Magical romance between two power thieves
They say time heals all wounds. Do not ask me who ‘they’ are, but this is probably true. The trouble, however, is what happens when the wound is fresh. Waiting for the cut to heal isn’t easy. Especially if the injury is a broken heart and you’re a 17-year-old and these feelings are new, wonderful, and terrible.
We’ve all been there, right? To add insult to injury, the memories from the love spell haven’t faded yet. Okay, maybe that’s the part where things get less normal.
But this is what happens in my latest paranormal romance Instalove.
In Avery Ward’s case, he’s a regular guy who happens to come from a long line of witches and warlocks who bring real magic into the world. He’s just learned magic might be the reason he’s totally crazy about soccer player and smartie Chris Reyes.
But knowing a spell is happening and being free from its effects are two different things. And he hasn’t really begun the healing process yet. This scene is Avery sitting in his family garden, trying to process the new revelations in his life while his mother checks on him.
Mom found me outside and sat with me on the bench next to the aster.
“The gardenias are coming in nicely,” she noted.
As a licensed therapist, she’s usually all about healthy communication and sharing feelings. I had zero desire to share, so I watched her for the trick but found none.
“Really, that’s all?” I asked.
“You don’t want to talk. You don’t want me to talk at you.” She shrugged. “What else is there to say?”
Huh. I relaxed as we enjoyed the relative quiet together.
This was my happy place. Okay, time to feel happy. Anytime now. Go. I looked around. The garden was a lovely place, but it depended on one’s current prerogative.
The nearby larkspur meant lightness, yet it also meant fickleness or haughtiness. And talk about fickle, there were carnations in the next row over, and they had about 93 meanings attached to them depending on the color.
The daffodils over Mom’s shoulder needed company. Several meant happiness and joy while a solitary flower meant misfortune. That was probably a metaphor.
“Sure you don’t want to talk?” she asked quietly.
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
As she rose to leave, Mom placed a hand on my shoulder. “The spell will be undone, and you’ll laugh about this someday.”
“But not today.” There was a fountain just to the right of center in the garden. When we were quiet, I thought I could hear it.
“Not today,” she agreed quietly.
The iris grew next to me on my right. I was afraid to look at it. Irises symbolize hope.
— the rest is available here.
For my review of That Feeling When, my immediate instinct is to fill in the rest. What comes after that feeling when… the feeling when you’re what? There’s a specific thing S.M. James has in mind, and while I don’t think telling you what that is would be especially spoiler-y, it feels like a jerky thing to do.
Until I saw that it’s literally in the blurb describing the book. As it says, ‘how do you go back to your average life once you’ve experienced That Feeling When … you’re finally happy?’ That feeling when you’re finally happy. There, it’s complete, I feel so much better.
Okay, without further ado, reviewing!
Quick Summary: Archie doesn’t want to be at a fancy summer camp for rich people, but he agreed to go if he didn’t get into the dance school he applied to. Famous actor Landon happens to be shooting a movie at the same place. Neither of them are looking for love, yet are drawn to each other.
Tropes and main elements: famous actor, blackmail, ballet, sexuality crisis, sweet romance, friends to lovers, developing relationship
Overall impression: This sweet novel is perfect for when you wanna escape into a love story. The book really captures all the feelings of falling head over heels and makes every moment Landon and Archie spend together feel special and intense, whether they’re rock-climbing, breaking an entering, or scuba diving.
Archie is the son of a media mogul who dishes dirt on celebrities. He’s trying to make it through the summer and doesn’t know what to do with his life if he’s not a dancer. His initial opinion on his sexuality seems to be, ‘god, not all male dancers are gay.’ Which, you know, is true, though this also doesn’t mean he’s straight. Growing up with money and the finer things in life, he’s not easily impressed with social status or people who throw around their social status. So when he stumbles upon a film shoot in progress, and Hollywood heartthrob Landon immediately bitches at him, he hates Landon on sight.
While Landon had an off day, he’s not who Archie assumes. By which I mean he’s a total sweetheart. I adore Landon, he’s everything good and perfect in the world. Seriously. Landon’s a sincere bi softie who loves his mother and is very cute when crushing on someone.
Despite his fame, Landon grew up with nothing, and to me is overall more relatable than Archie. Australian Landon is homesick, not used to being a star, and not totally on board with some of the changes he’s made to be a successful actor, like downplaying his aboriginal heritage and keeping his bisexuality secret. He doesn’t love acting so much as his hefty salary that helps provide for his large family back home.
Despite getting off on the wrong foot, this doesn’t feel like a story where the main characters start as enemies. Archie’s first impression, while understandable, is just so different than the reality. Landon’s subsequent apology and wholehearted efforts to make friends quickly make this clear, so Archie spends their initial encounters more confused about how to feel than anything else.
Can a relationship fit as a slow burn and insta-love at the same time? If possible, this book completely qualifies. Despite a tense start, their interest in each other is immediate and feels inevitable, though it takes a while for them to get to know each other and for everything to come together. I enjoyed the pace of their developing relationship. And since they’re already low key crushing, every new morsel of info learned becomes thrilling and every interaction causes them to fall a little deeper. It’s easy to get swept away in the romance with them.
While other stuff is going on, this book primarily focuses on the romance. So if you’re digging the romance, you’re good to go. If you’re more interested in the blackmail elements, or their personal character development, or anything else other than the romance, maybe skip this one or you probably won’t feel satisfied when you’re done with the book.
Both guys are facing some tough decisions, such as figuring out where their lives are headed. Plus, Archie has an impending sexuality crisis and there’s a blackmailer watching them and making demands. These issues come up now and then, though all feel secondary and take a backseat to the romance.
For example, Archie’s dad airs celebrity dirty laundry, and Landon’s a closeted celebrity. Hello, inherent drama! Yet there’s not as much as you might expect. By the time families arrive for the end of camp, it’s kinda hard to stop the relationship train or even slow it down.
While I don’t think there’s a problem telling a love story this way, the characters and their personal stories interested me enough that I’d have been happy with fleshing out the other plots more and diving deeper into character development.
On the blackmail front, I will give credit where due. I made a guess about the blackmailer fairly early and stuck to my guns about it. I ended up being wrong, so congrats, book! You surprised me.
This paragraph has some general spoilers for the end. The only thing that bugged me a bit was Archie’s attitude to his family. Despite his poor opinion of them, they seemed very loving and supportive. They took his coming out extremely well, though he seemed sorta underwhelmed about this. If he’d used the opportunity to get closer to them or there was more acknowledgement he’d gotten them wrong, it’d be fine. His dad was set up as a villain so much that it would have been a fun subversion of expectations, except Archie’s attitude read to me as, ‘well, that’s nice. Anyway, what’s Landon up to?’
Maybe I’m unfair for wishing he were a little more grateful. Should everyone accept LGBTQ+ sexualities without batting an eye or getting any credit for it? Yeah. Are we there yet? I don’t think so.
If I gave star ratings, I’d say four stars for this one. While not in love with the novel, I thoroughly enjoyed it all the way through.
Life in feline form meant a swishing tail, hunter’s instincts, ears that point, and a voice that mewls. Along with the parts that were More. He knew things. He sensed when Stella needed his assistance to power a spell, when the moon would be full, when the day required a protection charm and when it only needed an umbrella.
-Horatio, Black Cats and Bad Luck
I found a tool for authors to make graphics called Bookbrush, and I think I got a little carried away. So there are many graphics to share. Here’s a little snippet from the beginning of my contemporary fantasy novel Black Cats and Bad Luck.
In the novel, Horatio is a magical entity who went from animal form to human being without a pause in between, which rarely happens. No longer a feline familiar, he’s a human on a mission to be with his true love. He transitions pretty seamlessly into the human world, which is largely chalked up to magic. He’s also a cosmic traveler who has seen many things. I think some of his backstory is vast and unknowable, but there is part can be… known. It’s just touched on now, and there’s some more hints in their next book, though eventually the knowable pieces of his existence will be revealed.
So this quote comes from Horatio switching from a being intimately connected with magic and the inner workings of the universe to a human.
No more time to rest when he could do instead. He rose from the bed on two human legs. His form stood larger than before, yet almost entirely compressed into this place called flesh. The world no longer whispered its secrets into his ear.
Whatever came next, it wasn’t for him to sneak glimpses of anymore. The past, present, and future separated themselves into distinct sections. Time to experience life in a new way, second by second.
Whatever came next, it would be amazing. How could it not be? The world was full of wonder. Seconds ago, he used to be one thing. Now, he was another.—Black Cats and Bad Luck
In the world of Black Cats and Bad Luck where magic exists, familiars are especially mysterious. Obviously, they’re connected to magic. They take animal form, but they’re more than animals. Where they came from or what they are exactly is unknown. Witches can’t ask these animal companions since they take animal shapes and therefore don’t talk. And it isn’t as if they morph into humans and start living a new life. Not usually. Except in Horatio’s case.
Horatio isn’t interested in providing answers about familiars. He’s already bent some rules of the universe and isn’t keen on doing more damage.
Mason is a human who has dreamed of Horatio for years without knowing where to find him. When he’s checking on Horatio’s story, he talks to his best friend Miranda, who has some trouble processing the information she’s given.
“WHAT?” Miranda yelled despite being in a public lobby. “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?”
“Sorry,” she said to me, raising a hand towards the guy at the front desk too. “Sorry, I’ll use my indoor voice.” She turned to me with urgency as we made our way further into the hotel. “Horatio the familiar? The cat who works with Stella on her magic, he’s your Horatio?”
“So this doesn’t happen everyday, huh?” I tried to make it a joke, but the words felt strangled.
“Yeah, you could say that. Are you serious?” she hissed the words, quieter than yelling but with force. “Are you joking or are you being serious right now? Tell me the truth.”
“For real, I’m being serious.” At the elevators, I hit the button to call one.
“Okay, because it’s not wise to get into a prank war with a witch.” Heed my words or beware, her tone indicated.
“At least, it’s not wise to legitimately get one over on a witch in a prank war because that just makes the stakes higher for you.” She wiggled her fingers menacingly, perhaps threatening hexes or curses, if those were different things.
“Miranda, I’m not kidding.” Ding, an elevator arrived, and we stepped inside.
“Just checking.” She hit the button for our floor as she spoke. “Okay. Alright… no, one more time. Is this real?”
How the hell should I know? I tried to be patient. “I was hoping you would tell me.”
“Honestly, this does not happen often.” Oh god. “Or ever.” Oh god. “At least not that I’m aware of.” Oh god.
When Horatio and I went our separate ways, I immediately sought out Miranda so she could confirm his story. It wasn’t that I really thought he was lying. His story was just so incredible, it had trouble sinking in. I kept thinking it would eventually. Sink in. Not yet.
From all accounts, Miranda mastered the craft quickly. I wasn’t sure I’d ever seen her baffled by something witch-y. Great. This was just fucking great.
“Wait, is this impossible?” she asked rhetorically. “No, I don’t think so. It’s… wow. Him showing up is a trip in itself, but being a familiar? Wow. Just wow. Wo—”
“Sorry.” Shaking her head, she snapped out of it. “How are you?”
“I have no idea,” I answered with feeling.
“Yeah, that sounds right.”
The rest of the novel is available here.
Here are some of the books that caught my eye from giveaways this month. They’re all free. Should I say more? I’m not going to! I can be brief occasionally.
For my new novel and series, I put together some posts that are an introduction to the world and characters of Black Cats and Bad Luck. This paranormal romance is available for free. It’s a new adult gay romance about magic, familiars, dreams, and monsters.
One of the main characters is Horatio, a former familiar who is seeking his true love. You know how shapeshifters are a hot trend in fiction now? This is kind of like that, except it only works in one direction and only once. He spent some time in cat form, though he isn’t really a cat. Because when I try to write shapeshifters, apparently my brain cooperates to a point and then does its own thing.
In this scene, Horatio meets up with the young witch he lived and worked with, her older brother Avery, and his friend Jonah.
“Horatio is a cat.” I went over the facts, seeking comfort from them. “He eats from a black dish with little stars decorating the outside. He gets hair all over my pillows, he smacks me in the face with his tail. Because he’s a cat, our—”
“I hope you weren’t going to say pet,” he interrupted sternly.
“He’s right, Avery,” Stella said. Great, they were both glaring at me. “We don’t own him, we never did.”
Rubbing my face with both hands, I groaned. What the hell I did not even believe in? What the hell? All I could say was, “He’s not Horatio.”
“I am Horatio,” the guy argued.
“And you were lonely, so you followed us here?” And also grew human parts.
“No, you’re where I need to be, and I can sense you strongly. You’re my bridge between worlds.”
Not sure what to do with that, I only weakly said, “Horatio is a cat.”
“I was,” he agreed. “But no longer.”
Everyone had gone insane. I did not have enough sanity on my own to bring them all back to reality. So I did the only thing I could. I gave up, falling back on the bed, closing my eyes, and wishing the world a fond farewell. It would have to get along without me.
“Oh my god.” Jonah laughed. “Awesome! Are you serious?”
Distantly, a reasonable part of myself tried to mount a defense. It argued I shouldn’t allow a naked, possibly deranged guy to waltz in here just because he guessed the name of our cat.
If anyone else showed up out of nowhere buck-naked claiming to be a family pet, or a rough equivalent, they would be full of shit. But this guy? I believed him. While the shape of him changed, he was still Horatio.
— the rest is available here. For free!
YA authors are recommending other YA books in this BuzzFeed list of The Best YA Books To Gift This Holiday Season, According To YA Authors. Some of the queer books mentioned are The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake, Here the Whole Time by Vitor Martins, The Lost Coast by Amy Rose Capetta, and You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson.
‘All About Love’ is both accurate in a metaphorical sense and the name of this group right here. My favorite part of this promotion, aside from that all titles are LGBTQ+ romance, is that I know all the novels are LGBTQ+ romance, so I don’t have to try to figure out how many of them are queer by myself. Because the answer: they’re all queer! Hooray.
It looks like this group is mostly contemporary romance and supernatural romance. The promo runs until Sept. 19. And I’m not saying that the coffee shop gay romance I included in the group is actually also available for free, but I’m strongly alluding to the possibility. Or saying it outright after all because it’s free here.
Here are some of the titles that caught my eye.
This is also a coffee shop romance so that’s cool. And also means I have told you relevant information, so now I can go on to gush about how freaking cool this cover is. It’s good as hell. Even the tagline is good, and the cover is so pretty and so is the pretty boy on the cover.
Why not? This isn’t something I typically write about or rec. Curve-ball! I enjoy how the cover screams ‘classic bodice ripper.’
I mentioned this author in a newsletter recently. From what I know of the series, there’s multiple gay characters generally acting in terrible but dramatically interesting ways.
Hey, Jay Argent also writes young adult books like I do. This is one that’s on my list of books to read.