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


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.

Spellcaster by George Bachman

Spellcaster by George Bachman, 262 pages, Sublime Ltd., April 3rd 2017, Genre: Historical Fiction/Paranormal. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

Review by Leigh Holland.

“It took all my own will merely to swallow water. “What sort of powers?”

“Amalrich claimed he could descend into certain forbidden passages beneath the earth where our world meets others.” Lady Kinloss gave me a secretive look. “Unfortunately any records he might have made of his trips are lost. But recently one of these supposed keys passed into my hands.” I nodded. “I keep it locked away in a glass cage and take it with me when I’m out. Would you like to see it?”

Spellcaster is a work of historical fiction set in England. Unlike traditional works in this genre, this book has a strong paranormal element. Spellcaster weaves together two tales- one involving past lives and unfinished business, and the other involving magic, relics, and bargains in the present. If you enjoy Jane Austen’s writing style, you’ll enjoy the style of Spellcaster.

Christine Daniel, a Provencal young lady, is spending the summer in England with the Cote sisters. She is coming out into society, officially becoming a marriageable young woman. However, she has another purpose. Christine’s fevers induce visions and she’s hunting for a remedy. Rather than fight the visions, Christine follows their lead. She seeks out “the mage” to befriend her as her visions portend. She encounters Lady Kinloss, whom she determines to be the mage of her visions. She rents a home for herself and her friends in the countryside from Lady Kinloss. Christine strikes a bargain with her to gain possession of a relic.

I felt the book started off a bit slow. The last half of the book picked up pace and revealed more information, tying things together as the story continued. I enjoyed this novel, especially its interesting reincarnation twist. When magic is used, it’s apparent that Bachman researched beliefs about magic in this time period.

This book can be found at Spellcaster by George Bachman.

Check out other reviews at:

Paperback Darling’s review of Spellcaster

Spellcaster at Kariny’s Book Frenzy

A Light Within by Ann Heinz

Well Written, Historical Literary Fiction

A Light Within by Ann Heinz, 340 pages, March 29th, 2017, Genre: Historical Literature and Fiction. Warning: May Contain Spoilers.

A Light Within is an impressive work of literary, historical fiction. Heinz portrays the etiquette, history, style, manner of speaking, laws, and social conflicts of America in 1859 with incredible accuracy. At no point did I feel as though I weren’t visiting that time.

Cora Fielding is a bright young woman, passionate about becoming a doctor and helping alleviate the suffering of others. Continually frustrated in her ambition, Cora demonstrates she will go to any lengths to achieve her goal, even if it means pretending to be a man. Her twin brother Carl discovers her ruse and tells their father. Rather than put her in her place, he sends the twins off to Pennsylvania to their respective gender appropriate college of medicine. In 1859, the nation is heading towards Civil War, but is not yet on the cusp of it. Cora begins working part time for an attorney named Peter Ware who is actively involved in the Underground Railroad. Sharing his abolitionist views, Cora joins him in trying to help slaves gain freedom and prevent Southerners from stealing free people off the Northern streets to cart down south into slavery. Her experiences in her new town build her ethical resolve, driving her to take action. Cora finds friendship, love, and grows closer to her twin while in Pennsylvania.

Heinz employs a third person narrative style. Her narrative voice bears a resemblance to authors of classic 19th century literature such as Anne Bronte. Settings are adequately described without an overabundance of detail. The romance is a subtle subplot, tenderly played out. Carl, initially irate with Cora, learns and grows over the course of the story. Dialogue and etiquette are accurate for the time-period. Pace slows a bit towards the middle but picks back up again and keeps you reading till the end. There are many historical and societal threads to weave together here and Heinz does so with precision.

My favorite supporting characters were Reverend Sebastian Cooke, though he appeared but briefly, and Emmeline. Reverend Cooke took a beating and lost an important item, but was not deterred from serving the cause of justice. Emmeline was willing to do the right thing, even if it meant causing discord within her family and losing her place with them. Both were characters to be admired.

Overall, I enjoyed reading A Light Within. I’d recommend this book to those who relish a historical read and enjoy literary fiction. You may find this book at Amazon for Kindle at A Light Within .