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Le Carré meets Cabaret in this debut spy thriller as a gay double-agent schemes to protect his smuggler lover during the rise of a fascist government coup
Trust no one with anything—especially in Amberlough City.
Covert agent Cyril DePaul thinks he’s good at keeping secrets, especially from Aristide Makricosta. They suit each other: Aristide turns a blind eye to Cyril’s clandestine affairs, and Cyril keeps his lover’s moonlighting job as a smuggler under wraps.
Cyril participates on a mission that leads to disastrous results, leaving smoke from various political fires smoldering throughout the city. Shielding Aristide from the expected fallout isn’t easy, though, for he refuses to let anything—not the crooked city police or the mounting rage from radical conservatives—dictate his life.
Enter streetwise Cordelia Lehane, a top dancer at the Bumble Bee Cabaret and Aristide’s runner, who could be the key to Cyril’s plans—if she can be trusted. As the twinkling lights of nightclub marquees yield to the rising flames of a fascist revolution, these three will struggle to survive using whatever means—and people—necessary. Including each other.
Combining the espionage thrills of le Carré with the allure of an alternate vintage era, Amberlough will thoroughly seduce and enthrall you.
Lara Elena Donnelly is a graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, as well as the Alpha SF/F/H Workshop for Young Writers, where she now volunteers as on-site staff and publicity coordinator. In her meager spare time she cooks, draws, sings, and swing dances. After an idyllic, small-town Ohio childhood, she spent time in Louisville, Kentucky. She currently resides in Harlem, in a tower named after Ella Fitzgerald.
Praise for Amberlough:
“A tightly woven and diverse cast of spies, criminals, cabaret bohemians, and lovers struggles to save what matters to each of them against a tide of rising fascism and violence in Donnelly’s debut novel, set in a vaguely 1920s milieu….A sense of inevitable loss and futility permeates this rich drama. The fascists may never be defeated but only escaped—if the characters are willing to abandon the people they love. That dilemma will haunt them, as it haunts the reader.” —Kirkus Reviews
“With rich description and morally gray characters, Donnelly has created a debut novel steeped in 1920s atmosphere and intrigue. For fans of Cabaret, espionage, alternate history, genre blends, and narratives that bear an uncomfortable resemblance to current events.” —Booklist
“Combining Casablanca, Cabaret, and John le Carré, Donnelly’s intoxicating debut whisks us away to Amberlough, a seductive, permissive enclave in a setting not exactly unlike 1920s Europe… It’s dark, powerful, and affecting stuff, destined to be a book remembered—truly a book for our times.” —Jeff Somers, Barnes & Noble Pick for Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, February 2017
“James Bond by way of Oscar Wilde.” —Holly Black
“If you put David Bowie, China Mieville, and Shakespeare in Love into a blender, you might get something as rich and frothy as Amberlough. An intricate tale of society where nothing is as it seems, and where the political is all-too-personal.” —Cecilia Tan, author of The Struck by Lightning series
“Amberlough grabbed me from the first page. It is beautiful, all too real, and full of pain. Read it. It will change you.” —Hugo Award-winning author Mary Robinette Kowal
“An astonishing first novel!” —World Fantasy Award-winning author Ellen Kushner
“Sparkling with slang, full of riotous characters, and dripping with intrigue, Amberlough is a dazzling romp through a tumultuous, ravishing world.” —Robert Jackson Bennett, winner of the Shirley Jackson Award and the Edgar Award
“It’s a terrific novel. Very Evelyn Waugh meets The Sandbaggers.” —John Chu, Hugo-award winning author
“A peach softens and grows sweeter until it reaches a fragile state, lasting only about six hours, during which it’s actually better than perfect—and then it goes off, it’s gone, it’s through. In Amberlough Donnelly takes us to a city and culture just tipping from this pluperfect moment. What a rich and melancholy book; so tragic, so gay!” —Kai Ashante Wilson, author of Sorcerer of the Wildeeps and the Nebula & World Fantasy finalist for “The Devil in America”
“Amberlough offers a sharp, lush, sensual espionage Cabaret, a Weimar world of lovers, criminals and spies all floating toward the fire.” —Max Gladstone, LAMBDA Literary Award finalist
“A glittering cabaret of a novel, with show-stopping language on every page.” —Lev AC Rosen, author of Depth
“Intrigue and passions intertwine in Amberlough—A city on the edge of political upheaval, glittering with decadence and riddled with spies! Be careful or you too will be lost in the whirl of the kind of glamour familiar in 1930s Shanghai or Weimar-era Berlin. Donnelley’s debut is powerfully seductive and wrenching.” —Fran Wilde, author of Updraft
“Lust and betrayal, intrigue and treachery, feints within feints within feints—Amberlough will keep readers up late into the night. I look forward to more adventures from Lara Elena Donnelly.” —D.B. Jackson, author of the Thieftaker Chronicles
“Amberlough is the stiletto-sharp tale of an intelligence agent caught between corrupt handlers, a rising fascist regime, and his doomed passion for the notorious star of a sizzling underworld nightclub. Sexy and suspenseful, with characters who play for keeps, Donnelly’s debut novel mixes secrets, spying, and outlawed love like a perfectly made cocktail... one that seduces before hitting you with an unforgettable kick.” —A.M. Dellamonica, LAMBDA Literary Award finalist for Child of a Hidden Sea
“Weirdly elegant, wholly engaging, Donnelly’s Amberlough is a richly visualized and genuinely fascinating novel. I couldn’t put it down.” —Josh Lanyon, author of the Adrien English Mysteries, and USA Book News Award for GLBT Fiction and the Eppie Award winner
Publishers Weekly starred review:
Donnelly blends romance and tragedy, evoking gilded-age glamour and the thrill of a spy adventure, in this impressive debut. In an imagined multinational setting that owes much to pre-WWII Europe but has its own complicated politics, Cyril DePaul is a young man of privilege who’s gotten in over his head as an agent for the Amberlough government. Cordelia Lehane is content to scrape out a living any way she can, whether by fabulous stage performances or black market dealings. Cyril is comfortable as a dilettante until a mission goes badly, putting his lover, burlesque performer Aristide Makricosta, at risk under a rising conservative regime that aims to consolidate the four diverse nation-states of Gedda into “one tightly controlled entity.” Aristide recruits Cordelia’s help without knowing the mortal danger Cyril has accepted in his effort to protect them both. Donnelly’s masterly creation is richly imagined and moves at an unchecked pace, painting a layer of sumptuous indulgence over a society of corruption, vice, and oppression. The romance between Cyril and Aristide is presented matter-of-factly; the flaws, roughness, and sincerity are organic to the relationship rather than being the tropes of gay narratives. Cordelia is a singular character, beholden to nobody and far more capable than the supposedly stronger people who are enchanted by her beauty and hope to command her elusive loyalty. When goodness and virtue cannot endure, the characters are drawn inexorably to their limits in a conclusion that is as heartbreaking as it is satisfying.
Author Lena Donnelly has discussed her book on Publishers Weekly radio! Listen to her here:
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