Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Friday, February 19, 2021

Sin City Wolf: HOWL by January Bain

 

This is the first book in a series and it is a sizzling debut.  The world of billionaire werewolf Cristaldo Luceres (the people who work for him call him "sire") is filled with luxury. There's his expensive single-malt and his personal helicopter. And his bespoke suits.  It's also a world filled with danger--constant threats from a rival werewolf clan, the annoyance of dealing with a card counter at his flagship casino, the Glitter Palace--and the constant threat of betrayal. Although his clan his tight--his twin brother Lucius works closely with him, and their younger brothers are in school in Rome--there are temptations and power struggles, and all sorts of ...hungers.

This story of Cristaldo's cataclysmic connection to a woman who seemingly is fated to be his mate fuels the story, which  starts out hot and only becomes more incendiary. Because  unlike most of the women Cristaldo has met, Everly is not going to be a pushover.  She feels the attraction, but she doesn't have a great track record with men and there's a restraining order out on her last (her first) boyfriend, a dangerous psychopath. 

Bain has done a terrific job of building the world of this story. The characters  have real connections to other people--Everly to her two best friends--bandmates in a group they call THE SIRENS--and Cristaldo has his brothers and Serge, his consiglieri, and  Sly, the charming majordomo who's been put at Ellery's disposal. But there are also the characters from the other clans--all of them descended from Roman royalty and all of them with clashing agendas. There are also vampires in this world and they have a very interesting role in the werewolf world.

The course of true love is never smooth, even if it's between a man and a woman fated to be "Forever Mates."

There's a lot of heat in the love/sex scenes, including a spectacular take on the whole "dream lover" trope.  And yet,  the prose never shades over into purple. It's streamy. It's  hot, but it's not the kind of out and out erotica that can turn some readers off. (You will definitely be turned on.) 

Check  out SIN CITY WOLF: HOWL now. 


Sunday, February 7, 2021

Lovers Masquerade--a Valentine's Day boxed set

 Masquerade balls have been the setting for great romances all the way back to Romeo & Juliet. This collection--a shared world project--takes place at a high society charity ball hosted by Madeleine Kane (a lovelorn tech billionaire and secret matchmaker). Everyone who's been invited has been asked to wear a touch of pink or red, indicating their preference for finding true lover or just a sex partner. And what happens at Kane mansion stays at Kane mansion--if that's how the partners want it. 

Lovers' Masquerade is a sexy Valentine's collection of stories that share setting, characters, and intention--heating up your night! Some of the stories--like "The Phantom and the Cheeseburger"--have rom com roots, others flirt with 50 Shades of Grey withe their dominant billionaires flying their dates off to Greece in their private jets. There's plenty of playful banter, lots of tenderness, a few misunderstandings, and many surprises.

The women are relatable--Nicolette, who has not quite perfected the art or walking in a ball gown (Kick/Step) and therefore makes a spectacular entrance; Addie who stops into a lingerie store to buy some dainties only to have the snooty saleswomen ghost her, not realizing she's the owner's daughter; Madeleine, the party's hostess who is the very definition of "poor little rich girl." The men--alphas all--have dimensions. One man seems to have it all, but his mother is dying from complications of MS and not even his manager knows it. 

These bite-size bits of romance are a perfect diversion for a cold winter's night. Get lost with the lovers.



Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Blood & Ash by Deborah Wilde...a rewview

 There’s all sorts of magic in Vancouver—the Van Goghs who manipulate art, the Charmers whose magic is literally charming people—but the one kind of magic that isn’t supposed to exist is blood magic and when it appears, it’s cast by someone who’s not supposed to have any magic at all. 

Deborah Wilde’s Blood & Ash  is the first in a new urban fantasy series that offers a snarky heroine who has a complicated life, really good friends, and  a mother who’s deeply into human versus  magical politics. And oh yes, there’s also her prickly relationship with Levi Montefiore, the head of  the most powerful magic “house” in the city, and a someone who’s known Ash almost all her life. 

Did I mention Ash’s life is complicated? She is at the center of a spiderweb of intrigue that begins when she witnesses a strange paranormal  event in which a dark smudge-like  THING possesses  a woman after using  up its previous host  and leaving  him dead on the sidewalk. When something similar happens a few hours later, it becomes clear to Ash that something dark has come to Vancouver and it’s up to her to stop it. 

Wilde has put together a believable  world in which magic-workers and mundanes know about each other and coexist.  It’s a diverse place,  and  Ash (short for Ashira) has real-world problems that make her relatable. (Her  relationship with her mother is  particularly engaging because Thalia is…a  piece of work.) 

The mystery of what’s going on in the story has several levels, and one is very personal for our heroine.  The  stakes of what’s  going on  in the main story are real and consequential, and readers will be  rooting  for Ash  every step of the way. 

The world is steeped in Jewish  mysticism and  culture, and that  automatically sets  it apart from 99.9%  of the other  urban fantasies out there. And when a golem shows up, it feels only natural.

It’s  a lot of fun  being in Ash’s world, and the steamy dose of sexual healing that comes in at the end, feels like a treat. It also sets up part of what’s to come in the sequels. This is definitely something a little different.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

A thriller two thousand years old! Carolyn McCray's 30 Pieces of Silver

 

There is a heresy at the bottom of 30 Pieces of Silver,  Carolyn McCray’s thriller, a nicely worked out bit of (alternate?) history that’s bolstered with tons of bogus academic papers and made-up artifacts that feel persuasive. As the story plays out along two timelines—the present and two thousand years ago—the pace never flags, and there are action beats that build and build and build and build from the moment we meet Rebecca Monroe being squeezed to death by an anaconda to the final explosive revelation. 

The special ops team central to the mission is familiar in concept—like James Rollins’ Sigma Force—are not just warriors, they know their science and their religious history. Characters keep underestimating them and it’s a lot of fun to see them thwart those snooty expectations. It’s also fun seeing military people being portrayed as something more than meatheads. (Once an Army brat, always an Army brat.) 

It is a little disappointing that Rebecca is just about the only woman with anything to do in the book. While she does some brave things and she is an intriguing person, she doesn’t necessarily drive the story—Brandt and his team do. Still, you have to love a book that combines all these thriller elements so seamlessly with an ancient backstory. Worth the read if you’re a fan of Clive Cussler, James Rollins, and Dan Brown.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Good and Gothic--DREAM REAPER by Alistair Cross

 Remember the heyday of the Gothic novel, those books that all had the same cover--with the beautiful long-haired woman running from a castle/mansion/tower with one lighted window? (Here's a Pinterest board that proves my point.)

I gobbled those books up like  chocolate-covered cherries. The sub-genre is having something of a comeback right now and that is really good news for readers because the neo-Gothics are a lot more complicated and compelling than the Bronte imitators that spawned the first wave of books back in the Seventies. 

And I'm not even counting the O.G. Gothics, a list of which you can find here.

Which brings me to Alistair Cross and his novel Dream Reaper. Cross brings the goth with a capital G and this book delivers angels, demons, holy hell, and dark desires. 

The story takes place in a fictional California town where a new Chief of police has just arrived. Nick Grayson is looking for a fresh start but his initial impression of Prominence is not promising. He's afraid he's going to be bored to death with only the town's Fouinder's Day festivities to look forward to. (Town mascot Winkie the golden hedgehog figures prominently.) 

Just one day in, however, weird things start happening, and Nick finds himself caught up in a battle between good and evil. (Cue the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" as you start to read--you'll see why.)

The characters in Dream Reaper are fully fleshed out and real. Readers will immediately be caught up in heroine Madison's story because we know what we need to know about her before she has the accident that kicks off the narrative. Although the story takes place in present day, all the trappings and tropes of Gothic novels are in place. There are haunted rooms, whispering voices, an abandoned church, a cemetery with wrought-iron fences, and more. Dark secrets and hidden needs fuel the action as the battle between good and evil plays out. There are real stakes here--eternal stakes.

There are intense moments, as when a woman randomly admits to her greatest sin and several other women attack each other over a man neither one truly wants. The heroes and heroines of the story are all flawed, even broken, and that adds to their believability. 

The horror here is lightened with levity, and quirkiness, and emotions run the gamut. It's a terrific read.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy 2021

 If there was one thing 2020 was good for--and there wasn't much it WAS good for--the decline in my freelance jobs left me more time for my own writing. I really branched out this year, writing in my own name and under my usual pen name Kat Parrish. But as the year unfolded and I joined a writer's group interested in boxed sets, I started branching out into subgenres--paranormal cozy, paranormal women's fiction, horror hybrids, science fiction romance. And I started creating new pseudonyms for these different stories. I'm not sure that's a great idea--it's a lot of work to "build a brand" and also it can be hard when one pseudonym gets accolades and the others don't. (Kat Parrish is an internationally bestselling author, thanks to one boxed set and an Amazon bestselling author thanks to another.) 

I'm still not convinced that readers care about these accolades, but when you work at home and kind of ain a vaccuum, the affirmation they give can be balm to the soul. (So far, I haven't seen any increase in sales thanks to being entitled to use the phrase on my covers, but it's fun knowing I am entitled to them.)



I made a lot of plans last year and they were nearly all upended. This year, I'm thinking in broader terms and not making resolutions at all. But that doesn't mean I'm not making plans. I'll be launching a couple of cozy series this year (look for my work as Katherine Moore) and really mazing out on the holiday

stories. (Christmas, Halloween, Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving.) I'm going to write more suspense (which is my first love) under my real name. And as for the urban fantasy I love--there will be historical shifters, more about my conflicted werewolf Rezso, a couple of gargoyles, a few fae, and many, many vampires. Because really, can you ever have too many vampires?

So, basically, I want this new year to be more productive than last. We're going to be stuck with the plague for a while longer, so I fully intend to go my part by staying at home, wearing a mask, and writing. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Vampire Mistress by Samantha Calcott

 Billed as a "lesbian retelling" of the classic horror tale (one of the original "Gothic romances"), Vampire Mistress does not disappoint. We open with Bec Renfield--a woman who used to have an obsession with insects--and her friend Johanna Seward making plans to renovate a 19th century asylum they picked up for a song and intend to transform into a modern, low-cost mental health facility. As they sift through all the patient records, Johanna finds a file on R.M. Renfield, a patient whose initials are the same as Bec's. Bec doesn't believe in coincidences, and she becomes fascinated by the case of the patient, who was admitted with "a pet and a case of religious mania.

Enter Dr. Victoria Draconis, a graduate of a university in Transylvania who is willing to work emergency late-night shifts if necessary. Bec feels an immediate erotic charge upon meeting the doctor, and a connection is established. From there things turn decidedly (and deliciously) erotic in a story that embraces all the vampire novel tropes (fog, family feuds, wolves, blood) and turns them on their side with a bit of bondge and a dash of domination ni a F/F pairing that's emorable. (There's also a set up for more books in the series.)

There's plenty of action too, including a climactic fight in a forest awash in cold blue flame, (The outcome of this episode is later recounted by Bec--the book's narrator--with sardonic wit, a lightness that is a plus for the story.) Calcott has built upon Stoker's story and introduced refinements of her own that move the story beyond a clever bit of "fan fic." The women here are strong, modern protagonists who know their way around a sword. 

"You act with passion," Quincey says to Victoria in their ultimate confrontation and she does not see that as a flaw. Neither will the readers/ Calcott will not disappoint fans of erotic paranormal fiction.