5 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Historical Romance, Jess Faraday, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa

Review: The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor by Jess Faraday

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Title: The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor

Author: Jess Faraday

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 99 Pages

At a Glance: Clever, clever, clever!

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Billiwack, California, 1884. When translator Rosetta Stein comes across her rival, Bartholomew Vincent, under attack by weird, raven-headed man-beasts behind the infamous Puckered Rosebud Gentleman’s Club, she senses opportunity. She rescues him in exchange for a crack at the commission he stole from under her nose—a strangely inscribed artifact found by Big Sur bigwig George Taylor Granville in the Santa Lucia mountains. Misfortune has stalked Vincent from the moment he took on the project, and he’s only too happy to share it. In the meantime, a lady marshal has come to Billiwack, investigating rumors of strange, unlicensed weapons, and she can’t seem to decide if she’d rather kiss Rosetta or arrest her. And Vincent is suffering romantic complications of his own, in the forms of Rosetta’s charming layabout brother, and an amorous professor who won’t take God, no! for an answer.

Dividers

Review: Clever. Clever, clever, clever! That’s almost all I can say about Jess Faraday’s The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor, but…of course you know there’s more.

Let’s start with the title of the book, which seems to play on the original title of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and though there isn’t a Dr. Jekyll in the book, there is a Dr. Hyde, and this particular doctor is the source-by-proxy of some issues for our characters in this novella.

The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor is categorized as lesbian fiction, and, indeed, the romance that plays alongside the mystery in this novel focuses on Rosetta Stein (a cheeky play on the Rosetta Stone, yes?) and Marshal Erin St. George, who believes Miss Stein may be up to some illegal activities aimed at the US government. There is also a secondary couple, however, in Bartholomew Vincent (Rosetta’s chief academic rival) and her brother Franklin Stein (please, tell me you see the humor in that one), who do enjoy each other’s company off page–physically, if not altogether romantically.

The supernatural mystery in the story is packed tight with tension and owes the quite human vices of greed and rivalry to its source. There are more shrewd elements woven into the plot as well—the butler Baskerville being a particularly touching, though admittedly minor addition to the cast of characters. There really isn’t a single thing I disliked about this book.

One of the things touched on briefly and contrasted thoughtfully in the book is the position of gay men and lesbian women in history. There were no laws on the books that made two women loving each other illegal at the time this story is set (or ever, to my knowledge)—two women could live together all their adult lives and merely be thought of as spinsters, a perfectly acceptable living arrangement—but there being more social advantages for men during this time: at their clubs, in pubs, anywhere a single woman of a certain breeding and comportment wouldn’t have been permitted or accepted, which made it somewhat easier for a gay man to meet like-minded gentlemen. What Jess Faraday does in the characters of Rosetta and Franklin, then, is to flip their stereotypical roles—Franklin is the flibbertigibbet in this story, if you will, while Rosetta pursues an academic career not inherently accepted as appropriate for a woman, and I love the way the siblings are juxtaposed.

Faraday is a brilliant wordsmith who knows her way around the crafting of historical fiction, understanding where the balance exists between too much detail and not enough, firmly placing her readers in the time and place her stories are set without bogging down the flow of the storyline. What I hadn’t experienced yet from this author, in my reading of her work, is the paranormal element she’s woven into this novella, and I must say it’s just earned her a spot on my list of favorite historical paranormal fiction authors.

The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor is another big win in this author’s repertoire.

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You can buy The Strange Case of the Big Sur Benefactor here:

Smashwords

Smashwords

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5 Stars, Bold Strokes Books, Historical Romance, Jess Faraday, Reviewed by Lisa

Release Day Review: Fool’s Gold (Ira Adler: Book Three) by Jess Faraday

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Title: Fool’s Gold (Ira Adler: Book Three)

Author: Jess Faraday

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 322 Pages

At a Glance: In a word: Outstanding.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: For once, Ira Adler has it easy. He has money in his pocket, a comfortable arrangement with an undemanding young man, and no one’s punched, chased, or shot at him in years. Suddenly, an explosion turns everything upside down. Eager to leave London, Ira accompanies his friends to America to settle a family matter. But though a handsome lawman and a trip aboard a luxurious ocean liner provide welcome distraction, Ira soon finds himself embroiled in a plot that stretches from London’s back alleys to the dusty dirt roads of California. Before he knows it, Ira is up to his neck in train robbers, rattlesnakes, unscrupulous cattle kings, and persistent young women driven to frenzy by his exotic accent. Just when he’s ready to flee back to Britain, Ira gets a fistful of second chances. But London is calling. Will Ira answer? Or will he embrace a new life abroad?

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Review: Jess Faraday’s Fool’s Gold could have been subtitled “: Or The Misadventures of Ira Adler”. The series itself is the evolution of a character who’s become so beloved—all the characters, really—that revisiting him book after book, then waiting for the next adventure to begin, is sweet torture.

The Ira Adler series is a Pygmalion-esque story of evolution. From street whore to respectable gentleman, Ira is the beneficiary of a dangerous benefactor’s tutelage, becomes the object of that man’s obsession, and finally… Well, I think we may still be working on the finally part as the author leads us through a tangled web of emotions—hate, love, grief, regret, making peace with the past—there is still so much more for Mr. Adler to experience, and even as he’s mourned for and said his goodbyes to the past, he may have found a future in Marshal Calvin Sutter, someone to open up a whole new world of possibilities for Ira. The man himself felt somewhat rudderless and off course in Fool’s Gold as he battles jealousy and confusion; his life rocked off its foundation, which leaves him homeless and unsure; but he’s set a new course for his life. It only remains to be seen, now, where it will take him.

As the saying goes, life is a journey, not a destination, and Ira Adler is taking us on quite the trek through Victorian London and on to the American West. He becomes embroiled in a crime and mystery not of his own making (as always seems the case with our hero) that threatens his life nonetheless: framed for a robbery at sea, getting held up at gunpoint on a train bound across the barren prairies of the US, a near miss with a buffalo stampede; these are just a few of the various and sundry other pitfalls he experiences in Fool’s Gold until, finally, he finds himself at a crossroads between England and America, where he sees that America, in her relative infancy, holds the possibility of new beginnings.

As this journey sweeps Ira along in its wake, he becomes as much a passenger in the adventure as we are, and just when you wonder what else could possibly go wrong for him, something does. Fool’s Gold is non-stop action, start to finish, not to mention this installment is not too terribly kind to the heart or tear ducts. As many things as go wrong for Ira, though, some things go right as well, and while they might not have gone right the way I want to see them go, that’s okay. An occasional cry never hurt anyone, now, did it?

Which leads us to Cain Goddard, scholar and criminal, also known as the dreaded Duke of Dorset. Goddard, the man who, for some unknown reason, the author perhaps feels should be beyond our contempt, but isn’t. I don’t think I’ve ever loved a man of such ill repute more, and the source of all my tears? Yes. Cain Goddard. What’s happened in the evolution of these books is nothing less than superb, nothing less than heartbreaking, and while Ira’s journey isn’t over, things have most certainly changed course. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because to say more would be unfair to those of you who want to experience every single nuance of these books for yourselves.

Jess Faraday’s storytelling skills are flawless. From creating rich and multi-layered characters to texturing each layer of plot so it grounds the reader in the time and place of the novels, these books are not a lesson in Victorian Era or Old West history. They are each detailed yet subtle, every scene perfection, written with a finesse that draws you into the story and captivates and captures the imagination.

There’s a reason The Affair of the Porcelain Dog and Turnbull House both made my list of their respective years’ Best Books. Fool’s Gold will make it a three-peat in 2015. This series is full-immersion historical fiction. In a word: Outstanding.






You can buy Fool’s Gold here:

Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble

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Bold Strokes Books, Jess Faraday

Ira Adler and Cain Goddard…Will They or Won’t They? – A Guest Article And Giveaway From Jess Faraday


In the creative writing class I’m teaching, I start off by emphasizing how important it is to know how the story is going to go before you start writing. We map out the Triggering Event, the Turning Points, and try to bring it all to a Tidy Logical Conclusion in the end. We do outlines and idea maps and lists and little pictures. Because it’s a lot easier to work the plot kinks out of 40 pages of outlines than out of 400 pages of text, and besides, if things change while you’re doing the actual writing—and they will—nobody’s forcing you to stick to the letter of the original plan.

But the truth is, even with an outline, and especially with a multi-book story arc, sometimes you just don’t know.

The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, the first of my series set in Victorian London, was a kind of coming-of-age story. The main character, Ira Adler, was the “kept man” of crime Lord Cain Goddard. Over the course of the story, as Ira matches wits with Goddard’s blackmailer, he uncovers secrets about Goddard’s past—and about his own, which cause him to question—and eventually leave—his cushy life with Goddard.

In Ira’s just-released second book, Turnbull House, circumstances bring Ira and Goddard back together again. The youth shelter that Ira founded at the end of Porcelain Dog is in danger of losing its building, and Ira taps Goddard for a loan to save it. Goddard is happy to lend him the money, and promptly weaves a web of obligation that will keep Ira tied to him for the next two years…or even longer, if Ira can’t find a way to pay the money back. In his heart, Ira knows better, but, as he says,

There was no need for melodrama. It was just a loan, and possibly a bit of recreational sodomy. If I kept my head, we could leave it at that.

Of course we all know neither of them could leave it at that, and it’s difficult for a man to keep his head when he finds himself in a love triangle with his two best friends, snatching rent-boys from the clutches of London’s second most feared criminal, and locked up as a murder suspect.

The third book in the series, Fool’s Gold, has been contracted, and is about half-finished. I won’t say anything more, except that Ira’s relationship with Goddard continues along its perilous path. Will they be together in the end?

Buggered if I know.

But it’s going to be fun to find out.

Blurb: The Affair of the Porcelain Dog – London 1889.

For Ira Adler, former rent-boy and present plaything of crime lord Cain Goddard, stealing back the statue from Goddard’s blackmailer should have been a doddle. But inside the statue is evidence that could put Goddard away for a long time under the sodomy laws, and everyone’s after it, including Ira’s bitter ex, Dr. Timothy Lazarus. No sooner does Ira have the porcelain dog in his hot little hands, than he loses it to a nimble-fingered prostitute.

As Ira’s search for the dog drags him back to the mean East End streets where he grew up, he discovers secrets about his own past, and about Goddard’s present business dealings, which make him question everything he thought he knew. An old friend turns up dead, and an old enemy proves himself a friend. Goddard is pressing Ira for a commitment, but every new discovery casts doubt on whether Ira can, in good conscience, remain with him.

In the end, Ira must choose between his hard-won life of luxury and standing against a grievous wrong.

Blurb: Turnbull House – (Sequel of The Affair of the Porcelain Dog)

London 1891. Former criminal Ira Adler has built a respectable, if dull, life for himself as a confidential secretary. He even sits on the board of a youth shelter. When the shelter’s landlord threatens to sell the building out from under them, Ira turns to his ex-lover, crime lord Cain Goddard, for a loan. But the loan comes with strings, and before he knows it, Ira is tangled up in them and tumbling back into the life of crime he worked so hard to escape. Two old flames come back into Ira’s life, along with a new young man who reminds Ira of his former self. Will Ira hold fast to his principles, or will he succumb to the temptations of easy riches and lost pleasures?

Excerpt from Turnbull House:

“So,” Goddard said, taking a long sip from his glass. “You never told me why you decided to contact me after all this time.”

“Well…” As I searched for the right words, he quietly set his drink on the polished wood floor. “It’s funny you should—”

The kiss came as such a surprise that I scrambled backward across the divan and almost tumbled over its rounded arm. Whiskey sloshed over the rim of my glass, splashing silently onto the Chinese rug. What remained I belted back in one go before setting the glass on the floor and wiping my shaking fingers on my trousers.

It wasn’t that I was averse to the idea of kissing him, but I really hadn’t expected it. In fact, if I’d seen him start toward me in the first place—he was remarkably quick for a man in his mid-forties—I’d have assumed he was going for my throat.

Goddard chuckled under his breath. “Sorry. Did I startle you?”

“You might say that.”

I was also taken aback by the presumption. I had always liked it when he took control, and the hard, whiskey-flavored slickness of his mouth had left me aroused. All the same, I was no longer his plaything. Part of me felt as if he should have at least asked permission.

I forgot my objections when he leaned in a second time, slowly, and cupped my face in his smooth, muscular hands. Now that I was expecting it, the kiss felt like coming home after a long, unpleasant journey. For just a moment, all of my troubles dissolved, and nothing existed except his fingers in my hair, the traces of his jasmine and bergamot cologne, and the smooth, familiar contours of his mouth.

And then as suddenly as he had moved in, Goddard pulled back, leaving me confused, disappointed, and blinking in the gaslight and shadow.

“Why did you come, Ira?”

“To ask you for money,” I said.

I know. I know. But every drop of blood in my head had surged to my cock, and I found myself incapable of the higher functioning required for either diplomacy or deceit.

Perhaps that had been the idea.

About the Author: Jess Faraday is the author of the Ira Adler series (including the Lambda-shortlisted Affair of the Porcelain Dog), the steampunk thriller The Left Hand of Justice, three book translations, a handful of short stories, and numerous nonfiction articles. She also moonlights as the mystery editor for Elm Books.

She is a graduate of the University of Arizona (B.A.) and UCLA (M.A.). Since then, she has earned her daily bread in a number of questionable ways, including translation, lexicography, copyediting, teaching high school Russian, and hawking shoes to the overprivileged offspring of Los Angeles-area B-listers.

She is currently at work on her fourth novel, Fool’s Gold, a mystery set in Victorian London and the American west.

You can find Jess on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, and her Blog.

The Giveaway: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED

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A.F. Henley, Algenon Lusch, Brita Addams, Cate Ashwood, Indra Vaughn, Jaime Reese, Jess Faraday, Johnny Williams, Rhys Ford, Skylar M. Cates, Sneak Peek

Here’s A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week


Hi, everyone, I hope you’ve all had a great week, and are looking forward to good things in the week to come.

Speaking of great weeks, we’ve got one coming up here at TNA: guest authors, blog tours, giveaways, and, of course, lots of reviews. Here’s a look at who and what’s on tap for the week ahead:


MondayCate Ashwood and Skylar M. Cates make The Novel Approach a stop on their Five Ways a Boy Can Break Your Heart Blog Tour, with an article about and exclusive excerpt from the book, and there’ll be a giveway.

TuesdayAlgenon Lusch stops by on his Seeing DOUBLE Blog Tour, and he’ll be offering a giveaway of the book.

Brita Addams is also here for her monthly visit, with an article that’s near and dear to my heart.

WednesdayRhys Ford pops back in on the Clockwork Tangerine Blog Tour, and ::bad pun warning:: gears up for a great and totally unique giveaway.

ThursdayIndra Vaughn stops in today on The House on Hancock Hill Blog Tour, and she’s offering a giveaway of the book.

FridayJaime Reese drops by on the A Better Man Blog Tour and will be offering a giveaway of the book.

Jess Faraday will also be our guest today on her Turnbull House Blog Tour, and she’ll be giving away the two book set of the series, The Affair of the Porcelain Dog and Turnbull House, either Print or E-book (reader’s choice), to one winner.

Saturday – Author Johnny Williams dances his way to TNA to introduce his new book, Klub Kids, and give away an e-copy.

Sunday – To round out the week, A.F. Henley flies by on the Second Star to the Right Blog Tour, with an interview and a chance for one lucky reader to win an e-copy of the book.

Have a great week, and happy reading!

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Bold Strokes Books, Jess Faraday

Jess Faraday’s “Turnbull House” Is The Perfect Sequel To An Imperfect Affair


“The antagonism between life and conscience may be removed in two ways: by a change of life or by a change of conscience.” ― Leo Tolstoy


Title: Turnbull House

Author: Jess Faraday

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages/Word Count: 288 Pages

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb: London 1891. Former criminal Ira Adler has built a respectable, if dull, life for himself as a confidential secretary. He even sits on the board of a youth shelter. When the shelter’s landlord threatens to sell the building out from under them, Ira turns to his ex-lover, crime lord Cain Goddard, for a loan. But the loan comes with strings, and before he knows it, Ira is tangled up in them and tumbling back into the life of crime he worked so hard to escape. Two old flames come back into Ira’s life, along with a new young man who reminds Ira of his former self. Will Ira hold fast to his principles, or will he succumb to the temptations of easy riches and lost pleasures?
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Elm Books, Jess Faraday

Death on a Cold Night Edited by Jess Faraday

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Murder is easy, if no one suspects you. – Agatha Christie

And now for something completely different.

Death on a Cold Night can’t technically be categorized as LGBT, though there are two short stories in the anthology with gay thematic elements: Lee Mullins’ “Burnt December” and Christalea McMullin’s “Club Pandemonium”. I’ve never read any of the contributing authors before, but I am familiar with Jess Faraday and her novel The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, an outstanding historical mystery that I’m ever so impatiently awaiting the sequel to. ::hint/hint::

The entire compilation is comprised of eight short stories:

Snow in Winter by Wendy Worthington is a story of murder and coercion on a Hollywood soundstage, when a movie producer turns up dead, and her ambitious assistant discovers the killer’s identity, then uses that knowledge to blackmail him for her own showbiz ambitions. – 3 Stars

In the Public Eye by Mark Hague tells the story of a man who witnesses something he shouldn’t have, and in the process of satisfying his unhealthy curiosity, discovers that his obsessive need to get to the bottom of the mystery could very well end up being the death of him, when he comes face to face with danger on a train. – 4 Stars

Lee Mullins’ Burnt December is the first of the gay themed short stories, and deals with a case of mistaken identity and the horrific death of a young man who’d tragically lost anything resembling a life, long before his body ever showed up in the morgue. The twist to this story is truly the definition of horror, but the ending can only be defined as happy for young Stanley. – 4 Stars

Cris de Borja’s A Theft of Teapots is a light little mystery with political undertones. When a variety of teapots begin to go missing, it appears there’s a serial thief on the loose. But things are not as simple as they seem when it’s revealed there’s a potentially explosive secret hidden inside the lid of one very important pot, a secret that could spell the end of two political campaigns. – 3 Stars

Storm of Mystery by Leonhard August is a story of international intrigue and Native American legend at the Tohono O’odham Center for Advanced Computational Research, where Dr. Dana Gibbs has just taken on the job of her deceased predecessor. The only question is whether she’ll survive long enough to fulfill her job as Associate Research Director, when mysticism and murder come calling. – 3 Stars

Emily Baird’s Death Benefits gives the reader a window’s eye view of exactly what elder abuse looks like. And it’s not pretty. Young SK (short for Stephen King Meyers-Colson) is the hero of this story, and it’s he and his siblings, as well as an unexpected paranormal visitor, who eventually come to the rescue of their neighbor Miss Tonnie. Much of the suspense of this story is built into the limitations of a child who must bear the burden of proof that things aren’t as they seem at Miss Tonnie’s house, and it worked perfectly. – 5 Stars

The Afternoon of the Storm by Kirk VanDyke is the story of two men who die in a mountain storm, but one of the men’s deaths begins to look a lot like murder at the hands of his friend after cyanide is discovered in his system. Until, that is, certain facts come to light when his sister comes to claim him and his belongings; then it begins to look very much like a tragic case of mental illness and suicide and accidental death. – 3.5 Stars

Finally, winding up the collection is the paranormal murder mystery Club Pandemonium by Christalea McMullin. When Lena witnesses the murder of her soon-to-be-ex boyfriend, Derrick, she vows to avenge his death in spite of the fact that he’d been cheating on her and she’d been planning to cut him loose anyway. Her discovery of his side activities leads her to the fetish club, where she discovers that he’s not as dead as she’d first thought. Then again, maybe he’s not quite alive either.

This is the second story in the compilation with gay themes, cloaked in the sexual fluidity of vampires. – 4 Stars

Each of the stories in this book is well worth the time to read, but as is the case with most anthologies, there was a standout story in this collection for me, Emily Baird’s Death Benefits. I loved the suspense of the story, as well as the paranormal angle, which was all carried out so well in the tension of the narrative. Not to mention the fact that SK was a sweet and wonderful hero.

Buy Death on a Cold Night from Elm Books

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4.5 Stars, Bella Distribution, Jess Faraday

The Affair of the Porcelain Dog by Jess Faraday

Drug trafficking, human trafficking, blackmail, betrayal, duplicity, moral ambiguity, prostitution, and murder; all things you might expect to find in the Whitechapel district around the time Jack the Ripper took the life of his final victim, Mary Kelly, then seemed to disappear from the face of the earth. They’re also things that take place within the pages of The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, the wonderful debut novel by Jess Faraday.

Cain Goddard saved Ira Adler from the streets of ‘Chapel, where Ira had been selling his body in order to survive. Goddard is the Henry Higgins to Ira’s Eliza in this story, as Cain brings Ira into his home and teaches the young man to read, write, and speak like a proper gentleman, hiring Ira as his “personal secretary”, though their relationship is far from the socially acceptable front they’re forced to portray to a world where anything more could find them both imprisoned (or worse) for gross indecency.

Cain Goddard lives a dual existence as both a rogue and a scholar, once an esteemed teacher at Cambridge University, but sent down in a scandal for which he’s now being blackmailed. Since Goddard is unable to fulfill the one passion, he immerses himself fully in the other role, becoming the infamous Duke of Dorset Street, a hated and feared criminal whose questionable ethics and rationalizations make him a fully intriguing character, and a man with whom Ira struggles and, ultimately, fails to delineate his own moral boundaries. When one allies himself with the criminal element, one has to expect that those alliances will be dubious, and that’s a lesson both men learn.

Mystery and suspense are de rigeur in this race to acquire a statue which is the key to thwarting a blackmailer, but the race turns deadly when Ira discovers that innocent children are being trafficked and that the man he realizes he’s come to love is a party to discounting the moral implications of it. It’s then that Ira realizes he may not be able to change the world, but he certainly can try to protect the future, one child at a time.

Sometimes happy endings are so evident they’re impossible to miss. Sometimes happy endings are so subjective that one hesitates even to call them happy. Sometimes the beauty of an ending, happy or otherwise, is in the eye of the beholder.

The Affair of the Porcelain Dog is so much less than a happily ever after and so much more than just a simple ending. In fact, if I find out there’s no intention to write a sequel to this book, I think I just might cry.

Other than one small personal niggle near the end that felt a little bit too God-out-of-the-machine for me to find entirely plausible, this book was just about as perfect as it could be.

The Affair of the Porcelain Dog can be purchased from Amazon and other major E-tailers.

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