Happy St Dwynwen’s Day! Also known as National Cwtch Day in this neck of the woods so today I’ve decided to offer cwtches to some authors who have brightened my week.
New books in the offing from K J Charles [Jackdaw will be available from Samhain on 17th February], Alex Beecroft [Trowchester Blues will be availale from Riptide on 9th February] and Sue Brown [there are lots so watch this space] and Dorien Grey is having all his old Dick Hardesty mysteries rejigged and released anew over the next year or so.
But today I want to squee a bit about a new series, kicked off in fine style with Restless Spirits by Jordan L Hawke.
This book is genuinely scary – for my tolerance of scariness – with masses of plot and a slow burn romance. I think it’s set in the Widdershin’s universe but has a different set up, the business of the protagonists being the careful guiding of the spirits of the dead from post-death limbo to the afterlife. Ghosts are REAL, and potentially dangerous, so ghost hunter is a profession that is regarded, if not highly, as essential.
Henry Strauss is the first protagonist – an earnest young scientific type of a progressive turn of mind. Despite being thrown into poverty by a fraudulent psychic, he has taken in his cousin, a young woman of colour [one of my favourite characters], which has put him at odds with the rest of his family. She assists him with his experiments to build a machine capable of catching and dismissing ghosts. He has absolutely no time for pyschics, all of whom he regards as fakes, and is desperate to prove that science is the way to go. Offered a substantial sum of money to prove the worth of his machinery he accepts the invitation of a millionaire to exorcise a haunted house. The only problem is that he will be competing with a ‘genuine’ psychic, Vincent Night. Vincent is a very troubled young man due to a terrible event in his recent past, with a whole bunch of secrets and an immediate attraction to Henry.
There’s a good cast of supporting characters – Gladfield the millionaire, his niece, Elizabeth, Vincent’s partner – offering tensions between male and female, divisions of class and race and, of course, the pervasive sense of self righteousness felt by the straight and narrow for those of a different orientation in that Victorian age. The author doesn’t spare us any of the verbal nastiness of which people of that time were capable, and I applaud her for that, while wincing at the terms used.There’s a lot of discussion about updating historicals so that the horrors of the past don’t appear on the page, and it’s very tempting to give ones historical heroes a modern and politically correct mindset and turn of phrase, but then you wouldn’t be writing historicals. I don’t know what you’d call it? Historical Fantasy? Anyhow, this strikes the right note with me in that while the sentiments are expressed, we are left in no doubt that they are repugnant and should not have been said.
The romance is edgy – Henry is very deep in the closet and Vincent, while freer, knows he has to be careful, plus they are very much on opposite sides until put in a position where they have to join forces. As I’ve said the scary bits are scary, the antagonists – and just about everyone is an antagonist at some point – pose believable threats within the context of the world.
I loved it and can’t wait until the next instalment. Highly recommended.