Scholarly review of A PRIDE OF POPPIES

We were delighted to see a very thorough review by Marie Ramsland of our Great War charity anthology A PRIDE OF POPPIES in the ISAA Review volume 15 number 2 of 2016. This came about because the anthology’s editor, Julie Bozza, is still a member of the Independent Scholars Association of Australia (ISAA) despite her years of living in the UK.

We felt the review was worth sharing with you in full, though please be warned that some of the following remarks about story arcs are spoilers.

Review by Marie Ramsland

For a long time, homosexuality was heavily punished. Often withdrawal from society was the only safeguard. Yet male camaraderie during the war was encouraged by military authorities, encouraging male bonding. Most of the time this was platonic; sometimes more intimate relationships were experienced. Silence or denial is generally no longer needed for such emotions. Therefore, with the centenary of the Great War well underway, this special anthology is a welcome contribution. The stories deal with the impact of war not only in the battle arenas, but also at home, for women and men, parents, siblings and friends. The hurdles the protagonists have to overcome to realise ‘happiness’ or even some sort of individual fulfilment are set up by contemporary social mores supported strongly by religious beliefs. Credibility is enhanced by real locations and lived experience.

Each story offers something special, revealing human weaknesses and strengths that unite us all, creating equilibrium from dichotomy. They reveal aspects of not belonging to the conventionally accepted norm indicated by the anthology’s titles. Three stories stand out for their depth of characterisation: ‘Inside’ by Eleanor Musgrove; ‘A Rooted Sorrow’ by Adam Fitzroy; and Barry Brennessel’s ‘Anh Sang’.

Readers are taken ‘Inside’ Alexandra Palace in north London set up as an internment camp for Germans, Austrians and Hungarians on British soil, citizens and visitors. Life is hard for all, more for the homosexual: ‘… you have to snatch your tender moments when you can … I hope, after the war, things will be easier’.

Fitzroy’s story is set in an English village where attitudes are imbedded in daily life, but love proves stronger than convention. It deals with strong relationships – mother/son, lovers – and the healing power of memory. The powerful narrative, enriched by including several contemporary issues, compels the reader’s attention.

Set in Indochina, ‘Anh Sang’ shows how the French colonisers treated their subjects daily. Fifty thousand Indochinese served in France with heavy casualties. The protagonist avoids enlistment, while his lover is imprisoned but freed during an uprising. They stay together – in hiding, hoping for a better future.

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What people think about UNDER LEADEN SKIES

UNDER LEADEN SKIES by Sandra Lindsey is a solid wartime novel, mixing the best of realism with a turn-the-page approach to story-telling.

How have people responded to it … ?

UNDER LEADEN SKIES received an Honourable Mention in the Rainbow Awards 2016, and was a Finalist in the Gay Historical fiction category. Among other things, the judges said:

It was a pretty good story. It kept me curious as to what would come next.

Stevie at The Good, the Bad and the Unread rated it Grade A, and concluded:

I loved this book, both for the story told within it and for the style in which it is told – addressing the reader throughout, as Teddy passes his story on to an individual whose identity only becomes clear at the very end. There’s a lot of scope for sequels – and possibly a prequel – so I hope this isn’t the only visit we pay to the characters and their world.

Dan at Love Bytes LGBTQ Book Reviews gave it four stars, and said:

This was one of those books I finished reading and then sat there gazing at my Kindle…reflecting on the story I had just read…and the book hangover it left me with. Did I like it? Yes, very much. Did I like it all? No, to be honest…there were parts I didn’t like, but only because they tugged at my heartstrings. […] Is the book complete as it is? Yes. But I enjoyed the story and would like more, darn it!

Freya at Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews gave it four stars, and concluded:

Under Leaden Skies is a delightful, engaging tale that took me into a world far from my own. There is death, dealing with life in difficult circumstances, injury, drama, loving from a distance and making the best of the hand one is dealt. This would be a lovely story to lose oneself in during that sunny afternoon, lay in a hammock under a shady tree, with a cup of Earl Grey at your side.

Our readers are loving it, too! On Amazon, Andyj9511 gave it five stars and said:

A cracking good read … This is a fantastic story of “forbidden love” in difficult times. It is well written and gives a good insight in to the struggles of two young men coping not only with their love but of a Country at war.

While Stephen H gave it four stars and said:

Very good! … My wife and I included this book in our bedtime reading-to-each-other hour. We were both excited about a book that had LGBTQ characters. We enjoyed it very much. Our only complaint is that we wanted the story to be longer! 🙂

Indeed! We love it when the readers are left wanting more – though we have to admit it does also make us feel a tad cruel. But this is obviously a marvellous book to read alone or with the partner(s) of your choice … The people that read together stay together!

Manifold Press is currently offering five of our recent novels – including UNDER LEADEN SKIES – at discount prices on Smashwords. Follow these links, and then click the Buy with coupon buttons for the books of your choice. (Whether you then click the Give as a gift button is entirely up to you, but hey it is the silly season soon!)

Happy reading!


Reviewers are still enjoying Farah Mendlesohn’s debut novel SPRING FLOWERING, with the most recent comments being from respected author, editor and academic Ali Williams on her own blog.

“This is a novel that highlights how female friendship in the Regency era provided opportunity for closeness, and gives our heroine an independent happy ever after with her perfect woman, untinged with sorrow or familial disapproval. Gorgeous.”

Thank you, Ali, we couldn’t have put it better ourselves, and – as the Northern Hemisphere winter gets its icy teeth into us – we’re grateful for the reminder that Spring itself exists: so, if you’re in need of something to brighten up your long dark evenings, you may find that SPRING FLOWERING could very well be it!

What people think about TO THE LEFT OF YOUR NORTH STAR

TO THE LEFT OF YOUR NORTH STAR by Michelle Peart is a terrific story of an otherworldly pair of misfits on a road – well, a river trip. Edward just wants to go home to Earth, while Burn wants to see more of his own home planet Abaytor as they travel by raft down the Copper River. Does either of them get what he wants?

And how have people responded to this novel…?

TO THE LEFT OF YOUR NORTH STAR received an Honourable Mention in the Rainbow Awards 2017. The judges said:

This book was AWESOME. I was captured by the characters and story from the first page and was held captive until the last. The world building was vivid and captivating, the characters distinct and fully rounded. The plot moved along at a cracking pace as I went on a journey of discovery with Edward and Burn. Both of the boys worked their way into my heart and I eagerly await for more. What a debut!

On AmazonO.M. Carey Jones gave it five stars and said:

Very imaginative storytelling – an excellent read! … The story is so imaginative and different and so interestingly written that I did not know what to expect next as I turned each page. And the ending was completely unexpected, both sad and inspiring – I loved it!

Brightwood also gave it five stars and said:

This is an engaging, romping, rollicking adventure of two teenage boys on another world. As the river in this outer world tosses them about and challenges them to the limit, their inner worlds begin seismic shifts. The author’s use of descriptive language is beautiful and evocative – you are right in there with the boys – and I love the way the story unravels in unpredictable twists and turns, just like the river they’re riding, just like life. It’s messy, it doesn’t turn out how you expected or how you wanted it – but isn’t it interesting how it’s often just what you really need? A brilliant story, brilliantly told.

On Goodreads, Sabrina gave it four stars and said:

What a delightful read! Really did love the dynamic between the main characters a lot. Totally fell in love with the flirty Burn and the grumpy Edward right from the beginning.

While Rosie gave it five stars and said:

Loved absolutely everything about it. Desperate for a sequel now…

Does this romping, rollicking adventure sound like something you – or a loved one – would enjoy reading? This novel is suitable for people of all ages who are young at heart.

Manifold Press is currently offering five of our recent novels – including TO THE LEFT OF YOUR NORTH STAR – at discount prices on Smashwords. Follow these links, and then click the Buy with coupon buttons for the books of your choice. (Whether you then click the Give as a gift button is entirely up to you, but hey it is the silly season soon!)

Happy reading!

What people think about ARDENT

ARDENT by Heloise West is a fascinating tale of two artists, Benedetto and Morello, set in the beautiful but strife-ridden city of Florence, Italy during the late fifteenth century.

How have people responded to it … ?

Lisa at The Novel Approach Reviews gave it four stars and said:

…. I was so eager to take on Heloise West’s Ardent. It’s not only set in a time not often covered in historical romantic fiction but is set in the Italian art community of the 15th century, incorporating a forbidden love story with murder and intrigue, and doing so beautifully.

Diane at Hearts on Fire Reviews gave it five stars and said:

While the story starts in Torrenta, the bulk of the story takes place in Florence and what is interesting in that is just how amazing as well as intimidating it must have been to be a painter at that time, in that city, with all that talent. No doubt, it was a dog eat dog industry, as much as it was a passion-filled one, on and off the canvas and serves as the backdrop of this story. …

As a history nerd, I … felt the author had the same interest [as me] in both the period and the location as the story was very well written and the whole plot was so well crafted. These are great main and supporting characters, and of course the culture of the village and city play parts in this too. The book has a great pace and really gets hard to put down once all the cards seem to be in play, which is when the author introduces the twists!

Kazza K at On Top Down Under Book Reviews with Substance gave it four stars and said:

I’ve never read Heloise West before but I was impressed with this book. The writing is pretty tight – it captures the essence of the Italian Renaissance, the mood and the people, very well. I don’t know much about the art world but that didn’t detract one iota from the well-named Ardent.

It’s a nice historical romance with some sexy moments, a murder/mystery which doesn’t shirk its task, including a twist or two and some other arcs that converged … The main characters are well developed and some of the secondaries were interesting as well. I would definitely recommend Ardent to those who want a well written and interesting historical romance that sets the right tone for the crime and the time.

Mari at Bayou Book Junkie gave it four stars and said:

The suspense part of the book was well-developed and kept my interest throughout the story, trying to figure out how it would all play out.

I love historical romance books, it’s one of my favorite genres and this one was really good! Heloise West obviously did a lot of research and it showed in the story. Her writing transported me to Italy during the Renaissance period and it had a good balance between the mystery/intrigue portion and the romance. Very recommendable!

Morningstar at Diverse Reader said:

This was a first for me even as someone that loves historical stories, as they often are not based in Italy.

The writing was beautiful and vivid. The characters were well fleshed out with their story told with detail bringing to life the world at that time and their struggle in it. It was suspenseful but well balanced with the love story of Morello and Benedetto.

Are you seduced, as I was … ? After re-reading all the reviews, I am yearning now to also re-read this colourful novel!

Manifold Press is currently offering five of our recent novels – including ARDENT – at discount prices on Smashwords. Follow these links, and then click the Buy with coupon buttons for the books of your choice. (Whether you then click the Give as a gift button is entirely up to you, but hey it is the silly season soon!)

Happy reading!


Lindsey at The Novel Approach has recently been reading Elin Gregory’s delightful THE BONES OF OUR FATHERS, and has come up with a highly favourable review which begins with these words:

“I enjoy books which take place in small towns where everyone knows everyone and is all up in each other business, and Bones of our Fathers definitely delivers that with all kinds of shenanigans and a variety of interesting characters with the charm I have come to expect in stories with this particular setting”

and ends with these:

“If you love fully fleshed out, character driven stories set in small town, complete with cute banter, sweet MCs, and an interesting backstory, give this one a shot.”

Really, what more could we ask? Thank you, Lindsey, we’re very glad you enjoyed the book!

What people think about HARBINGER ISLAND

HARBINGER ISLAND by Dorian Dawes is a collection of character-driven stories which combine dark fantasy and horror elements within a modern setting, featuring a diverse cast of LGBT+ individuals.

How have people responded to it … ?

HARBINGER ISLAND received an Honourable Mention in the Rainbow Awards 2017. Among other things, the judges said:

Delightfully creepy tale that could well have been part of the Twilight Zone series … Interesting and spooky plot. … I loved the way the stories all linked together to form a full story. Great sense of evil and horror, and interesting diverse characters. Hope there’s a sequel as it feels as though the fight against evil has only just begun.

Cheryl at Sinfully Gay Romance Book Reviews gave it four stars and said:

Harbinger Island contains all the classic Lovecraft themes … While other horror writers focus on shadows, gore and violence, Lovecraft (and Dawes) paints beautifully creepy landscapes and situations then saturates them with ichor and sprinkles them with tentacles. … This was a real sit on the edge of the seat, keep your eye on the shadows and trust absolutely no one book. After a slow start, I thoroughly enjoyed it and can recommend it to anyone who has a love for creeping horror, ritualistic murder and things with more tentacles than they’ve any business to have – oh and a damn sexy, green gorgon with scales.

Our readers have also been impressed! Kyrah commented on our website to say:

This is one of the best up and coming authors I have ever had the pleasure to discover, their book is truly an amazing work of art. What a gifted writer! It is like reading colorful poetry that completely sucks you into a world of mystery and magic. Bravo, Dorian Dawes!

On Goodreads, Laura said:

this was a wild, gay ride from start to finish

And Lindsay Bee seemed particularly impressed:

I really enjoyed this book. Like. REALLY. A LOT. MUCH ENJOYMENT. … I love the interconnected-short-story format when it’s done right and here, it’s done right. … I also love how the book doesn’t feel the need to explain itself. It doesn’t infodump, or go into convoluted back stories – it gives you enough information to enjoy what’s happening while leaving enough unsaid to keep you thinking about it. … I would love to read more from this author, and I’d LOVE more books set within the universe of Harbinger Island; it’s a terrifying world for sure, but one with enough points of light to give you a bit of hope.

Meanwhile, on Amazon, Joshua Valley gave it five stars and said:

This is a horror story of impeccable craft, evoking cosmic terrors and oppressive forces from beyond the world that threaten to expose the insidious secrets of a community. The characters fight against these forces valiantly, with depth and beauty. It’s not a “fun” novel by any means, but it’s worthwhile and satisfying to those who have been looking for it’s like for ages.

Does that sound weird enough to be your kind of thing … ?

Manifold Press is currently offering five of our recent novels – including HARBINGER ISLAND – at discount prices on Smashwords. Follow these links, and then click the Buy with coupon buttons for the books of your choice. (Whether you then click the Give as a gift button is entirely up to you, but hey it is the silly season soon!)

Happy reading, and do remember to leave the lights on!

New review of CALL TO ARMS

In fact this is the very first review of our new anthology CALL TO ARMS – and it’s not a bad way to start! Our good friend Kazza K at On Top Down Under Reviews has posted a hugely enthusiastic review which examines the merits of each individual story – no small task, as there are seventeen of them! – and sums up with these resounding words:

“I really do love a good short story. If you can tell me a heartfelt tale in a limited word count I am in total awe, and that mission was well and truly accomplished. I also want to give mention to Heloise Mezen for meticulously compiling the anthology. I can’t recommend Call to Arms highly enough. 5 Stars!”

In return, we can say that we love a detailed review which lets us know when a book has met an appreciative reader: thank you, Kazza, we’re grateful for all the time and thought that went into your review – and very glad indeed that you enjoyed CALL TO ARMS so much!

New review of CALON LAN

Elin Gregory’s delightful Espresso Shot CALON LAN is making friends already. Over at On Top Under Book Reviews reviewer Kazza K has been particularly enthusiastic, awarding the book five stars and commenting – among other remarks in a supportive review –

I love short stories when they deliver so much in so few words. This novella may be shorter on page count but it’s huge on heart and vivid storytelling. The characters were all three dimensional thanks to Bethan’s patient, kind, and loving eyes. Thanks to the author’s skill. I can imagine both Alwyn and Joe before the war and I just knew how they were feeling when they could be together again.

You’re absolutely right, Kazza; CALON LAN packs a lot of great storytelling into quite a small number of pages, and we’re truly proud of it! Thank you for your time and your comments.


A delightful first review has emerged of Farah Mendlesohn’s debut novel SPRING FLOWERING, by author Heather Rose Jones on her own blog, Alpennia.

An informed and thoughtful evaluation of the book concludes with these wonderful words:

If you’ve longed to read stories of women loving women in history with happy endings that ground their love and their happiness in the spirit of the times, then Spring Flowering will be a breath of fresh air and a hope for a new wave of lesbian historical fiction.

That’s a powerful recommendation, which we can only echo wholeheartedly; thank you, Heather, for your time and for your eloquent endorsement!