Predictable Violence by Gillean Campbell

Predictable Violence cover

Predictable Violence by Gillean Campbell, 324 pages, July 24th, 2017, Genre: Psychological Thriller/Mystery.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Predictable Violence weaves two tales together. The two tales are told in alternating chapters. One is the modern day mystery surrounding the murder of three people in their own home. The other is the backstory several years earlier of the main character, Mackenzie “Mack” Anderson. I very much enjoyed the style in which the two stories were presented and how they melded into one. The pacing worked well.

As a young college student, Mack lost her husband and small child in a convenience store shooting. These traumatic events are what shaped her. They’re what drives her to seek justice for those harmed by violence. Now, Mack is a detective, stepping in when murder occurs in a small town where the officers are unaccustomed to how to handle it. Mack is a well-developed character, likable, relatable, particularly if the reader is a wife and mother. I cared about her, what she endured, and what she would have to face. The other characters serve their purpose in the story but aren’t nearly as well-developed.

I’m not sure if it’s simply because I read a lot of mysteries, but I suspected who did it very early on and as the novel progressed, it turned out my suspicions were correct. The story provides several twists and turns to keep the reader interested regardless. There were several proofreading mistakes in the Kindle edition, such as sentences that lacked ending punctuation and a couple of misspelled words.

Overall, it was an entertaining read. Campbell has produced an engaging debut thriller novel.

You can find this book at Predictable Violence.

Book Description:

The plot of Predictable Violence is intelligent and full of twists, with a reveal of whodunit that will shock. If you love gripping detective thrillers with a jaw-dropping ending, this book is a must for you!

Mackenzie Anderson’s husband and two-year old daughter were shot and killed when Mack was only nineteen years old. When the police stopped trying to find the murderer, Mack began working with a private investigator. But, the murderer was a ghost. Mack had no way of knowing then that in a fluke of life she would come face-to-face with the murderer six years later. Now, she must decide if she will risk everything for vengeance.

As a homicide detective with the Idaho State Police, Mack lives her life being a champion for the dead. When she’s called in to lead the investigation of a triple homicide with no physical evidence and a nine-year old witness, the case seems impossible. Who could carry out such brutality? And why?

The debut novel from Gillean Campbell, Predictable Violence, is a new addition to the great police procedural tradition of Robert Bryndza, Robert Dugoni, Patricia Gibney, and Angela Marsons.

About the Author:

Gillean’s mysteries feature strong females, chilling perpetrators, psychological twists, and a little bit of romance.

Even as a small child Gillean was a storyteller. In grade school, classmates would follow her around the school yard as she role played a new story that had come to her. When Gillean’s children were grown and she retired, stories started coming unbidden to her. Her problem now is that she can’t get the characters to go to sleep at night.

Gillean was born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She worked for the military for twenty-five years, while raising two children as a single mother. After retiring, Gillean moved back to Santa Fe where she lives with her four-legged best friend. When not writing mysteries, Gillean is reading them. She also enjoys fly fishing and camping in the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado.


Day of the Tiger by Dallas Gorham

Day of the Tiger by Dallas Gorham

Day of the Tiger by Dallas Gorham, 313 pages, Seven Oaks Publishing LLC, March 6th 2016, Genre: Hard-Boiled Mystery. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Day of the Tiger is the fifth installment of a seven book series featuring private detective Carlos McCrary. Carlos “Chuck” McCrary served his country in Iraq and Afghanistan, working to make the world a bit safer and better, and has the battle scars to prove it. Now a private detective, Chuck continues his quest to make the world a safer and better place, not just for the strong, but for everyone. There are two things about Chuck that I adored. One, he tries to be funny, but most people don’t get his quirky sense of humor. I could relate to that. Chuck won’t be deterred, and neither will I. Keep the groans and odd looks coming, folks. Two, Chuck cannot stand by and watch someone unable to defend himself get picked on by bullies. When Chuck was a kid, he got the crap kicked out of him by school bullies to defend another kid. He gave as good as he got, and the bullies left the kid alone, so it was worth it. This defines Chuck’s worldview; everything flows from this event and his decision to protect the other kid, no matter the personal cost.

Enter Tank Tyler, a multi-millionaire NFL player, with a job for his old friend Chuck. A mobster named Monster Moffett has threatened to kill Al Rice, his old college buddy and former fellow college football player. Al Rice owes Monster a couple hundred thousand dollars and is past due on the payment date. Monster smashed Al’s hand brutally and has threatened to kill Al’s mother if Al can’t pay by the new due date. Sure, Tank could pay the debt for Al easily, as he has paid all of Al’s other debts over the years. But Tank knows they’re caught up in a vicious cycle and paying off the debts every time only enables Al. Tank asks Chuck to protect Momma Dora and help him find a way to get Al to reform his bad habits that led him here. When the evildoers kidnap Dora, the stakes are raised and there’s no way Chuck can let them harm her.

Despite being part of a series, the book stands alone so it may be read without having to read all the prior books in the series. This is an enjoyable fast-paced hard-boiled adventure with plenty of action, imperfect heroes, and interesting antagonists. I had a lot of fun reading it and would recommend it to fans of hard-boiled fiction.

This book can be found at Day of the Tiger.

Book Description:

It is better to live for one day as a tiger than to live for a thousand years as a sheep.

—Tibetan Proverb

Opposites attract, right? Is that why a tiger like Tank Tyler keeps bailing out a sheep like Al Rice? Tank is a wealthy investment manager and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame—the pertect tiger in life, both personally and financially. Tank’s friend Al Rice is the polar opposite: a miserable failure of a sheep since being kicked off his college football team sixteen years ago, a loser at the mercy of drugs and self-pity.

What mystery has entangled the lives of these two men? Tank Tyler and Al Rice share a secret that ruined Al’s life and turned Tank Tyler’s dreams into nightmares for years, in spite of his outward success.

Now Al Rice has been targeted by Monster Moffett, a loan shark who crushed Al’s hand with a ball-peen hammer when he couldn’t pay his debt. Moffett even threatened Al’s mother, Doraleen Rice. In fear for her life, Doraleen begs Tank Tyler for help. Tank hires Private Investigator Chuck McCrary to protect both Doraleen and Al.

Then Al goes missing. When Chuck searches for him, he uncovers a trail of human sex trafficking and forced prostitution.

Moffett’s organized crime gang kidnaps Doraleen Rice to hold as collateral for her son’s debt. Al swears to turn his life around, but he’s promised that before.

Chuck will need more than brawn, balls, and bullets to sort out this mess.

About the Author:

Dallas Gorham is a sixth-generation Texan and a proud Texas Longhorn, having earned a Bachelor of Business Administration at the University of Texas at Austin. He graduated in the top three-quarters of his class, maybe.

Dallas, the writer, and his wife moved to Florida years ago to escape Dallas,the city, winters (Brrrr. Way too cold) and summers (Whew. Way too hot). Like his fictional hero, Chuck McCrary, he lives in Florida in a waterfront home where he and his wife watch the sunset over the lake most days and where he has followed his lifelong love of reading mysteries and thrillers into writing them in his home office. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Florida Writers Association. He also chairs the Central Florida annex meetings of the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America because he can’t get anyone else to take the post.

When not writing fiction, Dallas is frequent (but bad) golfer. He plays about once a week because that is all the abuse he can stand. One of his goals in life is to find more golf balls than he loses. He also is an accomplished liar (is this true?) and defender of downtrodden palm trees.

Dallas is married to his one-and-only wife who treats him far better than he deserves. They have two grown sons whom they are inordinately proud of. They also have seven grandchildren who are the smartest, most handsome, and most beautiful grandchildren in the known universe. He and his wife spend waaaay too much money on their love of travel. They have visited all 50 states and over 90 foreign countries, the most recent of which was Morocco, where their cruise ship stopped at Agadir (don’t bother).

Dallas writes a blog at that is sometimes funny, but not nearly as funny as he thinks. The website also has more information about his books. If you have too much time on your hands, you can follow him on Twitter at @DallasGorham, or Facebook at

Castle Danger by Chris Norbury

Castle Danger

Castle Danger by Chris Norbury, 296 pages,, Inc., April 26th 2016, Genre: Psychological Thriller. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Castle Danger is a suspenseful, engaging read. Taking place in northwest Minnesota in a frightful winter, the setting comes alive, menacing and life-threatening to any who lack the foresight and skills to survive. People who’ve been kicked in the teeth and were able to get back up again would call such a place home with pride. The winter’s not easy, but what in life ever is? It’s when things aren’t easy that one’s character and mettle are tested.

No good deed goes unpunished and this is doubly true for our protagonist, Matt. A quiet man, he’d rather watch, learn, and plan than chit-chat. Possessed of a strong personal code, Matt is on the run because he did the right thing against the wrong people. Try as he might to hide from the world, he happens upon a man who will die without his help. Naturally, Matt chooses to do the right thing. It costs him and nearly kills him. Luckily, he passes out in front of The Halcyon, a restaurant owned by Allyson Clifford. Matt awakens the next day to discover Allyson has nursed him back from death’s door. Since her chef has skipped out on her, she offers Matt the job as her cook. Matt is a man of mystery, refusing to reveal much about himself. He is reluctant to take up her offer, but given the situation with the weather and the fact she really seems to need a cook, he repays her kindness by agreeing to stay on until she can find a full time replacement. Meanwhile, we learn that a hired killer is after Matt and gaining clues where he can find his prey. Just as we think Matt is the fascinating one with all the deep, dark secrets, it turns out Allyson has a few of her own. Her “husband” has come to town and wants her and his son back…or else.

Most of the characters were believable, interesting, and relatable. None were saints, and their crimes were understandable. Matt and Allyson were likable and the attraction between them realistic. The antagonist tried so hard to convince everyone he was really the good guy but it was obvious he didn’t believe it himself. I felt the antagonist would’ve been more enjoyable if he truly believed he was the wronged hero in his own tale. Nevertheless, the interplay and struggles between various characters kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next and how things would turn out. Well-paced with an interesting plot, Castle Danger kept me on the edge of my seat.

I’d recommend Castle Danger to fans of thrillers and suspense.

You can find it at Castle Danger.

Book Description:

***2017 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree***

***2017 Honorable Mention, Genre Fiction, Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards***

Fugitive Matt Lanier, unjustly accused of a violent crime, has been hiding in the northeastern Minnesota wilderness for nine months. The law wants him in jail. His enemies want him dead. He simply wants to survive the most brutal winter in decades.

After rescuing an injured trapper, Matt is forced to leave his primitive encampment. He undertakes a Herculean trek through a blizzard to Castle Danger, a small town on the rugged North Shore of Lake Superior. There he’s saved from near death by Allyson Clifford, a shrewd and beautiful restaurant owner with secrets of her own. Despite wanting to move on in order to evade his pursuers, Matt helps Allyson weather a business crisis as repayment for her benevolence.

Then Allyson’s estranged husband, Donnie Vossler, shows up intent on reclaiming their 8-year-old son, Josh. Caught in the middle of the custody battle, Matt learns about Allyson and Vossler’s criminal past life together and is torn between self-preservation and his growing feelings for Allyson and Josh.

Matt’s recent past has left him with little hope for the future, so when Vossler resorts to sabotage, kidnapping, and attempted murder to capture his son, Matt’s integrity, honor, and survival instincts are put to the ultimate test just as a hit man hired by his enemies closes in for the kill.


Castle Danger is that one manuscript in a thousand that is waiting to become a bestseller–yet breaks new ground in doing so. Nonstop suspense, real characters, and a vivid setting in northern Minnesota make Chris Norbury’s work stand out from the rest.Castle Danger’s readership potential is as far-reaching as Lake Superior, with appeal for both men and women and fans of suspense, crime, romance and redemption stories. It is the best manuscript I’ve seen in a long time.”- Lauren O’Neil, Sharp Eye Edits

From the Author

Castle Danger is my debut novel. It started as a sequel to an earlier unpublished novel. I’m a born-and-raised Minnesotan (except for a few early childhood years in Wisconsin) and love the state and its people. The prequel and sequel to Castle Danger will also involve primarily Minnesota characters and locales.

Weather will always be a character in my novels set in Minnesota because we have some of the most extreme weather on the planet. I defy you to name another region on earth that has a temperature range of approximately 175 degrees (as cold as -66 F up to about +110 F!).

Weather of all sorts can disrupt plans, affect outcomes, and be downright dangerous, even lethal. Think tornadoes, floods, lightning strikes, paralyzing blizzards (three feet of snow in two days … at Halloween!), and prolonged cold snaps (weeks at a time where high temperatures don’t get above 0 degrees Fahrenheit).

Instead of writing about “glamorous” main characters who are spies, government agents, ex-Navy Seals, or brilliant trial lawyers or detectives, I prefer writing about more or less ordinary people with normal occupations who I can insert into extraordinary situations and have them fight their way through without the assistance of super “powers,” special training, or unlimited resources and manpower.

At heart, my novels will explore one or more universal character trait found in all people and put a character’s moral fortitude to the test. For instance, in Castle Danger, protagonist Matt Lanier will have his integrity and survival instincts challenged when he’s put into a life-or-death situation. Thanks for your interest and I hope you enjoy reading Castle Danger.

Author Biography

Chris Norbury is a freelance writer and novelist. He independently published his first novel, “Castle Danger,” in April 2016. In June of 2017, “Castle Danger” was awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion from In October of 2017, “Castle Danger” received an Honorable Mention-Genre Fiction- Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

Chris is working on the prequel to “Castle Danger,” whose working title is “Straight River.” A sequel to “Castle Danger” is in the planning stages. He has also been a freelance writer since 2014. His areas of expertise include finance, investing, economics, politics, golf, wine, and current events.

His essay on wilderness canoeing, “Solo Challenge,” was published in the Spring 2014 issue of the Boundary Waters Journal. A second article, titled “Soloing for Solitude,” appears in the Spring 2016 issue of the BWJ.

He is a contributing editor to and writes weekly op-ed articles for

Chris is a long-time volunteer Big Brother (since 2000) and will dedicate a percentage of all sales of his novels to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southern Minnesota. Even if you do not buy his book(s), please consider volunteering for one of the best mentoring programs in the country and contact your local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters.

During golf season in Minnesota, Chris works on perfecting his golf game, an impossible dream but also an excellent excuse to get out of the office. He lives in southern Minnesota with his wife and golf clubs.

Murder In Absentia by Assaph Mehr

Murder In Absentia by Assaph Mehr

Murder In Absentia by Assaph Mehr, 310 Pages, Purple Toga Publications, October 19th 2015, Genre: Historical Fantasy Fiction. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Murder In Absentia by Assaph Mehr is a unique burrito: hard-boiled meat, smothered in urban fantasy sauce and lovingly wrapped inside a historical fiction tortilla. Warmed to near perfection, it provides cross-genre readers with a savory new creation.

We follow Felix the Fox, a private investigator in Egretia, part of the ancient Roman Empire. A realist and a bit of a cynic, Felix accepts his lot in ancient Roman life, despite at times not liking or agreeing with what goes on around him. Corpio hires Felix to find out who is responsible for the bizarre murder of his only son, Caeso. Some cabal performed the Rite of Pelegrinus on his body, turning his heart to a ruby and ultimately killing him. The fact that his corpse is now defiled is a nefas, or sacrilege, a taboo in ancient Rome. Felix questions friends and lovers around town, but as he digs up more clues, it leads to more questions. Felix travels in order to cover the journey the young Caeso made before his death, hoping to discover the missing puzzle pieces and solve the ghastly magical murder. He meets Caeso’s uncle, aunt, and cousin, and visits a sybil on a lonely little island. Her brew gives him a troubling and curious vision Felix can’t immediately solve, a vision showing young Aemilia, Caeso’s cousin, in danger. As Felix gets more involved with a local underground cabal, he uncovers a duplicitous plan. Will Felix be able to protect Aemilia, uncover the cabal’s schemes, and discover Caeso’s killer?

My favorite thing about this book is Mehr’s loving attention to detail, immersing the reader in ancient Rome. It was fascinating to see what it would’ve been like to live in that time and place. Mehr made Rome come alive on the page. Of all the characters, we get to know Felix the best. Felix may not be the most reputable man in Rome, but he certainly has his own code of honor, one he does not betray. Magic is an integral part of life in Mehr’s Rome and it has real world effects. It’s a good thing Felix attended the Collegium Incantatorum and learned valuable lessons about magic.

If you’re looking for something a bit different and enjoy cross-genre works, this historical urban fantasy mystery will be right up your alley.

You can find it at Murder In Absentia.

Book Description:

This is a story of Togas, Daggers and Magic – for lovers of Ancient Rome, Murder Mysteries, and Urban Fantasy.

“Hardcore Historical Fantasy – Felix the Fox is Sherlock Holmes in Ancient Times”

— Jonathan Maas, author of City of Gods – Hellenica

“Mehr’s imagined world based on ancient Rome feels at once familiar and dreamlike.”

— Ruth Downie, author of the Medicus series of Roman mysteries

“Mehr is a master alchemist, blending the real and surreal on a captivating flight of fantasy.”

— Cynthia Celmer

“YESSS! Harry Dresden in a toga. A bit lighter on the magic usage, but every bit as colorful and intriguing!”

— Leslie Conzatti, Erin Sky, and a surprising number of Dresden Files fans

A young man is found dead in his bed, with a look of extreme agony on his face and strange tattoos all over his body. His distraught senator father suspects foul play, and knows who to call on.

Enter Felix the Fox, a professional investigator. In the business of ferreting out dark information for his clients, Felix is neither a traditional detective nor a traditional magician — but something in between. Drawing on his experience of dealing with the shady elements of society and on his aborted education in the magical arts, Felix dons his toga and sets out to discover the young man’s killers.

Murder In Absentia is set in a fantasy world. The city of Egretia borrows elements from a thousand years of ancient Roman culture, from the founding of Rome to the late empire, mixed with a judicious amount of magic. This is a story of a cynical, hard-boiled detective dealing with anything from daily life to the old forces roaming the world.

Virtual Fantasy Con Awards:

1st place: Dark Fantasy / Horror Book & Author

2st place: Urban Fantasy Book & Author

3st place: Favorite Fantasy Series

Voted #1 on Goodreads’ Indie Books Worth the Read for 2016!

About the Author:

“I have always been fascinated by ancient Rome, from the time I was in primary school and first got my hands on Asterix. This exacerbated when my parents took me on a trip to Rome and Italy – I whinged horribly when they dragged me to “yet another church with baby angels on the ceiling”, yet was happy to skip all day around ancient ruins and museums for Etruscan art.

A few years ago I randomly picked a copy of a Lindsay Davis’ Marcus Didius Falco novel in a used book fair. I fell in love with Rome all over again, this time from the view-point of a cynical adult. When I decided to sit down and write a novel, the setting was clear in my mind.”

Assaph now lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife, kids, cats, and – this being Australia – assorted spiders. By day he is a software product manager, bridging the gap between developers and users, and by night he’s writing – he seems to do his best writing after midnight.

To contact Assaph visit

Gretel by Christopher Coleman

Gretel by Christopher Coleman, 350 pages, October 31st, 2015, Genre: Teen and Young Adult/Horror/Thriller and Suspense. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

As a little girl, my father told me bedtime stories. Among them was “Hansel and Gretel”. I always had questions, such as “Daddy, why did the witch want to feed the little boy sweets? How does she survive in a Gingerbread House in the Summer? Why did she want to eat the children? Why did the father let his mean old wife send his kids away? Did the kids get punished for killing her? How does a grown up fit into an oven anyway?” To which my father answered, “Time for sleep.” It was difficult to sleep after that one. Not because I was afraid of evil witches overfeeding me and eating me- that didn’t sound so bad. It was because I was worried if times were hard enough, my own father might one day get rid of me, too. Why else tell me such a tale?

I expected the modern day retelling would be horrifying and I wasn’t disappointed. Coleman must’ve asked some of the same questions I did, because in this rendition, there are finally some answers.

Aneka Morgan breaks down by the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Desperate to avoid being caught in the life-threatening, cold elements after sunset, Aneka tries to find her way home through the woods. What she encounters there is harsher than any winter’s night. Imprisoned by an immortal, desperate, murderous hag, Aneka bides her time, hoping for a chance at escape, sensing that she’s only being well cared for and fed for some foul purpose. Meanwhile, back at home, her daughter Gretel is forced to mature more quickly in order to provide for her family in her mother’s absence. Gretel has given up on finding her mother, believing the worst has befallen her. Gretel develops from a dependant little girl into a strong, confident, capable young lady. Aneka’s young son Hansel relies ever more on his elder sister. Hansel and Gretel are both suspicious of their father’s nurse, who positions herself to become their step-mother. Why does the hag want to kill Aneka? Will she succeed? Will Gretel ever be reunited with her mother again? Who can Gretel trust- within her family and without?

The themes of this work are the same as in the classic tale: the meaning of the blood ties that bind family members to each other and deep betrayal. The plot forces the reader to confront dark moral questions. If you were dying, in pain, in distress, what would you sacrifice in order to turn back the clock? What would you give for a second chance? Could you resist temptation if the price was horrifyingly steep? For how long?

This is an engrossing read with an imaginative spin on the classic. I’d recommend this to fans of modernized fairy tales and dark fantasy. You can find it at Gretel.

Book Description:

Alone. Frightened. Captive. If you hear someone approaching, RUN. She is not there to help you.

There is an ancient evil in the Back Country, dormant for centuries but now hungry and lurking. When it sets its sights on an unsuspecting mother one routine morning along an isolated stretch of highway, a quiet farming family is suddenly thrust into a world of unspeakable terror, and a young girl must learn to be a hero.

Looking for the perfect Halloween read? Gretel is a gripping, spine-chilling, thrilling horror with twists and turns you won’t see coming.

Praise for GRETEL:

“Great Halloween season read! Love the retelling of a classic story.”

“I couldn’t help but think I was reading something from Stephen King (one of my favorite authors).

“One of the best books I’ve read! I couldn’t stop reading it till the END!!!”

“Wow! What a great twist to an old story!”

“Wow. Fabulous twist on a Grimm classic. Such well developed characters. And THREE heroines.”

“If you’ve read the story of ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ and you think you know all there is to know about a girl and her brother abandoned in the forest by their father at the behest of an evil stepmother, think again. You simply have to read Gretel: Book One by Christopher Coleman.”

“Man oh man! A true horror story….not your old time Hansel and Gretel. No gingerbread house, no barred cages to be locked behind while the witch fattens you up. Nosiree bob. If you truly want to be scared out of your wits about what some people will do to others, read this book!”

“That fairy tale your parents used to read to you has changed and grown teeth, although author Christopher Coleman may have captured the feeling the Brothers Grimm originally intended us to feel.

“This book was really creepy. Very well written. Kept me on the edge of my seat. I would love to see this made into a movie.”

Gretel is a horror story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, afraid to turn off the lights and go to sleep. If you are looking for a suspenseful, creepy and spooky read that will leave you scared out of your wits, then Gretel is for you. You have been warned.

The complete Gretel Series includes:

Gretel (Gretel Book One)

Marlene’s Revenge (Gretel Book Two)

Hansel (Gretel Book Three)

About the Author:

Christopher Coleman lives in Maryland with his wife and two children. He received his degree in English Literature from the University of Maryland and has been writing professionally for over five years.

A Pearl for My Mistress by Annabel Fielding

A Pearl for My Mistress cover

A Pearl for My Mistress by Annabel Fielding, 384 pages, HQ Digital, August 9th, 2017, Genre: Historical Fiction. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Hester is an olive-skinned young English woman who secures a maidservant position at Habden House. She serves Lady Lucy, the family’s daughter. Hester comes from the North, the daughter of the poor working class, for whom starvation is but a day’s wage away. Her slang usage, accent, roots, and economic upbringing are considered inferior by those who employ her. However, Hester was taught there was honor, dignity, and security in service. If she knows and keeps her place, works hard, and is “a good girl”, she will be happy in the end. Hester’s ultimate dream is to see the world and find that special someone to share it with.

Lady Lucy is a well-educated, single, aristocratic young English woman, raised to live up to parental expectations, to be “a good girl”. Failing to do so leads to being made to feel fragile, useless, expendable, powerless, and weak. Her step-mother and father have made her feel this way in the past on more than one occasion for failure to behave the way they demand. Lucy’s overriding goal is to never feel weak again, to never again be at the mercy of a stronger foe.

Hester and Lucy grow increasingly closer until they become lovers. This would cause a scandal, so they keep the love affair a secret. The romantic elements are sweet and sensual without being graphic. As their love blooms, Hester believes they are forging a relationship of equals in private while maintaining the distinction between their classes in public. Can someone who has been taught all her life to view Hester as inferior ever really see her as an equal?

Set in the 1930’s in Habden House, Melton Mowbray, and London, England, the plot involves Lucy’s blossoming journalism career, which she views as her pathway to freedom from her parents, and Lucy’s ever-increasing involvement with the British Union of Fascists. Over time, Lucy develops a double life- one as an aristocratic author deeply in love with her maid, and another as an agent of German interests, shaping public opinion in their favor during pre-WW II England. Given Hester’s mixed racial origins, Lucy’s alternate life inevitably causes friction when the two worlds collide. Will Lucy change her path or will their love affair end?

My favorite character was Hester. A pillar of ethical strength, Hester never loses her core principles or personal code of honor. She betrays no one, despite being surrounded by snakes. Hester’s road is lonely, as most around her lack that kind of inner strength during troubling times. Hester balances being true to herself with the needs of others. No matter what the future may hold for Hester, she will face it with dignity, honor, and grace.

My least favorite character was Lucy. Lucy is drawn to dark political ideals because she lacks inner strength. She is afraid everyone will see her weakness behind her carefully constructed facade. Lucy thinks strength comes from being in a position of power over others- the way her parents have been over her for her entire life. Rather than focusing on trying to help everyone rise above bad circumstances, Lucy can only feel good about herself if she can drag others down beneath her. Lucy slowly transforms into the people she despises most and remains blind to the fact.

The character development and writing style shine brightly. The historical period is well-researched. Fielding has a beautiful way of weaving words into a wonderful design on the page. Her writing is a delight to read.

Steady-paced, the plot is interesting, with its events presenting its characters with moral dilemmas. While I doubt I’d make the same choices some of the characters made, I understood their reasons for doing so. As an American reader, I was struck by the troubling parallels between social media propaganda and Russian collusion plots, and the efforts of German agents inside England prior to the war to try to sway England into an alliance with the Nazis through supporting sympathetic political aspirants and influencing the news articles disseminated among the populace.

A unique and engaging read, I loved this novel. I’d recommend it to lovers of historical fiction, especially those who enjoy a bit of romance and intrigue. You can find this book at A Pearl for My Mistress .

Book Description:

A story of class, scandal and forbidden passions in the shadow of war. Perfect for fans of Iona Grey, Gill Paul and Downton Abbey.

England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady’s maid in a small aristocratic household.

Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.

Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…

“A gorgeous, elegant and well-researched book” –

Crystal King, the author of Feast of Sorrow.

About the Author:

Annabel is a London-based PR professional and a self-professed history geek. Her other allegiances include swing music, strong tea and travelling around Europe.

The Fate Healer by Noel Coughlan

The Fate Healer by Noel Coughlan, 26 pages, Photocosmological Press, March 30th, 2016, Genre: Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery/Short Reads. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

“The Fate Healer” is a short, entertaining fantasy read. We meet the personal genealogist to the tyrannical King Hamvek, a man named Draston. Anyone who displeases King Hamvek in the slightest ends up dead, or worse, so Draston knows he better do whatever it takes to deliver Hamvek’s royal lineage. There’s just one tiny little problem- Hamvek comes from pig farmers, not a trace of noble blood anywhere.

Realizing he can’t very well tell the king the truth, Draston does the unthinkable: he alters and forges genealogical documents. These documents prove the king is descended from one of the gods. Draston believes his fortunes are made and he’s off the hook. However, as curses begin befalling the king and his sons, Draston is charged with finding a solution to the problems plaguing the king’s household. Will Draston succeed without his forgery being revealed? Or will he perish as have so many others who angered the king?

Although it is a short read, I felt the characters were true to form. I enjoyed watching the cowardly but kind Draston squirm, the machinations of the “Fate Healer” reach fruition, and the ultimate fate of the king. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a short Fantasy read.

You can find this at The Fate Healer.

Book Description:

A five thousand word short story where the quill proves to be more dangerous than any sword.

The genealogist Draston is charged with the impossible. His master, Hamvok the Merciful, craves a royal ancestor or two to legitimize his tyranny. But every avenue of Draston’s research comes to a dead end. Nobility has never sneezed on Hamvok’s ancestors, much less married into them. And now Draston’s time has run out.

To save himself from Hamvok’s violent displeasure, Draston promises to prove the tyrant is descended from a god. In doing so, he commits himself to a path of forgery and sacrilege. His enterprise will risk the wrath of gods. But, far worse, it will draw him to a shadowy figure more terrible than all the gods combined, the Fate Healer.

About the Author, From the Author:

My name is Noel Coughlan. I am married and have a daughter. I live in the west of Ireland.

From a young age, I was always writing a book. Generally, the first page over and over. Sometimes, I even reached the second page before I had shredded the entire copy book.

In my teenage years, I wrote some poetry, some of which would make a Vogon blush.

When I was fourteen, I had a dream. It was of a world where the inhabitants believed that each hue of light was a separate god, and that matter was simply another form of light.

I tinkered with the idea for a couple of decades, putting together mythologies, histories, maps etc. but world building isn’t worth much without a gripping story.

And then I finally found one, a tale so compelling I had to write it.

The Golden Rule Duology consists of A Bright Power Rising and The Unconquered Sun.

Backyard Adventures: Mad Dog by Remmy Meggs

Backyard Adventures: Mad Dog by Remmy Meggs, 20 pages, RWP Books, September 4th 2017, Genre: Imagination and Play/Children.

Review by Leigh Holland.

Backyard Adventures: Mad Dog is the second book in the Backyard Adventures series. A short read, it can be completed in a solid thirty minute sitting. The series focuses on the world surrounding Lucas, an eight-year-old boy, and the loving and loyal pets that inhabit that world. While the first book, “The Dragon”, was more lighthearted, “Mad Dog” is a spooky ghost tale, a fortunate find for my reading list for the month of October.

Meggs expands Lucas’ world to include other families and events. In this installment, we meet Colin, a boy at Lucas’ school, and Colin’s faithful dog, Rusty. Rusty is a champion working dog, a loyal and trusted companion and friend to Colin. This work deals with more weighty issues than “The Dragon” did, with themes of justice for innocent victims, our very human need to see what we think would be the final wishes of those victims come to fruition, and our society’s inability in the 60’s to take drunk driving seriously. It was an engaging read, making me feel sad, angry, and yet hopeful; one I had to finish to see how it turned out. The ending also hints at further ghost involvement to come, which is great for me since I love ghost stories. I’m very interested to see where Meggs takes the next tale.

I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a spooky short read. You can find it Mad Dog.

About the Author:

Remmy Meggs has written YA action-adventure novels and is working on others.

When Remmy’s dog, his best friend, was out playing, a truck’s bumper hit her in the head and killed her instantly. Remmy went out with a blanket and picked the dog up. Before he reached the house, he had a heart attack. The doctors said that, had it not been for his swimming and bike riding, he would have died.

Complications set in, Remmy’s blood circulation was not right, and they were going to amputate his legs. His legs were saved but he was wheelchair bound, never to walk more than a few feet again. It took three years of retraining, and technicians to even get him to do that.

At that point, Remmy sat in front of his computer for the first time in years for more than an hour. He stared at the screen, and almost gave up. He read a story on the internet about boys and said to himself, “That is bull! That is not what boys talk or act like,” that’s when Remmy began to write.

He spends his time writing, playing a few online games with friends and movies he can get, and listens to music. Remmy sleeps about twelve hours on and off each day. We hope you enjoy his work as much as we do.

~Remmy’s friends and fans

Backyard Adventures: The Dragon by Remmy Meggs

Backyard Adventures: The Dragon by Remmy Meggs, 26 pages, RWP Books, January 28th 2017, Genre: Anthologies/Children/Fantasy.

Review by Leigh Holland.

As readers of my blog know, I have a penchant for pets and short fiction. When this set of short reads was suggested to me, I couldn’t resist. Currently, there are two releases in the Backyard Adventures books. I enjoyed “The Dragon” so much I’ll be getting the second one as well.

The series takes place in the 1960’s, a time when people could focus more on life and be in the moment without so many modern distractions. In “The Dragon”, we get to know a delightful family. I loved the characters presented in this book. Meggs did a wonderful job introducing us to them over such a short span of time. The men of the family are veterinarians, always focused on helping and saving animals. Naturally, I was endeared to them right away. But the star of the book is Lucas, the eight-year-old son of the family. Meggs reminds us what it’s like to be a child, to see through a child’s eyes. It was an eyebrow-raising experience to realize how we adults often so easily dismiss the fears and concerns of children. We are trying to calm and reassure the child, but it doesn’t have that effect. Instead, the child simply learns that adults can’t see the world the way they do, well, until a monster actually does get them. Understanding this mindset is crucial to the events that follow involving the “dragon”. Let me just say, Lucas is a very brave and honorable boy.

I thoroughly enjoyed this short read. This book lightened my heart by the end, inspiring nostalgia in me for a past decade and the things important to me in my childhood. I’d recommend it to middle grade and adult readers alike. I look forward to reading further in this series. You can find this one at The Dragon.

Book Description

When you are raised in a house that looks brand new, in never occurs to you that the graveyard in the back, and the house itself are over one hundred years old. It never occurs to you how many children have disappeared from the area, and it never occurs to you that the house and the property are haunted. Of course the graveyard should have been the first sign that all was not right.Spend time with Lucas Toby and his friends.

About the Author

Remmy Meggs has written YA action-adventure novels and is working on others.

When Remmy’s dog, his best friend, was out playing, a truck’s bumper hit her in the head and killed her instantly. Remmy went out with a blanket and picked the dog up. Before he reached the house, he had a heart attack. The doctors said that, had it not been for his swimming and bike riding, he would have died.

Complications set in, Remmy’s blood circulation was not right, and they were going to amputate his legs. His legs were saved but he was wheelchair bound, never to walk more than a few feet again. It took three years of retraining, and technicians to even get him to do that.

At that point, Remmy sat in front of his computer for the first time in years for more than an hour. He stared at the screen, and almost gave up. He read a story on the internet about boys and said to himself, “That is bull! That is not what boys talk or act like,” that’s when Remmy began to write.

He spends his time writing, playing a few online games with friends and movies he can get, and listens to music. Remmy sleeps about twelve hours on and off each day. We hope you enjoy his work as much as we do.

~Remmy’s friends and fans