Book Review: Winter’s Ghosts by Victoria Connelly

No sign of frost yet at the Witch’s Yard, Whitby but there is a chill in the air that isn’t from the hauntings of the resident ghosts. The Christmas market has arrived with the aroma of cinnamon and spice, and the lights have been switched on so it’s a magical time of the year and Rosa’s favourite season to curl up with a festive book. Excitement brewed in the Emporium with the arrival of The Wrong Ghost by Victoria Connelly on the Enchanted Bookshelf, courtesy of Rachel’s Random Resources. Her Book Lovers series is a firm favourite in Rosa’s Box of Romance so Rosa and Willow couldn’t wait to read.

Scroll down for their unbiased opinion.

Book Review: Winter’s Ghosts by Victoria Connelly

The Wrong Ghost by Victoria Connelly book cover. Winter scene- snowy foreground with a castle/mansion in the background with snow covered trees.
The Wrong Ghost by Victoria Connelly

Title: The Wrong Ghost

Author: Victoria Connelly

Release date: 31st October 2022

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wrong-Ghost-Victoria-Connelly-ebook/dp/B0B623PT2Y

US – https://www.amazon.com/Wrong-Ghost-Victoria-Connelly-ebook/dp/B0B623PT2Y

Blurb

When Beatrice Beaumont loses her husband, George, she finds herself raising their young daughter alone in the ancestral home, Ketton Hall, deep in the Suffolk countryside. With Christmas approaching and marking the first anniversary of George’s death, there’s nothing Bea wants more than to have him back again.

One night, she makes a wish for him to return and gets the shock of her life when a ghost appears. But it isn’t her George…

The Wrong Ghost is a delightful Christmas tale, full of warmth and charm, perfect for a dark winter’s night in a cosy, candle-lit room.

Thoughts from the Emporium

Behind this beautiful cover that encapsulates the wintery season was a delightful and gentle ghost story. As a novella of 114 pages, it provided the ideal escape from the everyday stresses for a chilly evening or two. Victoria Connelly has a talent for bringing a location alive with her descriptions by using not only sight, but touch, smell and sound and this is used well especially in scenes for Bea’s floristry YouTube videos. Both Willow and Rosa agreed they were immersed in the story and stood alongside Beatrice when she discovered Ketton Hall has more residents than she imagined. It delved into the history of the house and a tantalising mystery.

This is not a tale of horror but of grief, love and moving forward with hope. Bea’s emotions of the upcoming anniversary of her husband’s death and Christmas were dealt with sensitively and provided an instant connection to her and the wrong George. The themes covered could easily have been developed into a full-blown novel but are perfectly formed for an entertaining and warming read.

It will be highly recommended to visitors to the enchanted bookshelf and Rosa’s Box of Romance.

Author Biography

Photo of Victoria Connelly. A smiling white woman, blonde shoulder length hair. Sitting on a window seat
Victoria Connelly

Victoria Connelly lives in a 500-year old thatched cottage in rural Suffolk with her artist husband, a springer spaniel and a flock of ex-battery hens. She is the million-selling author of two bestselling series, The Austen Addicts and The Book Lovers, as well as many other novels and novellas. Her first published novel, Flights of Angels, was made into a film in Germany. Victoria loves books, films, walking, historic buildings and animals. If she isn’t at her keyboard writing, she can usually be found in her garden either with a trowel in her hand or a hen on her lap.

Social Media Links –

Website: www.victoriaconnelly.com

Instagram: @victoriaconnellyauthor

Facebook: @victoriaconnellyauthor

Twitter: @VictoriaDarcy

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Nicki's Book Blog
@Karenandherbooks
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Jane Hunt Writer (Joliffe01)
Tizi's Book Review
@Libraryoflouise
18th Nov
Bookish Jottings
Captured on Film
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20th Nov
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Books Are Cool
21st Nov
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Surprise Merry Meet: Stephanie Hansen

We know it’s not Monday for our usual Merry Meet, but we’re excited to welcome author, Stephanie Hansen, for a swift chat as part of the blog tour for her novella, Altered Helix arranged by Rachel’s Random Resources. Unfortunately Amber is at college, so can’t be here today but she is sorry she has missed this Merry Meet. Altered Helix is a book she can’t wait to read.

Pumpkins and pumpkin mugs

Surprise Merry Meet: Stephanie Hansen

Willow: Take a seat. First question has to be what would you like to drink? We have a selection of tea, coffee, or hot chocolate? Or I’m brewing some mulled cider in the workroom.

A coffee would be splendid. The characters in Altered Helix (my debut novella) often frequent Broadway Café. Though, your mulled cider sounds especially wonderful as a fall drink. You made this decision difficult. We hit our first frost advisory of the season last night and it is bone chillingly cold, so any warm drink will do.

Willow: Your book, Altered Helix, features a haunted house. As we have many paranormal activities in the emporium, we’re intrigued about what inspired your setting?

I worked at a haunted house when I was 20 and fell in love with it. The best is waiting for the right moment to scare people and seeing everyone enjoy it. People scream and hold on to each other. Their smiles after going through the haunted house are spectacular.

Willow: That sounds fun. Your book is also set in a dystopian America where the government has collapsed and homelessness is rife, placing your protagonist, Austria, in danger. What came first, the plot or the characters?

Mostly the characters developed first, but it was also a mixture of plot too. My characters often reveal their emotions through the smallest of gestures. Even though the characters first came to me before my hearing loss, the story was not completed until after I became unilaterally deaf. When you struggle to hear people, you often rely on subtle cues, and I’ve incorporated it into a lot of my fiction. I also create a working outline for books before writing, but inevitably the characters make different decisions than I’d planned, hence the “working” outline.

Willow: It must have been hard dealing with hearing loss but your visual observations add an extra layer to the book. We’ve just had Halloween, do you normally celebrate it? And if so, how?

I love reading scary books around Halloween. I just started White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson and I think it will be a perfect spooky thriller for the season. Complete with what appears to be a haunted house set in a town that reminds the protagonist of The Walking Dead, it’s bound to give me goosebumps of fright. I also enjoy watching scary movies but it’s hard to pick a favourite.

Willow: I’ll have to recommend it to Amber, she loves horror reads. What has your publication journey been like? If you did it again, would you change anything?

If I may, as a literary agent, I’d like to discuss multiple publication journey options. I believe many paths (self-publishing, small press, mid-size house, major house publishing, etc.) can be taken for a successful experience. The important thing is to research each and find the one that works best for you as a writer. Some genres thrive in self-publishing, so it may be the best option. As many self-published authors know, it’s like opening a business and you’re the business owner. You need to either handle all responsibilities or delegate them to qualified individuals. It’s an investment. My agency handles subsidiary rights for self-published authors. We’re familiar with what foreign publishers, audio producers, gaming apps, and film producers are looking for, plus we can organize the process. For instance, I’m currently closing four foreign translation publishing deals for one author and will announce them all together in order to gain attention from film producers. Please follow the Metamorphosis Literary Agency social media for more information.

Willow: We have authors from all types of publication paths popping in and would be writers so will let them know. It must be a fascinating job. We follow our set rituals in the shop when preparing stock. What is your writing routine like?

Many of my story ideas begin as a dream. I wake up and rapidly jot down every detail that I remember. Then I begin handwriting the story into notebooks. I know that adds time as I’ll have to type later, but something about the process allows words to flow freely. With Altered Helix, I made a detective board of sorts to connect inciting incidents, character development and more (see an example below except the one I used while writing was physical and up on a wall). I was quite a novice at that point but had a lot of fun and have integrated it into a lot of what I continue to do. 😊 Once I have some bones and skin in place for the story, I now but didn’t in the beginning, share it with a critique partner. We work on the opening, try to see if there are plot holes, etc. and then I correct what I have and continue with the rest of the story. I couldn’t have done this in the beginning of my writing journey as it may have halted the story creation process. Once complete, I have another partner look at it for errors, problematic wording, things that would trip up a reader, etc. After that, I revise. Then, I have yet someone else review for grammar, typos, etc. What is a witch without a powerful coven?

A plotting board for a writer showing photos of building, creepy night time scene, bed with straps on and a garden wedding

Willow: Working with others does have its benefits and it is lovely to have those you can trust to work with. Many readers and our customers harbour the dream of writing a novel. Before we get round to blending a spell to help with the process, do you have any advice for new writers?

Some of that was covered in the last question, but I’ll add more here. I fear many authors fall so in love with their first manuscript that they can’t shelve it, therefore, restricting future creations from existence (or at least delaying them by quite a bit). By that I mean, they refuse to accept that it shouldn’t be published. Often these first manuscripts are the best writing lessons for an author and for that purpose very useful, but it doesn’t mean it should be published. A very talented agent shared some information about successful authors and what number novel it was that broke them out. I think by seeing this, it might help aspiring authors understand that everyone’s journey is different. https://twitter.com/EmilyKaitlinnn/ So, I guess my advice is to not only create one land of enchantment but many.  

Willow: That is helpful. Thank you. The Enchanted Emporium sells a number of candles in The Wishing Spell range, which promise to help your day go smoothly. Which would you choose?

This one, which helps the user focus while the candle burns. I can be handling paperwork for the business when I see a new publishing deal announcement and it inspires a different direction for an author’s manuscript that I’m currently shopping. Or I can be writing one story when another story idea pops into my head. I have a notebook to keep all of these ideas organised BUT the idea’s there in my mind. It wants to build on it right then. I also have a couple teenagers, so the candle which “makes those around you help without asking” was very tempting. You made another decision difficult for me. Well done. Your magic brewing is extraordinary.

Willow: We have one candle that invokes memories of your favourite season when lit. Where would it take you and what would you be doing?

That’s hard. I’m currently in the Midwest and what I love is the changing of seasons. I probably prefer summer for being outside and seeing green everywhere. My body struggles with temperature changes at first. So, the current 50ish degree temps during the day are freezing me but give it a month and 50 will feel warm. I do really enjoy the activities during fall and spring. Fall is my favourite reading and writing season, which I think is shared by many as I believe the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) month is November. In the winter, when things are covered in snow, it is also very pretty.

Willow: Every season has its beauty and the Midwest sounds a good place to experience them. If we could blend a potion to give you a special ability for 24 hours, what would it be and what would you do with it?

The ability to cure someone of a physical illness or disease. There are a couple of people dear to me who currently suffer from physical ailments, and I’d like to be able to rid them of the burden. Of course, one must be careful. After I lost two of my grandpas, I begged to whatever power that be to have me be the next one to get sick because I know my body could handle it and I didn’t want to lose another grandparent. Within months I came down with a very serious illness which caused my severe, unilateral deafness and 90 dB 24/7/365 tinnitus, but I didn’t lose another grandparent for years. So, I should probably ask before accepting, what is the cost of this ability?

Willow: The cost of some spells can be high, so it is always wise to consider the consequences. What book would you add to The Enchanted Emporium bookshelf?

I love so many books by Seanan McGuire! I absolutely devoured The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab as quickly as possible! Plus, the strength in sisterhood in the Girls with Sharp Sticks series by Suzanne Young is awesome! If you want page turning, heart pounding series, try Crave by Tracy Wolff or The Bone Witch by Ivy Asher. My end all, be all go to is Relentless by Karen Lynch. And now you can see why my family believes I’m turning our house into a library! 😊

Willow: Every house should have a library and with those books my own bookshelf will be overflowing. What would you add to Rosa’s box of Romance?

If you have not read One Last Stop by Casey McQuistion, please do. It’s simply divine. This book was so pleasant to read; National Treasure meets Ghost in the most splendid way. Years ago, I was an avid Nora Roberts fan. Have you read any of her books? I think one of my favourites had been The Garden Trilogy. Have you read The Dragon Heart Legacy? I haven’t yet but want to. If you do, please let me know so we can read it together. Also, another one that tugs at the heartstrings is If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.

Willow:  I adore Nora Roberts books and enjoyed The Garden trilogy too but for obvious reasons love the Three Sisters series. Finally, what are you working on currently? Or is it top secret?

I’m currently working on the gaming app adaptation of Altered Helix. It’s been a lot of fun and I can’t wait for it to fully release in 2023! I’m also working on a story that began for me as a short story, then evolved to a screenplay, and now I’m adapting it to a novel (almost backward to my journey with Altered Helix). It’s fun dissecting a story to different platforms but keeping the heart intact. It’s challenging and, hopefully, will help me grow as an author.

Willow: Those sound thrilling projects and look forward to hear about their progress. Thank you for coming in for a chat all the way from America.

Thank you so much for having me. I thoroughly enjoyed your questions and bid you adieu.

Book cover for Altered Helix. Bright blue cover with the silhouette of boy and girl holding each other looking down.
Altered Helix by Stephanie Hansen

Title: Altered Helix

Author: Stephanie Hansen

Publisher: Hypothesis Books

Release date: 19th May 2020

Purchase Link – https://books2read.com/u/mdzJjX

Author Biography

Photo of Stephanie Hansen. White woman smiling with very blue eyes.
Stephanie Hansen

Stephanie Hansen is a PenCraft and Global Book Award Winning Author. Her debut novella series, Altered Helix, released in 2020. It hit the #1 New Release, #1 Best Seller, and other top 100 lists on Amazon. It is now being adapted to an animated story for Tales. Her debut novel, Replaced Parts, released in 2021 through Fire & Ice YA and Tantor Audio. It has been in a Forbes article, hit Amazon bestseller lists, and made the Apple young adult coming soon bestsellers list. The second book in the Transformed Nexus series, Omitted Pieces, released in 2022. Her next novella, Ghostly Howls, releases 2/7/23. She is a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community so she tries to incorporate that into her fiction. 

Social Media Links –

https://www.authorstephaniehansen.com/

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/stephanie-hansen ,

https://www.facebook.com/writer.stephaniehansen ,

https://www.instagram.com/stephaniehansenauthor/ ,

https://www.tiktok.com/@stephaniehansenauthor

https://twitter.com/hansenwriter

Book Review: The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Rosa couldn’t hide her delight when this appeared on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf thanks to the publishers, HQ. She began reading it in her tea break and couldn’t wait for Alejo to go to bed to continue it; she perched it on the work surface so she could read while preparing dinner.

Scroll down to see why she was so captivated.

Book Review: The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Title: The Dead Romantics

Author: Ashley Poston

Publisher: HQ

Genre: Women’s fiction, romance

Release Date: 29th September 2022

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?

If you fell in love with Beach ReadThe Love Hypothesis and The Hating Game, this laugh-out-loud romance packed with sizzling chemistry will give you all the feels!

Thoughts from the Emporium

What a fab book! Everyone loved it and Rosa has devoured it twice. It will be a well-loved and battered book on the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf and Rosa’s Box of Romance. Why?

 It hits the spot in many ways. The romance element made forever romantic Rosa happy, and the witches loved the paranormal edge but the story has depth and many well formed characters. There are many books where the protagonist returns home after long periods of time, triggering a retrospective look of their past and a reconciliation but this novel is different. While the Day family are dysfunctional to some on the outside, they are quirky, loving and supportive.

 Florence’s father’s death made Florence recall the happier times, the loving connections between family and community which balances out the tear jerking and accurate observations of grief. As does the funny and delightful relationship between Benji and Florence. The chemistry between them across the ethereal plane was a joy to read.

The Dead Romantics is an uplifting, emotional and humorous read which perfect for the spooky season. The topics covered sparked many conversations in the emporium about their own experiences of grief, but they also shared happier memories of those they’ve lost, tapping into the Day’s belief that death is a celebration of life.

This unique special book is a contender for the emporium’s top book of 2022 and will be gifted to family and friends.

Author Biography

Photo of Ashley Poston. White woman looking thoughtful with brown hair in a rough top knot and sunglasses perched on her head.
Ashley Poston

Ashley Poston loves dread pirates, moving castles, and starry night skies. Ashley graduated from the University of South Carolina with a BA in English. She has worked at Kodansha USA and Bloomsbury Publishing as a social media coordinator and marketing designer respectively. Currently, she offers her work to freelance clients and writes full-time Her books have appeared on the Indie Next List multiple times, and have been featured in Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Entertainment Weekly, Hypable, Buzzfeed, and in the Goodreads Choice Awards. Her critically-acclaimed sci-fi duology, Heart of Iron, was named on 2019’s Rainbow List. When not writing, she plays Dungeons and Dragons and reads fanfic. She lives in South Carolina with her bossy cat, and they are firm believers that we’re all a bunch of weirdos looking at other weirdos, asking for their username.

Twitter @ashposton

Instagram @heyashposton

Tiktok @thatashposton

Website: http://www.ashposton

The Dead Romantics Teaser – first chapter preview

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.

Book cover for The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston. Dusky pink background with teal and yellow flowers at the bottom. A teal silhouette of a man reading a book is lying across the word romantics. A crow perches on his foot. A woman is doing the same across the word The Dead/
Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

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?

Let’s go.

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Chapter 1

The Ghostwriter

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?”

“Absolutely.”

“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.

And froze.

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—

Oh.

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 A Rakes Guide to Getting the Girl and The Kiss at the Mid‑ 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 New York 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.

Maybe both.

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.

illustration of a cactus in a pot
Image by Edward Willyamzah from Pixabay

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Book Review: Spooky Ambiguous Ghost stories and poetry, fangs and fairy tales

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

Book cover for Spooky Ambiguous.
Dark cover, painted with shading representing a sea and the sky. A red full moon in the right hand corner with 2 birds flying by
Spooky Ambiguous

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

Blurb

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.

Beautiful dark illustrations

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.

Book Review: Kindred Spirits: Regal Retribution by Jennifer C Wilson

It’s midweek and time for another review. This novel, Kindred Spirits: Regal Retribution by Jennifer C Wilson, arrived on the bookshelf thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources and thank you for inviting us to the blog tour.

Book Review: Kindred Spirits: Regal Retribution by Jennifer C Wilson

Book Cover for Kindred Spirits Regal Retribution by Jennifer C WIlson
Dark cover of a old fashioned street with a gaslit lamp
Kindred Spirits Regal Retribution by Jennifer C Wilson

Title: Kindred Spirits: Regal Retribution

Author: Jennifer C Wilson

Publisher: Darkstroke

Genre: Paranormal

Release Date: 8th August 2022

Purchase Links

US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B3238S5Y/

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0B3238S5Y/

Blurb

A visit to London’s West End sends an already angry ghost into a fury, vowing revenge on those he believes have wronged him in life (and in death).

Soon, the attacks begin – across the city and beyond – revealing that rarest of beings: haunted ghosts!

When a pattern starts to emerge, a council is established to formulate a plan, but can they work out who is behind the hauntings? As the severity escalates, can the combined force stop the avenging spirit, before the worst happens?

Bringing together the ghostly communities of the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and other places, discover friendships and feuding in the race to retaliation…

Thoughts From the Emporium

This is the first time Willow had read a Kindred Spirit novel despite there being several from the series on the lending library shelf. A short humorous story with a full cast of historical characters, she found herself swept away by the ghosts’ banter, relationships and hunt for the revengeful spectre who is terrorising anyone who’d crossed him in life and beyond.

Though Willow enjoys historical fiction, many years have passed since she went to school and her knowledge of the monarchs is patchy but luckily there is a useful who’s who guide at the beginning. This proved invaluable as monarchs from different eras interact and develop friendships from beyond the grave. With a murderous ghost on the rampage, this is an entertaining, hectic read which explores what happens when feuds from life continue and ghosts take offense when modern historians and society view past monarchs differently to how they want to be perceived.

It was lovely to see how the ghosts at different well-known locations have developed over the centuries and have a separate life away from the tourists who visit. It can be read as a standalone, but you’d get a fuller experience by reading the others in the series.

Willow would recommend to history fans who want some light-hearted escapism and a historical novel with a supernatural twist.

Author Biography

Black and white photo of white woman standing in front of stone ruins. Light, medium brown hair and wearing glasses
Jennifer C Wilson

Jennifer has been stalking dead monarchs since she was a child. It started with Mary, Queen of Scots, then moved onto Richard III. At least now it results in a story!

She won North Tyneside Libraries’ Story Tyne short story competition in 2014 (no dead monarchs, but still not a cheerful read), and has been filling notebooks and hard-drives ever since. Her Kindred Spirits series, following the ‘lives’ of some very interesting ghostly communities, is published by Darkstroke, and her historical romances by Ocelot Press.

Jennifer is currently exploring some new ideas for historical romance, and hoping to visit Kindred Spirit friends old and new, north of the border…

Social Media Links

Twitter: https://twitter.com/inkjunkie1984

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennifercwilsonwriter

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jennifercwilsonwriter/

Blog: https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennifer-C-Wilson/e/B018UBP1ZO/

Book Review: Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton

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.

Book cover for Sunflowers in February. A vibrant yellow cover with a simplistic drawn flower in blue and black alternate petals
Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton

Title: Sunflowers in February

Author:  Phyllida Shrimpton

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release date: 8th February 2018

Genre: Young Adult, paranormal, fiction

Blurb

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.

Photo of a tube of Rowntree jelly tots with some sweets tumbling out
Who can resist Jelly Tots?

Do you have a book you’ve read in the past you think deserves more attention? Comment below

Header image is by David Travis on Unsplash