Book Review: Vampire Royals (Books 1-3) by Leigh Walker

About the Books:

Book 1: The Pageant

The Pageant (Vampire Royals #1)

Who’s the fairest of them all?
Young women from every settlement in the land are being handpicked to enter The Pageant, a beauty contest reminiscent of Miss Universe from the old days. Gwyneth West’s social-climbing mother wants her to compete, by Gwyn isn’t so sure…
The Pageant is government-sponsored. If you’re lucky enough to be chosen, participation is mandatory. Aggressive competition is allowed, even encouraged.

And then there’s the prize…
The winner of The Pageant gets a marriage proposal from Dallas Black, otherwise known as The Dark Prince. Dallas is the son of King Black, who won the last world war and now governs the new settlements. The Royal Family is mysterious. Rumor has it they don’t sleep. Rumor has it they eschew the sun.
Rumor has it they’re immortal.
When Gwyn is thrust into The Pageant, she fights to survive the competitive nature of the other contestants.
But even if wins…can she survive a vampire fiancé?

 

Book 2: The Gala

The Gala (Vampire Royals #2)

 

FOUR WEEKS. TWENTY CONTESTANTS. ONE PRINCE.

The Pageant is almost over, and Gwyneth West knows she can win—except the prince is a vampire, and some of the other contestants are turning out to be quite beastly.

What do you do when the person you love…might want to eat you alive?

Struggling to hold onto her position in the palace, Gwyn knows her vampire prince could slip through her fingers in an instant. And when human rebels threaten to storm the vampire royals once more, Gwyn finds herself caught between two worlds: her people, and the vampire she loves.

Leigh Walker writes action packed futuristic sci-fi, sweet romantic vampire novels, and stories that capture your heart and then make it race.

 

Book 3: The Finale

The Finale (Vampire Royals #3)

A ROYAL WEDDING IS COMING…BUT WHICH CONTESTANT WILL BE THE BRIDE?

Gwyneth West’s a finalist in The Pageant, the dating competition that’s gripping the settlements. Down to the final week, the dashing Prince Dallas Black will choose one young woman as his fiancé.
One small issue: Gwyneth’s a human and the prince is a vampire. What’s worse? Gwyneth’s family are sworn rebels, out to take back the settlements and overthrow the crown. What’s worse than that? Gwyn’s own rebel brother is a prisoner in the castle dungeons, but the king and queen don’t know his true identity.
Gwyneth and Dallas want to show the settlements that vampires and humans can live together in peace. But as their differences threaten to tear them apart, Gwyneth discovers her love puts the prince at risk.
How do you choose between love and duty?

 

My Thoughts:

This series is very similar to ‘The Selection’ series. However, there are some differences including the fact that the Prince and his family are Vampires. The author starts this off as rumors which are later shown as the truth. The concept of vampires and humans living side by side and co-existing is a strong idea that both the Prince and Gwyn, the heroine of the story, share. The story is indeed fun to read, following the very cliched concept of a competition to find the best suitor for the Prince. However, the idea behind this is to find a way to unite all the settlements and to bring peace while trying to keep the rebel groups at bay.

The synopsis of the story promises aggressive competition, but nothing about the story is aggressive. The story centers on the chemistry between the Prince and Gwyn, giving us only minor glimpses of the interactions with the other contestants. To keep in line with the contest, there are some sections of the story devoted to etiquette training and history of the kingdom and the settlements. However, there is not a lot of character development for the other girls in the story and this takes away from the main theme of the contest.

The story then continues into the two other books, focusing on the Prince’s interaction with the girls, bringing it down to the top four contestants and his relationship with his parents. Each girl is unique in her own way and it is wonderful to read about their rivalries but also about how they come together in the end. We are also provided some insight into Gwyn’s background and her family and her relationship with the King and Queen. The love and understanding that develops between her and the prince is beautiful to read about.

Overall, this series is fun and enjoyable especially for those who love the idea of vampires and human’s together, though there is not a lot of focus on the supernatural aspect of the characters. The books are short and easy to read. They can each be read in one sitting and are a good stress free read!

Book Review: Prism (The Color Alchemist #1) by Nina Walker

About the Book:

Prism (The Color Alchemist, #1)

What if color held the secrets to powerful magic?

Forced to move into the palace, Jessa begins training as a Color Alchemist under the direction of the kingdom’s most eligible bachelor, Prince Lucas. As an alchemist, Jessa must capture and harness the color of living things. Every color has a unique purpose, except red. Red is the untapped magic no one can access—until Jessa.

Prince Lucas is running out of time. His mother is deathly ill and healing magic hasn’t worked. When Lucas suspects someone is using alchemy to control her, he sets out to discover the truth, no matter the cost.

PRISM is the first installment of a unique young adult romantic fantasy series where a dystopian world with a Victorian flair meets the dynamic magic of color!

My Thoughts:

Prism by author Nina Walker introduces the reader to an intriguing concept of magic and magical abilities and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. The story is well-written and fast paced, keeping the reader hooked until the very end.

We are introduced to Jessa, who accidently discovers that she is a color alchemist and tries to hide the truth from everyone. Once discovered, we come to know that she might be very powerful and is brought to the palace for training. The author introduces us to a dystopian world where the King rules the New Colony and a certain order is established. Anyone who shows an inclination towards Color Alchemy is brought to the Palace at a very young age and then undergoes rigorous training to join the Guardians of Color (GC).

Jessa faces a lot of push back from everyone at the palace including the other alchemists as she is already sixteen. It seems to be quite late for her to be here. There are many interesting characters including Sasha and Reed who are not easy to get a read on. The reader will not know what anyone’s intentions are until the very end. But, one thing is clear, Jessa is special and an asset to the King for whatever plan he has up his sleeve.

In addition, we are introduced to the Prince, who seems to have a different view of things than his father and is trying to find a way to save his mother who is quite ill. Add into the mix some chemistry between the two main characters and the author provides us with the perfect recipe for a book filled with magic, romance and a wonderfully new concept of magic drawn from colors!

The story will draw the reader in until the very end and is not without some well placed twists and turns. With everyone having their own agenda, what happens to the story and all the characters remains to be seen. This book is well worth the read and I am looking forward to finishing the series!

Book Review – Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember by Kelly Santana-Banks

About the Book:

An Unforgettable Museum Expedition

Do you know which dinosaur had the most teeth? It was not the T-Rex, although the T-Rex’s teeth measured 12 inches. Which dinosaur had a tiny brain? Find out now.

Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember is the second book in the series Let’s Learn while Playing.

In this fun story, Miss Gina’s class is getting ready to explore dinosaurs: what they were called, how big they were, what they liked to eat. The pupils can’t hide their excitement and don’t want to waste a minute, eager to see those big creatures, especially him: the T-Rex.

They set on a quest in the dinosaur museum and had many questions for Miss Gina. While navigating the exhibition, the gang got lost but quickly found their way and had an exciting adventure.

Fans of Lily Lexington, Sally Hauss, and P. D. Eastman will not be disappointed. Children aged 3–7 will learn through play concepts of science, language arts, and math. Get yours now.

My Thoughts:

This is a simple, adventure filled story for children with a focus on Dinosaurs. The story is well-written and interspersed with pictures to provide a visual effect. Children who cannot read, can still enjoy the story as they observe the pictures and learn new words. For older children, the book focuses on teaching them new vocabulary as well as some facts interspersed into the story. I enjoyed how this short story flowed and took us on a field-trip to the Dinosaur museum. This book is definitely worth using as a teaching aid for children!

Book Review: Finale (Caraval #3) by Stephanie Garber

About the Book:

Finale (Caraval, #3)

Welcome, welcome to Finale, the third and final book in the #1 New York Times bestselling Caraval series! A ll games must come to an end…

It’s been two months since the last Caraval concluded, two months since the Fates were freed from an enchanted deck of cards, two months since Tella saw Legend, and two months since Legend claimed the empire’s throne as his own. Now, Legend is preparing for his official coronation and Tella is determined to stop it. She believes her own mother, who still remains in an enchanted sleep, is the rightful heir to the throne.

Meanwhile, Scarlett has started a game of her own. She’s challenged Julian and her former fiancé, Count Nicolas d’Arcy, to a competition where the winner will receive her hand in marriage. Finally, Scarlett feels as if she is in complete control over her life and future. She is unaware that her mother’s past has put her in the greatest danger of all.

Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun—with lives, empires, and hearts all at stake. There are no spectators this time: only those who will win…and those who will lose everything.

My Thoughts:

The most awaited conclusion to the Caraval series, Stephanie Garber brings us a well-crafted ending! This is definitely one of the most talked about series in today’s world!

There is so much happening in this book that it will keep the reader hooked until the very end. The entire concept of the series is intriguing and it’s a pleasure to meet our favorite characters one last time! With the fates now freed, so much has changed in the empire with Legend now on the throne. Tella and Scarlet have their own secrets to uncover and the story follows three different angles as each of the main characters have a role to play in this final game of life and death, in the Finale! The story gives us a deeper glimpse into the characters and who they become as a result of the games and their lives.

I thoroughly enjoyed this conclusion and loved the way the author has crafted the plot of the entire series. A well-written fantasy fiction, this series will take the reader on an adventure that is amazing, with colorful characters whom we cannot help but fall in love with! This series is indeed a must-read and is well worth the time spent on it.

Book Blitz: In Debt To Her Millionaire Foe (Millionaire Foe Quartet # 2) by Aarti V Raman

She Hates Him But She’s In Debt To Her Millionaire Foe

Releasing on 25th October
About the Book:

When the songbird owes the business tycoon…

Former gangster, Devansh Thackeray has finally managed to carve the life he’s always aspired to.
Building a chain of seven-star hotels all over the world, a reputation for being an honest businessman…and all the women he could ask for.
Ansh’s life is perfect. Or so he thinks.
Because he is about to hit by a lightning bolt from the past that’ll make him question everything he’s worked so hard for.
And her name is Kahini Palekar.
Kahini’s life is a nightmare.
She works three jobs to pay off the loan sharks circling her.
But, Kahini doesn’t mind because she also gets to do the only thing she’s always wanted to do.
Sing.
Even if it is at a shady nightclub in the backstreets of Goa, the beach paradise of India.
Kahini’s day of reckoning arrives when Ansh arrives back in her life, right when she’s almost assaulted by the manager of the nightclub.
Ansh offers both salvation from her debt and a chance to sing at the most exclusive wedding of the decade.
But there’s just one catch.
Kahini hates Ansh’s living guts and blames him for the destruction of her life.
Even though he was the boy she once recklessly gave her heart to.
Can Ansh get to the bottom of the problems plaguing Kahini or will this songbird fly away again after repaying her debt to him?
Meet the Millionaire Foes – rising from ruin through ruthless ambition, these self-made tycoons have everything. Except, the heart of the one woman who means everything.

The Millionaire Foe Quartet series contains four steamy romances set around the world, each of which can be read as a standalone.

Read an Excerpt from In Debt To Her Millionaire Foe (Millionaire Foe Quartet # 2)

Ansh entered the bar when the lights had dimmed, already in a foul mood from the altercation he’d had outside Grungy’s.
The term “bar” was a loose translation for what the seedy confines really were. It was set in a shady part of Calangute Beach, where the locals lived. It was not the area the posh, firang tourists frequented. The air here smelled of brine and fish and cheap liquor.
The smell of the ocean was everywhere.
It was, after all, Goa the beach paradise of India.
And to everyone who came here, it promised nothing but a good time.
The patrons of Grungy’s, the small-time bar that operated till four in the morning during season, had that look about them. They were local men, embittered and looking for cheap thrills. And some willing victim to provide that for them.
Ansh knew the type. They resented the tourists for showing up and flinging their foreign currency around and expecting their silly demands of room temperature water and late-night cruises to be catered to.
And they really resented needing the silly tourists and their foreign currency too.
A classic catch-22.
But, tonight, these patrons, and that was a loose term too for what the customers of Grungy’s were, were not looking for foreign currency or cheap thrills.
They were all gathered on the rickety tables that the bar owner had graciously provided and murmuring amongst themselves while the poorly-named stage was being set up.
She was the main act tonight.
Ansh frowned and sank deeper into his chair while the bar-back set him up with a glass of the local feni – a local toddy made from fermented coconut water and rum. He frowned deeper when he saw the lipstick mark around the edge of the shot glass and gingerly cleaned the lip with his monogrammed handkerchief.
Places like these reminded Devansh Thackeray of his squalid past.
He couldn’t stand them anymore.
Then, the spotlight hit the stage. The band struck a chord and a woman in black walked up to the mike.
Ansh sat up straighter.
Was she going to start stripping or something? He hadn’t heard the best things about these places on the wharf and this one didn’t have a stellar reputation either.
And, what the hell was she doing here anyway?
He’d sent her plenty of funds seven years ago, deposited in the account her brother had set up for both of them when he had turned eighteen.
Kahini had enough money to keep her in style, because he’d instructed the company’s bankers to always replenish the funds in that account should the need ever arise. The need had never risen, to the best of his knowledge. Even though he knew the money would never bring back her dead brother.
So, was she doing this for kicks?
Some poor little rich kid slumming it thing that all the society madams were doing these days?
He honestly had no idea. And that ate at his insides, like the strength of the feni he’d gingerly taken a sip out of.
Ansh had come here to find out what the hell she’d been up to the last seven years. Since the last time he’d seen her and she’d flung bitter, accusing words at him.

About the Author:

Hi, I’m Aarti V Raman aka Writer Gal. I have been a former journalist, editor, and even a sometime-teacher before I plunged into my dream job. That of being a full-time writer.
In fact, my three favorite words are ‘happily ever after.’
This comes in handy as I primarily write bestselling contemporary romantic women’s fiction, which is all about living happily, after going through some hard times.
My more notable works include the Geeks of Caltech and Royals of Stellangård series, Something Old, Something New, More Than You Want, and The Perfect Fake among others. My chicklit family drama, The Worst Daughter Ever, has been picked up for screen adaptation.
I always love to hang with you, my dear reader friend. I’ve created Writer Gal’s Reader Pals on Facebook for this reason and I hope to see you there.
If not, I’m there on all social media as @aartivraman but I’m most active on Instagram.
Aarti on the Web:
Newsletter * Facebook * Instagram * Twitter * Facebook Group

Book Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

About the Book:

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil #1)

A dark and enchanting fantasy adventure perfect for girls who prefer their fairytales with a twist.

Every four years, two girls are kidnapped from the village of Gavaldon. Legend has it these lost children are sent to the School for Good and Evil, the fabled institution where they become fairytale heroes or villains.

Sophie, the most beautiful girl in town, has always dreamed of her place at the School for Good while her friend Agatha, with her dark disposition seems destined for the School for Evil. But when the two are kidnapped they find their fortunes reversed…

My Thoughts:

Author Soman Chainani brings us a very dark take on fairytales with several twists and turns. the story follows Sophie and Agatha as they are kidnapped and brought to the School for Good and Evil. If we go by cliches, one would expect Sophie to end up at the school for Good and Agatha at the school for Evil. But fate has a different plan and the two are swapped. Struggling to accept the situation, Agatha feels out of place as she never wanted to be here in the first place. Sophie on the other hand has always dreamed of going here and finds it difficult to settle down at the School for Evil.

As the story progresses, we follow the children through their days, getting trained to be either heroes or villains. The author brings in several twists and drops several hints as to why these girls are where they are at the school. The story is a little slow and at times the content is repetitive which made me slow down while reading.

However, at the end of the day it was a decent read and I did enjoy the premise of the story. I liked the idea that children are trained to be a certain way and then they eventually end up as characters from the fairytales we know so well and love. The climax is interesting and leads to many questions which lay down a good base for the next book.

All in all, give this book a shot! It will take you on a rather enchanting journey!

Book Review: Return to Virgin River (Virgin River #19) by Robyn Carr

I received an ARC of the book through NetGalley. The book was released on 13th October 2020.

About the Book:

Robyn Carr returns to the beloved town of Virgin River with a brand new story about fresh starts, new friends and the magic of Christmas.Return to Virgin River (Virgin River, #19)
Struggling with grief after the death of her mother, successful author Kaylee Sloan needs a distraction, to come to terms with life and meet her looming deadline.

With Christmas approaching, Kaylee rents a cabin in Virgin River. She knows the isolation will help her writing and as she drives north through the mountains she immediately feels inspired. Until she arrives at a building that has just gone up in flames. Devastated, she heads to Jack’s Bar to plan her next steps. The local bar is the heart of the town and once she crosses the threshold, she’s surprised to be embraced by people who are more than willing to help a stranger in need.

Welcomed by those in Virgin River, Kaylee starts to see her life in a new light. And as she becomes more involved in the town and the people in it, especially local artist and dog trainer Landry Moore, Kaylee realises she may have found her peace. As Christmas approaches, Kaylee’s dread turns to wonder. Because there’s no better place to mend a broken heart than Virgin River.

My Thoughts:

Author Robyn Carr takes us back to Virgin River with Kaylee Sloan. For fans of the book/TV series, it is indeed a welcome trip down memory lane! We meet a hoard of characters, some familiar and some not so familiar, but it feels just about right!

The story follows Kaylee Sloan as she decides to move to Virgin River for a few months for a fresh start and some fresh perspective to help with her writing. Dealing with the loss of her mother, she is not just dealing with the loss of a parent, but also her best friend and confidante. This book takes us on a journey of acceptance and togetherness. The people of Virgin River come together to help Kaylee when bad luck strikes just as she reaches the cabin she was renting. It is wonderful to meet many of the characters again and see where they lives are now. A warm welcome, a few kind words and the right kind of support can do wonders to a person grieving and lonely.

What follows is the usual mix of discovery and romance as Kaylee strives to mend, finish her novel and just feel better. The story is well-written and a simple read. The book can be finished in one sitting depending on the reader’s time. A wonderful heart-felt story, this will tug at the reader’s heartstrings and take us on an emotional rollercoaster. Once again Robyn Carr brings us happiness and nostalgia all in one neat package!

Cover Reveal: The Wrath of Hellfires by Shatrujeet Nath

Patience is a Drawn Bow.
Rage, its Relentless Arrow.

Shukracharya’s plan to break the unity of Vikramaditya’s Council has borne bitter fruit. Friends have become sworn enemies, and brother has turned against brother, setting Avanti on the path to self-destruction.

Even as Vikramaditya prepares to counter a Huna invasion, a rebellion brews within Ujjayini, while a devious conspiracy is hatched to humiliate him. With Indra’s spies swarming the palace and Shukracharya making a bold bid to take the Halahala, the king is dangerously close to the brink of defeat.

Alone and abandoned by those dear to him, fighting to protect his wife and his people, trying his best to keep his promise to Shiva, will the Samrat rise one last time to defend his love, his city and his honour?

As the asura and deva forces muster in a final, desperate gamble to claim the Halahala, The Wrath of the Hellfires brings an explosive conclusion to Vikramaditya’s epic tale of action and adventure.

Other Books in the Series:

About the Author:

Shatrujeet Nath is the creator of the runaway national bestseller series Vikramaditya Veergatha, a four-book mytho-fantasy arc which comprises The Guardians of the Halahala, The Conspiracy at Meru, The Vengeance of Indra and The Wrath of the Hellfires. Described as “a new face to Indian mythology” by DNA, Shatrujeet writes for movies and web shows as well. He’s also the author of The Karachi Deception, an Indo-Pak spy thriller.

Book Review: The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh

About the Book:

New York Times bestselling author Renée Ahdieh returns with a sumptuous, sultry and romantic new series set in 19th century New Orleans where vampires hide in plain sight.

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans provides her a refuge after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent along with six other girls, Celine quickly becomes enamored with the vibrant city from the music to the food to the soirées and—especially—to the danger. She soon becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as Le Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s leader, the enigmatic Sèbastien Saint Germain. When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in the lair of Le Cour des Lions, Celine battles her attraction to him and suspicions about Sèbastien’s guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

When more bodies are discovered, each crime more gruesome than the last, Celine and New Orleans become gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose—one Celine is sure has set her in his sights . . . and who may even be the young man who has stolen her heart. As the murders continue to go unsolved, Celine takes matters into her own hands and soon uncovers something even more shocking: an age-old feud from the darkest creatures of the underworld reveals a truth about Celine she always suspected simmered just beneath the surface.

At once a sultry romance and a thrilling murder mystery, master storyteller Renée Ahdieh embarks on her most potent fantasy series yet: The Beautiful.

My Thoughts:

The Beautiful has to be one of the most talked about books! I was quite intrigued by the book cover and premise that I had to pick it up! It is a dark and sultry romance with murder, mystery and thrills all thrown into the mix!

At first, it took some time to get into the book and understand the context and setting. We are introduced to Celine, our main protagonist, a very strong-willed woman who keeps her own council and is not afraid to speak up. At first we see her struggling to conform to the rules of the convent where she has been taken in in New Orleans, having fled from Paris. However, she catches the eye of first Odette and then Sèbastien Saint Germain, all part of a group simply known as Le Cour des Lions. Little does she know that she has stepped into a completely different world, shrouded in darkness and surrounded by the dead, quite literally!

A very well written tale, the setting of New Orleans is very well described, especially the streets and nightlife. The characters are intriguing and well developed. At times, I must admit to getting a little annoyed with Celine, but it was not enough to pull me away from the book. As we are introduced to the creatures of the underworld and Celine starts to discover the existence of the paranormal, a series of murders leads to questions of motive and who the real target is. Not to be left out, Celine tries to conduct her own investigation having the feeling that she is indeed a target.

The developing romance between Celine and Sèbastien is both natural and forbidden and is interesting to see develop. The courtship (a suitable word for the time in which the story is set) is not without it’s problems and when murder and mayhem are thrown into the mix, we have all the ingredients for an entertaining story! The story is a roller-coaster of a ride as we navigate the sub-plots and various supporting characters who add such flavor to the story!

Though there were some ups and downs with the story, it is definitely worth the read!

In Conversation with Author Smita Bhattacharya

I had the wonderful opportunity to pre-read Smita Bhattacharya’s upcoming novel. In addition, I have been lucky to collaborate with her on an interview.

Read on to know more about Smita and her upcoming novel Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney?

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Threw-Draco-Chimney-Nandkarnis-Misadventures-ebook/dp/B08FR4JL3J

The two previous books in the series are

Kiss of Salt: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07SB4MIn 2M6

The Secret Angels: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07ZMR9MB4

Tell us a little about yourself

Author of cosy and psychological thriller mysteries, management consultant, coffee lover, gipsy-in-my-head, living in Mumbai for over 15 years, have travelled to over 40 countries, about 30 of them solo. I have about five published books and counting. I have too many stories to tell, and not enough time.

From where do you draw inspiration for the books you write?

There is no straight path, no direct answer; different books have had different birth stories. It could be piece of gossip someone told me over lunch; I might make a different ending to it, and give a whole new spin to the story. Or it could be a movie I watched and thought about a side character; how interesting she might be if she were to be the main one and what kind of a life might she have. I endure the joys of an overactive imagination. I say endure, because I never sleep well. I have so many stories in my head all the time.

Which book(s) are you currently reading?

I am reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I intend to also take it on my vacation to Goa soon. Yes! Finally! The lockdown eases and we can live as normal people. I am loving this book. It is engrossing, warm, and witty, and a welcome break from the sort of dark books I usually read.

Which is your favourite genre?

I like psychological mind twisters and atmospheric cosy mysteries. They are my ‘go-to’ books, i.e. when I don’t want to focus too much and want the pages to simply turn. I’m specifically fond of British and European fiction thrillers. Something about the dark dreariness of the surroundings, a trickle of blood on the snow, the brooding actors, languages I can’t follow, fascinate me. A few of my favourite authors in this genre are Tana French, Henning Mankell, and Andrea Camilleri. I know most people love fast action, gun fights, and sharp dialogues, but I love soaking in the rolling hills, empty streets, and a small town vibe. ‘Atmospheric’ is the word to describe the kind of books I like. I feel like I’m wrapped in a blanket, drinking a warm cup of coffee during Christmas when I read them.

Who is your favourite author?

That’s a tricky question because I doubt anyone has ONE favourite author. But if I have to mention someone whom I admire because he has managed to blend in good writing with a genre that’s otherwise difficult to master i.e. horror—yes, you guessed it right, it’s going to be Stephen King. He has been churning good content, never losing his touch, rarely getting boring. I think he has the pulse of the market and so, does very well in it. He is an inspiration for authors who aspire to be mass market, and yet, want to be taken seriously.

On the other hand, I have evergreen favourites, those whose books I cherish and will remember all my life. Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, Donna Tartt, Rohinton Mistry, Vikram Seth, Chimamanda Adichie. Most recently, I was impressed with ‘Circe’ by Madeline Miller and ‘Where the Crawdads sing’ by Delia Owens. I love a mix of authors and genres as you can see, and I can go on and on listing them because I read voraciously.

If you had to pick one book to take away with you on vacation, what would it be?

To reread? One in the Harry Potter series. Or maybe Calvin and Hobbes. Or Agatha Christie.

To read for the first time? If it’s a global location, I try and buy local fiction, if possible local crime fiction. I have shelves filled with books from all around the world, inscribed with postcards and notes from book keepers and store owners. Sometimes, traveler friends.

With reference to your new book, Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? How did you get the idea for the plot?

I don’t know how. I am serious! It all just came together. I wanted a story that referenced the strange eyelets on the roofs of Sibiu—they were everywhere, and they looked so eerie, just as if eyes were following me around. I was also fascinated by the gypsies in Romania. Did you know these nomadic people landed in Romania during the seventh century and they came from Punjab (India)? In addition, I knew Romania had loads of old stories and legends. Of course, you’ve heard of Dracula. So, I decided to mix everything: crazy legends, unfounded rumours, gypsies, eclectic local characters, and the beauty of its villages and towns. A true potboiler of a story!

Why did you decide to focus on Draco in the title of the book?

Naming a book is a tough task, I suppose somewhat like naming a baby: you fear you can never get it perfectly right, and once you’ve given it, it’s stuck for life. Draco is a distinctly Romanian name, and it would be easy to guess where the book is based. Also, a question in the title always piques my interest and that’s what I wanted to do.

Did the town of Sibiu inspire the plot for the book? If so, how?

I already had the basic plot in mind. The town embraced it into its arms and gave it a shape of its own. As I roamed the streets or wrote in my Bed&Breakfast, I could almost imagine Darya walking on the cobbled streets, staring in wonder at the eyelets on the roofs, wondering why they came about.

What did you like the most about Sibiu and why?

Sibiu is a ‘big-small’ city. I had read a lot about it, and when I landed there, I had 6 days to kill, and, so I thought to myself, why not here? Darya could well have come to Sibiu and stayed for her break, as I had myself had come for my sabbatical.

Sibiu is a Romanian city from the 12th century built by the German settlers known as Transylvanian Saxons. It is located in central Transylvania and has a population of around 400,000. Despite the flurry of tourism after being designated European Capital of Culture in 2007, it has retained much of its old world charm and grandeur. In 2008, it was designated Europe’s 8th-most idyllic place to live. It has great people, lovely food, and many many things to see and do. And you will not have tourist feet trampling your own as you explore.

Moreover, the Romanians are extraordinary people: blunt, warm, garrulous. Their inimitable personalities and rich culture and traditions added a whole different flavour to Draco’s story.

Where did you get the inspiration for the main protagonist of the series: Darya Nandkarni?

Three years ago, I wondered why there were not too many books with normal female leads in them. What I mean is, the women in the books I read were usually tragic, struggling, or getting over some difficulties, or simpering women waiting for a glance from a hard-hearted (but rich!) man. I wanted to create a normal female lead, like you and I, who did not have to have suffered in their lives and could do fun things. Hence, was born a series and a couple of standalone books, with strong-willed women, who are imperfect and gutsy, not waiting for a man to rescue them, using their cleverness and wit to navigate through their life and its many mysteries.

Do you base any of your characters on people you know? Would you like to give an example, if yes?

I often always do that, but never one hundred per cent. I am guilty is using names of my friends, and selecting their quirky mannerisms, but never replicating any one whole. I think all authors are guilty of being inspired by their near and dear ones, and also their selves. Some parts of Darya are definitely me. Some parts of Alina and Irina are my girlfriends. I often also replicate my real-life situations in my books, because ‘Fact is stranger than fiction’ has not been vainly said.

What about your other books, where did you draw inspiration for them?

My very popular mystery ‘Dead to Them’ was inspired by my workplace. The first of the Darya Nandkarni series – Kiss of Salt – was inspired by my many trips to Goa. ‘The Secret Angels’ is based in Chapel Road in Bandra, a lane I find fascinating and close to where I live in Mumbai. And Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? is based on superstitions and old stories, the kind I read and heard in my trip to Romania. Inspiration can come from random comments, unfinished stories, a book or a movie watched accidentally. One merely needs to pay attention, use one’s imagination, and have the will to write.

What is an average writing day like for you?

I write every day, even if it’s for 30 minutes. I write for at least 3 to 4 hours on weekends. Creating is a lot of fun, but getting out a good book is continuous effort and dedication. A lot of discipline! Rewriting and revision takes up a lot of time and that’s where it becomes a bit of a grind. Don’t even get me started on the marketing aspect of it. In conclusion, what I’m trying to say is this: writing is a lot of fun and I can do it every day. I have too many stories in my head and not enough time to jot it down. But if only writing was enough, and we didn’t have to do all the peripherals.

What message would you like to share with your readers?

You have everything. You are enough. If you have a dream, you have everything to do it already within you.