September Book Reviews

A bird chose to plant a sunflower in our gutter… and yes, that is dead ivy, killed prior to getting rid of it!

The superb

Hidden Wolves by Kaje Harper (series)*****   Unacceptable Risk (volume one) introduces a really well developed werewolf world. Bought the sequel Unexpected demands as soon as I finished and found it  just as good. Thrilled to find there were a further four to go!!  Unwanted Appeal is a novella, Unjustified Claims, Unsafe Exposure, Undeniable Bonds are all full novels. All five star. There’s a coda due some time in October!!

The good

Fourth Point of Contact by AJ Sherwood**** A lovely mm romance with plenty of danger and excitement set in a fantasy world. But – there were some vocabulary choices that made me cringe (e.g. Clydesdales in another world when carthorses would have been fine) including the naming systems, and there could have been more rigorous editing. I might buy the sequel because I liked the main characters.

True (Tales of the Circle Bk 1) by Timothy Warren.**** Rural cabin trope but well told.

Harvest of the Cold Months by Elizabeth David**** Subtitle: A social history of ice and ices. Says it all. Fascinating but occasionally heavy going with all that detail.

May you be the mother of a hundred sons by Elisabeth Bulmiller.**** A journey among the women of India. Danish American journalist writing in 1990. Fresh and perceptive look at Indian society which still has a lot to tell the rest of us today.

Love in a Time of Coronavirus #17  by Dev Bentham (flashfic in her newletter)****

The readable.

The Weight of it all by NR Walker*** A nice mm romance and well written but I didn’t enjoy all the detail about diet and exercise. Although the point of the story was that we shouldn’t judge people by their appearance it still felt a bit like preaching! (Especially since I should follow the advice.)

The guilty man by Helen Durrant*** Police procedural set in a fictional West Yorkshire town. The back story of one of the detectives threatens to take over the plot but is never resolved. There is a sequel but I won’t be reading it because the case was boring and I didn’t get a cop story to read about the cop’s past even though I like well-developed detective characters.

Home again by Ana Ashley*** Sweet romance set in Portugal but it read a bit like a travelogue.

Some Kind of Magic by R Cooper*** (Beings in love series). Werewolves and fairies and more. Some poor world building and character development.

Under Color of Law by Aaron Philip Clark*** Can’t really rec this depressing though worthy.  account of a black cop in LA fighting racism and police brutality. I didn’t like the frequent changes of tense though I understood the literary intention. The book raises questions of whether the end justifies the means.

Angel Maker by Morgan Greene*** Supposed to be Scandi Noir but the heroine was boring (a possible Mary Sue??) and the plot moved slowly.

One Lost Soul by JM Dalgliesh*** Boring thriller set in Norfolk. Doctor’s daughter found dead in the woods. (I must post about boring thrillers…)

Buried by Jeffrey Deaver (novella)*** Quite an interesting premise but I didn’t really engage with any of the characters. I enjoy the Lincoln Rhyme/Amelia Sachs series but the author’s other writing is not so appealing. I couldn’t get really invested in the detective.

Gsbriel Baker’s Guide to Never Falling in Love by EM Lindsey (novella)*** The guide, which the protagonist ignores, is just, really, an excuse for sex. Boring.

Abandoned

Summer in Andalucia by Lucy Coleman. By p 36 I still had zero interest in any of the characters, plus it was in present tense for no apparent reason. A journalist follows a chef to Andalucia for a cookery retreat.

No fanfic  this month

September television and films

Vigil BBC1 and iPlayer***** Quoting from a review in The Guardian: Vigil has been a rich and sometimes sickly meal. Just one of its anxiety-inducing scenarios would be enough for most dramas, but this had international conflict, political intrigue, claustrophobic horror, psychological trauma, murder, cops, romance and nerve agents thrown in and set to various clock-ticking countdowns. I loved it but was a bit sorry they chose such a low key ending with the last few moments taken up by a press conference rather than the further activities of various characters.  

The Crimson Rivers ***** Excellent French cop show, first watched while husband was away and now rewatched with him on All4. There’s at least one episode that wasn’t previously shown or that I missed.  

Wild Swimming with Alice Roberts**** BBC4. Her enthusiasm is almost infectious and the photography is lovely, but it made me cold even to watch it!  

Vera***** Season 11 Eps 1 and 2 on ITV (and itv hub) The rest of the season is delayed and I gather they had problems with both filming and scheduling due to the pandemic. Good as usual.  

Help***** (Ch4) Superb acting by Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham in a chilling tale of a care home at the height of the pandemic. The ending is strange but again, very well acted.

9/11: Life under Attack (ITV).**** Chilling reconstruction with lots of video footage I hadn’t seen. Obviously shown to remember the twentieth anniversary of the date. Plus 9/11: Inside the President’s War Room (BBC) **** Similar programme but from the p.o.v. of Bush and his staff.  
 
Death on the common**** Ch4 The Rachel Nickell murder from the point of view of her boyfriend and her son (the toddler left clutching her body). They recently returned to UK and talk about their experience. A good addition to the Deceit series I watched last month.  

Gunda: Mother, Pig**** (BBC4) 90 minutes of black and white photography with no sound track other than the animal noises.  In comparatively slow motion we watched a mother pig, some chickens (one with one leg) and some cattle. Strange but compelling. I might watch it again, just as a moving background.  

The Hunt for a Killer – abandoned. (BBC iPlayer) Scandi noir based on a true story. They could have watched the Scandi dramas for direction and acting, and the Brit reconstructions for script and continuity hints. Billed as nail-biting… My nails were intact.

Romance plus

I enjoy reading romance, whether it’s boy meets boy, boy meets girl or girl meets girl. I am less interested in threesomes (though I’ve written one in fanfiction). I often, however, read well written books and end up giving them only three star reviews and then forgetting them completely. I was wondering what it is that makes me faintly dissatisfied with a lot of romance books and realised I need romance plus…

Romance plus crime or mystery.

Romance plus fantasy.

Romance plus historical interest.

Romance plus external drama.

In other words, stories where the romance is central but doesn’t play the starring role throughout. Or in more ‘other words’, stories that cross genres – and for that reason can be hard to find.

The first three are fairly obvious. I have to say I love it when more than one box is ticked (e.g. historical crime). There is excitement generated by the world building or by the mystery and that adds immeasurably, for me, to the pleasure of the story.

The last perhaps needs to be unpacked. If the protagonists are going to face drama in their search for a HEA or HFN (I don’t like sad endings in fiction – they’re all too prevalent in the non-fiction I read) I need the drama to come from outside. There are plenty of romance tales that focus on the angst faced by characters who are caught up in their own self doubt or immediate family problems. I prefer it when they come up against things like natural disasters or the dangers posed by social norms within their society. I’m not so keen on war, though I do read it. It reminds me too much of war stories which, as a genre, I tend to avoid. (Again, there’s quite enough war in my non-fiction reading.)

I don’t necessarily want romance plus sex. I will happily read explicit scenes and don’t want any ‘fade to black’ at the bedroom door. However, the slightest hint that the story is in fact a vehicle for sex scenes and I’m instantly turned off. I also find, in this respect, that less is more. I like the UST that precedes the sex, and the personal development that accompanies it far more than details about the mechanics. My imagination is much more likely to work on its own, without the author spending pages explaining unnecessarily how Tab A went into Slot B. Even in books that otherwise fit my preferences, I tend to skim those parts.

This is not to say that I won’t enjoy sweet stories featuring the initial get-together or maybe the effect on one partner’s child, but as a rule these are quickly blurred in my memory into one long trail of sugar. If they’re well written they’ll get their three stars, but no more. Obviously, if a book meets my other criteria but is badly written it won’t make even the three star grade.

The romance plus books are the ones that make four or five stars in my memory and my reviews. Incidentally, five stars are usually reserved for books I would re-read. This cuts out most crime stories because they don’t work as well second time around.

There are the five star series like Seanan McGuire’s October Daye novels, KJ Charles’ Magpie Lord or Kaje Harper’s Hidden Wolves. These do have crime, which adds to their interest, but the crime is not the absolute focus; the magic is (or werewolf society in the case of Hidden Wolves). Then there are the five star standalones like Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks with enough magic to make the pages sparkle, and Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy with its piercing dissection of Indian society and politics. And of course Lord of the Rings, which is kind of ‘high romance’ in the mediaeval sense. My comfort reading is Georgette Heyer’s long list of Regency romances but I think it’s the focus on historical detail that makes them so memorable for me rather than the romance element. (Other comfort reading involves Pratchett’s Discworld and Lindsey Davis’ Falco series, both of which have varying degrees of romance but focus on social or historical issues.)

I’m sure some of you thoroughly enjoy the books I discard and find comfort in what I think of as saccharine reading. We all have different needs when it comes to fiction. My need is definitely for romance plus!

August novels: reviews

The photo shows the front of our house in August.

I read a lot of novels in August – mostly in the back garden over extended lunches under our parasol. Apparently, I didn’t read any short stories or fanfiction. That shouldn’t surprise me, really, because having reached the end of my long tbr list I haven’t (yet) started downloading like a maniac again!

It occurs to me that I ought to explore in more depth what makes books truly memorable (or not) for me and that will probably be my next post. Meanwhile, here are August’s recs and non-recs.

Two superb:

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull***** A gorgeous urban fantasy written in 1987 and considered seminal in the genre. Exciting, beautiful and romantic (m/f).

Subtle Blood by KJ Charles***** A totally gripping end to the Will Darling mm inter-war spy trilogy. The story would make a good film. I won’t give any spoilers here. I also read the short interlude To Trust a Man on his Oath, sent as a pdf in her newsletter and that was a lovely prequel to this novel.

Seven extremely good:

Jared by RJ Scott**** (Boyfriend for hire Book 4) An endearing story about a young boy trying to rent a boyfriend for his widowed father.

Winter Cowboy by RJ Scott****Daniel and Micah and a lot of angst.

Summer Drifter by RJ Scott**** Continues the story of Micah and his sister but adds Quinn and Levi for another angsty romance – with horses on the ranch. I make no apologies for the number of RJ Scott books here – this author can be trusted to deliver an interesting and exciting story, beautifully told.

A deal with the elf king by Elise Kova**** Luella is chosen as the new human queen and must come to terms with her elvish husband and the problems of both their lands. Nice magic and well developed characters. There’s a series, but the book is adequately standalone.

Stranger at the Dower House by Mary Kingswood**** Murder and fraud (not associated with each other) wrapped up in Regency romance. A good read if you have no Heyers to re-read. Some echoes of Austen, but faint.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen**** (re-read). The satire seems a bit heavy handed on a second or third reading. Not sure if that’s my tastes changing or whether satire (and other humour) works best when completely fresh. Take note, writers in this group of reviews, that I’m comparing you with Austen…

Love’s Legacy by Blake Allwood**** Two young men inherit, respectively, a motel and a ranch. There are family problems to grapple with and some violence, as well as their growing attraction to each other. A nicely rounded story with excellent minor characters and some good world building.

Six readable but not specifically recommended:

The House in the Woods by Mark Dawson *** Combined police procedural and PI investigation. Rather long winded and I never really took to any of the characters. First in the Atticus Priest series but I won’t be looking for the sequel.

The First Time Ever by L M Krier*** Police procedural (book 1 of a series) which has a gay detective and some nice local detail (set in Stockport) but the dramatic highpoints are muted and there is too much fairly mundane police station stuff.

Her Missing Daughter *** by DS Butler. Some poor writing and proofing. In the final all-action scenes there’s a sudden switch from 1st person to 3rd. We don’t know the dog’s breed till the epilogue. The plot hinges on the villain being insane. I read to the end because I wanted to know who dunnit but then wished I hadn’t bothered. This author comes highly recommended by the UK Crime Book Club but I don’t really know why.

A quiet place to kill by NR Davis*** Set on a WWII airbase. Another one with a mad villain. . A series is promised/threatened

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black*** Great world building, but I disliked all the characters intensely, so I won’t be reading the second volume (The Wicked King) of The Folk of the Air. Scrapes into Urban Fantasy by a whisker, but mostly set in a modern fairyland.

Serial by Casey Hill*** Forensic investigation that is mostly boring and occasionally unrealistically exciting. .

Two abandoned, but not because the books themselves deserve criticism:

Turning Point by Jeffrey Deaver. The story follows the criminal rather than the investigators so doesn’t appeal to me.

More than this by Alexa Milne. The book starts with sex (f/f) between largely unknown protagonists so I put it down. I need to know the characters before I can read explicit scenes.

I know perfectly well that both these books will appeal to a lot of people and both authors are good writers. It was just that in these instances, their work was not for me.

‘Exotic’ recipes made easy

This is my recipe book where I keep all the recipes like these. No photoshopping (other than resizing for posting). It had a really nice cover till my cleaner managed to spray it with some kind of kitchen stuff resulting in green splodges…

My daughter and I have both experimented with one of those delivery sites that send everything you need, including instructions, for an unusual meal. We both used them when they were initially cheap, then when they reverted to their original price we decided independently that they weren’t quite worth it. However, we each got a handful of recipes as a result and here are two of them – both now firm favourites in our households.

Turkish lamb mince with bulgur wheat.

My daughter uses Quorn, a vegetarian substitute mince available in UK. But I suppose you could use any vegetarian option.

Ingredients:

Lamb mince (or substitute)

Cherry tomatoes

Yoghurt (preferably Greek style)

Bulgur wheat

Seasonings etc: sumac, harissa, dill, garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil.

Method:

Mix the yoghurt with chopped or minced garlic, black pepper and a little oil. Set aside for the flavours to infuse.

Fry the mince and halved tomatoes then add harissa. You can use bought paste or make your own which is easy: garlic, chili powder, sugar, salt and a little hot water. One advantage is that you don’t then have a jar of opened paste risking mould in the fridge.

Add the bulgur wheat to boiling water and simmer for about 15 minutes then drain. Add chopped dill, alarge pinch of sumac and a drizzle of oil.

Finally reheat the mince if necessary.

To serve:

Assemble in shallow bowls (e.g. pasta bowls).

Ladle a layer of bulgur wheat then a layer of yoghurt then a ladle of mince. Top with more chopped dill and sprinkle with sumac.

I have deliberately not given quantities. Only you know the size and appetite of your family. As a very rough guide I use a few tablespoons of wheat, ditto of mince, about a dozen tomatoes and half a large pot of yoghurt. For spices etc. that will depend on your liking for heat and other seasoning.

Mock kedgeree

Ingredients:

Risotto rice (again, the quantity is up to you)

An onion, finely chopped – more if you are catering for a large party

Cherry tomatoes – allow three or four per person

Hard boiled eggs (halved) – allow one per person and have them ready in advance

Cashew nuts

Smoked haddock fillets (if veggie, omit this and double the quantity of eggs) – one per person

Sultanas

Lemon (an actual lemon, not juice)

Seasonings: curry powder, saffron (just a few strands), salt, oil, coriander (preferably fresh but frozen will do), stock (I use bouillon powder made up with hot water)

Method:

Sprinkle the tomatoes with oil and salt. Add the cashews in a separate container (I put those and the tomatoes on a roasting tray) and roast in the oven. Take the cashews out after about 7-10 minutes but leave the tomatoes for about half an hour altogether. Put the slightly cooled nuts in a bag or under a cloth and use something like a rolling pin to crush them.

Fry the onion till soft, stir in the curry powder then add the rice and gradually stir in the stock with the saffron added. Continue stirring – you are basically making a risotto and you want the rice to cook by absorbing all the liquid. I use about half a pint but you might need more depending on how many you are cooking for. (Basic risotto rules apply and you can find these online.) Once cooked, add the chopped coriander, sultanas and crushed nuts.You want these hot but not overcooked so continue to heat for just a minute or so.

You can do the haddock fillets in the oven (foil wrapped) alongside the tomatoes or you can poach them in simmering water on the stove top. I prefer the oven method and if you use a big enough oven tray everything goes on one shelf. They take about the same time as the tomatoes.

To serve:

Place a serving of risotto in a bowl (again, pasta bowls are ideal)

Place the eggs, tomatoes and fish (if using) on top.

Decorate with more coriander and lemon wedges which people can squeeze.

With both these recipes it helps to work out a timetable and do the things that take ages first.

Both are quite impressive for entertaining and are an easy option since you can do a lot of the work well in advance. Rice, though, should be cooked at the last minute since it is prone to grow nasty fungus once cooked unless frozen. Incidentally, that applies to takeaway leftovers, too.

August Viewing

Japanese anemones. sometimes called windflowers. They grow easily and accept all sorts of conditions. Palest of pale pink, tall, and beautiful! I love the way they’ve spread in our garden.

Nothing very special in August – not surprising, really, because they don’t put new exciting things on here in summer.

Deceit. (Ch 4) **** A dramatic reconstruction of the entrapment of the wrong man, Colin Stagg, over the Rachel Nikell murder. Quite an interesting series with a focus on the policewoman who went undercover. Available on All4 (UK)

The Railway Killers (Ch 5) *** Another reconstruction of the hunt for the railway killers. This stuck more closely to the memories of the police involved. Available on My5 (UK)

Pretty Woman*** A disappointing rewatch of a film I used to love. The story still appealed but I found the characters too ‘glossy’ and the direction somewhat laboured. So some favourites are for ever and others aren’t…

Sweet tooth. (Netflix) Abandoned. New Scientist praised this sci fi series and made me want to see it. A plague results in human/animal hybrids and the story follows an antlered boy’s journey through life and survival. We watched two episodes then gave up and I’m not really sure why. Husband said he couldn’t be bothered with it, and I meant to watch on my own then found myself postponing it till it became something in the past. I suppose I didn’t connect adequately with the characters.

The Virgin and the Unicorn

The Virgin and the Unicorn is finally ‘live’!

At last! After some technical problems involving tearing my hair out (after going grey) and relying on wonderful friends, my novel The Virgin and the Unicorn is finally available on Smashwords and Amazon.

Kian, son of a lord of the manor, finds himself with an arranged marriage to a foreign prince. The prince’s sister needs a unicorn horn for her dowry and Kian wonders if his only qualification is his virginity. (Same sex relationships are illegal in his home country.) The marriage brings problems faced by most newly wed couples alongside culture clash and the royal duties that take Alair from Kian’s side. It also brings court rivalries. Eventually, the unicorns of the title appear but are not quite as expected and Kian has no intention of parting one from its magnificent horn. So can the marriage survive, and will the princess ever get her dowry?

The buy links are as follows:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1101529

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FB1JC63

Serious thanks and lots of love to all my FB friends especially Tal Valante, Jackie Keswick and Gynn Silva (and Gynn’s cousin).

Oh, and it appears I need to subscribe to or buy a new version of Word. I think I’ll subscribe then I’ll never have this kind of chaos again. My current copy is 2013 and was state of the art when I bought it – so I suppose in this age of built-in obsolescence it has served me well till the last couple of weeks.

Fanfic recs for July

Needless to say, I access fanfic via AO3, the fic ‘arm’ of OTW.

All SGA this month and all AUs. All recommended.

Unexpected Discoveries by Brumeier***** The start of the series as a TV show AU. Part 1 of As Seen On TV. https://archiveofourown.org/works/2145420 I’ve read a number of short fics in this series and they are invariably entertaining. SGA team in an AU where they investigate paranormal rumours for TV.

Fashion Victim by Lamardeuse*****https://archiveofourown.org/works/85219 16k. Rodney is in a coma and John goes into the virtual environment to rescue him. Echoes of lock it away (keep my heart at your place) by nagi_schwarz – I’m not sure which came first and in any case they aren’t the same, just both using the coma trope.

Edge of Passion by Brumeier****https://archiveofourown.org/works/29887014 John and Rodney as actors in a nice AU. 4k

Life in a Bubble by Elayna**** https://archiveofourown.org/works/29882850 16k. AU in which John and Rodney meet during the pandemic. Interesting use of lockdown rules, etc.

Within You by Brumeier**** In a crossover/fusion with Labyrinth. Rodney needs to save Jeannie (his sister). http://archiveofourown.org/works/1278607

An ‘anthology’ read in July

Molewort: a garden invader, strange but welcome. The flowers are unremarkable but those seedheads!!

As some of you know I spent a lot of July trying to get through my tbr list. I had uploaded a lot of short stories and novellas, most of them free or very cheap, to my Kindle. I think it was a kind of insurance when we were travelling frequently and I was afraid of running out of reading matter!.I’d had most of them all ages and no longer had any idea why some had appealed to me in the first place. Others were by favourite authors but had somehow sunk down my list. Anyway, I read them to the exclusion of almost anything else other than newspapers and journals whilst enjoying the garden during our spell of nice weather.

I won’t (mostly) go into great detail but will give you a list, with the usual stars. Some were surprisingly good – I say surprisingly because on the whole I prefer novels. Not because there’s anything wrong with short stories – I’ve written some myself and stories are as long as they want to be – but because I like being able to ‘lose’ myself in a long novel whereas short stories bring me back to earth rather too quickly. The four star ones I would recommend. The three star are pleasant enough but not very memorable. The two and one star were not for me. This was at least partly because some of the plots were thin and seemed to be an excuse to write very explicit sex, something I only enjoy if I’m already invested in the characters and the story. I treated the list as an anthology though nobody apart from me had deliberately put them together.

So – my July anthology!

Recommended:

Foxy Heart: Blade and Dust by Rhys Lawless**** Rhys Lawless is another pen name for Rhys Everly. I loved this short story with magic and mayhem and might even try the series to which it’s the prequel. (This is obviously why authors provide freebies.) A fox shifter finds his soul mate but they are instantly on the run from witch hunters. Loses a star because it needs to go further. And yes, I assume the next book will do that, but I would have liked slightly more in this one.

My Rainy Valentine by Ruby Moone***** Excellent very short story set in my local city. An example of really good storytelling art. The people standing by at a tram stop get involved in a Valentine’s day apology and relationship development,which is both hilarious and romantic.

The Christmas Curse also by Ruby Moone**** Nice shifter story with echoes of The Princess and the Frog.

The Case of the forgetful genius by Charlie Cochrane.**** Not sure if I’d read/reviewed this before. It rang bells but maybe just because of being about her actor amateur detectives, Alasdair and Toby. Worth a re-read if that’s what it was!

A Flirty Dozen by JL Merrow**** An interesting collection. Some appealed to me more than others (even this very good writer can’t make me care about ghouls) but all were intelligent and well written stories. These were mm with some romance and some sex. I have also got A Feminine Flirty Dozen**** (ff stories) I enjoyed it just as much, especially the ones with paranormal elements or that referenced fairy tales.

Two flash fics from newsletters:

Ewe’s Stocking by Charlie Cochrane****Clever spy story set in WW2

Perfect Picture by Clare London****Sweet very brief story featuring an artist and his lover.

Not particularly recommended but well written and readable.

The Machine Stops by EM Forster*** A sci fi curiosity, I suppose. Published in 1909 it’s a kind of echo or pre-echo (?) of Brave New World and 1984, and is surprisingly ‘modern’, relating well to things like our internet usage and the pandemic lockdowns. However, I found the style very stiff, and never really empathised with the characters. I was surprised to find typos but perhaps that’s because it was transcribed from the original magazine publication.

Total Fabrication by Saxon James*** A TV competition story (it’s quite a common trope – they meet, they compete, etc.) which was nicely done but could have been expanded and given greater detail. One of those short stories that reads like a summary of a novel.

My Fake Billionaire by Ana Ashley and Rhys Everly*** A Braxton Boys series short story. A pleasant tale of a billionaire who finds his heart’s desire tending the library on the island he is buying. I gather the series follows a number of ‘old boys’ of the school.

Kilts and Lies by KA Belle*** A typical ‘fake boyfriend’ story that ends up – of course – with real romance. Another one that could have been longer with more detail. The families, all minor characters, were interesting.

Treehouse Whispers by Elouise East***Pleasant but unmemorable story about two guys who have shared a treehouse since childhood.

Faking Familiar by Abigail Kade*** Witches and familiars in a prequel to a series but none of the characters were particularly interesting and I won’t be following it.

Five Fake Dates by DJ Jamison*** Quite a sweet story – friends to lovers.

Ante Up by Charlie Cochet*** A Four Kings Security Short. Dancer gets together with bar manager.

The Second Act by HI Day*** Actor renews relationship.

The Artist’s Model by ZA Maxfield.*** Well written story but I do wish this author would stick to novels or at least novellas – I usually enjoy those but am invariably disappointed by the shorts.

Keep paddling by Charlie Descoteaux*** Two slightly older men with mild physical handicaps. Pleasant but not very memorable.

Just Say When by EM Lindsey*** Blind vlogger Tristian challenges chef Enzo to a blindfold cookery session with predictable results.

Coffee, tea or me? by Elizabeth Silver*** Fairly boring but competent short story about busy bookseller meeting barista.

Not recommended

Boyfriend Emergency by Rheland Richmond** Unlikely fake boyfriend story that seemed to be just an excuse to write sex.

Overnight Stay by Lynn Michaels** Another excuse for explicit sex with no real story.

Anh Sang by Barry Brennessel** Depressing account of doomed mm romance during the French departure from Vietnam. Written a bit like a travelogue.

Definitely not recommended

The Naked Cleaner by Sophia Soames* I hated this, mostly because of the unnecessary amount of foul language used by both the main characters. Weird story about a naturist who goes out cleaning and has an arranged meeting with a hermit-like IT expert. Unlikely and unsatisfying.

A new book is imminent!

I’m about to publish my latest novel: The Virgin and the Unicorn should be available towards the end of next week. It’s a story of arranged marriage and is a standalone but I’ve left room for a sequel featuring some of the minor characters in more prominent roles.

I’ve finished all the final proofreading, the formatting and the cover. I’ve been working on the blurb which I find harder than the initial novel writing. I’m also working on marketing, which is why I’m actually giving advance information this time!

I never realised, when I started out, just how much time is taken on all the peripheral aspects of publication; time that detracts from writing and that, to be honest, I don’t enjoy. I especially don’t enjoy marketing. It requires a totally different skill set from writing, and I just don’t have it! Besides, tagging and marketing are particularly hard, because although the novel does contain one major sex scene, it’s by no means erotica.

Here’s the blurb (which might have some changed details between now and the time when it appears on Amazon or Smashwords).

“I knew you needed a unicorn and I knew I was a virgin and…”

A same-sex marriage is arranged in a Regency-style alternate universe . Can a hard working prince find wedded bliss despite his duties? Does his sister really need a unicorn horn as her dowry and if so how can she get one? Will a young foreigner ever settle in his new country and accept his own family’s attitudes? Find out how Alair and Kian cope in this tale of discovery and romance. There’s only one explicit sex scene (the wedding night) but the discussions of sex and emotion are probably only suitable for adult readers. A full length novel that explores culture clash, social expectations, the problems that beset any young couple and a new slant on some mythical creatures which turn out to be very real.

And the cover, which won’t change other than to have slightly different sizing for the different sites, is the header picture for this post.