The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration. Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. Cover images are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

This is a week late since I was waiting for an issue with text formatting on the site to be resolved to post anything (and although it was fixed before then, it took forever to catch up and switch over to that version). Sorry about that if you ran into it, but that should be all set now!

Today’s featured book is one I’m very excited about—another one from my 30 Anticipated 2022 Speculative Fiction Releases list! Also, a new review went up a couple of days ago. Here’s the link in case you missed it:

  • Review of Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel — Although I preferred the first half or so to the second, this Ramayana retelling is one of my favorite books I’ve read this year with pretty writing that drew me in immediately and a compassionate yet imperfect protagonist.

On to the latest book on the TBR!

Book Cover of House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson

House of Hunger by Alexis Henderson

Alexis Henderson’s second novel, a Gothic horror story with inspiration from the legend of Countess Elizabeth Báthory, will be released on September 27 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

I’ve been looking forward to reading more by Alexis Henderson since reading her Goodreads Choice Award–nominated debut, the Gothic horror novel The Year of the Witching. It was a book that kept me turning the pages when I’d been having difficulty concentrating on reading in 2020. Here’s a couple of snippets from my review:

Terror is twofold in The Year of the Witching, Alexis Henderson’s dark fantasy/Gothic horror debut novel, with its story involving mysterious witch spirits as well as the everyday atrocities that occur in a patriarchal puritanical society—the latter of which is magnified for protagonist Immanuelle Moore, a biracial sixteen year old followed by her mother’s sins and connection to the witchy woods.

[Immanuelle is] one of the types of characters I enjoy reading about: one who grows and ends up in a different place from where she started, one brimming with determination and the desire to do what’s right, one who is loyal to those she cares about and generally compassionate yet has a sharp edge. The choices she made at the end said a lot about her as a person, and I loved that despite having a different outlook in the final chapters, she still seemed like the same character from the beginning—just one whose experiences had pulled a deeper part of herself from the shadows into the light.

(And if you missed it in 2021, Alexis Henderson wrote about her kinship with horror in her guest post for Women in SF&F Month, “Writing Dark Fiction: An Exercise in Self-Acceptance.”)


WANTED – Bloodmaid of exceptional taste. Must have a keen proclivity for life’s finer pleasures. Girls of weak will need not apply.

A young woman is drawn into the upper echelons of a society where blood is power in this dark and enthralling Gothic novel from the author of The Year of the Witching.

Marion Shaw has been raised in the slums, where want and deprivation are all she know. Despite longing to leave the city and its miseries, she has no real hope of escape until the day she spots a peculiar listing in the newspaper seeking a bloodmaid.

Though she knows little about the far north—where wealthy nobles live in luxury and drink the blood of those in their service—Marion applies to the position. In a matter of days, she finds herself the newest bloodmaid at the notorious House of Hunger. There, Marion is swept into a world of dark debauchery. At the center of it all is Countess Lisavet.

The countess, who presides over this hedonistic court, is loved and feared in equal measure. She takes a special interest in Marion. Lisavet is magnetic, and Marion is eager to please her new mistress. But when she discovers that the ancient walls of the House of Hunger hide even older secrets, Marion is thrust into a vicious game of cat and mouse. She’ll need to learn the rules of her new home—and fast—or its halls will soon become her grave.

As an Amazon Associate and Bookshop affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Note: You may want to read this review on the website (instead of by email or feed reader). There are spoiler tags toward the end that should be hidden on the website but may be visible elsewhere.

Book Description:

A stunning debut from a powerful new voice, Kaikeyi is the story of the infamous queen from the Indian epic the Ramayana. It is a tale of fate, family, courage, and heartbreak—of an extraordinary woman determined to leave her mark in a world where gods and men dictate the shape of things to come.

I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.

So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on tales of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.

Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.

But as the evil from her childhood stories threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. And Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak—and what legacy she intends to leave behind.

Kaikeyi, Vaishnavi Patel’s debut novel, is a reimagining of the story of the titular queen, who exiled the hero Rama in the Indian epic the Ramayana. The author described it as “a ‘what-if’ style alternative rather than a faithful retelling of Valmiki’s Ramayana from someone else’s perspective” on Goodreads, and there is an author’s note at the beginning of the novel discussing some of the changes she made. In this, she shared how the idea grew from a minor disagreement between her grandmother and mother when the latter said that Kaikeyi actually helped Rama fulfill his destiny by sending him away. This conversation led her to look for literature focusing on the queen’s perspective, and she wrote this novel when she couldn’t find these stories, saying she “wanted to give Kaikeyi a chance to explain her actions and explore what might have caused a celebrated warrior and beloved queen to tear her family apart.”

As such, this standalone novel is a first-person account of Kaikeyi’s story covering her life from childhood through the immediate aftermath of her choice to exile one of her adult sons. It details how she learned at a young age just how unfair the world is to women and girls, from the banishment of her own mother to the differences between how she and her twin brother were treated. It shows how alone she felt as the only girl in a family with eight children, as one whose prayers went unanswered (despite being a princess, who she’d been taught was someone the gods always answered), and how she turned to the scrolls in the library and discovered a forgotten magical art: the Binding Plane, which allowed her to see her bonds with people and influence them. It tells of her convincing her twin to teach her to fight so she can better protect herself, and then learning to wield a weapon and drive a war chariot.

These early experiences shaped her into the woman she became: one who made a place for herself in a world in which she didn’t fit, one who strove to make the world a better and more just place for other women, and eventually, one who exiled someone she loved.

Although I’m not that familiar with the Ramayana, I was swept away from the very first page of Kaikeyi. (I had actually been considering reading a version of the Ramayana that I have beforehand, but I looked at Kaikeyi‘s opening and just had to keep reading.) The prettily written narrative with its references to the heartbreak to come drew me in immediately, and Kaikeyi’s a sympathetic protagonist with her all-too-palpable rising anger at patriarchy. I loved her character, a remarkable and persistent person who does her best and tries to make the world a better place yet one who is also imperfect. She falters at times, makes mistakes, and has regrets. She isn’t always aware of her privilege, and she seems more concerned with the potential negative outcomes of using the Binding Plane than the fact that she’s using magic to manipulate people. (When I first finished this, I wanted to see her hypocrisy related to the latter explored a bit more, but after reflecting on it, I appreciate that the author allowed Kaikeyi to just tell her story and exist as someone who isn’t always self-aware. As she relates her narrative, she doesn’t always examine herself or come to realize she was in the wrong, and that makes her all the more real.)

Kaikeyi’s relationships with others are another highlight of the novel, especially those with her twin brother and the family she marries into. She grows up close to her barely-younger sibling, but their connection increasingly simmers with tension and Kaikeyi comes to realize just how much more her brother is valued for being a boy. To make matters worse, her twin is oblivious to how differently the two of them are treated, and later, he supports their father’s wishes for her to marry a king after she’d been promised there would be more time before she had to wed.

As portrayed in this novel, Kaikeyi is an aroace woman who never expresses any interest in romantic relationships, and she wanted to put off marriage as long as possible. She also initially resisted the match with her husband since she expected to be of no consequence as his third wife, but she agreed to the marriage when he promised that her son, should she have one, would be the next king. Though Kaikeyi does not fall in love with her husband, she does come to consider him a dear friend after gaining his respect in battle, and she comes to see his other two wives as sisters. Together, the three queens create the Women’s Council, allowing the people to come to them with their problems and giving more of a voice to the women in their kingdom. (And this is also influenced by Manthara, Kaikeyi’s servant, who was like a mother to her and showed her some of the problems other women faced.)

Though I found Kaikeyi’s entire story compelling, I did prefer the first half or so focusing on her childhood and the earlier parts of her time as a queen, wife, and mother. There are still wonderful scenes later in her story, such as some epic moments interspersed throughout and her reunions with various family members, but I did find it less engaging, especially since I have some reservations about how she came to exile Rama. Part of this is because of my personal preference for complexity that blurs the line between who’s right and who’s wrong, but I also felt that fleshing certain aspects out a bit more would have made it stronger. Spoilers related to this are below (and should be hidden if you’re reading this in a web browser).

However, that wasn’t a huge hindrance to my enjoyment of this novel, and I still think Kaikeyi is a wonderful book. I just didn’t end up loving it quite as much as I expected when I was partway through it. (Of course, I have not read or studied the Ramayana; I’ve only read about it on the internet and read a couple of stories from it in a book on mythology. It’s entirely possible there is additional context I’m missing.)

Kaikeyi is one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I appreciated its focus on a compassionate but flawed heroine determined to carve a place for herself in a society that didn’t want her to be her true self as a woman with ambition: a queen and a warrior, a mother and a political adviser, an advocate for other women, and ultimately, someone who had a profound impact. It’s a fantastic debut—from the protagonist’s story and voice to the depth of her familial relationships to the more epic scenes involving gods and other supernatural beings—and I’m eagerly anticipating Vaishnavi Patel’s next novel.

My Rating: 8/10

Where I got my reading copy: Finished copy from the publisher.

Read an Excerpt from Kaikeyi

Read “Divorcing the Evil Stepmother” by Vaishnavi Patel from Women in SF&F Month 2022

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration. Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. Cover images are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

The most recent book in the mail is one of the books from my 30 Anticipated 2022 Speculative Fiction Book Releases list. But first, here’s last week’s post in case you missed it:

Now for the latest book, which is by one of my favorite authors!

The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri - Book Cover

The Oleander Sword (The Burning Kingdoms #2) by Tasha Suri

The second book in The Burning Kingdoms trilogy will be available on August 16 (hardcover library edition, trade paperback, ebook, audiobook).

I have loved all of Tasha Suri’s books, starting with the two novels in The Books of Ambha, Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash. (Tasha Suri wrote a guest post about inspirations for this world’s magic system for Women in SF&F Month 2019, which opens with “Fairy tales are obsessed with feet.”)

The Jasmine Throne, the first book in the series, was one of my favorite books of 2021. Here’s a couple of snippets from my review:

Inspired in part by Indian epics like the Mahabharata and a conflict for a throne during the Mughal periodThe Jasmine Throne is largely about different characters surviving and influencing their world despite the perils of the Empire, with a heavy emphasis on the additional obstacles of patriarchy for the women who are the heart of this story. It’s about the dangers of underestimating these women, even—or maybe especially—when they appear to have been stripped of their power. It’s about the different, subtler ways they navigate their world and how they can use being underestimated to their advantage: whether they are a maidservant, an imprisoned princess, or a wife and mother-to-be with a reputation for being gentle.

The Jasmine Throne comes with my highest recommendation to those who share my taste for beautifully written, character-driven epic fantasy. Although I tend to come across several books a year that are exceptional, it’s rare that I come across one like this—a book that seems perfect to me in every way, one that is not only technically wonderful but also one that has my whole heart.

The publisher’s website has an excerpt from The Jasmine Throne.


The Jasmine Throne has been hailed as a series opener that will “undoubtedly reshape the landscape of epic fantasy for years to come” (Booklist, starred). Now, award-winning author Tasha Suri’s provocative and powerful Burning Kingdoms trilogy continues with The Oleander Sword.

The prophecy of the nameless god—the words that declared Malini the rightful empress of Parijatdvipa—has proven a blessing and curse. She is determined to claim the throne that fate offered her. But even with the strength of the rage in her heart and the army of loyal men by her side, deposing her brother is going to be a brutal and bloody fight.

The power of the deathless waters flows through Priya’s blood. Thrice born priestess, Elder of Ahiranya, Priya’s dream is to see her country rid of the rot that plagues it: both Parijatdvipa’s poisonous rule, and the blooming sickness that is slowly spreading through all living things. But she doesn’t yet understand the truth of the magic she carries.

Their chosen paths once pulled them apart. But Malini and Priya’s souls remain as entwined as their destinies. And they soon realize that coming together is the only way to save their kingdom from those who would rather see it burn—even if it will cost them.

As an Amazon Associate and Bookshop affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Book Description:

A girl of two worlds, accepted by none… A half Reaper, half Shinigami soul collector seeks her destiny in this haunting and compulsively readable dark fantasy duology set in 1890s Japan.

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death…only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

The Keeper of Night, Kylie Lee Baker’s young adult fantasy debut novel, is the first book in a duology that will be concluded in The Empress of Time, scheduled for release this October. Though the story is set in the 1890s, it has very little to do with the human world of the time: it follows a non-human protagonist dealing with the two supernatural worlds she inhabits due to her Reaper father and Shinigami mother, starting in England and then moving to Japan.

With inspiration from Japanese folklore and Shinto mythology, it’s largely about protagonist Ren’s quest to destroy three Yokai so that Izanami, the Goddess of Death, will accept her as a Shinigami. It’s also about her relationship with her younger brother—a Reaper who didn’t fit in well because of his unusually gentle soul—and a stranger she meets in Japan—a former Shinigami with a deformed foot, cast out for being physically imperfect. But most of all, The Keeper of Night is about Ren’s desire to belong, and what she’s willing to do to earn a place among the Shinigami after being rejected by the Reapers.

Although this is a good story, it did take some time for The Keeper of Night to draw me in. The first 25% or so felt rushed as it gave an overview of what Ren’s life as a Reaper was like, and as a young adult soul collector, that meant it had to cover nearly 200 years of backstory in that time. It basically shows a (rather eventful) day for her with her collecting one soul; being sneered at and abused by the other Reapers, who consider her a Shinigami; making everything worse with her inability to control her light powers; and then fleeing with her brother, who refuses to leave her side.

That was certainly sufficient for making the point that being part Shinigami in a Reaper world was terrible, but I believe it would have benefited from further fleshing out the relationship with her brother that is important to this story. Ren’s first-person perspective conveys that she’s more accepting of her sibling’s softness and fears than her father and that he tried to compensate for his parents’ indifference to his sister, but it mainly tells about their bond: he’s not even introduced until Ren tells him she has to leave and he chooses to accompany her. Beginning with a clearer sense of why he was so determined to stick with Ren by showing more of their bond beforehand would have strengthened all that came later.

Ren’s first two centuries as a Reaper seemed to be glossed over in a hurry to get to Japan, but I also found the part set there far more engaging the start set in England. Her encounters with a variety of creepy supernatural beings and time in the underworld is entertaining, and I loved the legends involving the three Yokai she was supposed to defeat. There is a twist that is probably predictable to those familiar with the novel’s inspirations, but I don’t think it needs to be surprising: what’s important is Ren’s reaction to discovering the truth and all the devastation that ensues.

And there is devastation. My favorite part of The Keeper of Night (other than the mythology) is just how DARK it’s willing to go. Ren is one of those “morally gray” protagonists: one who is not as “bad” as the most villainous characters she meets, but also one who is often cold and selfish, driven by her obsession to be accepted by at least one of her supernatural cultures. Despite caring for her sweet-natured brother, she is also dismissive of him and unkind to him many times, and she ends up making some terrible decisions. But even while I was internally screaming “Ren, what are you DOING?!” at her latest bad choice, I understood her perspective and why it made sense to her. And in the end, Ren does have to face the consequences of her actions with a tragic-but-fitting conclusion that I absolutely loved.

Though this had an amazing ending and other strengths, it wasn’t more than a “good read” for me since it lacked nuance and characters with depth. Despite being the most fleshed out and gaining more dimension near the close of this story, Ren is still rather one note a lot of the time given so much of her narrative revolves around getting her heart’s desire. The only other prominent characters are her brother and their eventual traveling companion, the aforementioned former Shinigami, who wishes to aid Ren in her quest in hopes of gaining some favor with Izanami. These two bring out different sides of Ren, and this is not at all subtly done even though I did like where this went, as well as her brother—a kind soul, but also someone who is fierce when it comes to doing what is right.

It takes time for The Keeper of Night to build to its phenomenal conclusion, and this is a book I appreciated more when I reread a lot of it for this review with the knowledge of how it would all come together. But even before that, I still liked the darker aspects and the mythology—and had a lot of fun with all the creepy supernatural beings I met along the way.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher.

Read an Excerpt from The Keeper of Night

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration. Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. Cover images are affiliate links to Bookshop, and I earn from qualifying purchases.

Last week one book came in the mail, and I purchased one—plus I downloaded an electronic copy of the book from last week’s post:

On to the other books!

Cover of The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne

The Book of Gothel by Mary McMyne

The Book of Gothel will be released on July 26 (hardcover, ebook, audiobook).

Mary McMyne wrote about her love of fairy tales, folktales, and feminist retellings for Women in SF&F Month this year. Here’s an excerpt discussing this book and writing a Rapunzel retelling from the perspective of the witch:

When I first set out to write THE BOOK OF GOTHELI wanted to write a retelling that speculated about the historical roots of the Rapunzel folktale in medieval Europe. I wanted to breathe life into the female characters who were neglected in the Brothers Grimm’s version. The mother, who craves the herb and births the child, but then is never referred to again. (That poor woman! Where is she when Rapunzel gets her happily ever after with her twins and the prince? What happens to her?) The witch, whose motivations for kidnapping Rapunzel go unexplored. (Yes, she’s mad that the baby’s father stole an herb from her garden, but why in the world does she want the infant as payment? How evil is she?)

There’s a long and terrible history in Europe of women being persecuted for witchcraft, especially women who lived on the margins or didn’t fit into the conventional roles prescribed for them by the Church. Most of these women, we now know, were maligned because of factors outside of their control. Widows were especially vulnerable, for example, as were women living in poverty. As a storyteller, I wanted to turn the stories we tell about witches on their heads, to ask whether the witches of the Brothers Grimm were really as evil as they were made out to be. THE BOOK OF GOTHEL is my attempt to ask how the witch would represent herself.

I love retellings and reimagined stories, and I’m interested in seeing how the Rapunzel tale is reinterpreted in The Book of Gothel.


This dark, lush, and beautiful reimagining of the story of Rapunzel presents the witch’s perspective in this tale of motherhood, magic, and the stories we pass down to our children.

“Smart, swift, sure-footed and fleet-winged, The Book of Gothel launches its magic from a most reliable source: the troubled heart. Mary McMyne is a magician.”—Gregory Maguire, NYT bestselling author of Wicked

Everyone knows the tale of Rapunzel in her tower, but do you know the story of the witch who put her there?

Haelewise has always lived under the shadow of her mother, Hedda—a woman who will do anything to keep her daughter protected. For with her strange black eyes and even stranger fainting spells, Haelewise is shunned by her village, and her only solace lies in the stories her mother tells of child-stealing witches, of princes in wolf-skins, of an ancient tower cloaked in mist, where women will find shelter if they are brave enough to seek it.

Then, Hedda dies, and Haelewise is left unmoored. With nothing left for her in her village, she sets out to find the legendary tower her mother used to speak of—a place called Gothel, where Haelewise meets a wise woman willing to take her under her wing.

But Haelewise is not the only woman to seek refuge at Gothel. It’s also a haven for a girl named Rika, who carries with her a secret the Church strives to keep hidden. A secret that reveals a dark world of ancient spells and murderous nobles behind the world Haelewise has always known…

Told from her own perspective, The Book of Gothel is a lush, historical retelling filled with dark magic, crumbling towers, mysterious woods, and evil princes. This is the truth they never wanted you to know, as only a witch might tell it.

Cover of The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

The School for Good and Evil (School for Good and Evil #1) by Soman Chainani

Though Rise of the School for Good and Evil is a prequel, I heard it might be a good idea to read at least the first book in the series before starting it so I bought the Kindle version.

The publisher’s website has an excerpt and audio sample from The School for Good and Evil, and Rise of the School for Good and Evil was recently featured here.


THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL will soon be a major motion picture from Netflix—starring Academy Award winner Charlize Theron, Kerry Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Yeoh, Sofia Wylie, Sophie Anne Caruso, Jamie Flatters, Earl Cave, Kit Young, and more! 

The New York Times bestselling School for Good and Evil series is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one. Start here to follow Sophie, Agatha, and everyone at school from the beginning!

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good and Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy-tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil.

The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.

But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are?

Don’t miss the thrilling conclusion to the beloved series, The School for Good and Evil #6: One True King!

I’m delighted to welcome Leanna Renee Hieber back to the blog! Her work includes the timeslip novellas in the Time Immemorial trilogy; the futuristic, paranormal novellas in the Dark Nest Chronicles, beginning with her Prism Award–winning space opera novella Dark Nest; and the Gothic gaslamp fantasy books in the Strangely BeautifulEterna Files, and Spectral City series. (Plus she has written a couple of essays on Gothic fiction here, “Penny Dreadful’s Betrayal and the Complexity of Feminism in the Gothic Tradition” and “The Gothic as a Canary in Fear’s Coal Mine.”)

She is here today to discuss her upcoming contemporary Gothic romance novel, Ghosts of the Forbidden, which will be released just in time for spooky season on October 11. Read on to learn more about the first book in Glazier’s Gap—and to see the cover and step-back cover for Ghosts of the Forbidden created by In Churl Yo!

Cover of Ghosts of the Forbidden by Leanna Renee Hieber Step-back Cover for Ghosts of the Forbidden by Leanna Renee Hieber
(click to enlarge)

Greetings, friends! First off, thanks to Fantasy Café for being with me throughout the entirety of my career, from their review of my debut novel The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker (now revised with Tor as Strangely Beautiful) to letting me rant about Gothic tropes, to hosting me in several different capacities through the years. This site has remained such a wonderful resource for our genres. I’m so thrilled to present the fabulous covers of Ghosts of the Forbidden, which marks not only a new line of fiction for Castle Bridge Media but marks my debut in contemporary (gasp!) Gothic Romance. I’m known for Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy set in the late 19th century. Thankfully, this category-length book merges all of my favorite things: Gothic shenanigans, haunted houses, handsome ghosts, quirky characters, past lives, unexpected found family, a sweet, sensuous romance and an eerie setting that is a character in and of itself.

When I was approached about the possibility of this book, I had to ask myself if I was ready to try a contemporary novel. (I worried I would be like the Steve Buscemi ‘how do you do, fellow kids’ meme but it’s me in full Victorian Mourning going ‘how do you do, fellow… 21st Centurians…’) But when I pitched the premise of ghostly lovers finding their way into a second-chance, I knew I had a concept that could bridge my lyrical, Victorian style into the present day. When I sat down to write this book, it just fell out as if I’d gone into a trance in a séance; the characters spoke to me vibrantly and I fell deeply in love with all of them. I hope you’ll love them, and this fictional town, as much as I do!

What I love about these covers is that the front cover gives you something fresh and modern, as this book is a contemporary voice, but the interior step-back cover (I’ve always dreamed of having a step-back!) is a nod to the book that the heroine, Lillian, finds that she’s inadvertently fallen into, full of details directly from my narrative. The step-back cover is a prime re-imagining of a 70’s Gothic paperback and as I really lean into my love of Dark Shadows in this book, it’s perfectly fitting. Huge thanks to cover artist (and talented author in his own right) In Churl Yo for creating a dynamic pairing that evokes the dual spirit of what I’ve written, with one foot in two eras.

Ghosts of the Forbidden cover blurb:

She should run. But can she?

When newly unemployed writer Lillian Anders tries to escape her personal demons by running off to Glazier’s Gap for a writer’s conference hosted by a reviving Gothic romance publisher, she lands right in the middle of her own Gothic novel. Her life begins eerily reflecting one of the early-’70s “women running from houses” books in the publisher’s archive. Striking 19th Century ghosts haunt darkened halls and carriage-house mirrors, startling Lillian with dangerous secrets. As a hungry, violent force lurks in the mountains and the abandoned silver mine, Lillian’s presence rekindles old flames and reopens aching wounds. When charming journalist Nathaniel Lynd arrives in town, he and Lillian forge an immediate bond when intimate memories surface from another century. Evil forces that killed star-crossed lovers in the past seek to destroy Lillian and Nathaniel in the present. It will take fortitude, ingenuity and unexpected help from the strange town itself to make sure the demons of the past don’t destroy a passionate future; destined to set old wrongs right.

About Glazier’s Gap:

Welcome to Glazier’s Gap, Colorado—a small, gossip-filled hamlet started by the mysterious owners of a now-abandoned silver mine whose unwitting rivalries set the town on a cursed trajectory. From an enormous luxury resort hotel destroyed years ago in a landslide—whose wreckage remains half-buried today—to unexplained fires in grand mansions, the town isn’t known for good luck. It’s a place with a bright side, though: tourists visit its rickety old ski resort, hike shadowed mountain paths and locals attend its small college. There’s even a defunct book publisher starting up again. But underneath it all: Glazier’s Gap is full of secrets and ghosts.

Every book follows a different person in Glazier’s Gap who falls into a supernatural love affair—like Broadchurch with phantoms, a romantic Twilight Zone in a beautiful, creepy town.


Ghosts of the Forbidden will be available via Castle Bridge Media ( on October 11th on Kindle, available for pre-order here (Ghosts of the Forbidden (Glazier’s Gap Book 1) – Kindle edition by Hieber, Leanna Renee. Romance Kindle eBooks @ and in paperback wherever books are sold! Paperback pre-orders will go live closer to release day.

Ghosts of the Forbidden is presently available on NetGalley for reviewers to request. Readers can also follow me on social media and sign up for my mailing list to be reminded on release day! Upcoming Appearances! – Strangely Beautiful Fiction: Leanna Renee Hieber

Cheers and Happy Haunting!