Once a year my reading group schedules a topic we call either Reading Surprise or Zen Reading. The idea is to pick up a book and start reading, without having read the description on the back cover (or website). If you’re lucky, what you find in the pages of the book is a nice surprise.
I tried and eliminated half a dozen books before I found The Vine Witch through Amazon’s Kindle First program for Prime members. The cover and title immediately caught my eye, so I grabbed a copy. All I knew about it was that Amazon had characterized it as Fantasy. To my delight, it turned out to be romantic fantasy.
The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith Debut Novel 47 North, 2019
In Smith’s fantasy version of early 20th c. France, all vineyards have vine witches, who use their skills to create a better vintage.
The book starts with the protagonist, Elena, trapped by a curse in a frog’s body. Every time the frog sheds it’s skin, she swallows the skin. She doesn’t remember much about being a human, but she knows the frog’s skin is poisonous. This time the poison hits critical mass and the curse is broken.
She returns home, planning to exact vengeance on her former fiance whom she believes ordered the curse on her. But everything has changed. Her mentor, an older woman, has sold the vineyard to an outsider, a young lawyer from Paris who wants to be a great vintner. Jean-Paul is a believer in law and science, so she has to hide her witchy abilities.
She’s also dismayed by the shape the vineyards are in. Someone has clearly cursed them as well. She goes about undoing the damage, trying to stay off Jean-Paul’s radar.
Her former fiance has since married a blond bier hexe from the northern lands (Germany, presumably) and has prospered mightily, buying up many of the local wineries when their grapes start to sour. Elena knows he is behind the damage to the Chateau Renard vineyard, as well.
Of course, nothing goes as planned, and Elena ends up accused of murder. Jean-Paul who has fallen in love with her tries to free her, only to end up in danger to himself.
This book was a lovely surprise. I found the world-building intriguing and the characters engaging, esp. Yvette, Elena’s felonious but charming partner in crime. (We don’t meet her until well into the book.) The writing is good, and there was the nice bonus of a romance subplot between Elena and Jean-Paul. Recommended for lovers or fantasy or paranormal romance.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
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About Wolf Around the Corner:
Frank’s family taught him that his wolf was dangerous, unwanted. Now his best friend’s brother wants him in bed and on stage. But giving into his wolf’s need for love could risk the quiet life Frank has created for himself—and his heart. Settled in the small town of Waycroft Falls, Frank is content to be a lone wolf among the white picket fences and dollar book bins until he finds himself sniffing his best friend’s brother. Tom smells like hot apple pie and his Broadway smile has Frank lolling his tongue. But when the visiting actor learns Frank’s secret and plies him with hot kisses to get him to star in his play, Frank can’t help but wonder if Tom is only acting. Tom ran away from family obligations to be a Broadway star. If he could make it there, he could make it anywhere…but he didn’t. Trudging home to Waycroft Falls to open his sister’s new performance space brings him face to face with a werewolf—a werewolf that would be perfect for Tom’s shoestring production of Beauty and the Beast. Staying in Tiny Town USA would be worth it if he can somehow convince the sexy wolf to expose his furry condition on stage and howl privately in Tom’s bed. Wolf Around The Corner, a paranormal semi-finalist in Passionate Ink’s 2017 Sexy Scribbles Contest, is a full-length fairytale romance with a side of wolf shifter. If you like your romance with gorgeous men, humor, and small town magic, you’ll love Wolf Around the Corner! Buy your copy now and settle in to watch the drama unfold! Genre: M/M Paranormal Shifter Contemporary Buy Links: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords | 24Symbols | Indigo | Angus & Robertson | Mondadori
Interview with wolf shifter Frank Braden:
LM: Thanks for sitting down with me today. Tell us a little about yourself.
Um, well. There’s not that much to tell. I grew up in the small town of Hendersonville and then after high school I moved to Waycroft Falls. I’m the assistant manager at a local bookstore, The Little Dorrit Bookshop. Our store came in third last year at the Founders Day Bed Races. My life is pretty quiet. Or at least it was until my friend Annie—she owns the bookshop—invited her brother home for the summer to open the new performance space in the upstairs floor of the bookshop.
LM: I understand you have some kind of special power. Can you tell us about it?
Not really a power. I can turn into a wolf. Which isn’t necessarily special, just rare. It’s not something I talk about. People don’t always treat me the same once they know that about me. Like, um, my family. That’s why I don’t live in the town where I grew up. Nobody really knows about my, um, special power, here in Waycroft Falls.
LM: When did you discover you were able to shift?
I first manifested my Galen’s Syndrome at sixteen. It was after school, on the track. My team was doing drills in preparation for our next meet. One minute I was racing down the track with a teammate on my heels and the next I hit the ground because my legs didn’t work right. Or rather, they worked fine, but wolves don’t normally wear clothes and my legs were all tangled in my shorts. Luckily my coach knew what was happening because I sure didn’t!
LM: Did you have special education or training to hone your power?
Well, my mom died when I was little. I’m not in contact with anyone from her family. I think they live in Canada? My dad’s family doesn’t have any manifestors, just carriers. I’m the lone wolf. My dad took me to a Galen’s meet up when I was in first grade, but it was across the country and other than that I’ve never met anyone else like me. So, no, I guess you could call me self-educated?
LM: Do you consider your ability a gift or a curse? Why?
Technically, Galen’s Syndrome is a genetic curse. That means one of my ancestors was cursed with lycanthropy and turned into a wolf temporarily. The curse wrapped around his DNA and because lycanthropy is a curse that’s never been broken, it’s traveled down the genetic line. In other words, the curse gene passed to his children and to their children’s children like a mutation. Luckily it’s recessive, so unless your mother and your father both have the cursed gene (like I do), you don’t manifest the curse. It’s recognized by the medical community as similar to a rare genetic disorder.
LM: How does having this disorder complicate your life?
Well, when I was in high school my classmates toilet papered my house and hung a papier-mâché wolf from one of our trees. It wasn’t easy for my family after everyone found out in my hometown. That’s why I’m hesitant to tell that many people here in Waycroft Falls. What if they’re afraid of me or think I pose a danger or something? I’d have to move again and…well, I like it here.
LM: I heard you wrote the play that’s being performed at the bookshop. Will you tell us about it.
Yeah. It’s a version of Beauty and the Beast merged with the story of The Loathly Lady. Beauty and the Beast is basically a woman that’s held captive by a beast who asks her to marry him every night at dinner. The Loathly Lady, on the other hand, is from the Arthurian Legends and pivots around a choice. In it a knight marries a hideous woman who offers him a choice of either a beautiful woman during the day with a hideous bedmate at night or a beautiful woman in bed with a hideous wife during the day. Similarly, in this play Beauty has to make a choice between a Beast who woos her in her day-to-day life or a prince who is only present in her dreams.
LM: That sounds really good.And you’re playing the lead part, too?
That’s what Tom, Annie’s brother who’s directing the play, wants. I can shift halfway and he’s sure that having a shifter in a play would be something new and different. But I’m not an actor. We’ve gotten pretty close and he’s assured me that he can teach me to act. I want to help Tom and Annie, and Tom…well, Tom’s gorgeous and just my type. But it would mean revealing that I’m a shifter to the entire town. I’m just not sure I’m ready to do that.
~*~*~*~*~*~ About the Author:
Aidee Ladnier, an award-winning author of speculative fiction, believes that adventure is around every corner. In pursuit of new experiences she’s worked as a magician’s assistant, been a beauty pageant contestant, ridden in hot air balloons, produced independent movies, hiked up a volcano, and is a proud citizen scientist.