Book Review: Jake for Mayor (Brand Spanking New Release)

Jake for Mayor by Lou Aguilar

When Ken Miller, campaign manager to Bob Morris, witnesses his boss’s political crash via hot mike, his personal life also takes a dive. Taking to the road alone, he ends up in Erie, Colorado, a small town awaiting a make-or-break mayoral election involving only one candidate. Becoming entangled in a series of events with a homeless beagle called Jake, Miller ends up in jail. Released conditionally until trial, he must stay in town and take responsibility for the pooch. Drawn to a local waitress and into the town’s political shenanigans, he brainstorms an idea that will challenge the mayor and pump some life back into his own political career: Run Jake as a protest candidate and rise back to the top.

jakeI was pretty certain I was going to enjoy Lou Aguilar’s Jake for Mayor—the offbeat plot promised adventure of a different stripe and I was so curious as to what an author could do with this story. If I had any reluctance going in, it would have been a wariness of slapstick type humor, a brand that is funny enough at the start but dries up pretty quickly. But Jake’s very opening sentence—“The children were my best props ever”—spoke to greater substance and I relished even more this peek into the game of politics and the players it employs. My lone reservation was for naught: Jake for Mayor will have you busting at the seams and the only thing you won’t want to do is put it down.

Aguilar does a great job of informing readers that Ken Miller actually has intuition and ability to read situations, using body language, sensory integration and dialogue as one set of tools. Just as disaster is about to spill all over Morris’s career, Miller senses, soldier-like, the “not right” feel of his surroundings and realizes the lack of child noise has cast an eerie pall over the park.

Narrated in first person, Jake for Mayor gives readers a likable protagonist in Miller, cleverly avoiding the pitfall of conceit while also revealing his near lack of self-awareness as he casually palms basketball tickets into a reporter’s hands or pumps up dollar amounts on official paperwork. But he does understand the level of his duplicity, his own internal monologue or reactions to self corresponding to the gravity of his individual actions. He is honest with himself and readers, sometimes brutally so regarding the deficiencies of himself and others: “The pioneer spirit had built a hardy nation in record time, so that my generation could be so infantile.”

The timely nature of this novel is also difficult to resist—in addition to sly acknowledgement of contemporary social phenomena such as “safe spaces” and a mentality that imagines much is owed as opposed to worked for, Aguilar taps into the current real-life campaign season playing out in our country and before the world, with events that seem almost surreal as well as required. As in real life where both major parties have contributed to the setback of a great nation and created the situation they claim to abhor, Erie, Colorado has offered nothing for itself except to keep electing someone seemingly willing to destroy them so long as he imagines himself ahead. When a campaign manager—and an out of towner as well—offers up an option so bizarre as to be unreal, Miller hopes they will recognize it as their own creation and make the leap to save their town.

Indeed, Miller does begin to invest a real sense of caring into the town as he recognizes his affection for Jake has begun to replace seeing him as a tool, and he falls for Jenny, a waitress he meets in one of his first encounters in Erie. We see poignancy in Aguilar’s writing, reflecting Miller’s own façade, revealing deeper feelings shrouded by humor. The author hints at it early on when Miller watches as “[s]ilent lightning speared the barren land,” itself a possible portend of what may lie ahead.

One of Aguilar’s greatest skills in this debut novel is his effective management of shifts between humor and more serious content, as well as his mixing of the two. When it is relayed to a foreigner that a dog is running for mayor, the astounded Australian quips, “Crikey. No wonder your country’s going down the tubes.” While a serious concern for United States citizens in real-world society and politics, it also mirrors quintessential American humor in which the negative is embraced, mocked and defiantly turned into a target for change rather than a source for sinking into despair. Aguilar continues a long tradition of Americans making mockery directed at them their own, owning it as they see fit and turning it around on the original source, a habit that goes at least as far back as Yankee Doodle.

Released just today, Jake for Mayor is a hilarious look at the resiliency of a man who sets out to re-make himself and what he discovers along the way as he passes through the absurd as well as potentially deadly. A fantastic tale as well as a record of our time, this is a book for the keeper shelf. Moreover, if this is what Aguilar gifts us in his freshman (as they say in politics) work, I shall be on guard for what he has in store.

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The blogger received an advance review copy (ARC) of Jake for Mayor in exchange for an honest review.

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Lou Aguilar is a new Penmore Press author whose bio can be found here. Stay tuned to this page as well as the author’s for updates and further information. Jake for Mayor can be purchased in e-book form at Amazon immediately; paperback form is upcoming.

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Guest Post: Virginia King, Rocking with Rocks (Plus Giveaway)

Rocking with Rocks by Virginia King

Author of B.R.A.G. Medallion award-winning The First Lie

See below for giveaway and free download details!

The symbolism of objects has always fascinated me. My love of folklore means there’s always a mythical twist to my modern mysteries and ‘magic objects’ with fairy tale credentials often link up to form a matrix of clues. Such as rocks.

In Selkie Moon’s second mystery The Second Path the symbolism of rocks came to me, setting up a chain reaction of events in the story. It’s a good example of how an idea implants itself in the subconscious and multiplies into a theme.

 

Rock 160KB

Rocks as Gifts

When my husband got to sail on an ocean-going canoe with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, he experienced the custom of rocks being exchanged from one island to another as a form of gift. This custom was in the back of my mind in The First Lie, when my main character Selkie Moon ran away from Sydney to start a new life in Hawaii.

Rocks Carry a Curse

When I wanted Selkie to carry a rock as a gift, I researched the custom and discovered some alarming stories – from Hawaii and Australia.

It’s illegal in Hawaii to souvenir a lava rock from a national park, but people still do it and lots of lava rocks are mailed back by visitors who claim the theft has cursed them with bad luck. Many such stories abound and perpetuate the belief in the curse.

Sorry Rock LetterThe rangers at Uluru (Ayers Rock) in central Australia are said to receive one parcel a day from hapless visitors returning ‘sorry rocks’ because the pilfered pebble has rained nothing but bad luck down on them.

In spite of these stories, I didn’t want to let my rock-as-greeting idea go, so Selkie doesn’t touch any lava rocks or go to Uluru.

What if?

With Selkie travelling abroad with a rock in her suitcase, my subconscious started playing with ideas. How could a rock play a part in the evolving mystery? What if …

  • she takes a rock through customs at the airport and declares it?
  • she’s carrying a rock in her hands ready to present it as a gift, but she gets caught holding it on a security camera, then later a window is found broken?
  • she’s got a rock in her suitcase and the bag splits open? Might the rock carry other things with it when it falls out? What things? What does she lose?

Rocks have Cracks

When Selkie gives her rock as a gift, the recipient rubs his hands over it and feels a crack. His reaction surprised both Selkie and me:

“I like this crack,” he says. “Cracks signify wonderful things.”

“Imperfection?”

He laughs. “Openings, secrets, doorways to hidden places, chinks in our defences, entrances to inner caves. Don’t get me started on cracks …”

This conversation is the beginning of another theme. The rock arrived in the story from just a simple idea but it grew into a series of symbols that weave and interconnect throughout the book.

second path

About the author…

When a voice wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you to write a mystery series what’s a writer to do? That’s how Virginia King came to create Selkie Moon, after a massage from a strange woman with gifted hands was followed by this nocturnal message. Virginia sat down at the keyboard until Selkie Moon turned up. All she had to do was jump, the first sentence said. Soon Virginia was hooked, exploring far-flung places full of secrets where Selkie delves into psychological clues tangled up in the local mythology.

Before Selkie Moon invaded her life, Virginia had been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, the author of over 50 children’s books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days she lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband, where she disappears each day into Selkie Moon’s latest mystery. Bliss.

You can learn more about and follow author Virginia King at her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter or Amazon author page.

A Free Ghost Story

Get a taste for the Selkie Moon mystery series with Laying Ghosts, a modern 24-page haunted house story inspired by a Russian folktale and tangled up in a murder ballad dating back to the 1700s. It’s a standalone story but also a prequel to the series and explains the chilling reason for Selkie Moon leaving Sydney to start a new life in Hawaii. Download your free copy here.

Laying Ghosts
Click the image to get your free download!

Giveaway of The First Lie

You could be one of ten lucky winners who will choose either a signed paperback or an audio book of The First Lie plus a $15 Amazon gift code. One grand prize winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift code.

Enter here.

Or, if you simply can’t wait to own your own edition of The First Lie, hop on over to the author’s website and grab your copy!

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Click here to see my review of The First Lie, the thrilling first in the Selkie Moon Mystery series.

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Images courtesy Virginia King. 

Book Review: The First Lie (Plus Giveaway)

The First Lie (Book I in the Selkie Moon Mystery Series) by Virginia King

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

See below for details as to how you could win a signed copy or audio book of

The First Lie

and an Amazon gift card!

Plus: Download a free ghost story below!

Though I am a huge ghost story fan, over the years I’ve come to avoid various books classified as “paranormal” because so many involve blood-drinking and other creatures who fail to excite my imagination—and even disgust me a little. Let’s face it: it’s a wide continuum and though understandable why these and others might be placed on it, there are nevertheless huge gulfs. For a while there I found most of my ghostly reading came from the time when séances were all the rage.

First Lie coverSo it was with pleasure that I came across Virginia King’s The First Lie, a modern paranormal mystery steeped in Celtic and Hawaiian mythology that promised to draw me into an international chase between two worlds—and draw me in it did.

One of the first elements I admired was the likability of King’s protagonist and supporting characters. These are individuals who talk to each other in ways that genuinely reflect the way people really act and converse. Even the baddies are credible, their behaviors and consequences developing as a result of realistic foibles.

Australian Selkie Moon escapes an emotionally abusive marriage—itself entered with the hope of providing refuge from a cold and calculating stepmother—by re-locating to Hawaii, where she sets up a business venture. She begins to experience visitations by a woman warning that someone is trying to kill her. Selkie’s art-student roommate Wanda, knowledgeable in the supernatural, counsels her, but even her native understanding is limited by her experiences. Following her decision to fully investigate this and other goings-on, Selkie garners her information from a variety of sources, themselves linked within true-to-life degrees of separation and in possession of knowledge that makes sense relative to who they are—a wise direction for King to take and cleverly mapped out.

Selkie’s co-worker Derek and his partner, Nigel, gift her a dress custom made by an Irish girl, whose later link to Selkie weaves the story through a project at work, which in turn affects the business relationship between herself and a client who subsequently plays a large role in bringing her closer to understanding the events playing out in her life. Real life tends to operate this way, so it makes sense for the author to reflect this in her work, and she does it in a way so sleek and engaging I found myself moving through transitions I’d wanted to use as a good stopping point, but didn’t because I was so involved I had to keep following.

This ho’ohihi, interconnectedness, is also addressed within the tale in the context of the roles people play not only in their own lives and personal pasts, but also their ancestral histories and how that affects the paths they travel. The selkie mythology—sea creatures resembling seals who can take human form on land—is explained in a dialogue that unwraps yet another layer to the story and mirrors some of Selkie’s own memory and experiences, beginning with the name her mother loved so much, and into the present-day ghostly stalking. “Around here,” Roger tells her, “the interface between the living and the dead … wavers.”

At dinner the night before a proposed outing, Selkie asks for details. The exchange about photography encompasses a picture of the relationship between Selkie and Roger, expands upon the “interface” the latter had spoken of and becomes a conduit, a road for Selkie to make her way toward her next supernatural experience, developing a foundational event in her story.

“A competition. For serious photographers. Called … Life and Death.”

A topic that might be haunting me. “Isn’t a cemetery a bit … obvious?”

“Only to an amateur. It’s the artist’s job to accentuate drama. Transmute the ambience into something … palpable. A solitary gravestone against the horizon … signifying the folly of man’s struggle against nature. That kind of thing.”

“Right.” Roger could be a tad pretentious. “So why do you want me along?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” he mimics. “I need someone pretty to carry my bags. And waggle her excellent buttocks occasionally.”

“I want to take photos too.”

He laughs. “You know sweet FA about photography.”

King even enables the reader to interconnect with the tale, not only in its captivating nature and how she draws readers in, but also by a small addition at the novel’s opening, a list of Hawaiian words. She does this by keeping the list limited—removing the potential overload and overwhelming nature of too much new information—and her word choices render us familiar with but also visitors to this world: we are new, yet still connected, much like events and characters in the story. Kahuna, a wise person or sorcerer and menehune, legendary little people, link with the familiar: Pele, a volcano goddess, Mai Tai, lei and muumuu.

As the tale moves on and Selkie begins to find answers—often raising more questions—explanations are called for, and King provides in a way that encourages absorption rather than confusion. Her style is spare but not sharp. She deftly renders the potentially complicated into a succinct exchange or passage of a fascinating topic against the backdrop of Selkie’s story and intriguing hints at her ancestry. I remain rather impressed at how well she handles as many layers as the novel contains, all while still drawing in and keeping us mesmerized. For just a small taste at what that means, consider the variety of genres and styles The First Lie overlaps: psychological thriller, drama, betrayal, paranormal, mystery, magic, mythology, self-discovery and romance, to name but a few. Selkie’s real life experiences blend beautifully with her visions and King brings us to emotional depths, and with such expertise, often unexplored in modern literature.

The First Lie is simultaneously what I’d hoped yet nothing I expected: thrilling all the way through with new twists at every turn, written in a grand style in a modern setting, and opening the door to further exploration. What will Selkie’s future hold? What other questions will arise as a result of what she finds here? Will she in time be able to accept all she has learned? Does she want to know more?

These and other questions will arise in the series’ next installment, The Second Path, and I look forward to seeing where the tale will take me as well.

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About the author…

Virginia KingWhen a voice wakes you up in the middle of the night and tells you to write a mystery series what’s a writer to do? That’s how Virginia King came to create Selkie Moon, after a massage from a strange woman with gifted hands was followed by this nocturnal message. Virginia sat down at the keyboard until Selkie Moon turned up. All she had to do was jump, the first sentence said. Soon Virginia was hooked, exploring far-flung places full of secrets where Selkie delves into psychological clues tangled up in the local mythology.

Before Selkie Moon invaded her life, Virginia had been a teacher, an unemployed ex-teacher, the author of over 50 children’s books, an audio-book producer, a workshop presenter and a prize-winning publisher. These days she lives in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney with her husband, where she disappears each day into Selkie Moon’s latest mystery. Bliss.

You can learn more about and follow author Virginia King at her website, blog, FacebookTwitter or Amazon author page.

A Free Ghost Story

Get a taste for the Selkie Moon mystery series with Laying Ghosts, a modern 24-page haunted house story inspired by a Russian folktale and tangled up in a murder ballad dating back to the 1700s. It’s a standalone story but also a prequel to the series and explains the chilling reason for Selkie Moon leaving Sydney to start a new life in Hawaii. Download your free copy here.

Laying Ghosts
Click image to get to download page!

Giveaway of The First Lie

You could be one of ten lucky winners who will choose either a signed paperback or an audio book of The First Lie plus a $15 Amazon gift code. One grand prize winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift code.

Enter here.

Or, if you simply can’t wait to own your own edition of The First Lie, hop on over to the author’s website and grab your copy!

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Click here for Virginia King’s captivating guest post about souvenir and sorry rocks!

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Images courtesy Virginia King. A free copy of The First Lie was furnished to the blogger in exchange for an honest review. 

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This post was updated to include a link to the author’s subsequent guest post.

Guest Post: Kristie Dean: On the Trail of the Yorks (Plus Giveaway)

On the Trail of Richard IIIToday I’m very excited to host Kristie Dean, author of On the Trail of Richard III (formerly The World of Richard III), which I reviewed back in August. The paperback edition is being released today in the United States and is available for purchase at Amazon.

Now Dean is back with an accompanying text, On the Trail of the Yorks, which I’ll leave for her to introduce. However, I will add that you should be sure to leave a comment because there’s a free copy to be had! Simply leave a comment–don’t fret about saying anything super snazzy–and you’ll be entered into the draw! On the Trail of the Yorks is also available for purchase here.

On the Trail of the Yorks

Part of the fun of researching On the Trail of the Yorks was visiting the places the York family had lived and loved. I especially enjoyed visiting locations that had not experienced great changes because it felt as if I could almost reach out and touch the past. When Lisl invited me to do a guest blog, I decided to share some of my pictures from the research trip. Some of these made it into the book, while others did not.

Ludlow Castle has to be one of the more picturesque castles in the British Isles. The best views of the enormous building can be gained by meandering along the Bread Walk from Ludford Bridge. Towering over the river, Ludlow can be glimpsed from the path through a mixture of tangled vines and flowers. Richard, Duke of York, was here at the castle when news reached him that the king’s troops had arrived.

Ludlow Castle

From the first moment I visited Kenilworth Castle, I was enchanted.  The castle ruins glow red in the sun and it is easy to imagine how grand it once appeared as Richard approached it towards the end of his reign. ­­The garden in the castle is a recreation of a Tudor garden and is exquisite. A garden certainly existed at Kenilworth in Richard’s time as well.

Kenilworth Castle

Calais was an unexpected delight. I arrived early in the morning and made my way to the center of the city. After parking my rental car, I walked to Église de Notre Dame where George, Duke of Clarence, and Isabel Neville likely married. Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations, but I was able to make my way around the outside before walking on to the harbor. Calais was largely destroyed in the twentieth century and not much remains of the city as Richard and his brothers would have known it.

Calais
Église de Notre Dame

Bruges, Belgium is a place that I hope to return to time and again. Picturing Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, as she rode in a lavish procession through the city following her marriage to Charles, was incredibly easy. The city center still retains its medieval feel and there is so much to offer a visitor interested in history. Of all the places that I visited for the first time on my research trip for On the Trail of Richard III, it was my favorite. Take a ride on the canal, wander the twisting, winding medieval streets, or climb to the top of the belfry for an amazing view.

Bruges

Anne Neville married Edward of Lancaster at the Château d’Amboise in France. I was doubly excited to visit the château since Anne Boleyn also stayed there for a time. The day I visited was a gorgeous sunny one, with the creamy white building shimmering against the backdrop of the sparkling blue sky. As I strolled through the gardens, I pictured a young Anne Neville doing the same as she contemplated her marriage to her family’s former enemy.

Chateau d'Amboise
Château d’Amboise

Cecily Neville is believed to have been born at Raby Castle. While little of the interior is the same as it was in her time, the exterior still resembles the castle Cecily knew. A visit to Raby Castle can take a few hours and the interior is accessible via a guided tour. On one of my visits I was lucky enough to see several of the deer that still roam Raby’s deer park. Although I have been several times, I always manage a visit to the parish church in Staindrop.

Raby

Ewelme, in Oxfordshire, was another delightful surprise. Elizabeth, the fifth child and second daughter of Cecily and Richard, married John de la Pole, the son of William de la Pole and Alice Chaucer. She and John would have visited Ewelme often, especially when Alice was still alive. Within the parish church of St. Mary the Virgin, a large alabaster tomb rests between the nave and the chapel of St. John the Baptist. This elaborately decorated tomb contains an effigy of Alice wearing a ducal coronet.

Ewelme

Eltham Palace was a favorite of Edward IV. He was responsible for the construction of the Great Hall. Today, the only way to visit the hall is by buying a ticket to tour the Art Deco palace. I thought I would rush through the palace and make my way immediately to the hall, but I thoroughly enjoyed the 1930s interior.

Eltham Palace
Eltham Palace

Lincoln Cathedral is a must-see for any visitor to England. The soaring cathedral was reputedly once the tallest building in the world. Not a single detail was overlooked in its construction and it is a beautiful place to visit. Nearby is the Medieval Bishops’ Palace where Richard likely stayed on his visit to the city. I also enjoyed visiting Gainsborough Old Hall, a short distance away. Richard was a guest here overnight.

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Gainsborough Old Hall

About the author…

Kristie Dean is the author of On the Trail of Richard III (formerly The World of Richard III) and On the Trail of the Yorks, both available from Amberley Publishing. When not travelling for research, you can find her at home with her husband, three dogs and two cats.

Many, many thanks to Kristie Dean for stopping by for a visit and sharing her beautiful photos with us!

Remember to comment below to get your name in the drawing for a FREE COPY of On the Trail of the Yorks.

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Book Review: March to Destruction

March to Destruction (Book II in The Emperor’s American Series)
by Art McGrath

march to destructionIn addressing how he came to write about an American serving in Napoleon’s Grande Armée, author Art McGrath references his quest to discover how such a circumstance might come to be. “It was discovery through writing, and while it may sound like a cliché, it was as if Pierre Burns was standing over my shoulder telling his story. He wanted to be discovered.”

In March to Destruction, superb sequel to McGrath’s The Emperor’s American, the author indeed employs the Method philosophy to tell Burns’s story—in fact, so effectively that readers would be forgiven for believing this to be the memoir of a real historical figure. Since the series’ opening novel, Burns’s—excuse me, McGrath’s—narrative has tightened as he further employs an economy perhaps reflective of the manner in which a soldier’s self awareness might utilize minimum movement to ultimately provide maximum advancement.

Narrated by Burns, an American of French-Scots decent who had been raised to abhor the English and sought his opportunity to fight and kill them, the tale continues his deployment with the Grande Armée. This time, however, Burns moves east into Bavaria, geographically farther from his first campaign in The Emperor’s American, but still against the same foe, who bankrolls foreign armies to create havoc on the Continent. He comes under direction of the ruthless spymaster General Savary, whose summary execution of the Duc d’Enghien the previous year had triggered Russian determination to curb Napoleon’s power, and now contributes to the slightly tense interactions between them.

When the pair first meet up we sense a competition of sorts, initiated by Savary, who affably concedes a touché before they move on. The tension remains, however, and when they climb into a bell tower for lookout duty, it comes somewhat more out into the open. Savary addresses the incident that provoked the outrage of numerous European houses, to the bewilderment of Burns, whose emotional recall leads to his answer and readers’ sensation of the caution closing the scene:

“I suppose you’re thinking, Burns,” Savary said without taking his spyglass from his eyes, “if only we hadn’t had the Duc d’Enghien executed last year you wouldn’t be stuck in Central Europe looking for an Austrian army but would still be on the coast preparing to invade England, perhaps even be in England by now.”

I stopped scanning the horizon to look at the general; it seemed such an odd question out of nowhere.

“Maybe I should have done more[,” Savary suggested.]

I had heard both sides of that point argued in the officers’ mess and taverns in the camp near Boulogne, but I didn’t feel entirely adequate discussing the matter with someone so intimately involved with the affair and with the Emperor. However, Savary pressed the point.

“What would you have done, Burns?”

The question stunned me. “I think, mon Général, such matters are far above my purview as a lieutenant.”

[…] I watched a falcon dive at the roof of a house below, trying to catch a dove roosting there. The prey escaped.

McGrath moves his passage forward and simultaneously back to the approaching Austrian army and the French troops’ own onward progression. He continues to demonstrate the manner in which March to Destruction utilizes dramatic expression familiar to audiences of the stage and screen.

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The Capitulation of Ulm by Charles Thevenin (Photo Wikipedia Commons)

Throughout the book, Burns speaks of what Stanislavsky in his Moscow theater would have referred to as the American’s “super objective”: he is motivated by his deep and abiding desire to fight and kill English, taking him farther into the heart of Europe and advancing the novel’s plot. As they move on, so too the narrative carries forward, not unlike the rivers Inn and Rhine, which also make cameos, contributing to the sensation of the plot flowing amid the countryside they march through, transitioning smoothly from one circumstance to the next.

This is often achieved by McGrath’s employment of props as metaphor, contributing to the unfolding of the plot or digging at the psychology of the moment, adding layers to events that also unfold as readers advance in the story. Following an English attempt on Burns’s life and the would-be assassins’ capture, Napoleon seizes their gold, rewarding it to our lieutenant and resuming the afore-mentioned friction.

Savary caught up to me […] “I’ll need the coins as evidence.”

I raised an eyebrow, my sardonic expression not well hidden.

“It’s evidence, Burns.”

I handed one to Savary.

“I’ll need all of them, Burns.”

That’s all the evidence you need, mon Général. They’re all the same as that one. The Emperor returned them to me.”

Savary stared at me, dark eyes studying me. “It’s blood money, Burns.”

I shrugged. “What of it? It’s my blood[.]”

While there is no mention in this installment of the emperor’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte, we periodically come across snippets of narrative reminiscent of the style one might find in a letter, or a conversational tone bringing readers closer to the character: “I loaded my pistols and made the rounds of the loopholes manned by the soldiers in my company, checking on each man. For a moment I almost said my men, but they really weren’t.”

americanBurns’s reasoned humility, periodic complaint of those who wish him ill and anguish over an unattainable love interest all remain evident in enough doses to show his decency as well as how he, too, is subject to human nature. His poor choices tend to keep him anchored, and he knows it, as well as the reality that it isn’t always genius on his part that events turn in the favor of this man’s army: “Behind every good officer, especially a junior officer, is a good NCO [non-commissioned officer], as I came to realize quickly after I joined the army.”

McGrath winds it all together with confidence, as if he is seeing everything Pierre describes over his shoulder, and the battle scenes in particular are cohesive, with thrilling precision of language that is authentic and possessed of authority, without the need to rely on military jargon. Even the longer skirmishing keeps readers on alert as they make connections, bridge transitions, and follow an internal conflict that will cause them to stay awake far, far too late into the night.

For readers who enjoyed The Emperor’s American, this is a half a year in the life of Pierre Burns that will exceed expectations based on the brilliant first part of his story: McGrath’s storytelling prowess has grown, as has Pierre himself. He continues to use dialogue to show events as they occur, and more frequently connections to indicate political nuances as well as explanation, such as his reading of a newspaper article on the Lewis and Clark expedition. Knowing this is not the last to be heard from the Baltimorean will buoy them with anticipation for those tales yet to be told.

For an audience not yet acquainted with Burns: do yourself a favor—not because you have to, for March to Destruction can indeed be read as a stand-alone. However, characters who grow with their audience and who readers can relate to, and have appeal beyond the strictures of genre have a staying power that eclipses individual struggle, such as those to achieve, belong and accept. Depriving oneself of earlier Pierre Burns is to miss out on a character whose name in coming years is sure to stand out in literature of war.

About the author…

mcgrath

Art McGrath lives in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, where he is a journalist as well as re-enactor and member of the Brigade Napoleon and the 3me regiment infanterie de ligne–the French 3rd Infantry regiment of the Line. March to Destruction is second in a series following the adventures of Pierre Burns through the Napoleonic Wars to the climatic Battle of Waterloo. Learn more about Art McGrath and the book at his author page and at Facebook.

The blogger received a free copy of March to Destruction in exchange for an honest review. 

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Author photo courtesy Art McGrath 

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