Lesfic Bard Awards Winners Announced!

Congratulations to the winners of the 2019 Lesfic Bard Awards. I was delighted see such an amazing list of Lesfic authors honoured in this year’s awards. I’ve had the pleasure of reading many of these books over the past year and hope that their success in the awards will point more WLW readers in their direction.

In the Fantasy Section the winner was Alison Naomi Holt for ‘Duchess Rampant’. The Mystery Section was won by Anne Hagan for her fantastic story ‘Steel City Confidential’. Annette Mori won the Romance Award for ‘A Window To Love’, one of my favourites of last year. Elle Hyden won for Best Cover, for her debut novel ‘Lost & Found’. Iza Moreau won the Young Adult section for ‘Tank Baby’, and Jane Alden won the Fiction section with ‘Jobyna’s Blues’, a wonderful story told over two time periods, with a starring role for one of our favourite lesbian stars of the 60s. K Aten won in the Drama category for her powerful story, ‘Burn it Down’. Karen D Badger won two awards – the historical section and the Action Adventure category for ‘Over the Crescent Moon’. Madeleine Taylor scooped the erotica prize for ‘The Good Girl’. McGee Matthews won the New Author award for ‘Moving Violations’ and Rachel Ford took the Science Fiction award for ‘Black Flag: Safe Passage’.

Review of ‘A Hint of Hope’ by Nita Round

‘A Hint Of Hope’ is the second prequel in the Towers of the Earth Fantasy series. I loved being back with Magda and Ascara, as they join with pirates to free thousands of captured slaves from a tyrannical regime – and in the process try to capture the world’s most advanced airship. The mixture of steampunk, the gifted with special powers and an exciting adventure had me hooked from the start.  We get to find out more about the world they inhabit and about the people living in it. The more I find out the more I want to know. This enthralling story was full of wonder and imagination and it has made me desperate to find out what comes next for the pair. Roll on the next instalment.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Silver Beasts’ by Emma Sterner-Radley

‘Silver Beasts’ is the story of four teenagers chosen to represent their respective counties at the Hall of Explorers, a prestigious training academy. Their aim is to learn all they can before they leave for new lands, where they hope to find a way to escape the silver beasts that threaten their very existence. Cavarra has been blighted by these insects, mutated into metal by absorbing magic. Avelynne, Hale, Sabina and Eleksander must work hard if they are to save their people. Do they have what it takes? And is everything quite as clear cut as they are lead to believe?

This story had impressive world-building, magic, a steampunky vibe and mysteries and secrets that kept me engrossed. But it was also about finding out the truth and discovering who they really were and what they were capable of. The young people began to learn their strengths and weaknesses. I liked seeing how they they grew in confidence and changed as they got to know each other. The writing was skilled and imaginative and I really enjoyed being in Cavarra for a few hours.

It’s obviously the first in a series and left me keen to find out what happens next. I hope Emma Sterner-Radley doesn’t keep us waiting too long.

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Spellbound’ by Jackie D and Jean Copeland

Hazel Abbott has no idea she is a witch or descended from Sarah Hutchinson,  a woman imprisoned during the Salem witch trials of 1692. When Sarah suddenly appears in modern day Salem, she sets off a series of events that neither could have imagined. Raven Dare, supernatural hunter under the employ of Queen witch, Morgan le Fay, becomes embroiled in their adventure and the women must work together to save humanity and bring balance to the realms.

The story is imaginative and brings in elements from historical Salem and a very convincing present day dilemma, with parallels to something we will all recognise. It is exciting and thought-provoking and cleverly marries a link to history, witchcraft and present day political machinations. There is, of course, a love story or two in the tale and they are very much integral to the story. Hazel becomes more and more attracted to Raven as she begins to learn who she really is. Raven is trapped by duty and family obligations and has to begin to consider that there is a different way to live. Sarah has been catapulted into modern day America, and it is so different. But in some ways things always stay the same. People are people and the pedantic Puritans of her age are not so different from certain sectors of present day society. Sarah’s feelings for another woman begin to make sense to her though and that was a fascinating element of the story. Morgan le Fay is selfish and unsentimental and determined. Will she ever be able to see the point of view of those around her? As the group battle for what is right and good, we see that their fight is timeless. So much depends on them defeating evil. The thing is, I know it’s a fantasy story, but there is one particular hypothesis in it that makes perfect sense. I really wouldn’t be surprised! Once you read it you’ll know exactly what I mean.

A wonderfully enjoyable book and highly recommended. 

I was given this Arc for review.

An Interview with Heather Rose Jones, author of ‘Floodtide’

 

Well-known historical fiction author Heather Rose Jones releases her latest book, Floodtide, today. I really enjoyed the story and wanted to know a bit more about why Heather wrote it and why she set it in her fictional world, Alpennia. In the following interview with Heather I was able to ask her more about her book:

Heather, ‘Floodtide’ is set in Alpennia, the setting for your earlier novels. Can you tell us about that world?

Alpennia is meant to be an ordinary small principality in central Europe–sitting roughly at the intersection of France, Italy, and Switzerland–much like many other small regions that were still semi-independent in the 18-19th centuries. Alpennia exists as a convenience so I can set up certain social structures, certain historical events and people, without interfering with the history of an actual country. Other than the insertion of Alpennia, the world is much the same as ours, with the same geography, the same history, the same prominent figures.

Oh, and then there’s the magic. Magic, in the world of the stories takes the basic premise that certain forces and dynamics that we would consider supernatural or mystical or miraculous actually work. For some people. Sometimes. If you do them right.

Why did you choose to tell the story from the point of view of a servant girl, Roz?

In writing the earlier Alpennia books, I’d followed the usual Regency novel tropes of focusing on people in Society. Some of them are members of the aristocracy, some are wealthy, some are solidly middle-class business women and artisans. But they all move through the world with a certain amount of stability and confidence. I wanted to shake things up in this book by looking at that same world and some of those same events from the point of view of a working class girl. What is it like having queer desires if your every minute is under someone else’s scrutiny and at their mercy? What does magic look like if you’re learning it on street corners rather than in libraries and universities? And what do the effects of the Great Mysteries look like when your lives don’t figure into anyone’s calculations.

As part of your world-building you have some areas of language specific to Alpennia. What was your process for inventing it?

For some other projects, I’ve done fairly extensive conlangs (constructed languages). Linguistics has been a lifelong passion and is one of my academic degrees. But for Alpennia I didn’t need to get quite that detailed. I wanted to be able to create names and a few bits of specialized vocabulary that clearly indicated that Alpennia is a European nation, but is not any specific existing one.

Simple geography dictated much of the result. Situated where it is, you can expect Alpennia to speak a Romance language, influenced significantly in its vocabulary and names by a Germanic substrate. I wanted to have a unified “look and feel” for names that so that they were recognizable but clearly distinct, so I went back in time and picked a recorded language that didn’t leave any later descendents. The spelling and appearance of Alpennia is inspired by Langobardic, which was recorded in northern Italy–close enough for the connection. It isn’t meant to be a descendent of Langobardic; that simply gave me the material to set up certain sound-change and spelling rules. So I could feed names and words from the Latin and Migration Era into a set of rules and produce Early Modern Alpennia forms that felt like it’s own unique and coherent language.

Are you drawn to particular time periods? This book is set in the 19th century. Is that a favourite era?

I have a lot of favorite historic eras and hope to write stories (though not Alpennian ones) in many of them. But the setting for the Alpennia series is inspired more by my love for Regency romances. I love time periods when society was in flux–not necessarily times of violent disruption, but times of a more complex peaceful disruption when people were exploring new ways of being and challenging older norms. The specific location of the Alpennia series in time is tied to the general forces of western European history. The series had to start at a particular time relative to the Napoleonic wars, and it had to extend until a particular era of spreading political upset. But honestly, it’s all about the manners and the social functions and the clothing!

Thank you for joining me today Heather. If we have whetted your appetite for ‘Floodtide’, the Bella Books and Amazon links are below:

Bella Books

Amazon UK

Amazon US

 

Heather Rose Jones is the author of the Alpennia historic fantasy series: an alternate-Regency-era Ruritanian adventure revolving around women’s lives woven through with magic, alchemy, and intrigue. Her short fiction has appeared in The Chronicles of the Holy Grail, Sword and Sorceress, Lace and Blade, and at Podcastle.org. Heather blogs about research into lesbian-relevant motifs in history and literature at the Lesbian Historic Motif Project and has a podcast covering the field of lesbian historical fiction which has recently expanded into publishing audio fiction. She reviews books at The Lesbian Review as well as on her blog. She works as an industrial failure investigator in biotech pharmaceuticals.

Book Links

Bella Books: http://www.bellabooks.com/Bella-Author-Heather-Rose-Jones-cat.html
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Heather-Rose-Jones/e/B00ID2LQE6

Social Media:

Website and blog: http://alpennia.com
Twitter: @heatherosejones
Facebook (author page): https://www.facebook.com/Heather-Rose-Jones-490950014312292/

Review of Borage (The Plague Tree Coven Book 1) by Gill McKnight

Astral is a Fireside witch of the influential Projector family. Borage, her familiar, is a cat with a rather prickly personality. She’s not a  powerful witch, but she makes up for it with her kindness and the ability to make anyone feel at home and comforted. The new High Priestess of her coven has a nasty streak and when she gives Astral an important task to fulfil, we wait for the other shoe to drop. I won’t say anything more about the plot as it would be too easy to give something away. But I can say it’s brilliantly done and wonderfully satisfying. 

The descriptions of people and places were delicious. Lush and imaginative . One particular character description was stunning and made me stop and re-read it-just to take in an amazing piece of writing. It’s also very funny and Astral is completely adorable. I want to know a Fireside witch just like her. Abby Black is more than we first think. Think Ice Queen boss mixed with hot, mysterious and enticing object of desire. It all goes in ways I didn’t see coming. This is the kind of book that grows on you more and more as it reveals itself. 

The world Gill McKnight has invented is beautifully crafted, with depth and humour and an addictive quality that means I will be eagerly awaiting the next in the series. Wonderful. 

I was given this ARC for review. 

Review of ‘Floodtide’ by Heather Rose Jones

‘Floodtide’ by Heather Rose Jones is a historical fiction story, set in a land where magic and mystery has its place. Told from the point of view of a teenage servant girl, it lets the reader see all echelons of society, and how they deal with an impending flood – and the serious health and societal implications it brings. Roz was dismissed from her previous job as a laundry maid after being reported for indulging in indecent acts with another young woman. What looks like the worst thing that could happen turns out to be the start of a new life, with its share of challenges – but with new friends and a new purpose.

I was transported to another place and time by the author. Heather Rose Jones has a talent for meticulous world-building and her writing shows intelligence and a flair for her craft. The story was beautifully teased out, with secrets we get to know as Roz does. Roz was an interesting character. She knew what she could expect from life but there were some things she was willing to defy expectations for.  And that could get her into a lot of trouble. Liking girls was always going to be a problem – but she wasn’t the only one. The hierarchy of society was integral to this story, and adding that to the idea of charms and mysteries made it a fascinating read. The word that comes to mind when finishing this book is exquisite. I loved it.

I was given this ARC for review.

Review of ‘Fianna The Gold’ by Louisa Kelley

‘Fianna The Gold’ by Louisa Kelley is a tale of dragons, fantastical spells and skilful world-building. There’s also an interesting love story with some heat and passion. Abbie has a very weird experience in the woods and struggles to understand what is happening to her. When she is discovered by three shape-shifting dragons, she begins to understand what is going on. A conniving human who knows Abbie’s secret is determined to take advantage – and there’s also the threat from an ancient dragon with an evil agenda. There’s certainly plenty to keep the reader’s interest. 

This is the kind of story that would look amazing on screen. I could imagine it so well, as the descriptive writing drew me in. This is the first in a series and it was a good start to what promises to be an exciting world. I’m looking forward to finding out more about the Draca and their land. I really liked Fianna. She was a grown-up, knew what she wanted and found it. Abbie was impish and fun and complemented her perfectly. This was their story. The author laid a fascinating foundation with this book. 

I was given this ARC to review.

Review of ‘Destiny of Hearts’ by Karen Klyne

Destiny of hearts by Karen Klyne is a fitting end to a wonderful series. It was good to be back in Caysher and meeting the women we got to know in book one, ‘Parallel Lives’. I didn’t realise how much I’d missed Berran. I even missed old vinegar tits herself, Salin! Kaitlin is back and with news that Berran will not like. It was never going to be an easy reconciliation. Karen Klyne managed to deal with some deep emotions and let us see more facets of each character. There was also some very thoughtful questioning of how the society should continue in the future. Should they remain so insular or go out into the world more? The relationship between Kaitlin and Berran was tortured at times but the heat was always there. And I found myself really rooting for them – even though I have been a big fan of Tannus throughout. I really enjoyed this story and was so happy that it concluded in a beautifully satisfying way. 

I was given this ARC for review. 

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Review of ‘Blood of the Pack’ by Jenny Frame

Family, loyalty, love and passion- that’s what ‘Blood of the Pack’ is essentially about. Kenrick Wulver is about to become the Alpha of her pack in the Scottish Highlands. And she’s struggling with the changes this will mean. She visits the Wolfgang Pack in the States to try and learn some of the new responsibilities she’ll be expected to master. While there she comes across a wounded submissive wolf and feels something she’s never felt before. Zaria is from the Lupan Pack and has been on the run for years from their cruelty and abuse. She can never trust a dominant wolf and tries to keep Kenrick at arms length. But it becomes increasingly difficult to resist.

The story is about gaining trust and also about  being open to other wolves. I loved the world she’s built for this story and although I haven’t read the previous books in the series, its not a problem.  The descriptions of Wulver Forest were so evocative and I was completely entranced. As well as being about family and community- a theme throughout Ms Frame’s books, she also gets across that aching need in her characters. The need for a mate and the joy and pain that brings. Kenrick and Zaria are drawn to each other, but it’s never that simple. The building of a relationship is written with such tenderness and care and I never once doubted the love they felt for each other. The sex scenes were beautifully done. Jenny Frame writes the hottest, most imaginative sex in all of her books. And she always finds a way to bring in something unusual and surprising. She certainly did in this one. They were wild and passionate and scorching. I loved this book so much that I’ll have to go and read the rest in the series now. Highly recommended.

I was given this ARC for review.

Amazon UK

Amazon US