There I am, at my first RWA® conference in Orlando, Florida, a total stranger in the line gathering for breakfast at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort Pikabu restaurant. Ahead of me is a lady wearing a conference lanyard and nametag. So, what do I do? I say g'day and strike up a conversation.
This is how I first met Kelly Gay, urban fantasy author, and double finalist for a 2010 RITA® Award. We sat together and shared a very pleasant hour or so talking about writing, publishing, the industry and a few other topic, as you do at a writers' conference -lol!
To cut a long story short, I bought her debut book, THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS, and have now found a new author to read and stalk...umm...I mean follow. I'd like to share what I enjoyed about the book and, hopefully, convince you to give it a go!
MAIN CHARACTER: Charlie Madigan, divorced mother of one. I love the fact Charlie isn't your usual single, teen or twenty-something, kick-ass heroine. She's been married, is still coming to terms with her divorce, and struggling to balance her job and home life, and raise a daughter. The entire story is written from her POV as a first person narrative.
HEROINE'S OCCUPATION: A cop who works for the Intergration Task Force, an organisation of humans and off-worlders who work together to provide law enforcement for all races.
SETTING: Earth but with alternate dimensions (called Elysia and Charbydon) and off-worlders who live among us.
Not only are there other beings existing and visiting our Earth but some humans also have supernatural abilities (like Charlie) or have a talent (like Bryn, Charlie's sister, who wields magic).
There's a bit of a Men In Black feel to the story - with humorous elements sprinkled in, but there's definitely a much grittier, darker overtone - one I REALLY enjoyed. Gray's world building is seemlessly integrated into the story and incredibly believable.
SECONDARY CHARACTERS: Hank - Charlie's off-worlder partner. He's a siren, a useful skill in police work, particularly during an interrogation when all he has to do is use his voice and the criminals are busting to tell him the truth!
Bryn - Charlie's wiccan sister who owns a magic shop with a unique security system.
Emma - Charlie's young daughter, who's as strong and brave as her mother (no spoilers, but she shines through in the last part of the story).
Mynogan - the off-worlder villain who wants to rule both worlds. You know he's a meglomaniacal bad guy but every action he takes, every twist to the plot is entirely believable. As a reader, you dread the next scene with him in it. You fear for Charlie and her friends because you know whenever he appears the stakes are raised. They're not going to be able to stop him easily, they're really going to have to work to defeat him. Gray achieves this evil/convincing villain balance very well.
Carreg - an off-worlder politican with suspect motives. He reminded me of Garrak, from Star Trek DS9. As the story progressed you never quite knew whether he was an ally or someone not to be trusted (again, no more than this or I'll spoil the story).
Will - Charlie's ex-husband. He adds a slight romantic element to the plot, until he ends up selling his soul to a spirit entity called Rex.
Rex - a Revenant, a spirit who granted Will's greatest wish in exchange for his soul. An unexpected ally who teams with Charlie & her friends. His character adds a touch of humor to the story.
Aaron - a human Mage who's in love with Bryn.
PLOT: Gray's characterisation of Charlie makes her undeniably appealing and you empathise with every step of her journey as she tries to unravel the dual mysteries of the ash-related deaths (an off-world narcotic) and her own personal conflict of dealing with her unexplained revival and evolution of strange powers after a near-death experience.
The sub-plot layering and gripping tension drags you from one chapter to the next and I found it impossible to put the book down. In fact, I resented any interruption and ended up taking the phone off the hook and ignoring the outside world just so I could keep reading to the end.
THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS has a blend of paranormal, suspense and romantic elements that satisfies any fans of the urban fantasy genre. While this is the first in a series, the resolution/ending is solid but, be warned, it does leave you wanting to know what's in store for Charlie next.
I've already ordered THE DARKEST EDGE OF DAWN, the second in the Charlie Madigan series and can't wait to read it. I suspect to become very anti-social again once I delve into the pages.
THE BETTER PART OF DARKNESS
Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. She's recently returned from the dead after a brutal attack, an unexplained revival that has left her plagued by nightmares and random outbursts of strength that make doing her job for Atlanta P.D.'s Integration Task Force even harder.
Since the Revelation, the criminal element in Underground Atlanta has grown, leaving Charlie and her partner Hank to keep the chaos to a dull roar. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash.
Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim. But can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined?
To read an excerpt, click here.
THE DARKEST EDGE OF DAWN
Deep beneath Underground a cunning bid for power and revenge has begun, one that threatens to make Atlanta the new battleground in the ultimate confrontation between heaven and hell.
The powers of hellish Charbydon have the upper hand after plunging the city into primordial night. And under the cover of darkness, a serial killer targets the most powerful Elysian’s in the city, the angelic Adonai.
For detective Charlie Madigan and her siren partner Hank, tracking deadly predators is all in a day’s work. But this case will test the limits of their strength and friendship as it draws them into a deadly world of power plays, ancient myths, explosive secrets, and a race against time that risks all that Charlie holds dear.
To read an excerpt, click here.
Want to know more about Kelly Gay? Check out her website.
If you've already read her series, let me know what you think. If you haven't, have I convinced you to try the book?
Leave a comment by midnight (Aussie EST) 9th October and you'll go into the draw for two (2) paranormal romance books(in deference to Kelly I won't name these books/authors).