What a wonderful surprise for me to find another Aidan and Liam book out! For some reason, I thought tha...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
What a wonderful surprise for me to find another Aidan and Liam book out! For some reason, I thought that after book four, Olives for the Stranger that the series was finished, so getting a new book and the possibility of even more after this (it sure seems like it) makes me so happy! Liam and Aidan are a couple that I've kept with since I read their first book Three Wrong Turns in the Desert several years ago. Each book is heavy on action/adventure and a serious dose of hot and heavy macho action. How could I not fall in love? Besides, I've always been drawn to Mr. Plakcy's work. I really enjoy his style.
The fifth installment in this series diverges from the rest right at the start. Though we know Liam and Aiden well in Tunisia where they met and have previously worked as bodyguards, they moved at the end of the fourth book to France and are now living in Nice. Both of them think that they moved to primarily make the other happy, but the truth is that having less freedom is somewhat constricting to them both, because Liam doesn't always like being told what to do and because Aidan usually does what he can to defer to his more senior partner and lover and because he generally ends up trying to please him anyway. This results in it's own set of complications and when Liam and Aidan take on a new case in Corsica protecting a mine owner's family from threats by Corsican nationalists to preserve the island from drilling, they both spend much of their time there working through their own issues about their relationship. Aidan wonders if he's doomed to play the doormat when once again Liam takes the active role in their operation and Aidan feels that he's undervalued. Liam is forced to confront his past when they find that the son in the family they're protecting, Michel, is in the closet and secretly in love with his father's biggest adversary's son. It might be a classic star-crossed lovers tale with a bent twist, but the interactions between scared, closeted and teenaged Michel and his blithely criticizing father force him to confront his own feelings about his past and his development into his only real relationship -- with Aidan. Liam has never considered himself as any kind of commodity, until recently mostly avoiding his sexuality except in the basest of situations, but their friend Louis makes a comment that shows him he just might be attractive to other men. That leads him to consider his relationship with Aidan and his feelings about sleeping with other men.
Their main issue in Corsica, nonetheless, is keeping their client's safe, not angsting about the issues in their relationship.
This book (like the last one) was both an enjoyment to read and a bit of a disappointment. The pure adventure and excitement that I'm used to from the earlier plots in this series seem to have gone away. On the other hand, I think that Plakcy, better than most writers in the m/m romance genre anyway, seem to have a real knack for writing about the issues that crop up in long lasting relationships. They're the everyday issues -- communication, self-esteem in relationship to your partner, jealousy -- and they're handled responsibly. Sure they might cause a bit of angst, but I like the format of this series because the external adventure/mystery plot takes some of the focus away. The plot doesn't need to be built on those internal relationship issues to carry the story, so those real-to-life relationship issues seem to carry the modest weight that is natural. Of course they're important but they aren't life or death issues that need to much focus. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy a classic relationship-centric contemporary romance, but Aidan and Liam feel more real to me because while I might have to occasionally suspend disbelief at their gun-toting, crime-solving antics, the relationship at the center is down to earth and totally believable.
I remain a fan of this series. I probably always will be. But, I think I might need to shift my expectation of the future books. From here on, I'm going to look forward more to the relationship than the external plot. It might bring me some enjoyment, but so far the last few just haven't been nearly as satisfying as the first ones. I will say that I found Liam and Aidan's physical relationship in this book somewhat disappointing. I'm not sure why the author didn't include much sex (hardly any!). One of the draws to this series for me has been the hot and heavy sex between these two men. Maybe the author is trying to shift the overall arc in another direction? Or, perhaps, the plot in this book just didn't fit with the two getting hot and heavy. But I sure hope that when these two come back for book six that they'll be getting it on in all kinds of weird places like they used to!(less)
It's been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to re...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
It's been a while since I read a Hayden Thorne novel and now I remember exactly why I always want to read them! She has a particular quirky brain that makes her books unique in a way that always pulls me in. This wasn't my favorite of her books, but it might be hard to top the Masks books anyway. Still, by the end of this book, I liked it and I really liked Noah.
Noah is fifteen and out of school. After a bad situation at his last public school, where some kids bullied him and he fought back, getting suspended, his super awesome single mom Dot went ape-shit on the administration for their blatant disregard of the bullying in their school and pulled Noah out. Since then, he's been staying at home while his mother works two jobs and looks for a new, more inclusive school. Noah and his mom are pretty close, they're their only family and they stick together. Well, Noah does have grandparents (Dot's parents), but they really aren't considered family -- more like righteous stalkers. The calendar by the phone with bloody X's mark the days that they call to harass them about their wicked ways (which include that Noah is gay and that Dot had him out of wedlock). It isn't until his grandmother threatens to set The Soul Warriors on them that they get a little more worried.
When Noah and his mother decide to take a weekend road trip to a B&B to get away from all the phone calls, they find themselves transported to a strange alternate world that seems to be a ridiculous mockery of Hell -- a town called Helleville filled with residents with similar experiences as them, full of banned books like Harry Potter and science textbooks that teach evolution, and weird and strange creatures like ghosts, vampires, zombies and ghouls. The strange thing is that though no one there can really figure out where they are and why they're there (other than the fact that The Soul Warriors are behind everything), it isn't the classic representation of hell that you'd expect. They're well cared for with all the food they want for no money, the kids don't have to take school (although they can sit in a class with Satan as a teacher if they want), and they're surrounded by pristine nature with no need for jobs. The people there have formed a community of sorts with a mayor and everything, but they all have time to relax and enjoy the things that they didn't have time for in life. Dot decides to take up crocheting.
They are, however, haunted by one serious problem. Every so often someone disappears. Soon after Noah and his mother arrive in Helleville, the fourth resident goes missing and no one can ever find them, no matter how many times they organize search parties and a night watch to try to catch anything abnormal. It isn't until Noah makes a friend named John who loves to take pictures that they start to piece together the strange occurrences and what could be behind it all. But before Noah can get too attached to his new hobby of playing Sherlock Holmes he meets Alex, a boy his own age who seems to like him. Alex invites him to hang out with a few of the other teenagers in Helleville and finds that he's not the only one with a crush on the nerdy teen. Matt, a cool seventeen, muscular and gorgeous, highly intelligent and the most popular kid involved in the community has a thing for Alex and he doesn't intend for Noah, who he looks at like a bug under his shoe, to get in his way.
Before all of you m/m romance readers out there get excited, the romance in this story is kept on the back burner. Instead, this story is really Noah's coming of age tale and his road to self-discovery. Helleville and the alternate reality they've been sent to acts as a catalyst to force Noah to grow. Before he was sent there, a lot of his own exploration of himself as a teenager had been stunted because of the bullying he experienced at school. He calls himself an introvert, but he's really afraid to get back out into the world and try again, making friends and even meeting a guy he likes and taking a change. He has a lot of latent social anxiety and Helleville acts as a skewed kind of microcosm of the real world to get him to open up again. In Helleville, Noah can be someone new. He can meet and go on dates with a boy like Alex, he learns that he can have friends. And most importantly he learns that people can rely on him, that he has worth. Alex acts as part of that self-discovery, of course, and their relationship also is a somewhat significant part of the story, but it never progresses very far on page.
The pace and plot mimic Noah's journey in a way. The POV is strictly Noah's, so the first half of the book is quite sedate. I even read one reader's review on Goodreads before I started reading that said that this book was boring. I wouldn't say that, I quite enjoyed it. But there were a few times in the first half of the book that I set it down, read some other things and then picked it up later. I think that as long as you don't go into this book expecting it to focus on Noah's romantic life and that the story will be more about action than reflection, you'll enjoy it. Also, if you haven't read much of Hayden Thorne's work by now you might not realize that most of her work is cerebral. This book is a reflection of Noah's life, in almost an allegorical way. If you'd rather just read for fun and not want to focus on the meaning of it all, then you might find this story a bit slow … in the first half anyway, the second half was much more exciting.
So I definitely recommend this one. I really like Hayden's work and I'll always pick up her books when a new one is out. She always has a really great point of view coming from gay teenagers that it's so easy to connect with. That, and sometimes this book just makes you go -- What the FUCK?(less)
Excellent!! I found the romance a little less exciting this time around, but excitement isn't everything and I thought that overall the relat...more4.5 stars
Excellent!! I found the romance a little less exciting this time around, but excitement isn't everything and I thought that overall the relationship progressed extremely well after the ending of the first book.
And WOW, a MUCHMUCH better mystery this time around. I really got into this one and I thought that it and the evidence unfolded much more naturally.
Dead in LA is the book that shows just how economical Lou Harper's writing is. It surprises m...moreReview posted for Lou Harper week at The Armchair Reader.
Dead in LA is the book that shows just how economical Lou Harper's writing is. It surprises me even now to write that this book of two stories is only 28k words simply because my memory from reading it is how full of plot and detail it was. Of course it depends on your style and preferences, but I always admire an author who can get their word across without a whole lot of words -- I'm the exact opposite! As you might have noticed and indeed bemoaned from my incredibly wordy reviews :)
Both of these stories, "Dead in the Hills" and "Dead in the Valley" focus on a separate mystery while the overall arc of the story that connects them is the building relationship between Jon and Leander, two completely fascinating characters! I say that because at this point (after reading the first two stories and waiting for the rest to come) I still feel them on incredibly shaky ground, no matter how far they've come from their beginnings as roommates in "Dead in the Hills". And they, in so many ways, are an opposites attract story, not in a sortof comically stereotypical way (like… the twink and the cop or something) but simply because when I first started reading this book I thought… wait, is Leander really going to become Jon's romantic interest? I just couldn't see it. It wasn't until after they were firmly established as friends with benefits (or roommates with benefits) that they both really started to open up for me as characters and I could see past their superficialities. Jon is an art student, but of course in a completely responsible way (art advertising) that he might not have ever really gone in to anyway, and Leander is a psychic who finds things that people have lost. Now, sometimes those are puppies (like the "unlucky Chihuahua" LOL) and sometimes those are missing people. Jon has a hard time at first believing in what Leander does until he offers his roommate a ride to a job and sees it for himself, not only the accuracy of Leander's visions but what it also does to him. His ultimate understanding of Leander's job is what slowly softens him to Leander's charms, even through all of the trauma and guilt that Jon still has after his wife's death.
Dead in LA was probably one of the most enjoyable books I've read this year, and in some ways that's because of the mysteries and in others the relationship. The relationship is also what makes this book like a really early part of a series. Of course, these are the first two stories in this series, but what I mean is that by the end of both there's still a great deal of uncertainty about their relationship and a lot they'll need to work through. Both of these stories, for me, were really about getting to know the characters individually and that makes me even more excited for the coming ones, because I get to see more about where their relationship will progress.
This book also shows how well the episodic mystery format is working for Lou. Making the mysteries somewhat shorter allows for more possible directions for the story to go because we, as readers, aren't completely committed to a long mystery plot while the characters are growing with their relationship. That is what makes the next stories in this series exciting to me.
Also, a note about the cover, which I really love. Lou mentioned that it doesn't really scream romance (which is true) but that it does really highlight that these are mysteries. That works well for me with these two stories -- the cover seems aligned with how I feel about them in any way -- but also, I think that the lack of a naked torso makes your book stand out in new ways these days, when I feel like most others I've heard from… we're just tired of those covers.(less)
This has the most eclectic mix of tags I've ever given a book. Surprisingly, they all went together! And even more, it kinda represents this book, whi...moreThis has the most eclectic mix of tags I've ever given a book. Surprisingly, they all went together! And even more, it kinda represents this book, which is a bit of a hodge-podge of different quirks and ideas, even plotting and pacing which I found rather refreshing. Definitely not typical vampire fare!
I hadn't planned on giving this book a proper review, but when Sunday rolled around and I was still thinking about this book, so I decided that it really needed one. For some reason, and I sincerely hope that this is just my 2D, rather limited view of the m/m romance reading community, this book hasn't seemed to have had a real splash yet. And that's a damn shame. Here's what I said on Goodreads immediately after I finished the book Satuday:
This has the most eclectic mix of tags I've ever given a book. Surprisingly, they all went together! And even more, it kinda represents this book, which is a bit of a hodge-podge of different quirks and ideas, even plotting and pacing which I found rather refreshing. Definitely not typical vampire fare!
Now, the tags here are pretty much similar to the ones on Goodreads, but since I can more easily edit and add tags here at the blog, they of course have a bit more flair ;) I have to admit that I've fallen into a bit of a pattern in my mismanagement of my m/m reading, where many of the most exciting releases seem to slip through the net (there are many factors, though it still makes me a dolt) mostly because of reviewing duties, but Lou Harper is perhaps one on the top of the list of those stellar authors that I haven't given their due. Perhaps I should do a backlist read. Anyway, this book wasn't just well written, but it was a thoroughly enjoyable read, for many reasons I'll talk about later. But that brings me to another point. Another byproduct of my reviewing duties is that I tend to analyze first rather than enjoy the book first, and having not originally slated Spirit Sanguine as a review book and (imagine this!) actually making myself sit down and read a book for pleasure instead of work on reviews I should be getting up to date, meant that this one just slipped right through and knocked me flat. I didn't really have to think about an analysis of the book, of styles and pacing and plot and characterizations, but… I just enjoyed it. It was a refreshing read, and not something I was expecting from the vampire angle.
Bloodsuckers are everywhere; you can't walk down a dark alley without a couple of them jumping out and accosting you with their dark and broody eyes. They do that a lot--mope and sulk. That's what got to me, all the melodrama. I mean, they are practically immortal, don't get sick, grow old, don't need to watch their weight or work out. What the hell do they have to bellyache about?
(That's the truth.)
And that's the point. In a sub-genre where melodrama rules and/or kinky vampire sex clubs are the forte, humor takes precedent here, brought forth by the vivacious and quirky Harvey (I love the name, and not just the Feng/Fang part, the fact that her vampire is named Harvey), who isn't really like any other of his kind. In actuality, I'd rather not go into characterization here, because I'd rather not cut him into pieces to analyze him. He's best enjoyed as it's written… plus, you'll find plenty in other reviews, I'm sure. The same goes for Gabe, who is perhaps the undervalued of the pair, though it's important that he's the lens we see the world through, and even more in which we see Harvey through. His understanding of and feelings for Harvey are how we understand him best, in reflection.
What was really refreshing about this book for me was also in a second part -- the style, which is reflected in pacing but also the plot. Both were atypical in that they don't follow the usual structure. Broken into three parts, each concentrates on a different aspect of the story while they, in succession, follow a continual arc. Some readers might find this off-putting. I'm not really sure. I quite enjoyed it. Because while the first is a typical setup to the story and introduces the relationship between Gabe and Harvey, the second and third both have a somewhat separate plot, though they're tied together. But you do get the feeling, between the transition between Parts 2 and 3, that there's a bit of a jog. And consequently, you'll find two climaxes (one at the end of each part) around the 55% mark and the end of the book.
Nikyta noticed this as well and made a remark to me about it (in our many back and forth book gabbing emails) and probably described it better than I did, asking if I had noticed authors using this style more lately, the (in her words) "multiple mini stories in one book of the same couple" style. We both automatically thought of Megan Derr, who sometimes writes in a similar though pretty different style from what I'm describing in Spirit Sanguine. Perhaps it's that Gabe and Harvey really only have two distinct adventures and Megan Derr often writes books that are split between the many adventures one couple has, a sort of extended vignette style. Nik thought that maybe it was a style that was becoming more popular. I'm not sure, but suffice to say that it is something that we've both enjoyed. And definitely something that I found made Lou Harper's book infinitely more original -- though, of course, anything with a vampire named Harvey Feng could hardly be called conventional.
I read this with a friend over Christmas, and while I enjoyed this book, I think that other readers seem to be li...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I read this with a friend over Christmas, and while I enjoyed this book, I think that other readers seem to be liking it more than me. I've been thinking about it since, and while I've avoided looking at how it's been received since those early few days and from reader and reviewer reviews, at that time it seemed like this was coming off really well. And it deserves it. I'm not really sure what it was about the story that I didn't quite connect with, but I'll try to flesh it out in a minute.
The story starts with a stunner of a prologue (which I'll leave alone, but btw, RF, you are really packing the punches with the prologues and epilogues lately!). As the main story starts, we get to know Miki mostly from Kane's POV as the man who owns the dog that keeps stealing his art supplies. Soon after he gets to know Miki from terse front door words about the exact ownership of the dog, they become embroiled in a murder mystery. Kane finds a dead body in Miki's classic restored GTO, and not just any dead body, but the body of the man who used to torture Miki as a street kid, opening up a past of abuse and cruelty that Miki doesn't want to face.
I suppose it is just personal that parts of this story didn't connect with me. I loved Kane, and I loved Miki to an extent. I had a difficult time going through all of his horrible upturned life with him. He suffer(s/ed) quite a lot at the hands of various people, as well as fate, and as one thing packed onto a another and the dynamic between the two became, at times, very hurt/comfort. The problem for me was in the structure of the story and the pacing, which seemed to relegate most of the action to the first and last 25% and the bulk of the middle to character growth and relationship growth. But that middle part got bogged down for me because the emotions were pretty heavy. And not exactly the emotions but the type of abuse that Miki suffered and his bleak day to day existence was difficult for me to read in one stretch. I kept braking and wishing for some of the investigation to come back and break up some of the tension.
That said, the rest of the story was a treat. Where the white cop/lithe korean man dynamic might seem familiar, the characters are quite different from Cole and Jae, especially in the differences between Kane and Cole (I found Kane much more immediately accessible but not lacking in depth). This book deals with what might seem to be heavier issues (child sexual abuse), I didn't find it any darker in tone than her previous books. I compare the start of this new series to that one because I know that almost every reader who reads this, or plans to buy it, will. And while there are surface similarities, I found them satisfyingly different.
What I can't really figure out from my own feelings is how much my liking of this book is wrapped up in how much I look forward to the next coming book in the series. Because while this book has a lot to recommend it, I didn't ever get excited about it while reading until the surprise epilogue, which immediately made me upset I couldn't read further ;) And while it did feel good to leave on a note that excited me about reading more, I'm not sure I'd be happy if RF ended up relying on this device (not saying she will, just my feelings). Still, I have a feeling that this book is worth reading to get to that second book, and I hope the exploration of that secret will inject some more forward momentum into the story that I wanted here.
So, I'm very much looking forward to the rest of this series, and as always remain an avid fan of this author's work.(less)
I've been sitting on this anthology for a while, but if there's anything that I know about anthologies f...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I've been sitting on this anthology for a while, but if there's anything that I know about anthologies from Less Than Three Press, it's that they're usually some of my favorites, it not my overall favorites from a specific publisher. So I was excited to read it and I found several stories within that I really liked.
Once again, as with the LT3 anthology I reviewed earlier this week (Something Happened on the Way to Heaven -- reviewed here), I was delighted with the diversity in the stories presented. Each story deals with a Private Investigator and a mystery, but the stories cross all genres, from Paranormal to Steampunk to Science Fiction, Contemporary and Western. I really enjoyed the steampunk story, "Regarding the Detective's Companion" by EE Ottoman. Even though it isn't the best story in the anthology, I really liked the characters, the mystery and the world. Having a steampunk world was also nice because there are so few m/m steampunk stories. The first story is one of my favorites. With a very distinctive style, Siobhan Crosslin takes us into an extreme werewolf society with some really fine writing.
So, look below and I'll give you a bit about each story. The reviews will be shorter than usual, because this was a longer anthology, but the tags and info about each story will give you quite a bit about what each one has to offer :)
Diana Copland is a new author for me. At the time of reading this a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't read anything b...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Diana Copland is a new author for me. At the time of reading this a couple of weeks ago, I hadn't read anything by her. After reading this, I decided to read her earlier Christmas ballet themed book, Grand Jete, and even though I liked it, I can see that she's improving as an author. A Reason to Believe was much better in my opinion. Maybe it is because the addition of another plotline (the mystery) give the story staying power. As often happens with mystery, as the main plot it gives time for the romance to unfold on its own. Maybe it is something like misdirection, but I like that the author allowed that to happen. The relationship between Matt and Kiernan grew organically in a way it might not have otherwise.
I doubt I'm the only one to notice this, so I think it is safe to say that the murder of the young girl in this story reminded me very much of a very public past popular unsolved mystery -- that of JonBenét Ramsey. Many of the original details are there in the story of a similarly murdered young girl. It is around Christmas in the Denver area. A girl is killed in her own house, dragged from her bed to the basement. The parents are originally targeted as suspects and the immediate police investigation and crime scene is severely bungled. At first, this scared me just a little, and I wasn't sure how much the author would borrow from the case in her story. What I appreciated, was that even though the first details are very much similar, the differences soon emerge. Of course, there is the paranormal aspect of this story as the little girl shows herself to Detective Matthew Bennett. Then there is the entrance of Kiernan Fitzpatrick, who along with an interest in the good detective becomes embroiled in the story by his talents as a medium.
Centered around this mystery the two men are brought together by their shared psychic experiences. Matt brings quite a bit of past emotional trauma, as he's still dealing with the death of his former partner, also a cop and the subsequent outing of his orientation within the force because of that. His Captain already has him one foot out of the door and is just looking for another excuse to boot him out entirely, and the "visions" provide an ample opportunity to do so. The ghost of the little girl is persistent though, and Matt finds that he just can't step away when he and the little girl see how corrupt the police department is. But, he has two problems with continuing his own investigation: the persistent presence of Kiernan Fitzpatrick and their growing feelings for one another and the real possibility that his interference will cost him his job.
The pacing of the story is set up beautifully, part of what I mentioned before, the miracle of juggling the different plot lines. The story unfolds naturally and even though I didn't find the mystery particularly engrossing, it was still interesting and kept me on my toes with a fair amount of red herrings and different suspects. I have nothing much to say about the romance in particular, except that I couldn't find much wrong with it and really enjoyed the guys and their connections to one another. In some says I suppose this felt a bit like the beginning of a series, but maybe only in the sense that the paranormal detective setup is often a series and also that I would enjoy seeing the progression of their relationship, especially down the road when they're really used to working together on cases. I think future stories with this could would work out really well and if the author were inclined to write them, I'll be there to read them :)(less)
It is such a pleasure to step back into this series. It has been a while since the release of a book as...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
It is such a pleasure to step back into this series. It has been a while since the release of a book as part of a series has gotten me so excited and eager to read right away. I can say that this third book in the series definitely didn't let me down, and more importantly gave me a little more of what I was hoping for as the series progresses.
Mac and Tony have been through a lot from the start of their clandestine relationship to the moment when Mac had to step out to protect him and the growing family they made. Mac still has to put up with some shit from the other guys on the force and his relationship with his partner Oliver is still shaky at best. The recognition of their relationship is a swift commitment into the light of day, a quick permanence to their family -- but they're making it work as best as they can. Mac is still Mac though, working a lot when a case picks up and rarely home in time for dinner. Tony finds himself relegated to the "home work" -- taking care of the kids, cooking, cleaning, reading bed time stories and soothing the nightmares, and reassuring the kids that their family is permanent and that Mac isn't just Anna's father and Tony's not just Ben's new dad, but vice versa. There's a little bit of resentment on Tony's part that Mac doesn't have the time for them, but that isn't really anything new -- what's new is that Mac is better at admitting his faults. They've each tempered the other in some ways now that they have the semi-permanence that was so hard-won, though there are vast areas of improvement to be made.
A new case picks up with the discovery of a body frozen near the Mississippi in the November chill. It looks like a meth head who was murdered, but some of the clues don't add up, including the fact that the young man seems to have rather severe whip marks that allude to the underbelly of the Minneapolis BDSM scene and that he wasn't always a street kid, but an incredibly smart young man working his way up in his career, running in the circles of the wealthy and powerful of the city.
I can't really recommend this series more. There are a lot of you already out there that love these guys and will undoubtedly be reading (or already have read) this book. I think that the best part of this story though, is that so much of it is really the payout from the first two books. Mac and Tony went through so much while Mac was in the closet. Their relationship was such a rollercoaster, from the secret relationship, to the frequent trips to the hospital after another case gone wrong in some way, to dealing with the curveballs that life has thrown at them and having to absorb the impact and keep running. Now that they're a couple in the light of day and even though Mac in particular still has to deal with that in some ways, they're solid in their relationship and we get to celebrate their relationship without worrying so much that the next hurdle might break them for good. In particular, this book shows that in a really specific way that was wonderful to see.
The mystery here is done very nicely as well. It has been a while since I read the first two books, but much of it seemed to follow a different pattern than those, at least with how it affects the principle characters. Some of the outcome was very difficult to read, but it is in keeping with the series and also showed the progression of the series and the relationship in the way that it was handled, so there seemed a be a notable lack of angst, at least in my estimation.
Mostly, though I really felt good when I finished the story. I found myself looking forward to the next book in a way that I didn't after finishing the second book. Sure, I wanted to read more after that one, but I was wary and probably wouldn't have read them back to back if this book had been available then. I would now because of that progression I talked about the way that they have matured. This is a great time, if you haven't read the series, to start. I definitely recommend them!(less)
I really love each of these authors separately, so I've been waiting forever to see what their combined writing i...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I really love each of these authors separately, so I've been waiting forever to see what their combined writing is like. We finally get that with this first book of a new mystery series, and more than any other author pair, each author has his distinct stamp on the book. It may be because I'm so familiar with their individual writing, but it is clear in the characters that remind me so much of Ethan's past romantic comedies, and in the campy tone and incredibly twisted plot reminiscent of the Fathom boys' own stories, always going just a couple steps further than you expect, just shy of the hilariously absurd. The combination of those forces was bound to be a sight to behold; before I even knew what the book was about, I could picture the hilarity the two had writing together. The outcome is almost exactly what I expected and described above, the most dominant traits of each carrying forward and marrying into a story that is at same time serious and off the wall.
Jon Fox is a playboy private investigator whose contacts around the quarter are synonymous with fuck buddies -- easy payment for their services rendered on the lookout -- because everyone wants a piece of Fox and they always beg for more. His reputation makes him well known, but not just for his prowess in bed (or you know… anywhere). An incredibly difficult childhood of lies, neglect and death left an enduring mark on the young Fox, who tore through New Orleans for years leaving destruction in his angry, alcoholic wake. His money and connections through the Fox name keep him out of serious trouble, but even now as he has settled into the straight and narrow he has a buried, finely honed edge of rage just waiting for relapse.
Fox is stuck in the middle of a rather unorthodox case, when a sweet older woman visits him with a very odd request. That case brings him to shadow a man seen being friendly with the woman at a local diner. Fox admits that he loves surveilling the beautiful Tucker a little more than he should, unsure if the man has any idea what he's involved in. Luckily the borderline stalking works to his favor when Tucker ends up needing his help after the man witnessed something he shouldn't while walking through the city at night. The two will have to find a way to work together to piece together the mystery of the men after Tucker, Fox's strange client, and some old and very buried family secrets.
This story is really quite a vast mystery and only the very first part of a much longer story. Though I assume the mysteries will change from book to book, the relationship arc covers them all. In that sense, this book is the setup for the rest of the story yet to come, though it is long and detailed enough, with enough focus on the relationship to make this a satisfying beginning to the relationship between Fox and Tucker. There is often a very fine line drawn between camp and serious character and plot development. it worked well for me. This is a story that benefits from campy humor and tone but isn't reliant on it, and the mystery behind it was pretty solid.
At times that mystery became a bit much for me. The second half is really when it picked up. I had a difficult time with the first half. Everything was written well in the beginning, especially the character and relationship development, but it felt a little slow to get off the ground and I wasn't quite sure how focused the story was. In retrospect (knowing how the mystery is resolved), I can see where most of the ground work in the beginning of the story had a place, but for most of the book I had a hard time reconciling the focus of the mystery in the beginning with the outcome. There are three major parts of the overall investigations that don't really seem to fit together into a whole, and there were some unanswered questions for me in the end about how one of them ultimately fit in (the mob). Perhaps I'm missing the connection, but a lot of that part of the investigation seemed arbitrary to me.
The characters are smartly written -- Tucker, a screenwriter, sees the world through a lens and I loved his overt movie references that always seemed to come out at the worst times. Fox has a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde thing going on that works really well when we finally find out more about him and the family secrets start to unravel. The mystery is pretty convoluted, with a large cast, a long history and a lot of different factions to consider. Like I said before, some of this didn't quite piece together for me, but this is also the first book of a series and it seems to me that there will be a continuation of much of this story, though perhaps not the particulars. The ending sets the direction of the next story, but doesn't end on a cliffhanger either. All in all, I think this duo has nowhere to go but up and I'll be excited to read the sequel. Hopefully it isn't too far away!(less)
I agree with Tina's Review on this one. Though I really liked the book, and I really got into it, the last 40% just killed me. I couldn't exa...more3.5 stars
I agree with Tina's Review on this one. Though I really liked the book, and I really got into it, the last 40% just killed me. I couldn't exactly understand Gavin making THAT many mistakes, no matter how much it's dealt with after the fact with how he feels he messed up (in Safeword). It was pretty obvious to me the first time I saw the killer in the book. Surprisingly I even had the motive figured out and I never can guess that or the identity of the killer in mysteries. So I was a bit surprised that it seemed so obvious to me, even though by the 65-70% mark is REALLY is obvious.
Otherwise, the rest of this book seriously rocked and I was really eager to read the sequel! I hate even having to rate this 3.5 stars, but the second half of this was just really frustrating for me.(less)
This is the first book by Elizabeth Noble that I've read. Sadly, I wasn't a fan and had quite a...more**spoiler alert** Review posted at The Armchair Reader.
This is the first book by Elizabeth Noble that I've read. Sadly, I wasn't a fan and had quite a few problems with this book, the most that I just couldn't get into the relationship.
Jay is the son of a homophobic Montana senator and the manager of their family's hunting resort. He and his father barely get along, because his father is such a bastard. He's making Jay marry a woman he barely knows even though everyone knows that Jay is gay. What most don't know is that he's a sub looking for a Dom. He's surprised to find one the in new head of security his father hired for the resort. People have started going missing recently, young men's bodies deposited in the forest on the grounds and torn to shreds. The two, while developing their relationship, will have to find out who, or what is causing the deaths, and why -- all while dealing with Jay's father and their own family secrets.
I really started getting into the book in the beginning. The writing itself is fine, but I started finding some of the choices the author made a little strange. The first thing that bothered me was how deeply they started to fall in love, only after a day or two of being around each other. At first I didn't think it was insta-love, but then I realized that it really was, just without the pretty words. All the actions are there and I missed that early development of the relationship, where they get to know each other.
The second thing ties into this, and it is how they relate to each other in the context of a BDSM relationship and BDSM play. I kept waiting for them to have some sort of discussion about their limits, or at least talking about that int he narrative through Jay's voice. I never got to hear why he needs what he needs. Though I might be able to gather why after finishing the book, the lack of knowledge about him in particular but also their relationship made it seem like Eric was just taking things over and Jay was a pushover. It didn't endear me to Eric, because without rules that are laid out for me, Eric's decisions about Jay's behavior and what he sometimes forbids and allows him to do seemed arbitrary.
So I had a really hard time seeing these two together. I wish I could say that it was because so much time and effort was spent on the mystery. And it was, to an extent. But in the end, I still found that I was confused about what was going on. I wondered if maybe there was a conscious decision made to limit the knowledge of the "killer" to make it more nightmarish. The problem with that is that even though we might not know exactly in the end what the thing is, I still felt like I needed to know the motivations, and I didn't. There's an allusion to a vague notion of why this might have happened, but nothing more than that, and I felt cheated out of an ending. There is a resolution of the smaller family secret subplot, but it was again unsatisfying to me because we're told in the beginning of the book how much Eric loves subs like Jay, who are strong and maybe a little stubborn, but not pushovers, and I wanted Jay to really take a stand, and not under any influence but his own.
So, I'm sad to say that I just couldn't get into this book and I can't recommend it. I can't say if the book is similar in any way to the author's previous work, so fans of the author might or might not enjoy this. I'm still looking forward to reading the D/s post-apoc series by this author to see what I think, but I'll probably be more careful in the future in regards to checking reviews first before reading her books.(less)
I read this sequel to Dirty Kiss (reviewed here) directly after that book, simply because I really love...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I read this sequel to Dirty Kiss (reviewed here) directly after that book, simply because I really love these characters and I feel very invested in their happiness. As a sequel, this book did everything it needed to rise above Dirty Kiss, both in the mystery and in the continuation of the romance.
Cole and Jae ended the first book on shaky ground but with a solid commitment to give their relationship a try -- at least for the time being. The atmosphere of the Korean-American culture in southern California is such that Jae feels as if he'll eventually have to give up Cole and create a family, if he wants to keep his own family. In Dirty Secret, the couple is surrounded by evidence of that decision made by other men, both in their father's generation and their own, and the consequences of it are frightening.
Cole is brought a case by Scarlet, his cross dressing Filipino friend, to help a young man find his father. Park Dae-Hoon was Scarlet's best friend and disappeared from a club in the pre-LA Riot's days. He's been missing a long time now, and his now grown sons are looking to make their own lives. One son is like his father, a gay Korean man entangled with the politics of their demanding society, the other is getting married to the daughter of their father's lover. It is a hopeless mire of family secrets and lies that Cole must wade through, and nothing seems to be what he expects. At the same time his family has shown up and he must put aside his pride and hurt towards his parents if he wants a chance to meet his younger sisters, all while Jae is having problems with his own mother. Their obligations are slowly but surely encroaching upon their relationship, in a race against time until Cole can convince Jae that the shit-storm is worth sticking to his side.
The first book was really an incredibly written novel, and I was at first worried that this sequel might not be able to match it. I should have had some faith. The two things this book really needed were an even better mystery and a real progression in their relationship, both of which happened. The mystery is different from most that I'm used to reading. I found it less along the lines of serial killers and more in line with actual private detective work, and I love seeing Cole in his work. He's such a wonderfully multi-faceted character and where the first book got the history out of the way so that we got to know Cole and Jae well, this book allows them to really shine. Cole really gets a workover in this book when his family crops up and he has to face his father and step-mother. It was a really, really difficult scene to read. I'm usually so scared to read angst, I just don't like it, and it was beautiful how this author could explore such heavy emotion and hurtful things without getting lost in it. Instead, we really understand Cole better because of the way that pain is excised and also Jae for the way he handles it. This book shows them really working as a team, for the first time, and that gave me hope for their relationship. Where the first book explored their passion for one another, this one showed their commitment and deeper connections, something they'll need with the teaser we're left with in the end about the next book (and it is a DOOZY).
The only complaint I might have is how much like superheroes these characters seem, especially Cole. There is only so many times you can be shot at, or even shot without dying! It became absurd at one point near the end, and maybe that is because I read both books back to back and there are so many (cumulative) bullets flying by that point, all the characters should have been dead. It's like the OK Corral in Cole's front yard, seriously! If I had my way, I wouldn't necessarily want the near death experiences to end, or even lessen, but I would enjoy a little more diversity than just flying bullets. A few more creative scenarios would be fun to read about ;)
I love these books. Rhys Ford has become one of my new favorite authors and I won't be able to rest until I read any book she releases. She's incredibly talented and I'm really excited to see where both this series goes in the future and where her writing goes in the future. It would be interesting to read a different genre of romance from this author. Everyone should read this series, though you may want to do a quick search about how to read Korean names first! It would help you to have any trick in hand to keep them all separate and not slow down your reading.(less)
Italian Ice has been out for a while now, but I had always intended to review it, sadly it just took me...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Italian Ice has been out for a while now, but I had always intended to review it, sadly it just took me a lot longer than I had hoped to get to it with all of my other reviews last year. I reviewed the first book in this series back when I was reviewing at Jessewave, and I really liked that first book. At that time, it was called Thief of Hearts: Tempted in Thailand before it was pulled from Ravenous Romance, re-edited and released from Dreamspinner as Rarer Than Rubies. Still, I remembered it fondly, especially whenever I got in the mood for a classic action/adventure romance. This sequel carries on in that vein in some very similar ways, with only a different setting and a different mystery and adventure, this time in Italy.
Italian Ice begins six months after the end of Rarer Than Rubies. Reed has quit his job with the FBI and moved home with Trent into domestic bliss. Except, things aren't entirely blissful. Though Trent seems to think things are going well, he doesn't know how much Reed has kept from him -- not only his feelings, but also his involvement with various government agencies. On a trip to Italy, where Trent hopes they'll spend weeks looking at art and making love, Reed is called in to search for an agent who has gone missing while dealing with a case of mysterious counterfeit artifacts passing through Rome's auction houses. Reed hastens to do his duty to find his missing comrade, but is he too quick to step back into the life of an undercover agent? Trent isn't sure, and when he finds out that the missing agent is Peter, Reed's former partner and lover, his insecurities are multiplied as he's left alone to tour the country on a lonely vacation he had meant to spend with the man he loves.
But Reed should know that Trent isn't one to follow orders. He's headstrong and has a dramatic flair for adventure, and just like in their first adventure in Thailand Trent soon becomes embroiled in the case to an extent that Reed can't pull him out without causing attention. No matter how much Reed tries to limit Trent's involvement in the case, as soon as he turns his back he finds Trent surging forward into the breach. But Trent has good reason to become involved -- not only does the adventure excite him, but he needs to find out what Reed's feelings are for Peter once and for all.
Much of the focus of this story is on the mystery, which definitely kept my attention. A few times I wanted to slap Trent for racing into a situation without thinking it through, or any backup or plan, but then that's sort of the basis of the story and definitely something about Trent that is fundamental to his character and the story, so I can let that slide :) The romance here is really in line with the position of this book (as the second) in the series, even though I'm not sure how long this series will end up being. In the first book, of course, the two get together and fall in love over their adventure. But, the second book is where the relationship is really tested, so quite a bit of this story had Trent and Reed at odds and often separated and working on the mystery with their own devices. Much of that comes from the very beginning of the story when their relationship blows up in an epic fight when Trent learns that Reed is basically choosing his job (and Peter) over him. A lot of that hurt that Trent feels drives him throughout this book. Conversely, Reed is on his own solo mission in this book, trying to figure out what he really wants from life, professionally and romantically, putting much of his old demons to rest. To do that, he'll have to learn to communicate, which is like learning a whole new language for him. He's made his life into a web of secrets and lies for so long that it takes him some serious soul searching to figure out what he really wants. All of this could have been rather angsty, but it really wasn't because any tension that comes from their relationship is offset by the mystery and their need to work together for common purpose.
In all, I found this to be a good read and a very successful sequel. It certainly made me interested to see what will come next for Trent and Reed and I've grown fond of them by now. Hopefully, with this uncertain part of their relationship now behind them (this ends with a solid HEA), we can expect somewhat happier stories in the future. And I hope there are several :)(less)
If nothing else, this spinoff story of the In This Land serial is a wonderful excuse to get to spend some more time with Orinakin and Bade, the origin...moreIf nothing else, this spinoff story of the In This Land serial is a wonderful excuse to get to spend some more time with Orinakin and Bade, the original couple and one that -- now that we've moved on in the serial to other brothers and their love stories -- have made less and less appearances as they travel around the world, separate from the main story.
As a story itself, it's similar in many ways to the main serial. Of course, the few main characters are ones we already know quite well (Orinakin, Bade and Rini, oh Rini!). There's also the trademark excess detail which outlines something that is probably most important to anyone interested in reading this: while it's possible to read this as a standalone, the world here would mostly fall flat if you haven't read at least the Purple Book of the In This Land serial (Chapters 1-77). If you were to read this story without knowing these three main characters, anything about the Seven Siblings, the children of the gods, Anosukinom, Orina Anoris, or the tangible impact that the gods have on real life, then you're only getting half of the story. And yes, there's a lot of extraneous detail. One of the biggest problems I had with In This Land (which, keep in mind, I totally love and am addicted to) is some of the outrageous detail, especially in names and stuff. But the more I kept reading the serial, and the more I became invested in it, the less it mattered to me. I think if I had read this book without reading any of the serial first, I wouldn't have appreciated it nearly as much. Some of those things might have really bothered me. Keeping the characters and their respective countries straight in this book is a bit of a nightmare, but I just rolled with the punches and eventually, around about the end of the book, LOL, they finally sorted themselves out in my mind.
The mystery was sufficiently difficult for me to be interested but not too overly complicated in the end. Some of that detail in keeping the different parties separate from one another played a part in that. And throughout it all we get to see Rini behaving in his naturally slutty ways. That breaks the tone nicely and keeps a similar light and erotic mood similar to the serial.
If only we could get some more spin off stories like this! The serial just doesn't move fast enough for me. It's so in depth into their lives, that even though I feel fortunate that we get a fairly long weekly update when we could get bi-monthly updates or even monthly updates or less often like other serials, the story still moves at a glacial pace! I suppose I'll just have to start it all over again *sigh*. What a hardship!(less)
This dark and finely crafted mini mystery had me falling for everything I was set up to, and then marvel...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This dark and finely crafted mini mystery had me falling for everything I was set up to, and then marveling at the turn the story took and the way it artfully came together.
The story opens as Tyler studies the different variety of guns available at a shop in Anchorage, Alaska. He's looking for a gift for his brother, soon to come home from Iraq. He himself is new to the area; six months previously he was shot in the line of work as a NYC police officer. Now he's a weak and atrophied version of himself, grieving his past life and working behind the desk for the local force. Tyler is intrigued by a new looking Browning pistol that is shelved among the cheaper guns and rifles. It stands out as a nice gun and a pistol and when he expresses interest in buying it, the man behind the counter tries to talk him out of it by telling him that every owner of the gun has committed suicide. Tyler doesn't believe it and buys the gun anyway, but when he starts to lose his mind and become strangely attached to it, he finally realizes there might be something true to the unbelievable story.
There are two parts of this story that really stand out because they work so well. The first is that this story is in effect a mystery. This is one of the very few short stories that I think has pulled a mystery off in such short time. It is true that there's little time to parse out the details, but it isn't an overly complicated plot, and the author is very crafty in putting narration to good use.
The second and most obvious from the beginning of the story is the craft in characterization of Tyler. To him, the gun is a symbol of the life he left behind. He's emasculated by his frail body, at times using a cane. He's lost the power that comes with being a police officer. The gun gives him power. It is quickly also shown in relation to his personal life. He's afraid of his body because he's so embarrassed by his scars and atrophied muscles. He would rather his life remain figuratively impotent then succumb to the safe relationship, something he despises and is represented by the character of Eric.
Tyler didn't do nice guys. The kind of guys he did were far from nice -- nice to look at, yes, but not nice in the sense they would send you cupcakes and listen to your problems. The guys Tyler usually liked were sleek and sexy, emotionally dangerous, sharp as knife blades. They were often young, sculpted, and had exquisite tastes.
He met them in clubs and pulled them over for speeding in fast, expensive cars. They liked to dance and drink and fucked like animals. They tore up his designer sheets or messed up hotel rooms, and some of them liked to feel his handcuffs. More than a few were turned on by his uniform and peeled it off him as part of the sex act. Authority was the oldest aphrodisiac; he knew this and liked what it attracted.
The loss of that power and control is devastating to Tyler, who by implication defined his life and his job together. This is immediately shown to be true when the mysterious Flynn starts to show up in his dreams, a place where he can once again be the confident lover he used to be.
Flynn is the amalgamation of that type of man, dangerously seductive. In essence, he is the gun, the symbol of everything Tyler had and wants to have again. "Every gun had a story, dangerous and thrilling like those young men who came through his bedroom door." Flynn's actions show this well:
This time, he crawled up from the bottom o the bed and slinked over Tyler's bare legs, gloriously naked again…
His lips quirked. "You're a police officer, aren't you?" "I was." No, in the dream he could be whatever he wanted to be. "I am." "At last," Flynn replied. "Good."
Slinking out from under the bed is something we all associate with a nightmare, which immediately raises red flags. These deliberate choices really stand out because I was aware that my emotions and the collective cultural memory was being played on. I appreciated that because it was so deliberately done. Yet, I was again surprised later when everything I had thought had a new, yet equally understandable connotation. The ability for the author to do that impressed me, and left me with a real appreciation for her writing.
The ending of this story is fabulous. Again, not what I would have expected, but appreciated once I had time to consider it. This is a story that won't be for every reader. Anyone sensitive to guns or the violence associated with them might not be able to look at the story objectively, which I understand. Also, this is very unconventionally romantic. I don't think you could really consider it a romance, but I still found it romantic, though some might not. It probably will not satisfy those looking for romance as a priority in their stories and the focus here really is the individual journey of Tyler. I think it was beautifully written just like the gun, dangerously seductive.(less)
Yay for another novel by JL Merrow!!! She's one of my favorite authors, and as I told a friend recently...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
Yay for another novel by JL Merrow!!! She's one of my favorite authors, and as I told a friend recently, I'm almost nervous when I start reading each successively published novel because I've loved them all so much there's bound to be one that disappoints me. Thankfully, that wasn't the case here and I ended really really thoroughly enjoying this latest offering by a really wonderful author.
Tom Paretski is a plumber with a secret -- he's got a knack for finding things. It's a bit like dowsing, he can hone in on hidden things, things that have deep emotion attached to them like guilt or shame. Sadly, lost and hidden things include people, and we meet him as his friend on the force Dave, calls him in to look for a local missing woman. Tom's in for more shock than seeing another dead body, however, when a ghost from his past shows up at the scene as a private investigator hired by the family of the murdered victim.
The last time Tom saw Phil Morrison was when he and his cronies stepped up their high school bullying a bit too far. Tom still lives with the scars of that physical and emotional trauma and seeing the man ten years later dredges all those feelings back up. It doesn't help that he's just as attracted to the man as he was back then and it certainly pisses him off that the man is apparently as big of a homo as he is, and completely out of the closet. Phil has an attitude as well, one that might rival Tom's perpetual snark and their verbal blows start almost immediately. Phil doesn't believe in his gift, but he needs Tom's help anyway. They both have vested interest in making sure the current suspect gets treated fairly and together, they might be able to get the answers they need to find the real killer.
Merrow has a knack for slyly mixing genres that really works for me. This story is for all intents and purposes a contemporary mystery romance, with the exception of Tom's gift. That is perhaps the reason Tom's gift isn't given center stage. Though we first get to know him through his gift, it's often presented as rather unglamorous and second rate to pounding pavement detective work. We get to know Tom as if the gift is just a quirky peccadillo that comes in handy during his plumbing work. Though it does get used, and is central to the plot, the different focus and misdirection worked well to show Tom as an ordinary guy who is rather in over his head in this whole mess.
I really liked Tom. He's a strong character that has a real moral compass amid the corrupt characters that stock the story. In a way, he's retained his innocence beneath his jaded veneer, which contrasts nicely with Phil, who harbors rather a lot of guilt and shame over his past. I appreciated that they both came across as assholes every once and a while, trying to work through their shared history (or at times ignore it).
The mystery worked well for me, though hardcore mystery fans might find the story lighter than they're used to. Much of the story is focused on detective work, but a lot of the focus is on the relationship between Tom and Phil in the midst of it. I was a little disappointed that we didn't hear what happens to a character that showed up early in the story that I felt rather sorry for, and of course, I could have really done with more of the smexxin from these two because they are sizzling together!
So, once again, I loved this offering from one of my favorite authors and as always look forward to whatever she publishes. This one is definitely recommended.(less)
This series was the series that introduced me to Neil Plakcy. I read them two years ago with the release...moreReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This series was the series that introduced me to Neil Plakcy. I read them two years ago with the release of the third book, Dance with Me Tonight. I was really excited about having another book in this series to read, but I somehow missed it and only remembered it recently.
Liam and Aidan have been together for a while now. After they met in the first book, when Liam mistook Aidan for a client and they set off on an adventure through the Libyan desert, they fell in love and Aidan became Liam's partner. Since, they've guarded many people where they live in Tunis. Olives for the Stranger picks up where those left off, the two living and loving in Tunis and looking for more jobs. The political climate is changing with the protests sweeping across the Middle East, and they've come to Tunis. Aidan is nervous that they might have to leave, but Liam never believes that the Tunisian government could fall and them put in a dangerous place.
Things change when the two are asked to investigate a mystery. It isn't what they do, but providing protection to an olive grove outside the city is what the couple who hires them really wants. They're a gay couple who are revolutionizing the olive oil exporting from Tunisia, and someone seems to be sabotaging their grove of trees and their whole operation. Liam and Aidan set off to investigate and find that the men have a family connection to a group that is currently protesting the government in Tunis. When a woman in a prominent leadership position in the Muslim organization is killed in Tunis, it all becomes wrapped up into what they're doing in the grove. They're taking care of the woman's daughter, and dealing with their clients at the same time. All the time, the pressure rises as the political climate drastically changes, plunging their safe new life into danger.
I'm not sure if this is the last book in the series or not. By the ending, it could be. There's more finality in the end of this book than in the previous ones. Of course, I wouldn't object to another book with Liam and Aidan, this one just wasn't nearly as exciting as the previous ones. In fact, they've sortof felt watered down as each subsequent one came out. That doesn't mean that I didn't like them, or that they weren't good, but it's just a classic sequel syndrome. It's possible that if Neil Plakcy decided to inject some life into this series he could with another book. It would be a big change, taking into consideration the ending of this book, but I'd like that. If they carried on as they were, it's just a little tired.
I think the main reason I felt this way is because there wasn't much forward growth in their relationship in this book. In previous books I felt as if they were making their way to normal, working on their relationship and making it something long-term and stable. But by this point, they've mostly done that. Of course, there are a lot of little bits and pieces they need to work on, every day problems, like hurt feelings, different ideas for the course of their future together, and injecting some new romance into what sometimes has become a too stable relationship.
I needed a bit more romance in this one because I just couldn't get as excited about the mystery in this book. It's engaging. I can't quite pin anything I found wrong with it. But I just wasn't as excited about it. So I think that fans of these characters will want to read this book, if you haven't already, simply because you want to know what happens with them. But, it's probably time, as sad as I am about it, to put this series to rest. Because of my feelings about this book, I went back and re-read (again!) the first book, Three Wrong Turns in the Desert. I still love that one ;)(less)
A wonderfully written 1930's historical that made me laugh and smile. There isn't much mystery as to the real identity of the Gentleman Thief...more4.5 stars
A wonderfully written 1930's historical that made me laugh and smile. There isn't much mystery as to the real identity of the Gentleman Thief, but as I understood it the intent is for the reader to know and witness the characters trying to unravel the mystery, which worked rather well. A great couple of characters, I'm excited to see more of them in the future!(less)
This is such a great book to kick off Kate McMurray Week! To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what to expect of this story. I mostly read it on faith because I like the author. All I really knew was that it was about NYC and ghosts. So, I was pleasantly surprised when I did read it to find that it was something that I could really sink into. Part of my enjoyment of the story really comes from a love of history. Not that I'm particularly knowledgable, especially about NYC history, but there's so much detail in this story that must have taken quite a bit of research and I found it all refreshing and compelling.
Finn and Troy have a turbulent history. Both pursuing advanced history degrees at NYU at the same time, they quickly found themselves to be rivals, with a love/hate relationship -- mostly hate. But, every few years they succumb to temptation and fall into bed with one another, promptly returning to hate each other the next day. Finn isn't where he expected to be when he envisioned his life all those years ago at NYU. He blames Troy for his failure to get his PhD that fuels his continued hatred. Troy was always the golden boy, one step ahead of him and outshining all of his successes. Now, years of regrets have become an ugly and miserable piece of Finn that he carries around with himself. And Troy is easy to hate… except when they're in bed together.
Now working as a research assistant for a famous biographer (who is a bit of a bosshole), Finn is sent to research a small museum in Brooklyn, only to find that the curator is none other than Troy. He looks good and is, as usual, a consummate flirt. And again like all the other times their NYC circles merge, Finn is at the same time frustrated and spiteful and yet reluctant to admit how well they work together and understand one another. They have incredibly similar interests in the history of the city and between them, share a wealth of knowledge. Finn isn't really passionate about the research for his boss, but Troy convinces Finn to help him research a mystery of his own. He's currently going through the journals of the man who once lived in the building and the mysterious circumstances around his death. Troy, though thorough as any historian, is more apt to believe in the strange occurrences in the building -- the cold spots, the dreams and as he delves deeper into the man's story, the physical manifestations he sees with his own eyes. As the two start to uncover the secrets of the dead and piece together a picture of life in Brooklyn in the 1870's, they start to fall in love. The problem, for Finn, is his reluctance to believe in what could ultimately be the manipulation of a couple of ghosts whose main interests aren't finally getting the two of them together, but to solve their murder.
I mentioned at the start of the review that the reason I really liked this book was the research and the history presented of Brooklyn, New York in a different era. I think, though, that this might be a sticking point for some readers. Make no mistake, this book takes history and makes it real and solid, but it's told from the view of two men who sift through obscure details every day and take them as deep as they go. So, much of this novel is really the journey into history, piece by piece as the two put it together. And there is a wealth of detail that Kate McMurray offers. I could see where some readers, who might not find those details as interesting as I, might find this book a tedious read.
What I really enjoyed was the journey to finding those answers, because the story and the picture of Brooklyn at that time takes shape slowly, and some of the best scenes in the novel were Finn and Troy connecting on the level of historians. It's their common language, when they have a hard time getting close in other areas (except sex, that one is easy for them!). Those scenes are the best because both will go from sniping at one another and confusion about their feelings to connecting through the project and offering details back and forth, sussing out answers between them. Their relationship really takes the enemies to lovers trope to a realistic level. Most of the raw and angry feelings come from Finn. But he's the character that we really get to know first and the one who we see this world through. When he actually lets down his guard enough to try to let some of that stagnate anger go, I think he finds that Troy really isn't the man that he thought he was and that he doesn't think of Finn in the way Finn thought he did. The dynamic between the two of them was done really well, and another reason that this story really worked for me, because the story starts with a shared history and routine between the two men and in their interactions. The research project is the catalyst to change that behavior. And discovering what life is like for a gay man in 1870's America not only gives Finn perspective but gives him more ways to connect and understand Troy.
Though I'm partial to this author's Out in the Field (which I'm going to be re-reading and reviewing later this week), this just might be my second favorite of hers. It's definitely a book I recommend to you, if you think you'll like it, of course ;)(less)
The Dance with the Devil series has several books that are only loosely related to one another by worldbuild...moreReview posted at Brief Encounters Reviews.
The Dance with the Devil series has several books that are only loosely related to one another by worldbuilding, so Ruffskin follows immediately after Dance in the Dark and deals with the same characters. It is important to read that novel first, because this short story does not stand on it's own. All of the character building and relationships are forged in the novel, and I would have been lost if I had not read it first. I was still a bit lost, actually, when I started this. I love this series, but Dance in the Dark was one of my very favorites, and even then I had a hard time remembering which storyline and characters went with which when you compile all of the different plots and characters over the series. But once I was reacquainted, I was so happy to revisit Johnnie and Grim.
Though the blurb makes it seem as if Peyton is the MC in this story, that really isn't the case. As readers of the series will know, in Dance in the Dark each chapter is set up as a new case for Johnnie, orphaned and raised in an extremely powerful vampire family. In the novel, he was wooed by a secret lover in the dark (Grim) while striking away from his family to do what he really loved and what gave him purpose, solving mysteries in the paranormal world.
Ruffskin could easily have fit into the novel as one of those chapters, which are often separate and slowly tying into the overall plot. In the story, we once again see Johnnie and Grim bickering in the bar Johnnie owns, when a delivery man comes with a package for Peyton, the bartender. In the package is a Rolex with the inscription "To Peyt, Love Ruff," sending Petyon into a worried frenzy over an old love and revealing the secrets behind his flee from Pack Blue and his current reason for being a lone wolf given sanctuary on vampire territory. Once again, Johnnie sets off to solve the case, with his "babysitter" Grim tagging along.
This is definitely a story for fans of this series, as you really can't just read this story and understand the characters without the backstory. But it works really well as it is. Johnnie is such a wonderful character. When he could come across as extremely prickly and haughty, having been raised a prince of an empire of vampires who definitely loves his status and all it brings him, he's also at heart empathetic and passionate about those he cares for. Grimm is a character that no one could hate. He's laid back even though one of the most powerful and rare creatures in the world. He's lovable and loyal uses every opportunity to ruffle Johnnie's feathers. They're a great couple and revisiting them here was a treat.
For such a short story, I felt the mystery worked well here. It's not a terribly difficult case for Johnnie to solve, and rightly so at only 9k words. So I wasn't expecting a huge new adventure, and the mystery worked well for me by serving as the reason for all of the old gang in the novel to come back together.
This is definitely a treat for fans of the series, and if you haven't read the series yet, I'd encourage you to. These books are some of my favorites by Megan Derr, though they're all rather different. Reading order will vary by who you talk to, but as long as you read Dance with the Devil and Dance in the Dark in that order, the rest doesn't matter as much. B+(less)