reading roundup: July

I’ve been oxer-deep in reading this month and have seven books to share.


The Cricketer’s Arms, Garrick Jones

A gay romance/murder mystery set in 1950s Sydney. I loved this. I’ve probably said before that I think Garrick Jones’ historical detail is second to none. The combination of a murder mystery and romantic shenanigans is basically my ideal read. Hard recommend. I understand there is a sequel in the wind in the future.


Thrown to the Wolves, Charlie Adhara

The third in Charlie Adhara’s wolves series. Cooper finds out a lot more about wolf pack behaviour and Oliver Park’s slightly bonkers family. I have a complex relationship with shifter books – some I love and some don’t grab me at all. This trilogy falls in to the ‘love’ category!


Tournament of Shadows, S. A. Meade

I went looking for Tournament of Shadows because I met S. A. Meade at an Author Thing a couple of months ago.  Published in 2014, this ticks all my ‘historical detail’ boxes. Set in the mid-nineteenth century in what is now Uzbekistan, it follows two minor characters in the Great Game played between world powers during that period. It has gay romance, political intrigue and journeying through locations I knew nothing about and had to research. A definite re-read.


Hither Page, Cat Sebastian

Set just post-WW2 Hither Page features a shell-shocked country doctor and a spy who need to team up to solve a murder. Of course, they fall in love in the process. There is beautifully realized historical detail with vulnerable and emotionally wounded main protagonists and a richly sprinkling of well drawn supporting characters.  Also, lady assassins. *taps nose meaningfully*


Outbreak, Melissa Olson

This is the final book in the Nightshades trilogy which is a vampire power-struggle-cum-straight-romance with the FBI thrown in for good measure. Vampires have been hidden from humanity until very recently. Hector is still trying to manipulate both vampires and humans for his own nefarious, control-grabbing purposes and the Bureau of Preternatural Investigations is still trying to stop him. But the FBI are also investigating Lindy and Alex. It’s a really good end to the trilogy.


Rebellion, Naomi Aoki

Intricate historical detail about the Boxer uprising from Naomi Aoki in this gay romance set at the end of the nineteenth century in Singapore and China. Alfred falls in love with a Chinese soldier he meets in the public gardens. The tension in their love story is entwined with the rising of the political and eventually military tensions. Neither my historical period or my geographical area, I really, really enjoyed this. Recommend.


Owl and the Japanese Circus, Kristi Charish

The first in the Owl series. Owl is an archaeologist-thief in a world where magic is real and digging up ancient artifacts can get you killed. Obviously the authorities suppress all this knowledge from the general public. Owl doesn’t do supernatural jobs, but this time she gets sucked in to something that she can’t avoid. There are dragons, vampires and (straight) romance. I have got second one in the series on my TBR list but haven’t got to it yet. I thought this was brilliant – really good world-building.


That’s all! Next week, an interview with Nell Iris.

excerpt: the flowers of time

As promised, this week I have an excerpt from The Flowers of Time for you. Set in the 1780s, in England and Northern India, the main characters are Jones, a non-binary archaeologist who has lived in the mountains for most of her life, and Edith, who is a botanical illustrator.


If Pater hadn’t made Jones promises to leave straight after the funeral, she wouldn’t have gone at all.

“You promise?” he’d asked, again and again as his strength waned in the flicker of the butter-lamps. “You promise you’ll go, Frank? You need to get away. Take the green-bound book and go.”

“Yes, Pater,” she had reiterated again and again. “I promise. I’ll go. I’ll go straight down to Bombay, to John and Richard. And I’ll take ship as soon as I can. You’ve already written to Aunt Caroline, I sent the letter myself. I’m ready.”

She had been sniveling to herself as she spoke, hoping he wouldn’t notice how distressed she was in the dim light. She didn’t want to be having this conversation at all. He looked yellow-faced and sunken-cheeked even in the daylight and in the flickering light of the dim lamps at night it was worse. He was already corpse-like.

He moved a thin, clawed hand to cover hers. “My dear, I love you so much. I have perhaps done you a disservice by not sending you home to Caro before now, when you were younger.”

“I didn’t want to go,” she said, roughly. “It’s all right, Pater. I’m all right. I’ll go, as soon as is possible.”

“I should never have kept you out here, once I realized that the book has some truth behind it,” he said. He had been rambling a little about his books in the last week or so, as he had become weaker. “You must take it back with you. And put it in the library at Stamford Hall. That’s where it came from. Put it in the library, up high, on one of the top shelves to the left of the arched window. Use the ladders. And then it will be safe.” He drew a rattling breath. “Promise me, Frank.”

She turned her hand over beneath the fragile skin of his own on the counterpane and clasped it carefully. “I promise, Pater.”

“And don’t do what I did,” he added in a harsh whisper. “Don’t search for the source. All these years,” he said, “All these years I have been following the trail, looking for the source. And now, here we are. And it’s not a source for good, my child. It’s not a source for good at all.” He was lapsing in to rambling again. “I want you away, Frank. I want you and the book safe.” Finally he slipped in to the restless sleep that was consuming more and more of his time. She bent her head over his hand as she clutched it. He was the only family she had ever known and she was terrified to lose him.

“It won’t be long now.” The soft voice of one of the older monastery healers came from behind her in the slow Bhoti they used with her. “But you know that.”

She turned slowly on her stool, not letting go of her father’s hand, and nodded. “Yes. I know. Thank you, Jamyang. I do appreciate everything you are doing for us.” Kalsang was behind him, she noticed, his apprentice and shadow. “Thank you for helping him wash earlier, Kalsang.”

“You are most welcome, Jones.” Kalsang nodded with all the formality a teenager could muster.

“He wants me to go home. To England. To my aunt.” She swallowed and looked up. “It’s all arranged. He’s written. Sonam will take me down to Bombay.” She heard Kalsang’s indrawn breath of shock. Bombay was months of travel away. She had only been once herself, about fifteen years ago, when Pater had made the trip to take some artifacts down to send home.

“Will you come back?” Jamyang’s voice was unchanged, still calm and unshocked.

She met his gaze. “Yes. Yes. He wants me to stay in England a year. So I can learn where I come from.” She disengaged her hand gently, not waking her father, and stood. “He’s right, in a way. I should know. But my home is here. And my work is here. His work. It’s so important the people at home in England learn about the wonderful things here in the mountains. There are buildings and people here that people in England never even imagine. Things so old, so precious! I want to keep documenting it all, keep exploring.”

Jamyang watched her, with a small smile and then patted her arm. “You are a good person, Jones,” he said. “You are your father’s child. Franklin has been my friend for decades now, since you first came here when you were a tiny child after your mother died.” He stepped forward and took her hand. “We will welcome you back when you come, child. You will always have a home here with us. But do as your father wishes, now. Take the book he speaks of back to England. And leave it there. He has protected you from it for this long. Now, your protection must rest on your own shoulders.”




 

 


Next week, my monthly ‘what I’ve been reading in July’ roundup!

character sketch: Alec Carter

Alistair Carter, one of the two main protagonists from Lost in Time and Shadows on the Border, is a Detective Inspector with the Metropolitan Police. I imagine him as looking quite like the chap on the left on the cover of Shadows, although with a raincoat and a Homberg hat.

He’s in his mid-thirties at the start of Lost in Time in 1919, which means he was born in the late 1880s, to quite a well off middle class family who were pretty upset when he joined the police instead of becoming a solicitor or another professional. He was in the Military Police in the war and served on the Western Front. Afterwards, he came back and took up his old job with the department and works out of the Poplar area of London, at Wapping Police Station, on the Thames. He was promoted to Detective Inspector when he came back from the army and is quiet and insightful and good at working out what people mean from what they don’t say.

His brief, abortive marriage to Kitty has left him with a big empty house next to Hamstead Heath and a lot of guilt. He married a woman because it was expected of him and he could have made it work if they’d become friends, but she was really only interested in being a trophy wife and by the time she died, although he was devastated, there was also an element of relief because he was so unhappy.

He’s cross most of the time for reasons he can’t really put his finger on. Unsettled in his skin. And that only gets worse when he meets Lew Tyler during the course of a murder investigation. He isn’t unused to finding men attractive and has had liaisons before and one particular person he was very drawn to, but no-one as strongly as Lew.

Alec is probably my favorite character from the two books. He’s grumpy and defensive and not at all in touch with his emotions. It makes him really interesting to write.

works in progress: progressing, and that’s about all

I’ve done a load over the last month, but not much of it actual writing.

Because of the shenanigans with MailChimp pricing levels, I’ve ported my newsletter over to MailerLite, which I think will be a good thing long term, but was a pain in the neck to do at the time. And I’ve done the same for Mr AL, who has a much more complex set-up than I do, so it took ages. That done, I’ve also set myself up a proper Ko-fi page that will act as a sort of combination of things I blog here and exclusive content that first goes out to newsletter subscribers.

I’ve also committed to doing some posts for the Queeromance Ink Blog, about author-life in general rather than more bookish things. This involves me sitting down and actually writing them, but they’re coming together in my head.

Which brings me to actual writing! Inheritance of Shadows has another three thousand words, which went out yesterday – newsletter usually goes out on the first Tuesday of the month, barring disaster. If you’d like to get the monthly installments of Matty and Rob’s adventures, just hop on here. You will also be able to follow on Ko-fi as a supporter if you’d rather do it that way. I’m reading Secret Warriors: key scientists, code-breakers and propagandists of the great war by Taylor Downing as background, because Rob needs to know some stuff and I need to know the stuff before he can know the stuff. It’s fascinating.

Flowers of Time has had another few thousand words, but I’m still sidetracked by Katie Hickman’s She-Merchants, Buccaneers and Gentlewomen and feel like I need to get that under my belt before I write any more. I’m writing completely outside both my historical period and my geographical area and I don’t want to mess either up.

This month promises to be more of the same, hopefully with less opportunities for prevarication. Watch this space!

 

 

character sketch: Lew Tyler

This is the first in a series of occasional character sketches I’m going to do.

Lew Tyler is one of the main characters in both Lost In Time and Shadows On The Border, books one and two of the Lost In Time series. I think he’s probably going to pop in and out of future stories as well.

Lew was born in the UK in 1983 and when we first meet him at the beginning of Lost In Time, he has just been jettisoned back in time from 2016 to 1919.

One of the things I wanted to do with the story is contrast the experience of someone age thirty-three in 2016 with the experience of someone of a similar age in 1919, and I was quite happy with how that worked out.

Lew is a rather reluctant magician who can manipulate the fabric of time and space and the void between the worlds. He gets sucked back through time as part of his search for his friend Mira, who Lew assumes is missing because she over-reached her magical abilities. Lew tried to use his own magic to track her and ended up in London just after World War One. It took him a while to find his feet – he was very lucky – and he ended up with two jobs that overlap – a journalist and photographer at a small weekly London paper and as a police crime-scene photographer. This allows him to poke around London quite easily in his search for his friend and his unexpected bequest of a motorbike early on in the book helps that a lot too.

He’s not actually a very good or knowledgeable magician. He and Mira met in foster care after his parents died when he was in his early teens. Although his father was a magic user, Lew didn’t have enough time with him and neither he nor Mira have had any kind of mentoring or training. They’re flying blind and that’s why things have gone wrong.

Lew is a kind and open person. But he’s also scared of people finding out his secrets – both that he’s from the future and that he’s gay – and he feels very alone at the start of the books. As the series goes on, he settles in to himself, but I can’t say too much more about that without spoilers!

What does he look like? He’s five foot ten, with high boned cheeks, long-ish fair hair that he tries to keep slicked back from his face, but that usually falls in to his eyes. He’s sinewy rather than built. He’s got dark brown eyes that are shot through with lighter hazel and when he’s pulling power, the hazel bits take on a golden colour. He’s quite empathic, probably because of the magic, and finds it difficult to filter out other people’s emotions unless he’s concentrating hard. That can be helpful if he’s working magic, but a nuisance the rest of the time.

I really like the overall feel of the artwork JMS has done for the series. I feel that that they give a good feel for the characters and the world. In my head, Lew is the man at the back hiding under the rather large hat.