blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Devil’s Chew Toy – Rob Osler

Perfect for fans of T.J. Klune, Becky Albertalli, and David Levithan, this hilarious, big-hearted LGBTQ+ mystery follows an unlucky in love—and life—gay relationship blogger who teams up with a take-charge lesbian and a fiesty bull terrier to find a missing go-go boy and bring down an international crime ring.

When Hayden McCall’s new crush suddenly disappears, the twenty-something gay ginger relationship blogger and middle-school teacher teams up with a take charge butch lesbian, a gentle giant, and a feisty bull terrier to find the missing guy. 

Driven by a belief that the police won’t take the crime seriously, the improbable crime fighters prove that friendship — fueled by a lot of caffeine — has the power to bring down a diabolic international crime ring.

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Prior to Devil’s Chew Toy, Rob Osler’s short story, Analogue, which was published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, won the Mystery Writers of America Robert L Fish Award as part of the 2022 Annual Edgar Awards. Rob lives in California with his long-time partner and a tall gray cat. 

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Interview:

On writing:

How did you do research for your book?

As DEVIL’S CHEW TOY is a contemporary novel set in a city I’m extremely familiar with, there was not a heavy research task. Also, because the two main characters are VERY amateur sleuths, I could avoid needing to get a lot of police procedure right—though there is some police interaction. That said, it’s amazing how many little questions arise in every chapter that require a pause and some desk research. 

Which was the hardest character to write? The easiest?

The hardest character to write was Hollister—not that she was too challenging. I strove to be respectful of Hollister’s identity as a Black lesbian in America without going so deeply into her character that hers became a story that wasn’t mine to tell. 

The easiest character to write was Hayden McCall. Why? Because there’s a whole lot of me in him. We are both naturally shy and smaller of stature (though he’s shorter and slighter). I took Hayden on the type of adventure—with a bolder, stronger, and more courageous friend—that I would love to go on.

There are many cozy mysteries out there….What makes yours different?

My story features two extremely amateur sleuths, one mild-mannered gay ginger and one butch lesbian. I’ve heard from some reviewers and readers that while pairing a gay and a lesbian as the main protagonists is not unprecedented it is uncommon. Also, I intentionally wrote a story in which the queer characters are neither the villains nor the tragic victims. 

What advice would you give budding writers?

Understand that whatever amount of patience you have will be depleted and then some. Publishing moves in increments of months. It takes a long time—and a lot of collaborators—to bring a book to market.

Your book is set in Seattle. Have you ever been there?

I set the book in Seattle because it’s my “Spirit City.” I lived there for nearly twenty years and loved it. Given as much time as it takes to write a book, I wanted to return to Seattle and its neighborhoods and hills and waterways during the long writing process.

Do you have another profession besides writing?

I have been a marketing and branding strategist for many decades, both at agency/consultancies and at technology corporations. I think the general mind set of prioritizing activities that matter most has helped me with all aspects of writing and the navigating the publishing process.

How long have you been writing?

I actually started my professional career as advertising copywriter writing television commercials for Kellogg’s and Tropicana and Procter & Gamble. Fiction writing also uses words to communicate but that’s about the only commonality I’ve found! It’s the difference between landing one memorable message versus telling a compelling, captivating story over three hundred-plus pages. Trust me, a novel is way harder.

Do you ever get writer’s block? What helps you overcome it?

You know, I really never do. But then I’m not much of a procrastinator either—not that they’re the same thing. My biggest challenge is going off on a tangent with a character or a scene that needlessly complicates the story and “writes me into a corner.” I do a lot revisions.

What is your next project?

I have recently sold my second short story to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It features a fifty-something cross-dressing whacky amateur sleuth named Perry Winkle who solves a murder at his Palm Springs condo community.

What genre do you write and why?

I write traditional mysteries because that has been the genre I have always most loved to read. And I feature LGBTQ+ main characters because I am gay and we need more books—of all genres—that represent the great and glorious rainbow of humanity. 

What is the last great book you’ve read?

Two spring to mind. The first: THE SAVAGE KIND by John Copenhaver, who also happens to be a very nice human being. This novel—no surprise—won the Lambda Literary Award for best mystery this year. The second: DEAD LETTERS FROM PARADISE by Ann McMan is sheer delight. Both books are truly terrific.

What is a favorite compliment you have received on your writing?

“I can’t wait to read the next one!”

How are you similar to or different from your lead character?

Both Hayden and I are gay, mild-mannered, quiet, but good for an occasionally humorous one-liner. We both play tennis and enjoy big personalities. As Hayden says, “we balance each other out.”

If your book were made into a movie, who would star in the leading roles?

The characters are so distinct in my head, I can’t picture a known movie star playing either Hayden, Hollister or Burley. However, I can see Della Rupert, the oddball proprietress of Barkingham Palace, played superbly by Melissa McCarthy.

If your book were made into a movie, what songs would be on the soundtrack?

Stanley Kellogg’s “Falling Hard,” of course! This song, which was made up along with the new country star himself, reoccurs throughout the story. Fun fact! After the book was published, a good friend, Ben Davis, and I completed the lyrics and Ben wrote the music and produced the track. It’s on my website. Check it out!

What were the biggest rewards with writing your book?

Hearing from readers that they enjoyed it. 

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like?

Long.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring author?

Every time you are certain you’re done working on a book, know that you aren’t.

Which authors inspired you to write?

Agatha Christie and Armistead Maupin.

What is something you had to cut from your book that you wish you could have kept?

There’s a line that 91-year-old Jerry delivers in reply to Hayden’s question: “How did you get to be so wise old man?” Over the whistle of the kettle, Jerry replies, “I managed to live a long damn time.”  That “damn” was an Eff-bomb until the final edit. It was the only strong swear word in the book. By removing it the book avoided an R rating, if you will. But I still love the idea of Jerry saying the line with more gusto!

On rituals:

Do you snack while writing? Favorite snack?

No snacking. But I do try to drink plenty of water.

Where do you write?

I have a home office. I’ve never been able to do the coffee shop thing. I am too easily distracted.

Do you write every day?

Not every day. But I do write most days. 

What is your writing schedule?

I usually write in two- to three-hour spurts. In a mystery, context and pacing is so important I am not skilled enough to dipping in and out.

Is there a specific ritualistic thing you do during your writing time?

Nope. I just plop my butt down and starting tap, tap, tapping. I will say I find it very difficult to stop writing before I finish a chapter, even in the roughest draft form.

In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

No. But I do use notebook paper to scribble plot ideas before I write.

Fun stuff:

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

The seventies. The music was awesome. Though I’m still wary of bell bottom pants.

Favorite travel spot?

Switzerland.

Favorite dessert?

Raspberry rhubarb pie

If you were stuck on a deserted island, which 3 books would you want with you? 

The Mouse and the Motorcycle

Tales of the City

All the Light We Cannot See

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

I set off for Alaska to work on fish processing barge after my sophomore year at college. If fish were running, the shift was 16 hours, every day until all the fish were processed. I still don’t know why I did it, but I returned two more summers. 

Any hobbies? or Name a quirky thing you like to do.

I have been life-long tennis player and watcher. I can usually name the top twenty men players—and often in order!

If there is one thing you want readers to remember about you, what would it be?

Rob Osler writes traditional mysteries featuring LGBTQ+ main characters. 

What is something you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?

We are social creatures who need human interaction.

What TV series are you currently binge watching?

Inventing Anna by Shonda Rhimes on Netflix.

What is your theme song?

“Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits. 

What song is currently playing on a loop in your head?

“The Seaside” by The Lazy Eyes

What is something that made you laugh recently?

Jinx Monsoon’s roast performance on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Hi-lar-ious.

What is your go-to breakfast item?

Toast and yogurt with berries.

What is the oldest item of clothing you own?

I have a green argyle sweater I bought in Seattle thrift store about forty years ago.

Tell us about your longest friendship.

Twin girls, Kelly and Shelly. I grew up with them. We went to elementary, middle school, high school and then to the same out-of-state college! Just a few months back, I did a book event at the wonderful Boise bookshop Rediscovered Books. Guess who was in the front row?

Who was your childhood celebrity crush?

Willy Ames who played the role of Tommy on Eight is Enough.


My thoughts: this is a very funny book. I loved Hayden and Hollister, the world’s most ridiculous PIs, in their very recognisable car, hunting for their missing friend, ably assisted by the excellent Burley (who bakes, this book made me hungry!)

The characters are great fun, the plot completely bonkers at times and there’s an adorable dog in the mix too. It reminded me of How I Paid For College by Marc Acito (one of my favourite books) and several other highly entertaining capers I’ve read. I really want more of Hayden and Hollister solving crimes and getting in way too deep with things that are maybe best left to actual law enforcement.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Sister Agatha – Domhnall O’Donaghue

Sister Agatha is 118 years of age, whose vim and vigour would put the most robust athletes to shame. However, during a routine check-up, her doctor claims that she has just a week to live – inconvenient, seeing as the beloved sister once made an improbable vow: to be the oldest person in
the world. At last count, she was the fifth.
Never one to admit defeat, Sister Agatha concocts a bold Plan B. Using her final days, she intends on travelling the world to meet the only four people whose birthday cakes boast more candles than hers.
And then, one by one, she will kill them.

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Hailing from Navan in the royal county of Meath, Domhnall is a graduate of the Bachelor in Acting Studies Programme, Trinity College Dublin, later completing a Master’s in Screenwriting at Dún Laoghaire IADT.
He now works as an actor and a journalist, dividing his time between Galway, where he films TG4’s award-winning series, Ros na Rún, Dublin and Venice, where he and his Italian lover continuously promise their well-worn livers that they will refrain from quaffing so much Prosecco. (Unfortunately, it seems some vows, just like nearby Rome, were not built in a day.)
Wine-drinking aside, for more than four years, Domhnall has also enjoyed the responsibility of being Assistant Editor at Irish Tatler Man, a title whose various awards includes Consumer Magazine of the Year. Thanks to this role, he interviewed a host of high-profile names such as Tommy Hilfiger, Chris Pine, Kevin Spacey, David Gandy, and Jacques Villeneuve.
Domhnall has written for the majority of Ireland’s leading newspapers and magazines, including the Irish Independent, The Irish Times and RTE. He also writes a monthly column in Woman’s Way, the country’s biggest-selling weekly magazine.
His first novel, Sister Agatha: the World’s Oldest Serial Killer, was released in 2016 to critical acclaim (Tirgearr Publishing). His second and third books, Colin and the Concubine and Crazy for You were
published by Mercier Press, Ireland’s oldest publishing house.

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My thoughts: this is a very funny book about a very determined 118 year old nun, who despite her vows and religious belief is about to break a commandment and commit several murders – so she can die safe in the knowledge that she was the oldest living person. But along the way various things happen and her adventures touch the lives of others – for good or bad. She also gets quite lucky at times and the sisters back home in the convent have no idea what she’s up to. There’s some very silly moments, like hiding in a big crate of apples in Warsaw, or hijacking a camel ride in Morocco, but Sister Agatha is going to get her name in the history books, one way or another!

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: The Spy Who Inspired Me – Stephen Clarke

For legal reasons, The Spy Who Inspired Me does not mention J-mes B-nd. Which is a shame, because it is a
comedy based on the idea that I-n Fl-ming’s famously macho spy might
have been inspired by a woman…
It is April 1944, and chic armchair naval officer Ian Lemming (sic) is accidentally beached in Nazi-occupied Normandy. With no access to a razor or clean underwear, and deprived of his cigarettes, Lemming just wants to go home. But he is stranded with a young, though hugely experienced, female agent called Margaux Lynd, who is on a perilous mission to unmask traitors in a French Resistance network.
So, as she bullies him across France, Lemming receives a painful crash course in spy craft, and starts to fantasize about a fictional agent – male of course – who would operate only in the most luxurious conditions, and lord it over totally subservient women. A world-famous spy is born …
Stephen Clarke said: ‘In World War Two there really were female undercover agents who were ten times tougher and braver than Ian Fleming. I thought it would be great fun to send him (or rather, someone very like him) on a dangerous mission with one of these women who would show him what real spies got up to.’
Stephen Clarke has combined his knowledge of French history with a fondness for Ian Fleming’s novels (despite their old-school machismo) to create The Spy Who Inspired Me, set in the complex background of real Occupied France.

STEPHEN CLARKE is the bestselling author of the Merde series of comedy novels (A Year in the Merde, Merde
Actually, Dial M for Merde et al) which have been translated into more than 20 languages and sold more than
a million copies worldwide. Stephen Clarke has also written several serious-yet-humorous books on Anglo-French history, such as 1000 Years of Annoying the French (a UK
number-one bestseller in both hardback and paperback), How the French Won Waterloo (or Think They Did), and The French Revolution & What Went Wrong. He lives in Paris.
For more information about Stephen Clarke please visit: Website
Follow Stephen on Twitter

My thoughts: this was a very funny, highly entertaining book and I loved how smart, resourceful and sarcastic Margaux was, not a woman any man could flirt into bed. She’s utterly ruthless when she has to be and ten times the spy a certain 007 claims to be. She’s definitely not going to talk, and won’t even tell her unwanted companion the real mission she’s on.

Lemming is a bit less useful, a military man with a nice desk job in London, the son of a former MP who has led a very nice life in the inter war years, all cocktails and tail coats, and is not exactly prepared for sneaking around behind enemy lines and avoiding Nazis. He gets completely thrown by Margaux’s brilliance and wishes for a different kind of woman, the fantasy kind who doesn’t laugh at him and efficiently murder people.

I went through a phase when I was about 11 or 12 where I watched all the Bond films from the beginning and got quite fascinated by the world they portrayed, a mostly made up one to be quite fair, of sophisticated men in dinner suits and woman who all appeared to have knee issues that meant they went all wobbly when a man in a tux appeared. I understood it was all a lot of nonsense and completely ridiculous. I knew there were women who worked as spies and resistance in conflicts all over the world. A man in a nice suit stands out, a woman, well she might catch the eye but you’d be less likely to suspect her. Besides James B needs to retire, he’s been doing his thing for so long, it’s time to collect his pension. Time for Margaux’s spiritual granddaughters to handle business instead.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Glass Coffin – Gabby Hutchinson Crouch*

The tyrannous Huntsmen have declared everyone in one village to be outlaws, since they insist on supporting the magical beings of neighbouring Darkwood. Why won’t they accept that magic is an abomination?

Far from being abominable, the residents of Darkwood are actually very nice when you get to know them, even Snow the White Knight, who can get a bit tetchy when people remind her she’s a Princess.

In order to stop the Huntsmen from wiping out all magical beings, Snow and her friends have to venture into the Badlands of Ashtrie, and seek the support of the Glass Witch – but she has plans of her own, and let’s just say they’re not good ones.

Gabby Hutchinson Crouch (Horrible Histories, Newzoids, The News Quiz, The Now Show) has a background in satire, and with the global political climate as it is, believes that now is an important time to explore themes of authoritarianism and intolerance in comedy and fiction. Born in Pontypool in Wales, and raised in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, Gabby now lives in Canterbury.

My thoughts: this series is hilarious, mashing up many fairy tales and characters and making new and highly entertaining stories. This volume finds our heroes – Snow the White Knight (do not call her Your Majesty), Gretel, Hansel, Daisy, Trevor, Buttercup and new friends finally take the fight to the Huntsmen (and women) at the Citadel. But first they need to try and convince the Glass Witch to join them, stage a dramatic rescue or two and feed the hungry.

The entire thing is utterly ridiculous and laugh out loud funny, with Buttercup still turning everything into baked goods, Snow’s dwarves still haven’t learnt a new word since “yummy”, and Trevor might just get to do some cool spy stuff.

I’m a big fan of fairy tale retellings, a bit nerdy about them to be honest, but these are such joyous books, definitely read the previous two, Darkwood and Such Big Teeth, so you meet all the characters and learn the entire story first before venturing into Glass Coffin. You won’t regret it.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Love and Miss Harris – Peter Maughan*

Titus Llewellyn-Gwlynne, actor/manager of the Red Lion Theatre, has lost a backer who was going to fund a theatrical tour – when unexpected salvation appears. Their home theatre in the East End of London having been bombed during the war, The Red Lion Touring Company embarks on a tour of Britain to take a play written by their new benefactress into the provinces.

This charming series transports the reader to a lost post-war world of touring rep theatre and once-grand people who have fallen on harder times, smoggy streets, and shared bonhomie over a steaming kettle. The mood is whimsical, wistful, nostalgic, yet with danger and farce along the way.

Peter Maughan’s early career covered many trades, working on building sites, in wholesale markets, on fairground rides and in a circus. He studied at the Actor’s Workshop in London, and worked as an actor in the UK and Ireland, subsequently founding a fringe theatre in Barnes, London. He is married and lives currently in Wales.

My thoughts: this was a lot of fun, with the rag tag cast of the new play, Love and Miss Harris, hitting the road for a tour of the home counties and the seaside. Unknown to them a murderous gangster is in hot pursuit, trailing them through numerous small towns and B and Bs.

Titus thinks he’s living in a Shakespearean epic, Dolly’s reliving the glory days of the music hall, Jack’s getting all the girls and they’re accompanied by the play’s writer and her outsize hound.

Funny, charming and highly enjoyable, I’m glad there’s at least one more book about the Red Lion troupe to come.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman

I was gifted a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley with no requirement to review.

Four septuagenarians with a few tricks up their sleeves
A female cop with her first big case
A brutal murder
Welcome to…
THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case.

As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

My thoughts:

This book was brilliant. Funny, smart, intriguing (insert superlatives here). I thought it was just excellent basically.
The plotting was clever, the characters very enjoyable, all the little side narratives added and not subtracted from the main plot, building a more complete world.
My husband more than once looked at me like I’d gone nuts, that’s how much I was laughing.

I really hope this is the start of a series with the Thursday Murder Club solving as many crimes as possible.

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Book Review: Plan for the Worst – Jodi Taylor

I would have trusted this man with my life. Until a couple of days ago, anyway.

You know what they say – hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

Max is quite accustomed to everything going wrong. She’s St Mary’s, after all. Disaster is her default state. But with her family reunited and a jump to Bronze Age Crete in the works, life is getting back to normal. Well, normal for St Mary’s.

And then, following one fateful night at the Tower of London, everything Max thought she knew comes crashing down around her.

Too late for plans. The worst has happened. And who can Max trust now?

My thoughts:

The Chronicles of St Mary’s are some of my absolute favourite books, hilarious, ridiculous, thrilling fun.

I am so pleased that another one has been published because they cheer me up no end.

In this, book 11, Max and co are off to Crete, to witness the end of the Minoan culture, get chased by bulls and then several natural disasters, of course.

There’s the general mayhem that ensues whenever the History Department is involved, a few scrapes with the Time Police and an old foe or two, plus Max in the Tower of London, but thankfully not under arrest.

Laughed out loud several times, to the horror of my husband, in my defence he’s normally at work, but that’s lockdown life for you!

I was super kindly sent a copy by the publishers, but all opinions remain, as always, my own.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Bad Mother’s Christmas – Suzy K Quinn

Juliette and Alex are finally getting hitched, which should be joyous news. But Juliette is now entering `blended family’ territory: Alex will be Daisy’s stepfather – and Daisy’s real father is not happy about it. Yes, after messing up Juliette’s family the first time round, Nick is still trying to elbow his way back into her life, doing everything he can to stop her being with Alex. And Alex’s family are hardly rolling out the red carpet. To them, their new daughter-in-law is a slattern with a Jaffa Cake addiction. But Christmas is the thing that will bring them all together. And Juliette is determined that this Christmas will be a wonderfully happy family affair. Determined. Now where did she put that Jaffa Cake? The fourth in Suzy K Quinn’s bestselling Bad Mother series is a sparkly, shiny Christmas romantic comedy for mothers, and the perfect Yuletide treat.

My thoughts:

This is laugh out loud hilarious, I haven’t read the previous books in this series, and to be honest I don’t think it’s essential to do so. I was kindly gifted this book to read and review, but I think I would have picked it up anyway as it’s so entertaining.

The book feels like one of those sitcoms you find on Netflix that just cracks you up every time you watch an episode. I had to try really hard not to wake my husband while I was reading this in bed, purely as it was cracking me up so much.

There are some more touching, sad parts too, balancing the plot quite nicely. The supporting characters are well developed, even though it’s written as a diary, and you see everyone through Juliette’s lens. Her family in particular are great fun, and I would love a book just about them all running their pub.

If you’re looking for a light-hearted, entertaining read for the holiday season, this one is fantastic – just make sure you put your mug down first so you don’t spill while laughing!!

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Bloodlust & Bonnets – Emily McGovern*

Georgette Heyer meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this smart, funny graphic novel by Emily McGovern, the award-winning author of My Life as a Background Slytherin.

The year is 1820, and bored young debutante Lucy knows there must be more to life than embroidery and engagements – no matter how eligible the bachelor might be. Some bachelors, she has discovered, are less ‘eligible’ than they are ‘bloodthirsty,’ however… literally.

It turns out that there are a lot of vampires in late-Regency England, and Lucy has an eye for spotting them and the desire to rid the world of them. It’s not long before Lady Violet Travesty, leader of a mysterious vampire cult, spots Lucy’s talents and offers her a place amongst her vampire acolytes.

Unfortunately, Lady Violent is most horribly slain by the famous Lord Byron before Lucy can accept. Lucy instead joins Lord Byron and his enormous, psychic eagle Napoleon in their ongoing fight against evils such as bloodsucking ghouls and bad taste.

Before long they’re joined by the mysterious Sham, an androgynous bounty hunter, who catches Lucy’s eye. The trio lie, flirt, fight and manipulate each other as they make their way across Britain, disrupting society balls, slaying vampires, and making every effort not to betray their feelings to each other as their personal and romantic lives become increasingly entangled.

A balm for the soul for readers who love Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, novels by Eloisa James and Jane Austen, and the action and adventure of Xena, Warrior Princess, Bloodlust & Bonnets is the most modern action-heavy love-story set two hundred years ago that you’ll read this year.

Emily was born in the UK but grew up in Brussels, where she attended the European School of Brussels II. After graduating, she began a Foundation Art Diploma course at London College of Fashion. She studiously avoided any fashion, and instead spent her time making hand-drawn animations and weird paintings of witches.

She began a BA degree in Russian Studies at University College London and spent a year in Russia working in a rural commune, where she ran a weekly art “gathering” for the kids. The year abroad allowed her to go to many Russian art galleries, which were a revelation to her – artists such as Vereshchagin and Vasnetsov she found influenced her greatly.

She graduated with First Class Honours and by 2016 was building a comic driven social media platform based around the regular posting of her ‘My Life As A Background Slytherin’ comic. Bloodlust & Bonnets is her first graphic novel.

From the author’s website

My thoughts:

This is hilarious, brilliant and just this side of utterly ridiculous. Lord Byron, in possibly his most sympathetic role ever, is a complete buffoon and the vampires are fairly hopeless. Napoleon the psychic eagle is the best character – trust me.

Even my grumpy husband loved it.

*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in this blog tour but all opinions remain my own.