Tag Archives: 1920s

Exclusive Cover+Excerpt Reveal: Uncommon Charm by Emily Bergslien and Kat Weaver

Today on the site I’m delighted to reveal the cover for yet another Neon Hemlock novella, Uncommon Charm by Emily Bergslien and Kat Weaver, which releases on May 17, 2022! Crowdfunding will begin on March 14th on Indiegogo as part of the 2022 Novella series crowdfunding campaign, so in anticipation of that, let’s get to the story:

In the 1920s gothic comedy Uncommon Charm, bright young socialite Julia and shy Jewish magician Simon decide they aren’t beholden to their families’ unhappy history. Together they confront such horrors as murdered ghosts, alive children, magic philosophy, a milieu that slides far too easily into surrealist metaphor, and, worst of all, serious adult conversation.

And here’s the dreamy cover, created by the amazing
Marlowe Lune!

 

But wait, there’s more! Read on for an excerpt of Uncommon Charm by Emily Bergslien and Kat Weaver!

Chapter One

Three days after I was expelled from the Marable School for Girls, our poor Simon arrived. My mother told me to expect him, so when the bell rang, I opened the door onto a gloomy November sky, a gloomy November street, and a gloomy November of a boy. (And boy he was, only twenty years old to my sixteen.) He was short and nicely strong, wiry, with tanned cheeks and big dark eyes. Not at all like his father—but on second glance, there did lurk a spectre of Uncle Vee in his prettyish face, down which a raindrop gently rolled. He’d already doffed his hat; those slick curls of his would be ruined.“You’re Mr. Wolf,” I said. “Or is it Mr. Koldunov now?”

The car behind him hadn’t left yet. I saluted the Koldunovs’ driver, Tom, to let him know everything was well, he’d safely delivered the goods, he needn’t subject himself to the weather. Simon and I could surely handle his single, very sad suitcase. Tom returned my wave and drove away.

“Er,” said our guest. “Mr. Wolf will do. You’re Miss Selwyn-Stirling?”

“When I care to answer to it, but don’t call me miss around the Koldunovs. They’ll tease you, and not in the nice you’re-one-of-us-now way.”

“Thanks for the advice,” he said, and he continued to stand on our doorstep, looking about and letting himself be drizzled upon. I wondered why until I realised, oh no, he was waiting for me to invite him inside, at which point I decided I would walk to the moon and back for my new friend.

Grandly, I bowed him into the front hall. As he was taking off his wet things—he clutched his coat and hat until I nodded at the rack, strange boy, it was right there—Muv appeared on the first floor landing, at the top of the stairs.

You’d have thought Simon was a bird that’d biffed itself against a window instead of a student meeting his new mentor, though he wasn’t wrong to find Muv intimidating. From his point of view, I’d have seen not only a small, brisk woman whose bobbed auburn hair absolutely guillotined her jaw, whose freckles foxed her face like that rust on old books, whose black suit cut her body into clean ink lines, but the most ruthless magician England had ever borne. And she was a pretty ruthless mother, too.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Wolf,” she said. “You may address me as Lady Aloysia, my lady, or ma’am.” It was her way of trying to set him at ease, laying out the protocol, only she was always so dreadfully blunt about answering questions you hadn’t asked. More embarrassing still, Simon’s nod became a strange half-bow.

“Oh, don’t,” I groaned.

“Julia will show you around the house.” Muv fixed an eye on me. “His room first, please. You will not make him haul his luggage everywhere. Is there more?”

Simon’s hands tightened around the handle. “No, ma’am. Just the one.”

“Very well. We will meet for dinner three hours from now. Do tell me whether I’ve correctly understood your dietary needs.”

“Muv, honestly, you needn’t be the lepidopterist pinning butterflies. You can ask him these things like you’re both human people.”

She gestured for me to take the suitcase. I hefted it before Simon could object.

“I—thanks, Miss Sel—er, Lady Aloysia, ma’am, no, it’s—” Simon grasped uselessly at the air. “Thanks, but you don’t have to do all that.”

Muv tapped her elbow. “I see. Julia, after you help Mr. Wolf get settled, please inform Beth the week’s menu may remain as it is. I asked,” she continued, both addressing him and chiding me, “because I would not put it past Madam Koldunova to serve you roast pork every day.”

“It was every other day,” said Simon.

Muv blinked down at him. He blinked up at her. Silence could be loud indeed. An entire three-second opera played out as I started to drag the suitcase upstairs.

Simon’s footsteps came in a flurry after me, and, generous girl that I was, I let him take charge of his own belongings. When we reached the second floor, he turned back with a perplexed look, but Muv had disappeared into her laboratory. He couldn’t have expected hugs and smiles, not from the Lady Aloysia Stirling, not with her reputation, though I knew for a fact he’d received colder welcomes: I had the whole of it from Marie and Adele Koldunova. After three weeks with the Koldunovs, Muv ought to seem downright tropical.

“Er,” Simon murmured, “did you see—?” Though I tilted my head, yes, do go on, he shuttered himself. “Never mind.”

“These games are unnecessary, you know. You don’t have to keep secrets, and you don’t have to doubt your eyes. I can help! I did grow up here. Muv never fails to keep a thread in her needle, not that I pay her magic any mind. It is so tedious when your mother always knows where you are and what you’re thinking, but you’ll find out soon enough. I didn’t see anything. What did you see?”

“A woman,” Simon said, startled into answering. “Not your mother, but tall and blonde. A bit, er, bony. And bleeding.”

“Oh, well. I should have expected you’d be a medium. Come along!” I bounded up the stairs. “The ghosts will wait.”

***

About the authors: Emily Bergslien and Kat Weaver live in Saint Paul, Minnesota with their two small birds. Emily is a Twin Cities bookseller whose reviews have been published in The Riveter magazine. Find her on Twitter @eudaemaniacal. Kat’s short fiction has appeared in Apex Magazine, Lackington’s, Timeworn Literary Journal, and elsewhere. She is a senior fiction editor at Strange Horizons. Her art can be found at kathrynmweaver.com and on Twitter @anoteinpink.
About the press: Neon Hemlock is a Washington, DC-based small press publishing speculative fiction, rad zines and queer chapbooks. We punctuate our titles with oracle decks, occult ephemera and literary candles. Publishers Weekly once called us “the apex of queer speculative fiction publishing” and we’re still beaming. Learn more about us at neonhemlock.com and on Twitter at @neonhemlock.

Fave Five: Sapphic Fiction Set in the 1920s

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (1922)

Of Trust and Heart by Charlotte Anne Hamilton (1923)

Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin  (1926, YA)

Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia (1926)

The Last Nude by Ellis Avery (1927)

Bonus: These are all realistic fiction, but for historical fantasy, check out The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo and Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May, both of which are heavily Gatsby-inspired.

Double Bonus: For books that begin in 1919 and then span the next decade plus, check out The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher and Swearing Off Stars by Danielle Wong

Rainbow heart

Excerpt Reveal: Spellbound by Allie Therin

Historical romance fans, take note! Allie Therin’s Prohibition-era m/m, Spellbound, releases today, and if for any reason you’re on the fence about picking it up, we’ve got an excerpt to help you make the right choice!

atherinSBcover.jpg

To save Manhattan, they’ll have to save each other first… 

1925

New York

Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.

Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.

Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N

Get your excerpt here!

Exclusive Excerpt (from Chapter 4):
 

Rory burst through the shop’s side door into the brownstone’s lobby, where a handful of people were smoking cigarettes and checking their mail. Ignoring them, he snatched up the party-line telephone and bit out the exchange and number for the operator.

The call was answered on the second ring. “This is Arthur Kenzie.”

Kenzie’s voice was deep and confident and he had a ritzy accent, like he hadn’t always lived in America. It was unquestionably sexy and that only pissed Rory off more. “You think `cause you got money you can stomp all over us?”

All heads in the lobby turned his way. In his ear, Kenzie sounded very unimpressed as he said, “I beg your pardon—”

“How dare you give Mrs. Brodigan that—that thing.”

There was a barely perceptible intake of breath. “Who is this?” Kenzie’s voice had gone sharp.

“We don’t appraise weapons!” Rory’s heated shout nearly sent his broken glasses tumbling off his face.

“Where’s Mrs. Brodigan?” Kenzie demanded. “Why do you know about the ring—”

“That’s no ring. Whatever that piece of hell is, you’re taking it back.”

“But—”

“Keep your job, keep your money, and keep the hell away from us. You’ll get your monster back tomorrow and I better never hear your fucking name again.”

Rory slammed the receiver back on the cradle. He stood for a moment of righteous anger—then slumped as all the fight left him in a rush.

That…might have been a bit harsh.

He hunched his shoulders, conscious of every pair of eyes in the lobby staring at him. He slouched as small as he could and slunk away from the phone—

When it suddenly rang.

Rory froze. His gaze landed on the phone. It rang again, the long-long-short ring that meant a call for the antiques shop. And no one else in the lobby was moving, all eyes staring at him, so finally he swallowed hard and picked up the receiver. “Hello?”

“Don’t bother sending the ring back,” said Kenzie. “I’m coming to get it myself.”

***

About the Author: Allie Therin is a writer and avid reader of sci-fi, fantasy, and romance. She also is, or has been, a bookseller, an attorney, a Parks & Rec assistant, a boom operator, and a barista for one (embarrassing) day. She grew up in a tiny Pacific Northwest town with more bears than people, although the bears sadly would not practice Spanish with her.

When not researching odd questions for her 1920s romance series, she loves to connect with other readers and writers. Come say hi on GoodreadsTwitterFacebook or at allietherin.com

TBRainbow Alert: Historical Fiction

Any Old Diamonds by KJ Charles (Published)

Lord Alexander Pyne-ffoulkes, the younger son of the Duke of Ilvar, holds a bitter grudge against his wealthy father. The Duke intends to give his Duchess a priceless diamond parure on their wedding anniversary—so Alec hires a pair of jewel thieves to steal it.

The Duke’s remote castle is a difficult target, and Alec needs a way to get the thieves in. Soldier-turned-criminal Jerry Crozier has the answer: he’ll pose as a Society gentleman and become Alec’s new best friend.

But Jerry is a dangerous man: controlling, remote, and devastating. He effortlessly teases out the lonely young nobleman’s most secret desires, and soon he’s got Alec in his bed—and the palm of his hand.

Or maybe not. Because as the plot thickens, betrayals, secrets, new loves, and old evils come to light. Now the jewel thief and the aristocrat must keep up the pretence, find their way through a maze of privilege and deceit, and confront the truth of what’s between them…all without getting caught.

Buy it: Amazon | Books2Read

How to Talk to Nice English Girls by Gretchen Evans (Published)

In the aftermath of The Great War, everything is changing. But not for Marian Fielding.

Marian’s life is quiet and predictable in the solitude of the English countryside, where she plans to remain and care for her parents.

But Marian’s world is turned upside down when she meets brash, confident Katherine Fuller. Katherine arrives at the Fieldings’ estate for the wedding of Marian’s sister and immediately shakes things up. Instead of keeping an eye on the ill-mannered American girl and keeping her out of trouble, Marian finds herself magnetically drawn to Katherine’s vivacious nature, and they are swept into a whirlwind romance that will change both of their lives.

But will Katherine’s unconventional behavior ruin their chance at happiness? Can Marian leave her old life behind? Will two women from different worlds find a way to be together against all odds and expectations?

Buy it: Amazon

Smoke & Mirrors by Vesper St. Clair (Published)

Frank knows plenty about being haunted, after his brother was killed on his watch. But he has no patience for mediums. Especially not ones with silver tongues and piercing blue eyes like the Illusive Kasimir. Frank can’t understand why his boss, the head of the Brunetti crime family, is all too happy to waste his money and time trying to speak with the dead.

Until a devastating attack at one of Kasimir’s séances leaves the Brunettis in shambles, and Kasimir and Frank on the run.

Frank needs to hunt down whoever ordered the hit on his boss. What he doesn’t need is another doomed love affair with someone he can’t trust—like the con artist Kasimir. But if he’s going to save the Brunetti family—and his own broken heart—he’ll need to exorcise more than just his ghosts.

Buy it: Amazon

Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure by Courtney Milan (March 26th)

Mrs. Bertrice Martin—a widow, some seventy-three years young—has kept her youthful-ish appearance with the most powerful of home remedies: daily doses of spite, regular baths in man-tears, and refusing to give so much as a single damn about her Terrible Nephew.

Then proper, correct Miss Violetta Beauchamps, a sprightly young thing of five and sixty, crashes into her life. The Terrible Nephew is living in her rooming house, and Violetta wants him gone.

Mrs. Martin isn’t about to start giving damns, not even for someone as intriguing as Miss Violetta. But she hatches another plan—to make her nephew sorry, to make Miss Violetta smile, and to have the finest adventure of all time.

If she makes Terrible Men angry and wins the hand of a lovely lady in the process? Those are just added bonuses.

Buy it: Amazon | iBooks

A Duke in Disguise by Cat Sebastian (April 9th)

One reluctant heir

If anyone else had asked for his help publishing a naughty novel, Ash would have had the sense to say no. But he’s never been able to deny Verity Plum. Now he has his hands full illustrating a book and trying his damnedest not to fall in love with his best friend. The last thing he needs is to discover he’s a duke’s lost heir. Without a family or a proper education, he’s had to fight for his place in the world, and the idea of it—and Verity—being taken away from him chills him to the bone.

One radical bookseller

All Verity wants is to keep her brother out of prison, her business afloat, and her hands off Ash. Lately it seems she’s not getting anything she wants. She knows from bitter experience that she isn’t cut out for romance, but the more time she spends with Ash, the more she wonders if maybe she’s been wrong about herself.

One disaster waiting to happen

Ash has a month before his identity is exposed, and he plans to spend it with Verity. As they explore their long-buried passion, it becomes harder for Ash to face the music. Can Verity accept who Ash must become or will he turn away the only woman he’s ever loved?

Buy it: Amazon

The Lady and Her Secret Lover by Jenn LeBlanc (May 7th)

Much to her father’s dismay Lady Louisa Adele Kathryn Present is quite solidly on the shelf. She shows no interest in finding a husband after three long seasons of, well, not particulalry trying.

She begins this season anew, somewhat jaded and uninterested in yet another season and the annoyance she’ll certainly face from her family when she remains with them, yet again.

But a single glance from one of the new set has her reeling— straight back into a potted palm.

Maitland Alice Elliot-Rigsby has trained to be the wife of a duchess.
Or perhaps a Viscount, an Earl at the very least. She has only her training — and a rather healthy dowry — to recommend her.
So when she catches the eye of a viscounts daughter her own mother is thrilled.

Louisa hasn’t ever trusted anyone the way she trusts Maitland and it frightens her, but how will they survive a world in which the both of them must marry?

Buy it: Amazon

Everything Grows by Aimee Herman (May 7th)

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Fifteen-year-old Eleanor Fromme just chopped off all of her hair. How else should she cope after hearing that her bully, James, has taken his own life? When Eleanor’s English teacher suggests students write a letter to a person who would never read it to get their feelings out, Eleanor chooses James.

With each letter she writes, Eleanor discovers more about herself, even while trying to make sense of his death. And, with the help of a unique cast of characters, Eleanor not only learns what it means to be inside a body that does not quite match what she feels on the inside, but also comes to terms with her own mother’s mental illness.

Set against a 1993-era backdrop of grunge rock and riot grrrl bands, EVERYTHING GROWS depicts Eleanor’s extraordinary journey to solve the mystery within her and feel complete. Along the way, she loses and gains friends, rebuilds relationships with her family, and develops a system of support to help figure out the language of her queer identity.

Buy it: B&N | Amazon

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite (June 4th)

Cover copy to come!

Buy it: Amazon

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian (June 4th)

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing.

Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS.

Judy is an aspiring fashion designer who worships her uncle Stephen, a gay man with AIDS who devotes his time to activism as a member of ACT UP. Judy has never imagined finding romance…until she falls for Reza and they start dating.

Art is Judy’s best friend, their school’s only out and proud teen. He’ll never be who his conservative parents want him to be, so he rebels by documenting the AIDS crisis through his photographs.

As Reza and Art grow closer, Reza struggles to find a way out of his deception that won’t break Judy’s heart—and destroy the most meaningful friendship he’s ever known.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

An Impossible Distance to Fall by Miriam McNamara (July 2nd)

It’s 1930, and Birdie William’s life has crashed along with the stock market. Her father’s bank has failed, and worse, he’s disappeared along with his Jenny biplane.

When Birdie sees a leaflet for a barnstorming circus with a picture of Dad’s plane on it, she goes to Coney Island in search of answers.

The barnstorming circus has lady pilots, daredevil stuntmen, fire-spinners, and wing walkers, and Birdie is instantly enchanted―especially with a girl pilot named June. Birdie doesn’t find her father, but after stumbling across clues that suggest he’s gone to Chicago, she figures she’ll hitch a ride with the traveling circus doing what she does best: putting on a convincing act and insisting on being star of the show.

But the overconfidence that made her belle of the ball during her enchanted youth turns out to be far too reckless without the safety net of her charmed childhood, and a couple of impulsive missteps sends her and her newfound community spinning into freefall.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound

Spellbound by Allie Therin (July 29th)

1925
New York

Arthur Kenzie’s life’s work is protecting the world from the supernatural relics that could destroy it. When an amulet with the power to control the tides is shipped to New York, he must intercept it before it can be used to devastating effects. This time, in order to succeed, he needs a powerful psychometric…and the only one available has sworn off his abilities altogether.

Rory Brodigan’s gift comes with great risk. To protect himself, he’s become a recluse, redirecting his magic to find counterfeit antiques. But with the city’s fate hanging in the balance, he can’t force himself to say no.

Being with Arthur is dangerous, but Rory’s ever-growing attraction to him begins to make him brave. And as Arthur coaxes him out of seclusion, a magical and emotional bond begins to form. One that proves impossible to break—even when Arthur sacrifices himself to keep Rory safe and Rory must risk everything to save him.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo

Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon (August 6th)

In this tender-hearted debut, set against the tumultuous backdrop of life in 1973, when homosexuality is still considered a mental illness, two boys defy all the odds and fall in love.

When he’s not being bullied or in therapy for anxiety, sixteen-year-old Jonathan lives with his alcoholic dad in the suburbs of St. Louis. Still coping with the death of his mother, his elaborate imagination keeps him afloat and is a balm against vicious school bullies. But everything changes when a Native American boy named Web joins his English class three weeks before the school year ends.

After being partnered for an English project, Jonathan realizes Web is different from his classmates: he’s confident, stands up to Jonathan’s bullies, and calms Jonathan’s severe anxiety. Then one day Web kisses him, and throws Jonathan into a tailspin. It’s 1973 and being gay is considered a mental illness. Eventually he tells Web they can’t be together.

But when things get bad at home Jonathan must decide if he wants to stand up to his dad, and his therapist, and be true to himself.

Buy it: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound