*ARC REVIEW* ~ Death and Beauty, by Samantha MacLeod

#norse #mythology #erotic #romance

Blurb

Desperate to get back to his privileged role as Óðinn’s favorite son, Baldr strikes a bargain with Hel, the terrifying half living and half skeletal queen of the realm of the dead. He offers her the only thing he’s got: knowledge from the living world. Hel gives him three days. If he can teach her something new, she will return him to the realms of the living.

But the icy Hel seems completely impervious to Baldr’s charms. What’s worse, she already knows everything. By the end of the third day, Baldr realizes he’s only got one chance left to impress her.

Returning to his former life looks like it’s going to depend on Baldr the Beautiful seducing the most formidable woman in the Nine Realms.

My Review ~ 5 stars

Seductive and Spellbinding

Do yourself a favour and grab hold of this new release from Samantha MacLeod now! It’s a beautifully written erotic novella which presents the reader with a highly original twist on one of my favourite tropes – Beauty and the Beast, this time delving deep into Norse mythology.

Baldr the Beautiful awakes to find himself in the realm of the dead and is desperate to return to his life to help keep the peace. He sets out to petition Queen Hel with this in mind. However, the queen is not so easily persuaded and sets him the task of teaching her something new about the living word before she will grant him his wish.

Hel has a terrifying appearance, half flesh and half skeletal and this contrasts with Baldr the Beautiful’s own good looks, good looks that he has used to charm his way out of many a situation, yet which appear to of little use in his current predicament. As Hel and Baldr are thrown together we are treated to a series of enlightening scenes as we learn more about their characters. I loved the verbal sparing and the growing sexual tension between them as Baldr strives to meet Queen Hel’s task.

Hel is more knowledgeable and accomplished than Baldr could ever have imagined and bests him at every turn. Indeed, she is like no other woman he has met before and he quickly realises that it is not just her appearance that sets her apart – there is a lot more to this complex woman that he ever envisaged. When it is obvious that he has no knowledge to impart that she cannot already know about he embarks on the one thing that may just work – the seduction of Hel, which has unforeseen consequences for them both…

This original tale is one hot erotic read (there are plenty of scorching scenes) and Hel and Baldr are just perfect for each other.

Recommended for lovers of erotic romance, especially those who enjoy stories which involve inventive twists on mythology.

Reviewed by Tina Williams

Please note that an ARC of this book was given to me by the author for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Amazon UK      Amazon US

Connect with the Author

https://sammacleod.wordpress.com/about-me/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012016893561

 

Milk – Blood by Mark Matthews **REVIEW**

Milk-Blood - Amazon new eyesBlurb: Lilly is ten years old, born with a heart defect, and already addicted to heroin. Her mother is gone from her life, and there are rumors that she was killed by her father and buried near the abandoned house across the street. The house intrigues her, she can’t stay away, and the monstrous homeless man who lives there has been trying to get Lilly to come inside.

For her mother is there, buried in the back, and this homeless man is Lilly’s true father, and both want their daughter back.

Review

Milk – Blood is a completely unique horror, mixing the physical tension of fear, dread and violence with psychological and social concerns of poverty, drug abuse and social care surrounding a motherless young girl, Lilly, who has been struggling with a terrible illness from birth and later comes to learn the true fate of her mother as well as becoming reliant on heroin.

There is a sense of darkness and eeriness in the setting alone, with the story based on a rundown street in Detroit in a poverty-stricken area where virtually every other home is boarded up, the homeless roam the road in need for shelter and crime and drug use is always an issue. Lilly has to walk down this road on the way home from school every weekday evening, with the dark house across the street and a strange, creepy homeless man calling to her. She is teased by school kids and returns home to be ignored regularly and yet still dealing with her illness and pain. And yet these latter issues are nothing compared to the horror she is to encounter deeper into the story.

I found the opening chapters alone of particular interest as Matthews has written the same scene but from each point of view, i.e. the mother’s and her partner’s. This enables the reader from the offset of the story to empathise as much as possible with both sides. I found these chapters, although very tragic concerning the death surrounding the mother, very beautifully written when it came to the partner taking care of the very ill newborn. Such a caring and gently written sequence is rare in many horrors. It is because of this that I believe Milk – Blood begins like a thriller which later develops into a horror.

To use a child, especially one so young and addicted to heroin, I thought was daring of the author in this type of horror and yet it plays out really well. There were moments earlier on in the story that I couldn’t quite comprehend the direction of the story, however these passed very quickly and as the reader continues the story opens out into a great psychological horror that will not disappoint the reader! Due to the content I would recommend that the reader is of mature age of at least 17yrs.

The homeless guy in the boarded up house across the street is also one that has his demons (and for me could have easily been a development of a scavenging character from one of Matthews’ previous books, On the Lips of Children). For he sees and hears more than you would expect. Whether it is partly due to his drug intake or a ‘gift’ he has it adds a deep sense of grittiness, mystery and fear and the reader cannot help but long Lilly to have nothing to do with this character. Of course, Lilly might just get sucked into some inevitable danger as the reader is pulled into the horror too.

Mark Matthews has written Milk – Blood in a clever manner, being able to use some personal experiences and developing them into a suspenseful horror. And not all meets the eye to begin with but as the story wraps up (which it does superbly well) the reader is treated to a little more and realises that there certainly is a purpose for every character mentioned! Despite there being many horrific and tragic scenes, the real horror is where the story takes us – the end result.

This is written in a fantastic way and I love how the reader has no sense of the bigger picture until the conclusion! Although my personal favourite book of Mark Matthews is On the Lips of Children, this one is very close, using a blend of horror from On the Lips of Children as well as the social and dramatic elements of the author’s Stray. (The links of Stray and On the Lips of Children will take you to my previous reviews and some background info on Mark Matthews with On the Lips of Children review.)

A copy of Milk – Blood was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest and fair review.

Milk – Blood is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Milk – Blood was recently released in June 2014. The cover design is from Kealan Patrick Burke of Elderlemon Design, and the story was edited by Richard Thomas, Editor in Chief at Dark House Press.

The term upon which the title is based, “Milk-Blood” was made famous in the Neil Young Song “The Needle and the Damage Done.” A companion piece featuring a character from Milk-Blood, The Damage Done, is available for free on Amazon and has been receiving tremendous reviews.

Reviewed by Caroline Barker

 

 

 

Echoes from the Past – Part 1- Harry and Part 2 – Eloise (The Peggy Rodman Series), Sarah Colliver

513LlSIAKoL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-067Peggy’s Deductions Help  Spirits Find Peace at Last

These poignant and uplifting tales describe how Peggy Rodman, a wife and mother, uses a new found gift to help  lost and confused spirits make sense of their past and reunite with their loved ones. At the same time Peggy finds some comfort from her own grief at the death of her dear mother. Although both tales brought tears to my eyes, they both ended on a positive note and I found them to be inspirational and uplifting reads in their examination of love, loss and reconciliation in this life and the afterlife.

In Echoes from the Past – Part 1 – Harry, we are introduced to Peggy, the heroine. Peggy has recently moved into a cottage with her husband and two boys.  In the run up to the move Peggy’s mother was taken ill and died.  Peggy is struggling to come to terms with her grief, whilst helping to support others such as her dad, who lives nearby and her two boys who have started a new school. Three months after the move, whilst exploring the area around her new home, she discovers a secret place where she meets a young man called Harry, who she realises lived over a century ago.  Peggy recognises that she has developed a rather extraordinary gift – the ability to interact with spirits of the departed. Harry’s memories of his life are confused and he has become tied to this earthly plane. Peggy helps him to remember and find peace at long last, moving on to be reunited with his loved ones. At the same time Harry’s actions encourage Peggy to find her own peace and start to come to terms with her mother’s passing.

The character of Peggy, a wife and mother, with hopes and fears we are all familiar with, is one which is easy to empathise with.  Peggy is a gentle and thoughtful person, who is very much in tune with her environment and takes pleasure in engaging her senses. She is happy and secure in her relationship with Ed, her husband, and adores her two school age boys. However, she is in a dark place, deeply grieving for her mum, and her ability to communicate with those spirits who remain tied to this world is new to her.

Harry is a lovable character. He is confused and is shocked when Peggy helps him to realise that he is in fact dead and recognises that Peggy is from a time that is not his own. At first he cannot recall much of his life and feels desperately sad. However, with Peggy’s help he is encouraged to make sense of his flashbacks to his past life and eventually his death, enabling him to reunite with his family in the afterlife where he can find happiness again.

Both Peggy and Harry comprehend that something extraordinary is happening and that they have been brought together for a reason. They have a strong physical and emotional connection, which neither understands. I enjoyed the fact that for a ghost, Harry appears very corporeal indeed, like a living breathing person. Indeed, there is reference to Peggy feeling his breath on her cheek, as well as being the recipient of his touch, hugs and kisses. Peggy feels guilty about the attraction she feels for Harry and Harry also feels guilt for he knows that he was happy with his wife and children when he was alive.  Their shared experience of grief enables them to gain comfort from each other.

The story has some mystical, almost fairy tale qualities, especially in how the author describes Peggy’s secret place. I particularly enjoyed the presence of the dove throughout the tale, which I read as a symbol of love and peace and representing a link to the afterlife. For the most part the author’s writing style flowed readily and quickly drew me into the plot and the characters. I would have liked to know a little more about Peggy’s relationship with her husband Ed, which seems very close and loving and hope that this will be explored further in subsequent instalments. I am also curious about Peggy and Harry’s special attraction to one another and wonder if we will be seeing any more of Harry as Peggy’s story unfolds.

I found the tale a very thoughtful and touching read in how it explored the deep emotions connected to death,  grief and  the afterlife. I liked the way that the story concluded and found it to be an inspirational read.

In Echoes from the Past – Part 2 – Eloise, Peggy is getting her life back on track after her mother’s death, whilst a8201da7e24b0a20e32f0e.L._V400995341_[1]-002becoming reconciled to the responsibilities of her special ability. Her joy of life is returning and, at her husband’s suggestion, she applies for a job in Gloucester. It is there, after attending  her interview, that she encounters the troubled spirit of Eloise, who has outstanding issues to resolve before she can pass over peacefully. Peggy is more than happy to assist, especially when she hears her heartbreaking tale. Once again Peggy uses resources available at the local records office to identify some truths previously unknown to Eloise. She also helps Eloise to  remember what happened, helping her to reconcile the past and to reunite with her loved one.

Eloise is a fascinating character, who lived in the late 1800’s. We learn that she was well educated and wanted to contribute to society through working in an area often reserved solely for men. Unusual for a woman of her time, she was able to find work in the offices of the local match factory. Her story focuses on a romance between her and a young man called Charles. Her unfinished business concerns events and misunderstandings which arise soon after she weds him – I will not reveal any more than that as it would spoil the plot for those wishing to read the series.

In this instalment, Peggy grows in confidence and relishes the fact that she can offer help to the troubled spirits she seems to draw to her. We also learn more about her husband Ed and Peggy’s relationship with him. Eloise’s experiences of struggling to justify her role in the workplace as a woman in late Victorian Britain were interesting to reflect on. Peggy comes to realise how lucky she is to have the freedom to work and be a a wife and mother without society judging her harshly. I found the issues raised to be very thought provoking and the conclusion of the tale an uplifting one.

As with Harry’s story, I could sense that the author had carried out a lot of local research into the time and places that her characters inhabited.  This added to my reading experience and added depth to the characters and the narrative. Once again the tale was an emotional one and I welcomed the fact that Peggy was able to help Eloise find peace at last. The two instalments flow almost seamlessly into one another and should be read in order. I am looking forward to the next instalment of Peggy’s story, The Lost Children and the fourth and final instalment which is planned. I recommend the Peggy Rodman Series to those who like to read about the paranormal and explore, in a sensitive way, the issues connected with grief and loss and the veil between the world of the living and those departed.

Reviewed by Tina

To read author Sarah Colliver’s post, in which she talks about her inspiration behind the Peggy Rodman Series, click here.

Author Sarah Colliver’s website/blog http://sarahcolliver.wordpress.com

The Peggy Rodman Series on Amazon UK and Amazon US

Find Sarah Colliver on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/EchoesfromthePast