5 Stars, Historical Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, S. Joy P., Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy, Self-Published

Review: Dragon’s Bounty by S. Joy P.

Title: Dragon’s Bounty (Dracula’s Love: Book One)

Author: S. Joy P.

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 299 Pages

At a Glance: This author’s imagination and delivery of the unique and unexpected continues to impress.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: In the fifteenth century Wallachia, the self-serving boyars will do anything to advance their own positions while the interests of the Hungarian king and the Ottoman sultan tear their country apart. One interest is shared by all. A weak prince on the Wallachian throne. A prince who bends easily.

But a fierce and spirited man rules the land – Vlad Dracula, and he would rather break than bend. Murderers robbed him of his closest family. Pretenders lay claim on his titles. A noose of intrigues reaching beyond the borders of his realm tightens around him. Undaunted, he fights for his ancestral rights and for the defense of the whole Christendom. In all struggles, Love known as The Englishman stands true and faithful by his side.

Only… Love is not an English mercenary as he says he is, but the god of love who accidentally used his magic on himself, and fell for the only one who claims not to have use for love – Vlad Dracula.

Turbulent events drag them both into a brutal clash of honor and duty against treachery and ambitions. Into a sword dance in which a single wrong step can bring death.

And only one of them is… immortal.

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Review: Sometimes the difference between a good book and a not so good book is the difference between the unexpected being made believable, and the expected being made unbelievable. Any author who succeeds at the first, something S. Joy P. has proven for the second time she can do with excellence, is an author whose books will make it onto my Must Read list every time.

Once again, the author has culled the annals of history and come up with our unexpected hero in Dragon’s Bounty. Vlad Dracula, the Prince of Wallachia, whose legacy earned him the epithet Vlad the Impaler, and who it is said was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s own Dracula, is (in what may seem impossible odds, given the chronicling of his deeds) a convincing and sympathetic hero, as the author does an excellent job of weaving hints of Stoker’s canonical themes into her novel of the real man’s legend.

A blend of mythology and history, this novel belongs in the category of an epic saga more so than a romance; though, if you broaden the definition of romance to include S. Joy P.’s obvious love of her subject and the setting, then a romantic saga Dragon’s Bounty is. It is also, at least thus far, a story of unrequited love that in all its metaphorical beauty brings Love personified directly into the life of Vlad Dracula, the man who has no use for the emotion but does have use for the god who has disguised himself in the mortal role of an English mercenary. We watch as a love spell backfires on Love, and we follow his journey as he is sentenced to torture and slavery and survives only with the help of his brother Death, and through his willingness to adapt to the most horrific of trials.

Written in a language that not only invokes the imagination as we picture the landscape but also gives this novel its texture, the author deftly weaves into the narrative what feels like a wholly organic tone within the 15th Century setting. S. Joy P. holds nothing back in her developing of the characters, the depiction of the brutality or, to our modern senses, showing what is nothing less than barbaric customs and practices which were native to Wallachia at the time.

Dragon’s Bounty is a story of sacrifice in the name of Love and love, both the man and the emotion. It’s the story of what happens to a god when he’s flung into the mortal coil and gains his humanity while, at the same time, we see him commit inhumane acts in the name of love and loyalty. It’s an allegorical tale of love, the emotion, and Love, the man, which builds a sense of sensual intimacy without being intimate in a sexual way. When love states, “Make no mistake, love can be brutal,” we see two sides to the declaration, that he himself is becoming as brutal as the emotion of which he speaks, and in another lovely contrast, we watch as the man who does not want or need love, call Love to him time and time again, keeping Love close by as the god acts as both narrator and author of his story.

Dragon’s Bounty is not a quick read. It’s a story rich in history and detail, one to be savored as S. Joy P. slowly and with an impressive skill draws her readers into the time and place and treachery of revenge and political affairs, and then leaves Love and Dracula’s story unfinished, much more of this saga left to be told, and I can’t wait for the rest.

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You can buy Dragon’s Bounty exclusively at Amazon.com:

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5 Stars, Historical Romance, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, S. Joy P., Self-Published

Review: We, King Henry VIII by S. Joy P.

Title: We, King Henry VIII: Part One

Author: S. Joy P.

Publisher: Self-Published via Amazon

Pages/Word Count: 188 Pages

At a Glance: With a unique plot and lush prose, We, King Henry VIII takes readers on a supernatural trip to the 16th century.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Henry VIII of England seeks his way home – into the arms of his long-lost lover

On the 27th of January, 1547 AD, at eleven o’clock at night, Henry VIII is mere three hours from his death. On his deathbed, he only pines to behold his true love for one more time. To catch but a glimpse of Adhamh’s face – that he desires above all things. For his whole life fearful of God, he would now give his mind, body, and soul to the Devil if the Dark Lord promised him but one moment with his lost lover. Only his heart Henry could not give, for Adhamh has it in his keeping. It has always been so, from the day they met. And there the story of their star-crossed love truly begins.

In the hot August of the year 1521 AD, England lazily revels in its still young King Henry VIII, the most accomplished and the handsomest monarch of the Christendom. For whole the world, Henry plays the King who lacks nothing, and who fears nobody save God. Deep inside, he is a man tormented by dark secrets shrouding his marriage, tortured by fears for the fate of his dynasty. His summer morning is not filled with idle delight; it brims with barely concealed terrors – until the moment when God sends him a sign: a wolf trapped in the royal chapel. From the first heartbeat of the unexpected encounter, the beast exudes an aura of unalloyed loyalty vested in Henry alone. Overcome with the sight of the wolf’s unconditional surrender into his hands, Henry believes him to be a messenger of God and spares his life.

But… a human heart beats in the wolf’s chest. Adhamh the Seventh, the only son of the House of Svar, the Margrave at Zuria Labarra is the second most powerful man after the King of Cerbeden – and a werewolf cast out of his world as a punishment for a fateful failure. The High Immortal who so sentenced him to die as the Devil’s Own knew nothing about an uncanny resemblance between the King of England and the King of Cerbeden. Neither does Adhamh. In Henry, he sees his own beloved liege lord, whom he could never harm. The moment of his surrender gives birth to a new unbreakable bond and triggers a chain of inescapable events. The affection that arises between them faces constant dangers, both seen and unseen. Constraints placed on them by social norms and Henry’s religious beliefs can be overcome, but what if Adhamh is yanked back into his own world one day? This ever-present peril cannot be provided for. Nor is it the darkest threat lurking close.

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Review: S. Joy P.’s We, King Henry VIII is a book that came at me out of nowhere and proceeded, quite frankly, to impress me from beginning to end.

What I know of King Henry VIII would fit on the head of a pin: A.) I know it wasn’t necessarily fortuitous to be his wife, and B.) I know he spent much of his reign balking at the strict edicts of the Roman Catholic Church. That’s the extent of it, so with regards to this book’s “controversial” label, I must say I don’t know enough about the subject at hand to find it particularly scandalous, but I will say the author has managed to take a monarch who, inarguably, has not been portrayed throughout history as a benign ruler, and made him the sympathetic hero of this novel, and, to a certain extent, also portrays Henry Tudor as the victim of sorts in the story—a pawn of his duty to crown and country, to his God, to the women he’d married in hopes of producing a male heir to the throne, as well as to his love for Sir Adhamh Svar.

One of the things I found most appealing about this novel is the author’s writing style, which is at times poetic and at the same time feels utterly organic to the 16th century; not in that the narrative and dialogue are filled with thous and forsooths and yea verilys, which would make it tedious to some of us contemporary readers, but that the author’s use of opulent language and lush dialogue along with a descriptive prose supports and enhances the historical setting, which effectively sweeps us into the court of Henry VIII. I not only appreciated the author’s attention to detail but also salute the inspiration that struck which sent the story headlong into the realm of speculative fiction and gave it its supernatural twist.

We, King Henry VIII is a deathbed confessional, told in large part through flashbacks, of Henry, the man in the prime of his life and in the midst of his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon when he is visited upon by a wolf. Whether this is an evil omen or divine blessing is unclear, most especially once it’s revealed the wolf is, in truth, a man—Adhamh—and he is not of the realm which Henry rules. Indeed, he is not even of the world in which this story takes place.

Within these flashbacks, we also see Henry as a loving father even as the bloom has withered and fallen off the rose of his marriage to Catherine, two things being made clear; the first, that Catherine did not come to their marriage bed a virgin; the second being that infidelity has left Henry in the painful throes of a sexually transmitted disease, which is when his suspicions are aroused by his wolf and the certainty the animal is something other, as he leads His Grace to a remedy for his discomfort that, quite literally, saves the king’s manhood.

As the bond between Henry and Adhamh strengthens, Adhamh’s influence over the king becomes evident as well, in the forbidden thoughts and deeds Henry’s heart leads him toward. The story takes a poignant turn amidst the court intrigue and royal politics, in which we see Henry war with his love for Adhamh and his fidelity to God. We also see his initial steps toward dissolving his marriage to Catherine, for which Adhamh becomes a trusted and useful advisor. In this first installment of the series, we are also treated to the introduction of Lady Anne Boleyn, the woman about whom Adhamh also has some strong opinions. And the woman whose fate we are, of course, all too familiar with.

Because We, King Henry VIII is book one in a series, there is no resolution to the conflict introduced in this novel. If you don’t enjoy the “to be continued” that happens in episodic storytelling, consider this a small inconvenience to the overall grandeur of the story being told. This book left me with a “just when I thought I’d read it all…” sense of satisfaction that I’d come across something a bit unique in the gay fiction genre: one part reality, one part history lesson, one part fantasy, and one-hundred percent intriguing.

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You can buy We, King Henry VIII here:

Amazon UK

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

Amazon AU

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S. Joy P.

Guest Post and Excerpt: We, King Henry VIII by S. Joy P.

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The Novel Approach welcomes author S. Joy P. today with a look at her new novel We, King Henry VIII, a unique and fascinating look at one of history’s most (in)famous monarchs.

Enjoy!

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Henry VIII of England seeks his way home – into the arms of his lost lover…

…on the pages of a fictional autobiography We, King Henry VIII. This new release will delight you if you love Henry and enjoy supernatural fantasy in your gay fiction. Sounds good? Read on to find out more. I’ve got a sensual excerpt for you, but let’s start with the book blurb.

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WeKingHenry_MediumOn the 27th of January, 1547 AD, one hour before midnight, Henry VIII is mere three hours from his death. On his deathbed, he only pines to behold his true love for one more time. To catch but a glimpse of Adhamh’s face – that he desires above all things. For his whole life fearful of God, he would now give his mind, body, and soul to the Devil if the Dark Lord promised him but one moment with his lost lover. Only his heart Henry could not give, for Adhamh has it in his keeping. It has always been so, from the day they met. And there the story of their star-crossed love truly begins.

In the hot August of the year 1521 AD, England lazily revels in its still young King Henry VIII, the most accomplished and the handsomest monarch of the Christendom. For whole the world, Henry plays the King who lacks nothing, and who fears nobody save God. Deep inside, he is a man tormented by dark secrets shrouding his marriage, tortured by fears for the fate of his dynasty. His summer morning is not filled with idle delight; it brims with barely concealed terrors – until the moment when God sends him a sign: a wolf trapped in the royal chapel. From the first heartbeat of the unexpected encounter, the beast exudes an aura of unalloyed loyalty vested in Henry alone. Overcome with the sight of the wolf’s unconditional surrender into his hands, Henry believes him to be a messenger of God and spares his life.

But… a human heart beats in the wolf’s chest. Adhamh the Seventh, the only son of the House of Svar, the Margrave at Zuria Labarra is the second most powerful man after the King of Cerbeden – and a werewolf cast out of his world as a punishment for a fateful failure. The High Immortal who so sentenced him to die as the Devil’s Own knew nothing about an uncanny resemblance between the King of England and the King of Cerbeden. Neither does Adhamh. In Henry, he sees his own beloved liege lord, whom he could never harm. The moment of his surrender gives birth to a new unbreakable bond and triggers events which neither he, nor Henry could ever foretell.

The affection that arises between them faces constant dangers, both seen and unseen. Constraints placed on them by social norms and Henry’s religious beliefs can be overcome, but what if Adhamh is yanked back into his own world one day? This ever-present peril cannot be provided for. Nor is it the darkest threat lurking close.

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Excerpt: He yipped a quiet greeting but did not come to me. Not yet. I knew what had to take place first under the pale light of the moon, and watched him as he bounced across the glade toward the log that we had dragged here four days before. Faster and faster he raced until his silhouette seemed to glide above the grass without ever touching it. The murmurs of the brook drowned out any rustle that his paws might have invoked otherwise, and so he resembled a ghost pursuing an innocent soul. Many might fear him, not so I.

He sprang into the final mighty leap, so full of vigor and life that my belly tightened in need. A part of me was right there, by his side, in the moment of the glorious pain of his transformation. And a part of me just stared at the act in awe.

He landed. Naked as always. And as always I smothered my desire. Merciful shadows of the night made it easier for me. Or… harder. For now I could actually see him in all his beauty. Aye, his mere silhouette. But my longing painted the details where my eyes could not recognize them. And I did not have to hold my gaze locked with his, or averted in a doomed effort not to intrude on his privacy. In the darkness I could blush without fear that he would notice the all-revealing redness.

Why was I never able to repress this reaction to his naked body? It was a sin to want him, and yet, no matter how hard I tried to mold my feelings for him into the pure brotherly affection, I yearned for him all the same, and the pained amorousness consumed both my flesh and my mind. He knew it not, and it had to stay so.

Steeling myself for the inevitable lash of need, I strode over to him. To hand him his clothes and thus end the moments of my greatest pleasure and the greatest torments.

“I must wash first, My King.” His voice in the shadows smiled at my impatience, and the next moment he headed toward the brook.

I followed. He honored, loved, and served me. But it was me who followed him. Always. And I suspected that it would stay so until the end of my days.

Thinking that he would just wash the blood off his face, hands, and chest, I almost stepped in the stream. For he did not stop on its bank. He just walked on, and I was catching my balance in the last possible heartbeat that remained between staying dry and landing in the water.

When my gaze found him again, a half-stifled groan escaped from my mouth. The night clearly made it all more difficult. Or Adhamh did. For he lay in the middle of the shallow brook, letting the ripples touch him just everywhere, and the nefarious light of the moon did not leave me in doubts as to where exactly the water caressed his skin.

I wanted to be water.

But I could not.

And the hopelessness of my desires spilled out of me. “She shall never retreat to a nunnery,” I all but wailed. It was not the true reason of my tension, but how could I possibly tell him the truth?

“She is on the verge of that decision,” he said, his voice joining the bewitching lullaby sung to him by the stream. “Her piety and her pain war with her pride and tenacity. Have patience, Henry.”

“I cannot bear this!” I blurted. And my gaze never left the tantalizing curves of his body. Moonlight tenderly caressed his broad chest, the alluring firmness of his slightly recessed belly, the hard and yet so elegant muscles of his thighs. And the dark nest of pubic hair in his crotch. It revealed his manhood to me, and I suddenly could not even swallow. Only stare I could… and did.

“What is it that you cannot abide?” he asked, lacing his hands behind his head.

“The waiting,” I groaned, clenching my fists to somehow hold myself back from plunging into the stream and plundering the temptation laid before me. “The irony of a wedlock that is not a wedlock at all. The lack of pleasure.”

“Fidelity is not a virtue required of great Kings.” He sat up. “Take any woman you like, discreetly.”

“I cannot just take any woman!”

“Why?” he asked, washing his face.

“Adultery is a sin.” What else could I possibly say? That I could see the droplets of water kissing his cheeks, chin, lips… In my mind I saw them and needed to take their place.

“You shall say more of your prayers,” he predicted, launching back to his feet. “You are but a mortal man, and have your needs like any other.”

Riveted on the spot, I gaped at him as he came close and closer to me. The reflection of the moonlight in the water and the light raining on him from above… I did not need much imagination to spur my want into a painful engorgement. “I am the King,” I grunted.

“Indeed,” he agreed. “And you also are a man. Which of them cannot bear the lack of pleasure?” he asked, reaching for his shirt.

“Both,” I admitted, handing him the saving piece of cloth that would soon cover his nakedness. “But I desire love, Adhamh. And I do not love any woman,” I said more than I had wanted. More than I should have. The soft sigh coming out of his nose told me so before my own mind did.

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Have you enjoyed the scene? Would you like to read the book? If so, I have some great news for you. During this weekend (the 20th and 21st of June 2015) you can grab your copy just for $1.99.

Store Link: Amazon

The promo price of $1.99 (plus VAT) is an offer you cannot pass. 75,000 words wait for you on the pages of We, King Henry VIII: Part 1.

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S Joy PAnd now a little about me – His Majesty’s secretary charged with writing his tale, and about the birth of We, King Henry VIII:

I was once told, “You understand the renaissance men better than you do those of nowadays.”

“Is that a flaw?” I asked.

Always fascinated with great men of the bygone era, I have been sharing their fates with people since my high school years. Currently I write for two royal patrons: Henry VIII and Vlad III (also known as Dracula). As a novelist, I spend endless hours doing research for my works and always strive to stay close to the historical reality. Of course, given the mix of historical fiction and fantasy in my novels, I take some liberties, but never disregard hard facts. Instead, I incorporate them in the story. The liberties taken fall in the territories uncharted in chronicles.

Henry VIII and I have had a two-decade-long history together, with periods of waxing and waning interest from both sides. I’ve always seen him as a virtuous prince, and I don’t like him to be portrayed as a hulk who was not in control of his eating habits, or as a vessel of illnesses and infirmities of all kinds. Even less I enjoy reading over and over again that he was a tyrant who only pursued his shallow interests, and in the process ruined the lives of his six wives.

One December night in 2013, I watched a documentary which portrayed him in a particularly vicious light. It left me with a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. How could the historians reduce a great man to a large, festering mound of lard, poke and examine him from head to toe regardless his feelings, and worse still, how could they present only findings that supported the common, simplistic view on who Henry was?

For the truth is: he is neither a monster, nor a Bluebeard of the history.

For me, Henry is the king who healed the wounds of England after the War of Roses and who truly united the whole land. He was the one who greatly elevated the image of England in the eyes of the contemporary monarchs. His court was the center of learning and culture. He broke with the corrupt Papacy, and, let’s face it, he was the one who kept wars out of England (with the exception of a short Scottish invasion which was fast crushed). His people loved him, and for all the good reasons. In fact, they loved him so much that not even the Excommunication broke his neck. It shows clearly how great loyalty he enjoyed. A tyrant or a monster never commands such feelings, such remarkable fealty.

I thought it would serve us well to remember that better, and to show him much more respect than he is getting these days.

“You shall write my story, dearest,” a tired tenor voice interrupted my silent seething.

I glanced up from my glass, already knowing whom I would see.

I would love to say I was bedazzled by a man exuding an aura of masculinity, pulsing energy, and power. But the man who carefully sank in the armchair I keep by my writing desk for my patrons was old and jaded. Yet, clad in red velvet and ermine, he still looked royalty. Just as an abandoned shrine is still a shrine, an old king is still a king. It’s enough for me to just narrow my eyes to see him in all his young glory (as you will see him while reading We, King Henry VIII Part 1). That night I had no time for that though. A stifled groan leaked out of his tightly clamped lips, forcing me to promptly offer a footstool to ease his discomfort. I was determined to make him feel better, and I could do my gazing later.

His stiff body posture relaxed a little only when I poured him a glass of wine too. He took it from my hand as a wordless invitation to stay and tell me more. We understood each other perfectly.

“You shall write my story,” he repeated after taking a draught of his drink.

“Why me, Your Majesty?”

“For you see me as I am, and yet you always recognize the virtuous prince in me. It matters not to you whether I am young or old.”

“Thank you.”

“You see through my masks and mistakes. You know who I am inside.”

“I do see your soul, yes. But I don’t write scholarly biographies, and I would do you disservice if I tried.”

“Nay, write about the man whom you know, not about the King.”

“Your Majesty, you are both.”

“Aye, but now I would I were just me.”

“I know. But there is another obstacle. I don’t write about love a man feels for a woman either. How would we handle the fact that you had six wives?”

“You shall write my story, including all of my wives.”

Let’s just say that Henry is as stubborn today as he was more than half a millennium ago.

That night we let the topic go. I’m not his subject, so he couldn’t order me to write for him. Nor did he try to. But we talked for hours about his world and above all – about him. Long story short: hours turned into days and Henry stayed. Since then he has made a remarkable recovery, so now I’m blessed with the company of a young king who exudes an aura of masculinity, pulsing energy, and power just as he did in his life.

He was right that December night. I have written his story for him. But I was right too. It isn’t a scholarly biography and it isn’t a heterosexual romance. It’s a tale of intense love between two men.

If you love Henry VIII and enjoy more than a light touch of supernatural fantasy in your fiction, avail yourself of this novel. For through his memories, you can now witness the power of a bond that changed him, and through his deeds the all of England, forever.

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Before I leave you to the joys of a summer weekend, I’ll just very shortly touch the topic of my other series: Dracula’s Love.

If you love novels about Vlad III (aka Dracula), you won’t want to miss it. And as the thanks to my gracious hosts during the New Release Tour for We, King Henry VIII and to all awesome readers who have read this far in the post, I’ve decided to extend the promotional price to Dragon’s Bounty (Book 1 of Dracula’s Love) as well. Through the weekend of the 20th to the 21st of June 2015, you can purchase a copy of this book for only $1.99 (plus VAT) too: Amazon Buy Link

To speak more about Dracula’s Love books would require another long post, so I’ll just say that Vlad III is yet another man whose reputation was tarnished by propaganda that is still well and alive after more than five hundred years. If you’d like to learn the truth about him, I have a gift for you: a 3,000-word-long essay that focuses on his life and sheds light on the purposeful defamation that turned a prince in whose honor the Christendom sang Te Deums into a monster. All you need to do to get a free access to this essay is to subscribe to my newsletter here: http://www.sjoyp.com/

And now I’ll really leave you to the summer joys, hopefully full of sun and books.

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A Sneak Peek At The Coming Week

Here’s A Sneak Peek at the Coming Week

Sneak Peek

Cheers, everyone, and many thanks for stopping by to see what we have coming up at The Novel Approach in the coming week. The bottom line is: LOTS. We’ve got a really great roster of guests to bring you in the next six days, so here’s a look at what’s on tap.

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Monday – Author KJ Charles kicks off our week with a guest post and giveaway on the tour for her latest novel The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal

We’ll also have Amy Lane with us today as she tours the interwebs to chat about her new book in Riptide’s Bluewater Bay series, The Deep of the Sound

Tuesday – Dropping in today, we have author Devon McCormack joining us with a blog post I’m looking so forward to sharing with you, as he shares a bit about the beginning of his writing career

We’ll also have your favorite drakul and mine joining us today—yes, Gray—and his creator, Jordan L. Hawk, with a special interview to celebrate the new book in Series 2 of the SPECTR-verse, Mocker of Ravens

Wednesday – Author Leta Blake is our guest today on the Training Complex blog tour, to talk about keeping the drama on the page

Indra Vaughn also joins us with a special and quite personal blog post on her Fragmented blog tour

And, as if that weren’t fantastic enough company, we’ll also have authors Nikka Michaels and Eileen Griffin with us to chat about their new collaboration In the Distance

Thursday – Today we’ll be hosting Shira Anthony as she tours in promotion of her new book in the Mermen of Ea series, Running with the Wind

Author Perie Wolford also joins us with a giveaway of his new audiobook Encounter

FridayParker Williams will be our guest today to chat about the paranormal on the tour for his new novel Scent of the Heart

We’ll also welcome the organizers of next month’s Rainbow Con to tell you all a bit about the event

Saturday – And finally, to close out our week, we’ll have author Iyana Jenna joining us on the Just Desserts book blast tour

As well as author S. Joy P. to talk about her controversial new historical novel We, King Henry VIII

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And that puts an end to a busy week. Until next time, happy reading!

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