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Johanna Oakley will do anything to save her beloved Arabella from the cruelty of Mr. Fogg’s madhouse—but ‘anything’ turns out to be more than she bargained for when she finds herself working for a man suspected of worse than murder. As Johanna is plunged from the horror of Sawney Reynard’s barber shop into the foul, lawless labyrinth at the heart of London, will she--or any Johanna Oakley will do anything to save her beloved Arabella from the cruelty of Mr. Fogg’s madhouse—but ‘anything’ turns out to be more than she bargained for when she finds herself working for a man suspected of worse than murder. As Johanna is plunged from the horror of Sawney Reynard’s barber shop into the foul, lawless labyrinth at the heart of London, will she--or anyone--get out alive? A 15,000-word story, first published as part of the anthology All In Fear.


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Johanna Oakley will do anything to save her beloved Arabella from the cruelty of Mr. Fogg’s madhouse—but ‘anything’ turns out to be more than she bargained for when she finds herself working for a man suspected of worse than murder. As Johanna is plunged from the horror of Sawney Reynard’s barber shop into the foul, lawless labyrinth at the heart of London, will she--or any Johanna Oakley will do anything to save her beloved Arabella from the cruelty of Mr. Fogg’s madhouse—but ‘anything’ turns out to be more than she bargained for when she finds herself working for a man suspected of worse than murder. As Johanna is plunged from the horror of Sawney Reynard’s barber shop into the foul, lawless labyrinth at the heart of London, will she--or anyone--get out alive? A 15,000-word story, first published as part of the anthology All In Fear.

30 review for The Price of Meat

  1. 5 out of 5

    K.J. Charles

    A standalone short horror novella (15K words) that I wrote for the All In Fear: A Collection of Six Horror Tales anthology. It's still available in that along with five other great queer horror stories, but if all you're after is this one, it'll be out with a fantastically pulpy cover by Sandra Schwab on 1 Dec. This is very definitely horror, not romance (though there are romantic elements because me). It's my take on the classic penny dreadful, using elements of the original story of Sweeney To A standalone short horror novella (15K words) that I wrote for the All In Fear: A Collection of Six Horror Tales anthology. It's still available in that along with five other great queer horror stories, but if all you're after is this one, it'll be out with a fantastically pulpy cover by Sandra Schwab on 1 Dec. This is very definitely horror, not romance (though there are romantic elements because me). It's my take on the classic penny dreadful, using elements of the original story of Sweeney Todd (The String of Pearls: The Original Tale of Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street), plus the weird history of London's Alsatia where the law didn't apply, to create an alt-London where the barbers are lethal, the police are helpless, and the pies are definitely best avoided. Enjoy!

  2. 4 out of 5

    ~Volha~

    This was a rather good story. The world Ms Charles constructed was honest in its horror and vile deeds perpetuated by people trying to survive. In the center are two couples: enterprising Johanna who is willing to do anything to save her beloved Arabella from a madhouse and certain death and Colonel Elias Jeffery who has lost someone he loved. They are complete strangers, and yet a common goal puts them together in the path of a sadistic murderer Sawney Reynard and all the dreadful secrets that This was a rather good story. The world Ms Charles constructed was honest in its horror and vile deeds perpetuated by people trying to survive. In the center are two couples: enterprising Johanna who is willing to do anything to save her beloved Arabella from a madhouse and certain death and Colonel Elias Jeffery who has lost someone he loved. They are complete strangers, and yet a common goal puts them together in the path of a sadistic murderer Sawney Reynard and all the dreadful secrets that Alsatia, the land of lawlessness and fear, holds. The story is told from dual POV that of Johanna and Jeffery, and is fast-paced, sometimes foul and totally ingenious with its plot twists. I loved Johanna and her spirited nature. She was a no nonsense young lady who was smart and courageous enough to live through and escape the revolting world that is "liberty" and bring all its secrets to the surface. I really liked her. There were just subtle hints at romance that is and that was with a possibility of a second chance for Colonel Jeffery and one Mark Ingestrie who survived through hell himself. Who knows what future holds for both couples, but it can't be anything worse than what they left behind the locked doors leading to Alsatia, the land of death, depravity and "freedom".

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    Further proof I will read anything this woman writes, even a penny dreadful style horror novella set in an alternate London where the bad guys have managed to build themselves a society where the laws don't apply. This was actually surprisingly horrifying for such a short story. There was SO much gross stuff in there! There was also a bit of romance there (this time, both a lesbian and a gay couple), but the focus was the horror stuff. Which was. Let's say interesting (sounds so much better than Further proof I will read anything this woman writes, even a penny dreadful style horror novella set in an alternate London where the bad guys have managed to build themselves a society where the laws don't apply. This was actually surprisingly horrifying for such a short story. There was SO much gross stuff in there! There was also a bit of romance there (this time, both a lesbian and a gay couple), but the focus was the horror stuff. Which was. Let's say interesting (sounds so much better than revolting, doesn't it?). I just wish in the end, things had been tied up a bit more. I would've loved to see more of the two couples after the events. Also, it sounds like there's more to come? Which I would be totally on board with :)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Alisa

    This was so good. It's a historical horror story about the terrible (made up) things that are going on in Alsatia (actual real place). It was super entertaining. I would actually love some full length books about these characters.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Roxana Chirilă

    For some reason, this story is rendered in my head in black and white, with a bit of the flickering of old silent movies. It must be because it's a penny dreadful, so it's a bit theatrical - but by god, it's a good penny dreadful. In an alternate-universe London, in which Victor II and not Victoria is on the throne of England, and the British Empire is falling to pieces, a young woman is trying to save her lover from being murdered for her inheritance. For that, she needs to discover the secrets For some reason, this story is rendered in my head in black and white, with a bit of the flickering of old silent movies. It must be because it's a penny dreadful, so it's a bit theatrical - but by god, it's a good penny dreadful. In an alternate-universe London, in which Victor II and not Victoria is on the throne of England, and the British Empire is falling to pieces, a young woman is trying to save her lover from being murdered for her inheritance. For that, she needs to discover the secrets of the demon barber who is providing meat for those who seek refuge from the law in the most lawless place in the heart of the city. Gore, horror, a creepy London, and all the thrill that goes with them.

  6. 4 out of 5

    CrabbyPatty

    Charles creates a Victorian AU with a touch of Sweeney Todd, an insane asylum and a rotting warren of land called a "liberty" - an area "in which the laws don’t hold and the King’s writ doesn’t run." Add one heroic inspector, a brave young woman and a search for the horrible truth hidden amidst the lawless liberty. A somewhat horrifying read that I couldn't put down. 4 stars!

  7. 5 out of 5

    lauraღ

    “We’ll teach you hunger in the liberty, Miss Oakley. We’ll make you eat everything you’re served.” Awful in the best way possible. Johanna is determined to rescue her beloved Arabella from the madhouse, and takes on a duty that pits her against some of the worst that humanity and London have to offer. She has a stalwart magistrate on her side, a truly just man, but will that be enough? Really well-written, as all of Charles' books are, and does a great job of immersing you in the history and the “We’ll teach you hunger in the liberty, Miss Oakley. We’ll make you eat everything you’re served.” Awful in the best way possible. Johanna is determined to rescue her beloved Arabella from the madhouse, and takes on a duty that pits her against some of the worst that humanity and London have to offer. She has a stalwart magistrate on her side, a truly just man, but will that be enough? Really well-written, as all of Charles' books are, and does a great job of immersing you in the history and the setting, describing the terror and the horror, and giving you a great sense of the characters. We have a great little cast of queer heroes and anti-heroes, and it didn't take long for me to start rooting for them. I love Johanna so much; what a great heroine. This is one of those rare novellas where I'm almost perfectly satisfied with its length. (Though I wouldn't have quibbled if it'd been a teensy bit longer.) I don't often like horror, but I did like this, and I'm trying to pin down why. I do enjoy body horror and gross descriptions (well... "enjoy"; they can be horrible and fascinating in great ways when used properly) and this definitely had those. The scary bits weren't jump scares, just a horrible sense of foreboding and terror and situational grossness. A lot of the time I has unnerved rather than scared, but that was just as good. Always great to read another K.J. Charles. Here's to hoping there's more f/f in her future. 4.5 stars. Content warnings: (view spoiler)[cannibalism ahhhhhh. Not super explicit but AHHHHHH. (hide spoiler)]

  8. 4 out of 5

    Shan( Shans_Shelves) 💜

    MLM and Sapphics working together to take down some cannibals. I love to see it. This little novella was an absolute delight. I cannot believe I waited so long to read it just because I was worried I wouldn’t like it. Not to be judgemental, but I’ve tried KJ Charles books twice before and I didn’t enjoy them. However, it seems third times the charm. I really enjoyed this and I would LOVE A SEQUEL. Maybe about a certain colonel and his ex/ murderous but kinda sweet/ lover??? Please. Also I would MLM and Sapphics working together to take down some cannibals. I love to see it. This little novella was an absolute delight. I cannot believe I waited so long to read it just because I was worried I wouldn’t like it. Not to be judgemental, but I’ve tried KJ Charles books twice before and I didn’t enjoy them. However, it seems third times the charm. I really enjoyed this and I would LOVE A SEQUEL. Maybe about a certain colonel and his ex/ murderous but kinda sweet/ lover??? Please. Also I wouldn’t say no to even a direct sequel about Johanna and Arabelle because THEY WERE SO CUTE. The sapphics keep winning with all these wonderful f/f stories. Okay yes... this is a horror and contains gore, violence, and cannibals but it’s got some really sweet moments and it was so well written. The only reason this four and not five stars, is because I wanted more of Johanna’s and Belle’s reunion at the end.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Maybe don’t read this over lunch like I did? By which I mean, it’s grisly horror, and it’s very good and effective, because KJ Charles. She can write anything from Georgette Heyer to penny dreadfuls and it’s worth the ink. I’d read more about all of these characters, especially Ingestrie, and he gets the least page time as any. Maybe not over lunch, though. Yeah, maybe not over lunch. - - - Edited to add: I collect good opening lines, and this one makes the cut: In the time of England’s steep d Maybe don’t read this over lunch like I did? By which I mean, it’s grisly horror, and it’s very good and effective, because KJ Charles. She can write anything from Georgette Heyer to penny dreadfuls and it’s worth the ink. I’d read more about all of these characters, especially Ingestrie, and he gets the least page time as any. Maybe not over lunch, though. Yeah, maybe not over lunch. - - - Edited to add: I collect good opening lines, and this one makes the cut: In the time of England’s steep decline, when Victor II sprawled on the throne and lost colonies as carelessly as a child loses toys, there stood a number of institutions that should never have been permitted to exist.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie GooglyEyes

    3.5* This was a nice (I use that term VERY loosely) short story for the season of haunting. A historical work of fiction that is based around Sweeney Todd and Fleet St. Of course this occurs after the cannibalistic​ barber, as there is a play on the name. There are also some added features such as the free, lawless land of Alstasia (thats not so free) and a scientist working on "special" surgeries. The story starts at the Asylum for the Weak Minded which I believe is a front to the Freemen of Als 3.5* This was a nice (I use that term VERY loosely) short story for the season of haunting. A historical work of fiction that is based around Sweeney Todd and Fleet St. Of course this occurs after the cannibalistic​ barber, as there is a play on the name. There are also some added features such as the free, lawless land of Alstasia (thats not so free) and a scientist working on "special" surgeries. The story starts at the Asylum for the Weak Minded which I believe is a front to the Freemen of Alstasia. One brave woman decides she'll do anything to save her beloved who is locked up in the Asylum. She takes the word of a "deranged" boy to the magistrate and from here takes matters into her own hands by going undercover in the peculiar barbershop. No, there's no meat pies sold on the streets like in Sweeney Todd. This particular case is to control the so-called Free men in Alastria. You have the food, you have the power. Either you eat their meat or you risk trying to go back into normal society. It's all very creepy and thrilling. A non-stop read if you can stomach it!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Daphne

    #readathon17 Ένα βιβλίο τρόμου I generally avoid horror because I get scared easily, but I love KJ Charles and I'll read her shopping list if she ever cares to publish it. This is jampacked with suspense and gore, with an interesting alternate historical twist, queer characters and the lovely writing that I've come to enjoy greatly this past year. It only gets three stars because I don't like horror and because it's too short. I'd love to see more from these characters (prequels, sequels, anythin #readathon17 Ένα βιβλίο τρόμου I generally avoid horror because I get scared easily, but I love KJ Charles and I'll read her shopping list if she ever cares to publish it. This is jampacked with suspense and gore, with an interesting alternate historical twist, queer characters and the lovely writing that I've come to enjoy greatly this past year. It only gets three stars because I don't like horror and because it's too short. I'd love to see more from these characters (prequels, sequels, anything).

  12. 4 out of 5

    Trix

    What a ghastly story. I want to read more on the adventures of Johanna and Belle and Jeffery and Ingestrie. (view spoiler)[Short and the point, K.J. wasted no time in plunging the reader into a cannibalised accumulation of murderers, rapists, criminals and all manner of law breakers, huddling in the heart of London. Johanna will do anything to save her Belle from the madhouse her parents had condemned her. And to get her free, Johanna dresses as a boy and goes to work in Sawney Reynard’s barber s What a ghastly story. I want to read more on the adventures of Johanna and Belle and Jeffery and Ingestrie. (view spoiler)[Short and the point, K.J. wasted no time in plunging the reader into a cannibalised accumulation of murderers, rapists, criminals and all manner of law breakers, huddling in the heart of London. Johanna will do anything to save her Belle from the madhouse her parents had condemned her. And to get her free, Johanna dresses as a boy and goes to work in Sawney Reynard’s barber shop. We get some hints as to what may transpire there but it is only through Johanna's eyes that we understand the true horror of it: Reynard is kidnapping people off the street and feeding them to the population of criminals hiding in the Liberty of Alsatia. Not only that, but he is also using as meat some of the inhabitants, while on the side, trying to get a doctor to succeed in swapping faces on criminals. All this revealed in the weak light of candles and the stench of human decay and death. However, Johanna is no feeble character and her steady hand and nerves, help her and Ingestrie escape Liberty. (hide spoiler)] There is a such a wealth of details for each character! I was not satisfied with just this short novella. I was left so curious about the pairs and frustrated for not knowing more. There has to be a sequel.

  13. 5 out of 5

    UltraMeital

    This was.. well.. disturbing would be mild.. I have no words for the horrors in this story but besides these we have a GREAT suspense story with a very light sprinkle of romance one obvious, the other less so yet it was still there and it ended unlike a fairy tale but maybe hopeful if you are a romantic at heart. The story starts with Johanna Oakley trying to free her friend and lover Arabella Wilmot from Mr Fogg's Asylum. On her way out she hears about a shop people come into and never return. T This was.. well.. disturbing would be mild.. I have no words for the horrors in this story but besides these we have a GREAT suspense story with a very light sprinkle of romance one obvious, the other less so yet it was still there and it ended unlike a fairy tale but maybe hopeful if you are a romantic at heart. The story starts with Johanna Oakley trying to free her friend and lover Arabella Wilmot from Mr Fogg's Asylum. On her way out she hears about a shop people come into and never return. Trying to do the right thing as well as maybe have the slightest leverage she goes to Colonel Elias Jeffrey for help. He doesn't offer anything comforting so she decides to offer HIM help and see where it gets her in releasing her lover. Together and yet mostly Johanna on her own, she goes to look into the barber shop of Sawney Reynard. Turns out he has a very twisted side business of selling people or rather meat to feed the "free" men and women of Alsatia. Actually it's even more twisted than that.. Johanna and Elias have a plan, sort of, until they are betrayed by someone from Elias' side. Yet she finds help after all from Mark Ingestrie who will have a chance not only to help Joanna but finally try and escape himself from the hell of Alsatia. There was something disturbing yet almost compelling in this horrible story. I can't say I enjoyed it, but I was glued to my seat reading it hoping for a happy ending and we did get that in two ways actually which I liked. But damn it, I should have eaten a salad for dinner. More Reviews HERE

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mashara

    I had to put this book away for a bit, because it really really scared the shit out of me. I don't do scary books because I am a wuss. I love reading Charles' books in general, but I particularly love the ones set in Victorian London. Her research is so thorough, I usually find out things I never knew before (not that I am a expert on my adopted city) and in this case is the existence of the liberty of Alasatia, and I would really recommend you to go down the Wikipedia rabbit hole that it's this b I had to put this book away for a bit, because it really really scared the shit out of me. I don't do scary books because I am a wuss. I love reading Charles' books in general, but I particularly love the ones set in Victorian London. Her research is so thorough, I usually find out things I never knew before (not that I am a expert on my adopted city) and in this case is the existence of the liberty of Alasatia, and I would really recommend you to go down the Wikipedia rabbit hole that it's this bit of London's history. As for the story, this is a short novella, not as developed or detailed as full novels. It has no explicit sex (bummer) and it's mainly about Joanna and her love Belle which has been committed to an asylum by her greedy family. This only serves to put Joanna in touch with Elias and launch the action in Alsatia and a barber shop the likes of Sweeney Todd. The novella mostly serves as a set up for Mark and Elias, other than scaring the shit out of me. Mark is only introduced at the end, but Elias has been definitely pinning for somebody and I would love to know more about their story. A short set up novella, entertaining and scary.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Erin (PT)

    Meat Cute (sorry, I had to!) I have a long time love of horror, and this story reminds me of the pages on pages of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Presents anthologies I tore my way through, once upon a time. Though brevity makes the story short on details, it’s the kind of story that’s better for knowing less and letting the imagination run wild, creating horrors greater and more horrible via the unknown. It’s also fascinating to see how Charles incorporates real history int Meat Cute (sorry, I had to!) I have a long time love of horror, and this story reminds me of the pages on pages of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Presents anthologies I tore my way through, once upon a time. Though brevity makes the story short on details, it’s the kind of story that’s better for knowing less and letting the imagination run wild, creating horrors greater and more horrible via the unknown. It’s also fascinating to see how Charles incorporates real history into the fantastical, a foundation from which the sparkly fiction can rise. And then, as an adult who didn’t know what she was missing, I love the queering of my horror, the fortuitous meeting of these two very different gay couples, one just embarking on its great romance and the other possibly getting a second chance for one. I don’t know how likely it is she’ll write more about these characters, but as with pretty much everything Charles writes...I’d surely read more.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Shan

    Gory, gruesome, and yet somehow truly delightful! This isn't exactly a romance, but there are two lovely couples, one who gets a HEA and the other a...hopefully-ever-after? As always, Charles has you laughing one moment, thinking the next, and if this story adds cringing to the mix, well, it just goes to show you she's a master of her craft no matter the genre.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    Tooooooooooo short! Need more!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Love the horror and creepy factor~ A change of pace from other KJ Charles I’ve read, way darker, but I still enjoyed it. I loved the incorporation of Sweeney Todd and all this dark-underbelly history going on. Not a lot of focus on the relationship between Arabella and Johanna, but their relationship is wonderfully incorporated into the storyline. I also found it amusing how their sexual relationship kept having the door closed; the way KJ wrote it was just such a nice humor added to such a dark Love the horror and creepy factor~ A change of pace from other KJ Charles I’ve read, way darker, but I still enjoyed it. I loved the incorporation of Sweeney Todd and all this dark-underbelly history going on. Not a lot of focus on the relationship between Arabella and Johanna, but their relationship is wonderfully incorporated into the storyline. I also found it amusing how their sexual relationship kept having the door closed; the way KJ wrote it was just such a nice humor added to such a dark story.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    I had forgotten I had read this in the anthology, All in Fear, and what a shiveringly good story it is. It’s very different from the rest of Ms. Charles’ works, but still excellent. The heroine, Johanna Oakley, is fierce and resourceful, and a good match for the police Colonel. Together they solve the mystery of the disappearing men and the barbershop of Sawney Reynard.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Soukyan Blackwood

    all reviews in one place: night mode reading ; skaitom nakties rezimu About: At the heart of London there’s rot called the liberty of Alsatia, where King’s law doesn’t exist, and where the worst of the worst gather. For to choose liberty in Alsatia just to avoid death, well, let’s just say some would have their doubts about which fate is worse. Here, in the dark narrow streets teeming with violence and hunger, rule the so called Freemen, elite of this nightmare. Men who found a way out of all reviews in one place: night mode reading ; skaitom nakties rezimu About: At the heart of London there’s rot called the liberty of Alsatia, where King’s law doesn’t exist, and where the worst of the worst gather. For to choose liberty in Alsatia just to avoid death, well, let’s just say some would have their doubts about which fate is worse. Here, in the dark narrow streets teeming with violence and hunger, rule the so called Freemen, elite of this nightmare. Men who found a way out of Alsatia, and their way back in, without getting killed on the spot by the law. They provide food, and they can deny it too. But here, again, some might opt to choose death by starvation over the meat Freemen serve… Johanna Oakley has no other choice but to survive in this kingdom of darkness, ruled by monsters that were once men. She has to save her beloved, but to do so, she must gain evidence on Freemen. If she can survive it herself, that is. Mine: If you have any fears of being eaten or cannibals in general – steer clear of this book. It was horrifying, people get torn to pieces while alive, eaten then and there, raw (not that cooking a human piece would make it better, but you get my meaning). Other than this terror, the book is really well written. Author used the full arsenal of knowledge about what extended cannibalism does to humans, and the legends about men like Sweeney Todd too. It was great, terrifying, but great. A great and scary read. Not the first of this kind among KJC’s books, so I’ve only myself to blame. The book gets 5 out of 5 from me.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mónica BQ

    After the absolute disaster that was the "Sins of the Cities" series for me, I'm truly relieved to say that I loved this. This was gruesome and a bit gory and I was delighted with it. Plus it was hilarious that his was released as a December novella, making it really fun to see among "Christmas-y" titles. My only complaint is that I would have liked this to be a full length novel oooor at the very least for it have a more tightly done ending. I truly hope that the vagueness of it doesn't mean the After the absolute disaster that was the "Sins of the Cities" series for me, I'm truly relieved to say that I loved this. This was gruesome and a bit gory and I was delighted with it. Plus it was hilarious that his was released as a December novella, making it really fun to see among "Christmas-y" titles. My only complaint is that I would have liked this to be a full length novel oooor at the very least for it have a more tightly done ending. I truly hope that the vagueness of it doesn't mean there's a part two to come, because everyone knows I fucking hate the use of soundboards for turning stand-alones into an unplanned series. And same as with my last review, major kudos to Charles for making it very explicit that this is a horror story, it's not a romance. I like that authors who usually write within a certain genre are specific about the content of their new releases.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Pam Faste aka Peejakers

    Wonderfully dark & satisfyingly horrifying horror story; a huge helping of gruesome with a side of queer romance (f/f and m/m), and a side of social commentary as well. Yes, metaphors intended 😁 And I do mean gruesome, parts of this are really not for the faint of heart or the easily unsettled of stomach. But if you're up for that, it's a great story, quite gripping & of course, extremely well written, with a gutsy, fiercely determined heroine, yay!. I was also really fascinated by the concept o Wonderfully dark & satisfyingly horrifying horror story; a huge helping of gruesome with a side of queer romance (f/f and m/m), and a side of social commentary as well. Yes, metaphors intended 😁 And I do mean gruesome, parts of this are really not for the faint of heart or the easily unsettled of stomach. But if you're up for that, it's a great story, quite gripping & of course, extremely well written, with a gutsy, fiercely determined heroine, yay!. I was also really fascinated by the concept of, & spent some time reading up on, the Liberty of Alsatia, which has a genuine basis in history, though not as (view spoiler)[a haven for cannibalism (hide spoiler)] I should point out! But the existence of such places & how they came to be was something I wasn't familiar with before this book. So, a side of weird history lesson as well! Win-win-win!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lexie

    This was tightly plotted and well-written, as K.J. Charles' books always are; there's a reason she's one of my favorite authors! A penny dreadful horror novella with gory elements was just never going to be my jam. I also didn't do myself any favors by not reading the blurb or any of what Charles had said about the book before I read it (that's 1000% on me, obviously), so I had a vague idea that it was a historical f/f romance, which I had been very excited about, and then it was not only not th This was tightly plotted and well-written, as K.J. Charles' books always are; there's a reason she's one of my favorite authors! A penny dreadful horror novella with gory elements was just never going to be my jam. I also didn't do myself any favors by not reading the blurb or any of what Charles had said about the book before I read it (that's 1000% on me, obviously), so I had a vague idea that it was a historical f/f romance, which I had been very excited about, and then it was not only not that, but (view spoiler)[featured the Colonel and Mark more than Joanna and her girlfriend together, so I think I felt particularly disappointed by my own extremely incorrect expectations (hide spoiler)] . Suspenseful and creepy-cool with an interesting AU-Victorian-London setting and a dash of Sweeney Todd! Just not my personal cup of tea.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elena

    This is so KJ Charles and yet so different from everything I have read by her so far. I recognise her snappy dialogue, her no-nonsense characters and her vast knowledge of history and english literature and past popoular culture, which always fascinates me... but there is more. This is a book with a lot of action, some horror inventive and a certain degree of cautiousness as well which, oddly, reminds me of some of her latest books. It is less masterfully handled than others, but it is fresh and This is so KJ Charles and yet so different from everything I have read by her so far. I recognise her snappy dialogue, her no-nonsense characters and her vast knowledge of history and english literature and past popoular culture, which always fascinates me... but there is more. This is a book with a lot of action, some horror inventive and a certain degree of cautiousness as well which, oddly, reminds me of some of her latest books. It is less masterfully handled than others, but it is fresh and fun, like the most promising early works of an author should be. I think I enjoyed this book more because it gave me a tip about what the author like and what she might want to develop in the future... and I am looking forward to that.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sebastian

    I'm a devote follower of KJ and a lover of horror so this was an easy pick up for me. Short, thrilling, and a good mix of familiarity to the tale of Sweeney Todd with a toss of the unexpected and re-imagined. This tale skews slightly to the absurd side of horror, which is just another plus mark in my book, but I could see others being frustrated by the subtlety KJ adds to her writing in this specific tale. It's a short that does exactly what I love a short to do; hints at a full world for the st I'm a devote follower of KJ and a lover of horror so this was an easy pick up for me. Short, thrilling, and a good mix of familiarity to the tale of Sweeney Todd with a toss of the unexpected and re-imagined. This tale skews slightly to the absurd side of horror, which is just another plus mark in my book, but I could see others being frustrated by the subtlety KJ adds to her writing in this specific tale. It's a short that does exactly what I love a short to do; hints at a full world for the story and full lives of the characters. I loved picking up the little hints left throughout, and highly recommend this short for any rainy, dark day.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tanya

    To find oneself in such proximity to a weapon of murder must have blighted the nerves of any woman of sensibility; Johanna, who sadly lacked proper feeling, whispered an expletive and made a silent vow to see her villainous master hang. [loc. 47] A novella, which I bought at publication and have unaccountably not got around to reading until now. I must say it cheered me up remarkably. Set in an alternate 19th century where Britain is ruled by Victor II, this is horror rather than romance, though To find oneself in such proximity to a weapon of murder must have blighted the nerves of any woman of sensibility; Johanna, who sadly lacked proper feeling, whispered an expletive and made a silent vow to see her villainous master hang. [loc. 47] A novella, which I bought at publication and have unaccountably not got around to reading until now. I must say it cheered me up remarkably. Set in an alternate 19th century where Britain is ruled by Victor II, this is horror rather than romance, though there are two queer couples (M/M and F/F) who feature prominently. Arabella Wilmot has been confined to an asylum by her greedy parents, who crave the generous bequest that will be theirs if Arabella dies before her 21st birthday. Fortunately, her lover Johanna Oakley is determined to save her(view spoiler)[: and when opportunity knocks -- in the form of another asylum inmate who tells her an incoherent tale of mass-murder and corruption -- Johanna is quick to seize it. She approaches Colonel Elias Jeffery, investigating magistrate, who is keen to discover what lies behind the disappearance of more than sixty men (though not a proportional number of women) in the last six months. The answers seem to lie in the Liberty of Alsatia, where the long arm of the law can't reach. And then Jeffery receives a note from Johanna, who has taken a post as shop boy, 'needless to say in masculine attire', to investigate a barber's shop on the edge of Alsatia. In exchange for Jeffery's promise to help Arabella, Johanna proposes to 'observe, record and investigate'. Will her cast-iron sensibilities be a match for what she discovers within the Liberty? (hide spoiler)] This was a delightful read, despite the sheer nastiness of the premise. Johanna is a splendid heroine -- resourceful, brave and intelligent -- and Arabella is far from spineless: Jeffery is competent and honorable; and Ingestrie not only demonstrates considerable bravery and inventiveness, but also has some of the best lines in the novella. I would be delighted to read more fiction set in this variant on the City of Dreadful Night. The horror is wholly human, and so are the characters: I'd love to know what happens to them after the end of The Price of Meat.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Cleaves

    Sweeney Todd Xmas Tale Appallingly short tale involving two lesbians and two gay men facing criminal corruption on a grand scale, a retelling of Sweeney Todd with meat lockers full of lost men and a Mengele type performing face transplant experiments on criminals. Well-told with terse descriptions, a deus ex machina or two, and the belated discovery that this is a Christmas novella made me laugh out loud. Definitely a “Nightmare Before Christmas” without Tim Burton. Very entertaining.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ярослава

    Well, this was quite a romp. It’s a delightful penny dreadful with over-the-top gore and horrors (from a dreary asylum to cannibalism as a nutrition plan), obscure historical facts (apparently sanctuary territories where the laws of the land did not apply were a thing, who’d have thought), and a nice stylized narrative voice. I’d read a sequel in a heartbeat.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Helen Kord

    What a magnificent short story. In a very short space, KJ managed to sketch up an incredibly interesting world, gave us an amazing protagonist in Jo and some absolutely wonderful characters I desperately need to see more of. It was creepy and made me feel the need to take a shower without actually scaring me, which is nice, since I'm a huge scaredycat. All in all I was heartbroken when the story ended because I wanted more so badly

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sofia

    I enjoyed the story and the characters. However, there was something about the writing that I just couldn't get fully behind (I don't know why, since I've read a lot of K. J. Charles' books by now), as well as the fact that as good as the story was, there also wasn't really anything to push it forward? As in, I finished it more because "it's a small book, might as well" than really "oh man, I want to read more." So yeah, not bad, but also... just not special.

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