Today, I’m honoured to be the final stop for the blog tour for Wranglestone. Thank you so much to Charlie Morris and Little Tiger Group for including me and sending me a copy of this spooky, unsettling book in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve also got the privilege of having Darren guest-write in this post, alongside my review. He’s sharing his reasons for setting the story in a national park setting and the mood board he referred to when writing to help him get in the right frame of mind, so I’ll let his wonderful words speak for themselves.
Why I set Wranglestone in a National Park:
Looking back now, it seems inevitable that I’d set my first book inside a national park. My partner and a friend of ours, took a road trip, hiking and camping inside the national parks of America back in 2007. I wasn’t writing at that point. I’d walked away from an average acting career in 2004 and started over in the charity sector. By this time, I was working for a small project in Earls Court that supported male and transgender sex workers from a harm minimisation perspective to ensure they maintained wellbeing and good sexual health. When I think about it now, it was the client group and work I remember most passionately and fondly. But still, by leaving acting I’d ignored the fact I was a creative person no longer in the creative industries.
I hadn’t processed that, and that first trip to the States just changed me. Seeing open spaces, mountains, deserts, plains and lakes on that scale was transformative. It wasn’t just seeing nature on a certain scale, but aspects so vast you could see the world for what it really is; a planet. I guess there’s good reason why Shakespeare and the Brothers Grim sent Rosalind and Red Riding Hood off into the woods. Wild spaces connect somewhere very deep inside us, on a primal level. I don’t why. I assume it’s because we’re animals but we’re the only species who seem to have forgotten that. So, after that trip, I became restless for a creative outlet and horribly destructive against a 9-5 existence. Writing was the answer but it took me the best of part of ten years to realise that the wilderness wasn’t just the catalyst but the muse. In terms of the language I use to capture landscape. I think my idol, film composer Jerry Goldsmith, is a big influence. He was a big proponent of using little musical phrases and beats to suggest an idea or location rather than big fat themes like John Williams. I guess I tried to borrow something of that but in words rather than a musical note. Nature is lyrical. It felt good trying to find that in the form of the writing.
Winter was the only season every Lake-Lander feared…
In a post-apocalyptic America, a community survives in a national park, surrounded by water that keeps the Dead at bay. But when winter comes, there’s nothing to stop them from crossing the ice.
Then homebody Peter puts the camp in danger by naively allowing a stranger to come ashore and he’s forced to leave the community of Wranglestone. Now he must help rancher Cooper, the boy he’s always watched from afar, herd the Dead from their shores before the lake freezes over.
But as love blossoms, a dark discovery reveals the sanctuary’s secret past. One that forces the pair to question everything they’ve ever known.
This was an absolutely amazing LGBT+ romance set within a zombie apocalypse that I flew through.
I was instantly hooked by Peter’s distinctive voice and the ominous presence of the ‘Dead’. The discussion Charlton provokes around ‘otherness’ and alienation of certain groups is so thought-provoking and timely, leading me to ponder these issues long after the final page. His interpretation of zombies was utterly unique and cleverly subverts what you may be expecting to read, without giving too much away.
Every character in Wranglestone felt three-dimensional and well-crafted, allowing me to really engage with the story and root for our protagonists to succeed. It helped flesh out this horrific world, making me even more excited for the sequel!
One of the best parts about the book was how Charlton balanced the brilliantly executed horror elements and this sweet romance, which felt so organic, totally shippable and completely loveable. I really appreciated how naturalised it was and how their sexuality wasn’t their defining trait. Their romance was just accepted and celebrated by those around them. It was a quiet, brilliant romance that you can’t help but root for.
An outstanding part of Wranglestone was the superbly crafted atmosphere of impending danger. It created this sense of paranoia and claustrophobia, with the tension like a thick fog encircling Wranglestone. Every small town has felt this fog descend and Wranglestone is no different, just with the added terror of only being moments away from another zombie attack. To me, it felt rather akin to the Wild West with that constant sense of being seconds away from the powder keg exploding.
Thank you again to Charlie Morris and Little Tiger Group for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review and please check out the other amazing posts on this blog tour!