Flashback Friday, Giveaways

Flashback Friday and Giveaway: The Bad Boys Edition

Flashback Friday

Hi, everyone, and welcome back to another edition of Flashback Friday. Today we’re featuring some of the Bad Boys of fiction–the rocker boys and risk takers, rebels and heartbreakers–and, as always, there’s a chance to win an e-copy of one of our selected titles via the Rafflecopter widget below.

But before we get to the gist of this, congratulations goes to H.B., who selected Taylor V. Donovan’s Six Degrees of Lust from our Everyday Heroes edition.

And now, here are this week’s picks!

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TNA_Signature_SammyI love bad boys, I truly do, for they are often hiding the most tortured or wounded soul that is just screaming for someone to look beneath the bullsh*t and love them–really love them and not their hype.

Perhaps the most perfect example I have read of just such an anti-hero is The Curtis Reincarnation by Zathyn Priest.  This story is one of the sweetest stories of love and redemption ever to grace the m/m romance genre. Zathyn Priest weaves a story of a wounded and lost soul, a musical prodigy and genius, Alec Tyler (aka Tyler Curtis), bad boy goth rocker extraordinaire.

Abandoned by an evil and heartless mother, left parentless after the death of a beloved father at the age of 17, Alec is “discovered” by a cruel and money hungry man, turned abusive manager, Frank Brooks. For the next two years, Brooks mercilessly molds Alec into a superstar, hiding his epilepsy and grand mal seizures, under-medicating the same, and slowly robbing him blind. And then, across the streets of London, a girl named Bec wins a pair of tickets and convinces her standoffish gay brother Jordan to go to the concert of one Tyler Curtis.

Trying to escape the crowd after the concert, Jordan hides by the side of the stage when suddenly, Alec steps out and dances…for the audience of one…one young man who sits mesmerized by the exquisite grace of the other…and the line that Zathyn Priest writes for his MC to utter to the other says it all, “God…you’re exquisite.”

And so begins a love affair that will culminate in perhaps the sweetest most satisfying ending to a book I have ever read.

This novel was written seven years ago and still stands as one of the most beloved bad boy rocker stories in the genre.  If you haven’t read it already—do it!  If you have—maybe it’s time for a reread!

The Curtis ReincarnationJordan’s got a good life. He’s got his own web business, a fat cat for a pet and his own house, which he shares with his sister — oh well, nothing’s perfect. Also not perfect is not having someone special to share his life with. His sister Rebecca believes it’s because he’s too picky and too unapproachable, but Jordan just wants someone to do the Sunday crossword with, take walks with, someone who’ll be his mate for life. Is that really too much to ask?

One night Rebecca drags Jordan to a Tyler Curtis concert. Tyler is a notorious bad boy who treats his audience with contempt and sleeps with a different groupie every night, and Rebecca is determined to be tonight’s groupie. Jordan is there under protest. At least he is until he meets the man beneath the crass, bad boy image. Will Jordan get to know the true Tyler or will Tyler’s manager and a world wanting the man to match the image conspire against them?

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TNA_Signature_JulesAhhh – we all love bad boys…And, who fit the ‘bad boy’ bill more than rockers and musicians, right? Most rock stars are rebels at heart, and we love that about them. These hot messes are often in need of redemption, and are always in need of attention and love. I love it when an author can take us on a journey where we meet the quintessential bad boy, find out why he’s broken (if he is), see what makes him tick, and watch him find the person that is going to understand him and love him. SJ Frost does a fantastic job at this in the first two books of her Conquest series.

Conquest and No Fear both feature Jesse Alexander and Evan Arden as the main characters – and even though Jesse can truly be a pain in the ass, and things between the two of them happen very quickly in the first book, I completely fell in love with them.

From my review of Conquest:

I. Loved. This. Book. Even when I wanted to throw my Kindle out the window! Jesse and Evan are just…perfection together. It doesn’t even feel hokey that they get together so fast, because it just feels…right.

Jesse is an extremely temperamental, but gifted artist, who just can’t quite get it right with his band, Conquest. When he finally meets his idol, Evan Arden, things start to fall into place. Yet that is also when all the sparks start to fly in both his personal and professional life.

The other characters are also fun. Some that you’ll love, like Kenny and Julian from Conquest, and Jesse’s brother, Brandon – and then some that you’ll love to hate. The drama is mostly of the ‘record execs being dicks, and the band trying to rise above’ variety, rather than true drama between our MCs, which is how I prefer it.

A fun side note (and a peek into what a ridiculous nut job I am): I read these two books over a weekend while on a business trip, and a dear friend read them with me. We stayed up basically all night one night reading and messaging each other because we couldn’t put the book(s) down; and then the next day, in between meetings and conference events, I read, and hand wrote notes with my book flails on them in my seminar notebook, that I then took pictures of and texted to her. Oh, man…Good times.

I LOVE the broken, bad boy, rock star trope. I’ve read quite a few rockers that have been well written, and that I’ve also loved – maybe they’ll make it into another Flashback Friday edition somewhere down the road – but, none that have quite lived up to my adoration of Jesse and Evan. They were my first M/M rockers, and are still my favorites. Definitely check them out if you haven’t read them. Or, read them again if you have! That’s what I plan to do! :)

conquestVocally gifted singer, Jesse Alexander, has dreams of taking his band, Conquest, to the top. Evan Arden was thought of as a musical genius when at the height of his career he vanished from the spotlight. Together, their relationship is just as intense as their music careers. With success pushing down on them, Jesse must decide between his life of music, or his life with Evan.

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TNA_Signature_SadonnaThe book I’ve chosen for this week’s Flashback Friday is a book called Stories Beneath Our Skin. I was thinking about tattoos, I guess, since I’m about to start my largest tattoo to date. This was a new-to-me author when I picked up this book and I’m really glad I did.

This book really spoke to me on so many levels.  Anybody who knows me knows I’m a huge sucker for f*cked up characters, so of course I was in heaven with this story. Liam has had enough to deal with at age twenty-two to account for several lifetimes. He’s closed himself off and made himself very successful in his academic pursuits. But there is a pervasive sadness to him that maybe he is mostly unaware of – or at least immune to – at this point. While spending his days at the hospice waiting for his uncle to die, he needs something to take up his evening hours. When he goes to get a part time job at a tattoo parlor, we know by his reaction that there is a story there beneath the surface – and that it’s not a pretty one. Ace, the owner, takes a chance on him. From there, Liam is thrust into this strange little group of people – all of whom have their own issues as well.

The plot itself has some interesting twists, like a lot of stories we come across in real life. ;) The dance that Liam and Ace do around each other for a while makes us root for them all the more. Both deserve something good, but especially Liam. The relationship is slow in building and realistic in that Ace is a good bit older than Liam, and he knows he’s got family issues he has to deal with as well. There was a lot of consideration and deliberation on the parts of both characters.

The supporting cast of characters give depth to the story. They provide the nudging and the support that allow Liam and Ace to come together. Each one of them gives a little different flavor to the book. What a great group of friends and family. It’s really a testament to the author that this group of friends are really believable as a family. In these days when so many people do not have connections with their blood relatives – for whatever reason – the families we choose are many times much more integral to our lives than the ones we were born into.

A lot of this story is a little bit heartbreaking, but a lot of it is also hopeful and definitely well worth the time to read.

Stories Beneath Our SkinTattooing might have once been Liam’s passion, but he left it all behind along with ugly memories when he went to college. When his uncle’s health fails, Liam must come home at last to say his goodbyes. His days are spent at the hospice, leaving his nights to rake over the past. To fill those empty hours, he takes a job at Great Sin Ink. The close knit friendship of the workers there both intrigues and shakes Liam, who has spent the last four years keeping everyone at arm’s length. Neither Deb, the no-nonsense piercer, nor Goose, a manic tattoo artist, will let Liam get away with his isolationist ways for long.

If it were just those two, Liam might have stood a chance — but there’s also Ace, the owner of Great Sin. He hires Liam despite a thin resume, and that is a kindness Liam can’t forget. The two start up a tentative friendship, learning about each other as the summer days melt into each other. Slowly, Liam reveals a tender heart underneath the wall of quotes he uses to keep everyone out. Unfortunately, life doesn’t stand still, and both Liam and Ace have hard struggles before them that might break them up before they can even get together.

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TNA_Signature_LisaOkay, I dunno about you, but I just went and One-Clicked Sadonna’s rec. O.o

Because we didn’t get a lot of participation and representation for the Bad Boys this week, I’m going to cheat and pull out a few titles from my backlist. Variety is the spice of life, after all, right? And where would we be without a good cross-section of them to choose from? =)

The first book I’m dusting off today is Jess Faraday’s debut M/M novel The Affair of the Porcelain Dog. Understanding that historical fiction isn’t everyone’s cuppa, I’ll be 100% up front right now and tell you this is a historical novel, but if you’ve ever considered giving the genre a try, I can say this is a great place to start.

Drug trafficking, human trafficking, blackmail, betrayal, duplicity, moral ambiguity, prostitution, and murder; all are 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. The lovely thing is that all of those dark and dangerous elements take place within the pages of The Affair of the Porcelain Dog too.

Cain Goddard saved Ira Adler from the streets of ‘Chapel, where Ira had been selling his body in order to survive. 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. Goddard has multiple faces, in fact, being not only a gay man but a rogue and a scholar as well. He was once an esteemed teacher at Cambridge University, but was sent down in a scandal for which he’s now being blackmailed. Since Goddard is unable to fulfill his one passion—teaching—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 whom Ira struggles and, ultimately, fails to align his own moral boundaries with.

Mystery and suspense abound in this book’s pages, and I have to be honest here–the sequel, Turnbull House, is even better. Cain Goddard may just be my all-time favorite bad boy of fiction.

The Affair of the Porcelain DogLondon 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.

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And now for something completely different, my next title is a contemporary romance filled with rocker boys, loads of angst, and, quite honestly, a twist I didn’t see coming until it happened and then I asked myself, “Pfft, how did you not see that coming?!”

M.J. O’Shea and Piper Vaughn’s Moonlight Becomes You was re-released by Dreamspinner last year, but I first read it back in 2011 when it was published by Loose Id. It’s a story of betrayal, revenge, redemption, and, finally, atonement for a disloyalty that destroyed a relationship.

Shane Ventura and his younger brother Nicky didn’t have much but an abusive father and an absentee mother growing up. The one thing they did have, though, was their music and their dreams of making it big. There was just one key component missing from the band Luck, and Shane finds that key in Jesse Seider, a nerdy, plain, and chubby boy who’s enlisted to tutor Shane so he can graduate from high school. The improbable connection that forms between Shane, the boy with the bad-ass attitude, and Jesse, the boy who isn’t afraid to challenge Shane, comes through their mutual love of music. Jesse is a gifted musician and singer, and though he is the antithesis of what a rock star supposedly looks like, it’s his addition to the band that fills a need and brings the group together.

Standing at the threshold of success, Luck is about to sign a contract that will bring them the recognition and fame they’ve always wanted—there’s one condition, though…the record label says Jesse has to go. And the boy Jesse loves, the boy who loves him in return, has been elected to swing the ax.

Out of loyalty to Nicky, and maybe just a little greed for finally attaining something bright and positive in his life, Shane does it. He kicks Jesse out of the band, out of his life, and shatters both of their hearts in the process.

Eleven years later, Shane has become the pathetic caricature of an aging rock star—drugs, booze, and an endless supply of nameless sycophants who are more than willing to share his bed for a night have done nothing to erase the sorrow and shame he feels for his betrayal of Jesse.

Then he meets Kayden Berlin, lead singer of the band Moonlight, and feels that first spark of attraction, but he quickly discovers the feelings are not returned. In fact, the only emotions Kayden seems capable of showing toward both Shane and Nicky are utter loathing and contempt. Which makes Shane even more determined to get behind the man’s walls and melt his icy exterior. It seems Kayden Berlin may be the one and only man who can fill the space in Shane’s heart that was left gaping when he turned his back on Jesse.

Angsty – check. Sexy – check. Bad boys – check. Happy ending – check check. Moonlight Becomes You is about as romantical as a book can get.

Moonlight Becomes YouEleven years ago, Shane Ventura made the biggest mistake of his life when he caved in to pressure from his record label to kick his best friend, Jesse Seider, out of their band, Luck. To this day, Shane has never wanted anyone more, and all the sex and alcohol in the world can’t fill the void Jesse left behind. Not even the prospect of teaming up with Britain’s hottest band, Moonlight, for a massive world tour can get him out of his funk. Then he meets lead singer Kayden Berlin and falls into instant lust.

Kayden may act like he’s not interested, but Shane knows he feels the spark between them. Yet the harder Shane pushes, the more Kayden pulls away, until one explosive night leaves Shane with a broken heart. That seems to be his lot—lucky at everything but love. Shane still has one lesson left to learn, though: when it comes to love, you can’t always leave things to chance.

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And, for my final something completely different, how about some vampires? I’ve talked these novellas up one side and down the other, but I’m throwing them out here again because how can you talk about bad boys and NOT talk about a character named Wild Bill?

Jordan Castillo Price’s Channeling Morpheus for Scary Mary series is comprised of five novellas (the continuation is a set of five more novellas called A Bitter Taste of Sweet Oblivion), and even the flipping series titles make me giddy. These boys were first introduced to the world back in 2008, when Michael takes up the mantle of justice and becomes a vampire hunter to avenge the death of his best friend Scary Mary.

Michael’s playing the killing game when he meets Wild Bill in a bar one night, but Wild Bill isn’t the target. In fact, Michael and Wild Bill are both hunting the same vamp when they meet, and it’s not until the two guys seduce their mark and stake him after an erotic three-way in Michael’s hotel room that Michael even comes to the realization that Wild Bill’s a vamp too. But by then, Michael’s got it bad for our vampire bad boy.

Wild Bill disappears just as quickly as he strutted his way into Michael’s space, but though he ran, he couldn’t hide. Michael’s gotten good at tracking and they meet again, and again… and they connect through something far more intangible and impossible to name than simple vengeance. Michael and Wild Bill live a vagabond life and exist on little more than blood, sex, and trying (when it’s possible) to do the right thing. But, it’s not always possible, and that’s what makes our bad boys so good–sometimes they have to be a little bit bad just to survive.

Michael and Wild Bill have become iconic in the M/M lexicon and are at the top of my list of some of my all-time favorite characters: human, non-human, or somewhere in between. They’re my addiction and every time I read the series, it gives me book hangover for days. Since I’ve read the books multiple times, though, I guess it’s more than worth it.

box-set-CMFSM200Michael is a waif in eyeliner who’s determined to wipe vampires off the face of the earth. Wild Bill’s got the hots for Michael, and will stop at nothing to go home with him.

Forget about moonlit castles and windswept moors. These bad boys haunt all-night diners and cheap motels, cut-rate department stores and long, lonely stretches of the Interstate. Ride along with Wild Bill and Michael as the twists and turns of Channeling Morpheus for Scary Mary unfold in America’s Heartland.

Ebook box set contains the following novelettes: Payback, Vertigo, Manikin, Tainted, Rebirth.

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THE GIVEAWAY

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The Fine Print:

*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*All comments must be relevant to the prompt to be eligible in the drawing
*Void where prohibited by law

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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.

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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:

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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

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Giveaways, The Year In Reviews

Simply the Best 2014: The Finale – The Year In Reviews and a Giveaway

2014

We have reached the end of our journey, folks, the final choices for our Top Reads of 2014. In case you’ve missed the others, check out Sammy’s and Tina’s selections HERE; Jackie’s, Lana’s, and Jules’ HERE; Lynn’s and Chris’s HERE; and Kim’s and Kathie’s HERE.

Rena and I are the last to go, and I paired the two of us together because we each, by coincidence, themed our lists just a bit. Rena’s choices are not only all selected from the Historical sub-genre, but they are also unique to the genre, each in their own ways. For my selections this year, you’ll find some among them (and yes, I listed two series because I’m a big cheater) are self-published, one falls under the Historical sub-genre, two of them are Alt U/Alt History, and one of them is a chronologized serial set in the 1980s world of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. And one features a group of some of the most charming and twisted killers I’ve ever read.

As we’ve reached the end of the line and are now looking forward to discovering some of the best books of 2015, The Novel Approach is offering you the chance to win a $25 Gift Card to Amazon or All Romance eBooks, winner’s choice! Just click the Rafflecopter image to enter before Midnight Pacific time on Saturday, January 3, 2015.

Good luck!

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And now, here are Rena’s and my selections for the best of the best this year had to offer.

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Rena:

21529170Flight of Magpies by KJ Charles:Flight of Magpies is another brilliant addition to KJ Charles’ magnificent A Charm of Magpies series. Reading the book was one of those instances where I was so deeply immersed in Lucien and Stephen’s world that I actually got upset when I realized how far I’d gone and how little I had left to read. It’s an experience that’s not new to me; it began with The Magpie Lord, and it had yet to show signs of fading or slowing down. That said, I don’t want it to happen, considering how much I adore this series.”

 

23202149Bloodline by Jordan L. Hawk: “Fans of Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne and Griffin series are in for a pretty dark treat with Bloodline – with a generous dose of tragedy, at that, but in ways that are a lot more complicated than simply death. As an installment of the series, Bloodline is perhaps the darkest and grimmest so far, but it does end in bittersweet hope that marks a new era, so to speak, for the characters involved.

The stakes in this book are significantly higher because everything becomes personal for Whyborne. We get to see his family’s history, which is intricate and bizarre and is steeped in magic.”

22544017Prosperity by Alexis Hall: “The first thing you’ll notice when you crack open Alexis Hall’s Prosperity is that the book’s written in some pretty heavy vernacular. Piccadilly, an orphan and a guttersnipe, narrates the story with so much sass and attitude to spare that his language, if at first a little challenging to get into if you’re not expecting it, almost serves like an emphatic exclamation point to his hilarious commentary. As he’s grown up in the streets of London, he’s illiterate and is sadly hardened for a boy his age (eighteen, he reckons, but isn’t sure), and his interactions with so many different characters – mostly adults who’re educated in varying degrees – are a never-ending source of delight. He’s alternately exasperated, mystified, resentful, contemptuous, and childish in his dealings with his fellow adventurers. And from a hardened urchin who thinks lowly of himself, Dil gradually develops into a cautiously hopeful young man who starts to believe that, hey, he’s got some worth, after all.”

bsb-juniorwillisJunior Willis by Richard Natale: “Richard Natale’s Junior Willis is a beautifully subdued account of a man’s sexual maturation during some of the most tumultuous decades in the 20th century. The novella begins in the 1950s, when Tom Larson’s first tour of duty in the Korean War places him in the path of Colonel Philip Dore, a married and closeted gay man who awakens Tom’s true nature. From here on, the story follows Tom through the years as he not only falls in love, but also gets himself hurt again and again, the miserable laws of the times compounding the pain by forcing him to suppress his needs and lose himself in work, if not seek comfort and questionable companionship in brief and unsatisfying liaisons.”

22224746Mending Him by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee: “There’s no emotional wallowing in this book, which can be the downfall of historical gay romances, given the outlaw nature of same-sex relationships. Part of the book’s strength lies in the authors’ masterful use of restraint in laying out the complications and the triumphs not only of the lovers, but also of the Chester family, whose loving relationship with the two men shapes painful choices they all make along the way. The resolution to the problem of gay lovers in the 19th century is also plausible; modern readers might grieve over the lack of an out and proud relationship, but in their practical and emotionally rewarding way, Robbie and Charles prove to us that men in their position can carve out a happy life together, regardless of society and, especially, family. There’s defiance tempered by prudence and vice-versa, and one can’t ask for anything more.”

Dividers

Lisa:

17453304Chance Assassin: A Story of Love, Luck, and Murder by Nicole Castle: “I’m in awe of this author’s ability to write a story starring not one but two characters who should be unappealing in every way. Nicole Castle has made Frank and Vincent loveable to a degree that has left me obsessing over this book. It’s a hallmark of truly brilliant storytelling I haven’t experienced since reading Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt and I fell for the insane Jacob Cullen. This author’s writing style is fresh, her characters funny and vibrant, her version of romance refreshing, and this book is one disturbing, endearing, horrifying, and sexy surprise after another.”

WicklowsOdysseyWicklow’s Odyssey by R. Cooper: “The timing of this book couldn’t be more perfect, and you don’t have to be a Civil War history major to appreciate the events that build up to one of the more tension filled and action packed climaxes I’ve ever read in a book. You need only know the motives for the war, who fought it, and its outcome to understand how beautifully R. Cooper has twisted it to suit this clockwork, steam driven adventure, where a great iron beast is the Trojan horse that, if not lamed, could bring victory to the South. Every single anachronism purposefully woven into this novel does nothing but add to the sense of intrigue, every single character introduced along the way not only adds to the adventure but also exposes more about Wicklow Doyle, revelations that are sometimes frustrating, sometimes heart-tugging as he tries to understand what he’s feeling, but each and every one is a new layer peeled away from this complex man’s prickly exterior.”

BSB-TurnbullHouseTurnbull House by Jess Faraday: “With its (The Affair of the Porcelain Dog) brilliant and stunning sequel, Turnbull House, the continuing story if former rentboy, Ira Adler, and his ex-lover Cain Goddard (the infamous Duke of Dorset) Jess Faraday has done nothing more than secured her place on my must-read-authors list, and did it in little more than the opening paragraphs of this book.

With characters who are layered with charm and complexity, settings that play out visually like a full color series of daguerreotypes on the mind, a mystery that reveals how far apart Ira and Goddard have grown since Ira walked out two years before, and a fluid prose that draws the reader into the lives of the characters and the time of the story, Turnbull House is as flawless a historical novel as I’ve ever read.”

Daron_Omnibus_Cover_500px1-231x300Daron’s Guitar Chronicles (Volumes One thru Five) by Cecilia Tan: “As addictive as any books I’ve ever read, as heart-rending as any series I’ve ever loved, Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is, if not perfect, the quintessential compilation of music, drugs, sex, love, lust, and pain. My one fear as I got farther along in Daron’s saga was that the author would fail in her effort to keep this storyline fresh and vibrant and emotionally encompassing through its hundreds of chapters. I’m happy to report she damn well did. Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is a brilliant feat in fiction, far too luminous for this simple 5 star rating.”

2146294723251880Baal’s Heart (Caged and Sacrificed) by Bey Deckard: “Bey Deckard has written a book that’s a study in contradiction and a sublime characterization of three men who will eventually become one, introducing two characters in the dominant Baltsaros and the submissive Tom, two men who should be difficult, if not impossible, to love, but then makes it entirely impossible not to love them. When Jon comes between them, through no fault of his own, and then falls in love with both his captain and with Tom, becoming the foundation upon which both men will anchor themselves, Jon risks not only losing his heart but his sense of self, in the process, and it’s an evolution that’s a glory to witness.”

“As impressed as I was by Bey Deckard’s debut, Sacrificed has exceeded any and all expectations I might have had for the follow up to Caged. It’s a grand adventure the author is taking us on, a journey of heart, soul, and imagination that promises, at the end, even more to discover as this extraordinary series continues.”

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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?
Continue reading

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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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