Social Justice in Romance Series: KJ Charles talks Political Heroes and Representation in Historical Romance

25241403In her book “A Seditious Affair” KJ Charles gives us a torrid and intense love story between two men who see the world from totally opposing sides. Their views on how society should work, and what justice means are like night and day.

The “opposites attract” trope is tried and true in romance, and yet the story KJ presented to us unusual, it goes deeply into class injustice,  and the atrocities that can be committed by an oppressive state in the name of “the greater good”.  She also explores, the idea that even if two people are on completely opposite sides, common values like respect, decency and loyalty can bridge those differences.

Silas and Dominic are fervent in their political beliefs, they live and die by them. Silas fights to end the oppression his people are living under, even if by doing so, he risks his own life. Dominic staunchly defends the system that he believes is the only way to maintain “social order”, and yet they fall in love. In these the days of polarization and partisanship the idea that two men can come together and find common ground by valuing each other as human beings is almost magical.  The proposition that being humble enough to listen and try to understand the other side can bring healing and unity is very powerful. So, I reached out to KJ and asked her if she could talk a little bit about Silas and Dominic, and why she decided to build her love story on such rocky ground.

I also wanted to ask KJ about her stories with people of color. As much as I love gay romance, and I do love it VERY MUCH, something that is not done very often (or well unfortunately) are characters of color. In historical romance specifically it’s practically unheard of,  yet in KJ’s books POC are often represented and in two of her recent stories they are the main characters. I wanted to hear from her why it was important to have people of color in her novels, and to speak about how she went about writing these characters as a white woman.

Here is what KJ had to say…

The Tipsy Bibliophile: In “A Seditious Affair” and other books, you make a point of exploring class injustice and oppression at very deep levels, you expose the hypocrisy of such systems, even at the expense of your own heroes. Romance is supposed to be an escape, you know, “light reading”. What do you say to that? Do you find that your readers react to those elements of your story in particular, if so, do those reactions surprise you?

KJ Charles: It’s funny: people say ‘don’t talk about politics’ and ‘romance should be escapist’. But actually “Seditious Affair”, my most overtly political book, is probably the book that’s got the most intense love from readers. And I think that’s *because* of the politics. For one thing, fighting an unjust system is an absolutely real and brutal conflict, not a fantasy one, and that raises the stakes on the romance hugely. For another, I think passionate dedication to doing the right thing and making the world better is pretty damn sexy. And frankly, at the moment, I’d say two politically opposed people falling in love and learning to listen to and understand each other’s views is about as big a fantasy as you can get.

My heroes in that book both have deeply held senses of right and wrong, and they both have to compromise beyond comfort to be with the other, without losing their souls. I did not expect readers to get quite so hooked on radical politics 1819-20, but…well, it’s a fascinating time, an evident matter of injustice, and I think readers like to learn from their books; I certainly do.

The set-up of that book involves one hero very much on the wrong side of history–he works for a government that is actively trying to suppress calls for democracy, in ways that seem grossly unjust. What I tried to do was show how a basically decent man could do those things–because, you know, I don’t think it helps to present the people we disagree with as villains as a matter of course. Sometimes people support unjust systems out of cowardice, selfishness and greed, but sometimes it’s a matter of different world views. Dominic, in my book, is a Tory who opposes enfranchising the working man. That doesn’t mean he hates poor people: it means that, like many men of his time, he believes in a hierarchical society, and in the responsibility of those at the top. He thinks there is a God-given order to things, which includes a ruling class, and that democracy would lead to anarchy, chaos and murder, as in the relatively recent bloodshed of the French Revolution. We might now not find a lot to agree with in those views. But it’s worth noting that the great anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce was a Tory who opposed any enfranchisement for the working classes, even as he dedicated his life to ending enslavement. He didn’t think the Government should do anything for the poor; he near bankrupted himself personally giving charity to individuals. It isn’t always a simple matter of right and wrong where one person has to change his mind, and I think readers appreciate the nuance of that in books because they see it around them every day.
The Tipsy Bibliophile: I am as you know, a BIG fan of your writing, and as a person of color in an interracial marriage, I have been very interested, and pleased, with your interracial stories like “Wanted, A Gentleman” and “An Unseen Attraction”. Specially because they are so rare in gay romance, and practically unheard of when it comes to historicals. This is very delicate ground to tread on. So much can go wrong! Why is it important for you to write these stories? What was different for you in writing them?

KJ Charles:  I feel passionate about including POC in my stories because I am sick to death of seeing my city’s history whitewashed. There have been POC recorded in London since records began. I think the version of Victorian or Regency London where everyone is white and upper class isn’t just untrue, it’s painfully limited and honestly not that interesting. Opening out romance to variety of race, religion, occupation, class, gender and sexuality has produced most of my favourite historicals, and so many wonderful new stories. As a white author I am vividly aware of the importance of doing my research, representing with respect and as much historical accuracy as I can, and all I can say is, I’ll try my best to get characters and stories right. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing a white-only version of London because I don’t live in a white-only version of London.

I am in no way an expert but it does seem like the US and UK have very divergent historical attitudes when it comes to interracial marriage, because of course we have very different histories.  I’ve seen Americans assume that the UK had laws against mixed race marriages, which has never been the case. There are an absolute ton of mixed marriages recorded throughout London’s history, as one might expect for a port city and capital of empire, and that’s something I’ve reflected in my books as a matter of course. (Obviously we don’t have written records of queer relationships in the same way we do m/f marriages, but I think it’s fair to extrapolate the social attitudes.)

You can buy “A Seditious Affair” HERE.
You can buy KJ’s interracial romances “Wanted, A Gentleman” and “A Unseen Attraction” HERE.
Another historical series that explores class injustice incredibly well, please look for Joanna Chambers’ “Enlightment Series”. It is an AMAZING historical and an education on Scottish history. You can find the series HERE.
A few other novels with interracial couples that delve into racial justice that I LOVE are:
“Bolt Hole” by Amy Lane, you can find it HERE. 
“Other Side of the Line” by Margaritte Labbe. (this story explores the segregation and civil rights movement in the US, and it is WONDERFUL), you can find it HERE.
“Death of a Blues Angel” by Sarah Black (ANYTHING BY SARAH BLACK!), you can find it HERE.
“But My Boyfriend Is” by K.A. Mitchell, you can find it HERE.
Thanks so much for reading, and please let me know of any other romances which explore these themes that you love!
Come back tomorrow for my interview with author J.E. Birk where we talk about her decision to explore the struggle of undocumented families.
Cheers and Happy Reading!

Social Justice and Romance: Are those two a good fit?

How social justice is portrayed in gay romance is something that’s been on my mind a lot lately.  I think partly it’s due to the current state of the world, and all the things happening daily that are essentially eating away at the small gains we had made in the fight towards a more just society. But also, because in the past year, I have gone back again and again to the authors who have delved deeply into social justice in their stories, and reading those stories has been very meaningful for me.

Over the next week  I will post a series of posts on different social justice themes and will share my conversations with authors who have “gone there”, and not only delivered powerful love stories, but have opened readers up to some very important issues.

So, what is Social Justice? According to The Social Work Dictionary, social justice entails upholding the condition that in a perfect world, all citizens would have equal “rights, protection, opportunities, obligations, and social benefits”, regardless of their backgrounds and membership in diverse groups…A lofty goal if there ever was one, and so elusive. And yet, in the Social Work profession (my day job), pledging to advocate for Social and Economic Justice is embedded in all we do.

I think about Social Justice a lot, it’s literally my job,  and one of my passions.  My other great passion is reading, romance novels in particular are a big source of joy, and my go to when I need self-care. However Romance and Social Justice, sadly are two passions of mine that rarely overlap.  It’s not to say social justice never comes up, the fight for LGBTQ rights is a theme that is covered well in gay romance, as it should be, and in my opinion is one of the things that make this genre very special for readers.

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Social justice is much broader than LGBT rights though, and it intersects through many different parts of what makes a whole person, not just their sexuality. It is also gender identity, race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, country of origin, immigration status, education…and the list goes on.  The combination of all these things will determine whether a person navigates this wold from a place of privilege or disadvantage.

So what does any of this have to do with Romance Novels? Well, for me, a lot.  I’ve struggled a lot with the idea of there being a place for topics like income inequality, systemic racism, mass incarceration, sexual violence, immigration reform and so many others in romance. Is it even appropriate to get so heavy when romance should help readers escape? I think the answer is yes, especially for those of us who already read gay romance. Because, we already are seeking stories of  people who have struggled so much to be able to love openly. I think romance readers are the ideal audience for books that address injustice, and I wanted to hear from authors and readers about their opinions on this.

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My first conversation is with one of my favorite writers (in any genre) Roan Parrish author of the Middle of Somewhere Series published my Dreamspinner Press. We talk about the second book in this series “Out of Nowhere” one of my favorite romances. In this book Roan presents to us, the prison industry complex, decarceration, internalized oppression, and political activism, just to name a few, and does it all while giving us a sweeping and passionate love story. Roan will share about her thoughts on writing with purpose, and why more people need know about decarceration.

My second conversation will be with KJ Charles , author of the Society of Gentlemen Series published by Penguin Random House. KJ will talk with us about her novel “A Seditious Affair” and why it was important for her to delve so deeply into the politics of her two heroes. She’ll also share on why she writes persons of color in her stories, and the importance of their presence in historical romance.

My third and last conversation will be with author J.E. Birk author of “Dating Ryan Alback” published by Riptide Publishing. J.E. will share why she decided to highlight the struggles faced by the children of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. in her novel, and why she thinks romance is the perfect space for stories with a focus on social justice.

So LOTS of good conversation coming up on the blog. I do hope that this gets a conversation started in the gay romance community from readers and writers. I also look forward to hearing from you and your thoughts on this.
So please come back tomorrow for my talk with Roan Parrish!
Cheers and Happy Reading!
Laura

My Favorite Books of 2016 and Holiday Cookies!

I hope everyone has been having a lovely holiday season this past week. I have been busy hosting lovely friends and family who have made the trip to New York for a visit with us, as well as working and other “leading a life” related activities. I have also caught a bit of a cold, but I WAS able to do some baking before the holiday crud set in. As promised I have a list of of my favorite books of 2016, as well as a couple of recipes of holiday cookies I love to make this time of year.

The cookies I chose are Chocolate Crinkles and a Shortbread recipe. The crinkles are delish, like eating the edge of the brownie pan, and the shortbread recipe is incredibly delicious and versatile. You can make take the basic dough and add all kinds of fun ingredients. I made two different kinds for this post, lemon poppy seed and dried cherry with dark chocolate chips. SO GOOD!!

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Now, back to the books, for convenience sake, I’ve listed the books in the order they came out this year, from the earliest to the latest, some had made it on the blog already. So here they are, my favorite romance reads of 2016:

26157385The Mermaid Murders by Josh Lanyon: What can I say that has not already been said about a Lanyon Mystery? The dialogue is superb, the mystery will keep you guessing, and the heroes will make you swoon. This mystery in particular had it’s fair share of heart stopping moments, and there were scenes so vivid and fast paced throughout I was a bit breathless the whole time. Loved it.

 

28121630-1Scoring Chances Series by Avon Gale:  This series caught my eye early this year and it quickly became a favorite. I love the easy stories and strong writing. I have read every book in the series, and can say that each one has been better then the last. The game of hockey is star for sure in these novels, and I think the books are the better for it. The author clearly has a passion for the games and her enthusiasm infuses the stories by giving us heroes with a whole lot of heart.

22714914-1Catch a Tiger by the Tail  and Smoke and Mirrors by Charlie Cochet: The only way one would be a gay romance reader and not heard of the THIRDS series at this point, would be if one were doing so under a large rock, even then, I’d be surprised! The THIRDS universe has an enormous following, and every bit of hype is unequivocally very well deserved. The world Charlie Cochet has created is outstanding. Getting lost with these characters, and their stories is a delight, the books just get better and better. Smoke and Mirrors the 7th book,  and latest in the series, was probably the most emotional so far for me. One of the best books of the year, full stop.

25893424A Gentleman’s Position By KJ Charles: If I could, I’d  write a love poem to this book, I love it so. I’ve read it like a half a dozen times, and it is just as good each time. I absolutely love the way KJ Charles set this book and the nuance with which she put forth some incredibly deep thoughts on privilege, obligation and a man’s place in the world. On what it really means to ‘have it all’. Throughout this series, she explores socio-economic disparities and injustices with such a clear eye and razor sharp tongue, I almost feel sorry for those poor saps out there who think they are too clever to read romance…Almost.

32106624-1Risk Everything on It  and Take a Chance on It by K.A. Mitchell: The last book in this trilogy was a heart breaker, just like it promised to be. It lived up to the angst I expected, and it also delivered some of the most tender storytelling I’ve read in this genre. Only one with some serious skill could walk us through a love story forged in the midst of cancer treatment, and give us everything we need to get an utterly satisfying romance. KA Mitchell has those skills, and then some.

12000020-1Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: This book was released awhile ago, but I only got around to it this year. It is a beautiful coming of age story, I loved it so much. I think pretty much everyone should read this book.

 

 

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Hexbreaker by Jordan L. Hawk: This new series by Jordan L Hawk, who is a total master at the paranormal, is pretty clever. A paranormal police force in 1800s New York City, animal shifters of every kind. This first book was entertaining and the love story was solid. Looking forward to more from this universe.

 

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First and First (Five Boroughs Series #3) by Santino Hassell: I got on the Santino Hassell train a bit late, and did not pick up this series until this year. I am glad I did, this series is set and written with the kind of grit only a born and bred New Yorker can muster up. The vernacular is on point, the portrayal of Afro-Caribbean New Yorkers is done superbly, the love stories are raw and hard fought. For an adopted New Yorker like me, this series can’t get any better. I look forward to Staten Island and the Bronx.

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Overexposed (In Focus #4) by Megan Erickson: This is the last book in the ‘In Focus’ series. Each book is set around a trip, road trip, cruise and in this case walking the Appalachian Trail. One of our heroes is grieving, the other is struggling to readjust to civilian life.The second theme in particular I think this author does very well. Trauma is not easy to write into a character, and I thought she did both her heroes and their pain justice.  I loved this book, thought it was the best of the series and strongly recommend it.

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Out of Nowhere and Where We Left Off by Roan Parrish: This another author/series with which I’ve descended deeply into the waters of fervency. Will and Leo’s story in particular is as much a coming of age story as it is a romance. The author does this with such a gentle hand, that we feel like we are spreading our wings alongside Leo. There is heartbreak in this story, but loves wins out gloriously.

 

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Pansies by Alexis Hall: This book is as sweet as the cover and the title suggest. Alexis Hall is a known and respected name in this genre, and for good reason. This book was wonderful.

 

 

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Bitter Legacy by Dal Mclean: I wrote a review on this book a couple of weeks ago, so I won’t go too much in things here, other than to say, if you have not read it, please do.

 

 

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Summer Lessons by Amy Lane: This might be one of my favorite Amy Lane series. I absolutely loved the previous story Winter Ball, and this one was just as sweet. Pure Amy Lane goodness.

 

 

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So This is Christmas by Josh Lanyon:  To begin and  end the year with Josh Lanyon, if only every one could be this magical! For those of us who have been reading this genre for awhile, this novella out today, is a bona fide Christmas Miracle. What can I even say? I stayed up ALL NIGHT reading it, and it was well worth the wait and the sleep depravation. Jake and Adrien again, happy and in love, it was like visiting with beloved old friends, you know the ones right? You can just pick up with them, like you were  together yesterday. *happiest of sighs*

Now after all these amazing books, let’s move one to the cookies you can bake to enjoy them with!

Lemon Poppy Seed and Cherry Dark Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 sticks  unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup  confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon  vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour

Directions

Before you start with the though prepare your flavors for the two varieties. For the lemon poppy seed,  zest two lemons and 1/4 cup of poppy seeds. For the cherry dark chocolate, chop up finely half a cup of dry cherries (I used dried bing cherries from Trader Joe’s) and a half a cup of dark mini chocolate chips.

Put the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat at medium speed until it is smooth. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and beat again until the mixture is smooth and silky. Beat in the egg yolks and vanilla or almond, followed by the salt and any dried fruits, zest, nuts or seeds. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour, beating just until it disappears. It is better to underbeat than overbeat at this point; if the flour isn’t fully incorporated, that’s okay just blend in whatever remaining flour needs blending with a rubber spatula.

Turn the dough out onto a counter, gather it into a ball, and divide it in half. Wrap each piece of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

2. Working on a smooth surface, form each piece of dough into a log that is about 1 to 1 1/4 inches (2.5 to 3.2 cm) thick. (Get the thickness right, and the length you end up with will be fine.) Wrap the logs in plastic and chill for 2 hours. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and kept refrigerated for up to 3 days or stored in the freezer for up to 1 month.)

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3. Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

4. While the oven is preheating, roll cookie logs in any coatings of your choice. Then, using a sharp slender knife, slice each log into cookies about 1/3 inch (10 mm) thick. (You can make the cookies thicker if you’d like; just bake them longer.) Place the cookies on the lined baking sheets, leaving about 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) space between them.

5. Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are set but not browned. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks to cool to room temperature.

Do ahead: Packed airtight, the cookies will keep for about 5 days at room temperature, or in the freezer for a month. Unbaked logs can be frozen for longer.

Chocolate Crinkles

Adapted from Simply Recipes 

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Beat together cocoa powder, white sugar, vegetable oil in the mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or beat by hand with a wooden spoon) beat together the cocoa powder, white sugar, and vegetable oil until it comes together into a shiny, gritty, black dough of sorts.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds each. Add the vanilla and beat in thoroughly.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder if using.

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Mix into the chocolate mixture on low speed until just combined. Do not overbeat.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill the dough for four hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the confectioner’s sugar in a wide bowl.

Using a rounded teaspoon get clumps of the chilled dough and roll them into 1-inch (2.5 cm) sized balls using your hands.

Roll the balls in the confectioner’s sugar and place on the cookie sheets (you should be able to get 12-16 on each sheet).

Bake at 350°F for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool a minute or two on the sheets before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

 

I hope that you’ve gotten a couple of books to look for from this list and that you give the cookies a try, they are YUMMY!

This is my last post for the year, hopefully 2017 will ring in with great books to read. Wishing all of you a very Happy New Year!

Cheers and Happy Reading!

Laurax

 

Think of England by KJ Charles and an amazing Reisling.

Yes, yes, I AM a few months late with this review, but not in the slightest less excited to share my thoughts on this latest novel by the brilliant KJ Charles. These past few months have been incredibly busy for me with all kinds of things happening in my life, which sadly normally translates to cutting back on at least some of my hobbies! So, this past week I was getting ready to go on a mini-vacay with my family and decided to re-read Think of England, so as to have it fresh on my mind for the review. This second read, if possible, I enjoyed even more than the first and that is saying A LOT. KJ I think without a doubt is one of the more sophisticated historical romance authors I’ve read, this is a genre that specifically in M/M romance is frighteningly easy to foul up (with exceptions like the lovely Joanna Chambers and Jordan L Hawk).

KJ however excels where most fear to tread, a lot of it has to do with the fact that she has elegance to spare in her writing style, but also because  she sets her stories up on solid research, authentic dialogue and characters that don’t allow for distractions or confusions. If the woman says she’s taking us to 1904, than dammit that is where you will be for the next 200 pages or so! How about the actual story you say? The romance, the MENS, how where they? AMAZING. I mean Archie, a viking like war hero aristocrat…And Daniel and unrepentant poet with a VERY VERY sharp tongue…Oh KJ you are playing my song lady!  But she was not done, oh no, there was also intrigue, mystery, drama and aristocratic misbehavior here for miles, I was not bored for a millisecond and I could have wept from happiness when I heard there will be more from Archie Curtis and Daniel da Silva coming to us in the future.

For this awesome and very much posh setting and story I selected a lovely Reisling from the Willm winery in the island of Alsace. This wine has a sharp and fresh taste and it is just delightful to sip VERY cold. I enjoyed it many times this summer. For about $11 a bottle this wine is fantastic value.photo (2)

Now back to the story...Archie Curtis has his military service cut short when a faulty set of weapons was delivered to his platoon and ended up killing and or maiming his entire squad.  He walked away with a disfigured right hand he could barely use and a  There was foul play that he is certain of, but now he is not so sure by whom. The weapon manufacture, Lafayette, who had been held responsible for the accident came to Archie to say he had been framed…He said Armstrong his strongest competitor had framed him so he could take his contract. After he turns Lafayette away, and the guys turn up dead in the river, Archie is not sure what to think. That is how he ends up on his way to a two week long country house party at the Armstrong’s new country estate in Newcastle. Once he’s there he is immediately reminded of the reason why he was just not built for civilian life. These people have no purpose, how can they sit around and play for days on end? He does not fit in well with this lot…Especially once he is introduced to Daniel da Silva, the man is insufferable not only is his attire scandalous, but he makes no efforts to hide the fact that he is a homosexual. The women love da Silva’s wit but Archie is not amused, but he has not time to waste on the man or any of the other people at the house, he is there to find out what happened with the weapons that killed his brothers in arms and took his career.

Pretty soon Archie discovers that nothing is at it seems, there are sinister games at play in the Armstrong family. The more he digs the more he realizes Daniel da Silva could not only be useful to him, but may a valuable ally. The man is to clever for his own good, and that mouth he has…Archie discovers before too long that he is in over his head, with everything, and he will need to heroic one last time if he and Daniel are to get out of there alive.

This novel is in short, and absolute delight, both times I was at the edge of my seat, and had no clue how things would go. The showdown scene at the end was one of the most deliciously gruesome things I’ve read in awhile. I do love KJ Charles’ style, her heroes are men who do what they have to and are not afraid to get dirty, but they always try to do it for the right reasons. Daniel and Archie were DELICIOUS, and I seriously cannot wait to read more of their adventures in the espionage game. Loved loved loved.

If you have not read this, please PLEASE do…You will not regret it!

Think of England by KJ Charles is for sale here and here.

 

his People this is highly sophisticated mystery novel writing…That is just to whet your appetites, so to speak. We

Remnant by Jordan L Hawk and KJ Charles and one of my fave mixologies, The Negroni.

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Sooooooo...Jordan L Hawk and KJ Charles wrote a story together and it’s free…Featuring characters from their stories which we know and love!!!! That is what I call GOOD NEWS! These ladies have been producing some of the best reading material I’ve gotten my hands on in the pasty year. KJ and Jordan each have very unique writing styles, and their stories are RICH with captivating adventures, great humor and very intriguing mysteries. These ladies bring elegance to the horror genre, I kid you not. But where the both take really bring it in their stories, their men. I LOVE their characters. Jordan’s men they are not always comfortable in their own skin, but they are noble and true. Whyborne and Griffin are a delight to read.  As for KJ, the woman elevates the term dark and mysterious, to some new heights. She also has a true gift in weaving humor into her stories in a way that really adds value.

Like I said my excitement was susbtantial when I heard that Jordan and KJ has hooked up to write  story…That got me thinking what to do, what do drink, what to eat…I decided food, might not be the thing for this one, because people this is a PARTAY…Like a let’s get tipsy and go kinda a crazy up in here…So naturally. Cocktails. One of my favoritest cocktails is the Negroni, it’s a got equal parts of Campari, Vermouth and Gin. Three things I enjoy very much separately, but when they come together it’s PERFECTION, and then sipping it while reading a story written by two authors I LOVE!!!…I need a GIF for this…

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Now back to this collaboration, to be honest, despite the fact that their stories do dabble in similar areas, I had never considered they could write something together. Thankfully, I’m not the one doing the brainstorming for the authors I LOVE. This story brought the two worlds they created together seamlessly. They played the characters off each other so so well. Honestly, it was like the four guys had meant to meet all along.

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Ok let’s get serious here. The story. SO! Remnant is set in London just a few months from when we left Whyborne and Griffin after their last adventure. Simon and Robert have been together for about five years and their latest case is a strange one indeed. Three people have been found dead, HORRIBLY dead that is. When Robert and Simon arrive at the scene of the latest murder, they reach an impasse.  The writings on Simon’s body, which usually tell the tale of the ghost at hand turns out to be in some sort of ancient language. Egyptian language to be more specific, this is a problem. If they can’t decipher the runes, they won’t be able to figure out what needs to be done to appease the angry spirit from the beyond.

While reading the paper Simon happens to spot Percival Endicott Whyborne’s name in the list of notable passengers, arriving in London on a steamer from America. He has heard of this Whyborne, and of his association with cults, necromancers and all kinds of unsavory types. BUT the man is said to be an Egyptologist which means he could be valuable in helping with the message in the runes. Robert quickly sets of to try and find him. He eventually identifies Whyborne and his travelling companion (a very fetching young man) and before they know it they’re all in a weapon laden stand-off. Things are tense, but Whyborne and Griffin are not ones to walk away from an adventure, specially if they can help prevent more deaths. So pretty soon the foursome is teaming up to come after the person responsible for the the strange murders.

Whyborne and Feximal are not too fond of each other, but Griffin and Caldwell get on like old bosom buddies…And doesn’t that chafe their respective lovers asses?  The dynamics that ensue from this unlikely team effort are fabulous. The banter is exquisite and so fun to read, Whyborne was in rare form  in this story. He is so awkward and lovable and the way Griffin completely adores him ALWAYS charms me. Robert is such an imp and completely shameless, the man can certainly get sober and serious Simon to loose his cool. In the BEST ways possible. This one is a winner for sure. I really do hope these ladies consider bringing these guys together again. It was a delight to read, the mystery itself was not really the meat of the story, there was not much horror on this one. I was fine with that, just seeing these guys run into each other take of in an adventure together was satisfying to the extreme.

Totally recommend this one! It is available for free here. 

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The Negroni

1 oz Vermouth

1 oz Campari

1 oz Gin (I used Citadelle, which in my opinion is the best value in the market)

Stir in a cocktail shaker and serve over ice. Add a couple of slices of orange to the glass for garnish and taste!

I hope you enjoy the story and the cocktail.

Cheers and Happy Reading!

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The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal #1 and #2 by KJ Charles and some drinks…

Jordan L Hawk and KJ Charles, two very clever, and saucy ladies have hooked up to write  a story. Very exciting news indeed! They got two of their couples together for a London adventure. Simon Feximal and Robert Caldwell vs Whyborne and Griffin. Seriously I’m not one to SQUEE, but just the fact that these ladies collaborated on ANYTHING was exciting. Now, I must admit I had not read the Feximal and Caldwell stories until I heard Remnant was coming out. Whyborne and Griffin are awesome, and I LOVE KJ Charles, so naturally I read those up. Both stories were wonderful and I wanted to do a quick review of them before I posted my review for Remnant.

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For this post I decided to go with aperitifs, pre-dinner drinks. For Caldwell Ghost I chose an Artisanal hibiscus flower liqueur I discovered recently and is a current obsession. Sorel Liqueur is handcrafted in Brooklyn, New York. It is a sweet and spicy drink, with lots and lots of flavor. It is very exotic, and it has a darkness to it that just BEGS for a ghost story! Some of the flavors that will hit your tongue include, Brazilian clove, Indonesian cassia, Nigerian ginger, Indonesian nutmeg, Moroccan hibiscus. and Pure cane sugar.  If that list won’t get you curious, I don’t know what will! A bottle of Sorel is about $25.00 a bottle, but it is well worth. If you take it slow it can be enjoyed little by little for quite a while!

As for Butterflies, I wanted something a little more…sparkly, with a bitter edge. Campari and Soda with a twist of lime. This drink is mainstay for me when I host dinner parties. I always have it on hand to get my guests going. It’s delicious, different but definitely not for everyone. With Campari (as with Ms. Charles) it takes a knowing palate to appreciate that you are taking something truly special.

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About the books…If you have not read these two short stories The Caldwell Ghost and Butterflies, you REALLY REALLY should. They are both very fast reads, but they pack incredibly rich tales. KJ Charles really brings a sublime beauty to her horror stories. The way she constructs a scene is really something to admire. There is SO MUCH to enjoy in her stories. From the characters, to the imagery…The mysteries are so imaginative too.  In The Caldwell Ghost we meet Robert Caldwell, he is a young man who has inherited a house which is apparently haunted. He has secured the services of Simon Feximal, ghost hunter to take care of the problem. Mr. Feximal is a serious man, his business is clearly no laughing matter. As soon as Robert sets his eyes on Simon, he notices that the man is burly and delicious…Alas, there is not much time to socialize. The house is pissed off, and that ghost is coming for them…And when I say coming…I mean that in more ways than one! *ahem*

The second story Butterflies, which you can get free on Smashwords is in two words, horrifically beautiful. Some months after Simon and Robert’s very intense initial meeting, they end up together again, when they are both looking into two suspicious deaths in a village outside of London. Two bodies have been found in the woods, the strange part is that they were both covered by thousands of butterflies. So many butterflies of different species, colors, sizes. Where are they coming from? Something is obviously amiss, Simon and Robert set off together to uncover the mystery. They quickly discover that the a old local tale might be at the center of the problem. They also find out that there is a lot more to the connection they share than just a one night tryst.

This one was also short, but what a FABULOUS story. KJ build a beautiful tale bore the story Robert tells us.  I also really enjoy how she weaves the ghost hunting with the physical and emotional connection Simon and Robert share. I love Robert’s voice, the emotion in his tone when he talks about Simon, the excitement with which he recounts their adventures. His eyes are clear and loving, but the man has a knack for making the sordid VERY enjoyable, and humorous…Hey if you’re gonna have a talent.

I completely recommend these before moving on to Remnant. They are well worth it. The Caldwell Ghost is for sale here and Butterflies is available for download free on Smashwords.

Make sure to check back in tomorrow for my review of Remnant and the recipe for one of my FAVORITE mixed drinks ever. The Negroni. Talk about a winning combination!

Cheers and Happy Reading

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