Friday, 30 March 2018

Exhibit Alexandra by Natasha Bell

This is a stroke of genius in so many ways, and it throws up some interesting questions about ethics and morality. Also about what society expects from women.

Should art be cruel? Are artists allowed free license to create any piece of work they consider to be art? Even if it causes another person pain?

What shines through without any question is the ego-maniacal mindset of the performance artist. Where no betrayal, emotion or action is safe from the narcissistic personality of such an artist.

To be quite frank I'm not sure whether the artist or the audiences who lap these so-called performances up are worse. It is all so en vogue, pretentious and the emperor's new clothes.

Events or performance art such as a bunch of naked people playing tag in a concentration camp gas chamber. Rhythm 0 by Marina Abramović, a performance during which she placed a rose, a feather, a knife, a gun, and more in front of her. Visitors were invited to poke, prod or do anything they liked to her with the objects. Towards the end of the day the interactions became more violent, she and her clothes were cut and someone even put the gun to her head. Or Mao Sugiyama who underwent elective surgery to remove his genitals, then had them cooked and served at a so-called upscale dinner party. Five paying guests were then allowed to taste them.

These are just a few examples, and regardless of what the artist says their intention is, the convoluted inspiration and the supposed results at the end of the art exhibit, some people think it is a step too far. I count myself as one of those people, especially when you have to hurt others to make your point. Not all performance art is art, the majority of it is just inflated egos seeking attention and wanting to be noticed by the masses.

Alexandra does what is expected of her. She is the doting mother and wife, and does everything to make everyone else happy. She does what most women do, she takes a step back when it comes to her own desires, so her husband can succeed in his career. Society expects it and Marc expects it too.

Her need for the extreme outlet isn't entirely hidden, she makes really crass decisions and has no problem crossing boundaries, because she doesn't think there are any. If she did those things with my daughters, even as a friend I wouldn't have any qualms about calling the police or social services. Apparently the rules don't apply to Alex, which is probably one of reasons she ends up gone. She puts herself into dangerous situations, and yet never expects any consequences.

I enjoyed the conundrum this story represents, and the discussions it will generate.

Bell isn't afraid to confront her readers with the ugly truth. Personally I think the premise and the title are extremely clever, in fact the connection between the two didn't even dawn on me till I had read quite a bit of the story. It's an accusation and a dissection of society at the same time. What lengths will we go to entertain and to be entertained? Where is the cut-off point? When does exhibition equate to entertainment, and when is it a crime?

This is an innovative read, a cruel read, but it is also an eye-opener.

Buy Exhibit Alexandra at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Follow @byTashB @MichaelJBooks

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

#BlogTour The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco


Today it is an absolute pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for the sequel to The Bone Witch. Rin Chupeco does not disappoint, The Heart-Forger is absolutely a must read for YA Fantasy and Fantasy readers.

About the Author
Despite uncanny resemblances to Japanese revenants, Rin Chupeco has always maintained her sense of humor. Raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband. She's been a technical writer and travel blogger, but now makes things up for a living.

Follow @RinChupeco @SourcebooksFire on Twitter or @rinchupeco on Instagram
Visit rinchupeco.com
Buy The Heart Forger


About the book
In this dark, engrossing sequel to The Bone Witch, Tea has mastered resurrection—now it’s time for revenge.

Tea, a bone witch who can resurrect the dead, is done with her self-imposed exile. She now possesses all seven bezoars she needs to revive the powerful daeva. With the help of these terrible monsters, she can finally enact her revenge against the royals who wronged her and took the life of her one true love.

Alliances and allegiances are shifting, and danger lurks in and out of the kingdom. But Tea’s heart is set on vengeance, even if it turns her against her now-estranged brother, who supports her enemies. War is brewing, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.


Excerpt from The Heart Forger:
He does not look so formidable, I lied to myself, staring at the warped, decaying body before me. I can defeat his will. I will break him. It is a wonder what Mykkie had ever seen in him.
It was not the first time I had deceived myself in this manner. Neither was this the first time I had raised King Vanor from the grave. But if I repeated that mantra enough times, I thought I could finally believe my words.
The dead king refused to look at me, his eyes distant. The royal crypts were built to strike both fear and awe in those who visited, but I had grown accustomed to the stone faces looking down at me with quiet scrutiny from their high precipices. But King Vanor’s continued silence unnerved me every time—more than I cared to admit.
“A wise philosopher once said,” Fox drawled from the shadows, “that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the mark of a fool.”
“Why do I bring you along?”
“Well, a wise philosopher once said—”
Read more of the excerpt here...



Review
In both The Bone Witch and The Heart Forger Tea has a so-called bard, who accompanies her on her path to personal justice. It is important to Tea that there is someone to hear the truth, her truth, and for that person to tell future generations what really happened. To an outsider she appears to be violent, irrational and capable of extreme actions, and that is why she needs the bard to see and experience beyond the lies of her enemies. Then again perhaps she has just been driven insane like all the other dark asha before her.

The bond between Fox and Tea started to unravel slowly but surely in The Bone Witch. The siblings, who once fought side by side are now on opposite sides. As far as Tea is concerned this is unforgivable, how can her brother support the very people who killed her true love. Fox on the other hand has always been concerned about the darkness inside his sister. Now she is on the warpath and is preparing for battle, it seems as if his instincts just might have been right.

The beauty of this series isn't just the immaculate world-building, strong characters, the fascinating plot and the intricate descriptive writing, it is also the metamorphosis of Tea. The inquisitive young girl, who is filled with immense power and lives by a strong sense of wrong and right, morphs into a dark vengeful being driven by anger and a need to punish those she perceives to be the guilty.

Chupeco is an extremely talented writer. Her creativity knows no bounds, and her characters evoke empathy even when they are bent on destruction and revenge. I would like to see the author expand beyond the restrictions of YA, her thought processes are complex and her plots compelling. A true gem of the genre, and perhaps still a wee bit underrated. The Heart Forger is a fantastic read.

Buy The Heart Forger at Amazon Uk
Goodreads Amazon com Barnes & Noble BooksaMillion Indigo IndieBound
Buy The Bone Witch at Amazon Uk
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Buy The Suffering at Amazon Uk
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Read my review of The Bone Witch

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Excerpt from The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

Excerpt from The Heart Forger:

He does not look so formidable, I lied to myself, staring at the warped, decaying body before me. I can defeat his will. I will break him. It is a wonder what Mykkie had ever seen in him.
It was not the first time I had deceived myself in this manner. Neither was this the first time I had raised King Vanor from the grave. But if I repeated that mantra enough times, I thought I could finally believe my words.
The dead king refused to look at me, his eyes distant. The royal crypts were built to strike both fear and awe in those who visited, but I had grown accustomed to the stone faces looking down at me with quiet scrutiny from their high precipices. But King Vanor’s continued silence unnerved me every time—more than I cared to admit.
“A wise philosopher once said,” Fox drawled from the shadows, “that doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result is the mark of a fool.”
“Why do I bring you along?”
“Well, a wise philosopher once said—”
“Shut up.” My brother had no need to tell me my quest was hopeless. Numerous Dark asha, all more experienced than me, had made the attempt. But I had to do something.
“You’re in a worse mood than usual. Did Kalen chew you out at practice again?”
“If you don’t like it here, why not find some women in the city to flirt with instead?”
“Not in Oda—” He caught himself. “None of your business. Can we get this over with?”
I turned back to the corpse. “Where are you keeping Mykaela’s heartsglass?”
No answer. The colossi statues guarding the catacombs were likelier to respond than this infernal sod of a king.
“Answer me! What have you done to her heartsglass? Where did you keep it? Why do you hate her so much?” My headache worsened. Somewhere in the back of my head, I was aware of a shadow thrashing about, sensing my anger. I saw a vision of water, green and murky, before it faded out of view.
I took a deep breath and let it out carefully. The ache lightened and the shadow retreated as I recovered my calm.
“This is a waste of time.” Fox folded his arms across his chest. My brother looked to be in peak physical health, though he was no more alive than the royal noble standing before us.
Their similarities ended there; there was barely enough skin and sinew clinging to Vanor to pass for human. That was my doing. The first few times I resurrected him, I had been respectful, taking great pains to restore his body to how it appeared when he was alive.
Now I allowed him only enough muscle and flesh to move his jaw.
“He’s not going to talk, Tea. You know that, I know that, and he definitely knows that.”
“I will make him talk.” Many years ago, my sister-asha had fallen in love with this wretched excuse of a ruler. In exchange for her unwavering devotion, he had taken her heartsglass and hidden it so well that no one had been able to find it.
And now, more than a decade later, Mykaela was dying. She could no longer return to Kion. Her health had deteriorated to the point where she had to remain near her heartsglass, still hidden somewhere within Odalia, here in the city of Kneave. It was hard enough to be a bone witch; that she’d survived for this long was a miracle in itself.
I grabbed what was left of the king’s shoulders, pulling him toward me. He reeked of death and obstinacy. “Answer me!” My voice echoed off the columns. “Didn’t you love her even a little? Or are you so petty that you’d allow her to suffer for the rest of her years? She’s dying. What grudge do you harbor to hate her this much?”
“Tea.”
I froze. So did Fox.
I had told no one else about my weekly excursions to the royal crypts. Not my friend Polaire, who would have boxed my ears if she’d known, nor Mistress Parmina, who would doom me to a life cleaning outhouses. Only Fox was privy to my secret, which he had agreed to keep despite his own misgivings. And Mykaela was the last person I wanted to find out.
She had aged more rapidly during the last few years since she had taken me under her wing. There was more gray in her golden hair, more lines on her face. Her back stooped slightly, like she struggled under a heavy burden. She had taken to using a cane everywhere she went, unsure of her own feet.
“Mykaela,” I stammered, “you’re not supposed to be here.”
“I could say the same for you,” she answered, but her eyes were fixed on King Vanor, her pain obvious. He watched her gravely, without shame or guilt, and my anger rose again. How many raisings had my sister-asha endured, forced to watch while this king refused to speak?
I raised my finger to sketch out the rune that would send Vanor back to the world of the dead, but Mykaela lifted a hand. “Vanor,” she said quietly, “it’s been a while.”
The decaying figure said nothing. His eyes studied her, savage and hungry and ill suited for such an impassive face.
“I apologize for my wayward apprentice. She has been willful and intractable since her admission to my asha-ka and has shown little improvement since. Please return to your rest. Tea, let him go.”
Mykaela’s words were a steel knife through my heart. Stuttering apologies, I completed the spell and watched as King Vanor’s body crumbled back into dust in his open coffin. Even as his features dissolved, King Vanor never once looked away from Mykaela’s face.
“Close the lid and move the stone back in place,” she said. I could detect the anger behind her calm. “I would tell King Telemaine to seal his coffin, but even that might not stop you. Whatever possessed you to let her do this, Fox?”
Fox shrugged, grinning like an abashed schoolboy. “I’m her familiar. It comes with the territory.”
“Being her familiar is no excuse for being an imbecile! And you! What possessed you to summon dead royalty in the middle of the night?”
“I wanted to help.” The excuse sounded weaker when made to Mykaela than to Fox. “I thought that I could control daeva now! You said no Dark asha’s ever done that before! That’s why…why I…”
Mykaela sighed. “And so by that logic, you think you are different from Dark asha of the past? What you have in ability, Tea, you lack in wisdom. You cannot compel the dead if they are not willing. Wasn’t that the first lesson I taught you after you raised Fox from his grave? Arrogance is not a virtue, sister.”
I looked down, blinking back tears. Was I arrogant to want to save her? Unlike Fox, Dark asha and all those with a silver heartsglass cannot be raised from the dead, and that permanence frightened me. “I’m sorry. I want to help. But I feel so powerless.”
I heard her move closer, felt her hand on my head, stroking my hair.
“It’s not such a bad thing, to feel powerless sometimes. It teaches us that some situations are inevitable and that we should spend what little time we have in the company of the people that matter most. Do you understand me, Tea?”
“Yes.” I wept.
“Tea, I’m not dead yet.” A finger nudged at my chin. “I would appreciate it if you stopped acting like I was. I do not give up so easily, but we must adopt other means.”
“I’m sorry.”
“It is only an apology if you mean it. This is the last time you will be summoning anyone in the royal crypts, no matter how noble you think your actions are. Promise me.”
“I promise,” I mumbled.
“The same is true for you too, Fox.”
“I promise, milady.”
“Good. Now help me up the stairs. My legs aren’t what they used to be.”
Fox reached down and scooped Mykaela into his arms. “It’s the fastest way,” he explained. “You’ve expended enough energy yelling at us.”
The older asha chuckled. “Yes, that’s always been rather tiresome now that I think about it. Perhaps you should direct your energies toward more productive tasks so I can tire less.”
“How did you know we were here?” I asked.
“I’ve taken to wandering at night. I looked in on Tea, but her room was empty. I detected a shifting of runes nearby and merely followed it to its source.”
“I didn’t mean to make you worry.” The staircase led back to the Odalian palace gardens. For the past two months, Fox and I had been King Telemaine’s guests, traveling the kingdom and tending to the sickly. Most of the people here fear and dislike bone witches, though with lesser fervor than before. It is not easy to hold a grudge against someone who has nursed you back to health.
At the king’s invitation, Mykaela had taken up residence in the castle indefinitely. But every day finds her weaker, and I feared the palace would serve as her hospice.
“There are many other concerns, Tea. Likh has a new case pending, hasn’t he?”
The asha association had rejected Likh’s appeal to join, but Polaire had dredged up an obscure law that permitted Deathseekers to train in the Willows until they turned fifteen, which was Likh’s current age.
Mykaela glanced over Fox’s shoulder, back at the catacombs, then turned away.
She still loves him, I thought, and fury burned through me like a fever. “I’m really sorry, Mykkie.”
She smiled. “As I said, only if you mean it, Tea. Get some rest. We’ve got a busy day ahead.”
* * *
I listened until my brother’s footsteps faded before sneaking out of my room a second time. I opened the doors of my mind to welcome the hidden shadows; they wrapped around my core, creating a barrier that had for many months prevented Fox from discovering the other sentience I hoarded away, like a sweet vintage I had no intentions of sharing. I couldn’t. Not yet.
Chief waited for me at the stables. A lone woman on a horse caused no outcry, and we rode undisturbed out of the city, into a copse of trees that hid us further from view. I climbed off my stallion, told him to await my return, and moved deeper into the forest, into a small clearing that served as a rendezvous point.
I reached out once more to the moving darkness. The scar on my right thigh was hot to the touch. It burned in the cold air, but I felt no pain.
Despite its size, the beast was made of stealth and shadows. Where there was once nothing, it now stood beside me, as if summoned from the air. Three pairs of hooded eyes gazed down at me, forked tongues dancing. Its wings extended, and twilight rolled over me, soothing and pleasant.
Master? It was a voice but not in the manner we think of voices. Our bond gave us an understanding that went beyond language.
I reached out. Its scaly hide was a combination of coarse bark and rough sandpaper.
Play? It sat, unmoving, as I climbed up its back.
Yes.
In the blink of an eye, we were soaring across the sky, rolling meadows and fields of green passing below us. Turn, I thought, testing the limits of my control, as I have over the last several months. The azi complied, wings curving toward the horizon. I laughed, the sound joyous and free against the wind, and one head dipped briefly to nuzzle at my cheek, purring.
This is not selfishness, I told myself, but a responsibility. Mykaela was partly right; I was arrogant and overconfident, but I was not like other Dark asha. No other Dark asha had been able to tame the azi. And riding with it on quiet nights meant it was not rampaging through cities.
But I also knew I had to keep my companion a secret. Raising a dead king was a far lesser sin than taking a daeva as a familiar. I shall conquer this, I thought and, in doing so, sealed my fate.
Why are we at Daanoris?” I asked again when she paused. “Why won’t you tell me?”
“Because I need you as a witness as well as a storyteller, Bard. You will not remain unbiased for long if I supply you with foresight.”
“You summoned me. I travel with you. My opinions will make little difference.”
“You have a reputation for impartiality, Bard. I trust your judgment and my prudence. And here in Santiang, there is someone I would like you to meet.”
“Who?”
“They call him the Heartforger.” She flashed me a quick mischievous grin. “I find it difficult to believe you will be so eager to rule in my favor after the endless stretch of corpses I summoned in my wake. Or after informing you of my intentions to take Daanoris. It is not easy to mask your repugnance. Why have I come to Daanoris? Perhaps simply because I can. Has that not crossed your mind?”
“Tea,” Kalen admonished, his voice low and amused.
She laughed. “Let me continue my story while we still have the luxury.”
The shadows grew across the trees. The daeva melted slowly into the forest, moving silently despite their sizes. No other sound passed through the woods—no chirping of birds nor chatter of squirrels. There was only the wind whispering through the leaves, the crackling of fire, and the sound of the asha’s voice.

Return to the #BlogTour The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco to read my review...

Buy The Heart Forger at Amazon UK

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Later today it is my turn on the BlogTour for The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco, the second part in The Bone Witch series. I absolutely adored the first part, The Bone Witch, which is why I decided to feature a pre-taste of Chupeco's talent.

About the book
When Tea accidentally resurrects her dead brother, she learns she is a different from the other witches in her family.  Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in her community.  But she finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training. There Tea learns to wield her magic in the face of dark forces and the deceit of those who would plot against her, including the ruling royals, who are waging their own war for control of the land.

Told from Tea’s perspective while she waits in exile, collecting the strength and force to combat those who killed her one true love, and a visiting Bard’s perspective, this is another magical tale woven by The Girl from the Well author.
Review
I loved the writing and the descriptive style, it fits well with the flow of the story. Chupeco takes the reader to the past, the present and also Tea in the future. The future speaks of darkness and vengeance, the past of pain and death, and the present of uncertainty and discovery.

The parallels between the asha and Geisha's are an interesting element of the story. Women are considered entertainment for the men, and yet the asha are also revered at the same time. Tea finds it difficult to reconcile her inner turbulence with the dainty and effeminate skills her peers excel at.

She finds a home thanks to Lady Mykaela, who intends to train her as a dark asha, but first she is asked to follow all orders blindly and instead of exciting learning opportunities she becomes nothing more than a skivvy.

The ability to read a person via their heartglass is such an interesting concept. It leaves doors open for discrimination, judgements and exclusions. Mykaela can see the potential in Tea, but has no idea just how much power she has, and neither does Tea. Unfortunately the power also escapes on occasion, which is code for loss of control.

One of Tea's lighter dark moments is raising her beloved brother from the dead, which binds them in a way they both find it hard to cope with, especially when he starts to defy the strange connection they have.

Throughout the story the reader is given a glimpse of what Tea becomes and is heading towards, and it isn't pretty. Which event or betrayal turns her into the powerful bone witch with an axe to grind? The dark being intent on destroying those who have wronged her.

This was hands down one of my favourite reads of 2017. Chupeco is incredibly talented, has masses of potential, and deserves to be right up there with the big names in the Fantasy genre. This is YA, so I would really like to see the author let loose beyond the borders and restrictions of young adult.

Buy The Bone Witch at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Follow @RinChupeco @SourcebooksFire
Visit RinChupeco.com

Come back a little later for the BlogTour for The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch #2), the sequel to The Bone Witch!

Monday, 26 March 2018

The Seer's Curse by J.J. Faulks

The Seer has his own agenda, which is kind of ironic really when you think of how so-called mediums can convince their clients to lean towards certain decisions. Self-fulfilling prophecies used on an entire village, it's quite a clever ruse. Unfortunately his plan includes having an innocent child isolated from her friends, family and village.

With a mass or herd mentality the rumour of a supposed curse gains a lot of speed and the Chinese whisper communication method helps to flame the fires of paranoia. Soon every death, every illness and the diminishing food supply is blamed upon the child born under a dark cloud of sorrow and death.

The story of Orleigh is interspersed with short tales of mythology, not of the Greek variety, but rather an entire world of mythology built by Faulks for this story. I liked the idea of the myths being told to teach morals or show an example of good behaviour. The stories within a story. However there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. The author uses the feature too often, which detracts from the characters and the rest of the story.

Aside from that this is a very strong debut. The author and the plot both have a lot of potential. The characters are memorable and I am looking forward to seeing where the author takes Orleigh and Piprin. Faulks is a natural storyteller, who isn't afraid to be innovative and follow through with bold ideas.

Buy The Seer's Curse at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Follow @jj_faulks @matadorbooks
Visit jjfaulks.com

If You Go Down to the Woods by Seth C. Adams

The Outsiders' Club, that is exactly what Joey, Fat Bobby, Jim and Tara are, outsiders in their own way. Joey is the new kid on the block, Bobby is the fat kid who gets beaten on a daily basis, Jim is the black kid in the midst of a predominantly racist town and Tara just finds it difficult to belong.

A band of misfits, who find themselves accidentally drawn into a violent confrontation with The Collector. A killer with no remorse, a killer who enjoys the pain and the kill. The fact the four of them are teenagers and innocent of any wrongdoing, well perhaps they are a wee bit guilty of a few things, is of no interest to him at all.

The way Joey reacts to any threat or bully reminds me of what I have instilled in my own children. You stand up for those being bullied, show no fear and give as good as you get. This is how his relationship with Bobby starts. I enjoyed the way the author presents the inner dilemma Joey has with Bobby. His gut says protect him, his heart feels sympathy for his situation and yet his mind questions why Bobby doesn't stand up for himself.

It describes a typical, and yet very alarming, common scenario in a small town run by a hick sheriff and his violent son. Violence, bullying and racism are a daily occurrence, child abuse and neglect are commonplace, and the authorities are part of the problem of course.

It is a refreshing unexpected slap in the face kind of read. I have to hand it to Adams, he lulls the reader in with his nostalgic Stand by Me coming-of-age intro, which then melds into a combination of Pulp Fiction meets Deliverance with a pinch of Noir plot, which all takes place in the woods of a rural town. It is an unpredictable, brutal and take no prisoners kind of read. There is one thing for certain in If You go Down To the Woods, there aren't any teddy bears with picnics waiting for them or for you.

Pre-order/Buy If You Go Down to the Woods at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Kindle Pub. Date  6 April 2018
Paperback Pub. Date 14 June 2018
Follow @SethCAdams @KillerReads @HarperCollinsUk

Thursday, 22 March 2018

#BlogTour We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard


Today it is my turn on the BlogTour for this wonderful combination of literary, crime and maritime fiction, We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard, translated by David Warriner. It is a true testament of talent.
About the Author
Ten years or so ago, Roxanne Bouchard decided it was time she found her sea legs. So she learned to sail, first on the St Lawrence River, before taking to the open waters off the Gaspé Peninsula. The local fishermen soon invited her aboard to reel in their lobster nets, and Roxanne saw for herself that the sunrise over Bonaventure never lies. We Were the Salt of the Sea is her fifth novel, and her first to be translated into English. She lives in Quebec.
Follow @RBouchard72   @orendabooks
Translation by David Warriner @givemeawave
Buy We Were the Salt of the Sea
About the book
As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in
knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation.
On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky…
Both a dark and consuming crime thriller and a lyrical, poetic ode to the sea, We Were the Salt of the Sea is a stunning, page-turning novel, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.
Review
After many years of unanswered questions Catherine decides to try and poke a stick right into what she perceives to be a hornets nest. Instead she is confronted with a confusing contradiction of welcoming warmth and gnarly disdain.

The town has a Ryan's Daughter attitude about it. The outsider who asks too many questions and threatens any insider becomes the enemy. Catherine is in the unenviable position of being disliked for her genetic connection to Marie, and yet at the same time liked for her lack of relationship to her mother.

Not everyone understands the need for connection or closure in an adopted child, in this case given away for safekeeping child. You can love the people who raise you unconditionally, and yet still have a burning desire to find a biological connection to the person who gave you away. Catherine is torn between wanting to finally meet her biological mother and avoiding an encounter between the two of them.

The real question she has is which man managed to impregnate her mother. Who is her father? Simultaneously this story is also her path towards acceptance and freedom. Sometimes the past doesn't leave enough information or clues, and the so-called witnesses may never part with their important memories.

Bouchard gives the reader much more than just a story about a search for answers and the closure for a woman without familial ties. Bouchard hands us the sea on a silver platter. You can taste the salt, feel the waves, and are almost convinced to set sail on the open seas yourself. In contrast to that scenario the author presents the dangers of the sea. Looking out upon the calm surface bobbing softly along as the sun sets and sinks on the horizon, the mind is tricked into believing the Fata Morgana of pure innocence. So many set sail on the premise of sanctity and peace, only to be taken hostage by the wild uncontrollable nature of the oceans.

As if that wasn't enough incentive to read this book then perhaps the subtle crime story the author has woven into the delicate fabric of this combination of literary, crime and maritime fiction.

Bouchard's writing is as smooth as caramel sauce being poured into a bowl of melted chocolate. Fortunately Warriner's translation reproduces this warm comfortable flow beautifully. Barring the excessive use of 'Christ in a chalice and Hee' this is a stunning lyrical read, and I expect to be seeing Bouchard's name on award lists.

Buy We Were the Salt of the Sea at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.


Tuesday, 20 March 2018

#BlogTour End Game by Matt Johnson

Today is my turn on the BlogTour for End Game by Matt Johnson. The good news is that it is a new book by Matt Johnson, the bad news is that this the last part in the #RobertFinlay trilogy.

About the Author
Matt Johnson served as a soldier and Metropolitan Police officer for twentyfive years. Blown off his feet at the London Baltic Exchange bombing in 1993, and one of the first police officers on the scene of the 1982 Regent’s Park bombing, Matt was also at the Libyan People’s Bureau shooting in 1984 where he escorted his mortally wounded friend and colleague, Yvonne Fletcher, to hospital. Hidden wounds took their toll. In 1999, Matt was discharged from the police with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While undergoing treatment, he was encouraged by his counsellor to write about his career and his experience of murders, shootings and terrorism. One evening, Matt sat at his computer and started to weave these notes into a work of fiction that he described as having a tremendously cathartic effect on his own condition. His bestselling thriller, Wicked Game, which was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger, was the result. Deadly Game and now End Game, the final book in the Robert Finlay series, once again draws on Matt’s experiences and drips with the same raw authenticity of its predecessor.

You can connect with@Matt_Johnson_UK or @Orendabooks on Twitter, Facebook or at mattjohnsonauthor.com
Buy End Game here


About the book
Robert Finlay seems to have finally left his SAS past behind him and is settled into his new career as a detective. But when the girlfriend of his former SAS colleague and close friend Kevin Jones is murdered, it’s clear that Finlay’s troubles are far from over. Jones is arrested for the killing, but soon escapes from jail, and Finlay is held responsible for the breakout. Suspended from duty and sure he’s being framed too, our hero teams up with MI5 agent Toni Fellowes to find out who’s behind the conspiracy. Their quest soon reveals a plot that goes to the very heart of the UK’s security services. End Game, the final part in the critically acclaimed Robert Finlay trilogy, sees our hero in an intricately plotted and terrifyingly fast-paced race to uncover the truth and escape those who’d sooner have him dead than be exposed.

Review
End Game is the last in the Robert Finlay trilogy by Matt Johnson. It fits comfortably into the Andy McNabb style military-action genre.

What really gets my goat is the deference one has to show to superiors in the military and the police force, as pertaining to the story. I understand neither organisation functions without the proper hierarchy and without obedience or rules there is chaos, however when you get a complete and utter tool like Mellor it makes the loopholes in the structure more evident. Some people are just morons, end of, even if they have higher ranks or hold more powerful positions. They seem to become almost untouchable and allowed to get away with any behaviour, no repercussions for the powerful, which then makes a mockery out of our democratic system.

I just needed to get that off my chest.

The brotherhood of man in military type environments, especially if they share traumatic experiences in war zones bond in a way outsiders will never completely comprehend. Having each others backs is paramount, and that sense of loyalty and support lasts beyond the boundaries of being in the same unit together. So it is fair game to say Finlay is willing to go to any length to help his old brother-in-arms when he is arrested for killing his girlfriend.

The whole thing appears to be an elaborate set-up to hide the fact certain people are trying to hide a bigger conspiracy, and it is no surprise when Finlay gets dragged straight into the middle of it.

Johnson gives his stories a flair of mystery, and combines it with the action and knowledge of a military action adventure. It's what sets it apart from that genre, because he caters to the crime and thriller readers at the same time. I can't wait to see what comes after this trilogy.

Buy End Game at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Read Deadly Game by Matt Johnson


Monday, 19 March 2018

#BlogTour The Devil's Dice by Roz Watkins


It's my turn on the BlogTour for The Devils Dice by Roz Watkins. The author combines her deathly scenarios with a controversial topic to create debate and a compelling read.
About the Author
Roz Watkins is the author of the DI Meg Dalton crime series, which is set in the Peak District where she lives with her partner and a menagerie of demanding animals. Her first book, THE DEVIL'S DICE, will be published by HQ (HarperCollins) in March 2018. It was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award, and has been optioned by ITV Studios.

Roz originally studied engineering and natural sciences at Cambridge, before studying patent law. She was a partner in a firm of patent attorneys in Derby, but this has absolutely nothing to do with there being a dead one in her first book. In her spare time, Roz clicker-trains her dog and horse, and likes to walk in the Peak District, scouting out murder locations.
Follow @RozWatkins @HQStories @HarperCollinsUK
Visit rozwatkins.co.uk
Buy The Devil's Dice
About the book
Detective Inspector Meg Dalton has recently returned to her Peak District roots, when a man's body is found near The Devil's Dice - a vast network of caves and well-known local suicide spot. The man's initials and a figure of the Grim Reaper are carved into the cave wall behind his corpse, but bizarrely, the carvings have existed for over one hundred years.

The locals talk about a mysterious family curse that started in the times of the witch trials, and Meg finds it increasingly hard to know who to trust. Even her own mother may be implicated.

For Meg, the case is a chance to prove herself in a police force dominated by men, one of whom knows a lot more about her past than she'd like, and is convinced she's not fit for the role. In a race against time, Meg finds her own life at risk as she fights to stop the murderer from killing again.
Guest Post by Roz Watkins

My inspiration behind DI Meg Dalton

People talk about strong female characters, but I just wanted my main character, Meg, to be like my female friends – principled and tough when challenged, but likely to choose a nice cuppa and a digestive biscuit over a fight with a deranged killer if given the choice. Of course, Meg isn’t always given the choice.

I knew that as a woman in a male-dominated profession, Meg would need to be pretty tough, but on the inside she’s suffering from imposter syndrome, like a lot of women. Although she sometimes lacks confidence, I tried to inject her with a wry sense of humour that will hopefully appeal to both sexes. The friends I've made in the Derbyshire police force often deal with grim and horrific scenes, and when you have to shake maggots out of your turn-ups on a regular basis, I guess you either see the funny side or fall apart.

Meg is a bit of a crusader at heart, and is often forced by the plot to champion causes that are close to me. My partner once described her as a younger, more kick-ass version of me with DM boots and a badge. I'm not sure if that was meant to be a compliment or an insult! She’s actually not naturally very kick-ass – and she’s a bit fat and has a limp – but she has a habit of getting into situations where she has no choice. (Her writer is a sadist.)

I was encouraged not to give Meg dependents, because readers get horribly stressed wondering who is looking after the dog or the children when the hero’s off slaying villains. But Meg loves animals so I gave her a relatively independent, overweight cat called Hamlet, who can now never die. Other authors have warned me never to kill a cat, and I don’t think I could bear to do it anyway, although I have no trouble killing off people. (Most of my victims to far seem to be middle-aged men. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I get a bit fed up of all the beautiful, dead young women that crop up in some crime fiction.)

One of my big annoyances with some TV police dramas is the necessity for their female characters to chase villains around in the latest pair of 3 inch Jimmy Choos, so I knew I didn't want to make Meg into some super-glamorous detective. Hopefully she is a more realistic interpretation of a female police officer. I did want her to be bright, and was delighted when one reviewer described her as a "Geek Warrior Queen". I couldn’t have wished for a better description.

Review
I was amused by the juxtaposition of a crime committed in a cave in the middle of the Peak District in a solitary environment, and the weapon of choice being death by cake. Oh the sweet irony. If you're going to die then cake is the way to go.

Watkins tackles a controversial issue in The Devil's Dice, and when I say controversial it's because it is generating a lot of discussion, even though it should probably go without saying. In the UK there is a campaign called Dignity in Dying, and they and their supporters, have been advocating for a change in the law.

People and/or patients who are terminally ill or suffering from an incurable degenerative disease should be allowed to choose to end their pain and suffering with the help of medical institutions and doctors. Euthanasia, assisted suicide or physician assisted suicide. Instead they are forced to go overseas to countries where it has been made legal, and die alone in strange surroundings without the comfort of home or family members.

On top of the costs of a foreign assisted suicide any person travelling with the patient has to adhere to certain rules and regulations, so they are not charged with assisted manslaughter when they return to their home country. It is tragic, especially when you take into consideration how many countries have already worked assisted dying into their legal system.

DI Meg Dalton  is forced to consider this very question in her own family. Her mother is caring for her grandmother, and both of them struggle with the care and the fact her grandmother would rather die than be kept in a state of constant misery and pain.

Watkins explores both sides of this contentious issue, which includes the religious argument of it being against God's will. Suicide is a sin. It weakens society's view on the sanctity of life, aids the slippery slope towards involuntary euthanasia and getting rid of undesirables or the fact it might not be in the patient's best interests. Valid points of view, but none of them take the lucid arguments of people into consideration, who are quite capable of making decisions for themselves.

Watkins presents a main character who is vulnerable, actually pretty darn accident prone and always in the middle of some kind of violent altercation. She is driven by anxiety and fears, and has to deal with sexism and harassment at work on a daily basis. Overall more of an anti-heroine, which makes her more meaty.

It will be interesting to see where the author takes Meg, given a little more direction. Eventually those anxieties and her past will have to be dealt with. The lone wolf with flaws combined with unusual scenarios and deaths, what's not to like?

Buy The Devil's Dice at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Friday, 16 March 2018

A Summer of Witches by M. Ganendran


About the Author
M. Ganendran is the author of three books; The Song of the Mermaid, The Guardians of Rainbow Tower and A Summer of Witches. She enjoys writing stories that are suitable for children and young adults, yet which could captivate anyone.

Work is in progress for a new novel to be released in 2018. Sim's Magic Windmill will tell the story of a twelve year old girl who finds herself a reluctant heroine in a quest to save Scotland from evil forces intent on destruction. Throughout her journey, Sim must contend with her own personal struggles with Crohn's Disease, and comes to terms with her condition.
Follow @m_ganendran
Buy A Summer of Witches
About the book
Wartime witches, ghosts and smugglers abound in this dual-time supernatural mystery story.

In the summer of 1940, twelve year olds Lawrence and Rachel are evacuated to the village of Burley in the New Forest. One night, they witness a group of people dressed in strange clothing creeping into the woods. Before long, they find themselves drawn into an adventure while the very future of their country is at stake.

In 1990, teenagers Nick and Molly uncover a diary in the attic which belonged to Molly’s grandmother who was evacuated to Burley 50 years before. The diary hints at extraordinary events but creates more questions than answers before coming to an abrupt end. As they are drawn further into danger, can Nick and Molly find out what really happened in 1940?
Review
The story is split into past and present, the reader follows Lawrence and Rachel in the 1940's, as war refugees evacuated to the countryside, and Nick and Molly in 1990 in the same village. Nick and Molly discover her grandmother's diary she wrote as a child evacuee. It hints at a mystery, so the two them start snooping around to discover the truth.

Lawrence and Rachel experience the trauma of being separated from their parents, friends and family members. They are thrown together due to a mix-up, but eventually learn to support and depend on each other. The constant fear of being left an orphan is balanced out by the almost mundane problems they experience in their new home and school. The village children and the evacuees are at odds with each other, and not everyone is happy about having to take strangers into their homes. The children not only have to deal with the difficulties of dealing with their peers, growing up and family secrets, they also discover their own hidden potential.

The four children find themselves drawn into a world of vengeance and witchcraft. A world of supernatural power that has been hiding in the depths of the forests waiting to make a move. A secret coven is the only thing standing between the lurking evil and a viable threat against the country. What can they do to curtail the evil that is waiting to pounce and destroy anyone in its path?

This is suitable for middle-grade, YA and of course older readers. The author wants readers of all ages to be able to read and enjoy her work. What seems like an emotional read turns into a wild adventure, the kind of exciting adventure that will thrill young minds. Wild powers, secret gatherings, mysterious forests and the fact two twelve-year-old children have to try and save the world, are what make A Summer of Witches an entertaining read.

Buy A Summer of Witches  (Kindle- also available on Kindle Unlimited) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Buy A Summer of Witches (Paperback)
Buy The Guardians of Rainbow Tower
Buy The Song of the Mermaid

#BlogTour The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton


Around the Bloggerverse in 31 days and today the plane takes a short stop here! The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton is the kind of story that breaks into your house, hides under your bed and creeps up on you from behind when you least expect it.
About the Author
Karen Hamilton spent her childhood in Angola, Zimbabwe, Belgium and Italy, and developed a love of travel through moving around so much. This led her to a career as a flight attendant, and it was in the air that she thought of the idea for her debut thriller THE PERFECT GIRLFRIEND, which aims to explore not only obsession, but also the true faces behind those who go to work in uniform. Karen is a recent graduate of the Faber Academy, and has now put down roots in Hampshire to raise her young family with her husband
Follow @KJHAuthor @Wildfirebks @headlinepg #ThePerfectGirlfriend #LoveYouToDeath
Buy The Perfect Girlfriend
About the book
Juliette loves Nate. The fact that he’s broken up with her doesn’t change that.She has a plan to win him back, starting with training as a flight attendant for the airline where he works as a pilot, so she can keep a closer eye on him. Twisting the self-help books she’s read, she takes the mantra ‘in charge of you own destiny’ to new extremes.She is the perfect girlfriend. And she'll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants - the perfect boyfriend, the perfect life, the perfect ending.An utterly compelling voice that hooks you into Juliette’s world, a unique insight into the face behind the air hostess uniform from an author with first hand experience, and ultimately a completely page-turning experience make THE PERFECT GIRLFRIEND one to watch
Review
Juliette is in love with Nate. Head over heels, white picket fence and soulmate kind of love. Deeply, Madly, Truly. Well madly is true, because Juliette is madder than a March hare and Nate has no clue that they are destined to be together forever.

She has a plan to convince Nate that she is the perfect woman for him, and nothing is out of bounds to achieve her goal. She neither hears nor accepts the word no when it comes to her future and her plans.

Juliette pretends to be just a normal gal, and pretends to be sane. She keeps up the pleasant exterior, but now and again the true Juliette shines through, which makes some of her friends take a step back and it is the reason Nate broke up with her in the first place. Her place of comfort is to lie instinctively when questioned and cornered. Juliette really does not understand boundaries at all.

This is the kind of story that breaks into your house, hides under your bed and creeps up on you from behind when you least expect it. Hamilton has created the kind of character that makes the reader feel as if they are right there watching the stalker stalk their prey, and she isn't afraid to give her readers an unconventional ending. The story begins with Juliette, ends with Juliette and is owned completely by Juliette.

I enjoyed the fact the author picked a woman to be the ex who refuses to let go, usually a man is cast in these types of roles. Nobody boils a bunny quite like a lady does. In fact I think all bunnies should run in the opposite direction if they see Juliette coming.

It is a popcorn munching, nail biting kind of read, with an audacious main character, who lets herself be deterred by nothing and no one. Hamilton plays it bold with the narcissistic Juliette. There is no room for mercy or forgiveness, it is selfish and self-absorbed, which makes it a really compelling read. Kudos to Hamilton for pulling it off.

Buy The Perfect Girlfriend at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.


Tuesday, 13 March 2018

#BlogTour Among the Branded by Linda Smolkin

It is my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for Among the Branded by Linda Smolkin. I do enjoy a read that makes the reader think and ask questions. The readers may come away from it with very different experiences, but either way it will be a memorable one.
About the Author
Linda Smolkin always wanted to be a writer—ever since she saw her first TV commercial and wondered how to pen those clever ads. She got her degree in journalism and became a copywriter. Linda landed a job at an ad agency, where she worked for several years before joining the nonprofit world. She's currently working on her second novel, which will be released in Spring 2018. When not in front of the computer, she's behind the drums (slightly) annoying her husband, son, and their 70-pound dog.

Follow @lindasmolkin
Follow @AuthorLindaSmolkin on Facebook
Visit  lindasmolkin.com
Buy Among the Branded
About the book
What if a 70-year-old letter from World War II changed the course of your life?

While attending Valor of the ’40s, art director Stephanie Britain stumbles upon a flea market selling letters from the war. She buys a handful, hoping they’ll inspire the redesign for a client’s website at her branding and design firm. She’s at first drawn by the lost art of penmanship, but soon discovers a hidden treasure nestled inside declarations of love from homesick soldiers. Stephanie enlists a coworker to translate one and realizes it’s not a love letter after all. When a shocking discovery about a client causes Stephanie to question her principles and dedication to her firm’s business, she’s forced to make a difficult decision—one that could give her peace of mind, yet ruin her career in the process.

Contemporary fiction with a historical touch, AMONG THE BRANDED explores family life, an unexpected friendship, and moral conflicts that make us wonder what’s more important: our livelihood or our beliefs. This moving debut novel by Linda Smolkin is a great addition for readers who enjoy books by Jodi Picoult, Kristin Hannah, and Liane Moriarty.
Review
Among the Branded is a story about family and making emotional connections even when there are no blood ties. When Stephanie buys a vintage love letter at a re-enactment festival called Valor of the 40's, she finds herself drawn to discover the people mentioned in the letter. The letter is written by a Jewish woman trying to save her family, who are already embarked on their path straight to a certain death, however their then five year old son Isadore was rescued from the hands of the Nazi's. Stephanie makes it her mission to discover their story and in doing so finds herself making the kind of human connection we all wish for in life.

Stephanie represents each and every one of us. Smolkin has made her main character the collective conscience, which is a bold move in a story some may just wave away as a tale of friendship. It isn't, whether it is per chance or intentional, the author is asking her readers to acknowledge that the way we react in our generation can perhaps change the repetitive process of human mistakes and history.

Kudos to Smolkin for calling out France by the way. Quite a few countries like to whitewash their involvement in the Holocaust or try to change the narrative of the past. At this very moment Poland is trying to force the world and its own countrymen to accept their new and improved version of their involvement in the atrocities. Let's wave at Switzerland too. while we're at it.

For me the most intriguing storyline was the one about business over conscience. Every one of us has a set of morals and ethics we live by, and sometimes we are put in positions where we have to make a choice to follow them or not. In this case it is money vs working with an anti-Semite, a neo Nazi.

You might not be aware of it, but every one of us has probably bought or used the products produced or funded by companies with dark pasts or involved in dubious dealings. Ask yourself whether you would still buy the stylish fountain pen or school pencil if you knew the brand had a Nazi past (Faber-Castell), how about driving a BMW, VW, Audi, Mercedes or bought a Hugo Boss perfume or an article of clothing (those SS suits looked sharp, didn't they?).

So we have to make a choice whether or not to fund the collaborators or firms like I.G.Farben, who used slave labour and built labour camps near Auschwitz or buy elsewhere because of their contribution to mass murder. To be completely fair one would have to acknowledge that these are historic crimes, but what if the brand was a known fascist, racist or anti-Semite now? Would you still give them your money?

I see outrage when it comes to the use of real fur, mass transports of animals and animal testing. Consumers making a choice to buy elsewhere. I wonder why other causes have more validity than the ones with links to or collaboration with historical war crimes?

We have a choice and a voice, instead of staying silent and letting hate rule our countries we need to step up to the plate and speak out. Let's not watch the world sit by idly once again, as fascists scaremonger the ill-informed and repeat the past again.

Although Smolkin presents her story softly and with great care not to rock any boats, I believe the dialogue between the lines is one of great clarity. It speaks of kindness, compassion and understanding, whilst drawing a clear boundary in the sand when it comes to hatred.

Buy Among the Branded at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Pub. date 28th April 2018

Monday, 12 March 2018

Echoes: One Climber's Hard Road to Freedom by Nick Bullock

At first glance you might think this is just the journey of one man and whatever huge monster of a mountain he can find, however it is so much more. It is a detailed experience of his soul-searching and analysis of his choices in life, and how they led to his dangling from great heights.

If you were to ask me what I took away from this book then my answer would have to be the fact the author writes with a refreshing honesty, and digs really deep to answer his own questions and perhaps even some he thinks the readers might want to ask him. It is a story of obsession, confusion about what direction in life to take, and ultimately about his paths in life.

Bullock doesn't shy away from his own home truths, his weaknesses and the reasons for his choices in life. Is he a seeker of thrills? Yes. His brain and body crave the extreme danger of the climb. He most definitely does, but he also relishes the freedom he experiences whilst climbing. Plowing through snow swept mountains or inching up the steepest of climbs, every new challenge is a battle between himself and nature. Instead of feeling a sense of relief after each success he is already thinking about the next climb.

His journey to finding his meaning in life and doing something that fulfils him with something other than fear and frustration, is one filled with bruises, injuries and surgery. His life is almost like a tennis match with Nick as the tennis ball, as he bounces from the mundane and frustrating normal life as a prison officer to the exhilaration of extreme danger and back again.

The writing is offset and complimented by the fantastic photographs in the book. Goodness knows how they took some of them in mid-climb.

Although the climbing aspect is the main feature of this story I have actually already recommended it to someone, because of the way Nick wrestles with his decisions and ultimately the acceptance of what really makes him happy. It's the inner demons, the daredevil attitude and vivid imagery that makes Echoes a very memorable read indeed.
Buy Echoes (Hardcover) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.
Buy Echoes (Kindle) Also available on Kindle Unlimited
Buy at Waterstones Buy at Barnes & Noble

Follow @nickbullock2003 @VertebratePub Visit v-publishing.co.uk
Visit nickbullock-climber.co.uk

Sunday, 11 March 2018

#BlogTour The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare


Today it is my pleasure to take part in the BlogTour for The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare. It's an amusing Regency romance that should come with a warning, so bare that in mind if you get a little hot around the collar whilst reading it.
About the Author
Tessa Dare is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fourteen historical romance novels and five novellas. Her books have won numerous accolades, including Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® award (twice) and the RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence. Booklist magazine named her one of the “new stars of historical romance,” and her books have been contracted for translation in more than a dozen languages.

Mixing wit, sensuality, and emotion, Tessa writes Regency-set romance novels that feel relatable to modern readers. With her bestselling “Spindle Cove” and “Castles Ever After” series, she has had great fun creating heroines who defy the conventions of their time—engaging in “unladylike” pursuits that range from paleontology to beer-making—and dreaming up the strong-willed, sexy heroes who find their hearts ensnared by them.

A librarian by training and a booklover at heart, Tessa makes her home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and a trio of cosmic kitties.

Follow @TessaDare @MillsandBoon
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Visit tessadare.com
Buy The Duchess Deal
About the book
Witty, Saucy Regency Romance

‘I am a Duke. I’m not asking you to marry me. I am offering to marry you. It’s a different thing entirely.’

When the Duke of Ashbury returns from war scarred, he realises he needs an heir – which means he needs a wife! When Emma Gladstone, a vicar's daughter turned seamstress visits wearing a wedding dress, he decides on the spot that she'll do.

His terms are simple:
- They will be husband and wife by night only.
- No lights, no kissing.
- No questions about his battle scars.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she's pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has secrets and some rules of her own:
- They will have dinner together every evening.
- With conversation.
- And teasing.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she's seen the man beneath the scars, he can't stop her from falling in love…

When a girl meets a Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules…

Review
Ash is convinced no woman will ever want him or love him, who wants to be intimate with a monster? He has convinced himself that his physical scars will repulse everyone, especially any potential love interests. Emma sees the man behind the horrific scars and finds herself falling for the stubborn aristocrat.

Emotional attachment isn't part of the deal though. Not according to the deal the two of them have agreed to. It includes an heir to the dukedom, a lot of teasing, and definitely under no circumstances shall there be any kissing. Not an easy task when you're in the throes of passion.

The Duchess Deal has an equal amount of passion and playfulness, including a house full of scheming staff invested in Emma and Ash, and their very peculiar relationship. At the same time the read is hotter than a chilli pepper. An excellent balancing act of charm, wit and desire.

Lovers of Regency romances want to experience the moments of illicit passion, the moments when there is a sharp intake of a breath just before the feisty beautiful woman is kissed passionately by the debonair gentleman. There are some authors who also manage to infuse the wicked and the saucy with a sense of humour, and that is the core essence of a standout Regency novel. Tessa Dare certainly knows how to combine the hot and heavy horizontal tango with a quick witted humorous dialogue.

Instead of relying on all of the usual clichés and the sometimes stuffy repertoire of this genre, the author has fun with the characters and the plot. This sense of adventure and joie de vivre can be felt throughout the book. Tessa Dare elicits amused snorts and accelerated heartbeats in equal measure.

Buy The Duchess Deal at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.