5 Stars, Alex Beecroft, Genre Romance, Reviewed by Maryann, Riptide Publishing

Review: Blue Eyed Stranger by Alex Beecroft

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Title: Blue Eyed Stranger (Trowchester Blues: Book Two)

Author: Alex Beecroft

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 246 Pages

At a Glance: An exquisitely written novel.

Reviewed By: Maryann

Blurb: Billy Wright has a problem: he’s only visible when he’s wearing a mask. That’s fine when he’s performing at country fairs with the rest of his morris dancing troupe. But when he takes the paint off, his life is lonely and empty, and he struggles with crippling depression.

Martin Deng stands out from the crowd. After all, there aren’t that many black Vikings on the living history circuit. But as the founder of a fledgling historical re-enactment society, he’s lonely and harried. His boss doesn’t like his weekend activities, his warriors seem to expect him to run everything single-handedly, and it’s stressful enough being one minority without telling the hard men of his group he’s also gay.

When Billy’s and Martin’s societies are double-booked at a packed county show, they know at once they are kindred spirits, united by a deep feeling of connectedness to their history and culture. But they’re also both hiding in their different ways, and they need each other to be brave enough to take their masks off and still be seen.

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Review: Blue Eyed Stranger is such an exquisitely written novel by Alex Beecroft. She writes with such emotion and passion, and I could actually hear the British accents come through in the writing; though I have to admit I had to check out the definition of some vocabulary, as well as the musical instruments discussed in this novel. The history about the different dances was also very interesting, and the county fairs, dancing, music, history and love really made this story come alive.

Both Martin and Billy have the issues that come with a new relationship. They also give support to each other in their own way, and they have their mutual like of the arts and history.

Even though Billy Wright deals with deep depression, he is an amazing character. He is a talented dancer with the Morris Dancing Group, and also plays the violin. As long as he is in costume he can handle his depression, and he gains self-confidence. Billy has accepted his being gay, and he never hid that fact.

Martin Deng is black and gay, two strikes against him, but he still tries to hide the fact that he’s gay. He’s an extraordinary teacher and tries to teach truth. He also has to deal with a degrading and controlling father. Martin performs as a Viking in his group, the Bretwalda Reenactment Society.

I also have to make mention of the musical group Steeleye Span’s “All Around My Hat”. Whatever I am reading, if an author mentions a group or a song(s), I make it a point to check out the music, which really sets a good tone for this novel.

Thanks, Alex Beecroft, for expanding my vocabulary and knowledge of music.

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You can buy Blue Eyed Stranger here:

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Guest Post and Giveaway: The Blue Steel Chain Blog Tour with Alex Beecroft

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We’re so pleased to welcome author Alex Beecroft back to The Novel Approach today, on the Blue Steel Chain tour. Enjoy Alex’s guest post and then be sure to leave a comment to enter in Riptide Press’s tour-wide giveaway of a signed paperback from Alex Beecroft’s backlist (Any title which has a paperback edition, excluding Blue Steel Chain).  Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on August 1, 2015. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries.

And please be sure to leave your email address in your comment so we can contact you at the close of the competition.

Good luck!

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When False Colors came out in 2009, I still thought I was straight. I remember the furor that was kicked up by the marketing campaign for that book, which was released as part of a four book attempt to take m/m romance to the mainstream under the ill advised marketing slogan “m/m romance by straight women for straight women.” The four authors involved were somewhat startled by this because they were Erastes, Lee Rowan, Donald Hardy and me. That’s two bisexual women, a gay man, and an asexual person who really still isn’t quite sure about this whole gender business.

I’ve digressed. My point was that at the time I didn’t know that asexuality existed. I thought I was the token straight in that group. I’d always been aware that I’d never been very good at being straight. I’d always felt that there were vast areas in our culture that I just wasn’t getting. The whole business with sex, for example. What was the attraction? What was the point? I could see that it seemed to be a huge driving force in human interaction, and yet for me it was a blank space. Did that mean I wasn’t human? I sometimes felt that way.

I defined myself in negatives. I wasn’t a woman but I wasn’t a man. So I probably wasn’t trans. I wasn’t gay or bi or poly, but I really wasn’t very straight either.

How could a person who was so nothing ever actually exist at all?

That may not sound like an important question, if you’re the kind of concrete realist who can then go on to say “and yet I do, and my existence is valid.” But as an artist and an INTP, I’m a pattern maker by nature, and when I didn’t fit into any of the available patterns it did tend to lead me down the road of “then you must be a mistake. If there’s no space for you in this world, perhaps the world would be better off without you.”

An interesting thing that happened to me recently was that I began to go to a therapist (for non-writing related reasons). On one occasion I said to her “My depression hasn’t been so bad the last three years.” Another time I said “I found out about asexuality about three years ago, and that cleared up a lot of questions I’d had.” She was the one who said “You don’t think the timing of those two things is significant?”

I think it probably is.

I’m supposed to be talking about Blue Steel Chain, aren’t I? But this backstory is relevant to that book. By the time I discovered that asexuality was an actual thing, I had already lived for forty seven years. I had lived for 47 years not knowing that I wasn’t simply a failure at being a human being.

Asexuality is known as one of the ‘invisible orientations,’ because there is so little awareness in society that it exists at all. Asexual people can go their whole lives asking “what’s wrong with me?!” and never get an answer.

Naturally once I’d found this out, I knew I had to do something about it. I had to spread the news and let other people know that they too were not as broken as they might have thought. So I wrote Blue Steel Chain, a romance in which one of my main characters is asexual.

I thought I was writing it mainly for me – mainly for the thrill of thumbing my nose at all those people who assumed that I was writing romance for the sex. “I’ll show them what I really think about sex!” I thought. “That’ll teach them.”

(Because I’m clearly a very mature person these days.)

What I didn’t anticipate was that the moment I said I was writing a book with an ace main character, so many people would start saying “Yes! I feel represented. I can’t wait!”

I really hope I don’t let you down. There are as many different ways to be ace as there are people, and Aidan can’t be all of them. But I hope those of you who are ace can recognize something in him and go “Ha! Yes! It’s just like that.” And I hope those who aren’t will find it fun anyway, and useful for knowing how to deal with the Aces you meet in your life.

Judging from the latest surveys of slash writers/readers I think there are a disproportionate number of us amongst m/m fans. So the chances are you will meet one of us sooner or later. Be prepared!

~Alex

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BlueSteelChain_600x900Blurb: At sixteen, Aidan Swift was swept off his feet by a rich older man who promised to take care of him for the rest of his life. But eight years later, his sugar daddy has turned from a prince into a beast. Trapped and terrified, Aidan snatches an hour’s respite at the Trowchester Museum.

Local archaeologist James Huntley is in a failing long distance relationship with a rock star, and Aidan—nervous, bruised, and clearly in need of a champion—brings out all his white knight tendencies. When everything falls apart for Aidan, James saves him from certain death . . . and discovers a skeleton of another boy who wasn’t so lucky.

As Aidan recovers, James falls desperately in love. But though Aidan acts like an adoring boyfriend, he doesn’t seem to feel any sexual attraction at all. Meanwhile there are two angry exes on the horizon, one coming after them with the press and the other with a butcher’s knife. To be together, Aidan and James must conquer death, sex, and everyone’s preconceptions about the right way to love—even their own.

Available from Riptide Publishing on July 27.

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About the Author: Alex Beecroft is an English author best known for historical fiction, notably Age of Sail, featuring gay characters and romantic storylines. Her novels and shorter works include paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary fiction.

Beecroft won Linden Bay Romance’s (now Samhain Publishing) Starlight Writing Competition in 2007 with her first novel, Captain’s Surrender, making it her first published book. On the subject of writing gay romance, Beecroft has appeared in the Charleston City PaperLA Weekly, the New Haven Advocate, the Baltimore City Paper, and The Other Paper. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association of the UK and an occasional reviewer for the blog Speak Its Name, which highlights historical gay fiction.

Alex was born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and grew up in the wild countryside of the English Peak District. She lives with her husband and two children in a little village near Cambridge and tries to avoid being mistaken for a tourist.

Alex is only intermittently present in the real world. She has led a Saxon shield wall into battle, toiled as a Georgian kitchen maid, and recently taken up an 800-year-old form of English folk dance, but she still hasn’t learned to operate a mobile phone.

She is represented by Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Literary Agency.

Connect with Alex: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter: @Alex_Beecroft | Goodreads

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5 Stars, Alex Beecroft, Genre Romance, Reviewed By Carrie, Riptide Publishing

Review: Blue Steel Chain by Alex Beecroft

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Title: Blue Steel Chain

Author: Alex Beecroft

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 250 Pages

At a Glance: This book challenges you to reconsider how you feel about love and companionship, your needs versus your wants in a partner and soulmate.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: At sixteen, Aidan Swift was swept off his feet by a rich older man who promised to take care of him for the rest of his life. But eight years later, his sugar daddy has turned from a prince into a beast. Trapped and terrified, Aidan snatches an hour’s respite at the Trowchester Museum.

Local archaeologist James Summers is in a failing long distance relationship with a rock star, and Aidan—nervous, bruised, and clearly in need of a champion—brings out all his white knight tendencies. When everything falls apart for Aidan, James saves him from certain death . . . and discovers a skeleton of another boy who wasn’t so lucky.

As Aidan recovers, James falls desperately in love. But though Aidan acts like an adoring boyfriend, he doesn’t seem to feel any sexual attraction at all. Meanwhile there are two angry exes on the horizon, one coming after them with the press and the other with a butcher’s knife. To be together, Aidan and James must conquer death, sex, and everyone’s preconceptions about the right way to love—even their own.

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Review: Aidan is trapped. Taken from the streets at sixteen by a psychopath, fear is something he lives with; it is a tangible thing for him. Yet, there is a curious detachment with Aidan and how he views his abuse. Being hit he shrinks from, but the rape he constantly is subjected to doesn’t seem to touch him emotionally – it is just something that happens, not something that can affect him. Alex Beecroft has written a moving picture of a man coping with what life has dealt him, and you WANT Aidan to be saved.

James has appeared in the other books in the Trowchester Series, and he is a truly likable character. The consummate nerd, James is curator of the local museum. He is tall and lanky, pushes his hands through his hair, constantly smudging his face with smears from his fingers, and loses his glasses regularly. James is a true gentle man. When he and Aidan meet by chance in his museum, James has a profound effect on Aidan, and Aidan is drawn toward the goodness he finds in James.

Of course, it’s not that easy. Aidan has to escape a psychopath, and James has to escape an ex-boyfriend, but the solid foundation for a happy ever after for the two is definitely laid as they each learn to stand strong as individual men coming together to make a whole. James and Aidan have more to overcome, and Alex Beecroft challenges you to accept a new picture of love…AND DOES AN AMAZING JOB OF IT! How do you make it work when one man is homosexual and one is asexual? But make it work they do, and it is awesome. We each love in our own way – there is no right or wrong way to love – thank you to the author for reminding me.

I am a big fan of Alex Beecroft and have read all the books in this series. You do not need to read them in order, as they each stand-alone. Each is filled with incredibly well written characters and plots that make you not want to stop once you have started reading.

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You can buy Blue Steel Chain here:

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5 Stars, Alex Beecroft, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed By Carrie, Riptide Publishing

Review: Trowchester Blues by Alex Beecroft

Title: Trowchester Blues

Author: Alex Beecroft

Publisher: Riptide Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 273 Pages

At a Glance: Trowchester England is a marvelous fictional city I would love to visit in person – especially a certain little bookshop with a green painted door and a knocker shaped like a giant squid!

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Michael May is losing it. Long ago, he joined the Metropolitan Police to escape his father’s tyranny and protect people like himself. Now his father is dead, and he’s been fired for punching a suspect. Afraid of his own rage, he returns to Trowchester—and to his childhood home, with all its old fears and memories. When he meets a charming, bohemian bookshop owner who seems to like him, he clings tight.

Fintan Hulme is an honest man now. Five years ago, he retired from his work as a high class London fence and opened a bookshop. Then an old client brings him a stolen book too precious to turn away, and suddenly he’s dealing with arson and kidnapping, to say nothing of all the lies he has to tell his friends. Falling in love with an ex-cop with anger management issues is the last thing he should be doing.

Finn thinks Michael is incredibly sexy. Michael knows Finn is the only thing that still makes him smile. But in a relationship where cops and robbers are natural enemies, that might not be enough to save them.

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Review: Trowchester Blues is about Michael May, a policeman who carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, with the runaways he cannot help and the bodies he can no longer handle having to find. It smacks too close to his childhood when he could not save his mother from the abuse of his father – suddenly, he has seen one to many dead bodies and resigns from the force, lost in a sea of self-doubt and loathing. He heads to his childhood home in Trowchester, hoping to purge his demons – queue his savior, Finn – or Fintan Hulme. Finn runs Bibliophile Bookshop, which is a wonderful place of imagination and fiction. The bookshop is a perfect representation of its owner – Finn is the bookshop and the bookshop is Finn. Finn is clever, nimble and dapper – and is whatever story you would like for him to be today. A former fence of upscale stolen goods, many of which were priceless artifacts, including rare manuscripts, he keeps the world from knowing his past and works every day on being a reformed “good” man.

Oh, how Michael needs Finn’s sparkle and oh, how Finn needs Michael’s structure and grounding good influence. Their happily-ever-after is not an easy path, especially when their faith in each other is tested by Finn’s questionable choices and Michael’s own insecurities. But they get there – together with new souls intact, and the better for it all. “Time now, nothing but time ahead of him, time enough to slow down and feel the prickles on his skin that radiated out from Michael’s touch. Time to appreciate the way his blood yearned towards the other man like a magnet to its pole.” This book teaches us that growing, and becoming better people because of it, can be painful and soul wrenching experiences. That shattering the paradigms in which we view ourselves and others can be an incredibly freeing experience, but no one said it was easy. In Michael’s words, “Finn restored his faith in everything, in God and man, in the earth and the sky and even in himself.”

The author, Alex Beecroft, does an incredible job of drawing pictures of these men and the place they live. By reading this book I have been to Trowchester, and I have met these men – I would know them on the street if I met them. When she describes Trowchester, I can smell the rain on the streets and picture the cathedral in the distance of the flower lined sidewalks. I am dying to go to Finn’s bookshop, where the smell of leather and paper and knowledge permeates the air. I am looking forward to the next installment of this series Blue Eyed Stranger and would highly recommend this book!






You can buy Trowchester Blues here:

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Guest Post and Giveaway: The Blue Eyed Stranger Blog Tour With Alex Beecroft

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The Novel Approach welcomes Alex Beecroft today on the Blue Eyed Stranger blog tour. Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a draw for a $15 Riptide gift card, so be sure to leave one below. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on April 11. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Don’t forget to add your email so a representative from Riptide can contact you if you win!

Good luck!

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Naked in Nets

Blue Eyed Stranger

Morris dancing usually brings a smile to people’s faces, though frequently it’s more of an expression of disbelief that anyone could still do anything so ridiculous and uncool, accompanied by a pleasure that at least the speaker is above all that nonsense.

I’ve been resolutely uncool all my life, though, and I’ve found enormous fellowship and enjoyment out of morris dancing. The desire to spread the enjoyment and uncover some of the secrets of this reclusive pastime was part of what lead me to make one of the heroes of Blue Eyed Stranger a morris dancer.

There’s so much misinformation about the hobby out there, aimed, I think at an attempt to make the thing look more serious and more manly/traditional/sacred than it actually is.

Did you know, for example, that women have always danced the morris?  Right from the earliest records, where we find a gloriously entertaining condemnation of the dance by one Christopher Fetherston in 1582:

I myself have seene in a may gaime a troupe, the greater part wherof have been men, and yet have they been attyred so like unto women, that theyr faces being hidde (as they were indeede) a man coulde not discerne them from women.  What an horrible abuse was this?  What abhominable sinnes might have hereupon ensued?

The second abuse, which of all other is the greatest, is this, that it hath been toulde that your morice dauncers have daunced naked in nettes: what greater entisement unto naughtines could have been devised?

Sorry, I included that second paragraph not because it had anything to do with women dancing morris but just because it made my mind boggle.  There are some traditions I find I’m happy to allow to gently lapse. O.o

It’s relatively well known that in 1600, William Kemp, (a member of the Lord Chamberlain’s men along with one William Shakespeare) morris danced from London to Norwich as a sort of early publicity stunt.  It’s less well known that he was joined by a different female dancer at two separate points along the way.

And in 1769 Thomas Blount published an account of some village customs which included the following:

At Kidlington in Oxfordshire, the custom is that on Monday after Whitson Week, there is a fat live Lamb provided, and the Maids of the Town, having their Thumbs tied behind them, run after it, and she that with her Mouth takes and holds the Lamb is declared ‘Lady of the Lamb’, which being dressed with the Skin hanging on, is carried on a long Pole before the Lady and her Companions to the Green, attended with Music, and a Morisco Dance of Men, and another of Women,

John Cutting, from whose book ‘History and the Morris Dance’ I have lifted these quotes, thinks that the village in question was actually Kirtlington – which had a Lamb Ale up until 1858 – rather than Kidlington, which didn’t.

But that aside, given that our earliest piece of evidence for the existence of Morris dancing in the UK at all is in 1448, and our evidence for women dancing comes only a century later, I think it’s pretty conclusive that this Victorian insistence that women shouldn’t morris is in truth something made up by the Victorians, in the same way they made up the idea of horns on Viking helmets and many other modern myths.

There is also zero evidence that Morris is a survival of ancient pagan ritual dance, other than the fact that the first collector of the dances, Cecil Sharp, was a bit of a fan of The Golden Bough, and inclined to see survivals of ancient pagan traditions all over the place.  From what I have seen so far, morris is inconveniently silly, and serious minded people have a tendency to try and turn it into something more important and more folklory than it is.  Witness this:

The Abbot’s Bromley Horn dance is a dance that can claim to be older than morris, and to have been danced in Abbot’s Bromley for over 1000 years.  Surely if any dance is a pagan survival, this is it.  Now this is a modern reinvention of the Abbot’s Bromley Horn Dance:

and it is eerie and unsettling and easy to believe that it’s a survival of something mystical.  But in fact, this is a version specially slowed down and folked-up for the popular imagination.  This is the real thing:

I read an article in The Times Online, a while back, AA Gill meets the morris dancers that seemed to reflect this.  After exercising his wit in order to prove just how much he is above all of this, for one brief moment the author of the article finds himself enjoying himself.  Oh noes!  How could a man so sophisticated as himself possibly enjoy such a stupid pastime exercised by such lumpen, ugly, beer-drinking proles?  It can’t possibly be because ordinary people dancing and having a drink or two is an entertaining thing to do.  It must be because he was feeling from afar the influence of the deeply hidden ancient spiritual meaning of the thing!  Well, thank goodness for that!

In Blue Eyed Stranger, I’ve drawn on actual experience of having been a morris dancer myself with two different sides (a group of morris dancers is called a ‘side’) one mixed, one ladies only, and involved in playing music for a men-only side. So I think I can safely say you’re getting the inside gen on this bizarre but fun hobby.

The Stomping Griffins are not a real side, sadly, but their interpersonal dynamics are taken from experience :) And their dancing style is similar to that of Boggart’s Breakfast who I think you can see are pretty exciting as these things come.

To prove where I stand on the whole thing, here I am dancing Padnall with the Ely and Littleport Riot women’s Border morris side.  Not naked in a net, you’ll be glad to hear.

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BlueEyedStranger_400x600Blurb: Billy Wright has a problem: he’s only visible when he’s wearing a mask. That’s fine when he’s performing at country fairs with the rest of his morris dancing troupe. But when he takes the paint off, his life is lonely and empty, and he struggles with crippling depression.

Martin Deng stands out from the crowd. After all, there aren’t that many black Vikings on the living history circuit. But as the founder of a fledgling historical re-enactment society, he’s lonely and harried. His boss doesn’t like his weekend activities, his warriors seem to expect him to run everything single-handedly, and it’s stressful enough being one minority without telling the hard men of his group he’s also gay.

When Billy’s and Martin’s societies are double-booked at a packed county show, they know at once they are kindred spirits, united by a deep feeling of connectedness to their history and culture. But they’re also both hiding in their different ways, and they need each other to be brave enough to take their masks off and still be seen.

Buy Links: Riptide Publishing | Amazon US | All Romance eBooks

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Alex BeecroftAbout the Author: Alex Beecroft is an English author best known for historical fiction, notably Age of Sail, featuring gay characters and romantic storylines. Her novels and shorter works include paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary fiction.

Beecroft won Linden Bay Romance’s (now Samhain Publishing) Starlight Writing Competition in 2007 with her first novel,Captain’s Surrender, making it her first published book. On the subject of writing gay romance, Beecroft has appeared in theCharleston City Paper, LA Weekly, the New Haven Advocate, the Baltimore City Paper, and The Other Paper. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association of the UK and an occasional reviewer for the blog Speak Its Name, which highlights historical gay fiction.

Alex was born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and grew up in the wild countryside of the English Peak District. She lives with her husband and two children in a little village near Cambridge and tries to avoid being mistaken for a tourist.
Alex is only intermittently present in the real world. She has led a Saxon shield wall into battle, toiled as a Georgian kitchen maid, and recently taken up an 800-year-old form of English folk dance, but she still hasn’t learned to operate a mobile phone.

She is represented by Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Literary Agency.

Connect with Alex:Website | •Blog | •Facebook | •Twitter: @Alex_Beecroft | •Goodreads

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Guest Post and Giveaway: The Trowchester Blues Blog Tour With Alex Beecroft

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The Novel Approach is pleased to welcome author Alex Beecroft on Riptide Publishing’s Trowchester Blues blog tour. Enjoy Alex’s guest post, then be sure to leave a comment below.

Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for an e-book from Alex Beecroft’s backlist (*excepting Trowchester Blues*). Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on February 15, 2015 (*Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries*).

Good luck!

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I’m still best known for my historicals. If people approach me for a foreword or a review, it tends to be for historicals. Given that my first book, Captain’s Surrender, was a historical, my ‘big break’ book, False Colors, was a historical, and my last book, The Reluctant Berserker was a historical, I shouldn’t be too shocked about this. I find history fascinating, and one of my favourite things is to visit a distant historical era and rejoice in how weird everything looks there.

Out of a disastrous inability to settle to any one thing, I’ve also written fantasy and contemporaries over the years. My fantasy includes The Wages of Sin, which is set in the 18th Century, and the Under the Hill books, which have a strong injection of World War II flying aces. I’m also currently writing something of an epic in which some pseudo-Etruscans are marooned on an island with some pseudo-Kushites. So it’s fair to say that there’s a strong undercurrent of history through the majority of my fantasy too.

My one previous contemporary, Shining in the Sun, was an exception to this rule. I had told myself that I wanted to see if I could write a contemporary, and I had decided that what I fancied was to capture a Cornish summer holiday in print. I thought it would be easy to write, because I knew the area, and I knew what it was like being a contemporary person, but dear God, it was nothing of the sort. I think it was the hardest book I’ve ever written to motivate myself to work on. I remember that I got to the end of it and thought I’ve thrown everything into this book. There’s nothing left. I’ll never be able to write a contemporary ever again. 

I’m fairly sure that I even said so on my blog.

I should have known better, of course. My muse (if I only have one of them. I don’t know. They live in a grey fog and I never see where the words come from) heard that sentence and took it for a challenge.

But what if you could write contemporaries? It said. How could we go about making a modern day setting appealing to you? And the answer turned out to be, in part, add more history.

After all, I’m English, and I’ve grown up steeped in history. The town where I do my shopping has a cathedral that was founded in 673ad. I go in quite often and feel very aware of being part of a church community that has worshipped in that place for over a thousand years. It doesn’t feel natural to me not to have history interwoven with everything.

Not to mention the fact that a lot of my readers expect history from me, and I bet they would also feel a bit cut off, a bit beached on a thirsty and barren place, to be set down in modernity with no anchor to anything before it.

So there was my solution. I was going to write contemporaries and allow my characters to have a similar relationship to history as my own. I know what it’s like to be thrilled by and tender of antiquarian books the way Finn is in Trowchester Blues. One of the wonders of my university life was Manchester University’s John Ryland’s library where medieval manuscripts rub shoulders with papyri including the St John Fragment, believed to be the oldest extant New Testament text. Part of being a modern person for me is appreciating a good manuscript, and I gave that love to Finn wholesale.

In the same way, a lot of British villages have their traditions and even their legal idiosyncracies that go way back into the past. It used to be that the Lord of the Manor might house his workers in cottages on the estate known as tied cottages – the right to live in them was tied to the worker’s job serving the Lord, and they could be kicked out if they didn’t do as they were told. This is not a common practice any more, but it’s not completely eradicated either. Hence Lady Mary Harcombe of Harcombe house gets away with running her own private army.

History is everywhere in British towns. Glastonbury owes its prosperity almost entirely to the Tor and the Abbey where King Arthur is buried. These things draw in tourists. Trowchester has a Bronze Age barrow and a holy well, and a Roman wall which hasn’t yet been explored but I’m sure I’ll get round to it. I think it’s those things that made me feel I could be at home there.

I hope if you’ve liked my historicals you’ll take a risk on the Trowchester books because I’ve brought my own love of history to them. And I hope if you like contemporaries, you won’t object to a contemporary that wears its history like a femme fatale wears her mysterious past. Both, I hope, make the present substantially more interesting.

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TrowchesterBlues_400x600Blurb: Michael May is losing it. Long ago, he joined the Metropolitan Police to escape his father’s tyranny and protect people like himself. Now his father is dead, and he’s been fired for punching a suspect. Afraid of his own rage, he returns to Trowchester—and to his childhood home, with all its old fears and memories. When he meets a charming, bohemian bookshop owner who seems to like him, he clings tight.

Fintan Hulme is an honest man now. Five years ago, he retired from his work as a high class London fence and opened a bookshop. Then an old client brings him a stolen book too precious to turn away, and suddenly he’s dealing with arson and kidnapping, to say nothing of all the lies he has to tell his friends. Falling in love with an ex-cop with anger management issues is the last thing he should be doing.

Finn thinks Michael is incredibly sexy. Michael knows Finn is the only thing that still makes him smile. But in a relationship where cops and robbers are natural enemies, that might not be enough to save them.

Buy Links: Riptide | Amazon US | All Romance eBooks

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Author BioAbout the Author: Alex Beecroft is an English author best known for historical fiction, notably Age of Sail, featuring gay characters and romantic storylines. Her novels and shorter works include paranormal, fantasy, and contemporary fiction.

Beecroft won Linden Bay Romance’s (now Samhain Publishing) Starlight Writing Competition in 2007 with her first novel, Captain’s Surrender, making it her first published book. On the subject of writing gay romance, Beecroft has appeared in the Charleston City Paper, LA Weekly, the New Haven Advocate, the Baltimore City Paper, and The Other Paper. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association of the UK and an occasional reviewer for the blog Speak Its Name, which highlights historical gay fiction.

Alex was born in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and grew up in the wild countryside of the English Peak District. She lives with her husband and two children in a little village near Cambridge and tries to avoid being mistaken for a tourist.

Alex is only intermittently present in the real world. She has led a Saxon shield wall into battle, toiled as a Georgian kitchen maid, and recently taken up an 800-year-old form of English folk dance, but she still hasn’t learned to operate a mobile phone.

She is represented by Louise Fury of the L. Perkins Literary Agency.

Connect with Alex:WebsiteBlogFacebookTwitter: @Alex_BeecroftGoodreads

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5 Stars, Alex Beecroft, Historical Romance, Reviewed by Rena, Samhain Publishing

Review: The Reluctant Berserker by Alex Beecroft

Title: The Reluctant Berserker

Author: Alex Beecroft

Publisher: Samhain Publishing

Pages/Word Count: 248 Pages

At a Glance: A dense, intricately plotted, and meticulously written book

Blurb: Manhood is about more than who’s on top.

Wulfstan, a noble and fearsome Saxon warrior, has spent most of his life hiding the fact that he would love to be cherished by someone stronger than himself. Not some slight, beautiful nobody of a harper who pushes him up against a wall and kisses him.

In the aftermath, Wulfstan isn’t sure what he regrets most – that he only punched the churl in the face, or that he really wanted to give in.

Leofgar is determined to prove he’s as much of a man as any Saxon. But now he s got a bigger problem than a bloody nose. The lord who’s given him shelter from the killing cold is eyeing him like a wolf eyes a wounded hare.

When Wulfstan accidentally kills a friend who is about to blurt his secret, he flees in panic and meets Leofgar, who is on the run from his lord’s lust. Together, pursued by a mother’s curse, they battle guilt, outlaws, and the powers of the underworld, armed only with music…and love that must overcome murderous shame to survive.

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Review: Alex Beecroft’s The Reluctant Berserker is a dense, intricately plotted, and meticulously written book that may test some readers’ patience in some ways but also rewards them with a lovely story that doesn’t once shy away from difficult questions. I’m not very conversant of the Anglo-Saxon world, but I’m familiar with Alex Beecroft’s work, and I know I’m assured a pretty authentic view of the book’s time period.

Because of the time period, in fact, the novel has about it a very dreamy quality. Religion and superstition are strong forces that drive character movements forward from start to finish. Religion and superstition also help bring about full understanding in Wulfstan and Leofgar. The world-building is impeccable, and the readers are walked through scene after scene with a great deal of care and patience on the writer’s part. We get to see how dirty, dingy, wild, and dangerous Wulfstan and Leofgar’s world is; in fact, the descriptions are so detailed and dense that I found myself grimacing a little whenever the heroes kiss or get intimate in some way or another, since I can’t get the image of filth and bad hygiene out of my head.

That said, because of Beecroft’s amazing attention to detail in the way she shapes each scene and allows it to melt gradually into the next, readers who’re used to fast-paced and less intricately written fiction might find their patience tested somewhat. The payoff is well worth the time and effort plowing through such dense text, though. In the end, when enemies come together and face off, we’re treated to some of the most heart-rending moments exploring the complexities of human nature. The Tatwine-Leofgar moment is compelling, to be sure, but it pales in comparison to the Saewyn-Wulfstan scene, which left me in tears. Both moments raise a lot of painful questions that are also resolved in somewhat more diverging ways. I felt that Wulfstan’s situation was a lot more satisfying than Leofgar’s, but that, again, is the beauty of The Reluctant Berserker – that is, nothing’s cut-and-dry, even in the end. Not everyone walks away fully satisfied with the way things are sorted out.

I also found the dichotomy involving the genders to be a pretty fascinating approach to the narrative. I don’t know if Beecroft meant it to be so, but Wulfstan’s dilemma hinges a great deal on the feminine, while Leofgar’s is on the masculine. Their pursuers also reflect that gender dichotomy, i.e., Saewyn and Tatwine. But perhaps the most intriguing element about all this is the uncomfortable issue of misogyny that, unfortunately, is something that we should expect from people who lived in that time. A gay man being the bottom means a man taking on a woman’s trait, which is deplorable in Leofgar’s eyes – as well as other people’s. It’s even more significant since the tropes are inverted in terms of physicality – Leofgar’s the dominant of the two, and he’s the slender, artistic “pretty boy”, while Wulfstan’s the beefy warrior with the temper, and he’s the submissive.

At the same time, though, women are also firmly and easily compartmentalized in this culture: as mothers, wives, and saints. Every female character – even the venerated St. Aethelthryth, from whom Wulfstan finds strength and peace – is firmly locked in her role, for which she’s alternately worshipped, feared, and, of course, treated as chattel. That Wulfstan (the “woman” of the pair) would turn to a female saint and a mother for forgiveness and redemption – while Leofgar (the “man” of the pair) would learn his lesson from a monk and Jesus Christ – only highlights this stark and conflicting views of women. It’s a plot point that caught me off-guard in the best way because it gave me a lot of food for thought throughout my reading of the book. It’s also sadly a rather timely issue, considering the advances society has made where women’s rights are concerned; if anything, it’s almost an uncomfortable reminder of just how much farther we need to go.

I suppose the only issue I had with the book involved Leofgar. While it’s gratifying to see romance tropes turned on their heads, I found him to be a difficult character to sympathize with. He’s too proud, and his distaste for the way he’s treated because of his appearance exacerbates that problem as well as his own views of all things feminine. I think I’d have felt much better about him had he learned his lesson a little sooner, but as it happened, not only did his epiphany take place very late in the game, it also came across to me as one of those “too little, too late” kind of deals. His change of heart toward Wulfstan in the end – especially his romantic feelings for him – suffers from what I felt was a certain hollowness despite his sincere expressions of love. Much of the time the two spent together, after all, involved his rejection of poor Wulfstan for the reasons I gave, and the end seemed too quickly and tidily sorted out.

That said, it’s still a beautifully written book that’s well worth the time and effort walking through a dark dreamscape of sorts. It can be a challenging read to some, but I’d recommend this book if you’re looking for something outside your comfort zone.








You can buy The Reluctant Berserker here:

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Alex Beecroft, Samhain Publishing

Interview and Giveaway: The Reluctant Berserker by Alex Beecroft

8548904TNA: Hi, Alex, thanks so much for joining us today. Why don’t we start things off by having you tell us a bit about yourself?

Alex: This is where I go ‘Oh, blimey, what do you want to know?’ because I’m socially inept and never know what people expect me to answer to this. How do you sum yourself up, after all? I’m the one who doesn’t talk a lot but when they do, they come out with an observation so odd, nobody knows how to reply. I’m INTP, which apparently means I ought to be in my room trying to figure out the internal dimensions of the Tardis right now.

On a ‘just the facts please’ basis, I am a hetromantic asexual agender person largely regarded by the world as a straight married woman with two children. But for most of my life I haven’t known the right labels, so I’ve just thought of myself as weird and identified hard with the aliens and robots of SF. Which naturally made me want to write, and here I am today. Continue reading

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A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week, Alex Beecroft, Alexis Hall, Belinda McBride, Eva Lefoy, Garrett Leigh, Jack Byrne, KJ Charles, L.A. Witt, M.A. Church, Margie Church, Nico Jaye, Piper Vaughn, Poppy Dennison, Taylor V. Donovan

Here’s A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week


Hello from Disney World! Yes, it’s been a fun-filled week with Mickey and Minnie, and after a week of GRL just before, I’m so ready for my couch and my Kindle and little else.

I hope you’ve all had a fantastic week, filled with lots of good books. Here’s what we’ve got scheduled in the week ahead.


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Monday – Kicking off the week, we welcome Eva Lefoy on the Darkest Flowers blog tour, with a giveaway

KJ Charles also joins us today on the Flight of Magpies blog tour

Tuesday – Author M.A. Church joins us today on her Be My Human Blog Tour, with a giveaway

Taylor V. Donovan is also here today on her Heavy Hitters Blog Tour

WednesdayAlexis Hall stops by today on his Prosperity Blog Tour

Alex Beecroft also joins us with an interview on The Reluctant Berserker Blog Tour, with a giveaway

ThursdayL.A. Witt is our guest today on the Precious Metals Blog Tour

We’ll also welcome Belinda McBride on the Prince of Faith Blog Tour, with a giveaway

FridayGarrett Leigh stops by today on the Slide Blog Tour, with a giveaway

We’ll also host Nico Jaye with a Book Blast and Giveaway of her short story A Time for Loving

And be sure to watch for the second installment of “Dinner and a Book with Piper and Poppy”

SaturdayJack Byrne joins us today on the Dingo Run Blog Tour

Eden Winters will also be here with an exclusive excerpt from Manipulation, featuring more Lucky and Bo, and there’s a giveaway

Sunday – And closing out the week, Margie Church drops by to chat a bit about her new book Coming Back for Drew, the sequel to The Camera Never Lies

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And that rounds out the week ahead. Until next week, happy reading!

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Aleksandr Voinov, Alex Beecroft, Joanna Chambers, Jordan L. Hawk, Kaje Harper, KJ Charles, Self-Published, Tamara Allen

Exclusive Excerpt and Giveaway – Another Place in Time Blog Tour: Unfair in Love and War by Kaje Harper

Welcome to another place in time…where one can be swept away into lands and eras long forgotten.

This collection of short stories was birthed because a sworn “I don’t like historicals” reader fell in love with what have become some of her favorite books by most of her favorite writers. Surprisingly, they were all historicals. Determined to make others feel the love, these authors were asked to contribute small tastes of how amazing historical storytelling can be.

Included in this anthology:

“Office Romance” by Tamara Allen
“Introducing Mr. Winterbourne” by Joanna Chambers
“The Ruin of Gabriel Ashleigh” by KJ Charles
“Unfair in Love and War” by Kaje Harper
“Carousel” by Jordan L. Hawk
“Deliverance” by Aleksandr Voinov Continue reading

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A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week, Aleksandr Voinov, Alex Beecroft, Carol Lynne, Cleis Press, GayRomLit, Jayson James, Joanna Chambers, Jordan L. Hawk, K.A. Merikan, Kaje Harper, KJ Charles, Lexi Ander, Lisa Henry, Lynley Wayne, Sherrie Henry, Sophie Bonaste, T.A. Chase, Tamara Allen, Tere Michaels, Will Parkinson

Here’s A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

Lisa_avatar_twitter Happy Sunday, everyone, I hope you’ve had a great weekend so far!

We have an outstanding week ahead for you here at The Novel Approach, including the kickoff of our GayRomLit Virtual Gift Basket Giveaways–Gift Cards and E-books Galore. We’ll have three baskets to give away this week, and four next week, so be sure to stay tuned for that and so much more from our guest authors. And, of course, we’ll be bringing you many more reviews.

Here’s whats on tap!

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Monday – Kicking of the week, this week, is Will Parkinson on his Wet Paint Blog Tour and Giveaway

And joining us today as a first-time visitor, Lexi Ander stops by with a Guest Post and Giveaway on her Twin Flames Blog Tour

Tuesday – We’re winding down these final weeks of the Countdown to GRL Celebration with Sophie Bonaste today, on her Death Gets a Boyfriend Blog Tour and Giveaway

We’ll also be hosting the authors from the Authors Gone Wild Anthology

And, watch for the first of our seven Virtual Gift Basket Giveaways to go live today, which will include not only a $25 Gift Card to the e-tailer of the winner’s choice, but eight e-book titles from some of our participating authors

WednesdaySherrie Henry stops by with another Countdown to GRL Celebration visit

We’ll also be hosting the blog tour for the Historical Anthology Another Place in Time, featuring authors Tamara Allen, Joanna Chambers, KJ Charles, Kaje Harper, Jordan L. Hawk, Aleksandr Voinov, and Alex Beecroft

Round Two of the Gift Basket Giveaways happens today, with another $25 Gift Card to the e-tailer of the winner’s choice, as well as eight more e-books up for grabs

ThursdayLisa Henry stops in today on her Sweetwater Blog Tour

We’ll also be hosting author T.A. Chase today, on her Walking in the Rain Blog Tour

FridayLynley Wayne is here with an interview and giveaway on her Facing Demons Blog Tour

K.A. Merikan also drop in on their Guns n’ Boys Blog Tour

We also have another Virtual Gift Basket to give away today, featuring a $10 Gift Card to Are or Amazon, a $15 Gift Card to Dreamspinner Press, and seven more e-book titles

SaturdayJayson James is our guest today on his Pieces of Us Blog Tour

And we’ll also be hosting Tere Michaels on her Faith & Fidelity Blog Tour, with a Giveaway

Sunday – To bring a close to a fantastic week, today we’re hosting author Carol Lynne on The Brick Yard Blog Tour

We’ll also be hosting Cleis Press on their Men on the Make Anthology Blog Tour

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And that rounds out the week ahead. Until next week, happy reading!

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Alex Beecroft, Riptide Publishing

Blessed Isle by Alex Beecroft

To love is to risk not being loved in return. To hope is to risk pain. To try is to risk failure, but risk must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. – Leo Buscaglia

Captain Harry Thompson of His Majesty’s Royal Navy is a man of honor and commitment to his duty to country and King. He is a man for whom respect and dignity holds far more value than to risk obeying his physical appetites. There is no temptation worth dying for, as far as Harry is concerned, especially when that temptation is called lust, and those hungers he feels are not safely aimed toward those of the opposite sex. No man is worth losing everything for, that is, until Lieutenant Garnet Littleton boarded the HMS Banshee and kindled a very dangerous flame in Harry, making him want things he should not want, feel things he should not feel. Garnet is guilty of the mutiny of Harry’s sensibilities, of commandeering Harry’s desires, of striking out against the barriers Harry has constructed to protect himself and his sterling reputation, and of crumbling Harry’s resolve when he is left with nothing, including that well guarded reputation, to lose.

Blessed Isle is Harry and Garnet’s story to tell, and they both narrate their thoughts, feelings, and memories in the form of journal entries, recounting all the hardships they endured, decisions that at the time seemed to spell nothing but doom, and the tragic events that lead to a love story to be passed down through time, to be read in a place they could only dream of, where their commitment to each other as partners and lovers would be celebrated as something more than the crime it was when they lived.

Told with no small amount of wit and warmth and playful banter, Alex Beecroft has written a fast paced and engaging story of tragedy and despair, a story that follows these two men through sickness and health, through danger and exposure and the threat of sure death, all leading to the love of a lifetime, an honest and abiding love that must be hidden from the world but is celebrated in these pages. It’s a story of fear and hope and courage that tells of the bitter times that made the sweet that much more gratifying.

Buy Blessed Isle here:

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Alex Beecroft, Carina Press

His Heart’s Obsession by Alex Beecroft

”To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction,” – Sir Isaac Newton

His Heart’s Obsession is the story of a man who loves another, and in an equal and opposite reaction, the object of his desire, desires another. It’s unrequited love which provides for the emotional conflict in this short and affecting story of forbidden passion in the tropics, aboard the HMS Swiftsure, in the year 1752.

Lieutenant Robert Hughes is harboring a secret passion for fellow officer Lieutenant Hal Morgan, which presents enough of a problem, in and of itself, as sodomy in the British Royal Navy could find a man hanged for the indiscretion. To compound the problem, however, is that Lieutenant Morgan is keeping a secret of his own—he is in love with Captain William Hamilton, a man who would never consider returning Hal’s affection in anything less than the camaraderie of their naval duties.

This is the story of one man who is willing to risk himself and his heart to declare his love for the man he wants so desperately, and another whose passion for a man he realizes he can never have may be more the case of a safe obsession than an actual willingness to risk giving his heart to another.

Robert’s need to make Hal aware of his feelings, as well as the need to redirect Hal’s feelings for their ship’s captain causes more than enough angst in their already contentious relationship as fellow officers. Robert advances and Hal retreats in what initially is a poorly orchestrated attack, on Robert’s part, of Hal’s defenses. In a lovely and metaphorical way, as Robert becomes a more competent officer onboard ship, the more calculated, controlled, and ultimately successful his strategic assault becomes. It simply took Robert “speaking” in a language Hal could understand—the language of actions and not words—to make Hal see the truth. But not before tragedy nearly robs them of the chance to explore their possibilities.

As with Alex Beecroft’s False Colors (which I loved), His Heart’s Obsession is as much an homage to the Age of Sail as it is a story of forbidden love and the danger it represents. While I’d have liked a bit more exploration of the whens, hows, and whys that lead up to Robert falling in love with Hal, I very much enjoyed what came after.

Buy His Heart’s Obsession HERE.

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