fredag 10 augusti 2012

Review: The Druid Stone by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane


   The Druid Stone
   by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane
   Carina Press
   322 pages

*phwoar* is the only way to begin this review. As a rank amateur, I don't believe in sticking to the cold hard facts. This is one awesomesauce of a book that delves into M/M romance, urban fantasy, a very rich tapestry of characterisation and isnane amounts of world building.

The Druid Stone sets off with Sean O'Hara, of Cuban and Boston Irish descent, "inheriting" a cursed stone from an older relative. The curse involves vividly brutal nightmares that leave him with bruises and ghosts of pain. At the end of his rope, he uses his last savings to buy a ticket to Ireland where he recruits - or attempts to recruit - Cormac Kelly, of Irish and druidish descent.

Cormac has to be the most dickish private paranormal investigator since... John Constantine. But also quite loveable. Too familiar with people (or anyone, really) looking for twee Ireland Leprechauns and Lucky Charms, he pegs Sean as an American only interested in finding his Riverdancing relatives. It doesn't take long before he realises his mistake, however.

What follows is an insane ride into the world of the sidhe, a topsy turvy plane of existence thought up by a demented Escher, and the past. If you liked American Gods, or Boneshaker, you'd better grab something to drink, eat, and prepare to be thoroughly entertained.

Heidi and Violetta have an uncanny knack of creating very well balanced characters. I don't mean that as in, these are remarkably well-adjusted people, oh my.

There are no cardboard characters in this novel, though villains who love to chew the scenery and do it with flourish. Every character has multifaceted backgrounds. Sean and Cormac have both lived and survived tragedy and sorrow and they carry these experiences with them in a way that doesn't make me want to shake them and yell "FIVE STAGES MOVE ON YOU BASTARDS!" or wish they would acknowledge it a bit more. They bring their pasts with them acknowledge their presence, and accept them for what they are - on occasion the memories will flare up and cause pain, Just Like In Real Life.

There are plenty of interesting supportive characters - a double bonus for two very strong female characters who do their best (because what else can you do when you're up against ancient myths?) to help - not to mention the craic that are the sidhe themselves. You'll forever give the beer in Ireland a cautious sniff after reading this....

Even the dogs have well-defined personalities.

What else did I love about this novel? The dialogue never feels constructed,, the pacing is even, there's a natural thread bringing the reader from point A to point B, via a few detours that always come back to a satisfying conclusion. There's pain, there's a kind of romance. No hearts and flowers here, pain from the past brings the main characters together and threatens to tear them apart. There's sex. NICE SEX. LOVELY SEX. I want more sex. Sean and Cormac coming together doesn't feel forced. The possibility of them never getting together is awful.

The authors treat their readers as if they're smart! Which means: NO EXPOSITION. Descriptions are rich and plenty. Names and places are given.

The research! OH MY GOD, the amount of research! Heidi and Violetta have done a TON of research. They've had native Irish nitpick names and places and mythology, they've got spreadsheets (for crying out loud!) and they don't hesitate to highlight our hero's uglier sides, in one part where Cormac thoughtlessly, purposely, aims a barb at Sean's hispanic heritage in order to get rid of him.

But in the end I'll forgive these characters anything. Mostly.

Complaints? There was a surprise, a curve-ball out of left field, involving a *character* along the way that caught me completely off guard. I had to go back and re-read just to see if I'd missed something (I can also blame it on lost in translation).

The ending was immensely satisfying but for a moment it felt as if there were multiple endings - dear god the fifteen endings in the Lord of the Rings, deliver us all. Thankfully, however, there are no drawn out explanations of "and then while you were doing this, this is what actually happened" a la Dumblebore's final expositions. *gnashes teeth noisily*

Minor piffles of complaints really, since there are resolutions, solutions and even though the character curve-ball was a surprise, it fit. So while I mention them, I don't really care. *unproffesional reviewer*

In the end, the Druid Stone ties together neatly while still leaving the reader with a lot of could be's, and potential for sequels, or even spin-offs (one can wish!). I want to take this novel and snuggle it to my bosom. I want more. I want to read it again. It's knocked my socks off!

4 out of 5 stars.

Heidi Belleau can be found at and @heidibelleau on twitter.

Violetta Vane can be found at and @violettavane.

More info on The Druid Stone is on their website

lördag 12 maj 2012

on excitement of writing

I finished quite a piece not too long ago, my very first finished original story. It's submitted and everything (see below) and its an endless wait and checking the email a few dozen times a day (I know, it takes them a while to read through submissions and then say nay or yay). At this point I'm doing the whole "yay, happy I finished that one, NEXT!" thing.

There are at least three stories I'd like to get done. One is a submission with a given theme, and two are cannibalised "transformative works of fiction" abandoned long ago. Severely cannibalised, I might need to add, and turned inside out. One is set in Los Angeles, the other is a sort of a road trip, starting in the midwest, heading for New York. The third... I'm not quite sure how to work that one out yet, but it'll stay there, being picked at once in awhile.

Unlike the LA story, the road trip story will contain places I've actually been to and seen for myself. Thing is, I like settings. I like to work on clichés for settings and then turn them into something else. If it rains in England, it's going to fucking pour, it'll be all-over-rain, it'll get everywhere. If it's cold in Russia in the winter... if it's hot in LA, if it's damp and humid in the midwest, and then dry as bone...

The best thing I ever experienced in a book, set in the midwest (Neil Gaiman's American Gods) was discovering that I'd actually been to some of the places described. I knew what a certain road was like, a hill, a small town. The low houses, the fields, the dips in the road.

That's stayed with me. I'd like to have people recognise places, if I can.

And I'm really excited about that road trip fill, kind of how excited I am about the LA fill, even though I've never been there. But there's that feeling of falling, of deciding, I'm not going to just write what I know. I'm going to write something I'm learning about. And I won't try to fool people, I'll try to integrate, I'll try to make it come alive, and make use of it. And then I'll write the things I do know: pain, love, joy, sadness, the human condition (she said ominously). Sex.

Before realising that I don't know how they'll get a car to that freeway and beneath it and...

But that is what research is for. And watching a ton of movies set in Los Angeles. For the architecture!

onsdag 2 maj 2012


First post and everything for those just showing up: I write M/M romance, I like urban fantasy, historical, sci fi, D/s, and plough through oodles of non-fiction. Currently I'm on a literary trip to the Great War.

I've sent in my first submission, working title of A smile lost on his lips, I'm part of a Menage-reviews group that you can find over yonder, and I'm on good reads as Madison Reese.

I'll offer blurbs, links to reviews, updates on work and random ranting.

Hope to make your aqcuaintance!