This is the second part of my year-end wrap-up of all the bookish soundtrack and Music Mondays I posted in 2020. You can find January to June here.
Kitsune no Natsu – Nacolat
Norihiro returns to his hometown during summer vacation with a lingering feeling that something is calling to him. On the way back home, Norihiro encounters a mysterious fox man in a wedding dress waiting for him. Who is this fox and why does he want to “consummate” their marriage!?
The Summer of the Fox is a cute paranormal tale between a young man, Norihiro and his childhood friend, the fox spirit, Tsunetsuki.
Tsune patiently waited years for Norihiro to come back to him and fulfill his promise. This one-shot is filled with melancholy, longing and yearning but also nostalgic joy as the Norihiro remembers playing with the fox during summers past.
It is an explicit manga. We get the graphic details of them consummating their marriage.
I like the artwork. Tsune is pretty. Even with only one chapter, the manga was able to tell a complete story. But it also left me wishing this is a full length volume.
I practically inhaled these last two Handled books in one sitting because they’re that good!
The entire series blew me away with Gray and Nathan’s deliciously deviant tale of death and desire that is surprisingly sweet as it is dark. Romilly King created two very memorable characters that are up there in my most favorite couples ever list.
Handled is a world where capital punishment is meted out to serial killers by highly trained killers called Handlers. These executions are supervised by Witnesses. Each Handler is assigned a Witness.
Gray, best handler in town, was assigned Nathan, rookie witness, who somehow forged a more than professional connection to the notoriously very difficult handler.
Handled: Cleansed – Romilly King
Sometimes you have to go back in order to go forward – Gray is going back to handle the man who saw him as an angel, and unleashed the demon in him.
I am a Handler; I deal with serial killers, legally, ruthlessly, and in the presence of my Witness, because justice must be seen to be done.
Handling is an intimate procedure. I only perform for an audience of one; for my Witness, with his hot eyes and his innocent heart, and the pure white soul that I dirtied up so beautifully.
Now someone else is watching, the man who refined the monster in me. I can’t allow that to continue, particularly as he threatens the Witness who has caused the frozen lump in my chest that I laughingly refer to as a heart, to sporadically beat.
This isn’t about retribution; this is cleaning up the past so I have a chance at a future.
Cleansed is the second book in the Handled trilogy, it is a dark gay romance dealing with adult themes and contains graphic scenes that may upset some readers. Please heed the trigger warnings inside.
Cleansed picks up some months after the first book. We see Gray and Nathan’s relationship continue to evolve and grow stronger. For one brief moment, our favorite psycho lets himself be a vulnerable relaxed tiger around Nathan and learns what being cared for without any ulterior motives feels like.
I am so happy we finally get Gray’s backstory. A crazed evangelist played a pivotal role, christening the kidnapped child Gray an angel sent to him. The man killed and tortured people in front of the child, waiting to see if the angel will appear and save the sinners.
Years after his release, Gray learned this evangelist has kept tabs on him and was angry about his relationship with Nathan. Gray being Gray, he provoked his stalker and inadvertently put Nathan in danger. Then he went after the killer with typical Gray panache.
I really like that the story went straight to the point with the identity of the killer. Gray has the resources and is smart enough to figure things out quickly. I also appreciated that he remained essentially himself even after the memories came rushing back. He might have a vulnerable moment or two but his claws are still sharp as ever.
But also, soft thoughts!!!!!
Oh, the soft thoughts are everything! ♥(ˆ⌣ˆԅ)
This is an aptly named book. Gray proved how deadly angelic he can be, burned the bridges to his past and went on to live halcyon days of sun, the occasional Nathan and OMG! cartwheels!
5 Stars – absolutely perfect
Handled: Polished – Romilly King
How deadly do you have to be to kill a killer?
Handlers are hard to kill, and to be fair most of us like the challenge when people try, but now someone is killing off handlers in bloody and complex ways.
Not my problem.
I got out, I got free, and I don’t want to go back.
But someone is offering a favour if I handle this, a valuable one, and it could make all the difference to how this story ends.
Handlers don’t expect a happy ever after; most of us don’t even know what one looks like. I do, my happy ever after is blue eyed and frequently filthy and deliciously mouthy and he bends the way I want him to bend. And I could have that. All I have to do is take on one more handling, and ensure we both survive it.
The odds are not with me this time though.
I really should have kept on killing, I’m out of practice.
Polished is the third book in the Handled trilogy, it is a dark gay romance dealing with adult themes and contains graphic scenes that may upset some readers. Please heed the trigger warnings inside.
The cartwheeling had to come to an end eventually…
Polished is where things come full circle as a retired Gray was forced to handle another case and Nathan is again assigned as his witness. Handlers and Witnesses are murdered one by one. Gray needed to get his monster mojo back in order to solve the case faster. To do so, he pushes poor Nathan away because his little witness makes him more human. They kept hitting dead ends. The situation became even more desperate when Nathan disappeared.
Nathan’s baby handler brother, Indigo and Indi’s special friend Trans, demanded they help. Now these two are adorable psychos! Can we have their book please?
Nathan has learned his way around Gray, keeping faith and patiently waiting, waiting, waiting…Meanwhile, Gray, struggles to put a name to this thing between him and Nathan. It took two teen psychos to help him ease into it. And solve the case while they’re at it.
Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed with how Gray’s redemption came about. Is it wrong for me to wish he was really the psychopath everyone thought he was? Can we just let psychos be psychos and still be capable of love? If Indi can, Gray can too, I believe.
In this trilogy, I was all about Gray. Nathan is a great character through and through. I loved him from the start but the dark and dangerous tend to hog the spotlight more. However, Nathan’s dogged determination, his innate goodness, even his naivety and most especially his selfless love for these unlovable monsters sneaked up on me much like he sneaked his way into Gray’s heart. Slowly but surely. His complete trust in Gray was such a beautiful gift. After all that he has done, I looked at him with wonder too!
This finale revealed a more intimate picture of the relationships between Handlers and Witnesses. It is a complicated relationship, a symbiosis of two people working together in super intense, highly volatile situations. Professional can quickly turn to personal, a natural progression of sorts, and I would love to see more of these dynamics explored. I really hope we get a spinoff series.
4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away
Handled should be experienced as a binge read. You won’t have it any other way.
Witness the beginnings of Gray and Nathan’s explosive partnership in Handled book 1. Review here.
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I chose Animal Impulses because there are frequent references to animals and primal urges in Cleansed and the other books. Nathan compares Gray to a predator many times. The lyrics seemed tailor-made for psychos, going on about “Shine razor eyes in delight / Shine razor eyes before you die” and “I’m tired of this human duet / No civilizing hides / Our animal impulses”
For the series finale, Polished, that puts the spotlight on the complicated and weirdly intimate relationship between Handler and Witness, the only song for it is, none other than My Witness. With verses that go “Make the fall, take the fire / Fuck the law nicely / Tint it all with desire / Shape the form I see” and “I will wake from the rain from the light of you / Take a knife to my chest, I’m alive by you“, they described how these relationships changed the two people involved in it.