Praise for Bluebells
The wonderful people of Black Hare Press were awesome enough to send me a copy of Leanbh Pearson’s sublime, steamy dystopian thriller, ‘Bluebells’, for review and managed to rock my world with the great story penned within its pages.
The story is set in a version of 1917’s Australia. A version of a country and a world decimated by an alternate ending to WW1 and a mysterious and terrible pandemic called the ‘Red Fever’.
Anna Baylon is desperately waiting for news from her brother Peter, fearing that he might be another unfortunate war casualty.
Her world will turn upside down when a mysterious handsome stranger, claiming to be her brother’s lover, will arrive in town with news about her brother.
Anna embarks on a dangerous adventure following Nicolas de Laon, the charming undead, in order to find her lost brother.
As dark secrets unfold in a world that descents into chaos and disarray, Anna will come face to face with the terrible consequences of forbidden love, loss, lust and deadly desires that could ultimately claim her own life.
Dear reader get ready to immerse yourself into the marvelous, tragic and terrifying world Leanbh Pearson has masterfully crafted for your reading pleasure.
The author paints an alternate world based on the outcome of a terrible WW1. A war where humans employ the help of other ‘species’ in order to win. A war that leaves behind devastating effects on people for generations to come.
This is a beautifully written story of love and loss, lust and hunger, devotion and pain. A story that unfolds its secrets through amazing characters, fantastic world-building and a story that packs enough mystery to keep you hooked from start to finish.
The way the author paints a world’s fate in the darkest colors along with supernatural elements is truly amazing. There is a lovely cinematic quality to this delicious story, guaranteed to have you begging for more.
This novel will sink its fangs in and you will love every bit of it.
A beautiful, chillingly imaginative story.– Pan Book Reviews
Not your typical dystopian vampire story.
Nicolas and Peter begin a passionate relationship while stationed abroad during an alternate first World War, just as the world is ravaged by the Red Fever. Once back home in Australia, Peter, now sick from the war, sends Nicolas off to reach out to his sister, Anna.
But, with Anna, Nicolas finds he can hardly contain his vampiric urges.
There is beauty in this passion-filled tale of hunger, lust, love, loss, and deceit, but also an innate sadness that stays with you’ve long after you’ve closed the book.
The graveyard scene at the end had me sitting up in bed, my hand clutched to my chest with fear and pain and trepidation.
And the bluebells made me cry.– Amazon Reviewer (Virginia Wuulff )
This tale runs the emotional gamut: terror, loss, love, passion, defeat, and determination.Rookery Reviews
Told in a way that makes it all very personal to the reader.
It draws you in… into their world, their lives, their very experiences. You’ll feel every moment.
What happens when you mix alternate history, dystopia, vampires, a world war and sex?Amazon Reviewer (Clara Redman)
A very satisfying genre-bending and steamy paranormal ‘romance’, where the anti-hero/villain/hero Nicolas is gorgeously flawed. He’s also aware of the ambiguity of his thoughts and actions, so what might become indulgent sex-fantasy reading instead poses a few questions.
In a ravaged world, Anna lives with hope – hope that is shattered by reality. I loved the sexy bits of this story (really, anyone would who still has a pulse!) and also appreciated the layers of thought and feeling.
What is good, what is evil, how does eternal life interact with everyday mortality? This story has something of the atmosphere of ancient Greek tragedy and an excellent conclusion that’s fitting for the chaos within the characters.
A really different and clever dystopia, with rather delicious sexy scenes…
Not quite your average vampire lust story, BLUEBELLS throws a few intriguing differences into the pot, from the unusual title on down. It’s set in an alternate world where the ravages of the First World War were even greater and more insidious than our own – late in the book, we see what has become of Sydney, and it’s not pretty. Also, Pearson has a self-aware take on the whole vampire hypnosis angle – while Nicolas isn’t above using his supernatural glamour to manipulate others, Anna quickly comes to loathe him for using it on her even as she finds him almost irresistible, and he realises himself from time to time that he is not the honorable creature he likes to think he is; in fact, he’s much more the monster he’s spent decades fearing he could become. There’s not a lot of horror or gore in this tale, but Pearson doesn’t pull punches when these things do show up. The erotic angle, however, is fairly mild by comparison – we get some lashings of steam between Nicolas and Anna, Nicolas and Peter, Nicolas and his beloved/hated sire, but they’re not explicit enough to bother anyone who prefers the emotions and implications of sex to frank descriptions of the act’s fluid mechanics.
BLUEBELLS is well researched and written, and as a novella, it doesn’t wear out its welcome – if anything, I would have liked the story to have been a little longer and detailed more events in this alternative world. Anna is a smart and active down-home heroine instead of the blandly wonderful Mary Sue characters such stories often lead with, and Pearson tweaks the formula enough to make its amorous enchantments acceptable from a modern, consent-informed perspective. Well worth a couple of hours of your time.Matthew R. Davis, author of Midnight in the Chapel of Love
Bluebells by Leanbh Pearson is a compelling mix of paranormal romance meets dystopian alternate history. Set in Australia during WWI, it is a story of survivors and those left behind as they grapple with love, loss and betrayal.
Anna is our protagonist, a young woman living in rural Australia on her parents’ farmstead. Drought has decimated her hometown as the war overseas has waged, and any hope that her brother will return from the war has all but dried up. Until a mysterious—and oh so hungry—stranger comes into Anna’s life promising to lead her to her lost brother.
We’re also privy to a second point of view from Nicholas, our mysterious stranger, who is a vampire desperately clinging to his humanity—and losing. As a lover of both Anna’s brother and then Anna herself, his character is a curious mix of the modern vampire love interest combined with the ruthless monster of old; his vampirism harks back to the mythology of vampires as creatures of unbridled desire, passion and bloodlust. In many ways, he is ruled by his urges and instincts, even as the remnants of his humanity wars against it. He is plagued by the guilt and betrayal of his first love, Anna’s brother, while at the side time lusting after his new one, Anna.
A fascinating aspect of the story is the two types of romantic love on display. The first between Nicholas and Anna’s brother, Peter, which is told in flashbacks. This relationship comes across as very human, almost cosy as they find solace in each other through the trauma of war. Their relationship is endearing and heartfelt with Pearson painting them as caring deeply for one another. Meanwhile, in the present part of the story, we also see the second relationship start up between Anna and Nicholas, which comes across as much more vampiric, driven by lust and hunger (and later guilt and longing for what each has lost).***Spoiler***[It’s as if with the death of Peter, the human part of Nicholas has died with him. ]
In the story’s backdrop, we also have some fascinating worldbuilding, from an alternative WWI where both the Allied and Axis armies have been ravaged by a plague known as the Red Fever to militaries recruiting vampires to fight among their front line ranks. We also have Sydney, now known as the Burning City, for reasons that are not quite clear, but likely related to the Red Fever spreading across the world from the European front line.
[It’s hard to talk about standout moments without giving away some major spoilers, but one thing I loved was seeing Nicholas’ character come full circle as the last of his humanity drains away. As a vampire who was unwillingly turned, Nicholas suddenly finds himself on the other side of the equation wearing the monster’s shoes rather than that of a victim.
The moment where Anna is finally led to Peter to discover his fate was also particularly well done, and I enjoyed Nicholas’ ending—almost a resurrection of his humanity as he decides to remove himself from the world. ]
On the surface, Bluebells reads as a steamy paranormal romance, but as the pages turn you begin to pick up on an undercurrent that delves into grief and trauma and how love brings out the best of humanity, while its loss can see us succumb to our darker natures– Nikky Lee, author of Rarkyn’s Familiar Trilogy
Praise for The Devil & the Loch Ard Gorge
In the way of great gothic horror, this short novella oozes atmosphere and foreboding. Told through the eyes of Seána as she muses on her failings some years after the events that changed her life, we quickly learn things do not end well for her. But like all great stories, it’s about the journey rather than the destination; and once I was teased with the promise of a shipwreck and a pact with the Devil, discovering how these past events have played out was what drove me to turn the page.
In all, while you might finish this short, haunting read quite easily in one sitting, The Devil and the Loch Ard Gorge is one of those stories that will leave you musing on horrors of our own making and thinking (and maybe Googling) a long while after.Nikky Lee, author of Rarkyn’s Familiar Trilogy
⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ Review
This novelette is a fine example of gothic horror. It involves a real ship, the Loch Ard, which sank off the coast of Victoria, Australia, and provides an alternate explanation for why the ship went down. Seána McKinnon is an engaging protagonist, even if the reader knows she is on the path to ruin from the prologue. Nonetheless, despite her dubious life choices, she remains determined to defeat the “Devil” who plagues her. Does she? You’ll have to read it yourself to find out.– Karen Bayly, author of Tesato’s Code
Let me unburden myself, whisper my story to the wind, my final testament. The Devil can wait a little longer.
A short tale that defies you to put it down and can easily be read in one sitting. Pearson does a fantastic job with establishing the chilling setting from the first page (including the fantastic line above), and we follow the MC through a dreary and terrifying life as she resists the fate she herself set in motion.
What’s a little frustrating, perhaps due to its short length, is the MC’s actions, and while she can be admired for knowing what she wants and going after it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the beginning of Frozen…you know, where Elsa chides her sister for recklessly throwing herself at a man she hasn’t known for long? I suppose it’s easy to judge as a reader sitting comfortably on the outside of a toxic relationship, but I found it difficult to empathise with the character when her decision-making was characterised by reckless, impulsive choices that brought instant gratification.
Yet I thoroughly enjoyed this little read, transported for a moment to its gloomy London streets and the creaking beams of the Loch Ard as it sailed to Melbourne, ignorant of its fate…K.B Elijah, author of Whispers in the Dark
A quick little seafaring horror to shiver your timbers…shipwreck with the devil!– Clare Rhoden, editor of From The Waste Land
This novelette is a fine example of gothic horror. It involves a real ship, the Loch Ard, which sank off the coast of Victoria, Australia, and provides an alternate explanation for why the ship went down. Seána McKinnon is an engaging protagonist, even if the reader knows she is on the path to ruin from the opening chapter. Nonetheless, despite her dubious life choices, she remains determined to defeat the “Devil” who plagues her. Does she? You’ll have to read it yourself to find out.
NOTE: Contains suicide and domestic violence triggers.-Hyperion
This is gothic horror at its best. Pearson’s writing is richly evocative – romance and horror cheek to jowl. The story is an alternate telling of an historical shipwreck, which may explain its ability to wrap the reader in an engrossing and thoroughly believable sense of time and place. A short, dark, and totally satisfying read.– Jeff Clulow