It’s been a while since I posted a review, and I thought I would get this one done last month–it’s been sitting that long as a partially completed draft. Today, the author released her second book, and, as she’s one of my crit partners, I decided I had to get off my duff and actually publish this, too. Here’s her blurb:
Always read the fine print when swearing an eternal oath to gods and guardians…
Beholden by the sacred vows of her coven, fire witch Calista Reid agrees to temporarily mate with shifter Cullen McMahan to fulfill a mission assigned by the guardians. When Tall, Dark and Damaged arrives on her doorstep, generating enough heat to scorch a fire witch, Calista finds herself drawn to his battle-hardened body and broken soul. His pain speaks to her own deep-rooted isolation and the intensity of his hunger slakes her passion like no other.
Cullen, scarred by a past that left him an indentured soldier to the guardians, resents yet another hump-on-command assignment…until he encounters the compassionate, fearless, incendiary redhead who detonates his body and reawakens the emotions sacrifice and loss had suppressed. But Cullen harbors a terrible secret—one that reaches back into Calista’s troubled childhood and threatens the foundation of their growing bond.
It’s a novella, so just the length for an afternoon romp through words. And romp it is: Garie doesn’t shy away from the full implications of two beings thrown together in a mating neither wants, but each is required to fulfill. The combination of paranormal skills is unusual enough I had never seen it before. It’s sexy and fun and the banter between the two main characters lets the reader play voyeur to the start of what reads like it could end up a great romance.
Calista returned with two full glasses of red wine in her hands. The wine bottle and several plates of fruit, cheese, bread slices, chocolate and nuts floated on a current of air behind her. After handing him a drink, she looped her finger, landing the booty perfectly on the coffee table, and sank into the love seat. Her too-large sweater slipped off one shoulder, exposing succulent peach flesh. Argenta’s boots, he wanted a bite of that, but settled for a grape.
“For a fire witch, you’ve an impressive control over air.” He popped the grape in his mouth and relaxed back on the couch. “Thank you. It’s the first time anyone’s ever fed me when I came to mark them.”
“My aunt’s an air witch. She ran a strict household. I had to master currents, crosswinds and etiquette.” Her half smile revealed a dimple he longed to lick.
“It’s quite refreshing not to have to talk you out of the bathroom, off the roof or down from a tree.”
She laughed at that. “Hard job, huh?”
His gaze lowered to hide the pain slicing through him. “You’ve no idea.” He grabbed some bread and cheese and a handful of nuts and focused on eating.
I will admit I might be biased on this one because the author nailed me between the eyes with her crits of my work… That also means she knows what she’s doing as she builds the suspense and unloads a whopper of an ending onto an unsuspecting audience. This is not your standard romantic fare. You get the happily ever after that’s required, and you thank all the gods in the pantheon of the book that it’s possible, but you walk a treacherous road of unwanted attraction and perilous secrets to get there. This is fully worth the read and has me panting, hopeful that there will be a second installment of Calista and Cullen.
I’ve been working on this one all summer long. For all that it’s fewer than 5,000 words, it’s gone through more revisions than my novels–and more dramatic changes, too. I previewed it a few weeks back, but you may or may not see that passage any more. Now it’s strong enough to stand on its own, and just in time to join the spooks of the week.
The topic was far outside my comfort zone, but was sparked by the intersection of news out of Egypt that the legislature was contemplating establishing legality for sexual relations between a husband and his dead wife for up to six hours after her passing, and a call for stalker short stories.
Here’s my blurb:
A serial rapist murderer is on the prowl; Halloween brings other monsters to his doorstep.
Depending on whether folks like it, I have a whole litter of plot bunnies ready to follow on.
For now, we’re waiting for it to clear the Amazon queue, but it’s up and available at Smashwords.
Stumar Press contacted me to review this anthology by the Derby Scribes plus, which includes short stories from Simon Clark, Conrad Williams and Neal James, plus short stories from Derby Scribes members Stuart Hughes, Richard Farren Barber, Christopher Barker, Victoria Charvill, Jennifer Brown, David Ball, Peter Borg, and Alison J. Hill.
In general, I shy away from short stories, since the really good ones beg the question of “what next?”–and I read them quickly enough that where I had been looking for several hours of entertainment, I instead get several minutes.
The upside of an anthology, though, is that you get a collection of authors noodling on a similar theme; in this case, death seems to be the unifying element. I was a little worried by the summary:
The short stories in this anthology include horror, supernatural, contemporary fantasy, science fiction and humour.
Since I’m not a big fan of horror, I kept waiting for the hammer to drop and really freak me out. I suppose the dystopia described in “The Gallery” or the harsh hopelessness in “Obsolete” could be defined as horrifying, but the whole book was threaded through with a touch of humor that really meant even a riot, death, and military imprisonment couldn’t rightly give me nightmares.
The “Brylcreem and Pipe Tobacco” short was my favorite, with its indicator of both enduring love and late-in-life romance–both lifted out of the ordinary by an extraordinary visit to a medium.
“Leaving Jessica” and “Stump” tied for a close second; the first for its insight into the human inclination to run rather than face unpleasantness, and the second for its insights into a child’s view of the relationship with her pets.
The weakest, in my view, was “An Interstellar Taxi Ride;” the Ambassador conveyed as an unrepentant blowhard, and even knowing this was just a short story, I had the sense that the other half of the story was missing, given how abrupt was the ending and disjointed the last few paragraphs were from the beginning.
“The Smell of Fear” should have given me a clue as to its surprise reveal from its title, but that reveal lost some of its humor and made me groan more than laugh, given the twist on perception of the beings carrying out the fantasy, and my natural inclination to like the “bully” more than the “bullied.”
It’s difficult to know how to properly review such a diverse range of story offerings, other than to say that the editing was pretty well done, and the theme definitely helps the collection hang together. Given that the weakest of the stories was still more than palatable (I actually do want to know where the Ambassador is off to in such an all-fired hurry that he allows himself to stoop to such plebian transport!), I can absolutely recommend this anthology to anyone who likes fantasy with a thread of humor tied together with a more or less evident thread of the fantastic.