A MelanieM Release Day Review: Anhaga by Lisa Henry

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Aramin Decourcey—Min to his few friends—might be the best thief in Amberwich, and he might have a secret that helps him survive the cutthroat world of aristocratic families and their powerful magic users, but he does have one weakness: his affection for his adopted nephew, Harry.

When the formidable Sabadine family curses Harry, Min must accept a suicide mission to save his life: retrieve Kazimir Stone, a low-level Sabadine hedgewitch who refuses to come home after completing his apprenticeship… and who is in Anhaga, a seaside village under the control of the terrifying Hidden Lord of the fae. If that wasn’t enough, Kaz is far from the simple hedgewitch he seems.

With the Sabadines on one side and the fae on the other, Min doesn’t have time to deal with a crisis of conscience—or the growing attraction between him and Kaz. He needs to get Kaz back to Amberwich and get Harry’s curse lifted before it kills him. Saving Harry means handing Kaz over to his ruthless family. Saving Kaz means letting Harry die. Min might pride himself on his cleverness, but he can’t see his way out of this one.

The Hidden Lord might see that he never gets the choice.

I have read an amazing amount of great Lisa Henry stories over the years but I don’t remember one quite like this one.  There were her dark contemporary tales (When All the World Sleeps), the marvelous action adventure series of Playing the Fool , and even  her twisty scify series of Dark Space.

None of them are like Anhaga , Henry’s idea of a fantasy fairy tale.    Where of course, as Min will tell you, there’s no hero and certainly no real dragon to be found.

Min?

That would be the not so heroic, real, and oh so complicated Aramin Decourcey. Son of a whore, thief extraordinaire if you believe the tales told and a man of more layers to his personality and soul then he will ever admit to or even recognize himself.  Because some of those layers get people hurt, leave them vulnerable and open.  Things he left behind if he ever had  them at all.  Especially with his mother and childhood.  With Min as the narrator, one of crust, wryness, pain, and yes, someone who eventually works through his walls and rethinks a thing or two, this becomes a saga of a fantastical journey.  Not just of the one Min takes to bring back Kaz.  No that is merely the start.  It’s a emotional, mental, (often nerve wracking, sometimes fear inducing) and even psychologically twisting tale of changes, growth, and revelations for a number of characters here.  It just begins with Min and Kaz.

The characterizations are beautifully constructed, especially Min.  He’s a masterpiece of grit, experience, self sufficiency, thief, and rapscallion with his own sense of morality.  Let’s not forget intelligence, with a highly formed sense of self preservation as well.  The one person he protects better than himself would be Harry, his “nephew”.  What else he might be i’ll leave to the story. As you meet each new person, it’s like grabbing their hand, and “boom” they become alive. ,Harry the nephew, Talys the young woman he falls in love with, Aiode the hedgewitch, even Robert Talys’ father (and so much more).  These people become living, breathing beings here, with all their histories, snark, braziness, snobbery, fearliness, and pain.  How can you not love them?

The storyline itself builds and builds to a whopping crescendo!  Each time I thought Henry had us there, nope, we were just cresting over a small hillock, before heading to the next higher mountain with gathering anticipation.  That finale was amazing.

As was the ending.   It was everything I had hoped for.  No heros?  Maybe  or maybe they just come in different forms these days.

Either way, this is a fantasy tale to inhale and savor.  I highly recommend Anhaga by Lisa Henry.  It’s just fantastic!

Cover Artist: Tiferet Design.  Beautiful cover with a special element from the story.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Expected publication: July 23rd 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644054642
Edition Language English

Elizabeth Coldwell on Writing, Characters and her new novel,The Leprechaun Next Door (author interview)

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The Leprechaun Next Door by Elizabeth Coldwell

Dreamspinner Press

Cover Art: Adrian Nicholas

Buy links: Dreamspinner Press

Amazon US

Amazon UK

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Elizabeth Coldwell here today talking about writing, characters and her new novel,The Leprechaun Next Door. Welcome, Elizabeth.

 

✒︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interviews Elizabeth Coldwell

  • How much of yourself goes into a character?

Not that much, I don’t think. When it comes to writing MM fiction, the characters are more how I feel I might be if I was a man, which might not always be positive traits. Part of what appeals to me as a writer is becoming someone who I could never be in real life – not because I don’t like who I am as a person, but because I like to explore different perspectives and possibilities.

  • Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?

It all depends on the story. For The Leprechaun Next Door, I was bringing a fantastical element into the everyday world, but both parts of that equation required more research than you might think. Everyone knows the basic traits of a leprechaun, such as their green suit and their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I needed to know if they had any other quirks I could work into the story, and that’s how I hit on every one of the wishes Johnny the leprechaun grants having a sting in its tail (but then there’d be no story if everything came easily to the hero, would there?) As for the real-world element, Devon is looking for work lands a job in a coffee shop, so I did a little bit of research into how to use an espresso machine, because that’s something he needs to be taught.

  • How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?

Ebooks revolutionized book publishing. They opened up publishing to any number of people who would never have got a book in print due to the limited number of slots available via traditional publishers, but they’ve also allowed an awful lot of poor-quality writing to see the light of day. For a while now, there have been suggestions that the ebook market is saturated, particularly when it comes to romance, but I think good books and good publishers will always thrive.

  • How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)

I don’t self-publish, so I’ve never had to create a cover of my own or commission one (which is probably a good thing, as my talent is writing, not art of creative use of PhotoShop). All my covers are put together by talented artists who work from the ideas I send them. For The Leprechaun Next Door, Dreamspinner cover artist Adrian Nicholas came up with a variety of images and I chose my favorite. I love it because it’s very colorful and light-hearted and it suits the mood of the book.

  • Do you have a favorite among your own stories? And why?

This will sound like a cop-out, but it’s almost impossible to pick one out of everything I’ve ever written. I’m very fond of the Lionhearts series I wrote for Totally Bound. They’re MM shifter stories about various lion shifters around the world and the humans who are destined to be their mates, and the series as a whole takes in centuries-old conspiracies, human sacrifice, ghost hunters, murder, arson, obsessed stalkers – all the good stuff!

  • Have you ever put a story away, thinking it just didn’t work?  Then years/months/whatever later inspiration struck and you loved it? Is there a title we would recognize if that happened?

That happened with a novel I wrote for Xcite Books, Someone Else’s Skin. It all sprang from an incident many years ago when I was hypnotized by someone who’s a well-known hypnotist in the UK at the launch of his self-help videos (yes, that’s how long ago it was – no such thing as DVDs in those days!). He claimed he could hypnotize you to show you who you were going to be in a future life, rather than who you’d been in a past one, and I thought that was such a great idea for a story, but I couldn’t make it work and I shelved the book. It was never meant to be an erotic romance, but when I changed the heroine’s self-absorbed, cheating boyfriend into a sympathetic character who enjoyed threesomes, suddenly everything fell into place and I had great fun writing it. But I’ve never been hypnotized since…

  • If you could imagine the best possible place for you to write, where would that be and why?

It’s somewhere I’ve written in the past. A few years ago, my partner and I were on holiday in Amsterdam, staying on a houseboat that had once been a working barge. One day it rained, so I sat writing and watching the rain fall. Just the perfect creative atmosphere.

  • What’s next for you as a writer?

I have an idea for a novel involving a vampire character who gets a tiny mention in The Leprechaun Next Door. Once I have the time to get into the meat of the story, I think I’m going to have a good time with it.

 

The Leprechaun Next Door by Elizabeth Coldwell

Blurb:

Happiness might be waiting at the end of the rainbow, but will it come with a price?

Devon’s down on his luck—he’s lost his job and discovered his boyfriend is cheating on him. His neighbor, Johnny, is not only cute, he also has a big secret: he’s a leprechaun with a pot of gold… and the ability to grant wishes.

Can Devon wish his way out of the hole he’s found himself in? He’d like a new job, some revenge on his lying ex, and maybe even love. Johnny can give him what he wants, but it won’t come for free… or in the ways Devon expects. Can he trust a sexy leprechaun to help him make a new start and wish himself into the arms of the man of his dreams?

Author Bio:

I am Rotherham’s foremost (okay, only) writer of quality erotica and erotic romance. Though I’m now based in London, family and football take me back North on a regular basis. Indeed, if you’re ever at a Rotherham United match (I know, what are the chances?) and you spot a small blonde with a large ‘London Millers’ flag, that’ll be me. Originally from South Yorkshire, Elizabeth Coldwell has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, only now she gets to people them with hot men. When she’s not got her nose in a book, she’s reviewing or trying to stop one or both of her cats from walking over her keyboard. She spends her time following her home town football team and baking the best brownies in East London.

 

Connect with Elizabeth Coldwell

Blog

Goodreads

A MelanieM Review: Magic Triumphed (The Mages’ Guild Trilogy #3) by Andi Van

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

The Mages’ Guild Trilogy: Book Three

Zaree Muna’s loyalty to her brother Tasis has taken her to some strange places, but she never could’ve predicted ending up where she now finds herself. The victims of a spell, Tasis and his familiar are unable to wake, leaving Zaree and her allies to face the mad king of Archai on their own. Their quest brings them face-to-face with the Maker herself, and she offers a dire prophecy: they’ll suffer three deaths as they fight for the fate of their world. They’ll lose two people close to them before the final death threatens their chance of victory.

But Zaree isn’t planning to give up—not on Tasis’s dream and not on their future. If that means staring down death, she’s ready. A thousand years is too long to let their struggles end in anything but triumph.

Magic Triumphed (The Mages’ Guild Trilogy #3) by Andi Van is the exactly the right conclusion I was hoping for.  It’s soaring in its imaginative qualities, full of adventure and suspense.  All the characters we have come to know and love are present and fully involved in saving the world in a manner that has us cheering for more.  And Andi Van gives us additional characters barely hinted at but now fully fleshed out, complete with their own relationships, and roles to play.

The only thing missing?  I really wanted to see those giant dogs!

I love a saga that gives me a origin mythology and dragons too.  Be still my heart.  Plus Van leaves room at the end for further, if not sequels, then connected stories and hopefully more series because the world building here is exceptional.  From the Grey Forest elves to the gryphons, to the Maker and all the dragons and Guilds, the continued expansion of the universe that the author is creating throughout the trilogy just cries out for more.

That goes for the relationships here too.  The triad of Emlynn,Jorget, and Nabiha (with baby brother Malik of course) need their story along with Zaree and Reikos, should that be who she ends up with, you never know.  There are so many powerfully conceived characters here who deserve stories all their own in this marvelous universe, empty Guilds that need to live again and a world that still needs so much healing.

Andi Van brought all these beings and this world alive to me.  I sank into it for three stories.  Magic Triumphed was an emotional high, It brought a complicated magically gorgeous saga to a great ending yet made me feel as though another journey could yet still be ready to start.  I hope that Andi Van is listening….

Love fantasy?  Here is a trilogy to dive into and become a part of.  Beautifully written, fantastical creatures and wonderful characters, it will leave you both satisfied and wanting more.  How great is that?

I highly recommend the entire trilogy which should be read in the order is was written.

Cover Art: Tiferet Designs.  Gorgeous cover with the beautiful rendering of Zaree on the cover.  Love it.

Sales Links:  Harmony Ink Press | Amazon | Dreamspinner Press

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 214 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Harmony Ink Press
ASIN B07LH1CWFM
Edition Language English
Magic Fell
Magic Wept
Magic Triumphed

Book Blitz and Giveaway for In The Eye Of The Wind by Katherine Wyvern

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Length: 100,000 word approx.
 
 
Blurb
 

Born in the northern wastes of Kaleva in the middle of a devastating war between light and darkness, Rikko’ has found his way south to the warm shores of the Circled Sea, the first elver to ever turn pirate.


Forbidden by the rules of the Andalouan court to pursue such an ungentlemanly career, Gael can only dream of ever becoming a doctor, and his medical studies remain unfinished until his aunt the Queen sends him on a covert mission to the pirate city of Beyas’kahl.


And here, after one night with Rikko’, all his loyalties are put to the test.


Queen Amata has reigned for three decades, and she always used her men cunningly. But even the best player can miscalculate, and her blunder places Gael first in slavery, then in a naval battle, and finally, worst of all, face to face with Rikko’s darkest and deadliest side.


From such darkness, is there any coming back? Is there any hope of love for Gael, or redemption for Rikko’?

 
About Katherine
 

I have entered that age when looking at beautiful male models in their prime makes me a cougar, ahem.


Almost all my heroines are short: that’s because I look at the world from hobbit level. Being so small I am three times more concentrated (read: obsessive) than anybody I know. I am exhaustingly creative in writing, arts, crafts… Sometimes my brain gets friction burns from hurtling at such speed from one universe to the next.


I love animals, plants, and occasionally even people.


Like the Highlander I come from a lot of different places. I was born in Italy but lived here and there and consider myself simply and deeply European. I love Europe passionately, its antiquity, its diversity, its quirkiness. All my books are set in Europe, or alternate versions of it.


I have been writing since I can remember.


Katherine’s Blog:
https://katherinewyvern.blogspot.fr/


Katherine’s Website:
http://meetingivory.wixsite.com/katherinewyvern


Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/katherinewyvern


Facebook Author/artist Group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/884796268383313/?ref=bookmarks


Twitter:
https://twitter.com/KatherineWyvern


Or follow her on Instagram @katherinewyvern


Giveaway

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions

 

A MelanieM Review: Magic Wept (The Mages’ Guild Trilogy #2) by Andi Van

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

The Mages’ Guild Trilogy: Book 2

Jorget wants desperately to hone his magical abilities, but it’s almost impossible in Archai Castle, where the mad king would kill him if he caught him using his forbidden talents. But a chance presents itself when Jorget’s mentor, the royal priest Denekk, sends him on a quest in search of a magical weapon. While it seems his opportunity to make a name for himself has finally arrived, Jorget has no idea what he’s really getting himself into.

 

In the Mages’ Guild of the Dragon’s Claw, Kelwin Tiovolk and his beloved, guild leader Tasis Kadara, are finally enjoying a peaceful life. Unfortunately, it can’t last—the king has designs on a weapon that can destroy the guild, and in order to protect his home, Kelwin will have to leave it.

 

Saving the guild seems impossible with so many determined to stop them, but if Kelwin and Jorget stand together, they might find the strength to defy the odds and preserve all they hold dear.

The middle book in the trilogy is often the hardest story for the author, and perhaps the reader.  It has to act as a bridge between the first story that launches the saga, where lies the power of introducing us to the characters and universe and then it has to carry us over to a third tale that will triumphantly bring all the many story threads together, answering our questions and, hopefully, giving our characters a HEA they all deserve. That’s quite a story load for any bridge to carry.    Plus it has its own narrative chores to carry out.  It must move a complicated plot forward, expand on existing characterizations, and, even do a little more revelations in the foundation/universe creations (here it’s in the mythology world building here that Van is creating).

Yes, that middle novel can make or break a trilogy.  So I’m so happy to tell you that I was just as enthralled with Magic Wept as I was with Magic Fell.  With everything this story had to accomplish, it did that and more as a compelling fantasy tale I couldn’t put down.  Van enlarged on the mythology started in the first story,  gave the reader many stunning twists here, introduced new characters and expanded on ones we barely met in the first novel, Magic Fell, by bringing them into the main group here.  I’m loving Emlynn the giant who never grew too tall,Jorget who’s mouth runs faster than his brilliant mind,  and many more.  Toddlers, butterflies, and dandelions, oh my!

Andi Van is able to balance the magical, the fantastical, with the ability to horrify in a split second.  And then go back again.

The characters that you find here, all of them, no matter the gender, or gender fluid, or gender identity, are all complicated, living beings.  That they might happen to be dragons, magical cats of a thousand years or a baby who can make butterflies dance about your heads, you take them all into your hearts and embrace them fully.  Which means you are fully invested about what happens every second of every page.

Which is a lot.

There is more world building, action and suspense, and, yes, its setting us up for the final story Magic Triumphed..

For those of you seeking heat in your fantasy, this is not the trilogy for you.  This is a true YA story with no heat at all.  Love, romance perhaps, but no sex.  It’s a wonderfully imagined, deeply satisfying fantasy adventure with great characters and world building.

I definitely recommend Magic Wept (The Mages’ Guild Trilogy #2) by Andi Van and Magic Fell.  Now onto the trilogy finale.

Cover Artist: AngstyG.  These are just gorgeous covers, and work not only for the trilogy but for the characters as well.

Sales links:  Harmony Ink | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 180 pages
Published September 18th 2018 by Harmony Ink Press
ASIN B07DKX7TC6
Edition Language English
Series The Mages’ Guild Trilogy #2

Andi Van on Writing, Dragons, and their new release Magic Triumphed (The Mages’ Guild Trilogy #3) (author guest post)

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Magic Triumphed (The Mages’ Guild Trilogy #3)  by Andi Van

Harmony Ink Press
Cover Artist: Tiferet Design

Sales Links:  Harmony Ink Press | Amazon | Dreamspinner Press

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Andi  Van here today to talk about writing, and dragons and their new release Magic Triumphed, Welcome, Andi.

 

 

“Write me a story with a dragon.”

You never think that a single sentence could change things so drastically. Or at least I don’t. But in 2007, when I decided to participate in this thing I’d heard of called NaNoWriMo, that’s exactly what my grandmother told me when I called her to tell her I had no idea what kind of story to write.

So I wrote her a story with a dragon. That was in 2007, mind you, and the original iteration of Tasis’ story was only one book long and badly written in places. Especially the ending. The ending was horrible. But I was lucky enough to have a chance to fix that, to expand my fictional world into an entire universe.

It’s been almost twelve years, and  I never thought I’d be so incredibly sad about having a book released, because Magic Triumphed being released into the world means it’s over. Done. The thing I poured my heart into as a tribute to my late grandmother is complete, and it’s kind of like losing a piece of my soul.

(When I said this to my mother, her immediate reaction was to ask me when I’m writing the fourth book. I pointed out that a trilogy is only three books long, and her response was “That didn’t stop Douglas Adams.” I mean, she has a point, but…)

It’s been a labor of love, for sure. I wrote Magic Wept and Magic Triumphed back-to-back, without a break. I lost Koi, my much-loved feline companion and deleter of chapters (via sitting on my keyboard), in the middle of the process due to old age. My roommate was pretty sure she was going to have to take me to the hospital before I ended up dead from lack of sleep (I’m not even joking about that, sadly). The characters weren’t cooperating. I had to have deadlines extended. And I had to write something near the end (don’t worry, no spoilers) that pretty much destroyed me, even if I knew how it was going to turn out. On the final day, I was up until 5 in the morning, with another author friend keeping me company until I hit send on my submission email. (Then I promptly fell into bed and stayed there for a week.)

We all know how I am by now, though. There’s a baby who can do magic he shouldn’t be able to do, and we have to know why he can do that, right? He should be getting his own story, shouldn’t he? Plus I’ve already been talking with friends about doing some crossover stories. So chances are, this isn’t the last you’ll be seeing of The Mages’ Guild.

But hey… I wrote a story with a dragon for you. I hope you like it.

You can follow along with the blog tour at http://andivan.com/magic-triumphed-blog-tour. Since the dragons are what started this whole mess (both in reality and in the story), it’s the dragons I’ll be talking about for most of the tour. Keep your eyes peeled for a random giveaway or two!

 

 

 

Blurb:

Zaree Muna would follow her brother Tasis anywhere, but she never imagined that path to lead where it has. After Tasis and his familiar fall under a magical sleep from which no one can wake them, she and her party prepare to face the mad king of Archai without him. They don’t expect the journey to lead to the Maker herself, who predicts three deaths will occur as the battle to save their world from Archai and a jealous god nears. Two of those deaths will be loved ones, and if things go wrong, the third death could spell the end of everything.

But no one ever accused Zaree of being a coward, and as she and the others go into battle to save what Tasis has rebuilt, she is ready to laugh in the face of death. The thousand-year wait is over, and none of them will accept anything less than triumph.

***  Excerpt

Vashk was waiting for them when they made their way into the cavernous dock, and Zaree, with Yldost riding on her shoulder, couldn’t help but wonder just how much the water dragon knew. She respected and trusted him, certainly, but she didn’t kid herself. He was hiding something from them. Multiple somethings, likely, and all of them important.

Yldost leaped from her shoulder and would have landed on the ground in a small heap if Zaree hadn’t caught them. Clearly the dragon wasn’t used to not having all of their feathers in place. Instead, Zaree very gently set Yldost on their brother’s snout, which was likely the place Yldost had been aiming for in the first place. They gave Zaree a grateful chirrup before turning their attention to their sibling. “Vashk. Seri na.”

Seri na,” Vashk replied, his clear voice rolling through the grotto.

Diisen var?”

“If you would speak a language we could understand, it would be appreciated,” Zaree said, catching Jorget’s nod from the corner of her eye.

Seri na is a greeting between family members,” Vashk told her.

“There isn’t really a translation for it, but it signifies family ties as well as affection. You would use it when greeting Tasis, but not when greeting Sireti.”

Zaree tilted her head slightly to one side without thinking about it, and groaned inwardly when she realized what she’d done. She’d been spending far too much time with Yldost if she was picking up their mannerisms. “I wouldn’t use it with Sireti even though he’s blood family?”

“You dislike him,” Yldost piped up. “Seri na is for loved ones. And blood does not make families.”

About the Author


Andi Van is a foul-mouthed troublemaker who lives near San Diego with a baseball bat that’s forever being used for things other than baseball, and a fondness for rum and caffeine (though not necessarily together).

Andi is fluent in three languages (English, sarcasm, and profanity), and takes pride in a highly developed—if somewhat bizarre—sense of humor.

Social media info:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DefiantAndi
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/defiantandi

Love Romance and Fantasy? Check out the Book Blast for Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1) by Isobel Starling (excerpt)

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BOOK BLAST

Book Title:  Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1)

Author: Isobel Starling

Publisher: Decent Fellows Press

Cover Artist: Valentine Pascadian (Lennel)

Genre/s:  Fantasy, M/M Romance

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length:103 600 words/ 556 pages

Release Date: February 15, 2019

Add on Goodreads

 

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK

 

 

Blurb

After a traumatic event, Winter Aeling finds himself destitute and penniless in the backwater town of Mallowick.  He needs to travel to the city of Serein and impart grave news that will bring war to the Empire, but without a horse, money, and with not a soul willing to help him, he has no choice but to line up with the common folk seeking paid work on the harvest.  

As wagons roll into the market square and farmers choose day laborers, Winter is singled out for abuse by a brute of a farmer.  The only man who stands up for him is the farmer’s beguiling son, Adam, and on locking eyes with the swarthy young man Winter feels the immediate spark of attraction.

Winter soon realizes there is a reason he has been drawn to Blackdown Farm.  The farmer possesses a precious item that was stolen long ago from Winter’s family, and he determines to retrieve it.  He also cannot take his eyes off the farmer’s son, and as the young man opens up Winter can’t help wondering if Adam is just kind or his kind!

 

 

Excerpt

“Apple Boy” by Isobel Starling

CHAPTER 1

MARKET SQUARE

“You boy, aye, YOU.  Ain’t never seen ye round ‘ere before,” The farmer directed his bellow at me.  

It was sunrise, and at last, I’d found the courage to step out of my hiding place and join the common laborers who gathered in Mallowick market square.  We were waiting for the farmers’ carts to come by and choose their day workers.  I’d watched this ritual each morning for the past three days, peeking out from shadowed doorways, or while crouching behind barrels.  

It was harvest time, and it appeared to be routine for peasants to walk from the surrounding hamlets before dawn and assemble in the square to seek work on the farms.  There was wheat, barley, root vegetables, and tree fruits to be gathered before the weather turned. I was informed by a ruddy looking fellow in the tavern that anyone could get work on the harvest, and so, with my pride cut to ribbons and my pockets empty, I’d stepped out of the safety of my hiding place and joined the commoners.

“Does ye wants work or no’?  Look at me when I’m talkin’ to ye.  What’s yer name?” The burley farmer roared.  I looked up, stunned to be singled out from among all of these strapping men and hardy looking women, for I felt invisible.  Four carts had already passed and taken their pick of the young, strong peasants, but none of those farmers gave me a second glance.  I should have known something was afoot, for when this particular wagon turned up the women in the square shrank back into doorways, and men sidled away to lean against buildings.  On the side of the wagon, writ-large in bold off-white letters were the words BLACKDOWN FARM. There were around thirty of us left on view, like cattle.

I had never partaken in manual labor or any kind of work before.  I was a gentleman and far more familiar with spending my days relaxing, reading, attending social events in the city, or taking a horse for a gallop in the country.  But my life had changed since I’d become stranded here in the Pasturelands provincial town of Mallowick two weeks earlier.  Now I was living on my wits.  Each day was a fight for my life, and I’d sold all of my fine belongings, intending to pay for passage on the stagecoach from Mallowick to the city of Serein.  But I had not thought things through, and it did not happen that way.  My body’s needs took precedent. I’d become so ravenous, and therefore the meager coin I’d gathered from selling my finery was spent on what I could afford—basic rough barley bread and ale, just enough to stave off the gnawing pangs of hunger in my belly each day.  Now, I had no belongings, and the money was all but gone. I was no thief, and the only thing I had left to sell was my body. Looking like a wretch, I did not believe I could earn even a copper that way! Before I left on my travels, I was warned that the province of Erias had strict rules about men bedding other men and I did not want to tempt fate.  I was at a loss—hard labor or starvation were the only choices available to me. Gods, if my father could see how far I’d fallen in such a short time, he would be thoroughly ashamed.  I was living hand-to-mouth, and if I dared to seek out my reflection and observe my disreputable state of dress, I was sure I would see I was no longer a gentleman at all.

I assured myself that all would be well as soon as I could get to the city of Serein.  There I would attend my father’s depository and obtain funds from his account—as had been arranged, and then, I could find my way to my uncle’s residence and attend to a much grimmer business.  

So, with no other choice, I was here, standing in Mallowick market square with a bunch of rough-looking fellows and ruddy-faced women with just the ragged clothes I stood in to my name.  I wondered if my visage had taken on the same gaunt, starved, haunted look some of them wore.

“WELL?”  The farmer roared.

“Leave him be Pa; I think he’s a mute.  P… p… please don’t—” A swarthy young man urged, stepping to the farmers’ side.  The man appeared to be in his early twenties, with broad angular shoulders, slim hips, and wavy jaw-length hair that longingly reminded me of Montestein tea.  When the morning sunlight broke through the clouds and caressed him, the strands of his hair revealed all the shades of autumn.  It was beautiful.  His eyes were bright emerald green, and his skin bore the wind-burned tan of a man who spent his days working the land.  I met his gaze for a second that seemed to stop time, and I felt a flutter of longing erupt in my gut. I found myself mesmerized by him.  He appeared a little embarrassed, for himself or for me, I wasn’t quite sure. The farmer turned to his son.

“Shut that filthy mouth o’ yours, apple boy!” he spat.  His large meaty hands twitched.  He sneered and glared at his son in such a wicked way I knew it should have been followed up by a sharp slap.  I worried that the young man would endure further public humiliation at the hands of his father, but the farmer moved his disdainful glare back to me.  I shuddered with fear. I had a feeling that he was saving his son’s punishment for later—away from the prying eyes of the townsfolk. I did not like that thought, not one bit.  I did not know why the farmer was drawn to me, but he sized me up with a sweeping glance of consideration, then wrinkled his nose as if he’d sniffed a revolting stench—I hadn’t bathed in two weeks, so maybe I did smell a tad ripe!

“Is ye a mute?”

I shook my head.  I would say, if anything, I was deeply traumatized by the unfortunate circumstance I’d found myself in, but no, I was certainly not a mute.  I just wasn’t used to a lowly man speaking to me so roughly. Generally, men who dared to address me knew their betters and behaved appropriately.  But here in Mallowick, in the province of Erias, I was no better than a beggar on the street.  There was no one I could call on for favors, no one who, on hearing my family name, would loan me coin for the stagecoach or a horse to ride to the city and send word to my father.  

When I’d first arrived in Mallowick, telling the truth of my station had gotten me dragged down an alley where my finger and earrings were stolen, and I’d received a beating.  This farmer from Blackdown Farm had no idea who I was, and I would not make the same mistake again.

I took a breath and stepped out of line.  “Master Irwin Harding, sir. You may call me Win.”  I winced at hearing my own soft, well-spoken voice, with my accent, the clipped tongue of Thorn.  I had not used my real name and wished I had not used my true voice either.  The fact that I was the son of the Duke of Thorn meant nothing here.  Thorn was west of Erias, on the other side of the Silua Montis Mountain range, and I doubted any of these illiterate souls in Mallowick knew anything other than that folklore passed around by storytellers.

The farmer stepped to stand in front of me.  He was a big, bulky bastard of a man and stank of stale sweat and baccy.  He had a grizzled podgy face and thick dark hair shot with strands of silver pulled into an untidy tail.  The tension grew between us, and I worried I’d spoken out of turn. I looked down and watched my bare, filthy feet as if they held endless fascination.  I’d seen men like him before. He had hands like shovels, and I’m sure they’d done damage in their time. My father would have used a man like him well, probably as muscle to intimidate the city folk while the Royal Chancellor did the rounds collecting taxes.  

Afraid and sweating with anxiety, I glanced up and away, unable to look at the farmer directly and meet his fierce piggy eyes.  Instead, I looked left and caught the eye of his son. I felt another flutter of attraction. I was grateful for it because it dampened my fear a little.  The glance the farmers’ son sent me back was sheepish, apologetic. He shrugged and put a finger to his lips, signaling for me to hush. I’m sure now he knew what was coming.

Master, is it?”  The farmer gave a raspy malevolent chuckle.  “Well, well, well aren’t ye an uppity little scrote.  Such a pretty voice an’ all. Have your balls dropped yet, lad?”  

The townsmen men standing around me shuffled on their feet and snickered uncomfortably.  I could tell from the tentative laughter they were afraid of this man too. My chest tightened with fury, and I felt the flare of heat rush to color my cheeks.  If in Thorn I would have put this fellow in his place, but as directed by the farmers’ handsome son, I held my tongue.  

I dared to look up as the farmer scratched his grizzled chin and consider me.  It was then I saw it. A chill iced my bones. On his chubby right index finger, he wore a gold ring set with a large red gemstone that I was aghast to see held the intaglio engraving of a rose thorn—my family’s seal.  How had this disgusting Pasturelands farmer come upon my family’s ring?  Anger curdled my gut, but I forced myself to focus and fixed my features so as not to alert the man to what I was looking at.  That ring was more precious than I could say. It was not set with any common gemstone, oh no, the setting was Star-fall.  The legend was that mortal tools could not cut the rich-red Star-fall stone.  The gemstone was shaped by sorcery, and the power that carved into the gem was stored inside it as if the Star-fall was a reservoir for the magic.  It was illegal for any other than the Twin Kings of Osia to own Star-fall.  The king’s men had scoured the Empire to remove all traces of the priceless gem from common and aristocratic hands and possessing it was a death sentence.  Did this ruffian have any idea what he wore?

Not getting a rise from me, the farmer stepped yet closer and found out for himself if my balls had dropped.  He reached for my privates and squeezed.

Ahh, ye got some big stones de’re al’right, boy,” he said with a filthy sneer.

“Done any labourin’ before, lad?”  My eyes watered.  I shook my head and winced as the pressure on my most sensitive parts rose.  I wanted to shout and push him away, punch him in that bristly pug face. I’d trained in hand-to-hand combat and swordplay, but that was of little use to me now that I had no sword and was cast as naught but a commoner myself.  I stood frozen to the spot with fear, my cock, and balls in the hand of this brutish man. I was sure that clutching my nethers was not the best way to test if I would be a good apple picker.  

The farmer let go, stepped back, and looked me over again like he was sizing up a prize pig.  I wanted to keel over, hold my sensitive parts and howl, but, with my eyes watering, I kept my back ramrod straight and looked past the farmer, using his son’s regretful, pretty green eyes as my focus.  

I appeared to be a boy, but I am nineteen and about to make my majority.  I have a tall, willowy frame, and little muscle to show for my near twenty summers.  Weeks before, I was clothed in the silken garb of a lordling, but all I wore now were my stinky silk britches and a once-white linen shirt.  I’d even had to sell my fine leather boots. My flaxen hair hung loosely to my shoulders and was bedraggled. My mother had always told me my hair shone like a golden halo.  I guessed that was no longer the case. I had not seen my reflection in two weeks so I could only imagine how frightful I appeared to onlookers. My circumstance was terrible, but I refused to let it defeat me.  I was a son of Thorn, I was a gentleman, damn it, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to do to find my way to my destination and seek justice for all the ill-luck that had befallen me.  

“Right, scrote, up on the wagon,” the farmer declared.  “We can always do wit a few extra scurrier’s fer the windfalls.”

I had no idea what that actually meant, but strangely relieved to be selected, I nodded subserviently and then, ducking my head to avoid the farmers’ glare, I scurried to the wagon where I surreptitiously gave my aching intimate parts a gentle rub.  

I’d heard from a fellow in the tavern that harvesting wheat at Robinswood Farm was backbreaking, as was digging root vegetables at Windy Oakes Farm.  He advised that apple picking was easy work and if I could get employment at Weatherby’s or Blackdown Farm, they paid good coin.  He said the mistress at Blackdown was particularly well-liked and always gave laborers a bread and cheese luncheon with last season’s cider.  I was so hungry that bread and cheese sounded like a banquet. The fellow had neglected to tell me that the farmer was a brute!

The farmers’ son met me by the wagon and offered to help me aboard.  For a moment, from the look of consideration in his eyes, I thought he could see past the disheveled state of me to the gentleman I’d once been.  But that was ridiculous. The farmers’ son hopped up onto the back of the wagon with dexterous athleticism, and then offered me his hands. I took them without a thought.  His warm touch and the strength in those work-roughened fingers twisted my gut into uncomfortable knots. He fixed my gaze as he gripped both of my hands and tugged me up as easily as if he were lifting feather down.  He pulled me closed and pressed me to his hard chest.

“Don’t back chat him or it’ll be the worst fer you,” he whispered the warning to my ear.  Alarmed, I eased back from him and cautiously met his eye for a split second. In the look he gave me I saw that the warning was well-meant.  Bewildered, I nodded in thanks and understanding. I had no idea why this stranger was looking out for me, but the fact he was warmed my heart.  I choked back a tear. No one had looked out for me over these past weeks, and I had been so terribly lonely. I’d learned some hard life lessons on this leg of my journey, and I’d come to understand that here my title was irrelevant, and without money I was suddenly invisible; therefore small kindnesses meant more than I could say.

My adventure into the provinces had been made to appease my father for my supposed ‘lack of direction.’  I’d become bored with my easy life in Thorn, and not intending to marry; I’d told my father that in-light of my upcoming twentieth Bloomsday I wanted to tour the Empire.  If I were to one-day become Duke of Thorn, I needed to know a little of the politics of each province and so, pleased with my initiative and happy to be rid of me for a while, he’d set me on my way.  I’d toured the provinces of Terria, Corvay, and Reuss and then continued to the province of Osia, spending time in the capital city Altea, at the court of the Twin Kings, Kristoff, and Fabian Von Harte.  With this journey to Erias, I was to have the full set of provinces under my belt.  But fate was not on my side.

On benches affixed to either side of the farmers’ wagon sat fourteen men morosely staring at their bare, filthy feet, not a word of chatter between them.  They each owned a small pack of belongings and a wrapped blanket that each had stowed beneath the bench. At this moment they were better-off than me, for I did not even have a blanket to my name.  There was space for me and five more, totaling twenty men. The farmer chose from the remaining laborers with less consideration than I had been afforded.

“Right…  I’ll take Allin, Jed, Arthur, Bartram, and Matty, that’ll do me fer the week,” he hollered decisively.

The week?  I thought I’d promised myself for a hard day’s labor?  But then again, I considered the harvesters who were sitting in the wagon, and yes, they appeared to have prepared for an overnight stay.  Confused, I sat down as the other laborers were pulled up onto the wagon by their comrades, and then we shuffled along the benches until we were all seated.  I noticed the shoulders of the remaining men in the market square sag a little in apparent relief as if some mighty weight had lifted from them. I didn’t understand it.  I thought they’d wanted to work?

The farmers’ son clambered over into the front of the wagon.  His father climbed on, the man’s bulk shaking the timbers of the rickety wagon as he settled on the bench beside him.  The son handed his father the ribbons, which the farmer greedily snatched up, and then with a fearsome bellow of “Geddup” and a thunderous whip crack, the large mottled grey workhorse began its cumbersome trot down the main street and onto the dusty road to Blackdown Farm.

 

About the Author

Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland.  She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.

Isobel is currently working on her nineteenth book.  

“As You Wish” (Shatterproof Bond#1) narrated by Gary Furlong won the Audiobook Reviewer Award for Romance 2018.  It is the first M/M Romance audiobook to win a mainstream audiobook award.

 

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A MelanieM Review: Prince of Air and Darkness (The Darkest Court #1) by M.A. Grant

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Phineas Smith has been cursed with a power no one could control.

Roark Lyne is his worst enemy and his only hope.

The only human student at Mather’s School of Magick, Phineas Smith has a target on his back. Born with the rare ability to tap into unlimited magick, he finds both Faerie Courts want his allegiance—and will do anything to get it.

They don’t realize he can’t levitate a feather, much less defend the Faerie Realm as it slips into civil war.

Unseelie Prince Roark Lyne, Phineas’s roommate—and self-proclaimed arch nemesis—is beautiful and brave and a pain in the ass. Phineas can’t begin to sort through their six years of sexual tension masquerading as mutual dislike. But Roark is also the only one able to help Finn tame his magick.

Trusting Roark’s mysterious motives may be foolish; not accepting his temporary protection would be deadly.

Caught in the middle of the impending war, Phineas and Roark forge a dangerous alliance. And as the walls between them crumble, Phineas realizes that Roark isn’t the monster he’d imagined. But their growing intimacy threatens to expose a secret that could either turn the tide of the war…or destroy them both.

As a lover of fantasy, I had two thoughts upon finishing this story.  First, I wanted to immediately tell Free Dreamer she had another story to read and secondly, I bemoaned the fact that I had to wait for the next book in the series to come out.  What a gripping story!  I can’t wait to see where this saga is going because if the next tale is anywhere half as amazing as Prince of Air and Darkness, then this series is going to be one whopping adventure!

There is several elements and a couple of twists I adore here with the Fae courts that the author plays with.  While not a twist, Grant’s Fae aren’t the lovely faeries you might expect.  Instead they harken back to the Fae of old Irish mythology.  Those you don’t make bargains with, with little use for humans other than as pets.  Cruel, manipulative, beautiful, and layered.  These are the Fae of M.A. Grant and I love them.  Furthermore, in most novels the Seelie of the Summer courts tend to sway towards the “good/light” side and the Unseelie of the Winter Court towards the “bad/dark” side, here the waters are murkier.  It’s more about balance and individuals, than black and white, good and evil.

Even the torture done might not have had all the ramifications known, even to those doling out the torture.

The ley lines too, which are a common element in fantasy tales, here get a special Grant treatment which I need much more of.

With all of this as a foundation and framework, the heart of the first story is the convoluted relationship between the Prince of Air and Darkness, one of the three sons of the Queen of the Unseelie,Roark Lyne, and a  magical human, Phineas Smith.  Phin is fighting hard to learn to control his power over the ley lines, something he must do to graduate.  If he doesn’t, the consequences are dire.  For himself and his family.  Mostly for himself.

I won’t go further because that ventures into areas that give away too much information.  This is such a complicated tale that twists back on itself, with layers upon layers of secrets, that it’s such a pleasure to read and discover it for yourself.  The characters are so well done, the writing tightly constructed, so full of elements that even as you are pulled along by the events, you want to stop and go  back to examine tiny bits and pieces strewn along the way.  But of course, the pace is quick, the action wild and exhilarating.

And it all leaves you wanting more.  From what I can tell, there’s two more stories in the works.  One at least for this year.  Maybe one for each brother of the Unseelie court. That would make sense to bring the balance back into place.  However many books there will be,  I will be waiting.  If you are a lover of fantasy fiction,  pick this one up and wait with me.  I highly recommend it. Prince of Air and Darkness (The Darkest Court #1) by M.A. Grant is just fantastic!

 Cover art by Carina Press art department.  I wish Carina Press would give credit to its artists but here I think parts of this cover is a miss because it’s ravens that play a major part in the story.

Sales Links:  Carina Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: February 25th 2019 by Carina Press
ASIN B07GB7WD2G
Edition Language English

Series The Darkest Court :

Prince of Air and Darkness

The Marked Prince – to be published

The Iron Crown – to be published

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Audiobook Review: The Consumption of Magic (Tales From Verania #3) by TJ Klune and Michael Lesley (Narrator)

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

As is usual with TJ Klune’s stories in this series, one needs to first sit down and strap on a seat belt, and then pop on headphones if you are fortunate to be able to listen to the audiobook version narrated by the outstanding voice of Michael Lesley. Be prepared for nineteen hours of crazy sidebar dialogue (mostly courtesy of Gary, Tiggy, and Kevin), of fantasy and the world of wizards and dragons, and finally, of brilliant execution of the written word. It all comes together here, but since there’s one more book in the story, a word of caution: if you are afraid of heights you’d better take your meds—the cliffhanger in this book is a doozy!

Without going into intricate details, I’ll summarize by saying that Sam takes on not only the Great White dragon, but also Lady Tina DeSilva, and worst of all, Myrin. Working with, and sometimes against, wizards Randall and Morgan, Sam and his company of misfits entertain readers with various funny and frightening adventures. We get to revisit Dimitri, the Fairy King, and oh, how I love the voice Michael Lesley uses for him! And we also get quite a bit of time with Gary, Tiggy, and Kevin, all of whom have unique and spot-on voices. Good news for fans: Gary has decided to give Kevin a second chance and the hilariously lewd scenes that take place are a highlight of the story. I find it hard to choose my favorite character in this series, but I think Kevin the dragon is at the top of the list as of now. That faintly Scottish accent with his constantly lascivious words and actions make him quite amazing, in my opinion.

The Kingdom of Verania is in danger; Sam can’t seem to get all five dragons on board to face the dark wizards; there’s more danger from a previously unexpected source; and Myrin has escaped—proving to be the greatest danger of all. Add to that the voices Sam hears in his head, some good, some bad, like Vadoma’s negative predictions that seem to be coming true, and readers are in for a highly entertaining, often nail-biting, sometimes hair-raising adventure. Michael Lesley’s thousand voices accompanied by very clever sound effects makes this a definite audiobook winner.

One last thing—this series builds one book upon another, so this can’t be read as a standalone. However, I do recommend taking the audiobooks on vacation since listening to this series will greatly enhance the joy of any vacation.

~~~

The cover by Paul Richmond features a man’s hand with wisps of smoky vapor swirling in the air around it and forming a dragon-like figure. Bright and colorful, this cover is very attention-getting and definitely represents Sam’s magic and his gathering of the dragons.

Audiobook Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:
18 hrs 18 mins

Audible Audio, 19 pages
Published April 30th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press (first published November 20th 2017)
Original Title The Consumption of Magic
ASIN B07CNNDHPX
Edition Language English

DSP Promo Ana Raine Captive Wings (Anima #2) by Ana Raine

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Captive Wings (Anima #2) by Ana Raine

Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Blake Dorner

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press |   Amazon  |   Barnes and Noble 

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Ana Raine today on tour for the second story in her Anima series, Captive Wings.  Welcome, Ana.

 

Inspiration for Captive Wings

I live in Michigan and there is a constant joke that there are only two seasons: construction season and wintry season. But for those of us who brave the construction and shut down roads, there are beautiful state parks and flowing ponds, lakes, and rivers.

It was on one of these adventures to my local Metro Park that I came up with the idea for Hidden Wings. There were two swans in the center of the path and a small group of people who hadn’t dared pass by even though there was nowhere else to go. Swans are often characterized as small, fragile and helpless, but in that moment, I saw the true strength that lies within those majestic creatures.

A few weeks later, I went back to the park, but this time there was only one lone swan floating in the pond. The fight had seemed to ebb away and there was a hollow look of sadness about the creature that made me think he had been abandoned. In the romance world, bear or wolf shifters are predominant because of their predatory, protective nature. But swans are not just graceful birds with slender necks, but creatures of beauty who fight for their mates and are broken when separated.

Further research into Irish mythology extended my knowledge of fairies. I created the idea of a Dryma Fairy whose soul is tied to a tree. It seemed only fitting that the protectors of these trees would be the strong swans who captivated me that fateful day.

 

 

Captive Wings (Anima 2) by Ana Raine

Blurb:

Liberation from one master might mean enslavement to another.

For centuries, the Kuro swan shifters have been the unwilling servants of the Dryma faeries. That changed when Prince Tristan of the Dryma attempted to sacrifice himself for Royal Kuro Kanji—his lover and mate.

The Sidhee, seeing Tristan’s actions to free the swans as a betrayal, launch a devastating attack that leaves most of the Kuro and Dryma dead or imprisoned. The fate of the swans rests entirely on Kanji’s shoulders, and he must somehow devise a plan that will protect both his partner and his tribe as the war with the Sidhee rages. It won’t be easy for mortal enemies to become allies, and Kanji is beginning to despair of ever waking Tristan from his deathlike slumber. And neither the Kuro nor the Dryma can compete with the Sidhee when it comes to brutal violence.

When Kanji finds a small boy asleep at the bottom of a lake, his hope for reuniting with Tristan is rekindled. But what is the boy, and can his magic turn the tide against a seemingly unstoppable enemy?

 

 

About the Author

Ana Raine writes because she loves to believe in magic, dragons, and that there is more to life than what human eyes can see. Ana lives in Michigan where when it’s not snowy and wet, there are beautiful state parks and lakes to visit. When she was eighteen, she married her best friend and they live with their two cats, Mason and Misaki. Ana has celiac disease, but that hasn’t stopped her from learning how to cook and bake so she can eat tasty treats. Fudge, enchiladas, and anything involving yucca/cassava are her absolute favorite.

Ana has studied in Osaka, Japan where she learned about theater and drama. She would love to go back after she is sure her Japanese is efficient enough. Ana loves anything to do with foxes, especially Arctic foxes. One day, Ana will find a way to incorporate her love of foxes into a novel, but until then, she’ll stay focused on fairies, shape shifters, and mythology.

Feel free to stop by her blog for tasty recipes, freebies, and more.

Blog: anarainebooks.blogspot.com

Twitter: @AuthorAnaRaine

E-mail: anaraine@rocketmail.com