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Lou Harper

REVIEW:  Secrets and Ink by Lou Harper

REVIEW: Secrets and Ink by Lou Harper

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When Karma writes you a ticket, pay up or else…

If life was like the movies, Jem Mitchell’s wouldn’t be such a mess. In LA’s glittering world of dreams, he works an unglamorous job at a gourmet grocery store. His past is so deep and dark, the details are lost even to him. All he knows is he was once cursed by a meter maid, and ever since, his love life has sucked.

When Detective Nick Davies becomes a regular at the store, Jem dares to hope he’s un-hexed at last. He should have known that sex with a remarkably normal guy, devoid of weird fetishes and fatal personality flaws, was too good to be true.

During a post-encounter cuddle, Nick recognizes the tattoo on Jem’s back—and remembers him as a young hustler he arrested nine years past.

As Jem’s memories come crashing back, he flees from Nick, but fate contrives to keep pushing them back together. And when Jem’s old partner in crime is found murdered, the stakes are raised for life, for love, and a dangerous drama with no guarantee of a Hollywood ending.

Warning: Stars a mild-mannered store clerk with a shady past, a hunky cop whose passion in the bedroom is as big as his passion for justice, and celebrity sightings you won’t see on TMZ.

Dear Lou Harper,
On the surface, I could not think of anything obviously wrong with this story. The narrator Jem is likeable and funny. He has his own quirks and neurosis and the reasons are all based on what happened to him in the past. He thinks he is cursed – truly when I was reading the blurb I was sure that the magic would be involved in the story. However, it is very clear (to any person on Earth but Jem) that he has just been having lots and lots of bad luck in the last several years of his life.

“You should have patience with Jem,” she said, leaning close to Nick. “He thinks he’s been cursed.” “Yeah, I’ve heard,” Nick replied. I shook my head at her disapprovingly. “I don’t think that. I know it. Ms. Jones said, word for word: Sir, may all your hubris fall around your ears like a ton of bricks. Three days later, a literal ton of bricks fell on me. Well, okay, technically, it was poured concrete, but that’s a tiny detail. I’ve had nothing but bad luck since.” Like my sister, Nick was a doubter. “Don’t be ridiculous. Life’s not a fairy tale.” “Don’t I know it? But the curse is real. I saw a psychic, and she categorically declared I was under a curse. Don’t give me that look,” I added, because Nick was rolling his eyes now. “Madame Layla is for real. She is also a witch, so she knows her stuff.”

When Jem and Nick met, I felt the connection between them and I wanted to see and feel more of that. I was not sure whether I liked that they had already met in the past, when Nick arrested Jem during his hustling activities, but I was ready to go along with it – especially since the reasons for Jem being a teenage prostitute were on one hand different from what many m/m stories usually go with and on the other hand so simple and believable to me.
I also really enjoyed the mystery part of the story – the first part of the mystery that is, although it started very strong, it then fizzled out really quickly, because the identity of the villain was telegraphed pretty obviously. I mean, I do not mind if mystery is just a vehicle for romance OR if the romance takes a very secondary fiddle to the mystery, but to me neither the romance nor mystery in this book received an in depth treatment. The mystery was simplistic, because there was no candidate to divert my suspicions from the one character who felt like a REALLY bad and sleazy guy from the very beginning. I get that there was an attempt to do so with somebody else, but I just did not buy that at all.
The romance was cute. But I wanted to know more about both guys as people. As I said before, I thought Jem’s neurosis was established well by what happened to him in the past, but at the same time I thought the medical part of his situation was given a superficial treatment. I get that it is hard to strike a balance in romance, but I did not feel like the balance was achieved. Nick was nice and dependable and a stickler for the rules, but I did not feel like I got to know him well if at all. I felt that characterization-wise the story was just scratching the surface, especially with Nick, and it was frustrating for me to feel dissatisfied with the characters when I finished reading.
I liked it but did not love it.
Grade C.

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REVIEW:  Dead Man and the Restless Spirits by Lou Harper

REVIEW: Dead Man and the Restless Spirits by Lou Harper

dead man 

Dying sucks hairy monkey balls, even when you’re not the stiff.

Denton Mills has a secret: he can see dead people. Or rather, how they died. It’s quite a drag in a city like Chicago, teeming with the echoes of the no-longer living. Rather than whine about it, Denton has learned to live with his troublesome talent. His adaptability comes in handy when he meets his enigmatic new neighbor.

Bran Maurell catches Denton’s eye right away, but unfortunately Mr. Tall, Dark, and Mysterious is as standoffish as he is alluring. However, after an unexpected introduction from Bran’s cat brings the two men together, Denton discovers they have a mutual interest in the spirit world. Herbalist by day, Bran moonlights as a witch, performing house cleansings for a fee.

From Bran, Denton learns that his knack for interacting with the dead qualifies him as a necromancer. It makes good business sense for them to team up and rid Chicago of its pesky spirits one grateful client at a time. Amongst ghostly adventures the attraction between the men is impossible to ignore. They seem like perfect partners—unless Bran’s not-so-little secret comes between them.

Warning: men loving men, ghosts with attitudes, and a portly feline with hidden talents.

Note: Denton also plays a small but important role in Spirit Sanguine.

Dear Lou Harper.

I usually enjoy your books quite a bit. And Jamie from your novelette/novella “Academic Pursuits” brought something unique to m/m genre, in my opinion. He was the guy who enjoyed having a lot of sex with different guys and did not do it because he had any psychological issues.

I really loved “Spirit Sanguine”, the first book in this series, so of course I was eager to read this book. This book is structured similarly to “Spirit Sanguine” – it has three stories with Denton and Bran dealing with different situations, different cases, but their relationship is shown in continuity. It progresses a little with every novelette. Unfortunately this book did not work for me as well as the first one.

As the blurb tells us, Denton appeared briefly in “Spirit Sanguine”. I was so curious to find out what hidden depths his character might have in this story. Sadly, I did not think that in this book any depth was added to his character. In fact besides him finding love I was not sure what new things we learned about his character. And that’s despite the fact that Denton was the third person narrator in this novel. We did learn that he is funny, but I could see that even from his appearance in the first book.

The humor in this book worked very well for me. I did not smile or chuckle as often as I did when I was reading “Spirit Sanguine”, but when I did, it was perfect and I thought it was very appropriate.

Denton and Bran were very good together and I thought that we learned much more about Bran than we did about Denton. I thought the author did a lovely job invoking the association with Professor Severus Snape from “Harry Potter” when she was writing about Bran. No, Bran is not a rewritten Snape at all, he is just tall, dark and snarky and as blurb tells you he is a witch and a herbalist. But if you read “Potter” just once, you won’t miss such association. I was obsessed with Potterverse for years so I did not have to look very hard.  I was a little disappointed though that the story felt the need to call Bran “Snape” once. Seriously, there was no need for it, let’s trust the readers that they will see it IMO. I will leave it to you to find couple other less obvious references to Potterverse in the book. I thought that Bran’s reasons to be standoffish were very well done and those reasons were original enough, or at least I have not seen the particular plot twist as it was done here in any other paranormal story that I have read. Despite the fact that I did not feel that I got to know Denton much better than I did during his brief appearance in the first book (this is my main reason for the grading the book the way I did), I still loved the chemistry between the guys. I also have to note that while the story does not have many sex scenes, what we did get was very hot in the best sense of the word IMO.

I also have to say that I was also disappointed with the twist involving Bran’s mother. I was disappointed not for the reasons you may think. Bran’s mother is a very likeable and funny character, and in the brief time she appeared on the page I really liked her. However, one of her actions, although it was not evil, disappointed me a lot [spoiler] basically she cast a spell for Bran to attract his perfect soul mate. I thought that the book was the story of natural progression of feelings between the guys and I really liked how during their interactions they seem to like each other more and more. I was disappointed that spell brought them together instead of them just meeting accidentally as potential roommates. Granted Bran’s mother said that no magic would hold them together if they did not like each other, but I was disappointed simply by the fact that the spell was cast no matter how unusual it was.[/spoiler] Grade : C.

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