Romance

The Ahe’ey Series

The Ahe’ey Series
Author:
Published: March 8, 2017
Author's Twitter: @JamieLeFay
Thirty-four-year-old Morgan is a dreamer, change maker and art lover. She is a feisty, slightly preachy, romantic feminist full of contradictions and insecurities. Morgan uncovers a world where women have the power, and where magic is no longer just a figment of her wild imagination. Sounds like a dream, but it may, in fact, turn into a nightmare. The world of the Ahe'ey challenges and subverts her views about gender, genes, and nature versus nurture. The strong and uninvited chemistry between her and the dashing Gabriel makes matters even more complicated. His stunning looks keep short-circuiting her rational mind.

4 Stars

 

The Ahe’ey Series by Jamie Le Fay is a tale of paranormal romance that takes the reader on a fantastical journey while encompassing the narrative in subject matter heavily anchored in our own political reality. This is a book (series of episodes) with something for everyone, and many readers will be able to comfortably find a home here. There is a special attention paid to feminist ideals that this reader thinks will resonate most powerfully with younger female readers, but readers of other demographics should not be turned off by this, as the adventure that unfolds is chock full of suspense, allure and strong characters that attend to heroic quests while simultaneously tackling real human issues.

Readers should be aware that throughout the majority of the story, the narrative is very much in flux. This is a book that reflects the current political landscape, and as such the characters, motives, and landscape can change seemingly instantaneously. Fortunately, the driving idea does not change, and this results in a book that powerfully reflects one author’s view of modern soceity – albeit through the lens of fantasy. Morgan, the main character, is a foil of herself, and full of all the conflict that makes great heroes. While she is well-drawn and interesting, some of the secondary characters can fall into stereotypical roles. As this book can be viewed as political commentary, this doesn’t take away from the intent, but could draw the reader’s attention away from Morgan’s journey.

The world that Le Fay crafts is intriguing and desirable, but like any envisioned utopia has sustainability issues. The author doesn’t shy away from discussing complex matters, and dedicated readers will be rewarded with an entertaining story that also sends a message. This book isn’t for everyone, but I think most readers will be able to get into the story, and at the very least learn something, from giving The Ahe’ey Series a shot. I give the collected series 4 Stars.

 

The Likeness

The Likeness
Author:
Published: October 14, 2016
Author's Twitter: @carver26
Aberdeen, 1841. Woodcarver John Grant has an unusual new commission - creating a figurehead to feature onstage in the melodramas of a newly-arrived theatre group. Simultaneously, he’s also trying to unravel the mystery of the death of a young woman, whose body has been found in the filth behind the harbour’s fish sheds. His loving relationship with Helen Anderson, which began in The Figurehead, has grown stronger but, despite the fact that they both want to be together, she rejects the restrictions of conventional marriage, in which the woman is effectively the property of the husband. As John works on the figurehead, Helen persuades her father, a rich merchant, to let her get involved in his business, allowing her to challenge yet more conventions of a male-dominated society. The story weaves parallels between the stage fictions, Helen’s business dealings, a sea voyage, stage rehearsals, and John’s investigations. In the end, the mystery death and the romantic dilemma are both resolved, but in unexpected ways.

Assessed  

Approved

5 Stars

In the port city of Aberdeen, the battered body of a young woman is found in the muck near the wharves. She is unidentified, but from her clothing is definitely not someone who would normally be in such a locale.

John Grant, a ship figurehead carver, is certain that the town’s constable will not do a good job of learning what happened to her, and in his quest for justice takes on the task of investigating her death. At the same time, Helen Anderson, daughter of a prosperous shipping company owner, is seeking to break out of the strictures placed on women of the era, and is pressuring her father to allow her to participate in managing his company. Her quest for liberation is affected by the growing romantic feelings for John.

This story starts off with a sense of heightened tension, as John is awakened to help rescue sailors from a ship that is foundering just offshore, and picks up with the discovery of the dead woman.

The Likeness is actually several stories that proceed on parallel courses, and while John’s investigation and finally solving of the young woman’s death is an important storyline, the main story is John and Helen’s relationship and how they manage to navigate the strict societal conventions of the mid-1800s and maintain their own sense of individuality and freedom.

The author has created a masterful interweave of several stories that come together beautifully at the end with all the mysteries solved and the personal relationships resolved in a most satisfying way. The mores, conventions, sights, sounds, and smells of the era are described so well, I was able to see the story unfolding in my mind like a period movie. The characters are so real, you can hear them, smell their sweat and perfume, and you either like and support them, or you want to take them to a locked room and throttle them mercilessly.

The mark of a great story is that it draws you in so fully that time unfolds without your awareness of it. I started reading this story in mid-morning, and didn’t eat lunch until I’d finished in mid-afternoon. Another is that after reading it you feel that you’ve learned something interesting about a bygone era.

A great story that is more than worthy of the five stars I give it.

 

 

 

Feast of the Epiphany

Feast of the Epiphany
Publisher:
Published: November 7, 2016
Author's Twitter: @KathrynMHearst
Immortal and a member of the Sinistra Dei, a secret order designed to eliminate threats to the Vatican, Giovanna was created to do the dirty work of the Church. This requires creative thinking and the ability to tap dance on the line between right and wrong. As the commander she loves slowly sinks into insanity, she learns that dark immortals—the Execrati dedicated to destroying her kind— have snuck into New Orlean’s legendary French Quarter to hunt her friends. With the further discovery that one of Rome’s own has faked his death, and the unexpected evolution of her supernatural powers, Gia is no longer able to play by the rules. How can she defy the man she loves, break the trust of a close friend, and explain the new set of wings on her back? The answer is simple… she can’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Locksmith’s Secret

The Locksmith’s Secret
Published: April 8, 2016
Author's Twitter: @TahliaNewland
Ella’s boyfriend Jamie seems to be her perfect match until a death in the family calls him back to England and it becomes clear that he’s hiding something. Can their relationship survive the revelation of something so astounding that it completely changes Ella’s perception of him and his place in her world? While Jamie struggles with family responsibilities, Ella’s steampunk murder mystery develops a life of its own, raising disturbing memories of her time as a striptease artist and a past life as a sexually abused Italian nun. She also dreams of an ephemeral city, where she seeks to unravel the locksmith’s secret and find the key that opens a door to other realities. All these, together with a lost brother, a desperate mother, a demanding cat, and a struggle to live up to Buddhist ideals, weave together in a rich tapestry that creates an extraordinary work of genre-bending treansrealist fiction    

Reviewed by Amy Spahn

5 Stars

Worlds Within Worlds was one of the most unique novels I’ve ever read. The story of Prunella Smith continues in The Locksmith’s Secret, and while not as unique as the first book, this novel adds a new depth of Ella’s character while exploring themes of trauma, womanhood, and the need to confront evil.

While reading Worlds Within Worlds will help readers to understand this book (and I highly recommend it), The Locksmith’s Secret can be read on its own. You’ll still enjoy the rich tapestry of interconnecting narratives weaving together to form a multifaceted whole. This time the fantasy element comes in the form of a steampunk novel Ella is writing. We also explore her past as a stripper, her past lives, and the mysterious background of her boyfriend, Jamie, who might be too good to be true.

A solid follow-up to an exceptional novel.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Reviewed by Charles Ray

5 Stars

Editor-Author Prunella Smith seems to be getting her life back together. She feels that things are going well with her boyfriend, Jamie, until the death of his older brother in England draws him back home and into the clutches of a demanding, manipulative mother. While coping with this unexpected separation, Prunella is drawn into writing a steampunk novel about Nell, an intrepid investigative reporter on the trail of a vicious killer who also happens to be an esteemed member of the upper class, and enmeshed in the ‘dream’ life of Daniela, a young woman about to become a nun, who is caught between trying to get away from her abusive past and the decidedly earthly feelings she has for the convent gardener. While all this is happening, Prunella is also experiencing waking dreams about a mysterious locksmith who seems to hold the key to everything she needs to understand to get her world back into balance.
The Locksmith’s Secret by Tahlia Newland is, to use a word coined by Prunella, a multi-genre story that combines all the best traits of sci-fi, thriller, steampunk, and a few other genres in a tale that grabs your imagination in a vice-like grip and refuses to let go until you breathlessly reach the last page. This is an exploration of the mind that takes up where the author’s World Within Worlds left off, but stands on its own as a story that will make you question everything you thought you knew about the universe. Most importantly, though, it will entertain you in the way that well-told stories are meant to entertain.
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

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Reviewed by Mary Maddox

5 stars

A Rich Narrative Tapestry
By Dream Beast VINE VOICE on April 8, 2016
In The Locksmith’s Secret, Tahlia Newland has woven several narratives into a complex story about the joys and pitfalls of love and the enduring power of the imagination.

Writer Prunella Smith, whom readers may remember from Newland’s last book, Worlds Within Worlds, has found love with Jamie Claypole, an English transplant to Australia. The two are happy together, but Ella knows little about Jamie’s past. The gaps in her knowledge become apparent when Jamie is summoned home after his brother’s sudden death. All at once he becomes secretive about his family and where they live and how long he intends to stay with them.

The other narratives reiterate in various ways the problem Ella faces: whether to pursue Jamie and uncover his secrets or to reclaim the solitude she lost when he came to live with her.

Memories of unhappy past experience with a lover who abandoned her overshadow Ella’s hope for happiness with Jamie. Ella had been a ballerina with a promising career until a back injury forced her to give up ballet. Her lover, who was also her onstage partner, promptly discarded her once they could no longer dance together.

A Buddhist, Ella mediates regularly, and during meditation she’s transported into the world of Daniela, an Italian nun. On the brink of taking her final vows, Daniela finds herself attracted to the man who tends the nunnery’s garden. Like Ella, she faces an unexpected choice about the direction her life will take.

In addition, Ella has a recurring dream featuring a locksmith who may or may not be Jamie and who holds the secret to unlocking doors into countless other worlds, a metaphor for the creative and spiritual freedom that she seeks. She pursues the locksmith, but he seems always just out of reach.

Although troubled by Jamie’s secretiveness, Ella keeps writing fiction. Woven into The Lockman’s Secret is a steampunk novel that has taken hold of her imagination. The chapters appear as she writes them, and the story of intrepid reporter Nell and her efforts to uncover the villainy of Lord Burnett generates as much suspense as the main narrative. Like Ella, Nell values her independence and strives to prove her worth in the professional world. She worries that marriage to her employer’s son will mean the end of her career.

Newland interweaves all of these threads with consummate skill. Not once do they get tangled. Not once does the suspense flag, which is especially impressive in a contemplative novel like The Locksmith’s Secret. The credit goes to Newland’s mastery of narrative structure, to her concise and transparent prose that is eloquent without ever drawing attention to itself, and to her wonderfully varied and complex characters.
The worlds of Prunella Smith have a clarity and power that you won’t soon forget.

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Reviewed by Simon Townley

5 Stars

Tahlia Newland writes with beautiful simplicity – making this book a joy to read. Never do you feel lost, or wondering who is who or what is going in. Which is quite an achievement – because there are at least four completely separate stories in here, interwoven yet happening in different times, places and even realities.

The core story is set in our world, our times and is a good old-fashioned romance – with twists for sure and interesting interplay between cultures and value systems. It revolves around a man and a woman making choices about where and how to live their lives, who to share them with, and what can and should be compromised. If you love a place and you love a person and the two don’t necessarily mesh – how hard is it to choose? It’s a dilemma many of us have faced or will face at some point in our lives.

The other stories possess interesting parallels to the main tale – for example, the medieval nun wondering whether to stay in her order, or forsake it for the love of the local gardener. She too has to choose between one life and another and never does Newland make the choices look or feel easy.

The interweaving of these stories is accomplished with great skill and even humour. I’m sure there’s much more to come from these characters, and l look forward to reading more of the series.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

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Reviewed by Pete Trewin

4 Stars

This was an interesting book for me. Well-written and pacy, I read it at a fair lick yet I wasn’t always sure exactly what was going on. The core story is a classic romance. The main character, Australian author Prunella Smith, has an English boyfriend. Things are going well; he is kind and attentive and the sex is great. Then he is called home when his brother dies to sort out the ancestral home and deal with a difficult, domineering mother. The question is, will he come back?
So far, so good. But three other stories, spread over time and other worlds, are inter-woven with the main plot. Prunella is writing a steampunk novel about Nell, a reporter investigating murders in a Victorian Australian city. Daniela, a novice nun in medieval times, is torn between her ambition to escape an abusive past and become a nun and her attraction for the convent gardener. Prunella is a Buddhist and, during her meditations, she has waking dreams in which she wanders through an empty city in search of a mysterious locksmith, who she glimpses but cannot reach. These dreams are quite disturbing, almost Freudian.
Despite this complexity, all the stories inter-weave and work with each other to create a satisfying novel.
Personally, I would have liked the characters in the main story to be playing for higher stakes but then that’s probably just me.
This book will appeal to fans of steampunk, romance, magic realism and fantasy. That’s a few genres to be going on with!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Currents of Change

Currents of Change
Categories: ,
Author:
Published: March 20, 2015
Author's Twitter: @DarianWordSmith
Haunted house. Haunted heart. When Sara O’Neill goes on the run, she believes the tiny New Zealand town of Kowhiowhio is just the sanctuary she needs. Her family’s old colonial house needs repair, but it’s safe from the abusive husband she left behind. However, a hostile local holds a grudge and a dangerous presence haunting her new home threatens Sara’s chance at peace. How can she create a new life while dealing with ghosts from the old? For local electrician, Nate Adams, parenting his young daughter alone has not been easy – particularly in a town where he is still seen as an outsider. When he meets his new neighbour, he sees a chance at a new start for them both. Even with his help, can the house – or Sara’s heart – be repaired? Someone doesn’t want an O’Neill in Kowhiowhio. Sara’s return is awakening secrets hidden for generations. Why has the house never had electricity? What was the fate of Sara’s ancestors? Can she discover the ghost’s story before it’s too late? The truth will set…something…free.

Reviewed by Tahlia Newland

5 Stars

Fabulous book. Not only is it well written and thoroughly deserving of the hard-to-get Awesome Indies Seal of Excellence (which was why I bought it) but also, I personally love it. As a Kiwi, I find the mix of celtic lore and Maori law particularly intriguing. It makes for a unique story that is essentially a quality paranormal romance that, thankfully, avoids the over-used vampire and werewolf characters.

The author skilfully reveals the true story bit by bit, keeping one reading, then builds the pace and suspense to a riveting conclusion with a satisfying ending. Well done.

 

 

 

Tomorrow Is A Long Time

Tomorrow Is A Long Time
Author:
Published: November 23, 2014
Author's Twitter: @TabithaVohn
Tomorrow Is A Long Time is an intertwining of two stories, both exploring the boundaries of romantic love and the consequences of pushing those boundaries. It tests preconceived notions of age, fidelity, and sacrifices made for love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Chance to Come True

A Chance to Come True
Category:
Author:
Published: November 25, 2015
Author's Twitter: @SMSpencerAuthor
Caity Jones has given up on men after a long relationship ends. She moves to a small town outside Melbourne and buys herself a 5-acre property with the intention of becoming a writer. What she doesn’t expect is to meet a man she can’t resist. Caity Jones wasted a lot of years waiting for the “two kids, a dog and a white picket fence” dream to come true, but she’s ready to move on now. Letting go of society’s idea of the perfect life, she’s purchased a five-acre property in the small rural town of Willows. She’s determined to live a solitary life and become a writer. And that means staying away from men altogether. Tom Murray owns and runs the local feed store in Willows. His marriage was a failure but his family is strong, and he can’t imagine a world that didn’t include his three young children. He’s an uncomplicated man, living an uncomplicated life – and he has every intention of keeping it that way. Both are mature… both have baggage… and both have agendas that don’t include romance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penny for Them

Penny for Them
Published: January 14, 2014
Author's Twitter: @PhilipCatshill
After learning of her stepfather’s death, Penny reveals the secrets that have kept her in hiding for thirty years. Her account begins in 1982, when a jewel robbery brought mayhem and death to central England. The following day, secret agents persuaded Penny to pursue her father’s murderer, Sean Moran. Penny discovered her stepfather, who was a junior minister in the British Government, had conspired with Argentinian agents towards the occupation of the Falklands. While trying to warn the British Government, the adventure takes Penny and Sean to Argentina, where a colonel in the brutal military regime realised Sean had the diamonds from the robbery. After rescuing the badly injured Sean, Penny discovered how her stepfather had engineered the arrest. Having thwarted his plans, her stepfather promised not to rest until he sees her dead body. Penny escaped him, but underestimated the lengths he would go to ensure her death.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

February 19, 2016

"a zinger of a surprise ending"

5 Stars

 

Penny for Them by Philip Catshill is an adventure story set mainly during the outbreak of the 1982 Falklands Conflict between the UK and Argentina, as the two countries slugged it out over a group of rocky islands in the Atlantic.

It’s primarily the story of Penelope Kendall-Wilkes, the stepdaughter of former British MP Henry Kendall-Wilkes, a central figure in the events leading up to the war. When Kendall-Wilkes sees Penelope as a threat, despite the relationship, he is determined to have her killed, and in the end, decides that he wants to do the deed himself.

The author does a credible job of portraying the complex, almost schizophrenic character of Penelope, as he allows us to see her multiple identities and personalities in her own words. The use of the first person, present in the narration, puts the reader in the picture, bringing the action alive very effectively in most of the book. It does cause a bit of confusion in places, but not fatally so.

Penelope’s relationship with Sean Moran, the man she’s been told murdered her father, is complex, but the author handles it well, including the surprise of Moran’s actual identity.

Penny for Them is a riveting read. The main character is complex, not a very good person at times, but someone the reader can root for, and the author came up with a zinger of a surprise ending. He also did a very good job of incorporating the background and action of the Falklands War into the overall narrative.

I give him five stars for this book.

 

 

 

 

 

The Englishman: Can Love Go the Distance?

The Englishman: Can Love Go the Distance?
A stylish 1980’s Cold War love story based on true events. Young Finnish student Kaisa falls head over heals in love with Peter, a dashing newly qualified naval officer. Kaisa realised she’d never felt like this before. This was love. The stuff she’d read about in books since she was a teenager; the films she’d watched. This was how Ryan O’Neal felt about Ali MacGraw in Love Story, and Barbra Streisand about Robert Redford in The Way We Were. Kaisa grinned. She’d wanted to pose the same question to the Englishman that Katie had to Hubbell, ‘Do you smile ALL the time?’ ” When a young Finnish student, Kaisa, is invited to the British Embassy cocktail party in Helsinki to celebrate a Royal Navy visit to Finland, she’s not looking for romance. After all, her future has been carefully planned: she’s to complete her degree, marry her respectable, well-to-do Finnish fiancé Matti, and live happily ever after. Enter the dashing Peter, a newly qualified naval officer. Like a moth to a flame, Kaisa falls head over heels in love. Kaisa and Peter embark on a long-distance relationship, but at the height of the Cold War, while the Englishman chases Russian submarines, Kaisa is stuck in Finland, a country friendly with the Soviet Union. Can they trust each other? Can their love go the distance? A stylish 1980s Nordic love story based on true events.