Review: Holiday Heat by Carrie Lomax

Holiday Heat

A Christmas Dramedy

by Carrie Lomax

Genre: Contemporary Romance

BLURB:

A broken engagement.
An ill-advised fling.
A reality-TV inspired dating contest.

Meet the Bachelorette…
When Alyssa Carlisle arrives home for the holidays nursing a fresh Christmas Eve heartbreak, a hookup with her hot neighbor, Marc De Luna, seems like the perfect rebound, a no-strings-attached, super sexy vacation fling.

…and the (Play) Boy Next Door
Although he’s never told anyone, Marc has had it bad for his aloof, ambitious neighbor ever since her family moved into the neighborhood years earlier. But knowing she was seeing some rich guy in New York told him she was off-limits… until she shows up alone and unexpectedly single for this year’s Christmas. With the rich boyfriend out of the picture, Marc’s not about to pass up the chance to claim Alyssa as his own.

But when the ex-boyfriend makes an unexpected appearance, intent on getting Alyssa back, Marc’s got a fight on his hands. And he’ll do whatever it takes to win.

BUY

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

FREE IN KINDLE UNLIMITED

So here’s my review, originally posted on my author website:

Last night, I stumbled on Holiday Heat: A Christmas Dramedy by Carrie Lomax, a seemingly “holiday” novel with its Christmas glitter and mistletoe on the cover that’s not exactly a holiday novel. It’s set during the holidays, yes, but it’s *not a holiday novel. Family dynamics? Check. Sibling rivalry and protectiveness? Check. Steamy AF hot scenes? Checkcheckcheck.

The first thing that caught my attention was the smart and witty heroine, Alyssa Carlisle, who lives in a studio apartment in Midtown Manhattan and she’s just been stood up by her rich boyfriend of two years, Zach. He was supposed to propose on Christmas Eve but he’s five hours late and when he does show up, he’s drunk and tells her he got cold feet. Apparently, it’s not the first time Zach has pulled something like this and so, with a plane to catch in the morning where they were supposed to spend Christmas with her parents in Tampa, Florida, she tells Zach they’re over, to have a great life, and not to talk to her ever again.

Tampa is where we meet Marc Del Luna, the oldest son of the Del Lunas who live next door to her parents. He’s never finished college but he’s smoking hot, “the kind of guy who made girls’ panties wet just by walking into the room—at least, the ones like her who wore undergarments.” And apparently, Alyssa has been secretly crushing on him since her family moved into the neighborhood almost ten years ago… but there was something about Marc being known as the resident man-whore that made her steer clear.

While taking out the trash, they bump into each other and sparks fly, especially when Marc learns she’s suddenly single. Who knew the (play)boy next door liked her all these years?  To Alyssa, the prospect of a one-night stand or a vacation fling with Marc before she returns to New York is looking better and better every minute.

But before one assumes that Marc is simply the manwhore everyone thinks he is, there’s actually more to him than meets the eye, just as there’s more to the sibling dynamics between him and Julian as well as Alyssa and Janelle, her younger sister stuck in a dead-end job and drowning in student loans.

What I love the most about Holiday Heat is that it’s a refreshing take on romance from the usual fare that I’ve been picking up lately (dark romance, secret baby, and let-me-top-the-sex-in-this-book-with-more-sex… oh wait, that’s my book!). It’s a new voice and I love me some new voices especially since I just finished A Man Called Ove and needed something light and fun and witty.

I like how Lomax explores certain social issues that are at the forefront today and for the most part, they’re deftly interwoven into the storyline. The sparks that fly between Alyssa and Marc are super hot and deserving of New Year’s Eve fireworks, and the scenes between them are super steamy as well. But that’s not going to mean that everything is smooth sailing either. They go through some rough patches like an unexpected visitor, a reality TV show-inspired contest, and some good measure of angst.  And for a holiday tryst that’s hot and heavy from the get-go, will their fling last long after the New Year’s Eve fireworks are all done?

So, yup, except for the ending which kinda felt flat for me because I wanted more Aly and Marc, I enjoyed Holiday Heat: A Christmas Dramedy by Carrie Lomax and highly recommend it if you like a contemporary romance with a chock-full of really well-written steamy scenes and high octave chemistry.

Holiday Heat: A Christmas Dramedy is free to read in Kindle Unlimited.

10% of the proceeds from this book will benefit the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Find Carrie online:

Website: http://www.carrielomax.com

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

*The only reason I say it’s NOT a holiday novel is that holiday novels get pigeonholed during the holidays. Which is a disservice to this witty and layered novel that’s more about relationships and romance than the holiday itself. It’s just SET in a holiday and that’s about it. But that’s also the Marketing me talking. I hate seeing good novels get pushed aside because people assume if it’s holiday-themed then it’s kinda “holiday-themed” which to me, would be sugar and spice and mistletoe and family and eggnog and chocolate with marshmallows and cuddles in front of the fireplace. None of which brings up steamy AF romance in all its glory. I mean, come on. When do you watch A Christmas Story? While You Were Sleeping and so many other stories that are set during the holidays???

Books to Check Out: My Perfect Mistress by Carly Quinn

My Perfect Mistress (An Erotic Short Story) is Carly Quinn’s debut short story about a young woman named Zoe.  Between her divorce, the death of a parent, and the quick remarriage of the surviving parent, she’s having a heck of a tough year and needs to blow off some steam.  When her best friend suggests she go online and explore some alternative lifestyle websites, she figures she’s got nothing to lose if she’s just looking, right?

Right.

So she sets out to look for a Dom of her own to teach her the ropes, but what she finds is someone she never expects – Chase, the perfect man who’s looking for the perfect Mistress.  What follows are their online exchanges, from tentative hello’s and even a bit of storytelling on her end as she explores that power exchange a little bit more, and what follows next is, of course, the meeting.

Is she a Mistress or Domme as he tells her she really is?  Or are they both really just exploring the lifestyle together, fumbling towards a dynamic that would closely resemble D/s while getting to know each other, or are they serving as each other’s distractions?

Her Perfect Mistress is free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Review: Clean Break by Abby Vegas

Title: Clean Break
Author: Abby Vegas
Genre: Chick Lit

I enjoyed following Lane Haviland’s adventures – or is it misadventures – after she moves to Brooklyn thinking she’s sharing a nice apartment with a balcony only to find out she’s been scammed.  So after a quick visit to the police precinct to pour out her sob story and some unenthusiastic help from a chain smoking apartment manager, she ends up in a 6×9 basement room with a Manny Pacquiao poster that thankfully doesn’t hide a blood stain.   With new digs nailed down, she just needs a new job and she finds one as a personal assistant to a neurotic Manhattan housewife.

Lane’s got some issues with her past and though I wish this was explored more, it’s her personality that shines through for me in the book and the way she deals with every obstacle thrown her way.  When the love interest reveals himself, it comes in the form of a mysterious Russian handyman named Viktor who shows his heart underneath all that nasty scar and tattoos.  But there’s trouble brewing on the horizon and short of revealing too much  about what happens next, it kept my attention all the way through the end.  One thing I did wish was for the relationship between Lane and Viktor to be explored a bit more towards the end.

Overall, it’s a strong debut novel, and I can’t wait to read more of her work.

CB

Read FREE on KINDLE UNLIMITED

kindle

Amazon

About the Author

Abby Vegas loves reading and writing books that feature feisty, flawed heroines. She grew up in New York City and lives in Connecticut. Visit her on the web at AbbyVegasAuthor.com.

 

Book Blast and Review: Drop Dead Handsome by M.K. Scott

Dilapidated Victorian house appears "haunted"

Drop Dead Handsome

M.K. Scott

Genre: Cozy Mystery

add-to-goodreads-button

REVIEW

The Painted Lady Inn is open for business and limping along in the B and B world. A high school reunion package assembles Donna’s least desirable classmates, including the backstabbing cheerleader, her narcissistic high school crush, and Arnie, whose cheesy poem had everyone calling her, hot mama. It’s all something she liked to forget. These are the normal guests.

An octogenarian self-proclaimed sleuth, Father Christmas, a dognapping couple, and a pair who is copying everything in the Inn to set up their own competitive establishment rounds out the group. Maria, the sister-in-law, has a matchmaking agenda for Donna. Daniel, her brother, finds himself serving as a referee with one guest’s multiple wives.

High school reunions can be murder. Detective Mark Taber is on the trail of the murderer, when he isn’t interfering in a smitten Arnie’s determined bid to woo the no nonsense innkeeper.

Giveaway
Enter to win a $50 Amazon GC or other prizes

Follow the tour!

Excerpt

By the time, she had the salts swept up and the broom stowed, Terri arrived. The woman swept in with the same arrogance Cleopatra must have shown entering Rome. A disdainful head tilt announced she’d been in grander accommodations. No mistaking the woman, she looked the same, only tighter as if her skin had shrunk, making her face all angles without any soft curves.

“Hello, Gentry, Terri, I have a reservation.”

Donna repressed an urge to remark that her presence made a reservation self-evident. “Yes, you do. Welcome to The Painted Lady Inn. Here’s your gift basket.” She pushed the remaining basket in Terri’s direction.

The woman pawed through the contents as her lips pulled down in a frown. “The bath salts that were advertised on the website ad are missing.”

Before she could answer, Terri continued.

“No way, I can carry it and my luggage upstairs. I guess it’s too much to expect a backwater establishment like this would have an elevator?” Her sneer announced she already knew the answer.

“Here at The Painted Lady Inn, we strive for authenticity.” It seemed a better answer than no, we don’t have an elevator.

Terri raised both eyebrows as she stared down at Donna, who had picked up both the woman’s suitcase and basket. Normally, the woman wouldn’t have anything on her height wise, but with her hunched over like Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, she was at a disadvantage.

What did she have in the suitcase? Bricks? She stood, straightening her back and retaining as much dignity as possible. “You’re in B2.”

“Hmm. Should I assume there’s no running water?”

Count to ten. She inhaled deeply. While she didn’t think it was possible, the woman had grown even more malicious with age. “Excuse me?” Maybe she hadn’t heard right.

“If you’re trying to return to Victorian times, then they wouldn’t have running water.”

About the Authors

MediaKit_AuthorPhoto_DropDeadHandsomeM. K. Scott is the husband and wife writing team behind The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. Morgan K Wyatt is the general wordsmith, while her husband, Scott, is the grammar hammer and physics specialist. He uses his engineering skills to explain how fast a body falls when pushed over a cliff and various other felonious activities. The Internet and experts in the field provide forensic information, while the recipes and B and B details require a more hands on approach. Morgan’s daughter who manages a hotel provides guest horror stories to fuel the plot lines. The couple’s dog, Chance, is the inspiration behind Jasper, Donna’s dog. Murder Mansion is the first book in The Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. Overall, it is a fun series to create and read. Drop Dead Handsome is the second book in the series. Killer Review should be out in October 2016.

Social Media

Website
http://www.morgankwyatt.com/

Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMorganKWyatt

Twitter
http://www.twitter.com/morgankwyatt

Goodreads
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5826299.Morgan_K_Wyatt

Pinterest
http://www.pinterest.com/morgankwyatt/

Tsu
http://www.tsu.co/MorganKWyatt

Buy Links

Amazon US 
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EQML0RO

Amazon UK 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01EQML0RO

Amazon Canada 
https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01EQML0RO

Amazon Australia 
https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01EQML0RO

Amazon Mexico 
https://www.amazon.com.mx/dp/B01EQML0RO

Smashwords 
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/639885

Forthcoming on KOBO, iTunes & Barnes and Noble

Giveaway
Enter to win a $50 Amazon GC or other prizes

Follow the tour!

1: CR Moss
2: fundinmental
3: The Avid Reader
4: Lisa Haselton’s Reviews and Interviews
5: Christine Young
6: Sharing Links and Wisdom
7: BooksChatter
8: Jane Reads
9: Lilac Reviews
10: T’s Stuff
11: Long and Short Reviews
12: Love Sex and Other Dirty Words
13: The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
14: Mystery Thrillers and Romantic Suspense Reviews
15: Queen of All She Reads
16: Stormy Nights Reviewing & Bloggin’
17: Sapphyria’s Book Reviews
18: Harps Romance Book Review
19: StarAngels Reviews
20: Nickie’s Views and Interviews
21: Wendi zwaduk – romance to make your heart race
22: Lynn Crandall
23: Hope. Dreams. Life…Love
24: The Broke Book Bank
25: Readeropolis
26: CBY Book Club
27: Room With Books
28: Tina Donahue Books – Heat with Heart
29: Journey of a Bookseller
30: Author C.A.Milson
31: Book Crazy Scrapbook Mama
32: Bookjunkie’s Book Blog
33: Linda Nightingale…Wordsmith
34: Natural bri

Review

Drop Dead Handsome is the first book I’ve read by M.K. Scott although it is the second book in the Painted Lady Inn Mysteries. 

Donna Tollhouse runs the Painted Lady Inn, a bed and breakfast, which also happens to host a few people from her high school in town for the 30-year reunion. Unfortunately, a few of Donna’s least desirable classmates have chosen to stay at the Painted Lady Inn, including her narcissistic crush, Wynn, and his then-on-and-off girlfriend, Terri. And then there is Arnie, who wrote her a poem in high school calling her hot mama. There are other guests, too, like the Babbles, a bickering and dog napping couple in town for a wedding; Dean and Marvin, a pair of friends checking out antiques in the area; Eunice, a nosy octogenarian in search of a good mystery and a discount, Jeff Ferguson, Father Christmas come to life; and Lorena Fitzgerald, who’s in town visiting friends.

The rest of the characters who round out this cozy mystery are Maria, Donna’s sister-in-law, Daniel, her brother and Mark Taber, a handsome detective.

There’s a whole lot of cozy in this mystery and there were times that there was just too much information about the inn or the food that I wished the plot got going instead of lingering in all the details. When Drop Dead Handsome aka dead body finally appears, the plot progresses nicely to reveal its surprise killer. I just wish Donna as the third person limited narrator wasn’t too hung up on inn-keeping duties and worries that she’d actually seen it coming. As it is, when the killer appears, it’s a quizzical “oh” instead of, “oh?” But that’s just me. Overall I liked it and there’s a hint of the next mystery about to land at the Painted Lady Inn. I will be reading the first book to get acquainted with the recurring characters and find out the deal about the first murder that happened.

We also get recipes of some of the dishes Donna makes, and that was a nice addition to this charming story.

Book Review: Stuck-Up Suit by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward

stuckupsuit-smallTitle: Stuck-Up Suit
Authors: Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
Model: Dusan Susnjar
Photographer: Tijana Vukovic

Shh…I bought this book for the cover (hence the credit for the model and photographer).  It was the fastest one-click I’d ever done, and I don’t regret it one bit.  The cover model is Dusan Susnjar and the moment you open the book and read about Soraya Venedetta’s morning on the train to Manhattan where she spots Mr. Stuck-Up Suit barking on his phone like he’s a god, you know Dusan couldn’t be any more perfect as Stuck-Up Suit or MBP (another nickname Soraya gives him) himself, Graham Morgan.

Soraya is a girl after my own heart, an Italian-American Brooklynite, who commutes to Manhattan everyday where she works for an advice column, Dear Ida.  She’s snarky, and she’s brash.  She doesn’t sugar-coat things, which is what Graham needs to snap him out of his self-important funk when she returns the phone he dropped on the subway.  For a man in charge of investment portfolios of the uber-rich, that he doesn’t even have a password for his phone was so unprofessional, but hey, what better way for Soraya to be able to look through his pictures to learn more about him before she returns his phone?  They actually don’t meet because Graham doesn’t think she’s worth seeing until he reads the text message she leaves him and it hits him where it hurts.

And suddenly the chase is on.

hard-teaser

Graham lives up to his nicknames, Stuck-Up Suit being the main one, and there were others like MBP (you’ll have to find that one out), although Poopface in Manhattan sticks with me right now.  He’s arrogant as heck and has built such a wall around him after weathering some major personal storms, but it’s no excuse for how he treats the people around him.  Underneath the tough exterior is a man-boy in a way, with some cute quirks that foreshadow one big twist that comes up.  And did I say that Dusan is the perfect Graham Morgan?  I totally get how these book conventions totally work when the cover models show up alongside the authors.  They f-sell books!

feel-this-way-teaser

What follows is a smart and witty and sexy banter between the two and I was rooting for them all the way, although by the time they end up in bed way before the 50% mark, I knew something was coming to tear them apart.  And boy, did they come, and some of them I spotted a mile away.  But I’m Team Graham Cracker all the way so I’ll go along with them.  I wish there was a bit more depth to some of the characters, especially the ex but there wasn’t and it baffled me to see the wealthy depicted the way they were-shallow all the way.  Except for the new Graham, of course, because Soraya has long p-whipped him back down to earth.

One of the things I loved about Stuck-Up Suit is the setting which is the very best city in the world (to me), New York.  And not just the Manhattan part of New York, but Brooklyn, too, and Queens.  There’s a bit of the Hamptons, but it’s been sanitized to look too perfect and shallow that I didn’t care.  If you pay attention, you’ll even know how to get to the East River from the 1 Train in case you need to toss some guy’s phone away.

My rating:  5 stars all the way

One-Click This Baby Now

Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

StuckUpSuitBookCover6x9_HIGH
Just adding it here…for reasons

Book Review: Baby For Keeps by Janice Maynard

Baby for Keeps (Kavanaghs of Silver Glen #2)Baby for Keeps by Janice Maynard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading way too many gritty and raunchy “romances,” I was in dire need of a change of pace, and so I set my sights to the tried and true romances of my teen years.  Yup! Harlequin!

I haven’t read Harlequin romances in a while, especially anything that featured babies, so this was my first.  I always thought babies were such a buzzkill to old fashioned romance, but I was wrong. So wrong. I mean, have you seen the baby on the cover?! Cuteness overload!

The guy is cute, too…

Baby for Keeps is about two people who first met in high school – she’s the awkward genius who skipped 2 grades and he’s the jock who needed tutoring so he could measure up to his family’s expectations – and they reconnect years later. He did steal a kiss from her once, and she hasn’t forgotten it.

Dylan Kavanagh comes from old money, and he owns a bar in a small town called Silver Glenn. Now single, he was once engaged to a Hollywood actress who fled the small town the moment the perfect role came along and he kinda is still recovering, mostly because you can’t hide much in a small town. Mia Larin is a researcher who thought she needed to heed the tick-tock of her biological clock before it was too late, and so she has a baby using a sperm donor, only to find out three months later that the grant funding her project fizzled and now she’s without a job. Broke and without any job prospects, at least not with a three-month old baby in tow and no childcare options, she sets out to Silver Glenn to see how Dylan is faring. I have no idea why really, since they haven’t seen or been in contact for years, but for now, I’ll go along with that premise.

That she brings a baby into a saloon was a surprise, but I’ll go along with that, too. Dylan sees her, sparks fly, he offers her a temporary job since his bookkeeper just bailed out on him. She can even stay in the apartment upstairs while she’s working and sending out her own resumes. Then the saloon conveniently burns down – and he offers his own guest room in his mansion as the substitute living arrangement. Of course, more sparks fly, there’s sex and more sex, and the baby is always asleep in the other room, and the perceived hangups of their past rear their ugly heads – he thinks she’s too smart for him and that the small town is no place for a genius who can find better opportunities in the big city, while she’s thinking, hmm, this arrangement’s not too shabby, and he really should stop thinking I’m way too smart. This is exactly why I picked an average man’s sperm, for crying out loud.

I took 1 star off because the ending just seemed rushed. There’s a mention of post-partum depression but that is never addressed on how she dealt with it (because we know that can be serious but I know, I know…this is a romance, but still…), and I just wished Mia had more sense about her to fight for what she wanted instead of acquiescing a lot to what he wanted. Otherwise, I’ll definitely be reading more of Maynard’s books, and at the moment, I think I have 3 more babies and billionaire stories to go in the box set.

View all my reviews

Book Review: The Sun and The Moon by Leslie McAdam

27206334She follows all the rules.

He’s going to teach her how to break them.

After a heartbreaking tragedy, successful attorney Amelia Crowley has numbed herself to the pleasures of life, clinging to a specific set of rules, finding strength in order and organization. When she meets easy going surfer Ryan Fielding, that organized life is turned upside down by a sea of washboard abs and sun-kissed hair.

Sexy and charismatic, Ryan looks for pleasure however he can find it in an effort to silence his own inner demons. Until Amelia crashed into his life the only thing he chased was the next wave. Refusing to break their connection and determined to break through her carefully crafted walls, Ryan sets out to throw out every rule in her book and show Amelia that pleasure can’t be planned.

Can Amelia let Ryan take the lead or will she cling to her rules and wipe out their chance at love?

Oh my. What can I say? I need a Ryan to break all my rules – which means I’ll need to make some rules first for him to break. But really, The Sun and the Moon is Leslie McAdam’s debut novel and it hits it out of the ballpark. It’s a refreshing take on a protagonist, Amelia, who’s proactive about her recovery from depression and willing to explore her biases regarding a few things, especially sex. She comes with a set of rules like only dial M for missionary and no guy ever spends the night. But the moment she meets surfer god Ryan, forget the rules because they’re there for the breaking – but with her full participation, no less.

I first read The Sun and The Moon on Wattpad and even then, I always thought Leslie’s writing as courageous and wickedly smart. She’s that rare writer who reminds me of a free spirit driving down the Santa Barbara coastline with the top down and the wind whipping through her hair. No holds barred courageous writing (hey, at least for me), sweet and oh-so-smart and sensitive characters destined to take you through a rollercoaster of emotions and a whole lot of naughty. So take that ride with Amelia and Ryan. You won’t regret it.

Amazon

Book Review: My Perfect Mistress by Carly Quinn

MistressMy Perfect Mistress (An Erotic Short Story) is Carly Quinn’s debut novelette about a young woman named Zoe.  Between her divorce, the death of a parent, and the quick remarriage of the surviving parent, she’s having a heck of a tough year and she needs to blow off some steam.  When her best friend suggests she go online and explore some alternative-lifestyle websites, she figures she’s got nothing to lose if she’s just looking, right?

Well, kinda.

When she sets out to look for a Dom of her own to teach her the ropes, what she finds is someone she never expects – the perfect man who’s looking for a Mistress.  What follows are their online exchanges, from tentative hello’s and even a bit of storytelling on her end, though what follows next is for you to find out, and I hope you do.

What surprised me first about My Perfect Mistress – right off the bat – is the cover.  It’s not your usual waif-like figured woman and her hunky man.  She’s a BBW and damn proud of it, too – which is a good thing and something I’d like to see more of.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Buy on Amazon

Book Review: Under the Skin by Michel Faber

Under the SkinUnder the Skin by Michel Faber

I read this after seeing the movie, Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson, and it totally makes sense why Jonathan Glazer didn’t go with the first two screenplays which I heard were based closer to the book. I prefer his 2014 version better though it’s loosely based on Michel Faber’s book at this point, but definitely is much more effective onscreen, while Faber’s novel is perfect as a novel.

The protagonist, Isserley, is such an interesting character and the whole novel is such a trip I can’t even begin to process the emotions I went through reading the whole thing. She’s been altered in her home planet to look like a human, parts of her amputated, new things added in and yet even with all that, which is accompanied by constant pain in her present altered body, she doesn’t exactly belong on Earth, just as she no longer belongs to her home planet. She’s been sent here with a job to do and it made me wonder if there are other ‘processing’ plants or farms elsewhere in the world – if so, we’d really be in trouble.

Her plan so far is simple, and she’s been doing it for some time. She picks up male hitchers along the A9 in Scotland – and boy there are many of them! – but she makes sure to take only the ones without connections to anyone, no family, no kids or girlfriend, or anyone who’ll miss them. Then when she’s sure, she then flips that switch which paralyzes them and hurries to the farm so they get processed (I probably skimmed through these parts and all parts in the processing plant and will probably be a vegetarian pretty soon) and then after a rest, she heads out to do it all over again.

This was certainly a very disturbing book to me, with an ending that left me conflicted and wishing for a Hollywood touch (a happily ever after).  I’d like to think there is one, at least in my head, though for the book Faber’s version of the ending is perfect.

One thing I learned with this book (besides going vegetarian) is that I will never hitchhike.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

Book Review: Killarney Blues by Colin O’Sullivan

The sun on the lake sparkles. Only a laden, dark cloud in the distance has the audacity to ruin the perfect picture. Bernard has one eye on it, knows how things loom, how those clouds can hover, then open and pour, drench, saturate. But not yet. There’s a few more hours of this brightness, and he’s intent on enjoying it.

He’s very happy to be sitting out in it with this pretty American by his side: Laura. Laura from Texas. Blue-eyed. Bouncy. Beautiful. They both sit on the edge of the main pier and stare out at the lake, the sound of gentle lapping under their feet. It’s almost idyllic. So many scenes like this can be found in spots all over Killarney. Some famous, well-trodden places. Some hidden treasures that await discovery.

This is just one of the frequented runs, but yes, it is, for the most part, an almost-idyll. Perhaps he would take away the fishermen in boats to make the picture perfect; bit of Photoshop here, airbrush there, erase that black cloud for a start. Then it would be just right, perhaps. Bernard would be happy to sit forever like this. Just gazing out. Of course, if the picture is to be absolutely perfect then he’d have to substitute Marian for Laura. Then it would indeed be an ideal. Too many adjustments? Is this the way it is to be with him? Always too many adjustments?

via Excerpt: Killarney Blues | Betimes Books.

Killarney Blues was a quick read for me – quick because I wanted to keep on reading till the very last page – all in one sitting if I could have.  I read it in one day, and I loved it.

In Killarney Blues, the county of Killarney, in Irish Cill Airne, meaning “church of sloes”, is in County Kerry, in southwestern Ireland.  A popular tourist destination boasting more hotels and hostels than any other county outside of Dublin, it is by the northeastern border of Lough Leane (Loch Léin, meaning “lake of learning”), and is by itself a character in O’Sullivan’s tale about the lives of two friends, Bernard Dunphy and Jack Moriarty, and the different paths their lives have taken since one fateful day in the past – a day whose memories lie hidden beneath all the layers they’ve since put over whatever innocence they both lost.

billy-tBernard is a jarvey, a driver of a jaunting car popular with the tourists who come to Killarney each year, pulled by an old and ill horse named Ninny.  Bernard is considered weird by the townsfolk because he’s slow, and keeps to himself most, if not all of the time.  He is coddled by his mother, Brigid, who still makes him huge sandwiches and even tidies his room though Bernard is already thirty years old.   They only have each other, ever since John Dunphy, Bernard’s father, drowned in the lake when Bernard was only six or seven, a strange thing since John was known to be an expert fisherman.

Bernard is obsessed with the blues, playing them on  his guitar and recording himself on CD’s that he gives to his childhood friend Jack and the love of his life, Marian, even though Marian has asked him not to give her anymore.  She accepts them though, and even plays them when she’s alone, for her two friends, Cathy and Mags sure give her a hard time for tolerating the poor man’s attentions.  Bernard loves blues so much that even when Marian’s cousin gives him a nasty beating outside the pub one night, all Bernard worries about are not exactly if he’s all in one piece, but mostly whether his hearing is still intact, and his fingers aren’t broken.  Because how can one sing and play the blues if one can’t hear it or play it?

And then there’s footballer Jack (to us Americans, this would be soccer though), handsome and easygoing, with an undercurrent of danger lurking beneath the exterior.  There’s a rage in Jack that attracts people to him, especially the ladies.  Perfect for football, unless they pull the red flag on you and ban you from the game for life.

Even though he’s kinda got a main girl, nothing stops him from bedding a pretty tourist now and then.  It’s the thrill of the chase that Jack likes, the conquest afterwards, before life goes on as usual, and he’s back at work at the garage, or on the field with his mates for another game, or to the pub drinking and hunting again.

There’s a heavy undercurrent of sadness in Killarney Blues, and a lot of secrets.  Sad secrets.  It surrounds every character like the fog that comes down before the dawn, before or after the rain.  Even when the sun shines on a couple rare days on Killarney, and there’s not a cloud in the sky, there’s the thought of impending rain that’s sure to come, just like the thought of a menace that’s fast approaching and there’s nothing anyone can do to avoid it.  It’s a story about how one man’s actions steer the course of so many people in so many different directions, splits friendships and cleaves into the core of a boy’s innocence, planting a seed of darkness that simply awaits a sunny day to give it the energy it needs to sprout and bloom.

But don’t get me wrong about Killarney Blues. This isn’t a sad book, not by a long shot.  There’s  a great sense of hope within the pages, and each character comes to life under O’Sullivan’s pen.  His words swagger with purpose, never meandering too long on a scene, always moving the story forward, even when it goes back in time, like a faded photograph coming into view.  Lyrical to a point, one word flowing to the next, hardly stopping.  I read this novel and saw a movie in my mind – that’s how each page appeared to me – and that’s a good thing.

This story reminded me of a beautiful vase, now shattered to pieces on the floor.  But with each piece picked up and glued back into place, a narrative came into being, with each piece representing a character, beautifully written with all their flaws and realism, broken by their own imperfections and weaknesses.  But most of all, the dropping of the vase, once beautiful, representing by the act of a man, long gone, though his actions reverberate through the years, waiting, waiting for those sunny days in Killarney, when the sun finally gets to shine on that long buried seed, giving it the energy it needs to bloom – for good, and for evil.

Killarney Blues is written by Colin O’Sullivan and published by Betimes Books.  You can purchase your Kindle or paperback copy from Amazon.