books, book reviews

A Holiday by Gaslight, by Mimi Matthews — December 22, 2021

A Holiday by Gaslight, by Mimi Matthews

Sophie Appersett is quite willing to marry outside of her class to ensure the survival of her family. But the darkly handsome Mr. Edward Sharpe is no run of the mill London merchant. He’s grim and silent. A man of little emotion–or perhaps no emotion at all. After two months of courtship, she’s ready to put an end to things. After all, even a dutiful daughter has her limits.

A Taciturn Tradesman

Ned has come a long way since his days working as a draper’s assistant. He’s wealthy, ambitious, and eager to take a wife. But the courtship advice issued in The Gentlemen’s Book of Etiquette isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Though he’s followed it to the letter, Miss Appersett still doesn’t wish to see him again. Frustrated and hurt, he’s more than happy to oblige her.

A Christmas Courtship

Severing ties with her former beau isn’t as straightforward as Sophie envisioned. Her parents are outraged. And then there’s Charles Darwin, Prince Albert, and that dratted gaslight. What’s a girl to do except invite Mr. Sharpe to the annual Christmas party at Appersett House and give him one more chance to win her? But this time there’ll be no false formality. This time they’ll get to know each other for who they really are.

My Rating: * * * * *

My Review:

This was a little Christmas treat for me. It was a lovely Victorian Christmas setting, and I just loved the cover! Our heroine, Sophie Appersett, is the daughter of a baronet, Sir William, who puts all his money into modernization of Appersett House in Derbyshire and into his comfortable lifestyle. The money has dried up long ago, but his spending goes on. He and Sophie’s sister Emily make no sacrifices and it’s up to Sophie and her mother to economize to keep from becoming destitute.
Like any dutiful, Victorian era daughter, Sophie is willing to marry for the financial assistance her family needs, but the handsome Edward Sharpe is too grim, too serious and too quiet for her. Sophie does what any strong-willed young lady would do, she breaks off their courtship, but was that a hasty decision? Could there be more to Edward? She decides to give him a second chance.
Edward (Ned) Sharpe, a draper’s son, is a highly successful and wealthy factory owner. For the past twelve months, he has been considering marriage, but it is only when he sees Sophie Appersett that he seriously contemplates getting married and approaches her father for permission to court her. He’d wanted her from the first. Had known as soon as he looked at her that she was someone worth having in his life, no matter the cost. Sophie and Ned are such appealing characters and the Christmas festivities provide the perfect setting for their romance to flourish. These are two people who are learning to be truthful with one another, and not hide their true character. This was such a sweet holiday romance and so glad I picked it up!

Mimi Mathews

“Unless you strenuously object, I intend to kiss you this Christmas.”

“Not very romantic, is it? But I don’t want you to feel powerless with me. I value your intelligence and your strength. I’d rather you stood at my side than in my shadow.”  Ned

“I don’t need the next eight days to determine how I feel about you. I already know how I feel. I admire you, Sophie. I want you for my own. If I have to modernize your father’s estate into the next millennium, it would be a small price to pay for the privilege of having you.” Ned

“Under the mistletoe. Under the gaslight. Under the stars.” Ned bent his head close to hers. “Perhaps all three.”

Liminality (The Ancient Ones Trilogy Book 2) by Cassandra L. Thompson — December 13, 2021

Liminality (The Ancient Ones Trilogy Book 2) by Cassandra L. Thompson

Masterful storytelling!

My Rating: * * * * *

My Review:

My God what an awesome story! The Ancient ones was brilliant story telling, and book II Liminality is superb! I love vampire novels, and Thompson writes them in such a unique and intriguing way. Her world building is so imaginative and descriptive you feel like you are right there.
In Liminality we are again brought into the world of David, Morrigan, Lucius, Dan and a new character, Cahira. They are all brought together again to fight a maleficent being who is destroying the realms, and the Gods and Goddesses of them. We also get more delicious background of Morrigan, Dan and Lucius. I also love werewolves, and Dan’s story was a treat! Morrigan and Lucius’s story had me torn in half. One part hated it, and yet my heart went out to them. I was also hurting for David, and happy Librean was still by his side. Cahira is a strong, FIERCELY independent woman with a wealth of untapped magic. A Werewolf’s dream?
The plot is so well crafted, and you never guess where it’s taking you, but you just want to get there! I also didn’t want it to end. There is plenty of action in this sequel. There is also a heart wrenching moment when David hears Morrigan’s story of Lucius and herself while they were apart. I could FEEL his heart shattering!
I was so engrossed in this story I could barely put it down. Couldn’t work live without me? Who needs sleep? Now I’m soooo anticipating book III because the last sentence in Liminality put me over the edge! Thanks for reading my review, and if you love Vampires, Werewolves, mythology and just all around great storytelling I wholeheartedly recommend this series!! 

Cassandra L. Thompson

Gothic horror writer Cassandra L. Thompson has been creating stories since she got her grubby little hands around a pen. An Ohio native, she earned her BA in History from Cleveland State and her MLIS from Kent State. When she is not busy managing a house full of feral children (human and canine), you can find her wandering around cemeteries, taking pictures of abandoned things, exploring lonely patches of woods, or in the library doing research. She is the founder of the gothic fiction press, Quill & Crow Publishing House and she writes short horror stories for her blog, Tales From the Shadows. Follow her on social media for book updates & random musings:

Before Twilight, before Dracula, before Lestat…there were The Ancient Ones. Dive into a dark, mythological world that challenges everything you thought you knew about vampires.

The Morrigan
SET Egyptian Demon God
Stoker’s Manuscript — November 20, 2021

Stoker’s Manuscript

by Royce Prouty

When rare-manuscript expert Joseph Barkeley is hired to authenticate and purchase the original draft and notes for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, little does he know that the reclusive buyer is a member of the oldest family in Transylvania.

After delivering the manuscript to the legendary Bran Castle in Romania, Barkeley—a Romanian orphan himself—realizes to his horror that he’s become a prisoner to the son of Vlad Dracul. To earn his freedom, Barkeley must decipher cryptic messages hidden in the text of the original Dracula that reveal the burial sites of certain Dracul family members. Barkeley’s only hope is to ensure that he does not exhaust his usefulness to his captor until he’s able to escape. Soon he discovers secrets about his own lineage that suggest his selection for the task was more than coincidence. In this knowledge may lie Barkeley’s salvation—or his doom. For now he must choose between a coward’s flight and a mortal conflict against an ancient foe.

Building on actual international events surrounding the publication of Bram Stoker’s original novel, Royce Prouty has written a spellbinding debut novel that ranges from 1890s Chicago, London, and Transylvania to the perilous present.

My Rating: * * *

My Review:

Joseph Barkeley has always had a knack for spotting rare editions in crowded used bookstores, and is able to tell if a manuscript is genuine without the need for any chemical testing. It’s an ability that makes him the subject of Arthur Ardelean’s search for the right man to verify the authenticity of the original draft of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and to negotiate its purchase if its authenticity is established.Joseph Barkeley leads a comfortable life after a rocky childhood. He and his brother were orphaned in their native Romania after their father murdered their mother. They were rescued from an orphanage and sent to be raised by nuns in Chicago.When Joseph receives a call inquiring about hiring him to authenticate an annotated manuscript for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it sounds like a challenging and enjoyable opportunity.
But it becomes increasingly clear, as Joseph moves through the steps to complete the transaction, that this job is going to be neither simple nor straightforward. And Joseph’s decision to accept this job will come to threaten everyone and everything he knows.
Over all this was a well written story with the right amount of chilling moments. The history is interesting, and the only thing that bothered me is I wish Joseph had been more likable. His character seemed kind of bland.

Royce Prouty

Patrick Royce Prouty is a CPA, business consultant, and Harley-Davidson enthusiast. He and his wife live in Southern California. Stoker’s Manuscript is his first novel.

“Lost in the night, somewhere, there is all that once was and no more is, what got lost, what was uprooted, from living time to time that’s muted.
― Royce Prouty, Stoker’s Manuscript

“I lived in a place where the weather holds a grudge against humans. Winter in Chicago is winter defined (..)”
― Royce Prouty, Stoker’s Manuscript

The House on Blackstone Moor —

The House on Blackstone Moor

(The Blackstone Vampires #1)

by Carole Gill

They say my father was mad, so corrupted by evil and tainted by sin that he did what he did. I came home to find them all dead; their throats savagely cut. My sisters only five and eight were gone as well as my brother who was twelve. My mother too lay butchered in her marriage bed. The bed her children were born in…-

After young Rose Baines discovers the savage murders of her family by her mad, incestuous father, she is plunged into a nightmare of hell and incarcerated in two madhouses. In time, she is helped to obtain a position as governess at Blackstone House. Nothing is as it seems for Blackstone House, and its inhabitants have numerous secrets. Amid the unimaginable horror there is love – which comes at a terrible price.

The House on Blackstone Moor is the first novel in Carole Gill’s Blackstone Vampires Series. It is both a tale of the eternal struggle between good and evil, and a story of love that strives to prevail, despite all odds.

My Rating: * * *

My Review:

I love gothic vampire novels, and I was really looking forward to reading this one. The first half of the book was very good. Characters written well and the perfect atmosphere.Written in first person as a narrative from the heroine’s point of view, this story represents her testament – or a harrowing account into her motivations, thoughts and actions, triggered from abuse suffered both in childhood and adulthood.Left alone in the world after the trauma her father subjected her to, Rose is forced to have a brief stay at an insane asylum. Determined to do whatever it takes to make it out into the real world, she accepts a job for Mr. and Mrs. Darton at their house on Blackstone Moor. Even with worries about it being a mistake to take the job, Rose is determined to show that she is strong enough to stand on her own.

In the second half of the book everything seemed to be rushed. All the horrifying things Rose goes through is at times a little to outlandish. I feel like if she wasn’t insane in the beginning of the story she should have been by the end. With Satanic rituals, rapes and “good” vs “bad” vampires and constant horrific situations who wouldn’t be insane? After the great first half I feel as if the author was rushing to finish.

Carol Gill

Carole Gill is published by Creativia. She writes dark Gothic romance as well as contemporary horror.

Witches’ Masquerade (The Vampires of Emberbury, #3)by Eva Alton — November 12, 2021

Witches’ Masquerade (The Vampires of Emberbury, #3)by Eva Alton

My Rating: * * * * *

My Review:

It was fun to follow Alba and Clarence again, and very hard to put the book down until it was finally finished! These characters just draw you in, and they become a part of you. This series is the most unique spin on vampires and witches. It’s completely genuine and unlike anything else.
Witches’ Masquerade follows Alba on her journey to solve the mysteries of the past and to
find the long-lost spell which will save the love of her life. Witches’ Masquerade was everything I was hoping for in The Vampires of Emberbury Series. There was romance, supernatural beings, witty conversation, beautiful locations, and of course our much-loved witch, Alba, her love the dashing Clarence. The writer wields her magic in this tale of life, death, and beyond, as Alba must reverse the curse that slowly is destroying her lover before he is lost to her forever. I never want this series to end! Highly recommended for lovers of fun Paranormal Romance

Eva Alton

Eva Alton is an author of paranormal romance and magical realism novels. She has been writing stories since the first time she held a pencil and has a tendency to devour books of all genres in her free time.

She’s the author of Stray Witch and The Vampires of Emberbury Series.

Eva currently lives in a small coastal city by the Mediterranean Sea.

Welcome to the Witches’ Masquerade, where everyone gets a dance with Death.

The Witch’s Mirror (The Vampires of Emberbury #2) — November 11, 2021

The Witch’s Mirror (The Vampires of Emberbury #2)

Working for vampires is not an easy job. Especially when they insist on signing contracts with your blood.
Alba is about to defy a vampire queen’s rules in order to undertake a journey to Italy in search of her witch ancestors… and possibly her freedom.
But her quest might also open a well-hidden Pandora’s box which can put at risk the lives of those she loves the most.
The Vampires of Emberbury is a Paranormal Vampire Romance / Paranormal Women’s Fiction Series with an adult female protagonist.

My Rating: * * * * *

My Review:

I love The Stray Witch and book 2 was just as enjoyable. The story picks up where we left off in Stray Witch with Alba continuing to adjust to her life in the Cloister amongst a community of colorful and memorable vampires. Alba is still working for The Cloister as a vampire assistant, but she’s feeling unsure of where she stands with her handsome, enigmatic vampire. Clarence has been away a lot for work, leaving her in a state of relationship limbo. As Christmas approaches, Alba learns that not everything she was led to believe about her predecessor, Julia, who previously served the same vampire coven, is actually true. Her search for answers leads her to Italy. The setting of Italy is beautifully written, and the intrigue, magic and suspense are compelling. In Italy she begins to learn more, but not everyone she meets is as they seem. Danger lurks for both Alba and her vampire love, Clarence. This is a real page turner! Looking forward to the next book

Ava Alton

Eva Alton is an award-winning author of paranormal romance, magical realism and paranormal women’s fiction novels. She’s the author of Stray Witch and The Vampires of Emberbury Series.

“Isolde,” Clarence purred on the other side of the line. He must be in a good mood to call me that. “Non-dinner at The Midnight Owl?” he asked playfully. I was surprised he was offering to take me to dinner―or technically, to watch me eat while he talked―because we had managed to squeeze very few dates into his busy schedule after Mark’s nightmare had come to an end. I tried not to dwell on the reasons for his continuous absences and frequent cancellations, and kept telling myself it was all Elizabeth’s fault for giving him too much to do, too far from home.

Stray Witch — November 10, 2021

Stray Witch

(The Vampires of Emberbury #1)

by Eva Alton

A magical story about a lost witch recovering her self-esteem and overcoming a terrible mistake, a seemingly cheerful vampire with a tortured past, and finding love in the most unexpected of places.

Alba is about to lose everything after her divorce… until she meets The Vampires of Emberbury, who dwell under an abandoned graveyard, stuck in Victorian times. They will make her a very interesting job offer, and she will get to meet Clarence, a mysterious vampire gentleman who thinks cloaks and top hats are still in fashion. With his help, Alba will figure out that, sometimes, the scariest monster isn’t the one with fangs.

This is a slow-burn paranormal vampire romance and magical realism novel that deals with worldly issues in a magical, humorous way and guarantees to make you laugh, cry, and gasp as you follow Alba and Clarence on their quest to solve Alba’s real-life troubles in a fairy-tale setting.

My rating: * * * *

My Review:

I loved this story! The pacing was steady, and the characters were well-developed and realistic. The Stray witch is a look into the life of Alba a young witch of immense untapped power. Clarence is a centuries old vampire looking for meaning to this immortal existence. When their lives collide mayhem ensues. she learns that she’s a witch and is hired to work for a coven of vampires. It was fun to see her slowly accept who she is and watch her relationship with Clarence unfold. This is a story about magic, love and a mysterious vampire nest.
Alba is hired by the coven of vampires to be a personal assistant. To cover the day activities they cannot. She is coming out of an abusive marriage and really needs this job, but is worried about bringing her young daughters into a midst of vampires. She is surprised how backwards and old fashion the vampires are, and knows she will have to bring them up to the 21st century in order to do her job. Clarence is assigned as her guardian and help her become more comfortable amongst the strange inhabitants. The book has a little of everything. Witches. Vampires. Spirits. And romance. A marvelously entertaining read! I would highly recommend this book who love some fun in their paranormal romances

Ava Alton

Eva Alton is an author of paranormal romance and magical realism novels. She has been writing stories since the first time she held a pencil and has a tendency to devour books of all genres in her free time.

She’s the author of Stray Witch and The Vampires of Emberbury Series.

Eva currently lives in a small coastal city by the Mediterranean Sea.

The Ice Swan — November 9, 2021

The Ice Swan

by J’nell Ciesielski

1917, Petrograd. Fleeing the murderous flames of the Russian Revolution, Princess Svetlana Dalsky hopes to find safety in Paris with her mother and sister. But the city is buckling under the weight of the Great War, and the Bolsheviks will not rest until they have erased every Russian aristocrat from memory. Svetlana and her family are forced into hiding in Paris’s underbelly, with little to their name but the jewels they sewed into their corsets before their terrifying escape.

Born the second son of a Scottish duke, the only title Wynn MacCallan cares for is that of surgeon. Putting his talents with a scalpel to good use in the hospitals in Paris, Wynn pushes the boundaries of medical science to give his patients the best care possible. After treating Svetlana for a minor injury, he is pulled into a world of decaying imperial glitter. Intrigued by this mysterious, cold, and beautiful woman, Wynn follows Svetlana to an underground Russian club where drink, dance, and questionable dealings collide on bubbles of vodka.

Out of money and options, Svetlana agrees to a marriage of convenience with the handsome and brilliant Wynn, who will protect her and pay off her family’s debts. It’s the right thing for a good man to do, but Wynn cannot help hoping the marriage will turn into one of true affection. When Wynn’s life takes an unexpected turn, so does Svetlana’s—and soon Paris becomes as dangerous as Petrograd. And as the Bolsheviks chase them to Scotland, Wynn and Svetlana begin to wonder if they will ever be able to outrun the love they are beginning to feel for one another.

My Rating: * * * * *

My Review:

A haunting love story amidst the Russian Revolution.

Fast moving, and engaging from page one to the end. This book kept me fascinated!

A Russian princess escaping the Bolsheviks at the end if the Russian revolution, an unscrupulous Russian crime boss, a jilted lover, and a Scottish Duke turned Surgeon all make this a unique story of suspense during WWI. If that isn’t enough add in the influenza epidemic a betrayal and some romance and you have the makings of a most enjoyable story.
Will Svetlana escape the Bolsheviks? Who will win her heart? The story is exciting and fast moving. I loved the settings, the characters, and the story. I love anything to do with the Romanov Dynasty, and this novel did not disappoint!

J’nell Ciesielski

Bestselling author and with a passion for heart-stopping adventure and sweeping love stories, J’nell Ciesielski weaves fresh takes into romances of times gone by. When not creating dashing heroes and daring heroines, she can be found dreaming of Scotland, indulging in chocolate of any kind, or watching old black and white movies. She is a Florida native who now lives in Virginia with her husband, daughter, and lazy beagle. Learn more at

White Imperial Army

Winter Palace
John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow —

John Eyre: A Tale of Darkness and Shadow

by Mimi Matthews

Yorkshire, 1843. When disgraced former schoolmaster John Eyre arrives at Thornfield Hall to take up a position as tutor to two peculiar young boys, he enters a world unlike any he’s ever known. Darkness abounds, punctuated by odd bumps in the night, strange creatures on the moor, and a sinister silver mist that never seems to dissipate. And at the center of it all, John’s new employer—a widow as alluring as she is mysterious.

Sixteen months earlier, heiress Bertha Mason embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Marriage wasn’t on her itinerary, but on meeting the enigmatic Edward Rochester, she’s powerless to resist his preternatural charm. In letters and journal entries, she records the story of their rapidly-disintegrating life together, and of her gradual realization that Mr. Rochester isn’t quite the man he appears to be. In fact, he may not be a man at all.

From a cliff-top fortress on the Black Sea coast to an isolated estate in rural England, John and Bertha contend with secrets, danger, and the eternal struggle between light and darkness. Can they help each other vanquish the demons of the past? Or are some evils simply too powerful to conquer?

My Rating: * * * *

My Review: What do you get when you cross Jane Eyre with Dracula? The epitome of Gothic romance, so wonderfully done! It has such a great gothic and creepy feel I could barely put it down.John Eyre arrives at his new place of employment on a cold, and foggy night. He barely catches a glimpse of the new Yorkshire countryside or Thornfield Hall. His mind is focused on the past and suffering from one of his many migraine headaches. He craves the laudanum that has helped manage the pain. But, it is not long before his curiosity for his mute charges, his absent employer, and his new surroundings begins to weaken the hold of the past. Isolated Thornfield Hall with it’s odd noises, and the strange atmosphere of York, John Eyre begins to settle in and feel peace. Then Mrs. Rochester arrives. A widow as alluring as she is mysterious. Fierce, independent, and stalwart, Bertha Rochester is a force to be reckoned with, a heroine whose self-possession and vulnerability make her worthy of the name. John is circumspect and steady, the perfect foil to Bertha’s dark vibrancy.
Perhaps the best part of the book is Bertha Rochester. She manages to escape from an actual vampire, keep the monster restrained in her attic, and get her wards’ young and handsome tutor to fall in love with her, all without losing any of the original Rochester’s mercurial temper and terse dialogue.
This is a definite must read for those who love their classics with a twist!

Mimi Mathews

USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews writes both historical nonfiction and award-winning proper Victorian romances, including Fair as a Star, a Library Journal Best Romance of 2020; Gentleman Jim, a Kirkus Best Indie Romance of 2020; and The Work of Art, winner of the 2020 HOLT Medallion. Mimi’s novels have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus, and her articles have been featured on the Victorian Web, the Journal of Victorian Culture, and in syndication at BUST Magazine.

In her other life, Mimi is an attorney. She resides in California with her family, which includes a retired Andalusian dressage horse, a Sheltie, and two Siamese cats. Her next romance, The Siren of Sussex, will be out in 2022 from Berkley/Penguin Random House. To learn more, please visit

Thornfield Hall
Thornfield Hall

Yorkshire Moors
Daughters of Shadow and Blood – Book III: Elizabeth by J.Mathew Saunders — July 26, 2021

Daughters of Shadow and Blood – Book III: Elizabeth by J.Mathew Saunders—book-iii

My Rating:

My Review: I’ve enjoyed this trilogy tremendously! The characters are so excellently written that they are very believable in their actions. The vampires are cold,and aloof which is what I enjoy. It makes them more threatening no matter what they are doing. No lasting humanity left in these vampires.
The story continues with Adam, and Arkady still trying to find Dracula’s Medallion, and figure out why the vampires want it so bad. Things get even more urgent when Clara is abducted by Elizabeth’s lover. Adam is now racing the clock to find the medallion, and save Clara. It seems something is always ahead of him though leaving a trail of blood, and death throughout Romania.
We come to know Elizabeth through Clara’s dreams, and I believe that of Dracula’s three wives Elizabeth is the most evil and psychotic. I highly recommend this trilogy to those who enjoy a dark thrilling vampire story.

J. Matthew Saunders, a native of Greenville, South Carolina, is the author of numerous published fantasy and horror short stories. He received a B.A. in history from Vanderbilt University and a master’s degree from the School of Journalism at the University of South Carolina. He received his law degree in California and practiced there as an attorney for several years.

He is an unapologetic European history geek, enjoys the Celtic fiddle, and makes a mean sundried tomato-basil pesto. He currently lives near Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife and two children. To find out more, visit

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