The Multiple-Choice Book Review

Amazon.com have added a system of drop-down menus for reviewers to use. This will be very handy for all those people who have read a book and gone to Amazon with the express intention of leaving a review, only to find themselves unable to think of any words.

There’s a summary here along with a useful graphic of the various menus:

amazonI’m pretty sure it could use a few more options. (You know, like how there may be other metrics to judge plot than ‘surprise!’, and how we distinguish that simple topic ‘writing’ in a slightly more nuanced way than okay vs good.) So, all-round helpful person that I am, I’ve come up with a few other drop-down menus Amazon could add, in order to bring us all to a real, close, yet fully multiple-choice understanding of every book ever written. I think this should cover it nicely.

What did this book make you feel?

  • Joy
  • Mild to severe discomfort
  • Wistful yearning
  • Sexual desire for a billionaire
  • Seething hatred of one or more characters / the author
  • Anomie
  • Weltzschmertz

Why do you think the author wrote this book?

  • To bring joy to humanity
  • Over-confidence
  • Couldn’t afford therapy
  • Demonic possession

Does this book include krakens?

  • No cephalopods, sea monsters or Lovecraftian beasts whatsoever
  • Some tentacular activity
  • HORROR IN THE DEEP

If this book was an animal what would it be?

  • Cute puppy
  • Fluffy kitten
  • Dragonfly, fragile yet iridescent in its beauty
  • Filthy lumbering hog
  • Kraken

What is this book worth to you?

  • Toenail clippings (discarded)
  • 1-3 hours of my time
  • Firstborn child
  • Later-born but secretly preferred child

How will the author respond to a bad review, in your opinion?

  • Obliviousness
  • Unconvincing gratitude
  • Flounce
  • Social media meltdown (two or more platforms)

What book should the author have written instead?

  • Her last one, over and over again, forever
  • This one, but with a different hero and maybe a different plot
  • One with pictures of cats
  • A much shorter one

What is your favourite colour? [This question is compulsory.]

  • Puce
  • Taupe
  • Madder
  • Gamboge

I look forward to seeing these enhancements to the multiple-choice reviewing experience, and welcome further suggestions in the comments.

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KJ Charles is

  • a freelance editor
  • a romance author
  • inclined to sarcasm
  • going on holiday

 I’ll be back in mid April, see you then-ish. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. And feel free to swoon at the cover for A Fashionable Indulgence! (Loveswept, August, since you ask.)Fashionable Indulgence_03_04_15

Terry Pratchett and common humanity

Terry Pratchett, dead at 66, was a humanist, in the best and widest sense. It is impossible to read him without getting a sense of his huge compassion, a deep understanding and acceptance of people in all their flaws, petty and huge. I think it may be this that made his passing a source of active grief to so many. People wept. I wept. I sat on the bed with Reaper Man, and read the scene where Death begs a little more time for Miss Flitwick, and cried big, snotty, ugly tears, because I didn’t want him to be gone. (Or, more specifically, because I wanted him not to have had Alzheimer’s, not to have had his mind taken from him so cruelly early, to be alive and well.)

‘Compassion’ is one of those words. Terry Pratchett was not a twinkly jolly kindly uncle, nor was he a flaccid liberal. The body count in his books is high. There is retribution. Death comes with a sword as well as a scythe. It’s fantasy, and the heroes kill monsters, but the monsters are not dragons and trolls; they are us. He loathed the idea of meaningless forgiveness and the ‘can’t we all just get along?’ school of argument. Hogfather, his great attack on shallow sentimentality (“Real children do not go hoppity skip unless they are on drugs”), skewers this perfectly, with its well-meaning department store display of Dolls of All Nations playing the song ‘Wouldn’t It Be Nice If Everyone Was Nice’.

Pratchett’s compassion was not sentimental: it was fierce, and angry, and uncompromising. But it was still compassion, and not the ‘compassion’ offered by some religions which entails torturing people for their own good. (Small Gods is a roar of rage against that.) He offered a clear-sighted look at humanity, and an intense belief in our capacity for good as well as evil. This line from Reaper Man says everything. (Death speaks in capitals, incidentally, and without quotation marks.)

THERE IS NO HOPE BUT US. THERE IS NO MERCY BUT US. THERE IS NO JUSTICE. THERE IS JUST US.

That is humanism: accepting the moral responsibility for ourselves because there’s nobody else to give it to us, and knowing that if we don’t take that responsibility, if we don’t provide the hope and mercy, and the justice as well, our night will be long and dark indeed.

I believe in freedom. Not many people do, although they will of course protest otherwise. And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based.

(Going Postal)

I grew up reading Pratchett, from his early fantasy parodies, watching him mature into not just a deeply wise thinker, but a superb stylist. As a genre writer, I am prickly about the dismissiveness with which genre is treated, the relentless belittling of I don’t read that stuff and Why would you write that rubbish. Pratchett is one of the great writers who show precisely what genre can do, that it can be as well written and say as much as any kind of writing. It took a very long time for him to get critical as well as popular recognition for his skill, in part because he wrote not just fantasy but comic fantasy, of all the low-status things. (Some people apparently don’t understand that any half-arser can throw in terrible human suffering to give their book Deep Meaning, whereas it’s actually hard to write a good joke.)

He used his world of swords and sorcery, silly names and funny gods, to say so much, as well as so cleverly. He filled his books with so many good jokes that you’re still spotting new ones on the tenth reading. (There are two rival clans in his fantasy city, the Selachii and the Venturi. Look up selachii. Know that ‘venturi’ is an air flow, or jet. Kick yourself.) At his best he wrote with magnificent wit and precision, with his narrative description as compelling as his action scenes. He was passionately committed to the value of laughter and the value of imagination.

HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

(Hogfather)

We have lost a great man and a great writer. Yesterday his legacy was visible: so many people exchanging quotes, naming favourite books, glorying in his work. Tomorrow I hope his legacy will be every genre writer writing with pride, as well as she possibly can, and every one of the millions who read his books remembering what he had to say about imagination, and laughter, and compassion. And, most of all, about facing up to our duties to one another, not just to ourselves.

As it happens, this week in romance was distinguished by some fairly crappy stuff. An article in the official publication of Romance Writers of America recommended that authors could avoid losing sales by remaining ‘neutral’ on ‘polarising’ subjects such as equal rights for LGBT people and racist police brutality. (Not in those words, needless to say. Summary here.) This was along with a particularly disgusting business of authors making 50 Shades jokes about the rape of a 14-year-old black slave, and a flurry of defence in which people literally tried to explain away the problems inherent in turning the actual life of an enslaved woman into either a romance or a BSDM fantasy, for God’s sake, what the hell is wrong with you?

Well, Terry Pratchett knew what the hell was wrong with you, and here it is, in a comic fantasy about vampires, during a conversation between people with silly names.

” […] sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”

“It’s a lot more complicated than that–”

“No it ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”

“Oh, I’m sure there are worse crimes–”

“But they starts with thinking about people as things.”

(Carpe Jugulum)

Rest in peace, Terry Pratchett. I leave you with a quote from Sourcery that means everything to me, as romance author:

“And what would humans be without love?”

RARE, said Death.

______________________________

If you have not read Terry Pratchett, don’t start from the beginning. Go for Reaper Man, Hogfather, Thief of Time, The Truth or Going Postal, all of which work standalone. Then go back and start the Guards sequence from Guards, Guards! and the Witches sequence from Wyrd Sisters. Then read all the other ones.

Comments about Terry Pratchett, shared quotes and memories and requests for recommendations, are very welcome.

Comments defending the slave book, or any other aspects of the associated row, will get you kicked off here so hard you’ll bounce.

______________________________

KJ Charles is a freelance editor and writer. Her most recent release is Jackdaw, published by Samhain. Think of England  won Best LGBT Romance in the All About Romance 2015 Readers Poll.

My Book is My Baby! (Now pass me the wet wipes.)

We’ve all come across this metaphor. It’s a cry of ownership, a plea for kindness, a go-to excuse for displays of hurt feelings and bad behaviour at negative reviews. “My book is my baby! I love it! What you say about my book hurts me!”

This metaphor is of course very easy to mock. Thus: I don’t put my baby up for sale on Amazon; I don’t think a poorly baby can be made better by cutting 20% of its length; it is not good practice to put a misbehaving baby in a drawer and forget about it for six months. Et cetera. You can entertain yourself with this on Twitter for hours. But there is a serious reason why this is a bad metaphor, which is worth looking at in depth.

Consider what the ‘book as baby’ metaphor conveys: you create a thing, you love it, and you feel deeply protective of it. The metaphor holds up fine for the first two points with a book. You conceived the idea of a book, gestated it at some cost to yourself, brought it into the world with hard work; hopefully you’re pretty proud of the end result.

The problem is point three, the protectiveness.

The thing about a human baby is that it is incredibly, frighteningly helpless. You can’t even pick them up at first without cradling their oversized heads in case their necks snap. Drop it, shake it, hit it, and it could die right there. Babies survive only because they have adult defenders. We are wired to protect them: most people feel an incredible repulsion at the idea of harming any baby, and when you actually bond with one, you will put its existence above your own and, yes, defend it to the hilt from the least insult. Because if you are cruel about my baby, there is an outside chance you might be cruel to my baby, and before I let that happen I will rip off your arm and beat you to death with the wet end. That’s parental protectiveness at work, and it’s necessary because babies are so very easy to hurt.

Whereas, to state the glaringly, gibberingly obvious: You can’t hurt books.

A book isn’t a human baby, it’s a crocodile. It crawls out of the shell fully formed, mobile, independent, and ready to bite things. You should give it a helpful nudge towards the water with marketing, sure. But a protection response is as unnecessary and stupid as if you picked up a baby crocodile and tried to give it a nurturing cuddle, or maybe breastfeed. (Don’t do that.) A bad review may feel like someone throwing mud at your baby, which is just one step away from throwing rocks, PARENTAL MURDER DEATH KILL RESPONSE TRIGGERED. But actually they’re throwing mud at a crocodile ambling by. And the crocodile doesn’t give a toss.

Someone may give your book one star. They may quote it unfairly or make inaccurate assessments. They may do a review on Goodreads with animated gifs to indicate how much they don’t like it. But the book continues to exist, undented by that dislike. The book will not carry the review with it as a bleeding wound, it will not have its final chapter leeched away by the power of negative criticism. A hypersensitive parent of a baby may perceive an insult as a threat, and react accordingly. But an insult to a book isn’t a threat, and carries no risk of harm. It’s just a bad review.

You know who can kill your baby crocodile? You, the author. You can create a crappy three-legged crocodile in the first place. You can kill your crocodile before it leaves the egg by refusing to take editorial advice that might change the way your baby looks. (It looks like a goddamn crocodile. Get over it.) And you can destroy it when it’s out by screaming, “DON’T YOU DARE HURT MY PRECIOUS BABY YOU BITCH I WILL CUT YOU,” at the first person to chuck a handful of mud, until you’ve attracted a full-on stone-throwing retaliatory mob. (Because if you don’t like your book being attacked, well, reviewers don’t much like their reviews being attacked either, and still less a personal assault.)

You cannot and should not try to curate every reader’s response to your book. It’s published, you launched it, now it’s going to have to cope for itself out there in the swamp. Maybe it will thrive, maybe it won’t, but that’s its problem because it is not your baby, and your responsibility for nurturing ended at the point you hit ‘publish’. Go forth, little crocodile! Fly! (Or whatever, I’m not a naturalist.)Hogarth Croc

And this is why I never want to see ‘My books are my babies’ again. Because it’s a fundamentally inaccurate metaphor that conveys exactly the wrong message about what the author’s relationship to a published work should be.

Just let it go, lay some more eggs, and hope at least one of them grows.

lake placid

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KJ Charles is a freelance editor and metaphorical crocodile farmer. Her most recent release is Jackdaw, published by Samhain. Think of England  won Best LGBT Romance in the All About Romance 2015 Readers Poll.

This post is not an endorsement of Lake Placid, from which the above still is taken. Nothing is an endorsement of Lake Placid.

Flying crocodile by MCA Hogarth, gloriously!

When Publishers Fail: publishing and author service

So there’s this book, recently out, looks exactly my cup of tea, and a friend I trust recommended it wholeheartedly. Woop! I zoomed off to one-click, saw the publisher, and stopped.

Oh, I thought. It’s published by them. Meh. I’ll get the sample first.

I’ve abandoned several books from this publisher in the past because I’d found the editing unacceptably poor. I now hesitated, very seriously, over buying a book that I wanted–because the publisher was a significant strike against it.

And yes, I’m a nitpicking editor, but here’s something I read just today from the excellent romance book/food blogger Elisabeth Lane:

I recently closed my blog to unsolicited ARC submissions and I’m slowly working through a very small backlog of Netgalley advance titles. I don’t think I’ll be opening it back up any time soon. The reason is at least partially aesthetic. There are a lot of badly-written, badly-edited books out there. … I’m tired of feeling like I have to sort through a ton of chaff to get to the wheat […]

I had stopped enjoying myself. I’d read so many bad books in a row–books with no conflict, books with glimmers of a strong voice that wasn’t fully realized, books with dubious or incoherent themes and moral positions, books with cardboard characters that never move beyond archetypes and yes, books with typos, grammar errors, missing words and other mechanical defects in inexcusable quantities.

Now, if you’re self published and you decide not to use an editor, that’s your business decision. But if you’re with a publisher who doesn’t edit–if they make the business decision to put out your book in poor shape because they don’t know or care that it should be better, if their imprimatur is not a guarantee of anything like quality, if their editing is no better than you’d get from your mate who reads lots of books, if bloggers and readers are looking at your book and saying, Meh…remind me why you’re handing over 60% net receipts again?

Publishing is an author service industry. Publishers provide a set of services to make the book good, an imprimatur to tell people it’s good, a sales and marketing structure to get the book to readers; and they take all the financial risk for these things. In return for these services, the publisher gets a cut of the book’s revenues. When publishers fail to provide these services, when their imprint is no longer a guarantee of quality, the reason for authors to give them money disappears.

There are publishers that don’t pay for proofreading. There are those whose editorial fees are absurdly below professional rates, which makes you wonder who’s doing the work, and how fast they have to do it to eat. There are some that don’t pay editors at all and simply use people who do it ‘for love’, or, to put that in French, amateurs.  I’m well aware editing is a huge cost, of course, especially to small publishers. But if I go to a cake shop and ask for a cake, I don’t expect to be handed a bowl of raw flour, eggs and butter, on the grounds that ovens are just too expensive so they decided not to bake the damn thing. (For the avoidance of doubt: I am not talking about my own publishers, with whom I am extremely happy.)

Of course, it’s very easy to say, ‘Don’t go with a publisher that doesn’t edit properly!’ but let’s be honest, most aspiring authors would sign pretty much anything, with anyone, to get the first book published. (“Beelzebub Books, Inc? My name in blood? Sure!”) But as you develop a few books, a readership, a sales history, you can look at the deal again, as well as at what’s being offered to the reading public with your name on it. Because if the trad pub deal ceases to be worthwhile–if it doesn’t include good editing, cover design, marketing support, the halo effect of being with a respected publisher, a decent royalty split–authors can and should move to other publishers, or self pub, or a hybrid publishing strategy without a second’s hesitation. Once again: the publisher’s split of the receipts is their payment for services. If you’re not getting adequate service, why are you paying?

Don’t get me wrong: I love publishing. I believe in it as a good thing for authors and readers and the future of books. As an author, I would far rather be with a publisher, big or small, and work and succeed together. (That’s not to disrespect self publishers, it’s simply my personal preference.) As a reader, I want to be able to one-click a book with a blithe certainty that it will be properly edited and proofread simply because it carries a publisher’s imprimatur. But to make that work, publishers have to serve their authors properly, because if they don’t they will lose both authors and readers. Which is why a publisher that skimps on those obligations to its authors  is chipping away at its own future.

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ThinkOfEngland72webKJ Charles is a very happily published romance author with Samhain and, coming this summer, Loveswept. She’s also a freelance editor with twenty years’ publishing experience. Her latest book is Jackdaw, out now, and her novel Think of England just won Best LGBT Romance in the All About Romance 2015 Readers Poll.

Jackdaw release day!

Just a quickie to say that Jackdaw is here, should you be into chaotic criminals with unusual magical gifts, ex-lovers with a serious grudge, vengeful law enforcers, Cornwall, rugby-playing heroes, villains trying to go straight (as it were), or people who read Dickens.

For those who want a bit of extra stuff…

  • Graphic novel prequel by Lyudmila Tsapaeva here.
  • Blog post on Cornwall, with pictures and extract, here.
  • Blog post on sympathy for villains, with giveaway, here.
  • Blog post on how to write a convincing redemption arc here.
  • Book here: Publisher, Amazon UK, Amazon US
  • Five-star reviews at Sinfully, My Fiction Nook (spoilers), Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words. 
  • The first book in the Charm of Magpies series, The Magpie Lord, is on special offer across all retailers at the time of writing, at 99c and local equivalents, so if you’re not sure, now is the time to try it for cheap. Amazon.com
  • My Facebook group can be found here, if you like in depth book chat, teasers, and early looks at stuff.

Right. I have launched Jackdaw, which is part of my Victorian paranormal Charm of Magpies series. I have finished book 1 of my Society of Gentlemen trilogy, where Regency exquisite meets Radical revolutionary. I now need to jump back into a different Victorian paranormal world for The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal. This is my brain right now:

IMG_20150216_115323243

See you on the other side.

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If you stop running, you fall.jackdaw small

Jonah Pastern is a magician, a liar, a windwalker, a professional thief…and for six months, he was the love of police constable Ben Spenser’s life. Until his betrayal left Ben jailed, ruined, alone, and looking for revenge.

Ben is determined to make Jonah pay. But he can’t seem to forget what they once shared, and Jonah refuses to let him. Soon Ben is entangled in Jonah’s chaotic existence all over again, and they’re running together—from the police, the justiciary, and some dangerous people with a lethal grudge against them.

Threatened on all sides by betrayals, secrets, and the laws of the land, can they find a way to live and love before the past catches up with them?

This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.

Jackdaw: Valentine’s Day. The Graphic Novel.

My new book Jackdaw releases on 17 February.  And I have the mother of all teasers for you.

“Jackdaw: Valentine’s Day” is a Jackdaw prequel, drawn by the magnificently talented artist Lyudmila Tsapaeva. It features our heroes Ben and Jonah, who appears in the previous book Flight of Magpies, and as you will see, things are going swimmingly for them.

Individual pages follow, and there’s a pdf link at the bottom for download.

Happy Valentine’s Day from me and Lyudmila. I hope yours is better than Ben and Jonah’s…

Jackdaw Valentine's Day(1)-1
02(3)

03

 

04(1)

 

05(2)

06

Jackdaw Valentine’s Day(1)

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If you stop running, you fall.jackdaw small

Jonah Pastern is a magician, a liar, a windwalker, a professional thief…and for six months, he was the love of police constable Ben Spenser’s life. Until his betrayal left Ben jailed, ruined, alone, and looking for revenge.

Ben is determined to make Jonah pay. But he can’t seem to forget what they once shared, and Jonah refuses to let him. Soon Ben is entangled in Jonah’s chaotic existence all over again, and they’re running together—from the police, the justiciary, and some dangerous people with a lethal grudge against them.

Threatened on all sides by betrayals, secrets, and the laws of the land, can they find a way to live and love before the past catches up with them?

This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.

Confessions of an Irritable Romance Novelist

Someone wrote an article (‘Confessions of a Failed Romance Novelist’) for the National Post on how she tried to knock out a romance novel to make lots of money. If you are a romance reader/writer, you can save time by screaming and throwing something at the wall now, rather than reading it.

Edited highlights follow. Get your bingo cards out.

Comes from a position of ignorance and contempt:

“From what I gather the [typical romance novel] plots are simple and the characters’ emotional lives not terribly complex. Also, the sex or some sex act needs to happen way before the 100 page mark,” [my agent] wrote me.

[Note to author of article: Your agent is terrible. Get a new agent.]

Does no research before writing:

I attempted to revive [romance career after publishing the book] by borrowing some Harlequins. I wanted to surprise myself; maybe I would actually like the real thing. Maybe I would be able to imitate it.

Is better and more intellectual than dumbo romance readers:

I decided the world was ready for a book about love with many subplots, dealing in experiences more complicated than a sudden, early outburst of butterflies. …

[used to read Harlequin as a tween but] I read Lolita for the first time and my literary tastes were irrevocably ruined.

Feels compelled to make gratuitous ‘romance writers are fat and ugly’ snipe:

I put on my ugliest glasses, squished my face into my hand to affect a triple chin, and took a picture of myself [for the fake author persona].

Disdains the lively and committed community of readers, reviewers and writers:

I started befriending people like some crazy creep, initially by joining groups that dealt with romance writing and reviewing. In three weeks, I racked up more than 1,000 friends … I didn’t have the time to engage with other fake people. What I learned from my friend and from Facebook, the romance-novel writing community required a sense of mutuality: you review them and they review you.

[For the record, I am aware backscratching reviews happen. I have never been approached by anyone to request this. Maybe nobody likes me.]

So anyway, this book, written with contempt for and ignorance of the genre, didn’t sell. Shocker.

I used to edit at Harlequin Mills & Boon. Every editor had a teetering pile of romance slush submissions two or three feet high by her desk, not to mention the unclaimed five-foot mounds surrounding the photocopier. On Friday afternoons, when I felt too lazy to edit, I’d sit there and power through two feet of people’s hopes and dreams at a time. Now, with slush, what you most want is a brilliant, perfect book that you can carry in triumph to an editorial meeting. Second is a flawed yet excitingly redeemable MS. Third preference is something you can reject on sight, without further ado. Seriously, there is a reason we don’t send everyone a personal letter. The piles are big.

(‘Reject on sight’ may sound unfair, but you develop a knack. An agent was famously asked if he could really judge a MS based on just three chapters. He replied that you can tell if a MS is no good based on three chapters, often one chapter, sometimes the first page, occasionally the covering letter, and, in extreme cases, the envelope. This is 100% true, as any experienced slush pile reader will testify.)

I saw so many ‘knock it out for the money’ submissions in the slush pile. So many clichéd, spark-free, lifeless, lazy, dull, grating, cranked-out MSS that someone had the unmitigated gall to think ‘would do for Mills & Boon’, without knowing the trade, or the market, or the readership. With the very natural desire to make money by writing, but completely lacking the bit where the author wanted to write the book, or had any gift/inclination for doing so.

I loved those submissions. Adored them. I could drop in the preprinted rejection slip after reading one single paragraph, and that was another slush knocked off!

And that’s what I see when I read these ‘I tried to write a romance’ pieces. Authors who wouldn’t get a single full page of a MS read by a work-dodging editor on a Friday afternoon. I mean, seriously, if you’re going to be shallow and money-grubbing, at least do it well.

There is a mildly insightful line in this article:

But the work of creative writing is something else, it seems. I have to believe in it, non-cynically, otherwise who is possibly going to believe me?

This is true, if obvious. Romance is a genre powered by emotion. Authors can and should treat writing as a business. But the business of romance is to get endorphins flowing, hearts pounding, tears starting, pages turning. A romance author who can’t do that is as much use as a thriller writer who can’t kick off the adrenalin response, or a horror novelist who can’t pry into your limbic system and set off the shudders. And you cannot write real, convincing emotions if you’re knocking out a cynical exercise by numbers in a spirit of uninterested contempt.

So if you intend to sit down and write a bad book in a spirit of greed and ignorance, make it a hard SF or conspiracy techno-thriller, okay? It won’t be any easier or better, but I won’t ever know about it because I don’t read them, and that will save me a lot of irritation.

_________________________________

KJ Charles is a romance writer and freelance editor. Jackdaw is out on 17 February.

If you stop running, you fall.jackdaw small

Jonah Pastern is a magician, a liar, a windwalker, a professional thief…and for six months, he was the love of police constable Ben Spenser’s life. Until his betrayal left Ben jailed, ruined, alone, and looking for revenge.

Ben is determined to make Jonah pay. But he can’t seem to forget what they once shared, and Jonah refuses to let him. Soon Ben is entangled in Jonah’s chaotic existence all over again, and they’re running together—from the police, the justiciary, and some dangerous people with a lethal grudge against them.

Threatened on all sides by betrayals, secrets, and the laws of the land, can they find a way to live and love before the past catches up with them?

This story is set in the world of the Charm of Magpies series.