Review: Acheiropoieta by UT Mosney

Achieropoieta coverBack in November, I wrote a review of Riptide by BC Matthews. Recently, I came across a mention of Acheiropoieta by UT Mosney (UK link, US link), described as a companion book to Riptide. Since I really enjoyed Riptide, I decided give this one a try. The two books are by different authors but set in the same universe and there are a few mentions in this book of “the British incident”, essentially referring to the events that kicked off the plot of Riptide.

Of the two books, I preferred Riptide, but given how dark that book was, I can see why some readers might prefer Acheiropoieta. Both stories deal with a relationship between a siren, sea creatures capable of bewitching humans with their voices and with a desire to eat human hearts, and a human. While Riptide explores an abusive and manipulative relationship, Acheiropoieta’s relationship is a lot more consensual, exploring the relationship between Niko and Jesse.

Niko is an artist, known for his gruesome religious work, including paintings of saints being martyred. For his work, he has earned the hatred of a local priest, and due to a copyright lawsuit he’s earned the hatred of a group of death metal fans, so angry letters, bricks through his windows, and death threats are a common occurrence. He takes this in stride, the prices of his paintings shooting up the more people complain about them.

For a painting of the death of Saint Sebastian, he needs to hire a model and this brings Jesse into his life. Jesse is an athletic, attractive young man interested in kinky sex, who wants a fun, no-strings-attached relationship with Niko. But the more time they spend together, the more Niko comes to care about Jesse, and to worry about him, because there’s something definitely wrong with him. Something that might come to light as Niko’s hate mail grows more gruesome.

I liked the idea behind this book and Niko was an interesting character. We get to see a lot of his background over the course of the book, but I didn’t really get inside the relationship the way I did with Riptide. The focus is on Niko’s past more than the relationship between the two of them, but even there it skimmed over a few areas. This was a very short book and I found myself wishing it was a bit longer, wishing we could have seen more of the interactions between Niko and Jesse to really get a feel for their relationship, as well as wishing for more background about certain areas. The hatred of the local priest for Niko is important to the story, but the book doesn’t really go into how that started (except that Niko has tattoos and doesn’t look the part of a religious man). There’s a friendship with Niko’s copyright lawyer that gets a single scene without being developed further. I would have enjoyed a longer book that took the time to explore these areas more, but especially to show us more of the interactions between Niko and Jesse.

There were also a couple of points where I thought the book needed another once-over by an editor. There were a handful of typos that crept into the finished manuscript, but there were also a couple of moments where the phrasing of the text left me confused as to what was going on and I had to reread those sections to try and puzzle it out, which through me out of the story. The worst of these was when a third character intrudes on Jesse and Niko and there was a reference to “the man” that I didn’t realise right away was another person and thought was referring to Jesse. Thankfully though, these moments were rare.

Overall my reaction to this book was a bit lukewarm – enjoyable enough but not going to make it onto my favourites list. I will look out for other books by this author, especially other books in this universe because, as I said, my main complaint with this book was that I wanted more out of it.

Review: A Rational Arrangement

A Rational Arrangement coverA Rational Arrangement by L Rowyn is a fantasy romance set in the land of Paradise, which has very rigid societal expectations. There are any number of unwritten rules about what is acceptable behaviour for men and women of different ranks. Unfortunately, Wisteria has never been good at unwritten rules. She needs things to be explicitly spelled out for her. So when a meeting is arranged between Wisteria and Lord Nikola on the understanding that they might get engaged, Wisteria turns up with a detailed document spelling out the expectations on both a business level and a personal level. That her document discusses details around procreation and the possibility of infidelity shocks both sets of parents, but Nik is intrigued and amused by her openness. He wants to know more about this woman who can be so forthright on forbidden subjects.

His growing fondness for Wisteria however does nothing to diminish his attraction to the handsome Lord Justin. Here the rules are more clear and a sexual relationship between men is considered abhorrent so the two must keep their love affair secret. Nik is not the only one drawn to Justin though – Wisteria finds herself equally attracted and wishes society would let her marry them both.

Much of this book is focused on the romance between the three characters, but there are some elements of action and suspense in the plot. It should be noted though that if you’re looking for adventure and battles in every other chapter, you might want to look elsewhere. If you like the idea of character-driven romance however, this is a great book.

I love the character of Wisteria. I found myself relating to her confusion and frustration at the illogic of many societal standards. She is an open and honest character who just wishes people would be more up front about things. Nik is also an easy character to like. He’s dedicated to trying to help people, and he just wants to do the right thing. It’s easy to understand why his people feel such loyalty to him.

The only character I didn’t particularly like was Justin, but he grew on me as the story progressed. My main problem with him was that he viewed certain groups/classes of people as inferior to him – he actually says, “I hate apologising to inferiors,” when he realises he mistreated an employee. This is probably excellent characterisation for a lord in a fantasy novel, but it made it hard for me to like him as a person. On the other hand, his loyalty towards Nik made him endearing and some of his actions towards the middle of the book won me over a little.

Some of the plot twists were so well sign-posted that I could see them coming a mile off, but they were unusual enough that I have no problem forgiving them for being obvious. With so many books full of love triangles, I was happy to read this different take on the trope.

From a representation standpoint, I thought this book did extremely well. The word “autism” is never used but Wisteria is clearly written as autistic. The way this is addressed in the book makes it clear that this isn’t an illness or a problem to be fixed, but simply a different way of being.

Nik has the ability to magically heal mental illness and this meant that issues of mental illness come up frequently in the background of the story – there is mention of a character who used to be suicidal, a character goes through trauma and suffers from what is clearly PSTD (again, the modern term is not used), while there are background characters suffering from everything from anxiety disorders to full-blown hallucinations. These are all treated in a highly respectful way.

All this is on top of Nik’s bisexuality and the issues of sexuality that are addressed.

While the book was a little predictable in places, it was highly enjoyable from start to finish. I will be on the look-out for other books by this author. Four and a half stars.

Author Interview: Mina Kelly

tease coverPlease start by telling us a little bit about yourself. 

Start with the hardest question, why don’t you! I’m a writer, a reader, a knitter (I’ve made actual clothes now, so I feel I can say this even if I still don’t bother with tension squares!), an adoptive Northerner, a geek and a little overwhelmed by life 🙂
Now tell us a little about your writing. 

Most of my published work is romance, erotic romance, or erotica. A lot of readers who don’t read any of the genres might assume there was a large overlap between the genres, but they are more distinct that outsiders realise. It’s not just about how much sex there is, it’s about what drives the plot and where it ends. I’m happy writing most pairings – my work ranges from f/f to m/m/m and does include the occasional m/f for variety! – though I usually come back to m/m in the end.

You have just had a new short story published. What’s this one about?never before touched by cupid
So Never Before Touched by Cupid isn’t new, exactly, but was published a few years ago by Forbidden Fiction as a standalone short, and is now being republished by them in a classical themed anthology: Timeless Lust. It’s an approach they take with a lot of their works, allowing them to offer a subscription model for readers that want it while also making stories available to purchase. Never Before is a little piece of real person fanfic, essentially, but with real people that most readers only know as vague and distant names: Horace, Virgil and Propertius. I’m a latin geek, and started shipping Virgil and Horace some years ago. I was inspired to include Propertius thanks to the introduction to a volume of his poetry that waxed lyrical about how attractive and manly he was and how the other poets would have been filled with a mix of jealous admiration and fatherly pride when he entered the scene. I was… skeptical. So I wrote out my scepticism.

How did you pick your nom de plume? 

My online handle since my teens was been Minerva Solo – Solo for Han Solo, and Minerva from a time a friend assigned our group goddesses. I didn’t want to use it for my original fiction, but I took Mina from Minerva, and Kelly from Grace Kelly, because I’d recently watched Rear Window.
inescapable

Do you have a favourite character in your stories? 
Probably Jared from Inescapable. He’s a risk taker with a strong survival instinct, someone who loves easily and lets go even more so. He’s currently a smuggler who specialises in biological material, but he’s turned his hand to a lot of things over the years, and has trouble admitting to himself that maybe he actually wants something a bit more stable, and legal, as he gets older.

How about a favourite moment? 
I don’t know that I can pick one. Jared’s escape from prison in Escapable. Toby chasing a car on foot in Flirt. Barnabas finding a naked man on the beach in Tease. Moments that change the direction of their stories or push their plots towards the conclusions.

Is there anything that’s surprised you since you got published? 
I think the speed with which the small ePress bubble burst caught me out, and not just me. Amazon took self-epublishing from a labour-intensive niche to the push of a button almost overnight, and it did strange things to the market in all directions. Competition splintered into millions of individual authors, instead of a handful of publishers, and once price stopped being dictated by retailers readers diversified in terms of what price they were willing to pay for what quality. I’ve loved working with small presses, but even the most established ones are closing down or collapsing under the weight of the competition, and I think it’s going to take some new and impressive tactics to stay ahead of the new market.

Are there any authors who particularly inspire you? 
I’m really into Courtney Milan’s historicals right now. She writes such a great, diverse range of heroes and heroines and uses them to explore pieces of history that often get overlooked in the genre. She makes me want to write one, but I’m still looking for the right plot (one which mostly plays to the historical knowledge I already have, so I don’t disappear down the research rabbit hole and forget to actually write the thing!)

What advice would you give to someone just getting started writing books?never before touched by cupid
Think about the career you want to have with them: where you want them to be available, what kind of control you want over them, how long you’re willing to keep going if no one reads them. It’s like snog, marry, avoid, except it’s art, career or hobby. You can do all three, write different books for different reasons, but remember to wear the right hat for the right book.

What are you working on at the moment?
Mostly knitting! I have various nieces and nephews on the way, so that’s taken precedence recently. My ‘to finish’ manuscripts folder at the moment includes an m/m football romance, an m/f holiday romance, and a third selkie book.

If you want to know more about Mina Kelly’s books, you can find them on her Amazon page. She also has a website at http://solelyfictional.org

Author Interview: Danielle L Jensen

Please start by telling us a little bit about yourself.

I live with my family in Calgary, Canada, and I spend most of my time chasing after my toddler and writing about fantastical things.

Now please share a little bit about your books.

Stolen Songbird front coverThe trilogy is about a young soprano named Cécile who is about to depart her family farm to join her mother on the opera stage in the big city. But before she can leave, trolls kidnap her and bond her to their crown prince, Tristan, in order to break the curse that has bound them to their underground kingdom for five centuries.

Except it doesn’t work.

Cécile is initially focused on escape, but she finds herself embroiled in the burgeoning revolution of the oppressed lower class of half-bloods who desire to overthrow their tyrannical king. A revolution that is lead by Prince Tristan himself. As she becomes more sympathetic to the trolls, and falls in love with Tristan, she has to decide whether freeing her friends is worth the risk of unleashing the trolls’ magic on the world. And she must live with the consequences of whatever path she chooses.

You were a finalist for the Best Debut Author with Stolen Songbird on Goodreads Choice. What was that like?

Incredible! Unlike most other awards, the Goodreads Choice nominations are based on reader response and reviews, and to have so many people love STOLEN SONGBIRD enough to vote it into the finals was not something I’d dreamed possible.

Do you have a favourite character in your books?

This surprises people, but my favourite character in the series is King Thibault. I’ve always known that he’s a troll with enormous depth, but much of that isn’t revealed until WARRIOR WITCH, which was one aspects of writing that novel that I enjoyed the most. He’s a hidden and guarded character, but his actions drive so much of the plot.

Music is obviously important for the character Cecile. Is music an important part of your life?

Not at all! I can’t sing, play an instrument, or even read music. I very rarely draw upon aspects of my own personality or life when I create my characters, and Cecile, in particular, is nothing like me.

What has surprised you most since getting published?

Probably the amount of time I’d spend on things that aren’t writing. Interviews, guest posts, read-alongs, events, social media, and giveaways take up a large portion of my workday, which wasn’t something I expected prior to publication.

Are there any authors who particularly inspire you?

I am blown away by Maggie Stiefvater’s prose – her writing is beautiful, and I aspire to be half that good some day. I admire the way Sarah J Maas creates such exceptional worlds that absolutely captivate her readers. I am continually in awe of Susan Dennard’s ability to find creative ways to engage with her readers, as well as the incredible amount of effort she puts towards helping aspiring writers with all the information on her website. My close friend Elise Kova, besides being an amazing writer, is a master of the business side of publishing, and she has inspired me to take more active control of certain aspects of my career.

If you could sit down for a chat with any author, living or dead, who would it be and why?

J.K. Rowling. Not so much because of Harry Potter, although I’m a huge fan, but because she’s created such an enormous and successful empire. I would love to pick her brain.

What advice would you give to someone just getting started writing books?Warrior Witch by Danielle L Jensen

Seek out criticism of your work and learn to embrace it. The big turning point in my writing career was when I stopped letting my pride get in the way of accepting and working with critiques. And check out Susan Dennard’s website – it has far better advice than I will ever give.

What are you working on at the moment?

I have other fantasy projects in the works, but they are not quite at the stage where I can talk about them, other than to say they exist 🙂

If you want to find out more about Danielle L Jensen and her books, check out her website at http://danielleljensen.com, or you can connect with her on Twitter or Facebook. Her latest book, Warrior Witch, is now available on Amazon.