Review: The Orchid and The Lion by Gabriel Hargrave

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Review: The Orchid and The Lion by Gabriel Hargrave

I should mention two things before I get started with this review of the The Orchid and The Lion by Gabriel Hargrave. The first one is that it contains a sizeable amount of erotic content, specifically queer BDSM related content. The second is that I am not traditionally a spicy book reader, nor am I a member of the BDSM community. So, I am completely unequipped to comment on the erotic matter in this book and I’m not gonna. I’ll leave that to the many wonderful spicy book professionals that roam the internet!

Preface out of the way, let’s get down to this! The Orchid and The Lion is probably one of the most difficult books to describe that I’ve encountered. I could tell you that it’s an erotic sci-fi about two sex-workers living on a space station, working together to find love and happiness, but that would honestly not prepare you for the story at all. Just ask the friend I talked into buddy-reading the book with me by calling it “spicy gays in space”.

Having now read the full story, I’ve learned my lesson, and would place this book firmly in the category of sci-fi noir, with main character and narrator Dorian Vidales playing the role of both detective and glamorous fem fatale. When one of his favourite brothel clients – a member of the space station counsel – is found dead from an apparent suicide, Dorian is approached by the client’s daughter to find out what really happened. Dorian agrees, and reluctantly pulls at the thread that will expose a world of under-handed political dealings, revealing an insidious force pushing to corrupt the space station’s loving and accepting society.

Of course, while all this is going on, Dorian is also forced by his boss at the brothel La Vie Boheme to train the bratty new submissive, Laith Ritter. Laith is a cocky, reckless idiot that seems to think brothel work is easy. Dorian cannot stand him … and the feeling it clearly mutual. But Laith’s head first nature might be exactly what Dorian needs to knock apart the wall he’s built so carefully around himself. Maybe he can finally dismantle the fantasy of The Orchid, and just be Dorian.

Hopefully, the above gives you some idea of why I love this book so much. It’s an impressive genre blend, with a fast-paced plot and characters that leap off the page … some of which might make you want to murder from time-to-time. Hargrave builds a whole world that you learn to care about deeply, making sure even minor characters such as brothel clients and workers are given full personalities. And it’s a world that appears almost perfect, where everyone is treated with respect, regardless of their work, their gender, their sexuality, or their kinks. A world that some of us at the moment might be longing for. And then very slowly … Hargrave pulls the rug from under you.

It would almost be unforgiveable, if I didn’t know this to be the first book in a trilogy that I’ve been promised has a somewhat happy ending.

While many of the book’s themes are quite dark (and I 100% encourage looking up trigger warnings, particularly if you’re queer, trans or have experienced SA), it contains a number of delightful moments of queer joy. Some of my favourites include Dorian and Laith exploring the station together on a casual shopping trip, performances at La Vie Boheme’s club, and gentle moments over breakfast in the space station’s Flatiron Building. The plot might have the stakes racked up to 100, but The Orchid and the Lion still manages to capture many of the subtle nuances of queer life, as well as the vast diversity of this beautiful community.

Hargrave also does an excellent job of highlighting what it’s like to have boxed yourself in behind your own emotional idiocy. I personally often felt called-out by Dorian’s commentary on his own feelings and wanted to give us both a serious shake as a result. And Dorian’s character progression is pretty damn excellent as well. He’s not a perfect person and does not magically become one by the end of the book, continuing to make decisions based off his own trauma, gut reactions and cold business instinct throughout the story. But Dorian thaws just enough to allow a relationship with Laith to build, and that’s a small and beautiful miracle in itself. Quite enough personal growth for a man ‘living through a major historical event’, I think we can all agree.

Overall, I loved this book for its vivid characters and stark contrasts. It’s a book with many edges, that might leave you with a fair few paper cuts, but it’s written with a lot of love and I can’t wait to see what Hargrave has in store for Dorian and Laith next.

Author Spotlight:

If this review has piqued your interest, you can grab your copy here. And once you’ve read the book you should also check out the merch store … where you might see a bunny slipper design made by somebody you know and love (me, I made it, it me 😉). Gabriel also runs a fabulous Patreon where folks can find previews and extra goodies from The Orchid and The Lion universe and check out other things he’s working on which you can find here.

Review: Each Little Universe by Chris Durston

Each Little Universe book cover floating in space with some astrological doodles
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Review: Each Little Universe by Chris Durston

Warning: while I won’t give any specific spoilers in this review of Each Little Universe, I will talk about the tone of this book, particularly in regard to the ending, so if you’re not a fan of even the vaguest of spoilers, this is not the review for you!

It’s taken me a long time to collect my thoughts on Each Little Universe by Chris Durston, but that’s not a mark against the book at all. Far from it. The problem really has been that this book gave me so many feelings that I didn’t quite know how to process them (other than by sending Durston a series of faux angry tweets the night I finished it). But having now stewed over that ending for six months, I’ve come to the firm decision that Each Little Universe is a five-star story for me.

The book tells the tale of flatmates and inventrepreneurs T and Veggie and their encounter with an actual, literal fallen star, Ziggy. Ever enthusiastic about this thing that humans call living, Ziggy is curious to know everything about existing on Earth, from town fairs to table-top role-playing games, to what celebrities are exactly? Thankfully, T and Veggie are more than happy to give her the guided tour, and not just because she happens to be an absolute genius at inventing stuff that people don’t need. However, while things on Earth seem all high rolls and hijinks, Ziggy’s fall from the heavens has set something huge in motion. After all, for every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction.

I think the thing I loved most about this book is that it has a kind of lazy pace to it. I’m a slow reader, so that might have influenced this a little, but I found that dipping in and out of the story was like dipping in and out of a conversation with friends. I could join any time I needed to, enjoy a low-stakes game of not-dungeons-and-dragons or not-dark-souls, and then dip out when things got busy again. It was incredibly comforting, and I loved every single one of the characters, including T and Veggie’s extended friendship group. I also very much appreciated the array of on page representation, both LGBT+ and neurodiverse, including a non-verbal character. It was lovely to see, and Durston did a fantastic job of making their little friendship group feel like home.

Of course, as indicated by my blurb, the initial low-stakes vibe does change about midway through. While the capers and silliness stick around, there are flashes of dark reality, a grittier undertone seeping through. I foolishly ignored these hints and prods and ended up getting blind-sided and incredibly weepy over the last chapter (my bad). I was only consoled by the quick formation of a head canon of events that would definitely follow the last page (thank you, years spent writing fanfiction). But it’s an absolute testament to Durston’s writing that I got that emotional. I was fully attached to his set of ridiculous lovelies and if that’s not good writing, I don’t know what is!

There are honestly so many wonderful and poignant bits in this book that I could never list them all, so instead of fussing and faffing and ultimately ruining my point I’m just going to say: I’ve never read a book more ridiculously silly and overwhelmingly heart-wrenching at the same time. It’s a book written with all the comedic inflection of the late great Terry Pratchett, but this Terry Pratchett is holding a knife behind his back, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. I will never forgive you, Durston, but I will also never forget this book. Thank you very much, [insert expletives here].

Author Spotlight:

Each Little Universe was Durston’s debut novel and was reprinted last year by the wonderful humans at Skullgate Media. Durston has also featured in a number of anthologies by Skullgate Media and Lost Boys Press, and self-published a collection of essays entitled Video Games: Art, Theory, Design and Philosophy (2021). His second big fiction tome, Chronicles from the World of Guilt, is coming soon from Three Ravens Press! He’s also just an all-round funny fella, who makes music out of books and supports the heck out of the writing community, so you should go follow him on Twitter and keep up with his projects 😉

Review: Partners in Crime by Rachel Bowdler

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Review: Partners in Crime by Rachel Bowdler

When I saw the ARCs for Rachel Bowdler’s latest book, Partners in Crime, get announced I practically threw myself onto booksprout to grab a copy. I didn’t even have an account set up, but I knew that this book would be a five star read for me. After all, it ticked literally every box: friends to lovers, sunshine x grump dynamic, sapphic romance and a murder mystery with a whodunnit puzzle for my sleuthy brain to munch on while I waited for these two disaster queers to say, “I love you”.

I’ve been following Bowdler on Twitter for a while now, but had never read one of her books before. I knew she had strong romance game, so I was expecting characters I’d fall in love with and a nice easy read. Somehow, though, I was still bowled over by how much I loved the characters, and how compelled I was to keep reading.

There’s a great nuance to the way Bryce and Thea are written. I think there’s a tendency in romance to give us characters we’ve seen again and again, and that’s fine. Sometimes you want the comfort of things you’ve seen before. But Bowdler doesn’t stop at trope level. Bryce isn’t just a grump, she’s a high school burn out who’s scrabbled to get her life together so she can parent her younger sister and give her everything that their parents just couldn’t be bothered to. And Thea isn’t just your standard dollop of sunshine, she’s a true crime fanatic who sees murderers everywhere because of her own past trauma. It was a wonderful surprise to uncover all the little details of these two and see them work together to get past their issues. Honestly … I’m a little obsessed.

And that obsession showed in how quickly I ploughed through the book. Normally, I’m a slow reader and, even though this is a novella, I’d usually take about a week or longer. However, I tore through this little gem in a couple of days and was VERY unhappy that I’d finished it. For me, that means every spare moment I had I was whizzing through the kindle app open on my phone, instead of wading through tiktok. That’s no small feat.

I loved the ease of Bowdler’s writing style, the witty little interactions, the tiny details of character and relationships drizzled in. And the tension, both on the romantic and mystery side, was incredibly well strung.

Did I spot the murderer very early on? Yes, absolutely. But as any fan of a good murder mystery will tell you, the anticipation of being proved right is half the fun. And for those of you who are aware of the debate around the ethics of true crime podcasting, know that this book does not shy away from that discussion. While Partners in Crime starts with two women who enjoy horror movies going over the details of grizzly murders, it does not end that way, something which I very much appreciated.

So in summation, I really loved this book, I fully intend on buying a paperback and re-reading it soon, and I may have found a new favourite author 😀 100 stars, would set up a booksprout from scratch just to get an early copy again.

Partners in Crime is available for pre-order now here or grab a paperback now! Release date for the ebook is the 30th of May.

Review: The Fable of Wren by Rue Sparks

Fable of Wren Banner taken from RueSparks.com. Image shows Fable of Wren book cover on a grey misty background.
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Review: The Fable of Wren by Rue Sparks

The Fable of Wren is the second of Sparks’ books that I’ve had the pleasure of reading (the first being their short work Daylight Chasers) and I’m happy to report that it does not disappoint.

The story follows Wren, a stubborn, reclusive enby trying to put their life back together after the death of the uncle that raised them. When their uncle’s best friend is found dead in the woods under mysterious circumstances, Wren must learn to rely on new friends and old to help bring themself and the town closure. Featuring a cinnamon roll best friend, a slightly magical secret society of bird-watchers, and storytelling from beyond the grave, this quiet, speculative mystery certainly packs a punch. But a gentle, kind punch.

Sparks’ has such an amazing way with words, painting perfect pictures of the hot humid forestry of Lousiana, the dusty quiet of the records room in a small town, and the chatter of a well-loved diner. It’s something that I can’t help but envy as a writer myself. They also capture grief and loss in an incredibly sensitive and delicate manner. These are themes that often occur in Sparks’ work, but each piece brings something new, adding an extra dimension to the conversation surrounding these topics. Fable of Wren explores the impact of death on mental health and relationships, as well as displaying the importance of finding community (or family) to help heal some of that pain. It is an incredibly tender and warm-hearted book and it deserves more stars than Goodreads and Amazon will allow me to offer.

As puzzle writer, I also love a good mystery and this book certainly appealed to me on that level as well. While the narrative and resolution to the story might not be quite what you’d expect of a classic mystery (which is why Sparks’ describes it as a quiet mystery), it was certainly fun to try and puzzle out the answers as Wren worked to uncover the killer. The Fable of Wren contains plenty of interesting tidbits to mull over between reading sessions and it was hugely satisfying to have many of my guesses proved right in the end. You always know you’ve done foreshadowing well when the sleuthy readers can see where you’re going!

Overall, this is another five star book from a brilliant indie author that I can’t help but envy. Sparks’ is a real talent and I hope you’ll give their work a try. Helpful links to grab your copy of Fable here!

Author Spotlight:

On top of being a fantastic author, Rue Sparks is also an AMAZING artist.  If reading is not your thing, you can check out their shop here, where they sell prints, bookmarks, and zines. You can also find signed copies of their books on their shop too (unsigned copies can be found on Amazon, Waterstones, Barns and Noble and through all good bookshops)! For news on Sparks’ upcoming projects, follow their blog, subscribe to their newsletter and find all sorts of other goodies on their website here.

Labours of Stone: Section Release and Launch Event

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Pre-Amble

Guess what time it is, folks! It’s time to get a sneak peek at my upcoming queer urban fantasy novella, Labours of Stone (arriving 20th November, 2021)! Why today? Well, the sky has been shifting between a bright blue and a strange overcast pink, I’m almost finished with my formatting, and I’m snuggled up in a blanket with Mr Kit. Basically, it’s a heckin’ good day and I wanted to share some joy!

If, after reading the lil’ section you find below, you decide you’d like to read on, Labours of Stone is currently available for pre-order in ebook form here. Paperbacks will be available from the 20th of November (just 21 days to go…assuming this English student can do basic maths). You might also want to grab you free ticket to the Labours of Stone book launch, featuring myself, Rue Sparks (The Fable of Wren, Daylight Chasers), Lou Willingham (Not Quite Out) and Jaimie Schock (‘The Talisman War’ series). I’ll be reading another short snippet from the book, and then the panel and I will be answering all your burning questions! Grab your ticket here.

Now, without further ado, welcome to the life of Ephra Stone:

Labours of Stone: Opening Pages

Baby vomit pink, Ephra Stone decided. That’s the only way to describe it. It’s baby vomit pink.

Ephra was staring intensely, and with a considerable amount of resentment, at the ceiling of his publisher’s polished London office. When he was forced to think about it, Ephra knew it wasn’t really the obnoxious shade that Halwyn Tân had chosen to decorate with that made him resent the ceiling’s existence. No, it was how often he found himself staring at it, puzzling over the exact right phrase to describe it.

He had never even wanted to be a romance novelist in the first place. Ephra had always intended to write the next great piece of literature. In fact, he had. He’d written a beautiful and immersive 100,000-word tome to rival the Odyssey. But no-one would publish it.

His first romance manuscript had been cooked up largely drunk, a week away from eviction, with the sweat of desperation dripping from his brow. When he’d finished, he had taken a walk of shame to his local coffee shop and slipped down the back as quickly as possible. He had settled himself into a corner, laptop out, empty reusable cup on full display, hoping that no-one would notice he hadn’t purchased anything before he could log onto the Wi-Fi and send out his query. He had hesitated wildly, telling himself it would be the worst mistake of his career, but inevitably he had pressed send.

Fast forward for what seemed like an eternity, and Ephra was working on his fifth trashy romance novel. The preceding four had contained almost the exact same plot and glove-puppet characters. All he did was re-skin the story with a new setting and different coloured hair. Halwyn loved it. Ephra was his –

“Money-maker!”

Ephra jumped, righting himself in the low bucket seat as Halwyn entered. He tried not to balk at the lilac suit and candyfloss tie the man was wearing, instead grumbling, “Morning, Halwyn.”

“Morning!” Halwyn replied brightly, marching around his desk. “Remind me, Ephra, why are you here today?”

Ephra sighed. “You said you had something urgent you wanted to talk to me about.”

“Oh!” Halwyn said, then paused, eyeing the contents of his desk. He slammed his hands down, making Ephra jump again. “Oh, yes! I remember now. I wanted to check if you’re on track for your draft deadline?”

Ephra grimaced. He wasn’t, but that was no reason to drag him across London during Monday morning rush hour. “Halwyn, how is that urgent?”

“Because, Ephra, I thought I’d pre-empt the little tantrum we had last time, make sure there are no ‘messes’ heading my way, and remind you you’re under contract and –”

“And if I don’t get a wiggle on, you’ll cancel our contract and ask for my advance back.” He mimicked Halwyn’s broad Welsh accent. “Yes, Halwyn, I know. And you promised me you wouldn’t bring up last time.”

Halwyn lowered his voice. “I might well have done, but there’s no need to be a prick about it, Ephra. You make me a lot of money, but you know I won’t tolerate bullying. What’s the company motto?”

Ephra rolled his eyes. “We love love.”

“Yes, we love love. Not mocking imitations of our colleagues.”

Ephra took a deep breath in and slowly released it through his teeth. “I’m sorry, Halwyn.”

“Thank you.” Halwyn grinned at him. Sometimes, out of the corner of his eye, Ephra could swear the whole row of teeth looked like fangs. “Now, how is the book going?”

“It’s going.”

“So you’ve not written anything yet?”

Ephra knocked the heel of his shoe against the magenta carpet. “Not yet, no.”

“Right, well then. I’ll have a thousand words by tomorrow morning, please.”

“You’ve got to be joking!”

“I couldn’t be further from joking, Ephra. This time the cancellation threat is very real. Management are beginning to question if the amount you bring in balances against the overtime they pay me to chase you. So I am going to get you on track. Do you understand?”

Ephra growled and began to scramble out of the low chair with little grace. He shook out his long coat and smoothed down the lapels, then remembered how short the coat made him look and wished he’d stayed seated.

“Ephra, I asked you a question.”

“God, Hal! Yes! Fine, you’ll have your bloody book on time!” Ephra snarled. “But do me a favour and get rid of the baby vomit on the ceiling, will you? It’s driving me batty.”

Halwyn looked up in confusion. “What baby vomit?”

Ephra growled again and stalked out of the office.

***

As he always did after a crummy meeting with Halwyn, Ephra got off the tube at Knightsbridge Station, bought a terrible and incredibly expensive coffee from the high street, and made a rapid beeline north towards the park. He headed straight for the edge of the Serpentine, slowing down with a deep exhalation the moment he saw the water.

It was November and the air was bitter, but the sky was crystal clear. There weren’t many people wandering around the park in the middle of Monday morning, but a couple of boats full of rowers cut through the glassy water, sending waves skittering across the surface. Ephra stopped for a moment and watched them speed along. He imagined what it would be like to feel the cold air whistling across his broad cheek bones, tousling through his dark, scraped-back hair. He yearned to be out there with the rowers, but of course, he didn’t even know how to swim.

He took a swig of his coffee, made a face, and began to stroll along the underbelly of the Serpentine, his ultimate goal a scraggy old flat above a shop in Bayswater. He made a lot of money for Halwyn, yes, but the contract he’d signed had been for five small advance payments and crappy royalties. It was more money than most writers made, but most writers weren’t pumped like machines.

Ephra shook his head clear. He had to stop thinking about work when he wasn’t working. He had to try and find some joy in life again. He took another sip of coffee. Finding a better coffee shop should also be on the priority list, he thought. His stomach growled. I guess food would be good as well.

He plodded along a bit further before musing aloud,“Maybe a little love for myself would be quite nice, too.”

A fluffy little song thrush perched on the fence chutted at him. Ephra stopped. He quickly looked around to check no-one was coming and then said, “No, not really. I don’t think I’ve ever been in love.”

The bird chirped at him again. Ephra frowned. “Well, to have been in love you have to have found someone, connected with them, said the words, and then you have to be willing to fight for that, right? But I’m knocking on thirty and terminally single. Every time I meet someone and think, maybe, maybe this will work, something gets in the way.”

“Tweet?” The thrush turned its head, as if asking a question.

“Sometimes it’s a new job on the other side of the planet, other times the one that got away comes back right as things are getting interesting. The last time an actual war started up the day I was going to tell this soldier guy I was seeing that I wanted to be exclusive. I was a wreck after that one.” Ephra took a deep breath. Moaning at some poor bird wasn’t really helping anything. “Sorry, little fella. I’m being miserable, aren’t I?” Ephra looked around again, and offered the song thrush his finger.

He found the birds in Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens were alarmingly tame. They often landed on him if he stood still long enough, and despite how frequently he vented his frustration to them, they rarely flew away. The thrush hopped up onto his finger. Ephra put his coffee down next to the railing and petted his new feathered friend with his thumb.

Halwyn’s motto, ‘We love love,’ span around Ephra’s head. The truth was that Ephra Stone, the great romance novelist, didn’t ‘love love’. Ephra didn’t even know love.

Ephra scoffed, shook himself again, and said to the bird, “I really need to stop thinking about work. No wonder I can never get any sleep.”

The thrush chirped twice and then fluttered off his hand. Ephra grabbed his coffee. When he looked up again, the bird was back on the fence. It chirped and hopped away a little. He took a step forward and it flew off. Ephra felt a strange impulse to see where it was going. He jogged steadily after it, until it disappeared into the landscaping next to the Serenity statue.

Ephra came to a halt, panting. Well, that was silly, he thought. At least I got some exercise in, though.

He took a moment to admire the shining green statue in the morning light, then took the path to the right, along the river’s edge, craving the extra breeze off the water. He was almost to the Serpentine Bridge when he heard the first yell.

“Sticks! Sticks! Where are you, Sticks?!” It was a male voice coming from the block of bushes and trees to his left, where the song thrush had hidden itself.

Surely there’s no shortage of sticks in there? Ephra mused and snorted.

Then a man came tumbling out before him; a tall, lean, sun-kissed god, with a flop of unkempt curls. Ephra had about a second to think, Oh, no, before reaching out an arm to stop the poor guy from falling straight into the river. He launched his terrible coffee into the water in the process.

“Shhhhugar,” said the man. “Oh, good heavens. I’m sorry! Are you alright? Oh, no, your coffee. I’m so sorry!”

Ephra blinked at him, unable to think anything other than, Oh, no. No, no, no. I didn’t really mean it. Stupid bird. No.

Post-Amble

If you made it this far, I really hope you enjoyed the ride so far! Drop a like if this lil’ book is now on your wishlist 😉

Stars and Sunshine,

Em

Launch Event: The Fable of Wren

The Fable of Wren Launch Event Banner
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Exciting news! This Sunday (24th October) at 6.30PM (BST), I will be hosting a book launch event for Rue Sparks’ new book, The Fable of Wren! The event will be happening online via zoom and tickets are free, but you must register through the eventbrite to attend. Link here.

I was so pleased that Rue asked me to take part in this. Some of you may remember the review I wrote for Daylight Chasers back in 2020, which, spoiler, I absolutely loved. Rue is an amazing author with a real talent for creating crisp visuals and loveable characters. I was very much chomping at the bit to be involved in the launch of their new book.

The Fable of Wren is a mystery, with just a hint of something speculative. It follows stubborn enby Wren and their new friend Jethro, as together they attempt to navigate small town politics and grief to uncover what happened to Adrian Turney, an elderly member of the Citizens (a society of birdwatchers who are mysteriously feared by the locals). For a full blurb checkout the amazon page here, and maybe pre-order yourself a copy while you’re there.

I intend to do a full review when I have time, but the long and the short of it is, I was enthralled by this little novel. I loved the characters so, so much. Wren was a force to be reckoned with, and their difficulty connecting and standoffishness really struck a chord with me. And Jethro, well, he has a magnetic personality which shines from the page. He’s so very easy to love.

I am also a huge fan of mystery and speculative fiction, and Rue’s done an excellent job of knitting the two genres together in a very subtle, gentle sort of way. It was a pleasure to read from beginning to end.

If any of this piques your curiosity, then please go grab a ticket and come hang out with Rue and I at the launch event! It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the book, see my charming features, and ask any burning questions you might have.

I hope to see you there … and I’ll be doing a post on my Labours of Stone event soon O_O

Stars and Sunshine,

EM.

Bouncing Back with a New Book

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Hello, hello! I’m bouncing back into the blogosphere for the first time in forever – well, in 2021 – to deliver some exciting news:

I have a new book coming out!

It’s called Labours of Stone, it’s a queer urban fantasy novella, and it will be arriving on the 20th of November, 2021!

Some of you might already know this (because I’ve been yelling about it frequently on my socials for the last week or so), but I’ve been wanting to get this blog running again for the longest time, and I figured what better way to do it that to make a post with everything you need to now about Labours of Stone?

So let’s get started with the blurb:

Day after day, Ephra Stone labours away on trashy romance novels he can’t stand for his nightmarishly pink-obsessed publisher, Halwyn Tân. Ephra’s trapped in a five-book deal from hell and it never seems to end; there’s always one more book to go, one more trope to mangle. And the worst part of it all?

Ephra himself has never been in love.

Every time he catches a whiff of romance, plans mysteriously go awry, dates suddenly have to move away, and Ephra finds himself hopelessly alone again. It’s as if the universe itself has been conspiring against his love life.

That is until, one fateful day, a little birdy leads the way … right into the arms of Ron Brook: sun-kissed god, possible millionaire, and guardian to the world’s most intelligent not-a-dog.

On paper, their relationship makes great material for Ephra’s next romance novel. At least Ephra thinks so. And for once, he’s actually enjoying his writing.

But not everyone is on board with Ephra’s new-found happiness, and Ephra might have to battle more than just some vapid publisher to keep hold of it.

Sounds good, right?

Honestly, I’m so psyched to be bringing this little book out into the world. The past eighteen months have been a real mental health rollercoaster, but these characters and the small slice of London they live in have kept me going.

The book deals with some dark themes (please read the CWs before reading), but it’s also riddled with hidden and not-so-hidden puns, and features the sweet golden retriever boyfriend that is Ron. Combine that with a sassy snake companion, park bird therapists and some gentle silliness, it’s a book designed to bring a little joy where it’s needed. I genuinely hope you’ll love it.

If this sounds up your alley, the ebook version is currently available for pre-order on Amazon. Unfortunately, as with Moon-Sitting, paperbacks will not be available until the publication date (20th of November). However … there will be plenty of reminders, perhaps some sneak peeks, and maybe even a launch event (you might want to pencil 7pm on the 20th into your diaries) before then.

AH! I can’t stop bouncing. I might not sleep between now and November.

Stars and Sunshine,

EM.

Review: Daylight Chasers by Rue Sparks

Picture of Kit the cat tucked up with a copy of Daylight Chasers
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Review: Daylight Chasers by Rue Sparks

Daylight Chasers went on my wish list the moment I saw it. Rue’s artwork for this little book was so striking, my gut told me it could only contain good things. My gut was very much correct.

At around 40 pages long, Daylight Chasers follows Keenan and his colleague Billy as they attempt to make Isabella’s dream of an almost never-ending day come true. It is not a story with a great and mysterious plot, but that’s not the book it was intended to be.

Instead, Rue has written a book about traversing grief, and the great jumble of emotions that come with it. Despite its dark subject matter, Daylight Chasers is littered with powerful images of joy, triumph and comfort.

At first, I was a little confused (but intrigued!) by the choice to tell the story from Keenan’s perspective, but the reason for this quickly became clear. His journey with Isabella is painted with bold strokes, and the bizarre and impossible scenarios they find themselves in act as a perfect metaphor for the sometimes alienating experience of watching someone learning to cope without a loved one.

As someone who’s experimented with the concept of ‘chasing daylight’ in writing myself, it was also really interesting to see how it was used in this book. I felt like it did an excellent job of representing the longing for things to never end and compulsion to run away from day-to-day life. It’s strange to think that standardised time – something that’s only really existed for 140 years – is now so engrained into the way we think, that abandoning it in fiction can be used to create a fluid and magical version of the reality we know. This Rue does masterfully, and I’d love to see how else they might apply this idea.  

All in all, Daylight Chasers is a sweet and powerful. It’s a very heartfelt and careful expression of love and loss. I honestly can’t wait to read more from Rue Sparks.

If you’re interested in picking up a copy, you can find it on Amazon here in ebook and paperback formats.

Author Spotlight:

As mentioned earlier, Rue designed the cover for Daylight Chaser’s themself. On top of being a great author, they’re also an AMAZING artist.  If reading is not your thing, you can check out their Etsy here, where they have prints, cards and commission slots. You can also follow their blog, subscribe to their newsletter and find all sorts of other goodies on their website here.

A Short Post-Amble

Hello! It’s been a while! Lots of ups and downs occurring, but I’m still writing away and surviving 2020, I promise!

I wanted to drop a quick note to say I’ve decided that I’d like to do more reviews of self-pubbed and indie-pubbed books. If you have a novella/novel you’d like me to look at, drop me a message. I’m particularly interested in science-fiction, but will read basically anything.  Be aware, though, that I’m reading heckin’ slowly at the moment!

Love and Stars,

EM

The Cobalt Diamond Factory

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Pre-Amble:

Shock! Horror! I’m getting pretty good at making these shorts a regular thing. The story below is based on another #RueLouPrompts prompt. If you’re a writer looking for some inspiration, I couldn’t recommend them more. You can find Rue and Lou here and here, respectively.

This fortnight’s prompt was “ghost in the machine”. I went down a kind of creepy path, so, uh, brace yourselves for that. I haven’t been able to edit it as much as I would have liked, due to some family matters that happened yesterday (an ambulance was involved), but I hope you enjoy it, nonetheless.

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We Follow the Sun

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Pre-Amble:

In a turn of events that surprises absolutely no-one, here is a story I wrote literally five minutes ago in a response to a #RueLouPrompt. I have briefly checked for mistakes, please don’t judge this sleepy butt.

What you might be surprised to here is that I did actually start drafting for this week’s prompt on Saturday. Of course, that draft then turned into a 5k short story that I’ve decided to edit and query … and lo, another story was needed, and I did provide.

What amuses me most about this piece is how very different it is from the other story, but what can I say, I was ready for some wholesome fur friend content.

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