Book Review: Caught in Amber, by Cathy Pegau

Caught in AmberCaught in Amber by Cathy Pegau

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic sci-fi romance. One of my very favourites of all time.

Reformed drug addict Sasha is out of rehab and trying to get along on her own, and trying to stay clear of amber. After all, amber’s what got her in trouble in the first place: living the high life (pun intended) with top drug dealer Guy Christiansen. Trouble is, staying clear is easier said than done. Agent Nathan Sterling (briefly seen in Pegau’s previous work, Rulebreaker) needs Sasha’s help. In exchange for releasing her from parole, deactivating the chip in her neck, and even helping her get offworld, he needs her to get him into Christiansen’s circle to save his younger sister, now an amber addict.

From the first page, I was immediately captivated by Sasha, and stayed that way for the entire story. And from reading Rulebreaker, I’d been curious about Nathan Sterling, and for him to get his own book (so to speak), I could hardly wait to read.

Even if you’re not a big fan of sci-fi, you really should read Caught in Amber. Pegau’s world building is impressive, and I can promise you that you won’t be able to put this book down.

Quickie book recommendations #2

Today’s books are some of my more recent favourites.

The first, I snagged from Carina Press on its release day. It’s a fantastic romantic tale set in Antarctica, with an emotionally bruised heroine who is immensely relatable.

The second, I read awhile ago, but I remember hearing an interview with the author about her time in Highgate cemetery and I wished that I could do the same sort of immersion for all my stories.

The third, and unfortunately hard to find book, I received in a collection of a dozen pulp fiction (mostly crime/noir) novels. As you might guess, the mention of a torch singer caught my eye. And, as is appropriate for “Movember“, the first chapter begins with “Let me begin with the mustache. I shaved it off.”

The blurbs for the first two are taken from Carina Press and Amazon, respectively, while the third is from the cover copy of my battered pulp paperback.

Icebound, by Julie Rowe (Carina Press, 50K word novella)
Dr. Emilie Saunderson is driven to finish her late husband’s research. Her quest brings her to Antarctica, where she hopes to find a measure of peace in the isolated and icy wilderness. It’s the last place on earth she expects to be given a second chance at love.

Tom Wolinski loves his work at the bottom of the world. Damaged by his dark past, he has vowed never to get close to anyone—a promise that’s easy to keep in a place with no permanent residents. That is, until Emilie arrives, and he’s irresistibly drawn to her warmth and inner strength.

Emilie has no desire to get involved with another adventurer, and Tom has made it clear he’s not interested in putting down roots. But as they work together to survive in the harshest of climates, they turn to one another for comfort. Is the heat between them enough to melt the ice around their hearts, and bind them together forever?

Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger (Scribner, 406pgs)
Julia and Valentina Poole are twenty-year-old sisters with an intense attachment to each other. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. Their English aunt Elspeth Noblin has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions for this inheritance: that they live in the flat for a year before they sell it and that their parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the girls’ aunt Elspeth and their mother, Edie.

The girls move to Elspeth’s flat, which borders the vast Highgate Cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Stella Gibbons, and other luminaries are buried. Julia and Valentina become involved with their living neighbors: Martin, a composer of crossword puzzles who suffers from crippling OCD, and Robert, Elspeth’s elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. They also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including—perhaps—their aunt.

Too French and Too Deadly, by Henry Kane (Avon, 1955, out of print)
A tempting torch singer with flame-red hair – and a standing invitation to murder in her eyes – meets Peter Chambers…

And when fiction’s most eye-catching, hard-boiled private eye takes on the luscious lady, all he wants with her is privacy. Instead he finds himself in a sealed room with a dead man – and a uniquely puzzling case of homicial “suicide.”

Book Review: Muffled Drum, by Erastes

Muffled Drum, by Erastes. (website)

I haven’t read much gay fiction, but what little I’ve read so far I’ve been incredibly impressed by, and I know it’ll be a new favoured genre. First, I’ll be working my way through Erastes’ backlist!

Bohemia, 1866

They met in a port-side tavern, their lust-filled moments stolen from days of marching and madness. After eighteen months, Captain Rudolph von Ratzlaff and First Lieutenant Mathias Hofmann have decided to run away from everything they hold dear. Resigning their commissions is social suicide, but there’s no other choice. Someone will eventually see Rudolph’s partiality toward Mathias.

Now their plans have gone horribly awry… When Mathias goes to Rudolph’s tent after their last battle, his lover looks at him without a hint of recognition. Mathias can hardly believe the man he knew is gone. He wants to fill in so many of Rudolph’s missing memories, but the doctor says a shock could result in permanent damage. The pain of seeing Rudolph on a daily basis, when Rudolph doesn’t remember their love, is excruciating. Now Mathias must decide whether he wants to fight for the man he loves or forget him completely…

This 43K novella was a quick read for me, but that’s not due to length. I couldn’t put it down. It’s a romance, but hardly typical. Mathias is struggling with one of the worst emotional situations I could imagine: 2 years of love with Rudolph completely wiped away, with the added difficulty of homosexuality being very hush-hush, even dangerous. To make things worse, Rudolph takes up with a former lover once he’s back in Berlin.

All throughout the novella I wondered what the final outcome would be, an incredibly good sign, since a lot of romances are fairly predictable. Would Mathias and Rudolph come to terms? Would Rudolph regain his memory? (and no, I’m not going to answer these questions for you. You’ll have to read it for yourself.)

What I really loved about this novella was the setting and the time period. It’s historical, but it’s not England, it’s not Regency, and it’s set during a war. I’m heartened to see the increasing variety in historical romance. (I was reminded of Carrie Lofty’s Portrait of Seduction, set in Salzburg.) The historical detail is sufficient to give a strong picture of Bohemia at the time, without being overly fussy and distracting from the story. It’s the perfect balance.

Muffled Drum is published by Carina Press and is available wherever ebooks are sold.