Tag Archives: LGBTQ Mystery

The Southern Magicks (The Southern Magicks Book One) by Ashton K. Rose Review and Author Interview

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

After walking away from the world of magic they grew up in, one person is forced to work as an exorcist after being framed as a vigilante in author Ashton K. Rose’s “The Southern Magicks”, the first book in the series of the same name.

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The Synopsis

A month ago, a demon tore the thin veneer of a normal life I’d crafted apart when it almost killed me. Revealing my husband, Eli, as the prodigal son of a powerful magic family.

When I grew up, I walked away from magic. Left my remote hometown and pretended the ghosts Gran taught me to see weren’t there while I went to university to become a librarian.

Our one secret tightly held to my heart.

Never let them know!

Two years later, with no other financial option, I moved back to my small hometown.

It was easy to pretend the fuzzy gaps in my memory weren’t there as I got a job under the strict woman who almost killed my childhood love of books.

I thought everything was perfect when I married my dream guy.

Then the attack happened.

The “good” folks at the local magical law enforcement agency knew about me the whole time. They’ve pressured me to work for them as an exorcist because they’re convinced I was a vigilante who committed multiple murders. My odd, intriguing mentor Cory watches for any misstep as I avoid the seduction attempt he’s been asked to perform.

Now they’ve accused my estranged older brother of taking over my “crimes.” I know I was framed, despite the gaps in my memory.

The worst part?

The only people who seem to believe me are my friend June and my journalist cousin Kat.

Eli, filled with spite for the local magical rulers, seems to know something I DON’T and thinks I should play them at their own game and seduce my mentor, so we can interrogate him together…

The Southern Magicks is a small-town paranormal urban fantasy/mystery series with a M/M/NB menage romantic subplot. For fans of “The Dresden Files,” “Rivers of London,” “Southern Vampire Mysteries,” “Alex Verus,” and “The Laundry Files” who enjoy LGBTQ+ characters and stories.

The Review

The first thing that really impressed me and drew me into this narrative was the vastness of everything. The scope of the author’s narrative and world-building was astonishing, as the small-town setting bore witness to a grand mythos that sees clashing family dynasties and powerful supernatural beings all coming together in an explosive way. The balance the author found between the mundane and everyday activities that the protagonist saw and the gritty realities of the supernatural threats that come their way was incredible to see come to life on the page.

The character development and grand themes the author delve into complimented one another really well. The themes of homophobia in the world, greed, bigotry, and prejudices, in general, all found their way into the narrative, and allowed the characters, mostly LGBTQ-driven characters, to either flourish or grow as a result of the adversity they are facing, which adds depth and emotion to the more grand supernatural story elements.

The Verdict

Captivating, entertaining, and thrilling, author Ashton K. Rose’s “The Southern Magicks” is a must-read LGBTQ+ Fantasy and Paranormal & Urban Fantasy novel and a great first entry into the series of the same name. The heart and passion for which the author tells this story and the blend of LGBTQ+ character development with grand magical world-building and emotional themes made this one story I didn’t want to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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The Southern Magicks - Ashton K. Rose

Ashton K. Rose has a new queer fantasy/paranormal romance out: The Southern Magicks. And there’s a giveaway.

How do you prove your innocence when you don’t even remember whether you did it or not?

After a demon attack reveals Dexter’s secret – that his Gran taught him magic – the twenty-three-year-old librarian is forced to work for the local magical law enforcement agency in order to prove his loyalty, and hopefully save his grandmother from execution.

However, when someone tries to frame him for crimes he doesn’t remember committing, Dexter realizes he’ll have to start an investigation of his own. Joined by his beloved husband Eli, their best friend June, and his journalist cousin Kat, he desperately tries to prove his innocence…which is kind of difficult when gaps in his memory make him doubt everything he thinks he knows about himself.

The race against time begins. Can Dexter and his team uncover the criminals weaving the web of guilt around him before it’s too late, or is he going to lose everything and everyone he cares about?

Warnings: Assault, violent imagery, panic attack on page, police brutality

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Giveaway

Ashton is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47271


Excerpt

The Southern Magicks meme

Chapter 1, Scene 1:

I knew Nora Rowe had died in her home without anyone telling me.

I unlocked the door and my stomach dropped as I took in the sight of the small dim living room of her kit home, filled with books and old newspapers. The acrid smell of cigarettes and wood fire smoke filled my nose as I weaved my way through the stacks. Mismatched flatpack bookshelves that warped under the strain of thousands of books lined the walls. Her living room held no other furniture apart from an old TV and a worn leather armchair—the carpet covered by stained, threadbare rugs.

I flicked the first light switch I saw twice.

Why had I expected the power to work?

I walked over to the windows and pushed the dust-caked lace curtains aside.

My eyes watered as the sun poured into the room.

In the kitchen, the doors of the cupboards hung open. The only things left behind were a few cheap plastic items scattered across the scratched lino.

I stepped on a plastic cup on the floor. I wobbled on my feet for a few sick seconds before I grabbed the counter to steady myself. The sharp aluminium edge bit into the skin of my hand.

This place was a death trap!

She had over twenty library books I had to separate from the donations. My legs shook as I walked to the shelves closest to the door.

I ignored the erratic beating of my heart and the part of my brain telling me to run and pulled out my keys to flick the small key chain light on. I placed it between my teeth and examined the spines for library tags.

When the light hit the grimy glass of a small photo frame on the shelf, I saw something move behind me. I kept my eyes fixed on the glass and used my thumb to clear a spot of dust.

If it hadn’t moved, I could have ignored the human-shaped shadow reflected in the glass.

As a kid, I’d been hassled about seeing things and having an overactive imagination. When I was seven, Gran told me the truth. I shared her secret ability to see ghosts.

I turned to look at the woman who sat in the armchair.

This Nora was a couple of years older than the one who celebrated her birthday in the photo. Her gaze focused on the TV, which would have been new the year Queen Elizabeth was coronated.

I kept my gaze locked on her, blinking one eye at a time.

I slowed my breath and took a careful step backwards to the door. The back of my calf hit something that drove several points of pain into my skin.

The stack of books I knocked over sliced through my composure just as easily as it did the silence in the room, the hard covers and spines slapping against each other as they hit the floor.

“What the fuck are you doing in my house?” Nora stood and turned to face me.

I knew I’d given the game away when I jumped out of my skin and almost dropped my keys.

I made a noise like a dying rat.

She knew I could hear her.

The first thing Gran had taught me was not to let a ghost realise you could sense them. It was dangerous—a trigger for the ire of a vengeful spirit.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Your son gave us the key.”

“Worthless piece of shit. Letting strangers into my house. He stole my grandma’s dinner set for drug money before my body was cold. I saw him put it in his car before he called someone to deal with the mess.”

“I’ll just be going now.”

“Actually, I’ll be going.”

I felt a sharp pain in my chest.

I tried to breathe, but my lungs refused to move.

I couldn’t breathe!

The edge of my vision went black as I gasped for air. I fell flat on my front. I was so focused on trying to breathe, I almost missed the presence pushing at the back of my mind. It started small, a hint of a suggestion. The temptation to give in grew. This was her body. I was nothing but a figment of her imagination. Dexter wasn’t real. Nothing more than a thought exercise to see what it’d be like to be a man her grandson’s age. With each second, it pressed harder, and the urge to give in grew.

Forget.

It would be easy to give in and never have another worry again. All the pain and pressure of life could vanish if I relaxed and let her take control.

No!

I shivered as I tried to move my arms to push myself onto my hands and knees. I focused on the door. It was only a short crawl. I had to do it. For a second, my vision went entirely black.

No!

I gathered all the strength I had and screamed. The remaining air expelled from my lungs. I took a sharp breath. I moved my stiff arms and pushed myself onto my hands and knees.

I was Dexter; I was real, and this was my body. Nothing would take that away from me.

I closed my eyes and pushed back the ghost. I wrapped a mental net around the invasive presence in my mind and forced it back through the hole where it had entered. A hole it had dug in a part of my mind I didn’t even know existed.

One arm forwards, one leg forwards, and breathe.

Move. Breathe. Move. Breathe.

I made it to the threshold and pulled the door open. I slid headfirst down the concrete stairs to lie on my back.

The pressure in my mind slowly vanished as I fell.

I opened my eyes.

Pale blue sky, almost cloudless.

My eyes watered from the bright light.

The perfect day was oblivious to my plight. The mid-autumn day was hardly different from late summer. I could’ve laid there for hours, but the hot concrete felt like it was melting the skin off my back where my shirt had ridden up. I rolled onto the dead grass beside the cracked front path.

Sweat ran into my eyes as I sat up. I squeezed my eyes shut to clear my vision.

I could still feel the cold air wafting from the open door. I had to shut it. Mrs Gregory was looking for any excuse to fire me. I stood and walked to the threshold.

All I had to do was grab the handle, pull it closed, remove my hand from the handle and step back.

One quick movement.

I could do it.

As I stared, my eyes adjusted to the dim. She stood just inside, her hard eyes focused on me.

She smiled.

I stepped forwards and grabbed the door handle. Her hand shot out towards my arm.

Her pale, icy fingers clamped around my left wrist. I tightened the grip of my right hand around the door handle. I tucked my chin to my chest and threw myself backwards down the stairs, using the weight of my body to swing the door closed. My shirt ripped as I fell backwards; the sleeve stayed in her hand as my arm slipped free.

The air expelled from my lungs as I hit the ground.

I lay on my back and my lungs refused to work. Fixed to the spot in terror, I gasped for air as my body refused to perform. A function that was usually thoughtless had become my only thought, the pinpoint the world had narrowed to.

There was a dizzy relief as I breathed again, and after a few minutes I slowly stood.

Blood ran down my exposed arm, the only part of my body that had hit the thin concrete path.

Ghosts could touch me! Physically hurt me!

I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing, forcing back the panic attack that bubbled in the back of my mind. I knew about the possession, but the touch? Why hadn’t Gran told me? I needed to call Gran, but I knew she couldn’t help me. She hadn’t talked to me about magic since her accident when I was seventeen.

I suspected the accident was magic-related, but she’d kept silent about it.

She’d looked at me sceptically any time I’d mentioned magic afterwards, as though I spoke of childish whimsy and needed to grow up.

So I had.

I’d left Dunn and become a librarian, a nice stable job for a responsible young man who liked books.

A normal young man who had resigned himself to a life of pretending he couldn’t see the dead.

I’d somehow ended up with nowhere else to turn and ended up back in this town.

Now Gran was in America with Aunt Myrtle, so it was hard to get help.

I drove back to the library to pretend I’d been out for my lunch break.


Author Bio

Ashton K. Rose author

Ashton K. Rose (They/Them) is a Queer author who writes Australian paranormal, urban fantasy and mystery fiction filled with LGBTQIA+ characters.

Ashton currently lives in sunny Queensland able to enjoy the best of the Australian bush and beach. Ashton spent their first fourteen years being raised on a remote farm shaped around the remains of an old mining town. Surrounded by the skeletons of past lives and their matching ghost stories, Ashton developed a love for fantasy, horror, and dark fairy tales from a young age.

Carrying a love of ghost stories into adulthood Ashton started writing novels about magic, vampires and ghosts. Ashton decided to set The Southern Magicks in a world heavily inspired by the backdrop of the Australia bush/beach and the speculative fiction Ashton has consumed over a lifetime.

Author Website: https://www.geekaflame.com/

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100086363208232

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/Geek_Aflame

Author Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/geek_aflame/

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21982765.Ashton_K_Rose

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/ashtonkrose

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Author Interview

Do your books spring to life from a character first or an idea?

I write character driven stories, so I usually come up with the plot after I have a couple of compelling/interesting characters. 

Are you a full-time or part-time writer? How does that affect your writing?

I’m a part time writer, I need to work a fulltime day job to fund my expensive hobby of publishing books. Over the last couple of months dealing with the business side of indie publishing plus working on my second book has made me feel like I’m working two full time jobs. 

I’d love to be a fulltime creator one day, but I’ve just reached a place where I can pay my bills and start publishing my stories. The results I’ve seen with one book I have no idea how to market have renewed my confidence. I feel like I’m running on fumes but I want to build a writing career that funds its self, even if I can’t ever write full time I’d at least love to be in the position where publish as often I need to and I can afford to release an audiobook on the same day as the eBook/paperback. 

Who did your cover, and what was the design process like?

My cover was created by Coffee and Fantasy Design, I saw their design portfolio in a Tweet mentioning they had schedule space and knew they were my cover artist. I’d already received quotes from a couple of other designers, but I didn’t think I was ready to have a cover yet. I dropped everything to email the owner of Coffee and Fantasy Design with a proposal and secure one of the empty spots in their schedule. 

I do think I was a slightly fussy/controlling client in the beginning, but everything was better when I let my designer take the reins. I’ve learnt a lot more about the eddicute of hiring a cover designer in the last year.

I’m very happy with my cover and it’s better than I could have ever imagined. I do wish I wasn’t so against the idea of a cover with a person on it though because they do seem to sell better in the American market even for adult fiction. 

The best thing you can do with cover designer is to let them do their job. They know their job.

What’s your drink of choice? 

Non-alcoholic: Either French Earl grey or any tea with rose or lavender. 

Alcoholic: Floral or citrus floured gin. 

What other artistic pursuits (it any) do you indulge in apart from writing?

I’ve been learning watercolor painting for a few months. I never really liked it in school because we used cheep paints and never learnt techniques. I’ve always liked the way watercolor paintings look and I knew I didn’t want to use acrylic paints after painting with as a hobby for a while as a teenager. When I wanted a creative hobby away from my computer, I decided to go all the way with learning and brought artist grade paint, cotton paper and good mid-range brushes. I wanted to learn without the quality of my tools damaging my perception of the medium. 

I really enjoy the hobby and constantly find myself improving though I don’t have as much time to paint as I’d like. One day I’d like to be able to draw a graphic novel as there are a few stories I want to tell that need a visual medium to fully shine.

Parasite by Ridley Harker Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A teen boy will be forced to decide between the brewing romance he has found sanctuary in and the fate of the island he calls home when a mysterious illness striking the town is linked to the new boy he’s been seeing in author Ridley Harker’s “Parasite”.

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The Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Jack Ives is used to being unlucky. His only friend has just moved away to college, his parents are alcoholics, and he’s relentlessly bullied by the town psychopath. All that begins to change with the arrival of a handsome but quirky new student, Lucien, who wants to be more than friends.

Their newfound happiness doesn’t last, however, as a strange new illness strikes the island. Fishermen go missing, and the villagers left behind aren’t themselves anymore. When Lucien is suspected to be the cause of the outbreak, can Jack overcome his teenage hormones and save Eldrick Isle? Will he even want to?

The Review

This was a haunting and captivating horror read. The chilling nature of the narrative took readers by storm, revealing both the panic-inducing body horror that films like John Carpenter’s The Thing and modern-day indie horror film The Bay have become known for and the suspense that keeps readers invested in the narrative as the motivations and twists of the story keep the true “threat” facing the people in town and the protagonist under a shroud of mystery. The brilliant imagery the author utilizes brings the “jump-scare” effect to the narrative, keeping readers hooked on the author’s writing.

The character development and atmosphere were the best-developed aspects of this narrative. Between the strong LGBTQ character bonds that the main characters shared together and the scare-filled atmosphere that kept the reader engaged with this narrative, the book hooked me immediately. The balance between every day, haunted aspects of daily human life that brought the townspeople to the place they found themselves in at the start of the narrative and the more parasitic, horror-themed problems that they come face to face with will have readers immersed in this story.

The Verdict

Powerful, thrilling, and entertaining, author Ridley Harker’s “Parasite” is a must-read LGBTQ-driven body horror novel of 2022! The perfect fall read for horror fans, the story and atmosphere will hook readers immediately, but it is the well-developed characters that will have readers invested as the narrative comes to its chilling and climactic finale. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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Parasite - Ridley Harker

Ridley Harker has a new gay horror book out (with a romantic subplot): Parasite. And there’s a giveaway.

Seventeen-year-old Jack Ives is used to being unlucky. His only friend has just moved away to college, his parents are alcoholics, and he’s relentlessly bullied by the town psychopath. All that begins to change with the arrival of a handsome but quirky new student, Lucien, who wants to be more than friends.

Their newfound happiness doesn’t last, however, as a strange new illness strikes the island. Fishermen go missing, and the villagers left behind aren’t themselves anymore. When Lucien is suspected to be the cause of the outbreak, can Jack overcome his teenage hormones and save Eldrick Isle? Will he even want to?

Warnings: Abuse, alcoholism, animal death, bullying, graphic violence/gore, guns, homophobia, misgendering

Universal Buy Link | Goodreads


Giveaway

Ridley is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour:

a Rafflecopter giveawayhttps://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47259/?


Excerpt

Lucien wanted to hit something. He wanted to lash out and make himself feel better by making someone else feel worse—Spencer, preferably, but Lucien was too upset even to fantasize. Something scuttled under the floorboards beneath him. Tiny claws on warped wood. A nearby hole in the floorboards… Vermin would have to do.

He brought his index finger to his mouth and bit down, worrying at the skin with his teeth until it broke. He tasted blood. The takeout bag sat beside him so he picked up a fry and, after seasoning it with blood, tossed it toward the hole. And then he waited.

A whiskered nose appeared first, followed by a furry brown face and black, beady eyes. A rat. The animal snatched the fry and disappeared back into the darkness. Lucien smirked and licked his finger clean. He absently probed the torn skin with his tongue until it was smooth again. Then he paused, momentarily forgetting about the rat. Something on his fingers tasted off.

Foreign.

Salty.

Some sort of grease.

He glanced dubiously down at the soggy french fries, holding his breath and waiting for disaster to strike. Nothing happened. His stomach rumbled. He licked his lips again. The scent of greasy, fried potatoes became too tantalizing to resist, and he reached into the bag and pulled out a fat, golden fry. He shouldn’t—years of lectures told him he shouldn’t—but a rebellion brewed deep inside him. He sniffed, and his stomach gurgled in approval.

Lucien popped the french fry into his mouth. It was cold. The texture was strange: crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. He had to chew before he could swallow. Grease coated his tongue.

His nutrient shakes were garbage.

Lucien scarfed down the entire bag of fries and then licked his fingers clean. Jack had left his milkshake behind, and Lucien drank that as well. The shake had a familiar texture, but the flavors… What would hamburgers taste like? He was going to find out.

An ear-piercing squeal erupted from beneath the floorboards. Lucien smirked into his straw and waited, listening. Judging from the sounds, more than one creature had taken his bait. The rat dragged itself out from the crevice. Little clawed toes curled in on themselves, and beady black eyes bulged out from their sockets. The bald tail became discolored, patchy and waxen. It flopped onto its side, its chest heaving madly as it labored to breathe. A black substance leaked out from its jaws, followed by a tiny, purpled tongue. It shuddered violently, and then it lay still.

Lucien didn’t notice. The paper cup crumpled in his grasp, and the remains of the strawberry shake dripped down his wrist. Behind his dry, irritating contact lenses, his pupils dilated. Lucien clutched at his belly, smearing milkshake across Jack’s borrowed shirt. It was like having shards of glass in his stomach, stabbing into his intestines. Ripping. Tearing. Sweat soaked his skin. He staggered to his feet and gagged. Waves of nausea threatened to bring him to his knees. His throat burned, and his stomach lurched.

He was going to be sick. Sick in the middle of Jack’s private sanctuary. Lucien clamped a hand over his mouth and stumbled toward the guest room. The door’s hinges screamed in protest when he fell against it. He landed heavily on his knees. The floorboards were wet and slimy, blackened with rot. They sloped toward the center of the room, where he saw the stony lip of the well peeking out from amidst the wreckage. The house was strange, but he had no time to explore, not when his stomach lining was burning its way up his esophagus.

Lucien dug his fingers into the moldering floorboards and dragged himself forward. Up close, the well stank. The putrid fumes of fetid water rising up to meet him suggested something had fallen in recently. Lucien leaned over the well’s side and vomited. The remains of french fries and strawberry milkshake hit the water below with a liquid slap. Strings of shredded tissue and dark, brackish blood soon followed.

Unbidden tears streamed down Lucien’s cheeks. He choked on a sob and then choked again as something elseslithered its way up his throat. The edge of the rotten boards gave beneath his clenched fingers, turning to splintery pulp. He tried to clamp a hand over his mouth, tried to keep it inside, but it was too late. Lucien curled in on himself, his mouth opened wide in a silent scream. His eyes rolled back behind his lids, and the world went dark.

It splattered onto the floor. It resembled a fattened leach, pulsating and slimy, and was the size of a large rat. It wriggled about, leaving behind a trail of black sludge. An alien kudzu sprung from the mess and cemented itself to the floor. Lucien opened his eyes, watching as the thing squirmed away from him. He felt a muted sense of alarm as it neared the edge. His head was foggy. He should grab it. Before it was too late, if it wasn’t too late already.

His fingertips scrabbled against the wood, mold and sludge filling the spaces beneath his nails, but his arms wouldn’t obey. He managed to brush the spongy tail of the creature before it tumbled over the edge and into the darkness below. It hit the water with a faint, echoing splash.

Lucien struggled to catch his breath. Empty and frail, his chest felt like a cage of papier-mâché. He rolled onto his back, panting. His eyes fluttered shut. Something moist crawled across his arms, up his ankles, under his jeans. It slithered through his hair. He was too tired to object. He wanted to sleep. He didn’t want to think about what could have happened if he had eaten in front of Jack. Or worse, if they had been in the middle of the crowded diner.

Inky blackness rose up to meet him, and Lucien didn’t resist.


Author Bio

Ridley Harker

Ridley Harker is an up-and-coming horror author who delights in all things gay and spooky. Influenced by Billy Martin (Poppy Z. Brite), Clive Barker, and Gemma Files, his favorite books are those with enemies to lovers, great villains, and queer main characters. Horror-romance is his favorite genre. He lives in the Middle of Nowhere with his two dogs, a grumpy old snake, and a host of pet tarantulas. Ridley is currently working on his MFA.

Author Website: https://www.ridleyharker.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/ridley.harker

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/HarkerRidley

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/RidleyHarker

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16649258.Ridley_Harker

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/ridley_harker

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A Death in Berlin (The Simon Sampson Mysteries Book Two) by David C. Dawson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

In the 1930’s Berlin, a city that once stood for liberation is about to become the capital of one of the world’s largest waves of oppression, and one man must fight to save the lives of several gay men as the Nazi party rises in author David C. Dawson’s “A Death in Berlin”, the second book in The Simon Sampson Mysteries series.

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The Synopsis

Berlin 1933: When the parties stop…the dying begins

The city that’s been a beacon of liberation during the 1920s is about to become a city of deadly oppression. BBC foreign correspondent Simon Sampson risks his life in a bid to save thousands of gay men from the growing Nazi threat.

This is the second in the Simon Sampson mystery series. The first, A Death in Bloomsbury, was hailed as ‘a good old-fashioned John Buchan-esque mystery reworked for the twenty-first century’.

Simon moves to Berlin where he meets British author Christopher Isherwood and his lover Heinz. He’s also reunited with his banter-partner Florence Miles, better known to her friends as Bill. She’s recruited him into the British intelligence services and he’s got the task of hunting down communist spies.

But when Simon is ordered to spy on an old college friend, his loyalties are brought into question. Who are his real enemies? And how much can he trust his masters?

The Review

This was such a well-developed and engaging historical fiction meets mystery thriller. The atmosphere and intrigue the author was able to infuse into the story really elevated the historical time period the narrative took place in, and the gripping story kept me on the edge of my seat as the author’s balance of fast-paced action and slow-build character growth kept the novel moving at an even pace. The LGBTQ aspect of the narrative and the character growth felt refreshingly natural and insightful, as it played into the history itself quite well.

The rich character dynamics and the unique setting are what really made this story stand out. The chaos and sadness that became such a part of everyday life at the beginning of the Nazi occupation were felt strongly in this novel. The harmonious way the author was able to weave these emotions and facts from our world’s history into the actions and experiences of this cast of characters made this novel so gripping. It allowed the mystery itself felt elevated as the narrative dipped into the espionage spy genre with ease.

The Verdict

Entertaining, thought-provoking, and uniquely pertinent to many of the recurring struggles so many around the world face today, author David C. Dawson’s “A Death in Berlin” is a must-read historical fiction meets suspense thriller and a great addition to The Simon Sampson Mysteries series. With the adrenaline rush and mind-bending twists and turns, this narrative will resonate with readers who enjoy an almost pulpy noir-style storytelling with an LGBTQ-driven cast of characters and a heavy dose of historical research and accuracy. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Men in love, men in jeopardy.

David C. Dawson is an award-winning writer of page-turner thrillers with a gay theme and the occasional romance.

His latest novel A Death in Bloomsbury was published in November 2021.

His debut novel, The Necessary Deaths, won bronze for Best Mystery & Suspense in the FAPA chairman’s award. It became the first in the Dominic Delingpole series. The other two books are The Deadly Lies and A Foreign Affair.

His first mystery romance For the Love of Luke was published in October 2018 followed by Heroes in Love.

David lives in London with his boyfriend and ageing motorbike.

You can read his blog here: http://bit.ly/DavidCDawsonblog

In his spare time, David tours Europe on his ageing Triumph motorbike and sings with the London Gay Men’s Chorus.

https://www.davidcdawson.co.uk/

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BB7WHR4N/ref=x_gr_w_glide_sin?caller=Goodreads&callerLink=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.goodreads.com%2Fbook%2Fshow%2F62071459-a-death-in-berlin%3Fac%3D1%26from_search%3Dtrue%26qid%3D8mAMg3tNGM%26rank%3D3&tag=x_gr_w_glide_sin-20

Devil’s Chew Toy (Hayden & Friends Book One) by Rob Osler Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A gay relationship blogger teams up with a take-charge lesbian and a feisty bull terrier to find a missing go-go dancer and take down an international crime ring in author Rob Osler’s “Devil’s Chew Toy”, the first book in the Hayden & Friends LGBTQ+ Mystery Series! 

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The Synopsis

Perfect for fans of T.J. Klune, Becky Albertalli, and David Levithan, this hilarious, big-hearted LGBTQ+ mystery follows an unlucky in love—and life—gay relationship blogger who teams up with a take-charge lesbian and a fiesty bull terrier to find a missing go-go boy and bring down an international crime ring.

When Hayden McCall’s new crush suddenly disappears, the twenty-something gay ginger relationship blogger and middle-school teacher teams up with a take charge butch lesbian, a gentle giant, and a feisty bull terrier to find the missing guy. 

Driven by a belief that the police won’t take the crime seriously, the improbable crime fighters prove that friendship — fueled by a lot of caffeine — has the power to bring down a diabolic international crime ring.

The Review

I absolutely loved this book. The humorous and captivating story balanced out so well with the rich and diverse characters. The pacing and atmosphere that the author crafted within this narrative were so engaging for a reader to dive into, and each scene and character felt alive on the page as if you could just step right into it. The themes the author explores in this book, from police brutality to the struggle of being “illegal” while living in the United States and so much more made the heart of this narrative feel so important as well.

The thing that really stuck out to me as a reader was the LGBTQ-driven themes and how prominent the ammeter sleuth meets crime thriller and humorous cozy mystery genres were within the story itself. The dynamics between Hayden, Hollister, and Burley were great to see, and getting to see the evolution of their friendship was so fun to connect with. Yet the actual mystery aspect of the narrative kept me on the edge of my seat, constantly guessing the truth behind this young dancer’s disappearance. 

The Verdict

Captivating, thoughtful, and entertaining, author Rob Osler’s “Devil’s Chew Toy” is a must-read ammeter sleuth meets LGBTQ+ humor and crime thriller! The way these cozy mystery reads have gained more and more popularity, especially in the face of the hit Hulu original series Only Murders in the Building, has given bright and original stories like this the spotlight they deserve, and the author’s unique blend of humor, wit, and charm with important themes and heartfelt character growth will have readers eager for more of this engaging series. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Prior to Devil’s Chew Toy, Rob Osler’s short story, Analogue, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, won the Mystery Writers of America Robert L Fish Award as part of the 2022 Annual Edgar Awards. Rob lives in California with his long-time partner and a tall gray cat. 

Website: http://robosler.com

Facebook: http://facebook.com/roboslerwriter

Twitter: http://twitter.com/robosler

Instagram: http://instagram.com/roboslerwriter

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3pb3YYz

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/57997935-devil-s-chew-toy

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Author Q&A

On writing:

How did you do research for your book?

As DEVIL’S CHEW TOY is a contemporary novel set in a city I’m extremely familiar with, there was not a heavy research task. Also, because the two main characters are VERY amateur sleuths, I could avoid needing to get a lot of police procedure right—though there is some police interaction. That said, it’s amazing how many little questions arise in every chapter that require a pause and some desk research. 

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

The hardest character to write was Hollister—not that she was too challenging. I strove to be respectful of Hollister’s identity as a Black lesbian in America without going so deeply into her character that hers became a story that wasn’t mine to tell. 

The easiest character to write was Hayden McCall. Why? Because there’s a whole lot of me in him. We are both naturally shy and smaller of stature (though he’s shorter and slighter). I took Hayden on the type of adventure—with a bolder, stronger, and more courageous friend—that I would love to go on.

There are many cozy mysteries out there….What makes yours different?

My story features two extremely amateur sleuths, one mild-mannered gay ginger and one butch lesbian. I’ve heard from some reviewers and readers that while pairing a gay and a lesbian as the main protagonists is not unprecedented it is uncommon. Also, I intentionally wrote a story in which the queer characters are neither the villains nor the tragic victims. 

What advice would you give budding writers?

Understand that whatever amount of patience you have will be depleted and then some. Publishing moves in increments of months. It takes a long time—and a lot of collaborators—to bring a book to market.

Your book is set in Seattle. Have you ever been there?

I set the book in Seattle because it’s my “Spirit City.” I lived there for nearly twenty years and loved it. Given as much time as it takes to write a book, I wanted to return to Seattle and its neighborhoods and hills and waterways during the long writing process.

Do you have another profession besides writing?

I have been a marketing and branding strategist for many decades, both at agency/consultancies and at technology corporations. I think the general mind set of prioritizing activities that matter most has helped me with all aspects of writing and the navigating the publishing process.

How long have you been writing?

I actually started my professional career as advertising copywriter writing television commercials for Kellogg’s and Tropicana and Procter & Gamble. Fiction writing also uses words to communicate but that’s about the only commonality I’ve found! It’s the difference between landing one memorable message versus telling a compelling, captivating story over three hundred-plus pages. Trust me, a novel is way harder.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

You know, I really never do. But then I’m not much of a procrastinator either—not that they’re the same thing. My biggest challenge is going off on a tangent with a character or a scene that needlessly complicates the story and “writes me into a corner.” I do a lot revisions.

What is your next project?

I have recently sold my second short story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It features a fifty-something cross-dressing whacky amateur sleuth named Perry Winkle who solves a murder at his Palm Springs condo community.

What genre do you write and why?

I write traditional mysteries because that has been the genre I have always most loved to read. And I feature LGBTQ+ main characters because I am gay and we need more books—of all genres—that represent the great and glorious rainbow of humanity. 

What is the last great book you’ve read?

Two spring to mind. The first: THE SAVAGE KIND by John Copenhaver, who also happens to be a very nice human being. This novel—no surprise—won the Lambda Literary Award for best mystery this year. The second: DEAD LETTERS FROM PARADISE by Ann McMan is sheer delight. Both books are truly terrific.

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

“I can’t wait to read the next one!”

How are you similar to or different from your lead character?

Both Hayden and I are gay, mild-mannered, quiet, but good for an occasionally humorous one-liner. We both play tennis and enjoy big personalities. As Hayden says, “we balance each other out.”

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?

The characters are so distinct in my head, I can’t picture a known movie star playing either Hayden, Hollister or Burley. However, I can see Della Rupert, the oddball proprietress of Barkingham Palace, played superbly by Melissa McCarthy.

If your book were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?

Stanley Kellogg’s “Falling Hard,” of course! This song, which was made up along with the new country star himself, reoccurs throughout the story. Fun fact! After the book was published, a good friend, Ben Davis, and I completed the lyrics and Ben wrote the music and produced the track. It’s on my website. Check it out!

What were the biggest rewards with writing your book?

Hearing from readers that they enjoyed it. 

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?

Long.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Every time you are certain you’re done working on a book, know that you aren’t.

Which authors inspired you to write?

Agatha Christie and Armistead Maupin.

What is something you had to cut from your book that you wish you could have kept?

There’s a line that 91-year-old Jerry delivers in reply to Hayden’s question: “How did you get to be so wise old man?” Over the whistle of the kettle, Jerry replies, “I managed to live a long damn time.”  That “damn” was an Eff-bomb until the final edit. It was the only strong swear word in the book. By removing it the book avoided an R rating, if you will. But I still love the idea of Jerry saying the line with more gusto!

On rituals:

Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?

No snacking. But I do try to drink plenty of water.

Where do you write?

I have a home office. I’ve never been able to do the coffee shop thing. I am too easily distracted.

Do you write every day?

Not every day. But I do write most days. 

What is your writing schedule?

I usually write in two- to three-hour spurts. In a mystery, context and pacing is so important I am not skilled enough to dipping in and out.

Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?

Nope. I just plop my butt down and starting tap, tap, tapping. I will say I find it very difficult to stop writing before I finish a chapter, even in the roughest draft form.

In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

No. But I do use notebook paper to scribble plot ideas before I write.

Fun stuff:

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

The seventies. The music was awesome. Though I’m still wary of bell bottom pants.

Favorite travel spot?

Switzerland.

Favorite dessert?

Raspberry rhubarb pie

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which 3 books would you want with you? 

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

Tales of the City

All the Light We Cannot See

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

I set off for Alaska to work on fish processing barge after my sophomore year at college. If fish were running, the shift was 16 hours, every day until all the fish were processed. I still don’t know why I did it, but I returned two more summers. 

Any hobbies? or Name a quirky thing you like to do.

I have been life-long tennis player and watcher. I can usually name the top twenty men players—and often in order!

If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

Rob Osler writes traditional mysteries featuring LGBTQ+ main characters. 

What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?

We are social creatures who need human interaction.

What TV series are you currently binge watching?

Inventing Anna by Shonda Rhimes on Netflix.

What is your theme song?

“Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits. 

What song is currently playing on a loop in your head?

“The Seaside” by The Lazy Eyes

What is something that made you laugh recently?

Jinx Monsoon’s roast performance on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Hi-lar-ious.

What is your go-to breakfast item?

Toast and yogurt with berries.

What is the oldest item of clothing you own?

I have a green argyle sweater I bought in Seattle thrift store about forty years ago.

Tell us about your longest friendship.

Twin girls, Kelly and Shelly. I grew up with them. We went to elementary, middle school, high school and then to the same out-of-state college! Just a few months back, I did a book event at the wonderful Boise bookshop Rediscovered Books. Guess who was in the front row?

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?

Willy Ames who played the role of Tommy on Eight is Enough.

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Guest Post: Adding More Color To Cozies

Adding More Color to Cozies

Within the mystery genre are several sub-genres, including suspense, hard-boiled, noir, historical, amateur sleuth, police procedural, detective, and cozy. Perhaps the one in the list that is least familiar to most readers is the cozy. If the term is new to you, just think of Jessica Fletcher and Murder She Wrote or most of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries. The hallmarks of a cozy are the avoidance of gratuitous violence, graphic sex, and profanity. But being on the tamer end of the mystery spectrum doesn’t mean a cozy can’t deliver a terrifically entertaining read packed with engaging characters, adventure, intrigue, and loads of humor. 

Given the nature of cozies, they have tended to appeal to a more conservative audience, predominately featuring white and straight main characters in smaller towns populated with other white and straight residents. That said, there have been many truly great exceptions. To name drop just a few: Dean James Simon-Kirby Jones series that features a gay vampire (now that’s different!), Stephen E. Stanley’s Luke Littlefield series, Michael Craft’s Claire Gray series, Mystery Writers of America Grand Master, Ellen Hart’s Jane Lawless series, among others, and Kellye Garrett’s HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE. 

While diverse cozies are nothing new, it seems there are more coming than ever before. And that’s a very good thing.

Michael Craft is back with DESERT GETAWAY, a delightful new Dante (gay guy) and Jazz series (Black woman P.I.). Raquel Reyes’s MANGO, MAMBO, AND MURDER (A Caribbean Kitchen Mystery), Mia P. Manansala’s ARSENIC AND ABODO, Jennifer J. Chow’s DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA, Frank Anthony Polito’s RENOVATED TO DEATH (yes, gay 😊), and Zac Bissonnette’s A KILLING IN COSTUMES (also gay). And yes, my own debut novel, DEVIL’S CHEW TOY, features a gay, ginger middle-school teacher and gay dating blogger and his amateur sleuth partner, a Black butch lesbian.

Representation is important. While I hope the murders and other crimes that anchor even cozy mysteries don’t befall readers, it’s important to have book options that put diverse characters at the center. True inclusion isn’t relegated to the periphery. I, for one, enjoy reading stories I can relate to because of a shared experience with a character and characters that introduce me to new cultures and experiences. That’s an adventure. That’s transportive and escapist. Isn’t that why we read fiction? 

And here’s the best part: a good book is a good book. So even straight readers can enjoy a great mystery with diverse main characters. 

So hooray for the new wave of diverse cozies. They promise any mystery lover a delightfully colorful read.