

While he’s in Edinburgh, Lindsay has been tasked with acquiring the “Naismith Papers”, the writings of a long-dead witchfinder. It should be a straightforward mission—all Lindsay has to do is charm an elderly book collector, Hector Cruikshank. But Cruikshank may not be all he seems, and there are others who want the papers.

… meets his match

As if that were not enough, while tracking down the Naismith Papers, Lindsay meets stubborn architect Drew Nicol. Although the attraction between them is intense, Nicol seems frustratingly determined to resist Lindsay’s advances. Somehow though, Lindsay can’t seem to accept Nicol’s rejection. Is he just moonstruck, or is Nicol bonded to him in ways he doesn’t yet understand?

Note: this is the first book of a duology – the story continues and will complete in the second book, Master Wolf.

CONTEST LINK

https://joannachambers.com/2019/08/24/gentleman-wolf-release-day-giveaway/

* This is in no way to suggest that I dislike Regency but it was only NINE years and I get very excited to see some of those other many thousands of years getting some attention.

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One of the nicest things about being part of this community is that sometimes you get to read books while they are still under construction. It’s particularly exciting to be in at the beginning of a brand new series.

Wishing Annabelle all the very best of luck today, as Escape, book one of the Rebellion series, goes live!

Book cover

This isn’t the life Cole dreamt of, but what choice does he have?

With his twenty-fifth birthday behind him, Cole Moreton now faces the shifter compatibility test which will decide his future. Testing positive means joining a pack and eventually taking the bite. Unfortunately, with enviable skills in self-defence and hand-to-hand combat, the kind of packs interested in him aren’t any he’d want to join.

Logan has been a member of the McKillan pack for most of his life. Pack is family and loyalty is everything, but when the shifter government turns out to be no better than the oppressive humans before them, he questions everything.

Right from their first meeting, Logan knows that a life with the McKillan pack isn’t right for Cole, but with his alpha taking a keen interest in Cole’s skills, Logan’s hands are tied. Mutual attraction builds between them, but acting on it is futile—helping Cole will put their lives at risk and an end to any future they could’ve had.

Available on Kindle Unlimited or buy it on Amazon UK or Amazon US.

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Sometimes it’s really worth checking out backlists. There are some marvellous books out there but with hundreds of new titles every week it can be very hard to find them.
Authors – have you got a title a year or more old that could do with a little love?
Readers – have you got a favourite book that you think deserves some attention? Message or email me and we’ll set something up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My guest this week is R J Scott and I want to show a little love for her backlist title The Gallows Tree. This is a gentle romance with an American adrift in the green peace of England, an historic house in need of restoration and a creepy paranormal twist. Great fun with a few little chills.

Blurb:

Cody Garret is only just finding his way after an abusive relationship ended with his ex in prison. Coming to England to restore Mill Cottage is his way of running so he has time to heal. His goal is simple-hire a company to help make the mill cottage saleable then go back to the States.

What he doesn’t count on is meeting Sebastian Toulson-Brown, the brother of his contractor and the man who may be able to show him he can stop running.

But first Cody and Sebastian must deal with the ghosts of lost loves and the destinies that are woven into the story of the mill and the sycamore trees that stand on its land, one of which might be the gallows tree.

Excerpt:

Lower Ferrers. Please drive carefully.

A big speed sign with a 30 in the middle and another warning for horses sat directly under, and he immediately lifted his foot off the gas until he was driving at more like half what the limit was. He wanted to remember every image of the next few minutes of his life. He had finally arrived at the place his mom’s gran, his own great-gran, had left at the end of the war as a Yankee bride. The long curve of the road ran through dense trees that formed an arch of fall golds and browns over his head, and then suddenly, the village was laid out in front of him.

He couldn’t just drive in. He needed to stop and think about this final step. What if this was all wrong? This could be the worst decision of his life. What the hell did he know about renovation? He indicated and pulled off to the side of the road just past the signs and onto a widening in the narrow road next to a gate into fields. This was the England his great-gran had spoken about.

The village was stunning. Beautiful. Old houses with crooked roof lines staggered drunkenly up the road all built in a soft weathered brown and gray stone. Each had a chimney and seemingly randomly placed windows. Cody counted six of these cottage-style houses and above them the top of twisted chimneys on a far grander building. Great oaks and sycamore trees, now with leaves of fall gold and red, towered over the cottages and the twisting road that followed their path upwards. Cody listed adjectives in his head. This was much better than green. This was an idyllic, picture-postcard place, and it was everything he had ever been told about this English village. On the opposite side of the road was a larger dwelling, and he saw the sign outside that proclaimed it as the Ferrers’ Arms.

The inn with the slate roof was where he was staying with an open-ended booking. He didn’t know how long his stay would be. It could be a month or it could be the full six months. When he moved on depended on so many factors, not least of which was having somewhere to move to. He had a strange feeling inside, and he realized it was a sudden and renewed sense of enthusiasm.

Panic and fear still clung tight in his chest, but his breathing was steady, and the sounds of the village—sheep in the field, horses, birds—and the perfect stillness of the fall sky was utter peace. He closed his eyes and breathed deep. One minute he had been on the highway to hell, and within an hour, he was in the quiet and calm of a village that had been here for centuries. What was it people said? Stepping back in time or something like that. Standing here it certainly felt like he was entering another world.

Was it possible that by his arrival here in the village where his family had roots he was taking a controlled step away from his past rather than running blindly?

The Gallows Tree

Bio:

My goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.

I’ve has been writing since age six, when I was made to stay in at lunchtime for an infraction involving cookies and the mixing bowl. You can’t tell a six year old not to lick the bowl!

I was told to write a story and two sides of paper about a trapped princess later, a lover of writing was born.

As an avid reader myself, I can be found reading anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror. However, my first real true love will always be the world of romance. I love my cowboys, bodyguards, firemen and billionaires (to name a few) and love to write dramatic and romantic stories of love and passion between these men. (Yum)

With over 90 titles to my name and counting, I am the author of the award winning book, The Christmas Throwaway, which was All Romance Ebooks best selling title of 2010.

I’m also known for the Texas series charting the lives of Riley and Jack, and the Sanctuary series following the work of the Sanctuary Foundation and the people it protects.

I’m always so thrilled to hear from readers, bloggers and other writers. Please contact via the following links below:

Email RJ (rj@rjscott.co.uk) | Goodreads Page | RJ’s Blog | RJ on Twitter | Facebook
Library Thing Page | Tumblr (some NSFW (not safe for work) photos) | Pinterest

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Sometimes it’s really worth checking out backlists. There are some marvellous books out there but with hundreds of new titles every week it can be very hard to find them.
Authors – have you got a title a year or more old that could do with a little love?
Readers – have you got a favourite book that you think deserves some attention? Message or email me and we’ll set something up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My choice this week is the terrific magical steam punk novel, Mongrel by K Z Snow. It has everything – a well realised yet eerie world peopled with characters of surpassing oddness and plot, so much plot. Even the most sympathetic inhabitants of this world have flaws, even the most unpleasant have hidden depths. And the language – oh wow. I loved it to bits and, best of all, it’s the first of a series that are now being issued as a bundle. Really worth a go.

Blurb:

Hunzinger’s Mechanical Circus, a rollicking seaside carnival where imagination meets machinery, shines as the only bright spot in the dreary city of Purinton. A shadow is cast there one day when a tall, cloaked figure approaches the stand of Will Marchman, a young patent-medicine salesman. Fanule Perfidor, commonly known as the Dog King, isn’t welcome at the Circus. No resident of Taintwell is; they’re all Branded Mongrels, officially shunned. But Will is beguiled by the stunning, mysterious Perfidor. Their mutual wariness soon gives way to desire, and a bond forms.Soon the naive but plucky pitchman becomes embroiled in a dangerous quest. Fanule suspects Alphonse Hunzinger and Purinton’s civic leaders are responsible for the disappearance or incarceration of countless Branded Mongrels. But why? As Will’s passion and regard for his tormented lover grow, he’s determined to help Fanule get answers and prevent any further persecution… or worse. They just have to stay together-and stay alive long enough-to see their plan through.

Excerpt:

CLOUDS the color of soiled wool and urine threaded past a gibbous moon. The atmosphere may have produced them but the city had tinted them.

For Fanule Perfidor, the city was too close. Lying just to the west, that packed jumble of flaking bricks, weathered clapboards, and belching chimneys was a gritty distraction. Fanule sensed the pulse of life there. When the mania seized him, as it had tonight, he craved the city’s humid crush of bodies, the revelry that made them sweat and steam.

Wind slithered in from the sea and caught Fanule’s cloak, turning it, he imagined, into a black sail fluttering on a sturdy mast. He was a ghost ship plying moonlit seas and portending doom. He was at the mercy of the wind yet he was one with the wind.

He was a freak of nature and a force of nature. Perfidor, the Dog King. The epithet and the image it conjured made him laugh aloud.

The air’s agitation suited his mood. He strode rather than strolled down the boardwalk, his boot heels thudding with satisfying aggression on the planks. The crowd had thinned, but the remaining visitors made a wide berth around Fanule. Their aversion both amused and annoyed him. He considered sucking the light from the white globes atop the lampposts, just to see the silly humans’ reactions.

No, no, no. Can’t play. Must stay on task. Gods, look at that man’s legs; they could bind a body better than tarred rope! And then… no, must stay on task. But where to start? Where, where, where?

Fanule’s gaze darted along the overdone facades of the buildings he passed, all strung together like a lineup of gaudy, aging whores. Colorful pennants snapped above their roofs. How absurd to have elaborate cornices and quatrefoil windows, little gargoyles and square cupolas on structures so squat, so grayed by the hammering salt of sea spray. But, he supposed, fancy was the stuff of Hunzinger’s Mechanical Circus, the permanent carnival that stretched along and beyond the boardwalk and included whatever attractions were tucked behind those fancy fronts.

Look at the signs; look past the blazing and burnt-out bulbs and read the signs.

You can find the bundle here. K Z Snow can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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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

Blurb:

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.

Excerpt:

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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Happy St Dwynwen’s Day! Also known as National Cwtch Day in this neck of the woods so today I’ve decided to offer cwtches to some authors who have brightened my week.

New books in the offing from K J Charles [Jackdaw will be available from Samhain on 17th February], Alex Beecroft [Trowchester Blues will be availale from Riptide on 9th February] and Sue Brown [there are lots so watch this space] and Dorien Grey is having all his old Dick Hardesty mysteries rejigged and released anew over the next year or so.

But today I want to squee a bit about a new series, kicked off in fine style with Restless Spirits by Jordan L Hawke.

This book is genuinely scary – for my tolerance of scariness – with masses of plot and a slow burn romance. I think it’s set in the Widdershin’s universe but has a different set up, the business of the protagonists being the careful guiding of the spirits of the dead from post-death limbo to the afterlife. Ghosts are REAL, and potentially dangerous, so ghost hunter is a profession that is regarded, if not highly, as essential.

Henry Strauss is the first protagonist – an earnest young scientific type of a progressive turn of mind. Despite being thrown into poverty by a fraudulent psychic, he has taken in his cousin, a young woman of colour [one of my favourite characters], which has put him at odds with the rest of his family. She assists him with his experiments to build a machine capable of catching and dismissing ghosts. He has absolutely no time for pyschics, all of whom he regards as fakes, and is desperate to prove that science is the way to go. Offered a substantial sum of money to prove the worth of his machinery he accepts the invitation of a millionaire to exorcise a haunted house. The only problem is that he will be competing with a ‘genuine’ psychic, Vincent Night. Vincent is a very troubled young man due to a terrible event in his recent past, with a whole bunch of secrets and an immediate attraction to Henry.

There’s a good cast of supporting characters – Gladfield the millionaire, his niece, Elizabeth, Vincent’s partner – offering tensions between male and female, divisions of class and race and, of course, the pervasive sense of self righteousness felt by the straight and narrow for those of a different orientation in that Victorian age. The author doesn’t spare us any of the verbal nastiness of which people of that time were capable, and I applaud her for that, while wincing at the terms used.There’s a lot of discussion about updating historicals so that the horrors of the past don’t appear on the page, and it’s very tempting to give ones historical heroes a modern and politically correct mindset and turn of phrase, but then you wouldn’t be writing historicals. I don’t know what you’d call it? Historical Fantasy? Anyhow, this strikes the right note with me in that while the sentiments are expressed, we are left in no doubt that they are repugnant and should not have been said.

The romance is edgy – Henry is very deep in the closet and Vincent, while freer, knows he has to be careful, plus they are very much on opposite sides until put in a position where they have to join forces. As I’ve said the scary bits are scary, the antagonists – and just about everyone is an antagonist at some point – pose believable threats within the context of the world.

I loved it and can’t wait until the next instalment. Highly recommended.

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