Release Blitz — Shadows On The Border by A.L. Lester



Release Date: March 9 2019
Publisher: JMS Books
Lost In Time Series

The Gate (a FREE short story introducing the characters from Lost In Time)
Amazon US | Amazon US | JMS Books

Book #1 – Lost In Time – Amazon US | Amazon UK | JMS Books

Newspaper reporter Lew Tyler and his lover, Detective Alec Carter, are working out the parameters of their new relationship. Meanwhile, time traveler Lew is trying to decide whether he wants to stay in the 1920s or find a way to get back to 2016, and Alec doesn’t know if he can bear the vulnerability of being in love with someone who uses such dangerous magic.

Fenn is a Hunter from the Outlands, come through the Border to search for the murderous Creature and its offspring at the behest of the Ternants, who maintain the balance between Fenn’s world and ours. Fenn strikes a bond with Sergeant Will Grant, Alec’s second in command, who is keen to learn more about his own magical abilities. As time goes on, Will grows keen to learn more about Fenn, as well.

Fenn has their own painful secret, and when they appear to have betrayed the team and goes missing in London, Will is devastated. He has to choose between following his heart or following his duty.

Moving through the contrasting rich and poor areas of post-First World War London from West End hotels to the London docklands, the men need to work together to capture the Creature … and choose who – and what — is important enough to hold on to and what they may need to give up to make that happen.

Author Bio

A. L. Lester likes to read. Her favorite books are post-apocalyptic dystopian romances full of suspense, but a cornflake packet will do there’s nothing else available. The gender of the characters she likes to read (and write) is pretty irrelevant so long as they are strong, interesting people on a journey of some kind.

She has a chaotic family life and small children, and she has become the person in the village who looks after the random animals people find in the road. She is interested in permaculture gardening and anything to do with books, reading, technology and history. She lives in a small village in rural Somerset and is seriously allergic to both rabbits and Minecraft


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Review: Blue River by Theo Fenraven


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Blue River cover DSPPhotographic artist Ethan Mars is hanging out with friends at a house in Topanga Canyon.  When Doug recounts a story about a local porthole that allows people to go back in time, Ethan and his friend Randy decide to hike around on the trails to see if they can find it.  For Ethan the day is more about taking pictures than finding something out of science fiction, then the fog appears before them.  One misstep and Ethan tumbles through the fog and into 1863, albeit still Southern California.

Quinn Parker and his sister Hes own a farm in Blue River and when Ethan Mars stumbles out of the fog, neither is surprised as he is the second stranger from the future to find them in a year.  But unlike the previous time traveler, Ethan Mars is gay and represents everything Quinn Parker wants and has been keeping hidden.

While waiting for the portal to open again, Quinn and Ethan fall into a friendship and then a love affair doomed by time.  Or is it? When the  fog reappears, there is a choice to be made?  Who will stay and who will go?

Blue River is a terrific little romance stuffed full of elements that add texture and depth, giving it the feel of a much larger story.  Ethan Mars is a renown photographic artist who has made the sale of a lifetime and is celebrating with friends in Topanga Canyon, a place known for its artists, quirky atmosphere and gorgeous views.  When a friend wants to hike a little used trail in the canyon, they use the excuse of trying to find a time portal as the reason for their venture into the wild.  The descriptions of the canyon and the oddly floating bit of fog is a great way to start Ethan’s unexpected adventure into the past.

We’d been walking for half an hour when he stopped and held up a hand. “Ethan.”

I looked in the direction he was pointing, and about twenty feet in front of us, under the spreading branches of a copper beech, I saw semitransparent wisps of white flowing together and pulling apart a few feet above the ground. “That’s called fog, Randy.”

“Why is it only in that one spot, then? There’s no water nearby, and the temperature seems fairly constant.”

“We don’t know it’s only in that one spot. Never assume, man.” I brushed past him, heading for the mist.

“Wait!” he yelped, grabbing my arm. “Together, just in case, you know….” “

In case the fog decides to swallow me whole?” Chuckling, I kept walking, dragging him along. “Didn’t they make a cheesy movie about that?” Even close up, it looked like fog. Thin, wispy, and I could see through it to the woods behind.

I stuck a hand in the stuff, waggling it around and making faces at him as I intoned, “Bwahahahahaha….”

He rolled his eyes. “Asshole. I’m getting hungry. Let’s drop by Doug’s place, see what he has in the fridge.” “Yeah, okay.” So much for seeking Shangri-La.

Well, as we all know, the story doesn’t stops there.  Because, as Fenraven knows,  where is the fun in that? But the real surprises start in 1863 and the reality of pioneer life.  Fenraven does a great job in presenting the time period minus the “romantic candlelight” glow that seems to creep into some of the other historic romances I have read.  No, here is 1863 authentically presented with the warts of the time period to go along with the things that have been lost with progress.  So we get, or actually Nathan gets to eat food free of chemicals and genetic manipulation.  In 1863, a tomato or apple explodes on his taste buds, their flavor so sensational that Nathan mourns their loss in his time.  But Fenraven is also quick to include the lack of bathing because as Hes tells Ethan, “its not healthy”.  No bathing, no thoughts of  hygiene, no washing hands, … yeah, a closed in cabin is not a happy place to be after a week’s time.  Clothes get rank as does unwashed hair and soon Nathan is pining for 2013 and his shower at home.

And you don’t blame him a bit.

The author is good at vividly describing life in Blue River and 1863, both the pros and the cons.   Fenraven is also quick to note the dangers of open homosexuality in a time period where it is considered a sin and often punished by death.  Quinn Parker is a sexual innocent.  A young man engaged to be married to a woman who helped his family when they needed it.  Responsibility, obligations and society’s expectations have forced Quinn into asking her to marry him and now , with Ethan before him, he feels trapped. The more Ethan describes his open life in the future, the more regretful and conflicted Quinn becomes.  Then Ethan starts his seduction of Quinn, and his true nature surfaces, no longer to be denied.  If ever there was a genie in the bottle, its Quinn’s sexuality.  And Quinn despairs of ever being able to pass as “normal” again once Ethan shows him just how good it feels. Slowly the affection between the men turns into love, one with no apparent future to each man’s despair.

Another aspect of this story that Fenraven doesn’t gloss over is the fact that Ethan could never survive in 1863.  He is ill prepared by his upbringing, his attitudes, and his personality.   He has a hard time hiding who he is from Hes, a judgmental and wary 16 year old, he would never be able to pull it off in front of a more discerning audience. Nathan just can’t hide who he is.  It is one of the reasons Quinn loves him and it is the reason that they will part.

There are a few things that bothered me.  At one point Nathan is missing his family at home (this story takes place during the holidays) but then thinks that he has a family here in 1863 too.  Uh, no he doesn’t.  Hes dislikes him intensely and distrusts him as well.  The only one happy to have him there is Quinn, so I am not sure what family Fenraven is talking about.  Hes is a believable but dislikable character, smug, sure of her universe and disapproving of any that might prove a threat to her happiness, definitely a tad on the puritan side. So yes, she seems real.  The author did a great job making her somewhat stinky flesh and blood but don’t expect me to like her.

And yes, there is a happy ending but in my mind, I can never just leave it there (where I should).  Instead I start thinking about the future, and the romance in this story dims for a second.  But its the holidays, at least in this story.  Time for a suspension in belief in all things real and to hope for all things happy and in love.  I think I will leave the review right there.  At the end, just where all stories about time travel and holiday miracles should.

Cover art by Maria Fanning.  Just a lovely cover, perfect for the story.

Book Details:

ebook, 92 pages
Published October 9th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published December 13th 2011)
ISBN 1627981659 (ISBN13: 9781627981651)
edition language English

Review: Chateau d’Eternite by Ariel Tachna


Rating: 3.75 stars

Chateau 2nd editionRuss Peterson receives a mysterious invitation in the mail for a vacation at a chateau in the south of France and his curiosity compels him to accept. Once there, Russ is astonished to find out that his last physical exam showed a genetic marker that identifies him as a time traveler, and therefore a member of an exclusive society located at Chateau d’Eternite.  As a historian, it is a dream come true for Russ, but being a time traveler has its rule and risks along with the gift of being able to visit any era on any geographical place in the world.

When Russ travels back in time to Roman Gaul, he is almost killed by a wild boar when he is rescued by Quentus Maximus, second in command to the Legate of Nemausus.  Before he knows what is happening, Russ is traveling back to Quentus’ estate as his lover and companion.  Russ finds that the more time he spends with Quentus Maximus in Rome, the more he feels at home and alive than ever before.  Soon Russ must return to his time as the end of his vacation draws near and he must make a decision, should he stay or should he go?  Which will win, his heart and lover of Rome or his head and his future life?

I love Ariel Tachna’s stories and was looking forward to her take on time travel so I am surprised to find myself as conflicted as Russ over his story.  First let’s address the elements I loved.  I think the idea of a chateau filled with time travelers makes a wonderful basis for a series.  Any number of people are appearing and disappearing at any given time, so the potential for a variety of characters and stories is unlimited as the eras they can visit.  Great idea, and the caretaker of the Chateau is a real enigma whose story should be told as well.

Secondly, I liked the characters and settings in ancient Roman Gaul.  Quentus and his close circle of friends are both interesting and nicely layered.  Tachna has done her homework on the time period and it shows in her details from their clothing to the designs of their households. When Russ, called Rastus, and Quentus visit the baths or alone in the estate, her descriptions enable the reader to visualize the setting with ease. All these elements contributed to a story I enjoyed reading,

However, I did have some issues with sections of the story that blunted my enjoyment with Chateau d’Eternite.  First off, I found it hard to believe that historian Russ would accept with equanimity the fact that he carried (or even that there was such a thing) a genetic abnormality that made it possible for him and a small percentage of other humans to travel in time.    Russ doesn’t even break stride as he goes from one revelation to the next, each more outrageous and unrealistic based on his current knowledge.  The caretaker has Russ’ personal information, ie, results of his last physical and Russ doesn’t throw a fit?  Russ is told that he can time travel and is taken on a short trip to prove it.  Does he think he is hallucinating? Not really, again, he is affable and almost nonchalant in his reactions to seeing Versailles being built.  I just didn’t get that at all, nor did I believe it.   Russ reacts in the same way when visiting ancient Rome and meeting Quentus.  They move almost immediately into a sexual relationship with overtones of D/s, and later, Russ argues with his Roman lover over the modern concept of equality within their partnership that would not have been possible during that time period.  I just had a hard time suspending my doubts about their relationship and the character of Russ in particular.  As a historian, I think he would have been scrabbling around looking at everything, picking things up, making drawings, in awe of his situation. I mean, here is his passion for the past in front of him, where is the giddiness I would expect from someone who has made historian the focal point of his life? But I never got that feeling from Russ’ character, and I was disappointed in that aspect of his character.  I would have loved to have seen this from the viewpoint of someone truly amazed to find himself in these circumstances.

One thing that might bother some readers is that the ending is somewhat “bittersweet”.  We find out exactly how long Russ and Quentus have together in the past while missing out on the details of their life together.  I thought it very realistic but others may have a problem with it depending upon how they define HEA.

Pick it up if you like time travel stories, ancient Rome, and the works of Ariel Tachna. This is an expanded version of a short story published earlier.

Cover art by Anne Cain.  Just a gorgeous cover, I loved the model and thought him a perfect representation of Russ.

Book Details:

ebook, 2nd edition, 200 pages
Published March 29th 2013 by Dreamspinner Press (first published June 1st 2012)
ISBN 1623806070 (ISBN13: 9781623806071)
edition languageEnglish

The Week Ahead in Reviews and Scattered Thoughts About Writing


Sooo, here we are again at the beginning of the week and for me not much has changed.  I did manage to get several flats of flowers planted last week,  did clean out some clothes from decades past to give away,  and had my Dad over last Saturday afternoon.  Read some wonderful books, got a few new authors to add to my automatic must read list, and realized that spring equals moles holes and dirty dogs, so scheduled the terrors three for grooming.  Ah, plans…….

A visit to Good Earth Nursery yesterday saw me come home laden with more flowers to plant, where I have no idea but I had to have them.  For some people its shoes or purses, for me its plants and books.   Went to Johnsons and saw two Koi whose scales glittered like a disco ball while resembling a Dalmatian, so got them too while looking for Mother’s Day presents.  Haven’t named them yet, might not as that Great Blue Heron is still around to say nothing of raccoons and other fish loving wildlife that visit my yard.  I will give them a year and then see if I think its safe to bestow names on each of them.

Family will be arriving in a couple of hours, just to sit around on the patio, get caught up on the weeks events and happenings and munch out on appetizers.  So I need to get moving, those dips won’t make themselves and neither will the Sangria.

But lately several books have got me thinking about world building in stories, the importance of getting it just right, and the balance between too much and not enough.  Some writers seem to do it effortlessly, and for others it is a goal not achieved no matter how hard they have obviously tried.  So look for my post on world building in fiction later on in the week.   Now before I head to the kitchen and gardens, here is the week ahead in reviews:

Monday, April 29:               Josh of the Damned, Triple Feature #2, The Final Checkout by Andrea Speed

Tuesday, April 30:               April’s Book Reviews

Wed., May 1:                         Fragile Bond by Rhi Etzweiler

Thursday, May 2:                 Chateau d’Eternite by Ariel Tachna

Friday, May 3:                       Scattered Thoughts on the Importance of World Building in Fiction

Saturday, May 4:                   It Takes Practice by Willa Okati


The last two days might switch around depending on how the week is going and how scattered my thoughts are by then.  I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday and great week ahead.  Stay dry, stay warm, and if the days are as lovely as this one, stay outside as much as possible.


Review: Feeling His Steel by Brynn Paulin


Rating: 3.5 stars

feelinghissteel_9781419945113_msr-106x175Professor Tobias Woods leads a very quiet, closeted life as a professor in a conservative private college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. But behind his reserved demeanor lies a confused man tormented by dreams of a past life and little knowledge of his own history prior to his adoption as a teenager in England.  Toby turns all his energies into his dissertation and helping catalog the medieval collection of a nearby museum.  Then a knight appears before him and everything he knows about himself is shattered as his past comes back with the promise of an old love renewed.

It is the year 1340, England and Sir Alwyn is about to die having lost everything he loved.  Cast out, disgraced and now hunted by knights like himself, Wyn is haunted by the fate of his love, Tobias at the hands of the town elders and knows he is next.  Their crime? Loving each other, even the church calls out for his death.  But an angel interferes and he is reunited with a man  who he knows to be his own Tobias.

But Toby is consumed with fear.  The man before him says they were lovers hundreds of years ago and old memories start to resurface.  But Toby’s fear increases as do his nightmares.  Is time travel possible?  Have they been given another chance?  It is up to Toby to conquer his fears or let their last chance for happiness slip away forever.

This was a first book I have read by Brynn Paulin and I found much to like about her plot and characters.  Paulin gives us a tale of lovers lost and reunited centuries later and combines it with tantalizing, sometimes horrific visions of past tortures for the crimes of sodomy.  Toby and Wyn are appearling characters, each with their own vulnerabilities and strengths.  Toby is especially somewhat frail emotionally, his past a total mystery as the only thing he can remember is being found by farmers in a field when he was a teenager.  We only get a small part of Sir Alwyn’s life in 1340 before he is transported to present day Michigan.

The story zips along at a quick pace but it is the tone that I found myself having problems with.  At some sections of her story, Paulin pulls up the drama and angst inherent in Wyn and Toby’s situation and makes us feel their uncertainty and pain over their current situation.  But just as you are losing yourself in the story, Paulin changes gear and a measure of almost slapdash humor that breaks up the momentum of the story and breaks the connection between the reader and the characters.  For example, the angel who continues to appear throughout the story is first seen as a glowing, figure of mercy.  She has a serious countenance and manner which fits in which her actions and the events that are happening. Then halfway through the story, the angel reappears and she starts channeling Cyndi Lauper:

” She rubbed her nails on her sleeve then looked at them. “I’m just that good. Have fun, kids, but wait ’til I leave. I’m supposed to be pure and stuff.” She pointed up. “The big guy gets irritated when I play outside the corral.” She made a square with her fingers. “But He’s all-loving and believes in all love, if you know what I mean. So cut out the ‘it’s a test’ theories, kid. You don’t want to get struck by lightning.”

Now we have gone through many, many  passages and now her character totally changes?  That unevenness in narrative is displayed throughout the story.  We get an awful but authentic scene ripped from the history pages and then Paulin presents us with a knight who has no problems with all the gadgets and societal changes of the modern era.  What no pulling of swords when he first sees an automobile? Or plane?  It’s as though the author can’t make up her mind whether this is a comedy with its tongue firmly in cheek or a fantastical tale of love through the ages so  she gives us both to the detriment of the story.

There were just enough elements for me to give this story a 3.5 rating.  Yes, there were parts where I sniffed, true.  And the specific torture used at that time for those committing sodomy is in the news right now as the bones of Richard III were recently dug up in a parking lot in England.  One of the facts revealed by his autopsy?  He suffered the same fate as King Edward, although for Richard it was a knife and not a hot poker that was used.  I also appreciated the emotional growth that Toby had to achieve in order for them to have their HEA, another lovely touch.  But such nice facets of this story are weighed down by misplaced odd humor and just jarring bits of narrative that stop the flow of the story enough that it makes it hard to recapture the emotions the author just pulled out of you moments before.

So I will be on the lookout for more stories by this author because of the promise I see within this one.  Should you read it?  Sure, it’s flawed but entertaining.  But don’t set the bar of your expectations too high, it will be easier to appreciate the fine points of the story and two lovely characters who I think deserved a better fate.

Cover design by Dar Albert.

Book released by Ellora’s Cave on February 13th.

Review: Trick of Time by J.L. Merrow


Rating: 5 stars

Trick of Time coverDevastated and scarred from the car accident that killed his husband and parents,  Ted Ennis decides to  work as a theatre assistant at the Criterion Theatre for his friend Rob,the manager of the theatre, rather than return to the bankers job he held prior to the accident and his disability. The crash has left Ted with some permanent physical issues as well as emotional ones, his hand shakes and his voice and speech changes under duress.  When stressed, one the of the things that helps to calm Ted is smoking.  One night during a production at the Criterion Theatre, Ted slips out the backdoor to grab a smoke and steps back in time into Victorian London.

With its dim lamps for street lights and sooty air, the sights and sounds of a 1800’s London surrounds him and Ted starts to wonder if the accident had not caused more damage to his brain than had been acknowledged.  Then amidst the horse carriages and people rushing by Piccadiily Square, Ted sees a beautiful young man leaning nonchalantly against a lamppost whose very face beckons Ted away from the theatre doorway.  The lad’s name is Jem and he’s a local whore who has mistaken Ted for competition.  At first, their relationship is a monetary one, but it quickly turns into something neither man is quick to label, drawing Ted back in time again and again searching out Jem just to be with him. But Ted doesn’t understand how or why he can travel back in time, and each time he returns, Jem is getting thinner.  Something tells Ted that time may be running out for them both unless he can figure out the trick of time.

J.L. Merrow has pulled from one of the most romantic, haunting of themes for the central basis of this story – that of opening a doorway or portal and stepping back in time.  Whether it is a door to a wardrobe,the sash of a window,or an unlikely looking machine,  the idea of actually being able to visit the past has enthralled and enchanted many a author and reader.  A Trick of Time, J.L. Merrow’s marvelous take on this theme, gives us a romantic, haunting and satisfying addition to this genre.

I am always so appreciative of Merrow’s ability to bring history to life through the author’s books and tales.  Within Merrow’s stories, the reader is thrust back in time where the air with thick with coal dust, the streets dingy, and life perilous for those poor or gay or just unlucky.  Here is a sample.  Ted and Jem have just sat down at a lowly pub near the theatre .” I looked down at the table, its surface scarred and pitted with use, crumbs of long-digested meals wedged in its crevices.”  I felt as though I could see that table, smell that table with its remnants of old food and greasy stench wafting up from its scarred wooden surface.  Merrow brings that pub to life in vivid detail, and does the same for every other part of this story.  I felt as though I had walked the streets accumulating grime as I strolled.

But it is her characters that bring the magic to the story.  Ted is a haunting and haunted figure with his scarred head, shaking hands, and survivor’s guilt.  How he grabs our empathy from the start and keeps it close throughout the story. We feel his disbelief when he steps into the past, and his terror that it might be his sanity at error. And as Ted’s desperation to see Jem, to be with Jem grows, we feel it as well.  And always in the back of our minds and Ted’s, is the fear that the doorway will close and Jem will be lost.  Merrow skillfully balances the deepening relationship with the growing fear of loss of same and keeps us teetering on the edge, caught between happiness and horror, joy and pain for Ted and Jem.  And make no mistake Jem is as beautifully realized a character as Ted Ennis.  Cocky, beautiful and very much a survivor but for how long?

Yes, there are places where some will argue that you have to suspend your belief, but don’t you have to do that to accept time travel as a possibility? This is a story of magical possibilities, a visitation to those dreams held close to the heart, of a love that not even time can deny to one who hopes. And who can deny the enchanting miracle of that?  Not me.  I loved this story and I think you will find it magical too.

Lovely cover although credit is not given to the artist in the book.

It’s 70 degrees here in Maryland and the Week Ahead in Reviews


It’s January and it feels like mid Spring.  The woodpeckers are banging out their territory rhythms, the maples are budding out, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the hyacinths and tulips start to peek out above the ground.  The meteorologists keep saying that it will get colder, and it does, for about a day and then the temperatures start to rise and voila, back to Spring.

Now for us in the past, February is the month to look out for.  It brings heavy snows and ice and all things wintery.  Except for last year, when it brought nada.  We need the water from snow melt, and that is not looking promising for us or any of the surrounding states.  So each day is a surprise, more so than usual.  What will our changing climate do to our day today?  Will it bring Spring or Winter?   Will it be quiet and calm or will winds with hurricane speeds be whipping over our rooftops?  No one can say for sure.  The one thing I do want to do is take those climate change doubters, those head in the sand ostriches, and give them a shake or two.  Tell them to get their heads out of their nether regions and take a good look around.  Time for us to make a change, one person at a time, while it is still possible. Still tut tuting over a favorite backyard azalea that is trying to bloom.

Here is a list with 50 easy ways to help the earth.  Wire and Twines “50 Ways to Help the Planet – go green, its not that hard!

Now for the Week Ahead in Reviews:

Monday, 1/14:                          Revolution by Bailey Bradford

Tuesday, 1/15:                         Some Kind of Magic by R. Cooper

Wed., 1/16:                               Horse of Bells by Pelaam

Thursday, 1/17:                       An Unsettled Range by Andrew Grey

Friday, 1/18                              Knight of Wands by Theo Fenraven

Saturday, 1/19                          Trick of Time by J.L. Merrow

So there it is, let’s see what happens.  Have a wonderful week.