Review: Dead Reckoning (Valkyrie Series, Book 2) by K A Perkins

Dead Reckoning PerkinsReviewed by Sandra Scholes

The year is 1671 and after watching his mother suffer brutality at the hands of three of the most feared pirates in history, Leo vows he will avenge her death one day when he is older. Gabriella is a young woman married to Erik, a cruel Dutch slave trader. Erik rules the house with an iron fist. He is an irascible man, prone to violent mood swings and always finds fault with his wife and his slave, Klara. Gabriella lives in fear of Erik and hopes for the day when she and Klara can flee without being found.

One of the interesting parts of the story is at the beginning as Gabriella wants to get away from her cruel husband, while Leo wants to get close to the pirates who killed his mother, and that in turn takes him closer to her husband. Gabriella grows from being a sensitive, downtrodden woman, to being a strong, independent woman who wants to help others, like Klara out of difficult and dangerous situations. She is ill-equipped for life in the jungle of the island of Sayba, but her life is worth nothing if she is caught by either Erik or his men. Leo has seen his mother die at the hands of Tarr’s men, and seeks his revenge, yet he is a decent man, even at sea. He is often fair with his men, and has braved death attempting to kill Tarr, Blake and Hornigold.

The author shows a real grasp of all things pirate, and has clearly researched in depth about what life would have been like on board a ship for both the captain and crew of the Sound of Freedom. The setting and the characters feel right for the time period, and it is easy to switch off from modern life to tune into the story as it seems believable. It is easy to get to the heart of the people involved, and the author doesn’t concentrate on the main characters alone. The story is gritty and realistic, and as a result gives a more realistic account of how people would have behaved during that time. Jungle life has a detrimental effect on the slaves, and Gabriella and Klara; the disease, the venomous wildlife, and the terrible heat of the location all serve to put the reader there into the thick of period Caribbean life. Having Gabriella and Klara on board isn’t a good idea for the men, but Leo likes the thought of having Erik’s wife and slave to use as a pawn to get what he wants, yet he sees in her a wildness that reminds him of Magdalena. He senses Gabriella is afraid of men, even Leo being around her, and all he wants to do is put her at ease. She is a free woman along with Klara, but life on board a ship like the Sound of Freedom isn’t made for women on the run and he can’t expose the men to them and risk Gabriella being hurt, or worse.

It takes a while for the romance to start, but when it does, Gabriella finds that Leo isn’t the man she thought he was, he is a better man than her husband, and he can show her what that means. Dead Reckoning is more than just a romance novel, it acts as a personal account of life in pirate days that is extensive and gripping.

Dead Reckoning was long-listed in the 2011 Mslexia Novel Competition and is the second book in the Valkyerie series. It tells of the losses and danger associated with piracy in the Caribbean during the Seventeenth Century. There are several books in the Valkyrie series including, An Ill Wind (Valkyrie Series 1), Ready About! (Valkyrie Series 3) which is set for a 2913 release, and Shadowfall (Valkyrie Series 4) which is set for a 2014 release. As a novella and K A Perkins’s first book, Gabriella Berryngton had high hopes for a better life in another land, but aged only 14, she realises she must have been so naive.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Dead Reckoning (Valkyrie Series)

Slave Labour. It’s Not Just For The History Books.

by Tracy Cooper-Posey, guest blogger and author of Blood Knot

The United States’ Constitution, that guarantees certain civil liberties, fascinates me from an historical and outsider’s perspective.  In particular, the Constitution grants “freedom from slavery and forced labour”.

I imagine many people glide right over that statement, barely giving a thought to how powerful a shield it really is.  Canada has a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that includes freedom from slavery.  Many countries have similar documents that grant civil liberties and protections to their citizens, including freedom from slavery.

But slavery has been a key part of human history, and still exists in the world today, although it has gone underground and stays hidden.  Wikipedia estimates that there could still exist anywhere from twelve to twenty-seven million slaves in the world, even today.  Twenty-seven million.

Slavery has to be one of the worst conditions a human could be subjected to.  To have all your personal freedom and free will stripped from you and be told what to do and how to live your life, for the term of your natural life, with no chance of parole, escape or manumission, would be soul-destroying.  And for millions of humans throughout history, slavery was their life.  Many cultures’ economies were built upon slaves and slave labour, including the Romans’, Egyptians’, Byzantines’ and more.

Slaves were acquired when countries were conquered.  The people captured by the invading armies were often enslaved and sent to local slave markets for the money they could raise.  Waging war was an expensive business and selling slaves helped off-set costs.

Right up until the early medieval period, there were well traveled slave routes across Europe and the middle east that slave traders used to transport their slaves to the bigger population centres such as Constantinople, where they could get more money for their “stock”.

As Christianity grew more popular in the western world, especially amongst the slaves themselves (it was often called “the slaves’ religion”), the purchase and use of slaves began to slowly lose favour as the value of all human life was lifted in the eyes of man.  But a slave economy is hard to stamp out when it brings such easy wealth to so many.  It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that slavery was abolished in the United States — and it took a civil war to do it.  Slavery continued unchecked in the less settled corners of the world, and moved underground as authorities declared it illegal.

Technically, every country in the world has declared slavery illegal.  But the practice continues at alarming rates every year.  Slavery has existed throughout human history and still exists in one form or another on every continent in the world except Antarctica, despite our best efforts to stamp it out.

Because slavery was such a basic commodity throughout history, and because it is such a terrible thing for one human to do to another, it is a common theme in my novels where characters or settings dip back into history.  Nial, from Blood Knot, is one example, but I won’t spoil the story for you by explaining why.  Brody, from the Kiss Across Time series, is another.

After thirty-five novels with various publishers, under various pen names, and after nearly ten years with Ellora’s Cave primarily writing in romantic suspense and paranormal romance, I have finally taken a deep breath and self-published Blood Knot, an erotic urban fantasy romance (MMF, Contemporary, Vampires, Paranormal), and my 36th novel overall.  It was released on March 9, 2011 and is available at Amazon and Smashwords for $2.99 in all the common e-book formats, and will soon be available in print.

I’ve won a number of awards, including Australia’s Emma Darcy Award (the equivalent of the Golden Heart) and was most recently nominated for the CAPA’s Best Erotic Paranormal and Favourite Author categories.  You can find out more about me and my books here.

Winter, a professional thief who can manipulate others’ biologies by touch, accidentally “healed” her former partner—and former vampire—Sebastian, whom she secretly loves. Her healing created a symbiotic pairing between them that neither of them wants.

Nathanial, a sexy thousand-year-old vampire and Sebastian’s ex-lover, talks Sebastian and Winter into stealing evidence that will expose all vampires to the world. But Nathanial is a puppet-master who doesn’t believe in falling in love with humans, leaving Winter unsure of his real feelings for her once he seduces her, or how he feels about Sebastian, the former vampire-now-human whose life he has turned upside down once more.

But the evidence they steal is hot property.  The future of all vampires is on the line and others will stop at nothing to get it, leaving Sebastian, Winter and Nathanial with no allies but each other.  They must trust each other to survive.  Only…can they?

Buy: Blood Knot

An Excerpt From: BLOOD KNOT
Copyright © TRACY COOPER-POSEY, 2011
All Rights Reserved.

Winter knew she was in her own basement before she opened her eyes. The sting of the IV needle was unmistakable. So was the quiet hum of the big laboratory refrigerator and the generator in the insulated furnace room that ran it.

“You were going to tell me you haven’t seen Sebastian for eight months, weren’t you?” Nathanial said.

She opened her eyes and looked to the right, the direction his voice came from. Nathanial was resting on a bar stool, his long legs thrust out in front of him. One elbow rested on the bar itself, behind him. He’d removed the leather jacket. Beneath, he wore a royal blue sweater in some fine material, with a v-neck. Cashmere, she suspected.

In the better lighting available in the basement, she could see his features more clearly. Sebastian had spent the nearly two years they had worked together building up a fearsome picture in Winter’s mind of Nathanial and his ways—a manipulative, powerful, remote man who stopped at nothing to get what he wanted. The last time she had seen Sebastian, he had revealed the rest: that Nial was at least a thousand years old and had lived that long because he was a crafty, scheming and self-interested vampire who had grown detached from the human race.

What Sebastian had failed to add was that Nial—Nathanial—looked like a man in his mid- to late thirties and was stunningly attractive. Winter could feel the pull of his magnetism despite knowing what she did about him.

His eyes were the blue of a cloudless summer day and almost as dazzling as one. He had a square, determined chin, perhaps the only part of his anatomy that hinted at his true nature. The rest of him was utterly distracting. His shoulders were wide and well muscled, the hips taut and the legs long and just as well developed as the shoulders. He’d pushed the sweater up his arms to his elbows and the forearms flexed, showing the play of tendons and muscles and veins. His wrists were wide and his hands were big, which matched his height. Winter judged him to be about six foot four, by the way he stood over her.

Now he stood again and came over to where she lay in the extended La-Z-Boy. “How often do you have to feed, Winter?”

“None of your business.”

“It might be,” he replied. “I checked the rest of the fridge. Current health guidelines for maximum storage limits of blood in a laboratory refrigerator is either twenty-one days or forty-two days, depending on who you want to listen to. You don’t have a lot of Sebastian’s blood here. One feed left, if you use all of the bag I put on the pole.” He looked up at the IV pole next to her. “And you’ve just about drained it, so let’s assume that you use a half-pint per feeding. That means you have one feeding left in the fridge.”

“He’ll send me more,” Winter assured him. “He always does.”

“Really? When was the last time you received any?”

She bit her lip. “About six weeks ago,” she admitted.

“How often was he sending the blood before that?”

“Every three weeks.”

“Every twenty-one days, in other words. National blood storage standards.” Nathanial curled his hand into a fist and let it unroll again, then flexed the fingers. “It didn’t occur to you to contact him and ask him why he had stopped shipping his blood?”

An image flashed through her mind of speaking to Sebastian, and being in the same room with him, too fast to grasp and properly visualize it. Panic touched her.

Winter looked at Nathanial. “Sebastian is the last person on earth I can bear to speak to, even if I must. I thought of it, yes. That’s all I did.”

Nathanial eyes widened, but that was all the shock he showed. “You will not, even if not speaking to him will bring you to this?” he asked, waving his hand toward where she lay. “Blood fever and your eventual death?”

“Is that what will happen?” she asked dully. She shrugged.

Nathanial frowned. With a soft word in a language she did not know, he strode over to the small dining table in the far corner, picked up one of the chairs and placed it next to her La-Z-Boy. He sat on the edge of the seat and leaned close to her, his elbows on his knees, his hands gripped together between them.

“What happened to you? To both of you?” he demanded. “A year ago, Winter Kennedy, you were living in New York and considered to be one of the world’s best acrobats.”

Winter rolled her eyes. “Quit with the pretty euphemisms, Nathaniel. I’m a thief. You’re a con man. Or at least you used to be once.”

Nathanial nodded. “Very well. Plain speaking, if you insist. My question still stands. A year ago, you and Sebastian were considered to be the most effective team in the world, bar none. Now you tell me you haven’t see him for eight months. I know you both pulled off that Sumitomo Mitsui bank job in Singapore last June. That was eleven months ago. What has happened in between?”

Shocked slithered through her, cold and sobering. “What makes you think we did the Singapore contract?” she asked, making it sound casual. “That’s more along Pedro Salvomir’s line, big banks like that.”

“Twenty floors up, not a single guard hurt and no one can remember a damn thing?” Nathanial smiled, showing very white and even teeth. “That would be enough to brand the job as yours, even if Sebastian himself hadn’t told me you two had taken the contract.”

“He told you?” She had run out of the capacity to be shocked any further and could only stare at him. “He met with you?” Surely Sebastian would have mentioned an occasion so momentous as meeting the man who had left such a huge scar on his life and his soul?

Nathanial’s smile faded. “There is so much you have yet to learn, Winter Kennedy. Our kind don’t meet. Not if we can help it. It reduces risks.” He shook his head. A small movement. “He called me.”

She drew a shaky breath. “He called,” she repeated flatly. “And didn’t tell me.” She reached over to yank the fat needle out of the crook of her elbow. “Well, that fits the pattern. There’s bushels he didn’t tell me.”

Nathanial’s hand came down on her shoulder, halting her. “Secrecy is necessary for our survival, Winter. After a while it becomes psychologically ingrained. You’ll understand all too soon.”

She pulled her shoulder out of his grip. “I’m not one of you.”

He smiled. “No, you’re not.” He sat back again, his hands threaded together between his knees, and let her pull her IV out. “What happened after the bank job?” he said. “Or was it the bank job that went wrong?”

Winter flinched. She couldn’t help it. She let the needle drop so it clanged softly against the pole. The blood bag was empty.

“The bank job, then,” Nathanial concluded. “Tell me what happened.”

She shook her head. There was no way she was about to tell Nathanial that tale. Sebastian was bitter and still licking the wounds he wore from his time with Nial, so Winter knew that anything he’d ever told her about the man had to be filtered and adjusted through his biases, but even adjusting for Sebastian’s prejudices meant that Nathanial was a dangerous person to open up to. The habits of the con man had never left him and he stored people’s vulnerabilities and secrets like currency, to be produced at later dates for negotiation.

Nathanial gave a small hiss. “Sebastian is missing,” he snapped. “Have you not grasped that yet? I didn’t come here to pass the time of day with you.” He stood abruptly and took two slow steps away from her, as if he were controlling himself.

“Missing?” She pushed the lounger into the upright position. “How do you know he’s not off on some jaunt somewhere, brooding?”

He didn’t look back at her. “Your blood supply has stopped, hasn’t it?”

Winter bit her lip. Adrenaline was seeping back into her system and she corrected it again. Now was not the time to panic. This could be nothing. Sebastian hadn’t spoken to her for eight months. “He’s a grown man,” Winter said, addressing Nathanial’s back. “He’s…hell, I don’t know how old he is. He wouldn’t tell me. He’s been taking care of himself for quite a while.”

Nathanial turned, then. “He was supposed to meet me last week. He didn’t. Unlike human meetings, these meetings are sacrosanct in our world. You make them, or ensure a message is sent to let the other know you will not be there. You never just not show. Something is very wrong.” He pointed at her. “There is something wrong with you, too, Winter. You know that.”

She couldn’t hold his gaze. She found herself looking away, at her knees in their worn jeans.

“Yes, you agree with me,” he said softly. “Tell me what happened in Singapore. Then I might be able to begin to trace Sebastian…” He grimaced. “If it isn’t already too late.”

Buy: Blood Knot

GIVEAWAY: Tracy is giving a copy of Kiss Across Swords to a visitor so leave a comment! Ends: March 25, 2011.

Get into Bed with Cheryl Brooks (Author Interview)

authorinterview

Everybody say hi and welcome Cheryl Brooks, author of the Cat Star Chronicles, to Love Romance Passion. Grab a cup of something hot and let’s get down to business. Below is the interview:

Thank you so much Cheryl for sitting down to chat! How did you come up with the idea for the Cat Star Chronicles?

I’d been writing contemporary romances that utilized the boy-next-door theme and had also written a number of stories that were requested by friends, but my original intention when I began writing-about thirty years ago, now!-was to write a science fiction romance. Then I read an erotic sci-fi novel about a woman who had to pose as a slave to a dominant male, and because I’ve never been a fan of dominant alpha males, I thought it would be much more fun if the man was the slave instead of the woman! So I wrote a story about a tough, independent space trader named Jacinth in need of a man she can trust with her life to aid her in the quest to rescue her kidnapped sister. Toward that end she buys an alien slave, whom she dubs Cat, hoping to gain his loyalty by offering him freedom in exchange for his assistance. Part of the appeal of this hero was that, being a slave, he had nothing but his strength, intelligence, and sensual nature to offer a woman. It was my intention that he be the last of his kind, but to continue this as a series, I created a scenario where six Zetithian men were captured at the end of the war that destroyed their world and sold into slavery and each book in the series tells the story of how one of them found love.

Should readers start from the beginning of the series or do you feel that they can jump in any time?

I think any series works best by reading them in order, however, I’ve tried very hard to make each of my books able to stand alone, and, according to several reviews, I’ve succeeded.

author-photo1What is your favorite book so far in the series? How many in total will there be?

It’s difficult to choose because though all of my heroes are irresistible Zetithians, they all have very different personalities, as do my heroines. I let my imagination run wild in Slave, but Warrior was fun because most of the secondary characters were animals with whom the heroine could communicate telepathically-and they all had plenty of pithy comments to make about humans! In Rogue, my piano-teacher heroine had two stunning Zetithian brothers to choose from and some really fun aliens as the supporting characters. Outcast, being about a man who has lost all desire for women, is more of a tear-jerker than the others, and it is also the first to be written in third person which gave me a chance to get inside the hero’s head for a change, something that I enjoyed very much. I’ve had a blast writing the last two books, Fugitive and Hero, too, so I really can’t pick one favorite.

As it now stands, there will be six in the series, and possibly a seventh.

How did Sourcebooks first hear of your book?

I first heard of Sourcebooks when the Romance Writer’s Report listed them as a newly approved publisher. They were accepting both paranormal and erotic romances, so I submitted the manuscript for my erotic sci-fi novel, and promptly forgot about it until the editor called saying she wanted to read the rest of it. She loved it, but it was too short, so I added a few new scenes and the manuscript was then accepted.

What do you think is the biggest appeal of fantasy / sci-fi romance?

For me, the appeal is that it places few limits on my imagination, and I think that probably holds true for the readers, as well, because there are endless opportunities for surprises.

I know you’re a nurse; how does that work when it comes to writing on schedule? What is your writing routine?

I work three twelve-hour night shifts a week, which varies from week to week, so there is no schedule! I’m just like anyone else: I have free time, but what I do with it is write, rather than watch television. After Slave came out, I was encouraged to try to write four books a year-and this year, there are three-but found that I simply couldn’t do it and remain sane. As long as the nursing job is the one paying the bills, the books will have to be limited to two a year.

Most of my writing is done in the evening, with blogging and emails, etc, done during the day.

outcast-coverWhat was the hardest part of writing your series?

Remembering the small details about different alien species from book to book and just where in the galaxy each planet is located. I probably need to keep a notebook of characters and species and draw a map, but I haven’t done it yet, so I have to keep copies of my books close by!

In your own words, what is love?

A deep, emotional, enduring attachment that makes you consider that person’s wishes ahead of your own.

What is your favorite aspect of writing?

The creative outlet it provides. I’d go crazy without it!

What makes a great written bedroom scene?

One that makes you tingle all over and want to read it again and again! The specific components can vary, but if it doesn’t involve the heart and soul, it’s just sex.

How do you decide character names? Who’s your favorite male and female lead so far?

My male characters have all had a connection to the “cat” theme. There was Cat in Slave, Leo in Warrior, and Tychar in Rogue, which is an alteration of the word tiger. Outcast has Lynx, and Fugitive has Manx, which are both types of cats. Trag (Hero) is short for Tragonathon, which is a combination of a friend’s name and the words tiger and dragon.

My heroine’s names are sometimes suggested by their occupation or their personality, or it can just be a name I happen to like. For the more alien names, I experiment. Sometimes I’ll take a traditional human name and change the vowels. Other times I strike random letters on the keyboard and then go back and play around with it until it sounds right. I may change the spelling several times while I’m writing before I’m happy with it.

My favorite hero will always be Cat (Slave), because he was the one who started it all, and Bonnie (Outcast) is my favorite heroine because she had the patience and kindness to turn Lynx’s life around, which I’m not sure I could have done.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

I love hearing from readers!

My email address is: cheryl.brooks52@yahoo.com

Website: cherylbrooksonline.com

I also blog on Casablanca Authors, Wickedly Romantic, and Cheryl Brooks Erotic Blogspot.

Buy: Outcast (The Cat Star Chronicles, Book 4)