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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Book Review: Shadow and Poison (The Dark Guard Book 1) by J.B. Curry + giveaway

Shadow and Poison (The Dark Guard Book 1)
by J.B. Curry
January 26, 2021
Genre: Paranormal Romance, hot paranormal noir
Publisher: Arcanic Media
ISBN: 978-1-7327900-2-5
Number of pages:472
Word Count: 112,000
When monsters stalk the darkness of Prohibition era Chicago, it takes a special kind of hero to kill them.

Private detective Mark Van Ryn’s supernatural power over shadow has made him an outcast his whole life. When a mutated creature starts eating Chicago’s gangsters from the inside out, Mark is the only man in the city who can hunt it down and destroy it. But a dangerous lady has a job for Mark too, one that might cost him more than his life.

Gifted perfumer Eliza Karlova needs a man. The most evil man Chicago’s got. And she needs Mark to find him for her. Because Eliza has a deadly power of her own and a family legacy she’s doomed to keep. But when forbidden passion flames up between Eliza and the angelically handsome detective, she has to decide between her destiny, and the man she loves.

War brews in the city as the Century of Progress World’s Fair draws near, and Mark and Eliza must find a way to trust each other if their love, and Chicago, are to survive.

Gritty and gripping, powerful and sexy, Shadow and Poison will have your heart racing with each kill and every searing kiss. ~ Max Watson, author of Chains of Nurture

Shadow & Poison feels like a Dick Tracy gangster flick, which fits the whole noir vibe the story takes place in. Lots of gum-shoe crime drama but laced with big servings of the paranormal romance, kept this longer story moving along.

The total page count for this first installment is just over 450+, so buckle up and prepare yourself. Have drinks and snacks at the ready. Could the story have been shorter? Yea, hands down some chapters could have gone away. However, the author does a good job of setting the whole stage of this world and keeping the reader right in the middle of it. But again, in my opinion, this story could have gotten on just as good with fewer pages.

Our leading couple Mark and Eliza had a ton of push and pull romance, mixed with adventure and relationship twists. I'm never going to say "no" to more romance in a story, this one could have cranked up the heat with our couple. I wanted some more smoked-filled rooms with sexy meet-ups, some more time together building that bond.

Overall this was a very unique read that got me invested but could have been shorter.

Getting 3 and 1/2 Sheep


Shadow and Poison Excerpt
Eliza’s face was carefully turned away from him as she cuddled up next to Duke. Pretending that if she couldn’t see him, he couldn’t see her, maybe.

That never works, sweetheart. Drink in hand, he ambled across the room toward the darling couple.

Duke watched him coming with a half-smile. “Mark,” he drawled. “We seem to be meeting everywhere nowadays. I see neither hide nor hair of you for years, and now here you are. Again.”

“Funny coincidence, eh Lionel?”

“Indeed.” He slid a glance at McGann and his boys, who were eyeing them right back. “Interesting friends you’ve made.”

“I might say the same for you,” Mark returned, his eyes on Eliza.

“Ah, where are my manners?” Duke said with a little laugh. “You remember Miss Karlova.”

She held out her hand in a languid gesture. “How do you do,” she said, with a polite, distant smile on her lips. As if those lips hadn’t been locked on his a few hours ago.

A hard smile edged his own mouth as he took her hand in his. “Yeah,” he said. “Eliza isn’t the kind of lady a man forgets. Thank you for the lovely morning we spent together, by the way. I hope you enjoyed the red hot sausage.” He brought her hand to his lips and brushed a kiss over her gloved fingertips.

Her face drained of color as she stared at him, wide-eyed. She all but snatched her hand away from him.“You—you remember.”

Duke arched an eyebrow at her. “What’s this? You spent the morning with Mark? Why, how charitable of you to visit with a poor invalid, my dear.”

“Yeah, she’s a regular angel of mercy.” Mark kept his eyes on Eliza. “We could talk about the reason you came to see me, or we can dance. What do you say angel?”

“I . . . I . . .” she said.

“Speechless with delight, I guess.” He plopped his whiskey glass down on the table and all but scooped Eliza up out of her chair. “You don’t mind, do you old fellow?” he said to Duke. Without waiting for a reply he swept Eliza onto the dance floor.

It had been a long time since he’d danced with a woman. Not since the fluffy little debutantes of his youth. But she made it easy. She was a smooth, graceful dancer, responding to the lightest touch as he moved her around the floor. Her gloved hand rested light as smoke on his shoulder, the fingers of the other clasping his softly.

But though her body moved beautifully with his, from the neck up, she wasn’t happy with him at all. Her eyes were narrowed, her lush red lips drawn tight. “What are you doing?” she murmured. “Why are you trying to convince Duke you’re courting me?”

“Would you rather I told him you hired me to spy on him?”

“I would rather you hadn’t come here at all. What do you think you’re about, interfering with my plans like this?”

“It isn’t about you, sweetheart. I’m on a job. It’s just your bad luck if I accidentally wreck your chance to nab a murderer for a husband.”

“For your information, you can’t destroy my chance to ‘nab’ Duke, no matter what you do. You’re only making a fool of yourself, Mr. Van Ryn.”

“Since our lips got to know each other so well this morning, I think you can call me Mark.”

Her cheeks turned pink. “So you remember that too.”

“If you think I’d forget a kiss like that just because you tell me to, you don’t know me very well, Eliza.” He slipped his hand down her back an inch and squeezed her softly.

She sucked in a breath and her blush deepened. “Stop that. What do you want, Mark? Really.”

“I want to know what Duke told you about his pet monster.”

“Nothing. The only topic we’ve spoken about is the World’s Fair.”

“That’s all?”

“That, and all the important politicians who will be there on opening day. Lionel wants very badly to impress them.”

“So it’s Lionel, is it?”

“Yes. What else should I call my future fiancĂ©?”

“The defendant?”

“Hilarious.” The band started winding up its tune. “Now that you’ve got what you came for, you can take me back to my table.”

“I haven’t got everything I want yet, angel, but I will.”

She didn’t dignify that with a reply, but pivoted, chin in the air, and marched off the dance floor, barely waiting for him to escort her.

Duke was watching them with hooded eyes. He got up lazily as they approached and held out his hand to Eliza. “You dance beautifully, my dear. All you need is a partner worthy of you, and you would be without peer.”

“I’m already without peer, darling, but I wouldn’t mind another dance,” she said with a saucy smile.

Duke immediately took her in his arms and danced her off as a new tune began.

“Have fun kids,” Mark said. The sight of Eliza in Duke’s arms did something nasty to his insides, so he turned away went back to the bar. He ignored McGann’s meaningful glare as he passed by their table and put his foot on the rail and his elbow on the counter. “Gimme another whiskey,” he said to the barkeep.

As the man poured his drink, McGann got up and huffed over next to him. “What are you doing? You’re not here to make time with some twist,” he said.

He looked away from McGann, staring into the long mirror behind the bar. His own ghost-white face stared back at him. Behind his reflection, Eliza and Duke danced past. “I know what I’m doing,” he said. “This is all part of the plan.”

“What plan?”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the bartender standing a few feet away from him, staring down into a sink behind the counter. He craned his neck for a better look and saw water bubbling up out of the pipes. The man took a piece of wire out from underneath the counter and stuck it into the drain, probing around.

The hair at the back of Mark’s neck stirred.

“Did you hear what I said, punk?” McGann barked. “What’s your plan to catch this thing?”

In the mirror, Mark saw Eliza stop short in the middle of the dance floor. She pulled away from Duke and spun toward the bar, nostrils flaring, eyes wide.

“Damn!” Mark lunged for McGann. “Get back!”

A fountain of greasy water exploded from the sink, shooting past the bartender and sending him tumbling to the floor. A tentacle like a long rope of jelly lashed out of the drain straight for McGann’s face. Mark got a fist in the gangster’s collar and yanked him away from the thing, but he wasn’t quite fast enough.

The tip of the tentacle whipped across McGann’s chin, leaving a wide red streak like an acid burn. One touch of that thing could dissolve human flesh. Mark released McGann and he flailed away, pulling out his gun.

Mark was dimly aware of the screams erupting around him, the Outfit boys leaping to their feet and drawing their heaters, people in a mad stampede toward the doors.

But all his focus was on the mass of slime pouring itself out of the drain, across the bar and onto the floor. It was a rubbery, pulsing, roiling mass of greenish jelly that quickly formed a viscous blob three times as big as a man. Tendrils of slime shot out of the main body, probing around like long tongues licking the air, and then sucking themselves back in with an awful slurping sound.

There you are at last, you ugly bastard. He gathered his shadow and got ready for a brawl.

About the Author:

J.B. Curry is an artist and writer. She has travelled to every corner of the United States, but currently lives in beautiful New England with her family and her vast collection of houseplants.

Promotional Tweet:
Shadow & Poison Eliza Karlova, femme fatale, and Mark Van Ryn, mysterious creature of shadow, are Chicago’s power couple battling business moguls, mob bosses, & their own violent desires in this gritty noir of monsters, mischief, & mayhem. #paranormal #PNR

Tour Giveaway
1 First Prize vintage 1930’s Art Deco perfume bottle and a signed print copy of Shadow & Poison
1 Second Prize 9” x 12” Century of Progress World Fair poster and a signed print copy of Shadow & Poison
1 Third Prize a signed print copy of Shadow & Poison