Recent Reads: A Case of Madness and Ghosted

For this week’s Recent Reads, I read wonderful two stories about paranormal hallucinations or haunting with lots of humour and poignant moments.

I loved the premise of A Case of Madness (or the Curious Appearance of Holmes in the Nighttime) by Yvonne Knop, about a specialist lecturer on Sherlock Holmes living in contemporary London. I was even more intrigued when I learned that the author originally wrote the story in German before deciding to translate the story into English.

This was a charming and disarming tale as Andrew Thomas, beset by catastrophe, tries to gather his courage and make peace with his past. Along with the assistance of his absolute hoot of a best friend Mina (Watson to his Sherlock), in his despair, Andrew unwittingly summons Holmes in the form of a hallucination who advises him to open up to love. The romance between Andrew and Matt was tender and tentative and I found the A Case of Madness to be fun, quirky, compassionate and resolutely LGBTQIA+ positive. A lovely read.

Pretty much everything by Jess Whitecroft is a must-read for me and Ghosted was unputdownable. A frequently hilarious and sometimes downright spooky glimpse into the world of paranormal professionals, when experienced exorcist Jason and mainly fake medium Ange, meet at a haunted house in New Orleans and begin an opposites-attract romance.

I really enjoyed that although there was plenty of witty banter throughout, the personal tragedies of the main characters (and assorted ghosts) were taken seriously, which made me believe in and care for them. Gorgeously eclectic and sweetly romantic (in between the hauntings), Ghosted just swept me away. I really couldn’t get enough of Jason and Ange.

RoMMantic Reads: Alex and the Crime Solving Werewolf

This week’s free read on RoMMantic Reads Zine is as charmingly intriguing as it sounds! K.L. Noone has written a captivating short paranormal tale with a hint of romance, a whiff of skulduggery and oodles of whimsical fun. I’ll know you’ll enjoy Alex and the Crime Solving Werewolf as much as I did. Thanks, Kristin!

Recent Reads: Glittering Eyes and Read by Candlelight

For his week’s recent reads, I’m delighted to share two paranormal series that takes the reader to very different imaginary places.

Firstly, we have two Glittering Eyes stories from K.S. Murphy that I really hope will become an ongoing series (pretty please, Kelly!) Watch with Glittering Eyes, is a charming introduction to the magical pastoral world of witch Travis Greyweaver. A generous and stubborn man, Travis can’t be bothered with the constraints of the Magical Guilds and so is frequently in trouble with the stuffy Grand Council of High Magick. We’re also introduced to Nico, his cute constant companion of several years and a cat familiar as the back story of their relationship unfolds.

I really enjoyed how the intrusion of a malevolent paranormal force trapped in the local inn not only pooled their magical resources but also brought these two close enough to declare their feelings for each other. Their story continues in Trust with Glittering Eyes, when Nico’s hidden past threatens to catch up with him, disturbing the balance of his and Travis’ peaceful life. It’s no wonder that this story was included in JMS Book’s 2022 Top 10 Gay Romance anthology with its flawless world-building and a real sense of emotional connection between Travis and Nico. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!

We turn from a cosy world of fantastical magic to all things Gothic in Gillian St. Kevern’s wonderful Read by Candlelight series. Her writing evokes classic mid-Victorian stories with a unique and alternative vision. I was recommended these by the lovely Fiona Glass and I haven’t looked back!

Read by Candlelight and its companion series How to Train Your Werewolf can be dipped into by readers, as each story is complete in itself. However, I was glad I’d read the first story, The Secretary and the Ghost, before the others, as MCs Pip Leighton and Lord Cross have a cameo in each of the books, which added to my ongoing enjoyment of the series.

These Gothic gems have all the recognisable elements of the genre, including spooky manor houses, lurking unearthly menace, dark family secrets and vulnerable heroes. The language is sumptuous and completely in keeping with high-Victorian Gothic while the plots and storylines are fresh and completely engaging. Gillian St. Kevern is still adding to this series, so for those readers like me who are completely hooked, I found the chronological book list on her website invaluable.

With this week’s selections, it’s such a pleasure to enter into the worlds that both writers have created and to want more!

Recent Reads: Findley Black and the Ghosts of Printer’s Devil and Offbeat Crimes

So this week on Recent Reads, we venture into the realm of paranormal romance. It might be a few weeks beyond Halloween but it’s never too late for a cracking Halloween story, especially one from Amy Spector who excels at her own distinctive brand of Gothic noir. In Findley Black and the Ghosts of Printer’s Devil, there’s not only an old and supposedly haunted house that holds many secrets, but also a great cast of characters.

Owen Key, starting again at 34, has returned to the Printer’s Devil, a rambling bookshop he inherited from his estranged father, together with some quirky employees with a tendency for practical jokes which comprises his social life. When Findley Black, who runs a local ghost tour, approaches him hoping to get permission to spend the night ghost hunting at the store, Owen has hopes of a quick fling.

I relished the blend of romance, ghost story and sense of community in this wonderful story. Although very much a Halloween story, I really enjoyed that the focus was on relationships, be they estranged family, over-chatty employees, or a promising romantic connection. And the Printer’s Devil provided plenty of atmospheric spookiness! This story, along with all of Amy’s titles is in the JMS Books 60% off ebook Black Friday sale.

Angel Martinez has been on my to-read list for longer than I would like to admit, and now I’ve found her marvellous 6-book series, Offbeat Crimes, she will be on my must-read list! These paranormal detective stories take place in an alternative version of contemporary America, where paranormal beings are regularly incorporated into the police service. However, there are always those misfits whose ‘gifts’ don’t quite fit or are so specific to appear practically useless, and that is where Philadelphia’s 77th Precinct comes in handy for defective vampires, a lizard and wolfman, or those with an affinity for fruit or waterfowl, and those are the most straightforward ones!

Without giving away any spoilers for this treat of a series, these stories are charming, quirky, imaginative and downright funny. I love seamless the world-building and the mix of contemporary city life with added monsters, mayhem and paranormal goings-on. The plots are as inventive as the story titles (I mean, who could resist Feral Dust Bunnies), fast-paced and occasionally genuinely scary, especially as we become attached to members of our crew who are in peril.

In the first story, Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters, the officers of the 77th Precinct are a disparate bunch, but as the narrative continues (with a changing narrator for each story) and individuals find love and understanding, morale is boosted and our ‘useless’ oddballs become an effective team. It’s that wonderful mix of weirdness and warmth with truly likeable characters that makes Offbeat Crimes such an inventive delight.

Rainbow Snippets: A Trick of the Light

As it’s still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d choose another snippet from my new release, A Trick of the Light, my Trick or Treat Halloween novella for JMS Books.

Authors who take part in Rainbow Snippets each weekend are encouraged to post a few lines from one of their stories on their blog and then link back to the group post on Facebook. I always enjoy joining in with Rainbow Snippets, especially to read and comment on everyone else’s choice of snippet.

I chose a spooky snippet last week from this 1950s story, so this time, I thought I’d concentrate on a more romantic few lines. At the start of A Trick of the Light, my main character Kenneth Taylor has returned home to Bristol after a stint in National Service and having argued with his father about his future ambitions, he is living in a grotty rented room. But life looks more hopeful when he meets Gino, the son of a local café owner and they begin a tentative flirtation. After their first date at a local cinema, they return to Kenneth’s room…

Although he was half-waiting for Gino’s move, it was a pleasurable shock to feel Gino’s hands on his hips, those soft lips he had imagined on his, finding the bare skin on the nape of his neck above his collar. Teacups forgotten, Kenneth turned in Gino’s arms, and they kissed. In the haven of Kenneth’s room, there was no rush, no urgency, and Gino seemed perfectly content to press his lips to Kenneth’s for moments on end.

After daydreaming since he had first laid eyes on Gino, the actuality was equally as thrilling, but also romantic. Nothing like those snatched encounters behind the barracks where darkness and haste were expedient, and the act was never mentioned again after the event.

At long last, Gino drew away, his dark eyes liquid, his full lips reddened. “I’ve been wanting to do that for weeks,” he confessed, and Kenneth felt the fragile defences around his heart dissolve.

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