This is the second of my stories that appeared in A Pride of Poppies. The other story explored a difficult and challenging situation for its main character Drew. This story, however, is far more positive and up-beat.
The men are away at war. Lena has taken on her uncle’s work, and is delivering the mail in her village and to the outlying farms. When I first started writing the story, I began with two or three paragraphs of exposition about these facts – but luckily it occurred to me to start with something rather more powerful.
When we first meet Lena she is flying along a country lane on her bicycle, enjoying the speed and the sunshine, and revelling in the sheer freedom of it. There’s no denying that war is a tragedy, but it did serve to open up opportunities to women to do different kinds of work, to contribute in different ways than usual.
That’s all well and good, but Lena is also taking the chance to provide a very personal kind of comfort to the lonely wives.
I very much enjoyed writing the cheerfully outrageous Lena, and I’d love to return one day to write more about her and her friends. In fact, I’m going to go add her to my To Write List right now …
Blurb:Investigative journalist Mitch Rebecki loves his job and loves New York. He doesn’t mind making enemies, either. When a crime boss threatens retaliation, Mitch’s editor sends him out of harm’s way to Sydney. In exile and resentfully working on lifestyle pieces, Mitch is miserable. But he makes a friend or two, meets a man … and discovers that Australians do organized crime, too, in a small way. Mitch soon finds himself in too deep on all counts, and trying to head home again seems the only solution…
There’s no denying that Mitch hasn’t been quite as enthusiastically received as his creator might wish, but I’m very glad and grateful for the thoughtful responses that have been coming in from readers and reviewers.
Introduction: I feel the most important thing to say upfront about this book is that it’s not a traditional M/M romance. It’s there but really only plays a very minor background role in the overall story. Knowing this beforehand then you can sit back and enjoy the story for what it is; a story about investigative journalism and how Mitch has a nose for digging up the dirt on people no matter where he lands up. This is what intrigued me and I have now read a number of books where the MC(s) are gay but that’s it; they just are.
Mark also kindly asked me to do a guest post, so I wrote about the ‘fish out of water’ theme. Do drop by and share the love with Sinfully!
Excerpt and conclusion: This was an interesting read and take on a reporter’s life. … I enjoyed the book. It was well edited and I would say the writing is above average. It was an interesting afternoon’s read.
Currently 18 ratings, 10 text reviews, and an average of 3.50 stars.
Ije gave it 5 stars, and said: If I had to describe this story I would call it ‘slice of life’ – ‘a story telling technique that presents a seemingly arbitrary sample of a character’s life.’ Although I don’t think this sample of Mitch’s life could be described as arbitrary. Another way of describing this would be to borrow from my mentor Viv Thomas and describe this as a story of a ‘second choice life.’ A slice of second choice life. … This is a great book, kind of philosophical and a really refreshing change from my usual magic, murder, mayhem and mates.
Seventhdevil gave it 4 stars, and said: Overall I wish the book was longer, and fingers crossed there’ll be a sequel.
This is from the first chapter of the novel. Investigative journalist Mitch has been making a bit too much trouble for a crime boss – who makes threats, but not so seriously that the police can do much about it. In any case, Mitch’s editor Tom has a better idea.
The next morning, Mitch arrived at work to find a note on his desk – in Tom’s own handwriting – directing him to Tom’s office ‘ASAP’. This was followed, in the typically understated Australian way, with three exclamation marks. Mitch shrugged, put his satchel down on his desk, and went to obey.
If Mitch had expected Tom to be angry and concerned about the bomb that hadn’t after all been a bomb, he was disappointed. Instead Tom seemed to be bubbling over with excitement. His eyes were sparking, so much so that Mitch worried vaguely about electrical fires. Tom even stood from his desk, and came to usher Mitch to a seat, before closing the door.
“I’ve got an idea,” Tom announced. “A great idea, a wonderful idea …”
Blurb: Three young boys on a collision course: Albert Sterne – isolated, driven and fiercely intellectual; Fletcher Ash – bright, dedicated and with a strong sense of justice; John Garrett – hurt, marginalised and determined to do to the world exactly what the world has done to him. The eleven short stories in this companion volume continue and expand on the lives of the characters from the same author’s outstandingly popular The Definitive Albert J. Sterne, which should preferably be read first.
Genre: gay fiction; contemporary; drama; stories
Word count: 61,000
Click here for an excerpt of text, and here for the reviews.
Conclusion: This collection of stories was certainly more emotional than the novel, since it revolves more around characters’ lives than the plot about a serial killer. It has been a while since I’ve enjoyed a writer’s style so much, unobtrusive and yet clearly capable of conveying Albert’s losses, Garrett’s hatred, Fletcher’s love. The stories added the facets of their private lives successfully deepening our overall understanding of their characters. If you read The Definitive Albert J. Sterne, this collection is a must read. If you didn’t, I wholeheartedly recommend both books to you. Both the novel and the stories are great addition to this genre and the complexity of the characters alone recommend them to anyone who enjoys reading.
Currently 31 ratings, 13 reviews and an average of 4.55 stars.
Aussie54 gave it 5 stars, and said: Reading about Fletcher and his family was a joy. … It was hard to put my eReader down! I couldn’t wait to see what happened with Fletcher and Albert (even re-reading the first Albert along with this second book was compelling …).
Silver Iris gave it 5 stars, and said: I’m not sure I can describe just how much I love Albert & Ash. These short stories that are snippets into their lives beyond the novel were fantastic. I want to see more into their future.
An excerpt from the story The Rending of Cloth (New York City, October 1952). The child Albert grieves for his murdered parents.
Albert’s early childhood was mostly vague impressions. The love between his parents, and their love for Albert, was strong and constant and inviolate. But none of them were ever very demonstrative, there were never any displays of sentiment. The love was simply there as the foundation of everything they did, all the choices they made, the way they kept company only with each other, the scrupulous care taken to ensure that Albert had everything he needed to grow into everything he could be.
There were hazy moments he could remember. Albert, curled up in his father’s lap, listening to Rebecca’s calm voice tell the story of an old friend, long dead; Miles as rapt as the boy. The three of them being polite at some obscure relative’s afternoon tea, then mischievously sharing their boredom with each other through grimaces and raised eyebrows behind the woman’s back – they had gone home and read all evening, happy in their shared silence. Both of his parents a little giddy, someone having talked them into a fine restaurant on their twelfth wedding anniversary, dressing in their usual dull clothes – but Miles had bought Rebecca a silk scarf. The dark green of it picked out the reddish tint to her brown hair, which she left loose for once. Her eyes had glowed.
Late that night, she clutched the scarf in her dead hand and wouldn’t let it go.
Blurb: Joshua Delaney and Carmine Angelo Trezini, cop and mobster, should have absolutely nothing in common. Yet, accidentally brought together, they rapidly became both lovers and allies against organized crime boss Matthew Picano. Of course, taking down a man like that was never going to be easy – but Josh has no idea of the scale of the sacrifice he will eventually be called upon to make.
Genre: gay fiction; contemporary; organised crime thriller; novel; not a romance!
Word count: 51,900
Click here for an excerpt of text, and here for the reviews.
Excerpt: This book quite literally sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go. … The angst and tension caused by Carmine’s double crossing his boss/best friend was wonderful, and the courtroom drama a delight. The romance that was developing between Josh and Carmine was intense and angst-ridden due not only to the stress of the undercover operation, but because Josh … was struggling with embarrassment, confusion, shame, anger, lust, guilt, developing emotional feelings and fear for Carmine’s life.
Excerpt: This is a well written book that has a very good story-line and plot. Angelo is the guy that I fell in love with in this book. He just seems to live life to the fullest, embracing his love for Josh and just going with it … This book I will recommend to those who love cop/mobster love affairs, court room drama and gentle love.
Excerpt: Give it to Cryssy: she’ll read anything. … There is one very interesting take on the sex. When they do arrive at the moment of attempting anal sex, Delaney isn’t thrilled down to his socks and yearns for it to be over, but he wants Trezini to be happy. Not sexy, but unique, and one of the few moments we see the relationship growing. … The ending is as tragic as the title promises, the last line the most moving in the entire work.
Excerpt: I really liked the premise for The Valley of the Shadow of Death. I love a good redemption story … There’s plenty of foreshadowing along the way to prepare the reader for the ending to this story, which was entirely plausible. The author didn’t pull out the eleventh hour ‘deus ex machina’ for the sake of a tidy finish, which I was grateful for.
Sofia gave it 4 stars, and said: As usual Bozza is able to give a different perspective. Her worldview is particular and a worldview I like to visit. So the story is not accessorized with the ‘Hollywood’ custom jewellery which has made ‘hood’ stories stereotypical. Rather we have a story cleaned and refined down to people involved, idealistic Joshua and the realist Angelo. Angelo who gets hope for redemption from the faith of Joshua and acts upon it right on till the end.
Ingrid gave it 5 stars, and said: OMG She has done it again…. speechlesss
Sylvia gave it 4 stars, and said: I was about to give 3* until I read the last pages.
Kaje Harper said: This one is impossible for me to rate. Once again, I loved Julie Bozza’s writing voice, but it was a slightly awkward fit with this story. This had characters and development that should have been a bit gritty, given the plot. Instead it had a gentle, noir, early-twentieth feel, to the point where I kept getting startled when they pulled out cell phones. Delaney was wonderful, as a youthful, naive, optimistic, crusading cop – the writing style worked very well for him and his intrinsic, slightly simple goodness. For Carmine, the mobster turned informant, it was less effective.
bill m gave it 4 stars, and said: this is a wonderfully written story, but it’s a tough read — astonishingly realistic. There’s a lot of stuff in this genre that’s contrived and artificial; this one isn’t like that. It’s tense, uplifting, gritty and sad. But it would be hard not to recommend it, and I do.
CatsAndChardonnay gave it 5 stars, and said: I am a fan, for certain, and this book doesn’t disappoint anyone who is a Julie Bozza fan. She has a way of writing that is very distinct and draws the reader in. Highly recommend.
An excerpt from the first chapter of this novel. A cop and a mobster find themselves thrown together in a life-or-death situation.
Angelo Trezini was slowing down, too cold and too dull to even think. Well, his only thought was a wistful wish for the energy necessary to feel sad or sorry or righteously pissed off. He was fading fast.
He was in a freezer. A large storage room of a freezer, packed high with cartons of food, and lit so brightly that Trezini was forced to squint. When his eyes were open, that is. Mostly he was just pacing in a circle, eyes shut tight against the harsh light and harsher cold, arms wrapped around his chest. He’d lost count of the number of times he’d walked this circle, but it was often enough that he didn’t have to look where he was going anymore.
A muffled clang, and the door swung open. It all happened so fast, and Trezini was feeling so slow that he didn’t have a chance to take advantage of the situation. As luck would have it, he was as far away as his circle took him – by the time he’d turned and drawn his gun, the door was already slamming shut again. And Trezini had company.
He was staring down his gun-barrel at a big dumb hunk of a man wearing a cop’s uniform. A man who was so ridiculously handsome that Trezini almost forgot the cold for a moment. There was a stillness about the man, a sense that he was completely self-contained.