Thursday, November 10, 2016

Guardian Angel by Hayden Thorne


Summary:
When nineteen-year-old Dominic Coville’s parents die in an accident, leaving him not only alone but on the brink of poverty, he desperately searches for work and is thrilled when the post of secretary is awarded to him despite his obvious inexperience and ignorance. Mr. Wynyard Knight of Mandrake Abbey, however, gladly welcomes Dominic and earns the young man’s immediate sympathy for his fragile health as well as gratitude for the promising new life now awaiting Dominic.

"Inside rock and timber, hungry shadows seek..."

But unusual things soon happen and appear to focus solely on him, and Dominic begins to wonder about the true history of Mr. Knight, the strange young man haunting the third floor, and Mandrake Abbey. With the persistent and increasingly violent attempts at communication by an angry ghost shadowing his hours, Dominic struggles to unravel the mysteries of his new home. And even with the help of a handsome young gentleman who’s an aspiring supernaturalist as well as his clairvoyant sister, danger closes in far too quickly.

Then it’s only a matter of time before carefully constructed facades fall away, and the sickly, decaying underbelly of Mandrake Abbey’s centuries-old collection of stone and timber will reveal itself.

Set in an alternate England sometime before the mid-19th century, 'Guardian Angel' weaves a tangled and dark tapestry of old magic, romance, and madness, a celebration of classic gothic fiction and its macabre sensibilities.


Holy Hannah Batman! I thought the author's Flowers of St. Aloysius was creepy and hair-raising but Guardian Angel is way creepier and fear inducing and don't even get me started on adrenaline pumping. Dominic Colville is a character that could easily be anyone of us, as a 24/7 caregiver myself, the idea that your charge or others in the household are not exactly who you thought can put fear in your heart faster than flipping to the next page.  Throw in some ghostly behavior and the handsome stranger, Edgar, and what Guardian Angel brings you is an incredible gothic journey into the mysterious world of the paranormal in a timeline where magic is the norm.  Before the mystery is solved, you might even find yourself questioning your own sanity when those bumps in the night that you often credit to the wind or the house settling, suddenly don't seem as easy to explain.  The author has created a world that will satisfy your love of paranormal, mystery, love, and especially tweak your thirst for the "what ifs" and "was its".

RATING: 


“Ah. I see.” He paused, narrowing his eyes at me in that exaggerated way I’d seen Edgar do whenever he teased me. “Something recent, I think. Something to do with your visit with your friend a few days ago? No, no, the blush is enough to satisfy an old gossip’s curiosity.” He grinned now, eyes sparkling. “Well, I’m very pleased to know you’re now collecting happy memories during your tenure here, Mr. Coville. I’d like to think they help alleviate the tedium of keeping someone like me company—or even the dreariness of living in a place like Mandrake Abbey and its endless secrets and ghosts.”

“Oh, but I don’t find you or the abbey tedious or dreary, sir…”

“What’s your friend’s name, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Do you wish to meet him, sir?” I asked, surprised.

Mr. Knight’s smile made the air feel icy all of a sudden when I hesitated and allowed a nervous pause to draw itself out. “Dominic, what’s the gentleman’s name?”

“Mr. Knight, sir! May we have a word, please?” a man’s voice cut through the momentary silence that had fallen on our conversation.

With this the spell broke, and the hard edge that had suddenly surfaced vanished, and Mr. Knight was once again the pleasant old gentleman I’d always known. He looked around and saw one of the workmen trudging over the grass toward the elm. The big, burly shape looked almost out of place against the backdrop of the timeless abbey, and while some with more refined tastes would call him an eyesore, I was awash with relief with his sudden appearance.

“Yes, Smithers?”

“Sir, there’s a growing crack in the abbey’s foundation,” Mr. Smithers replied, a little out of breath. He barely acknowledged me with a slight nod as he stopped.

Mr. Knight hesitated. Again, I sensed something simmering below the genial surface of the man. “I’m rather occupied at the moment. Has Mr. Carradine seen it? I’ve given him authority to—”

The frantic beating of wings tore our attention away from Mr. Smithers, and I glanced around to find a raven flying past the elm in a rush of black feathers. Once it vanished from view, it cawed, tearing the general calm with its shrill cries. The unexpected disturbance rattled me, and I’d shied violently away at the sudden movement and especially the creature’s harsh calls.

“Good lord,” I breathed, making a face as I stared at the point beyond the elm’s leaves, where the raven had vanished. I’d also heard Mr. Smithers utter a low curse as he, too, was startled by the bird.

“A crack, you say? Let me look at it.” With a grunt, Mr. Knight stumbled to his feet, waving away any offer of help from either me or Mr. Smithers.

He did ask for his cane, which I quickly handed to him. Oddly enough, when before he was quite annoyed at being disturbed, he now seemed keen to remove himself from the area. And when he walked over to where Mr. Smithers stood, his pace was quick and smooth, his usual slow and almost laborious gait diminished greatly.

Before long the two men were walking back to the abbey, lost in conversation. I frowned as I watched them go, wondering why Mr. Knight was in such a mood that morning. In the end, though, all I could do was chastise myself for pushing him so much over my new sleeping and bathing arrangements.

Once they’d vanished from view, I decided to stay there for a little longer to enjoy the calm and the glorious weather and to revel once more in thoughts of Edgar.

I didn’t know how long I’d spent lost in pleasant memories, but soft, furtive movements nearby drew me back to the present. The raven had returned, it seemed, and I didn’t even notice it fly back and land just a few feet away. It hopped on the grass, pausing now and then to look at me with those bead-like eyes whose depths hinted at an unnerving kind of awareness and intelligence.

“Good morning to you, too,” I piped up, bemused. I dared not move for fear of scaring the little creature away. “It’s awfully rude of you, by the way, to frighten us half to death with your wild movements and noise.”

I smiled at it as it hopped even closer, staring hard at me as it paused now and then. When it was only about a handful of inches away from the edge of the blanket closest to me, it stopped. Only then did I notice the raven looking different—off, even. It was definitely a raven, but its feathers were a dulled black, and they looked coarse and unhealthy. The bird’s eyes had a film over them, making them look milky. The beak was rough in appearance as though it was somehow losing its natural—dare I say healthy—qualities. It even looked somewhat misshapen.

“Mr. Dominic Coville must take care,” it squawked. “Inside rock and timber, hungry shadows seek.”

My smile faded. The raven fell silent, still regarding me with inhuman intensity. Then with another shrill cry it beat its wings, and it—exploded. One large black bird suddenly burst into hundreds—no, thousands—of loud, buzzing flies that flew everywhere, spreading out and immediately disappearing, their horrible noise fading in the distance. I’d let out a small yelp of surprise and disgust, curling myself in a ball when I thought I was about to be overwhelmed by a host of those dreadful insects, but nothing came of it. The flies dispersed in the opposite direction away from the elm.

Within seconds all I could hear were my rapid, irregular breaths as I slowly calmed down. I dropped my arms from where I’d bent them above my head protectively, and I cautiously looked around, bug-eyed and drop-jawed. No, all was glorious and peaceful once again, and there was nothing anywhere that I’d just had a singularly terrifying meeting with a cursed raven—if, in fact, that creature that had warned me was a raven. I simply didn’t know.

I scrambled to my feet and ran out, almost getting myself tangled with the blanket in my haste. I looked at the sky and the surrounding countryside for signs of the swarm. Here and there, I thought I spotted dark dots flickering in their rapid flight. I was also growing aware of a lingering stench, and once I’d fixed my mind on it, the stronger and more horrible it smelled.

I grimaced. “What is that?” I whispered. “Something dead?”

I couldn’t tell, but it certainly made me think of death and even decay, which then made me think about an animal’s carcass in the process of rotting away. And yet not quite—somehow, the stink seemed a little different from what I’d grown to know as a dead animal’s. How did a decomposing human body smell? I shuddered, disgusted and also glad I didn’t know the answer to it. The smell seemed to soak the air around the elm, though, and with no breeze dissipating the stench, I was forced to hurry back in the tree’s shadows and snatch the blanket before staggering away.

I’d held my breath the whole time I jogged over the grass toward the abbey and allowed my strained lungs some valuable air again once I deemed it safe to inhale. The air was clear where I’d stopped, and I sighed in relief.

I settled my nerves there by carefully folding the blanket and thinking over the bird’s strange words. A warning? Yes, it was a warning, but it was, unsurprisingly, cryptic. Hungry shadows inside rock and timber? And they seek? Seek what? And what on earth were those shadows all about?

I stared at the abbey and its imposing fa├žade. Ghosts? Did the cursed raven mean ghosts? Mr. Knight had referred to ghosts off-hand, even unthinkingly, over breakfast, but I’d never really thought much about it, convinced he was saying nothing more than something metaphorical in some way. Ghosts of the past had been my initial impression, but now—was he referring to something more literal? Mandrake Abbey was haunted?

I took a deep breath and hurried inside.

Author Bio:
I've lived most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area though I wasn’t born there (or, indeed, the USA). I’m married with no kids and three cats, am a cycling nut (go Garmin!), and my day job involves artwork, crazy (read: incomprehensibly fun) coworkers who specialize in all kinds of media, and the occasional strange customer requests involving papier mache fish with sparkly scales.

I’m a writer of young adult fiction, specializing in contemporary fantasy, historical fantasy, and historical genres. My books range from a superhero fantasy series to reworked folktales to Victorian ghost fiction. My themes are coming-of-age, with very little focus on romance (most of the time) and more on individual growth with some adventure thrown in.


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Stroke of Luck by Posy Roberts

Title: Stroke of Luck
Author: Posy Roberts
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Summary:
After everything Marc owned burned to a crisp, he’s living off the kindness of others. A model condo is his temporary home, and his last dime went to essentials. He doesn’t need another distraction, but the fates conspire against him, setting up a chain of encounters that bring him face to face with Cas.

Cas’s love life has been in limbo for years, lovers moving on as soon as they discover how close he is to his best friend, Maisie. Then he meets Marc. The attraction between the two men can’t be denied, but Cas isn’t sure he can risk his friendship for a guy who will only end up leaving when he sees how close he and Maisie are.

When Marc and Cas discover they live in the same building, it’s kismet. But Marc has to invite chaos into his life if he and Cas stand a chance, and Cas faces a choice between friendship and love. Luck may be on their side... if they're willing to risk it all.  


Scene setup: Marc is shopping for kitchen items and clothes at Goodwill to replace what burned in a fire a week ago. He runs into Cas and Maisie looking for Halloween costumes.

“Oh. My. Gawd!” the blonde woman said, voice rising in pitch with each word.

“What do you think?” A built guy with jacked-up shoulders and an amazing ass that had been poured into tight, red jeans walked in front of Marc and over to his previous dance partner. The guy wiggled his hips in a mesmerizing way.

“Cas… oh my God. Turn around! Let me see that ass.”

Marc watched as… Cas turned. The woman spanked him, and Cas stuck his ass out as if asking for “another, please.”

“They look amazing. What do you think?”

“Hmmm.” Cas looked over his shoulder at his reflection in the mirror, and Marc noticed a white streak in his dark hair, about two inches wide. “Well, Maisie, I think these are it. Now, if I can find a red leather jacket, that would be great. You still have those leather pieces at home from the vest you made last year, right?”

“Yeah. You gonna embellish?”

“Mhmm.” Cas marched over to the jackets and stood right across from Marc. Maisie went back to picking through the racks a few rows away.

Marc found himself staring outright at the hot guy and studying that streak in his hair. He tore his attention back to the coats, hunting for something that could serve for both work and casual. A peacoat would be nice, if he could afford it.

“Look at this!” Cas was enthusiastic as he slipped on a hideous red jacket, but Maisie ignored him.

Marc couldn’t keep his snort of laughter in. The coat was that bad.

“Something funny?” Cas asked with a bitch brow.

Marc bit his lip and shook his head before double-checking the size on the coat he’d just found. He slipped it over his shoulders. It felt comfortable.

“What? What’s so funny?”

“Nothing. I’m sorry. It’s just….”

“Laughing at the queer guy willing to try something besides black or navy, huh?” Cas gestured to the navy wool coat Marc wore.

“No. It’s not that. It’s just that… you look… you look like….”

Maisie came to the rescue. “Get that off, Cas! You look like Michael Jackson. All it’s missing is silver zippers and spangles on the shoulders. Off!”

Marc slipped the navy coat in his cart and had started to make his escape when he was stopped by Cas’s apology. “Sorry, man.” When Marc turned back, he was glad to see the hideous coat was no longer on Cas, and Maisie was tucking it deep between other clothes so no one else needed to be accosted by it. “I didn’t mean to imply you were homophobic or anything.” Cas shrugged.

“I’d be a hypocrite if I were.” Marc gave Cas what he hoped was his warmest smile, and then he winked.

Author Bio:
Posy Roberts writes about the realistic struggles of men looking for love. Whether her characters are family men, drag queens, or lonely men searching for connections, they all find a home in her stories.

Posy is a Jill of all trades and master of the drill and paintbrush. She’s married to a partner who makes sure she doesn’t forget to eat or sleep during her writing frenzies. Her daughter, a budding author and cinematographer, helps her come up with character names. For fun, Posy enjoys crafting, hiking, and singing spontaneously about the mundane, just to make regular life more interesting.


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The Trouble With Ghosts by A.L. Kessler

Title: The Trouble with Ghosts
Author: AL Kessler
Series: Here Witchy Witchy #3
Genre: New Adult Urban Fantasy
Release Date: November 7, 2016
Summary:
Poltergeists, severed thumbs, and lies…

PIB agents Abigail Collins and Nick Averin are rattled when a handful of severed thumbs are found at an abandoned house, but neither of them expected it to link to a decades old murder with strange ties to the paranormal world. When Abby’s greatest enemy seems to be helping her from afar, it’s clear that there’s more to this case than the duo first believed.

Past cases come back to life…

Levi is avoiding questions and being even more vague than normal when a new vampire comes to town claiming to be on the case involving blood starved vampires. It’s a fight against time and lies for the two agents.


“I don’t want another witch near this.” Mario spoke up. “There’s a possibility I know who it was that did this.”

“The man in the picture. The one you both lied to me about and said you didn’t know.” I crossed my arms and glared at them. “If you are withholding information that can help me with my case, I need to know it. And if you don’t want to give it to me, I’ll have Nick bring you in for questioning by him.”

“You wouldn’t dare have Levi arrested.” Mario chuckled.

Levi held a hand up. “Don’t test her. It could be him, but he wasn’t supposed to be in the territory. My guards had said they killed him.”

“Guards?”

“My people, the ones I send out to take care of the dirty jobs, as you refer to them.”

Ah, his killers. “What makes you think this could be him?”

“Other than the picture you found from the first victim?” Levi questioned and I held my tongue. “He’d been caught in several territories for setting up…experiments with humans. Prisons to keep them in and test…I don’t even know on them.”

The blood transfusions. Mario stood. “It’s thought that they were trying to create vampires without draining all the blood, but by mixing blood. This should be vampire business now, I’ll talk to the detective in charge to take the case and get a vampire PIB agent on it.”

“Like hell you’re taking my case.” My fingers found their way to the butt of my gun. “Mason isn’t very trusting of vampires. He’s not likely to give the case over.”

Levi nodded. “She’s right. He’ll feel like something suspicious was up.”

I already felt that way, but I wasn’t going to mention it. Mario shook his head. “If they get away—“

“You keep saying they. He’s not working alone then? Can I at least have a name?” I put my hands on my hips.

“No.” Mario said.

“Yes,” Levi said at the same time.

This was going to be interesting when I had one willing to work with me, but not the other. Mario turned to Levi, his jaw locked. “If he gets away and she screws this up it jeopardizes everything.”

“Seems to me that everything is in jeopardy.” Levi snapped back. “Abigail knows what she is doing. She won’t screw it up.”

The vote of confidence lacked the tone needed. I let it be for the moment. I really didn’t know what I was doing in this case, but I at least had more to go on now, and at least one vampire willing to work with me.

“Are you sure you want her that close to the starving vampires?” Mario looked at me and then Levi. “Are you willing to risk that?”

I had a feeling there was something I was missing in this conversation. I cleared my throat. “The day I turned eighteen Levi left me in charge of my own life. It’s how I ended up working with PIB.”

Levi nodded towards me as if agreeing. “I will give Abby the info she needs to solve this case. With the understanding that she lets you and I handle the starving vampires.”

“If the cases connect, I can’t make that promise.”

“I meant that part of the case. I’ll go in and talk to the vampires, you’ll stay away from them.”

“Mason wanted to contact you about them anyways. You can handle them with the understanding that you share all information with me.”

“Understood.” Levi leaned back on the couch.

“Are we done here then?” Mario didn’t sit, his body didn’t relax an inch, if anything, I think he scooted closer to Levi.

I kept any sharp comments I had to myself. “Yes, thanks for your input, Levi.” I purposely left Mario out of the gratefulness.

He opened his mouth to say something, but Levi held a hand up. “Let it go. Abigail, I’ll go speak with Mason tonight and see what I can do about the vampires. Is there anything else that you’re not telling me?”

“I visited Tomes, he said that there were others out there, but he didn’t give me names. I also have a human that worked with a vampire, but he has nothing to do with the humans that were found.”

“How are you so sure of that?” Mario spoke over Levi’s outrage of me visiting Tomes.

“Agent Grace was with me, so I wasn’t alone. And Mario, I’m a witch, magic.”

Levi cleared his throat. “Abigail, attitude, please.”

“When he starts being nicer to me, I’ll consider curbing my attitude.”

Mario’s jaw dropped and he took a step towards me. I put my hand on my gun. “I’d think carefully about your next movements.”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“That’s the second time you’ve said something like that tonight. I really don’t think you understand what I’ll do and what I won’t.” I wouldn’t shoot to kill him, probably because he’d move too fast, but it’d at least hurt him. 




Author Bio:
A.L. Kessler is a paranormal romance author residing in beautiful Colorado Springs, Co. Since she was a teenager she has loved spinning tales. She can easily be won over with gifts of coffee or chocolate.


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The Trouble with Ghosts #3

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