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REVIEW:  Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden

REVIEW: Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden


When Jesse Morales, a recent college grad who aspires to be a mystery writer, volunteers to work on the summit of Mt. Washington for a week, he expects to work hard. What he doesn’t expect is to find a corpse in the fog, lying among the rocks, his head crushed. The dead man turns out to be a young tourist named Stuart Warren, who strayed from his friends while visiting the mountain.
Kyle Dubois, a widowed state police detective, is called to the scene in the middle of the night, along with his partner, Wesley Roberts. Kyle and Jesse are instantly drawn to one another, except Jesse’s fascination with murder mysteries makes it difficult for Kyle to take the young man seriously. But Jesse finds a way to make himself invaluable to the detective by checking into the hotel where the victim’s friends and family are staying and infiltrating their circle. Soon, he is learning things that could very well solve the case—or get him killed.


Dear Jamie Fessenden,

I really liked your earlier works, but then your books started cranking up more and more angst and I parted ways with them. I was intrigued, however, when I saw that you wrote a mystery, and book buddy from the discussion board I frequent was kind enough to loan this book to me. I decided to review it at DA as well. The blurb describes very well how our main characters meet. Jesse discovers the body of the victim, Kyle and his partner arrive to investigate the murder. Eventually Jesse becomes a helper of sorts and he and Kyle are almost instantly attracted to each other. The book is first and foremost a mystery, romance (or should I say the beginning of romance?) is more of a secondary storyline, but it is visible in the story and I want to talk about it first.

I think that I liked it well enough. I mean the attraction was very fast, true – but I do not necessarily see anything strange about two people finding each other attractive right away and even though I usually prefer slow burn romance, I was more forgiving here because the book is mostly a mystery. I am not sure about “I love you” that fast, but at least they did not decide to move in or get married right away. Kyle is portrayed as a bisexual character which I appreciated very much – and no, the reader does not need to read that he is bisexual between the lines. Kyle clearly identifies as such and actually says the word. Of course his wife is dead, but he is very clear about the fact that he both loved her (as in he was “in love” with her) and always fantasized about men and his wife knew about his fantasies and found them sexy. Kyle never acted on his fantasies though, not till he meets Jesse when five years have passed since his wife’s death. It is also made clear that even if his romance with Jesse will work out, his attraction to women is a part of him.

I was not sure about the fact that the guys say “I love you” knowing each other for only three days, especially when Kyle has never before pursued a relationship with a guy. My interpretation was that both guys felt strongly about each other and felt that it was something worth pursuing, but the possibility that Kyle was in awe of the first guy he met was also raised. In other words, for me it worked as the beginning of a romance, which, may or may not work out.

The story is not heavy on sex – it has two sex scenes, and again because the story is mostly a mystery it worked for me very well. I did wonder about the almost immediate joy of anal sex for the guy who never had anal sex with a guy before in his life, but again, it looks like this is a mandatory addition to almost every m/m book.

I also thought that the mystery was really well crafted – I mean of course we have a civilian interfering in the investigation, but this version of the genre requires an amateur sleuth and at least the issue is addressed, and multiple times at that. Kyle is constantly worried about how much he should satisfy Jesse’s curiosity and, how much he should allow Jesse to get himself in danger and he knows he is being unprofessional. But Kyle also realizes that there is also only so much he can do if Jesse is persistent in getting himself in danger. In addition, Jesse actually manages to be helpful with some of the information he discovered. I can suspend disbelief when the issue is not being ignored and I liked the additional smacking Kyle’s partner delivered. And even at the end, Jesse checks with Kyle before he takes action, and Kyle realizes fast enough that this was too dangerous for Jesse. I liked how the demands of the story were balanced with believability.

And I actually did not guess the motive – *at all*. Of course the suspects were limited, clues were provided, and they all had motive, but I did not guess the real motive and when it was revealed, it was so heartbreakingly sad.

Grade: B-

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REVIEW:  Private Politics by Emma Barry

REVIEW: Private Politics by Emma Barry

Private Politics (The Easy Part #2) by Emma Barry

Dear Ms. Barry:

This is the second book in the series centering around characters in DC. As I said in my previous review of your book Special Interests, I generally shy away from political books but you are able to write a book about people passionate about causes yet unabrasive which I find to be some kind of wizardry.

Alyse Philips is a wealthy socialite who works as a fundraiser for an international girl’s literacy non-profit. The job gives her validation in the face of expectations of her parents who would prefer her to be married to a Wall Street banker and popping out babies. She uses her understanding of people and her ability to negotiate a cocktail party to get donors to open their wallets for her charity. Alyse’s job takes an unsavory turn when she discovers discrepancies in the books of her charity during an annual audit of Young Women Read, Inc.

She takes the issue to her roommate’s boyfriend, the lawyer and male protagonist of Special Interests who recommends she seek out the advice of political blogger Liam Nussbaum. Liam has had a crush on Alyse for months, but he’s not the type of guy who gets a girl like Alyse. His closet isn’t full of sharp suits and he spends more time behind his computer than in the gym. He tried to flirt with her but was the attraction wasn’t returned and he resolved to set aside his feelings and move on. When he finds out that she needs his help he comes running, still wearing his heart on his sleeve.

Because heroines are often judged on a harsher scale than their male counterparts, pretty, wealthy, and good at reading people Alyse could have come off as villainous.  As I was writing this review I remembered that many of the historical books pre-2005 featured glorious heroines who caused an earthquake of male attention. I don’t know that the Alyse archetype is as common perhaps because it may be more difficult to pull off without giving her some traumatic background like rape to make her sympathetic. She is a bit of a damsel in distress, though, needing help from those around her to extricate herself from a potentially career ending political scandal. Part of her character conflict is that people do tend to see her as shallow and vapid and in part, Liam views her that way as well. Not shallow and vapid but at times I felt that his emotions were elevated above hers.

Liam is a sweetheart of a hero. He’s a successful political blogger who managed to leverage his college hobby into a career with employees. But he’s also a control freak and he’s finding it a challenge to delegate control so that he can grow his burgeoning blog. The story that Alyse brings to him can catapult him from second tier to top of the search engines or the so called front page of the internet.  The situation allows Alyse to see the passion and intensity that Liam brings to his avocation. He is not merely a man with a keyboard attached to the end of his fingers, but one who is as dedicated to his job as she is to hers. This shift in paradigm takes Liam from nice and nerdy to warm and protective. Alyse begins to view Liam anew and when she sees him on a date, the shift becomes complete.

And as Alyse begins to eye Liam differently, he’s embolden by her possible attraction and that becomes a feedback loop. Liam is more confident leading to Alyse being more attracted. Alyse wasn’t a doormat though, relying solely on good looks. She knows immediately something is wrong with the books, offers up suggestions on how to resolve the problem and works together with Liam.

The passion for politics link makes their romance believable, particularly when it appears Alyse had perused what Liam had to offer previously and rejected it. (I think that Liam never actually got up the nerve to ask Alyse out which could have also contributed to her viewing him continually as a friend only). Making the story about graft and corruption instead of a particular ideology helps to render this work palatable for both sides of the party divide. After all, who isn’t for literacy, nerdy boy bloggers, pretty girls, and love winning out? Curmudgeons, obviously but for the rest of us, Private Politics is a good escape. B-

Best regards,




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