Monday, May 25, 2015

Review Request & Author #Giveaway: Rival Poet by Ingela Bohm

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We would like to thank author  Ingela Bohm for donating an ebook copy of  Rival Poet, to 1 lucky commentator who gets chosen. Make sure to leave a comment below to get a free ebook copy of  Rival Poet.

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Rival Poet by Ingela Bohm

(100 815 words)
Published: 06/01/2015
Cover artist: Ingela Bohm

1587. A young Will Shaksper arrives in London, hoping to publish his poems. But rejection hits him hard, and he wants to give up – until he meets Kit. Dazzled and drawn in, Will is shocked to find their friendship escalate into something else – something dark and dangerous in a country where sodomy is a capital offence. When Kit finally tries to seduce him, will he be able to resist?

Giles West’s review of : Rival Poet By Ingela Bohm
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars 

Rival Poet by Ingela Bohm is a bit difficult to review.  It’s at once strange, unfamiliar, and slightly jarring throughout.  But, it’s also fascinating, thought provoking and impossible to put down.  My biggest problem, I must admit, is that I’m not overly familiar with the time period in question or the main characters—Shakespeare and his contemporaries.  Like a lot of people I have read Shakespeare and seen several productions of his plays, including one in Stratford Upon Avon, but this is different.  Upon starting this novel, I realized how little I actually know of the man himself.  The notes by author Ingela Bohm helped put me at ease, though: “Characters and places are used fictitiously”.  At that point I decided to enjoy the book as a work of fiction.

The take on William Shakespeare and his friends is certainly original and compelling.  When I first heard Shakespeare referred to as Willie, it sounded suspiciously modern as did the different spelling of the last name in the beginning of the story.  With a little research I discovered that the nickname Willie was indeed in use at the time and the spelling of the last name is explained well in the novel.  Shakespeare’s friendships and relationships with people, including old school chums, made the bard seem real and relatable.  Who hasn’t had to deal with a Dick Fields in his or her life?  Read the book—you’ll find out what I’m talking about.

Details regarding both setting and clothing add a great deal to the novel.  There are times I felt I could smell the streets of Elizabethan London and the waters of the Thames as well as one nastily waste-filled (but accurately described) moat.  Supporting characters are also very well written.  One other word came across as jarring to me in it’s modernity and that was the word “okay”.  In my research I didn’t find definitive answers to the origin of the word, but most sources suggest it’s American or Native American in origin.  It’s also more modern in usage—1840's and didn’t mean the same thing it does today.  Not being a scholar of the period, I can’t say for absolute certainty that the word wasn’t used in Shakespeare’s day, so I’m not sure what to say.  Is it jarring? Yes, it is.  Does it ruin the story?  No, but even if it turns out to be accurate for the period, I think another word may have sounded better.  Since I’m not sure about the accuracy or inaccuracy of the word, I won’t take it into account in my final rating.

I love the colors used in the cover art.  They glow and seem warm and alive.  The man’s face is at least partially hidden in shadow which is good, but I still think too much is seen.  He’s a handsome model and I could definitely picture him in the time period, but which character does he portray?  As a reader I like to picture the character’s my own way, without being prejudiced by a face on the cover.  But that’s just my opinion and there are those who like to see the characters completely fleshed out on covers.  On a whole the cover does work.  The warm colors do the job of making the book stand out and draw you in.  And the model also has a look to him which makes you want to know more as well.  Even the title’s script invokes the period and story, that’s a very nice touch.

This novel introduced me to a world and time I want to learn more about.  It reminded me of the joys I felt reading Shakespeare’s work when I was a child.  I haven’t revisited those works in quite some time, but reading Rival Poet makes me feel like doing just that and more.  There’s more I want to know about not just Shakespeare, but also his contemporaries.  Once I’ve done that research I want to revisit this novel, as I’m sure the experience of the read will be greatly enhanced by knowing more about the times and people.  When a book inspires you to learn more about a time and place, that can only be seen as a good thing.  Those things and the fact that it is a finely written book by a good and talented author went into consideration in my final score.


“Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?” His eyes searched Will’s face curiously, and for a moment Will was hit by the ridiculous thought that his poems had somehow preceded him, that rumour of his rejected writings had reached this man, this shooting star, this paragon of writers. But almost at once he realised that the question wasn’t to be taken literally. It was a pick-up line – a parody of a pick-up line, and therefore impossible to respond to without making an ass of himself.
He stared at the smirking man. “I-I know you,” he stammered stupidly, snippets of Amores and Dido clouding his brain.
Beside him Richard shifted, embarrassed. “Burbage.” He clasped Master Marlowe’s hand, or rather the two fingers not currently employed in elegantly balancing the pipe.
Marlowe smiled briefly. “I know.”
Richard looked stricken for a moment. “Oh, er… I’m, well I’m honoured, Sir – I mean…” His customary cool seemed to have been completely sucked out of him. “Ah… please meet my very good friend William Shakespeare.” He gestured towards Will, apparently eager to deflect the attention.
“Charmed, I’m sure.” Their new acquaintance laid his pipe on the table and enveloped Will’s hand with both of his. They were seething hot and Will almost yanked his hand back. “And please, call me Kit. All my little friends do.” He glanced at the confused trio still waiting for him in the corner.
“I’m such a fan,” Will blurted.
Obviously delighted at the praise, Kit pulled up a chair and sat down. Only when his hand dragged Will down with him did Will realise that he was still holding it. “So… you’re an aspiring dramatist, then?”
“Oh, I… no… well, that is…”
“Never mind.” Kit finally let go of Will’s hand and grabbed Richard’s mug. Realising that it was empty, he set it down again in vague disappointment. “Where are you from? You’re obviously not a Londoner.”
“Never heard of it. Hah! So much for a university degree.” Kit lit his pipe again, seemingly in need of something to do with his hands. “Well, nothing of value was ever taught in such a ridiculous place. Come to think of it, maybe they did mention domestic geography at some point, but education and alcohol really is a detrimental combination! You can’t have one without the other, and yet one innocent drink takes away the whole performance. So, Stratford… a shit-hole, no doubt?”
“On the contrary,” Will protested. “It’s a beautiful place. I was reluctant to leave.”
Kit grinned broadly and slapped Will’s back. “Spoken like a true gentleman! Never let on how much in love you are with the big city, you might come across as a simpleton. Wax lyrical about the unpolluted countryside instead, and you’re automatically in, eh Robert?” He winked at one of his abandoned friends. The one presumably named Robert, a thin man with a straggly red beard, muttered something inaudible in reply. Kit immediately lost interest and turned to Will again. “You should work on that accent, though.”
“Wh… what’s wrong with it?”
“It’s bloody incomprehensible, that’s what’s wrong with it! You don’t think I got to where I am by speaking like a Canterbury ale taster, do you?”
Despite himself, Will chuckled. It was difficult not to be contaminated by Kit’s exuberant manner.
“Hey, you written anything I might know?”
Will hesitated. Was he being ironic again? “Well… not really… I’ve put together some poems, but…”
Kit snorted. “Poems! Stop right there, darling. Your shoes are growing too small for your feet by the minute, and you know it. Poetry and la-di-dah is all very well, but the theatre, now that is the future.”
Will smiled tentatively. “I can see why you’d say that.”
“Setting aside my own glorious self for a minute, think about it: not everyone can read. But even the most down and out hooker has ears, and they flock to the play-houses like simpering lords to Rhenish wine. As a playwright, you have the ear of the entire city – fuck it, you have the ear of the Queen herself! And a soliloquy is poetry in its own right. Only, getting your poetry read aloud by an artiste like Edward Alleyne… not to demean you, sir,” he looked briefly in the direction of Richard, “… that just makes it so much… grander! It’s almost better than sex.”
Will nodded slowly, his mind awash with images of said Alleyne tearing the stage apart in his bloodied shirt. But he didn’t dare compliment Master Marlowe – Kit – on his intimidating talents, for fear of being taunted. Instead he mumbled, “I don’t have the imagination.”
Kit shook his head impatiently. “Don’t be stupid. Stories are ten a penny. It’s what you do with them that counts. It’s all the same crap anyway, life and love and death, blah blah blah. Use whatever’s around, that’s what we all do.”
“Yeah, but…”
“Look, when people just buy and read your stuff, you never get to see how your words seduce them. Wouldn’t you like to hear the sea-surge of applause?”
Will felt the dangerous tug of Kit’s imagery and protected himself with feigned annoyance. “I’m sure it’s all very exhilarating, but I’m quite serious when I say that I can only write poetry.”
Kit hesitated, and then shrugged. “So what? We’re the makers of manners, puppy. And verse makes for excellent crutches. That’s why you begin by writing speeches.”
What’s it to you? Will wanted to ask. Instead he said, “I just don’t know how to translate the stories that I love into dialogue. I read something and I’m inspired, you know, but when I try to write, it comes out poetry. I can’t bridge the gap. I can make poetry out of stories, but I can’t make stories out of poetry.”
Kit smiled. “That’s just the kind of phrase that makes me wish you could. You have the art of rhetoric down pat – God knows how you’ve managed to pick that up from your provincial education! All you have to do is push the boat out, and I’m here to help you with that.”
Will frowned at his assailant. Just a few minutes ago, he had been wilting like a dead man in his lonely corner, for all the world like someone who had just lost his whole fortune, and now he was a veritable river of words. “Why do you care anyway?”
Kit looked stricken, but just for a moment. “Well… why did you want to meet me, if not to further your career?”
“I didn’t! I was leaving, it was you who… Ask Richard!”
Kit glanced without interest at Will’s silenced companion. Then he knocked the ashes out of his pipe, put it in his belt and blew the last cloud of smoke into Will’s face. “Tell you what. Why don’t you write a speech about…” He turned to his morose-looking friends who must have given up hope of his company by now. “Robert! You said you needed some kind of soliloquy, didn’t you?”
“What?” The red-bearded man flung up defensive hands. “No, I don’t need any help.”
“Yes you do, shut up. It was Constance, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, it was, don’t lie to me.” Kit turned to Will again. “He needs this pompous speech, you know, anguished ramblings of the tragic heroine and all that… and he has trouble connecting with his feminine side. His women come off as wooden statues. Don’t they, Robert? Now you, on the other hand,” Kit grabbed a lock of Will’s hair and twisted it between his fingers. “You are surely very good at identifying with girls, am I right?”
Will stared at Kit’s face, suddenly so close to his. This man had no personal space. “Oh, I don’t know… I mean, of course I took on roles at school, but…”
Kit laughed. “And I would have loved to see them! So you’ll submit something?”
“I…” Will looked over Kit’s shoulder at the fuming writer in the corner. “I don’t know, he doesn’t seem to…”
Kit scoffed. “Don’t pay any attention to Robert! He expects me to help him out – he doesn’t see the difference, poor sod, doesn’t realise how glaringly obvious the shift is, from his language to mine, I mean, honestly! But maybe if you wrote it instead, as a fellow amateur your text wouldn’t jar so much against his.”
“We don’t know him,” Robert complained. “He could be worthless.”
“Don’t be so inconsiderate, Robert! We won’t know his worth until we let him try. Besides, we need some new blood. If his text is good enough, you two could even collaborate on something. Or at least he gets to show that no-good printer of his what he missed, and that’s as noble a mission as anything, right?”
Will made a face. So he had been listening in.
“Hey Will, wouldn’t that be great?” Kit implored. “When you’re a famous playwright he’ll come crawling back, begging you to grace his worthless printing house with your immortal poetry!”
Will looked down at the table, striving to hide his smile. “Okay…”
Kit cocked his head. “Okay?”
“Yes, okay. Just to shut you up, mind you.”
Kit grinned broadly. “You’re in good company, my friend. Many a thing has been done just to shut me up.”

Author Bio and Contact

Ingela Bohm is a sucker for music and words, and whenever the two go together, she’s on board for the long haul. Every story she tries her hand at turns into a love story at some point, but that’s just her sentimental nature making itself known. She occasionally pretends to be a human being (as long as there are no dogs present), and she spends an obscene amount of time in front of really well-made TV series, trying to riddle out how the hell the bastards do it. Her current projects include a dystopian vampire novel, a twisted, darker tale about online courting gone haywire, and an angsty thing between a dietitian and his patient.

To get a chance to win an ebook copy of Rival Poet, leave a comment below and don't forget to leave your contact email address.

We will randomly pick 1 lucky commentator and Ingela Bohm will email them their ebook version of choice.

To claim prize, we will be sending an email to the address provided by the lucky commentators. Don't forget to tell us what format you prefer.

Game ends June 1.


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