• book,  Uncategorized

    REVIEW: Impromptu Match by Lily Mayne

    Goliaths of Wrestling: Impromptu Match – Lily Mayne

    I, Taylor Hough, am a painfully average guy.

    I have the soul-destroying corporate job, I iron my underpants, and I was unceremoniously dumped for an influencer hippie a few years ago. Every day feels the same, and I don’t know how much longer I can cope before I do something unhinged like rip off my shirt in the middle of my co-worker’s office birthday party and smear lemon cake all over my chest.

    But then a case of mistaken identity suddenly lands me in the middle of a covert professional wrestling league, which is apparently being run in the basement of my office building. Weird. Even weirder are the wrestlers. They seem… otherworldly. So does the rest of the staff. And the audience. Pretty much everyone except boring old me.

    And then there’s the owner, Holt Hector, with whom I have an extremely embarrassing first encounter. He’s ridiculously attractive, even in the inhuman cosplay get-up he’s wearing that only makes him hotter, if I’m being totally honest.

    Then I discover it’s not a costume. And that the show put on by Goliaths of Wrestling every night is more monstrous reality than mindblowing special effects.

    My previously boring life is suddenly no longer quite so average, and hot-as-hell Holt is inexplicably as interested in me, and my ironed underpants, as I am in him and his strange new world.


    As someone who grew up on WWE, Goliaths of Wrestling, a paranormal series about a secret league of monster wrestlers, is a spectacle I cannot miss!

    Hard to believe that this is from renowned paranormal romance writer Lily Mayne, author of Monstrous, a post-apocalyptic monster-romance series that is as emotionally gut-wrenching as it is heartwarming. She does a 180-degree turn, starting with the series opener, Impromptu Match.

    I didn’t read the blurb, just knowing this is about professional wrestling was enough to hook me. So I didn’t know what to expect when the story started with 39-year-old office worker Taylor Hough’s 1st-person POV, telling us how boring his life is, always falling into the same humdrum routine the moment he wakes up, goes to work, and even his evenings.

    Taylor swears he used to be fun. He became this average, boring office drone who hated his job because his ex wanted him to fit a mold. Only to declare Taylor boring and promptly left him for a long-haired surfer.

    The mood was the sad-funny of black comedies.

    A rush escape from an office birthday party, an oddly specific request from a mysterious individual, and a case of mistaken identity plunge Taylor headfirst into the secret world of monsters, the underground Goliaths of Wrestling league, and its gorgeous, long-haired, grey-skinned owner, Holt Hector.

    Then everything was stupid and funny and so dumb it’s brilliant!

    Taylor and Holt hit it off by drunkenly oversharing their deepest, most shameful secrets. Taylor confesses everything from ironing his underpants while watching sad British soaps to farting in his boss’s office. Holt remembers accidentally ripping his skin-tight pants and exposing his butthole to a group of Japanese businessmen. He also confesses to throwing his back out trying to suck his own dick.

    It was the start of a great found family, a blossoming romance, and a supportive if chaotic dumb and dumber relationship that could actually be goals…

    Meanwhile, we are also introduced to the other employees. Larkin is Holt’s PA and a doofus fae unwittingly instrumental in Taylor and Holt’s meeting. Seb is a werewolf working as Holt’s bodyguard and may or may not be into Larkin.

    The wrestlers were a riot! It’s a diverse crew with everything from a dullahan, the cowboy Dullahan Dan, to an incubus wearing a nun’s habit, Gabe, to a female satyr, G.O.A.T., an honest-to-goodness Valkyrie, Val, and a pair called Frank and Beans, who look like halves of a bean with super long dicks they can connect to form some kind of limbo stick finishing move. There are also vampires, ghouls, werewolves, and mothmen.

    The plot alternates between Taylor interacting with the paranormals, Larkin’s dumbass antics, and going through Taylor’s mundane routines to increasingly creative shenanigans with Holt.

    The gags were hilarious and since the wrestlers have supernatural abilities, the wrestling matches were extra OTT! I loved that the author captured the cheesetastic camp of wrestling gimmicks and up the ante by making the athletes actual monsters!

    So I was kinda annoyed that there are too many sex scenes popping up like unskippable ads in a YouTube video. Then belatedly realized that the book is actually erotica. Though, what I liked about the sex scenes, and their relationship as a whole, is that it shows Holt being as equally dorky as Taylor.

    When Holt was introduced as the enigmatic paranormal who feeds on other people’s feelings, you’d think he’d be all dominant, broody, alphahole type. I mean, look at him at the cover.

    Nope, this is a man who complains that his balls are not symmetrical and wears smokey eyeshadow, leather pants, and pink cat-eye glasses, anything bright pink really. And this dork, adores everything about Taylor, from his sad office worker ennui to his British soaps.

    Impromptu Match is a ridiculous, silly, kinda cute, and surprisingly uplifting tale of a man tired of life discovering that the world is full of wonders if you know where to look.

    And as my English teacher used to say, the moral of the story is about loving a person, farts and all. It’s all about finding that freak that matches one’s freak. And if that freak happens to be an actual monster, well that would be quite a match!

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Nothing Worth Loving Isn’t Askew
    Artist: Lemon Demon
    Album: Dinosaurchestra


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    SERIES REVIEW: To Kill A King by Sam Burns & W.M. Fawkes

    To Kill A King: Dragon’s Dawn – Sam Burns & W.M. Fawkes

    For nineteen years, I have carved myself into a dutiful son, a courtier of unimpeachable wit, and a genuine delight at a tea party. Now that my success in society has planted me in the path of Mikhail Vasiliev, it’s clear I’d have been better off keeping my head down.

    Prince Mikhail is the second son of a traitor. Third in line to the throne, he has a reputation for violence, debauchery, and being a thorn in the side of his cousin, King Dmitri. That is, until the king decides to get him out of the way—by marrying him off.

    To me.

    Suddenly prince of a brutal, frozen land, I have no choice but to spy on my father’s behalf. From the morning of our wedding, my beastly husband and I have been at odds, but if I cannot win him over, I’ll find myself in the jaws of his colossal red dragon.

    By the time I realize there is more between us than hostility and mistrust, it is too late. The die has been cast, the knife thrust, and our private battle is set to topple the whole kingdom.

    Beauty gets tied to a real beast in this MM high fantasy romance, featuring: the cutest companion mink to ever bite the hand of a prince, two reluctant husbands who hate each other everywhere but between the sheets, and a heap load of court intrigue to ensure things go perfectly wrong for our murderhimbo and his slinky courtier beau.


    Rating:
    2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book

    Soundtrack: Stole My Heart
    Artist: Beasts With No Name
    Album: Pretty Fool


    To Kill A King: Dragon’s Dusk – Sam Burns & W.M. Fawkes

    I have been a runt, a disappointment, and a monster. Now, I am simply a man.

    This wouldn’t be so strange, if yesterday, I weren’t a dragon.

    Locked away and isolated after a vicious attack left a princess blind, my greatest joy has been my bonded rider, Kostya.

    My Kostya is a prince with the weight of a kingdom on his shoulders. When his world begins to crumble, a witch offers me the chance to escape my cell and stand beside him.

    But on two legs, without my scales and claws, Kostya doesn’t recognize me. He fears his dragon was stolen, and when suspicion turns my way, I learn that there are prisons darker and more dangerous than a dragon pen.

    A little very big dragon finds his voice, two legs, and some delightful human appendages beyond in this MM high fantasy romance, featuring: one forlorn dragon-riding prince, a dragon who just wants to kiss the boy, two incredibly self-sacrificing doofuses, a road to pain paved with all the best intentions, and a plot to upend a kingdom.


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: With Me All Along
    Artist: Bronze Radio Return
    Album: Entertain You


    To Kill A King: Dragon’s Descent – Sam Burns & W.M. Fawkes

    In my life, I have loved a boy, a prince, a king, and a madman. Now, I must let him go.

    King Dmitri was once a prince of flowers, but when his father was murdered in a treasonous plot by his own family, all of Dima’s hope and innocence shattered. At his lowest point, he took the crown and bonded the land, and in the process, he lost himself.

    Now, the boy I once loved is brutal and cruel, and the best I can do for his kingdom is to put us both out of our misery before he destroys it all.

    Join our valiant knight as he fights to thaw the icy heart of a mad king in this MM high fantasy romance, endless pining, so much trauma, a griffin-rider with a heart of gold, a wilting flower prince, more than a little fire, and the end of a kingdom.


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Feel Alive
    Artist: Half Alive
    Album: Now, Not Yet


    To Kill A King is another fantasy series by acclaimed writer duo Sam Burns and W.M. Fawkes. Set in the harsh lands of Veronyesh(?), a kingdom ruled by the silver-haired dragon-riding Vassilievs, Russian Targaryans, if you will, minus the incest.

    In this world, people are soul-bonded to various creatures, the more powerful the creature, the greater the power, with dragons being the most powerful. The kingdom is ruled by the mad King Dmitri, bonded to a dragon, and the very land itself.

    And so on the king’s mercurial moods depended the well-being of the Veronyesh(?). Which right now is reflecting his bleak mood.

    The backstory of the Vassilievs, much like the Targaryens, is rife with intrigue and drama. The king’s cousins are Prince Mikhail, a.k.a. Misha, Prince Konstantine, a.k.a. Kostya, and their sister, Princess Zoya, a blood witch. Their father, Prince Piotr, killed the former king and, in turn, was executed by King Dmitri.

    Dima’s twin sister, Princess Dasha, was accidentally blinded by Kostya and his dragon, Kirian. The king held a deep grudge against them and would rage at the mention of Kirian.

    Dragon’s Dawn opens the series, dropping us right in the middle of an arranged marriage forced down the throats of Prince Mikhail and Yevgeny, a 19-year-old courtier from a prominent family. There is minimal world-building here, just enough to know about soul bonds, the mad king, and that the two would-be grooms were strangers to each other.

    A very intriguing set-up but to my surprise, this turned out to be my least favorite series opener. The plot runs on miscommunication, a trope I hate. If handled correctly, it would have been tolerable, but it ran for almost the entire story, the characters cycle from bad thoughts about each to fucking then back again with barely any development.

    To make matters worse, both MCs were completely uninteresting. Genya was vapid, self-absorbed, and spectacularly naive. The story insists he is clever and witty while showing no evidence of such. Misha was a boor and a brute, an alphahole without the charm.

    I would have DNF’ed this, but I wanted to see this series through because I was super curious about Dima.

    Dragon’s Dusk picks up immediately after the events of Book 1, And thank the gods, it’s a complete turnaround!

    Here we have the most adorable, most precious cinnamon roll puppy dragon I’d protect with my life!

    Kostya is the eldest Vassiliev, a morose man with the weight of the world on his shoulders and the guilt of hurting the sweet Princess Dasha, despite the princess already declaring she forgave him and his dragon Kirian.

    After that tragic incident, Kirian is not allowed out of the stables, feared by the stable hands as a crazy, feral beast. In truth, the dragon was the sweetest, gentlest creature made of pure sunshine and Kostya’s only joy in life. So much so that Zoya decides to use her blood magic and turn Kirian into a human to be with his Kostya. Because the mutual pining between these two…!!!

    A heart-wrenching use of the miscommunication trope but hell of a lot more compelling. I was hanging on to every scene!

    Kostya found Kirian in his human form but didn’t recognize him. At the same time, the prince was devastated to discover his dragon was missing. And because Kostya is one of the kindest people in the kingdom, he housed, clothed, and fed the stranger and kept him by his side. While searching high and low, calling his dragon’s name.

    Human Kirian hasn’t gain human speaking abilities yet and could only speak with his eyes and action. That scene in the snow where he was silently beseeching Kostya, holding the man’s hand to his heart, that he, Kirian, is right here! here! will forever live in my memory.

    These two dorks blame themselves for everything going wrong in the kingdom. And some more suffering before Kostya realizes his Kirian is there all along. Their story isn’t perfect but it’s unforgettable.

    Dragon’s Descent is why I started this series. I was curious about the loyal knight who helplessly watched his beloved flower prince descend into madness.

    In the first two books, Dima is portrayed as the villain. First forcing Misha’s marriage and then punishing Kostya and Kirian for the accident, then the slew of executions. Whenever Dima’s harsh actions are shown, his loyal bodyguard’s reactions are also mentioned. A pained, heartbroken expression of a man hopelessly in love but could do nothing.

    Arkadii was assigned to then Prince Dmitri when they were both teenagers. He is the son of the captain of the royal guard and his mother instilled her strong sense of duty into him. He and the prince became lovers, the prince was a carefree, joyful creature that flowers bloom wherever he goes.

    Things took a turn when the old king was murdered, along with Arkadii’s mother, who died on duty. Dima was hit hard and barely recovered. After he bonded to the land with blood magic that went awry, he became worse, and Veronyesh(?) slowly began to decline.

    This is also a difficult read, the mad king’s thoughts full of dismal paranoia, frequently hurting Arkadii who’s already at his wit’s end, but still doggedly performs his duties. Dima tends to circle the same dark topics, making the writing repetitive. It’s quite a challenge to redeem this character, and it doesn’t happen quickly.

    But Dima’s recovery did happen, a slow uphill battle but gaining ground nonetheless, giving Arkadii hope that his flower prince is still there. The thing with Arkadii and Dima is that everyone knows they are a unit and assumes they will always be a unit. No one ever brought up the topic of the king marrying a woman and producing heirs.

    Stoic, steadfast Arkadii devoting his life to his Dima almost to the point of martyrdom is hella romantic. I loved this type of seme in BL manga, and Arkadii cut a striking figure in his armor. That closing scene of him and Dima surrounded by springtime flowers is dreamy and magical. A hard-won, much-awaited HEA!

    To Kill A King should be read in order. The books are not standalone. While Dragon’s Dawn might be a struggle to finish, Dragon’s Dusk and Dragon’s Descent are both highly entertaining and better executed. There are threads of betrayal running across the series, but the real villains are deployed like afterthoughts so meh. However, we get two swoony romances, so it’s still a win.

    Overall, a moving saga of royals, dragons, lost souls, and unbreakable bonds.


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    REVIEW: The First and Last Adventure of Kit Sawyer by S.E. Harmon

    The First and Last Adventure of Kit Sawyer – S.E. Harmon

    In the archaeology community, Christopher “Kit” Sawyer’s family is a legacy. And while he may be a historian, not a treasure hunter, he thinks he does a pretty good job of living up to the Sawyer name. He’s a book-smart research fanatic and does his best work at his tidy desk. No fedora and whip for him, if you please—a nice cup of coffee and a comfy chair will do. But decoding an ancient relic soon gives him more adventure than he bargained for.

    Unwittingly, he unleashes a force he doesn’t know how to control. And now he has to reunite the relic with a powerful Aztec God. The trouble with that? Kit doesn’t know where to find the Tlaloc’s temple. No one does, in fact. Finding it could be a discovery for the ages. It could also lead to his untimely death. So…yay? But it’s not like he has a choice. So off to the Mexican jungle he goes.

    At least he isn’t going alone.

    Ethan Stone, former stepbrother and overall pain in the rump, horns in on the expedition. An experienced archaeologist, he’s only coming along at their grandfather’s request—which annoys Kit to no end. But he knows Ethan is just the right person to get them through the jungle safely. It’s just too bad someone is trying to beat them to the temple. And he’s willing to do anything to get there first.

    Ethan thinks Kit is in over his head. Kit is secretly afraid he just may be right. In manners of archaeology…and manners of the heart….


    Some of the earliest movies I recall seeing at the theaters were the Indiana Jones movies. My father had to cover my eyes at the more exciting parts because I was too young (mostly that nasty scene where they dined on the brains of live monkeys).

    I don’t know why he’s always off to parts unknown, but I wanted to be Indiana Jones when I grew up. I was a pretty adventurous kid and always imagined packing a bag and taking off. I even mastered the ’90s video games because it was the closest thing to being the man.

    Only when I was an adult did I learn he was actually an archeologist, hence the trips to exotic locales. And not a very good one at that, what with the destruction of historical sites and precious artifacts in his wake

    The First And Last Adventure of Kit Sawyer is gay Indiana Jones, so I was all in immediately!

    The book stars Christopher ‘Kit’ Sawyer III, a research-oriented archeologist who has never been in the field. The Sawyer family is legendary in the archeology world, and Kit is aware that he is standing on the shoulders of not only his much-renowned parents, who have sadly passed away but also his grandfather, Christopher ‘Remington’ Sawyer, an icon in their community.

    Kit also had to contend with conflicting feelings (a.k.a. crushing on the man badly) about his former step-brother, Ethan Stone, active, outdoorsy, and always exploring. Christopher Sawyer II took his stepson under his wing and the two were inseparable in their pursuits, leaving Kit stuck at home. Now, Ethan even has a TV series on the Discovery Channel.

    The thing is, Kit has epilepsy, which made a lot of people treat him with kid gloves, and why he was not encouraged to go with his parents when they were off to a site. Now a respected lecturer and researcher, Kit thinks people refer to him as ‘the boring Sawyer’.

    He finally took the leap when a mysterious Axtec relic kept popping up, and a decoded message urged him to find a lost city deep in the Mexican jungle.

    The story is in Kit’s POV, and I had a good laugh at how spectacularly out of his depth he is in a new city and the wild jungles. The man had his bag stolen while wandering around a Mexican marketplace like the lost tourist he is.

    But Kit is not trekking the Mexican jungles alone because Ethan would not hear of it. The more experienced man brought crew, supplies, and local guides, knowing these practical things wouldn’t even cross Kit’s mind. Kit brought designer luggage, expensive watch, and willpower.

    As far as stepbro romances go, the banter and the frenemies’ snark were fun and oozing with USTs that Ethan’s friends and TV crew, Simon and Val, secretly made bets. There’s the extra challenge of no privacy and no baths, but the two dorks were smart to make good use of waterfalls and caves.

    The majority of the plot involved walking, Kit making a fool of himself, and him and Ethan bickering. I have this on audiobook because it’s Joel Leslie. It’s an entertaining book, but it’s not the kind that requires my undivided attention.

    You know that Twitter post that says there should be a category of movies/shows on Netflix that you could watch while scrolling on the phone? This feels exactly like that.

    While it involves a lost temple of an Aztec god and treasure, there’s no deep, detailed lore or any complicated mystery. There are intriguing, low-key supernatural elements that I wished were more overt, but it’s mostly just the group in the jungle stumbling upon the lost temple.

    Then came the Indiana Jones twists that had me sitting up, and finally, the high-octane action! It’s death and destruction for all! Centuries-old artifacts and treasure destroyed! Derring do and survival by the skin of their teeth! I was completely riveted!

    I loved the ending! Kit has decisively hung up his Panama hat, but then here comes Ethan and his packages. And a whisper of another quest…

    The First and Last Adventure Of Kit Sawyer may have it’s lulls but it’s an adventure of a lifetime. I am ready for the next one!

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: I​’​d Give You the World if It Meant It Might Swallow Me Whole
    Artist: Sleep Outside
    Album: Lakes In Which To Drown In


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    REVIEW: We Could Be So Good by Cat Sebastian

    Midcentury NYC: We Could Be So Good – Cat Sebastian

    Casey McQuiston meets The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo in this mid-century romdram about a scrappy reporter and a newspaper mogul’s son–perfect for Newsies shippers.

    Nick Russo has worked his way from a rough Brooklyn neighborhood to a reporting job at one of the city’s biggest newspapers. But the late 1950s are a hostile time for gay men, and Nick knows that he can’t let anyone into his life. He just never counted on meeting someone as impossible to say no to as Andy.

    Andy Fleming’s newspaper-tycoon father wants him to take over the family business. Andy, though, has no intention of running the paper. He’s barely able to run his life–he’s never paid a bill on time, routinely gets lost on the way to work, and would rather gouge out his own eyes than deal with office politics. Andy agrees to work for a year in the newsroom, knowing he’ll make an ass of himself and hate every second of it.

    Except, Nick Russo keeps rescuing Andy: showing him the ropes, tracking down his keys, freeing his tie when it gets stuck in the ancient filing cabinets. Their unlikely friendship soon sharpens into feelings they can’t deny. But what feels possible in secret–this fragile, tender thing between them–seems doomed in the light of day. Now Nick and Andy have to decide if, for the first time, they’re willing to fight.


    Lots of conflicting feelings here.

    We Could Be So Good, Book 1 of Midcentury NYC by Cat Sebastian, is one of those modern historicals I’m exploring since Regencies and Victorians aren’t doing it for me recently. Set in the late 1950s New York, it’s a best-friends-to-lovers romance between a closeted newspaper reporter, Nick Russo, and his newly awakened bisexual friend, Andy Fleming, the publisher’s son.

    The book is touted as a “Casey McQuiston meets The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” in that comparative marketing style I hate. I usually see this when a niche genre/indie author (is this the proper term?) is marketed to mainstream readers (again, not sure of the proper term). It’s helpful to a wider audience who might want to venture into queer books, but I prefer the book to stand on its merit.

    That said, I’d love it if more people discover Cat Sebastian and other brilliant MM romance authors. That way, their books would be popular enough to be picked up by Hollywood. My dream is to have my favorite books turned into movies. Sometimes, I entertain myself with the idea that if I win the lottery, I’d create my own production company just for that purpose.

    Anyway, I’ve seen the movie version of the royal rom-com, though I’ve no idea about Evelyn Hugo. There are a few similarities to the former.

    There’s the opposites attract trope where Nick is uber-competent and Andy is a bumbling himbo who can’t even shut a drawer without getting his tie caught. There’s the class difference where Nick comes from an Italian immigrant working-class family while Andy is third of his name and has more money than he knows what to do with. They also had to keep their blossoming romance on the down low.

    There’s also a wonderful found family for Nick, Andy, and their queer/non-queer friends. I loved that, by some unspoken agreement, they built a safe space for everyone in Nick’s building apartment.

    The story has all the ingredients that make a Cat Sebastian book a swoony, unforgettable experience. The scenes are brimming with mutual pining and longing and fluffy, adorable moments wrapped in cozy domesticity. There’s so much love and kindness between Nick and Andy, and I adore them! They reminded me of the author’s squee-tastic friends-to-lovers masterpiece Two Rogues Make A Right.

    Sadly, the feels didn’t soak through to the bone. I wasn’t squee-ing. The romance is of the slow burn variety, which I usually love, but it’s so damn slooow that the slowness is all I could think about. I was audiobooking this, and even the great Joel Leslie couldn’t stop the draggy feeling. 

    The glacial pace is compounded by the fact that there is barely any plot. It’s just Nick and Andy doing not-so-exciting everyday things and sending feels to each other. While era-specific LGBTQIA issues are tackled, as well as Nick’s family woes and Andy having his bisexual awakening, these threads felt shallow.

    I wanted to love the book so much but it is what it is. I’d still recommend this, since many people loved it and YMMV from mine.

    We Could Be So Good is a story of loyal friends, complicated families, and hopeful lovers against the backdrop of the Big Apple. It could have been all my yes had it been faster. Overall, a cozy, sweet romance built on kindness and care that falls in that place between like and love.

    Rating:
    3.5 Stars – that place between like and love

    Soundtrack: So Good
    Artist: Public Library Commute
    Album: Close to the Sun


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    SERIES REVIEW: Boystown Books 1-3 by Marshall Thornton

    Boystown Books: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries – Marshall Thornton

    Finalist for the Lambda Award in Gay Mystery, Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries takes place in Chicago during the early 1980s. Haunted by his abrupt departure from the Chicago Police Department and the end of his relationship with librarian Daniel Laverty, Nick Nowak is a beat cop-turned-dogged private investigator. In this first book of the series, Nick works through three cases: a seemingly simple missing persons search, an arson investigation, and a suicide that turns out to be anything but. While working the cases, Nick moves through a series of casual relationships until he meets homicide detective Bert Harker and begins a tentative relationship.


    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Boys Town
    Artist: Babes
    Album: Leave Your Leather On


    Boystown Books: Three More Nick Nowak Mysteries – Marshall Thornton

    The Boystown Mystery series continues as Chicago private investigator Nick Nowak finds himself involved in three new cases. He’s asked to help a young man who murdered his stepfather but refuses to assist in his own defense, hired to find the murderer of a dead porno star, and, in a case that traps him between the two men he loves, must search for a serial killer’s only living victim. Set in the second half of 1981, Nick juggles his deepening relationship with Detective Bert Harker with the return of his ex, Daniel Laverty. Which man will he choose? Or will he be able to choose?


    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: OOO
    Artist: Karen O
    Album: Crush Songs


    Boystown Books: Two Nick Nowak Novellas – Marshall Thornton

    In the two novellas that make up the third book in the popular Boystown Mysteries private Investigator Nick Nowak works two challenging cases and grapples with an even more challenging personal life. In Little Boy Boom, Nick’s car explodes when a thief attempts to steal it. Realizing the bomb was meant for him, Nick sets out to discover who wants him dead only to find that the list of possible suspects is longer than he’d like. When he begins to run out of suspects he wonders if the bomb was truly meant for him. Little Boy Tenor finds Nick investigating the murderer of a church choir’s star tenor, while at the same time his friend Ross asks him to discover the truth behind his lover, Earl Silver’s mysterious death. As he juggles the two cases, he becomes increasingly disturbed by what he learns.


    Rating:
    4.5 Stars – perfection is only half a step away

    Soundtrack: Slipping Away
    Artist: Moby
    Album: Hotel


    A bit strange to call a series set in a decade you lived through as historical, but I considered Boystown by award-winning author Marshall Thornton as such. My first series from the author, The Wyandot County Mysteries, was entertainingly bitchy, and another modern historical (if we can call it that) set in the 2000s.

    The usual Regencies and Victorians are not working for me as of late, so I’m hoping to dive into more books set in the mid-century and later eras.

    Boystown starts in 1980, with prequels set in 1979. It chronicles the life of ex-cop-turned-PI Nick Nowak. He’s 33 years old and in the prime of his life. He’s good at his job. His business is going well and he’s free of debts He lives in a garden apartment, a.k.a. basement apartment in downtown Chicago in the known queer neighborhood called Boystown. Every weekend, he works as a bouncer at a gay club owned by a friend.

    The storytelling is one of the best and a top favorite in my reading history. Nick has a very compelling voice and a charismatic character. The books are written like episodes in a TV series. Also, Marshall Thornton has always been fantastic at flavoring his stories with period-specific events, culture, technology, and so on. They have a palpable patina of time and they always feel authentic and lived-in. 

    Nick’s cases intertwine with his private life, and threads from the previous books are continued or mentioned in the succeeding. There are many recurring characters or references to past events that Nick would follow up on or would impact the current story. We see Nick’s everyday habits and work routine, plus the more action-packed moments.

    My favorite part is the cases. Almost all mystery series tend to default to murder as the crime, so I loved that Nick’s cases vary from background checks to missing persons to arson to car bombing, and sometimes protection for rock stars. I loved that they realistically portray the variety of work a PI handles.

    And Nick’s one hell of a PI! He doesn’t give up until he’s satisfied, not even if his client feels the matter is already settled. He’s got wily investigation skills and is not above lying, impersonating someone, seducing the gullible, or breaking inside an apartment to get answers.

    Nick knows he’s a looker and enjoys an active sex life. There is no shortage of people eager to throw themselves at him and Nick’s not inclined to say no. From informants he’s interviewing, to corporate lawyers, to friends with benefits, beat cops mistakenly apprehending him while undercover as a homeless man and even the very person he’s investigating, as well as orgies. A couple of times, he asked himself if he was giving off some kind of pheromones.

    Nick is also pining for his ex, Daniel Laverty. They had a bad breakup after a homophobic attack that left Daniel with a broken cheekbone. Daniel wanted to report what happened, but Nick, then a closeted cop, refused.

    Nick eventually develops a relationship with a closeted police detective, Bert Harker. Theirs is an open relationship, which means Nick still goes around fucking any willing body. Nick is also torn between Daniel, who recently reunited with him, and Bert, currently living with him. The series is not romance, and it didn’t make promises of a romance HEA, so the open relationships didn’t bother me.

    What bothered me was the APPALLING lack of protection in all the sex scenes. There’s also some scenes where the characters take drugs. It was a wild, hedonistic era and Nick is in the thick of it. In contrast, contemporary MM books make it a point to mention rubbers or an exchange of health status. 

    Knowing what we know now of the 80s and the AIDs epidemic, it is heartbreaking that some of the characters here were among the early victims, and Nick and his friends have no clue yet of what is happening. It’s going to hit very close to home. I almost don’t want to read the succeeding books because the impact is going to crush Nick. 

    As mentioned earlier, Boystown is written as a continuous chronicle of Nick Nowak’s life and should be read in order. I had grand plans of reviewing the entire series until I learned there are 13 books. It’s a lot for me, so I’ll probably do three books at a time.

    The first three books of Boystown opens a highly engrossing mystery series that captures a pivotal era through the eyes of a gay PI. Blending Chicago grit and 80s sex appeal with LGBTQ+ issues and noir mystery, these stories are authentic, steamy and as irresistable as Nick Nowak himself.


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    SERIES REVIEW: The Wyandot County Mysteries Books 1 & 2 by Marshall Thornton

    The Wyandot County Mysteries: The Less Than Spectacular Times of Henry Milch – Marshall Thornton

    A new mystery series from the award-winning author of the Boystown and Pinx Mystery series.

    Things have not been going well for Henry Milch. After a Saturday night clubbing in his beloved West Hollywood, he took one pill too many and ended up banished to northern lower Michigan to live on a farm with his ultra-conservative grandmother. It was that or rehab.

    While working a part-time job for the local land conservancy he stumbles across a dead body in the snow—as if things couldn’t get worse. But then things take a turn for the better, there’s a reward for information leading the man’s killer. All Henry has to do is find the murderer, claim the reward and he can go back to his real life in L.A.


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Town
    Artist: CASTLEBEAT
    Album: VHS


    The Wyandot County Mysteries: A Fabulous Unfabulous Summer for Henry Milch- Marshall Thornton

    In the second Wyandot County Mystery, things are still not going well for Henry Milch. While stuck in Northern Lower Michigan helping his Nana Cole recover from a stroke, he learns that her favorite pastor has been killed. When Nana Cole asks him to investigate, he refuses—until she offers him money. Money that will help him get back to real life in West Hollywood. That sets Henry off on a journey that includes: off-key choir rehearsals, pole barns, bad haircuts, a hunky doctor and too many get-well-soon casseroles.


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Big City Dreams
    Artist: Might Not feat. Sofia Insua
    Album:


    The Wyandot County Mysteries by Marshall Thornton is an LGBTQIA+ murder mystery series I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. It did not have the usual romantic subplot, nor is it cozy. It contains many undesirable elements, yet I was completely hooked!

    The series is set in the early 2000s, so people watched cable TV, landlines were still ubiquitous, cell phones were flip phones, and the It gadgets were those colored Macbooks that look so retro now. The news often talks about the war, and people would mention updates about sons or grandsons deployed in the Middle East. 

    The star of the series, Henry Milch, well, I wouldn’t say he’s a likable character. Vapid, spectacularly self-absorbed, has nothing but uncharitable comments about everyone. In another story, Henry would be the bitchy ex the main character would dump to be with the love interest. Or that friend who’s always a hot mess

    Henry used to live in LA, but after an incident that left him with costly hospital bills, he’s broke and now lives with his Nana Cole in a small town in Wyandot County. Henry hates it. One reason is he’s shoved back in the closet. He has big plans to return to LA once he has enough money. And this kicks off the first mystery.

    The Less Than Spectacular Times of Henry Milch opens the series. Henry discovered the dead body of Sammy Hart, an out-and-proud gay man. The police weren’t making any efforts to solve the case, so Sammy’s friends offered $15,000 to anyone with information about the killer.

    Jumping at the chance to earn the reward, Henry decided to investigate, calling upon the knowledge he picked up from CSI and True Crime.

    In A Fabulous Unfabulous Summer for Henry Milch, Henry was offered $2000 by his Nana to find out what really happened to the dead pastor of their church. The man was bludgeoned to death. The police said he was robbed by a meth addict, but Henry thought otherwise.

    Still lacking enough funds to move to LA, Henry decided to humor his grandmother and started asking enough questions in an attempt to earn the money.

    He struck an antagonistic friendship with Opal, a bisexual a friend of the late Sammy Hart, who helped pooled money for the reward. Henry calls her only when he needs something, and Opal never hesitates to call him on his BS. Born and raised in the area, Opal knows everyone, including suppliers of illicit substances.

    Content warning: Henry is very much in denial about his drug addiction, and he’s frequently popping pills. In one very, very gross scene, he seriously contemplated fishing out the pills he puked floating in the toilet bowl so they don’t go to waste. He came to his senses when he realized that’s what drug addicts do, and he tells himself he’s not an addict.

    He sleeps with a few guys, most of them forgettable. One time, he dated a gorgeous doctor, a genuinely nice guy very much attracted to Henry. In your usual MM romance, this doctor would be The One. Of course, Henry fucked it up by refusing to give up his pills after the good doctor offered to help him overcome his addiction.

    Henry’s relationship with his mother and grandmother is complicated. His mother goes from boyfriend to boyfriend and has a casual parenting style, a.k.a. mostly absent. His mother and grandmother rarely agreed on anything, but surprisingly, they did when it came to him.

    Nana Cole is from one of the old families of the county, with typical Christian conservative views. They frequently butt heads. But even with their differences, it’s obvious that Nana Cole cares for her grandchild. Henry is determined not to like his Nana, but he also did not abandon her when she had her stroke.

    As an amateur sleuth, Henry notices things that don’t add up but have zero finesse in dealing with people. He just point-blank asks questions. He’s also not above using people to get what he wants. Given his bull-in-a-china shop approach, it was a wonder Henry got answers from the conservative folks of the county.

    With such a flawed character taking the lead, the entire thing wouldn’t have worked. But the author magically made the storytelling so damned engaging, even if I didn’t like Henry at all. He takes us to a scathingly humorous fish-out-of-water view of small-town Michigan with many comparisons and palpable longing for the big city way of life.

    Many times, I would think, “What a bitchy thing to say, Henry!” while at the same time thinking, “He’s got a point, though.” This leads us to another content warning: Henry’s views about religion and small-town life may offend some.

    The Wyandot County Mysteries is one of those mystery stories where I just enjoyed tagging along with our unlikely sleuth, not really caring about who killed who. The cases propel Henry to begrudgingly learn more about his hometown and its people. Twice, he’s on the cusp of leaving, but something or other would prevent him from hightailing it to LA.

    Would this snarky twink finally say adios to Wyandot to party and play in LA, or would he feel enough of a connection to the place to call it home?

    Maybe the third time’s a charm for our boy. Looking forward to Book 3. Because one thing about a hot mess like Henry: he’s never boring!

    P.S.

    The Wyandot County Mysteries should be read in order.


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    REVIEW: Gentlemen Prefer Villains by C. Rochelle

    Villainous Things: Gentlemen Prefer Villains – C. Rochelle

    Simon

    I needed to get the hell out of Big City.

    The only reason I was living in this American wasteland was because my mother insisted I reconcile with my estranged father. That the idea came to her while drunk on the French bubbly should have been my sign to stay right where I belonged.

    Anywhere but here. Certainly somewhere more fabulous.

    When an international job opportunity arises, I jump on board. It’s just a bonus that I’ll be traveling with the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome.

    Make that muscular, morally gray, and hopefully, my next conquest.

    What’s a casual fling between coworkers, after all? I’m ready for my next big adventure—far from Big City—so if whatever we’re up to is vaguely illegal, I’ll simply turn the other cheek.

    It’s not like some superhero is going to swoop in and stop a couple of humans like us.

    Wolfgang

    I may have orchestrated my villainous parents’ deaths, but that doesn’t mean the crushing weight of my responsibilities is easy to bear.

    My sister was the only one of my siblings who knew how badly they treated me. The only one I told how much I despise my powers. Now she’s on the run—leaving me to carry this alone.

    But then I meet him. I may have hired Simon Alarie as my assistant, but it’s instantly apparent he’s much more than that. He’s not only intelligent and business savvy, but fiercely loyal, and the tastiest—most forbidden—little thing I’ve ever seen.

    Nothing can come of it. Because if I touch him, he dies.

    That doesn’t stop me from claiming him as mine. Whether or not this normie knows it, every inch of him—every breath he takes—belongs to me. And anyone who thinks otherwise will meet the Hand of Death.

    Gentlemen Prefer Villains is an MM romance between a villain and a “normie.” Our men find other men in tight supersuits incredibly attractive. Sometimes, they keep these supersuits on while engaging in explicit extracurricular activities with each other (and sometimes they even use bad words!). This is not your kid’s superhero book. This is Sin City and The Boys having a love child with extra spicy Spideypool and is meant for 18+ adults who can handle such things.

    The Villainous Things series contains standalone books (each with HEAs) that feature interconnected characters and an overarching plot. You should read them in order (starting with Not All Himbos Wear Capes)

    IF YOU LOVE (full list of CW/TW coming soon to the authors’ webpage)

    • Superheroes/villains (and the “normies” who love them)

    • Big skerry boss + his sassy li’l assistant (SIZE DIFFERENCE)

    • Mafia vibes

    • Touch Him & Perish vibes too

    • Casual psychopaths with mutual obsession

    • SO MUCH TENSION

    • Leather

    • Extra spicy extracurricular activities

    • Naughty dark humor + sweary dialogue

    • MM romance (in case you missed that part)

    • A James Bond meets Catch Me If You Can international romp

    Then shake your martini and power up!


    It boils down to this: I loved the book, I didn’t like Simon.

    Gentlemen Prefer Villains, Book 2 of Villainous Things, picks up after the events of Not All Himbos Wear Capes. Violencia is missing, and Wolfgang, now head of the Suarez family and currently using his civilian identity, is looking for a personal assistant to help look for his sister.

    Simon Alarie, spoiled son of a serial gold digger, is being interviewed. Wolfgang walks in to gauge his reaction since the notorious villain is used to being feared even out of uniform. To his surprise, not only Simon didn’t show any signs of fear, he outrageously flirted with him. He was hired on the spot.

    This is why I didn’t warm up to Simon. He was so annoying!!! Too pushy and rude!! And being spoiled, he started bossing Wolfie around, thinking the bigger man was a bodyguard. I didn’t like Wolfie being bossed around, not even if Wolfie claimed to like it.

    Wolfgang was the most enigmatic Suarez in Not All Himbos Wear Capes and one of the most powerful villains in Big City. He can absorb the power of any supe he touches or the lifeforce of a normie. One touch means instant death. No one has voluntarily touched Wolfie since he accidentally killed his nanny as a toddler.

    He was raised as a weapon by his abusive parents. As a child, his father, Apocalypto Man, ordered him to run while he hunted him in the middle of the Argentinian forest. If Wolfie is caught, he’d be killed. He was only eight years old then. This is only one of the many “trainings” he had to endure.

    As the Hand of Death, Wolfie killed whoever his parents wanted dead. As the eldest Suarez sibling, he did all he could so that his siblings were spared a similar fate. Wolfie is a born protector and carer.

    So I wasn’t thrilled about him being bossed around. After a lifetime of taking orders, I wanted him in charge.

    As the story progresses, it becomes more apparent that Simon is a psychopath. His dynamics with Wolfie are pretty similar to Julian Castellani and Leo Bernardi (His Fatal Love). Murder husbands is a favorite trope, and I wanted to like Simon, but I’m sorry, the man lacked Julian’s charm.

    The closest thing I came to liking Simon was when he went beast mode and bit everyone’s head off when Wolfie went missing. At least we know this bratty psycho will burn the world for his man. Wolfie deserves that level of devotion.

    The world-building in Villainous Things gives us enough details to imagine the scenarios, but it’s not as tightly constructed or as richly conceived as the more hardcore superhero stories. The series tends to focus more on sexy times, particularly the BDSM aspect. I’m not a fan of BDSM, so I’m neutral about the couples.

    Part of the plot is a fascinating glimpse of supe history, going back thousands of years. I hope it will be explored further because it would give the series a rich lore that could spawn more stories. It also helps with the world-building. 

    My favorite part is The Rabble, as Wolfie calls the Suarez group chat. Xander is The Mouthy One, and Butch is The Token Hero. The twins, Andre and Gabriel, are Thing One and Thing Two, while Baltazar is The Dumb One. The sibling interactions are hilarious, and I think it’s a missed opportunity not to have them together in more scenes, ala war room scenes in Necessary Evils.

    The most poignant part is Wolfie’s relationship with V. She’s closest to him, his sounding board, and the only one who knew about the abuse he suffered. Not knowing what state he will find V in or that he might be forced to kill her, since V’s berserker power makes her both deadly and also susceptible to other’s control.

    I am aware I am reading Gentlemen Prefer Villains wrong. The book is all about bratty, bossy, and BDSM, while I wanted supe lore, sibling banter, and superhuman fight scenes. Still, I got enough of the parts I wanted that I am looking forward to the next Suarez, which is Balti!

    Overall, gentlemanly villains are much preferred!

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Villain
    Artist: Missio
    Album: Villain

    P.S.

    Villainous Things should be read in order. Watch The Mouthy One and The Token Hero shake things up in Big City and in the bedroom in Not All Himbos Wear Capes.


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    REVIEW: Not All Himbos Wear Capes by C. Rochelle

    Villainous Things: Not All Himbos Wear Capes – C. Rochelle

    PLEASE NOTE: Full list of Content & TWs can be found in the front of the book and at c-rochelle[dot]com.

    Xander

    Big City is supposedly the place where dreams come true. As someone just trying to live my life, I can tell you, it’s more like a recurring nightmare where dreams get c*ckblocked at every turn.

    Especially if you’re a supervillain like me.

    The irony is that I have zero powers, despite coming from purebred villain stock, but try telling that to Big City’s beloved hero, Captain Masculine.

    This himbo is ruining my research, and if his firepower doesn’t kill me, the sight of him in Lycra surely will. Luckily—or unluckily, in my opinion—my bestie just signed me up for the Bangers dating app and found my perfect match.

    If this isn’t the start of my villain arc, I don’t know what is.

    Butch

    It’s hard feeling like I have to wear a mask every day—that the only value I bring to the table is the sparkling image others have created for me.

    Such is the life of being Captain Masculine, Big City’s greatest superhero. This is the existence I was destined for, and I will gladly defend this city against every threat to its people.

    Except Doctor Antihero.

    I’ve seen countless villains come and go, but something about Antihero intrigues me more than the usual hero-villain encounters should.

    It’s because of him that I impulsively signed up for a dating app, hoping a meaningless fling with a local normie will help get my head back in the game. The truth is, what I really want is someone who sees me—the man behind the mask.

    But that’s a luxury no superhero can afford.

    Not All Himbos Wear Capes is an MM romance between a superhero and a villain. Our men find other men in tight supersuits incredibly attractive. Sometimes, they keep these supersuits on while engaging in explicit extracurricular activities with each other (and sometimes they even use bad words!).

    This is not your kid’s superhero book. This is Sin City and The Boys having a love child with extra spicy Spideypool and is meant for 18+ adults who can handle such things.

    The Villainous Things series contains standalone books (each with HEAs) that feature interconnected characters and an overarching plot.

    *FULL LIST OF Content & TWs can be found in the front of the book and at c-rochelle[dot]com*

    CONTENT & TROPES:
    • MM romance
    • Dual POV
    • Superheroes/villains
    • Grumpy/sunshine
    • Star-crossed lovers + fated mates
    • Lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers (yup)
    • Hurt/comfort + found family
    • D/s dynamic that’s more bedroom than lifestyle
    • MM romance (in case you missed that part)
    • Plus suspenseful plot + save-the-world epicness for pizazz

    POTENTIAL TRIGGERS:
    • Sweary dialogue
    • Naughty irreverent humor
    • Extremely morally gray characters with moments of psychotic ideation
    • Extra spicy extracurricular activities (see inside book and c-rochelle[dot]com for specifics)
    • Minor gore in villain lair and during hero/villain battle scenes
    • Controlling + neglectful parents with some physical (superpowered) abuse
    • Lack of autonomy + indentured servitude
    • Restraints (not the fun kind)
    • Detailed descriptions of humans’ negative effects on coastal wildlife (specifically with pollution and including a seagull autopsy with details of the contents of its stomach)


    Heroism and villainy as a matter of perspective, or in this case, a matter of signing the contract, is a frequently explored theme in superhero stories.

    Villainous Things, by C. Rochelle, is another take on the subject. The series opens with Not All Himbos Wear Capes, an enemies-to-lovers secret romance between Big City’s golden boy, the cheese-tastically named Captain Masculine, and Doctor Antihero, a member of the infamous villain clan, the Suarez family.

    The world here is divided between normies and supes. The supes are considered different species and shouldn’t procreate with normies because their abilities might harm ordinary humans. They are expected to form strategic alliances with other prominent supe families to create more supes.

    The supes are further divided between superheroes and supervillains. The heroes are backed by the government and signed contracts to protect the city from the bad guys.

    Cap Masculine and Doc Antihero first met as Butch and Xander via an online dating app. They immediately hit it off on their first date. Still clueless of each other’s alter egos, they continued dating until things became serious between them.

    Then Xander invited Butch to meet his family. Only for Butch to realize Xander is from the notorious Suarez clan, having recognized his sister as Ultraviolent, and his mother as Glacial Girl. Xander still remained the clueless loving boyfriend, while Butch tries to find the right time to tell him. 

    Also, his family has arranged for him to marry a girl from another famous superhero clan, treating Butch as nothing more than a breeding stud. His entire life has been mapped out since birth and Butch is used to following orders.

    The plot starts simple enough as a secret identity romance, where the supposed villain shows his caring side and the hero discovers his kinkier desires. There’s also a grumpy/sunshine aspect, Xander being the growly top and Butch as the sunshiny himbo.

    I’m not a fan of the romance because it’s mostly boring daddy/boy foreplay with cringy dirty talk. Outside the bedroom, they were okay, mostly just there as eyes to see the world through. In short, I don’t care for the MCs. I just like the things happening around them. 

    Because bigger things are happening than just a forbidden love affair. Cap Masculine’s blinders fell off, and he took a stand against the indentured servitude his famous superhero parents signed him in when he was born. As they and the rest of the superheroes have signed such contracts.

    At this point, the plot became a convoluted game of political machinations, supe rights, family upheaval, and unlikely allies where power is challenged, and murders are committed to maintain the status quo.

    I wished the Saurezes came on page much earlier because they were the more interesting characters. Xander has a complicated relationship with his family. He says they’re all psychopaths and stays away from their house. They appeared halfway in the story, and made things a hell of a lot more chaotic and exciting. 

    Apocalypto and Glacial Girl have five known children, Violencia, Wolfgang, Baltazar and twins, Gabriel and Andre. Xander is the secret baby because he didn’t show any superpowers. His high IQ gave him multiple PhDs and nifty inventions, which he used to save the ocean. These inventions were hijacked by his evil dad into dastardly gadgets.

    Wolfgang, a.k.a. Hand of Death, practically stole the show, when he made his move to secure the Suarez family. One of the most powerful villains and a sly psycho who will protect his family at all costs, but is also surprisingly vulnerable, he’s my favorite character and happily, his book is next.

    The rest of the books feature the male siblings and continue the overarching plot so the books must be read in order.

    At first blush, Not All Himbos Wear Capes is a fun, raunchy take on the superhero trope. Then it goes grey and gritty the more we know about Big City and its secrets.

    While not really saying anything new about heroism and villainy, it still gave us an intriguing world that is fun to explore through the eyes of its superheroes and villains. Overall, heroically kinky, villainously wears its heart on its sleeve.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Villain
    Artist: Ado
    Album: Ado’s Mitattemita Album


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    SERIES REVIEW: Necromancer Rising Books 1 & 2 by Richard Amos

    Necromancer Rising: Death Eternal – Richard Amos

    Death is supposed to be the end.
    Not in my world.

    The dead never move on, not since Death walked off the job and disappeared. As a necromancer, it’s my job to police the spirits while they remain stuck and, well, problematic a lot of the time.

    Death really needs to take his head out of his backside and get back to work, wherever he might be.

    After a horrible incident in the tunnels of the London Underground, my life takes a sharp turn. It’s all my fault and I’m sent off to a small town, a move to keep me out of sight and mind for the time being. Shamed, reputation dragged through the dirt.

    I’m not getting that promotion anytime soon.

    On my first day in the town, I get caught up in a strange murder case, and Death saves my life.
    Yes, the Death. The delectable, mysterious Death.

    Goodness, he is hotness personified. But what happened to make him walk away from his responsibilities? And why is he so deliciously tempting, my desire a raging inferno every time he looks at me with those incredible eyes?
    I shouldn’t be thinking of an immortal being like this, but with every passing hour I can’t stop myself from falling deeper into infatuation.

    I want him.

    Resistance is… impossible.

    Death Eternal is the first book in an M/M Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance series packed with mystery, danger, a knitting necromancer, a delectable immortal being, plenty of sizzle, and rather disgusting liquid mushrooms.


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Cosmic
    Artist: Benjamin Carter
    Album: Self_Portrait: Vol. 1


    Necromancer Rising: Death Enraptured – Richard Amos

    Follow my heart and make a mess…
    That’s putting it mildly.

    My life has really taken a complicated turn here in Oakthorne. I keep hoping some fairy godmother will show up and offer me a nice bit of time reversal. Not too much, just enough to ease this pain.

    Yeah. Right.

    Anyway, as much as there’s hurt, there’s also Death. He is the complication, but a beautiful one I can’t resist when I really, really should. He consumes my every waking moment, submerges me in raging desire I never want to break free of.

    Damn.

    On top of that messiness, there’s a mystery to solve, a bad guy to defeat, and other new developments within myself to deal with.

    So much to do.
    So much danger to face.

    Where the hell is that fairy godmother?

    Death Enraptured is the second book in an M/M Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance series packed with mystery, danger, a knitting necromancer, a delectable immortal being, plenty of sizzle, and rather disgusting liquid mushrooms.


    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Enter The Mirror
    Artist: Everything Everything
    Album: Mountainhead


    In the graphic novel Sandman, Lucifer quit his job and handed the keys to Hell to Morpheus. Then, he went on to have fun. The world went on spinning.

    Necromancer Rising, an urban fantasy by Richard Amos, sets a world where Death quit. Which begs the question, WHY?

    Death hanging up his scythe means ghosts. Lots and lots of ghosts and people acquiring necromantic powers to handle them.

    Necromancers are easily identified by their silver hair. They have five threads of magic that can be used to bind or release ghosts to sanctuaries, a place made specially for them since without Death, they cannot move on to the afterlife.

    Marcel August is a London-based necromancer suddenly transferred to Oakthorne after a mission gone awry that left his bestfriend, Jenn, severely injured. On his way to the town, he encountered a ghost that led him to the famous caves, where there were some trouble. He got injured and was rescued by a mysterious man.

    Later, Marcel met his new boss, the High Warden, a friendly man named Nicholas West and his taciturn husband, Leon. Nick was a stark contrast to the stone cold High Warden of London, Emma. Marcel has the worst luck in bosses as it later turned out.

    Marcel is tasked to look for a missing ghost. Then the mysterious man who rescued him turned up his door bearing gifts.

    This is where things get dicey and hell of a lot swoonier.

    The overarching plot is to stop the lich from taking over the world. As an urban fantasy, this is a twisty-turn-y, action-packed necromancer procedural, a.k.a. murder mystery, with plenty of magic spells thrown about. I loved how the events of Death Eternal and Death Enraptured go from grim to complete clusterfuck to freakin’ catastrophic. No rest for our weary boy, Marcel.

    Marcel goes from dreaming of a promotion to pretty much exiled to a small town to being lulled into a false sense of security to being lich fodder, only to evolved into something more. Add to that his forbidden romance with Death that has apocalyptic consequences, this series has all the mellow drama and the epic awesomeness!

    So, Death. Hmm, I don’t know. The immortal is conflicting mix of drool-worthy and cringe. That he’s gorgeous is pretty much a given. But the fashion sense, ew!

    The lich is right in criticizing his lame style. Tight leather pants, satin shirt open at the chest with multiple piercings? That screams sleazy rather than sizzling. I’d rather he go the John Wick route in tailored suits or a 70s punk in plaid bondage pants with distressed sweater.

    But as a love interest, the immortal is a master of seduction and muffins. Death could be a cheesy mofo but mostly, he says the most romantic things.

    At first doing the hot/cold dance, then later a steadier presence in Marcel’s life, Death fights a secret battle against the forces that kept him and Marcel apart. Been doing so for centuries, he and Marcel are cursed to repeat the cycle of love and destruction.

    In Death Eternal, it took a while for the book to get to the meat of things, taking its time to establish the world and have Marcel interact with the secondary characters. Death lacked depth as a character since he was presented as a mysterious entity.

    In Death Enraptured, the lovers work to circumvent the curse. They make questionable decisions, suffer betrayals, and just plain suffer. High Warden Emma is the worst character here, absolutely heartless.

    The books in the series end in cliffhangers so they must be read in order.

    Necromancer Rising is an entertaining series I’ll be reading till the end. The romance is one for the ages, heartbreaking but so fun to root for. The characters are a mix of intriguing and abysmal. The fight scenes pulled no punches. Overall, a bit all over the place, but worth hanging up the death scythe.


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    REVIEW: His Guilty Pleasure by Leighton Greene

    West Coast Mobster: His Guilty Pleasure – Leighton Greene

    When Redwood Manor’s butler Darian is accused of murder during a high-stakes Mafia parley, he has to rely on the infuriatingly attractive Raffi DeLuca to prove his innocence—before one of the mobsters decides to take justice into their own hands.

    Darian Thornfield-Hayes has always been content to fade into the background while he conducts his work with precision and perfection. But when murder threatens the fragile peace between rival Mafia factions staying at the Manor, he finds himself in the spotlight in the worst possible way.

    Raffi DeLuca, acting head of security—and the flirtatious thorn in Darian’s side—jumps in to give him an alibi, claiming they spent the night together. But in doing so, Raffi finds himself compromising his honor and his vows to the Don.

    When Darian and Raffi are forced to share a room to keep up the charade, the attraction simmering between them flares to life. Raffi sees past Darian’s defenses to the real man underneath, awakening desires the untouched Darian never dared admit to before.

    But Darian hasn’t been telling the whole truth…

    Torn between his heart and his duty, Raffi must decide how far he’s willing to go to protect Darian.

    Will their guilty pleasure be the key to solving the murders, or will secrets tear them apart?

    ***

    His Guilty Pleasure is the fifth book in the West Coast Mobsters series. Follow the men of the Los Angeles underworld in this page-turning romantic suspense series as they find love, danger and mystery in the most unexpected places.

    Each book in West Coast Mobsters tells the love story of a different couple who find their happy ending, as well as a resolution to the mystery they’re investigating, but there are cliffhangers to the wider suspense plot for the series.


    From the super-loyal Alfred Pennyworth to the devilish Sebastian Michaelis, butlers are fascinating, pivotal figures who perform miracles while being as unobtrusive as possible. However, the personal lives of butlers are a subject that doesn’t get talked about often, so when I learned about this book, I had to grab it.

    His Guilty Pleasure is the 5th book of West Coast Mobsters and the very reason why I started this series. Darian Thornfield-Hayes, Redwood Manor’s new butler, and Raffi DeLuca, acting head of security while Max Predetti is away, are in charge of making sure the parley between opposing Bernardi factions goes smoothly.

    Somebody threw a wrench into the works by murdering the mediator of the parley, a retired mobster last seen arguing with Darian. As the number one suspect, the young butler has to prove his innocence not only to the Castellanis but to the rest of the people involved in the parley.

    Darian’s and Raffi’s views from ‘below stairs’ gives us well-rounded look at the power players of the West Coast after seeing it through the Castellani leadership’s POVs from the previous books. The ‘dynamic duo’ juggled regular work, investigation of the murder, and their passionate, if complicated, romance while putting out fires and trying to keep everyone alive in a house full of killers.

    As subordinate members of the Castellani Family, Darian and Raffi felt very much like secondary characters in their own book despite it told in their dual 1st person POVs. It is fitting in a way because they are working in the background, supporting the Castellani bosses, performing minor miracles to satisfy the difficult and deadly guests of the Manor.

    As a peek into the private life of Darian, it almost didn’t feel like he had one because, no surprise, the butler has little personal time. How he seemed to be present everywhere at the same time is a mystery, but the man is a consummate in the art of hospitality.

    The most personal he got was finally acting on his attraction to white knight Raffi after a nudge or two by the matchmaking Julian. It was a hot/cold romance I’m neutral about because I am more invested in the murder mystery and the disaster of a parley.

    It is obvious from the get go that this is Julian Castellani’s show. He was hellbent on hiring Darian, even going so far as using Raffi when Darian first turned him down, knowing Darian would have a reaction to the security specialist. From then on, his “favorite butler boy” was guaranteed his protection because, it turned out, our lovable Castellani psycho collects and protects his toys, a.k.a. people he’s fond of. And never lets them go.

    Julian is also a genius schemer, a shadow ninja, and a creative killer who lends a helping hand to key players when needed, lays clues here and there, and makes bold moves lesser men won’t dare make. All for the Family and revenge.

    My favorite part, however, is Alessandro. The man is now a stronger, wiser Don Castellani. So wise, in fact, that he mastered the art of plausible deniability and weaponized it. It was a damn clever move and so low-key, yet it made the Castellanis more powerful than before!

    The only thing missing is Teddy. Our boy only has a cameo so I need another Sandro/Teddy book, pleeeease!

    His Guilty Pleasure satisfied my curiosity about butlers and while the romance was lukewarm, the mafia politics was a powder keg about to explode. It’s one heck of a gripping twisty-turn-y story, stealthy in its attack, gleeful in its revenge, and pleasurable in its unfolding.

    Rating:
    4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits

    Soundtrack: Pleasure
    Artist: Feist
    Album: Pleasure

    West Coast Mobsters has an ongoing suspense plot that runs through the all the installments so they should be read in order.

    Johnny Jacopo lost a hat and gained a boyfriend in His Lethal Desire.

    Alessandro Castellani looked for justice and found a teddy bear in His Brutal Heart .

    Julian Castellani went on the prowl and tamed a lion in His Fatal Love.

    Max Predretti uncovered a traitor and discovered a mafia prince in His Sinful Need.


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