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  1. Against the backdrop of 1972 London, four lost souls collide. Pearson has just lost his lover, O'Connell committed suicide. The activist Nina feels her ideals slipping away from her as she also watches the trial of the Angry Brigade, the anarchist group accused of a spate of bombings. Sweet Thing, a streetwise rent boy, can make anyone desire him, but who or what does he desire? Johnny Chrome is on the verge of his big breakthrough as the next big thing in glam rock, a breakthrough he has been working for far too many years. The 1960s are over and the world is changing as the new decade begins. Jake Arnott’s novel captures the changing world of early 1970s London. The hope of the 1960s has gone but the anger and unrest of the 1970s is only just beginning. People are beginning to protest and to push back. Arnott captures the changing society these people are living in, the shifting and uncertainty of these times. He also captures the displaced nature of the characters here, all of them trying to find a place for themselves in this changing world. Arnott’s strength is his feeling for characters. He gets under the skin of four, very different characters here. He gives each one the same degree of insight and development here. Often with multi-character novels, a writer will favour one or two characters, the ones they like and/or identify with the most. Here Arnott gives equal attention to all his central characters, showing no favouritism. The big drawback with this novel is there is an abundance of riches. Arnott has chosen several, big plots here, covering different themes and subjects. There is enough plot and subject-matter in this novel to fill two or even three stories. This did leave some of the plot with less room to breathe and develop. This might seem a quibble, but I did want Arnott to fully develop the plot strands that didn’t get enough space. This novel not just captures the feel and atmosphere of the early seventies; it draws the reader into the lives of a mismatched group of people living around the edges of this society. Arnott also draws a very accurate portrayal of living in a squat, a way of life gone now. Like so much of Arnott’s writing, this novel is well worth spending time with. Find it here on Amazon
  2. A Nobleman's guide to seducing a scoundrel by KJ Charles My rating: 4 out of 5 stars One of many things to love about KJ Charles' books is how anchored they are in their particular historical period. She doesn't hit you around the head with facts, or elevate research over plot. Instead, we join A Nobleman's guide to seducing a scoundrel in the early 1820s when Gothic novels are still the rage, medievalism is becoming an academic study, the Napoleonic Wars are over, and smugglers now operate largely above board. This isn't historical decoration. Rufus d'Aumesty, the new, disputed Earl of Oxney, spent more than a decade in the army and it's formed who he is. Luke Doomsday is a confidential secretary who's apparently left behind his days of belonging to Romney Marsh's foremost smuggling clan. They meet at the start of the novel in a maze of a house dating back to Norman times, both embroiled in a succession dispute worthy of Dickens. Luke becomes the earl's right hand man as they both seek to right years' worth of estate neglect. At first, Luke's interest in the job appears genuine. Then we get hints otherwise, even as he and the new Earl fall for each other. Another thing to love about KJ Charles’ writing is how she quietly acknowledges that queer individuals have always existed. That they not only existed, but tried to make full, loving lives for themselves. Finally, Luke is discovered at night somewhere he shouldn't be and everything goes full-on Gothic. Think 'Northanger Abbey' or 'Melmoth the wanderer' - all dark and stormy with strange, shadowed buildings, crazed, vengeful relatives, and a lone hero(ine) struggling against the odds to save themselves and solve the mystery. Of course, the clouds clear and the sun comes out at the end. No matter how hard KJ Charles makes you (and her characters) work and suffer, there’s always a happy ending. This is great fun and a worthy sequel to The Secret lives of country gentlemen. If you read this book first, it doesn't matter. KJ Charles has been very clever in linking both books firmly together but also making it possible to read them separately.
  3. Beryl Bainbridge, at her best, always had a dark view of life. It wasn’t just the unhappiness of life she wrote about so well but the pain and regret under that unhappiness. This novel is a fine example of the darkness she found in ordinary people’s lives. It is set in Liverpool in 1945. The war is finally turning and the city is awash with American GIs, but this is still the world of ration books, shortages and make do and mend. In this cold and austere world, naïve and immature Rita lives with her two aunts, Nellie and Margo. Her mother has died and her father is incapable of raising a daughter. Rita dreams of being a GI bride, her head was turned by the fantasy of the Hollywood films she escaped to in the local Picture House. At a party organised by a neighbour she meets her own GI. She rapidly falls in love with him, though she is far more in love with the idea of having her own GI than with the man himself. Her aunts, though, are certain that this young man is not suitable for their niece. This is not romantic fiction, it is a drama of downtrodden lives; Rita’s relationship with her GI has no breath of romance about it. The aunts’ lives are as dull and washed out as the wartime city around them. Nellie is the matronly character forced to be the head of the family. Margo is what was once called “blousy”, an unmarried middled-aged woman who behaves as if she was still young, though here she is no caricature; she is a woman who is desperate not to let life pass her by, even though it is rapidly doing so. The male characters are very much secondary characters here, but this is a novel about the women at the heart of it and it is no less a novel for that. This was the first Bainbridge novel I read. As a teenager, I was wary of literary fiction, finding it highbrow and inaccessible. With this novel, I was gripped by its dark opening and carried along by its dark plot. I was surprised that a novel with the plaudits this one had would also have such an interesting and readable plot. The characters were also all too recognisable. Rereading it recently, I found it had lost none of its dark appeal. This is Beryl Bainbridge at her height. Though a short novel, none of its pages are wasted and it still lingers in the memory long after I finished reading it. Find it on Amazon
  4. I just published my first book The Reflection of Innocence Being a first time author, I found it to be trick to write, because of the sexuality of the character. I patterned many aspects of the main character against myself, and I am a gay man that never came to terms with my sexuality till my late 30's. So his sexuality was hidden away (except for a few passing references in the book), but here is my question. Since my book if I had to classify it is a Fiction-Thriller-Military genre (with some paranormal elements) it's appeal is mostly going to be straight men/women I imagined. My feeling was to try endear the readers to the character and essentially gloss over his sexuality (since his sexuality really isn't a major factor of the story anyway), and hope they can connect with the person, rather than just this facet of who he his. Later on when the character comes to terms with who he is as a person, and he finally accepts his sexuality (and being an alcolholic), I had hoped that the readers would feel close enough to the character so it really doesn't sway them. Again I base this on my own life where I was scared to death to do the 'big reveal' to family/friends, and when I did most just shrugged their shoulders,and said we like you for who you are, and your sexuality doesn't change that. . So I am hoping by trying to create that closeness with the characters with words, the readers feel the same way. Was just curious how others have dealt with writing books for markets geared for meat & potatoes middle America crowd, and showing that G&L go through the same struggles as they do? Thanks John
  5. Historical Fiction Authors like to write in a genre that they are comfortable with. Some genres require more work than others. Your challenge is to write a scene or story that is set in a particular time period. Think Victorian, Elizabethan, World War I, Colonial America, or another time period. You’ll need to research the clothes, tools, items, attitudes, and language so everything is appropriate. Good Luck.
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