What I’ve been reading: ‘In Red, With Pearls’ by Patricia Briggs

Oh, wow.  This is the eighth story in the ‘Shifting Shadows’ short story collection by Patricia Briggs.  And this, this is my favourite, by far.

5355256940_ea1fb8b053_oimage – Conejo Conejo https://www.flickr.com/photos/findingalice/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/, no changes

It was an unfair contest, really.  This is the first story to give Mercyverse characters Warren, and his human mate Kyle, starring roles.  Warren and Kyle.  I know for sure that they’re not just my favourites.  They are swoony, ladies.  And gentlemen.  Swoony.

And it’s not only that it features my special pets.  This story, compared to the others thus far, is perfectly structured, the harmony of incident and character sings out, it’s just so satisfying.  It gives you everything you need to work with, warning rumblings of the storm ahead.  And yet, they’re backgrounded sufficiently for the ending to be a kick in the teeth from a mule.

And the passion!  The naked emotion from manly reserved men!  (Well, manly reserved Warren.  Kyle doesn’t hold back his feelings, any more than a bustin’ dam with a hundred tons of water pent up behind it.  When Kyle is indignant or enamoured or just plain out for blood, then look out!)

Oh man, don’t mess with Warren – or his man!  I pity the sister who messes with Warren’s Mr!  (Or Kyle’s, for that matter.)

Dammit.  It’s just too good.  It’s a taste that only makes the reader hungry for more: for a full-length novel, with Warren and Kyle front and centre.  Come onSurely there must be plans in the works?  A novella, even?  A little prequel covering how they met and got together would be amazing!

Ms Briggs!  With all these wonderful LGBTQ characters, you have truly spoiled us!  And like any spoilt brat, all I can say is can we have MORE slashy Mercyverse stories, and soon!  (Can we have gay Bran?)  (Can we have any kind of romance for Bran?  Bran needs lovin’!  Urgently!)

There’s just something about a gay werewolf, folks.  Furry, muscular, wild and free under the moon…  And after this wonderful story, I’m just howlin’ for more.

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Wolf Slave 11 – Alex Ankarr

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Photo in the public domain by Jack Kurzenknabe

Complete ebook available for download FREE! at https://www.books2read.com/u/bOrRxQ

Wolf Slave 11 – Alex Ankarr

It seems enough, for Hotstaat says, ‘Then go choose a book, and come sit by me and read to me.’

‘What manner of book might you prefer, sir?’ Penn does ask, for it seems wisest not to annoy the man with ill-choices. But he gets an impatient gesture of the hand in reply, and so moves off to make a decision himself. Better not to annoy with ill-received questions, also.

Out of a library of thousands and tens of thousands of books, to make a choice for a first impression upon a new owner, for a first reading… Damn, it’s not going to be easy. The classics, Penn decides: and fiction, definitely. Out of all safe choices, it’s surely the safest. Dickens, Voltaire, Tolstoy… His eyes run over them as he walks down the stacks. Then his eye falls upon Jane Eyre, and he picks it up. Mostly because he’s right by the appropriate shelf, and he can’t afford to aggravate Hotstaat by keeping him waiting any longer. This is it, this is the one.

When he goes to sit down by Hotstaat – as invited, not as if he would take the liberty off his own bat – he begins to announce his choice of book, mention its history, and seek approval of his choice. Or at least he would, but even as he begins he gets another impatient shooing-at. ‘Just read,’ Hotstaat says, journal on his lap and staring at the fire.

So Penn just reads, and he just reads for a good long time. By the time he has come to the point of the French child, Adèle, and Rochester disclaiming parentage of her because, after all, she is not a werewolf, and if she were his child then she would most assuredly be wolf-born – well, he has almost forgotten that he has an audience.

He remembers, though, when Hotstaat interrupts the flow of his narration, turning his head and speaking to him abruptly. ‘Annoying child, simpering miss, isn’t she?’ he says to Penn. ‘One can hardly blame Rochester for wishing to disown her. Do you remember, Penn, when we were that age? I am sure we were never half such little moaners and complainers. You might have whined a little for attention when you were in a snit: but you did not continue excessively, and when you were comforted you paid heed and quieted yourself.’

And Penn is transfixed: so much so that he cannot clear his throat to speak, not even when Hotstaat abruptly rises from his seat, and exits the library with a smooth despatch that leaves him gaping. The reading is at an end, then, at least as far as this late afternoon is concerned.

That is what he thinks, left sitting there with a great gape on his face, and quite a number of thoughts chasing each other through his head. One is that Ree’s hair has darkened quite a lot, since they were kids together. Another is along the lines of well, well, so it is Ree after all. He is Ree. Another says, well, there’s a piece of my childhood gone. From beloved childhood friend to distant master, and isn’t that just the way it goes.

He remembers clutching a hold of his Ree’s neck, as they’d torn him away, the day he’d had to leave with his mother. He remembers wetness on Ree’s cheek, his lips clamped together, sturdily being a little wolf-man. Well, they’ve certainly come a long way from those days.

 

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2013  All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Read the sequel to Wolf Slave immediately, available on Amazon and free to read to members of Kindle Unlimited! Find out what’s next for Ree and Penn, and if love or freedom are in Penn’s future, in Wolf Runaway, 2nd in the Wolf Wars quintet!

Wolf Slave 10 – Alex Ankarr

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Photo in the public domain by Jack Kurzenknabe

Complete ebook available for download FREE! at https://www.books2read.com/u/bOrRxQ

Wolf Slave 10 – Alex Ankarr

It also occurs to Penn to linger over his previous wondering about his childhood playmate. The memories are dim and distant: to recall an exact impression of Ree, to his mind’s eye, is extraordinarily difficult. He wasn’t as dark as Hotstaat: had a soft childish lineament about the face, but that was only to be expected, of course. He was extraordinarily gentle of manner: comforted Penn when he fell and cried, shared his toys and games, split candy with him and sang to him to amuse him when Penn was sick.

It seems unlikely, in the highest degree, even based on this insubstantial beginnings of an acquaintance. So Penn dismisses it from his mind, and gets on with his work. As best he can, he disregards Hotstaat’s presence in the room, except of course to be exceedingly careful not to infringe upon house rules in any way that could call down disapproval and punishment upon his head. Not that he isn’t always alert to any such infringement: one can’t be careful enough, and there’s always someone to go tattling or catch one in a crime.

After twenty minutes or half an hour or so, he’s pretty much managed to get into a rhythm of work where he’s not too much disturbed by the presence of one of the master class in the library, his direct owner at that. But he can’t disregard that presence quite entirely: every so often Hotstaat will turn a page of his journal, or murmur the vaguest disapproving ‘tut’ at some article or other, or get up and pour himself more cordial. It’s a little distracting: but Penn perseveres. He’s encountered a lot worse than that, in his time.

So as his nerves settle and his mind wanders, his attention is eventually a good deal more upon his work than upon the unused presence at the other end of the long room. That only makes it the more startling when he’s spoken to, in an exceptionally quiet moment as he is sifting through a pile of papers and enjoying the ray of warm sunlight that shines over his face in a golden benison, dustmotes drifting through it. He jumps about a mile: then catches and calms himself.

‘Come over here, Penn,’ is what his master says to him, and the meaning, as well as the speech itself, is alarming as always. But Penn does as he is bid: because that is what a slave does.

When he stands by Hotstaat’s chair, the wolf-man does not look up at him, but continues to train his attention upon his journal for a moment, not remarking further. For a moment Penn half-thinks that perhaps he imagined the instruction, is hearing things, and is almost preparing himself to creep away again to the other end of the room in embarrassment, when Hotstaat puts down the journal, and looks up at him. Measuring, his gaze is, and hooded. There’s nothing Penn can gauge from it: and in any case he swiftly averts his eyes, the better to avoid any hint of direct challenge.

‘How is your reading voice, Penn?’ his master asks, and Penn relaxes, a little, at the question. A few owners have had him read to them, before now: could be worse, could be worse. It’s half a slave’s life, to be assessing every command and telling himself that, of course.

‘Some have adjudged it quite satisfactory, sir,’ Penn replies, with temperate modesty. Better not to go boasting: under-promise, over-deliver, that’s the thing.

 

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2013  All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Read the sequel to Wolf Slave immediately, available on Amazon and free to read to members of Kindle Unlimited! Find out what’s next for Ree and Penn, and if love or freedom are in Penn’s future, in Wolf Runaway, 2nd in the Wolf Wars quintet!

What I’ve been reading lately – Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs

 

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image – Conejo Conejo https://www.flickr.com/photos/findingalice/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/, no changes

Finished reading Roses In Winter, seventh story in the collection.  It features Asil, the dominant and very old Spanish werewolf who has sought refuge with the Marrok’s pack.  And Kara, a minor character from the Mercyverse – a young girl who has been bitten, but is having trouble successfully making the transition to werewolf.

TBH I find almost any story featuring Asil tiresomely melodramatic.  I can’t help it, he just rubs me the wrong way.  It’s all death, tragedy, and profoundly sophisticated and seductive – well, he obviously thinks so – Eurotrashy gestures with this geezer.  I imagine him with an accent like the English spies off ‘Allo ‘Allo – “Is it a bumb?  I teenk it eez a bumb!”

This is a story you might like, if you like that sort of thing.  The ending should have wrung the heart, but it only made me roll my eyes.

Without the prosaic you can’t have the profound, for the highs you need the lows and the boring sea-level humdrum.  Asil’s tales aim for a continuous high pitch of drama, and wind up just screeching at you like a fire-alarm.

Wolf Slave 9 – Alex Ankarr

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Photo in the public domain by Jack Kurzenknabe

Complete ebook available for download FREE! at https://www.books2read.com/u/bOrRxQ

Wolf Slave 9 – Alex Ankarr

Penn nods agreeably, eyes vaguely evading directly meeting his master’s, and moves off to another part of the library to rearrange the current periodicals. He doesn’t much fancy still struggling with the filing cabinet, right under Hotstaat’s eyes: it’s inhibiting, and there is plenty more that needs doing instead. Halfway, he expects Hotstaat to leave him to it: but no. Hotstaat takes up the latest copy of the local newspaper, and pours a glass of cordial from the decanter on the long table, then seats himself in the corner in one of the soft leather easy chairs, settling down to read. Penn has not noticed the decanter before now, a new development since he was last in here. It looks like an indication that Hotstaat intends to spend a good deal of time in the library – perhaps he normally does, when not on business – and mentally Penn curses the notion.

Working under the eye of one’s master: it’s a long way from the worst thing that could happen, but it isn’t altogether agreeable, either. The general idea, he finds, is to avoid notice as far as possible: to be as much invisible and inconspicuous as one can render oneself. Attracting notice rarely proves to be a good idea. It can lead to all sorts of things, as he has found: extra work, disapprobation, demotion in duties. Approval, new training, travel, favouritism and preferences that make one unpopular with one’s fellows. Attractions, amities that might have been friendship between equals. Sexual attentions, that might be welcome but generally is not, in his brief experience of such. Whether good or bad, none of these things are under the control of the lower-caste party, which is the main reason why it’s better to avoid them altogether, by means of avoiding notice altogether.

His eyes run over Hotstaat, over in the far corner, as discreetly as he can manage it: and two thoughts enter his head pretty much simultaneously. First off it occurs to him that perhaps it wouldn’t be altogether a hardship should the wolf decide to take some notice of him in that way. Better not, because one never knows what form of expression that attention may take, and his prior experience of it wasn’t pleasant. But if things should fall out that way, Hotstaat is at least youngish and attractive, not a greying bulldog-faced asshole with a stentorian roar and a brutal dick. It all depends on the approach: and though he hates the fact, he also knows that sexually, as in any other way, plenty of owners regard their slaves as property and fair game.

 

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2013  All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Read the sequel to Wolf Slave immediately, available on Amazon and free to read to members of Kindle Unlimited! Find out what’s next for Ree and Penn, and if love or freedom are in Penn’s future, in Wolf Runaway, 2nd in the Wolf Wars quintet!

What I’ve been reading – In Catcher’s Box Or Batter’s Box? by Gayle Keo

In Catcher's Box or Batter's Box?In Catcher’s Box or Batter’s Box? by Gayle Keo

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I might have rated this three stars, except that it really needs an intensive edit to fix persistent grammar issues, especially a problem with constant tense switching throughout the main story and the additional free stories in the edition I read. It’s a pity because the characters in the main story are engaging and have credible chemistry. I was a bit baffled by their early interactions, and had difficulty deducing their motivations sometimes from the information the reader was given, but their attraction was strong and clear enough to override that. I would quibble a bit that the story ends a bit abruptly, and reads more like an intro to a longer book. (Which the characters could probably justify.)

Out of the additional free stories, the one with the fairy threesome was cute with some interesting ideas. But really the standout besides the primary story was ‘Jasmine – Life Is Hip, Love Is A Gift’. The charismatic and determined heroine engages the attention and sympathy of the reader, and the credibly sympathetic beta hero is unusual and interesting. (Although given his stated personality and history, his level of sexual experience is a bit of a mystery.)

Overall the tense issue really does detract from the reading experience, and a professional edit might be justified.

View all my reviews

Wolf Slave 8 – Alex Ankarr

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Photo in the public domain by Jack Kurzenknabe

Complete ebook available for download FREE! at https://www.books2read.com/u/bOrRxQ

Wolf Slave 8 – Alex Ankarr

But he has self-preservation aplenty, if no true respect for the race of wolves, and he scrambles to his feet and drops his eyes with appropriate submissiveness. ‘Penn, Sir. Penn child of Margaret, late the property of Jay of the Parrin clan, prior to that-’

‘Enough,’ is the response he gets, with a dismissive wave, though every slave knows well enough to be ready with a recitation of his history of ownership, like a car with its own talking logbook. ‘You are assigned to library duties?’ he asks.

‘Amongst other things,’ Penn agrees. ‘Should it suit you, sir: but my skills are various, and I can account them for you if you think I might be better put to use elsewhere. I speak both Spanish and Catalan, good Italian and fair French, a little–.’

But he’s cut off again. How very tedious he must be, for his new owner seems to want to know little enough about him. (So this is his new owner, he thinks. As handsome as the rest of the pack, with lighter eyes than most of them: something between green and blue, where most of them have brown. Just the same dissatisfied expression, though: as if the world has not strived earnestly enough to meet his very high expectations.)

Penn half-expects to be dismissed, since his owner has so very little interest in him. He stands a moment, since it’s not a slave’s place to offer suggestions nor proffer questions, and folds his hands primly before him. But for a little moment Renally Hotstaat says nothing: just looks at him, from the advantage of a couple of inches extra height. ‘How are you liking it here? Your duties. And – the other staff.’ The last bit is searched about for, clearly enough.

And Penn chooses his words carefully: because you always do. Words can be life or death, for a slave. ‘I’ve been away, lent to the Herron household, sir. I’ve not spent long enough here to say, but I’m sure I’ll settle in well.’

And he hovers another moment, waiting for dismissal, as you do, because you can’t decide that an interaction is over on your own initiative. God forbid. Silence lingers: but finally Hotstaat says, ‘Well. You may be about your business, Penn.’

 

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2013  All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Read the sequel to Wolf Slave immediately, available on Amazon and free to read to members of Kindle Unlimited! Find out what’s next for Ree and Penn, and if love or freedom are in Penn’s future, in Wolf Runaway, 2nd in the Wolf Wars quintet!

it’s just a joke, bitch

wolf slave

Ehhh… you see… right…

It’s this Pam Grout ‘Art & Soul, Reloaded’ ongoing project I’m doing!  No, it’s not specifically a part of the tasks set on a weekly basis, but…  Well.  Daily creativity, right?  And I thought… the thing that I thought, was, ‘Well!  It’d totally be in the spirit of the challenge, to produce a new bookcover for one of my titles, on a daily or weekly basis, right?”

Now.  My talents are not in the visual realm, as is abundantly obvious.  That don’t hurt!  That’s in the spirit of the book, too.  Well, so what?  ‘I’ll just bang out a cover, never mind if it’s an eyesore, have fun, make something new, fantastic!’  

That’s what I thought.  So that’s what I did.  And I totally thought that a white circle on a black background, plus some minimalist lettering, would be hugely damn amusing.  A moon, right?  Satellites.  Wolves. Running with the pack, howling at the moon, all the clichés.  It would be sort of terrible.  But funny.  Humorously, good-naturedly in the spirit of the thing.  But…

Hey, I’m not saying it’s, er, Michelangelo or something.  (Or a renowned book-cover designer, names of whom I am clearly unfamiliar with.)  But…

Eh.  I sort of like it.

 

Wolf Slave 7 – Alex Ankarr

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Photo in the public domain by Jack Kurzenknabe

Complete ebook available for download FREE! at https://www.books2read.com/u/bOrRxQ

Wolf Slave 7 – Alex Ankarr

He arrives back to no ceremony either; he has most of his few possessions in two cases, and the rest is to be sent on. No-one has expected him, nor seems glad to see him, and he has no organised plan of work to occupy himself with. Still, he was bought to make himself useful, and being as it’s the middle of a bright afternoon and no feast day or holiday has been granted, he figures that he’d best show willing and find occupation or the seeming of it, whether there’s anything that clearly needs doing or not.

So he hies himself to the main library in the north wing: and finds that, after all, he can probably keep himself busy enough. For it’s clear enough that no re-organisation nor collation has been going on since he left: and indeed if no-one else gets formally assigned to the duties, it’s probably all on him to get the Hottensat family records into some kind of shape.

Well. No time like the present, he supposes.

He’s deep in a brown study, when the heavy oak door of the library creaks, and he’s too absorbed to take much heed. The Hotstaat family history is labyrinthine, and in many instances scandalous, and really very- He’s not alone, that’s what he suddenly realises, crouched down to some filing cabinets and looking for a family album that’s out of order, in a dusty moted corner. Someone stands over him, behind him, towering over.

He looks back, and knows at least that it’s a Hotstaat, though not one he’s seen before. There’s a strong family resemblance amongst the whole clan, and when a number are gathered together it’s like a loud-voiced handsome quarrel of ravens. For they’re all tan and black-haired and moody of feature, smooth good-looking surly wolves to a wolf-man.

‘You’re new,’ is the curt greeting he gets. ‘I am Renally Hotstaat: identify yourself, man.’ It’s not aggressive, and nothing like the dismissiveness he’s accustomed to from some of the slave-owning class. But still Penn feels about six inches high, and very much a product to be bought and sold: as much something to be classified and catalogued as any of the books and folios he’s been dealing with this afternoon, and for months past.

 

© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2013  All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Read the sequel to Wolf Slave immediately, available on Amazon and free to read to members of Kindle Unlimited! Find out what’s next for Ree and Penn, and if love or freedom are in Penn’s future, in Wolf Runaway, 2nd in the Wolf Wars quintet!

What I’m reading – Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs

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image – Conejo Conejo https://www.flickr.com/photos/findingalice/ licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/, no changes

Finished ‘Alpha and Omega’, the fifth story in the collection. This story is a preface to the series of the same name, and covers the meeting of Charles, the Marrok’s second son and enforcer, and Anna, an Omega from another pack. I don’t care for this series, or story, as much as the Mercyverse. I find Charles rather unconvincing and lacking in personality, and Anna too sugary-sweet and timid. No chemistry here.

By and large the supporting characters were paper-thin, too.  I probably hold Briggs to standards that are too high.  ‘Moon Called’ was such a perfectly realised little work of popular commercial art that it would be incredibly tough to write not one but two long-running series to the same unvarying standard of quality.  And considering what a cash-cow the books have become, why should she?  Good on her, really.