A MelanieM Review: Mythica by L.J. LaBarthe


Rating:  4.25 stars out of 5

MythicalgishHalf selkie Caiden is unhappy that as a Mythica he is unable to serve his country as his father had done.  In fact all Mythicas are banned from service because they might not be able to handle the stress, changing forms in combat.  While Caiden agrees intellectually with that assessment, emotionally he’s frustrated and taking his discontent out on those around him.  Its even affected his viewpoint of the  sy’lph, an alien race that arrived on Earth seeking sanctuary and a home after their galaxy was destroyed in a war.

But when a minotaur goes wild at the government offices of the Bridging Lives agency (a sort of  Social Security other being checkpoint and social agency), Caiden jumps in to stop the minotaur and his world changes forever.   First he is rescued by Gray, a sy’lph who is the local liason between humans, mythica and the sy’lph.  Gray is gorgeous and Caiden is overwhelmingly attracted to a being he has resolutely disliked.  Secondly, the minotaur had been poisoned.

Soon all the mythicas are under attack.  And Gray and Caiden take their first steps towards understanding and a relationship just when everything starts to fall apart around them, putting themselves and Caiden’s family in danger.

Mythica by L.J. LaBarthe is a book that defies categorization, something that surely thrills its author.  How to describe a beautifully written story that encapsulates human mythological creatures come to life, along with an alien race fleeing galactic genocide and bringing inhuman technology with them.  Then throw in a interspecies romance, racial purity rights terrorists, and much, much more and you have Mythica – scify, supernatural, paranormal, action, suspense, mystery romance!  I would expect nothing less from L. J. LaBarthe.

From the opening lines, the author pulls you into the joy of Caiden’s life as a half selkie!  He is frolicking in the ocean waters near home which is Broome in Western Australia:

Dolphins swam up to join him, and he grabbed the dorsal fin of the nearest one, laughing when he surfaced and breathed in air again. The dolphin dragged him along through the water at a rapid rate, making him whoop with delight, a sound echoed by the raucous cries of the seagulls hovering overhead. Schools of fish swam below him, sometimes their silvery bodies brushed against his toes, and Caiden loved that too, the feeling of being so free, so connected to all the elements—water, air, light, earth. The dolphin that pulled him along through the water brought him close to shore, and Caiden felt the soggy roughness of sand beneath his feet. He let go of the dorsal fin, calling a thank you and goodbye to the dolphins as they swam on.

LaBarthe conveys the lightness of being and the spontaneity of Caiden’s selkie behavior in the waters.  And just as quickly, the author is able to ground Caiden in his human half, complete with his discontent and unhappiness at leaving the watery haven behind as he reluctantly arrives at the Bridging Lives agency.   LaBarthe has created with her “mythicas” a fascinating new group of beings (albeit from an ancient beginnings).  The mythicas are

“Mythica were the descendants of all mythological creatures of antiquity—the pixies, fairies, selkies, minotaurs, dragons, and more—who lived and worked alongside humans.”

Caiden himself is half mythica, his father human and his mother a selkie, a human/mythica pairing not uncommon in this story. The author is quick to give Caiden a  painful past made bearable by a supportive, loving family, only some of which are mythicas.  Broome is pictured as normally as is possible when mythicas and aliens such as the sy’lph casually walk about its facilities and streets.  There is an authenticity to each scene that is wonderful considering who and what is appearing throughout each description and event.

Also marvelously imagined are the sy’lph.  Alien beings of mallable metal (think mercury) whose real shape and body is confined within a synthetic humanoid shell.  Just seeing their true shape/body is enough to blind any human.  Their back story and natural history is as complex and captivating as everything else that LaBarthe has created here.  But while all the outside elements are fantasical in nature, inside there exists a lovely romance between two beings/people trying to learn about each other and work their way towards something more lasting and real.

Interspersed throughout the myriad of plot threads is the threat to Caiden, his family and all mythicas.  It isn’t long before the villain of the pieces appears  and the uncertainty and dread that comes with this nasty little storyline

is yet one more element that will keep the reader engaged and deeply involved in Mythica until the ending.  Which I was sorry to see arrive.

Mythica has such a wide appeal and such a ingenious universe, that I hope to see LaBarthe revisit it again in another story.  Both the mythicas and the sy’lph deserve to have their stories told.  But while we are waiting for that to happen, pick up Mythica and see why I recommend it so highly.  Never has such a concoction of genres been so appealing.

Cover by Mumson Designs is lovely, and captures the joy of Caiden perfectly.

Sales Links:      Bottom Drawer Publications   All Romance (ARe)          Amazon          Buy it here

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 217 pages
Published September 18th 2014 by Bottom Drawer Publications
edition languageEnglish


A MelanieM Review: The Body on the Beach (Under the Southern Cross) by L.J. LaBarthe


Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Body on the beachIt’s 1920 in Adelaide, the only free colony in Australia.  When  a body on the beach is found to be marked up with Chinese symbols, it only makes sense for the local constable to call upon William “Billy” Liang for advice and help with the investigation.  Billy Liang, prominent member of both cultures in Adelaide,  has often worked as a liaison between the various emigrant societies in Adelaide and the white establishment.

With his lover and business manager, Tom Williams,  at his side (and with the support of Billy’s wife), Billy and Tom must investigate a crime that looks to implicate the local Chinese community in the murder.  Billy and Tom deal with illegal opium dens, fantan games and gambling, racism, and being shot at throughout the investigation. And while Billy’s family accepts the love he and Tom share, Australia’s laws against sodomy and homosexuality pose a constant danger.    It’s a delicate balance that Billy and Tom maintain, one that this murder and the ripples it sets in motion threaten to destroy.

The Body on the Beach, part of the Under the Southern Cross Anthology, is a perfect little window into a time and societal framework of 1920 Adelaide, Australia.  L.J. LaBarthe recreates gallimaufry of cultures that is Adelaide, a situation that hasn’t changed much today.  Within the limits of the town, there exists the Chinese, the Greeks, the Russians, and more nationalities that have flooded into the region and are now coexisting, however uneasily, with the white population.  I  especially loved the intimate look at the Chinese community from the viewpoint of Billy Liang.  The character of William “Billy” Liang is a compelling one.  He acts as the bridge between all the “foreigners” and the local establishment by way of his success as a businessman and his status within the Chinese insular community.   And he does so successfully because he lives in both worlds in his private life.  He is married to an intelligent, understanding wife who accepts his love and relationship with Tom. Indeed, they have created for themselves their own insulated world where their servants are supportive of their unique relationship dynamics, including the fact that he and Tom live in one section of the huge house and his wife in another.

Some readers might balk at this arrangement, but as its laid out here by L.J. LaBarthe, it not only works but we enjoy the camaraderie and ease in which they all deal with each other.  I enjoyed Billy’s wife for her grace and intelligence as much as I did Tom, a terrific balancing act indeed.

While the plot has Tom and Billy investigating a complex murder, it was all the descriptions of the various sides to Adelaide and its people that I really enjoyed.  I felt as though I was there, walking the streets and beaches with Billy and Tom.   There is the realistic aspect of racism that has to be dealt with along with the need to keep their sexuality and true nature of their relationship hidden.  And within all of that complicated framework, a murderer needs to be caught and brought to justice.

When an author brings me takes me back to the past and makes it feel alive once more, as LaBarthe does here, then I feel that I have taken a marvelous journey, one I was unwilling to see end.  The Body on the Beach is just such a story.  If you are unfamiliar with L. J. LaBarthe, this is a wonderful place to start!

Cover Artist Anne Cain.  How I love this cover!  Everything, from the design to the characters, pull you in as does this story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press           All Romance (ARe)           Amazon           Buy it Here

Book Details:

Published March 13th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published March 12th 2013)
edition languageEnglish
seriesUnder the Southern Cross

Down Under Day 6: L.J. LaBarthe, AUS/NZ Facts and Contest Details




Welcome to Day 6 of STRW Down Under Author Showcase. Our Featured Author today is L. J. LaBarthe, a prolific author of multiple series and stand alone romances. Make sure you visit her page, check out her bio and books. And don’t forget to enter her giveaway contest and search out the Scavenger Hunt word of the Day as well as enter Bottom Drawer Publications contest on the Down Under Author Showcase Page.

Australia Fact of the Day:

Adelaide-skylineAustralia’s Migrants I
Around 24% of Australia’s residents were born overseas. This compares with 20% in New Zealand, 17% in Canada, 10% in the USA and 6% in the UK.

Australia’s Migrants II
Australia has been a magnet for immigration for many years. In fact, Australia’s immigration policy used to be targeted towards attracting people from the British Isles. The emphasis now is to attract anyone from anywhere who has the skills to contribute to Australia’s development.

City of Adelaide Skyline – see link for more information about Adelaide.

New Zealand Fact of the Day:

It’s a fact: at 41.2o South, Wellington is the most southerly capital city on the planet. Cities on similar latitudes in the Northern hemisphere are Barcelona, Istanbul and Chicago.



Down Under Author Showcase Continues and this Week’s Schedule


DownUnder_January Is Banner

Down Under Author Showcase continues this week.  It’s been wonderful to have all these talented authors talking about their books, and their countries.


So far,  Christian Baines,  Nicki J. Markus (2), and Anne Barwell (3) have been featured.  Our Down Under Author Scavenger Hunt has begun, along with the individual giveaways, and Bottom Drawer Publications contest on the Down Under Page.  We are still looking for people who have vacationed in New Zealand and Australia who want to share their favorite places and moments with us this month.

kiwi and NZ country

Our Schedule This Week:AUS flag over country


Monday, January 5:

  • Down Under Featured Author: N.J. Nielsen
  • Down Under AUS/NZ Facts, Updates, and Contests
  • A Sammy Review: Rival Within by S.J. D. Peterson
  • A Mika Review: In Too Deep by Kate Sherwood
  • L.M. Somerton’s Investigating Love Book Tour and Contest

Tuesday, January 6:

  • Down Under AUS/NZ Facts, Updates, and Contests
  • Down Under Featured Author:  L.J. LaBarthe
  • A MelanieM Review: The Body on the Beach by L.J. LaBarthe
  • A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Candy Man by Amy Lane
  • A MelanieM Review: Mythica by L. J. LaBarthe

Wednesday, January 7:

  • Down Under AUS/NZ Facts, Updates, and Contests
  • Down Under Featured Author: Michelle Rae
  • Cover Reveal: Jess Buffett “Always Been You”
  • Moment of Impact by Karen Stivali Book Blast
  • A Sammy Review: A Spartan Love by Kayla Jameth

Thursday, January 8:

  •  Down Under AUS/NZ Facts, Updates, and Contests
  • Down Under Featured Author:  Renae Kaye
  • A MelanieM Review:  Safe In His Arms by Renae Kaye
  • A MelanieM Review:  The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye
  • A MelanieM Review:  The Blinding Light by Renae Kaye
  •  E. S. Skipper (false identification)book blast and contest—cancelled

Friday, January 9:

  • Down Under AUS/NZ Facts, Updates, and Contests
  • Down Under Featured Author: John Wiltshire
  • Review: Love is a Stranger by John Wiltshire
  • Mika Review: A Captive to His Wonder by Remmy Duchene
  • A Sammy Review: A Royal Affair by John Wiltshire

Saturday, January 10:

  • Down Under AUS/NZ Facts, Updates, and Contests
  • Down Under Featured Author: N. R. Walker
  • A MelanieM Review: Red Dirt Heart Series by N. R. Walker
  • A MelanieM Review:  Red Dirt Heart 4 by N. R. Walker
  • Sammy’s Review of Thomas Elkins series by NR Walker


New Reviewers!  Welcome to Stella and BJ, our new Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words reviewers!