Best of 2015 list.
For my end of the year list I usually try to include the most memorable books for me, so if I cannot remember the book without looking through my reviews it does not make the list.
1. Astrid Amara “Song of the navigator’
I was in love with this book since the moment I bought it and inhaled it. I enjoyed this writer’s work before but as I said in my review her artistic choices do not always work for me and I have not had much luck with betrayal/slavery stories where betrayed guy forgives the one who did the betrayal. More often than not I do not find them convincing. Not so here – Cruz and Tover stayed with me long after I read the book and I still remember them vividly.
2. M. Keedwell “Dark economy”
And to think that but for my friend’s recommendation I could have missed this one. I have not read too many memorable historical romances in the last year and considering that historicals are one of my favorite subgenres, I consider this to be an unfortunate occasion. This is a historical mystery and some reviewers found that romance was secondary storyline, but to me there was so much unresolved tension between protagonists that I was extremely happy with the romance in this book. We have excellent antagonistic chemistry between the men which is based on real conflict. Cadell is a medical student who is robbing graves because he genuinely wants to become a better surgeon and to help people and he does not have enough bodies to practice on and Blaine knows that robbing graves is still illegal and he wants to catch Cadell because he is sure that Cadell is guilty. The main storyline of the book is Cadell investigating a murder because he becomes suspicious about what happened to one of the men whose body he was going to dissect and he decides to go and get justice for the deceased. I enjoyed this one a lot. Review Here
3. Charmed and Dangerous anthology.
I thought this was a very strong offering – I think I enjoyed six or seven stories in this anthology, but the reason it made my list was mostly because of once again Astrid Amara and Ginn Hale. Here is what I said in my review about their stories.
Ginn Hale – Swift and the Black Dog
When Jack Swift killed a tyrant and won the revolution he became a national hero. But someone in the new government prefers dead heroes to living, swearing, cynical wizards. Caught between bullets, revenge and desire, Jack had better be swift indeed.
From my review:
I think for me this story was the darkest and the best in the anthology. It is no secret that I love Ginn Hale’s work, but for me past performance is no guarantee of the future success even with my favorite writers, so I definitely did not approach this story as a guaranteed win. This novella explored the themes of what consequences winning the revolution can often be for its participants and for the society.
Astrid Amara – The Trouble With Hexes
P.I. Tim Keller has a problem. And the only person who can solve it is his ex-boyfriend, Vincent, whose job as a hexbreaker was the reason they broke up. It’s hard admitting he was wrong, especially when coughing up organs. But there’s a missing person to find, a hexmaker to hunt down, and a romance to repair before Tim breathes his last.
This was one of the most romantic stories in the anthology for me. Although it is a standalone novella, this story made me feel as if I had known Tim and Vincent for a long time. In a world where characters in m/m books often forget that they have jobs and professional responsibilities, it was so refreshing to read about two men who, despite being deeply in love with each other, broke up because Tim could not handle the demands Vincent’s job put on him and his health. Of course I could see why Vincent, who is essentially a magical healer, would not stop helping sick and often dying people to get rid of hexes, but I also get how Tim just could not deal with what Vincent’s job demanded from him. There is nothing better to make you believe in the realities of magical healing than to see the consequences of a deadly hex on yourself. When Tim comes to see Vincent again, he is very ill and if they do not act fast he might die pretty soon. I could feel the love and regret between these two. And neither of them wanted to get his heart broken again, but love was still there and of course it ends well. I anticipate rereading this story more than once.
Full review of the anthology could be found here.
4. Joanna Chambers “Unnatural”
I thought this book was lovely. As the blurb states, this story is about Captain Ian Sinclair, who briefly appeared in “Enlightened” as Murdo’s friend.
I loved this book despite the fact that for most of the story not really much happened in the present storyline, but the author made me care about these guys so very much that I just was so eager to figure out what is stopping them from being together and how they could overcome it.
5. Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels #8) – Ilona Andrews.
At the end of the previous book in what I can probably call my favorite urban fantasy series the writers send the main characters Kate and Curran in the new direction. Curran resigned from the position of Beast Lord of Atlanta and they went to live quiet suburban life. If anybody can imagine Kate and Curran’ life ever being quiet that is ?. I think of this book as relative quiet before the push to the last confrontation with the series Big Bad (if he is still the Big Bad, because I am honestly not sure anymore).
6. “Affiliations, Aliens and Other Profitable Pursuits” by Lyn Gala.
I reviewed the first two books here and I loved the conclusion as well, however I hope that this is the last book in the series. I loved it, I just do not feel there is much left to explore in the characters and the plot – in fact plot wise not much really happens in this one already.
Review to come.
Their love is an explosive cocktail—stirred, shaken, and served with a twist.
Secrets, Book 4
Teag and Bruce dream of opening their own bars, but that’s where the similarities end.
Teag, a popular bartender at West Hollywood’s hottest club, is willful, opinionated, and likes to take charge. He envisions his future bar as a boozy oasis for craft cocktails. Unfortunately, while he’s big on ideas, he’s short on funds.
Bruce, on the other hand, is a tower of pirate-tattooed muscle with a laid-back attitude. While he’s good with people, he’s a walking paradox—a wannabe boss with a weakness for bossy men.
Their partnership is a natural fit, but every time they meet, sparks fly as they rub each other the wrong way. Or is it the right way? In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to tell.
Between renovation pitfalls, meddling friends, and miles of police tape, Teag and Bruce struggle to keep their venture—and their budding relationship—from going up in flames. And not the good kind. More like the one on the top of a B52 shot.
Warning: Contains a whipcord-lean and whip-smart bartender who knows what he wants—and how hard he wants it—and a go-with-the-flow bar manager who secretly likes to be told how hard to give it.
Dear Lou Harper,
I more or less enjoyed a lot of your books. I have read two of the books in this series and I think I have read the third one. I am not certain because I could not find it amongst the purchased books on my kindle, but I am pretty sure I remember the story so I am guessing I managed to catch it when I was on Scribd. I listed this one as one of the wish list books during the Goodreads Christmas Gift exchange and kind Santa sent it to me. I was so excited to read it – I love the understated chemistry which so many of your couples seem to have, I love the humor in your stories and I was really eager to see what kind of mystery would be woven in this story. However, I think based on the blurb I anticipated liking this story even more than other books in the series. The blurb seemed to promise a light-hearted variation on the “enemies to lovers” trope, which if well executed is always a treat for me. The blurb also hinted at a dominance/submission component to the protagonists’ sex life and I can like this a lot.
Unfortunately, a lot of things in plot and characterization did not work out for me. Let’s talk about what did work out first. I really liked that both protagonists are so passionate about what they want to do in life – in this case own a bar. Teag is a very knowledgeable, very talented bartender who wants to own his place and has very specific ideas about what kind of bar he wants to run. Unfortunately he does not have enough money to purchase the place he seems to want most. Bruce is also looking to purchase a bar because his boss (and on and off lover) is selling the place Bruce is working at now. Bruce is a good bartender, but he is an even better business manager, and he has been pretty much running things where he is now.
Bruce and Teag meet when they both (independently from each other) come across a building which is for sale and which could be a good place for their establishments. Teag snaps at Bruce for some imaginary offense he has committed (having a nice ass, as Teag eventually admits to himself) and does not want anything to do with Bruce.
Let’s just say that I wanted to slap Teag right there and then. I am a huge fan of nicely done antagonistic chemistry between protagonists which is eventually transformed into a love story, but I need to see reasons that go beyond – “Oh I am a jerk, so let me be rude to the guy I am attracted to, who did nothing to me whatsoever”.
Teag looked like an idiot to me and I really was not sure what Bruce saw in him. Bruce, nice guy that he is, realizes that even though he has money to purchase the place, he does not have enough to do the renovations. Since Teag works close by, he goes to his place and suggests that they purchase and run the new bar together.
Teag is rude to Bruce. Again. Fortunately he realizes that even though he knows a lot about cocktails and what kind of place he wants, he really knows nothing about the business side. So he goes to Bruce and tells him that he has changed his mind, but things between them have to be strictly professional, etc. Apparently there is a mutual spark between them. I say apparently because when I am informed about “Unresolved Sexual Tension” in the air, I would like to feel it from the pages. I was not feeling that at all. Bruce agrees and offers Teag the role of boss, which Teag happily takes. The analogy Bruce makes is that Teag would be an art director and he would be a stage manager, which Teag surprisingly accepts.
So, let’s talk about Bruce’s preferences in bed. He likes to be dominated (it is all very light-hearted in the book – nothing beyond issuing and following orders) and he feels that Teag is a perfect candidate for that because of his bossiness (aka rudeness). It is very frustrating, because this is the kink I love to read about as I said before, if done well. The most-light hearted book can convey it – but this one did not do it for me. I felt no spark, no intense heat, no nothing. The book really does not have many sex scenes and I liked that, but the tension which I was told was there, was not there for me and when we get our mandatory “half a book has passed” scene, when Bruce supposedly gets Teag to loosen up, I just wanted to laugh and not in a good way.
“The growl came from deep inside Teag’s chest and coalesced in sharp, brash words. “On your knees, NOW”. With a dizzying intake of breath, Bruce dropped on his knees and stared up, waiting for further commands. Teag pulled one end of the string keeping his borrowed sweatpants up, and the knot came loose. The pants slipped to his ankles and his cock sprang forward in its unabashed glory. “Suck it , big boy.”
I liked their relationship better in the second part of the book. Teag does realize that Bruce is really a reliable partner, a nice guy, and maybe it makes sense to be nice to him. They at least sounded like good friends to me, but I still did not feel much of a romantic chemistry, unfortunately.
There also was a mystery subplot and a small paranormal subplot (Madame Laila from the previous books made an appearance), but the mystery subplot was not interesting enough. It started too late and ended too early.
I know I am mostly complaining in this review, but unfortunately this was my reading experience.
Grade : C-
PENT UP: Mix business with pleasure and take cover.
Ruben Oso moves to Manhattan to start his life over as a low-rent bodyguard and stumbles into a gig in a swanky Park Avenue penthouse. What begins as executive protection turns personal working for a debonair zillionaire who makes Ruben question everything about himself.
Watching over financial hotshot Andy Bauer puts Ruben in an impossible position. He knows zero about shady trading and his cocky boss lives barricaded in a glass tower with wall-to-wall secrets and hot-and-cold-running paranoia. Can the danger be real? Is Andy for real?
What’s a bullet catcher to do? Ruben knows his emotions are out of control even as he races to untangle a high-priced conspiracy and his crazy feelings before somebody gets dead. If his suspicions are right, Andy will pay a price neither can afford, and Ruben may discover there’s no way to guard a heart.
Dear Damon Suede,
Let me get something out of the way first: I did not want this book to be another “Hot Head”. Honestly, I did not. I really enjoyed your first offering, but it was not my favorite trope and it had more sex than I usually prefer in my books. I enjoyed it because of your writing, and when I picked this book up I just wanted to be swept away in the story.
When I read the blurb and realized that it promised a romantic suspense storyline, I was even more excited. See, I am usually cautious about contemporary m/m romances – more often than not I try to make sure that the guys have something to do besides falling in love and having sex. So a mystery storyline in addition to romance, a suspense storyline in addition to romance, would make me buy the book faster. Alas, the suspense storyline was a big fail for this reader.
First and foremost, since I had this conversation with several book buddies on Amazon board, I want to issue a warning. Ruben struggles with alcohol addiction – he is recovering, but his struggle is very much front and center during the whole book. If this is something which you find painful to read about, I strongly suggest you don’t buy this book.
As the blurb tells you, Ruben moves to Manhattan from Florida after his divorce to work for his brother Charles, who has an executive protection agency. Luckily for Ruben (or maybe not so luckily), when Andy Bauer comes to Charles to find himself a bodyguard, he decides he wants Ruben to take the job.
Ruben is eager to work, but he does not like Andy from the moment he sets eyes on the man and is hesitant to take the job. Andy insists he is in danger, but Charles does not really believe him. He thinks the job would be piece of cake for Ruben and very well paid at that. Ruben does not have much choice because he needs work very badly, so he agrees.
At first Ruben thinks that Andy is making up stuff, for reasons he cannot figure out, however he soon realizes that the danger is very real. Ruben also realizes that he is in over his head. To make a long story short, Ruben may be a good fighter, but he is not a very competent bodyguard. If you have read my reviews before, you know how I feel about romance characters who cannot do their jobs well, but still continue to do them while having passionate relationships with their bosses.
I have to give the story credit where it is due. Ruben knows that he is in over his head. He insists that Andy should hire somebody else (probably not from Charles’ agency since things turned out to be way too complicated) and he tells this to Andy several times. So, at the very least he is self–aware and the narrative does not pretend otherwise. Andy, however, insists that he needs Ruben and Ruben only. Granted, by this time they have given in to their mutual attraction, but it is clear that there is a second story-related reason why Andy wants Ruben and Ruben only. Eventually we get the explanation, and the explanation was not satisfactory for me, to put it mildly.
I started to wonder how this alleged genius thought his plan was going to work. I am still not sure how it was all supposed to work. I am also not sure how his plan at the end to avoid the consequences of his behavior was supposed to work for other people involved. SPOILERS. NOTE THERE IS A LOT OF THE STORYLINE UNDER THE CUT, BUT NO IDENTITY OF THE VILLAIN, I TRIED TO AVOID THAT.
Hopefully I was able to explain why suspense part of the story made no sense to me. I hope I am not generalizing when I am going to venture a guess that at least some readers will be mostly interested in the love story. Well, I can confirm that the sex was very hot, scorching hot in fact. I also liked that the first half of the story was mostly building sexual tension, but don’t worry, the second part has plenty of sex scenes. The story is GFY, which I am not very fond of in the first place; however this bothered me least of all in this book. Andy had had some sex with guys in the past and more than once, so in my mind I firmly placed him as bisexual and Ruben, well I get that he was written as GFY, but I do not remember the narrative coming out and saying that he did not like women anymore, so whatever the authorial intent was, I decided he was bisexual as well.
If you are going to get this book strictly for the love story and the sex, I think you will like it more than I did. Neither Andy nor Ruben was very likeable, in fact they were both struggling with addiction, but for me “not likeable” does not automatically mean I will dislike the story. I sympathized with Ruben’s struggle with alcoholism, and I think the attempt to make a parallel that Andy was also addicted to what he was doing and found it hard to quit did not work all that well, but I kind of appreciated that the narrative made the parallel in the first place.
Part of the Coda Series
As a young man, Dominic Jacobsen already suspects he’s gay, and he gets all the confirmation he needs when a rich boy from out of town climbs into the back seat of Dominic’s GTO. One night with Lamar Franklin is all it takes to convince Dominic he’s found the man of his dreams. Unfortunately, that one night is all he’ll get before Lamar returns to Tucson.
Fifteen years later Lamar returns to Coda, Colorado, after ending the latest in a string of bad relationships. He’s alone, depressed, and plagued by late-night phone calls from an unidentified caller. Lamar’s ready to give up when he comes face-to-face with his past.
Since he was seventeen, Dominic has dreamed of a reunion with Lamar, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready for it now. Facing small-town rumors and big-family drama is bad enough, but Dominic won’t risk losing custody of his teenage daughter, Naomi. The only solution is to make sure he and Lamar remain friends and nothing more. Clothes stay on, no matter what.
It seems simple enough. But for better or worse, Lamar has other ideas.
Dear Marie Sexton,
I loved your “Coda” series. I thought the stories of six guys forming relationships and becoming friends in the small town of Coda ended on just the right note, but I was definitely eager to read this book when I learned that a new couple will be front and center.
I am typing this review and sighing unhappily even though the romantic chemistry between your characters was so very lovely – every time Dominic and Lamar were together, I could feel it. Why am I unhappy? Because although romantic chemistry is very important to me when I read a romance novel, I just cannot completely check my brain at the door. I can’t. I need to believe in what is taking place within the narrative and too often I could not do so.
This started almost from the beginning. Seventeen year old Dominic and Lamar have a night of self–discovery and love making which Dominic hopes will be the beginning of romance between them. But Lamar was leaving next day and it left Dominic heartbroken.
The story picks up fifteen years later when Lamar comes back to Coda. He has just ended a long term affair with a married guy, finally sick of the guy never following through on promises to leave his wife for Lamar.
Neither Dominic nor Lamar ever forgot about each other and both had dreamed about being reunited one day (especially Dominic, I thought). Now, I get that reunited lovers is one of the main romance tropes and sometimes I can buy it, but it all depends on how it is executed. Two years, three years? Maybe. Five years? Oh, I don’t know. Fifteen years – no, sorry. I could not overcome the suspension of disbelief – just how empty and unhappy must their lives have been that they could not forget each other? This was not just a first love, that would be at least understandable. It was one night, at seventeen. Obviously everybody has their own threshold and maybe other readers can deal with this version of the trope better than I could. As I said, the prologue that takes place when they were seventeen was beautifully written, but I could not believe that they would still want each other that much fifteen years later.
“But …” Dominic let his protests fall away. What did it matter? It wasn’t as if they could change it. They were from different towns, different schools, different words. They were nothing more than kids in a universe run by adults. But it seemed so unfair. They’d only just found each other.
Lamar took a deep breath, biting his lip nervously. He leaned across the seat and kissed Dom one last time, soft and gentle. No tongue this time. No passion or urgency. This kiss was sweet and chaste and innocent, and held such a sentiment of finality, it made Dom’s chest ache.
Lamar whispered two simple words. “Thank you”.”
When they reconnect fifteen years later, Lamar is not in the best shape. He’s depressed, he’s teaching in Coda’s school where not all the other teachers accept him, and in addition it seems that he acquired a stalke who vandalizes his car and over the course of the story steps up some nasty activities.
The handling of Lamar’s depression was a huge disappointment. When I started reading I was thinking that m/m books seem to be handling depression in a much more sensitive way. I’ve recently read three or four books where depression was handled as an illness that cannot be kissed away by love – the other person is adding support and strength, sure, but sometimes therapy is needed too and sometimes medication is needed.
And this book started well too. When Dominic’s daughter Naomi tells her father that their new teacher (Lamar) may have depression (her mom had suffered from depression so she knew the signs), Dominic tells her :
“Well, you can be friendly. You can ask if he is okay. Let him know you are worried. But you know how it is. All the good intentions and cheery speeches in the world may not be enough. Sometimes it takes medication. Sometimes it takes change in routine. Sometimes it just takes time.” I spread my hands. “Sometimes nothing helps at all.”
She frowned and tapped her phone against the table. “It sucks.”
“Yeah, it does.”
So, since the book is told in alternating first person POV (one chapter is narrated by Lamar, one by Dominic, and they switch till the very end), we do initially hear from Lamar how depression makes him feel couple of times. But then it just disappears. Completely. It is not that I mind hearing that he was better, or I think he necessarily needed medication, but I needed some indication about how and why he got better. I cannot believe he miraculously woke up one day and had no more depression! It is not even cured by love, it is as if writer decided – oh no more mentioning of this story line. I suspect, but of course I cannot be sure, that when Dominic and his daughter plotted to get Lamar a cat, it was supposed to make him feel better. It is not that I am disagreeing with therapeutic value of the animals, but if the kitty cured his depression completely maybe it was worth mentioning?
The conflict between the guys consists of Dominic being scared to come out of the closet because he worries about what his daughter and some of his family may think, and I sympathized, I really did. I often feel so bad for closeted characters and get angry at the society which made them feel so scared. But did he have to treat Lamar so badly because he was scared? I want you, but we cannot do it, I won’t abandon you, but I did. I am so sorry, I won’t. No, let’s end it. It became very exhausting at some point.
I liked that they ended up together. I was pleased to see Matt and Jared and even Zach and Angelo, but I was glad when this book was over.
Grade : C-
The heart breaks but does not change.
An Enlightenment Story
Captain Iain Sinclair. Perfect son, perfect soldier, hero of Waterloo. A man living a lie. The only person who really knows him is his childhood friend, scientist James Hart. But they’ve been estranged since Iain brutally destroyed their friendship following a passionate encounter.
Iain is poised to leave the King’s service to become an undercover agent in India. Before he leaves his old life behind, he’s determined to reconcile with James. An invitation to a country house party from James’s sister provides the perfect opportunity to pin the man down.
James has loved Iain all his life, but his years of accepting crumbs from Iain’s table are over. Forgiving Iain is one thing—restoring their friendship is quite another.
In the face of James’s determined resistance, Iain is forced to confront his reasons for mending the wounds between them. And accept the possibility that James holds the key to his heart’s desire—if only he has the courage to reach for it.
Warning: Contains a dashing military hero with one weakness—a scientist who feels their chemistry in every cell of his body. Kissing in the rain, skinny dipping, and emotional flashbacks. Huzzah!
Dear Joanna Chambers, I loved your “Enlightened” series, so when I saw that you had written another book in this world, I clicked right away. As the blurb states, this story is about Captain Ian Sinclair, who briefly appeared in “Enlightened” as Murdo’s friend.
First of all, let me just say that the flashbacks worked perfectly for me in this book, even though usually I am not very fond of them. Here I felt that they were used to maintain or increase the tension in the story and it worked. Basically, every couple of chapters the story switches between “Now” and “Then”. Now takes place in the year 1824, when Iain is leaving the army after twelve years of service and is about to accept the position of intelligence agent/spy in India. But before he goes he wants to patch things up with James Hart, his childhood friend. It very soon becomes clear that James is also the man Iain loves more than anybody in the world, but he won’t let himself show that. “Then” begins in the year 1808, when both boys met at David’s father estate, and it keeps moving forward in multiple-year jumps, until a few chapters before the end, when “Then” catches with “Now” and there is only “Now”.
I think one of the main reasons why the flashbacks worked for me was because it is hinted in the story that something happened between the guys which hurt their friendship but we do not know what it was. I really wanted to know, so the flashbacks did not annoy me the way they often do when I am more interested to know what is going to happen in the main storyline. It was all tightly connected and the narrative moved very smoothly.
I also thought that both boys were such appealing characters that seeing them in the past, seeing how their friendship matured and how they grew to feel more for each other than friendship, before we get to the “Now” part of the book was interesting and added to the richness of my reading experience.
The story is written in third person limited POV with the narration switching between Iain’s and James’ heads. Both men seemed to accept that they were attracted to men; however, that does not mean that their love story was smooth sailing, quite the contrary. For years Iain was fighting the fact that he grew attracted to James as more than a friend (not always successfully) and assuming I understood him correctly, I found his motivations to be very realistic and easy to understand. There is no Romance story if the characters find their way to each other too fast of course, but sometimes the reasons for the characters being apart just do not ring true for me – but they did here. At times Iain is so confused throughout the story, and I wanted for him to figure things out earlier than he did, because when we hear something like this from him, I thought what he felt about James cannot be more clear.
“Iain didn’t know what to say to that, especially when James looked at him, a stupidly happy expression on his face- happy and hopeful and unguarded. As though Iain was the best thing he’d ever seen. For some reason, that expression made Iain feel both pleased and panicked at the same time. James had been looking at him like that all day, which was doubtless why that loathsome fellow had started in on him, calling him a molly. Christ, when he’d heard that exchange on his way back to the curricle, the anger that had gripped him had been overwhelming. He’d wanted to the pound the man’s face to bloody pulp for threatening James.
James, a molly?
As a somewhat related aside, there is a characterization point addressed here that I always wonder about in historical gay romances. I always wonder, how did the character work out for himself that there is nothing wrong with him (assuming the character does appear to go through that thought process; sometimes it’s just assumed in the text). I realize that many gay people lived happy lives in the past even if they had to hide from the authorities and society that they were together. But I feel like it was probably harder for at least some of them to come to the realization that there was nothing wrong with them, because of the teachings of so many Christian denominations, because of society in general, etc., not to mention the laws against homosexual behavior. Because of this, I was so pleased that in this story the author took time to show at least briefly how it worked out for James:
“James had thought about this a lot over the last few years. And ultimately, he had done as his father always taught him: considered the evidence and drawn his conclusions from that, determining, finally, that there was nothing wrong with Iain Sinclair. And if that was right – and he felt sure it was – then the next, inexorable conclusion was that there was nothing wrong with James either. That they weren’t wicked degenerates, just another sort of person. Classifiable, like James’s specimens, with a place on the taxonomic table, as valuable as any other sort of being in the world.”
Despite interpreting Iain as the more conflicted character of the two, I liked James just as much if not more than Iain. I want to give special thanks to the author for making James a naturalist – I thought that his fascination with insects and plants and all things alive made him an even more interesting person. It felt as if author researched the bits about butterflies and bees, and other nature things, very well. I also thought that some of the allusions between nature and what people like James and Iain had to do to stay alive and be happy were lovely – not very subtle, but still lovely.
I was happy and satisfied at the end of the book. I believed in the future for these guys and Iain’s realization felt earned.
“He wouldn’t be free. He’d be lost. Because he’d realised something true and vital today. The thread between them – the love between them – wasn’t a chain or a tether.
It was a lifetime.”
John Tilney, praeternatural pyrokinetic and mystery author, has noticed the bottom dropping out of the market for his usual gothic fare, so he goes to Lowell Kanaan, PI, for a crash course in noir. Lowell, the cranky wolf-shifter detective, isn’t sure why he agrees to let John shadow him–though it might have something to do with John’s weirdly endearing honesty…and pretty lips. John thinks he’s found the perfect detective novel hero in Lowell, but it isn’t long before he realizes he doesn’t want Lowell for his book, but for himself.
As they become entangled in a supernatural whodunnit involving the Zombie Mafia, black market body parts, and shady insurance deals, their partnership grows closer–and hotter. But when it comes down to the wire, Lowell’s wolfy protective side threatens to drive John around the bend, or at least out of the office. Good thing John’s as much sunshine as he is fire; hopefully, it’s enough to help them catch a murderer before they end up–literally–in pieces, too.
Dear Jenna Rose and Katey Hawthorne,
I was surprised at how much I liked your book. I’ve read a few books by Katey Hawthorne before and remember them fondly, but she did not become an auto buy author because, well, there are too many new writers to try and not enough time in the world.
I bought this book because I still like werewolves and I find too few stories with them which I end up enjoying. But since I was familiar with one of the authors’ works and I am often drawn to mysteries, paranormal or not, I decided I wanted to give this book a try.
The book is set in the world similar to ours, where people with paranormal abilities seem to be out in the open – there are pyrokinetics, telepaths, empaths, etc. We also have shifters (they are called Beasts) and of course there is tension between and inside all the factions. Racism parallels were drawn, but it was my impression that they more or less managed to coexist with each other, as well as with people without any paranormal abilities. I did not think that world building was particularly unique or detailed, actually.
As the blurb states, John wants to research police work for his new mystery book and in order to do that he goes to the police department and asks to shadow a detective, The police department laughs at his jokes and pretty much dismisses him, but then, because they find him amusing, they send him to private detective Lowell Kanaan, who also happens to be wolf shifter.
John decides that he does not mind shadowing a private detective and asks Lowell if he can be his assistant. Reluctant at first, Lowell is impressed by John’s resume and agrees to take him on if he will work for free. John thinks the book will eventually makes money and takes the position on those terms. If I were to describe John with one word, I would probably say “charming”. The guy literally has no filter and cannot lie (except in his books as he says), but somehow I ended up smiling at most of what he had to say instead of rolling my eyes.
Of course they quickly wind up having sex (maybe at thirty percent of the book) and I was ready to stop at this point, because I was thinking something like – oh yes, now their investigations will be constantly interrupted by them not being able to keep their hands off each other. But I kept reading. The sex was sweet and hot, and at times funny too, and I was impressed. Somehow the writers managed to write a thorough investigation of a mystery without frequently interruptions for sex. And although the book had quite a lot of sex (I did get tired of it just a little bit by the end, but that’s my preference and did not count towards lowering the grade at all), it all fit the story and did not make the characters look like idiots even once. I was even okay with the Lowell and John being Boss and Assistant, probably because they really were not that. It was very clear that John’s job is a temporary one which he can quit at any time and he was not getting paid. I guess I did not think that there was any imbalance of power with Lowell being his temporary boss.
Let me talk about how impressed I was with the mystery part of the plot. I liked that it was so very mundane – Lowell deals with several small cases, which to me seemed to be a very realistic description of what a PI would have to deal with every day, but their main case also started out as mundane – a disappearance which ended up being a murder case. This murder case was about insurance scams and other scams, which felt very realistic. I think the ending rang especially true for me (based on what I heard and read, not based on any first-hand experience). They found the villain, they called the police (whom neither of our heroes particularly likes, but they still did what they had to do) and the police came and arrested the person. They acknowledged the anticlimactic end of their investigation to themselves, but surely not every case has to end with the big chase/ big fight, sometimes cases end like this one did.
I think I appreciated that even though this world has supernatural things happening in it, I appreciated how believable the story felt to me, Zombie mafia notwithstanding.
Lowell being a wolf shifter ended up him just being one, which I think I also liked. His Beast part may have felt protective towards John, but there was no mating of any kind. It was just part of who he was.