In our current climate of increasing poverty, abuse in care homes, and problems accessing medical help, I was reminded of a story I wrote for a prompt in a writers’ group some years ago. So I dusted it off and edited it. I thought about submitting it to a zine I contribute to but it’s very sad and dark so I don’t think they’d like it. I don’t suppose you’ll ‘like‘ it, but I think it sums up some of the issues faced by today’s youth. Consider it my political rant of the week…
In the interests of readability the punctuation and spelling are not perfect for the narrator’s speech patterns, but should give a ‘flavour’. Non-Brit readers might have problems though. In order to present the dialect in some kind of sensible fashion I had to replace smart quotes with straight ones and that was quite a learning curve… If I’ve missed anything, let me know!
Johnny and Me, or Money can’t buy me love.
Warning. This is on a very dark theme with no HEA. 900 words
Us ‘angin’ round Piccadilly ain’t never bin much fun. Not when what yer really there for ain’t the company so much as the possible company if yer take me meanin’. Sometimes I pretend I’m on one of them slave blocks in the olden days – Romans or somefin’ – couldn’ a bin much worse, could it? An’ the buyers. Jeez! Talk about the dirty mac brigade. Still, they pay well, and if yer lucky it’s down the nearest alley, a quick suck or fuck, an’ money in yer pocket. Course, if yer ain’t lucky, it could be a knife, but us lot try not to fink about that, cos we’re trying to make a livin’ ‘ere, see? An’ it doesn’ do to get too scared or depressed about it, like. Puts the punters off if yer ain’t mostly smilin’.
Johnny an’ me run off togevver from the ‘ome, didn’ we? Bin ‘ere ever since. Not much fun, like I said, but plenty of punters. Good at avoidin’ the Social – can smell ’em a mile off. An’ arter wot ol’ ‘ammond did, well, we wasn’ going back not nohow. If I gotta get fucked by a creepy old man I’d sooner be paid for it, wouldn’ I? Offerin’ special privileges don’ really cut it, know what I mean? Johnny thought the same. We usually thought the same – ever since we was nippers an’ new to the ‘ome at the same time. Course, since I turned sixteen they probly couldn’ take me back anyroad, but no sense courtin’ trouble; it finds yer soon enough as they say. An’ Johnny was a year younger than me anyway so still at risk.
We did start to make a livin’, I supppose. Enough to doss down in this squat one of the uvvers found, an’ get enough to eat to get by. Though Johnny got awful thin lately and kept ever’body awake with ‘is coughin’, nights. Wanted to ‘old ‘im and make it better, didn’ I? Or mebbe keep ‘im warm. Okay, just warm, right? Though I’d’ve liked … But when I tried ‘e said ‘e couldn’ breave and ‘e didn’ like bein’ ‘eld – reminded ‘im of the guys in the alleyways, some’ow. So I just listened an’ wished.
Last Saturday I tried to kiss ‘im; just ‘cos I really, really care, yer know? An’ even too thin, well, ‘e were always sort of gorgeous an’ I always got well ‘ard when we touched, even by accident. But ‘e turned ‘is ‘ead away and wiped ‘is mouth.
One day …. Dreams… Always did get in trouble for daydreamin’, specially at school.
But I wished I could make enough to take ‘im on ‘oliday somewhere, fer a real rest. Somewhere nice, wiv clean sheets an coffee any time wivout ‘avin’ to count ‘ow much change yer got. Only there was never enough to be worth savin’, an if there ‘ad of bin it’d all ‘ave ‘ad to go on drugs an’ such. I don’ mean drugs like drugs. That ain’t never bin me scene, nor Johnny’s neiver. I mean cough medicine an’ maybe tissues or them sweets wiv runny stuff in the middle. Only I ‘ated it that ‘e ‘ad to wipe ‘is nose an’ mouth on ‘is sleeve. An’ I wished I could buy ‘im somefin’ nice to wear, nothin’ fancy, just… nice. Maybe one of them warm sweaters off the market.
Then one night there was this feller an’ ‘e goes can ‘e take me back to ‘is hotel for the whole night. The whole night! If ‘e’d said ‘is place, I might’ve thought twice. But a hotel. Seemed safe. An’ it was; ‘e only ‘urt me a little bit, just by bein’ impatient an’ wantin’ it often an’ kind of twistin’ me arms, like. I didn’ care much; I knew ‘e’d pay well ‘an if I was good ‘e might be back fer more.
So I walked out wiv me ‘ead in the clouds an’ me pockets full of money. Not just money, eiver; I ‘ad them little packets of coffee an’ sugar yer get in hotel rooms. Johnny were going to be so freakin’ pleased! We could go away fer a couple of days. For real! I looked in an ‘oliday shop where they book coaches and that; there were trips advertised to the south coast, travel an’ accommodation all in. Brighton. I could afford it. It would ‘elp. Sea air ‘ad to ‘elp, didn’ it? An’ it’d be better than savin’ it; a kind of investment, really.
I was singin’ a tune when I got to the squat, somefin’ I’d ‘eard on somebody’s phone on the steps round the statue. Catchy, even though it annoyed me at times. But then I saw ‘im and ‘e were quite still. There were a smear of blood on ‘is face; ‘is beautiful face. I went to wipe it away fer ‘im, then it dawned.
I phoned the Social. At least that way ‘e’d get a proper burial. Then I scarpered, like. No sense gettin’ caught; knew ‘e wouldn’ ‘ave wanted that. An’ now I can’t go back there, cos they’ll look fer me an’ make some sort of trouble, make no mistake. An’ there’s an ‘undred quid burning a ruddy great ‘ole in me pocket. No idea what to spend it on, not now, but I know it can’t buy me love.
The autumn colours have been late this year though I believe they got their act together further south.
Obviously there are no dire books in this selection. Familiar authors are trusted authors! There were no abandoned ones, either, as I am being a little more careful about reading the blurb than hitherto, and avoid themes that don’t appeal to me. Some of these books appealed more than others but that’s just my taste. They’re all worth buying or borrowing.
Keepers of the Past by Jackson Marsh***** Excellent sequel to the first of the Larkspur Mysteries. Intriguing detail about Cornish myths and stone circles etc. albeit somewhat fictionalised for plot purposes. Fascinating look at sign language for the deaf. Dalston and Joe are safe (for now) and their romance is still slightly rocky but delightful all the same. One of those books you can’t wait to finish but at the same time wish would last forever.
Even Dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin***** The usual brilliant writing and satisfyingly complex plot with Edinburgh as an extra character. I love the Rebus series. However, I suspect my reading has got slightly out of order…
Guilt by Association by Gregory Ashe*****Another complex and satisfying mystery (book 4) with a HFN ending for the detective pair. Gorgeous writing. I was beginning to wonder how long Ashe could keep up the UST then realised I had no room to talk as my Skilled Investigator series keeps it up for six volumes and he only takes four…
Subtle Bodies by Jordan Castillo Price**** I love the whole psycops series. Victor, with his ability to see and talk to ghosts is a superb ‘hero’. Victor and Jacob have now been together through 13 novels and numerous short stories, yet their relationship continues to grow and develop. The cases they need to solve are intriguing and this was no exception. I always pre-order these books now, and will continue to do so.
Gabriel’s Storm by Sue Brown**** Exciting tale of storms, rescues and amnesia on the south coast. I also read Hairy Harry’s car seat by Sue Brown*** Pleasant and well written story about Harry’s owner grieving for his dog and gradually finding out more about his own sexuality.
Getting Married at Crofton Hall by Rebecca Cohen**** I enjoyed this volume in the series about modern Crofton Hall even though it lacked the drama of most of the stories. I don’t recall planning a wedding being so fraught but that perhaps just shows my age. I had read the book where Ben and Ashley first get together so was not confused by the main relationships but must admit I have been reading these books out of order, and also getting ‘spoilers’ from blurbs… I must make a real effort to read in sequence.
Point of No Return by NR Walker**** Exciting cop drama with a satisfying romance. I shall be getting the sequel. I also read Imago Series Collection by NR Walker.*** I liked Lawson and Jack, and I was fascinated to learn more about Australian wildlife in general and butterflies in particular. However, the collection, which comprised three short novels and a short story, seemed to alternate between almost sugary romance and too much sex which furthered neither plot nor character development. Maybe I shouldn’t have read the set straight through. Ms Walker is a good writer but this is not one of my favourites in her works. The author’s notes sent me in search of a trilogy by Julie Bozza (another trusted author) which I have bought and will review in due course.
Lucky by Garrett Leigh**** I loved the way the relationship was held back by the secrets the protagonists kept. A beautifully written modern romance set in London.
Spell Cat by Tara Lain**** I shall definitely be reading more of the Aloysius Tales. Loved the characters (most of them witches) and the situations, and particularly loved the cat.
A Reason to Stay by RJ Scott*** I found the thoughts and emotions of the two protagonists in this rather repetitive. Although the thriller element was exciting I felt the story would have been better as a novella than as a full length novel. I like this author’s style but have favourites among her work and this wasn’t one of them.
The Altered 2 by Annabelle Jacobs*** I like the concept of the series (military experiments result in ‘altered’ teens who have shifter abilities) but there is quite a lot of head hopping which at times makes it hard to follow. Like the first volume, this was a nice story but doesn’t lead me to rush off to find the next.
Ruby Fire by Adam J Ridley*** Well written story in the series about the cursed brothers. I didn’t enjoy it as much as the first two. I found the constant switching between worlds/realities somewhat distancing; I have to admit I prefer paranormal fantasy to take place firmly within one world, ours or an imagined one. I also thought it was too convenient that the main protagonists fell neatly in love with virtually no UST and very little to explain their mutual attraction. The ending was satisfactory though there were hints that there’s another story to come. I shall read it, but for the community at large and the concept rather than the romance.
When Shall We Three Meet Again by Small_Hobbit. **** I laughed out loud at this modern take on the three witches. Suitably light hearted reading (and only 326 words) for Halloween. https://archiveofourown.org/works/41905317 Also Tigger Holmes and the case of the Midnight slipper **** by the same author which is part of the Tigger Holmes series, a light hearted fusion of Winnie the Pooh and Sherlock Holmes. Only 714 words. Give it a try!! https://archiveofourown.org/works/42573489
Hoping against hope that crumbs will fall from a birthday feast.
Karen Pirie**** (ITV Hub or Amazon Prime) I knew I would probably like this thriller set in Scotland with a female lead detective. It’s based on a series by Val McDermid whose writing I love, and whose screen adaptations are usually good. I’m not sure whether she’s involved in them.
Red Light**** (All4 – Walter Presents) Belgian crime drama with three female leads. A detective, an opera singer and a prostitute all have dysfunctional families and their lives are increasingly intertwined. Well made, well acted, and an intriguing plot. Set in Antwerp.
Politics live***** (Various channels.) The rest of the month was basically the ongoing soap opera of the Tory party trying to sell itself in various types of packaging to a disbelieving public. Naturally, it was still bought by its tiny core membership. Things began to settle with the advent of Rishi, but only because he’s such a relief after Boris and Liz. I watch a lot of political programmes. I’m really sad that BBC have axed Dateline London, but ITV still offer Peston and of course there’s always the news… My favourite is Channel 4 at 7.00pm. I always tune in to PMQs and quite often I have BBC Parliament on as background TV, and then get hooked by interesting debates. Actually, I’m more frequently hooked by the proceedings of various select committees.
Grandchild is fourteen and tall. Not really the age or size for trick or treating. However, they are autistic and they ‘missed out’ during the pandemic, so were desperate to enjoy this year. Daughter decided that with her participation they could go ahead but in our area, which is comparatively ‘safe’ rather than their own which tends to have more than its fair share of older feral youth. I bring you the results. The costumes were great (and some people thought daughter as dragon was another teen), the dog got a walk (despite the rain) and much candy was obtained. Daughter bought pumpkins at Aldi and chose interesting ones with ‘bumps’ but then found they’d only be able to carve them with a chainsaw so went for black paint instead.
We all then had an optimistic November supper with ‘bangers’, baked potatoes, and parkin. Unfortunately, the rain got heavier and we didn’t have fireworks in the garden as planned. Nobody came to our house – we think the local kids have been told it’s haunted…
I failed to write a Halloween story this year though I did put some effort into the Monsterfest ficlets so don’t feel too guilty. I’m enjoying a suitably creepy book and will review it later.
It’s written, beta’ed, edited, proof read, and formatted to within an inch of its life. The cover is done and approved by my editor. It’s all ready to self publish. Actually, it’s been ready for about a month. And I still love the characters.
So what, you ask, is the problem?
The problem is both simple and insoluble: the right tags for Amazon and Smashwords.
Here’s the planned blurb:
The Seekers follows a group of people on a quest in a fantasy world. It’s a quest to escape rather than to seek. Twin fairy princes and their sister are fleeing their abusive and manipulative father. A dark elf is tired of the humdrum nature of his job as manager of the family mines. A young goblin on his travelling year needs to sell the contents of his pack before returning home. They meet almost by accident and have no idea where they are going. There is one unexpected m/f marriage in the desert and another in the hall of the mountain king. There’s an ACE character who falls in love with travelling and journeys on alone. There’s a slow burn m/m romance that ends in a HEA by the last chapter. So the novel asks what people really want, and gives them their sometimes surprising hearts’ desires.
OK. With me so far?
I get to fiction/fantasy and then get stuck. I want to stress the mm romance but can’t play down the mf ones. None of the romances are particularly explicit and are more interesting in terms of character development and family/friendship group reactions than in terms of sex. And yet – there’s at least one sex scene. It’s a quest rather than a romance and there are no thriller elements though there are moments of extreme danger. But it isn’t by any means a high fantasy quest of the usual kind.
The tag trees on the publishing sites simply don’t allow for much of this.
The Alpha’s Warlock by Eliot Grayson**** I hesitated over the four stars. I like the author’s style and enjoyed the action packed story with diverse paranormals. I didn’t even, for once, skim the explicit sex, because it was so entangled with the magic. And I liked Nate and Ian. Then I found out it was the first of at least 8 in an interconnected series and for some reason my heart sank. I will eventually read at least some of the rest but actually, the blurbs were probably sufficient to keep me informed and I won’t be in a hurry to continue. I think I preferred Deven and the Dragon which was a one-off.
Paternity Case (Hazard and Somerset 3) by Gregory Ashe**** Some great descriptive writing – I’m in awe! These mysteries are well crafted and intriguing; the reader and the detectives have to work hard to solve them. The ongoing unresolved sexual tension between Hazard and Somerset adds another layer of interest and makes it essential to find the next book in the series.
The Soldier and the Bodyguard by RJ Scott**** Exciting story with thriller elements, set in the Ellery Mountain series with a cross over with the Sanctuary series. I like the way the author researches medical and psychological problems then uses them in her fiction and I was soon concerned for JC and Adrian. The ‘baddies’ of this particular story were almost unbelievably wicked and cruel and gave us some nail-biting moments
Dating Mr Right by Sue Brown**** Trilogy of mm romances all set round the same bar in NY. I love the way this author creates whole communities and gives us glimpses of everyone’s life. I also read her Snow Twink **** I’m not usually into ‘Daddy’ stories but I trust the author and have a novella of my own based on Snow White so was intrigued to see what she would do with it. Well written and interesting. Probably worth reading if you like twists on fairy tales, and definitely if you like ‘Daddy’ themes.
Ghost of Deceit by Alice Winters**** Third in the Medium Trouble series. As usual, a fascinating mystery for Hiro and Max to solve, and some amusing banter, especially between Hiro and the ghosts, but sometimes, too much banter!
Code Red by NR Walker**** Exciting story about a boy band and their lead singer. Romance eventually helps him deal with chronic anxiety but only after some nail-biting moments. Very well written (as usual) and I was both surprised and relieved by the HEA ending. The portrayal of the back stage life of the band and their support teams is brilliantly researched and presented.
Tending his heart by Vin George**** Second in the series. Matt and Zeke are living their HEA but have to contend with the pandemic, Matt’s son, and Zeke’s brother and father, all of which create various types of chaos for the pair.
Witch Dust by Marilyn Messik*** Disappointing. I like the writer’s style but unlike Stella, the heroine of the Strange series who fights crime using her paranormal powers, Sandra, in this new venture, just grapples with family issues and inter-family rivalry. Nowhere near as intriguing or exciting despite the inherited powers and the shock value of some of the situations.
Where there’s a witch there’s a way by E Broom*** Another nice story in the Cadenbury Tales series but the MCs, all in their 20s and 30s, don’t come across as very grown up, and the proof reading continues to be poor.
Femme by Marshall Thornton*** A pleasant romance but I’m surprised it got such general accolades. I suppose it did a lot to explain different ways of being gay. The plot was fine but I kept expecting something to happen. Since this was basically a rom-com, with character studies, nothing much did.
Give and take by Clare London*** Very short story in Clare’s newsletter. Nicely written but too short to gain extra stars.
The Case of the Sexy Shakespearean by Tara Lain*** A nice story, well written, but full of unlikely events and outcomes. A sort of thriller, but not quite thrilling enough. A sort of romance, but not quite romantic enough. And the Shakespeare controversy underlying the plot was never adequately discussed.
The Southern Boys Trilogy by KC Wells**** Another series with a huge cast of interesting characters and a community that seems familiar after a few chapters of the first volume. I enjoyed all the books in the trilogy though I think the first will remain my favourite. Yet again, an author to trust!
The Cat Returns to Adderley by Sam Burns*** Nicely written retelling of Puss in Boots. The main appeal for me was in the fairy tale element. and there was some interesting magic.
Death at Rainbow Cottage by Jo Allen*** Well written crime story set around Penrith and some of the local gay community with a cast of diverse detectives. Fairly gripping, with a serial killer element, but I wasn’t altogether convinced by the ending.
Secrets in Blood by Jack Cartwright*** Competent police procedural but I never got very interested in the detectives, the suspects or the victims. I was totally unconvinced by the ending, and I found it odd that the lead detective hadn’t been at least temporarily removed from her post – her bosses were clearly unobservant about her mental health to the point of negligence.
A Husband for Hartwell by JA Rock and Lisa Henry** Once you can accept that same sex marriage was legalised in the eighteenth century the story can unfold. But it was rushed and confusing, possibly due to poor collaborative writing and I didn’t really believe in any of the emotions. I won’t look for these authors again.
Murder on the Old Bog Road by David Pearson** Boring police procedural that reads like a policeman’s notebook. Set in Eire so it’s guardai, not police, but the basics are the same.
The Bone Witch by Ivy Asher** I was going to give this three stars – it seemed to be a perfectly readable m/f romantic paranormal thriller though some of the magic was rather confusing. Then it ended on a cliff-hanger, presumably to make me buy the next book in the series. That isn’t going to happen. I resent cliff-hangers at the end of books – even in a series I want things to draw to a satisfactory conclusion ‘for now’ unless it’s billed as a trilogy.
Spoken Bones by NC Lewis. Crime story set on Cumbrian coast. So many thoroughly unpleasant people in the first few chapters that I gave up.
A strange month. I had Covid, which left me with a lot of viewing time at one point, and then I went to a Retreat which gave me two films to review. Add the fact that there was a great deal of political upheaval and remember I watch politics avidly but don’t review it. (I should perhaps say I have a preference for Channel 4 News and just hope the coming sell-off doesn’t wreck it.) There was also, of course, the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. I didn’t see any of the coverage as I was driving to the Lake District. The drive was accompanied by very sombre radio music with no ads.
In non-political viewing:
Shetland**** I enjoyed Douglas Henshall’s last season as Jimmy Perez and found the ending satisfying but can’t imagine where the directors intend to go next. As is increasingly usual in cop shows, there was a little too much of officers investigating without backup – ‘sighs’ – but other than that the story was nicely complex and interesting.
Gosford Park*** This was a rewatch chosen at the writers’ retreat I attended. It was slightly better on the big screen at our rental cottage than it was on my laptop where I first saw it. But it was never going to be a favourite for me, though it’s well scripted and acted.
Ridley ep 2 I haven’t given this any stars. We didn’t exactly abandon it but were interrupted by itv’s poor streaming, and by the time we got the programme back we couldn’t remember what it was about…
Better Call Saul. No stars for this, either. Husband was binge watching so I caught most of it and was not thoroughly interested.
Couples’ Retreat. Abandoned. This was another writers’ retreat choice. It’s an American romcom and those are never something I enjoy so I went to bed early.
This month has so far been totally rubbish and I have not managed any posts. I went to a Writers’ Meet in Southampton the first weekend and promptly caught Covid despite my best efforts. Well, you can’t wear a mask at a dinner while eating… I am only just recovering, and on Saturday I am setting out for the Lake District for a writers’ retreat which should prove both beneficial and productive! Please, everybody, cross your fingers, send good vibes, or whatever. I have simply put all my August reviews in this one post. Despite being part of a panel at the meet on links between fanfiction and original writing, I did not read any fanfiction in August.
Stranger Things Season 4***** NetflixThe trouble is we now have to wait till possibly autumn 23 or even early 24 for the next season… This ‘retro horror thriller’ with loads of brilliant teenage actors is totally gripping and I feel as if I actually know these people!!
Paul Simon: Under African Skies***** Excellent film exploring the making of the Graceland album and then the backlash from UN and ANC over sanction breaking and the eventual ‘rehabilitation’ by Nelson Mandela. Followed by the Simon and Garfunkel Concert in Central Park. All on Sky Arts so I have no idea whether they are still available – they aren’t to me because I don’t subscribe to Sky. (Sky Arts is on Freeview.)
Midnight Mass **** Netflix A horror story based around religious beliefs. Starts gently and ends up seriously gruesome. Any other comments would risk spoilers. There are 7 episodes and after each I spent ages wondering what was going to happen and who would survive which is a sign of some good writing and direction.
Red Rose**** BBC 1. Horror set not far from where I live. Teenagers are drawn into a weird scenario via mobile phone apps. Eventually their entire families are involved. Good, with excellent acting, but we found the ending rather rushed and could have done with one further episode to clarify a few things.
Sean of the Dead (rewatch)*** (Can’t remember which channel.) Husband loves it. I like it least of this ‘cornetto’ set of films. It’s well done and clever but I keep getting distracted (every time) and multi-tasking e.g. reading or emails so clearly, unlike Hot Fuzz (my favourite) and The World’s End, it doesn’t completely hook me.
The Sandman Netflix. Abandoned. I prefer my main characters to be mortal and we weren’t keen on the film direction either.
Hide and Seek Channel 4. Abandoned. We tried this Ukrainian thriller but it was made using a lot of dark backgrounds so was hard to watch, and the detective who was meant to be something like Saga in The Bridge was a pale copy.
The highly recommended:
Fang’d by Vin George***** I really loved this. I don’t always enjoy vampire stories but I trusted the writer so… And then – there was that wonderful world of various paranormals interacting and explaining themselves to each other. I’m looking forward to the next in the series, with more worldbuilding and further adventures for some of the other characters.
Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper**** Interesting and occasionally exciting mm romance following two men from the start of WWII in the US navy through to old age. Superb depiction of war at sea, then well researched references to the various stages in their lives as gay couples gradually won acceptance. It will either be a celebration, or, in the current political climate, a historical document…
Emerald Earth by Adam J Ridley**** An unfamiliar pen name for an author familiar in another guise (not sure if I’m supposed to say who…). A very exciting foray into full blooded paranormal romance by this author whose work never fails to please! I liked the magic, particularly the way the Wiccan ways and the native American ones interacted. The series should be good – I assume the other curse victims are to be helped find their HEA and I look forward to further exploration of the entire community and its beliefs. Diamond Air by Adam J Ridley**** I enjoyed this second visit to the pagan community, and the exciting storyline. I did think Lance and Drew would have to work harder than Crea and Eli to make their relationship work (they weren’t such an obvious pairing) but I wanted them to succeed and look forward to reading about what will happen with Kyle, the other one of the witch brothers.
Melody of the Heart by Blake Allwood**** A sweet romance saved from sentimentality by some drama that comes from outsiders rather than any introspection. As a pianist (not a very good one) I could really empathise with the work Jonas and Orlando had to put in to succeed in the world of music.
Range of Emotion by Lissa Kasey**** (book 3 of Survivors find Love) Another interesting read in this series. Nice to meet some of the previous characters, both major and minor, too. Just enough suspense and action to keep the plot going nicely. Well written, as usual.
Much Ado about Lady Macbeth by Rebecca Cohen**** Absolutely lovely mm romance set in the Tudor period. The author must have done mountains of research to recreate the atmosphere of The Globe and its actors. I liked the way the book linked to the Crofton Hall series but was a stand-alone. Just missed five stars because of some iffy proof reading. Saving Crofton Hall by RebeccaCohen**** (Modern Crofton 1) An interesting mm romance which fascinated me because it took place during the conversion of Crofton Hall (from the historical series) into a conference and wedding venue with possible tours. As I worked as a tour guide in a stately home when I was a student, this really ‘spoke’ to me and I enjoyed it immensely. As usual, the author’s research is impeccable.
Finding Finlay by Ruby Moone**** A lovely story with some nail-biting moments. I really like this series with the security firm set in my home city and was delighted to see characters from the first book again. Ruby’s characters, location, plot and style are great but I do wish she’d get a better proof reader.
Ghost of Truth by Alice Winters *** (Book 2 of Medium Trouble) Nicely written and quite exciting story about a guy who talks to ghosts and falls in love with the detective he is consultant to. However, although the ghost banter is amusing it gets to be a bit too much, and the characters in general are not as well developed as those in Jordan Castillo Price’s Psycops series which starts from the same premise (talking to ghosts). I might read book 3 if it’s in KU whereas I pre-order JCP and pay!
The Prince’s Frog by Eden Winters*** Quite a pleasant mm retelling of The Princess and the Frog but for me personally there was too much slightly heavy handed humour.
Heavy Petting by Kiernan Kelly*** A nice story about a hippo shifter but it was too short and I wanted more detail about the characters and location. I think it’s part of a much longer series about the magical rodeo they join so maybe the details appear at random. Meanwhile, on its own, this is readable but not memorable.
Authors new to me:
Nothing highly recommended this month but the following are readable:
The Past We Run From by Meg Jolly*** Competent but ultimately unmemorable police procedural set in Yorkshire. I wasn’t keen on any of the police characters so won’t be following the series.
The Prince of Gremalden by Anne Brooke*** I was intrigued because the theme (arranged mm royal marriage) is one I’ve written myself and it’s always good to see how other writers approach something. However, although the political twists were good the characterisation and world building were less than stellar, and I didn’t actually find myself believing in the romance.
Distant Gardens ed by JS Field*** This anthology of ff sci fi stories is mixed in quality, as is often the case with collections of stories by multiple authors. The romances are sweet enough but the sci fi is too weird and wonderful – I like my sci fi to have some kind of reality and to have elements that encourage the reader to compare and contrast their own physical or social world. Here, the authors seemed to be competing to create strange plants and fungi.
Winter Kills by JP Bowie*** The plot of this mm thriller was quite interesting but underdeveloped, as were the characters, and I felt it was really just a vehicle for the sex scenes. Strippers in New York are being murdered and it’s up to Tom Holt, the main detective, to find out why and stop the carnage.
A couple I thought were poor:
Storm Born by Christine Pope. ** I started reading this m/f paranormal romance/thriller (and enjoying it) then it ended on a cliffhanger and I realised that the ‘bundle’ of novels it came in were actually all by different authors, Obviously a marketing ploy and I must have realised at some point but it’s ages since I got them… So basically, I was very disappointed and won’t be following the story. I checked and there are about six so far in the series and none of them are cheap or in KU. Only recommended if you feel like buying a series. Well written. (It didn’t help that my Kindle kept playing up – I don’t think it liked the formatting because it’s fine for everything else.) I may not read the others in the ‘bundle’ either so as a marketing ploy it’s counterproductive.
The Anglesey Murders: Unholy Island by Conrad Jones ** I really didn’t enjoy this. The location was not well described (I’m familiar with it) and the mingling of a huge drug dealing racket (boring in the extreme) with a totally unrelated serial killer spree (unlikely and nasty) was confusing to the reader as well as the detectives. Police procedural but with a lot of wandering off into other points of view.
Finally, the ones I abandoned:
Deadly Motive by Liam Hanson. I didn’t like the style or the police characters in this thriller set in South Wales, then I found we knew who the villain was and just needed to explore the motive and have them caught. Not for me.
Candy Kings by NW Steel An mm romance set in UK but full of Americanisms and I didn’t like the style. Just – not for me.
The Prodigal Rake by William Hickey ed. Peter Quennell I thought this autobiography of a Regency ‘rake’ sounded intriguing (it was a charity shop find) but after a few chapters I realised I disliked the narrator so much I couldn’t cope with the idea of a long book about his romantic and sexual exploits. Interesting if you’re looking for period information but not otherwise.
Bodies in the Water by AJ Aberford. Thriller set in Malta with emphasis on people trafficking from Africa. I found the story disjointed and the location poorly described. I also disliked the lead detective intensely. Since he’s the one who features in the entire series I didn’t think it was worth continuing.
Sealfinger by Heide Goody and Iain Grant. Heavy handed humour and a very slow start to this thriller set on the east coast of UK. I got bored.
Names for the Dawn by CL Beaumont The premise was intriguing. Will, who is trans, works as a ranger in Alaska. He meets a man who is a British Indian ecologist. Can they ever get together or stay together? Sadly, I didn’t care. I couldn’t really empathise sufficiently with either of the characters. The prose was lyrical and I’m sure Alaska is a wonderful third person in the story.
Choke back the tears by Mark Richards***** This detective series just gets better and better. In the words of one reviewer it’s like Rankin’s Rebus books but set in Whitby.
Sell the pig by Tottie Limejuice**** Travel tale with a twist by a FB writer friend under a pseudonym. I enjoyed reading about problems with care homes and problems moving abroad. I have experienced both, and was planning to write a faintly similar book except that our Portuguese home went up in 2017’s wildfire flames and I had to give up the idea.
Hair Balls by Tara Lain**** ‘Just’ an mm romance but the characters are so real and even the very minor ones are interesting. Rick needs a hair, clothes and apartment makeover for his sister’s wedding…
Island Doctor by Sue Brown**** Another of the lovely mm romances set on the Isle of Wight. Yes, just a romance, but the real hero is the island community. The location is lovingly presented and the various extended families are delightful.
An arresting ride by Lissa Kasey**** An exciting sequel to Painting with Fire (which I also loved). Bastian and Charlie are comparatively minor characters in this story of a burnt-out police officer and a horse trainer with a damaged past, but Charlie’s fire fighting is centre stage again.
Code Blue by NR Walker**** Very satisfying and exciting story about a pop star menaced by both stalkers and his own health. In the course of dealing with both problems he falls in love with his security guard. I didn’t want it to end.
Dante by Stella Shaw**** First in the Love at the Haven series and I’ll look for the rest. The rent-boy trope is made more interesting by Dante’s background and the other characters are good too. I did wonder why a collapsing ceiling on the second floor of a three storey building would result in snow on the bed but other than that… (The author also writes as Clare London).
Listen by RJ Scott**** An mm romance that is built around a man’s love for his adopted daughter who is profoundly deaf. Interesting and unusual characters. Well written, as always.
The Glamourist by Luanne G Smith*** This is an exciting sequel to The Vine Witch (which I loved) but although I wanted to know what happened I was actually quite disappointed in the story. There was some magic in the first book but in this, all kinds of different magic systems and associated creatures were introduced. They were never integrated into a coherent magical world and I got irritated. I missed the vineyards that were so lovingly portrayed in the first book, and found the depiction of Paris less than stellar. I would, I think, have preferred Elena and Jean-Paul to have their HEA at the end of the first volume and I don’t think I’ll read the next in the series. It also makes me wonder whether the next one in the Raven Song series will be worth my time. There were, too, some annoying Americanisms which could easily have been edited out, and a few instances of shaky vocabulary use.
His Grandfather’s Watch by NR Walker*** Very sweet tale about Callum researching his inherited watch and finding romance in the process, Long short story or short novella – not sure. Well written and will appeal to anyone wanting a fluffy mm romance.
Heir to a Curse by Lissa Kasey*** Beautifully written story with a lot of interesting information about aspects of Asian culture. Zach is an appealing character but I wasn’t so keen on Xiang and might have preferred the plot to go in a different direction. Paranormal elements feature throughout.
Rain Shadow by LA Witt*** Pleasant mm romance set on the north west coast of US. Most of the drama arose from the characters’ personal histories rather than anything exciting happening.
Heartscape by Garrett Leigh*** A well written mm romance set in rural Vermont. Unmemorable apart from an exciting rockfall that was a pivotal plot point.
No fanfiction reviews this month though I’ve downloaded quite a lot of long stories.