SLAVE is now a full time reviewer for Guys Like Romance, Too!

Please note that SLAVE's Erotic Review is on hiatus to catch up on reviews.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Angels among us

Many years ago I fell in love with Malta in general and Valletta in particular. I've visited it three times now, and fully intend to go again when I can force myself onto a plane. The history packed into one small limestone outcrop in the Mediterranean is truly mindblowing, and I knew I had to set at least one story there.


So there I was, in the overwhelmingly ornate setting of St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, gazing around at over-the-top Baroque baroqueness, at paintings of holy knights with cynical eyes, of saints looking like wise and grizzled old men, and angels resemblingpretty pudgy-faced teens without the acne. Among them are some incredibly powerful paintings by one Michelangelo Merisi de Caravaggio. He'd been commissioned by the Grand Master of the Knights Hospitaller of St John, to create what are now world-famous works of art. As I gazed up at themWhat Ifsneaked into my head.


Caravaggio had a tempestuous time on Malta. Well, to be honest, he had a tempestuous time no matter where he went. The man had a reputation for wild living, and was imprisoned more than once for brawling and drunkenness. At one time, the Pope issued a death warrant for him, on a charge of murder. His visit to Malta was probably a way of ducking out of Italy until the heat cooled off. But What if he saw someone whose features were so far away from his accepted norm of male beauty he had to paint them.


What If, centuries later, an American - let's call him Paul - inherited that painting.


What If Paul saw a passing stranger in a crowd and that man had the exact same face? 


That was the initial spark of an idea that eventually became Caravaggio's Angel.


Blurb for Caravaggio’s Angel:


A seventeenth-century artwork, a portfolio of canvases and a gorgeous man no one seems to notice— Add in a jealous brother and a scheming stranger, and Paul has inherited trouble.


Paul is estranged from his family, and inherits property on Malta from his artist great-uncle Lawrenz Calleja. It includes a portfolio of canvases Lawrenz painted over the decades, and an artwork that might be a seventeenth-century piece in the style of Caravaggio, but is more likely a symptom of his great-uncle’s obsession—the same man appears in every painting. Paul has grown up knowing that face, the man Lawrenz called Angelo. When he meets someone who matches the image exactly, Paul is hooked. Their friendship rapidly deepens into love.

Angelo is in exile on the island of Malta—he has to learn compassion and love before he can return to his Father’s house. But he learns the lessons too well, and that proves dangerous. Nico has watched him for a long time, waiting for just this moment, when Angelo is at his most vulnerable. Nico gains an ally when Paul’s brother, Calvin, arrives in Malta. Calvin is convinced Paul inherited a fortune and is determined to claim a share of it. But the battle between Angelo and Nico is far more than it seems and the Calleja brothers are in danger of becoming collateral damage.


Excerpt from Caravaggio’s Angel:


Paul gazed up at the face in the painting and sighed. Like his great-uncle, he would never tire of studying a countenance very much to his taste. The appeal had grown with every passing year, exponentially so as he had discovered and come to terms with his sexuality. Seeing it again was like meeting a friend he’d known all his life.


The unknown model hadn’t been the plump-faced pretty androgyne so often featured in Caravaggio’s work. By the standards of male beauty in the artist’s time, the man was not handsome. But the proud-boned features framed in a shoulder-length tangle of black hair were real. Eyes so blue their color seared, gazed from beneath frowning brows arched like a falcon’s wing. The level glare was fixed on a point above the viewer’s line of sight, and Paul always fancied he could read accusation there. Why did you allow this…? The full, perfectly shaped mouth was set in anger and sorrow. In his clenched fists he held a cream-colored robe, splashed with blood. Gilded by diffused light, wings of iridescent black feathers were mantled, protecting the robe or whoever had worn it.


This was no adoring angel, soulful and acquiescent to God’s will. That fierce gaze challenged as well as mourned. 


Lawrenz Calleja had always maintained the painting was a section removed from a much larger picture depicting the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, cut away because Caravaggio had refused to paint over it. He’d seen a letter from one of the artist’s patrons, or so he asserted. The writer had complained that Caravaggio was impossible—temperamental—unwilling to bow to the wishes of the one paying for his talent. Rather than change the offending section he had snatched up a knife and cut it away. 


About Chris Quinton:


Chris started creating stories not long after she mastered joined-up writing, somewhat to the bemusement of her parents and her English teachers. But she received plenty of encouragement. Her dad gave her an already old Everest typewriter when she was ten, and it was probably the best gift she'd ever received—until the inventions of the home—computer and the worldwide web.

Chris's reading and writing interests range from historical, mystery, and paranormal, to science-fiction and fantasy, writing mostly in the male/male genre. She also writes male/female novels in the name of Chris Power. She refuses to be pigeon-holed and intends to uphold the long and honourable tradition of the Eccentric Brit to the best of her ability. In her spare time (hah!) she embroiders, quilts and knits. Over the years she has been a stable lad (briefly) in a local racing stable and stud, a part-time and unpaid amateur archaeologist, a civilian clerk at her local police station and a 15th century re-enactor.

She lives in a small and ancient city in the south-west of the United Kingdom, sharing her usually chaotic home with an extended family, currently only one large dog, a frilled dragon [lizard], three psychotic mice and sundry goldfish.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Fanged buddies can change, too

Few paranormal creatures have gotten as much publicity as vampires in recent years. They’re ubiquitous. From horror, to romance, to young adult fiction, they’ve become the ideal and the threat wrapped in one tragic package. Yet what vampire fiction has gained in notoriety, it’s said to have lost in creepiness. If vampires sparkle, then they’re no longer scary. If they’re more concerned about dating than terrorizing villages, they lose their bite… pardon the pun.
I’m not a fan of things being one way or the other. Much of the criticism levelled at vampire fiction seems to stem from the idea that they’re supposed to remain the Terrifying Other. It’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula in a cape or bust. But our understanding of what makes a villain villainous has changed since the nineteenth century. Surely the vampire myth shouldn’t be restricted to the dangers of the unknown, often in the form of an enigmatic stranger, when there are more interesting evils it could be exploring.
In Courting Treason, vampires are a known entity, a minority both excluded and lauded for its apparent nobility. They’re discussed in absolutes: they’re monsters who groom their victims into uneven partnerships or they’re the uncorrupted Other, a symbol of humanity’s innate grace, beauty, misfortune—take your pick.
An otherwise educated man, Charlie believes he’s been spared that sort of binary thinking. Yet in entering a relationship with Micah, who is both a vampire and something of an anomaly among his own people, Charlie discovers the ugly, venal side of vampiredom as well as the harsh realities that have forced vampires to the outskirts of society. Micah and Charlie soon find themselves confronting prejudices they didn’t know they had, but while they may be willing to work past their issues, the world at large may have other ideas…

Blurb for Courting Treason:
Charlie Estes moved back home to heal a broken heart, but one chance encounter is enough to catapult him into a whirlwind of intrigue, desire, and age-old feuds.
When high school math teacher Charles Estes meets a tall, dark stranger at an exclusive event, he can barely believe his luck. He’s almost reluctant to go home with him for fear of disturbing the mirage. But rather than worry about could-have-beens, Charlie opts to bite the bullet. He has no idea that he’s about to be bitten in return.
Micah is not like other men. He hails from the nearby town of Freeburn—a forbidden enclave populated by vampires and their serfs. Charlie really ought to know better than to get involved with someone like that. If only Micah didn’t keep cropping up all over Charlie’s town like a bad penny. He’s everywhere, in the nearby woods, at the high school where Charlie teaches, even in his dreams.
One night of passion changes everything.
Faced with a murderer on the loose and the resurgent turmoil between their worlds, Charles must soon choose between the life he knows and the promise of a future with Micah.

Excerpt from Courting Treason:
Micah shrugged his shoulders in a painfully human gesture. “I’m not going to explain why I went to the vigil because I think you’re smart enough to figure that one out for yourself. I admit I hadn’t expected to see you there, after our previous run-ins…”
Charlie huffed a breath. If this wasn’t real, then there could be no harm in his admitting that he wasn’t as convinced that vampires were the scum of the earth as the rest of Wellport.
“I wanted to pay my respects.” He shivered, though it wasn’t for the cold. He was wearing his hoodie, the same one he had worn for the charity run. “Murder is murder.” Parroting Val’s words left something to be desired, but the sentiment was sincere.
“Not for most humans.”
“We’re not a perfect race,” Charlie said, with a meditative tilt of the head. “Neither are you.”
It was a dangerous thing to tell a vampire, but Micah took it in stride. He nodded and touched a hand to Charlie’s neck, trailing his thumb down his bobbing Adam’s apple to the V-shaped dip of his collarbones. The touch made Charlie shiver. He tried not to lose the thread of the conversation as Micah said, “No, we’re certainly not. But lately we’ve been living on the fringes while you enjoy all the spoils…does that seem right to you?”
Charlie shook his head. He might have tried to put the sentiment into words were it not for the sudden hum of need pulsating through him. He wanted to run. He wanted to put his hands on Micah’s shoulders and reel him in close.
He didn’t have to wait long to get his way.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Dragons, witches and goblins? Oh MY!

When I wrote "On Dragon's Wings" I was inspired by an image of a small, multicolored lizard that looked as if he was smiling while his picture was being taken. The book is an Are best seller and has just been revealed as an LR Café nominee for Best Fantasy 2014.
The book includes dragon shifters, witches, and goblins and is a perfect inclusion for all things paranormal.
My idea for the book was that the little guy was a shifter but that this small, helpless lizard form was due to a curse and that his real form was something much bigger and far more dangerous. In conjunction with the smallness of his cursed form would be acting like a big kid so that it's impossible to treat him seriously.
From that idea grew the book. Although there are shifters in the human world, Prince Uther is a dragon shifter from the Fae world. He's under a curse and while a way is found to break the curse he's placed in the care of cousins and roommates Noah and James who have no idea they are caring for anything more than a pet lizard.
Noah works hard to make a living with the small coffee shop he runs. He works so hard that he really has no time for anything else. When food he's made for the café vanishes from his fridge, he blames his cousin James, until he finds a stranger, naked and eating his cakes, in their kitchen.
On seeing the stranger, James realises he's been given a shifter to care for and calls their Aunt Tawny. Noah has no idea that James's side of his family have connections with the Fae world and finds it all very hard to take in.
When Aunt Tawny arrives, she explains that Uther is the crown prince of a small kingdom in the world of Fae and cursed by a dark witch. Time is also running out for Uther. As heir apparent he must appear at the Crown Ball in his true form to announce his willingness to take a mate. If Uther fails to do this, his cousin will rule in his stead.
While James and Aunt Tawny visit the Fae world to find a way of breaking the curse, Noah is tasked with caring for Uther. Despite their less than ideal meeting, Noah finds it hard to dislike Uther. Uther himself seems very much taken with Noah who worries about the attraction as he sees Uther as very child-like.
 Recognising the growing affection between them, Aunt Tawny assures Noah that Uther is far from a child and tells him to see Uther with his heart and not his eyes.
Catapulted into the Fae world to escape goblins sent after Uther, Noah must protect the man he's grown to love. They face a race against time and must defeat dark forces to break the curse to enable Uther to take his rightful place.

                                                                                                                                         When his roommate brings home a lizard, Noah has no idea his life is about to change out of all recognition. Uther is a shifter, a prince, and under a curse. Catapulted unexpectedly into the world of Fae and shifters, Noah must help Uther stay one step ahead of the witch who cursed him, as well as get him home in time to claim his crown. Noah is also resisting a growing attraction for Uther. But Uther has other ideas, and when Noah's life is endangered he's prepared to do anything it takes to save his mate.

Punching his pillow for what felt like the millionth time, Noah flopped onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. Sleep wasn’t coming, and he decided he might as well make use of the time by getting a few more cakes baked. He could have them in the oven by the time he’d boiled a kettle and made tea and let them bake while he sat with the drink.
The plan held much more merit than lying in bed and staring at the ceiling did, which was the only alternative. Noah pulled on a T-shirt and headed downstairs. Rubbing his eyes, he headed toward the kitchen, almost on autopilot.
Then he stopped and stared and rubbed his eyes again. The same blue-haired stranger from two nights ago sat next to the fridge. Noah snatched up his rolling pin, which he always left on the counter, and adopted what he hoped looked like a fighting stance, the rolling pin raised.
The unknown man stared back at Noah, his cheeks bulging slightly from the cake he’d just stuffed unceremoniously inside his mouth as if trying to hide it.
Noah was stunned the man showed neither fear nor reaction to Noah standing there with a rolling pin at the ready. “James get in here. We’ve got an intruder. Hurry!” Noah shouted, keeping his makeshift weapon poised.
The stranger looked away, his gaze darting back to the fridge as if deciding what to steal next.
“Don’t even think about it.” Noah dropped his voice to a warning growl.
“What intruder? Oh fuck. Why didn’t Aunt Tawny tell me she was giving me a shifter?”
“Need-to-know basis.” The words were garbled but recognizable as the stranger tried to swallow the last of the cake.
“Hey. He’s nearly naked. And what do you mean, shifter?” Noah looked from the man sitting on the floor to his roommate as if they were in collusion. Then it struck him. “Shifter? He’s that… lizard?” Images of him pottering around naked while preparing food when James was out for the night made his cheeks burn with embarrassment.
The stranger snickered as if knowing exactly what was going through Noah’s mind. “Nicely hung. For a human.”
Lowering the rolling pin, Noah’s shoulders slumped. “I didn’t know your side mixed with shifters.”
James ran his hands through his hair. “If Aunt Tawny hasn’t told me, then it’s not simple or straightforward. In fact, it’s likely to be downright dangerous.”
A thrill skittered down Noah’s spine. “What do we do? Hey! Stop that!”
The shifter had clearly decided he and James were of no more interest to him and was busily eating another of Noah’s cupcakes. “Hungry. Sweet. Nice.”
“I know they’re nice. I made them. You can’t be hungry. You’ve had lots of fruit and vegetables.” Noah stood, hands on hips, glaring at the shifter.
“Pfft. This is better.” The shifter stuck out his tongue and carried on devouring the cake with gusto.
“Er… I think I’d best try and get hold of Aunt Tawny. Find out why I got to keep charge of a lizard shifter.”

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