After a stint as an editor for Putnam Berkley and Penguin USA (which then became Penguin Putnam but that wasn't her fault), Laura Anne left New York to go freelance in 2004. It's a decision she sometimes second-guesses, but never regrets.

Her books have been hailed as "a true American myth" by NPR, and praised for her "deft plotting and first-class characters" by Publishers Weekly. Her work includes the Devil's West trilogy, the Cosa Nostradamus urban fantasy series, the Huntsmen novels, and several story collections, most recently West Winds' Fool And Other Stories. Her Patreon also spawned the non-fiction collections, I have Strong Opinions and I Have (More) Strong Opinions.

Laura Anne's tagline alternates between "Writer, Editor, Tired Person" and "Powered by Caffeine." She lives in Seattle with a cat, a dog, and many deadlines.

Heart of Briar by Laura Anne Gilman

"He has been taken. And you are his only chance."

That wasn't something Jan expected to hear, especially from strangers who'd just rescued her from some mysterious and ferocious creatures. And she really hadn't expected her rescuers to be fay shape-shifters. But her boyfriend Tyler hasn't gone missing, he's been stolen. And Jan's the only one who might be able to get him back.

Yeah, Jan's pretty sure the entire world's gone crazy.

But saving her boyfriend from the fayfolk isn't her only problem. Because the ones that took Tyler have found a doorway into the human world. A doorway they can use to infiltrate, to take, to conquer.

And now Jan's not just Ty's only hope; she's got to rescue humanity as well.


I am always a sucker for a Tam Lin retelling and I was delighted when Laura Anne offered up this delicious first book in her Portals duology. Be prepared for a decidedly modern and supernaturally thrilling take on the classic Scottish ballad! – Anthea Sharp



  • "(Readers) will be seduced and enthralled by Gilman's metaphysical thriller about wicked elves, shape-shifting supernaturals and portals to another dimension…. melds magic with mayhem for a tale of bravery, friendship and devotion."

    – Publishers Weekly
  • "Calling this story a retelling of Tam Lin doesn't do it justice. Gilman has taken the bones of that fairy tale and reassembled it entirely, restrung with strength and ferocity and drive."

    – Things Urban Fantasy
  • "You can always count on (the) gifted Gilman to deliver richly layered fantasy filled with winning characters and well-defined worlds, and she doesn't disappoint with HEART OF BRIAR."

    – RT Reviews



Jan left the keys to the apartment on the desk, right next to the still-open laptop. When Tyler the son-of- a-bitch finally wandered back from whatever had kept him three days with his online porn-partner, he'd be smart enough to figure it out.

Or not. Right then, she didn't give a damn. Rage and betrayal made her body shake, and once in the elevator she reached for her inhaler out of habit, although the pain in her chest was nothing like an asthma attack.

"Son of a bitch," she said again. "You slimy, sneaky, no-good two-timing son of a bitch."

The man in the elevator with her gave her a sympathetic look, but didn't say anything, and Jan clamped her own jaw shut, determined not to let that son of a bitch get one more outburst from her.

When she left the building, the bright blue sky and crisp autumn wind felt like a betrayal. It should be darker, rain clouds scudding across the sky, thunder booming and wind swirling, people scurrying for cover, not strolling along like they didn't have a single trauma in their lives.

She stood on the street, and thought about going to his office, demanding someone tell her something. The thought of the fuss that would make, probably get her escorted off- campus, certainly make it harder for Tyler to get his job back, if — when — he came back... She thought briefly about going into one of the bars that lined downtown, catering to students and professionals, and tying a few on, but booze had never been her thing.

No. The only thing to do was go back home.

The bus came, eventually, and she got on, paying her fare and finding a seat toward the back, where fewer people sat, automatically. The last thing she wanted right now was some wannabe Romeo in her space. Or any human being, actually. She wasn't sure she could be civil to anyone, just then

Sitting down, she shoved the fare card into the side pocket of her pack, and her fingers touched the keys she'd put there, the cool smooth texture of the Hello Kitty keychain. She'd left the apartment keys, but the keychain was hers, damn it.

Tyler hadn't just run off with some cyberslut; he'd left his job, too. That still didn't make any sense to her. It wasn't as though he had piles of cash hanging around, that he could quit like that. Or did he? What did she really know about him, anyway?

Jan pressed her hand against her stomach, trying to calm the knot there. There was a feeling like she wanted to throw up, even though she knew there wasn't anything in her stomach to chuck. Nerves and anger. She had never been very good with either. Conflict wasn't her thing.

"Let it go. He's not your problem," she told herself, her voice an unexpected, oddly unfamiliar noise, hard and mean. "Tyler Wash is no longer ever again your problem."

"Problem is, you're his only chance."

"What?" She twisted in her seat, knocking the pack to the ground. The person who had spoken sat down next to her, way too far into her personal space, then reached down and picked up the pack, handing it to her. She took it numbly, barely even noting what she was doing.

"He has been taken. And you are his only chance to return."

Those words, like the security guy's, didn't make sense at first. Unlike earlier, they didn't resolve into anything that did make sense.

The man –his dark blue hoodie up, but not quite enough to hide some kind of deformity around his nose, shaggy dark hair obscuring his eyes– made a strangled, frustrated sort of noise. "Listen to me. You must listen, and hear. Your leman needs your help."

"My...what?" She just sat there and stared at the speaker, her earlier anger washed away by the certainty that she should not be talking to this man, and an equal certainty that, if she tried to move, her feet wouldn't support her.

He growled once, as though annoyed with her denseness. "Your lover. He has been taken."

The words were in English, and they still made no sense. She shook her head and leaned away, as though that would be enough to make this crazy person go away. She'd been told, ever since she moved into the city, that crazies would come right up to you, but she'd never had it happen to her before. It wasn't like this was New York, or Chicago....Of all possible days, though, it seemed inevitable that it would happen today.

The next growl was definitely one of exasperation, and he raised his head to look directly at her, swiping some of the hair away from his face. His nose was too thick, almost more a muzzle than a nose, and his eyes — they were dark, but they looked almost red under the bus lights. Was he wearing contacts? A mask? It wasn't anywhere near Halloween yet, but -.

"Woman, you must listen," he insisted, and she started to get pissed off.

"I don't have to do anything, buddy. Back off." She should start carrying mace, or a whistle, or something. Not that she'd ever have the nerve to use it; she was more likely to apologize to a mugger than fight back. But still, this guy was giving her all the bad creeps.

"I told you that was the wrong approach," another voice said, even as someone sat down heavily in the seat on the other side of her.

Jan swiveled around, feeling her body shrink in on itself as the frozen sensation of fear intensified. She might not have been city-raised, but she knew better than to let two strangers bracket her like that, so close.

The second stranger put his hand on her arm, gently. "It's okay."

What? She almost laughed. None of this was okay, not at all. Jan stared at the hand, not sure why she hadn't knocked it off, gotten up and found somewhere else to sit. It was a normal hand, skin smooth and scattered with fine brown hairs, the nails painted black but well-groomed, and when she looked up his face was just as ordinary, wide-set brown eyes in a long, sort of blocky face. Easier to look at him than the other man, with his odd face and disconcerting eyes, even if it was a mask, and why was he wearing a mask?

Her heart was racing, but her brain felt like sludge, unable to understand what it was seeing, unable to react the way she knew she should, to make them leave her alone.

"Please," the second stranger said, his voice smooth and soothing. "We want to help Tyler, too."

They knew Tyler's name. They knew Tyler. Somehow. She clutched at that thought. Had they followed her from his apartment? They thought something had happened to him, too. Had that bitch...

"Who are you?"

She had almost asked what are you, but resisted at the last instant.

"Friends. If you'll have us."