Every month, we review the hottest new romance releases in our Romance column. But why let the print books have all the fun? In Digital Dalliances, we highlight digital-only releases guaranteed to heat up your eReader.
Veiled Magic by Deborah Blake
InterMix• $4.99 • ISBN 9781101884843
Published Nov 17
Deborah Blake creates an intriguing world in which witches have "come out of the broom closet" and adds a dash of romance in Veiled Magic. Donata Santori is a witch and a cop, using her ability to commune with the dead to solve murders—a skill that gives her coworkers the creeps.
When Donata is called to the scene of an art heist gone wrong, the police are at a loss. The painting that cost two people their lives is a not particularly good landscape by a little-known 19th-century artist. Now Donata is tasked with discovering who set up the heist and why they wanted the painting. Her search draws her into the mysterious and dangerous world of the Pentacle Pentimentos, a set of paintings that could spell disaster for all paranormal kinds if they fall into the wrong hands.
Dealing with far more than she bargained for, she teams up with two unlikely paranormal allies and unexpectedly finds herself drawn to both of them—and they to her.
Most Witches had respectable jobs, like dowsers (who could save a company the cost of drilling exploratory holes for water or oil wells), or healers.
And then there were folks like Donata, who did the unpleasant jobs nobody else wanted. Her fellow cops acknowledged her usefulness but could never quite get comfortable with her, so she was relegated to the basement, where the depressing miasma that accompanied her work wouldn’t affect them.
Even the Chief mostly left her alone to do her job, summoning the ghosts of the recently murdered so they might bear witness against those who’d killed them. Not a pleasant occupation, to be sure, but one which Donata had taken on with enthusiasm and pride, pleased to be able to use her unique talents for the greater good.
Of course, that had been a long time ago, and after seven long years of dealing with misery, tragedy, and (more often) petty Human failings, she’d finally burned out enough to seriously consider quitting. Maybe find a job that wouldn’t make her family look down their collective patrician noses, nor get her rejected by both cops (who didn’t much like Witches) and Witches (who didn’t much like cops.)
But that was before last week.
Do you think you'll be picking up this romance novel for your eReader?
Yale-grad Jessica Tom makes her debut with the deliciously fun novel Food Whore, in which a young woman begins ghost writing for a New York Times restaurant critic who has lost his sense of taste. Our reviewer writes, "Tom nails the dog-eat-dog restaurant world, whipping up a remarkably entertaining debut." (Read the full review.)
We asked Tom to tell us about three books she's been reading lately.
Asian-American: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from the Philippines to Brooklyn by Dale Talde
Sage Living by Anne Sage
I’m slightly superstitious (when embarking on a long and often dispiriting journey like publishing a book, you desperately latch onto any positive signs from the universe). This book is like practical feng shui—how you can create a home environment that encourages creativity, calm, positivity (also things that writers desperately need). I work from home, so a photo here and a bouquet of flowers there makes a huge difference.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
I’ve had this book on my TBR list since it came out. Now that I’ve started, I’m hooked. Ng’s writing is haunting and sensual, with surprising turns of phrase that please me as a writer and reader (“loved-baby scent, “impale itself on the shadow”). Every page prickles with suspense. I’d love to write a literary mystery. That’s my favorite genre, neck-and-neck with food books.
Thanks, Jessica! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
(Author photo by Liz Clayman)
To celebrate the release of Passion Ignites, the seventh book in Donna Grant’s New York Times best-selling Dark Kings series, we'll be selecting two winners to receive a copy of Passion Ignites as well as the third book in the series, Burning Desire. Enter to win here. (Contest open until November 19.)
Grant is also sharing a song playlist she curated for the hero of Burning Desire, Kiril. Kiril is part of an ancient race of kings, sworn to protect the secrets of their dragon magic. On a quest to destroy a member of the evil Dark Fae, Kiril goes to Ireland, where he meets a beautiful, intriguing woman—who is the very Fae he came to kill. Can their burgeoning love survive the fact that they're sworn enemies?
Grant tells us about why this playlist is perfect for Kiril, saying, "Kiril's playlist suits him because it has the sensual, sexy vibes that surround him and Shara from the first glimpse he has of her. I particularly love 'Animals' by Maroon 5 because I think it screams Kiril and Shara perfectly. 'Latch' by Disclosure and Sam Smith I hear playing in my head at the beginning of the book when Kiril spots her on the street that first time. I dare you to read that particular part and not hear that song."
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Emeril Lagasse is a titan in the food world, and his new cookbook, Essential Emeril, is comprised of 130 his most beloved, enduring recipes from a lifetime of cooking. This recipe for Praline-Cayenne Bacon packs a flavorful punch—which is everything fans have come to expect from Emeril's dishes.
Wonderfully gooey and indulgent, this classic combination of sweet and salt makes it the perfect partner for cocktails, like the Aperol Spritz (page 64). You can also cut it into pieces and use it as a garnish for salads.
Nonstick cooking spray
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top of the baking sheet. Spray the rack thoroughly with nonstick spray.
2. In a small bowl, combine the butter, brown sugar and cayenne, using a fork to mash it all together until thoroughly blended and smooth.
3. Arrange the bacon slices on top of the wire rack in a single layer so the slices don’t overlap. Divde the butter-sugar mixture evenly among the slices of bacon (about 2 tablespoons per slice). With slightly damp hands, spread the mixture evenly over the slices, trying to cover as much of the bacon as possible with an even coating. Bake on the center rack of the oven until the bacon is crisp around the edges and the sugar mixture is caramelized and bubbly, 35 to 40 minutes.
4. Remove the pan from the oven and let the bacon cool slightly, then transfer the strips to a serving plate. Set aside until completely cool, about 20 minutes. (The bacon will continue to harden as it cools.) To serve, cut it into smaller lengths, if desired, and place on a serving plate in a single layer for guests to help themselves. This is best enjoyed the day it is made.
YIELD: 4 TO 6 APPETIZER SERVINGS
Fans of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series got exciting news this week: The BBC, that most trusted of literary adaptors, will be adapting the trilogy for television. They'll start with an eight-part series that will focus on the first book, Northern Lights—known as The Golden Compass in the U.S.—and hope to continue "for many episodes and seasons to come," according to co-producer (and former BBC executive) Jane Tranter, who also commented that "the broad horizons of television suggests itself as the best of vehicles to capture the expansiveness of the story and worlds of Lyra and Will." Pullman will serve as executive producer.
The series has already been adapted as a graphic novel and a stage play, as well as feature film, which premiered in 2007 to lackluster reviews in spite of an all-star cast that included Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. Rumor has it that Hollywood execs shied away from Pullman's darker themes, especially his controversial attitudes toward religion, resulting in a lack of resonance with audiences.
No word yet on casting, but we'll keep you posted. Any fantasy fans excited about this one?
Has anyone else noticed the flurry of fiction focused on the art world?
The industry reflex seems to be to credit The Goldfinch, but it certainly wasn't the first novel about art to make a splash—think Steve Martin's Object of Beauty, Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves, Susan Vreeland's The Forest Lover and, of course, Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring, to name just a few. Still, they've become increasingly common in the last few years, and we happen to be featuring two—The Improbability of Love by Hanna Rothschild and The Muralist by B.A. Shapiro—in our most recent issue.
Our eagle eyes have already spotted a few artistically minded releases coming down the pike for 2016. If you're on the lookout for a new page-turning, paint-spattered read, here are our top 3 contenders:
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith (FSG, April). In this twisty thriller from a Pushcart Prize nominee, a museum curator is confronted with her youthful forgery—a work thought to be the last surviving painting of a 17th-century Dutch artist.
Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss (Gallery, April). In her debut novel, Prentiss takes a more modern tack as she explores the NYC art scene in the 1980s through the eyes of an art critic whose synesthesia has made him one of the most original writers around and an exiled Argentinian artist fleeing the Dirty War.
The Muse by Jessie Burton (Ecco, July). The author of The Miniaturist returns with the story of a mysterious painting that connects a Carribbean immigrant and a bohemian artist across decades (the 1930s to the 1960s, to be exact).
There are seven ways to kill someone that aren’t detectable by law enforcement. But Clay Stafford, founder of Killer Nashville, won’t share what they are. “No one needs to know,” he says, and he’s probably right. He then points out that perhaps the swirl in his latte could suggest someone had slipped poison into it.
Potential murders aside, Killer Nashville celebrated its 10th anniversary this past weekend, attracting an estimated 500 attendees from around the world. Since its beginning in 2006, the goal of the four-day writers’ conference hasn’t changed: They want to help writers at whatever stage of their career, providing information about the writing process, connecting them with agents, publishers and reference resources, and so much more. Highlights of the conference include the Claymore Award, which honors an unpublished crime literature manuscript, and forensic seminars by law-enforcement officials.
In honor of Killer Nashville’s 10th year, Stafford has edited and published Cold-Blooded, an anthology of short stories by Killer Nashville alum, including favorites such as Jeffery Deaver and Anne Perry, as well as several first-timers. And the diversity of the conference is reflected in the anthology’s range of genres.
“This is a mystery and thriller conference,” Stafford says. “Either the world is about to explode, or someone’s about to poison someone else.” But elements of mysteries, suspense and thrillers make up any good story, he explains. Thematic limitations don’t represent Killer Nashville; he just wanted great stories. “We’ve got a wide open door here. . . . Probably 90 percent of everything we discuss applies to anyone who’s writing, no matter what their genre’s going to be.”
After the four-day conference comes to an end, Killer Nashville doesn’t stop, as 40 to 60 volunteers work all year long to help aspiring writers connect with each other, with accurate information, with publishers and with new readers. “Out of this year, I know there will be 40, 50 success stories,” Stafford says. “When people walk in this building on Thursday or Friday, they are going to walk out of here with dreams attached, and that is why I do it every single year.”
Last year, Killer Nashville donated $80,000 worth of books “to needy libraries, school systems, battered women’s facilities, places where these books can be utilized” and contributed to building a library in Malawi, Africa. As Stafford writes in the introduction to Cold-Blooded, “Writers and readers both champion against injustice, they right wrongs, they say eloquently the things that others dare not say, they change the world; collectively in my romantic mind, they are the true Round Table.”
South African author Sally Andrew makes her fiction debut with the first in a new crime series. It's a winning combination, an enjoyable mix of unforgettable characters and all the charm of the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency novels, but it also tackles very serious issues such as South African politics and the worldwide problem of abused women.
Middle-aged widow Tannie Maria loves to cook, and she loves writing her advice-and-recipe column for the Gazette. But her own painful past comes rushing to the surface when she receives a letter from an abused woman—and then the same woman turns up murdered.
I ran my fingers over the writing on the envelope. I could learn a lot about someone before I even opened their letter. The writer used capital letters and pushed too hard with the pen, as if their message was very important. The address was written in the Afrikaans way, with the number after the street name, Elandstraat, 7. The words of the letter were pressed onto a lined page with a black ballpoint pen:
TANNIE MARIA. I'M SCARED MY FRIEND'S HUSBAND IS GOING TO KILL HER. HE BROKE HER ARM. HE THINKS SHE'S LEAVING HIM AND HE SAID HE'LL KILL HER. SHE DOESN'T WANT TO CALL THE POLICE. SHE SAYS I MUSN'T GO TO HER HOUSE. IF I KILL HIM IN SELF-DEFENSE OF HER, FOR HOW LONG WILL I GO TO JAIL?
I put my head in my hands.
"Hey, Tannie, what's up?" asked Jessie.
I gave her the letter. She read it in three seconds.
"Gosh, you look peaked, Maria," said Hattie. "Can I make you a spot of tea?" I nodded. "What's the letter say?"
"It's another bastard dondering his wife," Jessie said, handing the letter to Hattie. "Threatened to kill her. Jislaaik. I wish there was a giant insecticide for these guys. DDT that we could spray from an airplane."
What are you reading today?
In Swedish author Asa Maria Bradley's debut paranormal romance, Viking Warrior Rising, a band of immortal Viking warriors is tasked with protecting the contemporary world from the Norse god Loki.
We asked Bradley to tell us about how the rich history of Sweden inspired her new series.
I was born and raised in the very south of Sweden, which was part of Denmark until 1658 and therefore has a complicated history. This may not seem like a big deal to someone who lives outside of Scandinavia. After all, people from Norway, Sweden and Denmark share genetics and have related languages. However, one of the weird effects of this Swedish takeover is that my dialect is so different from the Swedish you hear on the news that I have to enunciate and speak slowly for people from Stockholm.
This is just one of many little details of how history shapes modern life. Although I must admit that I wasn’t really aware of how present history was in my life while I lived in Sweden. My whole family still lives there, and I visit often, but I have lived in the United States since I came over as a high school exchange student. On some level, my teenage self was aware of the magnificent historical architecture that surrounded me back home, but it only served as backdrop to my teenage angst and drama. For example, I was too busy checking out the boy I had a crush on in my confirmation class to pay attention to the fact that I was taking my first communion in a cathedral built in the 11th century. And historical landmarks like the buried Viking ship at Ales Stenar (Ale’s Stones) were just a destination for yet another school trip. Yet on some level, I must have paid attention to those patient teachers dragging reluctant school children around the countryside.
I have always been fascinated by Norse mythology, even back in my teenage boy-crazy days, and maybe seeing Viking artifacts all around me is what made those stories so vivid and why my interest continued. I am now forever grateful for those fieldtrips and history lessons. Not only did they plant the seeds for my first published novel, but while writing Viking Warrior Rising and the subsequent books in the series, the landscape and traditions that shape my immortal Norse warriors appeared vividly in my mind. Thanks to those amazing teachers, my inspiration has a solid foundation and is fed by memories that a simple Internet search couldn’t replace. I have tactile memories of buried Viking ships outlined in rough grey stones. I have stood in the middle of Trelleborg and imagined what it was like as a rich settlement and vibrant trading place. I know what it feels like to trace my fingers along the chiseled grooves on a rune stone that tell tales of adventures and heroism, just like I try to do by putting words on a page many hundred years later.
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