Leanna Renee Hieber is a fellow blogger over at Popculturedivas. As she got set for that magical Release Day for her debut novel, I confess I was looking forward to it nearly as impatiently.
Alright, perhaps not quite as much as Leanna must have been.
But I couldn't wait to get my hands on a copy. And as it turned out, Leanna embarked upon a mammoth promotional blog tour called the Haunted London Blog Tour, with loads of opportunity to win a copy of her book.
You guessed it - I received my autographed copy in the mail along with a cool little button that says Strangely Beautiful. Yay me!
1 - Treat yourself to this lovely book trailer -
2 - Now, about that Haunted London Blog Tour. With 14 stops, Leanna linked her tour with posts about real London haunted spaces. Included are the totally freaky Black Dog of the infamous Newgate Prison; Jack the Ripper victim Annie Chapman's haunting of a brewery boardroom which now stands on the site of her murder; and playwright Oliver Goldsmith's pesky disembodied head hauntings.
I was completely impressed with Leanna's blog tour. Carrying the theme along from blog to blog kept me coming back for more.
3 - Leanna is a co-founder of Lady Jane's Salon, "Manhattan’s first reading series devoted to romance fiction. Join them on the first Monday of every month at Madame X in Manhattan to hear your favorite authors read from their latest works."
4 - Before publishing her first novel, Leanna wrote one-act plays and a fantasy novella, Dark Nest. She's also a stage and television actress.
5 - The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker is a Leisure Historical Fantasy, an imprint of Dorchester Publishing's Romance category.
I've also seen it described as a Gothic Victorian paranormal, and a YA novel. All of the above categories would fit this unique story.
6 - We meet albino-pale Percy Parker as she enters the Athens Academy at the advanced age of eighteen. A convent-educated orphan, Percy is especially sensitive to the stares of others when they encounter her. She has the looks of a ghost made flesh, with an ability to see and hear the actual ghosts that stream to and fro unnoticed by most other Londoners.
7 - Professor Alexi Rychman is a dark, melancholic leader of a group of gifted men and women known as The Guard. They stand between the living and the dead, ensuring Darkness doesn't engulf the world. It's Alexi's longing-filled lot in life to await a lover fated to be the woman foretold by a vision, when The Guard were first assembled as children. Not only must he be absolutely certain she's the one - if The Guard guesses wrong, the universe as they know it will be forever breached by Darkness.
8 - Although marketed as a Leisure Romance, the love story goes at its own pace and remains highly Victorian in tone. The romance plays out on an almost purely emotional level. Definitely suited to a YA reader.
9 - Besides the developing relationship between the professor and Percy, the other five who make up The Guard are featured prominently, as well as various ghostly characters and otherwordly beings. This is a world well-populated and teeming with Gothic atmosphere.
10 - Leanna really knows how to end each chapter with a hook. Like this, for example:
"Alexi, exhausted, took one final moment to contemplate an alternate history where he might have become a renowned scientist instead of an academic who chased ghosts. But The Grand Work had its own agenda, and his mortal desires were in no way considered. Prophecy suggested, of course, that someday his empty heart would be warmed and refreshed, but until he could be sure, until she came forward and his divine goddess could again speak to him, everything, including Alexi, was holding its breath - and choking on it. A little girl on Fleet Street might be safe for the moment, but the rest of London was not.
Still...she was coming, wasn't she? She'd best show herself before the last of his hope died and he didn't recognize her at all."
11 - There are many instances of visions and dreams in this story. Leanna has a gift for turning these moments into cinematic flashes that are just as haunting for the reader as for Percy. Here's a taste:
"A wind swept the room, scattering papers and whipping his black hair across his forehead. Halos of fire surrounded Alexi's outstretched hands, crackling to be released.
The abomination leaned back on pulsing haunches and tilted a vague head, knowing that it had been commanded. Fire burst from Alexi's fingertips, and it yelped and retreated. Then, in a burst of frantic barking, the form shifted into a hundred doglike forms that disappeared like roaches from light, snorting as they vanished through the walls. Only barking lingered in the air."
12 - As an actress and playwright, Leanna truly has an ear for wonderful dialogue. The mannered banter of her Victorian setting is ever so exquisite, and most certainly is never modernized with out-of-place turns of phrase. Standing ovation from me, Leanna!
13 - I leave you with an excerpt. Enjoy!
"Miss Parker's elegant dress and elaborate coif were stunning. Her fine features had been painted with the softest rose blush, and her pale eyes flashed like diamonds. She was by far the most captivating thing ever seen at this silly event. He noted her talking to various young ladies who drifted past, strained into saying something polite. She was gracious and returned their trivial, polite conversation, but when she occasionally glanced away, he read her struggle and isolation. She alone, he was sure, understood why he dreaded this event every year. Such recognition was profound.
An enraptured young couple twirled past. As they did, they waved. Percy returned the gesture happily, then watched them twirl away, her warm smile fading. Something seized up deep inside Alexi. Perhaps she felt the weight of his stare, for she looked up. Eyes like snowcaps finally met his, and the rest of the world was muted.
'There you are - my favorite gargoyle!' came a taunting voice.
Alexi turned and saw Elijah Withersby leading a woman through one of the arched entrances and into the ballroom. Miss Linden. Having only seen her briefly, in the moonlight, Alexi was unprepared for what a well-lit room would do for her beauty. It was unparalleled.
'Here's the man of the hour at last.' Elijah removed the woman's hand from his arm and offered it to Alexi. 'Professor Rychman, here again is our dear Miss Lucille Linden.'
Alexi kissed the woman's gloved hand with solemn courtesy. 'A pleasure to see you, Miss Linden. I am sorry it has taken so long for our paths to again cross.'
'The pleasure is entirely mine, Professor Rychman. Lord Withersby has been kind, as has Miss Belledoux. I am forever in your debt. It is difficult to be a stranger in such a large place, and to feel safe when the world is coming apart at the seams...'
She possessed a magnetic intensity Alexi had never encountered. But then, just over the woman's perfect, bare shoulder, Alexi regarded the opal eyes of Miss Parker looking on in stricken sorrow. Her pale, heather-framed face quickly rallied into a hollow smile, and she tried to pretend she hadn't been staring. But eyes like hers could truly hide nothing; and when the music slowed, the couples parted and still no one came to speak with her, Percy rose from her chair and fled the room.
'Professor Rychman?' called a musical voice, jarring him from his reverie. 'Are you all right?'
Alexi faced Miss Linden. 'My apologies. Something caught my eye.'
'Ah, we interrupt his chaperoning, Miss Linden,' Elijah taunted.
Alexi looked sharply at his friend, but Miss Linden smiled and he felt her smooth gloved hand graze his. 'I admire gravity in a man.'
'If you wouldn't mind, Miss Linden...I am terribly sorry. It was a true pleasure to see you, but I must beg your leave. I believe someone requires my assistance. A student,' he added, staring at Withersby."
- Leanna Renee Hieber, 2009
Join me next week when I review the second book from my Dewey Reading Challenge - Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks.
Shelley Munro says I think Dorchester has some great books - really original.
Hootin' Anni says Great book, it sounds like, it's awesome that you rec'd an autographed copy!!!! And the White Chapel District is one place I'd love to visit!!!
Brenda ND says You're bad for my budget, but I can't stop visiting because I'm addicted to good reads.