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SERIES REVIEW TOUR: Death’s Embrace by H.L. Moore (Excerpt & Giveaway + Q & A with Author)

SERIES REVIEW TOUR

Death’s Embrace Series by H.L. Moore

Series Blurb

Doran had a problem, and it wasn’t that he’d been stabbed.

Doran Ó Seanáin, leader of the Black Lung Gang and former Foreman of the mines, is at war with Iole’s City’s tyrannical ruler for his brutal treatment of the miners. Doran is losing, badly, and he fears his relationship with his estranged daughter Grace will never heal following the death of his wife two years prior.

Nathaniel Morgenstern, an apotheker with a mysterious past to whom Doran owes his life, seems to offer salvation. But Nathaniel has secrets of his own that may just tear them apart before they have a chance to give in to each other.

The stories are best read in order.

BOOK DETAILS

BOOK 1

Book Title: Heart of Dust

Author: H. L. Moore

Publisher: Self- Published

Cover Artist: Designed by Damonza

Length: 59 000 words / 250 pages

Release Date: February 19, 2018

Genre: Fantasy M/M Romance

Trope: Slow Burn

Themes: Revolution, Addiction

Heat Rating: 2 flames

It is book 1 in the series.

Goodreads

Buy Links

Special offer – Heart of Dust reduced to 99c for a limited time

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Kobo | Abbey’s

Doran had a problem, and it wasn’t that he’d been stabbed.

Blurb

Iole City is in turmoil. Doran Ó Seanáin, leader of the Black Lung Gang, is determined to bring the Lord Archon – Iole’s tyrannical ruler – down for his brutal treatment of the miners. But Doran has more to deal with than getting stabbed, a stalemate and city-wide lockdown that’s seeing his gang of ex-miners being slowly starved out of their base – his daughter Grace has turned against him, and the weight of his wife’s death two years prior haunts them both.

Things start to look up when he’s inexplicably drawn to Nathaniel Morgenstern, the apotheker with a mysterious past he owes his life to, but Doran is in way over his head. The fate of the mines hangs in the balance; the clock is ticking and the Archon is closing in. Doran’s plan to break the cycle may very well be his last.

Excerpt

Heart of Dust

Everything hurt.

This wasn’t out of the ordinary; Doran was accustomed to waking up any given morning with his head aching, his body bruised, his feet swollen, his bones fractured and muscles torn. But this time he couldn’t move, not even to open his eyes. He dimly wondered if he was hungover.

He felt someone prodding at his body. He grunted and forced his eyes open, regretting it immediately at the resulting implosion of pain in his head.

The culprit was a young man – a child, really – who yelped and jumped backwards with wide eyes, clutching a bandage.

“Sir?” the boy called out, over his shoulder. Doran flinched, the sound reverberating through his skull, and clenched his eyes shut again. “Sir, he’s waking up.”

“Leave us.”

The boy’s voice responded. “But –”

“Gerald.”

A heavy sigh. “Yes, sir.”

He could hear murmuring somewhere in the background but he couldn’t focus on the words. Instead he let the subtle but heady scent of pinewood and elderflower calm his aching mind.

There were light footsteps – the boy, Gerald – shuffling indignantly up a staircase somewhere to the right, then there was nothing but the sound of his own breathing.

His mind was so sluggish that an eon and a half had passed by the time he felt a cool glass press gently against his lower lip. A strong hand moved under the back of his head to guide him up. He managed a few sips of sweet, crystalline water. It tasted like it was sent from Lady Sionann herself to soothe his parched and aching mouth.

Doran swallowed, then gulped. Water spilled from his hungry lips and the glass was pulled away. He protested, or tried to, but the hand supporting his head guided him back down.

He realised he was lying on a table. It wasn’t hard enough to be stone, or cold enough to be metal. He could feel the grains of smooth wood beneath the tips of his fingers and against his skin, and his head rested on something soft. A jacket, perhaps, or even a pillow.

Consciousness filtered back to him, not quickly enough for his liking. Finally he managed to pry his eyes open.

The man leaning over him couldn’t have been more than a few years older than Doran, in his early forties perhaps, but if Doran thought he carried his own age badly, this man outrivalled him.

The stranger’s brown hair was peppered grey, completely silver at the temples; his face was hard, weathered and lined from years of trauma or poor life choices. A scar extended from the corner of his right eye to the middle of his cheek, destroying any chance of symmetry. Doran couldn’t call him good-looking, not by a long shot, but there was something incredibly striking about his features, in an offensive sort of way.

Doran swallowed thickly. “How long…” he tried to say, the words coming out in a harsh whisper.

“All night.”

The man had a low, coarse voice, like a miner after years of inhaling cigarette smoke and coal dust, but his words were soft.

“Shit.” Doran pushed himself to a sitting position. “What time is it?”

“Early, still,” the man replied, pressing his hand to Doran’s shoulder. His hand was bound in a black band of mourning, not unlike the one Doran wore around his upper arm. “Move slowly. You don’t want to tear those stitches.”

“Stitches –?”

Doran glanced down at himself, and his memory of the previous day flooded back in an instant.

His hand found his side, and instead of a gaping wound his fingers met a firm bandage. He also couldn’t help but notice a distinct lack of blood and – apart from his underwear – clothing.

“…You helped me,” Doran said.

“You were bleeding all over my doorstep.”

“Ah. Apologies.”

The man grunted, though whether this was in dismay or to brush off the apology, Doran couldn’t tell. “Stab wounds do that. You’re lucky it wasn’t deeper.”

Doran thought of Rhian, bleeding to death in his arms while their daughter wept. “Yeah,” he echoed. “Lucky.”

The man moved away, then returned with a bowl of steaming broth and two slices of bread. Doran accepted the meal gratefully. The broth was hot but not enough to burn his tongue. He found himself draining the bowl with desperate gulps, then attacking the bread like a starving wolf. It was better than anything he’d eaten in moons. The bread was warm and fresh, and he used it to soak up the last of the salt and rosemary broth from the bowl.

The man offered Doran a bundle of clothes when he was done.

“These should fit you,” he said, passing them over. “I had to burn yours.”

Doran’s heart seized, a spike of pure panic gripping his body. His hand shot to his chest to clutch for the chain around his neck, calming only when his fingers curled around the locket. He exhaled.

The man’s head tilted at the sudden movement, a small frown creasing his brow as the flash of bronze caught his eye, but the locket vanished underneath the shirt Doran hastily pulled over his body.

“Thanks.” Doran swung his legs over the edge of the table, wincing when he moved too quickly.

“I’d tell you not to engage in strenuous activity for at least a week, but I doubt you’ll listen and the Archon won’t care,” the man said. “Try not to reopen the wound when you’re working the mines.”

That told Doran two things – there had been no revolution, and the mines were still open.

He swallowed his disappointment. “What makes you think I’m a miner?”

“Hands.”

Doran glanced down at his hands, the cuticles of his nails and the skin of his palms permanently stained black. He clenched his calloused fists together and tried to keep his tone non-committal. “I hear it’s a hard life.”

“One I don’t envy.”

BOOK 2

Book Title: Soul of Ash

Author: H. L. Moore

Publisher: Self-Published

Cover Artist: Designed by Damonza

Length: 85 000 words/ 336 pages

Release Date: September 2020

Genre/s: Fantasy M/M Romance

Trope/s: Slow Burn

Themes: Addiction, Dark Pasts, Atonement, Forgiveness

Heat Rating: 2 flames

Goodreads

Buy Links – reduced to USD$4.99 for a limited time

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Kobo | Abbey’s

You can run, but you will never be free.

Blurb

Half a year after the events of Heart of Dust, Doran Ó Seanáin now finds himself trapped between two worlds while belonging to neither. Held in contempt by the upper class for the turmoil he caused during Archon Bryson’s reign and resented by the miners for selling out, Leonora Darkwater’s bid to purchase the mines from the crown may be his salvation. But the offer is far more complicated than it appears, and the only person Doran trusts is the same man who threw his life into chaos.

Haunted by his past, held hostage by his debt to the Archon, and a slave to the poison that keeps him alive, atonement feels perpetually out of reach for Nathaniel Morgenstern. Too much damage has been done and too much has gone unsaid for time alone to heal the wounds between him and Doran.

Unfortunately, time is the one thing they don’t have as their lives collide once more. There are vipers in Arajon; the mines aren’t finished with Doran, and the sand in Nathaniel’s hourglass is running out.

Excerpt

Soul of Ash

He was led down a mining shaft illuminated by coal-lit lamps, until they began pushing through a crowd of murmuring men and women held back by other miners. As Lien and Nathaniel were permitted to pass, he heard a hoarse, slightly damaged voice murmuring reassurances beside a derailed dumper tractor raised off the ground by a few metal supporting bars.

“Just hold on,” he heard Doran saying, from where he knelt beside the tractor. “He’ll be here any moment –”

“Doran,” Lien said.

Doran turned.

The past few months had seen Nathaniel frequent the mines to deliver his wares or receive miners in his shop where he would be asked to render assistance. Trivial things, usually – scrapes and cuts, the occasional broken bone or beginnings of black lung. But since that day in winter, Doran himself had not returned to the shop, nor had Nathaniel seen Doran in the mines, no doubt by design.

“Good, you’re here,” Doran said when he saw Nathaniel. It was a warmer welcome than Nathaniel had expected or hoped for. “Can you help her?”

On the sooty ground, a woman, with half of her right leg pinned under the full weight of the truck, groaned.

If a woman’s leg been crushed under a truck in the glistening streets of the Bronze, the citizens would probably have thrown up or fainted or run away screaming. At the back of the cavern, the doctor was surrounded by men and women of the mines. They didn’t flinch at the horror scene that was her crushed leg; they’d seen worse. By the looks on their faces, most didn’t expect a happy outcome.

“I’d say good morning,” Nathaniel said as he too knelt beside the doctor, “but you don’t seem to be having one.”

The doctor had dark skin, betraying her as a member of the upper classes like the Harringtons, whose ancestors had emigrated not from the Valley but from the equatorial nations of Pontecorvo and Kedrossos, south of Vaison. She wore a circlet bracelet depicting the Lady Sionann, like many of the descendants of secular immigrants who’d made their fortunes did, embracing the culture of Arajon and generating both prosperity and poverty, while earning the disdain of the Valley population who clung to the old ways out of tradition or spite.

The doctor assessed Nathaniel as he set his bag down and pulled out the sterile cloths and alcohol.

“I don’t recognise this man,” she said to Doran, one hand braced against the tractor looming over her head, the other gripping the thigh of her right leg. Sweat beaded on her clammy forehead. “I know every person who has – nngh – passed through medicine at the Conservatorium. Who is this?”

“This is Nathaniel Morgenstern,” Doran replied. “He’s an apotheker in Methyr – the one who produces our remedies. He’s the closest thing to a healer we could find, given the urgency.”

“Morgenst— an apotheker?” the doctor spat. She arched her neck to glower at Doran through her tears of pain. “You’ve b-brought me some Helvetian herbalist! Are you mad? Those backwards fools didn’t even learn how to wipe their asses until a century ago!”

She was oddly coherent for a woman whose leg was currently crushed under a tractor.

“My mother had surgical training in Haderach,” Nathaniel said. “Her people discovered hygiene thousands of years ago. You’ll live.”

If anything, the doctor’s expression turned fouler. “A mev,” she muttered.

Doran’s hand clamped down hard on his shoulder.

“Mr Morgenstern is here to save your life,” he said, tersely. “Adrian, bring Doctor Lancaster some water.”

The one named Adrian scurried away.

Nathaniel felt Doran’s eyes burning into his shoulders as he examined what he could of the crushed leg under the twisted metal of the tractor. He cut the pant fabric from around Lancaster’s knee, and prodded his finger into the exposed flesh of the leg just below the kneecap, avoiding the bone jutting out like shards. There was no return of blood to her dark skin, and the doctor didn’t jerk with pain.

No blood flow. No feeling. The leg below the knee was as good as dead.

“Well?” Doran asked quietly.

Nathaniel shook his head. Doran uttered a soft swear.

“It would be better if the truck could be lifted so I can remove the limb safely,” Nathaniel said. “This area isn’t sterile.”

“We tried,” Doran said. “It’s too dangerous. The whole thing could collapse on her and crush her in an instant. She needs to be freed first before we can safely dismantle it.”

“All right.”

“How long will the procedure take?” Doran asked.

Nathaniel tilted his head at Lancaster. “Forty-odd years ago, the barber-surgeons in the Helvetic would hold down a patient and hack off their limb in thirty seconds. This was before numbing agents had been introduced, of course – time was of the essence for the patients, to minimise the pain so they wouldn’t go into shock. The wound would then be cauterised with either hot iron or boiling oil.”

“You barbarian,” Lancaster choked, “don’t you dare.”

Barbarian. That was a new one.

Surgery wasn’t his forte. He hadn’t lied – he could amputate limbs. In his time, he’d successfully amputated both limbs and heads, though the appendages usually belonged to different people and certainly hadn’t been for the purpose of saving their lives. If one was strictly speaking about life-saving amputation, his mother had taught him the technique and guided his hand through the procedure.

On cadavers.

When he was twelve.

“I can do it that quickly,” Nathaniel said, “but you’ll either bleed to death or die of shock. Caution over speed is preferable. Do you want to be unconscious, or numbed?”

“Numbed,” Lancaster said. “You have done this before, haven’t you?”

“Six times.”

“How many of your patients died?”

Nathaniel pulled out Professor Kaufman’s tome on Human Anatomy and Physiology from his bag and opened it to the chapter on amputation techniques. “They were all already dead.”


Q & A With H.L. Moore

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m an Australian Jewish lesbian author, nearing 30 and currently working full-time as a public servant. I hold a Bachelor of Media in Communications and Journalism, and a Master of Arts in International Relations, though I can’t say I’ve had to put either of those degrees into practical use yet. I love sci-fi/fantasy, video games, and I’m a VERY big fan of LGBT+ literature. I am a cat and a dog person (yes, both) and over the years I’ve made something of a name for myself in various fandoms defending maligned female characters treated badly by creators. I’m also one of those weirdos who enjoys watching horror movies at night on my own with all the lights turned off. I turned off The Grudge halfway through because I found it too boring.

Did you always want to be a writer?
Since I was old enough to hold a pencil, I’ve been writing stories. When teachers and adults used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always, without fail, answered “author”.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?
It would be my ultimate dream to get picked up by a publisher – but I’ll settle for just completing my current series!

What does your writing process look like?
I usually start off with a character and a loose concept. I then draft a plot for the character and concept… and then I draft the plot about fifty more times before I start writing some loose scenes that have nothing to do with the plot at all. So then I give up on a plot outline and I just let the character(s) take me where they want to go. I have never written anything in chronological order and I’m not about to start now.

Why did you choose to write GLBTQ romance/fiction?
As a lesbian writer, telling GLBTQ love stories in genre fiction is so important. When I was growing up, finding genre fiction with GLBTQ characters, or fiction where being gay wasn’t a tragedy or a coming-out story, was almost impossible to find outside of fanfiction. I think if I’d had access to books where GLBTQ romance/fiction, particularly in genre fiction, I’d have figured myself out much earlier. Now that I’m older and I have figured myself out, I want to give other queer readers an opportunity to immerse themselves in worlds where queerness is normalised. It’s freeing to write in a setting where gender roles and heteronormativity have no place in how the characters interact with each other, and how they interact with the world at large. Men can be soft and tender, women can be brusque and feral; characters don’t have to fear or doubt or question their own feelings and attractions. Iole City has 99 problems, but homophobia is not one of them!

Do you write any other genre?
Yes – I dabble in science fiction and occasionally historic fiction. But I’m definitely most at-home with fantasy, because make-believe land has anything I want (and I’m allergic to structured worldbuilding).

Give the readers a brief summary of your latest book or WIP. What genre does it fall in?
Doran Ó Seanáin, leader of the Black Lung Gang and former Foreman of the mines, is at war with Iole’s City’s tyrannical ruler for his brutal treatment of the miners. Doran is losing, badly, and he fears his relationship with his estranged daughter Grace will never heal following the death of his wife two years prior.

Nathaniel Morgenstern, an apotheker with a mysterious past to whom Doran owes his life, seems to offer salvation. But Nathaniel has secrets of his own that may just tear them apart before they have a chance to give in to each other.

Death’s Embrace is low-fantasy with a slow-burn m/m romance. So far there are two books out in the series – Heart Of Dust and Soul Of Ash – with the third book currently in the planning process.

Give us a little insight into your main characters. Who are they?
Doran O Seanain is the main POV character in Heart Of Dust, the first book in the series. He is the former Foreman of the mines of Iole City, who has been on strike to protest the terrible working conditions since the death of his wife two and a half years prior to the start of the book. He’s not very good at being a revolutionary, but he is at his core a thoroughly decent and passionate man who regularly makes bad decisions, as any proper bisexual disaster protagonist should.

Nathaniel Morgenstern is his love interest in Heart Of Dust, and the other main POV character in Soul Of Ash, the second book in the series. I can’t say too much about Nathaniel without giving away spoilers, but we are first introduced to him as a mysterious apotheker living in relative solitude and secrecy. He is wry, kind, and impossibly generous – and very secretive.

Will we be seeing these characters again? Is this book part of a series?
Yes and yes. I haven’t quite worked out yet how many books there will be in the Death’s Embrace series, but we will definitely be seeing more of their POVs in coming books.

Have you held any interesting jobs while you worked on your books? Between Heart Of Dust and Soul Of Ash, I worked as the executive officer for an international policy think-tank in Sydney. It was fascinating work and I had the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing, high-profile figures. But I think the highlight of that job was that time I won the office wager for the last Australian federal election, against the actual international relations and political researchers! (So I guess I did have a practical application for my MA in International Relations after all…)

How do you relax?
Going on long bushwalks, playing video games, and watching horror movies.


About the Author

H.L. is an Australian writer of LGBT+ fiction. She holds a Master of Arts in International Relations (2015) and a Bachelor of Media in Communications and Journalism (2012), both from the University of New South Wales.


She is a lesbian of Jewish and Middle Eastern (Egyptian) heritage, and is an #OwnVoices writer. She has been writing stories since she was old enough to hold a pen. She is the author of M/M fantasy romance novels Heart of Dust and Soul of Ash, Books 1 & 2 of the Death’s Embrace series.

She has had two short stories published: “The Collector” in the 2014 Future Times Award Collection A Tick Tock Heart, and “Entente” in the 2020 Twisted Stories Award Collection Just Alice.

Author Links

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Twitter | BookBub | Goodreads

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