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First of the Grantchester Mysteries series, about a Church of England vicar who solves mysteries in collaboration with one of the local police detectives. The first book is a set of six short stories, each a standalone about an individual case, but with an overall arc running through them. I bought it because I'd seen and enjoyed a couple of episodes of the tv adaptation. This doesn't always mean I'll like a book, but in this case I'm very glad I bought it. It's an excellent period cosy mystery, written by someone who knows the minutiae of Anglican clerical life. The ebook for this one is often low price as a hook for the series, and well worth getting.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Kobo
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Sweetly funny milf erotic romance novel - but be warned that the characters spend an awful lot of the book being interrupted before they can actually do something about their attraction. Successful romance writer Jillian divorced her no-good husband a while back for cheating on her, and hasn't had much luck in the dating game since then. So when her son comes home from unversity for vacation and brings his friend Brian with him, Jillian can't help but notice that Brian's very nicely put together. He's also her son's friend, which puts him off limits.

Brian thinks Jillian's pretty hot, even if she's old enough to be his friend's mother. In fact, she *is* his friend's mother, which puts her off limits...

While some of the situations they end up in are frankly implausible, the lead and supporting characters are well-written, and Jillian and Brian's ever more frantic efforts to first hide and then give in to their attraction are entertaining. This isn't going to be to everyone's taste; but if it appeals to your sense of humour, it's a lot of fun.

This is the first of a series, but there's closure at the end of the book. The ebook is free as a hook for the series, and I think worth downloading to try it out.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Kobo
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BookBub alerted me to the fact that Courtney Milan has a 99c/99p deal on the first book in her Turner series, so I wandered over to Amazon to have a look, and found a number of other deals on her books. In particular, the Brothers Sinister series is in an enhanced box set for £6.50. This is the Victorian romance series I was raving about last year, because it features strong women characters, many of whom are scientists, without handwaving away the problems they would have faced. If you understand why I was Kermit-flailing when I read the dedication to Rosalind Franklin in one of the later books, you'll probably enjoy these. It's m/f, but there is an acknowledgement of m/m and f/f (and again, historically realistic about the need for secrecy, rather than pure fantasy), with one of the background romances for a secondary character in a later book being f/f. One of the side-story novellas is an interracial romance between an Irishman and a Black British woman. And alphole heroes are Not Welcome.

Book 1 in the Brothers Sinister series is currently free (it's isn't always, but Milan does regular introductory deals for her series).

Books 1 and 3 in the Turner series are currently 95p at Amazon UK, and the box set is around £4.70. Given how much I enjoyed the Brothers Sinister, I'm just going to go for the boxed set rather than trying the starter first.



Amazon UK:
The Brothers Sinister: The Complete Boxed Set
The Duchess War (The Brothers Sinister Book 1)
Unveiled (A Turner Series Book 1)
The Turner Series (An Enhanced Box Set)
author page

Author page at Amazon US:
Courtney Milan at Amazon US

Amazon Australia (hi, SallyMN :-)
http://www.amazon.com.au/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=courtney+milan


Author page at Kobo:
https://store.kobobooks.com/search?Query=Courtney%20Milan%20&ac=1&acp=courtney%20mil
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It's Victorian London, and wealthy young gentleman Giles Fullerton is still grieving a year after the death of the man he loved, his grief made worse by the need to conceal it. He deals with the emotional pain by walking the streets through the night, until he can face sleep. Young lamplighter John Banks knows a thing or two about grief himself. He loved his wife dearly, even though he's gay, and has missed her each day since her death. The young gentleman who wanders his route on so many nights may have attracted his attention with his good looks, but John can see that something drives him into the night. Enough so that at last John speaks to him, concerned for his safety. Curiosity about John's job of lighting and dousing the streetlamps provides something for Giles to focus on outside his grief.

There's companionship of a sort in a stranger to speak to, and gradually the two young widowers reveal more about themselves to each other in their conversation each night; first in coded and deniable references to their grief, and then more openly. Enough so that they finally act on their attraction. But this is Victorian London, and a relationship is barred by more than their being both men; the social gulf between them would be every bit as shocking to society, and moreover puts them at far greater risk of exposure than if they could meet as equals. Will they both have the courage to find a way through to a chance at happiness?

This is a gentle, slow romance, and all the better for it. It's a lovely short novella with a pair of well drawn, appealing main characters and some good secondary characters, and a sex scene that adds to the emotional development rather than being there to make up the word count. One for my re-read list.

Available free to members of the Heroes and Heartbreakers website, or you can pay a modest sum to get a nicely formatted ebook with a gorgous cover.


Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia
Kobo
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Five murdered poker players from different eras are brought back from the dead for one last tournament. The prize is life itself.

The book opens with Wild Bill Hickok finding himself pulled from the grave, his bones clothing themselves with flesh and the flesh with clothes. The reader follows along with Bill as he tries to work out what's going on and why he feels an urge to go to Atlantic City, although the reader has an advantage over him in being able to recognise the present day and just how much time has passed. Another four men from different time periods have the same experience, although one is so recently dead that he is able to convince friends and family that he'd been kidnapped and held incommunicado for several years. As they gradually assemble, they discover that they have been revived for the greatest poker tournament in history - between the greatest players, no matter when they lived.

The result is an atmospheric blend of ghost story and mystery, with some superb world-building going into the strange casino that has revived the men. The characters are well developed, and it's a joy to watch their interaction, and their different reactions to the present day. Those reactions are driven in part by their different reasons for wanting the prize; not just a new life in a recreated body, but what they want to do with that life. A chance at love, a chance at revenge, fascination with this new world they find themselves in... Even for the four losers, their short time walking the earth again allows them to do at least a little of what was left undone.

A lovely short ghost novel for Halloween, with the emphasis on the human soul rather than on horror.


direct from Book View Cafe, with excerpts available
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia
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Gacked from BookBub: Carolyn Jewel's historical m/f romance Scandal is free until Jan 1. I read this during my binge on Regency romance earlier this year, and enjoyed it -- it's not going to be to everyone's taste, but I think worth grabbing as a freebie to see if you like Jewel's writing style.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Kobo
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I've been experimenting with self-publishing some of my old short stories that have gone out of print. After much angst, I've managed to upload "One Size Fits All" to Smashwords, and am awaiting the results from feeding it into the maw of Amazon.

This one's priced at 99c, but I have also been playing with the coupon code generator on Smashwords. Plug the code RE95K into the appropriate place (ooh er, missus) before Monday, and get 100% off. And all I ask in return is for some feedback on whether the file actually works in your viewing device of choice...

You can find the book at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/376309

Blurb: Hugh's everything that Gavin could ask for in a lover. Everything, apart from his taste in underwear. Nothing wrong with the underwear, you understand, but that's the problem. It's boring. So Gavin decides to have a rummage through Hugh's underwear, just in case there's anything more interesting tucked away. And what he finds is so interesting that he tries it out for size...

m/m erotic romance, very mild kink, 3000 words.
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First Footer

First Footer They say that how you spend New Year's Day will set the pattern for the rest of your year. Matthew Ryder was hoping not to be single by the end of the New Year's Eve party, but the blind date promised by his matchmaking friend never showed up. Still, there's always hope in the form of the old custom of First Footing. To bring good luck to the household, the first person across the threshold after midnight should be a tall dark man holding a lump of coal and a bottle of whisky, and in some places they still like to provide this service for neighbours.

A tall dark stranger does indeed knock on the door at midnight, and he's the man of Matthew's dreams. Intelligent, good sense of humour. Handsome too, if you go for fur, tail, and a very seductive purr. For the First Footer is a First Contact team member, with a bit of a problem. There's making a discreet landing in an uninhabited area, and then there's landing your spacecraft in a peat bog.

It's going to be an interesting year for Matthew...

Excerpt 1 from First Footer
Excerpt 2 from First Footer
Erotic excerpt from First Footer

ISBN: 978-1-62300-274-9
Publisher: Loose Id
Author: Jules Jones
Cover Artist: April Martinez
Price: $4.99

Also available from All Romance eBooks.

(First published in the Loose Id anthology A Kiss at Midnight, now out of print.)

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Note: I received a review copy through LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

The demon Dismay/Smoke is in what turns out to be essentially self-imposed exile from his native country. He's viewed as evil by those in power in the land of his exile. That's because he answers the prayers of abused women desperate to escape misogynistic violence. There's no shortage of such women in Lutawa, a land where oppression of women is such a bedrock of the culture and law that it's a capital offence to teach a woman to read. That could be the basis of a dull political tract, but fear not -- it's a highly entertaining "overthrow the evil ruler" quest fantasy. It's also the sequel to an earlier book, but I found that it worked well enough as a standalone. Occasionally I was left wondering about some detail of the world that must have been given in the first book, but in general Nagata feeds in enough backstory over the course of the book that all is clear by the end.

The book's theme is fairly dark, and the text can be dark to the point of disturbing in places, but there's nothing gratuitous about the nastier bits. And it's well leavened by humour and character development. It won't be to everyone's taste, and the pacing does suffer slightly from it being a sequel, but I liked this one a lot.

http://www.librarything.com/work/12340912
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79) Pati Nagle - Pet Noir

Note: I received a review copy of this through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers programme.

Short fix-up novel about a genetically engineered cat whose creation is commissioned by the security chief of a large space station. The chief wants an undercover agent who'll be overlooked by criminals who might be suspicious of humanoids. A Maine Coon who's been genetically engineered to have human level intelligence, opposable thumbs, and a tongue that can wrap itself around human language is a useful thing to have loitering around fast food outlets and in cargo holds, picking up the gossip. An ordinary-looking cat won't be suspected because the high cost of gengineered animals means they're still rare -- but it's a price that's worth it for someone who wants to bust a drug-smuggling ring.

The book is structured as a series of short stories covering the first year or so of Leon's life, a first person retrospective from the day the Chief collects a know-all kitten from the labs to a year or so later, when Leon's experienced enough to understand how very inexperienced and naive he was that day. The general tone is that of a hard-boiled detective story, only here the hard-boiled tone is distinctly feline-flavoured and the setting is futuristic.

It's a lot of fun following Leon's emotional and intellectual development alongside his cases, and the cases themselves mostly make good stories. There are some good observations of feline behaviour worked into this. Leon's mostly plausible as a portrait of a cat with boosted intelligence, and his relationship with his human partner Devin, a mix of self-centredness and genuine affection after a rocky start, works well. However, there are two flaws which badly broke suspension of disbelief for me.

The first is that Leon is not just super intelligent, at 4 weeks old he speaks fluent English and he's already showing a better grasp of human culture than a human ten year old. Yes, cats develop much faster, but there hasn't been time for him to physically assimilate that amount of information, even if he does spend all day in front of the tv.

The second is that Leon speaks to other, unenhanced animals, who appear to be also human level intelligence in their conversation, even if they're speaking in cat rather than English, which rather undermines the point of him being genetically engineered for human level intelligence. There also appears to be a single human-level language across at least three species who are not regarded as fully sentient by the humans and other sentient species on the station. It felt as if the author was trying to appeal to readers who like to think of their cats as being just little humans in fur coats.

One of the things I did like about the book is that it touches on the ethics of uplifted animals. It's a very light touch, and anything stronger would have unbalanced the book, but it's made clear that Leon is under an indentured contract and is required to pay off the costs of his creation by working for whoever owns the contract. He's effectively the property of Gamma Station Security for several years, and he's unimpressed by this.

Overall, something of a mixed bag. It's a fun light read, and has some laugh out loud moments, but there are some niggles which mean I can't wholeheartedly recommend it. A free sample consisting of the prologue and first chapter are available for download at Book View Cafe, which will give you a reasonable idea of the style.

LibraryThing entry

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July 2017

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