All posts by Jayne Lockwood

10Feb/19

Contact (A New World, Book One) by M. D. Neu

There were a lot of expectations I had heaped on this book, mainly because my favourite sci-fi of all time (even trumping Close Encounters) is Contact, with Jodie Foster. And I KNOW that is really unfair, but once lodged, it couldn’t be shifted, so I turned my gimlet gaze on this book thinking “this has better be good.”

Well, reader, I was not disappointed. It was a bold move to start with the alien POV, but it turns out they aren’t all that different from us, with similar thoughts and emotions, and cute pets to cuddle when they are feeling down. But don’t let that put you off. Their rituals, expectations, way of talking and manners are very alien, as are their names and clothing. The author has taken a lot of trouble to build their world from the tiniest details (drinking tuma, and the name for the pet as a youngster) to the major issues. There IS a glossary at the back, and usually I wish the author had drawn attention to it earlier, but actually, I didn’t need it. The writing makes it clear enough, without long drawn-out explanations, but the Glossary is a good reference.

Then we have the humans, Todd and his husband Jerry, and their uber-camp friend, Dan. I found Dan a bit irritating at first but I really warmed to him when disaster strikes. Todd has a heads-up that alien craft are approaching the planet but he can’t tell anyone. Even his husband, Jerry, doesn’t believe him. The author captures how they deal with having to keep quiet, as well as their everyday existence as a gay couple, brilliantly.

So with the characters established, the author sets about telling the story from the human and the alien point of view. Humans are dealing with their own problems: rising bigotry and world unrest, environmental issues, overpopulation. And the Nentraee, who are homeless due to the destruction of their world and running out of resources, need somewhere to settle their remaining population. Naturally, the humans have something to say about that when the Nentraee make tentative contact with

To the Nentraee, humans are an odd race who don’t appreciate the beauty of the world they live in. And to the humans, the Nentraee are patronising, preachy and want to wipe them all out. There is mutual distrust as both sides slowly learn about each other, but after a terrible event, Todd is the one who ends up being the link between the two races, a role he feels unprepared for.

This was a very human story as well as an alien one. Todd and Jerry have to deal with homophobia on a daily basis. It even gets in the way of negotiations with the Nentraee, something the aliens find incomprehensible. The aliens also have complex and close family units and social delicacies. I hope we find out more about how they became such an itinerant race and what happened to their original planet.

There are also self-serving politicians, an indictment of American society at the moment and a study of how we would look to extraterrestrial visitors. It isn’t any surprise they view us with some suspicion.

So a great start to the New World Series, with solid character development, appealing characters on both the human and Nentraee sides, and the potential for things to get really messy in the future. I’m looking forward to the next one!

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A little blue world, the third planet from the sun. It’s home to 7 billion people with all manner of faiths, beliefs and customs, divided by bigotry and misunderstanding, who will soon be told they are not alone in the universe. Anyone watching from the outside would pass by this fractured and tumultuous world, unless they had no other choice. Todd Landon is one of these people, living and working in a section of the world called the United States of America. His life is similar to those around him: home, family, work, friends and a husband. 

On the cusp of the greatest announcement humankind has ever witnessed, Todd’s personal world is thrown into turmoil when his estranged brother shows up on his front porch with news of ships heading for Earth’s orbit. The ships are holding the Nentraee, a humanoid race who have come to Earth in need of help after fleeing the destruction of their homeworld. How will one man bridge the gap for both the Humans and Nentraee, amongst mistrust, terrorist attacks and personal loss? Will this be the start of a new age of man or will bigotry and miscommunication bring this small world to its knees and final end? 

28Jan/19

Power Surge by Sara Codair

Sara Codair was one of our lovely guests recently on WROTE. To find out more about them and find links to their work, check out Episode 194: Yeah That Happens!

Power Surge is Part 1 of the Evanstar Chronicles. Erin has a lot on their plate. Having recently come off meds for ADHD, they they think the visions they are experiencing are due to mental health problems. From being stalked by a sinister demon, to seeing fairies and pixies flitting in front of them, it isn’t surprising they think they are slowly going insane. Added to that, they are dealing with unfamiliar feelings for Jose, a childhood friend who has now become more than just a good friend, and at night they are haunted by nightmares. Also, there is the issue of being non-binary in a college full of jocks and prom queens, most of whom dismiss Erin as an ugly nobody, and family issues as well, as their previously close-knit family seems to be falling apart.

So it’s a lot to take in. Understandably, there’s a lot of description as at first, as we need to see inside Erin’s head to understand what they are going through. The balance of dialogue and prose is a little uneven, giving the story a slightly confusing start and this did mean my attention strayed a little, trying to grasp all these different conundrums and elements of Erin’s character. Having said that, the writing was incredibly good, and I really felt Erin’s dilemma as a young person trying to deal with the real world as well as what they assume is incipient madness.

The scene where they find out they are not alone, and Jose is right there with them, also seeing visions, is the best in the book in my opinion. I really felt their relief and joy. Until then, they had been keeping Jose at arm’s length, not wanting to inflict their problems onto him. They had been dealing with the bitchy girls in their social group, and feelings of isolation, so that scene was a wonderful moment.

There were also some gorgeous warm scenes with Erin’s family, and some really terrifying ones when the demons reveal themselves. Power Surge is a melting pot of young people’s issues, dealing with mental health, bullying, gender identity, family crises, superheroes who cannot fly and saving the world from imminent disaster.

Okay, so I didn’t connect with the book as much as I wanted to, mainly due to trying to process all these aspects whilst my brain was fried from dealing with Christmas, but that isn’t the author’s fault. This is a solid story of good v. evil, told by a narrator with vary real issues in a strange, creepy and sometimes beautiful world.

Finally, two things. First, the way they deal with mental health, not demonising it, but acknowledging it can really ruin a persons’ life, is brilliant and unafraid to say “look, this is just how it is sometimes, and it sucks.”

And second, the pronouns weren’t even an issue. Erin is non-binary, and the them/their pronouns sounded as natural as she/her or he/him do in 99.9 percent of fiction, This is an #ownvoices author who deserves recognition from readers of all genders.

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Erin has just realized that for the entirety of their life, their family has lied to them. Their Sight has been masked for years, so Erin thought the Pixies and Mermaids were hallucinations. Not only are the supernatural creatures they see daily real, but their grandmother is an Elf, meaning Erin isn’t fully human. On top of that, the dreams Erin thought were nightmares are actually prophecies.

While dealing with the anger they have over all of the lies, they are getting used to their new boyfriend, their boyfriend’s bullying ex, and the fact that they come from a family of Demon Hunters. As Erin struggles through everything weighing on them, they uncover a Demon plot to take over the world.

Erin just wants some time to work through it all on their own terms, but that’s going to have to wait until after they help save the world.


24Jan/19

I Am The Storm by Tash McAdam

Tash McAdam was with us very recently on WROTE. To find out more about them and their work, check out Episode 197: Cassius Is Screaming!

This book is a rewrite of a previous book, SLAM, but as there is 60% new material, it really is a fresh start. I Am The Storm is Part 1 of the The Psionics series.

Part 1, I Am The Storm, is a tense game of cat and mouse as Sam, a Psionic who can control technology with his mind, has to go on the run to avoid being captured by the Institute, who want to harness his skill. He is also being chased by a resistance soldier, Serena, who needs him to help overthrow the Institute’s monopoly over the city.

When they finally meet and realise they are on the same side, we begin to see the human side of the characters, and that was when I really began to connect with them. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it beforehand. The book is extremely well-written, and the author knows how to play the tension and choreograph incredibly plausible and fast-paced action scenes.

But it isn’t all about the action. There are also some searing scenes of heartbreaking intimacy too, but I can’t say more than that without adding spoilers. The scenes at the Wall were incredible. I was sitting in a coffee shop reading this and honestly, every sound was drowned because I was so involved in the book. That’s an awesome talent, and those scenes alone were enough for me to decide this is definitely a YA author worth watching. It bodes well for the next book in the series. The ending is satisfying, with enough of a cliff-hanger to lead the story on but not so much that you want to scream for more straight away.

Only a few quibbles, the main one being I wasn’t fully engaged in the beginning and I’m still not sure why. I think it was because of the amount of tell rather than show, which can get in the way when a character is running for their life. Another was the slightly odd way the characters used the word “Google” in the way we would usually say “God.” Ie., Thank Google for that. I get that Google is the new God in this rain-drenched, Dystopian world (isn’t it already?) but it just took me out of the scene for a nano-second each time. I think that’s a personal preference though, and shouldn’t reflect badly on the quality of the writing.

Finally, the world-building is great, convincing and bleak, and the plot doesn’t flinch from difficult issues (death, mainly) and crucially, doesn’t try to be “down with the kids.” This is an intelligent novel, and a really strong start to a fast-paced YA sci-fi series.

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Keep your head down. Don’t look anyone in the eye. Never even think about technology if one of those ghostly, grey cars is sliding silently down the road. They’ll see the thoughts inside you, if you let them. 

Sam’s a technopath, able to control electronic signals and manipulate technology with his mind. And so, ever since childhood, his life has been a carefully constructed web of lies, meant to keep his Talent hidden, his powers a secret. But the Institute wants those unusual powers, and will do anything to get a hold of him and turn him into one of their mindless slaves. 

Sam slips up once. Just once, but that’s enough. Now the Institute is after him in full force. Soldiers, telekinetics and mind readers, all gunning just for him. 

Newly qualified rebel soldier, Serena, doesn’t even know she’s chasing a person, all she knows is that she has to find whatever the Institute is after before they do. But, tracking an unknown entity through an unfamiliar city, with inaccurate intelligence, unexpected storms, and the Watch on the prowl, will she even survive? Will she get to Sam before the Institute does? His special skills could provide the resistance with an incredible advantage, but not if they can’t get out of the city, and over the huge wall that stands between them and freedom. 

I AM THE STORM is the action-packed rewrite of SLAM, with 60% new material and a brand new ending. Don’t miss Book One in what is now a four part series, due in 2018. 

21Jan/19

Aesop Lake by Sarah Leigh Ward

Sarah Leigh Ward is one of our lovely featured writers. You can find her episode and discover more about her work in Episode 193: Finding Your Tribe!

I had a shaky start with this book, but in the end I loved it. This book is needed in every library in every state, in every county, in every country. End of. The use of Aesop’s fables in the chapter heads and the beginning let the reader know right from the start this is a morality story, and one that accepts that morality isn’t a case of black and white, but various shades in between.

Teens and adults will like the way the story gets to the point without going through laborious details of trials and somber navel-gazing. The story was compact, concise and said a huge amount in not a huge amount of words. (200 pages.)

Aesop Lake isn’t an easy read at first, as the hate crime committed against a gay couple minding their own business is horrific, and the ugly beliefs, exacerbated by holier-than-thou attitudes, are searingly unpleasant.

BUT

The story is told from two points of view. First, Leda. She is the girlfriend of domineering bully David, who instigated the attack, and at first she stands up for him, lying to cover up what he has done. Then we find out David has threatened Leda to keep her quiet, by saying he would expose her mother as a drug-dealer.

Jonathan is one half of the gay couple who were attacked. His boyfriend, Ricky, is unconscious in hospital, too traumatised to respond to anyone. Jonathan harbours festering resentment at his small town’s attitude towards the crime, but feels as if he has no one to turn to for help.

I was prepared to hate Leda at first. She couldn’t seem to see how terrible the situation was and to get away from it, she takes a summer job away from her home town. As the story unfolds it becomes clear she is in an abusive relationship with David, and she wants to tell the truth even if it means her mother going to prison. Away from the constrictive confines of her town, she is able to see a bigger picture.

Yes, there was a big chunk of coincidence when Jonathan turns up at the lake as the son of a friend of the people Leda is working for, but their relationship, from distrust, suspicion and dismay to growing friendship is wonderful to read. The author isn’t afraid to make Leda weak and scared, but she also gives her a backbone which she finds away from her revolting boyfriend, making her see how badly he had treated her, and how badly she has behaved as a result.

And Jonathan realises he does have friends and support in unlikely places. It really is a novel about coming of age, of small town “values” and school politics. There’s such a lot in a relatively quick yet powerful read. Some may find it slightly preachy in places, but if they do, maybe they should question why. For me, the book had a lovely feel-good ending from such unpromising beginnings, and a message we should all be aware and take notice of.

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Seventeen-year-old Leda Keogh is present when her boyfriend, David, commits a hate crime against a gay couple at the town reservoir on a warm May night. When David threatens to narc on her mother’s drug dealing if Leda confesses to what she’s seen, Leda tries to escape the consequences, by taking a summer job out of town.

Jonathan Eales is one of the victims. When he and his boyfriend, Ricky, are caught skinny dipping by two high school thugs, Jonathan manages to swim out of reach, but watches in horror as Ricky is severely beaten.

Jonathan wants to fight back, but fears the small rural community, where he is an outsider, will protect their own.Two voices weave a coming-of-age story that confronts diversity and bullying in rural America.

03Jan/19

Finding Aurora by Rebecca Langham

I love re-imagined fairytales, so when I was given the opportunity to read this, it was with great anticipation. It’s a shame when expectations aren’t met, but I wasn’t disappointed. The author knows how to command a shorter story and make it count. The very issues I struggled with in her longer novel, Beneath The Surface, (mainly the dizzying amount of detail) have been tempered slightly, resulting in a far more balanced, assured read. Every word counts, and the result is like a cardinal finch, a flash of red, dazzling and gorgeous, then it’s gone. At approximately 25,000 words it isn’t a chunky read, but one with depth and character.

It’s hard to review this without giving anything away, but the real love affair is hiding in plain sight as Prince Amir ventures on his quest to rescue the slumbering Aurora. There’s a tense battle scene, some hideous monsters, loss and grief, as well as a gorgeous denouement as love conquers all (that isn’t a spoiler – we all know the story of Sleeping Beauty, after all.) In one word: delicious.

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Aurora Rose slumbers in the city of Oldpass, a cursed kingdom once allied with Grimvein. The victim of a malicious spell, she is powerless to control her own fate. At least, that’s how the story goes.

Now, as Grimvein faces attack, Prince Amir has been tasked with the life-threatening rescue of Aurora, his parents hopeful he will marry the princess and secure safety for their kingdom. Talia, the strongest spellcaster in the known lands, protects and guides the prince in his quest to save a woman that threatens to change their lives forever. 

In finding Aurora, the pair will realise the truth about themselves and each other, coming to understand just what – and who – they really want in life. 

03Jan/19

The Swap by Annabella Michaels

This is enjoyable fluff, in places so sweet it made my teeth hurt. It’s like playing Chubby Bunnies with giant marshmallows. You get the idea. At first it seemed to be a straightforward romance, with a het couple mutually agreeing to split and support each other whilst finding fulfilment with other romantic partners. That would have been a great story in itself, with the inevitable pitfalls, misunderstandings, jealousies, etc., but the story didn’t quite go where I was expecting.

Sam is bisexual, but had married a childhood friend after getting her pregnant. Now they’ve realised their love is, and has always been, platonic, so they decide to split. Their college-age daughter takes it rather well, considering she then has to process the fact that her father’s new romance is male, after a lifetime of assuming her parents were locked in loving heterosexual matrimony. Again, the story didn’t go where I was expecting.

So the couple go to a “swap party” which wasn’t really one, as everyone seemed to have their eye on someone else before they put their keys in the bowl. Sam spots Oliver, sassy supermodel, highly successful. They eye-fuck each other whilst Sam is actually having sex with another woman, and get together after that. And they say romance is dead.

Sam and Oliver’s relationship develops quickly. I have nothing against insta-love whatsoever, but I sensed this was a book trying to be a bit more than a frivolous romance, and for me it didn’t quite fit. Still, the sexy scenes were well-written and pretty hot, so it was easy to not ask too many questions of the plot.

Again, this would have been enough, with all the complications that arise from having a super-successful, much younger lover and Sam working through his newfound bi status. At times I felt like saying to them, “I get it, you adore each other. Enough already,” but I want to stress the author did a great job of emphasising that Sam had not just gone “gay for you” or “straight to gay” but was indeed bisexual, and I could feel how important it was to make that distinction.

Where I felt the story was weakest, was in the conflict. A serial killer plot had been shoehorned in about half-way through the book and it just wasn’t necessary. There was a disconnect between that and the rest of the plot, with too much tell at the end and not enough show. It struck a tone-deaf note in what was otherwise a solid erotic romance, albeit one with rather too much navel-gazing on behalf of the protagonists.

Otherwise, The Swap was an easy read, somewhat lumpy in places, with lots of sex (yeah, some of it seemed unnecessary but it was finely done so …) and two likeable main characters. Oliver seemed just a little too good to be true, but I was in the mood to read about nice people, so right now I’ll count that as a win.

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When their daughter goes off to college, Samuel and his wife Gayle begin to take stock of their lives. Realizing they’re best friends and not in love with one another, the two agree to an amicable split. Nervous about jumping back into the dating world, they accept a friend’s invitation to attend a swap party. 

Tossing their keys into a bowl and leaving it up to fate to decide who they’re paired with is too tempting to resist. But when Samuel is faced with an audacious young man who strikes up a conversation, the attraction to men he’s kept buried for so long comes rushing back. 

At twenty-two years old, Oliver Hughes is one of the most sought after male models in the world. Sassy and bold, with a penchant for wearing high heels and a touch of makeup, Oliver’s life is what he always dreamed it could be. Except for one thing… 

Yearning to fall in love and settle down, Oliver’s grown bored of meaningless hookups with shallow, fame seeking guys. While attending a swap party, his last-ditch effort to find someone who doesn’t know who he is when they meet, Oliver finds himself drawn to a handsome, older man. One who’s endearingly unaware of his own appeal. 

As their relationship grows, something sinister and dark threatens what they’ve managed to build. What will it take for Oliver and Samuel to survive, and is their happily ever after doomed from the start? 

10Dec/18

The Taliesin Affair by Steve Turnbull

The Taliesin Affair is an interesting book, a mix of whodunnit, social history and steampunk, a genre I haven’t read before.

I wasn’t convinced at first. The main protagonist, Maliha Anderson, seemed a remote and cold figure, which didn’t bode well when she was the driving force of the plot. But as the story progressed, I began to respect her more. She is of mixed race, with a daily struggle against prejudice and snobbery, and that had given her a hard shell to protect herself. She is also highly intelligent. We see the thoughts going through her head as she tries to unravel the mystery of the body in the library. The victim is a bully who has given Mahila grief in the past, so she isn’t sad about her demise. This is understandable, but Mahila seems unable to show any emotion at all, which led me to believe maybe I had missed a crucial part of her character.

She is ably assisted by a much warmer friend, Margaret, inexplicably known as Sadie, who smoothes Mahila’s path through the social minefield. There is always a danger when major characters have code names and suchlike, as it makes a complex plot sometimes harder to follow. It helps that Margaret (Sadie) has to be reminded from time to time that she is working undercover. She’s a perfect foil to the serious Mahila, and provides a welcome lightness of tone.

There is a subtle humour running through the book, so subtle sometimes I wondered if I was imagining it. As a whodunnit, with definite Agatha Christie undertones and a social commentary, it is an excellent read. Glad to see the women taking charge for a change, and for the author not to fall into the trap of so many stories about privileged boarding schools. I couldn’t find a single overdone stereotype. Mahila’s interest in machinery was an intriguing element as well, and could have been used more in relation to the plot, rather than just providing interesting scenery.

So although I found the main character hard to identify with, The Taliesin Affair was an enjoyable and ambitious read, and an interesting addition to the crime genre. Worth noting the lesbian romance running in the background, handled with grace and dignity.

Beautiful cover as well.

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Boarding school can be hell – sometimes it can be MURDER

So far from her home in India, Maliha Anderson did not enjoy life in her British boarding school, but discovering the school bully murdered certainly made it more interesting.

And when the police chose the wrong person as the most likely suspect, Maliha decides to investigate and reveal the true culprit.

But, as the bodies mount up, the murder becomes a plot, and the plot becomes a conspiracy aimed at the heart of the British Empire.

When Maliha herself comes under suspicion, she realises her only chance lies in a dangerous gambit that risks the lives of herself and the people she’s come to know.

This is Maliha Anderson’s first case but can be read at any point in the series (except perhaps between books 5 and 6).

10Dec/18

The Golden One – Blooming by Hans M Hirschi

Blooming is the first book in the The Golden One trilogy, and gives the series a strong start. I’ve previously read Disease, and wasn’t sure what the author would give to an overcrowded fantasy genre filled with shapeshifters. Disease was a very different book – definitely worth a read, about a pretty gruelling subject.

Blooming is a book with a salutary warning, although it stops short of bashing the reader around the head with its message about human impact on the planet. And that’s why I enjoyed it. At no point I felt as if I were being lectured to, even though the message was clear. Big corporations have a responsibility not only to their shareholders but to the people affected by their activities, not only within their company, but in the wider world.

To reflect this, Hirschi has taken a group of teenagers and given them varying degrees of shapeshifting powers, controlled by the Ohana, The blurb describes it far better than I can so I’ll leave it there. Read it. It’s worth it.

Some members of the Ohana have a conflict of interest, but Mother Nature has also created the ultimate weapon in her arsenal, a golden butterfly with huge powers of persuasion. This time, it is the turn of Jason Mendez, an all-round nice guy who looks after his mother and doesn’t think his life will be very exciting at all, until he is told differently.

Then he realises he can talk to animals, and that’s where the story really took off for me. It was so enjoyable to read, within the bounds of a book written for older teenagers, yet devoid of the teen-speak that a lot of YA authors employ to connect with their readership. No patronising, no trying to get “down with the kids.” This is an intelligent book for discerning readers of any age, who love fantasy and remember the golden age of Spielberg and his epic stories of kids against “the man.”

Jason was extremely likeable. Not perfect, but that was good. It added angst at the responsibility thrust on his shoulders, and showed his character develop as he realised he had to make some important life decisions. His mother was also a great, believable character, with real-life problems many would identify with. There was a possible romance in the offing, and great friendships between people who, on the face of it, had nothing in common.

The ending was also a surprise, being unpredictable, and led neatly to the next book. No cliffhanger, which I liked, just a good, solid, rounded story which took time to introduce the reader to the characters and understand their world.

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Earth is threatened by humankind. A long time ago, in an effort to help protect her creation, Mother Nature created the Ohana, a worldwide league of shapeshifters, to restore and maintain the natural balance. During particularly troublesome times, she deployed her ultimate defense, a delicate yet powerful golden butterfly, to change the odds in nature’s favor.

Blooming is the first book in the trilogy about Jason Mendez, a seventeen-year-old living a normal teenage life in a small town in the American Midwest. One day, Jason’s world is turned upside down when he realizes the dream he had the night before was in fact reality and that he was flying through a nearby meadow.

Jason is the Golden One, called upon to avert a major crisis threatening Earth. With no golden butterfly sighted since the final days of World War II, will Jason be able to walk in his predecessors’ shoes? Will he be able to replicate their historic achievements and save the planet from all but certain disaster? And what exactly is threatening Mother Nature to call upon the Golden One?

The Golden One is an exciting new fantasy trilogy dealing with urgent topics affecting humanity today.

12Nov/18

Earthly Pleasures by Sera Trevor

 

Sera Trevor was a lovely recent guest on our show. To find out more about her and get links to her work, check out Episode 185: Ugh Reality!

There are some books you feel comfortable with right away. After the first page I knew this book and I would get along just fine. It was something indefinable, accessibility to an author’s writing or put another way, this seemed a friendly, approachable book. It welcomes the reader in and assures them that a good story is about to be told.

Prince Paurick is a bit a tool, to be honest. He’s reckless, spoiled, libidinous and vain, with little sense of duty. When he has to be joined with an acolyte to an all-powerful Goddess, to ensure his family’s royal lineage and bring fertility back to a starving land, he does it ungraciously. The monk isn’t to his taste at all, swarthy, shy fellow who he finds desperately unprepossessing.

Brother Laurel is loyal to the Goddess and will do his duty whatever it takes, but he doesn’t have to like it. After Paurick’s unflattering response to him, he just wants to get it over with, but the machinations of the Goddess and his own feelings complicate matters, especially when he finds he is enjoying the luxury the Prince takes for granted.

So that’s the premise, and it’s told with humour, wit and sparky dialogue. Laurel is sweet, and has a bit more about him than his subservient manner would first suggest. There are some comic moments, but also an underlying theme of the damage caused by brainwashing by cults, greed and duty over love. I thought the pace of the story was terrific and not once did I feel the story flagged. It was a joy to read, with Laurel being a perfect foil for the profligate Paurick. Their burgeoning relationship was sweet, the love scenes and language used within them helping to create the atmosphere. It’s a magical kingdom where the prince had to sleep with someone he doesn’t like in order to appease a power-hungry regime, but written with flair and comic timing so it never felt dark and gloomy.

This was a book I could sit back and enjoy, knowing that nothing truly nasty would happen. A bit of angst, some hot sex between two lusty lads, and a feel-good plot verging on the ridiculous (although this isn’t the first time I’ve read a book with magical bodily fluids) and this was a huge amount of fun. It’s well-written too, with a knowing glint in the author’s eye. Yes, I could see where she was coming from with this. I’d definitely read another book by Ms. Trevor.

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Prince Paurick is a hedonistic degenerate—or at least that’s what his father and the rest of the royal family thinks of him, and he’s happy to live down to their expectations.

But when the crops of their kingdom start failing, the king commands that Paurick be joined to Brother Laurel, a monk, in order to combine Paurick’s royal magic with that of the Goddess, and thus bring fertility back to the land.

The union is only meant to be temporary, but Brother Laurel is so ugly and prudish that it might as well be an eternity. However, as they get to know one another, Paurick realizes he has misjudged Laurel and finds himself falling for the thoughtful and sensitive young man.

The fate of the kingdom relies on their sexual union, but as time goes on, it becomes clear that the fate of their hearts is in jeopardy as well.

 

02Nov/18

The Rotten Rancher by Frank W. Butterfield

Frank W. Butterfield was recently a returning guest on WROTE. This prodigious writer has a new novel out, but to find out more about him and get links to all his works, check out Episode 187: My Gay Perry Mason

I rather like this engaging series, with lovable millionaire PI Nick Williams and his hunky sidekick, Carter. Set in the 1950’s, they battle prejudice and bigotry whilst people from all walks of life try to kill them. And despite this, they seem to maintain a surprisingly upbeat approach to life. Of course, money helps, which means Nick really doesn’t give a screw, but he’s a lovely, generous fellow for all that.

The sixteenth book in the series, The Rotten Rancher, reeks of 1950’s America. I was expecting cowboy boots and lariats, but it isn’t quite like that. I can almost smell the gasoline and leather of Nick and Carter’s massive and impractical soft-top as they cruise down Highway 1 to spend some time on the coast, in Nick’s father’s ultra-modern (for the time) cliff top home. You just know it won’t end well.

For a book with a twisty plot, I would have appreciated a bit less tell and and a bit more show. There’s lots of dialogue and some of it kind of gets in the way, causing me to backtrack to remind myself what just happened. That’s really my only niggle.

I can’t fault any of the characters. They were all drawn really well. For a book with a lot of characters, they all seemed relevant and all had a part to play. There was a good sense of atmosphere, sometimes really suspenseful, other times cringeworthy (when one of the characters was spouting their hate, I really wanted to slap them.) The story could also have worked well as a ghost story, and there was a bit of that at the end, which I found slightly confusing when it didn’t seem to go anywhere.

In the end, the book is popcorn entertainment with bite, not shying away from the serious issues of the time (and of now, sadly.) Yes, the plot and dialogue could have been tightened up, which would have given the action a bit more impact, but it was a fun read. Listen to Duayne Eddy when reading it to really get into the mood!

BLURB

Friday, November 11, 1955

It’s Veteran’s Day, and a gorgeous one at that. Parades of flying flags and grizzled old soldiers marching to the tunes of John Philip Souza are definitely in the works.

Meanwhile, Nick and Carter are heading south on Highway 1 for a relaxing week down in Big Sur, just south of beautiful Carmel-By-The-Sea. They’ll be staying at the home of one Dr. Parnell Williams, Nick’s father. It’s a modern sort of thing, made of wood and glass, and perched right on the cliff’s edge with dramatic views of the ocean and the incoming banks of fog.

But when the power goes out late at night and the newly-installed generator kicks on, it’s not long before Carter is dragging a bewildered Nick to the front door because, it turns out, someone intentionally disconnected the vent and the house quickly fills up with deadly carbon monoxide.

As they search for their would-be murderer, Nick and Carter quickly discover all sorts of secrets, hidden away among the verdant valleys and stands of Monterey pines. Secrets that go back twenty years, or more, and stories of wild times that would deeply shock the gawking tourists from Topeka and Des Moines, if they only knew.

Will Nick and Carter uncover the killer before he, or she, strikes again?

To find out, jump into the nearest convertible and follow the narrow, twisting highway that takes you through the land of towering, ancient redwoods and mountains that crash into the bright, blue ocean below.

It’s gonna be a wild ride!