Book Features, Giveaways

Sneak Peek of Violet Yorke, Gilded Girl: Ghosts in the Closet by PJ McIlvaine

Chapter One 

By fair means or foul, Violet Yorke had to get to Grandmother Olivia’s. Under a threatening gray sky, she stood at the Manhattan street corner, frantically waving at motorcars and horse-drawn buggies, but they all passed by her without a second glance. Wasn’t it against the law not to stop? If it wasn’t, it should be. Compared to this indignity, slipping out of the hospital had been a breeze. She’d simply waited until the morning shift changed and blended in with the departing visitors. Not that anyone would care she’d gone. 

Dispirited, she trudged down the cobblestone street, taking care not to step into piles of fresh horse dung. The drivers probably thought she was a street urchin in her ill-fitting threadbare coat that barely skimmed her knees, and even worse, no hat. No self-respecting lady went out in public without her hat. Fuddy-duddy Great-Aunt Florence wouldn’t have approved. And she certainly wouldn’t have approved of Violet roaming about unaccompanied. But this wasn’t the time for social niceties. Violet wasn’t in London under the watchful eye of a battalion of bat-faced maids. 

Violet loved the freedom but not the weather. For early April it felt more like February, a cold that chilled to the bone. It had been equally blustery when she’d boarded Titanic at Southampton, the docks swarming with well-wishers. What had Florence said? That everyone would remember Titanic for years to come, and that Violet was embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. Violet thought it was a bit premature to make such a declaration, as it was only 1912, and who knew what else might happen? As it turned out, Florence had been right – but not in the way she’d intended.”

Violet Yorke, Gilded Girl: Ghosts In the Closet

by PJ McIlvaine

Genre: Middle Grade Historical Paranormal Mystery

She sees ghosts…but are they malevolent or friendly?

Poor little rich girl Violet Yorke has seen ghosts for as long as she can remember, but no one believes her.

Not stodgy Grandmother, who took charge of the heiress after her parents were killed in a failed robbery. Nor kind-hearted Aunt Nanette, or Uncle Bertie, a charming rogue. Not even the patient Hugo Hewitt, Violet’s godfather and trustee of her vast fortune.

Everyone dismissed the child’s insistence about ghosts as a harmless eccentricity—until the night her bedroom caught fire. Violet was promptly sent overseas, fueling her anger and resentment.

Two years later, a rebellious twelve-year-old Violet is on her way back to Manhattan on the doomed Titanic. As the ship sinks into the deep Atlantic Ocean, she’s put in a lifeboat by an apparition who rescued her from the clutches of a jewel thief. Presumed lost at sea, Violet shocks everyone by crashing her own funeral.

Following Violet’s recovery, Grandmother has grand high society designs for the girl, but Violet has other ideas. She’s determined to uncover the secret of what really happened to her parents. Then there’s the mystery of the moon-faced boy at gloomy Dunham Hall and his connection to the ghost on Titanic. Also hot on Violet’s trail is the jewel thief, the specter of her murdered governess, and a vengeful ghost lurking in Violet’s childhood home.

Being a poor little rich girl in 1912 Gotham isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in this delightfully dark and droll supernatural historical fantasy.

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PJ McIlvaine is a prolific author/screenwriter/writer/journalist.

PJ is the author of the AmazonUS best-selling VIOLET YORKE, GILDED GIRL: GHOSTS IN THE CLOSET (April 2022, Darkstroke Books), her debut middle-grade supernatural historical mystery adventure about a sassy poor little rich girl/Titanic survivor who sees ghosts in 1912 Manhattan.

PJ’s debut picture book LITTLE LENA AND THE BIG TABLE (May 2019, Big Belly Book Co.), with illustrations by Leila Nabih, is about a determined little girl tired of eating with her annoying cousins at the kid’s table, only to discover that the grown-up big table isn’t much better. Her second published picture book, DRAGON ROAR (October 2021, MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing), illustrations by Logan Rogers), is about a lonely, sick dragon who has lost his mighty roar and the brave village girl who helps him find it again. PJ is also under contract with Oghma Creative Media for a series of Creature Feature picture books (2023-2024) and with Orange Blossom Books for her debut Young Adult alternate history adventure THE CONUNDRUM OF CHARLEMAGNE CROSSE set in Victorian London (Fall 2023).

PJ is also a co-host and founding member of #PBPitch, the premiere Twitter pitch party for picture book creators.

PJ has been published in numerous outlets including The New York Times and Newsday. PJ also does features and interviews for The Children’s Book Insider newsletter.

Also, PJ’s critically acclaimed Showtime original family movie MY HORRIBLE YEAR with Mimi Rogers, Karen Allen, and Eric Stoltz, was nominated for a Daytime Emmy.

PJ lives in Eastern Long Island with her family along with Luna, an extremely spoiled French Bulldog, and Sasha the Psycho Cat.

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Book Features, Giveaways

Sneak Peek of The Dead Betray None by J. L. Buck

Opening lines, Chapter One

The thundering hooves of swiftly moving horses echoed through the dense fog. Lucien Grey, Viscount Ware, feathered his pair of blood bays around the sharp curve, the curricle’s wheels slipping a brief moment on the wet road. The encroaching trees opened onto a broad misty park, revealing the familiar Doric columns of Baron Sherbourne’s yellow-and-gray sandstone manor. Despite the dismal morning, the estate held good memories for Lucien, and a fleeting smile crossed his lips.

Easing the bays to the left toward the stable yard, he brought the light carriage to a halt, and his groom, Finn, slipped off the back to run to the horses’ heads. The high bred team danced in place, snorting at the abrupt end to the journey, their hot breath forming tiny clouds in the icy air.

Lucien leapt to the ground, his top boots squishing the sodden maple leaves blown over the cobblestones. He tossed the reins to Finn. “Be good to them. They earned it.”

“Aye, m’lord.” The small man, somewhere in his thirties, but not much over five feet tall nor eight stone, gave his master a toothy grin and flipped a shock of reddish-brown hair out of his eyes. “Sev’teen mile in a’ hour an’ a bit more. They be getting oats an’ barley for sure.”

Lucien nodded casual approval and yanked off his leather driving gloves, using them to brush at the dried road dirt on his multi-caped greatcoat. A burst of rain and sleet from the same storm that must have blown through the baron’s estate had caught him on the Great North Road from London.

With a final slap of the gloves, he abandoned the futile effort to make himself presentable and strode toward the country house, his lean, muscled frame moving with the ease of a man used to action. A twinge of disquiet returned a frown to his face, and his eyes narrowed. Four years of clandestine missions in the glittering courts and ballrooms of the Continent—their elegant setting no less deadly than the wretched battlefields—had taught him to trust his instincts, and something was off the mark about this assignment. A part of him had known it since Lord Rothe’s man came pounding on his door before dawn.

Lucien’s nostrils flared in the cool breeze. Why was he sent to investigate a country housebreaking? Rothe had failed to tell him something about the theft, something vital that had captured Whitehall’s rapt attention. Lucien had sensed an undertone of anxiety in the habitually composed Marquess of Rothe, the man in charge of the Crown’s secret spies.

What the devil had Prinny’s War Office gotten him into this time?

The Dead Betray None

A Viscount Ware Mystery

by J.L. Buck

Genre: Historical Regency Mystery

An aristocratic spy and a highborn lady cross paths over a dead body.

The Dead Betray None begins in 1811 when England is at war with France, facing the threat of revolutionaries at home, and on the verge of open conflict with America. Lucien Grey, Viscount Ware, has secretly  spied for the Crown on the Continent the last four years. Called home on family matters, he soon becomes bored with such a leisurely life. Then a French spy carrying a vital dispatch is captured, but the document  he carried–which could mean the difference between victory or defeat for Wellington’s army–is stolen by a band of thieves.
Lucien agrees to assist the War Office  in recovering the dispatch, but he never envisioned the mission would include  such perilous complications  that would lead him from London’s crime world to polite society’s ballrooms and even into the shadows of the very government he serves.

J l Buck began writing full-time after she retired from a legal career with the Juvenile Court System. Over the next few years, she published sixteen urban fantasy/paranormal novels under the pen name of Ally Shields. In 2019, she decided to fulfill a childhood wish to write mysteries, chose a period in history that fascinated her—and began work on the Viscount Ware Mystery series set in Regency England.

Ms Buck lives in the Midwest with Latte, a mischievous Siamese cat, who attempts to co-author her writing by taking over the keyboard. When not writing or running two blogs, J L Buck enjoys her eight grandchildren (and a great-grandson), reading (preferably on a sunny deck), travel (USA and abroad), and binge-watching any sub-genre of mystery shows.

She can be contacted through her website, her Ally Shields fantasy website, or social media (twitter: @janetlbuck or her pen name account: @ShieldsAlly)

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Book Features, Guest Posts

Series Spotlight: The Versipellis Mysteries by Rhen Garland

A Portrait of Death

The Versipellis Mysteries Book 1

by Rhen Garland

Genre: Historical Supernatural Mystery

A Victorian house party, a supernatural mystery, and two very special investigators.

England
1899

Immortal detectives Elliott Caine and Abernathy Thorne have spent centuries searching through time for the reincarnations of their murdered wives. As their quest continues, they use their many lifetimes of knowledge to solve Gothic mysteries that can be unsettling, and sometimes terrifying.

Never before have they been faced with a case like this.

The great and the good are gathered for the social event of the season, but the evening comes to a horrifying halt when the mutilated remains of two men are discovered artistically displayed in the portrait gallery. As Caine and Thorne begin their investigations, they uncover more than the usual murderous web of intrigue, espionage, and treason.

An ancient evil is stalking ever closer, intent on finding that which they seek.

Where does the mysterious agent Versipellis fit into the case? And who is the shadowy figure watching Caine and Thorne with such interest?

Find out who, when, why, what, and how in this very Victorian murder mystery; the first instalment in a new Gaslamp fantasy series that drips with elements of Gothic mystery, historical urban fantasy, and rather a lot of blood as we follow the exploits of immortal Victorian detectives Elliott Caine and Abernathy Thorne in the latter stages of the Victorian world.

“As soon as you start reading, it gets you hooked, and you just can’t put it down.”

“Wonderful twists and turns in the story line kept me wanting to read what happened next.”

“A great debut novel from an author with an amazing imagination.” – Katylou 1966

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Death In the Sound

The Versipellis Mysteries Book 2

Death and diamonds in the green heart of New Zealand.

New Zealand
1900

Responding to a desperate plea from an old friend, Caine, Giselle, and Thorne, accompanied by Veronique the Labrador, travel to New Zealand to investigate a simple case of blackmail that explodes into a far more shocking crime.

A Psychic, a dancer, and illusionists are amongst the honoured guests invited to a weekend party aboard a luxurious paddle steamer moored in the isolated grandeur of Milford Sound, where reclusive millionaire philanthropist Octavius Damant is determined to throw his daughter a twenty-first birthday party to remember.

The celebrations are cancelled, however, when a hideous murder is committed and the engines are sabotaged, trapping everyone on board with a killer willing to stop at nothing to achieve their evil schemes.

As the body count rises, Caine, Giselle, and Thorne must piece together a devilish puzzle involving extortion, desire, the reappearance of the fabulous Larkspur Diamond, and the return of a face from Thorne’s past.

Just when they feel they are beginning to unravel the case, the truth about events centuries earlier threatens to destroy everything they thought they knew about their own past lives.

Find out who, when, why, what, and how in this very Victorian murder mystery; the second instalment in a new Gaslamp fantasy series that drips with elements of Gothic mystery, historical urban fantasy, and rather a lot of blood as we follow the exploits of immortal Victorian detectives Elliott Caine and Abernathy Thorne in the latter stages of the Victorian world.

“Stephen King meets Agatha Christie” – Hammerhead

“An excellent plot with lots of unexpected twists and many multi-layered characters.” – Katylou 1966

“Magical, mysterious and memorable.” – The Northernreader

“Vibrant characters and dark deeds combine to produce a creepy, cleverly plotted murder mystery with exciting originality.” – Jane Hunt

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The Shadow of Death

The Versipellis Mysteries Book 3

An horrific discovery leads to Caine and Thorne’s darkest investigation yet.

England
Christmas
1900

Fifteen years after a series of ritualistic murders drove the families of Cove to send their children away to safety, the survivors are returning to celebrate their first Christmas back on their island home…but the killer has also returned, and they have unpleasant plans for those who fled their reign of terror so many years ago…

When a murder is committed during the Yule archery shoot, Caine, Giselle, Thorne, Aquilleia, and Veronique the Labrador find themselves thrown into a terrifying Gothic mystery that involves sinister cultists, family secrets, hidden passages, and the horrifying reappearance of the abomination Filicidae: a malevolent being who kills for pleasure.

Hope is offered by one of their kind from Astraea, whose gift could be used to defeat the creature once and for all.

But unbeknownst to Caine and his friends, deep in the catacombs of Cove Castle, there dwells a nightmare…

Find out who, when, why, what, and how in this very Victorian murder mystery; the third instalment in a new Gaslamp fantasy series that drips with elements of Gothic mystery, historical urban fantasy, and rather a lot of blood as we follow the exploits of immortal Victorian detectives Elliott Caine and Abernathy Thorne in the latter stages of the Victorian world.

“The third book of the Versipellis mysteries is the darkest of the series so far and the best in my opinion.” – Hammerhead

“Garland is a great storyteller in her genre of the Victorian whodunnit with a supernatural twist” – Katylou 1966

“The emerging details of the “other realm” shows the wonderful imagination of this author. I certainly can’t wait for the next book in the series.”

“Holmes meets Highlander via Hammer House of Horror!

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Rhen Garland is the author of the The Versipellis mysteries – a series of Gaslamp Fantasies set in the late Victorian, early Edwardian era that follow the adventures of immortal detectives Elliott Caine and Abernathy Thorne as they search through time for the reincarnations of their murdered wives…and solve a few murders along the way.

I live in Somerset, England, with my book illustrating, folk-singing husband, approximately 5000 books, an equal number of ancient movies, and a large collection of passive-aggressive Tomtes. My achievements are more from the school of life, rather than that of College or University. My early years choice of reading material was rather suspect for my age. The first Agatha Christie I ever read was “By the Pricking of my Thumbs” when I was nine years old; a child of that age reading and enjoying a murder mystery about a child killer explains a great deal about the type of novel I write today.

When I was diagnosed with CFS at the age of thirty, I realised that I could either go mad staring at four walls all day, or I could try to apply what little parts of my brain still worked and have a bash at writing a murder mystery set in the 1920’s…things didn’t quite turn out the way I’d planned!

I thought when I finally started writing that my books would be genteel “cosy” type murder mysteries set in the Golden Era (I love the 1920’s and 30’s for the style, music, and automobiles), with someone being politely bumped off at the Vicar’s tea party and the corpse then apologising for disrupting proceedings. Instead, the late Victorian era came thundering over the horizon armed with some fantastical and macabre plotlines and a complete refusal to accept the word “no”; it planted itself in my stories, my characters, and my life, and would not budge.

I watch far too many old school murder mystery films, TV series, and 1980s action movies for it to be considered healthy. No one will play movie quizzes with me anymore…further evidence of a misspent youth!

I love the countryside, Prosecco, tea, the cocktail hour (the pinnacle of the civilised world!), and the works of Dame Ngaio Marsh, Dame Gladys Mitchell, John Dickson Carr/Carter Dickson, Dame Agatha Christie, Sir Terry Pratchett, Simon R Green, and David and Leigh Eddings.

My books are Victorian in era, messy in their murders, creepy in their otherness, and will make you double check the windows are all locked before you go to bed. What’s not to like about mysteries with a touch of Grand Guignol?

Find Rhen at the ChillerCon UK – Horror comes to Scarborough! (chillercon-uk.com) this week!

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Book Reviews

Mini-Reviews: Week of 2/7/22-2/11/22

Mending Fences by Sherryl Woods

Two families. One incident that changes all their lives. We meet the Carters and the Dobbs, they have been best friends for a while from the children to the mothers, but habits of the Carters trinkle into the Dobbs household. Emily Dobbs must decide how important is her friendship with Marcia Carter and if keeping her daughter Dani safe. This was an intense book for me that truly shows how quick people change when terrible things happen. Support that you’ve relied on disappears leaving questions unanswered until you get to the twist in the story. I really enjoyed this book and how things unraveled, but also frustrated about Dani staying silent too long.

This is My American by Kim Johnson

This book is about Tracy, daughter and sister trying to keep her family intact while clearing their name. She is a strong character and incredibly determined to bring to like the racism and unfair treatment of her father and brother’s cases. While Tracy fights for her family she uncovers a history of wrongdoings that affects not only her family, but another one, which is the shocking reveal in the story. This is a book worth reading.

The Arrangement by Kiersten Modglin

Who says marriage is boring? It’s not in this book. Ainsley and Peter make an arrangement to see other people to repair their marriage. Was it a bad idea? Most definitely. Once their arrangement starts it uncovers incidents that Ainsley and Peter will have to get themselves out of. This was a great read of weaving through chaos, secrets, and unsuspected reveals. Loved it!

The Apothecary Poison by C. J. Archer

This is book three in the Glass and Steele series, we meet back up with Matt and India on the search for Dr. Hale in hopes that he can lead them to Chronos. Matt’s health is not well, and he still needs to get his watch fixed. When Dr. Hale is murdered, Matt becomes the primary suspect. Matt and India are running out of time. This book had unsuspected twist and had me anticipating what would happen next. I loved that it was harder to figure out who killed Hale. I also love the series carrying over the mission on finding Chronos. I cannot wait to read the next book in this series.

A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

This is book three in the Veronica Speedwell series, Veronica and Stoker on looking into the disappearance of Stoker’s former expedition partner. It seems there have been unfortunate events happening around this expedition especially with a shadowing figure stalking about. I enjoyed the book and the reveal, but it took a little bit longer to get into it. This may be because I listened to the audiobook. I will continue this series because overall I am really it and look forward to reading the next book.

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.