A bleak and haunting multigenre tale.

BRIDE OF THE DRAGON KING

In this paranormal novel, a woman discovers she has mysterious ties to a handsome but bewildering stranger.

It was Elisabeth’s idea to backpack in Ireland with her fiance, Josh. But the trip and her engagement end prematurely when she finds definitive proof that Josh has been unfaithful. She goes off on her own and takes a tumble in the woods only to have an apparent dream of a dragon abducting her. This is especially troubling, as she’s had a lifelong recurring dream of a dragon proclaiming she is his and the two living together in immortality. Elisabeth awakens in the village of Oakshire, where a “healer,” Constantine, is tending to her injury from the fall. He’s certainly attractive, but Elisabeth keeps her distance, as she’s fresh out of the turbulent relationship with Josh. But Constantine seduces her: He may have genuine feelings for her, having lost the woman he loved to murder. Elisabeth, meanwhile, just wants to get home to Philadelphia, but with a flooded road and no cell service, it doesn’t appear she’s going anywhere soon. Although fate may have connected her dreams with Constantine’s past, he has a shocking plan for Elisabeth. While surprises await Elisabeth, Drighton provides enough clues that readers will predict most of them. But this is the striking story’s essence: a relentless dread, with unpleasantness seeming inevitable. As in her preceding novel, The Ghosts of Winworth Manor (2019), the author writes erotic scenes tinged with a sense of uneasiness. Although her straightforward prose gives explicit erotica a romantic overtone, readers will be aware of something dark in certain characters’ motivations. Even dubious individuals get the spotlight (and perhaps sympathy) in the ominous narrative’s episodes, from the backstory of Constantine’s lost love to Josh’s post-breakup encounter that ultimately links to the main plot. Despite the memorable ending implying a possible sequel, this engrossing novel works as a stand-alone.

A bleak and haunting multigenre tale.

Pub Date: May 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68470-207-7

Page Count: 140

Publisher: Lulu

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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A unique story of transcendent love.

LAYLA

An aimless young musician meets the girl of his dreams only to have his newfound happiness threatened by several inexplicable—and possibly supernatural—events.

The story opens as Leeds Gabriel meets with a detective while his girlfriend, Layla, is restrained in a room one flight above them. Through the interview, readers learn that Leeds was wasting both his time and his musical talent playing backup for a small-town wedding troupe called Garrett’s Band when he spied Layla dancing her heart out to their mediocre music at a wedding. When Leeds approaches Layla, their connection is both instant and intense. A blissful courtship follows, but then Leeds makes the mistake of posting a picture of himself with Layla on social media. A former girlfriend–turned-stalker wastes no time in finding and attacking Layla. Layla spends months recovering in a hospital, and it seems the girl Leeds fell for might be forever changed. Gone is her special spark, her quirkiness, and the connection that had entranced Leeds months before. In a last-ditch effort to save their relationship, he brings Layla back to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. When they get there, though, Leeds meets Willow, another guest, and finds himself drawn to her in spite of himself. As events unfold, it becomes clear that Willow will either be the key to saving Leeds’ relationship with Layla or the catalyst that finally extinguishes the last shreds of their epic romance. Told entirely from Leeds’ point of view, the author’s first foray into paranormal romance does not disappoint. Peppered with elements of mystery, psychological thriller, and contemporary romance, the novel explores questions about how quickly true love can develop, as well as the conflicts that can imperil even the strongest connections. Despite a limited cast of characters and very few setting changes, the narrative manages to remain both fast-paced and engaging. The conclusion leaves a few too many loose ends, but the chemistry between the characters and unexpected twists throughout make for a satisfying read.

A unique story of transcendent love.

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-0017-8

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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