When The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson appeared on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf courtesy of Random Things Tours, there was a audible gasp of awe at the cover. With it’s distinctive red gothic imagery on a black background, it lured both the witches in. With an intriguing blurb linking a crime thriller with the occult, both wanted to read it first. By the toss of the coin, Amber won.
Scroll down to see their honest and unbiased review.
Book Review: The Bleeding by Johana Gustawsson
Title: The Bleeding
Author: Johana Gustawsson
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Horror, Gothic thriller
Release Date: 15th September 2022
1899, Belle Époque Paris. Lucienne’s two daughters are believed dead when her mansion burns to the ground, but she is certain that her girls are still alive and embarks on a journey into the depths of the spiritualist community to find them.
1949, Post-War Québec. Teenager Lina’s father has died in the French Resistance, and as she struggles to fit in at school, her mother introduces her to an elderly woman at the asylum where she works, changing Lina’s life in the darkest way imaginable.
2002, Quebec. A former schoolteacher is accused of brutally stabbing her husband – a famous university professor – to death. Detective Maxine Grant, who has recently lost her own husband and is parenting a teenager and a new baby single-handedly, takes on the investigation. Under enormous personal pressure, Maxine makes a series of macabre discoveries that link directly to historical cases involving black magic and murder, secret societies and spiritism … and women at breaking point, who will stop at nothing to protect the ones.
Thoughts from the Emporium
The Bleeding is deliciously dark and atmospheric, and blends the forensic police procedural timeline of Maxine, with the historical threads of Lina and Lucienne effortlessly.
From the first chapter, Amber and Willow were hooked. Despite the initial discovery of a mummified hand giving them an indication of where the story would go, the writing style, and the shocking twists in each thread kept them turning the page.
Willow felt the heartache of Lucienne’s grief and the mystery of her daughters’ deaths encouraged her forward while Amber related hard to Lina’s experiences at school. She could understand Lina’s emotions and the need for a confidante and mentor. With the atmospheric backdrop of an old asylum, the tension increased when the timeline unfolded with dark magic twists. It was a book to read into the early hours of the morning and neither guessed the ending.
Amber raved about this book and has recommended it to her friends but while Willow galloped through it with enthusiasm, a couple of historical niggles in Lucienne’s line prevented her from giving it full five stars.
Despite their differences, both agreed it’s an ideal creepy and unnerving read for these darker nights in the run up to Halloween. With its genre crossover, it would appeal to those who love crime novels as well as those who enjoy horror and gothic thrillers
Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, including Block 46, Keeper and Blood Song, has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte,Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in 28 countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. The Bleeding – number one bestseller in France and the first in a new series – will be published in 2022. Johana lives on the west coast of Sweden with her Swedish husband and their three sons.
It’s Wednesday! The ideal day to share our review for a witchy book which landed on the bookshelf thanks to Random Things Tours. The blurb and cover captivated the witches and then they demanded Rosa to read. Find out why they were so adamant she tried it below.
Book Review: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor by Bianca Marais
Title: The Witches of Moonshyne Manor
Author: Bianca Marais
Publisher: Harper 360
Genre: witchlit, fiction
Release Date: 23rd August 2022
The House in the Cerulean Sea meets The Golden Girls in this funny, tender, and uplifting feminist tale of sisterhood featuring a coven of aging witches who must unite their powers to fight the men determined to drive them out of their home and town.
A coven of modern-day witches. A magical heist-gone-wrong. A looming threat.
Summoned by an alarm, five octogenarian witches gather around Ursula when danger is revealed to her in a vision. An angry mob of townsmen is advancing with a wrecking ball, determined to demolish Moonshyne Manor and Distillery. All eyes turn to Queenie—as the witch in charge, it’s her job to reassure them—but she confesses they’ve fallen far behind on their mortgage payments and property taxes. Queenie has been counting on Ruby’s return in two days to fix everything. Ruby is the only one who knows where the treasure is hidden, those valuable artifacts stolen 33 years ago on the night when everything went horribly wrong. Why didn’t clairvoyant Ursula see this coming sooner? Wasn’t Ivy supposed to be working her botanical magic to keep the townsmen in a state of perpetual drugged calm, all while Jezebel quelled revolts through seductive bewitchment?
The mob is only the start of the witches’ troubles. Brad Gedney, a distant cousin of Ivy, is hellbent on avenging his family for the theft of a legacy that was rightfully his. In an act of desperation, Queenie makes a bargain with an evil far more powerful than anything they’ve ever faced. And things take a turn for the worse when Ruby’s homecoming reveals a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
In a race against time, the women have nine days to save their home and business. The witches are determined to save their home and themselves, but fear their aging powers are no match against increasingly malicious threats. Thankfully, they get a bit of extra help from Persephone, a feisty TikToker eager to smash the patriarchy. As the deadline approaches, fractures among the sisterhood are revealed, and long-held secrets are exposed, culminating in a fiery confrontation with their enemies.
Funny, tender, and uplifting, THE WITCHES OF MOONSHYNE MANOR explores the formidable power that can be discovered in aging, found family, and unlikely friendships. Marais’ true power is her clever prose that offers as much laughter as insight, delving deeply into feminism, identity, and power dynamics while stirring up intrigue and drama through secrets, lies and sex. Both heartbreaking and heart-mending, it will make you wonder: why were we taught to fear the witches, and not the men who burned them? Above all, it will make you grateful for the amazing women in your life.
Thoughts from the Emporium
If last year’s The Ex Hex brought witchy fiction out of the shadows into the wider commercial fiction, The Witches of Moonshyne Manor will cement the sub-genre into its rightful place in commercial fiction. Full of humour, this novel has a cast of six octogenarian witches who have heaps of wisdom, quirks and depth which make them unforgettable. While in most books, there is a clear favourite character, here it is impossible to choose. With Jezebel showing you’re never too old for a healthy sex life, Ivy with her plants and Queenie dedicated to her lab, it’s inspired. Full of magic and uplifting chuckles, its witchlit at its finest.
Everyone found this novel captivating when the tension built as the witches fought against a mob to protect the manor but it is more than a story about survival. It covered the longevity of friendship, betrayal and scandal and captured many observations of life in concise but quirky ways.
The recipes and spells from the Moonshyne grimoire sprinkled between the chapters were a clever addition and brought the readers into the story.
Despite wanting to know the ending, no one wanted the spellbinding book to end and is one of the reasons, those at the emporium think this is a book to read, recommend and treasure. Just like watching Hocus Pocus and Practical Magic is a Halloween tradition, rereading this will be part of the spooky season routine.
Bianca Marais is the author of the beloved Hum If You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh (Putnam, 2017 and 2019). She teaches at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies where she was awarded an Excellence in Teaching Award for Creative Writing in 2021. A believer in the power of storytelling in advancing social justice, Marais runs the Eunice Ngogodo Own Voices Initiative to empower young Black women in Africa to write and publish their own stories, and is constantly fundraising to assist grandmothers in Soweto with caring for children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. In 2020, Marais started the popular podcast, The Shit No One Tells You About Writing, which is aimed at helping emerging writers become published.
We’re thrilled to be on the blog tour for Ashley Poston’s The Dead Romantics later on this week where we will be reviewing this haunting romcom which promises to be an ideal read for Halloween season.
But beforehand we’d love to share the novel’s first chapter to whet your appetite. So what is The Dead Romantic about? Here’s the blurb.
Florence Day is a ghost-writer with one big problem. She’s supposed to be penning swoon-worthy novels for a famous romance author but, after a bad break-up, Florence no longer believes in love. And when her strict (but undeniably hot) new editor, Benji Andor, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye.
Although when tragedy strikes and Florence has to head home, the last thing she expects to see is a ghost at her front door. Not just any ghost, however, but the stern form of her still very hot – yet now unquestionably dead – new editor.
As sparks start to fly between them, Florence tells herself she can’t be falling for a ghost – even an infuriatingly sexy one.
But can Benji help Florence to realise love isn’t dead, after all?
Are you ready to read more?
The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston
EVERY GOOD STORY has a few secrets.
At least, that’s what I’ve been told. Sometimes they’re secrets about love, secrets about family, secrets about murder—some so inconsequential they barely feel like secrets at all, but monumental to the per son keeping them. Every person has a secret. Every secret has a story.
And in my head, every story has a happy ending.
If I were the heroine in a story, I would tell you that I had three secrets.
One, I hadn’t washed my hair in four days. Two, my family owned a funeral home.
And three, I was the ghostwriter of mega bestselling, critically acclaimed romance novelist Ann Nichols.
And I was sorely late for a meeting.
“Hold the door!” I shouted, bypassing the security personnel at the front desk, and sprinting toward the elevators.
“Miss!” the befuddled security guard shouted after me. “You have to check in! You can’t just—”
“Florence Day! Falcon House Publishers! Call up to Erin and she’ll approve me!” I tossed over my shoulder, and slid into one of the elevators, cactus in tow.
As the doors closed, a graying man in a sharp business suit eyed the plant in question.
“A gift to butter up my new editor,” I told him, because I wasn’t someone who just carried around small succulents wherever she went. “God knows it’s not for me. I kill everything I touch, including three cactuses—cacti?—already.”
The man coughed into his hand and angled himself away from me. The woman on the other side said, as if to console me, “That’s lovely, dear.”
Which meant that this was a terrible gift. I mean, I figured it was, but I had been stranded for too long on the platform waiting for the B train, having a small panic attack with my brother on the phone, when a little old lady with rollers in her hair tottered by selling cacti for like a dollar a pop and I bought things when I was nervous. Mainly books but—I guess now I bought houseplants, too. The guy in the business suit got off on the twentieth floor, and the woman who held the elevator left on the twenty seventh. I took a peek into their worlds before the doors closed again, immaculate white carpet or buffed wooden floors and glass cases where old books sat idly. There were quite a few publishers in the building, both online and in print, and there was even a newspaper on one of the floors. I could’ve been in the elevator with the editor
for Nora Roberts for all I knew.
Whenever I came to visit the offices, I was always hyperaware of how people took one look at me—in my squeaky flats and darned hose and too big plaid overcoat—and came to the conclusion that I was not tall enough to ride this ride.
Which . . . fair. I stood at around five foot two, and everything I wore was bought for comfort and not style. Rose, my roommate, always joked that I was an eighty year old in a twenty eight year old body.
Sometimes I felt it.
Nothing said Netflix and chill quite like an orthopedic pillow and a wineglass of Ensure.
When the elevator doors opened onto the thirty seventh floor, I was alone, grasping my cactus like a life vest at sea. The offices of Falcon House Publishers were pristine and white, with two fluorescent bookshelves on either side of the entryway, touting all of the bestsellers and literary masterpieces they’d published over their seventy five year history.
At least half of the left wall was covered in books by Ann Nichols—The Sea‑Dweller’s Daughter, The Forest of Dreams, The For‑ ever House, ones my mom sighed over when I was a teenager writing my smutty Lestat fanfic. Next to them were Ann’s newer books, The Probability of Love, A Rake’s Guide to Getting the Girl (I was most proud of that title), and The Kiss at the Midnight Matinee. The glass reflected my face in the book covers, a pale white and sleep deprived young woman with dirty blond hair pulled up in a messy bun and dark circles under tired brown eyes, in a colorful scarf and an oversized beige sweater that made me look like I was the guest speaker at the Yarn of the Month Club and not one of the most distinguished publishing houses in the world.
Technically, I wasn’t the guest here. Ann Nichols was, and I was what everyone guessed was her lowly assistant.
And I had a meeting to get to.
I stood in the lobby awkwardly, the cactus pressed to my chest, as the darkhaired receptionist, Erin, held up a finger and finished her call. Something about salad for lunch. When she finally hung
up, she looked up from her screen and recognized me. “Florence!” she greeted with a bright smile. “Nice to see you up and about! How’s Rose? That party last night was brutal.”
I tried not to wince, thinking about Rose and I stumbling in at 3:00 a.m. “It sure was something.”
“Is she still alive?”
“Rose has survived worse.”
Erin laughed. Then she glanced around the lobby, as if looking for someone else. “Is Mrs. Nichols not going to make it today?”
“Oh no, she’s still up in Maine, doing her . . . Maine thing.” Erin shook her head. “Gotta wonder what it’s like, you know?
Being the Ann Nicholses and Stephen Kings of the world.” “Must be nice,” I agreed. Ann Nichols hadn’t left her small
little island in Maine in . . . five years? As long as I’d been ghost writing for her, anyway.
I tugged down the multicolored scarf wrapped around my mouth and neck. While it wasn’t winter anymore, New York al ways had one last kick of cold before spring, and that had to be today, and I was beginning to nervously sweat under my coat.
“Someday,” Erin added, “you’re going to tell me how you be came the assistant for the Ann Nichols.”
I laughed. “I’ve told you before—a Craigslist ad.” “I don’t believe that.”
I shrugged. “C’est la vie.”
Erin was a few years younger than me, her Columbia University publishing certificate proudly displayed on her desk. Rose had met her a while back on a dating app, and they’d hooked up a few times, though now from what I heard they were strictly friends.
The phone began to ring on her desk. Erin said quickly, “Any way, you can go ahead—still remember the way, yeah?”
“Perf. Good luck!” she added, and answered the call in her best customer service voice. “Good morning! You’ve reached Falcon House Publishers, this is Erin speaking . . .”
And I was left to my own devices.
I knew where to go, because I’d visited the old editor enough times to be able to walk the halls blindfolded. Tabitha Margraves had retired recently, at the absolute worst time, and with every step closer to the office, I held tighter on to the poor cactus.
Tabitha knew I ghostwrote for Ann. She and Ann’s agent were the only ones who did—well, besides Rose, but Rose didn’t count. Had Tabitha passed that nugget of secrecy to my new editor? God, I hoped so. Otherwise this was going to be an awkward first meeting. The hallway was lined with frosted glass walls that were sup posed to be used for privacy, but they provided extraordinarily little of that. I heard editors and marketing and PR shadows talking in hushed tones about acquisitions, marketing plans, contractual obligations, tours . . . reallocating money from one book’s budget to another. The things in publishing that no one ever really talked about. Publishing was all very romantic until you found yourself in publishing. Then it was just another kind of corporate hell.
I passed a few assistant editors sitting in their square cubicles, manuscripts piled almost to the top of their half walls, looking frazzled as they ate carrots and hummus for lunch. The salads Erin ordered must not have included them, not that editorial assistants made enough to afford eating out every day. The offices were set up in a hierarchy of sorts, and the farther you went, the higher the salary. At the end of the hall, I almost didn’t recognize the office. Gone were the floral wreath hanging on the door for good luck and the stickers plastered to the frosted glass privacy wall that read Try Not, Do! and Romance Isn’t Dead!
For a second, I thought I’d made a wrong turn, until I recognized the intern in her small cubicle, stuffing ARCs—Advance Reader Copies, basically rough drafts of a book in paperback form—into envelopes with a harried sort of frenzy that bordered on tears.
My new editor didn’t waste any time peeling off those decals and tossing the good luck wreath in the trash. I didn’t know if that was a good sign—or bad.
Toward the end of her tenure at Falcon House, Tabitha Mar graves and I butted heads more often than not. “Romance believes in happy endings. Tell Ann that,” she would say, tongue in cheek, because, for all intents and purposes, I was Ann.
“Well Ann doesn’t anymore,” I would quip back, and by the time she turned in her resignation and retired down to Florida, I’m sure we were both plotting each other’s demise. She still believed in love—somehow, impossibly.
And I could see right through the lie.
Love was putting up with someone for fifty years so you’d have someone to bury you when you died. I would know; my family was in the business of death.
Tabitha called me crass when I told her that. I said I was realistic.
There was a difference.
I sat down in one of the two chairs outside of the office, the cactus in my lap, to wait and scroll through my Instagram feed. My younger sister had posted a photo of her and my hometown mayor—a golden retriever—and I felt a pang of homesickness. For the weather, the funeral parlor, my mom’s amazing fried chicken. I wondered what she was cooking tonight for dinner.
Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t hear the office door open until a distinctly male voice said, “Sorry for the wait, please come in.”
I bolted to my feet in surprise. Did I have the wrong office? I checked the cubicles—the brownhaired workaholic intern cramming ARCs into envelopes to the left, the HR director sobbing into his salad on the right—no, this was definitely the right office.
The man cleared his throat, impatiently waiting.
I hugged the cactus so tight to my chest, I could feel the pot beginning to creak with the pressure, and stepped into his office.
The man in question sat in the leather chair that for thirty five years (longer than he’d been alive, I figured) Tabitha Margraves had inhabited. The desk, once cluttered with porcelain knickknacks and pictures of her dog, was clean and tidy, everything stacked in its proper place. The desk reflected the man behind it almost perfectly: too polished, in a crisp white button down shirt that strained at his broad shoulders, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows to reveal rather intimidatingly sexy forearms. His black hair was swept back out of his long face and somehow accentuated his equally long nose, black square glasses perched on it, and there were very faint freckles speck led across his face: one by his right nostril, two on his cheek, one just above his thick right eyebrow. A constellation of them. For a second, I wanted to take a Sharpie and connect them to see what myth they held. The next second, I quickly came to the realization that—
He was hot. And I’d seen him before. At publishing functions with Rose or my exboyfriend. I couldn’t place the name, but I’d definitely run into him more than once. I held my breath, wonder ing if he recognized me—did he?
For a second, I thought so, because his eyes widened—just a fraction, just enough for me to suspect he knew something—before it vanished.
He cleared his throat.
“You must be Ann Nichols’s assistant,” he greeted without missing a beat. He stood and came around the desk to offer his hand. He was . . . enormous. So tall I felt like I’d suddenly been transported into a retelling of “Jack and the Beanstalk” where he was a very hunky beanstalk that I really, really wanted to climb—
No. No, Florence. Bad girl, I scolded myself. You do not want to climb him like a tree, because he’s your new editor and therefore very, incredibly, stupendously unclimbable.
“Florence Day,” I said as I accepted his hand. His almost completely enveloped mine in a strong handshake.
“Benji Andor, but you can call me Ben,” he introduced.
“Florence,” I repeated, shocked that I could mutter anything above a squeak.
The edges of his mouth quirked up. “So you said.”
I quickly pulled my hand away, mortified. “Oh god. Right— sorry.” I sat down a little too hard in the uncomfortable IKEA chair, cactus planted firmly on my knees. My cheeks were on fire, and if I could feel them, I knew that he could see I was blushing.
He sat down again and adjusted a pen on his desk. “It’s a plea sure to meet you. Sorry for the wait, the subways were hell this morning. Erin keeps telling me not to take the B train and yet I am a fool who does every single time.”
“Or a masochist,” I added before I could stop myself. He barked a laugh. “Maybe both.”
I bit the inside of my cheek to hide a smile. He had a great laugh—the kind that was deep and throaty, like a rumble.
Oh no, this was not going as planned at all.
He liked me, and he wasn’t going to like me in about five minutes. I didn’t even like myself for what I was here to do—why did I think a cactus as a gift would make this easier?
He scooted his chair in and straightened a pen to be horizontal with his keyboard. Everything was neat like that in this office, and I got the very distinct feeling that he was the kind of person who, if he found a book misplaced at a bookstore, would return it to the shelf where it belonged.
Everything had its place.
He was a bullet journal guy, and I was a sticky note kind of girl. That might’ve been a good thing, actually. He seemed very no nonsense, and no nonsense people were rarely romantic, and so I wouldn’t get a pitying look when I, eventually, tell him that I no longer believed in romance novels and he would nod solemnly, knowing exactly what I meant. And I would rather have that than Tabitha Margraves looking at me with those sad, dark eyes and asking,
“Why don’t you believe in love anymore, Florence?”
Because when you put your hand in the fire too many times, you learn that you only get burned.
My new editor shifted in his seat. “I’m sorry to hear that Mrs. Nichols couldn’t make it today. I would’ve loved to meet her,” he began, wrenching me from my thoughts.
I shifted in my seat. “Oh, Tabitha didn’t tell you? She never leaves Maine. I think she lives on an island or something. It sounds nice—I wouldn’t ever want to leave, either. I hear Maine’s pretty.” “It is! I grew up there,” he replied. “Saw many a moose. They’re huge.”
Are you sure you aren’t half moose yourself? my traitorous brain said, and I winced because that was very wrong and very bad. “I guess they prepared you for the rats in New York.”
He laughed again, this time surprising himself, and he had a glorious white smile, too. It reached is eyes, turning brown to a melting ocher. “Nothing could prepare me for those. Have you seen the ones down in Union Square? I swear one had a jockey on him.”
“Oh, you didn’t know? There’s some great rat races down at the Eighteenth Street Station.”
“Do you go often?”
“Absolutely, there’s even a squeakeasy.” “Wow, you’re a real micestro of puns.”
I snorted a laugh and looked away—anywhere other than at him. Because I liked his charm, and I definitely didn’t want to, and I hated disappointing people, and—
He cleared his throat and said, “Well, Miss Day, I think we need to talk about Ann’s upcoming novel . . .”
I gripped the cactus in my lap tighter. My eyes jumped from barren wall to barren wall. There was nothing in the office to look at. It used to be full of things—fake flowers and photos and book covers on the walls—but now the only thing on the walls was a framed master’s degree in fiction—
“Does it have to be a romance?” I blurted.
Surprised, he cocked his head. “This . . . is a romance imprint.” “I—I know, but like—you know how Nicholas Sparks writes depressing books and John Green writes melodramatic sicklit, do you think I—I mean Mrs. Nichols—could do something in that vein instead?”
He was quiet for a moment. “You mean a tragedy.”
“Oh, no. It’d still be a love story! Obviously. But a love story where things don’t end up—‘happily ever after’—perfect.”
“We’re in the business of happily ever afters,” he said slowly, picking his words.
“And it’s a lie, isn’t it?” He pursed his lips.
“Romance is dead, and this—all of this—feels like a con.” I found myself saying it before my brain approved, and as soon as I realized I’d voiced it aloud, I winced. “I didn’t mean—that isn’t Ann’s stance, that’s just what I think—”
“Are you her assistant or her editor?”
The words were like a slap in the face. I quickly snapped my gaze back to him, and went very still. His eyes had lost their warm ocher, the laugh lines having sunk back into a smooth, emotionless mask. I gripped the cactus tighter. It had suddenly become my buddy in war. So he didn’t know that I was Ann’s ghostwriter. Tabitha didn’t tell him, or she forgot to—slipped her mind, whoops! And I needed to tell him.
He was my editor, after all.
But a bitter, embarrassed part of me didn’t want to. I didn’t want him to see how much of my life I didn’t have together be cause, as Ann’s ghostwriter, shouldn’t I? Have it together?
Shouldn’t I be better than this?
When I was growing up, my mother read Ann Nichols’s books, and because of that, I did, too. When I was twelve, I would sneak into the romance section in the library and quietly read The Forest of Dreams between the stacks. I knew her catalog back and forth like a wellplayed discography of my favorite band.
And then I became her pen.
While Ann’s name was on the cover, I wrote The Probability of Love and ARake’sGuidetoGettingtheGirland TheKissattheMid‑ night Matinee. For the last five years, Ann Nichols had sent me a check to write the book in question, and then I did, and the words in those books—my words—had been praised from the NewYork Times Book Review to Vogue. Those books sat on shelves beside Nora Roberts and Nicholas Sparks and Julia Quinn, and they were mine.
I wrote for one of romance’s greats—a job anyone would die to have—and I . . . I was failing.
Perhaps I’d already failed. I’d just asked for my last trump card—to write a book that was anything, everything, but a happily ever after—and he said no.
“Mr. Andor,” I began, my voice cracking, “the truth is—” “Ann needs to deliver the manuscript by the deadline,” he interrupted in a cold, no nonsense voice. The warmth it held a few min utes before was gone. I felt myself getting smaller by the moment, shrinking into the hard IKEA chair.
“That’s tomorrow,” I said softly. “Yes, tomorrow.”
“And if—if she can’t?”
He pressed his lips into a thin line. He had a sort of wide mouth that dipped in the middle, expressing things that the rest of his face was too guarded to. “How much time does she need?”
A year. Ten years. An eternity.
“Um—a—a month?” I asked hopefully. His dark brows shot up. “Absolutely not.” “These things take time!”
“I understand that,” he replied, and I flinched. He took off his blackrimmed glasses to look at me. “May I be frank with you?”
No, absolutely not. “Yes . . . ?” I ventured.
“Because Ann’s already asked for three deadline extensions, even if we get it tomorrow, we’d have to push it quickly through copyedits and pass pages—and that’s only if we get it tomorrow— to keep to our schedule. This is Ann’s big fall book. A romance, mind you, with a happily ever after. That’s her brand. That’s what we signed for. We already have promotions lined up. We might even have a fullpage spread in the New York Times. We’re doing a lot for this book, so when I prodded Ann’s agent to speak with her, she connected me with you, her assistant.”
I knew that part. Molly Stein, Ann’s agent, wasn’t very happy to get a call about the book in question. She thought everything had been going smoothly. I hadn’t the heart to tell her otherwise. Molly had been pretty handsoff with my ghostwriting gig, mostly because the books were part of a fourbook deal, this being the last one, and she trusted that I wouldn’t mess up.
Yet here I was.
I didn’t want to even think about how Molly would break the news to Ann. I didn’t want to think about how disappointed Ann would be. I’d met the woman once and I was deathly afraid of fail ing her. I didn’t want to do that.
I looked up to her. And the feeling of failing someone you looked up to . . . it sucked as a kid, and it sucked as an adult.
Benji went on. “Whatever is keeping Mrs. Nichols from finish ing her manuscript has become a problem not only for me, but for marketing and production, and if we want to stay on schedule, we need that manuscript.”
“I—I know, but . . .”
“And if she can’t deliver,” he added, “then we’ll have to get the legal department involved, I’m afraid.”
The legal department. That meant a breach of contract. That meant I would have messed up so big that there would be no com ing back from it. I would’ve failed not just Ann, but her publisher and her readers—everyone.
I’d already failed like that once.
The office began to get smaller, or I was having a panic attack, and I really hoped it was the former. My breath came in short bursts. It was hard to breathe.
“Miss Florence? Are you okay? You seem a little pale,” he observed, but his voice sounded a football field away. “Do you need some water?”
I shoved my panic into a small box in the back of my head, where everything else went. All of the bad things. The things I didn’t want to deal with. The things I couldn’t deal with. The box was useful. I shut everything in. Locked it tight. I pressed on a smile. “Oh, no. I’m fine. It’s a lot to take in. And—and you’re right. Of course you’re right.”
He seemed doubtful. “Tomorrow, then?” “Yeah,” I croaked.
“Good. Please tell Mrs. Nichols that I send my regards, and I’m very happy to be working with her. And I’m sorry—is that a cactus? I just noticed.”
I looked down at the succulent, all but forgotten in my lap as my panic banged on the box in my head, lock rattling, to get free. I—I thought I hated this man, and if I stayed in this office any longer, I was going to either throw this cactus at him or cry.
I jerked to my feet and put the succulent on the edge of the desk. “It’s a gift.”
Then I gathered my satchel and turned on my heels and left Falcon House Publishers without another word. I held myself to gether until I stumbled out of the revolving door of the building and into the brisk April day, and let myself crumble.
I took a deep breath—and screamed an obscenity into the per fectly blue afternoon sky, startling a flock of pigeons from the side of the building.
I needed a drink.
No, I needed a book. A murderthriller. Hannibal. Lizzie Borden—anything would do.
Maybe I needed both. No, definitely both.
We want to read more. Follow us and catch up with our review soon.
With October only a couple of weeks away, the Enchanted Emporium is overflowing with books it recommends for the spooky season. A new arrival and one, Willow and Amber adored is Spooky Ambiguous by a collection of authors. Scroll down to see why.
Book Review: Spooky Ambiguous Ghost stories and poetry, fangs and fairy tales
Title: Spooky Ambiguous
Author: Penny Ayers, Michael Bartlett, Patrick Booth, Amaris Chase, Holly Anne Crawford, Ivor Daniel, Amanda Jane Davies, Daphne Denley, J. J. Drover, Harriet Hitchen, Rebecca McDowall, Jane Phillips, Angela Reddaway, Joe Robson, Margaret Royall. Illustrations by Lorna Gray
Publisher: Crump Barn Studio
Genre: Horror, Gothic
Release Date: 15th September 2022
Ghosts and vampires, zombies and werewolves. A mirror with danger at its heart.
A child is delighted to discover she is a witch, and a village disappears under a fairy curse.
Then a selkie finds her way back to the waves, before a blood moon rises, bringing its own secrets …
Full of the spooky and the gothic, fairy tales and poetry, this is a brilliant and intriguing collection where nothing and no one is as they seem.
Thoughts form the Emporium
This small anthology is a deliciously dark, gothic collection of poetry and short stories from several talented authors. We’d read previously read Regan by Rebecca McDowell so we knew if she was included in the book, the other authors would be of high standard. We weren’t wrong.
Some of these stories were spooky enough to give goosebumps and Amber’s fear of mirrors was reactivated by Michael Bartlett’s Mirror, Mirror. The haunting poetry drew us into other places and danger and we particularly loved Corpse Light by Amaris Chase. Living near the Yorkshires Moors, we will heed the tales warning.
It’s an ideal book to dip into on the darker evenings, share around the fire just like our ancestors did and treasure for future Halloweens.
Thank you Crump Barn Studio for inviting us to this tour and providing a copy to the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf so we could provide an honest and unbiased opinion.
As far as those at the Enchanted Emporium is concerned, September is really a precursor to Halloween so it’s the ideal time to share reviews for witchy books old and new. The Lighthouse Witches by C.J Cooke was released last year but deserves to be shouted about again now it’s spooky season.
With a hauntingly beautiful cover, it oozed darkness and menacing which meant Amber couldn’t wait to read it. Scroll down to see if it met her expectations.
Book Review: The Lighthouse Witches by C.J Cooke
Title: The Lighthouse Witches
Author: C.J Cooke
Genre: witchlit, paranormal, Gothic
Release Date: 30th September 2021
The brand-new chilling gothic thriller from the bestselling author . . .
Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse. A lighthouse that has weathered more than storms. Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation.
Coincidence? Or curse? Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left. Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . .
But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?
Thoughtsfrom The Emporium
Based on an isolated Scottish island, The Lighthouse Witches is a deliciously dark tale full of gothic atmosphere. The descriptions of the lighthouse’s interior provided the location for an unnerving, fear based reading experience. Told by several narrators, including an ancient grimoire, it followed Luna as she returns to the island to discover the truth about her mother and sisters disappearance in 1998. The hostile welcome from the close-knit community added to the mystery and tension. With links to the 17th century Scottish witch trials, both witches were hooked until the end. Even then their thoughts were drawn back to it. Thankfully, they had each other to discuss things with.
There were moments when Amber wondered how dark the story would go and began reading behind a cushion, Dr Who style. It may not be graphic but it forced both witches to use their imagination which may have made things worse. With increased tension, it hurtled towards an unexpected but satisfying conclusion.
If you want a chilling witchy pageturner with strong female characters, this is one to pull from a bookshelf. A perfect Halloween read.
Have you read it? The witches would love to know you thoughts.
C.J. Cooke is an acclaimed, award-winning poet, novelist and academic with numerous other publications written under the name of Carolyn Jess-Cooke. Her work has been published in twentythree languages to date. Born in Belfast, C.J. has a PhD in Literature from Queen’s University, Belfast, and is currently Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow, where she researches creative writing interventions for mental health. C.J. Cooke lives in Glasgow with her husband and four children. She also founded the Stay-At-Home Festival.
Hiya Rosa here. It’s time for one of the treats from my Box of Romances. I love living in Whitby, I truly do but despite the beach, winding cobbled roads and unique shops, it’s not a holiday. Now school holidays are coming to an end and I’ve still need to find Alejo school shoes, I need a break.
As a single mum, living back at home with my lovely but overbearing mother there isn’t a chance to relax and just be. Books are my escape, my five minutes of escapism while in the bath or before I go to sleep. This book Retreat to the Spanish Sun by Jo Thomas leapt out at me from the box. A retreat is what I long to do.
Book Review: Retreat to the Spanish Sun by Jo Thomas
Title: Retreat to the Spanish Sun
Author: Jo Thomas
Release Date: 23rd June 2022
Will a summer escape be the answer she’s looking for?
Eliza has a full house! When her three children grew up and moved out, she downsized to a smaller property… but now they’re all back. Every room in the house is taken and Eliza finds herself sharing her bed with her eldest daughter and her daughter’s pug. Combined with the online course she’s trying to finish, plus her job to fit in, there just isn’t the peace and quiet that Eliza needs.
So when an ad pops up on her laptop saying ‘house-sitters wanted’, Eliza can’t resist the chance to escape. She ends up moving to a rural finca in southern Spain, looking after the owner’s Iberico pigs, learning about secret gastronomic societies… and finding a new zest for life and love along the way. From the bestselling author of Escape to the French Farmhouse comes a deliciously feel-good new story…
This refreshing novel was just what I needed, an escape to Spain with laughter, adventure and gastronomic delights.
The retreat Eliza went to was a delight and descriptions were immersive. With the addition of the fun and warm The Spanish Conversation group I felt connected to the place and story.
I’ve never considered pigs as something adorable once they have grown past the cute piglet stage but Banderas changed this. His personality shone and I fell in love with him as much as Eliza did. With the descriptions of food my taste buds tingled and I longed to drink wine and eat the tapas mentioned. This is always a good sign of a good book but usually only happens in Christmas novels so it was a pleasant surprise to fancy salad.
The plot requires you to suspend reality in places but like all good romcoms, it makes you feel that while you’re in their world, anything goes and everything makes sense.
It could easily be adapted to a summer feel good movie and hits all the points for a good, uplifting read.
Jo Thomas worked for many years as a reporter and producer, first for BBC Radio 5, before moving on to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Radio 2’s The Steve Wright Show. Jo’s debut novel, The Oyster Catcher, was a runaway bestseller and won both the RNA Joan Hessayon Award and the Festival of Romance Best eBook Award. Her recent book Escape to the French Farmhouse was a #1 bestselling eBook and in every one of her novels Jo loves to explore new countries and discover the food produced there, both of which she thoroughly enjoys researching. Jo lives in Pembrokeshire with her husband and three children, where cooking and gathering around the kitchen table are a hugely important and fun part of their family life
Today we’re excited to review the first of the Arcanium series, The Trouble with Fairies by Emma Bradley. Amber found this and the next two books on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf and with beautiful book covers she was eager to read.
As the only fairy in her family, Demi has always dreamed of escaping to Arcanium – the most prestigious of fairy organisations – but when she arrives, she uncovers a plan to overthrow the Queen of Faerie and must embrace her human side to defeat those who want dominion over her new home.
Watch. Listen. Learn.
Demi has grown up reciting the Arcanium motto to herself and spends her days dreaming of a new life within their walls. Tormented by her human sisters for being born part-fairy, she wants to leave home and find somewhere she can truly belong.
But when she is finally invited to join Arcanium and take on assignments in the Faerie realms, she soon uncovers a plot to overthrow the Faerie Queen and return the world to the dark days of old.
Breaking the rules could mean the loss of her new life, but doing nothing will ensure the destruction of the Faerie that she now sees as her true home.
After all her daydreaming about the perfect place to belong, Demi’s about to find out that being a fairy involves much more than just waving a magic wand.
Welcome to Arcanium, elite training for the future of Faerie
(Disclaimer: All initiates join at their own risk. Loss of limbs unlikely. No refunds.)
Thoughts from the Emporium
With a stunning book cover, this is a quirky, and imaginative debut
The fabulous world building is showcased by the Arcanium, hidden behind a downtrodden arcade façade, and the faerie realms. With a library, and lifts that take you to strange places Amber was immersed into the adventure where danger and secrets lurk down meandering corridors. Willow’s Grandma Jax always said ‘Never trust the fae,’ and it is clear with the unexpected twists these words are true.
Demi may be the only fairy in her family, but she has no powers so needs to rely on her wit, experience of dealing with her sisters and serendipity to face the challenges thrown her way. Friendships are key to this coming of age tale and with a strong cast of characters, including her side kick, Leo it promises to be a gripping series.
Emma lives on the UK south coast with her husband, her plant collection and a very lazy black Labrador who occasionally condescends to take her out for a walk. Aside from creative writing studies, an addiction to cereal and spending far too much time procrastinating on social media, Emma is still waiting for the arrival of her unicorn. Or a tank, she’s not fussy.
Today is publication day for Phyllida Shrimpton’s third book Every Shade Happy. A post on Twitter reminded us of how much we loved her YA novel, Sunflowers in February and it still remains a favourite with teens at the Enchanted Emporium’s lending library. As it’s #ThrowbackThursday it’s time to review and share the love with you.
Looking for the copy made Rosa wish the enchanted bookshelf organised books in colour rather than the higgledy-piggledy it seemed to prefer. Luckily, it was soon fed up of her mutterings, and found the sunny novel itself.
Title: Sunflowers in February
Author: Phyllida Shrimpton
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release date: 8th February 2018
Genre: Young Adult, paranormal, fiction
Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road. She has no idea how she got there. It is all very peaceful. and very beautiful. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance arrive, and she sees her own body, that she realises that she is in fact . . . dead.
But what is she supposed do now? Lily has no option but to follow her body and see her family – her parents and her twin brother start falling apart.
And then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity – to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time . . .
Thoughts from the Emporium
The simple vibrant cover urged Amber to read it when it was first released and she quickly decided it was a wonderful and quirky debut. Always one for reading stories about ghosts and the afterlife, this one stood out for its sense of positivity. It brought tears to her eyes, made her gasp, chuckle and smile while reading which was disconcerting for the other passengers on the bus.
Told in Lily’s point of view, her upbeat personality shone on the page and made Amber look at the world with fresh eyes, as well as buying tons of tubes of Jelly Tots. It is hard to review without giving spoilers but it covers the consequences of a death, grief, family bonds and showcases how precious life is. There were times it made her stop and appreciate the moment.
It’s a little bit of mindfulness in a wonderful ghostly read.
Do you have a book you’ve read in the past you think deserves more attention? Comment below
The staff at the Enchanted Emporium were thrilled to discover an advanced copy of the third book in the Witches of Woodville series on the bookshelf, thanks to Random Things Tours. Arguments ensued about who would be the first to read The Ghost in the Ivy Barn but Willow won. There are advantages to being the boss.
Scroll down to see if this book matched the joy of the previous books, The Crow Folk and Babes in the Wood.
Book Review: The Ghost in Ivy Barn by Mark Stay
Title: The Ghost of Ivy Barn
Author: Mark Stay
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Genre: YA, fantasy, witchlit
Release Date: 7th July 2022
As the Battle of Britain rages overhead, a warlock leader from the Council of High Witches comes to Woodville with a ritual to repel the imminent Nazi invasion. The only catch is it involves full-frontal nudity on the White Cliffs of Dover. The Witches of Woodville are having none of it, but when more witches arrive they realise they might have a spy in their midst, and it’s up to Faye Bright to uncover the traitor.
But she’s got enough on her plate already with the ghost of a Polish Hurricane pilot who may hold the key to the truth.
ThoughtsFrom The Emporium
The witches didn’t think this series could get better, but they were wrong. This is the best book yet – full of humour, magic, betrayal and murder, with a slight inkling of romance between Faye and Bertie.
Like the others in the series, there is a strong sense of place – not only in location but in time. The reader is immersed in the village life which continues despite the increased threat from the Nazis invasion and they feels the collective responsibility people had. Everyone was expected to do their bit for the war effort, witches included.
Amber was excited to read about Faye Bright’s evolving powers and the surprising effects it had on the others, while Willow was hoping the antics of the trio of Woodville witches wouldn’t give her own mentee ideas. Charlotte, Mrs Teach and Faye are witches and women to aspire to with their individual quirks, self-awareness and strong views. There is a witch for everyone.
The dialogue and bickering between the characters allowed their personalities to shine and the more you get to know the witches and the side characters, the more they are loved. The introduction of new witches, including the nudity loving Mrs Housego and formidable Vera Fivetrees added to this book’s charm.
The ghost in the barn and the surrounding mystery added to the tension. With highly visual and creepy scenes, Amber, Willow and Rosa kept reading to see how this thread fitted in with the rest of the story.
Though this novel could be read as a standalone, these events lead on from those in book 2, Babes in the Wood and readers would gain more enjoyment if they read the series from the beginning and watch the relationships and story develop.
This gripping book showcases superb word building and imaginative plot twists perfectly blended with humour and community of times past. Despite the dangers the characters face, this series provide an ideal escape from reality. The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf considers them to be some of the best examples of witchy literature and they appeal to a range of ages. Rosa can’t wait until her son, Alejo, is old enough to read them.
Mrs Marley (one of the Emporium’s resident ghosts) is currently listening to the audio version and is pleased it continues to be narrated by Candida Gubbins.
Just in case you need more tempting to try this series, watch this unique unboxing of the new books
Mark Stay co-wrote the screenplay for Robot Overlords which became a movie with Sir Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson, and premiered at the 58th London Film Festival. He is co-presenter of the Bestseller Experiment podcast and has worked in bookselling and publishing for over twenty-five years. He lives in Kent, England, with his family and a trio of retired chickens. He blogs and humblebrags over at markstaywrites.com.
A huge thank you to Random Thing Tours for inviting us to this tour and providing an advanced copy for the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf.
Hi all, Amber here. After the last review The Enchanted Emporium has been awash with chat about romance. Rosa came in with a fresh stash of books from one of the best bookshop’s ever – Whitby bookshop. A must place to visit if you come to our Yorkshire coastal town. I maybe biased – my mum took me there once but that’s another story and way too complicated to explain now but the shop has an adorable children’s section. Every book Rosa had chose had those pastel covers of nice places and a promise of a happy ever after. They give the reader a much needed escape and an emotional hug but I know they’re unrealistic. Happy endings don’t exist, otherwise Lucas Trent, the hunkiest guy in college wouldn’t have dumped me to go off and snog Geraldine Seymour. No, IMO the writers who are more likely to tell the truth about life are those who write horror.
And with a broken heart and hexing exes ban in place, horror books are the must read. Books like, Demon by Matt Wesolowski.
Book Review: Demon by Matt Wesolowski
Author: Matt Wesolowski
Publisher: Orenda books
Release Date: 20th Jan 2022
Scott King’s podcast investigates the 1995 cold case of a demon possession in a rural Yorkshire village, where a 12-year-old boy was murdered in cold blood by two children. Book six in the chilling, award-winning Six Stories series.
In 1995, the picture-perfect village of Ussalthwaite was the site of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, in a case that shocked the world.
Twelve-year-old Sidney Parsons was savagely murdered by two boys his own age. No reason was ever given for this terrible crime, and the ‘Demonic Duo’ who killed him were imprisoned until their release in 2002, when they were given new identities and lifetime anonymity.
Elusive online journalist Scott King investigates the lead-up and aftermath of the killing, uncovering dark and fanciful stories of demonic possession, and encountering a village torn apart by this unspeakable act. And, as episodes of his Six Stories podcast begin to air, King himself becomes a target, with dreadful secrets from his own past dredged up and threats escalating to a terrifying level. It becomes clear that whatever drove those two boys to kill is still there, lurking, and the campaign of horror has just begun…
Thoughtsfrom the Emporium
Podcasts are my go to thing when I can’t sleep or travelling so this unique format suited me and this creepy tale well. Based in the depths of the Yorkshire Moors, the descriptions captured the brooding atmospheric location and added to the eeriness of the crime. This novel has a great sense of place. Setting plays a huge part in the narrative; the old kilns left over from when the village relied on the mining industry are the forbidden playground for the village children lured there by the warnings of danger and whispering of the presence of the devil. The murder of Sidney Parsons by the Demonic Duo adds to this lore.
Scott King’s podcast focuses on this horrific crime but the true horror is revealed when listening to the six people’s versions of the events. The deeper Scott digs the more immersive it becomes and creepier truths are revealed. The spotlight on the village inevitably has consequences and tensions rise when one of the murderers new names is set to be leaked. With twists I wasn’t expecting and superb storytelling, this was a chilling read where less is more and the reader is allowed to use their own imagination to terrify themselves. While some of the threads told can be explained with logic and other versions with supernatural leanings remain unexplained and it’s only when seen as a whole the true story is told.
Not only is this a fantastic horror/crime novel, it has a deeper message about society, prejudice and the increased influence of social media – see I told you horror writers tell the truth.
Demon is a well-crafted story in a clever format that adds to the atmospheric terror of the tale. It will give you nightmares. As the sixth novel in the Six Stories series so I’ve got some catching up to do.
If you want to keep updated on the most recent additions on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf and some old favourites remember to click follow or pop over to Instagram and follow witch_of_whitby
I’m sure Rosa will keep sharing books from her Box of Romances too.
Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror story set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was a bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WH Smith Fresh Talent pick, and TV rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller, Changeling (2019), Beast (2020) And Deity (2021) soon followed suit.