Monthly Archives: August 2014

Hell’s Belle – Marie Castle

HellsBelleMarie Castle’s First Novel, Hell’s Belle: Book 1 of the Dark Mirror series revitalizes the Dark Urban Fantasy landscape. Lately, the fantasy landscape, regardless of sub-genre, has become littered with perfunctory, now cliché, devices: the detective agency run by supernatural beings, an individual whose magic is extraordinary for her generation, a council put into place to enforce the laws of magic use, and trips to hell replete with demons.   In her novel, Hell’s Belle, Marie Castle indeed employs these ideas, however, she does so not only in an exceptionally clever manner, but she breaths new life into them.

Perhaps I was drawn to her ability to blend a depth of literary knowledge and re-package it in a non-alienating manner; thereby leaving no reader out of the story.   Blending depth of research into a very accessible story takes a deft hand, and Castle does that well. Yet, Hell’s Belle goes beyond simply having an intellectually disposed author (as most authors have such dispositions in some manner.)   Castle generates interest in the expected by adding to them, creating layers of gray, in a genre where evil is generally obvious and good may be as well.

The first idea that caught my attention was the detective agency, Dark Mirror.   Of course, for this reader, who truly enjoys looking through the glass darkly, the name caught my eye; yet Castle used the allusion delightfully well. She wove the allusion into the main character, Cate Delancey, into her identity, into her core witch. Whether that technique was intentional or not doesn’t matter, for the action sets forth a complexity in Cate Delaney.   The character never transcends her place in the magic-cum- human realm. Castle could easily have left Cate as simply a Guardian of humanity, hence “good” in character, yet she never truly is completely “good” in the traditional way.   Furthermore, Castle extends the notion into the conception of Hell. While Hell has it’s Dante-esque cast, Castle manipulates it such that it can be simultaneously frightening and, contrarily, sexy.

Marie Castle BioThere’s more to enjoy in Marie Castle’s debut novel.   Her ability to capture Southern culture is exemplary. While many Southerners fail to capture the nuances of language, disposition, and sensibilities; Castle embraces the essence of the culture without trivializing it, particularly in the familial relationships and interactions with others – politeness, often with a bite.

I enjoyed this book a good deal more than I expected to do, as I am becoming a tad jaded by the over usage of once good ideas. I recommend Hell’s Belle and happily anticipate the rest of the series.

GCLS Goldie Awards
Hell’s Belle — Finalist, Lesbian Paranormal, Lesbian Debut Fiction.

Lambda Literary Awards
Hell’s Belle — Finalist, LGBT Speculative Fiction / Paranormal.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Bella Books (December 16, 2013)
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.

She Sings of Old, Unhappy, Far-off Things – Caren J. Werlinger

She sings of old, unhappy thingsMargaret Braithwaite was a rising Regency scholar and an acclaimed author. Thirty years later, she’s a one-book wonder, a fifty-something college professor with the dubious distinction of being an expert on Jane Austen, hidden in the shadow of her famous husband and his Civil War novels. “Too young to retire, and too old to start over,” Margaret feels as dried up and dead as the neglected gardens her husband took such pride in before he became ill.

Wyck Fitzsimmons is the Asheville landscape architect Gavin Braithwaite hires to restore his precious gardens to their former glory. She learned a long time ago that plants and trees are safer and more reliable companions than other people.

Under Wyck’s care, the gardens begin to come back to life, but the flowers aren’t the only thing blossoming. For the first time in decades, Margaret feels the stirrings of love, but those long-buried feelings frighten her more than the prospect of withering away alone in her ivory tower of academia.

Gavin, more observant than most people give him credit for, sees the attraction developing between his wife and his gardener. Using every means at his disposal, he arranges things so that Margaret has no choice but to remain faithful to him, even after death.

Margaret, confused and faced with losing everything that offers her any kind of security, flees to England – to Austen and Wordsworth country – where she tries to forget Wyck and all the feelings she has awakened.

Back in North Carolina, Wyck must come to terms with her own past and somehow find a way to forgive before it’s too late to make amends.

Love, it seems, can take root in even the most barren hearts, if only Margaret and Wyck can find the courage to let it grow.


Caren Werlinger always writes thoughtful and thought provoking novels. No rote churning out of a formula time after time. Each of her books tells a very different story and speaks to us in different ways

“She sings” is, at heart, a ‘Traditional’ romance. Woman meets woman, both have insecurities and issues to overcome, but spend the book working through them. It is never absolute though, that this couple will resolve into the ‘happy ever after’ of less complex tales. Their past histories and present complications leave us wondering, throughout, whether one will have the courage to change, and the other will have the fortitude to wait, to trust.

Ms Werlinger’s characters are complex, multi faceted, layered – and very real. If you were introduced to Meggie or Wyck you would recognize and relate to them. She draws them subtly, without massive descriptive paragraphs, but through their thoughts and actions we learn them. Her secondary characters also get drawn in fine detail – Gavin the controlling husband, Taylor the annoying gay friend, Muriel the charming mother. They fill out an ensemble piece – although always coming second to Wyck’s wonderful companion – her dog Mandy.

Caren Werlinger BiogAgain, as always, Ms Werlinger challenges us to think about the complexities of an issue. This time it is the label ‘sex offender’ and how we react as a society, how we view the person. How our unthinking assumptions and rejection of the outsider can lead to violence and fear.

There has been much discussion lately of readers views on erotica, an MS Werlinger’s books are definitely the “fade to black” variety. It’s there, but not explicit. It’s important but not central. This will undoubtedly appeal to many who do not enjoy the explicit sex scenes in the majority of Lesfic

Well written, charming and full of excellent observation, ‘She sings’ will pull you in and lead you a gentle dance. An enjoyable read, a pleasant journey through literary allusion with two well-educated women. Definitely one for summer relaxation or winter in front of the fire.

(publisher review copy received)

Product info:

  • Paperback: 308 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Corgyn Publishing, LLC (April 22, 2014)
  • ASIN: B00JW2M60O
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.Available on Smashwords HERE

Defining Fantasy Genres #1

– Taken from a longer article  Reading on the Dark Side and the Realm in Between -18 months of reading only series by female authors of the darker side of fantasy – JUNE 9, 2014 –


Given that the definitions for Fantasy and it’s sub-genres vary, my parameters for categorization follow along these lines, loosely, and there is tremendous overlap

1. Fantasy Fantasy as a genre, commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary plot element, theme, or setting. Setting often takes place in imaginary worlds where magic and magical creatures exist, generally gaining inspiration from mythology and folklore. Within such a structure, any location of the fantastical element is possible: it may be hidden in, or leak into the apparently real world setting, it may draw the characters into a world with such elements, or it may occur entirely in a fantasy world setting, where such elements are part of the world.

2. Urban Fantasy is a sub-genre of fantasy defined an urban setting. Many urban fantasies are set in contemporary times and contain supernatural elements. However, the stories can take place in historical, modern, or futuristic periods, and the settings may include fictional elements. Here the fantasy cast within the real world by means of alien races, the discovery of earthbound mythological creatures, coexistence between humans and paranormal beings, conflicts between humans and paranormals.

3. Dark Urban Fantasy is a sub-genre of UF replete with themes of a darker nature.
Darkness, death, violence, sex, and blood permeate stories dealing with paranormal characters and their urban landscape. A struggle typically exists as characters cope with latent magic and it’s effect on humanity or a notion of fallen as in-between the good versus evil dynamic or the this world/other world distinction.

4. Science Fiction, overly simplified, is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginative content such as futuristic settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, time travel, faster than light travel, parallel universes, and extraterrestrial life. Authors commonly use science fiction as a framework to explore politics, identity, desire, morality, social structure, and other literary themes. A couple of important elements, which overlap into UF, DUF, etc.

  • alternative timelines, or in a historical past that contradicts known facts of history or the archaeological record.
  • other worlds, or on subterranean earth.
  • Characters that include aliens, mutants, androids, or humanoid robots and other types of characters arising from a future human evolution.
  • Scientific principles that are new or that contradict accepted physical laws, for example time travel, wormholes, or faster-than-light travel or communication.
  • New and different political or social systems, e.g. dystopian, post-scarcity, or post-apocalyptic.
  • Paranormal abilities such as mind control, telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation.
  • Other universes or dimensions and travel between them.

5. Paranormal: Paranormal fiction is a genre of fiction whose storylines revolve around the paranormal. The most prevalent themes involving vampires, shapeshifters, ghosts, or time travel, paranormal romances can also include books featuring characters with psychic abilities, like telekinesis or telepathy.

6. SteamPunk. Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century. Steampunk works are often set in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era or American West, set within in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power regains mainstream use, or in a fantasy world that similarly employs steam power. Steampunk perhaps most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, and is likewise rooted in the era’s perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art.

7. CyberPunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a near-future with plots centering on a conflict among hackers, artificial intelligences, and megacorporations. The setting tends to be cast in a near-future Earth, rather than the far-future settings or galaxies. The settings are usually post-industrial dystopias but tend to be marked by extraordinary cultural ferment and the use of technology in ways never anticipated by its creators. Very reminiscent of film noir aesthetic.

Fantasy Giveaway

fantasy 5 jackets

This week we are giving away 5 Fabulous Fantasy novels as reviewed here on the LRR this last week. The winners will receive one* of the following books signed by the authors.

To enter simply join the Lesbian Reading Room members** using the form below. The giveaway closes Friday 8th August at 13:00 Eastern (18:00 BST ) .

*Each winner will receive ONE book. First name chosen gets to choose their title, second gets to choose from the remaining 4 and so on, 5th place gets the remaining title. Winners can choose e-book or signed paperback – with HUGE thanks to the authors from us.

**Membership is free and just allows you to comment on reviews and join in other fun stuff we have planned.

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Demon Hunter (The Silver Legacy Series) – Linda Kay Silva

demon hunterThe Dark Urban Realm has an excellent new series in the making with Linda Kay Silva’s new book, Demon Hunter: The Silver Legacy Series, Book 1

Some creatures within the fantasy/paranormal realm, particularly those within the dark reaches, become stereotypes in a paradigmatic way.   A certain traditional characterization takes place, rendering these beings as trite. Demons tend to be among these stereotypes, unfortunately.

Blissfully, in Demon Hunter, Linda Kay Silva immediately dismisses the trivialization wrought by the paradigm in her first paragraph.   She writes, “Demons are not what people think they are. There are seldom horns or spiked tails, no cloven hooves or red skin. They come in all shapes and sizes, and aren’t anything like Hollywood portrays them.” (pg.1).   With that opening, I became a fan of Linda Kay Silva. She dispelled the typical vernacular, appearance, and assumptions attached to the concept of demon and advanced the notion beyond the believable, but to the original intention: as cautionary tales about evil in this world.

Linda Kay Silva bioSilva transcends the obvious portrayals of demon, evil, and of the demon hunter (with her main character, Denny Silver), and creates a psychologically compelling dark urban fantasy, with a frightening perspective on the inevitability of evil as simultaneously provocative and “real.”

Her characters are complex, innovative, and in some ways, terrifying. Silva’s use of journaling allows for the demon hunter, Denny, to have layered voices, which creates exceptional depth of character. Silva’s intuitive sense of legitimacy of the paranormal along with her ability to weave an intricate tale, made me a believer in demon hunters and a huge fan of Linda Kay Silva. She created an inroad to my Dark Urban Fantasy fiendish heart not only by writing a great book, but, by tantalizing me with another of my favorite things – a new series! Demon Hunter: the Silver Legacy Series, must exist on any Dark Urban Fantasy or Paranormal lovers “to-read” list.

Product info:

  • Paperback: 358 pages
  • First published 2014
  • Publisher: Sapphire Books Publishing (May 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1939062543
To buy the Kindle edition – click here.
To buy the Paperback – click here.