Contemporary Romance Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Published by: InterMix

Format: mobi

Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance

Order at: Amazon | B&N | Publisher

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: It’s Santino Hassell. What do you think you’re gonna get? You’re going to get hot, snarky, sarcastic dudes making you wish your AC went up to eleven. Or, maybe fifteen. So what’s different? This is the series that could have the tagline: Tight End Seeks Same.

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Contemporary Romantic Suspense Review: Complete Agents Irish & Whiskey Series by Layla Reyne

Agents Irish & Whiskey Series: Single Malt, Cask Strength, and Barrel Proof by Layla Reyne

Published by: Carina Press

Format: ePub

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Order at: Publisher | Amazon | B&N

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: A sporty, boozy, crime-solving partnership complete with Italian suit wearing older man who needs to stop dying his hair blond and resisting the basketball playing hacker who is sweet enough to make bees drown in their own honey. Read More

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Guest Post: How Much Does a Bear Weigh? (And Other Things a Novelist Needs to Know) by Alysia Constantine

 How Much Does a Bear Weigh? (And Other Things a Novelist Needs to Know) by Alysia Constantine

My Google search history and my little notebook of Things to Remember have become quite amusing reads this year. My second novel, Olympia Knife, tells the story of a woman who grows up in a travelling circus in early 20th Century America, and in researching that book (even if it was often only on Google and not through airless hours in the library, as I was trained for), I wound up seeking the answers to a hundred little questions that presented themselves: how much would Viselik, the trained bear, weigh? How many of those mean, alcohol-soaked clowns could fit into a clown car, and is it a special car? When was the circus canon invented (in case I want to shoot a character out of one)? How do you swallow a sword?

Since the novel takes place in the early 20C, this research was made ever more important by my need to be historically accurate. I also wound up researching period circus costumes, customs of the time and early 20C American slang. (My favorite discovery: “It’s all jake,” as in “everything’s cool”.) I even found myself trying to figure out when folks in the U.S. started saying “OK.” (In case you need to know, it was originally a joke in Boston ‘round about the 1830s… cool Bostonians liked to abbreviate everything—“That’s an NG” instead of “That’s a no-go”, for instance—and OK stands for “Orl Korrect,” which is the 1830s Bostonian’s Intentional Silly-Talkin’ way of saying “All Correct.”)

My point, I suppose, was that the old saw “write what you know” will only get you so far. In my case, it means all my novels would be about middle-aged, fat, disabled, white, first generation, lesbian professors who live in New York and have two dogs. That would dubiously be good for one novel, but after that, one probably must move on. On the other hand, I’ve never been interested in “historical fiction,” either—like sci-fi, much of it seems too caught up in the details of the unfamiliar world, and privileges those details over good, strong characters, beautiful language and sensory detail (the good stuff, of course, doesn’t… hence my love for Octavia Butler).

So how does one strike the balance between research and writing when one’s writing something creative? It’s a version of that same predicament about whether good writing requires routine and diligence or inspiration. (I cannot count how many people, upon hearing that I write novels, have made the assumption that I sit around eating bonbons and waiting for inspiration to strike. I must then explain that if I did that, I’d never write anything at all, because I usually find other things—things that don’t feel like work, like sorting through my fourth-grade papers or arranging my socks—more inspiring, and that writing, at least for me, is work and often an unpleasant task I must make myself do on the regular by, usually, sitting at my laptop for a prescribed 6 hours a day.) Eating bonbons is pretty good, too—as long as I’m also working.

What I’ve finally discovered, well into my forties, is that for me, writing works best as a tightrope walk balanced between inspiration and routine: I must get myself inspired within the confines of a routine. Research helps with this—I can spend hours flipping through pictures of early 20C circus performers, or reading about the history of poi spinning (that’s twirling stuff, often stuff on fire, for you uninitiated folks). But if I limit myself to twenty minutes of research, which must be followed by an hour of writing, I have the inspiration I need to feed me in the drudgery, and the structure to make sure the drudgery gets properly drudged.

Here’s the disenchanting, unromantic truth: writing is usually neither fun nor magical nor John-Berryman-wild-eyed-crazy-inspired. Writing drunk or high doesn’t usually make for good writing, either, at least in my experience. (Lots of writers wrote in spite of drinking or drug use, not because of it.) Dead Poets Society got it 100% wrong: writing is work, often unpleasant or tough or boring or just unrewarding in the moment, and rarely does it involve standing on your chair and bursting with emotion and quoting Whitman. And almost never does a writer get to witness the effects of the writing (except when a reader makes the effort to find her and tell her about it, ahem, friends).

I’m not trying to make writing sound more difficult than it is, or more important, I’m simply trying to demystify it here.

It’s the same thing I had to learn when writing about circus stuff, too: I was really drawn to writing about trapeze performers and fat ladies and bear trainers, but what I found was that the more real I made these characters, the more I had to think about what people threw at Minnie the Fat Lady while she was on stage (newspaper, rocks and hair pins, mostly), or whether Samu slept in his bear Viselik’s cage at night (yes, he did). I also figured most of their costumes smelled like sweat, and the air around the Flying Knifes was always filled with chalk dust from their hands. And the clowns were mean and cliquish and a little bit ominous.

Oh—and in case you were wondering and your Googling finger is broken, the answers to the questions I began with are, in order: about 400 pounds; between 14 and 21 clowns in a car without seats; the first human canon ball performed in 1877.

And how do you swallow a sword? Very carefully.


Alysia Constantine is the author of the novels Sweet (2016) and Olympia Knife (2017). She lives in the lower Hudson Valley of New York with her wife, two dogs, a cat, and a cucumber vine that has completely taken over the garden and produces ridiculous, armlength cucumbers.

Her next book is Olympia Knife. It will release on 11/3/17:

Born into a family of flying trapeze artists, Olympia Knife has one small problem: When her emotions rise, she becomes invisible. Everyone in the traveling circus has learned to live with this quirk; they banded together to raise Olympia in a loving environment when her parents vanished midair during their act, never to return. But the same fate befalls Arnold, the world’s shortest man, followed by one act after another, until the show is a crumbling mess of tattered tents and terrified troupers. Into this chaos walks Diamond the Danger Eater. Olympia and Diamond forge a friendship, then fall in love, and, together, resolve to stand the test of time, even as the world around them falls apart.

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Historical Romance Review: The Ruin of the Rake by Cat Sebastian

Title and Author: The Ruin of a Rake  

Published by: Avon Impulse

Format: ARC

Genre: Historical romance

Order at: Publisher | Amazon | B&N  

Reviewed by: Anya

What to Expect: Enemies-to-lovers story with a unique twist. And kittens! Read More

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Horror-Romance Anthology, All in Fear, currently on sale! Plus excerpts from each of the stories…

 

Spotlight on: All in Fear! Currently on sale now through 10/31 for only 99 cents!

Authors: Steve Berman, KJ Charles, Avon Gale, Roan Parrish, Kris Ripper, J.A. Rock

Original Release Date: 12/1/16

Available at: Publisher | Amazon | All other retailers


Learn more about the book:

All in Fear: A Collection of Six Horror Tales

Horror wears many faces, and its masks can be tantalizing. Some of the top names in queer fiction come together to spin their own versions of horror. Worlds rife with dark beauty and mystery, the familiar becoming terrible, creatures ethereal and alluring—and all bearing the gleam of love. Does hope lie along these grim passages or only doom? It will become clear. All in time—and all in fear.

Company by Roan Parrish

Nick Levy’s family is falling apart and he has no friends, but at least he can escape into the world of his favorite comic book series, The Face of the Vampire. Naturally, when the vampire in question shows up one day, Nick is enthralled. After all, what could be better than his own personal fantasy made real? Except that Nick isn’t exactly sure whether Michel is real or not. And when the arrival of a new boy in school promises romance, Nick sees a side of Michel he never could have imagined. This Michel is cruel, jealous . . . and he’ll do anything to keep Nick for himself.

Love Me True by Kris Ripper

Palmer’s life is as good as it gets. Well, okay, so he hates his mind-numbing office job. But he’s found a hot, smart, incredibly kinky guy. The sex is explosive. The power play is off the hook. And if he gets his way, Jon will soon be his husband.

When Palmer asks, Jon says yes. For the first time ever, Palmer thinks things might be really good. Sure, bad things happen in the worldto other people. But this is all he needs: Jon at the end of the day, in their bed, arms around him.

How could he have possibly been so stupid?

The Price of Meat by KJ Charles

Johanna Oakley will do anything to save her beloved Arabella from the cruelty of Mr Fogg’s madhouse—but ‘anything’ turns out to be more than she bargained for when she finds herself working for a man suspected of worse than murder. As Johanna is plunged from the horror of Sawney Reynard’s barber shop into the foul, lawless labyrinth at the heart of London, can she or anyone get out alive?

His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl by Steve Berman

Joining Zeta Psi isn’t Steve’s dream, it’s his dad’s. Nevertheless his dad’s gift of the mysterious Bailey flask gets Steve an in to the frat house, and maybe his best shot at being accepted on campus. But the flask’s silver sheen may only be lighting his way into the darkness at the heart of the frat—and the darkness he’s learning is within himself. Steve wants to choose who he is, but choices are dropping like flies as he learns the true mystery of the Bailey flask. How does he give back a gift that’s also a curse?

Legion: A Love Story by Avon Gale

STAFF SERGEANT JASON ESSEX, YOU HAVE RECEIVED THE FOLLOWING ORDERS FROM THE UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS:

REPORT TO: CAIN INSTITUTE [ADDRESS REDACTED]

ACTIVE DUTY COMMITMENT: GUARD AN ENTITY CURRENTLY HELD IN AN ENCLOSURE AT THE CAIN INSTITUTE. RECORD DAILY MEASUREMENTS. KEEP ANY AND ALL PERSONS FROM ENTERING OR LEAVING THE FACILITY. ENSURE THE ENTITY REMAINS COMPLETELY INCARCERATED. OBSERVE THE ENTITY WITHOUT ENGAGING.

ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS: THIS ASSIGNMENT WILL BE CARRIED OUT IN FULL ISOLATION. PLEASE BE ADVISED.

Beauties by J.A. Rock

When Dr. Lester Usole attends an event at AI developer Carnificiality, he’s introduced to Beauties: artificial beings designed to provide tailored sexual experiences for their human owners. Lester isn’t interested in sex—but he is fascinated by Ira, a Beauty too violent to be sold.

Lester convinces Carnificiality to give Ira to him. Lester has always wanted the chance to work with an adult AI, and around Lester, Ira isn’t violent. He’s strangely innocent, uncannily perceptive, and his company does much to ease Lester’s loneliness. Except something’s not quite right: Ira roams at night, even when Lester’s sure he’s locked Ira’s door.

Soon Lester is certain of only one thing: Ira has a secret. Something that will link their pasts and change the course of their future—if Lester is willing to face what’s on the inside.


Check out excerpts from each of the stories of ALL IN FEAR:

Excerpt from Company by Roan Parrish:

“Hello, Nicholas,” he said. How the hell did he know my name? I ran through many possible responses and settled, naturally, on the worst one.

        “Did my mom send you after me?” I asked, like a total loser.

        Michel didn’t respond, just cocked his head as if to say, “I am a beautiful and otherworldly creature. Where I come from there is no such thing as mothers.”

        “Are you real?” I asked then, congratulating myself on a slightly more pressing and practical question.

        “Of course,” he said.

        He was just how I’d imagined him: graceful, and beautiful, and so, so lonely. I realized that I had returned his handshake without thinking and was now just standing there, holding his hand and staring like an idiot. At this thought, Michel smiled kindly, and lifted my hand to his lips in a soft, gentlemanly kiss. I’m not proud of it, but it was my first kiss, and even though it was just on my hand, I felt it everywhere.


Excerpt from Love Me True by Kris Ripper:

“Truth or dare, Palmer.” He lay back against the pillows of our bed, still idly playing with the band of his shorts.

“Does this game really work if we already know everything about each other?”

He grinned. “You think we know everything about each other?”

“Oh, come on.” I poked him in the chest. “Do you really have secrets from me, mister?”

“Maybe one or two things that haven’t exactly come up yet.” The grin turned into a smirk. “I don’t tell you everything I think about, Palmer. Aren’t secrets supposed to keep things interesting in a couple?”

I rolled my eyes. “I don’t think we need any help keeping things interesting. Plus, I want to know everything about you. Don’t you want to know everything about me?”

“Uh huh. I really do. So: truth or dare?”

“Truth.”

“Okay. How about . . . when did you know you were in love with me?”


Excerpt from The Price of Meat by KJ Charles:

The doctor grasped her arm. Johanna stamped on his instep with everything she had, wrenched her arm free, and fled out of the terrible room, running for the stairs. Reynard gave a roar that might have been amusement or rage, and at the cry his men rose from the shadows with leering grins and stretching arms. Two moved to the base of the stairs. Johanna changed direction and fled for the other door, driven by the instinct of the hunted fox to seek any hole, and this time, nobody got in her way. She pulled it open, hurtled in, batted aside something heavy and cold that swung from the ceiling—

One of dozens of things, hanging from great hooks, cold and pale and heavy in the dim light from the door, white bone-ends showing where the inedible parts had been trimmed off.  It was a meat store, full of carcasses. The one she’d shoved swung back at her and on its side, like a cattle brand, Johanna saw an anchor-shaped tattoo.

A shadow fell over her. Reynard, with ragged, grinning men at his side, loomed in the doorway.

“Not a bad idea, Miss Oakley. We leave meat here to tenderise, and this should soften you up nicely. A couple of hours should make you more obliging, don’t you think? I’ve got to gather the Freemen for a meeting, but I daresay we can let you out once I’m done, if you ask nice enough.”

He stepped back and shut the door. It slammed on her like the thud of a coffin lid; the bolt scraped on the outside; she was alone in the dark. She hammered on its unyielding surface with her fists, begging and weeping and screaming for release from this dreadful larder, while behind her the dead men creaked and swayed on their hooks, quietly, gently decaying in the dark.


Excerpt from His Mouth Will Taste of Chernobyl by Steve Berman:

As I push open the trapdoor at the top of the ladder, a moist, thick heat trapped within the attic overruns me. The outside daylight seeps through the oddly peaked roof, enough that I can find the dangling cord of a single bare bulb. One pull and I see the attic is really an unfinished elevated crawl space. By the time I worm off the last rung and onto the floor beams, my face feels like a windshield in the rain.

Carl climbs after me. The brothers ordered me to retrieve last year’s Halloween decorations, but Carl volunteered to help. I almost wish he hadn’t because there’s not enough room in the attic for the two of us to move about comfortably. He ends up on his hands and knees beside me.

The cardboard boxes I brush with one hand are mottled with mold and coated with dust. I reach blindly into one box and pull out a cheap plastic devil mask, the scarlet streaked with thick crud.

“I hate Halloween,” Carl says. His pained face is inches away from my shoulder. Dark crescents bloom under his neck, his armpits.

“No one hates Halloween. There’s all you can eat candy. Free candy.”

He shakes his head like a thick-coated dog after a bath and the sweat flies in droplets. “My folks celebrated the ‘harvest’—”

I hold the devil mask in front of my face. The bits of Carl I see through the cut-out eyes look miserable. “That sounds spookier—”

“It’s just pathetic.” Carl reaches out and lifts the mask off me. “I was . . . quieter before I came here.”


Excerpt from Legion: A Love Story by Avon Gale:

Personal Journal

Today I asked Cain if demons really did eat human souls. I expected him to tell me that wasn’t true (they don’t live in a lake of fire, either) but . . . well. Apparently that part of demon-lore is true.

“When I’ve broken these bonds of magic and found those who summoned me, Jason, I’m going to feast on their souls so slowly they will die a thousand deaths before I swallow them.”

That probably should have put an end to my thoughts about getting him out of there, but honestly . . . could I really blame him? If I were kidnapped and put into a cage, experimented on and held against my will, I’d be pretty pissed and looking for revenge, too. Definitely.

“Do you need souls to survive? Like food?” I asked. Because there’s only one human here at the moment. Freeing Cain doesn’t mean I have to be his lunch. At least, I hope it doesn’t mean that.


Excerpt from Beauties by J.A. Rock:

Lester turned in time to see Ira pinch each end of the worm and pull it in half.

“Ira! What are you doing?”

Ira held the two halves up, each one still wriggling. “I want to see what’s on the inside.”

“But that kills the worm. Don’t you know that?”

Ira frowned at the dark half. “It wipes the worm?”

A sharp pain pulsed behind Lester’s right temple. It’s just a worm. Just a worm. It was startling, to see something come apart like that, is all. “It kills the worm,” Lester repeated.

“It doesn’t,” Ira said steadily. “Both halves can live on and become new worms.” The halves curled around Ira’s thumbs in perfect synchronicity, as though Ira had commanded them. “I just wanted to see what was on the inside. Lester.”

Lester didn’t answer. He studied the dark red clots at each end of the severed worm, unable, for a moment, to move.

A pale mass trailing wires like jellyfish tentacles. Lips moving. No screams. The long, spindly appendages of a cancer cell. Shaking in a white hospital bed. Lips moving. Last words. You had to take things apart to make them whole. That was how ABs had been created—by dissecting the human body until it was nothing. By building its echo.

Ira tossed the worm halves aside. “They have nothing on the inside.”


Get to know the authors of ALL IN FEAR:

Steve Berman

Steve Berman loves to tell stories that are both queer and weird. He was a Zeta Psi back in his college days at and remembers being hazed. He survived and graduated and even earned a Masters Degree in Liberal Studies. He has written and sold over a hundred articles, essays, and short stories. His YA novel, Vintage, was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award.

Website: www.steveberman.com

KJ Charles

KJ Charles is a writer and freelance editor. She lives in London with her husband, two kids, and a cat with murder management issues. KJ writes mostly historical romance, mostly queer, often with fantasy or horror in there.

Find her on Twitter @kj_charles, pick up book info and free reads on her website at kjcharleswriter.com, get the infrequent newsletter at kjcharleswriter.com/newsletter, or join her Facebook group, KJ Charles Chat, for sneak peeks and exclusives.

Avon Gale

Avon Gale wrote her first story at the age of seven, about a “Space Hat” hanging on a rack and waiting for that special person to come along and purchase it — even if it was a bit weirder than the other, more normal hats. Like all of Avon’s characters, the space hat did get its happily ever after — though she’s pretty sure it was with a unicorn. She likes to think her vocabulary has improved since then, but the theme of quirky people waiting for their perfect match is still one of her favorites.

Avon grew up in the southern United States, and now lives with her very patient husband in a liberal midwestern college town. When she’s not writing, she’s either doing some kind of craft project that makes a huge mess, reading, watching horror movies, listening to music or yelling at her favorite hockey team to get it together, already. Avon is always up for a road trip, adores Kentucky bourbon, thinks nothing is as stress relieving as a good rock concert and will never say no to candy.

At one point, Avon was the mayor of both Jazzercise and Lollicup on Foursquare. This tells you basically all you need to know about her as a person.

Connect with Avon:

Website: www.avongalewrites.com/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/avongalewrites

Twitter: @avongalewrites

Sign up for Avon’s Newsletter: http://eepurl.com/bOXXp9

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/14237686.Avon_Gale

Roan Parrish

Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.

Sign up for her Newsletter to receive updates about new releases, works-in-progress, and bonus materials like sneak peeks and extra scenes! eepurl.com/bmJUbr

Website: www.roanparrish.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/roanparrish

Twitter: @RoanParrish

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ARoanParrish

Instagram: www.instagram.com/roanparrish

Kris Ripper

Kris Ripper lives in the great state of California and hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. Kris shares a converted garage with a little kid, can do two pull-ups in a row, and can write backwards. (No, really.) Kris is genderqueer and prefers the z-based pronouns because they’re freaking sweet. Ze has been writing fiction since ze learned how to write, and boring zir stuffed animals with stories long before that.

Links:
The site: krisripper.com

The Facebook group: Ripper’s Irregulars: https://www.facebook.com/groups/405062456366636/

The Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SmutTasticKris

J.A. Rock

J.A. Rock is the author or coauthor of over twenty LGBTQ romance, suspense, and horror novels, as well as an occasional contributor to HuffPo Queer Voices. J.A. has received Lambda Literary and INDIEFAB Award nominations for Minotaur, and The Subs Club received the 2016 National Leather Association-International Pauline Reage Novel Award. J.A. lives in Chicago with an extremely judgmental dog, Professor Anne Studebaker.

Website: www.jarockauthor.com

Blog: http://jarockauthor.blogspot.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jarockauthor

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ja.rock.39


Win one of three e-copies of All in Fear now!

 

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Sounds Like Halloween: Day 18 with Daria Defore

Daria Defore join Sounds Like Halloween with a reading from the fantasy Romance, Sparkwood.


About Sparkwood:

Finn Bricket has never trusted fairies, and it’s no surprise to him when his twin brother Luke turns up dead, probably by magical means. What he doesn’t expect is an invitation to the funeral—in the fairy realm—and a chance to find out who killed him.

On the way he meets Robin, a fairy who’s supposed to be watching out for him—and who Finn instantly hates. Despite the tension between them, Robin is also upset by Luke’s death and wants to make things right.

Before long they’re looking for clues and up to their necks in fairy trouble, and maybe not even Robin’s magic can save them.


About Daria Defore:

Daria Defore is a writer by night, and a video producer by day. She’s been writing ever since she was a kid, and vividly remembers that her first story was about visiting Santa Claus and getting a pet dinosaur. Now she writes filthy romance instead.

Daria is a Washington transplant living in New York City. She has a tendency to set stories in her beautiful home state. She loves reading, cups of coffee in multiples of ten, and being bullied to write more.


Learn more about the Sounds Like Halloween audio series, including authors taking part & what you can expect, here.

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Contemporary Romance review: Scorpio Hates Virgo (Signs of Love #2) by Anyta Sunday

Scorpio Hates Virgo

Published by: Anyta Sunday

Format: ePub

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Order at: Publisher | Amazon 

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: A cute love affair of boys who have resisted each other for as long as they’ve known each other. Ah…if they could only have been smarter than…oh, wait…I was clueless, too. Read More

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Historical Romance review: An Unsuitable Heir by KJ Charles

Title: An Unsuitable Heir by KJ Charles

Published by: Random House LLC

Format: Mobi

Genre: Historical Romance

Order at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Publisher

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: KJ Charles wraps up the Sins of the Cities trilogy with with a trapeze artist named Pen who won’t compromise gender identity for sake of an earldom and a detective who acknowledges Pen’s true self while knowing he might have to convince Pen to do exactly that in order to save Pen’s life. 


Plot: 

A private detective finds passion, danger, and the love of a lifetime when he hunts down a lost earl in Victorian London.

On the trail of an aristocrat’s secret son, enquiry agent Mark Braglewicz finds his quarry in a music hall, performing as a trapeze artist with his twin sister. Graceful, beautiful, elusive, and strong, Pen Starling is like nobody Mark’s ever met—and everything he’s ever wanted. But the long-haired acrobat has an earldom and a fortune to claim.

Pen doesn’t want to live as any sort of man, least of all a nobleman. The thought of being wealthy, titled, and always in the public eye is horrifying. He likes his life now—his days on the trapeze, his nights with Mark. And he won’t be pushed into taking a title that would destroy his soul.

But there’s a killer stalking London’s foggy streets, and more lives than just Pen’s are at risk. Mark decides he must force the reluctant heir from music hall to manor house, to save Pen’s neck. Betrayed by the one man he thought he could trust, Pen never wants to see his lover again. But when the killer comes after him, Pen must find a way to forgive—or he might not live long enough for Mark to make amends.

Review: 

While I haven’t read the entire KJ Charles oeuvre, the stories I have read are about careful, thoughtful lovers in the Victorian age. Interesting time to be queer. It’s an age with visible homosexuality and an age gearing up toward the 1885 legislation that will make private acts between consenting men blatantly illegal. The same legislation that will land Oscar Wilde in gaol in 1896. 

But the Victorian era, known for sexual repression, was categorized by an awful lot of talk about sex and, thanks to one sexologist Havelock Ellis, created a term called sexual inversion, which was used to describe a reversal of gender traits as an inborn mechanism. The term was used across the spectrum of homosexuality and gender identity but perhaps it was most closely descriptive of transgenderism—a term that was introduced a century later. 

(Don’t get too excited about this guy Ellis. He was also a proponent for Eugenics. Jerk.)

*Cough*

I rudely interrupted myself. What was I saying?

Oh, yeah.

Enter Pen.

Who doesn’t have the language to describe how odd it feels to have large hands and broad shoulders, despite the fact they have uncommon body awareness to fly on the trapeze. It was interesting to consider a character who know who they were (Pen’s identity wasn’t in question for himself) but because of this lack of common vocabulary (which is remains topics of many Twitter threads today), Pen was wary of the constant requirement to adhere to a standard that simply didn’t suit them.

Enter Mark.

Who sees Pen authentically. Conversely, Pen sees Mark (a one-armed Polish man who has long ago worked out how to perform daily tasks, though others see him as defective) for who he is as well. This ongoing discussion and validation is nice to see. In fact, KJ Charles often writes about the perspective of those who are seen as ‘others’ or ‘outliers’ to standard white bread society. She writes with a lot of kindness and patience and, I suspect, with the hope of raising awareness so we (as a whole) can elevate how we treat those around us.

I was invested. And as much as I didn’t quite fall in love with this couple as much as Nathaniel and Justin, I did (on more than one occasion) pick up my e-reader just after closing it just to read another few lines, which became some more pages, which became chapters.

This trilogy demonstrates why KJ Charles has such a dedicated following. If you don’t pick up this series, pick up another; the choice on whether or not to read her books is a no-brainer.

What you may not like: As referenced above, there is such care put into how her lovers treat each other, how they navigate each other’s ‘otherness’ — not just accepting their lover but constantly, consistently, repetitively accepting their lover. Unfortunately, this wore down my interest, possibly because I was already onboard with these concepts. Similarly, in book #3 (which this is), there was a lot of revisiting of what had happened in prior books. Perhaps it was necessary for those who read the prior books in the series some time ago. I felt it could have been more subtle. 

There is also one point in which Pen seems to have adopted a new pronoun but because it was said by Mark rather than Pen themselves, I was uncomfortable. This is in part because there were several instances in this story in which Mark proceeded to move against Pen’s explicit wishes (which is likely the other reason I didn’t love them together). It is very difficult to run roughshod over a lover’s wishes and is, perhaps, unforgivable to many readers. I’m still mulling it over (Though in real life? No. I’d be raising hell if that happened to a friend of mine. No forgiveness, know what I’m saying?)

What you will love: The authentic Victorian London experience – complete with smells, fog, livelihood, trendy words, and lots (and lots) of tea. The relationships supersede the mystery but, even so, the plot was interesting, especially as it grew over the course of the three books. Mostly, I loved the community, how each character remains imperfect, but also perfectly, wonderfully loved. Because, really, her characters are perfectly, wonderfully lovable.


Alex claims to read more than any normal, healthy adult should though the rest of the Binge on Books team would beg to differ. You can read all of his reviews here.

Connect with Alex on Twitter: @Alex_deMorra

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Contemporary Queer Romance Review: Femme by Marshall Thornton

Title: Femme by Marshall Thornton

Published by: Kenmore Books

Format: Softcover

Genre: Contemporary Queer Romance

Order at: Amazon

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: One empowered femme does not need to deal with one closeted straight-acting boy’s drama…even if the sex is hot. Femme is a relatively low angst romance with pro-Boi vibes with friends and family who take a long time to figure their stuff out but do get there in the end.  Read More

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YA Review: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

Title: The Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera

Published by: Harper Teen

Format: Softcover

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Order at: Amazon | B&N

Reviewed by: Alex

What to Expect: This novel is more cerebral than the Adam Silvera’s other work, deftly weaving a speculative universe within the confines of present day New York. It’s here, in this space, that two teenagers find each other and, in turn, find themselves. They Both Die At The End is a stellar piece of writing filled with love and friendship, joy and grief, courage and redemption, and more twists than you can throw a stick at. Whatever that means. Either way, it’s a candidate for best book of the year from me. I strongly encourage you to read it STAT.

Check out Alex interviewing Adam Silvera about They Both Die at the End and enter to win a paperback ARC!

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