books, book reviews

Stoker’s Manuscript, by Royce Prouty — July 11, 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:

I thoroughly enjoyed this take on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I have to admit it was quite different than what I imagined. 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, a resident of Chicago, is a rare manuscript expert who is contacted by an overseas buyer through his representative to authenticate and purchase the Stoker manuscript before it goes to auction.
The writing is good, and the story is old-school, East European-style vampire , full of atmosphere, old traditions and the people who still live them, which I enjoy. The plot is very gripping, and even though the main character isn’t very likable, he is still interesting, and so are other characters around him. I find him a rather selfish character, but with a few redeeming qualities.
Royce Prouty’s “Stoker’s Manuscript” is a modern vampire story that takes an American book authenticater born in Romania back to his roots in a way he never would have imagined. Joseph Barkeley is hired to bring Bram Stoker’s original manuscript to Transylvania for a very large sum of money, but why? Turns out some of the real Dracula’s relatives don’t want the rest of the world to find out secrets contained in the original version. Coming face to face with the unknown son of Vlad Dracul, Joseph must unravel they mysteries of his own lineage as well as those that Dalca demands if he is to survive.Much like Jonathan Harker before him, Joseph Barkeley embarks on his mission and steps directly into the web of darkness and vampires. Unlike Harker, Joseph finds his own family history tied to the legends of the Castel Bram. Until he must decide whether his actions will increase the power of evil or if he can destroy it.

The writing is good and a sequel would be possible.

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.

The Business of Blood, by Kerrigan Byrne —

The Business of Blood, by Kerrigan Byrne

Dying is the only thing people do with any regularity, and Fiona makes her indecorous living cleaning up after the corpses are carted away. Her childhood best friend, Mary, was the last known victim of Jack the Ripper. It’s been two years since Fiona scrubbed Mary’s blood from the floorboards, and London is no longer buzzing about the Ripper, but Fiona hasn’t forgotten.

And she hasn’t stopped searching for Jack.

When she’s called to a murder in the middle of the night, Fiona finds a victim mutilated in an eerily similar fashion to those of the Ripper, and only a few doors down from Mary’s old home. The relentless, overbearing, and irritatingly handsome Inspector Grayson Croft warns her away from the case. She might have listened, if she hadn’t found a clue in the blood. A clue that will lead her down a path from which there is no return.As a killer cuts a devastating swath through London, a letter written in blood arrives at her door, and it is only then that Fiona realizes just how perilous her endeavor is. For she has drawn the attention of an obsessive evil, and is no longer the hunter, but the prey. Fiona Mahoney is in the business of blood.

But she’s not the only one.

My Rating: * * * * *

My Review:

I loved this story. It’s heroine is strong, brave and unique. She also has a bit of mystery to be unlocked in her past. Their isn’t really any romance, but their is chemistry between her and another character that I’m hoping will develop into something more.The story is so well written it had me invested in the characters and the story from the start. The Business of Blood is a historical mystery with a Sherlock Holmes vibe to it.

Fiona makes her living cleaning up after the corpses are removed, and after the murder of her best-friend Mary Kelly, 2 years ago, through her work she has been following the trail of Jack the Ripper, determined to make him pay. It is definitely personal and almost an obsession with her.The setting is Jack the Ripper’s London, a Whitechapel complete with smog, fog, stench, blood and gore. Add a touch of Gothic supernatural, a heroine who has a rather macabre job and you have a very action packed story. Twists, old lovers, business partners and an annoyingly handsome Inspector soon have Fiona searching for a killer. But will her questions place others in danger? Worse yet, will she be their next victim?
I was done reading it in one week and it still stuck in my head. Now I am supposed to wait another year to get my hands on the next one. Sigh. I Highly recommended this book for fans of historical mystery, Victorian history with some gothic vibes thrown in.

Kerrigan Byrne

If you’re anything like me, the best night is one spent with a brawny highlander, a mysterious werewolf, a conflicted vampire, or a hot-headed Irishman. My stories span the spectrum of romantic fiction from historical, to paranormal, to romantic suspense. But I can always promise my readers one thing: memorable and sexy Celtic heroes who are guaranteed to heat your blood before they steal your heart. Lose yourself in the enchanted Celtic Isles, you never know who, or what, will find you…

Jack the Ripper
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry — June 25, 2021

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry’s award-winning novel, set at the end of the nineteenth century and inspired by true events.

Moving between Essex and London, myth and modernity, Cora Seaborne’s spirited search for the Essex Serpent encourages all around her to test their allegiance to faith or reason in an age of rapid scientific advancement. At the same time, the novel explores the boundaries of love and friendship and the allegiances that we have to one another. The depth of feeling that the inhabitants of Aldwinter share are matched by their city counterparts as they strive to find the courage to express and understand their deepest desires, and strongest fears.

My Rating: * * *

My Review:

This was a very different book than I am used to reading, but I did enjoy it. To me this was a story of complex relationships, human nature, and the power of superstition and fear on a community. It is also about female independence.

Cora Seaborne has become widowed by a sadistic but wealthy husband. She is now free to pursue her interest in Paleontology, and leave her life in society that she loathed. Traveling with her disturbed son and his nanny she settles in the small Essex village of Aldwinter. Stories of tragic deaths and disappearances by a supposed Sea Serpent has drawn her there. There, she meets local vicar Will Ransome, and the two form an instant friendship, despite their supposedly opposing views — and despite the fact that the vicar already has a wife and children. Cora believes the snake is real, William does not and has no patience for what he deems godless superstition, but they are nonetheless drawn together in an inescapable attraction of opposites. Given his wife Stella is Consumptive you can guess where this may lead.

I felt there could have been a little more gothic atmosphere, and menace included. About the only eerie atmosphere was the curious fog always surrounding the area. The only menacing moment I read is when a group of school girls begin hysterically laughing during a presentation by Cora.

Even though this is not what I thought the novel would be about I still liked it, and would recommend it.

Sarah Perry

Sarah Perry was born in Essex in 1979, and was raised as a Strict Baptist. Having studied English at Anglia Ruskin University she worked as a civil servant before studying for an MA in Creative Writing and a PhD in Creative Writing and the Gothic at Royal Holloway, University of London. In 2004 she won the Spectator’s Shiva Naipaul Award for travel writing.

In January 2013 she was Writer-in-Residence at Gladstone’s Library. Here she completed the final draft of her first novel, After Me Comes the Flood , which was published by Serpent’s Tail in June 2014 to international critical acclaim. It won the East Anglian Book of the Year Award 2014, and was longlisted for the 2014 Guardian First Book Award and nominated for the 2014 Folio Prize. In January and February 2016 Sarah was the UNESCO City of Literature Writer-in-Residence in Prague.

Her second novel, The Essex Serpent , was published by Serpent’s Tail in May 2016. It was a number one bestseller in hardback, and was named Waterstones Book of the Year 2016. It was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award 2017, and was longlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017, the Wellcome Book Prize, the International Dylan Thomas Prize, and the New Angle Prize for Literature. It was broadcast on Radio 4 as a Book at Bedtime in April 2017, is being translated into eleven languages, and has been chosen for the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club 2017.

Sarah has spoken at a number of institutions including Gladstone’s Library, the Centre of Theological Inquiry at Princeton, and the Anglo-American University in Prague, on subjects including theology, the history and status of friendship in literature, the Gothic, and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Her essays have been published in the Guardian and the Spectator, and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. She reviews fiction for the Guardian and the Financial Times.

She currently lives in Norwich, where she is completing her third novel.

The Serpent

Black Shadow Moon (Stoker’s Dark Secret #1) by P.G. Kassel — June 1, 2021

Black Shadow Moon (Stoker’s Dark Secret #1) by P.G. Kassel

Bram Stoker wanted fame. What he got was pure evil.

In late Victorian London, Bram Stoker is an unnoticed author who longs for celebrity and recognition. His ignored writings have left him anonymous. When Vlad Tepes, an eccentric European aristocrat, poses a dangerous proposition, the frustrated artist can’t help but listen. In trade for a simple exchange of services, Tepes promises to give him the information he needs to write a book about the nature of evil that will shock the world. Hungry for a successful book, Stoker reluctantly agrees.

Sir Henry Irving, England’s leading Shakespearean actor and Stoker’s employer, begins to notice an unpredictable nature in his struggling friend. When Stoker’s uncharacteristic behavior jeopardizes a deal between Irving and Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, the creative masterminds begin to investigate the source of Stoker’s preoccupation. What they find shakes them to the core: malevolent darkness, blood, and murder. The evidence begins to mount that they may be dealing with a real vampire.

The chase is on to save Stoker and his family. Failure could result in the loss of their lives… and their souls.

Black Shadow Moon is the first book in a series that asks the question, “What if Bram Stoker’s Dracula was based on real events?” Author P.G. Kassel’s dark supernatural thriller answers the question in a gothic horror novel that brings vampires back to their original evil: existing for no other purpose than to purvey pain, destruction, and death. Will Stoker fall prey to the beautiful side of evil that promises, seduces, and then eviscerates?

My Rating: * * * *

My Review:

I enjoyed this book. How can one resist reading Bram Stokers personal story of how Dracula came to be written? How much could possibly be real? I enjoyed the rich Gothic Victorian atmosphere, and the chapters were short enough to keep the action fast paced.
The cover was excellent, and of course one of the first things that drew me in. The descriptive writing was also very good. You can feel and see what the characters are going through.
The story begins in Whitby with Bram trying to get some inspiration for his writing. One evening he is eerily approached by a strange gentleman. Since Bram lives in London the stranger offers to give him stories of his homeland in exchange for Stokers knowledge of London. Stoker politely declines, but shortly after his return to London he sees him again at the theater he is manager of. He also sees him paying particular attention to his lovely wife Florence, and her friend Lucy. After the second encounter with the man who calls himself Tepes, Stoker feels himself compelled to accept the arrangement Tepes originally put forth. So begins a chain of events, and horrors that endanger himself, his wife and friends who set forth to destroy this monster. Even after the horrors they witness they can’t bring themselves to believe Tepes is a Vampire. This is a rich story filled with great characters like Arthur Conan Doyle, and Sir Henry Irving. I recommend this book to all who love all things Dracula.

Black Shadow Moon (Stoker’s Dark Secret #1) by P.G. Kassel | Goodreads

Black Shadow Moon: Stoker’s Dark Secret Book One (A Supernatural Vampire Thriller) – Kindle edition by Kassel, P.G.. Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @

P.G. Kassel is a former film and television writer-director turned novelist. He has always loved good stories and story telling. Suspense-thrillers, the supernatural and horror, romantic comedy, science fiction, westerns – he isn’t one to be fenced in by a genre label – he just enjoys telling a good story.

While attending film school at USC his focus was on directing. At the time a new director was more likely to get the opportunity to direct a feature film if they had written the screenplay. So, he began writing screenplays and teleplays, and wrote a shelf-full of them.

Phil always loved books and reading so it was only a matter of time before his enjoyment of writing screenplays began to transform into a desire to write a novel. The end result was Black Shadow Moon. He is currently writing the sequel to Black Shadow Moon and has four other novels in various stages of development.

A native Californian, Phil spent over 30 years working in the entertainment industry. In addition to writing his interests include songwriting, playing and recording music, still photography, and shooting cowboy firearms.

Phil is married to an amazing and beautiful woman who puts up with all his artistic moodiness. They make their home in Los Angeles, California.

P.G. Kassel (Author of Dark Ride) | Goodreads P.G. Kassel: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Lucy is doomed
The Norse Queen (The Norsewomen #1) by Johanna Wittenberg — May 22, 2021

The Norse Queen (The Norsewomen #1) by Johanna Wittenberg

Ninth century Norway, the dawn of the Viking era, — a land shattered into thirty warring kingdoms. A woman could seize power, if she was bold enough.
Daughter of a Norse king, fifteen-year-old Åsa dreams of becoming a shield-maiden. When she spurns a powerful warlord, he rains hellfire on her family, slaughtering her father and brother and taking her captive. To protect her people, Åsa must wed her father’s killer. To take vengeance, she must become his queen.

My Rating: * * *

My Review:

This is the lightly based story of Asa, a real queen of 9th century Norway. To me the story was about female strength and empowerment mixed with Norse mythology.
The world building was very good, but I was not captured by the characters right away. The battle scenes were also very well written.
Asa has always wanted to be a Shield Maiden and marriage was never highly regarded by her. Hence when a king from her fathers past asks for her hand her answer is a very strong no. The kings son Olaf who comes to represent his father in the suit is instantly attracted to Asa, and she to him.
The result of Asa’s refusal is the slaughter of her family by the brutal king who then forces her into marriage. Asa’s grief and need for revenge on her cruel husband becomes the main theme of this story.
The attraction between the kings son Olaf and her also complicates things. I do feel that this relationship could have been more passionate despite their young age, but one sex scene and Asa’s resulting pregnancy was it. It did make her survival more tenuous. There is magic mixed in with the story which was an interesting aspect itself.
Over all this was a good story for those who love all things Norse.
Dragon Ship

The Norse Queen (The Norsewomen #1) by Johanna Wittenberg | Goodreads The Norse Queen (The Norsewomen Book 1) eBook: Wittenberg, Johanna: Kindle Store

Johanna Wittenberg

Like her Viking forebears, Johanna Wittenberg has sailed to the far reaches of the world. She lives on a fjord in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, whom she met on a ship bound for Antarctica. Johanna Wittenberg: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Johanna Wittenberg (Author of The Norse Queen) | Goodreads

Destiny is everything
Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina — April 25, 2021

Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina

The year is 1930. In a small Tartar village, a woman named Zuleikha watches as her husband is murdered by communists. Zuleikha herself is sent into exile, enduring a horrendous train journey to a remote spot on the Angara River in Siberia. Conditions in the camp are tough, and many of her group do not survive the first difficult winter.

As she gradually settles into a routine, Zuleikha starts to get to know her companions. The eclectic group includes a rather dotty doctor, an artist who paints on the sly, and Ignatov, Zuleikha’s husband’s killer. Together, the group starts to build a new life, one that is far removed from those they left behind.
Guzel Yakhina’s smooth prose describes Zuleikha’s adjustment to a new reality and her discovery of a new form of happiness, and covers a range of cultural, ethnic, religious and socio-political issues. This outstanding debut novel from an exciting new talent has been showered with prizes and is capturing the hearts of readers all over the world.

My Rating: ****

My Review:

I really enjoyed this story. I wanted to give it five stars, but I feel the end was a bit rushed. I also wished the author had given some more background and character development to the varied characters in this story. It was still worth reading.
In the beginning we have a terrified Zuleikha who has a brutal husband, and a soul sucking mother-in-law she calls the “Vampire Hag”. For good reason. This is the 30’s and 40’s Soviet Russia, and farms were required to give up their grain, goods etc. and not much left to survive on. Zuleikha’s husband becomes defiant, and one day after a trip to hide some grain seeds, they are intercepted by Red Army soldiers on their way to the village to confiscate goods. Zuleikha’s husband attempts to attack the leader, Ignatov, who then shoots and kills him.
Zuleikha is sent to a Siberian labor camp where life is nothing but brutal hardships. Many of the people who are brought there do not survive the first winter. Zuleikha also finds out she is pregnant which makes things even more desperate with food. She makes friends and finds all consuming love while a prisoner. She begins to discover her true strength and who she is.
Her love for her son is obsessive and her main reason for living. Under the circumstances she carried him under makes this understandable. Ironically the stern and Red Army officer who shot and killed her husband, Ignatov, is made Commandant of the labor camp. His character will go through some changes, and the relationship he and Zuleikha have is complicated and passionate.
All in all this was a well written piece of Russian literature, and very accurate on the details of that harsh time. As I said I wish the end had been more detailed but I still enjoyed this story. I highly recommend this book to people who have a love of history.

Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina | Goodreads

Zuleikha – Kindle edition by Yakhina, Guzel, Hayden, Lisa C.. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @

Guzel Yakhina is a Russian author and screenwriter. She is a winner of the Big Book literary prize and the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award.
Guzel Shamilevna Yakhina was born in Kazan. Her mother is a doctor, while her father is an engineer. She spoke Tatar at home and learned Russian only after she started going to daycare.

She studied at the Department of Foreign Languages in the Tatar State University of Humanities and Education. In 1999, she moved to Moscow. In 2015, she graduated from the Moscow School of Film with a degree in screenwriting.
Yakhina worked in public relations and advertising. She began her writing career with publications in the journals Neva and Oktyabr. Sections of her debut novel Zuleikha appeared in the journal Siberian Fires.

Yakhina’s debut novel is based on the experiences of her grandmother, a Tatar. In the 1930s, as part of dekulakization programme, the Soviets forcefully relocated many Tatars from the European part of Russia to Siberia. Yakhina’s grandmother was among them. She was exiled at a young age and was able to return home only sixteen years later. The novel describes the experiences of Zuleikha, a peasant Tatar woman. Her husband resisted dekulakization and was killed. Zuleikha was transported to Siberia and left in a remote location on Angara River with little means of survival. Zuleikha had to overcome the harsh conditions, build relationships with other exiles and forge her new identity and reasons for living. Yakhina initially wrote the draft as a screenplay, and later rewrote it as a novel. Before being accepted for publication, the novel was rejected by multiple publishers.

Families deported to Siberian Labor Camps
Hard labor, lumbering.
Death is always a possibility
Winter Forest Painting by Larry HamiltonFine Art America
The Ancient Ones, by Cassandra L. Thompson — April 22, 2021

The Ancient Ones, by Cassandra L. Thompson

When David stumbles upon a tragic young woman in a sordid Limehouse pub, he has no idea she’d recognize him as the last vampyre alive, nor that she’d be the one to pull out his story. Yet as he recalls his life from the sweltering vineyards of Ancient Rome to the cold horrors of Medieval Romania – as well as his tumultuous past with the mad and mysterious Lucius – he realizes she is much more than what she seems.

Gothic horror and mythological fantasy blend seamlessly together in this thrilling adventure, breathing new life into vampire lore as it reveals its true origins. The Ancient Ones is a tale of myth, mayhem, and magic … with a dash of romance that bites.

My Rating: * * * * *

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book. If I want to read about vampires, Cassandra Thompson will be one of my choices. The story is intricate, dark with a lovely gothic feel.
The story is interwoven with mythology cleverly. We have the main character, David, telling his long history to a dying woman he meets. His story is of a God and Goddess whose love continues over centuries, and many incarnations. It also tells the story of how David becomes a blood drinker, and how his makers dark betrayal becomes dangerous to himself and humanity. The roles the various Gods and Goddesses throughout the story is interesting. There are also a couple of lesser known characters sprinkled in but I recognized them. It’s interesting how the Dracula family is interwoven here with much of the darker aspects of the story taking place in Transylvania.
Towards the end of David’s narration I had a pretty good idea or at least hope of how the tale would end. I was right and pleased with the ending. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys mythology and vampires

The Ancient Ones by Cassandra L. Thompson | Goodreads The Ancient Ones (The Ancient Ones Trilogy Book 1) eBook: Thompson, Cassandra L. : Kindle Store Cassandra L. Thompson: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Gothic horror writer and part-time dark goddess, 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 University 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, she writes short horror stories for her blog, Tales From the Shadows, and she also scribes for Hekate at In The Pantheon. Follow her on social media for book updates & random musings:

Hecate by CarolMylius on DeviantArt
The Morrigan
An American Duchess by Caroline Fyffe — January 10, 2021

An American Duchess by Caroline Fyffe

In Kent, England, the arrival of Beranger Northcott, Duke of Brightshire, causes a stir. Because with the duke comes his new American bride, who isn’t quite what anyone expects. By accepting the hand of her beloved, Emma Brinkman went from hardworking Colorado rancher to duchess. Now she’s expected to comport herself as nobility. Overnight. For Emma—stifled, homesick, and unable to shake the feeling she’s being watched—the metamorphosis is a challenge. And if Emma’s suspicions are correct, perhaps even a dangerous one.

Fortunately, Emma has found a trusted friend in the orphaned Charlotte, Brightshire’s scullery maid. Charlotte longs to experience—if only for a moment—the luxuries and gentry romance that come with a titled life. When one of the duke’s handsome cousins takes notice of Charlotte, the castle kitchen is set abuzz with speculation.

In navigating their two different stations, both servant and duchess alike will discover all they have in common—from secret fantasies to daring hearts to upending the rules of society. And that finding their places in the world—and love—is a dream that can come true—no matter the risks.

My Rating: ****

My Review:

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I wasn’t aware Heart of Mine came before introducing Emma and Barenger, but it still could be read as a stand alone with a few more interesting characters added. I’ve never read anything by Caroline Fyffe before and I was impressed. The love stories were endearing, and I loved the characters. A good mystery was thrown in keeping this story very busy!
The story is about a young American woman crossing the Atlantic to take her place beside her husband, who has just inherited a Duchy. Being excepted into the English Aristocracy is hard enough, but when your mother-in-law is a she devil it’s almost impossible. None the less Emma is up to the task, and becomes a strong independent Duchess who is a great partner to her Duke. If you love a good Victorian romance and mystery you will enjoy The American Duchess.

USA Today Bestselling Author Caroline Fyffe was born in Waco, Texas, the first of many towns she would call home during her father’s career with the US Air Force. A horse aficionado from an early age, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Chico before launching what would become a twenty-year career as an equine photographer. She began writing fiction to pass the time during long days in the show arena, channeling her love of horses and the Old West into a series of Western historicals. Her debut novel, Where the Wind Blows, won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart Award as well as the Wisconsin RWA’s Write Touch Readers’ Award. She and her husband have two grown sons and live in the Pacific Northwest. If you’d like to know when Caroline’s next book will come out, please visit her website at, where you can sign up to receive an email alerting you to her next release.

Catch Handle by Alison O’Mara — November 29, 2020

Catch Handle by Alison O’Mara

Arabian horses are admired for their strength, grace, and athleticism. They are beautiful, intelligent, and remarkable animals.

As a newly minted veterinarian, Vivian Anderson knows and loves horses better than most. With an important horse show on the line and the search for a full-time vet job fast-approaching, Vivian is fully occupied at her Aunt’s Arabian horse ranch and her equine medical externship.

Vivian’s world is abruptly shaken by a shocking murder that casts suspicion on the people she thought she knew best. Stolen medications, fatal “accidents,” unsavory horse handling, and a handsome newcomer have Vivian reeling. She cannot shake the feeling that the seemingly random events are all part of the same puzzle, but who can she trust?

Vivian is about to learn just how dangerous her world of horses can be.

My Rating: * * * *

My Review:

This was a good, clean read especially for animal lovers. The Author definitely combined her love of horses, and animals into her first novel. The first half of the book was a little slow, but there were many characters to introduce. The second half picked up quite well. The cover was really nice, and the editing was very good. Not one error could I find.

The story revolves around Vivienne Anderson who becomes embroiled in a brutal murder. She is an extern Veterinarian who takes care of her aunts show horses on her aunts ranch. Vivienne also works for the local Veterinarian who has an interest in her aunt.

When things start to go horribly wrong around the horse shows she attends, and people who run in the same equine community begin to be murdered, Vivienne turns sleuth trying to find out who the murderer is. She finds that there are hidden dangers in the show horse world, and wonders who she can trust. The plot is well crafted and I could not guess who the killer was. I thought I did, but I was thrown off quickly.

There was definitely some romance included in the story, and I liked the way the ending informed you how everyone was doing in the aftermath. This is definitely a good read, and it could even turn into a series if the author is so inclined.

About Alison O’Mara

An avid animal lover, Alison O’Mara grew up in the rolling foothills of Northern California surrounded by horses, particularly Arabians. She found a way to combine her love of both the murder mystery genre and all things equine in her first novel – Catch Handle. When not at her day job, Alison plots future mysteries and spends her time with her growing family, palomino mare, and two precocious cats.

Visit Alison’s website at

Master of Salt & Bones, by Keri Lake — November 11, 2020

Master of Salt & Bones, by Keri Lake

When I was a little girl, I dreamed a handsome knight would come and rescue me from my wretched mother. He’d ride up on his white steed and break the curse I’ve been fated to carry since the day I was born.

Funny how things changed over time. How the fairy tale twisted into something far more crooked, darker than I ever imagined.

In reality, my knight is scarred and broken, living alone in a castle of bones that overlooks the sea. He isn’t searching for me. He never was.

Lucian Blackthorne is as cursed as I am, and equally shunned by the locals, the fishers of men, who believe him to be the devil in the flesh.

Perhaps he is, with the way his amber eyes draw me in, ignite me like an infernal blaze. And the sins he whispers in my ear are as wickedly intoxicating as the man himself.

Yet, his touch is heaven and his will is my weakness.

He calls us forbidden, an unsalvageable tragedy, with no happy end. Maybe we are. But in this story, he’s the one who needs saving.

MY RATING: * * * * *


All I can say is WOW! This is the first book I have read by Keri Lake, and I am hooked. I feel like I don’t have the words or ability to do justice to this novel, but I’ll give it my best shot. First of all this is gothic romance written brilliantly. The atmosphere is perfect. This is the dangerous combination I truly adore: a gothic mansion with a family of dark secrets, dark, intense, erotic, horrific, psychological, soul crushing story. I could barely tear myself away from the story, and yet I never wanted it to end. The cover was also gorgeous!

Lucian Blackthorne’s character is brilliantly written. Just his name alone makes your heart pound faster. What a charismatic, dangerous, secretive, seductive but also caring, deeply flawed, sad and lonely character. Everything about him is the man you have secretly wanted all your life. To be loved by a man like him would be a heady and powerful feeling. The aura of danger and sex oozes from him.

“The girl has corrupted every fiber of my being, and no one will ever be good enough after her. No one will ever compare to the flesh and blood fantasy before me. She’s mine.
The breath of new life. The steady pulse in my veins. The long-awaited beat of a heart that’s been dead too long.
My kindred flame.”
― Keri Lake, Master of Salt & Bones

When he hires a young beauty, Isadora Quinn, to be his mother’s companion and live at the house, Lucian has no clue that this woman is going to work her way into the organ that he thought was once rotten and black. His heart. Isa is a broken soul also, and her attraction to Lucian is every bit as powerful. This couple has some serious psychological issues from their traumatic pasts. They are twisted broken souls, and two sides of the same coin.

Isadora Quinn is a 19 year old woman with dark secrets of her own. She’s lived her entire life underneath the shadow of her drug addicted mother’s sins in their small town. Desperate for an escape, she takes a job as a caretaker for Lucian’s mother. The second she enters the Blackthorne manor her life becomes more complicated than she ever dreamed. When she goes to Blackthorne castle to be a companion to Lucian’s mother their paths cross. Meeting him for the first time knowing what the town calls him behind his back she finds out that there is more to this enigmatic man, and sparks start flying. Soon a sensual dance begins.Lucian tries to fight the heady attraction that he feels every time he hears,see’s or thinks about her! If you like tortured heroes, prepare to give your heart away!

A dual POV dark romance between two broken people irresistibly drawn to one another. I’m a dark romance junkie and this book just spoke to me. It opened up its secrets and hidden messages one layer at a time. As I descended down floor upon floor of this complex plot, I got just sucked into the intrigue and savage history of Bonesalt in Tempest Cove.

This may not be a story for everyone, but for me it felt like home. I will now be looking out for the next gothic romance that will turn me inside out, and I’ve found they can be few and far between. Thank you Keri Lake for a wild ride in a beautiful story!

“You’re my curse. Staying away from you, is like trying to hold my breath when the tide is rising … I want to drown in you.” Lucian Blackthorne

Keri Lake

Author of dark romance who specializes in demon wrangling, vengeance dealing and wicked twists.

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